Into the Depths


The grace of God is deep.

In the face of the darkening pressure of our rebellion, God’s grace shines brighter and deeper still. As far and as fast as we run, God runs even faster and further to get us back. He goes to the ends of the earth, the bottom of the sea, and ultimately to the dark and deep caverns of a deathly tomb. His mercy travels great distances for those he loves.

This is the message of the book of Jonah. Here we find human rebellion in all its horror and stupidity. We see the evil cruelty of Nineveh, a people wicked beyond words. We see the religious professional Jonah, a prophet of the true God who wants nothing more than to get away from the God he claims to worship. And we see God, a God who rules and redeems, who showers mercy on the undeserving – the fugitive prophet and the idol-worshipping pagans. In these two sides of human sinfulness we recognize ourselves. We are Nineveh. We are Jonah. And we need a Savior. We find this Savior in the pages of this small book, where the height of our rebellion violently collides with the awesomeness of God’s love.

And we are left speechless.

Over the next few weeks during our midweek worship service (Wednesdays at 6:30 pm) we are going to travel the world in the pages of the book of Jonah. We want to invite you to join us on this cruise through the series Into the Depths: The Triumphant Message of Jesus in the Tragic Ministry of Jonah. Here’s what’s coming up:

February 29, 2012: Mission: All the World’s a Stage (Jonah 1:1-2)

March 14, 2012: Catch Me If You Can: The Tragedy of a Galilean Fugitive (Jonah 1:1-6)

March 21, 2012: Hurricane: The Storm of the God of the Sea (Jonah 1:7-17)

March 28, 2012: Into the Depths: A Strange and Severe Salvation (Jonah 1:17)

April 18, 2012: Cries in the Dark: A Desperate Prayer From a Fish’s Stomach (Jonah 2)

April 25, 2012: Dawn: Rising Grace in the Heart of Darkness (Jonah 3)

May 2, 2012: A Bitter Anger: The Horror of the Graceless Heart (Jonah 4)

May 15, 2012: The Boundless Deep: The Triumph of a Galilean Rabbi (Matt.12:38-42)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Ferocious God with a Ferocious Message!

Waves of memory have been crashing over me this week, especially today. I just finished writing my sermon for Sunday - Gospel Driven Slaves, and  I’ve been reminiscing about my life, my salvation, and my calling.  I’ve been a Christian for thirteen years.  In many ways it feels as though I became a Christian yesterday, but in other ways it seems as though it was a lifetime ago.  Memory is a reality that we all struggle with.

Do you know what I mean?  Isn’t it easy for us to forget where Christ found us?  We become a new person, with new friends, new passions and desires, new dreams and aspirations.  We literally have new lives and a fresh new start.  The old slate has been wiped clean.  That’s glorious!  Right?  Or  can you even remember? Does that feel like a lifetime ago?  Have you forgotten?

I’ve been reflecting on this as I’ve been studying for and writing my sermon this week.  God has been preaching to me with a ferociousness like never before.  Ferocious is a peculiar word for me to use to describe the way God has been preaching to me because it so often carries the idea of anger, but even though anger had nothing to do with it I feel that it’s the best word to describe the way He has been speaking to me.  He has spoken with such force and passion and love that He has appeared ferocious.  Ferociously in love with me.

The text that I’m preaching on Sunday (Romans 1:4-7) has forced me to reflect on where I was when Christ invaded my life.  Oh my!  I shutter when I think of it.  I have good reasons for wanting to forget about the man I was.  That guy was a wicked, vile, selfish man, whose remembrance brings me shame.  He did nothing worth remembering!  What good can come from remembering him all those years ago?

God has taught me the value of remembering more than once.  When God forces me to think about where I was when he found me the memories always arrive carrying shame and regret. That is why I always chase them away when I see them coming.  Do you do that too?  You see them in the distance coming your way and you feel dirty and nasty before they’ve even made it to you, so you shutter and quickly slam the door not willing to acknowledge them. That’s what I find myself doing every time, except when God forces me to remember, like He did this week.  It has been a glorious week to say the least because God has shown me afresh how ferocious His love for me really is.  The Bible constantly call us to remember where we were when Christ invaded our lives. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says:

 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  11And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

What is Paul trying to get the Corinthians to do?  Is he trying to get them to look down in judgment on those who practice ungodliness.  No!  That’s not it at all!  He is stirring up their hearts to remember where they were when Christ found them.  The Corinthians were turning on one another. They were suing each other.  Paul was outraged! He asked them, “why would you sue your brother in Christ? Why would you not rather suffer wrong or be defrauded.  Don’t you know that the unrighteous are not going to inherit the kingdom of heaven?”  Then he gives this list of examples of unrighteousness as a means of reminding them of who they once were.  This was you, he says.

