Holy Vessels, Spiritual/Reasonable Worship, and Three-Fold Description of God’s Will, September 2023

Romans 12:1-2 has such a deep and detailed point to make about our lives that I want to return to it in my article this month. Some of its parts, which I did not include in my sermon on Sunday, include being holy vessels, spiritual/reasonable worship, and the three-fold description of God’s will at the very end. These also are so valuable to our understanding of salvation that I would like to dive into them here.

Starting here, Paul says that our bodies are part of this salvation and mercy. God is not just concerned about our minds or thoughts or souls, but he is concerned about the whole of us, our bodies too. Specifically, our bodies are sacrifices which we offer up to the Lord as worship. Just as error, doubt, fear, and lies of the enemy can bog down a mind and make it unsuitable for approving God’s will, so a body can do the same. Moral corruption pollutes a body. Like a well is polluted by salt, bacteria, or chemicals, so also immorality is a pollutant to our bodies. What we do with our mouth, eyes, feet, hands, and every other part matters. Hebrew’s author insists we keep away from sin that so easily entangles us and holds us back from pursuing a wonderful and blessed life. (Heb. 12:1) And so Paul
says, our bodies (ourselves) are something we offer to the Lord in worship, so let us make them holy and pleasing to him.

Next, Paul speaks of the kind of worship The Lord wants. The word “spiritual” can also be translated “reasonable” or “rational” and so putting it into English is a struggle. The idea of mind and soul are mingled in this word, but it’s purpose is to amplify the importance of having holy bodies. Living a righteous life is a form of worship and we cannot say that what we do in the body is unimportant – what we do with our bodies is a fully-integrated part of ourselves and cannot be overlooked, disregarded, or rationalized away. Therefore, a holy life (body) is indeed spiritual and rational worship. Where our seat is on Sunday Mornings matters. Where our eyes hover over and lock onto matters. What our lips say matters in our relationship with God. The bodies are one of the most important things we offer to God as worship – let us give him ones that are unpolluted by the world.

Finally, we come to the last five words of the section… “good, pleasing, and perfect will.” I have heard this explained as three different wills. In that description, each is accomplishing slightly different things and sometimes in conflict with another of the wills of God. Though that view has some benefits, I suspect Paul is not describing three wills of God, but three outcomes of the singular will of the Lord. When all is said and one and the will of God is fully in force – not mitigated by sin, free will of sinful man, nor hidden from our knowledge – we will be able to look at all of God’s choices and see that it was good, pleasing, and perfect. But for now it will simply be enough to renew our minds with God’s Word and by our lives prove that God, who cannot be seen, exists and his will, which cannot be known by a fallen world, is active.

Remember to participate in our Sunday School Rally – if you are new to church or thinking about getting involved in a group (Sunday School or Small Group), this would be a great way to check it all out.

Thanks and May God Bless You and Yours,
Pastor Dave

For He Who Promised Is Faithful, July 2023

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25).

It’s hard to believe that nearly four months have passed since the weekend that the call to ministry at First Baptist was ex- tended to and accepted by Pastor Love and his family. After all, there was still Easter, the start of Boat Church, and VBS awaiting. Nevertheless, here we are. On July 2 , I will finish my call as interim pastor; on July 9th, Pastor Love will begin his call as the pastor of First Baptist Church.

This ministry experience has been an absolute joy for Lois and me. We have been welcomed from the beginning as we shared in the ministries throughout the church as best we could. Our initial “concern” at first was the distance we had to commute, but we soon discovered that it was do-able. It did keep us from engaging more completely in some of the ministries, but we discovered a routine that allowed us to participate to the great- est extent possible.

One of the ways that Lois and I used to get to know more people better was to circulate among the Sunday school classes. In addition to meeting and sharing with the church fellowship in smaller groups, we experienced the desire that each class has to grow in and apply God’s Word. This intentional devotion to personal and corporate spiritual growth created a bond of encouragement of which Lois and I felt a part. I am certain that this same fervor – “spurring one another on toward love and good deeds” – will have the same welcoming impact on the Love family.

The sad piece of this relationship is that we have to say good- bye – at least in this specific role of interim ministry. The bonds of friendship that have developed are heartfelt. Even though these friendships are not going to go away, we want to step back in order for the church fellowship and the Pastor Love family to develop those same strong bonds that will propel all of you into your future ministries together.

The verses above from the book of Hebrews is just one of many places throughout the Bible where encouragement is emphasized, and I am certain that the encouragement stressed throughout Scripture will be a hallmark of the growing testimony and outreach of First Baptist in the community.

Lois and I thank everyone for the hospitality that has been extended to us throughout our time here. We thank Elsie Long for providing her home to the church for us to use, and to Tom and Laurie Long for preparing it and looking after it while we have stayed there. We thank the children and youth of the church for being the friendliest and most personable group of young people we have experienced. I thank Rhonda, Cindy, and Skip for their invaluable assistance to me in the conduct of ministry, to Brian for heading up the tech team, and to the leadership of the boards and committees for their guidance.

