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    Elders' Blog - Entries from June 2016

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    ThuThursdayJunJune30th2016 The Joys of Sonship
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Grace Identity Joy 2 comments Add comment

    Junior High was rough for me. I think it was rough for everyone. I remember that I didn’t fit in for a number of reasons, one in particular being that I had bad hair. And no amount of mousse would help, despite the large quantities I dumped on each morning. It was in a perpetual state of bed head, no matter what.

    I tried to compensate through sports, thinking if I could just make the team, then I’d fit in and belong. I tried baseball, but that was a bomb. I couldn’t even hit the ball (my little league experience didn’t prepare me for that fast of a pitch). I tried basketball; again, no dice.

    Eventually I moved on to other things and accepted the fact that I would not fit into the popular crowd. Looking back, though, I am amazed at the incredible drive I had to simply fit in and belong to a group.

    While I recognize that such a tendency still exists inside of me (and I think for most people), I am grateful for a deeper and better understanding that I have today by God’s grace.

    The truth is that my identity doesn’t come from my ability, or inability, to do anything. It doesn’t even have anything to do with my hair, all mousse aside (do people even use mousse anymore?). It comes from what God has done in me and for me.

    Lately, my thoughts have been dwelling on the fact that I am an adopted son of God. This is remarkable because in other parts of Scripture, I was described as an enemy to God. What a wonderful love God must have to make an enemy a son. I, who was once hostile toward God, am now an endeared son. This is a secured relationship. It didn’t begin based on what I do. It isn’t maintained by what I do. It is solely based on the fact that God himself determined to adopt me and to keep me, no matter what.

    Please allow me to unpack a few things related to this. Though not directly related to sonship, John 17:23 impacts our understanding. In Jesus’ prayer, he says that the Father loves us just as he loved Jesus. The depth of love the Father has for Jesus the Son is extreme. And yet, as an adopted son, God expresses that same level of love to you and me.

    Further, in Galatians 3:26, God tells us through Paul that though we were “held captive under the law,” we are now all sons of God. He took us out of captivity to our own sin, removing us from slavery to sonship. Please don’t overlook the emotional intensity of such a thought. God moved us from being a slave to a son, from captive to free. That is something to celebrate every day.

    Last, in Galatians 4:1-7, as sons we are given the Spirit, God himself. God lives in us, changing us and guiding us, helping us and transforming us. Connected to that is the fact that we also receive an inheritance as adopted sons. If you thought the delights of this world were good, just wait until you experience the full joys of sonship which will be completely realized in the new creation.

    You can rest today. You can live in peace today. You can experience joy today, because your identity is found not in yourself, but in what God has done. Live in the joy of sonship.

     

    WedWednesdayJunJune22nd2016 Planting Roots in a Restless World
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Change Community 1 comments Add comment

    As a sports fan, I should know better. But at the end of every season, I’m always surprised at how quickly the pundits start talking about offseason changes.

    Just this week, the NBA season wrapped up as the Cleveland Cavaliers won an improbable championship, and the very next morning, I found myself reading about all the projected shake-ups that we could expect in the coming months. This player will be a free agent. That player will go looking for a higher salary. Other players will be traded. At the end of every season, movement is the name of the game. No team’s roster ever looks the same from one season to the next. And if your favorite player is the one headed to a new team, well that’s just too bad.

    Love it or hate it, this perpetual transience in sports is simply a reflection of a broader cultural restlessness that influences all of us. In olden days (so I’m told), it was typical for someone to grow up, get an education, raise a family, work a career, and retire—all in the same town. Those days are long gone. In fact, statistics suggest that the average American will move twelve times during his or her lifetime. And whereas it used to be normal for a worker to stay with a single job for two or three decades, most Americans now will have moved on to new positions within four or five years.

    We seem to be continually in flux. And it raises an interesting question for those of us who follow Jesus: How can the church maintain a sense of community in a world where everything is in constant motion?

    The Bible repeatedly calls God’s people to be champions of love and commitment. We’re not just passing strangers. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ. And given that familial bond, there’s an expectation that the quality of our relationships will be of a certain depth—a depth that likely won’t be attained by simply waving at each other as we scurry along in a hundred different directions.

    In a culture defined by transience and change, the church needs people who will consciously—and often sacrificially—plant roots. While the church must never lose sight of its role as a sending community commissioned to launch people all over the globe for maximum kingdom impact, the reality is that we still need people who will dig in, make a commitment, and give themselves to the slow but significant labor of building a Christ-shaped community right where they are.

    So if you’re one of those people, how exactly do you do that? Let me suggest a few quick ideas:

    1. Plant geographical roots. I realize that there are all sorts of valid factors that can necessitate a move from one town to another. But what if the church as a whole became a community of people marked by the counter-cultural desire to stay put? What if we settled in and really invested into our neighborhoods and our city over the long haul? Imagine the possibilities of such radical commitment!

