Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’  It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”
Jude 17–19

Who could have ever foreseen what 2020 would hold? I think we all knew that the political circus was coming to town with the Presidential Election, but adding in a global pandemic, protests and riots over racial divisions, threats of war in Iran, talks of peace in for Israel, an alphabet of hurricanes and tropical storms, and even murder hornets – this has been a full year. 

If someone had told you back in 2019 what was to come, would you believe it? Would it have made a difference. Maybe you would have stocked up on toilet paper, invested in the company that makes face masks, but I don’t know that knowing any of this would have made this year easier. Knowing something bad is coming doesn’t make it better, it doesn’t make it less evil; but it may be more bearable.  

This is the point of Jude’s reminder in vs. 17-19. Jude has spent 2/3 of the letter detailing the corruptive teaching of those who had crept into the church. He has highlighted that their judgment is sure, and their teachings are empty. Now Jude begins to speak to the faithful.

“My beloved,” he says, “remember that the prophets told you this was going to happen.” These false teachers are no surprise to God, and God has warned us of their coming. We don’t know exactly what prophecies Jude has in mind, it could be that these were predictions made by the apostles but never written down, or he could be referring to passages such as:

1 Timothy 4:1–5: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”

2 Timothy 3:1–5: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

Acts 20:29–30: “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

or even Matthew 24:10–12: “And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”

In these passages the faithful are called to remember that all of this was foreseen by the Lord.  Remembering here doesn’t simply mean to recall, but to take to heart what was spoken. God has determined the end from the beginning, nothing comes as a suppose to God. God has spoken, through Christ His Son, and through the prophets and apostles, about the troubles that the church would face. God has warned the faithful that there would be days like this. His warning is a call to prepare for trouble, but also to not lose heart.

In these last days – between Christ’s death and resurrection and His coming again – some will be led astray by false teaching. Some will cause division within the church as they seek their own desires. Some will cause trouble for the church, and even bring persecution to the faithful as they reject the Lord and His word.

None of what we face is beyond God’s sovereign provision, and even in the midst of it God is working for the good of those who love God (Rom 8:28).  In all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom 8:37). 

Knowing that these times of trouble in the church were foreseen by the apostles doesn’t make it any less evil or troubling, but it does make it more bearable.  Thomas Schreiner writes in The New American Commentary:

No false teaching, no threat from the outside can be considered a genuine threat to the truth since it has all been foreseen and predicted. God never promised that the church would progress in the world without enemies from within. People are apt to think that blessing from God would mean that the people of God exist in a blissful state with no conflict. On the contrary, the apostles foretold that opponents would come, and now they had arrived. They were evident by their words and their works. It should be clear to all, therefore, that they were not part of the people of God. The church should recognize them, reject their teaching, and reach out to those wavering under their influence.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Vol. 37. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003. Print. The New American Commentary.

Rolling Return to Normalcy

Shepherding the Church in a time of pandemic is a delicate balancing act. You want to move forward in faith, encouraging the congregation to trust in the Lord and be bold in worship and service. At the same time, you want to caution the flock from provoking the Lord through our own carelessness and lack of regard for others.

The elders of my congregation met last night to discuss how best to continue the ministry of our Church as the Coronavirus Pandemic progresses. We struggled with balancing our desire to be together as the body of Christ in worship, fellowship, and service with the need to protect the flock entrusted to us by the Lord. We do not want to operate from a spirit of fear and timidity; but trusting in the providence of God, we want to move forward responsibly and cautiously.

I  thought I would share the following recommendations from our elders here to show what we are doing to move forward in faith:

  • Members may choose to worship in person, but we ask that they be responsible and consider the needs of others by maintaining a safe distance and reducing contact  as much as possible.
  • High risk members (65/older or immune compromised), are asked stay home and join us for worship on Cable or YouTube.
  • Those who are in any way feeling unwell (fever, cough, body aches), are urged to stay home, letting the Elders and Deacons know how we can minister to them.
  • The Church will continue with a “Touchless” Worship Service. We have removed the pew Bibles and hymnals, as all lyrics will be on the screen, and members are encouraged to bring their own Bible. Pews will be marked off so that those in attendance will be encouraged to sit a safe distance apart.
  • The offering plate will not be passed during the service, but those attending are encouraged to place their offering in the plate before or after the service, and those at home to may give as best they can (bring to the church, mail, or online donation).
  • No nursery will be provided during worship, and parents of young children are asked to ensure that their children stay with them at all times.
  • Sunday School will continue to be offered online through Facebook each Sunday morning for the children, and via Zoom with Pastor Sayler for the adults at 11:00 am.
  • There will be no Fellowship Time or in-person Sunday School following worship until further notice. 

The elders want to assure the Church that we are working to keep the building clean by wiping down the pews, door handles and other furniture after every service. Masks are encouraged for those who attend in person, but not required. In all things, the elders ask our members to use their best judgment and to consider the needs of others when deciding to come in person.

We are mindful that the Church is never closed because the Church is not a building, it is the people of God. We shared in thanksgiving to God that even in these troubling times the Lord has supplied for the needs of the Church through the continued  financial and spiritual support of her members.  There have been moments of great blessing in the midst of this crisis, showing God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

We continue to pray for the day when we can encourage everyone to attend in-person, but realize that returning to a sense of normal in the Church is not like flipping a light switch, but more like turning a dimmer. We will slowly, cautiously, and prayerfully restart the ministries of the Church as the Spirit leads us in wisdom and discernment. 

I’d be interested in hearing how your church are responding to the Coronavirus, and what their plans are for moving forward. Leave your comments below.

Grace and peace,