To the Uttermost

To The Uttermost

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

When was the last time you tried to fix something, and your repair didn’t work out like you had planned? Maybe you tried a new recipe, and decided after tasting it that you probably won’t make that recipe again. Or you got the latest “new” over-the-counter medicine for sinus and allergies and found that it didn’t work any better than what you’ve been taking all along. The outfit that looked so good on the mannequin in the store or on line just didn’t fit the way you thought it would.
You get the idea. Many times, it seems, we have an idealized notion of how things might be, when the reality is anything but, and leaves us disappointed.
So where am I going with this? Look at what Hebrews 7:25 says about Jesus and our salvation. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
Did you catch that phrase? Did you see that phrase “to the uttermost” in there? The salvation that Jesus offers is not less than it seems to be. It is the whole thing. It will not disappoint.
That verse actually says three things we need to take to heart.
1. Christ is able to save sinners.
2. Christ is able to save “to the uttermost.”
3. Christ’s salvation is open to all who “draw near to God through Him.”
Jesus is fully able and capable of dealing with sin. There is no sin to bad; no sinner so far gone, that Jesus cannot save him or her. The salvation that Jesus offers is full, complete, and “to the uttermost.” ALL sins are forgiven. And ALL sins continue to be forgiven the penitent child of God (I john 1:7).
The work of salvation is perfect. It is complete. And it is a work of Jesus Christ, and not of ourselves. It indeed is the gift of God.

Thoughts taken from an article in the “Poplar Pathway,” a publication of the Poplar Avenue Church of Christ in Wichita.

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Which Are You?

Which Are You?

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

Excerpt from “They Smell Like Sheep” by Lynn Anderson: “…deep and lasting relationships of authentic spiritual leadership do not work among worldly people. They are only possible among people who know God. Worldly leadership is about power and control and is driven by self-interest. But Jesus says, “Do not be like them. If you want to keep our life, give it away. Deny yourselves. Be servants. The way up is down.”
Anderson is talking about the relationship of church elders to their “flocks,” the congregation. He’s saying that elders need to be less about control and business-like conduct and more like shepherds, leaders, guides, and mentors. And he says that this kind of leadership will only work with flocks (people) who know God…are Christ-followers…Christians.
So, I have a question. If this is true, and I have no doubt that it is, can we extrapolate, with very little effort, the following. If Elders do their work in the congregation by means of power and control, rather than mentoring and guiding, and if that method seems to be working in the congregation, might we postulate that the congregation in general does not know God the way they should know God? Another way to frame the question might be, “If Elders must use power and control to do their jobs in the congregation, does that betray a lack of spirituality and commitment to God among the members of the congregation?”
I think you must conclude that the answer is truly, “Yes.” Congregations whose members know God, follow Christ’s example, and dwell in God’s will willingly will submit to the gentle leadership and mentorship approaches of their Elders. Those who are worldly will only respond to worldly methods of leadership and control.
OK, the inevitable. Which camp are you in? Will you willingly submit to the leadership and shepherding of men who lay their lives and hearts out for all to see and know? Will you follow them as you would if you were a sheep with a shepherd? Will you trust them, place your well-being into their capable hands, and submit? Or will you only “come to bear” if poked, prodded, and threatened? Will you submit only under some kind of penalty or punishment? Must the elders govern with an iron hand, or will you allow them to shepherd and guide?
I can’t answer that for you. I can only ask the question. You will have to stand before God today and supply the answer, And if you find you have a hard, unrepentant, unleadable heart, you need to ask God for the heart of a sheep…a heart of submission and willingness to follow. If you claim to be a child of God, you have no choice, because none is given except this.

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One. At. A. Time.

One. At. A. Time.

