Newsletter Articles 2023

From the Pastor’s Desk...June 2023

One of the things I review when I consider a topic for the church newsletter is what I wrote in the previous month and sometimes I look at what I wrote the previous year. June 2022 was about a hymn from the old red hymnal – O God of Earth and Alter that was written in 1907 and was a wonderful prayer for 2022, and still is in 2023. Another hymn I came across recently also speaks to our concerns for our time and in particular for our nation. The title is Judge Eternal, Throned in Splendor, #517 in the old red hymnal, written in 1902. (Seems we should have never moved away from that hymnal!)

The lyrics:

1) Judge Eternal, throned in splendor, Lord of lords and King of kings,

with your living fire of judgment purge this land of bitter things;

solace all its wide dominion with the healing of your wings.

2) Still the weary folk are pining for the hour that brings release,

and the city’s crowded clangor cries aloud for sin to cease,

and the homesteads and the woodlands plead in silence for their peace.

3) Crown, O God, your own endeavor; cleave our darkness with your sword;

feed the faithless and the hungry with the richness of your word;

cleanse the body of this nation through the glory of the Lord.


Purge this land of bitter things – This is such a great phrase to pray for our nation. We see so much “bitterness” – SIN – that needs to be purged. There is the bitterness of sexual identity, abortion, and all the other topics that are anti-biblical, bitterness of words and ideologies that seek to destroy the fabric of “Christian Nation”. So deep runs the bitterness of corruption in government and media and other sectors that need purging. Only in Jesus Christ can these things and people be redeemed. Purge us, O Lord!

The city’s crowded clangor cries aloud for sin to cease – We have seen much destruction in cities, from an extreme of public riots to the cries against some education board meetings who allow inappropriate teachings in schools. Pray that such sins and many more will cease.

Look back at the entire third stanza for excellent words to pray, “cleave our darkness with your sword”. When we look through the lens of Scripture, we can see the darkness of our world more clearly. I take the word sword as a reference to God’s Word as in Ephesians 6.17. The hymn continues in that “Word” theme with feeding the faithless and hungry “with the richness of your word” - a reminder that we do not live by bread alone but by every Word from God (Matthew 4.4).

Hymns that are firmly based in Scriptures can help us in prayer just as Scripture teaches us to pray with a richness of vocabulary. Take this hymn into consideration when praying for our nation. We know our nation needs a prayerful people if we are to revive our culture and society to once again reflect the claim of “Christian Nation”. To God be the glory.


From the Pastor’s Desk...May 2023

 There is a great mystery, something that mystifies me to some extend, but also impacts my life and your life in ways we can know and yet remains unknown. This mystery is in the phrase “the fullness of God”. In the New Testament the fullness begins in John 1.14 & 16, “14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…16For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” It is from the fullness of Jesus, the full glory of Jesus, filled with grace and truth, that we too have received a fullness of grace upon grace. Layers and layers of grace are poured out upon us on a daily basis. Colossians 1.9 affirms the fullness of God dwelling in Jesus, affirming that Jesus is God incarnate (see also Col 2.9). What captures our thoughts is that Paul takes this phrase and integrates it into a prayer for the church and its members. In Ephesians 3.19 Paul prays, “...and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

 One of the first things we should consider is that being filled with the fullness of God does not make us equal to God. This was the sin of Adam and Eve when the serpent told them they would be like God when eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3.4-5). This is not what Paul means in his prayer, but being filled with the fullness of God is being filled with the Holy Spirit, with the Holy Word, and to partake of the divine nature – 3His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1.3-4). Partaking in the divine nature is participating in the fullness of God that has been granted us through God’s divine power through Jesus Christ. Everything we need for life and godliness is given through Christ. To participate in the divine nature, in the fullness of God, is to carry with us the character of God, the attributes of God, the attitude of Christ (Phil 2.5-11), in a relationship with God through Christ.

What I consider the great bonus of being filled with the fullness of God is that it presses out the corruption of the world and sinful desires. The more full we are with God’s character and Spirit and Word, the less room for sin! The more satiated we are in the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, the more we become dead to sin and alive to God (Rom 6.11). It is grace upon grace…

What a tremendous prayer for our self, for one another, and for the whole church, that we may be filled with the fullness of God and that we might become partakers of the divine nature. Perhaps this is the prayer that can lead us to right relationship with God and to biblical perspectives on the things of the world. It is a prayer that can keep us from self centered attitudes, falling to the ideologies of the world that oppose God, and behaviors that do not reflect the holiness of God. May this prayer leave no room in our lives for sin, fear, unbelief, selfishness, idolatry, or ungodliness. May we indeed be filled with the fullness of God, partakers in His divine nature, rightly related through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen and amen.


