But Thanks Be to God! November 2022

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:54-58, NIV).

As we move into the month of November, I find myself returning again to the background of the Thanksgiving holiday we will celebrate. Each time I consider our annual celebration, I am amazed at the conviction and resolve displayed by those settlers at Plymouth, known as the Pilgrims, with whom our Thanksgiving traditions are inevitably intertwined. Let us be clear about the stark differences between their Thanksgiving and ours. The Pilgrims did not look forward to an established holiday with a prepared feast, protection from the elements in modern homes, and anticipation of football games on big screen, high-definition televisions.

In their first winter in the harsh land, nearly half of the original 102 Mayflower passengers died. Imagine the magnitude of this historical fact. A small community where everyone was known by everyone else. Among those who perished, then, were close friends, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, parents, and children. Imagine the grief, and then imagine the limited amount of time to grieve for there was much work to be done to support those who survived. How did they cope? The most straightforward answer I can find is that they lived the faith they professed. Christianity was not an abstract philosophy; it was reality. It was life.

There are many who picture the Pilgrims as stern, harsh, unyielding people with no humor. That is an uncharacteristic and unfair image. They were human beings. They sought protection from pain and hardship. They knew sorrow and joy. And they knew the source of their joy.

In 1 Corinthians 15. Paul declares plainly and bluntly that death has been overcome. In Christ, death yields to victory. In spite of their human weaknesses, the Pilgrims believed these verses and lived these verses. This Scriptural testimony was as real to them as any in the Old Testament describing God’s blessings poured out on the Israelites. Death, therefore, did not have the final say in their lives; however, the Word of God did. As a result, they persevered through some of the harshest conditions we can possibly imagine. They persevered not with resignation, but with the assurance that their labor in the Lord was not in vain.

With such an assurance, they gave humble thanks to the Lord who conquered death. In November 1623, William Bradford, Governor of the colony, issued an official proclamation that included this summons: “Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house… there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

Even though our celebration traditions have changed over the centuries, may we never forget the original reason behind Thanksgiving Day. “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Have a

Blessed Thanksgiving!

In Christ,

Pastor Chuck

Remember the Goal! October 2022

“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who do not need to repent… In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7 & 10, NIV).

On Sunday, September 25 , I am beginning a five-part sermon series that focuses on Biblical guidance that helps us to discern the will of God. I have titled this series “Remember the Goal.” So, spoiler alert. As I address this topic in this article, I will reveal a few of the points in this upcoming series.

The 15th chapter of Luke is comprised of three familiar parables (that is, descriptive stories) told by Jesus: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost (or prodigal) son. The parable of the prodigal son is probably the most familiar of the three, but it is the only one of the three in which the lost object (a person in this case) was not actively sought. The prodigal son gets to the end of his rope, recognizes his sin, humbles himself to return to his father’s household as a servant, and is welcomed home by the welcoming, outstretched arms of his father. We get the message: God welcomes every repentant sinner returning home.

In the other two parables, the shepherd hunts his lost sheep until he finds it, and the woman searches diligently for her lost coin until she finds it. Afterwards, they each invite their neighbors to “rejoice with me.” As verses 7 and 10 tell us, there is rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents – when a person sheds the bondage of self- centeredness, humbles himself/herself, and believes in Jesus Christ as his/her personal Savior. Because God wants willing, humble, and repentant citizens in His Kingdom, He waits for us to respond to His outstretched, loving arms. Yes, He waits for our response, but He is not helpless or idle while He waits. God has a goal – a goal so significant that we need to remember it whenever we ponder the will of God.

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15- 16). God is holy; we are not. Only God has the authority to define holiness; we do not. Holiness cannot abide the

presence of unholiness (or unrighteousness). God’s goal is to make us holy. The series will expand the reason and the means for this; for now, though, the summary version is that God has made available the only means possible for anyone to “be holy.” As expressed in the Bible, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Without the forgiveness of sin by the sacrificial cleansing blood of Christ, we cannot stand in the holy presence of God. After we are cleansed from sin through the washing by the blood of the Lamb, God continues to purify us – to set us apart for His divine purpose. The goal of God is to make us holy so that we can enter into the His presence and worship before His throne.

-Pastor Chuck-

Come Let Us Bow Down in Worship, September 2022

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flockunder his care” (Psalm 95:6-7a, NIV).

Throughout my Christian journey – before, during, and after my specific call to ministry and service as a local church pastor and Navy Chaplain– the most common way for me to hear and discern the voice of God is through the insights of other believers. The primary – and ultimate –source is the Bible. I know from conversations with other Christians that I am not alone in this experience: I am reading a verse or larger passage of Scripture with which I am extremely familiar when, suddenly and unexpectedly, I am filled with a new dimension of understanding and insight. The Holy Spirit never stops working in our lives when we surrender to Him whenever and wherever we open the text of God’s Word.

