October 25, 2020
I am so proud of the fact that for the last 7 months of the pandemic, Westminster has worshipped every Sunday morning in our sanctuary. We have been able to livestream services for people unable to attend. We have worshipped together outside for 5 months. Many people have stepped up to help make this happen!!!
As we head into November, our schedule will need to change largely due to weather. Our staff and session have worked diligently to plan for this next phase of our rebuilding of community. This is not our final stage of rebuilding but it is a step in the right direction.
Please understand our choir will not be available for health reasons until at least the beginning of 2021. As a result, our 11am service will be slightly different for the time being. We hope the addition of some praise music and special music will add to the beauty of our traditional songs and elements.
This schedule offers an early traditional service, a contemporary service, and a later blended service in order to optimize our use of space to enable social distancing.
Starting on this Sunday November 1. (We have ordered you an extra hour of sleep just for the change!)
8:00am – Contemplative service
several hymns, liturgy, sermon (no child-care or livestream)
9:30am – Contemporary Service
praise music, some liturgy, sermon (child-care & livestream)
11:00 – Blended
several hymns, praise music, and/or special music, liturgy, sermon (child care & livestream)
We will continue to require masks and perform temperature checks for health reasons. Thank you for your support, encouragement, and understanding over these last many months and in the months to come.
Schedules & Habits
The 3 most important factors in real estate (or so I have heard) are location, location, location. I would argue that the 3 most important factors in relationships – and in church – is communication, communication, communication! So, in an effort to communicate and at the risk of over-communicating, I write to remind you about our newest worship schedule:
8:00am indoor service with hymns, prayers and a sermon.
Expect this service to last around 45 minutes. For health reasons, masks will be required, temperatures will be checked, and we will practice social distancing. We recognize this may not be ideal and appreciate your patience.
Expect this service to last 45-60 minutes. Masks not required.
10:30am indoor & live-streamed
This is our live stream service (watch it here). Expect this service to last a little over an hour. For health reasons, masks will be required, temperatures will be checked, and we will practice social distancing. We recognize this may not be ideal and appreciate your patience
I know many of us may not be quite ready to return to large group gatherings for a variety of reasons. I do want to encourage you to keep the habit or re-start the habit of worshipping with us – either live at any of the services or virtually through our live-stream services (watch it here). If you are like me, it has been all to easy to forsake some good habits and pick up some bad ones during the Corona-cation. One of the key spiritual practices, basic movements, or helpful habits of the spiritual life is fellowship – the art or skill of showing up and staying involved. This is certainly not just corporate worship, but it is certainly not less. As we are beginning to start getting back to some semblance of normal, may be thoughtful in establishing and maintaining habits that help us grow closer to God and one another. I am reminded of this pithy saying –
Hope to see you Sunday or at least be seen by you!
August 31, 2020
“Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
We are rebuilding our house. The tornado of February left some gaping holes in our roof and rainwater damaged our ceilings and floors. We are learning that rebuilding requires a good plan, hard work, time and many decisions. Things must be done in order. Steps cannot be skipped. One must keep in mind the purpose – to make it our home again, a place for our family and friends to be together.
As a church, we are not rebuilding our facility but we are rebuilding our community. The Coronavirus forced us out of our place of worship, physical distancing created social distance, and, perhaps, some of us have experienced an erosion in our involvement in our faith community. The storm is not completely over yet. We have begun and continue our efforts to re-engage with one another. It requires a good plan, hard work, time and many decisions. But the purpose is to make and provide spaces for us to fellowship and grow in faith together as spiritually mature followers of Jesus.
I am happy to announce the beginning of another phase of our rebuilding and reengaging efforts.
Starting on Sunday September 13th, we will be adding an 8:00am indoor service with hymns, prayers and a sermon. Expect this service to last around 45 minutes. For health reasons, masks will be required, temperatures will be checked, and we will practice social distancing. We recognize this may not be ideal and appreciate your patience.
We will continue our 9:00am outdoor service (masks recommended) and 10:30am indoor (masks required and temperatures checked) service which will be live streamed as well.
Wednesday night dinners will begin again on September 9th from 5:30-6:15. Dinner will take place in the gym and on the grounds. Children will sit with their families. After dinner, there will be separate programs for our children and adults. Masks will be required as per restaurant and school rules.
Our youth activities will resume the following week – Monday September 14 for high school and Wednesday September 16th.
More information will be forthcoming regarding these opportunities.
Please consider joining us for these worship services and fellowship opportunities. If you are still unable to join us physically, I invite you to continue to worship with us each Sunday via our livestream.
August 26, 2020
In our “Spiritual Pre-Season Training” series entitled “Devoted,” we have been studying the four basic moves, practices or habits of the earliest followers of Jesus. These practices led to personal transformation and community growth. Acts 2:42 tells us they were “continually devoting themselves to the Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and to prayer.” We have studied their consistent commitment to practicing and forming habits of studying God’s Word, showing up and staying involved, and celebrating the Lord’s Supper. This week we look at the practice of prayer.
The Gospels tell us Jesus prayed as a regular habit, often early in the morning. This impressed the disciples enough to ask Him to teach them how to pray. Jesus responded with what has become known as the “Lord’s Prayer.” This prayer provides us with a model of what we can say to God and about God. It enables us to reset our priorities and realign our purposes with God’s. It guides our thoughts and words regarding the relationships, events, and circumstances of our daily lives. It helps us work through our present needs, our past failures (and the failures of others against us) and our future fears.
This Sunday, we will actually practice this prayer together in the context of our worship service. Our order of service will be built around the Lord’s Prayer. A short teaching on each petition will be followed by prayer, a brief moment of reflection, and then a song of praise. Booklets will be provided at both services to follow along. If you are worshipping via live stream, you can download the booklet here.
I am excited about this opportunity to “practice” prayer together. My hope is that you will be able to take this “drill” and personalize and modify it for your spiritual training. May this be another way that we are strengthened by the Spirit to know the height, depth, breadth and width of the love of Christ and be filled with the very fulness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)
July 1, 2020
Recently I officiated at the funeral of a man from our congregation. His wife asked me to read the following passage from Ephesians 4. Paul writes,
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. - Ephesians 4:1-6 (NLT)
I am impressed by a man whose wife asks for this passage to be read in regard to his life. I want to be a person for whom these words apply! Wouldn’t you want these words used to describe you?
