Come worship with us at Kossuth this Sunday

    Elders' Blog - Entries written by Abraham Cremeens

    Home - Resources - Elders' Blog - Elders' Blog - Entries written by Abraham Cremeens
    ThuThursdaySepSeptember21st2017 Margin for Messiness

    Junior High was a crazy season of life. Shivers. What a time!

    It represented one of several “coming of age” points, stepping stones where I made conscious decisions about who I was, what I believed, and who I would become. We all have those moments. They are essential and valuable.

    At that time in my life, I was surrounded by a great family and a great church. They did a wonderful job guiding me in my development toward pursuing God. But, for some reason, I felt paralyzed to express the doubts I was having about God, faith, and the Christian life.

    It became a significant internal struggle. I never took the step toward talking with anyone about it. I didn’t think I could.

    That was my fault, even as a youth. There were plenty of people around me that I could have brought the struggle up with. But I didn’t feel any margin, any space, any freedom, to express my messiness. I felt like I had to look like I had it all together.

    Now, I am almost 39 years old. I am a husband, and parent two young boys. I am a disciple-maker and am paid to do so as a career. That means I come in contact with many men, women, and children on a weekly basis and connect with them at key points in their walk with God.

    Junior High Abraham was messy. He was full of doubts, sin, fear, and grief. Thirty-nine-year-old Abraham is messy. He is full of doubts, sin, fear, and grief. You as a reader are full of doubts, sin, fear, and grief. I get that. My question is: How do I (and how do you) make a margin for the messy, making space to express the ugly stuff we tend to hold inside?

    It doesn’t matter how old we are. We learn to put on masks and put up a false front that we are all okay and that there is nothing to be concerned about. This takes place throughout our days, in the workplace, on Sunday morning, in Care Group, and over a meal with a friend.

    I want to create space for messy moments. Are there questions we can ask that give others permission to reveal their mess? Is there anything we can do that tells others we are a safe place to talk about messes with? Can our children tell us they struggle to believe in God? Can our neighbor comfortably share his struggle with pornography?

    I have a lot of growing to do in this area but I want to create margin for the messy.

    Here are some ideas that I have:

    1. I need to own my messiness. I struggle with doubt, depression, grief, and sin. I am not above anyone. I am no less messy than anyone else. By acknowledging that daily, I am moving into my own messiness and I believe that will fashion me into a more approachable person by default.
    2. I need to be vulnerable with my messiness. This is a scary one to me. It will backfire at times. I will share with someone who will hurt me. But my identity is in Christ and I can trust him to care for me in those moments. The grenades that go off will be far fewer than the moments of ministry that take place as my life intersects with the lives of others. By trusting others with the deep places of my heart, others will see that they can trust me with their own.
    3. I need to invite others to share their mess with me. There is a caution here. I am never entitled for someone to share the depths of their soul with me. Even a simple question may come across as too aggressive for someone who doesn’t want to be vulnerable. However, gentle questions and looking for opportunities, founded on humility, can pave a road toward transparency. This is not to mention budgeting time to genuinely listen to what they share.

    It’s not rocket science. I have a lot of learning to do. But I invite you to create margin for messiness within your own circles of relationships.

    FriFridaySepSeptember8th2017 Dependent Masculinity

    For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
    “In returning and rest you shall be saved;
         in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
    But you were unwilling,
    (Isaiah 30:15, ESV)

    That is a verse that my son and I recently memorized together. Of all the verses we have been working on it has struck me the most. It grabs my attention because it is so contrary to what I tend to hear and even foster in my own life.

    The verse sits in the context of a strong rebuke from God toward Israel. As is often the case in my own life, the people of God at that time had taken matters into their own hand, rebelled again and again and were looking for help from other people rather than from God. It is a picture of self-worship and self-sufficiency at its finest.

    However, the life that God calls us into and shepherds us through is not one of self-reliance but one of total dependence, dependence on our loving Shepherd.

    The words of this promise are refreshing. God would have me act in repentance but in a way that is infused with rest. It is a peaceful pursuit and one where I trust in him and not in myself. The New Living Translation puts it this way: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength…”

    I could use more rest, quiet and trust in my life. Could you?

    Unfortunately, my usual protocol looks like “I can do this”, “I can manage,” and “I can fix my problems by myself”. Or, the loudest one: “I just need to work harder.” And, while I must exercise responsibility for my life (even God speaks of the responsibility of repentance, of returning) there are two sides of that coin.

    On one side I can work harder, push harder, believe harder and eventually fall on my face. Or, on the flip side, I can rest and trust, finding my strength in him. The former leads to exhaustion. The latter is my strength.

    For instance, even a quick read of I Corinthians 13 is daunting and leads everyone to the conclusion of “that’s impossible.” I am not patient. I do envy. I do boast. I do fail. My response could be one of working harder. Or, I could experience God’s peace as I rest and trust in him, taking steps of faith and seeing God the Spirit work a heartbeat of genuine love in my life. This is something supernatural. It is a gift from God. It doesn’t mean I don’t work at all. But it does mean I work in a God-reliant way.

    This struggle crosses all ages and both genders. It is not unique to one kind of person. However, it is a topic that connects to men in a unique way. Because of this, we intend to make this the focus of our Men’s Summit this year. How do I be a man, God’s man, do all the things God calls men to be but in a way that is founded on rest and trust, where true strength lies. This is what we are calling dependent masculinity.

    I firmly believe that the weekend of September 29-30 is worth every man’s time and commitment. We won’t solve all of our problems. But I look forward to each of us taking God-honoring next steps of being men who experience God in life-shaping ways, restful ways.

    I hope you join us. You can register at 
    www.ksbc.net/ms17.

    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.

    ThuThursdayJulJuly20th2017 The Dangers of Life Management
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Busyness Life Prayer 1 comments Add comment

    Life management is good. From the early stages of childhood, our parents worked to train us in proper life management. We learned to use the restroom, to brush our teeth, to bathe, how to swim, what deodorant was, and how to limit pieces of candy.

    In college, we entered that interim phase of being adults while still having the care and guidance of our parents close at hand (at least with a phone call). We learned how to maintain a schedule, pace studying, keep a job, and take breaks when needed.

    After college, we sought a career, maintained time for relationships, and learned how to file our taxes.

    All the way through we learned how to manage life as responsible adults. But with that comes a certain set of dangers.

    Don’t get me wrong. There are few things more unfortunate than a forty-year-old who lacks the appropriate maturity. Maturity (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, digital, etc.) is a good thing and should be sought.

    But let me tell you something I’m learning. It is possible, over the course of years and decades, to turn life management (positive) into self-reliance (negative).

    God has been exposing self-reliance in my own life again and again over the past several months. As I’ve been peeling the layers of my heart back one at a time, I have seen a “God, I got this” attitude frequently.

    Here are some things I’ve identified that reveal a life management turned self-reliance:

    1. Equating Lifestyle. The alarm goes off on my phone. I wake up, get ready, follow the command of my calendar with an about face. Out the door I go and into the day’s events. Just as 1 + 1 = 2, so I put one and one together to get the result I want. I work these deeds of the day until I return to my pillow all to wake up again with the same movements. Now that looks like life management. But with the absence of inner dependence on God, in reality, it is self-reliance. That has been the state of my heart.

    2. Prayerlessness. Married to number one above, I can go through various events of the day, the entire day, without ever talking with God about what is going on. Even in key events or significant crisis I can push through, onward and upward, without involving God in prayer.

    3. Joylessness. This is more the outcome of the previous two points. I have recently looked inside and admitted a lack of joy. It makes sense. God designed us and life to be enjoyed with him, not without him. Self-reliance precludes experiencing his presence in life’s events. And without that comes a lack of joy.

    David said, “I have no good apart from you” and “in your presence there is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:1, 11).

    As I put these thoughts together several weeks ago and looked them square in the face I had to admit my fault and change. I did that. Here are two changes that I’ve found helpful so far. Both are related to prayer.

    First, I’m creating a rhythm and mind hook to not turn on my office computer until I have prayed. This is typically a short prayer of resignation but it packs a punch. I find it helps me be more aware of God-reliance at later points in my day.

    Second, a friend pointed me to the idea of “the space between the space.” This has been a much more difficult discipline and rhythm to brew. The idea is to pause and pray as I finish one activity and before I begin the next. Again, this is brief. It also requires that I engage God about my emotions and how I’m doing. For me, it is usually accompanied by a deep breath (and sometimes journaling). It serves as an opportunity for me to be honest with God about how I am feeling, what’s going on in my day and to acknowledge his presence before a next step.

    You may find a different pathway of prayer that leads from self to God-reliance. But I share these thoughts in hopes that they at least stir some thinking and action toward a God-reliant day (and life) for you.

    ThuThursdayJunJune15th2017 Hospitable Worship

    Have you ever been enjoying a meal with an old friend only to be interrupted mid-bite by someone passing by who knows your friend but not you? As they engage in a lengthy conversation, you sit and observe and toy nervously with the eggs and bacon on your plate.

    Such a situation is not bad but does feel awkward. We’ve all been there. We’ve also been the ones who instigate the feeling of a third wheel in others.

    Hospitality seeks to remove the awkward. It seeks to make everyone feel welcome, valued and a part of what is going on.

    I’ve become more mindful of this as it relates to our gathering on Sunday mornings. There is so much about what we do that is family. We are a family. We do what families do. We have rhythms and inside language and general know-how. That isn’t bad. In fact, it can be a sign of great health. But it can also create awkwardness in guests if we are not careful. That is something to be mindful of and to think about.

    One area of desired hospitality that has come to mind recently for me is related to the songs we sing. It came out of some very helpful conversations right here within our church family. It has to do with language, particularly well-aged pronouns and verbs – Thee, Thou, Thine, dost and the like.

    Now, before you react, let me say that I understand these words are very sacred to many within our church family and hold significant meaning in a variety of ways. I’m not attacking their use or their usefulness. But they can create a sense of awkwardness in some of our guests.

    So, I changed some of them. But there are some ground rules. Let me explain.

