Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Motive for Listening – Love

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.  James 1:19-20

Bad Examples of Listening
One of the greatest obstacles we will have to overcome in our quest to become good listeners is our early training and subsequent habits.  As children, we may have been told to be quiet, to stop interrupting, or to go away because Mommy and Daddy had no time to listen.  We may have gotten the idea from that that grown-ups don’t have to listen.  Studies of school children have revealed that listening declines with each successive grade

It also seems as though the older we get, the more we allow ourselves to be distracted by other factors such as the speaker’s personal appearance or annoying mannerisms.  I can remember talking frequently to someone who would ask after every few sentences, “Do you know what I mean?”  I found myself thinking more about that idiosyncrasy than about what he was saying.

The truth is we don’t stop listening with our ears but with our minds.  Keeping someone’s attention long enough to communicate a full thought has turned into an art form.  Maybe what we are saying is very important to us but not yet to them.  Sometimes listening can be threatening to us or the one spoken to.  We fear that we may hear some criticism of ourselves that we would rather not have to confront, some change that we would rather not make, or some demand that we would rather not meet.  We may hear an idea that challenges some precious opinion of ours that we would rather not give up.  Our best defense is to stop paying attention.  We may simply feel that it will take too much effort to understand what is being said to us, so we take the easy way out and turn off our mental hearing aids. It is too much trouble to listen. So why bother?

The Motive for Listening – Love
If I were to suggest one good reason for cultivating the art of listening, it would be found in 1 John 4:7: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and every one who loves is born of God and knows God.” 

Listening is an important and necessary expression of love.  Listening says, “I care about you. You are important enough to invest all the time and effort that is necessary for me to understand you.”  We want to be assured that somebody knows us, is sensitive to what is happening inside us, feels what we are feeling in the deepest part of our being, and still accepts us and cares for us.  So love listens.  

We can say with our mouths over and over again, “I love you,” but it is meaningless unless we are willing to put aside other things and give of ourselves unselfishly to discern the deepest needs of the ones we profess to love.  True love is focused on the benefit of others rather than our own benefit, and that means trying to understand them. We all want so desperately to be understood, but God is asking us to take the time to do the understanding.

Here is a vital point concerning the power of being an effective listener:  People do not need to know what you think of what they said so much as to know you understand what they said and, thus, understand them.  That’s what this is all about...being understood.
Can you find someone to listen to today and minister through the power of attention?

Scripture to Claim:
They have said, "The LORD does not see, Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed." Pay heed, you senseless among the people; And when will you understand, stupid ones? He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see?  Psalms 94:7-9

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Who’s listening?

"Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Your servant prays before You today; that Your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place of which You have said, 'My name shall be there,' to listen to the prayer which Your servant shall pray toward this place. "Listen to the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear in heaven Your dwelling place; hear and forgive.  1 Kings 8:28-30

It is fascinating to watch a young couple in love.  They have no problem communicating with each other, talking excitedly and enthusiastically by the hour.  Sometimes they merely sit and communicate with eyes and presence.  There is an interesting dynamic on their communication;   they are both listening.  There is a real interest in each other that seeks to hear the need of the other.

Then they get married and something changes.  They begin to feel as though they have heard most of the interesting things the other has to say, or that they know most everything about the other there is to know.  At times they are not quite sure they like what they hear the other saying.  So listening isn’t nearly as easy, exciting or important as it used to be.  It doesn’t come automatically as it once did.  Now it is work.  They begin to lose the motivation and the inclination to listen to each other.  And again we wonder who is listening.

The problem not only exists in marriage.  We live in a world filled with distractions.  Carrying cell phones and ipads we seem to be connected everywhere except where we are.  Interpersonal relationships are becoming secondary to our Facebook presence.  We can be looking someone straight in the eye, nodding agreement and grunting “Uh huh” while our minds are miles away carrying on multiple conversations with our “friends.”  We give only superficial attention to what is being said, or we miss it altogether.

When we do have an opportunity to talk, most of us would rather talk than listen.  Instead of giving attention to what others are saying, we often are thinking about what we are going to say next because we have the same need they do...for someone to hear us.  The result may be conversation, but it is not communication.  

