Monthly Archives: March 2014
Everyone is invited to our Pancake Breakfast Youth Fundraiser this Saturday, April 5th from 7:30-9:30 a.m. We will have sausage and all you can eat pancakes along with milk, juice, and coffee all for $6. Make plans to join us in the Family Life Center this Saturday for breakfast. Thank you for all your support of our youth.
Prayer Focus: Pray for unity in your district, state, and nationally – John 17:21-23
Extreme Living—The Mission: Multiply
“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
—Matthew 16:18 (NRSV)
JESUS TOLD US HIS CHURCH we would be victorious. Sometimes when we read this verse we think of the word church in an institutional way. We think about a building, a program, or even the ministry that is unique to a denomination or particular tradition. Those are byproducts of that which Jesus spoke but are not the original purpose.
The Greek word we translate “church” is ekklesia, which is a compound word and gives us a clue to what Jesus originally intended. The first word, ek, is a preposition that modifies the verb that follows and is translated “out.” The second word is from the root of the verb “to call.” When you put them together, you have “those that are called out.” From that our European Bible translators focused on the people that are called out and chose the word church to translate ekklesia. Perhaps because in their day, the ministry revolved around an elite few working out of an elaborately ornate building also called a church.
I wish they had chosen the words fellowship or community. What was it that would be so powerful in nature that the best of hell could not stop it? It was the community of believers banning together to complete the mission of Jesus!
They were called out from the common way of selfishness and called out to a life that was sent–a life lived on mission. Jesus said, “As the Father sent me so I send you.” This purposeful, missional life will rob hell of its captives and set children of God free to be all that they were created to be. Jesus died for this, and we, the community of those who are called out, get to seal the deal. Hell cannot stop us when we live in a community that is living as he did—rescuing people from darkness and purposelessness.
Thank you, God, that hell cannot stop us when you are leading us and we obey. Amen.
Rev. Gary Kendall, Pastor
Prayer Focus: Pray to thank God for the diversity in your church – Gal. 3:27-28
Extreme Living—Love Isn’t Love Until You Give It Away
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
—Matthew 22:36–40 (NIV)
YOU CAN SAY YOU LOVE, but your actions will tell the true story. Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus boiled the law and the prophets into two commandments, they both talked about love? And the truth about love is that it must have an object. We need others. We are kidding ourselves if we think we can do better on our own. We were designed for relationship to connect with God and man.
I pastor a church in Olathe, Kansas, named the Indian Creek Community Church. We wanted to make it easy for people to understand what it means to be a disciple. We took the Great Commandments and the Great Commission and combined them into a motto that describes the lifestyle of Jesus. We love God, we love people, and we live out. It isn’t linear. Each serves the other, and as one grows they all grow, because they are interconnected.
As a pastor, I find that some in our congregation are more naturally wired to be vertical in their love life. They love God, but they don’t necessarily feel what their Father feels about the rest of the human family. Others prefer to love someone with skin on. They find it easier to relate to people on a horizontal level than be alone with God. Still others love to serve. They could take or leave the worship and messages, but give them a cause that meets a human need in the name of Jesus and they believe it is worship to serve. I’m glad we are not the same, because we are richer and deeper in our diversity. But there is one thing that is obviously non-optional: it is God’s command to connect with him and others through love.
Holy Spirit of God, give me the strength to love God, love people, and live out the love of Jesus so I will grow to be more and more the person you want me to be. Amen.
Rev. Gary Kendall, Pastor
Prayer Focus: Pray for health for each part of the Body of Christ – Romans 12:13-20
Extreme Living—Connect into the Family of God
The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows.
—Psalm 146:9 (NLT)
GOD ORDAINED THE FAMILY as our primary place of connectedness. He operates as a family through the Trinity giving each of them a name that related them to the others: Father, Son and Spirit. We find our place in the family of God by connecting into human families and the church family.
Some of us have a great heritage in our human family and some do not. For most of us, there are times or seasons of connectivity followed by gaps where we feel more alone. For example, a student leaves home to go to the university. Ask any parents about the empty nest, and they can tell you about transitions in the family. When one is wid-owed, they didn’t do anything wrong, but their feeling of connectivity with the family is certainly low. Divorce strains the best of families.
God made a way that we could always be connected in a family, the family of God. We have a Father, a Spirit, and a Brother. We are related through grace to any Christ follower, so we have brothers and sisters around the world. He provided community as a part of his care for his children.
We need the church. When we say we are part of the Church of God, we align our-selves with God’s plan to take care of his family.
There is a pattern here. God wants his children to be connected into families both human and divine. Are you part of a local church? Not only do you need one, but they need you. This is a part of God’s plan.
Lord, presently there are many, millions in fact, who need to know that they have not only something to believe but a place to be-long. Use me to lead your children into rela-tionship within your family. Amen.
Rev. Gary Kendall, Pastor
Prayer Focus: Pray for practical unity in the Body of Christ – 1 Cor. 12:12-13
Extreme Living through Connection
“CONNECT” IS THE THIRD of the five stated strategic values of the Church of God reformation movement. To us, this means “renewing our efforts towards relational connectivity and identity.” The primary outcome of Connect is united effort to love and serve one another within the Church of God as well as across the body of Christ as a whole.
