Monday, December 23, 2013

The Greatest of These is... by John Wright

The Greatest of These is...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                 by John Wright

                With a new year comes another opportunity to evaluate our life, and ask ourselves "how am I doing?"  As a disciple of Jesus, I already know that my goal is to become more and more like Jesus, but you know that is a very high goal.  I look at this clay jar that God has given me to put my abilities in, and begin to think like the one talent man and tremble in fear.  Fear, so many times and in this case is born of ignorance.  The one talent man feared his master because first he believed lies about him and second he did not know him.  God is not out to get us, but the devil keeps putting out the lie that he is not to be trusted.  We trust God because we know him.  He has shown us his character through the life and redemptive sacrifice of his son Jesus.  Phillip said to Jesus: "Show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”  Jesus said to Phillip: "You still don't know me, Phillip, even after I have been among you such a long time?"  (About three years)  Anyone who puts their faith and trust in Jesus does so because through Jesus we know who God is.  When we see God through the life of his Son, well, we fall in love with God because he first loved us and paid the ultimate price in the pursuit of our love.

                So, I see my walk as a disciple and I ask myself why is it God never stops loving me?  Jeremiah 31:3 says "I have loved you with an everlasting love," and it teaches me that Gods love is more than unconditional, it is supernatural.  God's love is not made out of the stuff I am made of.  God's love is of the Sprit and therefore without end.

                I said all that to say that this stuff we are made of is frail, and we stumble all the time.  Paul wrote in Romans that our present suffering is not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.  And for that hope we eagerly await, but hope that is seen is no hope at all.  For who hopes for what he already has?  Then hope cannot exist outside of faith.

                So, a new year and new opportunities to step out in faith in areas perhaps we were too weak to go previously.  With God all things are possible even when he chooses to work through the stuff he has made us out of.  We are the creatures God made with his own hands, so there must be great value in that.  We were made to spread the borders of his Kingdom.  It's what the Lord Almighty wants us to be about.  God's Word teaches me that I can be Happy in any circumstance, and this year I want to smile more, sing more, and outwardly show my joy in Christ so that it (not me) will be a light to those outside of Christ.  I want to partner with my brothers to find ways to grow our Church that meets on Southeastern Ave.  I want to learn how to love like God loves, not unconditionally, but supernaturally.  The supernatural love that comes from God can overcome any physical obstacle that Satan puts in our path.

                Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  And now these three remain; faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

                My prayer for this new year is that I and the Lord’s Church will come together through prayer to seek how to love God and one another supernaturally and everlastingly.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What's that "Stank"? by Chris Kirby

What’s that “Stank”?

My office has stunk lately!  In fact, for a few days right around Thanksgiving you could smell it through my closed door out into the hall.  I mean it’s been bad.  For a few days I moved down the hall and worked in Dale’s old office.  And no, the stench wasn’t my fault (I promise).  It hasn’t even been any of the teen boys’ faults.  It was the smell of decay.  Somewhere we had a dead critter.  It could have been a mouse, rat, squirrel, or llama for all I know.  I looked high and low for a carcass.  Roger and Teresa looked even better than I did.  They moved furniture and looked in every nook and cranny.  I even used my phone to take a video of the duct work to see if our little dead intruder had been trapped in the ventilation system.  We found nothing.  Our efforts were all for not.  We used air freshener, opened the windows before it got bitterly cold, lit candles, and all sorts of things to mask the smell.  But, at the end of the day, without finding the actual source of the smell, we just have to wait for the odor to gradually fade.  For the most part it has.  By the end of Christmas break, the office should be back to smelling like roses, or whatever it normally smells like. 

But, thinking about the stench in my office in conjunction to what Greg has been preaching lately from 2 Corinthians got me thinking about something.  What’s my smell?  In Greg’s sermons, he has spoken about being an aroma of God.  That despite us being broken vessels, when are filled with the life and grace of Jesus Christ we can become something that is pleasing to those around us.  When we are willing to allow Jesus to be our Lord and permeate our lives, we become something that draws others to know more about the infinite love that He has to offer.

