What's a Few More Laps?
In 1 Peter 4:1, the apostle writes to marginalized believers:
"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking...(1 Peter 4:1)"
Prepare your heart, mind, and flesh, to suffer for righteousness sake; for the cause of Christ. Arm yourselves. Get ready. Don’t put off thinking big thoughts about whether or not this Jesus stuff is just a hobby for you, or if it is SOMETHING and He is SOMEONE
- you’d willingly be thrown to lions for,
- willingly burn at a stake for,
- or willingly stand in front of a firing squad for.
Have you armed yourself in this way?
If you haven’t and you live where I live, I get it.
In the US of A, most of us live in heart and spirit-numbing comfort and ease and it’s easy to dismiss apostolic commissions such as these by thinking,
“It will never come down to that. I’ll live here, sing songs on Sunday, take the kids to soccer practice during the week, raise grand kids, and die peacefully in my sleep in my 80’s.”
And you could very well be right.....But what if you’re not?
One Big Yes
Peter, and every other prophet and apostle (Jesus included!) always lay out discipleship (and the faith required for discipleship) in terms of life and death; in terms of martyrdom.
Why do they do that?
Why, when calling people to discipleship, do they first call people to suffering and martyrdom?
The reason is this: Bound up into that big “YES” to martyrdom; to death, are a thousand smaller “yeses" along the way.*
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).”
Peter’s not saying, “If you suffer in the flesh, you will never sin again.”
“If you’ve got the big “YES” martyrdom, suffering in the flesh, and death, taken care of, these other calls to follow Jesus, the little “yeses” needed along the way, are already also taken care of. You won’t live for human passions, you’ll live for the will of God.”
What’s a Few More Laps?
I’ve always run distance races. Reason one being because I am mostly legs, and reason two being because I like to win. (From my earliest days racing, everyone signed up to run the 100 meter dash or long jump, but few signed up to run the mile and 2 mile; so in the worst case scenario, I’m getting 3rd place every time.)
Once I got to high school , I really started running the distance; 4 miles every meet.
The day started with the 2 mile run (8 laps), then the 2 mile relay (2 laps), then the 800 meter run (2 laps), and then to cap it off and bore people before the mile relay (which is just a ton of fun to watch), the day ended with the mile run (4 laps).
Do you know why I was able to do that every Saturday in the spring?
I was able to say “yes” to 2 laps, 2 more laps, and then 4 more laps, because I’d already given my big “YES” to 8 laps.
In my head every Saturday I’m thinking, after running 8 laps:
“Two more laps? Ok. I already did 8.”
“Oh, two more laps again? I already did 8.”
“Wow! 4 more laps now? I already did 8.”
By giving the big “YES” to the hardest race (this illustration isn’t perfect because the 800 is actually the hardest race and the hellscape of track and field, but you get the point) I could do the rest of the small “yeses”.
Martyrdom = 8 Laps
That’s what the call to martyrdom in scripture is about.
A big “YES” to this big commandment covers the small “yeses” to small commandments.
- By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to not consuming porn.
- By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to resisting gossip.
- By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to gather with the church or share the gospel.
Do you see what I’m saying?
If we can’t follow Jesus four blocks to the church building once a week for an hour and a half (a hilariously small “yes”), what makes us think we’ll follow him to the gallows (a great big giant “YES”)?
If we can’t confess Him as Lord to our neighbor who is a nice guy (a small “yes”), what makes us think we’ll confess him as Lord on the guillotine* (a big “YES”)?
Or like the Lord posed to Jeremiah, “(Jeremiah 12:5) If you have raced with men on foot (a small “yes”), and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? (a big “YES”)
If we can’t say yes to 8 laps, what makes us think we’ll be able to say yes to two?
Dalton Thomas, in his book “Unto Death” writes:
Though not every believer is called to give a martyr-witness, every believer is called to embrace a martyr-mentality, every church a martyr-mandate, and every minister a martyr-theology. Whether we live or die is ultimately in the hands of our Master, and if we have not entrusted Him with that decision, we may be deluding ourselves into assuming we are His bondservants when in fact we are not.”
Beloved, if we will arm ourselves with this way of thinking, if we give our big “YES” to suffering in the flesh, to martyrdom, even if it doesn’t come, all of our little “yeses” are taken care of and sin will gradually lose its grip.
