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Original Article by Pastor Kevin Carson

Have you chosen yet? Are you with those who stand or those who kneel?

Whether or not you have personally chosen, most of your friends have taken a side.

And here’s the problem: as we take sides, the great divide in America gets larger and larger.

Regardless of which side you are on, there are two problems. First, you stand or kneel out of your passion. Second, your passion miscommunicates with the other side who are either standing or kneeling. The result – the great divide just gets greater and deeper.

  1. The Background: During the 2016 football season, Colin Kaepernick, who played for the San Fransisco 49ers, began sitting then kneeling during the national anthem. He stated, “”I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder. … I have to stand up for people that are oppressed.” On the heels of several nationally debated police shootings of black people with the civil unrest that ensued, he decided to show support and solidarity for black people as those who experience injustice. Kaepernick is biracial.
  2. The Meaning: For Kaepernick and those who kneel with him, the purpose of kneeling is to peacefully protest the plight of black people in America. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, thousands of Americans are afraid of the police, the justice system, and their neighbors. Parents worry about whether or not their children will be racially profiled, harassed, or even shot by the police. Just as you, the blog reader, have an experience of America, so does everyone else – including black people in communities all over America. Their experience of America in regard to opportunities for education and advancement, personal safety and welfare, and community stories of abuse become the filter through which they see the flag, sense pride for the country, and feel the injustice.
  3. The Purpose: The goal of the protest is to get a conversation started across America on issues of injustice, especially as it relates to race. Those players in the NFL who decide to kneel during the national anthem desire to get the attention of the American people. They respect the freedom they have and choose to kneel with one another in solidarity during the anthem to highlight what they perceive is a real problem in America, as Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburg Steelers explained in his news conference on Monday.
  4. The Problem: Where the NFL players desire to highlight an issue in order to start a discussion, many Americans perceive their kneeling as disrespectful to America and the veterans who have made their protest possible. They miss the entire purpose of the protest. Instead, what they see is a bunch of spoiled millionaires choosing to disrespect their country, their flag, and their freedom by kneeling during the national anthem. The symbolism of the protest (kneeling) is lost to them because of their personal offense regarding the flag.
  5. The Challenge: How do you help each of the sides listen to the other? There are two sides: one group publicly declaring their solidarity against abuse and another side proudly defending their flag. Here is where the challenge lies. Both groups then assume the wrong motive for the other. Consider the perception of both groups related to the “other” side: if you kneel, then you must not love America or appreciate your freedom; and if you stand, then you must be a racist. At this point, both groups are offended and the conversation is over. For instance: If your standing makes me feel like you do not care about racial injustice, then why would I want to dialog with a racist? You are just part of the problem. Your offense to my kneeling is proof-positive that you have the problem. However… If your kneeling makes me perceive you are a traitor to the American veteran, have no respect for the flag, nor any appreciation for your freedom, then I have determined you are not worthy of a conversation. Instead, I want you to get up and shut up. At this point, there is no conversation.
  6. The NFL: The NFL is an entertainment business. As such, they have determined to allow their employees, the players, to protest peacefully on the sidelines or in the locker room during the national anthem. For this reason, many have determined they will protest this business decision by boycotting all things NFL. As a business, the NFL has every right to stand with the players, their employees, and speak against all forms of real and perceived injustice. As a business, they also will have to live with those who may misunderstand their decision and choose to walk away from their business.
  7. The President: Unfortunately, the President of the United States Donald Trump determined to give his opinion regarding NFL players kneeling. Rather than speak with wisdom, he chose to curse and throw gas rather than light on the problem. His attitude and words were sinful. In this instance, he is wrong. He should be working toward a national solution to these real and perceived injustices rather than fanning the flames of division.
  8. The Christian: As Christians, we appreciate both concerns. We hate injustice, racism, and sin. Anywhere and everywhere there is prejudice or partiality, it is wrong (James 2:1-13). In Christ, we do not see people according to the color of their skin (Colossians 3:11). In Christ, we love and care for people as Christ (Ephesians 4:28-5:2). We also are grateful for the blessings God gives to us, especially our freedom through government (Romans 13:1-7). Freedom provides us the opportunity to share the Gospel openly and worship as we choose. We are grateful for the sacrifice of those who have provided this freedom and have lived sacrificially, even giving their own lives. So we identify with both groups. We loudly proclaim we hate injustice as God does. We also loudly proclaim we see our freedom and the sacrifices made to provide for it as great blessings and grace from God. To back away from either stance would be sinful on our part.
  9. The Solution: We must then embrace both sides. We cannot afford to wrap ourselves so tightly in respect of the flag that we miss what others are trying to help us see. We cannot be so American that we forget to be Christian. We cannot support racism of any type. We must encourage brothers and sisters in Christ to engage each other, neighbors, and, in many instances, strangers in positive ways that encourage conversation and dialogue. We must be examples of those who live without seeing the color of people’s skin. We must assume the best motive for the person with whom we engage. At the same time, we also need to demonstrate our appreciation of and respect for the freedom we have to protest in America. Our gratitude toward our country must be great, as our country is God’s blessing to us. We furthermore need to be grateful for the peaceful protest and stand against non-peaceful protest. We must be Christ and live Christ first. We must live worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as those who understand true freedom in Christ, true racial equality, true love, and true compassion. We must empathize with any and all people who suffer misfortune, injustice, and inequality.
  10. The Hope: May God grant us help as we seek to move forward as a Christians and as a nation. I’m not sure what will be enough for the players to stop kneeling. The end game is not apparent. I wish there was a better medium to discuss this than to wrap it in the flag or a game – both of which hinders the real conversation. Reality is – that’s not the case. The chosen medium by the players cannot distract us from the greater conversation that is necessary in society. We must address issues of injustice. As a nation there are many ways we can do this, and I certainly do not pretend to have the magic combination. However, the national solution is not the most important one. The best solution begins with you. You begin to see people with charity. Choose to find ways to demonstrate the love of Christ to those around you and in your community who need it. Be careful what you say and assume on social media. Be slow to be offended and quick to forgive. Assume patriotism from a fellow citizen and seek to listen to what they are saying. Try not to unnecessarily poke your neighbor in the eye. Get to know your neighbor better. Take advantage of this opportunity to think, love, speak, and act like Christ.

