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    ThuThursdayAprApril20th2017 3 Reasons to Stay Home the Next 20 Weeks
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged James Sermons 1 comments Add comment

    This Sunday morning, I’ll walk to the pulpit, tell the assembled masses, “Good morning,” and then issue these instructions for the first time of many: “Please open your Bible to the book of James.”

    Having made it through Exodus (and more recently, our 5-week Easter series), it’s time to turn our attention to what’s next. And what’s next is a book that you’ll probably want to avoid if you can at all help it.

    Usually, at a time like this, I’d write a hyped-up article about why our new sermon series will be wonderful and life-transforming and something not to be missed for any reason whatsoever. But I feel like being a bit more honest and realistic this time around. So instead, I submit to you a few reasons why I’d advise that you stay home every Sunday morning until this series in the book of James is over (which, according to my current calculations, will take around 20 weeks).

    1. James will go where you don’t want to go.

    Everyone knows it’s not polite to talk about money, right? Well, apparently James never got that memo. In this book, it takes him exactly nine verses to dive into the subject of poverty and wealth. And that’s just the first of many unflinching forays into the topic, culminating with this bombastic exclamation in chapter 5: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.”

    Seriously, you may just want to stay home.

    Whether it’s money, suffering, judgment, or church seating arrangements, James appears unfazed by the things we consider taboo and unfit for discussion in polite society. He draws our attention to things we might prefer to ignore. He doesn’t care about the things we consider off-limits.

    2. James will hit you way too close to home.

    We love it when the Bible talks about those big sins. You know the ones I’m talking about—the really sordid, heinous things we’d never dream of actually doing. When we read about those, we can enjoy the luxury of getting all righteously indignant without having to feel guilty.

    But James has a knack for talking about those other sins—the sins that make themselves at home in our lives, the sins that snuggle with us on the couch and drink milk straight out of the carton, the domesticated sins that we live comfortably with every day. Like prejudice. And careless words. And laziness. And boasting. Oh yeah, and greed.

    This won’t be the kind of series you can sit through while nodding, smiling, and looking out the corner of your eye at that bad, sinful person sitting next to you. Sooner or later, you’ll get pelted right between the eyes. And that’s no fun.

    3. James will challenge your theology.

    If a guest speaker showed up in our church and taught, “A person is justified by works, and not by faith alone,” we’d all run that guy out faster than you can say, “Heresy!” But lo and behold, James shows up in our Bibles and says exactly that (see Jas. 2:24).

    Or what if an elder showed up at your front door when you’re at home sick, wanting to pour some oil on your head and pray for your healing? Think you might be wondering what kind of crazy cult you’ve gotten yourself into? Well, prepare to wrestle with James 5:14: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

    Apparently James played hooky a few too many times during seminary.

    Hopefully you’re getting the point. If you like carefree Sunday mornings, you should probably start making alternative plans. Find a nice brunch spot. Go hiking in the woods. Put your Netflix subscription to use. Pull the covers over your head and sleep in. But whatever you do, don’t come to Kossuth.

    See you Sunday.

    ThuThursdayAprApril13th2017 Do You Love Them?
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged No tags 1 comments Add comment

    “We are called to love others. We share the gospel because we love people. And we don’t share the gospel because we don’t love people.” – Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism

    Ouch. That is something I read this week and talked about with a couple of friends over breakfast. It hit home. I didn’t like it. I’m tempted to ignore the statements.

    When I think about reaching out to my neighbors with the gospel I realize I fail in a lot of ways. I can give you a long list of reasons why, when it comes down to extending the message of hope and reconciliation to others, I simply hold back.

    But a lack of love is not on that list.

    In fact, the very thought makes me uncomfortable. I think I do love people in a lot of ways, so I tend to assess myself as a loving person. But then those three sentences shove themselves right in my face and confront me with an opposing truth: I don’t love non-believers.

    Now, the last thing you and I need is another addition to our list of failures, burdening us with more low-grade guilt. I don’t pray enough. I should read my Bible more. I need to lose those pounds. I should call my mom. I need to get caught up on my budget. And yes, I need to share my faith more. But that has nothing to do with love, right? It’s more about obedience, isn’t it?

    “No, it really is about love.”

    Please allow me to explain. I love my boys like crazy. They mean the world to me. I’d throw myself in front of a bus for them if that is what it took to care for their lives. That’s my role and it is a role I embrace. I work hard for a number of reasons, one being to provide all their needs and as many desires as I can. I love being their dad because I love them.

