Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Response

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 4:6-7


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Latest Announcements & Updates

The Puritans wrote a great deal about the providence of God and had some wonderful insights on the application of this important doctrine when we go through trials and hardships. The pastors who labored during this period of history had numerous opportunities to speak words of comfort to grieving parents whose children died at a young age, to spouses who lost husband or wife, to those who endured great physical hardship or even financial ruin. The comfort derived from the word of God is the unchanging nature of God and His loving (yet oftentimes mysterious) purposes. Stephen Charnock wrote, “God is wise, just and sovereign of the world. The earth is his, and all its fullness. May he not do what he will with his own? If we question his providence, we question his wisdom. Is it fit for us who know nothing, to say to infinite wisdom—‘what are you doing?’ His wisdom will best direct him to the best time to relieve the miseries of his people, or judge the wicked.”

As we prepare to worship the Lord together this coming Sunday morning and evening, please be reminded of the portion of the sanctuary designated for those who wish to wear face coverings during the entirety of the worship service. The deacons can direct you on where to sit.

In thinking ahead to next Sunday (August 2), we plan to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together for those who are able to be present.

As we prepare for another Sunday in which we worship the Lord, the deacons will be making a couple of small changes to our set-up in the sanctuary. We recognize that some would feel more comfortable attending worship if face coverings were worn at all times. So, in an effort to accommodate that desire, we will have a section of the sanctuary set aside for those who wish for themselves and those in their immediate vicinity to wear face coverings at all times during the entire worship service. This area will be the back left section of the sanctuary. We would ask that all those who desire to sit in that designated area keep face coverings on at all times while in the sanctuary. Additionally, the green doors on the east side of the church property (entering by the bride’s room) will be unlocked for those who want to enter and exit there instead of through the main doors.

While it is our desire that everyone is compliant with the resolution of our city commissioners, we recognize that various exceptions are in place for those with health conditions, those maintaining appropriate social distancing while indoors, small children, communicating with those who cannot hear, and others. We will not be policing those who do not wear face coverings, but simply wish to point out the resolution of our commissioners. We continue to recommend that you wear a face covering when unable to maintain social distancing – especially while entering and exiting the sanctuary.

These are certainly unique times and there are many things swirling in the world around us that have the potential of causing division, distrust, and disunity within the church. Our prayer is that we would heed the pastoral guidance from God’s word to love one another in showing honor, to be patient with one another in tribulation, and to bear with one another in a spirit of forgiveness (Rom. 12; Eph. 4; Col. 3). May the church of our Risen Savior be a place where our God is exalted and worshipped as the sovereign King and Ruler of all. When we gather on Sunday, we truly want our focus to be upon the unchanging truth of God’s word proclaimed to us—may we each prepare our own hearts toward that end.

  • To participate in the CE class via zoom, please email Mike Carter (emcarter51@icloud.com)
  • For information on the Summer Women’s Study Part 2 for July 21 (Issues within the PCA: Roots and Response), please email cb@covenantlakeland.org

Psalm 136 is a wonderfully structured “antiphonal” psalm; it is a psalm that would be read among the people of God in which the congregation would respond in alternating fashion. I encourage you to read this comforting psalm of thanksgiving and note the refrain – “His steadfast love endures forever!” Twenty-six times the covenant love of the LORD is acknowledged. “Everything in (the LORD’s) work of creation, redemption, conquest and care arises from his committed, unchanging love. This is the greatest truth about Him.” (Alec Motyer) The Lord is faithful to His people, He is immovable in His promises, He is the God who remembers, He is the God who rescues, He is the God who has redeemed us in the sending of His beloved Son.

Here are a few announcements regarding this coming Sunday (July 12)

Our summer adult Christian Educational hour will begin week 2 this Sunday with the following class offerings:

1. A study through JC Ryle’s Holiness facilitated by Mike Carter and Michael Strawbridge. This class will be held in the brides’ room with limited attendance and offered via Zoom videoconferencing. To get a link to this class, email emcarter51@icloud.com

2. Cultivating Biblical Godliness series will be taught by various men from the potential officer training class and will be held in the fellowship hall. If you have interest in attending this class, please email jeff@covenantlakeland.org so that we know how many to plan on for the class

While there is no evening worship this Sunday, we typically have “congregational hymn selections” during our normal evening service. In order to prepare PowerPoint slides in advance, we would like to receive those hymn selections from you during the week. If there is a hymn you would like to request for use in a future Sunday evening worship service, please email jeff@covenantlakeland.org.

