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    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.

    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.

    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.

    ThuThursdayJunJune4th2015 From Sinner to Saint

    “I’m tired of this sin in my life! Why can’t I beat this?”

    Have you ever said anything like that before? I have…plenty of times. As Christians, we believe the truths of the cross. We are saved. Our sins no longer stand against us. He has removed them as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103). We believe that and we rest in that.

    But when you look at normal, everyday experience, it often looks very different. For someone whose sins are removed so far from him, I sure do sin a lot still.

    What do you struggle with? Do you struggle with an impure thought life or viewing inappropriate material on the internet? Do you sin in anger against your spouse or children? Are you tired of stuffing your face again and again instead of going to God with your emotional roller coaster? Do you hate someone? Are you bitter? Do you lie?

    The list is long. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), whether as Christians or as non-Christians. But there is a huge difference between the experiences of the two. The non-Christian is trapped, enslaved to his sin and behavior. But—thanks be to God!—the Christian is free and released from being enslaved to sin.

    Celebrate, church! This is good news. This is great news.

    When it comes to this topic there are two crucial points on the road of Christian growth and fighting sin.

    First, we look at the gospel. Every day we look at the gospel. We never stop looking at the gospel. We run to Jesus. No matter how my list of sins will grow this day, I am to rest in Christ all the day and let him speak deep into my soul that he is bigger than my sin. He loves me. He cares for me. I am his son. So are you. No matter what. That’s a promise to hold on to.

    Second, we run into the battle against sin, using all of the resources he so graciously and generously provides. But we do so in a way that is still connected to our rest in Jesus. His Spirit reminds us of Christ and empowers us toward obedience as we saturate ourselves with his word, pray fervently, spend time with fellow Christians, and even join in Christ’s mission.

    These two go together and stick together like glue.

    This summer we want to tackle this topic during our Connection hour. Beginning June 14, all Connection Groups will join in the Ministry Center. The whole church will be studying From Sinner to Saint found on

    This study walks us through what I’ve just described above. We will take a new and fresh look at the gospel of Jesus Christ. Out of that, we will renew our efforts in the battle against sin as we live as saints in this world. I look forward to new freedoms we will all experience as we journey together through this study.

    Please join us and get excited!

    WedWednesdayOctOctober22nd2014 The Glory of God in Action
    byPaul Briggs Tagged Grace Sanctification 0 comments Add comment

    One of the stated values here at Kossuth is “God’s glory is our concern.” I was giving thought to this value recently as I read through the book of Titus asking the question: “What place do good works have in the life of the believer?” We all have a natural desire to do good works to make ourselves look good — or at least better than the one next to us to whom we're in danger of being compared (that’s why we never liked the person who came into the class and outperformed everyone!) But when, as believers, we stop and ask ourselves the question, “What place do good works have in my life?” we must be clear that we are not asking, “How I can make myself acceptable to God?” or “How can I make sure that everyone around me thinks I am a good person?” 

    Even a cursory reading of the letter of the apostle Paul to Titus will show the importance he placed on good works in the lives of believers after all, he mentions them in every chapter!

    It is interesting that at the end of chapter one (1:16), speaking of those in Crete who were "insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers" (1:10), Paul says, "They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work." 

    In 2:7-8, the apostle Paul exhorts Titus to show himself in all respects "to be a model of good works … so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” Later in that same chapter, he reviews the gracious nature of the salvation of God’s people (both Jews and non-Jews) which trains us to identify and put away ungodly thinking and behavior for the purpose of living lives which have a distinctively different nature (self-controlled, upright, and godly), while waiting for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. These things characterize the lives of the follower of Jesus because the grace of God has made known to them that Jesus Christ came into this world to do more than just save them from hell; he came into this world "to redeem us from all lawlessness" (2:14), and "to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."     

    It is important that we ask the question again: What place do good works have in your life as a believer? Would you say that you are zealous for good works?

    In chapter three the apostle Paul instructs Titus (3:1): "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work." It would be interesting for each of us to evaluate how we live our lives in light of this standard of measurement.

    But the apostle Paul doesn’t stop there! He goes on to review the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone! He makes it abundantly clear that it is not because of works done by us in righteousness, but because of the accomplished work of Christ that we are able to inherit eternal life. The work of Christ delivers all that is necessary for the believer to do the good works he or she was saved from sin to do. 

    This doctrinal review serves as a foundation of the instruction that the apostle Paul gives to Titus "so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works "(3:8). It is interesting how the reader of this letter is moved from being reminded "to be ready for every good work" (3:1) to being exhorted to "be careful to devote themselves to good works" (3:8). 

    The apostle concludes his letter to Titus by once again stressing the importance of good works in the life of the believer: "And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful"(3:14). 

    As you think about the glory of God being displayed at Kossuth through the service of His people, who could you identify as a model of good works — someone you can watch and learn from? Is there someone who is in a state of readiness to do good works? How might you be able to involve them with you in ministry? How about someone who is taking care to devote themselves to good works? How might you be able to further spur them on in this direction? Is there someone you have noticed who is in the stage of learning to devote themselves to good works? How might you be able to come alongside them as an encourager in taking the next step forward? 

    Take a few minutes now to thank God for the gifts He has granted to Kossuth and the privilege of serving him together with partners like these. And maybe even write that person a note and let them know how their life is putting the glory of God on display while impacting yours. 

    Perhaps as a result of reading today you recognize that good works don’t occupy the place in your thinking and living that they ought. Repent of that and then ask God to open your eyes to the many opportunities to put his glory on display through your life so that your life won’t be characterized by unfruitfulness!

