COVID-19 dealt a severe blow to our ministry routine and rhythms. What a relief to know that though the coronavirus took us by surprise, it did not take our great God by surprise. He sits enthroned above every storm and disease we face!
Last May, we reopened our church and began to regather as the people out here on the prairie. What a joy to once again fellowship, sing, and hear the Word together. And as we approach the fall, here is our plan to safely and smoothly relaunch our other church ministries…
Sunday Morning Worship Takes Place In Fellowship Hall And/Or Pavilion Area During This Time…
Outfitters’ Student Ministry = Sept. 9, 2020
Will Meet Every Wednesday Evening At 6:30 PM…
Pavilion Project, Memorial Project, and Playground Project = Finished By Sept. 18, 2020
This Is A Target Date, And Not A Hard-Line Guarantee…
Sunday School = Sept. 20, 2020 (Please See Our Sunday School Superintendent, Brian Wilson, For Further Details)
Child Care Services Resume This Same Day, Sept. 20, 2020…Sidenote: On The First Sunday Of Every Month, In Place Of Sunday School, We Will Have A Time Of Corporate Prayer…
Kids4Truth = Oct. 7, 2020
Prayer Meeting Will Also Resume At This Time…Kids4Truth (And Prayer Meeting) Will Run For 8 Weeks And Then Break For Christmas…Also, Kids4Truth (And Prayer Meeting) Will Take Every 4th Wednesday Of The Month Off…
Growth Groups = Oct. 18, 2020
Growth Groups Will Run For 5 Weeks And Then Break For Thanksgiving & Christmas…
Friendship Bible Study = Not Meeting During Fall 2020 (Please See Friendship Bible Study Coordinator, Duane Davis, For Further Details)
I’ve been in pastoral ministry for nearly seven years. Over the years, I’ve encountered some very strong Christians, with a deep faith, rooted in a solid and vibrant theology. I’ve also met many Christians with little, fluffy faith rooted in an inaccurate and malnourished theology. These types of Christians, with poor theological footing, are ripe to fall to deliciously false narratives. Here are three of the most prominent false narratives that I’ve encountered among so called Christians in southeast Iowa…
God will never give to us more than we can handle. Really? Where does the Bible say that? It doesn’t. You can’t point me to one single passage that even remotely hints at this possibility. Perhaps the closest you could get is 1 Corinthians 10:13b, which states, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” So much could be said about this great promise of Scripture, but I will just have you note one thing…The issue at hand is temptation, not trials, tribulations, or turbulent times. Temptation is front and center in this passage. And this text is clear, God will never permit us to be tempted to the point that we have to give in. This is a wonderful promise on God’s grace despite the strong pull towards sin. This is not a magic Get Out Of Jail Free card on the great difficulties and storms of life. Indeed, sometimes our difficulties and storms are so overwhelming, and beyond our ability to handle, that if God doesn’t come through and help us, we’re goners…Yes, God sometimes gives to us far more than we can handle just so He can display His strength in and through us.
The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will. Ha! So certifiably inaccurate, it’s laughable. Try this theological falsity on John the Baptist, who was beheaded in prison for his stand on the truth…Or on the Apostle Peter, who was crucified upside down for his love for Jesus…Or James (the half-brother to Jesus), who was stoned and clubbed to death and all for following God’s will. This absurd notion that following God is safe is a lie. God is not safe. His will is not safe. But make no mistake about it, God is good, and His will is perfect, even if you lose everything for it. Yes, sometimes the most dangerous (and deadly) place to be is smack dab in the center of God’s will.
