On Sharing Jesus

On Sharing Jesus

This Sunday we will complete our look at our new mission statement. By now it is our hope that this is sinking deep into your thinking pattern, and you are beginning to understand the inner logic of why we have presented it as we have. While it is true that there is not a linear process laid out in this new mission, we do feel as if each builds upon the other. Loving God leads us to experience transformation, and out of that transformation of our character we then share Jesus with others through service and evangelism.

With that in mind, I now want to reflect a few minutes on why we have chosen “Sharing Jesus” as the last element of our mission statement. It is not because we think it is the least important. Indeed, sharing Jesus is vital to any understanding of the Christian life. However, we do believe that all too often we try to serve without the necessary transformation having taken place. This is not to say that we believe someone has to have a fully formed and mature character to share Jesus with others. Indeed, new converts often have the least maturity and yet the most enthusiasm to share. So we are not trying to dampen that in any way. But we do want to say that too often we try to serve from a place of lack, and the inevitable result is burnout. We might equate it to the seed the falls on thorny soil, which at first grows with great excitement, but then is quickly choked out by the complexities of life.

Consider the following quote from the 12th Century monk named Bernard of Clairvaux. The [one] who is wise, therefore, will see [their] life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then [offers] the overflow without loss to itself….Today there are many in the church who act like canals; the reservoirs are far to rare….They want to pour forth before they have been filled; they are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves.

This is a great problem. How many have gone out to serve in the name of Jesus, or try to evangelize in the name of Jesus, and because they were not full of God themselves, ended up doing more damage than good?

Now, we do want to be careful with this notion. We don’t want to come away with the idea that there is some standard of Christian maturity that one must meet in order to serve in his name. Jesus calls the “least of these” into his service, who are often not wise according to the world’s standard of judgment. Having said that, it is also true that you cannot give what you do not have. While God is gracious in that even people who preach Christ from false motives can be used by him, it is much better when those who carry the message of Jesus and serve in his name actually have the fruit of God’s life deep within them. Jesus promises that rivers of water will flow out of people like this. The purity of that water will bring life to places that have long been dead. But for that water to flow out of us, we must first pursue God in such a way that his grace is allowed to transform us in our deepest parts. This takes time; often lots of time. But as we go, we will find that service in his name becomes much easier, because now we are not canals simply pouring out what little water we have collected, but instead will be reservoirs pouring over into the lives of others.

Curtis Baker

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On Transforming Lives

One of the great discoveries of my spiritual life did not come until I was nearly 30 years old. Through all of my youth, like most people, I struggled deeply against the habits of sin that had been formed in my mind and body as I sought ways to rid myself of unseemly habits. My main point of attack during those early years was to use my willpower to try to overcome sin. Sometimes I would have success and other times not. But in my own mind it felt like I failed more than I succeeded. I wrestled with the question of how one actually comes to be a better person.

At times during that process I more or less gave up the fight. I just decided I was who I was, and if anything was going to change, then God would have to change it. This offered temporary relief from guilt and other disagreeable feelings, but it obviously didn’t change the overall reality of my situation.

I wouldn’t want to give the indication that this was a constant battle. At times, the thought process merely laid at the back of my mind, occasionally rising to the surface. But for the most part, a serious pursuit of holiness was not a top priority. I knew I was forgiven; I knew I really wasn’t THAT bad; so no need to strain myself too hard.

That worked…for a while.

But then, near the age of 30, something changed. What worked before wasn’t working any more. Old assumptions began to crumble; previous ways of holding myself up were failing. All the details of the crisis I entered are not important, but let’s just say that it was of sufficient intensity to cause me to rethink everything that before I had taken for granted.

My father had warned me that something like this might happen. He had told me, many years before that something often happens to a man between the ages of 30 and 35 that is hard to explain. No two people experience it in quite the same way, and yet there is plenty of testimony that confirms the experience. Even Dante seemed to recognize the same thing. His epic poem The Inferno opens with these revealing words: “Midway through life’s journey (say, 30 to 35) I found myself in a dark wood…and I lost my way.”

That was me. Suddenly at midlife, I found myself in a dark forest, and I had lost my way.

But just as Dante had his guides who brought him from pits of hell into the bliss of paradise, so also did I find my own faithful guides who began to illume a path out of the abyss I had found within myself. Spiritual transformation now took on a new intensity for me. It wasn’t enough just to let things remain as they were. Things had to change. I had to change.

