A Call to Prayer and Fasting – Good Friday, April 10, 2020

This Friday we invite and encourage the members of Northminster Evangelical Presbyterian Church to join our brothers and sisters in the EPC, PCA, ECO, ACNA and many other denominations and churches in a day of prayer and fasting to cry out for God’s help in addition to a day of worship.  As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the globe and our nation, this is an opportunity for us to set ourselves before the Lord and plead with him to intercede on behalf of His creation.
 
If you’ve been joining us on B90, you’ve seen how, time and again, when the people of God were convicted of their sin and sought His intervention, they began with a period of fasting and then prayer.  While you might consider fasting from technology or something like that, there is something particular about going without food for a short period of time.  The pang and tug of physical hunger reminds us of our deeper, spiritual hunger for God and his action in our lives and our world.  As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13–14)
 
Setting aside a day of prayer and fasting isn’t something to be entered into lightly.  To help us prepare for this Friday, the EPC has provided several resources which you can find on their Good Friday Call to Prayer and Fasting Resources page.  There is a very helpful Guide to Prayer and Fasting, a suggested prayer list, and a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer that addresses the needs of suffering people in troubled times.
 
Our Day of Prayer and Fasting will conclude with the Good Friday service, streamed live on our Facebook page which you can find at www.facebook.com/npcmh (you do not need a Facebook account to access the livestream).  The service will begin at 7:30pm and is a simple service of scripture, song, candlelight and prayerful reflection.
 
We hope you’ll join us in this day of prayer and fasting, asking God to  intervene in the face of this ongoing pandemic.
 
Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison

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NEPC’s Response to COVID-19

March 18, 2020

Dear Friends,

We are in unprecedented times, being forced into new patterns of being that feel unnatural and strange, but are ever so necessary in order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of this pandemic.  The rhythm and flow of our “normal” lives has been completely disrupted, and we’re just beginning to experience what this is going to be like.  It’s hard, it’s scary, and it’s frightening. What are we to do? Well, there are a few answers to that, which I’d like to share with you today.

What am I to do?

Be wise and prudent, but not fearful.  We can take the novel coronavirus seriously and apply appropriate social distancing and good hygiene without falling into fear.  I encourage you to follow the guidelines issued by the CDC and the federal and state governments.  Wash your hands often, don’t touch your face, stay 6’ away from others, and avoid large group gatherings.  But even with those efforts you might contract the virus.  Whether you do or not, you are always in Jesus’ hands.  He is present with us in our isolation, our quarantines and even more in our illnesses.  He is already and will continue to watch over each one of us.  We need not fear for our present or future, because Jesus is already there.

What is our church to do?

Both Scripture (Romans 13:1) and our confession (Westminster 23.4) command us to submit to civil authorities, and while (at the time of the writing of this letter) no law has been issued barring us from gathering for worship, we do believe that it is our civic responsibility to comply, as best as possible, with their recommendations to slow the spread of this virus.  To that end, we have cancelled all ministries and missions outside of worship.  This includes Sunday school, Bible studies, women’s circles, and youth group.  We are also moving the focus of our worship service to online streaming.  As long as you have an internet-connected device (cell phone, TV, computer, iPad, etc), you can join us for worship.  Simply go to www.facebook.com/npcmh at 11am on Sunday morning, and you’ll see the livestream there (you do not need a Facebook account to see the service).  We will publish the bulletin online so you can follow along.  We’ll send more information about how this works on different devices in a few days.  In addition, the Sanctuary will still be open if you would like to be present with us, but we encourage folks to sit 6’ apart.  But let me re-emphasize: If you are in the higher-risk categories for COVID-19, please do not put yourself at risk by going out.  Also, if you have been reading for B90, by all means keep it up!  While our discussion groups won’t be meeting, we’ll email you online videos and tools.

The Work of the Church goes on

In the midst of this, we are still hard at work serving you and our community. Our programs might be temporarily cancelled, but the work of the church is more than a program or ministry.  Please continue giving.  Our community needs the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ now more than ever.  Send your tithes and offerings in weekly.  If you find yourself quarantined and unable to go to the store or need help, please let us know.  Look for ways to to love your neighbor, old or young.  Invite a neighbor to join your family for worship in your living room (but practice appropriate social distancing).  Call one another and check in to see how folks are doing.  And when you hear of a need or concern, please let us know.  In the midst of this terrible situation, we have an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus for each other and our neighbors in ways we’d never dreamed.