Lois and I have been asked what we are going to do after this interim ministry ends. There is no other interim ministry immediately available in our area, but we remain open to such a ministry if God opens the opportunity. In the near term, our son has just made a move from Chicago to La Porte, so we have been helping him. Our two granddaughters (and their parents) will be visiting the last few days of June into early July, so we will be happily busy. I will return to completing a project on the book of Revelation that started as Sunday school lessons and grew into a commentary. There are revisions and editing that I need to finish. Both of us hope to find ministries in our community in which we can effectively connect. Like everyone else, we cannot predict the specifics of what the future will bring, but we do know that the Lord will guide us in our steps as we seek His will through His Word, “for He who promised is faithful.”

In the Bond of Christian Fellowship,

-Pastor Chuck-

Keep Your Eyes on the Good Shepherd, June 2023

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3, NKJV).

In a recent devotional article, Joni Eareckson Tada writes, “A life that pleases the Lord is never a smooth road. Today’s Scripture tells us that our Shepherd guides us along the right paths—paths of righteousness. That is true, but sadly, we often shake off his guiding hand. His path might interest us for a while, but then we allow sin to beckon us down a detour… We are so prone to wander—so inclined to leave his path and run away from his lordship. But how gracious and patient he is with us! The psalmist David wrote, ‘He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust’ (Psalm 103:14, NIV)” (Joni Eareckson Tada, “Prone to Wander,” 18 May 2023, https:// www.joniandfriends.org/prone-to-wander-2/).

Her particular reference to righteousness caught my attention. Outside of John 3:16, the 23rd Psalm is probably the most memorized and most familiar passage in the Bible. It is a Psalm of comfort that soothes our soul. It is a Psalm that con- nects us directly to the shepherd imagery used by Jesus: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11, NIV). Extremely soothing and comfort- ing, indeed.

However, the beginning of the Psalm reminds us of the covenant relationship that the Lord has established with us. In order to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” and to “fear no evil” and to eat a banquet “in the presence of my enemies,” I must follow the Shepherd “in the paths of righteousness.” This is a reality that we are not to take lightly. Only God has the authority to define righteousness (or holiness). Our human nature is to deny and defy righteousness, as revealed in Genesis 3. In a reference to Psalm 14:1-3, Paul wrote, “There is no one right- eous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:10-11, NIV).

Thankfully, there is a cure. As God reveals in His Word, God gives us what we cannot attain: “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus

Christ” (Romans 3:22-24, NIV). In the sermon “Remember the Goal,” I concluded that “God wants us to be [in heaven]. In order to be there, we have to be able to ‘see His face.’ In or- der to ‘see His face,’ we have to ‘be holy, because He is holy.’ Because we cannot make ourselves holy, God will make us holy. That is the goal” (Pastor Chuck Layne, “Remember the Goal,” 25 September 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=n_6ChDaZ_HU).

From the start of our restored relationship with God and throughout our spiritual walk with Him, our Good Shepherd guides along His paths of righteousness. No matter how far afield we may wander, His grace brings us back to His paths of righteousness, which is Good News indeed. But better news for us – the sheep in His pasture – is to keep our eyes on our Good Shepherd and to follow the path where He leads, for it is on His path that we receive His victory over the devastations of sin.

“And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6b, NKJV). Amen!

In the Bond of Christian Victory,

-Pastor Chuck-

Who can I encourage today? May 2023

“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, NIV).

I had the privilege of attending the Rochester High School per- formance of The Wizard of Oz. All of the hard work and long hours put in by everyone involved paid off as the audiences were treated to an enjoyable production of this long-lasting classic. I was reminded the evening that I attended the performance how often literature that becomes classic mirrors Bible lessons. The Wizard of Oz fits this observation. As each of Dorothy’s traveling companions are introduced, the audience learns something about their unique characteristics and their needs. Facing the challenges set before them, each member of the team uses his or her unique characteristic and talent to rescue the others and help them all reach their goal. Through- out their journey, they encourage one another.

This is an illustration of lesson after lesson preserved for us in the greatest work of literature of all time – the Bible. The word “encourage” means “to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence.” Christians are on a journey together. Upon accepting His merciful gift of salvation, He seals our pardon. Our journey then becomes one of submitting our lives to His will and dis- covering the ministries He has prepared for us. Because of our humanity, we still face challenges of uncertainty and, at times, discouragement. This is where genuine Christian fellowship makes its appearance and makes the difference.

Life creates multiple situations when we need to receive encouragement and situations when we need to give encouragement. One of the strengths of Christian fellowship is that through our common bond in Christ, we stand ready and willing to deploy every spiritual gift and personal experience we have been given in order to “encourage one another.”

In the devotional “Cheering Each Other On,” David McCasland writes: “A mile from the finish line of the London Marathon, thousands of onlookers holding signs lined the route. When spectators spotted a family member or friend coming into view, they shouted the person’s name, waved, and yelled encouragement: ‘Just a little farther! Keep going! You’re almost there.’ After running 25 miles, many competi- tors were barely walking and ready to quit. It was amazing to watch exhausted runners brighten and pick up the pace when they saw someone they knew or heard their name called out. Encouragement! We all need it, especially in our walk of faith. The book of Hebrews tells us to keep urging each other on. ‘Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of our- selves together… but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (10:24-25)… As we ‘see the Day approaching,’ let’s keep cheering each other on in the faith… Even if you have nothing else to give, you can give encouragement” (Our Daily Bread, April 13, 2008. Used by permission.).

As we proceed through the rest of the year, ask yourself, “Who can I encourage today?” Whether in the church or community, genuine encouragement is always in season.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

In the Bond of Christian Fellowship,

-Pastor Chuck-