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    Elders' Blog - Entries from October 2014

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    ThuThursdayOctOctober30th2014 3 Lessons from the Reformation

    Most people know October 31 as Halloween, the annual celebration of ghosts, ghouls, and childhood tooth decay. But those of us who stand in the Protestant heritage of the Christian church have something else to celebrate on October 31: Reformation Day.

    Long before costumed American kids began canvassing neighborhoods on a relentless quest for candy, a man by the name of Martin Luther changed the course of history by nailing his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. This act of conviction and courage, which is commonly believed to have taken place on October 31, 1517, popularly serves as the symbolic beginning of what we now know as the Protestant Reformation. It was during this pivotal season of church history that our spiritual forefathers stood up for the integrity of the gospel and the sufficiency of Scripture, thus charting a path for the church’s much-needed return to biblical orthodoxy.

    The history of the Reformation is a long and complex tale, complete with plenty of ups and downs, twists and turns, and frankly quite a few question marks. But as we celebrate the 497th anniversary of Luther’s historic actions in Wittenberg, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on a few quick lessons that we can learn from this important chapter in our ancient story.

    1. God’s truth is important. The Reformation was first and foremost a theological movement. It was rooted in good, old-fashioned doctrine, something for which modern men and women seem to have alarmingly little patience. We’re wary of statements that assert one thing to be true and another to be false. But the Reformers had no such qualms. When they saw the doctrine of justification being compromised by the church of Rome, they didn’t shrug it off as no big deal. Instead, they went to work. They scoured the Scriptures, took up their pens, and began to contend for the truth of Scripture. We can learn from their example. Doctrine isn’t something to blush at. It’s at the heart of the Christian message, and we need to be vigilant about understanding it, evaluating it, and guarding it.

    2. God’s word is powerful. It’s no coincidence that while Martin Luther was campaigning for orthodox doctrine, he was also busy translating the Bible into German, the language of the people. (Up until that point, one had to know Latin in order to read the Bible.) Luther knew that God’s word was potent, and if he could get it in the hands of the people, Scripture itself would carry the Reformation forward—which is precisely what happened. Five centuries later, God’s word is no less potent. This is precisely why we can be boldly confident that when we approach it with humble, teachable hearts, it will transform us and make us wise unto salvation. Do you read your own Bible (which, thank goodness, isn’t in Latin!) with this sort of confidence?

    3. God’s instruments are broken. In my book, Martin Luther is a giant of the faith—someone to revere and celebrate as a man used mightily by God to bless the church. But it doesn’t take too much digging to find that Luther was deeply flawed. He wrote and taught some appalling things. He went to inappropriate extremes. He was downright stubborn. And yet, God used him. What an encouragement this is to those of us who know our own flaws all too well! We may have rough edges, and we may be works in progress, but God has a way of doing surprisingly impressive things with remarkably unimpressive people. We can take heart in knowing that our sufficiency comes from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant.

    We’re nearly half a millennium removed from the Reformation, yet by embracing these three lessons (and the countless others that it has to offer), we can carry on the spirit of the Reformers as we labor for the advance of the gospel in our world. 

    WedWednesdayOctOctober22nd2014 The Glory of God in Action
    byPaul Briggs Tagged Grace Sanctification 0 comments Add comment

    One of the stated values here at Kossuth is “God’s glory is our concern.” I was giving thought to this value recently as I read through the book of Titus asking the question: “What place do good works have in the life of the believer?” We all have a natural desire to do good works to make ourselves look good — or at least better than the one next to us to whom we're in danger of being compared (that’s why we never liked the person who came into the class and outperformed everyone!) But when, as believers, we stop and ask ourselves the question, “What place do good works have in my life?” we must be clear that we are not asking, “How I can make myself acceptable to God?” or “How can I make sure that everyone around me thinks I am a good person?” 

    Even a cursory reading of the letter of the apostle Paul to Titus will show the importance he placed on good works in the lives of believers after all, he mentions them in every chapter!

    It is interesting that at the end of chapter one (1:16), speaking of those in Crete who were "insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers" (1:10), Paul says, "They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work." 