Finally, our women’s summer study will continue on July 21, 7:00 pm. This will be primarily a Zoom class though space is available in the Fellowship Hall for those who might wish to gather in-person. For more information and a link for the class, please email cb@covenantlakeland.org.

-Jeff McDonald

In the troubled times in which we live, it is good for us to daily fix our gaze upon our heavenly and eternal hope… the hope that we read about in 1 Peter 1:3-5 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Though we do not yet possess this future hope in its fulness, it is a hope that ought to permeate everything in the present. In a sermon by Geerhardus Vos (from 1904), he says, “a living hope is a hope which is not dead material in the mind of the believer, but an active force in his life, something that makes its influence felt and carries him along—that sustains and inspires him. The hope of the Christian can do this because it relates to something that is not purely future, but already exists in the present because it is a hope in an inheritance, the most real of all realities. The inheritance may be invisible, but this does not detract in the least from its power to become operative in our life… this invisibility means that it forms part of the spiritual world and the spiritual world is infinitely more real and infinitely more powerful than the things which our eyes can see. Hence the Christian, while not having seen it, loves it and rejoices in it greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory. He fashions himself according to it. He purifies his soul in harmony with the purity that intrinsically belongs to that world. He abstains from fleshly lusts because they war against the spiritual realm which is the object of his hope. He is of sound mind, sober unto prayer…He lives in the presence of the world to come and allows it to be the ruling factor in all he thinks and does.” May we draw comfort even today from the reality of our heavenly inheritance in Christ Jesus our Lord!Here are a few announcements regarding this coming Sunday.

Our summer adult Christian Educational hour will have 2 class offerings:

1. A study through JC Ryle’s Holiness facilitated by Mike Carter and Michael Strawbridge. This class will be held in the brides’ room with limited attendance and offered via Zoom videoconferencing. To get a link to this class, email emcarter51@icloud.com

2. Cultivating Biblical Godliness series will be taught by various men from the potential officer training class and will be held in the fellowship hall. If you have interest in attending this class, please email jeff@covenantlakeland.org so that we know how many to plan on for the class

Additionally, for those who choose to attend in person, we will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper together this Sunday morning.

Finally, you are probably aware of the resolution recently passed by our City Commissioners requiring face coverings in any indoor locations though there are various exceptions for those with existing health conditions, children under 8 years old, those who are already observing social distancing guidelines, those who cannot be heard while wearing a face covering, and a few others. Our recommendation would be for families to wear coverings as they enter the sanctuary, continue to maintain social distancing by family units (as the sanctuary is already set up for this), wear coverings while singing (unless this is a hindrance to your health), and wear coverings upon your departure. We recognize that opinions will vary on these matters and we encourage you to pursue a spirit of patience, brotherly kindness, and love so that our focus may be upon the preaching of God’s word (Gal. 5:22; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12).

In a wonderful section from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, he speaks to the question, “What does it mean to speak of Christ alone for the whole of our salvation?” Calvin answers, “If we seek strength, it lies in His dominion; if purity, in His conception; if gentleness, it appears in His birth. For by His birth He was made like us in all respects [Heb. 2:17] that He might learn to feel our pain [Heb. 5:2]. If we seek redemption, it lies in His passion; if acquittal, in His condemnation; if remission of the curse, in His cross [Gal. 3:13]; if satisfaction, in His sacrifice; if purification, in His blood; if reconciliation, in His descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in His tomb; if newness of life, in His resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in His entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in His Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to Him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in Him, let us drink our fill from this foundation, and from no other.” Truly salvation is found is no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to man by which we might be saved (Acts 4:12)!

This Sunday, Pastor McWilliams continues his series in the book of Acts during morning worship; in the evening we will have opportunity to hear a missions report from the Carters and preaching from God’s word from Pastor Michael Carter. Both services will be available via livestream and will also be posted during the week for viewing at a later time.

The summer quarter for our adult Christian Educational (CE) hour will begin July 5 and run until Sept. 27. We plan to offer 2 classes during this upcoming CE hour—1. Cultivating Biblical Godliness: a series taught by various men from the potential officer’s training class held in the fellowship hall; 2. JC Ryle’s Holiness: taught by Mike Carter (no relation to missionary Michael Carter!) and Michael Strawbridge, which will be a “hybrid” class held in the brides room and offered via zoom for those who may wish to join from home. If you plan to attend the “Cultivating Biblical Godliness” series, please email jeff@covenantlakeland.org so that the room can be prepared in advance. If you wish to receive the link for the Ryle class via zoom class, please email emcarter51@icloud.com.

