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June 23, 2016, 4:24 PM

Shameless Promo


Each week I try to write a column that follows the subject matter of the sermon. It is not always easy, but I usually enjoy the challenge. It basically amounts to finding two sermons from that week's passage; preaching one and writing the other. Well, this week I am going back to pick up a passage that I planned to preach on a few weeks ago when God changed my plans. So, since I have already used the article that goes with this sermon, I have decided to use this space for some shameless promotion for what we are doing on Wednesday nights. 

Wednesdays during the summer are always a little slow. People are gone, ball games are happening, and the garden doesn't quit growing weeds because you want to go to church. But, we still press on.  Our Children's Program takes the summer off. Trust me when I say, the teachers need a break. They give everything they have during the school year, and they need the summers to revamp. They youth group has a different feel, but the summer is a great time to begin incorporating the new group of students moving up. So, with everything being a little different, I thought it would be good to outline exactly what we are doing this summer on Wednesday nights.

The Content

Since summer is the only chance for everyone to be a part of Wednesday nights, I feel like the content needs to be specifically chosen and high quality. This summer I have chosen to take us through a survey of the Old Testament. We are moving along at a pretty fast pace; usually looking at a whole book each week. So far we have covered Genesis – Numbers. Looking at the books as a whole gives us a unique perspective. Often times when we read scripture, we are really just looking for some small little nugget to encourage us. What we miss when we do that is the greater story that God is telling in His word. By taking a big picture overview look at scripture, we are really tracking the story that God is telling through his word. Each week we see how that big picture story relates to us and how it points to Jesus. 

The Goal

The older I get, the more I realize how important it is for us to know God's word. It is the key to understanding how He wants us to follow Him. My main goal is for us to learn God's word in a deeper and new way. I want us to have a greater understanding of God's plan for His creation and what He desires from us. I can only speak for myself, but I have been challenged and blessed by the study that we are doing on Wednesday nights. 

Another goal that I have for Wednesday nights is to provide an opportunity for parents to teach children how to sit through church. This is a concern that I have heard a few times: “Our kids are in children's church on Sunday mornings and aren't learning how to act in church.” While I think the value of our children's church program far outweighs any of those concerns, I do understand the points. This summer, instead of a children's summer program, we are providing families with the opportunity to practice being in big church. It is a much less stressed situation than Sunday mornings. Plus there is a video each week. On top of that, I make a handout for adults and a worksheet for kids that follows the themes that we are talking about. It is mostly just a color sheet, but I am working on developing more. 

All in all, I think that if you are missing Wednesday nights, you are missing out on something very worthwhile. 




June 9, 2016, 7:52 PM

Antichrists



There is a unique word in out passage for today. Antichrists. In verse 18, John says “many antichrists have come.” The term he uses is “Antichristos”.

Often times, when someone mentions the word 'antichrist' they are referring to the end times. But, here John says that many antichrists have already come, and he was writing way before our time. John is making a very important point here by using this term. We often think of the antichrist with great horror. But, there are many individuals and entities that are anti-christ. We should view those individuals and entities with the same contempt. 

Instead, we buy into and consume much of what they try to sell to us. Think of the music that we listen to and the movies that we watch. How much of the entertainment in our culture comes from a world view that is anti-christ? How much of the entertainment in our culture openly promotes a stance that is blatantly anti-christ? Perhaps, our entire mindset is anti-christ. 

Now, before you write this off as a anti-rock n' roll rant, let me explain myself. One Wednesday night, a girl was in the youth room and singing the song “Strawberry Wine.”  I asked her about the song and she said it was one of her favorites. I was surprised because I remembered when the song being new when I was in Jr. High School. So I asked her about the lyrics and why she liked a song about an under aged girl having premarital sex with someone she never sees again. The girl was speechless and agreed that maybe the song wasn't so good after all, but the tune was still catchy. 

While it is impossible to get away from sin in this world, we must be more aware. Worldviews that are anti-christ and pro-sin can seep into our daily lives so easily. We can even begin to like those things. We can even begin to agree with those things. We must realize that every time we consume parts of our culture that are anti-christ, we are one step closer to living anti-christ. We must also realize that the more we consume those things, the more those things will be produced. Buying a song that is anti-christ is like asking the artist to make more songs that are anti-christ. It is no wonder how a culture can be swayed so quickly. 