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I recently read some thoughts from a good friend of mine, Kristen Bennett Marble. In her thoughts, Kristen pointed out the passage in Isaiah 2:4, where Isaiah prophecies, “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
Kristen goes on to say that we often look at these words as some kind of futuristic idealism that is for us in this day, unrealistic. She postulates that these words, far from being “pie-in-the-sky,” are, as she says, ”…in fact a depiction of God’s Kingdom fully realized on earth.”
She then takes what I believe is a good look at the reality of Christian thought today. Listen as she goes on. “But as beautiful and needed as this vision of peace and hope is, I’m afraid we don’t read it correctly. The someday-in-the-future realization of this vision tends to make us wistful and passive, rather than committed and active. Our role as Christ-followers isn’t to simply sit around and wait for God to move and act. Rather, we are to be about joining him in his work and actively pursuing and bringing about his Kingdom. “
I think she’s right. God has not called us to be on the sidelines complaining about the state of the world (or our corner of it), and how bad everything is. He hasn’t called us to hunker down and live in our bomb shelters away from the blast of life and living. He hasn’t called us to hoard our resources and be stingy with our talents and abilities.
God has called us to service. He has called us to partner with Him to redeem the creation. He has asked us to be active, useful, and diligent to use the abilities and resources He has given us to make our corner of the world more like He would have it.
Will we make it perfect? No. As imperfect beings, we have no way to create perfection. In an imperfect creation, there is no such thing as perfection. But that doesn’t mean that we go to the corner and sit on our hands waiting until God finally decides He’s had enough and calls a halt to the whole thing. No. It means we continue. We go on. We run the race. We see the goal at the end.
Paul the great apostle, in Philippians 3, says that he strains himself ahead, pressing on toward the goal. Will he get there in this life? No, and he knows that. But he continues to move ahead. He continues the work. He continues to partner with God to redeem the creatione as God has given him the ability.
Sitting on the sidelines is for losers. Hunkering down in the bunker is for sissies. Hoarding resources is for the greedy. Christians ought not be any of these, or have any part in them. For us, there is but one thing…to press on toward the goal, straining to reach that high calling. And we do that by serving…one meal given…one transport ride donated…one Bible study conducted…one child mentored…one church visitor greeted…one class taught…one young person counseled… One. At. A. Time.

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Good, Good Father

Good, Good Father

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I adapted the following from an article by Brian Maisch.

You’re a good, good Father.
It’s who You are, And I’m loved by You.

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to sometimes complicate the gospel. I think I make it complicated to avoid being convicted by the simplicity of it. I can complicate the gospel to the point where I render it ineffective in my life. That is obviously not what God intended, because the gospel is not complicated at all. It’s really very simple. Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, died for us and offered the cleansing of our sins, so that our relationship with our heavenly Father can be restored. God made the gospel simple for a reason. He made it simple, because He loves us and wants to remove all barriers from our walking in our true identity as His sons and daughters.

Is that simple or what? Jesus died so that you can have your relationship back with your heavenly Father. He died to restore you and bring you home! He is beckoning you back into the arms of your Good, Good Father, the God of heaven and earth who loves you more than your mind can comprehend.

If you have given your life to Jesus, and your relationship with God has been restored, just reflect on how incredible that is. Think about the story of the prodigal son, who ran away from home to squander his life in meaninglessness. Think about what the son did when he came to his senses. Filled with guilt and remorse, the son repents of his rebellion, determined to go home and ask if he could join up with his father’s hired servants.

Think about how the father looks for his wayward son every day, and one day finally sees him coming over the hill toward home. He goes running out to his son when he sees him, and welcomes him back home as a son…not as a servant. He has restored the relationship he once had with his son.

In a like figure, your heavenly Father watches for you. He longs to have you come back to Him. And when He sees you repent and turn toward home, He runs out to greet you. He is overjoyed to have you home, and it is His good pleasure to give you the kingdom as it says in Luke 12: 32.

If you haven’t given your life to Jesus, just take a few minutes to reflect on what He is offering you. You may have heard a lot of different things about what following Christ is or isn’t, but it’s really rather simple. The Good News of Jesus Christ is God’s way of bringing you home into His loving arms. It is His way of saying, I love you so much more than you could possibly know. I don’t care what you have done, or how far you have run away. I will forgive you. My heart longs for us to be together again; to be your Father. The life that I have for you is far, far better than life the world offers you. I am trustworthy. I am the Good, Good Father. Come home!

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What World Do We Live In?

The following is taken from a sermon by Jim Cimbala. Cimbala extols the scripuralness and value of faithful and fervent Spirit-led and Spirit-directed prayer in the life of the Christian and the Church. He’s not anti PowerPoint or painted walls, but passionately urges us to get our priorities straight. He’s talking about a conference some of his church staff attended.

