O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee; I give Thee back the life I owe, That in Thine ocean depths its flow May richer fuller be.
O joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain That morn shall tearless be.
Today’s Worship Service
In the absence of a worship service in our church today because of COVID-19 and the need for social-distancing, our worship service was e-mailed to us. The hymns I include in this blog were chosen by our pastor Steve and our music director, Fran McNeill, and then e-mailed to us from our Madison Valley Presbyterian Church here in Ennis, Montana today.
The following sermon by Pastor Steve Hundley was printed for us to “hear” in the privacy of our homes. It is powerful!
Please take your precious time now and hear it with me:
TRUSTING GOD IN THIS DARK TIME
Read: Psalm 130
Read: Romans 8
Some years ago, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book entitled, “WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.” He wrote this book in response to the death of his 14-year-old son, Aaron, from a rare disease called “Progeria” which causes the body to age and die prematurely.
In his bestselling book, Rabbi Kushner concluded that we must decide between a God who is infinitely powerful, but not loving enough to prevent such tragedies as the suffering and death of his 14-year-old son, or, a God who is all loving but not all-powerful. “You can’t have it both ways,” he says, “we must choose: all-powerful or all-loving.”
Yet as Christians, we believe that:
Evil exists in this world, causing bad things to happen to good people, so evident in these past weeks of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Secondly, we believe that our God is all-powerful; and
Thirdly, we believe that our God is a loving God.
Now, I admit that our dilemma is that we can reconcile any two of the above philosophically, but not all three. For example: If evil exists in the world, how can a loving God be all-powerful? Or, if God is all loving and all-powerful how can evil possibly exist?
Still, the Bible does not deal with human, philosophical questions, as much we would prefer it be so. Instead, the Bible deals with divine faith questions. So, even if we cannot know philosophically how evil can exist in light of God who is all-powerful and all-loving, what we “can” know from scripture is that “no matter what evils or tragedies we face in life, our God will not desert us.” And, knowing that is enough.
Yes, it is enough for most of us—most of the time. But, in moments like this, that alone may not be enough. When our entire world is paralyzed by this current pandemic, it is difficult in this dark hour not to cry out to God: “WHY, OH WHY, GOD?” I don’t mean to make you feel guilty, for It is only human to want to know “WHY?”
I don’t know about you, but I find myself cringing every time I hear someone in the media refer to this COVID 19 pandemic as “AN ACT OF GOD.” In all fairness, I realize it is an accepted way for referring to any such natural disaster. Still, I am uncomfortable attributing such death and tribulation to the will of God. As someone said: “If God is light,” according to Holy Scripture, “then why should we impart darkness to God?”
Visiting a young couple who stopped coming to church after their only child died of cancer, their pastor pleaded: “You can’t stop believing in God because of what has happened, can you?” “Oh, I still believe in God,” said the grieving father, “I don’t come to church anymore because I hate God!”
It is for people much like that father that I have chosen to venture further out on the “thin ice” of what is called “the Theodicy Problem”, that is: “Why do bad things happen to good and innocent people?”
So, I humbly dare to venture forward on behalf of all around this world who have suffered or lost loved ones in the midst of this unprecedented natural disaster that has and will continue to cost so many lives.
Let me begin by saying that the Bible, as I understand it, speaks of our all-powerful God who does not completely control everything in our fallen creation because of the limitations God has placed on God’s self in order to allow us freedom of faith. Without freedom, there could be no faith. Faith, by its very definition, requires us the freedom to love and believe in God, or to reject belief and love for God. God does not desire us to be puppets, manipulated into having to believe in or love God. Therefore, our God has granted us, and creation itself, freedom by relinquishing total control over our lives and the world.
The Bible speaks of Satan—and other dark forces at work in this world. And, our own human experiences confirm that there is a dynamic evil force that exercises a powerful presence in our world contrary to the will of God.
“Yet, God in Christ,” writes Paul to the Roman Church, “broke the power of these dark forces on the cross,” which means that we are dealing now with mortally wounded, though still very dangerous “principalities” and “dark powers.” Bad things continue to befall good people because these dark forces are still alive, powerful, and enemies of all that is good in this world.
As Christians, in this Easter Season, we have hope and assurance that through Christ and His resurrection, God’s eventual victory over the evil in our world is a foregone conclusion. But, until that time “when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord,” our God will do all that can be done to drive back these dark forces and utterly destroy them, as we continually pray and serve Him until God’s Kingdom comes on earth as it is in Heaven.
Until that time, says Paul in Romans 8:19-23:
Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
In his book: “Christ and Time”, Oscar Cullmann uses the analogy of WWII to illustrate our and creation’s struggle against the powers of darkness. He makes a clear distinction between two definitive days of the war: D-Day and V-Day. D-Day was the day Allied Forces landed in Normandy and established a beachhead. The strategizing generals on both sides recognized that the outcome of war was decided on that fateful day, June 1944.
They understood that if the enemy had driven the Allies back into the sea, the Nazis would have won the war. However, the Allied Armies prevailed in Normandy and sealed the doom of the evil Nazi regime. Still, in spite of the triumph of D-Day, the Allies had not yet totally subdued the enemy. Between D-Day and V-Day (Victory Day), there would be many months of suffering, death, and struggle. There would be horrendous battles as the Allied Army, little by little, pushed back the Nazi forces. Still, the ensuring battles would culminate in “Victory Day,” which marked the complete surrender of the enemy and the total liberation of Europe.
So you see, the cross and resurrection of Jesus were our D-Day. God in Jesus won the decisive battle over evil and death in this world. However, God and His children, as well as nature itself, continue to face struggles while driving back the forces of darkness whose power has been broken. Still, dark forces are alive in the world and free to raise havoc. God’s V-Day is not yet here! However, we can be confident in God’s triumph over evil and death (and COVID 19), because we know how it will end.
Or, as Paul says:
Who (or what) shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or peril, or sword (or this COVID 19 pandemic)? As it is written, “For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither, death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 35-39)
(Written by Rev. Steve Hundley and printed in our worship e-mail)
“In midst of life, O Lord, our lives have been interrupted by death: the death of our normal routine, the death of worship as we have always done it, the death of life as we have known it, the death of our personal plans, the death of innocence, the death of institutions, the death of promises, the death of those we love, the death that works in our own bodies.
In spite of our broken dreams we give You thanks for the gospel of Jesus Christ, whose message is not death but life: the life of the Spirit, the life of dreams, the life of faith, the life of love, the life of justice; life for the small people of the world, life for the meek, life for the broken and rejected, life for the diseased and afflicted, life for our loved ones, and life for us.
Lord, we pray for those who need hope, healing, and grace. We hold up before you those who are alone and isolated, those who are sick, and those who are scared of what the future holds for them. Lord, help us to discover new ways of living: living for Christ, living for those around us, living for this frightened world, living for Your Kingdom. Let the Christ of the empty tomb make empty tombs of all our disappointments and fears. Come and reign over us, now and in the days ahead and forever and ever. Amen”
Verse One: God be with you till we meet again; By His counsels guide, uphold you, With His sheep securely fold you; God be with you till we meet again.
Chorus: Till we meet, till we meet; till we meet at Jesus’ feet; Till we meet, till we meet, God be with you till we meet again.
Verse Two: God be with you till we meet again; ‘Neath His wings protect and guide you, Daily manna still provide you. God be with you till we meet again.
Verse Three: God be with you till we meet again; When life’s perils thick confound you, Put His arms unfailingaround you; God be with you till we meet again.
Verse Four: God be with you till we meet again; Keep love’s banner floating o’er you, Smite death’s threatening wave before you; God be with you till we meet again.
(Back to chorus)
Spread Love and Hope
I pray you found love and hope in these songs, these words, and these prayers.
If you did, as I did, you can spread love and hope by forwarding this post to your friends and family. Or you can sit with those in your household (as I did with my husband this morning) and read/sing these messages together. Or you can do both!
Do you live in trust? Are you feeling terrified? We all have a choice.
Today at Madison Valley Presbyterian Church, in Ennis, Montana, our pastor, Rev. Steve Hundley, began his sermon by telling us he had scrapped the sermon he originally planned. “It just didn’t seem to fit,” he explained to the sparsely attended congregation.
With this Coronavirus Pandemic spreading like wildfire around the world, and the first four cases being tested positive in Montana just yesterday, Pastor Steve felt God nudging him to speak to that topic.
So, here are my sermon notes from today’s message:
Terror or Trust?
We must always trust in God In the face of everyday life. We must turn to Him when We’re faced with terrifying strife.
We must trust the Mighty Fortress In the midst of Pandemic Fear. We must trust He is with us. We’re not abandoned; He is here.
Even when we learn that things Will get worse before they’re better, We still must trust the Lord. We must read His Word; believe every letter.
In Psalm 46, the Bible says The Lord All Powerful is right here. Especially in the midst of disasters, He tells us, “Do not fear!”
To really know God and believe In His love and care every single day, Takes a lifetime of faithful living With consistent prayer and walking His Way.
There will be days when we doubt Because God seems so far away. It’s days like that when we gather Together, listening to what God has to say.
We hear His Word and are reminded Of God’s faithful love and care. We believe in God’s good character And see His goodness everywhere.
We must know that God expects us To be His character witnesses today. Witness to the love of Christ, And spread it with what you do and say.
In our state of dread and insecurities, We are invited to live in the HOPE That only God can give to us. Will I become frozen in fear? NOPE!
