A note from Pastor Evan (April 08, 2020)

Blog_April 08

My Dearest Bayless Family, 

What strange times these are. Few of us could have predicted the changes this crisis would bring to our lives, let alone to lives of others around the world. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t carrying my own measure of apprehension and broken-heartedness over the times in which we live, especially to endure them apart from the very ones we are made to weather storms beside.

But then again… reading the Bible, I cannot stay in fear for long. Just this week I was reading in 2 Samuel 22:

[32] “For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?
[33] This God is my strong refuge
and has made my way blameless.
[34] He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
[35] He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
[36] You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your gentleness made me great.
[37] You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip;

 

“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?”

Times like these have a way of revealing where we have found our refuge, and if you are like me, it isn’t always (or perhaps often) our God. Maybe you have found, too, that when a false refuge begins to fail, all sorts of ugly emotions and big questions bubble up. We just want things to go back to the way they used to be. We want someone to blame. We wonder if anything will ever be the same. Netflix and “doomsurfing” headlines only seems to make it worse (imagine that!).

But times like these also have a way of correcting us, of drawing our focus back to the One in which our hope resides.

You know who isn’t a rock? Politics… Social Security… Job security… CNN or Fox News. Who is God, but the Lord? And what gives us such concrete confidence that his promises aren’t pipe dreams? EASTER. 

Every day something new is cancelled, and who knows what will be cancelled tomorrow. But as I was reminded recently by a friend of mine. Easter is not. Even while we cannot gather in person this Sunday (likely will be unable to do so for some time), Christians should strangely be able to shout: “Christ is risen!” He is risen indeed.

So on this Holy Week, friends, take courage. The One who made your way your way blameless (v. 33) through Christ is your strong refuge as well. And, because the resurrection is true, even death cannot shake him. In fact, he not only makes your feet secure, he is training you even now for war (v. 35). He is training you on behalf of those who around you who are struggling for hope and comfort, that the same shield which covers you might cover them as well, that the footing he has made stable might make others stable as well.

Who even now could use the hope of Christ’s grace from you?

 

Again, Easter is not cancelled. And as Resurrection Day begins to dawn, here are some ways we are inviting all of our church family to join us!

 

1) WORSHIP (Separate yet together)

Again, I don’t hesitate to say the most important thing you can prioritize right now is weekly worship. Not because your pastor is so entertaining (my whole house may or may not have fallen asleep during one of my last sermon), but because weekly worship is God’s gift to reorient our desires and ground our hopes, especially in uncertain times. Weekly worship even for a moment, forces us to take our eyes off ourselves and our anxieties and fix them on something, or rather Someone, who is true, good and beautiful. As Hebrews 10 puts it:

[24] And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, [25] not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (ESV)

And so, even if it may take some ingenuity (and maybe a phone call from someone tech-savvy), let me encourage you to prioritize our virtual corporate worship service. You will find the service online every Sunday at 10:45 am, including this one, at:

https://bayless.online.church

And on this online portal, you will find a few very helpful tools including a comments section for you ask questions & say hello to those joining with us, links to our giving page, a place for you to request live prayer, links to download other resources, and more.

I recognize that online corporate worship is, well, just not the same, is it? And it’s good to admit that! However, here are some practices our family has found helpful to get the most out of it (I stole these from someone else):

  1. Get out of bed and get dressed. It will put you in the right mindset to worship.
  2. Go through your normal Sunday routine. Minus the “Hurry up, we’re running late!” part.

  3. Gather your family together. No multitasking; worship is a family activity!

  4. Project the feed on your largest screen. It will feel more like you are “there.”

  5. Sing along loud and proud. Yes, it feels weird; it feels weird for the people who are leading music in an empty room, too.

  6. Lean into the message. Say “Amen,” clap, shout, and have a time of prayer at the end; make your home a sanctuary.

Last, let me encourage you to join us for our Virtual Lobby immediately after service. Using a service called Zoom, we are providing an opportunity for you to see one another as well as to  follow up with a leader for prayer. If you have a concern or question that is more sensitive in nature, we have the ability for you to pray one-on-one with leaders here as well.

That being said, if gathering with us online is not a possibility at this time, our leaders would be more than happy to drop a DVD copy of our most recent services by your home. You will find a card included with this letter to indicate your interest. Also, we are posting the sermon to our website (www.baylessbaptist.org) after service for you to listen at your convenience during the week.

Our never-changing God deserves worship in ever-changing times, and God knows we need it as well!

 

2) GUARD & FILL

Friends, we have so… many… voices… clamoring for our attention at this time, and not all are helpful. And while social media, television, and news sources can be helpful in limited supply, let me STRONGLY encourage you to watch how your time is used up during these days. God calls every Christian to “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). In our boredom and anxiety, it is all too easy to switch into autopilot and allow Facebook, Fox News, and Hulu to take the reigns of our mind, but it turns out that this is the last thing we need. 