In contrast, before we have the life from Christ, we are filled with the death that is brought about by sin.  And, just like my office, it really begins to stink as decay sets in.  And, even more frustrating, the deeper we tuck the death of sin away and think that we are hiding it well, the worse the stink becomes.  What really drives me crazy about the smell in my office is not that something died.  That’s part of life.  But, that it died some place where we can’t find it.  Somewhere in one of my walls, or in the ceiling, or too far in the duct work for us to see is a decaying carcass.  If it had died behind my bookshelf, I could have gotten rid of the stench right away.  Don’t be fooled and think that you can cleverly hide sin.  It will eventually start to stink.  Death brings decay and with it a smell that is repulsive to those around you and eventually rot your soul. 

Let’s be a people who not only allow the light of Christ into our lives to eradicate the decay of death, but let’s also be a people who are honest with ourselves and one another about the sin in our life.  Rather than putting it somewhere deep so “no one ever finds out”, let’s take away the power of secrecy and be honest about the sin to keep it from stinking up the whole room. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gratitude by Terry Gardner

By Terry Gardner
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” – Solomon.
We are surrounded by negativity.  It is in our politics, our schools and in our churches.  It is rampant in business, in the movies and television. Yet out of this darkness and negativity it has never been easier to shine forth the love of Christ like “a city set on a hill” so that others will glorify our Father in heaven.
However, it all begins with gratitude or what the Pilgrims’ called “Thanksgiving.”  This was not a holiday devoted to non-stop, all day long football games.  It was about praising God and giving Him thanks.  Before the Second World War churches met on Thanksgiving Day to give God thanks and they usually did not stop with a single service.  The country was poor, the great Depression was ongoing, antibiotics had not been invented, many did not even enjoy indoor plumbing and yet thanksgiving was offered to God.
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will of you in Christ Jesus.”  Thanksgiving is a command and something we do in all circumstances.  This does not mean I am necessarily thankful for the circumstances … some things that happen to me are bad.  However, every thing that happens (good or bad) can be used to accomplish God’s will.  It was not a good circumstance when Paul’s liberty was taken away in Rome but he used that opportunity to preach the gospel to those in Caesar’s own household.
An attitude of gratitude helps me see things as God sees them.  How much is there each of our lives for God to criticize?  Yet God sent his son to die on our behalf when there was nothing good about us, indeed we were God’s enemies and helpless.  Paul writes, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”  (Romans 5:6).
On Thursday, December 5th, the Sound of Music was presented on live Television.  Three hours of outstanding music and entertainment.  Were you grateful for a respite from the violence, death and profanity usually found in that medium?  Or did you become a professional critic of every aspect of the performance?  Did you appreciate the courage it took the network and the stars to appear in such a production without the safety net of re-takes?  Or did you think, as I did, Julie Andrews did it so much better!  Would we like the standard applied to us that we applied to this production?
Teddy Roosevelt once wrote, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Gratitude makes me thankful for what I have.  It gives me balance and helps me be far less critical of others.  A few weeks ago I was told about one of our administration assistants in California whose cancer has come back.  She is in her 40s.  On Thanksgiving morning I sent her a brief card to let her know I was thinking about her and praying for her.  I debated not writing the card, she hardly knows me and I’d have to go ten minutes out of my way to get it mailed and I had family and turkey to get to.  But I sent the card.  Her reaction dumbfounded me.  She both wrote and called and told me what a difference my note had made, indeed that I had made her whole week.  I found myself humbled and embarrassed.  I remembered the proverb, “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes—until I met a man who had no feet.”
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your thoughts dwell on these things.” (Phil. 4:9).

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"The Brantly Bunch": Helping One of Our Own by Frank Black

“THE BRANTLY BUNCH”:  Helping One of Our Own


      [I used the above title, for that’s what Kent and Amber use in their Blog.]


