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    WedWednesdayMarMarch29th2017 On Spiritual Heroes
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged History Leaders 1 comments Add comment

    This year marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door in Wittenberg. Back in 1517, that event may not have seemed all that significant. But in hindsight, it is that action which has come to be seen as the ceremonial beginning of the Protestant Reformation, arguably one of the most important chapters of Western history.

    On the one hand, I’m pretty fond of the Reformation. It was a valiant display of theological integrity and a courageous refusal to go along with what was seen as a corrupt church authority. But on the other hand, the Reformation is fraught with problems. Some really ugly things happened. And the people responsible for those ugly things were often the very people standing so resolutely for biblical truth.

    How should we think about these contradictory realities? Do we focus on the good qualities of the Reformers, and leave all the bad stuff hiding in the corner somewhere? Or do we conclude that these people aren’t worthy of our respect and write them off as just another set of villains to be forever despised?

    Recently I came across one answer to that question that got me thinking. It comes from a little book by Carl Trueman, and it presents a perspective that is filled with wisdom:

    We must not approach the Reformers as if they could do no wrong; we must rather go to them with an appreciative but critical spirit, appreciative in acknowledging their insights into the Bible's teaching, and critical in remembering that, like us, they were mere sinful mortals capable of disastrous mistakes as well as marvelous achievements.

    Regardless of what you think about the Reformation, we all have spiritual heroes. Some are historical figures whose writings and ideas have shaped people through the generations. Others are living people such as parents, pastors, and mentors, who continue to exercise ongoing influence in our lives.

    In any case, we can be sure of one thing: our spiritual heroes will let us down (if they haven’t already). They will show moral weaknesses. They will say things that are off-base. They will fall victim to the blind spots of their particular cultural moment. And when that happens, we’ll have to decide what to do. Do we write them off and go searching for new heroes? Or do we conveniently ignore their flaws and persist in an unrealistic view of their greatness?

    This is where I think Carl Trueman’s perspective is so helpful. When he calls us to be “appreciative but critical,” he liberates us from idealizing people whose lives are marred with sin, while also liberating us from demonizing people whose lives have been used mightily by God. In the end, we’re able to be honest about those we look up to—honest about their strengths and their weaknesses.

    But perhaps more than that, the benefit of being “appreciative but critical” is that it allows us to remain mindful of the fact that we have only one Savior. And although God may surround us with a great cloud of human witnesses whom we rightly respect and admire, ultimately their shortcomings and weaknesses will point us toward God’s own unique perfection and sufficiency in the gospel.

    So the next time one of your heroes shows an unexpectedly ugly side, perhaps the appropriate response is to thank God for the opportunity to be reminded that your hope is anchored in someone who has no ugly side whatsoever. And we can be grateful for anyone—flaws and all—who helps point us toward HimĀ­.

    WedWednesdayMarMarch22nd2017 To Those with Aging Parents
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Aging Death Family Love 0 comments Add comment

    To those with aging parents:

    I speak as one who hasn’t walked the journey you are currently on, so I admit my ignorance. However, as a member of the same church family, what is on your heart is deeply on mine as well. I care about you.

    Many of you have shared your grief with me as you walk by faith through a hard season. You now hold the hands of those who once held yours as you took your first steps and as you crossed the street. You now hold tight the one who held you close through sickness and heartache. For some of you, you now make decisions for someone who can’t make them for himself, just as he did for you in days passed.

    It must be heart-wrenching to take the car keys away from someone who gave you your first set of keys in your teenage years.

    It must be overwhelming to make medical decisions for the one who again and again got you to the doctor on time for your appointments.

    For some of you, it must break your heart to watch your parent become someone different, right before your eyes.

    I genuinely celebrate with you as you recall all the wonderful memories, and I grieve with you as you see the life of someone you care so deeply about come to a close.

    If I may be so bold, I would like to speak a few words of comfort.

    1. You are not alone. God himself is with you in this season of your life. He is aware and cares deeply for you, your family and for your aging parent. He cares even more than you do. You may feel all by yourself as you make decisions and drive many miles to pay another visit. But I assure you that you are not alone. He is with you (Psalm 23:4).

    2. Your parent is not alone. In Christ, God does not abandon us even in death. As that day draws closer God does not grow more distant, though it may feel that way at times. God is near and ever-present with your father or mother. Your emotions don’t assure you of that (or cause doubt), the very promises of God bring that comfort.

    3. Death will be reversed. Though this body gives up and passes away, God is big enough to reverse the devastation. In this season of life when the body (and sometimes the mind) break down to a final halt, with a word God will undo it all and bring about a more amazing reality than we ever dreamed. On that day there will be a celebration that exceeds the most amazing party this world has ever offered. All the grief you and your parent now endure will be put to the side and done away with. Our hope is not in this life, but in the life to come. Even for your parent who may not be a believer, there is hope for him to trust in Christ even to the last breath. Point him to Christ as the great Healer.

    4. There will be a great reunion. In Christ there are no good-byes. You have spent wonderful decades with your parent. There is a sadness to see them come to a close. You should grieve that, but not as one without hope. You will see her again. His hand will touch yours again. You will embrace again.

    I close with this. A favorite artist of mine, Matthew Smith, recorded an old hymn called Goodnight. It unwraps a conversation of someone who is passing from this life to the next. The second verse says this:

    Why thus so sadly weeping 
    Beloved ones of my heart? 
    The Lord is good and gracious 
    Though now He bids us part.
    Oft have we met in gladness 
    And we shall meet again,
    All sorrow left behind us-- 
    Goodnight, goodnight till then.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch16th2017 Shaking the Market Share Mindset
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Growth Outreach 2 comments Add comment

    Suppose that you work as an executive for the Superior Widget Company. It’s a relatively small business with modest sales, but your goal is to lead the company to expand. So you beef up your marketing efforts and resource your sales team. You revisit your product design and give greater attention to quality control. You make changes in your personnel and bring in new talent. All in an effort to sell more widgets and expand your company’s influence.

    How will you know if these efforts have worked? How will you measure success?

    I’m a pastor, so I probably shouldn’t be answering that question. But one metric that you might choose in evaluating your company’s growth is that of market share—basically, the percentage of all the widgets sold that have the Superior Widget Company logo on them. After all, other companies are selling widgets, too. And in order for you to grow, you’ll either have to attract new customers to the market (i.e. people who don’t currently buy widgets), or else you’ll have to take someone else’s customers (i.e. people who used to buy another company’s widgets). In either event, growth will involve increasing your market share at the expense of someone else’s.

    When it comes to evaluating church success, I find that it’s easy to approach it with this same market share mindset. As a congregation, we want to grow. We want people to join our ranks. We want to see lives transformed. But often the way we try to measure that growth is by comparing ourselves to others.

    Imagine a city with three churches. The first has 400 people, the second has 200 people, and the third has 50 people. Looking at those numbers with a market share mindset, it’s easy to see that the first church is the most successful. (If my math serves me correctly, they have a 62% market share…very impressive!)

    But what if the third church is an ambitious, outreach-oriented church plant that quickly explodes from 50 to 500 members? The first church may not have declined at all (they still have 400 people), but all of a sudden, the market has expanded and their share has plummeted to 36% as a result. Their status as the successful church in town is in serious jeopardy. Their members begin to look around and wonder what has gone wrong. Meanwhile, the 500-person church is riding high, having become the new market leaders.

    If we bring a market share mindset to the local church, then our standard for success will always be tied to what’s happening around us. What churches are growing? What churches are struggling? And how do we compare?

    But I want to suggest that the market share mindset is a dangerous—and unbiblical—way to grade ourselves. Not only does it distort our perception of what God is actually doing in our midst, but it also turns colleagues into competitors.

    Just this week I had lunch with a pastor friend who leads another church in Lafayette. He told me remarkable stories of God saving people in recent weeks through the ministry of his congregation—one after the other. At one point, he looked at me and said, “Drew, I can’t explain this stuff. It’s the work of God!”

    Now when I hear that, I have a choice to make. I can sulk and think to myself, “No fair! Why is that church growing, leaving ours to settle for a smaller market share?” Or, I can smile and say from the heart with genuine joy, “Praise God for the growth of the gospel!”

    The fact is, we’re not in competition with other churches. We’re in partnership with them. Regardless of what their music sounds like, or what Bible translation they use, or how they define their leadership structures, we’re all working for the same Lord, seeking to advance the same gospel, calling people into the same kingdom.

    You may look up at bigger churches with envy. Or you may look down at smaller churches with pride. But in both cases, you’re missing the point. When any gospel-preaching local church grows, we all win! It doesn’t matter whose church logo gets to accompany the work of God. In the end, it’s ultimately the work of God. And in that work, we rejoice.

    So let’s be zealous for growth, driven by a healthy sense of Godward ambition. But let’s resolve to measure that growth not by comparing ourselves to the church next door, but by assessing our faithfulness to the unique opportunities God gives to us. Whether we’re the biggest church in town or the smallest, let’s be the best church we can be.

    In the end, there really are no market shares. Here, Christ is all, and in all.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch9th2017 4 Things I Dislike About My Drive to Church
    byMikel Berger Tagged Church Neighbors Outreach 0 comments Add comment

    There might not be anything I consider more mundane in my life than driving to church on a Sunday morning. I do it the vast majority of weeks out of the year. Traffic is pretty light in the Greater Lafayette area on a Sunday morning. So it almost always takes 17 minutes. I can pretty much do it in my sleep. But this last Sunday was different. I have traveled a lot lately. So this last Sunday was the first time I made that drive in almost a month. Maybe it was the break from the routine but it caused me to notice a few things I don’t like.