Why is it important to Paul that they remember?  Why is it important to God that Toby Jenkins remembers that he was a wicked man who hated Him?  Why would he want me to remember, with such haunting detail the time I pointed my finger toward the heavens and cursed Him to his face?  What good could come from me remembering how much I hated Him?  What good can possibly come from such blasphemous memories?

The great good of remembering who you were when he invaded your life is overwhelming.   In remembering my ferocious blasphemy I am forced to face the ever greater truth that he took that blasphemy as His own and bore the guilt, the shame, the infinite wrath of an angry God in my place.  It was His wrath and His judgment that were provoked by my wickedness and He bore His wrath and His judgment on that cross. The memories of these things and the knowledge of what he did for you are a ferocious sermon preached by a ferocious God who has a ferocious love for you.  How could we ever hold anything against anyone?  How could we ever look down on unbelievers who are enslaved to their sin?  How can we be impatient and angry with Christians who struggle with sin? Remembering who we were changes everything because we also remember that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8)!

Christians, don’t forget who you were!  Don’t forget how God, with a mighty love, died in your place, taking your sin upon Himself.  He bore His own ferocious wrath for you.  You wronged Him!  You deserved it!  He did not owe you salvation!  The only thing you deserve is to die in your sins and suffer forever under His holy wrath, but while you were still His enemy, Christ died for you (Romans 5:10).

When the waves of memory crash over me, I find myself swept away by the raging waves of God’s grace! This is indeed is a ferocious God with an even more ferocious love. How could we live our lives not proclaiming such a gospel to a lost and dying world?

Bless His Glorious Name,

Toby Jenkins

Posted in Pastor's Page, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Faithful Fall

Summer is over. It seems like only yesterday that Spring was in full bloom, students were just getting out of school, and we were looking ahead expectantly to all the things that go with Summer. It’s been a great few months. We’ve enjoyed great worship services, picnics, mission trips, and we have continued to see God work in the lives of individuals who make up our church family. We are told to remember the blessings that have come from God. Summer 2011 truly is a season to remember.

 It is a season to remember, but it isn’t a season to look back on longingly. We are moving into the Fall of the year and as we do we are eagerly preparing for all God has in store for us over the coming weeks and months. It will not be long before there will be a crisp change in the air, colors in the trees, and fall decorations in the yards. Those of us at FBC
Henryville are excited as we head into this new season. We hope you are too, and as we move into the month of September and beyond we want to encourage you to make this season one of determined faithfulness. We want to challenge and encourage you to make a renewed commitment in the following areas:

  1. GROW
    We hope that this season you will commit yourself to growing in your
    relationship with Jesus Christ. Spend time with him. Talk with him. Learn more
    about him. Fall more in love with him. We want your affections for Jesus Christ
    to increase. Read the Bible. Pray. Cry out to him. Obey him. Do not settle for
    complacency. (Ephesians 6:10-17)
  2. GIVE
    In times of economic hardships it is easy for us to lock ourselves into a
    mindset where we view our incomes as our greatest treasure. Sometimes we fall
    into the habit of desiring to guard our money from any interference. That is
    especially true as we look toward the end of the year with the upcoming holiday
    seasons. We want to encourage you, however, to make an increased commitment to give sacrificially to the local church. By consistently giving a portion of
    your income each week and month, you partner with others for the support of
    missionaries, help meet the needs of people in our community, and help us meet
    the necessary obligations to keep our church and ministry functioning. Everything belongs to God and he provides for his children. Being assured of that truth, we hope you will give out of the generosity of your hearts for the ongoing work of proclaiming the gospel to Henryville and beyond. (2 Corinthians 9)
  3. GATHER
    Finally, we want to encourage you to make this season a time of increased
    commitment to gather weekly with the local church for worship and Bible study.
    Worship services with other Christians are not extracurricular activities for
    the Christian. They are the foundation for your growth and maturity as a
    believer. They are not optional. They are essential. FBC Henryville regularly
    offers three worship services each week. On Sunday mornings we meet at 11:00 am for our main service. During that time we will be finishing our series entitled Beholding His Glory: Seeing Jesus in the Gospel of John. During Wednesday Worship we will be beginning a series entitled The Galaxy of the Gospel: Jesus and Joy in the Book of Philippians. That service is held every Wednesday at 6:30 pm. Finally, we are especially excited about our Sunday Evening Worship Services (6:15 pm). Beginning on September 11th our children’s ministry will be kicking off the new year of AWANA. Children will have a great time as they learn more about the Bible, while our Adult worship service will continue our casual and focused time of worship. Last year we spent a year exploring a family and marriage series entitled Gospel Centered
    Homes: Following Christ for the Life of Your Family. This year we are excited
    to begin The Dance of Discipleship: Learning the Steps of Growing in Faith. We are going to spend the entire school year tackling the practical nuts and bolts of the Christian life. We hope that you will make plans to gather with us as we worship our great God and Savior each week. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  4. GO
    Ultimately those of us at FBC Henryville do not exist for ourselves. We exist
    for one Person and many peoples. We exist for the glory of the gospel of Jesus
    Christ and the proclamation of that gospel to people who desperately need to
    hear it, here in Henryville and around the world. This Fall we hope that
    the passion of the gospel to the peoples of the world will consume your
    passions. We want to mobilize and motivate you for the cause of missions. This
    season you will have the opportunity to be involved in service projects,
    evangelism, Operation Christmas Child, Thanksgiving Food Pantry Ministry, and
    our upcoming Honduras 2012 mission trip. We do not exist to serve ourselves but
    exist to spread the gospel to others. Will you make that priority your passion? (Matthew 28:16-20)

