Up-To-Date Advisory Information
April 4, 2020
Greetings Grace Church Family,
It has been another weird week. Life continues to be strange and confusing, disorienting, traumatizing, and odd. As we enter into Holy Week, I’m filled with sadness and disappointment. I want to sing All Glory Laud and Honor with you! I want to hear the choir sing. I want to see the children walking into the sanctuary shouting, “Hosanna in the highest!” I want to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with you and feast on the only one that doesn’t disappoint and leave us. But this celebratory week is different this year. The joy is mixed with sadness, the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus is mixed with longing. But isn’t it always this way? It just feels heightened this year.
We are always waiting for Jesus to return to undo all that is broken and wrong and sinful and evil in this world. God’s people have always been a people of waiting. Adam and Eve are waiting for a rescuer. Noah waits for rain. Abraham and Sarah wait for a son. Joseph waits for his dreams to come true and come out of prison. Israel waits to be freed from Egypt. God’s people wander in a desert waiting to enter the promised land. Israel waits on a king. They wait in exile for God to rescue them and bring them home. They wait for Jesus. And now we too, wait on Jesus to return to bring heaven to earth, to make all things new. Waiting is what God’s people are called to do so often in the Scripture and in life.
This is especially hard for us now, especially the youngest among us. We don’t have to wait for anything. Do you want to watch any show or movie ever made? Click. It’s on. What song do you want to hear? You don’t have to wait for the radio to play it. Click. It’s on. Are you hungry? Food is ready to be eaten with little to no preparation time. No wonder it’s so hard for us to wait. But that is what we, as God’s people, are called to.
So how can we wait right now? Pray. Go to God, worship him, adore him, praise him. Bring him your laments, your fears, your anxieties, your broken hearts, your shattered dreams, your excitements, your victories, your joys, your longings, your supplications. Bring it all. God can not only handle it, but he wants it! He wants all of you! Pray that God will sustain us, that he will deepen our dependence on him. Pray for the afflicted, the infected, and the vulnerable. Pray for doctors and nurses. For friends, family, neighbors, enemies, and those far off. Pray God would end this pandemic. Join our denomination and download and use this prayer guide to help you pray during the month of April.
Second, as I said last week, lament. Cry out to God. Mourn the real and perceived losses we are all experiencing. Mourn the fact that Holy Week will look different this year. We won’t get to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on Palm Sunday. We won’t get to mourn our sin and the death of Jesus on Good Friday. We won’t get to serve and celebrate with our community at the Egg Hunt on Holy Saturday. We won’t get to gaze into the empty tomb together and celebrate the Risen Jesus on Easter Morning. We won’t get to have the exchange, “He is Risen!” “He is Risen, indeed!” There is much we can grieve before God in right now. Run to the Psalms. Pray them. Cry them. Sit before God with them.
Third, we can celebrate! Though, our celebration will not be what we are used to and will not be corporate in the sense that we will get to celebrate together in worship with our bodies and voices, hugging and holding one another. Yet we are called to be a people who celebrate! Jesus did die on the cross, but he didn’t stay in the tomb. He rose from the dead! It really happened! It really is true! And even in the midst of great discouragement, great sadness, and laments, we can always celebrate because Jesus is alive and reigning now! He will come again and Easter is the down payment of that promise. We have much to celebrate for even in the midst of great sadness and isolation.
Lastly, we can hope. This season will not last forever. We will be able to be together at some point. We will be fellowshipping, and singing, and dancing, and hugging, and worshiping, and feasting together. When we are able to finally come together, it will be a party! It will be a celebration. This separation should be creating a longing within us to meet with and worship together, to come to the Lord’s Table together, and give ourselves to Him together. We can hope in that future.
We can wait right now through praying, lamenting, celebrating, and hoping. Even in the shadows we can proclaim the mystery of the faith together: “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” That is the truth and our only hope.
