September 2020 Newsletter

Word from the Pastor: The Lure of Worldly Power

They have started to sprout up in earnest this fall, all over people’s yards. No, not dandelions or thistles. But political signs. They’re everywhere. Trump-Pence. Biden-Harris. Greenfield. Ernst. Young. Axne. Like weeds in spring, they are coming into the full bloom of election season. And I haven’t even mentioned the ads on TV. Recently, I was watching TV at my in-laws’ house. They live in Nebraska, but they get Sioux City television stations. And as we watched Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune together (don’t judge), nearly every other ad was a nasty volley in the Ernst-Greenfield match. I felt like I needed to wash my hands after witnessing such grimy mudslinging.

People these days say that this election matters more than any other in our lifetimes. Whether that’s certifiably true, time will tell. People are certainly investing a lot of meaning into the outcome of who becomes our president, senators, and representatives. And there do seem to be some vivid fantasies wrapped up in the electoral fortunes of this year’s candidates. True believers on the Left and the Right believe that if they can only get their people in the right places, then voilà, their agendas will be enacted, and a glorious reign of peace and prosperity will ensue.

Magic. Just like that.

My concern is not with the unceasing melodrama of politics, but my concern is when Christians get swept up into the fantasies of secular politics—when culture warring becomes a substitute for faith and prayer. I know plenty of conservative Christians who fantasize—along with their brethren in the GOP—about seizing all the levers of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) in order to enact the Kingdom of God on earth. And I know plenty of liberal Christians who fantasize—along with their Democratic brethren—about capturing the government in order to carry out their vision of a kinder, gentler society.

But their mistake is the same: they conflate the Kingdom of God with the Kingdom of Humanity.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, after his baptism, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” And this was Jesus’ chance: the world had been under control of the Evil One for ages. So he could have taken the helm of all the world governments of his day—the Roman Empire, the Han Dynasty, the chiefdoms of northern Europe, the tribes of Africa—in an instant and established himself as King over all. Voilà! Magic! And, as a bonus, Jesus wouldn’t have to suffer or die. It was a shortcut of sorts.

But this was not The Plan To Save The World. This was not God’s vision for a restored creation. The only way to fix things was for Jesus to smash the current, broken order, not just to perpetuate it. So Jesus said to the devil, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:8-10) The way that Jesus would become King of kings was not through collusion with the Prince of Darkness, but by taking on the sins of the world and dying on the cross and then by rising from the tomb to reverse death in the world. Then, when the time is right, Jesus will return and establish himself as Lord over all. That was—and is—The Plan.

As Christians living in a polarized and highly politicized culture, we need to remember that Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). If it were, we would definitely need to mobilize and fight like the Dickens in order to preserve his order from the hordes at the gate. But it’s not. And we don’t have to. Even the powers of Hades will not prevail against Jesus’ Kingdom. Our citizenship is ultimately in heaven, and we look there for our leadership (Philippians 3:20).

So please vote this fall. Hold your nose, if you need to. Mute those political ads on TV and preserve your sanity. But most of all, pray for God’s world. Pray for the Real Kingdom to arrive. And quickly.

Pastor Ray

The Life of Our Church

Online or In-Person Services

We are open in a “new normal”! Feel free to worship in-person, with common-sense precautions (e.g., masks and keeping social distance). But if you are uncomfortable coming to worship, you may worship virtually through our YouTube channel. We will stream the service live, and the service will be archived after that.

Please visit and subscribe to our YouTube channel to discover our videos:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo7rD-aUmWcKtM6wKohlKBw

Ray’s Church Hours

A new semester at Iowa Western has arrived, and with it a new batch of classes that Ray is teaching. He has afternoon classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and a morning class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So as of now: Ray will be in the office Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, or by appointment.

World Mission Offering

We will receive the WMO on Sundays, September 20 and 27. Learn more at: https://www.internationalministries.org/world-mission-offering/

Diaconate Meeting

The deacons will meet after worship on Sunday, September 13.

Supporting Our Church

It is important that we all continue to support our church’s mission during this pandemic. Please give generously in worship or by mail (or drop in the mail slot): 710 Walnut Street, Atlantic, IA 50022. Thank you!

Sunday School

“Socially Distanced Sunday School” has resumed! Bring your Bible and a friend. Every Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

ABWM

American Baptist Women’s Ministries will meet on Wednesday, September 16, at 1:30 p.m.

Looking Ahead: Quarterly Congregational Meeting and Potluck Lunch

Our next congregational meeting will be after worship on Sunday, October 11, preceded by a potluck lunch.

Just Pray

Pray for each other. Pray for the world. Pray for God’s kingdom to come quickly. Just pray. There are many (free) resources to guide your prayers, so take advantage of them!

  1. The Secret Place: magazine (in our church), Web site, app for Apple or Android
  2. Our Daily Bread: Web site, app for Apple or Android
  3. The Upper Room: Web site, app for Apple or Android
  4. Daily Prayer (from the Church of England): Web site, app for Apple or Android

Stay Connected!

Facebook: Follow our Facebook page for updates and alerts.

(https://www.facebook.com/firstbaptistatlantic)

Text: Subscribe to our text message service for prayer requests and updates: Text (712) 250-1607 to be added.

YouTube: Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/Uco7rD-aUmWcKtM6wKohlKBwNewsletter: Visit our Web site and subscribe to receive our newsletter (blog) by email (at the bottom-left of the homepage). https://fbcatlantic.wordpress.com.

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