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    Elders' Blog - Entries from March 2016

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    ThuThursdayMarMarch31st2016 Statement of Faith Update
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Current Events Doctrine 0 comments Add comment

    It has been roughly nine months since the Supreme Court voted to make same-sex marriage the law of the land in the United States. Since then, we have been working to take necessary measures as a church to clarify our position, update our policies, and learn how to take a biblical stance in a world that increasingly sees things differently than we do.

    We realize, however, that some of you who are newer members of our church family may not have been around nine months ago, and therefore you may not have the whole picture of this lengthy process. Furthermore, we realize that due to any number of reasons, there may be some of you who have missed crucial announcements along the way. And even if neither of those applies to you, we hope you appreciate this refresher as we look forward to an important time of interaction this Sunday evening at Family Gathering, where we will review the Statement of Faith in detail and answer any further questions you have.

    We opened up the conversation on July 1 of last year with an Elder Blog post entitled “Five Timely Affirmations.” In that article, we tried to set the stage for the church’s next steps. On the one hand, we wanted to grow in our love for those in our community and our families whose convictions about sexuality and marriage differ from our own. But on the other hand, we wanted to re-affirm our longstanding commitment to a biblical definition of marriage that is not swayed by public opinion or the decision of human courts.

    From there, the elders went to work and began diving into our Statement of Faith in order to determine if (and how) it needed to be enhanced or clarified. Dan Dillon and Mikel Berger got the ball rolling with some important research, putting in lengthy hours and significant energy behind the scenes. As a team we then took the fruits of their labor and began to wrestle through questions like what to include, what to leave out, and whether or not this word was better than that word. Once we had a good rough draft, we took it to a few trusted people for their reactions and feedback.

    Meanwhile, we also sought to grow as leaders in our understanding of the larger issues. A key way we did this was by taking a few months to work through a helpful book that challenged us, provoked us, and helped us grow as shepherds of the local church. In clarifying our theological positions, we also wanted to learn how to engage those whom our positions would affect.

    All of this culminated in the first Family Gathering of 2016, at which time we distributed the proposed changes to the Statement of Faith. We had limited opportunity to interact at that point, but this was a chance for the congregation to see what we were proposing and begin processing it.

    The next step in the process was to establish a larger context for the proposed changes. Recognizing that this isn’t simply an abstract issue, we set aside two Connection Hours at the beginning of March to talk about how we can avoid unhealthy postures of hatred or fear in the face of a shifting culture. The first week we talked primarily about how we needed to approach the world outside the church. The second week we shifted our focus to attitudes and actions we needed to cultivate within the church. Our goal was to equip the church family to move forward with both truth and love.

    All of this has brought us to the point where we are ready to return to the Statement of Faith with a view toward a vote. In light of that, we’ll be setting aside some time this Sunday evening at Family Gathering to walk through the proposed changes one more time, explain the biblical reasons behind them, and field questions from the congregation. The hope is that this time of interaction will move us closer to being able to finalize the proposal and schedule a time for the church to vote, with a target of the May Family Gathering.

    Please make it a point to join us for this important discussion, and bring any questions you may have about the changes that are being proposed. More importantly, pray with us for God to help us navigate these changes with wisdom, grace, and conviction. Thank you for walking through this process with us!

    Resources referenced in this article:

    ThuThursdayMarMarch24th2016 Gathering in Grace
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Grace Holidays Worship 0 comments Add comment

    Her pin was very long, a half meter in length, and we all gazed on it in awe any time she brought it out. Her name was Vicki and she was no doubt a model of godliness for the church family I grew up in. She served aggressively, had a sweet demeanor, and it was clear that she loved God.

    The pin she wore was no doubt inspirational. At the center was a white circle with a beautifully etched picture on it. Then, below it, gold-plated bracket after bracket after bracket had been added, forming a long chain from the top. The brackets each represented a year of perfect attendance in church. And Vicki had won the day, and the year, for many years.

    She was a faithful woman for sure and this was but one sign of that.

    But I got it wrong. What I believe was a godly practice on her part translated to an ungodly one on mine. I imitated Vicki, but sinfully so. As a young boy I worked hard for those brackets, and soon looked with pride at my own inspirational (at least to me) pin. I cared less about God and worship and hearing his Word. But I really wanted more brackets.

    I still fight those tendencies. I’m older now, and our church family doesn’t reward any kind of attendance. But I still struggle not to look at any participation in a church event as a score card. It is somewhat humorous to me that, though I did nothing to receive my salvation, I can turn something like church participation in to yet another attempt to perform for God and others.

    God did not save me to attend church. He saved me for a relationship with himself, to be enjoyed and lived with my church family. Sunday morning is a big part of that. But we gather in grace. We don’t gather to earn any points with God.