This week for worship, we will not be gathering together via livestream. Our equipment is still not in. So until it comes, as I said last week, I’ll be leading us through an abbreviated audio liturgy and we’ll be continuing our series on The Gospel According to Joseph from the book of Genesis, where we’ll be looking at chapter 41 together. You can download the bulletin here. You’ll note there are some songs selected. You can pause the recording and sing them if you’d like or even just read and take in the words.
You can access the liturgy and sermon on our website or you can also go to podcasts on your phone and download the liturgy and sermon there. The link for the podcast is here.
I hope this continues to be an encouragement to you and point you to our Savior.
Again, I have attached a Children’s Church devotion for you to do with your children or by yourself and I hope it will be an encouraging time to discuss the gospel with your kids.
Please let us know if you have any needs so we can care for you and serve and support you during this time.
March 27, 2020
Greetings Grace Church Family,
It is Friday afternoon, and we just received in Montgomery County, an order from our judge that we are to stay at home, going out only for things deemed essential. Our neighbors in Harris County have been under this order since Monday, and many around our country have been as well. These are strange, disorienting, confusing, frustrating, and sad times. It is right for us to grieve the many losses we are experiencing and will experience over these next several weeks and months. There are many ways for us to be busy and active. There are ways to serve and help people, there are chores to do around the house, there is work that needs to be done. But one of the problems with trying to stay active is that we might shove our feelings and our hearts to the side and not be honest about the grief we are experiencing. It is good and right for us to name our sadness, to name the losses and grief we experience, and to lament before our God. So I want to encourage you to engage your heart this week. Consider and name the grief you are experiencing. Name the losses and rest in the arms of our Savior who grieves with you, who is there with you in your grief, and who loves you.
In our house, we are grieving the potential that we may not get to celebrate Jude’s Kindergarten graduation or his birthday with his grandparents. Many of you are grieving the loss of not being able to celebrate a graduation, or participate in the play, band, or choir performance that you were preparing for. Some of you are grieving the loss of work, the fact that you might not be able to pay your employees, that your finances are taking a hit. Some of you are grieving the loss of a vacation or time away with your friends and family. Some of you have been unable to celebrate births, birthdays, and other achievements with your friends and family. We are grieving over not being able to gather together to worship and sing together in the company of the saints. We are grieving over the loss of not being to feast at the Lord’s Table together. Some of us are grieving over friends and loved ones being sick and not being able to comfort and care for them. Others have experienced the death of those close to them and are not only grieving the loss of someone they care about but are also grieving the loss of the ability to be comforted, held, hugged, and supported by their friends and family. These are all real losses that we need to be honest about.
The beautiful thing about the Christian faith is that the Bible and Jesus never shy away from pain and loss. They never minimize it or call us to just get over it. They invite us to actually lean into our loss and take take it the LORD and lament, to cry out to God, “How long, O LORD?!” To lament is to voice your pain, anger, and grief in the presence of God. The Bible is full of laments so it is good and right and appropriate to lament before our God.
Psalm 22:1-8 says,
1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”
Sometimes things happen in our lives and world that we don’t understand but we know that it is painful. There is much we don’t know about what life is going to look like in the next week or month or year. But we can cry out to our God knowing that he is with us, and for us, and that he laments with us. When Jesus was on the cross, Jesus cried out in lament these very words from Psalm 22. He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!” And the Father turns his face away from Jesus in that moment so you, believer in Christ, can know that He will never turn his face away from you, especially in your pain and grief. So again, let me encourage you to take your emotions and pain and grief to the LORD during this time and always. Run into the arms of your Savior who lavishes you with love and affection in his rich embrace.
This week for worship, we will not be gathering together in person or in community via livestream. Our equipment that we were hoping would come in to allow us to livestream has not yet come in. So until it does, we will be doing what we did last week, where I’ll be leading us through an abbreviated liturgy and we’ll be continuing our series on The Gospel According to Joseph from the book of Genesis, where we’ll be looking at chapter 40 together. You can download the bulletin here:
I know that last week, Elexio (our website provider) was having some problems at 10:30 am last week. So if you encounter a slow website, you can also go to podcasts on your phone and download the liturgy and sermon there. The link for the podcast is here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/grace-presbyterian-church-the-woodlands-sermons/id1332858214
I hope this will be an encouragement to you and point you to Jesus.