Paul writes from prison. But even there, he is concerned about living a life that is worth what God has done for us in Jesus. In Jesus, God demonstrates our worth to Him – the blood of His own Son. A worthwhile life reflects the high value God has placed on us.
Paul teaches us that the worthwhile life consists of humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerant love that seeks unity and peace in response to who God is and what God has done for us in Jesus.
- Humility describes a person who has an accurate view of themselves and others. Gospel humility is not a low view of self but a high view of others – as created in the image of God, bought by the blood of Christ, and potential Temples of the Holy Spirit.
- Gentleness can be defined as “power under control.” Greek writers spoke of it as soothing wind, healing medicine, or the breaking of a colt. The New Testament paints it as a graciousness exhibited by inner strength. It is the opposite of haughtiness and harshness. One could call it “love in little things” [William Barclay] or “not needing to force our way in life.” [The Message]
- Patience or longsuffering combines the word for large and desire. Patience requires that we value our relationship with people over our own rights. The Message translates it as “…a willingness to stick with things and people.” Far from passive, it is the powerful capacity of selfless love that keeps moving toward a better goal.
- Tolerant love refers to an attitude of endurance in willing the good of another even at great cost to one’s self. The New Living Translation puts defines it as “making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”
Such a life builds relationships rather than tears them down, creates peace rather than chaos, and unites us instead of dividing us. Paul quotes a “creed” of sorts showing the importance of good theology. Right theology should lead to right behavior; true worship to true relationships; loving God to loving others. Such a life is built on the solid foundation of who God is as He is revealed in Jesus.
This is the life God calls us to live and works to form in us. We are in a time where we have more than ample opportunities to practice these things. Imagine what it would look like if I responded to the latest conflict in my home or controversy in my community with humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerant love. This is not something I can do by myself. It is not something God will do without me. May we respond to His invitation to learn how well-loved we are by Him so that we may learn to love Him and others well.
Don’t forget to join us this Sunday at our 9am outdoor service or 10:30am indoor/livestream service. For more info, click here.
June 28, 2020 // Announcing Regathering - Phase 2
I hope you were able to worship with us either in person or via livestream this past Sunday! We announced the beginning of Phase 2 of our “Regathering” this coming Sunday morning – July 5th.
In case you missed it, I am excited to announce that we will continue to have two services and a livestream option as well. There are a few important changes.
We continue to suspend all our other Sunday morning activities at this time. We are working hard as a staff and Regathering Team to find the wisest, healthiest, and most efficient ways of reopening our worship services and other ministries in the Church. Your prayers and patience are greatly appreciated. We understand that this is not an ideal plan and this is not an ideal situation. But it is an opportunity to learn to love Jesus and each other more and more, and better and better! I am looking forward to when we can all be together in worship and ministry again!
You can find more information on our website (here) and on our email blast on Friday.
“The Lord is pleased with his people.
Do you wonder what to do? Do you feel overwhelmed? For yourself? For your family? For your church? For your community? This Psalm teaches us the most important thing and the most powerful thing we can do is to worship.
Worship begins from the sense of pleasure that God takes in His people and arises from an attitude of humility. We choose to praise God with expressions of joy and we experience joy at the beginning and end of the day.
The wisdom of shouting praise rests on several important thoughts. We shout about and for the things that matter most to us. We not only put words and voice to our thoughts but we also put effort into voicing them. Something happens in us when we say and sing words of praise because it is a conscious choice to assert truths about God and ourselves.
Finally, the Psalmist sees our worship as battle against all the things that would seek to distract, discourage, and depress us. High praises of God are like battle-chants. The two-edged sword is a reference to the Word of God. In Ephesians 6, Paul lays out the “armor of God” that protects us from evil. The only offensive weapon is the “sword of the Spirit” which is the Word of God. Our worship includes both our words to God and receiving God’s Word to us.
Our worship is always very important, but perhaps more important now than ever. It changes the atmosphere of our own souls, our own homes, our church, our community, our city, our county, our nation and our world. I hope you will join us live at 9:30 or 11:15 or via livestream at 9:30 tomorrow.
For our 9:30am service, you can sign up here. 11:15 does not require a sign-up.
June 10, 2020
“I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience…as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you…so that I may be filled with joy.”
II Timothy 2:3-4
Gathering together for worship has brought me great joy! I look forward to seeing those who have not been able to attend in the near future. We greatly appreciate your engagement either via livestream or “live action.” We are grateful for the understanding and cooperation you have shown throughout this process! We did not expect less but have received even more – thank you!
We have addressed some difficulties with our sign-up process. If you have been unable to sign up for our 9:30am service - please try this week! You can sign up here. Please contact the church office if you have difficulty.
We know the mask requirement during the 9:30am service may feel a little onerous. We are following guidelines from appropriate channels to help keep people healthy. If this has kept you from worship, we do apologize but encourage you to be a part of our 11:15am service.
Our worship team works hard to provide leadership that incorporates elements from all of our normally scheduled services. Thank you for your patience and understanding. We hope that despite physical distancing you have been encouraged in our worship. And we hope to get back to normal sooner rather than later!
Our team is in the process of formulating our plans moving forward. Our present schedule will run through at least June 28th. We continue to ask our friends in the more vulnerable populations to worship from home. Please pray for wisdom for the re-opening team and for all of our continued good health at WPC and in our community. I hope to see you all soon.
June 3, 2020
I am weary, God, but I can prevail.” Proverbs 30:1 (NIV)
These words began a small group discussion first thing Monday morning. It is a strange sentence in Hebrew. Two words that may be personal names. One means “weary” or “devoured” and the other means “God is with me.” The night before, I fell asleep after a phone call from my daughter distressed by the situation in her city, our state, and our nation. She said, “I am sad.” Weary and sad sum up how I feel right now.
I am weary and sad for my friends of color – people I have known and loved for many years – who are so weary and sad. I am weary and sad for my friends who look more like me – for what makes them weary and sad. I am weary and sad for people who feel hated and I feel weary and sad for those who hate – “hatred corrodes the container that carries it” (quoted at George H.W. Bush’s funeral). I am weary and sad because I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me and because it seems all I can do is feel sorry for other people. My heart breaks for the brokenness of people of every race, color, creed or any other identifier. My heart breaks for parents trying to help their children make sense of a broken world. My heart breaks for my own brokenness.