The best is yet to come. This popular cliche is really making its rounds in Christendom today. And, hear me, it’s partly true. The best is yet to come…but in the next life, not this life. Nowhere in Scripture are we promised that things will eventually get better for us in this life. Your cancer may spread. Your child might die. Your marriage might get worse. Simply put, the best is not guaranteed in this life. To cling to this idea that it might just get better now (instead of placing your hope in the next life with Jesus in Glory) is at best foolish and at worst will breed contempt for God as He fails to provide you with the life you think you need or deserve. Are you buying into this very popular lie that the best is yet to come in this life? My friend, here’s some straight-truth, the very worst might still be in front of you, and it may never get better after that. But here is some grace to chase that straight-truth: The best is yet to come in the next life with Jesus in Glory. Where is your hope today? What are you clinging to? Is your hope in this life only; or are you trusting, clinging, and hoping in the promise of a life to come where we will be in God’s presence forever? Because the best is yet to come in the next life, not this life.
“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white,”—wait! “Red and yellow, black and white?” Is that accurate? Are people really different colors or different races? And doesn’t this cause kids to look on the outside differences as major when in reality they are only minor genetic differences?
That line in the well-known children’s chorus “Jesus Loves the Little Children” implies the existence of different races. And while the sentiment that Jesus loves children, and all are precious in his sight, is certainly biblically accurate, this idea of “red,” “yellow,” “black,” and “white” comes from the idea that people have different skin colors and belong to different races. But everyone has the same basic skin color from the brown pigment melanin, but they have varying shades.
Based on Darwin’s ideas, generations were taught that there were different races on the earth, with the supposed Caucasian race at the top. For example, in a textbook published in 1914 and used across America, high school biology students were taught:
At the present time there exist upon the earth five races…the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.
While such ideas are consistent with evolutionary beliefs (although observational science has shown these ideas to be utterly wrong and most evolutionists have since abandoned them), Christians should immediately recognize that they run contrary to biblical truth.
God’s Word teaches that we’re all descended from the first two people, Adam & Eve (Genesis 1:27, 3:20, 1 Corinthians 15:45), and therefore there is only one race of humans (Acts 17:26) — Adam’s race. Sadly, at the time of Darwin, many Christians had already compromised God’s Word with the belief in millions of years and therefore didn’t stand on the authority of God’s Word and the true history of the world to refute Darwin, and others’, dangerous and racist teachings.
We aren’t “red and yellow, black and white”—we’re all brown. Everyone is brown. Some people are very light brown; others are very dark brown, and others are in-between. But everyone is a variation of the same basic color – brown. Now there are other factors such as fat in the skin, closeness of blood vessels to the surface, and so on that can give some differences. But that doesn’t negate the fact everyone is the same basic skin color.
You see, each person has a brownish pigment in their skin called melanin. While other pigments and factors are involved, melanin is the main pigment that gives each person their individual skin shade. And the amount of melanin a person produces is determined by their genetic makeup, inherited from their parents. To put it simplistically, if a person has a small amount of melanin, they will have a light brown shade of skin. If a person has a lot of melanin, they will have a dark brown shade of skin. It’s not a matter of black and white — everyone is brown!
That biological fact is the basis of an ad campaign we recently launched. You may see our eye-grabbing “Everyone Is Brown” ads while you are scrolling social media.
These ads direct people to Answers.tv and a brand-new series featuring my friend and the co-author of One Race, One Blood Dr. Charles Ware. Dr. Ware is the executive director of Grace Relations at the College of Biblical Studies, and he is passionate about the message of grace — not race — relations. In his new series Grace Relations, you’ll discover how biblical truth and the gospel apply to the tensions and prejudices in our nation. Get answers that will change hearts and create lasting change in this powerful series, with new episodes streaming throughout the month of August on Answers TV.
It could go without saying that COVID-19 has caused countless discussions, meetings, and planning sessions regarding how we do life in these times. Nowhere has this been truer than in the realm of pastors and other church leaders. Now before you tune me out, this post will not largely be about COVID-19. I merely bring it up because it has caused almost every Christian to ask, “When it is OK to skip church?” Now there is a great deal of wisdom each Christian must use in deciding whether it would be best to avoid gathering in the short term, but I suspect that there are many, many people who did not really value the gathering as they should and this global pandemic is only too convenient for them to do what they were already inclined to do. I would like to explore the question here, “When is it OK to skip the assembling of ourselves together?”