I have attached a Children’s Church devotion for you to do with your children or by yourself and I hope it will be an encouraging time to discuss the gospel with your kids.
Please let us know if you have any needs so we can care for you and serve and support you during this time.
March 20, 2020
Greetings Grace Church Family,
I hope this letter finds you safe, healthy, caring for your neighbors, and trusting in our God who is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1). I know these are confusing, anxious, and lonely times. We are left asking questions like, “Where is God? Why aren’t we able to gather for worship? How can I care for my family and my neighbors? What’s going on?” Many of us are feeling like we are overwhelmed and we don’t think we can do this. Those thoughts and experiences right now are completely understandable. If that is where you find yourself, let me encourage you to turn toward the Lord in prayer. Peter calls us to cast all our anxieties on Him because he cares for us. No matter where you are, what you’re thinking or going through, know that our God cares for you! Those are not trite words, but the promise of our God to help us when our feelings and circumstances tell us that God is absent and does not care. He does. And he won’t stop.
I’ve been pouring through the Psalms this week and Psalm 46 and 121 have been Psalms that I have turned to time and again during my life, especially during seasons of anxiety, fear, confusion, and distress. Please allow me to share with you what will hopefully be some encouragement from the Psalms.
Psalm 46 (which will be our call to worship for our abbreviated audio liturgy for this Sunday) reminds us that God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. The Sons of Korah encourage us to not fear, even if the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Even when disaster, hopelessness, and pandemics strike, we are reminded that the LORD Almighty is with us. He has not left us. He will not leave us. Even in the darkest, loneliest, most discouraging places, the God of Jacob, the God of liars and sinners and needy, broken people, is with us! Psalm 46 closes with God speaking to his people, “Be still and know that I am God.” That is so hard for us. We like to be busy. We like to do things. We like to bring solutions and make things better. Those are great things, and one of the reasons I love our people in The Woodlands. But our God calls us to stop. To rest. To be still. God calls our restless, turbulent, troubled hearts to stop our anxious wandering, and to quiet our hearts and rest in the fact that He alone is God (and we are not!), and to be comforted by his control, faithfulness, and covenant love.
Psalm 121 reminds us that our help does not come from anywhere other than the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. That does not mean that we ignore sound medical and government advice to quarantine ourselves because we are a people of faith that trust in God. But it means that our ultimate help and hope do not come from anything on this earth: no job, no relationship, no stock market, no medical diagnosis, none of that. Our ultimate help and hope is in the risen Jesus, who came to seek and to save the lost, and create a people for himself to bring him glory through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. This Psalm also greatly encourages us because the Psalmist tells us that our God watches over us and will not slumber nor sleep. He watches over our coming and going, both now and forevermore. We do not need to live in fear or panic because of Covid-19. Our God is going to use even this confusing and uncertain time to draw us to himself, to make us more like Jesus, and to bring many sons and daughters to glory.
We don’t know what the future holds. But our God does. And he refuses to waste anything, even our suffering, to bring about his purposes. Some of us may get sick. But the God who watches over your life, promises that he will be with us, that he will not leave us, and that nothing, not even sickness or death can separate us from his love. I find myself turning to Romans 8 again and again to remind myself of who I am in Jesus and the security and hope I have in Him.
Right now, as we are unable to meet together with our bodies for corporate worship, we are needing to be creative in how we still meet with, encourage one another in the gospel, care for one another and our neighbors, and share life together. This Sunday, as we await some equipment that will hopefully allow us to begin live-streaming our service for March 29th (pray with and for us to that end!), I will be leading us through an abbreviated, audio liturgy and we will hear Chris Yates preach God’s Word to us. Please download the bulletin here and follow along with me as I lead us in praying, confessing, and declaring our faith together. Please visit the church website and look for updates concerning our worship and activities at Grace Church. I will be sending out a letter once a week to keep you encouraged and informed as to what we are doing as a church.
