Sharing in the Sacrifice

What an amazing and wonderful picture the totality of the sacrificial offering was. Read more

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Thank You For Letting Me Work With You

Who would have thought back in 1994, when my girlfriend and I came up for one Sunday so I could preach to fill in for the Chestnut Lane congregation that nearly 10 years later I would be moving to work fulltime with that very same congregation. Changes had happened. Chestnut Lane had moved buildings, taken on a new name. My girlfriend and I had married and had three children.

On September 1, 2003, we pulled into our new home. On September 2, a group of you came over and helped us unload our trucks and get unpacked. It started nearly 7 years of a great working fellowship. How was I to know that you weren’t just trying to look good for your new evangelist but that you all really are that loving and serving all the time?

Over the past years, we have weathered good times and bad. You all have been there for us as we had our fourth child, as Marita’s father and grandmother died, as she underwent surgery for skin cancer, as my grandfather died. You were there when we had financial difficulties, spiritual difficulties, extended-family difficulties. You’ve even been there this past week as we had to leave our home because of plumbing problems. I want to thank you for your great service.

I hope you can say the same for us. My hope is that when the shoe was on the other foot, when you were in need and having difficulties, that we were as loving and serving for you as you have been for us.

I have truly enjoyed my time working with you and want to say thank you to the elders and to each of you who make up this congregation for letting me work with you, teach you week in and week out, and be the voice of the congregation. Your kindness and support of my efforts has made all the difference in my own spiritual growth and ability to stick with this work of preaching.

I am excited for what the future holds for me and my family as we move to Indiana. I’m also excited about what the future holds for you as you start to work with a new evangelist. I believe a fresh start will help take the Franklin Church to the next level of work and growth. I’m excited for you and I’m especially excited for the Davis family as they getto experience the love and service that we have experienced for so many years.

You have worked your way into a special place in my heart. I will pray for you continually and often. Please pray for me, my family, and our work.

I want to leave you simply with the reminder from Paul that no matter what happens, we are God’s children and as long as we stay in His hand, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

Hang on to Jesus. Stand firm in the grace of our Lord and “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 5:10-11).

Please remember that I love you and God loves you. Let’s remember to love and pray for one another this week and for the years to come.

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Accepting Healthy Help from Our Brethren

We have a tendency to live in extremes. We sometimes have a hard time walking down a middle path. For instance, some of us who have had trouble with our eating, have lived as if what we ate didn’t matter. We didn’t worry about any of the consequences. Then the New Year rolls around and we decide to drop a few pounds. We put ourselves on such a strict and controlling diet that we never get to enjoy anything. Usually, that doesn’t work and end up going right back to eating like it doesn’t matter. Some of us have spent money like it grows on trees, never balancing the checkbook, running up credit card debt, getting in to trouble. Then the New Year rolls around and we decide to get that money stuff under control. We opt for the plan Dave Ramsey ridicules deciding to hide in a cave collecting lint and only come out on coupon Thursdays. That usually doesn’t work out too well for us and we go back to spending money like water. We go back and forth from extremes that are unhealthy for us and have a hard time settling on that middle ground that is healthy and helpful.

One area where Christians have a tendency to walk in extremes is in the area of accepting help from brethren. Instead of walking down the middle road of accepting healthy help from brethren, most of us live in extremes. At one extreme, we act like we can’t take care of ourselves and the brethren owe us help for everything. We become shameless in our pleas for help. At the other extreme, we act like we never need help. We’ve always got everything under control. We become ashamed to ask for help. Both of these extremes are wrong. Neither is healthy.

Look at the balanced approach Paul presents in II Corinthians 8:13-15 as he talked about the Christians in Corinth helping out their brethren in Judea. “For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, ‘Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.’”

Needs arise for everyone at some time. They may be large needs involving lots of money. They may be small needs merely involving help with a meal or getting a ride somewhere. Needs arise for everyone. There is no shame in having needs. There is no shame in asking and receiving help.

Sometimes we’ll be the person needing some help. Sometimes we’ll be the person able to give the help. God set it up this way so that we could each be a blessing to each other in varying times. We should not think we are less than worthy because we’re the ones asking for help at this time. Neither should we puff up with arrogance because on this occasion we’re the ones able to offer help.

We should avoid the two extremes. Some have an entitlement mindset. If someone has something that they don’t, they are entitled to it. They become shameless in asking for help and never take personal responsibility for where they are and overcoming their own problems. They become a leech on the church and their brethren. That is wrong. Others, however, have an ashamed mindset. They are afraid to be an inconvenience to people. They are embarrassed to admit they need help or made a mistake. They feel like they just aren’t worthy to receive any help. So they never ask and they refuse help freely offered even when they could use it. If they are prevailed upon to receive help, they feel guilty and ashamed as if they’ve done something wrong by getting help. That is also wrong.

Let’s not walk in the extremes. Let’s walk in the balance that Paul talked about. We shouldn’t be leeches. At the same time, there is no shame in receiving help. Who knows but at another time we’ll be the ones giving someone a ride, fixing a meal, offering some money.

By the way, though I’ve talked about a financial need, these same principles apply in every walk of life—emotionally, physically, materially, mentally, and spiritually. Walk with a healthy balance. Avoid the extremes.

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4 Keys to a Forgiving Spirit, Part 2

Joseph is a great example for us in many ways. Not the least of which was his ability to forgive his brothers despite the great wrong of selling him into slavery. Last week we noted…

1. You don’t have to cover up the sins to forgive.

2. Remember your place.

Now we’ll learn two more keys from Joseph that will help us grow in forgiveness.

3. See God’s work through it.

Joseph said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). I don’t believe Joseph means God directly caused this sin in order to preserve people. No, the sin came because Joseph’s brothers meant evil. However, God, in His awesome power used it to accomplish good. That is how amazing our God is.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God works all things together for good. That doesn’t mean God directly caused all things. It simply means God uses all things. He even uses the sins of others for our good.

I’m not saying we should be excited about the sins of others with some kind of masochistic glee. However, as we look back and look at how we have been impacted, look for how God used these sins for our good just as He used the sins of Joseph’s brothers for their (and our) good.

4. Keep the relationship the primary thing.

I certainly realize that Joseph didn’t simply welcome his brothers with open arms right from the beginning. I know he tested them. However, I can’t read passages like Genesis 43:30; 45:1-5 without seeing that Joseph was thinking about the relationship. These were his brothers. He wanted that relationship restored more than he wanted them punished.

I can’t help but notice that not once does Joseph say, “Hey guys, remember that I told you that you would bow before me? Guess I was right.” The relationship was more important to Joseph than being right.

If we can keep the importance of the relationship in the forefront, we can much more easily forgive.

I know forgiveness is not easy. I know having a forgiving spirit is especially hard if the one who wronged us won’t even seek forgiveness. However, keeping these four principles in mind will definitely help us grow in forgiveness. 

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4 Keys to a Forgiving Spirit, Part 1

One of the hardest things God has asked us to do is forgive. When Jesus taught the apostles to forgive, their response was, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:3-5). They knew forgiving was hard. I wish I could give you a perfect formula for easy forgiveness. I can’t. However, the story of Joseph provides four keys to make forgiveness easier and grow in your ability to forgive others even when they’ve badly mistreated you.

First, keep in mind that Joseph’s brothers did not just mistreat him. They sold him into slavery. Almost every bad thing that happened in his life came from what they did to him. If anyone had a right to a grudge or to sulk in misery because of his dysfunctional family, Joseph is the one. Yet, he forgave his brothers. Notice two of the keys from Joseph to help us forgive.

1. You don’t have to cover up the sins to forgive.

Some folks act like forgiveness means pretending the person never did anything wrong. That’s not the way Joseph dealt with it. When Joseph’s brothers came to him seeking forgiveness in Genesis 50:20, he didn’t cover up what his brothers did. He called a spade a spade. “You meant evil against me.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you go around touting and reminding of the sins. I’m simply pointing out that forgiveness doesn’t mean acting like nothing ever happened, tiptoeing around some issue because we are afraid it might ruffle feathers. If someone sinned, they sinned. Call it that.

2. Remember your place.

When Joseph’s brothers feared Joseph would not forgive them, he set their minds at ease by saying, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19). He understood his place. He was just a man. He was not God.

For me, this means two things. First, it is not my place to seek vengeance. Nor is it my place to punish. That is God’s domain. (Clearly, I’m not dealing with the issue of family or congregational discipline.) My biggest hindrance to forgiveness is wanting the violator to be punished. But Romans 12:19 is pretty clear. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Second, since I am not God, I am also a sinner. I can get in a competition with others if I want about who is the worse sinner. However, that isn’t going to help me in eternity and it isn’t going to help any of my relationships. The fact is, there was one perfect person who had a right to hold all others in contempt for their sins. However, instead of doing so, He died so all others could be forgiven. I need to remember that I need forgiveness as much as anyone. Therefore, I should be as willing to offer it to others as Jesus was willing to offer it to me.

Joseph is a great example for us in many ways. Hopefully we can learn to grow in his forgiving spirit. Look forward to next week when we’ll learn two more keys to having a forgiving spirit.

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Do You Need a Friend?

 
 

A few months ago, my wife convinced me to join the addictive online world of Facebook. I really enjoy it. I’ve made connections with lots of people from my past, present, and future. Sure, even the future. I’ve made new connections on there I’m sure will develop into great friendships.

One of my favorite parts of Facebook is friending. For you non-Facebook types, in this online world you connect with people by labeling them a friend. Early on, I started a joke with Marita that I was going to have more friends than she did even though she had been on Facebook for months before I had. The day I passed her I was sure to let her know. I’ve included Jim and Kim Boyd in my little fun. Right now, I have 427 friends. That’s pretty good, I think. Though Terry Francis has 505. I’m trying to catch up with him. I’ve got a distant cousin who has over 1000. I probably won’t catch up with him.

Mostly, it’s all in fun. I’m not really trying to have more friends than everyone. However, having friends is pretty important to me. I’m betting it’s pretty important to you as well. No one wants to feel they’re all alone. Everyone wants friends.

Obviously, the number one friend we all need is Jesus. Psalm 25:14 says, “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” We need the friendship of the Lord. When the Lord is our friend, we can turn to Him in our times of trouble and He will be our help. Hebrews 2:17-18 and Hebrews 4:14-16 both explain that Jesus can be a real help in our times of temptation. We need a friend like that.

However, at the same time, we need to remember that Jesus works through His church and the members of it. We need to develop friendships among God’s people. We can’t be one heart and soul if we don’t become friends (cf. Acts 4:32). We won’t weep with those who weep or rejoice with those who rejoice if we don’t become friends (cf. Romans 12:15). We certainly won’t confess to one another if we don’t become friends (cf. James 5:16).

Proverbs 18:24 tells us there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. That is the kind of friends we need to be to each other. When we are these kinds of friends, we’ll help each other get to heaven. That is why God has put us together. Don’t be ashamed to need friends. Don’t try to go it alone. God never intended us to make this journey on our own. He wants us to have friends. Whether we connect with our friends face-to-face, over the phone or in the virtual world of Facebook, we need to connect somehow. Work on your friendships and you’ll be working on your eternal destiny.

By the way, Marita, Jim, and Kim, in the time it took me to write this article, I have two more friends. I’m up to 429. Maybe someday you’ll catch up with me. 

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