Psalm 98 is a wonderful psalm of praise unto the Lord. It is a psalm in which God’s people give attention to some of the unchanging attributes of God with the consequent response being joy, songs of praise, and exalting His name as King and Lord of all! The psalmist directs God’s people to look to the beauty and wonder of creation to see the Lord’s power and goodness to sustain all that He has made. Verses 8-9 of this psalm read: “Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” Notice how the psalmist not only exalts the Lord of creation but trusts and rests in the God of justice and righteousness. Only the Righteous One can judge in perfect righteousness; only the True One can judge according to unchanging truth; only the One who sees into the deep recesses of the heart of mankind can ensure that equity is maintained. While we long for truth and justice and righteousness to prevail, such things will reach their consummation only in the age to come when our most perfect, exalted, righteous Head and King of the Church will appear in His radiant glory and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11).As we prepare to worship the Lord this Sunday, whether in person or via livestream, may we be overwhelmed not with the cares and troubles of this world but may we be overwhelmed at the majesty, splendor, faithfulness, and love of our God made most evident in the work of our Savior.

Normally our second Sunday of the month is a time for our shepherding groups to meet at various times and locations, but for the month of June most groups continue to postpone such gatherings. A wonderful way for us to use that Sunday evening time slot would be to gather with your families for a time of extended prayer. We have some very significant needs among our church family, within the Reformed church across our land, and, of course, in our nation and throughout the world. Please be in prayer as well for our high school graduates and our college students as they discern the Lord’s direction and as they seek to guard their hearts and minds in Christ the Lord (Rom. 12:2; Col. 3:2).

The Executive Commission hopes to iron out a few more details regarding the adult Christian Educational (CE) hour for our upcoming summer quarter and we plan to pass that update along to you next week. For now, our CE class on a “biblical theology of suffering” continues via zoom for 3 more weeks (email jeff@covenantlakeland.org for info), our women continue their weekly sermon review and are finalizing some plans for a summer study (cb@covenantlakeland.org), and youth will be participating in summer service projects and Bible studies (adam@covenantlakeland.org or cjoymarie@gmail.com).

While we continue to see ongoing effects from the lingering nature of the COVID virus, over the last week we can add to this the turmoil of civil unrest. Our weekly email update is not the place to thoroughly speak to these matters, but what we do need to be reminded of throughout the Christian life is that our Savior sits enthroned on high at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 8:1). His kingly rule is never in doubt; His sovereign power and purpose will never fail; nothing can remove Him from this exalted position of wondrous Mediator & Intercessor!Our Friday morning men’s group has been studying the book of Hebrews, using Pastor McWilliam’s commentary on that book. This morning it was of wonderful comfort to work through Hebrews 8, in which the writer of Hebrews encourages the believer in Christ Jesus to fix his / her gaze upon the enthronement of our faithful Mediator. Pastor McWilliams writes, “The writer (of Hebrews) turns our eyes upward to remind us that, no matter what the trouble may be below, the eternal Son who became man to save us and who purified sins, now reigns over all in Mediatorial power and splendor.” May this be of lasting comfort to each of us.

One item that should be of encouragement to you is the way in which we have seen the Lord’s faithful provision through giving, even during these unique times. Toward the end of every calendar year we oftentimes hear updates on what is needed to remain on track for our annual budget. However, our current giving, along with reduced expenditures puts us in a very healthy position and for this we give thanks and praise to the Lord!

The Executive Commission of the Session continues to prayerfully consider the return of various church-wide ministries. While we continue our adult Christian Ed class via zoom as well as our Sunday morning & Sunday evening worship (both in-person and via livestream), the youth group will be adding a summer Bible study for various small groups starting on June 10. For more information on youth related summer activities and studies, please contact adam@covenantlakeland.org.

If you have been viewing the livestream from home, you know that we have faced a few technical difficulties over the last few weeks. Several men on our audio-visual team have made some upgrades to software and equipment, they have run some tests during the week, and we pray that things run smoothly for our Sunday morning and evening worship services. In addition, please be reminded of our desire to be mindful of those who have concerns about social distancing, so plan to make an efficient exit out of the sanctuary after the worship services and feel free to gather outside for conversation.

