It’s the Little Things That Count the Most

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By Martin Schlomer and Donna McKenzie

Honestly, I like to see big things happen. Big accomplishments and big progress are home runs that get me excited. However, it’s the little accomplishments, the little wins that make up the real stuff of life. They’re not always very exciting, but they need to be celebrated

Last week, Donna McKenzie reminded me of the critical importance of celebrating the little things, those little victories, which are often overlooked and under-appreciated. As you read what she wrote, make note of those little things you can thank God for. They are bigger gifts than we may realize.

Also, as you read, continue to pray for Jeff, Donna, and Ryan. They’re special people and a gift to this body!

Martin

A Wave of Grief and a Moment of Joy.

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what Ryan can and can’t do. In fact, I try very hard not to think about it. Once in a while, though, it sneaks up out of the blue and hits me. It takes me by surprise, then grief overcomes me. Last night was one of those times. I was sitting on the couch, minding my own business, when my neighbors’ son pulled up into their driveway. I looked out the window and saw that he had a few friends with him. They piled out and started chasing each other around. He looked so tall, so strong, and it hit me, reality. He is the same age as Ryan. Their birthdays are only a few days apart. They are both seventeen, soon to be seniors in high school. I sat and watched him for a few minutes, and then sorrow filled my heart. That is what my son should be doing! That is what he would be doing if it wasn’t for the Duchennes. Reality.

aircondionerIt is times like those that bring to light the reality of what Ryan has lost. At this point, the list for what he cannot do has far exceeded what he can do. It is getting harder and harder for him to have any sense of independence. Today I was watching Ryan as he drove his chair into his room. He reached down to the standalone air conditioner, turned it on, then a few minutes later he went back and turned the temperature down. I got to thinking, he does this quite frequently throughout the day. I wanted to cry as I thought about it; watching him do this simple task seemed to bring him so much joy. An air conditioner? YES! Why? Well, Ryan can control it. He can turn it on and off; he doesn’t have to wait or ask for help, this is one thing he can do, independently! It may seem like a little thing; it isn’t driving a car like my neighbors’ son, but it IS something Ryan CAN do and I WILL take it, as small as it might seem, and celebrate it!

Sometimes it is a little thing that can bring a wave of grief, and sometimes it can bring about a moment of joy. For today, I am choosing to see the joy in a little thing. To most, it probably seems minute, but to us, we will celebrate it as a small victory of independence for Ryan!

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Where’s the Speaker?

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By Brian Sharpe

I am the son of a pastor. My dad had a church of 50 to 100 people until I was 16. I remember one Sunday morning when I was younger, when on the way to church my parents told me that they were having the speaker over for lunch after church. I remember thinking that was odd. When we arrived at church I went directly to the sound speakers that were set up in the sanctuary and I started trying to open them. I thought to myself, “There is no way a person can fit in this speaker. How does this all work?” Well, I went to Sunday school and then to church. I saw who was speaking. It wasn’t my dad, it was someone else. Then when I got home and sat at the dinner table the guy who was speaking was sitting at my table.

That is when it hit me. The speaker my parents were talking about wasn’t the sound speaker, but the preacher who was bringing the message.

I was thinking about that story a couple weeks ago when Martin and I were talking about the lost art of hospitality. My parents seemed to always have people over for meals. I also had a friend named Chad, and I would go over to his house all the time. I would not call and texting didn’t exist, so they had no clue I was coming, but I was always there. He would do the same with me. We knew everything about each other. We knew the good and the bad because we were with each other all the time. His parents were hospitable to me.

Hospitality is defined as the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. When I think of hospitality in our culture, it takes an intentional decision to have people over. It is not part of who we are as a culture anymore. The quick drop-in is seen as rude by some people. The last-minute call to come over is met with, “I am just too tired,” or, “I have other things planned.” The intentional set-a-date-and-time is met with full calendars and months between visits. We need to change our schedules to leave room for others. I would suggest that we need to make room for others and be the first to invite others over for dinner, coffee, games, or just a time to sit and chat on the deck.

Loneliness is all over our culture. It is all over our church. Loneliness is tied to health failure, whereas companionship leads to longer lives. We were created by God for others. Who are those others outside of your family that you are meeting with outside of a church program? This last week I was tired and my sleep schedule was all out of whack because of the day of prayer and some meetings the next day. I was tired and not really wanting to do anything in the evening because I wanted to go to bed, but we had scheduled a time with some friends. I didn’t want to reschedule because we had not gotten time as a couple with each other in a long time. So I pushed through — and it was awesome! It was so life giving. We had a great time. I needed that time. We all need time.

Who are you making time for in your home? Who are you getting nachos with late at night just to talk life? Who are you having over to play games? Who is as lonely as you and is just waiting for some time with someone else? We need to rediscover the lost are of hospitality … which, in all reality, is the lost art of being friends and being friendly.

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Special Update from the EFCA President: Supreme Court Decision

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Kevin Kompelien, the president of the Evangelical Free Church of America, sent a letter to all EFCA churches following the Supreme Court’s recent decision. In his wise and thoughtful letter, he put the decision in the context of these times and reiterated the unchanging truth of God’s Word. This decision is a challenge and an opportunity for the church to respond in truth and love. Kevin also included several links to some great resources.  We’re sharing his letter with you below, so please take a minute to read this important message from our church’s leadership. Thank you, Dan Amos

Dear EFCA Family,

Today the United States Supreme Court by a 5 to 4 ruling in Obergefell vs Hodges made same sex marriage legal in all 50 states. Although for many of us this ruling was not a surprise it was none the less a significant disappointment as it stands against the clear Biblical definition of marriage and the cultural practices of societies down through the centuries.

The Word of God is clear in both Genesis 1:26-27 and Matthew 19:4-6 that marriage was established by God and is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman. The EFCA Spiritual Heritage Committee, in a document entitled “A Church Statement on Human Sexuality,” gives the following suggested definition of marriage:

Marriage is the original and foundational institution of human society, established by God as a one-flesh, covenantal union between a man and a woman that is life-long (until separated by death), exclusive (monogamous and faithful), and generative in nature (designed for bearing and rearing children), and it is to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church.

(The entire document from the Spiritual Heritage Committee is available and is a significant resource for churches in thinking through these issues from a clearly Biblical perspective. In addition, the National Association of Evangelicals released a statement available and Greg Strand has posted on his blog.)

The reality of the situation for us as the people of God is that today’s Supreme Court decision did not take God by surprise nor does it in any way change the Biblical definition of marriage. Rather it is a call for us to clearly embrace our Lord’s definition of marriage and to respond to this recent development with grace and truth like He would (John 1:14). It will be important that our responses reflect the character and heart of Jesus to the world around us.

We have moved into a time when our perspective on marriage is no longer supported by the law of our nation and is quickly being abandoned by a growing number of Americans. However, this is not a time to wring our hands in despair or to respond in anger. Responses of fear or anger will not honor the Lord nor will they demonstrate the redemptive power of the gospel. Rather this is an opportunity for us to be the church and to live out what we say we believe.

Now is the time for us to commit to pray for the leaders of our nation as Paul wrote in Romans 13:1-7, to be gracious to those who don’t share our views and love them as people created in the image of God, and to engage the world around us on this issue in ways that speak truth and point people to the redeeming gospel of Jesus.

As these events unfold in our nation we must ever more clearly stand on the truth of God’s Word regarding marriage, demonstrate to the world around us the beauty of loving Christian marriages, and commit ourselves to teach and model Biblical marriage to our children and grandchildren who are growing up in a rapidly changing culture.

None of us knows exactly what challenges the future holds for the church and for us as followers of Jesus. What we do know is that the Lord of the church is in charge and He has a plan that He will work to completion to His ultimate glory. It will be important for all of us to be prayerful and wise as we lead the church and our families in the days to come.

Know that Becky and I are praying for you these days as you interact with those in your lives who may not agree with the Biblical perspective on marriage and as you lead your churches to respond to this development with truth and love. May the Lord Jesus be glorified in our lives as we walk this road together.

Kevin Kompelien
President, EFCA

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Supreme Court?