    ThuThursdayAugAugust21st2014 5 Dangers of Technology

    [Guest post by current elder candidate Mikel Berger]

    Last week I shared 5 Opportunities for Technology that I’ve found in my life. But we need to remember that there’s not a good thing in this fallen world that can’t somehow be corrupted. So while there are many blessings that can come from technology, there are also potential dangers.

    1. Exodus 20:17 says that we shouldn't covet our neighbor’s stuff. While Facebook can allow us insight into how to love and care for our neighbors, we can also be tempted to think everyone has a life that is way better than ours. Their kids are way cuter in their first day of school pictures. Or maybe they got more likes on their Ice Bucket challenge video. There are no new sins, but be on the lookout for new areas where old sins can creep up.
    2. Speaking of Facebook. How do you define a friend? Do you really have 734 true friends like Facebook says you do? The Scriptures have a lot to say about friends and how we treat one another. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 is one example. Don’t settle for a huge number of shallow relationships at the expense of the deep kind of friendship that Christ enables.
    3. Distractions. You made it to item #3. So you are at least somewhat capable of staying focused for a few minutes. Technology gives us a constant stream of things vying for our attention, be it an email notification, a text message alert, or our calendar begging us to move onto the next thing. Don’t be so quick to move onto the next “urgent” thing that you can’t focus on the important thing that needs time to develop like extended times of prayer and Bible study.
    4. It seems that there are always three phones I’m thinking about. There’s the one I have that I tolerate. There’s the one I used to have that is junk. Then there’s the phone I love. That’s whatever one is coming out next week. The cost of always having to own the next best thing is not only dangerous for our hearts and souls but also for our bank account. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21).
    5. Many celebrities are on Twitter and the constant access to their daily actions and thoughts can lead to a sort of idol worship. Even if you aren’t tempted to tweet your undying love to Justin Bieber, you're probably not exempt. For you, maybe it’s more of a “celebrity pastor” that you regard higher than your pastors, or even God. You’ll spend more time reading their latest blog post than the very words of God.

    Those have been some of the challenges I’ve faced in my life. Pray for me. I’ll pray for you too.

    WedWednesdayAugAugust13th2014 5 Opportunities for Technology
    byMikel Berger Tagged Sanctification Technology 0 comments Add comment

    [Guest post by current elder candidate Mikel Berger]

    We live in a time and place when technology has an increasing influence on our daily lives. These technologies present opportunities to benefit our understanding of who God is and how to love and care for his people and creation. The technologies can also present challenges that Christians need to think through with discernment.

    Here are just a few of the ways I’ve found modern technology to benefit my Christian life.

    1. Paul received numerous letters from his brothers and sisters in Christ and many of his letters in response are preserved in the Scriptures. Today we can keep up with many overseas missionaries by reading their blogs, receiving an email newsletter, friending them on Facebook, or video chatting with them on Skype. Learn more about Kossuth missionaries and find out how you can reach out to encourage them.
    2. Speaking of Paul’s letters, they often end with some very personal and practical requests. I’m friends with many of you on Facebook and have found it is a great way to keep up on the everyday parts of our lives so I know how to pray for you individually and specifically. It has also been awesome to see someone post that they need help with a task around their house or someone to cover a shift in the church nursery, and within minutes multiple people jump in to serve. Use Facebook to guide your prayers and serving.
    3. Many believers in the past never held a copy of the Scriptures in their hands, and if they had they would have been unable to read it. Apps and websites like YouVersion allow us to have access to the Bible in multiple different translations for free on our phones, which are always with us. We can quickly search and study God’s word in the spare moments between meetings or while waiting to pick up the kids. I also really enjoy the ESV Daily Podcast to be able to listen to the Scriptures.
    4. Electronic books on the Kindle or a Kindle app allow us to access the wisdom of pastors and other teachers. Not only are new books and commentaries available, but many older, historical works are available for free.
    5. We can use technology not only to connect to God, the Scriptures, and our brothers and sisters in Christ but also to our local community. I’ve enjoyed following the hashtag #greaterlala on Twitter to find out about what people in the Greater Lafayette area have on their minds. It’s one instance of a modern day marketplace with an open discussion of ideas similar to what Paul visited in Acts 17:17.

    Those are just a few of the ways I’ve found technologies to be a blessing from God. What other benefits have you had? Let me know. You know where to find me online.

    And check back next week when we’ll look at some potential dangers to our theology.

    ThuThursdayJulJuly10th2014 The Hand-Me-Down You Can't Outgrow
    byBill Davis Tagged Gospel Sanctification 0 comments Add comment

    I’m a baby. So is my wife. That is, Sarah and I are both the youngest of our respective families of origin. [Yes, insert your own joke about two “babies of the family” marrying one another.] This makes our children among the youngest of several cousins -- in fact, our youngest is the 25th of 25 grandchildren of my in-laws. While I could relay many pros & cons of our place in the extended family, let me highlight one practical benefit: hand-me-downs. In their earlier years, our children had a streaming inventory of used clothing from a multitude. The relief to our clothing budget was wonderful. Every parent can relate to how blindingly fast children grow out of their clothes. Every parent knows the feeling of seeing little Johnny’s high-water pants and arms gangling out of his sleeves to signal us that his clothes no longer fit … again.

    Last week I heard a middle-schooler relate his week at church camp, and as he spoke of what he learned he used the phrase, “we never grow out of the gospel.” First, I’m thrilled when a young person grabs such a solid truth and appears to exercise it well. But second, I simply appreciated the reminder that we never outgrow the gospel like our children do their clothes. We never get past the point of needing the grace and sovereign work of God – not only to save us but just as desperately to conform us into the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29).

