When You Feel Lethargic & Calloused…

I don’t know about you, but this year has been overwhelming in every category (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually). Indeed, if I were brutally honest, I have battled lethargy and callousness a great deal this past year. That is to say, I just find myself disinterested, unexcited, and almost numb to the many needs around me. Perhaps you are feeling the same way. Perhaps you, like me, are running low on compassion and true, biblical optimism. If this describes you, let me give to you my personal battle plan that I use against these dark forces of discouragement and depression…

  1. Rewind – When I feel the “I don’t cares” start to erupt in my life, or when I feel that it’s all for naught, I find it helpful to rewind. In other words, I will talk with my wife, or a trusted friend, and I’ll recount the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord in the past. I will remind myself that God worked mightily in the past, and He’s certainly working now (for my good and His glory), even if I don’t see it or feel it. A helpful passage to rewind with is Psalm 136. No less than 26 times are we reminded that the “steadfast love” of the LORD “endures forever.” Yes, God is loving (i.e. has our best interests in mind) even on our darkest days…
  2. Revive – When I find myself lethargic to my ministry duties, or just calloused to the needs of others, this is my calling card to pray and to seek the Lord even more. I double down on my prayer life. I honestly tell the Lord how I feel. A recent pray of mine went something like this: “God, I feel so bored with everything. Excite me again with your truth. God, I feel so disinterested with everything. Renew me again with your truth. God, I feel so numb with everything. Soften me again with your truth.” Indeed, God uses His glorious, unchanging truths to revive my soul. Psalm 119:25, “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word (i.e. your truth)!”
  3. Resolve – Finally, when my feelings of despair start to overwhelm me, I resolve (by God’s Word, Spirit, and Grace) to live for the Lord no matter what. God is King, not my feelings. God’s Word is truth, not my feelings. I resolve to follow, trust, and love my God despite my feelings of hopelessness. Sound too preachy? Perhaps, but that is the Christian life. Read the Psalms. More often than not, the Psalmist, after outlining doom and gloom, ends with a note of resolve (i.e. “But I will trust in you” or “But I will hope in you”). Indeed, to battle your feelings with resolve in God is not disingenuous, or being naively optimistic, it’s choosing to live life by faith.

2020 has been a crazy year. The effects of 2020 have been deep and dark. But as a believer, battle all those dark thoughts by rewinding, reviving, and resolving. In the end, darkness will pass, evil has an expiration date, and the joyous truth of God’s love and liberty will prevail…

New Members’ Profiles!

This Sunday, September 13, pending the vote of the congregation, we will welcome into our church family 2 brand new members! It’s always exciting to see people saved, baptized, and added to the church. Below are the new members’ profiles of Frank and Pat Rouse. These profiles testify to their salvation, baptism, and overall grace of God at work in their lives. These are shared with great joy and for your encouragement…

Frank Rouse’s Testimony: “I grew up on a small farm in NW Iowa with my parents and three siblings. My parents were not regular attenders at church at that time. My grandfather lived in the nearby small town of Dickens. My siblings and I would stay overnight at his house and he would see that we went to Sunday School at the Methodist Church, which was the only church in town. I originally thought that my grandpa was just a nice guy and a wonderful grandpa. When he was an old man he no longer attended church services. His church had closed and he never joined the Methodist Church. He would listen to Billy Graham every week on the radio and watch his Crusades on television. One day I read a tract that he had received from Billy Graham and I placed an order for a number of them for myself. My plan was to read these tracts and then hopefully one day I would be able to attend a Billy Graham Crusade and go forward to accept Jesus as my Savior. However, after reading some of them, I went ahead and prayed a salvation prayer on my own without going to one of his Crusades. This took place the summer after I graduated from High School. It was several years later when we returned to NW IA that Pat and I were looking for a church. At the corner south of the acreage we had purchased was a sign that pointed down a gravel road to Curlew Baptist Church. We decided to visit and made it our church home for a number of years until we relocated because of a job change. Both Pat and I were baptized as believers in this church…”

