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    Elders' Blog - Entries from June 2015

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    ThuThursdayJunJune25th2015 Raising Children is a Money-Losing Proposition
    byDan Dillon Tagged Family Parenting 1 comments Add comment

    There’s a baby boom among church staff and Peggy and I are doing a fair amount of babysitting lately (but really, Peggy is doing the vast majority). So this question came to my mind rather easily: What impulses drive people to desire to raise children?

    It can’t be money. On a purely economic basis, raising children is a money-losing proposition. And it takes a lot of time and energy: at least two decades of constant effort. The sheer amount of time, money, and energy it takes to raise children shows how amazing it is that people do it in the first place. Of course, some are not called to marriage or cannot bear children. And some do a very poor job of raising children or are so self-absorbed that raising children is the farthest thing from their mind. Nevertheless, the desire to raise children is incredibly strong and it’s not just a “Christian” desire; non-Christians raise children, too!

    Let’s take a moment and look at a few reasons that you and I might have for raising children. Are we doing things for the right reasons? Are we letting our desires get out of hand and creating idols in our hearts?

    We desire to be with children. It was fun being with my kids when they were young. None of the serious responsibilities of church or work, just being in their small, relatively carefree world. But idolatry sets in when we won’t let them grow up! They turn into our toys, instead of independent adults. And we have to train them to be adults.

    We desire that someone else have it better than we did. It is certainly a good desire to want your children to have a better life than you did. But the idolatry of “it’s all about the kids” is an easy trap. It can lead to a spoiled child because they never experience loss or deprivation. Or it can lead to a bitter or controlling parent if the goal of parenting is to live (or relive) your life through your children.

    We desire to sacrifice ourselves to bring joy to someone else. A sacrificial life exemplifies Jesus and is absolutely required to raise children well. But do we define our relationship and self-worth in terms of our children’s appreciation of our sacrifice? Do we use guilt to get our way? Do we say or think, “After all I’ve done for you, why don’t you...”? That’s not sacrifice. That’s manipulation. That’s conditional love.

    We desire to feel like a “whole person.” In our culture, being a “whole person” means self-creation, self-pursuit, and self-fulfillment. If we’re raising children to feel like a "whole person,” we’re doing it for ultimately selfish reasons. And since we create our own fulfillment, we can abandon child-raising when it’s no longer fulfilling. The Church reacts against this by preaching the importance of sacrifice and commitment in raising children. But sometimes a church can overdo this emphasis and subtly imply that being married and raising children is the only way to be a “whole person.” Several sad idols are erected: First, if we’re not married, we’re not “fulfilled.” Second, marriage is better than singleness, so married people are automatically more mature than single people. Third, having a strong family becomes more important than have a strong relationship with Jesus.

    We desire to advance the kingdom of Christ. It is critically important to train up our children in the Lord, by teaching them the Bible, instilling Godly habits, etc. But even here, with this distinctly Christian desire, an idol can set in, when our love for our children or our own self-image is based on their godliness, their performance. We call our children to maturity and discipline them for their growth, but they are first of all souls that need our love. Oh how quickly your child can tell the difference between trained like a soldier and being loved like a son or daughter!

    Those are my thoughts. I can’t claim the infallibility of the Bible; these are just my observations. Can you think of other reasons? Feel free to comment.

    WedWednesdayJunJune17th2015 Gospel Wakefulness
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Gospel Sermons 0 comments Add comment

    I don’t remember what the class was, but I remember the setting very clearly (although it was nearly 18 years ago). It was a large lecture hall of 300 people. The lights were dim and the overhead projector fan (that’s right, transparency sheets and all) was blowing.

    My college habits didn’t include sufficient hours of sleep. I mean, who sleeps in college, right? So, there I was, listening to the eternal lecture of boredom multiplied ad infinitum. If you sat next to me, you would have seen my eyes slowly falling closed like a distant sunset. The funny thing was, my hand kept writing on my blank sheet of paper as I took notes. But, what started out as words slowly, then rapidly, turned into a scribbled line that eventually went off the page. Startled, I jerked back awake…at least for a few minutes until the next episode of sleepiness settled in.

    It’s a humorous story, isn’t it? But that same boredom and fatigue can creep into our lives as it relates to the gospel. “I’ve heard this before.” “Haven’t I graduated from this?” “Give me the meat of spiritual disciplines.” And so the gospel gets put in to the closet like an old shirt no longer desirable because, hey, I have more exciting clothes to choose from now.

