Just this afternoon while I was running some errands, I was listening to WMBI on my car radio. I happened to hear someone being interviewed – and what they shared really challenged me.
This person was telling about his upbringing. His mom and dad divorced when he was very young. He lived with his mom and would see his dad on weekends. They were a family, both before and after the divorce, that never went to church or had much of anything to do with religion. Now they were a fractured family, struggling in every way.
Then a remarkable thing happened; a neighbor invited his mom and him to church. Looking back, he remarked that his mom would be the last person you would expect to be interested in going to church. But she was interested. They went to church and heard a fantastic message about a God who loves them. His mother gave her life to Christ that day and amazing change took place. So much so, that his dad noticed. To make a long story short, eventually his dad also crossed the line of faith – and his parents ended up getting remarried to each other!
It was then that this little boy realized true Christianity works! It makes a difference! It’s not just a tradition, or boring rituals, but a real, dynamic relationship with God that brings forgiveness, meaning, and healing.
As I thought about this cool story, I was convicted by the idea that there are people I write off from ever inviting to church. I make superficial judgments about them, and determine in my own mind that there’s no way they would say yes. Inviting them would be a waste of time. (How foolish!)
The truth is that you never know what is going on inside a person’s heart. Sometimes all that is needed is a simple invitation to church, even to the most unlikely people. You just never know what God is going to do!
As we approach Easter Sunday, who do you intend to invite? Be sure not to write off anybody – you never know what might happen. You can be sure they will hear a message about a God who loves them!
See you on Sunday!
I’ve always been fascinated by the seven sayings of Christ on the cross. Words spoken in a time of unfathomable suffering. Yet, they’re not angry; they’re not retaliatory. They give us a powerful glimpse into what was going on in the heart and mind of our Savior as he carried the weight of our sin. I recently read the following paragraph in Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, edited by Nancy Guthrie.
Four of the seven last words were from the Old Testament. Only Jesus’ direct address to God on behalf of the soldiers, to the dying thief and to his mother and the beloved disciple were not. This means that Jesus was filling his mind and strengthening his spirit not by trying to keep a stiff upper lip or look for a silver lining, as we might say, but by an act of deliberately remembering and consciously clinging to the great prophecies and promises of God. If Jesus did that, don’t you think you should do it too?
p. 100, Excerpted from The Heart of the Cross by James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken.
Did you catch that? Jesus was drawing strength by remembering and clinging to scripture! God’s word is powerful! (II Timothy 3:15-17). I hope that you’re making it a priority to get in the word on your own.
Yesterday was not only St. Patrick’s Day, it was the celebration of our 2013 Upward Basketball and Cheerleading Season! And what a successful season it was!
By the numbers…
• 124 Kids participated this season
• 36 Coaches
• 12 Referees
• 8 Game Day Managers
• 9 Half-Time Devotion Speakers
• 4 Game Day Cleaner-Uppers
• 15 Award Celebration Ushers and Greeters
Just about all 457 seats in the Wheeling High School Theater were filled at the Awards Celebration! Our players and their families enjoyed entertainment by Jesse the Juggler, players received their year-end award and participated in the raffle, and we all enjoyed the 2013 Upward Highlight Video.
Most encouraging, however, was that 4 players asked Jesus into their life for the first time at the celebration. An amazing 102 children know for sure that they have a relationship with Christ. For those of you who have been around and participated in Upward for a while, know that Upward is not just about sports. The most amazing thing about the Upward program is how devotions are a big part of each practice and game day, and children are taught about Jesus and His love for them. I am so thankful for this amazing sports ministry, and how it not only reaches players, but touches families and changes lives.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in making this season a success: our Upward Directors, coaches, referees, concession workers, half-time speakers, game day managers, ushers/greeters, game day clean-up crews and “behind the scenes” administrators. Upward is truly a team effort, and I am blessed to work and serve with such a fantastic group of people.
With this Sunday, 3/17, being St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be fitting to share this brief video.
I’m inspired by the life of St. Patrick. He forgave his captors and returned to the place he was enslaved all for the sake of spreading the Gospel. As a result, tens of thousands of people crossed the line of faith. That’s definitely something worth celebrating! I hope you enjoy the holiday.
This past Thursday through Saturday the elders and staff of ACC got way to Lake Geneva Conference Center for a 48 hour retreat. It was fantastic! We spent time sharing our lives, praying for each other, reviewing the last 5 years of God’s work at ACC, dreaming about what God might want in the next 3-5 years, and praying for God’s gracious blessing to remain upon us.
I walked away from our retreat with a heart overflowing with gratefulness to God for the godly and passionate leadership team that he has assembled at our church. By his grace we are unified yet diverse, great friends yet not afraid to disagree or confront, and hard working and committed to the gospel yet relying wholly upon God for lasting results.
