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    Elders' Blog - Entries from February 2017

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    ThuThursdayFebFebruary23rd2017 What Do You Celebrate?
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Celebration Faith 0 comments Add comment

    The other day I was playing Chicken Shoot on the Nintendo Wii with my boys. We were good. Really good. At least in our eyes. The task is simple: Aim the controller at the screen and eliminate as many flying chickens as you can. Especially difficult is the occasional egg thrown at you, twisting and turning as it approaches. Shoot fast or be egged.

    As we each took turns (even my two-year-old) plenty of “good jobs” were thrown around as we watched our scores increase into quadruple digits. I admit my increasing pride with every aim.

    I’ve been thinking about celebrations and “good jobs” lately. A lot happens in a day that deserves affirmation in our home. I have a wonderful wife and two great boys. They do good things. And I want to celebrate them in the daily ebb and flow.

    I’m part of a great church. I’m in an incredible Discipleship Group and Care Group. The Connection Hour I am a part of rocks. I’m so grateful for the elder and staff teams. This church does great things. I want to celebrate all that our church is doing.

    However, I want to celebrate what matters most.

    But what matters most? Is it the decisions that staff and elders make and the ministries they implement? Is it the Scripture people memorize or the time they invest in Bible study? Does how many times the gospel is shared matter most?

    Does the decision by my son to tell me the truth rather than lie matter most? Does quoting his AWANA verse perfectly matter most? Does his sitting quietly in the pew during the Sunday morning service matter most?

    I want to celebrate what matters most. So, what matters most?

    I don’t think I’m alone in this, but I clearly recall that in my first ten years as a Christian what seemed to matter most was what I did. A dedicated Christian worked hard. He worked hard at all the things the Scriptures reveal as good. There was no task too big or small for him. And your acceptance into the community relied on how well you were doing in your Christian walk. Don’t get me wrong. Everyone was allowed in the door. But not everyone was truly welcomed. That was reserved for the black belt Christian, the hard worker.

    Working hard doesn’t matter most. Making the right decisions doesn’t matter most. How many verses a person memorizes or how many times she shares her faith does not matter most. As far as what we humans do, faith is what matters most because it is anchored in what has been done.

    Don’t get me wrong. These others things should be celebrated. But in my own evaluation, I too often celebrate action over faith. “Wait,” you say, “Faith and action go together.” Right, they do. But my point is that we too often celebrate the action and neglect celebrating the faith behind it.

    I want to be a dad who gets as excited about a simple step of faith from my sons as I do any moment of obedience. I want to be a part of a Care Group that celebrates another moment of basking in the gospel more than another verse memorized. I want to pastor in a way that celebrates deepening trust in Christ far more than any church attendance record that a long-time church member has maintained.

    I want to celebrate what matters most. I know you do, too.

    ThuThursdayFebFebruary16th2017 You're an Unfinished Project

    Last weekend, I finally got it done. After two months of having a pair of doors sitting on sawhorses in the basement, I finally finished painting them and got them back where they belong. Like most projects I do around the house, it took way longer than it should have. But the slowness of the project’s completion only increased my satisfaction in finishing it. When I was finally able to stick those doors back on their hinges, I felt like I had truly accomplished something.

    Finishing a job is a highly rewarding experience. Whether it’s turning in a term paper, mowing the yard, fixing that leaky faucet, or landing a new client, the sense of accomplishment is deeply gratifying. Your work is done, and now you get to take a deep breath and enjoy the fruit of your labor.

    On the other hand, an unfinished project is a whole different story. It makes you feel restless. And anxious. And stressed out. Especially if it’s something important, the weight of its ongoing demands reminds you of the work yet to be done.

    Recently these thoughts came to my mind as I was contemplating a familiar encouragement from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul wanted his fellow believers to be comforted in knowing that God would finish what he started. Their lives may have been imperfect and messy. But God was at work, and he would not fail to complete their sanctification.

    Yet as wonderful as all of this is for the Christian, I can’t help but think about what it means for God. If the completion of this work awaits “the day of Jesus Christ,” then it means that God is far from finished. It means that he can’t kick back and relax anytime soon. It means that he has willingly embraced the inconvenience of working on projects that will remain under construction for a very long time.

    On the one hand, this fact should inspire contrition and humility in those of us who are on the receiving end of God’s work. Do you know why this is such a lengthy process? Because we’re really, really difficult people to work on. Our hearts are hard. Our sins are many. We’re slow to respond. Knowing that we are unfinished projects should motivate sorrowful repentance as we consider just what it is God has to put up with.

    But on the other hand, this realization should lead us to new heights of joy as we understand more fully just how deep God’s love for us truly is. Looking at my own life, I can think of plenty of times when God could have given up and scrapped the project he began. But he hasn’t. His patient, faithful labor in my life communicates in a powerful way that he loves me. And despite my hard-heartedness and sin, he is resolutely committed to seeing me transformed into the image of his Son.

    Someday, God will look at each of us and say, “My labor is done.” He’ll have successfully brought to completion the good work that he started. But until that day comes, he is content to bear with our unfinished state. He isn’t fazed by the mess. He doesn’t despise the overwhelming amount of work left to be done.

    You may be annoyed by the unfinished projects sitting around your house. But God isn’t. He’s hard at work in your life. And he loves you enough to keep at it.

    WedWednesdayFebFebruary8th2017 4 Tips for an Angry World

    If you haven’t noticed, we live in a polarized society. And unless you’re able to avoid the internet, the newspaper, the television, and all situations in which you might have to speak with other human beings, you’re going to have to figure out how to navigate this cacophony of clashing opinions. It’s the reality in which we all live.

    Thankfully, the Bible does not leave us in the dark. Sure, its words were written long before Facebook and the proliferation of “fake news” websites. But still, there are some remarkably relevant lessons to be learned when we sit beneath Scripture’s teaching and allow it to shape our presence in a culture of discord and controversy.

    Drawing from the book of Proverbs, let me suggest a few general principles to help you maintain your sanity in a world full of people screaming at each other.

    1. Keep some opinions to yourself.

    Do you have a strong conviction about the most recent presidential appointee? About the latest healthy eating trend? About an article in today’s newspaper? About whether Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback ever or the sleaziest cheater of all time?

    All of those convictions are wonderful, and you’re entitled to maintain them. But not all of those convictions necessarily need to be expressed. Proverbs 13:3 says, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” And in Proverbs 17:27, we read, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” In other words: it’s perfectly fine to sit out of a public debate every now and then.

    2. Learn from those who disagree with you.

    You may be appalled to learn that your coworker went to the Women’s March a few weeks ago. Or, she may be appalled to learn that you went to it. In either case, rather than immediately launching into your tirade against the opposing viewpoint, try asking a question. Find out why she thinks what she does. Ask about her experiences. Discover what makes her tick.

    Proverbs 12:15 is powerful: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” The world has grown to expect outrage. So why not flip the script? The next time you find yourself disagreeing with someone, surprise them by expressing an honest desire to learn from their perspective. As it says in Proverbs 15:14, “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.”

    3. Don’t get angry when someone sees things differently.

    Perhaps you really like our new president. And you really want others to know that. So you take to social media to make your voice heard. But three minutes later, you get notified of a new comment. It’s your Great Aunt Linda, and she is irate that our country is being led by such a terrible individual.

    You may think Great Aunt Linda is crazy. You may think her political values are uninformed. But before you launch your barrage of comebacks, remember the words of Proverbs 14:29: “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” By all means, you’re free to disagree. But there’s tremendous power in emotional restraint. “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Prov. 16:32)

    4. Be bold in speaking truth.

    This may seem to contradict everything I’ve said so far. But as important as it is to practice restraint and silence, it’s equally important to speak up when the need arises. Proverbs 24:24-25 says, “Whoever says to the wicked, ‘You are in the right,’ will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.”

    Is LeBron James better than Michael Jordan? The world probably doesn’t need your opinion on that. But when it comes to things like abortion or racism or violence against minorities, don’t let your silence grant wickedness a free pass. There’s a time to be silent about less important matters. But there’s also a time to be vocal about clear injustices and transgressions. Be prepared to do so boldly.

    Unfortunately, we can’t prevent disagreements. But through wisdom, self-awareness, and a spirit of respect, we can aim to become the peacemakers that God calls us to be.

    WedWednesdayFebFebruary1st2017 A Life Worth Living
    byWill Peycke Tagged Legacy Life Work 1 comments Add comment

    Well, there it went. January is already behind us. Every year, I marvel at how quickly the “newness” of the New Year wears off. If January 1 is an opportunity to set new goals and make a fresh start, perhaps February 1 should give us pause to evaluate where that fresh start is taking us. During this first month of 2017, I’ve been chewing on these words from author Don Whitney:

    Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

    Whitney’s words remind me of something the apostle Paul wrote about a person’s life work:

    Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames. (1 Cor. 3:10-15, NLT)

    We are all building a life: year by year, day by day, moment by moment. Every project we undertake, every dollar we spend, and every commitment we add to our calendar is like a brick in our wall, a piece of our life. It’s exciting to think that some of those “bricks” will be even more valuable at the end of our life than when we first set them in place. But it’s sobering to realize that some won’t. Some bricks will crumble away or, to use the imagery from this passage, burn up. They won’t prove to have any real, permanent value.

    Before we moved to Lafayette, we lived next to an old cemetery. Several of the stones near our fence bore dates from before the Civil War. Many others were so old and worn that the names and dates were no longer readable. Living next to that cemetery was a constant reminder that my life won’t last forever.

    And that’s a reminder I need often. When I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I chase a lot of things that don’t really have any lasting value. Building “a good life,” one that looks like my neighbors (only better, of course!), is always tempting. But in the end, it will prove as short-sighted as a Civil War general investing in confederate currency or a technology company stockpiling floppy disks.

    We all desperately need an investment that won’t flat-line when we do. We all want to spend our lives on something that will really pay off, really be worth it. So, to borrow Paul’s terminology, what are the “gold, silver, and jewels” we can build our lives with? What kind of investment will prove to have real, lasting value?

    Paul’s investment, his “gold standard,” was pouring himself out for the sake of others. His “life work” was spreading the good news of God’s grace. And that work was built on Paul’s own relationship with Christ—what he called “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8).

    Paul was confident that this investment was worth it. Near the end of his life, he wrote these words:

    As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Tim. 4:6, NLT)

    If you are in Christ, then your foundation has already been laid. But how you build on that foundation is up to you. Why not make it your “life work” to know Jesus and point others to him? The investment you make in the gospel—both in your own heart and for the sake of others—will always be worth it.

    The first month of 2017 has come and gone. Take time now to thank God for his grace to you. Ask for his wisdom to evaluate where you’re going and where you should be going. And ask him to help you build well—for the next eleven months and beyond. 

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