The Church has faced pandemics like this time and again throughout history.  While we don’t know how long this will last, we know that it too shall pass and look forward to the time when we can worship and be together in person.  Until then, be wise and prudent.  Practice good hygiene, appropriate social distancing, and the guidance of our governing authorities.  Help where you are able.  And above and beyond all else, pray.  For we are all in God’s hands, and we should earnestly pray for his mercy to bring an end to this pestilence both here and abroad.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. David Garrison


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Pastor’s Corner – February 2020

Almost every Christian would say that they believe in the Bible, but according to a recent Lifeway Research survey, more than half of Americans have read little or none of the Bible. I hear from many folks who have tried to read through the Bible, usually in a year, but haven’t been able to finish. To be honest, it can be a daunting task.
 
One of the other challenges with reading the entire Bible is that many of us only read the Bible in small snippets, a few verses here or there, usually in a Sunday school class or a sermon on Sunday morning. Don’t misunderstand me here, those are important and necessary ways to understand what the Bible is teaching and how to apply it to our lives. But the risk we run is not seeing how each of these isolated passages relate to the grand arc of redemptive history.
 

Binge Reading…

One of my favorite TV shows was LOST. The hardest part of the show, though, was keep track of all of the different threads and plots from week to week. A couple of years ago, my son and I sat down and binged the entire series in a few days. Doing so enabled us to keep track of the various threads much more easily. Sometimes we need to experience the big picture so we can appreciate the details even more. That’s what we’re going to do with the Bible – we’re going to “binge read” it.
 

…The Bible in 90 Days

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, the Session and I invite you to make a commitment to reading through the entire Bible in 90 days. By the time Pentecost rolls around, we’ll have read the whole Bible, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. That might sound daunting, but it actually works out to just 12 pages a day. And, you won’t be going through this alone — this is a church-wide endeavor, and we’ll be making several tools available to help you succeed.
 

What Bible Should You Read?

You can read any Bible you like (even an app that reads the Bible to you!) — we’ll provide a reading schedule for those who would like it. However, we recommend purchasing the Bible in 90 Days Bible and participant’s guide (we’ll have these available for $20). You can also find them for your favorite e-reader (Kindle, iBooks, etc). The B90 Bible has a couple of advantages: first, it has the daily readings already broken down in the text, which makes it easier to follow along; second, it has minimal notes and whatnot, which can be very distracting when you’re trying to read on a schedule.
 

Sharing the Journey Together

In addition to the Bible, we’ll be asking everyone to sign up for a discussion group. We’ll have two times during the week — Sunday mornings during the Sunday school hour at 9:45am and Wednesday evening at 5:45pm. This is an essential part of successfully reading through the Bible in 90 days, as it provides accountability and an opportunity to learn and discuss what we’ve just read the previous week. In addition, each Sunday’s sermon throughout the 90 days will follow along with our reading. To help us focus on our readings, we will only be offering the one class during the Sunday school hour for youth and adults.
 

Who Can Participate?

Anyone who can read, frankly! Aside from that, we’re encouraging our late-elementary kids, youth and all adults to participate. Please feel free to invite folks from the community to join us on the journey as well, especially folks you know who might be interested in learning more about what the Bible says – this can be a fantastic evangelism tool.
 

Find Out More on Sunday, February 23

Come to Sunday school on February 23 at 9:45 where we’ll be providing more information about why we believe this is important for our church and how this will work. It’s going to be an exciting journey for all of us, and we look forward to traveling together on The Path of the Phoenix.
 
Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison

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Pastor’s Corner – December 2019

“Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!” — Psalm 90:13

The Christian calendar begins, not with January 1st, but instead with the first Sunday in Advent.  It’s an interesting decision that the early church fathers made in doing this.  Interesting  because the Christian year begins not with resolutions and activity, but with waiting.  Advent is an intentional season of preparation and pause, a time to reflect and prepare for the celebration of the coming of the Lord’s Messiah, Jesus Christ.  There is great wisdom in this decision, particularly for our current times.  We live in a culture of hurry and rush and activity, the last thing we want or like to do is wait for anything.

