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    Elders' Blog - Entries from May 2016

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    ThuThursdayMayMay26th2016 You Can Trust Him
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Faith Trust 0 comments Add comment

    Trust is a big deal. We function in all areas of life in a way that depends on people and things. I’m sitting in a chair right now that I trust will support me (unless that extra cupcake I ate last night does it in). I came to work in my office today, trusting that I still had a job. I wrote a check recently, trusting that I would have the money in my account the day it would be cashed.

    But we can all think of times and seasons where trust was broken. Someone failed us (or we failed them). We trusted something would be the case that turned out to be quite the opposite.

    Trust anchors deep in to our soul and affects everything. We depend on certain things to be true in order to function in this world.

    I believe that is why my trust in God is one of the most valuable matters in my life. Others in this world may let me down. I will let others down. This chair may break one day. But God will never break his word. His promises are sure.

    You can trust him.

    Two passages from Scripture have caught my attention recently. In both instances, not only was God shown to be trustworthy, but benefits came for the one who trusted God.

    First, in Psalm 4:5, David says, “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” The result in the following verses is that the person who trusts the Lord will “have more joy in [their] heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” It says they will experience peace and safety.

    Later, in Psalm 16, David says he put the Lord before him. What was the result? His heart was “glad, and [his] whole being rejoices; [his] flesh also dwells secure.” Later on he speaks of great joy and pleasures forevermore.

    You can trust him. God has a perfect record of being trustworthy. And there is great benefit in choosing to trust him day after day, no matter what our circumstances may be.

    Recall that this is God who spoke all that we see into existence. He was not limited; he simply spoke and whatever he wanted appeared. This is God who parted the sea so his people could walk through on dry land. This is God who cares for the orphan and the widow. This is God who rose from the dead, conquered evil, and shares the spoils of war with his children. Nothing stops his plan or gets in his way. You can trust him.

    For the weary, hang in there. You can trust him. He knows more about your situation than even you do. His view allows him to be aware of the perfect solution and timing. He cares that you are hurting and is going to redeem it in some remarkable way.

    For the self-reliant, surrender. You can trust him. Nothing actually exhausts me more than when I take matters in to my own hands. I wasn’t designed to carry the matters of this life on my own shoulders, alone. I was designed to rest in him and allow him to work in me and through me. If you are shouldering the burdens of life, hand them off to him.

    You can trust him, and it is worth it.

    ThuThursdayMayMay19th2016 Grace and Justice
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Gospel Grace Justice Theology 1 comments Add comment

    Recently I was talking to a friend who expressed his dislike for the Christian belief that someone could theoretically carry out a life of wickedness and crime, come to faith in Jesus at the end of it, and then be forgiven for all the terrible things he had done, no questions asked. According to my friend, this idea seems downright wrong. Nobody should be able to get off the hook that easily. If you’ve been a lousy person, you deserve to suffer for your choices. Plain and simple.

    Now I’ll admit that when I first heard this, I was tempted to give my friend a shallow, cliché answer and brush his concern aside. But after giving the matter some thought, I’ve realized that he’s exactly right. It really is a tragedy of justice for someone’s record of wrongdoing to go completely unpunished. My friend’s concerns were completely justified.

    If we’re honest, we have to admit that there’s something undeniably scandalous about the gospel message in its proclamation that filthy, vile sinners can receive full and free forgiveness. When Paul says in Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, one can’t help but say, “Well, that doesn’t seem right.” Any way you slice it, it’s not the least bit fair that bad people can escape their “badness” so easily.

    All of this leads one to ask, “Where’s the justice in the gospel?”

    If the extent of our gospel is, “God loves you and forgives you,” then I think we have to confess that there is no justice. A God who looks past the horrific wrongdoing of human beings might be many things (benevolent, loving, merciful, kind), but the one thing he most certainly is not is just.

    But there is justice in the gospel, and we find it in this: “God loves you and forgives you, because Jesus paid the penalty in full that your sins deserved.” You see, God does not dish out forgiveness willy-nilly, just because he happens to be in a good mood on a given day. God grants forgiveness solely because in the death of Jesus Christ he has executed the full sentence of judgment merited by our rebellion and wrongdoing. Each and every bad thing we’ve ever done has been decisively condemned and punished at the cross.

    Consider these familiar passages:

    “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

    “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

    “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins… [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Heb. 9:22, 26)

    Scripture teaches that our forgiveness is directly linked to the fact that God, in his perfect justice, has already poured out his wrath for our sins on Jesus. If we receive a pardon, it’s not because God decided our sins weren’t that important; it’s because God decided that he would bear their weight on his own shoulders instead of leaving it on ours. It was this very truth that our brother Abraham reminded us of this past Sunday: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).

    Don’t settle for a one-dimensional view of the gospel that emphasizes grace but overlooks justice. Instead, embrace the wonderful mystery of this tremendous thought: We don’t get “off the hook” for our sins without Jesus first putting himself “on the hook” in our place.

    ThuThursdayMayMay12th2016 Timely and Timeless
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Culture Gospel History Ministry 0 comments Add comment

    Here’s an interesting question: What would the Apostle Paul think if he walked into Kossuth this Sunday? For that matter, what would St. Augustine think—or Martin Luther or Jonathan Edwards or Charles Spurgeon or just about any other Christian who has lived in the 2,000 years of church history before us?

