Friday Encouragement 5/29/20

Preserve me, oh God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord;

I have no good apart from you."

Psalm 16: 1-2

This Psalm was written by King David. David was well acquainted with danger and therefore very aware of his need to be preserved. Do you feel the need to be preserved? Although we may not be fleeing from an immediate threat to our lives, we can relate with the need to be preserved. Many times, the major threat we face is ourselves. We neglect our responsibility to take refuge in the LORD. In order for God to preserve me I must turn to Him. If we desire for God to preserve us throughout our day, we must turn to Him throughout our day. In reality, we can't preserve ourselves. Left to ourselves we would be devoured by our own sinful desires. The only one who can preserve us is the LORD and first we must take refuge in Him.

What does it mean to "take refuge"? One way to do this is to turn to the LORD in prayer and agree with David that 1) He is my Lord (master) and 2) "I have no good apart from you." Acknowledging God as Lord is to remember that He is the one who is in control and I am not. It is a surrender of your will to His will. Secondly, we must arrive at the same conclusion as David. "I have no good apart from You." God is enough. His plan for my life is good. In comparison to God, all the things of this world are rubbish. The more frequently we arrive at this conclusion the more we are taking refuge in Him and the more we will experience His preserving power in our lives.

Friday Encouragement 5/22/20

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

This is one of the great promises of the Bible from Solomon, often called the wisest man who ever lived. When writing Proverbs 3:5-6, Solomon understood the relationship between promises of God and their fulfillment. He knew that with almost every promise there is a condition attached to it. He also knew something of the conflict between the known and the unknown and trusting God for what we cannot see.

Today it's especially difficult to trust anyone. The dictionary says that trust means, "assured reliance; confidence, appropriation." But what does "trusting with all your heart" really mean? The word trust is the picture of a little child who is learning to walk. His father reaches out a hand and says, "Come to daddy. I won't let you down. I'll catch you before you fall." It means, to rely upon, to have confidence in someone, to lean upon another. Additionally, Solomon urges us to do it will all our heart, no matter how foolish it may appear because God will never let us fall.

You can put your full weight on God and not attempt to understand everything. Acknowledge God in everything you do, and God will direct your steps.

Our problem is our hesitation to put our full weight on God when we can't see the future. Our trust in ourselves is often the hindrance to trusting Him. Our failure to rest in Him and to trust Him often keeps us depleted and anxious. How much better to rest in Him and realize His understanding goes far beyond ours.

Friday Encouragement (5/8/20)

Thoughts on Reopening

Many of us are eager to begin worshiping in-person again, and, as Indiana slowly begins to re-open, it seems that might actually happen. Given our governor's back-on-track plan for re-opening, I want to share some thoughts as we all consider how to slowly and safely resume corporate worship.

All year long, we have been coming back to the idea of slowing down, being unhurried, and living present in the moment. As much as anyone, I am looking forward to being together, gathering for worship and seeing one another in body, not just over the internet. I have also been thinking about Jesus' words to consider the flock and to love others well, "love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34). Undoubtedly, there are many variations of how this could be applied, but in our cultural moment, for Midtown Church, I am taking it to mean slowly and safely.

The decision about when to reopen and the exact steps as to how we do it is clearly in the sphere of wisdom (or, conviction, as we talk about in Discover Midtown membership class). This is not a core issue (things we would die for; for example, Christ alone, faith alone, etc.) or even in the sphere of commitments (things that distinguish us; for example, being Presbyterian, sovereignty of God, election, etc.)

It would be easy for the details surrounding re-opening to create division in the church. Some may feel as if we are not moving quickly enough. Others might be concerned that we are moving too quickly. In this season, we're asking for an abundance of grace for one another and prayer for wisdom for the leadership of Midtown.  We are seeking to reopen as soon as we safely can, on or before June 7th. This gives us time to prepare a safe place for in-person worship for everyone in our body and others who might join us. We are doing all we can to follow CDC guidelines and recommendations from our governing authorities. Things will be different. We will be practicing social distancing, shortening service times, and there will be no Midtown Kids this summer. We will send out more details about our new normal in the near future. 

