From the Desk of the Associate: What’s in a Name?

This week I am preparing to preach on Genesis chapter 11. I am planning to focus on the first 9 verses which detail an interesting account of the famed Tower of Babel. On the surface a modern reader may wonder what the problem with this account is. After all, what is so wrong about being unified around a tower and a city. Wasn’t mankind supposed to take dominion of the earth? And isn’t part of taking dominion and displaying God’s image using the intellect and resources at our disposal to build amazing things? And wouldn’t so many of our problems be solved if we could all just understand one another better?

Well, you don’t have to dig very deep to learn that the people who built this tower and city were not simply trying to find their way in a hostile environment. They were actively trying to throw off the shackles of God’s command to be fruitful and multiply and to spread out and “teem” on the earth. These people were hell bent on doing things their own way. This is signaled to us in what they built, a tower, and what they wanted to create, a name for themselves.

First the tower in the ancient world was likely a ziggurat. These were temples whereby humanity believed themselves to be accessing the realm of the gods. In building this tower to reach to the heaven mankind was trying to access and control God on their terms. They not only disregarded his commands to spread out and fill the earth, they thought that through their own strength they could access God and perhaps even storm the gates of heaven. This really was an echo of the original fall. In that fall Adam and Eve grasped at the ability to define good and evil on their terms. In this tower account, mankind grasped at the ability to be gods again by trying to access God’s throne. God decided that the unity of mankind in this case would only lead him to more and more rebellion and therefore more and more ruin. Not that God was threatened by such puny creatures, God just knew that they would spiral into all sorts of evil if they remained united in their rebellion. So, even in God’s judgment, we see that God was really showing these rebels mercy. Instead of destruction all they receive is dispersal.

And second, we see in the people’s desire to “make a name for ourselves,” another rejection of their creator and His ways. You see, this concept of a name was very significant. It meant glory, honor, and fame. All things that belong to God but things that we seem to always be attempting to get on our own terms. The ultimate name, the name that is above every name has been given to Jesus because at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God. We see right after the tower of Babel narrative another account that includes a name. When God called Abram, a no name from Ur, God promised him many things but not least of this was the promise to make his name great. God would grant Abram a name that Abram did not earn but one that God gave him because He is a gracious God. Oh, and what name did the men of the tower attain? Babel, a name that means confusion because it never fails that when man exalts himself, God will bring him low.

So what’s in a name? Everything!

A Birthday, Wedding, & Funeral…

If you spend any amount of time with me, inevitably, you’ll hear these words: Pastoring may be many things, but it’s certainly not boring. It’s true. Shepherding is often a chaotic mix of joy and sorrow as one interacts in the lives of the different members of his flock. I love this about pastoral ministry! You never know what a day may bring forth…

Take today for instance…Yes, today was already slotted to be a busy day with sermon prep, blogging 🙂 and general administrative work. I also had two other exciting items on my to-do list: celebrate my wife’s birthday AND finalize details for my brother’s wedding next week in Florida. A birthday to celebrate and a wedding to finalize…How exciting!

But then, in the sovereignty of God, my phone buzzed me awake a little before 6am. Through tears, a precious daughter told me that her father had suddenly and unexpectedly entered into the arms of Jesus earlier this morning. Yes, as the sun was rising over the prairie, God added another item to my to-do list: prepare for the burial of a friend, fellow veteran, and loyal church member – Mr. Ron Gates.

Man alive, I’m going to miss Ron. His family knew him as a great husband and father, kids thought he looked like Santa Claus, but I’ll remember him as the man who always kept me on my toes in the ministry. Often, he would come up to me after a sermon and say, “Your message was ok. You did alright. Thank you for that.” He never laid on the compliments too thick or too light, but always just right. Indeed, I’ll miss his humility-inducing compliments and his big, big smile!

Yes, a birthday to celebrate. A wedding to finalize. And a funeral to plan. And all in one day! Again, this is the joyful sobriety of pastoral ministry. You are called upon to enter into people’s highs and lows, always reminding them that this life is not all there is, there’s an eternity that awaits us…

You know, it has been said, “Today matters because tomorrow can’t be assumed.” A birthday party, as great as it might be, points us forward to the day when there won’t be a birthday to celebrate anymore. A wedding, as exciting and momentous as it might be, points us to the inevitable finish line – “till death do us part”. Yes, it’s amazing how the very end of life (i.e., a funeral) helps us prioritize and cherish the very beginning parts of life, like births and weddings.

