Wonder No Longer

Wonder No Longer

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

(The essence of this post is taken from a devotional by Paul David Tripp.)
How often have you wondered why life is the way it is for you? How often have you said, “When it rains, it pours,” regarding a seemingly long string of bad or challenging things that are going on in your life? Have you ever wondered if God cares about what’s happening to you? Have you ever thought that if you were at the controls, things would be different? Do you long to understand why God does what He does and works the way He works in your life?
These questions, and others like them, are signs of our desire to control our own destinies. They are signs that we have not, and do not wish to surrender ourselves completely to the One who is sovereign over all. They are signs that we think we can run our life better than can the God of the universe who created us. They are signs that we have forgotten who is really in charge.
Paul talks of the sovereignty of God in Ephesians. There, he says, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
First, Paul wants you to know that the rule of your Redeemer is comprehensive. Paul says that God placed “all things under his feet” and appointed him “head over all things.” The rule of Jesus Christ is comprehensive and complete. There is nothing that is outside of His rule. And that includes your life and all that goes on there.
Second, Paul wants you to know that the rule of your Lord is personal. Paul says that he rules over everything for “the church, which is his body.” If you are a part of the body…the church…then Christ rules on your behalf and for you. Whatever He chooses to do is for your benefit and to your ultimate good.
Finally, Paul wants us to know that the rule of your God is redemptive. The context of this passage is the grace and mercy of God in the redemption of His people. God can promise His grace of redemption to us because His rule is complete, total, and absolute.
We will, from time to time, question God’s motives. We will question whether He truly rules over all. We will wonder if we really are in the hands of the Creator. That’s part of life on this earth. There will come a day, however, when we will no longer wonder. We’ll no longer have questions. They will all be satisfied in the presence of God.

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The Facts of God

The Facts of God

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I’m reading a book called “The Secret of Guidance” by F. B. Meyer. It’s a short book, but filled with true gems. One of the chapters is titled, “Fact! Faith! Feelings!” It talks of the role of each of these in the life of the Christian.
Under the “Facts” part of the chapter, Meyer outlines six facts of God that every Christian should know. He says during this chapter that whether or not we believe them or live like we embrace them doesn’t alter the fact that these are truly facts…they are…they exist. they are true.
Take a look at these six and then look within yourself to see whether or not you truly believe and embrace these facts of God. And just a reminder, I’ve taken these from the book and author listed above.

The facts of God:

1. It is a fact that God loves each of us with the tenderest and most particular love. You may not feel it or believe it, but your lack of appreciation for God’s love does not alter it’s being so.

2. It is a fact that in Jesus Christ, every obstacle has been removed out of the way of your immediate forgiveness and acceptance. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to him, putting away sins “as far as the East is from the West.”

3. It is a fact that the moment a person trusts Christ, he is born into God’s family and becomes a child of God. You have been born again…not of man or the will of the flesh…but of God.

4. It is a fact that God takes what we give, and as soon as we give it. When we let go, God receives. When we consecrate ourselves, God accepts. God took you at your word when you first gave yourself over to Him in dedication. He accepted you immediately.

5. It is a fact that in Jesus Christ we are seated in heavenly places. It is our rightful position in the divine order. Where the head is (Christ), there the body is (the church) also.

6. It is a fact that there is a share in the gift of Pentecost waiting for each member of Christ. The promise of the Holy Spirit is to as many as the Lord will call. You have a share of that marvelous power.

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Driven

”Driven”

