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]