Give the Lord the big “YES” and watch as the other “yeses” follow. I mean really, what’s a few more laps after 8?
Until He Comes,
*(this is a paraphrase from Dalton Thomas, but I can’t seem to find the source)
*(I use guillotine cause you’ve got 70s,80s,90s, rapture movies in your heads and it’s always a guillotine, isn’t it!)
Church Gathering Plans | May 24th & 31st
Sunday May 24th Plans
Last Sunday we enjoyed getting to worship the Lord with almost half of our church family on a beautiful sunny morning.
Unfortunately, current weather forecasts for this Sunday do not look as favorable.
Should the forecast change, we will gather outside. If not, we will live stream songs, prayers, and a sermon, as our previously communicated plan indicated.
Sunday May 31st Plans
That being said, we now turn our attention to our first gathering back in the sanctuary on May 31st.
- If You Don’t Feel Well, Stay Home
As always, pandemic or not, if you do not feel well or feel vulnerable to sickness, please stay home, inform the elders, and we’ll gladly come pray with you there. We will still be livestreaming worship for those at home.
- If You Do Feel Well, Practice Good Hygiene
Wash your hands and cough somewhere *not* on other people or objects.
- Sunday Groups Will Resume
Our normal groups (CAF, Students, S+D, Homebuilders, Larry’s) will resume.
- Our Facility is Clean
Every surface of the building (knobs, chairs, equipment, ect) will have been cleaned and disinfected. Hand sanitizer is available at each entrance.
- We Will Use Travel Communion
For a few weeks we’ll continue to use the travel communion cups as we worship at the Lord’s Table.
- Hugs, Handshakes, Masks, and Romans 14
If you’re comfortable shaking hands, hugging, sitting close to one another, ect, that’s fine. (It’s one of the things we miss the most after all!) But please do not force your freedom of conscience on others whose conscience before God at this moment has them wearing a mask/practicing careful social distancing. We will honor the choices of each person’s conscience before God in these matters. Ex; if you come up for prayer with an elder, we will first ask if we may lay hands on you.
- Nursery Protocol/Entry
If you have a child in the nursery, enter through the nursery door in the sanctuary. If you have a child in Mary and Judy’s class, do not enter through the nursery, but go through the south hallway, and enter from the south door outside. Only nursery age children should be in the nursery room. At 9:45 we will remove all the babies/children from their respective rooms, disinfect the rooms, and then bring them back in.
A Sincere Thanks
This has been one of the strangest 9 weeks of my life, especially in my role in our church. I want to sincerely say “thank you” to our members for being patient and kind as we’ve tried to navigate this with wisdom.
Those who wanted to reopen and gather earlier than we are have been kind and supportive, and those who feel we still shouldn’t open have been kind and supportive.
So, thank you.
Until He Comes,
Looking to Sunday | Parking Lot Worship
Due to the weather forecast, rather than meeting in the lot and fighting the mud, we’ll have the street blocked off and we will gather in front of the church building with the platform facing north.
Here are things you should know:
- Bring your bibles. We’ll be continuing in 1st Peter, this week from 1:6-9.
- For those unable/not yet comfortable returning, worship will still be livestreamed. We understand that everyone is processing this differently and not everyone feels it safe or wise to gather yet. The quality of the stream will be decreased considerably due to strength of internet connection and the difficulty of doing sound live versus the pre-recorded videos we have been using, but we will still have one available.
- We will have plastic chairs set up and spaced apart, but if you’d like to bring a more comfortable lawn chair, go for it! We will also leave space for vehicles for those more comfortable staying in the car.
- We will take the Lord’s Supper. In an earlier email, we said that you should bring your own elements. You can still do this, but we will provide elements in the travel packages placed on each seat before worship and will deliver to those in vehicles.
- We will have a Children and Family lesson and craft for PreK-5th grade. Like a normal Sunday, during the sermon they will be dismissed to the bank parking lot.
- This Sunday will be Caleb and Deborah Reese’s last Sunday with us as members as they are moving to OKC to pursue missionary training through Bridgeway Church. We will have a special time of prayer for them.
Until He Comes,
The last time we gathered together for worship was March 15th. That seems like 6 years ago, not 6 weeks ago.
The Lord has been good to us even in this and we’re grateful for technology (and for the people who have served us with it!) allowing us to have some semblance of corporate worship. The Lord has also continued to bless our body as financial gifts have been steadily coming in through online and paper options, including multiple donations to the Food Pantry for families in need.