For the vast majority of the history of Protestant churches, church attendance was completely expected of all church members and even many citizens in the broader culture. In the last several decades church attendance has declined precipitately even among individuals who hold membership in a church. There are multiple reasons for this, largely revolving around our busy schedules, the increase of work hours, and sporting events on Sundays. Ultimately though, it really reveals our skewed priorities and a deficiency in our understanding of what takes place (or should take place) during our regular Sunday morning gatherings.
The writer of Hebrews makes it very clear that this is not just a problem for our day and time, but also during the setting at the time of his writing. Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” It is not hard to see that this was a problem even in the first century church. Now, do we view it as a sin to skip church for any reason? Certainly not! There are very legitimate reasons for doing so, but I firmly believe that the American church has strayed far onto the side of regular church attendance being optional for the believer. Again, I believe this shows a deficiency in our priorities and view of church.Some might say, “I do church online.” Now I think everyone can be thankful for the wealth of good teaching content online as well as more and more churches being able to livestream their services. That said, I think you are missing at least half of the importance if you think that services are only about being fed the Word of God. That is a very important and primary ministry of our regular services, but is not sufficient in and of itself. You see, church is not really about you. I know, news flash, right? Look again at verse 24, we are called to encourage one another and build one another up. How can you do that if you are neglecting to see one another.Another huge role of church is to be accountable to the pastors and other church members. How can you do that if you are regularly skipping regular church services? Maybe you are an independent person by nature and an introvert. You want to deal with your own problems and let others do the same. I’m sorry, Christian, but you are not afforded that choice. You see, God gave us all a role to play in the mutual building up of the body of Christ. This is clear in many places including the command to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “weep with those who weep” or “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” I’ll ask again, how can you do that if you neglect the local body of Christ? Do you know that there are many, many brothers and sisters around the world who are literally willing to die to fulfill God’s command to meet together? And yet, we can find countless excuses to just stay home.But what about you who say, “Pastor, I’d love to be at church, but my work schedule just won’t allow it” or “I just don’t have good health” or “This is just a season…” These may all be reasonable and acceptable objections as reasons to miss church, but I believe most of the time we skip church is due to the fact that we just don’t view it with the priority we should. Also, many of you out there would respond, “My relationship is between me and Jesus,.and I have peace with this decision.” You are right and wrong. Remember that God has also commanded us to be accountable to one another. God will not command you to do something contrary to His Word.Now, maybe you are offended at this point, but if you have read all the way to here than let me encourage you to truly evaluate whether you too are guilty of neglecting the body of Christ. Maybe you are in doubt about whether your situation demands you to not attend your church. Well, let me encourage you with this, invite your pastor to weigh in on your decision-making process. We pastors care for you and your situations. We are, after all, called to, “Care for your souls as ones who must give an account to God…”
Director of Regular Baptist Press, David Gunn, wrote an encouraging and reassuring article on the guarantee of our salvation by grace through faith in Jesus…
In the nineteenth century, a fascinating exchange of letters took place between Queen Victoria and the English evangelist John Townsend. After attending a service at St. Paul’s cathedral, the queen had asked her chaplain, “Can one be absolutely sure in this life of eternal safety?” The chaplain replied that he knew of no way to attain such certainty.
The conversation was published in the court news. When John Townsend learned of it, he undertook to write a letter to the queen. It read, “To her gracious Majesty, our beloved Queen Victoria, from one of her most humble subjects: With trembling hands, but heartfelt love, and because I know that we can be absolutely sure now of our eternal life in the Home that Jesus went to prepare, may I ask your Most Gracious Majesty to read the following passages of Scripture: John 3:16; Romans 10:9,10? These passages prove that there is full assurance of salvation by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ for those who believe and accept His finished work. I sign myself, your servant for Jesus’ sake, John Townsend.”
