During the last three years (even before Covid), health problems and New England winters have prevented me and John from physically attending church. Thankfully, I’m getting better, so we anticipate returning to in-person worship in April. Meanwhile, we praise God that our church streams its Sunday morning services and Wednesday night Bible Studies. Recently, we had to download Zoom (for my annual doctor visit), which will allow me to participate in our church’s bi-weekly women’s Bible Studies. We maintain contact with our pastor, and one of the elders (along with his wife) visits us often. This period has relegated us to the status of shut-ins.
We typically think of shut-ins as being sick, elderly and/or disabled, which is certainly true. But we should also include caregivers who must miss church in order to assist us. I guess I could write a post listing ways churches can minister to shut-ins, seeing that most of my readers probably are able-bodied. Perhaps I will write such an article in the future. But right now I want to give you tools to encourage shut-in friends and family members in taking whatever responsibility they can to serve their local churches. And I pray that any shut-in reading this post will apply the principles I lay out.
Scripture teaches that the local church is a body of believers (1 Corinthians 12:1-31, Romans 12:4-5, Ephesians 4:10-16). Those who are able to physically attend church, therefore, need to meet faithfully with their brothers and sisters as frequently as possible (Hebrews 10:23-25). At the same time, those of us who are (to borrow a phrase from Michelle Lesley) providentially hindered from attending church need to adopt the attitude that we’re still very much a part of the body. We possess the same privileges and responsibilities as all the other members in the congregation. Today I want to talk about some of those responsibilities.
Let’s look at a passage from 1 Corinthians 12 for a moment.
Beatrix Potter is best known for her children’s book, The Taleof Peter Rabbit. Her story is heartwarming, exquisitely illustrated with the author’s own water color paintings. and gently moralistic (though it failed to deter my childhood disobedience). But Beatrix Potter wrote several other books, all of which lined my sister’s bookshelf — and probably still do. The collection includes The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, which you can read here at no cost. It only takes a few minutes to read, unless you linger over the pictures. This article will make a lot more sense if you’ll read the story,
Jemima Puddle-Duck fell into temptation, didn’t she? Trusting a fox who only wanted to dine on her unhatched eggs, she made a series of very stupid decisions. Temptation to get what she wanted (in a way that seemed easy and convenient) blinded her to an obvious danger. And even the dogs who rescued her from the fox ended up devouring her precious eggs. Her sin of inattention kept her from the one desire of her heart.
Reading The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck reminded me of a Scripture John and I recently read during our morning devotions together.
Let’s be honest: we look at all the insanity in the world, as well as the various trials in our personal lives, and try to figure out what the Lord is doing. As a matter of fact, Christians feel a sense of responsibility to understand His purposes in everything that happens. I suppose we think having a firm grip on perplexing circumstances will help us weather them.
A few days ago I read a psalm that gave me a perspective on facing difficulties that I’d never considered before.
O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. 2 Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the Lord From this time forth and forever. ~~Psalm 131 (NASB)
In the past, I’d isolated the verses from each other, so none of them really made much sense to me. Occasionally verse 1 reminded me to maintain a semblance of humility, and verse 2 encouraged me to trust the Lord, but I failed to see how those verses fit together. And I completely ignored verse 3.
When I read Psalm 131 a few days ago, however, I disciplined myself to think about their context. Suddenly the psalm took on a clarity that surprised me. In this psalm, David teaches that Israel can hope in the Lord by resting in Him instead of trying to figure out what He’s doing through the various situations in the world.
As before, John is typing at my dictation. We are still trying to get a morning Personal Care Attendant so that I can gradually work up to being in my chair all day, but so far our efforts aren’t yielding results. We would ask for your prayers as we continue looking. We also thank those of you who have sent gifts through Paypal — I had worried that you had given much more than we needed, but I have used some of your donations to pay for advertising. Please continue praying that the right person will answer our ads so that I can get up and start typing blog posts on a more regular basis.
Praise God that our DVD player accommodates Youtube! As I lie in bed I can watch sermons and teachings by such people as John MacArthur, Sinclair Ferguson, and the late R.C. Sproul. I appreciate the opportunity to listen to solid Bible teaching from great men. In addition, we can live stream Sunday services and Wednesday night Bible Study from our own church, keeping us connected with the fellowship there.
During these months, I’ve listened to teaching on a wide variety of topics ranging from eschatology to personal holiness to the assurance of salvation. Each teaching has been encouraging and convicting, increasing my understanding of the Bible and God’s calling on my life. But in all these teachings, one incident from the earthly life of Jesus pops up repeatedly: Peter’s great confession that Jesus is the Christ and Peter’s immediate attempt to dissuade Him from predicting His crucifixion.
John and I regularly listen to The Dividing Line webcast with Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries. Yes, people, I know James White is a controversial figure, and sometimes he aligns himself with teachers he really shouldn’t (most notably, Michael Brown). At the same time, White holds tightly to Reformed Theology, and has an excellent understanding of history in general. We value his insight and carefully consider his perspective — even when we don’t share his conclusions.
White has made various predictions about our country’s trajectory that cause many to accuse him of wearing a tin foil hat. He firmly believes that the Biden administration will plunge the United States into a dystopian society. And he thinks the damage will be irreversible.
John wore his new black suit, and I wore a wedding gown that a friend had generously given me. Both of us had waited decades for this day, often despairing that marriage would pass us by. In less than two weeks, John would turn 53, and my 49th birthday would follow a few weeks after that.
So yes, we endured years of attending weddings. We rejoiced with friends and relatives as they took their vows, always wondering when — if — our turn would ever come. We agonized in prayer, wanting to accept singleness if that was God’s will, even as we begged Him to send us someone “to have and to hold.”
I chose Great Is Thy Faithfulness as one of the songs for our wedding because the Lord so faithfully brought us together and made marriage possible for two people who had been severely physically disabled since childhood. As we sang that hymn, I reflected on God’s goodness in bringing us to that church.
God may not answer all your prayers the way you want Him to. Last I checked, I neither have a puppy nor an apartment in downtown Boston. God’s faithfulness to you may look a great deal different than His faithfulness to me and John. But in whatever way best suits His purposes for you. He doesn’t play favorites. Great is His faithfulness to you, just as it has been great to me.