150th Anniversary of Truesdell Bridge Disaster. Sunday May 7th 2023
150th Anniversary of Truesdell Bridge Disaster. Sunday May 7th 2023
As we wrap up the holidays, I’m reminded of one holiday tradition we had growing up. At many family gatherings my mom would ask us kids, “What has God taught you lately?” It was a way to remind us that God was always speaking to us through our circumstances, and life. My mom especially was hoping that we were paying attention. As I have gotten older, I ask myself that same question, “What has God taught me lately?” Just because we have all become another year older, does not mean we have gotten another year wiser. We want to grow spiritually, and emotionally. There is nothing worse than an adult who acts like a child, because they have not invested in their spiritual and emotional development. So I want to tell you what God has taught me lately. And I’d love to have you write me a response if you’d like, to share what God has taught you.
I wish I knew who to credit with this lesson, but just know that it’s not my own. As with much of the spiritual life, it all goes back to relationships. God has been teaching me about relationships. Every time that God forgives us, God is saying that our relationship with Him is more important to Him, than the rule we have broken. Not only does God display his mercy and goodness with his desire to forgive; God also desire to maintain the relationship we have. Even though we transgressed God rules, God is not so proud that He would deny us restoration. This is the extent of God’s love for us. God sets aside His own commands to re-establish the friendship we have with Him. It is an extraordinary thought. The God of the universe cares more for my relationship with Him, than with my obedience. I don’t want to diminish the importance of obedience, because that’s critical to developing and growing a good relationship with God. But even more importantly is God desire for us to be in relationship. He does not discard us if we have messed up. God forgives, easily and quickly when we repent, and say we’re sorry. 1 john 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
This is not a new idea, but I think it does remind us and put into perspective just how important our relationships are to God. And if that’s how God treats our relationship to Him, how then should we treat our relationship to each other? Again, it’s more important to maintain the relationship than to expect no grievances. Yes, that persons hurt your feelings, they disagreed with you, and made you angry. Forgive them, and you get to keep them in your life, and possibly influence them for the good. Discard them, and you never get the chance. However, I do think that toxic and harmful people should be discarded for ones own mental health. But if and when you can endure and understand the hurt of another person, it would seem that God wants us to maintain the relationship, even if it’s a challenge. So my friends, if you have some disagreement with a loved one, or a friend has hurt you; find it in your heart to forgive them. God does this for us all the time, let us work towards offering each other this gift as well.
I realize the challenge of this, but how else can we fulfill the command to love our enemies as ourselves. We cant love people we hate, we must forgive them, and restore the relationship before we can break bread together. So as we begin a new year, I challenge you to forgive anyone in your past who has hurt you. Don’t carry the burden into another year. Restore any broken friendships you may have. If the second party is not agreeable to this, so be it. But you have done your part to repair the relationship. When we do this, we start the year off well, because we allow God to fix our relationships, and there is nothing as important. So, I’m asking you, don’t let another year go by without learning what God is trying to teach you. Grow in grace and forgive each other, just as Christ has forgiven you. (Eph. 4:32) May we all learn this lesson, in the coming year.
Here is to a healthy year, and healthy relationships.
Peace, Pastor Bunyan
Some things are built better these days, and some are not. Some cars and trucks can last 200,000 miles no problem. There are even two Toyota Tundra trucks that surpassed 1,000,000 miles on the odometer. They were built quite well. Then there are cars that don’t last to 100,000 because they rust out or have mechanical problems. We live in a consumer world that can make products well, but our society is based on making a profit, so things are only made well if they can be made profitably. If Ford can make cars cheaper overseas they will. If Chevy can save money by using thinner sheet metal for their cars they will, and they do. If Ram can get a cheaper transmission from a foreign contractor, they won’t hesitate to buy that one as opposed to one made domestically. That’s why we see things like, “Made in USA, with foreign and domestic components.” Companies have a bottom line and must ask. “Is what we’re doing profitable?” “How can we increase our profit margin?” The question of reliability is secondary. But that was not always the case. Craftsmen used to build things for the future generations. They would use products that were more than adequate. Have you ever seen some buildings that are constructed with timber beams that weigh thousands of pounds? Machines and tools that were made from cast iron that last for generations. (This is why I enjoy old tools so much) This type of craftsmanship is quite impressive. I appreciate the idea of “over engineered products.” It means they didn’t use the cheapest materials. It means they thought about how long it will last.
