Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Battle of the Bulge by Terry Gardner

The Battle of the Bulge

(No, this is not a story about World War II)

By Terry Gardner

I love food! Well not all food. I can do without broccoli and cauliflower. Other than that I enjoy a good meal. I am especially fond of sweets. Jan Brantly’s banana pudding, Sandy Cain’s sweet Christmas candy and my wife’s cakes, cookies and pies all rate very high on my enjoyment meter.

Five weeks ago I got on a scale and it registered 225 pounds. That is overweight for a man who is 6’ tall. To be more blunt, that is fat or as the doctor would say, “obese.” Of course, I do not like any of these terms and in correct society we avoid using most of them in speaking of ourselves or of others. But I have found that while others will lie to me the scale always speaks the truth … and not necessarily in love.

The first sin involved food. God told Adam and Eve they could eat of any tree in the garden except the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, the serpent made a powerful argument for Eve to ignore God. The serpent told Eve that if she ate of the tree her eyes would be opened and she would be like God “knowing good from evil.” On her own, Eve seems to have observed that “the tree was good for food” and the fruit “was a delight to the eyes.” We all know the rest of this sad story.

John tells us that we are all led into every kind of sin exactly like Eve was led into her sin. John wrote, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of flesh (Eve saw it was good for food), and the lust of eyes (the fruit was a delight to Eve’s eyes) and the boastful pride of life (eating the fruit would make Eve like God, able to discern good from evil), is not from the Father, but is from the world.” I John 2:15-16. The devil has not improved upon these three ways of tempting mankind from the days Eve until now.

God made food and drink for man to enjoy, but to consume either to excess destroys us physically and spiritually. Solomon warns us to avoid those who drink too much or those who eat too much because either activity will destroy you. Prov. 23:20-21. Solomon wrote, “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.” Prov. 28:7. The Christian knows that one of the fruits of the Spirit is “self-control” … that is the ability to say “no” to anything in excess.

A few years ago Connie was teaching her class of five year olds. The lesson was about the walls of Jericho and for mortar Connie used homemade cream cheese icing. After Addie Grace had built the walls of Jericho with her icing and graham crackers she ate a little bit of the icing, and then a little bit more, and then a little bit more and then she looked at Connie with wondering eyes and said, “Why can’t I stop eating this!” Most of us know exactly how Addie Grace felt. The fact is there are certain kinds of processed a food that I will never be able to eat “just one” of and that’s not just Lays Potato Chips! So to conquer this sin I have found there are some foods I will simply have to avoid entirely. I do not like this fact, but it is a fact nevertheless.

Jesus tells us that anything that leads us to sin should be “cut off” and eliminated for it is better to give that thing up than “for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Matt. 5:29. Paul reminds us that we must “discipline” our body and make it our slave. I Cor. 9:27. These are hard lessons.

So how am I doing on this challenge? So far so good but then I’ve only made it for five weeks. Much is yet to be done and this is a daily battle. If you are fighting this same fight remember that God will help us overcome, pray to him and cast your care on him and know what your weaknesses are … there are some foods you may simply be unable to eat … at least that is true for me. I will still love food, but some of it will be loved from a distance. On the other hand, Jan’s banana pudding seems like an appropriate reward once I’ve lost the weight I need to lose … doesn’t it?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Spring Mill Bible Camp 2012-A Report by Steve Faidley

Hot and dry! Just like the rest of this Indiana summer has been, so was our week at Spring Mill Bible Camp (Mitchell, IN) the week of July 4th. But neither sun, nor heat, nor drought, nor any other obstacles kept us from having a great week of Bible camp for nearly 70 children ranging from 1st through 12th grades, with a few pre-Ks attending with their families. One of our primary goals is to build and strengthen relationships within our church family – between kids of various ages, backgrounds and schools; between adults and kids that might otherwise have a more difficult time getting to know each other; and between adults, too!

Our theme this year was focused on God’s lifesaving love by helping assure our kids that: God is with them; God cares for them; God provides what they need; God will save them; and, God will answer them. Our teaching staff did a wonderful job of providing daily lessons for all the campers. Camp consists of a daily Bible class, a noon and evening chapel, and devotionals in their cabins. Then there is a daily craft, an afternoon activity (which could consist of a trip to Spring Mill State Park caves, swimming or team activities), an evening all-camp activity, and some free-time a couple of times throughout the day. We also enjoy daily Pink Panther reports, afternoon and evening canteens and the annual Thursday night skits performed by each cabin.