    2. Plant vocational roots. For some, it might not be realistic to live in the same city for a long time. But perhaps you can still plant deep roots in the workplace. While most people are jumping from one job to the next, Christians could be people known for their resilience and commitment in their careers. Even if your job takes you to another city, you can have a big impact through faithfully serving your employer and your colleagues.

    3. Plant relational roots. Let’s be honest; some change is inevitable. It simply may not be possible to stay in the same city or the same job for your whole life. But even if God moves you, don’t use a change in location as an excuse to start over relationally. Continue to encourage and pray for the believers from previous chapters of your life. Continue to invest in and show love toward the unbelievers. Be an enduring friend, regardless of where you’re living.

    From my vantage point, the world is only going to get more transient. But that doesn’t mean we need to be swept away into a disembodied Christian existence.

    The church has no offseason, no free agency, and no trade clauses. So unless (or until) God directs us elsewhere, let’s plant roots in whatever soil we can find, building up communities that are strong enough to withstand change, faithful enough to make a difference, and long-lasting enough to have stories to tell.

    ThuThursdayJunJune16th2016 Women of Kossuth
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Church Womanhood 0 comments Add comment

    I recently received an email from someone in our community asking for our church’s stance on women in leadership. She was direct in where she stood, which I appreciated. I shared that, according to our Statement of Faith, we hold that certain offices and teaching positions are reserved for men. I invited her into a conversation that would allow me to share all the ways we equip, empower, and love (and are benefited by) women in our church. Although I was not given the opportunity, I decided to use that exchange as an excuse to brag on the women of Kossuth for a while. In fact, I’d like to address our women specifically. Men, feel free to listen in, but this is a thank you to our ladies, both young and old.

    First, thank you for being the women that you are. There is a quality and spiritual maturity that you bring to this church family (and our city) that is so encouraging. You know God and his will for your life and you are active in pursuing him. I genuinely respect your convictions and knowledge of God’s Word.

    Second, thank you for the ways you serve others around you. You love people. Care and concern come out of you naturally. Rather than being apathetic, you are sympathetic. And that sympathy and care leads you to action. I am aware that often prayer requests and needs are expressed on the women’s Facebook page and that those needs are consistently met. You get each other’s back and make sure no one is left behind.

    Third, thank you for all the ways you effectively help others grow spiritually. I can think of several who are mentoring and discipling other women, formally and informally. You sacrifice your free time to make an eternal investment in others. I can think of recent testimonies from younger and older ladies in our church that have brought tremendous glory to God and expressed a faith worthy to imitate. Thank you to our women’s ministry leadership team and the gifted women who teach. Thank you to those who organize our nursery and children’s ministry teams, and to those who serve on them. Thank you for your involvement in worship ministries, outreach to our city, and welcoming guests on Sunday morning. Thank you for how you love your neighbors and co-workers in ways that we never get to see. The list is too long to include everyone and all areas of impact. But know that we are grateful for all of it.

    Thank you for the helpful ways you influence leadership again and again. As an elder, I can honestly and genuinely say that I am grateful for the many ways you make this church great through your influence of leadership decisions. This is not to mention how grateful I am for how much you pray for leadership at Kossuth.

    Women of Kossuth, this church is better because of you. Women of Kossuth, the kingdom is advancing more aggressively because of you. Women of Kossuth, thank you for being the women you are and for the ways you love God and people.

    Reader, I make one request. By the time many of you read this, nearly twenty Kossuth women will be at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference in Indianapolis (June 16-18). Please pray for our women who are attending. And let that springboard into further prayer for our women in general.

    ThuThursdayJunJune9th2016 The Other Side of Pastoring
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Joy Leaders 0 comments Add comment

    If you were able to be a part of the gathering this past Sunday, I hope the sermon served to deepen your gratitude for the men that serve our church as pastors. The task that God has set before them is a daunting one, and it is often accompanied by tremendous sacrifice. As Brian Croft has provocatively said, “If you want to be a pastor but aren’t willing to suffer, do something else.”

    But lest you think that being a pastor is all misery and pain, I think it’s worth taking a moment to consider the other side of pastoring. The sacrificial nature of church leadership is an undeniable reality, but it’s not the whole story.

    When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Ephesus (the same church whose elders he addressed in Acts 20), he spoke of how thankful he was for the believers there and the privilege of ministering among them (Eph. 1:16, 3:7-13). When he wrote to the Philippians, he spoke even more openly of his joy-filled gratitude for them, addressing them as “my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown” (Phil. 1:3-4, 4:1). In the book of Colossians, Paul doesn’t hide his suffering, but he’s able to say in the midst of it, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Col. 1:24).

