From the Desk of the Associate: Dominion and Dynasty, a summary of the promises of God

A couple years ago I was at a men’s retreat and I overheard a couple of other pastors talking about a book that they had read for a seminary assignment. The contents of this book intrigued me so I did what any other pastor would do, I bought the book and placed it on my “to read list.” The book was Dominion and Dynasty by Stephen Dempster. Well as I have slowly begun to make my way through this book I was amazed to see some of the main themes of the Bible laid out in the first chapters of Genesis and repeated many times after. Those two themes are these, first, God has prepared and promised a dominion for his people. That is, God has planned to give his people a place to rule. The second theme is this, God has designed his people to have a dynasty through the act of reproduction.

I’ll try to show you from Scripture that this is the case by opening to the book of Genesis. In chapter 1 we see that God creates the world and that He creates it for some very special inhabitants. God says in Genesis 1:26-28 “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” We can clearly see that God has created a place for his people to rule over. Where is that place? Initially it was the whole earth. God designed man to have rule over the earth and He designed earth to be ruled over by His image bearers. But what about the second promise? That is only slightly less obvious but if we look close we can see it. God commands His image bearers to reproduce and He has placed within their bodies the ability to reproduce more image bearers.

Any observer of the Bible knows that quickly after God’s initial act of creation and His commands to have dominion over the earth and have a dynasty by reproducing, humanity fell into sin. By rights they should have had their dominion and dynasty revoked because of their rebellion. In fact, something else happened, though they were kicked out of the garden of paradise, God promised to redeem them through their offspring or you could say through their dynasty. That is God promised to send the seed of the woman who would save and fix humanity.

Do we see these promises of Dominion and Dynasty repeated anywhere else? One of the most obvious instances of these promises being repeated is when God calls Abraham out of the pagan land of Ur and calls him to go to a new land that God would show him. This promise is laid out in chapter 12 of Genesis. “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and him who dishonors you I will curse, and I you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'” God says to Abraham that he will replace his natural land that he would have inherited in his homeland with a different inheritance. God also seems to be saying that He will replace the natural descendants he would have expected in the land of his birth with a different kind of offspring and legacy. His land and offspring would be blessed supernaturally by God.

The rest of Abraham’s life is the playing out of these promises of God and in fact we see these same promises repeatedly in play through the rest of the Old Testament. Would God keep His promise to His people to give them the promised land and the promised offspring. Ultimately these promises, like all the promises of God will find their fulfillment in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God sent the ultimate offspring of Abraham and David to be born in a manger and to be the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He would die on a cross and secure all the blessings of the promised inheritance in the resurrection from the dead. Paul will later say in Galatians 3 that Christ is the ultimate offspring of Abraham. God promised to give the inheritance to the Offspring of Abraham, not to the many “offsprings” but to the singular offspring. So does God win back the inheritance He gave to humans and keep it for Himself? No. God says that in Christ we are inheritors of all the promises of God. In Hebrews 3:6 it says that we (believers in Christ) are God’s house. That is we are God’s offspring and we will inherit along with Christ. John 1 says that to all who believe in His Name we have been given the right to become children of God.

What does all this mean for us. Simply this, God gives his people a spiritual dominion and a spiritual dynasty. That is, we have dynasty through the making of disciples who are being conformed into the image of God or more precisely the image of the Son of God. And we will one day receive a very real and literal dominion in the new heavens and the new earth when we rule alongside our Savior as was always the intent of God in creating a people for Himself. That is our great hope, that one day we will receive that perfect dominion and dynasty.

How Can I Not Be Thankful?

Dear Prairie Flower,

How can I not be thankful for you? In so many ways, you are a people most to be thankful for. From your hard work to extreme generosity, it is a true joy to be one of your pastors. I want to especially thank you for your loving generosity in last week’s Harvest Offering. Through your gifts, we were able to generate over $16,000 to be given to our Ukrainian missionaries, the Kisarets. They will use this money to purchase a safe house to minister to war refugees in their area. How cool is that?! What an awesome privilege to partner alongside these Gospel Warriors in their critical mission overseas. Thank you for giving above and beyond to this great work!

