July newsletter article

Isaiah 38:4-5 “Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: ‘Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.’”

Sometimes things happen in our lives and they give us a better appreciation/understanding of Scripture. An event can bring a passage to mind and it literally leaps off the page at us. What joy Hezekiah must have experienced when he heard Isaiah’s prophecy! I can honestly say that, even with all of the difficulties and traumatic times that Valerie and I have faced in our lives, I understand that joy better now.

We started this process with a lump and a word: leiomyosarcoma. The doctors were very serious. They were concerned that the cancer may be in the lungs. After long consultations we decided to hit it hard. A nasty form of chemo first, with one they call “the red devil.” Then, hopefully, radiation on the lump and surgery to follow. Chemo was hard, with an infection in the middle of it. The doctors, who initially seemed very somber, started to show signs of encouragement. Amazement that the lump on the leg was going down. A high five. Many “you shouldn’t look this good” comments. And through it all Val’s reminder to them that the saints were praying.

Next up: the scan. The hope: no change in the lungs, indicating that the nodules most likely weren’t cancer to begin with. The news: no change! No additional areas of concern in the scans of the abdomen and pelvis. Relief and joy, even on the doctor’s faces! The plan: radiation and surgery to get the cancer out of Val’s body, with a much higher chance of extended life.

Now, the way forward will not be easy. The surgery will take what the doctor described as a “shark bite” out of Val’s leg. Plastic surgery may be necessary. Scans every three month for the first three years, finally morphing into a chest x-ray every year after five years. Life has changed, but perhaps it will be even sweeter and more filled with purpose as a result.

We also understand certain realities. We realize that none of us is guaranteed tomorrow. In fact, we haven’t a clue! “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am” (Psalm 39:4). God is sovereign, and we are not. We accept that. We also believe that there is something better waiting for us. We agree with Paul that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). We can’t even begin to imagine the peace, joy, and wonder of heaven! But today I side with Hezekiah. It looks like my wife, my partner, my companion, my bride has been given grace, and I rejoice.

May Newsletter Article

Galatians 6:10 “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith”.

First of all, I want to thank you. You are walking through a journey with us (Valerie and I) that none of us expected. The concern and support has been amazing. We continue to covet your help and support.

We have just finished the first round of chemo. It was brutal, and Val was in the hospital for two days more than we thought she would be, but she seems to be regaining some equilibrium. The next doctor’s visit is this Friday (April 26th). We’ll know more then. Her blood count is supposed to keep dropping until about the mid-point between treatments, and then go up until the next dose (which is done inpatient). She currently has three treatments scheduled.

Each chemo treatment is an event, but the next really big event is the CT scan of her lungs that will come after all of this. Valerie’s cancer is rare, aggressive, travels, and could be in her lungs. The good news is that the lump itself is operable, not attached to the bone, and may not be in the lungs. The places are just too small to biopsy. We’re praying that not only will Valerie be able to get through the next two treatments, but that there will be no increase in the nodules in her lungs. Then we should be able to proceed with the radiation and the surgery. For those wondering, the CT scan is used because the PET scan displays both false positives and negatives with this type of cancer.

We have, of course, been praying for healing, good news, easy treatments, etc. during this entire time. There is nothing wrong with that, and we appreciate those prayers being lifted up on our behalf. Healing can come miraculously, or through medical means. It can come quickly, or at the end of a long and hard journey. Here is the hard one: it doesn’t always come. Life is a testament to Hebrews 9:27: “It is appointed for man to die once.” In the midst of this we’re trying to have the attitude of Jesus: “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’” Through all of this we are trying to be faithful. And though there are many times in life that the words of Scripture reverberate in our souls, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 has special meaning right now: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” May our journey provide some support and encouragement to you in whatever you may be going through in your own life now, or in the days ahead.

