Happy Monday, February 4, 2019 church!

February 4, 2019 | Categories: Church Blog.

Sisters and brothers,

Happy Monday to all!  Yesterday we again looked at the Christian manifesto, “The Sermon on the Mount.” In “The Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus calls believers to be different  from others, especially in the way we love our enemies, bless those who curse us and asks God’s very best for them, and forgive those who despitefully use us.  In Matthew 5:17-48, Jesus calls us to a “greater righteousness,” a righteousness the Holy Spirit seek to continually produce in the lives of believers.    This morning I read an article written by my friend Billy Tinsley in his “Reflections Column.”  He shared a story about this “greater righteousness” that I want to share with you.

Twenty years ago, January 23, 1999, Graham Staines, an Australian missionary to India, was burned to death along with his two sons, Philip, age 10, and Timothy, age 6.  Staines was 57.  For 35 years Graham had ministered to lepers in a remote tribal village in India where he established the Mayurbanj Leprosy Home in 1982.  In 1983 he married his wife, Gladys, who joined him in the work. The mob that killed Graham Staines and his sons was apparently a  hardline Hindu organization intent on retribution for the missionary’s effectiveness in converting members of the lower cast to faith in Jesus Christ. 

After the attack, Gladys Staines forgave those who murdered her husband and sons.  She remained in India with their daughter, Esther, and continued their ministry among the lepers.  She stated, “I cannot just leave those people who love and trust us. I have high regard for the people of India and their tolerance.” The government of India awarded Gladys Staines the fourth highest civilian award in 2005,  Padma Sri in recognition for her outstanding contribution to India.  She has been called the best known Christian in India after Mother Theresa.  In 2015 she was awarded the Mother Theresa Memorial Award for Social Justice. 

Their story was recently made into a movie entitle The Least of These and released into theaters on February 1.  It appears the movie will be shown in a limited number of theaters for a limited time. The Executive Producer for the film, Victor Abraham, said the movie “beautifully illustrates the power of love, hope and forgiveness to overcome hate.”

This is an example of the “greater righteousness” to which believers are called and for which we fervently pray God’s Spirit to produce in each of our lives.

I want to thank Cheryl DiFonzo for coordinating the funeral dinner for Barb Holmes’ family and every other person who helped provide and serve this dinner.  I also want to thank Pete, Ron and Annette for leading in the worship at her service.   Thank you all for your wonderful ministry to this family we all love. 

It is not too late to join the second half of the short-term DVD Bible Study, “The Clash of Kingdoms,” which began Sunday.  In the part 2 study, you will continue to follow Paul to Athens and then to Corinth.  Damon and Megan are leading this study for older youth and adults.  This would be a perfect time to join a small group Bible study, especially if you are not currently involved in one.    

We will begin in March two new small groups that meet during the week.  Look for details in the next few emails. 

Love being your pastor! 

Bob Ray, Pastor, East Madison Baptist Church

Happy Snowy Monday, January 28, 2019 church!

January 28, 2019 | Categories: Church Blog.

Brothers and sisters,

Happy Monday to all!  It was great to be with you yesterday to feel the warmth of God’s family during this cold Wisconsin winter. We began to work our way through “The Sermon on the Mount,” what John Stott called the “Christian Manifesto.”  As the first sermon of Jesus in the New Testament, it was given to show us how to live as followers of Jesus.  The “Sermon on the Mount” is for believers. Only those who have been born again by the Spirit of God and have the Holy Spirit of God living in and empowering them can have the capacity to even try living by the lofty ideals in this sermon.  As followers of Jesus, we need to seek to be “Sermon on the Mount” Christians. The beginning of Jesus’ sermon teaches us to have our character marked by spiritual poverty, mourning for sin, and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. It teaches believers to be gentle, respectful, kind and merciful peacemakers.  We are assured by Jesus that if we are persecuted for Jesus and for righteousness’ sake and not for any lesser reason, we are truly blessed and follow in a great line of others who were so treated.  We are then called to influence our world as the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  We should seek to influence the world for justice and righteousness by being the salt of the world.  As the light of the world reflecting Jesus’ light, we want to point others to see Jesus as the Savior who loves them and who can change their lives.  In this way, believers seek to live as people set apart to glorify God in every part of our lives.

