Update for June 12

Our church family is serving food today at the Red Cross shelter in Medora.  Yesterday almost 200 were feed.  Keep these good people in your prayers and those in Medora as they recover.  One of our own, Carroll and Thelma Weaver lived in the bottoms and lost their house.  Keep them in your prayers as they decide where God is leading them now.  Carroll’s health limits his choices.  We will update you Sunday on how you may help.

Thanks for the prayers yesterday for Debbie Hamilton.  She suffered a severe neck and head injury yesterday at work and was airlifted to Methodist in Indy.  She is now stable in ICU and they feel more confident that she will live.  Keep Joy and the family in your thoughts.  It will be a long process.

Praise the Lord, Pat Shepard was able to transfer her surgery to Schneck since Columbus Regional closed.  She is having a tumor removed and it is likely malignant.  Keep her and Dale in your prayers.  Her surgery is today.

Phil Darlage reports to Methodist today to consult about his rapid heart beat.  As you many know, his rare cancer affects his entire body and today they must decide how to remedy his heart condition.  We will let you know what we know.

There are always more who are facing trials and enduring hardship.  This life is not easy but our help is very near.  Pray continually.

"I love those who love me and those who seek me diligently find me."  Proverbs 8:17

Michael

Needs Coming In

Our sister communities in Seymour and Medora have suffered greatly.  Several are displaced.  While FEMA has been called out, immediate needs of food and clothing must be addressed.  We are beginning to provide food vouchers.  In the near future, I will post clothing needs with sizes for those who lost everything.  Please check back to see if you can help in that need.

If you want to help with food vouchers, check with Teresa in the office.  Any gift can be converted to a voucher for distribution. 

Continue to pray.  This will be a long process and the weather is far from over.  Thank you for your faithfulness.

Michael

Flood Relief

These last two days have been historic and destructive.  The flood of the century devastated the counties just north of us and hit our county hard.  Thankfully, our people affected by the flood were able to secure their possessions and will be able to return safely to their homes.  But many of our neighbors will be a long time in recovering from the flooding.  Farms and businesses are on hold or left with difficult choices. 

There are no immediate housing needs for our church family but there will certainly be community and county needs in the next few days and weeks, so keep your prayers lifted and check back often to see how you can help.  Please take care in your travel since many roads are covered and we don’t know all the damage to our bridges or structures.

Also, pray for our mission team in Mexico.  We haven’t been able to contact them in the last 2 days and they return this week.  The Steve and Darlene Browning have no idea of the damage done to their Columbus home.  When we learn more of how we can help them, I will let you know.

Remember the words of the apostle James:

"Under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors."  James 1:3 MSG

Look to your neighbor and show your true colors.

Michael

Good Guilt

What would be a healthy response to the guilt and remorse I feel over my past sins?

As you look back, you are filled with guilt and remorse over the sin you committed, either as an unbeliever or a backslidden or immature Christian. It’s important to remember that your sin and backsliding or immaturity isn’t unique. Israel as a nation was often unfaithful to her covenant relationship with Jehovah. Peter denied the Lord, wept bitterly, and later was publicly restored (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21). The Lord also reproached the believers in Ephesus because they had left their first love, and He urged them to “remember,” “repent,” and “return” (Revelation 2:1-7).

Even though the Bible tells us we receive a new life when we believe, we are still influenced by the “flesh,” the “law of sin” within us (Romans 7). The old nature is still part of us and continues to affect us (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Ephesians 4:22).

Accordingly, there are three facts I’d like you to consider:

First, I doubt that anything you did was worse than the things committed by two of the greatest men of faith, David and Paul. David not only committed adultery, but had a good man killed to conceal his sin. Paul persecuted and murdered Christians. Yet both Paul and David were forgiven, though their past sins caused them legitimate sorrow. Our salvation has nothing to do with the extent of our past sins. It is entirely based on the infinite suffering of the Son of God himself, who fully and willingly bore the consequences of all our evil.

Second, sorrow over past sins has an important function. It softens the heart and engenders humility and compassion, qualities essential to the work of the kingdom. Consider the words of the prophet Ezekiel:

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26 KJV).

All of us need to realize the fools we were before we were willing to surrender our hearts to the Lord.

