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    Elders' Blog - Entries from September 2017

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    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.

    ThuThursdaySepSeptember14th2017 Work Heartily
    byMikel Berger Tagged Sermons Work 0 comments Add comment

    I think we are blessed to sit under good preaching every week at Kossuth and have been for decades. If I’m honest though, most sermons don’t stick with me much beyond 7 days when I hear the next one. This isn’t all bad. I’ve heard the analogy used that I can’t remember what I had for dinner on a Tuesday six months ago and no one is upset about that. The dinner sustained me for a time until I had breakfast the next morning. But we do have those special meals that we remember for a lifetime. Maybe the meal is at a fancy restaurant or you had the opportunity at the dinner to catch-up with a long lost friend. Those sorts of meals stick with you.

    A few weeks ago I was “fed” in a spiritual way that has stuck with me. Drew’s sermons from James 4 and 5, for some fairly clear reasons, were relatable to me. When introducing James 4:13, Drew made it clear that you don’t have to have explicitly made plans to go into a new town to make a profit for these verses to apply to you. But I have pretty much done that before. These verses are speaking directly and clearly to me!

    The remainder of James 4 that week was a great reminder of who ultimately knows the outcomes of any of our plans. James 5 in the following sermon was a convicting warning about conducting our plans in honorable and righteous ways.

    The Holy Spirit has reminded me of those sermons and those sermons, even more importantly, have reminded me of those verses on an almost daily basis since then (enough that when I realized I was up to write for the blog this week it was the first topic to come to mind).

    I know Drew well enough to know he labors diligently in the preparation of each and every sermon. Some stick with me, but many, in my limited view, sustain me for a week or less. Should he only labor diligently on the ones that will benefit me for a long time?

    Of course the answer is, no! I’m not the only one to benefit from the preaching of the Word on Sunday mornings at Kossuth. You might be reading this article wondering what I’m talking about. You were in church the same mornings I was, but those particular sermons didn’t stick out to you. You’re wondering why I’m not writing the same thing, but about a sermon two months ago that you’re still pondering.

    But even more than there being lots of people in the congregation, there’s a better reason for Drew to labor diligently each and every week. He’s not working to just benefit our souls. He’s working ultimately for the Lord and not for us, the men and women in the pews.

    Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, (Colossians 3:23 ESV)

    That verse is true not just for the preaching pastor of a church but for each and every Christian. If your job is writing code, washing windows, teaching children, or selling houses, you do that work for God. In doing the work you reflect our creator God. But the work itself is also part of God’s redeeming work when done in service to him.

    Don’t lose sight of that fact when it seems, yet again, that your work is having no impact here on earth. The real impact you are to have is much greater than that.

    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.

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