We love Fall – Cooler weather, beautiful colors, football games, bon-fires, apple cider, and upcoming holidays. We hope the most important adjective that describes this season for you, however, is faithful. We hope that you are faithful to Jesus Christ and to his church. Then and only then will this Fall be all that it was meant to be.

In the service of the gospel,

Toby, Cade, and Michael

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One Year

A year ago this week (on July 20, 2010) Amy and I moved into our apartment in Henryville. We left our family and our jobs in Mississippi and settled in Indiana. We could hardly have imagined then the great blessing and gift of grace that God had given us in placing us in Henryville. This last year has been an extraordinary witness of God’s provision and it has come largely through the love and friendships we have found in the town, the community, and the church that has adopted us.

As we look back on this last year our minds spin with the changes that these twelve short months have brought. We have joined a team of ministry at a great local church. We have been blessed by being allowed to serve and participate in worship and discipleship with an amazing group of believers. I have completed a year of graduate school. Amy has left her comfort zone of the classroom and begun working two different jobs. Amy’s grandfather died in November and my grandmother died in April. We survived our first Indiana winter! We have experienced the full range of emotions from worry and grief to confidence, comfort, and celebration. This year has been remarkable and will be one that will stay sweet (even with the pangs of sadness) for the rest of our lives.

We want to express to you our church family how much we appreciate your love, support, encouragement, patience, and friendships. Each of you have blessed our lives by entering our lives during this last year. Words cannot fully express the affection and love that have connected our hearts to yours, to FBC Henryville, and to this wonderful place that we have been privileged to call home. As we think and remember God’s work in bringing us here we are forced like Paul to exclaim: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3-5).

Like Paul we are joyously thankful for such amazing gospel partners, and like Paul that leads us to a firm confidence as we face the future together (Phil. 1:6). We are excited to live here. We are excited to serve here. We are excited to look into the future with you here. And so as Amy and I have just marked a year in Henryville we begin to move into a second year. If there is grace in Christ (and there is), and if his providence and purposes are greater than we can ever imagine (and they are), then this next year will be a very good year indeed.

Thanking God for you all with love,

Cade and Amy

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Open Invitation

Vacation Bible School is always an incredible week in the life of a church for both children and adults.  Last year we saw God save one of the adults who had been helping. At the time he was actively investigating the gospel and wanted to be around Christians. So we set him up with a group to help the teachers and assistants who were leading the children in VBS  and before the week had ended Chris Cain had given his life to Jesus Christ.  It was incredible to see how God spoke through the lessons intended for children and brought Chris to the end of himself.  It was a marvelous week!

This last week has been great too and it all began during our Sunday kick-off services on July 10th! We had the church decorated like New York City for our theme The Big Apple Adventure so that children and parents would be excited and energized about participating in VBS.  Our stage area had buildings made of cardboard stretched from floor to ceiling.  I dressed like a NYC drug enforcement officer and our worship leader dressed like a sheriff’s deputy.  The pulpit was moved out and in its place we created a miniature Central Park, made up of several trees and flowers alongside a portable hotdog stand like those found on the streets of New York.

Needless to say, there were plenty of things that were different about our Sunday services and lots of things that could have distracted those who were there.  The morning service went great and all the children seemed to be really excited about the coming week.  For Sunday night we were back in our series in Acts (Action Figures) and we were looking at the story of the conversion of Paul, showing the amazing power of God to save sinners.  I closed that sermon by calling people to pray for God to save individuals during VBS.  I even reminded everyone about how God had saved Chris (who was sitting in the back of the church smiling as he helped run the sound and powerpoint).   I reminded everyone that we serve a God who is in the business of saving people and changing lives and because of that we needed to be praying for God to do that this week.  I closed with the story of Charles Haddon Spurgeon who once had someone ask him why he thought his preaching was so successful.  He answered the question by saying, “every time I preach there are over five hundred people in the boiler room below our sanctuary - praying for God to save people.”  The secret to powerful preaching is the power of God working through the lives and prayers of his people.

With that said, God’s power was put on display for all of us to see. What happened was one of the most incredible things God has allowed me to witness – the undeniable work of God’s grace in the life of my friend Glenn Kelly.  Normally during our Sunday evening service we don’t have a formal time of invitation and response. We do in the morning service, but in the evenings we usually let people know that if they would like to talk to a pastor then we will be available following the service.  That’s what I was planning but God had something else in mind. I was about to pray and dismiss our service when God gloriously interrupted.

Let me give you a little background on Glenn before I finish the story.  Glenn is a big, tough guy who along with his family has been coming to our church for about a year, usually being present for every service. He had been investigating the gospel for all of this last year, often spending time in my office asking questions.  In one of those meetings he was telling me that he was talking to his wife about all the things that he does that God wouldn’t approve of, and that he knew if he became a believer those things would have to change.  He was counting the cost to be one of Jesus’ disciples. He understood that Jesus wants everything.  Throughout the last year Glenn and his family kept coming, and those of us who are his friends kept praying for him. In many ways it seemed like a long year and I must honestly say that I was confused about what God was doing in Glenn’s life.

Then came Sunday night. I asked the church to pray as we dismissed and as I did Glenn stood up with a hand raised and quickly sat back down, lowering his hand.  Before Glenn had settled back in the pew I asked, “what do you need, man?”  Before my words had time to reach his ears, he was out in the center aisle and walking toward me.  

Now remember, Glenn is a tough guy. He can be a little intimidating, and here he was marching down the aisle toward me with a serious look on his face.  I’m ashamed to say it, but my first thought was, “I hope he’s not mad at me!” That thought quickly disappeared as he began to cry, tears rolling down his cheeks and with each step he was crying harder and harder.  About half way down the aisle he said, loud enough for everyone in the church to hear him, “I’m sorry but this can’t wait any longer.”   I was standing there waiting for what seemed like forever, but when he got to me he bent over and hugged me, weeping like a baby.  He looked into my eyes, and I asked, “Glenn what is it that can’t wait?”  He replied, “I’m ready to give my life to Christ! I’m sorry for interrupting but I can’t put it off any longer.”  The congregation heard every word through my microphone and they burst into applause and tears.

This is the powerful, amazing, matchless grace of our great God and Redeemer.  No obstacle is greater than the great barrier-removing power of the Spirit of God! The apostle Paul was marching toward the city of Damascus seeking the lives of Christians when he was brought to his knees before a holy God.  Glenn was sitting in the back of a sanctuary decorated like New York and listening to a preacher dressed like a cop, who was challenging Christians to pray for God to save people and expecting Him to do it, and all the while we were still surprised when Glenn walked the aisle!  It’s so awesome to know that the success of the gospel doesn’t rest in us.  It is not in my power or anyone else’s power to save, but only in the powerful message of Jesus Christ. If you have never encountered that grace, never been moved by that power, or believed that amazing message, then I hope that you will come running. At any time and at any place, even when we least expect it, you have an open invitation.

In Christ,

Toby

 

Posted in Pastor's Page, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Summer “Picnics in the Park”

This summer at FBC Henryville we are planning to enjoy Picnics in the Park (PNP) on June 12th and August 7th. In July, our PNP will be a VBS Celebration at the church. In June and August, however, we will be enjoying an afternoon at the Clark County Forestry just north of Henryville. After our morning worship service (11:00 am) we will dismiss and meet back at the park between 12:30 and 1:00. The next few hours will be spent with fun, food, music, games, laughter, and lots of fellowship. Additionally, the church picnic will take the place of our Sunday evening worship service. When the picnic is over we want to encourage everyone to spend the rest of the day with their families and friends.

We hope that you’ll make plans to be at the Picnics in the Park. Bring some food, some drinks, some games, some lawn chairs, and your friends and neighbors and plan to have a great time!

And one other thing…these special events that we plan aren’t simply fun activities. They are important! Just today I read an article by Pastor John Piper entitlled “Toward a Theology of Church Picnics.” I hope you’ll read it as you begin preparing for all the many things FBC Henryville has planned for the summer!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Moveable Feast

      Just this last week I had a conversation with a friend about Ernest Hemingway’s great memoir A Moveable Feast. The conversation started me thinking about the book that I’d not picked up in years and over the last few days it has simmered into my own reflections about the life of the Christian and the ministry of the church. If you haven’t read the memoir, Hemingway’s book recounts the years (during the 1920’s) that he lived in Paris alongside many other well known American expatriate authors. The title was supposedly stirred from a conversation in which Hemingway, reflecting on those formative years in Paris, remarked that “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” The years that he spent in Paris stuck with him and the impact that it continued to have in his life was akin to packing up Paris in a “to-go-box” and taking it with him throughout his life.

     For the Christian, the feast that we are to savor is the Word of God – the Bible. There is no nourishment for the Christian’s life apart from the daily and weekly diet of Scripture. Christ, as he was engaged in the great temptations in the wilderness quoted Scripture in response to Satan: “Man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Just as we cannot expect to physically live apart from eating physical food, the Christian cannot live apart from the life giving strength of the Bible.

     Sadly churches are far too often filled with emaciated and malnourished Christians who live through each week believing that their meager and shallow lives are the norm, when in fact their lives are meant to be far more vibrant if they would only take, taste, and see the delights of Christ’s feast found in the texts of Scripture. Far too many Christians, and far too many churches, weakly survive because of their spiritual starvation while the abundant delights and delicacies that nourish the soul lie unopened on their bedside tables.

     What about you? Are you enjoying the feast that God has placed into your hands? Do you feel a bit sluggish in your walk with Christ? Are you savoring the supper that Christ has provided, or are you allowing yourself to waste away while a feast is calling your name? If so, I want to encourage you to take and eat:

     First, recognize the great wonder of the feast that we are allowed to savor. So many Christians throughout the centuries (and even in many places around the world today) have not had the access to the Bible like we do. No generation in history has had more copies of the Bible in their language, more versions of the Bible in their language, and more technological helps for reading and understanding the Bible (Bibles on iphones, free online concordances, commentaries, devotional helps, word studies, maps) than Americans living at the beginning of the twenty first century. How will God judge us if we ignore this great gift? To whom much is given, much is required. 

     Imagine two neighbors living next door to one another. In one house the family has an abundance of food, snacks, and beverages in their pantry and refrigerator. They have so much excess that on a daily basis their dumpsters are filled with the food that they are wasting, and yet on a daily basis they refuse to eat what they have, choosing instead to stubbornly starve themselves while they lay in the very lap of luxurious plenty. In the other home, a family scrapes to survive – eating meager crackers and stale bread and drinking tap water because it is all they can afford. Each night the children in this second home are put to bed with rumbling stomachs and dreams of a good meal. Such a disparity should outrage us! Yet every day Christians in churches just like ours never touch their Bibles, while our neighbors around the world would give anything for just one copy of the Bible to have as their own. We are far too comfortable with the abundance that we have, and woe to us if we carelessly reject it.

     Second, read the Bible daily! Make the reading and study of God’s Word as normal for your daily life as drinking coffee and having physical food. Place notes on your refrigerator or in your car that jog your memory into thinking of the Bible as being just as crucial to your life as eating. Make reading your Bible each day a priority.

     Third, savor the feast! Don’t simply gorge yourself hurriedly. Read through the passages slowly. Stop and pause. Meditate. Pray. Memorize. Write down your thoughts. Tis far better to slowly savor the Bible daily than to gulp down large portions of the Bible sporadically.

     Fourth, feast with your fellow Christians. The primary way that we are fed the Bible together is through the church’s weekly worship services and preaching ministry. Reading and studying the Bible alone is crucial. Yet it is absolutely essential for us to join the feast with other brothers and sisters in Christ through weekly worship services. Additionally, it is critical for you to make participation in every worship service a priority. Worship services are like family meals. Sunday morning worship services are like breakfast (the most important meal of the day!), Sunday evenings are like dinner, and Wednesday evenings are like lunch. It is good to come to one service a week. That’s certainly better than nothing! Yet if you only come to one worship gathering (like Sunday morning), then it is like you living your life while only eating breakfast every day, every week, every month, and every year. You need multiple meals! Your body needs to eat more than once a day! Sure, cereal, eggs, toast, and juice are great, but your body craves salad, chicken, vegetables, steak, and dessert! Your spiritual diet needs to be fed by more than one meal per week. So for a well balanced diet, come to the table with other Christians every time the dinner bell is rung!

     Finally, let what you hear and read daily and weekly strengthen and nourish you throughout the week. The Word of God is to be the Christian’s moveable feast. Like Paris for Hemingway, the strength we gain from our feasting on Scripture gives us the nourishment and life we need throughout our life. We eat our meals because we know that we will need our physical energy later in the day. We continue to eat food because we know that for every day that we live we will need physical energy. We read the Bible daily because we know that we’re going to endure hours, encounters, conversations, trials, and temptations that will make spiritual strength necessary. We feast with other Christians at worship services, hearing the Word of God proclaimed, because we know that in the next week we will face spiritual hunger, weakness, and trials that will make these meals necessary. We have a moveable feast greater than a city in France. We have the moveable feast of God’s Word, and if we neglect it we do so at our own peril.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

He is Risen!

Indeed He is Risen!!!  There was a time when this was how people greeted each other on Easter.  The first person to speak would say, “He is risen!”  Then the other person would respond with, “indeed He is risen!”  Now we greet each other with, Happy Easter!  Does anyone know what that means?  What is an Easter?  Is it a type of rabbit, or chicken?

Actually the word Easter has its origins in the passover.  The Hebrew word is Pesach (פֶּסַח) meaning the festival of passover.  The Greek translation of Pesach (פֶּסַח) is Πάσχα and another Greek word used is Ανασταση which means upstanding, up-rising, resurrection.  Now let me ask you a serious question.  Aren’t you thrilled to find out that Easter is not the name of a cancerous tumor that grows on a chicken’s ovary.  I say that in jest, to bring to light the reality that most people don’t know where the word Easter came from or what it means.

For many people Easter is just another holiday they get to celebrate by eating big meals and watching the kids find eggs in the yard.  I will admit I love eating those great big Easter dinners.  I can remember how fun it was to point Tyler and Dustin in the direction of eggs I could see.  However Easter is about infinitely more than rabbits, eggs, and Easter baskets. So when you greet people with the words, “Happy Easter” it could bring to their minds anything from eggs, to dinners they had with their family.  However, if we greeted one another with the salutation of old, “He is risen”.  What do you think people would think about then?

That is what Easter is all about.  think about what it must have been like for the disciples of Christ on the third day.  There hearts were crushed when they saw their master die.  Some of them watched, others heard about how humiliating His death was.  They were convinced that He was the one.  So much so that they were arguing a few days earlier about who was going to sit at His right hand and His left hand in His kingdom.  This is why Peter pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the High Priest.  For them, it was all about throwing off Rome and setting up that earthly kingdom.  Jesus was the man who was born, according to the flesh, a son of David.  He was the man who could unify the Israelites and lead them into battle.

But now, He is hanging there.  His form so marred by the beating that He is hardly recognizable as a man.  His nakedness exposed for all the world to see.  His face covered with blood and spit.  The crowd cries, “He could save others, lets see Him save Himself.  Better yet, let God save Him, seeing how He claimed to be the Son of God.”  Can you hear them laughing as they taunted.  I wonder, Can you find yourself in that crowd?  Hey, you who said if we destroy the temple you could rebuild it in three days.  How you going to rebuild it when you are fastened to a cross?  Then He died.

Think about how defeated all of the followers of Christ were.  It was over.  Their hope was dead.  The one they loved was gone.  I mean they left their homes and jobs to follow Him.  They really believed there was something different about this guy.  He had command over the winds and the waves, but now He is dead.  Three days they have been in despair.  Trying to wrap their minds around what just happened.  They are probably thinking, “why didn’t He let us fight?  Why didn’t He even try to defend Himself in the courts?  Why didn’t He come down from the cross?  Why?  Why?  Why?

On the third day the ladies decided that they will go to the tomb to pay there respects one more time before going on with their lives.  To their amazement He is Risen.  The ladies run back to the disciples and become the first ones to greet with that magnificent sentence.  I can imagine her breathing hard.  Gasping for air and trying to get the words out.  They can see that something has happened.  She left this morning crying and defeated.  Now she is consumed with excitement.  Can you see her?  Can you hear the words as she cries them?  HE IS RISEN!  I can hear the disciples asking, Mary what are you talking about?  THE LORD!  I HAVE SEEN THE LORD!  HE IS  RISEN!  Writing these words makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.  I can imagine that is exactly what happened to the disciples.  Peter and John took off running.

This changes everything.  I could imagine John saying that to himself as He outruns Peter to the grave.  And change everything, it did.  For the next forty days Jesus revealed Himself to His followers.  Once they saw Him it completely changed their lives.  Can you see them as they are walking through the streets of Jerusalem.  Or better yet can you hear them as they see their friends along the way.  What words do you hear them crying out as they begin running to the friend they saw in the distant.  HE IS RISEN!  Waving their hands in the air.  HEY!  HEY!  HE IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN!

Should we be any less excited about sharing that news than the disciples?  Is it weird for us to great people with those words?  He is Risen!  I don’t think so.  That’s what Easter is about.  In fact that’s what every Sunday is about.  We come together and remind ourselves and each other that He is Risen.  We proclaim to the lost every Sunday that Jesus Christ died a ransom for His people.  That they placed Him in a tomb, and three days later He arose.

I hope this Sunday, and everyday for that matter, that the thought that fills your heart and mind is that He is risen.  I pray that the salutation that flows from your heart and out your mouth is, HE IS RISEN!  I pray the hair stands up on the back of your necks when you hear it spoken back to you.  INDEED, HE IS RISEN!

Because He Lives,

Toby

Posted in Pastor's Page | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Taste and See: What is Tithing?

Taste and See: Tithing, Trusting, and Treasuring Christ

Week 1: What is Tithing?

Malachi 3:10

            Throughout the month of April we want to call our church to  a commitment to pray, study, and worship through our being obedient to God by tithing. April is the month of taxes and while we’re all thinking about fulfilling our obligation to our government we want to call ourselves to dwell seriously on our obedience to our God.

            Over the next few weeks we want to explain what tithing is, why it is important, and how it glorifies God in the local church. We want to especially show how trusting Christ in our finances is not meant to be a burden but a liberating delight in the goodness of God. God is not the government and the call to tithe is not meant to be a dreaded strain like tax season. Tithing to God, trusting God financially, is all about abundant liberty and joy.

            So what is it? Simply put tithing is the commitment made by followers of Jesus Christ to trust God with their incomes through giving a portion of those incomes back to God through the local church. Essentially tithing can be understood in six ways:

  1. Tithing is willingly giving a portion of your income to support the ministry of the local church and the proclamation of the gospel. Normally that is an encouraged portion of ten percent. A good motto might be “if you have a dollar, give a dime.”
  2. Tithing is obedience to God. God demands both that we hold nothing back from him and that we support the ministry of the local church. Members of the church are not merely the recipients of ministry but are participants in ministry. To not tithe is to disobey God. (Malachi 3:8)
  3. Tithing is a visible and tangible way we participate in the ministry of the local church. Through our tithes we all unite together to support preaching, evangelism, missions, and ministry.  (2nd Corinthians 8-9)
  4. Tithing is a declaration that God owns everything and that every good gift we enjoy comes from him and him alone. Sometimes we don’t like the idea of tithing because we believe our incomes are really ours. Tithing forces us to remember that nothing we enjoy is truly owed to us. We deserve nothing. Everything we have is a gift from God –  even our paychecks. (Psalm 24:1)
  5. Tithing is a physical display of trust in God to provide everything we need. Money, incomes, taxes, bills, and basic needs all have a tendency to lead to anxiety and fear. God calls us, however, to confident trust in his provision. God promises to take care of us. Tithing expresses our confidence that his words are true. (1st Timothy 6:17-19)
  6. Finally, tithing is the freeing invitation to find our greatest delight in God. There is a reason why Paul called the love of money the “root of all evil” (1st Timothy 6:2-10). Money, and our need of it, has an almost unimaginable tendency to make us want it more and more. Additionally, we are always tempted to use money as a means of achieving greater happiness in things which ultimately can never satisfy. Tithing, giving a portion of our incomes back to God through the local church, is a discipline which displays our great joy and satisfaction in God alone. It is a testimony that he and he alone is our treasure. He and he alone is the object of our great love. He and he alone is worth more to us than any material object we could purchase, and he has given himself to us freely by his grace. When we tithe we do not buy his joyous presence. We simply declare outwardly that his joyous presence has been given to us and we are finding everything we need in him and him alone. (Psalm 37:4; Matthew 6:19-21)

 

Next Week: What Tithing Isn’t

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Beauty of Death in the Face of Christ

Why is it that we don’t look forward to death?  Is it because we are afraid?  We look at the Apostle Paul like he is nuts when he says, to live is Christ and to die is gain?  Christians should wait for death like I waited for the Poison Ivy shot the doctor would give me when I was a kid.   I can remember how afraid I was going to the doctor knowing he was gonna give me a shot.  I don’t think they knew about pills yet.  If you had a stomach ache they would give you Pepto through a syringe.

Anyway, I remember going back to that room, agonizing because I knew he was going to give me a shot.  The nurse came in the room, and she could read me like a book, so she reached down and pulled open that bottom drawer.  I could hear the hallelujah chorus fire up in the background.  My doctor had a drawer full of little toys in the room where he gave the shots.

The nurse would come in and pull open the drawer and tell me that I could look and decide which one I wanted, but I couldn’t have the toy until I was a big boy for the doctor and let him give me a shot without me giving him a fuss.  Dr. Bolton was a very smart man.  I dug around in the drawer of toys until the doctor came in and said, “young man did you find something you like?”.  Yes sir, I replied.  He said, “Well pull your pants down and lets get this over with and you can have your toy, and if you are real good, I may let you have two”.  I jerked my pants down so fast it would’ve made your head spin.  My eyes pinned to that open drawer of toys by the door.  I wanted him to give me that shot.  I would have even been mad if he decided not to give me  a shot.  I was excited with joy about getting a shot!

What happened to me?  Why did my attitude about the shot change?  Was it because the needle wasn’t going to sting?  Was it because the medicine wasn’t going to burn like fire as it moved through my hip?  Was it because I wasn’t embarrassed to pull my pants down in front of that nurse and doctor?  No! No!! and NO!!!  It was going to sting, it was going to burn like fire, and I didn’t even want my mother to see me with my pants down.   I endured the stinging and burning.  I despised the embarrassment of pulling my pants down for the joy that set before me in that open drawer.  My attitude changed about the shot because my eyes were fixed on the prize in that drawer.

Paul wasn’t nuts.  He just had his eyes so fixed on the prize that he saw dying as gain.  Philippians 3:14- I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Do you see?  The prize that Paul’s eyes were so fixed on was Christ Jesus, and so beautiful was Christ to him that he counted all things but rubbish, or KJV (dung) so that he might be found in Christ.  Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 3:7-9-But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  8Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

Do you see?  This is not the rantings of a deranged mad man.  These are the words of a man who opened the drawer and saw the prize, and it was so beautiful that he was willing to loose everything that he might gain it.  He was like the man who found the pearl of great value in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:45-46.  When he found the pearl he sold everything in order to buy it.  Paul’s eyes were so fixed upon Christ that when he looked at all of the hardship he went through like: being beaten, shipwrecked, and homeless.  He replied, the sufferings of this world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us through Christ Jesus.

So Christian, I can tell you why you are afraid to die.  I can tell you why you sing in agreement with Kenny Chesney, “everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go right now.”  It is because you have not opened up the drawer to behold that most beautiful prize.  The drawer, of course, is the Word of God, and the prize is not some 50 cent plastic toy.  It is Christ!!  Open up His Word and look at Him, and I promise the longer you look, the more beautiful death becomes.  It won’t take long before you see death as gain, and you will look at Christians who are afraid of dying and think why won’t they just open the book and look at the prize.  If they would do that they would see Him, and they would know that death is only the sable coated butler that leads to Him.  To the One who has holes in His hands and feet.  Death is that beautiful limousine that drives us to the home of the One who loves us more than we love ourselves.  WOW!!!  I can’t wait.  I get excited just thinking about it.  Don’t you?

Now, if you don’t know Christ then you have great reason to be afraid, but it’s not dying that you need to be afraid of, it’s the wrath of God that will be poured out on the unrighteousness of men, Romans 1:18.  However, I have good news.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.  Those of you who are Christians, join in with creation and groan for the day when Christ will come and make all things new.  Let us cry Revelation 22:20- even so now come Lord Jesus!

In Christ,

Toby

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment