As all of us have watched the horrors of war unfold in Ukraine, we’ve wondered -- and been asked – how our churches can respond in ways that both meet immediate needs and fulfill our commitment to the Gospel as the true hope of mankind.
Your church may have already determined a strategic recipient for your financial assistance, and if so, that’s great! But if you’ve been wondering about or even researching appropriate channels, I would recommend the Ukraine Crisis Fund at ABWE which is endorsed by one of our association’s pastors with first-hand experience.**
Here are some supporting details for your consideration:
If you choose to send your gift to ABWE, it would be great to include “MARBC Support for Ukraine” in the comments to your gift so that we can track our cumulative effort.
One of the blessings of being part of a fellowship of churches is the opportunity to partner together in a significant endeavor for the cause of Christ. We are grateful for your prayerful consideration of this opportunity.
I just returned from sharing lunch with a humble MARBC pastor. Few of you reading this have probably met him nor would you recognize his name if I shared it. He and his wife have faithfully plowed, sowed, watered, and cultivated in a small town for several years. All the while they have fervently prayed for any spiritual growth that would lead to a harvest - in a field that you and I would probably have abandoned long ago. He recently reached out to me seeking this lunch date so that he could “pick my brain” about what to do in the next chapter of life to which God seems to be leading this faithful, veteran couple.
He came ultra-prepared with notes carefully written on little sheets of paper as we connected at the little restaurant. He was concerned that he would clearly articulate the details and burdens of the ministry that he was prayerfully preparing to leave, due to quickly advancing issues of age and poor health. He also came with an expectancy that I could offer some options and solutions regarding the challenges that will still confront the shrinking flock at the “church of the rocky soil” after his departure.
The important details that we discussed in that little restaurant setting were overshadowed from my perspective by something even more significant. Here is a man of God whose spiritually calloused hands are still clinging to the plow handles that the Chief Shepherd assigned to him. Simultaneously he is seeking God’s Spirit to help him, and his dear wife, know how - and when - to release their grip. It was a powerful moment that impacted all of our senses as we sat across from each other in that small booth. He and I both knew it and were dependent upon God’s clear guidance in those precious moments.
On my bookshelves are many books that attempt to both define biblically and apply practically the spiritual discipline of prayer. Many of them are thick, detailed, and very edifying. Sandwiched amidst those thick spined treatises is a little booklet that packs a spiritual wallop. I received it as a gift several years ago and have chosen to re-read it each month in 2021. It is a 30-day devotional that features several of Charles Spurgeon’s reflections on the topic of prayer.
One of the daily readings has as its focus, “Praying in the Spirit.” Providentially, I read the following devotional entry earlier in the day prior to this impactful lunch encounter. Read with an open heart what C. H. Spurgeon observes as he ponders this amazing spiritual gem from Jude 20:
“I understand that the Holy Spirit is actually willing to help me pray, that He will tell me how to pray, and when I get to a point where I'm at a loss for words and cannot express my desires, He will appear in my extremity and make intercession in me with groanings that cannot be uttered. Jesus in His Gethsemane agony was strengthened by an angel; you are to be strengthened by God himself. This thought needs no adorning of oratorical expression. Take it as a wedge of gold of Ophir and value it; it is priceless, beyond all prices. God the Holy Ghost condescends to assist you when you are on your knees, and if you cannot put two words together in common speech to men, yet He will help you speak with God. And if at the mercy seat you fail in words, you will not fail in reality, for your heart shall conquer. God requires no words. He never reads our petitions according to the outward expression but reads them according to the inward groaning. He notices the longing, the desiring, the sighing, the crying. Remember that the outward of prayer is but the shell; the inward prayer is its true kernel and essence. Indeed, a prayer wailed forth in the bitter anguish from a desolate spirit - a cry so discordant to human ears - is music to the ear of God. Notice the value of the heart in prayer and be comforted. ‘Holy Spirit, teach me to pray, strengthen me to pray. My heart is Yours. Intercede for me before the Father’s throne. Amen.’” *
What Jude shares succinctly in his brief urgent note to the church via the four-word phrase, “pray in the Spirit” (Jude 20), Paul elaborates upon in Romans 8:18-30. Sufferings are miniscule when compared to the coming glory (8:18). The struggles make us more than eager for the revealing to come (8:19). Creation groans to be unbound and restored to its created purposes because God chooses to bless those He has redeemed (8:20-21). The pains of spiritual birth and the legalities of spiritual adoption will culminate in literal redemption (8:22-23). And to guarantee that the saints can keep focused upon these eternally significant truths (8:24-25), the Holy Spirit groans on their behalf. The Holy Spirit isn’t bound by the tendencies of earthbound saints to focus only on the temporal, physical and emotional ramifications of their human struggles (8:26). Instead, He “goes deep,” groaning and interceding at a level that is both spiritually significant and humanly unutterable (8:27). As a result, He drives and directs the children of God to embrace God’s will and eternal purposes (8:28-30).
