Monday, December 11, 2017

The gift of forgiveness

It was much easier to buy gifts for our children when they were smaller. As adults, we often struggle to know what to get them, and they tell us it's even harder for them to know what to give us. Most of us have that one person that's hard to buy for at Christmas.

Perhaps for someone on our Christmas list the greatest gift we could give them is the gift of forgiveness. I wonder if you paused when you read that as someone's name went through your mind. Chances are the next thought that entered your mind was that they don't deserve forgiveness. You're probably right, but then again, we didn't deserve God's forgiveness, either.

One of the most challenging verses in the Bible is Matthew 6: 14-15: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

The reason this passage is so hard for some people is that they have not come to grips with how much God loves them. We forget how much we have been forgiven. God sent His Son to earth to make it possible for our sins to be forgiven so we could be reconciled to Him. Now, He asks us to forgive others their sins against us so we can be reconciled to one another.

But, Dennis, that's tough! Yes, it is. Some of us have deep wounds caused by other people, and it's hard to forgive those who have wounded us. However, this is exactly what we are called to do.

What a special gift it would be if you could honestly forgive someone who had deeply hurt you. Not only would it be a gift to the one you forgave, it would be a wonderful gift to give yourself. Just think how freeing it would be to not have to carry that anger and pain any longer. The gift of forgiveness to someone who has hurt you might be the best gift you will give this Christmas season.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Are we grateful for the gift?

(Read: Luke 7:36-50)

“We often find it hard to get what we want, because we do not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and we will not take it.” (George MacDonald paraphrase)

Like many people during the Christmas Season, I love to participate in gift-giving. Whether it’s delighting family members or friends with that “special something”, or celebrating Christ’s birth by giving to those in need through “angel trees”,  special donations, or other opportunities, such as Operation Christmas Child, which shares the Gospel and gives shoeboxes full of small gift items to children around the world. It’s always heart-warming to hear stories about the joy impoverished children have when they open their boxes – of course they like the toys, but they also get excited over items like soap, toothpaste, or socks!  But then there are the other people on the gift-giving list. The ones who are hard to get for.  Mostly because they seem to already have everything they want.

During Christmas, we celebrate the Ultimate Gift –  Jesus Christ. Through Him, God gave the world forgiveness and reconciliation. In Luke 7:36-50 we see two different responses to that gift -  the critical indifference of “Hard-to-Get-For” Simon, and the lavish gratitude of a woman aware of her spiritual poverty. Jesus tells Simon those who are forgiven little, love little and those who are forgiven much, love much.  But a notable point about their conversation is that while Jesus agrees with Simon that the woman has many sins, he never says Simon has few.

Could it be the separation between Simon and the woman, was not the number of sins, but the awareness of them? That Simon loved little, not because he had little to be forgiven for, but because he was oblivious to how much he needed forgiveness and reconciliation with God?

In what ways are we like Simon? Have we allowed God to open our hearts and minds to be aware of our deep need for a Savior? Are we one who loves much? Are we grateful for the gift?
 As we go through the Advent season and reflect on and celebrate God’s Gift to us through Jesus, may we grow daily more aware of our deep need for Jesus, so we too can be one who loves much.

India Cable
Madison FBC

Thursday, December 7, 2017

And God says yes

Recently my father underwent open heart surgery and had other health issues that resulted in a one-month hospital stay.  Following the hospital stay, in-patient cardiac rehab added 3 weeks to his recovery.

During each phase of his illnesses and recovery the next step in becoming well and self-sufficient was often unpredictable and unclear based on his health.  Initially there was the rush to the hospital to save his life; the question if heart surgery was an option; subsequent pneumonia following the surgery; and a consult with his pulmonologist where my sisters and I were told, “the next 24 hours will tell” in the midst of all medical measures to bring him back to wellness.

During all of this, there were four churches and a men’s small group praying for my father by name.  James 5:15 (NIV) states, “The prayers of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  To this point in my dads’ recovery the answer has been “yes” to those prayers.  “Yes” to breath in his lungs, a beating heart, strength being recovered and “yes” to a sound mind.  “Yes” is such a powerful answer that is directly the result of prayer by God’s people!  Revelation 8:3-4 (NIV) tells us “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar.  He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people on the golden altar in front of the throne.  The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.”  Our prayers are before God, are heard, and are in God’s almighty hands!  The unpredictable and unclear is best surrendered to our God who hears our concerns, petitions, and cries!  He is listening and in His perfect will, we may just hear “yes”.   

Nita Scarff
Madison FBC

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Trusting is a Leap of Faith

Trusting is a Leap of Faith

One of my favorite stories (and favorite operetta) is Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.  The main character, Jean Valjean served 19 years in a prison in France in the 1800’s for stealing a loaf of bread so that his sister’s son wouldn’t die of starvation.  Once he was on parole, he discovered the world to be as cold and dark as those prison walls.  Because he was an ex-convict, he wasn’t paid as much as the “honest” men who he worked beside.
Later, he stumbled upon a kind bishop’s house.  The bishop treated him like an honored guest, more than he deserved.  But when the bishop retired for the night, Jean Valjean grabbed some of the silver and fled into the night.  The police found him and dragged him back to the bishop’s home.  But instead of convicting him of his crime, the bishop kindly told him, “My friend you left so early.  Surely something left your mind.  You forgot I gave these [silver candlesticks] also; would you leave the best behind?”  He sent the police on their way and told Jean Valjean, “But remember this, my brother. See in this some higher plan.  You must use this precious silver to become an honest man. By the witness of the martyrs, by the passion and the blood, God has raised you out of darkness: I have bought your soul for God.”
Sometimes the world can be so cold and harsh that we may feel we have no options but to do all we can just to survive, as Jean Valjean did.  Consulting in God for direction and then trusting in his provisions may not seem practical for your life. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

I testify that God’s promises are true.  Trust God with everything.  Not only is it best, but life works a lot better when we get on God’s plan rather than our own.  What do you need to hand over to God?  What area in your life have you been holding onto? Perhaps it’s a relationship or the way you spend money. Perhaps it’s parenting, your social life or even what you watch, read, and listen to or how you speak.  Whatever it is, pray about it and hand it over to the Lord, for He will make your paths straight.

