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    Elders' Blog - Entries from April 2016

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    ThuThursdayAprApril28th2016 Laughing at Ourselves
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Humility Humor 1 comments Add comment

    What does spiritual maturity look like to you? For most of us, it probably involves reading the Bible, praying, serving in the church, and avoiding sin. But while all of those are important characteristics of the mature Christian, I’d like to suggest one that you may not immediately think of: the ability to laugh at yourself.

    Recently, one of my favorite websites has been the Babylon Bee, a Christian satire site that has made a big splash in the few months it’s been up and running. At first glance, it looks like a typical news site, with headlines organized into various categories like “Politics,” “Business,” and “Entertainment.” But upon closer inspection, one finds that the news articles on the Babylon Bee are actually all fake, written not so much to pass along breaking news, but rather to elicit a laugh.

    Some of the stories I’ve especially enjoyed include:

    What makes these fake news stories so funny is the fact that in many ways, they allow us as Christians to make fun of ourselves. They help us see the quirks and oddities of church life in a fresh way, and they give us permission to laugh about them.

    This realization struck me earlier in the week as I was reading an entertaining story with the headline, “Church Small Group Looking Forward To Six-Week Study Of Awkward Silences.” The article is hilarious, and it’s hilarious because it’s something most of us have probably experienced. In fact, it’s something most of us have probably been responsible for. We’ve been in that awkwardly silent room during a small group meeting. Probably many, many times. And so we laugh because in some ways, we’re guilty.

    Now I recognize that some might find this sort of thing irreverent or unbecoming of serious, mature Christians. But I happen to think the opposite. A Christian who can laugh at herself is a Christian well on her way to Christ-like maturity. Why is that?

    First of all, laughing at ourselves reminds us of our weakness. It’s not something we like to admit, but we’re all a bunch of bumbling, fumbling creatures. Laughing at our awkward mistakes helps us keep this truth in focus. When you’re flat on your face, laughing at your clumsiness will remind you that you have limitations—limitations that are often revealed in rather amusing ways.

    Secondly, laughing at ourselves cultivates humility. Here’s a maxim that you’ll almost always find to ring true: Prideful people laugh at others; meek people laugh at themselves. When you laugh at yourself, you’re actually fighting against the universal human tendency to build yourself up at the expense of others. When you’re the butt of your own joke, you’re putting others above yourself.

    Thirdly, laughing at ourselves helps us to grow. Humor is remarkably disarming, and sometimes that’s precisely what we need to get a point across. For example, if you tell a small group to stop being awkwardly silent, it probably won’t produce much change. But by making light of how painful our small group silences can be, our defenses are circumvented and we’re more likely to speak up during that next painful pause.

    So as you strive to become more like Jesus on a daily basis, make it a point to laugh at yourself along the way. Don’t laugh at your sin. But by all means, if you do something goofy, be the first person to have a chuckle. 

    ThuThursdayAprApril21st2016 Who Disciples Your Kids?
    byWill Peycke Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    If I asked you who bears the primary responsibility for the spiritual development of children, what would you say? Most of us would probably answer, “The parents.” 

    But if I asked you what is the primary way parents carry out that responsibility, what would you say? Take them to Sunday school? Look for teachable moments? Try to be a good example? 

    If you wrestle with how to answer that second question, you aren’t alone. According to a survey of Christian families: 

    Eighty-five percent of parents with children under age 13 believe they have primary responsibility for teaching their children about religious beliefs and spiritual matters. However, a majority of parents don’t spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children.… Parents generally rely upon their church to do all of the religious training their children will receive.*

    The reasons for this are many, including the often-frantic pace of life, not feeling qualified or knowing what to do, and fear of failure—especially if your kids are getting older. 

    Sound familiar?

    In spite of the obstacles, I am convinced that God has designed the family to be a discipleship center. I’m also convinced that the most effective tool for family discipleship is a regular habit of family worship. But that hasn’t always been my perspective. 

    I first started hearing the term “family worship” a few years ago, and it didn’t sit well with me. It sounded formal, holier-than-thou, and legalistic—not to mention boring. That last one is probably due to my experience of “family devotions” growing up. My dad made numerous attempts at reading devotional books with our family, but my brothers and I were not particularly receptive. Any participation from “us boys” was reluctant at best. Family prayer usually felt awkward. Dad’s attempts to comment on what we read were less than eloquent. 

    But I’m so thankful he kept at it anyway.

    If the term “family worship” prompts negative images or feelings for you—or just sounds out of reach—think of it as simply reading the Bible and praying together as a family. If your kids enjoy off-key singing as much as mine do, a song or two can be a great addition. But to get started, all you need is five minutes and a Bible.