      It’s with personal pleasure and gratitude that one of our own from Southeastern [and my nephew], Kent Brantly and his family, are now actively serving in Medical Missions in Liberia, West Africa, at Elwa Hospital – about 12 miles from the capitol city of Monrovia.  Kent and Amber and the kids, Ruby and Stephen, moved there on October 15, 2013, with an initial two year commitment.  [By the way, their family of four moved to a foreign country to live and checked 14 bags!! – containing all the things they might need. I don’t know about you, but when my wife and I go to Colorado we check two 50# bags in addition to our 2 ‘carry-ons’.  How about you?.  We have so much unnecessary “stuff”].


        Most of their day-to-day financial needs have been met.  The sponsoring organization for the hospital, Samaritan’s Purse, has accounted for much of this. And I’m delighted to tell you that Southeastern has been able to add the Brantlys to our Foreign Mission’s regular monthly support.  However, they are still short about $10,000 on what we call “start up funds”.  This money is used for everything from airfare, to local house and personal needs, to a vehicle, etc. – all the things it takes to get started. To this point they are without a vehicle.  To find a decent used vehicle in Africa is verrry difficult – unless you can obtain one from another missionary or ex-patriot who has taken proper care of the vehicle.  The first two vehicles that were possible purchases turned out to have been ‘totaled’ and rebuilt.  Caution; always caution – especially in developing countries.  I always called it, “appropriate skepticism.”


      A vehicle for a family in a Third World country is really a must!  They do without so much that having a vehicle becomes even more important for the family – going to market, going to various churches, personal travel, helping others who don’t have a vehicle, and just the ability to come and go with some independence.  Just ask yourself how you would like to go even one week without a vehicle  - MY CASE RESTS!        


      The Mission Committee suggested and Southeastern’s leadership has approved our trying to raise as much as possible of the $10,000 for the Brantlys. And now the rest is up to you.  During this season of charity and giving please sincerely consider helping as much as you can for our SPECIAL CONTRIBUTION next Sunday [Dec. 15, 2013]. 




      Now that I’ve presented the monetary need, let me ask you a question.  What’s the most important thing to most people – and perhaps to you?  Come on now; be honest.  The bottom-line usual answer is a person’s HEALTH – and the health of their loved ones.  This is just a truism of people, and it was no different in Jesus’ day.  Jesus knew this about people.  He had compassion on their physical plight.  This is why most of the miracles recorded in the New Testament are miracles involving HEALING. I like to say that, “Jesus Christ was God’s only Son and the first Medical Missionary.”  It is also true that, “Peoples’ greatest concern is their physical health, while their greatest need is their spiritual health.”  Jesus ministered to both these areas to all people. Kent has prepared himself for many years both medically and spiritually.  He is ready and eager and covets the challenge to follow the example of Jesus in ministering to people both physically and spiritually.


 [As an aside here, you may be asking, “Why Africa or why Liberia?”  Can I say more than giving a figure I saw recently:  Liberia  averages only one doctor per 100,000 people!! In Indiana there is probably about one doctor per 400 people or 25 per 100,000.  The answer to “Why Africa” is à the tremendous medical need!!!  Of course the spiritual need is everywhere].


As you can see, I’m getting carried away here.  But I worked for five years at Chimala Mission Hospital in Tanzania and have since served many other times in medical missions. This is where my heart is and that of my wife, Lou Ann.  This is also true of Kent and Amber.  Their goal has been reached: they are on the scene in Liberia – and now through diligent medical care and through their Christian example and teaching, they will be able to help countless people both medically and spiritually. I think we at Southeastern should be proud and should be eager to do all that we can to help “one of our own”.


                                                      F, Black [12/4/13]

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Season of Peace? by Greg York

Season of Peace?


We’re entering the season where we sing about Jesus being the “prince of peace” a little more than usual, the season when the phrase “peace on earth” becomes more a part of our conscious vocabulary.


Peace, though, is one thing most of us do not have much of these days. There’s always someplace else to go, someone else to contact, something else to do. Our lives become stretched to the breaking point, stressed to the limit, and our margins are paper thin if not non-existent.


This is one area where even Christ-followers seem almost without a fight to have yielded the field to the dominant culture around us. If our ministers or elders or other “model Christians” are not “busy” all the time, then they must not be doing their job. With cell phones on our hips or in our pockets or on the nightstand next to our heads, everyone now seems to “have to” be available 24/7/365. And, if not, the level of “commitment” is suspect.


In that mix of “chosen busyness” our relationships easily become as frenzied and fragmented as the people in them, whether those relationships are within our families or within our church family.


Our understanding of the world, then, is built on sound-bytes and all that can be communicated in no more than 140 characters and this moment’s “next big thing.” Very little about our lives is “whole”—and it appears to become more and more fragmented with each passing year.


But, to borrow the theme of our current sermon series, that doesn’t have the aroma of Christ about it.


Jesus just didn’t seem to be in a hurry, could sleep in a storm, brought calm to harried situations, stopped to take time with people “along the way.”


In short, he was a man of “peace.”


Funny, then, that we who are in such a hurry, in such a frenzy, say that we are following him.


Remember what he said to his closest followers the night before he was killed, what he said to them right before he was arrested (don’t you think that would make you feel a little harried and frenzied?!?)—John 14.25-27: I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.


And again, a few minutes later—John 16.28-33: ‘I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’ 29 His disciples said, ‘Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! 30Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.’ 31Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? 32The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’


But, with all due respect, we might say, what can Jesus teach us about “peace”? After all, he lived in a world without cell phones, “must see TV,” or Twitter. He did not have children who come equipped with their own schedules. He did not have your boss. Or, your clients.


It’s a legitimate question. But, relatively speaking, did Jesus not have more important things to “get done” than we do? All he had to do was live a life that was exemplary in every way, train some hard-headed people to carry on his work, and die for the whole world. No pressure there.


And yet he lives God’s peace, God’s shalom.


He gives us a big clue how he does that in that last quote from John’s Gospel, there in vv. 28 and 32. Came from the Father, going to the Father. Not alone because the Father is with him.


Jesus did not live a life of peace because he had cleared his schedule, avoided certain people, and gotten enough rest. Maybe he did all those things at times, but they were not the core of his “peace.”


Jesus lived a life of peace because he had learned to live every moment aware of the Father’s presence.


Jesus carves out grounding time in prayer with God over and over. Not just as an “example for us,” but because that is where he found his peace.


Carve out some grounding time with God. Even for just a few moments. Feel the peace of the Father’s presence. And then let the peace of those moments start to spread their “contagion” throughout all your moments.


…let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3.15).

Thursday, November 21, 2013


“I told you that I loved you when I married you.  I’ll let you know if I ever change my mind.”

I hear that comment often used as a joke referring to the lack of daily love shown by an oblivious husband.  What makes it funny is that so many of us guys tend to ‘resemble that remark.’  I know I don’t tell my wife how much she means to me nearly often enough, and I think it’s because I don’t really understand the way that each new day hits the reset button in my life.  Each day is a fresh start.  Neither good nor bad has yet occurred.  Both good and bad have the potential to dominate my day.  Often, I’m the one who can decide which has the reins.

As I was thinking through this article, this verse came to mind:

This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:24 (NASB)

Which day?  This one!  Today.  The one you are currently residing in.  The only one that we can directly impact right now.  God made it…we decide whether or not to rejoice in it.

Today is the only day that you and I can directly affect.  Yesterday is gone.  What’s done is done.  Tomorrow is not yet here.  It is still being formed in the mind of God.  However, today is available.  It is here and ready for us to make some decisions about what to do with it.

I’d rather just make decisions once and for all.  I told Nancy that I loved her on April 27, 1985 and I shouldn’t have to keep repeating myself….right?  (Of course, I’m wrong.)  I told God that I was committed to Him on October 11, 1976, and I shouldn’t have to be so repetitious there either…right?  Well, what do you think?

It’s funny though, it seems that the Bible has a different take on these things.  It has something to say about stuff we should do DAILY.  Here are some examples:

Matthew 6:11“Give us today our daily bread.”  (Rely on God daily.)

Acts 2:46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  (Daily interaction with other Christians.)

Hebrews 3:13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  (Build up one another on a daily basis.)

Luke 9:23Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  (A daily decision to put the LORD first and deny our selfish desires.)

I’m sure there are more, but let’s just stop there for now…for today anyway.

What got me thinking this direction was some frustration with myself over a personal failure.  (That’s church code for… uh… a sin.)  The frustration is over the fact that I know I don’t want to lapse into that particular problem anymore…and I make repeated commitments to God to change. 

It goes something like this:  “I’m so sorry.  I’ll NEVER do that again!”

The thing is that “never” is a long time, and my mind can’t seem to hang on to those promises indefinitely.  Soon, other things begin to cloud my judgment, and before long…wham…I’m praying that prayer again.  (Thank God for grace!)

What I’ve finally realized is that I need to make some DAILY commitments.  I need to pursue God daily.  I need to follow God daily.  And, I need to deny myself daily.  I can’t let three or four days (or weeks, or months, or years) go by without recommitting myself. 

Daily commitment is the road to long-term change.  One step (problem, issue, opportunity) at a time.  That is the importance of that one little word that I think we tend to read right over.

I can’t really make a trustworthy commitment for next week, next month, next year…or forever.  But, I can focus on today.   I can deal with the here and the now.

Here’s something I’m going to implement…for now.  (I make no promises as to how long I’ll keep this going because I can only promise what I can affect, and that is today.)   Here’ the idea:

I will start each day with these six personal commitments to God:

1.       I will tell God that I love Him today.

2.       I will commit to being God’s servant today.

3.       I will look for opportunities to share God today.

4.       I will avoid doing (insert problem) today.

5.       I will listen to God today.

6.       I will grow in my (insert fruit of the Spirit) today.

These six things touch all of the primary targets in my daily walk with God.  The Greatest Commandment.  The Great Commission.  Spiritual Growth.  Taking up my Cross.

And, I’m promising only what I can affect….TODAY.

Are you willing to take the DAILY Challenge?

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”  Matthew 6:34  

Monday, November 11, 2013

We Are But a Mist by Craig Hill

As I stood in the emergency room at St Vincent Hospital in Carmel, IN and turned to look again into my wife’s eyes two Sundays ago, I realized her normally indomitable spirit was deeply concerned that she might have more than an inner ear infection causing her vertigo. She’d just come back from her CAT scan and we had not yet gotten the results. She’d had vertigo on an off for about three weeks and that morning it had gotten worse – so bad she could barely think, and hardly walk around. And the doctor wanted to make sure there wasn’t something wrong with her brain – you know, make sure there wasn’t a tumor or something causing her dizziness.

We are, my wife and I, pretty optimistic people, I think. The thought had never occurred to me that something more serious could be wrong with her than an inner ear infection. But I could see in her face, hear in her voice, and see by the tear in her eye that she’d been ground down a bit with the dizziness and now the uncertainty of what was causing it. I thought to myself, “It always turns out alright. We will cope with it, come what may. God will see us through.” But now, I had to admit that you can’t always know what can happen. Things don’t always turn out for a time as being good, or positive, at least not in the short run. What if something was seriously wrong with my beloved Wife?

God said through Peter, “All the people are like grass, and their glory is like the flowers of the field: the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And he said through James, “For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.”

I thought this too this week, when I received word from my Sister that our Father had been in a car accident:  What would happen to him?  She didn’t know the extent of his injuries. He was alive and she was on the way to the hospital out East, back near Philadelphia, where I grew up. But it turned out okay. He was alright, very banged up and bruised at 81 years of age, but okay.

So back to the ER and my wife. I thought surely this will turn out okay, but why should it? Just because I was calm and the Lord has given me an easy life, and nothing really sad has happened to me before, doesn’t mean this is going to turn out okay.

But the statistics! Yes, the statistics of it are always in my head. I think in numbers, in probabilities of outcomes, of charts and graphs and continuums. The statistics were in our favor. The odds were that she didn’t have a brain tumor, that she just had a stubborn ear infection, and could take comfort in that. After all, I got an A in Statistics in college. Surely it would turn out alright with my wife.

But you can’t count on that, can you? Many of you have experienced sudden, unexpected loss, disappointment, and terrible news that you didn’t expect, bad events that you didn’t deserve. Awful, gut wrenching things can happen unexpectedly and for no apparent reason.

And then there is Job. Job lost his family, his wealth, and his health. And his friends came to comfort him, but ended up accusing him. They accused him of deserving to be treated thus. That he must have done some evil to deserve it all. Yet Job did not lose his faith in God. Job got a bit riled and challenged the Lord, but doesn’t that show that he believed in God, because he wanted to talk to Him?

Would I be as strong if my dear Wife suddenly had a brain tumor, and was struggling for her life? But I heard my voice reaching out to her and comforting her. My step drew near and my hand reached out to her and I comforted her that it would all be alright. Blind faith was what was needed to comfort her, and to keep us together, with each other, and with the Lord. I was her comforter and her security, and a calm face and a hopeful demeanor is what she needed, what was called for. And that comes natural to me, but you just don’t know do you?

And in the end the doctor came in with the good news that all was normal with her brain. And he gave her some medicine and it helped her tremendously. And we went home and she recovered greatly over the next few days, and all was well.

For as God said through Paul to the Romans, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose. [] For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So even if something bad happens, we must perservere.

James 4:13-17 NIV
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Always Giving Thanks by John Wright

Always Giving Thanks
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               by John Wright

            It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving is less than four weeks away.  Remember last year?  Did not you and I say that we were going to count our blessings, and make a conscious effort to not get bogged down with our busy lives, and really try to be thankful.  Well, I hate to admit that I have not done well at all.  I am determined to do better this year, and with God's help and yours, I intend to be a man who expresses gratitude for the gift of life.  It is important that we read God's word for it is the reason for the hope that is within us. 

Ephesians 5:20 "...always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus" 

To be truly thankful to God in the face of anything and everything is hard, but it is possible.  How?  We need to live in the name of our Lord Jesus.  I want to pray in Jesus' name, sleep in Jesus' name, wake in Jesus' name, be an employee in Jesus' name, be a husband in Jesus' name, be a dad in Jesus' name, and be a friend in Jesus' name.

Colossians 3:15

 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

        If we take the name of Jesus with us whereever we go, the peace of Christ will cause us to be grateful and give us vision so that we can see beyond ourselves.  When I take my eyes off of Jesus, I develop spiritual nearsightedness. Unless nearsightedness is corrected, I cannot see past the nose on my face, and the only thing that seems important is me.

        This year I am going to use the spiritual glasses that God has given me.  He has given all of us the prescription for perfect spiritual vision.  That prescription was filled at the cross, the ultimate act of serving others.  What we are called to do is serve others in Jesus' name.  Serving God really begins when we live in Jesus name.

John 14:27

 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

With Gods peace we are free to be thankful, it does not matter how rough life may get we can still give thanks.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

An Uncomfortable Well of Discontentment by Mike DeCamp

August 28, 2013 was the 50th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite speeches.  It was a speech given by one single man, on one single occasion, but it was a speech that ultimately changed a nation…and hopefully is still changing a nation.  It was Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  Just reading the words again for this writing brought tears to my eyes.

He had a dream of racial equality that sprung from the depths of an uncomfortable well of discontentment.  That discontentment was right.  It was good.  It was as it should have been.  It was a discontentment that all peoples should have felt.  That discontentment drove a dream of change.

What I want to ask you today…in my own small way…in light of the glory of our Mighty God…
Do you have any dreams today?

I do.

I also have an uncomfortable well of discontentment…and, it is feeding some dreams for the future of our church…the future of the Lord’s people here…and everywhere.

I have a dream...
That one day we will fill these pews…and not just with folks we have stolen from other similar buildings, but with the broken, the hurting, the disillusioned, and the distressed.

Matthew 9:10-13 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’  For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I have a dream...
That we will raise this roof with praise…not with the artificial cords of electronic amplification, but with the overwhelming praise of hundreds of voices raised in joyful praise to the God of our salvation.

