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New Year, New Time!

New Time Flier.jpgStarting January 6, our Sunday worship service will begin at 10:30am.

Join us so together we can share the love of Jesus in Bennington.

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I’m Thankful

I have a lot to be thankful for, especially as the Pastor of First Baptist Church. On my bad days I too often focus on my shortcomings and failures, but not today. Today is a day for thanking God what he has done in and through us this year.

I’m thankful for each and every person God has allowed me to know and love this year through the various aspects of the ministry here at First Baptist. Some have become close as family. Some have passed through quickly. To love and be loved by each and every one has been a blessing. To be even a small part of your growth in faith, hope, and love continues to be a thrill.

I’m thankful for the new members God sent to us this year and the baptisms we celebrated. He’s growing His church!

I’m thankful for the spiritual, emotional, and physical healings we have experienced among us and many other answered prayers. The Holy Spirit is working powerfully in many ways.

I’m thankful for the Gospel of Mark. We’ve taken a slow walk through the book of Mark together this year on Sunday mornings in our sermon series. It has been wonderful to get to know Jesus all the more each week.

I’m thankful for the joy and honor of worshiping God together each week. There is absolutely nothing like joining with brothers and sisters regularly.

I’m thankful for music, which has a unique power of expression. I’m thankful I get to play some music in church in various contexts, and also very thankful for Charlie Marshall, a wonderful man and fabulous church musician too.

I’m thankful for our Bible Study series this year, and each who participated. We’ve done 3 different studies: The Walk, Heaven, and Forgotten God. Each has been impactful in different ways. I love getting together each week to open the Bible together and be led by God’s Spirit. I’m thankful God keeps sending folks to join us…so many that we had to start another meeting!

I’m thankful for the kids, families, and leaders of our Youth Group. These young people are growing in their faith and it is wonderful to see and be a part of. I’m especially thankful God sent us Chris and Michelle H to help us lead and love these kids who fill our home each week. I’m also thankful for a fabulous Youth Sunday as well as Youth Lake Day this year.

I’m thankful for the amazing opportunity to regularly write newspaper columns about faith in Jesus. I did about 12 this year. I love writing, and every now and then I hear from someone who has been impacted by my feeble words.

I’m thankful for my friends in the recovery community, especially my friends in AA, the Turning Point and Celebrate Recovery. Each person shows a unique courage and strength to carry on in the face of so many challenges. I’m thankful for the chance to pray together regularly after meetings. It has also been an honor to host monthly Mercy Street meetings, to welcome folks in to be prayed for, to sing together, to eat together, to share stories together. Together we are so much stronger, and I’m thankful. I’m especially thankful for the wonderful Maundy Thursday service we enjoyed as a church and recovery community together.

I’m thankful for the organizations sharing our building who are serving various needs in our community, especially for the new ones this year that serve the recovery community: Hawthorn Recovery, Turning Point, and Celebrate Recovery. Each of these is a direct result of strong relationships in the community, and I’m thankful to be partners in supporting our community.

I’m thankful for the little ones in our church family and those that help teach and care for them each Sunday. I’m thankful for the older and wiser ones among us, who have long been faithful and have much to give.

I’m thankful for the Church Life Board who faithfully serves many needs of the church, for the Trustees who make sure things run well, as well as for John and Melissa who take care of so many things for us. I’m also thankful for those who volunteer much time and effort in various ways.

I’m thankful for the special events we had this year. Many joined us for our special Community Good Friday service, which was a highlight. Our table at Mayfest was a great way to meet many folks in town, as was our week of Summer Kids Camp (along with Missionary Alliance Church and Green Mountain Church). We had a ton of people at our Outreach Cookout too!

I’m thankful for the fun and service of our regular events like the Tag Sales and Bazaars.

I’m thankful the church decided to move our worship service back to 10:30am starting in January. I hope and pray this opens the door for others to join us who many not have otherwise.

I’m mostly thankful for Jesus, who loves us all far more than we can imagine. I’m thankful for his forgiveness of my many sins and shortcomings, and for hope and love he is giving us more and more.

