Bedford - First Baptist
Church Theme: “Building Life Together” Sermons (SUMMER): “PSALMS… GOD IS..” Children: “Godly Play Curriculum” . Adults/Youth: Roundtable groups.
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   Pastor Scott’s  Blog

Flying with Faith - July 2017

Peaceful Pines –   July / August 2017  (Scott Arnold) Looking out the window of the jet plane, two snow covered peaks were clearly visible to our north as we descended toward Portland, Oregon (for the Mission Summit of the American Baptist Churches that our church is a part of).  One of the peaks had a tall spired pointed top, the other peak had a broken top that had blown off in a volcanic eruption.  I speculated that it was Mt. Saint Helen’s, and this was confirmed later.  The other peak was Mt. Adams.  Each of these peaks told a different story as they faced each other.  Mt. Adams was majestic, Mt. Saint Helen’s was big and broken, a relic of a powerful event that involved elements that were cataclysmic, almost apocalyptic.  Of course, the contrast of the peaks was remarkable.  One ponders, is there a story or lesson here?  One could envision the metaphor of how human leaders are exalted, and that they rise and fall.  Glory is fleeting and that which seems majestic can be powerfully destroyed and altered.  Now before you think I might refer to the Scripture passage of Jesus; “those who exalt themselves shall be humbled and those who humble themselves shall be exalted”, consider another angle to these “Twin Peaks”.  Each peak is at a different place in its life cycle.  In this dynamic world, one peak grew and then blew its top before the other.  Eventually, Mt. Adams will have its day of eruption, or at least be weathered and brought low again.  Note that Mt. St. Helen’s did not give much warning, and in an instant its judgment day arrived.  So too, Mt. Adams will experience dynamic change, likely its own eruption. Underneath the surface, and at times above from space and on the earth with its climate, there are powerful forces at work.  Reference may be made to time and moments in time. In Scripture we read of “the Day of the Lord”, or a culmination of God’s activity such as a “Judgement day”.  All around, geologic evidence tells of powerful events and forces.  Another plac in Oregon, Crater Lake, was formed 7,700 years ago when a volcanic mountain, Mt. Mazama, erupted and collapsed.  The result is a lake that is 1946 feet deep and 5 miles wide.  With all this I ponder the thought of God’s timing for big events and changes.  Jesus knew that big things were yet to come in the future, and that many of these seismic changes would occur prior to and at the time of His second coming.        We read in the gospel of Matthew about what Jesus said after he had spoken plainly and sternly to the exalted religious leaders of Jerusalem.  Considering that Jerusalem was often referred to as the “Holy Mountain” and the “Holy City” of God; one might make the case from the judgement of Jesus that human glory is like the volcanic mountain, destined for ruin.         Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”  Matthew 24:1-2    Forty years after Jesus spoke these words, the temple was brought down and destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.  The foundation remained, of which we now have the “Wailing Wall”, but everything above the foundation was broken and burned.  When Jesus left the temple, he was walking away from the trappings of temporary glory and the illusion of permanency in this current order of things.  God has a plan for remaking this earth, people and all things.   There will be a new heaven and a new earth. The old order of things will pass away.  Put your trust in Jesus, not in temporal things, for God the Father has appointed Jesus to be Lord and Savior, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.  Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:1-5 

Surprise the World - March 2017

Peaceful Pines   March 2017 3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-5 Faith is not a static thing because life involves seasons of change.  To grow during life’s changes and challenges we need to discover the constancy of God as our fulcrum for arching forward and upward.  This does not mean we are without mistake or error, without troubles or trials, discouragement or disappointment; it means that God is present to work redemptively if we have faith.  Paul is thanking God for the church, for his brothers and sisters whose faith and actions are evidence of God’s powerful love as they function in support of one another for growth, and as they function in witness and mission together. Their faith and love had grown leaps and bounds in Thessalonica, even while enduring persecutions and trials.  The key for their strength and growth as a church family was their perseverance. They were healthy and strong in their faith because they practiced their Christian discipleship together in support of one another.  The principle of relational discipleship was at work in shared witness. No one was acting or publicly sharing their faith as detached agents from the fellowship, they were in touch and in tune through meeting together and in unity of God’s Spirit in prayer. The social order had its problems, as they were a persecuted minority within a flawed human system of Roman rule, so no one in the church looked to political solutions.  They had discovered hope in Jesus Christ for the transcendent and coming Kingdom of God.  In Christ, they had discovered that “the Kingdom of God was within them”, they had been born-again of the Holy Spirit and were now aware of the ultimacy of God’s Sovereignty through the Lordship of Jesus and His eventual return. Let’s apply this to today. We need to grow in the context of fellowship and relational discipleship. This keeps us strong and vibrant in faith, hope and love as we live grow in faith and love while we bear fruit for Christ’s coming Kingdom.  Without growth and support, the body of Christ is not as strong as it could be.  Small groups are often the heartbeat of relational discipleship in a church that is growing and missional like that of Thessalonica.  Therefore, we are developing and moving forward in our church ministry toward the rhythm of small group discipleship that provides personal and shared spiritual growth and support.  We will start by using a resource written by Michael Frost (from New Zealand) entitled: “Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People”.  We will begin the small group experience the last week of March (from March 26 th  the first Sunday), going until May 14 th The Small Groups will be composed of 3-6 people, and will meet wherever and whenever works best for them.  After this time of focus, the small group experience during the summer can be determined by the group, but the summer will be a time of fun, informal and supportive gathering, activity or service project according to the creativity of each group.  The rhythm of small group focus will then come again in the fall from late September to early November.  The idea is that small group focused meetings will have two seasons of study/support each year.  Small groups may grow and multiply, and people may also switch groups for reasons of timing, availability and getting to know others.  The goal is that we will grow in faith and love for Christ, one another and the world we are called to witness within.  To do this, it is critical that we grow in the missional habits that are essential as the Body of Christ.  Michael Frost identifies these as: (B.E.L.L.S.) Bless People Eat with People Listen to God by Praying Learn from God by Studying Scripture Serve God in being sent to serve people Currently, the deacons of the church and members of the Ministry Team will be active in small groups and therefore invite you to participate.  Youth will also be encouraged by Frances Paxton, as she will be finding out when teens may meet for support.  There will be couples who meet with one another.  Men may meet as a group and women may also meet with one another.  Young adults are encouraged.  If you are curious or interested, why don’t you give this some prayer and talk with others about it.  At the very minimum, you will be blessed by the theme during worship and our conversations following worship.  Yet to have the full effect of the small group experience, it takes a close bond of prayer and support.  Copies of the book are available at the church, and on Amazon Kindle.  The formation of small groups is now the critical responsibility of each of us.  This is not a “Top-Down” formation where assignments are made.  This is a “Grass-roots” movement where we talk with one another and seek the leading of God.  We believe that the best movements of God involve people coming together in the name of Jesus Christ for growth in faith and love.  If you need help with making connections, myself and other church leaders will assist and help you make connections.  The beauty of this series, as it will be supported also by our discussions following worship in our “Growing Together” times, is the focus upon “Being the Body of Christ in the world”.  These are small groups that will grapple with real life issues as they will help us with support and accountability. The Apostle Paul’s continued words to the Thessalonians lead us to approach our desire to grow as God’s people with constant and abiding prayer. 11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 To surprise the world, we are called to grow together in such a way that it is evident and attractive.  The presence and power of Christian love is what we are called to embody and express.   B.E.L.L.S. is a way to engage in personal growth and shared evangelism.  Prayer and personal devotion supported in small groups is the key.  Pastor Scott T. Arnold

Listen to the Lord - September 2016

4  Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples.  5  I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope. 6  Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended.   -  Isaiah 51:4-6             God spoke through the prophet Isaiah to the people and nation of Israel.  Isaiah was not the most popular prophet of his times.  In fact, people avoided him.  All the false and popular prophets gave people the deceitful message that Israel would overcome the Babylonians and prosper again.  Instead of confronting the nation for their disobedience to God, the making and worshipping of idols, the oppression of the poor and the exploitation of workers; the false prophets pandered to the wealthy and gained places of influence and prestige.  Isaiah, on the other hand, remained faithful to God and independent from political trappings.  By keeping his integrity as a prophet of God, Isaiah could speak truthfully and objectively about the problems besetting Israel and the peoples of all nations.  God would speak through Isaiah to the greater need for listening to the Lord amidst many conflicting voices.  Israel was so absorbed in its own pursuits that it wasn’t heeding the gravity of their spiritual disobedience and resulting brokenness through injustice. The message of the Lord through Isaiah confronted people about the social/spiritual nature of sin, while still calling people to personally seek God’s salvation in one’s heart through faith and demonstrated honestly through one’s deeds.  The power of God’s light is genuine when it is evident within people such that it lends the brightness of God’s reign to all people of every nation.  Yet in Isaiah’s time there were so many phonies and such great corruption that God could not let Israel continue in its deceit and disarray.  Babylon would eventually be God’s tool to disperse and discipline unfaithful Israel.  To Babylon they would be taken captive and made to use their talents and exercise their faith. In the times we live in today, the faith community is conflicted in the area of religion and politics.  People talk about being liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, left or right.  Fact is, God is not interested in what “party” one belongs to, or what label people wear.  God is interested in the heart and soul, one’s character and actions, faith and works.  The Old Testament prophets were most effective when they did not choose political factions to side with, but instead focused upon following the word and Spirit of Yahweh their God.  This seldom equated to their popularity, nor was it expedient for personal or political gain.  People who claim faith in God should learn from this and not seek to align themselves in ways that are inconsistent with the core values of the Judeo/Christian covenant.  Jesus called his disciples to be “in the world, but not of the world”.  That’s the tension, the reality of our imperfect world.  The noble thing for a believer to do is not be silent or to let apathy lead to inaction.   Providentially, in the big picture, God’s message endured through Isaiah and Jeremiah, and the vision God gave them still speaks volumes of truth into our times and for the future of humankind.  At the heart of their message was the call: “Listen to the Lord”.  This was how their calling began and was their invitation to the world they would be ordained to reach.  “Listen to me, my people.. Give heed.. My justice for a light to the peoples.”  Without justice, without applying God’s word to life, the light of God’s truth and grace is hindered.  God brings true justice, not corrupted humanity.  God can be trusted to deliver, not the arm of man. Salvation and judgment is from the maker and redeemer of life.  People will find the “arm” of human endeavor to fail, but when one places their trust in the “arm” of the Lord, there is salvation, justice and hope.  While even the heavens will “vanish like smoke” and the “earth will wear out like a garment” and “the people will die like gnats”, these are images that humble us so that we may seek God so as to be liberated for salvation, placing our faith in the loving redeeming arms of God.  We are reminded by the prophet to live for God’s eternal Kingdom,  “my salvation will be forever”.. “my deliverance will never be ended.”  Jesus put it this way :   19  "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20  but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   Matthew 6:19- 21 (NRSV) Friends, what is your treasure?  Where is your heart?  How are you living?  God the Heavenly Father has invited us to new life in Jesus Christ, who is the saving arm of the Lord.                     Pastor Scott Arnold

The Fig Tree - July 2016 - Column by Pastor Scott Arnold 

Michael Frost is a pastor and missiologist from Sydney, Australia.  The church he serves has developed five habits that are missional, and these practices have brought about seismic impact upon their community and are influencing the growth of a new mission movement.  I had an opportunity to hear and meet Michael Frost earlier this month at Northern Seminary in Chicago.  The funny thing is that I had bought his book “The Five Habits of Missional People” back in January, and was reading it on the airplane to Chicago when it dawned on me that he was the one I was going to hear give a message in just a few days.  The essential message of Pastor Michael is that the church of our time is no longer the Christendom of old, we are basically in a new era of Post-Christendom.  This does not mean that the church is no longer essential and vital, but what it does mean is that the values and philosophies within our world are not as influenced by the Bible or the institution of the church. In the Bible, the people of Israel experienced such a time when they were brought into exile.  The values and philosophies they encountered were challenging to their faith, but in the midst of their challenges God was moving to extend their witness and mission.  Where once they were content to keep the faith to themselves, now they were being led into another place, to other people, to share their faith.  In a similar way, when we engage in sharing our faith beyond the church and into conversations and connections we make with our neighbors and within the places we go, we are among a diverse culture that requires faithfulness and an intentional pursuit to be kind, gracious and Christ-like.  Missional practices are essential if the church is to shine the light of Jesus Christ.  We can no longer assume that people will come to check out our church until they first want to check-out what makes us “different”.   The witness of our time, and of any time really, is that Christians are “different” in being “born-again” through faith in Jesus Christ.  This difference is what the world needs and what makes us “salt” and “light”.  This difference of knowing, loving and serving as Jesus leads us, is the defining element of who we are personally and as a church.  Each week I see our church family growing and moving in this direction and it is exciting.  We are practicing our community life together on Sunday mornings and in gathering times and small groups.  I hope that we can continue to grow and learn from the Five Habits of Missional People, and they are:  Bless -  I will bless three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church. Eat – I will eat with three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church. Listen – I will spend at least one period of the week listening for the Spirit’s voice. Learn – I will spend at least one period of the week learning Christ. Sent – I will journal throughout the week about all the ways I alerted others to the universal reign of God through Christ.  (Along with this, people met in groups of three for Discipleship, Nurture and Accountability – D.N.A.)   Let’s continue to discover how God is working in our times, calling us to reach the world through practical acts of kindness.  We may seem to be in “exile” from what is familiar to us, but God is with us so that we may discern the leading of the Spirit as Missional people.   - Scott

The Fig Tree - June 2016  - Column by Pastor Scott Arnold

“Deeper Ground” - Pastor’s Column   (also called the “Fig Tree”) 1  The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2  He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters, 3  he refreshes my soul.He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake. 4  Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me;your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. A few years ago I was at a conference where one of the workshops explored the 23 rd  Psalm.  Instead of the academic approach the leader gave us this instruction:  Go out to a place in the camp where you can read the Psalm as often as you like.  Write down notes.  Read only as far as you will write notes for.  Be back here in an hour with your notes. People found all sorts of interesting places to sit on a bright sunny day next to the lake, in gardens or in wooded areas. What everyone discovered was that they could not hurry through reading the Psalm. They began to write about each word in the Psalm that spoke to them.  For some, the word “Lord” caused great consideration about their own faith and trust in Jesus Christ as “Lord”.   “Shepherd” was a common place of meditation and reflection.  “My” and “I” made a personal appeal for others.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures” was a great reminder of the essential need for rest and recovery. “He leads me beside quiet waters” was a call to deeper reflection. Throughout the Psalm there were many who discovered great treasures of assurance, truth and wisdom. God worked to reveal His presence and encourage people to deeper faith through His Spirit speaking into people’s times of quiet and open contemplation.  One word that jumped out to me at the beginning of the Psalm was “Is”,  “The Lord is”..  Before anything was created, God exists as creator and Lord.  Starting in June we will embark on a journey in the Psalms with the title “GOD IS: Experiencing God’s Spirit in the Psalms”.  “God Is” will start on June 12 th  and go into September.  Pray that we will grow in the counsel and filling of God’s Holy Spirit, becoming more deeply responsive to the presence and working of God.  “God Is” will explore the nature of God and the blessings of taking time to acknowledge and be open to what it means to experience God and be led by God as our Lord and Good Shepherd.  Starting from Psalm 1 and going one Psalm at a time, we will start a journey that can be repeated in future summers (as the Spirit leads).  What we discover is that God is experienced in the Scriptures.  We must take the time to contemplate, be still, and listen to the voice of God’s Holy Spirit.  The still waters and the green pastures of summer are calling for us to greater knowledge, refreshing and grounded application.   Pastor Scott Arnold

The Fig Tree – April 1 2016 - 

by Pastor Scott Arnold

Psalm 40:  1  I waited patiently for the Lord;  he turned to me and heard my cry. 2  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. 4  Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. 5  Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done,the things you planned for us. None can compare with you;were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare. Did God hear the cry of Jesus on the cross?  Yes. Did God hear the cry of Mary for her son?  Yes. Did God hear the cry of disciples who failed their Lord?  Yes. Did God hear the cry of Stephen, the first martyr, when he was stoned for sharing His vision of seeing Jesus?   Yes.   Does God hear the cries of people today?  Yes.  What is it that you cry out to God for?  We are promised in Psalm 40 that our patience in waiting upon the Lord will be rewarded.  First, God hears and understands our concerns, feelings, situation and trials.  Second, God will lift us up and out of dire and sticky situations. God is able to set us on a firm foundation amidst changes and problems in the world.  Furthermore, God renews our souls with joy and peace, the inspiration of God’s Spirit gives us reason and revelation to praise the Lord.  This song and life of praising God amidst difficulties and trials then becomes our testimony.  “Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him”.  The witness of the faithful leads to those observing being moved by God’s Spirit.  Just yesterday, Marilyn and I went to the musical “The Sound of Music” at the Boston Opera House.  The music and story is uplifting for faith.  One key turning point is when the father, Captain Von Trapp, hears his children sing “The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music”.  The sweet beauty of his children’s voices turns his broken heart back to life again. He had been mourning the death of his first wife and was trying to exert exact discipline for his children without really listening to them or heading his own unresolved grief.  The new song of his children, taught by their new governess, Maria, broke through to reveal the call of renewing faith, hope and love that he was trying to avoid.  Maria, in the midst of seeking to be faithful to God, learned to wait patiently for the Lord.  The witness of God’s healing power, even in the midst of the family’s having to find escape from the Nazi’s in Austria, leads them on a journey.  The family performs their songs of faith, hope and love with the backdrop of a curtain full of red Nazi flags.  The contrast is so vivid as Captain Von Trapp and Maria sing “Edelweiss” (a prayer and blessing of peace); the message is like that of Psalm 40:4.   4  Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.   In the times we are living in we are to be faithful and loving, trusting in the Lord.  May we be patient, prayerful and persistent in serving God and declaring His greatness.  Indeed, greatness is not found in might but in doing what is right and pleasing to God.   By the way, praise God!  We had 91  people  (62 last year) in worship on Resurrection Sunday (Easter).  God is moving in and through the people of First Baptist Church of Bedford.        Pastor Scott Arnold

THE FIG TREE (February 29, 2016) 

Up until now I have named my article for the First Baptist Church of Bedford’s newsletter “Peaceful Pines”, but now a prompting from God’s Word and Spirit has led me to a new name “The Fig Tree”. Why? The Lord brought to my attention an important parable from Luke 13:6-9.  6  Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.  7  So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’  8  “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it.  9  If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9 NIV) What is the application of this passage?  Historically, it was to be applied to Israel and Jesus interceding for the salvation of God’s covenant with the people of Israel.  From this time on in the Gospels, Jesus worked with intensity as he “dug in” and “fertilized” the ground of Judea, Galilee and Samaria with the ministry and message of the Gospel of God’s Kingdom.  Jesus urgently worked, and called His disciples to join Him in the work, of proclaiming and serving for the fruit of saved/redeemed souls for God’s Kingdom.  Jesus intercedes for us between God the Father, the landowner.  Jesus ultimately gave himself for our salvation.  The fruit of Jesus’ very ministry and work brought about an increase of those being saved through the fruit of salvation given from His death and resurrection.  Fast forward several thousand years, and now the Church is being looked at by Jesus.  Christ has hope for the Church, but the Church and its branches are not bearing the fruit that God expects.  We may have green leaves and the semblance of life, but the fruit is quite lacking in many branches.  God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son are calling the Church to give more effort to grow, dig into our contexts and ground of community, love our neighbors, spread some “manure” (grace and truth), roll up our sleeves and get messy in ministry.  God is calling us to do more than maintain the nice appearance of the fig tree (the church), God is calling us to develop and extend the ministries of the church.  Jesus calls us to “Seek First the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” and then “all these things shall be added unto you”.  Fruit will come forth, life will be born of the work of ministry in God’s people and into the places where we are being sent.  In the parable, the gardener appeals for one more year.  Here at First Baptist we have to realize the urgency of our financial limitations, but also recognize the opportunity that God is giving us.  Now is not the time to despair, now is the time to have hope and work toward new possibilities.  Gardening and ministry are similar.  It is not rocket science, it is “down to earth” hard work.  The results and rewards, however, are heavenly.  We need not look at our digging and fertilizing as lowly, but see that in everything we do, God may be glorified.  “The Fig Tree”:  that’s what our very church is like.  Will we and other churches take the responsibility to respond to God’s concern and accountability?  Will we respond to the challenge and urgency of bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ?  Will we take the extra effort to reach out and share Jesus with others and invite them to our fellowship, to worship, to dinner, to a small group in our homes, to an event of the church?  Will we see that wherever we go we are to fertilize the places we are sent with the example and character of Christ?  How much time do any of us have?  How much time did Jesus have?  His passion for the salvation of humanity teaches us not to become passive or complacent.  Now is the time for us to shine, we only have a short time on this earth.  There is a window of time yet before God sends Christ again to the earth for the judgment of humanity.  Jesus calls the Church to a greater hope for the Fruit God will grant as we work together under His Grace and mercy.  The Life and ministry of Jesus, especially in His last year, teaches us to “pick up our cross” and follow Him and His example.  Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.  May we follow Jesus in giving of ourselves for others.    Pastor Scott Arnold 

Peaceful Pines (December  - Christmas 2015)

Christmas 2015   (Dr. Scott T. Arnold - Pastor FBC Bedford, MA) Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV) 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! _9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.     “I’m only human, born to make mistakes” were the words of a popular song from the 80’s. There is a deep longing and desire among humanity for mercy, grace and redemption. With this longing there is also a search for truth, justice and goodness. Why do we care about grace and truth if there is no God, if life is simply a matter of one’s experiences or personal definitions? The conscience within us, and the conscience of our shared human experience, speaks of our nature having greater connections and implications than merely being human. In Genesis, God said: “Let us create man in our image.” In the complexity of human redemption, God gave people free will, and set forth a creative and wondrous plan of salvation. In Christ Jesus the charity and love, grace and truth of God was revealed. People in our modern world may wonder about the origin of charity and good will that is celebrated among Christians at Christmas and at all times? The Apostle Paul’s teaching from Philippians 2 leads us to understand that God desires we have the mindset of Christ Jesus in our relationships with one another. This very mindset of Jesus was revolutionary and continues to challenge humanity toward peace, kindness, forgiveness, justice, grace and transformation.    The origin of Jesus’ mindset, teaching and deeds are connected to His divine identity and nature. The name God gives to Joseph for this divinely conceived son is “Jesus”, which means “Savior”. The other name given is “Emmanuel” which means “God with us”. The mind of God was placed within humanity in a new, pure and perfect way. While Jesus did not have perfect parents, He did have a direct relationship to His Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, and He spoke about this often. Jesus was born in a simple stable, but was heralded by angels and a starry host. Jesus was a danger to King Herod’s power regime, yet Wise Men came from afar to behold Him. Jesus did not set up a political stronghold in his ministry, instead he overcame spiritual strongholds through His victory over sin and death upon the cross and through His resurrection. While His mission led to the cross, through His life He revealed the very mind, personality, character and heart of God His Father. Jesus also revealed His own unique and divine character as God’s Son. One can truly say that imperfect humanity was confronted, loved and transformed by this encounter with the perfect Son of God who came into the form and culture of imperfect humanity. We take note, in the midst of our imperfect lives, culture, relationships and world that Jesus gives us a new way of looking at the world, a new way of relating to God, a fulfillment of the Judaic Covenant with God.     What is remarkable, according to Paul’s letter to the Philippians and within the gospel accounts, is the humility of Jesus. In the unique and unselfish mindset of Jesus, He did not consider forcing his own divinely given authority upon humanity. Instead, Jesus humbled himself in trusting His Heavenly Father to be with Him as He first took the role of servant/shepherd and physician. His rule as Lord would have to wait. Jesus was sent into humanity as the servant/king whose mission was both the salvation and redemption of humanity. Though only a few knees bowed at Jesus’ birth, the historical impact of the ministry of Jesus resurrected has led to a great host of redeemed witnesses. In the fullness of time “every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess.” Christ Jesus’ willing obedience to come and serve in His life, death and resurrection leads us to one of several responses: (1) Faith and adoration proclaimed in worship and commitment to God’s Heavenly Kingdom; or, (2) Doubt and denial that will be eventually confronted by the reality of the eventual triumph as Lord and King at His Second Coming.     The point here is this, God has given a direct and personal revelation in Jesus Christ. Believing and coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is God’s desire for salvation. Christmas is certainly a time of “Peace on earth, good will to human kind”. It is also a time of proclamation, “For to you a Savior is born who is Christ the Lord”. Pastor Scott Arnold

Peaceful Pines (September 2015 article)

How can we redeem time?  Many people approach the end of the summer and the beginning of fall with some sadness and a bit of trepidation.  We long for more time of unpressured pace, a little more  time with family or friends outdoors at a beach or barbeque.  Then there is the joy of walking on a beach or forest, or upon the rocky shores of the ocean.  We were made to adventure, discover and be renewed in God’s creation.  We were made to enjoy times together and times in solitude.  The end of summer reminds us that our time is limited, we are mortal.  On a practical level, we wish the schedule of September leading into the holidays didn’t have to become so demanding between all the competing interests and expectations.  Time is a precious gift and so how we use it is very important.  Somewhere in the midst of our busy-ness, or our creation of stress, we might ask God how we can redeem the time we are given.   The answer may seem rather simple, but it comes from the first of the Ten Commandments and the very teaching of Jesus:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself”.   Jesus was referencing Deuteronomy 4:29 -    “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”   Consider also the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Deuteronomy 5:7.   The application is this, we often place others things in sharper focus than the Lord our God.  When we allow the worries and pressures of life to dominate, it can affect our faith and love for God, others and ourselves.  Being active and busy is not the problem alone, the issue is a matter of priorities and perspective.  We are called to a balance in life where God wants us to find fullness beginning with our devotional and relational life.  God the Father communes with us through Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit.  This communion has seasons and changes, but there is a consistency to the eternal love of God. This August, our Vacation Bible School “Multicultural VBS” messages involved several key points:  1). God is Real  2). God is Love  3). God is Forgiving and 4). God is eternal.   When the children came to the last day, it was explained to them that first we have faith to trust in God’s real presence, then we trust in God’s love, we go on to trust that Jesus died for our sins on the cross to forgive us, and we then trust that by faith we can receive Jesus Christ and God’s Holy Spirit by faith to give us new life and lead us to eternal life.  The key response of the children to each of these lessons was “BELIEVE IT”.  When we believe and trust God with all of life, it makes all the difference.  This is the secret to dealing with stress and discovering ways to redeem and enjoy life. Jesus said:  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34 Peaceful Pines (August 2015) Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.   James 1:12 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 1:1-5 Over and over again, the news is often rife with stories of human brokenness and humanity’s inhumanity.  God our creator is not pleased with the presence and result of sin and suffering.  There are those who would disclaim God as being real or being irrelevant.  Nothing could be further from the truth. God has set into place a work of redeeming lost humanity, which was made in His image.  God is able to take our ruin and brokenness and redeem, restore and transform us through His love and grace.  The GOSPEL of Jesus Christ is the hope and promise of God’s redeeming love.  God, in the fullness of time, revealed love and forgiveness, truth and the way of life through Jesus Christ His Son, personally.  In the next couple of months we will start a series on Romans 1-4, with the specific theme being “Growing Together in Grace and Truth”,  this is part of a book project that I am working on:  “Redemption Road – Hope Beyond Ruin in an Urban World”.   In the weeks ahead I am looking forward to having you share insights that will help in this project, each discussion group after worship can write down key points that will help highlight what we learn as we enter God’s word together. The redemptive work of Christ and the Body of Believers in the Church is vitally needed.  Just as ruin in our society and for individuals is not simply a personal matter, so too redemption is not simply a personal matter.  We need to rediscover the redeeming ministry of being in community, sharing support and resources for the sake of healing, forgiveness, transformation and growth. In the passage from James 1.12 we see that redemptive hope in overcoming trials and tests in part of God’s grace to help us grow closer to God and one another in believing God’s promises and seeing the answer to our perseverance. In the passage from Romans 1:1-5  we note that God calls the most surprising people to do great things. Paul was not exactly the most likely candidate for sharing the Gospel.  He was once pursuing Christians to stop the spread of Jesus’ teaching.  Little did he know that Jesus was pursuing him, and that the Lord would come to reveal Himself in glory, grace and truth and then change his heart and mind.  Paul experienced a 180 degree turn, a reorientation through an encounter with the living and resurrected Jesus Christ.  From then on, the Scriptures were understood in a new light, and the Spirit of God was upon him with “good news” of salvation in the message empowered by the atoning death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. How does this all matter to our times?  Why should I care about being involved?  This all matters because redemption is God’s plan over ruin.  God wants us to live in redemptive grace and truth, to be transformed and to make a difference.  God wants us to discover how Jesus can make all the difference both personally and in our interpersonal relationships.  God wants us to come to a deeper walk of faith whereby we are filled and overflowing with His redeeming grace, mercy and peace.  God desires that His people stand firm in faith, hope and love.  Let’s grow together and bring others along in this Redemption Road.
Worship - 10:00 A.M. Sunday Growing Together - 11:15 A.M. Sundays
(YouTube Sermons) Winter to Spring 2017 “John 14” Sermons February 12, 2017 “Trust Jesus” John 14:1 February 19, 2017 “Heaven” John 14:2-3 and Mark 9:2-12 February 26, 2017 “The Way of Life”  John 14:4-7 March 5, 2017 “God the Father” John 14:8-11 March 12, 2017 “Faith in Jesus” John 14:12-14 March 19, 2017 “Spirit of Truth” John 14:15-20 March 26, 2017 “Love Covenant”  John 14:21-24 April 2, 2017 “Counsel and Peace” John 14:25-27 April 9, 2017 “Death and Resurrection” John 14:28-29 April 16, 2017 “Love Overcomes” John 14:30-31   Fall 2016: Prophets and Politics - Pastor Scott Arnold September 18 th , “Faith in the  Word of the Lord” Jeremiah 1:1-19   Prophecy and Politics (1) September 25 th ,  Prophecy and  Politics (2)  “Return to the Lord Jeremiah 3:14-18 October 2 nd ,    A Horrible and  Shocking Thing”  Prophecy and Politics   Jeremiah 5:21-31 October 9 th , At the Crossroads  “Prophecy and Politics” (4)  Jeremiah 6:16-19     Core Values - October 2016 October 16 th ,  Core Values of the  Christian Faith – Truthfulness October 23 rd ,  Core Values of the  Christian Faith – Grace  October 30 th   Core Values of the  Christian Faith – Justice  November 6 th   Core Values of the Christian Faith - Compassion  November 13 th   - Core Values of  the Christian Faith – Stewardship  November 20 th   Core Values of  the Christian Faith – Gratitude November 27 th   - Core Values of  the Christian Faith – Hope ”God Is:”   Psalms Series 2016 (more this summer)  July 3, 2016. God Is:  Experiencing God’s Spirit in the Psalms.  “God is our Peace” Psalm 4.  Pastor Scott preaching. July 10, 2016. God Is:  Experiencing God’s Spirit in the Psalms.”  “God is Trustworthy Psalm 5.  Pastor Scott preaching.   July 17, 2016. God Is:  Experiencing God’s Spirit in the Psalms.” “God is Merciful” Psalm 6.  Pastor Scott Preaching. July 24, 2016.  God Is:  Experiencing God’s Spirit in the Psalms.”  “God is a Righteous Judge” Psalm 7.  Korean Pastor, Isaac Park preaching  .July 31, 2016. God Is:  Experiencing God’s Spirit in the Psalms.”  “God is Majestic”  Week 8  Psalm 8. Pastor Scott Aug 7, 2016. God Is:  Experiencing God’s Spirit in the Psalms.” “God is Strong” Psalm 9. Week 9.  Pastor Scott preaching. Aug 14, 2016 “ Pastor Scott Arnold and a Special Guest, (Pastor Paul Arnold) will tag preach as brothers.  Message Title to be  determined.  Aug 21, 2016  God Is:  Experiencing God’s Spirit in the Psalms.”  “God is Responsive” Psalm 10. Week 10. Aug 28, 2016   “God Is:  Experiencing God’s Spirit in the Psalms.” “God is our Refuge”  Psalm 11. Week 11. Kevin Mickel preaching.  
First Baptist - Bedford
Making and Growing Disciples for Jesus Christ.  155 Concord Rd, Bedford MA 01730
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   Pastor Scott’s  Blog

Flying with Faith - July 2017

Peaceful Pines –   July / August 2017  (Scott Arnold) Looking out the window of the jet plane, two snow covered peaks were clearly visible to our north as we descended toward Portland, Oregon (for the Mission Summit of the American Baptist Churches that our church is a part of).  One of the peaks had a tall spired pointed top, the other peak had a broken top that had blown off in a volcanic eruption.  I speculated that it was Mt. Saint Helen’s, and this was confirmed later.  The other peak was Mt. Adams.  Each of these peaks told a different story as they faced each other.  Mt. Adams was majestic, Mt. Saint Helen’s was big and broken, a relic of a powerful event that involved elements that were cataclysmic, almost apocalyptic.  Of course, the contrast of the peaks was remarkable.  One ponders, is there a story or lesson here?  One could envision the metaphor of how human leaders are exalted, and that they rise and fall.  Glory is fleeting and that which seems majestic can be powerfully destroyed and altered.  Now before you think I might refer to the Scripture passage of Jesus; “those who exalt themselves shall be humbled and those who humble themselves shall be exalted”, consider another angle to these “Twin Peaks”.  Each peak is at a different place in its life cycle.  In this dynamic world, one peak grew and then blew its top before the other.  Eventually, Mt. Adams will have its day of eruption, or at least be weathered and brought low again.  Note that Mt. St. Helen’s did not give much warning, and in an instant its judgment day arrived.  So too, Mt. Adams will experience dynamic change, likely its own eruption. Underneath the surface, and at times above from space and on the earth with its climate, there are powerful forces at work.  Reference may be made to time and moments in time. In Scripture we read of “the Day of the Lord”, or a culmination of God’s activity such as a “Judgement day”.  All around, geologic evidence tells of powerful events and forces.  Another plac in Oregon, Crater Lake, was formed 7,700 years ago when a volcanic mountain, Mt. Mazama, erupted and collapsed.  The result is a lake that is 1946 feet deep and 5 miles wide.  With all this I ponder the thought of God’s timing for big events and changes.  Jesus knew that big things were yet to come in the future, and that many of these seismic changes would occur prior to and at the time of His second coming.        We read in the gospel of Matthew about what Jesus said after he had spoken plainly and sternly to the exalted religious leaders of Jerusalem.  Considering that Jerusalem was often referred to as the “Holy Mountain” and the “Holy City” of God; one might make the case from the judgement of Jesus that human glory is like the volcanic mountain, destined for ruin.         Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”  Matthew 24:1-2    Forty years after Jesus spoke these words, the temple was brought down and destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.  The foundation remained, of which we now have the “Wailing Wall”, but everything above the foundation was broken and burned.  When Jesus left the temple, he was walking away from the trappings of temporary glory and the illusion of permanency in this current order of things.  God has a plan for remaking this earth, people and all things.   There will be a new heaven and a new earth. The old order of things will pass away.  Put your trust in Jesus, not in temporal things, for God the Father has appointed Jesus to be Lord and Savior, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.  Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:1-5 

Surprise the World - March 2017

Peaceful Pines   March 2017 3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-5 Faith is not a static thing because life involves seasons of change.  To grow during life’s changes and challenges we need to discover the constancy of God as our fulcrum for arching forward and upward.  This does not mean we are without mistake or error, without troubles or trials, discouragement or disappointment; it means that God is present to work redemptively if we have faith.  Paul is thanking God for the church, for his brothers and sisters whose faith and actions are evidence of God’s powerful love as they function in support of one another for growth, and as they function in witness and mission together. Their faith and love had grown leaps and bounds in Thessalonica, even while enduring persecutions and trials.  The key for their strength and growth as a church family was their perseverance. They were healthy and strong in their faith because they practiced their Christian discipleship together in support of one another.  The principle of relational discipleship was at work in shared witness. No one was acting or publicly sharing their faith as detached agents from the fellowship, they were in touch and in tune through meeting together and in unity of God’s Spirit in prayer. The social order had its problems, as they were a persecuted minority within a flawed human system of Roman rule, so no one in the church looked to political solutions.  They had discovered hope in Jesus Christ for the transcendent and coming Kingdom of God.  In Christ, they had discovered that “the Kingdom of God was within them”, they had been born-again of the Holy Spirit and were now aware of the ultimacy of God’s Sovereignty through the Lordship of Jesus and His eventual return. Let’s apply this to today. We need to grow in the context of fellowship and relational discipleship. This keeps us strong and vibrant in faith, hope and love as we live grow in faith and love while we bear fruit for Christ’s coming Kingdom.  Without growth and support, the body of Christ is not as strong as it could be.  Small groups are often the heartbeat of relational discipleship in a church that is growing and missional like that of Thessalonica.  Therefore, we are developing and moving forward in our church ministry toward the rhythm of small group discipleship that provides personal and shared spiritual growth and support.  We will start by using a resource written by Michael Frost (from New Zealand) entitled: “Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People”.  We will begin the small group experience the last week of March (from March 26 th  the first Sunday), going until May 14 th .  The Small Groups will be composed of 3-6 people, and will meet wherever and whenever works best for them.  After this time of focus, the small group experience during the summer can be determined by the group, but the summer will be a time of fun, informal and supportive gathering, activity or service project according to the creativity of each group.  The rhythm of small group focus will then come again in the fall from late September to early November.  The idea is that small group focused meetings will have two seasons of study/support each year.  Small groups may grow and multiply, and people may also switch groups for reasons of timing, availability and getting to know others.  The goal is that we will grow in faith and love for Christ, one another and the world we are called to witness within.  To do this, it is critical that we grow in the missional habits that are essential as the Body of Christ.  Michael Frost identifies these as: (B.E.L.L.S.) Bless People Eat with People Listen to God by Praying Learn from God by Studying Scripture Serve God in being sent to serve people Currently, the deacons of the church and members of the Ministry Team will be active in small groups and therefore invite you to participate.  Youth will also be encouraged by Frances Paxton, as she will be finding out when teens may meet for support.  There will be couples who meet with one another.  Men may meet as a group and women may also meet with one another.  Young adults are encouraged.  If you are curious or interested, why don’t you give this some prayer and talk with others about it.  At the very minimum, you will be blessed by the theme during worship and our conversations following worship.  Yet to have the full effect of the small group experience, it takes a close bond of prayer and support.  Copies of the book are available at the church, and on Amazon Kindle.  The formation of small groups is now the critical responsibility of each of us.  This is not a “Top- Down” formation where assignments are made.  This is a “Grass-roots” movement where we talk with one another and seek the leading of God.  We believe that the best movements of God involve people coming together in the name of Jesus Christ for growth in faith and love.  If you need help with making connections, myself and other church leaders will assist and help you make connections.  The beauty of this series, as it will be supported also by our discussions following worship in our “Growing Together” times, is the focus upon “Being the Body of Christ in the world”.  These are small groups that will grapple with real life issues as they will help us with support and accountability. The Apostle Paul’s continued words to the Thessalonians lead us to approach our desire to grow as God’s people with constant and abiding prayer. 11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 To surprise the world, we are called to grow together in such a way that it is evident and attractive.  The presence and power of Christian love is what we are called to embody and express.   B.E.L.L.S. is a way to engage in personal growth and shared evangelism.  Prayer and personal devotion supported in small groups is the key.  Pastor Scott T. Arnold

Listen to the Lord - September 2016

4  Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples.  5  I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope. 6  Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended.   -  Isaiah 51:4-6             God spoke through the prophet Isaiah to the people and nation of Israel.  Isaiah was not the most popular prophet of his times.  In fact, people avoided him.  All the false and popular prophets gave people the deceitful message that Israel would overcome the Babylonians and prosper again.  Instead of confronting the nation for their disobedience to God, the making and worshipping of idols, the oppression of the poor and the exploitation of workers; the false prophets pandered to the wealthy and gained places of influence and prestige.  Isaiah, on the other hand, remained faithful to God and independent from political trappings.  By keeping his integrity as a prophet of God, Isaiah could speak truthfully and objectively about the problems besetting Israel and the peoples of all nations.  God would speak through Isaiah to the greater need for listening to the Lord amidst many conflicting voices.  Israel was so absorbed in its own pursuits that it wasn’t heeding the gravity of their spiritual disobedience and resulting brokenness through injustice. The message of the Lord through Isaiah confronted people about the social/spiritual nature of sin, while still calling people to personally seek God’s salvation in one’s heart through faith and demonstrated honestly through one’s deeds.  The power of God’s light is genuine when it is evident within people such that it lends the brightness of God’s reign to all people of every nation.  Yet in Isaiah’s time there were so many phonies and such great corruption that God could not let Israel continue in its deceit and disarray.  Babylon would eventually be God’s tool to disperse and discipline unfaithful Israel.  To Babylon they would be taken captive and made to use their talents and exercise their faith. In the times we live in today, the faith community is conflicted in the area of religion and politics.  People talk about being liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, left or right.  Fact is, God is not interested in what “party” one belongs to, or what label people wear.  God is interested in the heart and soul, one’s character and actions, faith and works.  The Old Testament prophets were most effective when they did not choose political factions to side with, but instead focused upon following the word and Spirit of Yahweh their God.  This seldom equated to their popularity, nor was it expedient for personal or political gain.  People who claim faith in God should learn from this and not seek to align themselves in ways that are inconsistent with the core values of the Judeo/Christian covenant.  Jesus called his disciples to be “in the world, but not of the world”.  That’s the tension, the reality of our imperfect world.  The noble thing for a believer to do is not be silent or to let apathy lead to inaction.   Providentially, in the big picture, God’s message endured through Isaiah and Jeremiah, and the vision God gave them still speaks volumes of truth into our times and for the future of humankind.  At the heart of their message was the call: “Listen to the Lord”.  This was how their calling began and was their invitation to the world they would be ordained to reach.  “Listen to me, my people.. Give heed.. My justice for a light to the peoples.”  Without justice, without applying God’s word to life, the light of God’s truth and grace is hindered.  God brings true justice, not corrupted humanity.  God can be trusted to deliver, not the arm of man. Salvation and judgment is from the maker and redeemer of life.  People will find the “arm” of human endeavor to fail, but when one places their trust in the “arm” of the Lord, there is salvation, justice and hope.  While even the heavens will “vanish like smoke” and the “earth will wear out like a garment” and “the people will die like gnats”, these are images that humble us so that we may seek God so as to be liberated for salvation, placing our faith in the loving redeeming arms of God.  We are reminded by the prophet to live for God’s eternal Kingdom,  “my salvation will be forever”.. “my deliverance will never be ended.”  Jesus put it this way :   19  "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20  but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   Matthew 6:19-21 (NRSV) Friends, what is your treasure?  Where is your heart?  How are you living?  God the Heavenly Father has invited us to new life in Jesus Christ, who is the saving arm of the Lord.                     Pastor Scott Arnold

The Fig Tree - July 2016 - Column by

Pastor Scott Arnold 

Michael Frost is a pastor and missiologist from Sydney, Australia.  The church he serves has developed five habits that are missional, and these practices have brought about seismic impact upon their community and are influencing the growth of a new mission movement.  I had an opportunity to hear and meet Michael Frost earlier this month at Northern Seminary in Chicago.  The funny thing is that I had bought his book “The Five Habits of Missional People” back in January, and was reading it on the airplane to Chicago when it dawned on me that he was the one I was going to hear give a message in just a few days.  The essential message of Pastor Michael is that the church of our time is no longer the Christendom of old, we are basically in a new era of Post-Christendom.  This does not mean that the church is no longer essential and vital, but what it does mean is that the values and philosophies within our world are not as influenced by the Bible or the institution of the church. In the Bible, the people of Israel experienced such a time when they were brought into exile.  The values and philosophies they encountered were challenging to their faith, but in the midst of their challenges God was moving to extend their witness and mission.  Where once they were content to keep the faith to themselves, now they were being led into another place, to other people, to share their faith.  In a similar way, when we engage in sharing our faith beyond the church and into conversations and connections we make with our neighbors and within the places we go, we are among a diverse culture that requires faithfulness and an intentional pursuit to be kind, gracious and Christ- like.  Missional practices are essential if the church is to shine the light of Jesus Christ.  We can no longer assume that people will come to check out our church until they first want to check-out what makes us “different”.   The witness of our time, and of any time really, is that Christians are “different” in being “born-again” through faith in Jesus Christ.  This difference is what the world needs and what makes us “salt” and “light”.  This difference of knowing, loving and serving as Jesus leads us, is the defining element of who we are personally and as a church.  Each week I see our church family growing and moving in this direction and it is exciting.  We are practicing our community life together on Sunday mornings and in gathering times and small groups.  I hope that we can continue to grow and learn from the Five Habits of Missional People, and they are:  Bless -  I will bless three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church. Eat – I will eat with three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church. Listen – I will spend at least one period of the week listening for the Spirit’s voice. Learn – I will spend at least one period of the week learning Christ. Sent – I will journal throughout the week about all the ways I alerted others to the universal reign of God through Christ.  (Along with this, people met in groups of three for Discipleship, Nurture and Accountability – D.N.A.)   Let’s continue to discover how God is working in our times, calling us to reach the world through practical acts of kindness.  We may seem to be in “exile” from what is familiar to us, but God is with us so that we may discern the leading of the Spirit as Missional people.   - Scott

The Fig Tree - June 2016  - Column by

Pastor Scott Arnold

“Deeper Ground” - Pastor’s Column   (also called the “Fig Tree”) 1  The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2  He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters, 3  he refreshes my soul.He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake. 4  Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me;your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. A few years ago I was at a conference where one of the workshops explored the 23 rd  Psalm.  Instead of the academic approach the leader gave us this instruction:  Go out to a place in the camp where you can read the Psalm as often as you like.  Write down notes.  Read only as far as you will write notes for.  Be back here in an hour with your notes. People found all sorts of interesting places to sit on a bright sunny day next to the lake, in gardens or in wooded areas. What everyone discovered was that they could not hurry through reading the Psalm. They began to write about each word in the Psalm that spoke to them.  For some, the word “Lord” caused great consideration about their own faith and trust in Jesus Christ as “Lord”.   “Shepherd” was a common place of meditation and reflection.  “My” and “I” made a personal appeal for others.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures” was a great reminder of the essential need for rest and recovery. “He leads me beside quiet waters” was a call to deeper reflection. Throughout the Psalm there were many who discovered great treasures of assurance, truth and wisdom. God worked to reveal His presence and encourage people to deeper faith through His Spirit speaking into people’s times of quiet and open contemplation.  One word that jumped out to me at the beginning of the Psalm was “Is”,  “The Lord is”..  Before anything was created, God exists as creator and Lord.  Starting in June we will embark on a journey in the Psalms with the title “GOD IS: Experiencing God’s Spirit in the Psalms”.  “God Is” will start on June 12 th  and go into September.  Pray that we will grow in the counsel and filling of God’s Holy Spirit, becoming more deeply responsive to the presence and working of God.  “God Is” will explore the nature of God and the blessings of taking time to acknowledge and be open to what it means to experience God and be led by God as our Lord and Good Shepherd.  Starting from Psalm 1 and going one Psalm at a time, we will start a journey that can be repeated in future summers (as the Spirit leads).  What we discover is that God is experienced in the Scriptures.  We must take the time to contemplate, be still, and listen to the voice of God’s Holy Spirit.  The still waters and the green pastures of summer are calling for us to greater knowledge, refreshing and grounded application.   Pastor Scott Arnold

The Fig Tree – April 1 2016 - 

by Pastor Scott Arnold

Psalm 40:  1  I waited patiently for the Lord;  he turned to me and heard my cry. 2  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. 4  Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. 5  Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done,the things you planned for us. None can compare with you;were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare. Did God hear the cry of Jesus on the cross?  Yes. Did God hear the cry of Mary for her son?  Yes. Did God hear the cry of disciples who failed their Lord?  Yes. Did God hear the cry of Stephen, the first martyr, when he was stoned for sharing His vision of seeing Jesus?   Yes.   Does God hear the cries of people today?  Yes.  What is it that you cry out to God for?  We are promised in Psalm 40 that our patience in waiting upon the Lord will be rewarded.  First, God hears and understands our concerns, feelings, situation and trials.  Second, God will lift us up and out of dire and sticky situations. God is able to set us on a firm foundation amidst changes and problems in the world.  Furthermore, God renews our souls with joy and peace, the inspiration of God’s Spirit gives us reason and revelation to praise the Lord.  This song and life of praising God amidst difficulties and trials then becomes our testimony.  “Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him”.  The witness of the faithful leads to those observing being moved by God’s Spirit.  Just yesterday, Marilyn and I went to the musical “The Sound of Music” at the Boston Opera House.  The music and story is uplifting for faith.  One key turning point is when the father, Captain Von Trapp, hears his children sing “The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music”.  The sweet beauty of his children’s voices turns his broken heart back to life again. He had been mourning the death of his first wife and was trying to exert exact discipline for his children without really listening to them or heading his own unresolved grief.  The new song of his children, taught by their new governess, Maria, broke through to reveal the call of renewing faith, hope and love that he was trying to avoid.  Maria, in the midst of seeking to be faithful to God, learned to wait patiently for the Lord.  The witness of God’s healing power, even in the midst of the family’s having to find escape from the Nazi’s in Austria, leads them on a journey.  The family performs their songs of faith, hope and love with the backdrop of a curtain full of red Nazi flags.  The contrast is so vivid as Captain Von Trapp and Maria sing “Edelweiss” (a prayer and blessing of peace); the message is like that of Psalm 40:4.   4  Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.   In the times we are living in we are to be faithful and loving, trusting in the Lord.  May we be patient, prayerful and persistent in serving God and declaring His greatness.  Indeed, greatness is not found in might but in doing what is right and pleasing to God.   By the way, praise God!  We had 91  people  (62 last year) in worship on Resurrection Sunday (Easter).  God is moving in and through the people of First Baptist Church of Bedford.        Pastor Scott Arnold

THE FIG TREE (February 29, 2016) 

Up until now I have named my article for the First Baptist Church of Bedford’s newsletter “Peaceful Pines”, but now a prompting from God’s Word and Spirit has led me to a new name “The Fig Tree”. Why? The Lord brought to my attention an important parable from Luke 13:6-9.  6  Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.  7  So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’  8  “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it.  9  If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9 NIV) What is the application of this passage?  Historically, it was to be applied to Israel and Jesus interceding for the salvation of God’s covenant with the people of Israel.  From this time on in the Gospels, Jesus worked with intensity as he “dug in” and “fertilized” the ground of Judea, Galilee and Samaria with the ministry and message of the Gospel of God’s Kingdom.  Jesus urgently worked, and called His disciples to join Him in the work, of proclaiming and serving for the fruit of saved/redeemed souls for God’s Kingdom.  Jesus intercedes for us between God the Father, the landowner.  Jesus ultimately gave himself for our salvation.  The fruit of Jesus’ very ministry and work brought about an increase of those being saved through the fruit of salvation given from His death and resurrection.  Fast forward several thousand years, and now the Church is being looked at by Jesus.  Christ has hope for the Church, but the Church and its branches are not bearing the fruit that God expects.  We may have green leaves and the semblance of life, but the fruit is quite lacking in many branches.  God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son are calling the Church to give more effort to grow, dig into our contexts and ground of community, love our neighbors, spread some “manure” (grace and truth), roll up our sleeves and get messy in ministry.  God is calling us to do more than maintain the nice appearance of the fig tree (the church), God is calling us to develop and extend the ministries of the church.  Jesus calls us to “Seek First the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” and then “all these things shall be added unto you”.  Fruit will come forth, life will be born of the work of ministry in God’s people and into the places where we are being sent.  In the parable, the gardener appeals for one more year.  Here at First Baptist we have to realize the urgency of our financial limitations, but also recognize the opportunity that God is giving us.  Now is not the time to despair, now is the time to have hope and work toward new possibilities.  Gardening and ministry are similar.  It is not rocket science, it is “down to earth” hard work.  The results and rewards, however, are heavenly.  We need not look at our digging and fertilizing as lowly, but see that in everything we do, God may be glorified.  “The Fig Tree”:  that’s what our very church is like.  Will we and other churches take the responsibility to respond to God’s concern and accountability?  Will we respond to the challenge and urgency of bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ?  Will we take the extra effort to reach out and share Jesus with others and invite them to our fellowship, to worship, to dinner, to a small group in our homes, to an event of the church?  Will we see that wherever we go we are to fertilize the places we are sent with the example and character of Christ?  How much time do any of us have?  How much time did Jesus have?  His passion for the salvation of humanity teaches us not to become passive or complacent.  Now is the time for us to shine, we only have a short time on this earth.  There is a window of time yet before God sends Christ again to the earth for the judgment of humanity.  Jesus calls the Church to a greater hope for the Fruit God will grant as we work together under His Grace and mercy.  The Life and ministry of Jesus, especially in His last year, teaches us to “pick up our cross” and follow Him and His example.  Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.  May we follow Jesus in giving of ourselves for others.    Pastor Scott Arnold 

Peaceful Pines (December  -

Christmas 2015)

Christmas 2015   (Dr. Scott T. Arnold - Pastor FBC Bedford, MA) Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV) 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! _9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.     “I’m only human, born to make mistakes” were the words of a popular song from the 80’s. There is a deep longing and desire among humanity for mercy, grace and redemption. With this longing there is also a search for truth, justice and goodness. Why do we care about grace and truth if there is no God, if life is simply a matter of one’s experiences or personal definitions? The conscience within us, and the conscience of our shared human experience, speaks of our nature having greater connections and implications than merely being human. In Genesis, God said: “Let us create man in our image.” In the complexity of human redemption, God gave people free will, and set forth a creative and wondrous plan of salvation. In Christ Jesus the charity and love, grace and truth of God was revealed. People in our modern world may wonder about the origin of charity and good will that is celebrated among Christians at Christmas and at all times? The Apostle Paul’s teaching from Philippians 2 leads us to understand that God desires we have the mindset of Christ Jesus in our relationships with one another. This very mindset of Jesus was revolutionary and continues to challenge humanity toward peace, kindness, forgiveness, justice, grace and transformation.    The origin of Jesus’ mindset, teaching and deeds are connected to His divine identity and nature. The name God gives to Joseph for this divinely conceived son is “Jesus”, which means “Savior”. The other name given is “Emmanuel” which means “God with us”. The mind of God was placed within humanity in a new, pure and perfect way. While Jesus did not have perfect parents, He did have a direct relationship to His Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, and He spoke about this often. Jesus was born in a simple stable, but was heralded by angels and a starry host. Jesus was a danger to King Herod’s power regime, yet Wise Men came from afar to behold Him. Jesus did not set up a political stronghold in his ministry, instead he overcame spiritual strongholds through His victory over sin and death upon the cross and through His resurrection. While His mission led to the cross, through His life He revealed the very mind, personality, character and heart of God His Father. Jesus also revealed His own unique and divine character as God’s Son. One can truly say that imperfect humanity was confronted, loved and transformed by this encounter with the perfect Son of God who came into the form and culture of imperfect humanity. We take note, in the midst of our imperfect lives, culture, relationships and world that Jesus gives us a new way of looking at the world, a new way of relating to God, a fulfillment of the Judaic Covenant with God.     What is remarkable, according to Paul’s letter to the Philippians and within the gospel accounts, is the humility of Jesus. In the unique and unselfish mindset of Jesus, He did not consider forcing his own divinely given authority upon humanity. Instead, Jesus humbled himself in trusting His Heavenly Father to be with Him as He first took the role of servant/shepherd and physician. His rule as Lord would have to wait. Jesus was sent into humanity as the servant/king whose mission was both the salvation and redemption of humanity. Though only a few knees bowed at Jesus’ birth, the historical impact of the ministry of Jesus resurrected has led to a great host of redeemed witnesses. In the fullness of time “every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess.” Christ Jesus’ willing obedience to come and serve in His life, death and resurrection leads us to one of several responses: (1) Faith and adoration proclaimed in worship and commitment to God’s Heavenly Kingdom; or, (2) Doubt and denial that will be eventually confronted by the reality of the eventual triumph as Lord and King at His Second Coming.     The point here is this, God has given a direct and personal revelation in Jesus Christ. Believing and coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is God’s desire for salvation. Christmas is certainly a time of “Peace on earth, good will to human kind”. It is also a time of proclamation, “For to you a Savior is born who is Christ the Lord”. Pastor Scott Arnold

Peaceful Pines (September 2015

article)

How can we redeem time?  Many people approach the end of the summer and the beginning of fall with some sadness and a bit of trepidation.  We long for more time of unpressured pace, a little more time with family or friends outdoors at a beach or barbeque.  Then there is the joy of walking on a beach or forest, or upon the rocky shores of the ocean.  We were made to adventure, discover and be renewed in God’s creation.  We were made to enjoy times together and times in solitude.  The end of summer reminds us that our time is limited, we are mortal.  On a practical level, we wish the schedule of September leading into the holidays didn’t have to become so demanding between all the competing interests and expectations.  Time is a precious gift and so how we use it is very important.  Somewhere in the midst of our busy- ness, or our creation of stress, we might ask God how we can redeem the time we are given.   The answer may seem rather simple, but it comes from the first of the Ten Commandments and the very teaching of Jesus:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself”.   Jesus was referencing Deuteronomy 4:29 -    “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”   Consider also the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Deuteronomy 5:7.   The application is this, we often place others things in sharper focus than the Lord our God.  When we allow the worries and pressures of life to dominate, it can affect our faith and love for God, others and ourselves.  Being active and busy is not the problem alone, the issue is a matter of priorities and perspective.  We are called to a balance in life where God wants us to find fullness beginning with our devotional and relational life.  God the Father communes with us through Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit.  This communion has seasons and changes, but there is a consistency to the eternal love of God. This August, our Vacation Bible School “Multicultural VBS” messages involved several key points:  1). God is Real  2). God is Love  3). God is Forgiving and 4). God is eternal.   When the children came to the last day, it was explained to them that first we have faith to trust in God’s real presence, then we trust in God’s love, we go on to trust that Jesus died for our sins on the cross to forgive us, and we then trust that by faith we can receive Jesus Christ and God’s Holy Spirit by faith to give us new life and lead us to eternal life.  The key response of the children to each of these lessons was “BELIEVE IT”.  When we believe and trust God with all of life, it makes all the difference.  This is the secret to dealing with stress and discovering ways to redeem and enjoy life. Jesus said:  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34 Peaceful Pines (August 2015) Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.   James 1:12 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 1:1-5 Over and over again, the news is often rife with stories of human brokenness and humanity’s inhumanity.  God our creator is not pleased with the presence and result of sin and suffering.  There are those who would disclaim God as being real or being irrelevant.  Nothing could be further from the truth. God has set into place a work of redeeming lost humanity, which was made in His image.  God is able to take our ruin and brokenness and redeem, restore and transform us through His love and grace.  The GOSPEL of Jesus Christ is the hope and promise of God’s redeeming love.  God, in the fullness of time, revealed love and forgiveness, truth and the way of life through Jesus Christ His Son, personally.  In the next couple of months we will start a series on Romans 1-4, with the specific theme being “Growing Together in Grace and Truth”,  this is part of a book project that I am working on:  “Redemption Road – Hope Beyond Ruin in an Urban World”.   In the weeks ahead I am looking forward to having you share insights that will help in this project, each discussion group after worship can write down key points that will help highlight what we learn as we enter God’s word together. The redemptive work of Christ and the Body of Believers in the Church is vitally needed.  Just as ruin in our society and for individuals is not simply a personal matter, so too redemption is not simply a personal matter.  We need to rediscover the redeeming ministry of being in community, sharing support and resources for the sake of healing, forgiveness, transformation and growth. In the passage from James 1.12 we see that redemptive hope in overcoming trials and tests in part of God’s grace to help us grow closer to God and one another in believing God’s promises and seeing the answer to our perseverance. In the passage from Romans 1:1-5  we note that God calls the most surprising people to do great things. Paul was not exactly the most likely candidate for sharing the Gospel.  He was once pursuing Christians to stop the spread of Jesus’ teaching.  Little did he know that Jesus was pursuing him, and that the Lord would come to reveal Himself in glory, grace and truth and then change his heart and mind.  Paul experienced a 180 degree turn, a reorientation through an encounter with the living and resurrected Jesus Christ.  From then on, the Scriptures were understood in a new light, and the Spirit of God was upon him with “good news” of salvation in the message empowered by the atoning death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. How does this all matter to our times?  Why should I care about being involved?  This all matters because redemption is God’s plan over ruin.  God wants us to live in redemptive grace and truth, to be transformed and to make a difference.  God wants us to discover how Jesus can make all the difference both personally and in our interpersonal relationships.  God wants us to come to a deeper walk of faith whereby we are filled and overflowing with His redeeming grace, mercy and peace.  God desires that His people stand firm in faith, hope and love.  Let’s grow together and bring others along in this Redemption Road.