Puritan Stephen Charnock (author of a wonderful work on the attributes of God) wrote, “God is wise, just and sovereign of the world. The earth is his, and all its fullness. May he not do what he will with his own? If we question his providence, we question his wisdom. Is it fit for us who know nothing, to say to infinite wisdom—‘what are you doing?’ His wisdom will best direct his to the best time to relieve the miseries of his people…”

In the midst of lingering trials it can be of great temptation to question the wisdom of God, to wonder why such things continue, and to focus upon our own inconveniences rather than the purposes of God. What comfort that we serve and belong to an all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving Heavenly Father! May the Lord be using such trials in our lives to mature us as we seek to grow in humility and trust before Him.

This coming Sunday (May 31), we will continue to both live-stream and accommodate in-person worship on Sunday morning. In addition, we will be resuming our Sunday evening service starting with a hymn-sing and time of prayer at 5:00 pm (which was a wonderful suggestion offered to us by Robin Streets). The Sunday evening service will also be live-streamed and accessible through the same link used for morning worship. The hymns for Sunday evening will be provided by our audio-visual team and they are also listed in the weekly bulletin. The sanctuary and common areas will be thoroughly cleaned on Sunday afternoon prior to the start of Sunday evening worship, though nursery services will still not be provided for a while.

In the Loveliness of Christ (extracts from his letters), Samuel Rutherford writes, “When we shall come home and enter to the possession of our Brother’s fair kingdom, and when our heads shall find the weight of the eternal crown of glory, and when we shall look back to pains and sufferings; then shall we see life and sorrow to be less than one step or stride from a prison to glory; and that our little inch of time – suffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to heaven.”I think Rutherford is simply capturing what we read in 2 Cor. 4:16 – “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

One of the reasons our heavenly Father is pleased to bring trials into our lives is to remind us that this present age is not our home. By faith we believe that our Sovereign Lord is using such present trials to create within us an ever-growing longing & zeal for our heavenly rest with our Risen Savior being our ultimate treasure (Ps. 73:25).

As the Executive Commission of the Session continues to prayerfully consider how to move forward with various church-wide ministries and as we have sought input from those leading and working in our various children’s ministries, we have determined that the following would be best for our summer months:

  • To cancel Vacation Bible School for 2020
  • To continue the suspension of children’s Sunday school, children’s church, and nursery until school resumes

We understand that this will be disappointing for many families but given our desire to maintain a clean environment while striving to take current safety measures into consideration, we believe this is the wisest course of action.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers for those who labor in various areas of service to the church; please find links below:

  • For questions related to children’s ministry, feel free to email lauren@covenantlakeland.org
  • For youth related matters, you can email adam@covenantlakeland.org
  • For information on women’s ministry & summer studies: cb@covenantlakeland.org
  • For Fri morning men’s group and adult Christian Education via Zoom: jeff@covenantlakeland.org
  • For any other general questions: office@covenantlakeland.org

In a collection of Puritan prayers (“Piercing Heaven”), I found the following of wonderful encouragement and conviction in my own life:“Remind me how important it is to make the most of the moments you give me—time to prepare for eternity. Help me to know my God-given place, and to keep at the work you have given me. But deliver me from the burdensome cares of this world, which would so absorb my time and thoughts that ‘the one thing needful’ would be forgotten. Moderate my desires for worldly possessions by reminding me how uncertain and unsatisfying they are. While others may lay up treasures on earth, may I be rich toward God (Lk. 12:21). May I never be too busy for those great things which lie between you and my soul. May I never be so engrossed with the concerns of time to neglect the interests of eternity!” -Philip Doddridge

As much of our “normal” life continues to be put on hold and seems to move at a much slower pace than we are accustomed, may this serve as a reminder that this present age is not our home and that our faithful Heavenly Father is slowly & purposefully working in each of our lives to mature us more and more into the image of His beloved Son. May our focus during these times not be upon “When will this be over?” rather “What is the Lord teaching me? What is being revealed in my own heart during these times? How is the Lord, through His Word & Spirit, producing lasting fruit in my life?”

Certainly, our hope and desire is to return to Sunday morning and evening worship together and yet we understand the importance of moving slowly in our return to “normal” church life. A number of our deacons did a wonderful job this past week in helping us to maintain suggested guidelines as we gathered at Covenant to worship the Lord. By our count there were roughly 140 in attendance and we estimate that we can easily accommodate between 180-200 in the sanctuary and balcony while continuing to keep the recommended 6’ separation of social distancing. If we happen to have more show up to morning worship, our audio visual team has set up video feeds in the chapel and fellowship hall (while the bride’s room remains available as a “cry room” for mothers with infants). Of course, we will continue to live-stream our morning worship services for those who are more comfortable remaining at home during this time.