June 2, 2016, 12:46 PM

Breakaway VBS


Breakaway VBS

Tonight kicks off our annual Vacation Bible School. You will hear it called Breakaway VBS around here. VBS is always an exciting and exhausting week. It is exhausting because for 6 days, all of the adults have to pretend to have as much energy as the kids do. It is exciting because it is one of our biggest evangelistic outreaches every year. 

Breakaway Vision

If you think about sporting events, the most exciting moments are Breakaway moments. A big breakaway dunk in basketball always gets the crowd on their feet. There is nothing as exciting a seeing a runner breakaway from the crowd for a long touchdown in football. And, we will watch 4 hours of a NASCAR race in hopes of seeing one car pull out and breakaway from the pack on the last lap. Breakaway moments can define an entire game and sometimes an entire season.  

Our hope is that we see kids have a Spiritual Breakaway moment this week at VBS. Our goal is to see them Breakaway from sin and Breakaway to Jesus. 

What is Breakaway VBS

Breakaway VBS is unique to Desha First Baptist. We designed it, we wrote the lesson, and we came up with the theme. We did this for a few reasons. One is that we wanted to be different than most of the other churches. Some will do a sports themed VBS, but no one else will do Breakaway VBS. This is something that I think should make our church proud. 

The other reason for creating our own VBS is that we wanted to confront students with the gospel in a way that they could comprehend without scaring them into a false profession of faith. This week, students will learn the Gospel in a day by day format. They will learn that we are created to be with God in heaven, but sin has caused us to be separated from God. They will learn that Jesus came and died on the cross for our sins so that we can become a new creation. 

Our hope is that many of the kids in attendance will choose to accept Christ and become a new creation. You can be in prayer for VBS all week, but especially Wednesday. On Wednesday we will give a formal invitation for students to come forward and accept Jesus as Savior. 

Students will have a lot of fun this week. They will run and play. They will listen and learn. They will eat good snacks and sing fun songs. But, most of all, they will be confronted with the good news of Jesus Christ. 




May 28, 2016, 11:32 AM

Survivor Guilt



Much of Today's Sermon is dedicated to discussing Survivor Guilt. Survivor Guilt is not something that I was familiar with at first, at least in that terminology. But, after researching it a little bit, I am glad that Randy Adams brought it to my attention. While survivor guilt is a term used mostly to describe situations where a lot of lives were lost; I recognized its symptoms in many people who have lost loved ones. Below is some information that I have found on Survivor Guilt. 

What is survivor guilt?

While survivor guilt is not experienced by everyone, and may vary a great deal in intensity, it appears to be a common experience. The following article answers some questions survivors may have after experiencing a tragedy.

Survivor guilt has been described in Holocaust survivors, war veterans, rescue workers, transplant recipients and relatives spared from hereditary illness. Relatively little discussion of survivor guilt has taken place among long-term survivors of acute and chronic illnesses. Survivor guilt, when it occurs, derives from situations where persons have been involved in a life-threatening event and lived to tell about it. It is often experienced after traumatic incidents causing multiple deaths. In the special case of chronic illness, survivor guilt can occur after the deaths of peers who faced the same diagnosis. By definition, there is an implied comparison with people who have endured similar ordeals.

Who experiences survivor guilt?

Anyone who survives can experience these feelings including patients, families and healthcare providers. Survivor guilt explores the other side of the coin of why me? Namely, why not me? Why did I survive when others did not? Those who struggle with it may express the feeling of being an impostor: somehow the "wrong" person survived; it "just doesn't seem right." Many feel that beating the odds makes little sense unless the survivor earned or deserved it in some way. But some survivors emphasize they don't feel especially deserving. To complicate feelings of unworthiness, in the early stages of grief there is a tendency to idealize the deceased, so the survivor may feel even less deserving by comparison.

Why does survivor guilt occur?

Survivor guilt may be reinforced by the frequent use of statistical profiles to predict as well as to describe illnesses. However, people given the very same odds for survival do not necessarily have similar outcomes. When only one survives, it is not unusual to conclude that two persons facing the same threat somehow changed places; that one person's healing occurred at the expense of another; or that there is a debt owed to those who are gone. Some survivors may keep a low profile to avoid spotlighting this contrast of outcomes.

Does survivor guilt have a function or purpose?

Survivor guilt may exist for a reason. It can help people find meaning and make sense out of their experiences. It may help survivors cope with the helplessness and powerlessness of being in a life-threatening situation without the ability to protect or save others. It can also be one way to express a connection to those who have died, a way, for a time, of keeping them alive. Importantly, survivor guilt can co-exist with other responses, such as relief and gratitude, and may occasionally be prompted by them.

What can I do if I experience survivor guilt?

Acknowledge and accept that guilt exists. Feelings of guilt are quite common and represent part of the healing process for persons coping with loss. When people feel guilty, they tend to isolate themselves. While tempted to keep silent, try to discuss the experience with persons who will not express judgment. Logic may have little or no impact on guilt, but it is important to do some reality testing with your beliefs. Remind yourself that you are human. When you find you are comparing yourself with others, try instead to evaluate your situation on its own merits. Some people try to "work off" their guilt by setting high standards of achievement. This is a very compelling strategy, but it rarely eases feelings of unworthiness. It may help to find additional ways to keep the memory alive for those who have died by creating a special memory book or holding a service. Remind yourself that you are struggling to make sense of one of the greatest mysteries of the human race. Rather than explaining it away, try to embrace the mystery.

 




May 19, 2016, 10:28 AM

What Do You Value



What Do You Value

When I was a kid, we listened to sermons all the time; at church, in the car, on TV, and I'm pretty sure even in my sleep. I quickly began to realize that all preachers tell the same 7 or 8 corny stories. One preacher story that I remember very well is about the man that made a deal with God. The deal was that He got to bring one suitcase to heaven. So the man got the biggest suitcase that he could find, sold everything that he in this life in order to fill that suitcase with gold. When he got to baggage claim in heaven, St. Peter made him open the suitcase for inspection. After inspecting the bag, St. Peter looks at the man and asks: “Why so many paving stones?”

When we make an investment or buy property, we are really saying that I think that this stock or this land will hold its value. We buy a home and hope that it will be worth more when it comes time to sell.  We buy a stock thinking that the company will grow and the stock price will rise. Nobody buys stock hoping that the company will go bankrupt. 

As Christians, we should ask ourselves this question: “In light of eternity, will what I value in this life hold its value in the next life?” In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, what we value in life matters in the next. 

The tricky thing is, what we think that we value may not be what we actually value. The things that we value will take the highest priority in our life. That means that they will take the highest priority when it comes to our resources as well. I have found that there are three resources that tend to point us to what we really value. There are two things about these resources that make them uniquely able to pin point exactly what we value. Number one is that everyone has these resources, but not in equal amounts. Number two is that everyone universally recognizes that these three resources are valuable and assign value.

They are, in interchangeable order: 1.) Your Wealth  2.) Your Time  3.) Your Energy

We will talk more about each of these during the sermon this week, but I want to focus in on Energy for a moment. Your best energy is a sign of value. So, in determining what we actually value, we need to ask ourselves: “What or Who is getting my best energy?” and “Am I giving some of my best energy to those things that I want to value?

It is this kind of question that led to us hiring Brandon Weaver as our Interim Youth Minister in the business meeting last Sunday Night. It was becoming very apparent that the youth were getting money and time, but they were not getting anyone's best energy. They were getting my left over energy and attention as I thought about and looked at the church as a whole. They were getting other people's extra energy and attention as they would step in and help out. But, they were not getting anybody's best energy and attention. 

We have had a lot of people that have stepped up to help out with the youth in the last few months.  They have heard from many great people who have filled in from week to week. I think that the long term health of the youth ministry will benefit from the larger group of helpers that it has gathered over the last year and a half. But, it was time to allow someone to take on the task of building consistency and momentum within the youth ministry. 

We will continue to look for a second full time staff person, but in the mean time we don't want the youth to be short-changed. They need our best energy, and an Interim Youth Pastor seemed to the Deacons and Youth Committee to be a big part of that picture.  It passed in the business meeting with a unanimous vote. Now I am calling on the church to rally around the youth ministry in prayer. 

 


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