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    Elders' Blog - Entries from February 2016

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    ThuThursdayFebFebruary25th2016 Searching for Greatness

    Suppose for a moment that you’re an advertising executive, and your job is to come up with a campaign to market video game products. Your target audience is made up mostly of adolescent or young adult males, and your objective is to convince them to spend significant amounts of their (or their parents’) money on your products. So here’s the question: What’s your plan? How are you going to hook them?

    The obvious answer would probably be to appeal to their hormones; grab a supermodel and make her the spokesperson for your product. Or perhaps you’d infuse some peer pressure; make the audience believe that all the cool kids are already buying your product, and if they want to fit in, they need to buy it, too.

    But a few years ago, Sony took an entirely different angle when it came time to launch their anticipated PlayStation 4. Instead of selling it with sensuality or coolness, they took the surprising route of advertising their new gaming console with the memorable tag line, “Greatness Awaits.” In a popular 2013 TV commercial, the viewer was asked, “Who are you to be anonymous—you, whose name should be spoken in reverent tones or in terrified whispers? And who are you to deny greatness? If you would deny it to yourself, you deny it to the entire world. And we will not be denied!”

    Now I’m not a marketing guru, but I recognize compelling advertising when I see it. And this is some dramatic and appealing stuff!

    Yet in spite of its emotional force, I can’t help but notice the profound irony at work here. Keep in mind that the product in question is one which empowers its users to do nothing more than sit in dark rooms in front of bright screens, pressing little plastic buttons with their thumbs as they guide imaginary characters to pursue imaginary achievements within imaginary worlds. And while there's certainly nothing wrong with some recreational video gaming every now and then, that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about selling a lifestyle of sedentary non-productivity by—of all things—the promise of greatness.

    It’s a curious formula. And yet it strikes a chord—and not just with young, gaming-addicted males.

    See, to one degree or another we all crave greatness. We long to do something remarkable and leave behind a legacy. We know our time here is short, and we want to make as big of a splash as we can while we still have the time. We’ll do anything to escape the curse of anonymity.

    And yet the PlayStation advertising campaign helps us see that as eager as we are to find greatness, we’re woefully misguided about where such greatness can be found.

    I suppose in many ways we’re not unlike the disciples, who came to Jesus asking about which of them would have the honor of sitting next to him in his glory. Jesus, however, cut right to the point: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43). He doesn’t rebuke their desire to attain greatness; he rebukes their desired method of achieving it.

    Do you want to be great? If so, you’ll never get there by climbing over others—whether in your career, your home, your social circles, or your video games. Instead, you’ll get there in the same way Jesus did—through servanthood, sacrifice, and humility.

    When you take a meal to a family in need, or loan a car to your neighbor, or tackle a project at work without being asked, the world may not stop and throw you a parade. But be assured of this: you’re closer to greatness than any self-centered celebrity or power-drunk corporate executive (or bleary-eyed video gamer) will ever be.

    Greatness truly does await us. But only if we know where to look. 

    WedWednesdayFebFebruary17th2016 The Songs We Sing

    George Matheson became aware of the harsh reality that he was going blind. Imagine, something as precious as sight, which we take for granted every minute of every day, being taken away from you. Everything would change for him.

    Add to this that his fiancé broke off the engagement, having determined that she did not want to be married to a blind man. Ouch. Losing your sight is one tragedy to face. Losing your fiancé because you are losing your sight is a whole new realm of difficulty.

    But God provided through Matheson’s sister, a woman who determined to love her brother by caring for him. Soon enough, however, another harsh reality came on the scene. Matheson’s sister found happiness in an upcoming marriage and he was forced again to think about life alone as a blind man. It was in the midst of this last event that he penned a most wonderful hymn, O Love that will not Let Me Go. The first verse goes,

    O Love that will not let me go, 
    I rest my weary soul in thee; 
    I give thee back the life I owe, 
    That in thine ocean depths its flow 
    May richer, fuller be.

    We as a church love to sing and listen to hymns and various kinds of Christian songs because we relate to the words. The best of these songs emerge from real life stories. They are not contrived out of apathy and ignorance, but out of the realities of raw life. Some birth out of mountain top experiences, and others, like this hymn, come out of pain and sorrow. Regardless, they span the tides of real life and help us express what we may struggle to put into words.

    Hymns and songs come from, and even tell, a story. Did you know that William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) struggled with major bouts of depression and attempted to end his life on three occasions? And yet hymns like There is a Fountain (a personal favorite hymn of mine) came from his heart and mind. Did you know that he was good friends with John Newton and that, together, they wrote a hymnal from which Amazing Grace was born? I think the best songs continue through the generations because we relate to them and our story joins with theirs. They mean something to us. They help us express what we value most. They are timeless.

    At Kossuth we value a variety of genres when it comes to corporate worship and singing. Included on this list is an appreciation of hymns, old and new. One ministry that has helped us sync with these values is Indelible Grace. This ministry seeks to keep the best hymns ever penned alive for our generation by revamping the melody and music behind the rich words.

    We are so glad to host again Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace. Please join us on April 21 for what will be an incredible evening together. Come at 4:45 p.m. for a dinner and seminar with Matthew Smith, followed by a concert at 7:00 p.m. The evening will conclude with a dessert reception. Find more information and register at

    To help you prepare for this event, we are providing two playlists on YouTube. A general playlist of many of their songs already exists, but we have also made a playlist of their songs we currently sing at Kossuth. Check them out, sing along, and we'll see you there!

