Every Wednesday night from 6:30pm – 7:30pm, we gather out here on the prairie for Prayer Meeting. During this hour, we take some time to learn about persecuted Christians from around the globe. Yesterday (5-19-21), we took a spotlight to the country of Iran. Below is one story from one of our persecuted sisters in this closed access country. Her name is Esther…Please pray for Esther and her family as they struggle to love Jesus and serve Jesus in difficult and dangerous situations…
The most loving thing we can do for others is love God more than we love them. For if we love God most, we will love others best.
I know this sounds like preposterous gobbledygook to an unbeliever. How can you love someone best by loving someone else most? But those who have encountered the living Christ understand what I mean. They know the depth of love and breadth of grace that flows out from them toward others when they themselves are filled with love for God and all he is for them and means to them in Jesus. And they know the comparatively shallow and narrow love they feel toward others when their affection for God is ebbing.
There’s a reason why Jesus said the second greatest commandment is like the first: if we love God with all our heart, we will love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39). It functions like faith and works; if we truly have the first, the second naturally follows.
But if God is not the love of our life, there is no way that we will truly love our neighbor as ourselves. For we will love ourselves supremely.
The reason we will love others best when we love God most is that love in its truest, purest form only comes from God, because God is love (1 John 4:7–8). Love is a fundamental part of his nature. We are only able to love him or anyone else because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). We are only able to give freely to others what we have received freely from him.
And as God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:26), we are designed to love God and others in the same way that God loves God and others. God, being the most pure, perfect, powerful, and precious entity in existence, must love himself most in order to love everything else best, since everything else is “from him and through him and to him” (Romans 11:36). If God loved something or someone else more than himself he would be violating the first commandment (Exodus 20:3) and the foremost commandment (Matthew 22:37–38). For God to love something or someone more than himself would be inappropriate, perverted, immoral. Like God, we must love him supremely in order to love everything else best.
When we (or anything else, if that’s possible) become our supreme love instead of God, love becomes distorted and diseased. Love ends up devolving into whatever we wish for it to mean.
This is a great evil, greater than we often realize. This is the world as we know it: everyone loves in the way that is right in his own eyes. Which of course means that everyone hates in the way that is right in his own eyes. They become supreme “lovers of self” (2 Timothy 3:2) and live “in the passions of [their] flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,” since they were “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). It is not hard to understand why there is so much confusion and conflict and heartbreak and violence in the world. We live in an anarchy of love resulting in much of the horrifying things we hear in the news.
But God, being rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4), “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The author and perfecter of love, Love himself, stepped into our horrible evil anarchy to redeem us (Romans 5:8), his people, and give us new life (Ephesians 2:5), and transform us from children of wrath back into children of God (John 1:12) who are able to love him supremely and therefore love each other rightly — the way he has loved us.
And how has he loved us? With the greatest love there is, the love that moves one to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). But this doesn’t mean that Jesus loved us, his friends, more than his Father. It means that Jesus loved us best because he loved his Father most (John 17:26; Mark 14:36). And “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
So we see that if we love God most, we will love others best.
I find this to be a convicting and uncomfortable truth: How we love others, particularly other Christians, reveals how we love God. The apostle John puts it bluntly: “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20). Our love for each other is an indicator of the place God is holding in our hearts.
God is very good at designing things this way: our faith is revealed by our works (James 2:18), our creeds are revealed by our deeds (Luke 6:46), and our love for him is revealed by our love for others (1 John 4:20). He makes it very hard for us to fake it. And this is a great kindness (Romans 2:4).
Since the greatest and second greatest commandments are involved in these things, we know they are important to God. So perhaps the best thing we can do today is take an honest, lingering look at the way we love others, allow what we see to have its Philippians 2:12 effect on us, and ask God what he would have us do in response.
We may find that this is the most loving thing we will do for everyone else today.
I recall a conversation I had with a coworker at a new job. We had a lot of drive time together so I attempted to get to know him and his life better so I could introduce the Gospel into his life. He shared that he was not religious at all but had begun to ask questions about God. On the other hand, he said his girlfriend and her mom were very religious. He said that his girlfriend had a tattoo of Romans 12:2 “Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Now found this to be very ironic considering what I already knew about his and her lifestyle, partying and sleeping together. I wanted to get to the point where I could have a Bible Study with him and even her at some point. Unfortunately, I was not given that opportunity as he quit that job the next week and did not respond to my communication very much after that. Obviously, the girlfriend had a serious disconnect with what the verse that she had tattooed on herself really meant. I would say that we too often have a real disconnect with what it means to have a renewed mind. Let’s see if I can shed a little light on this concept so that it is more than an empty platitude.
