It remains my plan, Lord willing, to be back in the pulpit next Sunday, August 23. I continue to appreciate greatly your kindness and compassion. My visit to Texas has been healing and helpful, and I believe I am ready to return to a more normal work schedule in the coming days.
God’s grace has proven more than sufficient. We will all look back on 2020 and remember the challenges and difficulties that were before us. For most, the focus will be on the pandemic and its associated troubles and trials. Others of us, myself included, will find that the pandemic was the least of our troubles. But regardless of the circumstances that we face, we as believers have the greatest and most merciful God. Our God has promised never to leave us.
In Romans 5, Paul gives a great word of encouragement to persevere in trials. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Glorying, or rejoicing, in tribulations is a matter of discipline. It is not normal. But the Christian life is anything but normal. It is the most abnormal way anyone could live. Nonetheless, God has designed our trials to mature us in the faith, to make more like Christ, and, as Paul says in the text above, to produce character which in turn produces hope. Character, personal traits that show us obedient to the Word and like our Lord. Hope that resonates as confident assurance, not mere wishful thinking.
When I return, we will be back in our series in the Book of Daniel. We will finish up chapter 2 and then move on to the very testing of our faith in the fire! If you think 2020 has been tough on you then consider the confusion, conditions and conflicts that faced Daniel and his friends. They are an example for us of what Paul was describing in Romans 5.
We are planning a restart of Sunday School on September 13. We are praying about a return to our Sunday evening services as well. I am convinced the greatest part of the danger from COVID-19 is largely behind us. We have taken all the precautions necessary to make the church as safe as possible. I want to encourage you to return to worship in-person. Of course, if you have symptoms you should stay home. If you have a situation that makes your immune system compromised in any way, then you will need to make an informed decision about your return to church and other public places. Masks are optional but appropriate (though I remain unconvinced as to their scientific value in preventing the spread of the disease in question), gloves are appropriate (when worn correctly), and social distancing is most definitely encouraged.
As always, I am looking forward to hearing about what God will do at Tabernacle this coming Sunday. Please be present with your Bibles in hand as we worship the Lord together – once again, in-person!
Blessings, YFJS, Bro. Tom