    Recently I got an email from a very good friend of mine in another part of the country. He was asking for some advice on how to think about and encourage someone who wasn’t sure if he believed in Jesus or not. Just for an illustration, I’ll include the bulk of my note to him:

    Dear Brother,

    There are so many resources for "discipleship" and living the Christian life. However, if Josh is not sure of his faith in Jesus, then I strongly suspect it might be because he's not looking at "the right Jesus". That is, the Jesus who became the substitutionary sacrifice to atone for Josh's infinite rebellion against his righteous Creator/Owner, thus sparing Josh from the appropriate and full wrath of God, provided that Josh respond with faith and repentance to confess Christ indeed as Lord.

    If we don't understand that God is our Creator/Owner, then we don't sufficiently grasp the notion of our rebellion against his perfect ways in our sin. If we don't grasp the notion of our sin against God, then we don't understand the notion of his wrath. If we don't appreciate that his wrath is justly pointed in full force at us for our sin, then we don't value the sacrifice of the Savior to take that full force on our behalf. If we don't value the sacrifice of the Savior, we don't know who He really is and how amazing is the grace he extends in redeeming us to an eternal life that begins on this earth. To see Jesus as a "take Him or leave Him" option is surely a litmus that one has failed to grasp the above - for comprehending these rightly is to recognize our desperate need and call out, as did the tax collector of Luke 18:13 who "beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’"

    And, of course, all of us who have received this gift started in the same "darkness" and were "transferred" into the kingdom, as Col. 1:13 makes clear.

    Do you, as I do, sometimes fail to grasp the real gravity of your sin as rebellion against God? Then let’s allow the gospel to remind us of God’s sovereign ownership of us. Are you, as I am, sometimes far too casual in your gratitude toward God and esteeming the sacrifice paid on your behalf? Then let’s allow the gospel to remind us of the wrath from which we’ve been rescued. Can you, as I do, at times become complacent in our growing in sanctification to become like Jesus? Then let’s look hard at the gospel to be reminded that we have been “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20) and refreshed in our purpose that “he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor. 5:15).

    You might say that the gospel is the most unique of hand-me-downs. Preserved in God’s Word, it’s been handed down through the centuries where ultimately we receive it through someone else. But then it stays with us, we never outgrow it, and yet we are commissioned to “hand it down” to others. So, receive it, be renewed in it, rely daily on it, keep tight hold of it … and hand it down!

    ThuThursdayJanJanuary16th2014 Happy New Year


    It is a word we appreciate because it suggests something that hasn’t yet been used, something that represents a beginning point—perhaps a fresh start after a false one. As we enter 2014, 2013 is left behind. It is a brand new year with all the opportunity that the Lord, by His grace, will allow with it. It is a fresh start. As you evaluate 2013 (and I hope you do that!) perhaps you see that the things you spent time on wouldn’t pass the Lord’s test of “eternal value.”  Or perhaps there are victories won in 2013 which can be carried forward and solidified in this new year.

    In perusing my books recently, I came across a book written by my favorite professor from seminary, Carl B. Hoch, Jr. (he is with the Lord now…with no need to renew or refresh anything!). The book is entitled All Things New: The Significance of Newness for Biblical Theology (Baker, 1995). Just the title of this book has stirred my interest in a theme that has great prominence in Scripture. Watch for it this year as you read God’s word. Consider with me these several brief examples I have noticed and pondered.

    In reading Romans 6 recently, I was significantly impacted by verse 4 which says: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Toward the end of the verse, the phrase “just as Christ was raised from the dead” caught my attention, because it is inseparably linked to the phrase “we too might walk in newness of life.” The significance of this is profound! The power that overcame the permanence of death gives the believer the power to live (walk) day by day in newness of life! How refreshing! Praise God!

    In Revelation 21, after telling about the vision of the new heaven and a new earth (v. 1) and the new Jerusalem (v. 2), in verse 5 John records these words: “And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Because of theNew Covenant, the implications of this hopeful (and certain!) statement are thrilling. Whatever your situation, because of the victory won by our King Jesus in conquering sin, death, and hell, we have a true and trustworthy promise that He is making all things new. Praise God!

    As we begin a new year of ministry at Kossuth, what will be new for you? Here are several possible areas where your commitment could either begin or be refreshed. A new commitment to:

    • Growth in grace through participation in the study of His word with His people
    • Prayer (a subject we’ll be studying in our Connection Groups in 2014)
    • Serving (if you want to serve, connect with Drew Humphrey who is mobilizing volunteers)
    • Giving (of time, treasure, talent)
    • KSBC membership (there will be membership classes coming in 2014)
    • Telling others about the new birth through Jesus, the Savior that brings new life
    • Multiplying by patiently teaching others about the new life in Jesus Christ

    In the course of whatever circumstances the Lord has you in at the moment, standing on the precipice of this new year, you can be refreshed and renewed by the truth of who you are as a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17)! Wishing you a New Year richly blessed of our Lord who gives us the foundation, the time, the open doors, and the strength to carry out the mission for which He saved us! Grace and peace be yours as we serve Him together at Kossuth in 2014!

    WedWednesdaySepSeptember4th2013 Sources of Traction
    byDon Whipple Tagged Grace Sanctification 0 comments Add comment

    When it comes to getting some spiritual grip, where do you find the traction you need in your life to hold on or advance against the significant forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil? Last week we referred to the sluggishness that seems common to all. We also looked at the Apostle Paul’s explanation of how he excelled in godliness and ministry effectiveness recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:10. He attributed his productivity and growth to the grace of God which stirs and activates the hard work required of discipleship.  

    How does God apply or give his promised grace to you? How are the benefits of your salvation won by Christ dispensed in your life in a productive and effective way? Connecting with the ways and means of God’s grace in your life requires your careful devotion and exposure to four ordinary sources (Acts 2:42-47). "Ordinary" does not necessarily mean boring, but it does imply that because of their simplicity, they can easily be overlooked and minimized by those of us looking for quick and exciting solutions. All traction, productivity, and effectiveness for the child of God are linked to these.

