From the Pastor

Introduction to Psalm 91

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Psalm 91 – A Prayer for Times of Fear and Exposure

 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

 

We are now living our lives – COVID-19 permitting. Or at least that is the message that is coming from the TV, social media, from our president and the healthcare experts. Much more can be said, but if you are anything like me you are in shock. We are missing the power of human touch and the comfort of ordinary time spent with friends and family in Christ.

We can say this out loud, “Social distancing sucks.” Go ahead. We all feel this way. God designed us for community. But for the sake of love of those at risk and because we are all exposed now, we must keep our distance.

And it is good to be honest. We are exposed right now. Exposed to fear. Exposed to sickness. And yes, exposed to the fear of death. I imagine that right now we look much like the crowds in Jesus day:

“When Jesus went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” ~Mark 6:34

Now this is where Psalm 91 comes in and tells us a better and truer and safer story than anything the media can tell you:

We live, Lord-willing. He is the One who protects and provides. His mercy and power come together and promise to be with us in our trouble. He is our refuge.

Here’s my goal in the coming days. Let’s meditate on Psalm 91 together. Psalm 1 promises that if we meditate on these words day and night, we will be like trees who continue to bear fruit even in desert heat, because God is with us. This means the gospel gives us roots and a supernatural strength to go through hard times: God with us.

So take a moment now to go read the Psalm 91. All of it. I want these words to become familiar, so that you can say them to yourself as you lie in bed.

This Psalm divides into three sections:

  1. 1-2 – Declaration of Faith (I am talking to God)
  2. 3-13 – A Vivid Description of God’s Protection (I am told how God will care for me)
  3. 14-16 – God’s Promise to Us (God is speaking to us, so lean in)

Start here by declaring your faith to God Himself using vs. 1-2. You may feel exposed, but you are covered by God’s presence and power. We dwell in His shadow, under His wings. Let’s find some comfort together by looking at the four divine names used for God. Each name moves God closer to us. Watch this:

1 - God is the Most High – this is a title for God which “cuts every threat down to size.”[1] Nothing happens outside of His Sovereign power and permission. This name is comforting when we are weak and vulnerable. Though the Most High sounds distance. He moves closer.

2 – God, the Almighty – This is the name God used with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is the God who swore to keep His promises for Abraham even if it means shedding His blood.  The Almighty God walked with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and as He worked to make Abraham a great nation and bring about the child who  will crush evil and restore God’s good creation (Genesis 3:15). Now the Most High is looking at us.

3 – the Lord – Yawheh – God is the Lord – Moses first heard these words in Exodus 3. Yahweh means “I am”. And in the context to Moses and now to us – His name means “I am with you.” The Lord drew near to Moses in the burning bush.

4 – my God – God is now mine. Is there anything more intimate that personal pronouns that claim personal possession? The Most High, the Almighty, Lord is my God.

The Most High dwells with you in your living room as you say by faith, “My God!”

Add one more detail. This goes straight for your anxious heart. Who says, “I am” in the New Testament?

              John 8:58 - Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before                 Abraham was, I am.”

Jesus is the Lord in the flesh, who shows us who is keeping us safe. Say to Him and to your fears, “My refuge, and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 

The cross of Christ shows us how serious God is about being our refuge and fortress. Christ was forsaken so we would be welcomed in and made forever safe through His resurrection.

Now lift up your prayers to Him.

Grace and peace to you from this God we just meditated on!

 


We can also sing these realities to one another. Here are a couple options:

All Must be Well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3zeRwnywG0

 It is Well with my Soul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zY5o9mP22V0

 

[1] Derek Kidner, Psalm 73-150, 364.

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Hope Church and COVID-19

Dear Hope Church Friends and Family:

 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has now intruded on all our lives. The Session met today to discuss and plan how walk in love together as Christ has loved us (Ephesians 5:2), while walking through this surreal and very real global pandemic. Here is what to expect going forward:

 

1 - Corporate Worship tomorrow (March 15) is cancelled. We are also cancelling all church related activities for this week (Mar. 15-21). This includes all small groups, the seeJesus study, and Sunday School activities.

 

This is not to give into the fear surrounding us. We love everyone who is a part of our church family at Hope. Paul makes clear that the ordinary practice of every church shaped by the love of Jesus, must love and care for the weak (Romans 15:1-7). In love we get to rearrange and inconvenience ourselves for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ.


Furthermore, one of my pastor friends pointed out that this is a way to live out the 6th commandment (do not murder) with prudence and love. Prudence, working together with in love, demands we plan ahead for potential harm to someone else’s life. Thus we are wanting to err on the side of caution to protect those who are at risk. (See Proverbs 22:3)

 

We would encourage you to spend some time Sunday morning in prayer, listen to a sermon online, and sing the good news of the gospel together. I’ve attached the order of worship that uses Psalm 27. You can go through this together.

 

Each week in March, on Thursday, the Session will decide whether it is wise to worship on the following Sunday. This will be based on the recommendations of our local government and the known level of risk. Our goal is to be able to meet as those who trust in the resurrection of Christ and who know in Christ death has lost its sting, and to let God speak to us and our fears with His gospel.

 

2 – Even though this disease has caused us to stay separated this week, the pastors and elders of Hope Church are here to serve you. If you are afraid, sick or in need of a pastoral visit, please call the office or one of our cell phones. We want to be with you as wisdom allows.

 

3 – On Wednesday, March 18th, Pastor Nate will lead a time of prayer at the church at 6:30pm.

You are invited to join us! Revelation 8:4-5 calls prayer, ‘reversed thunder’. They go up to the heavenly throne room and Jesus sends them back down with earth shattering and ear-splitting results. So we are going to trust God’s promises that come with prayer together.

 

4 – Some recommendations based on the information from the CDC:

 

-If you are ill, or been in contact with anyone with COVID-19, we would advise you, along with the CDC recommendations, to stay at home.

 

-We are also discouraging physical contact within the church (hugs, handshakes, etc…) We are called in love to ‘tame our inner-Italian’, as Pastor Jim put it. Even though I don’t like the awkwardness and the distance, it is right to do for those more prone to be harmed by COVID-19.

 

-When we meet, we will do our best to clean what we are able. Handwashing is definitely the best recommendation.

 

5 – Lastly, if for some reason going forward you are unable to get to the grocery store or run important errands, we want to be here to serve you. Please call the office and let us know. COVID-19 has given us great opportunity to be Good Samaritans for one another and for our neighbors.

To our neighbors who are not a part of the Hope Church family - we will do what we are able to serve and help. If you can't get groceries or other basic needs, please call the office at 518-885-7442 to let us know and someone will be in touch.

 

May God’s overflowing grace and peace in Christ fill you with comfort and wisdom in these coming days! And may God give you opportunity to speak to the hope we have been given in Jesus’ resurrection,

 

~Pastor Nate for the Session of Hope Church

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