December 29, 2020
It amazes me how many people put their faith in a specific period of time. Jan. 1st, seems to be, for many, a time of reset or a self-professed new beginning. The reality is the same people will hold on to the same day, just one year apart, year after year after year. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great time to evaluate how you are doing things, looking for areas to make changes, strive to be healthier, wealthier and wiser, and we should yearly rethink how we are doing things, but the problem comes from perspective.
In other words, what filter do you use to see how you are doing? For health, do you go and get an annual physical? For wealth do you pour over your financial reports and tax forms, consult a cpa, an investment group or a loan officer? Character wise are you relying on your friends and family to keep you in check? These are all “common sense” ways to at least evaluate your life but how often do we seek scripture to evaluate our priorities? Not nearly often enough. That is like asking someone who just smacked their finger with a hammer to try it again, it hurts and we avoid it.
Paul told his son in the faith, Timothy that all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…2nd Timothy 3:16. That pretty much covers everything. When we fail, scripture will clarify through reproof, correction and training. When we succeed scripture will teach and continue to train us at the next level. Scripture will speak clearly, wisely, lovingly, and without bias directly where we need it and even expose those areas our supposed friends wont even address.
But Paul goes on in verse 17 to tell us why these things are in scripture, “so that” the man/woman/child of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Self-evaluation is good, but Godly evaluation is priceless. Why not use this New year to allow God to do the evaluating and you and I do the listening and together we will serve the Lord in ways never thought to be possible. No longer restricted by our limited view and evaluation but seeing clearly through God’s filter.
Let us pursue righteousness together.
Saving Grace family,
We have been back to church gatherings for a short while now and am so appreciative of the responses that we have seen. The elders and I understand the challenges that many of you face and the anxiety you feel. On the one hand, do we take a risk, on the other do we play it safe. The reality is life is full of these types of challenges and where one response might be good for one, the other may prove to be more practical for the next. We are not here to pressure you or make you feel guilty either way but I believe it is important to express that we feel it is of the utmost importance to provide a place for believers to gather and worship corporately. Early Christianity met the outside threats, and yes that includes illnesses, with a desire to meet and worship. To lift up the name of God and to not lose sight who is sovereign over all the challenges and situations we face as a person, church or nation. The church used to serve to be a light to a community in times of trouble and times of plenty, a place to give thanks and a place to receive encouragement from the Word of God and from one another. That my friends explains our devotion to be a place of refuge in times of trouble.
We could debate the numbers and inconsistencies in reports. We could argue about how many deaths and how many underlying causes, we could even argue the best practices to stay healthy, but we are not going to do that. That gives the enemy the opportunity to create dissension and bitterness. It gives him an opportunity to distract and to place things of this world in a prominent up front and center place in your life and mine and I refuse to be part of that in your life or in mine.
So what is the main point? We are together and worshipping the God of this universe and we are moving forward with plans for life groups, Bible studies, children’s ministries and we would love for you to join us as we bring hope to those who are frankly running a little low on hope these days. For those who feel their role is to be safe at home please consider praying for these ministries, consider joining a zoom study which we are currently working on. For those who are back at it already thank you and we look forward to seeing how God will move us to the next level in these trying times.
Bless this body Lord, keep us safe, focused and united through the blood of your son, Jesus.
And all Gods’ people said, “Amen”
Hope to see you soon.
Saving Grace family,
We have met for the past two weeks now and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Those that aren’t yet comfortable to return we respect your decision and will be here when you are ready. For those that have been able to join us what a refreshing time to see your smiling faces and hear your wonderful voices as we praise God in song and word.
We have taken steps to secure your safety and will continue to do so as we balance the “normal” with the expected.
We will continue to work towards some of our goals despite the challenges, including new studies, life groups, worship teams, ministry teams, looking for ways to make an impact in our communities and all the while enjoying the fellowship and growth that comes with ministry together.
I want to put a special watch out for our church family however, that if you know someone or are yourself dealing with the onset of depression or hopelessness to contact myself or one of our elders so we can pray with you and help you walk through this challenging time. This is nothing to be ashamed of, in fact it reveals God’s design that we are interdependent and not independent as some of us like to suggest. There is help and encouragement available and there has been an explosion of depressed and even suicidal people due to the isolation and terrifying reports when we watch the news and read articles.
That being said, I encourage you with two challenges.
First, we will be starting our second book reading on June first in the book of Proverbs. If you joined us for the gospel of John project then you already know the procedure. Monday through Friday one chapter a day with Saturday and Sundays off. But I would encourage you to not only read each day but check out the church Facebook page and comment on what you are learning or what hit you as you read it. The comments are encouraging to the rest of us as well and we appreciate the different perspectives of these little wisdom chapters. So that’s our first challenge.
Secondly, I encourage you to pray for the body. Log into the attender’s portal on the website to see things you can be praying for. If you would like to have a prayer added you can email it or contact myself and we’ll ensure your request is included. Also, if you do not have the password we had sent out and are a regular attender we can get that to you as well. We limit it to regular attenders who call Saving Grace their church home to protect the privacy of our family. Besides praying I challenge you to take it a step further and actually reach out and contact someone from the church that you want to encourage or just let them know you are praying for them, isn’t this how family ought to behave?
Thank you for your faithfulness enduring this current challenge that we may rejoice in God’s goodness and seeing us through every day in a very real and tangible way. Stay safe.
The ban on religious gatherings has been relaxed. We will be gathering this Sunday May 10, at the normal time of 10:00 am. Although we still are restricted in some ways including funerals and weddings and potluck type things we can at least meet as a body and worship the worthy God.
That being said I want to pass on some specific things that we will be observing as we gather.
- If you are ill, or share a household with someone who is ill please stay home and spend the time recouping.
- If you feel more comfortable wearing a mask, please feel free to although we will not be requiring this.
- We will have limited amounts of hand sanitizer available so come prepared.
- We are asking that we observe no hand shaking, hugging and that we try to observe as best as possible the distancing guidelines. Our elders will be helping with options for families.
- Family groups are ok to sit together but leave some space between households is what they are asking.
- For families with kids in nursery we will not be having the option so we will have seating available in the fellowship room with speakers if your little ones are wrestless.
- We will not be passing the offering baskets but instead will have a basket by the sanctuary doors for you to drop your offerings and feed back cards into.
- We understand that many of you are still very concerned and will choose not to worship with us live and we respect that. You can still get the audio of the service on the website and stay informed on Facebook.
- Bulletins will be set out for you to grab and someone will be posted by the door to open it for you as you come limiting the amount of hands on the handles.
I realize some of this seems excessive but our primary goal is to keep you healthy and to keep a good witness in our community.
I would also like to prepare you that this Sunday will be an unusual Sunday not only in the precautions we are taking but in the style of service. We will be doing what is called a “BodyLife Sunday”. Instead of a sermon and worship songs, it will be a time of mixed songs, testimonies, scripture and prayer. Tammy and I have very much appreciated these Sundays in previous churches as it allows you to share your blessings, challenges and fears, scriptures that offer instruction and encouragement and reflection. We will explain more Sunday morning but wanted you to have a heads up.
One final thing as I close this update. I want to thank Megan Spangler for her service as treasurer for the past two years as she passes the torch to Angie Kahlandt. Thanks Megan, it’s a challenging area to serve at times and it is appreciated. Angie thank you for stepping up and serving the body in this new way. We are all behind you and appreciate it. You can look under the login tab on the website to see where to send your offerings for those who desire to give and yet not comfortable to return to church yet.
This sure has been a test of patience and endurance. I have visited with so many people just wanting to get back to work and life as it was before. I have to admit I am getting stir crazy as well and after a recent visit to Walmart am amazed at how fearful even our little state has become. Don’t be discouraged, or downcast there are some great positive things happening that we never hear about.
I posed the question to Tammy, “what if we could tune into a radio station that would report the positive uplifting news only” They would still report the news and many would feel they aren’t because even the reports on things like the virus would be how many people left the hospital cured, how many tested positive and were surprised because they had no symptoms or tested positive for antibodies because they had it a month ago and didn’t even know. You and I know the answer rests in our human nature. We are more apt to watch a report, read an article that casts fear and anxiety over us than to watch some upbeat reporter deliver how many people don’t have the virus.
