First Baptist Church of Rahway, 177 Elm Ave., Rahway, New Jersey 07065 is a multi-cultural congregation that has a Blended English Service on Sunday Mornings, a Latino Service at 12:00, and a Service in Telugu at 3:30PM. For more information, call (732) 388-8626. Or click here to send an email. If you wish to help the Mission and Ministry of First Baptist financially click the Donate Button.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Go and Do Likewise

This past year I've been watching via the Internet a Do-It-Yourself rocket being built by a group of crazy Danes. The project is called; Rocket Shop and they appear to have a pretty good shot at succeeding in their goal of putting a man into a suborbital trajectory and returning him safely to the earth. I've been asking friends of mine who are engineers and physicists if these guys are for real, and they all have answered in the affirmative. So I have been watching them build a rocket out of donated and salvaged stuff in hopes of seeing them blast this thing into space someday.

Recently the Rocket Shop blog talked about the people who have volunteered to help with the project. They get lots of inquiries, but they accept only a small handful of these offers. The reason is that 99 percent of the people who offer help do not have the skills needed to create the rocket systems. Most of the offers come from rocket scientists who work on their computers all day. The Rocket Shop needs people who can design and fabricate the actual rocket and its systems. In other words; they need welders, machinists and mechanical engineers. They don’t need people who can design the systems; they need people who can make the systems. And so most people are turned away because they are thinkers and talkers, when the project needs doers.

I've noticed that we (humans in general) sure do like to think and talk a lot. We are not so good at the doing part of the equation. An example of this is at the Astronomy Club that I belong to. Most people who attend regularly do not own or operate a telescope. They have never worked out the mathematical equations that underlie the hobby. They have never fabricated any of the devices that are used to make gazing upon the heavens possible. I’m not saying this is bad. But without someone engaging in the above list, nothing else in the hobby is possible.

The same goes for churches. Everyone in the church world knows that 20 percent of the people do 100 percent of the work in a typical church. The 20 percent pay the bills, sing the songs and teach the children. The rest sit back and enjoy the show. In the Astronomy Club example I would say that there is nothing wrong with this scenario. In a church, there is.

Listen to the words of Jesus;

                The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Matthew 23:2-4.  (The Pharisees were good at talking, but not so good at doing).

            Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise. Luke 10:36-37. (The end of the Good Samaritan story praises the man who did something, not the ones who did nothing).

                So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12. (The Golden Rule is a statement demanding action. Jesus did not teach his followers to be passive).

My interpretation of these passages; Jesus required his followers to be doers. It is not enough to have faith in the Kingdom of Heaven. We must live out our faith.

                As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead. James 2:26.

Jesus did not sit on a mountain top and dispense words of wisdom. He traveled among people and did the work of the Kingdom of Heaven. Go and do likewise.


Pastor Bill

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Goodbye to a Real American Hero; C. Everett Koop

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop died this week at the age of 96. Christianity Today is featuring a series of articles on his life and impact. The link below is to an article on the triumphs and controversy's during his eight years as Surgeon General.

He was a man of real conviction who used the office to help as many people as possible. As a result, he took a great deal of emotional abuse from friends and foes. At one time or another, Dr. Koop was a lightning rod for every lobbying group in Washington. And he frequently defied the wishes of President Reagan. But Dr. Koop never wavered from his mission; using his office to help people who really needed  it.

God bless C. Everett Koop.

Link to article...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Can Debt be a Good Thing?

Debt in the Bible is always criticized. It is seen as creating poverty and misery. But is debt really that bad? The CEO of a small pharmaceutical company wrote an essay in Christianity Today that questions the negative concept of debt.

When we take the word debt and its allied concepts from the Bible and transpose them literally into our 21st-century economy, I wonder if we are not running afoul of misinterpretation. In biblical times, there were generally three ways to use money: You could consume it, you could hoard it, or you could give it to the poor. Hence, Bible passages that talk about money, wealth, and even debt tend to reflect that perspective. There was little, if any, understanding of the predominant focus of capital in our economy: You can invest it to generate economic growth and thereby increase the overall wealth and well being of a society. (The Parable of the Talents in one biblical example that reflects this understanding of wealth.) The economy of biblical times was agrarian, rigid, illiquid, and Malthusian in its demographics—meaning that as the population grew, the economy food supplies did not grow sufficiently to support the additional people, and poverty and famine spread as a result. In contrast, our economy is post-industrial, dynamic, highly liquid (notwithstanding the challenges brought on by the financial crisis), and certainly post-Malthusian.

