Greetings, Earthlings! I hope you are missing us as much as we are missing you. I’m certain all of you have been keeping up on the Covid 19 status and how it is effecting our community, state and nation. In the last couple of days, there have been reports that our country, state and community will soon be “reopening.” President Trump intimated that their are states that could be ready to reopen “today.” However, he has left the reopening of America again to the state and local governments as they deem necessary.
In light of this news, several of our people have asked when Clearview will be gathering together again. Technically, religious meetings were never terminated by any government authorities. The interruption of Clearview’s regular scheduled meetings was voluntary on our part in the best interest for the health, safety and well-being of our membership and visiting guests. With this in mind, our best target date for regathering corporately will be some time in May. All this to say, stay tuned to any and all of Clearview’s social media outlets for confirmation date of the reopening of our regularly scheduled meetings.
Be patient and continue to trust the Lord. For the believer, the outcome of any and every circumstance is for God’s glory and our gain. Our present situation has not taken God by surprise . . . . nothing ever does.
“…. one accord in prayer ….”
Have you ever heard of anyone being taught how to swim by being thrown into the water out of a boat? That’s how my brother-in-law, Jesse Touchton, taught me how to pray in public. We were sitting in a McDonalds restaurant after school one afternoon. He took off his ball cap and I took off mine, following his example, waiting for him to pray, and he said, “You pray.” I had only been a Christian for a few weeks, but I gave it my best shot. Neither one of us got sick, so I guess it was ok, lol.
While it was Jesse who taught me how to pray in public, it was his dad, my first pastor, Don Touchton, who introduced me to corporate prayer. On Wednesday nights, after music and preaching in worship, the entire church body would join together in prayer. Just about everyone, if not everyone, would come forward to the altar and kneel in prayer. Not only was the altar filled from one side of the church building to the other, but the area between the alter up to the front pews, as well as, the front pews and the second and third rows, was also occupied. Of course the posture of our bodies wasn’t important, but the condition of our hearts was. In later years, I realized we were experiencing revival.
After 40 plus years of Christianity, involved with and in many churches and ministry opportunities, nothing has rivaled those days of revival. Including mine, lives were changed and transformed forever. People from all walks of life joined together, people you wouldn’t find together in any other setting came together as one body in prayer. It was amazing! It wasn’t contrived. The experience was genuine and with biblical precedence.
In the book of Acts, the apostles and others met in one accord, in what can only be described as revival. Jesus had been crucified, buried, resurrected and ascended to the heavenly Father. The result was confusion, disappointment and frustration for the followers of Christ. Until He met with them and told them to meet in the upper room in order to receive the Comforter. The only way to describe what took place is….revival. It’s been said that whereas prayer may not guarantee revival, revival is not guaranteed without prayer.
In these days under the order of “safer at home” guidelines, it seems impossible to be together in one accord. However, remember, it’s not the posture, position or place of our bodies that matters, but the condition of our hearts.
Among many of the ways my father used to discipline me (“discipline,” for those of you born after 1970, was a way parents used to get the attention of their children, i.e., spankings, withholding meals, and being grounded were just some of the ways discipline was administered) grounding was probably the worst. Im not talking about “time out.” By the way, grounding usually followed a spanking. But I digress.
I once spent an entire summer, yes, an entire summer, grounded two weeks at a time. I would get grounded, two weeks passed, and on the day I was released, on that very day, I did something that got me grounded for another two weeks. Couldn’t go anywhere. People could come over (none did), but I couldn’t go anywhere.
You know what’s interesting? Some of the friends I used to hang out with got into some serious trouble that summer. If I hadn’t been grounded, I’m certain I would have too. At the time of my being grounded, I couldn’t understand why or how come it had to be so long and harsh. My dad didn’t know that these guys were gonna get into trouble, but the effect was still the same. Whether I liked or understood being grounded for that summer, it might very well have saved my life, certainly a great deal of pain.
I don’t like all of the restrictions that we’re facing right now. Don’t understand all of what’s going on, and truthfully, my opinion differs from the popular belief of many of those who are in charge. However, the Bible says I am to obey the ruling authorities (Romans 13:1-7). So I encourage you to do the same. After all, it might even save your life, or certainly a great deal of pain.
As you know, the country has been facing a rare form of adversity through the virus Covid -19. CDC, WHO, state and local government officials have deemed it safer to stay at home, accept for essential appointments and travel, in an attempt to stave off the spread of the virus. And while Clearview has been meeting within the guidelines of the CDC’s recommendations, the decision has been made to interrupt our regular scheduled meetings throughout the month of April. It’s with the health, safety and well-being of our members in mind, and for those with whom our members come into contact, that this decision has been made.
We accept this challenge to expand our ministry opportunities for God’s glory. The staff and I will remain in contact with our church family. I encourage you to stay in contact with each other as well. I will continue to record Sunday messages and post them on our web page, Clearviewbaptistchurchstpete. My wife (forcing me to expand my limited borders of computer and electronic technology) and I will be looking into other social media outlets as alternative means of communication.
Above all DO NOT FEAR. Find pleasant activities and distractions from a constant diet of news media reports. I needn’t remind you that prayer is the single greatest discipline that any Christian anywhere can practice. Rejoice in the Lord that He is Sovereign and in control. This virus hasn’t taken God by surprise. Nothing occurs to God. He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent. As such, according to His will, He either allows, assigns, arranges or appoints the opportunities, circumstances, and situations in life. The future is bright and hopeful for every believer and as always we are to be the salt and light for the world.
