You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2020.

ADDENDUM (Sunday Morning):

Please watch these two short videos from Pastor Nathan before beginning your home worship: 

Part 1

Part 2

Hello IBC Fam,

The state is slowly moving out of quarantine, but larger corporate gatherings are still not advised and so we have to spend another Sunday apart, worshipping at home. You can find ‘The Immanuel Plan for Gathering Again’ here.

This week we have an old sermon from the IBC archives based on Joel 3 entitled, “The Face of God in Justice and Love.” I hope it is an encouragement to you this week.

The Spotify Playlist has been updated with new worship music for this week.

It was a week of deeply sad news (i.e. 100,000+ COVID-19 deaths and the death of George Floyd…). In case you missed Prayer Meeting, we dedicated it to the practice of lament and you can see what we did here. Our reading for this week comes from one of the ‘Psalms of Lament’:

PSALM 77

I cry aloud to God,

aloud to God, and he will hear me.

In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;

in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;

my soul refuses to be comforted.

When I remember God, I moan;

when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah

You hold my eyelids open;

I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

I consider the days of old,

the years long ago.

I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;

let me meditate in my heart.”

Then my spirit made a diligent search:

“Will the Lord spurn forever,

and never again be favorable?

Has his steadfast love forever ceased?

Are his promises at an end for all time?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah

Then I said, “I will appeal to this,

to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

I will ponder all your work,

and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Your way, O God, is holy.

What god is great like our God?

You are the God who works wonders;

you have made known your might among the peoples.

You with your arm redeemed your people,

the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

When the waters saw you, O God,

when the waters saw you, they were afraid;

indeed, the deep trembled.

The clouds poured out water;

the skies gave forth thunder;

your arrows flashed on every side.

The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;

your lightnings lighted up the world;

the earth trembled and shook.

Your way was through the sea,

your path through the great waters;

yet your footprints were unseen.

You led your people like a flock

by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Our Memory Verse for this week is still Psalm 1:6 – “…for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

The Kid’s Corner story is “The Wise King” p.194 (Lesson 194). Coloring sheets are attached. And the songs are:

1. “The B-I-B-L-E”

2. “This Little Light of Mine”

As always, we are praying for you during this turbulent time. We love you and eagerly long for the day when we can come together again in full fellowship. If you would like to talk/walk/meet with us, please email us.

Sincerely,

Pastor Theo

Saturday Morning Prayer Meeting

5/30/20

Listen to “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” by Charles Wesley…

Biblical Movements of Lament (from Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy):

1. Turn to God – Address God as you come to him in prayer.

2. Bring your Complaint – Identify in blunt language the specific pain or injustice (why/how?!)

3. Ask Boldly – Specifically call upon God to act in a manner that fits his character.

4. Choose to Trust – Affirm God’s worthiness to be trusted and commit to praising him.

 

TURNING TO GOD

“I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me.

In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord” (Ps. 77:1-2a).

· offer short prayers of address to God, orienting ourselves, stating who we are talking to…

· examples: Pss. 5:1, 17:1, 25:1, 28:1, 80:1, 83:1, 86:1, 90:1, 123:1, 141:1, 142:1…

 

COMPLAINING TO GOD

“Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?

Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble” (Ps. 10:1)?

How long, O LORD, will you look on” (Ps. 35:17)?

“Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint” (Ps. 64:1)…

· name specifically the thing you are lamenting in the chat box…

gun violence in chicago; racism in this (and all) countries; Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd….; all the destruction that has followed; police officers who don’t serve and protect us, but scare us; police officers that are doing their jobs well that are now judged; poor people facing a harder life during the pandemic; isolation and loneliness in time of coronavirus, especially among the elderly in nursing homes; the fact that we’re in a global catastrophe and national tragedy and only a fraction of the church shows up to pray; more people not caring; that I only care when social media tells me to care; loss of my longest standing close friendship; death of my grandmother; failed leadership in many institutions and governments; public discourse that has degenerated into politicians swearing at each other and people in general villainizing those who have different viewpoints; apathy of the church and the lukewarm spirituality that characterizes us; the loss of freedom in places like Hong Kong, and the potential effect on the church; getting old; feeling lonely; unfulfilled dreams for a church that’s committed to each other and a common mission in our neighborhood; not being able to gather in person as a church; 100,000 deaths from pandemic in States; that I still struggle with the same sins – pride, impatience, selfishness…..; divisiveness within the church in regards to secondary and tertiary matters (specifically people’s stances on social distancing, mask wearing etc); fake news and people’s proliferation of it; my kids’ spiritual state; the response of fear and self-preservation; xenophobia and our treatment of the alien who lives among us; not having consistent devotional time despite being at home more; broken relationships in my family and in the families of others in the church; unhappy marriages; the sometimes lack of good Christian responses to today’s social/political issues; I don’t love God as I ought; impatience and not making wise decision as I ought to be; CPS budget crisis and how that could impact economic disparity in Chicago for the longterm; sharing the gospel clearly and people being completely unfazed; suicides of pastors; the seeming lack of evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit to bring change in others….. in me??

· a few people vocalize these cries…

 

ASKING GOD

“But you, O LORD, do not be far off!

O you my help, come quickly to my aid” (Ps. 22:19)!

· importune God to act on behalf of his glory…

· examples: “arise” (i.e. Ps. 10:12), “grant us help” (i.e. Ps. 60:11), “remember your mercy” (i.e. Ps. 25:6), let justice be done (i.e. Ps. 83:16-18), forgive (i.e. Ps. 79:8-9), “restore us” (i.e. Ps. 80:3), “listen” (i.e. Ps. 86:6), “teach me” (i.e. Ps. 143:10), “vindicate me” (i.e. Ps. 35:24)…

 

TRUSTING GOD

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,

because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Ps. 13:5-6).

· the ‘buts’ of the Bible; examples: Pss. 31:12, 14; 71:10-11, 14; 86:14-15…

Introduction

Praise God that the numbers continue to improve and our city is preparing to gradually resume ‘normal’ life!  As this progresses, here is our general plan for resuming in-person meetings.

Bible Directed

We desperately and rightfully long to be together again. The next section of psalms that our church is getting ready to go through in our Bible Reading Plan – the ‘Songs of Ascent’ – were sung as pilgrims anticipated worship at the Temple. We can certainly relate to the sentiment expressed in Psalm 122:1 – “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’”

As we’ve said from the beginning of this season, we must not forget that assembling together around Jesus is fundamental to what a New Testament church (ekklesia) is. We have tried to safeguard this truth by not attempting to produce an online version of ‘church’, but rather to let the lack be felt and drive us to deeper reflection and prayer (listen to Episode 2 of the Immanuel Pastors Podcast for more). Therefore, we are especially eager to resume Sunday gatherings as soon as reasonably possible.

Local Government Informed

But the Bible also directs us to love our neighbors (Rom. 13:10) and to submit to our governing authorities (1Pe. 2:13-17). While the President recognized churches as essential and some in other parts of the country are already re-convening… and while the Governor has lifted restrictions on Illinois churches, our particular setting requires a slightly slower pace. For the sake of our local witness and local public health, at this point we will be following the re-opening guidelines laid out by our Mayor.

Phases 1 & 2

Though it was hard, we stressed staying home as much as possible and when outside using social distancing and face masks during the first phases of this pandemic. Small Groups and Prayer Meeting happened via Zoom and Sunday services were cancelled.

Phase 3

Since the Mayor declared that the City could enter Phase 3 on June 3 we still have not gathered on Sundays, but our Small Groups began having an in-person element. Some have been uncomfortable or unable to come and so we still have a Zoom option for joining in. Plus, Small Groups have not been able to have over 10 people present (including kids), so some people have had to opt to stay home and join via Zoom on certain weeks. Those come have to wear masks and keep a safe distance. We encourage outdoor gatherings as much as possible. But this has been a welcome step forward towards embodied re-engagement with each other.

