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    TueTuesdayMayMay23rd2017 The Frozen Lock
    byPaul Briggs Tagged Life Trials 1 comments Add comment

    Recently I was leaving my office for the day to go and pick up my family for a long-anticipated family event. I hadn’t traveled very far when I noticed a student I recognized walking toward the building on campus in which my office is located. This was a young lady we had met last year in her home country on our Asian travels. During her first year at Purdue, the Lord opened numerous doors to build a strong relationship with her.

    Several conflicting thoughts swirled around in my head: Should I stop and say hello? She is probably coming to say goodbye for the summer. But I am in a hurry and I don’t want to be late! What if she has a problem and needs help?!

    I ended up turning around and saying “hello.” She explained that she was headed for our offices because she needed help with her bike: Her lock was frozen; it just wouldn’t open, and she needed to take her bike to the place where she would be storing it over the summer. We went back to the bike shop at our office and got a can of WD40 and headed off to where her bike was located to see if we could get her lock to open.

    Finding a parking place on campus that day was the first challenge. It was the next-to-last day of finals, and parking places were at a premium. We were able to find a place within a short walk of where her bike was locked up. As we walked I tried to keep my mind fixed on the task at hand and not on what I had envisioned myself doing at that moment (heading for home to pick up my family to leave town).

    I asked her to summarize some of the things she had learned outside of the classroom during her first year at Purdue. She talked about having participated in a variety of events related to Christian student organizations and how she had learned things about Christianity she had never thought about before. She reminded me about having seen the video on Resurrection Sunday about Jesus meeting two of His followers on the road to Emmaus following his resurrection (Luke 24:13-35) and how that helped her understand things she had been learning from the Old Testament. She also spoke excitedly about the joy she had witnessed on Resurrection Sunday during the worship service at Kossuth. I was able to encourage her to continue learning about these things when she returns to Purdue in August.

    We reached her bike and I began spraying large quantities of WD40 into the lock, praying silently that the Lord would cause it to unfreeze quickly! I put the key into the lock and tried it. Nothing happened. It was still stuck! I continued to spray the oil into the lock and continued to wiggle the key back and forth. Still no movement. I prayed some more...and kept spraying...and kept wiggling the key back and forth (praying that it wouldn’t break off in the lock!). After about 10 minutes of this, the lock finally opened!

    I don’t know who was happier, the student or me. She exclaimed enthusiastically that she had been lucky to have met me that morning. I gently reminded her that it was not luck or coincidence that we had met. To which she inquisitively responded, “God had us meet today?” I told her I believed this was an appointment the Lord had fixed for us, even though it hadn’t appeared on my “To Do” list for that day!

    As I continued on with the things that I had planned for that particular day, I thought about the blessing of this unexpected (or was it unwanted?!) encounter, I was thinking about the problems we often face in life. The words of James 1:2-4 came to mind: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  

    The trials of our lives are like the frozen lock. They often make us feel like we are stuck; with no apparent solution when we desperately need one. The grace we need is like the oil on the frozen lock...sometimes what we think should be enough simply isn’t. We need to apply more...and allow more time to pass. Over time the grace that is applied in abundance produces its good and faithful work: often not when (and sometimes not what!) we expected.

    May God continue to grow us in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus which allows us to count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds. Be sure to be sharing your stories of the good and faithful work the Lord is doing in your life for His glory through the various trials that are taking place in your life!

    ThuThursdayMayMay18th2017 A Really Bad Meeting Request
    byMikel Berger Tagged Priorities Time 1 comments Add comment

    I think I might have found the worst meeting request ever.

    A few weeks ago I taught in the Connection Hour from Nehemiah 6 as part of our series on the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. 

    Up to this point, Nehemiah has followed in the footsteps of Ezra to rebuild and repopulate Jerusalem for the people of God. But Nehemiah wasn’t a priest like Ezra; he was a servant of the king who was right at the heart of everything (Neh. 1:11). Nehemiah heard about the struggle of his people -- God’s people -- in Jerusalem. He wept, he mourned, he fasted, and he prayed in response. And after hearing from God, he set out to Jerusalem on his rebuilding mission.

    Nehemiah had the blessing of the King but that didn’t mean that everyone agreed with what he was doing. There were numerous attempts to get Nehemiah to stop the work. After more direct attempts couldn’t convince Nehemiah to stop rebuilding the wall, the opposition decided to take a more indirect route. That’s what we read about in the beginning of chapter 6. Some guys, Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab, decided that time was running out for them to stop Nehemiah. So they decided to trick him.

    Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Neh. 6:2-3)

    The plain of Ono would have been a pretty far off place. I think Nehemiah knows there's no good reason for these guys to invite him to a meeting. But these guys aren’t just any random guys in town. In the hierarchy of the day they're at least his peers or colleagues in the king’s service, but more likely they serve in a governor role over Nehemiah and the whole region. So while it is a strange request, it carries weight. After all, if the Governor of Indiana asks you to a meeting, you’d most likely go, regardless of if you understood the direct reason for the meeting.

    But Nehemiah does understand why he was being asked to come to a far off place. He knows they want to do him harm. He knows the work he is doing is more important. He calls it a great work.But would everyone have seen it that way?

    From our vantage point, we can see what God did through Nehemiah’s work. But look at it from the people of the day: Jerusalem is a small, run-down town on the outskirts of the Persian empire. Nehemiah used to have frequent access to the king; now he’s managing a construction project. He’s building something to be a defense for a relatively small group of people, many of whom will have to be convinced to move there by casting lots.

    But Nehemiah knows his wall-building isn’t really about building a wall. He knows it isn’t really for these small group of reluctant city dwellers. The work of Ezra and Nehemiah isn’t really a construction project or an economic development effort, as good as those things are. It’s an act of restoring worship to the one, true God. It’s a work done for God himself. That’s what makes it a great work. It’s not the work being done but the one for whom it's being done that makes it great.

    The next time you get a meeting request, don’t think I’m giving you permission to blow it off. But the next time anyone makes a request on your time, I am saying you should think about your priorities. Don’t look first at the calendar to see if you’re free or if you’d rather do this thing or that thing more. Look at who you’re really serving. My guess is you have some pretty great works to do.

    WedWednesdayMayMay10th2017 Flintstone Families
    byWill Peycke Tagged Family Holy Spirit Vacation 1 comments Add comment

    Two weeks ago, I blew it as a dad.

    At Disney World.

    Oh, I did all the vacation “dad jobs”: navigating security checkpoints with four kids and a stroller, changing diapers in airplane bathrooms, loading vans, hauling luggage, playing in the pool with my kids, you name it.

    But I neglected something vital.

    To make it worse, it’s something I’m constantly preaching to Kossuth parents.

    On our way home after an exhausting week, Kay and I started comparing notes. Our trip had included fun times and not-so-fun times. The not-so-fun times were mostly due to the combination of two family members being sick most of the week plus the competing expectations of two parents, two grandparents, and four kids. But what bothered us most were the bad attitudes we had all exhibited throughout the vacation.

    And that’s when it hit me: we had gone the entire week without reading the Bible or praying together as a family. Not even once. On top of that, I hadn’t spent any personal time in God’s word, either. I had been sure to pack my Bible and a family devotional book, but neither one ever left the suitcase. We had been so busy trying to enjoy “the happiest place on earth” that we disconnected from the source of real joy. 

    To borrow a phrase from the Visionary Parenting class, we had been functioning like a “Flintstone family.” If you are old enough to remember the good old days of Saturday morning cartoons, you may recall that the Flintstone family’s car had no engine. Instead, the passengers powered the car with their feet.

    In contrast, God has provided a supernatural engine to power your family: his Spirit. And the way we “start” this engine—the way we access God’s power—is simply through reading his word and asking him for it. Without this engine, we are stuck trying to do family life on our own. It’s like pushing your car around town (or around Disney World) when you have a powerful engine under the hood.

    I realized (too late) that I had done exactly that during our week in Florida. Instead of relying on God’s Spirit to power my wife and kids, I had been “pushing” them everywhere. I had been trying to make everything happen myself. No wonder we were exhausted! How much different would our attitudes have been if we had remembered to read the sermon passage for that Sunday: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2)? How might it have changed our interactions if we had prayed together, asking God’s Spirit to change our hearts, when we felt selfish or frustrated?

    If you have a family vacation coming up this summer, I hope you learn from my mistake. Don’t just pack your Bible—read it! Make it a priority to read the Bible and pray together as a regular part of your vacation schedule, even when you take a vacation from the rest of your schedule. Let the power of God’s Spirit be the engine that drives your family. Trust me, it will make it so much easier to “count it all joy” when you encounter the various trials vacation is sure to bring.

    ThuThursdayMayMay4th2017 The Power of Encouragement
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Encouragement Suffering 4 comments Add comment

    Never underestimate the power of affirmation and encouragement.

    My friend Trent and I recently ran a race together. We signed up for two different distances, so our competitions didn’t coincide. He finished well before I did, so I assumed he had left. It was a cold and windy day after all.

