PASTORAL MEDITATIONS This month I want to take you to a short psalm that speaks to the needs of our day. Right now the news is filled with reports of violence, and anarchy, and chaos. Business are burned to the ground. Lives are taken. Police are held back by politicians, some of whom seem to endorse the looting and rioting that is taking place. The pandemic plays into this because everything seems to be in a state of disquiet and unease. People of good intent disagree on the severity of it, and the approach to dealing with it. The economic impact has been massive and unrelenting. So how do we as Christians, brothers and sisters in the Lord respond to all of this? Psalm 133 sums up our response in one word… unity. It is defined as the state of being undivided or unbroken; the state of completeness or totality with nothing wanting. The psalm begins with a simple statement: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!” Since this is a ‘Song of Ascents’ it would be speaking of Israelites, who had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, abiding in peace with one another. The ideal Israel is a community of true brotherhood, where the members practice mutual concern for one another. In our church context it’s a state of mutual concern where everyone is committed to treat each other with honor and respect so that everyone feels like a complete part of the body. That kind of community would be good and pleasant, not just in God’s eyes, but in our own experience. The psalmist goes on to use two similes that would create vivid pictures for the Israelites. The first pictures the ordination oil on the head of Aaron and his descendants. In Exodus 30:23-24 it describes this anointing oil as being made up of the finest oils and spices. The aroma is described as being like something created by a perfumer. It was a special perfume. Verse 32 states that it cannot be poured on the body of an ordinary person because it is a holy oil. When it was poured on the heads of Aaron and the priests it was a special consecration that set them apart as priests before God. The picture of unity is found in v.2 of Psalm 133. That holy oil was poured on the head, and it ran down to the beard, and even on the collar of his robe. There is a picture of completeness and totality here. Nothing is left out of the anointing. The holy oil touched every part of the priest. Everything was consecrated. Everything about them was given to God. That is what our personal unity should look like. Nothing is left out. No one is left behind. Every part of our lives is important to God. Every believer is equally important before God. The second simile pictures the dew of Hermon. Mount Hermon is a high, snowcapped mountain at the northern end of Israel. The picture of the dew of Mt. Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion is a picture of interconnectedness. The cool slopes and moisture of Mt. Hermon provide the dew and the rains that fall across the rest of the land of Israel. From north to south each part is connected to the other. The fruitfulness of the land is dependent on that unity. We are interconnected in Christ. Our fruitfulness as individuals is dependent on the unity that we experience as brothers and sisters in Christ. The psalm concludes by speaking of the blessing: “… life forevermore.” We are united in faith. We are united in love. We are united in Christ. That unity is a picture of the blessing that is eternal life. Life together is good and pleasant when we choose to dwell together in unity.
Blessings, Pastor Randy
CHURCH UPDATE: WE ARE REOPENING!! The Leadership Team has decided to start the process of moving back into the church for worship. That is a good thing! It has been a long time since we have been able to be together in the building. As we take this step it is important that we do it safely, and in a way that allows people to be comfortable entering the building again. The Center for Disease Control recommends these preventative actions:
• Attempt to maintain social distancing of 6’ when possible, if not possible use of a mask is recommended. • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. • Stay home when you are sick or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, or if no tissue cover mouth with arm. • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
In order to follow the above recommendations the Leadership Team has established the following guidelines in order to provide a safe and comfortable worship experience for everyone: Pre-Service * Have doors blocked open that congregation will use to minimize need for any unnecessary contact. Rooms that will not be used should have doors shut with a sign to let people know we are not using that room. *Have usher or greeter at the front door to open as congregation enters church. *Have signs posted in areas as people enter the church with the CDC recommendations. Service: * Seating arrangements – the sanctuary chairs have been set up with the goal of maintaining social distancing. We recognize that some shifting of chairs will be necessary so that families can be seated together. If you do move chairs, please make sure that the new seating arrangement meets the 6 foot social distancing guidelines. We will have ushers available to help you with this. * Greeting Members – When we have a greeting time our current guidelines for greeting will eliminate handshakes. Please stay in place and greet those around you verbally while maintaining social distancing. * Singing – Our current guideline is to encourage the wearing of masks while singing. * Hymnals – To minimize any spread through handling of bibles or hymnals we will use projected slides with words to any songs. Members can use personal bibles for scripture reading. * Communion – Servers will wear gloves and masks; elements will be handed to congregants to limit the number of people touching the trays. * Children’s Church – We will not have children’s church for the time being. This will be reevaluated periodically as the situation merits. * Nursery – We will not have an organized nursery schedule for the foreseeable future. This will be re-evaluated periodically as the situation merits. The nursery room will be available for family use as needed if a parent or sibling is available to sit with toddlers. We would like to limit the use of the nursey if possible. * Bathrooms – Bathroom entry doors will be left open and light switches will be left on until after church. Signs will be posted in bathrooms to remind attendees to wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use hand sanitizer. * Offering – The offering plate will be at the door following the church service. * Masks – It is strongly recommended that all attendees wear a mask if possible. Ushers and greeters will wear masks in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained. Ushers will wear gloves in situations that require handling of anything that will be touched by any non-family member. We encourage attendees to have their own personal masks if possible. The church will have masks available. * Social distancing – We strongly recommend that a 6-foot distance be maintained with non-family members. If that cannot be maintained, we request that a mask be used. This is extremely important to prevent any virus spread, if present. Remember, this is not just for you, it is for the people in our congregation who are more elderly or who have compromised immune systems. Please be thinking of others and put their needs first.
Post Service * Fellowship Time and Treats – No treats will be available after church. This will be reevaluated periodically as the situation merits. * Adult Sunday School – For the time being we will not have adult Sunday school. This will be re-evaluated periodically as the situation merits. * Children’s Sunday School – For the time being we will not have children’s Sunday school. This will be re-evaluated periodically as the situation merits.
SPIRITUAL VISION TEAM REPORT 06/22/2020
Spiritual Vision team Report Spiritual Vision team did not meet during the month of June. Team members were involved with preparing items for the June Outdoor worship service, the first indoor worship service and communicating. I have also attended leadership sessions and a 2 day “Meeting” all using Zoom. These were lead by Cameron Roxburgh from Vancoover, BC. He is a Pastor in the NAB conference. I will share a couple items from these. One was the importance of knowing where our heart is relative to our Lord. Jesus pointed out the importance of where the heart is many times. The Old Testament has a great many spiritual references to the heart. The importance of guarding your heart is brought out in Proverbs 4:23 (NIV2011) “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. How you seek God is vividly pointed out in Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV2011) “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. Cameron Roxburgh spoke of a pastor’s conference held at a monastery. No modern digital devices were allowed at any time. One of the pastors asked the speaker about the homework for the next day. The speaker said they were to get 10 hours sleep since pastors were very busy and were sleep deprived. They had the same assignment for three days. Elimination of hurry is important for our spiritual life. The idea of slow was discussed. The Sabbath is for restoration of the soul. Pastor Randy is now involved with presenting the message for 3 formats. This takes quite a bit more time. We need to lift him, our congregation and our neighbors up before the Lord in our prayers. Submitted By, Eugene Preston
EVENTS CALENDAR 2020:
9:30 a.m., Worship Service 10:30 a.m., Fellowship 10:45 a.m., Sunday School for the Whole Family
6:30 p.m., AWANA Clubs 6:15 p.m., 6th-8th Grade Youth Group 7:10 p.m., 9th-12th Grade Youth Group
Thursday’s 2 p.m., Prayer & Women’s Bible Study at BVBC 7 p.m., Women’s Evening Bible Study held at various homes
Saturday, July 4, Independence Day Sunday, July 19 - Thursday, July 23, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., VBS, Big Fish Bay, “Hooked on God’s Mercy”, 4 years through 6th grade, at BVBC Sunday, July 26, 5:30 p.m., Hymn Sing REMINDER: Newsletter Articles are Due Sunday, July 19th
MISSIONARY OF THE MONTH
DARWIN & KAREN STOESZ - JAPAN
Darwin first arrived in Japan in 1994 and spent a year teaching English. After he married Karen, they arrived in Japan in 2004 and served as short-term missionaries for two years. In 2008, they returned to Japan as career missionaries. After a period of language study, the Lord continues to provide for them as they work in various capacities. Darwin has served SEND Japan as Business Manager since June 2013. As part of the office staff, Darwin finds it meaningful to serve fellow missionaries and Japanese staff in ways that enable them to concentrate on the ministry the Lord has called them to. Karen serves as SEND Japan’s Area Women’s representative and on the Board of Directors at Christian Academy in Japan, whose mission is to “equip students to serve Japan and the world for Christ.” They have two daughters, Anna and Clara, who both attend Christian Academy in Japan.