    Further, I pray for their salvation regularly. In fact, of all the things I want most for my boys, it is that God would draw them to himself and save them. Therefore, we talk about Jesus. It is in the songs we sing. It is in the prayers we pray. We even have a fancy iPad app that helps them understand Jesus and their need for him.

    I do this not because I have to or because I feel guilty when I don’t. It is not a chore to me. It is a natural desire and action simply out of love for them. I want them to know God so I point them to God.

    So why can’t I say the same about my neighbor? Why can’t I say the same about the cashier at Panera that I see frequently? It’s because I fail to love them.

    But here is the hope. I don’t want another piece of guilt-inducing garbage thrown on my ever growing pile of disappointments in myself. Rather, I reach into the grace-filled storehouse of God’s promises.

    I don’t muster love for others. I rely on God’s Spirit to produce such in me, on the inside. He bears fruit in me that is love (Gal. 5:22).

    Easter weekend is upon us. It offers yet another great opportunity to love people by pointing them to Jesus who died for sins and was raised from the dead. Telling your co-workers, family and neighbors about him is the most loving thing you can do. But join me not by mustering it up and sweating through a guilt-driven, forced opportunity to tell them about Jesus. Rather, join me by stopping right now to pray as an individual or family, asking God to fill you with love for the least and the lost in our city, and then take a step of faith. It is the most loving thing you can do for them.

    ThuThursdayAprApril6th2017 Showers and Flowers
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Endurance Life Suffering 0 comments Add comment

    Here in Lafayette, the month of April has had a soggy start. In fact, as I write this, the rainfall over the last few days has resulted in a flood warning for our area. Personally, I’m kind of sick of the rain. It’s making me grumpy.

    But there’s an old adage that brings me hope. You’ve probably heard it, too. April showers bring May flowers. As dreary and wet as some of these days have been, there’s joy in the anticipation of all the bright colors and new life that are soon to come our way. This rain isn’t purposeless. It will yield a bounty of vegetation in due time.

    I suspect there may be a lesson for us here that extends far beyond the weather.

    In life, things can get soggy sometimes. In fact, there’s another rain-related adage that comes to mind: When it rains, it pours. One thing goes wrong, and then suddenly ten more things go wrong right behind it. Disappointments multiply. Frustration leads to more frustration. In a world that doesn’t always do what we want it to, it’s easy to get bogged down in the muddiness of life.

    But what if we could step back for a moment and gain a bigger perspective? What if the rainy seasons of our lives could be seen in relationship to something greater? What if in our April showers of discouragement and frustration we could have our outlook transformed by the hope of flowers in May?

    According to the Bible, these “what ifs” aren’t merely hypothetical.

    For example, if you’re in a season of discipline, things may look pretty bleak at the moment. But Hebrews 12:11 offers hope: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” There’s something better coming. The unpleasantness of the discipline will ultimately give way to righteousness.

    If you’re in a season of suffering, it may feel like every day is a downpour. But consider what your suffering will bring you, according to Romans 5:3-5: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.” Suffering waters the seeds of hope in our lives, causing them in due time to burst into full and radiant bloom.

    If you’re in a season of trials, the sunshine of joy may be distant. But 1 Peter 1:6-7 points your gaze toward the future: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Your trial is intended to give way to something stunningly superior.

    Rainy days are inevitable. We’re all going to have them. And for many of us, those days will turn into weeks, and those weeks may even turn into months or years. But during those times, we need not grow disillusioned by the puddles. The same God who sends down the rain also calls forth the flowers. And although you may need an umbrella today, sooner or later God will reveal the magnificent results of the work he’s been doing.

    So hang in there. The flowers are coming.

    WedWednesdayMarMarch29th2017 On Spiritual Heroes
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged History Leaders 1 comments Add comment

    This year marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door in Wittenberg. Back in 1517, that event may not have seemed all that significant. But in hindsight, it is that action which has come to be seen as the ceremonial beginning of the Protestant Reformation, arguably one of the most important chapters of Western history.

    On the one hand, I’m pretty fond of the Reformation. It was a valiant display of theological integrity and a courageous refusal to go along with what was seen as a corrupt church authority. But on the other hand, the Reformation is fraught with problems. Some really ugly things happened. And the people responsible for those ugly things were often the very people standing so resolutely for biblical truth.

    How should we think about these contradictory realities? Do we focus on the good qualities of the Reformers, and leave all the bad stuff hiding in the corner somewhere? Or do we conclude that these people aren’t worthy of our respect and write them off as just another set of villains to be forever despised?

    Recently I came across one answer to that question that got me thinking. It comes from a little book by Carl Trueman, and it presents a perspective that is filled with wisdom:

    We must not approach the Reformers as if they could do no wrong; we must rather go to them with an appreciative but critical spirit, appreciative in acknowledging their insights into the Bible's teaching, and critical in remembering that, like us, they were mere sinful mortals capable of disastrous mistakes as well as marvelous achievements.

    Regardless of what you think about the Reformation, we all have spiritual heroes. Some are historical figures whose writings and ideas have shaped people through the generations. Others are living people such as parents, pastors, and mentors, who continue to exercise ongoing influence in our lives.

    In any case, we can be sure of one thing: our spiritual heroes will let us down (if they haven’t already). They will show moral weaknesses. They will say things that are off-base. They will fall victim to the blind spots of their particular cultural moment. And when that happens, we’ll have to decide what to do. Do we write them off and go searching for new heroes? Or do we conveniently ignore their flaws and persist in an unrealistic view of their greatness?

    This is where I think Carl Trueman’s perspective is so helpful. When he calls us to be “appreciative but critical,” he liberates us from idealizing people whose lives are marred with sin, while also liberating us from demonizing people whose lives have been used mightily by God. In the end, we’re able to be honest about those we look up to—honest about their strengths and their weaknesses.

    But perhaps more than that, the benefit of being “appreciative but critical” is that it allows us to remain mindful of the fact that we have only one Savior. And although God may surround us with a great cloud of human witnesses whom we rightly respect and admire, ultimately their shortcomings and weaknesses will point us toward God’s own unique perfection and sufficiency in the gospel.

    So the next time one of your heroes shows an unexpectedly ugly side, perhaps the appropriate response is to thank God for the opportunity to be reminded that your hope is anchored in someone who has no ugly side whatsoever. And we can be grateful for anyone—flaws and all—who helps point us toward HimĀ­.

    WedWednesdayMarMarch22nd2017 To Those with Aging Parents
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Aging Death Family Love 0 comments Add comment

    To those with aging parents:

    I speak as one who hasn’t walked the journey you are currently on, so I admit my ignorance. However, as a member of the same church family, what is on your heart is deeply on mine as well. I care about you.

    Many of you have shared your grief with me as you walk by faith through a hard season. You now hold the hands of those who once held yours as you took your first steps and as you crossed the street. You now hold tight the one who held you close through sickness and heartache. For some of you, you now make decisions for someone who can’t make them for himself, just as he did for you in days passed.

    It must be heart-wrenching to take the car keys away from someone who gave you your first set of keys in your teenage years.

    It must be overwhelming to make medical decisions for the one who again and again got you to the doctor on time for your appointments.

    For some of you, it must break your heart to watch your parent become someone different, right before your eyes.

    I genuinely celebrate with you as you recall all the wonderful memories, and I grieve with you as you see the life of someone you care so deeply about come to a close.

    If I may be so bold, I would like to speak a few words of comfort.

    1. You are not alone. God himself is with you in this season of your life. He is aware and cares deeply for you, your family and for your aging parent. He cares even more than you do. You may feel all by yourself as you make decisions and drive many miles to pay another visit. But I assure you that you are not alone. He is with you (Psalm 23:4).

    2. Your parent is not alone. In Christ, God does not abandon us even in death. As that day draws closer God does not grow more distant, though it may feel that way at times. God is near and ever-present with your father or mother. Your emotions don’t assure you of that (or cause doubt), the very promises of God bring that comfort.

    3. Death will be reversed. Though this body gives up and passes away, God is big enough to reverse the devastation. In this season of life when the body (and sometimes the mind) break down to a final halt, with a word God will undo it all and bring about a more amazing reality than we ever dreamed. On that day there will be a celebration that exceeds the most amazing party this world has ever offered. All the grief you and your parent now endure will be put to the side and done away with. Our hope is not in this life, but in the life to come. Even for your parent who may not be a believer, there is hope for him to trust in Christ even to the last breath. Point him to Christ as the great Healer.

    4. There will be a great reunion. In Christ there are no good-byes. You have spent wonderful decades with your parent. There is a sadness to see them come to a close. You should grieve that, but not as one without hope. You will see her again. His hand will touch yours again. You will embrace again.

    I close with this. A favorite artist of mine, Matthew Smith, recorded an old hymn called Goodnight. It unwraps a conversation of someone who is passing from this life to the next. The second verse says this:

    Why thus so sadly weeping 
    Beloved ones of my heart? 
    The Lord is good and gracious 
    Though now He bids us part.
    Oft have we met in gladness 
    And we shall meet again,
    All sorrow left behind us-- 
    Goodnight, goodnight till then.

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