If Only

Psalm 81


           Three times a year Jewish men and their families were expected to appear ‘before’ the Lord in Jerusalem at one of the major worship gatherings. One of those festivals commemorated the years God’s people wandered in the wilderness wandering in tents. Once settled in the land, God’s people built homes, created villages, established trading routes, and other necessary structures for community life. Reverting back to tents for a few days each year was to recall the transitory nature of life, the feeling of dependence on God, and the sense of community created by close living quarters.

           Re-enacting this decades long experience in just a few days, however, was more often than not a reminder of failure. How many times did God’s people drift from their allegiance to Him as they wandered? An entire generation of adults died in those 40 years because of one massively wrong decision.

           As God’s people would gather for the Feast of Tabernacles one can almost hear God say, as the psalmist suggests… “If only my people would obey me! If only Israel would keep my commands!” (Psalm 81:13, NET).

           If only…. What might our lives have been like ‘if only’ we had made different choices? Where would be living ‘if only’ we’d chosen another path? Though we all have regrets about past choices, God’s promise is for today. If only we obey Him today, our enemy would be subdued, our adversaries would be cowering in fear, and we would experience fullness instead of the gnawing sense of emptiness that often characterizes our lives.

           If only…

           We cannot change the past, but we can determine our direction for today.

Fasten Your Seatbelt

Community Baptist Church • October 21, 2020

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Why I Give to the LMCO

Community Baptist Church • October 15, 2020



As Christmas season comes around again, people begin to think of decorated trees, tables and arches, mistletoe, manger scenes, and GIFTS! Eggnog, candy canes, cookies, luscious dinners, caroling, family visits, snow, ice skating, ski trips, tobogganing, and sledding. As an IMB SBC missionary for more than three decades out here — I pen these words on Oct. 5, 2020 in Chile, where spring has sprung — what do I think about? Well, for starters, heat, BBQ, watermelon, and firecrackers. Yes, we do put up a tree, and give gifts, but at the other end of the globe, and below the equator, it is summer. No turkeys are even available in most places where missionaries serve. What I think about more than anything is the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the offering that Southern Baptist churches, partners, missionaries and their kids support at this time of the year, and which pays for our support and which keeps us, more than 3,600 missionaries and their children, on the field. At this time, of the year four key words come to my mind:

-GRATITUDE: How thankful we are for the billions of dollars that SBC churches and individuals have poured out over so many decades in an offering of gratitude and praise to the Baby in a manger. It is an offering of gratitude to the One who was incarnated, who grew up, set up His tent among us, led a sinless human life, and then gave His life for a lost world. He then rose again on the third day and ascended into heaven, where He intercedes at the right hand of the Father for all who believe in Him. We share Him with the lost world, and we do it because of faithful giving to the LMCO.

-LOSTNESS: I think of Kara and Bruno, Kara’s two-year-old boy. We met them on a prayer walk yesterday near our home in Chile. Kara was sitting on a bench. We approached her and found that she lives here and is married to a Chilean. She speaks English, and her father was a diplomat. She talked about how she often feels lonely, not knowing when she will see her family again. We gave her a tract, called “Steps to Peace with God,” and left. We now pray regularly for her and pray she will call us, or that we can meet again.

-OPPORTUNITY: Our Lottie Moon offerings — yours and mine — pay for missionary rent, missionary health care, medications, food, and fuel. They even pay for the tract I gave to Mrs. Kara yesterday. The offerings also pay for us to share Theological, Biblical and Pastoral training with pastors and leaders in the interior of a country. Many potential pastors have never been to the capital and cannot easily go there to study in the seminary. Many people, like Pastor Raul, studied that way. Pastor Raul is a seminary teacher and pastors three churches in Uruguay’s outback. He also serves as the Secretary of the Uruguay Baptist Convention All this happened because of gifts to the Cooperative Program and our faithful giving to LMCO.

-SACRIFICE: When God gave his son Jesus for a lost world, He gave his best. He gave his only, and He gave just what we needed. He so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son (John. 3:16). When I give my LMCO offering, I want it to be my best. I want it to be sacrificial, and I want it to be something that costs until it almost hurts. I make it my most expensive Christmas gift. I do not want to give to the risen Lord something as an afterthought. I want it to be well thought out, planned and sacrificial. Is that not the Spirit of Christmas? God gave us the best, His only and just what we needed. So why do I — an IMB SBC missionary of more than three decades — give to LMCO? Because I believe the offering is well utilized and administered, and I believe that I am privileged to do so.

Tim Kunkel Santiago Chile

OCT, 15 th 2020

Heb. 6:10

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Revive. Restore, Renew

Steven W. Schenewerk • October 14, 2020

Psalm 80


           Within a generation after the death of King David God’s people were divided. Ten tribes settled in the north of the Promised Land and two tribes remained in and around Jerusalem. The people of the north suffered a succession of families who wrestled leadership from one another. Samaria was built in order to be a capitol city. Their first ‘king’ of the created an entire religious system, borrowed from their own past revolving around golden calves.

           The southern ‘nation’ was ruled by descendants of David. Some were godly men, others not quite so much. Yet when Samaria fell to the Assyrians the tribes in the south felt the fall in a deeply personal way. Those ten tribes were family. To see family humiliated and exiled from their land and to see foreigners who knew nothing of the sacredness of the land take their place was heartbreaking.

           This lament, authored by the musicians of the Temple, reflects how deeply felt the fall of Samaria was experienced. Prayer for deliverance appears to be lost in the smoke of God’s wrath. Tears of sorrow, the agony of defeat while enemies rejoiced is out of character for the people whom God had rescued from Egypt.

           In our tumultuous times it can seem as though God’s favor has been transformed into wrath. Where we once experienced triumph and joy we now seem to see tragedy and despair. When we reflect on where we’ve come from and where we are headed, we feel shame instead of confidence.

           As the prayer of lament concludes the musicians pray for God to raise up one whom He can use to restore God’s people. Restoration, revival can only happen when God’s people affirm as one, Jesus (the One who is at the right hand of God) is Lord.

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REPUTATIONS

Steven W. Schenewerk • October 06, 2020

Psalm 79

Where were you on Sept 11,2001? Most people over the age of 30 vividly remember planes flying into the World Trade Towers in New York City and the Pentagon. We remember audio from Flight 93 as the plane was turned towards Washington DC, targeting either the Capitol Building or the White House. Shock, horror, fear, anger, burst forth all at once.

           Asaph, a singer in the Temple court of Israel watched as an enemy devastated Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple of the God of Israel. He sings of his fear, anger, frustration, and shock.

           Asaph wonders aloud, “How long will this go on, O Lord? Will you stay angry forever? How long will your rage burn like fire?” (Psalm 79:5, NET).  Though Asaph could point to a specific example – the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian army; though we can point to events like 9/11/01 – all of us experience seasons that cause us to ask the same question – How long, O Lord?

           Two notable features of this song. First, notice the pronouns Asaph uses –

O God, foreigners have invaded your chosen land; they have polluted your holy temple and turned Jerusalem into a heap of ruins. They have given the corpses of your servants to the birds of the sky; the flesh of your loyal followers to the beasts of the earth.” (Psalm 79:1–2, NET).        

Second, the psalmist sings, “Help us, O God, our deliverer! For the sake of your glorious reputation, rescue us! Forgive our sins for the sake of your reputation!” (Psalm 79:9, NET) His concern is not with the nation’s reputation nor the standing of the servants.

When we ask, How long O Lord, are we asking for God to protect His reputation or ours?

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REPUTATIONS

Psalm 79

Where were you on Sept 11,2001? Most people over the age of 30 vividly remember planes flying into the World Trade Towers in New York City and the Pentagon. We remember audio from Flight 93 as the plane was turned towards Washington DC, targeting either the Capitol Building or the White House. Shock, horror, fear, anger, burst forth all at once.

           Asaph, a singer in the Temple court of Israel watched as an enemy devastated Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple of the God of Israel. He sings of his fear, anger, frustration, and shock.

           Asaph wonders aloud, “How long will this go on, O Lord? Will you stay angry forever? How long will your rage burn like fire?” (Psalm 79:5, NET). Though Asaph could point to a specific example – the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian army; though we can point to events like 9/11/01 – all of us experience seasons that cause us to ask the same question – How long, O Lord?

           Two notable features of this song. First, notice the pronouns Asaph uses –

O God, foreigners have invaded your chosen land; they have polluted your holy temple and turned Jerusalem into a heap of ruins. They have given the corpses of your servants to the birds of the sky; the flesh of your loyal followers to the beasts of the earth.” (Psalm 79:1–2, NET).       

Second, the psalmist sings, “Help us, O God, our deliverer! For the sake of your glorious reputation, rescue us! Forgive our sins for the sake of your reputation!” (Psalm 79:9, NET) His concern is not with the nation’s reputation nor the standing of the servants.

When we ask, How long O Lord, are we asking for God to protect His reputation or ours?

Psalm 78 Learning from the Past?

Learning from the Past?

Psalm 78


           This extended meditation on the failure of past generations and hope in the present generation is a powerful reminder that history must be communicated. Every generation has an assignment to tell the coming generations of their failures – and their successes. The primary teachers of the Israelites were not professional educators but parents. Parents were charged by God to remind succeeding generations of the works and ways of God.

           Daily we are reminded of our history as a nation. Most of what we hear are the failures:  failure to address slavery, failure to create an equitable economy, failure to provide appropriate educational opportunities for all, regardless of race or ethnicity.

           As the psalmist reminds readers of the past he also highlights God’s faithfulness to His covenant - “Yet [God] was compassionate; He atoned for their guilt and did not destroy them. He often turned His anger aside and did not unleash all His wrath.” (Psalm 78:38, HCSB) Remember though just  because God often ‘turned aside’ His anger, however, His people suffered terrible consequences of unbelief and rebellion (see vs 56-66).

           The psalmist ended his meditation with the assurance that God’s choice of David, of the tribe of Judah, would change the trajectory of Israel’s future. We who have read the Old Testament know that those hopes did not materialize. Israel, as an independent nation, did not survive long after the death of David and his son, Solomon.

           More days than not I wake and grieve for our nation. The deep divisions that fill our daily news appear to be growing. The upcoming election (Nov 3, 2020) and the choices offered may make the divisions deeper.

           I have no insight into the future. What I do have, I offer:

Learn from the past; listen to God’s Word;  live in the light of His words