From the beginning of creation, we were designed for deep, meaningful relationships. In Genesis 1:26, God, who himself exists in the mysterious relationship we call the Trinity, as Father, Son and Spirit, declares, “Let us make man in our image” (RSV, emphasis added). After placing the man in the special garden home created for him, God observes that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18 NIV), so God creates a woman to be the man’s unique and special companion (Gen 2:21–22). Hidden among the details of Adam and Eve’s sin, in Genesis 3:8, we find the touching detail that God is in the habit of visiting the man and the woman personally to walk with them in the garden in the cool of the day.
Jesus did not set unity as an impossible ideal to be reached or as an optional suggestion for his followers. He said that relational connectivity would be our primary identifying characteristic: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35 NLT). For the Church of God, unity has always been one of our core values. In our self-proclaimed anthem, “The Church’s Jubilee,” we have joyfully sung these words about ourselves for more than 130 years: “We reach our hands in fellowship to every blood washed one.”
As we, the Church of God, read and meditate on the devotionals that follow, my prayer for us is the same prayer that Jesus prayed over the infant Church on the night before his death. May we “experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me” (John 17:23b NLT). From reading and studying together, I pray that the Church of God will not only regain the kind of relational connectivity that is part of our core identity but that we will also set the pace for future unity within the entire body of Christ.
Rev. Mary Nichols,
Pulpit Supply Preacher and Seminary Student
Prayer Focus: Prayer of thanks for how Christ has united us – Eph. 2:14-18
Extreme Living—Reaching by Embracing the Declaration
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
—Mark 12:28–31 (NIV)
WE ALL NEED A COMPASS to “inform” our day as we move through it, a filter that allows us to navigate and relate to this world we are a part of, a reminder that defines our conversations and our responses to all that is happening to, through and around us.
Here in Mark 12, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4–5 and Leviticus 19:34 and in doing so, boils the entire law and sub-laws of Moses down to this essence: love God and love others—the Jesus Creed.
When it comes to “reaching” the lost, it still boils down to these two things—loving God and loving others. It should be a declaration that we begin and end every day with and a statement of faith that guides each conversation, a creed that lights our response to life in our daily journey.
Jesus, as I begin and end this day, may it be with you. May you, and you alone, translate the things I see to the way you see them. May my actions and conversations be filled with love and grace and may my life be saturated with the love of God and the love of others. Amen.
Rev. Kelly Philips,
Church of God Missionary to Germany
Benefit Fish Fry for Mona Ninemire
Saturday, April 5 ~~ 11a.m. – until fish is gone
First Church of God Family Life Center
Plates are $7 and include fish, hushpuppies, fries, and dessert.
Funds from this event will be used to help offset Mona’s medical and other expenses. Anyone wishing to help by donating food items or volunteering the day of the event, can contact Ricky Allen.
If you’d like to buy tickets or help sell them, you can contact Ricky Allen or the church office.
Prayer Focus: Pray for Holy Spirit power to enable your reach – Acts 1:8
Extreme Living—Reaching by Running with Forgiveness
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
—Luke 15:20b (NIV)
WHILE SERVING IN RUSSIA, we made several trips to St. Petersburg and always made a point to spend some time in the Hermitage Museum. One of my favorite works of art hangs there, “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” This massive work of Rembrandt is 8.5 feet tall and 6.5 feet wide and invites the viewer to step into the actual story. In Rembrandt’s style, the dark colors combine to create a powerful, still, quiet moment when the son falls to his knees and is gently embraced by his father. It was only after several visits to the Middle East that I realized Rembrandt had painted a very European/Dutch interpretation of the parable. The Middle Eastern story would have been busy, loud and emotional. The father would be running to meet his rebellious and disgraced son and would then embrace his filthy, threadbare, broken boy by drawing him up into his arms, all the while repetitively kissing him! The story invokes a holy moment that wets the eyes of even a casual observer, because there’s something moving about a relationship being restored.
I commonly share this story with those who have never heard the good news of Jesus. When Jesus wanted to convey the love of the Father, he told this story, and two thousand years later it still carries the same powerful message. No matter how far you are from God, when he sees you coming home, he comes running.
Father, today may we represent your message of powerful love and extravagant grace (in still, quiet or busy, noisy ways) in the places we find ourselves. Amen.
Rev. Kelly Philips,
Church of God Missionary to Germany
Prayer Focus: Pray God sends you to someone to witness to today – Isaiah 6:8
Extreme Living—Reaching over a Meal
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” … When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
—John 21:12a, 15 (NIV)
IN OUR MINISTRY, WE’VE FOUND that the best ideas, conversations, and decisions mostly occur around a table, during or right after a meal, without following any agenda or lesson plan. It happens when Jesus and those seeking him get together to enjoy food, one another, and, most of all, him.
Peter didn’t exactly ace the program. He was preoccupied with his corporate position in the startup Jesus was leading. He failed anger management class, and when the “Jesus” stock took a controversial turn, he divested himself of any connection with it.
Fortunately for Peter, Jesus was only interested in one thing, a relationship. With the words, “Peter do you love me?” Jesus took a broken relationship and made it whole while sharing a meal with his disciples.
In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (NIV).
Do you want to reach others with the message of Jesus? Begin with a meal. Invite your neighbors or coworkers over for dinner or a fish (and grits) breakfast. Get to know their story and share yours.
Lord, may my table become a place known as a place of great love and healing. May the conversations over a simple coffee or a bountiful spread, be part of your ministry of reconciliation. Amen.
Rev. Kelly Philips, Church of God Missionary to Germany