February 22, 2018, 10:37 PM

February 2018

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We face challenging times.  The economy supposedly is getting better, but it seems like if you live in Illinois the good times may be a ways off.  Prices at the store keep going up, our bills too.   Speaking of prices, the farm economy has seen better days as well.  As far as church is concerned, things could be better.  Attendance is down everywhere.  Many have fallen into the habit of infrequent worship attendance or in the case of young families; sports have become the priority on Sunday morning.  The decline of the church started in earnest after 9/11.  There are a number of reasons why people stop coming, but more often than not, the problem is not the church or even the pastor, but a spiritual problem of the heart of the one absenting themselves from worship.  Because of this the body of Christ suffers.  As a school, enrollment is down and costs are up, and there are a number of reasons for that as well.  This is not a good recipe for a healthy budget.  So what are we to do in the challenging and uncertain times for our family and church?  The natural thing to do is to blame and to fight and point the finger.  That isn’t healthy nor is it helpful.  Paul exhorted the Ephesian congregation with these words, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit – one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4) These words apply to us.  As we deal with the challenges and uncertainty of the future we are to seek peace and unity.  We are to repent of our failings and return to our merciful God and his Word.  We are to trust that God will guide us through our difficulties and lead us to God pleasing decisions. And as we work together for the good of the church we are to seek the glory of God.  Now is not the time to wallow in fear about the future.  God will guide us through the challenges that lie ahead, for hasn’t he promised his people through Moses in Deuteronomy 31, “It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”  We are not called to fear, but to faith.  There is much to do in the months and years ahead and the Lord puts difficulties and trials in our life as a test.  Our Father in heaven disciplines and tests His children to draw us closer to Himself as Wise King Solomon says in Proverbs, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”  And James, the brother of our Lord says this, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”  The Lord loves you and He loves Salem and we, His children are to love one another.  Let us remember this as we work together in God’s Kingdom.


In Christ,

Pastor Orr