Greetings from Him who causes the spiritual growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love! (Eph 4:16) This is Pastor Riley Fraas. It is with joy and anticipation that I am getting ready to fulfill this ministry to which God has called me at Hope Congregational Church in Bethune, Colorado. Many prayers and encouraging words go with me, as well as the verbal challenges and warnings I heard from my dear brothers in the faith at my ordination one week ago, as they set me apart for the work to which God has called me, shortly before I set out for Colorado. These words of encouragement, challenge, and warning are precious to me, and I will always carry them with me. As I type we are at a stop along the way.
Hope Congregational Church has a rich and blessed history of faithfulness to God and His word, of faith in the Savior Jesus Christ, and obedience after His example. It is a history to love and cherish as we look forward to what blessings God still has in store for us as a church! Let us give thanks to God for the past, in faith that He who has blessed before will continue to bless us! My hope is that we can draw from this rich past and find a renewed appreciation for that tradition and heritage of Hope Congregational Church which is firmly rooted in Holy Scripture, as we look to the present and to days ahead.
God is now giving us an opportunity to examine ourselves as a church. I so much look forward to getting to know our life together as a church, and our spiritual walk as we follow Christ together. As we do so, there are several things which we ought to continue to emphasize, which have always been an integral part of community life at Hope Congregational Church, but which in times of transition like this can provide a renewed focus:
When the Word of God is read, studied, contemplated, (and especially) preached, (Romans 10:14-17) God works in the lives of his people to make them more like Jesus. He does this by his Spirit who shines a light in their souls to comprehend and apply what is taught in God’s Holy Word. The Word is not dead, but living—dividing the bone from the marrow, exposing the thoughts and imaginations of our hearts, and performing surgery to remove all obstacles to our growth in the Lord in faith and holiness. God uses this same word to convince and convert those dead sinners who do not yet know Him, bringing them from death to life.
Prayer to the Father in Jesus’ name is a powerful instrument because God has promised to answer it, and he is the most powerful of all! Prayer is essential to the life of Christians individually, and to the body of Christ as a whole precisely because it is the Holy Spirit who gives life. God is pleased when His people acknowledge this utter dependence upon Him and plead for His favor. (James 5:16) The Bible not only commands us to pray, but it also gives us specific examples and guides to help us learn to pray as we should, like for example the Lord’s Prayer, which is both a prayer and a guide/outline for prayer. (Matthew 6:9-13) It is critical that we as a church spend time in prayer together, learn to pray together using God’s instructions in the Bible, and pray for one another as well as those who do not know Him.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
These two God-given sacraments are means that God has given for His people to be reminded and assured of their salvation in Jesus Christ and of all His spiritual gifts and blessings in the New Testament. They place a dividing line between the body of Christ and the world, and provide a format for entrance into the church (Baptism) and a regular rhythm for continuing growth in Christ (the Supper). We can’t expect to be able to get very far in spiritual growth if we devalue or misuse them (in other words, use them differently from Christ’s instructions in the Bible.)
If you’ve noticed that these are the basics of church life, you are right! These are the basics! Let us never forget that God works powerfully and mightily through His Spirit in those ordinary and common activities which we do in faithful obedience to Him on a regular basis. If church renewal and revival is ever to occur, it is by diligently using these means that God has given us to draw closer to Him and to be a witness in our community, trusting the results to Him!
Blessings to all of you and we hope to see you very soon, Lord willing!