I also want to thank you for allowing me to go on a missions’ trip to South Africa from Nov. 28-Dec. 12. My trip was completely paid for by your gifts. I’m so grateful and do not take this for granted. Please pray for me as I minister alongside missionary, Louis O’Tool, in a youth camp that we will be running. Some 40 kids are projected to be at this camp where I have the privilege of preaching 5x through the book of Proverbs. Coming with me on this missions’ trip is Willie and Sadie Van Der Molen who will lead in music during the week. Please pray for all of us that we would stay focused on our mission and be effective in serving, leading, and loving others.

Again, how can I not be thankful for you? As a church family, you love me and my family so well. We feel it. We’ve experienced it in so many ways. My family loves you. I love you. Thanks for being on mission with me. Have a Happy Thanksgiving! And, as always, I’ll see you when I see you.

Take Care,

David Cotner

Lead Pastor, PFBC

The Official 2023 Ballot For Church Positions

Our Annual Election of Officers is slotted to take place on Sunday, December 4. Below is the official 2023 Ballot for the position of Deacon and other miscellaneous positions:

  • For the Position of Deacon – Darwin Carroll
  • For the Position of Clerk – Lisa Van Der Molen
  • For the Position of Treasurer – Steve Bohn
  • For the Position of Financial Secretary – Zach Shepherd
  • For the Position of Sunday School Superintendent – Brian Wilson

Thank you, church family, for nominating these great candidates. And thank you to the candidates themselves for being willing to serve our church family this coming year!

Prairie Flower’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

In an endeavor to do all things “decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40), Prairie Flower Baptist Church will seek to operate within the guidelines outlined in this Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). It has been said that “the statement of faith, church covenant, and constitution are the king, queen, and prince of church documents. But beyond this royal family, there are other documents worthy of your attention.” These SOPs are one such document worthy of your attention.

Please note: Only the SOP topics/titles appear below. For a full reading of our SOPs, please get a copy of our SOPs from the foyer table this Sunday, Nov. 13. Thank you!

Prairie Flower Baptist Church

Standard Operating Procedures (Topics/Titles Only)

Our Annual Budget

Church’s Financial Secretary

The Audit Committee

Our Deacon’s Fund

Missions’ Escrow Account

Sunday School Superintendent

Pastoral Candidating Process

Pastoral Vacation Policy

Our Worship Music

Building Key Protocols

Building Cleaning Procedures

Our Greeting Program

Our Camp Messenger

Our Church Librarian(s)

Our Decorating Committee

Our Nursery Procedures

Our Alcohol Policy

Our Food Fellowships

Vetting Potential Members

Membership Sunday: The O’Dells & Diments!

This Sunday, November 6, is Membership Sunday at Prairie Flower Baptist Church. We are overjoyed to have David & Amber O’Dell, along with Paul & Emma Diment join us in formal church membership. Welcome to the prairie, O’Dells & Diments! Below are the salvation and baptism testimonies of all four individuals seeking membership at our church…

David O’Dell: “Well, my testimony starts when I was six. My Dad led me to Christ as we were going to Wednesday night church. Mainly I didn’t wanna be left behind, however, as I grew older, I started to get an idea of my faith. I’ve had multiple baptisms. The first one was when I was 10 or so, and I did it for the wrong reasons. Later on, as a teenager, I did a rededication. Really meeting Amber has kept me with a solid foundation. And then driving back-and-forth to work a little later in life, I began listening to godly men, such as David Jeremiah, Greg Laurie, John MacArthur, and such others. Up until recently, I realized it wasn’t by my works that my salvation is ensured. It is through the blood of Jesus Christ alone. Jesus saved me! That’s primarily my coming to know Christ.”