RON & JEANNIE SECK-HUNGARY
Hello, and for some of our prayer partners, HELLO again. I am resending our prayer update, due to a lot of online glitches and returned emails encountered yesterday. Please excuse the repeat, but we do want to make sure that the prayer update gets to all of our faithful prayer supporters. Thank you for your understanding and your care. Hello to all our prayer partners in this unique time in history! This is a time unlike any other, but all times are in God’s compassionate hands. Truly, we agree with the Prophet Habakkuk when he said: “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known...” Habakkuk 3:2 NIV Ron and I would like to share with you some of the wonderful happenings in Central Europe and the Balkans among the numerous CHE teams. Please check out the new blogs on the Happenings page on our website, especially on the Our Teams section: https://justaseck.wordpress.com/category/happenings/ Thank you for your concern and your prayers! For His Kingdom come, Jeannie and Ron Seck
AMANDA BENSON - PHILIPPINES
A Brief Update & The Pursuit June 1, 2020 A BRIEF UPDATE At this point, my life is a waiting game. I am still hoping to return to the Philippines around July 20, but no one knows when the Philippines will start issuing visas to foreigners again. I’ve heard from two separate sources that there are rumors they may not give foreign visas until January. Of course, I’m really hoping that isn’t true. Faith Academy has decided to push back the start of school from August 6 to August 24, when Filipino schools are set to re-open (though the President has also said they may not meet for school if there is no vaccine). If new and returning staff are not yet able to enter the country, my guess is that we will start online on August 24. Please pray with me that the country will at least start issuing visas for workers so that myself and the other staff would be able to get to the Philippines in time to start school. I am praising God that I have peace about this and am trusting Him, since I have absolutely no control over what happens. I know His will will be done!
THE PURSUIT Imagine with me, if you will. A young woman, going about her normal business, one day meets a very handsome man. He is the most attractive man she has ever seen. She blushes as he starts talking to her, and butterflies fill her stomach. She can’t believe someone so handsome would talk to the likes of her. This man says that he actually knows who she is (not in a creepy way…), and that he has been interested in getting to know her more. They exchange numbers, and the young woman is flabbergasted as she continues on her business. The rest of the day, she can’t stop thinking about this man. That evening, her heart skips a beat as she sees his ID come up on her phone. He actually called her! They talk for a long time, and at the end of the conversation, he asks her to go to dinner the next evening. The next evening, the man picks her up. She is shocked when she finds out he drives a really, really fancy car. She had never known someone who had such a nice car! She thought people only drove those in the movies and in places where she could never afford to live. Then, the man takes her to the fanciest restaurant in town. Throughout the evening, the woman wonders why this man is pursuing her and why he is so interested in her. She really doesn’t have much. I mean, she has enough to get buy, take a vacation now and again, and buy a few things she wants. But this? She had never seen such riches. But even more than the riches and the stunning looks of this man was the man himself. When they talked, it was like a river of life flowed into her soul. He was wise, funny, caring, intelligent, and so much more. He was more than she could have ever asked for in a man. And every time they were together, when he looked at her, it was almost like he could see into her soul. The way he talked to her made her feel like she was the most important person in the room. She knew she was going to marry this guy – not for his money, but because of who he was. As they continued dating, it didn’t take long to find out that the man felt the same way about the woman. Soon, the two were married. The woman was amazed at the wealth of the man, but she didn’t care about that. Sure, his virtually unending riches were a nice perk, but she was so deeply enthralled with who the man was that she really didn’t care about the riches. She loved him, and he loved her. As time went on, the man continually pursued the woman, bringing her flowers and gifts, spending time with her, taking her on vacations, and loving her deeply, and she grew deeper in her love for him. One day, as she was out and about, she noticed a bum on the street begging for money. As she went over to give him some, he started talking to her. He told her that he could give her the best chocolate she had ever had in her life. Now, the woman really LOVED chocolate, and she had had some of the finest chocolates with her husband. But could there be another one she hadn’t had? When she asked for the chocolate, the man wouldn’t give it to her. He said she needed to go with him to his home if she wanted it. She definitely didn’t want to do that, so she left. She went home and told her husband about the bum and the conversation they had. The man didn’t seem surprised by the bum on the street, and he told his wife that the bum’s chocolate would be good for a bit but that it would leave her empty. He told her that she had all she needed with him, and that he had given her anything she could ever want. But now the woman wasn’t so sure, but she didn’t tell her husband so. The next day, she returned to the same spot, and the bum was there again. Again, she gave him some money, and he told her about his chocolate and asked if she would go with him. She still wasn’t so sure, but she was extremely curious. Her husband’s warning came to her mind, and so she decided to not go with the bum. But time and time again, the bum continued to ask her to come with him. She stopped telling her husband about the encounters, and as the days passed, her curiosity grew and his warning seemed more and more frivolous, until one day, she decided to go with the bum. The bum led the woman down an alleyway that she had never seen before. She was nervous as she followed him, but her curiosity was so great that she continued to follow him. They eventually ended up in a very run-down building, and he said it was his home. He said that what he had for her was inside. He said it was the greatest thing she could ever have. She followed him into the house, excited for this awesome chocolate. He took out a chocolate bar and showed it to her. He said it was the best chocolate bar in the world, and that if she ate it, she would never want any other chocolate ever again. She asked what she had to do to have it. The bum told her that it wasn’t much, just to come visit him every day here at his house. And to prove it, he gave her a small bite of chocolate. She was shocked at the sensations that filled her mouth as that small piece of chocolate melted inside. It truly was like no other chocolate that she had ever had before. She wanted more. But despite her pleading, he would not give her more. He told her that she had to come back tomorrow, and he made her leave. She hated leaving, and as she went back to her house and her husband, all she could think about now was that chocolate and how she could get more. Her husband noticed she was distracted and not herself. He noticed that she had a distant look in her eyes. So he asked if they could spend some time together that evening. The woman reluctantly said yes, but was distant the whole time they were together. The husband was increasingly worried by his wife’s behavior, thinking more and more about the bum that she had mentioned to him before. He knew the effect that bum and his chocolate could have on people. So he decided to continue to pursue his wife and see if she would come back to him. But as time went on, the woman saw the bum more and more. Pretty soon, she didn’t want to leave his house. She asked the bum if she could move in with him, and he said she could. When she didn’t go back to her house, her husband went to the bum’s house. He knew where the bum lived. When he showed up at the door, the woman answered, not realizing it was her husband. She was shocked and embarrassed when he showed up, so she ran from the door and hid. The man walked in and followed her, asking her to come back. He reminded her of his love for her. He reminded her of how she had everything she could ever want. He tried to open her eyes to how she was now staying in a run down house with a bum who didn’t love her and only wanted to use her. But she didn’t listen. She told him to leave and to not come back. The chocolate and the bum were what she really wanted, or at least that is what she told him. The man left, but he didn’t give up his pursuit. He sent her flowers. He wrote her letters. He sent others to try to talk to her. And yet she continued to stay with the bum. She loved the chocolate she got every day, even though the bum was mean to her and used her for whatever he wanted. She ignored all the pursuits of her husband. He wouldn’t understand this chocolate. He had everything he wanted. However, after months and months of this, the chocolate started to not taste so good…not because the chocolate was bad, but because the bum hated her. She was starting to despise him and the chocolate he gave her. She wasn’t sure she really wanted what he had to offer anymore. She thought of her husband. She thought of how He had pursued her, even though she continually turned him and his gifts away. She thought of the time they first met and how he had loved her, even though she was well below him. And then the tears started flowing. She had given up everything for this. For what? For a torn down house with someone who didn’t love her and who only gave her this chocolate every day. She thought about going back to him. But could he really love her after she had left him and lived with this other man for all that time? Could he love her after she gave her love to another? Was it too late? That day, her husband happened to send another letter asking her to come home, and she knew. She knew that she could go back to him. So she did. The bum tried to get her to stay with the promise of more and greater chocolate, but she knew he was lying. She knew that chocolate was worthless compared to the love she had from her husband. As she ran back to her house, her rags contrasting with the great beauty of her home. And as she walked up the steps to the house, she didn’t even have to knock. The door burst open, and her husband rushed out to her, scooping her up in his arms. And he held her as tightly as he could. She wept as she apologized for her actions. He forgave her, ready to move forward, so excited that she was home again. ~~~~~~