From the Pastor’s Desk...April 2023

Easter is coming! It’s my favorite day of the year. Easter brings a reminder of the hope we have because of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1.3 speaks of hope as living… “According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Not just hope, but a living hope. This speaks to the vitality of what it means to hope, to have hope in a biblical sense. We do not hope in the sense of something that may or may not happen, not “I hope it will, but I doubt it” kind of hope, but a hope that is solid and energized by God’s mercy and rebirth (born again) through Easter, the resurrection of Christ. The empty tomb is testimony to the power of God for hope. Jesus risen from the dead is the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3.15) and why Peter invites followers to “make a defense” of our hope to anyone who asks. In 1 Peter, we see this connection between Easter and hope also in 1.21, “who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

In a similar way that resurrection gives life again, so too does hope give life. Consider people who lose hope, they also lose the will to live, or at least, to continue in the struggle of life. We are capable of walking through the proverbial “shadow of death” because we maintain hope in all kinds of situations. Whether it is personal tragedy or national concerns or some other set-back in life, hope sets us free to live without despair or anguish over the circumstances. Our hope is not in technology or government or ourselves, but in God. Our hope is set on God’s grace (1 Peter 1.13) and God alone (1.21). It is because of this hope, hope in God, that we are able to show the world that we need not be in despair, nor in chaos or confusion about the world. There is more beyond this world, more beyond the evils we see, the traumas we experience, the things that seek to sap life from us. Our hope in God enables us to continue to move forward with hope and faith and love. The testimony of hope speaks to the world that others might see something greater than the vanity of life under the sun.

We hope because Christ is risen. We hope because God has promised. We hope because hope defeats despair, oppression, chaos, and confusion. I would suggest that people turn to the sin of the world because they fail to live in the hope of Christ. People turn to drug use or confused sexual identities or other forms of confusion because they have lost hope. People seek to live in constant sin because they have no hope. People accept delusional lifestyles because they have no hope. People seek to live in corruption and greed and self-deception because they do not hope in God. Hope in God is a counter act to the corruption of sin and the deception of the world. Hope sets our hearts and minds toward God’s kingdom and the holiness and faithfulness of God. In that hope there is life! In that hope there is Jesus! In that hope, we can show the world that there need not be confusion, but instead, order and self-control, peace and life.

Look at one place where Paul teaches about hope, Romans 5.1-5. The reasons for hope are given in the phrases “justified by faith”, “peace with God”, “by faith into this grace”, as these lead us to rejoice in hope.

1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Paul does not stop there but shows how our sufferings also lead to hope...sufferings produce endurance that produces character that in turn produces hope. I like to think that people of good character are the most hopeful people!

3Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Hope does not disappoint us (shame us) because of God’s love is in our hearts, which is why we hope in the first place! Easter opens us to hope. Resurrection produces hope. Hope gives life. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15.13). Amen.


From the Pastor’s Desk...March 2023

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

I want to share some thoughts on the things we value in life. We consider the cost of the things we buy and we also consider the cost on that which we hold dear in faith. In terms of Christian faith we call this the cost of discipleship. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” When we talk about the cost of discipleship, we must think in terms of death. It is the death of our old nature, the death of self, death to sin, and death to worldly passions and attachments. These are the costs we endure, death to self and sin.

But we also look to how we pursue discipleship, like pursuing the things of God and His kingdom and His righteousness. The kingdom is like a hidden treasure. It is hidden; we cannot see it. There is no castle on a hill, no evidence or empirical data to sort through for the kingdom of heaven. But when we find it we know that it is here. We know God’s kingdom is among us. We know because the Spirit of God has revealed it to us. We come to know also that the kingdom has a cost. It is not a cost to our salvation, for salvation in Christ is a free gift of Christ. He paid the cost that we owed. But in discipleship, in following Jesus, there is something we must consider every day. In this parable the one who found the treasure, the one who realizes the kingdom’s cost, is willing to sell everything to acquire it. Actually, the cost is no real concern. There is no question about what should be done. He rejoices to sell everything to buy the field. The cost is sometimes painful, but always worth the sacrifice.

The one who found the treasure wants to sell and to sell with joy, wants to sacrifice all for the blessing of the kingdom of heaven. I get the impression that the one selling everything to gain the kingdom is as free at that moment as any one will ever be. The freedom to choose rightly brings great joy. While biblical discipleship is costly, the cost does not begin to compare with the joy of being in Christ and living in His kingdom. It costs us our lives on one significant level. The life of the old nature, the life of greed or lust or envy or theft or malice, all that is crucified. Jesus says it this way: “If any want to become my followers…let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (Luke 9:23-25)

Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. The world teaches us to satiate self, to fulfill ourselves with worldly possession and worldly ideologies. Take all the world has to offer and saturate yourself with everything from food to material comforts to ungodly philosophies. When we begin to understand the life of self-denial, the life of cost commitment, we begin to mature in the Christian life. That, of course, is easier said than done. The Good News – God is with us every day to help us take up our cross and consider the cost. Daily God bears us up (Psalm 68:19), sustaining us through all our daily trials, through daily struggles.