Think about the meaning of the word debt in those two economies. In the former, debt was inevitably a one-way trip to some form of bondage; in the latter, debt, when it is not used simply to finance conspicuous consumption, can have a very different profile. In other words, debt as referenced by Paul and as referenced by Ben Bernanke in his sessions with Congress are homonyms. They are spelled the same, but they mean two different things.


Monday, February 25, 2013

New Roof at FBC Rahway

Praise God, the new roof is finished!

The roofers have been working on and off since December. Bad weather slowed the project to a crawl. Lots of water entered the building during the project, so finally the building is sealed. On Saturday I removed all of the buckets and cans that were catching water, and I started the process of cleaning up. It will take a while because we had a lot of leaks while the project was being done.

Unfortunately the project isn't over yet. The roofers still have to put the gutters on and finish the flashing. They also have to take all of the trash away. And they have to fix some of the damage from the water that came into the building. Stay tuned.

Peace, Pastor Bill

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Copy Cat Ministry

We tried to be a Mega-Church without the Mega. As you can imagine it didn't work too well. We put together a worship band and advertised how great it was (we really weren't that good). We organized high energy revival services and invited everyone we knew to them. Very few people showed up. We nitpicked at our morning worship service and examined every aspect of it to find ways of improving our worship experience. That only started a big fight that led to the end of our Mega experiment in Mega Ministry.

Why did we put so much energy and emotion into trying to become the next big thing?

Because everyone else is doing it.

A recent poll found that Mega Churches are doing just fine in the current poor economic climate. Giving and attendance are up and many of the churches are looking to increase staff in the upcoming year. That’s awesome news. I wish I was looking at those kind of statistics. This simple poll explains why all of us little guys want to turn our churches into the Mega variety. Everyone thinks more numbers equals more success.

Unfortunately there are very good arguments in the Bible that suggest otherwise.

When Moses didn't come down from the mountain right away, his brother Aaron had a great suggestion; how about making a golden calf? This well-known story from Genesis 32 shows that all but Moses and Joshua went along with the idea and were punished by God for their sin. Apparently going along with the crowd is not always the wisest decision.

When Jesus performed the great miracle of the loaves and the fish, found in John 6, he did it in front of 5,000 people. Not a bad Mega sized audience. Jesus then went off to be by himself, and some of the crowd followed him. Jesus complained that they were only looking for more food, rather than hungering after spiritual things (John 6:26). Criticizing your audience is not the best way of building your personal brand, just ask Oprah.

When Daniel asks the angel; “My Lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” he does not receive an answer (Daniel 12:8-9). He is told that the names of the people who are going to heaven are written in the Book of Life. But neither Daniel, nor anyone else is allowed to know (Daniel 12:1-4). From this story and others I have concluded that God is not so much interested in reaching some cosmically important number. Instead, God is interested in individuals. Those whose names are written in the Book of Life are the ones who have lived righteous lives and deserve to be there. What counts is living the life God wants us to live, not how many names we can squeeze onto the page.

But big numbers are awesome, aren't they? There is nothing like speaking to a packed building full of excited and energized people. There is no better feeling than knowing there is plenty of money in the bank to pay the bills. All of us want to feel successful. All of us want to feel secure. All of us want those big numbers to roll in.

God doesn't care about numbers. God cares about people. Those of us who wish to do God’s work in the world need to focus on ministry to individuals, rather than chasing after big numbers.

God bless you,
Pastor Bill

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Crippling Culture of Beauty

Blasphemy isn't too strong a word for what images like the ones in the swimsuit issue suggest about the meaning of human life. Is it not blasphemy to reduce an image of God to an underfed, overstyled, de-contextualized, sexualized, Photoshopped ideal—and, then, to say that attaining that look is possible, given the right purchases and pursuits?