    1) The Word. Read Isaiah 55:10-11 and Deuteronomy 8:2-3 before taking a few minutes to describe in writing your devotion to the Scriptures. In terms of reading, studying, memorizing, meditating, and listening, how large is the pipeline of grace plumbed into your life from God’s word?

    2) Fellowship. God pours his grace into your life and through your life into others through committed relationships. The shared life of the church body based on the apostolic teaching is a way God builds lives. Consider the ways you can elevate your commitment to the shared life of the body with the understanding that the farther removed you are from intentional and intrusive relationships, the farther you are from a strong current of grace.

    3) The sacraments. God stirs and enables our hearts by means of baptism and the Lord’s Table. At baptism we are reminded of the public oath made to identify with Jesus Christ in his death, burial and resurrection to new life. At the Lord’s Table we carefully renew and re-devote ourselves to dying to self, living for Christ and proclaiming the gospel. How many times have you experienced that “rush” of spiritual energy during or after something as ordinary as a church meeting when we observe the Lord’s Table or baptize a new convert to Christ? We cannot survive without these direct links to grace.

    4) Prayer. If James is right, prayer works in powerful ways (Jas. 5:16b). As we pray and continue to learn to pray, we open our hearts to grace. Perhaps the most unrecognized answer to prayer is the ordinary sense of peace and strength that comes when you humble and expose your heart before God with others in believing prayer. God enables you, others, and the church through obedient corporate and personal praying.

    I encourage you to take an hour or so to get alone in a quiet place and simply write out in descriptive and concrete terms what your current devotion in these four areas looks like. Share your personal evaluation with a trusted friend or Care Group member. Prayerfully determine to increase the flow of and exposure to God’s grace in these simple and ordinary ways. I am praying that you will experience the benefits of grace as you do so.

    Grace to you.

    WedWednesdayAugAugust28th2013 Gaining Some Traction
    byDon Whipple Tagged Grace Sanctification 0 comments Add comment

    I’m feeling sluggish in a number of areas these days, how about you? Have you experienced that sense that you may be spinning your wheels in a flurry of activity but not really getting anywhere? It is a battle for hope amidst the swirling, seemingly little things of our lives.

    If you hit the thesaurus button for the word “inertia” a number of words are listed that I can relate to from time to time—with the exception of the word “torpor.” That sounds too much like a color you select to paint the bathroom or a chronic digestive tract issue. I don’t remember ever having heard it used in a sentence.

    I have listened to people who say they never struggle with sluggishness, but I am frankly not very impressed (perhaps because of my own “torporosity”). Seriously, the assumption of the Scriptures is clear that gospel-focused people will do battle with apathy and indolence. Why else would we have the multiple instructions, warnings, and admonitions not to lose heart, not to become weary, and to remain steadfast (2 Cor. 4:7-18)? Being told to “wake up from your drunken stupor” (1 Cor. 15:34) sort of captures our attention that it may be possible for me to become deceived that life is hopeless and begin to behave that way.

    I think the Apostle Paul’s testimony (1 Cor. 15:10) models for us the way to gain some traction when addressing those sluggish seasons. He combines two realities that are often confusing to us but are essential to living out the gospel: God’s grace and our working hard. Paul summarizes his understanding of the gospel by saying repeatedly in these two sentences that the grace of God is the operative agent in his life. God’s grace is that which stirs, motivates, and activates our lives.

    While it was all by God’s grace, Paul states that he still worked harder than others to be spiritually effective and productive. So which is it? Grace from God or working hard? While the answer “both” may be appealing, it is shortsighted. The point is that the hard work of laboring effectively and diligently through all kinds of obstacles is a product of grace. It seems that all one can do to activate the power of transforming grace is to receive it. Spinning your wheels faster hoping to get traction with God and the joyful hope he promises will only produce more hopelessness. We must bring our sluggish souls to the cross regularly to be reminded and energized by the person and work of Jesus Christ, the one who died for us and was raised from the dead by God for our justification.

    God dispenses grace into our lives in various ways. When you or I struggle with apathy or disinterest, the answer is not necessarily working smarter or trying harder; it is humbly receiving God’s grace. As we continue our “Full of Hope” journey through 1 Corinthians 15 in the coming weeks, be prayerfully prepared to receive God’s grace in ways that will identify, address, and transform some of our sluggish ways into working grace as we grow in our connection with the gospel and each other.

    Next week, I’ll write about specific means available for you to receive motivating, transforming grace.

    WedWednesdayMayMay29th2013 Growing in Love
    byDon Whipple Tagged Love Sanctification 0 comments Add comment

    A few weeks ago I listened to myself preaching. I did not listen to a recording of me preaching, but as the words of a question came out of my mouth that Sunday morning, they lodged in my thinking and have come back at me several times since. As we are working our way through 1 Corinthians 12-13, I asked a question something like this: “Are you a loving person?” I continued to listen to myself as I asked further, “Would anyone close to you describe you as a loving person?” I quickly recognized that it is easier to ask questions than to answer them.

    The tour through 1 Corinthians 13 has brought me to the humbling realization that there are some serious and remarkable ways that I am not loving. Rather than turn this blog post into a confessional where I gain atonement through trying to do better, let’s talk about transformation. While I am so thankful for the love that permeates and characterizes our church family, I also recognize that there is always room for growth. After all, it is God’s perfect love that we are desiring to pass on to others (1 John 3:16). Are you looking for ways to grow in love? Consider these ideas with me:

    1) Get your name on as many prayer lists as possible. God is the master teacher of loving others (1 Thess. 4:9). Check out Phil. 1:9 and Eph. 3:14-19. Moving my heart and focus from the deeply rooted entrenchment in my things and my ways requires nothing less than the limitless power of God (Eph. 4:20). I know it sounds odd, but you need to walk up to as many people as possible this Sunday, ask them to pray that you will grow in love, and don’t let them go until they have written your name on their prayer list. Better yet, why should the missionaries be special? Print your own personal prayer card and pass it out! Give me one; our refrigerator has a few spaces left! Please add me to your prayer list.