About two weeks later, Townsend received a response from the queen. “To John Townsend: Your letter of recent date I received and in reply would state that I have carefully and prayerfully read the portions of Scripture referred to. I believe in the finished work of Christ for me, and trust by God’s grace to meet you in that Home of which He said, ‘I go to prepare a place for you.’ Signed, Victoria Guelph.”
The uniform teaching of the New Testament on this matter is clear. Jesus said, “He who believes in [the Son] is not condemned” (John 3:18). Paul taught, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). John wrote, “He who has the Son has life. . . . These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” What a blessing it is to know with absolute, unshakable confidence that our salvation is forever secured by the One Who loved us and gave Himself for us!
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “humility” as the “freedom from pride or arrogance; the quality or state of being humble.” The Bible declares in Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Even the business world recognizes the value and wisdom of humility. For instance, The Economist in 2013 wrote, “If leadership has a secret sauce, it may well be humility. A humble boss understands that there are things he doesn’t know. He listens: not only to the other bigwigs in Davos, but also to the kind of people who don’t get invited, such as his customers.”
Humility, though so important, seems to be lacking in today’s culture, especially among us Millennials. Indeed, I like what Alyssa Ahlgren recently posted on social media. She wrote…
“My Generation Is Blind to the Prosperity Around Us! I’m sitting in a small coffee shop near Nokomis (Florida) trying to think of what to write about. I scroll through my newsfeed on my phone looking at the latest headlines of presidential candidates calling for policies to “fix” the so-called injustices of capitalism. I put my phone down and continue to look around.
I see people talking freely, working on their MacBook’s and ordering food they get in an instant, seeing cars go by outside, and it dawned on me; we live in the most privileged time in the most prosperous Nation and we’ve become completely blind to it.
Vehicles, food, technology, freedom to associate with whom we choose. These things are so ingrained in our American way of life we don’t give them a second thought.
We are so well off here in the United States that our poverty line begins 31 times above the global average. Thirty One Times!!!
Virtually no one in the United States is considered poor by global standards. Yet, in a time where we can order a product off Amazon with one click and have it at our doorstep the next day, we are unappreciative, unsatisfied, and ungrateful?
Our unappreciation is evident as the popularity of Socialist policies among my generation continues to grow. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently said to Newsweek talking about the millennial generation, “An entire generation which is now becoming one of the largest electorates in America came of age and never saw American prosperity.
“Never saw American prosperity?? Let that sink in.
When I first read that statement, I thought to myself, that was quite literally the most entitled and factually illiterate thing I’ve ever heard in my 26 years on this earth. Many young people agree with her, which is entirely misguided.
My generation is being indoctrinated by a mainstream narrative to actually believe we have never seen prosperity. I know this first hand, I went to college, let’s just say I didn’t have the popular opinion, but I disagree.
Why then, with all of the overwhelming evidence around us, evidence that I can even see sitting at a coffee shop, do we not view this as prosperity? We have people who are dying to get into our country!
People around the world destitute and truly impoverished. Yet, we have a young generation convinced they’ve never seen prosperity and, as a result, we elect some politicians who are dead set on taking steps towards abolishing Capitalism!!
Why? The answer is this, my generation has only seen prosperity. We have no contrast! We didn’t live in the great depression or live through two World Wars, the Korean War, The Vietnam War and we didn’t see the rise and fall of Socialism and Communism.
We don’t know what it’s like to live without the internet, without cars, without smartphones. We don’t have a prosperity problem. We have an entitlement problem, an ungratefulness problem, and it’s spreading like a plague.”
