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    Elders' Blog - Entries from September 2013

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    WedWednesdaySepSeptember25th2013 Happy Birthday, Mom
    byDon Whipple Tagged Family Parenting 1 comments Add comment

    I don’t remember the first time I met my mother. Being her third-born child I was very young at the time. Paul and Allegra, my father and mother, live in Lagrange, Ohio. My mom celebrates her 86th birthday this week. Happy birthday, Mom.

    My parents both love the Lord and have served him throughout my entire life. God has directed them into a special season of life presently where after 64 years of marriage they are not able to live together. After a stroke, my mom needs the special care that a nursing facility provides while my dad lives nearby in a small apartment connected to my brother’s house. They are together every day as Dad faithfully visits and cares for Mom. It is a genuine joy to watch these precious senior saints grow in their hope, faith, and love as they have faced unexpected challenges and changes over the past few years.

    My mom and dad continue to impact their world and leave an enduring legacy, even though their lives at this point are radically different than what they had planned, hoped for, and expected. They set a pace for our family when it comes to serving the Lord with joy and perseverance.

    Mom presently leads a Bible study with an eclectic group of residents in the nursing home where she lives. She is unable to walk and still struggles with using one arm. She gets in trouble with the staff and Dad for breaking the rules once in a while, but she never has been much of a conformist and doing some things in those motorized wheel chairs are too hard to resist. Her father died when she was 6 years old. She knows what hard work, love and serving are all about as her mom had to go to work and she helped raise her three younger sisters. A few weeks ago when Sue and I were there visiting, Mom wasn’t feeling real well but went ahead and led her study. Sue got to sit in and help. That was a blessing to see Mom pouring the gospel into others even when admittedly she would rather be someplace else.

    One of my most vivid memories as a young child is at a church meeting when the church body was commissioning and sending a family to some part of the world as missionaries. The couple being sent was kneeling at the front surrounded by a bunch of men in suits while Mom was standing behind the pulpit singing the song “So Send I You.” I don’t have to Google it to remember the line and Mom’s soprano voice when she sang, “so send I you to labor unrewarded, to serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown…” I did, however, have to Google to get all the words to this great gospel song. Here they are Mom; you and Dad are living these truths today:

    So send I you to labor unrewarded,
    To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown,
    To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing-
    So send I you to toil for Me alone.

    So send I you to bind the bruised and broken,
    O’er wand’ring souls to work, to weep, to wake,
    To bear the burdens of a world aweary-
    So send I you to suffer for My sake.

    So send I you to loneliness and longing,
    With heart ahung’ring for the loved and known,
    Forsaking home and kindred, friend and dear one-
    So send I you to know My love alone.

    So send I you to leave your life’s ambition,
    To die to dear desire, self-will resign,
    To labor long, and love where men revile you-
    So send I you to lose your life in Mine.

    So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred,
    To eyes made blind because they will not see,
    To spend, tho’ it be blood, to spend and spare not-
    So send I you to taste of Calvary.

    Happy birthday, Mom! Keep singing and serving. Yes, I know it looks like I’m getting out of buying you a card, but deal with it. By the way, we are having a special missions emphasis here at KSBC the first 2 weeks of October and we are getting close to sending a family from here to somewhere as missionaries. It would be really cool if you could come and sing your song! Please pray for us.       

    WedWednesdaySepSeptember18th2013 Rain in the Forecast
    byDon Whipple Tagged Discipleship Scripture 0 comments Add comment

    My lawn was brown. It rained. Now my lawn is green.

    As annoying as that is to a mowing-averse person, rain brought transformation. Isaiah the prophet thought that by understanding the impact of rain and snow (Isa. 55:8-13) to make the earth productive with life-sustaining plants, you could understand the power of the Bible to accomplish radical change in lives today. One of the dearest confidences that we hold to be true is that the Bible is active, effective, and powerful to bring a person from death to life. God works in powerful and transformative ways through the reading and understanding of his word, the Bible. If you are a saved-by-God person, blame it on the power of the Bible.      

    We may be on the verge of an outbreak of Bible reading here at KSBC. I sat in a meeting this week where our Connection and Care Group leaders told several stories of various responses to the One to One Bible Reading study we are doing in these adult discipleship venues. Like clouds gathering on the horizon, there seems to be a growing anticipation that God is doing a work among us to change lives through his word and redemptive relationships. The real time stories I am hearing indicate a growing awareness and confidence in the power of God’s words along with increasing effort to reach out to others to read the Bible together.

    As we prayerfully anticipate continued growth in reading the Bible with others, let me share a few ways that we can encourage each other and be receptive to what God is doing among us.

    Get the training. While the training is offered free online, the best way to learn is with others in a Connections Group on Sunday mornings at 10:45. If you have not been able to participate in a group or you have missed a Sunday, you can catch up online. There is a companion book that, in addition to including the training material, has an incredibly helpful section giving practical helps for reading the Bible yourself and with someone else. Let’s encourage each other to get exposed to this simple method of spreading the good news.

    Renew your own heart. It is too easy to develop bad habits regarding our personal Bible reading and study. God reveals himself and his transforming love to us as we engage with his word. Some who regularly read the Bible need to be humbled again to read carefully, patiently, and prayerfully. Some who struggle with reading the Bible have simply yielded to a laziness that says the Bible is impossible for the average Christian to understand. I pray that this elevated conversation about Bible reading will stimulate many of you to seek someone to read the Bible with you, if only for the purpose of retuning our hearts to hear and feed on God’s powerful words.

    Pray earnestly for God to bless our efforts and fulfill his promises. As his word rains down on our lives and those we read with, ask God to graciously produce new life and fruit for his glory. We live in the joyful expectation that God’s powerful word prevails as we receive it and obey it. Pray for deep life saturation and new life growth as KSBC reads the Bible together. 

    ThuThursdaySepSeptember12th2013 Fake Smiles & Church Billboards
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Suffering 1 comments Add comment

    I greatly dislike church billboards. And it’s not because I’m necessarily opposed to local churches marketing themselves. It’s because I get tired of seeing the painfully cliché stock photos which so frequently grace these supersized ads—you know, the pictures of intolerably happy people smiling like they’ve just heard the funniest joke on earth, across which is usually superimposed some inane and vacuous phrase like “Paradise Community Church: A Place to Belong.” 

    To the uninitiated passerby, such a billboard might give the impression that church is a place of unrestrained exuberance and effervescent joy—kind of like a mix between a comedy club, a pep rally, and Christmas at Grandma’s. But when I see billboards like that, all I can do is scratch my head. Because having been around church my whole life, I have to confess that I can’t remember ever having met anyone as perpetually jubilant as those flawless faces so enduringly suspended above the road as I drive by.

    The church that I know doesn’t have any billboard people in it. The church that I know is filled with people who are weak, broken, and needy. People who are wrestling through difficulties and trials. People whose health seems to be failing. People who are dealing with loss. People whose kids sap every ounce of energy from their bones. People who are working difficult jobs. People who are enduring mistreatment and misunderstanding. People who are navigating relational conflict. People whose indwelling sin must be battled relentlessly. People who are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down (2 Cor. 4:8-10).

    And yet here’s something quite remarkable: I find these people to be far more attractive and appealing than the guffawing family on the billboard.

    Earlier this week while reading Laurel Gasque’s biographical sketch of the late H.R. Rookmaaker, Art and the Christian Mind, I came across a paragraph that captured my attention. Rookmaaker was a Dutch art historian (and close friend of Francis Schaeffer) who became somewhat of a hero for progressive young Christian artists overlooked or dismissed by the religious establishment in the '60s and '70s (particularly in Britain and the U.S.). Gasque explained what attracted these young artists to Rookmaaker: “The dainty pietism of much of British and American evangelicalism was antithetical to Rookmaaker’s brand of realism… [These young artists] were ready for something more authentically engaged with their experience of life.”

    This observation is fascinating. And it explains why wounded, broken people are better advertisements for the grace of God and the centrality of the church than their more cheery counterparts on the prominent billboard. They carry an authenticity of experience that the stock photo doesn’t.

    The fact of the matter is this: sinners don’t need an over-processed religion of happiness and teeth-whitening products. They don’t need a church where they’ll be injected with botox, told a few jokes, then sent on their way to be happy for Jesus. That’s the “dainty pietism” which Rookmaaker and others found so unsatisfying.

    Instead, sinners need the gritty realism of the gospel. They need to accept the fact that they are weak, sinful, and hurting. For only then will they find that Jesus meets them in their weakness, that he loves them in their sin, and that he upholds them in their pain.

    That kind of thing may not look great on a billboard, but quite frankly, who cares? An authentic, gospel-shaped community speaks for itself. 

    WedWednesdaySepSeptember4th2013 Sources of Traction
    byDon Whipple Tagged Grace Sanctification 0 comments Add comment

    When it comes to getting some spiritual grip, where do you find the traction you need in your life to hold on or advance against the significant forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil? Last week we referred to the sluggishness that seems common to all. We also looked at the Apostle Paul’s explanation of how he excelled in godliness and ministry effectiveness recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:10. He attributed his productivity and growth to the grace of God which stirs and activates the hard work required of discipleship.  

    How does God apply or give his promised grace to you? How are the benefits of your salvation won by Christ dispensed in your life in a productive and effective way? Connecting with the ways and means of God’s grace in your life requires your careful devotion and exposure to four ordinary sources (Acts 2:42-47). "Ordinary" does not necessarily mean boring, but it does imply that because of their simplicity, they can easily be overlooked and minimized by those of us looking for quick and exciting solutions. All traction, productivity, and effectiveness for the child of God are linked to these.

    1) The Word. Read Isaiah 55:10-11 and Deuteronomy 8:2-3 before taking a few minutes to describe in writing your devotion to the Scriptures. In terms of reading, studying, memorizing, meditating, and listening, how large is the pipeline of grace plumbed into your life from God’s word?

    2) Fellowship. God pours his grace into your life and through your life into others through committed relationships. The shared life of the church body based on the apostolic teaching is a way God builds lives. Consider the ways you can elevate your commitment to the shared life of the body with the understanding that the farther removed you are from intentional and intrusive relationships, the farther you are from a strong current of grace.

    3) The sacraments. God stirs and enables our hearts by means of baptism and the Lord’s Table. At baptism we are reminded of the public oath made to identify with Jesus Christ in his death, burial and resurrection to new life. At the Lord’s Table we carefully renew and re-devote ourselves to dying to self, living for Christ and proclaiming the gospel. How many times have you experienced that “rush” of spiritual energy during or after something as ordinary as a church meeting when we observe the Lord’s Table or baptize a new convert to Christ? We cannot survive without these direct links to grace.

    4) Prayer. If James is right, prayer works in powerful ways (Jas. 5:16b). As we pray and continue to learn to pray, we open our hearts to grace. Perhaps the most unrecognized answer to prayer is the ordinary sense of peace and strength that comes when you humble and expose your heart before God with others in believing prayer. God enables you, others, and the church through obedient corporate and personal praying.

    I encourage you to take an hour or so to get alone in a quiet place and simply write out in descriptive and concrete terms what your current devotion in these four areas looks like. Share your personal evaluation with a trusted friend or Care Group member. Prayerfully determine to increase the flow of and exposure to God’s grace in these simple and ordinary ways. I am praying that you will experience the benefits of grace as you do so.

    Grace to you.

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