From the Desk of the Associate: Hope in a Time of Fear

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How do you think people will talk about the year 2020 in 50 years? How about 100 or a 1000 years? What about in 2750 years? Isaiah the prophet wrote about an event that took place that long ago. The event he talked about was a time of great doubt and fear, you could even say panic. The kingdom of Judah and its king, Ahaz, were facing a very serious threat to their very existence. Their neighbors all around them had decided to declare war on them. Not only that but in the early battles of the war, Judah had experienced defeat on a massive scale. They had basically been pushed back all the way to their capital and had lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers and many more civilians as slaves. It is hard for us to understand something like this in our day. It’s as if our greatest enemies had invaded the U.S. and conquered almost all our people and territory. Isaiah describes the hearts of the people of Judah like trees shaking in the forest on a windy day.

Can you imagine how you would feel when faced with such an existential threat? While the threat of the COVID-19 virus is serious, I think we can be thankful that at least, at the time of this writing, it is not as serious as the threat that faced the nation of Judah. That said, there are lessons I think we can take from that time period and apply them to our current situation.

It’s easy in times like these for Christians to immediately assume this is a judgement from God on sinful humanity. That might be the case here, but it would be arrogant and irresponsible to jump to that conclusion. But with that said, let us assume for a minute, for sake of argument, that this is a judgment from God. Can we think of any reasons why God would be judging our world? For Christians the answer is easily yes. From abortion, to sexual deviancy, perverted justice, and the oppression of the poor and afflicted. Every country is guilty of these things to one degree or another so there is ample reason for God to be judging our world. The same could be said of the nation of Judah and its king, Ahaz. You see, Ahaz had led the nation away from serving their rightful God, Yahweh, to serve the gods of their neighbors. Ahaz had set up altars and images to Baal and not only worshiped this false god but also lead the nation to serve this false god as well. An essential worship rite of this religion involved infanticide. That’s right, offering your own children to the fires of these demon gods.

We know that it was because of this practice that God allowed Judah to be defeated. You can read of this in 2 Chronicles 28:9-11. Returning to Isaiah, we can see in chapter 7 that God was still wanting to be merciful. In fact, he sent Isaiah the prophet to Ahaz almost offering him the chance to repent and turn to God. Ahaz refused this opportunity to receive Yahweh’s mercy. God told Ahaz to ask for any sign he wanted that the Lord would be on the side of Judah and offer them mercy. Now at this point in the story, I want to pull my hair out and just tell Ahaz to humble himself and return to the Lord. If I had the chance to ask anything of the Lord, I would ask for an amazing miracle that would completely alter the situation. Instead, Ahaz would rather trust in his own wisdom and in the strength of the foreign superpower Assyria to fight his battle. This would not come without a cost because, though Assyria helped Judah defeat her enemies, they would later come and dominate and oppress the land of Judah. Worse than this, the alliance lead Ahaz further into idolatry.

Even though Ahaz had again spit in the face of Yahweh, the God of Israel, God would still be merciful to the nation. This mercy revealed itself in the fulfillment of this prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” That’s right! The ultimate hope in this dark situation that the nation found themselves in was that God would come and live among them. He would fight for them and deliver them from their enemies. What an awesome hope that is. And the best part for us today is that though the nation of Judah would have to wait 700 years for the fulfillment of that hope, we get to look back and see that God did indeed come to live among us. He also defeated our ultimate enemies, sin and death, in His body on the cross and the resurrection from the dead. And best part of all of this is that He still lives with us today and will live with us forever.

So, as the world reacts to the current situation with fear and doubt, with hearts shaking as trees in a forest on a windy day, we can instead react with confidence that God is on the throne. Our Lord will be merciful and indeed He already has been merciful. Let us point others to the hope found in our great God who will not let His anger burn forever nor will He leave us or forsake us. And as we celebrate the Resurrection this year, more than any other, let us remember the words from 1 Corinthians 15:19-20, “If we have placed our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more that anyone. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Brothers and sisters, our hope does not rest in finding a cure for this disease (though we pray for one), nor is it in the strength of our economy (though we pray for that too). No, our hope rests in the fact that Jesus achieved the cure to the disease of sin, and that we are heirs of the wealth of the King.

Leadership Is Hard: A Call To Respect, Decorum, & Prayer In An Uncivil Era

Hard Work

Leadership under the best circumstances is hard. Leading people to accomplish tasks and goals is easy to talk about in a classroom, but difficult to do in real life. Yes, leadership even in the best of times is hard, hard work.

But leadership becomes nearly overwhelming in a moment of crisis. In a crisis moment, the leader (who is very much human) is sometimes physically exhausted, mentally drained, and emotionally tapped out. There can be overwhelming pressure to make decisions with limited (even inconsistent) information. Providing leadership in a crisis can be beyond difficult.

Such is the case with many of our government leaders. The stress and uncertainty of COVID-19 is making leadership incredibly difficult. I see this with our Governor here in Iowa. Her name is Governor Reynolds and she is doing her absolute best to guide our state through these turbulent times. But there are some critics out there who think they know better and they’re all too eager to share their passionate opinions…

“You’re moving too slow!”

“You’re moving too fast!”

“Order the shelter in place!”

“It’s not that big of a deal so stop freaking people out!”

“You’re going to get us all killed!”

Listen…Here’s the thing with a crisis…Mistakes will be made. In hindsight, timing will (most likely) prove to be an issue in that we moved too slow or we moved too fast. Our Governor is having to make decisions, based upon facts and experts, under the enormous pressure of not only what the other state governors are doing, but also under the angry public opinion of some of her people.

I guess I just want to caution all of us, especially us out here on the prairie, to slow our roll with the criticisms of our government leaders. Certainly, you are entitled to your opinion, but leadership is hard even in the best of circumstances. What the Iowa Governor needs, and what all of our government leaders need, is not our nasty comments, but our respect…not our emotional opinions, but our decorum…and certainly they need not our disdain (“Oh, I could do it better!”), but our prayers…

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Just some thoughts as we all weather this storm together. And Prairie Flower, as always, God bless you guys…I do love you guys…And I’ll see you when I see you…Take care.

Prairie Flower’s COVID-19 Response Plan

COVID-19

Dear Members and Friends Out Here On The Prairie,

We are certainly living in some crazy, turbulent times! The spread of the coronavirus in our country and around the world is troubling and we are taking it very seriously. What a relief to know that our God is still on the throne (Psalm 102:12) and we can run to Him for refuge, strength, and help (Psalm 46:1-3).

Last night, the Leadership Team of Prairie Flower Baptist Church held a Special Meeting to discuss Prairie Flower’s COVID-19 Response Plan. Below are the thoughtful, prayerful decisions that we came to as a unified team. These decisions were made with our faith in God, out of love for our neighbors, and in submission to our governing authorities.

Please note Prairie Flower’s COVID-19 Response Plan below:

  1. In compliance with the lawful orders of the Iowa Governor and the Washington Mayor, we will suspend all events and gatherings of Prairie Flower Baptist Church till at least March 31, 2020. To be clear, this means that Sunday School, Sunday Morning Worship, Growth Groups, Kids4Truth, Outfitters, and all other events and gatherings will not be meeting at our church building till at least March 31, 2020. Please call Pastor Dave (850-776-5504) or Pastor Tim (712-830-9554) with any questions or concerns.
  2. The Pastors of Prairie Flower Baptist Church will seek to encourage, equip, and edify our church family during this time by recording and publishing good biblical content in the form of blogs, podcasts, and the weekly sermon. Along with the weekly sermon, a Family Worship Guide will be made available so that families can hear and discuss the Word of God together. All these items will be made available by email, website, church app, and/or our Facebook page.
  3. The Deacons of Prairie Flower Baptist Church will seek to serve and care for our church family during this time by reaching out and facilitating help to meet the needs of our body. Their primary focus will be on the most vulnerable members of our congregation and meeting their physical needs. Please do not hesitate to bring any of your needs to their attention.
  4. As members and friends of our church, please continue to support our church family by faithfully giving of your tithes and offerings. Online giving is available through our church app. Also, please do your part to reach out to the other members of our body and encourage them by calling them and perhaps praying with them over the phone.

Again, these are some crazy, unprecedented times in the life of our church, community, and country. Let’s keep trusting our great God and loving our neighbors despite this pandemic. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being on mission “for such a time as this.” Indeed, our mission has not changed. We still desire to be a strong church that makes disciples for the glory of God. How can we do this during this crazy time? Here’s a better question…How can we not do this during this crazy time? People are ripe with questions. They are ready to hear the truth. So, share the Gospel boldly! And don’t forget to keep bathing yourself in truth, prayer, and (of course) hand sanitizer.

God bless you guys…I do love you guys…And I’ll see you when I see you…Take care,

David Cotner

Lead Pastor, PFBC

“Why We Care About COVID-19” By Mike Hess

Coronavirus

From the desk of our GARBC National Representative, Mike Hess…


Biblically minded Christians should be the most caring people in the world. But the care we demonstrate goes well beyond a simple humanitarian or philanthropic concern. It should come from hearts that have personally experienced God’s compassion and care through faith in Jesus Christ. The love of Christ compels us to compassionately love those who are suffering.