We do our best to ensure that camp is self-funded. It’s not cheap and it’s a challenge to keep the cost to attend affordable. The Lord does provide though through the generosity of the Southeastern family and others. That generosity goes a long way toward keeping it affordable. This year, North Central church of Christ, through the efforts of Nathan Snell, was gracious enough to loan us their 24 passenger bus. This not only provided the extra passenger capacity that we needed this year, but also allowed us to avoid renting a second van and third van. Dennis McDaniel and Interstate Battery again provided batteries for our power-hungry two-way radios that each camp staffer carries. Dennis and Beth Law provided a trailer for the transporting of our equipment, supplies and food. And so many of you donated food and financial support, that we can’t thank you enough! The Lord bless each of you.

It takes a lot of people to make camp work. We had a great infusion of young adults this year who brought energy and great servant hearts that we hope will beat for camp for years to come. Below are those who came to camp and made it happen this year! Let them know you appreciate their service. A lot of people give up precious vacation days and even income to be a part of this effort each year. You are all very special people and words just really aren’t adequate to express the gratitude that Melanie and I feel toward all of you. The love you express toward all the kids is wonderful testimony of your faith and service.

Anni CarterEmily SpicelandMichelle Sweet
Bill SweetFrank BlackNathan Snell
Brenda KrebsJennifer AdamsRegina Hill
Charlene BrownJill WellsRomma Woodward
Chris KirbyKrista BrantlyShannon Knaack
Craig HillLinda BrownShelly Burress
Donna ShortMelanie FaidleyTracy Snell

I want to especially point out the “youth squad” that came this year. For several this was their first time as counselors or as camp staff. Without their incredible help and wonderful spirits, a successful camp simply would not have been possible:

Amanda Wright Matt Sullivan Stacee Krebs
Brian Short Nate Garrard Zander Faidley
Chase Nickelson Rachel Hill

Thank you all so much…and I hope you’ll consider signing up for next year!

You can check out pictures on the Southeastern Facebook page!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In for the Long Haul by Greg York

/files/SE Images/Leadership/york_2012.jpg

It’s been noted that the longest journey in life is the one by which a conviction travels south from our head down into our heart.  No matter how profound the conviction, it is not really a part of who we are at our core if it’s just “in our head.”  That seems especially true of our spiritual lives.  Well, if you’re like me, I guess.  You see, this is what I find most challenging about growing in Christ.  It’s not a knowledge issue.  Rather, I find doing what I know to be the challenge.

I know, for instance, that Jesus says I should “love” those in my life who make my life difficult (that seems to be a pretty fair practical application of the idea of “enemies”).  I know I should (at the very least) not respond in kind, not try to make their lives difficult just because they treat me unfairly (imho).  I know that I could try to make their lives better in some way, treat those people better than I perceive they are treating me.

But I still find going with the flow of my negative feelings for “enemies” so much easier to do

I know, as well, that Jesus says that while anger is a normal, even useful, emotion, harboring anger and then acting solely on the basis of anger is too akin to murder to let anger drive the relationships in your life.

But I still find nurturing and then expressing my anger in relationship-damaging ways to be so much easier to do

I know, for one more example, that Jesus says that it’s crucial not to allow our sexual desires to run out of control in our lives.

But I still find that allowing my eyes to linger and my mind to wander to be so much easier to do

I know, for one last example, that Jesus says…

I could go on and on, and we’re not even out of Matthew 5 yet!  You get the point.

Although the whole context is not a perfect match for what I’m talking about here, I resonate with the sentiment Paul expresses in Romans 7.18b-19a: I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want…

What Paul says in that passage (in the fuller context) is what pulls me up short: He’s pretty clear that to know but not to do is a measure of the power of evil in our lives.  (An aside: I’d recommend that you read Romans 7.14-25, ponder it for a moment, let it sink in, but then be sure to read Romans 8.1 and 8.31-39.  And then you’ll probably want to spend a little time thanking God for his incomprehensible grace toward us sinners.)

Whoa!  Wait just a second, Paul!  “Evil” is when you do something bad on purpose, right?  Well, sure.  But apparently evil’s control is also on display when we are not doing what know.  Or, to refine that point a bit, evil is at work when we are not letting what we know shape us at our core.

2 Peter 1.3-8 pulls this challenge together simply and profoundly.  Our lives in Christ are based on our knowledge of him and of God’s will.  And our lives in Christ are based on the surety of his promises.  But there’s another factor.  Another BIG factor.  It’s expressed in a little verb translated “make every effort,” or “spare no effort.”  We knowmany if not most of us, for the most part anyway, something of the life he calls us to lead.

Are we “making every effort” to “do” that life?  Or, are we just doing the life we find easier to do?

Here’s the bottom line for spiritual transformation (which is the subject of this leadership blog, after all!): We will only grow more deeply into the life of Christ when we act on what we know.