    Enter chaos. Enter confusion. Such things come when we disconnect from the gospel and its truths that impact every part of every day of all of life.

    If the gospel were a lecture hall, would there be scribbled ink on your page or a wealth of attentive writing, full of interest, excitement, and focus? I believe the choice is ours every minute of every day. How I react to, look to, and focus on the gospel is my decision. And the reward of gospel wakefulness is significant.

    The idea of gospel wakefulness comes from the title of a book by Jared Wilson. I’ve had it on my shelf (actually, my electronic shelf of e-books) for some time. And while the author seems to use the term in a slightly different way than I will, the foundation is the same. The Christian must be attentive to the gospel with joy and delight as he treasures Christ. This impacts all of life in wonderful ways.

    I have the privilege of preaching this Sunday and the week after. On the occasions that I preach, I will be walking through the book of Galatians. And the intent is to see a stirring in my own heart, and your heart, toward gospel wakefulness.

    Paul gives attention to plenty of things in this letter. But his primary focus is to call the churches of Galatia to a gospel attentiveness and alignment. Somewhere along the way in their Christian life, these Christians had been knocked off their horses with lies of an insufficient Jesus. I believe we Christians today face these same lies. Lies that suggest faith in Jesus was a good start, but we need more, more that we ourselves can and should contribute.

    I look forward to how God will use Galatians to waken us to the truths of the one and only Jesus Christ, who alone saves us and leads us in all of life.

    Please join me this Sunday.

    WedWednesdayJunJune10th2015 Why Some Miracles Don't Happen
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Faith Miracles Prayer 2 comments Add comment

    I hope you’re still chewing on this sentence that came out of our study of Acts 5:12-16 this past Sunday morning: “God answers big prayers for the growth of the church and the good of the world.” This is the faith-fueling truth that we gleaned from witnessing God’s miraculous healing power at work in the early church.

    But let’s be honest: we all have a list of prayers that God seems not to have answered. We know from first-hand experience that miracles don’t always happen. So how do we reconcile that reality with the idea that God answers big prayers?

    Let me take a moment to share a few different reasons that might explain why an earnestly-prayed-for miracle doesn’t happen. If you’re praying hard for the healing that hasn’t come or the reconciliation that remains elusive or the help that hasn’t arrived, then consider the following list of possible reasons why God may not be giving you what you’re asking for:

    1. Because it wouldn’t serve the church or the world. This was a vital point of the passage we looked at Sunday: miracles aren’t an end in themselves. They’re meant to build the church and bless the world. Perhaps the miracle you’re praying for wouldn’t accomplish this goal.

    2. Because God has bigger plans. From time to time, my kids ask for a snack while my wife is in the process of preparing dinner. In those instances, we inevitably tell them “no,” not because we don’t want them to enjoy something to eat, but because something much bigger than a snack is on the way. Perhaps you’re asking God for a snack, when unbeknownst to you, he’s cooking you a lavish dinner.

    3. Because it isn’t the right time. I’ve been taught my whole life that God answers prayers in three different ways: yes, no, and not now. The problem is that we’re impatient, and when God tells us, “Not now,” we have a tendency to take it as, “No way!” But maybe God is simply asking you to wait while he prepares to answer in his own time.

    4. Because we need to learn. I love what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, regarding his thorn in the flesh: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” What is God trying to say to you? Often he teaches us things through the word “no” that we could never learn from the word “yes.”

    5. Because we are asking selfishly. In James 4:3, we are told, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Looking back, I can think of many times when I have prayed sincerely for something that I wanted greedily for myself. If you’re in the same boat, it’s an act of grace that God doesn’t grant those requests.

    6. Because our faith is too small. It would be wrong to always jump to this as the reason for unanswered prayer, but it would be equally wrong to dismiss it altogether. After all Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Matt. 21:22). When we ask with hearts of doubt (see James 1:5-8), we undermine our own prayers.

    7. Because…well, God knows. Let’s face it. Sometimes there’s not a neat, convenient reason—at least not that we know about. At the end of the day, God’s mysterious ways are just that: mysterious. And while we’d love to have all the answers, we simply don’t. In those instances, we do well to be still and trust that our sovereign and loving Lord is eternally committed to his glory and our good. 

    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 GoThereFor.com.

    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!

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