Indeed, I couldn’t have said it any better myself. But in addition to cultivating humility by means of pursuing thankfulness, all of us (including and especially Millennials) need to gravitate towards history. Let me explain…
Being young is a great thing. I’m only 33 so I’m still very young. Indeed, those of us who are young can be so passionate, energetic, and creative. But some of us in our youthful zeal have forgotten to temper our good traits with other good traits, such as patience, wisdom, and knowledge. In fact, zeal without knowledge is a dangerous, dangerous thing…
For instance, zeal without knowledge causes us to bite the hands that fed us. That’s why some of us are so self-righteously critical of our parents. We’re so dialed into their faults and failures and hypocrisies (as if we don’t have our own issues and blindspots that our children will be all too eager to showcase to us when they’re just as old and experienced as we are today), but we’re so dialed into the imperfections of our parents that we fail to realize that they were (and are) merely human, and (please hear me on this) they did the best they could. Instead of being so critical of our parents, we should be grateful.
Zeal without knowledge also causes us to disregard or forget our American history. That is to say, we become so immersed, as young people, in the present-day injustices and problems of our nation, that we disregard or forget the fact that many, many Americans (who were just as passionate, energetic, and creative as we are today) died for some of the very injustices and problems that we are protesting and marching for today. Indeed, some of us act like our forefathers throughout our great and complicated history never cared about these issues and dilemmas. Oh, how self-righteous and arrogant we can be as young people! Indeed, many in our nation’s history cared deeply (and cared to the death) on many of the issues we feel so passionately about today.
“Yeah, but they didn’t fix all the issues! There are still many, many problems! It’s all up to us now!” Really? Don’t you think that our fellow citizens of years gone by did the best they could for us and for our freedoms? Do you really think that we are all-together wiser, smarter, and better able to handle the mess of problems in our nation today? Oh, we will certainly do our very best to right the many wrongs in our country and, after all is said and done, history will record the same verdict that so few of us give to our ancient forefathers…”They did the best they could.”
Speaking of historical figures who fought for justice and liberty, did you know that over 360,000 Union Soldiers gave up their very lives in order to free the oppressed and grant freedom for all? 360,000 deaths…Let that number sink in, and humble you, and engender within you one major thing…gratefulness. Yes, thousands and thousands and thousands of men (many of them white males), during the American Civil War, were willing to put a bullet into the head of another human being just so that we all could live free today. They certainly didn’t do it all correctly. We certainly have much work to do in our own moment in history. But in all our passion, fellow Millennials, let’s not forget our history. Let’s be grateful for the very broad, but imperfect shoulders of the men that we stand on today…
The words “Black Lives Matter” is pure Gospel gold. Indeed, biblically-speaking, every black life matters immensely to God. Thus, all black lives should matter to us, especially us Bible-believing, Gospel-loving Christians. But the words, “Black Lives Matter”, has been hijacked by the movement/organization that calls themselves by the same words, “Black Lives Matter.” Indeed, their very own words condemn them. Just go to https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/ to see, in their very own words, what they believe and what they are trying to do.
In part, they say that they believe, and thus act to, “dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work ‘double shifts’ so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work. We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”
Dismantling and disrupting Western civilization, and our American way of life, is indeed the end state of this movement/organization. Indeed, the founders of this movement are “trained Marxists” (their very own words) and are seeking to capitalize on the real fears, experiences, and problems of our nation in order to drive us all to a very scary end state.