I’m not trying to belittle the situation, only help gain perspective. I can’t help but think of Nehemiah as he desired to return and rebuild the walls of the holy city, Jeremiah as he wept over the nation, Joseph as he sat in the prison cell and of course Jesus as He dropped to His knees and prayed to the Father. These people all cared so much about pleasing God and showing kindness to one another they were tearful. I think this is where we get our encouragement. There may not be a positive radio station or a positive news source but what we the church have is a love and passion for pleasing the Father and serving others. I hear reports of several of our church body serving one another and acts of kindness, sacrificial giving, and genuine love being poured out and I wish I had permission and the space to report all these things to you, not to give credit to a person or couple, but to encourage you of all the wonderful things that this “pause” has caused. Families are spending time together, kids are getting sick of x-box and PlayStation, workaholics are slowing down because they don’t have the normal load and so much more. Of course some are feeling the increased pressures of this as well and we pray for them.
With the shifting of our society looking at how to reopen communities, we are surely only a matter of weeks from gathering again. My encouragement is to see how many more wonderful things we can do to build up and bless one another for the glory of God while we have the opportunity. When we regather I would like to spend some time in what we have called “body life Sundays” in my last church where we praise God, share blessings, and scriptures that have helped us work through these things. I can’t wait! So let’s move forward intentionally and prayerfully and we will be meeting before you know it.
Update for SGBC family, 04/08/2020
It is amazing how this covid 19 “pandemic” has effectively kept the universal church from physically meeting. We have been creative and continue to look for new ways to keep us connected. My guess if your reading this it isn’t to find out if we are meeting or not as you have heard the news that it is now enforceable by law to ban meetings of 10 or over, but you are probably hoping to gain insight of what’s next. We have many things including new studies that will be rolled out in the next few days via the zoom ap. It can be used on your phone, tablet, or computer and is a wonderful tool that will allow us to interact and see each other in real time. We are presenting a 21 day challenge which will start April 13th and details will be on our website as well as Facebook. Of course we have our prayer times set aside for Wednesdays at 7 am or 7 pm and more and more of you are getting behind this. We have a member portal on the website for staying up to date on things within the body from special announcements to prayer concerns and beyond, safely protected by password so it is visible only to those who are part of our local flock.
What saddens me is that many would use this time of “distraction” to fly under the radar to remove your religious freedoms. For instance this morning I was informed that there has been an active movement among low income housing by management companies backed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, to confiscate and remove Bibles and other religious materials. There have been add-ons to fund abortion on a bill to offer relief to the covid victims. Even though the death rate for covid is a fraction of death by abortion. Doctors have been told if they even suspect corona rather tested or not on someone that has passed to label it as such. I am personally familiar with this demand so I can tell you it is not here say. The media is impacting and distracting you from the real threats. We didn’t quarantine for swine flu, and compare the death tolls with that or even seasonal flus.
We know that we can see so much evil in this world and the church is the one place that offers hope. It is quite literally the light in the midst of darkness and we my friends are the church. It is not a structure, cement, lighting and seats. It is not the music the prayers the teaching, it is you as a follower of Christ who offers this light. In your city block, your work place, your family, where ever you are you can choose to be gripped by fear and uncertainty, clinging to the medias biased claims of how bad this thing is, or you can choose to be the light that will shine brightly exposing that we can be strong and courageous. Especially at this time of Easter, we have so much to be thankful for. Let’s commit today to be positive and hopeful in the days and weeks ahead so that people may be drawn to our boldness and bright perspective, which is Jesus reigns and the church will be reunited physically soon as well. I hope to see you all very soon but in the absence of gathering I pray for your encouragement and perseverance.
Just a couple of new things to report. Of course with the expansion of the virus concern and extended projections of ban until the middle of May we will not be meeting again this week.
We are working diligently to begin using video for our sermons and hope to have that up and going in the very near future and hopefully for Easter service.
We also would encourage you to install a program called “zoom” on your devices. It is simple with just an email and a password you choose and then you will be all set for the next phase. We are working to offer equipping classes in the very near future and we will be using this Zoom app to interact. Zoom enables us to have classes and see one another as we visit over the information. We are hoping that if you have any desire to be part of these classes you will be prepared and ready. If you are having trouble getting your device to work let us know and we can walk you through it. It doesn’t matter if you have apple product or pc equipment it will work acrossed all platforms. This would also be a wonderful technology to enable you and a few friends to get together for a coffee or to do a game together. Keep an eye on the website under the announcements tab to stay up to date on the classes and studies that will be coming available.
Also don’t forget about our Wednesday prayer times at either 7am or 7pm. Just another time to join together and pray for our church family, the healthcare workers and those who are in the front lines against the battle and keeping things sanitized and safe. Also a good time to pray for our nation as a whole as some seek this time for their own advantage.
As always if you need anything in this time don’t hesitate to give us a call or message. This too shall pass.
March 26th 2020 update
Another week has come and gone and things are still on shutdown and in some cases tightening. We will continue to evaluate and discuss the potential for corporate gathering each week and will bring you the latest as we know.
We will not be conducting service this week but will have an updated sermon again. We are working to better the recording and if you listened to last week's you probably realized very quickly that my voice was shot and I was just getting it back.
In addition to the sermon we are asking that our SGBC family set aside either 7am or 7pm, (both if you’re willing) each Wednesday to join together in prayer. Not physically together but spiritually coming to the throne of God together to lift up our church family, our government, and the situation with the virus and those affected. In addition we will be keeping the log in section updated with more prayers and blessings as we get them and any other pertinent family information and announcements.
We are taking action beginning this week to develop some unique ways to gather and some will be downright fun if we can swing the details. The cost of some of the necessary equipment is significant but will be a real help in this time of banned gatherings. One of the things we are looking into is the drive in church where you can just tune your radio in. We are considering many other things at this point and hope to have some clarity soon. Ideally as we pray we may see the hand of God bringing us together quickly. That would be wonderful.
Stay safe and be encouraged, as this too shall pass and we will be gathering to worship a God that is more than worthy.
March 19, 2020
Dearest Saving Grace Family,
It is our intention during this challenging time to maintain avenues for growth, fellowship and encouragement while balancing the safety of our flock and community as well as our witness in the community. As you can imagine this comes with a great deal of prayer and to be quite honest, frustration at times as we read the reports of uncertainty and reports that this could last as long as 18 months by some speculations. The elders and I have had several conversations regarding the balance of ministry and gatherings. As most of you are aware the governor of Nebraska has limited gatherings to 10 or under as well as the department of health and human services who specifially lists worship centers. This includes church, funerals, weddings, and even game nights. In light of this uncertainty we have a loving and faithful God who will lead us and never leave us. We have been going through Joshua and although we are't there yet many of us have a plaque, picture or something with Joshua's statement from chapter 24, "as for me and my house we will serve the Lord". Together with the instruction to be strong and courageous, and do not fear or be dismayed, it seems properly timed with our current situation.
First, we want you to know that we are still available and meeting for counsel, instruction, guidance, grief and whatever else we can do to help you through life's challenges. These more personalized meetings are just what we do as a church. As your pastor along with the elders we are called by God to shepherd and care for those in our body and that is our intention.
Secondly, we will not be having service 3/22/20 as heart wrenching as this decision is. We will be monitoring and evaluating the circumstances on a regular basis and doing regular updates on our website savinggracebc.com under the announcements tab on the home page. Please check here for the latest postings and updates on cancellations, opportunities along with anything you might see in our Sunday morning worship bulletins. The elders and I visit regularly and are in the process of taking steps to ensure we can resume church as quickly as possible.
Thirdly, we will be using our Facebook page primarily for encouraging one another and I would challenge you to consistently pick a couple of people to send messages to each week to let them know you are thinking about them. We will be funneling all direct church information through the webiste, however, and are working on many things to keep us connected.
One of those things is the sermon download. I will continue to record sermons each week and they will be found on the website under the sermons tab on the home page. We encourage you to invite a couple of people over and listen to the sermon together in small group type fashion and have a time of fellowship and worship in these smaller life clusters. In addition to the sermon there will be a tab on the website home page entitled "digging deeper", these will be study questions to have discussion with family and friends and we may possibly post these on the Facebook page for the church as well so if you haven't saved or liked the Saving Grace Facebook page you may want to do that as well.
We will also be posting daily reading challenges in the near future and would encourage you to choose an accountability partner to keep you in the word. And I have a blog entitled "Life Together" that we will be linking to the website under the blog tab as well.
There is a lot coming down the pipeline, but our goal is to keep the body connected and informed to the best of our ability. We encourage you to join us in this effort and use the resources we will be making available and before we know it we will be joining one another in corporate worship together.
May you be steadfast and call upon the Lord in the days ahead.
Pastor Mark and the Elder Board