    As I neared the finish line I was completely spent, ready to give up. I had given it my all and was in quite a lot of pain. I had about half of a mile left but it felt like twenty miles were ahead in my mind.

    Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Trent. He cheered me on. He reminded me that the finish line was just around the corner. I picked up my pace. I thought, “I can do this.”

    As I rounded the corner I saw my wife and two boys at the finish line, cheering me to the end. (Side note: my favorite moment was that my oldest son actually hopped the barricade and ran the last tenth of a mile with me to the finish line.)

    Never underestimate the power of affirmation and encouragement. Cheers in the race are potent and life-giving. I’m sure you’ve experienced this in a variety of ways.

    I want to remind us of the command to encourage one another in Hebrews 10:25. I want to connect it to two kinds of opportunities.

    The first opportunity relates to those who are undergoing a trial (which pretty much includes everyone). This past Sunday we gave opportunity during our corporate gathering to express the pain that comes with trial. Some chose to do that privately in their seat. Others chose to come forward and kneel at the steps which are connected to the stage upfront. It was a reminder that many are hurting, and you could observe specific individuals expressing that in the room.

    Hurting people often feel all alone. As in a race, they are putting one foot in front of the other, not sure they can go another step. Your words of encouragement would be a powerful push forward. Offering to pray with them or simply listen over a cup of coffee might be the kindest gesture they have received in a long time.

    You may be aware of someone who is hurting in your own circle of relationships. Or, maybe you noticed someone go forward or express grief right there in their seat on Sunday morning. Take a step this week and encourage them in some way (without using the phrase, “Count it all joy” – you had to hear the sermon if you don’t know what I mean).

    The second opportunity relates to awesome people. I’ve concluded that typically, awesome people don’t know they are awesome. Here is what I mean: there was a time I evaluated my own practice of affirmation and encouragement and I realized I never affirmed those whom I put on the pedestal of awesome. I figured they knew what a great job they were doing and didn’t need to hear affirmation. I was wrong. I’ve come to recognize that they simply don’t know they are awesome and struggle to know how well they are doing or if their ministry is making an impact. Tell awesome people they are awesome.

    It could be someone who does little tasks faithfully every week. It could be someone who does big tasks every week. It could be someone who is an encouragement to you in how they share their faith, how they pray, how they listen, how they work hard week in and week out, or how they raise their children. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you notice it as a job well done then let them know. They probably need to hear it.

    Your words of affirmation and encouragement could make a huge difference today in someone’s life. Pull the trigger and encourage someone.

    WedWednesdayAprApril26th2017 No Fear
    byTom Humphrey Tagged Fear Trust 1 comments Add comment

    NO FEAR. Most of us have probably seen this logo on someone’s shirt or on a bumper sticker. I have always wondered if it really represented a bravado that would prove to be a false one if confronted with a certain situation or threat. No fear. Is it possible to live like that for real? Or are we doomed to false bravado on a logo? 

    If you have lived any time at all, you have faced or felt fear of some sort. The situations that may develop fear in our thinking are many. It may be an uncertain financial future, the potential loss of job, facing an illness with an unknown outcome, a phone call from a child to announce their safe arrival that has not yet come, or unexpected news that rocks our world. If only we could live “no fear” lives.

    To be honest, I have been struggling with this recently, wondering what the future may hold for my life. I have felt fear that things will never improve with a certain situation or that I will not have enough money to retire or that…you get the point.

    I recently came across a song by Casting Crowns entitled "Oh My Soul" that has haunted and challenged me with its words regarding fear. The chorus of the song goes like this:

    Oh my soul, you are not alone
    There’s a place where fear
    Has to face the God you know

    These words have forced me to think about just who is the God I know. When faced with fear, who is the God I turn to? How does He stack up against my fears? Is He big enough to handle them? Can He be trusted with them?

    Not surprisingly, Scripture has something to say about fear. In a familiar passage, the Psalmist tells us, “Even though I walk through the valley of shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4). Paul reminds Timothy in that God has given us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). Perhaps one of the most compelling verses is Psalm 34:4: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Read those words again and let them sink in.

    I sought the Lord – The eternal God of the universe who created all things and sacrificed his own Son for me.

    He answered – He hears me and responds.

    He delivered me – The Lord cares for me.

    From all my fears – ALL. ALL. ALL.

    We will always face fear of some sort at various times in our lives. The question is what we will do when it comes upon us. Does it consume us? Will we fume and fret? Or, will we seek the Lord?

    The next time you are faced with fear, let the words of the song motivate you to let your fears face the God you know.

    Oh my soul, you are not alone
    There’s a place where fear has to face
    The God you know. 

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