“(We were) talking about lights, how to do PowerPoint, how to use our space better, what colors on the walls are more comfortable to people…is that what this is all about? That’s why Christ died on the cross?
That 14 year old girl we are working with that is cutting herself, tried to take her life several times, and with a knife etched “HELP” on her inner thigh…lights are going to change that? I’m dead serious. What world do (we) live in?”
“We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers…do you think the principalities and powers care about the lighting? I’m all for lighting; use the best lighting you can. Change whatever color you want. Have PowerPoint; use whatever you want to use. But don’t tell me that’s what Christianity is about.”

This is Jay again. What Cimbala said above has hit me…hard. I don’t know that I’m overly concerned about PowerPoint or paint colors. But there are other distractions that invade my life which have nothing to do with the Gospel of Christ or the shepherding of the flock. I become selfish and self-centered. I care more about me and what I want than about others…or God.
We are so passionate at times about the trivial. We care far more about the unimportant than we ought. We expend so much energy on the insignificant and frivolous. The trifling and petty consume us. We argue and fuss, discuss and take sides, rant and rave about those things which Satan puts in our lives in order to distract us from the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We fail to call upon God’s Spirit to guide us in prayer (Romans 8:26). We fail to pray with fervent spirit (James 5:16). We fail to pray in faith (Hebrews 10:22; James 1:5-8). Instead, we continue promoting our pet issues and projects. We insist on our way or the highway. We argue and fuss, keeping things in an uproar. And all the while we are displaying our arrogance and selfishness, 14 year old girls (and others) are crying out for help.
Sisters and brothers, we have to ask the Lord to change of hearts. We have to implore God for renewed minds and tender spirits. We must learn, through the help of the Holy Spirit, to pray in faith, with fervent zeal and expectation of an answer. Do you really believe that if God’s people pray in faith, directed and aided by the Holy Spirit, that God will ignore those prayers…that He will not honor or answer those prayers? To quote Cymbala, “What world do we live in?”

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A Dandy Design (To borrow a phrase)

A Dandy Design (To borrow a phrase)

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

The following is from the Does God Exist? ministry. In the event you haven’t heard of it, Mr. John Clayton has, for nearly 50 years, worked with the ministry, which exists to provide evidence to open-minded, thinking people that God does exist — that the Bible is his word and that science and belief in God are compatible.
Every so often, the ministry publishes information about a part of the creation…animals, plants, the universe, the earth…that demonstrates the need for design and order. The following information about a chameleon is just one of those stories that I’ve found fascinating over the years I’ve been following the ministry.

THE DESIGN OF A CHAMELEON. Chameleons are lizards that exist in over 200 species, but they all have amazing design features. They can change color to communicate or to blend with their environment and hide from predator or prey. They achieve the color change by adjusting crystals on their skin to reflect different wavelengths of light. Some chameleons can adjust their color according to the the color-vision of the specific predator from which they are hiding. That requires knowledge of what colors the predator can and cannot see.
Their eyes move independently in ball sockets so that they can look in two directions at once. They can focus both eyes together for a 3-D view for accurately striking prey with their tongue. They have four toes on each foot with two facing forward and two facing backward so that they can climb with ease. Also to help in climbing, most chameleons have prehensile tails to hang onto limbs.
Chameleons have adapted to live in rainforests and deserts. Since cold-blooded animals move slowly in low temperatures, you would expect the chameleon’s tongue to move more slowly when it’s cold. In that case, it would not be able to catch the fast-moving insects in cold weather. However, the chameleon’s tongue does not uncoil by muscle strength, but by spring tension. Reeling the tongue back in is slowed by cold temperatures, but that doesn’t matter in catching the prey. This animal is remarkably well designed, and that speaks of a master Engineer-Designer.

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A Welcome Change

A Welcome Change

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

Later this summer, as many do this time of the year, we too will go on vacation. This year we are re-visiting some of the places we first visited 43 years ago on our honeymoon. Although much of what we will see will remain the same, or similar-looking (Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon), much will be different. Roads will have been improved. Prices will be much higher. Motels and hotels will offer more services, and charge for things that used to be free. The car we will travel in will be safer and more efficient…also less prone to breakdown. We will be able to use GPS instead of a Rand McNally map, although we will take our map with us nevertheless. We could, if we desired, activate OnStar and take advantage of that service. We’ll not carry much cash or any travelers checks. ATM’s and the ubiquity of charging are everywhere. And perhaps the greatest…we will not be nearly as starry-eyed as we were back then. Forty three years together tends to mature a couple, and tends to bring in a measure of common sense and stability that we never had back then.
Just as things change in the arena of travel and vacations, so things also change in the arenas of life everywhere else…even church. Although the basics are still there, and hopefully will not change in our own minds, and I’m sure you can think of some of those never-changing truths yourself, some things do, and ought to change. For you see, it’s only if we believe we have perfectly created the modern church, christian living, and worship experiences that we would not want to, nor should we, change anything. And how many of us can say that we’ve reached perfection?
So, given the fallibility of the human race, the temptation to indulge the flesh inherent in mankind, and the fact that there are as many different opinions on how to live one’s life, worship God, and have church as there are people who are Christians, it seems to me that one of the Christian’s constant things to do is self-examination…in as unbiased of a manner as possible. For how many of us truly believe that we have arrived? How many of us believe we’re doing everything right in life and worship, so we don’t need to change anything? How many of us really believe that we no longer need to study and learn because we know all that we need to know about God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit of God? How many of us really believe that we no longer need the grace of God because we’re doing all of the right things?’
If you see yourself in any of those few sentences immediately above, stop right now and ask for God’s forgiveness…because you’ve just sinned. You’ve just placed yourself beyond the need for the grace and mercy of God, and the blood of Christ. You’ve just nullified that great sacrificial act of the Son of God. You’ve just made Christ’s death on the cross to be unnecessary and of no effect. And you need to repent…NOW.
……
……
……
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OK, now that you’ve taken care of that bit of self-idolatry, you can begin to live as God intended you to live…free. Free from rules. Free from having to do in order to be righteous. Free from the grip of sin and self-idolatry. Free to be God’s child…evermore saved, evermore loved.
Now, isn’t that a welcome change?

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Packs of Fifties

Packs of Fifties

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

If you would win a contest where the winner was handed Federal Reserve packs of $50 bills every ten seconds until the winner said, “That’s enough,” how many packs of bills would you take? I remind you that those packs of fifties are each $5,000.
Would you take two packs? Ten? One hundred? Would you let them hand the packs to you for a minute? Five minutes? Five hours? Five weeks? When would it be enough?
If you’re like most people, you’d let yourself drown in packs of fifties. You’d go until you couldn’t go any more. And then you’d wish you had a few more.
The wise man said, “There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt.” Solomon should know. As the wealthiest King of the nation of Israel in old times gone, he knew what it was to amass such wealth as to cause one to hurt. He knew the trials and pain it often brought. He also knew that, as he said a little later on in his message to mankind, “Exactly as a man is born, thus will he die. So, what is the advantage to him who toils for the wind?”
We come into the world with nothing; we leave exactly the same way.
I think we all could write a book about someone we know who spends his or her life chasing after wealth. Some of us may know of someone who won a lottery of some kind and instantly became wealthy. And most of us can also tell of the misery and problems that can naturally occur when that happens. Life as one knows it stops. It’s now a “whole ‘nuther ball game.”
Then there’s the greed for more, never being satisfied with what one has…always looking for ways to parlay what one has into even more. Just as the winner of the contest has a difficult time saying, “That’s enough,” so we have a difficult time being satisfied with where we are in life with what we’ve been given. It seems there’s always a greener yard in the next development, a newer vehicle in the driveway up the street, and a higher-paying job across town.
Paul said that he had learned to be content with whatever his situation was. Paul had learned the secret of contented living. Paul knew that because he had Jesus Christ, he had enough. He knew that Christ would supply for his every need in this life, and also in the life to come.
Imagine what the church and the New Testament would be like had Paul spent his time amassing more money, power and prestige instead of serving the God of heaven and earth. Imagine what might have been had Paul gone the way of most of us in our greed and material desire. Imagine what our lot in life would be had Paul not preached to the Gentiles.
So, where are you in life? Are you collecting packs of fifties, wanting just a few more…a few more…a few more? Or have you too learned the secret of contentment…contentment in the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ?