    2) Move to a new mental neighborhood. The first Psalm gives instructions for the use of the Psalter as well as the entire Bible. Limiting the influence and input of the “un-God” crowd while jacking up your serious intake of God’s words and ways will produce happy results. Remember the illustration used? A tree that has its root system by a never ending stream will produce fruit at the right time. The point is this: fill you mind with the language of love and meditate on it habitually. Begin by memorizing 1 Cor. 13:1-7 or 1 John 4:7-12. Get it down word perfect. Recruit a memory partner. Expect the Spirit of God to use the Word of God to produce in you the fruit of love in ways that you could never do where your life roots are currently located.

    3) Camp out at the foot of the cross. Love is not something we can give without first receiving it and digesting it ourselves. We love because and only because we have been loved. This truth is clearly expressed throughout the Scriptures but is stated concisely in Eph. 5:1-2. As well-loved children by God, live your life in love. Our example, coach, and captain? Christ who gave himself up for us as an offering and sacrifice to God. Read about the cross, memorize cross passages, sing about the cross and intentionally spend time with others who love to hang out at the cross. We too quickly forget, romanticize, and minimize the transformational truth that we are well loved by God.

    I need to go so I can get started on my prayer card, memory cards, and download a few more cross songs. May your growing in love be fruitful! 

    ThuThursdayFebFebruary28th2013 Adoption: Blessed, Challenged, and Changed by It

    Almost five years ago, Angela and I ventured to Jamaica on a missions trip. We thought we knew everything that this trip had in store for us. We knew we were going with some wonderful people. We knew we were going to work on a construction project. We knew we were going to share devotions with some school children. We knew we were going to visit an orphanage. What we didn't know was how God would use this trip to radically change our lives. Radically, in ways we could not imagine. Radically, in ways that would challenge our faith, our marriage relationship, and at times, our resolve to keep pressing on.  

    As many (or most) of you know, that trip to Jamaica is where we discovered Ian, a non-verbal, non-ambulatory bundle of smiles and charisma with an absolute love for people. We brought Ian home as our son in September 2008, a year and half later. I can honestly say that he has changed my life in a positive way that I never imagined. God has used Ian to open our hearts toward those with physical handicaps and opened our bank account to help others who are adopting.

    Ian tends to impact people everywhere we go, whether family, church family, or even strangers when we are out and about. Ian was cared for by loving people in the orphanage and the transition into our family was seamless. He trusted us immediately and as a result he has been free to enjoy our home, our antics, and even receive discipline well.

    However, our adoption saga does not stop there. The sun has not always shone and the birds have not always been singing. Adoption can be a messy, challenging and frustrating endeavor. We have seen most of our family accept our decision to adopt, while some did not and strained relationships developed. We have made many new friends because of adoption, yet we have also felt isolated at times because of how this has changed relationships. We are most thankful for our Care Group and their ministry to us through prayer and encouragement.

    Still being burdened for orphans and orphan care, we adopted again, this time through the foster care system. We were totally unprepared for what we would deal with. Reading reams of paperwork and diagnoses did not prepare us for how much damage had been done to two boys in a previous home. It did nothing to give insight into young minds that have seen nothing but rejection in relationships. We did not anticipate how much we would learn about the gospel in dealing with children who expect to be rejected, are fearful of trusting and determined to be in control at all times.

    While holding an angry child and singing “if you hit, I will love you anyway; if you spit, I will love you anyway; if you kick, I will love you anyway,” we were reminded of God’s undying, unending love for us. Even when we hit, spit, or kick at him, he does not abandon us. We were reminded of how we don’t want to give up control of our lives and are fearful of trusting God to lead us where He wants. The contrast in how Ian’s trust drives his behavior and how Lucas’ lack of trust drives his has caused us to really consider how well we trust God and how our behavior reflects that trust.  

    Adoption has changed us, and continues to change us. We have moments of sheer frustration, followed by moments of utter joy. As a couple, Angela and I have not undertaken anything this difficult. God has used the challenges to expose our hearts and the many idols we still hold onto. Slowly, ever so slowly, God is prying our fingers from a death grip on control of our lives.

    We recently meditated on what Paul said in Acts 20:24: “But I do not count my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

    May we continually live that out with our lives. 

    ThuThursdayAugAugust30th2012 Petitions and partitions
    byDon Whipple Tagged Community Sanctification 1 comments Add comment

    Compartmentalize! It’s a lot of letters for a bumper sticker but it’s not a bad slogan for many who like to divide their lives into categories or separate spaces. We who desire to love and serve Christ are notorious for this kind of partitioning of life into various parts. It is what sucks the life out of the Christian life.

    I thank God for the growing evidence around our church family that walls are coming down. In ever expanding ways, we seem to be as comfortable in meaningful conversations about the teachings of Christ and the wonders of redemption as we are weight loss and busyness. A humility and amazement at God’s loving kindness appear in our disagreements and private conversations as well as in our corporate worship. Husbands and dads are asking hard questions about being a servant leader 24/7, rather than simply when the spotlight seems to be on them. Our hearts were not made to be partitioned to accommodate many rulers. Our Lord Christ makes us whole. Authentic is attractive.   