Pat Rouse’s Testimony: “I grew up on a farm in central Iowa near Mitchellville in a family of six children. We went to Sunday School and church every Sunday at the Mitchellville United Methodist Church. I loved going to Sunday School to hear the Bible stories, learn about Jesus, and play with friends. I tried to be a good person so Jesus would be proud of me. I had never heard about the need to accept Jesus as my personal Savior and have a relationship with Him. When I went to college I did as many kids did, I din’t go to church. When Frank and I met at the University of Northern Iowa we went to a church close to campus a couple of times. It wasn’t until we were married (49 years ago) and had moved a couple of times that we started to attend church regularly. In January 1974, Frank’s sister led me in the sinner’s prayer. I am so glad! When we moved to the Ayrshire IA area for Frank to teach, we tried the Ayrshire Methodist Church because Frank had a gazillion relatives that went there and they had invited us. We decided that wasn’t the place for us. We knew by that time that we wanted a Bible believing, preaching, and practicing church. Down the road from our place was a sign for Curlew Baptist Church. It was 5 miles on gravel to a tiny town we had never heard of. Curlew was a very small town with a small grain elevator, small post office, a bar, and a Baptist church. First Baptist Church of Curlew had a huge impact on us and the surrounding area. I was blessed to be baptized at Curlew. When the Ayrshire School closed, Frank started working in the Clay County Engineer’s Office in Spencer IA as the Drainage Tech. We moved to the Spencer area and started attending the First Baptist Church there. We served there for 31+ years in various ministries. I had a Christian Bookstore for 8 years in Spencer. We retired and moved to Kalona 6 years ago when we found out we were finally going to be grandparents! We attended our daughters’ church until we found out our grandson was attending AWANA at Prairie Flower, which we had never heard of. We visited a few times last year and decided to make it our home church when we returned from Arizona this Spring.”

From the Desk of The Associate: The Renewed Branch

When I was a kid, I was a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I loved the books and the movies so much that I would spend my days building swords and running around our property fighting imaginary orcs and dragons. I guess even now as an adult I could be somewhat of a nerd when it comes to Tolkien’s fantasy realm. For those of you who have invested any amount of time in that story you can see to what lengths he went to build out an entire world of history and languages all coming from his creative genius. As with most great stories this was an epic of good versus evil when evil often looked to triumph. It was during a particularly dark period in his story line that he has one of the characters give a prophesy about a coming king from a renewed line of kingship that would come and deliver his people and all the good people of Middle Earth. This is how it goes, “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost, the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be glad that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.” This line always excited me to see that though the story was dark, there would be a coming deliverer who would set it all right. How satisfying it was to see the climax of the story where that king hacked down his enemies and delivered his people.

As tempted as I often am to lose myself even now as an adult in the fantasy realm, I now have an even greater desire to read and contemplate a different story. This story has a prophecy similar to the one given above. What is better about this story though, is that it is true. Yes, that’s right. And not only is it true but it is a story that we ourselves are actually living in. You can read the prophecy in Isaiah 11:1-5, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse. And a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

Now most of you can probably identify who this prophecy is talking about. For nobody embodied these characteristics more than Jesus himself. Doesn’t our current condition make us long for a return of The King? You see this prophecy spoke of the fact that the line of David was cut off, but would be renewed in Jesus. Which one of us who have to lead and make decisions in our time doesn’t desire wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and fear of the LORD? Jesus embodies them all.

Right now, our current national conversation is all about justice. Many of the problems stem from the fact that we see a ten second clip on social media of something that seems unjust. Immediately we act as if we have gathered all the facts and try to proscribe “justice” based on what we see. Jesus doesn’t do that because He perfectly sees and understands every event. Another problem is that we hear a brief summery of something that happened second hand from a friend or from the media, then we immediately form an opinion. This does not lead to true justice. Jesus can never be accused of judging this way. Jesus will never fail to enact true and lasting justice.

Lastly, Jesus does not just enact righteous and just policies, He is completely and perfectly righteous and faithful in His conduct. As God’s people longed and prayed for their Messiah King to come and redeem and save His people, so now we should long and pray for the return of our King. If our current times don’t make you long for that Savior to return, I don’t know what will.