I’m thankful for each of these things, but I’m mostly thankful for what they all represent: God’s powerful and amazing love to me and to all of us, and God’s love through us to others. Through the power of the Holy Spirit God is doing amazing things in our lives and relationships and amazing things here in Bennington and beyond.

Gratefully,
Pastor Bob

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:17)

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory. (Psalm 115:1)

Jesus said: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

 

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Our current Bible Study (Tues at 7pm or Wed at 3pm) is focusing on the Holy Spirit, using material from Francis Chan’s Forgotten God. I recently compiled a bunch of information from the material and included the scripture references. Come join us to check it out, or if you must, here’s a link to the document: Who is the Holy Spirit? I hope and pray it is helpful to you.

Homeless Hearts

Image result for homelessSome of my friends happen to be homeless. Perhaps you’ve seen them, or folks in similar situations, around town. I just met some folks who are finally emerging from a life of addiction. They are thankful for the local shelter and the Turning Point, but finding a long-term home seems nearly impossible, which undermines their stability and ability to find a better life. But they keep striving.

Although troubling, to say the least, physical homelessness is relatively rare and often temporary. Spiritual homelessness, however, seems to be rampant and long-lasting, and no less troubling. Most of us, in my experience, have little or no healthy connection to a spiritual home. Our bodies may be clothed, fed, and sheltered, but our souls are not. We may experience temporary human love in our homes, but our experience of God’s eternal love is minimal. I am sure we all know the longing to connect with others, to know and be known, to be safe and supported, for the place where we can be our true selves: the longing for home.

Very few of us would choose to be physically homeless, but I did meet a fellow recently who described himself as a homeless veteran who travels from town to town. While his external appearance was a bit rough, he seemed happy and healthy. After sharing a cup of coffee together, I found him to be one of the most fascinating and enjoyable people I’ve ever met, and one of the most spiritually healthy and grounded. He may not have had some of the security, safety, and comforts that I think I have, but I could tell he had true faith, hope, and love, which are gifts from God himself. What he lacked in a physical home he made up for spiritually.

Most of us are just the opposite, myself included. If my immediate physical needs are taken care of, I tend to think I’m all set, and too often ignore my deeper, eternal needs. Multiplied out for a lifetime, I’m lulled and lured into spiritual homelessness. A nice pot of chili fills me up on a cold rainy day, but ultimately only masks my spiritual hunger. Meanwhile, Jesus says: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). A refreshing beverage may take the edge off after mowing the lawn, but ultimately only masks my spiritual thirst. But Jesus says: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). A warm bed and a toasty wood stove provides the physical rest I need after a long, cold day, but really only masks my need for spiritual rest. Again, Jesus says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). A place to call home here in town may satisfy a lot of my earthly needs, but it can’t fulfill my true need: to find my forever home in God himself.

Jesus said in John 14: “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I go and prepare a place for you.” A paraphrase of 1 Peter 2:11 says it like this: “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it.” And a very loose paraphrase of St. Augustine might go like this: “My heart is homeless until it finds its home in God.” Though on our own we are spiritually homeless, God has provided our eternal home with him, and the way into that home is Jesus himself who said, “I am the door.” And right after Jesus promised to go prepare a place for his followers, he told us how to get there: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

We come home to God only through Jesus, but we don’t come alone. None of us can make it far alone, so we have each other: fellow pilgrims for the journey in our local church families. So whether your local church home is Methodist, Pentecostal, Assembly of God, Alliance, Baptist, Presbyterian or whatever, if you hear God calling you, let’s head toward home arm in arm. Together we follow Jesus: celebrating, enjoying, and serving God with our whole hearts. Together we love our neighbors and serve our community with the power of God’s Spirit. Together we enjoy the support, security, and encouragement our spiritual home on earth as we look forward to our eternal home together with God.

Perhaps you’ve never been physically homeless, but there’s a good chance you’ve found yourself feeling spiritually homeless. Hear the gentle invitation of the old hymn chorus: “Come home, come home; You who are weary come home; Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling; Calling, O sinner, come home.”


Bob Wiegers is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Bennington, who invites you and yours to join us on the journey home.