    Here are some simple pointers for practicing “family worship” in your home:

    • Keep it short: aim for 5-10 minutes. You don’t need to prepare anything in advance.
    • Keep it simple: read, pray, and/or sing. All three are great, but they don’t all have to happen every time.
    • Keep it flexible: family worship will look different in different families and on different days. There isn’t one “right” way to do it. 
    • Keep it frequent: daily is great… but start by aiming for weekly. Put it on the calendar so you don’t forget.

    If you have school-age kids, one easy way to start this habit in your home is to read the passage of Scripture that will be taught in their connection hour class the next Sunday. (We send out an email each week to help you do this. Contact the church office to be added to the list.) If you don’t have kids, consider reading the upcoming sermon passage with your spouse; or if you’re single, with a roommate or friend. Then talk and pray about what you’ve read.

    A few other suggestions: 

    • With young children, Bible story books are great. We’ve posted some of our favorites here. Sing children’s songs like "Jesus Loves Me" or "My God Is So Big."
    • Elementary age kids can take turns reading from the Bible. Consider using a translation appropriate for their grade level. Ask basic questions: What did you notice in these verses? What questions do you have? How should we respond? 
    • With teenagers, consider using a resource that provides discussion questions, like the simple booklet Short Steps for Long Gains. Or set a goal to read through the entire Bible. Talk and pray about what you read.

    For more encouragement in the area of family worship, I love this article by Don Whitney. His email video course offers practical, do-able steps to help you get started. 

    It’s easy to read something like this and think, “I’m 1,000 miles from being that kind of spiritual leader in my family. I’ll never get there.” 

    Please don’t leave this blog post thinking you need to go run 1,000 miles. You’ll crash and burn. Instead, identify two or three steps you could take this year. Then, a year from now, you would be “1,000 miles minus 3 steps” from where you want to be. 

    That’s progress. That’s spiritual growth! That’s becoming the parent—and family—God is calling you to be. So keep at it: someday, your children will thank you.

    *Barna Research Group, May 6, 2003, as quoted in Current Thoughts and Trends, July 2003 (vol. 19, no. 7), 21.

    ThuThursdayAprApril14th2016 Redeeming Entrepreneurship

    People keep calling me an entrepreneur. Honestly, sometimes it annoys me.

    Sometimes when I think of an entrepreneur, I think of people like Martin Shkreli. His wikipedia page calls him an entrepreneur and wikipedia is never wrong! One of Martin’s entrepreneurial endeavors was buying a drug company and raising the price of a drug for AIDS patients by 5,000% overnight. I get the impression Martin would do anything to make a dollar at the expense of just about anyone. I sure hope that I’m not an entrepreneur like Martin.

    Other times when I think of an entrepreneur, I think of someone like Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. A college kid in his dorm room creating a company worth billions of dollars out of nothing is what they make movies about. If the bar to be a successful entrepreneur is a billion dollars and a movie, then I’ve fallen far, far short. They don’t make movies about guys like me. (That’s not totally accurate, I guess. In high school I was basically Ollie the equipment manager and part-time basketball player from the movie Hoosiers.)

    I gave a talk last weekend where I tried to convince the audience that their view of entrepreneurship needs to change. So why am I sharing that same message with you here on the Kossuth Elder Blog? Because I believe entrepreneurship can be redeemed if entrepreneurs think more like redeemers.

    Redeem is a word that in our church culture has a lot of connotations. Let me go back to the dictionary definition of redeem to make my point:

    re·deem [rəˈdēm] - VERB -  compensate for the faults or bad aspects of (something)

    Jesus is the one and only Redeemer of souls. Because we are all made in the image of God and are being conformed into his likeness, all believers, even entrepreneurs, are called to be redeemers in our world.

    It doesn’t take much effort to see that there are faults in many things in our world. The easy response is to complain about those faults and resign yourself that this is just how things are in a fallen world. The hard response, but the response I believe God is calling us to, is to not only recognize the bad aspects in something but to also see the good aspects in something. Then we can get to work on compensating for the bad aspects so that the good aspects can be fully known.

    One of my favorite individuals in the Bible is Boaz from the book of Ruth. Boaz was a business owner, family man, and community leader. He was presented a difficult situation. Ruth was a widow, an ethnic outsider, had family burdens, and no financial resources. Boaz could have looked away. He could have done the minimum required by the law and society. But Boaz chose to do the most that he could to make right a difficult situation. That is why Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, described Boaz as “ of our redeemers.” (Ruth 2:20b).

    Boaz’s work was a foreshadow of the redeeming work of Christ. All believers, entrepreneurial or not, have been given gifts they are being called to use to redeem a small piece of God’s creation and in doing so point a watching world back to their Creator.

    What will you redeem in your world today?