    1. Not noticing my family. The difference in my attitude at 8:40 am versus 9:40am or 10:40am is pretty amazing. At 8:40am, I’m likely sitting in our car in the garage growing increasingly angry at my wife and kids because we’re 10 minutes past the time agreed upon time for the car to roll out, and I’m the only one in the vehicle. At 9:40am, I’m diving into God’s word with my Connection Hour class. At 10:40am, I’m singing to God with you all. All this praise to God and I’m just an hour removed from some pretty uncharitable thoughts from those on earth dearest to me. I wonder how my own heart can be so fickle.

    2. Not noticing the students. I live just west of the city limits of West Lafayette. I can take about three different routes to church and they all take roughly the same amount of time. I can go near campus and the over 40,000 students it houses from countries and religions as varied as you’ll find in any major city. I wonder what they think of this town in the middle of some corn fields.

    3. Not noticing the longtime residents. I can go through the older parts of Lafayette near downtown. There are the World War II era homes (and earlier) housing people who by the constant rental signs don’t plan to stick around very long. But there are the same homes who, as evidenced by the ongoing meticulous care, are likely inhabited by someone who has lived there for decades. I wonder what they think about this town that I now call home that they’ve called home for much longer.

    4. Not noticing the growth.I can drive on the new 231 past new office buildings and expanding subdivisions. They house young professionals seeking to make their mark in the world. Regardless of if they see this area as a stepping stone to something bigger and better or the home base for their professional goals, I wonder how the gospel is impacting their goals.

    Looking over this list, the common theme is that I get in my own routine, get focused on myself, and miss out on what God is doing in that very routine. I like to travel. It’s exciting to learn about what God is doing in other places. But not when it is at the expense of what he is doing right here. Travel often breaks me out of my routines so that I can see more clearly what opportunities God has put me in the middle of, even if to me they seem boring and routine.

    An even better reminder of those opportunities than some travel is the command from Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20:

    And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

    However exotic or boring you consider your “go” doesn't matter. The excitement comes from doing something commanded by and along with Jesus. Go therefore.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch2nd2017 Truth in a Time of Tragedy

    Our little corner of the world has been rocked recently by the news of two teenage girls who were murdered in the woods near Delphi, Indiana. It’s a chilling story that continues to occupy the center of attention for local news outlets (and has been picked up by a few national outlets, as well).

    In tragic times like this, communities always seem to come together. They mourn. They support. They give. But perhaps, more than anything else, they talk. Whether it’s on social media or at the office water cooler, it’s not hard to find yourself in a conversation about these matters.

    As a Christian, how can you make the most of those conversations? How can you point the people around you to truth? In many cases, your best bet will be simply to listen, grieve, and pray. But in some cases, you’ll have an open door to speak. And when that time comes, I’d encourage you to consider these five relevant themes that may turn your conversation into a redemptive one.

    1. The reality of evil. Many of our friends and neighbors avoid the category of “evil.” They prefer to think about humans as mostly good people who simply need to have their inner virtue nurtured and encouraged. Yet such a rosy anthropology shows its cracks at a time like this. It just doesn’t cut it. And it’s precisely here that the Christian understanding of human wickedness proves to be so relevant. There is real evil in this world, because there is a real Evil One hell-bent on destruction. The Christian worldview is reasonable in large part because it accounts for humanity’s most gruesome acts.

    2. The omniscience of God. If you’re like me, you’ve stared at the grainy photo of the Delphi murder suspect for a long time, wondering, “Who is this guy? What was he thinking?” We may never know the answers to these questions. But God does. He knows the man in that picture, and he knows everything he’s ever done. Whatever horrors took place in the woods a few weeks ago, God saw them all. We can take comfort in knowing that every crime has at least one (all-knowing) witness.

    3. The certainty of justice. I hope the murderer in this case gets caught and punished to the full extent of the law. The blood of those two innocent girls cries out for no less. But I realize that this may not happen. The murderer may successfully evade the authorities for the rest of his life. He may even commit such crimes again. But as Christians, we know that in the end, justice will prevail. As it says in Ecclesiastes 12:14, “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

    4. The comfort of the gospel. Even if you don’t know the victims personally, a tragedy like this can bring true grief and genuine sadness. But as Christians, we have good news to share with those around us who are hurting: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). The nearness and salvation in this verse are both made possible by Jesus Christ, who was broken and crushed on our behalf. Yes, we will still grieve and mourn. But in such valleys, the God of the gospel is present.

    5. The powerlessness of death. A tragedy like this forces us to confront the brevity of life. Whether it’s a violent criminal, a hidden disease, or a freak accident, death can snatch us at any time. But as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (over death) through our Lord Jesus Christ.” As much as we might like to, we can’t bring back those whose lives have been cut short. But God can. And he will. It doesn’t matter how or when your life comes to an end, if your hope is in Christ, you have nothing to fear from the sting of death.

    Now don’t misunderstand me here; the last thing our community needs is a bunch of self-righteous know-it-alls to sit them down and preach to them every time the opportunity presents itself. But if we engage these themes with compassionate hearts and winsome spirits, I believe that we’ll have an opportunity to point our friends to truth in a time of terrible tragedy.

    Related: Faith in a Time of Tragedy
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