Ron’s sudden homegoing is yet another reminder to live life now, to laugh now, to love now, and to lead now! Why? “Because tomorrow can’t be assumed.” Certainly, for those who die in Jesus, “it is not death to die.” There’s an eternity that awaits us! But before we get to the other side, before we experience fullness of joy, before we sink our eyes into our Savior’s face, we live in the here and now…So, let’s cut the birthday cake and the wedding cake, relishing each special moment, taking it all in, realizing that the end is coming; and (I think) when we finally step into the great beyond, we’ll realize that this life really did matter, and that every little joy and every little smile was merely the prelude – a shadow – an appetizer – the precursor for something that all of our hearts yearn for – perfect satisfaction…

Ron, till we meet again, God bless you up there, I do love you, and I’ll see you when I see you.

A Mother’s Day Tribute To My Mom…

I don’t know about you, but I rarely stop to think about the impact of my mother on my present life. It’s not that I’m not grateful, but I just get busy with life, family, and ministry. But none of my present realities would be possible without my mother…

She gave me life…Though some advised her to seek other options, saying, “You’re too young for this!” She chose life and gave me life.

She raised me in life…Leaving her own family in Korea, she followed my Dad to America and raised four of us kids here. Yes, she raised me and my siblings far from her own home over there, so that we might be totally at home over here.

She pointed me to life…That is to say, she pointed me to Jesus, who is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Yes, she pointed me to life – to true life!

From my mother, I learned the value of hard work and the wisdom of always double checking my work. From my mother, I learned the value of cleanliness in the home and the wisdom of occasionally decluttering my home. From my mother, I learned the value of quietness in life and the wisdom of sometimes choosing quietness, especially when things get painfully loud in life.

Then there’s all the fun things that I acquired from my mom…My love for spicy food has a direct connection to my mother. Indeed, some of the best memories I have of my mom is of the two of us quietly sharing a Korean snack of rice and kimchi in the kitchen…We would hide out in the kitchen and munch away from the rest of the family…Just the two of us, and no one else. My love for scary movies also has a direct connection to my mother…As well as my love for beautiful, but abstract art.

So, to my mother, thank you for being my mother. Thank you for your love, sacrifice, and loyalty. Thank you for always being there. I love you. Happy Mother’s Day! I can’t wait to see your smile in just a couple of weeks…

A Bible Project Video: Psalm 8

This Sunday, May 1, we will have Baptist Mid-Missions Appointee, Trevor Galbraith, with us for Sunday School and our Morning Service. Trevor is currently raising support to return to Great Britian as a church planting missionary. During Sunday School (9am), he’ll explain his vision for missions and describe the mission field of Great Britian. Then, during our Morning Service (10:15am), he’ll preach the Word to us. To do that, he’ll take us to Psalm 8 and unpack marvelous truths about the image of God, the dominion mandate, and the storyline of Jesus. In preparation for this message, check out this video on Psalm 8 from our friends at the Bible Project…

My Favorite Sermons From T4G!

Pastor Tim and I had the privilege of going to our first (and last) Together For The Gospel (T4G) Conference in Louisville, Kentucky this past week. It was a great blessing to rub shoulders with nearly 12,000 pastors and church leaders from all over the world. We were reminded of the centrality of the Gospel message, the importance of proclaiming the Word (and only the Word) in our pastoral ministry, and the need to always cling to Jesus for our righteousness, hope, and worth. It was a great conference! Of all the great messages preached this past week, here are the three that spoke to my heart the most. I commend them to you for your own personal edification and joy…

  1. Christian Lwanda – Submit to the Bible In Your Pastoral Ministry –
  2. Kevin DeYoung – Preach the Good News of Guilt and Justification –
  3. Shai Linne – Remember Jesus Christ –

Bonus Message (For Anyone Contemplating Pastoral Ministry, Watch This One)…Sinclair Ferguson – Shepherd in View of Heaven –

Remembering Your Baptism Helps You Fight Temptation!