But should we dismantle and then reconstruct Western civilization, and the American way of life, simply to rectify the wrongs of the past and present? I think not. Let me explain…
You see, you can have real fears, rooted in real experiences, and based in real problems, and yet come to the wrong solution for how to solve these problems. This is the travesty of the Black Lives Matter movement/organization and their desire to restructure the whole of America to right the wrongs of the past and present. Perhaps an illustration would help…
As a pastor, I experienced the worst year of my entire life back in March 2018…Even my two tours to Iraq don’t even compare to the weight of darkness and depression I was experiencing back then…Indeed, suicide was a very real and appealing option in the Spring of 2018. I mean, everything had come to a head…As a church, we were experiencing a mini church split, a high-profile adultery case, and a tragic drug overdose. It. Was. Insane. I felt like my whole ministry was falling apart…Now, zoom with me to the end of this heartbreaking story, and here’s the gist of it: I made mistakes in handling this awful situation, but God was gracious and merciful, and me and my precious church family made it through the darkest night of soul…
Now, to this day, I have real fears about this situation happening again. That’s understandable, right? I mean, these fears are rooted in actual experiences of severe Satanic insanity erupting in my church family. I’ve even been able to identify part of the problem in this whole situation, namely, the Church! You heard me right…The Church, though it be the Bride of Christ, is jacked up and messed up – BIG time. Many pastors, with similar fears and experiences, would heartily agree with me! Indeed, anyone who’s been around the Church, for any length of time, knows how broken the Church really is…
So, you’re tracking, right? I have real fears, rooted in real experiences, and now I’ve identified a very real problem, the Church itself. But like a kid during a math exam, I make a fatal error in judgment when I come to this conclusion: “All we have to do is dismantle and restructure the way we do Church and these things will never happen again.” False…True fears. True experiences. True problem. False solution.
Will changing the way we do Church here in the West prevent people from dividing the Church, having adultery with one another, and ingesting different types of drugs into their body? Absolutely not. Why? Because the heart is the problem…
The same is true with “systemic racism.” There are real fears out there – listen to them. There are real experiences out there – learn from them. And there are real problems out there – lament over them. But do not make the dastardly assumption that the solution to these fears, experiences, and problems is to dismantle and restructure the whole of Western Civilization and the American way of life. Dismantling and restructuring our society will not prevent racism, injustices, and hatred. At best, it will merely quell these sins while giving birth to a whole new slew of bigger and better sins.
Why do I say this? Because Jesus said this…Mark 7:20-23, “And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from WITHIN, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from WITHIN, and they defile a person.’”
Our only solution is the Gospel. The Gospel proclaimed, believed, and lived out. True change comes from the inside out, not from the outside in. Our hearts (not our systems) is the ultimate problem. Indeed, our hearts are desperately sick, wicked, and downright dead…It needs to be brought to life. Only the Gospel can do that…Only Jesus can save us.
Prairie Flower, the Gospel (and only the Gospel) has been and will always be enough. Indeed, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. For as Paul would phrase it, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”
July marks the halfway point of 2020. Sometimes it seems this year has been going on forever and, at other times, it seems it has gone by like a whirlwind.
Given the current local and global circumstances, have you met anyone that is discouraged, “down on their luck”, or without hope? I have. Have you seen the rioters on TV that lash out in anger at anyone or anything around them? I watch in horror and disgust, wondering how such behavior will change anything. Then I curl up in my easy chair and take a nap, trying to shut it all out, which seldom works. Face it, the world’s problems are not amenable to any solutions man can come up with.
If I am honest, if it weren’t for the Lord, I would be in the same boat of anger and hopelessness as those on TV. A life without Christ breeds behavior that doesn’t care about consequences; doesn’t care about others; and doesn’t care about the future because they believe there is none. And without Christ, they indeed will not have a good future.
But thank God, the Bible is infused with verses about HOPE…
Hebrews 6:19-20 presents a wonderful word picture…Lord, help me to hear you saying, “I am your hope”, over all the other voices…Lord, your Word says you are the hope for the hopeless. So, I am running to you with both hands stretched out and grabbing on to you. Fill me up with hope and give me a tangible reminder today that hope is an unbreakable spiritual lifeline.
How about Psalms? “As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” Ps. 71:14
Here’s another one: “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits and in His Word I put my hope.” Ps. 130:5
I found about 30 verses directly speaking about hope. I am sure there are even more to encourage and lift up your sagging spirit if you look for them. Let me close with Romans 15:13 that says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
So don’t let this world take your hope. Instead, give an overflow of hope to those around you that may not have it. Give generously every chance you get. Someone’s life may depend on it.