Dear Covenant Grace,
In our last letter (17 March 2020) we said we would be reviewing the ‘physical isolation’ situation on the 31 March. Well, things have changed quickly since then and we are now already on Day 5 of our National lockdown. At this stage we have no idea if that will be extended beyond April 16th and what restrictions may apply when the lockdown is lifted. We will keep you informed on all our media platforms!
So…CG church will be ‘scattered’ until further notice. Please note that church has not closed, it has just moved online and into homes! We are doing everything we can to stay connected and create a sense of community by providing you with regular updates, encouraging ‘nuggets’, worship songs, kids ministry resources and Sunday sermons. Hopefully you would have already seen our new temporary website, which is hosting all this content. (https://covenantgracechurch.weebly.com )
“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”
I love this because it reminds us of our limited perspective. We simply cannot see or fathom all that God is doing. No doubt, God is sovereign in and over it all, but we need to proceed in our analysis with great humility and instead of trying to come up with answers, we should be patient and praying.
NT Wright, just released an outstanding article on TIME.com in which he says the following:
“No doubt the usual silly suspects will tell us why God is doing this to us. A punishment? A warning? A sign? These are knee-jerk would-be Christian reactions in a culture which, generations back, embraced rationalism: everything must have an explanation. But supposing it doesn’t? Supposing real human wisdom doesn’t mean being able to string together some dodgy speculations and say, “So that’s all right then?” What if, after all, there are moments such as T. S. Eliot recognized in the early 1940s, when the only advice is to wait without hope, because we’d be hoping for the wrong thing? Rationalists (including Christian rationalists) want explanations; Romantics (including Christian romantics) want to be given a sigh of relief. But perhaps what we need more than either is to recover the biblical tradition of lament. Lament is what happens when people ask, “Why?” and don’t get an answer. It’s where we get to when we move beyond our self-centered worry about our sins and failings and look more broadly at the suffering of the world. At this point the Psalms, the Bible’s own hymnbook, come back into their own, just when some churches seem to have given them up. “Be gracious to me, Lord,” prays the sixth Psalm, “for I am languishing; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.” “Why do you stand far off, O Lord?” asks the 10th Psalm plaintively. “Why do you hide yourself in time of trouble?” And so it goes on: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?” (Psalm 13)…. these poems often come out into the light by the end, with a fresh sense of God’s presence and hope, not to explain the trouble but to provide reassurance within it. It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell."
So, none of the recent global events have surprised the Lord. He foresees them all and has allowed them all, for reasons that are beyond our comprehension. Therefore, we rest in his plans and purposes, and as we often like to say at CG: “when we cannot trace His hand, we can trust His heart!”
Finally, we are excited to be journeying through some of the Psalms with you during our ‘scattered Sunday’s’. We pray that the Lord will use them to do a deep work in our hearts, both to comfort us and to counsel us in these uncertain days.
Psalm 23:4 - Even 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, they comfort me.
Psalm 33:10-11 - The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.
Psalm 46:10-11 - Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Love and blessings,
Greg & CG team
Written by Siya Ndzimande - view his blog here
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is disrupting churches, businesses, educational institutions and creating global fear and panic. The world has come to a standstill. So, I ask myself, “Is this global suffering meaningful? Is COVID-19 meant for the glory of God or Satan? If God is sovereign, why would he allow this to happen? If God is love, is this pandemic loving? Maybe God isn’t in full control after all. Maybe he is a reactive God, like an ambulance reacting to emergencies. Or maybe God is just slightly distracted during this time.”
Scripture reminds me that this isn’t anything new. God is in full control; he always was, and he always will be. God was sovereign when he sent the flood, when he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, when he sent the plagues in Egypt (one of the plagues killing all firstborns in Egypt). He was sovereign when Israel faced severe famines, He was sovereign when Jesus was arrested, stripped of his clothing, humiliated and crucified. He was most certainly sovereign when Christians were facing persecution which lead to the horrid deaths of His disciples. Let’s make it personal. He was sovereign when my three-year-old brother died of unknown causes. He was sovereign when my sister’s baby died at just 9 months of life. He was sovereign when my dad died, he was still sovereign when my mom died of breast cancer 11 months after my father passed away. I could go on and on. A.W Tozer put it this way, “While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who has not surrendered His authority.”
Under the rod of affliction we are given an opportunity to bear witness to the gospel’s power in our lives. The Christian’s own perseverance under hardship serves as a shining public witness to the truth of God’s Word. This pandemic opens the door for us to share our hope with unbelievers. When this is all over, people should be looking to God for gratitude and not to humanity or to themselves. I don’t believe this virus (COVID-19) is designed to drive us away from God, but the contrary, it’s designed to draw us closer to God. Interestingly, the things I tend to put before God such as sports have either been cancelled or postponed. Forcing me to distance myself from these idols and put in some much-needed focus on what matters (God). This serves as an occasion for me to ‘be still and know that he is God’ (Psalm 46:10).