Phase 4

As soon as Chicago enters into Phase 4 (which in the current plan allows for gatherings of up to 50 people) Small Groups will have no attendance limit and we will move to begin having Sunday corporate worship again! It won’t feel like March 8th did. It won’t even feel like March 15th (our last Sunday together when we had started to implement several precautions). But it will feel good.

In the months and years to come, we want to be up front that we are not expecting a totally COVID-free church, but we will have a COVID-safe church. This is not a comprehensive list, but here are just some of the safety measures we plan to have in place at first:

· There will be a lot of hand sanitizer.

· Everyone will have to wear and sing with masks.

· We will not offer Kids’ Corner.

· No handshakes or hugs.

· There will not be any food, besides the Lord’s Table (and we have a plan for distributing those elements in an extra careful way).

· Offering baskets will not be passed but will remain stationary.

· There will be no bulletins and it will be BYOB (bring-your-own-Bible).

· Surfaces will be wiped down after every use and The Meeting Place will be professionally cleaned every week instead of every month.

· Seating will be spread apart.

· Entrance, exit, and traffic flow will be streamlined to maintain safe distance and minimize touching handles.

· Those who are sick or susceptible should stay home.

· RSVPs will be required and the Welcoming Team will keep a count to make sure we do not exceed 50 people.

The 50 person limit does not leave much wiggle room for visitors, but we think we can meet like this for a while and evaluate our options as the fall and the possible return of students approaches. Perhaps there will be new developments in the spread of the virus and/or government guidelines by then. We will also be prepared for the possibility of needing to move back to Phase 3 at some point.

The logistics and legalities of outdoor services have also being explored, but at the moment seem to have too high of a liability.

Conclusion

We want to communicate openly with you about our plans. Obviously, circumstances are constantly shifting and plans are always subject to the Lord’s will (James 4:13-15). We will keep monitoring the situation.

In the meantime, we ask you to keep praying: for us as leaders, for each other, for your own soul to remain in Christ’s love, for the revival of the Church, for the lost around us and around the world, for the abatement of this virus, and ultimately for the return of Christ. Keep pursuing the Lord through private and family worship routines. And keep pursuing relationships with your brothers and sisters through things like our Saturday Morning Prayer Meetings, weekly Small Group Bible Studies, discussing the Sunday Guides, participating in the Facebook Group conversations and events… and through reaching out individually.

We hosted a Town Hall Zoom Meeting for members of the church to discuss this on June 21.

 

Updated 6/24/20

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;

and I will keep it to the end.

Give me understanding,

that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

Psalm 119:33-34

Why is the Bible so important?

In the midst of our busy lives, it’s pretty easy for me to be consumed with the various needs and concerns we see present in various parts of our world. People are destitute and in need. Corruption around the world can be seen exploiting the most vulnerable under their care for their own greed and power. The economy is going crazy.

There are so many things in the world to be concerned about and so many voices vying for our attention that I often find myself overwhelmed. I’m ashamed to admit it, but when I find myself in this kind of mood, I kind of feel like the Bible is the last thing I really want to study. Compared to everything that is going wrong, a book that was written so long ago often doesn’t really feel relevant to my own times and concerns.

Psalm 119 is a convicting Psalm for me to read. When I am so distracted by life and the concerns of this world, verses like these remind me of the fact that the people of God throughout history have prioritized the study and understanding of God’s Word even in the worst circumstances. It’s striking to me that even during times of exile under oppressive regimes, God’s people were people still reading this Psalm and still trying to hear and obey what the Lord had to say to them. And it often makes me wonder: what did they see in Scripture that I’m missing?

There is a lot we can talk about with this Psalm, but for the sake of this study I want to just highlight three things the Psalmist has been reminding me of when he writes about God’s Word.

First, the Word of God is the only way we can know whether or not we are living our lives rightly before God.

Psalm 119:9 states, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” This is something I tend to forget. Often, I feel like there are so many things that I need to do. I need to be well-informed about what’s going on around me. I need to work hard and strive to create a successful career for myself and for the sake of my family. I need to be responsible with my time and resources so that I can live independently and not be a burden upon anyone else.

I’m sure that others can come up with a thousand other things they feel like they need to do or be, and to be sure all these things are important. But when I look at the Bible, I realize that I could be doing all of these things, working hard, staying relevant, and taking care of my responsibilities, and still not be a good person. What does it matter if I do all this, but forget to do the things the Lord tells me to do? What’s the point of being a useful member of society, when I still don’t really love the Lord the way I should and I definitely don’t love other people as much as I ought to? When we take the time to read the law of the Lord, it reminds us of what the Lord actually wants from us. And often what the Lord actually wants from us isn’t what we think he wants.

Second, God’s Word reminds us of what is true.

Psalm 119:73 states, “Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.” There’s something very profound in the way these two thoughts are linked together. In our own times, we like to think of ourselves as independent. We are who we are because we choose to be who we are, and no one has the right to question what we’ve decided. With hard work and determination, we can be whatever we want to be.

But the Psalmist corrects this notion. We didn’t decide who or what we are going to be. God made us. God decided what kind of hair we were going to have, who our parents would be, and what kind of culture we would grow up in. And because God made us, he absolutely has the right to correct us and tell us who we are and are not. He’s got every right to redirect our lives to whatever ends he feels are best. That’s just what it means for God to be God. So rather than try to build our own lives or force things to go the way we want them to, the Psalmist simply turns his attention to what the Lord says is true and lives his life according to that. And he’s better off for it.

Finally, God’s Word reminds us of how much God loves us.

Psalm 119:41-41, “Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me.” For the Psalmist, God’s Word isn’t merely a list of things we ought and ought not do; it is also a clear presentation of the promises God has given to his people. Promises to be their God forever and to forgive their sins and deliver them from the evils of this world. In God’s Word we find clear evidence of God’s intent for our lives. That he will be the God over his people and they will dwell in his presence within his kingdom free from the malice and sorrows which have afflicted us for so long.

And it is these great promises within the Bible which stabilize us even in the midst of disaster. They give us an answer to those who ridicule our faith, for we can say even in the midst of calamity that our God is one who is for us. Even in our suffering he is at work on our behalf bringing us home to be with him.

It is foolish of us to assume that we live in times which are more turbulent than those in past years. However, when we survey the history of God’s people throughout such times, we can clearly see that God’s people have always prioritized the study of his Word. Even when the world around them was falling apart, they took the time to meditate on the precepts of the Lord because for them the Bible wasn’t merely a book. Rather, it was God’s own voice announcing what it right, true, and good for the benefit of his people. And we need to hear these things all the more in scary times like ours.

~ Pastor Theo

This Friday at 8:00 PM we will be having an all-church movie night from the comfort of your own home!

So pop some corn and make your favorite snack and interact with other IBCers while you watch.

We will be watching the movie A Hidden Life, which TGC has reviewed here.

So here is how it will work: rent the movie via Amazon and join the Zoom link that was emailed out before we begin. Then feel free to comment in the chat box during the movie with your thoughts or questions and we can recap together as well when it’s finished!

Hope to see you all there!

Hello IBC,

This is our 10th Sunday not meeting together as a church. We pray that you still are setting aside the Lord’s Day as special in your home, utilizing the guide that we provide, and longing for the assembly of the saints again.

Recently, Nathan recorded a talk on Philippians 1:18b-30 for another church here in the city entitled, “Death, Life, and Life Together.” We thought it would be applicable and an encouragement for IBC too.

The Spotify Playlist has been updated with new worship music.

And our prayer for this week comes again from The Valley of Vision:

NEED OF JESUS

LORD JESUS,

I am blind, be thou my light,

ignorant, be thou my wisdom,

self-willed, be thou my mind.

Open my ear to grasp quickly thy Spirit’s voice,

and delightfully run after his beckoning hand;

Melt my conscience that no hardness remain,

make it alive to evil’s slightest touch;

When Satan approaches may I flee to thy wounds,

and there cease to tremble at all alarms.

Be my good shepherd to lead me into

the green pastures of thy Word,

and cause me to lie down beside the rivers of its comforts.

Fill me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales

may ruffle the calm surface of my soul.

Thy cross was upraised to be my refuge,

Thy blood streamed forth to wash me clean,

Thy death occurred to give me a surety,

Thy name is my property to save me,

By thee all heaven is poured into my heart,

but it is too narrow to comprehend thy love.

I was a stranger, an outcast, a slave, a rebel,

but thy cross has brought me near,

has softened my heart,

has made me thy Father’s child,

has admitted me to thy family,

has made me joint-heir with thyself.

O that I may love thee as thou lovest me,

that I may walk worthy of thee, my Lord,

that I may reflect the image of heaven’s first-born.

May I always see thy beauty with the clear eye of faith,

and feel the power of thy Spirit in my heart,

for unless he move mightily in me

no inward fire will be kindled.

The church Memory Verse is Psalm 1:6 – “…for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

The Kids’ Corner Story is “The Lord is My Shepherd” p. 190 (Lesson 11). And the Songs from our YouTube Playlist are “Peace Like a River” and “How Good Is the Lord.” Corresponding coloring sheets/games are attached.

As always please let us know if you are in need of anything throughout the week. Nathan and/or I are available to take a socially distant walk with you or buy you lunch during your lunch hour and eat safely at The Meeting Place. Just email elders at immanuel dash baptist dot net to schedule something!

Praying for you,

Pastor Theo

We walk by faith,

not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7

The coronavirus is invisible to the naked eye, yet we all know it’s out there – spreading, infecting, impacting our world.

Similarly, the Bible tells us of an unseen realm, no less real. Do you believe in it?

Even though you cannot view his crown under a microscope, do you know that Jesus is reigning at the right hand of the Father right now? Hebrews 2:8-9 says – “We do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death.”

Do you trust that the Holy Spirit is mysteriously moving: convicting, converting, comforting, conforming people to the image of Christ, even if his activity seems imperceptible at times? John 3:8 says – “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Do you have the perspective that knows that there is an immaterial, immortal aspect to you that is more important than your current physical shape? Matthew 10:28 says – “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

Do you understand that the greatest enemies of our souls operate within an invisible network of malicious powers and personalities? Ephesians 6:12 – “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Do you have confidence knowing that God and his innumerable angel armies are on our side no matter how formidable and obvious the opponents and obstacles seem? 2 Kings 6:15-17 says – “When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ He said, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Do you focus on the promised future world more than this present, passing one all around us? 2 Corinthians 4:18 says – “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Can you fathom the potential of the local church to make these realities visible? 1 John 4:12 says – “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

Do you have faith? Hebrews 11:1 says – “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

But remember: there is coming a day when faith shall be sight. Revelation 1:7 says – “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him.”

Until then may you, like Moses, have the eyes of your hearts enlightened (see Eph. 1:18) so that you can see the unseen, for Hebrews 11:27 says – “He endured as seeing him who is invisible.”

Brothers and sisters, I long to see you and confirm that your faith and love are abounding (see e.g. 1Thess. 3:6), but for now I have to trust that God is working in you during this time even though I might not be able to see it. I pray that, as 1 Peter 1:8-9 says – “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

I can’t wait to see you all again and sing together “to the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, [to whom belongs all] honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1Tim. 1:17).

~ Pastor Nathan

Hello IBC Fam!

Here is our guide for Sunday morning home worship tomorrow.

Due to the news of his terminal illness, we are listening to a sermon by the apologist Ravi Zacharias this week entitled “Is Truth Dead?

The Spotify Playlist has been updated with new music for this week. Pick at least a couple, print out the words, and sing with your family or roommates before/after the sermon.

We also have a reading for this week from Isaiah 55:

Come, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters;

and he who has no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without price.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,

and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food.

Incline your ear, and come to me;

hear, that your soul may live;

and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,

my steadfast, sure love for David.

Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,

a leader and commander for the peoples.

Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,

and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,

because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,

for he has glorified you.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;

call upon him while he is near;

let the wicked forsake his way,

and the unrighteous man his thoughts;

let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,

and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

and do not return there but water the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy

and be led forth in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you

shall break forth into singing,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;

instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;

and it shall make a name for the Lord,

an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Memory verse: This week see if you can recite Psalm 1:1-5.

And here’s what would have been happening in Kids’ Corner, but you can still do it with your kids:

Story: “David and Goliath” p. 173

(Lesson 11)


Songs:

1. “What a Mighty God We Serve”

2. “My God Is So Big”

Praying for you this week,

Pastor Theo

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s;

he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

On November 22, 1963, the United States was brought to a standstill when it learned that President John F. Kennedy, our 35th President, was assassinated. He was riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, Jackie, and the governor of Texas, John Connally, together with his wife, Nellie. The final words of the President as he made small talk with Mrs. Connally in the presidential limousine are nothing short of ironic. Mrs. Connally said, “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.” Kennedy replied, “You certainly can’t.” Just seconds later the first of the three shots rang out that killed John F. Kennedy.

Everything can change in an instant.

Since last March when you flip on the news or check your feed online do you ever hear anyone on CNN, MSNBC, FOX, or The Wall Street Journal rejoicing in the Lord in response to COVID-19? No. Quite the opposite, actually. Every time we turn the news on we are bombarded with pessimism, snarky words, and criticism. What makes it even worse is that our nation is so divided right now that we can’t even combat COVID-19 as united front.

I don’t know about all of you but I am so tired of hearing that life will never be the same again. Really? Did we forget that a third of the continent of Europe died during the bubonic plague in the 14th century? I’m pretty sure life in Europe eventually went back to normal. But it’s pessimistic stories like that, that irk me.

Moreover, every day I see headlines whose only point is to make people worry. The media thinks of the most dramatic things they can say to get people to click on their story.

I digress. I am not here to vent my frustrations at the news, but in light of all of this I find Habakkuk like a breath of much needed fresh air! It is Habakkuk’s ironic praise and rejoicing in the face of a crumbling world that steadies one’s heart and can keep one from being overly agitated or put into one frenzy after another while constantly being bludgeoned with negativity that comes out like a fire hose from our media outlets.

The reality is: there is a lot of bad news. Similar to the way verse 17 describes the tragedy Habakkuk was experiencing (which was probably way worse than the effects of COVID-19 on our society), lots of people are sick and thousands have died, millions of people have filed for unemployment, and we are staring down the barrel of the possibility of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Not to mention professional baseball is shut down along with all other spectator events.

Yet, in the face of all of this Habakkuk would rejoice. Martin Lloyd-Jones says this commenting on verse 18 – “It was not merely resignation or saying: ‘Well, there is no use crying over spilled milk, or getting alarmed and excited, because we cannot do anything about it.’ Nor was it just applying the principle of psychological detachment. It was not taking oneself in hand and saying: ‘The best thing is not to think about it! Go to the pictures [“movie theater” which isn’t an option for us right now], read a novel and don’t think!’— a sort of escapism. Neither was it an attempt at being courageous. There is here no exhortation of courage. There is something infinitely greater than just making a mighty effort of the will and saying: ‘I am not going to whimper or cry, I am going to be a man’… Instead of mere resignation, or plucking up one’s courage, the Scripture shows that it is possible even under such conditions to be in a state of actual rejoicing.”

How is Habakkuk able to do this? Are we interpreting these events through the lens of God’s promises? That’s what Habakkuk was doing. He knows that God is a God of salvation (v. 18) and it is that fact that gave him strength (v. 19). In that God is a God of salvation, Habakkuk knows that God is immutable and he makes promises. No loss or tragedy (v. 17) could change that fact. God and his plans and purpose for the universe are in no way changed, thwarted, or turned off course by COVID-19. And it is this reality that freed Habakkuk up to be ironic, to rejoice in the Lord of his salvation in the face of a horror.

Rejoicing is a conscious choice; it is not the natural reflex reaction to a famine. This is what I mean by it being ironic. He was able to choose to rejoice because rejoicing is a function of faith. Believing that God is still good and working his will in spite of present circumstances. It’s this same faith that Habakkuk also knew that salvation flows out of, which is his reason to rejoice because salvation has come, is coming, and will come. In chapter 2, verse 4, he says, “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by faith.” He knew and was trusting in the promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis 15:6 – “He [Abram] believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” No famine or pestilence will thwart the sovereign hand of God. He is still working his plan of salvation.

Furthermore, even though in the moment of chapter 3 all Habakkuk could see was famine, he knew the world would not stay that way. He says in chapter 2, verse 14, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Even if as a result of the virus our lives here on earth are changed “forever” it will not be forever. God is reigning and one day the earth will see him for who he truly is.

It was these things that were the source of Habakkuk’s strength – the joy of his salvation. These things caused his joy and moved him to rejoice. Rejoicing in this God is what made his feet like the feet of a deer and lifted his soul to high places in spite of the destruction that was in front of his eyes.

Can I challenge us to remember these things too? Instead of allowing COVID-19 and all that the media has to say about it put you in a tail spin, can I ask you to be a little ironic? To, like Habakkuk before us, remember that God is immutable and his covenant purpose in the earth is unstoppable. And for that he is worthy of praise. Not only is he worthy, but if we choose to remember these things and rejoice in our salvation, joy (v. 18), not anxiety, will surely follow.

As Americans we think we can fix anything with our freedom and endless resources. However, the economy is being eroded away, our friends or family are sick or maybe even have died. We have so much less to entertain us with since spectator sports have been shut down. Can we rejoice in spite of all these things? Can we see our assured salvation as far better than an economy brimming with money and our favorite baseball team with a winning record?

Moreover, if the full force of the virus has touched our lives, if we ourselves are sick or someone we love has died, can we grieve and lament to a God whom we know has much better things planned for us? Right before Paul says that the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven in Romans 1, he says in verse 17 – “…the righteousness of God is being revealed from faith to faith, as it is written the righteous will live by faith.” Faith in an immutable God. His promises to Abraham and every other saint in the Old Testament and up to today has been kept. And that promise found its fulfillment in God’s own Son, who endured every consequence of every pestilence or famine for our sakes and for the glory of God, for our salvation and for our joy, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord. It’s on that long expected but assured day that his glory will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.

~ From a former elder and current missionary of IBC

Hello IBC Family,

Pastor Theo here. This Sunday, I hope you all can rest in the everlasting mercy and love of our Savior, Christ Jesus.

This week we have a talk from Michael Horton entitled, “What Is the Gospel?

The Spotify Playlist has been updated with new worship music for this week.

The prayer for this week comes again from The Valley of Vision:

THE GOSPEL WAY

BLESSED LORD JESUS,

No human mind could conceive or invent the gospel.

Acting in eternal grace, thou art both its messenger and its message,

lived out on earth through infinite compassion,

applying thy life to insult, injury, death,

that I might be redeemed, ransomed, freed.

Blessed be thou, O Father, for contriving this way,

Eternal thanks to thee, O Lamb of God,

for opening this way,

Praise everlasting to thee, O Holy Spirit,

for applying this way to my heart.

Glorious Trinity, impress the gospel on my soul,

until its virtue diffuses every faculty;

Let it be heard, acknowledged, professed, felt.

Teach me to secure this mighty blessing;

Help me to give up every darling lust,

to submit heart and life to its command,

to have it in my will,

controlling my affections,

moulding my understanding;

to adhere strictly to the rules of true religion,

not departing from them in any instance,

nor for any advantage in order to escape evil,

inconvenience or danger.

Take me to the cross to seek glory from its infamy;

Strip me of every pleasing pretence of righteousness by my own doings.
O gracious Redeemer,

I have neglected thee too long,

often crucified thee,

crucified thee afresh by my impenitence,

put thee to open shame.

Thank thee for the patience that has borne with me so long,

and for the grace that now makes me willing to be thine.

O unite me to thyself with inseparable bonds,

that nothing may ever draw me back from thee,

my Lord, my Saviour.

May we find rest in the finished work of Christ this week.

From @immanuelchicago on Twitter

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