COVID-19 Response (Updated June 14, 2020)

I am encouraged to see that our state of New York is starting the re-opening process, even if it is slow and in phases.

Beginning Sunday, June 14th, we will have 1 Sunday morning service of no more than 70 people (which is 25% of the auditorium capacity. Attendees will be asked to wear a mask when entering and exiting the church. Masks may be removed once they are seated. Attendees will also need to have 6’ of separation between family groups. If you are over 65 or have health conditions that would put you at an elevated risk level, we would recommend that you continue to stay home and watch or listen to the service online. This way, we will be able to comply with the New York State regulations and continue to protect the health of those in our congregation that may be more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. As attendance numbers and other restrictions are lessened, I will make you aware of the changes moving forward. Thank you for your cooperation and your prayers as we seek to move forward with wisdom and trust in the Lord.

I also wanted to make you aware that I am continuing to post Sunday messages in several places. If you are someone who will be continuing to shelter at home, I want to encourage you to watch these as a way to continue to worship our Lord. I am posting these videos several places and have attached links to the pages: The Church Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/HBCElmira/ ) which can be accessed even in you do not have a Facebook account, my Youtube page (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrerAgveGom3vE8EwD1bb-Q?view_as=subscriber ), our church website (http://hbcelmira.org/?page_id=145 video and audio). I am also able to make audio cd copies of the messages for those who need them. If you need a copy of the cd, please let me know and I will contact you for the best way to get these to you.
I am praying for you as we face these challenges together!
In Christ,

Pastor Jeremiah

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Jerermiah Dewey

Sermons | Hillcrest Baptist Church

Paralyzed by Fear

  

Photo by Santiago Lacarta on Unsplash

 Psalms 34:4  I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Do you remember when you learned to swim? I was five years old. My parents had a pool in our backyard in Riverdale, GA. Like many kids, my parents wanted to teach me and my siblings to swim and how to be safe around the pool. I can remember one of the first times that I was in the pool without floaties. I was excited and terrified all at the same time. Yet, I also knew I was safe because my Dad was right there with me. Even though I felt like I would dip below the water, my Dad made sure that I was safe and protected. I, as a father, now have the same responsibility with my children. As a five-year-old child, I had a choice to make: trust that my Dad would keep me safe, or live in fear of the water and not learn how to swim. 

            With everything going on in our society today, it can be easy to respond with fear and not want to resume daily activities. However, we as believers need to remember that we have a Heavenly Father who is looking out for our every need and that whatever trial comes into our lives is for our benefit. We also need to remember the promise of Jesus from John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” We can become paralyzed by fear of the unknown, or we can trust God and live the victorious life He has called us to live.

            Scripture gives us examples of those who lived in fear and missed out on the blessings and victory God had promised them. In Hebrews 3:17-4:1, the example of the Israelites who came out of Egyptian captivity is given to the reader. Their fear first caused them to be insubordinate in their actions. Verse 17 says, “But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness?” God was displeased with them because they allowed fear to keep them from obeying the command of God to go into the promised land. They should have obeyed yet they did not because of fear. Anything less than obedience in the face of the unknown is sin.

            Secondly, their fear immobilized them. Verse 19 says, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Not only did they disobey God, but they were prevented from moving forward because of their fear and unbelief. Fear enlarges the obstacles in front of us and keeps us from doing what God has called us to do. Does God know what He is doing as it relates to our situation? If He does, then we can trust His plan and move forward into the unknown. God has never failed!

            We know that we should never fear obedience to God. We must understand that what He has commanded us to do in His Word can be obeyed without fear. Hebrews 4:1 tells us, “Hebrews 4:1  Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” We should fear falling short of what God has set before us because of fear and unbelief. We should fear faithless disobedience. Unlike the generation that passed away during the wilderness wanderings, we have the opportunity to respond in faith. God is calling believers to walk confidently, to follow and obey His calling in the face of the unknown. Even as we follow Christ who overcame the world, may we remember the Apostle John’s words in 1 John 5:4  For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. May each of us continue to walk by faith in the One who saved us, our Lord Jesus Christ!

How Are Those Plans Coming?

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

How many of us like to plan out our day, week, month, or even year? I would imagine there are many of us that plan ahead. The 2016 retail sales for planners, calendars, and appointment books in the U.S. exceeded $342 million. Many of us sit down at the end of a year to examine our past year and to set goals and resolutions for the coming year. However, none of us could have planned for the situations that we have been facing in the last few weeks.

James instructs believers to make plans but to do so with the Lord in mind, understanding that it is God who is in control of our lives. He says in James 4:13-15  “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:  (14)  Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.  (15)  For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” He is giving a warning to those who would make their plans without considering God in those plans. It is a very easy thing to do. Make a plan for tomorrow and assume that you will get that plan accomplished. However, there are so many situations today where we are not in control of what we are able to do.