This Sunday is Easter Sunday! Indeed, I’ll be preaching my 9th Easter message as the Lead Pastor of Prairie Flower Baptist Church. It’s always such a joy to open God’s Word and to declare that we worship a crucified & RISEN Savior! Such a message never gets old. Indeed, how could it? It’s this very message preached and then believed that saves the souls of men and women. I can’t wait to preach it up once again this Sunday.

This Sunday is also Baptism Sunday! This Sunday, we’ll have the privilege of watching two very special young people take their next step of faith by being immersed in the waters of baptism. This too never gets old. How could it? Seeing people step from death to life and publicly declare their love and loyalty to Jesus Christ is such a beautiful and invigorating thing.

As I was preparing for Baptism Sunday, I came upon a familiar passage, but got some fresh insight from it. The familiar passage is from Romans 6:1-4, which starts off like this, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” Paul wants to demolish the ridiculous notion that Christians should allow themselves to sin in any way they want because “grace will simply cover it.” But here’s what struck me…Paul continues this line of thought about not sinning and not abusing the grace of God by giving to the Roman believers a reminder. He essentially says to them, “Choose not to sin! Choose not to abuse the grace of God!” HOW?! “Remember your baptism!” Yeah, listen to what Paul says next in Romans 6:1-4, “How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Wow. Do you see what the Apostle Paul did there? He essentially points the Roman believers back to their baptism and says, “Why would you go on sinning as a Christian? Remember your baptism! Remember that moment you publicly declared your love and loyalty for Jesus as you were dunked in the water!” Yes, Paul actually models for us a way to fight temptation by calling us to remember our baptism.

This line of reasoning is similar to what I would do with a married couple who is struggling in their marriage. Perhaps they’re just tired and want to divorce. Among many things, I would say to them, “Don’t divorce! Fight for your marriage!” HOW?! “Remember your vows!” Yes, I would point this married couple back to their wedding day and say, “Remember…” Perhaps remembering their special day, and the promises that they made to each other on that day, will give them the strength they need to fight for their marriage another day…In the same way, Paul encourages us to remember the day of our baptism, and the beauty of the Gospel message it portrays. Indeed, remembering our baptism gives to us another weapon in our arsenal to fight sinful temptation…Remember your baptism!

Quarterly Meeting Agenda Items (4-10-22)

Tomorrow (4-10-22), we will conduct our Quarterly Meeting. Below are the Agenda Items for this meeting…

  1. Call Meeting to Order – Pastor Dave
  2. Opening Prayer of Blessing – Pastor Tim
  3. Reading of Past Minutes – Lisa Van Der Molen
  4. Review of Financial Report – Steve Bohn
  5. Readjusting Our Missions Support – Congregational Vote
  6. Removal of Church Members – Congregational Vote
  7. The Lead Pastor’s Items – Pastor Dave
  8. The Associate Pastor’s Items – Pastor Tim w/South Africa Missions Team
  9. Missions Escrow Account Vote – Darwin Carroll (Congregational Vote)
  10. Closing Prayer of Blessing – Zach Shepherd
  11. The Motion to Adjourn – Pastor Dave

Feelings of Blah…

I don’t know about you, but this week has been a fight for joy. No, there’s not anything majorly bad going on in my life, but I feel just kind of blah…foggy…like I’m stuck in a funk of sorts, and I can’t figure out why. Maybe it’s the horrible weather that we’ve been having here in southeast Iowa or the incessant drumbeat of bad news online, but I’m just feeling kinda down. Ever been there? Do you know what I’m talking about?

I think it might have something to do with just the daily rhythms of life. We get stuck in stable rhythms that feel like ruts. And ruts are frustrating. Ruts are boring.

Yeah, that might be the issue right there. We just feel bored. We have plenty of things to do, but we’re just bored with it all. We crave something new…something exciting…something to make us feel alive again.

Perhaps our schedules have gotten cluttered with activities and responsibilities, and we just desire a hard reset…a do-over…a clean slate. We’ve said “yes” to so many good things that we’ve inadvertently said “no” to the best things.

