Guest Blogger: Ray Burns “Sanctity of Life 2020”

Sanctity of Life 2020

Approximate Reading Time: 3 minutes

It’s been 47 years since the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in America. According to realtime estimates on NumberOfAbortions.com, over 61 million lives have been lost to abortion since 1973. Nothing in the history of the world comes close to this loss of life, with the Holocaust being closest at about 10% of that number.

On January 19th, churches across America will be taking part in “Sanctity of Life Sunday,” an annual day of somberness as we come together and recognize the weight of death that hangs on our country. We use this day to remember that those children weren’t lumps of tissue or potential humans, but complete human beings who were made in the image of God.

It’s not uncommon for those in the pro-choice movement to feel baffled at the pro-life side of the argument. After all, their worldview says that those children were either not human, or were humans whose right to live wasn’t higher than a mother’s right to choose what happens with her body. Regardless,

Last year, I wrote a series of articles that examines these issues from a Christian perspective. If you haven’t read them yet, I’d encourage you to do so this week. With the Sanctity of Life Sunday putting a spotlight on the realities of abortion, we have a wonderful opportunity to not only open discussions about abortion but share the gospel with people who need Jesus Christ. The entire goal of this series was to show how the unborn must be dehumanized in order for abortion to be tolerable.

  • The first article examines the scientific reason why a fetus is a human being, as well as points out the implications Christians must deal with if we truly believe the unborn are human, no matter their stage of development.
  • The second article looks at the logical reasons why the unborn are fully human. I think this is an important one to understand when we’re talking to Christians and non-Christians who aren’t sure where they stand.
  • The third article carefully discusses why the right to live must come before the right to choose.
  • The final article caps things off with the important discussion of why God values human life and why, if the unborn truly are human, we must value them as God does.

January 19th shouldn’t be the only day we consider those who are lost. Indeed, every day we live in a world has so devalued the lives of certain groups that we even have celebrities openly celebrating that they chose to end their child’s life for their own happiness.  

 

Every day, our country adds 125,000 aborted babies to its body count. Worst of all, just like with other atrocities throughout history, we have people celebrating the fact that we’re doing it. It’s heartbreaking that we’re capable of doing this so openly, but it’s also incredibly eye-opening at just how deep our depravity runs, and why we all so desperately need the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

This Sunday, take a moment to remember the human beings who are being killed every day. Regardless of how they look, what they’re physically capable of, or their mental development, these people are no less an image-bearer of God than anyone else. Perhaps even consider donating to a pro-life charity you care about. If you don’t know one, my own church supports a local group called Agape Pregnancy Center that offers counseling and health services to pregnant women, as well as grief counseling for those living through the pain of ending their child’s life.

Let January 19th be a wake-up call for all of us. The greatest loss of human life is happening in our back yards because so few people understand what’s really happening. Let’s be willing to have those uncomfortable conversations by being informed about the issue rather than arguing from emotion.

Yet more than winning arguments, we need to bring people to Jesus Christ. A person’s views on abortion may save lives, but it’s only by understanding their need for Jesus Christ that they can not only view the unborn as God does, but have a right relationship with their savior in all areas of life.

 

From The Desk of the Associate Pastor: “Jesus Loves Me”

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It seems here in Iowa that everyone deals with colds this time of year, and for my kids this has been no exception. Before I was a parent, I just dealt with minor things like colds and didn’t think much of it. Now that I have kids of my own, and with them being so young, it seems that a “minor” sickness to me can really knock them down.

A few nights ago, our three year old boy had a lot of congestion and coughing. I went into his room at bedtime and played my guitar and sang for him (he is the only one in my family who actually appreciates my mediocre musical skills). I played him some of his favorite songs while he laid in bed. After a couple songs, he said, in his nasally and congested voice, “Daddy, play ‘Jesus Loves Me.’” How could I not comply with this wish? When I finished, it brought a smile when he said, “Daddy, sing ‘Jesus Loved Me He Who Died.’” This is the second verse to this famous children’s song. Now while this request made me smile, it also made tears come from my eyes as I sat on his bed and played for him under his night light.

As Christian parents, our greatest desires are for our children’s’ well-being, but at the very top should be our desire that our kids come to know the Lord. As I sang that song to my son, who felt so sick, I could not help but rejoice that not only does he have a desire to sing this praise song, but this simple song reveals profound truth. For many kids, who come to church for the first time, this is the song that they learn first. Here are the words: “Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so. Jesus loves me, He who died. Heavens’ gates are open wide. He will wash away my sin. Let His little child come in. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.”

