Thursday, April 25, 2013

Magnificent Defeat by Dale Robinson


Magnificent Defeat
by Dale Robinson

“What’s lost is nothing to what’s found,

and all the death that ever was, would scarcely fill a cup.”

– Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat



“How long has it been since your son’s death?” I asked Jack Jacobs. 


“One month and nineteen days,” he responded without hesitation.  The emotions are still raw—and understandably so.


Jack’s son Jackie quietly passed away in his sleep sometime during the early hours of Saturday, Feb. 27.  Jackie was 33 years old.  Despite years of past drug abuse, Jackie was in the best of shape and in the prime of his life, or so it seemed, when he died.


Jackie graduated from Warren Central and worked for many years as an iron worker, just as his dad and granddad had done.  When he died, he had two young sons living with him, Jamison and Jace.  Jackie had finally put many of his personal struggles behind him, and was taking an active role in the small Christian church he attended in Johnson County.  He and the minister had become close friends, often working out at the gym together.  The night before his death, Jackie had been in a Euchre tournament at the church. 


After we got the call that Saturday morning that Jackie had died, Dana and I drove down to Jack’s house.  For many years, our small group had prayed with Jack as he agonized over how to minister to his son through one bad situation after another.  If Jack had struggled mightily before, how would he respond now?  Several times that morning, Jack relayed the facts of discovering his son, calling 9-1-1 and trying to resuscitate him.  Each time he shared the details, Jack expressed gratitude that God, in His great mercy, had given his son enough time to get his life turned around.  I marveled at Jack’s strength and his resolute confidence in God, the Stronger One.


Last week, when I asked Jack how much time had transpired since his son’s death, Jack held up his Bible and, pointing to it said, “I wouldn’t make it without this.”  Jack’s reference isn’t to the book per se, but to the God revealed through it—the God who through His Spirit of holiness powerfully declared Jesus to be the Son of God by virtue of his resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4).


Has Jack had his moments since his son’s sudden and tragic death?   Certainly.  At times, overwhelmingly so.  But faith isn’t measured by one’s feelings but rather by one’s convictions.  And in Jack’s situation, his overriding confidence is in the Easter story—that the empty tomb proves death does not have the final word.   


On Sunday, the day after Jackie’s death, thirty family members gathered for worship at the little country church that he attended.  Most of the family was not accustomed to attending church.  In fact, the grandfather hadn’t darkened the door of a church building since he was twelve.  Uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, and many more cousins all squeezed into that small building.  Grief brought them together, but the gospel message keeps them coming back.


Each week they’ve had the opportunity to hear the gospel, many for the first time.  The following Sunday, four family members were baptized into Christ.  Since then, four more have been baptized, bringing the total to eight who have committed their lives to Christ as a result of Jackie’s death.


What seemed an ending, is actually only a beginning.  God is using Jackie’s death (and life) as a way of drawing people to Himself:  God’s magnificent defeat. 


2 Corinthians 1:8-10 says, “…We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. …On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.”

Friday, April 19, 2013

Special Contribution 2013

As part of our 2013 Vision & Challenge, this collection will improve many capital improvements outside our general operating budget. Additionally, the first $5,000 will go toward funding the construction project that Southeastern agreed to complete in Honduras this summer. We’ve set a goal of $50,000 in cash and pledges.


Improvements will be made as money allows, however, the first priorities are to seal the parking lot and drives as a way of protecting our recent paving investment ($11,000) and to replace an auditorium air-conditioning unit ($9,600 beyond what we’ve already raised). Additional projects include refurbishing Room 500 (paint, carpet, drop-ceiling), installation of an automated door at the office entrance for handicap accessibility, improving the quality of sound in the auditorium (upgrading speaker arrays for singing, not just voice), and renovations to the lobby restrooms.


While completing all these projects will cost more than $50,000, the budget team wanted to place these needs before the congregation so that, if we exceed our goal, you will know how the additional money will be spent.  If you would like additional detail, please see Mark McKee, Dale Robinson, Mike DeCamp, or Greg York.


Pledges are welcomed if you aren’t in a position to give on April 28 but would be able to fulfill your pledge by the end of May. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Living Out Grace Retreat-A Report by Chris Kirby

Report from Winter Retreat: “Turn the Page”

Back in early March, the Youthreach spent a weekend in Gatlinburg, TN.  It ended up being a great time of fellowship, fun, and snow.  It snowed off and on all weekend.  I think we ended up with 5-6 inches of snow at our chalet perched on top of a mountain a few minutes from down town Gatlinburg. 

