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    Elders' Blog - Entries from August 2013

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    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.

    WedWednesdayAugAugust14th2013 Worship: Ready or Not?
    byDon Whipple Tagged Church Worship 0 comments Add comment

    One of my friends in grade school was the son of the pastor of the white church with a cemetery on the side in our little town of 500 people. We soon learned that he and his brothers could only play ball with the rest of us kids on Saturday until about 3:00 pm. Regardless of how good the game was or how close the score, at the appointed hour they had to make their way home to the parsonage and begin getting ready for church. Needless to say, they took a lot of heat from the rest of us who wanted to finish the game. It was the norm in their home to begin Saturday evening preparing for their celebration of the Lord’s Day—shining shoes, laying out clothes, gathering everyone around the table for a meal, taking baths, enjoying family game time. It piqued my curiosity to see how my friend moaned and complained to me about it when we were playing, only to see how much he actually loved it when I was there as an invited guest from time to time. I never quite understood his big bucktooth grin while showing me how his Dad taught him to shine his shoes.  

    I recently read this comment from an unknown source describing a common approach to worship: “We worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship.” Playing at worship is an apt description that exposes how serious, prepared, and engaged we are in so many of our pursuits, while maintaining habits of passive, casual, and inexpressive participation at corporate worship.

    Whether you have ever shined a shoe or regardless of your belief that a distraction-free family meal is even possible, the point is that Pastor Brown and his family had something unique: a Personal Participation Plan for corporate worship.

    Worship of the one true God has always required preparation on the part of the worshipper. From catching and transporting that special animal for sacrifice in ancient times to preparing your heart, mind, and body to engage with God and others today, preparation is a big deal. Too often the musicians, preachers, or greeters catch the undeserved criticism that in fact should be pointed at the lack of preparation on the part of the worshipper.

    My Bible reading plan landed me today in Psalm 100. This invitation song sets a clear expectation that worshippers of God think a certain way and bring certain things with them to worship. The joyful noise of our worship is produced by a heart overwhelmed by the love and faithfulness of God. That requires intentional preparation and cultivation.

    So, here are two quick suggestions for your Personal Participation Plan for Sunday morning worship with your church family:

    1. Prepare your heart. Thanksgiving, praise, and joyful noises that will magnify God and encourage your beloved church family must be prepared carefully. Could you fit a quiet time alone with God into Saturday evening or Sunday morning where you spend time in the word, prayer, and song asking God to fill you and use you to draw attention to him? Dads, this could develop into a productive meal time together as a family.
    2. Prepare your body. Alertness, energy, attentiveness, and responsiveness require a rested body and mind. It amazes me sometimes how much we try to fit in on a weekend or Saturday night without thought of anything more than being at church close to on time.
    So, go ahead, make a joyful noise to the Lord with God’s people this Sunday. But you have some work to do to get ready to do it well.
    WedWednesdayAugAugust7th2013 Break My Heart
    byDon Whipple Tagged Revival Singing 1 comments Add comment

    The words got stuck in my throat as I tried to sing them last Sunday morning. Do you ever experience those moments of heightened awareness or clarity when singing songs to God and each other that you wonder if you really understand or mean the words you are using?

    A few phrases in the closing song “O Breath of Life” caught me unprepared. I mean “stop singing and stare at the words on the screen” type of unprepared. We were asking God in our song to revive us as our hearts are breaking and pleading. We asked him to revive us because our love is fading. We asked God by his Spirit to bend us and break us until we are humble. This song should come with some kind of warning. It is in fact a great and dangerous song.

    It is great because of the truth it represents and allows us to express. Scriptural support and examples of God being moved by the contrite and broken hearts of his people is extensive. It is the plea for a passionate and genuine knowledge of God uninterrupted by our pride. For God’s people to have hearts that know how little they deserve and how much they owe is a really good thing. (Review Isaiah 57, Psalm 51, or 85 and Matthew 5 along with the prayers of the Apostle Paul noting the blessedness and appropriateness of the broken heart.)

    In my “O Breath of Life”-prompted survey of these and other passages, I was reminded that when I lose compassion for others, when I can’t hear God very well, and when my love for God is fading, then I need my heart broken. Other loves and affections must be broken for the presence of Christ to abide with sweetness.

    The song is dangerous in that it presents the potential of using these words carelessly or even self righteously. It is possible for us to want evidences and manifestations of God by his Spirit for the wrong reasons. The Corinthian church is an example of Church and spirituality in general becoming the servant of the individual rather than the gifted individual serving the church. God is clearly on record as against any forms of worship that lack brokenness and humility.

    Two other important reminders from Sunday that you may have missed.

    One, the August Family Gathering Prayer Guide is available for our use. Please get one and use it regularly throughout the next few weeks. Thanks so much for your continued prayer for our church family and the various ways we are connected in making disciples for Christ. This prayer guide will give you some specific ways that your prayers can strengthen each other and stir the heart of God for his blessing on our church.

    Two, at Family Gathering we shared and reviewed briefly a document entitled “2013-14 KSBC Initiatives.” The intent of developing and sharing these initiatives is to shape a direction for our attention and resources that addresses commonly agreed upon “bigger picture” opportunities and concerns. These initiatives do not include everything that is being done or needs to be done.

    Our hope is that these initiatives energize, unify and mobilize our church family to joyful prayer, faith and participation. Each initiative is assigned to an individual or ministry team who has the responsibility to oversee, define details and processes and direct the initiative to completion. The outcomes of these initiatives will be a mix of plans and their implementations by the end of 2014. A copy is available here.

    Thanks for your commitment to Christ and each other that is seen in singing difficult songs and wrestling in prayer together. I thank God for you.

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