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    Elders' Blog - Entries from October 2015

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    WedWednesdayOctOctober28th2015 The Parable of the Leaf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ThuThursdayOctOctober22nd2015 Growing Together in the Word

    I have the privilege of leading a Discipleship Group with a few guys. We meet once a week to encourage one another and discuss the Scriptures. I love it. It’s a highlight of my week, every week (even at the early dawn hours we tend to meet).

    One early morning, after entering Panera, I found my seat as usual and waited for the guys to arrive. One by one they came and sat down, all of us wiping the sleep away from our eyes. As I was about to take a bite from my Cobblestone (that really gooey clump of wonderful), I noticed two familiar faces, but of guys not in my D Group. You don’t expect to see any other human being at that hour, let alone someone you know. But, in walked Andy and Morgan. Come to find out, this was a regular event for them. They had been meeting weekly to read the Bible together and encourage one another. I know them both well. They have been a part of the Kossuth family for quite some time. Morgan has mentioned several times how much he enjoys that interaction over God’s Word.

    They’re not the only ones. This is what God’s people do. We are creatures of the Word, and the very fact that God calls us not to walk with him alone, but together, drives us toward engaging the Scriptures with family and friends.

    I recently reviewed a book called Rediscovering Discipleship by Robby Gallaty. I recommend it on a number of levels. But at one point I was struck by the reminder that God’s Word is powerful enough to bring dead people back to life. “Two spiritual parents, as with human conception, must be present for spiritual birth to take place: the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Through prayer and Scripture reading, God may open the hearts and minds of lost people for repentance and faith” (190). It’s as James says, “Of his [God’s] own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18).

    This same Word, by which we are spiritually reborn, is also what helps us grow. Life comes from God’s Word as the Spirit uses it in our hearts. So why not bring it into the relationships you have? Those of you who already practice this already know the benefits.

    Let me paint a few pictures to give you some ideas of how to incorporate reading one-to-one in your life:

    1. Consider Andy and Morgan’s model of meeting weekly to read a chapter and discuss it. And that’s not all they do. They catch up on one another’s lives and challenge one another. But the Word takes center stage. You don’t need a seminary degree to do this. Nor do you have to have been a Christian for more than 30 seconds.
    2. Join a Care Group if you are not already in one. Our small group structure includes pairing up and reading one-to-one in between meetings.
    3. Consider teaming up with another family to participate in family devotions together. You could alternate over two occasions to engage the Scriptures together, but also to steal ideas from one another.
    4. There are so many new families here at Kossuth. Consider taking it upon yourself to invite someone to meet you for coffee and read together. That would be an incredible way to get to know someone on a deeper level.

    Regardless of how it looks, do it. Look at relationships you already have (with believers and non-believers) and bring the Word of God into them. 

    First, initiate. Don’t wait for someone to invite you. Take it upon yourself. That’s loving people. Send an email right now to one person you could read with.

    Second, set a date. Get it on the calendar pronto before the idea slips away.

    Third, enjoy. Start at Mark chapter one if you don’t know where to begin. Enjoy a deeper relationship, with God’s Word at the center.

    You won’t be disappointed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ThuThursdayOctOctober8th2015 Work in Progress
    byDan Dillon Tagged Church Leaders News 1 comments Add comment

    If you’ve ever worked in a manufacturing company, you’re familiar with term “Work in Progress” (WIP). It’s the stuff on the manufacturing floor, between parts in inventory and final product sitting in the warehouse. Most manufacturers have a lot of WIP. They try to keep it to a minimum, but the only way to get it to zero is…do nothing. The elders have quite a bit of WIP right now. We thought we’d share a few.

    Deacon Nominations. We’ve been looking for deacons to help the Technology and Welcome teams. Thank you, KSBC members for many nominations we received. The number of nominations shows that you care for the welfare of the church. For the men nominated, it’s certainly an encouragement to receive recognition of their commitment to the church. We contacted each one; some decided to not proceed further, citing other commitments. The next phase is the interview phase. Once that phase is complete, we’ll present one or more names to the congregation for feedback. The final decision is made by the elders. We hope to complete the process by the end of the year.

    Statement of Faith Changes. Per a previous blog post, the elders are working on revising our Statement of Faith in light of the recent Supreme Court decision and the culture changes associated with it. Besides addressing the immediate issue (whether marriage between two people of the same sex is biblical), we hope to address other related issues and present a positive statement of the biblical view of marriage and sexuality. Finally, knowing that such statement will place us in conflict with the world, we are developing additional changes concerning a Christian’s relationship to the world in the face of conflict.  

    We are almost done with our work. Before we present it to the entire congregation for your approval, we want to get some additional feedback from others who can give the revisions a fresh, objective review. When we present it to the congregation, we will also spend some time discussing some of the pastoral issues associated with same-sex attraction.

    Five Year Plan. We kicked off the plan this summer. The “immediate” items have already started: new service times, a revised Connection Hour, and the start of the Year of Grace. A few of the “ongoing” items have already started, too: neighborhood outreach efforts started even before the plan kick-off. This past Sunday night, we reviewed one aspect of corporate worship: engaging our minds and hearts during the sermon. Look for more to come in the area of corporate worship.

    What can you do?

    Pray. We prayed this past Sunday at Family Gathering about these and other things. Now continue in prayer.

    Ask. If you have questions, please feel free to ask. Some things are confidential (e.g., the number and names of deacon candidates). Many things are in progress and so we can’t always give definite answers. But we don’t mind if you ask: it shows you’re interested and you care. In God’s providence, your input may be exactly what we need to hear.

    Participate. When we present one or more deacons, if you don’t know them, get to know them. When the proposed revisions to the Statement of Faith are presented, read them, review them, and learn from them. Consider helping out in our neighborhood outreach.

    It is a privilege to be at work for the sake of the church!

    ThuThursdayOctOctober1st2015 Bad Company and Good Morals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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