Dear Brothers and Sisters of CLBC,
Since our last “normal” church gathering on March 15, we have been thoughtfully and prayerfully considering our response to COVID-19 and the resulting restrictions. For much of this season, our attention has been focused on our daily and weekly tasks including online sermons, Zoom meetings, phone calls, and emails. Our overall approach to getting back together, however, has been one of prayerful patience and following the leadership of our state and local governments. The vast majority of churches have taken this same approach.
In the past few days, we have been working on communicating a way forward. However, as soon as we have planned a measured response, it seems events change. Ultimately, President Trump’s announcement this afternoon that churches are essential allows us to move forward while maintaining our position to submit to our government, which we communicated back in March.
With this said, we eagerly anticipate holding services in our building on May 31, of course with necessary precautions in place which we will communicate next week. We are working together with several individuals in our church to ensure that we follow the health guidelines as much as is possible and practicable. We want to encourage those who are at risk or who would choose not to attend to continue to watch the sermons online and stay in touch with others in our church body through other channels. Nobody should feel pressure to come on May 31. Your choice concerning whether to come during Covid 19 should be made prayerfully, and we should all be charitable with those that make a different decision.
Our plan for this Sunday, May 24, remains the same as what Pastor Kraig communicated in a church-wide email earlier this week. We will be holding our second parking lot service. Please see his email for details. You may wonder why we are not meeting this Sunday. Since the plan for our parking lot service was already in place, we wanted to continue with that for this weekend. With President Trump’s announcement coming on a Friday afternoon, we did not feel that we had sufficient time to change all the logistics and safety measures and do it well.
Whenever we have gathered in the past, we have made it our aim to be gracious in regard to differing viewpoints on matters such as secondary doctrines, political views, and our favorite football teams. ;) Let us do that in this matter of Covid 19 and reopening as well. Let’s continue to work together that Christ may be magnified. And please keep us in prayer. We want God glorified through our church.
For His Glory,
Pastor Kraig and Pastor Ben
Is This Picture Worth a Thousand Words?
A picture is worth a thousand words. You’ve heard that statement many times, but it’s not always true, is it? The statement could imply that a picture says all that needs to be said, with no further need for interpretation. But we have all seen many photos that cause us to ask “what is going on here?” Captions are often necessary for us to understand what’s going on, lest we misunderstand or misinterpret them.
The dreadful “picture” of Jesus hanging on a cross was an image that some subjected to faulty (even wicked) interpretation. In Matthew 27:42, we read of the chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders who were mocking Jesus, sneering “He saved others, but he cannot save himself!”
To them, this was merely a question of ability. “If he had the ability to save himself, surely he would”, they thought. But their statement merely exposed their own hearts, not the Savior’s lack of ability. All this shows is that if the lives of these so-called leaders of Israel were on the line, they would have done everything in their power to preserve themselves.
Such is not the case with our dear Savior. Jesus himself had said “no one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down and power to take it up again” (Jn 10:18).
The bloody crucifixion of Christ had nothing to do with his powerlessness. It had everything to do with what the “teachers of the law” did not have: sacrificial love. Thus, their interpretation could not be more defective. It was precisely because he lovingly refused to save himself that he could save others.
The sad thing about this is that there was a plain-to-see, giant-print caption that accompanied this dark picture. That caption consisted of all of Jesus’ teaching up to this climactic point. In fact, the caption was the entire Old Testament (Lk 24:25-27). In short, love was the caption (1 Jn 4:10). We could say that this picture requires far more than a thousand words of explanation, but each word testifies of and points us back to what, or really Who, we see in the picture.
The leaders of Israel, in rejecting Christ, rejected the Father and his love for them. My prayer, this Passion Week, is that you will embrace all that God tells you about his Son, that you will see Jesus more clearly; that when you see the cross, you would not see a powerless victim that evokes hollow pity, but the Sovereign Creator who loves you and laid down his life for you. Praise Him!
Not Meeting and Hebrews 10:25
In an email I was asked how our not meeting right now matches with Heb 10:25.
Hebrews 10:25 (NASB95) not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
It was a sincere question, and I think many of us have wondered this too. We’ve got the command to attend church (Heb 10:25), but we also have the command to obey government (Rom 13:1f).
Romans 13:1 (NASB95) Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
Government is ordained by God; it’s not a human institution—we didn’t invent it. God planned it for the protection of good behavior and the punishment of evil people. We could summarize it as government is supposed to help human flourishing. And we also know that when government and God conflict, we go with God. That’s what Peter said in Acts 5:29.
Acts 5:29 (NASB95)But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
So if the government just targeted churches for closing down, and not other places like movie theaters where people gather in groups, we would have to disobey. This is what our brothers and sisters in Christ face in China during normal times. They meet on the sly. Before the Iron Curtain fell, believers all across Eastern Europe had to make the same choice. Many were imprisoned, but they had to obey God rather than man.
This situation grieves me—I don’t like not meeting, but it is a little different. There’s the very real possibility that meeting together could make our church a local center for spreading the virus as some other churches across the nation have become. That puts our neighbors at risk. I think this falls under the Second Great Command of loving our neighbor (Mt 22:37-40).
Matthew 22:37–40 (NASB95) And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Often loving our neighbor is something we do actively: we mow their lawn, or we bring them food, or—and most importantly—we bring them the gospel. But now we’re loving our neighbor passively by trying to prevent the spread of a virus that will kill some of them—especially if they are older and have an underlying health condition.
So while I don’t like not meeting, we’re not being targeted unfairly. In fact, pastors are considered essential workers, so Pastor Ben and I can still come to the office and shoot videos—a new “talent” we’re developing. If our governor said we weren’t essential, I would disagree with that and would still conduct my ministry as best I could believing pastors are essential workers.
So the summary is loving our neighbor means we temporarily obey government’s request that we don’t meet. If they extend this beyond what is necessary for safety’s sake, then we have a decision to make. Or if they threaten to shut us down permanently as one politician in New York City threatened, then we find redress in the courts for our constitutional rights. But now, it seems this is the best way to love our neighbors.
Of course this isn't the final or complete word on this. Other Christians have written on this too. For example, here.
4-4-2020 Weekly Update
Another week has gone by, and with it many opportunities to trust our sovereign Lord. We know there will be many more of those opportunities, even in the near future with all that is going on. It has been encouraging to talk to many of you via phone or email. So many of you are busy finding ways to be an encouragement to your brothers and sisters in Christ. What a blessing!
We hope that our time thus far in the Book of Psalms has been helpful to you. We see so much of God's character and His care for us in these texts, don't we? This week's sermon is from the first twenty-one verses of Psalm 22. You can click here to access the worship guide and sermon. We are having some technical difficulty today with getting the correct worship guide posted, so in case that doesn't get resolved we have also attached the PDF to this email.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and like any other Sunday, it would be a great day to gather together. Until we are able to do so, may we render praise to our King. May we pray that Israel and all nations would turn to Him and cry, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" This Friday, the two of us will be reading some Scripture and sharing some thoughts on video regarding Christ's death on our behalf. Stay tuned for details on that.
One other quick note (please excuse the long-winded message)... We had planned our marriage conference for April 24-25, and this week we unfortunately had to officially cancel that. This event has been a really good time for our couples in the past, but as with so many other plans right now, we rest in God's providence.
"May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 15:5-6)
Your Shepherds, Pastor Kraig & Pastor Ben
3-30-2020 Church Finances
Dear Chisago Lakes church family,
I know you know that Jesus talked more about finances than he did about most other subjects. It’s because our view of finances shows a lot about our values—even our spiritual lives. I’ve said this in good times; it’s harder to teach that now, however, but it’s just as true.
Obviously for all of us our normal giving routine has been completely upended. We’re not meeting on Sundays and physically passing a plate so the reminder is not there. God will provide and he will do it through the faithful and generous gifts of our church family as he always has. You can mail your gift, use your bank’s online bill pay, drop it off at the office (call Pastor Kraig or Pastor Ben first to make sure someone is here), or use our new online giving tab on the home page of our church website (clbc.me). Online giving has two options: a credit card or through your bank. It’s a secure site.
Our finance committee in conjunction with our treasurer has figured out that over three Sundays, (3/8 - 3/22/2020) the total weekly giving is $14,500 behind budget. Over these three Sundays the weekly giving has averaged 58% of the weekly budgeted need. Yesterday’s (3/29/20) giving was 54% of our weekly need ($6,229 of our weekly budget of $11,604). It’s not just church bills that get paid with what is given; we also support missionaries through the regular giving of our church family.
I bring these numbers to you just as information. I realize that some of you might have had your hours or salary cut because of Covid 19. Please don’t see this as an indictment of the generosity of our church. You have proved over and over again that you enjoy giving to God. I just want our church family to know where we are financially. God will sustain us financially as he always has, and he will use me and you to do so.
3-26-2020 Plans for Sunday & Some Announcements
Dear Church Family,
This Sunday morning we’ll be looking at Psalm 23, probably the most beloved psalm in the psalter. The video for the sermon will be posted Saturday night, and I hope that you’ll work through the family worship guide. The link will be on the homepage of our website, clbc.me. Can I suggest you do two things in preparation for Sunday? One, pray that God will work in all of our hearts even though we cannot meet together. His Spirit is not limited. Second, read Psalm 23 a few times in preparation for Sunday. It’s six very familiar verses.
This pandemic has been a stretching time for your church staff. We’ve had to make decisions that we never could have anticipated. One recent one involves Awana. Since we are not meeting on Wednesday nights for the foreseeable future, we’re going to allow kids to say sections to their parents and count them as being completed. Normally you know that children work on them during the week with their parents, but they have to say them to an Awana leader on Wednesday to get credit. However, in these extraordinary circumstances we want clubbers that have worked hard for 3/4 of the year to be able to finish their books. So this is an option to keep your children in the Word and completing their books.
Another item: this Friday night I’m teaching online for the Biblical Counseling Alliance. This was planned months ago—they do their teaching through online webinars. It’s normally a subscription service, but they are allowing any in my church to join the zoom meeting for free. The attachment explains it all. You might need to download the zoom app ahead of time, but it’s a pretty intuitive experience. You’re welcome to attend virtually. This will also give you some exposure to the BCA. They’re a national group doing a good work promoting the sufficiency of Scripture.
Finally, our online giving is up and running. If you go to the home page of the church website, you will find a tab on the front page labeled online giving. It redirects you to a secure site for giving. Of course you can always mail your gift, use online banking billpay, or drop it off at the office (you might need to call one of the pastors ahead of time since we have adjusted our office hours).
Until we can meet together on Sunday, may God grow our longing for exalting his Son together.
Pastor Kraig and Pastor Ben
Do You Love the Gospel... More?
Been reading a book on forgiveness by Gary Inrig and one of the chapters I read recently was based on the biblical account of Jesus visiting Simon the Pharisee's house in Luke 6:36-50. It’s different but similar to how Jesus talks about forgiveness in Matthew 18. Simon the Pharisee isn’t rude, but also isn’t welcoming to Jesus. He doesn’t think he’s (Simon) much of a sinner. Jesus tells a story and Simon correctly understands it. Read the passage to get up to speed.
Here’s the bottom line. Those love the gospel best that know their sin best. If you don’t think you’re much of a sinner, then you don’t think much of the gospel. I mean you like it, but you’re not amazed that Jesus could forgive you. If, however, you rightly understand your sin, then you love the good news. Which means that our appreciation of the gospel should always be growing as we grow in our understanding of our sinfulness. If my greatest appreciation for the gospel is from years ago when I got saved, then I’m not growing in my knowledge of God’s Word.
So, is your love of the gospel growing?
3-18-2020 Updated Church Response to Covid 19
It appears that it may be a good while until we worship together again as a church. And while this is not what we would have chosen for ourselves, it is what God has ordained, and we know that “what God ordains is always right.”
Until we are able to meet again, here is our plan.
We will be posting a pre-recorded video sermon on our website by late Saturday night. This will give you some flexibility as to when you can watch it. All you’ll have to do is click the first banner that comes up on our website on Sunday AM (it will say “Sunday Worship”). On the same page, you will see a link entitled “Worship Guide - March 22”. Click on the link for what we hope will be some helpful suggestions for worship.
God willing, we will have online giving available by Sunday. If you prefer, you may mail your regular giving to the church. Thank you for your continued support as our church and missionaries depend on your faithful giving.
Our other regularly scheduled activities are canceled until further notice (except our men’s book studies on Friday and Saturday). If you need any help with getting supplies, etc. please do not hesitate to email or call the church office.
Every time we gather on a Sunday morning to worship, it is a foretaste of the praise we will one day render to King Jesus when we finally gather around his throne. For now, we are left with a foretaste of a foretaste. We’re thankful this is possible. We need it. It is far better than nothing, but it leaves us wanting more. And that is good.
Pastor Kraig & Pastor Ben
3-13-2020 Covid 19 and Our Service Schedule
Dear Church Family,
Yesterday we sent you an email telling you that we were taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously and that as the situation evolved, we might make some decisions about activities this week. It’s only been 24 hours, but that’s a lifetime in this fast moving situation. Most colleges have moved up their Spring breaks and told students they wlll be doing online classes for the rest of the semester. Sporting events from all major pro and college sports have been cancelled. We are not succumbing to panic because we trust God. And meeting as a church is far more important than any sporting events—or even college classes.
However, just like vaccinations are a way we love our neighbors, so restricting our contact to limit the spread of this virus is a neighbor-loving practice to take. Therefore, we are cancelling our ABF and Sunday school classes for this Sunday. Of course this means our beloved coffee and donut time is gone too. ;) Also, the PM service was supposed to be a baptism and membership service. Normally those services are really well attended as we hear testimonies of the gospel and we gladly welcome new members. We are postponing that service for the foreseeable future as a precaution. Hopefully we can have it in the future with a large part of our church family there. We will also be cancelling our Wednesday activities (Awana, youth group, Bible study & prayer) for this coming Wednesday. We take these steps as prudent actions. Scripture encourages prudence, not panic. Proverbs 22:3 (ESV) The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.
The cautions we mentioned in our last email still stand:
• We strongly encourage those who are high risk to stay home. This would include elderly members/attenders as well as those with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. Please do not mistake attending church during a pandemic for a test of spirituality or faithfulness. If you have ministry responsibilities, please contact one of us or the church office, and we will find a replacement for you. Also, if there are any needs you may have as a result of being homebound, please do not hesitate to call the church office and let us know. You have an army of brothers and sisters who would love the opportunity to serve you, whether that comes in the form of yard work, dropping off groceries, or something else.
• We are working on solutions for live-streaming our services. In the meantime, we strive to post the sermon audio each Sunday afternoon. You can find our sermons on this website. We are also working on solutions related to our offerings, as ministry needs continue as normal even if life changes significantly for a while. On both of these matters, we will keep you posted.
One of the songs we sing on Sundays says,
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross
I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom’s fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross
I rejoice in my Redeemer
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.
Neither our possessions, nor our might, nor human wisdom are our hope. Our greatest treasure is Jesus Christ and no virus can take Him from us. He is what we have in common. And we will worship him together on Sunday morning in our AM service together at 10:30am. See you there. Just don’t try to shake my hand. ;) Let’s not greet each other with holy kisses for at least this Sunday. ;)
Pastor Kraig and Pastor Ben