The reason we should display God’s compassionate heart to others stems from our desire to please our Heavenly Father. Scripture shows us a portrait of Jesus as a loving and compassionate Savior, but it also explains the motivation behind His actions: “for I [Jesus] always do the things that are pleasing to Him [God the Father]” (John 8:29, NASB).

We Christians should care about others because our hearts have been transformed so that, not only are our actions changed, but our motivations are as well. We desire to help needy people who are sick, panic stricken, impoverished, and grieving because we want to exalt the One Who has shown so much love and compassion to us.

Here are four reasons Christians should sincerely care about the current COVID-19 crisis:

  • We care because we love our neighbors. The second greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). Notice the command does not say to “love yourself.” The fact that we naturally love ourselves is already assumed. Jesus teaches that in the same way we care, feed, and nurture ourselves, we should also endeavor to care, feed, and nurture the people God has brought into our lives. The transformative power of the gospel moves us from an attitude of self-love to one of loving God supremely and loving others sacrificially. This means there should be a deep concern in our hearts when others are suffering. The same health that we desire for ourselves, we should want others to have. When we prioritize our love for God, we will also prioritize our love and care for our neighbors.
  • We care because we cherish life. Scripture places an incredibly high value on human life—from the very moment of conception to the last dying breath (Ps. 139:13–16). Christians should likewise cherish and guard the sanctity of human life, which motivates us to not only speak out against the barbaric dismemberment of unborn children, but also against the devaluing of the lives of the elderly, mentally handicapped, or terminally ill. We care about life because God is the Creator of all life from conception to death. Therefore, we see the value of helping those who are suffering physically. We’re moved with compassion when others suffer through sickness. We care about life because we know and worship the Creator of all life. And He tells us that every human being is created in His image.
  • We care because of the value of human souls. The Bible is an amazingly honest book. It warns us about the brevity of life compared to eternity (James 4:14). It teaches that death is an inescapable reality for every living person (Heb. 9:27). Every human being, without exception, will spend eternity somewhere. We care about those suffering from any kind of incurable disease because we care deeply about the condition of their souls. Caring for people’s physical needs can provide great temporary relief, but our message—the gospel—has ramifications that extend far beyond the physical life we experience now, to eternity. Those who have been eternally saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone know a security that no earthly vaccination or cure can ever give. So we care about people because we’re concerned about where they will spend eternity after they’ve taken their last breath.
  • We care because we know that our groans will turn to glory. Something just doesn’t seem right with the world. The suffering, pain, sorrow, grief, and death that are common to all human experience indicate to us that this just isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. The Bible affirms this impression and teaches us that one day there will be no more disease, death, or sorrow (Rev. 21:3–4). All of creation is presently suffering from the Fall (Rom. 8:21–23), and every believer in Christ inwardly “groans” for the redemption of our world and the redemption of our bodies. Someday we will receive glorified bodies—raised in the likeness of Jesus’ resurrected body—that will not need medication, surgeries, vitamins, insulin shots, chemotherapy, or funeral coffins. Jesus will return for His church and will take our “lowly” bodies, prone as they are to sickness and pain, and He will gloriously raise up and transform them “by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself” (Phil. 3:21, CBS).

We Christians must care for others because God has cared so much for us. We care because of the truth that has been revealed to us, a truth that looks beyond the present realities of temporary pain and physical suffering, that sees no dire situation as hopeless because we have placed our hope in a great and mighty God (Ps. 146:5). So instead of allowing fear and panic to control our hearts, let’s fixate on Jesus Christ and mobilize to provide care, compassion and prayer, because God has given so much love and compassion to us. We care for others because we know what it is to be loved.

The Unexpected: A Testimony of God’s Unexpected Grace During My Army Years…

Army Times

Life has a way of handing us the unexpected. For all of our plans and preconceived ideas of how life should play out, there always seems to be a surprise, a turn in the road, or an unexpected diversion from the original plan. I have come to appreciate the unexpected, embrace them, and, most importantly, learn from them.

I served in the U.S. Army from 2006-2010. While many of my memories from this time are pleasant, I did walk down some dark, painful roads – physically and spiritually. You see, I had come into the Army a bitter and cold young man…

I grew up as a preacher’s kid. Over the years, I had seen and heard things from church people that both shocked and angered me. In fact, one particular church situation really rocked my world and devastated me in big ways. So, by the time I was ready to join the Army, as far as I was concerned, I was all together done with church and God, and the Army provided me the perfect escape plan from both…or so I thought.

