FROM THE PASTOR’S DESK
I begin this year with a few questions.
Covid was the dominant feature of 2020. What will be the dominant feature of 2021?
While we all hold out hope that with the new vaccines Covid will soon become a thing of the past, what if it doesn’t?
Do we face 2021 with boundless optimism, or an uneasy dread?
Will this year see the return of the Lord? And if He does come back this year, will you and I be among those who love His appearing? Or, will we be among those followers of Jesus waiting to “get around to it” but just ran out of time?
Will we see a great revival? And if we do will we be ready for it?
Will we see the rise of wholesale government sponsored persecution against the followers of Jesus? And if so, will we be among those faithful ones who stand firm against the schemes of the devil?
No doubt you too have a lot of your own questions as we embark on this new year, especially considering the year we just completed. As far as the specific details for each answer, we’ll just have to live this next year and find out. But overall, we have from Jesus the answers we need to excel in this new year. He said in John 15,
Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself but must remain in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (Jn. 15:4-5 NAS20)
Success for the follower of Jesus is that we bear fruit for His kingdom. I think sometimes we redefine success to mean our own personal prosperity or advancement. We triumph in this life only when we seek to promote the program of our Lord Jesus. When Jesus promises that God will provide us with our material needs, it is only after we seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Mt. 6:33). Jesus also said My sheep hear My voice, I know them and they follow Me. In addition, He said, the ones who persevere to the end will be saved. So we have the task in 2021 to “follow” and “persevere”. We can only do that when we “remain” in Him.
I hope Jesus comes back to gather His church to Himself in 2021 (1Thess. 4:13-17; 1Cor. 15:51-52). If not and we have to live out the year here on planet earth, I would love to see a mighty revival take place in our land. That boys and girls, women and men by the thousands put their faith in Jesus and are born again. Revival comes when God’s children pray earnestly, fervently, regularly. One of the best ways to “remain” in Jesus is to pray and pray often. God answers prayer when we pray; we do not receive answers to prayer when we do not ask.
So, let us be among those in 2021 who dedicate themselves, their time, their property to furthering the kingdom of our Lord Jesus. Let us be instant in season and out of season to preach the word. And let us earnestly, fervently, regularly go to our God to ask, seek, and knock! May God bless you richly in 2021!
In Christ our living hope,
As the pandemic drags on…what would you say has been the hardest thing about 2020? For me, hands down, it has been the limited access to my family and my church family, the people I love. The highlight (or lowlight if you will) of this frustrating reality, is the current stay-at-home orders handed down by our state and county leadership saying we should not have extended family holiday meals and celebrations. I get it. It is easier to spread the virus when we are in groups than if we are only with those from our own household. But it is painful to forgo these holiday traditions that have been going on since before we were all born.
What matters though, is NOT whether we are able to maintain the holiday traditions of large family gatherings. For it is the family itself that fills up those traditions. What matters is what those traditions represent. The holidays simply give us the excuse to do something particularly important: to gather the family together. In a way, our extended family represents the footprint of our generation on the world in which we live. We affirm that when we meet, even if it is only once a year.
I know it feels almost trite and cliché, but I would rather wait a year to gather the family to celebrate great holiday traditions than gather them for a COVID funeral in January of 2021. So, if we need to downsize or even skip gathering for the holidays this year, then it seems to me a reasonable trade off.
So give better gifts this year. Talk on the phone more with your loved ones. Use your ZOOM or FaceTime or Skype, anything that facilitates more communication with your family, the people you love. And if you feel like your craving for the sentimental is just too much to bear, then watch a syrupy Christmas movie, have a good cry, and tell somebody you love them! From my family to yours, wishing you a very merry Christmas!!!
In Christ our living hope,
2020 has been a year unlike any other in our lives. That uniqueness figures to be accentuated dramatically as we roll this month into the holiday season. First, though, as we go into November we vote. We exercise our rights to elect our national, state, county, and local leaders not to mention a number of measures and propositions. It is easy to get caught up in the flood of “bad news” that continues to be ever rising all around us, then give in to anxiety. These are amazing times we live in: times ripe with fear, times ripe for revival. It is good, in times like these, for the children of God to step back and get perspective from the Bible. A passage from the Psalms gives much cause for hope in troubling times:
Psalm 33:16-22, 16 The king is not saved by a mighty army; a warrior is not delivered by great strength. 17 A horse is a false hope for victory; nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength. 18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, 19 to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. 22 Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You. NAS
There is no substitute for the fear of the Lord and for placing our hope in his lovingkindness. Whether the times are prosperous or troubling the substance for the child of God remains the same: we wait in hope for the Lord. Indeed, in Him there is bright optimism, each day brings new opportunity, and His mercies are new every morning.
So, as we head into the holidays this month, our celebrations may be a little different than last year, but in the hope of our Savior, they are even more significant as we move forward. This month we celebrate many things. First our political freedom as we go to the polls, on November 3rd. Then on November 11th is the day to thank and celebrate those men and women who have served in the United States military – Veteran’s Day. And finally, on November 26th we, as a nation, give thanks to God. As followers of Jesus we ought to be shining examples of what each of these events mean.
Finally, I encourage you to remember the command of Scripture to pray for our leaders, regardless of whether your candidates and causes won or lost. It is a good reminder that the substantial exercise of our freedom begins after we vote, when we consistently lift up those governing our nation before the throne of Grace.
In Christ our living hope,
If God told you to pack up and move to a new country, would you go? That is precisely what He did with Abraham. The narrative begins in Genesis 12 at a time before God had changed his name from Abram to Abraham. He, Abram, was living in a good land with his relatives in security and comparative prosperity.
“Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you (Gen 12:1 NASB).”
There is so much to be said about God’s promises to Abram and how God’s redemption plan for the human race took shape through Abraham. However, I want to focus on the faith of Abraham. A faith that would, at the age of 75, pack up all his immediate family and belongings and leave his comfortable surroundings to go somewhere he knew nothing about just because God told him to! While there were many blessings poured out on Abraham in his lifetime and his faith was generously rewarded, what I really want us to examine is his willing obedience that proved his faith.
Now, God may not call us to pack up everything and leave to a place He will show us. But He quite regularly calls us to move out for Him right where we are. While Jesus’ commission to the Church to make disciples is world-wide in scope, its application is always to be done right where we are at the time. Simple, sincere obedience is the evidence of our faith. James 2:17 says “…Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep (obey) my commandments (Jn. 14:15).” For Abraham, it was a simple decision to obey the Lord. It is the same for us, it is a simple decision to obey! What is God leading you to do? Where is He leading you to go? Is it a major life-altering move? Or is it the more mundane but no less important decisions to walk by the Spirit in every situation? It is up to us to simply trust Him and move out in obedience.
Some of us exercised the faith of Abraham to come here to the Morongo Basin in the first place. I believe He is calling all of us right now to live out that faith with fire and enthusiasm. Because for all the difficulties of this pandemic, we, the followers of Jesus, know the end of the story. Our hope is fixed on the One who has overcome the world. The general will of God for the Church, our church, is to make disciples. In addition, God has given each of us a specific plan for our lives. Let’s move out in the faith of Abraham, the father of faith, in that simple obedience that demonstrates our trust in and love for our Lord Jesus.
In Christ our living hope,
Current News: October is Pastor Appreciation Month!
We wish to express a sincere thank you
to Pastor Bill and Pastor Eric
for all they do!
Peace. An elusive but valuable commodity in 2020. Sometimes we think that peace means the absence of conflict. But true peace, God’s peace, is that which keeps our hearts calm in the midst of conflict. Consider Jesus in what was, arguably, the most difficult circumstance of His life, the crucifixion. As He hung there people were mocking and casting aspersions at Him, He was completely deserted by almost all of His friends, and the physical agony must have been excruciating. While all that turmoil was raging around Him and being inflicted upon Him, consider His actions as He hung there: He witnessed to a thief, directed His responsibility for His mother as the firstborn son to His friend John, asked God to forgive the men who were illegally and unjustly executing Him, and recognized when the task was finished. Indeed, His heart was calm in the midst of this horrific conflict!
And so, we are told in Colossians 3:15 to, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” That means that we already have the “peace of Christ”, it is only a question of whether or not we will allow His peace to be preeminent in our hearts. The word translated “rule” means to arbitrate. Much the same as a referee or other game official arbitrates for the two teams playing the game. It suggests that the peace of Christ is available to all of God’s daughters and sons but it is the responsibility of His children to LET that peace be the arbiter of all the various things that occupy our hearts.
These are tumultuous times in which we live. There are many competing emotions seeking to take over the control of our hearts. Fear, anger, anxiety, depression, confusion, pain, disappointment, sorrow, and many more. And sometimes the drive to try to escape them all is almost overwhelming! But God has not called us to escape this world, He has called us to be His ambassadors to this world. And for that we need peace, nothing less than the very peace of Christ.
Only when we step into Jesus’ presence does He take away all the struggles and difficulties of this life. But we have the availability here and now of the peace of Christ to bring calm to our hearts in the midst of this 2020 turmoil. You can let the chaos of life’s conflicting emotions arbitrate your heart, or you can let the peace of Christ rule over all the rest. The choice is ours.
In Christ our living hope,
The Bible teaches us to highly value our children and one of the ways that we do that is by providing for them an excellent education. There are numerous places throughout the Scriptures where parents are given instructions on training up their children. We also find that children were special to Jesus during His ministry here on earth. In addition, it has been the recognition of the church throughout her existence that caring for and teaching our children is one of the church’s biggest responsibilities. A few Bible examples:
Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Pro. 22:6 nasb)
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4 nasb)
And they were bringing children to Him (Jesus) so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant
and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mk. 10:13-14 nasb)
In connecting this priority to our current situation, probably the second greatest threat of this corona virus pandemic has been its threat to the training up of our children. For not only have the public and private schools been forced to close, churches have been mandated to discontinue all children’s ministry gatherings (see California Department of Public Health publication, May 25, 2020, p.10, 2nd bullet). At a time when encouragement and helpful information from trusted adults are vital to the well-being of our children, those very things have been taken out of their lives. We need to find ways to “Permit the children to come to (Jesus).”
Parents, it is crucial for you to embrace your biblical responsibility to provide for the education of your children. Many of you have ‘delegated’ this authority to the public-school system. It is time to reacquire your obligation and take a more active role in directing your children’s instruction. As helpful as classroom instruction can be, it provides nothing of the love and nurture of a parent. Also, it is vital for the church, our church to step up our support for our Living Hope parents in their task of training up their children in the way they should go. Among other things, the services we post and the services we host need to be a little more ‘kid’ friendly, both in content and participation. Finally, it is critical that we pray earnestly for our local, Morongo Unified School District as they attempt to develop a plan to safely put children back into the classroom. Whatever they come up with will become the model for in-person instruction. It’s not enough for the church to sit back and decry the ‘sad state of public education’. We must pray much for our students, their teachers, and for those making the plan.
I want to pass along a cordial invitation to our Sunday evening service at 7:00 p.m. on Sundays in the Amphitheater. It is a casual format with great worship, teaching and fellowship. Hope you are able to attend!
Yours for making disciples of every nation,
Dear Living Hope family and friends,
Because of the continued rise in COVID-19 infections in the State of California, particularly here in the Morongo Basin, after much prayer, the Elders made the decision this morning to cancel our in-person worship service in the Gym this Sunday (July 19). We feel this is in the best interest of public safety and so we will do our part to slow the spread.
There will be a prerecorded service of worship songs and a message available Sunday morning on our Living Hope Yucca Valley YouTube channel. Because things with the pandemic continue to change quickly, we will revisit this situation week by week. Keep watching your email and our church Facebook page for the latest information from the church.
The Elders also decided in our meeting to have an evening service outdoors in our church Amphitheater this Sunday. Outdoor gatherings are deemed to be safe by the State Department of Public Health as long as we practice appropriate social distancing and wear face coverings. We plan to begin at 7:00 p.m. with a time of worship in song along with a brief message from God’s word.
Please continue to pray for our church and for wisdom for the board of elders as we seek to honor God and advance His kingdom!
In the grace of our Lord Jesus,
The Living Hope Elder Board
Jorge Rodriguez, Russ Gentry, Chuck Nixon, Scott Reynolds, Dominic Heiden, Glen Kippel, Eric Armendariz, and Pastor Bill