What a strange time in which we suddenly find ourselves. Over the last year, restaurants, hotels and stores have been closed, restricted or… well, sometimes it’s all over the place. Shelves were empty at one point. Supplies were scarce. Churches were vacant. A very real and dangerous virus threatened — and continues to threaten — our way of life. People remain anxious and afraid. People are still getting sick. Many are still dying. And everyone continues to wonder… is this the new “normal”?
The honest answer is yes. No matter how well we as a nation, a state and as individuals handle this crisis, the unpredictability and uncertainty we face — this very challenging and difficult landscape — will be the new normal for quite some time. And we as a church, as friends and family, as parents and grandparents, and especially we as believers have several realizations to face, even more adjustments to make, and some very real truths to hold onto. The circumstances may be different, but the time we find ourselves in is by no means unique to us. The strain, stress and fear we feel is the same strain, stress and fear we find in scripture, even from those who were closest to God’s heart. 
“My God, my God… why have you forsaken me? Why do you seem so far from saving me, so far from hearing my groans and cries? Oh God, I cry by day but you don’t answer. I cry by night but I find no rest. And yet I know you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in you and you delivered them. They cried to you and were rescued. They trusted in you and you did not cast them aside.”
That passage comes from Psalm 22. It’s David at his darkest. David at his most overwhelmed. Yet his next poem, Psalm 23, is not only one of his most well-known psalms but also provides a direct response to David’s own hopelessness and fear:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me. Your rod and your staff comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil and my cup runs over. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
God doesn’t promise us a life of certainty. He promises us that He will be faithful. He doesn’t promise us a life of comfort and ease. He promises He will walk through the valleys we face, with us, beside us, taking each stop alongside of us. He doesn’t promise us a life free of hardship or pain. He promises us salvation, peace beyond understanding and eternal life despite whatever hardship or pain we might face. These are tough truths to understand, much less accept, but those are the truths before us.
The real question we face is: how are we going to conduct ourselves in this new “normal”? 
II Timothy 1:7 tells us “God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power, love, discipline and self-control.” We may be confined to our homes, people may be in danger of losing their livelihoods, the economy may be trembling. But we are called by God to be beacons in the darkness. We are called to shine His power, love, discipline and self-control into that darkness so that people see His face, His presence and His love in spite of any chaos, calamity or crisis. 
It’s easy to assume that hard times will produce hard hearts; that those who aren’t saved surely won’t come to Jesus in the middle of a crisis. They’ll blame God, get angry and refuse to believe in Him more than ever. But that’s not what happens at all. Or at least it doesn’t have to. People remember God when they feel as if they can no longer rule the world around them. People turn to God when they realize they aren’t in control of everything. People move towards God when they begin to understand that they’ve put their faith and trust in things that can disappear in an instant, without warning. Their homes, careers, paychecks, health… even stocked shelves of toilet paper!
We’ve come to expect that if we need something and work hard enough to pay for it, it’ll be right there on the shelf waiting for us. But this world and all that it offers is temporary. It’s muddy and foggy and uncertain and full of lies and broken promises. And when people see the world for what it really is, they also begin to see God for who and what He really is. Promise keeper. Way maker. Light in the darkness. 
Isaiah 59:19 tells us, “when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” In John 16:33, Jesus says, “I have told you these things so that, in me, you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” And 1 Peter 5:8-10 reads, “Resist the enemy, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And because you know the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
So what are we going to do in this new “normal”? The same things we’ve always been called to do! Some of us may have forgotten, grown lazy or neglected such things, but now is as perfect a time as any to wake up, rediscover old truths, and get to work!
        • First and foremost, we all need to evaluate our hearts, realign our priorities, and work on deepening our relationship with Christ. Pray more. Read your bible more often. Find ways to show God’s love and kindness to others more than you ever have. Look for opportunities to encourage, pray and care for one another.
        • Second, we all need to put our trust, faith and understanding in Him. We can’t look to the world to lift our spirits, to restore our security, or to provide us peace. We need to look to God for everything we need and recognize that when our needs our met, it’s by His hand and His hand alone.
        • Third, we need to remain a light to the lost. In fact, we need to shine that light brighter than ever. Just because we’re practicing social distancing more and more each week does NOT mean we can’t share and spread the gospel! We live in a wondrous age where, despite being stuck at home, we can utilize phones, the internet, social media and endless other tools to continue to proclaim Jesus’s name and saving power. Moreover, we can take this chance to get better and better at acting like Jesus when we’re using these tools!  
Resist the urge to rant and rave on Facebook. Resist the urge to complain and grumble when you see your friends and neighbors. Resist the urge to grow angry, bitter and unkind in your homes. There are as many opportunities before us now — perhaps even more — as there have ever been. Don’t overlook those opportunities. Don’t miss them. God is still working. Still saving. Still making Himself known. We can be a part of all He’s doing… or we can live in fear and defeat and watch as He uses others to reach a lost and dying world.
Now is as much a time for the church to be the Church as any. Our calling remains the same. Our Great Commission remains the same. Our new “normal” may look radically different but we were NEVER called to be normal anyway. We aren’t called to look like the world, respond like the world, or be of the world at all. We are His. We’re still His. Let’s act like it and look for any and every opportunity to reach others for Christ.
As always, thank you so much for being examples of faith and action. Your love of Christ remains an inspiration to our church, our friends and family, and my family especially. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need anything during this very difficult time.
          – Pastor Kenny