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    ThuThursdayAugAugust24th2017 Doing Church Without God
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Dependence 0 comments Add comment

    What comes to your mind when you think of the church? Are there any images or analogies that you tend to gravitate toward?

    In his book A Light to the Nations, Michael Goheen suggests a few ways that the average Christian might think of the church in our current cultural climate. Perhaps you can relate to some of these:

    • Church as mall or food court: A variety of programs and services are offered to meet the diverse wants and needs of the congregation.
    • Church as community center: A social context is created where people who share the same beliefs or personal interests can be drawn together.
    • Church as corporation: An emphasis on efficiency and growth drives the congregation to create a brand and market itself for the sake of “profit.”
    • Church as theater: A venue is provided for congregants in which they can sit back and passively enjoy a worship experience built around entertainment.
    • Church as classroom: A comprehensive education in both doctrine and practical living is provided as congregants take on the role of students.
    • Church as hospital or spa: A healing and rejuvenating retreat is offered to those who are wounded or weary from the troubles of the world.
    • Church as motivational seminar: A self-help program is offered to those looking for a weekly pep talk or practical tool kit to navigate the challenges of life.
    • Church as social-service office: A sense of compassion and justice manifests itself in social programs and physical assistance for those in need.
    • Church as campaign headquarters: A political cause is advanced by those who seek to influence the direction of society and push for a more Christianized culture.

    Goheen points out, “Clearly there are many valid activities represented in these images of the church. The church should be teaching, caring for the poor, providing social connections, and so on” (p. 16). But there are a number of problems with these images, as well—among which is the fact that each of them describes the church in such a way that its objectives can be achieved through mere human effort.

    By comparing the church to other man-made institutions, we implicitly suggest that our churchly responsibilities can be perfected and mastered through our own skill and ingenuity. We can create programs and add them to our menu of offerings. We can create marketing strategies and generate growth. We can put on a good show and keep people entertained.

    But although it may bring a certain level of comfort to define the church in a way that lets us be in control, any such view of the church is woefully deficient. The church is a wild sort of thing. It can’t be domesticated and led around by a leash. The more we try to do so, the more we miss the point of the church altogether.

    The church is God’s people on God’s mission, seeking God’s glory and strengthened by God’s power. To reduce the church to a mere social club or theater or food court is to strip it of its very identity. Take God out of the church, and what’s left isn’t a church at all.

    Consider the images we discover in Scripture to describe the church. Many of them clearly point to the fact that we can’t do this on our own. The body of Christ (Rom. 12:5; Col. 1:18) can’t survive without its head. The temple of the living God (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:21) is nothing more than a hollow shell without God’s presence. The new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:15) has no existence apart from the Creator.

    However we envision the church, we need to be careful to do so in a way that prioritizes the indispensable role of our triune God. Corporations and classrooms and community centers are wonderful things. But they can’t come close to capturing the deep sense of dependence that we should feel as members of God’s new covenant community.

    Has your perception of the church pushed God to the margins? If so, let me encourage you to enlarge your vision. Don’t settle for one of the images in the list above. Let your view of the church be so impressively gigantic that you’re left with nothing to say but, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

    WedWednesdayJulJuly26th2017 The Paradoxes of Church Membership
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Membership 1 comments Add comment

    If you’re a church member, have you ever stopped to think about how weird you are? Because you are. Very, very weird.

    But don’t take it personally. It really has nothing to do with you. (You’re totally normal. I promise.) Instead, the weirdness has to do with the nature of church membership itself.

    Most of us have probably joined a club. Or been a part of a family. Or played on a team. And so we might be tempted to assume that being a church member is roughly the same thing. But there’s really nothing quite like church membership.

    Although the uniqueness of church membership manifests itself in many ways, today I’d like to point your attention to just one aspect of that: the strangely paradoxical expectations to which church members find themselves called. Let me explain.

    One of the things we know about church members is that they must be submissive. God has appointed leaders over his church, and he expects those leaders to be followed, respected, honored, and obeyed. The church should not be a disordered group of rogues in which everyone is going their own way, doing whatever is right in their own eyes. Rather, there should be a unified spirit of humble submission.

    But at the same time, a church member must be discerning. Leaders are fallen, faulty human beings, just like everyone else. And this means that they can easily be wrong. They can abuse power. They can rebel against God. They can teach what is false. In such cases, being a church member means knowing how to identify a wayward leader and deciding when not to follow.

    Or consider another example. A church member is needy. You come into the community of faith with areas of spiritual immaturity. You lack wisdom and understanding. Your ability to follow Jesus is still developing. In some cases, you may even have physical, financial, or other practical needs. And the church should be a place where you can be honest about your needs and allow others to meet them.

    But there’s a paradox here, because a church member should also be generous. You have been given gifts to be used for the edification and encouragement of your brothers and sisters. You have been given resources that God expects you to share. Even though you have needs of your own, God calls you to proactively meet the needs of others. You give, even as you receive.

    One last example: A church member should be restful. At the very heart of Christianity is the idea that we do not earn our salvation. Instead, we cast ourselves upon mercy and rest in what Jesus has done on our behalf. This means that we don’t need to be at the church building every time the doors are open, running around like a chicken with its head cut off, feverishly trying to prove something to God or to others. Our work is done, and Jesus is the one who has done it.

    But church membership brings a responsibility to be active, as well. We can’t just sit on the sidelines while everyone else does the works of service and ministry that make the church tick. Laziness is not an option. God has given us a globe-sized task, and we shouldn’t slack off until that task has been accomplished. (And for those of you scoring along at home, note that this task still remains unfinished!)

    The point is that church membership requires a truly unique interplay between seemingly contradictory ideals. Submissive yet discerning. Needy yet generous. Restful yet active. (If you can think of more such paradoxes, leave them in the comments below!) To be a church member is not a simple task.

    What tends to happen, however, is that we like to embrace one side of the paradox while overlooking the other. We veer toward what is most comfortable or natural. We try to eliminate the complexity. We stick to what’s straightforward and simple.

    But although simplicity might be easy, it’s not what church membership is meant to be. To reduce your role as a church member to something one-dimensional or one-sided is to lose what makes you unique.

    You’re supposed to be weird. So stay that way.

    WedWednesdayJunJune7th2017 Hypothetical Grace
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Forgiveness Grace 1 comments Add comment

    Have you ever participated in one of those group ice-breaker activities where you’re asked questions about far-fetched scenarios? Something like, “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” Or, “If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one item with you, what would you choose?” Those questions can be fun, in large part because they’re unrealistic. Let’s face it, you’re not getting a superpower anytime soon. And you probably won’t be stranded on a deserted island this week, either. So you can answer these questions with a sense of detached lightheartedness, knowing that what you say really doesn’t matter.

    I’m afraid that I often treat grace in the same way.

    On certain occasions I think about my children and the various directions that their lives could go, and it often leads me to wonder about how I would respond to different scenarios that as a parent I could conceivably face. For example, “How would I handle it if I got a call from the police station telling me that my teenage child had been arrested for underage drinking and drug use?”

    After thinking about that for about ten seconds, I think I can come up with a pretty good answer. I figure that I would calmly go down to the station, pick up my child, deliver a great big fatherly hug, offer extravagant reassurances of my undying love, and promise to support and walk with my child through all the challenges ahead. After all, that’s what a grace-filled parent would do, right?

    But here’s the thing: I don’t have any kids being held down at the police station right now. I have kids who are at home spilling their milk and standing on the couch when they’re not supposed to and yelling at each other when they don’t feel like sharing. And let’s just say that my responses in those situations are often far less grace-filled than my imaginary response when the police call.

    All this leads me to admit that I’m much better at hypothetical grace than I am real grace. Put me in a (non-existent) situation where I have to (imaginarily) show love and forgiveness, and I’ll (theoretically) knock your socks off with my (make-believe) godliness. But how am I doing in the real-life, mundane, messy situations right in front of me? That’s a totally different story.

    Perhaps you’re like me. Perhaps you’re way better at the idea of grace than you are the practice of it. If so, let me remind you of one simple point: The grace you’ve received from God is anything but hypothetical. So the grace you’ve been called to extend should be anything but hypothetical, as well.

    For those of us who rest in Jesus, we don’t place our hope in the fact that God would be slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love—in some theoretical or potential scenario down the road. We rest in the fact that he is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love—in the here and sin-filled now.

    The reality is that you and I have buried ourselves beneath mountainous piles of rebellious words, thoughts, and actions. As such, we’ve not given God the luxury of keeping things hypothetical. Either he must destroy us with his wrath, or else he can choose to forgive us in his grace. But the one thing he can’t do is wonder “if.”

    In the same way, we’ve been thrown into a world of people who mess up daily. People who gossip and slander and break promises. And it’s to these people that grace must be shown. Right now. In the midst of offenses that still hurt and sins that still linger. As Paul says in Colossians 3, “as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” There’s nothing hypothetical about it.

    ThuThursdayJunJune1st2017 Stay in Your Seat

    What do you do when you’re upset? When you find yourself in sharp disagreement with someone? When your voice doesn’t seem to be heard?

    Here’s one suggestion: stay in your seat.

    By now you’ve probably heard about the Notre Dame graduates who walked out on Vice President Mike Pence during his commencement address a few weeks ago. And if you’re like most Americans, you probably have strong opinions about it one way or another.

    I don’t want to ruffle anyone’s political feathers here, but from my point of view, the students were perfectly justified in walking out. It was their commencement, and they had the right to participate (or not) as they wished. That’s one of the many privileges of living in a free country.

    But if any of those young men or women who walked out would have asked me for advice beforehand (which unsurprisingly they didn’t), here’s what I would have told them: “Sure, you can walk out. That’s one way to make sure your disapproval of the current administration is made known. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Perhaps there’s a better way. Perhaps there’s an opportunity here to stay seated, to listen to a leader you don’t support, and to entertain the possibility that when people who don’t see eye-to-eye give each other the time of day, good things might happen.”

    The reality is that none of us can get very far in life before we cross paths with those we don’t agree with. Or don’t support. Or frankly don’t like. And when that happens, we’ll have a choice to make. How will we respond? Will we show our disapproval by refusing to engage? Will we turn around and walk out the door?

    As followers of Christ, we’re guaranteed to face opposition. And there’s certainly a time to respond to that opposition by shaking the dust off our feet and moving along. I recognize that.

    But more often than not, I think we’ll find that long before we get to that point, there’s an opportunity for us to stay seated. To listen. To question. To dialogue. To learn. To engage.

    This past quarter I enjoyed leading a “Theology Round-Table” class (although technically, there were several round tables involved) during our Sunday morning Connection Hour. Each week, we found ourselves disagreeing about things—from the logistics of divine election to the how’s and when’s of creation to the complex interworking of law and grace.

    And do you know what? We survived! Although many of us disagreed with points that other people in the class made, we listened, we asked questions, we made counterpoints, and we managed to make it through 12 weeks without becoming lifelong enemies. The whole experience was actually halfway fun.

    In retrospect, I can’t help but observe that this spirit of respectful, patient, honest engagement is increasingly countercultural these days. And it has left me wondering: What if the church could set an example for the world in this area? What if we could lead others on a middle path between passive acquiescence and hysterical outrage? What if we could show that disagreement need not entail disengagement?

    I believe we can. And I believe it can happen as simply as you and I deciding to stay in our seats.

    When a pair of identically dressed young men with name tags show up at your front door to share with you from the Book of Mormon…stay in your seat. Invite them in and have a discussion with them. Ask questions. Offer some counterpoints. Talk candidly and respectfully about your differences.

    When an adult son or daughter joins a church you wouldn’t approve of…stay in your seat. Figure out what it is about that church that is so attractive. Learn what theological convictions may have led to the decision. Express love for your child in spite of denominational differences.

    When a neighbor puts out a yard sign for a political candidate you find deplorable…stay in your seat. Don’t vandalize the sign in the dark of night. Don’t cast dirty looks at your neighbor from across the fence. Get to know each other. Build a friendship. Loan out a cup of sugar.

    We’ll always live with the temptation to walk away from people on the other side of the issues we care most deeply about. But just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

    Your seat may not always be comfortable. But don’t leave it too quickly.

    ThuThursdayAprApril20th2017 3 Reasons to Stay Home the Next 20 Weeks
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged James Sermons 1 comments Add comment

    This Sunday morning, I’ll walk to the pulpit, tell the assembled masses, “Good morning,” and then issue these instructions for the first time of many: “Please open your Bible to the book of James.”

    Having made it through Exodus (and more recently, our 5-week Easter series), it’s time to turn our attention to what’s next. And what’s next is a book that you’ll probably want to avoid if you can at all help it.

    Usually, at a time like this, I’d write a hyped-up article about why our new sermon series will be wonderful and life-transforming and something not to be missed for any reason whatsoever. But I feel like being a bit more honest and realistic this time around. So instead, I submit to you a few reasons why I’d advise that you stay home every Sunday morning until this series in the book of James is over (which, according to my current calculations, will take around 20 weeks).

    1. James will go where you don’t want to go.

    Everyone knows it’s not polite to talk about money, right? Well, apparently James never got that memo. In this book, it takes him exactly nine verses to dive into the subject of poverty and wealth. And that’s just the first of many unflinching forays into the topic, culminating with this bombastic exclamation in chapter 5: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.”

    Seriously, you may just want to stay home.

    Whether it’s money, suffering, judgment, or church seating arrangements, James appears unfazed by the things we consider taboo and unfit for discussion in polite society. He draws our attention to things we might prefer to ignore. He doesn’t care about the things we consider off-limits.

    2. James will hit you way too close to home.

    We love it when the Bible talks about those big sins. You know the ones I’m talking about—the really sordid, heinous things we’d never dream of actually doing. When we read about those, we can enjoy the luxury of getting all righteously indignant without having to feel guilty.

    But James has a knack for talking about those other sins—the sins that make themselves at home in our lives, the sins that snuggle with us on the couch and drink milk straight out of the carton, the domesticated sins that we live comfortably with every day. Like prejudice. And careless words. And laziness. And boasting. Oh yeah, and greed.

    This won’t be the kind of series you can sit through while nodding, smiling, and looking out the corner of your eye at that bad, sinful person sitting next to you. Sooner or later, you’ll get pelted right between the eyes. And that’s no fun.

    3. James will challenge your theology.

    If a guest speaker showed up in our church and taught, “A person is justified by works, and not by faith alone,” we’d all run that guy out faster than you can say, “Heresy!” But lo and behold, James shows up in our Bibles and says exactly that (see Jas. 2:24).

    Or what if an elder showed up at your front door when you’re at home sick, wanting to pour some oil on your head and pray for your healing? Think you might be wondering what kind of crazy cult you’ve gotten yourself into? Well, prepare to wrestle with James 5:14: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

    Apparently James played hooky a few too many times during seminary.

    Hopefully you’re getting the point. If you like carefree Sunday mornings, you should probably start making alternative plans. Find a nice brunch spot. Go hiking in the woods. Put your Netflix subscription to use. Pull the covers over your head and sleep in. But whatever you do, don’t come to Kossuth.

    See you Sunday.

    ThuThursdayAprApril6th2017 Showers and Flowers
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Endurance Life Suffering 0 comments Add comment

    Here in Lafayette, the month of April has had a soggy start. In fact, as I write this, the rainfall over the last few days has resulted in a flood warning for our area. Personally, I’m kind of sick of the rain. It’s making me grumpy.

    But there’s an old adage that brings me hope. You’ve probably heard it, too. April showers bring May flowers. As dreary and wet as some of these days have been, there’s joy in the anticipation of all the bright colors and new life that are soon to come our way. This rain isn’t purposeless. It will yield a bounty of vegetation in due time.

    I suspect there may be a lesson for us here that extends far beyond the weather.

    In life, things can get soggy sometimes. In fact, there’s another rain-related adage that comes to mind: When it rains, it pours. One thing goes wrong, and then suddenly ten more things go wrong right behind it. Disappointments multiply. Frustration leads to more frustration. In a world that doesn’t always do what we want it to, it’s easy to get bogged down in the muddiness of life.

    But what if we could step back for a moment and gain a bigger perspective? What if the rainy seasons of our lives could be seen in relationship to something greater? What if in our April showers of discouragement and frustration we could have our outlook transformed by the hope of flowers in May?

    According to the Bible, these “what ifs” aren’t merely hypothetical.

    For example, if you’re in a season of discipline, things may look pretty bleak at the moment. But Hebrews 12:11 offers hope: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” There’s something better coming. The unpleasantness of the discipline will ultimately give way to righteousness.

    If you’re in a season of suffering, it may feel like every day is a downpour. But consider what your suffering will bring you, according to Romans 5:3-5: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.” Suffering waters the seeds of hope in our lives, causing them in due time to burst into full and radiant bloom.

    If you’re in a season of trials, the sunshine of joy may be distant. But 1 Peter 1:6-7 points your gaze toward the future: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Your trial is intended to give way to something stunningly superior.

    Rainy days are inevitable. We’re all going to have them. And for many of us, those days will turn into weeks, and those weeks may even turn into months or years. But during those times, we need not grow disillusioned by the puddles. The same God who sends down the rain also calls forth the flowers. And although you may need an umbrella today, sooner or later God will reveal the magnificent results of the work he’s been doing.

    So hang in there. The flowers are coming.

    WedWednesdayMarMarch29th2017 On Spiritual Heroes
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged History Leaders 1 comments Add comment

    This year marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door in Wittenberg. Back in 1517, that event may not have seemed all that significant. But in hindsight, it is that action which has come to be seen as the ceremonial beginning of the Protestant Reformation, arguably one of the most important chapters of Western history.

    On the one hand, I’m pretty fond of the Reformation. It was a valiant display of theological integrity and a courageous refusal to go along with what was seen as a corrupt church authority. But on the other hand, the Reformation is fraught with problems. Some really ugly things happened. And the people responsible for those ugly things were often the very people standing so resolutely for biblical truth.

    How should we think about these contradictory realities? Do we focus on the good qualities of the Reformers, and leave all the bad stuff hiding in the corner somewhere? Or do we conclude that these people aren’t worthy of our respect and write them off as just another set of villains to be forever despised?

    Recently I came across one answer to that question that got me thinking. It comes from a little book by Carl Trueman, and it presents a perspective that is filled with wisdom:

    We must not approach the Reformers as if they could do no wrong; we must rather go to them with an appreciative but critical spirit, appreciative in acknowledging their insights into the Bible's teaching, and critical in remembering that, like us, they were mere sinful mortals capable of disastrous mistakes as well as marvelous achievements.

    Regardless of what you think about the Reformation, we all have spiritual heroes. Some are historical figures whose writings and ideas have shaped people through the generations. Others are living people such as parents, pastors, and mentors, who continue to exercise ongoing influence in our lives.

    In any case, we can be sure of one thing: our spiritual heroes will let us down (if they haven’t already). They will show moral weaknesses. They will say things that are off-base. They will fall victim to the blind spots of their particular cultural moment. And when that happens, we’ll have to decide what to do. Do we write them off and go searching for new heroes? Or do we conveniently ignore their flaws and persist in an unrealistic view of their greatness?

    This is where I think Carl Trueman’s perspective is so helpful. When he calls us to be “appreciative but critical,” he liberates us from idealizing people whose lives are marred with sin, while also liberating us from demonizing people whose lives have been used mightily by God. In the end, we’re able to be honest about those we look up to—honest about their strengths and their weaknesses.

    But perhaps more than that, the benefit of being “appreciative but critical” is that it allows us to remain mindful of the fact that we have only one Savior. And although God may surround us with a great cloud of human witnesses whom we rightly respect and admire, ultimately their shortcomings and weaknesses will point us toward God’s own unique perfection and sufficiency in the gospel.

    So the next time one of your heroes shows an unexpectedly ugly side, perhaps the appropriate response is to thank God for the opportunity to be reminded that your hope is anchored in someone who has no ugly side whatsoever. And we can be grateful for anyone—flaws and all—who helps point us toward HimĀ­.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch16th2017 Shaking the Market Share Mindset
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Growth Outreach 2 comments Add comment

    Suppose that you work as an executive for the Superior Widget Company. It’s a relatively small business with modest sales, but your goal is to lead the company to expand. So you beef up your marketing efforts and resource your sales team. You revisit your product design and give greater attention to quality control. You make changes in your personnel and bring in new talent. All in an effort to sell more widgets and expand your company’s influence.

    How will you know if these efforts have worked? How will you measure success?

    I’m a pastor, so I probably shouldn’t be answering that question. But one metric that you might choose in evaluating your company’s growth is that of market share—basically, the percentage of all the widgets sold that have the Superior Widget Company logo on them. After all, other companies are selling widgets, too. And in order for you to grow, you’ll either have to attract new customers to the market (i.e. people who don’t currently buy widgets), or else you’ll have to take someone else’s customers (i.e. people who used to buy another company’s widgets). In either event, growth will involve increasing your market share at the expense of someone else’s.

    When it comes to evaluating church success, I find that it’s easy to approach it with this same market share mindset. As a congregation, we want to grow. We want people to join our ranks. We want to see lives transformed. But often the way we try to measure that growth is by comparing ourselves to others.

    Imagine a city with three churches. The first has 400 people, the second has 200 people, and the third has 50 people. Looking at those numbers with a market share mindset, it’s easy to see that the first church is the most successful. (If my math serves me correctly, they have a 62% market share…very impressive!)

    But what if the third church is an ambitious, outreach-oriented church plant that quickly explodes from 50 to 500 members? The first church may not have declined at all (they still have 400 people), but all of a sudden, the market has expanded and their share has plummeted to 36% as a result. Their status as the successful church in town is in serious jeopardy. Their members begin to look around and wonder what has gone wrong. Meanwhile, the 500-person church is riding high, having become the new market leaders.

    If we bring a market share mindset to the local church, then our standard for success will always be tied to what’s happening around us. What churches are growing? What churches are struggling? And how do we compare?

    But I want to suggest that the market share mindset is a dangerous—and unbiblical—way to grade ourselves. Not only does it distort our perception of what God is actually doing in our midst, but it also turns colleagues into competitors.

    Just this week I had lunch with a pastor friend who leads another church in Lafayette. He told me remarkable stories of God saving people in recent weeks through the ministry of his congregation—one after the other. At one point, he looked at me and said, “Drew, I can’t explain this stuff. It’s the work of God!”

    Now when I hear that, I have a choice to make. I can sulk and think to myself, “No fair! Why is that church growing, leaving ours to settle for a smaller market share?” Or, I can smile and say from the heart with genuine joy, “Praise God for the growth of the gospel!”

    The fact is, we’re not in competition with other churches. We’re in partnership with them. Regardless of what their music sounds like, or what Bible translation they use, or how they define their leadership structures, we’re all working for the same Lord, seeking to advance the same gospel, calling people into the same kingdom.

    You may look up at bigger churches with envy. Or you may look down at smaller churches with pride. But in both cases, you’re missing the point. When any gospel-preaching local church grows, we all win! It doesn’t matter whose church logo gets to accompany the work of God. In the end, it’s ultimately the work of God. And in that work, we rejoice.

    So let’s be zealous for growth, driven by a healthy sense of Godward ambition. But let’s resolve to measure that growth not by comparing ourselves to the church next door, but by assessing our faithfulness to the unique opportunities God gives to us. Whether we’re the biggest church in town or the smallest, let’s be the best church we can be.

    In the end, there really are no market shares. Here, Christ is all, and in all.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch2nd2017 Truth in a Time of Tragedy

    Our little corner of the world has been rocked recently by the news of two teenage girls who were murdered in the woods near Delphi, Indiana. It’s a chilling story that continues to occupy the center of attention for local news outlets (and has been picked up by a few national outlets, as well).

    In tragic times like this, communities always seem to come together. They mourn. They support. They give. But perhaps, more than anything else, they talk. Whether it’s on social media or at the office water cooler, it’s not hard to find yourself in a conversation about these matters.

    As a Christian, how can you make the most of those conversations? How can you point the people around you to truth? In many cases, your best bet will be simply to listen, grieve, and pray. But in some cases, you’ll have an open door to speak. And when that time comes, I’d encourage you to consider these five relevant themes that may turn your conversation into a redemptive one.

    1. The reality of evil. Many of our friends and neighbors avoid the category of “evil.” They prefer to think about humans as mostly good people who simply need to have their inner virtue nurtured and encouraged. Yet such a rosy anthropology shows its cracks at a time like this. It just doesn’t cut it. And it’s precisely here that the Christian understanding of human wickedness proves to be so relevant. There is real evil in this world, because there is a real Evil One hell-bent on destruction. The Christian worldview is reasonable in large part because it accounts for humanity’s most gruesome acts.