I feel like I’m rambling, probably am, but that’s just kind of sorta where I am at the moment…I feel foggy, stuck in a rut, and I’m a little bored despite having a cramped schedule filled with things to do. I know that I can’t be alone in such feelings. You either have had such feelings in the past, are feeling them now, or (mark my words) you’ll feel them at some given point in the future…That’s just life on this side of Glory.

So, how do I counsel myself out of such mundane, blah feelings…Well, I do the following…Maybe you’ll find my approach helpful for yourself…

  1. I Preach To Myself – That’s right. I take the Word of God and read words like this from Psalm 42:5, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation, and my God.” Feelings come and go. Indeed, feelings are funny, fickle, fleeting things, don’t trust them! Trust in God. Hope in Him.
  2. I Pray With Honesty – The Apostle Paul encourages us in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Certainly, I could stew in my feelings of ick OR I could talk to God about how I feel. When I pray, I certainly ask him to take away the negative feelings, but, more than that, I thank Him for the opportunity to practice humility before Him despite how I feel. Listen, we all want to feel good, but sometimes God uses the nasty feelings of life to draw us into a newer and better relationship with Him. Remember Job in the Old Testament?
  3. I Post Things Online – Ha! Maybe not the best thing to do, but here I am honestly and transparently saying, “I feel kinda down today.” And you know what, that’s all right. The super critics out there will roll their eyes at this blog post. “Suck it up!”, they’ll say. “Count your blessings!”, they’ll shout. “And yes, I agree. I’m not going through anything severe or heartbreaking, and I have much to be thankful for. But writing for me is therapeutic. It gives me a good outlet to air out some thoughts…

So, there we have it. Do I feel better after all of that? Kind of. But I’m not looking for a quick fix to my feelings. God is good, loving, and wise despite my feelings of blah. So, I’ll choose to rest in Him.

Bible Project Video: Water of Life…

“In the beginning of the Bible, God transforms a desolate wilderness into a garden through a stream that waters the ground and brings life wherever it goes. This image gets developed throughout the biblical story as wells, cisterns, rain, and rivers all become images of God’s creative power. In this video, we’ll explore the ‘water of life’ theme through the biblical story and see how it leads to Jesus, who presents himself as the one bringing living water to a world that is desperately thirsty.”

Waiting On The Lord…

Waiting is hard. We want answers and results right away. Indeed, our culture of instant gratification is completely intolerant of long wait times. Whether we are waiting for a package to arrive or for some procedure to be done, we want it done, and done now. Waiting, for many of us, isn’t simply hard, it’s intolerable. We are anti-waiting.

Children are such excellent and dramatic illustrations of our anti-waiting natures. Ever witness a toddler throw a full-blown temper tantrum because they are told to wait on something that is literally coming their way in like five minutes? We smile and snicker at such things, but aren’t we the same way? Children (and all of us) don’t like to wait. I mean, let’s be honest, we hate to wait. And why do we loath waiting so much? Because we honestly believe that if a certain desire has hit us, it must be met with immediate satisfaction, or we won’t ever be truly happy, at peace, or free.

Then, like a flashing red light along our Christian pathway, we have these verses that pop up…

  • Psalm 27:14 – “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
  • Psalm 37:7-9 – “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.”
  • Psalm 130:5 – “I wait for the LORD, my souls waits, and in his word I hope.”

Over and over again, the Psalmist David reminds us to “wait for the LORD.” And let me tell you, David was extremely familiar with the waiting game. Remember how long it took him to be installed as King of Israel after he was anointed King of Israel? 15 years! Yes, it took God 15 years to finally and fully install David as King after God had already chosen and anointed him to be King. David had to wait on the Lord during this time period, a time period that involved him running for his life as King Saul tried to kill him over and over again, and he had to wait on God many times thereafter. With impeccable credibility, David tells you and me to “wait for the LORD.”

Friend, let me encourage you, whether you are waiting for an answer to prayer or waiting for God to give you clear direction concerning that big decision in front of you, wait on the Lord. Wait on God’s timing. Wait on God’s provision. Wait on God’s instructions. Rest assured, in the waiting, God is working. Yes, even if you can’t see it or feel it, God is working in your waiting. As you wait on the Lord, trust Him. As you wait on the Lord, worship Him. As you wait on the Lord, serve Him. He’ll come through, because His timing isn’t just better than yours, it’s perfect – completely and totally perfect.