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How long has it been since we have been able to turn on the television or radio and not hear about COVID-19 or protests over racial injustice?  While we agonize with news media overdose we cannot ignore the facts that today COVID-19 has no vaccine, and to date has taken more than 129,000 lives in the United States alone this year, compared to the seasonal flu, which does have a vaccine, and has taken between 24,000 – 62,000 lives, per the Centers for Disease Control.   At the same time, it has been highlighted that men of color are more subject to being stopped by police than their white counterparts simply because of the color of their skin.  This is wrong.  While disheartening, time and change will continue.  It will get better.  But there are other things happening in the world today that don’t make the news! 

For example, this year, within the Southern Baptist Convention, the International Mission Board (IMB), the organization which sends out missionaries, celebrates 175 years of sending and supporting our missionaries all around the world.   In May 1845, hundreds of Southern Baptist churches across the country realized that they could make more of an impact on the mission field collectively, than they could individually.  So the Foreign Mission Board (FMB) was formed as part of “one sacred effort, for the propagation of the gospel”.    Rebranded the IMB in 1997, it has sent out almost 25,000 missionaries to 185 countries since that first meeting 175 years ago.  Most recently, on June 9th, the IMB President, Dr. Paul Chitwood commissioned 61 missionaries by a virtual Sending Celebration because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board has been connecting Southern Baptists together in sharing Christ and planting new churches around the world.   “Throughout our 175-year history, Southern Baptists have maintained an uninterrupted witness among the nations, in spite of famines, wars, civil unrest and even – as we are experiencing right now - a pandemic,” Chitwood noted.  To commemorate this occasion, the IMB developed and launched an online interactive timeline at https://www.imb.org/175 outlining this history.  In it, you will find compelling stories, interesting facts, beautiful pictures, and many short powerful video clips.  Look for it. 

We also want to celebrate by advancing the missionary task in prayer.  The IMB is mobilizing 175,000 people to pray for 175 days in a coordinated effort this year.  On May 11, 2020, the IMB began sharing specific God-stories and prayer points from all around the world.   Join to push the gospel forward in prayer! Go to this link: https://www.imb.org/175pray

 Ways to get involved

Finally, you support funding the work of the IMB through your church giving to the Cooperative Fund with thousands of other churches.  Last year FBC Wentzville gave $36,000 in Cooperative giving and at Christmas we gave $15,000 through the Lottie Moon Christmas offering.  Your giving makes a difference.  As Dr. Chitwood said, “We’re grateful God has continued to expand His kingdom and allowed us to join Him in His work.  And there is still work to do.  That is why the IMB is still sending Southern Baptist missionaries.” 

Posted by Glen Locklear with
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        The First Baptist Church of Wakefield, Massachusetts was struck by lightning on October 23, 2018.  As a result, a seven-alarm fire spread quickly through the church and destroyed the building.  Somehow a single painting that hung in the front entrance of the church was unharmed.  It was a painting of Jesus standing with outstretched hands.1   In the middle of their heartbreak and devastating loss, the church members and pastor saw this painting as a sign of hope—a reminder from Jesus that “I AM still with you.”

In these uncertain, chaotic days that seem to go on and on, it helps to remember Jesus is still with us today.  When everything seems hopeless and out of control, we can go to God’s Word to be refreshed and strengthened and to be reminded of all Jesus continues to do for us.  One of the good places to begin our study of Jesus is in the Gospel of John. 

In John’s gospel, Jesus shocked the people around Him when He began to describe Himself as “I AM.”  The religious people of that day felt this was a title that could only be used for Almighty God and considered it blasphemy when Jesus applied it to Himself.  They based their belief on Exodus 3:13-14: 

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’  Then what shall I tell them?”  God said to Moses, I AM who I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

 Despite the opposition, Jesus continued to use this phrase to describe Himself.  He also stated in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one,” which amazed the religious people of His day.  Let’s expand our view of who Jesus is by looking at seven ‘I AM’s’ of Jesus in the Gospel of John.   

  1. I AM the Bread of Life (John 6:35)

At the beginning of chapter 6, Jesus feeds the 5,000.  The crowd then discovers that not only could Jesus heal them, He could feed them too!  Jesus’ popularity surges to the point where they are about to make Him King over them (John 6:15). In response—and to ensure their zeal doesn’t hasten God’s plan—Jesus withdraws to the mountain to be alone.  The crowd seeks Him because they want Him to continue to do what He did yesterday and heal them and feed them.  Instead of physical needs, Jesus offers them and us eternal bread that gives eternal life.

  1. I AM the Light of the World (John 8:12; 9:5)

There are many lights in this world and we can choose to follow any of them.   Following “a” light can lead you anywhere. Following THE light leads to salvation. When Jesus declares Himself as a light, it is no ordinary light.  He is “THE” Light, and is sufficient for the whole world to follow.  Let Jesus be our Light and share “THE” Light with others.

  1. I AM the Door (some translations read “Gate”) (John 10:7)

Just as there are many lights, there are many doors and each door leads somewhere.  Jesus is not one of those many doors; He is “THE” door—the exclusive means of access to God the Father.  Don’t miss the DOOR!

  1. I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14-15)

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, loves us, leads us, cares for us, and laid down His life for us.  As our Good Shepherd, Jesus isn’t merely leading us here and there with no goal.  He is leading us on a spiritual journey to God the Father Himself.  During trying times, remember: the Lord is our Shepherd, and we have everything we need.

  1. I AM the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26)

The life Jesus imparts to us is not merely the hope that one day we’ll die and go to heaven.  Jesus is the source of eternal life.  When we know Jesus, we too have resurrection and life.  We can approach life and its many challenges, trials, and storms with a sense of hope and power in Jesus.

  1. I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)

There are many “ways” or “paths” in this world, but despite what the world would have us believe, there is only one way to God the Father.  Jesus is the way we live here and the way we lead others to live while here on earth.  Jesus isn’t a truth or the spokesperson for truth.  He is literally everything God wanted to say to sinful man in this world.  Jesus gives life and through His earthly example defines the life we are all meant to live.

  1. I AM the True Vine (John 15:1-4)

Jesus states He is the true vine. This vine never dies, and it is the source of life and fruit for all vines in the vineyard.  Without connection to the Christ-Vine, the branches and the fruit wither quickly and die in the heat of the sun.  The vineyard is a metaphor for fruitfulness.  Jesus said, “Abide in me,” and as we abide, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the places He wants us to go and bear fruit that honors God.  Stay attached to the Vine!

 This is only a feeble attempt to describe some of the attributes of Jesus—He is indescribable and so much more than my mind can even begin to grasp.  But, even though we cannot totally comprehend His greatness, we can ask God to give us strength and wisdom to make Jesus, the Great I AM, change who we are.

I recently read the following poem by Helen Mallicoat2 and it’s a perfect reminder of where our focus should be in both good times and difficult times:

 

My Name is I AM

 I was regretting the past 
and fearing the future. 
Suddenly my Lord was speaking:
“My name is I AM.”

 He paused.

I waited.

He continued…

“When you live in the past

with its mistakes and regrets,

 it is hard. I am not there. 
My name is not I WAS.

When you live in the future

with its problems and fears,

 It is hard. I am not there. 
My name is not I WILL BE.

When you live in this moment, 
it is not hard. I am here. 
My name is I AM.”

  

  1. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jesus-painting-survives-fire-that-destroyed-150-year-old-church-in-massachusetts/
  2. https://www.comeaside.com/my-name-is-I-am.html

 

Posted by Dee Schneider with

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