Over and over again we find this concept of a renewed or transformed mind in the Scriptures. This is an idea that relates to our sanctification process, that is the process that God uses to help our actions progressively come into conformity with our Holy position in Christ. Put another way, God accepts me “Just as I am” when He saves me, but He never leaves me “Just as I am,” as He is desirous that I grow in godly living. So where do we learn about a renewed mind? Let’s take a look at some of Paul’s letters and it will quickly become apparent that this is a repeated theme in his teaching.
For starters, lets observe some contrasts in mindsets. We already mentioned Romans 12:2. Here we are told that the believer should actively avoid the default position that the world is trying to press on us. We need to be transformed into something different by a completely different way of thinking. In Romans 8 we know that a mind set on things of the flesh is one that cannot be at peace with God because a mind of the flesh leads to death but a mind set on the Spirit leads to life and peace. This connects to Galatians 6:8 where Paul says he who sows to the flesh will from the flesh reap corruption and he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. In Colossians 3:2 we read, “Set your mind on things above and not on things on this earth.” We can see over and over again that if we want to change our actions, we must first change what we think about. We have to train our minds to follow the truth and to not follow our flesh. How do we do that?
Let us look at what we can do to have a renewed mind that will result in renewed actions. First, I want to point out that all of us are born in sin and corruption and left to our own natures we will always have minds set on the flesh. It takes the Spirit of God breathing life into our dead souls for us to even be able to grasp the truth of God. In John 3 Jesus says, “unless one is born of the water and by the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” God has to first send His Spirit into our hearts and sprinkle our eyes with clean water before we can accept Him. That is when the sanctification process begins. Because, even though we are already a new creation because of our position in Christ, we still have the indwelling flesh within us. That is why Galatians says that the Spirit is at war with the flesh. So again, what can the believer do to have a new mindset that leads to godly actions?
This is the answer, Colossians 3:10 says we must be renewed in knowledge of our Savior and Creator. In order for us to imitate something or rather someone, we must know a lot about them. An actor who is to study a real-life character must study that person in every detail, learning their unique quirks and mannerisms so as to make the imitation believable. In a much greater way, if we want to imitate Christ, we must study Him to the highest degree possible. This is the job of every Christian. It is not just for pastors to learn what Christ is like but for all of us. So, what are some practical ways we can have a renewed mind? Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Literally the Word needs to live inside us. This is an idea that the Word wakes up inside us, and goes to sleep inside us, eats its meals inside us. We are the primary residence of the Word. We are not the vacation home or the weekend getaway spot where the Word visits us on Sunday then goes back to its regular home during the week. It should live in us continually. This means we read it daily, we memorize it, we pray it, we sing it. In addition, we teach it and are taught it by others in our local church. What do you think it means when the same verse says, “teaching and admonishing one another?” We are to learn the Word in the context of other believers.
Believer, are you struggling to live a life that is dominated by the Spirit and not the flesh? Why not start taking advantage of God’s common means of grace, God’s Word and God’s people? If you want a renewed mind, it is impossible to do this without the means that God has blessed us with. Just like my coworker and his girlfriend were clearly not possessing a renewed mind, so I fear many so called Christians have abandoned the regular means of God’s grace and wonder why they do not have victory over sin and the flesh.
I can hardly believe it, but this Saturday, May 1 is my Associate Pastor’s 2-Year Anniversary out here on the prairie. It has been a great two years working and leading beside this great pastor. His love for the Lord, his family, and our church family is evident to all who know him. I am privileged to serve beside him.
