Prayer in the Newborn Days

Guys, I’m tired. We’re way past “watch a movie or read for a bit to recharge.” This is systemic, sleep deprived, newborn tired. 

The adult body needs 6–8 hours of sleep a night, but no one told babies that. For a few weeks we were fortunate to snatch one or two hours at a time overnight, or maybe less on a rough night. It’s getting marginally better, but wow could I do with one good night’s sleep. 

We all have something that we want, that our prayers return to again and again. Maybe for you it’s physical healing, a new job, greater patience, or a better relationship with your spouse, sibling, or child. I can’t speak for you, but when I pray I want to ask boldly—but also recognize “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). 

I’ve been using Psalm 63:5–8 to guide my prayers.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

I do a lot of “remembering [God] upon my bed … in the watches of night” these days. I would really like to be “satisfied as with fat and rich food” with a good several hours of sleep! 

The satisfaction mentioned in this Psalm, however, comes not from receiving what I want, like good food or sleep, but from remembering and meditating on God: “for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy” (Psalm 63:7). 

It’s not wrong to ask God for sleep. My body works better with adequate sleep. When I’m rested, it’s easier to be patient with my daughter, husband, and very needy son and to maintain a positive outlook on the thankless parts of the newborn days.

Psalm 63 reminds me that my truest desire, what my soul clings to and what upholds me, must be God himself. If he upholds me by providing sleep, then wonderful! But if it’s another sleepless night, then I can cling to God and trust him to uphold me another way. 

Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). We’re taught elsewhere that the God who clothes the lilies will surely meet our needs (Luke 12:27–31). God met our deepest need in redeeming us from our sin through Jesus. He also sent the Holy Spirit to live in us, to guide us and sustain us while we are on earth. The Spirit hears my sleepy and sometimes wobbly prayers and intercedes for me before the Father (Romans 8:26–27). 

There’s tremendous comfort in this truth, but also a call to obedience. It’s tempting to use my lack of sleep to excuse sin, such as being short-tempered. My thinking sounds like Adam in the garden (Gen. 3:12): “The night’s sleep you gave me was too short, so I snapped at my husband.” I must rely on the Holy Spirit to change me and equip me to do right and avoid sin, just as much as I lean on him to supply the energy to change the next diaper. And when I fail, I cling to God’s reliable forgiveness and love: “your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:8).

I’ve tried to shape my prayers more along these lines: “God, please give me sleep tonight! Or, please give me the divine strength and stamina for the next day.” 

This makes it sound like I’m a content, spiritually satisfied person every day. Nope—I still really want sleep, and if I’m honest, in my flesh I want sleep more than I want to cling to God. So I re-read the note card by my bed where I wrote these verses, and pray for God to reorient my heart toward him.

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Pastor and Session Update

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.”

The above are the words of the Apostle Paul written to the church in Philippi in the first century A.D. (Phil. 1:3).

I’m borrowing and applying them as a message from me to you. I really do thank my God in all my remembrance of you! And for the time being, I have to settle (for the most part) for “remembering,” since it’s been weeks since I’ve actually seen most of you in person. But rest assured. I’m confident of the day when we’ll be able to say, along with the Psalmist, “I was glad when they said to me, `Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1). Oh what a day that will be! Amen??

Until then…

The Session held a called meeting by teleconference this past Wednesday evening. We wanted you to know what was discussed and decided. The following are a list of actions taken. (Most of what you read below in the bullet point section was taken directly from the minutes of our meeting.)

  • Approved continuing to suspend all regular, in-person church activities, including Pioneer Clubs, Sunday School, Men’s Bible Study, Worship team practice, and Home Fellowship Groups, committee events and meetings, at least through April 30, and potentially beyond, in response to the health emergency in the community.
  • Approved conducting Adult Bible teaching, Home Fellowships Groups, and Youth Group in an online format through Zoom, pending instructor availability; additionally, Sunday Worship services will continue to be streamed online through 04/30, and potentially beyond, in response to the health emergency in the community.
  • Approved calling for a congregational-wide day of prayer and fasting to occur on Saturday, April 11, 2020, in response to the worldwide crisis.
  • Note: Teaching Elders Waltermyer and Amaismeier will continue to provide weekday video devotionals via the church’s YouTube channel.
  • Note: The Session will continue making it a point to communicate with shepherding groups over the next several weeks.