But how? The old efforts of will power had proven so powerless.

This is where the writings of Dallas Willard entered into my life. Interestingly enough, I had been reading Dallas since I was in college. But Dallas’ writings are not easy reading, nor are the depths of his wisdom often understood upon first approach. This is true of all great literature, whether speaking of Dallas, C. S. Lewis, Augustine, or especially the Bible itself. The greats are ones that you return to time and time again.

So I returned to this old trusted guide, and I found his wisdom reliable for my moment of need.

What Dallas taught me was not something new. In fact, it was something quite old. But it was old enough that it had been forgotten by the modern church. Because our focus has for so long been upon conversion, we had forgotten the long pursuit of discipleship to Jesus that follows conversion. Salvation is not just about a change in legal status before God. It is about literally being freed from our sins in order that we participate in the divine nature. It short, the Christian life is about holiness!

But how do we attain holiness? That was the problem I faced. I had tried by my own will power, but clearly will power was not enough.

This is where the teachings of Dallas brought great insight into my life. The way to become holy is not by directly trying to become holy. The way to overcome sin was not by directly trying to overcome your sin. The way to holiness was through indirect action.

The indirect action that Dallas brought back to the church’s consciousness is the power of spiritual disciplines. God has ordained certain actions, that when we undertake them, we are brought in a special way into the presence of God. And when God comes to meet us in these practices, his grace does the transforming work inside us that we cannot do by our own direct effort. The end result is, our heart is changed by this encounter with God, and then we naturally do the good things that God wants us to do, because it is precisely those things which God has placed in our heart.

What are the practices that bring us before the presence of God? Well, there is no set list. Because every person is unique, some experimentation is required. But there are a few general ones that are known to be helpful to people in any situation. These are practices like silence, prayer, Bible study, giving, service, sacrifice, fasting, and others.

Having failed at my own direct efforts to produce deep change in my life, I decided to dedicate myself to these things. I knew, of course, just as Dallas warned, that doing these practices themselves do not make you righteous. There is no cause for pride because you take up spiritual disciplines. But I also trusted his wisdom that many people have found by taking up these practices that God’s grace met them through this process, and produced profound change in their life.

For years now I have been practicing many of these disciplines. I have a daily routine of prayer, silence, and study. I have periods of scripture memorization, fasting, and special giving. Looking back now over a period of years, I am amazed at things that have happened in my own heart and mind that are significantly different from the way things used to be. Sins that used to entice me have very little appeal to me anymore. Love for the things that are right and good has increasingly grown in my heart. None of these changes came very fast, and there is still struggle with sin that takes place, but I have noticed a real change of heart. The power of God’s life is increasing in my inward man. I have been allowed to overcome things that I never could have overcome by direct effort alone.

It would be hard for me to express to you the joy I have found in all of this. My life is immensely better having learned how to cooperate with the grace of God. Now it has become a passion of mine to share this knowledge with others, a knowledge that was hidden from me for so many years.

The leadership of the RiverWalk Church of Christ has made transforming lives the central aspect of our new mission statement. This is because we believe transformation is at the heart of what we are called to be involved in as a church. The church itself cannot produce this transformation, but we believe we can help move people towards the means of grace that God has ordained to encounter his transformative presence.

Do you desire to see a change in your life? Are there old sins that have plagued you for years that you have never been able to overcome? Do you long for a life where joy bubbles up from deep in your soul? These are the things that God wants for us. He wants us to participate in his divine nature and he has promised that his own divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.

But even though we cannot produce this change in ourselves, we are not to remain passive in the process. God has called us to action. But we must be informed about what kind of action is helpful and which is not. This is what we wish to explore through our new mission statement. We hope that you will be excited to join with us as we learn how God can transform each of our lives.

