Watching and Waiting, May 2024

Happy May First Baptist,

Some weeks ago now I got a call about a person’s concerns. They had seen the news that Iran had launched a missile barrage at Israel. The barrage included around 300 projectiles, and was launched from Iran and its supported groups. The idea that Israel was attacked, brought up fears and ideas about the end of the world and the return of Christ.

The order of events surrounding Jesus’ return is somewhat clouded because so much of the book of Revelation is apocryphal. The book of Revelation uses images and pictures and numerology and it sometimes feels that there is little concrete explanation. I personally believe that Revelation represents a timeline of events, and that each of those images within Revelation represents concrete realities. The overarching picture of a seven year tribulation is not a tribulation I expect to experience. As Peter teaches in his 2nd letter 2:4-9, God plans to rescue the church from such tribulation in the world. It is the reason I and many others expect the rapture to occur first.

As Paul writes in his letter, Second Thessalonians, The Antichrist is being held back. He is being held back by a person, and when that person is removed The Antichrist will be revealed. The one holding him back cannot be a human being, and so we are left with either an angel or the Holy Spirit being the one who restrains him. I suspect that the answer is that the Holy Spirit is restraining The Antichrist from rising. And so, the removal of the Holy Spirit will occur at the same time as the rapture when those who have the Holy Spirit will be caught up together with Christ in the sky.

So I remind you as Paul did the Thessalonians, we are not to become easily unsettled, or alarmed by the words of some that The Day the Lord has already come or the tribulation has already begun. The Thessalonians were under the impression that they had missed the rapture, but that was not the case.

Therefore, as we are still waiting for Jesus to return just as they were, Paul says “stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” Jesus says, “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father… it is like a man going away: He leaves his servants in charge, each with their own assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch… you do not know when the own- er of the house will come back.”

Watching and Waiting,

Pastor Dave

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