Amber O’Dell: “I asked the Lord into my heart when I was 8 years old. I was outside in my driveway, playing with my best friend at the time (who lived right across the street) when she told me she didn’t want to be my friend anymore and she was going home; and she left. I stood there, shocked and feeling all alone. I remember hearing my Sunday School teacher’s voice saying when you accept Jesus into your heart you will never be alone again. I kept getting memories about other camp experiences and other Sunday School classes about how God is always there and loves you no matter what. As I stood there in my driveway, I looked up and said something along the lines of: ‘I’m tired of being alone and you say you’re always there if only I repent and turn to you.  I’m sorry for all the wrong I have done and the way I act sometimes; please forgive me of my sins and come into my heart so I’m never alone again. Help me to be more like you and to take this loneliness away, in Jesus’ name, amen.’ I remember in that moment of finally feeling complete and like someone was there with me even though I was standing there all by myself.

A few years went by, and I remember reading, ‘repent and be baptized’. I knew I had Jesus in my heart, and I knew that it was time I was baptized. So, one Sunday after a service, I went up to the pastor and said I need to be baptized. He replied with, ‘You’re a little young yet.’ I said, ‘No, I feel like God is telling me to be baptized.’ The pastor looked at me and said that he would allow me to go through the Baptism Classes and at the end he would decide whether or not I was truly ready to be baptized. He was amazed by my faith and my conviction and how well I already knew the Bible. So, he agreed to let me be baptized.”

Paul Diment: “Hello, Prairie Flower Baptist Church. This is my testimony…As many of you know, I grew up going to Bethel Baptist Church in Oskaloosa. I grew up believing that I had been saved around the age of five. I knew the plan of salvation very well and could quote to you many verses and the ‘Romans’ Road’. But as I grew, it became more and more evident that I had no personal delight or love for these things.    

At about the age of 15 or 16, I was at a store in Oskaloosa where I was caught stealing by my godly mother who told me that she forgave me and that the Lord could forgive me too. This brought conviction into my life because I had been an expert at masking sin under a cloak of religiousness. At home that day, I was reading the book of Ecclesiastes and came to the last two verses which says, ‘Hear the conclusion of the whole matter…In the end, God will bring every secret work into judgment whether it be good or evil.’ That is when I knelt down and broke down and trusted the Lord as my Savior. Some months after this, I was baptized at Bethel Baptist Church.”

Emma Diment: “My full name is Carmen Emanuela Diment, but just call me Emma. I met our Lord Jesus when I was very young. I have memories of holding Grandma’s hand and going to Prayer Meeting. I had heard that the Communists [in Romania] were burning Bibles in public. So, I asked Grandma if Bibles could really burn. She said they were made of paper so, yes, Bibles did burn. My family was part of the Underground Church in Romania. Both of my parents were believers and they raised us in the Christian faith. I have a brother who rejects the Lord, but I will never give up praying for him. His name is Emanuel. He has a wife and two young children. They live in Ireland. As for my father, he is now with the Lord, but my mother still lives in Romania.

My journey with the Lord started when I was little. Since then, He has been my Savior, my Redeemer and my King. He chose me, though I am undeserving. He continues His work in me and will never let go. Praise His name for being so patient and not giving up on me!! I am saved not because I deserve it, but because of His grace. Indeed, I understand that I am a sinner saved through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am grateful to Him. I am His creation. Through His blood on the cross, He gave me the gift of eternal life. I am a work in progress until He comes, or He takes me home. As for my baptism, I was baptized at age 13 in Romania during Communism…Paul Diment is my wonderful husband and we have three blessings: Darius (8), Petra (6), and Sarah (2). Darius is very severely handicapped and lives at ChildServe, a pediatric nursing facility in northeastern Iowa.”

Snakes In The Church…

I’ve been doing pastoral ministry long enough to know that not everyone who darkens the door of a church has good and right motives fermenting in their hearts. Indeed, many who come to church are good Christians, or seekers wanting truth, or people who are simply hurting from the barrage of darkness in this evil world. Such people are welcomed, loved, and cared for in biblical, practical ways. But every now and then, a wolf appears…a Judas…a snake. They may appear charming and harmless. They may sound articulate and wise. They may be extremely likeable and charismatic. But dark, devious motives are fermenting in their hearts, ready to explode in hurtful, divisive ways. Below are the common (and not so common) snakes I’ve encountered over the years…I’ve listed these snakes from least dangerous to most venomous…Beware of the:

  • Passionate Snake – This snake comes to church ready to recruit any and all to their cause. Of course, their chief aim is to win over the pastors of the church to their pet project(s). They may be truly passionate about any number of good things: fostering/adoption, clean water, their business, etc. But these snakes go one step too far and truly believe that if everyone is not as passionate about their specific calling, then such people are “unbiblical”, “lack vision”, or are “simply stuck in an inner-focused church”. Yes, these snakes project their calling onto everyone else and demand that everyone have the same calling/passion. Such snakes rarely stay long in the church, especially when they find that few people will jump on board their bandwagon of passionate causes.
  • Political Snake – This snake usually presents himself or herself as a “lover of truth”. They may or may not be a conspiracy theorist, but boy oh boy, do they have a lot of intricate charts and graphs to prove that every political opponent/group is a threat to our democracy. Indeed, such a snake might be Democrat or Republican, but they truly believe that “standing on the truth” = standing on the right political issues. Such issues they seek to spread in a local church are many as they are either for or against…masks, vaccines, Trump, etc. These snakes usually only want a church family as cover for their real pursuit – political posturing. They’ll often read their own views into Scripture and demand that everyone else follow suit with their twisted interpretation.
  • Music Snake – This snake is usually musically talented (which is awesome), but they also only have one appetite for one genre or way of conducting music. They may be full on traditional or contemporary, but they make it their aim to stir the pot with any number of repetitive comments that are meant to demean the current music style of the church and push the church in a new (and in their minds, better) direction. Such snakes will claim that their specific brand of music is more “holy”, or “wholesome”, or “biblical”, but in the end, “they want what they want because they want it.” As Paul Tripp once said, “Good desires become dangerous desires when good desires become demanding desires.” Many a church has been severely injured in the so-called “worship wars”, led by high level Music Snakes.
  • Theology Snake – Ah! The most dangerous and venomous of all church snakes, let’s welcome into the octagon…the Theology Snake! Yes, listen closely…”Slither. Slither. Hiss. Hiss. Whispers in the dark…” This extremely charming and deceptive snake does not present themselves as the on-edge typical snake (i.e., the passionate snake, political snake, or music snake). Oh no, this snake appears to be a theologian…a wise student of God’s Word…a teacher. This snake will subtly infuse either flat-out destructive heresy into the church (i.e., prosperity gospel, charismatic teaching, etc.) or they will make their pet hobby theological issues major issues in the church. Using power/influence without major, formal responsibility in the church, they slither about spreading their specific brand of carbon monoxide – the silent killer. They may spread their divergent theological viewpoints from a public platform or in a secret Bible Study, but be aware such snakes don’t sleep long and are always on the hunt for their next prey.

I grew up as a pastor’s kid and saw my Dad get seriously hurt (many times) by these types of snakes. Following in my Dad’s footsteps, I now have my own fang wounds to show off. In the end, despite the dangers of snakes in the church, I still love pastoral ministry. I still love the church. I still love Jesus…Yes, I still love Jesus (the Serpent Crusher) and one day, I won’t have to be on the lookout for the next snake in the church, I can just focus on Jesus with unhindered safety and joy.

Joint Special Operations Command: My Time Serving With Some Of The Most Elite Planners On The Planet…

In no way do I want to come across arrogant or braggadocious, but I know how to plan – like a boss – like the elite planner I am. By planning, I’m talking about the ability to analyze complex details, organize those details into easily digestible categories, and then move those details forward in the form of strategic planning. Very few details escape my vision. I see details all – the – time. I’m constantly analyzing, organizing, and strategizing. From the outside looking in, I appear to be a nervous wreck on the brink of an OCD breakdown, but it’s just part of the monster process I call “elite planning”. Yes, I know how to plan at a distinctively higher level than most.