    This past week, in our Gathering in Grace Connection Hour, we took a look at Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." While not specifically about corporate worship, it has implications for it. Personally and corporately we approach God because of his grace and, in the midst of that gathering, we receive abundant grace. There are no pins or physical rewards for that. It is simply a joy.

    Kari (my wife) and I often hear from our families a desire for us to be with them on Easter Sunday (if only we could clone ourselves!). Somewhere in the conversation we make a statement like this to ourselves: “I can’t imagine spending Easter at any other church than our own.”  

    This Sunday marks a key event in our church calendar – the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Come ready to celebrate the awesome Christ with all the passion, volume, and joy imaginable. But fight the temptation to believe you have somehow earned some points with God for showing up. That would be anti-grace. We gather this Sunday because of his grace, worship him as we are motivated by grace, understand his Word and obey because we are empowered by grace, and then exit with the message of his grace as we scatter.

    No pin is big enough to honor that.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch17th2016 Falling from Grace
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Grace Sin 1 comments Add comment

    An athlete is suspended for taking performance enhancing drugs. A corporate executive is indicted for unethical business dealings. A politician is caught in the midst of an affair.

    If you haven’t heard one of these stories recently, I’m sure you’ve at least heard one a lot like it. The news cycle seems to be dominated by tales of successful, influential people who have stumbled headlong into shocking moral failure. And this isn’t just something that happens “out there.” Even many within the church have made serious mistakes and compromised their reputations. In fact, this phenomenon of moral failure is so common that we have a well-known term for it: we call this sort of thing a “fall from grace.”

    But is it really?

    When we talk about a fall from grace, we’re usually talking about sin. The sin could take a thousand different forms—like consuming greed, blinding pride, or burning lust, just to name a few. But in the end, it’s all sin. As one website defines it, to fall from grace is “to sin and get on the wrong side of God,” or more generally, “to do something wrong and get in trouble with someone other than God.” I might simplify the definition to something more succinct: falling from grace means messing up—big time.

    Or does it?

    In his letter to the Galatians, Paul warns against the possibility of falling from grace. But if we carefully listen to his words, we’ll find that he seems to be talking about something entirely different from what we might expect: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly await the hope of righteousness” (Gal. 5:4-5).

    For most of us, when we talk about falling from grace, we’re thinking of someone with an otherwise impeccable record who tarnishes that record with some sort of serious (and usually very public) sin. But that is in fact the opposite of what Paul is talking about. He’s talking about someone with a decidedly inadequate record who believes that he can improve his record through doing good works and obeying the law. For Paul, falling away from grace isn’t so much about stumbling as it is about climbing.

    Think about this for a minute. In order for grace to be grace, it must be bestowed upon undeserving people, right? The only people who can enjoy the gift of grace are those with absolutely no basis on which to boast or brag of their own moral goodness. After all, if their own moral goodness was so magnificent, they wouldn’t even need grace, would they?

    If this is true, then what it means is that we don’t fall from grace by sinning. We fall from grace by trying to be good as a means of earning our favor with God and others. As Christians, it’s vital that we recognize this difference.

    The tragic reality of our sinful world is that we’re all weak and vulnerable creatures. All it takes is the right temptation at the right time to cause us to come completely undone. I’ve been there before. And I’m sure you have, too.

    But the good news for those of us who have royally messed up recently is this: Even though we have fallen, it is precisely for this reason that God's grace exists. So long as our faith is in Christ alone, we can be comforted in knowing that we haven’t fallen from grace. We’ve fallen into it.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch10th2016 Anticipating Easter Weekend

    What’s good about someone dying?

    I’ll get back to that, but for now, bear with me.

    I’m a very sentimental guy. I remember important dates in my life (often associating them with a song I heard that day…weird, I know) as if it were second nature. For instance, every year I remember the weekend that I met my wife for the first time. I recall weekends of last year’s road trips and triathlon events. I just like to remember such things and allow the emotions associated with those key moments to flood back in.

    I don’t think I’m alone. Every year our culture celebrates birthdays, Christmas, Fourth of July, and anniversaries. Facebook voluntarily offers a window into previous years by pulling up older pictures that were posted. Great friends continue a conversation over coffee with, “Remember when…” and the laughter that follows.

    God made us this way. We capture memories and hold on to the best of them until the day we die. It’s good for the soul.

    This is not only an individual practice. It is also something communities, like our church family, do. In the Old Testament, the Holy One of Israel gave festivals and key moments in the religious calendar. In the New Testament church, we also mark days in the year connected with a memory of what God has done.

