Before answering that question, first let me address our Covid-19 Community Response Project. GOD IS GOOD. Projections regarding the spread and mortality of the virus are being reduced daily. Infections and hospitalizations are steadily decreasing and there is talk of re-opening the economy and gathering restrictions. This is all great news. As a result the need for products we gathered for the CCRP has greatly diminished. Again, this is GREAT NEWS and we give God thanks and praise for this outcome. So for now, we're pausing the project and holding the products to eventually be put into The King's Storehouse Food Pantry to be distributed to the poor if things continue to move in a positive direction. If things change, we'll let you know. But thank you, THANK YOU for participating and showing Tumwater that you care and that Northstar is there for them in times of need. Community is what it's all about. Great job Northstar!
As far as what's next for Northstar, we're in a waiting mode. It looks likely that Washington will start making moves to "reopen" soon. President Trump laid out a 3 phase plan which includes churches re-opening during phase 1, but he left the decision up to the individual state governors. So we're waiting for word from our governor and when we're given the green light we plan to re-open immediately because we have the seating capacity to meet social distancing requirements. Rest assured we won't make this decision hastily. Your leadership team is committed to praying and in constant discussions about when and how to reopen. However we are optimistic it will be very soon. For now we'll continue our online presence and make preparations to reopen so that we're prepared when that inevitably happens.
There has been some talk among area pastors about various ways we can navigate Easter. There have been many good ideas bantered around. Some suggested perhaps moving live Easter celebrations to a later date, others discussed live streaming, some may do drive-in style services. This week Northstar experimented with a YouTube Premier event as a way to do church in real time together, but the content was pre-recorded. I think this is a great option for those who don't have the capacity to do livestreaming or who would like to produce more in-depth content for Easter.
Ultimately HOW we choose to do Easter services isn't as important as WHY. Some may be losing enthusiasm for the celebrations due to the live meeting restrictions...pastors and congregants alike. Don't let that happen. Jesus still went to the cross for us. He still rose from the dead. He still conquered sin and death. He still reigns at the right hand of the Father. He is still on the throne! He still deserves to be worshiped and celebrated. This year, Easter is still as important as ever and perhaps our need to assemble ONLINE is more important than it's ever been. Your church family misses you. Don't let a lack of enthusiasm keep you from participating by whatever means your church provides. Fellowship has taken on a new meaning and sense of importance, so I challenge you to get up next Sunday ready to celebrate. Odds are your church has put in a TON of effort to make the best online experience they can. So show up and let's give Jesus the praise He deserves. He is still King!
Don't miss Easter...Online
I have received several emails and texts lately from people concerned about prophetic words they have heard from multiple high-profile prophets and pastors. Some prophecies are apocalyptic and others are vague and encouraging. I'd like to offer a word of caution and hope to my friends and congregants. Do not be alarmed. This is not the end of days. In my opinion there is much yet to happen on the world scene before the end time events spoken of in scripture will unfold. I would encourage you to take heart from God's words to Solomon found in 2nd Chronicles 7: 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
I don't believe God sent this pestilence to us, but I do believe He is listening and He is acting on our behalf. I believe there will be a great awakening in the world and God will draw many unto Himself through all this. Do I believe that is a prophetic word? No, I believe it is the very nature and character of our God. This is what He does. He works for our good even in the midst of the storms of life. Because He is a faithful God.
And even if this were the end of days, which it isn't...why fear? Instead of being afraid since you know your eternal destination, how about turning your attention to the ministry of evangelism. If we believe what we preach, then times like this should signal the greatest evangelistic work the world has ever seen. Either way, we are taught in scripture to live in a state of readiness at all times as though the return of the Savior could happen at any moment. In practicality this means that every believer ought to perpetually be engaged in evangelistic pursuits.
Right now the world needs hope. The world needs calm. The world needs peace. You and I are called to share the hope, calm, and peace that can only be found in Christ. So I challenge my brothers and sisters to spend less time chasing after prophecies and worrying about the end of the world and spend more time encouraging those who don't know Jesus and making the most of this opportunity. Allow God to use you in this moment to love people into the Kingdom.
Northstar is committed to our community. As part of our loving response to the hardships people will face if they are forced into quarantine, we will be providing some food and hygiene assistance to our neighbors.