I have also attached to this email a pdf of our children’s church sermon to give you another resource during this time to engage, teach, and encourage your children with the hope of the gospel.
Please let me or any of the elders, deacons, or community group leaders know if you or your family have any needs or prayer requests during this time. We long to serve you. We would love to know how we can care for and pray for you during this lonely and confusing time. This is a great opportunity for the Church to rally and hold fast to the gospel, and show the love of our Savior with how we care for each other, our neighbors, the lowly, and the least among us. We cannot wait to see you again and embrace you and draw near to you as our Savior does with us.
March 14, 2020
Dear Grace Family-
We are writing to communicate what we are sure will be a surprising decision. The Session of Grace has made the decision to cancel the worship services that were planned to take place in the Sanctuary this Sunday, March 15. We know that raises many questions, so allow us to do our best to answer what you may be thinking.
Why the change? A lot has transpired over the last 24 hours. State and local leaders are urging the cancellation of large public gatherings, and with the cancellation of local schools, state universities, and national sporting events, we feel compelled to honor these requests.
What is our plan for this Sunday? We encourage you to stay home and pray and worship with your family. The bulletin for this Sunday's service is online and available for you to download and use as a guide. Kyle and Joe Congdon will be working Saturday to record Joe’s prepared sermon on Genesis 37:12-36, and we will have it posted on the church website by 10:30am on Sunday morning for us all to hear.
What are the plans for future Sundays? A lesson we have learned is that this situation is quickly evolving, and it is not wise to make long-range plans. Moving forward, we will be making the worship decision on a week-by-week basis. For now, all activities at our facilities are cancelled until further notice. We are exploring options for live streaming of worship service if future Sunday worship is to be cancelled. Please know that we will continue to pay those whom we regularly employ for church activities even if we are unable to utilize the services they provide. Many livelihoods are at stake, and we are committed to the financial care of those who rely on the work we offer.
With respect to where we are as a country regarding Covid-19, the medical consensus is that Coronavirus is here, and it is going to spread. The severity of the infection and extent of the spread remains unknown. The risks associated with the spread of Coronavirus are largely two-fold. First, those who are susceptible to infection – the elderly, those with underlying medical conditions, or those with compromised immune systems – are most at risk. The second is the potential for hospitals and medical professionals to lack the resources necessary to treat those who fall seriously ill.
If this is true, and in light of what is yet to be known, what steps can we take – both as citizens and as followers of Jesus – to care for the most vulnerable among us? As counter-intuitive as it may sound as Christians who highly value gathered worship, the best step we can take is to refrain from large gatherings. The more people that are concentrated in an area, the more the likelihood of viral transmission. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, one of the implications is that we sacrifice our own desires and sense of liberty for the sake of others. In this case, others may be those who are vulnerable to infection or it may also be the entire medical infrastructure that we want to support and not overwhelm.
Medical professionals call this effort “flattening the curve” of the virus, which is the effort to slow the spread of the virus enough for doctors and hospitals to effectively treat patients. Christians call this effort loving our neighbors and sacrificing our own desires in the face of what is not yet fully known.
With all that said, we would like to offer a personal word of encouragement. Thoughtful precautions are good and helpful, but panic and fear are not. We serve a risen and reigning Savior who is completely in control, and that should be evident in the way we respond to a cultural crisis. It was our Christian brothers and sisters in China who led the way during the initial outbreak of this virus. They testified to the surety of their hope by loving, serving, and above all, not despairing. Confidence in the face of panic has always been a mark of God's people, and let it be true of us. Besides, as our Lord himself reminds us, our fear accomplishes absolutely nothing: "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to their life?"
Let us pray for all those impacted and for the sustained health of our community, but as we pray, let us do so with confidence that God is sovereign and at work. And let's continue to be good neighbors and look for ways to love and serve those around us.
Most undeservedly yours,
The Session of Grace