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Therefore,

preparing your minds for action,

and being sober-minded,

set your hope fully

on the grace that will be brought to you

at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:13

“When this is over, I can’t wait to…” I hear my kids saying this regularly. I find myself thinking this way too. The assumption behind such sentiments is that this is bad, but it will pass… eventually, and life will go on as it has since the beginning (cf. 2Pe. 2:4).

The narrative we hear from the world encourages this mindset:

· your stimulus check is in the mail

· a vaccine is already being tested and is on the way

· if we all practice social distancing, we can flatten the curve

· it will peak in April May and then go down

· together we can get through this

· …

For example, I read this in an email I got this week from the Cubs:

In the midst of the uncertainty, we are confident we will get through this challenging time together. For more than a century, the game we love has had the unique ability to unite our nation and lift our spirits. We will play baseball again, for you, our city and our country. Until America’s pastime returns and we take the field, please take care of yourselves and your loved ones.

But even among Christians I hear similar things:

· when the church can gather again, it’s going to be sweet

· God’s going to make the church come out better because of this

· faith can help you make it through

· …

This week I also got an update from T4G (a large Christian conference in April I always go to that was cancelled):

Our team has worked diligently to reduce every possible expense. By God’s grace, this leaves T4G very close to breaking even for the 2020 conference, which provides us the opportunity to continue hosting conferences for years to come, Lord willing.

It’s good that we’re missing the church, looking to God, relying on his grace, and saying things like – “if God wills” (James 4:15). But what strikes me in all of this talk – non-Christian and Christian alike – is the shared underlying belief that this is just a temporary disruption. We all seem to be hoping for a return to normal and many years to come. I think Peter is telling us to hope for something more.

It may be that COVID-19 will be covered in history books in years to come, but that should not be our ultimate desire or de facto assumption. The Bible gives us another response – Maranatha/Come Lord(1Cor. 16:22; cf. Rev. 22:20)! More than just a return to normal, we should long for the return of Christ. More than just an end of this pandemic, we should want an end of this sin-ravaged world.

What is it that we really want? To be able to eat out again? Or the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9)? Our 401ks to rebound? Or the streets of gold (Rev. 21:21)? Our summer vacation plans to happen? Or the endless day (Rev. 21:23-25)? Chicago to re-open the lakefront and river walk? Or the eternal city with the river and tree of life (Rev. 22:1-2)? Have we “loved his appearing” (2Tim. 4:8)? Or are we “in love with this present world” (2Tim. 4:10)?

The Apostle Peter, who talks about the Second Coming a lot, in this verse calls us to have our minds prepared for action. We need to keep our minds turned on and tuned in to God’s Word. We must stay mentally sharp and alert, not dull and flabby. Has this coronavirus crisis caused you to concentrate even more on the things of the Lord? Or to get mentally exhausted with stress and turn to mind-numbing entertainment? Let’s stay focused!

And then Peter charges us to be sober-minded. We can’t be flippant about death and eternal realities. Neither can we let our minds come under the influence of fear and panic. We must be steady and be serious about being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

And by doing these things, we will be able to set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. We don’t set our hope on the government’s aid. We don’t set our hope on the medical field’s expertise. We don’t set our hope on the economy’s resilience. We don’t set our hope on this eventually going away so we can go back to work and sports and socializing.

We set our hope fully on the Day that Jesus will be revealed from heaven to end this world and remake it into a magnificently glorious place to dwell with us in, a place where “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore” (Rev. 21:4). Oh what a glorious grace that will be that will be brought to us then! As lightning lights up the sky, so will be the revelation of Jesus (Lk. 17:24), coming on the clouds (Mt. 24:30) to reign and be marveled at (2Thess. 1:10). That’s what we want more than anything. That is our rest, our joy, our home… our hope. That should be what we want and yearn for and look forward to more than for our lives here to go on as they did before.

When we used to gather and affirmed the Apostles’ Creed together, we said we believed that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. But do we really? Do we expect it? And do we prefer it, hasten it (2Pe. 3:12)? Is our hope fully set on that, or something else? And to be clear: this means more than just being okay with dying and having our souls be kept safe in heaven, comforting as that is (2Cor. 5:8; Ph. 1:23). But what we ultimately ache for is the bodily return of Christ to raise our bodies immortal (Ph. 3:21) so that we will be with the Lord forever (1Thess. 4:17) in a new heavens and a new earth (2Pe. 3:13).

Brothers and sisters: during this time of distress let’s be dressed and ready (Lk. 12:35), with our minds focused, expectantly “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). And for whatever extra days he delays, let’s love our Lord, love our neighbors, and seek to bring as many other people with us into the new world as we can. It’s coming! And it will be way better than anything you could hope for in this life (1Cor. 15:19-28).

So instead of just saying, “I can’t wait for this to be over,” let’s learn to honestly say, “I can’t wait for Jesus to come back!”

– Pastor Nathan

Today we’re starting a daily video series.  Each day a different member of our church will read the Psalm from our Bible Reading Plan.

Dear IBC Family,

We will not be gathering as a church again tomorrow in light of the stay at home order, but here is the home resource guide for your devotional time.

The Spotify playlist has been loaded with a new set of songs for this week. You can also listen to the Immanuel Pastors Podcast on Spotify at your convenience. The most recent episode helps you understand some of our thinking about Sunday services.

The highlighted “Sermon of the Week” for this Sunday is John Piper’s “Doing Missions When Dying Is Gain.” Listen to it online with your household and discuss what application it might have to our situation today. Pastor Nathan was a senior in high school on a visit to Wheaton College and in the packed audience on the night when this message was delivered. It had a massive impact on the course of his life.

Finally, here is another Puritan prayer from The Valley of Vision entitled “The Gospel Way.”

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 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 doings.

O gracious Redeemer,

I have neglected thee too long,

Often crucified thee,

Crucified thee afresh by my impenitence,

Put thee to shame.

I 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.

Praying for you,

Pastor Theo

Is this crisis driving you to prayer or revealing your prayerlessness?

Either way, ‘come’ and pray.

Last week we shifted our weekly all-church Prayer Meeting online and to Saturdays.

Click on the link in your email tomorrow (3/28) just before 10:00 AM.

We’re working on getting it recognized by iTunes and Google Play, but until then you can access it here.

Dear IBC Church Family,

It is with sincere sadness that we have decided to cancel services for this week. As stated in a previous email you should have received, we will continue to monitor the situation on a week-by-week basis, so that we can restore our weekly Lord’s Day fellowship together as soon as it is safe to do so. I’m hoping and praying that as these troubled times continue to pressure us away from one another, our common love for the Lord and his people will draw us closer together, holding all things in common (Acts 2:43-47).

In the meantime, the unstructured state of our world will continue to encourage us to neglect the things of God for entertainment and what we think are the more expedient needs of everyday life. For this reason, the Elders of IBC strongly encourage you to still do your upmost to set aside time to remember the Lord, to pray for Christ’s mercy over the sins of the week and his grace to endure the next, and to feast on his Word. I’ve listed some prayers and resources for this week’s reflection which you can use with your family or roommates. This is not a healthy substitute for the biblical command to assemble together (see Heb. 10:24-25), but our hope is that these resources will allow us to honor the Lord as best we can and be filled with his Spirit on the Lord’s Day, even in exile (see Rev. 1:10).

Here is a link to the church’s weekly Spotify playlist. Every week we will change out the songs with regular IBC worship music.

We are also highlighting a ‘Sermon of the Week’ for you to reflect on. For this week, we have a sermon by an older pastor named Francis Grimke. Here is a short biography of his life. And here is the sermon. It was given on the first Sunday back after a quarantine related to the deadly Spanish Flu in 1918. Please read it tomorrow.

Finally, I have attached a prayer from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions for your reflection:

Weaknesses

O Spirit of God, help my infirmities;

When I am pressed down with a load of sorrow, perplexed and knowing not what to do, slandered and persecuted, made to feel the weight of the cross – help me, I pray Thee.

If Thou seest in me any wrong thing encouraged, any evil desire cherished, any delight that is not Thy delight, any habit that grieves Thee, any nest of sin in my heart – then grant me the kiss of Thy forgiveness, and teach my feet to walk the way of Thy commandments.

Deliver me from carking care, and make me a happy, holy person;

Help me to walk the separated life with firm and brave step, and to wrestle successfully against weakness;

Teach me to laud, adore, and magnify Thee, with the music of heaven, and make me a perfume of praiseful gratitude to Thee.

I do not crouch at Thy feet as a slave before a tyrant, but exult before Thee as a son with a father.

Give me power to live as Thy child in all my actions, and to exercise sonship by conquering self.

Preserve me from the intoxication that comes of prosperity;

Sober me when I am glad with a joy that comes not from Thee.

Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom, not asking whether the road be rough or smooth.

I request only to see the face of Him I love, to be content with bread to eat, with raiment to put on, if I can be brought to Thy house in peace.

Praying for you through the week,

Pastor Theo

‘If disaster comes upon us,

the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine,

we will stand before this house and before you —

for your name is in this house —

and cry out to you in our affliction,

and you will hear and save.’

2 Chronicles 20:9

In the New Testament era, there is nothing special about a particular place. We can come before God’s heavenly throne anytime, anywhere by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19; cf. 4:16). Let’s join together and cry out to him during this season!

We’re moving our regular weekly Prayer Meeting to Saturday mornings at 10:00 AM via Zoom for the time being.

Peace I leave with you;

my peace I give to you.

Not as the world gives do I give to you.

Let not your hearts be troubled,

neither let them be afraid.

John 14:27

Members and Attenders of Immanuel,

All schools in the state of Illinois closed down on Tuesday and will not re-open until at least March 30th. These missed days will not be made up because the closure is due to what they refer to as an “act of God.” We believers know that this unusual time is indeed from the hand of our sovereign Lord. And we trust that he has wise yet mysterious plans for this disruption to our daily lives. We will be doing much reflection on what those might be in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

For now, we wanted to communicate some important information with everyone.

Sunday Services – After much prayer, thinking, counsel, and deliberation, we have decided to suspend our regular Lord’s Day gathering starting this Sunday (3/22). This was not an easy decision. But the state of Illinois has now mandated the cancellation of events of more than 50 people. As a church of 88 members plus children, regular attenders, and visitors this does not allow us to all assemble together, nor does it seem wise at the moment. We want to preserve the unity of the body and promote the safety of our city, and so we are regretfully taking this extreme but temporary measure. We will re-evaluate this decision every week as the circumstances are constantly changing.

We also have decided not to do a ‘livestream’ of a service. We are not judging other churches that have chosen this option, but we feel like it would be wisest not to allow anyone to think that such an activity can replace what is meant to happen in the assembly of the saints. During this season we pray that you would remember fondly all the sweet times we’ve had together at The Meeting Place and long deeply for our future reunion there.

We will be giving you more guidance and resources for how to be spending your time on Sunday mornings (and all the other days).

Small Groups – Hopefully you already received communication from your Small Group Leaders that we have asked Small Groups not to meet physically together for the time being. Each group, however, is encouraged to communicate regularly, share updates, and even experiment with different ways of sharing insights from the Bible Reading Plan and staying in touch via technology. Your Small Group will be a great way to still be connected with other people in the community during this time.

Prayer Ministry – We are working on different ways to have online prayer meetings and organize prayer walks. We are mobilizing our Intercessory Prayer Team to ensure that everyone is covered in prayer. And please reach out to them at prayer with any items you need specific prayer for!

Children’s Ministry – Our Deacon of Children’s Ministry is working on getting curriculum and activities for you to use at home with your children. And the Elders will be sharing more resources for Family Worship.

Koinonia – Our Deacon of Koinonia is working on some creative and fun ideas for ways to still foster community life during this season. Stay tuned…

Member Support and Mercy Ministry – Our budget has funds built in to meet tangible needs inside and outside our church community. If you have or know of any financial needs during this time that the church can help meet OR if you would like to contribute extra money to this fund, please contact the Elders!

We will be communicating with you regularly as we go through this together. For now, we encourage you to keep up a regular schedule, keep reading the Bible Reading Plan and good books, keep memorizing and meditating on Psalm 1, pray… and (as was said in last Sunday’s sermon) do all this before and more than you watch the news and Netflix.

Your Pastors,

Nathan & Theo

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, we have a great opportunity to demonstrate our difference from the world (the topic of this coming Sunday’s sermon passage in 1 John).

This means that we exhibit peace in the midst of panic because we know him who is from the beginning (1Jn. 2:13,14). So many passages of Scripture come to mind that call us not to be anxious (i.e. Ph. 4:6-7), not to be worried (i.e. Lk. 12:29), not to fear but find refuge in God (i.e. Ps. 46:1-2), etc…

We are ultimately not even afraid of death (i.e. Ph. 1:21; Heb. 2:15). And we have the message that can rescue people from eternal death (i.e. Jn. 11:25). Let’s be sure to share the gospel with a hopeless world during this time and recognize its power to go viral (see Mt. 13:33).

Some trust in the banks and financial institutions, some trust in government health professionals, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God (Ps. 20:7). We don’t set our hope on the uncertainty of riches (1Tim. 6:17), but our treasure is safe in heaven (Mt. 6:19-21).

We believe in the mercy of God (see 1Chron. 21:13 and surrounding context) and we believe in the power of prayer (James 5:16). Let’s pray for God’s common grace to curb COVID-19 through health care researchers and workers and other means. Let’s pray for those who are suffering in various ways (physically, emotionally, economically…). And mostly let’s pray for this to be an occasion for people to pay attention to God and the things that really matter eternally and not just continue to go through life with the illusion of invincibility, immortality, and the inevitability of human progress.

Let’s remember that gathering together every Lord’s Day to express God’s worth and our oneness in Christ is an important part of what it means to be a church (i.e. Heb. 10:25; the Greek word translated ‘church’ carries the meaning of an ‘assembly’).

We will continue to monitor the situation, but at this point, taking into consideration our church size and general age demographic together with the current outbreak level in Chicago, our normal Sunday services for praising, praying, preaching, and participating in the Lord’s Table together will continue. However, out of love for each other and our neighbor we will take extra precautions to prevent the spread of the virus:

· The Set-Up and Tear-Down Crews will be extra vigilant to wash hands, maintain cleanliness, and wipe down surfaces.

· The Welcoming Team will open doors for you as you enter The Meeting Place.

· We will greet each other with a holy elbow bump, instead of a kiss or hug or shaking hands.

· Chairs will be set up farther apart from each other than usual.

· We will have hand sanitizer stationed in the line for the Lord’s Table for everyone to use before taking the elements.

· We will not pass baskets but will leave them out on the back table for you to put your offerings in.

· Table Talk lunch is cancelled for this Sunday.

· If you are immunocompromised and/or elderly we suggest not coming to service.

· If you are sick or have been exposed to the coronavirus, we ask that you not come to service.

If you feel like you need to stay home, please let a pastor know so we can care for you appropriately during this time.

We are also monitoring this issue with respect to Small Groups and other gatherings and will keep you posted.

One of our body’s own medical professionals recommends consulting www.cdc.gov/coronavirus for more information and tips about preventing the spread of the virus (i.e. clean your hands often; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; cover coughs and sneezes; maintaining a safe distance…).

We have tried to balance faith and prudence in this approach. If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact Pastor Nathan.

PRELUDE “Take the World but Give Me Jesus” by Fanny J. Crosby

WELCOME & CALL TO WORSHIP – (Psalm 117)

Praise the Lord, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!

Song –

All Creatures of Our God and King” by Jonathan Baird, Ryan Baird, St. Francis of Assisi, and William Henry Draper

CONFESSION OF SIN –  Before entering the promise land, the Lord commanded his people in Deuteronomy 6:4:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

You shall love the Lord your God

with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

 

For our idolatry and our failure to love the Lord with all we are, let’s take a moment to reflect upon our sins and pray that the Lord would be merciful to such a people as us.

 

[Silent Moment of Prayer]

 

ASSURANCE OF PARDON – Hear This assurance of pardon from Ephesians 2:4-8

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,

 even when we were dead in our trespasses,

made us alive together with Christ

—by grace you have been saved—

 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

so that in the coming ages he might show

 the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Songs –

Not for a Moment” by Meredith Andrews

PRAYER (??) Be Seated

CHILDREN’S BLESSING & DISMISSAL – Psalm 1:3

(Kids Corner is available for children through 1st grade)

SCRIPTURE READING – 1 John 2:12-17

(please stand and respond with “Thanks be to God!”)

SERMON – “The World”

THE LORD’S TABLE

Songs –

I Surrender All” by Judson Wheeler Van DeVenter and Winfield Scott Weeden

Be Thou My Vision” by Eleanor Henrietta Hull and Mary Elizabeth Byrne

OFFERING – be sure to also include something about dropping in Visitor Info cards found in bulletin flap

Song –

 “Give Us One Pure and Holy Passion” by Mark Altrogge

BENEDICTION & ANNOUNCEMENTS

POSTLUDE  “Give Me Jesus” by Fernando Ortega

From @immanuelchicago on Twitter

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