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    • By 1Timothy115 in Devotionals
      Psalms 119:1-8                                         Sep. 5 - Oct. 2, 2019
      1 ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
      2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.
      3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.
      4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.
      5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
      6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.
      7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.
      8 I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.
      The following verse stood out to me...
      5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
      At first glance it seemed to me this person’s soul is poured out with intense desire to have God’s direction in keeping His Word.
      I made a small wood fire in our backyard for my granddaughter, Julia, since she would be staying overnight with us. My wife and Julia stayed outside at the fire for about half an hour. Then, I found myself alone to watch the fire die out on a particularly lovely evening. So I took my verse from above and began to repeat it for memorization. As I repeated the verse, I tried to contemplate the words and apply them to what I was seeing around me. 
      The moon and stars were out now peering through the scattered clouds above.
      [Genesis 1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. Genesis 1:17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, Genesis 1:18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.]
      Thought 1         
      The moon has stayed his course since the day God created him, also the stars, obeying the statutes directed by God from the first day they were created. Can you imagine God’s direction to the Moon and stars, “moon you will have a path through the sky above the earth, stars you will occupy the firmament above the moon and be clearly visible in the cloudless night sky.”
      Then, the trees, grass, even the air we breathe obey the statues God gave them from the beginning. None of these creations have souls, none have hearts, none have intelligence, but they all observe God’s statutes, His instructions for their limited time on earth.
      Thought 2
      What if we were like the moon, stars, trees, grass, or the other creations which have no soul? We would be directed to keep God’s statutes without choosing to keep them. This is not the image of God, there would be no dominion over other creatures, or over the earth. We would not be capable of experiencing the joy and peace of learning the love of God
      Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
      Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
      Thought 3 (October 2, 2019)
      Is the psalmist pleading God to force God’s statutes to become the man’s ways? No, he is speaking of his own failure in keeping God’s statutes and his desire to keep them, very much like Paul in Romans 7:14-25.
      God doesn’t work through force to turn men from their ways that they would desire His statutes or desire God Himself. Men must reject (repent) put aside his own ways and voluntarily seek God and His statutes.

The Biblical Responsibility of the Church to Assemble

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Lancaster Baptist Church is committed to the infallibility of the Bible as God’s revelation to man (2 Timothy 3:16). Included in God’s Word is the truth of Christ as the expressed image of God (Hebrews 1:2–5), the head of the church (Colossians 1:18), and the King of kings (1 Timothy 6:14–15).

As the head of the church, Jesus has commanded us to assemble (Hebrews 10:25), to preach (2 Timothy 4:2), and to sing praise to Him (Colossians 3:16). The church is described as an assembly of called out believers. While the times of these assemblies may vary and considerations may be made for health and safety, nevertheless, the church must not cease corporate worship or we will be in disobedience to Christ our head.

While obedience to human government is taught in Scripture (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2), we believe there are limits of jurisdiction as it relates to our responsibility and right to worship. God has not given government the responsibility to oversee the beliefs and practices of the church. For decades, our church has honored and assisted our local government and law enforcement. We have prayed for our political leaders. We do not, however, believe that government should decide when and how the church should worship. Jesus taught us to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). We believe, as did our country’s founders, that the church belongs to the Lord. Therefore, while we honor earthly governors and authorities, we cannot do so when their mandates for the church counter biblical teachings of morality or contradict the guidance of Christ our head.

A distinctive of the Baptists is the autonomy of the local church. Each church must decide under God when and how they will worship Him. Our Baptist forefathers were sometimes called nonconformists and were imprisoned because they refused state or ecclesiastical license (Titus 1:5). Even today in communist countries, our brothers in Christ risk persecution to assemble and worship Christ.

We believe the home, the church, and the government are given biblically-assigned spheres of responsibility under God (Romans 13, Ephesians 5, Hebrews 13, 1 Peter 2:13–14). When government restrictions upon the church limit our ability to gather, sing, worship, or greet one another, a biblical church must seek ways to honor Christ and obey His Word.

Recent events related to COVID-19 have brought about government mandates on churches for the first time in most of our lives. In some cases, these mandates have exceeded the restrictions placed upon shopping centers, movie theaters, and other places of business. While this may be a time of brief intervention, it could also set a precedent for more aggressive persecution in the future.

As human government moves further from biblical truth, believers everywhere will be tested, and we must determine to stand for the truth of God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:12, Peter 4:12, Ephesians 6:12–13). Testing may bring a time of purging to a church, yet, faithful believers will bear fruit in every season.

We were willing to not have in-person services for a brief time out of concern for our neighbors and church family. Early in this pandemic, we were asked to suspend meeting briefly to “flatten the curve” and avoid overwhelming hospitals. As the public health risk is not nearly as brief or deadly as was first described, however, we cannot indefinitely suspend services and disobey our Lord’s clear command to assemble (Hebrews 10:25). Recent decisions from the Supreme Court and ongoing indications from certain levels and sectors of government have signaled a willingness to ask churches to remain closed or severely restricted indefinitely. Not only do we believe that we have a biblical mandate to assemble, but we also believe that our community needs the spiritual hope and help of a functioning biblical church, and our church family needs the ongoing soul care that is given through the assembling and worship of a church family.

From the beginning of this pandemic, we have stated our desire to obey both Romans 13 and Acts 5:29. In the spirit of honoring government and safety, we established a vigorous COVID-19 response. However, in the spirit of Acts 5:29, when the government dictates against the clear commands of God, we, the pastors and deacons of Lancaster Baptist Church, say, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

We intend to follow Christ as our King in all matters of faith and worship. We do this with love in our heart for Christ and without rancor toward our government. We align with the apostles of Christ who, in Acts 4:19–20, said, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you rather unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

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