    First, as it relates to our entire gathering, we seek to blend preferences and honor a variety of perspectives. Rather than create different styles of worship gatherings (contemporary or traditional), we aim for one blended opportunity. This means that there is a portion of our church family present on Sunday morning that worships well and finds it helpful to sing Thee and Thou and similar words. It connects them (and us as a whole) to our history and the foundation of worship that they (and we) have rested on for decades. Further, when many sing Thy or Thine there is a sacred elevation in their heart as they praise God, so much so that even this type of pronoun relating to him is special and holy. For this reason, I don’t touch the most beloved hymns such as “Be Thou My Vision” and “Come Thou Fount.”

    Second, it can’t be forced. Some songs simply cannot be updated because the poetic smoothness is tainted. I find that usually is the case if the title uses any of these pronouns or if a line ends with one. The title is usually sung within the hymn itself so a change often throws off an entire line and thus, the whole song. Or, if the end of a particular line is changed then the subsequent line will not fit.

    However, even while mindful of these two ground rules, there are some songs that can be changed and allow us to be more hospitable to our guests who have no idea what such a word as dost even means. “Come Ye Sinners” has become “Come You Sinners.” Recently we introduced (though some were familiar with it) “How Sweet and Aweful is the Place.” In it were three occurrences of the word Thy. It is a lesser known hymn. There was no impact on the content. I changed them to Your. It served as an opportunity of hospitality to our guests.

    I know you may not agree. That’s okay. But I hope that the next time you notice a change and double clutch, that you can defer your preference to others in the room and exercise hospitality while you worship.

    ThuThursdayMayMay4th2017 The Power of Encouragement

    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.

    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.

    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.

    ThuThursdayFebFebruary23rd2017 What Do You Celebrate?
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Celebration Faith 0 comments Add comment

    The other day I was playing Chicken Shoot on the Nintendo Wii with my boys. We were good. Really good. At least in our eyes. The task is simple: Aim the controller at the screen and eliminate as many flying chickens as you can. Especially difficult is the occasional egg thrown at you, twisting and turning as it approaches. Shoot fast or be egged.

    As we each took turns (even my two-year-old) plenty of “good jobs” were thrown around as we watched our scores increase into quadruple digits. I admit my increasing pride with every aim.

    I’ve been thinking about celebrations and “good jobs” lately. A lot happens in a day that deserves affirmation in our home. I have a wonderful wife and two great boys. They do good things. And I want to celebrate them in the daily ebb and flow.

    I’m part of a great church. I’m in an incredible Discipleship Group and Care Group. The Connection Hour I am a part of rocks. I’m so grateful for the elder and staff teams. This church does great things. I want to celebrate all that our church is doing.

    However, I want to celebrate what matters most.

    But what matters most? Is it the decisions that staff and elders make and the ministries they implement? Is it the Scripture people memorize or the time they invest in Bible study? Does how many times the gospel is shared matter most?

    Does the decision by my son to tell me the truth rather than lie matter most? Does quoting his AWANA verse perfectly matter most? Does his sitting quietly in the pew during the Sunday morning service matter most?

    I want to celebrate what matters most. So, what matters most?

    I don’t think I’m alone in this, but I clearly recall that in my first ten years as a Christian what seemed to matter most was what I did. A dedicated Christian worked hard. He worked hard at all the things the Scriptures reveal as good. There was no task too big or small for him. And your acceptance into the community relied on how well you were doing in your Christian walk. Don’t get me wrong. Everyone was allowed in the door. But not everyone was truly welcomed. That was reserved for the black belt Christian, the hard worker.

    Working hard doesn’t matter most. Making the right decisions doesn’t matter most. How many verses a person memorizes or how many times she shares her faith does not matter most. As far as what we humans do, faith is what matters most because it is anchored in what has been done.

    Don’t get me wrong. These others things should be celebrated. But in my own evaluation, I too often celebrate action over faith. “Wait,” you say, “Faith and action go together.” Right, they do. But my point is that we too often celebrate the action and neglect celebrating the faith behind it.

    I want to be a dad who gets as excited about a simple step of faith from my sons as I do any moment of obedience. I want to be a part of a Care Group that celebrates another moment of basking in the gospel more than another verse memorized. I want to pastor in a way that celebrates deepening trust in Christ far more than any church attendance record that a long-time church member has maintained.

    I want to celebrate what matters most. I know you do, too.

    WedWednesdayJanJanuary18th2017 What Contentment Is Not

    Contentment is not stuffing your feelings.

    There, I’ve said it. It has become sort of a vent of mine, I admit. It all began almost ten years ago when talking with a friend. He was unmarried and nearing the age of thirty (my story is similar). His lack of a companion was not his own choice. Rather, he longed for it. But a comment he made has stuck with me all of these years.

    “My friends at church keep telling me to just be content.”

    Ouch. I’m sure they meant well. But, as I’ve kept his comments in the back of my mind through the years, I hear that same sort of message from time to time (also its sister comment, “The moment you stop worrying about it, God will give it to you”). Our English translation of the Bible has approximately 750,000 words in it, and that is the best comfort and counsel we can give when it comes to the deep longings of the heart?

    A Christian ought to pursue contentment. And yes, brothers and sisters in Christ should help one another grow in godly contentment. But contentment is not stuffing your feelings.

    True, contentment is looking at all my desires and longings square in the face and recognizing that God is enough. He is sufficient. He is better. And even the best that this world has to offer serves as a pointer to the one who is better than the best. However, this doesn’t exclude all other desires and longings.

    Consider the longing to be married. God gave us marriage. He designed that a man and woman could become one and multiply. God also confirms that he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord (Prov. 18:22). So, does being content mean I shut off that longing and all the emotions associated with it? I don’t think so. Contentment is not stuffing your feelings. Contentment does not mean that I stop wanting something that I, and God, value.

    God designed us to enjoy many gifts on this earth: marriage, children, productive work, friendship, grandchildren, and the list goes on. It is okay to long for those things. It is not wrong to want God and a spouse. It is not wrong to want God and grandchildren.

    I would like to propose a different path than stuffing your feelings. There is no doubt that godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6). But contentment includes processing my feelings with God rather than stuffing them. It means that rather than wishing those desires were gone (or worse, seeing them as evil), sanctifying them by laying them on the table of prayer and allowing God to comfort you in the midst of them. And such a process can last a lifetime.

    It’s the difference between praying, “God, please take away my intense longing for children and make me content with you,” and praying, “God, thank you for the desire for children. As I look to you as being enough, I choose also to express my hurt, pain, and grief to you.”

    The latter prayer is more Christ-like than the former. Jesus himself said as much. “Father, please take this cup away from me. But not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

    Contentment is not stuffing your feelings. So, stop. Be honest with God. Openly acknowledge your longings and desires. Allow God to speak deep into your soul as you process them with him.

    WedWednesdayDecDecember7th2016 Metaphors That Matter
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Encouragement Songs 1 comments Add comment

    Images are important. They are powerful communication tools that often leave indelible marks on us. There is a reason crowds flock to art museums year after year. We connect to what we see. We are visual people.

    God knows this and uses this to help us grasp key truths about him and life. For instance, the word “rock” doesn’t particularly speak volumes to me. However, when God is described as a rock, suddenly key spiritual truths strengthen my soul. Another popular one is the word shepherd. Even though the profession is lost on our modern culture, “the LORD is my Shepherd” continues to serve as a long held image of God that comforts his people in many ways.

    Song writers have long understood the power of metaphor. God guided the psalmists in such a skill. Some of our oldest hymns utilized metaphor. And our modern songs do the same.

    Two metaphors have recently grabbed my attention from the songs we sing as a church family.

    First, in the 1700s, Robert Robinson wrote a dearly loved hymn, Come Thou Fount. The words that have long had my attention are “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” It’s true for me. I have a propensity to sin. My heart often, too often, leans toward autonomy and selfish ambition. But it is the metaphor Robinson uses prior to this phrase that has recently come on my radar, “fetter.”

    I didn’t know what a fetter was, so I looked it up. It’s a chain, often used in prisons, to contain someone. I think of a ball and chain. These are negative images in my mind because I am constrained to something I don’t want to be, i.e., a prison cell. But what if what I’m fettered to is something (or rather someone) grand and wonderful. Since I am so prone to wander and leave, then being fettered (chained) to God’s goodness and mercy is a wonderful image for me to cling to day in and day out.

    A second metaphor is in the song we introduced recently, Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor by Matt Boswell. I had heard the song several weeks prior and it struck me as one to grab onto. But the song had a greater impact for me the Sunday morning we introduced it.  Later that night I found myself in one mean storm, actually multiple storms. It seemed like everything that could go wrong was going wrong. While in the midst of that storm and chaos for a few days, the phrases of that song kept going through my mind, almost on repeat. It was what I needed. It gave me hope in the midst of crisis because I was reminded that he is an anchor to me.

    Now, I know I’m not special. I know that my troubles are common to you as well. Some of you have walked through pain and suffering not just for days, but for decades. My question to all of us, though, is, “What metaphor are you holding onto this week?” What picture, or image, helps you grasp a truth about God that you can, and need, to hold onto? Are they in the songs you sing? I hope so.

    What do you think? Does this remind you of a favorite metaphor that God has used to help you trust him more? I’d enjoy hearing it if you do. Please comment below if so.

    ThuThursdayNovNovember10th2016 The Greater and Perfect Leader

    I stayed up way too late Tuesday night, captivated by the tight race for the white house. I thought on it plenty the next day. As I watched my two boys playing I realized that this election determined the kind of America they will grow up in, the good and the bad.

    I love our country. I think it is a great one to belong to. But it isn’t everything. Even its best elements point us to a greater citizenship we have in Christ. It points us to a greater and perfect Leader, King Jesus.

    Many good comments and articles have already been written during the week and I don’t imagine mine will compare. But here is what is on my heart after this election.

    A Greater Citizenship

    First, while I think we live in a great country, any country serves to point us to a greater and perfect kingdom, the kingdom of God. My citizenship as an American will end one day. But my citizenship in heaven is eternal. It rests on the eternal reign of the King.

    Centuries ago an emperor became very aware of such a truth. Nebuchadnezzar said, “for [God’s] dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation” (Dan. 4:34).

    One day America will cease to exist (see John Piper’s helpful comments here, which stirred my thinking on this point). It wasn’t intended to be an eternal country but rather point to the unending reign of God. My ultimate hope is in his leadership.  