    2. The omniscience of God. If you’re like me, you’ve stared at the grainy photo of the Delphi murder suspect for a long time, wondering, “Who is this guy? What was he thinking?” We may never know the answers to these questions. But God does. He knows the man in that picture, and he knows everything he’s ever done. Whatever horrors took place in the woods a few weeks ago, God saw them all. We can take comfort in knowing that every crime has at least one (all-knowing) witness.

    3. The certainty of justice. I hope the murderer in this case gets caught and punished to the full extent of the law. The blood of those two innocent girls cries out for no less. But I realize that this may not happen. The murderer may successfully evade the authorities for the rest of his life. He may even commit such crimes again. But as Christians, we know that in the end, justice will prevail. As it says in Ecclesiastes 12:14, “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

    4. The comfort of the gospel. Even if you don’t know the victims personally, a tragedy like this can bring true grief and genuine sadness. But as Christians, we have good news to share with those around us who are hurting: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). The nearness and salvation in this verse are both made possible by Jesus Christ, who was broken and crushed on our behalf. Yes, we will still grieve and mourn. But in such valleys, the God of the gospel is present.

    5. The powerlessness of death. A tragedy like this forces us to confront the brevity of life. Whether it’s a violent criminal, a hidden disease, or a freak accident, death can snatch us at any time. But as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (over death) through our Lord Jesus Christ.” As much as we might like to, we can’t bring back those whose lives have been cut short. But God can. And he will. It doesn’t matter how or when your life comes to an end, if your hope is in Christ, you have nothing to fear from the sting of death.

    Now don’t misunderstand me here; the last thing our community needs is a bunch of self-righteous know-it-alls to sit them down and preach to them every time the opportunity presents itself. But if we engage these themes with compassionate hearts and winsome spirits, I believe that we’ll have an opportunity to point our friends to truth in a time of terrible tragedy.

    Related: Faith in a Time of Tragedy
    ThuThursdayFebFebruary16th2017 You're an Unfinished Project

    Last weekend, I finally got it done. After two months of having a pair of doors sitting on sawhorses in the basement, I finally finished painting them and got them back where they belong. Like most projects I do around the house, it took way longer than it should have. But the slowness of the project’s completion only increased my satisfaction in finishing it. When I was finally able to stick those doors back on their hinges, I felt like I had truly accomplished something.

    Finishing a job is a highly rewarding experience. Whether it’s turning in a term paper, mowing the yard, fixing that leaky faucet, or landing a new client, the sense of accomplishment is deeply gratifying. Your work is done, and now you get to take a deep breath and enjoy the fruit of your labor.

    On the other hand, an unfinished project is a whole different story. It makes you feel restless. And anxious. And stressed out. Especially if it’s something important, the weight of its ongoing demands reminds you of the work yet to be done.

    Recently these thoughts came to my mind as I was contemplating a familiar encouragement from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul wanted his fellow believers to be comforted in knowing that God would finish what he started. Their lives may have been imperfect and messy. But God was at work, and he would not fail to complete their sanctification.

    Yet as wonderful as all of this is for the Christian, I can’t help but think about what it means for God. If the completion of this work awaits “the day of Jesus Christ,” then it means that God is far from finished. It means that he can’t kick back and relax anytime soon. It means that he has willingly embraced the inconvenience of working on projects that will remain under construction for a very long time.

    On the one hand, this fact should inspire contrition and humility in those of us who are on the receiving end of God’s work. Do you know why this is such a lengthy process? Because we’re really, really difficult people to work on. Our hearts are hard. Our sins are many. We’re slow to respond. Knowing that we are unfinished projects should motivate sorrowful repentance as we consider just what it is God has to put up with.

    But on the other hand, this realization should lead us to new heights of joy as we understand more fully just how deep God’s love for us truly is. Looking at my own life, I can think of plenty of times when God could have given up and scrapped the project he began. But he hasn’t. His patient, faithful labor in my life communicates in a powerful way that he loves me. And despite my hard-heartedness and sin, he is resolutely committed to seeing me transformed into the image of his Son.

    Someday, God will look at each of us and say, “My labor is done.” He’ll have successfully brought to completion the good work that he started. But until that day comes, he is content to bear with our unfinished state. He isn’t fazed by the mess. He doesn’t despise the overwhelming amount of work left to be done.

    You may be annoyed by the unfinished projects sitting around your house. But God isn’t. He’s hard at work in your life. And he loves you enough to keep at it.

    WedWednesdayFebFebruary8th2017 4 Tips for an Angry World

    If you haven’t noticed, we live in a polarized society. And unless you’re able to avoid the internet, the newspaper, the television, and all situations in which you might have to speak with other human beings, you’re going to have to figure out how to navigate this cacophony of clashing opinions. It’s the reality in which we all live.

    Thankfully, the Bible does not leave us in the dark. Sure, its words were written long before Facebook and the proliferation of “fake news” websites. But still, there are some remarkably relevant lessons to be learned when we sit beneath Scripture’s teaching and allow it to shape our presence in a culture of discord and controversy.

    Drawing from the book of Proverbs, let me suggest a few general principles to help you maintain your sanity in a world full of people screaming at each other.

    1. Keep some opinions to yourself.

    Do you have a strong conviction about the most recent presidential appointee? About the latest healthy eating trend? About an article in today’s newspaper? About whether Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback ever or the sleaziest cheater of all time?

    All of those convictions are wonderful, and you’re entitled to maintain them. But not all of those convictions necessarily need to be expressed. Proverbs 13:3 says, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” And in Proverbs 17:27, we read, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” In other words: it’s perfectly fine to sit out of a public debate every now and then.

    2. Learn from those who disagree with you.

    You may be appalled to learn that your coworker went to the Women’s March a few weeks ago. Or, she may be appalled to learn that you went to it. In either case, rather than immediately launching into your tirade against the opposing viewpoint, try asking a question. Find out why she thinks what she does. Ask about her experiences. Discover what makes her tick.

    Proverbs 12:15 is powerful: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” The world has grown to expect outrage. So why not flip the script? The next time you find yourself disagreeing with someone, surprise them by expressing an honest desire to learn from their perspective. As it says in Proverbs 15:14, “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.”

    3. Don’t get angry when someone sees things differently.

    Perhaps you really like our new president. And you really want others to know that. So you take to social media to make your voice heard. But three minutes later, you get notified of a new comment. It’s your Great Aunt Linda, and she is irate that our country is being led by such a terrible individual.

    You may think Great Aunt Linda is crazy. You may think her political values are uninformed. But before you launch your barrage of comebacks, remember the words of Proverbs 14:29: “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” By all means, you’re free to disagree. But there’s tremendous power in emotional restraint. “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Prov. 16:32)

    4. Be bold in speaking truth.

    This may seem to contradict everything I’ve said so far. But as important as it is to practice restraint and silence, it’s equally important to speak up when the need arises. Proverbs 24:24-25 says, “Whoever says to the wicked, ‘You are in the right,’ will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.”

    Is LeBron James better than Michael Jordan? The world probably doesn’t need your opinion on that. But when it comes to things like abortion or racism or violence against minorities, don’t let your silence grant wickedness a free pass. There’s a time to be silent about less important matters. But there’s also a time to be vocal about clear injustices and transgressions. Be prepared to do so boldly.

    Unfortunately, we can’t prevent disagreements. But through wisdom, self-awareness, and a spirit of respect, we can aim to become the peacemakers that God calls us to be.

    ThuThursdayJanJanuary26th2017 Love Learns the Language
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Gospel Love Outreach 3 comments Add comment

    Take a moment and think about your favorite song. Maybe it’s a song from your youth that holds a nostalgic sway over you whenever you hear it. Maybe it’s a song from your wedding that kindles feelings of romance and love. Maybe it’s a song that helped you get through a particularly tough season of life.

    Now that you have a song in mind, I want you to think about this: How would you go about introducing that song to a friend who was deaf? How would you help that person appreciate the crescendos, the rhythms, the harmonies? How would you share the beauty of your favorite song with someone whose ears couldn’t hear it?

    Recently the technology company HP explored this very theme in an advertisement for a new laptop computer. The commercial features two brothers who overcome the obstacle of deafness to bond through music. Take a moment to watch it:

    Now let me assure you that I have no vested interest in your next computer purchase. I’m not trying to sell you HP products here. But I do have a vested interest in how the church engages the world with the gospel, and I happen to think that this commercial has something profound to teach us in that regard.

    Could you see how the deaf brother (I’m going to call him Zeke) felt at the concert? His face said it all. He felt alienated and disconnected. Although his brother (I’ll call him Miles) had extended an invitation to him as a gesture of love, in the end, it left Zeke feeling like an outsider, hopelessly distanced from his brother and the dancing crowds surrounding him.

    But then Miles changed his tactic. Instead of inviting Zeke to enter his world, Miles found a way to enter Zeke’s world. He translated an auditory language into a visual language. He allowed his brother to engage the music in a way he could understand. And in the end, it was this creative commitment to contextualized love that made all the difference.

    As Christians, we have a song to sing to the world. It’s the gospel song—a song of hope, redemption, and joy—a song that faithful Christians have been singing exuberantly throughout the centuries.

    But all too often, it’s possible for us to sing this song in a way that makes sense to us, without considering the world’s ability to actually hear it. While we’re sitting up in our (literal or metaphorical) choir lofts, carefully perfecting every note, we fail to notice that the world is staring at us with a look of bewildered confusion. We’re like Miles rocking out at the concert, while the Zekes around us look on, perplexed by what they can’t hear.

    In practical terms, we might call this a “come to us” mentality of church outreach. We truly are trying to love our neighbors. But we’re assuming that a big enough event or an impressive enough program will convey that love and draw them into the faith. In other words, it’s simply a matter of us singing loudly enough. But when we ask the world to engage with the gospel on our terms and in our language, we always run the risk of alienating them. And when that happens, we’ll find that as beautiful as our song may be, we’re really only singing it to ourselves.

    On the other hand, if we really love our song—and if we really love the world around us—then we should be eager to do what Miles did. We should look for creative, faithful ways to translate our song into a language that is intelligible to others. We should stop expecting people to come to us; instead, we should go to them. Enter their worlds. Learn their languages. Understand their objections. Speak to their hearts.

    It’s easy to sing and invite people to come listen. But to be a church that truly loves the world, that’s not enough. We need Spirit-empowered creativity to learn a new language, to sing in a new way. The song will never change. But we should never stop exploring new ways to help others hear it.

    ThuThursdayJanJanuary5th2017 The End of Spiritual Disciplines

    Somewhere in the world there’s a company that manufactures prayer journals. And they’re probably working overtime right now.

    With the arrival of the new year comes an opportunity for improvement. And as Christians, there is perhaps no area we see more need for improvement than our practice of the spiritual disciplines. So with the arrival of a new year, we resolve to do better, looking for anything that will give us a boost or an edge. Like Bible reading plans. Or Scripture memory apps. Or really fancy, leather-bound, decorative prayer journals with inspirational verses on each page.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with Bible reading plans. Or Scripture memory apps. Or decorative prayer journals—no matter how fancy they are. In fact, I think all of these items can be wonderful gifts from God to cultivate a life of discipline. But my question is this: Why is it so easy for our reading plans to fizzle out after two weeks? Why do we end up deleting the unused Scripture memory app to make room for a new music download? Why does our prayer journal get dusty on the shelf—with 99 percent of its pages still blank?

    Perhaps it has to do with the fact that too often we’re prone to look at the spiritual disciplines all wrong.

    Tim Morey, in his book Embodying Our Faith, writes: “Am I engaged in the spiritual disciplines? is an important question to ask, but an even more telling question is, Am I growing in love with God and people?” (p. 114). Morey goes on to say, “We must avoid the temptation to measure our spiritual maturity merely by the practice of the disciplines themselves rather than by the fruit that they produce in our lives” (p. 115).

    It dawns on me that every year I get discouraged by my lack of discipline, and then I get even more discouraged when my plans for improvement fall apart. But perhaps I’ve been caught up in a self-defeating cycle of trying to succeed in the spiritual disciplines, simply so I can have succeeded in the spiritual disciplines. In other words, I’ve isolated these practices from the rest of my life, keeping them in their own self-contained little bubble.

    But the truth is that my reading and my praying and my meditating all have an end (or a goal) that is outside of reading and praying and meditating. And that end is love. Tangible, visible love for God and others. Love that actually makes a difference in the world.

    Eugene Peterson writes:

    Christians don't simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus' name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son. (Eat This Book, p.  18).

    Perhaps that’s what we’ve been missing. We’ve desired to do better, but we’ve not really understood why we need to be better. We’ve not seen that a quiet moment of prayer or meditation isn’t for the purpose of achieving a private, isolated sense of personal piety (and thus merely generating more moments of prayer and meditation). Rather, these quiet moments are shaping us to be able to engage a lost and hurting world in need of grounded, mature, disciplined ambassadors of Jesus. We’ve failed to see that spiritual disciplines are only worthwhile insofar as they produce fruit.

    So if you want to join me in cultivating a lifestyle of spiritual discipline this year, then don’t make it your goal to read the Bible or to pray more. Make it your goal to grow in loving God and others. Only then will you understand what’s really at stake, allowing your spiritual disciplines to truly flourish. Perhaps together we can become people whose lives are marked by a rich spirituality, not just people who keep the prayer journal manufacturers in business.

    WedWednesdayDecDecember14th2016 Would You Be Happy?
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Christmas Holidays 0 comments Add comment

    I’ll never forget the first time I read this question posed by John Piper: “Would you be happy in heaven if God were not there?”

    I found that to be an uncomfortable amount of conviction jam-packed into 11 words.

    Think of everything you anticipate about heaven: freedom from sickness and pain, reunion with loved ones, mansions with lavish furnishings, unlimited golf. It’s all wonderful stuff, right? But where does God himself rank among those things? Piper goes on to explain it this way in his book God Is the Gospel:

    Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel.

    Recently I was reminded of Piper’s question as I reflected on the holidays. I was pondering the things I cherish about this season, and I found myself asking this slightly altered version of what Piper had asked: “Would I be happy during Christmas if Jesus had not been born?”

    Equally convicting. (But this time, 12 words.)

    I love the traditions of Christmas. I love the lights and the music and the family gatherings and the gifts and the general sense of charm. But what if I could hold on to all of that magical holiday wonder, while only giving up that one little thing called the incarnation? What if all my days could be merry and bright and all my Christmases could be white, just without any Jesus in any of them?

    I know the theologically correct answer to this question. I should shout “No!” at the top of my lungs and point emphatically at my “Jesus is the reason for the season” bumper sticker. But I know my heart too well. And I fear that I’d actually be pretty content enjoying all the trappings of Christmas even if it meant not having a baby in the manger.

    The problem is that we sinners have a constant tendency to take those things that are meant to point us toward God, and instead we turn them into our god. Unfortunately, that tendency doesn’t disappear at Christmas. Even the most Christ-centered tradition can eventually morph into an empty idol if we’re not careful. And before we know it, we may find that Jesus could disappear from our celebrations altogether, and we’d never even notice.

    This Christmas, my goal is that when January 1 rolls around, I’ll not be able to say, “None of that would have been any different had Jesus been removed from the equation.” This doesn’t mean that I need to go home and tear down my Christmas tree or rip the lights off my front porch. It doesn’t mean that I need to boycott the department stores or take back my gifts. It simply means that whatever I do, I need to do it intentionally and worshipfully.

    G.K. Chesterton notes, “The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.” This is indeed true. But those of us who know Jesus should have already woken up. We should already know why. The key is not to forget it.

    Merry Christmas, everyone!

    WedWednesdayNovNovember30th2016 Four Stories, One Savior

    On my bookshelves, I have a paperback volume by Alan Jacobs titled The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis. It’s a terrific biography of one of my favorite people. It’s informative, insightful, and well-written. For the person who wants to know more about C.S. Lewis and why he was such an important figure, this book is a helpful resource.

    But I also have another book on my shelves about the same man. It’s by a man named Terry Glaspey titled C.S. Lewis: His Life & Thought. This particular volume is quite a bit shorter than the Jacobs book and not as in-depth, but nevertheless it provides a window into the forces that shaped the life of this great thinker—and a window into how this great thinker shaped the lives of others.

    Oh, and then there’s Derick Bingham’s book, A Shiver of Wonder, which tracks the remarkable process that transformed C.S. Lewis from an intellectual atheist to one of the most prolific Christian authors of all time. Bingham’s book helps us see what C.S. Lewis saw, and in so doing, it helps us understand how he came to be the man that he was.

    Now here’s a question for you: Why on earth do I need three different biographies of the same person? (And by the way, this doesn’t even count my copy of Surprised by Joy, the book Lewis himself wrote about his own spiritual journey.) Why isn’t one biography enough to satisfy my curiosity about the details of this man’s life?

    The answer to that question has to do with the fact that one biography means one perspective. And one perspective means that although I’ll have access to true facts about the individual, I’ll nevertheless miss out on other facts which are equally true—but only discernable from a different vantage point. When I read multiple biographies about the same person, I’m able to see him from various angles. I’m able to learn from complementary points of view. And in so doing, I’m left with a more comprehensive, nuanced, intricate portrait than I would ever get from only one biography.

    For readers of the Bible, this is an important realization. After all, you may have noticed that your Bible contains four different accounts of the life of Jesus. We call them the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And at first glance, all of that may seem a bit redundant.

    But I believe God was intentional in giving us four different Gospels, written by four different men, who each had four different purposes and used four different styles. The multiplicity of voices gives us a richer insight into who Jesus was. It allows us to behold his glory more fully. And perhaps in no way is that more pronounced than in the ways that these four Gospels present the incarnation.

    This Christmas season at Kossuth, we want to learn from these four different accounts of Jesus’ arrival as we dive into a 4-week sermon series called “Four Stories, One Savior.” I’ll be teaming up with Abraham Cremeens and Will Peycke as we spend a week in each of the Gospel’s accounts of the coming of Christ. Together the three of us will do our best to highlight the unique perspectives and points of emphasis in these four Gospels so that we can grow together in our appreciation for the significance of Jesus’ birth.

    In the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, I hope you’ll make the time to join us each Sunday for these times of worship and study. We look forward to celebrating this season as a church family! 

    WedWednesdayNovNovember16th2016 God's Will for Your Life
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Decisions God's Will Life 2 comments Add comment

    Have you ever wished that you could know God’s will? I know I have.

    For many of us, life can often feel like one big mystery. We don’t know which way to turn or which path to choose. We’re uncertain about the future and how to get there. And although we know God must have a direction he wants us to go, we struggle to figure out what it is. If only we could open the Bible and find the place where it says definitively, “This is the will of God for you.”

    Well, guess what. We can.

    In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” This three-fold exhortation seems pretty mundane, right? For those who have sat through their fair share of sermons and Bible studies, this is nothing earth-shattering or unexpected. But what comes next might throw you for a loop: “For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

    Let that sink in for a moment. The will of God. Clearly stated. In language, we can understand. Preserved for generations in God’s own inspired word.

    You would think that these verses would be underlined in our Bibles. And highlighted. And memorized. And anything else we do with verses. (Made into pretty digital graphics?)

    But be honest: When was the last time you faced a difficult choice in life and made your decision by turning to these verses? “Is it God’s will for me to take this new job or not? Oh, the uncertainty! But wait! Look here! It says in 1 Thessalonians that God’s will for me is to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. Mystery solved! Now I know what to do!”

    I’ve never experienced that scenario, and I doubt many others have either.

    The point is that this statement of God’s will strikes us as a little underwhelming because it doesn’t exactly answer our questions. It doesn’t tell a teenager which college to choose. It doesn’t tell a young lady whether or not she should entertain the romantic overtures of a zealous would-be-suitor. It doesn’t tell a home buyer whether to place an offer on the 4-bedroom house with a small backyard or the cute little ranch out in the country. To find out that God’s will is to rejoice, pray, and give thanks is like watching the series finale of Lost and finding out that very little has actually been resolved. (For the record, I gave up on Lost in season 3, although I have it on good authority that the ending was a huge disappointment.)

    But the problem here isn’t with these verses (obviously). The problem is with what we’re trying to get out of them.

    If you’re like me, the questions you ask about God’s will are mostly “what” questions. What should I do in this situation? What direction should I go? But these verses help us by redirecting our questions altogether. They show us that we’re actually asking the wrong thing.

    You see, God’s will isn’t nearly as concerned with the “what” as it is the “how.” It isn’t nearly as concerned with the destination as it is the journey. It isn’t nearly as concerned with the outcome of our decisions as it is the manner in which we make them.

    So, let’s say you’ve been offered a promotion at work. Should you take it or not? Well, you’ll seek the Bible in vain for a hidden insight into God’s will that will give you that answer. But what you can know is this: God’s will for how you should make the decision is clear. He wants you to rejoice in the position in which you find yourself, to pray fervently as you weigh the options, and to give thanks for God’s provision, regardless of the path you choose. Does this mean you’ll take the job? Who knows. But if you do these things, you can be confident that you’re squarely within the will of God whichever route you go.

    So the next time you’re standing at a fork in the road, consider what you know about “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It’s not about right or left. It’s about how you walk. So walk joyfully. Walk prayerfully. Walk thankfully. And in doing these things you’ll be carrying out God’s will.

    WedWednesdayNovNovember2nd2016 This Time Next Week
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Events Politics 2 comments Add comment

    As I write this sentence, my computer tells me that it’s 8:44am on Wednesday, November 2, 2016. There’s nothing particularly magical about that time or that date (that I know of). But what is significant about it is that in exactly one week from right now, the United States will likely have a new president-elect. After a late night of ballot-counting and exhaustive news coverage, we’ll finally know which states went blue, which states went red, and who will be occupying the White House as our next Commander in Chief.

    By this time next week, some of you will have voted for Donald Trump. Hearing his pledge to appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices and his commitment to growing the American economy and his conservative position on social issues, you’ve become convinced that there’s no other option. He is our nation’s best chance of moving in a positive direction over the course of the next four years. You understand that he has some character flaws and a volatile personality, but it’s a gamble you feel you must make.

    Others of you will have voted for Hillary Clinton. In looking at her commitment to education, her attention to national poverty, or her compassionate stance toward sojourners and refugees, you see a candidate who aligns with your convictions about social justice. Sure, there are a few things you don’t agree with. But given the options, the choice is clear. She is the only candidate with the political experience and the presidential disposition that is required to lead this nation.

    There will also be some of you who will have voted for a third-party candidate. You’ve seen the televised debates, you’ve read the interviews, you’ve researched the positions, and in good conscience you can’t vote for either the Republican or the Democratic candidate. Whether it’s because of alarming questions about their integrity or deep disagreement about where they stand on the issues, you simply can’t cast a vote for either one. Some tell you that you’re wasting your vote, but you believe a convictional stance is never wasted, regardless of how unpopular it is.

    And then there may well be some who will have stayed home on election day. You’ll intentionally avoid the voting booth, not because you’re apathetic or lazy, but because you believe your civic responsibility can best be exercised through protest. By telling the political establishment that you’re tired of seeing less-than-desirable candidates on the ballot, you hope to see change brought to the political process as a whole, thus benefiting the country in the long term.

    One way or another, by this time next week you will have exercised your right to vote. And you likely will have done so differently than someone in your care group, differently than someone in the pew next to you on Sunday, and differently than someone teaching your kids on Wednesday night.

    How do you feel about that?

    People joke all the time about churches splitting over the color of the carpet. And I’m sure this sort of thing has happened. But the much more pressing danger seems to be churches fracturing over more deeply-held (and fiercely-defended) convictions. Like political beliefs. And voting practices.

    We should recognize that in the wake of a contentious election, the church is vulnerable. Division is lurking. And unless we’re prepared for how we’ll interact with people who have voted differently than us (and feel differently about the outcome of the election than we do), we’ll be in big trouble.

    So that’s why I’m inviting you to join us this Sunday evening at 6:00pm for our monthly Family Gathering. If you’ve fallen out of the habit of attending these monthly meetings, this is a great chance to plug back in. We’re going to spend some time praying for the upcoming election, and I’m looking forward to teaching on how we should think about this election in such a way as to preserve Christian unity in the wake of political disagreement. The goal is for this to be a practical, relevant, and unifying time.

    Regardless of how you plan to vote, I hope you’ll join us as we learn together how to love our enemies—and those who vote for them.

    UPDATE: The audio from this talk is now available. You can listen to it here.
    WedWednesdayOctOctober19th2016 3 Myths of Singleness
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Singleness 2 comments Add comment

    If you conduct a search for “marriage” in the sermon series archive at, you’ll find some 300 results. Taking a conservative average of eight sermons per series, that comes out to roughly 2,400 total sermons. To put that in perspective, if you were to listen to one sermon per day, it would take you until the spring of 2023 to get through all of them.

    On the other hand, if you do another search, this time for “singleness,” you’ll find exactly six results. Even if we naively assume that all the sermons in these six series are exclusively about the unique challenges and joys of singleness (which is unlikely since three of the series include the word “marriage” in the title as well), that would still only be 52 individual sermons. Tackle one of those per day, and you’ll be done by early December.

    Now this isn’t exactly the most scientific form of research. But nevertheless I think the data is fairly indicative of what many church-goers could confirm through personal experience. In general, the church talks much more about marriage and family than it does about singleness. And considering the fact that over 50 percent of the adult population is single (according to a 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics report), this imbalance is problematic.

    One of the regrettable results of this collective silence is the fact that many Christians have unknowingly bought into misleading myths about singleness in the church. Although our intentions may be good, our lack of conversation about singleness has led us to believe things that simply aren’t true. And although this isn’t the time or place to make an exhaustive list of such myths, I’ll briefly highlight three. Hopefully these will spark some of your own thoughts about how we misconstrue singleness in the church.

    Myth 1: Single people joyfully embrace the gift of singleness. The fact of the matter is that singleness is hard. And many single people genuinely struggle with their position in life. It’s easy to romanticize singleness and think that every single person lives in a perpetually serene state of “Jesus-is-my-husband” satisfaction. But many battle bitterness and resentment. To expect them to be perfectly content in their singleness is dangerous and unloving. The church should be a place where our single brothers and sisters can be open about their struggles, free to speak honestly about their experiences and their longings.

    Myth 2: Single people aren’t trying hard enough to get married. Sure, there are rare cases of apathetic, unmotivated single people who are cavalier about potential relationships. But the single people I know aren’t lazy. They’re not letting opportunities pass them by. They’re not fluttering their lives away on frivolous activities. They’re prayerfully and submissively following God. And at this point in their lives, God hasn’t led them to a mate. So instead of burdening them with guilt for not scrounging up a spouse, we should celebrate their faithfulness, purity, discernment, and patience. And perhaps more importantly, we should be seeking to learn from their example. In an “I-want-it-now” culture, our single brothers and sisters can be some of our most needed teachers.

    Myth 3: Single people are missing out on relational intimacy. Marriage is a wonderful thing, and it represents a bond between two humans that is truly extraordinary. But the Bible repeatedly affirms that there is a higher relational reality than even the marital or familial bond, and that reality is our communion with Christ and his church. Whether you’re married, widowed, or single for life, this bond of faith is readily available to you. And frankly, I’ve found that many single people are more tuned into this reality than their married brothers and sisters. Yes, singleness is hard. But I don’t know many single folks who are looking for pity. They don’t need it. Their relationships are meaningful, their friendships are deep, and in many cases they’re miles ahead of the rest of us in experiencing God’s beautiful design for community.

    What other myths about singleness in the church are you aware of? What are some of the false narratives you’ve been exposed to? Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts.

    ThuThursdayOctOctober6th2016 How To Be Irrelevant

    Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wish I could be more aloof and unapproachable as a Christian”? Have you ever wondered how you might make your faith more disconnected from reality? Have you ever longed to be just plain irrelevant to those around you who are lost and hurting without Christ?

    If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’re in luck! It just so happens that I have some simple, practical pieces of advice for you. I believe that if you take these suggestions to heart and implement them in every aspect of your life, you’ll be well on your way to irrelevance in no time!

    1. Take personal offense whenever unbelievers sin. If you want to be truly irrelevant, you’ll need to make sure that you express horror and disgust whenever someone in the world acts like you used to before you met Jesus. Even if it’s a minor offense that doesn’t affect you at all, make sure you respond in unbridled outrage, so that others can know just how holy you are. Jesus may have come to seek and save the lost, but it’s your job to condemn and rebuke them.

    2. Steer clear of all ungodly influences. Nothing says “I don’t care about unbelievers” quite like a concerted and strategic effort to avoid the things they care about. This is why you need to make sure that you only participate in Christian organizations and watch Christian movies and read Christian magazines and hang out with Christian friends and shop at Christian businesses and wear Christian t-shirts. Make sure everyone around you understands that your faith isn’t about following Jesus as much as it is about retreating into a well-manicured and meticulously protected Christian subculture.

    3. Never let others see your weakness. What could possibly be more humanizing than a Christian who actually admits to struggling with things? This must be avoided at all costs. Irrelevance demands that people see your life as being perfectly sterile and sanitized. If you must share a weakness, at least make sure it sounds spiritual. Perhaps something like, “Occasionally I struggle to stay focused when I have my daily 3-hour devotional time before sunrise.” That will ensure that others see you as some sort of freakishly un-relatable spiritual robot.

    4. Don’t talk about Jesus. Here’s the scary truth: the moment you start talking about the one and only source of hope and redemption for this dark and dying world, people will start to get curious. Some of them might even want to hear more. And in the end, you might find that people will actually resonate with a Savior who suffered and died to bring them spiritual life. Before you know it, you’ll lose all sense of irrelevance that you’ve been carefully cultivating. So by all means, talk about morality and politics and social issues you feel strongly about. But be sure to leave Jesus out of the conversation.

    In all these things, it’s vital to recognize that relevance doesn’t mean having flashy church programs or watering down the message or wearing skinny jeans when you’re 65 years old. True relevance is about Christians acting like Christ. It’s about caring for people, rubbing shoulders with the lost, being transparent, and pointing others to the gospel.

    So if you want to be irrelevant, these are the very things you need to avoid. Don’t focus on matters of style. Instead, simply look at the average, everyday Christians in all walks of life who are faithfully following Jesus and sharing his love with the lost. Study these men and women. Take note of their simple yet bold posture of love. And then go do the opposite. In other words, be as unlike Christ as you possibly can.

    If you’re able to do that, I truly believe that you’ll be able to radically transform your life into one that non-Christians will never want to be a part of.

    WedWednesdaySepSeptember28th2016 Spiritual but Not Religious?
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Doctrine Spirituality 0 comments Add comment

    If you’ve heard it once, you’ve probably heard it a thousand times. It’s a beloved Americanism, an unquestioned cultural refrain, a true motto of the modern age, and it goes something like this: “I’m spiritual. I’m just not very religious.”

    Rough translation: “I believe in something beyond the physical substance that makes up my body and the material world around me. I just don’t like to constrain that belief or force it to conform to the established dogma or practice of a particular religious structure.”

    Think of the person who experiences something transcendent while enjoying nature. Or the person who feels an otherworldly connection with deceased loved ones. Or the person who suspects that some karmic force is keeping the world in order. These spiritual-but-not-religious folks probably don’t go to a church (or a mosque or a temple). But they’re not ready to let go of the idea that there’s something more than meets the eye—something beyond mere matter and molecules.

    Having spent my whole life in the church, I’ll admit that this sentiment can be compelling. I’ve seen the rigidity and monotony of “religion” first-hand. I’ve known how hollow it can feel to jump through the hoops and go through the motions, just because it’s what you’re supposed to do. On such days, the idea of liberating one’s spirituality from the prison of religion is an attractive proposition.

    But as appealing as it might be to jettison the forms and the structures and the traditions, I can’t bring myself to do it. Sure, these things can be easily distorted and abused (and as a result, I suspect there’s a whole lot of dead religion out there that’s hardly worth preserving). But at the end of the day, naked spirituality is entirely insufficient and unfulfilling. It can wonder and inquire and speculate all day long. But it can never seem to get to a place of meaningful belief. The kind of belief you can sink your teeth into. The kind of belief you can form your whole life around. Spirituality without religion is all questions and no answers.

    I love how John Carmichael describes the insufficiency of religion-less spirituality in his provocative memoir Drunks and Monks:

    Declaring oneself spiritual is of the same character as declaring oneself corporeal. So what you’re spiritual? You’ve got a spirit as sure as you’ve got a body and a mind so of course you’re spiritual. And corporeal. And intellectual. Now what about it? It would seem that’s where religion just begins to speak—at the acknowledgement of spirit—just as medicine and nutrition and fitness begin to speak about the body as a necessity merely of its welfare. One doesn’t end the discussion of the body by declaring that they have one. So what? And neither should someone declare themselves spiritual without considering the implications of just what it is the spirit may need.

    Carmichael is a Roman Catholic, so his understanding of “religion” is certainly different than mine. But on this point, he hits the nail squarely on the head. Spirituality isn’t the destination; it’s the starting point. To identify yourself as spiritual is to recognize that you were made for something more. And that’s good. But wouldn’t you want to know what that “something” actually is? Wouldn’t you want to find the answers to the questions that your spirituality asks?

    This is precisely where religion comes into play. It’s within the doctrinal concreteness of religion that spirituality finds its proper place. And not just any religion, but the cross-shaped religion of biblical Christianity. Whereas mere spirituality leaves us grasping in the dark for we know not what, the gospel puts something tangible in front of us. We may not like it. We may find it too old and rugged for our tastes. But there it stands nonetheless, inviting us to cling to it with all of its bloodstains and splinters.

    If it’s vibrant spirituality we want, we won’t find it by shedding our religion. We’ll find it within our religion—or rather, behind our religion—where Jesus stands as our eternally sufficient Savior and Lord. It’s only in union with him and fellowship with his church that human spirituality can truly flourish.

    ThuThursdaySepSeptember22nd2016 Evangelism and Empathy
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Evangelism Love 1 comments Add comment

    Perhaps you’ve seen the comedy sketch where Bob Newhart plays the part of a painfully direct psychologist. When a woman comes into his office with a debilitating phobia, he cuts right to the chase with two simple words of advice:

    If you think about it, the psychologist has a point. There’s a sense in which the woman truly does need to “stop it.” Her fears and destructive behaviors need to be put behind her if she is to have a healthy life.

    But at the same time, what makes the sketch so cringe-inducing (and hilarious) is the callous, naïve, unhelpful way in which the psychologist goes about trying to achieve this goal. From his comfortable seat behind the desk, he shows no understanding, no compassion, and certainly no appreciation for the complex nature of the human psyche. (This is why he dismisses any mention of childhood influences with the warning, “We don’t go there!”) Simply put, this psychologist just doesn’t get it.

    Although we may laugh (and rightly so) at this silly little sketch, I find it to be quite sobering, as well.

    As Christians, we are called to bear witness to Jesus wherever we go. We are ambassadors, sent into the world to share the good news and make disciples. We know the problem (sin), and we know the solution (Jesus). But it can be all too easy to forget that there’s more to evangelism than that. And when we forget this, we often end up just like the psychologist, shouting the gospel equivalent of “stop it” at those we come in contact with.

    Recently I got to interact with my friend Aaron about John Stott’s book Christian Mission in the Modern World. And in the course of our conversation, I was reminded of this great excerpt from the book:

    "It is surely one of the most characteristic failures of us Christians, not least of us who are called evangelical Christians, that we seldom seem to take seriously this principle of the incarnation... It comes more natural to us to shout the gospel at people from a distance than to involve ourselves deeply in their lives, to think ourselves into their culture and their problems, and to feel with them in their pains."

    Simply bludgeoning others with cold, hard facts may feel like faithful gospel proclamation. But if we’re doing this without taking the time to get to know them or understand their unique doubts, dreams, and fears, it’s merely a cheap substitute for what Jesus has called us to do.

    This is why Michael Frost, in his book Incarnate, exhorts Christians to go meet people where they are:

    "We need to get out of the house. We need to move into the neighborhood and rub shoulders with those who don't yet share our faith. We need to develop joint practices or habits with like-minded followers of Jesus that bind us more deeply to God, to each other, and which propel us outward into the lives of others, especially the poor, the lost and the lonely."

    The world doesn’t need a bunch of Christians huddled together in church buildings shouting, “Stop it!” at everyone who happens to walk by. What the world needs is evangelism and empathy—a loving band of Christ-followers who will patiently listen, seek to understand, show that we care, and then faithfully bring the gospel to bear in the lives of those who are lost.

    The good news is that Jesus has already paved the way for us. In his incarnation, he took on our nature, lived among us, and shared in our suffering. So as we follow him and pursue his likeness, let us also reflect his empathy. We have a Savior who cared for others; let’s be Christians who do the same. 

    WedWednesdaySepSeptember7th2016 A Proud Father

    In the midst of so many news stories about crime and injustice and nasty politics, it’s nice to come across something every now and then that lifts your spirits and gives you reason for hope.

    Anticipating the upcoming fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, CNN published an article this week that does just that, profiling a group of ten young people who lost their fathers as a result of the terrorist attacks that day. Ranging from age 14 to 29, half of the group had no memories of their fathers when they died. In fact, two weren’t even born at the time. But together, these young people represent the 3,051 children under the age of 18 who lost a parent on 9/11—people whose lives will forever be shaped by tragedy and loss.

    Alfred Vukosa was a 37-year-old information technology specialist at Cantor Fitzgerald who worked in the World Trade Center. When the attacks happened, Vukosa was one of 658 other Cantor Fitzgerald employees who were unable to make it out alive. He left behind a devastated 6-year-old son named Austin, who was so grief-stricken that he told his mom he wanted to slit his wrists so he could be with his dad.

    Today, Austin is a 21-year-old who just graduated from Notre Dame and is one month into his new career. By all accounts, he seems to be on a very successful trajectory. But what’s most significant is where this recent college graduate has started working: none other than Cantor Fitzgerald. “Just to follow [my father’s] footsteps at the same company has been a big sense of accomplishment for me,” Austin said. “It drew me a little closer to him.”

    This sort of attitude is not unique to Austin Vukosa. Woven through all ten of the stories is a common thread: these young people are driven by a constant desire to honor their dads. This excerpt from the latter part of the article sums it up well:

    If they could ask their fathers one last question, what would it be?

    Nicole Pila immediately pipes up: "Are you proud of me?"

    "I would say the same thing," adds Austin Vukosa. "I would want to know if he's proud."

    Jessica Waring: "Yeah, I think I'd want to know the same thing, too."

    For these kids, the quest to please their fathers is fueled by grief. In the physical absence of their dads, they are all the more eager to do something of which their dads would be proud.

    But although the circumstances of these ten young people are unique, their desire is universal. In his little book, You Have What It Takes, John Eldredge tells of a man who had reached a high point of financial success, yet still seemed to be lacking something. After losing his father to cancer, he finally was able to admit, “All these years, knocking myself out to get ahead … I wasn’t even enjoying myself. What was it for? I see now … I was trying to win my father’s approval.”

    Many of us have heard this same voice within, telling us that we need to make our fathers proud—whether it’s through athletic accomplishment or financial prosperity or physical beauty or career success. And although I hope you’ve had a father who has generously expressed his pride in you, I realize that many don’t. The quest for approval is ongoing. The jury is still out.

    But for the Christian, there is good news. Although your relationship with your earthly father may be uncertain (or worse), your relationship with your heavenly Father is secure. Not because you have made him proud, but because someone else made him proud for you

    When the Father openly declared, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," he was speaking of Jesus Christ's perfect obedience. But insofar as you are united to Christ in saving faith, the Father's delight in the Son can be enjoyed by you, as well. On your own, you could never earn the Father's approval. But as a result of your union with Christ, everything you desire from your earthly father this heavenly Father provides.

    You might find this notion hard to believe, but it's true. As Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord…will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” 

    Do you long to make your Father proud? In Christ, he already is.

    ThuThursdayAugAugust25th2016 The Godly Mind

    When you think of a godly person, what comes to mind?

    Most likely, you’re thinking of someone whose life is free from besetting sin. Or someone who prays frequently and fervently. Or someone who loves to serve other people with tangible acts of kindness.

    What you’re probably not thinking of is someone who conducts scientific experiments in a laboratory. Or someone whose nose is frequently buried in a philosophy book. Or someone who furiously scribbles mathematical equations on a chalkboard.

    Godliness certainly does include things like holy conduct and vibrant character and selfless service. There’s no doubt about that. But I have to wonder: Is it possible that true godliness is more comprehensive than we often imagine it to be? Might it be that the traditionally conceived categories of “spiritual” pursuits aren’t the whole story of what it means to be a godly man or a godly woman?

    When Jesus was asked by scribes about the most important commandment, he responded definitively, “The most important is, ‘Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’” (Mark 12:29-30).

    I suspect it’s fairly easy for most of us to understand what Jesus means when he talks about loving God with our hearts, souls, and strength. These things jive pretty well with our familiar definitions of spirituality and godliness. But to love the Lord with our minds? That doesn’t seem to belong with the others. The mind seems too worldly, too earthy, too unspiritual. Surely the mind has more to do with learning a new language or studying the laws of physics than it does with being a lover and worshiper of God, right?

    Well, not exactly. While it’s true that the mind can be put to use for selfish or prideful or futile ends, the Christian mind operates in submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ. And as such, it is meant to be exercised and employed to bring him glory. As Donald Whitney observes, “What God wants most from you is your love. And one of the ways He wants you to show love and obedience to Him is by Godly learning. God is glorified when we use the mind He made to learn of Him, His ways, His Word, and His world” (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 226).

    We must realize that we don’t take a “time out” from our spiritual lives when we go to work at intellectual tasks. Study and reflection and exploration and problem-solving—these are concrete ways we can express our love for God. Regardless of your IQ or SAT score, it’s a demonstration of godliness when you cultivate your intellectual gifts, stretch your intellectual capabilities, and utilize your intellectual tools to the praise and glory of the One who gave them to you. For example:

    • If you’re a student gearing up for another year, don’t despise the work God has called you to. In the midst of the textbooks and the labs and the exams, you have an opportunity to love God greatly.
    • If you’re an educator (whether it’s in a kindergarten classroom or a Ph.D. seminar), cherish the task you’ve been given. You get to train young minds so that they can more fully love God.
    • If you’re an engineer or a doctor or an architect (or any other profession that requires mental investment), thank God for the ability to exercise your brain daily—by doing so, you’re being given an opportunity to obey the greatest commandment.

    And if you’re none of the above—just a “regular” Christian with no remarkable intelligence to speak of—don’t let that be an excuse. J.P. Moreland argues that “a growing, vibrant disciple will be someone who values his intellectual life and works at developing his mind carefully” (Love Your God with All Your Mind, p. 61). You don’t have to be super smart to do that. Whether it’s reading a book or memorizing Scripture or listening to a podcast—exercising your brain is far more than an intellectual exercise. It’s a spiritual exercise. And don’t we all need a little more of that?

    WedWednesdayAugAugust10th2016 Don't Change the Channel
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Culture Evangelism Media 0 comments Add comment

    If you’re like most television-watching Americans, you hate commercials. Few things are more annoying than having your favorite show interrupted by some toothpaste company telling you that four out of five dentists recommend their product. Isn’t this one of the main reasons we pay through the nose to get cable packages with hundreds of channels? We need somewhere else to turn when these unwelcome intrusions take over the screen.

    But here’s a challenge for you. The next time you’re relaxing in front of the TV and a commercial rears its ugly head, don’t change the channel. Relax your finger. Sit still. And pay close attention.

    Now before you go thinking I’ve lost my marbles, hear me out.

    If you’re a Christian who desires to faithfully make the gospel known to those around you, it’s important to understand the hopes, dreams, fears, and questions that dominate the hearts and minds you want to reach. And if you want to understand such things, then in my opinion there are few resources more insightful than commercials.

    You see, television commercials aren’t random or arbitrary creations—at least the good ones aren’t. They’re carefully crafted and well-researched by marketers who know how to resonate with viewers. As a result, you’ll rarely find an effective commercial that fails to speak in some way to our culture’s most profound and deeply held values.

    Take this new Coca-Cola commercial, for instance. It was recently launched to coincide with the 2016 Olympic Games:

    The marketing team at Coca-Cola understands something profound about our culture. We long to be on top of the world, to be victorious, to experience the feeling of accomplishment and triumph. And yet, most people viewing this commercial are sitting on the couch, eating potato chips, watching other people live out their dreams of Olympic glory. In other words, we’re a long way from the conquests we dream of.

    So what does Coca-Cola do? They subtly intersperse clips of world-class Olympians experiencing the euphoria of winning gold with clips of average people experiencing the euphoria of drinking Coke, thus conflating the two. Realizing that none of the people in their target audience will truly know “what gold feels like,” Coca-Cola offers an alternative (and more accessible) option: opening a bottle. Now if we’re honest, most of us know that the joy of being crowned the best athlete in the world has absolutely nothing in common with the joy of drinking carbonated sugar water. But with the right background music and enough lens flares, we might just begin to believe. And the next time we’re thirsty, some inexplicable compulsion may just drive us to reach for that red bottle.

    For the Christian, a commercial like this is a window into the soul of our culture. It helps us see what our friends and neighbors hold dear. And it helps us know how to engage them.

    In this case, the innate longing for victory and accomplishment informs the way we reach out to people. After all, we know the fulfillment of this longing, and it’s not a beverage. The ultimate victor is Jesus, and he generously invites us to share in his conquest. He has defeated the power of sin and the curse of death. He has broken the stronghold of the Evil One. And when we join ourselves to him in faith, we too get to experience these triumphs. If you want to speak to the heart of people who crave that “gold feeling,” this is how to do it.

    But gold feelings aren't the only things we crave. When I watch this commercial for a psoriasis medication, I see the fears of those who desperately want to be known and accepted despite imperfections—and I think of how the gospel relieves those fears. When I watch this Mercedes commercial, I see the hunger of those who want to be connected to something that’s both historical and modern at the same time—and I think of how the gospel connects us to an ancient faith that’s also forward-looking and progressive. We could go on and on.

    The point is this: When we pay attention to the advertisements around us, we’re effectively letting well-trained, well-resourced market researchers do some of our homework for us. And why wouldn't we want to use their work to help us explore inroads for the gospel?

    Ultimately this idea goes far beyond commercials. There are hundreds of ways we can let the culture itself tell us about its values (and idols), and TV ads are just the tip of the iceberg. So if you have a heart for the gospel's advance, then let me encourage you to have your eyes open and your ears alert at all times. If you do, you’ll find clues everywhere. And as a Christian you’ll find plenty of ways to seize those clues and use them to make Jesus known.

    WedWednesdayAugAugust3rd2016 The Greatness of God in Exodus
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Exodus Sermons 0 comments Add comment

    Take a moment to watch the video below for a preview of our upcoming sermon series, beginning August 28, 2016. I'm looking forward to it, and I hope you'll join me in praying for God to work through the preaching of his word as we embark on this new study.

    The Greatness of God in Exodus from Kossuth Street Baptist Church on Vimeo.

    ThuThursdayJulJuly14th2016 Reflecting on Acts
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Acts Sermons Updates 0 comments Add comment

    You might find this hard to believe, but the end of our sermon series in Acts is right around the corner. Since March 1 of last year, we’ve been walking through this great book and learning from its account of God’s work in and through the early church. It’s been a long journey, and some of you may have been wondering whether we’d ever actually make it out of Acts. But with just a few sermons left, the forecast is starting to look promising.

    Personally, I've found our time together in Acts to be remarkably rewarding. I’ve been challenged and confronted. I’ve been strengthened and encouraged. I’ve been motivated and pushed. I’ve been stumped and confused. From week to week, my own interaction with this book has been richly diverse, and yet through it all, my chief response has consistently been worship. The God who stands behind every detail of every story recorded in the book of Acts is a God who is supremely worthy of praise. He loves sinners lavishly, he builds his church intentionally, and he squashes opposition mightily. How can one not worship such a glorious God?

    But as I’ve reflected upon the ways that the book of Acts has shaped and influence me, I’ve naturally started to wonder: “How has the book of Acts shaped and influenced others?”

    You see, God never intended for us to be independent learners. Yes, we all need to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But that personal relationship has corporate implications. As we grow in our knowledge of the word and seek to become more like Christ, we don't do so entirely on our own. We do so in close proximity to other people who are doing the very same thing. And often, we’ll find that our own growth and sanctification are fueled by the growth and sanctification of others.

    Practically, what this means for me is that it’s not enough to think only about my own gleanings from Acts; I need to hear the perspectives of others as well. No matter how much time I spend studying the Bible, my vision is always going to be limited. But by exposing myself to the perspectives of other brothers and sisters, I’m able to gain new insights that I might otherwise have missed.

    In a few weeks (August 7, to be exact), I plan to preach the final sermon from Acts, reflecting back on some of the main things we have learned along the way. But given my own limitations and blind spots, I’m realizing that I need help. And that's where you come in.

    If you've been following along with this study, I want to hear from you! Sometime between now and the end of July, I’d love it if you would shoot me a quick email ( and answer any (or all) of the following questions:

    1. What is one way you’ve grown in your understanding of the gospel as a result of your time in Acts?
    2. What is one area of your life you’ve given greater attention to as a result of your time in Acts?
    3. Is there a particular section or story from Acts that stands out to you or has left an impression?
    4. How would you articulate the overall message of Acts in your own words?

    I’m hoping to incorporate your responses in a few weeks—not just to fill space in my sermon, but to help other people appreciate the wide-reaching impact that a book of the Bible can have on such a diverse group of people as we have at Kossuth. Think of it as one way among many that we can learn from each other.

    Thank you for learning and growing alongside me. I’ll look forward to your emails! 

    WedWednesdayJunJune22nd2016 Planting Roots in a Restless World
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Change Community 1 comments Add comment

    As a sports fan, I should know better. But at the end of every season, I’m always surprised at how quickly the pundits start talking about offseason changes.

    Just this week, the NBA season wrapped up as the Cleveland Cavaliers won an improbable championship, and the very next morning, I found myself reading about all the projected shake-ups that we could expect in the coming months. This player will be a free agent. That player will go looking for a higher salary. Other players will be traded. At the end of every season, movement is the name of the game. No team’s roster ever looks the same from one season to the next. And if your favorite player is the one headed to a new team, well that’s just too bad.

    Love it or hate it, this perpetual transience in sports is simply a reflection of a broader cultural restlessness that influences all of us. In olden days (so I’m told), it was typical for someone to grow up, get an education, raise a family, work a career, and retire—all in the same town. Those days are long gone. In fact, statistics suggest that the average American will move twelve times during his or her lifetime. And whereas it used to be normal for a worker to stay with a single job for two or three decades, most Americans now will have moved on to new positions within four or five years.

    We seem to be continually in flux. And it raises an interesting question for those of us who follow Jesus: How can the church maintain a sense of community in a world where everything is in constant motion?

    The Bible repeatedly calls God’s people to be champions of love and commitment. We’re not just passing strangers. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ. And given that familial bond, there’s an expectation that the quality of our relationships will be of a certain depth—a depth that likely won’t be attained by simply waving at each other as we scurry along in a hundred different directions.

    In a culture defined by transience and change, the church needs people who will consciously—and often sacrificially—plant roots. While the church must never lose sight of its role as a sending community commissioned to launch people all over the globe for maximum kingdom impact, the reality is that we still need people who will dig in, make a commitment, and give themselves to the slow but significant labor of building a Christ-shaped community right where they are.

    So if you’re one of those people, how exactly do you do that? Let me suggest a few quick ideas:

    1. Plant geographical roots. I realize that there are all sorts of valid factors that can necessitate a move from one town to another. But what if the church as a whole became a community of people marked by the counter-cultural desire to stay put? What if we settled in and really invested into our neighborhoods and our city over the long haul? Imagine the possibilities of such radical commitment!

    2. Plant vocational roots. For some, it might not be realistic to live in the same city for a long time. But perhaps you can still plant deep roots in the workplace. While most people are jumping from one job to the next, Christians could be people known for their resilience and commitment in their careers. Even if your job takes you to another city, you can have a big impact through faithfully serving your employer and your colleagues.

    3. Plant relational roots. Let’s be honest; some change is inevitable. It simply may not be possible to stay in the same city or the same job for your whole life. But even if God moves you, don’t use a change in location as an excuse to start over relationally. Continue to encourage and pray for the believers from previous chapters of your life. Continue to invest in and show love toward the unbelievers. Be an enduring friend, regardless of where you’re living.

    From my vantage point, the world is only going to get more transient. But that doesn’t mean we need to be swept away into a disembodied Christian existence.

    The church has no offseason, no free agency, and no trade clauses. So unless (or until) God directs us elsewhere, let’s plant roots in whatever soil we can find, building up communities that are strong enough to withstand change, faithful enough to make a difference, and long-lasting enough to have stories to tell.

    ThuThursdayJunJune9th2016 The Other Side of Pastoring
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Joy Leaders 0 comments Add comment

    If you were able to be a part of the gathering this past Sunday, I hope the sermon served to deepen your gratitude for the men that serve our church as pastors. The task that God has set before them is a daunting one, and it is often accompanied by tremendous sacrifice. As Brian Croft has provocatively said, “If you want to be a pastor but aren’t willing to suffer, do something else.”

    But lest you think that being a pastor is all misery and pain, I think it’s worth taking a moment to consider the other side of pastoring. The sacrificial nature of church leadership is an undeniable reality, but it’s not the whole story.

    When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Ephesus (the same church whose elders he addressed in Acts 20), he spoke of how thankful he was for the believers there and the privilege of ministering among them (Eph. 1:16, 3:7-13). When he wrote to the Philippians, he spoke even more openly of his joy-filled gratitude for them, addressing them as “my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown” (Phil. 1:3-4, 4:1). In the book of Colossians, Paul doesn’t hide his suffering, but he’s able to say in the midst of it, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Col. 1:24).

    The apostle Paul certainly didn’t have it easy. In his ministry, he faced physical harm, emotional heartbreak, and spiritual opposition. But in reading his letters, one gets the sense that he truly enjoyed the calling God had given to him.

    This is true of the pastors at Kossuth as well.

    It would be a mistake to think that our pastoring is all fun and games, all the time. But it would be no less of a mistake to assume that it therefore is a dismal job that we reluctantly and begrudgingly fulfill. I polled the other elders, and here are a few of the highlights we collectively came up with that make shepherding the saints of Kossuth Street Baptist Church such a delight:

    • Having a front-row seat to God’s work of transforming lives all throughout the church body.
    • Seeing how people with their own burdens selflessly initiate ministry to others who are in need.
    • Interacting with new people coming into the church family.
    • Hearing of how God’s grace has been bestowed in different ways to different people at different points in their lives.
    • Being part of the launch, strengthening, and revitalization of marriages.
    • Watching people respond to the preaching and teaching of God’s word in concrete ways.
    • Having a chance to be near to those who are walking through tough times.
    • Regularly praying for people (and with them).
    • Helping people find opportunities to exercise their spiritual gifts for the advance of the gospel.
    • Studying, learning, and growing in our understanding of biblical truth.
    • Spending time together as a pastoral team.

    In Hebrews 13:17, the church is exhorted to make sure that its leaders carry out their calling “with joy and not with groaning.” The reason for this is that gloomy, downcast leaders are of no value to the church. Joy-filled shepherds bless the flock.

    We’re not perfect leaders by any means, and from time to time the temptation to “groan” can be strong. But as elders, we’re thankful to serve a gathering of godly people who make pastoring such a tremendous joy. Despite its challenges, the pastoral calling is one we delight in. By God’s grace, we’ll be faithful to sacrifice for the flock. But by his grace, we’ll do so with joy and gratitude, embracing the privilege of being your pastors.

    ThuThursdayMayMay19th2016 Grace and Justice
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Gospel Grace Justice Theology 1 comments Add comment

    Recently I was talking to a friend who expressed his dislike for the Christian belief that someone could theoretically carry out a life of wickedness and crime, come to faith in Jesus at the end of it, and then be forgiven for all the terrible things he had done, no questions asked. According to my friend, this idea seems downright wrong. Nobody should be able to get off the hook that easily. If you’ve been a lousy person, you deserve to suffer for your choices. Plain and simple.

    Now I’ll admit that when I first heard this, I was tempted to give my friend a shallow, cliché answer and brush his concern aside. But after giving the matter some thought, I’ve realized that he’s exactly right. It really is a tragedy of justice for someone’s record of wrongdoing to go completely unpunished. My friend’s concerns were completely justified.

    If we’re honest, we have to admit that there’s something undeniably scandalous about the gospel message in its proclamation that filthy, vile sinners can receive full and free forgiveness. When Paul says in Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, one can’t help but say, “Well, that doesn’t seem right.” Any way you slice it, it’s not the least bit fair that bad people can escape their “badness” so easily.

    All of this leads one to ask, “Where’s the justice in the gospel?”

    If the extent of our gospel is, “God loves you and forgives you,” then I think we have to confess that there is no justice. A God who looks past the horrific wrongdoing of human beings might be many things (benevolent, loving, merciful, kind), but the one thing he most certainly is not is just.

    But there is justice in the gospel, and we find it in this: “God loves you and forgives you, because Jesus paid the penalty in full that your sins deserved.” You see, God does not dish out forgiveness willy-nilly, just because he happens to be in a good mood on a given day. God grants forgiveness solely because in the death of Jesus Christ he has executed the full sentence of judgment merited by our rebellion and wrongdoing. Each and every bad thing we’ve ever done has been decisively condemned and punished at the cross.

    Consider these familiar passages:

    “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

    “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

    “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins… [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Heb. 9:22, 26)

    Scripture teaches that our forgiveness is directly linked to the fact that God, in his perfect justice, has already poured out his wrath for our sins on Jesus. If we receive a pardon, it’s not because God decided our sins weren’t that important; it’s because God decided that he would bear their weight on his own shoulders instead of leaving it on ours. It was this very truth that our brother Abraham reminded us of this past Sunday: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).

    Don’t settle for a one-dimensional view of the gospel that emphasizes grace but overlooks justice. Instead, embrace the wonderful mystery of this tremendous thought: We don’t get “off the hook” for our sins without Jesus first putting himself “on the hook” in our place.

    ThuThursdayMayMay12th2016 Timely and Timeless
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Culture Gospel History Ministry 0 comments Add comment

    Here’s an interesting question: What would the Apostle Paul think if he walked into Kossuth this Sunday? For that matter, what would St. Augustine think—or Martin Luther or Jonathan Edwards or Charles Spurgeon or just about any other Christian who has lived in the 2,000 years of church history before us?

    Without a doubt, these visitors would find many of our corporate practices bizarre. What are the trays of bread and dispensers of hot black beverages doing in the foyer? Why are there large sound-projecting boxes hanging from the ceiling? What’s with the gigantic screen on the wall? Why does everyone wear such funky clothes? And what on earth is a visitor card?

    Our church services may seem natural to us. But for someone who walked in for the first time from another era and another culture, many of our practices would be disorienting. We do things quite differently than they did 1,500 (or even just 15!) years ago. Naturally, this would make a good portion of the Sunday morning experience confusing to someone who wasn’t familiar with our unique expressions of worship.

    Yet in spite of all the cultural and practical differences, I think there would be a sense in which any visitor from another era would feel right at home in a Kossuth worship service. Sure, it might be hard at first to get past the clothes we wear or the musical style we use, but at the heart of every corporate worship service is something that stands the test of time.

    Just imagine the Apostle Paul’s delight when we opened the Scriptures—the same ones that he studied—for our morning reading. Imagine how the soul of St. Augustine would soar when the church family bowed to pray to the same sovereign Father that he had spent countless hours praying to. Imagine the joy of Martin Luther when he heard the church singing great doctrinally-rich hymns like “In Christ Alone.” And imagine the way in which Charles Spurgeon would resonate with a sermon that announced the same gospel he had preached from his own pulpit—even if he was accustomed to doing it more eloquently and skillfully!

    The point is this: Even though our cultural expressions have changed, our message has not. And insofar as we have continued to preach the same powerful gospel and worship the same almighty God and believe the same great doctrines as our spiritual forefathers, we have participated in a faith that is historically rooted and built to endure through the ages.

    As a church, we must always strive to be timely. In other words, we want to communicate in a way that our world understands in its own unique cultural moment. The technical word for this is “contextualization,” and it refers to the need that we all have to speak and act in ways that make sense given our social and historical setting.

    But we must constantly aim to be timeless, as well. And the way to do this is to make sure that the bedrock of our ministry is not some passing trend but the unchangeable gospel of Jesus Christ.

    So what does this look like?

    Timely looks like computerized check-in to keep children safe in Sunday school classes. Timeless looks like teaching those children about how Jesus seeks and saves the lost.

    Timely looks like guitars and keyboards and drum sets on the stage while we sing. Timeless looks like, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

    Timely looks like using your smart phone to look up Scripture references during a sermon. Timeless looks like a church family that delights in the word of God.

    Timely means that we’re always willing to change.  Timeless means that our message never will.

    So what would the Apostle Paul think if he walked into church on Sunday? Well, he’d probably think that we do some really strange things around here. But in spite of that, I hope he’d hear a very old and familiar gospel. May that never change.

    ThuThursdayAprApril28th2016 Laughing at Ourselves
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Humility Humor 1 comments Add comment

    What does spiritual maturity look like to you? For most of us, it probably involves reading the Bible, praying, serving in the church, and avoiding sin. But while all of those are important characteristics of the mature Christian, I’d like to suggest one that you may not immediately think of: the ability to laugh at yourself.

    Recently, one of my favorite websites has been the Babylon Bee, a Christian satire site that has made a big splash in the few months it’s been up and running. At first glance, it looks like a typical news site, with headlines organized into various categories like “Politics,” “Business,” and “Entertainment.” But upon closer inspection, one finds that the news articles on the Babylon Bee are actually all fake, written not so much to pass along breaking news, but rather to elicit a laugh.

    Some of the stories I’ve especially enjoyed include:

    What makes these fake news stories so funny is the fact that in many ways, they allow us as Christians to make fun of ourselves. They help us see the quirks and oddities of church life in a fresh way, and they give us permission to laugh about them.

    This realization struck me earlier in the week as I was reading an entertaining story with the headline, “Church Small Group Looking Forward To Six-Week Study Of Awkward Silences.” The article is hilarious, and it’s hilarious because it’s something most of us have probably experienced. In fact, it’s something most of us have probably been responsible for. We’ve been in that awkwardly silent room during a small group meeting. Probably many, many times. And so we laugh because in some ways, we’re guilty.

    Now I recognize that some might find this sort of thing irreverent or unbecoming of serious, mature Christians. But I happen to think the opposite. A Christian who can laugh at herself is a Christian well on her way to Christ-like maturity. Why is that?

    First of all, laughing at ourselves reminds us of our weakness. It’s not something we like to admit, but we’re all a bunch of bumbling, fumbling creatures. Laughing at our awkward mistakes helps us keep this truth in focus. When you’re flat on your face, laughing at your clumsiness will remind you that you have limitations—limitations that are often revealed in rather amusing ways.

    Secondly, laughing at ourselves cultivates humility. Here’s a maxim that you’ll almost always find to ring true: Prideful people laugh at others; meek people laugh at themselves. When you laugh at yourself, you’re actually fighting against the universal human tendency to build yourself up at the expense of others. When you’re the butt of your own joke, you’re putting others above yourself.

    Thirdly, laughing at ourselves helps us to grow. Humor is remarkably disarming, and sometimes that’s precisely what we need to get a point across. For example, if you tell a small group to stop being awkwardly silent, it probably won’t produce much change. But by making light of how painful our small group silences can be, our defenses are circumvented and we’re more likely to speak up during that next painful pause.

    So as you strive to become more like Jesus on a daily basis, make it a point to laugh at yourself along the way. Don’t laugh at your sin. But by all means, if you do something goofy, be the first person to have a chuckle. 

    ThuThursdayAprApril14th2016 May Family Gathering Preview
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged News Updates 0 comments Add comment

    We’re still over two weeks away from our May Family Gathering, but the elders wanted to take a moment and make you aware of a few important decisions we’ll be asking the church family to make together with us at that time. Every Family Gathering is important, but this one will be particularly vital for the future of our church.

    First of all, we are planning to move forward with a congregational vote on the proposed changes to our Statement of Faith that we have been considering for the past few months. The congregational feedback has been very helpful, and it has alerted us to some areas where we probably need to have further discussions in the future (for example, the nature of biblical separation, the roles of women in the church, etc.). That said, we believe that the wording of the Statement of Faith is ready to be voted on, even if some of the concepts behind it could be discussed further in their application. If you haven’t yet seen the proposed changes, you can access them online, or you can contact the church office and request a copy.

    Secondly, the elders will be asking the church to vote on a proposal to sell the house on South 22nd Street that has been in the church’s possession for the last six years. After housing three different interns and missionary families, this home has served our church well. But since we don't envision a long-term use for that property, we believe that this is a good time to invest that capital elsewhere. Although the decision about the exact designation of that money will be saved for a later time, we would like to go ahead and begin the process of selling the house sooner rather than later, before it sits empty for too long.

    Both of these are important decisions. One affects the doctrine we will defend and teach. The other affects the financial resources our people have generously given. Please make it a point to join us at the May Family Gathering to participate in these decisions. And if you have any questions before then, just let one of the elders know. We’d be glad to interact about these things and get you the information you need.

    May God continue to bless us and give us wisdom as we seek to honor him in all we do!

    ThuThursdayMarMarch31st2016 Statement of Faith Update
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Current Events Doctrine 0 comments Add comment

    It has been roughly nine months since the Supreme Court voted to make same-sex marriage the law of the land in the United States. Since then, we have been working to take necessary measures as a church to clarify our position, update our policies, and learn how to take a biblical stance in a world that increasingly sees things differently than we do.

    We realize, however, that some of you who are newer members of our church family may not have been around nine months ago, and therefore you may not have the whole picture of this lengthy process. Furthermore, we realize that due to any number of reasons, there may be some of you who have missed crucial announcements along the way. And even if neither of those applies to you, we hope you appreciate this refresher as we look forward to an important time of interaction this Sunday evening at Family Gathering, where we will review the Statement of Faith in detail and answer any further questions you have.

    We opened up the conversation on July 1 of last year with an Elder Blog post entitled “Five Timely Affirmations.” In that article, we tried to set the stage for the church’s next steps. On the one hand, we wanted to grow in our love for those in our community and our families whose convictions about sexuality and marriage differ from our own. But on the other hand, we wanted to re-affirm our longstanding commitment to a biblical definition of marriage that is not swayed by public opinion or the decision of human courts.

    From there, the elders went to work and began diving into our Statement of Faith in order to determine if (and how) it needed to be enhanced or clarified. Dan Dillon and Mikel Berger got the ball rolling with some important research, putting in lengthy hours and significant energy behind the scenes. As a team we then took the fruits of their labor and began to wrestle through questions like what to include, what to leave out, and whether or not this word was better than that word. Once we had a good rough draft, we took it to a few trusted people for their reactions and feedback.

    Meanwhile, we also sought to grow as leaders in our understanding of the larger issues. A key way we did this was by taking a few months to work through a helpful book that challenged us, provoked us, and helped us grow as shepherds of the local church. In clarifying our theological positions, we also wanted to learn how to engage those whom our positions would affect.

    All of this culminated in the first Family Gathering of 2016, at which time we distributed the proposed changes to the Statement of Faith. We had limited opportunity to interact at that point, but this was a chance for the congregation to see what we were proposing and begin processing it.

    The next step in the process was to establish a larger context for the proposed changes. Recognizing that this isn’t simply an abstract issue, we set aside two Connection Hours at the beginning of March to talk about how we can avoid unhealthy postures of hatred or fear in the face of a shifting culture. The first week we talked primarily about how we needed to approach the world outside the church. The second week we shifted our focus to attitudes and actions we needed to cultivate within the church. Our goal was to equip the church family to move forward with both truth and love.

    All of this has brought us to the point where we are ready to return to the Statement of Faith with a view toward a vote. In light of that, we’ll be setting aside some time this Sunday evening at Family Gathering to walk through the proposed changes one more time, explain the biblical reasons behind them, and field questions from the congregation. The hope is that this time of interaction will move us closer to being able to finalize the proposal and schedule a time for the church to vote, with a target of the May Family Gathering.

    Please make it a point to join us for this important discussion, and bring any questions you may have about the changes that are being proposed. More importantly, pray with us for God to help us navigate these changes with wisdom, grace, and conviction. Thank you for walking through this process with us!

    Resources referenced in this article:

    ThuThursdayMarMarch17th2016 Falling from Grace
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Grace Sin 1 comments Add comment

    An athlete is suspended for taking performance enhancing drugs. A corporate executive is indicted for unethical business dealings. A politician is caught in the midst of an affair.

    If you haven’t heard one of these stories recently, I’m sure you’ve at least heard one a lot like it. The news cycle seems to be dominated by tales of successful, influential people who have stumbled headlong into shocking moral failure. And this isn’t just something that happens “out there.” Even many within the church have made serious mistakes and compromised their reputations. In fact, this phenomenon of moral failure is so common that we have a well-known term for it: we call this sort of thing a “fall from grace.”

    But is it really?

    When we talk about a fall from grace, we’re usually talking about sin. The sin could take a thousand different forms—like consuming greed, blinding pride, or burning lust, just to name a few. But in the end, it’s all sin. As one website defines it, to fall from grace is “to sin and get on the wrong side of God,” or more generally, “to do something wrong and get in trouble with someone other than God.” I might simplify the definition to something more succinct: falling from grace means messing up—big time.

    Or does it?

    In his letter to the Galatians, Paul warns against the possibility of falling from grace. But if we carefully listen to his words, we’ll find that he seems to be talking about something entirely different from what we might expect: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly await the hope of righteousness” (Gal. 5:4-5).

    For most of us, when we talk about falling from grace, we’re thinking of someone with an otherwise impeccable record who tarnishes that record with some sort of serious (and usually very public) sin. But that is in fact the opposite of what Paul is talking about. He’s talking about someone with a decidedly inadequate record who believes that he can improve his record through doing good works and obeying the law. For Paul, falling away from grace isn’t so much about stumbling as it is about climbing.

    Think about this for a minute. In order for grace to be grace, it must be bestowed upon undeserving people, right? The only people who can enjoy the gift of grace are those with absolutely no basis on which to boast or brag of their own moral goodness. After all, if their own moral goodness was so magnificent, they wouldn’t even need grace, would they?

    If this is true, then what it means is that we don’t fall from grace by sinning. We fall from grace by trying to be good as a means of earning our favor with God and others. As Christians, it’s vital that we recognize this difference.

    The tragic reality of our sinful world is that we’re all weak and vulnerable creatures. All it takes is the right temptation at the right time to cause us to come completely undone. I’ve been there before. And I’m sure you have, too.

    But the good news for those of us who have royally messed up recently is this: Even though we have fallen, it is precisely for this reason that God's grace exists. So long as our faith is in Christ alone, we can be comforted in knowing that we haven’t fallen from grace. We’ve fallen into it.

    ThuThursdayFebFebruary25th2016 Searching for Greatness

    Suppose for a moment that you’re an advertising executive, and your job is to come up with a campaign to market video game products. Your target audience is made up mostly of adolescent or young adult males, and your objective is to convince them to spend significant amounts of their (or their parents’) money on your products. So here’s the question: What’s your plan? How are you going to hook them?

    The obvious answer would probably be to appeal to their hormones; grab a supermodel and make her the spokesperson for your product. Or perhaps you’d infuse some peer pressure; make the audience believe that all the cool kids are already buying your product, and if they want to fit in, they need to buy it, too.

    But a few years ago, Sony took an entirely different angle when it came time to launch their anticipated PlayStation 4. Instead of selling it with sensuality or coolness, they took the surprising route of advertising their new gaming console with the memorable tag line, “Greatness Awaits.” In a popular 2013 TV commercial, the viewer was asked, “Who are you to be anonymous—you, whose name should be spoken in reverent tones or in terrified whispers? And who are you to deny greatness? If you would deny it to yourself, you deny it to the entire world. And we will not be denied!”

    Now I’m not a marketing guru, but I recognize compelling advertising when I see it. And this is some dramatic and appealing stuff!

    Yet in spite of its emotional force, I can’t help but notice the profound irony at work here. Keep in mind that the product in question is one which empowers its users to do nothing more than sit in dark rooms in front of bright screens, pressing little plastic buttons with their thumbs as they guide imaginary characters to pursue imaginary achievements within imaginary worlds. And while there's certainly nothing wrong with some recreational video gaming every now and then, that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about selling a lifestyle of sedentary non-productivity by—of all things—the promise of greatness.

    It’s a curious formula. And yet it strikes a chord—and not just with young, gaming-addicted males.

    See, to one degree or another we all crave greatness. We long to do something remarkable and leave behind a legacy. We know our time here is short, and we want to make as big of a splash as we can while we still have the time. We’ll do anything to escape the curse of anonymity.

    And yet the PlayStation advertising campaign helps us see that as eager as we are to find greatness, we’re woefully misguided about where such greatness can be found.

    I suppose in many ways we’re not unlike the disciples, who came to Jesus asking about which of them would have the honor of sitting next to him in his glory. Jesus, however, cut right to the point: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43). He doesn’t rebuke their desire to attain greatness; he rebukes their desired method of achieving it.

    Do you want to be great? If so, you’ll never get there by climbing over others—whether in your career, your home, your social circles, or your video games. Instead, you’ll get there in the same way Jesus did—through servanthood, sacrifice, and humility.

    When you take a meal to a family in need, or loan a car to your neighbor, or tackle a project at work without being asked, the world may not stop and throw you a parade. But be assured of this: you’re closer to greatness than any self-centered celebrity or power-drunk corporate executive (or bleary-eyed video gamer) will ever be.

    Greatness truly does await us. But only if we know where to look. 

    ThuThursdayFebFebruary4th2016 3 Myths of Christian Voting

    With the state primaries now under way, the 2016 U.S. presidential race is officially in full swing. The candidates have been raising money, traveling the country, explaining their positions on the key issues, and trying to garner as much support as they can. Now, it’s time for the voters to respond.

    Here in Indiana, our turn doesn’t arrive until May. Still, I imagine most of us are already beginning to feel pretty invested. (It’s hard not to if you read the newspaper, watch television, or log into Facebook!) So before we get too much further in this election process, I thought it might be beneficial to address some of the popular myths many Christians seem to buy into at a time like this. There are plenty we could talk about, but for now I’ll just identify three.

    Myth #1: All Christians should vote the same.

    As a kid I remember being uncomfortable around friends who claimed to be Christians and Indiana Hoosier basketball fans. It sounds silly, but I saw it as a genuine sign of spiritual blindness to support the (Bob) Knight of Darkness and his cream-and-crimson minions. Only later did I realize that it’s okay to be diametrically opposed to someone’s choice of favorite college basketball team while still maintaining deep and meaningful Christian unity with that person.

    Now I’ll readily grant that political convictions are weightier and more substantial than sports preferences, so the analogy has its weaknesses. But in many ways, our differences in the voting booth should be viewed with the same attitude. You may lean toward one candidate, and someone in your care group may prefer a different one. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that one of you is on the straight-and-narrow, and the other has completely renounced the faith. A mature Christian recognizes this and gives his brothers and sisters freedom to vote differently than he does.

    Myth #2: Party allegiance trumps biblical conviction.

    From my vantage point, it’s not wrong to identify with a certain political party. But when that party’s platform begins to carry more weight in your political decision-making than the teaching of Scripture, there’s a problem.

    The fact of the matter is that neither of the major political parties in our nation is inerrant. Yet too often, Christians are too blinded by political allegiance to notice this. Don’t assume that just because a candidate has your preferred letter after his or her name that he or she must be the best choice. Do your homework, assess all the issues, and don’t be afraid to step across the aisle from time to time.

    Myth #3: The best Christian is the best candidate.

    It’s a wonderful thing to live in a country where many of the candidates for the highest offices of our land profess to be followers of Jesus. That is a blessing, especially when contrasted with many other countries where government leaders are hostile toward our faith.

    Nevertheless, it is dangerous to fall into the trap of voting for a candidate just because he or she shares our love for Jesus Christ. One’s commitment to the gospel is not a measure of one’s capacity for national leadership. There are plenty of godly people who would be very bad presidents, just like there are plenty of godly people who would be bad mechanics or doctors or engineers. As Christians, we should vote for the person who will govern with wisdom, skill, and prudence, even if that’s not the person we’d want to have as a Sunday school teacher.

    As you buckle in for the coming months of political discussions and decisions, keep these things in mind. But even more importantly, don’t lose sight of that which is emphatically not  a myth: the fact that as Christians we’re called to pray for our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2), honor them (1 Pet. 2:17), and submit to their leadership (Rom. 13:1)—regardless of whether or not we voted for them.

    ThuThursdayJanJanuary28th2016 Going Gray, Staying Green
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Aging Righteousness 1 comments Add comment

    Here’s a little quiz for you. Read the following of song excerpts and see if you can identify what they all have in common:

    Forever young, I want to be forever young. (Alphaville, 1984)

    I don’t wanna grow up. (The Ramones, 1995)

    I wanna live while we’re young
    We wanna live while we’re young. (One Direction, 2012)

    Tonight we are young
    So let’s set the world on fire
    We can burn brighter than the sun. (Fun, 2012)

    I don’t think it takes too much studious reflection to figure out the common theme here. These songs may span various genres (and eras!), but they each joyously celebrate one of our most beloved idols: youth. And, perhaps more importantly, they each defiantly scorn one of our most dreaded fears: old age.

    Songs like these are shaped by a cultural narrative that incessantly tells us, “Younger is better”—a narrative that many of us unthinkingly adopt. We naturally associate youthfulness with health, beauty, freedom, and fun, while at the same time thinking of old age in terms of decline, limitation, senility, and boredom. Given such an outlook, is it any wonder that we’re all in such a hurry to “live while we’re young”? After all, the clock is ticking, and our best years will soon be behind us. We might as well do what we can while we can.

    But what if this cultural narrative didn’t tell the whole story? What if our pessimism at the prospect of growing older turned out to be unfounded?

    In Psalm 92, we find some song lyrics that strike an entirely different note than the ones above. And they call into question our default assumption that old age is something to despise:

    The righteous flourish like the palm tree
      and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
    They are planted in the house of the Lord;
      they flourish in the courts of our God.
    They still bear fruit in old age;
      they are ever full of sap and green,
    To declare that the Lord is upright;
      he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

    Let’s be clear here: any way you slice it, aging is a decline—a slow and steady march toward the inevitable fate that awaits us all. You can try to postpone it, and you can try to hide it. But eventually the wrinkles will prevail and the creaky joints will be too loud to be ignored.

    But according to Psalm 92, the quality of your life and the significance of your contribution are not measured solely by the health of your body or the sharpness of your mind. Even when the candles on your birthday cake are multiplying, your spiritual fruitfulness can be multiplied, as well. This is what a lifestyle of righteousness does: it allows you to stay green, even when you’re turning gray.

    In a culture that tells us to stay young as long as we can, the church should be a community where we sing a different song. Physically, our best years may be past. But spiritually, there is still much to look forward to. As the proverb says, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (Prov. 16:31).

    Maybe you’re still fairly young, and old age feels a long way off. Maybe you thought you were young, but you looked in the mirror recently, and the evidence suggested otherwise. Or maybe you’re someone who crossed the old age threshold years ago, and your AARP card is already well worn. Regardless of where you are in your journey, if you pursue righteousness, a few bad knees won’t be able to slow you down. Your old age will simply provide you with new opportunities to enjoy and declare God’s goodness.

    WedWednesdayJanJanuary13th2016 Mistakes and Missed Field Goals

    If you’re a football fan, you probably know about the surprising ending to this weekend’s playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. With less than a minute remaining, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a short 27-yard field goal that would have won the game for his team. As a general rule of thumb, NFL kickers don’t miss 27-yard field goals. But on this occasion, Walsh did just that, and it brought the Vikings’ season to a swift and disappointing end.

    In the post-game interviews, the devastated kicker shouldered the blame for the mistake, admitting that he should have done better. It was freezing cold and the holder didn’t have the ball positioned properly, but that made no difference to Walsh. “It’s my fault,” he maintained. “I don’t care whether you give me a watermelon whole, I should be able to put that one through.”

    All of this was an admirable display of humility, to be sure. But there was one thing Walsh said that stood out more than anything else. Realizing that with one swing of the leg he had immediately become one of the most despised men in Minnesota, he promised, “I’ll be working hard to erase that from my career, but it’ll take a while.”

    In a results-driven industry built on winning and losing, Walsh’s resolve is understandable. He knows that the standards are high and the margin for error is slim. And as I reflect on his promise to atone for his mistake, I can’t help but wonder how many of us approach our Christian lives with the same attitude.

    Most of us know all too well what it feels like to fall flat on our faces. We speak carelessly. We jump to conclusions. We get angry. We break promises. And yet as proficient as we are at making mistakes, I fear that often we don’t know how to bounce back from them.

    When I stumble or fall, the default response of my own heart tends to sound a lot like Blair Walsh’s post-game interview: I promise to work hard and erase the mistake. “If God is displeased with me,” I tell myself, “then I’ll have to earn back his pleasure with lots and lots of virtuous activity.”

    Yet this mindset couldn’t be more opposed to the gospel of grace. Most high-profile athletes have learned to resign themselves to the reality that sporting salvation is always a works-based endeavor. Fans are a relentlessly unforgiving bunch, and if there is to be any redemption for a pivotal mistake (like a missed field goal in the final minute), then it will have to be earned. Only a sufficiently long string of successes can make up for such a devastating mishap.

    But the good news of Jesus does not require us to make up for past mistakes with future successes. It does not demand that we dig our way out of the holes we have fallen into before we can be accepted. Instead, it announces the liberating truth that our sins are forgiven, our penance has been paid, and our mistakes have been removed as far as the east is from the west. There is indeed a long road to redemption, but it has already been traveled by our perfect substitute, Jesus Christ.

    We should never be content with our mistakes, nor should we desire to repeat them. But instead of responding to them with feverish efforts to appease God with our works, we can rest in the once-for-all effort put forth by Christ on our behalf.

    This is what the gospel does. It allows us to vicariously enjoy Christ’s victory, reminding us that regardless of how many field goals we miss, Jesus has already won the game.

    WedWednesdayJanJanuary6th2016 Jesus Loves the Little Children
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Encouragement Love 2 comments Add comment

    When you’re a teenager, few things are as humiliating as being treated like a little kid. You want to be thought of as independent and responsible. You want people to respect you. You want to establish your own identity. In other words, you want to stop being a child—which is precisely why it’s so frustrating when you’re treated like one.

    Even though I’m in my 30’s, I still find that my inner teenager comes out from time to time when I sense that I’m being talked down to. “I’m an adult, for goodness sake, and the least I should be able to get is a little respect!” Or so I think.

    Perhaps that’s why I feel uneasy whenever I read the book of 1 John. Time and time again throughout that letter, John addresses his readers as children. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin” (1 Jn. 2:1). “And now, little children, abide in him” (1 Jn. 2:28). “Little children, let no one deceive you” (1 Jn. 3:7). “Little children, let us love not in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:18). “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21). There are many more examples, but I think you get the point.

    All of it throws me off balance and makes me ask: What’s John’s deal? Does he think I’m some snotty-nosed little kid running around eating Happy Meals? Does he think he’s writing to a first-grade Sunday school class?

    Yet if I silence my self-justifying tendencies for a moment, I’ll see that John isn’t talking down to me or making me feel insignificant. Instead, he’s helping me see a deep mystery of discipleship, namely that following Jesus is in many ways analogous to the experience of childhood.

    Think about it. When you’re a child, do you meet your own needs? Do you have extensive knowledge of how the world works? Do you make your own rules and call your own shots? Well, unless you were a remarkably prodigious child, probably not. Children don’t do any of those things, and neither do we when we follow Jesus.

    Do we meet our own needs? Nope. We depend daily on grace that we receive from our Father. Nothing good in our lives is ever brought about by our own strength or piety.

    Do we know how the world works? Hardly. We’re profoundly ignorant. We don’t see the path of wisdom clearly. We misjudge at every turn. We have to learn the same lesson hundreds of times.

    Do we make our own rules and call our own shots? I sure hope not. Following Jesus means giving up the reins. It means submitting to authority. It means taking all of our cues from the word of God.

    John wants us to see that every Christian is a child: dependent, naïve, subservient. And lest we find that too upsetting or demeaning, he makes sure that we comprehend another aspect of childhood that coincides with the Christian life: love. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 Jn. 3:1).

    Sure, being a child means having limitations. Lots of them. But being a child also means being loved. Lavishly.

    John wasn’t the only person in the Bible to call us children. Jesus did the same thing. But his intention was not to dress us down or put us in our place. His intention was to invite us to himself: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).

    In the end, maybe we shouldn’t resent being called little children. After all, that’s who Jesus loves. And whether you’re nineteen or ninety, you’re never too old for his embrace.

    ThuThursdayDecDecember10th2015 Faith in a Time of Tragedy
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Faith Suffering 3 comments Add comment

    Chances are you know what it’s like to have your world rocked by something that you never saw coming. You wake up one morning thinking it will be just another day, but then you get the phone call or you see the news and everything changes in an instant. In that moment, what does it look like to have faith in a loving, powerful, sovereign God?

    Right now in the life of our church, I suspect this isn’t a hypothetical question for most people. This is something many of us are actively wondering about. Here we are, walking through an unforeseen tragedy within our own Kossuth community, and although we genuinely desire to do so while exercising trust in God, the problem is that we’re not always sure how.

    Perhaps it would help if we could know a few basic realities about the nature of faith in a time of tragedy. Let me suggest six of them, some of which might surprise you:

    1. It is not natural. Faith is not the default human response to grief or loss. As sinners, we don’t naturally generate faith from within ourselves; faith is something that must be given to us. That is why Paul called it a “gift of God” (Eph. 2:8), and Peter spoke of it as something that is “obtained” (2 Pet. 1:1). If you’re digging deep within your own soul to find the faith sufficient for the trial before you, you’re looking in the wrong place. Instead, look to our generous and loving God, who richly provides the ability to trust him.

    2. It is not perfect. There is a misconception out there that true faith allows no room for doubt. But when your world is rocked, questions, confusion, and yes, even doubts will be unavoidable. Faith does not suppress those things; it owns up to them and allows God to work in and through them. Faith is a fight (1 Tim. 6:12), which is exactly why it often gets expressed in the words of the man who came to Jesus exclaiming, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

    3. It is not blind. Yes, faith is “the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Yes, we are called to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). But this does not mean that faith in a time of tragedy is a true leap into the dark. In the midst of his suffering, Paul was able to say, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12). The God in whom we trust has proven himself time and time again, and our knowledge of that past deliverance informs our faith in hard times.

    4. It is not private. When Paul spoke about his desire to visit the church in Rome, he gave this as his reason: “that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (Rom. 1:12). Faith grows in the presence of faith. In other words, God intends for our trust in him to be strengthened by others who are also trusting in him. In a moment of crisis, being faith-filled Christians is only possible by being connected to a faith-filled community.

    5. It is not abstract. When tragedy strikes, we do not trust in theoretical principles or vague religious generalities. We trust in a person, and that person has a name: Jesus Christ. That is why the writer of Hebrews calls us to look “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). Faith is best expressed as a daily dependence upon the Rock of our salvation.

    6. It is not futile. The Scriptures tell us that if the gospel isn’t true, then “your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). But because the gospel is true, our faith actually means and accomplishes something. When you’re in the valley of the shadow of death, some might tell you that your faith is nothing more than a pipe dream or a coping mechanism to get you through. But in reality your faith is producing steadfastness (Jas. 1:3) and will one day result in the salvation of your soul (1 Pet. 1:9). That is far from futile!

    For all of you fighting for faith in a time of tragedy, my prayer for you is that of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:16-17: “that according to the riches of his glory [God] may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

    ThuThursdayNovNovember12th2015 Glimpses of Grace
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Christmas Grace Sermons 1 comments Add comment

    Many years ago, my family took a trip to Colorado. It was a great vacation, but ironically what I remember most about it is the drive out there. It was long. And flat. And painfully monotonous. A kid can only stare at the plains of Kansas for so long before he loses interest.

    But somewhere along the way, the boredom was interrupted by a subtle vision of something ahead on the horizon. At first, it looked like a distant bank of clouds. But as we got closer and it slowly came into view, it became clear that the object stretched out on the horizon was in fact the very earth itself. And not just any part of the earth. It was the great and mighty Rocky Mountain Range!

    From then on, the drive took on a whole new feel. The ground around us may have been flat (and unexciting) as a board, but that no longer mattered. Our eyes were fixed up ahead as that impressive line of mountains off in the distance grew larger. And larger. And larger. Until finally we found ourselves no longer looking ahead at the Rockies but looking around at the Rockies. What once appeared to be a hardly-noticeable disturbance on the horizon was now a many-peaked giant, towering above us in all of its colossal splendor. We had arrived in the heart of the mountains.

    In the opening chapter of his Gospel, John wrote of the incarnation of Christ, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John wasn’t being dramatic. He literally saw this. With his own two eyes, he witnessed the glory of the only Son. The grace and truth he speaks of were perfectly embodied in front of him in the person of Jesus, his teacher, friend, and savior.

    But for generations before him, the things that John saw up close and personal could only be glimpsed from a distance. The people that lived before the birth of Christ did not have the privilege of seeing the Word made flesh. The grace-and-truth-filled glory which John witnessed was not yet available to them. Their eyes never had the privilege of resting upon God in human form, walking among them and accomplishing their eternal salvation.

    Yet despite this fact, the Old Testament believers were not left without foretastes of this tremendous sight. Like a boy straining his eyes to see the Rocky Mountains on the horizon, the people of God were able to cast their gaze forward and see a distant picture of the coming salvation.

    How did they do this? Not by some mystical or superstitious trance, but by simply taking up the Old Testament and reading it. Right there in the Scripture, they were able to find wonderful glimpses of the grace that was to come.

    Beginning this Sunday, we’re going to enjoy some of those glimpses together as a church. From now until Christmas, we’ll be walking through a short sermon series together called, “Glimpses of Grace: Seeing the Savior in the Psalms.” The book of Psalms was the hymnal of the Old Testament, and it’s full of foretastes of the glory that John would one day write about. By focusing on just a few examples, I think we’ll be able to have our appreciation of Christ’s arrival enhanced.

    If you want to call this a Christmas series, you’re welcome to. But really it’s much more than that. This is a celebration of God’s sovereign, eternal plan to bring salvation to his people. So join us at 10:30 each Sunday as we study these grace-glimpsing Psalms. And consider inviting a non-Christian friend or neighbor, as well. I look forward to worshiping Jesus along with you!

    WedWednesdayOctOctober28th2015 The Parable of the Leaf

    Once upon a time there was a leaf. Well, technically it was a bud—a tiny little ball of raw potential perched proudly on the tip of a branch in the cool springtime sun. Its home was a weathered old maple that for years had been stationed next to a well-traveled pathway, its mighty branches bowing gracefully to the people passing by, many of whom were younger than the tree itself.

    As the days grew longer and the sun grew warmer, this little bud began to change. With the plentiful spring rains came much-needed nutrients, which the tree gladly delivered to the little leaf, nourishing it and allowing it to grow. Soon the bud began to unfurl, opening itself up and revealing its miniature green contours. Few people would have noticed, but within its tiny dimensions was an abundance of life.

    Summer arrived, and the leaf reached full size. It spent most of its time basking in the sunlight and enjoying the warmth of the humid afternoons. It continued to receive water and nutrients through the elaborate system of roots and branches, enabling its photosynthetic operations to continue running on all cylinders. The leaf was strong and healthy. It lacked nothing. Life was good. People passed by and enjoyed its shade.

    But then something began to happen. The sunlight—which the leaf had previously enjoyed in such abundance—began to diminish. In the mornings, darkness lingered. In the evenings, the red and orange hues of the approaching dusk stretched themselves across the sky much sooner than they used to. And not only that, but the water and nutrients from the tree began to grow scarce, almost as if the stately old maple had become tired of sharing its resources.

    Meanwhile, the leaf grew sad. And confused. And scared. But most of all, it grew weak. Despite its best efforts, the leaf simply could no longer function like it used to. Even the simplest tasks became tiring, and then difficult, and then impossible. The leaf could feel itself drying up. Day by day, it grew closer and closer to what felt like an inevitable demise. It drooped in sorrow.

    And yet in the midst of its distress, the leaf noticed something. It noticed that the people passing by began to stop. And linger. And look. Small children and elderly men, hurried executives and lonely widows, mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers—they all paused to marvel. Their faces softened and smiled. They took pictures and they spoke of beauty. They seemed to be genuinely entranced by this weak, dying leaf, who for the life of it couldn’t figure out why. After all, it had nothing left to offer to the world. How could anyone find it beautiful? It had been emptied of everything. It was worthless. It wasn’t even green any more.

    My friend, do you think it’s possible that suffering can make you beautiful? Do you think there’s a way for God to take your weakness, your brokenness, your loneliness, your disappointment, your pain, your grief, your limitations, your anxiety, and make them into a stunning array of breathtaking colors that cause others to stop and marvel? Do you think it’s possible that what you thought were the bleakest moments of your life will end up (somehow) being your brightest moments?

    You might feel empty and alone. You might feel worthless and broken. But I implore you: remember the parable of the leaf. Remember that in the depths of your suffering, God can display his glory in ways that he never could at the height of your strength. There is an autumnal splendor that simply cannot be seen in the sunshine of June.

    Do you recall what the Lord told the apostle Paul? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The same promise has been given to you. Even at your worst, you just might unknowingly be lighting up the world.

    So be encouraged, little leaves. You have no idea how beautiful you are.

    WedWednesdayOctOctober14th2015 4 Tips for Listening to Sermons
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Sermons Worship 1 comments Add comment

    How many sermons do you think you’ll hear in your lifetime?

    If you’ve been in a church service most Sundays since birth (like I have), and if you live to be 80 years old, then simple math would predict that you’ll hear over 4,000 sermons. Supposing an average length of 40 minutes per sermon, this means you’ll sit through approximately 2,667 hours of preaching during your life. And that doesn’t even count all the other times you’ll listen to Bible teaching (at retreats, at conferences, on the radio, on podcasts, or in classes).

    The point is that if you’re going to be involved in a church, you’re going to listen to a lot of preaching. And if you’re going to listen to a lot of preaching, wouldn’t you like to make the most of it? Nobody wants to waste 2,667 hours of their lives!

    Although there are many things that could be said to help you maximize the hours you’ll spend in the pew, here are four quick ideas that will get you started:

    1. Prepare your heart. When properly understood and practiced, a sermon is not a collection of the preacher’s thoughts and ideas; it is a message from God’s word for God’s people. This means that you can prepare for it by cultivating an attitude of humility. Through prayer and reflection, get your heart ready to listen to God. And if you find that task to be difficult, then use the singing time to help you warm your heart to the goodness of God in the gospel so that you are ready to listen to him in his word.

    2. Prepare your mind. Having your heart in the right place is important, but you also need to get your mind ready to engage ideas and follow along with what is being said. For some this might be as simple as going to bed earlier on Saturday night. For others this might mean putting the phone away before you enter the sanctuary. Maybe you need to start taking notes to help you follow along—or stop taking notes, because you get too wrapped up in writing down every minute detail. The goal is a mind operating at full capacity.

    3. Know what you’re doing. When the preacher is 20 minutes into the sermon, and you’re starting to get drowsy, it’s always good to remind yourself why you’re there. You’re not there to pass time or do your weekly religious duty. You’re not there to frantically memorize all the sub-points or merely make it to the end with your eyes still open. You’re there to understand and respond to God’s word. That’s a sacred task! So focus on that and let the significance of the task inform your attitude and outlook.

    4. Make a return trip. If you walk out of the sermon and do nothing with what you’ve heard, then guess what – you’ll end up doing nothing with what you’ve heard. So if you took notes, find a time to review them later in the week. If you want to process a part of the sermon more slowly, go back and listen to that section again online. And perhaps most importantly: find ways to use the truth of the sermon in your daily conversations—with your family, your friends, your care group, or anyone else. This will help translate the truths you’ve heard into real life practice.

    These are simple suggestions. But I’m confident that they can go a long way toward helping you get the most out of all those sermons you’ll hear. May God continue to use his word to bless his people! 

    ThuThursdayOctOctober1st2015 Bad Company and Good Morals

    We all know the saying. Not only is it etched in our Bibles (1 Cor. 15:33), but it’s also a common refrain many children have heard from parents who are concerned about their choices of friends. I’m talking of course about the famous maxim: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

    More often than not, our primary use of this phrase is to exhort one another not to hang around with shady characters. If you befriend a lowlife, it won’t be long before you’re a lowlife yourself. If you rub shoulders with troublemakers, you’ll soon end up staring at one in the mirror. Or so goes the typical line of reasoning.

    Now let’s be absolutely clear: there is great wisdom in this. The book of Proverbs, for example, is full of warnings against seeking out the company of the wrong people (whether the “wrong people” are thieves or prostitutes or flatterers). Indeed, given the fact that we’re all impressionable creatures, we must be cautious in choosing our friends and acquaintances. We’re all subject to corrupting influences.

    However, there’s a serious problem when wise discernment of relationships turns into wholesale avoidance of sinners. When “bad company” becomes synonymous with any and every unbeliever, the church will quickly turn into a reclusive, irrelevant community that has entirely forsaken its mission to the world.

    It’s interesting to note that in the context of 1 Corinthians, Paul’s citation of the proverb, “Bad company ruins good morals,” is actually used to warn Christians against people within the church. There was a contingent in Corinth who denied the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12). And Paul’s point is that the church should not tolerate such falsehood in its midst.

    It’s in fact quite similar to the argument he made earlier, back in chapter 5. In that case, there was a disturbing trend of sexual immorality in the church, and Paul exhorted the church to “cleanse out the leaven” (1 Cor. 5:7). He goes on to make this important distinction:

    I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you” (1 Cor. 5:9-13).

    I can’t imagine a more strongly worded command to avoid “bad company.” But once again, the “bad company” in this context is not the people on the outside of the church; it’s the hypocrites on the inside.