God is the one who is in charge of our lives and understands what we are faced with in regard to the current situations in our country. May we look to Him for wisdom and guidance as we make our plans, and may that attitude continue even after this situation passes! If the Lord wills, we look forward to the time when we can be together and worship Him together as the body of Christ!

Ephesians 5:15-16  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,  (16)  Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

HE IS RISEN!

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

With all that has been going on in our world, it can be tempting to focus on our circumstances and not on our Lord Jesus. We are unable to meet together, many of our family traditions may have been affected by the distancing measures instituted by our government. However, I would like to remind all believers today that the truths of God’s Word have not changed!

On this Lord’s Day, we celebrate the fact the Jesus, who had been crucified and buried, rose from the grave! As the angels told the women at the grave some two thousand years ago, may I remind you, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.” Our hope today is found in the risen Christ! It does not lie in our situation or the certainty of our temporal future.

Be encouraged, believer! Christ has conquered death and defeated the grave! We, like Paul, can celebrate the victory that we have in Jesus Christ. Praise God today for the empty grave!

1 Corinthians 15:55-58  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?  (56)  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.  (57)  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (58)  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice!

Dear Hillcrest Family,

                It has definitely been a very interesting week for all of us! If you are like me, you do not want to hear the words Coronavirus or COVID-19 one more time. I wanted to write to each of you in order to help encourage you during this time when we are unable to meet as a church family. With all of the media coverage of the COVID-19 virus, we can be tempted to respond to with fear and anxiety. In the next few moments, can I encourage you to look to the Word of God? Philippians 4:4-7 states, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

                Paul is instructing us on how to combat our own fear or anxiety. We must first look to the Lord as our source of Joy. This is what he means when he tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord alway.” We see several examples in the Bible of men of God who, during difficult and discouraging times, found their joy and encouragement in the LORD. Think of David from 1 Samuel 30. He had fled from King Saul and was living in the Philistine city of Ziklag. While David and his men were out of the city, the Amalekites invaded, burned the city, and had taken the women and children captive. Upon his return to the city, he and his men found the city ransacked and their families missing. His men were ready to stone David because they blamed him for the capture of their families. Scripture tells us that David was “greatly distressed.” This word was the idea of being pressed under a great weight. Some of us may be struggling with similar feelings in these unusual times. However, verse 6 goes on to tell us that David encouraged himself in the LORD and then sought godly counsel from Abiathar the priest. We must also seek to respond in similar ways today! May we “rejoice in the Lord always” and realize our joy and courage to face uncertain times comes from the God that we serve.

                In order for us to more fully experience the joy of the Lord, we must, secondly, take our concerns, fears, and requests to God in prayer. Prayer is one of the most powerful aspects of Christian life. Through our faith in Christ and prayer, we are able to access the very throne of God where we are able to share our concerns and fears with the God of Creation and the Savior of our souls. It is also as we come to God in prayer that the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ pray for and intercede on our behalf (Rom. 8:26, 34). When we struggle with feelings of worry or fear, may we run to our Father in Heaven to seek comfort, strength and encouragement!

                We must, third, remember to come to God with thanksgiving! Following the Vietnam War, a church was preparing to build a new sanctuary. Families were asked to make a donation on honor of their loved ones who had fought and served in the long war. Two families whose sons had both served in the war approached the minister following the service. The first family in line said, “Pastor, as you know, our son was killed in the war – We would like to give $200 as a memorial gift.” The second family approached the pastor and the husband said, “Pastor, we will give $500 in honor of our son.” As they left the church, his wife looked at him incredulously and stated: “George, our son did not die in Vietnam, why would you give $500?” He looked at his wife with tears in his eyes and stated, “That is exactly why I gave $500, our son did come home.” We are told over and over to give thanks to God in and for all things. As we face the COVID-19 virus, we need to keep a right perspective on all that we have. Remember that God has been so very good to each one of us. We may not be able to go to church, but we can still livestream or listen to recorded sermons and services. We may not be able to go to our favorite restaurant, but we still have food. Our children are learning at home instead of school, but God has given us children to love and encourage. The stock market is down, but God has promised to meet our every need. We may not be able to enjoy our normal activities and busyness of life, but God has slowed down our pace so that we can enjoy one another and have meaningful time with the people we love. There is so much we can be thankful for today!

Let us rejoice in the Lord, always! Seeking to find our joy in Him by taking our concerns and fears to Him and laying them at His feet, understanding that God is in control of our future. Then take a few moments to thank Him for all the ways in which God has blessed you!

In Christ,

Pastor Jeremiah Dewey