    If you have been hanging in there with our 1 Corinthians sermon series you remember that the Corinthian church’s root problem was all about compartmentalizing their lives into the sacred and the secular. They were convinced that Christ and the gospel were necessary for certain parts of their lives, but when the pressure was on they needed separate rooms for their favored teachers, secret sins, love of the world, and arrogance toward authority. Rather than seeing themselves as called and complete in Christ together with each other, they lived divided lives.

    As we begin our year of Connection Groups and Care Groups, let’s continue to live out our calling together to decompartmentalize our lives under the life-giving lordship of Christ. What does it look like to help each other in our community groups to promote life rather than drain life? Three contrasts must be kept in mind and consistently acted upon:

    In Christ vs. My Identity. There is nothing more draining and stifling than a group of self-focused people intent on being themselves. Pick up your cross daily and be who you are, united with Christ—the one who loved you and gave himself for you. Be a Christ follower rather than a mom, husband, welder, grandparent, student, or worker who also happens to be a Christian.

    People vs. Event. This is a vision thing. Do you see people as individuals with needs, or do you attend meetings, events, and groups? Begin or renew your commitment to drawing life from and giving life to your church family one person at a time.

    Blessing vs. Obligation. This is similar to the previous one, but I said three contrasts and I meant it. Cleaning the bathroom is a duty. Going to the dentist is a requirement. Living the new life Christ made possible through his suffering with others is a blessing. People around you should see that distinction.

    Please continue to work and pray for our developing community at KSBC. “Oh God, help us to break down our walls and unite our hearts together around you” (Psalm 86:11). 

    ThuThursdayAugAugust16th2012 Life lessons from two ladies

    I had an unusual experience this week of visiting with two ladies on the same afternoon. I read Scripture and prayed with Louise Robertson, who at the time of our visit was seemingly a short time away from entering the presence of Jesus after a long battle with cancer. Surrounding her bed were loving children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and her devoted husband of 62 years. Louise was finishing well a life of faith and love.

    A few hours later I found myself sitting in my son’s home visiting Ella. Ella, at the time of our visit, was 6 days old, and her accomplishments in life are described in terms of weight gain, diaper changes, and minutes not sleeping. The joy was almost indescribable of holding, touching, and talking to my granddaughter for a few minutes that afternoon. (Talking to babies and answering for them is an entirely different subject worthy of its own blog post—or of therapy!) Ella is just beginning her life of faith and love.

    The wisdom writer connects these two experiences with the following teaching:

    A good name is better than precious ointment,
    And the day of death than the day of birth.
    It is better to do down to the house of mourning
    Than to go to the house of feasting,
    For this is the end of all mankind,
    And the living will lay it to heart.
    (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2)

    One Bible teacher in commenting on this passage writes, “Nowhere in human experience is there a wider gap between theory and practice than in the way we respond to personal difficulties.” The point is found in the parallel comparisons. What are the most profitable, transforming, faith-deepening, and Christ-magnifying learning experiences in our lives? If we are not careful we will tend to focus exclusively on external beauty (precious ointment/perfumes), birthdays that celebrate progression in physical dimensions, and abundance (feasting). The wisdom writer teaches us that the greater lessons of life and faith are not learned there.

    Wisdom calls the child of God to the challenges of building godly character (a good name), the weighty and crucial issues of the meaning of life and prospects of eternity (day of death), and those times in life that make you cry (mourning). These are the transformational and faith-expanding moments which allow us to embrace a God who is at work to save us from sin and small trust. Jesus said that people who mourn and hunger are blessed.

    Neither of the two ladies I visted this week said anything to me. However, both speak clearly to me and anyone else who will “lay it to heart” that God is to be feared and he is the only one whose opinion ultimately matters (12:13-14). As delightful as the birth of a baby is, there is far more to learn from the other visit. Let’s pray and continue to encourage each other to approach difficulties with such expectations.   

    ThuThursdayAugAugust2nd2012 Has the teacher taught?

    What do you think? Should school teachers be held accountable for students’ poor test scores? Are preachers responsible for an apathetic response to preaching? Are Sunday school teachers answerable for so many church kids growing up and walking away from the faith?

    The question is this: has a teacher taught if the student has not learned? How thinking and behavior are changed is not only a question for educators; it should be carefully considered in the matter of discipleship and spiritual growth, as well. A danger at KSBC is that with all the wonderful classes, groups, meetings, teachers, and curriculum at our disposal, we may assume that people are learning and that thinking and behavior are being changed.

    Please think with me about some thought patterns that need to change if we want to experience spiritual growth in our lives and families. Our minds must be stirred up about these things lest we settle for the false assurance that when teachers teach, people are changing. When thinking about spiritual transformation and the opportunities offered at church, consider these adjustments in perspective:

    Participate rather than attend and go home. As a child I used to get prizes for perfect attendance at classes at church. That sends all kinds of wrong messages unless learning to sit in meetings is your objective. Whether it is asking questions, encouraging others, reading the lesson material, speaking up in the discussion time, memorizing the verse, prayerfully expecting to learn, or taking notes—participate. Assuming you are learning because you are there is not only foolish, but it actually promotes pride and self-righteousness.

    Connect the truth learned to life rather than leave it at church. Two examples may help. First, Jesus teaches (Luke 6:32-42) that learning happens in the context of responding to people who have hurt you with forgiveness, mercy and love. That is both very real and hard to do. Consistently addressing the “speck” in your eye is essential; we sometimes refer to it as personal application. Second, connecting truth to life for a parent and family means staying closely attached to what is happening in the children and teen ministries. Parents are the primary disciplers of their children. Team up with the children’s and teen ministries to ensure that truth taught is connected to life for your children.