Third, don’t overlook the power of God’s grace. Even if we can’t repair the damage we have caused, God is able to bring healing and restoration in ways that would be impossible for us to anticipate. We can still pray for the healing and restoration of those we’ve injured.

Remember the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). God is always ready to welcome us as long as we are willing to humble ourselves and turn towards home.

We all need to stay in the game and not let guilt rule our lives.  Guilt has it’s place: to move us to forgiveness.  He has offered it.  We know we have accepted it when we move one.

Michael

Forgive Me

 

The Importance of Forgiveness

READ Matthew 6:14-15

"If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins."

It’s an amazing thing to be forgiven by God. Because of his grace poured out through Christ, we can be forgiven for all of our sins, no matter how horrendous they might be. What a wonder!

Yet when we receive God’s forgiveness, we do more than rejoice in our blessing. We also become people who pass on forgiveness to others. "Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others" (Col. 3:13). God’s forgiveness enables us to forgive others even as it sets the standard for our forgiveness.

Jesus emphasizes the necessary connection between divine and human forgiveness. You can’t have one without the other. This means one of the primary marks of the Christian will be a willingness to forgive others generously. People will know we are Christians, not only by our love, but also by our forgiveness.

RELATED BIBLE PASSAGES: Psalm 103; Matthew 18:23-35; Colossians 3:12-13; Ephesians 4:31-5:2

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Are you a forgiving person? What makes it hard for you to forgive people who have wronged you? What helps you to forgive? Are there people in your life whom you need to forgive, even today?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, little means more to me than your forgiveness. When I consider how much I have sinned against you, both in deed and in thought, I am astounded by the fact that you forgive me. Through Christ, you wipe my slate clean. I have a fresh start with you, because of your forgiveness. Hallelujah!
Today I’m reminded that it isn’t enough merely for me to receive your forgiveness. I need to give away what I have so freely received. When others wrong me, I should be quick to forgive. Sometimes I can do this. But sometimes, especially when I have been painfully wronged, I find it hard to forgive. Holding a grudge feels safe. Bitterness seems only fair. So I ask for your help, Lord. Remind me of how you have forgiven me. Let your Spirit stir up in me the will to forgive.
May I be known, not only as one who has been forgiven, but also as one who forgives, so that people might see your presence in me. Amen.

Let your anger go.  Michael

Suicide

With Randy Blanton taking his life, I thought it might be valuable to share some thoughts concerning how we view the act and treat the survivors.

Some survivors struggle with what to tell other people. Although you should make whatever decision feels right to you, most survivors have found it best to simply acknowledge that their loved one died by suicide.

You may find that it helps to reach out to family and friends. Because some people may not know what to say, you may need to take the initiative to talk about the suicide, share your feelings, and ask for their help.

Even though it may seem difficult, maintaining contact with other people is especially important during the stress-filled months after a loved one’s suicide.

Keep in mind that each person grieves in his or her own way. Some people visit the cemetery weekly; others find it too painful to go at all.

Each person also grieves at his or her own pace; there is no set rhythm or timeline for healing.

Anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays may be especially difficult, so you might want to think about whether to continue old traditions or create some new ones. You may also experience unexpected waves of sadness; these are a normal part of the grieving process.

Some survivors find comfort in community, religious, or spiritual activities, including talking to a trusted member of the clergy.

Be kind to yourself. When you feel ready, begin to go on with your life. Eventually starting to enjoy life again is not a betrayal of your loved one, but rather a sign that you’ve begun to heal.

Survivors often experience a wide range of grief reactions, including some or all of the following:

Shock is a common immediate reaction. You may feel numb or disoriented, and may have trouble concentrating.

Symptoms of depression, including disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, intense sadness, and lack of energy.

Anger towards the deceased, another family member or yourself.

Relief, particularly if the suicide followed a long and difficult mental illness.

Guilt, including thinking, "If only I had…."

These feelings usually diminish over time, as you develop your ability to cope and begin to heal.

Many survivors struggle to understand the reasons for the suicide, asking themselves over and over again: "Why?" Many replay their loved ones’ last days, searching for clues, particularly if they didn’t see any signs that suicide was imminent.

Because suicide is often poorly understood, some survivors feel unfairly victimized by stigma. They may feel the suicide is somehow shameful, or that they or their family are somehow to blame them for this tragedy.

But you should know that 90 percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death (most often depression or bipolar disorder). Just as people can die of heart disease or cancer, people can die as a consequence of mental illness.

Try to bear in mind that suicide is almost always complicated, resulting from a combination of painful suffering, desperate hopelessness and underlying psychiatric illness.

Pray for those who follow after Randy.

Michael

Love Without Conditions

READ | Romans 5:6-8

New believers may find it difficult to accept the fact that God loves us just as we are. Much of the world operates by conditional love, which offers approval and acceptance on the basis of performance. It is hard for us to shake the habit of conditional love.

So when we first come to Christ, there is often a natural tendency to assume we must strive to “deserve” our blessings, such as monetary wealth, loving families, and solid careers.  The problem is that same attitudes make the assumption that difficulties must be the result of our misdeeds and God’s dissatisfaction.  We need to eliminate that attitude from our faith.

Divine love, however, can never be earned by human effort. There is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us more or to influence Him to stop loving us. (Romans 5:8;1 John 4:8) Many believers understand this intellectually but have trouble believing it deep down in their heart.  Take a moment to consider that God loves you now just as deeply as He has ever loved you.  His feelings toward you do not change.

No matter what has occurred in your past or what you feel right now, the Father’s love has always been freely given to you. God pours His love upon us without exception—no ifs, ands or buts. He did not begin to love you at the moment you invited Him into your life. Nor did He begin to love you when you first started going to church or when you rose from the baptismal waters. In truth, God never “began” to love you at all; He simply always has. From the creation of the world, God knew you and loved you.

So approach this day with the joyful peace that you are loved by God and He has your interests guiding Him.  See what that can do to your decisions.

Michael

My Blog Is Changing

If you have enjoyed the devotionals posted here in the past, they will still be available on my church website http://brownstownchristian.org where you will find the devotional hyperlink on the home page.  I am now devoting by blog to a broader discussion of the church and relevant faith issues.  I believe this will serve one of my passions and a service to the web community.  You are invited to join me in my exploration of the church in today’s world and comment on what is posted.  I am looking for more dialogue than before and welcome you comments.

The Associated Press posted the following article yesterday about the impact of the church on racial relations in our nation.

Jesse McGee, a black man, points to trophies he won in local marathons. He mentions his work with youth and volunteer school programs. He praises his church’s efforts to deliver scripture lessons to inmates.

For more than an hour, the 84-year-old church deacon, who is black, chats about his life, largely ignoring the subject at hand: racism.

It isn’t until his wife, Warine, sheepishly shares that their son’s wife is white that McGee offers a confession: He had been uncomfortable with the union for nearly 30 years — until his Bible study class offered enlightenment.

His story represents a snapshot of how America’s racial landscape is navigated daily, often with religion as guidance.

The issue of race drew sharp focus as Barack Obama’s contentious split with his longtime pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, played out in a national glare. In response, the United Church of Christ and National Council of Churches USA called on 10,000 ministers to initiate a "sacred conversation on race."

"The realities of race have not been addressed adequately," says the Rev. John Thomas, president of the UCC. "Racism continues to demean and diminish human lives in this country."

I find that the world and to often the church is ruled by conventional wisdom.  By conventional wisdom, I used the definition ‘most convenient wisdom’.  We address the issues of our lives by the wisdom that is most convenient and least uncomfortable. 

I pastor a church that is almost completely white in its makeup.  For years, the largest minority in our town was native American.  That changed recently with the growth of the Hispanic population.  While our community has been generally accepting of these changing demographics, I am disturbed by the recent incidents of groups coming into the community to stir up dissension and bigotry on both sides.

What assimilation might have occurred naturally is now being pressured by those who want to take sides.  I wonder how the church here in Jackson county will address these issues.  The most convenient wisdom is to ‘live and let live’.  With national politics and local demographics disrupting that convenient wisdom, the churches will need to address what Christ would expect of us.

  1. Does the church have a role in addressing racial relationships?  If so, what?
  2. What role should the church take toward immigration, legal or illegal?
  3. As a Christian, can your position legitimately differ from the churches?

I look forward to hearing some of your perspectives.  Leave a comment on my guest book or email me directly.  Join me on this journey.

Life Is a Test

Shannon Woodward offers a wonderful thought today

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” (1 Chronicles 29:17, NIV)

It’s been a tough week.

Saturday, our goat Jimmy escaped from his barn and ate one of my favorite bushes.

Sunday, our dog Larry chewed up the cover to one of our Little House in the Prairie DVD collections. Little green bits of season three lay scattered like confetti all over the carpet. All the scotch tape in my junk drawer couldn’t reconstruct the faces of those Ingalls.

And then came Monday morning. Someone left our cat Lucy inside all night. When I emerged from the bedroom she gave me a guilty, I’ve-got-to-get-out-of-here look and swiped a claw across the front door. I lectured her briefly about not sleeping in the house and let her go.

Ten minutes later, while I was busy making breakfast, my husband asked, “What happened to your Bible?” I walked into the living room and saw him holding my leather Bible. A friend had given me the beautiful, leather-bound version, and I’d worked hard to keep it pristine. There wasn’t so much as a coffee stain, greasy fingerprint or chocolate smudge on the cover of that book. But now it was covered with cat scratches. And if you squinted just right – with one eye closed just a bit more than the other – those scratches spelled out the words “neener, neener”

“Oh, that is just IT!” All my frustration exploded. “Bushes and DVD covers and books … will it never end? Can nothing we own stay nice? Must everything be destroyed?”

But it’s a funny thing. Right in the middle of my tirade – while I was running my hands over the ruined cover and wondering how to retaliate against my cat – I remembered a single line from chapter five of the very book I was holding: “Life is a test.”

It struck me as so ironic that I had to laugh. Life is a test. God allows altered plans and disappointments and ruined possessions because he wants to see how we’re going to react. He wants to stretch our character and get our attention.

I had a clawed-up Bible and a chewed-up DVD cover and a naked-branched bush – but I still had my salvation. I still had Jesus. Nothing of true value had been lost.

I failed three tests this week, but in the end I think I won. Because somewhere in the middle of it all, God grabbed my heart again and re-focused my perspective.

Still, I’ll be keeping an eye on our chickens today. It’s probably their turn.

Point to ponder: God allows disappointments to stretch us.

Verse: “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” (1 Chronicles 29:17, NIV)

What will you do about it: When disappointments come today – and they will – see them as an opportunity to let go of this world and focus on heaven. Learn to say, “Oh, well.”

Prayer: Ask God to teach you to stop clutching your agenda, your plans and your possessions.

Our prayers are with the Darlage family.  Cordelia will be missed.

Michael

Don’t Stop Learning

I am on vacation but will forward some thoughts as often as I can.

“Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. (Matthew 11:29a, Msg)

As Larry Crabb describes it in his book, The Safest Place on Earth, “… we should expect to grope a bit, to know we’re always wrong about a few things, and to change our minds more than once.”

The truth is that we will never master knowledge. We will never be grown up enough to be considered an expert about life. Instead, God calls us to a lifetime of discipleship.

Discipleship is one of our purposes. And being a life-long learner is not a bad way of living. Instead of seeking to know all about everything, we should seek the One who already knows it all.

God shows us the importance of being teachable through the life of Apollos. We learn in Acts 18 that Apollos was an eloquent speaker and knowledgeable of the Scriptures.

The only problem was that he still needed to be taught. He had many good things going for him, but he was still lacking – he knew only about the baptism of John, not the power of Jesus.

The difficult part? He got his instruction from a couple of tent makers.

If many of us were Apollos, we would have had a real problem being taught by people that did not seem to be as competent as we are. Yet when he was taken aside by Priscilla and Aquilla, he listened humbly.

The results of being teachable were amazing. Verses 27-28 say Apollos “greatly” helped those who had believed, and he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ. What a beautiful picture of what can happen if we will but accept the gift of being a perpetual student!

Are you lacking in spiritual knowledge? Take comfort: God invites you to be a life-long learner. There’s no shame in saying, “I don’t know, but I’m willing to learn.”

Point to ponder: You will never stop learning. Life is discipleship.

Verse: “Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.” (Matthew 11:29a, Msg)

What will you do about it: If discipleship is one of your purposes, and learning is a life-long pursuit, don’t let today slip away. Pick up your Bible and read a chapter or two. Go to the One with the answers and let him teach you.

Prayer: Tell God you’re ready to surrender your need to know everything. Thank him that he doesn’t expect you to have all the answers.

Keep us in your prayers.  Marcia’s stepfather comes home tomorrow.

Michael

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