    The apostle Paul certainly didn’t have it easy. In his ministry, he faced physical harm, emotional heartbreak, and spiritual opposition. But in reading his letters, one gets the sense that he truly enjoyed the calling God had given to him.

    This is true of the pastors at Kossuth as well.

    It would be a mistake to think that our pastoring is all fun and games, all the time. But it would be no less of a mistake to assume that it therefore is a dismal job that we reluctantly and begrudgingly fulfill. I polled the other elders, and here are a few of the highlights we collectively came up with that make shepherding the saints of Kossuth Street Baptist Church such a delight:

    • Having a front-row seat to God’s work of transforming lives all throughout the church body.
    • Seeing how people with their own burdens selflessly initiate ministry to others who are in need.
    • Interacting with new people coming into the church family.
    • Hearing of how God’s grace has been bestowed in different ways to different people at different points in their lives.
    • Being part of the launch, strengthening, and revitalization of marriages.
    • Watching people respond to the preaching and teaching of God’s word in concrete ways.
    • Having a chance to be near to those who are walking through tough times.
    • Regularly praying for people (and with them).
    • Helping people find opportunities to exercise their spiritual gifts for the advance of the gospel.
    • Studying, learning, and growing in our understanding of biblical truth.
    • Spending time together as a pastoral team.

    In Hebrews 13:17, the church is exhorted to make sure that its leaders carry out their calling “with joy and not with groaning.” The reason for this is that gloomy, downcast leaders are of no value to the church. Joy-filled shepherds bless the flock.

    We’re not perfect leaders by any means, and from time to time the temptation to “groan” can be strong. But as elders, we’re thankful to serve a gathering of godly people who make pastoring such a tremendous joy. Despite its challenges, the pastoral calling is one we delight in. By God’s grace, we’ll be faithful to sacrifice for the flock. But by his grace, we’ll do so with joy and gratitude, embracing the privilege of being your pastors.

    FriFridayJunJune3rd2016 Orphans and Widows
    byMikel Berger Tagged Justice Love 0 comments Add comment


    A.T. is a 7th grader. He was born in South Africa. He enjoys reading and studying math in school.

    K.B. is in her 70s. She was born in northern Indiana. She enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, traveling, and baking.

    A.T. and K.B. don’t appear to have a lot in common. But they share at least one thing. They are both referred to in James 1:27

    Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27 ESV)

    You see, A.T. is an orphan and K.B. is a widow.

    Why would James combine orphans and widows together like this? I’ve studied and reflected on this verse and some related ones recently (Deu. 10:18, Isa. 1:17, and Jer. 7:5-7). Orphans and widows certainly aren’t the only ones in affliction. Why are followers of Christ told to visit them specifically?

    Some interpret this passage by explaining that orphans and widows are simply examples of anyone that is vulnerable and in trouble. Christians certainly can put the word of God that they hear into practice by showing mercy to anyone that is in need that comes across their path (Luke 10:37).

    However, there seems to be an extra level of effort that is worth making for widows and orphans. We’re supposed to make a visit to the orphan and the widow, not just help them out if they happen to be along the road we’re already traveling. But why?

    I believe it is because God has revealed himself as the one that made a special effort to visit those most in need. Jesus made a special visit to come for those that were most vulnerable. The most vulnerable are us, sinners actively in rebellion against him. He emptied himself. He humbled himself to the most humiliating of deaths (Phil. 2:7-8).

    Jesus did that so we might fully be in relationship with God as our father. When were without a heavenly father and passing our days as spiritual orphans, God adopted us into his family as beloved children.

    Jesus came to be our groom. He will care for and protect us. He did it when we were a whoring bride (Ex. 34:15). We weren’t selected to be his bride because we were so beautiful. He made the effort to love the unlovable when we most needed him.

    Privacy laws prevent me from sharing much more about A.T. But I can share a bit more about, K.B. She’s my mother, Karen. I don’t write this post so that you’ll make special visits to care for her. As her son, myself and my family have a special privilege to care for her (1 Tim. 5:3-8). I write this post to share an example of how much higher God’s ways are than our ways (Isa. 55:9).

    Mom, a widow, is making a visit to see many orphans for three months later this year at Bethesda Children’s Village. She’ll be tutoring A.T. and his classmates in math and other subjects. She’ll also just generally get to be grandma to children without regular grandparent figures in their lives.

    I wouldn’t have ever thought that God would use a widow from Indiana to care for orphans in South Africa. But that seems to be what he is doing.

    You might not be called to go tutor at Bethesda for three months. But I challenge you to read the many scriptural commands to care for the fatherless and find some way in which you can.

    Maybe the first step could be to learn a little more about the ministry of Bethesda as a widow makes her visit to some orphans in their affliction. You can do that at their website.

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