As you know, Oklahoma began Phase 1 of “reopening” in late April, noting that progressing from Phase 1 to Phase 2 to Phase 3 is dependent on the number of cases staying steady or declining.
Since the OURS (Open Up and Recover Safely) Plan was released we’ve been in conversation with our fellow churches in and around Tonkawa, as well as medical professionals inside and outside of our congregation.
During Phase 1 and 2, the “Safer at home” guidelines are still in effect for those over 65 (a large percentage of our church family) or with vulnerable conditions, and we are recommended (by the state as well as by medical professionals in our congregation) to not open up our nursery or children’s spaces.
Taking this wisdom into consideration, our tentative plan is as follows:
May 10th: Online Video
May 17th & May 24th: Outdoor Worship (Location TBA) + Livestream
May 31st: Indoor Worship + Livestream
Notes for Outdoor Worship May 17th & 24th
- If the forecast is unfavorable, we will simply livestream.
- Worship will be under 1 hour.
- Those who fall in the “safer at home” categories are encouraged to either stay home, or if you do attend, simply “Drive-in” as we will have an area for parking with good visibility. However, this is America and you are responsible adults, so feel free to do whatever you want;) But we ask that you respect those around you by following the social distancing guidelines while in attendance.
- Bring your own chair, blanket, or umbrella (for shade)
- Bring a bottle of water and use the restroom at home.
- We would love (!) to take the Lord’s Supper together. Since scripture teaches us it is a meal for the gathered church, we have not included in our online videos since we are not gathered.
- To avoid passing the trays around during the Phases, we’re asking that attenders bring a fruit of the vine and some sort of bread for us to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Please do not bring something silly for the Lord’s Supper. We want to treat the meal Jesus gave us with honorable, joyful, worship.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call or email the church office.
Also, anytime, but especially now, if you are a member of our body and are in need, please let us know. It’s our joy as a congregation to “bear one another’s burdens.”
Until He Comes,
By Joe Kreger
O Spirit fill me up today
Reside in me I humbly pray
Convict me of my every sin
Mold and change me from within
You, who came at Pentecost
Found me once that I was lost
You drew me to my God above
You helped me understand His love
You make the scriptures plain to me
You push me down on bended knee
You lift me up each time I fall
You tune my ear to hear my call
You'll stay with me till Christ returns
You'll bring me peace when my heart yearns
You comfort me in times of stress
You shape the words that I confess
I seek Your gifts for the Kingdom's sake
Guide me down each path I take
Cultivate Your fruit in me
Remove the veil that I might see
Baptize me in Your cleansing fire
And pull my feet from fleshly mire
Arm me with your mighty sword
And make me useful to my Lord
A Word About Death
“He descended to the dead, and on the third day He rose”,
so say millions of Christians each and every week in the Apostles’ Creed.
But what does this mean?
Among many truths, it means this: Christians view death in a way peculiar to the world.
In the ancient church, Jesus’ triumph over death produced peculiar attitudes and practices towards death, like assembling for prayer in tombs, worshiping Jesus among the bones, and at funerals gazing lovingly over the bodies of the dead while singing Psalms.
In our modern moment, where death totals run below TV’s talking heads 24/7, Christians must carry on our historically peculiar attitudes towards the grave,
because for us, those who have died with Christ, death is a paradoxical victory.
Goodbye to Goodbyes
I’ve served many funerals for unbelievers and they are not happy events. Tears, wailing, and despair, are all present. They are sad and somber moments.
Now certainly, those things can be true of Christian funerals, but at a Christian funeral, the air is always different. When we sing at Christian funerals, we sing loud, and even as we’re crying, we’re simultaneously filled with joy.
Reese men are criers. If you’ve seen my dad pray for the offering at church or my uncle Rod talk about students at school, it’s a water park.
I am not that way.
But at one particular funeral, I cried. Like, cried cried.
At Wilma Evans’ service (a long time church member), I did pretty good right up until the end. I led the prayers, songs, obit, and preached the good news; no sweat.
But when I noticed the dam breaking for several in our congregation who knew and loved her dearly in this life, I knew my moment was on its way.
What finally released the river was the moment her late husband Clinton rolled his wheelchair to to her coffin.
In that moment I was filled with deep sadness, he had lost his wife and closest friend, but also great joy, because Jesus made sure that wouldn’t be the last time they’d see each other.
Ain't No Grave
Because Jesus died, for us, death is victory.
Where others see an end, we see a beginning.
“Death is serious”, Ben Myers writes, “but not as serious as life”.
Because Jesus rose on the third day, death is no longer the ultimate power in the world and Christians do not treat it like it is.
In the fourth century Athanasius wrote:
“If you see children praying with a lion, don’t you know that lion must either be dead or completely powerless? In the same way...when you see Christ’s believers playing with death...there can be no doubt that death has been destroyed by Christ and that its corruption has been dissolved and brought to an end.”
Because Christ rose on the third day, we can sing with Johnny Cash,
"There ain't no grave can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down
When I hear that trumpet sound
Ain't not grave can hold my body down"
Because Christ rose on the third day, we can say with the Apostle Paul,
"Where O Death is our victory?
Where O Death is your sting?"
Christian, Christ has conquered the grave.
Christ has conquered death.
Come what may, COVID-19, or whatever else, new bodies, new heavens, new earth, new life, await the saints of God.
Until He Comes,
CLC and Covid-19
With aims to love our neighbor by doing our part to minimize the spread of the coronavirus and practice Romans 13, at the recommendation of our federal, state, and local, government, and the guidance of our elders, we will suspend all CLC services and events until at least April 5th.
Redeeming the Time
Not wanting to waste our time inside, but to instead "redeem the time (Eph 5:16)", we're working on several ways to connect the church while we are temporarily separated from one another.
Sunday Morning Live Stream | 10:00am
On Sunday mornings at 10:00, from our Church Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/tonkawaclc)and our Church website live stream page (https://tonkawaclc.com/sermons) we'll sing a few songs, pray, and I'll share God's word.
This is not a replacement for our gatherings, but is something that can still be helpful to us in this strange time.
I'm not quite sure yet what parts of the bible I'll be teaching from yet, but I am sure we'll suspend our "Church?" series until we can come together again.
Children and Family Resources
For our Children and Family (CAF) Ministry, we're still operating under the assumption that ground zero for discipleship is the home, and so we're working on resourcing parents to this end.
We've created a playlist of new songs for your family to learn and enjoy. You can find them on the CAF page on the church website or get them straight from Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLt-5kILythAjUWrpUCGdIhdfg2ISPOn9a)
On Sunday morning, we'll upload a video of Carlee reading the "Gospel Story Bible" to our CAF Facebook group
Also on Sunday morning, we'll upload the Gospel Story lesson documents to our website's Children and Family page for parents to use for added activities to accompany lesson + extra teaching points that have not been covered in the video.
On Wednesdays, Carlee will livestream on the CAF Facebook group, this time a lesson from the "Long Story Short" devotional, building on Sunday's lesson.
Parents, we feel it would be extremely helpful to you, if you haven't already, to purchase the Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short, and Old Story New as they help keep the same stories and truths in front of the children Sunday-Saturday. If you need help financially with these resources, please let us know.
As always, our church supplies access to RightNow Media
(https://tonkawaclc.com/right-now-media) , so if the children are in front of a screen, you can make sure what their viewing is highlighting Jesus and growing their hearts and minds.
In keeping with redeeming the time while we're stuck inside, we've compiled links to hundreds of thousands of solid, bible-based, evangelical, bible study resources, from articles, sermons, graduate level theology courses, and more.
Simply visit the Resources page on our church website.
In addition to these, I'll be sharing different articles and videos throughout the week.
The elders decided Wednesday to continue with the church vote for this Sunday.
We will inform the church of the voting process as soon as we have it up and running.
Church and Community Care
Lastly, the upheaval we’re experiencing as a nation means that many of us are under pressure physically, spiritually, emotionally, and financially.
If you are at risk for Covid-19, and need help with grocery delivery or anything else, please reach out to us email@example.com or contact a church elder or member.
If you know anyone else in our community that needs assistance in this way, don't hesitate to contact us.
How To Give
To continue giving to the church in this time, you can give online via debit, credit, or bank transaction https://clctonkawa.breezechms.com/give/online
If you are not an online person, the church offices are open from 8:30-4:00 Monday-Thursday and you can drop the check off in the lockbox located at the entrance.
Until He Comes,