My veteran pastor friend and I left our lunch meeting this afternoon feeling satisfied physically by the good meal we shared. However, we left feeling satisfied more so spiritually. He left encouraged by the guidance and perspective that he received through our conversation. I left greatly impacted by the spiritual example of a faithful prayer warrior who is still “praying in the spirit” for God to be glorified in and through his humbly consecrated life. He has – and is.
I have experienced similar emotions whenever I leave the home of my godly brother-in-law, who is also a wonderful friend, early spiritual mentor, and fellow pastor. He has been sidelined from active ministry for a few years now due to several intense physical afflictions. Sharon and I cherish every “always too brief” encounter that we share with him and Sharon’s older sister. I have to admit that there are always pangs of guilt in my heart whenever he asks me to share about my recent ministry experiences and how God is at work in His Church. He always tears up as I share about the work of the Lord. They are tears of joy celebrating how God is at work, mixed with a tearful desire to once again have his arthritically crippled hands wrapped around the handles of a God-ordained plow. He recognizes that he can no longer serve at the forefront of a dynamic public ministry as he did in years past. Nor is he the energized, effervescent evangelist who could passionately challenge others to count the cost and receive the gift of eternal life through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Yet now, by the Holy Spirit’s groaning enablement through prayerful faith and perseverance, he may be preaching his most powerful message for the glory of God.
Driving back to my office, I prayed that my life will be as spiritually focused as my humble lunch companion. I prayed that I will be instilled with the Spirit-filled passion and desire of my faithful, longsuffering brother-in-law. I pray that yours will be as well, my fellow brother and sister in ministry. You, too, mean much to so many of us, no matter where you may be plowing. Most significantly, you mean eternally more to the Chief Shepherd. Keep doing what you do for the Lord while praying in the Spirit. He will answer you and bless you.
You have His Word on it!
* Charles Spurgeon on Prayer; A 30-Day Devotional Treasury, compiled and edited by Lance Wubbels; Emerald Books, Lynnwood, WA
By the year 1812, the majority of the European continent was under the control of the famed French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. In that year, Napoleon attacked Russia, which led to his downfall and abdication. He was then exiled to the little island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea. Three years later, in March 1815, Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to France. Men gathered once again under the French flag and Europe again faced the prospects of war.
Word soon spread throughout Europe that Napoleon’s army was on the march. Knowing that Napoleon’s earlier plan was to invade Britain, the British Army was assembled. Led by the Duke of Wellington, the British Army and its allies approached the village of Waterloo (which is now a part of Belgium) to challenge the invading Napoleon and his troops. Hanging upon this battle was whether Napoleon would regain power and control all of Europe.
If Napoleon’s army were to break through Wellington’s troops, the people of Britain were poised for his invasion into England. To help them be prepared, a series of messengers were stationed on hilltops throughout the region from Waterloo to London. Each messenger was to relay by semaphore the outcome of the battle. With a semaphore, a person holds a flag in each hand. The position in which each flag is held represents a single letter. The last messenger in the chain was stationed for several days in the tower of London’s famed Winchester Cathedral.
Finally, the words of a message were spelled out from the first hill where the messenger was observing the battle. One by one the letters were signaled to read: “Wellington defeated.” At that point a mist swept across the region and the messenger on the hill could no longer be spotted. Rapidly, the semaphore was repeated from hilltop to hilltop until the message finally reached London. A heavy gloom quickly fell over London as the word of the national tragedy was received.