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Persecution of Churches Increases in China

China's Christians felt a noticeable rise in persecution in 2012 as the Communist government began the first of a three-phase plan to eradicate unregistered house churches, a new report says.
Incidents of persecution of Christians rose by about 42 percent last year compared with 2011, according to the report by human rights group China Aid. Many of these incidents involved groups of Christians. In total, the number of individual persecuted Christians rose by roughly 14 percent and total individual detentions increased by nearly 12 percent. China Aid said overall total persecution in six categories was about 13 percent worse than in 2011—though China Aid termed its statistics just "the tip of the iceberg."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Granddaughters Flee Evil Westboro Baptist

Funny, how in thinking we're doing much good, we can, in fact, be guilty of much evil, of unleashing harm on those around us. That's what 27-year-old Megan Phelps-Roper is learning. Megan is the granddaughter of Fred Phelps, the founding pastor of Westboro Baptist Church.
In a recent interview, Megan dropped a bombshell: She and her sister, Grace, left Westboro. To defect from the church means that her relatives will cut all ties with her (since the congregation consists of nearly all family members). It means saying goodbye to the only life she has ever known. It means having family damn her to hell. It's a terrifying experience.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

David and His Sling

For thousands of year’s people all around the world have used some form of a sling as a weapon. Examples of this have been found everywhere but Australia. Materials used were primarily a woven plant material like hemp or an animal hair like wool. The projectile was usually a rock. It’s a pretty simple and basic weapon that has been effective for tens of thousands of years.
The story of the boy David killing Goliath found in 1 Samuel 17 features the humble sling. It is a little hard to believe, because what great king would use a child as a hero in the middle of a war. However, the description of the death of Goliath is perfectly believable. Slings had been used in combat before this story, and continued to be used as late as the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD. Therefore a young man caught up in a war taking out the weapon he has used to defend his flocks and firing it at an enemy soldier is not so crazy a story. With enough practice his accuracy could be good enough to strike his opponent in the head. And so he goes down in history as the young boy who slew a giant.
What David really was, was a man who used what he had available to deal with a bad situation. The Bible is full of stories of people making the best of it with whatever they have around them. Joshua’s spies use the friendly woman Rahab to help them escape Jericho. Ruth uses her feminine wiles to obtain a husband and save herself and her mother-in-law. David takes bread consecrated to God from a shrine to feed his hungry soldiers. Do what you gotta do to survive, a common biblical refrain.
The apostle Paul travels from Palestine, through Turkey, Macedonia and into Greece. After returning to Jerusalem he then travels to Rome. His hectic travel schedule is primarily responsible for the creation of small house churches that form the core of the Christian Church in the Mediterranean. He could not have accomplished this without a safe and reliable system of roads and sea routes provided by the Roman Empire. The early church benefited from the peace and security that the expansion and consolidation of Rome provided. Roads were built between major cities and were safe from marauding bandits. The sea was also safe to travel on because the Roman Empire worked hard to eliminate piracy from their trade routes. Thus the apostle Paul takes advantage of this relatively calm period to sow the seeds of the future of Christianity within the Roman world.
If we look beyond Biblical history and into Church history, the invention of the printing press changes Church history in profound ways. More printed materials available to people with some disposable income, meant higher literacy rates. More people who could read and write caused a few of them to desire to read the Bible directly. Since Bibles were copied by hand, the Church had carefully guarded their few copies of God’s Word and kept them far removed from the public. The printing press allowed Tyndale, Wycliffe and others to translate and publish editions of the Bible in their native languages. People who could read and interpret the Bible began the process of challenging Roman Catholic laws and traditions. Christians used the humble printing press to change their faith.
The world has changed quickly and profoundly since the invention of the printing press. The development of a transportation system in the 1800’s created the environment for traveling evangelists to bring revivals throughout the country. The invention of radio and television in the twentieth century allowed evangelists to expand their mission efforts to the emerging media. Now we are in the middle of the Internet revolution. Evangelists have moved onto the Internet as quickly as everyone else. The Bible and history has shown, to do God’s work, we make the best with what we have.

God bless you,

Pastor Bill

Monday, February 11, 2013

Christian Refugee Crises in Syria

The refugees and the Lebanese bishops whom Kino and his team interview relate that Christians are leaving in a torrent. Once they cross into Lebanon, guided by Middle Eastern versions of “coyotes” through a harrowing series of checkpoints guarded by various sides in the conflict, they mostly seek out the local Christian communities for help. A clearly overwhelmed Archbishop George Saliba, on Mount Lebanon, says about the refugees: “I want to help as many as I can, but it is not sustainable. We have hundreds of Syrian refugees who arrive every week. I don’t know what to do.” 


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Relationships are the Best Tool We Have

In school a friend of mine and I decided to start a student newsletter. It would be the voice of the common man ringing out against the injustices of the world. Either that or it would be a collection of whatever nonsense we decided to write at the moment. Anyway, Robert and I plunged into the project with passion and energy. Robert was especially fun to work with. He was driven and focused. Working with him was like riding a fast moving wave into shore. You just jump on your board and let it move you along. He also knew more about publishing than I did. Robert and I produced a great newsletter for about a year. And then it stopped. Robert needed to focus his attention on other matters and I lost my partner. It was weird; it was like being dumped by a girlfriend. All of a sudden this person who was leading a project with energy and vitality was gone. And I wasn't able to keep the newsletter going without my partner.
In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth. And they were all in relationship to each other. The creation story in the first chapter of Genesis describes the creation as being relational. When God created the earth, in order for the land to appear the waters had to separate (Genesis 1:6-8). In order for vegetation to be created, the land had to be created (Genesis 1:9-11). In order for there to be a way to follow time, the Sun and the Moon were created (Genesis 1:14-19). The various elements of the creation are connected in a cosmic partnership.
The same could be said of relationships between people. “The Lord God said, it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). Adam and Eve are partners in the Garden. They need each other and they support one another. When they are cast out of the Garden, to face a life of toil and strife, they stayed together. When God created people, God created relationships.
We also see the importance of relationships in the ties that bind galaxies together. Today’s astrophysicists have shown that galaxies clump together. The massive gravity well created by the Milky Way Galaxy draws our nearest neighbor, Andromeda, closer and closer until one day the two will merge. Out in the deeps of space, large groups of galaxies, such as the Leo Cluster are joined together in a cosmic dance by their mutual attraction. Computer models of the cosmos suggest that the galactic clusters tug against each other, causing the entire cosmos to be connected through gravimetric interaction. Not just the Bible, but modern science shows that everything in the universe is in some sort of relationship with everything else.
These concepts help us to understand why the relationships we develop throughout our lives are so important. The Book of Ecclesiastes says; “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Eccl 4:9-10). We need to have partners to help us with our missions. We need to be in a close relationship with someone else in order to share our deepest thoughts and beliefs. We need a partner to help us complete the tasks that are important to us. It is much better to go through life with friends than to be isolated and alone.
And thus these relationships extend up from the creation, through the relationships between living beings, up to the throne of heaven itself.

God bless you, 

Pastor Bill

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Helping the Refugees of Mali

Right now in Burkina Faso, Esther Schaeffer is working with Alliance people to provide emergency relief assistance to Tuareg (an Arabic term meaning “abandoned by God”) refugees.
As a result, hundreds of Tuaregs, historically, staunch adherents of the majority religion in the region, are learning about the love and compassion of Christ.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Stars Speak in Tongues

Transformer star Megan Fox says she has been speaking in tongues since she was a child and often has to restrain herself during trips to church. The Transformers star, who was raised as a member of the Pentecostal church, says she used to take part in glossolalia sessions--the muttering of speech-like syllables as a form of religious expression--from the age of eight.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Christian Athletes are not Role Models

The story reminds me of another quote, this one from basketball hall of famer Charles Barkley. He was one of the most dominating power forwards of his day (1990s), who used his strength and aggressiveness to intimidate opponents. He had no patience for those who believed athletes should be role models for kids. "A million guys can dunk a basketball in jail," he once said. "Should they be role models?"
As we come to another Super Bowl, we Christians note that the leaders of each team are devout believers—Colin Kaepernick on the 49ers and Ray Lewis on the Ravens (see the related CT story). Like any group with a strong self-identity, we Christians are proud that members of our tribe are star players in this national extravaganza. Not unexpectedly, when Christians become prominent in athletics, we are tempted to turn them into role models. We want them, like the lady wanted of John Kruk, to be models of athleticism, and like Charles Barkley comments, to be models of morality, as well.
But I suspect Charles Barkley had it right. Even Christian athletes, in the end, make for poor moral role models.