The Apostle’s School of Prayer, April 2024

As we look forward to April, I will be launching into a new ser- mon series on prayer. We will look at many aspects of prayer, including how to have productive prayers. Prayer is a perennial topic, because we so often pray, but feel like we need to better understand what God desires for our prayers to be like.

So let’s begin with Genesis 4:26, “At this time people began to call on the name of the Lord.” This verse indicates the first time in which prayer becomes part of human life. Worship had already been instituted as we saw in the story of Cain and Abel. But now making special requests and calling on God to do what he promised becomes part of our relationship with him.

At this point, Adam and Eve have already sinned. The garden of Eden is closed. And all the participants in that sin have received their curses. But amongst those curses was a promise that the seed of the woman would produce a person who would crush the serpent’s head, and so defeat the devil and his schemes. This promise was one that was held onto, and each generation was reminded of God’s promise to fulfill it.

Yet much happened in the waning years. Cain’s jealousy of Able led to murder, and it seems that neither of these sons were up to fulfilling the promise. When the third son, Seth, is born. Eve is certain that God will be true to his promise, even though Seth is just as incapable as his previous brothers.

So then, when Seth has his son, Enosh, Seth reveals in his name the despair of the whole family. Enosh means “weakness”, signifying that none of Adam’s race is up to the task of destroying the devil, but instead are under the devils powers and captives in his kingdom. This is proven more true in the next section where the sins of humanity lead to the flooding of the Earth.

And so we see in verse 26 the first time prayer becomes part of our human lives. The “calling on the name of the Lord” were prayers, asking God to fulfill his promise. The people of Seth’s day were calling on the name of the Lord, asking him to send a savior. They were asking for him to fulfill his promise. That prayer repeated over and over as every son of Adam showed their weakness. Every son of Adam and daughter of Eve sinned, and so showed their inability to be free. It is clear by the end of Genesis 4, that the savior would not come from Adam’s line, but from the seed of the woman a child would be born. That child would have the power to destroy the devil and his works, and would rescue Adam’s race.

But God ultimately keeps his promise by sending his own son. A son, not born of a man’s seed, but born of a virgin. A son not of natural descent or a husband’s will, but born of God. The long awaited savior, whom Adam and Eve prayed for, finally arrived. He came without splendor or glory or beauty; He came to die. So that even as the serpent bit to bring his death, by that death… salvation, forgiveness, redemption, righteousness might return to Adam’s offspring. The original promise of God was fulfilled for all mankind.

God Bless,

Pastor Dave

A Welcoming Church, March 2024

Happy March Everyone,

In February, the whole of Church Council met on a Tuesday night to discuss Thom Rainer’s book Welcoming Church. Below I will share with you some highlights from the meeting, but first I want to invite you to borrow a copy of the book and read it for yourself. Copies are available from Cindy in the church office and also in the church library. It is a short and easy read, but many felt it was very beneficial.

We began our council meeting by looking at the facility inventory results. The two items receiving the lowest scores were Interior and Exterior Signage. These two items will be top on the list for the church leadership this year. The next two areas of concern are harder to mend: Bathrooms and Parking Lots. It will take some planning and coordination, but the Diaconate will be discussing them as well.

The round-table discussions that night covered every aspect of Rainer’s book: Greeters, a Welcome Center, Children’s Ministry and Nursery Expectations, and First-Time Visitor Expectations. Diaconate members took notes of the ideas and input, and will compare those notes at their meeting this month.

Our meal (with special thanks to the kitchen helpers: Jim and Kathy Briney, Nelda Love, and Mary Ellen Lowe) included Rosemary Beef Roast, French Onion Chicken, and a few sides. The Brussels Sprouts Gratin were particularly good and several asked me to print the recipe.

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

Prep: 45min – Bake: 10min Servings: 10

2lb Brussels Sprouts, quartered 2 Tbsp Butter, melted
3⁄4 tsp. Salt
1⁄8 tsp. Pepper

1 Large Onion, chopped
3 Tbsp Butter
3 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour
1 Cup Whole Milk

CREAM SAUCE (cont’d)
1 Cup Whole Milk
1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream 1⁄8 tsp. White Pepper
Ground Nutmeg

1⁄2 Cup Shredded Gruyere Cheese 1⁄4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, combine Brussels sprouts, butter, salt, and pepper; toss to coat. Transfer to a greased 13×9 baking dish. Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes or until sprouts are tender, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, in a large skillet, saute onion in butter until tender. Stir in flour until blended; gradually add milk and cream. Bring to boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in pepper and a dash of nutmeg; pour sauce over sprouts. Sprinkle with cheeses. Reduce heat to 350°F. Bake, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes or until heated through and cheeses are melted.

Our meeting went a little long, ending at 9pm, but the input from the Council was so helpful. We will be Establishing a Visitor and Guest Parking area where 10th Street and Main Street converge. This will encourage visitors and guests to use the North Entrance and the Old Main Entry. I am excited to see what other ideas we can implement this year. Please take the time to read the book and let Diaconate Members and Church Staff know of any suggestions you believe would be effective.

