Unrelenting

Unrelenting

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I wrote the following to a childhood friend who has remained a friend to this day. Karl is battling a cancer that, according to the doctors, should have taken his life over six months ago. It probably will eventually do so anyway. He had written on social media that today was a day of pain…unrelenting pain. I felt the need to respond to it. Below is his post, with my comments following that.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Please pray for my pain today. I know I sound like a broken record, and so many of you are praying already.
But the pain is relentless, like ocean waves, never ending in their coming to the sea shore. Some waves are bigger than others. Monday was “off the charts”. Tuesday was better, and I believe it was because prayer warriors everywhere were praying.
Today has the feel of Monday. Lots of pain again.
I know not what the future holds. But we all know The One who holds the future. I need to learn to worship God through the pain. I need to learn how to give Him the pain. I need to learn to let Him deal with the pain. Somewhere in the midst of the pain, there is a lesson for me to learn. Pray that I learn it.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
I write from the vantage point of never having had the kind of physical pain you are experiencing. I say that at the get-go, so you and others can treat this for what it may be worth. We do all have limitations in life. Mine is osteo-arthritis and vertigo, along with sinus and hypertension. Those things, while disabling once in a while, do not (yet) bring the kind of pain you are experiencing. They do, however, bring limitations upon a body that once could have done just about anything I wanted it to do.
I’m not sure that the limitations and pain that come upon us in whatever forms are always put there in order to teach us something. Sometimes, I’m sure that may be the case. In that light, I recall Paul’s battle with the “thorn in the flesh,” that he experienced.
Sometimes, the pain and discomfort and limitations just are, I believe. They just are. They are the product of a fallen creation and a fallen humankind. And sometimes…sometimes…I think they are just there as a not-so-gentle reminder of our fallen nature and our need for grace and salvation.
Those of us who have already learned from that reminder still experience the fallout from the fallen creation. Our embracing grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ doesn’t make us immune from the pain and limitations. But it does give us a hope and a reality that remains hidden from those who have not. It gives us a reason to be. It gives us a rational life in an irrational world.
And it gives us a longing…a longing to go home. It gives us a genuine desire for the life we were created to experience. It enables us to live life to the fullest in the here and now, knowing that there is an even more full life ahead that, as the song says, “I can only imagine.”
I ache for you, brother. I ache for your pain and your suffering. I ache for the limitations this insidious thing has placed upon you. I ache for your family and those who know and love you. But I also rejoice in the promise of something far, far better than anything you can ask or think, and I look forward to experiencing that with you one day.

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Make Some Cupcakes

Make Some Cupcakes

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I started reading a book today called, “Here Goes Nothing” by Kendra Broekhuis. It is, as the cover says, the story of “An introvert’s reckless attempt to love her neighbor.” One of the first chapters describes her decision to pray the following prayer for 30 days: “God, help me to maintain the joy of being wife and mommy amid the daily grind. To see the world through our eyes. To live intentionally. To build relationships and share Christ’s love with our neighbors. To learn what it really means to give. To collide motherhood with mission.”
Now, you might wonder what a man is doing reading a book written by a young wife and mother. I’m not very far through it and already have been convicted by what I’ve read so far. Wives and mothers, even young ones, have much wisdom to impart if we’ll just listen.
In any event, one of the ways Broekhuis had decided to build relationships and share Christ’s love with neighbors was to do a random act of kindness to or for a neighbor each day. On the first day, she left enough quarters at the coin laundry in her apartment building to provide a wash load for someone, along with a Tide pod and a note that said, “Dear neighbor, Please enjoy a free load of laundry. I prayed for you this morning, and I hope you feel Christ’s love throughout your day.”
On day two, her baby was teething and generally being a monster. She had decided to just give up and do the essentials that day, when it came to her to make cupcakes for the neighbor who lived just below them who had to put up with the crying of the baby. She reluctantly did so, and included this note: “Hey, neighbors! You are worth celebrating! You are a beloved child of god, and He loves you so much! I hope you enjoy these cupcakes and feel Christ’s love throughout your day. P.S. I prayed for you all morning!”
But that’s not the whole story. Both on day one and day two, she would cruise past the laundry and the neighbor’s door to see if anyone had taken advantage of the quarters or gotten the cupcakes. At the end of day two, both were still where she had put them. She was, as she said, wondering if the whole pray-and-listen thing was a bust, and that she felt dumb about the whole thing.
Hubby reminded her that she is doing this anonymously. He told her that as an introvert, she relished the idea of her neighbors not knowing who she was. On the other hand, she wanted to know the outcome of what she did. Then he said that the idea wasn’t to know what happened on the other end, but rather to demonstrate faith.
Her comments are worth repeating here. “Faith prays before it crumbles into doubt. Faith doesn’t worry about success or failure. Faith sets down the cupcakes and doesn’t look back.”
She continues. “There’s a whole chapter in the Bible about faith, about heroes of the faith. Imperfect, yet faithful people who chose to obediently give of themselves. People who gave even though ‘they did not receive the things promised…(Hebrews 11:13.’”
This is Jay again. That part about not receiving the things promised struck a nerve with me. How often do we expect some kind of payback…some kind of recognition…some kind of satisfaction in our labor for the kingdom? How often do we feel slighted when someone doesn’t respond as we think they should or recognize us as we think they should? How many times have we said to ourselves that we “DESERVE” to be recognized or rewarded?
We deserve nothing. Christ Jesus deserved to be the Almighty God and Lord of the universe; instead, he “Emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:7) How dare we think we deserve any more than our Lord and Savior!
Next time you’re tempted to hold a pity party for yourself, remember what Jesus did for you. Remember that faith does without necessarily knowing the outcome. Remember that we are not here to serve ourselves. Make some cupcakes.

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Who Is He?

Who Is He?

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

This weekend, Easter weekend, I’ve been pausing every so often in my daily activities, thinking about what it may have been like in the Jerusalem area of Israel some 2,000 years ago. The historical records are there, and have been confirmed and validated by innumerable archaeologists and others of the scientific and historic literature sort as genuine and worth consideration as accurate & truthful. Something happened all of those years ago that brought birth to a movement that has survived over the centuries, and grown & flourished in all parts of the world.
That movement has given us orderly societies, the rule of law, a moral compass, schools, hospitals, adoption services, and many other social service entities. It has changed the world view of countless millions of people. And it has brought hope, peace, and love to a world wallowing in despair, anger, and jealousy.
I know there are those who pooh-pooh the whole thing. They have their own archeologists and their own scientific wizards who say just the opposite. And they have elaborate theories about why this or that could not possibly be the way it was back then. They talk of collusion among the authors of any material that might talk of anything out of the ordinary. But I submit that they have far less evidence…evidence for their theories than others do who believe that something wondrous happened then.
There is no question, except in the minds of those who embrace “alternative facts,” that there was a man who lived in the ancient Roman empire, in the environs of what is now Israel, whose name was Jesus. There is no question that this man was seen as someone different…someone special…someone who attracted great crowds to hear what this Rabbi had to say. There is no question that this man Jesus attracted the attention of both the Roman authorities as well as the Jewish authorities because of his teaching and his work. And there is no question that because of his teaching and work, the authorities took it upon themselves to eliminate him, hanging him on a Roman cross.
The great question always comes in what happened after that. Are his bones still buried somewhere in Israel? Or did they somehow have life returned to them after about three days in the tomb, never to die again?
Yes, I know it’s a fantastic proposition. But belief that it really happened gave rise to a movement that endures, grows, and prospers even today. Even today, in the world of Facebook, the Internet, space travel, and instant oatmeal, people believe the story. People who are sane, sober, intelligent, and quizzical believe the story. And their lives are changed because of it.
And for those first believers…those who, it is said, saw the risen Jesus…those first believers endured torture and unspeakable cruelty because of their faith. Of that, there also is no question. Would all of these people endure what they endured for what they knew was a lie? Would they go to the cross themselves for what they knew was fake, phony, and totally dreamed up by a few of his followers in some kind of dastardly scheme?
And what of those writings that we KNOW were written hundreds of years before all of this happened that talk of the very events in a way that give one pause to wonder just where it was these writers got their inspiration? How was it that those writers knew in advance about all of the things that would happen…and happen they did just as it was foretold? Do we dismiss those writings as mere coincidence? Do we choose again the “alternative facts” that do their best to obfuscate and change the subject to something more palatable? How do we deal with that?
And where is this man now? Is he still wandering around on the earth somewhere? Or did he really rise up into the air and was “taken into the clouds” one day about 40 days after his death and burial? Did he really send the Comforter to be present in a real way with his followers? Will he really return some day to “judge the quick and the dead?” What about all of that?
The answers to those questions will have to wait, I suppose, until they either do or never happen. But we will know, one way or the other, upon our own demise. There either is or is not an afterlife. There either is or is not a God. There either is or is not a heaven. There either is or is not a hell. And we will, indeed, know. Or we will cease to exist in any form, and it won’t matter.
So, what about you? Have you carefully weighed the evidence? Have you done your research? Have you observed, thought, and have you pondered the meaning of life? What answers do you have? What about this man Jesus? Who is he?

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It Matters

It Matters

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

We recently visited a childhood friend of mine on a day trip down into Oklahoma. I hadn’t seen her since high school graduation. A few years ago, I heard that her mother passed away. I went to her mom’s funeral in large part just to catch up with her and the family. Since then, we’ve maintained contact via email (she doesn’t do social media).
As a child, I knew her from kindergarten and all the way through school. She was always intelligent and down to earth. She usually bested me when it came to test scores. It was always a great pleasure for me to once in a while do better than she did. Back in those days, test scores, etc. were pretty much public knowledge…we didn’t know what privacy was.
We were never romantically involved, nor did we even “go out” in the same circles. Yet, as is usually the case in a small town, our families knew each other rather well.
At the funeral, I learned that she was battling MS (and had been since 1998). As you probably know, MS is a progressive, debilitating disease in which the immune system, for some reason, attacks the nervous system. Many people can live long and productive lives with treatment; however, the prognosis is different for each person.
After her mother passed, we were exchanging emails regarding what I do and what she does. She had taken a disappointing attitude toward the church in general, Her specific comment was, “I tried for years, but it seemed like when needed, they could only make a joke, simply ignore, and were never there to support:”
Then later in the same email, she talked of my going to her mom’s funeral service. Her comment hit me squarely between the eyes. She said, “When you showed up unexpectedly for my mother’s funeral, it mattered. Somehow I wish that more people understood what really matters.”
She vividly brought home to me the notion that many times it’s the little things that make a real difference. We think we have to be the Apostle Paul all over again in order to accomplish anything for the Kingdom of God, but that is nowhere close to the truth. We do need to be genuine, caring, thoughtful, available, and willing. And sometimes we are surprised by the depth of our influence even when we do what for us is a very mundane thing (like attend a funeral).
What will you say or do this week that will matter to someone else?

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My Hope

My Hope

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

Some of you may have seen the six inch lighted globe that sits suspended in space on a shelf behind my office desk. Yes, it really is suspended. You can run your fingers all around it and there is no visible or felt means of support. Nor are there any batteries in the globe to run the lights inside, or any cords connecting it to anything.
You may wonder if I have been given the gift of miracles. Or you may wonder if I am using some dark, cultic power from below. The truth is, however, that neither of these is correct. Because if you place your hand on the top of the globe and press down very lightly, you will feel a “pushback.” Brushing aside the long explanations, the globe is resting on, and is lighted by, a magnetic field that is unseen and not felt…yet surely is there. And although there is no cord to the globe itself, there is a cord attached to the base it hovers over, and a lot of electronics inside the base to keep the globe suspended.
The globe is a reminder to me of the power and awesome majesty of God. I have placed a couple of verses above the globe. The verses say, “It is He (God) that sits above the circle of the earth. He stretches out the North over empty space; he hangs the earth upon nothing.” (Isaiah 40 and Job 26)
Paul says that even for those who don’t believe and haven’t been taught, the creation itself should bring to mind God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1) One disbelieves, not based on the evidence for disbelief, because the evidence so strongly points in the opposite direction…toward belief — but rather because of an unwillingness to open one’s heart and mind to the wondrous possibilities of a God of love who has given us all we need and more.
It is my hope that you who are reading this have something in your everyday living that reminds you of the existence of God…and not only that, but of His power, majesty, and love for His creation. Whether it be some kind of a toy globe that suspends itself on a bed of magnetism, or something else, you need a daily reminder of who God is and why He has created you.

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Dear Church

Dear Church

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I picked the following from a blog by Jonathan Aigner titled, “Dear Church: It’s time we stopped idolizing millennials.” Aigner writes specifically about how Millenials and the church relate to one-another in modern society. His points are well taken, not just as they have to do with millennials, but as they have to do with all generations. The church sometimes does a wonderful job relating to the various classes and groups of humans in society. And sometimes, the church does a horrid job of reaching out to those who are searching.

Many ways of reaching out have been tried. Many of those ways have appeared in various books, seminars, and study materials. And many of them have failed or will fail. What we think might be the magic bullet to bringing in all of the lost and weary wonderers all too often becomes just another gimmick…just another trick to get people in the door.

Is there anything inherently wrong with coffee bars, songs written in the last 45 or so years, better lighting, theater seating, or other modern conveniences? No, of course not. But to rely on these to bring about commitment and life-changing experience is like asking a Berkshire hog to model a wedding gown. The two aren’t even in the same ball park…let alone connected to each other in any meaningful way.

Listen to what Aigner says about church attendance; then hear him as he talks of what he believes is really needed to right the wrong. Then soak in what he says and begin to think of good applications as they pertain to your church and what you are doing (if anything) to bring about a committed and “growing closer to Jesus” generation in the church.

“Church attendance is declining, and no music, no coffee, no marketing campaign, and certainly no fun, convenient Sunday experience is going to change it. The church is shrinking. The trend of young people leaving church started decades ago. It’s nothing new, and there is no magical, surefire way to change it. Especially overnight.”

Then Aigner writes: “Do your thing. Live your mission. Live into the hope of Christ that overthrows evil regimes and sets captives free. Live into the confidence that knows Christ’s work is finished, and the church’s mission from age-to-age, generation-to-generation, doesn’t change.”

“Worship together as if your lives depended on it. And invite us (Millenials) to join you, not as your honored guests, not as your coveted demographic, but as your brothers and sisters. Let us feast on God’s Word and dine at Christ’s table. Teach us the drama of your calendar, the discipline of your liturgy, and the joy of your melodies. Many of us are trying to follow Jesus on our own, and it’s tough. It’s just not working.”

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There’s Nothing New

There’s Nothing New

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I often see things on social media that serve to warn people, and especially parents, about the dangers of a certain app or web site or social media site. The warnings usually center around something of a sexual nature. The suspect entity is often pegged as a front for trafficking, prostitution, pornography, and the like. Often, these warnings are accompanied by some kind of social commentary regarding how bad the world of today has become, how dangerous it is for kids nowadays, and so on.
And there is no disagreement there. The world can indeed be a bad place. The coming of the Internet with all of its attendant phones, I-pads, smart TVs, cable and satellite, and so on bring many of those bad things into our immediate realm. We are, at times, inundated with ideas, philosophies, and behaviors that are antithetical to everything we’ve ever believed. But is the world a worse place than ever before? Hardly.
The wise man said that there is nothing new under the sun. The exact quote is from Ecclesiastes chapter 1 where the KJV records, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” What is today is what has been and will always be as long as the creation continues in its present state.
One only has to read the Bible to see that people behaved badly thousands of years ago. One only has to know history to know that human behavior “is what it is,” and changes little over the centuries. Oh, the means and methods may change; but the root of those less noble behaviors remains constant in the sinful nature of mankind.
So does that mean that we throw up our hands and quit trying to make our corners of the world better places? Of course not. We know we aren’t perfect. We know we fail to live up to the standards. We understand that we can’t create a paradise on earth. But we also know what God expects of us. Micah summarized it nicely when he wrote, “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

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Why Do You Exist?

Why Do You Exist?

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

Why do you and I exist? “What? Such a question!” you say. “It’s Sunday morning and I can barely function until at least 11:00 and two cups of coffee. And you’re asking me this?”
OK, I get it. But you should have some idea of the answer if you’re at the building on a Sunday morning, ostensibly to meet and worship with others in your Christian family.
According to a man named Alvin L Reid in a book called “Sharing Jesus (without freaking out),” we exist to know God and bring Him glory. And one of the ways that we do that is to fulfill what we know as the Great Commission found in Matthew 28. We tell others, in some way, about the saving grace and love of God.
Notice I didn’t say anything about saving anyone. That’s not our job. Our role isn’t to be concerned with a “body count,” so to speak. Ours is to teach…to bear witness, if you will, of what God does when someone turns to Him and asks for a renewed and transformed heart and mind. Our role is to be part of a team that helps lead another soul to the throne of grace.
It is God the Holy Spirit who convicts and opens hearts and minds to accept the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ. It is God the Son who paid the penalty for your and my sins and conquered death so that we too might live. It is God the Father that saves and extends grace and mercy.
Not only are we part of that holy team; we also are part of a team of people…redeemed people who along with us work with that holy and heavenly team that convicts, forgives, and saves.
There is a place for you. We need your God-given abilities. Whether that ability is to teach, organize, write, encourage, give, befriend, or some other ability, the human team needs what you have been given.
Thank you all who have so far answered the call to work with the thousands who surround this building in the apartments and lofts. May God be glorified as we team up with Him.

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The Day God Gave Me More Than I Could Handle

The Day God Gave Me More Than I Could Handle

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I was recently pointed to a blog on the site www.tosavealife.com, a Christian website which says, “Hope has a name. The name is Jesus.” A woman named Mary Alan (I don’t know if that’s her entire name, or part of her name, or a penname) wrote what follows. I absolutely agree, and I couldn’t say it better. I commend it to you.
I recently read a blog with a sweet little story that ended with a sweet little quote that we’ve probably all heard (and said) hundreds of times. “God will never give you more than you can handle!”
And while the article was good and it brought a tear to my eye…I couldn’t stop thinking about that overly used, “go-to” Christian phrase.
“God will never give you more than you can handle!”
“God will NEVER give you more than you can handle!”
During some of the toughest times in my life I’ve been told that God wouldn’t give me more than I could handle. And I hate to break it to you guys. But we’re wrong. We are all getting it SO wrong.
To the mother whose 14-year-old daughter is fighting for her life in a hospital bed…
To the husband whose wife lost her life in childbirth, leaving him alone with a family to care for…
To the girl whose boyfriend is recovering from a gun shot wound to the head…
To the person reading this whose daily battle is deeper and darker and scarier than anything you’ve ever been through…
The truth is, God is giving you more than you can handle. When you’re dealt a hand of cards that turns your world upside down, He’s not trying to make you mad.
I promise.
And while you may get mad and want be strong and make it look easy…I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to do that. You never have to do that. God doesn’t expect you to be strong or make sense of the mess or step up to save the world. (He already sent someone to save the world, remember?) He wants to show you that leaning on Him is the only way you’ll find the strength to keep moving forward.
Will God give you more than you can handle? Yes. There will come a day that God will give you more than you can handle. I can absolutely guarantee it.
Life is hard, it’s scary, it’s lonely, it’s confusing, it’s dark and there will be times that it’s more than you could ever possibly deal with alone. But you know what? This is the beautiful thing about it. God doesn’t expect you to do it alone. And while it’s way easier said than done, I truly believe that surrendering to God is the key to peace in our darkest hours.
Surrender.
It means trusting God’s timing not knowing when it will come.
It means expecting a miracle not knowing how God will provide it.
It means coming to the feet of Jesus every single day and saying “I trust you.”
Even though it might be hard to believe right now, this is all part of a perfect plan. It may seem like a disaster, but every single event in our life plays a role in a much bigger picture. A big, beautiful, God-designed masterpiece
Lean on Him.
Seek Him.
Trust His will.
And find comfort in knowing that you aren’t walking down this road alone.
God is walking right beside you and He is ready to carry your load just as soon you make the choice to surrender it to Him. Let Him handle it. He’s got this. I promise.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
bless and be blessed

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Rejection

Rejection

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

The “Today Parenting Team” posted a blog written by Rachel Macy Stafford titled “Am I Invisible? The Pain-Relieving Response to Being Rejected or Excluded.” The article is well worth the read, and can be found at http://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/am-i-invisible-the-pain-relieving-response-to-being-rejected-or-excluded_1518190386

But for now, I want to show you some of the comments that were left at the bottom of the article. They talk of rejection in many ways and in many places…one big one of which is church. Christians, we have a lot of work to do to overcome the notion that is out there (with good reason, I might add) that church is not a welcoming place. Look at these comments, and give yourself an unbiased review of whether you are guilty of doing this to newcomers. (I’ve corrected punctuation, typos, etc. but the message is as they wrote it.)

Linda Yuus:
Bravo, you chose to remain kind. 20 yrs later, I still remember the move to Wichita. It was so harsh, because it was always the people who should know & do and able to be better. When she said the group would put together snack mix, I say, ” I am new in the area and would like to come” the answer is forever rude & hurtful… “we don’t need anyone else ” …

Deb Krueger Trost
Shameful…. how terrible of them and inconsiderate.

Sharon Breunig Cooper
Right? Tried to join a bunko group who’d invited me because one time they were short a player. Thought it was fun so thought I might come back. Wrong. “We don’t need anyone else”. Slam. Churches. Book clubs. Little walking groups. It’s so harsh! I hope I’m kinder than that when a chance comes my way!

Wendy Jones Brock ·
I enjoyed reading this also. We have belonged to same church for over 10 years since moving to new area and are still never included. I’ve just about given up. Even though I’m an adult, it is still hurtful. This was great read and a great reminder that we can do better even when everyone around us is not.

Patricia Cook Martin ·
Wendy Jones Brock 12 years for us. 🙁

Katharine Trauger ·
Sharon Breunig Cooper You’d be welcome at our church, Sharon. <3 Jan Veiga Thank goodness they showed you right off that they were not your kind of people. I am sure you found your own type of friends soon enough. When someone rejects you it is more often about their own insecurities than it is about you. It is their lack of tolerance and acceptance that is the issue, not yours. They gave you a gift that day. Sandy Erdman Wendy Jones Brock boy does this sound familiar in our church, where we sing all are welcome, ha. After 15 years, we are still ousted from the cliques as we call them. You can feel if you did not go to that church all of your life, then you are not welcomed to join. Period. Leah Shawn Stevens Hazzard · Sharon Breunig Cooper you’re too cute for that group. 😘 😘 Melanie Rowley · Wendy Jones Brock Find a church that wants you....do not stay at that one again.

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