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The Answer

The Answer

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I stepped outside last evening before I retired. It was about 11pm. I go outside regularly about that time for just a minute or two, depending on the weather, to take in the night sky, the night air, and the night environment. There’s something soothing and comforting to me when I do that. I’m reminded of God’s creation…a lot…during those brief times.
I wasn’t out more than a minute or so last evening because of the cold and the wind. It was about 15 degrees, and the wind was blowing from the north at about 15 miles an hour where I was. I didn’t have any coat or wrap on, so I quickly noticed the chill.
Coming back into the warmth of our home, I mentioned to the wife that I have difficulty understanding how anyone can spend the night outside, on the ground, in this weather regardless of how many coats, blankets, wraps, etcetera, that they have. She said something to the effect that they would constantly feel cold and uncomfortable. And as I slipped under the covers of the bed, which had a heated mattress pad, I was both uncomfortable with the situation for others, and thankful for my own.
How does one reconcile living/sleeping in a too-large home, heated and cooled, with various amenities such as a heated bath floor, hot water shower, heated mattress pad, and all that goes with that when others have nothing and are outside in the cold? How does one justify the elegant comfort of modern vehicles with heated steering wheels, heated & cooled seats, electronic and automatic everything, when others have no transportation to get to a food bank or the doctor, and don’t have money for bus fare to get a ride to the food bank?
And then I think of the Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol” where the ghost of Christmas present shows Scrooge Ignorance and Want, and forces him to acknowledge them as reality.
For me, this is a dilemma. God has blessed us with more than we need. We give, we believe, rather generously to the church. We volunteer. We advocate for others. We work to try to improve the lives of others. But for some reason, this doesn’t seem to be enough at times. That nagging feeling that we are somehow squandering what God has given us, or that we are selfishly using too much while others don’t have enough shows up in our minds. It’s a feeling and thought that won’t go away.
Am I doing enough with what God has given me? Am I being selfish with any of it? What does God expect of me? How does He want me to live?
I take seriously the command to love God and love my neighbor. I also take seriously the command of Jesus to “love one-another” that he gave to the disciples. Do I take them seriously enough? Am I missing out, either unknowingly or deliberately, on opportunities to love? Are my built-in biases keeping me from seeing the human being that God loves instead of “That guy needs to quit panhandling and get a job,” or “That woman needs to quit shacking up with anyone who looks at her,” or “That kid needs to quit screaming and raising a fuss.”
I admit I don’t have the answer. I wonder if any of us really does. In the meanwhile, I continue to rely on the grace and mercy of God as, through faith, I count on the blood of Jesus Christ to forgive my ineptitude, arrogance, greed, and self-centeredness.

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Paul and the Problem of Evil

One of the dilemmas that has vexed humans beings since the beginning of our existence is the problem of evil.  Different cultures have had diverse ways of dealing with the problem, but most would admit that a fully satisfactory answer is often lacking.  For example, in the ancient world, there were four different ways of looking at evil. 

The first was the way of the Stoics.  The Stoics were known for their aloof nature and their consideration of evil was no different.  According to this view, the world is as it is, and all we can do is deal with it.  If you don’t like it, you can always leave it, but everyone must take the world as it is.  This is somewhat admirable for its frankness, but hardly satisfies when answering questions of deep suffering. 

A second option in the ancient world was the Epicurean philosophy.  This idea said that a divine being or beings may have made the world, but have since left it alone to run on its own accord.  Evil in inevitable, and one should try to do one’s best to live life in such away to avoid as much of it as possible.  There is a certain practicality to this, but again, it is hardly satisfying.   

A third option is called dualism.  This view says that there are two great beings behind creation, one good and the other evil, and life is a constant battle between these two equal but opposite forces.  At times some Christians have flirted with this idea, seeing God and the devil as two beings battling one another. However, in Christian thinking, the devil is no true match for God.  In the dualist philosophy, the power of darkness is equal to the power of light and goodness. 

Finally, there was the thought of the average every day pagan.  Most pagans believed there were multiple gods in the heavens and these gods controlled much of human fate.  If something bad happened to you, it was likely because you had angered one of the gods, or someone had struck a deal with them to bring you temporary trouble. 

So these are four different ways that the ancient world viewed the problem of evil.  My guess is, they are not very satisfying to you.  Perhaps we should add one more.  There was also the view of the Jewish people. 

Even though the people of Israel wrestled often with the problem of evil, it is important to understand that they had nothing like a systematic set of answers to this problem.  Texts like the book of Job demonstrate this point.  When God finally comes on the scene at the end of the book of Job, no specific answer is given for suffering.  It is enough to know that God is God, and he knows what he is doing in creation.  After all what right do any of us have in questioning him? 

However, even though a specific answer is not given for the problem of evil, Israel’s scriptures present stories that give us glimpses of the forces at work behind the problem of evil.  In the first eleven Chapters of Genesis, four stories give us shadowy indications of the root of evil.  The stories of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel show us that human rebellion is involved.  The story of the flood alludes to cosmic forces involved in the problem of sin, and the story of the Tower of Babel demonstrates the arrogance of human empire.  Yet none of these, in the Jewish interpretation of their own scriptures, served to give a definitive answer to the problem of evil. 

Even though a definitive answer is missing, Israel was not without strong notions of a solution.  Indeed, they had learned through the call of Abraham and his promise to bring a blessing to the whole world, that in God’s purpose, he had called Israel herself to be part of the solution.  In their mind, the primary problem in the world was human idolatry, which was especially exhibited in the power of the Gentile nations.  Israel knew that it had been called to be a light to the nations, to bring God’s solution to bear upon the world’s problem.

But as Israel’s story progressed, a further problem was revealed.  Israel herself was subject to the same forces of evil that inflicted the pagan nations.  God’s banishment of Israel to Babylon was sure evidence of this fact, along with the domination of one gentile empire after another.  This left Israel with a deflated view of herself.  Israel knew she needed to regain her status as the light of the world, and in her mind, the way to do that was a recommitment to the Law. 

All of this would have been firmly in Paul’s mind as a learned Pharisee of the first century. 

However, something dramatic happened that changed Paul’s perception of the problem of evil.  On the road to Damascus he encountered Jesus, risen and alive.  This shocked Paul to his very core and made him reevaluate everything he thought he knew as a Jew.  It was these events that led Paul to a revolution in his thinking about human evil and its solution.  Three things factored into this reconsideration. 

First was the crucifixion of Jesus.  If the crucifixion was one of the solutions offered to the problem of evil, then Paul realized that evil was more than simply a problem of cleaning up Israel’s behavior through the Law.  Something much more radical was needed.  The crucifixion showed that the problem of human sin was not just a problem of the pagan nations, or indeed, of Israel’s failures, but was a deep problem at the core of human life that Paul traced back all the way to Adam himself (Romans 5:12).  Israel’s problem was much deeper than Paul could have known.  The law would not be capable of cleaning up this problem.  It was powerless to do so.  Only the giving up of the Son of God himself as a sin offering could affect a solution to this problem. 

A second factor in Paul’s rethinking was the resurrection of Jesus.  While Paul, like most Jews of his day, believed in an eventual resurrection of the righteous, he did not anticipate a resurrection right in the middle of the current age.  The resurrection of Jesus not only vindicated him as the true Messiah, but also revealed a further solution to the plight of evil.  What Paul saw that no Jew had seen before him is that the resurrection showed that the problem was not just a matter of human sin, but was also a cosmic problem.  The true enemy of the people of God was not the pagan nations of the world, but the cosmic powers of Sin and Death. The resurrection proved to be the defeat of these cosmic powers, and gave a foreshadow of what was to come.  What was to come was nothing less than “new creation”–a renewal of the cosmos through the power of the resurrected Christ. 

But there is a third factor in Paul’s rethinking.  This was the role of the Spirit.  One of the primary problems of human evil is the corruption of the heart.  Throughout Israel’s scriptures there are hints given that in the future age, God would deal with the human heart, writing his own law into it.  How this was to be brought about, no one knew.  But Paul now saw how it was being accomplished.  He experienced it in his own life, and also saw it in the conversion of many people throughout the Roman Empire.  Not only had God forgiven sin through his crucifixion and defeated death through his resurrection, but he also renewed the human heart through the gift of his Spirit.  This is key to understanding God’s purposes.  If it had only been a matter of defeating death, God could have resurrected everybody at once with Jesus.  But God’s purpose is to unfold what he had always intended for his creation–to work in partnership with human beings, helping them to accomplish the original divine task to rule over the earth and all it contains.  This will ultimately happen when the full resurrection takes place and the whole cosmos is renewed through Christ.  But God wants to give us a foreshadow of that now, and he does so through the Spirit filled church. 

So we see with all this how Paul dealt with the problem of evil.  It does not answer all of our questions.  Indeed, much remains a mystery, especially in regard to evil’s origins.  But the answer tells us a lot about the problem.  No one had pulled it all together in quite this way until the apostle Paul.  We can be forever thankful that God called such a man to write, and such a church to preserve it. 