We are so grateful for your ongoing prayers, words of encouragement, and faithfulness to the church of the Lord Jesus during these times.

  • For questions about children’s ministry & nursery, feel free to email lauren@covenantlakeland.org
  • For youth related matters, you can email adam@covenantlakeland.org
  • For information on women’s ministry & summer studies: cb@covenantlakeland.org
  • For Fri morning men’s group and adult Christian Education via Zoom: jeff@covenantlakeland.org
  • For any other general questions: office@covenantlakeland.org

The Executive Commission of the Session has authorized the return to in-person worship starting Sunday, May 10, 2020. We recognize that there are still a great deal of precautions and considerations for you to weigh and we hope to speak to those below while we continue to update the congregation each week through these unique times.

  1. First, we understand that some individuals will not yet feel comfortable in returning to in-person worship and so we plan to continue to offer the entire morning worship service via livestream. Those who are at-risk (including the elderly and ill) are encouraged to continue to watch the livestream and not attend in person.
  2. Second, parents of young children are encouraged to use good judgment in determining whether to attend with your children or continue to remain at home.
  3. Third, nursery services and children’s church will NOT be available at this time. Future emails will indicate when these services will resume.
  4. Fourth, things like weekly women’s Bible study, Fri morning men’s group, and adult Christian Ed class will continue to be meet via Zoom only [feel free to contact CB@covenantlakeland.org for women’s studies; jeff@covenantlakeland.org for info on men’s group & adult CE (additionally, adult CE via Zoom will be held from 9:15 to 10:15 am)]. No other Sunday school or Wednesday night activities will resume for the time being.
  5. Finally, if you are comfortable in attending, feel free to wear a mask and be mindful of the following guidelines:

a. When you arrive, please enter through the doors on the West side of the church property; the church gym and all other entrance doors will be closed.

b. Bulletins will be available for you to pick up on your way in. Hymnals will not be in the back of the pew, but weekly hymns will be inserted into your bulletin.

c. The sanctuary and balcony should provide us with plenty of space for these initial weeks as undoubtably some will still be apprehensive in returning for a brief time. However, if additional space is needed while still maintaining “social distancing” guidelines, the chapel, fellowship hall, and bride’s room (which should be used EXCLUSIVELY as a cry room for infants & mothers) will all be available.

d. Seating will be “staggered” from one row to the next (which will be indicated for you on each pew—simply look for signs which will inform you where NOT to sit; please do not move these signs).

e. Ushers will be available to direct you on where to sit if you have any questions and may need to ask you to move if you happen to sit in an area that should be designated as empty. Please do not take personal offense if asked to move—this is for the comfort of one another as we seek to give our attention to the Lord.

f. We are grateful for your ongoing prayers and financial support of the ministry at Covenant; you may continue to utilize online bill pay or mail your tithes & offerings to the church office OR if you wish to make your contribution on Sunday mornings, baskets will be by the door upon your exit.

g. After the benediction, we would ask that you be mindful of the social distancing guidelines instituted by our governing officials, greet one another from an appropriate distance, and make your exit through the vestibule. While we all wish to greet one another and catch up, we also want to be sensitive to those who are trying to exit the sanctuary and do not wish to hinder their departure to the parking lot.

h. Deacons, ushers, and janitorial staff will be diligently cleaning the sanctuary, restrooms, and other common areas each week.

i. Pastors will be at each door as you exit simply to speak with you and make note of any prayers items you might have. We certainly would like to shake your hand, but for the time being “elbow air bumps” would probably be best!

We realize that all of your questions may not be answered in the above. Our plan is to continue to offer regular updates as we move forward with the long-term objective of all worship services and church-related activities being back on-campus.

If you were able to tune in last week to our live-streamed service, you know that we experienced a bit of technical difficulty. Jeff Fullgraf and Greg Hannah have been working diligently to repair the faulty wiring that blew out at the beginning of the worship service. We are grateful for the Lord’s provision of these gifted men and their willingness to put in many hours during this time to help make this service available and of course we look to our Faithful God and King who rules even over such obstacles that we face on a daily basis. What comfort that our Lord is absolutely sovereign over all things, for what hope could we have in our present times without this wonderful assurance?!