As I was contemplating life and ministry with Pastor Tim, my mind took a trip down memory lane. I’ve alliterated the items below because (you know) that’s what Baptist preachers do… 😉 But, no joke, Pastor Tim and I have experienced these five things below and the experiences have been exhilarating and educational…
Demons – One of my first pastoral experiences with Pastor Tim regarded a demon possessed man. I can’t get into all the details on this blog, but this experience was completely supernatural. We tag-teamed the situation with prayer and Scripture. In fact, I remember, as the demoniac was experiencing voice changes and begging us to kill him, that Pastor Tim just began quoting (from memory) a ton of Scripture on the grace, mercy, and power of God. We still keep in contact with this individual and regularly pray for his salvation, but wow, that was an incredible moment of pastoral ministry with my right-hand man…
Death – This is a mega-theme in pastoral ministry. From witnessing the death of beloved church members to witnessing the tragic death of various relationships in the church body, death is a constant theme in pastoral ministry. But I remember Pastor Tim and I navigating the challenges of a very unique and severe suicide attempt. The individual who tried to commit suicide was not directly connected to our church family, but the situation was truly heart-breaking. It was such a privilege to minister beside Pastor Tim as he and I tag-teamed ministering and praying with various family members and friends at the hospital in the hours after the suicide attempt. It was an incredibly long day, but it was so good to work side by side with Pastor Tim in that moment and to see his heart for people as he cared for them. Thankfully, the young lady who tried to end her life survived and we still pray for her as she comes to mind…
Disease – Then as I think through my time working with Pastor Tim, 2020 came in like a wrecking ball. Wow. What a year! From navigating the challenges of mask-wearing, to figuring out how to keep people socially distanced in our sanctuary, to learning how to record and livestream services, 2020 was an incredible year of uncomfortable growth. It was such a joy to work with Pastor Tim during this period because he (unlike me) rolls with the punches and has a natural entrepreneurial spirit that is helpful when you are in uncharted waters, like the dumpster fire of 2020…
Demo – Then there’s Demo Day 2020. Oh, yeah! I remember starting this project – the Sanctuary Renovation Project. We started and ended this project in the midst of a global pandemic, and it was awesome. We were able to totally renovate our sanctuary with new chairs, carpet, a bigger sound booth, and more space for worshippers. Our new worship space turned out really beautiful and functional. I am truly grateful for Pastor Tim’s leadership and administration of this project. This project, because of Pastor Tim, turned out so well…
Difficulty – I can’t get into specific details, but man alive, the different counseling experiences we have had over these last two years would blow your mind. Pastoral ministry may be many things, but it is certainly not boring. We have encountered situations that have made us laugh, cry, and just shake our heads in disbelief. It has been great to tag-team many different counseling situations together…
Well, Pastor Tim, congrats on making it through Round #2 out here on the prairie. You’re doing all right. I appreciate working with you. And thank you for allowing me to be the boss. I know I’m not the best boss out there, but you are a privilege to boss around…Love you, man…
War is difficult to describe. The first thing one realizes upon arrival in a combat zone is that war is nothing like the movies or television shows in America. There is no background music, and the story is not over in 120 minutes.
War is marked by days of extreme boredom with moments of extreme excitement. Those moments elevate the human emotions to levels hardly experienced in civilian life. Happiness becomes pure delight, anger turns to rage, and sadness becomes sorrow. On July 15, 2008, I experienced the full spectrum of human emotions. On that day, our unit received word that one of our men had been injured in a vehicle accident, as a result of a firefight, in Mosul, Iraq. A few hours later, we learned that Staff Sergeant David W. Textor had died from his injuries. In that moment, war became so very real to me. For the first time, I realized that this was no training exercise – this was no game! Indeed, the summer of 2008 changed my life in a big, big way…
I remember being so angry after this man’s death. Why did God allow such a soldier (a green beret), with a wife and five kids, to leave this earth so far from home? Even with the passage of time, I still do not have all the answers. I do not know why some things happen. Life is so cruel sometimes, and the Iraq War did a great job of slapping this fact in my face.
During the Iraq War, I served as an Army Intelligence Analyst and was charged with the task to “find, know, and never lose the enemy.” I became obsessed with “the hunt” and wanted to know the “why” of everything. When Staff Sergeant Textor died, I realized that for all my efforts, knowledge, and ability, there are just some things that I can never prevent, namely, good soldiers dying so far from home.
You know, war has a way of proving that we are not in control of anything. Listen to the words of Nick Swarthout (one of my best friends and fellow Iraq War Veteran) as he recounts one of the most sobering events of his life: “While sleeping on the second floor of one of Saddam’s mother-in-law’s mansions, a rocket landed in the front yard. Never in my life have I experienced such a feeling of hopelessness and insecurity. There I lay in my boxers, all of my equipment and weapons downstairs, its 6:00 in the morning, and I am tucked safely in a bed completely surrounded by ¾ inch plywood walls as the only thing that stood between me and the corridor of glass windows in front of me. All I could think about was how much closer to me than the front yard are the other 36 rockets going to land? And which one is going to be the one to land in my ready-made coffin of a bedroom? Fortunately, that rocket was flying solo into our front yard that morning, and again, by the grace of God, I am here to type these stories for you.”
