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    Elders' Blog - Entries from August 2017

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    ThuThursdayAugAugust31st2017 Take, Eat; This is My Body.

    If someone in front you in a cafeteria line reached over, picked up a loaf of bread, handed it to you, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matt 26:26), wouldn’t you think him a bit daft? I suspect two questions would immediately come to your mind: “Does he really believe that the bread really is his body?” and, “Why is he telling me this?”

    Our church teaches when Jesus broke bread with his disciples the night he was betrayed, the bread in his hands was not really his body and when we partake of the bread today at the Lord’s Supper, his body is not present in the bread, actually, really, or spiritually. The bread is a symbol of his body, broken for us.


    As for why Jesus is telling us that the bread is his body, Jesus himself supplies the answer: “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19).


    A third, very practical, question comes to mind: What exactly are we to remember? I can think of two initial answers. First, we are to remember that he died for us. His body was given for us. Second, he is coming again: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:26) A third answer comes to mind but it will take a bit of explanation.


    Look closely at what he said: “This [the bread] is my body… take and eat it [the bread/his body]… Do this [the eating] in remembrance of me.” The eating itself is the remembrance. Of course, we should not just “go through the motions”, as if the eating itself has merit if our minds are elsewhere. But he didn’t say, “Eat something, whatever you want, and think about me.” He called the bread his body and then commanded us to eat it, not anything else, and eat it in remembrance of him, not eat it and remember him. But why would eating bread be a remembrance?


    The answer is right in front us: Eating the bread is a remembrance because the bread is a symbol of Jesus and especially his body broken for us. When we eat the bread, we are eating his body symbolically.” Dare I say that we are pretending to eat his body?


    This “pretending” is important: It’s not child’s play and, as long as everyone understands that we are pretending, it’s not lying. We watch people pretend every time we go to a play or movie. When a couple renews their vows, they are pretending they are getting married for the first time. Hobbyists and historians re-enact great battles or great speeches. The pretending helps strengthen our experience and our thinking. The point is this:  Jesus wants us to think “I am eating his body” when we partake of the bread.


    It’s a symbol, but what a potent symbol! “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) He nourishes us, he strengthens us, he refreshes us, we can’t go a day without him, we enjoy him. All that is symbolized when we eat the bread. Think about these things the next time and each time you partake of the Lord’s Supper: he died for us, he’s coming again, and he is our bread of life!


    Dan has written two previous Elder Blog posts about communion, you can read them here:
    ThuThursdayAugAugust24th2017 Doing Church Without God
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Dependence 0 comments Add comment

    What comes to your mind when you think of the church? Are there any images or analogies that you tend to gravitate toward?

    In his book A Light to the Nations, Michael Goheen suggests a few ways that the average Christian might think of the church in our current cultural climate. Perhaps you can relate to some of these:

    • Church as mall or food court: A variety of programs and services are offered to meet the diverse wants and needs of the congregation.
    • Church as community center: A social context is created where people who share the same beliefs or personal interests can be drawn together.
    • Church as corporation: An emphasis on efficiency and growth drives the congregation to create a brand and market itself for the sake of “profit.”
    • Church as theater: A venue is provided for congregants in which they can sit back and passively enjoy a worship experience built around entertainment.
    • Church as classroom: A comprehensive education in both doctrine and practical living is provided as congregants take on the role of students.
    • Church as hospital or spa: A healing and rejuvenating retreat is offered to those who are wounded or weary from the troubles of the world.
    • Church as motivational seminar: A self-help program is offered to those looking for a weekly pep talk or practical tool kit to navigate the challenges of life.
    • Church as social-service office: A sense of compassion and justice manifests itself in social programs and physical assistance for those in need.
    • Church as campaign headquarters: A political cause is advanced by those who seek to influence the direction of society and push for a more Christianized culture.

    Goheen points out, “Clearly there are many valid activities represented in these images of the church. The church should be teaching, caring for the poor, providing social connections, and so on” (p. 16). But there are a number of problems with these images, as well—among which is the fact that each of them describes the church in such a way that its objectives can be achieved through mere human effort.

    By comparing the church to other man-made institutions, we implicitly suggest that our churchly responsibilities can be perfected and mastered through our own skill and ingenuity. We can create programs and add them to our menu of offerings. We can create marketing strategies and generate growth. We can put on a good show and keep people entertained.

    But although it may bring a certain level of comfort to define the church in a way that lets us be in control, any such view of the church is woefully deficient. The church is a wild sort of thing. It can’t be domesticated and led around by a leash. The more we try to do so, the more we miss the point of the church altogether.

    The church is God’s people on God’s mission, seeking God’s glory and strengthened by God’s power. To reduce the church to a mere social club or theater or food court is to strip it of its very identity. Take God out of the church, and what’s left isn’t a church at all.