    Cultivate relationships rather than remain in your comfort zone. There is no escaping the fact that spiritual growth is dependent on connecting not only with truth, but with other people as well. God has designed your spiritual journey to intersect with others in such a way that you will learn from them, by them, and with them. Our recent sermon series in the Psalms reminds us of the importance of intentional God-focused dialogue in each other’s lives as we journey together toward God. Approach the quiet person, greet the new person, be open to the inquirer, be patient with the annoying, encourage the sullen, celebrate with the happy, and pray with the weak. You will grow thereby.

    I'm praying with you that as teachers teach and learners learn, our loving Savior and Lord will be seen.

    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.

    FriFridayJunJune15th2012 The liberating power of a disruptive question
    byDon Whipple Tagged Community Sanctification 0 comments Add comment

    I remember a time early in my teens when I was disobedient and disrespectful to my mother. I said things to her that reflected my foolishness and rebellion. A while later at the trial, my dad began the prosecution’s case against me by appealing to truth. He did so with a convicting and clarifying question. The more I reflect on this (for some reason it has remained quite clear in my memory all these years), I have come to appreciate the disruptive power of a well-placed question. His question was, “Do you have any idea who you were talking to?”

    Even as foolish as I was, I couldn’t reply with the obvious and literal, “Come on Dad, you know who that is—you are married to her!” That response not only would have cut my trial short, but would have missed the point of the question. The question clarified my theology about God and mothers and holiness. There are some things even foolish young teens should not dare to do because of the truth about parents and God. This is the disruptive power of a question.

    I feel similar disruption of heart and mind with the piercing questions found in 1 Corinthians 3:3-4. After describing the behavior and slogans of the Corinthian church members, the questions are asked:

    Are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

    Are you not being merely human?

    These questions force us to identify the ways and working of God in our lives. What gives evidence of the supernatural in our daily grind? The essential point of the questions is to shock us into realization that as God-called, Christ-following, Spirit-indwelt people, we have chosen to behave and think in a manner disconnected from our gospel heritage. 

    So, regarding your response to those who have hurt you, your generosity in unstable times, your humility when challenged, your words when aggravated, your response when provoked, your thoughts when enticed—can you be accused of being merely human? Or as my dad might say, “Do you have any idea who you are choosing to leave out of your life right now?”

    A significant challenge that many of us face is that of allowing people into our lives who will ask us disruptive questions which are totally motivated by truth and love for us. That is one of the benefits of being called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ; we shouldn’t be allowed to live in self-reliant isolation. Over the summer, please join me in asking God to faithfully visit us as we focus in our Sunday 10:45 hour with adults and teenagers on learning to open and connect our lives to other Christ-focused people. And pray for the leadership class of about 20 men who have set aside these summer Sunday mornings to learn to lead and encourage this kind of authentic community in our church family.

    I thank God for disruptive questions from people who love me and love truth. I thank God for my dad, and that by God’s grace I made it alive through that incident to repent and honor my mom.

    FriFridayJunJune1st2012 Renouncing sleepiness
    byDon Whipple Tagged Prayer Sanctification 0 comments Add comment

    Here’s a reason why I have decided to participate in Wednesday evening prayer meeting with a few other KSBC folks each week. It is in fact a mid week “pick me up.” It is a way for me to renounce sleepiness. I am concerned that my routine busyness will cause me to drift into a heightened state of dullness to the work and ways of God.     

    Just like meetings, sermons, big meals, Bible reading, prayer, and busyness tend to cause drowsiness physically, the accumulated exposure to life in this world causes sleepiness toward the work and power of God. Remaining alert, awake, and energized about that which our world mocks, the devil opposes, and our flesh rejects is a huge challenge for each of us.

    This week in our brief Bible study time at our 6:45 pm Wednesday prayer meeting, we tried to encourage each other to stand strong in the Lord’s strength by understanding and applying the two admonitions of Ephesians 6:18. Staying alert to and strong against the evil of our day requires constant dependence (praying per the 4 "alls") and persevering wakefulness. Prayer and alertness are required to stand strong.

    Prayer without alertness to the surrounding dangers, warfare and deception of our world is nothing more than religious consumerism. Prayer without awareness of the unlimited grace, power and wisdom of our heavenly Father is no more than boring routine. The point is that many of us are not satisfied with or embarrassed by our prayer lives because we simply try to pray more or better or longer. The Scriptures teach us that rather than falling asleep while you pray, you should work hard to wake up to the realities of life around you before you pray. Persevere at remaining alert and attentive to who God is and what he is doing. Build into your life ways to be aroused regularly to the needs of people all around you. Make the effort to schedule regular times of exposure to others who are committed to renouncing the spiritual sleepiness of this world, the church, and the community. 

    Remember the instructions of our Lord to those who fell asleep trying to pray (Matt. 26:40-41). Watching, remaining alert to the surrounding war and the unseen works of God is the driving force of dependent and powerful prayer. The wisdom and ways of this world will put you to sleep concerning the ways and works of God. Renounce sleepiness. Watch and pray. Keep alert with all perseverance.

    If you need some help staying awake to your dependence on God and the wonderful ways of God, Wednesday evenings at KSBC may be for you. Staying awake to God takes effort, repeated and increasing effort. Romans 5:11-14 adds some support and perspective. I pray for a blessed season of unusual alertness in our lives and church. 

    WedWednesdayMayMay2nd2012 A community project
    byDon Whipple Tagged Church Community Sanctification 0 comments Add comment

    When most Christians think about growing in their faith, they sometimes leave out one of the most important means that God has provided; our friendships! God unites us to Christ but also places us within a community of faith where we influence one another in profound ways.

    Who are your closest friends at KSBC? What role do they play in your spiritual development? How do they help you love God and people? Who would name you as their friend at KSBC that helps them grow in grace?