Where did I learn this skill set? JSOC. Joint Special Operations Command in the sands of Iraq, battle planning with some of the most elite planners on planet Earth. I loved it. I loved every part of my time serving with this special squad of death dealers and freedom fighters. As an all-source intelligence analyst, my job was to obsess over the details of our battlespace, organize those details into an easy to digest brief (given to the Combat Commander and his Command Staff), and then move that intel forward for our operators to do what they do best – shoot the enemy in the face…or capture high value targets for further intel. Again, I loved my job. I loved the people I worked with. They were obsessive, excellent, and deadly.

I exited the military addicted to battle planning. I then entered Bible College where my skill set was fine-tuned with college introducing me to the secret sauce of elite planning – the paper planner. Don’t roll your eyes. I’m serious. And I’m utterly convinced that Alexander the Great himself had a paper planner of some kind as he conquered the whole known world. The paper planner changed my life and took my elite planning abilities to a whole other level. I then entered pastoral ministry at Prairie Flower Baptist Church with my JSOC experience firmly in tow, along with my handy-dandy paper planner.

As the years have rolled on, I have had the privilege of leading the church out here on the prairie, serve on various boards and councils, and participated in my fair share of high-level events. And here is where my frustration develops…Where are my fellow elite planners? Where are my fellow obsessives? Where are the ones who strive for excellence in EVERYTHING from wielding a mop to constructing a building? Where are the ones who get up day after day, drop the excuses, and get after it with a hunger and humility that is next level? Where are they?

No doubt, I have rubbed shoulders with some fine leaders over my almost 9 years in pastoral ministry, but such leaders are far and few in between. The sad reality is that most leaders I meet are apathetic and fly by the seat of their pants. They’re not dialed into details, all the while spouting off grandiose visions and dreams of the future. We need leaders who will break their backs endeavoring to be elite planners. And if you’re reading this and you are an elite planner, good. Good for you. Stay at that level. Don’t drop an inch. Keep working. Keep grinding. Keep doing ALL that you do for the good of others and the glory of the One who made you and called you into leadership. Honestly, if you’re not willing to try and be better, then step out of the way. Or to phrase it another way, “lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

We need elite planners. We need more leaders who are focused on the details with their heads out of the clouds. Are you such a planner and leader? If not, what are you going to do about it?

Town Hall Meeting: Proposed New Church Constitution

This Sunday (10-16-22), we will have our first Town Hall Meeting to discuss our proposed new Church Constitution out here on the prairie. This Town Hall Meeting is for members and friends of Prairie Flower and will take place during the Sunday School hour from 9-10am. Before I take the congregation’s questions, I plan to give the following opening remarks:

“Welcome to our first Town Hall Meeting at Prairie Flower Baptist Church. The purpose of this meeting is to answer your questions about our proposed new Church Constitution. I have several things I need to say before I take your questions:

  1. Both our current Church Constitution and our proposed new Church Constitution are not the most important documents at Prairie Flower Baptist Church. In order of importance, here are the most important documents out here on the prairie: 1) The Word of God, 2) The Articles of Faith, 3) The Biblical Principles of Church Membership, 4) The Church Constitution, and 5) Our Standard Operating Procedures Booklet. These are the most important church documents in order of importance…Indeed, it has been said, “If the Articles of Faith are King of the church documents, then the Queen is the Church Covenant (i.e., The Biblical Principles of Church Membership), with the Church Constitution being the Prince of the church documents.”
  2. Our proposed new Church Constitution went through a rigorous editing and accountability process that spanned the last five years. After we ratified our new Articles of Faith in 2016, we began the process of revising our Church Constitution in 2017. This process has been lengthy, at times frustrating, but in the end, so very good. This five-year process proceeded as follows: 1) Pastors make revisions of Church Constitution, 2) Deacons double check the work of the pastors and make their own suggested edits for improvement, and 3) Once the pastors and deacons are fully synched up, the document then went to the Constitution Review Team (of which Phil Parsons was the Chairman) for final analysis and feedback. This simple three-step process took place many, many times over the course of the last five years. In the end, no one (myself included) got everything they wanted in terms of wording in the proposed new Church Constitution, but what has been presented to you is good, right, and fully vetted. To be clear, the purpose of this meeting is not necessarily for you to make suggestions for additions or deletions of the proposed new Church Constitution, but to simply ask questions to gain greater clarity on the vision and direction of our church family.
  3. Some of you may wonder: “Why a total rehaul of the Church Constitution? Why not simply edit the current Church Constitution, but keep the overall structure the same?” This is a great question, and I love the illustration that Pastor Tim gave to me some years ago…Illustration = Farmhouse Addition…

So, there you have it. A little sneak-peek of what’s to come out here on the prairie this Sunday, October 16th at 9am. So, come on out and bring your questions! It will be worth attending.

