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    Elders' Blog - Entries from December 2014

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    ThuThursdayDecDecember18th2014 Happy Anniversary, Pastors!

    Five years ago this month, our church affirmed and appointed three new elders; Paul, Bill, and Tom. These were our first non-vocational pastors; that is, they serve as pastors but are not employed by the church. It was a historic occasion as earlier in the year the congregation approved new by-laws written to provide for a leadership structure that involves a plurality of godly men as pastors and overseers. After months of interviews and interaction, our church family joyfully set these men apart and recognized them as pastors at our December 6, 2009 Family Gathering. A few observations are in order at this five-year mark:

    Praise God! That’s the first and most appropriate response. These men and their wives have proven to be a wonderful gift from the Head of the Church to Kossuth. Our elders are among the most skilled, godly, faithful, and steadfast people I have ever had the joy of serving with. Since leaders are a gift to the church from the risen Christ, join me in thanking him for ours.

    Thank you! While I do not know all that has been invested, my perspective allows me to know better than most the enormous amount of time and energy these men and their wives have invested in addition to their jobs and family responsibilities. They are worthy of our deepest gratitude. Their impact on Sue and me is and has been profound. Please make it a point to express your gratitude to them in clear and tangible ways this holiday season.

    We’ve changed! While change has its challenges and may not be as welcome by some as others, collectively as a church we have changed. A huge expression of appreciation along with a loud “well done” is in order for our entire church family. You received biblical instruction well. You interacted patiently and lovingly with the application of that teaching to our community life. You have prayerfully supported elders and eldership through some rather complex seasons. You have patiently and lovingly given room for the pastors to make mistakes, learn, and grow. No longer can we say “I don’t think I can change.” You have done it well. Congratulations!

    There’s more! There are more elders coming, that is. As you have probably heard by now, Mikel, Abraham, Dan, and Drew were confidently affirmed and appointed by the congregation to eldership at our recent December 7 Family Gathering. Pray for these new appointees as the transition will be felt by all of them in different ways as the eldership appointment takes effect in January. Please pray specifically for wisdom and grace for our elders during this time of transition to a new form and function of the lead elder role. Pray for our pastors’ hearts to be knit together around a clear and worthy vision for the coming next chapter at Kossuth. Pray that God will protect our pastors from evil and bless their marriages and families with great joy.

    Happy anniversary, Kossuth pastors, whether celebrating five years or beginning your first term of service, we love you and thank God for you! 

    WedWednesdayDecDecember10th2014 Extravagant Generosity: Part 2
    byDon Whipple Tagged Generosity Gospel 0 comments Add comment

    Did you hear the news? Last Sunday evening our church affirmed and appointed Abraham, Dan, Drew, and Mikel to the office of elder at Kossuth. The message of the congregation through the voting process was clear and confident: these men are leadership gifts from our generous God to our church. We gratefully acknowledge and receive them as from the Lord. Please continue to pray for these men and their families. More will be shared as we approach the time to formally celebrate and install them in this office on Sunday January 25.

    Speaking of generosity that exceeds expectations, have you ever had to take a gift from someone you know cannot afford to give it? There is an awkwardness to it that makes one wonder why the Bible uses that kind of giving as an example of generosity.

    In last week’s blog we considered the example of a lavish or extravagant gift that represented a heart overflowing with love and devotion to Christ. Some thought it wasteful; Jesus accepted it as appropriate worship. The question to ask yourself is, “What does my heart prompt?” Is your heart so captured and overflowing with God’s loving kindness to you in Jesus that you are driven to lavish displays of affection and generosity toward him and others?

    A second example of generosity for our hearts to be shaped by is the “wealth of generosity” portrayed by the Macedonian churches explained in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. If a paradox is a contradiction in terms, then the generosity of these churches at that time can be described as approaching an absurd paradox. Consider that their severe affliction and testing is said to have produced an overflowing joy. Likewise, their extreme poverty in part produced by their afflictions resulted in an overflowing generosity. This is where their example gets uncomfortable in so many ways. Without apology or distancing himself from what they did, the Apostle describes their generosity as a willing giving beyond their means.

