As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians marching after them. The Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? . . . 30
On that day the Lord saved Israel from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31Israel saw the mighty hand which the Lord put into action against the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in Moses, his servant.” (Exodus 14:10-11, 30-31 – EHV)
Maybe I am getting old but it seems that people are having more difficult time staying focused these days. Have you noticed this same thing? Sadly, it actually is true that we are less focused than years past. Microsoft has been studying this very thing for the last 20 years because it affects how they advertise their products. Maybe you should take a seat as I tell you the bad news. Microsoft found that our average attention span was around 12 seconds in the year 2000 and it has fallen to an abysmal 8 seconds today. To put this into something practical, the average person who looks at a webpage only reads for about 10-20 seconds or about 20% of the material and moves on. I think it is safe to say that our modern world is filled with too many people who aren't very focused. With that fact in mind, I hope that your attention span will last longer than 8 seconds and you will read further.
Sad to say this isn’t something new. Yes, smartphones and the internet are new, but losing focus isn’t. The people of Israel had just been privileged to have front row seats as God showed power that this world had never seen as he brought 10 different plagues on the land of Egypt culminating with the Angel of death killing all the first born who didn’t’ have the blood of the lamb over their door in what they would call the Passover. After this last plague, Pharaoh had told Moses to leave the land of Egypt and the people of Israel were filled with great joy as they were freed from their horrible slavery and they marched out of Egypt as freed people.
But how long did their attention span last. Not very long! They were now just outside of Egypt and were in trouble as they were hemmed in by the Red Sea on the one side and the Egyptian army on the other. Listen to their lack of focus, “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians marching after them. The Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?” Their attention span might have been greater than the 8 seconds of our world, but not much more. How could they possibly have forgotten already God and his power that they had witnessed just days before?
Once again God was testing the faith of his people and was leading them to put their complete trust in God and not themselves. He eventually divided the water of the Red Sea and the people were able to cross on dry ground, while the Egyptian army was destroyed in the Red Sea. I would like to be able to say that this was the last time that the people of Israel lost focus in God and his grace and power, but it happened continually for years and years to come and even more damning it happens in our world today.
How’s your attention span for God doing? Longer than 8 seconds? Just think, if you have made it to this point in my devotion, you have made it much longer than 8 seconds. How are you doing at making time in your “busy” lives to focus on God’s Word through regular devotions where you witness over and over again God and his power and mercy and grace? Is one hour a week to gather for worship too long to focus on God, especially if the sermon would happen to go over 20 minutes or God-forbid the service would happen to last more than one hour. Is it too much to spend another hour to join in one of our weekly Bible studies? Have you seemingly forgotten God and his wonderful power on the cross of Calvary as you blatantly grumble and complain against God and others because the virus has put a damper on your lifestyle and your pocketbook or whenever something doesn’t seem to go right in your life?
It is at times like this that we can all learn valuable lessons about our sin and God’s grace, as we see how God showed his Law and Gospel in the lives of the sinful people of Israel and sinful people like us. God never condoned their sin nor our sins and often times God’s punishment can be very severe, but in every situation God reminds us who are guilty of all kinds of sins that he daily cares for us and forgives us. Just as God can and did save the people of Israel from the Egyptians, God has shown even greater power and loves as he has saved us from all or sins by his innocent sufferings and death on the cross. May God’s forgiving love help us to grow in our knowledge of God as we focus on him and his amazing love and mercy.
Pastor Mark Gartner
Important Update - (Disregard information contained in the Newsletter and last week's Worship Folder)
Sunday, September 6th our Worship Schedule will be changing to only two Sunday morning services at 8:00 and 10:30 am. Note the different times. We will be Livestreaming the 8:00 am service
- Labor Day Weekend we will move our Monday evening service to Thursday September 3rd at 6:30 pm. (September Calendar is incorrect -- No Worship Service on Labor Day)
- Also take note that Sunday School and Adult Bible Class will not be starting until September 13
We are almost done with our Summer online Bible study of the book of Ecclesiastes. We are pre-recording these online studies and sending them out via a youtube link along with a study guide. Please contact one of the pastors if you want to be included on the email list.
Starting Sunday Sepember 13 at 9:15 am, Pastor Frey will be leading a Bible Study on "The Christian and Government".
Starting Monday Sepember 14 at 8:00 am and Tuesday September 15 at 5:30 pm, Pastor Gartner will be leading a Bible Study on "The Life Moses -- A Study of the Book of Exodus".
All these Bible Classes that will be starting will be be held at church. If you are not comfortable attending them in person or can't make these times and you would like to receive a recording of these Bible Classes, please contact one of the Pastors and we will send you the link for these recordings.
Sunday School Teachers:
We are still looking for a few more people who might be interested in teaching Sunday School this year. If you are interested or would like more information, please speak to one of the Pastors.
Men's Bible Class and Women of Faith:
At this time we will not be having either of these two activities in September. We intend to contact those who have attended these actiivities in the past to see if there is any interest in begining these activities in October. If you have any thoughts please contact one of the Pastors.
Returning to Public Worship:
How great and wonderful it is to see people in-person as we worshiped our Lord together again! You should have received a copy of our plan for returning to public worship. Please look over the document carefully. Please note that for the time being, since only one or two ushers will be needed per service, we will not be in need of Usher Teams. If you have any comments or concerns, please contact one of the Pastors or any of the council members. The document can also be accessed by clicking the link below. https://stjohncenter-my.sharepoint.com/:b:/g/personal/pastor_frey_stjohn-appleton_org/EaBy-IahwepIjjaHxkS5IbMBC7X1SDx1pug80s5jAzCihQ?e=fJjd64
In order to encourage and practice social distancing, we are trying to limit each Worship service to 75 people. To help with this, we added an extra service on Sunday morning. We are offering 7:30, 9:00 and 10:30 services on Sunday as well as 6:30 pm on Monday. We are also asking everyone to sign up each week for whatever Worship Service you plan on attending. Please note, that we are in need of volunteers to help sanitize the sanctuary between services. When you sign-up you’ll have an opportunity to mark whether or not you are willing to help out—it only takes about 10 minutes, so we pray that you will!
You can find the link to sign-up on the front page of our website at: www.stjohn-appleton.org.
You can also signup by going directly to this link (it will be a different link each week): https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040a4aa9a62ea6fa7-stjohn2
As we go forward, we will continue to live-stream our services and posting our worship folders online. We will be recording our Sunday 7:30 am service which means you can watch anytime after 7:30 am on Sunday morning. If you need any help accessing these resources, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
You can find our worship services at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCsQs-LDzlHE1NTjOaVaQ2A.
You can find a bulletin for each Worship Service so you can follow along here: https://stjohncenter-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/g/personal/pastor_frey_stjohn-appleton_org/EqetvOMWflhLsfsLRcDkxSgBL2cnYkpiuk8Klh7d-r_XQg?e=07dSma.
Free Digital Resources from NPH
Our Synods Publishing House, NPH, is offering many great digital resources for free for the time being—including June’s Forward in Christ and the latest edition of Meditations. Please click on the link below for more info.