This is the discipline we practice day by day, moment by moment taking up the cross of Christ. Let us examine during the season of Lent all that we value. Note what is of worth and find out if the value placed on anything exceeds that of the value we place on God’s kingdom. If there is anything, let us rid ourselves of its bondage. Sell the goods, give away the junk, repent of the sin, be transformed in attitude and perspective so that we might value the kingdom of heaven above all else. Let us open ourselves to the treasure that is God’s kingdom, the kingdom where all must consider the cost of discipleship. Amen.


From the Pastor’s Desk...February 2023

There are many spiritual disciplines that have been practiced throughout Church history. Some time ago, through sermons, we considered four particular disciples: prayer, Bible, commitment, and evangelism. In this newsletter I want to speak to prayer. According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Question #98), “a prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” There are many other attributes to prayer from praise to intersession and the Bible even helps us when we do not know what to pray (Romans 8.26-27). Prayer is foundational to our Christian life. Jesus taught the disciples to pray, in fact, it was one of the few things, if not the only thing that the disciples asked Jesus to teach. It has been said that prayer as the oxygen of our spiritual lives.

Consider these Bible teachings on prayer:

Psalm 62:8 “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Prayer involves trust. Prayer involves risking ourselves before God, and thus, pouring out our hearts. The promise is that God is our refuge. In Him we are safe to trust and pour out our hearts. God is trustworthy.

Nehemiah 1:4 “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Sometimes we might consider infusing our prayer with fasting. We can abstain from food or TV or something we might do regularly in order to focus more deeply in prayer. Sometimes just sitting quietly in the presence of God is all that is needed.

Matthew 7:7-8 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Sometimes we fail to find what we desire simply because we fail to pray about it. The promise is that God will give good things to us if we ask, seek, and knock. Persistent prayer!

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Anxiety is never a good thing, according to Scripture. Jesus tells us not to be anxious about our life. The apostle Paul encourages us to turn away anxiety through prayer and thanksgiving. Give it over to God and seek in prayer to discern how we move forward.

Ken Priddy, our friend at the Go Center, speaks of preemptive prayer, covering every move we make, every decision, everything in prayer. He writes, “The first discipline is Preemptive Prayer, prayer that is offered as a first resort. Prayer preempts or precedes every endeavor of the church, laying a spiritual foundation that anticipates God’s working His will through all ministries that the church provides. I’ve never had anyone in evangelical circles deny the importance or power of prayer, and yet this behavior is far from prevalent in the church to the degree that it might qualify as a habitual discipline. Church leaders who desire to see gains in the vitality of their churches will practice and promote the discipline of Preemptive Prayer.” Preemptive prayer is all about first resort. We cannot utilize prayer as a last resort! If we desire to grow as a people and as a Church, we must pray daily for God to work in our hearts and in our Church and in the hearts of those around us, to pray with our Bibles, to ask the Spirit to teach us to pray. Pray without ceasing, writes Paul (1 Thess 5.17), having that ongoing conversation with the Lord, ever aware of His presence in all we say and do and think. Let us foster and nurture and build a life of prayer, preemptive prayer, before all things. Let us pray.

Quote from Building Your Church’s Great Commission Matrix: The Narrative, Dr. Kenneth E. Priddy.


From the Pastor’s Desk...January 2023

Yes, we arrived at another new year – to celebrate, to look back, and to look forward to what may come! Another year older, another year of uncertainty, but another year of hope and faith and love and another chance to change, to make a resolution. A New Year’s resolution normally lasts about as long as a change in the weather. We know the struggle of making a new start only to wane by February and fall back into old habits. We know the desire to set forth something new only to fall away and make a new promise to never make a New Year’s resolution again!

Fortunately, and a blessing to us, God makes new beginnings possible all the time. When we come to Christ we are made into a new creation (2 Cor 5.17). With every confession of sin we are given grace to start over in the life worthy of that repentance. Every day is a new day to resolve to live for and with Jesus at the forefront of our thoughts and actions, prayerfully and faithfully. Even if we fail to follow our resolution soon after January 1, we have the next day. Day by day is not just a phrase we toss around flippantly, but a way of life revealed through Scripture.

Jesus calls us to daily take up our cross…And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’” (Luke 9.23). Every day we are called to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus. Every day is a new day to pray. Jesus teaches this in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6.11). The Psalms remind us that God is lifting us up day by day, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation” (Psalm 68.19). Give thanks to the Lord that He is support us every day!

Consider Paul’s words to the church at Corinth when He spoke about the implications of the resurrection of Christ, His grace, and the effect on our inner being!

13Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4.13-18).

God is renewing us day by day! Every new year and every year past is only a light affliction compared to the eternal glory to come. With this coming year, let us offer increased thanksgiving to the glory of God so that we do not lose heart, knowing that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, our inner self is being renewed day by day. Have a nice day, every day, and happy New Year! Amen.