In addition to the Bible itself, I receive significant insights from devotional authors, theologians, Bible teachers, pastors, and Christians from all walks of life. I am particularly delighted when the source God uses to speak to me surprises me. Such was the case earlier in August when Ihappened to be “randomly” thumbing through the hymnal, Sing Joyfully. In this particular hymnal, there is an introduction written by Karen Burton Mains. The name immediately caught my attention, because I have used worship resources that she and her husband, David, used to publish annually. So, I began reading her introduction. Wow! What a meaningful perspective on the act of worship!

“Worship has been defined as being preoccupied with God. Yet how little Christians know about this kind of devout attention. Some can remember the mad obsession called ‘falling in love’ when the whereabouts, the thoughts, the actions of the beloved filled their minds. Some are often consumed for their children. Work, the planning and ordering of it, can control the worker so much that he or she becomes compulsive in its accomplishment. We humans are preoccupied with many things: successes and failures, the gaining or losing of possessions; the hurts and joys of living; but we are rarely preoccupied with God” (Sing Joyfully hymnal, p. 3). That pierces to the soul. It is so easy to be drawn into the facets of human life that she states outright – and many more not specifically enumerated – that we lose focus on Who needs to be our preoccupation. Even though this is too often our case, it is imperative that we remember the declaration of the psalmist: “Come, let us bow down in wor- ship!” (Psalm 95:6a).Fortunately, there is an antidote: “How then do we learn to becomes preoccupied with God? By cultivating intentionality. By deliberately turning our minds toward divine preoccupation. By developing worship habits and working on them. Intentional worship means a worshiper is not going to church expecting that worship will just happen; but intentionality means that a worshiper is going to church determined to make worship hap- pen – at least as far as he or she is able” (p. 3). Karen then expands some of the ways that intentional and participatory worship can be developed and prac- ticed. Paragraph after paragraph strikes deeply into the heart of the impact that entering into the presence of the Divine through worship has upon our soul. I invite and encourage you to take the time at some point in the near fu- ture to take a hymnal and read Karen’s introduction in its entirety (pages 3-6). I am convinced that you, too, will come away with a revitalized appreciation for all aspects of worship.

In closing, I cannot offer anything better than what Karen powerfully expresses: “For truly, one day, one eternal day, we will recognize that divine presence, we will kneel in awe, our hearts will sigh, will shout, ‘Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty!’ We will weep for joy in the presence of God. We will become utterly preoccupied. We will adore. We will exalt. We will worship. And this time, this Sunday – every Sunday, in fact, Sunday after Sunday; we are preparing our souls, practicing for that Eternity when every day will be a Sabbath without end, for that day when we will know most assuredly, Christ is here!” (p. 6).

-Pastor Chuck-

Note: Hope Publishing Company has granted permission to reprint and distribute Karen Main’s Introduction to the Sing Joyfully hymnal. A copy of the file in pdf format can be downloaded from the church website: Hymnal Introduction. Or contact the church office at (574) 223-3613 or prayerconcerns@fbc46975.org and request a paper copy, an e-file in pdf format, or both.

See, I Am Doing A New Thing, August 2022

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV).

The prophet Isaiah had to deliver many messages from God to the disobedient, rebellious Israelites that were unpleasant. God told them, in no uncertain terms, that without repentance, they would be conquered and taken into captivity by the cruel Babylonians. However, Isaiah was also able to deliver God’s promises of restoration. The above two verses are a part of that expression of divine hope. Even though their immediate application was designed for the Israelites to experience, the message still applies to His Church in many ways.

Even though we do not need to forget the former things completely – remember that God never wants us to forget what He has done for His people in the past – we should be looking ahead to the new thing that God is doing. And what God is doing at Rochester First Baptist Church is preparing His congregation for a new era of ministry as the pastoral search process unfolds and reaches fruition. At the same time, He is preparing a pastor who is, or will be, seeking a new calling in ministry to be led to First Baptist. God will unite the right pastor with the right church at the right time.

In the meantime, the fellowship at First Baptist is to be actively intentional in our part of the process. Yes, it is the will of God that will be fulfilled when church and pastor are brought together, but we must be willing to diligently humble ourselves before Him as the human part of the process unfolds. Lift up the Pulpit Committee regularly in prayer for endurance, wisdom, and patience. Pray for congregational endurance, wisdom, and patience. When the time comes, pray diligently for the pastoral candidate that the Pulpit Committee introduces to the church fellowship. 

Additionally, actively participate by providing the information and the guidance that the Pulpit Committee needs in order to perform their important task. Respond to surveys and other means of communication as they develop an accurate profile and description of the ministry goals of First Baptist. Recognize that throughout the pastoral search process, and especially after the new pastor is called and installed, part of the new thing that God is doing is to renew some of the current ministries, eliminate or transform some of the current ministries, and begin completely new ministries. No matter how it shapes up, it requires our active participation and support in accordance with the call of God upon each of our lives.

It took Israel 70 years in captivity for God’s message to sink in. I don’t think that our pastoral search process will be quite that drastic, but we do need to take it just as seriously. And, we need to minister in prayerful patience. “See, I am doing a new thing!”

-Pastor Chuck-