Paul gives an instruction to the Church in Rome; Romans 12:13b simp- ly says, “Practice hospitality.” The word here and most of the time in the New Testament is Philoxenia. Philo meaning “love, brotherly/ friendship.” Xenia meaning “stranger, someone different, unknown.” Philoxenia would quite literally read “Love of Strangers.” What a great concept. It is akin to the Love of God for the world and the motive of the Great Commission.

I look forward to your input,

Pastor Dave

Love Is… February 2024

A quote I saw recently made me stop and think. “Love is an ocean of emotion in a sea of expense.” I got to thinking about how this is kind of true in a fun- ny way. The love we feel for our marriage partner and even for our kids is an ocean of emotion. It’s a huge swelling of emotions, ups and downs. We have intense feelings about the people that we love. Falling in romantic love with someone brings high emotions. We feel strongly about the person, their qualities, their needs and wants, and about their futures. We often put their own needs above our own and think about the other person, as the common phrase says, as “My Better Half.”

Love for our kids is also intense. Our love compels us to do for them what we would do for no other. We love them intensely, more than any child understands until they have a child of their own. Our concern for them can come across as protective or corrective, but should never hollow.

But love is also a sea of expense. Marriage is hardly a cheap endeavor. And the average cost to bring a child to adulthood has a lot of zeros at the end. Love is definitely not cheap.

But this all brings me back to thinking about God’s love for us. We often forget that God has strong emotions for us. He loves us immensely. His emotions are real and they move him to do incredible things for us.

But God’s love is also a sea of expense. Loving us was not cheap. The cost of his love was the life of his one and only son. Love, in its most pure and excellent form, is truly an ocean of emotion in a sea of expense.

Which brings me to another quote. The philosopher Nietzsche said this about love: Love is a state in which a man sees things most decidedly as they are not. His point is that love distorts our vision, in some ways it makes it so that the object of our love does not appear to us as it does in reality. Love makes the object of our love more beautiful, without flaws, and more attractive than others might see them. And so every husband may say honestly of his wife: she is the most beautiful creature ever to exist. And every husband would be telling the honest truth. Every mother can say of her baby… it is the most wonderful thing she has ever seen.

God‘s love for us also distorts, because his love sees us as objects worthy of salvation, capable of redemption. He does not see us with our flaws, our sin, our weaknesses, but sees us as perfect, therefore he has lavished his love upon us.

“For God so loved the world…”
My sermon series for February will be from 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “Love Chapter” of the Bible.
Additionally, I would like to emphasize missions this month. I am looking for a way to share about missions, missionar- ies, and ministries we support throughout the year. I hope you will join us in person or online for worship this month.

God bless you and yours,

Pastor Dave

Happy New Year, January 2024

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is 2 Peter 1:5-7. It says, “Make every effort to supplement your faith with praise, praise with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with kind- ness, kindness with love.” (I have used the word praise instead of goodness in the translation and the why will need to wait for another day.) These verses indicate that we have some meas- ure of control in the development of our own spiritual lives. The verse begins with the words – make every effort. It means that we should be striving for spiritual growth. It means, at least in some measure, spiritual growth lies within our own hands. (See notes below.)

As we begin 2024, we should take a moment and think about what sort of spiritual growth the Lord would like for us this com- ing year. Billy Graham is quoted as saying, “This new year affords us an opportunity to take spiritual inventory of our lives to see if our spiritual resources are sufficient for the needs and demands of the coming days.” Have you developed the spiritual resources that you need for 2024? Are you prepared for the parenting and marriage hurdles that you will need to face? Do you have the resources for the physical and health challenges that lie ahead? Will the expectations of your work and finances be met with the spiritual abilities at your disposal?

The time for developing these resources is now, and not in the midst of the difficulty. And this is one reason why New Year’s resolutions are important. They give us the opportunity, as Billy Graham says, to make spiritual progress and increase our spiritual resources.

As you think about your spiritual resolutions, here are five wise things that would be SMART to keep in mind…

Specific. A general goal of just being a better person is usually too vague. Like Peter suggests, you may want to set a specific goal about your worship, or your knowledge of God, or in some way develop self control or kindness.

Measurable. You probably should include a way of keeping track of your goal. How many times a year or a month or a week you will do something. How many books of the Bible will you read. What dollar amount or percentage will you contribute to the needs of others?

Achievable. Sometimes our goals can be too high. So it is usually better to start modestly and if we are successful to increase that goal.

Results. Doing extra work, just for the sake of doing extra work is a poor motivator. We will often do much better if we can see and feel results from the work we do. So if you pick a topic to learn it should be something that will make a difference in your life. If you choose an area of self-control, it should be something that has social, emotional or physical benefits.

Timely. Maybe your New Year’s resolution should only last until May. And definitely don’t go on a diet at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Choosing the right time to make good on a resolution, can make all the difference.

These SMART ways of setting goals can help us make spiritual progress. So which area of Peter’s list seems like a good step… praise/ worship, knowledge, self control, endurance, godliness, kindness, love? Ball is in your court…

God Bless and Happy New Year,

Pastor Dave

NOTE – Transformation of our hearts and minds and souls is progress that only God can bring about. Spiritual change in our lives is the result of God’s work, or more accurately, God’s work in a willing person. Just as it takes two people to move a large table or desk. In the same way, we each must work in coordination with God for transformation to happen. Hard hearted and stubborn people are a common obstacle to God’s will and work. Therefore, it takes two. You and He together.