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Only Then

Only Then

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

It’s been raining here in the Wichita area. Of course, that’s not a new thing. Nor is it something that folks in the rest of Kansas haven’t experienced recently. It seems that the rain has been falling pretty much everywhere, and there’s been a whale of a lot of it…enough for whales to swim in at times!
I have to wonder if God looks down on his creation and sees us griping about how dry it is, and complaining that the drought we’re in is going to be right up there with the droughts of the ’30s and the ’50s when the dust blew and nothing grew. He sees all of this, and decides He’s going to give us what we’ve been longing for…and in way too much abundance. I think it may be much like the Israelites of the Old Testament who complained about not having meat to eat in the wilderness, and God gave them so much meat that they gorged themselves on it and got deathly ill.
I wonder if we wouldn’t complain so much about the things that we have no control over, whether things might be a little less severe and extreme. If we would give God the glory for whatever comes, recognizing Him as the Maker, Creator, and Sustainer, maybe things would run a little more smoothly for us. If we would acknowledge the sovereignty of the Almighty…that He can do with His creation whatever He desires to do, just perhaps we wouldn’t worry so much about too much of this or too little of that, even when it comes to the weather.
I don’t know that things would really change in terms of the amount of rainfall, heat, cold, snow, or wind if we began to give praise instead of complaint. Things might continue to to to extremes from time to time, and things might seem to be out of kilter once in a while. But it would be our ATTITUDE that would change. Our demeanor wold change. Our speech would change. And our thinking would change. As Paul says in one familiar place, “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds…”
No, the weather itself might not change, but if we change how we view what He does to and with His creation; if our complaining and griping would cease, imagine how life would be so much more full and rich. We would be concerned about those things we ought to be concerned about, and all the rest would not be able to clutter our minds with useless worry.
Our relationship with our Creator is one we should cherish and respect, acknowledging His sovereignty and power. Only then will we be the kind of created beings He expects us to be.

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Comfortable Clothing

Comfortable Clothing

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I don’t write nearly as often as I used to. It’s not that I don’t have something to say. And it’s not that I don’t have the Internet or the computer. It’s that my days seem to be much more full than they used to be some months ago, and my thoughts and thought patterns seem to be much more “spread out” than they used to be. Where it was at one time I could mull over some topic for a considerable period of time, even days, now it seems that there is always something to interrupt that process. There is always some other thing that needs attention. Something else is vying for the “thought time” I have available.
Who knew that semi-retirement would be like this? Who knew that I’d be right back in the soup, as it were? Who knew that life would remain a challenge in this particular way? Certainly, I did not. Having spent fifty years in the work force, I was looking forward to a little down time. One would think that wouldn’t be too much to ask. However, that’s not the way it has come about.
“Church work,” although usually not physically strenuous, nevertheless can be wearing, taxing, and long. The hours can be odd, the things dealt with can seem like mountains to be climbed, and the reward for a job well-doe can be so fleeting. Of course, it’s that way with many vocations today. Many of my friends and family, including of course, church family, are in the same kind of work. We get up, face the day, put on our best faces, and seize the day at hand. We do our jobs, produce results, and then do it all over again the next day.
But let me tell you something. If you’re a Christian; if you’re a child of God, all of your days should be work days. Even your days of rest should be work days in that you are being refreshed and made ready for what is to come. Christians don’t have a day off when they don’t have to be Christians anymore. We always are called to be the beacon that points people to Jesus Christ. We always have a message. We always are setting ourselves as examples. We always should be ready to give an answer for the Hope that lies within us.
So, as I sit in my church office on a Saturday morning, here because the work demands that I be here, I am reminded that even though Saturday is often a day off for me, I’m really not off work. I’ve not left my Christianity on the shelf somewhere. I can’t relax and take off my faith. Nor would I want to do so. My faith is who I am. I am comfortable wearing the Name of Jesus. That is my clothing, and my prayer and hope is that it always clothes me.
No one likes to wear clothing or shoes that don’t fit. It’s a continual struggle to get through the day with that kind of discomfort. Being comfortable in the clothing you are wearing is vital to having a good day. In the same way, be comfortable in your faith. If you are comfortable in the cloak of Christianity, your day will be more productive, and you will enjoy the time you’ve been given here on earth. On the other hand, if your faith doesn’t fit right…if you and your faith don’t “get along” well…if you’d be much more comfortable not having to wear the Name of Jesus Christ through the day, but do so because of “appearances,” your days will be days of weariness, discomfort, and fatigue. Because your spiritual clothing doesn’t fit, you’ll always struggle with it; always fuss with it; always wish you didn’t have to endure it.
I don’t know what you need to do in order to make your spiritual clothing comfortable for you. Only you and God know that. I do know that I get through my days much easier knowing that my clothing fits…that I’m comfortable being a child of God. Not physical comfort like an easy chair or a full stomach…but a spiritual comfort and peace that enables me to get up again the next day, face the day, and be God’s partner in redeeming the creation.

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