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    Elders' Blog - Entries from November 2016

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    WedWednesdayNovNovember30th2016 Four Stories, One Savior

    On my bookshelves, I have a paperback volume by Alan Jacobs titled The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis. It’s a terrific biography of one of my favorite people. It’s informative, insightful, and well-written. For the person who wants to know more about C.S. Lewis and why he was such an important figure, this book is a helpful resource.

    But I also have another book on my shelves about the same man. It’s by a man named Terry Glaspey titled C.S. Lewis: His Life & Thought. This particular volume is quite a bit shorter than the Jacobs book and not as in-depth, but nevertheless it provides a window into the forces that shaped the life of this great thinker—and a window into how this great thinker shaped the lives of others.

    Oh, and then there’s Derick Bingham’s book, A Shiver of Wonder, which tracks the remarkable process that transformed C.S. Lewis from an intellectual atheist to one of the most prolific Christian authors of all time. Bingham’s book helps us see what C.S. Lewis saw, and in so doing, it helps us understand how he came to be the man that he was.

    Now here’s a question for you: Why on earth do I need three different biographies of the same person? (And by the way, this doesn’t even count my copy of Surprised by Joy, the book Lewis himself wrote about his own spiritual journey.) Why isn’t one biography enough to satisfy my curiosity about the details of this man’s life?

    The answer to that question has to do with the fact that one biography means one perspective. And one perspective means that although I’ll have access to true facts about the individual, I’ll nevertheless miss out on other facts which are equally true—but only discernable from a different vantage point. When I read multiple biographies about the same person, I’m able to see him from various angles. I’m able to learn from complementary points of view. And in so doing, I’m left with a more comprehensive, nuanced, intricate portrait than I would ever get from only one biography.

    For readers of the Bible, this is an important realization. After all, you may have noticed that your Bible contains four different accounts of the life of Jesus. We call them the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And at first glance, all of that may seem a bit redundant.

    But I believe God was intentional in giving us four different Gospels, written by four different men, who each had four different purposes and used four different styles. The multiplicity of voices gives us a richer insight into who Jesus was. It allows us to behold his glory more fully. And perhaps in no way is that more pronounced than in the ways that these four Gospels present the incarnation.

    This Christmas season at Kossuth, we want to learn from these four different accounts of Jesus’ arrival as we dive into a 4-week sermon series called “Four Stories, One Savior.” I’ll be teaming up with Abraham Cremeens and Will Peycke as we spend a week in each of the Gospel’s accounts of the coming of Christ. Together the three of us will do our best to highlight the unique perspectives and points of emphasis in these four Gospels so that we can grow together in our appreciation for the significance of Jesus’ birth.

    In the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, I hope you’ll make the time to join us each Sunday for these times of worship and study. We look forward to celebrating this season as a church family! 

    WedWednesdayNovNovember16th2016 God's Will for Your Life
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Decisions God's Will Life 2 comments Add comment

    Have you ever wished that you could know God’s will? I know I have.

    For many of us, life can often feel like one big mystery. We don’t know which way to turn or which path to choose. We’re uncertain about the future and how to get there. And although we know God must have a direction he wants us to go, we struggle to figure out what it is. If only we could open the Bible and find the place where it says definitively, “This is the will of God for you.”

    Well, guess what. We can.

    In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” This three-fold exhortation seems pretty mundane, right? For those who have sat through their fair share of sermons and Bible studies, this is nothing earth-shattering or unexpected. But what comes next might throw you for a loop: “For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

    Let that sink in for a moment. The will of God. Clearly stated. In language, we can understand. Preserved for generations in God’s own inspired word.

    You would think that these verses would be underlined in our Bibles. And highlighted. And memorized. And anything else we do with verses. (Made into pretty digital graphics?)

    But be honest: When was the last time you faced a difficult choice in life and made your decision by turning to these verses? “Is it God’s will for me to take this new job or not? Oh, the uncertainty! But wait! Look here! It says in 1 Thessalonians that God’s will for me is to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. Mystery solved! Now I know what to do!”