Church & The Mentally Ill

Every Sunday, people flood our churches with a plethora of mental and emotional baggage. Some come into our worship services happy. They sing loud and soak in every word of the Bible message. Others come into our worship services sad. They can barely sing and when the preaching begins, they genuinely struggle to hear a single word as sad distractions plague their mind and heart. But others come into our worship service with a unique suitcase. They are neither happy nor sad per say; they are mentally ill. They might be happy for the first 15 minutes of the worship service and then incredibly depressed for the next 15 minutes. Others hear voices – tiny voices in the back of their head that beckon them to dark enchantments. Others are not quite dialed into reality as they have constructed an alternate universe with differing values and strategies than the norm. These folks are mentally ill…and loved…and appreciated…and important…and welcome at church. At least they’re welcome at the church out here on the prairie.

How do we engage with the mentally ill in a church context? How do we genuinely help them? How do we ensure that our doors and hearts are wide open to such people? The following acronym, C.H.U.R.C.H., that is not unique with me, is tremendously helpful…

  1. C Choose to Care. Make growing, capable compassion a matter of prayer.
  2. H – Help with Practical Needs. Bake a casserole or help with childcare.
  3. U – Unleash Volunteers. Ask your pastor how you can be deployable when a need arises.
  4. R – Remove the Stigma. Stop thinking that mental illness is a problem to be solved instead of a tension to balance.
  5. C – Collaborate with the Community. We are not the fountainhead of all wisdom. We need others and their insight.
  6. H – Hope – Offer It! In the end, that’s what we do as Christians. We’re hope dealers. Yes, in this dark world of sin and suffering, we offer true Gospel hope.

Those who struggle with mental illness are our family members, friends, co-workers, and fellow church members. They might be in positions of power or hold no power at all. They might be rich or desperately poor. They might be well-educated or have very little in education. They are our moms and dads, children and grandchildren. They are us. Let’s not just go to church, let’s be the church, doing the most good we can to the most people we can for the glory of God alone. Why? Because the darkness is truly thick out there, but so is Gospel hope – offer it!

“Sharing Heaven with Serial Killers” by Rachel Welcher

Roy Ratcliff is the pastor who baptized infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

After Dahmer was convicted of 15 murders and sentenced to many lifetimes in prison, Ratcliff began visiting him and sharing the gospel. According to Ratcliff, Dahmer struggled to grasp the depths of God’s grace. It’s not hard to understand why. For someone who committed such atrocious acts, grace must have seemed unattainable. But in a 1994 interview with Stone Phillips, Dahmer said: “I have accepted [Jesus] as my Lord and Savior.” Though we won’t know of his sincerity until heaven, it’s possible that one of the most twisted serial killers of our lifetime said yes to grace.

Do you want to see Jeffrey Dahmer in heaven?

Ratcliff wrote a book about the time he spent with Dahmer. If you skim the comments under the book on Amazon.com, you will quickly see that our definition of grace doesn’t always reflect God’s. One reviewer wrote:

I don’t know why you, or the person who posted above you, cares about the state of Dahmer’s soul, much less has any desire to meet him in heaven. It’s just plain creepy. Some of the people who have read the pastor’s book, and written reviews, are thrilled that God can and does forgive anything, and how much hope it gives them of getting into heaven. Good Lord, what kind of sins did they commit themselves, to be “relieved” by something like that?