Lastly, these anxious times can unite us all in prayer. The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, called the public to a national day of prayer yesterday (Thursday, 26 March 2020). This can unite the world in prayer, a key ingredient in spiking a revival.
It’s times like these were we should cling to these scriptural promises:
2 Corinthians 4: 16 – 18 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I agree with A.W Tozer when he says that God does his deepest work in our darkest hours, “If you don’t see the hand of God in the smallest setbacks and inconveniences, you will be blind to the meaning that God wants you to find in your deeper sufferings.” – Elisabeth Elliot
I will end with one of my favourite quotes, “This is God’s universe, and God does things His way. You may have a better way but you don’t have a universe.” – Vernon McGee
Dear Covenant Grace,
This is an unprecedented time in the life of our country and our church. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Government has declared a state of national disaster and amongst other restrictions, banned ‘all gatherings greater than 100 people'. We believe that they have shown good leadership and are making the best decisions that can be made given the circumstances.
These actions will radically affect how we interact as citizens and how we meet and worship as a church. After much prayer and consultation we have decided to suspend all our formal church meetings for the next two weeks. (We will review the situation again on Tuesday the 31 March.) The data is very clear about how important quick and complete ‘social distancing’ is to saving lives. In this unusual time it’s important to realize that ‘physical distancing’ doesn’t have to mean we lose a sense of community.
A) These have been our guiding principles in response to the Coronavirus:
1. Christian wisdom: We are not responding out of fear but in faith. We are trusting God for all of our lives and asking that he would use this for His glory and our good. We are seeking to give due recognition to both God’s sovereignty over this situation and Man’s responsibility in this situation. Here is a helpful quote from Martin Luther, giving pastoral advice during the Black Plague in the 16th century - "I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy…" (Luther’s, Works v. 43, p. 132.)
2. Christian Love: We feel that making smaller meetings of less than 100 people is technically obeying the letter of the law but not the heart of it. As a leadership team we are committed to playing our part in this global crises, and the stats show that decisive action is the best way to protect and minimize the damage. So we are asking you to love your neighbour by looking after your health and theirs. Avoid all unnecessary contact with people and if you show any flu-like symptoms, please self-isolate immediately. Here’s another helpful quote from a recent article - “In an age of ‘look at me’ self assertion there is something quite stunning in that one of the most significant services the church can do is not gather, allow for social distancing. The church’s absence, its literal emptying, can function as a symbol of its trust in God’s ability to meet us regardless of the location. The church remains the church whether gathered or scattered. It might also indirectly remind us of the gift of gathering that we too often take for granted.”
B) These are our suggested rhythms for CG ‘scattered’ over the next two weeks:
1. Sunday Services: There will be NO public church services for the next two Sundays, 22nd and 29th March. We will however continue to serve you by pre-recording our sermons and make them available to you online, in both video and audio. So we are inviting you to have a ‘Home Service’ using the provided CG sermon and kids ministry outline. Due to copyright restrictions we cannot record worship songs but we will provide you with links to recommended songs. This is a tough decision because church is you and I gathered together for worship, Word and fellowship. These measures strike at the very core of what church is. But we also believe that as we ‘scatter’ it is a unique opportunity to focus our faith and renew our personal and family devotions.
2. Community Groups: This week is our last planned Community Group meeting and then we are on a holiday break. We will leave the decision to meet this Wednesday up to each group leader’s discretion, but would ask that thereafter all groups are on hold until further notice. If you do decide to have smaller get togethers for prayer and Bible study please be sure to observe all the necessary health protocols. We would ask everyone to make an extra effort to reach out in creative ways, using technology to stay connected. (WhatsApp groups, FaceTime, Skype, and Google hang outs can be novel platforms for prayer, sharing scripture, and words of encouragement.)
3. Pastoral Care: We realize that for many, particularly those not in a Community Group, this can be a lonely time. So we would encourage all of you to BE the church by reaching out to one another. We urge you to keep asking God how you can love and care for the church and the community around you. Be expectant that despite the crisis, God may open up all sorts of opportunities for gospel care and witness. It is possible to ‘physically isolate’ for a season without feeling alone, but if you are feeling disconnected or neglected, we want to be here for you, so please let us know by sending us a message.
We will be posting regular updates to our WhatsApp groups and Facebook page, so please be sure to follow us there. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. (email@example.com)
Jude 1:24-25 “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."
Greg & CG team