    ThuThursdayFebFebruary11th2016 Hopelessness and Faithfulness

    Have you ever had a situation in your life where it seemed that God would never answer your prayers? A situation that looked like it would never work out in the way that would seem best?

    Some marriage relationships crumble and head for divorce. Some families suffer under a mountain of debt that will take decades to repay. Some individuals grieve through years of loneliness after a failed relationship or the death of loved ones. Some people are afflicted by chronic illnesses that even the most modern medical advances seem unable to help. 

    Many of you are asking, what did I sign up for? What did God get me into?

    But my question for you is, will you be faithful to God even when your situation seems hopeless?

    Lately I’ve been reading a lot about Moses -- and learning a lot from Moses. 

    In Numbers 20:12 God told Moses and his brother Aaron that because they did not believe in God and did not uphold him to his people, they would not be allowed into the promised land. There was literally no hope for Moses to see the rewards of his years of suffering and service to God in the wilderness.

    So what did Moses do? Did he quit it all? Did he curse God?

    No. Moses remained faithful to God and to God’s people. In Deuteronomy 1:8 we see Moses telling Israel that they are to take the land that God has promised them. Moses was being a faithful mouthpiece and servant of God, even in the face of what certainly had to be deep personal disappointment and longing. In Deuteronomy 33:1 we see Moses at the very end of his life blessing the people of Israel by reminding them of the goodness and faithfulness of God.

    Will you do the same? Will you be faithful to God even when your situation seems hopeless?

    It will be hard but I believe that we can. Not because we can somehow muster the strength internally. But because the very God that is not removing the difficult situation is the same God who loves, sustains, and provides for us amidst those difficult situations. 

    Moses’ hope was not in the promised land. Moses’ hope was in the God who made the promise. So when the promised land was no longer an option for him, Moses could still remain faithful to God. Will you do the same? In the midst of those hopeless situations, remember there’s a God who loves you and can use those hopeless situations to make you more like his Son. That’s where our hope lies!

    ThuThursdayFebFebruary4th2016 3 Myths of Christian Voting

    With the state primaries now under way, the 2016 U.S. presidential race is officially in full swing. The candidates have been raising money, traveling the country, explaining their positions on the key issues, and trying to garner as much support as they can. Now, it’s time for the voters to respond.

    Here in Indiana, our turn doesn’t arrive until May. Still, I imagine most of us are already beginning to feel pretty invested. (It’s hard not to if you read the newspaper, watch television, or log into Facebook!) So before we get too much further in this election process, I thought it might be beneficial to address some of the popular myths many Christians seem to buy into at a time like this. There are plenty we could talk about, but for now I’ll just identify three.

    Myth #1: All Christians should vote the same.

    As a kid I remember being uncomfortable around friends who claimed to be Christians and Indiana Hoosier basketball fans. It sounds silly, but I saw it as a genuine sign of spiritual blindness to support the (Bob) Knight of Darkness and his cream-and-crimson minions. Only later did I realize that it’s okay to be diametrically opposed to someone’s choice of favorite college basketball team while still maintaining deep and meaningful Christian unity with that person.

    Now I’ll readily grant that political convictions are weightier and more substantial than sports preferences, so the analogy has its weaknesses. But in many ways, our differences in the voting booth should be viewed with the same attitude. You may lean toward one candidate, and someone in your care group may prefer a different one. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that one of you is on the straight-and-narrow, and the other has completely renounced the faith. A mature Christian recognizes this and gives his brothers and sisters freedom to vote differently than he does.

    Myth #2: Party allegiance trumps biblical conviction.

    From my vantage point, it’s not wrong to identify with a certain political party. But when that party’s platform begins to carry more weight in your political decision-making than the teaching of Scripture, there’s a problem.

    The fact of the matter is that neither of the major political parties in our nation is inerrant. Yet too often, Christians are too blinded by political allegiance to notice this. Don’t assume that just because a candidate has your preferred letter after his or her name that he or she must be the best choice. Do your homework, assess all the issues, and don’t be afraid to step across the aisle from time to time.

    Myth #3: The best Christian is the best candidate.

    It’s a wonderful thing to live in a country where many of the candidates for the highest offices of our land profess to be followers of Jesus. That is a blessing, especially when contrasted with many other countries where government leaders are hostile toward our faith.

    Nevertheless, it is dangerous to fall into the trap of voting for a candidate just because he or she shares our love for Jesus Christ. One’s commitment to the gospel is not a measure of one’s capacity for national leadership. There are plenty of godly people who would be very bad presidents, just like there are plenty of godly people who would be bad mechanics or doctors or engineers. As Christians, we should vote for the person who will govern with wisdom, skill, and prudence, even if that’s not the person we’d want to have as a Sunday school teacher.

    As you buckle in for the coming months of political discussions and decisions, keep these things in mind. But even more importantly, don’t lose sight of that which is emphatically not  a myth: the fact that as Christians we’re called to pray for our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2), honor them (1 Pet. 2:17), and submit to their leadership (Rom. 13:1)—regardless of whether or not we voted for them.

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