Dr. Jeff Newman (one of my former professors at Faith Baptist Bible College) once stated, “There are no accidental moments.” Yes, nothing in our life happens by accident. God has a plan for our lives, and He is working all things for our good. It was not by accident that Staff Sergeant Textor died in the war, while my friend, Nick, survived. In both cases, God remained good and sovereign. I simply have to trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God no matter what. The Bible states in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
In the end, God is able to use all of the events in our lives to bring us into a new and better relationship with Himself. God used the Iraq War to show me His tremendous goodness and sovereignty despite the tragedies of this life. My life is to be lived for Him because He alone is God, and I am not…Nick Swarthout states it best when he says, “I have been shot at, scared, bombed, terrified, intimidated, stressed, lonely, and anxious, depressed, blown up, attacked, and broken down, all of which have led me to my life’s purpose that I have found in Him, to bring Him honor, glory, and praise through my worship to Him and my service for Him and His people.” Yes, in life and death, and in war and peace, everything is about God, loving Him and serving Him – or hating Him and rejecting Him…The choice is yours…
The first time I met my adopted son, Derrick, it was love at first sight. Every bone in my body ached to hold him, to cradle him, to position him in my arms as if to say, “You’re mine now. You’re my son. You’re home now, and I’m never letting you go.” It was a powerful moment filled with tears, a pounding heart, and immense gratefulness to the God who led us to our little boy.
Derrick is now three months old, and he is such a beautiful child. I am literally blown away by all of his handsome, adorable features…And that smile of his, oh my! It will literally melt you. In fact, I have never met such a happy, smiley baby in my entire life.
But as I stare into that picture-perfect smiling face, I wonder, “Where does that smile come from? And will he always smile like this?” Forgive me for being a little dark and twisty, but this world is such a difficult place and the amount of pain and suffering out there can be overwhelming, even to the brightest of personalities.
I often think of Derrick’s birthparents. We’ve seen pictures of them. They are beautiful people. Derrick’s birthfather is tall with an athletic build, and Derrick’s birthmother has exotic features that are striking. But as beautiful as Derrick’s birthparents are, they are broken. They live in a world of darkness. They are people torn apart by homelessness and drug addiction. From such a dark world, came our son…
You know, it’s a weird feeling being so intimately connected to people I’ve never met before. I long to meet Derrick’s birthparents, to become their friend (like a real friend – a true friend), and to share the hope and light of the Gospel with them. For weeks now, just before I get up to preach, my imagination is captivated by the thought of them wandering into our little church and sitting in the back row…Maybe one day. I pray for them. I love them. How can I not? They gave to me my son. No matter their struggles, addictions, and demons, I will forever be grateful to them.
Derrick will grow to know the brokenness of his birthparents and the darkness of this world. I hope none of that extinguishes that smile of his. But Derrick is a fighter. He’s been fighting since the womb, battling drugs of every kind. He then fought in the NICU during the detox process. Derrick is a fighter. As his father, I hope that one day Derrick not only understands the brokenness and darkness of this world, but I pray that he comes to understand and embrace the hope and light of the Gospel. From there, I pray that he will be a Gospel fighter, battling the darkness of this difficult world with faith, hope, and love, “these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
This Sunday is Easter Sunday (a.k.a. Resurrection Sunday)! On this day, we have an opportunity to celebrate the victorious, glorious resurrection of our God, King, and Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ. We will also mark this special day with the baptisms of an incredible couple, Sam & Mariah Johnson. Check out their testimonies of salvation below…
Hi! My name is Sam and I’m 28 years old. I was born in Texas but raised in Kansas. I joined the Army at 17 and I was stationed in Kentucky. While in Kentucky, I began to go to church regularly at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. While attending this church, I encountered a man named Butch, who was one of the deacons. I believe Jesus put Butch into my life in order to lead me to salvation. I later moved to Kansas where I didn’t attend a church and fell into a sinful life. After a brief suicidal thought, I got out of the Army and moved to Iowa, where I met Mariah. Mariah and I got married in the summer of 2020. We currently have a dog and a puppy. Jesus used Mariah (like He used Butch) to point me towards being saved and to live a better life. I have since come to understand and believe that I am a sinner and Jesus died for my sins. In the future, Mariah and I plan to start a family and continue to live a life together for the Lord.