The weekend was also sad for the East Madison family as our sister Barb Holmes was called unexpectedly home to be with Jesus on Saturday. It is hard to say “goodbye” even though as believers we know we will see Barb again when we see her in the presence of our Savior.  We grieve for our loss, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope.  Our hope is in Jesus who died and conquered death for all of us by rising from the dead!  Barb’s memorial service will be at the East Madison building on Saturday, February 2, at 10:00 AM.  We will be providing a dinner following the service for the family and others.

Next Sunday morning, February 3, at 9:30 AM, the second half of the short-term DVD Bible Study, “The Clash of Kingdoms,” will begin.  In the part 2 study, you will continue to follow Paul to Athens and then to Corinth.  Damon and Megan are leading this study for older youth and adults.  This would be a perfect time to join a small group Bible study, especially if you are not currently involved in one.  The study will last approximately five weeks.  You do not have to have participated in the first half to be part of this study.  

Love being your pastor! 

Bob Ray, Pastor, East Madison Baptist Church

Happy Monday, January 21, 2019 church!

January 21, 2019 | Categories: Church Blog.

Sisters and brothers,

Happy Monday and happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to all!  Today we remember Martin Luther King, Jr. who lived out His faith in Jesus and fought for justice.  You cannot read Dr. King’s writings or listen to Dr. King’s speeches or sermons without seeing that His faith in Jesus motivated him to live his life to see an end to racism and injustice.  I hope believers will see the example of Dr. King and live with the same willingness to work for justice..  I pray that believers will imitate Dr. King and struggle to see people freed from oppression.  I pray that his courageous faith lived out will help us to be courageous believers in the generation where God has placed us.

We had a wonderful day of worship yesterday.  The worship team led us to think about the great sacrifice Jesus made for us, and Ron Roberts ‘ new song, “Remember When” helped us to think about how that personally applied to each of us.  They truly prepared us for the taking of the Lord’s Supper.  The message from Matthew 4 reminded us that we are not only called to forgiveness and salvation, but we are called to share that forgiveness and salvation with others who desperately need it. We are called to be on mission with Jesus.  We are called to share the same message of those who came before us.  We are often called to proclaim the message in dark and difficult places. (See today’s prayer request for missionaries Marcia and Kasey.)  We are always called to leave all and follow Jesus as we call others to leave all to follow Jesus.  And, we are called to both proclaim and deliver the healing message of the gospel. Yes, we are to be on mission with our Savior!

We will be having a pot luck luncheon this Sunday, January 27th after worship.  Bring enough to feed your family and a little extra for any guests.  I am looking forward to this time of fellowship with each of you.

On Sunday morning, February 3, at 9:30 AM, the second half of the short-term DVD Bible Study, “The Clash of Kingdoms,” will begin.  In the part 2 study, you will continue to follow Paul to Athens and then to Corinth.  Damon and Megan are leading this study for older youth and adults.  This would be a perfect time to join a small group Bible study, especially if you are not currently involved in one.  The study will last approximately five weeks.  You do not have to have participated in the first half to be part of this study.  

Love being your pastor! 

Bob Ray, Pastor, East Madison Baptist Church

Happy Monday, January 14, 2019 church!

January 14, 2019 | Categories: Church Blog.

Happy Monday to all!  It was great to be together yesterday and worship our conquering Savior.  As we looked at the temptations of Jesus we saw Him as the One who conquered every temptation.  The temptations of Jesus were recorded not so much as an example for us in how to deal with temptations, though the passages about Jesus’ temptations do that.   The passages were recorded primarily so we could see Jesus as victor over every temptation!  He fully conquered the  devil in the temptations we thought about and in every temptation He faced throughout His earthly life.   It is about Jesus as the One who conquered Satan in every way and provides us with a just means of forgiveness.  It is about Jesus who is able to help us in our weakness. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need,” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NIV).  Jesus won victory over every temptation, and then completely conquered death!  We won’t win every battle over temptation like He did, but we can have victory over many temptations by His Spirit and His Word.  And we have One who loves us and helps us even when we fail! What a glorious and merciful Savior we serve!

We still have prayer guides at the church building for anyone who wants them for the “40 Days of Prayer” emphasis.  It is never too late to start!

On Sunday morning, February 3, at 9:30 AM, the second half of the short-term DVD Bible Study, “The Clash of Kingdoms” will begin.  Damon and Megan are leading this study for older youth and adults.  This would be a perfect time to join a small group Bible study, especially if you are not currently involved in small group Bible study.  The study will last approximately five weeks.  You do not have to have participated in the first half to be part of this study. 

We will be having the Lord’s Supper during our morning worship this Sunday, January 20th.  The following week on January 27, we will have a pot luck luncheon after worship. 

We found a volunteer to help us with making sure the bathrooms are stocked with supplies and ready weekly for our Sunday services.  Thank you, Lois!  We still need someone to make sure the trash is at the curb to be picked up on Monday morning, or someone to remind the pastor to do this.  (I don’t mind doing this and think of it almost every Sunday before worship, but by the time worship is over, I have forgotten and the trash is not taken to the curb!)    If this is an area in which you would like to serve, please let me know.

Love being your pastor! 

Bob Ray, Pastor, East Madison Baptist Church

Happy New Year and Happy Monday, January 7, 2019 church!

January 7, 2019 | Categories: Church Blog.

Happy Monday and Happy New Year to all of you!  I hope your year has started well.  I would encourage you to participate in the “40 Days of Prayer” we began yesterday.  The emphasis of this year’s 40 days is “becoming one in Christ.”  We at East Madison are joining with our brothers and sisters across the Minnesota/Wisconsin Baptist Convention in a concerted effort of praying for oneness among those who confess and believe in Jesus.  We have prayer guides available at the church building in case you were not here to get one yesterday.  Also, these daily updates are being posted on the “MWBC Pray” page on Facebook and you can find them there.  Your just need to “like” the “MWBC Pray” page.  The Facebook post began on January 1, and we began our 40 days yesterday.  Don’t worry about when you start, but just start as soon as you can and use one prayer devotional a day for forty days. (The devotionals were written by people in Wisconsin and Minnesota and I wrote one of the devotionals.) This 40 day prayer effort was a huge blessing for those who participated last year, and I am expecting God to work mightily in our lives as we pray together for 40 days again this year.

It was great to be back home with our church family yesterday.  I want to thank Jason for proclaiming God’s Word last week while I was gone to Oklahoma.  Yesterday, we were reminded as we sang of the greatness of God and of the truth that He is the One who holds us fast.  We thought about repentance and what it really means.  Repentance is changing the way we think about life.  We realize we have seen life from the wrong perspective and need to see life from God’s perspective.  Repentance means we no longer see sin in any way as a good thing, but we see sin from God’s perspective as destructive, dehumanizing, enslaving, and deadly.  We then see God’s way of living as fulfilling, purposeful, freeing, and life-giving.  Then, after we initially repent and give control of our lives to Jesus, we are baptized to confess to the world that we are now followers of Jesus and we are living life for Him.  Yesterday, we also explored the truth that we need to live a life of continual repentance, always seeking to become more and more like Jesus in our character and attitudes.  Repentance is more than just a one time act but a continual attitude of life that desires to more and more and more reflect the beauty of Jesus.  Repentance is the continual attitude of those who are growing in Christ.

We are looking for a volunteer to help us with making sure the bathrooms are stocked with supplies and ready weekly for our Sunday services and to make sure the trash is at the curb to be picked up on Monday morning.  Since we now contract with a service to clean the building, sometimes these things have been overlooked.  If this is an area in which you would like to serve, please let me know.

Love being your pastor in 2019! 

Bob Ray, Pastor, East Madison Baptist Church

Happy Christmas Eve Monday, December 24, 2018 church!

December 24, 2018 | Categories: Church Blog.

Brothers and sisters,

Happy Monday and Happy Christmas Eve to all!  Yesterday was a great fourth Sunday of advent.  Nathan and Kelsey reminded us with the advent reading that Jesus is the promised One who will reign on David’s throne forever.  The worship team led us in praising the One who came from heaven to earth, the King of heaven and earth whom the world should receive.  The message reminded us that all who come to Jesus must come to Him in humility and worship just like the wise men came to Jesus.  We don’t want to be like Herod who approached Jesus with hostility and hatred, thinking he could stop the plan of God.  In the end, Herod was destroyed, Jesus was protected and God’s purposes prevailed, as they always will.  Herod learned that all who oppose God’s purposes will ultimately learn:  No one can thwart the will of God and be successful!  We also don’t want to be like the religious leaders and scholars in Jerusalem who heard about a possible coming of the Messiah and were completely apathetic and indifferent.  They simply pursued a philosophical and intellectual study of the things of God.  These supposed leaders and scholars would not even take a five mile trip to Bethlehem to investigate!  If you only study theology as some kind of philosophical or intellectual pursuit that won’t really change your life, you are wasting your time!  But we do want to be like the wise men who came great distances at great expense to worship the new born King!  When they found Jesus, just a small child then, they fell down on their faces before Him and worshiped!  May we approach Jesus with the same humility and worship as the wise men did.

I am looking forward to our Christmas Eve worship with many of you tonight at 5:00 PM.  What a joy it will be to worship King Jesus as we celebrate His first coming!

Have a Merry Christmas!  Love being your pastor! 

Bob Ray, Pastor, East Madison Baptist Church

Happy Monday, December 17, 2018 church!

December 17, 2018 | Categories: Church Blog.

Sisters and brothers,

Happy Monday to all!  Yesterday we continued to think about the first coming of the Lord Jesus to earth.  Maria and Savannah reminded us of the loving kindness of our God through the advent reading.  The worship team lead us in singing of the coming of Emmanuel, God with us.  Then Luke’s account of the coming of the angel to Mary reminded us that the story of Christmas forever remains the story of the greatness of the only One providing salvation to the world, Jesus Christ.  We looked at the truth that Jesus was great inherently, in and of Himself.   His greatness is unqualified.  Jesus greatness manifested itself to us in that Jesus was given the greatest name, the name alone through which we can be saved.  Jesus greatness was manifested itself in that He has the greatest Father.  Jesus alone is the eternal Son of God.  Jesus greatness has manifested itself in that He has the greatest throne, heritage and reign.  Jesus will reign on the throne of David and His reign will last forever!  Jesus greatness manifested itself in that He has the greatest conception and birth.  Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin!  His conception and birth were totally unique.  No other conception and birth had ever happened like the conception and birth of Jesus before that time and nothing like it will ever happen again.  Those who deny the virgin birth deny the incarnation, that God became man in Jesus!  They deny Jesus is eternally God the Son.  They deny the very gospel itself.   Christmas is about the greatness of Jesus Christ.  Don’t reduce Christmas to merely presents and family and food.  Don’t even reduce it to the birth of a child, or the birth of someone who made a huge impact on the world.  Remember Christmas is about the Great One of the universe, the very Son of God Himself becoming Emmanuel, God with us, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Jesus came to save us from our sin! 

I am looking forward to Sunday as we celebrate the 4th Sunday of advent and then to our Christmas Eve service next Monday evening at 5:00 PM.  There is always something special about worshipping Jesus with His children on Christmas Eve.  Invite someone important to you to worship with us on these days.

We need someone to volunteer for childcare during worship next Sunday, December 23 and on December 30.  Let me know if you can help.  We will not provide childcare for our Christmas Eve service.  We want even the little ones to be with their families.

Love being your pastor! 

Bob Ray, Pastor, East Madison Baptist Church

Happy Monday, December 10, 2018 church!

December 10, 2018 | Categories: Church Blog.

Brothers and sisters,

Happy Monday to all! Yesterday was a wonderful day of worship! Ron’s new song sung by our worship team reminded us to be prepared for whatever the Lord has for us. The first century world needed to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah. We have to prepare ourselves for the Lord coming to us, working in and through our lives and we have to live prepared for Christ to come again. The message from Luke 2 reminded us that God often chooses the outcast of the world to move among. God often works in, for and through the outcast of the world to glorify His name. God chose the shepherds and the outcast of the first century, while the religious and the seemingly pious often were excluded. Jesus was knows as the friend of sinners and so should we, as His church, be known as friends of sinners. People often feel condemned by Christians instead of loved and accepted. We expect people to have Christian values before they meet Jesus. We have to love people and invite them into the presence of Jesus, so then they can be changed by His presence. My prayer for East Madison is that we will have the reputation of our Savior, that we are friends of sinners.

Don’t forget to be inviting family and friends to worship and especially to our Christmas Eve service this month. People are often more open to a gospel witness and invitations to churches during the Christmas season.

The Isthmus Brass concert to benefit the Porchlight ministry to the homeless will be held at the First United Methodist Church at 7:30 PM on December 12. There is no charge for the event but there will be an offering take to help fund Porchlight ministry.

You are invited to an East Madison tradition, the Juhlin’s Annual Christmas open house. It is open to all this Friday night, December 14, from 7:00 to 10:00 PM. Directions to their house are available at the church building.

Love being your pastor!

Bob Ray, Pastor, East Madison Baptist Church

Happy Monday, December 3, 2018 church!

December 3, 2018 | Categories: Church Blog.

Sisters and brothers,

Happy Monday to all! Yesterday we began the celebration of advent (the first coming of Jesus to earth) through our first advent reading and the singing of worship songs thinking about this season. We were reminded in looking at the genealogy, the family tree, of Jesus in Matthew 1 that God always keeps His promises! God kept His promise to Abraham that all nations of the world would be blessed thorough Him. God kept His promise to David the David would have a descendant who would reign forever. God kept these promises through sending Jesus to us. But also through His sending of Jesus, God is keeping His promise to His people that every people group in the world would have representatives worshiping Jesus in His Kingdom. Finally we saw that God keeps His promise that all who turn away from sin and turn to Jesus, no matter what their past, can be a part of a fantastic future! I am so glad we serve a God who always keeps His promises!

Remember we have special booklets, invitations and gift bags available for you to give out to friends and neighbors inviting them to our Christmas Eve Service at 5:00 PM, December 24. Many of you took some of these with you yesterday and I am grateful for that. More are available if you need them at the church building.

The Isthmus Brass concert to benefit the Porchlight ministry to the homeless will be held at the First United Methodist Church at 7:30 PM on December 12. There is no charge for the event but their will be an offering taken to help fund Porchlight ministry.

You are invited to the Juhlin’s Annual Christmas open house. It is open to all on Friday night, December 14, from 7:00 to 10:00 PM. Directions to their house are available at the church building.

Love being your pastor!

Bob Ray, Pastor, East Madison Baptist Church

Happy Monday, November 26, 2018 church!

November 26, 2018 | Categories: Church Blog.

Brothers and sisters,

Happy Monday to all! It was great to be with all of you yesterday and worship our great God. We considered God’s greatness. We heard a wonderful new song from our worship team adapted from the Apostles Creed that helped us remember and understand the nature of the God who loves and saves us. Nate Ray preached a sermon from the life of Joseph, the husband of Mary and the step father of Jesus, reminding us that God’s dream for us is bigger than our dream for ourselves. Nate helped us see that in moments of conflict and confusion, God guides His children with words of clarity and direction. Nate helped us see that often our dreams for ourselves are idols that we look too to find life. He reminded us that we truly find our lives in Jesus so we need to make knowing Jesus our goal and not the fulfilment of our dreams. We deny ourselves and take up our cross and lose our lives to Jesus, and thus we find life. We follow Jesus and step out in faith to whatever and wherever God calls us. We don’t know the ending of where that might lead. But as we follow Jesus in faith, we do get to know the God who calls us to follow Him.

During the Christmas season, many people are more open to an invitation to worship and the truth of Jesus than at other times of the year. We are making special packets to give out to friends and neighbors inviting them to our Christmas Eve Service at 5:00 PM, December 24. These packets will contain an invitation to this service and a booklet by Lee Strobel called “The Case for Christmas.” These packets will be available beginning Sunday so plan on taking some to give out to people you know.

Ladies, remember you are invited to a Christmas Concert at the State Capitol next Sunday, December 2. The ladies will meet at the church building at 3:00 PM to attend the concert at 4:15 PM. Following the concert, the ladies will be going to Monty’s Blue Plate for supper. Here is a little more information about this concert.:

Capitol Annual Christmas Pageant! This pageant has been taking place in the capital every year for more than 75 years. Here is a description of it: It’s one of Madison’s best-kept (and no-cost) secrets – the Christmas Story sung through Christmas carols in 4-part harmony by local high-school choirs in the rotunda of the Madison Capitol building. (Emily Juhlin will be singing with these choirs as she is in the La Follette High School choir.) The lights are turned out and the Christmas Story is illuminated in live montages. Each performance lasts 45 minutes. There is limited seating but you can either stand or bring your own chair.

Enjoy God’s glorious presence and the awesome mystery of his birth being celebrated within our state capitol! It’s a wonderful way to quietly pause during the craziness of the season and enjoy the beauty of what Christmas is really about.

Remember to put on your calendar a Christmas tradition at East Madison, the Juhlin’s Annual Christmas open house. It is open to all on Friday night, December 14, from 7:00 to 10:00 PM. Directions to their house are available at the church building.

Love being your pastor!

Bob Ray, Pastor, East Madison Baptist Church