    Without a doubt, these visitors would find many of our corporate practices bizarre. What are the trays of bread and dispensers of hot black beverages doing in the foyer? Why are there large sound-projecting boxes hanging from the ceiling? What’s with the gigantic screen on the wall? Why does everyone wear such funky clothes? And what on earth is a visitor card?

    Our church services may seem natural to us. But for someone who walked in for the first time from another era and another culture, many of our practices would be disorienting. We do things quite differently than they did 1,500 (or even just 15!) years ago. Naturally, this would make a good portion of the Sunday morning experience confusing to someone who wasn’t familiar with our unique expressions of worship.

    Yet in spite of all the cultural and practical differences, I think there would be a sense in which any visitor from another era would feel right at home in a Kossuth worship service. Sure, it might be hard at first to get past the clothes we wear or the musical style we use, but at the heart of every corporate worship service is something that stands the test of time.

    Just imagine the Apostle Paul’s delight when we opened the Scriptures—the same ones that he studied—for our morning reading. Imagine how the soul of St. Augustine would soar when the church family bowed to pray to the same sovereign Father that he had spent countless hours praying to. Imagine the joy of Martin Luther when he heard the church singing great doctrinally-rich hymns like “In Christ Alone.” And imagine the way in which Charles Spurgeon would resonate with a sermon that announced the same gospel he had preached from his own pulpit—even if he was accustomed to doing it more eloquently and skillfully!

    The point is this: Even though our cultural expressions have changed, our message has not. And insofar as we have continued to preach the same powerful gospel and worship the same almighty God and believe the same great doctrines as our spiritual forefathers, we have participated in a faith that is historically rooted and built to endure through the ages.

    As a church, we must always strive to be timely. In other words, we want to communicate in a way that our world understands in its own unique cultural moment. The technical word for this is “contextualization,” and it refers to the need that we all have to speak and act in ways that make sense given our social and historical setting.

    But we must constantly aim to be timeless, as well. And the way to do this is to make sure that the bedrock of our ministry is not some passing trend but the unchangeable gospel of Jesus Christ.

    So what does this look like?

    Timely looks like computerized check-in to keep children safe in Sunday school classes. Timeless looks like teaching those children about how Jesus seeks and saves the lost.

    Timely looks like guitars and keyboards and drum sets on the stage while we sing. Timeless looks like, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

    Timely looks like using your smart phone to look up Scripture references during a sermon. Timeless looks like a church family that delights in the word of God.

    Timely means that we’re always willing to change.  Timeless means that our message never will.

    So what would the Apostle Paul think if he walked into church on Sunday? Well, he’d probably think that we do some really strange things around here. But in spite of that, I hope he’d hear a very old and familiar gospel. May that never change.

    ThuThursdayMayMay5th2016 Honor Your Father and Mother
    byDan Dillon Tagged Aging Honor Parents 0 comments Add comment

    This blog is inspired by a nagging question, a possible answer, and a previous Elder Blog post from Drew.

    Drew’s article reminded us that our culture incessantly tells us, “Younger is better,” yet God praises growing old in the Lord. Drew encourages us, “Your old age will simply provide you with new opportunities to enjoy and declare God’s goodness.”

    But it brought back a question that has nagged me ever since I left my parents’ house: How do we honor these people that are older than us, especially our fathers and mothers? What does it mean to “honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12), especially when you are no longer under their authority?

    Most of what I have heard and read has been along this vein: You honor your father and mother when you obey them. But you do not need to obey them after you have left the house, because you are no longer under their authority.

    That’s about it.

    But how do we honor our parents when we are no longer under their authority? Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Christmas presents are a small start. But “honor your father and your mother” is one of the Ten Commandments. Surely something more is required.

    Here’s a possible answer, from one of my former pastors: The root of the Hebrew word for “honor” is the concept of “heaviness” or “weightiness.” Something heavy, like gold, is more valuable than something light, like wood. To honor someone is to give them more weight, more impact, in your decision-making.

    Let’s see how that plays out:

    • It doesn’t mean that you must always obey your parents’ every request.
    • It doesn't mean that you give your parents greater weight in your decision-making than your spouse or children. Your immediate family members deserve the greater weight.
    • But it does mean that honoring our parents will require us to give them greater weight than other people in our decision-making.

    What was particularly convicting for me was this inference: I should give greater weight to my parents than to my friends and my own hobbies. If someone else looked at my life, would they be convinced that I gave greater weight to my parents than to my friends? That my parents impacted my life more than my friends and hobbies? Ouch.

    I have seen many of you show incredible honor to your parents. Your mother or father is in failing health and you have re-arranged your schedule or changed your house to show them honor. Some of you have moved closer to your parents in anticipation of their advancing age. Others have sought counsel on how to honor parents who are unreasonably demanding or overly critical. Praise God for such selflessness! It is humbling to behold.

    But not all of us face those situations. For the rest of us, let’s learn from their example and consider the challenge of giving greater weight, greater honor to our parents.

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