As we have mentioned before, we live in a consumer driven, disposable age. Its often times cheaper for the consumer to buy a new product than have the old one fixed. Its certainly cheaper to buy a new TV than pay a shop to fix it. I don’t know why this is our reality, but it is. Maybe if products cost more, people would want to fix them rather than replace them. Isn’t it ironic that we are a consumer driven society, even though we have moved away from being a manufacturing society? Most of our wealth comes the service industry these days. Someone figured out a while ago, around the 70s and 80s that manufacturing products with cheaper overseas labor and importing it, would be more profitable. Now many of our domestic jobs deal with this function of bringing in foreign made goods to supply domestic demand. It was not that companies in the 50’s and 60’s were not profitable, they simply wanted to be more profitable.
Now, what does this have to do with church? Apply the principle of exporting jobs overseas to exporting faith outside of the church. It’s “cheaper and easier” to be a Christian by myself at home or whenever I want. It’s easier to just call myself a Christian than to actually go to church or to tithe. It’s easier to “worship” outdoors while going for a walk, or staying in bed, than to deal with people at church. These are excuses to genuine worship. Just like some domestic companies say “Buy American” but they are made with many foreign components. It comes down to authenticity. The church will not survive if more people export their faith, meaning they don’t engage in the church community and think they can be Christians alone. Similarly the US manufacturing sector has diminished greatly because too many American companies sought profit over worker stability, loyalty and job security. How rare is the sentiment in corporate America that states, “We can close this plant down, the town will suffer.” This is a non existent point of view.
What can be done. Its not totally simple, but we should start by thinking about the future. Much of the blame for the loss of US manufacturing has to do with short sighted gains and long term losses. In the business world, everyone wants higher and higher returns on investments, and quickly. However, many fail to consider the long term effects of squeezing out every nickel of profit. If we are always driven by the financial point of view, we start worshipping money. (This is already happening) The remedy to this is looking to the future beyond ourselves. You and I are not a permanent fixture in this universe. What will life be like when I’m gone? And what can I do now, to ensure a better future for my kids, grandkids and neighbors? These are the questions the world should ask when it comes to business decisions as well as in the church.
Life is not all about me. It’s about others, family, friends, neighbors, even “enemies.” How we treat others is what our kids see and emulate. How we treat the faith community will be seen as the “norm” and if we dismiss it or diminish it, it will decline. However, if you make the effort to be involved in the community you build up the faith for future generations. I enjoy hearing the pride in the family of a member who has passed, when they say, “He was a deacon and a trustee, he loved the church.” It’s a source of pride that this person devoted their time to something bigger than themselves. We must think about our posterity (future generations) that will benefit from me living with an eye towards the future. I challenge us all is to look to the future; how can we make our church community stronger for the future. What can we do to ensure it is not weakened as the manufacturing sector was weakened by short sighted profit? We must not relegate faith to a DIY experience, where everyone does whatever they want because of convenience. Rather we need to faithfully come together and strengthen the community through our involvement and support. Imagine this self talk conversation, “I can’t miss church today… the church will suffer because of my absence.” We do this for posterity, because Jesus said love your neighbors, and I think he also meant, our future neighbors. May it be so.
“Historical Perspective and Perseverance”
“I don't know about tomorrow I just live from day to day. I don't borrow from its sunshine for its skies may turn to grey. I don't worry over the future for I know what Jesus said. And today I'll walk beside Him for He knows what is ahead. Many things about tomorrow I don't seem to understand but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.” This song by Bill and Gloria Gaither is a favorite because of its humility. Too many people declare to know what is happening in the world. I am not one of them. I’ve talked to people who have declared that these are the last days, the end times. Yet being a student of history tells us that the world was in many worse situations dozens of times before. Let us not lose hope, nor give up working for the Lord because in due time we will reap a harvest.
I can think of a few times where the world was in worse shape than it is currently. Europe during the middle ages had to deal with the Black Plague, which first began in 1347 and eventually wiped out 20% of the worlds population. It took 300 years for the population to reach “pre-plague” level. Roughly 200 million people died. The devastation was brutal, and even reading the accounts of the time is heart wrenching. Another time was the Mongolian conquest of China. Between 1211 and 1337, they may have killed as many as 18 million people. These were not all military campaigns but guerilla tactics such as burning farmland to devastate the population. The systemic decapitation of the captured and conquered people was meant to evoke fear in their enemies. Of course we can mention more well known events such as the multiple Crusades where Christian warriors slaughtered unarmed residents of Jerusalem, beginning an endless cycle of retaliation. The Holocaust certainly deserves a place on the list of worst events in human history. I could go on and mention all the wars, the slaughter of innocents, the famines, the plagues, slavery, apartheid, mass shootings, and various atrocities.