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By Jeff Foerster

The Supreme Court is the highest court in all the United Sates. Composed of nine justices, its rulings supersede those of any county, state, or federal court. Its decisions stand as final and serve as guidance for actualizing theory and implementing written law. Recognizing America’s status as the most powerful nation on the world’s stage, greater authority is exercised nowhere else. It has the last word, right?

A few days ago the Supreme Court of these United States declared biological gender irrelevant in regard to establishing marriage. This stands in stark contrast to the declared Word of God. “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Mark 10:6-9)

So, what to think? I could take you on a ride through the land of reason and logic, down paths of historical textual reliability and walk with you beside streams of archeological evidence to make a case for Marriage as the Bible describes, but that is not our journey today. I will instead trust that you have come to a like-minded conclusion that God has authority to speak timeless truth and has done so in a way which we can plainly understand.

Through grace, we have been given the window of Marriage through which to peer at a mystery too great to contain with mere words of man. Our lives are intertwined in relationship, not simply by necessity, not only for practical purposes, but because God Himself is a Being existing in relationship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we, we are like Him. When God richly dwells in us, we reflect to others the love that He has so generously and sacrificially poured out upon us through Jesus Christ. At the pinnacle of all human relationships is Marriage.

When a man and a woman come together as one, independence is laid aside for a commitment to pursue sacrificial service for the good of their mate and the glory of God. When a man and woman come together they declare the goodness and provision of their Maker. When a man and a woman are joined together by God (Mark 10:9; Matthew 19:6) they begin to picture the relationship between Christ and His Church. This is a profound mystery indeed, but one that we are commanded to live out before a watching world.

So, what to do? The Bible and Supreme Court are at odds with one another. Are we to obey man rather than God (Acts 4:19)? May it never be! This may prompt you to take a stand for righteousness, and I urge you to do just that. Here’s what I suggest: Repent, Love One Another, Rejoice, Rinse, and Repeat. It requires no letter writing or stamps, no boycotts or fundraising. It is very simple and extremely difficult. “Love one another as I have loved you,” Jesus declares (John 13:35). By these actions you will be known and Christ will be exalted (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15).

To everyone I say:

Repent. Turn away from sins sexual and otherwise, not being stained by culture and its priorities. Live lives of purity and seek reconciliation and restoration of relationship where it has been damaged. Don’t be quick to attack, using Scripture or sharp tongues. Speak truth from a foundation of love, the same love that led Jesus to the cross, saving helpless, deluded sinners like us.

To the married:

Recognize God as of first priority in your life and the life of your husband or wife. Elevate your spouse to second place, beneath God and above yourself. Men, your wife is a rare jewel, one of beauty and wisdom. Listen to her. Women, your husband is a man of honor and courage. Tell him you value his leadership. Be purposeful as you pray for God to conform you both into the image of Christ. Reach out to other couples and singles that they may see the work God is performing in and through you. Rejoice that God is in the midst of your Marriage.

To those raising children:

Teach your children what is good, what is holy. Teach them about God, about His awesome, His unchanging character, His extravagant love and sacrifice. Then, show them. Be purposeful as you discipline, gently correcting as the Lord does for you. Use wisdom as you provide, as you counsel, as you are generous, as you teach them truth, as you love your husband or your wife sacrificially, as you take joy in one another, and as you pray in times of plenty and in your distress.

To those who are single:

Lead a life of purity. If Marriage is in your future, await your spouse. If you are not looking toward Marriage, take joy and comfort in the Lord and serve Him wholeheartedly. Demonstrate to all that your sexuality does not define your identity, but the foundation of belonging to Jesus Christ directs your will and desires.

Rejoice! Give thanks to God that you live at such a time as this (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Know that God is working all things to the good of those who love Him. And you have been invited as His fellow worker to bring many in to celebrate at the family gathering of the Lord. No announcement, no declaration from any earthly authority can change the need that the hurting and the hungry have for Jesus. Each person in our community, our nation, our world is seeking relationship, identity, and significance. And these are all found in Jesus. Invite them to come and see where they can find rivers of water for their thirsty souls. Then, show them. Pour out the love that you have received and tell others why you are able to do this without draining yourself dry. Live such good lives that no one find fault, and God be glorified (1 Peter 2:12).

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