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

(The following thoughts, and some quotes, are taken from the book, “Foundations of the Christian Faith” by James Montgomery Boice (pp41-42).
As Christians, we believe (mostly) that the Scriptures are more than inspired by God…they are “God-breathed.” We also have verses in the Bible itself which tell us, in varied ways, this truth.
One of those verses is found in II Peter 1:21 where Peter writes, No prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God.” We point to this verse to help justify the notion that those who wrote the Scriptures (the Old Testament in this case, since the New Testament had not yet been completed) are more than just collections of writings from people of long ago.
Notice what Peter says about the Scriptures in this verse. Peter says that these writers “spoke from God,” and were “moved by the Holy Spirit.” Let’s look at that word that is translated “moved” in English translations. That word (the Greek root is “phero”) is very significant in this passage.
That same word is used by Luke to describe the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost as the “rush of a mighty wind.” The word “rush” is a derivative of the word “phero.” Luke uses that same word (a derivative of “phero”) to describe what was happening to the ship that Paul was on in the Mediterranean Sea during a great storm. He says that the ship was carried along by the wind in Acts 27:15. “When the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven (phero).” A couple of verses on down, Luke says, “they lowered the gear, and so were driven (phero).”
What Luke was saying about the ship was that it was at the mercy of the storm…it didn’t cease being a ship, but it did cease to have control over its course and its destination. In the same way, Peter says that the writers of the Bible were “borne along” in their writing to produce the words which God intended to be recorded. They wrote as people, but as people “moved” by the Holy Spirit. The result was the revelation of God.
That word “phero” implies more than just God offering suggestions and ideas for the writers of the Scripture to possibly use. These men were “driven” by the Spirit to write…as if they lowered their sails, so to speak, and allowed the Spirit to move within them as they wrote. Yes, these men wrote out of their own experiences. Yes, they used their own words and vocabulary. Yes, they used different sources. The writers were very much human. Yet, they speak with a clarity, purpose, and commonality that is unprecedented over the course of 15 or more centuries from many cultures and societies.
We can indeed know that Scripture is “God-breathed.” God Himself was “driving” the writers to produce His word of grace and salvation to a lost and dying world.

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You’ll Grow

You’ll Grow

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

The last couple of days, I’ve been brooding over the words to some of the songs found in Handel’s “Messiah.” You see, I am a member of the Wichita Choral Society, which annually produces and performs the masterwork. We’ve been practicing, and several of the numbers are in my head. I also have a recording I’ve taken off of YouTube and listen to that regularly.
I switch from solo to chorus and back again in my head…with different parts of the oratorio taking front-center from time to time. There is, however, one grand theme: the work of God in the salvation of the world through Jesus Christ the Son.
I’m studying this “story” of the Bible in some depth right now with the book, “The Mission of God” by Christopher H.J. Wright. I’m also using some other literature and have listened to at least one speaker on the topic. Additionally, the Hope For Life project that we are part of uses stories to tell about Jesus. So, this idea of “story” has come at me from several different places.
I think the “story” people are on to something. The Bible IS a story…a story about a God who so loved His creation that when things went south many years ago, He had a plan to straighten out everything and make things right again. That plan was Jesus Christ, the suffering servant and glorious risen King.
There was no fallback plan. There was no need for a fallback plan. The original plan was carried out to perfection. And we can see the “tracks” of that plan throughout the Bible, beginning in Genesis…and ending in Revelation. We even know how things are going to end up. God wins! God prevails! And we are part of all of that!
I don’t know what it takes to get you to start thinking about spiritual things. Is it a song? A certain word or message? Maybe it’s something that happens to you or that you are part of from time to time. Or maybe you look at nature and find that you’re marveling at the plans of God and the way He does things.
Whatever those ways may be that make you start thinking about the story of God, try to expose yourself to those ways more and more…and think of God’s story more and more. You’ll find, I think, that you’ll grow. You’ll grow in God’s grace and in knowledge of Him who redeemed you. You’ll grow to maturity. And you’ll grow in your love for God.

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Manuel

Manuel

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

Let me tell you about a boy. The story is true. His name has been changed. We’ll call him Manuel. Manuel is enrolled in the public school system in the Wichita area. He’s only six years old, but has led a very eventful life up until this day.
Manuel was kidnapped from his mother by his non-custodial father and taken to Mexico in 2015. There, he was subject to abuse…emotionally, physically, and sexually…by the men who were in the life of the father, as well as the father himself.
Just a few months ago, in March of this year, the mother found Manuel and brought him back to the United States. Manuel has several traumatic issues that have come about as a result of his earlier life in Mexico.
While in Mexico, besides the abuse, Manuel fell out of a building. He was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury as a result of the fall, and is now also profoundly deaf in one ear. There may be other physiological issues that have come from that fall that are not apparent or diagnosed yet. Mom is working on getting a full workup of Manuel’s physical problems.
He meets with a therapist once a week, on Thursday mornings. Additionally, a ComCare worker comes to the school on Mondays and spends some time with Manuel. He has difficulty understanding English, and cannot hear well in any case due to his deaf right ear.
Manuel does not respond well to men because they were his abusers. He gets frustrated easily and needs to be given time and space to “defuse.” The school tries its best to find safe spots for him to vent his frustrations without causing undue disruption to the other students.
OK, this is Jay. I tell you this story because it is not at ll an unusual or unique story. There are scores of students in the public school systems in the Wichita area…most of whom are in the Wichita 259 district, who are just like Manuel. They’ve been traumatized, victimized, and neglected. They have issues that defy fixing, and carry around enough emotional and physical baggage for five kids.
Yet the school system is expected to find a way to educate these kids, make them productive members of society, and send them into the world at age 18 with a diploma and an education. And the “normal” people of society who look at an adult Manuel tell him that if he would just have worked harder and would try harder, he wouldn’t have to be on government assistance and could be a productive member of society.
I know that some people defy the odds and become very productive in life. I also know that each life…each soul…each person…is of immense value to the God of heaven, and so is also of immense value to me as God’s child. I’m not ready to write off these kids. I think there are some things we can do to help the Manuels of the world cope and be productive. But it’s going to take more than a few days or weeks. It’s going to take more than a few dollars. And it’s going to take more than a little effort and diligence.
May God bless especially those people on the front lines who call upon the name of Jesus Christ and wade deep into the sin and muck of the everyday lives of others. Those people…the teachers, translators, therapists, psychologists, administrators, and others who work with these kids as best they can…are truly the hands and feet of Jesus.
Manuel is a child loved by Jesus Christ. He should be loved by all of us who call on that name for our salvation and our hope. We must be diligent to tell the story of Jesus…to tell of His love, salvation, and grace. A lost world is dying to hear it.

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While It Is Day

While It Is Day

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

There are times…and then there are times.
This week is one of THOSE times. One of those times when the urge to just up and quit is very tempting and very strong.
You see, it’s been kind of a rough two or three weeks. I’ll not bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that both my wife and I have obtained the great majority of our food sustenance these last couple of weeks outside of our home. That’s very unusual for us. I don’t remember the last time we sat down together at the table to eat a meal at home.
Work has been for the both of us a kind of a jumble of things that together seem to make a kind of a maze that we struggle to get ourselves out of. For me, member illnesses, the needs of those who come into the office from outside, the press of deadlines, the sheer number of meetings and other responsibilities…well…it’s taking a toll on this almost 68 year old man.
And then our son and his family are remodeling their home, and I’m trying to help them as best I can. My wife is helping with the grandkids as best she can. And when we do get home, we just sort of fall into our chairs and veg out until bed time. I’m not sure how much longer we can do this, but we’re giving it our best shot.
So I think that just up and resigning from the human race (so to speak), might not be such a bad idea. There will always be more need than we can fill. There will always be something else we need to do…someone else who has a problem. Why do I need to worry myself about someone else’s issues?
And then I look at the wall opposite my desk. It is filled with pictures of people (mostly). People who I call my heroes. Ordinary people, most of whom live and work right here in the Wichita area. I look at the pictures and I think about what their days and weeks must be like. I think about what they are doing today…right now…that is difficult and demanding. I think about what I know of their lives and how they too have to cope with bodies that aren’t perfect, families that don’t understand, a work environment that is toxic, and people situations that defy explanation.
Yet they persist. They continue. They carry on. They put one foot in front of the other and they keep going. Will they fix all of the problems that come their way? Of course not. Will they breeze through today with no issues? Hardly. Will they give up? No, never.
And I must not give up or give in either. While it is day, we work. While God gives us strength, we work. While there is a creation to be redeemed, we work. While there are souls to save, we work. Soon enough will come the night when work will cease.
Excuse me now. I have to get to the work of the day.

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The Multitude of God’s Mercy

The Multitude of God’s Mercy

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I saw today, in my meditation, something in Scripture I really like. Psalm 5:7 says, “But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.” This is in the King’s English so it may appear to be a little stilted to the modern Bible reader; however, I enjoy the Psalms in the King James and am reading through them now in that Bible.
Look particularly at the phrase, “in the multitude of thy mercy.” Wrap your head around that. Not just some mercy did God give the Psalmist. Not just enough mercy that the Psalmist could continue his relationship with God. But rather the multitude, or as I would see it, the great many and varied aspects, angles, and parts that all combine into one conglomerate called God’s mercy.
Modern translations don’t, I believe, give justice to this. They tend to talk about “great lovingkindness,” or some such. And that’s OK, but I don’t think that gets the flavor of what the Psalmist was seeing when he visualized what he was writing about. I think the Psalmist was seeing something much greater in his mind’s eye…something beyond comprehension…a multitude, as it were, of God’s mercy.
Multitude…myriad…legion…throng…horde. More than can be comprehended or dealt with. An overpowering and overcoming number. God’s mercy, the Psalmist says, is that not just that way. God’s mercy is not just like that…it IS that. It is overcoming, overpowering, overriding. It is incomprehensible, and incapable of being fully understood. It cannot be quantified, and no container is large enough to hold it.
God has many known attributes, and deals with us in many known ways. God extends grace. God is just. God is love. God bestows mercy. God is kind. God provides forgiveness. And so on. However, to just describe in some detail even one of God’s known attributes…his mercy…left the Psalmist almost speechless…describing it simply as “the multitude of your mercy.” We can do no better today.
What do you think of God’s mercy? Do you see it as something overpowering and overcoming? Do you see it as incomprehensible and not fully knowable? You should, if you don’t. And if you don’t, why not? I think that says something about your relationship with Him. And that something isn’t good.

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More Heroes For My Wall

More Heroes For My Wall

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

Two or three blogs ago, I told you about the wall in my office that was “littered” with photos and other things. I call it my heroes wall because most of the photos on the wall are of people I consider to be my heroes. I’ve added to that wall just recently. Let me tell you about the two who were put there.
Major Heather Penney, USAF (retired) and Col. Marc Sasseville, USAF (retired) are the recent additions. These two exemplify the best in humanity and service. You probably don’t recognize them by their names, so let me fill you in.
These two airmen were F-16 pilots at the turn of the century. They were on duty on the day the Twin Towers fell due to terrorism, September 11, 2001. As you recall, several commercial planes were hijacked that day, and rammed the Pentagon and the Twin Towers. Another plane, Flight 93, was in the air, hijacked, and headed toward Washington D.C.
The government ordered all air space evacuated immediately, except for military. Penney and Sasseville were stationed along the East Coast. The order was given to the Air Force to get planes in the air, find flight 93, and take it down before it could ram the Capitol, the White House, or some other building. Penney and Sasseville were tasked to carry out that order.
The planes they flew had been on a training mission and had no weapons aboard. It would take some hours to equip the planes with weapons, so Penney and Sasseville hatched a plan to find Flight 93. One would ram the cockpit and the other would ram the tail…and not eject prior to the collisions in order to assure that the ejections would not change the course of the fighters. In other words, they were on a suicide mission. Additionally, Penney believed her father was the pilot on Flight 93.
They didn’t have to do that, of course. Flight 93 crashed after a revolt of the passengers aboard the plane. There is disagreement whether the hijackers intentionally crashed it or it crashed due to other factors.
But there is no disputing the actions of Sasseville and Penney…two heroes now on my wall. Their willingness to give it all exemplify the best of humanity. A reporter asked Penney ten years later about her actions. He summarized them by saying something to the effect of, “So, you would intentionally give your life by ramming the plane in order to bring it down.” Penney simply replied, “Of course.” There was dead silence for several seconds while the reporter absorbed what she had just said.
I have more heroes to add to the wall, and will tell you about them as I do that. For now, know that there are people in this world who are able to do extraordinary things, even in natural weakness, because (I believe), God gives them the strength to endure and finish the task. It is an honor to me to be able to honor these people (and animals) in this way.