I do not mean to be pessimistic just realistic. History is full of events that are “apocalyptic.” By this we mean a life altering event. The Apocalypse is the end of time, but an apocalypse is an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale. The destruction of the Jewish temple in 70AD was an apocalypse. Life changed dramatically for the Jews after that time. My point is that bad things continue to happen, but the world does not end, history marches on. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we don’t even know how the rest of today will turn out. But we can trust in Jesus more every day. With each news story of bad behavior we say, “Lord have mercy.” We pray for wisdom to prevail, for justice to flow down like a river and righteousness like an ever flowing stream (Amos 4).
Human history was changed on a cross in Jerusalem about 2000 years ago. That was an apocalyptic event, nothing was ever the same after. One of the great news to come from the death and resurrection of Jesus was the loosening of the fear of death. We will all die, someday, some way, some how. We don’t need to expedite the event by our own bad or reckless behavior, but we should have a sense of peace about it. We should trust the words of Jesus who says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” And if we trust Jesus at the end, we should trust him during our lives as well. So let us learn from history, learn from Jesus and do better to make this world “on earth as it is in heaven.” I am inviting you to seek after God rather than the wealth and comforts of this world. Be rich in helping others, be extravagantly generous, store up for yourself treasure in heaven that will last, gaining life that is truly life.
But the one who feeds the sparrow, Is the one who stands by me. And the path that be my portion, may be the flame or flood. But His presence goes before me and I'm covered with His blood.
The narrow path that takes you to the city of Petra is called the Siq, its Arabic for shaft. It’s about three quarters of a mile of gravel and narrow passages. It’s like walking down a long hallway, twisting and turning through the red rock cliffs that stretch over a hundred feet straight up. It was this narrow passage that allowed the inhabitants of Petra, the Nabateans, to defend themselves against foreign invaders. When you get to the end of the Siq you see the treasury. It is the building that was featured prominently in the third Indian Jones movie, “The Last Crusade.” It is a marvelous structure that was carved by hand (obviously) in about 400BC. The whole city is magnificent and quite worth the arduous travel to get there. Like many other things in life, it’s that much more special because of how long of a journey it takes to get there. It is quite possible, maybe even probable that St. Paul visited or stayed in Petra as he states in Galatians that he went to “Arabia” before going to Jerusalem.
Jesus also uses the imagery of narrow paths to help us understand the value of what is at the end of the journey. He said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. But narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). How difficult it can be to go on a journey alone. How stressful to fall asleep in the wilderness with no one to keep watch. How anxious life gets when we don’t know where we are going, and can’t find our way. How tempting it can be to go along with everyone else, to follow the crowd. The problem is the crowd is not going to the Celestial City. Jesus is interested in the crowd, but the crowd is not interested in him. He’s telling you, to choose the narrow way that few find.
Part of choosing the narrow way is to observe the season of Lent. Few people even know what Lent it, and even fewer observe it. I didn’t observe it growing up, but I do now that I know more. It’s a season of self reflection and examination. A season of fasting from something to understand better that Jesus suffered so much and gave up so much for us. Even though grace is free, it is not cheap. Something that cost Jesus his life, cannot be made cheap by us. And so we observe Lent as a way to more fully appreciate Easter. This Lenten season I chose to fast from food for a 24 hour period. While I didn’t do it perfectly, I did learn about how it can be done, and what happens when you fast. The first thing I learned is that the hunger pains go away. I think that’s the biggest hurdle to fasting is that gnawing feeling of being hungry. At this point many people stop and get some food. But the pains go away, if you but resist for a while, you will persevere, and water helps. The second lesson I learned is that God is near. I knew this, but it was reinforced in many ways. My prayer conversations with the Lord became easier, more fluid. I could discern the Holy Spirit speaking versus my own voice much more clearly; not always but much more readily. The overall affect had me saying, “God is good” over and over and in various conversations.
At the end of the a purposeful journey is always a good result. Partly because the journey accompanies the destination in importance. Discipleship is part of the reward of heaven. Becoming like Jesus is the journey towards being with Jesus for all eternity. This is our life’s work, this is what we need each other for; to assist on the narrow path. We are to be encouragers along the way for other pilgrims that have entered the narrow gate. But we must not give up. We must be faithful to the end. If the end of Lent is the glory of Easter and resurrection, just imagine what lies in wait for us at the end of the narrow path. No ear has heard, no mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Cor. 2:9
Happy New Year! How many of us are longing to be done with 2020?? This coming Sunday we have the chance to put the last year behind us and prepare for all the hope and potential that awaits us in 2021. Advent begins Sunday and it is the first day of the church calendar, so even though we still have a month or so of 2020 left, we can begin the church year together this Sunday. And though we are worshipping from home, I thought this might be one way we can be connected to each other through the Spirit.
What you'll need: A printer to print this document (if you don't have access to a printer and would like a printed copy, just send me a private message and we'll get one in the mail to you!), a journal for completing the daily prompt questions, and an open heart and mind as we seek to journey toward the arrival of Jesus together!
I will try to post daily thoughts that relate to the calendar and would invite you to comment here as well with things you are learning, discovering, receiving from this time spent in reflection.
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! - A. Lincoln 1863
It should come as no surprise that Lincoln during the Civil War called on the country to fast and pray for God’s clemency and forgiveness. Many felt that the hubris of the nation was at fault for the Civil War. Our current situation is not much different. We are a nation on edge. We do not pursue peace, we are looking for a fight or a disagreement. The way of compromise and diplomacy has been forgotten. What are we to do? A few weeks ago, I got an answer to that question. I felt the Holy Spirit move me towards a desire to fast for the state of our nation and our faith community, and I invite you to join me. We will be doing this because Jesus instructed us to, and to implore the Lord to heal our land.
Honestly, I genuinely like to eat, I’m not quite a “foodie” but in some areas I consider myself discerning. I like good cheeses and fresh breads especially. I enjoy food. But I know people who are much more practiced at fasting and see eating simply as a necessity, and only eat sparingly. I am not that spiritual but admire those people. I am trying to be like those people, but I am not like them yet. However, I do see the wisdom and value in fasting. Some people have found great effectiveness with fasting as a lifestyle for losing weight and getting healthier, kudos to them. It takes a lot of self-control to not eat. But Jesus assumed we would be fasting. Matthew 6:17 “When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face.” Apparently, it was expected, probably because there are many benefits to fasting, both spiritual and physical. I once read a monk who said something along the lines of, “If you can’t control your eating, you can’t control anything.” It does seem like something we should be able to control, so I am suggesting we give it a try, if possible.
Now, for those who are ill, or have a chronic medical condition, please don’t feel like you must participate. If you are getting infusions of some type, or chemo, or have a blood sugar disorder… please do not fast. Fast from something else, something you care about, just not food. I don’t want anyone to get sick or weak on this day. So please listen to your body, and use common sense when preparing to undergo this discipline. I believe fasting from social media, or controlling your words, or reading are all worthy disciplines.
So here is what I propose. On Wednesday September 16th we will be fasting and praying intentionally throughout the day. The way I propose we accomplish this is to see the day starting a sundown the night before, similar to the way Jews observed the days in the time of Jesus. Sundown to sundown was a day. Therefore, if we eat a small dinner on Tuesday night, and use our sleeping time as an aid to our fasting, we will only miss breakfast and lunch on Wednesday. But it’s not just about skipping food, it’s about praying more intently for the state of our world. God is not pleased with the animosity that people have towards one another. We need to give new life to an old command of loving our enemies. We need peace. We need compassion. That evening at 6pm, we will assemble for Bible Study and discuss how what God impacted us throughout the fast. Please join us if you can.
I wanted to also take this time to inform you all that we will be having a special worship service that same week, Friday September 18th at 6pm at John Dixon Park. We have not been able to gather for worship with our entire family and it seems to me that it does much good to see each other and worship together. At the same time we are mindful of those who are being cautious and staying home on Sunday. The deacons and pastors felt it would be beneficial to gather the church body together in a safe outdoor setting to worship together, see each other, and praise the Lord. Please bring your lawn chairs and a friend. We will be blessed with Jim Miller’s band as well as Pastor Rachel singing. Kids are welcome as the playgrounds are open. However, please make sure to keep social distancing to make everyone as comfortable as possible. Let us seek peace and pursue it, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Peace to you all.
First Baptist Church
111 East 2nd Street, Dixon, Illinois 61021, United States
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