    Consider the images we discover in Scripture to describe the church. Many of them clearly point to the fact that we can’t do this on our own. The body of Christ (Rom. 12:5; Col. 1:18) can’t survive without its head. The temple of the living God (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:21) is nothing more than a hollow shell without God’s presence. The new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:15) has no existence apart from the Creator.

    However we envision the church, we need to be careful to do so in a way that prioritizes the indispensable role of our triune God. Corporations and classrooms and community centers are wonderful things. But they can’t come close to capturing the deep sense of dependence that we should feel as members of God’s new covenant community.

    Has your perception of the church pushed God to the margins? If so, let me encourage you to enlarge your vision. Don’t settle for one of the images in the list above. Let your view of the church be so impressively gigantic that you’re left with nothing to say but, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

    ThuThursdayAugAugust17th2017 The Whole Me
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Discipleship Life 0 comments Add comment

    What do you think of when I say the word “whole”? Maybe eating a whole pie comes to mind, or a whole carton of ice cream. Possibly, your thoughts go to money, such as a bill that is due: “I owe the whole amount!”

    Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about that word. It hasn’t been in the context of food or money, but as it relates to all of me, the whole person.

    God made all of us, the whole us. And he is working through the whole that we would become more like Jesus in our entirety.

    Through a series of conversations, someone has brought to my awareness that there are actually eight areas that make up our lives.  You may add or take away from the list, but I present eight:

    • The physical
    • The emotional
    • The mental
    • The spiritual
    • The digital
    • The relational
    • The missional (work, what I do)
    • The cultural (community, its impact on me and my impact on it)

    That’s a long list. I had no idea. I thought I was much simpler than that. As I’ve thought more about it, though, I’ve observed interconnectedness between them all. Sadly, my neglect in one or more areas hinders the areas where I think I’m doing well and, ultimately, impairs the whole me.

    Case in point: You love hearing a particular pastor preach, admire his spiritual maturity, yet he is severely overweight. Something is off. God is transforming him into the image of Christ but he has kept one area off limits.

    Or, a friend of yours is the life of the party, always happy and making the most of everything. You wish you had her humor and optimism. Yet, her walk with God has waned over the last year and she changes the subject every time you bring up how she is doing spiritually. Her emotional formation is on track but she has made her spiritual formation off limits. Something is off.

    God made the whole person. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139.13-14). He is intimately involved in every detail. He cares about the continued formation of every part of us, all eight parts apparently.

    In a season of serious self-evaluation over the last couple of months, I see considerable neglect as it relates to the whole me. I overemphasize some areas while tossing others to the wayside. I devalue some as not important enough. Even if I haven’t said “off limits,” I might as well have since my neglect offers the same detriment.

    I want all of me to be on the table before God, offered completely as a sacrifice to him. I want all of me to be on a formation track, moving forward, onward, and upward as I give it needed attention. God is faithfully making me more like Christ as my years go on. It is something he does. I want him to form me and he is doing so. But I want the whole me to be in his working hands.

    What on the list stands out to you? Is there an area you view as strong in your formation efforts? Is there an area that is weak or neglected, even roped off as “off limits”? Maybe you devalue an area as “not spiritual enough” to give it needed attention. Give it the time. It’s worth it. The whole you is worth it.

    ThuThursdayAugAugust10th2017 You vs. God
    byBill Davis Tagged Dependence Psalms Worship 0 comments Add comment

    Volumes and volumes have been penned on why the Psalms are so essential to our devotional development in the Christian life. They connect in ways that other Scripture doesn’t (not in a superior way, as 2 Tim 3:16 is clear, but still in a rather unique way). The cry of the psalmist can connect to the cry of our soul when we really aren’t sure how to think about God, let alone how to express emotion to him. Sometimes we’re not even sure what those emotions are until the example of the psalmist shows us how to think about our circumstances and gain a broader perspective. Some of the darkest, most dire moments of my life have resulted in the Psalms moving from words on a page to understanding, comfort, wisdom, hope, perspective, and life.

    But thankfully we don’t have to be in the middle of dire circumstances to tap into the life and perspective of the Psalms. How do we make this connection just in our more day-in and day-out moments? I suggest it starts with an unlikely pairing: worship and grammar.

    The Psalms are many things, but they’re nothing if they aren’t a direction to worship. They are songs and poems to express the heart of a worshiper after the heart of God, and the very heart of God himself. I like a definition of worship I once heard that goes something like this: it is rightly recognizing who God is and who I am. The more I rightly see God in all his splendor, sovereignty, and glory, the more I recognize there no one or no thing like him (Ex 15:11)… certainly not me! And thus I start to rightly see who I am – both as one in desperate need of his saving, but also one gloriously and graciously saved and brought to new life!

    Okay, worship makes sense, but grammar? In particular, I think one key way to read the Psalms is to make note of the subject and the predicate (and if you need a little refresher on that, you might enjoy one of our family’s favorite Schoolhouse Rock songs here). Namely, who is doing something, and what are they doing? Now this is where the worship comes in. If worship is rightly viewing God and thereby rightly viewing myself, then I can look to the Psalms to see what does God do, and then I look in the same psalm to see what is my action or response.

