COVID 19 Pastor’s Letters

May 23, 2020

May 23, 2020

Dear Partner in Ministry,

Why address you as a “Partner in Ministry”?  You are a fellow minister.  You are so by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and by participation in a covenant congregation. Remember?

You may have gathered with others or stayed at home.  Either way, “We also engage to maintain as far as possible family and secret devotions; to teach…to seek…to walk…and to be….to advance the Kingdom of our Savior” (excerpt Community Baptist Covenant).

Whether in “secret”, family or groups of 10 or 25, you and I have covenanted to devotions in order to advance the Kingdom of our Savior.

Over the days between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost in Acts chapter 1, Jesus’ disciples made significant decisions.  Individually, each of about 120, decided to stay in Jerusalem and wait.  Individuals gathered into upper room type groups to pray, wait and decide what to do next.  Men, women, parents and children decided how to follow Jesus’ instructions.

Two were missing then, namely Jesus and Judas Iscariot.  Someone has been missing since our last regular gathering on March 15. 

Who are you missing? Has their absence caused you to make some important decisions?  Some big questions I know you have addressed are: “Will I maintain secret devotions?”; “What will those devotions be like?”; “Will I start or maintain family/group devotion?”:  “Will I wait for someone else or take the initiative to start?”.

Today, between now and what comes next, each of us is in a spot like Jesus’ early disciples.  They knew what their ideal was.  They knew what was missing.

What would your ideal church be doing now, if it were up to you to take the initiative to get it done?  With our current limitations of danger, risks and societal norms, what would you say, “Therefore it is necessary to….”, as Peter did in Acts 1:21? What would Jesus’ followers with you agree is necessary action? 

Please think, pray and propose in secret.  Then discuss in your isolation group, “What is necessary to do now?”, as fellow believers in Christ.  Prayerfully consider taking the initiative where you are, in your group, and take it “as far as possible”.  Then watch, wait and see what God does next.

I praise the LORD for you, a partner in ministry.  I also wait, watch, pray and ponder.

In Christ, Rick Bishop

May 15, 2020

May 15, 2020

Dear Community Baptist Church Scattered,

Our Governor has lifted the recommended gathering size to 25 people.  So I invite you to come to church on Sunday, May 17, at either 9:00 a.m. and/or 10:30 a.m.. 

At 9:00 a.m. we will have a Sunday Class in the basement until 10:00 a.m.  There will not be a specific lesson for children, but you are welcome.  Then we’ll exit outside for cleaning.

At 10:30 a.m. we will have Worship Service, but not a typical service.  Weather permitting, we will meet outside on the South Lot, if not, we will be back in the basement.  We won’t meet in the Sanctuary because it is more difficult to clean with its many fabric surfaces.

The lift will be available for anyone who needs it for access to the basement, but we won’t be using the Sanctuary or upstairs.

You are all invited, but I know the risk is still too great for many of you to attend.

Attendance will require several things from you which are out of the old ordinary, but in line with the new ordinary:

  1. screen for COVID-19.  If you have had any  COVID-19 symptoms in the past 14 days, please do not attend.  If you have had any contact with anyone with COVID-19 symptoms in the past 14 days, again, please worship with us at home.  We will ask each person at the door or gate about virus symptoms and exposure.
  2. agree to and practice keeping 6 feet of distance from anyone not of your household. 
  3. need to wear a face mask inside the facility.  Please bring your own mask.
  4. need to sanitize your hands before entering and exiting either meeting.

You will need to confirm to me your attendance by phone, email or text by 7:30 a.m. Sunday.  I’m optimistic, but we could exceed our 25 person limit.

Entrance to meetings in the basement will be through the open doors on South Second, unless access to lift is necessary.  Entrance to the South Lot will be through the gates on the West Alley or South Second.

We’ll be singing without accompaniment unless you bring your own instrument.  Please bring your own Bible, coffee and lawn chair (for outside).  A song sheet will be provided. 

Hope we can all gather for worship and learning this Sunday, whether in person or in spirit.

In Christ, Rick Bishop, Pastor

May 10, 2020

I have never gone through a “House of Mirrors” at a carnival. I’ve heard those distortions are entertaining.   Still, I’ve lived before different mirrors my whole life.  So have you.