    Easter weekend is the pinnacle of our Christian calendar. So much is remembered, and honored, over those few days, and rightly so. Each of us has many memories of celebrating the resurrection event year after year. In that weekend we see the gospel explicitly and our hope is again renewed in the new life offered by the risen Christ.

    We take that very seriously here at Kossuth. We seize several days of that weekend to honor Christ and preach the gospel to ourselves (and to our friends and family who join us).

    So, what’s so good about someone dying? Well, nothing, unless we are talking about Jesus Christ. In his death we are freed and in his resurrection we are raised to new life. That’s why we call it Good Friday. And that’s why such a somber day is redeemed into celebration. Because out of a bloody cross comes forgiveness.

    This year we, as a church family, will celebrate three events on Easter weekend. First, on Thursday, March 24, we will observe an inaugural event in our church, Covenant Thursday (also called Maundy, or Holy Thursday). At 6:00 pm, we will meet upstairs in rroms 205/206 to take of the Lord’s Table, read through relevant Scriptures and sing hymns (a capella style by request).

    Second, on Friday, March 25, we will observe Good Friday at 6:00 pm in the church sanctuary. This will be a time to sing about Jesus and the cross, read through Scripture, and hear from the Word of God.

    Third, on Sunday, March 27, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ during our normal worship service time. There will be no Sunday school or Connection hour, as we want to make it as easy as possible for you to bring your friends, neighbors, and relatives.

    Come to any, or all three, of these opportunities as we remember and celebrate the new covenant ushered in through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch3rd2016 What Is Kossuth's Neighborhood?
    byDan Dillon Tagged Lafayette Neighbors Outreach 1 comments Add comment

    One of the goals of Kossuth’s five-year plan is to “scatter” by increasing our outreach to our neighborhood. But what is our neighborhood? If we don’t know who we’re trying to reach, how can we reach them?

    How about this for a first try? Our Lafayette City Voting District. If you look at "Map 1" to the right, you'll see the voting district with the church building signified by the red cross. The problem, however, is that this area is too big; it stretches all the way from Greenbush Avenue to Brady Lane.

    Perhaps we can narrow the scope by looking at the City of Lafayette’s “neighborhood” designations. You can see some of the nearby neighborhoods in "Map 2." Again, we’re at the red cross. As you can see, according to the City of Lafayette, we’re not even in a neighborhood. How sad! The closest neighborhoods are Columbian Park to the north and South Oakland to the west and south.

    Here's one more idea: Oakland Elementary School District ("Map 3"; we're at the yellow cross). Now this is encouraging: we’re in the district. How many people live there? Here’s my guess, based on Lafayette School Corporation and City of Lafayette information: about 4000 people.

    So, outreach to Oakland Elementary is great idea, because it’s our neighborhood. Or is it our neighborhood?

    How does one define a “neighborhood”? Even simpler, how does one define “neighbor”?

    A lawyer asked Jesus this same question. Jesus told him a story (Luke 10:30-37): A man was walking from Jericho to Jerusalem. He’s definitely out of his neighborhood. He gets robbed and left for dead. A priest and a Levite, perhaps coming the neighborhood, perhaps from far away, pass him by. A Samaritan – definitely far from any of these people’s neighborhoods – helps him. The one who shows mercy is the neighbor.

    So our neighbors are whoever God puts in front us. Some people we meet routinely: the person next door, the co-worker, the soccer coach. Some we see only every so often: the car mechanic, the storekeeper, the vet. But none of them are truly our neighbor until we show them mercy.

    Back to Oakland: Is it our neighborhood? It’s certainly the neighborhood of the KSBC building. Our location on Kossuth Street provides a great platform to reach many people. But if we take Jesus at his word, our neighborhood is much, much larger than the area near the church building. At a practical level, it probably is the entire county, and then some. But none of it will be our neighborhood unless we show mercy.

    And even though we're not technically part of a formal neighborhood association, we have an opportunity to create our own neighborhood. And we create that neighborhood by showing mercy. Wouldn’t it be great if 30 years from now, people talked about growing up in the KSBC neighborhood?

    Back to Oakland again: What a great opportunity to show mercy! So it is with Matrix Lifecare Pregnancy Centers and the Excel Center. I’m sure our neighborhood outreach team will be coming up with more ideas. These are the programs that the church leadership has decided to invest in, but if you have other ideas, go for it: a good church is more than the programs that the leaders have set up.

    Here’s one idea I heard about just last weekend. A young couple with children is planning to move closer to the church so that they can minister in the neighborhood. He’s a young professional with a bright future. They could easily have decided to move “up”, but instead they are moving sideways, seeking His kingdom instead of the world’s. I’m sure it will be difficult, but it is my prayer that it will be a joy and bear fruit. If you want to pray for them, their names are Drew and Elizabeth Humphrey.

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