By starting the year with a season of waiting, we are invited to settle into a different rhythm of life and living, a rhythm that is ultimately about trust.  Trusting in the God who created Time, trusting in the One who has set His plans in motion and will see them through, trusting that there is One who knows and understands more than we do, trusting that He is good and that He is love.

So the Christian calendar begins with a reminder that there is a holiness and a righteousness in waiting.  But there is a hard-ness and challenge in waiting as well.  The Psalmists cry out, with great regularity, “How long, O Lord?”  Even as they wait on the Lord, they express their frustration, their discontent.  And in that we are shown that there is such a thing as a holy discontent.

But as much as we are waiting to celebrate the birth of our Savior, the season of Advent points to an even more significant event, an event most of us usually forget is yet to and actually is going to happen.  The Hebrews waited over 500 years for the Messiah to come the first time.  We’ve been waiting nearly 2,000 years for him to return.  May our lives be lived with the faith that comes from knowing our Savior’s return is imminent, with the hope that comes from knowing that what is broken will soon be made right, and with the love for those who don’t yet know that their Messiah has already come once and will come again.

“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” — Revelation 22:20

Blessings,

Rev. David Garrison


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Parenting in the Pew – A New Sunday school class beginning 10/6

One of the questions we’re asked on a regular basis is, “How do I teach my children how to worship?  How do we help them understand what the different parts of the worship service mean and why they matter?”  These are great questions, so we’re offering this new Sunday School class to help find some answers together.  
 
Karey Garrison will be leading a study of the book, Parenting in the Pew, by Robbie Castleman.  From the back cover:

“Daddy, I’d like you to meet my children.” That’s Robbie Castleman’s attitude about taking her children to church. She believes that Sunday morning isn’t a success if she has only managed to keep the kids quiet. And she knows there’s more to church for kids than trying out their new coloring books. Children are at church for the same reason as their parents: for the privilege of worshiping God. Worship, Castleman writes, is “the most important thing you can ever train your child to do.” So with infectious passion, nitty-gritty advice and a touch of humor, she shows you how to help your children (from toddlers to teenagers) enter into worship. In this significantly revised and updated edition Castleman includes a new preface and two new appendices that provide new perspectives on children’s sermons and intergenerational community. She also provides a study guide for personal reflection or group discussion. More than ever, Parenting in the Pew is essential reading for parents and worship leaders who want to help children make joyful noises unto the Lord.

 
This class is open to all parents, grandparents and great-grandparents – anyone who would like to help their children, grandchildren or even nieces and nephews learn how to love and worship God will all of their heart, mind, soul and strength.
 
Books cost $10 each.  Please click here to RSVP if you plan to attend or would like a book so we order the proper amount.
 

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Pastor’s Corner – August 2019

“Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:18)

Summer doesn’t officially end for another month and a half, and given that we live in central Virginia, it won’t begin to feel like fall until sometime in October, but with kids going back to school in just a few weeks, it seems like fall is already here.  And with the fall comes the  harvest season.  In our summer sermon series, Do Something, we’ve seen that James uses the image of the harvest a lot throughout his letter.  

I’ve been amazed at the way the flowers and plants in our yard have absolutely blossomed and exploded this year.  As much as we’d like to take credit, this isn’t really because of anything my wife and I have done.  Someone else put these plants in the ground long before we moved in, and last year’s incredible rainfall nourished the soil richly over the winter and into the spring.  We put a lot of effort into weeding and mulching early on, but haven’t done a good job keeping up with it.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:5–9)

Such it is with our spiritual lives.  Often we find that spiritual growth happens, regardless of what we do or don’t do.  But some simple truths are still central.  First, you harvest what you plant.  Second, while the seeds grow naturally, there are things we can do to encourage their growth, such as watering, weeding and fertilizing that create an environment conducive to their flourishing.

Much of what we seek to do here at Northminster is help you with those two aspects of your walk with the Lord – planting seeds of faith and spiritual growth, and cultivating the soil of your heart and soul to nourish those seeds.  As we head into the harvest season, be on the lookout for opportunities to check the health of the soil of your soul as well as opportunities to “do something” with the growth that God has been doing in you.  If there is a particular way you’d like some help in your spiritual growth, be sure to let one of our elders or me know.