Or, to put it another way: The goal of life in Christ is not to be able to pass a quiz on what we know.  The goal is to live a life (a real life) that is shaped by his values.

Do I need to keep “funding” my knowledge of Christ and his ways?  Absolutely.  For as long as I live.  But my heart will not change unless I do something about what I know.

Maybe it’s true, then, that the longest journey is the one from head to heart.  It’s the journey of a lifetime for those who are in Christ.  So, what’s going to be my next step?  What’s going to be your next step?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The First Uncomfortable Steps by Craig Hill

/files/SE Images/Leadership/hill_2012.jpg
In 1984 on the Southside of Houston, TX, my girlfriend, Regina, asked me to go to church with her every weekend.  I kept thinking that I liked this girl a lot but there was no way I was ever going to go to a church with her or anyone else.  Fat chance of that happening!  But I was polite and kept saying no.  Each weekend I said no.  Over and over I said no.  And that worked for me for about a year.

And then one weekend, I kept thinking about God.  I kept thinking about the hereafter.  I wondered where my life was headed.  I wondered where I was going to end up in life.  What was going to happen to me when I died?  I grew introspective, contemplative, and a bit disturbed about my life.

Although raised to go to the assembly of the church on Sunday mornings, I had become agnostic in college, and even somewhat atheistic.  I enjoyed inviting door knocking evangelists in and antagonizing them.  I took it as a challenge to get them to question their faith in God.

After all, I had easily beaten a Catholic priest and a protestant minister in a debate in my Intro to Philosophy class in college.  And I got a 100 perfect score on my essay in the class on why God did not exist.

But in my mid-20’s I had grown tired of being atheistic, and had become a comfortable agnostic.  And I had this girlfriend who kept asking me to come to the Alvin church of Christ with her.  And I had this weekend where all I could think about was how uncomfortable I was in my spiritual path in life, and where I would end up.

And then I heard myself agree to go to church with Regina on Sunday.  And it was August on the South side of Houston.  It was a very hot and humid Sunday.  If you’ve not been to Houston in August it’s hard for you to appreciate how hot it was.

But there I was at the Alvin church of Christ listening to a sermon on the birth of Christ – in August.  I said to myself: “That’s a Christmas sermon.”  You don’t preach on the birth of Jesus in August.  What’s this guy doing?!  But I listened to him.  He said Jesus was born in a feed trough.  A feed trough!?  What is he talking about?  And then I realized I didn’t really know what a manger was.  I was raised in the suburbs and had never lived on a farm.  I didn’t realize you could buy a manger out of a farm supply catalogue.  And the preacher said the point was that Jesus had a lowly birth.  That Jesus was God with us - with us in our lowly state.  That no one could claim that God was too high and mighty for them, because he was born in a barn in a feed trough.  And here I thought a manger was just something in the pretty crèche scene in front of the church building.

And these people around me were writing in their Bibles, and using highlighters to mark key phrases.  Something was different about these people.  They were treating their Bibles like textbooks – like they believed this stuff like it could be a real, true story.  That was the first time I thought of that.  Growing up I had just thought all this Bible and Jesus stuff was fable – like it was Lord of the Rings stuff.

Something was going on here.

Then the assembly was over.  And I was in the lobby and these people were shaking my hand and introducing themselves to me.  They were being friendly.  And then it happened.

This old guy was pumping my hand and introducing himself.  I told him my name and he stopped.  He still had my hand, and he took mine in both of his hands.  He had a twinkle in his eye, and look of recognition.  He said, “Craig Hill!  I know that name.  Where do I know that name? I know.  You’re the guy we’ve been praying about on Wednesday nights.  We’ve been praying you would come to church.  That you would question your salvation and want to come to church with Regina!  Well welcome here.”

Well Regina had been talking to someone else, but standing right beside me.  Needless to say, her head whipped around.  And she had a look of panic on her face.  She tried to interrupt the conversation, and she seemed mortified that this old guy was saying these things to me.

But I was smiling and charmed by him.  He had evidently let the cat out of the bag that she’d been praying that I would feel “Uncomfortable in my salvation”.  I found out later there was a class at the church on Wednesday nights where everyone submitted their prayer request and they spent the class time praying for those requests.  Her prayer request was for me to feel “Uncomfortable in my salvation.”

So Regina, and these people, believed prayer actually worked!  Hmmm.  They treat their Bibles like college textbooks, they preach about Jesus in the summer, and they believe in prayer.  Something was different about how these people at the Alvin church of Christ approached the Lord.

And so began my journey – my journey to find the Lord!

Prologue: I came to Christ and was baptized the following year, and I married Regina.  We’ve been married 27 years, and have 3 wonderful children.