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Re-Opening

Psalm 24:7 (NKJV) “Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in.”

On Mother’s Day, May 10th, our church opened with public morning services with social distancing for the first time since March 15th. We had a very good turnout on that day and everyone who attended seemed glad to be back. The Sunday morning service will continue through the month of May. Prior to opening, I had been on Zoom calls with other pastors to hear from Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. At that time they affirmed that the requirements for other businesses, schools, etc. are not required for churches. They simply asked churches to do what they think is best to both meet and keep everyone safe in light of CDC Guidelines. Recently, Texas Governor Greg Abbott approved the next phase in regard to opening child care facilities, camps, etc., all by the end of May. After consideration, the Elders have decided that, provided that there are no setbacks, beginning in June, the church will resume regular meetings for Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights. This includes re-opening nurseries and children’s church. The first Sunday night will be Family Food, Fun, and Fellowship outdoors (weather permitting) with the church providing the hotdog meal. If you are sick or have symptoms—or if your children do—then please stay home and enjoy the service by live stream. Please maintain as much social distancing and contact as possible in the beginning. Remember to cover any inadvertent cough or sneeze and practice handwashing and sanitizing. If everyone works together, we can make this re-opening successful for us all. Please continue to pray for a smooth and safe transition.

The New Normal

Joshua 3:3–5 (NKJV) and they commanded the people, saying, ‘When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. 4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.’ 5 And Joshua said to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.’”

On Saturday, April 12, I awoke and went into prayer. It was during this time that I heard in my spirit the phrase “The New Normal”. This time of quarantine has brought many changes to the American way of life. It has affected businesses, schools, jobs, social gatherings, sports events, conferences, government operations, the home, and the church. People are now asking, “What will be the new normal after this is over?” Obviously, things will be different. The trauma brought about by this pandemic has scarred the American psyche. People will approach social interaction in guarded ways, at least in the beginning. What about the church? Church life has been affected. What have we learned about being the church? What should we do differently, if anything? We cannot afford to simply go back to things as they were before. This has been a time of spiritual reset for the church. We are realizing what the church is about relationships and Christian community. Christian community is the new normal. May we embrace the new normal when we come back together not “in” the church but “as” the church. I look forward to a renewal of Christian community. I look forward to the new normal!        

Adapting to Change

Currently our church is adapting to a different way of worshiping and communicating as a church. This was in some way forced upon us by a little microscopic virus and the recommendations of our government. We are cooperating. We will not have physical gatherings but will live stream our services on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings on our website and church Facebook page. We will also have a live conference call prayer/share meeting on Sunday evenings. Be involved! Get others involved! Check our church Facebook page and website for details. I don’t like change. I know you don’t like it either. But change is sometimes required. We like our “customary” worship venue and often believe it is required. Can we worship God outside of the “building”. Can we adapt? Will the Lord bless it? The Lord is reminding us that the church is not the building. It is not even the Sunday morning worship hour. The church is you and me. It is about relationship with God and one another. Relationships can grow outside the building. Paul and Silas had to learn to worship God in a prison cell. They worshiped and others noticed. Sometimes our worship has become so customary that no one notices anymore. But now, what will these “Christians” do when they can’t be in their “building”? Does the church die or thrive? Because Paul and Silas were willing to worship in a different setting, those outside the church were impacted. We must learn to adapt with the season and let our light shine. The world is listening. The world is watching. A harvest of souls is waiting.

Schedule Changes through April 2

NOTICE: All Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening meetings are CANCELLED until after the first of April. We hope to meet again on Sunday, April 5th. This difficult decision was made by the Elders and me, not out of fear but, in cooperation and submission to our President’s and the CDC’s recommendations for no gatherings over ten people which are intended to curb a spike in the COVID-19 virus. We will continue to have Live Stream Only services on Sunday mornings at 10:30 am and Wednesday’s at 7:00 pm. We will have a conference call prayer/share meeting on Sunday evenings. If you would like to be included in this call, please email me at pastor@gracefellowshiprusk.com. We hope everyone will be involved as a church family. We encourage those who have internet to gather in groups less than ten in order to watch and worship together. We believe under these unusual circumstances this can be a unique time to strengthen our relationships with one another and with the Lord. Be sure to remember and reach out to those who need our extra love and attention. God is in control and we are expecting His work to be done through this in Jesus' name! Thank you!

Teach My Hands to War

2 Samuel 22:35 (NKJV) "He teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze."

We are soldiers in Christ’s army. (2 Timothy 2:3-4) We are not called to be passive; we are called to engage in war. This war is spiritual. Our war is not against human beings. It is a war with demonic powers controlled by Satan who deceive and imprison the souls of men (Ephesians 6:12; Revelation 12:9). Our enemy is strong and the battles are often fierce. God has given us spiritual weapons (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We fight to deliver lost souls out of the prison of darkness. We are sent forth to declare and defend the truth that sets men free. (John 8:31-32) Those for whom we fight will often oppose us being under Satan’s control. We must not take their opposition personal. We must not allow Satan’s evil to get inside of us lest it win. The LORD taught David how to fight to win. We need to ask the Lord to teach us how to fight also. The LORD will teach us how to engage in spiritual warfare in order to overcome the enemy’s power and to win souls. We must not fight evil with evil; we must overcome evil with good. It is time to learn how to fight spiritual battles. It is time to learn how to win. “Lord, teach our hands to war!”                                   

Redeeming the Time

Ephesians 5:15–16 (NKJV) “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
 
We are living in evil days. Spiritual darkness is covering the earth and deep darkness the people. (Isaiah 60:2) As faultless children of God, we are called to shine as lights in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation. (Philippians 2:15) Our lives are to be on display for the world to see. The world is watching whether we realize it or not. We are not to imitate their crooked and perverse way of thinking, speaking, and living. Those in darkness live wreckless lives without considering the consequences of their choices. We, however, are to walk “circumspectly”, not as fools but as wise. To walk “circumspectly” means to carefully consider all of the circumstances and their possible consequences. Instead of adding to the evil around us, we are to redeem the time and opportunities that God has given us to shine as lights in the darkness around us. We are to live as a godly witness and example to our children, family, co-workers, friends, and to new believers. People are watching to see if we live what we profess. We are instruments of God’s light to redeem those still in darkness. May we shine in the darkness around us while we still have time! May others see, believe, and be set free from the evil grip of darkness!                  

Arise Shine!

Isaiah 60:1–4 (NKJV) “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. 2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. 3 The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side.”
 
God is on the move! When God is on the move, He expects us to move with Him! When God brings light into the darkness around us, He expects us to arise and shine forth as reflections of His light. When God’s light begins to shine through us, people will take notice. They will either recoil at God’s light or receive God’s light. Those who receive God’s light will be drawn to God’s Lighthouse on earth, the local church, which is filled with God’s Light Bearers. Like the wise men who came to Bethlehem, secular leaders will begin to seek out the wisdom from above for the desperate problems of our day. When God’s light begins to shine and His glory is made manifest, even those straying sons and daughters and lost family members will begin to come back to God and be discipled at your side. What a wonderful prospect! What a wonderful promise! God is on the move. Don’t sit around hide the light. Arise, shine, for your light has come!    Happy New Year!                        

Love One Another

John 13:34–35 (NKJV) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
 
The one commandment that Jesus gave to us is the commandment to love. Who are we to love? We are to love one another. How are we to love one another? We are to love as Christ has loved us. How has Christ loved us? He lived to serve us and died to save us. Why are we to love one another? It is so that others will know that we are His disciples. They will not know that we are His disciples by the profession of our love for God. Many claim to love God but do not love others. They will not know that we are His disciples by our profession to love one another. They will know that we are His disciples because they see how we love one another. They will see the love of Jesus in us! Those who love have seen God and know God, for God is love. Therefore, love is the most important virtue of our Christian life. Love is the King of all virtues. Without love, nothing else matters. The buildings we worship in will one day be gone. The ministry tools we use will one day be outdated or perish. The ministry positions we hold will one day be retired. Our petty preferential differences will be our shame. The only thing that will matter when this life is over is the relationship we have with God and with one another. The most important thing that we have in this life are not things but our spiritual family. We are part of God’s forever family. Therefore, let us love one another as Christ has loved us. Remember, it is Christ’s command.                                                   We love you!  Pastor Keith & Sheila

 

What is Your ONE Desire?

Psalm 27:4 (NKJV) “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.”
 
Everyone is in pursuit of something. Everyone has one supreme desire that guides the direction of their life. God has wired us so that our heart can only be set on one desire at a time. Jesus said that no man can serve two masters because he will either love one and hate the other or be loyal to one and not the other. (Matthew 6:24) This being the case, what is your ONE desire? What is the ONE thing that defines the course of your life? King David had everything he could want and yet his ONE desire was to be in God’s presence. More than anything else he wanted to dwell in the house of the LORD and to seek His face. That is why God said that David was a man after his own heart. When we give our whole heart to God then we are able to receive His whole heart in return. He does not want us to seek His hand but to seek His face. We cannot give God our whole heart when everything is about us. We cannot give God our whole heart if we are seeking revenge or holding on to a grudge. God wants us to seek Him without distraction or pre-occupation with other things. He made us for fellowship with Him. We will never outgrow our need for Him. We will never be satisfied without Him. Satan will do everything he can to steal our heart away from God. Don’t let him! Become a God Seeker! Put Him first place. As we seek God first, He will add to us everything else we need. In addition, He will fill our lives with joy and fulfillment regardless of the circumstances we may face at any given moment. May we, like David, make the LORD our ONE desire!                                      

You are Part of God's Team!

Ephesians 4:11–12 (NKJV) “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,”

Many have the mistaken idea that churches pay pastors to do the work of the ministry. Pastors are the “professionals” and members are the fans who sit in the grand stands to cheer them on. Nothing could be further from the truth! When Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to the church. They were given to equip the church (the members) for the work of the ministry so that the body of Christ would be edified (built up). Why aren’t local churches accomplishing more? It is because we depend on the “professionals” to do the work. As a result, pastors burn out while members rust out. This is not God’s plan! His plan is that each member contribute something to build up the church so that it can accomplish Christ’s work in the earth. He has a plan for YOU! Have you discovered God’s plan? The pastor’s job is to equip the members of the church to do the work of the ministry. The pastor’s role might be compared to a football coach. The church is the team and every member has their role on the field. When each one is trained, equipped, and works in cooperation with others under the direction of the coach, the team can move the ball down the field. There are no fans on God’s team! We are all called to minister on the field. It is time to get out of the grand stands, show up for training, and then get out on the field. The church has a job to do for Jesus and we all have our part to play. See you at practice!
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