In the reflection of my Mother’s eyes was my first view of myself.  I didn’t realize this was happening until mid-adulthood.  When I saw my Mother before, I just saw my Mother watching me.  Those were some of my earliest memories.

Yet my most indelible memories are my image in her eyes.  Not the physical image of actual reflection, but the mental image.  Her assumptions, beliefs, values and expectations of me stick with me to this day.  Her joys, sorrows and aspirations in me still shape me. Whether I realize it or not, accurate or not, I still see myself first through my Mother’s eyes.  I read my worth and her worth in her eyes.

But are her eyes the most accurate or the most important?

My answer to that question may be revealed by how I go through Mother’s Day.  If not, then how my Mother goes with me during all my other days is my answer.  Even if she died 19 years ago, her view of me is powerful. The same is true of you and your mom.

Another set of metaphorical eyes, reflecting my worth, also exist.  Those eyes are matched with words, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good”, (Genesis 1:31a, NIV).  In another place, “…and he (Christ) died for all, and therefore all died….therefore , if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”, (2 Corinthians 5:14b, 17 NIV).  Then again, “If you belong to Christ, then you are… heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29 NIV).  Mirrors vary.  Some are more reliable than others.

This Mother’s day, consider the House of Mirrors you have been using to read your worth and take your cues.  If your mother reached your age now, how did she see you?  What were her earliest and greatest ambitions for you?  Did/does she still have hope for you? Why?  Don’t buy the lie that all she ever saw was how you don’t measure up.

Consider God’s satisfied eyes as creator of the human race.  You are part of that race. He won’t leave you alone and without help here.  God himself is our help and the creator of our help. Do you trust Christ with your life and your death? Do you trust him with your oldness and newness? 

Jesus Christ invites you to yield ownership to him so you may see “heir” in his eyes.

You and I both live in a house of mirrors.  Consider all the ways God truly sees you now.  Don’t take your Mother’s eyes as your only mirror.  Get in Christ for a new perspective.

In Him,

Rick Bishop, Pastor

May 8, 2020

Dear CBC Partner in Ministry,

“CBC/10 Gatherings” are scheduled to be available May 10 at 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m..  We will meet in groups of <10 individuals for a time of song, prayer and sharing.

You are invited to attend, but know that gathering is a risk. If you or those you are close to, at home or at work, are vulnerable by medical history or >65 years old, then weigh carefully the risk of serious or deadly illness. 

If the “CBC/10 Gathering” is for you, you will need to take some initiative to take more risk.  Please consider what this will involve:

+Commitment to Practice Personal Protection Recommendations: >6 feet distance maintained between individuals; no physical contact; wash hands/sanitize before entering and after touching common surfaces. 

+Bring Your Own Bible, respiration mask (must be worn in facility), hand sanitizer, if you have any (we have a limited supply at the church) and jacket in case we’re outside.

+Confirm your intention to attend for the gathering allotted for you, the limit is 10 people and will be followed (each individual in family unit present counts toward limit). Your allotted gathering time will be arranged when you contact me to confirm.

PLEASE DO NOT ATTEND IF YOU:

-PRESENTLY HAVE AN ABNORMAL BODY TEMPERATURE (FEVER) OR HAVE HAD, IN THE LAST 14 DAYS, ANY OTHER COVID-19 SYMPTOMS SUCH AS SHORTNESS OF BREATH, COUGH, ETC.;

-HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO CONFIRMED OR PROBABLE CASE OF COVID-19 OR YOU’VE TRAVELED TO A HIGH RISK COVID-19 AREA WITH COMMUNITY SPREAD, WITHIN THE LAST 14 DAYS;

-HAVE ANYONE IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHO HAS BEEN EXPOSED OR TRAVELED TO HIGH RISK SITUATIONS;

– ARE NOT WILLING OR ABLE to verbally affirm your confirmation and practice of these recommended protections before entering the gathering.  YOU’LL BE ASKED!

You are each invited to participate by this letter, but there are many good reasons not to participate.  You will need to initiate and confirm your plan to attend to me by phone, text or email by Saturday evening.  If you can’t attend, please celebrate in spirit as a some begin to gather again in groups of 10, for now.

In Christ, Rick Bishop, Pastor

Phone:307-436-5569; Text: 307-724-0512; Email: glenrockcbc@outlook.com

May 6, 2020

Dear Partners in MInistry,

Keeping track of time is difficult these days, so let me help.

Thursday, May 7, is National Day of Prayer

Thursday, May 21, is Ascension Day (40 days after Passover)

Sunday, May 10, is Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 31, is Pentecost Sunday (50 days after Passover)

????? Your next Lord’s Day worship with your local church?????

Is it time to gather with other? That is really between you and God. I hope you’ve already been doing so, wherever you have been isolated these past 50+ days. But, I encourage you to gather and worship within your safe risk level as you are able.

For Jesus’ early followers, this time between Resurection and Pentecost was mostly about gathering with a few people. Jesus showed up, but only intermittently, yet they kept gathering together discussing, praying and waiting for God to lead them in the next move. This can be a similar season for us Christians today as we wait for what is next.

I encourage you to read John 20-21; Matthew 28; Luke 24 and Acts 1. Note the waiting, wondering and learning of the disciples during those days. They didn’t know then if it was to be 40 or 100 days of waiting to receive another Helper. They didn’t know what the new era was to be like. Neither do we.

But one thing was sure, Jesus taught and confirmed that life would be different.

What is one, maybe two, things you’ve learned from God during this virus shaped season? What has God changed inside of you, which must continue into the new era? Clarify and write it down so you might remember when more normal returns. Believe me, the “opening up” will make you forgetful of lessons learned in isolation.

May you find up to 9 others to worship God with, securely, while you are waiting.

In Christ, Rick Bishop

April 26, 2020

Dear Partners in Ministry,

It is obvious: “Tests show what we’re made of”.  Ironically, school is out and all we want is more tests.

The Epistle James talks about an abundance of tests.  James 5 talks about the test of abundance.  My abundance is screaming now.  Do I own what’s really mine?

The past six weeks have revealed our abundance: time to clean, overflowing trash bins and wealth going down the drain.  It sounds like James chapter 5, just read it.

Resources everywhere rotting in reserve.  Resources hoarded in closets and cloisters.  Time wasted.  Now wisdom resides in the home we can only visit over the phone.  No home visits from older wiser saints.  No anointing with oil. No leisurely person to person conversations about foibles, sins or forgiveness.

What if it takes 3 and ½ years to get back ‘open’ like in Elijah’s day?  Now he isolated!

Normally, prayer is a last resort.  Normal is too busy doing to build a real relationship with God through real conversation .  Normal is too busy talking to listen, let alone to wait and watch the Lord’s word work.  There’s all that other more important stuff to do, after all.

If all Normal could do was talk to and trust the Lord Jesus Christ, would that work be ‘non-essential’?  If only the Lord could tame the tongue and turn people to truth, would prayer be my last resort?  Not according to James.  I don’t like my answers.

James doesn’t want our most precious wealth to rot on our shelf.  Whether weeping, wailing, anguishing, asking, praising, admitting, imploring, watching, waiting: it is time to pray to the living Lord. Our Lord is ready to listen and take His action in His time.  So let us be quick to listen and quick to trust.  There is joy in the Lord.

Consider your abundance.  It is test time, still.In Christ, Rick Bishop, Pastor

April 18, 2020

Dear Partners in Ministry,

This season may be inching to a close.  Lent is past. First Day resurrection is here.  COVID19 has become common place.  We wait yet.  With Thomas we wait (John 20).

This season has been filled with danger.  Such dangers have caused awareness of all my actions.  Others actions, others words, also shout in my isolation or behind my mask.

What is so dangerous?  This has been the question.

This season has turned me into a hermit and others into overworked drones.

What is so dangerous? Death, namely untimely death spread by the unsuspecting to the most vulnerable.  The aged, the cancer survivor, the ‘invincible’ are all susceptible.  After surviving so much, my spoken word could carry droplets of death to them.

If you have been studying biblical James and Philippians with me this season, we’re ready for chapter 4 of each.  Here, conflict persists.  Turmoil remains even after pulling together in a crisis.  Our inner sanctuaries resemble our public square.  Old jealousies remain.  James and Paul face them squarely.  Chew on their teaching.

What was the greatest danger to Thomas that week after he missed seeing Jesus?  It wasn’t his doubt or his criteria for believable truth.  No, it was that he would rush on or out, not waiting for Jesus’ response.  Judas had rushed out, Thomas did not.

Thomas kept showing up to his small group with those who saw what he had missed.  If Jesus was really alive, where would you keep showing up?