This story came to my mind over the past month as I studied Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Hosea, and I realized that this is exactly how Israel treated God. God said that He was the husband of Israel, and yet they whored themselves after other gods who could offer them absolutely nothing. They pursued man-made idols that could never satisfy them. Yet the temporary pleasures that were offered to them consistently drew them away from God – the One who offered them everything: abundant life, blessings, and most of all, Himself. And as I thought about this, I was deeply convicted about how I do the exact same things in my own life. Jesus calls the church His bride, which means that He is our husband. In Him are the deepest blessings and riches one could ever have, and they are unending. And those are just the fleeting side benefits compared to knowing Christ. We have a relationship with the God who created the universe, who is sovereign over all things, who gives the greatest gifts, who knows the depths of our hearts, who loves us unconditionally, who will never fail. And yet, so often we turn aside to other things. It’s not that I have walked away from Christ and turned to some “big” sin. In fact, I don’t even know that my actions are even sins. But how often in my day do I have the opportunity to spend time with God, and instead I choose to waste hours watching Netflix, scrolling on Facebook or playing a game on my phone? (I’m not saying those How often do I sense His invitation to go deeper, and instead I hesitate, finding other things to fill my time? I am just like this woman so often, where I have times where I want nothing other than to be with God, but then something else starts to grab my attention, and I forget that God is the only One who can fully satisfy me. And yet, even when I turn away, God relentlessly pursues me. He draws me back. He wants me to come back. He wants me to be with Him. What a mind-blowing thought! Throughout this time of a slower-paced life, I have had a lot of extra time. I have had to slow down. How often when I’m busy have I thought, “When I have more time, I’ll spend more time with God?” And now that I have it, do I do it? I can honestly say that I have been able to take more unhurried time with God most mornings during my devotions, which has been awesome. I also have been able to do a Bible study with a friend, which I haven’t done in years (which was all about the I AM statements of Christ in John, which focused on finding our satisfaction in Him alone). I LOVED doing the Bible study at night before bed. As I started the Bible study, I loved spending that extra time in the evenings with God. But now that it’s over, I already am slipping back into finding other things to fill my time. I’ve never been married, but from what I’ve heard from others, it’s hard. It is hard to constantly love one another, putting each other first. This is a moment-by-moment choice. And it is the same with Christ. I need to choose each and every moment of each and every day to put Christ first, following Him and loving Him with my whole heart. He is always there, pursuing me and wanting to go deeper. He won’t force me, but He is always inviting me to go deeper. What will I choose? What will you choose? Praises • I am fully supported and am just awaiting the green light to be able to go back into the country. • I have been thoroughly enjoying my extra time with my family! • I have peace and trust in God about not knowing when I’ll be able to go back to the Philippines. Prayer Requests • Pray that the Philippines would open its borders soon to foreigners so that I can return to the Philippines. • Pray that I would continue to choose the invitation of God to go deeper with Him. • Pray for safety as I do a bit of traveling this month. Pray that I would be wise in what I do and that I would not pick up Covid and bring it back to my parents. Ongoing Prayer Requests • That God would give me wisdom and balance in how I spend my time while I’m on furlough. • That God will allow me to return to the Philippines at just the right time, and I will be patient as I wait. • That God will refresh me spiritually and deepen my relationship with Him while I’m on furlough.
Missionary Contact Info.
Missionary Contact Info. Amanda Benson: Website: send.org/benson Email: email@example.com Address: 113 E. Leighton St., Brandon, SD 57005 Tax-deductible donations can be sent to: SEND International PO BOX 513, Farmington, MI 48332, Missionary #169352 Ron & Jeannie Seck: Website: https://justaseck.wordpress.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Darwin & Karen Stoesz: Address: 1-6-27-D Shinbori, Niiza Shi, Saitama Ken, 352-0032 JAPAN How To Give to North American Baptist Missionaries: Step 1: Go to the NAB’s new missions webpage nabonmission.org. Step 2: Click on the “missionaries” label. Step 3: Click on the national missionary to whom you would like to designate your support. Step 4: Click on the “give to..” button on the national workers page. Step 5: Fill out the form. All gifts given through the NAB are tax deductible.
How To Give to North American Baptist Missionaries: Step 1: Go to the NAB’s new missions webpage nabonmission.org. Step 2: Click on the “missionaries” label. Step 3: Click on the national missionary to whom you would like to designate your support. Step 4: Click on the “give to..” button on the national workers page. Step 5: Fill out the form. All gifts given through the NAB are tax deductible.