Blessings,

Rev. David Garrison


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Now I See – A Spring 2019 Sermon Series

Throughout his Gospel, John is constantly bringing forward a contrast between light and darkness, belief and unbelief, and sight and blindness. Sometimes John talks about these themes individually (such as John 1:5). Often, these three contrasts are brought together (take, for example, John 3:16-21). In John 9, he weaves these contrasting themes together into one of the most compelling stories in in his Gospel and in Scripture.
 
Over the course of the season of Easter (which runs from Easter Sunday through Pentecost), we’ll be exploring the richness of the story of the man born blind. In this story, John contrasts a man who was born physically blind yet could see better than anyone else with people who could physically see but were actually blind. Along the way, we’ll explore why bad things happen, how to find healing in Jesus, the power of a changed life, the importance of the sabbath, family matters, how to defend your faith, and what it really means to believe and see.
 
The story is only one chapter in John’s Gospel, yet could almost be a book unto itself. We invite you to join us as we discover that, because of Jesus, we once were blind, but now we see. We look forward to seeing you in worship, Sundays at 11am.

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Hymn Sing & Ice Cream Sundaes! – Wednesday, August 15, 6pm

join us for a time to sing our favorite hymns and be introduced to some new praise songs.  Afterwards, we’ll enjoy ice cream sundaes together.  Few things bring us together as well as singing praises to our God and eating ice cream!  We look forward to seeing you there.

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Pastor’s Corner – June 2018

“Ordinary” Time

Beginning the day after Pentecost, the church calendar begins it’s longest season of the year: Ordinary Time. After the past six months of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter; and given that it coincides with the beginning of summer; it can be easy to think of “Ordinary Time” as “vacation time,” or “back to our regularly scheduled lives time.” But that would actually miss the opportunity that Ordinary Time gives to us, a gift the Early Church recognized in making this the longest season of the year.
 
Philip Reinders writes, “With all the big holidays and celebrations over, Ordinary Time offers us the space to find our place in God’s story. We’ve celebrated and taken in the momentous life of Jesus; now we need a long stretch of days to absorb and assimilate it. In Ordinary Time, we fully take in the gospel, allowing it to take shape in our daily living, making connections between Jesus’ story and our lives.” (Seeking God’s Face, pg 431)
 
To that end, we begin this season with a brief look at the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is a masterful book that, at first glance, can seem like a pessimistic pile of skepticism and futility. But in reality, it provides an opportunity to wash us clean of our pretensions and false spiritualities that keep us from knowing Jesus as He really is and following Him as closely as He invites us to do. After a 3 week break, we’ll then take a deep dive into a book of the Bible to see how God’s word is as applicable to our lives today as it was when it was written, 2,000 years ago. Speaking of that 3 week break…
 

“Where’d Pastor David go?”

Due to an unusual and unexpected confluence of events, the Session has been kind enough to grant me 3 Sundays off in a row, June 24 – July 8. Over those three weeks, I’ll be heading to the EPC General Assembly meeting in Memphis, celebrating my parents 50th wedding anniversary with our extended family in North Carolina, and heading back to St. Louis to preside over the wedding of one of the youth from our time ministering there. I’m looking forward to each of these events, but know that I’ll miss worshipping and partnering with you all in mission and ministry over that time as well. While I’m gone, you will be blessed with the opportunity to hear the Word of God expounded by our own Michael Babcock and Bob Mills, as well as Lowell Sykes. With their excellent preaching, you’ll hardly have an opportunity to know that I was gone!
 
Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison

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Community Service of Prayer and Praise

Sunday Evening, April 22nd at 7 p.m. we are going to have a service of prayer and praise for the Elon Community! Even in the midst of the storm, maybe especially in the midst of the storm, God’s hand has been protecting and loving His people. We want to praise God for our community and praise Him for being with us through it all! We will join with Elon Baptist, Elon Presbyterian and other churches as well as our entire community to give thanks to God for His great faithfulness and for each other. Area pastors will help lead the service.  The service will be held at Elon Baptist Church, 145 Younger Drive, Madison Heights, VA 24572 (Next to Elon Elementary School – click here for map and directions).
 
Please note that Youth Group/Confirmation Class will meet from 5:00-6:30PM this Sunday.

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