    I’ve never experienced that scenario, and I doubt many others have either.

    The point is that this statement of God’s will strikes us as a little underwhelming because it doesn’t exactly answer our questions. It doesn’t tell a teenager which college to choose. It doesn’t tell a young lady whether or not she should entertain the romantic overtures of a zealous would-be-suitor. It doesn’t tell a home buyer whether to place an offer on the 4-bedroom house with a small backyard or the cute little ranch out in the country. To find out that God’s will is to rejoice, pray, and give thanks is like watching the series finale of Lost and finding out that very little has actually been resolved. (For the record, I gave up on Lost in season 3, although I have it on good authority that the ending was a huge disappointment.)

    But the problem here isn’t with these verses (obviously). The problem is with what we’re trying to get out of them.

    If you’re like me, the questions you ask about God’s will are mostly “what” questions. What should I do in this situation? What direction should I go? But these verses help us by redirecting our questions altogether. They show us that we’re actually asking the wrong thing.

    You see, God’s will isn’t nearly as concerned with the “what” as it is the “how.” It isn’t nearly as concerned with the destination as it is the journey. It isn’t nearly as concerned with the outcome of our decisions as it is the manner in which we make them.

    So, let’s say you’ve been offered a promotion at work. Should you take it or not? Well, you’ll seek the Bible in vain for a hidden insight into God’s will that will give you that answer. But what you can know is this: God’s will for how you should make the decision is clear. He wants you to rejoice in the position in which you find yourself, to pray fervently as you weigh the options, and to give thanks for God’s provision, regardless of the path you choose. Does this mean you’ll take the job? Who knows. But if you do these things, you can be confident that you’re squarely within the will of God whichever route you go.

    So the next time you’re standing at a fork in the road, consider what you know about “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It’s not about right or left. It’s about how you walk. So walk joyfully. Walk prayerfully. Walk thankfully. And in doing these things you’ll be carrying out God’s will.

    ThuThursdayNovNovember10th2016 The Greater and Perfect Leader

    I stayed up way too late Tuesday night, captivated by the tight race for the white house. I thought on it plenty the next day. As I watched my two boys playing I realized that this election determined the kind of America they will grow up in, the good and the bad.

    I love our country. I think it is a great one to belong to. But it isn’t everything. Even its best elements point us to a greater citizenship we have in Christ. It points us to a greater and perfect Leader, King Jesus.

    Many good comments and articles have already been written during the week and I don’t imagine mine will compare. But here is what is on my heart after this election.

    A Greater Citizenship

    First, while I think we live in a great country, any country serves to point us to a greater and perfect kingdom, the kingdom of God. My citizenship as an American will end one day. But my citizenship in heaven is eternal. It rests on the eternal reign of the King.

    Centuries ago an emperor became very aware of such a truth. Nebuchadnezzar said, “for [God’s] dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation” (Dan. 4:34).

    One day America will cease to exist (see John Piper’s helpful comments here, which stirred my thinking on this point). It wasn’t intended to be an eternal country but rather point to the unending reign of God. My ultimate hope is in his leadership.  

    A Greater Leadership

    Second, our new president (regardless of who would have won) serves to point us to the greater and perfect leader, King Jesus. Where Donald Trump fails, we will be reminded to trust in the current sovereign care of God who works in spite of poor government decisions. We will also long for the day when Christ returns and life in the new creation begins. Where Donald Trump succeeds we will be reminded to give thanks to God and, at the same time, long for something even better to come in the new creation. We cannot put our ultimate hope in any earthly leader, but rather look regularly to Jesus, our perfect Leader. He reigns today and forever.

    A Call to Prayer

    Third, the election is done (a moment of applause for the cessation of all the political commercials!). We now know who will help lead this country in the years ahead. We can now pray for that leader by name. We are commanded to do so. Donald Trump has not hidden his strengths and his weaknesses. And gratefully, we can talk to the greater and perfect Sovereign who rules through him.

    All in all, I am reminded that I belong to a nation that appears as nothing more than a drop from a bucket in God’s eyes. We are small in the grand scheme of things. That doesn’t demean our value, but it does put things in perspective. Our country exists to serve God’s agenda in this world. The years ahead are no less a part of that purpose. Though I enjoy being an American, I’m far more excited to belong to the King who rules over all nations and to be a part of his kingdom advance in this world.

    I don’t know how you feel this week. You may be disappointed or even scared. You may be relieved or even excited. You may fit somewhere in-between. But as a citizen of God’s kingdom, your faith should be as strong as ever, because you belong to the greater and perfect King whose rule never diminishes nor ends. It doesn’t even depend on election results.

    WedWednesdayNovNovember2nd2016 This Time Next Week
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Events Politics 2 comments Add comment

    As I write this sentence, my computer tells me that it’s 8:44am on Wednesday, November 2, 2016. There’s nothing particularly magical about that time or that date (that I know of). But what is significant about it is that in exactly one week from right now, the United States will likely have a new president-elect. After a late night of ballot-counting and exhaustive news coverage, we’ll finally know which states went blue, which states went red, and who will be occupying the White House as our next Commander in Chief.

    By this time next week, some of you will have voted for Donald Trump. Hearing his pledge to appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices and his commitment to growing the American economy and his conservative position on social issues, you’ve become convinced that there’s no other option. He is our nation’s best chance of moving in a positive direction over the course of the next four years. You understand that he has some character flaws and a volatile personality, but it’s a gamble you feel you must make.

    Others of you will have voted for Hillary Clinton. In looking at her commitment to education, her attention to national poverty, or her compassionate stance toward sojourners and refugees, you see a candidate who aligns with your convictions about social justice. Sure, there are a few things you don’t agree with. But given the options, the choice is clear. She is the only candidate with the political experience and the presidential disposition that is required to lead this nation.

    There will also be some of you who will have voted for a third-party candidate. You’ve seen the televised debates, you’ve read the interviews, you’ve researched the positions, and in good conscience you can’t vote for either the Republican or the Democratic candidate. Whether it’s because of alarming questions about their integrity or deep disagreement about where they stand on the issues, you simply can’t cast a vote for either one. Some tell you that you’re wasting your vote, but you believe a convictional stance is never wasted, regardless of how unpopular it is.

    And then there may well be some who will have stayed home on election day. You’ll intentionally avoid the voting booth, not because you’re apathetic or lazy, but because you believe your civic responsibility can best be exercised through protest. By telling the political establishment that you’re tired of seeing less-than-desirable candidates on the ballot, you hope to see change brought to the political process as a whole, thus benefiting the country in the long term.

    One way or another, by this time next week you will have exercised your right to vote. And you likely will have done so differently than someone in your care group, differently than someone in the pew next to you on Sunday, and differently than someone teaching your kids on Wednesday night.

    How do you feel about that?

    People joke all the time about churches splitting over the color of the carpet. And I’m sure this sort of thing has happened. But the much more pressing danger seems to be churches fracturing over more deeply-held (and fiercely-defended) convictions. Like political beliefs. And voting practices.

    We should recognize that in the wake of a contentious election, the church is vulnerable. Division is lurking. And unless we’re prepared for how we’ll interact with people who have voted differently than us (and feel differently about the outcome of the election than we do), we’ll be in big trouble.

    So that’s why I’m inviting you to join us this Sunday evening at 6:00pm for our monthly Family Gathering. If you’ve fallen out of the habit of attending these monthly meetings, this is a great chance to plug back in. We’re going to spend some time praying for the upcoming election, and I’m looking forward to teaching on how we should think about this election in such a way as to preserve Christian unity in the wake of political disagreement. The goal is for this to be a practical, relevant, and unifying time.

    Regardless of how you plan to vote, I hope you’ll join us as we learn together how to love our enemies—and those who vote for them.

    UPDATE: The audio from this talk is now available. You can listen to it here.
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