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On Loving God

On Loving God

By now you should be well informed of what the new mission statement is for the RiverWalk Church of Christ. We have done our best to make it so that this new statement will seep deep into your thinking. There were banners hung in the auditorium, signs posted in each classroom, blog posts written and a sermon preached, all in the effort to put before you the vision that the leaders of the church have for our congregation going forward. At the RiverWalk Church of Christ, we are about “Loving God …Transforming Lives…and Sharing Jesus.”

Now that this has been laid out before us, I want to take the next three weeks to dig deeper into the significance and meaning of each aspect of our mission. Our subject this week is “Loving God.”

During the sermon on Sunday I used a quote from A. W. Tozer to emphasize the importance for how we think about God. Tozer suggests it is the single most important thing about us. I want to begin this week with another quote from Tozer. Consider the following statement:

“I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.”

What Tozer is saying is that almost any error we have in the Christian faith, whether it is in the form of doctrine or moral living, can ultimately be traced back to wrong thoughts about God. I think he is right. The foundation of both our faith and our living is what we know to be true about God. If we think rightly about God, this will go a long way in ensuring that we live in a way that is just and true. Why? Because we naturally live out what we believe. However, if we have learned to think about God in ways that are unjust or even evil, this will drastically affect how we live our lives.

We learn from the gospels that this is one of the primary reasons Jesus came to us as the Son of God in human flesh. Jesus claims in the Gospel of John that to have seen him is to have seen the Father. Many people did not understand this because they had learned to think about God in mistaken ways. When God truly came and lived among them, they did not recognize him, because the kind of God they believed in was not the same God that they saw revealed in the words, actions, and life of Jesus Christ.

This shows us just how dangerous our thoughts can be about God. We can think about him so wrongly that we wouldn’t even recognize him if he were to come to our very house. This should give all of us pause!

With that in mind, this brings to light one of the primary tasks of Christian discipleship. We must learn how to think about God as he truly is. We must come to see God as the noble, beautiful, lovely, and worthy being that Jesus teaches us about in the Gospels.

In large measure, this means learning to think about the Father as Jesus thought about him.

Consider the following quote from Dallas Willard:

“The process of spiritual formation in Christ is one of progressively replacing destructive images and ideas with images and ideas that filled the mind of Jesus himself.”

What did Jesus think about? What occupied his mind? How did he think about the Father? These are important questions that we must seek to answer; and upon finding the answer, seek to implement into our own thinking. This is not something that will be done for us. We can be sure that God’s grace will assist us in ways beyond our ability, but the initiative remains with us.

Dallas suggests to us that this is a crucial part of Christian spiritual formation. While it won’t happen all at once, there must be a progressive replacement of destructive images and ideas with the ideas that filled the mind of Jesus himself. Paul says it this way, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” This is the foundational task of Christian discipleship, and it is also why it is the first of three statements in our mission statement.

So as we prepare to reflect on loving God in our sermon this Sunday, ask yourself a few important questions. What do I primarily think of when I think of God? Do I find God to be noble, beautiful, lovely, and praiseworthy, or do I find myself deeply troubled about God? Does my idea of God look like Jesus? What fills my mind throughout the week? What occupies my thoughts? What do the content of my thoughts reveal about me? These are important questions to reflect on. Whatever answers you come up with, remember these words from Tozer: “How you think about God is the most important thing about you.”

–Curtis Baker

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When Will We See the Power?