Different things cause fear and anxiety in each of us but all of us know fear and anxiety. When I understand my own, perhaps I can empathize with that of another.
I do not know all my questions and I certainly do not know yours. I do not have any answers, but this is what I know:
God created us in His image and chose to call Himself our Father. Jesus taught us how to pray starting with “Our Father.” It reminds me of two things. God loves me like a Father and God loves everybody else like a Father – no matter where they are from or what they have done, the color of the skin or the sins they have committed. How I treat another person is of utmost seriousness to God! As a father, nothing hurts me more than what hurts my children – so I know the Father is hurting because I know all of His children are hurting.
Jesus demonstrated God’s love for us – the self-sacrificial willing of our good at great cost to Himself. Every life is worth the blood of Jesus; no life is worth more and no life is worth less. Jesus bore our sins and the pain it causes us and others. No one understands that pain more than He does. Thus, we must be very careful with the pain of others – even when we do not understand it. When others are in pain, we are called to comfort. The cross is the place where absolute justice meets abundant mercy. May the cross be the lens through which we see everything!
The Holy Spirit jealously desires to dwell in all who welcome Him. Every human life is one God wants to inhabit and transform – no matter skin tone or dress style, language or lifestyle. The scene around the throne in heaven is Jesus in the center with redeemed people of every tribe, tongue, kindred and nation gathered around in adoring worship! If this is God’s desire and dream, should we desire or dream any less.
So we are weary but this God is with us! May we learn to feel what God feels, desire what God desires, think what God thinks, and do what God does. May we learn to love what He loves because He loves us so much and love like He loves because He loves us so well.
May 28, 2020
Ekklessia, the word for “church” in the New Testament, has nothing to do with buildings and everything to do with people. It is defined as a gathering of people called out of their homes into some public place or assembly. The New Testament defines the Church as those who have been called out of sin and death and into the kingdom of God.
This ekklesia of Christ is often called the body or bride of Christ which shows the importance of the community of faith. Eugene Peterson writes, “The gospel is never [just] for individuals but always for a people. Sin fragments us, separates us, and sentences us to solitary confinement. Gospel restores us, unites us, and sets us in community…Love cannot exist in isolation: away from others, love bloats into pride” (Reversed Thunder, 43).
Thus, being together is a very important aspect and practice of our faith. Community is where we are formed and shaped, to learn how to be loved and to love. Our Sunday worship serves as one of the most important things we can do and do together as believers and followers of Jesus. Even CNN, in an article entitled “4 Reasons Why the Rush To Reopen Churches Goes Beyond Politics,” recognizes the importance of community in the Christian faith. They understand that Sunday assemblies are a “most ancient tradition,” “at the very origins of Christianity,” and “important for this day.”
We are excited to begin the process of regathering this Sunday, May 31st. We will start a new teaching series on the first 5 chapters of the book of Revelation – the Last Word. This material contains letters to seven churches in Asia Minor preparing them to deal with uncertain times and challenges to their faith. I am looking forward to this conversation together.
We will have two in person worship options while continuing to live stream our service at 9:30am – here. We encourage those in our most vulnerable populations to continue to worship with us from home.
Our two live options are:
I look forward to worshipping with all of you and being able to see some of you!
May 24, 2020
The writer of Hebrews, in the “salad of Scripture,” [dad joke alert] urges: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). We have not been forsaking assembling together but we have not been able to meet together now for 10 weeks. But I am excited that is about to change!
We plan to gather for worship again on May 31st. Rest assured that our livestream service will continue indefinitely for those who are in vulnerable populations or are not comfortable with returning to larger gatherings. But we have two options for gathered worship. We will follow guidelines laid out by medical professionals and governmental institutions for both services.
Finally, our team of folks has worked hard to come up with a great plan to get us re-connected wisely, effectively and in a healthy way. Please take time to thank Rachel Segars, Matt Smith, Loring Aument, Karen Copley, Dr. Jay Bearden, and Cathy Hyatt for their efforts.
May 14, 2020
After the tornado decided to leave 3 trees on my roof, I remember going to my house with my chainsaw in hand not knowing where to start. I felt like I was trying to put out a forest fire with a water pistol. And then people started showing up. Each one did what little they could and eventually we dug out. Now that the coronavirus has wreaked its havoc, many of us are looking around at the damage caused and wonder where to start.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). This comes right after he identifies the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control – which never break the Law. Paul then makes direct application – restore the wayward and help the struggling in real and tangible ways. The word “bear” refers to taking up something with one’s own hands and speaks of personal involvement. A burden deals with anything heavy, troublesome or weighs one down. This could be physical, relational, emotional, or spiritual.
After 8 weeks of the Corona-vacation or the shutdown (depending on how you see it), many if not all of us are burdened in some way, shape or form. These burdens may relate to job loss, financial stress, or relational difficulties. They may involve difficult emotions, hard decisions, and unpleasant choices. Now is the time for us to take care of one another and find ways to bear one another’s burdens. This is what being the church – the community of Jesus – is about.
So let me encourage those among us who are presently strong to be alert to the needs of those who are weakened at this time. Look after those you know. When you hear about that “thing” - make the phone call, write the note, reach out to check on them.
And let me encourage those who are weakened to reach out to others for help – perhaps with a close friend, a small group, or an elder or minister of the Church. Sometimes we can feel like everybody knows and nobody cares when in fact everybody cares but nobody knows.
So in the words of Paul translated by Eugene Peterson in The Message: “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
May 5, 2020
The political conversation focuses on the re-opening of our nation. Personal conversations center on the return to some kind of “normal.” As a church, we turn our thoughts to the re-opening of the Church for worship and fellowship. The rebuilding of the Temple recorded in the book of Ezra (3:10-13) and Zechariah (4:10) teaches some important lessons for us in this process.
In 539 BC, Zerubbabel, the appointed governor, led the Judean Exiles back to Jerusalem from Babylon. Cyrus, the Persian King, granted him authority to rebuild the Temple which had been destroyed in 586BC. The priests mark the completion of the foundation – the first step in the process – with a worship service. The singers praised the Lord, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.” Priests sang this same refrain hundreds of years before when David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city and when Solomon finished the Temple. The Psalmists use it on 5 different occasions. Jeremiah refers to it when he promises restoration to Judah after their coming exile. This is prophecy fulfilled right in the pages of Scripture!
The people respond in two very different ways. One group “shouted with a great shout” – an expression of excitement like a battle cry or a victory chant at the conclusion of this first step. Others, mostly priests and elders with some memory of the original Temple, “wept with a loud voice.” Does their emotion reveal disappointment over the reduced size or gratitude for seeing this new day or a little of both? The shouts and cries were so loud “one could not distinguish the sound of joy from the sound of weeping.” Zechariah responds to these weepers with a promise and a challenge. He assures them Zerubbabel will finish this Temple. He also confronts them for “despising the day of small beginnings.” Zechariah’s promise would be fulfilled – but it would take another 20 years. Construction would be stopped by local opposition and a new Persian king. But the message is clear – do not judge the finished product by the steps along the way.
We are not rebuilding a Temple but we are preparing to re-open our Church. Ezra and Zechariah teach us some important lessons. First, changes – known and unknown - are happening all around us. Things will be different! Our return to corporate worship may not look like we think it will or feel like we think it should. This may cause sorrow and frustration for some of us. Second, celebrating steps along the way is not the same thing as being finished. But celebrating steps is important. Third, we can defeat discouragement in the process by worshiping along the way. Joy comes through reminding ourselves, as the Judeans did, of God’s goodness and love.
Dave Gunderson, in a timely article about change, gives us four important attitudes and actions to cultivate as we re-open our Church. First, operate in gratitude rather than nostalgia. Give thanks for the past rather than comparing it to the present. Second, anticipation replaces uncertainty. We look for the things God wants to teach and do in this time rather than living out of fear and anxiety. Thirdly, communication minimizes confusion and the tendency to withdraw or attack in irritation or frustration. The antidote is working hard to understand one another and to help others understand us. And finally, active participation moves us beyond mere excitement. Spectators turn into players.
Our session has established a team of people to help guide us through the process of reopening. This team will work closely with our staff to determine the wisest, most efficient, and healthiest ways of returning to our corporate gatherings. We are asking each of you to fill out this survey ASAP to help us in our prayerful planning. We encourage multiple responses from each household (i.e. spouses and children).
April 29, 2020
In Ephesians 5:16-17, Paul writes “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” By my count, today is day 45 of the Corona-cation. The word evil means bad, harmful or injurious. 45 evil days and counting!
Scripture teaches and Jesus demonstrates that God has the remarkable ability to take the worst evil and turn it into the greatest good. This is not always apparent in the moment. For many of us, this is one of the biggest tests we have faced!
Paul advises us to be thoughtful and wise. Wisdom can be defined as skill in the art of living when the moral boundary lines are unclear. It means knowing what to do when it is difficult to know what to do. We demonstrate wisdom when we make the most of our time – literally exchange it for something of greater value or use it for a better purpose. This wisdom enables us to understand and interpret God’s will in the midst of any and every situation. In the words of a friend, it means not being a doofus!
As we approach a 2nd month of a very different experience of time than we are used to, I want to make sure I know what the Father wants to teach me in this time so I won’t forget it as I move back into a more “normal” life or into a new “normal.” I would encourage you to take some time to reflect on what you have been learning in these days and write it down for future reference. This is always a good spiritual discipline or practice; but it is especially pertinent and applicable now.
For me, one major lesson regards the best way to love other people. I am learning that loving people well involves managing my own anxieties and expectations in healthy and realistic ways. I fail others when I transmit my fears to them or my expectations onto them. My own spiritual formation is the best thing I can do for anybody else. Not a lesson I didn’t already know on some level, but certainly a graduate level course I didn’t necessarily sign up for. But I trust that the Lord is teaching me something here I could not learn anywhere else.
So here’s the question of the day, what is the Lord is teaching you in these difficult days?
* Recommending elders – We are Presbyterian, which means we are governed by elders (presbuteros is Greek for “elder). We are beginning our process earlier this year to allow the Nominating Ministry Team more time to prayerfully discern who the Lord might be calling to serve as an elder. They will be receiving recommendations through May. Please pray about people you might recommend and for the Nominating Ministry Team. You can find a form here.
* Continue to join us for livestreamed service at 9:30am on Sundays - https://wpcspartanburg.org/live.
* You can view past services on this site as well.
* We are beginning to discuss our plans for re-opening the Church for corporate worship and fellowship. More information will be coming in the days ahead. Please pray for the team of people charged with this task.
April 21, 2020
Words cannot describe the gratitude and love we (our whole team) have for you! Walking in the sanctuary to the beautiful gift of your faces filling the pews was overwhelming. It was a joy to walking the pews and look at each picture – giving thanks for you and praying for you in the circumstances and situations I know about AND the ones that I don’t. I find myself choking back tears through a big smile as I think about it. Your love for us and your encouragement of our whole team is overwhelming! You can see a 30-second video of those pictures with our Worship Team singing “Love will Hold us Together” here. The video can be found on the right of the live stream and entitled “Hold Us Together.”
As you participate in our livestream services, please notice a small wooden cross on the Communion Table. The story of that cross is one you need to know. You can read the full text here. The cross was made by our own Jim Brady from the wood of an oak tree felled by the tornado(s) that ripped through our community. Though originally purposed for the Fellowship Hall during our overflow Easter services, it was re-purposed for our sanctuary during the pandemic. It serves as a reminder of the Father’s protection and provision during this past local catastrophe and assures us of His protection and provision in this present and international crisis.
The Creed we recite each Sunday represents in words the beauty of the Gospel that has stood through times as perilous and uncertain as ours – wars and rumors of wars, disasters and disease, kings and kingdoms, ages and epochs. So too this Cross serves as a visual representation of the beauty of the Gospel that carried us through some difficult days, carries us through these difficult days, and will carry us through to the Day when all disease, disaster and death will be swallowed up in health, wholeness, and life in the goodness and love of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
* A few new options this week –(email blast and Realm for details)
* We continue to livestream one service at 9:30 am – https://wpcspartanburg.org/live. Past services are also available at that site.
In your prayers include:
April 14, 2020
The Tuesday after Easter – the joy of that day turns back to the mundaneness of this day. We are back to working from home or worrying about being at work. We are worrying about finding a job or worrying about how to keep people employed. We are dealing with the frustration of homeschooling our children or being alone in our place of residence. We can’t wait for this thing to be over but can’t seem to see any end in sight. It really is a marathon and not a sprint. An epic movie and not a sit-com. This is hard work!
Paul told the Galatians, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time, we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:7-9). We celebrate Easter once a year to remind each other why we need not “lose heart” the rest of the year. We learn to trust that our Father is both our provider and our protector. We learn to trust Him in the everyday affairs of our lives – living our lives before Him and in pursuit of the things that please Him to His glory, our own good, and the benefit of others.
Part of this process is praying – communicating with God about the day-to-day realities of our lives. Jesus taught us the Lord’s Prayer that encourages us to begin our prayer by meditating on our relationship this good and loving God revealed in Jesus. We then pray the ability to love what He loves as we seek His kingdom in our lives and in the world. Then we lay before God our needs for today, our failures of the past, and our concerns about the future. Prayer is an intimate interaction with God. Philip Yancey writes: “Prayer does not work according to a fixed formula: Get your life in order, say the right words, and the desired result will come. If that were true, Job would have avoided much suffering,
Paul would have shed his thorn in the flesh, and Jesus would never have gone to Golgotha. Between the two questions “Does God answer prayer?” and “Will God grant my specific prayer for this sick child or this particular injustice?” lies a great pool of mystery (From PRAYER: Does It Make Any Difference?).
For some reason, God likes to come to us in the mystery. But He always comes in goodness and love. So do not lose heart – keep doing the hard but good work of prayer!
* A few new options this week –(email blast and Realm for details)
- Community prayer 12:30-1:30 – zoom call
- Wednesday evening Bible study – 6:30-7:30pm
- Sunday morning post-worship discussion – 11:00-12:00
* We continue to livestream one service at 9:30 am – https://wpcspartanburg.org/live. Past services are also available at that site.
In your prayers include:
April 11, 2020
It’s late in the afternoon on Saturday before Easter. I feel the sadness of not being able to gather to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus together because of our “stay-at-home” order. On the Saturday after Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had placed themselves under a similar order. Hiding behind barred doors and haunted by their own failures, they must have felt the ‘darkness’ in their own souls.
I wonder why Jesus would he leave his disciples hanging for this long. Why didn’t He rise again on Saturday morning? What made 48 hours better than 24? Or 2 days better than 1? Or 2 sleepless nights preferable to 1 bad night’s sleep?
But would that have made it any easier? Would it have not been so difficult if it were only the worst day of their lives and not the worst two days of their lives? Of course, they did not know they would face more days like this. But the news of the next day would change how they would respond.
Here’s my hunch – Jesus was teaching them that the only way to go through something is to go through it. Not incredibly profound but absolutely true. They experienced the joy of Easter by going through the sorrow of Saturday. The bright light of Sunday could only follow the darkness of that Sabbath. For them, the strength to stand the furnace of persecution must be forged in the fire of the hopeless waiting of those 48 hours.
Jesus’ ½ brother, James, may have had this day in mind when he opens his letter to fellow believers, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
So we feel the ‘darkness’ of this holy Saturday in ways we may never have before and hope never to again. Personal things along with international pandemics leave us feeling locked away in fear. But it is in the midst of this that Jesus is doing something in us that can only be done in us here. He does not cause it but He will not waste it! Let us pray that we will not miss it!
Finally, for your viewing pleasure and your soul – perhaps may favorite song of all - https://www.youtube.com/watch?
April 8, 2020
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
– Psalm 139:23-24
You may have noticed that we have used this as our Prayer of Confession for the past several weeks. This has not been the result of laziness or an oversight. The repeated practice of this prayer would serve us well in any season. It serves us especially well during this season of waiting and uncertainty. These verses end one of the most beautiful Psalms about our value to God and God’s constant presence with us. David asserts at the beginning that the Lord knows everything about him and then concludes this song with the desire for the Lord to know him and reveal to him both his self-destructive worries and hurtful behaviors.
In this prayer, we have an image of mining for precious metals. We ask God to dig into us like a miner for gold hidden well below the surface. We then request that the Lord discover our thoughts, imaginations, feelings, and desires AND to reveal them to us. The prayer is for God to know us as we really are in the depth of our being and to enable us to have greater self-awareness.
But the prayer does not stop here. We move from this discovery into trying or testing. This word was commonly used for assaying metals or determining their authenticity and worth. We ask the Lord to test our divided opinions about people and things that create anxiety in us. These divided opinions are the different stories we tell ourselves or narratives we weave in our minds about the past and the future that disturb us and disrupt our lives.
The prayer presses further, beyond our motivations and thoughts to our behavior. We ask God to inspect our actions for pain and sorrow they have caused to other people with our words and action, our silence and inaction. The word for hurtful also refers to idols. The theme of idolatry runs throughout Scripture. Idolatry is finding our worth or centering our identity in anyone or anything other than God. When we fail to find our worth and center our identity in God, we end up hurting other people in our selfish pursuits for the fulfillment our idols always fail to give us. It comes out in our words and behaviors. It is the essence of sin and it is sinister and subtle. We need the Lord to show us because we cannot see it in ourselves.
Finally, we ask God to lead us and guide us in an eternal way of life – to become the kind of people we want to be forever. This is not something I can do by myself but it is not something the Father will do without me. This prayer takes an incredible amount of self-honesty and bears fruit in self-awareness. This self-awareness helps us to love others well – with our words and with our actions. We begin to learn about the real effect we have on others and allow the Lord to transform us from the inside out.
So in light of this prayer and the times in which we are living, the Lord seems to be teaching me that the best way I can love other people – in my home, in our church, in our community, and in our world – is to ask the Lord to help me manage my own anxiety so my words and actions toward others are not coming from a place of selfish fear but trust in the Lord.
* Holy Week Services online - https://wpcspartanburg.org/
- Maundy Thursday – 6pm
- Good Friday – 6pm
- Easter Sunday – 9:30am – We encourage you to dress up and honor your family traditions. Let’s make this one of the best Easter celebrations ever!
