The Blessing of Church as Family

Whether you feel like attending your church services Sunday morning or not, be there. Gather with your church because you need your church, and your church needs you. Perhaps you are discouraged and overwhelmed with life; if so, you need others to build you up and encourage you. Perhaps you are doing well spiritually; if so, others need you to build up and encourage them.

I don’t need to go church to worship,” some might say.

Well, I have a few responses to that common excuse I hear from people who claim they do not need church.

  1. Yes, you and I can worship God anywhere, but we cannot experience the fulfillment and satisfaction God created us to experience apart from corporate worship and fellowship. I love to sing songs of praise to God, and I do so when I am driving down the road or walking down the hallway (alone), but those times alone do not even come close to worshiping God with my church family. Lifting up my voice in unison with others seeking to praise Him has no equal.
  2. No one goes to church, but rather we gather with the church. If you are stuck on the idea of “going to church,” you are missing the point that church is not a place but a people. Church is not a building but a body. Church is not a fabrication but a family. And every single person on this earth does better when living, as God intended, with a healthy family.
  3. What a selfish and foolish response it is to claim no need for the church. God created us to be in relationship – in relationship with Him and in relationship with one another. Furthermore, He commands us to gather regularly with the church, to serve the church, and to love the church. Thus, claiming you do not need the church is not only wrong but a selfish rejection of God’s plan for your life to love and serve others (and to be loved and be served).

No, you do not need the church to worship God, but what are you missing without the church? And, what is the church missing without you? We need one another.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing our 2020 Vision series and talking about the great blessing that “Our Church Is Our Family.” Looking at Romans 12:3-8, I hope to share three things church family ought to do continually. Do you value the church as family? Do you see the great blessing in this gift from God?

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another (Romans 12:3-5).

Members of a body rely on one another and simply cannot function properly on their own. So, the church. The church is the body of Christ, with Him as our Head. We are all under His leadership and authority, and we work together to honor Him and build up one another.

Do you see how, in light of that truth, we do need the church? If you have no desire to be a part of a Bible-teaching church, perhaps it is because you have not come to know the Good News. Please realize how much God loves you – so much so that He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins and rise again for your victory over sin and death, if you will simply turn to Him.

If you make that decision to surrender your life to Jesus, I believe you will not only gather with the church; you will love and serve her faithfully.

Sunday is also “Youth Sunday,” meaning our youth praise band will lead our worship music, and various youth will pray and serve during the service. We will also have the privilege of hearing from Pastor Preston, our association’s director of missions, about his recent trip to Central Asia.

Passion Is Priority

Our kids opened a few presents last month. They received Christmas gifts about which they were seemingly excited. Of course, some gifts were received more gladly than others, while some have probably already been forgotten. The gifts about which our kids were sincerely passionate, though, are still used and talked about each day. They play with them. They care for them. They protect them. They declare their greatness.

They prioritize these gifts with their time, efforts, and energy because they are passionate about these gifts. Passion is priority.

Now, the reality is that all of these gifts are temporary, meaning they will not last forever, nor will the passion had for them last forever.

WE ARE PASSIONATE PEOPLE

Everyone is passionate about something. God created us this way, and we declare that passion in and through our priorities. You give of your time, your care, and your resources to that which you prioritize. Or, you end up prioritizing the thing(s) to which you give of your time, your care, and your resources (see Matthew 6:21).

We are passionate people, whether our personalities are outwardly charismatic or more reserved. So, what are you most passionate about?

If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, can you possibly be more passionate about anything than you are about the gospel? Nothing is even close to as great as Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation, and if you have experienced that salvation, you are surely passionate about it.

HAVE APPROPRIATE PASSION

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a 3-week sermon series on 2020 Vision. My hope is to challenge our church (both as a body and as individuals) to have the right (biblical) purpose and vision in 2020 and beyond, beginning with having appropriate passion – passion focused appropriately.

Our passion for the gospel ought to be greater than our passion for anything else. Is your passion the gospel? If not, why? Have you experienced new life in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you prioritizing your relationship with Him?

Micah, who received plenty of Christmas gifts about which he is passionate (at least for now), opening a gift with Papa and Mema.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It has been another great Christmas with our family and church family, and we are looking forward to 2020. We pray that you had a Merry Christmas and that you have a Happy New Year, seeking to know and follow God with all your heart.

Below are some specific ways you can pray for our family headed into the new year. Marsha and I share our primary hopes, followed by each of our kids sharing their own requests. Thank you for praying for us! If there are any specific ways we can pray for you, please let us know.

Marsha and I ask that you would pray for us to honor God in our marriage, in our parenting, and in our discipleship ministry. Pray that we will grow in our relationship with the Lord and help our children and friends to do the same. Pray that we will be Christian disciples who make disciple makers.
Noah (14) asks that you pray he will be a better brother to his siblings.
Levi (13) asks that you pray he will talk with kids at school more about the gospel.
Silas (9) asks that you pray he will be more like Jesus.
Zoe (8) asks that you pray she will read her Bible every day.
Micah (4) asks that you pray he will learn his numbers and ABCs better.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-5, 14

If you have not yet experienced the eternal joy of knowing and walking with the One and Only Son from the Father, please turn to Him today. God bless you this coming year and beyond!

Transformed and Talkative

Since getting our yellow lab, Lottie, in August, our lives have changed. We are not surprised about that, as whose life would not change when getting a puppy? Puppies take time, money, patience, and energy. They are also a lot of fun, though, and our kids (usually) like to talk about their adorable puppy. Life is different now. And, talk or no talk, no one in our family would claim that our lives are the same today as they were in July.