However with GREAT THANKS TO GOD, we are excited that at the need has diminished because the virus is not spreading at the rate of the original projections. God has been gracious and spared much of Thurston County. Our help will remain available if you find yourself in need, but we're not accepting any more donations for the time being. If the need worsens, we'll reach out and accept more donations at that time. Thank you to all who chipped in and helped us stockpile necessary survival items. If the need does not re-emerge, the products you donated will fill our food pantry and given away to the poor.
Today Ed Stetzer posted a very helpful link aimed at helping stem the spread of misinformation regarding the Covid-19 outbreak. Ed astutely reminds us "Social media is not your friend here—your uncle’s Facebook post is no more useful in this situation than when he posted about that last conspiracy theory. Yesterday... When there is confusion and uncertainty, look for experts who have dedicated their lives to help. In this case it means the doctors and health care professionals who are courageously fighting and preparing to fight this virus across the country and the globe. Through modeling this effort, church leaders can play a vital role in helping their people cut through the morass of misinformation to the truth."
To help they have launched coronavirusandthechurch.com to provide information from trusted experts and helpful insights for people of faith on how to navigate this crisis. It is my hope that this information will not only prove helpful but will motivate the body of Christ to be the church in this moment the world needs us to be...a beacon of hope. I also truly hope that armed with good information we can help others avoid undue panic while at the same time soberly preparing to assist our brothers and sisters when the need arises.
To that end, I am calling on the Body to begin preparations so that if and when we are needed we will be able assist the elderly and in-firmed should they contract Covid-19. I encourage all believers to start storing up some extra food and comfort items to be disbursed in our community as the need arises. Northstar Church will be a drop-off point for our congregation to begin to stockpile these items. I would urge our fellow Christians in other congregations to do the same. And look at it this way; if we don't end up needing to use these items for the outbreak, we can add them to our food pantries for future use. So it's a win-win. For more info about what we are doing so you can partner with us, visit our Community Response Page here https://northstarchurchofgod.godaddysites.com/covid-19communityresponse
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. ~James 1:27
Pastor Tom Ouweleen
In an effort to help people avoid panic and confusion, we'll provide regular updates here. First, let me encourage you not to panic. At this time there is so much information coming out in the media that it's impossible to avoid hearing about Covid-19 every time you turn on the radio or TV. We hear words like "Pandemic" and images of scenes from The Walking Dead get conjured up in our minds. At this point, most reports indicate that many, if not most who contract Covid-19 end up with fairly mild flu-like symptoms and the overwhelming majority of people will recover.
Of the most vulnerable to the virus are the elderly, especially those with underlying health issues or compromised immune systems. But is this reason for panic? Keep in mind that those in this category are also as vulnerable to seasonal influenza along with a host of other seasonal infections and are encouraged to take precautions whether or not Covid-19 is a factor in your area.I'm not a doctor, but it seems to me that most of the panic is media hyped and that while many of us will end up with the virus, we don't need to live in fear. God wants us to live in peace and assurance that He is with us.
If you're in the vulnerable category due to age or underlying health issues, you should do everything in your power to avoid being exposed to Covid-19, but I would assume you're doing the same to avoid getting Influenza or any other infection. The big difference with Covid-19 is that there isn't a vaccine, so the vulnerable need to exercise extra caution to avoid infection. But the rest of us can live fairly normal lives while taking sensible precautions to avoid contracting the disease.For example, at Northstar we're gonna change up a few things for the time being to give our guests some peace of mind. We will be taking the following actions:
So I said I'm not a doctor...I'm a pastor. As such, I want to assure you that your physical health is just as important to us as your emotional and spiritual health. While we choose not to panic...and instead trust God...we will do everything we can to provide a safe, healthy place for you to come worship. So for now, we hope you'll feel comfortable to come worship. But we encourage you to do what you think is best for your family. In the meantime, we'll continue to broadcast the Sunday messages online and provide a place for you to give online as well if you are unable to attend. And if you are experiencing symptoms of possible infection such as fever, cough, or flu-like symptoms, please stay home, get some rest and take necessary steps to get well. We'll still be here when you get back.
Lastly, be encouraged. God is with us. He is our peace. Let's not allow fear to rule our hearts. Instead continue to allow Jesus to give you peace and hope that this will soon pass. Love, Pastor Tom
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. ~Phil 4:7