    Sarah and I were recently praying for wisdom and direction, and found ourselves looking into Psalm 25. It’s a cry of David for God’s leading and deliverance. But just take a look at some of the verbs assigned to God, and compare them to the verbs assigned to you and me:

    God: lift, save from enemies, make me know, teach me, lead me, remember mercy, remember not sins, love steadfastly, be good, instruct, pardon, guide in choosing, befriend, rescues, turn to me, be gracious, consider me, forgive, guard, deliver, redeem

    Us: trust, wait, keep covenant, fear the Lord, look toward the Lord, take refuge

    Two things quickly become very obvious. First, one list is clearly longer and more active than another. God is saving, teaching, leading, forgiving, and on and on. We’re trusting, anticipating and receiving. I’m not saying that trusting is trivial or easy, but clearly he’s doing all the heavy lifting here!

    Second, it’s quite evident that I all too often try to assign myself God’s list and shirk mine. This is where my worship gets warped. I don’t view God rightly enough and thus think wrongly (more highly, more lowly) of myself. Instead of trusting and waiting, I think I’ll lift myself. I’ll be the one to save myself from my enemies, I’ll figure out my path, I’ll instruct myself, I’ll…  Sound familiar to you, too?

    Oh “turn to me and be gracious to me” Lord! Even when I get this all inside-out in my thinking, the Psalms guide me even in how to repent. Let’s stick to our verbs and grow in trusting God for his. So, walk through the Psalms and take time to write out such “You vs. God” lists of predicates like the above, and let that little bit of grammar drive a lot of worship.

    WedWednesdayAugAugust2nd2017 Show Kids Jesus
    byWill Peycke Tagged Children Church Teaching 0 comments Add comment

    Last month, two of my kids ambushed me on a Saturday night. Here’s the gist of how it started:

    First child: “I don’t want to go to church tomorrow. Can we skip this week?”

    Me: “No, we are not going to skip church this week.”

    Second Child: “Why not? I already know all of the Bible stories.”

    Yikes! Those are some big questions! Parents, how would you respond?

    If I hadn’t recalled this article by Trevin Wax, I think I would have stumbled and bumbled a bit. But my children’s inquiry was so eerily familiar to the question Wax recounts from his son that it jogged my memory. What could have been a major fumble turned into a great conversation about the reasons why we go to church in the first place.

    You can read the article for yourself if you want a more detailed response, but here’s the short version: We don’t go to church to learn information, although that can be a helpful part of what we do there. The reason why we go to church is to grow in our faith and love for God and to praise him together with other believers.

    Or to put it negatively: Regardless of your age, skipping church won’t seem like a big deal if your reason for going is anything other than Jesus.

    Several of our children’s ministry workers have been reading through a fantastic book this year called Show Them Jesus. Here’s an excerpt about why so many of those who grow up in church walk away from God as young adults:

    Today, a frightening number of kids are growing up in churches and Christian homes without ever being captured by the gospel of Jesus. . . . These kids actually have good reasons to quit. They look back and realize that they learned much about Christian behavior and churchy experiences, but whatever they learned about Jesus didn’t really change them. They never saw him so strikingly that he became their one, overriding hope and their greatest love. They were never convinced that Jesus is better—a zillion times better—than anything and everything else. Our goal must be for kids to catch this rock-their-world vision of Jesus. (Klumpenhower, pp. 3-4)

    If you have kids, you’ve probably noticed the new curriculum we started using this summer: The Gospel Project for Kids. (As a side note, The Gospel Project is edited by Trevin Wax, whose article I referenced earlier.) I appreciate the positive feedback I’ve been hearing from teachers, parents, and children. We want to set our teachers and parents up for success, and good curriculum is a tool that helps us do that.

    What I most appreciate about The Gospel Project, however, is the perspective it brings on what really matters in children’s ministry. It’s ultimately not which curriculum we use (although we do want to provide our teachers with excellent materials). It’s not the appearance of our facility (although atmosphere and environment do matter). It’s not how much fun the kids have while they’re here or how excited they are about the games, snacks, or crafts. It’s not how many friends they look forward to seeing in their class each week. It’s not even how many Bible verses they learn.

    Those are all good things, but none of them is the best thing. None of them is why Kossuth Street Baptist Church is here. None of them is why numerous volunteers invest countless hours with kids every week. Not even close.

    The reason why we are here, the reason why we do what we do, is the surpassing worth of Jesus (Phil. 3:8). Our calling is to show kids over and over, week after week, how Jesus is better than anything and everything else. It’s parents and teachers partnering together to engage kids in the gospel story and impress their hearts with a love for Jesus.

    I’m thankful that The Gospel Project helps us move in that direction, but no curriculum is a “silver bullet.” Whether you are a children’s worker, parent, or grandparent, our mission is the same: in your words and with your life, keep showing kids Jesus. 

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