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).
This time of the year, the first couple of chapters in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are addressed like no other time of the year. This is the time of the year that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
In Luke 1:26-38, the story of Christ’s conception and birth is recorded. The message of the angel Gabriel is amazing to say the least. Mary’s faith is just as amazing. Only a faith given by God could prepare someone for the events that were to take place in Mary’s life as well as that of Joseph’s. The key for any believer’s success is to understand the submissive statement of surrender “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord.”
Mary’s confession of trust and belief is in the face of what seems impossible, but with God, nothing is impossible. Did Mary know all the details? No, she didn’t. She knew enough about the event to ponder. She knew enough about God to meditate on His Word and wait on His will. Later in the chapter, Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, confirms Mary’s trust by saying, “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
For every believer it is the same as it was for Mary. The key is found in her willingness to submit her plans and surrender her will to God. The believer who desires to please God and be used by Him, must surrender his or her will for His purposes even if the events seem impossible. Along with Mary, we must be willing to say, “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord.”
Ponder this season what Christmas means to you. Search your heart and mind as to how the word “Christmas” affects you.
Christmas for me, first and foremost, is a time of celebration for the birth of The Lord, Jesus Christ. Irrespective of the efforts of nay sayers and those who would nitpick the “actual” birth date of Christ to undermine our joy, spirit of peace and happiness, Christmas encourages expressions of love, kindness and giving like no other time of the year.
Christmas for me also means family and friendship. Whether your loved ones and friends are with you or not, this season like none other draws us closer to one another, again, in the spirit of love, kindness and giving.
Christmas for me is also one of the most awesome times of the year to be planting and watering seeds of the gospel. People seem to be more open to peace on earth and good will toward men like no other season. You might not see the fruit of you labor now, but just know that in Kingdom economy, God’s Word will not return void.
The will of God, one of the simplest concepts to understand yet one of the most complex to explain. Falling under the heading of The Sovereignty of God, the doctrine has probably brought more debate in the last five centuries than any other, especially when applied to salvation. Take the doctrine of the hypostatic union – Christ is fully God and fully man – it illustrates the sovereignty of God perfectly, yet remains a miracle defying explanation. In fact, apart from faith, it is impossible to comprehend how Christ can be fully God and fully man with neither adding to nor taking away from the essential attributes of the other.
What was one of the by-products of the pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock? Thanksgiving. and yet the will of man was to land at one place, but the will of God either by assignment, appointment, arrangement or allowance, was for them to land where they did. Though hardships were to follow their arrival (an understatement for sure), Thanksgiving was the result; nevertheless Thy will be done.
Some say it was a mistake for the Pilgrims to land where they did. I say it was a miracle. Someone might say, “How can it be a miracle with such pain, suffering and death associated with their ultimate landing site?” I say the same way the hypostatic union of Christ brought salvation through the greatest level of pain, suffering and death for the Son of God. Perhaps the most significant reason for giving thanks. And what were the prayerful words of the Son to the Father before the cross? “Nevertheless, Thy will be done.”