Set firm limits on how you engage media during this time. Maybe consider fasting from it for a while! And in its place seize the moments these interruptions have produced as an opportunity to fill your mind with godly voices instead. Here are some ways you can fight back against the noise:

  1. Daily time in the Bible. Hands down, this is the most important thing you can do. I realize some of us are working more than we ever have, while others of us have, well, quite a bit of time on our hands. Regardless, let me encourage you to get in the Bible as soon as you get up. Do whatever it takes to focus (get a cup of coffee, take notes, turn off your phone!, etc). Make note of everything it tells you about God, about our sin, about our hope in Christ, and about obedience to him. Reflect on why God might be showing you this today. And pray in response to everything you have heard. 

  2. Listen, read, watch gospel-centered voices. Even while we have many destructive voices at our fingertips, we have many constructive ones as well! That being said, I cannot recommend the resources put out by the Gospel Coalition (www.thegospelcoalition.org) enough. If you are a reader, you can sign up to receive their daily articles or visit their website directly. Maybe consider taking one of their many (& free) courses on something your interested in: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/courses/! If you are looking for audio or video resources instead, let me encourage you to subscribe to the Gospel Coalition podcast or look up the Gospel Coalition channel on YouTube.

  3. Free Resource from Your Church. We are excited to announce a new resource we want to make available to you during this crisis to help you process COVID-19 in light of God’s unchanging word. In his book, Coronavirus and Christ, John Piper offers six biblical answers to the question, What is God doing through the coronavirus?—reminding us that God is at work in this moment in history. You can access a free digital copy of this book online (https://www.desiringgod.org/books/coronavirus-and-christ), but if you would like a paperback copy, we are happy to send one to you directly once they become available. Simply indicate through the attached card.

 

3) CONNECT & CARE

Friends, we want to strongly encourage caution, particularly if you are over the age of 65, are immuno-supressed, have other serious long-term health conditions (e.g. heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, etc.). One of the most significant challenges during this time is certainly loneliness, but love for our neighbor demands that we submit to the recommendations of the CDC and our governing officials during this time.

Even though we are isolating, however, that does not mean we need to isolate ourselves! In fact, we certainly shouldn’t! We are made for community, particularly face-to-face community, and bad things happen to us and others when we are cut off from fellow believers. There is something right and good to long to be together in-person once again. Trust me, I am as well! But we can also praise God that we live in an age in which we can stay connected with others without putting each another at risk.

Let me encourage you to make it a priority to call at least 1-3 people a day during this pandemic to check in, encourage, and pray with on them. Here are some helpful questions you can ask in your conversation:

  1. Belonging. How are the people around you doing? 

  2. Livelihood. How is all of this affecting you financially? 

  3. Emotional. How are you feeling right now?

  4. Spiritual. How have you been experiencing God in all of this?

  5. Safety. How is your health?

Please let me or the deacons know as issues arise, and if there is a need you can meet without compromising yours or their safety, I encourage you to meet it.

Don't underestimate the role you can have in another person's life right now. Your friends, family, and neighbors need to hear your voice right now, particularly those who are not Christians.

One environment I would invite you to is our weekly Community Group (Wednesdays, 6:30-8:pm), which we host over an app called Zoom. During this time, we take time to pray for one another, discuss the Scripture passage from the previous service, even sing together, all over video. And if you would like to join us, simply visit our website–www.baylessbaptist.org/online-groups–where you will a link to this week’s gathering.

P.S. You are also able to join this meeting by phone by calling +1 312 626 6799. Meeting ID: 999 168 600. Password: 382306.

 

4) Invite

Friends, fear, loss, and boredom have a way of bringing up questions we don’t often consider, but more importantly, they leave us longing for real, enduring hope. And so even while we mourn the times we are in, think of what new opportunities God is providing us to connect!

All of us know someone who could use the hope found in Jesus right now, especially this week, let me encourage you to invite 3 people to log on with us for our Easter service. You can also find simple ways to spread the word on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/baylessbaptistchurch) by sharing our event or status.

 
5) Pray

Praise God, he never panics. He is never caught by surprise. And, only he can make use of circumstances like these for his glory. In light of all that we do not know, all that we cannot control, and all that we yet cling to in the gospel, would you join with us in prayer?

So that we might seek God’s face more than ever during this time, I encourage you to join us Tuesday mornings at 8:00am on Zoom for a short time of prayer together with other members in your church. You can find a link to this meeting as well as individual prayer points at www.baylessbaptist.org/pray.

 

Again, as believers, we are called to run toward tragedy and not away from it. Faithful Christians have done this throughout many generations, even during pandemics. How can we hope Let’s be faithful in this moment to be the hands and feet of Christ caring for the sick and pointing people to our ultimate hope in him. 

_______________

In Christ,

Evan Skelton

Lead Pastor
Bayless Baptist Church
evan@baylessbaptist.org