April Newsletter Article

There was a day when telling someone you were thinking of them and praying for them was met with thanks and appreciation. While it is still possible and even likely to get that response today, a distinct and loud minority would have us do away with the phrase, the sentiment, and the action. They see such words as useless platitudes used by people who are not willing to do what is necessary. Are they right?

Although the phrase itself seems weighted toward the idea of prayer, I would like to digress for just a moment to look at the idea of reason and thought in society today. Unfortunately, we see the exaltation of feelings over intellect and actions over thought in our day and age. While feelings and actions can be good, without thought to back them up they lead to simplistic and often wrong responses. Certain branches of philosophy have long taught that thinking is important, with thinkers like Socrates proclaiming, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and Descartes theorizing, “I think therefore I am.” Although philosophy can be good, we have to remember that God’s Word remains our standard. We would do well to remember God’s declaration in Isaiah 1:18, “Come let us reason together.” Proverbs 1:7 reminds us that “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” We continually find Paul reasoning in synagogues (Acts 17:2. 17; 18:4). And Luke 14:28 records Jesus saying, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” We are taught in the Bible that thinking is a good and necessary part of life!

We are also taught that thinking about and praying for others is good and necessary as well. 1 Timothy 2:1 reminds us that intercessory prayer is an important part of our Christian life: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” When we pray for others we should always recognize the sovereignty of God as we pray (“Not as I will, but as you will” – Matthew 26:39), but we should also remember that prayer can change things. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:17-18). God’s graciousness in commanding prayer is also for our benefit. Philippians 4:6-7 teaches us that we should “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

And perhaps that is the greatest danger that comes from “thoughts and prayers.” Some people just cannot believe that we are not in control. That there is a God. That He can help. That He is all powerful and all knowing. That there is a way to take away the hate and hurt that resides in our souls. That there is a way to be at peace. Pray for them.

March Newsletter Article

For those of you following the Bible reading plan in the bulletin or the reading app, or simply trying to read through the Bible on your own during the year, the first few months may be the hardest.  Leviticus and Numbers are difficult at times, and we often don’t see the need.  Why study the Old Testament at all?  Isn’t the New enough?  Let me share some principles that I came across that can help us to understand why we need the Old Testament.

  1. The Old Testament reveals Jesus Christ. It continually reveals something about Him on every page. From the sacrifice of Isaac to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, Jesus is constantly revealed.
  2. The Old Testament helps us to understand the New. Where does the idea of “substitutionary atonement” come from? Or God’s sovereignty?  God’s holiness?  God’s mercy?  It all starts in the Old.
  3. The Old Testament is a manual for Christian living. We struggle sometimes trying to understand what laws are still applicable, but 9 of the 10 commandments are repeated in the New Testament.  The Old shows us how God expected His people to live out His commands.  Which leads us to…
  4. The Old Testament presents doctrine in story form. See Hebrews 11 for insight!
  5. The Old Testament comforts and encourages us. Where would we be without the 23rd Psalm? Or the story of Joseph with his wonderful insight?  “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
  6. The Old Testament saves souls. 2 Timothy 3:15 says “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” These sacred writings are the Old Testament. Is this sentiment only for the Jewish people?  No, because Paul goes on to remind us that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

I hope that these thoughts encourage you in your Bible reading, and that you stick with it!

October Newsletter Article

Over the last several weeks we’ve seen the angel Gabriel at work delivering God’s message to His chosen servants, which is fitting because the term angel in the Greek actually means “messenger.”  Although we find Gabriel speaking to Zachariah, Mary, and Daniel it would be a mistake to simply think of angels as God’s messenger service!  They are also used to:

  • Carry out some of God’s judgments. They bring a plague upon Israel (2 Samuel 24:16–17), smite the leaders of the Assyrian army (2 Chronicles 32:21), strike King Herod dead because he did not give God glory (Acts 12:23), and pour out bowls of God’s wrath on the earth (Revelation 16:1).  John also records that an angel “seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit . . .” (Revelation 20:1–3).
  • Accompany Christ when He returns (Matthew 16:27, Luke 9:26, 2 Thessalonians 1:7).
  • Patrol the earth (Zechariah 1:10–11).
  • Carry out war against demonic forces (Daniel 10:13; Revelation 12:7–8).
  • Proclaim the return of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16, see also Revelation 18:1–2, 21, 19:17–18, and other passages).
  • Give glory to God. The seraphim continually praise God for his holiness (Isaiah 6:2–3), and so do the four living creatures (Revelation 4:8).

The author of Hebrews also reminds us that we should “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).  He is alluding to the fact that Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 18:1–3), Lot (Gen. 19:1, 2), Gideon (Judg. 6:11–24), and Manoah (Judg. 13:6–20) all entertained angels in the Old Testament.  I don’t believe that the main point of this passage is that angels are always running around and that we need to be on the lookout for them!  We really only see that happening a few times in the Old Testament.  The passage is emphasizing the hospitality and compassion that we should show to all people, and that we should treat everyone as though they are representatives of God.

We have a wonderful opportunity to do just that this fall.  Our church will be reviving a Northern Door tradition: the Community Thanksgiving Dinner!  You will be hearing more and more about this as we get closer to the event, and I assume that there will be opportunities for many to volunteer.  But even if you can’t volunteer for one reason or another, I would ask that you pray for the event, the volunteers, and the participants.  We don’t just want to have a meal together, but we want this to be a wonderful time of worship and thanksgiving as we show hospitality to those around us, and perhaps even “entertain angels unaware!”

July Newsletter Article

Summer is always a busy time at First Baptist, and this year is no exception!  We just had a marvelous Vacation Bible School, with an uptick in attendance from last year.  A very special thank you to everyone who participated.  Our special showing of “I Can Only Imagine” went well, and we have restarted our Sunday night Bible study time.  God is good!

I hope that everyone has enjoyed and appreciated the new padding and covering on the pews!  The trustees will be very busy this summer completing the following projects:

  • The nursery remodel will commence shortly. It will consist of enlarging the nursery, rewiring the electrical, installing new lights, replacing the ceiling, fixing the plumbing, laying new flooring, and building new cabinets and cupboards.
  • The ceiling in the food pantry will be fixed.
  • New carpeting will be installed in one of the children’s classrooms.
  • The floor in the main entrance will be leveled and the carpeting replaced.
  • The red accent carpeting on the platform in the sanctuary will be replaced.
  • The new shed for outdoor storage is in process and should be complete by September.

The first three Bridges events are in the books, and the season is going well.  However, I would also like to take this opportunity to make a plea for additional volunteers.  We need people who are willing to provide transportation to the events, and we still need additional help with the American connection program.  If you can help in any capacity please let the office know and we will connect you with the right person.

Finally, as we get ready to celebrate our cherished freedom as a country, we should not forget the freedom that comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. We have been set free from sin, hell and death.  However, we shouldn’t take our salvation for granted, thinking that we can now do whatever we want.  Instead, we are to “live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16).  Happy 4th of July!

Newsletter Article for June

June is going to be a fun month! We welcome back old friends and meet new ones.  Bridges has already started.  Vacation Bible School will take place in a few weeks.  Our semi-annual business is June 3rd, we have two special missionary speakers coming, and at 6pm on June 17th we’ll have a special showing of “I Can Only Imagine.”  Are you excited yet?

In addition to all that, on June 24th we are going to restart our Sunday evening Bible study, but with a twist.  The study will be a continuation of the morning sermon, further exploring the themes and ideas that were presented, and looking at additional passages that have a bearing on the topic.  I’ll be making my notes and questions available for anyone who would like them, and the elders are hoping that this will encourage some sermon-based small groups to develop in the congregation.  If you are interested in having the materials, either for your own personal study or for the formation of a study group, just let me know.

Joshua 1:8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”