My name is Mariah Johnson. Growing up, I went to Sunday School while my grandmother attended church. Then, in 4th grade, I began to attend a Wednesday Youth Group, but the focus seemed to be more on games and team building. So, in 7th grade, I began to attend Youth Group at a different church with a friend. This is when I understood the need for a Savior and began my walk with Christ. I later met Sam while volunteering at a camp for individuals with disabilities, and we got married three years later. We look forward to starting a family and raising our kids in the church while continuing to serve the Lord.
Many of you know and appreciate the pastors and deacons of PFBC. But did you know that we have so many other incredible servants out here on the prairie? Below are the PFBC Committee Members, serving you and our church family this year. Please be in prayer for these folks as they serve…
Worship Music Committee:
Lisa Van Der Molen
Constitution Review Team:
Some Miscellaneous Positions:
Nursery/Child Care Coordinator – Heather Cotner
Head Usher/Director of Security – Jerry Dunbar
Church Librarian – Aline Schipper
IRBC Messenger – Pastor Tim
Food Fellowship Coordinator – Nancy Wilson
This is the second part of a two part series looking at the diversity, depth, and divine promise of the Great Commission. In part one, several Great Commission passages were listed in chronological order. It was observed that it was given in an incremental and repetitive manner to impart the importance and each instance highlighted a specific emphasis and mandate.
Now, in part two, this article is going to synthesize the passages to have a more robust view of the task and some practical next steps to be better equipped to fulfill the mandates of the Great Commission.
You can read part one here.
But as a recap from part one, check out this image…
On a practical level, how does this help us?
The individual emphasises provide clarity in seeking to pursue fulfilling the Great Commission…
- The Model (John 20:21) – We are to look to the Lord Jesus for our model of ministry. Jesus has a pattern laid out in the New Testament for engaging in the task given by the Father.
- The Magnitude (Mark 16:15) – Jesus continues the narrative of the Old Testament that the knowledge of God’s glory is to cover the earth as the water covers the sea. He clearly indicates that it is to go into all the world and into all creation. Stopping short of that goal is settling for less than a biblical vision of the Great Commission.
- The Method (Matthew 28:18-20) – Jesus had spent his 3 year ministry investing in a few. Not only does Jesus tell us that He is our model, but he is emphasizing the method of making disciples, baptizing, and teaching obedience… to all nations.
- The Message (Luke 24:46-48) – Jesus wanted to ensure that the message His disciples were carrying was clear and concise. We are to carry a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus… to all nations.
- The Means (Acts 1:8) – We can not do this in our own power. Any attempt to fulfill the Great Commission without the power of God through His Spirit is more about the individual and his/her pride and self-glorification than the glory of God to all nations. Walking out the Great Commission is really about walking boldly in the Spirit carrying the message of the gospel to the whole world, making disciples as Jesus modeled.
This should help you see the diversity and depth of the Great Commission, but what about the divine promise?
Jesus in his Olivet Discourse gives the reader a glimpse into the end of times. In Matthew 24:14, we see not a commission, but a divine promise…
Matthew 24:14 (ESV)
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
John writing about the heavenly vision sees the fulfillment of this divine promise…
Revelation 7:9-12 (ESV)
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
So what now? Let’s come back to the 5 ‘M”s…
- Model – Do you know Jesus’ model of ministry? A helpful tool that many have recognized in the gospels (and the Book of Acts) is the 4 Fields of Kingdom Growth. Learn more about it here.
- Magnitude – Do you have a vision for all peoples and all nations? Here are some resources that will grow your vision and understanding of unreached people groups and the status of the world.
- Method – Do you have a method that is simple, reproducible and teaches people to obey all the commands of Christ. Several people find a simple 3 part pattern of discipleship to be a great tool to make and multiply disciples. Learn more here.
- Message – Do your church members (all of them) have a simple, reproducible, clear and concise gospel presentation? If not, check out this gospel tool.
- Means – You can grasp all of the other parts, but if you miss the Power of the Spirit you’ve missed the point. God throughout history has been in the business of making His name known. Now we live in the age of the Spirit. Lets walk in the power of the Spirit. If you’re looking for a practical teaching to help you understand how that looks. Check out this book.
Would you take the next step? Start with viewing your ministry through these five emphasizes and evaluate the work according to what Jesus has called his disciples to be about!