The great divide will only get greater unless Christians are willing to lead through words and deeds to change it.

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There may be circumstances in your earthly lot which at this moment are peculiarly trying. You look around and wonder how this or that circumstance will terminate. At present it looks very dark–clouds and mists hang over it, and you fear lest these clouds may break, not in showers upon your head, but burst forth in the lightning flash and the thunder stroke! But all things are put in subjection under Christ’s feet! That which you dread cannot take place except by His sovereign will–nor can it move any further except by His supreme disposal. Then make yourself quiet. He will not allow you to be harmed. That frowning providence shall only execute His sovereign purposes, and it shall be among those all things which, according to His promise, shall work together for your good. None of our trials come upon us by chance! They are all appointed in weight and measure–are all designed to fulfill a certain end. And however painful they may at present be, yet they are intended for your good. When the trial comes upon you, what a help it would be for you if you could view it thus, “This trial is sent for my good. It does not spring out of the dust. The Lord Himself is the supreme disposer of it. It is very painful to bear; but let me believe that He has appointed me this peculiar trial, along with every other circumstance. He will bring about His own will therein, and either remove the trial, or give me patience under it, and submission to it.”

Source: J.C. Philpot

(The Subjection of All Things Under the Feet of Jesus)

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joy

 

Did you know that God commands us to be glad?

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

 

1) God created us for his glory.

“Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth,… whom I created for my glory” (Isaiah 43:6-7)

God made us to magnify his greatness – the way telescopes magnify stars. He created us to put his goodness and truth and beauty and wisdom and justice on display. The greatest display of God’s glory comes from deep delight in all that he is. This means that God gets the praise and we get the pleasure. God created us so that he is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

 

2) Every human should live for God’s glory.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

If God made us for his glory, it is clear that we should live for his glory. Our duty comes from his design. So our first obligation is to show God’s value by being satisfied with all that he is for us. This is the essence of loving God (Matthew 22:37) and trusting him (1 John 5:3-4) and being thankful to him (Psalm 100:2-4) It is the root of all true obedience, especially loving others (Colossians 1:4-5).

 

3) All of us have failed to glorify God as we should.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

What does it mean to “fall short of the glory of God?” It means that none of us has trusted and treasured God the way we should. We have not been satisfied with his greatness and walked in his ways. We have sought our satisfaction in other things, and treated them as more valuable than God, which is the essence of idolatry (Romans 1:21-23). Since sin came into the world we have all been deeply resistant to having God as our all-satisfying treasure (Ephesians 2:3). This is an appalling offense to the greatness of God (Jeremiah 2:12-13).

 

4) All of us are subject to God’s just condemnation.

“The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23).

We have all belittled the glory of God. How? By preferring other things above him. By our ingratitude, distrust and disobedience. So God is just in shutting us out from the enjoyment of his glory forever. “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

The word “hell” is used in the New Testament twelve times – eleven times by Jesus himself. It is not a myth created by dismal and angry preachers. It is a solemn warning from the Son of God who died to deliver sinners from its curse. We ignore it at great risk.

If the Bible stopped here in its analysis of the human condition, we would be doomed to a hopeless future. However, this is not where it stops…

 

5) God sent his only son Jesus to provide eternal life and joy.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:15)

The good news is that Christ died for sinners like us. And he rose physically from the dead to validate the saving power of his death and to open the gates of eternal life and joy (1 Corinthians 15:20). This means God can acquit guilty sinners and still be just (Romans 3:25-26). “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Coming home to God is where all deep and lasting satisfaction is found.

 

6) The benefits purchased by the death of Christ belong to those who repent and trust him.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19). “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

“Repent” means to turn from all the deceitful promises of sin. “Faith” means being satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Jesus. “He who believes in me,” Jesus says, “shall never thirst” (John 6:35). We do not earn our salvation. We cannot merit it (Romans 4:4-5). It is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is a free gift (Romans 3:24). We will have it if we cherish it above all things (Matthew 13:44). When we do that, God’s aim in creation is accomplished: He is glorified in us and we are satisfied in him – forever.

 

Does this make sense to you?

Do you desire the kind of gladness that comes from being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus? If so, then God is at work in your life.

What should you do?

Turn from the deceitful promises of sin. Call upon Jesus to save you from the guilt and punishment and bondage. “All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Start banking your hope on all that God is for you in Jesus. Break the power of sin’s promises by faith in the superior satisfaction of God’s promises. Begin reading the Bible to find his precious and very great promises, which can set you free (2 Peter 1:3-4). Find a Bible-believing church and begin to worship and grow together with other people who treasure Christ above all things (Philippians 3:7).

 

The best news in the world is that there is no necessary conflict between our happiness and God’s holiness. Being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus magnifies him as a great Treasure.

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)

 

Source: Desiring God Ministries (www.desiringgod.org)

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ladies

Each year, the Shawnee Lodge hosts a retreat for Joni and Friends. This is a time for special needs families to come together and be ministered to through interaction with families in similar situations while provided lodging, meals and activities for all participants. The women of Grace Community Church at Bigelow have been blessed enough to be able to participate in serving dinner to the mothers that attend, in hopes of providing them a time of prayer, relaxing discussion with friends and a delicious meal prepared by the GCC@B women.

We were blessed to serve roughly 20 mothers who say that they look forward to this meal every year. So much so, that they request the same menu of chicken salad with fruit each year. Dinner was served and the GCC@B women were able to connect with some of the mothers as we joined them for dinner. Many of the mothers are local Ohio residents, but others come from as far away as Illinois and New York.

ladies2  ladies3 ladies6

After dinner and dessert, April Chaffins began our focus on worship by leading us in songs, followed by a brief message from Ginny Cook on prayer and trusting God. As a fitting close, we opened up a time of prayer requests from the mothers and were overjoyed to listen to many of them also had praises for what God had done or was doing in their lives.

ladies4 ladies5

We closed with a circle of prayer, but as is common when women and mothers gather, the evening discussions went on for a while after. Many of these mothers only see each other when they attend Joni and Friends, and as many only see the GCC@B women at this time as well, much catching up was to be done. It was a wonderful opportunity to serve those who give so much of their time to their special needs families. As is often the case, both those serving and those being served were ministered to through our time together.

Update provided by  Sarah Johnson

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My most gracious Beloved,

I am now going from a prison to a palace: I have finished my work, and am now going to receive my wages.  I am going to heaven, where are two of my children, and leaving you on earth, where there are three of my babes.  These two above, need not my care; but the three below need thine.  It comforts me to think, two of my children are in the bosom of Abraham, and three of them will be in the arms and care of such a tender and godly mother.  I know you are a woman of sorrowful spirit, yet be comforted, though you sorrows be great for you husband going out of the world, yet your pains shall be the less in bringing your child into the world; you shall be a joyful mother, though you be a sad widow; God hath many mercies in store for you; the prayer of a dying husband for you, will not be lost.  To my shame I speak it, I never prayed for you at liberty, as I have done in prison.  I can write much, but I have few practical counsels to leave with you, viz.,

1. Keep under a sound, orthodox, soul searching ministry. Oh! There are many deceivers gone out into the world, but Christ’s sheep know His voice, and a stranger they will not follow.  Attend any minister that teacheth the way of God in truth; and follow Solomon’s advice, Proverbs 19:27.

2. Bring up your children in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord.  The mother ought to be a teacher in the father’s absence, Proverbs 31:1, “The words that his mother taught him…”  And Timothy was instructed by his grandmother, 1 Timothy 1:5.

3. Pray in your family daily, that yours may be in the number of the families who call upon God.

4. Labor for a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God, is of great price, 1 Peter 3:4.

5. Pour not on the comforts you want, but upon the mercies you have.  Look rather at God’s ending in afflicting, than to the measure and degree of your affliction.

6. Labor to clear up your evidence for heaven when God takes from you the comfort of earth, so that as your sufferings do abound, your consolation in Christ may abound much more, 2 Corinthians 1:5.  Though it be good to maintain a holy jealously of heart, yet it is still ill of you to cherish fears and doubts touching the truth of your graces.  If ever I had confidence touching the grace of another, I have confidence of grace in you; as Peter said of Silvanus, I am persuaded that this is the grace of God wherein ye stand, 1 Peter 5:12.

7. O, my dear soul wherefore dost thou doubt, who heart has been laid upright, whose walking has been holy, &c.  I could venture my soul this day in they soul’s stead, such a confidence I have in you.

8. When you find your heart secure, presumptuous and proud, then pour upon corruption more than grace: then look upon your grace without infirmities.

9. Study the covenant of grace, and merits of Christ, and be troubled if you can; you are interested in such a covenant that accepts purposes for performances, desires for deeds, sincerity for perfection, the righteousness of another, viz., that of Jesus Christ, as it were your own alone.  Oh! My love! Rest thou in the love of God, the bosom of Christ.

10. Swallow up your will in the will of God.  It is a bitter cup we are to drink, but it is the cup of our Father which has been put into our hands.  When Paul was to suffer at Jerusalem, the Christians said, “The will of the Lord be done!” Oh! Say ye so, when I go to the Tower-Hill, “The will of the Lord be done!”