April 6, 2002
C.S. Lewis’ was having a conversation with a group of young fans. He explained how he imagined Narnia long before he wrote about it. However, he admitted that Aslan – the Great Lion – “just bounded onto the page. I hadn’t planned on Him at all.” A young girl blurted out, “Not thought of Aslan.” The way she said the name and the way the children responded caused him to “laugh with such joy that the children joined in.” (from Becoming Mrs. Lewis, by Patti Henry). As we begin Easter week, with dire predictions and the cancellation of gathered worship services, let us not make a similar mistake – to not think of another Lion.
In Revelation 5, John records a vision of “Him who sat on the throne” with a book in his right hand that was sealed with seven seals. No one was worthy to break the seals or open the book. John tells us he began to weep. But one of the elders around the throne interrupted him, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” Then John saw a Lamb standing as if slain and all the creatures worshipped Him, saying “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain and purchased for God with Your blood people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign forever.”
That book spoke of future events and of God’s future victory over evil. We may not be able to explain all the book says or means. We may not be able to understand all that is happening around us (or even in us). But we can and must “think of Jesus.” History comes as no surprise to Him and He will eventually sum up all history – and it will be good for those who love Him!
A good friend once shared with me his concerns for his young daughter’s future as she grew up. He related to me that at the peak of his fear, he heard the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit whisper, “I will be there with her.” My friend realized he had “not thought of Jesus” in all his worries about his daughter. Let’s remember to “think of Jesus” as we face the uncertainty of these days! There is no need to fear if we keep taking thought of Jesus – He is with us now and He will be with us and the ones we love then.
Holy Week Services online - https://wpcspartanburg.org/
- Maundy Thursday – 6pm
- Good Friday – 6pm
- Easter Sunday – 9:30am – We encourage you to dress up and honor your family
traditions. Let’s make this one of the best Easter celebrations ever!
April 2, 2020
It was February 26th when we celebrated Ash Wednesday – that was just over a month ago. Does it not seem like a world away? I am reminded this morning of the words spoken over us at that service – “Remember that you are but dust and to dust you will return. But the steadfast love of the love endures forever” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). These are two very important truths for us to remember. It is also a reminder of the Best News that puts an end to all the bad news.
The writer of Ecclesiastes writes, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living should take it to heart.” The events of these last few weeks serve to remind us of our frailty and weakness. Any and all illusions of control have been shattered. Uncertainty abounds and anxiety almost overwhelms. It feels like we are dying a thousand deaths or death by a thousand cuts. This is a reminder that we are but dust and to dust we will return.
But the Good News of Jesus tells us death is not the last word, only the second to the last word. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce “Can you really have thought that love and joy would always be at the mercy of frowns and sighs? Did you not know they were stronger than their opposites?" As we walk through Lent and prepare for Holy Week, let us remember Jesus became dust and breathed His last so He could breathe His Spirit into our dead dust. We may return to the dust but the promise is we will not stay there but be resurrected.
The writer of Hebrews assures us, “…since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Yes, death is the destiny of every one of us and every one of us should take it to heart. But, we must also take to heart that life is the final word for those of us who trust in the love, goodness, and power of God. There is no fear in life or in death because the One from whom we have the most to fear has faced our greatest fear – out of love for us – and defeated it!
Remember our live stream service at 9:30am this Sunday at https://wpcspartanburg.org/
Continue to pray for our health care professionals, political leaders, friends and families.
An elder shared this article with me - passing it on to you - https://www.whitehorseinn.org/
March 31, 2020
Encouragement & 30/30/30 Challenge
I have counted 18 days since the Corona-cation started. Tomorrow will mark the beginning of April’s 30 (more) days of social distancing. This is going to be a marathon more than a sprint – which means endurance is more important than speed.
So, the word for the day is “hupomone” (long vowel sounds on all the vowels with the last a long A sound). It is translated persevere, endure, be patient. It is used by Jesus, Paul, Peter, James and John. Ancient monks repeated it to themselves when undergoing various temptations.
In Romans 5, Paul writes, “And not only this, but we also boast in our tribulations, knowing that this tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out on our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
This is a bold statement – Paul says we can brag about our pressures, troubles, and sufferings because of what they can produce in us – endurance or passionate patience. This stick-to-it-tive-ness “forges the tempered steel of virtue” in us – we become the kind of people who do good, true, right, and loving things. This strengthening character produces an invincible hope that is rooted not in people, events or circumstances but in the love of God – which he refers to in vs. 2 as the “grace I which we stand.” This hope will not leave us disappointed or ashamed! Everyone and everything in this world will give us everything it can and nothing more – and we will be disappointed. All of our efforts will end in futility and shame. But hope is the shame changer!
The most beautiful part – this hope is the love of God pouring over us like a rainstorm through the Holy Spirit. We are brought into, washed over and filled with the incredible love of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is in the pressure of suffering that we ultimately come to know and experience God on the highest levels and in the deepest ways.
Nobody likes conditioning for sports, or playing scales for music, or doing homework for class. These are the things we need to do in order to be able to perform on the field, on the stage, or in the classroom. A few years from now, we will look back on these days and have a story to tell. Don’t we want to be able to talk about the good that came out of it? Wouldn’t one of the best things we could say is that we got in shape spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically?
So how can we train spiritually to meet the demands of the coming month and beyond? For some of us, a challenge may help. So here is a 30/30/30 challenge = 30 minutes a day reading Scripture and praying + 30 minutes of exercise or activity + for 30 days. For some of us, this is habit; for others, this may be new.
I am trying not to be too prescriptive – pray as you can and not as you can’t (think C.S. Lewis said that but not sure). I suggest starting in the New Testament – the Gospel of Mark and then the Letter to the Romans. Spend 15-20 minutes reading and reflecting on 1 chapter. Spend the rest of your time praying. I like to pray while I exercise – it takes some focus but it can be done!
If you miss a day, don’t quit but play a little catch up. All of this serves to help us process all that is going on around us and in us in healthy ways. If you would like some help with this, I would love to have that conversation with you!
Live-Stream – Sunday at 9:30 at https://wpcspartanburg.org/
Something for your viewing pleasure – beautiful song and video a friend sent from Australia. https://vimeo.com/315044255.