    A Greater Leadership

    Second, our new president (regardless of who would have won) serves to point us to the greater and perfect leader, King Jesus. Where Donald Trump fails, we will be reminded to trust in the current sovereign care of God who works in spite of poor government decisions. We will also long for the day when Christ returns and life in the new creation begins. Where Donald Trump succeeds we will be reminded to give thanks to God and, at the same time, long for something even better to come in the new creation. We cannot put our ultimate hope in any earthly leader, but rather look regularly to Jesus, our perfect Leader. He reigns today and forever.

    A Call to Prayer

    Third, the election is done (a moment of applause for the cessation of all the political commercials!). We now know who will help lead this country in the years ahead. We can now pray for that leader by name. We are commanded to do so. Donald Trump has not hidden his strengths and his weaknesses. And gratefully, we can talk to the greater and perfect Sovereign who rules through him.

    All in all, I am reminded that I belong to a nation that appears as nothing more than a drop from a bucket in God’s eyes. We are small in the grand scheme of things. That doesn’t demean our value, but it does put things in perspective. Our country exists to serve God’s agenda in this world. The years ahead are no less a part of that purpose. Though I enjoy being an American, I’m far more excited to belong to the King who rules over all nations and to be a part of his kingdom advance in this world.

    I don’t know how you feel this week. You may be disappointed or even scared. You may be relieved or even excited. You may fit somewhere in-between. But as a citizen of God’s kingdom, your faith should be as strong as ever, because you belong to the greater and perfect King whose rule never diminishes nor ends. It doesn’t even depend on election results.

    ThuThursdayOctOctober13th2016 Bringing Joy

    “Happy, happy, joy, joy.” It was a song from a cartoon I grew up watching. In fact, I owned the soundtrack of the show and listened to the song over and over again.

    The best part is when the artist stops the song and yells, “I don’t think you’re happy enough!”—after which, the singers belt it out with twice the volume and intensity.

    It’s a funny thought—working hard to create joy, as if we can muster it from some inner depth at will. For me, that most often translates to a lame attempt at having control. If I can just control people and circumstances, then I’ll experience joy, I often think. But that monster is never fed enough.

    So, where does joy come from? My Care Group recently studied the topic of joy, searching for what the Scriptures have to say. And, while there are multiple avenues of joy from a biblical perspective, the one that struck me the most was the joy that comes through relationship with other believers. 

    Paul connects joy to those he invested in: “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved” (Phil. 4:1). These disciples were his joy. He had been a part of their conversion and spiritual growth, and they were joy to him.

    Paul connects joy to fellowship: “Though I have much to write to you…I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1:12).

    Paul associates joy with seeing disciples remain connected to the truth of the Gospel: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

    This is good news for us. It means that community as a church family is key to experiencing real joy. This points us not only to Sunday morning, but to all opportunities that take place throughout the week. As a believer, I contribute to other’s joy and they contribute to mine.

    I’d like to suggest three simple, practical ways to help bring joy into the lives of others.

    1. Initiate time together. We live in an over busy culture. Time is a commodity. To some, it is of more value than money. You can have an immense impact by making time for others. Initiate time with other believers. Connect over coffee, lunch, or a walk with the strollers. Share what God is doing in your life and be a source of joy.

    2. Give testimony. If Paul was stoked about disciples walking in the truth, any time we do the same we bring joy to others. Give testimony about what God is doing in your life. Make it public. Brag about God and what he is doing in your life. If there is an opportunity to tell others what God is doing, do it. Whether that be at an open share time, in your Care Group or Connection Hour, don’t hold back. Bring joy to others.

    3. Encourage and affirm. Recently, at a retreat, we took some time to publicly encourage and affirm fellow believers. It was awesome. Each comment came like rapid fire on the heels of another. One after another, men kept encouraging one another and acknowledging that God was at work. Bring joy to others by sharing what you see God doing in and through them.

    Don’t waste another moment. Be a source of joy to those around you.

    ThuThursdaySepSeptember15th2016 Brotherhood

    A few days ago I heard some dogs yelping in our cul-de-sac area. It sounded like a fight by what I heard. I looked out the window from our upstairs bedroom but couldn’t see anything. I heard another commotion within a few more minutes, but shrugged it off. Later, I learned the commotion involved my neighbor, a fellow Christian. He had been bit by one of the dogs while mowing his lawn.

    He and his wife texted us while at the emergency room and gave us some of the details, picture and all. I felt awful. Why didn’t I go out to see what was going on, in case someone needed help? Would my neighbor have been spared those jaws had I been there with him?

    I expressed this to my wife. I told her, chest puffed as full as could be, “I should have gone out, it’s what brothers do! We get one another’s backs.”

    Now, that’s easy to say on this end of the cul-de-sac ambush of 2016. And yes, I’m glorifying the moment a bit much. But it does speak to a camaraderie that we men do share in.

    God has designed men differently from women (thank you Captain Obvious). And this leads to a number of shared similarities that, as a result, bring a connectedness in many great ways.

    Yet it seems that, as Christian men, we could depend on that far more. I know I could.

    Let me ask you a few questions…

    1. Do you have a strong (or growing) friendship with Christian men at Kossuth?
    2. If so, do they know personal details about your life (dreams, disappointments, struggles, goals, etc.)?
    3. Do you have a list of men from our church whom you know on a personal level and whom you pray for regularly?
    4. Are there Christian men in your life whom you laugh with, joke with, and enjoy time with, even when there is no agenda that brings you together?
    5. Do you share a sense of missional impact with other men from our church family?

    This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list. Nor do I mean to suggest that once you answer yes to all five of these questions that you have arrived as a Christian male.

    No, but I do think that matters like these are important for us men to pursue.

    For me it comes down to a fundamental fact that God has not designed us to walk with him alone, but to walk with him together. That doesn’t exclude women, but it does mean that there are unique aspects of the Christian walk where men need other men.

    This year’s Men’s Summit has been tailored to help us grow in these very areas. We will play a lot together. There is too much camp space and free time budgeted for us to fail to come up with all sorts of ways to interact and have fun together. We will worship and pray together. We will discuss mission and Christian growth together. We will encounter God together and in a way that outlasts our 24 hours in a lodge.

    So, come, be a part. Register at ksbc.net/ms16.

    ThuThursdaySepSeptember1st2016 Go and Make Friends

    Go and make friends.

    That was what I told myself. It had been a long day and the last thing I wanted to do was get back on the road after only a few minutes at home. But I knew the opportunity was too good to pass up.

    I was on my way to an event where I was probably a minority Christian in the group of twenty or so. As an introvert, twenty people are a lot of people. Not to mention the fact that I always feel like the odd ball in the group.

    As I drove alone in my car, I thought about the interactions ahead and wondered if I would hit any spiritual topics at all. I hadn’t yet. What would be different tonight? However, that was the wrong goal, at least at this point in the relationships that were forming.

    I recently had read through some of The Unbelievable Gospel by Jonathan Dodson. In it he placed a priority on relationships and question-asking in the endeavors of evangelism:

    “Christians are often proficient at rehearsing the information of the gospel, but we often lack the ability to relate the gospel to the lives of others…evangelism doesn’t have to be mechanical; it can be intuitive and relational. It doesn’t have to be pressure-driven and event-oriented. Listening to people’s stories, we can discern how to best share the gospel with them in a natural, relatable way. We don’t have to fit an evangelistic mold.”

    I was struck by what I read from Dodson. I needed to shift in my witness from treating it as a lecture to functioning more as a physician. At its extreme, in a lecture I relay information and trust the hearer to connect the dots as needed. But as a physician, I get to know the individual, ask several questions to diagnose the problem, and then relay the cure to the specific area of need. This is not to mention that giving a lecture comes with a lot of pressure. How do I begin? What if I forget to say the right thing, or come off as “preachy”?

    I want to be a wise physician, like our Great Physician. I want to build friendships and weave the gospel into our conversations over time, at the right times, and watch healing take place.

    As I drove my car and prepared for the evening ahead, I told myself, “Go and make friends.” The pressure was off. Anyone can make friends. You don’t need a seminary degree or ten years of pastoral experience to make friends. I had the privilege of simply asking questions and getting to know people. I got to make friends. And I had fun doing it.

    This was very encouraging to me since I’d currently give myself a D- in evangelistic ministry. However, I am motivated by the idea of meeting people, getting to know them, and slowly relating the gospel to their lives over a period of time. In fact, that sounds fun to me.

    I have a long way to go with this growing group of friends. Our relationship is very superficial at the present. But I’m working at it. I know the relationship will deepen, and as I pray and ask God for opportunity, I look forward to Christ entering our conversations. I’m excited.

    ThuThursdayAugAugust18th2016 Hunger for the Word
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Learning Scripture 0 comments Add comment

    I am hungry. Actually, I’m starving. When I get home I will attack the fridge and cupboards for anything I can consume. I get hungry often, and when I do, no one has to beg me to resolve my personal famine. In fact, if I go long enough, I’ll begin dreaming about what I might find. What's available—chocolate, crackers, grapes?!

    I recently completed a Bible study with some friends on the importance of God’s Word. In the study, we examined numerous verses that describe the Word. I was surprised to see how many times God relates and compares the Scriptures with food. Here are a few that struck me most…

    …that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deut. 8:3)

    I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. (Job 23:12)

    How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Ps. 119:103)

    Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. (Jer. 15:16)

    From these verses, three spiritual lessons come to the forefront for me.

    First, I need God’s Word for my spiritual health just as much as I need food to keep my body alive. God has designed his written Word to connect us to knowing him. As I hear, read, study, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word, I commune with my heavenly Father. To disengage from him for a significant length of time will bring malnutrition similar to any neglect of eating.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not encouraging legalism or monotony. There is tremendous freedom in how I engage God in his Word. One day can look different than another, some longer and some shorter, and no one will get hurt if a few days pass without picking up my Bible. However, it’s safe to say that no one will grow who doesn’t invest some kind of regular approach to pursuing God in his Word.

    Second, there is a pleasure that comes from time in God’s Word; just as I enjoy honey when it touches my tongue, so I enjoy God’s Word as I consume it. I may not feel like opening up my Bible at a given time, but once I start, I never leave thinking it was wasted time.

    That leads me to my third point, something someone shared with me years ago. Not every experience in God’s Word has to be of equal intensity. I don’t get as excited about peanut butter and jelly as I do my favorite meal at Nine Irish Brothers. And that’s okay. But both give me physical life. Some meals I remember and many I don’t, but all of them sustain me.