During my first two years in the Army, I had shed all remnants of my faith and Christian beliefs. I didn’t go to church, read my Bible, and I never talked to anyone about religion or faith. The Army made it easy for me to do this.

There were so many opportunities and distractions in the Army. There were promotions to get, awards to be earned, and respect to be gained. I quickly replaced the one true God with my new set of “gods” – promotion, awards, and respect.

Through hard work, I was able to get all three of these things. I was promoted quickly (eventually I attained Sergeant in three years’ time), received awards for excellence/service, and I had earned the respect of my fellow soldiers. But with all I had attained, my heart was still cold, and I was still very angry.

I was deep into myself, my interests, and my pursuits, when I received orders in the summer of 2008 to go to Iraq for a tour of duty. I was super excited! I had trained for this moment and was so ready to go prove myself as a soldier and as a man. Iraq was going to be a great experience for me, or so I had planned. What I wasn’t planning on was the unexpected…

Two weeks after I arrived in Iraq, one of our men was killed when his vehicle rolled over during a firefight in Mosul, Iraq. I remember the day well and was completely devastated when we got the news. You see, all soldiers train to bring death to bad guys, we don’t train to die ourselves.

The solider who died was young. He had a wife and five kids. In my moment of pain and anger, my thoughts went to God. For years God was the farthest thing from my mind, but now I wanted answers. I gave an angry prayer to God as I questioned His goodness and His ability to control life’s circumstances. I was hurt, angry, and sad beyond words.

God answered that very angry prayer about a week or so later when my father sent me a care package with a CD from Faith Baptist Bible College in it. I listened to that CD and encountered the song, “Bow the Knee.” In that song, I heard these words, “And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan, in the presence of the King, bow the knee.” God broke my heart right then and there. I was driven to my knees in prayer, and with tears streaming down my face, I asked God to forgive me and use me for His service. This too was unexpected. I hadn’t expected God to humble me and forgive me, but God did…

Fast forward to the present, I am amazed to see how God used that time in my life to bring me to the place that I’m at right now. I now realize that people can hurt me, but God is always good. I now realize that my plans may change, but with God there are no accidents. And I now realize that in this life pain is a reality, but with God that pain has a purpose. I now know that no matter what life looks like or feels like, God is in control. With God I can always expect His unexpected grace to meet my every need.

PFBC: March’s Upcoming Events…

March 2

Sunday, March 1 – All Church Prayer and Fast Day (No Growth Groups); Leadership Team Meeting (2 PM); Friendship Bible Study (4:30 PM); Corporate Prayer Night (6 PM)

Wednesday, March 4 – Kids4Truth: Twin Night & Outfitters (6:30 PM); Prayer Meeting (7 PM)

Sunday, March 8 – Daylight Saving’s Time Begins; Growth Groups (Various Times)

Monday, March 9 – Women’s Prayer Group (10-11 AM)

Tuesday, March 10 – Men’s Prayer Group (6:30-7:30 AM)

Wednesday, March 11 – Kids4Truth: Go Green Night & Outfitters (6:30 PM); Prayer Meeting (7 PM)

Sunday, March 15 – Growth Groups (Various Times); Friendship Bible Study (4:30 PM)

Wednesday, March 18 – No Wednesday Evening Ministries – Spring Break!

Sunday, March 22 – Growth Groups (Various Times)

Wednesday, March 25 – Kids4Truth: 80’s Night & Outfitters (6:30 PM); Prayer Meeting (7 PM)

Friday, March 27 – Women’s Bible Study w/Beth Shepherd (6:30 PM)

Sunday, March 29 – Baptism Class (9 AM); Final Growth Groups of the Semester (Various Times); Leadership Team Meeting (2:30 PM)

All Church Prayer & Fast Guide (3/1/20)

Prayer

The Leadership Team of Prairie Flower Baptist Church is calling for a church wide Prayer and Fast Day on Sunday, March 1. We will also have our Corporate Prayer Night at 6 PM that same day. If you would like to participate, we ask that you abstain from food and only consume water, juice, and/or coffee. For those who can’t participate in the food fast, but would still like to participate, perhaps you could fast from technology, TV, or something else. Be creative and do all that you do as unto the Lord!

The why behind the what of this event is simple, we need the Lord and we want to seek his face by means of praying and fasting. There are so many encouragements and commands in Scripture that point us to the power of praying and fasting. So, out of obedience to the Word, and with eager expectation that God will work, we joyfully enter into this day of prayer and fasting. Won’t you join us?