When Will We See the Power

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

Lately, I have been reading and thinking about the Holy Spirit and His work. I believe there a power that resides with the Spirit of God. Paul (II Timothy) and other Bible writers talk about this power that resides with the Spirit and is given in measure as needed. This is not a power that enables us to control others or get our way; this power is what enables us to boldly talk about Jesus Christ. It is the power that gives us courage, strength, and enables us to do all things in love. It is also the power that invades the heart of a human being, prompting him or her to give his life to Jesus Christ…while also enabling that person to shun those sins which had been entangling him.
As I have studied, I have wondered if I have ever seen a manifestation of that power? Had I actually seen the Holy Spirit of God at work? And I had to conclude that I didn’t know of any incident, any person, or any place where I had seen what I could fairly conclusively say was a work of the Spirit of God.
But was I looking for the right thing? What was it, exactly, that I was expecting to see? Was it some kind of miraculous thing? Was it some kind of instantaneous thing that normally would takes days or months to accomplish? Was it some kind of apparition or physical sighting of something that would prompt me to say it was in the realm of the miraculous? Just what WAS I looking for?
About that time, I was reading on this subject, and the writer said something to the effect of, “When you see something in the life of a person that changes them for the better and say, ‘How did that happen?’ then quite likely the Spirit of God was at work.” A woman becomes clean, sober, and isn’t selling herself any more. A teen transitions from a surly, bullying ne’er-do-well (I know that’s an ancient term) to one who serves others, puts others first, and submits graciously to authority. A man on death’s door finds not only peace, but healing of body and mind. These are just made-up examples of the kind of thing the author was discussing when he said what he did about seeing the Spirit of God at work.
So, I began to think. And I could see just in the past few years many examples of what could well be the Spirit of power at work. Just in my circle of who I know, a woman no longer earns her living by stripping off her clothes before men. A man and woman who had been living together were baptized and have married. A man on meth is no longer held in bondage by that evil. A woman who spent years on the street is now sober, clean, and working at a good job while working to get her children back out of state custody.
These are the kinds of events and situations that the writer of the statement at the first of this blog was talking about. We tend to attribute such turn-arounds to therapy, medication, meditation, or some other cure. And those are certainly helpful in the right settings. But many times I think we have to look at a person who has markedly changed and just say, “How did that happen?” Then we remember the power and work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of people today and thank God for His marvelous grace.

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From Julie Broyles

What follows is from Julie Broyles, missionary in Cambodia. Phyllis Hogue has worked with Julie in the Cambodian mission. The congregation began to support Julie a few years ago, and continues to provide support. In 2017, the RiverWalk Missions Endowment Fund spearheaded a matching grant effort to provide Julie with a transportation van for the mission, in addition to the normal monthly support out of the missions fund.
One of the signature policies of the RiverWalk missions committee is to be certain that support is given in full, on time, and that if we wish to discontinue support, we give many months (and try to give at least a year) of notice so the missionary can make other arrangements for support.
Missionaries shouldn’t have to worry about whether their support will be there or not, and shouldn’t have to be concerned about suddenly being dropped from a church’s missions program. They are sent by God into mission to tell the story of Jesus the Christ. That should be their focus…not funding.
Julie has written a thank you note to the congregation. Much of her note is reprinted below.
Thank you, RiverWalk, for your generosity and your support. You are truly a light that shines in this present darkness!

Jay Plank

Dear Riverwalk Family in Christ,

How can I begin to thank you for your extreme generosity this year? Your partnership in the Lord’s work here in Cambodia has definitely been a blessing sent by God.

The vehicle matching grant seemed (to me!) to be an impossible task since I had already done fund raising just previous to that time. But God is the One who provides if it is His will and it happens in ways that I certainly have nothing to do with. It is an amazing thing to watch, over and over again!

Then for you to take on a consistent monthly contribution, one that is dependable is truly from God. That is one of the hardest issues that consumes so much time, for a missionary. To have dependable support is such a relief, to where one can focus on the work.

I thank you once again for your partnership and trust. I pray every penny has been spent in a way that was in accordance to God’s plan and in a way that produces lasting fruit for His Kingdom.

May our Lord bless the Riverwalk family in this new year, as you serve Him.

In Him,

Julie Broyles
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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Ten Reasons

I subscribe to a daily blog called “The Morning Drive” by Scott McCown. I don’t know the man other than from the blog. Scott is a minister, and I enjoy most of his daily posts.
Today, Scott posted ten reasons why he enjoys his vocation as a minister of the Gospel. As I read down those ten reasons, I noticed that those reasons could well have been written by me. People often, I think, wonder why I do what I do, especially with the pay arrangement I have with the church (essentially full time work for part-time pay). The reasons Scott listed as reasons why he enjoys what he does are mine as well.
I know that some of you wouldn’t think ministry was such an awesome vocation. I get that. To each his own talents, abilities, drives, and motivations. But for me, and for many like me, the ministry is a vocation that is rich in meaning, depth, and service. Here are Scot McCown’s reasons why he enjoys the ministry. Know that they are mine as well.
1. I get to spend time in God’s Word.
2. I am surrounded by great people.
3. My best friends are elders, deacons, ministers, & Christians.
4. My schedule is flexible.
5. A bad day is still a blessed day.
6. My weaknesses do not diminish God’ Word and His power.
7. I am privileged to share God’s Word with others.
8. I get to see people dedicate and rededicate their lives to God.
9. People share their joys and sorrows with me.
10. I have a wife who stands beside me, and although her occupation is stressful, she supports me and helps me.