March 26, 2020
A spiritual mentor and friend reminded me of Jesus’ words in Luke 6:47-48 – “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them…is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.” In Matthew 7, Jesus calls this person wise and teaches us that a life built on wisdom is an unshakeable and indestructible life.
We are experiencing a flood of anxiety-inducing information and a torrent of fear. I realize I need to do some deep digging to shore up some things in my own life. This involves looking at what my fear and anxiety reveals about the idols of my heart. By idol, I mean anything so essential to my life that its loss would make life not worth living. It is anyone or anything that has the controlling position of my heart other than God – this could be a person, a position, a possession, or just about anything will
The problem with idols is not that they are bad; they are just not enough. In fact, the better the person or thing the worse idol it becomes. We are asking our idols to do something they cannot do – satisfy our deepest needs, calm our greatest fears, bring us the highest joy. Unfortunately and fortunately, life has a way of destroying our idols. It is unfortunate because it involves some pain; it is fortunate because it can set us free. Our present struggle with the Coronavirus and its repercussions is shattering some idols.
One writer suggests the three main idols to fall are security, prosperity, and wellness. (You can read it here.) It is a threat beyond our ability to control. It affects our sense of economic well-being. And it attacks our health. Security, prosperity, and wellness are quite good things but never meant to be the source of our ultimate hope. Our only hope in life and death is that we belong in body and soul, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.
The beauty of the Gospel is Jesus does what our idols cannot. Christ gives us eternal security – we have a good Father and we live in a safe and secure universe as eternal beings. Christ gives us real prosperity – provision and purpose, meaning and relationships. Christ gives us wellness - spiritual maturity and emotional health as He develops us into the people we will be forever. His promise of a new heaven and a new earth is a disease-free, death-free, anxiety-free, sorrow-free place of peace, life, love and joy.
Father, during this time of uncertainty, help us to dig deep, uncover our idols, and set us free to know and experience Your love and goodness.
A couple of things that may be helpful to know –
* Live-Stream – Sunday at 9:30 at https://wpcspartanburg.org/
- Our His Hands ministry team – if you need help or can help – call Beth Wolfe at 864-216-2761 or email email@example.com.
- TOTAL Ministries – food, finances and people - 864-595-9167.
- Mobile Meals – drivers (licensed & insured). Please call ahead - 864-573-7684.
- Soup Kitchen – hand sanitizer, wipes, carryout containers, foil, cups with lids, and prayer. Contact Dan Dupler if you can help: 864-431-3214
- 7 inch long 1/8” or 1/4” wide elastic straps to sew medical masks. Box outside church office.
Pray for our covenant partners in health care and government; and for our health care and governmental leaders locally, state-wide, nationally and internationally. I hope to see you very soon.
March 24, 2020
The apostle Paul wrote from a prison cell to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Paul’s prison was a physical one but he would certainly relate to the prisons of anxiety, quarantine, or cabin fever in which we find ourselves. He is teaching us how to not only deal with every situation and circumstance but to experience joy in them. It all boils down to a choice to rejoice (I really didn’t mean to do that, please forgive me…but it was pretty good). But the choice to rejoice does not happen without some other choices. This is how spiritual transformation happens – we can’t do it by ourselves but God will not do it without us.
1) Be gentle – i.e. be careful how we treat other people. The word means “power under control” and refers to a quality that only the strong can afford. This is not weakness.
2) Remember that the Lord is always near – closer to us than our very breath.
3) Turn anxiety into prayer and supplication “with thanksgiving” – look for the good even in the worst.
4) Let God’s unexplainable peace protect you emotionally and mentally.
5) Fill your mind and meditate on authentic, real, right, clean, pleasant, good, excellent, and commendable thoughts. Basically, things that focus on and bring out the best in ourselves and others.
Spiritual transformation is the path to joy. Spiritual transformation always involves our emotions, desires, thoughts, and actions. Spiritual growth happens best in the situations and circumstances that require it. This is one of those times – may you grow and experience the peace, joy, and love that passes all understanding.
A couple of things that may be helpful to know –
* Live-Stream – Sunday at 9:30 at https://wpcspartanburg.org/
* Ways to help -
Pray for our covenant partners in health care and government; and for our health care and governmental leaders locally, state-wide, nationally and internationally. I hope to see you very soon.
March 22, 2020
In light of this virus spreading throughout our world, I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ remarks in Mere Christianity when he writes of Jesus, “He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has – by what I call the ‘good infection’” (Mere ChristianityBook IV, Chapter Four). Lewis originally broadcast the lectures which became the book during the dark days of World War II. Now, we read them in these dark days of a different kind – but they are no less true. May His “good infection” of righteousness, peace, and joy flood our souls and infect those around us. Let’s pray for that “good infection” for all of us and for our world.
A couple of things that may be helpful to know –
* Live-Stream - Thanks to our praise team and staff who helped make worship happen today! Many encouraging comments flowing our way – you can still watch it at https://wpcspartanburg.org/
* Some help for you and the family. The Gospel Coalition is a website I visit often for news, information and insights. Two articles about the value of music in these difficult days may be helpful. Both have playlists – one more geared to children (here) and one for adults (here). I encourage you to look around on this website for thoughtful and helpful articles.
* Our church office will be “open” between 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm this week. A staff person will be there to answer phones and provide necessary assistance. If you are dropping off your offering, you can put in the mailbox by the front door. If assistance is necessary, please come during those times and it mindful of good ‘social distance.’ We are trying to eliminate the amount of personal contact in light of current guidelines.
* Ways to help -
- Our His Hands ministry team is actively seeking information regarding people who may need help during this time – running errands, picking up medications, groceries, or just checking up on them. They also need volunteers. If you or someone you know may be in need of help, please contact Beth Wolfe at 864-216-2761 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- TOTAL Ministries – they are in need of human and material resources – food, finances, and people. They have been and will be in this for the long haul and know how to help. They are open Monday-Thursday from 9am-12pm for good drop off. Their number is 864-595-9167 – be mindful they are busy.
- Mobile Meals – they need drivers and particularly young ones (who have licenses and are insured). Please call ahead so they can be prepared – 864-573-7684.
- Laurie Allen is looking for 7 inch long 1/8” or 1/4” wide elastic straps to sew medical masks. A box will be placed outside the church office for collection.