    In 2:7-8, the apostle Paul exhorts Titus to show himself in all respects "to be a model of good works … so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” Later in that same chapter, he reviews the gracious nature of the salvation of God’s people (both Jews and non-Jews) which trains us to identify and put away ungodly thinking and behavior for the purpose of living lives which have a distinctively different nature (self-controlled, upright, and godly), while waiting for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. These things characterize the lives of the follower of Jesus because the grace of God has made known to them that Jesus Christ came into this world to do more than just save them from hell; he came into this world "to redeem us from all lawlessness" (2:14), and "to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."     

    It is important that we ask the question again: What place do good works have in your life as a believer? Would you say that you are zealous for good works?

    In chapter three the apostle Paul instructs Titus (3:1): "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work." It would be interesting for each of us to evaluate how we live our lives in light of this standard of measurement.

    But the apostle Paul doesn’t stop there! He goes on to review the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone! He makes it abundantly clear that it is not because of works done by us in righteousness, but because of the accomplished work of Christ that we are able to inherit eternal life. The work of Christ delivers all that is necessary for the believer to do the good works he or she was saved from sin to do. 

    This doctrinal review serves as a foundation of the instruction that the apostle Paul gives to Titus "so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works "(3:8). It is interesting how the reader of this letter is moved from being reminded "to be ready for every good work" (3:1) to being exhorted to "be careful to devote themselves to good works" (3:8). 

    The apostle concludes his letter to Titus by once again stressing the importance of good works in the life of the believer: "And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful"(3:14). 

    As you think about the glory of God being displayed at Kossuth through the service of His people, who could you identify as a model of good works — someone you can watch and learn from? Is there someone who is in a state of readiness to do good works? How might you be able to involve them with you in ministry? How about someone who is taking care to devote themselves to good works? How might you be able to further spur them on in this direction? Is there someone you have noticed who is in the stage of learning to devote themselves to good works? How might you be able to come alongside them as an encourager in taking the next step forward? 

    Take a few minutes now to thank God for the gifts He has granted to Kossuth and the privilege of serving him together with partners like these. And maybe even write that person a note and let them know how their life is putting the glory of God on display while impacting yours. 

    Perhaps as a result of reading today you recognize that good works don’t occupy the place in your thinking and living that they ought. Repent of that and then ask God to open your eyes to the many opportunities to put his glory on display through your life so that your life won’t be characterized by unfruitfulness!

    ThuThursdayOctOctober9th2014 Look Who's Getting Married
    byDon Whipple Tagged Current Events Marriage 1 comments Add comment

    Some of you read the following in the Lafayette Journal and Courier earlier this week:

    Marriage licenses are now available to same-sex couples in Tippecanoe County, less than a day after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Indiana’s appeal defending a law that had barred gays and lesbians from marrying in the state.

    This report continues to provide the details necessary for any two people to go to the courthouse downtown and obtain a license to be married. There is no doubt that Bible-believing followers of Jesus are facing increasingly complex and challenging issues as we live out our faith day by day in our families and community. The issue of same-sex marriage has far-reaching impact in our lives, ranging from legal ramifications of not honoring these marriages to whether you attend the same-sex wedding of your family or friends. Let me take a few minutes to encourage you toward love and good works in this.

    First, while KSBC has not yet developed our own position statement on marriage, here is a really good one put together by some area pastors. Read it carefully. Let the simple truth of the Scripture and the loving tone of the conclusions give you clarity and courage. It is essential that you are clear in your understanding of what the Bible teaches about the sacred covenant of marriage.