George M. Stulac, in his commentary on James, 1993, IVP, page 53, makes one of the most profound observations I’ve ever read in a commentary.

“The Bible says that the trial itself is not the most seriously life-threatening factor.  The greatest danger to me is not the wrong being done to me, but the wrong that may be done by me.The real threat is that when wrong is done to me, I may be tempted to fall into sin myself.”  (underlining is mine)

Stulac prefaces this statement with, “Now, in (James)1:13-18, comes a word of God that requires a radical change in our thinking.”  To me, this is an understatement. 

James, in chapter 4, reiterates the danger and the solutions for the scattered. Paul’s joy in the Lord, exhortation to the conflicted and anxious, and his contented confidence in Philippians 4 shows how he dealt with his trials. 

Is the Lord available like this for me, for you?  Yes, the Lord is near. Thomas, Paul and James knew this is true.  Their worship, joy and enduring words reverberate in me today because they spoke truth revealed by God.  How about you?

Lest you and I rush out, fleeing this season of isolation. Consider what you have learned about God, yourself and others during this season.  Have you learned the source of conflicts in yourself which God encounters daily?  Have you listened yet?  What have you done, or not done, with God’s word to you in this opportunity for joy?

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”  Philippians 4:23

In Christ, Rick Bishop

April 11, 2020

Fellow Followers of Christ,

As the sun sets on this day of rest before the Lord’s day, I’m mindful of it’s uniqueness.  This Saturday for me and that Sabbath for those first disciples.

Jesus finished his work on the cross just hours ago.  He’d done in Jerusalem what he ‘must’.

The first 24 hours after the death of a greatly loved one are surreal.  The world has changed just by the absence of just one person.  A public death, especially a notorious one, would move anyone inside.  Alone with those who know as you do.   Alone with those who raise the same questions, even if unspoken, is the place to be for those who care.  Doors locked in isolation.  There was probably never a more timely Sabbath in Jerusalem than that one, back then.

Since becoming a pastor, I’ve always wrestled with the pageantry of ‘Easter’.  I know church history, I know the reasons for the pageantry and celebration.  But it often gets in the way.  There were no pews or musicals on that first Lord’s day.  The pastels would have been in the sunrise; the pink in the eyes of those in the room or trudging toward the tomb.  Highlighting isolation given way to the novel joy of the gospels is impossible to imagine with buffets on one’s mind.

But this Saturday night is different. New in hard ways, but good ways too.

I’m worshipping my risen Lord at home this year.  Not because just any government said so, but because the government of One, said so.  That One commanded my love with my whole being.  That One also commanded my love for my one neighbor, the one nearest, needing the most mercy and within my reach.  My neighbors may be many, but the one at risk of death got the Samaritan’s attention.  How about mine?

Jesus’ priority that first Lord’s day, was a conversation with one woman near a garden.  No parade, no procession, no antiphonal choir there.  Her going and telling a small group huddled behind a locked door was essential.  That precedent, multiplied by thousands, moved one late apostle (Acts 9:11; 20:20) from isolation to mission.

May you learn from the Lord, wherever he finds you today. May the truth be precious on your lips as in James 3 and propel you to know Christ’s resurrection and suffering with Paul in Philippians 3.  May you fellowship in new ways this season with those perpetually shut-in or genuinely persecuted in every season. The Lord lives indeed.

In Christ, Rick Bishop, CBC Pastor

April 5, 2020

“’Apprehension leads to fastidious personal care’, Dr. Bill Fisher, Emergency Room Physician, interviewed on FOX NEWS 4/4/2020, 3:40 p.m. EDT

If anything leads to anxiety, it is hard times.  For this reason, James and Philippians, chapters 2, are relevant this Sunday, especially.

It is obvious! Behavior is shaped by Values, which are built upon Beliefs and/or Assumptions about really real reality.  Thus the hidden or invisible becomes obviously obvious.  James and Paul knew this and wrote about it.  One addressed misplaced favoritism, both favored really accurate favoritism.

Many are catching on this Palm Sunday. 

Consider who was cheered in most streets a few months ago.  Who’s been cheered in the streets these past few weeks?  Who’s worth favoring with gratitude these days?

Bottom line: Everyone is about their own best interests, or they think they are. What is best is debatable.  ESSENTIAL is being defined. The issue today is whether the consequences of behavior are treatable.

Today, some remember a rabbi, without credentials, who was cheered as he rode into a town.  A town where the uncredentialed were supposedly short lived.

A question to answer, “ Who finished the most important job I couldn’t do myself?”

Some as usual, happily cheer distractions only, fastidiously.

Consider the 96th Psalm on the 96th day of this year.  Do with it as you will.

Rick Bishop, Pastor

March 29, 2020

Dear Partner in Ministry,

An event we have been anticipating has finally arrived in our community. There is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Converse County, specifically Glenrock.  We have also canceled our Sunday services through April 12.  More on that later.

Last week I urged you to worship the LORD on your own with those you are with.  Please continue doing that as you sing, praise and  pray with thanksgiving to God.  If the Spirit has impressed a particular scripture on your mind this week, then review or share it with someone.  Numerous songs and scripture have been on my mind.

This Sunday I invite you to review the perspective on life in Christ which James and Paul share with their fellow believers.  Please join me in this study if you wish.

This past week you have probably noticed an abundance of some things and a deficiency in other things in your life.  This could be as simple as space, quiet, company or busy-ness.  Perhaps a routine has been gained or lost.  Spend a few minutes taking an inventory of your abundance and your lack.

In the first chapter especially, James and Paul note what they have or don’t have. They note what their audience may have or lack.  What is noted in the first chapters?

Note their perspective of the present circumstances.  What shapes or gives focus to their fullness and shortages?  What difference does God make in their view of trials?

How does your perspective of your present circumstance compare to James and Paul view of their circumstances?  How is it similar?  How is it different? 

If you received that kind of correspondence from a mentor during this COVID-19 pandemic, what would be your response?  Your prayer?  Your action?

Both James and Paul are quite certain God has or will provide wisdom and understanding in the midst of uncertainty.  What influences your confidence in God’s provision in your circumstance?  Have you asked God for what you need most? What gets in the way of seeing or appreciating His response?

Be sure to spend some time praising the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for what you know is certainly true about them in the midst your situation.

In Christ, Rick Bishop

March 22, 2020

Dear CBC Partner in Ministry,

This Sunday is a challenge for me as a Christian, a Baptist and a pastor.

Each of us as Christians have the capacity to worship God on our own through faith in Christ and in the Holy Spirit.  We don’t have to gather together to worship our God and Savior.  This is a good thing.

Each of us as Baptists don’t need someone else to direct us in worship or to tell us what scripture means or how to apply it.  We believe the word of God is accessible to each one of us through the Holy Spirit, so long as we have the gospel in our own language.  This is a good thing.

As a pastor, it is reasonable and possible for some in the church to be insulted by the pastor intruding or inserting himself into your Sunday worship at home.  If this is the case for you, I don’t mean to intrude. So please stop reading and delete this email.  This may be a good thing as well.

But as a pastor, I haven’t been in this situation before, certainly not in a circumstance like this.  This has been a week of firsts for a lot of people, perhaps too familiar for others.

Some people thrive on change and challenges.  Some people long for long quiet alone and with routine.  But for some, all of this changes when someone says you must  isolate yourself, while you feel fine.

Even the opportunity to skip school, turns into a trial in these circumstances.

Two biblical authors were able to see trials of difficult times as opportunities for worship, growth with God and strengthening of community.  Even when isolated.

For this reason I commend James and Philippians for your reading, prayer and guides for worship and conduct in the coming weeks.  Each book has 4 chapters should 4 weeks be necessary.  Both are challenging and practical books, but each has a different perspective.

James writes to Christians, scattered into distinct groups, with internal challenges.  Trials of scarcity and trials of abundance are addressed.  Trials of quarrels and changes of plans abound, as do trials of illness and drought.

Philippians is written by Paul from prison, while he is bound, his audience is free.  However, Paul is the most joyous, even under the threat of death, even as people he knows have hard situations.

God has written long ago about dealing with hardship.  He knows what we need on the inside.  Both of these books have shaped my life for a long time and in hard times.  I invite you to take, read and learn from the Lord.

Please be praying with those who are facing trials with you.  Please communicate with those the Lord brings to mind.  Encourage one another as James and Paul do for those they love.

Let us rejoice in the Lord always, as partners in Christ’s gospel, together always.

In Him,

Rick Bishop, fellow Pastor

Community Baptist Church