Speaker: Shaan Sloan
Dearest HCF Saints,
In these days of so much “social distancing,” if you’re like me, you’re feeling, well, “socially distant.” Held up in our homes, we feel the sting of the lack of fellowship and begin to feel lonely, displaced, and even depressed. We were created to enjoy fellowship with one another; indeed it is one of the great privileges of life. Furthermore, as worshippers of God and His Son Jesus Christ, we long to gather on the Lord’s Day and rejoice together with the family of God, giving Him thanks and singing His praises for the wonderful things He has done. Oddly enough, this public health crisis has brought our worlds to a halt in many ways and has inflicted upon us a blow that we did not expect. Our everyday lives have come to a screeching halt and our daily routines have been turned on their head. Our regular fellowship has been disrupted by the need to socially isolate and to purposely not join together. Things could be much worse, but for now, the whole thing feels eerie, rather strange, and downright reclusive! We don’t like being held up in our caves (with the exception of you caveman typesߘ); we want to get out and smell the roses and share our lives together in God’s beautiful world.
Yet our plight in this COVID-19 crisis is not without a promise and a blessing. After all, we who have trusted in Christ are the children of the Living God! The Lord is up to something good even if it comes through the thistles and thorns of wilderness-wandering in a fallen world. As we face some time alone in isolation, let us consider how good and refreshing it could be for us to slow down our pace and stop and smell the roses in the garden of God’s relationship with us. In our fast-paced 21st Century lives, this isolation comes with an opportunity to draw near to God that we otherwise might not have had. He promises to work everything for our good (Rom 8:28) and to always be with us, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you," (Heb 13:5). Jesus, who is Immanuel (meaning “God with us,”), is the One who said to us, “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20)
If you trace the biblical story line starting in Genesis all the way through Revelation, you come to see that God‘s presence is one of the main themes of the entire Bible. Adam and Eve were in the presence of God before the fall and the fall drove them from the presence of God. They were shut out, isolated, and displaced from the awesome presence of God Himself. As God’s revelation in Scripture marches on through time, the idea of once again being restored to His presence comes more and more into focus. The hope of God‘s presence returning to humanity, which comes through sacrifice and atonement, is seen in the Tabernacle and in the Temple, the place where God dwells. The great hope of God’s Anointed Messiah, our Prophet, Priest, and King, will come and bring God’s Kingdom to earth and the dwelling of God will be with His people forevermore. Now in the New Testament, and through the powerful work of God’s Son, the new reality is that every believer, together with the whole church, comprises the temple of God where He dwells by his Spirit (Eph 2:19-22).
Ephesians 2:19-22 - 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. NASB
This is the great good news of the Gospel, that we have been so reconciled to God and cleansed from our sins through the life and death of Christ, that God Himself has literally come to dwell inside us New Creations (2 Cor 5:17-21). This New Creation reaches its climax when, in the eternal state, God’s presence is completely restored to both humankind and the Earth as God comes to dwell again on the New Earth among His people.
Revelation 21:3-4 - 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, 4 and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." NASB
The presence of God will be fully restored on God’s green earth and His people will flourish together with Him forevermore. What an awesome and endless Day that will be! But for now, as we make our way down this pilgrim road to glory, God is preparing us for the world to come.
In this fast-paced world, our lives become so busy, cluttered, and distracted, that our relationship with God often suffers. And that means we suffer from a lack of fellowship with God, and it becomes much like wandering in a dry and weary land, where we are thirsty, hungry, and cut off from the source of life, God Himself. Our spiritual souls are famished as in the wilderness, where God would often refocus His people through thorny trials and difficult suffering, and they would find themselves in a place where the only option was to cry out to God in faith. A Christian’s trials have this good effect and this is much like our current health crisis! For now, by God’s good grace, He has cut us off from so many of our distractions and suddenly we all see just how dependent on God we are. As a tiny little invisible virus wreaks havoc in the world, we have a profound new awareness of what is truly important: God and Faith, people and family, love and grace, and we have a new appreciation for the Sovereignty and Providence of God over His world.
Now that things have slowed to some degree, it is a marvelous opportunity to take inventory in our spiritual lives and refocus ourselves on what is truly most important - our relationship to God through the Word and through prayer. Consider your life’s priorities, your personal relationship and devotion to Christ, your marriage, your family, your career, and your service to the Lord and His church. It’s the perfect time to meditate on Scripture, to consider your ways, and to consider your days!
Psalm 39:4-7 - 4 "Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. 5 "Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah. 6 "Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them. 7 "And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. NASB
Dear Saints, does the Lord have your attention? Have you yet harkened to the Words of His mouth? Have you bowed the knee in humble faith, looking to Him in dependence for His grace? Now is the time in the words of James, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” and... “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James, 4:8,10) or as the Psalmist exclaims,
Psalm 90:12 - 12 So teach us to number our days, That we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom. NASB
As we draw near to God and we come to Him with our fear and anxiety, we will find His great loving heart of care for His people! He will quiet our fears and He will calm our anxious hearts! After all, He is the awesome God who rules His world with Wisdom, Power, and Love, and is yet our loving Father! As we humble ourselves before Him in prayer, He will indeed steady our feeble knees with His strong arm and His warm and gracious hand! Dear Saints, the Lord cares for you!
1 Peter 5:6-7 - 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. NASB
As we draw near to God, we will find Him to be all that we need. Our restless and fearful hearts will find His comfort and His peace. Our minds will be decluttered by His great wisdom and knowledge. The order of life priorities will become clearer and the Lord will re-order our lives according to His wisdom! Yet even much more importanly, we will find ourselves in the presence of God and the beauty of holiness will fill our hearts! He will be Bread for our hungry souls! He will be a Spring of living water in a dry and burning desert! He will be the Light of Life and the Joy and rejoicing of our hearts! When we draw near to God, He will make known to us the path of Life!
Psalm 16:11 - 11 Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fulness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.
What has turned into a massive crisis in the world is for us the opportunity to refocus our hearts and minds on what is truly important and draw near to God in full assurance of His love and care for us! Hopefully sometime soon we will look back on these days and rejoice how the Lord worked wonders and did a marvelous work in our hearts! We will see how He worked it all for our good and for His own glory!
In His unfailing love and sustaining grace,
Christ’s servant at
Heritage Christian Fellowship