Friday, December 12, 2014

THE FURIOUS LOVE OF GOD! - Bulletin 12-07-14

Today I invite you to read, contemplate and read again the following two paragraphs from Brennan Manning’s classic, The Ragamuffin Gospel:  
Paragraph #1: “For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change.  When Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened,’ He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way.  These words are a touching testimony to the genuine humanness of Jesus.  He had no romantic notion of the cost of discipleship.  He knew that following Him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love.  He knew that physical pain, the loss of loved ones, failure, loneliness, rejection, abandonment, and betrayal would sap our spirits; that the day would come when faith would no longer offer any drive, reassurance, or comfort; that prayer would lack any sense of reality or progress; that we would echo the cry of Teresa of Avila: ‘Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!’” 
Paragraph #2: “Here is revelation bright as the evening star: Jesus comes for sinners, for those as outcast as tax collectors and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams.  He comes for corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used car salesmen.  Jesus not only talks with these people but dines with them – fully aware that His table fellowship with sinners will raise the eyebrows of religious bureaucrats…and their rejection of the gospel of grace.”  
To know Jesus came for us is one thing, accepting what Chesterton calls “the furious love of God” is another!  What kind of God loves sinners?   Our God!

I so much want to pursue this God who pursues me even when I misappropriate and misunderstand His actions!  I so much want to pursue this God who loves me furiously even when I doubt Him!  Oh, my!                  
GOD IS GOOD!  Mr. Steve


I truly enjoy listening to Dr. Jerry Rushford tell true stories of Christian pioneers.  Dr. Rushford is a very passionate speaker and writer of this particular genre (e.g. “Christians on the Oregon Trail”).  In his manuscript, “Glorious Was the Cause: Churches of Christ and Christian Churches in Early Washington 1851-1916” – Dr. Rushford features the story of Arabella (Belle) Clemons.  She was born in Missouri in 1844.  Her mother died when she was 16, and when she was 20 her dad told her, “Belle, with this Civil War raging around us, you should do what’s best for you and get on one of those wagon trains and get out of here!”  
In Belle’s own memoirs, Tales of the Trail, Belle wrote, “I made it as far as a little settlement on the Boise River in Idaho, called Boise.  Years later, after marrying Frank Fulton, a preacher named Michael Boli came to town. He arrived on horseback with a pair of saddlebags slung across the saddle.  In them he carried a Bible and a dozen or so hymn books, and a change of linen…”

  “He had long unkempt hair and beard.  But in those days we never judged a man by his outward appearance.  He told my husband he could preach so we let him.  On Sunday morning, the people came from everywhere, wagons, horseback, on foot.  And when he got up to preach everybody was pretty disappointed, until he opened his mouth and began to preach.  He spoke with vigor and presented his doctrine with firmness of conviction. He could preach!  Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday night – he continued to preach.”                                                            Belle wrote, “After hearing a few of his sermons, I decided to become a Christian. So when the invitation was given I went forward and gave the preacher my hand as a token for my willingness to be baptized.   In late November in 1869 the Boise River was frozen over.”                                                                                                         “Frank was given the job with the oldest two children of going down to the River with his axe to break the ice, to cut the hole big enough for me to get down there…I went down into the cold water and I was buried with my Savior in the watery grave arising with Him with a newness of life with a consciousness that my past sins were all forgiven and with a hope of life eternal which is promised in Christ JesusI have always considered this the most important event in my life.” .....Have you experienced your most important event?             
God is good all the time and all the time God is good.  Mr. Steve

STUFFING OR SECURITY? - Bulletin 11-23-14

When he first came to live with our family, he was about 18 months old.  He was too young for one of the children’s home cottages, so my parents brought him home to our farm house.   
For many years we had an old couch in the den that had a hole in the back corner.  Almost like a magnet, our innovative little resident was drawn to that hole from the very start.  Daily he would reach his little hand into that couch cavity and pull out some stuffing, and then with his fist clinched tight, hold his prize throughout the day!  Somehow, someway, this daily allowance of stuffing rewarded our new toddler with some sense of security.
I don’t know how old my adopted brother was before he quit foraging into our old couch, but his story reminds me of where true security can be found.  (And it’s not in a fistful of stuffing!)
“And if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday.  And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”  Isaiah 58:10-11
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you...For I was hungry, and you gave Me some -thing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’”  Matthew 25:34-36
Stuffing or “stuff” doesn’t lead to true security or thanksgiving, but opening one’s hand to the needy does.  Then God will guide, satisfy, strengthen, and securely bless!  God is good!  Mr. Steve