In John 6, Jesus is teaching the crowd of people saying things like, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst (vs. 35)…everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (vs. 40)…I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (vs. 51)…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (vs. 53-54).” John then tells us that many of Jesus’ disciples turned away from following Him because they took offense at His words and when Jesus turns to the 12 disciples He asks them, “Do you want to go away as well?” (vs. 67) to which Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Truly this is our wondrous comfort in the midst of the trials of this world—Christ is our life, Christ is our peace, Christ is our certain & unshakeable hope; where else can we go for our greatest need of pardon from sin? JC Ryle writes, “while many go away from Christ, do you cleave to Him with purpose of heart? Cleave to your old habits of daily prayer and daily Bible reading, and regular attendance on means of grace. Better a thousand times to be on Christ’s side with a few, and be laughed at and despised for a season, than to have the praise of the many for a few short years, and then awake too late to find that without Christ you are without peace, or hope, or heaven.” May we seek to grow in our daily affection for Christ our Lord, trusting in His means of grace for the nurture and edification of our eternal souls.

As the Session takes into consideration the state-wide guidelines for public gatherings, our hope is to have an initial plan for returning to our worship services and other church activities. As you continue to pray for a treatment for this virus, please pray for the elders as we seek to honor the Lord while exhibiting care for one another.

As you know, the Psalms are filled with wonderful words of comfort for the downhearted, instruction for the one who is need of direction, and exhortation for those times of wandering, discouragement, or even rebellion. The Psalmist (in Ps. 102) speaks of deep anguish and sorrow within his soul, yet his response is to go to the LORD his God in prayer, exalting the wondrous name and nature of his Sovereign King, “Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end” (vs. 25-27). Notice how it is the unchanging nature of God which brings comfort in the midst of instability. What serves to bring the psalmist out of the depths is a vision of the Lord in every direction. In commenting on this Psalm, Sinclair Ferguson writes, “(The psalmist) looks upward to the sovereign power of God in heaven and on earth (vs. 12,15). The God who rules over nature and the nations is able to rule over his own troubled heart and exercise his sovereign power over his troubled circumstances too. He looks backward to the unchanging mercy of God (vs. 19-20). He looks forward to the unchanging faithfulness of God (vs. 25-27).”

As we prepare to worship our unchanging, immovable, loving, sovereign God and King, though we again remain separated by distance, may the majesty of who our God is and the privilege of worshipping Him fill our minds and hearts, serving to drive out the fears and worries that may arise through our present circumstances.

I recently read a collection of sermons by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in which he quotes Ps. 119:71, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” Our typical response to affliction is to seek to have it removed as quickly as possible! Certainly, we pray for such hardship & trials in our lives to end and certainly we pray for an end to the COVID virus. But in considering the teaching of Ps. 119:71, Lloyd-Jones writes, “I sometimes think that there is no better test of the Christian position than just that, that we can even thank God for trials and troubles and for chastisement, because we see that they have been used of God to bring us nearer and closer to Himself.” While we long to return to life as “normal” and while we have an appropriate longing to gather together on Sundays to worship the Lord together, may we each consider how the Lord us using such times to draw us nearer and closer to Him!

We continue to pray for our government and health officials that they would have wisdom in giving direction and guidelines for large gatherings. The Session continues to talk through these matters and will be taking such guidelines into consideration as we think about when it would be wise for us to gather together again.

In the meantime, may we continue to encourage you to gather with your families utilizing the live-stream, spend time praying together for the many needs in our own church family and throughout the world, and even encourage a friend or neighbor to tune in on Sunday mornings to hear of the wondrous hope of the gospel.

- Jeff McDonald

As we prepare to worship our risen Lord and King tomorrow morning on Easter Sunday, consider the following from John Calvin on the suffering or our Savior: "It is because our Lord Jesus Christ was silent, refusing to defend his righteous cause, that our mouths are now opened and we are able to call upon God, as if we ourselves were righteous. More than that, he is our Advocate who speaks on our behalf. So if our Lord Jesus remained mute, it was so that he might now intercede for us with God his Father; and although we are no more than poor and utterly wretched vermin, we nevertheless have access to God: we can appeal personally to him and with full voice can claim him as our Father."

Certainly we have much to be thankful for this Easter season and certainly we have many prayer needs, which we confidently bring to our Heavenly Father through our wondrous Advocate & Mediator!

Our audio-visual team has been hard at work this past week putting our hymns on PowerPoint so that they will be displayed on screen during the worship service. You can also find a PDF of the hymns here along with the bulletin, or you can use your own hymnal if you have one at home.

Finally, if you were unable to hear Pastor McWilliams sermon last night, that will be archived here.

I’ve heard it said that our true theology (that is, what we really, functionally believe) is revealed in the midst of trial, hardship, and suffering. It has been of wonderful encouragement to hear from so many of you resting in the providence of our heavenly Father. From our limited perspective, things certainly seem unstable in the world around us, but the covenant promises of our God will never change. “’For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Is. 54:10). “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea…” (Ps. 46:1-2). “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1)

As we prepare for another Sunday utilizing our live-streaming capability, we want to encourage everyone to heed the direction from Governor DeSantis by remaining in our homes. While we appreciate the desire of some to be present on Sunday mornings, we want to respect those in authority over us and ask that only pastoral staff and those directly assisting with worship be physically present through the month of April. The last couple of weeks we have had limited visitors and while we will certainly not turn them away, we will maintain appropriate distance and inform them of our live-streaming capability for their future use.

Church historians have pointed out that the Belgic Confession is the closest we have to a Reformed Ecumenical Creed. Article 13 on God’s Providence is a marvelous statement to dwell upon:

Article 13: The Doctrine of God's Providence

We believe that this good God, after creating all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without God’s orderly arrangement.

Yet God is not the author of, and cannot be charged with, the sin that occurs. For God’s power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that God arranges and does his works very well and justly even when the devils and the wicked act unjustly.

We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what God does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what God shows us in the Word, without going beyond those limits.

This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father, who watches over us with fatherly care, sustaining all creatures under his lordship, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground without the will of our Father.

In this thought we rest, knowing that God holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without divine permission and will.

For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God does not get involved in anything and leaves everything to chance.

- Matt. 10:29-30

We now have live streaming set up for this coming Sunday morning worship service (and as many Sundays beyond as necessary). A special thanks to all the Fullgrafs, Greg Hannah, and Jared Morrison (and any others who helped) for working tirelessly to make this possible. We strongly encourage everyone to stay home and worship with your family via the web, as it is our intent and desire for people NOT to come to the church building. However, since this is no ordinary event, but rather the public worship of our Lord and Savior, we will not prohibit anyone from attending. If you desire or are conscience-bound to attend, the doors will be open.

You can view the live stream by visiting this link: Covenant Lakeland YouTube Channel. Once there, click on "Sunday AM 3/22/20". The stream will begin at 10:30am with the service beginning at our regular time of 10:50am. We would like everyone to join the service in real time so that we may worship together - even though separated by distance. By “subscribing” to this page you will receive notification when the live stream is about to begin. But the service will still be available as a recording even after it has concluded. Additionally on the website, you will find the bulletin, as well as links to the hymns we will be singing each Sunday morning.

A word of caution about the fallibility of technology and limited bandwidth. The YouTube live stream we have set up has been tested and appears to work without issue. However, we have not had several hundred people log onto it simultaneously the way we will on Sunday. This high volume of traffic could affect the stream. We will not know if this is a problem until our first try at it on Sunday. If you are unable to view the live stream for whatever reason, please return to the link later in the day to watch the recording.

If you come to the service in person, please review the below and be prepared to follow specific instructions on physical separation and distancing.

Please DO NOT come to worship if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • Those age 65 and older
  • If you have cough, fever, or shortness of breath
  • Any person immunocompromised or with a history of ANY chronic health condition
  • You have traveled in the past two weeks outside of Florida
  • You have had contact with a Covid-19 positive person in the past 30 days

Please observe the following procedures:

  • No shaking hands or hugging/embracing
  • Keep a minimum of 6 feet between all attendees
  • Utilize every other row for seating
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow
  • When the service is concluded, please exit the building straightaway

We pray that these new ways of worshipping will be short-lived. But we will keep these safety measures in place for as long as necessary to help stem the spread of the virus.

Finally, some of you have asked about weekly giving. We are aware that these times may cause some financial hardship for some, but for those who would like to contribute tithes or offerings, your online bill pay can be directed to the church office (210 Poppell Dr) or you can mail your contribution directly as LouAnn Lewis will be checking the mail regularly.

As always, feel free to contact your shepherding elders or deacons if you need help or have questions or concerns.

Thank you,

CPC Pastors, Elders, & Deacons

Recent weeks have seen unprecedented upheaval and uncertainty in our nation and our world. Your session has been closely following the events and updates as they have become available and as we have considered what actions to take. As in all things, we strive to honor Christ, protect our flock, and use prudence and wisdom in all decisions. To that end, we have decided the following:

1.) Effective immediately, all gatherings and activities at CPC are cancelled with the exception of the Sunday morning worship service. This means the following are cancelled: children’s Sunday School, adult Christian Educational hour, nursery, children’s worship hour, as well as Wed night Kids’ Quest, youth, prayer service, and Sunday evening worship. Those who serve in the choir & music ministry have been communicated with directly from Eric and / or Kae.

2.) The church office will be closed until further notice and church staff will work from home checking their email regularly.

3.) Online streaming of our worship service will be available beginning this coming Sunday. (The link to the stream will be provided in the next few days.)

4.) We expect to follow this protocol for a minimum of 4 weeks.

Some notes:

  • In accordance with CDC guidance regarding group gatherings, we encourage everyone to remain at home and view the livestream. However, if it is your desire to join the service in person, you are welcome to do so. PLEASE NOTE that no nursery or children’s church will be provided.
  • We will soon provide some specific guidance for those who do wish to attend in order to mitigate potential transmission.
  • We will reassess each week to determine if the protocol will continue or be modified, keeping in mind that it could extend beyond the initial 4 weeks.

We will continue to monitor the situation and update you as much as possible. If you have additional questions, please reach out to your shepherding elders.

--CPC Pastors, Elders, and Deacons

In addition, consider the wonderful pastoral words of comfort from the Heidelberg catechism:

Q & A 27

Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?

A. The almighty and ever present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty—all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.

Q & A 28

Q. How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?

A. We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love. For all creatures are so completely in God’s hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.

{The following has been adapted from our friend, Terry Johnson, pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA}

Members and friends of Covenant Presbyterian Church,

Greetings. I hope this finds you well. With the rising concern over the coronavirus, we thought it would be important to reach out to you with communication from your church, both with information and encouragement.

First, some information. We want to assure you that we are taking every step to protect the health of our church. Here are some of the ways we are doing this:

  • Our facilities are receiving extra cleaning attention with repeated sanitizing of surfaces while we continue to maintain standards of cleanliness and sanitizing. Our deacons, in particular, are continuing to look at what additional care we can provide.
  • We encourage everyone to monitor your own health and to refrain from church activities if you have symptoms of illness. Also, remember that your personal care and hygiene not only impacts you but also your church community. Please be vigilant as a way to love your neighbors, particularly the elderly among us.All church activities are open to the possibility of cancellation except Sunday services. Our audio visual team is looking into the feasibility of “live streaming” our services for those who are ill or otherwise unable to meet for public worship. However, even if we were in the midst of an epidemic (which we have no reason to believe is upon us yet), we would still have Sunday worship. In fact, it is in the hour of hardship that people most need the comfort and stability that churches provide. That being said, we do not want to bind anyone’s conscience if they feel they cannot attend.
  • To our seniors and those with underlying health conditions: if it comes to the point where you feel uncomfortable attending worship, you may participate by watching the service online when / if such streaming is made available.

Second, some encouragement. A colleague in the ministry has extended this wise word to his congregation which we pass on to you:

Thoughtful precautions are good and helpful, but panic and fear are not. We serve a risen and reigning Savior who is completely in control, and that should be evident in the way we respond to a cultural crisis. It was our Christian brothers and sisters in China who led the way during the initial outbreak of this virus. They testified to the surety of their hope by loving, serving, and above all, not despairing. Confidence in the face of panic always has been a mark of God’s people, and let it be true of us. Besides, as our Lord himself reminds us, our fear accomplishes nothing. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to their life?” (Matt. 6:27)

Another minister, also a medical doctor, has added this:

If you are over 65, have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or chronic lung issues: Be prudent, wash your hands regularly, elbow bump religiously, avoid mass gatherings, and keep your distance (6 ft.) from people, especially those who are sick. Avoid gyms also and strenuous workouts (they lower your immune response significantly for at least a couple of hours). Take a nice long walk at noon (sunlight is your friend). Oh, and get plenty of sleep.

Let us pray for all those impacted and for the sustained health of our Lakeland community, but as we pray, let us do so with confidence that God is sovereign and at work.

Recommended by the Center for Disease Control:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are at a higher risk, stay out of crowds, stay home as much as possible.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.