    It is similar to engaging God in his Word. I don’t have to put pressure on the moment that I must leave with a major, life-changing insight. Far from it, but any time in God’s Word sustains my spiritual health.

    So, be encouraged. Time in God’s Word is never a waste. You need that time, even if it is just five minutes. Read a Psalm. Reflect on last week’s sermon. Write a verse on a note card to memorize. Enjoy your meal.

    WedWednesdayJulJuly20th2016 God, Help Me
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Encouragement Prayer 0 comments Add comment

    “I need help!”

    Have you ever said that before? I know I have, plenty of times.

    It reminds me of a time when I went out for a run in the evening. I saw a storm approaching but assured myself that I had plenty of time to get back before it hit. I was wrong. It overtook me with about a mile to go and the thunder and lightning were so strong, my only solution was to duck down in a corn field for protection. I admit the inadequacy of the attempt. I needed help!

    What a relief it was when I saw headlights approaching from a distance, barely visible through the pouring rain. Slowly my wife approached in our vehicle. Recognizing it was her, I leapt to the door and jumped in the car. Saved!

    A need for help is a regular occurrence in our world, in all areas of life. And as proud as we can tend to be, often the cry for help, at least when we are at the end of our rope, comes from us as naturally as drinking water when thirsty. Such a cry transcends the differences between Christian and non-Christian. Life’s disruptions and disasters bring us to a humble call for aid, even from someone who cannot articulate who it is they are crying out to.

    However, as followers of Christ, we do know whom we cry out to and we are assured that the call does not go unheard. In fact, it is godly to cry out to God for help.

    In my personal reading of the Scriptures recently, I’ve noticed the word “help” many times in the Psalms. It is impossible to miss. David uses it often, and for good reason. He needed a lot of help throughout all of his life. He needed help in fighting sin and in dealing with its consequences. He needed help against physical enemies. He needed help in all kinds of situations, and so do we.

    We can call out to God for help because, “God is my helper” (Psalm 54:4). It is in his very nature to help his people. He cares deeply about every situation and is intimately involved.

    Recently I read Psalm 34. “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:17-18). He helps his people as he is always present with them, no matter what the situation.

    The staff team discussed this Psalm in our meeting on Tuesday. One comment in our discussion drew attention to verse 7, where “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.” That is awesome. With the strength of an entire army, God surrounds his people and helps them.

    This morning I read Psalm 35. “Contend…with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me…and rise for my help” (Ps. 35:1-2). He helps his people by working justice, either in this life or in the life to come.

    What are you up against? Does life look like it is unraveling right before your eyes? Does God seem far away? Do you doubt he really cares? I assure you he is near and he does care very much. He is committed to helping you at every turn. It is a promise to hold on to and rely on. Despite your interpretation of the situation, God is present and he is helping you.

    Whenever you cry out, “God, help me!” he already is.

    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.

     

    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.

    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.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch24th2016 Gathering in Grace
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Grace Holidays Worship 0 comments Add comment

    Her pin was very long, a half meter in length, and we all gazed on it in awe any time she brought it out. Her name was Vicki and she was no doubt a model of godliness for the church family I grew up in. She served aggressively, had a sweet demeanor, and it was clear that she loved God.

    The pin she wore was no doubt inspirational. At the center was a white circle with a beautifully etched picture on it. Then, below it, gold-plated bracket after bracket after bracket had been added, forming a long chain from the top. The brackets each represented a year of perfect attendance in church. And Vicki had won the day, and the year, for many years.

    She was a faithful woman for sure and this was but one sign of that.

    But I got it wrong. What I believe was a godly practice on her part translated to an ungodly one on mine. I imitated Vicki, but sinfully so. As a young boy I worked hard for those brackets, and soon looked with pride at my own inspirational (at least to me) pin. I cared less about God and worship and hearing his Word. But I really wanted more brackets.

    I still fight those tendencies. I’m older now, and our church family doesn’t reward any kind of attendance. But I still struggle not to look at any participation in a church event as a score card. It is somewhat humorous to me that, though I did nothing to receive my salvation, I can turn something like church participation in to yet another attempt to perform for God and others.

    God did not save me to attend church. He saved me for a relationship with himself, to be enjoyed and lived with my church family. Sunday morning is a big part of that. But we gather in grace. We don’t gather to earn any points with God.

    This past week, in our Gathering in Grace Connection Hour, we took a look at Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." While not specifically about corporate worship, it has implications for it. Personally and corporately we approach God because of his grace and, in the midst of that gathering, we receive abundant grace. There are no pins or physical rewards for that. It is simply a joy.

    Kari (my wife) and I often hear from our families a desire for us to be with them on Easter Sunday (if only we could clone ourselves!). Somewhere in the conversation we make a statement like this to ourselves: “I can’t imagine spending Easter at any other church than our own.”  

    This Sunday marks a key event in our church calendar – the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Come ready to celebrate the awesome Christ with all the passion, volume, and joy imaginable. But fight the temptation to believe you have somehow earned some points with God for showing up. That would be anti-grace. We gather this Sunday because of his grace, worship him as we are motivated by grace, understand his Word and obey because we are empowered by grace, and then exit with the message of his grace as we scatter.

    No pin is big enough to honor that.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch10th2016 Anticipating Easter Weekend

    What’s good about someone dying?

    I’ll get back to that, but for now, bear with me.

    I’m a very sentimental guy. I remember important dates in my life (often associating them with a song I heard that day…weird, I know) as if it were second nature. For instance, every year I remember the weekend that I met my wife for the first time. I recall weekends of last year’s road trips and triathlon events. I just like to remember such things and allow the emotions associated with those key moments to flood back in.

    I don’t think I’m alone. Every year our culture celebrates birthdays, Christmas, Fourth of July, and anniversaries. Facebook voluntarily offers a window into previous years by pulling up older pictures that were posted. Great friends continue a conversation over coffee with, “Remember when…” and the laughter that follows.

    God made us this way. We capture memories and hold on to the best of them until the day we die. It’s good for the soul.

    This is not only an individual practice. It is also something communities, like our church family, do. In the Old Testament, the Holy One of Israel gave festivals and key moments in the religious calendar. In the New Testament church, we also mark days in the year connected with a memory of what God has done.

    Easter weekend is the pinnacle of our Christian calendar. So much is remembered, and honored, over those few days, and rightly so. Each of us has many memories of celebrating the resurrection event year after year. In that weekend we see the gospel explicitly and our hope is again renewed in the new life offered by the risen Christ.

    We take that very seriously here at Kossuth. We seize several days of that weekend to honor Christ and preach the gospel to ourselves (and to our friends and family who join us).

    So, what’s so good about someone dying? Well, nothing, unless we are talking about Jesus Christ. In his death we are freed and in his resurrection we are raised to new life. That’s why we call it Good Friday. And that’s why such a somber day is redeemed into celebration. Because out of a bloody cross comes forgiveness.

    This year we, as a church family, will celebrate three events on Easter weekend. First, on Thursday, March 24, we will observe an inaugural event in our church, Covenant Thursday (also called Maundy, or Holy Thursday). At 6:00 pm, we will meet upstairs in rroms 205/206 to take of the Lord’s Table, read through relevant Scriptures and sing hymns (a capella style by request).

    Second, on Friday, March 25, we will observe Good Friday at 6:00 pm in the church sanctuary. This will be a time to sing about Jesus and the cross, read through Scripture, and hear from the Word of God.

    Third, on Sunday, March 27, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ during our normal worship service time. There will be no Sunday school or Connection hour, as we want to make it as easy as possible for you to bring your friends, neighbors, and relatives.

    Come to any, or all three, of these opportunities as we remember and celebrate the new covenant ushered in through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    WedWednesdayFebFebruary17th2016 The Songs We Sing

    George Matheson became aware of the harsh reality that he was going blind. Imagine, something as precious as sight, which we take for granted every minute of every day, being taken away from you. Everything would change for him.

    Add to this that his fiancé broke off the engagement, having determined that she did not want to be married to a blind man. Ouch. Losing your sight is one tragedy to face. Losing your fiancé because you are losing your sight is a whole new realm of difficulty.

    But God provided through Matheson’s sister, a woman who determined to love her brother by caring for him. Soon enough, however, another harsh reality came on the scene. Matheson’s sister found happiness in an upcoming marriage and he was forced again to think about life alone as a blind man. It was in the midst of this last event that he penned a most wonderful hymn, O Love that will not Let Me Go. The first verse goes,

    O Love that will not let me go, 
    I rest my weary soul in thee; 
    I give thee back the life I owe, 
    That in thine ocean depths its flow 
    May richer, fuller be.

    We as a church love to sing and listen to hymns and various kinds of Christian songs because we relate to the words. The best of these songs emerge from real life stories. They are not contrived out of apathy and ignorance, but out of the realities of raw life. Some birth out of mountain top experiences, and others, like this hymn, come out of pain and sorrow. Regardless, they span the tides of real life and help us express what we may struggle to put into words.

    Hymns and songs come from, and even tell, a story. Did you know that William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) struggled with major bouts of depression and attempted to end his life on three occasions? And yet hymns like There is a Fountain (a personal favorite hymn of mine) came from his heart and mind. Did you know that he was good friends with John Newton and that, together, they wrote a hymnal from which Amazing Grace was born? I think the best songs continue through the generations because we relate to them and our story joins with theirs. They mean something to us. They help us express what we value most. They are timeless.

    At Kossuth we value a variety of genres when it comes to corporate worship and singing. Included on this list is an appreciation of hymns, old and new. One ministry that has helped us sync with these values is Indelible Grace. This ministry seeks to keep the best hymns ever penned alive for our generation by revamping the melody and music behind the rich words.

    We are so glad to host again Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace. Please join us on April 21 for what will be an incredible evening together. Come at 4:45 p.m. for a dinner and seminar with Matthew Smith, followed by a concert at 7:00 p.m. The evening will conclude with a dessert reception. Find more information and register at ksbc.net/igrace.

    To help you prepare for this event, we are providing two playlists on YouTube. A general playlist of many of their songs already exists, but we have also made a playlist of their songs we currently sing at Kossuth. Check them out, sing along, and we'll see you there!

