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Pastoral Encouragement

Dear Smyrna Church Family:

This is your interim pastor, Dave Nelson writing to encourage you in these difficult days. For some this may be the first time communicating with you, so I wanted to introduce myself. Before I continue, let me say a word to all of you about these emails.

First, this is obviously only going to be received by those in the church with email. I wish everyone had access, but certainly understand if some do not. So, if you can share this with fellow believers, that’d be great.

Second, if you know of someone who has email but is not included here, please let me know. Or, if you do not wish to receive these, also let me know. I am only able to go by the names in the church directory. And at this point, I do not know everyone! Thank you for your help! And now, a brief message of hope …

A Word of Encouragement

Do you ever get tired of the craziness of living in this world? All the political upheaval and pandemic issues coupled with all the lies that seem far more widespread than COVID-19 itself, leads us sometimes to despair. Is there help? Oh, yes! Psalm 120 is a Psalm of Ascent, which means that Israelites who made pilgrimage to Jerusalem in bands would repeat these Psalms as a collective means of prayer, praise and encouragement to each other. And this—the first of these Psalms—begins with these words, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.” (Psalm 120:1–2) Distress! Yes. That is a feeling we all have experienced. Maybe lately. Especially! But God heard him. That’s always a blessing! Sure, the situation that causes despair may still persist, but that God lovingly hears us, how that buoys up the follower of Christ! We are not promised that we won’t have trials. But we are promised that God will be with us through them. See Romans 8:35-39 and Hebrew 13:5.

Next, let me skip to the last 3 verses. As I was reading these in my own time with the Lord, they struck a chord in my heart. Verses 5–7,

5 Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! 6 Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. 7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war! What’s up with these two locations? One man writes: "Meshech and Kedar are far apart, too far to be someone’s home. “Metaphorically they suggest being far from home, out in the wilds of this world.” (New Bible Commentary). So, you ask, how does this affect me? Well, isn’t this sometimes the way we feel? That is, it feels like living here is like living in the “wilds of the world.” Do you ever feel like the hymn writer wrote: "This world is not my home, I’m just a’pass’n through.” We love the earth, the US and Virginia and for most in the church, Goochland! BUT … Well, C. S. Lewis really put his finger on the way we feel and he answers ‘why’? He wrote: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” And that’s what vv. 6 & 7 tell us. “Too long have I had my dwelling among whose who hate peace.” Isn’t that how can feel today? All the protests, the evil words being thrown around about every political person. It’s almost as if you’re not allowed to say anything on social media unless it’s filled with anger and rage!! “Too long” among those who “hate peace.” Verse 7 then tops it off this way, “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” The first line is literally, “I am peace.” He’s not just FOR peace, but he IS peace. It’s a strong way to declare the character of the Psalmist. My very being wants peace. That’s who I am! It’s this attitude that cries out, “Why won’t people just get along?!” Ever feel that way?

So, what do we do? We take strength from the first line. “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.” You call to the Lord. Don’t necessarily call your neighbor, or a relative. There’s certainly a place for that. But the Psalmist doesn’t avail himself of this. Rather he cries out to God! It seems so simple doesn’t it? Maybe too simple. But as someone said, “Simplicity is truth’s most becoming garb.” When you’re tempted to give in to despair or to become depressed, to be discouraged, then turn away to your Savior. He know your sorrow far deeper than even you. The world is not our home, but Jesus IS. Turn to him and find strength and deliverance no matter what craziness goes on around or even within us!!

The Lord richly bless you all!

Pastor Dave

Lord willing, the weather will be better and we can meet this week!

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