Think about the words to this song. How can we not rejoice at the truth communicated? I have been a believer in Christ since I was a very young child, and have rejoiced often at the truth of my salvation. But now that I’m a parent, there is a different level of rejoicing at the truth of this gospel song. Jesus lives! So, there is hope for my children to live too. I have no greater desire than for my children to come to know, love, and serve the Lord. The most humbling thing is to realize that I am not ultimately in control of this outcome. Whenever I think of this, it makes me turn to my Savior and ask Him to just open the eyes of their hearts to receive the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Parents, grandparents, and every Christian, be in prayer for our children. Model the truth of the gospel in your lives and teach it faithfully in your homes. Have your kids in church and make the eternal destiny of your loved ones a top priority in your prayer lives. Do this because it’s really true that Jesus loves us and gave Himself for us to save us from our sins. 

2019 Annual Report From the Lead Pastor

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Dear Members and Friends of Prairie Flower Baptist Church,

As I look back over this last year and decade, I am amazed at all that God has done in us and through us. As a church family, we have been through some incredible times of growth and joy, as well as great seasons of loss and pain. But, through it all, God has remained faithful and we have grown stronger.

For me personally, as I enter this new year, I feel as if I’ve entered a new phase in pastoral ministry. My learning curve isn’t so high anymore, more experience has settled in, and I’m stable, settled, and very much content. Honestly, I never thought I would be this satisfied out here on the prairie, but I am.

A Year In Review:

What a breath of fresh air this past year has been for our church family. We experienced peace, unity, and growth in ways we haven’t felt in a long time. Praise the Lord for His wonderful grace and mercy!

The numbers this past year are encouraging. I’m thankful to be part of a church family that continues to see people saved, baptized, and added to the church. This past year, by God’s grace and to His glory, we experienced:

  • 5 – Salvations
  • 8 – Baptisms
  • 2 – Members

This past year also allowed us to bring in a new Associate Pastor, Timothy O’Tool! Pastor Tim and his family have been a wonderful addition to our church family and have fit right in. What a joy to have these new partners in the ministry.

The building of our Pavilion Project was another item that marked our past year. We are nearly finished with this project and are coming in under budget. A big “thank you” to the many generous donors who gave of their time and resources to construct a building that will allow us to do more and better ministry, especially in the spring, summer, and fall months.

A Year of Possibilities:

As we look forward to a new year of life and ministry, so many opportunities and possibilities lie before us. I am eager at all that God might have in store for us out here on the prairie. Here is what I envision I’ll be leading you all toward:

  • Prayer – As a church family, we need to hone our skills at corporate prayer. Yes, many of us are praying individually, but our corporate prayer life is lacking. To help with this deficiency, we will institute monthly Corporate Prayer Nights that will meet the first Sunday night of every month. Please join us!
  • Simplicity – The Church Constitution is in dire need of restructuring. Many parts of our current constitution are simply outdated for our current cultural context. For instance, our constitution stipulates that we must have certain committees, but many of these committees are unnecessary because of our well-placed leadership structure. Another example of our constitution’s deficiencies is in the structuring of the fiscal year that makes financial accountability and communication difficult. Thus, changes will (Lord willing) be forthcoming this year.
  • Renovations – With the construction of our Pavilion Project nearly completed, it’s time to take all of that positive forward momentum and look into some church building renovations. It’s been nearly 25 years since we’ve updated our carpet and pews. I do believe it’s time for a change! The cost of new carpet, and replacing our pews with chairs, will be significantly less than the Pavilion Project and will allow us to accommodate for current and future growth. Ultimately, the membership of PFBC needs to be on board with this and vote it into action, but I think our church is healthy enough (financially and spiritually) to undertake these types of renovations this year.

A Big Thank You:

As I end this report, I just feel the impulse to say, “thank you.” Thank you for allowing me to be your Lead Pastor. Thank you for loving me and my family so well as we seek to love you and your families well. Thank you for working beside me for the spread of the gospel in our area and world.

Let’s continue this great work,

David Cotner

Lead Pastor, PFBC

It Won’t Be Like This Forever…

Christmas Hope

From hospital rooms to the counseling room, I spend a lot of time with people who are suffering. Indeed, suffering comes in many different forms – physical, emotional, and spiritual. Over the years, I have learned to be cautious of the confident, smiling face. Behind many of those big smiles hides a hurting heart.

I don’t know about you, but I feel so inept when meeting people in extreme pain. I struggle with what to say. Yes, I know, just me being present, offering a kind word, and praying with them (and for them) is sufficient, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way. I wish I could just take all their pain away! But alas, I cannot.

When I feel especially inept at comforting the sorrowing, I always turn to Scripture. The Bible obviously speaks to us, but did you know that it often speaks FOR us? Yes, when we don’t know what to say, God does! God knows, God cares, and God speaks to those who are suffering and wrestling with darkness, depression, and disease.

What does He say to them? What does He say to us in the midst of our pain?

Hebrews 13:5b, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God isn’t distant from our pain, He is near and He isn’t going anywhere!

Psalm 46:10a, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Since God will never abandon us, we can rest in Him, knowing that He is working for our good; and He really can work for our good! How? Why? Because He is God and we are not.

Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” What hope! It won’t be like this forever. One day, all of our suffering and sorrow will expire because God Himself will do away with darkness and death – pain and suffering.

As we get ready to celebrate Christmas tomorrow, let’s remember that God is with us and for us. And, one day, it won’t be like this anymore…One day, we will (by grace through faith in Jesus) experience eternal joy and life as we rest in His magnificent presence.

PFBC: January’s Upcoming Events

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Can you believe it? January 2020 is nearly upon us! A new month…A new year…A new decade! Wow. Below is the projected path forward for all of us out here on the prairie…

Wednesday, January 1 – Annual Reports Due!

Sunday, January 5 – Communion Sunday, Restart Mini-Series, and Food Fellowship/Annual Meeting (10:15 AM); Corporate Prayer (6 PM)

Wednesday, January 8 – Kids4Truth (PJ Night) and Outfitters (6:30 PM); Prayer Meeting (7 PM)

Sunday, January 12 – Membership Class #1 (9 AM); Restart Mini-Series (10:15 AM)

Monday, January 13 – Women’s Prayer Group (10-11 AM)

Tuesday, January 14 – Men’s Prayer Group (6:30-7:30 AM)

Wednesday, January 15 – Kids4Truth (Dress Like Your Favorite Book Character) and Outfitters (6:30 PM); Prayer Meeting (7 PM)

Sunday, January 19 – Membership Class #2 (9 AM); Sanctity of Human Life Sunday/Baby Dedications, Matthew Series (10:15 AM); Growth Groups Relaunch (Various Times)

Wednesday, January 22 – Kids4Truth (Silly Sock Night) and Outfitters (6:30 PM); Prayer Meeting (7 PM)

Sunday, January 26 – Membership Sunday and Matthew Series (10:15 AM); Growth Groups (Various Times); Leadership Team Meeting (2 PM)

Wednesday, January 29 – Kids4Truth (Mustache Night) and Outfitters (6:30 PM); Prayer Meeting (7 PM)

Friday, January 31 – Saturday, February 1 – Jr. Freeze Out at IRBC!

Lessons Learned On Our Adoption Journey…

Adoption

My wife and I are currently engaged in the process of adoption through Faithful Adoption Consultants, a consulting agency based out of Georgia. Needless to say, the process of adoption is a long and difficult process. This difficulty comes in many different forms, to include: a mountain of paperwork, a thick price tag, and a lot of tiring emotions. But, it’s worth it. Why? Because life matters. Life is precious. Life is valuable. Indeed, my wife and I long to hold our fourth child, our adoptive child, sometime (Lord willing) in 2020.

Below are three things I have been immensely reminded of during this hard, but beautiful journey of adoption…