    The grace of God explains and enables the whole awkward example of someone giving beyond their means. The Macedonian church’s generosity was a response to the kindness of God lavished on them. They were connected to the favor of God in their lives in such a way that they gave themselves to the Lord before they gave anything they possessed. Their generosity is actually referred to as an act of grace.

    So here’s the question: How does God’s grace in your life impact your generosity? What has God given you? How much? How often?

    Jesus taught that a person who believes they have been forgiven by God for just a little will have a limited ability to forgive others. Grace is the same to giving. Your understanding of how much you have been given by God is the greatest determining and motivating factor in your generosity toward him and others. If you believe that God has been rather average to moderate with you, you will have to work hard to be anything more toward him.

    Generosity that exceeds expectations is driven by the grace of God. That explains why many who are materially wealthy are spiritually poor. It also helps us understand why such financially poor people as those in the Macedonian churches are so incredibly spiritually rich. 

    The first step toward joyful liberating generosity? Experience God’s grace. Expose yourself daily to it through the Scriptures, prayer, and the Spirit. Hang out with grace-rich people. Balance the checkbook of your heart everyday with the riches of grace found in Christ Jesus. Then it may awkwardly be said of you someday, “That is more than you can afford, isn’t it?”

    WedWednesdayDecDecember3rd2014 Extravagant Generosity: Part 1
    byDon Whipple Tagged Generosity Gospel 0 comments Add comment

    ’Tis the season for Christ-focused and grace-driven generosity to explode like the shining brilliance of angelic glory to a few shepherds on a dark night long ago. As we desire to reflect and magnify the gracious generosity of our Lord and Savior Jesus, here are two examples to help shape and grow our generosity. I referred to these this past Sunday, but I want to put them before you in a more usable and memorable format.

    The first example is similar to a scenario that all of us will find ourselves experiencing at some time in the next few weeks. A gift will be given or opened and some will think, “Why this waste?” while others think, “What a beautiful gift!”

    The account of the woman’s wasteful worship is recorded in Matthew 26:6-13. A woman poured an excessive amount of “very expensive” ointment on the head of Jesus as an act of devotion and faith. As the disciples watched the wasted dollars of ointment drip from his head on to his clothing, the couch, and the floor, they expressed their thinking that it was wasteful. A nice pair of socks or a sweater would have been much more appropriate.

    Jesus’ response went far beyond simply saying that the gift was a beautiful thing; he used her extravagance and devotion as a model for how the gospel should be proclaimed from that moment on throughout the whole world! We, like the disciples, get caught up in thinking in the wrong currency. Jesus looked at the heart of love and devotion behind the gift. Here’s the quote from Archibald Brown that I read last Sunday morning.

    This woman did not think simply how little she could give and yet maintain her character. It was, “What does my heart prompt?” Oh, let me ask my soul, while you ask yours this question, “My heart, hast though ever done a magnificent thing for Christ? Hast though ever known what it is to be, in the judgment of the world, extravagant for him?”

    Question one: What does your heart prompt? Is your heart so captured and overflowing with God’s loving kindness to you in Jesus that you are driven to lavish displays of affection and generosity toward him and others? This is not to be limited to the giving of money to the church or missionaries. A grace-filled heart overflows in all kinds of excessive behaviors toward God and others.

    Let’s determine to let this woman’s worship and Jesus’ excitement about it have a deep impact on our thinking. Ask the question often. Invite others to ask the question with you and reflect together on its impact. Renew your submission to and desire for grace. Expose yourself to grace daily through the Scriptures, submission to the Spirit, and prayer. Give yourself to the Lord daily, especially throughout this busy and deceitful season. As you simply submit and expose your heart to the grace of God in Jesus, generosity will flow in all kinds of ways. You may even have someone accuse you of extravagance!

    Growing and gracious generosity does not begin with your checkbook or credit card; it begins with quiet and honest reflection of what excites your heart the most. Sadly, some may find it is easier to write a check.  

    I will plan to share the second example and question next week. 

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