Admittedly, listening is hard work.  Some people speak so slowly we want to drag their words out of them.  We think five times faster than the average person can speak, and that intensifies the problem of listening.  All in all, listening can be a drag.  Some talk about trivial and insignificant matters that bore us.  Some can’t seem to say what they mean.  Others don’t know when to wrap it up.  But those very people who are most difficult to listen to may be the ones who most need a listener, and God may be asking us to be those listeners.  There are some things we cannot do, but if we have at least one functioning ear, we ought to be able to listen.

In the emotionally charged world we live in all of us need to talk things out.  We need to be heard and we need to hear ourselves talk in order to perceive the emotions that lie within.  Have you ever watched a child talk things out?  They use their invisible friends at times and just talk away about what is going on and what they are going to do.  We have a friend who is not visible to the eye but He is to the heart and spirit.  

Dan Rather, CBS anchor, once asked Mother Teresa what she said during her prayers.  She answered, "I listen."  So Rather turned the question and asked, "Well then what does God say?"  To that Mother Teresa smiled with confidence and answered, "He listens."

Who is listening?  God is listening.

Scripture to Claim:
Hear my prayer, O LORD! And let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress; incline Your ear to me; in the day when I call answer me quickly.
Psalms 102:1-2

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ears to Hear

He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land. And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching, "Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. "Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. "And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. "Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. "Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold." And He was saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN." Mark 4:1-12

One of my favorite things to do with my grandchildren is to tell them stories.  Sometimes when they are a bit out of sorts I will draw them close and begin with “Once upon a time...”  It is amazing how quickly I can get my grandsons’ attention merely by saying the word “truck.”  For the girls, it is “princess.”  It gets interesting when talking to both and I get the princess in the truck!

The stories I tell are usually spur of the moment creations that relate to whatever is going on around them.  It doesn’t take long to get their attention off of whatever was bothering them as they follow the story.  Their eyes begin to dance as their imaginations create the visuals in their minds.  As I move through the story, I try to inject some life lessons that relate to their current experience.  It’s amazing to see how they will listen to these lessons better than if I was trying to correct their behavior with a lecture.  I learned this from Jesus.

Jesus was the master storyteller and often used parables to communicate with people.  In fact, there are nearly sixty of them in the Gospels.  The word “parable” means “to cast alongside of”. Someone has defined a parable as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.”  In a parable truth is cast alongside life and life interprets the truth.  In other words, a parable takes the common, everyday events of life and uses them to illustrate the deep things of God.  

A parable is designed to teach one primary truth. When that truth is understood, the parable becomes clear.  At the end of His parable, Jesus would often close with, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."  Those who were open to His message would understand while those who were merely seeking entertainment would get what they wanted but miss the real point because they were not ready to hear.

Are we among those who have ears to hear?  No doubt that there are times when life opens our ears to hear from God more than others.  In the midst of trouble and needing protection or guidance we are far more likely to listen attentively to God’s instruction.  God invites us to crawl up beside Him and let Him tell us a story that will help us know what is best for lives and how to discover it.  When we quit throwing our tantrums and quiet down He is ready to share.  "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Scripture to Claim:
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. Psalms 78:2-4

Friday, November 25, 2011

Share the Bounty Part V

There will be two empty chairs at our Thanksgiving table this year.  Mark’s mom and dad both passed away within 32 days of one another this past summer.  As I’ve been cooking and preparing for our Thanksgiving meal, my heart is FULL and the tears FLOW as I reminisce over the Thanksgiving’s of the past when we were all together.  We were so blessed  to have a church family who cared, prayed for us and a pastor (Van) who called to check on us.  How blessed we are that we have that blessed hope that we will ALL be together again when we all get to heaven and what a day that will be!

We love you and appreciate our North Side church family.  

God bless you all,
Mark and Cathy Collier

Diane Allen does more things behind the scenes for classes and individuals that anyone I know.  She is a true gift to this church and to so many others.

I am blessed with the ability to play and win a tournament in volleyball.  I am thankful for the church, the teachers, and my parents for feeding me, for Pastor Van and the deacons.  I am just thankful for Jesus and God.  I’m thankful for everything.  

Emily Grudt

The people and the Spirit of NSBC is above all.  From the Pastor all the way to the smallest child.  God is blessing NSBC and all of us.  Praise the Lord!!

I thank God for giving me the patience for forgiveness and for taking a heavy burden off my heart.  He placed key people in my life that helped me and taught me how to forgive and how to move on.  I am thankful for my family, my fiancé and Lady B. McClellan.  