The messenger waited for the mist to clear to receive further information. Finally, the mist cleared, and the semaphore started again. In the clearness of the sky two additional words were added to the message which now fully read, “Wellington defeated the enemy.” Again, the news rapidly spread over England and the nation rejoiced. Church bells pealed and people cheered in the streets. That deadly first message was only the first part of a message that became good news.
This story from European history helps capture the demeanor of those friends and foes who gathered at the crucifixion of Christ. During this event, the sun was blotted out and the earth trembled. When darkness veiled the cross of Jesus at Calvary, “the Place of the Skull,” the message seemed to sadly announce, “Jesus defeated.” It is reported that Dionysius the Aeropagite, a non-believer, exclaimed “Either a god is dying or the whole world is in dissolution!”
No doubt the Pharisees, chief priests, and scribes smugly thought, “Jesus defeated!” That was probably the sad assumption of Jesus’ followers. All of their hopes seemed to be dashed by the reality there before them – “Jesus defeated!”
However, three days later at a garden tomb on Sunday morning, the mist and darkness lifted, and the full message came through: “Jesus defeated death!” Jesus had defeated even the power of death and had risen in a transformed body that left the tomb and his grave clothes empty. This reality is the only reasonable explanation of what transformed cowardly and dismayed disciples at the cross into zealous, determined evangelists. They would confidently turn the world upside down as God empowered them to declare the Good News.
Some enjoy speculating how the proof of a non-resurrected Christ would change the face of Christianity. Some liberal elements of Protestantism even seek to minister while operating under that skeptical misrepresentation. However, it is Biblically clear: without a resurrected Christ, there is NO Christianity! The message would revert to “Jesus defeated” instead of “Jesus defeated death!”
Please do not miss this point: the death of Jesus by crucifixion would have been a devastating defeat instead of a great victory had Jesus not risen from the dead. That Jesus was the Christ was proved by His rising from the dead and appearing personally to many witnesses as recorded in the last chapter of each of the four Gospels and in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. The witnesses included Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, Peter, James, two disciples at evening on the road to Emmaus, the disciples in a closed room at Jerusalem, more disciples eight days later when Thomas was present with them, the disciples in Galilee, and “five hundred of the brothers at the same time,” as well as to the Apostle Paul.
The fact of the resurrection ensures that the Christian’s faith is not in vain and that sin is completely forgiven. 1 Corinthians 15:17 emphasizes “if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” The word “futile” (“vain” KJV) means “useless.” Faith based upon a myth is a useless faith.
Only the resurrection of Christ ensures that there is life beyond the grave for His followers. 1 Corinthians 15:18 warns that no resurrection means that “those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” If Christ’s resurrection is merely wishful thinking, then we are foolish to expect to see our loved ones again who have died believing in Jesus Christ.
The fact of the resurrection guarantees the final destruction of death. “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’” 1 Corinthians 15:24-27
The fact of the resurrection ensures that the enterprise of the Gospel will prosper and succeed. Jesus triumphantly declared prior to His return to heaven, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
The in-depth commentary regarding the eternal significance of Jesus’ resurrection concludes with the strong statement of 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 – “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jesus defeated death! Victory is secured! You have His word on it!
Ken Floyd, April 2021
What magical sounds, sights, or smells transport you back to your childhood? When I hear the words, “Once upon a time,” I’m instantly a child again. I love story; it captures elusive truth and hands it to me so I can carry it close to my heart.
Once upon a time the prophet, Jeremiah, dared to tell a terrible truth. Judah, his homeland, was at war with Babylon.
“Babylon is going to win this war,” Jeremiah proclaimed in a message from God. “Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die, but those who leave and go over to the Babylonians will live.”
What? Defect to the enemy? Traitor! That’s how many people branded Jeremiah. His wasn’t a message any red-blooded patriot wanted to hear.
Some politicians who were members of the royal family were outraged. “Kill Jeremiah,” they said to King Zedekiah. “He’s bad for morale. He’s weakening the military and the people with his words.”
“Do what you want.” The king shrugged. “I’m not strong enough to stand against your wishes.”
The politicians wanted Jeremiah dead, but they didn’t want to murder him outright. That wouldn’t look good, and they didn’t want blood on their hands. So, they lowered him with ropes into a deep, narrow cistern where he sunk in mud. He could die a slow and painful death from exposure or starvation there, but they hadn’t exactly murdered him themselves, had they?
