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    Elders' Blog - Entries from April 2015

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    ThuThursdayAprApril30th2015 Our Greatest Fear
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Grace Identity 3 comments Add comment

    The next time you need a fun diversion in your workday, take a few moments and Google “phobias.” You’re probably already familiar with the common ones, like arachnophobia (the fear of spiders) or claustrophobia (the fear of being closed in). But you’ll be amazed at some of the other phobias that have been observed and documented. For example, did you know about pogonophobia (the fear of beards)? Or how about leukophobia (the fear of the color white)? There’s also sesquipedalophobia (the fear of long words, which is highly ironic don’t you think?) and phobophobia (the fear of fear itself—thanks, FDR).

    The sheer number of phobias would seem to point to the conclusion that human fear is an incredibly diverse, highly personalized experience. And while that’s certainly true to a degree, I don’t believe it tells the whole story. The fact of the matter is that there are fears which are universally shared. They may not have crazy, hard-to-pronounce names. But they’re out there, and we know them well.

    One such fear is the fear of being known for who we truly are. Can you relate? It’s the kind of fear that swells up in your chest when you consider what it would be like for others to see the “real you.” It’s the kind of fear that you experience when you imagine your private life playing out on a movie screen for all to see.

    Truth be told, you don’t need to have a full-blown identity crisis to know what this fear is like. All you need is that little, nagging voice deep down inside of you that whispers, “If they only knew…” And let’s face it: that voice can be downright terrifying.

    In his book A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock N’ Roll, David Zahl explores this concept rather perceptively. In an intriguing chapter about the identity-related themes in the music of Pete Townshend and The Who, Zahl writes, “We are insecure about how we are perceived because of the all-too-real gap between who we feel we should be, or want to be (the Ideal), and who we actually are (the Real). In technological terms, you might say that a nagging discrepancy exists between our status updates and our browser histories.”

    This hits close to home. I like to maintain a well-groomed, squeaky clean image for others to see. I fix my hair before going out in public. I post pictures of my smiling children on Instagram. I tell people everything’s fine when I really want to crawl in bed and hide from the world. I work hard to keep my flaws hidden. Yet in all of these things, I fear that it won’t be enough. That someone might still see through the façade. That someone might still discover the true me.

    And I know from experience that I’m not alone. You’ve likely had the same fears.

    So what is it that makes us so afraid? Ultimately, I think it has to do with our failure to understand grace. Somewhere in our sin-warped minds, we have come to believe that we have to be lovely in order to be loved, acceptable in order to be accepted. We have turned identity into something that must be earned.

    But as David Zahl writes later in the same chapter, “This is the miracle of God’s grace: identity is not earned or established; it is given.” We don’t have to create an acceptable identity, or compensate for what we feel is an inadequate one. In Christ, our identity is perfect, and it is secure.

    If our greatest fear is that we will be found out, then our greatest relief should come from the fact that God already has found us out, and loves us anyway. He sees our warts. He sees our weaknesses. And in spite of it all, he calls us sons and daughters.

    Go, and fear no more.

    ThuThursdayAprApril23rd2015 Does God's Love Abide in You?
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Community Generosity Love 0 comments Add comment

    “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

    In the sermon this past Sunday, we spent some time considering these sentences from Acts 2, which describe the early church as a radically generous community where possessions were shared, resources were given, and needs were met. It’s a beautiful picture of camaraderie and love.

    It’s worth pointing out, however, that this description of the early church stands in direct opposition to the cultural narrative that has shaped so many of us. The logic of the American Dream says, “If you worked hard for it, you deserve to enjoy it.” We’ve been told that everyone has equal opportunity, and those who get ahead do so as a result of their superior resolve and dedication. If you have resources, you’ve earned them. It’s not your fault that other people didn’t work as hard as you.

    It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Christians who are more influenced by this value system than they are by the gospel will inevitably fail to realize the type of community that Acts 2 describes. So long as we’re governed by a sense of merit, we will have no room for any common sharing of resources. After all, why would I give my hard-earned [fill in the blank] to someone who doesn’t deserve it?

    But Christians who are compelled by mercy instead of merit will readily give themselves for the good of their brothers and sisters. Consider this paragraph found in 1 John 3 (verses 16-18):

    By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth.

    Does God’s love abide in you? If so, it will reveal itself in action. You’ll be quick to give, quick to share, quick to serve. Your relationships will be saturated with love—the same kind of indiscriminate, excessive, scandalous love that the holy God of the universe has shown to vile, wicked creatures such as ourselves.

    But if, on the other hand, the wisdom of the world is what drives your attitude, well then that will reveal itself in action, too. You’ll be closed off to the possibility of generosity. You’ll cling to all you can get your hands on. You’ll operate by a system of who deserves what.

    Martyn Lloyd-Jones once remarked, “The men and women who truly believe and know that they are forgiven by God as the result of God’s infinite grace are the people who have the love of God in their hearts, and that love is bound to show itself.” Maybe there’s something to that old adage after all; maybe actions really do speak louder than words.

    What do your actions say about the presence of God’s love inside you?

    ThuThursdayAprApril16th2015 Changing Seasons Update
    byDon Whipple Tagged Change Church Leaders 0 comments Add comment

    Five months ago, in the November 13, 2014 Elder Blog post, I wrote, “I along with the leadership believe that it is God’s timing for a new season of fruitfulness, growth and joy at Kossuth, and that season will be launched from the platform of a change in the form, feel, and function of what we know as the lead elder and his role.” Around that time I preached a few sermons entitled “Changing Seasons at Kossuth,” and we held some congregational meetings to explain and launch Phase 1 of our strategic plan: Lead/Vision Elder Transition. Phase 2 of our strategic plan will be rolled out over the coming summer months as our actual multi-year strategic plan.

    Where are we in the process of lead/vision elder transition and how are we doing?

    From my perspective, I could not be more grateful and enthused about what God has been doing among us in the past five months. Beginning with the appointment of new elders and the transition of lead elder and preaching elder roles to Abraham and Drew, the component of leadership transition has gone just ... well ... swimmingly!

    The elders and appropriate ministry leaders are currently involved in interviews with three candidates for the new Director of Family Ministry position with the goal of having a person in that position this summer. I have participated in many of these interviews and am deeply impressed with the quality of the candidates being carefully considered.   

    I am staying quite busy with some assignments and projects at Kossuth and being available to help the staff and elders as needed in a coaching and consultant role. I also have been spending time developing the next chapter in our lives. Sue and I sense a definite call of God for this season of our lives to relocate to LaGrange, Ohio, to live near my 87-year-old parents and assist with their care. That calling has been clarified and confirmed many times over in the past few visits with them in Ohio.

    God has shown his compassion toward us by providing an opportunity to interact with a fine church in LaGrange about the possibility of joining the pastoral staff there. This unexpected possibility is still in process, but we are enjoying the journey as we wait on the Lord for an outcome. Please pray with us about this as well as the sale of our home in Lafayette and finding housing in LaGrange.

    I have been given the pulpit for Sunday, May 17, at Kossuth as an opportunity to express our gratitude to the church family and share together in the Scriptures again before we move to Ohio sometime in late May or early June. Between now and then, please pray for Sue and me as we both travel the week of April 19. Sue will spend a week with our newest grandson Lewis Paul in Pennsylvania while I travel to South Africa for a week of ministry with the staff of Bethesda Outreach.

    In an interview with one of the Director of Family Ministry candidates I found myself proclaiming again a little sermonette that I have given repeatedly over the last few weeks to anyone who will listen. The big idea of the talk is that I believe with all my heart that the next chapter that has been started at Kossuth in recent months will prove to be one of the most joyful and productive in the 71 year story of Kossuth. Stop me in the hallway or bring me some cookies if you want to hear the full sermon with stories, illustrations, supporting Scripture, and invitation. It is a wonderful thing that God is doing. Embrace it with me for the advance of our dear Savior’s kingdom. 

    ThuThursdayAprApril9th2015 Cobra Effect Christianity

    What’s the difference between a church that ministers in the power of the Spirit and a church that doesn’t? Take a moment to think about that. And while you’re thinking about it, let me tell you a story.

    Recently I found myself reading about something called “the cobra effect.” If you’re not familiar with that phrase, it’s a term used primarily in economics to describe what happens when an attempted course of action backfires. In other words, when an effort to solve a problem actually makes the problem worse, you have a manifestation of the cobra effect on your hands.

    The name comes from an old story that is told about a series of events that took place in India during the days when it was under the colonial rule of the British government. As the story goes, there was a growing concern among the British authorities regarding the proliferation of venomous snakes in the region. These snakes posed a very real threat, and something had to be done. In response, the British government proposed a plan to get the snake population under control: a bounty system. For every dead cobra that could be presented by a local resident, a monetary reward would be offered in exchange.

    At first, this plan seemed to be working. To the delight of the British authorities, lots of people were bringing in dead snakes! It would only be a matter of time before the area’s cobra population would be significantly reduced.

    But eventually, the British government caught wind of a disturbing development: a great number of local residents had taken to catching and breeding cobras, solely for the purpose of collecting the bounty. Many had found this to be more profitable than their regular “day jobs.”

    So the British authorities did what seemed necessary. They brought a swift end to the bounty program. But there was just one problem. Suddenly, all those opportunistic cobra farmers were left with a whole bunch of worthless snakes on their hands. Since there was no more money to be made from them, they did the logical thing: they turned them loose! Needless to say, the cobra population ended up worse than it ever had been before.

    Hence, the cobra effect.

    So let me ask you again: What’s the difference between a church that ministers in the power of the Spirit and one that doesn’t?

    On the outside, there may not be much to distinguish the two. The churches might look the same. They might use the same words. They might even be doing some of the same things. But here’s the crucial point: only one can bear true fruit.

    When we minister in the power of the Spirit, we participate in authentic gospel advance. It may not always be big or glamorous or eye-catching. But it’s genuine. Jesus is proclaimed. Lives are transformed. The Enemy is pressed back. Fruit is produced.

    But when we try to do ministry apart from the Spirit, we end up practicing what we might call “Cobra Effect Christianity.” We may think we’re doing something meaningful, but in reality we’re just going around in circles. We busy ourselves with feverish activity—running from one ministry to the next, having Bible studies, keeping programs afloat. In other words, we have lots of dead snakes on our hands. But in reality, we’re not making any significant advance. In fact, we might even be moving in the opposite direction.

    As a church, we need to constantly ask ourselves: Are we ministering by the Spirit’s power? Or are we merely keeping busy?

    Any church can run a program. Only the Spirit can produce fruit. 

    WedWednesdayAprApril1st2015 Getting in Shape for Easter
    byDon Whipple Tagged Holidays Singing Worship 0 comments Add comment

    I’m glad some songs we sing in church are limited-use songs. One example is “Angels We Have Heard on High,” that is thankfully restricted to the season of Christmas celebration. The two “gloria’s” in the refrain repeated with each of the four stanzas seemingly take an hour and a half to get through by themselves. Add to that the awkwardness of trying to keep a congregation of independent singers on the same note at the same time while trying to figure out what “excelsis Deo” means – like I say, I am glad some songs are limited-use.

    You may have an opportunity this Easter Sunday to sing the word “alleluia” 16 times in one song. You may initially think that this qualifies as one of those limited-use, let’s-go-through-the-motions holiday church songs. Let me help you not to make that serious mistake.

    “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” written by Charles Wesley, has served the church incredibly well since it was first published in 1739, over 250 years ago. Wesley wrote several verses of text while the “alleluia’s” were added later to interrupt the flow of truth with opportunity to respond with expressive joy toward God. The message of the song expresses the heart-stirring themes of the resurrection of Jesus in a clear, comprehensive, and provocative manner. This song is a great tool for you to express your joy and confidence in the risen Christ. Don’t let the “alleluia’s” intimidate you. Here are three ways to get into top alleluia singing shape for Resurrection Sunday:

    1) Read/sing the song several times before Sunday. Meditate on the phrase-by-phrase description of the rich victory over death won by our Lord and Savior Jesus. Here are the words.

    Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!                                    
    Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
    Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
    Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

    Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
    Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
    Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
    Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

    Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
    Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
    Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
    Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

    Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
    Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
    Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
    Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

    2) Practice singing the song. Sing it in the shower. Sing it in the car. Find a version from YouTube; there is a wide assortment available. Practice the “alleluia’s” so that everyone in the pews around you on Easter Sunday can follow your rich and melodic tones. Determine to be an alleluia influencer.

    3) Remember and submit to the truth that your voice was made to sing praises to the God who has defeated death in his Son Jesus. There is no higher or greater use of your voice than to agree with others that you not only get it, but you celebrate it: Jesus is alive! “Alleluia” simply means praise the Lord. Review Revelation 19:1-6 to be reminded that your hallelujah singing now is only practice for the glorious future assured for those who love the risen Christ.

    Get ready to soar! Plan to raise your joy high! Prepare to mock death! Practice your alleluias! Christ the Lord is risen today!

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