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    WedWednesdayOctOctober11th2017 A New Emphasis
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Events Mission Missions 1 comments Add comment

    If you’re a Kossuth old-timer, you may have noticed a typo in your bulletin this past week. By now, you’re used to our October tradition of Missions Emphasis, when we devote two consecutive weeks to exploring our global responsibility as a local church. But last week’s bulletin contained an apparently erroneous announcement about an upcoming Mission Emphasis—without the “s.” What’s the deal with that? Did our proofreading department take the week off or something?

    Well, I’m happy to report to you that it was not a typo. (Our proofreeding deppartment is as vigilaant and hard-wroking as ever.) As it turns out, the “s” was deliberately omitted. And that little omission represents an intentional development in our theology.

    In modern parlance, the term “missions” has often taken on a fairly narrow meaning. It tends to be associated primarily with paid workers who move somewhere far away to tell people about Jesus and start new churches. And while that is an important and biblically-mandated part of what the church is called to do, it’s still only a slice of something bigger. And that something bigger is mission—what Christopher Wright describes as “our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation” (The Mission of God).

    One letter may not seem all that significant. But it is. Michael Goheen helps us appreciate this fact: “Mission is the whole task of the church as it is sent into the world to bear witness to the good news. As such mission is literally a perspective on all of life: the whole life of God's people both as a gathered and a scattered community bears witness to the lordship of Jesus Christ over the entirety of human affairs. Missions is one part of this bigger role that the church plays in God's story” (A Light to the Nations). In other words, missions is a subset of mission. So in moving from an emphasis on missions to an emphasis on mission, we’re seeking to embrace a holistic call upon us that involves each and every Christian.

    That’s why this year’s Mission Emphasis theme is “Near & Far.” During these two weeks, I’m hoping that we’ll get used to some new terminology and have our horizons expanded to embrace the reality that all of us—whether pastor, janitor, teacher, mechanic, or missionary—are equally invited to be participants in the mission of God in this world.

    This shift in emphasis might concern you. It might cause you to ask, “Does this mean we’re not going to be as passionate about global missions as we once were?”

    The answer to this question is a resounding, “No.” In emphasizing mission, we’re not backing away from missions in any way whatsoever. Quite the opposite.

    When my wife and I found out we were going to have a second child, our first was just nine months old at the time and I was still in shock from adjusting to entirely new dimensions of love. This little girl had filled my heart to the bursting point. And so to find out that another one was on the way scared me. “How could I possibly love another little human being as much as I love the first one?” I thought. Surely I had no more capacity in my already-full heart for another child!

    But then our second daughter was born, and I realized within about 10 seconds that parental love isn’t a zero-sum game. It has a strange way of multiplying and growing. I looked at my newborn baby, my eyes filled with tears, and I realized that I loved her. Really, really loved her. And then I went out to the waiting room to announce the big news to our oldest daughter. I gave her a big hug, and in doing so, I realized that I still loved her, too. A lot. Maybe even more than before.

    When we say that we’re going to emphasize mission­—both near and far—we’re not suggesting that we need to back off one in order to accentuate the other. Rather, our desire is that our hearts will be expanded and stirred to embrace both aspects of God’s mission with ever-increasing devotion. To quote Michael Goheen again: “As the church develops a vision for and begins to become involved in missions to the ends of the earth, the more likely it is that that church will also be a missional church near to home. Missions has the potential to revitalize a missional vision for the whole world, including the neighborhood.”

    Near and far. Both are vital. Both are integral components of God’s mission. And both will be set before us the next two Sundays as we seek to be obedient participants in that mission. Join us!

    ThuThursdayOctOctober5th2017 The Peril of Forgiveness
    byDan Dillon Tagged Forgiveness Pride 0 comments Add comment

    It would seem obvious that forgiveness, both the giving and the receiving of it, is hard. It is hard to give it because, after all, you are being asked to give up something you deserve. You deserve to be angry when someone insults you. Receiving forgiveness is hard, too, because you have to admit you are in the wrong and you are at fault.

    But the title of this blog is not The Difficulty of Forgiveness, but The Peril of Forgiveness. How can forgiveness be perilous?

    I was reading a humorous cartoon that made a passing reference to the “nine steps of forgiveness.” I was curious. What were the steps? Have I been missing something? I went looking on the web. (Where else?)

    The site I found didn’t appear to be Christian, but it offered what seems to be some good advice: “Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action…. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years – ago…. Give up expecting things from other people.”

    But then it concluded with this: “Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge…. Forgiveness is about personal power. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.”

    This advice is perilous. If forgiveness is about revenge or personal power or being a hero, it is all about asserting one’s superiority over another person. The source of forgiveness is our own strength. The world calls this “empowerment.” The Bible gives it a better name: Pride. Pride elevates self above everyone else, including God.

    The Christian’s basis for forgiving others is that we have been forgiven by God through Jesus Christ. I am not wonderful. He is wonderful. I am not self-empowered. He is empowering. He is the only true and lasting source of forgiveness. All others are counterfeits.

    Even though we may understand the Christian basis for forgiveness, the world’s way can sneak in. Satan would be delighted to have us seem to be more forgiving, if he can increase our pride. “Look how I have grown. I have learned to forgive. I am a good, wonderful, self-empowered person. I am superior because I have forgiven them.”

    So here’s the practical question: When you forgive someone, what is your opinion of yourself? Are you thinking, “I am a better than others because I forgive?” Or are you thinking, “Father, forgive me my trespasses as I forgive others”? 

    ThuThursdaySepSeptember28th2017 The Spiritual Discipline of Eating
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Community Meals 3 comments Add comment

    After returning recently from a visit to some ministry partners in Italy, I’ve been asked multiple times about the highlights of my trip. And although there are plenty of great things I could share, what has consistently been my number one answer is this: the meals.

    If you’re a fan of Italian food, you might suspect that I say this because of the quality of the food I got to eat. And in part, you’d be right. (I’ll never forget the Neapolitan pizza with buffalo mozzarella that I had for lunch one day in Verona!) But even more than the succulent flavors that were introduced to my taste buds, what stood out to me the most was the fellowship and friendships that I witnessed around the table.

    It’s easy for us to think of eating as a purely utilitarian activity. We do it to keep our bodies going. Sort of like putting gas in the car. Maybe that’s why we grab food on the run and frantically stuff it in our faces while hurrying between appointments. Or why we eat frozen TV dinners in our pajamas while binging on Netflix. We eat because we have to.

    But it doesn’t have to be this way.

    One of the beautiful things about the community of Christ followers I got to hang out with in Italy was how gifted they were at transforming meals into sacred events. In the numerous occasions I got to eat with them, I didn’t just witness eating. I witnessed people lingering over meals, savoring precious friendships, cultivating a spirit of community, reveling in a raucous, well-told story, and serving one another with Christ-like compassion. Gathered around a table full of delicious food and drink, these brothers and sisters didn’t just refuel their bodies with calories, vitamins, and nutrients. They refueled their souls with fellowship, conversation, and laughter.

    And it got me thinking: Why don’t we do more of this in our own lives?

    I suspect that much of it can be traced back to cultural reasons. We’re a fast-paced, high-performance, one-the-go society. A prolonged, relaxed meal with lots of people talking simply feels inefficient to us.

    But I suspect there might be spiritual reasons too. And to prove this, let me pose a fairly straightforward question: What are the most spiritually significant things you’ve done this past week?

    If you’re like many Christians, your list consists of things like praying, reading the Bible, serving in the church, sharing the gospel with a friend, or listening to a sermon on the radio. All of those are great things.

    But what probably won’t be on your list is eating.

    It’s not that you haven’t eaten. That’s not the issue. The issue is that you don’t see your eating as a spiritual activity. It’s just what you have to do to not be hungry.

    But you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to see that the Scriptures present eating as a pretty big deal to God. And therefore it should be a big deal to us.

    When the Israelites escaped from Egypt, what did they do? They instituted a meal that would be observed annually. When the prophets spoke of the coming kingdom, how did they describe it? As a feast of rich food and aged wine. On the final night of his earthly life, what did Jesus do? He shared a meal with his disciples. When the early church gathered, what was one of their core activities? The breaking of bread. And these examples hardly scratch the surface of what the Bible has to say.

    God knows that we have to eat. He created our bodies such that they require it. But he’s a generous and joyful God, so he allows this necessary part of our lives to also be a delightful occasion for sharing with loved ones, welcoming friends, building community, and celebrating God’s provision. He renews us physically and spiritually through the meals we enjoy.

    In his book A Meal with Jesus, Tim Chester speaks to this idea. He admits that church can’t be reduced to meals, but he maintains that “meals should be an integral and significant part of our shared life.” He goes on to assert, “Community and mission are more than meals, but it's hard to conceive of them without meals.”

    There are plenty of things a healthy, vibrant local church should be doing. But let’s not overlook one of the simplest and most enjoyable of them all: eating!

    ThuThursdaySepSeptember21st2017 Margin for Messiness

    Junior High was a crazy season of life. Shivers. What a time!

    It represented one of several “coming of age” points, stepping stones where I made conscious decisions about who I was, what I believed, and who I would become. We all have those moments. They are essential and valuable.

    At that time in my life, I was surrounded by a great family and a great church. They did a wonderful job guiding me in my development toward pursuing God. But, for some reason, I felt paralyzed to express the doubts I was having about God, faith, and the Christian life.

    It became a significant internal struggle. I never took the step toward talking with anyone about it. I didn’t think I could.

    That was my fault, even as a youth. There were plenty of people around me that I could have brought the struggle up with. But I didn’t feel any margin, any space, any freedom, to express my messiness. I felt like I had to look like I had it all together.

    Now, I am almost 39 years old. I am a husband, and parent two young boys. I am a disciple-maker and am paid to do so as a career. That means I come in contact with many men, women, and children on a weekly basis and connect with them at key points in their walk with God.

    Junior High Abraham was messy. He was full of doubts, sin, fear, and grief. Thirty-nine-year-old Abraham is messy. He is full of doubts, sin, fear, and grief. You as a reader are full of doubts, sin, fear, and grief. I get that. My question is: How do I (and how do you) make a margin for the messy, making space to express the ugly stuff we tend to hold inside?

    It doesn’t matter how old we are. We learn to put on masks and put up a false front that we are all okay and that there is nothing to be concerned about. This takes place throughout our days, in the workplace, on Sunday morning, in Care Group, and over a meal with a friend.

    I want to create space for messy moments. Are there questions we can ask that give others permission to reveal their mess? Is there anything we can do that tells others we are a safe place to talk about messes with? Can our children tell us they struggle to believe in God? Can our neighbor comfortably share his struggle with pornography?

    I have a lot of growing to do in this area but I want to create margin for the messy.

    Here are some ideas that I have:

    1. I need to own my messiness. I struggle with doubt, depression, grief, and sin. I am not above anyone. I am no less messy than anyone else. By acknowledging that daily, I am moving into my own messiness and I believe that will fashion me into a more approachable person by default.
    2. I need to be vulnerable with my messiness. This is a scary one to me. It will backfire at times. I will share with someone who will hurt me. But my identity is in Christ and I can trust him to care for me in those moments. The grenades that go off will be far fewer than the moments of ministry that take place as my life intersects with the lives of others. By trusting others with the deep places of my heart, others will see that they can trust me with their own.
    3. I need to invite others to share their mess with me. There is a caution here. I am never entitled for someone to share the depths of their soul with me. Even a simple question may come across as too aggressive for someone who doesn’t want to be vulnerable. However, gentle questions and looking for opportunities, founded on humility, can pave a road toward transparency. This is not to mention budgeting time to genuinely listen to what they share.

    It’s not rocket science. I have a lot of learning to do. But I invite you to create margin for messiness within your own circles of relationships.

    ThuThursdaySepSeptember14th2017 Work Heartily
    byMikel Berger Tagged Sermons Work 0 comments Add comment

    I think we are blessed to sit under good preaching every week at Kossuth and have been for decades. If I’m honest though, most sermons don’t stick with me much beyond 7 days when I hear the next one. This isn’t all bad. I’ve heard the analogy used that I can’t remember what I had for dinner on a Tuesday six months ago and no one is upset about that. The dinner sustained me for a time until I had breakfast the next morning. But we do have those special meals that we remember for a lifetime. Maybe the meal is at a fancy restaurant or you had the opportunity at the dinner to catch-up with a long lost friend. Those sorts of meals stick with you.

    A few weeks ago I was “fed” in a spiritual way that has stuck with me. Drew’s sermons from James 4 and 5, for some fairly clear reasons, were relatable to me. When introducing James 4:13, Drew made it clear that you don’t have to have explicitly made plans to go into a new town to make a profit for these verses to apply to you. But I have pretty much done that before. These verses are speaking directly and clearly to me!

    The remainder of James 4 that week was a great reminder of who ultimately knows the outcomes of any of our plans. James 5 in the following sermon was a convicting warning about conducting our plans in honorable and righteous ways.

    The Holy Spirit has reminded me of those sermons and those sermons, even more importantly, have reminded me of those verses on an almost daily basis since then (enough that when I realized I was up to write for the blog this week it was the first topic to come to mind).

    I know Drew well enough to know he labors diligently in the preparation of each and every sermon. Some stick with me, but many, in my limited view, sustain me for a week or less. Should he only labor diligently on the ones that will benefit me for a long time?

    Of course the answer is, no! I’m not the only one to benefit from the preaching of the Word on Sunday mornings at Kossuth. You might be reading this article wondering what I’m talking about. You were in church the same mornings I was, but those particular sermons didn’t stick out to you. You’re wondering why I’m not writing the same thing, but about a sermon two months ago that you’re still pondering.

    But even more than there being lots of people in the congregation, there’s a better reason for Drew to labor diligently each and every week. He’s not working to just benefit our souls. He’s working ultimately for the Lord and not for us, the men and women in the pews.

    Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, (Colossians 3:23 ESV)

    That verse is true not just for the preaching pastor of a church but for each and every Christian. If your job is writing code, washing windows, teaching children, or selling houses, you do that work for God. In doing the work you reflect our creator God. But the work itself is also part of God’s redeeming work when done in service to him.

    Don’t lose sight of that fact when it seems, yet again, that your work is having no impact here on earth. The real impact you are to have is much greater than that.

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