  1. God can change hearts. My wife initially proposed the idea of adoption very early in our marriage. I quickly shot it down. I wasn’t trying to be mean or insensitive, but adoption simply wasn’t on my radar. It wasn’t a part of my plan for my life. Little did I know that my wife was praying for me. Never underestimate the power of a godly wife praying for her husband! God used my wife’s prayers to change my heart by first changing my mind. God made it abundantly clear (through a series of events played out over many years) that my life really isn’t my life (it belongs to Him) and thus “my plan” for “my life” is irrelevant. In the end, I was the one who restoked the conversation of adoption (earlier this year) with my wife. You read that right; I was the one who reintroduced this topic of conversation into our marriage. My wife didn’t pester me, guilt trip me, or nag me about adoption; she simply prayed for me. And over many years, God changed my heart and is allowing me the wonderful joy of leading my wife in this process.
  2. God always provides. The paperwork is daunting, but God always provides. The financial price tag is high, but God always provides. The emotional roller coaster is exhausting, but God always provides. Our God is a provider! When the paperwork is overwhelming, He provides extra energy and a wonderful guide (Jason through Faithful Adoption Consultants) to help us. When the financial price tag seems too high, He provides a little boy from church who literally put two quarters into my hand one Sunday and said (with excitement), “Pastor Dave, it’s for your adoption!” When our emotional tank is running on empty, He provides us with exactly what we need, when we need it. Our God always provides.
  3. God adopts. This whole process of physical adoption has provided me such a beautiful picture of my own spiritual adoption into the family of God. Indeed, physical adoption is such a beautiful picture of the Gospel. Passages like Galatians 4:4-5, which states, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” And passages like Ephesians 1:4b-5, which says, “In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ…” have come alive to me in powerful ways. That God would reach down and save me, adopt me, and love me…Wow. What grace! What mercy! This whole process of physical adoption has helped me to relish my spiritual adoption into the family of God in bigger and better ways. Indeed, I like what David Platt says about the process of adoption, “It is important to realize we adopt not because we are rescuers. No. We adopt because we are rescued.” Yes, rescued by God, and adopted into His family, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ…How precious it is that our God adopts us.

Please continue to pray for me and my family as we walk this adoption pathway. It is hard, and it is long, but it’s so worth it. Indeed, our child is out there somewhere, we just have to work hard (by God’s good grace) to find them.

The Gospel: A Short Animated Video

Bible Project

From Our Friends at the Bible Project: “Gospel” is one of the most common words in a Christian’s vocabulary. But what does it mean in the original languages of the Bible? In this video, we’ll discover that “gospel” is a royal announcement about Jesus, who is the crucified and risen King of the world who overcame death with his love…

PFBC: December’s Upcoming Events…

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Sunday, Dec. 1 = Portraits of Christmas Series Launch at 10:15 AM; Halcyon House Nursing Home Ministry at 2:30 PM

Wednesday, Dec. 4 = Kids4Truth (Jesus’ Birthday Night) and Outfitters at 6:30 PM; Prayer Meeting at 7:00 PM

Sunday, Dec. 8 = Annual Election of Officers (After the Morning Worship Service)

Monday, Dec. 9 = Women’s Prayer Group from 10 – 11 AM

Tuesday, Dec. 10 = Men’s Prayer Group from 6:30 – 7:30 AM

Wednesday, Dec. 11 = Kids4Truth (Store Night) and Outfitters at 6:30 PM; Prayer Meeting at 7:00 PM

Sunday, Dec. 15 = Leadership Team Meeting at 5 PM

Wednesday, Dec. 18 (Dec. 25, Jan. 1) = Christmas Break – No Activities!

Sunday, Dec. 22 = No Sunday School; Sunday Morning Worship Service at 10:15 AM

Tuesday, Dec. 24 = Christmas Eve Service at 6:30 PM

Wednesday, Dec. 25 – Saturday, Dec. 28 = Church Offices Closed For Christmas!

Guest Blogger: Phil Parsons – “Leave it All on the Court”

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Phil Parsons and his family have recently started attending Prairie Flower Baptist Church. He is a member of the Board of Directors and President of Epaphroditus – a missions minded organization with a heart for the country of India. Phil is also an attorney here in southeast Iowa. We are pleased to have Phil be our Guest Blogger this week. In this particular blog post, Phil talks about the need for passion – “Leave it all on the court!” – when it comes to our Great Commission as disciples of Jesus Christ. ~Enjoy!


My oldest daughter, Alex, is currently playing basketball for Pekin Middle School. As a father who enjoyed basketball as a kid, it is simultaneously fun and frustrating to watch. It takes a great deal of self-control not to make a fool out of myself while watching and “encouraging” my daughter. My wife may argue that I fail at this more than I succeed.

One aspect of basketball that can be frustrating for parents, and coaches alike, is the absence of total commitment. Too often you see players merely go through the motions. To correct this halfhearted behavior, a coach my yell “Leave it all on the court!” The idea behind this phrase is that players should not hold anything back. They should use all their heart, mind, and strength to win the game; being willing to sprint back on defense, dive on the floor for loose balls, and mix it up in the paint…blood, sweat, and tears.

The reason behind this reckless behavior is the desire to accomplish the primary goal, to win the game. Interestingly, being a Christian is not terribly different.

