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    Elders' Blog - Entries from October 2017

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    ThuThursdayOctOctober19th2017 Being Raw and Honest
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Honesty Prayer 0 comments Add comment

    I can guess what I would have said if I were Peter, James, or John. It would have been a whisper, cupping one of the others’ ears, slightly leaning in. Though soft, it would have been emphatic. Though muted, it would have been with alarm. “I can’t believe Jesus just said that! Is that even allowed?!”

    The scene was a garden. It was the night Jesus was arrested. Emotions were high for Jesus. Energy was low for the disciples (they all three fell asleep). And as Jesus prepared for the awful road ahead he vented with his Father. He poured out all the raw and honest emotion anyone could express. He didn’t hold back.

    As many times as I’ve read that passage, I’m still surprised. Are there not certain things we can’t pray? Are there not certain places we shouldn’t let our minds (and words) go? It seems, at first glance, like Jesus crossed a line. He is the Son of God after all. This plan was determined in eternity past (it seems there is no room for midcourse correction with that much history behind the decision). Was it really permissible to talk like that?

    I’m thankful there was no midcourse correction. I don’t believe he would have changed anything.

    But I’m also thankful Jesus was raw and honest with his Father. I’m grateful that he vented in such an extreme way. He expressed what I would have been too afraid to say. He didn’t cross a line. He drew a line and invites us to walk right up to it with confidence. Jesus shows us that we can say anything and express anything without holding back.

    We just had the water filtration system serviced in our home. Water in our house goes through four different filters before it comes out of the faucet. I think that’s how I view the expressions of my soul. “I can’t say that” and so I filter the impurities of my heart so that God’s holy ears don’t catch my doubts, frustrations, angers (even at him), grief, pains and otherwise ugly thoughts.

    However, at times it’s as if there are two shelves in my heart. One is empty and clean, from which the “deemed worthy” prayers up and lift off of the tip of my tongue. But another shelf, dusty and dank, holds all the prayers that were filtered and stayed. They are called inappropriate, off-limits, don’t go there.

    In this example, Jesus tears into my heart uninvited and unannounced, tipping over tables and freeing the unbreathed expressions. He tells me it is okay. I can say anything. I should. There is no prayer off limits. I can go even there.

    It is because, in the there, God can further shape and craft my heart. When I dismiss a prayer as “doesn’t make the cut” I miss an opportunity. In my raw and honest moments God speaks into the deeper places of my heart that I may otherwise keep guarded and silent. It is in that process, inside of my conversation with him, that God loves to step in and do his work.

    How about you? What is stifled in your heart? Are you Quality Control over the Prayer Department or do you vent freely? I don’t know what the next step is for you in becoming more raw and honest with God, but I encourage you to take it. It’s a good place to go.

    WedWednesdayOctOctober11th2017 A New Emphasis
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Events Mission Missions 1 comments Add comment

    If you’re a Kossuth old-timer, you may have noticed a typo in your bulletin this past week. By now, you’re used to our October tradition of Missions Emphasis, when we devote two consecutive weeks to exploring our global responsibility as a local church. But last week’s bulletin contained an apparently erroneous announcement about an upcoming Mission Emphasis—without the “s.” What’s the deal with that? Did our proofreading department take the week off or something?

    Well, I’m happy to report to you that it was not a typo. (Our proofreeding deppartment is as vigilaant and hard-wroking as ever.) As it turns out, the “s” was deliberately omitted. And that little omission represents an intentional development in our theology.

    In modern parlance, the term “missions” has often taken on a fairly narrow meaning. It tends to be associated primarily with paid workers who move somewhere far away to tell people about Jesus and start new churches. And while that is an important and biblically-mandated part of what the church is called to do, it’s still only a slice of something bigger. And that something bigger is mission—what Christopher Wright describes as “our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation” (The Mission of God).

    One letter may not seem all that significant. But it is. Michael Goheen helps us appreciate this fact: “Mission is the whole task of the church as it is sent into the world to bear witness to the good news. As such mission is literally a perspective on all of life: the whole life of God's people both as a gathered and a scattered community bears witness to the lordship of Jesus Christ over the entirety of human affairs. Missions is one part of this bigger role that the church plays in God's story” (A Light to the Nations). In other words, missions is a subset of mission. So in moving from an emphasis on missions to an emphasis on mission, we’re seeking to embrace a holistic call upon us that involves each and every Christian.

    That’s why this year’s Mission Emphasis theme is “Near & Far.” During these two weeks, I’m hoping that we’ll get used to some new terminology and have our horizons expanded to embrace the reality that all of us—whether pastor, janitor, teacher, mechanic, or missionary—are equally invited to be participants in the mission of God in this world.

    This shift in emphasis might concern you. It might cause you to ask, “Does this mean we’re not going to be as passionate about global missions as we once were?”

    The answer to this question is a resounding, “No.” In emphasizing mission, we’re not backing away from missions in any way whatsoever. Quite the opposite.

    When my wife and I found out we were going to have a second child, our first was just nine months old at the time and I was still in shock from adjusting to entirely new dimensions of love. This little girl had filled my heart to the bursting point. And so to find out that another one was on the way scared me. “How could I possibly love another little human being as much as I love the first one?” I thought. Surely I had no more capacity in my already-full heart for another child!

    But then our second daughter was born, and I realized within about 10 seconds that parental love isn’t a zero-sum game. It has a strange way of multiplying and growing. I looked at my newborn baby, my eyes filled with tears, and I realized that I loved her. Really, really loved her. And then I went out to the waiting room to announce the big news to our oldest daughter. I gave her a big hug, and in doing so, I realized that I still loved her, too. A lot. Maybe even more than before.

    When we say that we’re going to emphasize mission­—both near and far—we’re not suggesting that we need to back off one in order to accentuate the other. Rather, our desire is that our hearts will be expanded and stirred to embrace both aspects of God’s mission with ever-increasing devotion. To quote Michael Goheen again: “As the church develops a vision for and begins to become involved in missions to the ends of the earth, the more likely it is that that church will also be a missional church near to home. Missions has the potential to revitalize a missional vision for the whole world, including the neighborhood.”

    Near and far. Both are vital. Both are integral components of God’s mission. And both will be set before us the next two Sundays as we seek to be obedient participants in that mission. Join us!

    ThuThursdayOctOctober5th2017 The Peril of Forgiveness
    byDan Dillon Tagged Forgiveness Pride 0 comments Add comment

    It would seem obvious that forgiveness, both the giving and the receiving of it, is hard. It is hard to give it because, after all, you are being asked to give up something you deserve. You deserve to be angry when someone insults you. Receiving forgiveness is hard, too, because you have to admit you are in the wrong and you are at fault.

    But the title of this blog is not The Difficulty of Forgiveness, but The Peril of Forgiveness. How can forgiveness be perilous?

    I was reading a humorous cartoon that made a passing reference to the “nine steps of forgiveness.” I was curious. What were the steps? Have I been missing something? I went looking on the web. (Where else?)

    The site I found didn’t appear to be Christian, but it offered what seems to be some good advice: “Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action…. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years – ago…. Give up expecting things from other people.”

    But then it concluded with this: “Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge…. Forgiveness is about personal power. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.”

    This advice is perilous. If forgiveness is about revenge or personal power or being a hero, it is all about asserting one’s superiority over another person. The source of forgiveness is our own strength. The world calls this “empowerment.” The Bible gives it a better name: Pride. Pride elevates self above everyone else, including God.

    The Christian’s basis for forgiving others is that we have been forgiven by God through Jesus Christ. I am not wonderful. He is wonderful. I am not self-empowered. He is empowering. He is the only true and lasting source of forgiveness. All others are counterfeits.

    Even though we may understand the Christian basis for forgiveness, the world’s way can sneak in. Satan would be delighted to have us seem to be more forgiving, if he can increase our pride. “Look how I have grown. I have learned to forgive. I am a good, wonderful, self-empowered person. I am superior because I have forgiven them.”

    So here’s the practical question: When you forgive someone, what is your opinion of yourself? Are you thinking, “I am a better than others because I forgive?” Or are you thinking, “Father, forgive me my trespasses as I forgive others”? 

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