The Summer of 2008…

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…

From Such A Dark World, Came Our Son…

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.”

From the Desk of the Associate: What Changed?

Coming off the Easter season, I think it’s important for us not to gloss over or move past the idea of the Resurrection too quickly. You see, it can be argued that the Resurrection validates everything in Scripture, not least of which are Jesus’ claims about Himself, namely, that He is God. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we have no reason to believe any other claims in the Bible. This is not just me making this claim. The Apostle Paul states the same in 1 Corinthians 15 when he says that “if Christ has not been raised from the dead then our preaching is worthless, and your faith is worthless.” So that being said, why do we actually hold to this crazy idea that someone could come back from the dead?

There have been many solid arguments made for the historicity of the Resurrection. One of my personal favorites is the change wrought in Jesus’ disciples. Let us consider these guys before and after they witnessed Jesus alive after being dead. We have their own testimony over and over again in the Gospels, how Jesus claimed that He was going to give himself as a sacrifice for the sins of His people, but that they did not understand or accept Jesus’ claims about this reality. We also see them squabbling over positions of prominence in the kingdom that they believed Jesus was just about to bring about. They mistakenly believed that Jesus was simply going to institute a physical kingdom by overthrowing the Romans and their political and religious puppets. So, the very ones who are testifying to the remarkable event of Jesus rising from the dead are the very ones who paint themselves in a negative light. I do not know about you but if I were going to try to convince people to follow my religion and I was able to play fast and loose with the facts, I would certainly attempt to air brush my own involvement in these events. I would hide my negative words and actions and highlight my admirable characteristics. This is not what we get at all. The Apostles were willing to include even the most shameful words and deeds in their telling of the story. This to me indicates the truthfulness of their testimony.

Let’s approach this another way. Take the Apostle Peter. This man was known to be brash and confident. When Jesus asked His disciples questions, Peter seemed to be the first to step up and take a swing at the answer. Sometimes Peter would hit it out of the park and sometimes he would fall flat on his face. Take the time when Jesus asked the disciples about His identity. Peter very quickly declared that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Immediately after this Jesus declares that He would be killed. Peter again takes a wild swing and declares that this would never happen. Jesus then said, “Get behind me, Satan.” Peter, who would be the leader of the Apostles and the early church was not a paragon of virtue during Jesus’ earthly ministry. During the Last Supper, Peter declared that he would be willing to go with Jesus to the end, but later that night he was unable to even stay up and pray with Jesus during His hour of temptation. Later he fulfilled the Lord’s promise that he would deny Jesus three times. This denial happened to the very intimidating figure of a young servant girl. So that makes us ask the question…How did Peter go from someone who ran away from and denied the Lord, to someone who would, just a few weeks later, preach boldly to the very group who condemned Jesus and put Him on trial? The obvious answer is the fact that Peter saw his risen Lord. Not only did he see Jesus risen, but he interacted with Him several times. In addition, Peter received the promised Holy Spirit.

So, the fact that these weak, squabbling, and dense group of disciples would then go on to change the world with the message of a risen Savior seems to be very strong evidence indeed that they believed the message that they preached. How else can we explain these men being willing to give everything without anything to show for it in human terms? Peter and the rest of the disciples gave it all for the sake of their risen Savior. It has been said that “many people have died for a lie, but few people willingly die for what they know to be a lie.” This is all extraordinarily strong evidence that the Resurrection really took place. This is great news because it is the very thing that secures the future Resurrection of all believers. I guess that is what changed everything and why we call this “The Gospel.”

He Is Risen Indeed!

Baptism Sunday 2021 – Testimonies of Salvation

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.

2021 Committees

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…

Audit Committee:

Darwin Carroll

Klint Gingerich

Decorating Committee:

Cheryl Bohn

Kendra Gingerich

Worship Music Committee:

Darwin Carroll

Lori Carroll

Will Luers

Lisa Van Der Molen

Constitution Review Team:

Braden Carroll

Jess Caster

Edwin Luers

Rosemary Luers

Jackie Morgan

Phil Parsons

Aline Schipper

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

Guest Blogger: Bud Houston, “The Great Commission” (Part 2)

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Message – Do your church members (all of them) have a simple, reproducible, clear and concise gospel presentation? If not, check out this gospel tool. 
  5. 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!

Guest Blogger: Bud Houston, “The Great Commission” (Part 1)

The Great Commission is a common phrase in most evangelical circles. Although, in a recent study by Barna Group, when asked of church goers, “Have you heard of the Great Commission?” 51% said no. And 25% said yes, but “I can’t recall the exact meaning”.

This is an alarming statistic, but we should have known this. The fruit of this statistic has been playing out in the decline of Western Christianity for decades. When asked about the content of the Great Commission, most people will reference Matthew 28:19-20 or quote a portion of it.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Mt. 28:19-20 ESV

This is a great Great Commission passage. Although, this provides a narrowed focus of the task Jesus left us. To overcome the lack of knowledge of the Great Commission among church goers, church leaders need to expound on the diversity, depth, and divine promise that is in the Great Commission. (See pastor, I just alliterated for you…)

The purpose of this two-part series is to show you the diversity, depth, and divine promise of the Great Commission. In doing so, it will show that there are actually several Great Commission passages that were said by Jesus at different times. Each Great Commission passage also has a specific mandate and emphasis. Part one will list the passages with some contextual background. Part two will help the reader synthesize these 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.

Here are five Great Commission passages listed in biblical order:

  • Matthew 28:18-20
  • Mark 16:15
  • Luke 24:44-49
  • John 20:21
  • Acts 1:8

You may be familiar with these passages above. It’s a common assumption that each of the passages are really the same message recorded differently by each of the gospel writers. However, these passages were actually all given at different times over the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. You will also discover that the biblical order of the gospels doesn’t provide the chronological order. The passages once viewed separately and in sequential chronological order provide some great insight to the task of the Great Commission. 