    Growth in faith and Christ likeness is a community project. Isolation and individualism lead to ineffectiveness and barrenness. The contribution of others in the church family is absolutely essential to your becoming the person God has called you to be. The list of ways that God has designed for a committed community of believers to shape your life is impressive. The list would minimally include prayer, encouragement, correction, burden bearing, teaching, confession, and rejoicing together.

    Our desire is for our church family to grow in community. By that we mean a discernible movement from isolationism to redemptive relationships. There is so much to learn about these kind of redemptive relationships that actually “stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24-25). This kind of stimulation implies a transfer of energy from someone else to you. When we isolate ourselves from other believers by merely attending services and classes, we literally and sinfully unplug ourselves from a God ordained source of power for our growth in holiness and love. When we restrict our relationships to surface or shallow involvement, we short circuit the work of God in our lives.

    To encourage our growth in this we are planning to use a 10-week DVD series at our 10:45 hour this summer entitled Your Walk with God is a Community Project by Paul Tripp. For the summer months, all teens through adult classes will meet together in the sanctuary for a 25 minute teaching time followed by breakout groups for discussion and application. This will be a great opportunity to hear clear Bible teaching and massage it into our behaviors and relationships. 

    Paul Tripp is a highly respected and qualified Bible teacher. Many of you have benefited from his books War of Words and Age of Opportunity. You can read more about this video series here. You can also read a recent article by Tripp that I found very helpful here. In addition to the quote at the beginning, here’s another that I thought was worthy of jotting down from this series of talks: "God has called us to intentionally-intrusive, Christ-centered, grace-driven redemptive relationships."

    Please pray for and plan to participate in this significant community project this summer here at KSBC.
    FriFridayMarMarch9th2012 The underappreciated benefits of not getting your own way

    Remember the last time you did not get what you wanted? For some of us the reply is quick and simple—“Which time? This afternoon or this morning? Today or yesterday?” Whether it is the timing of a traffic light, the menu for dinner, the weather not cooperating or significant matters that we are praying for fervently, not getting our way is as common as breathing. This matter has pressed on my thinking recently both in little ways like, “How come we couldn’t have spaghetti?” as well as bigger ways such as, “How come the Crosswalk Project doesn’t happen the way I want it to?” I am learning there are incredible and severely underappreciated benefits to not getting my way.

    The basis for these benefits is found in James 3:18 and then explained in the teaching of James 4. For the person of faith, James reminds us that there is a “harvest of righteousness” realized when life is lived committed to the wisdom that comes from God. That’s the “benefits” part. God’s wisdom teaches us to search those times we do not get our way for a number of possible benefits that God intends for us to appreciate and learn from.

    So here are four underappreciated benefits of not getting your own way:

    1. Not getting your way opens the door to see your heart motives more clearly (James 4:1-3). If you are convinced that you must watch your heart carefully because the issues of your life flow from your heart, then having this entrance to see what is in your heart is a huge benefit to you. (Proverbs 4:23)

    2. Not getting your way may force you toward humility and repentance more quickly (4:4-10). If you believe that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” then you can convert that conflict to get your way into immediate, useable, hope-filled grace through simple repentance. More grace is good.

    3. Not getting your way is an opportunity to shut your mouth more appropriately (4:11-12). If you believe that talking badly about people and to people is a wicked and destructive response to not getting your way, then you know what a benefit it is to all concerned to at least keep your mouth shut and try to talk nice.

    4. Not getting your way helps you clarify your God-centered worldview. If you believe that God is in good control of all things and that your life only has significance within his providential care, then it is a great benefit to be reminded often to include the Lord in our daily planning and living. Not getting your way leads to resting in God’s way.

    God grows our love for him and each other through our not getting what we want. He actually blesses us at times by not giving us what we ask for. Join me in taking a stand for these underappreciated and often neglected benefits of God’s grace in our lives.   

    WedWednesdayFebFebruary1st2012 Look at the verbs!

    If you are anything like me, you were not a fan of English class in any level of school. I mean, after all, I was born in Kentucky. Why do I need to learn English? I done already knowed it.

    But sometimes it’s important to pay attention to grammar. I am convinced that God uses certain verbs in the Bible for a reason. As an example, take a look at 1 Tim 6:11 & 12. Paul challenges Timothy with a number of things and uses some key verbs to help do so. He uses verbs of action, extreme action.

    In verse 11, Timothy is urged to “flee” the false doctrine and love for money spoken of in verses 3-10. In other passages, Paul urges Christians to flee sexual immorality, idolatry and youthful lusts. Flee – not walk or amble away, but flee! Not toy with, but flee! Turn and run! What kind of picture does the word “flee” paint for you?

    Further in verse 11, Paul counters fleeing by calling him to “pursue” something. That something is righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Again, Paul uses a very active verb. Pursue – not look toward, but pursue! Not take a leisurely stroll, but pursue! In this word, I see a focused, dogged determination toward a goal of godliness.

    Verse 12 challenges Timothy to “fight” the good fight of the faith. How easily do we give up the fight when things getting difficult? Trust me; I have been there more times than I would like to remember. This causes me to think of watching Lucas play ‘sword duel’ on our Wii game. He never stops whacking at the opponents until they fall into the water. He moves closer and closer to the TV, swinging his arms, sweating and panting. That, my friend, is fighting

    Fighting the good fight is followed with a call to “take hold” of the eternal life. I picture taking hold as both arms wrapped around it and not letting go, refusing to waiver from my faith.

    How ‘energetic is your walk of faith? Does it involve fleeing sin and pursuing godliness? How about fighting the fight of the faith or holding fast to the promises that God has made to us? Don’t be a Christian couch potato! Look at the verbs! Be active!  

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