Shivering and miserable, stuck in mud and his own filth, unable to climb out of the pit, Jeremiah began the slow process of dying. What would claim him first, starvation or exposure? No wonder Jeremiah’s nickname was “the weeping prophet.”
What had he done to earn such terrible suffering? He’d told a hard truth God had instructed him to tell. He hadn’t liked sharing it; Jeremiah loved his country and wanted it to prosper as much as the next patriot. Now he was dying in agony, forgotten by God and man.
Or was he? God never forgets, and God always has a man.
Ebed-Melech, an Ethiopian servant, was God’s man.
Bravely, he told the king. “Those princes of yours have done a wicked thing. Jeremiah is starving to death.”
The easily influenced king said, “Take thirty men with you, and get Jeremiah out of that pit before he dies.”
It wouldn’t take thirty men to pull one emaciated prophet from a pit; the men were for protection.
Ebed-Melech grabbed some ropes and old rags and hurried to the pit.
Someone defined compassion as “your pain in my heart.” Ebed-Melech felt compassion. He must have imagined what it would feel like to be in so much pain, half starved, and then hauled up by ropes. How could he make it easier for Jeremiah?
“Put these rags under your arms so the ropes don’t cut into your skin,” he called down to Jeremiah. Then they hauled Jeremiah up to safety.
Wanted: Kindness and old rags.
It seems that kindness felt but not acted out turns to callousness. We see and hear of so much need, so much agony in the world around us. People are suffering in pits of pain, mentally, physically, emotionally. We hear it on the news; we read it on Facebook.
What would Ebed-Melech do? We might want to haul everyone out of pits; that we cannot do, but a little kindness goes a long way to someone suffering. I think old E.M., if he were alive today, would find a way to send a rag even if it were just by a card or a name breathed in prayer. And if he could do more, he would do that too.
I love story, and Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story” was one of my favorites. What was the rest of the story for E.M.? Jerusalem did fall to Babylon, just as Jeremiah had said, but God spared E.M.’s life. You can read about it in Jeremiah 39:15-18.
Ebed-Melech wasn’t even his real name; those words just mean “servant of the king.”
Once upon a time, there was a nameless man, who did a great deed of kindness with a heartful of courage and a handful of old rags. I bow to you, E.M. We desperately need more of you in the hurting story our world is writing today. May your tribe increase!
by Donna Poole, Lickley Corners Baptist Church, Pittsford, Michigan
Donna Poole has served for many years with her pastor-husband John at Lickley Corners Baptist Church in Pittsford, MI. The MARBC family has been praying for Donna as she continues treatments to deal with Stage 4 lung cancer. Donna is a prolific writer who shares often about the life she and John share as a pastoral couple in rural Michigan. Her new book, "If the Creek Don't Rise" has recently been released for purchase on Amazon. It is the second part of a two volume set titled, "Life at the Corners." The first book in the set, "Corners Church," is also available on Amazon books.
[Click here to see Donna Poole's books at Amazon](https://smile.amazon.com/Creek-Dont-Rise-Donna-Poole/dp/B08R8ZDFN5/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2EQQIYAFCG0GF&dchild=1&keywords=if+the+creek+dont+rise+donna+poole&qid=1614637747&sprefix=If+the+Creek,aps,188&sr=8-1)
Are you familiar with a man by the name of Fridtjof Wedel-Jarlsberg Nansen? What a novel name for you prospective parents to consider! Nansen was a renowned scholar who possessed great knowledge in many diverse fields. Born in Norway in 1861, Fridtjof gained a reputation as an explorer, scientist, diplomat, and humanitarian. He was highly regarded for his wealth of experience until his death in 1930.
At the age of 27, Nansen led a team that made the first crossing of the Greenland interior in 1888. Amazingly this courageous team made the traverse across the island on cross-country skis. A few years later, Fridtjof led a historic three-year expedition to the Arctic Ocean in a search for the North Pole. He retired from exploration after this challenging feat and returned to his native Norway.