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Life and Faith

Life and Faith

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

“I feel like my overall pessimism about life restricts me from trying to reach out to him because something is telling me he won’t listen to my prayers or they won’t make a difference. I don’t know why of all people he could listen to, he’d listen to me. My relationship with God consists of me hoping he sees what is happening and knows what to do.”
This was written by a young woman with which I have a relationship on social media as part of a larger conversation about the loss of a family member to death. What you see above is just part of her response, but is the part I want to key in on in this blog. I can’t imagine the many millions upon millions of people who feel this exact same way regarding their relationship with God. Their lives overall are pessimistic, with no real sense of purpose or movement. They just go through the motions and hope things turn out OK.
This woman is a believer. She believes in God; in His power and might. She also says, “Something is telling me he won’t listen to my prayers or they won’t make a difference.” She then goes on to ask the question many ask, “Why would he listen to me?”
There is, of course, a certain wonder in the notion that a God who created it all and sustains it all would stoop down to listen to little-old-me. That wonder is not soothed any at all by a reading of the Scriptures, the teachings of Jesus, or anything else. In fact, the wonder of it only increases and becomes even more wondrous the more we know and the more we understand about the God of heaven and earth.
But let’s go back for a moment to her pessimism. Could it be that her pessimism is a product of her failure to take God at His word? Could it be that she thinks so little of herself in the great scheme of things that she begins to adopt an attitude of resignation and hopelessness? Could it be that if she could somehow grasp the Truth of the statement of Jesus, “For God so loved the world,” she could be freed from her pessimism, hopelessness, and resignation?
So, let’s see what we have here…we have a young woman who has a generally pessimistic view of life, living, and the future who believes in a cosmic God of the universe. She can’t fathom how that God could possibly have any interest in her, possibly due to the fact that she sees herself…her life…as irrelevant and immaterial to the greater scheme of things. And because she believes in this God, and because she can’t think that He actually pays attention to and listens to her, she just hopes that He sees and knows what to do to make her life and the world bearable until she dies.
Are you living life this way? Oh, now, admit it. You too have often, or even now have this idea about God, prayer, the world we live in, and our outlook on life in general. What can I say to help? Unfortunately, not much. You’re going to have to find out for yourself just what is the Truth of the Word of God as found in the Sacred Scriptures. And you’ll have to not only find that out intellectually, but you’ll also have to absorb it into a faithful response to that God in some way.
Can you do it on your own? No, not at all. But take heart. If you have any measure of faith (or desperation) at all, you can petition the God of the universe to help you and provide you with the wisdom and open heart & mind to take in, understand, and appropriately use what is abundantly clear in the written Word of God. This is the place, I think, to start.
Blessings as you work through this time in your life.

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My Overriding Responsibility

My Overriding Responsibility

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I’ve been doing some thinking this morning as I complete my class lesson for this evening and also catch up on some reading. The focus of my thinking has been, well, focus. What is important? What is not? What should I spend my time doing or working with? What should I consider to be not of great importance in my work? How can I better spend the time God gives me? What is stealing precious minutes out of my day?
If you’ve never thought of these things, you haven’t had much of a life, I would venture to say with some tongue-in-cheek. I think we all, from time to time, take account of what we do and how we do it. Whether it be a vocation, a hobby, daily routine, chores, or whatever, I think we all in some way try to focus on the most important and do our best to prioritize.
OK, this is a church blog. What about church things? What do we focus on as a church? What do we as individual members of the church focus on? What is important to us? What should be important to us? How do we spend our time? What occupies our thinking, time, and energy?
If I read my Bible correctly, there is nothing more important than to love God and love others. Along with that, our divine call to work is to serve others and make disciples, or followers of Jesus. It seems to me that all else rather pales in comparison to these. The trick is to incorporate these into our everyday lives and work in such a way that we accomplish them well while going about the routine of our day.
It is so easy to become distracted by things that don’t matter much. These things seem to clamor for our attention, and are never satisfied even if we devote our whole existence to them. Of course, I am offering below an example or two of just what I’m talking about. (Otherwise, this blog would be just … ordinary.)
If my calling is to love God, love others, and serve & make disciples, (and those things can easily occupy my entire existence on earth), why would I want to spend my time and energy dealing with things that have no definitive answers? Why would I want to spend my time and energy on something that has been debated, argued over, cussed and discussed for decades (or centuries), and still there is no answer? Do I somehow think I am smart enough to arrive at THE ANSWER to a problem that has been around since the middle ages? Who do I think I am?
OK, I’m talking about things such as

Whether to sing modern songs in the worship service or just the classics.
Whether we should have a meet-and-greet as part of our worship services or not.
Should we have one communion cup, or are individual cups OK?
Should we have anything to do with that church down the street that has a different name on their sign than the one we have?
Should women have special servant (deacon) roles in the life of the church?
That church that has a praise team…are they really saved and going to heaven?
Can we stand during certain parts of the service, or should we remain seated through the entire service?
Is it OK to use a modern translation, or should we only use the “authorized” version?

OK, you get the idea. And, you may laugh a little at some of these. But you need to know that there are folks who obsess over these issues. They spend literally years of their lives trying to convince others of the correctness of their opinions regarding these. They go so far as to write books, attend lectures, and distance themselves from anyone with differing opinions on these matters. They even go so far as to not even converse with or have anything to do with those of differing opinion. And those people are right here among us.
I ask again. If my overriding job and responsibility is to love God, love others, and serve & disciple others, why would I want to expend any energy on such as I’ve written above?

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