Thank you for your continued support. It is a pleasure to serve such a faithful and caring congregation of believers. I look forward to the many years ahead, Lord willing, to see how He continues to use Clearview in the local community which she was planted, as well as, in Florida, US and around the world!
The phrase, shield of faith, comes from Ephesians 6:16. It’s a part of the description of the “Whole armor of God.” It is accompanied by: the waist girded with truth, breastplate of righteousness, feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. Another way to list these characteristics as attributes would be: truth, righteousness, gospel, faith, salvation and the Word of God. A couple of qualifying remarks from the surrounding text: Our strength doesn’t come from us or the suit of armor; our strength is to be placed in and sourced by the power of God’s might; we don’t (ultimately) wrestle against flesh and blood; once clad, we are to stand fast or firm; and finally, we are to pray.
One of the interesting phrases associated with the shield of faith is, “above all.” To be sure, every part of the “whole armor of God” is important, but why is the shield of faith prefaced with “above all?” Practically speaking, without faith the rest of the armor is of little use, if any. For instance, how is one saved? Isn’t it by grace through faith? What good is the Word of God to anyone personally unless by faith they receive it as such?
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” If you read verses 10-20 of Ephesians six, you’ll find that this definition of faith fits perfectly into the context, and that context being spiritual warfare. All day long the enemy shoots at us what this text describes as fiery darts. That’s why prayer is indispensable and inextricably linked to the armor of God and spiritual warfare.
What does a shield do? Some shields are made to deflect, some are made to absorb the projectiles of the enemy. In this case, they are “fiery” darts, intended, not only to kill the opponent (you and me), but to destroy us. It’s not enough for the enemy to kill, but he also wants to destroy, to annihilate his opponent. Now you know why the Apostle Paul started this section out with, “…be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
Left to ourselves, our own power and might, we are already doomed to fail. Often we rely on our own physical strength and intellect, our own resources and means by which to handle conflict and adversity. For the believer, reason should never dominate faith, faith should always precede reason. By way of illustration, do you remember the story of David and Goliath? David couldn’t understand how Goliath could stave off the entire army of Israel. When he finally got the chance to confront Goliath, the military leaders wanted to put him in their armor. David told them two things: the armor is too cumbersome, and he wasn’t yet worthy to where it.
Here’s the point, David was a boy/man of faith. He believed that the battle was the Lord’s and the victory was his/Israel’s. David slew Goliath standing in the strength of the Lord and in the power of His might evidenced when David said, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts….This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand….Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands.”” (I Samuel 17:45-47, exerts) Armed with a sling and some stones, did David carry a visible shield? No. His shield was his faith in the name of the Lord!
Any, and practically every, adversity is an opportunity in which to be fearful. It’s really the unknown of any given set of circumstances that gives rise to fear and undue concern. Trust, on the other hand, is the discipline that dispels fear and anxiety. Not just blind or ignorant trust, but genuine dependence on that which has been proven to be tried and true. Of course, arguably, the greatest example to be trustworthy is Jesus Christ. Granted, it’s a matter of faith to be sure. But then again, the Bible says that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). So it can be quite a challenge to understand how fear and anxiety from the unknown can be dispelled by One who can’t be visibly seen or audibly heard. Hence, the answer is sourced in the spiritual.
For the believer, he or she knows that the physical and the spiritual are inextricably linked together. That being the case, one must understand that reason should never dominate faith. Instead, the two, faith and reason, should compliment each other just as intellect should compliment common sense, wisdom should compliment prudent risk, and as leverage should compliment force, etc. Therefore, especially in matters of adversity and the unknown, God’s Word is the grid-work through which the circumstances should be filtered.
The Bible may not give us specific or direct instructions on a given matter such as details surrounding COVID-19, and how to deal with the political, legal, medical and economic ramifications to us as individuals, as a corporate body or a nation. However, the Bible does give us clear, and in some cases imperative, directions on how we are to conduct ourselves everyday as Christians. Oversimplified, love is the order of everyday living irrespective of adversity or advantage. Micah 6:8 tells us to do justly, love mercy and to walk humbly before our God.
With respect to the present adversity of COVID-19, we’ve been hearing a lot of terms like “directives,” “orders,” “stay at home,” safer at home,” “social distancing,” etc., each of us has to make application of the recommendations, suggestions, and directives of the respective authorities as he or she sees fit. Staying home for one may be more necessary than for another, “essential” being the operative word as of late. So the point of this note is to encourage everyone not to live in fear, but in the Spirit of love by the power of Christ having the mind of Christ in you. As I have been saying for the last couple of weeks, and will continue to do so, staying at home is obviously the wiser decision for everyone especially for those 65 years of age and older, as well as, restricting all non essential activity outside the home. And if you do choose to go somewhere you deem essential, practice the 6 foot space of social distancing. Finally, keep in mind the requests of your loved ones who might not understand and agree with the choice(s) you make to go places when they think and urge you to stay home. If at all possible, it might well be wiser to honor their request. But at the end of the day, that is between you and them.
“God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” II Timothy 1:7, (NIV translates “sound mind” as self-control).