Paul states in Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

To help facilitate this day of prayer and fasting, here is a guide that will help you focus your time of prayer…Please pray for the following large categories:

  1. That lost souls would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
  2. That believers would grow in their faith.
  3. That our church would experience continued unity and growth.
  4. That our leadership team would lead wisely and faithfully.
  5. That our missionaries would bear fruit on the mission field.
  6. That our kid’s programs would grow and be productive.
  7. That our upcoming Easter Service (4-12-20) would powerfully showcase the Gospel.
  8. That our marriages would be protected and strengthened.
  9. That our kids would respond to the Gospel and be protected from the Evil One.
  10. That our focus would stay on the Lord and not get distracted with lesser things.

What else can you add to this list? In a nutshell, there is so much to pray for. Please plan to join us on March 1, 2020 for our church wide Prayer and Fast Day and then plan to come out for our Corporate Prayer Night at 6 PM that same day. You’ll be glad you did.

The Sabbath: What Is It?

Sabbath

This Sunday, February 16, we’ll be discussing the passage from Matthew 12:1-14. In this section of God’s Word, Jesus is being challenged by the Pharisees on what they perceive to be a breech in Jesus’ practice of the Sabbath law. Of course, Jesus was not breaking the Sabbath law, only the Pharisees’ laws surrounding the Sabbath law. More on that on Sunday. But what is the Sabbath? Why was it so important? Check out the video below for some answers…

How to Make a Decision With Limited Information

Decisions

My wife and I are in the process of adopting an infant. Currently, we are reviewing different cases that are coming our way. Our Consultant has simply advised us to review each case and then respond via email with a simple “yes” or “no” to each case. A “yes” response means that we are willing to proceed with the adoption case. A “no” response means that we are not willing to proceed with the adoption case. Often we are given just a few hours to make a decision; and often we have very limited information about the birth mother and our potential baby.

I’m a planner by nature. I love information. In the Army, I was an Intelligence Analyst. I uncovered massive amounts of information, put it together into a presentation, and then briefed the Combat Commander on the situation taking place in his battle space. As a Pastor, I spend approximately 15-16 hours in studying all kinds of biblical information before I present a single sermon to my congregation. I love information. So this whole process of proceeding with an adoption, with very limited information, is definitely putting me outside my comfort zone.

So, what do I do? How do my wife and I make these decisions? How do we respond when the next case comes our way and all we have is the name, age, and ethnic background of the birth mother and a simple due date for the child? Well, I don’t know what the right answer is, but here is what we’ve been doing…

  1. Praying – My wife and I may have very limited information, but our God has all the information. He alone possesses all knowledge and wisdom. So, my wife and I have bowed in prayer (time and time again), asking God for what we want and need most…wisdom and courage.
  2. Trusting – This whole process of responding to adoption cases has caused us to trust the Lord. Sometimes we pray about a case and, honestly, we still don’t have much clarity on how to proceed. Sometimes we’re still left in the dark about how to proceed. So, we trust the Lord and cling to the truth of Proverbs 3:5-6, which states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
  3. Deciding – In the end, we just make a decision. In a perfect world, we would have all the information we wanted before proceeding with an adoption case, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Indeed, in a perfect world the process of adoption would be totally unnecessary. So in a very imperfect world, with very limited information, we make a decision, bathed in prayer, while fully trusting the Lord.

PFBC: February’s Upcoming Events

February (1)

Sunday, February 2 – Superbowl Sunday – No Growth Groups; Halcyon House Nursing Home Ministry (2:30 PM)

Wednesday, February 5 – Kids4Truth (Valentine’s Night), Outfitters, Prayer Meeting

Friday, February 7 – Sunday, February 9 – Outfitters’ Meltdown at IRBC!

Sunday, February 9 – No Growth Groups; Corporate Prayer Night (6 PM)

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

Tuesday, February 11 – Men’s Prayer Group (6:30-7:30 AM)

Wednesday, February 12 – Winter Break – No Wednesday Evening Ministries!

Sunday, February 16 – Growth Groups Back In Session!

Wednesday, February 19 – Kids4Truth (Medieval Night), Outfitters, Prayer Meeting

Sunday, February 23 – Growth Groups; Leadership Team Meeting (2:30 PM); Friendship Bible Study Party (4:30 PM)

Wednesday, February 26 – Kids4Truth (Bring A Friend Night), Outfitters, Prayer Meeting

Friday, February 28 – Women’s Bible Study w/Beth Shepherd (6:30 PM)