    Second, if you are like me, your first few reactions to seeing the pictures of same-sex kisses and weddings are probably inappropriate. What we believe about the power of God, his love for people, the universality of the gospel call, and the impact of sin in this world all come to the surface when faced with reports like these. Here are three common responses that distract and dilute our gospel focus:

    1. Fear. This is usually expressed with a fretful sigh of, “What is this world coming to?” You tend to view this more from a political perspective of the negative impact on your way of life. You certainly prefer to avoid these kinds of people and stereotype them as a way of protection. The peace Jesus promises in John 14:27 takes the edge off such fear and points us toward Spirit-empowered love for all people.
    2. Blame. "This is certainly the liberal president’s fault isn’t it? This is exactly what we knew would happen after letting evolution get into our public schools. If churches were not so weak and liberal, they would protect and preserve our culture from these immoral shifts. This is what happens when we fail to get Christians to the voting booths." There is enough blame to spread around, but don’t forget the warning regarding evil that Jesus gives in Matthew 24:11-14, and the admonition regarding evil that Paul gives in Ephesians 5:16.
    3. Indifference. This is the response I put my money on. Fear and blame feed apathy. Everything about Christ and the gospel leans into the winds of the lost, rebellious, and condemned. When you become afraid of certain kinds of people and shift the focus from evil to politics or culture, you take the heart of loving engagement out of the good news of Jesus. The stirring question is not “Why don’t you care more about same sex marriage?” Instead, it is “Why don’t you care about the individual people involved?” Read Matthew 9:35-38 and repent.

    Much more could be said. There is a place for appropriate disgust at the advance of evil and its destructive and damning influence on people. However, let’s keep our eye on the ball of the gospel by really seeing who is getting married. If we are not diligent to guard our hearts we will be known more for our fear, blame shifting, and indifference than we will be for loving and caring for the people getting married.

    WedWednesdayOctOctober1st2014 Is the World Falling Apart?
    byDon Whipple Tagged Events Missions 0 comments Add comment

    This blog title is from the cover of a recent magazine that I receive and read. It is a great question. It would probably have more impact if you didn’t find yourself asking it so many times in response to seemingly countless reports of trouble around the world. There are two sentences in the lead article that arrested my attention and soothed my fears more than any economic, political, educational, or military initiative could do:

    In some of the darkest corners of the world, ordinary people are helping to hold things together by the unseen sacrifices of everyday life. Aid organizations and mission agencies are doing valiant work to help the weak and needy in the world’s hot spots, but so are average citizens whose deeds often go unnoticed.

    What about your “unseen sacrifices”? Where are the “hot spots” in your world? The devoted follower of Jesus knows that Jesus is the only hope for a world falling apart. One of many responsibilities that we have of helping hold things together until Jesus comes is our obedience in global outreach. In a few weeks we will take two Sundays, combined with an intentional emphasis of prayer and fasting, to mobilize and strengthen the sacrificial participation in world missions by the ordinary people of Kossuth.

    The missions team describes our upcoming missions emphasis this way:

    The apostle Paul spoke warmly of his "partnership in the gospel" with the Philippian church "from the first day until now" (Phil 1:5). Imagine that! Paul, the apostolic pioneer of missions, said to one particular church, "You all have made the difference--and still are making the difference! In fact, this ministry is not mine, but ours. We're partners!" With this year's missions emphasis for Kossuth (October 26 and November 2), we will be focusing on the theme of "Partners in the Advance of the Gospel." We'll be studying, thinking, praying, and talking together about what it means for us, individually and as a church, to partner significantly with our missionaries, for the advance of the gospel around the globe.

    Look forward to some stirring and encouraging wisdom from the book of Philippians in our two sermons. Get excited about hearing from our own missionaries about the joys and challenges of life on the field, and what we can do that really makes a difference. Don't miss the chance to hear about the vision for ministry that God has given John and Yating Haller, which the missions team and the elders are eager to commend to you. And get ready to consider what part God may be assigning you in a new effort--called Barnabas Teams--to take partnership with our missionaries to a new level. In other words, there is a lot to look forward to! Pray with us that God will open our hearts to the privilege of partnership, and shape our lives to reflect the joy of Jesus' prayer: "Your kingdom come, your will be done!"

    “Is the world falling apart?” It certainly is an important question. The more compelling question is from Jesus when he asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” His concern should be ours. Will he find us sacrificially involved applying the power of the gospel to the weak and needy in the “hot spots” he has placed us in? Let’s ask him to do great things among us as we seek him in this upcoming missions emphasis. 

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