March 26, 2020
Man, what a week. I hope and pray that you all are well and are finding new healthy rhythms in this isolating and anxious time. Here are some helpful links and - please look below! - a new way we are helping our community connect on mission in prayer!
I love you guys and am thankful for you and our Lord who is still God over the storm.
Introducing Prayer Pods!
God's people have always found strength in times of trouble through an increased engagement with prayer - and, in response, often God's greatest work is done during and after these seasons.To help our community engage in prayer together, we are encouraging you to form Prayer Pods (groups of 3+ people who will commit to having a designated time of prayer together every week). Of course, we encourage our Community Groups to continue praying with and for each other - but the Prayer Pods will be praying for the needs of our nation, our region, our community, and the mission of the church. We'll be posting a prayer guide every week in future emails to help guide the Prayer Pods in their prayer time. You can obviously pray over these on your own, but in this time of isolation, we think we'll all get more encouragement out of making this a communal act.
1. Gather a few friends you'd be comfortable praying with regularly. (Remember to include some new friends that may not be connected to a group).
2. Let us know who your group is by having one member fill out this form with names and email addresses. => http://bit.ly/prayerpod
3. Receive your weekly prayer list via email and/or on the Church Center App under Groups>Resources
4. Meet with your Prayer Pod online (or on the phone, or outside 6' apart) and pray through the weekly prayer list
5. Continue to share your prayer requests and needs here: bit.ly/prayerandhelp
Protect Your Short Term Memory
I wrote a blog post for Gospel-Centered Discipleship with some of the ideas that came out of my sermon a couple weeks ago. Let's be diligent to help each other remember who we are, where we are, and where we're going! I hope it is an encouragement to you.
Trailhead Updates and Important Information
As you know, Trailhead requires members to renew their membership yearly. This is a way both to remind our members of their shared community commitments and to ensure the elders are keeping a "careful eye on all the flock" and caring well for those who are part of our spiritual family. Please take a few moments and renew your membership here: https://trailheadonline.wufoo.com/forms/trailhead-covenant-member-renewal-2020/
Trailhead Kids Resources!
Just a reminder, Kate Johnston and our Trailhead Kids team are doing a great job pushing out our kids curriculum and providing a supportive community environment to encourage all of us to keep our kids growing in Christ! They will be providing videos, activity pages, and lesson plans for all age groups! You can get resources and connect with other parents on facebook at:facebook.com/trailheadkidsedwardsville
The Restore Network is Calling All Teachers and Tutors
From our Restore Network leaders: "We are living in uncharted waters right now with the COVID-19 pandemic, and while it is difficult for everyone to navigate, it can be especially challenging for children who are prone to fear and anxiety.We are putting together some resources for our foster families, and we would like to offer a list of volunteers willing to help with homework/academic questions." If you would be willing to serve our families in this way, please follow this link:
Restore Ministry Volunteer Opportunities
The Ministry of Touch (Check on our Singles!)
There is no way around the challenges of being quarantined. For those of us who are in the house with more people that bathrooms, we might be bouncing off the walls and seeking times of quiet and solitude. But for our singles, this extended time of isolation can be emotionally brutal - some of our people are going to go weeks without having any physical touch from another human. Even for our introverted friends, this can (and likely will) exacerbate feelings of loneliness, isolation, and even depression. Be sure to check on your single friends and neighbors. Remind them that they aren't alone. Give them the gift of voice and video presence even if you can't physically reach out and touch their shoulder in solidarity and love... and pray for them that the Spirit would be uniquely close to them in this time.
Covid-19 Updates and Resources
So, let's start with a little reality check.
This whole thing is going to get worse before it gets better.
Today we blew past the half-a-million mark for diagnosed Covid-19 infections worldwide - and Illinois itself has seen an increase of 36% in diagnosed cases in just the last 24 hours. We are still at the start of the upward curve and are far from over the hump. Our most challenging days are still ahead. I could share countless resources that speak to this, but my goal isn't to overwhelm you with the data. My goal is to encourage you.
"Well, Steve," you may be thinking, "You obviously suck at encouragement. You don't encourage us by sharing bad news with us!"
Well, I would (obviously) disagree with you (oh, fictitious person who is arguing with me in my newsletter).
True encouragement doesn't come from simple positivity. The ostrich who keeps his head buried and convinces himself the rest of his body can't be seen by the predator isn't any more safe even though he feels more comfortable. We need more than positivity.
We need hope. Hope looks at reality but still finds courage to keep moving forward in love.
We nor our neighbors are served well when we simply deny to look at the reality around us - nor if we simply look and curl up in anxiety or fear. We need to look with the eyes of faith and hearts strengthened in the love of God.
Mere positivity is taken off guard when the real challenge comes. Hope, on the other hand, has the courage to look around realistically while simultaneously fixing its gaze on the promise of blessing on the other side of the suffering. Positivity isn't prepared when others find themselves in need. Hope is grounded in faith and is motivated by love - and will be a strong ally to us and those in need around us.
Hope > Mere Positivity
Let's be realistic. This is going to get worse before it gets better. And let's be courageously hopeful. Our God is above this storm and will, as only he can, work all things together to ultimately tell the good story of redemption and restoration we truly crave.
Looking forward to Sunday
This Sunday we'll be continuing in Romans, looking at 4:9-15. Take a little time and work through our study guides and do some personal observational study (if you need a book, please let me know and we'll get you one!).
Sermon Title: Heirs of the World
Text: Romans 4:9-15
The foundation of faith is the gratuitous promise…Faith begins with the promise, rests in it, and ends in it. – John Calvin
Faith is not an aimless act of the soul, but a looking to God and a resting upon His promises. Just as love and hope have always an objective so, also, has faith. Faith is not believing just anything; it is believing God, resting in Him, trusting His Word. - E.M. Bounds
Have you ever awakened from a nightmare and been flooded with relief that what you dreamed about was not true? It’s the same feeling people get when the doctor says the cancer is gone or the police call with the news that a lost child has been found. Not only are you relieved that the terrible conditions in which you lived are gone, you also enjoy and celebrate and delight in what has been returned to you more than you ever had before. This is what God promises to those who anchor their hope in Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life. Though we die, yet shall we live. Reality will be rescued once and for all from the nightmares. - Scott Sauls
There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, "This is mine! This belongs to me!" - Abraham Kuyper
The rougher the voyage the more the mariners long for port, and heaven becomes more and more “a desired haven,” as our trials multiply. - C.H. Spurgeon
Prayer List for 3/26-4/1
- Pray that there would be an open door for the Gospel and even revival during this time of crisis and suffering. Pray for the church to clearly communicate and demonstrate the love of Christ, to imitate his character, and for unbelievers to come to faith.
- General: For the sick and infected: God, heal and help. Sustain bodies and spirits. Contain the spread of infection.
- General: For frontline health care workers, Lord we thank you for their vocational call to serve us. We also pray:
- God, keep them safe and healthy. Keep their families safe and healthy.
- God, help them to be knowledgeable about the diagnosis and treatment of this disease, as well as the changing protocols.
- God, help them to stay clear-minded in the midst of the surrounding panic.
- God, deliver them from anxiety for their own loved ones (aging parents, children, spouses, roommates).
- God, give them compassion for every patient in their care.
- God, provide for them financially, especially if they fall ill and are unable to work.
- God, help Christians in health care to exhibit extraordinary peace, so that many would ask about the reason for their hope. Give them opportunities to proclaim the gospel.
- Trailhead: Our streaming services & online communication
- Pray for our technology to work, and our leaders to be able to communicate needed information clearly and effectively.
- Pray for Steve as he prepares the sermon, for the listeners to grow in grace and belief in the Gospel.
- Ministry Partner: Glen-Ed Food Pantry (http://www.glenedpantry.org/home)
- The current need is for monetary donations, to enable the pantry to make bulk purchases for needed items. This allows them to purchase exactly what they need, at the right time, and at better prices.
- If you’d like to donate: You can send a check directly to Glen-Ed Pantry, 125 5th Ave., Edwardsville, IL 62025.
March 19, 2020
During this crazy season of social distancing, I am going to be sending out a weekly email with some important Trailhead updates, mission opportunities, some helpful or interesting links, and other information that I think will be helpful or encouraging. If you think of ways I can encourage you and the rest of our Trailhead family during the next weeks (or months), please let me know!
Daily Grace, Gratitude, and Growth Centering
Since the start of 2020, I've been building a habit of writing out a prayer of gratitude and growth in response to grace. I have been saying daily prayers of gratitude for years, but sitting down and writing them out has been a good habit to build intentionality and make me focus prayerfully on what the Spirit is leading me to give thanks for and to ask for. In a season like this where we are overwhelmed by information, projections, and noise, put down the paper! And instead take 10 minutes to sit with yourself and your savior and ask: What three things am I truly grateful for today? Write them out in a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Then what is one critical way I want to grow in grace today (Generosity? Patience? Self Control? Contentment?) and then write out a prayer asking God to grow you in his grace in that specific area. In a time of chaos, we need simple, repeatable, centering activities that can remind us who we are and whose we are.
Sharing Prayer Requests and Need
We've set up an online way to share our prayer requests and needs! We need to be praying for each other to protect our sense of community, and we need to both be encouraged and to encourage each other! Please, share your prayer requests and needs here:
Prayer Requests and Needs
Trailhead Updates and Important Information
As you know, Trailhead requires members to renew their membership yearly. This is a way both to remind our members of their shared community commitments and to ensure the elders are keeping a "careful eye on all the flock" and caring well for those who are part of our spiritual family. Please take a few moments and renew your membership here:
Trailhead Covenant Membership Renewal
Member's Meeting and Baptisms Postponed!
Sadly, we had two celebrations scheduled in the near future that both need to be postponed: our members meeting and our baptism celebrations. Some of the key information that we were going to share at the members meeting will instead be shared through this weekly email. Some things, like welcoming new members, simply can't be replicated online in a way that preserves their meaning and power, so we'll be waiting until we can be together in person to do those things. I hated postponing baptisms, to tell you the truth... but our team believes this current situation is temporary in nature, so we will be postponing baptisms as well until we can do them in a safe and celebratory way.
** If you are a new believer and do not want to wait to be baptized, please let us know and we'll figure it out! **
In order to honor the request of our governing authorities that no groups of over 10 gather (and just out of common sense and safety), we are shifting our community groups online for the short term. Your community group leader will be contacting you with information about what platform the group will be using (Zoom, google hangouts, GoToMeeting, etc.) and will help you get connected to the platform and then to the meeting. Please make it a priority to join in! Even if you are tired and feel like you'd rather scroll social media for another hour, log on - you don't know who the Spirit will use to encourage you, or how the Spirit will use you to encourage someone else!
Trailhead Kids Resources!
Kate Johnston and our Trailhead Kids team are doing a great job pushing out our kids curriculum and providing a supportive community environment to encourage all of us to keep our kids growing in Christ! They will be providing videos, activity pages, and lesson plans for all age groups! You can get resources and connect with other parents on facebook at:
From our Restore Network leaders: "We are living in uncharted waters right now with the COVID-19 pandemic, and while it is difficult for everyone to navigate, it can be especially challenging for children who are prone to fear and anxiety.
We are putting together some resources for our foster families, and we would like to offera list of volunteers willing to help with homework/academic questions."
If you would be willing to serve our families in this way, please follow this link:
Restore Ministry Volunteer Opportunities
Stranded SIUE Students
We've been in conversation with some of the folks over at SIUE - there are around 350 students who had no where to go after the school shut down its housing and on-campus programs. Right now we are talking through the logistics of doing a canned food drive to help feed the students as all cafeteria services have closed. We don't know exactly how this will be done or what other needs the students will have over the next several months, but we'll let you know how you can be involved. In the meantime, please be in prayer for those students and those in charge of this chaos over at SIUE.
Shopping for Neighbors
If you haven't yet, take the chance to introduce yourself to your neighbors (especially if they are elderly). Ask them how they are doing and if there are any specific ways you can pray for them (this question usually drops guards quickly!)... and if you have the chance, pray with them (at a safe distance). Ask them if you can serve them in any practical ways, like shopping. It is a simple and practical way to serve our neighbors who are more vulnerable to the worst aspects of this pandemic - and it communicates love in a powerfully personal and practical way.
Covid-19 Updates and Resources
So, honestly, I'm struggling with what to put here... there are some great articles out there and tons of helpful resources - but each is based on what is known in the moment, and can be outdated by the next moment. I also have no desire to contribute to the growing anxiety that is gripping our nation with information overload. Please give me feedback - would you like me to post helpful articles that seems to be accurate and reliable? Or would you, instead, like to find and send out resources that will be spiritually and emotionally encouraging in this time of stress?
For now, I'll leave you with this quote from Martin Luther, who in the 1500's had to give some sober advice for how to deal with the plague:
“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 infect 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." - Martin Luther during the Bubonic Plague
Looking forward to Sunday
This Sunday we'll be jumping back into Romans, looking at 3:27-4:8. We'll be exploring in more depth the themes of imputation, faith, and grace. Take a little time and work through our study guides and do some personal observational study (if you need a book, please let me know and we'll get you one!).
Sermon Title: Abraham, David, and Me
Text: Romans 3:27-4:8
The world thinks people are good and saints are better. The gospel claims that people are sinners and saints are miracles. - Peter Kreeft
Christ has no sin but ours and we have no righteousness but his. - John Stott
Substitution is the structure of love. That’s why, subconsciously, we are allergic to love. We rightly sense that death is at the center of love. - Paul Miller
Faith is the acknowledgment of the entire absence of all goodness in us, and the recognition of the cross as the substitute for all the want on our part. The whole work is His, not ours, from first to last. - Horatius Bonar
He did not die for Himself, so neither did He obey for Himself. In both forms of His obedience He acted for us, as our representative and substitute, that through His righteousness many might be made righteous. - Charles Hodge
I'm looking forward to "seeing" you all on Sunday! If you have questions, concerns, or needs - let us know! If you can think of ways that we can serve y'all more effectively in this current season, please let us know that as well! Know that we are praying for you and your families daily.
Still standing in grace,