11. Rejoice in my joy.  To mourn for me inordinately argues, that you either envy or suspect my happiness.  The joy of the Lord is my strength; Oh! Let it be yours also!  Dear wife, farewell: I will call thee wife no more: I shall see thy face no more: yet I am not much troubled, for now I am going to meet the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, to whom I shall be eternally married.

12. Refuse not to marry, when God offers you a fair opportunity; but be sure you marry in the Lord; and one of a good disposition, that he may not grieve you, but give you a comfortable livelihood in the world.

Farewell dear love, and again I say farewell.  The Lord Jesus be with your spirit, the Maker of heaven and earth be a husband to you; and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ be a father to your children – so prays your dying,

Your most affectionate friend till death,

Christopher love

The day of my glorification.

From the Tower of London, August 22, 1651

Source:  www.sounddoctrine.net

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Nine Characteristics of Biblical Prayer:

  1. An Understanding of Your Own Insignificance and Sinfulness.
  2. The Knowledge that Jesus is Your Only Access to the Father.
  3. Adoration for God because of His Character and Attributes.
  4. Joyful Praise for God’s Work in Creation and Redemption.
  5. Thankfulness for God’s Kindness in Giving Every Good Thing.
  6. A Sense of Your Need of Strength to Fight against Specific Sins.
  7. Humble Trust as You Ask the Father to Meet Every Need.
  8. A Selfless Burden to Pray for Others.
  9. A Thirst for Increasing Spiritual Wisdom and Understanding.

-Daryl Wingerd

(Nine Characteristics of Biblical Prayer, Christian Communicators Worldwide, www.CCWtoday.org.)

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JFST

“When God Commands, we are to obey. When he asserts, we are to believe him. When he promises, we are to embrace and trust those promises. Thus, we respond to the sheer authority of God’s word.

Adam and Eve had no way of testing what God told them about the forbidden fruit. They couldn’t work any experiment that would show them whether God had rightly predicted the effects of the fruit. They simply had to take God at his word. Satan interposed a contrary interpretation, but the first couple should not have taken his opinion seriously. They should simply have believed God. They did not, of course. They sided with Satan rather than God–or, perhaps better, they claimed that their own authority transcended God’s. That is to say, they claimed autonomy. They claimed that they themselves were the highest authority, the ultimate criterion of truth and right.

The NT praises Noah (Heb. 11:7), Abraham (Rom. 4:1-25; Heb. 11:8-19), and many others because of their faith, and their faith was grounded in God’s word. They simply believed what God said and obeyed him. So for new covenant believers: if they love Jesus, they will do what he says (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:7, 10, 14; 17:6, 17; 1 John 2:3-5; 3:22; 5:2-3; 2 John 6).

So we should think of God’s word as a personal communication from him to us. In DWG, I presented this as a general way of thinking about the word of God: the personal-word model. Think of God speaking to you as a real person would–as directly as your parents, your spouse, your children, your friends. Many in Scripture heard such speech from God, such as Noah, Abraham, and Moses.

And when God speaks, his word carries authority. This means that it imposes obligations. When God commands, he expects us to obey. When he brings information, we are to believe him. When he promises, we should embrace his promises.

If God really talked to you, as he did to Abraham, you would not (if you know what is best for you) criticize his words or disagree with him.

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Rom. 4:20-21)

Abraham was strong in faith even though God’s words to him were hard to take. God told him to leave his home and go to a place he did not know (Gen. 12:1-3), to believe God’s promise that he would beget a son in his old age (17:15-21), and later to sacrifice his son Isaac on a mountain altar (22:1-2). Often God’s words to us pose problems that we cannot solve. But God expects us to be like Abraham, not like Adam and Eve, to hear what he says, to be strong in faith, without wavering.”

 

Source:  Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2013.

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