Nansen’s techniques of polar travel, along with his innovations in equipment and clothing, influenced a generation of explorers who ventured in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. He was ultimately recognized as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Additionally, the lead ships in the Royal Norwegian Navy bear the name “Fridtjog Nansen” in his honor.
One particular aspect of Fridtjof Nansen’s Arctic journey stands out. During the extreme challenges of the exploration, it became necessary for Nansen to guide his ship into very deep waters. As part of his studies, he would drop a sounding line to check the ocean’s depth. He recorded the date, time, location, and the length of line it took to find the ocean floor. As the ship made its way north, Nansen found that the measuring line was too short to reach the bottom of the ocean. So, he made a notation in his log that read, “deeper than that.”
Nansen would then instruct his crew to find an additional length of rope on the ship to connect to the one that had been used previously for measurements. When they lowered the longer sounding line, they found that it was still too short to find the ocean’s bottom. Having the same result, he used the same notation as before, “deeper than that.” Even after adding yet additional rope, the ocean’s floor was still out of reach. So, once again, the note was written as, “deeper than that.” Finally, he used all of the rope available on the ship but still came up short in completing his measurements. The explorer entered into his logbook a final notation that listed the final length of line used and a statement that simply declared, “still deeper than that.”
What was true for Nansen in seeking to find the depth of the ocean’s floor is even truer when it comes to God’s love for you and me. No matter how we may try to measure it, God’s love is “deeper than that.” John, the Apostle best known as “The Apostle of Love,” often sought to drop a sounding line in order to measure God’s love in the writings that became a part of the canon of scripture. The most famous of His sounding lines is “For God 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 ESV). After yet another futile attempt to drop a sounding line to measure the depth of God’s love in his letter known as First John, John proclaims, “See what kind of the love the Father has given [or “lavished”] to us!” (1 John 3:1 ESV). Ultimately, John runs out of rope for an additional sounding and writes in both profound and simple terms “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
The fact that God is love is a certainty. Yet we are overwhelmed and challenged by the task of trying to explain this incredible doctrine in terms that can be grasped. Theologian A.W. Tozer struggled to explain God’s love as well. He once said, “I can no more do justice to this awesome and wonder-filled topic than a child can grasp a star. Still, by reaching toward the star the child may call attention to it and even indicate the direction one must look to see it. And so, I stretch my heart toward the high, shining love of God so that we may be encouraged to look up and have hope.”
The last time in my life when the culture was in an uproar and upheaval that parallels today’s world, it was the spring of 1965. Famous contemporary songwriters, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, penned a song which they hoped would bring into focus what their world needed. They proclaimed in song and lyric, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. No, not just for some, but for everyone.” The lyrics contained an earnest sentiment that became a popular recording for several singers in subsequent years. One of those recordings included sound bites in the background of yelling mobs, stunning news reports of tragic events, and political commentary. However, while lamenting the world’s need of love, the song failed to point to the source of such love or the reservoir where that love can be found in infinite supply.
However, Christians and churches, you and I can! While we cannot begin to describe all of its facets and hues, we can indeed point not just to the source of such love, but the One Who IS Love! As Paul the Apostle proclaims, “[I pray] that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV)
An obscure contemporary of Nansen was a man who lived in London, England, by the name of Samuel Trevor Francis. While you may not recognize his name, as a Christian you have been impacted by his life story. Experiencing great agony as a teenager in the early 1850s, Francis contemplated suicide while standing on a bridge that arched over the River Thames. As he looked at the body of water below that would soon seal his doom, he was overwhelmed by sight of the swollen liquid mass. His heart soon reflected on the vastness of the love of Jesus Christ and turned away for his horrific plan.
Reflecting upon his shallow thinking and the depth of God’s love, Francis penned the words to the highly regarded song, “O the Deep, Deep, Love of Jesus.” The first stanza illustrates the depth of Christ’s love: “O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free! Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me! Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love, leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!” Francis found in Christ’s love Someone, as well as something, more significant and overwhelming than the despair of his life.
Much attention will undoubtedly be given to the theme of love during this month. My great hope for all of us is that we might desire a better understanding of the love of God and embrace it. What a blessing it is to discover that even when we think we have come to understand its depth, it goes even deeper than that!
Yes, very much deeper than that – you have His Word on it!
MARBC Ministry Director
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell,
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair bowed down with care -
God gave His Son to win.