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.

For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.

I have a dream...
That one day…soon maybe…our times together will consistently run overtime because of the three, four, or five baptisms we have every week…then…every day.

Acts 2:46-47 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

I have those dreams because I possess an uncomfortable well of discontentment.  I want us to be more.  I want us to make a difference.  I want this church to be used by God to propel the Gospel forward and change lives.  And, I know that with God all things are possible.  I know that it is His desire that everyone come to walk with Him in repentance and renewal.

The question is not whether these things can be done.  The question is not whether God would have it be done.  The question really is:
Will we be His voice in this hurting world?

Let me ask you…do you share my well of discontentment?  Do you share my dreams?  Can you feel that discontentment in your inner being?  If you do, let’s lift our mouths in praise and our hearts in prayer!  Let’s bow our heads in humility and join our hands in unity!

Let’s dream…let’s believe…let’s act…and let’s watch God fill up our wellspring of life with the reality of His power!

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Drastic Change" by Frank Black

“Drastic  Change”

(F. Black – Oct. 8, 2013)


      Have you ever had circumstances or events in your life that caused an immediate, total, and permanent change?  --  perhaps an epiphany or a “eureka” experience.  Of course such changes are rather rare, but can you think of one in your life?  Personally, I can come up with only a few in my 72 years.  And if you come up with one, what was it that caused the change?  [It could have been volitional (by your own independent choice) or forced on you by external circumstances].


      What am I getting at anyway?  What I’m leading up to is the immediate, total, and permanent change in Jesus’ disciples after His appearance to them following His resurrection. But first, let me back up just a bit. 


      If you remember, after Jesus was arrested, His disciples ran away and hid.  They were frightened, confused, and disillusioned.  They became totally ineffective.  By the way, have you ever been really frightened?  What did you do?  Perhaps you can identify with the disciples’ actions.  What would we have done in their situation?  Of course we would like to think that we would have stayed with Mary at the crucifixion like John.  But would we?  Would we have been like Peter and vehemently denied knowing Jesus?


      The disciples’ action was not the end of the story as you well know.  It was only the beginning.  What caused their drastic change?  The miraculous resurrection and appearance of Jesus in their midst.  [None of the other religions of our world have anything that can compare to our true religion of Christianity and the resurrection of Jesus].  After Jesus’ return the disciples were 100% sure that Jesus was the Son of God [the Messiah] and were forevermore changed!!  From cringing, uncertain men they became constant workers and advocates of Jesus to their deaths.  [I’ll later present the history of the end of their lives].


      Jesus appeared to the disciples and others over a period of 40 days and performed “convincing proofs” [miracles] during that time.  Can you only imagine what your response would be if your deceased  father, mother, husband, wife, or child came alive and lived and ate and taught and performed miracles over a period of days??!!  Not even imaginable to us.  But this occurred with Jesus, the Son of God.  My goodness; after such experiences, you can see how the disciples now totally believed and taught about Jesus until their deaths.  To me this is one of the most convincing proofs of the reality [the truth] of Jesus.  Unless men are absolutely convinced of something, they would not persist with something that caused them suffering and death.  [I find great comfort in the fact that Jesus prayed for us who did not see Him.  In John 20:29 Jesus says, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  -  This is you and me!!

In reviewing the history of the end of the disciples’ lives, I found the following:

·         Peter:  Crucified upside down at his request

·         Andrew:  Crucified on an X-shaped cross

·         James, son of Alpheus:  Stoned to death

·         James, son of Zebedee:  Beheaded

·         John:  Only disciple dying a ‘natural death’ in old age

·         Thaddeus:  Shot to death with arrows

·         Philip:  Crucified

·         Nathaniel:  Crucified upside down

·         Matthew:  Killed with an ax

·         Thomas:  Killed by spear

·         Simon:  Sawn in half

·         Matthias:  (who replaced Judas) – Crucified

**  The obvious conclusion of this subject would be the question:  “How has our belief in Jesus changed our lives