When Christ came in the flesh, he came for one purpose, to save sinners. He didn’t come to go through motions. He didn’t come to build wealth. He didn’t come to climb the corporate ladder. He didn’t come to create a Pinterest life. Jesus took on flesh, lived a sinless life, and died on the cross to achieve the goal of seeking and saving the lost. As disciples of Christ, our purpose is not different. You can see this in the calling of the first disciples.  In Luke 5:4-11 we read these words:

“[W]hen he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

In verse 10 we see Jesus tell his disciples that they will be catching men. This was their new purpose as followers of Jesus, to look out upon the sea of faces in this world and throw out the net of the Gospel and draw men to Jesus. Peter, James, and John are the first Christians, and in their calling, we are given the first example of what it means to follow Christ, to partner with Him to seek and save the lost.

But how do we do this? It begins with a commitment to leave everything on the court. Notice verse 11, “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” Let that sink in…they left everything…everything; their boat, their source of income, their dreams, and even their dad. At this moment they were giving it their all, literally.

Now…it is time for some self-evaluation. How do you stack up? Do you view yourself as a Christian, as a disciple, as a follower of Christ? Has Jesus called you to be catchers of men? Have you accepted that call? Have you committed yourself to the primary mission of seeking and saving the lost? Have you given it your all? Have you left it all on the court? Or are you going through the motions?

Remember, when Christ calls you, it is not into passivity, but activity, and it is an activity of total abandonment. Later in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says these words, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33).

Christ calls us to leave it all on the court, to give everything we have, blood, sweat, and tears to the God-glorifying, eternal, Gospel-centered mission of saving sinners.

From the Desk of the Associate Pastor: Deck the Halls?

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You have heard the debates right? The back and forth between when one can appropriately begin listening to Christmas music? For some not till November, others would say after Thanksgiving. Still others will take a more hard line stance of not till two weeks leading up to Christmas. And then there are those who secretly begin to listen in October or earlier. So, most would say that there really is no right answer, it’s just a preference thing, and maybe that is true, but I believe there are some helpful thoughts regarding this subject as we head into the holiday season.

I first want to make a very important distinction between music genres. In my definition Christmas music only includes songs that celebrate the advent of our Savior while Holiday music would encompass songs that celebrate the secular meaning of Christmas. If a song includes ideas about Santa, Reindeer, Snowmen, silver bells, or chestnuts it probably falls in the secular category.

Now is it wrong to listen to holiday music as a celebration of the warm and fuzzy and nostalgic feelings one gets as they think about this time of year? No, not really, but in my personal opinion, you should not be subjecting others to such music before the 10th of December. I say that half joking, but the reason I want to make such an important distinction between “Christmas” music and “Holiday” music is because this time of year holds such a special theological place in my heart. Now, as a disclaimer, I recognize that December was probably not the actual historical month that Christ was born, but it has become the accepted season to spend a focused time celebrating the birth of Christ.

Let us think for a minute about the ramifications of the birth of Christ. Mankind had rebelled and abandoned their Creator. Even those who were supposed to be the people of God had largely and repeatedly brushed any loyalty to the one true God aside. Yet over and over again God promised to send a Savior who would “crush the head of the serpent,” and would “sit on the throne of His father David,” and would be “God with us,” and so much more. Now the true followers of God had waited and waited for Him to fulfill all these promises. In the birth of Christ, and His subsequent work on the cross, we have all these promises fulfilled.

This is why we have such cause for celebration and it just seems we cannot adequately do this with just reindeer and sleigh bells. And in fact, I believe that in large part these cultural Christmas references largely distract from the true celebration of Christmas.

Brothers and sisters, it is not my attempt to infringe on your Christian liberty in denying you the fun of celebrating the secular aspects of the Christmas season, but please for the sake of your children and for the sake of a lost and dying world, do not allow these things to take away from the true celebration of God with us.

Even though God waited for centuries and millennia to fulfill the promise to send the Savior, He ultimately did so. As Paul wrote to the Galatians: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a virgin, born under the law, to redeem those who are under the law.” The implications of this are huge to us. The fact that God fulfilled His promise to send the Messiah means we can trust Him that He will eventually, and in just the right time, fulfill every other promise that He has made to us. That is why I say listen to your Holiday music for a short time (if you must), but feel free to celebrate and rejoice with Christmas music whatever time of year the mood hits you.

Merry Christmas!