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RiverWalk’s New Mission Statement

RiverWalk’s New Mission Statement

Well, the New Year has arrived. 2017 has said its final goodbyes and 2018 is now upon us. As we consider the new year together, and all the thoughts of new beginnings that inevitably go with it, I want to draw your mind to a new phase in the ministry of the RiverWalk Church of Christ. For several weeks I have been telling you that on January 7th we would unveil our new mission statement for our congregation. For those of you who follow our website or participate in our Facebook page, I wanted to give you a little sneak peak at what is to come.

Last January we selected new elders to serve as leaders in our congregation. Along with my own joining of the ministry team six months before that, these events set in motion a new phase of ministry for the RiverWalk congregation. For the last year, the elders and myself have been meeting together in order to set a vision for the future of our church. We asked hard questions about where we want to go and what we primarily want to be about. Ministry in the modern world is not easy. I don’t know that it ever has been easy. But there are unique challenges that face us. How are we going to respond and address those challenges?

One option would be to join the popular movement of “consumer Christianity.” This is the type of religion that competes with other churches for the participation of their members, all in an attempt to draw as big a crowd as we possibly can. This is not our vision of the future. While we want to make each worship experience as meaningful as it can be, it is our conviction you cannot manufacture the work of the Holy Spirit. We are not competing as a religious business. We are sent on mission. There is big difference between those things.

A second option would be to leave everything the same as it has been, and simply try to replicate the past. This is also not a good option. Just as one cannot fully anticipate the future, neither can one forever live in the past. The forms and methods that worked in 50’s, 60’s and 70’s will not necessarily be useful in the present moment. Our message does not change–it is eternal–but the methods of how it is presented are open to many different options, as has been shown over the history of the church. So replicating an older time is not the answer for our future.
What then is the way forward for this church that has a hundred-plus year legacy? That is the question we have been wrestling with over the last year. We have developed a mission statement that we hope will be a source of guidance for moving us forward into the future. It is our own take on the ultimate mission statement that Jesus gave the universal Church when he told his disciples to go into all the world, preaching the gospel, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything he had commanded them.

With that in mind, here is the new mission statement for the RiverWalk Church of Christ:

“Loving God…Transforming Lives…Sharing Jesus”

As simple as the statement appears on the surface, there is an inner logic that ties these three phrases together. Beginning this Sunday, I will start to unpack that logic. But as a way of preview let me briefly explain the rationale behind this new mission statement.

First, it is our conviction that true discipleship begins with loving God. It is largely true that we are at the mercy of our ideas, and nowhere is that more important than our idea of God. If we do not think rightly about God, we will not be able to love him. Indeed, much of the unbelief in the world today has to do with the fact that they have been presented a notion of God that is very unlovable. For example, very few can love a God who is always angry and bent on punishing us. While it is true that God is a just and holy God, it is also true that his primary nature is love. This is expressed in his enduring compassion and mercy. On the flip side, it is hard to respect a God who does not take sin seriously, or is merely seen as a “heavenly sweetie” who only shrugs his shoulders at injustice and sin. The appropriate knowledge of God is key to our love and respect for him. At RiverWalk, it is going to be our priority to help people come to understand who God really is, as he is revealed to us in scripture.

Second, it is also our conviction that transformation is central to the life of discipleship. This is an often overlooked element of the Christian life today. God’s love for us and our love for him in return are not meant to leave us as we are…caught in a slavery to sin. Instead we are to be slowly transformed into the full image of God that we were created to fulfill. We recognize, of course, that it is not the church that does the transforming. So when we speak of “transforming lives” we do not intend to say that we will transform anyone. But the church, through its teaching and its practices of spiritual disciplines, can set the stage for transformation to take place. Our task as Christians is to use the means that God has made available to us to put us “in the way of grace.” By doing this, we open ourselves to the transforming presence of God who takes away our old heart of sin and gives us a new heart of love and obedience. We believe this is to be a central focus of our ministry here at RiverWalk. We not only desire to see new converts, but we also want to see to it that those new converts, along with our own members, are participating in the process that leads to transformation. It is our conviction that there are practices both in the community of the church and on an individual basis that we must give ourselves to if we are going to experience God’s transformative presence.