Kelly Rector
Children's Minister
Madison FBC

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Be reconciled to God

Throughout Advent this year we want to look at the theme of reconciliation. Jesus Christ came into the world to reconcile the world to God. 2 Corinthians 5: 18 tells us “Now all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to use the word of reconciliation.”

The nation of Israel was chosen by God to be His special people. Unfortunately, there came a time when they turned away from God and began worshiping the false gods of the nations surrounding them. God sent prophets encouraging them to come back to Him, but they rejected the prophets and God’s warnings. Due to their disobedience God allowed invading armies to occupy the nation of Israel for 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

Those were dark days for the people of Israel. They saw their beautiful Temple and the holy city of Jerusalem destroyed. The majority were led away to distant countries. All they had left were the memories of what used to be and a hope that one day things would change.

That hope was found in the words of the prophets. They had predicted that God would send a Messiah that would reconcile the nation of Israel to God. For seven centuries the people had looked for that Savior. One night, in a manger in Bethlehem, that promised Savior arrived.

There was a time many years ago I was going through a very dark time in my life. I kept telling my wife that I just felt if I had more faith that I might pull through that time. I began to read a Bible and talking to some Christian friends where I worked. One day, while alone in our home, I knelt down in our living room and prayed. I said, “Lord, I’ve made a mess of my life, but if there is anything you can do with it, I give it to you now. Would you please come into my life as my Lord and Savior?”

At that moment I was reconciled to God. My sins were forgiven, and my relationship with God was forever settled. No, all my problems didn’t immediately disappear, but in time God gave me the victory.

If you are going through a tough time right now, God will do for you what he did for me. All you have to do is invite Him into your life. If you would like to know more about that, please contact me. I would love to talk to you about this.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Book sale Day 2

Several of the books sold last week when I listed them in this blog, but a number of them are still available. Contact me if you are interested in any of them.

Today I will post more of my books for sale. Unlike the earlier post, I will not list the CBD price for these books. I'm not sure that's helpful, and some of these are out of print so CBD does not carry them. However, just because a book is out of print does not mean that it is not valuable.

 If I need to ship the book there will be additional charges in addition to the cost of the book. If you live near Madison, IN you may pick up your book(s) and avoid the shipping costs.

I do have a PayPal account and you may pay for your books through PayPal. Checks are fine and cash (if you are local) is even better!  I thought after the first sale it would get easier to let some of the books go, but it's not. I keep asking myself what I will do if I find need of the book again! Still, it's time to begin selling off my library, and I recognize that. Here's today's list.

Biblical Backgrounds    J. MacKee Adams    $3.00
The Bible Atlas    Charles F. Pfeiffer     $3.00
The Heart of the New Testament    H. I. Hester   $7.50
Talk Thru the Bible     Bruce Wilkerson & Kenneth Boa   $5.00
Foundations of the Christian Faith   James Montgomery Boice                       $7.50
Alive to God    J.I. Packer & Loren Wilkinson     $7.50
Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity    $3.00
Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New                Testament Words      $ 3.00
Archaeology and Biblical Interpretation      $5.00
Principle-Centered Leadership   Stephen Covey     $3.00
Platform     Michael Hyatt     $5.00
How to Manage Conflict    Peg Pickering         $2.00
Switch     Chip Heath & Dan Heath       $5.00
Team Leadership in Christian Ministry   Kenneth O. Gangel  $5.00
Pastoral Politics     John Gilmore      $3.00
Managing Church Conflict    Hugh F. Halverstadt    $5.00
Transforming Church Boards      Charles M. Olsen    $3.00
What Really Matters in Ministry    Darius Salter     $3.00
A Theology of Church and Ministry   Franklin Segler    $3.00
The Premarital Counseling Handbook   H. Norman Wright   $5.00

Let me know if you have any question regarding any of these books or if there is a particular book you are interested in buying but isn't listed. I just might have it!

Advent devotional

During this Advent season Madison FBC wants to bring you a series of devotions each weekday that focuses on the primary purpose for the birth of Jesus Christ. That purpose can be summed up in one word: reconciliation. The messages on Sunday morning will look at Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace and how reconciliation leads to each of these.

In 2 Corinthians 5: 18 the apostle Paul writes, “Now all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

The message of the Gospel is simple. Our sins separated us from God. Religion is sometimes described as man’s attempt to reach out to God, but religion will always come up short in that effort. The Gospel tells us how God reached out towards us through His Son, Jesus Christ, so that our sins could be forgiven and we could enjoy a relationship with Him. Because of Christ we can be reconciled to God and to one another.

Check back every day, Monday through Friday, during Advent to learn more about reconciliation.