- I encourage you, if you are able, to look for ways people are helping and get involved! If you are not able, know that your fight against the spread of this virus by staying home and staying healthy is just as important!
March 20, 2020
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39). There is no special exemption for global pandemic, financial ruin, emotional anxiety, or personal decisions. It is good that we remind ourselves of this – the Father truly loves us, the Spirit is moving among us, and Jesus holds forever those He loves and how He loves us!
In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul tells young Timothy that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and sound mind.” He is teaching us that anxiety and anything that produces anxiety is not of the Spirit. We have so many other voices – news media, neighbors, our own – that stir up anxiety. Now more than ever, we need to practice hearing the voice of Jesus. That voice and that Spirit empowers us to love thoughtfully and well. The word for sound mind can also be translated “discipline” – which connects a healthy mind with discipline.
Perhaps now is a time to develop, increase, or adapt some spiritual disciplines or “practices” to better manage our own anxiety. Let me encourage you with three things…
1) Use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide for meditative prayer – spending time with each phrase and putting them into your own words; praying for particular people, events and circumstances as they come to your mind; and asking the Lord to help you pray each petition. See below for an example from my own life.
2) Read and study Scripture. If you don’t know where to start (or if you are looking for some focus), take this week’s passage for our teaching in worship – Mark 14:22-51. Take time with the passage, read what comes before and after, take notes, journal about it.
3) Establish some routines and rhythms to your days. Practices of engagement – exercise, reaching out to others, etc. Practices of disengagement – set limits on time spent on social media, reading the latest headlines, watching television, etc. The point of these things is not another list of rules but to help our spirits, hearts, souls, minds, bodies and relationships become more healthy.
* Please join us via livestream for our worship on Sunday at 9:30am (here or at wpcspartanburg.org/live) or watch it at your convenience. As awkward as it may feel, participate with your family and, perhaps, a few friends or neighbors gathered with you. We trust it will be a time of fellowship, worship, prayer, and learning some ancient wisdom for anxious times.
* Our His Hands ministry team is actively seeking information regarding people who may need help during this time – running errands, picking up medications, groceries, or just checking up on them. They also need volunteers. If you or someone you know may be in need of help, please contact Beth Wolfe at 864-216-2761 or email email@example.com. Additionally, we are encouraging our covenant partners who are able to look after each other and their neighbors.
Lord's Prayer personally adapted
Our Father, who is always and everywhere present, You are utterly unique in your goodness and love.
May Your kingdom come and Your will be done, May we love what you love and how You love because You love us so much.
Give us today what we need and help us to do the things we need to do today. Help us trust You in the moment.
Forgive us our debts – convict me of where I have failed to love You and others – as we forgive our debtors – the ways they have failed to love You and love me.
Don’t let us be led into temptation but rescue us from evil – show me where real evil lurks in seeming good and where You bring real good out of seeming evil.
March 18, 2020
The Proverbs teach us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” If this is so, then the fear of anything or anyone else (more than the Lord) is the beginning of foolishness. Jesus reveals what has always been true about His Father – that the most fearful One is also the most gracious One. John tells us that this “Perfect Love casts out fear.” God’s love and wisdom are intimately connected!
If you are like me, I find myself questioning and complaining about the why’s and the what’s of our present crisis. I am being reminded that the better question is “Lord, what do You want Your children to learn in the midst of this? What do we learn about His love and what wisdom may we gain from it?” For a profound take on these issues, read “C.S. Lewis and the Coronavirus”.
Here are some things you may need to know:
I will miss seeing your faces and greeting you this Sunday in worship. I hope you and your family will join us in worship all across Spartanburg county as we livestream.
March 16, 2020
Jesus teaches us the greatest commandment is that we love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. This is the purpose and goal of our lives. All of this is always and only in response to the love of God for us in Jesus Christ.
Now we are ‘on the spot’ with a crisis in our society which is as much spiritual, emotional, psychological, and mental as it is physical. How we respond reveals how well formed and shaped we are by the love of God. How we respond will also form and shape us as individuals and as a community - either in the love and trust of God or in fear and anxiety. Never have we needed Jesus or needed each other more than now! Please join me in praying for the Spirit of Jesus to enable us to love God and others well in these days.
I plan to communicate regularly with you - without delay but without haste. I do not wish to add to anxiety or risk misinforming anyone. If you are in need of assistance, please reach out to the church office – 864-585-4186. I am incredibly grateful to be a part of this congregation and going through this together.
My prayer today – Father – remind us each moment that You are good, You love us, and we live in a safe and secure universe. You invented medicine and government. You are Healer and King over all.
March 12, 2020
Dear Church Family,
These are very anxious times and the swirl of information of the last week has certainly heightened. Our leadership has been in discussion throughout the week. As we prepare for our services this Sunday, I thought it would be wise to make you aware of our plans moving forward at this point.
Our leadership has been discussing an appropriate response to the situation that is not driven by anxiety but is wise and thoughtful in its posture. We are monitoring information provided from several sources including our own medical community. Our contacts with local schools allow us to keep abreast of decisions the schools are making.
As we move into this weekend, I wanted you to be aware of our response.
First and foremost, let us be careful in how we relate with, speak to and speak about one another as we all have differing opinions regarding the various approaches to the virus in our society. Grace in everything! Secondly, please be patient with your leadership as we try to take the appropriate steps to wisely and faithfully address the situation. Few if any are experts and all of them have day jobs. Thirdly, please remember that personal responsibility is crucial for all of us in regards to our own health and decisions. Thoughtfulness, patience and consideration in all things.
So, for our gathering this weekend (and for the foreseeable future)
- in greeting one another - both formally in the sanctuary and informally throughout the building - we ask you to follow the recommended guidelines of recognized health organization (i.e. methods of acknowledgment that limit contact - apparently the Corona-virus "pound" that I like to employ does not necessarily qualify).
- we will not serve communion at any of the services on this Sunday, March 15. We will be in discussion on when to return to regular communion next week. I know for many this is a major disappointment. However, our practice of intinction seems to be a high risk to many health organizations.
- we encourage those who are not feeling well or who may be more susceptible to this virus due to other medical conditions to stay at home.
Please be in prayer for our country and church as we walk through these strange days.