The final aspect of our new mission statement is sharing Jesus. This is where the role of ministry really comes into play. It is our conviction that it is out of the love of God we experience, and the transformation that then takes place in our character, that we are then equipped to serve in the name of Jesus. In our vision, this service takes on two forms. First, there is the service of actually sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers. This sharing comes out of our own experience of how abundant life is found in Christ. We have something worth sharing, and as opportunity makes appropriate, we are happy to share the good news that we have received and experienced in our own life. But having said that, “sharing Jesus” is not simply about evangelism, it is also about sharing Jesus through serving others. Jesus came to be a servant of all, and we believe that God has called us to be servants as well. After all, no student is greater than his teacher. Our transformed life is not solely for our own benefit. It is meant to then be poured out into the lives of others, just as Jesus and his apostles did.

With all of this laid out before us now, is also important to know there is a process that lies behind this new mission statement–a process that the elders of this congregation are asking each member to be involved in, according to their ability. It is also a process we hope to initiate new members into in the future. Each aspect of the mission statement has a corresponding action within the church. When it comes to “loving God,” we are asking members to be at our one weekly worship service on Sunday morning. As a part of participating in “transforming lives” we are asking members to be involved in at least one weekly Bible class or small group, to help us grow both in our knowledge of the things of God, and to share in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Finally, as an element in sharing Jesus, we are asking that each of our members be involved in at least one active ministry of the church. We have lots of opportunities to serve at RiverWalk, and we think it is important that all of our members are sharing Christ in the service to one another and the lost. In the weeks to come, as we explain further each aspect of this mission statement, we will talk further about how this might look in each of our lives.

So this is our new vision for the future of RiverWalk Church of Christ–Loving God, Transforming Lives, and Sharing Jesus. It is our desire over the next few months to work this statement deep into the fabric of this congregation. You will see signs hanging all over our church; you will see it posted in our bulletin; and you will hear it referred to often by the leadership of this congregation. In the future, if anyone asks you what the RiverWalk Church of Christ is about, we want this mission statement to roll off your tongue as natural as your own name.

Do we live up to the reality of this mission already? Of course not…it will take us time to live into what we are putting forward. That is why it is a “vision” and a “mission.” It is what we intend to become in the future. We hope that 2018 will be the first of many good years under this new mission. We also hope that you will be excited to be a part of it. RiverWalk has a great legacy. We are asking God for a great future as well. Will you join us in this new mission?

Curtis Baker

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The Truth

The Truth

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I recently received a pamphlet from a church in Florida. Evidently, the church here is on their mailing list, because we receive this pamphlet regularly. Inside was an article originally written by David Lipscomb. It was published in the “Gospel Advocate” in 1907, so you can get an idea of how old this article is. The title is “A Sectarian and a Truth Seeker.” The truth of the article is as pertinent to today’s society as it was in the early 1900’s, especially with the striking divisions that have recently become part of our political process in America. Below are excerpts from that article.
A sectarian is one who defends everything his party holds or that will help his party, and opposes all that his party does not hold or that will injure the strength and popularity of his party.
The partisan takes it for granted everything his party holds is right, and everything the other party holds is wrong and to be opposed.
Hence the party lines define his faith and teaching. He sees no good in the other party. He sees no wrong in his own party, unless someone in his party should love truth and oppose an error of his party or defend a truth of the other party.
A truth lover and seeker always looks into whatever party he comes in contact with, and will first look to see what truth the party holds. All parties hold some element of truth. Usually each party holds and emphasizes some particular truth in a way of its own.
One seeking truth above all other things will search out first of all this truth and appropriate it as his own. A true lover of truth seeks out and appropriates as his own every truth he finds, no matter who holds or teaches it.
The lover of truth feels kindly toward all and approaches all, whether to gain or impart (truth), in a spirit of kindness and love. The effort to learn and gain truth from others opens their hearts to learn and receive truth from us. He who is most willing to receive truth from others is the most effective teacher of truth to others.

The whole point of the article is to encourage us to seek the truth from whatever source (not just from our sectarian parties), and do so with kindness and love. Additionally, as we have opportunity to impart truth to others, let us also do so in love and kindness toward others.
For the Christian, we have no choice in the matter. We dare not be sectarian in either our politics or our religion. We of all people need to be truth seekers and truth imparters. To be and do any less is an affront to the Truth whom we profess to follow.

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