Let’s look at the passages in chronological order and make some observations.

1. John 20:21 ESV

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.'”

Where was it spoken? Jerusalem

When was it spoken? Night of the resurrection (v19)

Who originally heard it? 10 disciples (v24)

What was the mandate? “So I am sending you” (v21)

What was the emphasis? The Model (v21)

2. Mark 16:15 (ESV)

And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.‘”

Where was it spoken? Jerusalem

When was it spoken? 8 days after the resurrection

Who originally heard it? 11 disciples (v14)

What was the mandate? “Go into all the world…the whole creation” (v15)

What was the emphasis? The Magnitude (v15)

3. Matthew 28:19 ESV

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”

Where was it spoken? Mountain in Galilee

When was it spoken? Likely 11-14 days after the resurrection

Who originally heard it? 11 disciples (v16)

What was the mandate? “Make disciples” (v19)

What was the emphasis? The Method (v19)

4. Luke 24:46-48 ESV

“And said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.'”

Where was it spoken? Jerusalem

When was it spoken? Day of the ascension (v50)

Who originally heard it? 11 disciples (v33)

What was the mandate? Proclaim “repentance and forgiveness of sins” (v47)

What was the emphasis? The Message (v47)

5. Acts 1:8 ESV

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Where was it spoken? Mount of Olives

When was it spoken? Moments before the ascension (v9)

Who originally heard it? 11 disciples (maybe more) (v13)

What was the mandate? “You will receive power” (v8)

What was the emphasis? The Means (v8)

The contextual clues show us that Jesus expressed the expectation of his followers to carry on His ministry. He, also, provides a repetitive and incremental communication of information, where each instance highlights a specific mandate and emphasis. 

So, what now?

In Part 2, we’ll look at synthesizing these passages and further defining the diversity, depth, and divine promise of the Great Commission…

Perspective, Personality Types, & Sharing The Gospel…

Earlier this week, my Mom and Dad came up from Florida to visit me here in Iowa. In full honesty, they were actually here to visit with their grandkids, especially their newest grandson, Derrick. But still, I think they enjoyed seeing me and my wife as well.

Being from Florida, my parents practically froze to death out here on the prairie with our temps being in the upper 40’s. I assured them that this has been the warmest weather that Iowa has seen in months, but with their bodies use to the balmy temps of the Florida panhandle, my factual perspective was met with comedic skepticism. I mean, how could the 40’s of Iowa be considered warm when they had just come from the land of sunshine with the temps in the upper 70’s and 80’s? Perspective is key.

You know, the same is true with our evangelism endeavors…Perspective is key. Often, we communicate the Gospel message in ways that are factual, but the way we present the information falls on deaf ears. Why is that?

Well, as I was talking with my Dad (a chaplain at a men’s home in Pensacola, FL), he revealed something fascinating. He mentioned that different personality types often hear the Gospel message in different ways. When we force one style of the Gospel message on the hearer, we are often met with frustrating results. My Dad explained that there are three main personality types, with three main ways of looking at life, and that we should strive to communicate the life-saving message of the Gospel in line with each of these unique personalities…He explains that…

There are those who view life as a “puzzle to be figured out.” These are people that see other people (and life itself) “as mysteries to be solved.” On the positive side of the equation, such people tend to be wowed and amazed by life and often become our scientists and doctors. On the negative side of the equation, such people tend to be very skeptical, scared, and isolated from others. Such people need the Gospel explained to them through the lens of “puzzle” or “mystery”. For instance, they need to be told that the God who loves them and wishes to redeem them is a God who can never really be figured out and His ways, though wonderful and amazing, are often very “mysterious…”

Then there are those people who view life as a “battle to be won.” These are people that see other people (and life itself) in terms of “enemies or allies.” On the positive side of the equation, such people tend to become our societal heroes, our soldiers and law enforcement officers. But on the negative side of the equation, such people can become our society’s criminals, abusers, or manipulators. Such people need the radical message of the Gospel to be explained to them in terms of the “spiritual battle” that rages all around us. For instance, these folks need serious illustrations in your Gospel presentation to them of the awfulness of sin, the darkness of the world, and the glorious Light of the World that has conquered and won the battle over sin and Satan.

Then, finally, there are those people who view life as a “gift to be given away.” These are people that see other people (and life itself) as an “opportunity to serve.” On the positive side of the equation, such people tend to go into the helping professions and become clergy or social workers. On the negative side of the equation, such people can become enablers, controllers, or abusive leaders. Such a personality type needs the message of the Gospel explained through the lens of a “gift.” For instance, they need to be told how much God gave to them and how loving He is to all of us who “call upon the name of the Lord…”

Interesting, is it not? At the very least, it gives you cause for pause. Now, I want to be crystal clear, these personality types are not Gospel-gold. These are merely categories of perspective to help you as you navigate the difficult waters of sharing your faith with your family and friends. So, I would challenge you (like my Dad challenged me), which personality type are you? Are you primarily the “puzzler”, the “battler”, or the “gifter”? And which personality type are you actively sharing the Gospel with right now? Are you the “battler” personality trying to share the Gospel with a “gifter”? Perhaps you’re a “puzzler” trying to share the Gospel with a “battler”? The point is this, we should strive to be like the Apostle Paul, who said, “Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law – though I myself am not under the law – to win those under the law. To those who are without that law, like one without the law – not being without God’s law but within Christ’s law – to win those without the law. To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, so I may become a partner in its benefits” (1 Cor. 9:19-23).