It was great to spend time with the teens playing a few games, going on a scavenger hunt in Gatlinburg, eating Donna’s fantastic cooking, worshipping together, and pelting a few people with snow balls.  But, I’d like to share with you the meat of what our weekend was all about.  We had a powerful guest speaker with us.  David was one of Jill’s good friends from high school.  He graduated high school last century in 1996.  Now, David is different from many of the speakers we hear on our “circuit” of youth ministry events.  There are guys out there who are very moving with the rhythm they speak with or can really draw you in with story-telling and the dramatic ability they have.  This isn’t a bad thing.  God has blessed these speakers with the ability to deliver God’s message in a captivating way. 

David was powerful in his speaking.  But, it wasn’t quite like many of the polished orators we hear.  David’s power came through the story he told.  But, it wasn’t just any story.  It was his story.  Not long after his high school graduation, this “kid” (he was 19 at the time) that grew up as a leader in Jill’s youth group was involved in a serious crime.  He wasn’t the primary assailant, but none the less, he played a role in a mugging gone bad.  After being convicted of murder, he spent more than a decade in prison before being released early on good behavior.  He has now been out of prison for a couple of years.  David came and shared his story of going down the dark path and poor decisions that led to his incarceration, what his time was like in prison, and how he rediscovered what freedom in Christ is all about.  The message really made an impact on our group as David talked about recognizing the need that he had for God’s grace and how even while still imprisoned physically, his soul found freedom through the peace and hope of God’s grace.  That realization led to some great opportunities while still in prison for healing and to share his faith with others. 

David’s story was powerful.  It was real.  It gave us a foundation to talk about finding redemption through Christ and living that out in our daily lives.  Our primary passage for the weekend was 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.  This presentation of the gospel by Paul encourages us in assurance that we are made new by the grace of Christ.  However, it goes on to challenge us to accept our roles as His representatives, or ambassadors, in delivering God’s message of reconciliation to the world.  We, as His saved children, have been blessed through God’s great gift of salvation.  Let’s not be a people that keep that gift to ourselves.  Instead, just as David did for our teens, let’s humbly share our stories of being set free from the imprisonment of our sin.  Each of us has a story.  If we’re honest, our stories include sin that has held us captive at some point.  But, the awesome thing about God being the author is that we get to look forward to what happens next when we “Turn the Page.” 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Don't Worry by Terry Gardner

Don’t Worry!

By Terry Gardner

“Don’t worry, be happy,” is the refrain of an old song. Good advice but very hard to follow. Jesus tells us, “Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matt. 6:25) Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

The reality is every human being worries. This past year one of my feet developed a condition called “drop-foot.” The foot simply was not striking the ground properly, it was slapping the ground and nothing I could do seemed to control the problem. Was this a symptom of some much more serious condition? Was it the onset of Parkinson’s? MS? Or perhaps even the dreaded ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)! I ignored the problem, worried about the problem, was tested by having mild electrical shocks sent through the muscles in my legs and finally a test was completed in which acupuncture type needles were inserted in my legs. Time was spent in worry combined with money spent on physicians, only to find out the problem was minor and would go away on it’s own!

Of course, most of things we worry about never come to pass. Jesus directs us to the lesson of the birds in the sky that don’t plant crops nor gather the produce into barns “and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” The key to minimizing our worry time is to remember that no matter what this life holds for us our heavenly Father loves us, cares about us and has prepared a place for us with him. “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3).

How then can we minimize worry? Three thoughts come to mind:

First, “cast all your care on Him, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7). If you are not praying like you should you will worry constantly. Faith helps drive worry far away. Paul reminds us to worry “about nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Phil. 4:6).

Second, remember to be about our Father’s business. That is why we are here. Worry does not help me or anyone else. Jesus asked, “Who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (Matt. 6:27) When I am doing the Father’s will the time available for worry goes way down. Usually in helping others, you discover how blessed you are. I remember a poem from childhood one line of which was, “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” Both our happiness and worries are driven by what we compare ourselves to and how we handle the troubles that life sends to every human being. Remember that the storms came to both the wise man whose house was built on the rock and the fool who built his home on the sand. If your life is anchored to the bedrock of Faith in God Almighty, the storms of life will not shake you.

Third, focus on the positive. Paul tells us, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely whatever is of good repute; if there be any excellence and if there be anything worthy of praise, think on these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:10). What do you watch? What do you read? Whom do you spend time with? What songs do you sing?

Peter walked on the water as long as he focused on Jesus. When Peter took his eye off Christ and saw the storms, he immediately began to sink. We will all worry some, it is the human condition, but we can minimize our worries by remembering that our Father made the Universe and all things in it and I am his heir.