The Session and Board of Deacons plan to hold a joint teleconference meeting on Wednesday evening, April 15.

Details regarding the Day of Prayer will be sent out to the congregation from Pastor Phil.

Sadly, we will not be holding our Easter Sunrise Service this year. However, the live streamed service on Easter Sunday will feature hymns and a message focusing on our Savior’s glorious resurrection.
You are encouraged to call our elders and/or deacons if you have a particular need, would like prayer, want to share about a need someone else you know has, or if you just need to talk.

The Apostle Paul knew what is what like to be socially distant from the church in Thessalonica. In Paul’s first letter to that congregation, he expressed his concern over how the believers were doing, since he had been separated from them for such a long time. When he finally got news (Internet connections were quite slow then!), he wrote to them. In the following passage (I Thess. 3:6-10), I have italicized and bolded the portions I can especially identify with:

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?

We all long to see one another again. Let’s uphold one another in prayer, especially that by God’s grace, we would stand fast in the Lord.

Grace and peace to you all!

Pastor Don

Links for the Weekend (4/3/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

It Takes Theology to Lament

A lament is a biblical prayer that is sadly out of favor these days. But it is just the type of prayer we need when things are not right with us or in the world. Mark Vroegop writes about the theology that is needed in order to lament.

Most laments contain four elements: turn, complain, ask, and trust. Each is designed to move the weary-hearted saint toward a renewal of hope in God’s character, even when dark clouds linger. Turning to God in prayer is the first step. It refuses to allow a deadly prayerlessness to develop. Complaining lays out our hurts in blunt but humble terms. We tell God what is wrong and the depth of our struggles. Asking reclaims the promises of God’s word that seem distant, and it calls upon him to intervene. Finally, all laments end in trust. This is where biblical lament is designed to lead – a faith-filled renewal of what we know to be true.

COVID-19: Living by Probabilities or Providence?

If you’ve been paying a lot of attention to the coronavirus-related statistics in the news recently, this article might be for you. Mike Emlet encourages us to turn our gaze (and our trust) to the Lord.

Sit with these glorious realities for a minute. Read through them slowly. Let them soak into your soul. We don’t live by probabilities and chance. We live under the loving, wise, and sovereign rule of our Creator and Redeemer God. The result of that is true hope, which steers clear of both a naïve optimism or a resigned pessimism.

A Prayer for Working from Home

This is exactly what the title says. You may not think you need such a prayer, but if you’re not used to working from home, I suggest you take a look.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (3/27/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Practice Hospitality. Especially During a Pandemic.

How do we keep our Christian commitment to love our neighbors in the climate of a pandemic? Rosaria Butterfield gives us four ways to practice Christian hospitality in these times.

The sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” reminds Christians of both our positive and negative duties in times of plague. Faced with COVID-19, there are things we should do, and there are things we should not do. In all things, we seek the glory of God and the good of our neighbors. 

Should Stay-at-Home Moms Take a Day Off?

The Ask Pastor John podcast features John Piper answering listener questions on theology, Christian living issues, and more. In this episode, he shares how he and his wife thought about finding “the pace to finish the race.” In other words, how do they help each other to rest, especially when young children are part of the family? (As a bonus, there’s a great segment in this episode about the long-lasting fruit of disciplining children when they’re young.)

So, the question for all of us moms, single moms, husbands, single dads is: How do you find the pace to finish the race? That’s the question. We don’t want to loiter on our heavenly journey, and we don’t want to fall exhausted halfway through. That’s not a selfish question to ask; it’s a wise one to ask: How can I find the pace to finish the race? So whether it’s a day off or some other configuration of off and on, work and rest, a sustaining rhythm, here are five observations that might prove helpful to think about.

25 Hymns to Sing in Troubled Times

In a time when we’re not gathering together as God’s people, here’s an article which collects 25 hymns to sing during times of uncertainty and fear. There’s an accompanying Spotify playlist, too.

