MARY ON A PEDESTAL
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
November 20, 2016
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. 39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
— Luke 1:26-45, ESV
Miriam never thought she would be famous, let alone leave a controversial legacy. She was, in the words of a song, “Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world.” All she wanted in her provincial Jewish life was to worship God, make her arranged marriage work, and have children who would fondly remember her after she was gone. While biding time before the wedding, however, her life took a dramatic turn.
Two thousand years later, everyone knows her name. She is called Mary, the Virgin Mary, sometimes even the Mother of God. Non-Christians generally respect her. Roman Catholics veritably worship her, pray to her, and iconify her in their sanctuaries. Protestants, perhaps embarrassed by the excesses of Catholicism, tend to downplay her role in redemptive history.
Today we shall put Mary where she belongs, on a pedestal! She is a bonafide heroine of the Christian faith, a wonderful model of devotion to God, and in the very words of the word of God, “Blessed … among women.” We will not worship her, for Scripture clearly commands us to worship God alone. We shall not pray to her as if she is our intercessor, for the Bible identifies another, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the one mediator between God and man. But we will admire her and acknowledge that through Mary, Christ and Christianity have come to us.
Mary Had an Audience with an Angel
Angels are mentioned about three hundred times in the Bible, and Bible-believing Christians believe in angels. I think there are millions of them roaming the highways between heaven and earth at all times. It is extremely rare, though, to recognize one, much less have an audience with an actual angel.
Only two are named in Scripture. Michael is mentioned in the books of Daniel, Jude, and Revelation. Gabriel can also be found in Daniel, and we see him in Luke delivering the birth prophecies of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Gabriel who meets with Mary to announce God’s choice of her to play a most special role in the plan of salvation.
Mary is one of the infinitesimally small group of people on earth to have a definite encounter with an angel and live to tell about it. Gabriel appeared to her and spoke with her, personally, and the meeting shook Mary from her headdress to her sandals. This makes her special, worthy of putting on a pedestal, at least for the moment.
Mary Showed Purity in Her Virginity
The second thing we learn about Mary is more controversial. She is identified as a virgin. The term in Hebrew can admittedly mean either a young woman, or a woman who has had no sexual relations with a man. In olden days the two definitions were virtually synonymous, since young unmarried women did not have sex with men. Alas, times have changed.
But had they changed by Mary’s time? Critics of conservative Christianity who deny the miraculous claim the first definition for Mary, both in the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 and the fulfillment narratives in Matthew and Luke. They claim she became pregnant out of wedlock and concocted the angelic story as a coverup. I, however, would rather take Mary and God at their word.
In the Greek language, only the latter definition of virgin will suffice. Furthermore, the context of the story reveals Mary’s own confession that conception for her would be impossible, since virginity in her case clearly meant she had never known a man. This is why Gabriel had to convince her that nothing is impossible for God, including conception for the barren Elizabeth and the virgin Mary.
Now let’s tackle the great virgin controversy, part two. After this promise was fulfilled and Mary gave birth to Jesus, she did not remain a perpetual virgin, as Catholic teaching suggests. Such a claim is a synchronism of Christianity and Greek mythology. Athena is fictional, Mary is real, and Scripture is clear that after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had children in the normal, procreative way (ref. Matthew 1:25, 13:35; Mark 3:31; John 6:42).
But let’s keep Mary on the pedestal, please. Her pre-martial virginity makes her a model of obedience to God and resistance to temptation. It solidified her status as a believer, elevated her self-esteem, provided her with a precious gift to give to her husband, and put her in a position to be used by God in a spectacular way. Virginity today is highly underrated, so let us honor Mary for her purity and commitment.
Mary Was Chosen by God to Mother the Messiah
Angels and controversies aside, let’s go now to Mary and the gospel. Mary is special because her story is part and parcel of the gospel story. She is not the beginning, nor the end, but a monumentally important part in the middle.
Different Bible scholars identify over a hundred prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament. Among them are definitive predictions that the Messiah would be Jewish, from the tribe of Judah, a descendant of King David, and born to a virgin mother in Bethlehem. There stands Mary, on a pedestal, part and parcel of the fulfillment of all of these prophecies concerning the Savior of the world. How great is He, but how important is she! Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Why did God choose Mary? It was by grace, as “found favor with God” mentioned by the angel Gabriel literally means, by the grace of God. What did Mary do in response to the grace of God? She had faith, she “believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” What did grace through faith produce in Mary? Good works, of course, as she maintained her virginity, married a man who was also a descendant of David, gave birth to the Lord Jesus Christ, and stood by Him through storms of doubt all the way to the cross and beyond. Mary’s life is the gospel life, and for this we gladly put her on display.
Mary Was a Servant of the Lord
If Mary were here with us today, however, she would not want the pedestal. She did not think of herself as a great person of great power and great privilege. She though of herself in the normal way all true believers and followers of Jesus Christ should feel, like a servant.
Perhaps the most important thing said about Mary in this text is said by Mary herself, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” What God was asking her to do was as terrifying as it was terrific. She would have to endure scorn and shame, doubt and ridicule, hardship and death threats, widowhood, and the worst thing that can ever happen to a parent, which is to have your child die before you do. Furthermore, consider the way her child died.
A boy and girl got two parts in the annual Christmas play, one as a shepherd and one as Mary. The boy said to the girl, “Being a shepherd is hard,” to which the girl replied, “Being a virgin is hard, too.” Keeping sexually pure in a sex-soaked world is hard, as is keeping the other commandments of God in an increasingly godless society. In this egocentric world it is hard to give up your will to the will of another, even if the other is God. But that is what servants do, that is what Christians do.
And, that is what Mary did. So keep her on the pedestal after all, and let her tell the world about Jesus.
Mary Shared the Good News
When you want to tell the world about Jesus, you should begin at home, with family and friends. Mary went running to Elizabeth, a relative, who had also been part of the good news given by Gabriel. The two women compared notes, caught up on family issues, and marveled at the gospel of God concerning John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel is good news given to be shared.
Too many confessing Christians are not confessing Christ. Instead, we ought all to be on a pedestal. The world needs to hear, and the least we can do is tell our world. Our world consists of our relatives, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers. Like Mary, God has chosen us, not to keep Christ to ourselves, but to tell all we know to all the people we know.
Someone suggested that Mary is in Heaven now, probably tired of saints walking up to her and asking, “Mary, Did You Know?” Of course Mary knew, she knew before anyone else did. Mary knew she was special, and Mary knew she was normal. Mary knew she was chosen by God for a special purpose, as is every member of Christ’s church. The normal thing to do now is serve the Lord, like Mary did, especially by telling others the good news about Jesus Christ.
Copyright © 2016 Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, All rights reserved.
Check out the weekly happenings at Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
GOD AT WORK
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
November 13, 2016
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” 18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
— Luke 1:5-25, ESV
Luke’s immaculately researched Gospel begins with two miraculous birth prophecies and the ensuing fulfillment narratives. The birth of John the Baptist, like Abraham’s and Sarah’s son, Issac, was foretold by an angel and delivered to parents too old to normally conceive a child. The birth of Jesus Christ is even greater, as Joseph and the virgin Mary receive their angelically promised child without the normal means of conception. Two miracles result in two births which produce two men who build a bridge for us to crossover into the redemptive plan of God.
In short order Luke is going to record God’s work through the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist and the ultimate work of God in the messianic ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. This work and these workers, of course, are outstanding and easy to see. Other workers and works of God, however, are harder to spot. They do their work behind the scenes, so to speak. This is true when it comes to the parents of the great prophet John the Baptist.
Could you name them, if their names had not been brought to the forefront by this text? The only mention of their names in the entire Bible is right here in Luke’s Gospel. Their contribution to Christianity is very significant. But even more important than studying their work is watching the way God works. God works through certain people, speaking to them in certain ways, to bring the certainty of His blessings.
God Works Through Certain People
Zechariah and Elizabeth were the parents of John the Baptist. Not much is known about them, except what is revealed here in Scripture. They were devout Jews, well placed in the religious and cultural life of Israel, chosen by God to bring into the world the man who would simultaneously be the last Old Testament prophet and the first New Testament herald. Why would God chose them to do this important work?
First of all, because they were extraordinary. Actually, they were ordinary, but God chose them for an extraordinary work. This was true about Abraham, Moses, and David in the Old Testament. There will never be any more like them in Israel. This was true about Paul, John, Peter, and John the Baptist. There will never be any more exactly like them in the church. God chose, by His sovereign grace, to involve Zechariah and Elizabeth as special people in His special plan of salvation, making them the parents of the forerunner of the Christ, John the Baptist.
Now, let’s get back to the ordinariness of Zechariah and Elizabeth, in the sense that they were ordinary believers who were wholly dedicated to the Lord. God chose to work through them because “they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” They attained this lofty status in the same way as every other believer, Old Testament and New, by God-given grace through grace-induced faith in God’s revelation of Himself to us. Such grace that imputes righteousness also has an output, obedience to God’s word and doing God’s work.
If you want God to do a mighty work through you, get busy working for the Lord. Believe in Him and be faithful in worship and Bible study and daily obedience. If that is all you ever do, and if that was all Zechariah and Elizabeth had ever done, it would be great in the eyes of the Lord. And, it could also set the stage for something even more significant in the service of God and God’s people.
God works through righteous, faithful people. So trust in the Lord, be faithful, and be watchful. Obey God in the little things of the Christian life, and He just might do something big through you one day. And when He wants you to do something, small or great, you will know, because God will tell you.
God Speaks in Certain Ways
God spoke to Zechariah in extraordinary and ordinary ways. In this particular episode, God spoke in a rare and spectacular way to this man about the man to come. God sent His angel, Gabriel, to detail God’s plan to give them a son, a special son with a special name with special orders. John would be Spirit-filled from conception and come into the world to bring about a revival and a revelation concerning the coming Messiah. No wonder Zechariah had a little trouble believing it and was made mute until John was born. This was an outstanding revelation, a once in a lifetime moment, a monumental piece of God’s plan to change the world.
By the way, Gabriel was seen in the Old Testament, by the prophet Daniel. He appears here to Zechariah and will appear again in the next story to the virgin Mary. In both testaments, Gabriel’s message from God has to do with God’s Son and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. John the Baptist was called to be the bridge from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, for the people of God to find the Son of God who takes away the sin of the world. Given the importance of John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ, it is no wonder that God sent a special messenger with this special message. You and I will likely never see Gabriel in our lifetimes.
But, we can see something else Zechariah saw. We can see, read, hear, and obey the word of God, the Bible. God had spoken to Zechariah for many years, through the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets, what we now call our Old Testament. Zechariah believed in God and was faithful to God’s word, becoming a priest himself while married to the daughter of a priest. But you do not have to be a priest or a preacher to hear and heed the word of God, you just have to be a child of God to hear God speak to you through the certain means of Holy Scripture.
Today we have the word of God more sure today than Zechariah and Elizabeth had in their day. We have a complete Bible before us, Old and New Testament, and it is through the inspired word of God that God steadfastly speaks to His people. When you read the Bible, God is speaking His word directly to you. When you hear the Bible accurately preached and taught, God is speaking to you personally and powerfully. Read it, hear it, obey it, and watch and wait for God’s blessings to arrive.
God’s Blessings are Certain
God’s blessings are certain to those who believe in Him and obey His word. Zechariah and Elizabeth trusted God, albeit not without some difficulty and doubt, and took Him at His word. Zechariah and Elizabeth served God, consistently and completely. And Zechariah and Elizabeth were certainly blessed by God, in a certain way, by giving them a certain and very special child.
Now let me say something certain about this. I do not expect that you nor I will be visited by an angel in our lifetime. I cannot guarantee that if you love and obey the Lord that He will automatically answer you prayer for a child if you do not have one, or a cure for cancer if you cannot find one, or a new house or car if you’d like to have one. Such blessings can come, no doubt, but they are not certain.
Here is the blessing that is certain if you trust and obey the Lord: God will use you in His work. He will use you to preach or share the gospel, mentor someone to come to Christ, or do some other good deed in Jesus’ name. He will use you to build up His church, His body and His bride, which He loves more than any other entity on earth. He will take away your sin, and use you to spread the sin-cleansing, soul-saving, reproach-removing good news of Jesus Christ. You will be blessed and you will be a blessing, and this is certain — if you love, trust, and obey the Lord your God.
Look around. God is at work. Look within. Let God go to work in you.
Copyright © 2016 Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, All rights reserved.
Check out the weekly happenings at Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
ARE YOU THEOPHILUS?
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
November 6, 2016
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
— Luke 1:1-4, ESV
Today we begin a long journey in the longest Gospel, but I promise it won’t seem all that long. The Gospels of the New Testament stand as the centerpiece of Holy Scripture, amazingly beautiful to behold. They are the finest contribution of literary work ever given from God to man and from man about God.
Each one of the human authors received God’s inspiration, gathered facts, and told the good news of Jesus Christ in his own unique way. Together they tell the same story from four points of view of how God came to us in Christ to make us the children of God. The third Gospel, in addition to being the longest, is remarkable in many ways, including its introduction. It is written by an unnamed man we know, to a named man we do not.
The Unnamed Man We Know
None of the Gospel writers identified themselves in writing, but we do know each one by name. Testimony from second and third generation Christians accurately identify Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The four had much in common, but one of them stands out as the most uncommon of all of the human authors of the Bible.
Luke, short for Lukas or Lukanos, is the only non-Jewish person to write Holy Scripture. His contribution is considerable, for if you count the words in his Gospel plus his lengthy sequel, the book of Acts, Luke exceeds even Paul for penning the most material of any New Testament writer. God wrought a lot of words through Luke, and we should pay wrapt attention to every one of them.
Luke was Greek, a Gentile, almost certainly converted to Christ during the missionary work of the Apostle Paul, to whom Luke became a traveling companion. Paul mentions Luke by name three times (ref. Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24), which is how we know his dual vocations of physician and missionary. Luke would have been among the most intellectual, spiritual, and dedicated Christians of his day, and these attributes are evident in his style of writing. Getting to know Luke better will enable us to get to know Jesus better, which should be the goal of life.
By the time Luke begins to write his Gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ has been crucified, buried, and resurrected for approximately thirty years. During these decades the gospel has been preached (kerygma) and in some of the stories were written down (Q). Mark’s Gospel had most likely been the first Gospel published. That’s when the Holy Spirit began to move upon Matthew to take these three sources (kerygma, Q, Mark) and write a Gospel crafted to carry the gospel to a primarily Jewish audience. God commissioned Luke to do something similar, only from Gentile to Gentiles. This explains Luke’s introduction to his “orderly account.” It was so successful God gave Luke a contract for the sequel, Acts.
How can an understanding of Luke increase our knowledge of Christ and Christianity? In every way! Luke tells us that God loves the world, Jew and Gentile, red and yellow and black and white. He is partial to Christ’s interaction with those normally looked down upon in society. No matter who you are, where you’ve come from, or what you’ve done, the gospel is for you. For those already saved by grace through faith in Christ, Luke reminds us that we all have two jobs. Our secondary vocation is whatever home or business or school or ministry employs us; but, our primary purpose on earth is to spread the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, Luke, we’re glad to know you, even though you did not write your name in your Gospel. But, you did write down the name of the person to whom you wrote, but we really are not sure who he is. Who is Theophilus?
The Named Man We Do Not Know
The identity of the original recipient or recipients of any book of the Bible is an important ingredient in determining the proper interpretation of every passage. Unlike a lot of books in the Bible which name the author but not the recipient, Luke did not mention his name but did identify his original audience of one, “Theophilus.” Scan all the Bible dictionaries and commentaries you like and you’ll be hard pressed to come up with any reliable clue as to his exact identity. All we really know is what is written in this introduction to Luke’s Gospel.
We know he was one of “us,” as Luke points out twice. So, this Gospel was written to Christians to help them better understand Christ and take His message to the whole world. Again, this is our main job, no matter what our other jobs may be. Also, this is why the church should always be gospel-centric in worship, word, and sacrament, to constantly put Jesus before our eyes so that we well take Him out to the world with our lives and lips. Luke is writing to “us,” too!
We know he was a “most excellent” man, but we don’t really know what that means. The term is found in various English translations of the Bible. In Psalm 45:2, the Psalmist describes a descendant of King David, the messianic king, our Lord Jesus Christ. Luke uses the term three times in all, here and in the book of Acts (ref. Acts 24:3, 26:25) when speaking to men of rank, Governors Felix and Festus. Paul said the most excellent spiritual gift of all is love (ref. 1 Corinthians 12:31ff). Christians are the best people in the world, although it is not because of who we are but because of Whom we worship and serve. There is definitely something good about Theophilus, but we need to know more.
We know he was searching for clarity and certainty concerning the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, and the salvation it brings. What could be more important? All the knowledge, money, power, and fame in the world is worth nothing without the acceptance and assurance of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Salvation and certainty come, of course, by hearing and heeding the word of God. So, Theophilus was a good person in good pursuit of good understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ. So far, so good.
The final clue is this: we know his name, Theophilus. We know it is a Greek name which can be translated into our language. It literally means “friend of God,” or perhaps “lover of God.” That’s a good name. Yet no one knows exactly who it is. Or, do they?
I know. It could be me. It could be you. It could be any Christian. Are you Theophilus?
Are you Theophilus?
Are you a friend of God?
A friend is someone you know, personally. A friend is someone you can talk to, intimately. A friend is someone to spend life with, joyfully. I hope you have a friend or friends like this. Perhaps it is your spouse, a parent or child, a person you’ve grown up with, or a person you’ve just come to trust and enjoy as a friend.
Make no mistake, Jesus is the greatest friend you will ever know. He knows you, and loves you anyway, unconditionally! He speaks to you through His word and Spirit, and you can speak to Him in prayer. Knowing Christ personally and savingly is the greatest joy in this life, and in the life to come. Are you a friend of God?
Do you love the Lord with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength?
Your greatest love is the source of your greatest pleasure. If your greatest pleasure is sex, you will always be searching for a physical lover, or many, to your eventual shame. If your greatest pleasure is money, you will do almost anything to get it so you can have it and spend it, your life revolving around money, to your eventual bankruptcy. If your greatest pleasure is power and control over other people, you will step over and on top of other people to get it, as we often see in an election year, and history will treat you with disdain. But if your greatest pleasure is God, where will you go? You will go to Jesus. Where can you find Him? In the gospel of the Gospels, like this one from Luke to Theophilus.
The gospel from the Gospels should be heard every Lord’s Day and put on display in the holy communion of the church. It shows us Jesus. It makes us love Him, ever more. It transforms us continually into constant lovers of God. Are you a lover of God?
Are you Theophilus?
Theophilus may have indeed been a real person. Or, it may be a name created by the crafter of this Gospel and the book of Acts. Luke could have been writing to a friend, or in order to make friends, friends and lovers, of God.
You can be Theophilus, if Jesus is your greatest friend. You can be Theophilus, if your greatest love is God. Change your name, not literally but spiritually, and be a friend and lover of God now and forever.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org