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin.
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade.
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry -
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky.
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song!
Songwriters: Robby Shaffer / Jim Bryson / Mike Scheuchzer / Nathan Cochran / Bart Millard / Pete Kipley
The Love of God lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.
I’m sure that you may be like me and have grown weary of reading countless articles and web posts with opening paragraphs that recognize the obvious: 2020 was an incredibly difficult and challenging year. While it is one thing to state the obvious, it is quite another to glean meaningful takeaways and lessons learned as we move forward.
Several years ago, author Alan Smith related the traumatic story of a missionary family in China in his column “Thought for the Day.” The missionary family was forced to leave the China soon after the communists took over the country many years ago. A group of soldiers knocked on the door and told the missionary couple that they and their children had two hours to pack up before they would be escorted to the train station in order to be removed from the country. The husband and wife would each be permitted to take belongings weighing no more than one hundred pounds. That amounted to two hundred pounds for the couple.
Once the soldiers left, the couple began to debate what belongings were the most precious and worthy of joining them once they were deported. Keepsakes, family mementoes, practical objects used in their ministry, books, and other items were evaluated for their importance. Each object was then placed on the bathroom scale to determine if the physical weight matched the weight of its value.
At the end of 120 minutes of frantic decision making, the couple finally had a pile of possessions that totaled exactly two hundred pounds. Even though they could take some precious items with them, they couldn’t help but greatly lament over what would have to be left behind.
Their lamentations were rudely interrupted as the demanding knock on the door announced the soldiers’ return. "Are you ready?" they demanded. "Yes." "Did you weigh your possessions?" "Yes, we did." "Does it weigh no more than two hundred pounds?" "Yes, two hundred pounds on the dot."
"Does the weight include your children?" "What? We have to weigh our children?" In an instance, all the items that had been deemed as precious and valuable also landed on the trash pile. None of it meant anything compared to the surpassing value of their precious children.
Perhaps one of the most significant lessons our world has struggled with in 2020 is what should be deemed valuable in life and what should not. A pandemic did not just reveal the human immune system’s vulnerability to a disease identified as COVID-19. It glaringly revealed the human race’s pre-existing terminal condition of spiritual disease as the result of sin.
Opinions and emotions were amplified and exaggerated under the duress of COVID complications. Angry shouting replaced reasoned discussion. Minor inconveniences became major points of contention which resulted in great acrimony. Major choices were demanded that were not just difficult but gut wrenching and life altering.
Sadly, the church has not been immune to some of the ungodly attitudes and behaviors exhibited worldwide. Which brings us to the issues of the year ahead. A valid question we should all be asking as a new year dawns is, “what lessons have we learned as a result of the year that just passed?”
Indeed, how will the lessons of the past year better prepare us for the choices that will confront us in the next? The timely counsel which Paul the Apostle shares with the Ephesian church is an appropriate admonition for today’s Christians moving forward: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Let’s not be guilty of once again accumulating what could end up being two hundred pounds of unvaluable “trash” while neglecting to acknowledge what is of spiritual and eternal value. “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:7-8)
We pray for the encouragement and strengthening of the churches and friends of the MARBC as the year 2021 begins as we trust God to provide wise guidance and spiritual enablement.
Walking by faith,
MARBC Ministry Director
What a remarkable time it is in which to live! Entire nations have been brought to a standstill by an unseen enemy that is no respecter of persons, nationalities, or social status. Standard operating procedures are being thrown out the window. Improvisation is the new normal.
“The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9, ESV)
How did it go for you, your family, and your church family as you experienced the second “unique” Lord’s Day during this COVID-19 pandemic? Before I share with you something I gleaned from this past Lord's Day, I need to share with you what occurred three days earlier.
I experienced personal sadness as a direct result of this dreaded virus this past Thursday. I traveled to southwest Ohio where an Assisted Living Facility is located. My elderly mother is a resident there and I was meeting my younger sister in the facility’s parking lot.
As a new year approaches, it is typically accompanied by a review and analysis of what transpired in the closing year and the anticipated challenges, opportunities, and outcomes of the approaching year. It is amazing how changing one page of the calendar can produce such an intellectual and emotional exercise of contemplation and anticipation.