So, through these hymns, lay your burdens at Christ’s feet. Praise the Lord of history who holds all things—disease, life, and death—in his hands. Ask for his help in a season of waiting. Lament and grieve the tragic effects of the fall. And herald the good news that through Christ’s death and resurrection, he has given us an unshakeable hope.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Erica Goehring called Now is the Time to Love Our Neighbors. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Thanks to Phil A for his help in rounding up links this week!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Now is the Time to Love Our Neighbors

At the time of this writing, we are semi-quarantined in hopes of curbing the spread of COVID-19, a virus that has made the start of 2020 quite memorable. 

Response to the escalating cases revved up like an old lawn mower.  First we heard rumblings of a sickness across the globe. Tensions rose, and worries took hold. Finally, in one big surge, the engine roared to life, and next thing we knew, schools and businesses closed, and we huddled inside.

What does this mean for Christians? Some believers say that now is the time for the world to know that the Church really is not a building! We are the body of Christ. 

Scripture commands us at least nine times* to love our neighbors as ourselves. There is no caveat for pandemics, natural disasters, or personal inconvenience. We are Christ’s hands and feet, motivated by love and fueled by the Holy Spirit. Our work does not cease.

I have been thinking about the unconditional command to love our neighbors. Serving others in the current climate feels a little like making sandwiches with our hands tied behind our backs. How can we show love from isolation without touching or visiting? Knowing that we are all learning as we go, here are a few thoughts on loving our neighbors.

Boost Your Physical Health

The guidelines for protecting your own health are not new, but they require added diligence while the threat of illness is high. Details about good hand washing technique and basic disease prevention are available at the following website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html. As we practice disease prevention and focus on the well-being of our neighbors, isolation in our homes is a great act of love. We help prevent spreading the virus to the most vulnerable people and potentially reduce the strain on healthcare workers simply by staying home.

Reach Out

We must think beyond handshakes, hugs, and gathering together as ways of showing we care. Calls, e-mails, or messages through social media are not as intimate, but they provide connection and help create a sense of community. Conversation, by any means, shows your love and concern. Ask how people are doing with sincerity and with patience. 

Anticipate Needs

People may hesitate to ask for help, so be proactive and anticipate ways to be of service. Ask for wisdom from the Lord. James 1:5 reads, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Pray for insight as you seek to bless people around you. We need wisdom in order to keep ourselves safe while also extending help. Fortified by prayer, we are better equipped to serve. 

The healthy among us can limit exposure for people in high risk categories by offering to pick up groceries or run essential errands. Even spending a few minutes picking up litter or raking the weathered leaves from last fall may improve someone’s view from home or lighten his or her workload.

Healthcare workers, retail employees, and emergency responders are still very much on the job. We can broadly assist them by protecting our own health, and we can specifically boost morale by leaving notes of gratitude or sharing colorful drawings from children. If possible, donate supplies or money for emergency work. Consider others in your community who might be under added stress during these difficult times. Small businesses are transforming their operations in order to remain open; we can support their efforts by choosing to purchase essentials from an independent business owner who may be struggling to support a family.

Remember, isolation raises the risk of depression and anxiety for some people. Be mindful of those whose mental health may suffer. Washington County’s mental health crisis hotline is 1-877-225-3567. 

Prioritize Real Health

As Christians, we know that lack of disease in our bodies is a small part of our overall health. We cannot look to physical fitness to assess our well-being. The apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:7b-8, “rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Resist the urge to raise bodily health as the highest goal. 

We can preach hygiene day after day, but real hope only comes through the message of Christ. Philippians 4:4-9 tell us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We are in a position to illustrate what the peace of God looks like in the daily life of a believer. We can share the source of our joy. If we seek total assurance in masks, gloves, vitamins, or government leaders, we are headed toward disappoint. If our eyes are upon God, we are headed toward rejoicing. Help the people in your life to know real health and see real hope in action.

As followers of Christ, fear should not dictate our actions nor halt our work, but if fear has crept into your heart, know that you are not alone. The Lord knows our concerns. Join your voice with others as we pray for comfort and protection. 

I pray that God will open our eyes to the needs of our neighbors so that we can shine his light with confidence and love. Our God is a wise and holy father. A virus took us by surprise, but the Lord was not caught off guard. He is ready to equip us to continue the work of his church. 

*Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:43; Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10: 27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8

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March 20 Update from Session on COVID-19 and WPCA

Click here for Updated Statement from WPCA Session (April 4)

The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
Because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3)

It seems like peace would be the last thing we’d all be experiencing right now. And certainly, the Bible isn’t talking about having our head in the sand, nor being oblivious to the suffering all around; God is sympathetic with our apprehensions and fears of the unknown.

However, there is a correlation between trusting in the Lord and our state of mind. Remember, what we read in Isaiah above is a promise from God. And He always keeps His promises.

The elders of WPCA struggle just like you do with experiencing any level of peace at this time. That being said, we strive to trust God, and we are attempting to be instruments of Christ’s peace to you, His flock, during this time of trial.

To that end, the Session met Wednesday evening (March 18) for two hours (remotely, via teleconference) and have decided the following.

  1. Sunday worship services will be conducted and offered online only for 3/22 and 3/29 (and possibly beyond, depending on the state of the present health emergency). The service will be live-streamed at 10:30 a.m. both Sundays and also available for viewing later. (More details to come on how to access the live stream.)  Only a very small number of people (probably five or less) will be at the church building. Therefore, to be clear, the service will not be open to the public or to the church family at large, in an effort to help contain the coronavirus. If you were on the schedule for nursery, Scripture reading, prayer, greeting, counters, etc., you are relieved of your duties through at least March 29th.

    However, we hope in our video streaming to have as “normal” of a full service as possible, with hymns, readings, etc., in place so that we can still have the opportunity to worship together, even if it is only virtually.

    At this point, we’re planning on providing an on-line version of the bulletin, so that you can more easily follow along during the service.
  2. All weekly activities are suspended through at least March 31stThis includes Sunday School, Home Fellowship Groups, all Bible studies, worship team practice, etc. Pioneer Clubs is now finished meeting completely for the spring season.
  3. The Missions Dinner previously scheduled for Sunday evening, March 29th, has been postponed indefinitely.
  4. In an effort to help stay connected, Pastor Don and Pastor Phil will live stream a devotional/prayer time every weekday, Monday through Friday (Don, M/W/F, and Phil, Tue/Thu). Please feel free to email prayer requests to us. We look forward to connecting with everyone, and spreading God’s grace and hope around. Details on how to access this live stream will be made available to you shortly. (My “techy” son is in the process of assisting his admittedly “un-techy” father in getting this up and running!)
  5. Shepherding/elder phone calls — In an additional effort to stay connected and to provide prayer/soul care and support, Don, Phil, Cory, and Warren have committed to calling each member/regular attender over the next two weeks, to check in, see how you’re doing, and to pray with and for you. 
  6. Tithes and offerings – The Session reminds you that though regular services are suspended for the moment, we all have a continuing responsibility to give financially (as the Lord enables you). You can send your checks to:
    Washington Presbyterian Church
    P.O. Box 1367
    Washington, PA 15301
    We’re also looking seriously at an on-line giving option, which would be surcharge free. Additionally, we plan on continuing to provide weekly updates as to the previous week’s giving total.

These are extraordinary times in which we live. But we have an extraordinary Savior.

Allow me to close with the lyrics to the hymn “Peace, Perfect Peace.” Each brief stanza is structured with a question and answer. Each time the question asks if perfect peace is even possible. And each and every time, a wonderful answer is given. (The 5th stanza is my favorite, in view of our present circumstances.)

May this hymn bless you, as it has me.

Peace, Perfect Peace

  1. Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin? The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
  2. Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed? To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.
  3. Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round? On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.
  4. Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away? In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.
  5. Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown? Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.
  6. Peace, perfect peace, death shad’wing us and ours? Jesus has vanquished death and all its pow’rs.
  7. It is enough: earth’s struggles soon shall cease, And Jesus calls us to Heav’n’s perfect peace.

May God bless and keep us all during this time of being apart from one another. I look forward to the day when we all gather together again for our first corporate worship service (real, not virtual!) after the bulk of the crisis has passed. What a day that will be!

And “now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!”  (2 Thess. 3:16)

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Links for the Weekend (3/20/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Generosity in a Time of Hoarding

When we are fearful, we tend to take steps to protect and care for ourselves and those close to us. Trevin Wax writes about what love for others—specifically love for others in the church—could look like in a time like this.

In a time of tumult and uncertainty, as the COVID-19 pandemic affects not only our physical welfare but also our economy and our social interactions, our tendency is to turn inward, to the safety and wellbeing of those closest to us. We tend to our families.

Prudence and wisdom lead us to stock up on supplies, but fear and selfishness lead us to hoard the goods our neighbor may need.

As Christians, we should be known for giving, not hoarding. How can we display the generosity of Christ during a season of uncertainty?

Podcast: The World and Everything in It

In Pastor Don’s email this past Monday, he recommended a podcast from World Magazine called The World and Everything in It. Here’s what he said about it.

It’s like NPR from a Christian perspective. It’s a Monday through Friday podcast lasting a bit over a half hour. It gives you the news and also perspectives on daily and cultural happenings. Though it’s not a PCA-sponsored organization, there are many PCA people who are part of it, and it is a work consistent with our church’s theological viewpoints.

If you’re not familiar with podcasts, there are even detailed instructions on how to proceed. (And here is a link to the specific segment Pastor Don mentioned.)

Free Stuff!

With schools and many businesses closing down and lots of people working from home or at least staying at home more often, a few Christian companies have stepped up to provide some interesting free resources.

  • Crossway is offering the book The Final Days of Jesus as a free ebook, no strings attached.
  • Christianaudio gives away a free book each month. This month the free book is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. It’s a short book, but many people have found it a profound work on Christian community. (Bonhoeffer was a German pastor during World War II and was killed by the Nazis in his efforts to resist their regime.) You will have to create a free account in order to download this audio book.
  • Crossway has collected a bunch of other free resources and deals here. These resources include: three free ebooks, articles, podcast interviews, Bible reading plans, and devotionals.

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Session Statement on COVID-19 and WPCA

Please note: An updated statement from the WPCA Session can be found here.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Greetings, Washington Presbyterian Church Family! As you all know, our world has been gripped by the threat of Coronavirus (COVID-19), and the threat is no longer “over there”, but has now showed up in our own neck of the woods.

However, as the passage above proclaims, the spirit God has given us as Christians is not one of fear. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and in Christ, we’re loved perfectly.

For the foreseeable future, we plan to continue to gather for Worship services. However, other plans will change, at least in the short run. (Below, you’ll see specific actions that our congregation is both recommending and taking.)

With respect to how our church responds, we the Session ask you, along with us, to be gracious in how we think and act during this time. Some feel as though the issues surrounding the pandemic are being somewhat hyped. Others believe not enough is being done. Philippians 2:4 reminds us “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” In other words, we’re not to only consider our own perspectives, but also to be considerate for the views and concerns of others—even when they differ from our own.

And of course, we’re not only to be mindful of the concerns of others, but at this time, their actual health and well-being. People are getting sick, and some are dying. Yes, thankfully the numbers are relatively low for now, but none of us knows the eventual outcome and potential spread of the disease. Christians have historically been the people to step forward and show kindness and concern during times of plague and pestilence. This time should not be different.

Though a person may not be greatly concerned about contracting the disease him or herself, that is not the only consideration. We can be carriers of the virus and not know it. If not careful, we could unknowingly pass it on to one of our seniors, resulting in a very serious cases of the virus, or worse. Additionally, we should want to do everything we can to slow down the advance of this virus so populations at large can be spared from widespread outbreaks. Proverbs 22:3 reminds us “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffers for it.”

As of Friday (3/13) an adult in Washington County was diagnosed as the first presumed positive case of the virus in western Pennsylvania. Unless that person was living as a monk somewhere in isolation, we all know that others have very likely been exposed as well.

COVID-19 is here in our home county.

Yes, the Bible teaches God is in control, and praise His Name that He is! However, the same Bible teaches us that we are responsible, and must act responsibly, loving our neighbors by our actions and decisions.

In light of all this, our church invites everyone to consider the following steps, as we seek to be led by wisdom and love, rather than driven by fear.

General Steps:

  1. Seek medical attention if you have any symptoms that are associated with COVID-19, per the CDC. These symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Click here for more information.
  2. If you or your child have any type of illness with a fever, please refrain from coming to church until the fever has resolved and you’ve contacted medical professionals.
  3. Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water and/or use hand sanitizer when hand washing is not an option.
  4. Be especially careful around those particularly susceptible to this virus, specifically the elderly and immune-compromised individuals (people with chronic illnesses, people undergoing cancer treatment, etc.).

The following are the steps and action the Session is taking and recommending:

  1. We will be holding our 10:30 a.m. worship service on Sunday, March 15th.
  2. We will not have nursery available for at least this coming Sunday.
  3. We will not be holding Sunday School on Sunday, March 15th.
  4. We are cancelling all other weekly ministries for at least the upcoming week, including Transitions Healthcare Bible Study, Pioneer Clubs, Youth Bible Study, Men’s Bible Study, and Worship Team practice. Regarding Home Fellowship Groups, we will leave that decision to each individual group.
  5. We ask that each person refrain from handshaking, hugs, etc.
  6. Offering: In order to minimize touching common surfaces, we will not pass the plate to receive the offering. Instead, we will have offering plates positioned by the sanctuary exits, so that you may give at the conclusion of the service.
  7. Small bottles of hand sanitizer have been placed in the pews throughout the sanctuary. We strongly encourage making use of them.
  8. If you for any reason feel uncomfortable with attending worship, you of course can stay home. If you would like to livestream a worship service, Pastor Don recommends Providence Presbyterian Church in York PA. Go to yorkpca.org, scroll down and click where it says “Worship online with us on Sunday mornings at 8:30 or 10:30 by clicking here.” That will take you to a page listing the order of service. On that page you will click “Please visit our YouTube channel to access our live stream.” (Another recommended option is Willow Creek PCA church in Winter Springs, FL. Their service begins at 10:45 am. Just go to willowcreekchurch.org and you’ll see on their first page a place that says “Watch on Facebook”. Click that tab. Willow Creek’s pastor is Kevin Labby, who is a former pastor of our sister congregation in Murrysville.)
  9. After this Sunday, and sometime during the upcoming week, we will reevaluate our plans going forward, and communicate those plans with you, the congregation.

Finally, some spiritual counsel

Trust and don’t be anxious. When everything and everyone around us attempt to steal our confidence in God, keep trusting his goodness and power to make all things work together for our good and his glory.

Pray for healing physically and spiritually. God can use this illness to make his power known in amazing ways, and prayer is vital to that. So let’s pray that people will be healed from both COVID-19 and spiritual blindness.

Stay in the word. The Enemy would love for Christ’s followers to check news feeds more than their Bibles. In particular, read the Psalms for wisdom, guidance, and adoration in times of distress.

Love your neighbor. People around you might be incredibly anxious and fearful, and people around you might even get sick with COVID-19. A Christian’s unshakable joy that overflows into love for neighbors is a powerful witness. It is also a way that God can bring healing. Make specific efforts to love your neighbor well during this time.

Thank you for taking the time to prayerfully consider these things. As you know, these types of illnesses (and their accompanying fears) are part of this fallen, groaning creation, and God is using them to make his name great among the nations. To God alone be the Glory!

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Links for the Weekend (3/13/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Anxiety, Waiting and the Coronavirus

It’s hard to have any conversation these days without talking about the Coronavirus (COVID-19). As with everything in our lives, trusting God should make a visible difference in the way we approach this. This pandemic can stir up a lot of anxiety, so I thought it would be helpful to link to this article from Christian counselor Alasdair Groves.

It’s an easy parallel for us to make today, isn’t it? A virus is seeping across the world and has reached our shores, and we don’t know how treacherous it’s going to be. God is calling us to continue forward in love of neighbor and service to his kingdom, but all we can see are public surfaces potentially covered in germs and neighbors who may be walking vectors of disease. 

Where’s Your Treasure? Three Questions to Ask Yourself

If you’ve been around the Christian church much, you may be familiar with the language of idolatry. This doesn’t just refer to worshiping little figurines of wood or stone, but rather when we put anything other than God in the place of God. These are often good things! But discovering our idols can be difficult. Cindy Matson offers three short, helpful questions to ask yourself to uncover some of your idols.

The truth is we’re all completely obsessed with treasure. We’re actually wired that way. God designed us to be active worshipers, and treasure is simply shorthand for the object of our worship. Since our hearts are always actively worshiping something, they’re not neutral; nor do they accidentally stumble into worship. They choose it. And, as Captain Jack points out, treasure is far more than just material wealth. For this reason, the Sage of Proverbs warns, “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it springs the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23) Likewise, Jesus warns that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). The question I want you to think about today is, Where is your treasure? To answer, carefully ponder three questions and invite the Holy Spirit to examine your heart.  

Practicing What We Teach

Here’s an article which helps us think about loving our neighbors in practical ways. This article focuses on material poverty, but its principles are broader. There’s a great success story at the end; make sure you read the whole thing!

As we “put off” sin and “put on” righteousness, the church should be the place where this transformation is encouraged and supported by a community of God’s people. If you’re struggling with slander or lust, you don’t just need to be told not to do those things. You need to be surrounded by a community that helps you reimagine what life will look like if you no longer practice those things.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Sarah Wisniewski called Book Review: Labor with Hope: Gospel Meditations on Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Thanks to Phil A for his help in rounding up links this week!

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Book Review: Labor with Hope: Gospel Meditations on Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

My mom volunteers at her home church to coordinate their rather robust library. She snapped a picture of a new book she was preparing for circulation and texted it to me, asking if I wanted to read it before she put it on the shelf. Being about four weeks from my due date at the time, it seemed like the right read at the right time, so I said yes. 

The book was Labor with Hope: Gospel Meditations on Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood by Gloria Furman (with Jesse Scheumann), and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who relates to any version of childbearing or child rearing. 

First, the chapters are short. At an average of 3–5 pages per chapter (and only 151 in the book), Furman gets not only that less is sometimes more, but also that five minutes of attention may be the most a person, especially her primary audience of moms, has to devote to reading. (They’re also a good length for reading in the waiting room of an OBGYN.)

Second, Furman takes an inclusive view of motherhood. She recognizes the labor of the months of gestation and the months (or years) of the adoption process, conception by traditional means and with medical intervention, raising children from infancy and entering their lives later. She not only leaves room for the “non-traditional” mother but seats her at the head of the table. 

Third, this book delivers on its promise of gospel hope. If you want pages of witty, relatable mommy moments sprinkled with Bible verses, this is not for you. Instead, this book offers unshakeable hope rooted in the whole of Scripture. 

Furman’s premise is that God is not like us, but rather we are like God. Our human experience of birth and mothering reflects aspects of God, rather than God simply using a familiar experience to explain himself. A core example from the book is that women suffer to bring forth children because Jesus suffered on the cross to bring forth his own people.

Scripture uses the image of childbearing frequently and in a variety of contexts. It’s used to describe God’s judgment, his relationship with Israel, and Paul’s labor among the churches, among a long list of others. Furman makes a thorough, though not comprehensive, study of each of them. The book is a rich dive into what Scripture says about childbirth and rearing and how that should affect our view of the vocation of mothers. 

Furman talks about Jesus All. The. Time. She talks about Jesus way more than she talks about the tasks of mothering, like changing diapers and preparing snacks. This is not a particularly practical book, in that she doesn’t offer tips on discipline, meal times, or family devotions. But it achieves its goal as a series of meditations on both hope for moms and the hope motherhood points to. 

I appreciated that Furman assumes that the women reading her book can grasp the deep and rich gospel teaching she presents. Her writing is both approachable and beautiful but in no way simplified for “mommy brains.” She sets out to offer real hope for the physically, emotionally, and spiritually painful work of mothering, and she knows that it only comes through a more than surface-level understanding of the gospel. 

My daughter’s middle name is Hope, and there’s a plaque on her wall that reads, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). Labor with Hope anchors its hope—for parents and their children—in the only safe harbor, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Photo courtesy Sarah Wisniewski