Not everyone shared this reviewer’s feelings, but it made me wonder about the limits we put on grace. We love knowing God can save someone like Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson from a past of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, but do we rejoice when he extends grace to a man who raped, killed, and even ate his victims? We want to see Brad Pitt in heaven while hoping Hitler didn’t have a last-minute conversion. We want God to forgive us when we worship our mini idols of leisure, but we shudder to think of a pedophile receiving the same forgiveness.

I praise God the decision isn’t ours. While I am guilty of holding onto mercy with tight, stingy fists, the God I serve is not. He offers grace through Christ to any who call on his name (Rom. 10:13).

Because of this, I might one day be singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” beside Jeffrey Dahmer. This excites me for three reasons.

1. It means there is hope for me.
Many of us have heard of King Manasseh. He’s the one who burned his sons alive and liked to hang out with sorcerers and witches (not the J. K. Rowling kind). One of the first things he did after becoming king was to “rebuild the high places” where people worshiped Baal. He didn’t listen to God until he was in a bind—literally (2 Chron. 33:10). And yet “when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God” (2 Chron. 33:12–13).

If there is hope for King Manasseh and Jeffrey Dahmer, there is hope for you and me.

I found it interesting when the Amazon commenter asked: “What kind of sins did they commit themselves to be ‘relieved’ by something like that?” So many. I have failed to be holy. I have failed to be patient. I have failed to extend the sort of mercy I’ve received. I have utterly failed my Maker. So yes, I am relieved he can save someone like me. Hoping that grace doesn’t extend all the way to serial killers and evil kings is a misunderstanding of grace. It trivializes sin and underestimates the omnipotent goodness of God.

2. It means there is hope for others.
I have a list. It’s stored in my heart, not on paper. It’s filled with names of people I love who don’t love God. When I read about Manasseh ignoring God’s voice and committing infanticide, I think about my own sins. Then I think about the people on my list. I know that unless they cling to Christ they will wear their own punishment. Until they submit to God, humble themselves, and seek his face the way Manasseh did, they will not see grace. But I rejoice in the availability of grace:

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus. (Acts 3:19–20)

I rejoice in the assurance that if they surrender to God by clinging to Christ, they will be saved. They will be forgiven. There is hope for them. In Hebrews 7, Jesus is described as the perfect high priest. So perfect that daily sacrifices are needless since his death achieved what all previous sacrifices failed to: permanent, once-and-for-all atonement for sin:

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb. 7:25)

“To the uttermost.” Some translations say “completely” or “forever.” There is no caveat here. Murder. Homosexuality. Infanticide. Idolatry. These sins do not pose a threat to God’s grace when we draw near to him through Christ. Every person on my list and yours is a candidate for mercy.

If God does not offer grace to sinners like Manasseh and Dahmer, there is no hope for us, and there is no hope for our loved ones.

3. It means God gets all the glory.
The extravagance of God’s grace reveals the extent of our insufficiency. We need him, and that’s uncomfortable. Humiliating. When it comes to defeating sin, Christ alone stands victorious.

Some of us hate receiving gifts. Instead of a thankful smile we respond, “You really shouldn’t have.” Acts of mercy make us feel indebted instead of blessed. But this is damning pride. My pastor reminded me in a recent sermon: “There is no catch to God’s grace but this: you can only receive it as a gift.”

I wonder what Jesus’s genealogy would look like if it were up to us. It certainly wouldn’t include Rahab (Matt. 1:5), David’s most disgraceful sin (v. 6), or the likes of King Manasseh (v. 10). Surely we would select our favorite saints and revel in the thought of linking arms with them. But God defines grace. He marks out its path, its length, its depth. The scribes in Mark 2:7 rightly questioned: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” No one. And he offers forgiveness even to the worst person you know.

Stephen’s prayer while being stoned is extraordinary: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60; cf Luke 23:34). Perhaps even more extraordinary is Saul’s response: “And Saul approved of his execution” (Acts 8:1). The conversion and subsequent ministry of Saul, better known as Paul, is one of history’s most powerful illustrations of God’s relentless grace.

Praise God that he shows mercy to the merciless and love to the unlovely. Praise God that he redeems rebels like us.