Landon Meeker

I am so thankful that Jesus has come into my heart and I have been saved.  

Blaine Shaw

In 2008 my dad, David Wilson, died of a heart attack.  Thankfully after that, we were able to move to Weatherford where we could be close to family members.  God has helped me and my mom through this.  

Preston Lunceford

I am so thankful for coming to Weatherford and meeting such wonderful people that invited me to NSBC.  I can’t say enough about everyone.  God took me through some bad times, but that is in the past.  Thank you God, Marie Elliot
I am thankful for God, my family, and my friends. 

Hailey Little

I praise God for sending Perry and me to North Side, the integrity of the people, their eagerness to do things for others in need, the many opportunities to find peace of ministry.  And I love the loving spirit of Gary Wood.

Jo and Perry Cheatham

I’m dealing with mine and my husband’s mother’s estates.  We found we have non-biological brothers and sisters.  We are only children, but friends (Christian brothers and sisters) appeared on our doorstep and worked for weeks to get an estate sale accomplished.  They brought lunch and tables, worked all day, and supported us through the entire process.  What love and caring!

Our family has been very blessed by this church family when our son, Michael Dinkins, was hospitalized due to being kicked by a horse in the face.  During the week we were at Cooks, there were so many that came to the hospital and that prayed for his healing and we thank God for them.  

Brett and Shanna Dinkins

We have been attending North Side for two years now and just love it!  We feel blessed to be a part of this congregation!  

Steve and Sherry Bezner

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Share the Bounty Part IV

I am thankful for my mommy and my daddy and my family and friends.  Morgan C.  I am thankful for my husband and children.  Kim C.  I am thankful for my beautiful wife and children.  Jason C.  I love my family.  Morgan C.

Lee and I thank God for Penny and Belle Stone.  They are such an inspiration to us and always a witness for our Lord.  We do love those two.  

Gloria and Lee West

Bro. Schreiber was a great warrior for the Lord and always a faithful friend.  Even when his thoughts were mixed and he was in Santa Fe rest home, he could say the sweetest prayers.  What a precious memory.

Lee and Gloria West

Over the past year I have recognized God’s blessing and bounty in my life specifically in the area of relationship with God and recognizing a deeper understanding of His Word and my life with His purpose.

In 2009, a new Weight Watchers meeting began here at North Side Baptist.  I was chosen to be the receptionist for the meeting.  Through that Weight Watchers meeting I came to know and love North Side Baptist Church.  I started visiting and experiencing a worship like nothing I have ever been involved with.  I thank the Lord for His salvation and for this wonderful church!  

Margaret Smith

My Mimi brings me to church and I love the music and love Bro. Van.  I am thankful for church!  

Cheyenne Smith

I am thankful for this church and my Sunday school class (Agape).  They are wonderful friends and prayer warriors.  Another thanksgiving is for the choir.  I’ve been in many choirs through the years and this is the greatest choir of all.  Gary is a great director.  The Homebound Ministry is great.  I visit Doris Tyre and she is a true joy.  North Side is a great place to serve the Lord.  

Maryln Hollingshead

My wife and I have been visiting NSBC for about 5 or 6 weeks.  We have felt so loved and welcome here.  We feel like NSBC is home already and we’re still visiting.  We feel that missions are very important and we are impressed by the amount of missions at NSBC.  I was hesitant to come here because it is a big church.  You are a big church in number but very personable.  We are looking forward to serving here. 

J.D. and Charlotte Lee

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Share the Bounty Part III

I am thankful for the love of God!  My hope is in Him.  I am thankful for the unconditional love of friends!  Through every trial we have found He is faithful!!!  I love my church family.     

Roger and Linda

I’m a seventh grader at Hall Middle School.  God has blessed me with student council, “A” team volleyball, “B” team basketball, straight A’s, UIL, and amazing friends.  I have so many friends here at North Side.  Maggie Glen is one of my best friends at North Side, also Jade Dunn, Abby Tharp, and too many to name.  I love all of what God has blessed me with.  I am also thankful for all of the things like a shelter, my dad’s job, and a fantastic, loving family.  

Ellie Larvin

I’m thankful for God and Jesus and church.  I love God and Jesus.  Katie Hall
My great-grandpa had a heart but God watched over him and he didn’t die.  

Landry Robertson (7 years old)

This year God has blessed me with Lady B McClellan, she has taught me so much.  She always knows how to help me through things, and is always be there for me.  She is one of the most Godly women I have ever met, and I am so lucky to be as close as I am to her.  I love her so much and don’t know where I would be without her.

I joined the choir about a year ago and it has been such a blessing.  I felt drawn by God to become involved in this ministry and had no idea how it would be so precious to me.  Hearing this group of believers sing and praise God is like getting a glimpse of what Heaven will be like!  I am so glad that I can be a part of such an amazing ministry.

The Lord used NSBC to minister to my family and me during the sudden loss of my father.  I felt the love of our church when Donnie O’Fallon called and prayed for me, when Bro. Van called and talked to me about my father and then NSBC provided meals, cards and literature.  Thank you NSBC.

Thanks to all of you for your prayers, cards, visits, loving hearts during my three weeks in the hospital in Weatherford and Fort Worth.  North Side is the most loving and caring church that I have ever had the opportunity to be a member.  God bless each of you and may God continue to bless North Side.  

John Sanders

I enjoyed Heaven’s Handymen Day when four men, two teenage girls and two teenage boys came to help.  They sprayed my house “in and out”, changed light bulbs, groomed my dog’s toenails, dusted, cut and hauled dead trees and branches and mowed the lawn.  I enjoyed most of all the hugs and assurance of coming back to help if I needed it.  

Mary D. Pearson

Since joining this fellowship eight years ago, this body of believers has been my family.  I never understood the admonition “Love the Brethren” until I came here.  I am so grateful that God kept His hand on me and brought me to Texas.  I thought I’d live and die a “Californian” but I’m a “Texan” now and love all of you.  Praise God!!!  

Barbara Stotts

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Share the Bounty Part II

What has God done in my life as a testimonial? My life is a testimonial of God's Grace and Mercy and Provision!

I think the operative word was "this year" in the Share The Bounty request.
This year I have become employed, made many new friends in Glory Sunday School Class, and became a member at NSBC. I completed a Grief Share program to deal with the loss of my husband in 08. 

I was sitting in church one Sunday about a year ago very depressed. I don't remember what Pastor Van was preaching on but he said if you are depressed I am going to tell you how to not be depressed.  I was diagnosed to be Clinically Depressed at age 18. I had been dependant on prescription drugs for the anxiety and depression all my life.  I had people tell me to "pull myself out of it" "be happy" etc... Never had I heard "I am going to tell you how to get out of the depression". 

I remember sitting up straight and leaning forward a little.  Pastor Van then said very simply, "If you are depressed it is because you are living in the past. If you are anxious or fearful it is because you are living in the future. What happened yesterday is gone- over -done, nothing you do can bring back yesterday. Tomorrow is not promised. What you have is today. Ask yourself this question..."Am I ok today?" chances are, you are ok today." 

That was an "ah-ha" moment for me.  I prayed a simple prayer to trust God to get me off the anti-depressants and I determined to stay in today. To date I have not taken any anti-depressants, I rely fully on God and He never has failed me. I can't say my life has been rosy this past year but God has helped me to see the Roses in my life.  Today I am ok, and to God be the Glory.

Gloria Schieffer

When my Dad was taken to the hospital I left a Joy Class dinner and I told Kaye Wood what had happened.  Kaye called Gary and he came to Weatherford Regional immediately.  While he was hospitalized, Dick Brouse came several times.  When Daddy passed away a few weeks later Van called and Donnie called to offer sympathy this meant the world to me.  I’ve had a difficult time grieving Daddy’s death but I had help because I took the Grief Share class and it helped me so much.  Thank you, North Side!  

Sandy Canton

Though I just joined the church a short time ago, I thank God for this church and it means so much to me.  I’ve been so blessed to be part of the church.  I know that I was brought here by some friends who I know were put into my life by only one person, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  

Curt Junker

God’s love was revealed during the time of our daughter-in-law’s illness and death.  God gave our son and our family the strength we needed and especially our son to get through every day and every hour.  God provided all our needs and stood by all of us.  

John and Mary Geis

My blessing of having this unbelievably loving church family:  Anyone not involved in a small group is missing out on one of the best opportunities to feel loved!  The usual things you hear about being thankful for are even more special for me this year.  God ministers through others and I have been ministered to in amazing abundance!  

Donice Nichols

This year I almost lost my husband due to a major heart attack.  NSBC staff was awesome and so was the deacon body.  Special thanks to Bro. Van, Bro. Kerry and Bro. Donnie.  We are also thankful for our healthy grandson.

I am thankful for Donnie, Kerry and Van’s support during major events in our family life this year, for being there and supporting when Jayton was born and comforting to us during a difficult pregnancy, during my stay in the hospital after a heart attack and bypass.  I really felt the love and support of North Side showered on us.  Thank you for all you do.  

Wayne Garrett

I am thankful for Donnie O’Fallon for being there this summer when we needed help.  Thank you so much.  NSBC

I am thankful for Happy Hats and Prayers & Squares.  They are always so helpful and their prayers are awesome.

It has been over two years since Carole left to walk with Jesus “hand in hand!”  There has been no greater gift to me than Carole Ann.  God blessed me with 44 years with Carole at my side.  We press on and we are thankful for all that the church did for us.  

Ralph Willingham

God has blessed all of us with His love and such wonderful friendships of our beloved church family.  We are thankful for such bountiful gifts of God’s warmth and love.  We have peace and tranquility knowing God loves us so generously.
I am thankful for Donnie and Kerry, for the prayers and encouragement you gave me in the loss of my mother.  The calls, visits and prayers are times I now treasure as I reflect on going through those difficult times.  I am thankful for the support the church gave in sending the Meekers and family to Oklahoma.  These things are what have been such a blessing to Linda Kay and me.  Please know that the McCasland Family has been richly blessed by you!  We thank God for every remembrance of you.  Serving Him together, 

Roger D. McCasland

Monday, November 21, 2011

Share the Bounty

We have been so blessed by NSBC.  First our youngest daughter has gained so many great friends through the singles program.  She has traveled to Brazil on a mission trip and has been enriched through the small group Bible studies.  I lost my job in June and she took me in to talk with Donnie and the counseling and advice have helped us so much.  Last year I participated in the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace program and have been working toward getting my credit cards paid off.  Several of the singles came out and repaired our ceiling and a soft place in our floor.  We had a water leak and the church provided a plumber to repair it. I am trying to get a job and working hard but slowly to pay off bills but know GOD is working in our lives.  The singles kept me in prayer while I underwent three surgeries this summer and this fall my daughter and I have worked in the Revive ministry and have been so blessed.  My work background for the past 10 years has been in special education and I am so glad the church has taken this on.  Thank you for being here and for being North Side, a vessel for GOD.

Mary Lou Vuglamore

Thank You for the opportunity and blessing to be able to Pray for YOU.  And, Thank You for the Prayers you have offered up for my family. What a humbling and blessed experience it has been, when you have asked if a family member of mine is feeling better, and told me you had been praying specifically for them.  I find myself brimming with thankfulness and gratitude, each Thanksgiving for the Family that  IS  NSBC. May you all have a truly blessed Thanksgiving! Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.   Psalm 100:4

Barbara Bass

I am thankful that I am not who I was.  When I was 13 years old, Jesus made me a new person with hope in Him.

Tracey Hass

I am thankful for the huge blessing that North Side has been in my life.  Since I have been at North Side since I was born, the people here have literally helped raise me!  They have done everything from change my diapers and sing songs to me in the nursery to teach me the books of the Bible and encourage me as I began my Christian walk.  In the youth group, I was taught how to further my relationship with God and be a leader to other young people.  I was given the opportunity to go places in this country I would never have gone otherwise and share God with song and missions.  Now as an adult in a ministry role here, I am continually supported by these great people.  Even better, now my daughter is experiencing the same great church family atmosphere that I did.  North Side is not just where I work or where I go to church – this is truly my church home.

Tamra Gutierrez

I am Thankful for Curtis Jefferson and New Hope Baptist Church. Pastor Jefferson helped me discover a great way to express God’s Faithfulness. He closes almost every service by saying, “God Is Good, All the Time! All the Time, God Is Good!” I thank God for such a wonderful Pastor and church.

I thank God for my wonderful family: Randy, Jayme and Owens; Jared; and Kaye. God continues to bless me through them everyday. I am so THANKFUL to God for them!

My heart is overflowing with gratitude to this powerful church family called North Side! 

The praise of our great choirs, praise teams, congregation and instrumentalist lift me up weekly. I and my family have experienced the very presence of God as we worship together.

I am thankful for Bro. Van! He is a friend and fellow minister. We have laughed much; cried some; shared many burdens; aggravated one another; pushed each other to be better leaders and godly men and continue to see God work in amazing ways. No matter what you “think” you see or hear on Sunday mornings as we visit at the beginning of each service, be assured that we are “brothers” and love & respect each other more than it sometimes shows!

I thank God for the healing, strengthening, providing and guidance we experience each week as God’s people pray for one another and encourage one another. “God Is Good, All the Time! All the Time, God Is Good!”

Gary Wood

One of my most memorable Thanksgivings was the year I spent as a missionary in Chile.  It was my first Thanksgiving away from my family, and there were very few around me who understood the holiday.  But being away from family and outside the United States brought a special meaning to this day of giving thanks.

I was a little caught off guard when people from Chile would ask me about Thanksgiving. They had no clue, but it gave me a chance to explain it a bit and therefore understand it better myself.  Perhaps it’s what they called the holiday that taught me the most: Día de Acción de Gracias. Literally translated that means “Day of Action of Thanks.”

I used to think of Thanksgiving as a time when I would tell God how thankful I was for His blessings, and tell others how thankful I was for them. But now during this time I realize that being thankful should be accompanied by words and actions.  In both the Old and New Testaments, when we read the word thanksgiving many times it is meant to involve a sacrifice to the Lord that flows from a thankful heart.  

My prayer for this Thanksgiving is that we will express our thankfulness both with words and actions; that we would count each blessing that God has given us and show Him and others how thankful we are.

Caleb Lain

I have come to realize that Thanksgiving is not so much an action as an attitude.  Interestingly, there are those who are grateful for everything in life and others who have such a sense of entitlement they are rarely grateful for anything yet are quick to complain about the smallest of inconveniences.  For that reason, I find myself grateful this Thanksgiving for all of those in my life who are grateful for all that God gives them in relationships, resources and health.  It is these people that make ministry a joy and a blessing.

I would also add to that at this time in my life the incredible support of friends and family as I deal with my health.  Susie has been a wonderful caregiver and nurse and the staff has stepped in to handle the ongoing ministry of the church.  I am blessed.

Pastor Van

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Foundation of a Nation, Part II

Deuteronomy 10:12-13
The book of Deuteronomy contains the fascinating account of Moses’ last words to the Nation of Israel.  As he seeks to hand over leadership to the next generation, his words are marked with a great sense of urgency and passion.  Moses knows what hangs in the balance.  The church in every age will benefit from knowing the lessons of this mighty Old Testament narrative. 

I. Recap of Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (Part I)

Deuteronomy is a plea for our obedience to God based on the motives of love and fear.

II. Setting of Deuteronomy 10

·         Deuteronomy 6 and 10 are part of Moses second discourse
·         Chapter 6 concludes with a warning about disobedience
·         Chapter 7 includes a reminder of their chosen status and a lengthy list of blessings­ of obedience
·         Chapter 8 warns against false worship
·         Chapter 9 revisits Israel’s past rebellions, and
·         Chapter 10 begins with a reminder of God’s provision of the law

III. The Requirement of The Lord

Deuteronomy 10:12-13
·         Fear
We must adore His majesty, acknowledge His authority, stand in awe of His power and dread His wrath.

·         Walk
Hebrew understanding of the word walk = lifestyle.

·         Love
“The fear of God is to be united with the love of God…” J. Gerhard

·         Serve
To serve God fully, duty must flow from desire.

·         Keep
Hebrew – “keep” is also to guard, watch or preserve.

IV. Most Important Words… “for your good…”

Friday, November 18, 2011

AGAPE Dinner

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Colossians 3:12-14
For over two decades North Side Baptist Church has celebrated the blessing of fellowship with our AGAPE Dinner.  This time together has been a time to acknowledge and express that which binds us together...Christian love.

In a biblical sense, the term love has a precise and profound meaning.  Three words are used in the New Testament to convey the meaning of love: storge, philia, and agape.  Eros — which had come to have sexual connotations in Jesus' day — is not used by New Testament writers.  Generally philia has to do with affection between friends; storge relates to love in family relations; but agape has a unique meaning.