    So what does this mean for who we hang out with as Christians? Well, at the very least it means that if we’re going to be faithfully engaged in the Great Commission, we can’t exactly avoid sinners. Running and hiding from bad people in the interest of preserving our good morals is neither commendable nor realistic. As Paul himself said, to avoid sinners would require leaving the world. And Jesus has sent us into the world, not pulled us out of it.

    So while we must use discretion in choosing the company we keep, let’s not use it as an excuse to stay away from the company we should reach.

    WedWednesdaySepSeptember23rd2015 Welcome, Pope Francis?

    You’re probably aware that our nation is hosting a special visitor this week. Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, is making his first visit to the United States, with scheduled stops in Washington D.C., New York, and Philadelphia. It’s a momentous occasion, not only for the 70 million (or so) Catholics in this country, but for anyone interested in what the most prominent voice in global religion has to say.

    Personally, I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, I respect Pope Francis for many of his convictions. He advocates for the poor, he defends the sanctity of life, he champions environmental stewardship, and he does it all with a humble demeanor that frankly makes it hard not to like him. I am thankful for these things about him. And on top of it all, he seems about as down-to-earth as any man of his office realistically could be, displaying a knack for identifying with the “average person.”

    But does this mean that we should celebrate Pope Francis and look to him as a spiritual authority, as many evangelicals are beginning to do? I believe the answer is no. While we can applaud his positive contribution toward a more just and civil society, I do not believe that we should esteem him as a biblical teacher or leader. And the main reason is this: Pope Francis obscures the gospel of grace.

    During the last few weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about the “Year of Grace” here at Kossuth. Well recently I was made aware that the Roman Catholic Church is preparing to kick off a special year of its own, something they’re calling a “Year of Mercy.” In anticipation for this celebration, the Pope has made a number of announcements. For example, he has declared that priests can grant forgiveness for sins (such as abortion) that had hitherto required the absolution of a bishop. Additionally, the Pope has declared that anyone “shall surely obtain the Jubilee indulgence” if they make a pilgrimage to Rome—or even just their local cathedral.

    On the surface of it, this sounds like good news—grace! But the problem is that this is not the grace of the gospel. And therefore it’s not really grace at all.

    To redirect a sinner from a bishop to a priest is hardly a step in the right direction. To dole out special forgiveness for stepping foot in a designated building is hardly an extension of mercy. Martin Luther, don’t put that hammer and nail away just yet.

    While Pope Francis has many great things going for him, clarity about the heart of the gospel—the very lifeblood of the Christian faith—is not one of them. What he advocates is simply legalistic works-salvation that has been re-branded to look more appealing. At the end of the day, Pope Francis still expects sinners to jump through hoops. Maybe the “Year of Mercy” lowers the hoops, but the hoops are still there. And the gospel leaves no rooms for hoops.

    As Christians, our faith is in a person, not a practice. We rest in the finished work of Christ, not the ongoing works of our own righteousness. In other words, all the hoops have already been jumped through! And as long as any teacher tries to tell us otherwise, our response must echo Paul’s attitude toward the false teachers in Galatia (Gal. 1:8-9).

    So while the Pope visits our nation and dominates the attention of the media this week, let’s applaud his positive contributions and pray that his influence will help the world pursue peace and justice. But let’s think twice before embracing him as a trustworthy voice of biblical truth. 

    [Endnote: For an important and enlightening perspective on Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic Church, we do well to listen to our evangelical brothers and sisters who live and minister in the Pope’s own backyard. This article about the church in Italy serves as a good introduction.]

    WedWednesdaySepSeptember16th2015 The Anchor of Grace
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Doctrine Gospel Grace 0 comments Add comment

    Some objects are so enormous that they simply boggle the mind. One such object would be The Seawise Giant, a massive ship built in the 1970s that was over 1,500 feet long. This vessel was in fact so large that it couldn’t even pass through the English Channel!

    It’s not surprising that a ship of that scale would need an anchor of equally gigantic proportions. And indeed, The Seawise Giant had just the thing. Coming in at roughly 36 tons, this 23-foot long hulk of metal would utterly dwarf most normal anchors. It had to. Anything less wouldn’t stand a chance of keeping a ship that big from drifting away.

    Here’s something else that’s mind-boggling in its size: grace. How big is grace? Well, a very loose translation of Romans 5:20 might read like this: “Where sin was big, grace was even bigger.” And if you have even the slightest sense of the size of your sin, then you understand that grace must be big enough to make The Seawise Giant look like a 2-person canoe.

    But grace that big needs a strong and sure anchor. No ordinary anchor will keep it held in place. And if grace drifts out to sea, then watch out! Danger is sure to follow.

    Consider the following statements:

    • “Since God gives me grace, it’s okay for me to sin.”
    • “Because I live under grace, God will never discipline me.”
    • “A God of grace would never exercise judgment or wrath.”

    All of these statements are common refrains in many corners of the church these days. But they all represent a drift from the true meaning of grace. They all indicate that this gigantic vessel has been tethered to a woefully insufficient anchor.

    When it comes to grace, there is only one anchor that is strong enough to hold it in place: the finished work of Jesus Christ. This anchor is made not from iron, but from wood. It’s fixed not to the hull of a ship, but to the ground of Golgotha. Simply put, the cross alone can secure the full magnitude of grace.

    As we launch into our Year of Grace at Kossuth, this is a vital point to keep in mind. Biblical grace does not float around aimlessly, blown to and fro by the wind, subject to our own whims and interpretations. Biblical grace is always and forever fixed to the person of Jesus and his sufficient, saving work on the cross. Whenever we talk about grace, we must do so in light of the decisive historical and theological event of the crucifixion. Present grace is only possible because of a past sacrifice. And it is that past sacrifice which defines the terms of present grace.

    This means that God’s grace is not an invitation to sin freely; it’s an invitation to cease from sinning. God’s grace is not a ticket to escape discipline; it’s a means by which we receive discipline as a loving expression of God’s concern for our holiness. God’s grace does not exclude his wrath; rather it diverts the full force of that wrath onto the head of our sinless substitute, Jesus Christ himself.

    As we walk through this Year of Grace, let’s not lose sight of the anchor to which it must always be attached. Because when we sever grace from its proper anchor, we’ll soon find that we have lost it altogether. 

    WedWednesdaySepSeptember2nd2015 Here We Go!
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Change Grace Vision 1 comments Add comment

    It was the great German writer Goethe who quipped, "The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving." And it was the not-so-great American preacher Humphrey who said, "I agree with Goethe."

    The Christian life is all about movement. The man who throws a harsh word at his wife in the heat of an argument is not at all being the husband he should be. But if last year he was in the habit of throwing lamps at his wife, well then we might be encouraged that he’s at least closer to being the husband he should be than he was twelve months ago. He’s moving in the right direction. And while his current state is not ideal, it’s his movement that makes all the difference.

    One of the key directions in which we would like to move at Kossuth is toward a greater understanding and enjoyment of grace. For most of us, the concept of grace is just that—a concept. We know we’ve been saved by it, but when it comes to our daily lives, it can be hard to see why grace matters. What does grace have to do with my money? My marriage? My loneliness? My addictions? My success? My friendships? It’s all too easy to overlook the many ways that grace impacts the practical stuff of life. And when we do that, we turn grace into a museum artifact that we view from a distance, while allowing it to have little present meaning in our daily lives.

    Unfortunately, the way to fight this temptation is much harder (and slower) than simply turning on a switch. Nobody wakes up one day and decides to live by the power of grace—at least not with any measure of success. Grace is something toward which we must gradually move, step by step. It’s a slow journey. But the good news is that each step that we take deeper into the territory of grace is a step in the right direction. It takes us closer to the heart of the gospel and further from the wasteland of legalism and self-righteousness and hollow morality.

    This is a journey that we want to take at Kossuth, and I’m excited to get going! You may recall that as part of the strategic plan which we introduced this summer, we want to set aside the 2015-16 school year as a “Year of Grace.” Well, this Sunday, in addition to transitioning into our new service time (which is now at 10:30, by the way!), we’ll officially begin the Year of Grace as we look together at Acts 9. Through the remarkable story about how God’s grace turned the life of a murderous Jesus-hater upside-down, we’ll hopefully be able to catch a compelling vision of just how wild and powerful and God-exalting his grace truly is.

    And once we start to get that, I’m pretty sure we’ll only want more. Which is why most of our ministry events (like next month’s Men’s Summit and the annual missions emphasis) will incorporate themes of grace. It’s why we’ll have special teaching and preaching opportunities throughout the year that will expand our view of grace. Who knows—we might even manage to pull out a surprise or two! The main objective of all of this is to allow God to more fully saturate our lives with his amazing grace, thus transforming us into the kind of people and the kind of community that will glorify his name and bless the world.

    If you'd like to begin this grace-ward journey with us, join us this Sunday. And in the meantime, check out this Spotify playlist of seven songs that we have specifically chosen to be our "soundtrack" for the Year of Grace. Some are familiar, some are new. But over the next few months, they'll all become beloved anthems that we'll sing regularly to remind us of what the Year of Grace is all about.

    Are you ready to get moving?

    ThuThursdayJulJuly23rd2015 The Future Is Bright
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Vision 0 comments Add comment

    We’ve had an eventful last couple weeks at Kossuth! First, we introduced a new ministry model to guide our church during this next season of ministry: Gather, Grow, Scatter. If this is the first time you’re seeing those three words next to each other, then be sure to check out the sermon I preached on July 12 or the Elder Blog post Abraham wrote last week. Both of those are important resources to introduce you to this exciting new way of thinking about how (and why) we do what we do as a church. 

    With that foundation set in place, this past Sunday during the Connection hour we were able to take the next step and introduce the four-tiered strategy that we have established that will allow us to address each of the three components of this new ministry model. We don’t just want to talk about gathering, growing, and scattering. We want to actually do them! That’s why we have set our sights on immediate, mid-range, long-term, and ongoing areas of focus. By God’s grace, we think these will help us gather, grow, and scatter well.

    Yet any time we’re planning for the future, there’s always an element of fear and uncertainty. What will happen? Will our plans prove successful? Or will they fizzle out in a pool of disappointment? While it can be tempting at a time like this to hedge our bets or temper our expectations, let me share just a few of the reasons why I’m optimistic about what’s in store. I think our future is bright, and here’s why:

    We’re building on a strong foundation. The fine print in financial services literature always says, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” That’s a necessary disclaimer in just about every area of life. But it doesn’t mean that the past is irrelevant. While the past doesn’t guarantee the future, it’s still a pretty good clue. Kossuth has a long and exceptional history of kingdom influence, and while this doesn’t promise anything, it certainly gives me reason to be encouraged. So much great work has already been done, and so many great things have already been accomplished. I think our past sets us up well for continued faithfulness and fruitfulness. It’s so much easier to move forward when you already have momentum!

    We’re surrounded by people who love Jesus and his gospel. It seems like every week I see new ways that our church is evidencing its faith in Jesus Christ and its love for all the saints (Col. 1:3-4). By no means is Kossuth a perfect church, because by no means are its members perfect people. On the contrary, we’re a bunch of royal messes! But by all accounts, this is a congregation that truly treasures Christ and is being transformed by his grace. Those of you who are sacrificing and suffering and fighting sin for the sake of Christ give me reason to look forward with eagerness. If we want to be a church full of people who passionately follow Jesus and join in his mission, it certainly won’t hurt that Kossuth has a whole army of people already doing that.

    We’re trusting a Savior who is building his church. Really, everything else pales in comparison to this: Jesus is at work in his church. And that includes Kossuth. Whenever I start to have doubts or entertain fears about the future, I remember that we can’t out-dream or out-plan Jesus. Even the loftiest goals we could put on paper are nothing compared to his cosmic designs to purify his church and lead her in victory over all of the enemies of the gospel. Ultimately, the future of Kossuth (and every local church) rests in the hands of the Master Builder against whom no hellish scheme can possibly prevail.

    I’ll take those odds any day.

    WedWednesdayJulJuly1st2015 Five Timely Affirmations

    Last Friday, the Supreme Court effectively made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. And while there have already been enough articles and blog posts written on the subject to fill an entire library, we believe as elders that it’s important to take a moment to address a question that you won’t find answered in even the best of them: “What does all of this mean for Kossuth Street Baptist Church?” We take this question seriously, and we’re working even now to explore the steps we need to take as a church to clarify our policies in such a way as to prepare for potential legal challenges. But more importantly, we want to let you know where our church stands by offering five affirmations that will help us navigate these tumultuous times. All five are vital aspects of our response as a local church.

    1. We affirm the sovereignty of God. As one friend and fellow church member put it in an email to me earlier this week, “God knew last Friday would come.” That may seem like an elementary statement, but it’s hugely important for us to understand. The Supreme Court doesn’t run the universe. God does. And because that is true, we need not succumb to fear or hopelessness. Whatever else we do, we must not lose sight of the Psalmist’s words: “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3).

    2. We affirm our own sinfulness. Jesus instructs me to remove the log in my own eye before pointing out the speck in yours. So before we talk about the sexual sins of our culture, we must be committed to confessing and seeking grace for our own sins. Unfaithfulness, abuse, lust, divorce, apathy, lovelessness: we must repent of these sins that taint our own marriages. After all, there’s more than one way to denigrate the divine institution of marriage, and unfortunately we’re guilty of many of them.

    3. We affirm our LGBT neighbors as bearers of the image of God. Every man and woman—regardless of sexuality—has been uniquely formed and fashioned in the image of their Creator. This means that we owe all of our neighbors respect, dignity, and love. Although we will certainly find our beliefs at odds with many people around us, we refuse to let that serve as an excuse for hostility or lack of compassion. We are resolved to love, even in the face of differences.

    4. We affirm a biblical and countercultural view of marriage. As Christians, the pressure to conform our beliefs to the shifting norms of American culture can be overwhelming. But we refuse to go along with popular opinion just because it’s popular. Our understanding of marriage comes from the One who created it. This means that we are resolved to teach, preach, and live out an ideal for marriage that the world will increasingly find strange and revolutionary: one man, one woman, in holy covenant before God.

    5. We affirm an unchanged gospel and an unchanged mission. No Supreme Court decision can nullify the fact that Jesus died to save sinners. And no Supreme Court decision can prevent the church of Jesus Christ from declaring that message with boldness and love in our neighborhoods and among the nations. Our task is no different than it was before. We need not tuck our tails and run. The church will continue to wake up every morning and make disciples until Jesus comes back.

    Have no doubt about it: there will be difficult days ahead. But by God’s grace, we will continue to affirm these five crucial realities as we serve and minister in an increasingly complex world. We are as excited as ever to be pastors. And we are as excited as ever to see what God will do in and through Kossuth Street Baptist Church. We are grateful to be ministering alongside you.

    WedWednesdayJunJune10th2015 Why Some Miracles Don't Happen
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Faith Miracles Prayer 2 comments Add comment

    I hope you’re still chewing on this sentence that came out of our study of Acts 5:12-16 this past Sunday morning: “God answers big prayers for the growth of the church and the good of the world.” This is the faith-fueling truth that we gleaned from witnessing God’s miraculous healing power at work in the early church.

    But let’s be honest: we all have a list of prayers that God seems not to have answered. We know from first-hand experience that miracles don’t always happen. So how do we reconcile that reality with the idea that God answers big prayers?

    Let me take a moment to share a few different reasons that might explain why an earnestly-prayed-for miracle doesn’t happen. If you’re praying hard for the healing that hasn’t come or the reconciliation that remains elusive or the help that hasn’t arrived, then consider the following list of possible reasons why God may not be giving you what you’re asking for:

    1. Because it wouldn’t serve the church or the world. This was a vital point of the passage we looked at Sunday: miracles aren’t an end in themselves. They’re meant to build the church and bless the world. Perhaps the miracle you’re praying for wouldn’t accomplish this goal.

    2. Because God has bigger plans. From time to time, my kids ask for a snack while my wife is in the process of preparing dinner. In those instances, we inevitably tell them “no,” not because we don’t want them to enjoy something to eat, but because something much bigger than a snack is on the way. Perhaps you’re asking God for a snack, when unbeknownst to you, he’s cooking you a lavish dinner.

    3. Because it isn’t the right time. I’ve been taught my whole life that God answers prayers in three different ways: yes, no, and not now. The problem is that we’re impatient, and when God tells us, “Not now,” we have a tendency to take it as, “No way!” But maybe God is simply asking you to wait while he prepares to answer in his own time.

    4. Because we need to learn. I love what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, regarding his thorn in the flesh: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” What is God trying to say to you? Often he teaches us things through the word “no” that we could never learn from the word “yes.”

    5. Because we are asking selfishly. In James 4:3, we are told, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Looking back, I can think of many times when I have prayed sincerely for something that I wanted greedily for myself. If you’re in the same boat, it’s an act of grace that God doesn’t grant those requests.

    6. Because our faith is too small. It would be wrong to always jump to this as the reason for unanswered prayer, but it would be equally wrong to dismiss it altogether. After all Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Matt. 21:22). When we ask with hearts of doubt (see James 1:5-8), we undermine our own prayers.

    7. Because…well, God knows. Let’s face it. Sometimes there’s not a neat, convenient reason—at least not that we know about. At the end of the day, God’s mysterious ways are just that: mysterious. And while we’d love to have all the answers, we simply don’t. In those instances, we do well to be still and trust that our sovereign and loving Lord is eternally committed to his glory and our good. 

    ThuThursdayMayMay21st2015 A Statement from the Elders
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Events Leaders Staff 0 comments Add comment

    As many of you know, we have been in the midst of a search for a new staff team member since the start of this year. God has been incredibly kind to us through this process, and from a field of tremendously gifted candidates, we now have the opportunity to present the one man that we believe God is directing us toward to fill this position. In order to help you understand the process thus far and prepare you for your role in the next phase, the elders have written the following statement, inviting you to share in our gratitude for God's provision of this excellent candidate.

    Members and Attenders at Kossuth,

    We first began getting to know Will Peycke (pronounced “PI-kee”) in mid-February when a few of us talked to him on the phone after receiving his resume for the Director of Family Ministry position. We were immediately impressed by his maturity as a leader, his philosophy of family ministry, and his solid experience serving in the local church. Since then, we have had a formal phone interview involving multiple elders, an in-person interview with Will and his family that included a group of ministry volunteers, multiple follow-up phone conversations, a follow-up in-person meeting, and many reference checks. Throughout all of these interactions, our confidence has only grown that God is directing us to Will as our leading candidate for this vital staff position at Kossuth. 

    But the process is not yet done. On May 30 and 31, Will and his wife, Kay, will visit Kossuth, so that we can all learn if Will is the man God intends for the position. You will have multiple opportunities to interact with him and provide feedback to us about your impressions. Below, you can find links to some more information about Will and his family, a schedule for the weekend of Will’s visit, a questionnaire that he completed during the interview process, and a job description for the Director of Family Ministry position. But before you check those out, we want to share our thoughts on Will’s character and qualifications.

    Will has proven himself to be a humble servant of the gospel who is spiritually mature and generously gifted for the work of ministry. According to numerous references, he has served his previous church exceptionally well, and the Peycke family is well loved by those they have ministered to. We have interacted with numerous people who know Will well, and every one of them has spoken very highly of him as a man of character and competence.

    We believe that Will is well-qualified and gifted to lead Kossuth’s family ministries to new levels of faithfulness and fruitfulness. He has obtained a Masters of Divinity from Calvary Theological Seminary and has been the Associate Pastor of Families and Discipleship at Parker Road Bible Church for 8 years. His administrative gifts will be put to full use in overseeing our family ministry endeavors and raising up volunteers who will be equipped to serve. His discipleship gifts will be employed in the spiritual formation of young people. His heart for families will propel him to love and care for parents as they go about the task of leading and training their children. And his experience will supply him with tools to navigate the challenges and obstacles of ministry. 

    As elders, we are excited about the possibility of Will joining the staff team at Kossuth, and we are looking forward to giving the church family an opportunity to meet and interact with him and his family.  Please plan to participate during the weekend of May 30-31, so you can get acquainted with Will, Kay, and family. Your input is vital to our decision, so we will be providing you an opportunity to provide written feedback to us before we make our final decision. Most of all, please be praying for God to continue leading us as a church.




    WedWednesdayMayMay13th2015 One of My Favorite Pictures
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Celebration Leaders 5 comments Add comment

    We all have our favorite photographs. We all keep a mental catalogue of those iconic images that have the ability to stir deep emotions and rekindle old memories. These are the pictures that we’ve gone back to time and time again, the pictures that we save on our computers and put in our scrapbooks and hang on our walls. Even now, you’re probably calling to mind that special picture of your grandfather or that beloved shot of your child as a baby or that gorgeous sunset you captured on vacation many years ago.

    Personally, one of my favorite photographs also happens to be one of the worst. It’s a dark, blurry, low-resolution image I hastily captured a few years ago on my cheap phone. By all technical standards, it’s a disaster of photography. And yet it remains one of my favorite pictures.

    One evening we were hanging out with a few friends over at Don and Sue Whipple’s house. Our oldest daughter was probably about 18 months old at the time, and as we were sitting and chatting on the back patio (as I recall), she snuck off with a new-found friend and began exploring the back yard. I don’t remember many details of the moment, other than that I happened to catch a glimpse of this unlikely pair, and immediately thought to myself, “Kodak moment!” So I grabbed my phone, and quickly tried to get a picture from a distance before the moment slipped away. What I got was this:

    For the neutral observer, this may seem like the least interesting photograph ever taken. But for me, it is jam-packed with meaning.

    At a personal level, it captures the essence of the kind of boss, mentor, and colleague that Don has been (and continues to be). Not only has he invested into me as an individual, but he has also consistently shown nothing but care and compassion toward my family. For example, I recall the time right before Elizabeth and I were leaving for a little get-away, and Don popped in my office to toss some cash at me. Or there was also the time that Don and Sue gave up their Valentine’s Day so they could take Elizabeth and me to dinner and counsel us through a difficult situation. And then there’s the fact that for the past five years, anytime Don has seen me with my family around, I immediately become invisible, and it’s as if my kids are the only ones in the room. I love that!

    But on a deeper level, there’s a symbolism in this picture that I can’t help but notice. Simply put, this image captures the essence of Don Whipple as a pastor. Over the course of 26 years, Don has held the hands of hundreds upon hundreds of people who have come through Kossuth, and he has walked with them patiently down the path of their lives. Many of you have experienced this very thing. You can relate to my daughter in this picture, because you’ve been there – unsteady and uncertain, but holding the strong hand of a man who loves you and cares for you. If you use your imagination, you can see how this picture is the picture of everyone Don has ever pastored.

    This Sunday morning we have an incredible opportunity to honor this man and his ministry at Kossuth. I hope you’ll do all you can to be here. During the 9:15am service, Don will preach, and we’ll sing some of his favorite songs (with some very special musicians, as well!). Immediately thereafter, parents will go grab their kids and we’ll return to the auditorium for a combined time of celebrating Don and Sue. Come with your memories (and Kleenex) and help us honor a faithful servant of God.

    ThuThursdayAprApril30th2015 Our Greatest Fear
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Grace Identity 3 comments Add comment

    The next time you need a fun diversion in your workday, take a few moments and Google “phobias.” You’re probably already familiar with the common ones, like arachnophobia (the fear of spiders) or claustrophobia (the fear of being closed in). But you’ll be amazed at some of the other phobias that have been observed and documented. For example, did you know about pogonophobia (the fear of beards)? Or how about leukophobia (the fear of the color white)? There’s also sesquipedalophobia (the fear of long words, which is highly ironic don’t you think?) and phobophobia (the fear of fear itself—thanks, FDR).

    The sheer number of phobias would seem to point to the conclusion that human fear is an incredibly diverse, highly personalized experience. And while that’s certainly true to a degree, I don’t believe it tells the whole story. The fact of the matter is that there are fears which are universally shared. They may not have crazy, hard-to-pronounce names. But they’re out there, and we know them well.

    One such fear is the fear of being known for who we truly are. Can you relate? It’s the kind of fear that swells up in your chest when you consider what it would be like for others to see the “real you.” It’s the kind of fear that you experience when you imagine your private life playing out on a movie screen for all to see.

    Truth be told, you don’t need to have a full-blown identity crisis to know what this fear is like. All you need is that little, nagging voice deep down inside of you that whispers, “If they only knew…” And let’s face it: that voice can be downright terrifying.

    In his book A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock N’ Roll, David Zahl explores this concept rather perceptively. In an intriguing chapter about the identity-related themes in the music of Pete Townshend and The Who, Zahl writes, “We are insecure about how we are perceived because of the all-too-real gap between who we feel we should be, or want to be (the Ideal), and who we actually are (the Real). In technological terms, you might say that a nagging discrepancy exists between our status updates and our browser histories.”

    This hits close to home. I like to maintain a well-groomed, squeaky clean image for others to see. I fix my hair before going out in public. I post pictures of my smiling children on Instagram. I tell people everything’s fine when I really want to crawl in bed and hide from the world. I work hard to keep my flaws hidden. Yet in all of these things, I fear that it won’t be enough. That someone might still see through the façade. That someone might still discover the true me.

    And I know from experience that I’m not alone. You’ve likely had the same fears.

    So what is it that makes us so afraid? Ultimately, I think it has to do with our failure to understand grace. Somewhere in our sin-warped minds, we have come to believe that we have to be lovely in order to be loved, acceptable in order to be accepted. We have turned identity into something that must be earned.

    But as David Zahl writes later in the same chapter, “This is the miracle of God’s grace: identity is not earned or established; it is given.” We don’t have to create an acceptable identity, or compensate for what we feel is an inadequate one. In Christ, our identity is perfect, and it is secure.

    If our greatest fear is that we will be found out, then our greatest relief should come from the fact that God already has found us out, and loves us anyway. He sees our warts. He sees our weaknesses. And in spite of it all, he calls us sons and daughters.

    Go, and fear no more.

    ThuThursdayAprApril23rd2015 Does God's Love Abide in You?
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Community Generosity Love 0 comments Add comment

    “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

    In the sermon this past Sunday, we spent some time considering these sentences from Acts 2, which describe the early church as a radically generous community where possessions were shared, resources were given, and needs were met. It’s a beautiful picture of camaraderie and love.

    It’s worth pointing out, however, that this description of the early church stands in direct opposition to the cultural narrative that has shaped so many of us. The logic of the American Dream says, “If you worked hard for it, you deserve to enjoy it.” We’ve been told that everyone has equal opportunity, and those who get ahead do so as a result of their superior resolve and dedication. If you have resources, you’ve earned them. It’s not your fault that other people didn’t work as hard as you.

    It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Christians who are more influenced by this value system than they are by the gospel will inevitably fail to realize the type of community that Acts 2 describes. So long as we’re governed by a sense of merit, we will have no room for any common sharing of resources. After all, why would I give my hard-earned [fill in the blank] to someone who doesn’t deserve it?

    But Christians who are compelled by mercy instead of merit will readily give themselves for the good of their brothers and sisters. Consider this paragraph found in 1 John 3 (verses 16-18):

    By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth.

    Does God’s love abide in you? If so, it will reveal itself in action. You’ll be quick to give, quick to share, quick to serve. Your relationships will be saturated with love—the same kind of indiscriminate, excessive, scandalous love that the holy God of the universe has shown to vile, wicked creatures such as ourselves.

    But if, on the other hand, the wisdom of the world is what drives your attitude, well then that will reveal itself in action, too. You’ll be closed off to the possibility of generosity. You’ll cling to all you can get your hands on. You’ll operate by a system of who deserves what.

    Martyn Lloyd-Jones once remarked, “The men and women who truly believe and know that they are forgiven by God as the result of God’s infinite grace are the people who have the love of God in their hearts, and that love is bound to show itself.” Maybe there’s something to that old adage after all; maybe actions really do speak louder than words.

    What do your actions say about the presence of God’s love inside you?

    ThuThursdayAprApril9th2015 Cobra Effect Christianity

    What’s the difference between a church that ministers in the power of the Spirit and a church that doesn’t? Take a moment to think about that. And while you’re thinking about it, let me tell you a story.

    Recently I found myself reading about something called “the cobra effect.” If you’re not familiar with that phrase, it’s a term used primarily in economics to describe what happens when an attempted course of action backfires. In other words, when an effort to solve a problem actually makes the problem worse, you have a manifestation of the cobra effect on your hands.

    The name comes from an old story that is told about a series of events that took place in India during the days when it was under the colonial rule of the British government. As the story goes, there was a growing concern among the British authorities regarding the proliferation of venomous snakes in the region. These snakes posed a very real threat, and something had to be done. In response, the British government proposed a plan to get the snake population under control: a bounty system. For every dead cobra that could be presented by a local resident, a monetary reward would be offered in exchange.

    At first, this plan seemed to be working. To the delight of the British authorities, lots of people were bringing in dead snakes! It would only be a matter of time before the area’s cobra population would be significantly reduced.

    But eventually, the British government caught wind of a disturbing development: a great number of local residents had taken to catching and breeding cobras, solely for the purpose of collecting the bounty. Many had found this to be more profitable than their regular “day jobs.”

    So the British authorities did what seemed necessary. They brought a swift end to the bounty program. But there was just one problem. Suddenly, all those opportunistic cobra farmers were left with a whole bunch of worthless snakes on their hands. Since there was no more money to be made from them, they did the logical thing: they turned them loose! Needless to say, the cobra population ended up worse than it ever had been before.

    Hence, the cobra effect.

    So let me ask you again: What’s the difference between a church that ministers in the power of the Spirit and one that doesn’t?

    On the outside, there may not be much to distinguish the two. The churches might look the same. They might use the same words. They might even be doing some of the same things. But here’s the crucial point: only one can bear true fruit.

    When we minister in the power of the Spirit, we participate in authentic gospel advance. It may not always be big or glamorous or eye-catching. But it’s genuine. Jesus is proclaimed. Lives are transformed. The Enemy is pressed back. Fruit is produced.

    But when we try to do ministry apart from the Spirit, we end up practicing what we might call “Cobra Effect Christianity.” We may think we’re doing something meaningful, but in reality we’re just going around in circles. We busy ourselves with feverish activity—running from one ministry to the next, having Bible studies, keeping programs afloat. In other words, we have lots of dead snakes on our hands. But in reality, we’re not making any significant advance. In fact, we might even be moving in the opposite direction.

    As a church, we need to constantly ask ourselves: Are we ministering by the Spirit’s power? Or are we merely keeping busy?

    Any church can run a program. Only the Spirit can produce fruit. 

    WedWednesdayMarMarch25th2015 Nicea for Today
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church History Theology 1 comments Add comment

    Last week we talked about how our theology has been shaped by centuries of diligent Christians who have worked hard to articulate clearly and faithfully what the Bible teaches. While our beliefs are (hopefully) rooted in Scripture, the formulation of those beliefs is in large part the result of the historical definitions our spiritual ancestors have handed down to us.

    One of the most important places we see this play out is in the Nicene Creed. As its name suggests, the creed has its origins in the First Council of Nicea, a gathering of church leaders that took place in AD 325. A few decades later, it was revised at the First Council of Constantinople, taking the form that is now widely accepted and recognized by many Christians around the world.

    While it would be possible to write an entire book about this ancient confession of Christian orthodoxy, this week I would like to settle for giving you some quick highlights that might help you understand it better and appreciate its relevance for the church today. We’ll do so by taking a look at the four main subjects the Nicene Creed addresses. (You might want to take a moment to read it first.)

    The Father. Interestingly, there is relatively little in the Nicene Creed about God the Father. Yet in just a few words it affirms that he is the powerful, transcendent Creator from whom all things (both visible and invisible) have their origin. This simple affirmation reminds us that our God is not a small and impotent deity, but rather a gloriously majestic Lord who has made oceans and mountains and planets and stars at the command of his word. He demands our reverence, fear, and worship.

    The Son. By and large, the most hotly contested theological debates in the first few centuries of the church surrounded the issue of Christology. Who is Jesus? What did he do? How should we understand him? It is not surprising, therefore, that the majority of the Nicene Creed deals with answering these very questions.

    The creed maintains two vital (and paradoxical) truths. First of all, Jesus is fully God. He always has been and he always will be. He is not similar to the Father; he is of the same essence as the Father. Even today, many people believe that Jesus was a spiritual teacher or that he embodied certain divine ideals. But the creed is unequivocal: the Son of God is God.

    Secondly, the creed maintains that Jesus became a man (fully and completely) in order to accomplish the work of redemption. Without compromising any of his divinity, Jesus entered our world and took on flesh. And why? Well, one of my favorite phrases sums it up well: “for us and our salvation.” Jesus came to die and rise again so that we might be saved.

    The Holy Spirit. In the same way that the Son is fully God, the creed also affirms that the Spirit is fully God. Many of us think of the Spirit as some mystical ghost-like thing that whooshes here and there making people feel warm and fuzzy. But this is an entirely deficient understanding. The Holy Spirit is a person, and he is to be worshiped and glorified.

    The Church. In a world filled with thousands of Christian denominations, the creed brings us back to the important doctrine that the Bible teaches: there is only one true church. We Protestants might get hung up on the word “catholic,” but we need not to. It simply means that the church of Jesus Christ is a global body that spans cultures, languages, geography, and generations.

    There is obviously much more that could be said about the Nicene Creed, but I hope you’re at least beginning to see that it is a treasure for the church. Not only does it help us know God; it helps us worship him. The enduring value of this ancient confession is that when we understand these fundamental truths about who God is and how he has worked to bring about redemption, our hearts are moved to sing and celebrate.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch19th2015 A Heritage of Belief
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged History Scripture Theology 0 comments Add comment

    Why do you believe in the Trinity? In the virgin birth? In the full deity and humanity of Christ?

    Your initial response to these questions is probably the correct one: Because that’s what the Bible teaches. But at the same time, that response might not tell the whole story.

    While it’s true that the Bible is the basis for all of these beliefs, it’s equally true that our understanding of these doctrines (among others) has been shaped by years of thoughtful, studious individuals who have worked hard to articulate these doctrines in a way that is faithful to Scripture and intelligible to the church. We owe our understanding of these doctrines in large part to the many spiritual ancestors who have gone before us and helped to define biblical Christian orthodoxy.

    The fact of the matter is that nowhere from Genesis to Revelation can you find a verse that says, “Here’s how the Trinity works,” or, “This is how the divinity and humanity of Jesus come together in a single person.” The raw data is there, to be sure. And the Bible certainly does teach these truths. But the synthesis of that data—the comparing, contrasting, and combining of truths taught in the various sections of the Bible—has been the result of much honest questioning, careful study, and intense debate over the years.

    In his book Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine, John Hannah, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, writes, “Theology is made in history.” What exactly does that mean? Well, as Hannah goes on to explain, “Development of doctrine takes place as succeeding generations of Bible scholars discover the truth of the Bible within their contexts and elucidate the wealth of the apostles’ teachings, not going beyond it or contradicting it.”

    So yes, you believe the doctrine of the Trinity because that’s what the Bible teaches. But the language and categories that you use to articulate your belief in the Trinity are the result of a rich tradition of careful biblical scholarship that has been going on for far longer than any of us have been alive. For example, a phrase like “one substance, three persons” is not found in the Bible; however, it has been accepted by the church for many years to be a faithful way of articulating the teaching of Scripture about God’s triune nature.

    This Sunday morning we’ll have the privilege of reciting the Nicene Creed as part of our worship service. And while it might strike you as odd that we would concern ourselves with a man-made creed that was written roughly a millennium and a half ago, the point is that it helps connect us to the heritage from which we come.

    When we recite the Nicene Creed, we confess in solidarity with others in the church of Jesus Christ that we believe what the Bible teaches about some of the foundational matters of the faith. In other words, we’re reminding ourselves of what it means (and has meant for 2,000 years) to be a Christian. Is the Nicene Creed on par with Scripture? By no means! Is it inspired by God? Absolutely not! But this doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful or that it isn’t packed with truth of which we need to remind ourselves regularly.

    So this Sunday as we read this ancient confession together, consider the fact that for hundreds of years, our brothers and sisters in the faith have articulated their beliefs using these very words. Our faith is neither new nor innovative; it is a faith “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). It’s an antique. And antiques are worth keeping.

    Next week, we’ll unpack some of the highlights of the Nicene Creed.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch5th2015 Whose Crown?
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Humility Worship 0 comments Add comment

    The Bible is full of rich, vivid imagery, one instance of which occurs in Isaiah 28, where the prophet tells us about two crowns. The first is the crown of self, which is sought and celebrated by the spiritually arrogant. The second is the crown of glory, which belongs to the Lord of hosts himself.

    In this passage, the prophet begins by announcing God’s judgment upon his wayward people (a common theme!), and he addresses the haughty, self-absorbed people of God by comparing them to a completely wasted guy who is staggering down the street proudly pretending to be some sort of king by virtue of a faux crown that he’s placed upon his own inebriated head (Isa. 28:1). He’s so hammered that he doesn’t even realize how ridiculous he looks and how foolish he is to be boasting in this empty demonstration of royalty. He’s entirely caught up in the delusion of his own sense of self-importance.

    Yet the delusion won’t last. Just a few verses later, Isaiah says that this crown of pride will be “trodden underfoot” (Isa. 28:3-4). That shiny crown so prominently displayed atop the head that is swollen with pride will be cast into the mud and stomped on. It will be broken and tarnished and revealed as the worthless piece of junk that it truly is.

    Compare that to the second crown which is described as “a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of [God’s] people” (Isa. 28:5). This is no cheap rip-off; it’s the real deal. This crown doesn’t rest on the heads of drunkards; it’s given to the remnant of God’s people—those whom he preserves by his grace. This crown represents not the fading glory of self, but the eternal glory of almighty God.

    Two crowns, one question: Whose are you seeking?

    All too often, I find that the crown I really care about is my own. I want to advance my agenda, serve my desires, celebrate my achievements, and honor my name. I’m like the drunk guy who thinks he’s a king. I love my crown, and I don’t want to take it off. The problem, of course, is that it’s all a complete sham.

    In a recent installment of a long line of television commercials promoting Las Vegas tourism (and, apparently, debauchery), a group of young men is seen gallivanting around the city while hoisting a silver cup-like trophy everywhere they go. They’re in an obvious spirit of joviality and celebration, giving the viewer (and all the on-screen characters who interact with them) the impression that they’ve just won some remarkable sporting championship. At the end of the night, however, the exhausted, haggard-looking group is seen arriving back at the hotel, at which point they return the trophy to a shelf in the hallway, whereupon we discover that this “trophy” is actually nothing more than a mundane decoration that was used to display a bouquet of (now wilted) flowers.

    Apparently I’m supposed to book a flight to Vegas after watching that, but all I’m able to think about is how pathetic one must be to use a cheap hotel decoration to garner the empty praise of strangers!

    And yet that’s exactly what it looks like when I seek my own crown. “Look at me!” I shout to anyone who will listen. “Look at this crown! Isn’t it pretty?” Never mind the fact that it’s a phony that will end up being stomped on. In the moment, it makes me feel significant, and that’s all that matters.

    Time and time again, I need to be reminded that my crown is a sad substitute for the crown that belongs to God. His crown is a truly glorious one that cannot fade. Mine is a worthless trinket that is bound for the mud. And it’s only as my fingers loosen their grip on my own pathetic crown that I am able to receive the incomparably beautiful divine crown of God’s own matchless glory.

    So I ask again: Whose crown are you seeking?

    WedWednesdayFebFebruary18th2015 Acts: Faithful & Fruitful
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Acts Sermons Video 1 comments Add comment

    In this special video edition of the Elder Blog, I'd like to invite you to join me in prayerfully anticipating our upcoming sermon series in the book of Acts, which we'll be starting at Kossuth on March 1. We have a tremendous journey ahead of us, and I can't wait to begin it along with you! So let this video serve as a catalyst to pray and prepare for the work that God will do among us through his word. 

    WedWednesdayJanJanuary21st2015 3 Lessons About Injustice
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Abortion Justice Race 1 comments Add comment

    This week we observed two very important days of commemoration. The first was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, an occasion to remember the lives that are lost to abortion and to pray for national repentance, healing, and change. The following day was our annual remembrance of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the heroic civil rights leader who helped awaken our nation to its need of racial reconciliation.

    But as important as these two days of commemoration are, they’re also highly unfortunate. Why? Because they remind us of the deep and troubling injustice that pervades our society. Without the injustice of abortion, there would be little need for a campaign to defend the sanctity of human life. Without the injustice of racism, we might not even know the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. These two days of commemoration give us a chance to pause and reflect upon the fight against injustice, while mourning over the injustice that makes this fight necessary in the first place. And as we do that, I think there are three lessons we can learn about injustice and how we should respond:

    1. Injustice is systemic. In other words, it’s a large-scale issue. Injustice is intricately woven into long and complex narratives involving educational opportunities, legislative decisions, housing markets, family structures, economic empowerment, community health, generational patterns, media influence, and a host of other converging factors.

    Recognizing the systemic nature of injustice allows us to address it at an institutional level. Abortion is an obvious example. Advocates of the unborn are not simply up against rogue abortion practitioners who perform their dark deeds in back alleys and run-down shacks. For over forty years, our nation’s highest court has formally and openly endorsed abortion as a perfectly legal practice. Pause to let this sink in: our society has effectively legalized murder. That’s systemic injustice in its purest form. And it deserves a response that recognizes it as such. This is why we need to call for big-picture change and institutional reform.

    2. Injustice is interpersonal. There’s also another side to the coin. We must never allow the previous point to overshadow the fact that injustice is still very much a problem of the human heart—yours, mine, and everyone’s. When we harbor bitterness toward individuals of another race, we’re not victims of “the system.” We are morally responsible individuals who are failing to love as God loves.

    The need for institutional change is accompanied by the need for transformation that must happen within and between individuals. Overturning a Supreme Court decision will not cause a panicked single mother to respect the humanity and dignity of the unexpected child growing within her any more than eradicating Jim Crow laws caused prejudiced white people to instinctively appreciate and honor their brothers and sisters of another color. Fighting for justice means calling for personal change.

    3. Injustice is temporary. The more we come face-to-face with the true and ugly nature of injustice, the more daunting it seems. But there is good news. It’s not permanent.

    The Bible is full of anticipation for a day that is coming when injustice will be no more. Psalm 10 is but one of many places where we see this theme on full display: “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”

    God will deal with injustice. He will bring it to an end. Whether it’s abortion, racism, or any of the other manifestations of injustice we encounter in our world, we can rejoice in the fact that our God is just and he will make all things right! 

    ThuThursdayJanJanuary8th2015 A Happy & Prosperous New Year

    What goals do you have for 2015? Are you hoping to drop a few pounds? Improve your marriage? Build up your savings account? Find a new career? Take a vacation?

    All those are perfectly fine ambitions, when pursued for the right reasons. But let me suggest that you add this one to your list of goals for the coming year: to pursue abundant happiness and extravagant prosperity.

    Now before you grow concerned that I’ve fallen in with a band of big-haired television preachers, let me explain.

    In Psalm 1, we meet a truly interesting fellow. Among all the descriptions of him that the Psalmist packs into the short span of just six verses, there are two that stand out to me above the rest: he’s blessed (translation: “happy”), and he’s prosperous.

    Now perhaps there’s nothing remarkable about a happy and prosperous individual. After all, we seem to have such people all around us (or at least in the television commercials, anyway). But what’s unique about the person in Psalm 1 is the reason for his happiness and prosperity. His condition isn’t the result of winning the lottery or landing a big promotion. Instead, it’s the result of an intimate communion with God that is achieved through the faithful enjoyment of Scripture.

    “His delight is in the law of the Lord,” the Psalmist tells us, “and on his law he meditates day and night.” The happy, prosperous man isn’t out shopping. He’s not surrounding himself with friends. He’s not hoisting a championship trophy. He’s patiently sitting before God’s word, soaking it up and savoring every last drop. His happiness and prosperity are transcendent, spiritual realities that he enjoys as a consequence of being rooted in Scripture.

    This message is a needed one for those of us who find ourselves approaching daily Bible reading as a dull and dreary chore. God’s word isn’t a tedious textbook to be laboriously memorized. It’s the key to true joy and lasting wealth! When we delve into its endless treasures and explore the God who is revealed within its pages, we sincerely benefit as a result. Just like the man in Psalm 1, we discover that God’s word isn’t meant to bore us; it’s meant to bless us!

    So let’s make 2015 a year that we all get serious about happiness and prosperity. Let’s commit to dive into our Bibles, knowing that innumerable treasures and benefits await us.

    While there are a number of practical tools to help us in this quest, perhaps one of the best is a Bible reading plan. Having a structured, systematic approach to reading the Scriptures is a great way to keep yourself from getting distracted. Here are a few quick resources to get you started:

    • If you want to read the Bible in a year, you might enjoy this 52-week plan.
    • If you’d like to go more slowly, Stephen Witmer’s two-year plan might be a good option. (And if you don’t want to print off a 9-page document, our very own Theresa Blaisdell has put together a condensed version of this same plan that you’ll likely find very useful!*)
    • The ESV website also offers a variety of plans that you can choose from.  

    And of course, you don’t want to forget about the new Connection Group and Care Group curriculum, which is a tremendous resource for Bible study in its own right. If you haven’t done so already, grab a green folder this Sunday, and get to work!

    I’m eager to see the happiness and prosperity that God plans to bring our way as we delight together in his word!

    *Note from Theresa: “To save space, I omitted the verse number when it is the last verse in the chapter. This sometimes requires looking at the next day's reading for clarity. For example, on November 12, the OT reading is Eccl 1:12-2. The 2 there is clearly not a verse number, so it is understood that the reading encompasses all of chapter 2. However, on December 5, the OT reading is Isa 4:2-5. That could be read as verses 2 through 5, but the December 6 reading is Isa 6, which makes it clear that it should be read as ‘the rest of chapter 4 and all of chapter 5.’”

    ThuThursdayOctOctober30th2014 3 Lessons from the Reformation

    Most people know October 31 as Halloween, the annual celebration of ghosts, ghouls, and childhood tooth decay. But those of us who stand in the Protestant heritage of the Christian church have something else to celebrate on October 31: Reformation Day.

    Long before costumed American kids began canvassing neighborhoods on a relentless quest for candy, a man by the name of Martin Luther changed the course of history by nailing his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. This act of conviction and courage, which is commonly believed to have taken place on October 31, 1517, popularly serves as the symbolic beginning of what we now know as the Protestant Reformation. It was during this pivotal season of church history that our spiritual forefathers stood up for the integrity of the gospel and the sufficiency of Scripture, thus charting a path for the church’s much-needed return to biblical orthodoxy.

    The history of the Reformation is a long and complex tale, complete with plenty of ups and downs, twists and turns, and frankly quite a few question marks. But as we celebrate the 497th anniversary of Luther’s historic actions in Wittenberg, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on a few quick lessons that we can learn from this important chapter in our ancient story.

    1. God’s truth is important. The Reformation was first and foremost a theological movement. It was rooted in good, old-fashioned doctrine, something for which modern men and women seem to have alarmingly little patience. We’re wary of statements that assert one thing to be true and another to be false. But the Reformers had no such qualms. When they saw the doctrine of justification being compromised by the church of Rome, they didn’t shrug it off as no big deal. Instead, they went to work. They scoured the Scriptures, took up their pens, and began to contend for the truth of Scripture. We can learn from their example. Doctrine isn’t something to blush at. It’s at the heart of the Christian message, and we need to be vigilant about understanding it, evaluating it, and guarding it.

    2. God’s word is powerful. It’s no coincidence that while Martin Luther was campaigning for orthodox doctrine, he was also busy translating the Bible into German, the language of the people. (Up until that point, one had to know Latin in order to read the Bible.) Luther knew that God’s word was potent, and if he could get it in the hands of the people, Scripture itself would carry the Reformation forward—which is precisely what happened. Five centuries later, God’s word is no less potent. This is precisely why we can be boldly confident that when we approach it with humble, teachable hearts, it will transform us and make us wise unto salvation. Do you read your own Bible (which, thank goodness, isn’t in Latin!) with this sort of confidence?

    3. God’s instruments are broken. In my book, Martin Luther is a giant of the faith—someone to revere and celebrate as a man used mightily by God to bless the church. But it doesn’t take too much digging to find that Luther was deeply flawed. He wrote and taught some appalling things. He went to inappropriate extremes. He was downright stubborn. And yet, God used him. What an encouragement this is to those of us who know our own flaws all too well! We may have rough edges, and we may be works in progress, but God has a way of doing surprisingly impressive things with remarkably unimpressive people. We can take heart in knowing that our sufficiency comes from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant.

    We’re nearly half a millennium removed from the Reformation, yet by embracing these three lessons (and the countless others that it has to offer), we can carry on the spirit of the Reformers as we labor for the advance of the gospel in our world. 

    ThuThursdayAugAugust7th2014 Why We Need Art
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Art Beauty 1 comments Add comment

    [Guest post by Drew Humphrey, Minister of Family & Communication and current elder candidate.]

    Have you ever tried to grab water? It’s quite difficult.

    I can still see the look on our oldest daughter’s face when, as a toddler, she would stare intently at the water coming out of the faucet in the bathtub, attempting to discover its many mysteries. Inevitably, it would only be a matter of time before she would reach her hand toward the pillar of liquid and carefully attempt to squeeze her fingers around it. To her great disappointment, it never worked. She never could grab that water and carry it around the house like I knew she wanted to. She just got wet.

    Whether we realize it or not, we spend most of our lives trying to grab water. Not literally, of course, like a toddler. Instead, we try to grab water by wrapping our hearts and minds around experiences and realities that seem constantly to elude us. Whether it’s trying to come to terms with a deep and profound sense of joy or a searing and disorienting sense of heartache—we’re always reaching, always straining our fingers, always trying to make sense of things. And most of the time, we’re about as successful as my daughter in the bathtub.

    But what if there was a way to grab the water? What if we could—if not fully, at least partially—wrap our fingers around that elusive reality and lay hold to it?

    I believe we can. I believe there’s a way. It’s called art.

    Makoto Fujimura, a renowned artist and a devout Christian, observes in an essay appearing in his book Refractions, “The power of art is to convey powerful personal experiences in distilled language and memorialize them in a cogent manner.” He goes on to say, “The Creator God has given us creativity and the arts so that we may ‘name’ experiences, just as God commissioned Adam to name the animals in the Garden.” Or, to put it in the vernacular of our present discussion: art allows us to grab water.

    Let me give you two examples.

    If you ever talk to me about movies, you’re likely to hear me rave about The Tree of Life. And while there are many reasons I like the film, the main reason by far is that I have found it to possess an uncanny ability to name an experience that is otherwise mysterious and elusive—specifically the sense of identity that comes with living life in the context of family. Tree of Life gives me a “distilled language” (to borrow Fujimura’s phrase) to wrap my mind around something I wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

    Another example is a song that I’ve been listening to, even while writing this very blog post. Take a moment to watch this, and see if you can see how this artistic expression captures the paradoxical nature of true joy:

    Here’s the amazing thing: as soon as you ask yourself the question, “Why is this so dark and gloomy?” you’ve already begun to enter the mystery. Doesn’t that song resonate with your own experience of joy? Doesn’t it communicate the biblical reality that joy in this life is often mixed with sadness? Don’t you walk away having grasped something that you likely wouldn’t have been able to grasp simply by having someone come up to you and tell you, “Joy and sorrow are not incompatible”?

    For the vast majority of Americans, art is simply a convenient source of entertainment, release, and distraction (think: television and radio). But Christians should see art as something more—as a way to “grab the water” of what it means to live in a world that is both magnificently crafted and horrifically marred. Our interaction with art should drive us to engage reality more closely, not provide us with a convenient escape. It should help us wrestle more intensely with the fallen world around us, not pull a sheet over it so we can ignore it. It should give us a way to probe the haunting depths, not leave us splashing idyllically in the shallows.

    We need art in our lives. Not in the same way that we need Jesus, or the Scriptures, or the ministry of the Spirit. But in the sense that we need food and shelter and relationships. Art helps us realize our humanity. And why wouldn’t it? After all, our humanity is crafted in the image of a supremely creative Artist who is skillfully and beautifully making all things new.

    WedWednesdayAprApril23rd2014 Adoption Isn't Cool
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Adoption Church Justice 1 comments Add comment

    In recent years, the practice of adoption has enjoyed somewhat of a status surge. Although some statistics indicate that the actual number of global adoptions is decreasing, the prominence and popularity of it certainly seem to be on the rise. It has evidently become a rite of passage in Hollywood (notable actresses who have adopted recently include Sharon Stone, Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, and of course Angelina Jolie), and it’s been featured of late both in film (The Blind Side being a memorable example) and on television (one thinks of NBC’s Parenthood and ABC’s Modern Family).

    Yet this uptick in adoption awareness and appreciation hasn’t been confined to the world of popular media; we’ve seen it in the church as well. Christian leaders are increasingly calling for (and setting an example for) believers to adopt. Churches are rallying around those within their congregation who are on adoptive journeys. Books are being written, conferences are being launched, and coalitions are being formed to bring orphan care to the forefront of our attention.

    As good as all this is, there’s a looming danger. Johhny Carr points it out in his book Orphan Justice:

    These days, it’s becoming “cool” in evangelical circles to be involved in orphan care. As an adoptive father myself, I couldn’t be more thrilled. But as excited as I am to see the church mobilized, I have a grave fear: Orphan care may quickly become evangelical America’s latest religious fad. Let’s not make it just another hip thing to do, another box on the checklist of what it means to be a good Christian, another bumper sticker, or another wristband.

    The problem with this is obvious. Fads come and go. They capture our attention for a season, but quickly give way to something more intriguing, more appealing, more glamorous. (Remember “WWJD” bracelets? Seen one of those around lately? Me neither.)

    The church cannot afford to let this happen with adoption. It’s too important, too vital a part of our mission, too close to the heart of God himself. That’s why Carr goes on to write:

    Many churches view orphan care as a “project,” but biblically, the church is the agent God has set in place for orphan care. As we seek to take seriously God’s command to care for orphaned and vulnerable children, let us not fall prey to just buying the T-shirt and joining the movement. We need to make sure that orphan care and adoption are woven into the very DNA and fabric of our churches.

    When no actresses are traveling overseas and adopting babies, when no popular television shows are featuring adoptive families, and when no books on orphan care are forthcoming from Christian publishers, adoption will still be a necessary, just, and compassionate thing to do. What will happen then? Who will be willing to do the necessary, just, and compassionate thing, even when it has ceased to be popular?

    The church. By the God’s grace, it will be the church that will remain on the front lines, advocating the cause of the fatherless, providing a voice for the voiceless, and caring for those in the most vulnerable positions of society.

    I’m grateful for how I have seen believers at Kossuth embrace the call to care for orphans over the years. And I am encouraged that this commitment has not waned. Currently, we have two families in the fund-raising stage of their own adoptions (each with events coming up in the next few weeks), as well as a handful of other families who are at different points in the adoption process.

    As a church, let’s keep our foot to the gas pedal. Let’s be committed to orphan care, not because it’s cool, but because it’s right.

    TueTuesdayFebFebruary11th2014 Good News for Weary Souls

    In some of my free time this week, I have enjoyed tuning into the 2014 Olympics. Granted, I have no clue what’s going on in most of the events (probably because sports like snowboarding and cross-country skiing are hard to get into when you live among the cornfields of rural Indiana). But one thing that I have noticed is how small the margin for error is in many of the competitions. A fraction of an inch in a short track speed skating race can be the difference between taking the lead and wiping out. A momentary lapse in judgment while speeding down a mountain at 70 miles per hour on a pair of skis can send you flying off the course.

    Just imagine the pressure that these athletes must be under. The whole world is watching. Your entire country is counting on you to succeed. Years and years of training and sacrifice will all come down to a 2-minute race where the tiniest mistake can leave you face down in snow and ice. And if you mess up, it’s not like you’ll be able to try again tomorrow. You’ll have to wait four years for another chance. (And that’s only if you’re fortunate enough to make the Olympic team next time around.)

    This kind of pressure can be exhilarating—after all, can you imagine a greater rush than carrying the hopes of a nation on your back as you launch into a triple Lutz, triple toe loop combination at the end of your figure skating routine? Yet it can also be exhausting. Living under the constant fear that you might mess up and lose to the Russians will eventually leave you anxious, overwhelmed, and weary.

    But the pressure experienced by Olympic athletes is nothing compared to the pressure many of us live under on a daily basis—the pressure to earn or maintain God’s favor by our performance. Many of us go about our Christian lives with a still, small voice whispering in the back of our minds, “Don’t let God down.” We fear that a bad word or an honest doubt or a forgotten devotional time will cause the Almighty to shake his head in disgust at our pathetic ability to meet his standards. And the longer we live beneath the weight of that fear, the more exhausted we become.

    But there’s good news. If you’re in the Olympics, everything depends on your capacity to harness your physical abilities and apply them with a flawless level of artistic beauty and scientific precision. In the Christian life, however, everything depends on Jesus. Your success isn’t up in the air; it has already been firmly and eternally secured by the fact that Jesus lived a perfect life in full conformity to God’s standards, he resolutely refused to sin, and he has transferred his record of perfection to you.

    So if you’re feeling burdened or weary from constantly trying to “prove” yourself to God, take refuge in the fact that you don’t have to and you never will. Jesus has proven everything for you! As a fellow seminary student pointed out to me one time, “God is as pleased with you as he is with his Son.” And if your soul rests in Jesus, this truth is yours to enjoy.

    The pressure is off! You can ski down the mountain knowing that the gold medal has already been won.

    ThuThursdaySepSeptember12th2013 Fake Smiles & Church Billboards
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Suffering 1 comments Add comment

    I greatly dislike church billboards. And it’s not because I’m necessarily opposed to local churches marketing themselves. It’s because I get tired of seeing the painfully cliché stock photos which so frequently grace these supersized ads—you know, the pictures of intolerably happy people smiling like they’ve just heard the funniest joke on earth, across which is usually superimposed some inane and vacuous phrase like “Paradise Community Church: A Place to Belong.” 

    To the uninitiated passerby, such a billboard might give the impression that church is a place of unrestrained exuberance and effervescent joy—kind of like a mix between a comedy club, a pep rally, and Christmas at Grandma’s. But when I see billboards like that, all I can do is scratch my head. Because having been around church my whole life, I have to confess that I can’t remember ever having met anyone as perpetually jubilant as those flawless faces so enduringly suspended above the road as I drive by.

    The church that I know doesn’t have any billboard people in it. The church that I know is filled with people who are weak, broken, and needy. People who are wrestling through difficulties and trials. People whose health seems to be failing. People who are dealing with loss. People whose kids sap every ounce of energy from their bones. People who are working difficult jobs. People who are enduring mistreatment and misunderstanding. People who are navigating relational conflict. People whose indwelling sin must be battled relentlessly. People who are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down (2 Cor. 4:8-10).

    And yet here’s something quite remarkable: I find these people to be far more attractive and appealing than the guffawing family on the billboard.

    Earlier this week while reading Laurel Gasque’s biographical sketch of the late H.R. Rookmaaker, Art and the Christian Mind, I came across a paragraph that captured my attention. Rookmaaker was a Dutch art historian (and close friend of Francis Schaeffer) who became somewhat of a hero for progressive young Christian artists overlooked or dismissed by the religious establishment in the '60s and '70s (particularly in Britain and the U.S.). Gasque explained what attracted these young artists to Rookmaaker: “The dainty pietism of much of British and American evangelicalism was antithetical to Rookmaaker’s brand of realism… [These young artists] were ready for something more authentically engaged with their experience of life.”

    This observation is fascinating. And it explains why wounded, broken people are better advertisements for the grace of God and the centrality of the church than their more cheery counterparts on the prominent billboard. They carry an authenticity of experience that the stock photo doesn’t.

    The fact of the matter is this: sinners don’t need an over-processed religion of happiness and teeth-whitening products. They don’t need a church where they’ll be injected with botox, told a few jokes, then sent on their way to be happy for Jesus. That’s the “dainty pietism” which Rookmaaker and others found so unsatisfying.

    Instead, sinners need the gritty realism of the gospel. They need to accept the fact that they are weak, sinful, and hurting. For only then will they find that Jesus meets them in their weakness, that he loves them in their sin, and that he upholds them in their pain.

    That kind of thing may not look great on a billboard, but quite frankly, who cares? An authentic, gospel-shaped community speaks for itself. 

    TueTuesdayJunJune4th2013 Celebrating Simplicity
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Beauty Marriage 2 comments Add comment

    [Guest post from Pastoral Intern Drew Humphrey]

    There’s something mysteriously beautiful about the contrasting hues in which our lives are painted.

    Last weekend, I had the opportunity to trek over to the shores of the Mississippi River for the wedding ceremony of my brother-in-law. It was a beautiful event. The vows were exchanged on a refreshingly cool Sunday evening beneath the canopy of a stand of stately old trees. The air was filled with excitement and joy as two lives were formally united through the covenant of sacred matrimony. There was hugging, crying, laughing, dancing, story-telling, and picture-taking. (There was also an incredibly cute flower girl, who just so happened to be my eldest daughter. But I digress.) In short, it was a celebration fit for the significance of the occasion.

    The next day, I found myself sleepily driving eastbound down Interstate 74 with one daughter who was being very vocal about her desire to be anywhere but her car seat, another daughter who was providing us with color commentary on her “Dora the Explorer” movie, and a wife who was trying to maintain some level of sanity in the midst of it all. At some point on that long stretch of road through endless central Illinois farmland, I had an existential moment. In a single and glorious instant, I saw the startlingly vivid contrast between the experience I was having in the minivan and the celebration of the previous evening. One felt something like a magical fairy tale. The other felt more like a migraine.

    It’s ironic if you think about it. Most of us start our marriages surrounded by pomp and circumstance. We’re dressed up as nicely as we’ll ever be. We revel in the presence of our families, our friends, and those who managed to somehow garner an invitation despite being neither. Our faces hurt by the end of the day from smiling so much. Yet most of our married lives are spent surrounded by electric bills, dirty diapers, broken-down vehicles, and microwave meals. The tuxedo goes back to the store it was rented from and the wedding gown gets stuck in a box in the closet. The blissful exuberance of a wedding day quickly gives way to the mundane simplicity of life in a frustrating, fallen world.

    In other words, we start marriage in the serenity of a summer evening ceremony beneath the foliage of majestic trees. But we experience the daily reality of marriage in a cacophonous minivan rolling down a boring stretch of Midwestern highway.

    Sound depressing? It’s not. It’s actually what makes marriage beautiful.

    We can’t live in an eternal wedding day. And why would we want to? Sure, it might be true that Day 1,914 of my marriage was a tad bit less spectacular than Day 1. But it was no less beautiful. And it was certainly no less of a blessing. Because I got to do something on Day 1,914 that I never would have been able to do on Day 1. I got to pull over for an emergency bathroom break on the side of the road (sometimes even cute little flower girls can’t wait for the next gas station, you know). How’s that for a memory? Perhaps it lacked a certain amount of pageantry. But pageantry doesn’t make marriage beautiful. Simple, subtle grace makes it beautiful.

    I think wedding days are great. But I happen to think there’s plenty worth celebrating in those days when no fancy clothes get worn, no cake gets eaten, and no pictures get taken. Those are the days that make up the kind of marriage I want to have. Those are the days that make for a lifetime of memories.

    WedWednesdayAprApril10th2013 Struggling with Sovereignty
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Faith Sovereignty 2 comments Add comment

    [Guest post from Pastoral Intern Drew Humphrey]

    When was the last time you complained about the weather? The last time you were agitated by heavy traffic? The last time you reacted angrily to a costly home or vehicle repair? The last time you grumbled about a child who decided to wake up at three o’clock in the morning—and stay awake? The last time you found yourself exasperated by a stomach bug that knocked you off your feet during the busiest week of the year?

    If you’re like me, you don’t have to dig very deep in the memory bank to come up with answers to these questions. In fact, I’d measure most of my answers in units of hours and days rather than months or years. When it comes to petty little annoyances, I guess you could say I’m a pathological whiner.

    We all face inconvenient hassles, unexpected setbacks, and ill-timed crises. That’s the unavoidable reality of life as a human being on this earth. Things break. Coffee spills. Kids cry. Spring weather in Indiana is bizarre.

    Unfortunately, I’m not very good at responding to these things when they come my way. My default response to these little annoyances is often one of anger, frustration, or bitterness. And the problem with that response is not merely that it leaves me looking grumpy or muttering uncouth words. The problem with that response is that it puts me functionally at odds with one of the biblical doctrines that I claim to hold dear: the doctrine of God’s complete sovereignty.

    Over and over again, the Bible affirms that God is both the architect and orchestrator of every single detail in the universe. He is sovereign over everything from coin tosses (Prov. 16:33) to the hearts of kings (Prov. 21:1). He controls every aspect of nature—cloud formations, vegetation growth, the passing of seasons, and sunrises (Ps. 104). He’s in charge of bad days as much as he’s in charge of good days (Eccles. 7:14). All things are worked out according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11), and nothing happens unless he commands it (Lam. 3:37-38).

    When I’m sitting in a comfortable chair or teaching in a church classroom or having a theological discussion over a delicious burger from Five Guys, I can make much of God’s sovereignty. I can tell you that it’s not just a biblical truth—it’s a beautiful truth. I can exult in the fact that the wisest, strongest, and most benevolent Being in all of the universe is completely in charge of all things!

    But give me a snowstorm in late March and you’ll hear a different tune. Put a car in front of me on the highway that’s going too slow, and I doubt you’ll hear me celebrating the exhaustive and meticulous governance of the Almighty God. Commission my daughter to get a whole swarm of teeth forcing their way out of her tender little gums all at once, and—well, you get the idea.

    Here’s the point: it’s in these seemingly insignificant moments of life’s minor inconveniences that you and I find out what we truly believe about God’s sovereignty.

    If you can wax eloquent about the wonders of divine sovereignty during a Bible study, then praise God. But if you’d quickly become less enthused about the subject upon leaving the Bible study and discovering that your car won’t start, then join me in asking for God to teach us how to celebrate his sovereignty, even when it’s inconvenient.

    ThuThursdayOctOctober18th2012 Miniature Missionaries

    [Guest post from pastoral intern Drew Humphrey]

    As I sat in the worship service last weekend listening to Nate Irwin give our church a clarion call for ministry to unreached peoples, a simple yet startling thought occurred to me: unreached people groups are self-populating. They have babies. They raise babies. Their babies grow up, get married, and have babies of their own. The 4.5 million individuals who make up the Tihami people of Yemen will not be the same individuals who make up the Tihami people thirty years from now. Some will die. Many more will be born. Generations will continue to come and go, as surely as waves washing rhythmically upon the beach.

    This is a sobering reality. No matter how diligently we exercise our role in global discipleship, and no matter how urgently we pursue the spread of the gospel to all nations, we will always have this limitation: we can’t tell the gospel to people that haven’t been born yet. So what will we do? How will we reach the Tihami people who won’t even be conceived until we’re all dead and gone?

    The answer is simple: we send people into the future.

    “Impossible,” you say? Not so fast. What we’re talking about here doesn’t involve time machines or sci-fi gadgetry. It simply involves moms and dads raising God-centered families.

    Psalm 78 lays this out for us by casting a compelling vision for multi-generational influence. It speaks of the testimonies of God, “which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God” (Ps. 78:5-7).

    Did you catch that? We can invest in the lives of children yet unborn by investing into our kids! This is why parenting is such a monumentally serious task. How we instruct, love, and discipline our kids right now will have an effect on generations that we will never even meet.

    But the implications go beyond parenting. This principle in Psalm 78 also affects the way we approach ministry to upcoming generations as a church. Peek in the nursery or walk through the halls of the basement during Sunday school, and what you’ll see are miniature missionaries—little boys and girls who will soon become men and women used by God to advance the gospel where it is not known.

    So if you were stirred by Sunday’s message and you want to get involved in the work of missions, then let me propose an unconventional idea: get involved in the lives of young people. Sign up to work in the nursery. Help teach a children’s Sunday school class. Rub shoulders with teenagers in the youth ministry. And if you’re a parent, renew your commitment to teaching and training your children with urgency, gladness, and perseverance.

    If we’re going to reach future Tihami generations, it will be by raising kids to know and fear God. We don’t need a time machine to send missionaries into the future. We just need to be faithful in teaching the gospel to our children.

    Let’s reach the unreached people of tomorrow by investing into our children today.

    ThuThursdayJulJuly12th2012 Hungry Christians are happy Christians

    [Guest post from pastoral intern Drew Humphrey]

    In just four years of being married, my wife has already discovered the secret to marital bliss: Never take your husband shopping without feeding him first.

    She learned this lesson quickly, and it’s a good thing she did. If my stomach is full, I can be a pretty decent shopping companion. I can look with you at women’s jeans and baby clothes and picture frames, and do it all with a genuinely pleasant smile on my face. But if my stomach is empty, watch out. I don’t care what kind of stupid wallflower scent from Bath & Body Works you get, please for the love of all that is good just buy one already so I can take my over-stimulated nose and get out of this forsaken wasteland of commercialized, over-priced smells! I just want a hamburger!

    As goes my stomach, so goes my mood. That’s why I have to scratch my head in confusion when I read Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:6: “Blessed (or, happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” What on earth is Jesus talking about? Is he crazy? He doesn’t say that those who hunger and thirst will be happy once they get satisfied; he says that they are happy, even before they’re satisfied. How can these things be? How could being hungry possibly make me happy?

    My wife knows the answer to this, too. As it turns out, not only is it unwise to go to the mall with a hungry husband, it is equally unwise to go to the grocery store with a hungry husband. (We’ve done this before, and our monthly grocery budget doesn’t like it.) The principle is simple: when you’re hungry, your desires are heightened (so much so that even pre-packaged White Castle hamburgers in the store’s freezer section can start to look appetizing). Hunger grabs your attention and stirs your affections. It makes you uncomfortable. It jolts you from indifference and awakens you to sights and smells that seem to consume you.

    When you’re hungering for food, this state of longing is miserable. It makes you grumpy and a jerk to go shopping with. But when you’re hungering for righteousness, it’s glorious. You see, hunger for righteousness takes you from your sleepy fascination with worldly comforts and fixes your attention on eternal joys. It makes you salivate at glimpses of the in-breaking of God’s kingdom. It gives you a one-track mind that pursues Christ—the perfect righteousness of God—above all else. It gives you gospel-centered desires that you never knew were possible. It drives you to lift up your hands in song and fall to your knees in prayer. It makes you voracious for Scripture. It gives you strength to persevere through suffering.

    Peter tells us that we Christians are a people defined by waiting—waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). And as we pant for this day when all things are finally put right and Christ has gathered his people and crushed his enemies, we find that the wait itself is strangely enjoyable. Longing for righteousness somehow makes us righteous. Thirsting for holiness somehow makes us holy. Seeking the kingdom somehow makes us delight in the King. It's strange and bizarre and upside-down. But in the kingdom of God, this is the way of things.

    Hunger may be a bad thing for shopping. But it turns out to be a vital part of our new life in Christ.

    ThuThursdayMayMay17th2012 Obsessed with beauty
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Beauty Culture 1 comments Add comment

    [Guest post from pastoral intern Drew Humphrey]

    We live in a culture which is obsessed with beauty. Or so we’re told. Magazine covers, television commercials, health products, cosmetic procedures, clothing stores—everywhere we look, we see manifestations of this supposed obsession.

    But I don’t buy it. I don’t think we’re nearly as obsessed as we think we are. In fact, I don’t think we’re nearly as obsessed as we should be.

    Now I concede that our culture is hopelessly enamored by attractive people. And I concede that advertising techniques have revealed our collective weak spot for the sleek and seductive. And furthermore, I concede that our monetary spending habits disclose a startling propensity toward making ourselves exceptionally presentable. But the problem with these things isn’t that we’re too obsessed with beauty; the problem is that we’re not obsessed with beauty enough.

    Having two young children in our home, my wife and I know all about obsession. When our 2-month-old daughter is hungry, there’s no chance in the world that she’ll be happy until she’s fed. You can sing to her, you can give her a pacifier, you can rock her in your arms—but until you give her food, your ears will be ringing with the shrill cries of a child who is obsessed with eating. And toddlers are no different. When our 19-month-old daughter wants juice, you don’t dare give her milk, and you certainly don’t dare give her water. She knows what she wants, and she’ll throw her desperate little body in front of the refrigerator door until she gets it (or gets disciplined!).

    The point is simple: true obsession settles for nothing less than that which is ultimately desired. And because this is the nature of true obsession, our penchant for cheap glitz and glamour is evidence of the fact that we’re not nearly as obsessed with beauty as we should be. If we were obsessed with beauty, we wouldn’t settle for manufactured Hollywood imitations, nor would we allow our souls to be satisfied with anything less than the unrivaled, unending, unfathomable beauty of God himself.

    King David was a man who knew this all too well. When he sinfully gazed upon the nakedness of Bathsheba, he fell victim to the same weakness which plagues you and me—he gave up his pursuit of true beauty in exchange for a cheap and easy substitute. Rather than desiring with unflinching devotion to “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” (Ps. 27:4), he chose instead to settle for the fading allure of that which was dust. His pursuit of beauty came up short.

    We do the same thing, don’t we? We make daily decisions to settle for lousy imitations. As C.S. Lewis insightfully quipped, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

    The more we neglect to feast our souls upon the boundless and breathtaking beauty of our redeeming God, the more likely we are to be content with the deceptive glitter of worldly things. But when we set our affections upon God’s glory, we’re transformed by the beauty we encounter (2 Cor. 3:18).

    Obsession with beauty isn’t our problem. Obsession with beauty is the answer.

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