    ThuThursdayJanJanuary21st2016 Bridging the Gap

    I ran a race with a friend a few years ago. The race was in Indy and we determined to meet downtown, near the race’s location. The problem with our plan was that we did not have one. We failed to designate a meeting place, and it was a large part of the city to meet in. Thankfully I had been recently introduced to a smart phone, and at the last minute, we both downloaded an app that allowed us to see each other’s locations via GPS.

    As we walked among the sea of people, we saw ourselves coming nearer to each other (represented by a blinking, blue dot). Eventually, our dots bled together and, “Hi, Jed!”

    That’s how our calendars work, too. Among the people of faith, there is regularity to our calendar that forces us together (in a good way). Every Sunday we meet up as we all descend on our building at 2901 Kossuth Street. But on a much larger scale, annual events draw us together, too. We just celebrated Christmas. Soon we will come upon Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Events like these, among others, draw Christians together. They are hardwired into our calendar and create a time of pause and celebration. They serve as uniting points for people throughout the world.

    This can also be taken outside of the community of faith. Our secular culture also has a “religious” calendar. These “stop-and-celebrate” moments bring people together throughout our country, and sometimes even the whole world. What is unique about this kind of calendar is that it bridges the gap between the secular and the sacred in many cases. For instance, New Year’s Eve impacts the Christians and the non-Christians alike. Memorial Day and Labor Day do the same (who doesn’t love a good grill out?). The Fourth of July, Halloween, March Madness, the World Series, and Thanksgiving bring the metaphorical dots on the GPS all together, regardless of who we are.

    So, shouldn’t we, the church, be on the front lines of utilizing these days for the glory of God?

    The next key event on the calendar grid is the beloved Super Bowl. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Super Bowl doesn’t need any help becoming any more super. But, imagine using such a day with two purposes in mind. First, enjoy it. Eat those chips and queso. All of them (you know who you are). But, second, help bring those multiple dots on the GPS together, dots that cross the sacred and the secular.

    You see, that day creates far too common of a ground for us not to bridge the gap to our neighbors, coworkers, and friends who don’t know Christ. Imagine using your living room in such a way as to spend hours and hours with someone very different from you, yet brought together nearly perfectly through a common love for a sport. Don’t waste the day.

    Now, here is the play. It’s very easy.

    1. Sit down with your spouse or friends with a blank piece of paper.
    2. Write down the names of all human beings that you know, who don’t know Christ.
    3. Contact each person via email or phone, and ask, “What is your plan for the Super Bowl?” Remember, this is one of those moments in the year where you won’t hear a confused response. They may not have plans, but the game is on their mind.
    4. Offer your home, or invite yourselves to theirs.
    5. Throw the biggest party you can (and leave some queso for them).

    That’s what it looks like to scatter.

    ThuThursdayDecDecember3rd2015 Christmas Worship

    Not all songs are created equal. This is even truer when it comes to songs we use in corporate worship.

    I am a huge fan of Christmas music. Some years I have been known to listen to Christmas music as early as September (crouched down, hidden in a closet, with headphones on, of course). I currently have 228 songs in an iTunes playlist entitled “Christmas.” Further, I have even created a “Christmas Running” iTunes playlist for my listening pleasure while out on a run in the winter season.                

    But, as a worship leader, many of these songs do not make my own cut for what we sing on any given Sunday morning. Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” remixed to a bebop style is great for the Turkey Stampede I just ran, but it wouldn’t fly for singing truth on Sunday morning (despite how cold it really is outside that morning). You might catch my five year old and I belting out “Jingle Bells” at the top of our lungs while en route to buy peppermint milkshakes at Chick-Fil-A, but we wouldn’t request that for Sunday morning (though he might attempt it).

    But how do we draw those lines? There are so many great Christmas songs out there. And Christmas music, secular and sacred, has so much emotion involved. Some of our best memories over the years are wrapped up in many wonderful tunes, several of which we sang with our families when we were kids.

    Yet not all Christmas songs are created equal. Despite its popularity and the fact that it’s even better when sung by an adorable kid’s choir, I do believe Jesus cried in the manger just as any normal baby would do. To sing, “The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes,” would simply be untrue. When my boys woke up as infants, they were hungry, and they let you know in the way that all babies share their strongest opinions.

    So, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on a classic carol, but the point stands. Christmas time calls for discernment on all levels, and no less in what songs we sing in corporate worship as a church family. It has been a privilege and joy to seek out old and new Christmas songs that fit the bill for weekly celebrations of Jesus and his gospel. The sacred songs of Christmas most suitable for corporate worship accurately point us to Christ and rest on the foundation of his gospel.

    Last year we began singing “He Who is Mighty” and “God Made Low” from Sovereign Grace. The year before that we enjoyed “Exult in the Saviour’s Birth” by D.A. Carson (one of the greatest theologians of our day) and Matt Boswell. And all the while we worship with the classics, “O Holy Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Joy to the World.”

    This is a wonderful time of year in our church calendar. And it is our responsibility to keep Christ at the center of our activities, and yes, our corporate worship. That means many dearly cherished songs will make the song list on Sunday morning, but some will not.

    To help us keep Christ at the center, I’ve built a Spotify playlist that contains many of the songs we will sing this Christmas season as a church. I invite you to check it out and stay updated as new (and old) songs are added to it.

    WedWednesdayNovNovember25th2015 Focusing Our Outreach

    Having recently moved, I know what big projects are like. We arrived on the scene. We were excited about our new home. Truckloads of stuff stood behind us as we stared at the front door. We stepped in and were instantly reminded of all the things that had to be done: painting, new floors, organizing the garage, installing carpet, having the chimney cleaned and inspected, and the list went on.

    Quickly Kari narrowed our focus as she formed an order of projects. Sure, we could have just jumped in. But it is a wiser course to make a plan so that we can be the most efficient.

    At our last Family Gathering I shared an update from the Outreach Team along with some driving values. The intent was to bring clarity in the midst of a huge undertaking.

    Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” And, sort of like staring at the big piles in my garage, we sometimes wonder how to best focus. Opportunities abound for us as a church in this city. That’s great! But in order to make maximum impact, the Outreach Team has narrowed our opportunities as a church so we can do a few things well.

    First, there are some essential values I’d like to remind you (and myself) of.

    1. We believe that the word of God is essential in the process of making disciples. It is his word that changes the hearts of people as the Spirit applies it to them (1 Thess. 2:13; Heb 4:12). We proclaim the word of God and not our own words.
    2. God uses relationships in the process of drawing people to himself. We do not serve our city well if we as a church see ourselves as an island. Both individually and corporately we need to engage the least and the lost. God uses relationships as the bridge upon which the gospel travels.
    3. While we often find ourselves in individual witnessing opportunities, it is in fact a community effort. Sometimes that means we actually engage the city physically together. Or, that can simply mean we lean on encouragement and accountability from one another.

    Second, those values should drive you toward some specific action steps.

    1. Know and enjoy the gospel on a regular basis. You will share with others what you are most excited about. Get excited about Jesus by preaching the gospel to yourself each day.
    2. Invest in real relationships with non-Christians by going where they are. Invite coworkers to dinner. Join your neighbors for a card night. Offer to help your neighbor rake her leaves. Get time with people and really get to know them.
    3. Prepare yourself to invite non-Christian friends to read the Bible with you by reviewing the reading121.org material.
    4. Ask your Care Group to encourage you and hold you accountable to personal witness.

    Third, find a way to pray for, and participate in, one of our three corporate witness opportunities.

    1. Consider Oakland School. Become a mentor or participate in the Read to Succeed opportunity. Love and serve students and teachers there. They are just down the street from us.
    2. Consider Matrix Pregnancy Center. Look for ways to help save the unborn through fundraising efforts, stuffing envelopes and any other practical contribution. This is an important effort.
    3. Consider the Excel Center Graduation Ceremony. As a church we will be hosting the event on December 11. Come be a greeter, or help bring desserts. Buy some Christmas gifts for some of the children of the graduates.

    Opportunities await. Engage them by faith.

    ThuThursdayOctOctober22nd2015 Growing Together in the Word

    I have the privilege of leading a Discipleship Group with a few guys. We meet once a week to encourage one another and discuss the Scriptures. I love it. It’s a highlight of my week, every week (even at the early dawn hours we tend to meet).

    One early morning, after entering Panera, I found my seat as usual and waited for the guys to arrive. One by one they came and sat down, all of us wiping the sleep away from our eyes. As I was about to take a bite from my Cobblestone (that really gooey clump of wonderful), I noticed two familiar faces, but of guys not in my D Group. You don’t expect to see any other human being at that hour, let alone someone you know. But, in walked Andy and Morgan. Come to find out, this was a regular event for them. They had been meeting weekly to read the Bible together and encourage one another. I know them both well. They have been a part of the Kossuth family for quite some time. Morgan has mentioned several times how much he enjoys that interaction over God’s Word.

    They’re not the only ones. This is what God’s people do. We are creatures of the Word, and the very fact that God calls us not to walk with him alone, but together, drives us toward engaging the Scriptures with family and friends.

    I recently reviewed a book called Rediscovering Discipleship by Robby Gallaty. I recommend it on a number of levels. But at one point I was struck by the reminder that God’s Word is powerful enough to bring dead people back to life. “Two spiritual parents, as with human conception, must be present for spiritual birth to take place: the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Through prayer and Scripture reading, God may open the hearts and minds of lost people for repentance and faith” (190). It’s as James says, “Of his [God’s] own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18).

    This same Word, by which we are spiritually reborn, is also what helps us grow. Life comes from God’s Word as the Spirit uses it in our hearts. So why not bring it into the relationships you have? Those of you who already practice this already know the benefits.

    Let me paint a few pictures to give you some ideas of how to incorporate reading one-to-one in your life:

    1. Consider Andy and Morgan’s model of meeting weekly to read a chapter and discuss it. And that’s not all they do. They catch up on one another’s lives and challenge one another. But the Word takes center stage. You don’t need a seminary degree to do this. Nor do you have to have been a Christian for more than 30 seconds.
    2. Join a Care Group if you are not already in one. Our small group structure includes pairing up and reading one-to-one in between meetings.
    3. Consider teaming up with another family to participate in family devotions together. You could alternate over two occasions to engage the Scriptures together, but also to steal ideas from one another.
    4. There are so many new families here at Kossuth. Consider taking it upon yourself to invite someone to meet you for coffee and read together. That would be an incredible way to get to know someone on a deeper level.

    Regardless of how it looks, do it. Look at relationships you already have (with believers and non-believers) and bring the Word of God into them. 

    First, initiate. Don’t wait for someone to invite you. Take it upon yourself. That’s loving people. Send an email right now to one person you could read with.

    Second, set a date. Get it on the calendar pronto before the idea slips away.

    Third, enjoy. Start at Mark chapter one if you don’t know where to begin. Enjoy a deeper relationship, with God’s Word at the center.

    You won’t be disappointed.

    ThuThursdaySepSeptember10th2015 Horizontal Grace
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Events Grace 1 comments Add comment

    “I forgive you.”

    “I trust you.”

    “I love you still.”

    Receiving words like these, when we deserve to hear otherwise, are amazing moments. We can call them instances of horizontal grace, and they are indelible. They stick around for a long time. Can you recall a time you really blew it with your spouse, but when you braced yourself for the harsh words in response, she replied with a generous, "I forgive you"?

    Or, has there been a time when you shared a deep, secret sin with the ladies in your Care Group, something you've never told anyone before, and they responded with, "We are here for you, and we love you just the same."

    I remember when I was younger and determined to move back home during a tough personal season of my life. I was packing my belongings in frustration and hurt. I remember fighting shame that I was giving up on something. But I remember that weekend less for the pain I was in and more for the fact that my brother traveled hours to help me load up my car and ride with me on the long road trip. He sacrificed time that is a precious commodity. He was very gracious to me and I'll remember it forever.

    It means something to us as people when someone in our life sacrifices precious time to be a listening ear. It strikes us as amazing when someone could cast judgment but chooses to overlook an offense instead. We look up to the dad who patiently sits his child down and teaches the same lesson over and over again instead of losing his temper.

    Such instances of horizontal grace amaze us because they are other-worldly. They come from God.

    There is no doubt that the greatest picture of grace is when the mighty Son of God chose to die in our place, as our substitute. And it is equally true that any human picture of grace is merely a reflection of God in this world. But don't diminish the role and opportunity of modeling and extending grace to others. By such opportunities souls are saved as the Father is visible in his creation.

    Men, let me single you out for a moment. Whether it's in the workplace, in the home, on the block, or while watching the game, God calls you to live as a messenger of grace. As a herald, you not only preach grace, but you show grace when you are generous in your relationships.

    Your children need to see you extend grace. For the sake of the gospel, your neighbors need to see you extend grace as you live life with them. Our church needs to be a place of abundant grace as we men extend grace at every opportunity. In this God is glorified because there are glimpses of him all over.

    This year's Men's Summit will focus on this topic. We will take a deep look at being messengers and extenders of grace in our homes, in our city, and to our own church family. Come be refreshed by the Gospel and grow in your ability to give grace to others.

    Sign up now at ksbc.net/ms15, before the price increases on September 23.

    See you there!

    ThuThursdayAugAugust20th2015 Scatter to Joe

    His name was Joe. We were both in our twenties, working for a small security company in the north Chicago suburbs. His position required that he come by my post several times a day. A small friendship developed rather quickly. I didn't do anything other than be me. Along with working hard together, Joe observed my Bible and Scripture memory cards frequently. Soon enough, our conversations began to include spiritual topics.

    Joe didn't let me go very deep in the truths of Christ with him. I tried, but he put up a fence. That's okay. God took it as far as he saw fit for that time. But it stands as one of my favorite gospel opportunities to this day, in large part because it was so natural. Christ just intersected our conversations without much effort; I was just a disciple living out normal everyday disciple stuff in everyday life, just like you.

    I'm so encouraged by Mark 5. It's an intense story of insane amounts of demonic activity. But a man was healed of a long time dominion in a very powerful way. He was set free by Jesus. And naturally he wanted to stick close to the one who gave him freedom. What's remarkable to me is that Jesus refused his offer to join his travels. Rather, he told the man, "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:1).

    Wait. Jesus told him to go home? Yes. Jesus insisted that this man depart and re-enter his relational circles, those who knew him best, and tell them what happened, to point them to God’s mercy. He was commanded to go to the “Joes.”

    Where are your circles? Who are your “Joes”?

    Let me ask you a few questions…

    Do you eat alone on your lunch break or with others? Come on fellow introvert. I know it’s not your first choice, but it's necessary. I know of a pastor in Atlanta whose aim is to never eat lunch alone, but rather to always eat with someone who doesn't know Christ. Don't eat alone.

    Do you know your eight closest neighbors? No? Bake some cookies tomorrow and head over as a family. Say you baked plenty and wanted to share the wealth. Make it your aim to just get to know them.

    Kari and I are in the process of moving to another part of the city. We were at the store the other day and she commented, “Wow, I’m going to have to meet a whole new group of employees at new stores. What about Wally (the greeter she and Liam visit with on most grocery runs)?” Do you make time to ask how the cashier is doing and make even more time to really listen?

    You see, scattering can take on many distances. For many it means crossing oceans. But it also means pausing in the midst of everyday life and caring for the individual right next door, or in the cubicle across the way.

    I believe God wants you and me to identify such persons and spend intentional time with them.

    Who is your Joe? 

    ThuThursdayAugAugust13th2015 Pray for Campus
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Campus Ministry Prayer 0 comments Add comment

    This past Family Gathering goes down as one of my favorites. One reason, among several, is the encouragement to pray. We heard remarkable answers to prayer, we were called to pray, and then we went and prayed at Oakland School down the street (having ice cream after all of this prayer stuff may or may not have influenced my enjoyment of the evening).

    As disciples, we pray. We believe it has an impact on the world and God’s agenda for it. It is an opportunity for joyful obedience when we pray. And I'd like to call on us as a church to pray for Purdue over these next few weeks as students arrive.

    Pray for the Kossuth team. Kari and I, Jon and Annie, Darrin and Alice, JW and Stephanie, Tony and Jenessa, and Stephen, have the privilege of guiding and shepherding the campus ministry. Pray for us as we disciple student leaders and other students, and as we guide the ministry in general. We care deeply for these students and want to love them well. Pray also for our POD leaders, members from Kossuth who disciple students.

    Pray for our student leaders. Salt and Light has a leadership team that helps lead the way in making disciples on campus and at Crosswalk. Please pray for Charlotte, Jessica, Lydia and Emma as they arrive back on campus for our Fall Leadership Summit on August 20-22. Pray for wisdom as we strategize how to impact lost souls and connect believers to our church family.

    Pray for lost souls. Not unlike previous years, we are emphasizing personal evangelism among our students in an effort to win the lost. Pray for a burden in our students to love non-Christian students with the gospel. Pray for conversions. Pray for growth of our ministry and church as people exit the kingdom of darkness and enter the kingdom of God’s Son.

    Pray for disconnected freshmen. Thousands of freshmen will be arriving on campus. A lot of them are already Jesus’ disciples, but don't have a church family to connect with. Please pray that God connects us to them so we can love them, help them grow, and train them for fruitful ministry on campus and beyond during their time here.

    Pray for mobilization. A joy in working with college students is the opportunity of mobilizing students into fruitful ministry after they graduate, ministry in the nation and in the nations. Pray that God gives us another great group who will catch the vision and labor with the gospel well beyond their college years.

    Pray for missional living. We challenge every student to live among the lost, primarily in the residence halls and Crosswalk. But that can be a wearisome task. Pray for endurance and supernatural love as they live among those who don't know Christ.

    In generations past, and even in recent years, God has seen fit to do remarkable things in and through college students. And I genuinely believe we are set up this year to experience something special. I'm excited for what is ahead, and recognize that unless God does it, it won't happen.

    So, please pray for campus.

    ThuThursdayJulJuly16th2015 Gather, Grow, Scatter
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Church Planning Vision 0 comments Add comment

    Gather. Grow. Scatter. What isn’t there to get excited about regarding those three words?

    What a long time coming. We have been talking about a strategic plan for so long (and rightly so…you don’t just throw together a major plan that will affect several years of ministry on a whim). God has been taking us on this incredible journey. And now that we are fully out from shore into this sea with a new horizon, it’s go time.

    But where do we start? Well, after plenty of coffee and numerous white boards filled to the edges, Drew and I (along with the rest of the elder team) offer these three words. These three words serve us in so many ways. They are a banner, something to wave and get behind as we march to new destinations. They are a process, a cyclical movement that is taking us somewhere, toward maturity in Christ. They are a guide that helps us know what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to.

    Drew did an outstanding job introducing the ideas behind “Gather, Grow, Scatter” to us last Sunday. And the Connection Hour of the next two Sundays will be used to share how these three words impact our church on a practical level. But please allow me the opportunity to highlight these three words one more time as we continue to roll out “Phase 2” of our strategic plan.

    Gather. From its inception, Christ’s church has assembled together in corporate worship to participate in those wonderful things God allows us to be involved in. Singing, hearing the Word preached, giving, and even the random hallway conversation: they all serve a role in our Christian community as the whole church family comes together in our special Sunday morning worship time. When we gather, not only do we give the due glory to God, but we are refreshed by his gospel and propelled toward obedience. (This Sunday we have the privilege of celebrating three baptisms. Anyone who doesn’t leave that gathering event refreshed doesn’t have a pulse.) We gather because that is what Christians do. Without it, the beauty of the church would be tainted.

    But that gathering always moves into something even deeper and no less essential. We grow together in deeper contexts that come with more intimate environments. For us, in this season, that primarily means engaging in Connection Groups and Care Groups. They serve as a ground for deepening in relationships as we search God’s Word and apply it to our lives. Discipleship doesn’t happen at a distance. It is meant to happen in the midst of loving, caring relationships (1 Thess. 2:8). If you are not a part of both of these avenues of discipleship, you are missing out. Join one right away and get your walk with God on an important track.

    But Christian growth always moves outward. No biblical church avoids impacting the least and the lost in the surrounding city and nations. We scatter to impact. We scatter to make a difference. We scatter to bring glory to God. We scatter because that is what the church does. And she is always good at it when she does it God’s way.

    We gather to grow. As we grow, we scatter. When we scatter, we gather again, bringing new found friends with us.

    This will drive the next season of Kossuth. I can’t wait to see the fruit of it. And I can’t wait to do it with you.

    WedWednesdayJunJune17th2015 Gospel Wakefulness
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Gospel Sermons 0 comments Add comment

    I don’t remember what the class was, but I remember the setting very clearly (although it was nearly 18 years ago). It was a large lecture hall of 300 people. The lights were dim and the overhead projector fan (that’s right, transparency sheets and all) was blowing.

    My college habits didn’t include sufficient hours of sleep. I mean, who sleeps in college, right? So, there I was, listening to the eternal lecture of boredom multiplied ad infinitum. If you sat next to me, you would have seen my eyes slowly falling closed like a distant sunset. The funny thing was, my hand kept writing on my blank sheet of paper as I took notes. But, what started out as words slowly, then rapidly, turned into a scribbled line that eventually went off the page. Startled, I jerked back awake…at least for a few minutes until the next episode of sleepiness settled in.

    It’s a humorous story, isn’t it? But that same boredom and fatigue can creep into our lives as it relates to the gospel. “I’ve heard this before.” “Haven’t I graduated from this?” “Give me the meat of spiritual disciplines.” And so the gospel gets put in to the closet like an old shirt no longer desirable because, hey, I have more exciting clothes to choose from now.

    Enter chaos. Enter confusion. Such things come when we disconnect from the gospel and its truths that impact every part of every day of all of life.

    If the gospel were a lecture hall, would there be scribbled ink on your page or a wealth of attentive writing, full of interest, excitement, and focus? I believe the choice is ours every minute of every day. How I react to, look to, and focus on the gospel is my decision. And the reward of gospel wakefulness is significant.

    The idea of gospel wakefulness comes from the title of a book by Jared Wilson. I’ve had it on my shelf (actually, my electronic shelf of e-books) for some time. And while the author seems to use the term in a slightly different way than I will, the foundation is the same. The Christian must be attentive to the gospel with joy and delight as he treasures Christ. This impacts all of life in wonderful ways.

    I have the privilege of preaching this Sunday and the week after. On the occasions that I preach, I will be walking through the book of Galatians. And the intent is to see a stirring in my own heart, and your heart, toward gospel wakefulness.

    Paul gives attention to plenty of things in this letter. But his primary focus is to call the churches of Galatia to a gospel attentiveness and alignment. Somewhere along the way in their Christian life, these Christians had been knocked off their horses with lies of an insufficient Jesus. I believe we Christians today face these same lies. Lies that suggest faith in Jesus was a good start, but we need more, more that we ourselves can and should contribute.

    I look forward to how God will use Galatians to waken us to the truths of the one and only Jesus Christ, who alone saves us and leads us in all of life.

    Please join me this Sunday.

    ThuThursdayJunJune4th2015 From Sinner to Saint

    “I’m tired of this sin in my life! Why can’t I beat this?”

    Have you ever said anything like that before? I have…plenty of times. As Christians, we believe the truths of the cross. We are saved. Our sins no longer stand against us. He has removed them as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103). We believe that and we rest in that.

    But when you look at normal, everyday experience, it often looks very different. For someone whose sins are removed so far from him, I sure do sin a lot still.

    What do you struggle with? Do you struggle with an impure thought life or viewing inappropriate material on the internet? Do you sin in anger against your spouse or children? Are you tired of stuffing your face again and again instead of going to God with your emotional roller coaster? Do you hate someone? Are you bitter? Do you lie?

    The list is long. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), whether as Christians or as non-Christians. But there is a huge difference between the experiences of the two. The non-Christian is trapped, enslaved to his sin and behavior. But—thanks be to God!—the Christian is free and released from being enslaved to sin.

    Celebrate, church! This is good news. This is great news.

    When it comes to this topic there are two crucial points on the road of Christian growth and fighting sin.

    First, we look at the gospel. Every day we look at the gospel. We never stop looking at the gospel. We run to Jesus. No matter how my list of sins will grow this day, I am to rest in Christ all the day and let him speak deep into my soul that he is bigger than my sin. He loves me. He cares for me. I am his son. So are you. No matter what. That’s a promise to hold on to.

    Second, we run into the battle against sin, using all of the resources he so graciously and generously provides. But we do so in a way that is still connected to our rest in Jesus. His Spirit reminds us of Christ and empowers us toward obedience as we saturate ourselves with his word, pray fervently, spend time with fellow Christians, and even join in Christ’s mission.

    These two go together and stick together like glue.

    This summer we want to tackle this topic during our Connection hour. Beginning June 14, all Connection Groups will join in the Ministry Center. The whole church will be studying From Sinner to Saint found on GoThereFor.com.

    This study walks us through what I’ve just described above. We will take a new and fresh look at the gospel of Jesus Christ. Out of that, we will renew our efforts in the battle against sin as we live as saints in this world. I look forward to new freedoms we will all experience as we journey together through this study.

    Please join us and get excited!

    ThuThursdayFebFebruary5th2015 Your Disciple-Making Tool Belt

    I remember the day as if it were yesterday. We were sitting out on the lawn of the campus of Illinois State University. We called it the Quad. It was spring and, as you know, spring always offers a feeling of new beginnings. As a young sophomore in college, God had given me a new beginning – a rebirth and a new heart. But I needed help. I needed a guide. And not just a guide, but a trail-blazer who knew where he was going.

    So there I was, sitting on the Quad with a man by the name of Jeremy. I’m not sure how I ended up on his radar. I knew I needed help in my newly given faith. And I think he knew it by the clueless look I always had on my face. 

    Jeremy began to invest in me, and he knew what he was doing. Scripture memory? He pointed me in the right direction. Evangelism? He went with me on my dorm floor and helped me reach out to fellow students. Lead a Bible study? He was right there, and he started us in John, which I assume was his typical starting point.

    Prior to knowing Jeremy, another man by the name of Jim had also invested in me. I called Jim one day because I had been hearing a mysterious term thrown around frequently. They called it a “quiet time.” I didn’t know exactly how to have one, but I knew I needed to start. So I called Jim (this was before the inundation of Facebook and email), and Jim was kind enough to actually come to my dorm room. He sat down with me and got me started on a devotional time. But he had a plan. He had a resource that he gave me (a little pamphlet that served as a simple prayer guide). He explained it. He did it with me.

    I am forever grateful for Jeremy and Jim and other men who have come alongside of me in my Christian walk. These men took an interest in my life and equipped me to be a faithful follower of Jesus. They knew not only what I needed, but they also had a resource that they walked me through and used as a starter.

    Let’s call it a disciple-making tool belt  a resource kit from which to pull when helping someone understand and live the gospel. Mine has changed over time. It always will be changing. Do you have a disciple-making tool belt? If someone asked you how to have a devotional time, would you know how to help them? If God opens a door to share the gospel with someone who doesn’t know Christ, do you have a default plan of action? If not, why not get started today?

    The list is long of options to choose from, and so many of them are great. (But beware: not all are great, or even good for that matter. If you are ever unsure, be sure to run the resource by a respected Christian as a filter). But I want to introduce you to one particular new resource for our church family that you might consider adding to your tool belt. It is called gotherefor.com and it is managed by Matthias Media (you would know them from The Trellis and the Vine and Two Ways to Live). It is an online database of e-books, Bible studies, videos, and more, all with the bent toward equipping effective disciple-makers.

    Kossuth has purchased licensing for this database and you can gain access for free with a church code. Please email me (acremeens@ksbc.net) for access to the subscription code so you can begin checking it out. It is full of great resources you can use to grow your own soul and help others as well.

    Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be mentioned in a blog by someone you helped grow spiritually on a warm, spring day years prior.

    ThuThursdaySepSeptember25th2014 Redeeming Your Work
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Events Work 0 comments Add comment

    What if the Monday blues became a weekly highlight? What if Friday became a point of celebration, not only because the weekend ahead, but also as a result of the sense of godliness you experienced during the previous days?

    Godliness…just by working my job?

    Yes, that’s exactly it! Work is God’s idea. Not only did he work when he created the world, he even created work as a good act for Adam and Eve to do as they tended the garden and governed the earth in his place. Get this: When you work, you are imitating God; you are being godly. Every creative act you perform is an imitation of our God.

    But you don’t have to walk through too many pages of Scripture before you see that work as a godly pursuit became frustrated and distorted. However, God is too good to let that be the end of the story. In the gospel, God redeems even work. Putting in a hard week to pay the bills and put food on the table is a good desire, but it falls too short of what God intends and what he reshaped in his redemptive work. There is a calling and a mission on each one of us in the work place. And I don’t just mean sharing the gospel with non-Christian coworkers (as important as that is). No, I’m talking about an overhaul of your entire life agenda. In our experience of God and his gospel we not only experience a life-altering relationship with the living God, but our entire purpose and agenda are reformatted according to his will and standard.

    This absolutely includes our professional lives. After a lengthy explanation of gospel truths in Ephesians 1-3, Paul eventually hits on derivative principles that affect how we work. Christian, do what your employer asks, just as you would for Christ, “rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man” (Eph. 6:7, emphasis added). The gospel rewrites how we work.

    Please mark November 14-15 on your calendars. During that weekend the men of Kossuth will come together to discuss the Gospel and its impact on work. I believe this weekend of looking at the gospel will transform how you spend your 50+ weekly work hours. And not only that, I believe it will create a ripple effect that impacts your family and personal walk with God, as well.

    Join us. I promise not only great content as we look into the Scriptures together, but also great fun as we connect as men and get all rowdy and stuff.

    Stay tuned for registration information coming soon!

    ThuThursdayMayMay1st2014 The Gospel Grid
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Gospel Singing Worship 0 comments Add comment


    Distraction is a powerful enemy of Christian living. Can you relate? After a great weekend of rest and renewal, Monday morning comes with great intentions of a focused Christian life—a life dedicated to Christ with delight in his gospel.

    But you oversleep on Monday morning. You arrive at work late and before lunch arrives you’ve fought every ungodly thought imaginable. The deadlines are screaming at you and all you can think about is how you are failing in every area of your life.

    Or maybe you fit in an opposite extreme. You work hard to mind every area of your life because you want to rely on your own ability rather than the righteousness that God supplies in Christ. So Monday represents another day of working really hard to feel good about yourself based on your own performance.

    Add to this the prominent ability of the world to yell all day long that this life is all about you.

    It’s difficult, isn’t it? It’s difficult to remain focused on Christ and his gospel.