Love is called the "higher way" or “more excellent way” in I Corinthians 12:31.  The Christian life is summed up in Paul's statement: "faith working through love" in Galatians 5:6.  It is found to be greater than faith and hope in I Corinthians 13:13.  Scripture defines the very nature of God by saying, “God is love.”

Jesus took this ancient, colorless term to the laundry, cleaned it up and filled it with new content. Agape is not merely liking someone. It is not a sentimental love; it is a matter of the will and therefore can be commanded.

Jesus, then, gave love a new and distinctive meaning.  It means to will the well-being of the other.  This involves, among other things, other's health, and happiness; a recognition of the dignity and worth of the other; the granting of the basic rights of the other.  This is why love always needs defining from the Christian perspective.  A. C. Craig puts it: "The word 'love' always needs a dictionary and for the Christian the dictionary is Christ.  He took this chameleon of a word and gave it a fast color, so that ever since it has been lustred by his life and teaching, and dyed in the crimson of Calvary, and shot through with the sunlight of Easter morning." 

The love of God in the individual's heart must radiate as widely as God's love.  It suffers with friends and enemies. Love in the biblical sense requires involvement in meeting human need.  John, the apostle, makes it clear that genuine love gets involved with neighbor needs.  He says: "If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?" (I John 3:17).

Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you that you also love one another."(John 13:34)  Here the measure or ground of one's love is not that of self, but Christ Himself.  To love others as you love yourself is calculating ethic.  To love as Christ loves is sacrificial and selfless. 

And so, this weekend we celebrate AGAPE love.  During this time we will share how it has affected our lives in its expressions of ministry and compassion.  Testimonies will declare how this love has redeemed, restored and blessed the lives of those in our congregation.  This love has produced ministries to those in need and taken the gospel around the world.  May God bless all who join together this weekend.

Scripture to Claim:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Teaching Children to Make Good Decisions

To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity; to give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion, a wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, Proverbs 1:2-5
The most important tools parents and caregivers need to give children to equip them to survive and succeed in a dangerous world is how to make good decisions.  Knowledge of right and wrong is, of course vitally important as well.  However, young people with strong values and an inability to apply those values remain vulnerable to the world’s persuasions. 

While knowing what is right and wrong is fundamental to any value system, the ability to live out our value system is not so easy.  Temptations, emotions, drives, cultural influences, distorted priorities and all sorts of other pressures can regularly conflict with our values creating serious tension.  Public schools are microcosms of our society exposing our children to a wide spectrum of values each day.  Such an environment demands that children who are going be safe know how to turn their values into convictions and be able to logically defend their position.  Your child/grandchild may know what is right or wrong but not know why right is right and wrong is wrong.  If so they are vulnerable.

There are many formulas and outlines for teaching children to make decisions.  Any one of them may be chosen so long as they implement the basic principles involved in equipping a child to think through their decisions and respond rather than react to life choices.  
  • Decision making is a process of asking and answering questions
The most important thing you can do to help your child or grandchild make their own decisions is keep asking them questions to develop critical thinking skills.  Explaining and lecturing have limited impact in developing good skills.  
Asking questions provides awareness of the level of maturity in a child and what their primary values are.  It also reveals to them what they have not considered or need to consider.  When children ask to do something or go somewhere, the first response may need to be, “What do you think about this?”  Also, “Why do you think I would say ‘yes’ or ‘no’?”  Becoming a part of the decision making process and not just leaving it to the parent is a great learning experience.  

There are lots of techniques you can teach them to use, although they won't need to use them all every time. Indeed, they will make some minor decisions pretty instinctively, but there will be bigger decisions as they get older for which they may need to ask the right questions. 
  • Use a simple template to guide the decision making
Any guide should be easily remembered and as concise as possible.  Any process chosen should not be cumbersome but convenient and thorough.  Here is one sample:
  1. Define the problem and desired end.
  2. Brainstorm possible solutions. Identify the options
  3. Evaluate the possible solutions.  Weigh the pros and cons
  4. Pray about the solutions and apply Biblical wisdom.
  5. Choose the solution that is God-honoring.
  6. Implement the solution.
We can help our kids help themselves by taking the time to develop critical decision making skills.  You might be surprised how it will help you make decisions as well.

Scripture to Claim:
Isaiah 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

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