Not only did Steve’s sermon encourage us to live in Trust (not terror), but his Prayer of Confession (printed in our bulletin) further inspired us to look deep within and examine whether or not we are:
more apathetic than active
more isolated than involved
more callous than compassionate
more obstinate than obedient
more legalistic than loving
Our Prayer of Confession continued, “Gracious Lord, have mercy upon us and forgive our sins. Remove the obstacles preventing us from being Your representatives to a broken world. Awaken our hearts to the promised gift of Your indwelling Spirit. Amen“
God Is Our Fortress God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear … “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
God Bless You! Bee safe – Bee well – Bee a Blessing TRUST and KNOW: God is with you.
What is one small act you can do to change Terror to Trust in someone’s heart today?
If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know that usually I post sermon notes after church on Sunday afternoons. I failed to do so last Sunday because I left behind the bulletin with my sermon notes. Today I retrieved it. So, here, my friends are my poetic notes from Sunday, March 8th.
Based on Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:1-21; Sermon by Rev. Steve Hundley; recorded through JanBeek’s filter:
Let Your Soul Sing
Moses lifted up a bronze snake. Those bitten by a snake were saved; Not by anything they did or said, Not by the way they prayed or behaved. . It was by the grace of God that they Looked up at the statue and then The poison did not kill them. It was not by the power of women or men. . If we are to avoid being foolish, We need to admit our dependence And we need to acknowledge risk Wherever we happen to be in attendance. . We are dependent on God for life. It is He who guides our days. We, in our pride, think we’re in control – And we fools trust our own ways. . We cannot do for ourselves what’s needed To be independently self-made. We must trust and believe it’s God Who created us, and with His Son, our debts paid. . We must trust God to lift us up On the top of an eagle’s wing. His breath blows our life toward Him If we let our souls in His glory sing. . . Sing to Him today. Praise His name always.
God, You know our troubles, our concerns, our anguish. Bring peace and comfort to Your loved ones. Give us hope and assurance. Bring healing to the hurting, the sick, the lonely. Lift us on Your wing. Remind our souls to sing Your Praises and Trust in Your Promises.
No, I am not practicing for divorce! After 58 eventful years of marriage, it’s too late to give up now!!
But life is not a bed of roses (or carnations!) And marriage is not easy! Nobody promised it would be.
Sometimes we get mad at one another. Sometimes we disappoint one another. Sometimes we don’t understand where the other one is coming from!
What Families Know
In his devotional today on Bayside Church’s on-line “Refuel,” Andrew McCourt talked about marriage and relationships.
He titled his message, “What Families Know,” and he said,
“People who aren’t married do married things… they are lovers practicing for divorce.”
Love Without Commitment
For as long as life began – back to the days of Adam and Eve – men and women have found a way to “find each other’s cracks.” And eventually pouring into that crack can burst the container!
Eve found Adam’s crack! And look what happened…
Andrew McCourt offered some suggestions for how to relate to one another in genuine love that does not seek to “find the crack” – but rather seeks to FILL AND FULFILL.
Andrew said something to this effect,
“What successful married folks know is this: there is an order to successful relationships.
First, you stand together shoulder to shoulder (Don’t let kids or anyone else get between you).
Second, you stand or sit together face-to-face (You look each other in the eye and you communicate).
Third, you do the bellybutton-to-bellybutton thing (You love each other emotionally and physically).”
Andrew said, “When we get that order of things reversed, that’s when we start Practicing for Divorce.”
When did this whole thing of living together first to try it out before getting married come into being?
I have a biased (informed, of course) opinion about that! I think “Three’s Company” is the culprit.
Living Together Out of Wedlock
I couldn’t find a picture of those three folks (a guy and two gals) who lived together in an apartment in NYC on a TV show back in the 70’s or early 80’s, but it was funny and popular and it made it look like it was okay for unmarried people of the opposite sex to live together. “Three’s Company” was one of my mom’s favorite shows. And she would be considered a prude by today’s standards.
When my niece lived with a guy before marriage in NYC, my mom said it was a great idea because it made her safer in an unsafe city!
See how media can change our idea of right and wrong?
Ah, here: I found a video. It was a darling TV show!
Bayside’s “Refuel” Podcast
If you want to hear Andrew McCourt himself and his actual words on the subject, try this link: bit.ly/devo021020 I have that on my iPhone and it takes me there.
On With My Day
‘Tis time for me to get on with my day. Tomorrow is our actual anniversary… 58 years. It’s not always been a bed of roses, but the key ingredient always has been there:
Yup, that’s the bottom line! So, whatever your relationship… whether it’s three’s company, living with your lover, or married, keep that RESPECT alive!
And there are a few other tips for how to keep from practicing for divorce, too. I’ll save those for tomorrow.