THE DAY I MET ELMER SAVAGE - Bulletin 11-16-14

I was a fourth grader and in trouble.  I really don’t remember why the bigger boys wanted to beat me up.  Honest.  I’m sure I’d done my part in making them mad, but exactly what I did or said, I don’t recall. 
What I do remember, however, is that Elmer stepped between me and them and said, “If you wanna fight somebody, come and fight me!”
I was new to the town and new to the school.  I don’t know why Elmer took to me.  Maybe because I was the underdog on a for sure losing team.  All I know is Elmer was a fifth grader who looked like a freshman in high school.   I mean, my playground defender was big!  And although he was out-numbered, those boys didn’t want anything to do with my new friend.
To this day, some 53 years later, I clearly remember my protector’s face, the clothes he wore and his name, Elmer Savage.  I can’t remember any other times Elmer and I were together, but that day is forever etched in my mind. 
Elmer came alongside me at a very difficult time and defended me.  I’m positive he saved me from a good beating, but he did much more than that.  He gave me a visual for what it means to have somebody be your defender, protector..... advocate (paracletos)!
The Apostle John says something strikingly similar about Jesus in 1 John 2:1.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous...” 
Did you get that?  John says Jesus is our Advocate (defender, protector, lawyer), who comes alongside and represents us before our judge, God the Father!  Justice and mercy, love and wrath, all coming together in the form of salvation in Jesus Christ!  And even though we are “guilty as sin”, Jesus stands before the Father, having paid the price, and says,”This one is mine. I’ve got him covered.”

Elmer Savage and Jesus the Christ.  One saved me from a beating, the other saved me from hell.  God is good all the time!  Mr. Steve

OUR PRODIGAL GOD! - Bulletin 11-09-14

During the last few weeks, Jerry Horning, one of our own members and a Vietnam veteran, and I, have spent several hours over coffee and hot tea discussing patriotism and Tuesday’s upcoming Veterans Day.  Today’s lesson, in part, is a bi-product of those discussions. 
However, what I didn’t see coming was the transforming integration of our discussions with a book I read over two years ago, “The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian faith” by Dr. Timothy Keller.  
I’ve always associated the word “prodigal” with the youngest son in Luke 15 or more recently (10 years ago) with the older brother.  But I had never associated this word with God!  GOD AS A PRODIGAL?  No way!  Yet, Keller has convinced me that WE DO HAVE A PRODIGAL GOD!
The word “prodigal” literally means reckless and extravagant.  The youngest son was reckless and extravagant with his decision to ask for his inheritance before his Father was even dead!  He was reckless and extravagant with the way he spent his (Father’s) money.  Yes.  The younger son was definitely a reckless and extravagant son and so was his older brother in his abundance of pride and self-righteous piety! 
But, how was the Father “reckless” and extravagant?  With his giving!With his love!  With his girding himself and running toward and embracing and kissing his wayward scented son!  The Father was extravagant with his forgiveness, and even with his pursuing and petitioning the older son to join in on the celebration of his lost, now found, younger brother!  Extravagant!  
God is good!  Mr. Steve

THE GOSPEL TRAIN - Bulletin 10-26-14


When was the last time you were on a train?  I remember traveling with my wife, Patti, from Nebraska to Washington, DC via Amtrak in the fall of 1988.  I fondly recall sitting by the love of my life in the train’s observation car, surrounded by glass and being mesmerized by the brilliancy of harvest colors as we journeyed from state to state.  God is good!  
Now, believe it or not, there is a train trip I started and am still on that is even more inspirational than the one I just described!  When I was young, my mother punched my ticket for what she called, THE GOSPEL TRAIN; a simple visual-aid that harmonizes the four Gospels along with Jesus’ miracles, parables and discourses! (Enclosed picture)  A lady by the name of Patsy Stevens put Mom’s complete GOSPEL TRAIN online for anyone to use FREE OF CHARGE!

I plan on beginning a series of lessons on Sunday nights (beginning tonight) on teaching THE GOSPEL TRAIN.  Come on and get on board and be mesmerized by the unfolding of God’s brilliancy in the flesh! 
God is good!  Mr. Steve