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Good morning Westside Family,
Pastor Nathan here to let you know that after a very long conversation, the Elder’s made the difficult decision to suspend our ministry programs temporarily for the next two weeks starting today, March 11, to comply with safety measures being asked of us in response to the Corona Virus. I want you to know that this decision didn’t come easy and that it is not in a panicked reaction of fear but a genuine concern for the health and safety of our community. We still know and believe that God is on His throne and believe that the church is at the center of bringing the peace and hope of Jesus Christ to the local community around us.
So what does that mean for us? Well, we will not be having our regular Sunday morning service on March 22 or 29 and our Student Ministry, Celebrate Recovery and Seasoned saints will not be meeting at their respective times and dates until April as well. And we are encouraging our small groups to consider suspending gathering, especially if you meet in any of our senior saint’s homes, to be as safe as possible.
What we are going to do is stream Sunday service for you on our YouTube channel and Facebook page. You will be able to engage with Pastor Tom in worship and I will be bringing a message of hope during this trying time. We will also be posting a number of videos and messages of encouragement on our social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I encourage you to not only engage with them but to “like” them and repost them on your own social media pages for your extended community. And you can still give your tithes and offerings online through the Church Center app on your smartphone, on our website, or by clicking the link here. Or if you prefer, you can simply mail it in at your convenience.
With that said, this is an unprecedented time for the church to be creative in how it continues to do ministry. Though we won’t be gathering on Sunday, the church still has the opportunity to reach our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors with the life-saving message of Jesus Christ. I encourage you to take precautions to be healthy, but reach out to your community and if you are able, offer a helping hand. It’s a great opportunity to truly be the hands and feet of Christ and though we are all trying to be socially healthy and responsible, we still need each other. And above all else, pray. Pray for peace in our land. Pray for healing. Pray for level heads and clear thinking. Pray God’s will be done.
Along those lines, the WCC office will still be open during this time and if you need assistance with anything, especially if you are apart of our Senior community, I encourage you to call us. We have a group of people on stand-by willing and able to help out with grocery shopping and other necessities that you may need.
Church, we do not live in fear. And the anxiety around us need not shake our faith. God has not abandoned us and in fact, let me remind you of the truth of Deuteronomy 31:6 which says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” These words are just as true today as it was when it was spoken through Moses. Be strong and courageous Church. Love people well. Serve those you can. Know that you are deeply loved by your Westside Church family and by God. And look forward, with anticipation, to that glorious day when we will meet once again and celebrate the goodness and faithfulness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Something that has been on my mind a lot lately is: how we should respond as Christians to retailers very publicly advocating causes that we believe to be wrong. I have personally made decisions to avoid certain retailers because of such things. I have been met with criticism of said decisions including “it won’t make a difference” or “every company probably supports something you disagree with, you just don’t know about it” and even “If I boycott then I won’t be able to shop anywhere”. As I was thinking about this I remembered a passage that I can’t help but feel has application.
1 Corinthians 10:23-30 says:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
The “meat” in this passage could be any product you buy from a retailer Mermaid cookies from Starbucks, a NetFlix subscription, clothing from outspoken retailers, or music from artists that are outspokenly against Godly principles.
Our world is heavily intermixed and we don’t always know what a retailer or their parent corporation is supporting. some may even give to multiple causes both good and bad. In such cases, I believe there is a freedom of sorts. Not that we should purposefully remain ignorant, but that without knowledge there is not what I believe to be a responsibility.
However, with the current cultural fascination with corporate social justice. Retailers are now looking at us right in the face and saying “this meat was sacrificed to idols” With this knowledge, I believe comes a responsibility. Not for the sake of our own conscience, but for those in the world around us. Public opinion and customer trends are a huge factor in corporate direction and strategy. We have a voice to either approve or disapprove with every dollar we spend. To glorify God and serve Him with our life includes doing so with our wallets.
I do not believe this should result in a legalistic rigid lifestyle. As I stated earlier, I “avoid” certain retailers as much as possible. This does not mean that there are not times where I have still made an occasional purchase out of necessity. But our lives are formed by habits that reveal the things we truly love. We do not just wake up one day addicted to caffeine, we live a pattern of habits that make it a necessity for survival. We don’t wake up thinking “I am going to stare at my phone all day” but through habit and routine, we are enslaved. Maybe this means you buy your daily coffee somewhere else or get your groceries from another market as your new habit. But surely you may still have discretionary “freedom” within the confines of christian love to make exceptions.
I hear many Christians complain about our culture and the political climate. But most won’t even give up their morning coffee, stop subscribing to a loved service, or choose to shop at a different store even when that retailer gets in the face of what they believe in. Most believe that their one purchase will not make enough difference. And since most live this way, it is self fulfilling. But I would challenge that we start somewhere smaller, not with the end result of larger cultural change. Instead start with the cultural change within your heart. Live with the integrity of what you believe in your actions and let God deal with everybody else. One of the things my senior pastor jokes about is “ask God if you should have cheerios or wheaties in the morning” It sounds silly but there is truth in the concept. I encourage you to genuinely ask that question for yourself and for your family as you make decisions about where to shop and who to support.
Ephesians 5:15-16 “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. “
When I was a kid I remember my family hitting a hard time. My father was terminally ill with cancer and could not work. He had been fighting for two long years and was losing. My mother, facing the reality that she would soon no longer have a husband, was starting her own business of music lessons but things were tight. We moved in with my Grandma as we could not afford to be on our own and mom and dad needed help caring for us kids and dad. Christmas was to be a lean season for sure. As an adult with kids of my own now I think back to how my parents must have felt that Christmas season.
One night there was a ring at the doorbell. Upon answering the door we simply found a single brown paper grocery bag filled with small gifts and a card that read. Merry Christmas from Sunrise Community Church. As we opened each package, we found that each one was filled with a different denomination of money that someone had decided to bless our family with. Some were small and others quite large, but all of them combined allowed my family to celebrate Christmas that year. Even now, sitting in my office these many years later, I am overwhelmed to tears by this act of generosity and Christian love that was shown to my family in our time of distress.
God showed up that night through the hands and feet of His church. Often times we may never know the significant impact of our small gifts into others’ lives. You may never have to experience what a single christmas present or a warm meal to an individual that feels forgotten, misplaced, lost, or alone can do. I have experienced it and though I do not know all those who blessed my family, I am thankful for those in my home church of Westside that have chosen to bless others this year in a similar way.
This year our small church provided a full Thanksgiving meal to 8 misplaced or in distress families trying to get back on their feet through Everyone Matters Ministries. In addition, we also provided Christmas gifts to 22 individuals in those same families. I sent my story to them as a special thank you for their generosity and willingness to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this small way. For those of you not at Westside or that were unable to participate with us, I encourage you to look around this year for those that you might bless. To go beyond the bustle of lights and christmas carols and remember Jesus as the gift of Gold most high to those who could not afford their own redemption. And in that remembrance, bless those around you richly.