    ThuThursdayAprApril14th2016 May Family Gathering Preview
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged News Updates 0 comments Add comment

    We’re still over two weeks away from our May Family Gathering, but the elders wanted to take a moment and make you aware of a few important decisions we’ll be asking the church family to make together with us at that time. Every Family Gathering is important, but this one will be particularly vital for the future of our church.

    First of all, we are planning to move forward with a congregational vote on the proposed changes to our Statement of Faith that we have been considering for the past few months. The congregational feedback has been very helpful, and it has alerted us to some areas where we probably need to have further discussions in the future (for example, the nature of biblical separation, the roles of women in the church, etc.). That said, we believe that the wording of the Statement of Faith is ready to be voted on, even if some of the concepts behind it could be discussed further in their application. If you haven’t yet seen the proposed changes, you can access them online, or you can contact the church office and request a copy.

    Secondly, the elders will be asking the church to vote on a proposal to sell the house on South 22nd Street that has been in the church’s possession for the last six years. After housing three different interns and missionary families, this home has served our church well. But since we don't envision a long-term use for that property, we believe that this is a good time to invest that capital elsewhere. Although the decision about the exact designation of that money will be saved for a later time, we would like to go ahead and begin the process of selling the house sooner rather than later, before it sits empty for too long.

    Both of these are important decisions. One affects the doctrine we will defend and teach. The other affects the financial resources our people have generously given. Please make it a point to join us at the May Family Gathering to participate in these decisions. And if you have any questions before then, just let one of the elders know. We’d be glad to interact about these things and get you the information you need.

    May God continue to bless us and give us wisdom as we seek to honor him in all we do!

    ThuThursdayAprApril7th2016 Covenants and Their Signs
    byDan Dillon Tagged Church Covenant Lord's Supper 0 comments Add comment

    What does it mean when someone says, “You need to have a personal relationship with Jesus?” Do they mean we should have an emotional relationship with Jesus? An intimate relationship? A relationship from the heart and not just of external observance? Or is it is just another way to say, “You need to be saved”? It’s not always clear to me. Plus, the phrase “personal relationship” is not in the Bible. Is there a better way to talk about our relationship with Jesus?

    How about “You need to have a covenant relationship with Jesus”? God made a covenant with Abraham and his offspring (Gen. 17). When Israel was enslaved in Egypt, God remembered his covenant with Abraham (Ex. 2:24). When the future of Israel looked bleak, God promised that he would make a new covenant with his people (Jer. 31:31-34). And Jesus is the new covenant (Heb. 8:6-12)!

    But what is a covenant? Wayne Grudem defines it as, “An unchangeable, divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man that stipulates the conditions of their relationship.” “Legal” is not the best word, because a “covenant” is not just a contract, like buying your house or ordering parts for your business. Contracts are typically limited in scope and duration. A covenant is a comprehensive, continuous commitment. That commitment creates intimacy. When God creates a covenant and says, I will be your God, he is committing himself to us. In return, he expects us to commit ourselves to him: You will be my people (Heb. 8:10). What an awesome God we serve!

    Covenants have signs: ceremonies to initiate and remember the covenant. Married couples use rings as signs of the marriage covenant. Circumcision was the sign of initiating the Old Covenant. The various ceremonies, especially Passover, were ways to remember the Old Covenant. What are the New Covenant signs?

    In a previous blog post, we established that Baptism and Communion are ceremonies: things that we do as a church that do not fit neatly into a two-part theology of “Believe this; now demonstrate your belief by giving yourself over to good works”. Their significance lies in the fact that they are ceremonial signs of the covenant: Baptism is the initiating sign of the covenant; Communion is sign by which we remember the covenant. Jesus is quite explicit about the connection between Communion and covenant: “[F]or this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt 26:28)

    Let’s end with a practical question: How important is it to regularly participate in Communion? To answer the question, imagine this: What happens when a man forgets his anniversary? Does not his wife wonder, “Has he not been looking forward to this day, planning for it? Has his love grown cold?” When someone neglects the signs of the covenant, we begin to wonder about their commitment to the covenant.

    Do you get excited about participating in Communion? We occasionally offer it Sunday morning, but regularly offer it at Family Gathering. If you’re not in the habit of attending Family Gathering, one way that you can grow in your commitment to your covenant relationship with Jesus is by making this time a regular part of your monthly schedule. It breaks my heart that only about half the church attends Family Gathering when we offer Communion. Attending Family Gathering in the evening takes a bit of extra effort to attend, but not a great deal of strenuous effort. Participating in Communion is a God-ordained (God-commanded!) way of rejoicing, remembering and recommitting to our Lord as an assembled church. We should be eager to do that any time we have the opportunity.

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