As we begin to gather together again, families will have to decide what works best for them and their children. Some of you are in a high-risk category or have other reasons, and you might want to return to worship later than others. We will continue to live-stream our services. However you choose to worship with us in the coming weeks and months, we are thankful for you and praying for you. Whether you worship with us by live-stream or in-person, we're going to continue to grow in our love for the Savior.

If you have any questions, or you're not quite sure how to re-engage, please contact us and we will be happy to talk with you.

I thought I would include a pastor's version of a COVID-19 Screwtape Letter that depicts Screwtape's (the senior demon) communication to Wormwood (the junior demon) about how to use the pandemic against the church. Again, may we give each other an abundance of grace as we figure out how to move forward wisely.

Just give it a few weeks. Our moment hasn't come yet. But it will. It will come when people begin talking about re-entering society. As people begin to navigate acceptable social norms. We have a great opportunity awaiting us: To pit husband against wife, To pit friend against friend. And family member against family member. To pit those who profess to love the enemy - calling him Savior and King - against one another. To pit Christians against pastors. To pit pastors against pastors. Just wait. A few weeks from now you'll be deployed. To whisper into the ears of the confident that the "cautious" people are soft. To whisper into the ears of the cautious that the confident people are "reckless." To fan into flame human pride. While at the same time putting out the flame of human empathy. And not only will it be to the detriment and destruction of valuable relationships. But also to the detriment and destruction of the church. After all, our great Enemy once said: "By this all people will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another." Our moment hasn't come yet. But it will. All the Whos down in Whoville are singing right now. About the great revival to come. In a few short weeks, we will destroy their song.

- Pastor Corey

Friday Encouragement (5/1/20)

A brief encouragement from Elder Dennis Christensen on Psalm 102.


Friday Encouragement 4/24/20

A 5 minute video from Elder Chad Mary on Psalm 23.


Friday Encouragement 4/17/20

from elder Bill Regan

Psalm 5

1 Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning.

2 Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.

3 O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.

5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.

6 You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in fear of you.

8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.

9 For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.

10 Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.

In Psalm 5, we see David approaching God feeling anxious, worried, fearful and isolated. These are common experiences Christians often face in a fallen world. How should we respond?

Instead of focusing on our fear or worry, we need to focus on God and pray. Take a minute or two to reflect on what happens to your relationship with God and your prayer life when you find yourself facing a difficult situation. For David, he approached God in prayer with the confidence Paul expressed in Ephesians 3:12, "in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him." This is evidenced by three markers that should be part of prayers.

The first is Urgency. The psalm immediately begins with a sense of urgency on the part of David. Notice in the first and second verses the words used by David: give ear, consider, and give attention. To give ear has a literal meaning of "broadening the ear" as with the hand. "Give attention" means to listen or "to incline the ear." Therefore, David is asking the Lord to perk up His ears to the things that David is about to say, if you will.

Prayer was important to David. It is so important for us to move our prayers from the optional to the urgent. How often do our prayers merely come from a sense of routine and not a sense of urgency. Yet it is this spirit of urgency that is needed in our prayers.

The second marker is Persistence. We see persistence in the prayer David is bringing to God. David prayed "in the morning." David was not praying only on one morning. He was praying every morning. In Luke 18:1 we are told that Jesus "told them this parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart." David shows us the example that we need to continue to ask of the Lord even when the answer is delayed. We must rely upon prayer, repeatedly asking for the Lord to answer.

The third and final marker is Expectation. The third verse ends with David saying that he will wait in expectation for an answer to his prayer. What David literally means is "to look out, to be on watch." We see the vision of David offering his prayer and then looking all around him for the answer. David is offering a prayer in faith and not in doubt. The Lord desires us to have the spirit of expectation when we approach the throne.

So how should we respond to the things we face in a fallen world? 

By seeking God in prayer that reflects David's heart and faith.

Friday Encouragement

Encouraging words from members of Midtown's Session.