Month: October 2015

Why should we pray?

Why should we pray?  Many of us can list reasons:  Medical tests, parenting small children, work related issues, parenting adolescents, financial concerns, marriage issues, parenting adult children, concerns about the future, letting our children parent us and on and on the list could go.

But are there reasons besides times of crisis and problems (what one person calls “flare prayers?”)  Why should we be praying?  Waylon Bailey suggests the following three:

1) We should pray in order to meet with God.  Our God-times should rank as the #1 priority in our day.  It was so in the ministry and life of Jesus, and should be indispensable for us as a way to get to know God.  Jesus would rise early in the morning to pray, and slip away for times of prayer during the day.  We should do the same.

2) We should pray to learn what matters to God.  We want to know God’s will, what God’s priorities are… that “His Kingdom would come.”  How else can we know the priorities of His kingdom if we don’t pray?  We pray to learn the mind of God.

3) We should pray to ask God’s help to do what matters to Him.  We ask God to help us to act, to think, and finally to do according to His list of priorities…not our own.  We don’t ask God to bless our agenda.  We seek Him in prayer that we might know His.

While there’s nothing wrong in seeking God during times of stress and crisis, those times may come less if we seek Him every day in prayer as our first priority.  Do you want to know God better…to learn what matters to Him… to have power to do according to His will?  We will find these things as we pray.

Dead means…..dead

The reality of most video games, according to Wired magazine, is that death isn’t real.  It isn’t permanent.  There’s always a reboot, a starting over button, a reset.  But not with the newest video game on PC called Upsilon Circuit.  In this game, when your player dies, they really die.  No starting over, no reboot.  You’re out.  Dead means…..dead.  It’s a novel concept for video players, who are used to taking risks with their character in the games with the realization that, while death sets you back or slows you down, it isn’t permanent.  Inconvenient, but not permanent.

I wonder how much of that thought translates into real life for us?  How many of us really think about death as “inconvenient, but not permanent.”  Those who hold to the theory of reincarnation certainly see that there’s a “reboot” after we die.  There are those who believe we will simply assume some other life form, or “reboot” onto life on another planet.  So we’ve really stopped taking death seriously.  After all, it’s not permanent…is it?  Maybe we’ll just come back as a zombie!

According to the Bible “it is appointed unto man once to die, and then judgement comes.”  In other words, no one meets you in a bright light on the other side and asks you if you want to “reboot” and play again, or come on into the light.  We do not experience the surprise of waking up as another person or another living creature to live life over… hopefully better… this time.  We just die, and then judgement comes.

For the unrighteous, that’s really bad news.  Death is permanent.  It isn’t just an inconvenience.  It is eternal.

For the righteous, death is a passage to life everlasting.  For those who have been made right through faith in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God…those who have received the Gospel of Life… life is waiting eternally.

It’s a simple choice really… life or death.   And it hinges on the answer to one simple question:

   What do you believe about Jesus?

The Natural Response to Salvation

Imagine you fall off the side of a cruise ship and, not knowing how to swim, begin to drown. Someone on the deck spots you, flailing in the water and throws you a life preserver. It lands directly in front of you and, just before losing consciousness, you grab hold for dear life. They pull you up onto the deck, and you cough the water out of your lungs. People gather around, rejoicing that you are safe and waiting expectantly while you regain your senses. After you finally catch your breath, you open your mouth and say: “Did you see the way I grabbed onto that life preserver? How tightly I held on to it? Did you notice the definition in my biceps and the dexterity of my wrists? I was all over that thing!”

Needless to say, it would be a bewildering and borderline insane response. To draw attention to the way you cooperated with the rescue effort denigrates the whole point of what happened, which is that you were saved. A much more likely chain of events is that you would immediately seek out the person who threw the life preserver, and you would thank them. Not just superficially, either. You would embrace them, ask them their name, invite them to dinner, maybe give them your cabin!

Gratitude is a natural response to salvation. It does not require coercion or encouragement; to the extent that the individual understands what has happened, gratitude will flow organically and abundantly from their heart. The precise form it takes will be different every time, but such is the nature of fruit.  And giving thanks is essential.  (Law and Gospel)

“In all circumstances give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you….” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

 

Operation Christmas Child Box Distribution

occ_logoIt’s time for Operation Christmas Child!

On Sunday, October 18 and 25, we’ll be distributing boxes from the Welcome Center patio after all morning services. Last year was a banner year as we collected 815 boxes from FCBC members to send all over the world.

Each year, many ask “What do we put in a shoe box?” Here are a couple of places to get info that might help:

  • The Operation Christmas Child site has some helpful information, especially for girls and boys at various ages.
  • Another great source is a blog post entitled “Unsolicited Advice About Shoeboxes.” This is written by folks who serve in areas where boxes have been delivered and their insight in “Not So Good Gifts” is very helpful.

Remember to pickup your box and return it completed during the collection week of November 16-23.

Thank you!

As you gather for worship Sunday Pam and I will be worshiping with two Filipino congregations in New York City. We are privileged to get to be a part of a transitional moment in their history as Baptists in New York. In partnership with NAMB they are broadening their mission to embrace all ethnic groups that are part of the New York Baptist convention.

While it is always difficult to be gone from “our” family on Sunday, your generosity in allowing us freedom to minister in other contexts around the globe is so encouraging. And, as always you will be lead and served well by our ministry team in our absence.

Please pray for us as we will for you. “We always give thanks for you…..”

PS. We are very grateful for your prayers and kind remarks in response to Pam’s aunts passing. You are truly a loving congregation.

Questions

Questions.  Everybody has them.  Life is full of them.  Just about the time we figure out one stage, another kicks in and it seems we’re back to square one.  Whether you are caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s or raising an adopted child or just walking through a tough spot in a marriage…questions visit us.  But our questions are not always about not having enough information.  Sometimes they have to do with larger issues… why do the innocent suffer?  Why does it seem that people on the wrong side of morality get ahead in life?  Why am I suffering?  Is God mad at me?  Is He punishing me?  Has He forgotten me?

Our questions are part of human experience.  Even people of faith have questions… and, ironically, doubts.  The Psalms are filled with questions, many unanswered, many spoken seemingly into an empty, uncaring void. These questions echo their way into our lives too.  And yet, we know there is One Who holds the answers.  And sometimes, as much as we feel we need information to fill in the glaring blanks in our lives, the truth is we really need our hearts to be healed…not our minds filled.  Data and information, as helpful as that can be, will not take the place of simply knowing God is There!

When Jesus went to the cross, the experience of our Savior being crucified was punctuated with an agonizing question coming out of the darkness:  “My God, my God, why..?  Even Jesus had questions.  Though He never ceased to be Deity, never stopped being God, He also wore our humanity and with that, our lack of always knowing the answer to every question.

God was humble enough to become a questioner with us.  He asked from the cross… and it seemed the heavens were locked in silence.

So when our questions come He understands when the answers aren’t apparent.

Or even when they don’t come at all.

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