    Enter Sunday morning corporate worship. It is a summit where one can reach a height from which to take a deep breath, look all around, and remember what life is really all about. And that is one way the worship team wants to serve.

    Back in August of 2013 a shift in worship planning took place. It was the result of a number of influencers, but the outcome was a new grid by which to filter song selection: the Gospel Grid. It is based on Greg Gilbert’s book, What is the Gospel, along with some ideas from Matt Papa and Mike Cosper. In Gilbert’s book he presents a four-stage explanation of the Gospel: God, Man, Christ, and Response. God is holy and righteous Creator, Ruler of all things. Man rebelled and received the consequence of condemnation and death. Christ came to pay the penalty for that rebellion on the cross and conquered death by rising from the grave. People can respond by receiving new life as a gift from God through trust and repentance.

    What does this have to do with Sunday morning worship? Everything. On the summit of Sunday morning worship we have the opportunity to retell this story every week and to remind ourselves that life is not all about us. This is the grid that guides song selection as we retell this story together as a church family. In determining the first four songs each Sunday morning, one song is chosen for each part of the Gospel Grid. We begin by elevating our view of who God is. Next, a song is chosen where at some point we reflect on our sin. After that we celebrate with a song explicitly about the work of Christ on the cross. And finally we sing a song related to how we respond to the cross, either with further celebration, other reminders, or prayers to God for help.

    This has been so refreshing to us and I trust it has been to you as well. We are still tweaking things and improving on it. In future weeks, we will be inserting in the bulletin from time to time an explanation of this grid and which songs fit into which category so you can be more mindful of the purpose of what we are singing at any given point.

    If you’d like to learn more, take a look (and listen) at these two resources, from which these ideas have been completely stolen:

    • Matt Papa, "Sing the Story"
    • Mike Cosper, "Retelling the Gospel Every Week" (audio found here)

    And while I'm at it, let me take a moment to give a call-out. We will be losing a few musicians this summer. If you are a member of our church family (or in process or about to begin the membership process) and are interested in serving in worship ministries, please let me know. I’d be glad to connect with you and help you determine if you are a good fit for this ministry.

    ThuThursdayDecDecember12th2013 Multiply


    Multiply. For the last several months we as a church family have been inundated with this verb. And significant steps have been taken to make that verb even more a part of our lifestyle.

    But why all the fuss? Because Jesus made a pretty big fuss about it. “Go, therefore, and make disciples…” This must be a rather important topic since it permeated Jesus’ ministry and was among his last commands he gave while on earth. And, truth be told, the only reason the Kossuth family exists today is due to that fine verb. From what we read in Acts way back in the AD 30s all the way to 2013, God has been multiplying his church and involving his people in the process (people like you and me!).

    Many of you have been impacted in various ways. I’ve heard numerous stories of how God has grown us in this topic by his grace.

    One college student, Amanda, was called out of darkness into the kingdom of Christ this semester. You’ll get to hear her story in the near future of how God used Charlotte, one of our Salt and Light student leaders, to influence her with the gospel.

    We watch eagerly to see how God will impact Mitch, another college student, as Sam Childs reads the Bible one-to-one with him. They just finished Ephesians. Mitch is honest that he doesn’t yet follow Jesus but is eager with questions. And Chad Cecil recently was involved in seeing a confession of faith from a friend he has been reading the Bible with. Praise God!

    I’ve personally received the joy of getting to know JW a whole lot more as we’ve met at Moe’s to read one-to-one over mighty large burritos. (Does it get any better than that…Bibles and burritos?!) JW and I have been in the same Care Group for quite a while. But now our interaction has gone to a whole new level.

    My wife, Kari, saw God open the door to read the Bible with two of our neighbors. It has really gone well and been enjoyable for her. We thank God for this opportunity.

    The men in one Care Group meet once a month and then split up into pairs to read the Bible together. As they do this, they also leave margin in their schedules to reach out and read the Bible one-to-one with those who don’t know Christ.

    I could give you several names from our church family who have begun to read the Bible one-to-one with coworkers.

    And all you do is have to bring up reading the Bible one-to-one with Kirk O’Dell to find yourself quickly energized that such an activity is worth your time.

    Some of you (fellow) introverts have taken significant, even heroic, steps in reaching out to invite nonbelievers to read the Bible one-to-one. I thank God with you as you’ve taken hard steps of obedience, even when it was uncomfortable.

    Not to mention all the invites that have gone out from you but were turned down. Don’t be discouraged. RSVPs are not our department. That belongs to God the Spirit. And who knows how God is using our invites in the process of drawing men and women from among our neighbors and the nations.

    Please don’t hear me saying that reading the Bible with others or outreach or multiplying is any new thing at Kossuth. It’s not, or else Kossuth wouldn’t exist right now. But I do invite you to join me in rejoicing at the significant pace God has brought us to as a disciple-making church. And we have so much more to look forward to!

    This past Sunday we wrapped up this series on multiplication. But we never wrap up the call on our lives to be disciples who make disciples (until we no longer abide on this earth). May God be glorified as we continue to multiply in generations to come!

    ThuThursdayJulJuly18th2013 Imagine the Fruit
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Discipleship Evangelism 0 comments Add comment

    [Guest post by Abraham Cremeens, Minister of Discipleship and Worship.]

    But many of those who had heard the word believed,
    and the number of the men came to about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)

    "The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make the man of God like the Son of God." That was a phrase I heard years ago during a conference teaching. Not only does it have a good rhythm, but it’s biblical.

    The Word of God is central to all spiritual growth. And God uses ordinary people like you and me in the proclamation of his Word.

    For four years Kari and I have slowly built a relationship with several of our neighbors. They are fun, normal, goofy people, just like us (although my “normalcy” might be debatable). Liam plays with their kids’ toys and they play with Liam’s—normal, everyday stuff.

    A couple of weeks ago Kari was talking with one of the women and simply invited her to begin reading the Bible together. Our neighbor was excited about the opportunity and soon after, one of our other neighbors welcomed the invite as well.

    Within the same week, one of the men came over to help unload our groceries. With no prompt, he began to describe a recent event as a “God-moment” and not just a coincidence. Seems like another opportunity to invite someone in to a reading one-to-one opportunity.

    Regardless of how we interact with our friends and family, the end-goal is the same: spend time in God’s Word with others. Simple. Powerful. Not rocket science. No degree needed.

    You have dear people in your life that you care about: friends, family, children, neighbors, co-workers. The people in these relationships are just waiting for you to open up the Bible with them. It's true, they are. Statistics show that many would answer “yes” if a friend were to invite them to read the Bible with them. But why lean on statistics when we have the sovereign hand of God at work around us? He has people set apart from before the beginning of time to receive salvation (2 Tim. 1.9). The harvest is plentiful. Are you willing to trust God in faith and reach out to a friend in this way? You won’t regret it.

    And we want to help. This fall we will be sailing some adventurous and exciting waters together. In an effort to further understand what discipleship is and how to conform to Jesus’ command to make disciples, we will further the “Multiply” series within our Connection Groups and Care Groups. As part of the teaching curriculum, connection groups will teach and lead discussions on topics related to discipleship and reading the Bible one-to-one. Further, Care Groups will take the same material and make it a part of their Care Group time and encourage application through Care Group relationships. Imagine the fruit that would come from the majority of our church family actively reading the Bible and praying together with one another and with non-Christian friends.

    You can even get a head start by visiting this website: reading121.org.

    MonMondayJulJuly2nd2012 Intentionality in discipleship

    [Guest post from pastoral intern Abraham Cremeens]
     
    God saved me early in my college career at Illinois State University. As a young college student with a newly given faith, I was young and green and clueless. I remember looking around me at more mature Christians and wanting the vibrant, fruitful relationship with Christ that they had. So I began to ask around.

    I called Jim. “Hey, Jim, what is this whole Scripture memory thing I keep hearing about?” And Jim came over and showed me how to memorize Scripture. I called Jim again. “Hey, Jim, what is this whole devotional time thing about?” And Jim came over again and showed me how he spends time with God.

    Soon after that I met Jeremy. He began to meet with me weekly and help me in my walk with God and also how to discuss my faith with friends on my dorm floor.

    After Jeremy moved away, I met Kent, after which I met Kevin…and you see the pattern. God has been so good to me in placing men in my life, even up to this present day, who have intentionally helped me grow spiritually. And God has given me numerous opportunities to help others with the same.

    The word “intentionality” is one we use a lot in SLCF. And yet it is a word that can often be found missing in the pursuit of discipleship. Most Christians agree that discipleship is part of any biblical church. Most Christians understand that we need one another for fruitful, God-glorifying spiritual growth. But in my experience intentionality often lacks in discipleship.

    Intentionality is the opportunity for you to ask how you can better help someone grow to be more like Christ to God’s glory. It is thinking ahead of time about spiritual needs and ways to help those around you that you care about. It may be your children as you disciple them. It may be a younger believer in your life. It may even be a spiritual peer, someone you meet with regularly who is similar in spiritual maturity as you.

    To help us be more intentional in discipleship, Kari (my wife) and I often ask three questions.*
    1. Where is he/she now (needs)?
    2. Where am I taking him/her?
    3. What is the next step?
    Let’s say small group leader Bob sees a pattern of criticism in small group member Justin. Bob sees his opportunity of helping Justin grow in this area of his life and wants to take a step forward in helping Justin become more like Christ. Bob sits down one evening and begins writing down some thoughts. 

    “Where is Justin now?” Justin is regularly critical toward others and other small group members are beginning to avoid him. “Where am I taking Justin?”  I’m going to walk with Justin out of criticism and into a lifestyle that builds others up. “What is my next step?” I will initiate a coffee with Justin in the next week.  During that time I will lovingly bring his pattern of criticism to Justin’s attention, using Eph 4:29 to make it clear what his end goal should be. If Justin is repentant, I will encourage him toward an arrangement where I regularly interact with him when I note either a critical comment (to further challenge him) or a comment that builds someone up (to encourage him as I see progress).

    That is at least one picture of what intentionality looks like in discipleship. Let’s grow in our love for one another as a church family by asking how we can specifically journey with others through spiritual growth to God’s glory.


    *These questions came out of Kari's time on staff with Campus Outreach Gulf Coast.
    Elders' BlogConnecting. Informing. Shepherding. Teaching.by