I love our staff and elders. When is the last time you prayed for them?
God’s word encourages us to support and pray for those in leadership over us. Will you take a few minutes right now and pray for our leaders?
Elders: Ray Demich, Mark Birmingham, Jim Johnson, Ken Kerr, Jim Ray, and me.
Staff: Carolyn Eiter, Kris Milashus, Chris Modrzejewski, Scott Williams, Jim Young, and me. (Yes, pray for me twice! Trust me – I need it!)
I hope you’ll do this regularly. Thanks!
Sunday, September 9, 2007. That’s the day that I was baptized! I’d been a committed follower of Christ for around 10 years at that point, yet I had never been baptized as a believer. I was baptized as an infant and attended church occasionally growing up, but it was in high school that I came to understand the Gospel and what it means to be a follower of Christ. There was a clear transformation that took place in my life during that time. I understood the truth of Ephesians 2:8-9 and put my faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross rather than my own “good” works.
As I grew in my faith, I considered being baptized as a believer, but never followed through with it. I had a lot of excuses – I didn’t want to offend my parents, I was nervous about public speaking (good thing I got over that one!), the timing wasn’t right, I didn’t really know the Pastor and that was important to me, and the list could go on and on. Perhaps the excuse underneath it all was that I knew I had crossed the line of faith and others did as well…so did I really need to be baptized? The short answer: YES! At the root of the decision to be baptized is obedience. As I studied the New Testament it was clear to me that the pattern in the early church was belief then baptism (sometimes immediately afterward). What’s more, I saw that Jesus commanded his disciples to go and make disciples – a process that he says involves baptism (Matthew 28:18-20). I had known the importance of baptism for years, but had delayed the decision. God began to reveal to me that my indecision was a form of disobedience (James 4:17). I knew what I was supposed to do, but I wasn’t doing it. In John 14:15, Jesus says that we express our love to him by obeying what he commands. I was striving to obey God in every area of my life, why was this any different? I knew I needed to stop coming up with excuses and obey God by being baptized.
The day I was baptized I felt a tremendous sense of relief. I finally did what I knew God had been calling me to do. It was a powerful moment where I was able to encourage others as I shared my faith story and was baptized by my pastor and friend – Dave Corlew.
Let me encourage you to take this important step of obedience and plan to be part of our next baptism service on Sunday, 3/24. There’s a mandatory class on Sunday, 3/17 during the 10:30am service. The class will involve a scriptural study of baptism and practical preparation for the service. In case you missed it, here’s a short video of some of our recent baptisms.
A few weeks ago at my weekly growth group meeting, we men separated from the women for a time of prayer. As we shared some prayer requests, we discovered that 4 out of 5 of us suffered from various forms and degrees of insomnia. So that was a special focus to our prayer – that we would each sleep much better in the coming week.
The following week when we once again gathered for prayer, one of the guys asked me how I had been sleeping. It was only then that I realized that I had slept through the night for 7 nights in a row – ever since we prayed. I had not even realized the blessing – the answer to prayer. I was horrified!
It reminds me of the story in Luke 17 where Jesus heals 10 lepers, but only one of them comes back to thank him. I’m afraid I would be counted as one of the 9. I realized I must confess my lack of gratefulness to the Lord. I also realized I need to make more of a conscious effort to look for answers to prayer and fully realize all the blessings God gives me on a daily basis.
Do you ever find yourself not even noticing God’s blessings – not even being aware of great answers to prayer?
In preparation for Easter, I’ve been reading Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross edited by Nancy Guthrie. It’s a collection of readings drawn from the writings and sermons of 25 theologians and Bible teachers. Here’s a excerpt from my reading this morning.
Commenting on Philippians 3:7-11, Tim Keller writes:
Religious people are very busy in their religion doing lots of religious activities, and then they expect their lives to go the way they want them to go. And if they find their career or their love life isn’t going very well, they say, “What good is all this religion? I’m doing all these things, where’s God? (p. 135)
Many people believe the propositions. They believe the historical facts about Jesus, but their real agenda is personal success. So they go to Christ when they want to and need to. Paul says that a Christian is someone who has turned that all around so that personal success is defined by knowing him and the power of his resurrection, and everything else becomes second. (p. 136)
That’s powerful reminder. We’re never told that following Jesus will lead to our personal success in this world. This kind of thinking is another form of works-based theology – I do the right things, so God accepts/rewards me. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that’s not the way it works.
It’s my prayer this Easter season, that we would define personal success differently. That God would give each of us a desire to define our personal success in terms of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection.