Word of Hope From Pastor Shane

Dear Oakley Family and Friends:

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In my reading of scripture today, I read Psalm 34. I am going to share just a bit of what I gleaned from my reading in hope that it challenges, inspires, and comforts you.  I invite you to begin by reading Psalm 34:1-8.

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. 3 O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. 4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. 6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble. 7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.

Here we are a month into living socially distanced. We haven’t been able to go out and eat at our favorite restaurants. We haven’t been able to go to the movie. As my wife reminded me this morning, we haven’t even been able to go to our hairstylist to have our haircut or colored. We also have not been able to go to church and fellowship with our friends. Oh, yes, we are worshipping online; but the faith community is about so much more. As a pastor (preacher/teacher), I believe hearing the scriptures read and expounded upon is vital for our growth as followers of Jesus; however, I realize there is another component that is just as important – FELLOWSHIP.

Fellowship within the faith community is about encouraging and being encouraged by one another. It is about hearing another’s perspective. It is about being strengthened by hearing others share their experiences. All of these things help us grow in faith and serve as a continual reminder that God is present in our lives.  But now we are social distancing and we have been told that churches will not be having in person worship for at least another month. So, what are we to do?

I now draw you back to Psalm 34. The author invites us to “bless the Lord at all times;” allowing “his praise [to be] continually be in my mouth.” This author is stating a complete reliance upon God. The idea of “bless” really means to bow down, or kneel before God. This act itself shows one is subservient to, or under the rule of, the one whom the person bows. It is the same action one might take before a king or queen. The idea of “praise” in this text is the idea of one offering one’s self to God fully. It is an expression of the one who praises saying to the one being praised: “You are the mighty one and I am the one of low estate.” To praise another means that we must humble ourselves while exalting the other for that which we offer praise. In this case it is the human (created) exalting God (Creator); thus, showing our utter dependence on God. Throughout the rest of this text, the Psalmist invites us, as the reader, to join in submitting ourselves, our fears, our desires, and our understandings to “the Lord” as the Psalmist gives examples of God’s sovereignty over all life.

Although the author of this Psalm did not mention our particular situation by name or example; as I read this text, I was reminded that God is still in control of all that happens. It is God who is our safety. It is God who is our sustainer. It is God who is our deliverer. It is God who is our shield and provider. It is God who is our companion and friend. It is God who is your____________ (You fill in the blank).

In light of this text and our present circumstances, I was also reminded of what Paul said in Philippians 4:4-8:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I encourage you during this time to take a moment each day and simply give praise and thanksgiving to God. This will be a reminder to you, spiritually and psychologically, that God is your provider, sustainer and deliverer. Friend, these are uncertain times for sure, but the one certainty we have is that God is with us, God hears us and God will deliver us. May we humble ourselves as we surrender our fears to God, praising God for the life God has given us. Know I love and miss each one of you. I do know there is a day we will all be back together again. Until then, know you remain in my thoughts and prayers.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Shane