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    Elders' Blog - Entries from April 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ThuThursdayAprApril17th2014 Failure and Victory
    byBill Davis Tagged Failure Grace 0 comments Add comment

    Epic Fail. For those who don’t have teenagers in the home, or else are like I am and just aren’t cool enough to be in-the-know on current lingo, here’s a tip: we no longer have a serious failure – it’s now known as an “epic fail” (and probably has been for awhile … but like I said, how would I know?). While the term is typically associated with labeled photos or funny videos of real-life mishaps and efforts gone awry, it sometimes gets associated with serious matters as well. Here’s one that involved the disciple Peter: 

    And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” (Mark 14:27-31)

    Peter has company with me and countless others. We Christians can certainly talk big and think big, but there are far too many times when the theological rubber meets the world's road and I just fall way short. Peter was notorious as the disciple seemingly with his foot permanently in his mouth. And this was perhaps the pinnacle of such a moment, emphatically pledging his lifeblood only hours later to deny Jesus (just as emphatically!). In his denial, he goes so far as to say, essentially, "May God strike me with lighting if I'm lying about not knowing this man!”

    Of course, that's our side of things. But Jesus so beautifully foretells God's side of things in Luke's account of the above scene (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus proactively encourages Peter to "strengthen your brothers" after you (all) do fall away for a time and return. Jesus knows our forthcoming failures, but he lays hold of us anyway! He proactively strengthens us not only against failing, but also in advance for the repenting! Incredible! This is powerfully observed in the amazing transformation that Peter undergoes by receiving the Holy Spirit and walking in the Spirit for years thereafter. Consider these two passages contrasting Peter on either side of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection:

    And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:37-38)

    Compare that to:

    Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:8-10)

    That's the same guy in both passages! The first one—the dozing, unwatchful, weak-fleshed, temptation-target big mouth—is later in life transformed to be on the other side of the warning, encouraging us to "watch out! pray! be on your guard!" That's the voice of experience if there ever was one. I think perhaps Peter's whole life story could be summed up in those last words that "the God of all grace who has called you … will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you." May we understand that, even after we blow it big, God is active and able to restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us!

    Peter’s “epic fail” was met with the redemptive grace of Christ whose shed blood justified Peter, and justifies you and me who hold our faith in the Lord Jesus. The cross itself seemed as an “epic fail” to those who stood in witness (Matt 27:39-44). But God’s plan of redemption brought victory of an unimaginable and, well, truly epic proportion. No new lingo or catchphrase will or could be invented to adequately express the unfathomable and glorious victory of Jesus over sin and death in the resurrection. Only our hearts singing out in worship and praise can. I’m looking forward to joining together this Sunday to do just that!

    ThuThursdayAprApril3rd2014 CommonVision@Kossuth
    byDon Whipple Tagged Church Vision 0 comments Add comment

    It would be a strange (putting it mildly) church whose membership requirements include agreement that the Colts are the best NFL team, global warming is the greatest threat to the planet, and Frozen is the best movie produced in the last 10 years. On these topics and many more like them, we can disagree agreeably and yet experience intense community around the clear and core teachings from Scripture on what a church is to be and do. On the other hand, it is equally as strange for a church to allow differences of opinion on the reliability of the Bible, the deity of Jesus, or the definition of the gospel. 

    But, what if we changed the topics a bit? What if the topics that required some level of agreement included how and where we as a church would invest our limited resources to be and do what God has called us to as his church? For example, what if agreement had to be reached concerning how we do global missions, community outreach, compassion ministry, family ministry, and worship? Again while it seems we can agree to disagree, it clearly is a better choice to come to some form of consensus as a church family that allows differences of perspective but also unites us together with a common vision for growth. A church with 14 different perspectives on how to send and support missionaries may seem more spiritual simply due to the volume of missions chatter, but the focused and targeted congregation will ultimately be more productive for God’s glory.

    Defining and agreeing to a vision that is both common and inspiring is a big part of what our current planning process is about. Common, in that many from the church family get involved in shaping it. Inspiring, meaning that individual members of the body would defer on differences in light of that common vision. For example, we do not intend to interact on whether we should do community outreach; but we do want to gain a fresh sense of agreement on how we do that and what that looks like in this community, for our church, at this time. 

    All of that to say: we hope you are already considering which of the dates, April 26 or May 3, you will choose to participate in the CommonVision@Kossuth meetings. These meetings will focus on 6-8 characteristics from the biblical target and work together under the supervision of a seasoned facilitator to…

    • Capture your thoughts and experiences of what we are doing well now
    • Identify where we could focus our efforts to be yet stronger
    • Summarize our efforts as inputs to the elders and ministry committees as they enhance existing programs and develop new action steps

    We are planning for about 50 people at each Saturday meeting. These meetings will be highly interactive small groups focusing for a designated time on important characteristics of church health. Each group then will share their critical thoughts and stories that will be collected, shared, and eventually influence the direction of action plans to strengthen these areas. Your participation in one of these CommonVision@Kossuth meetings will help our leadership and ministry planners answer important questions like, “What could a stronger [insert characteristic] look like here at Kossuth? What ideas and stories have been shared about this particular topic by those in our congregation?”

    More details for the April 26 and May 3 sessions will be announced this week in the services on Sunday (although you can go ahead and sign up online). I really liked the response from our facilitator to my question of why should people participate in these sessions. He wrote back, “A God-honoring church is an intense community. To be the church we should be, we all need to be involved. These upcoming meetings are part of that intensive community effort.”

    An additional nudge: I’ve seen the agenda for Sunday’s Family gathering. You will be glad you came. Some really cool stuff will be shared and then to the Table ... enjoying the opportunity to refresh ourselves in the deep love of Jesus together. See you Sunday.

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