All this to say, Lord willing, I am going to be talking about an even bigger transformation Sunday morning. A new life in the family, like a baby or a puppy, changes the family. Bigger still is the change that comes with a new spiritual life.

NEW LIFE LEADS TO CHANGE…

Like the undeniable change our family has experienced in adding a puppy to our lives, the change that comes with a new life belonging to Jesus Christ is undeniable. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In Acts 16:11-15, the passage I plan to preach through Sunday morning, you can read about some of that change. The Apostle Paul, who was once a persecutor of the Christian faith, was changed in and through a personal relationship with Jesus and became a bold, courageous missionary for Jesus. And, that is where we find him in Acts 16.

Then, a changed Paul is used by God to bring about a change in an entire household – Lydia and her household. God is the One who does the changing, but He tends to use His followers to be agents of that change.

A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul. After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us” (Acts 16:14-15).

Lydia and her household were changed by God, repenting of their sins and surrendering to Jesus. Then, Lydia demonstrated that change through biblical hospitality. New life leads to change.

CHANGE LEADS TO CONVERSATION…

When life is dramatically different, we tend to talk about it. One cannot experience life with a new puppy, for example, and tell no one. More importantly and more dramatically, one cannot experience a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and not desire to talk about Him.

Paul and his companions, consequently, could not stop proclaiming the gospel. They had been changed by Jesus, and that change led to conversation. That conversation, then, led to more change. And so it goes – the cycle of change continues. God changes lives and uses those changed lives to change more lives.

ARE YOU CHANGED?

We are unable to change ourselves, at least in a way that lasts. Sure, we can fix some things temporarily and develop some decent habits through repetition, but we are incapable of producing change that changes our lives eternally. Only God can do that, and He does so through the power of His Holy Spirit, the promised Spirit who takes over the lives of all who turn from their sins and trust in Jesus Christ for new life. That is a new life we, just like Paul, love to talk about!

If you want to experience the change that leads to conversation, would you consider watching The Story by clicking the picture below?

Video can also be viewed by clicking HERE.

Family Fun

Since I am not preaching Sunday morning, I thought I would take a break from my usual weekly update and share some fun stuff we did as a family the past couple months.

WE WENT ON VACATION

Both with my (Nick’s) family, as well as a few days with just us, we spent some time in Illinois and in Branson, Missouri.

THE KIDS STARTED SCHOOL

Only Marsha and Micah remain home during the week, as I am off to work, and Noah, Levi, Silas and Zoe attend Hatton-McCredie Elementary School. This is Noah’s last year there before he moves to North Callaway High School, at which time Micah will begin kindergarten at Hatton.

To see more pictures from the first day of school, click HERE.

WE GOT A DOG

Lottie is a yellow labrador who was born on June 23, 2019. She has added even more fun (sometimes) and frustration (sometimes) to our family.

To view more pictures of Lottie and her pals, click HERE.

JUST A GLIMPSE

Well, those are just a few big things we did over the past couple of months. We also had Silas in urgent care multiple times (he is better now), celebrated Papa Tony’s 75th birthday, spent more time with family, played a lot outside, ministered alongside our church family, and got on each other’s nerves.

Praise God for family!

July was a fun month!

August is already here, and it feels like July never even existed. Busy as usual, July was a fun month with a lot of family events and church activities. Praise God for His kindness toward our family and our church!

COX FAMILY VACATION

We had a great time, as always, with Marsha’s family during the first week of July. For the third straight year, we spent our extended family vacation at Windermere Christian Camp outside Roach, Missouri. With 17 kids and 10 adults, this vacation is never dull. We love spending time with Marsha’s family – swimming, playing basketball, cliff jumping, hiking, playing games, doing the ropes course, playing archery tag, visiting, and just hanging out.

Below are some highlights via pictures, and you can see more by clicking HERE. The pictures below can be seen in full by clicking on them.

CHURCH AND DAILY LIFE

Below are some more pictures, but to see some more highlights from Vacation Bible School, click HERE.

Your Reputation Matters

We had Vacation Bible School with our church family this week, and dozens of parents and grandparents dropped off their children or grandchildren for three hours each evening, trusting that the children would be cared for and loved. Why such trust? In most cases, the trust was a result of relationships with one, if not many, of our volunteers working with the children. In other cases, there was a general trust in the church and the proven VBS program.

Simply put, reputation matters. This is true for us as individuals, and this is true for the church. This is true for everyone.

If our church or individuals in our church had a bad reputation in our community, who would trust us to teach and serve their children? Rightly so, most would not.

On Sunday morning during our VBS family celebration and worship service, Lord willing, I will be preaching through the short letter of 3 John and talking about the “Proof from Reputation” for genuine Christian faith. I hope to challenge people to ask themselves three questions for self-examination regarding personal character and reputation. The message, along with others in the series, will be available Sunday afternoon HERE.

In the meantime, I want to encourage you to consider three requirements of a godly reputation.

1. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES TRUTH

Truth is essential when it comes to reputation. By this, I do not mean that everyone knows the truth about you, although that certainly affects your reputation. What I mean, and what John made clear in his letter, is that your understanding and commitment to the Truth are critical.

We must be “faithful to the truth” and “walk in the truth” (3 John 3-4) in order to be people of godly character, resulting in godly reputations. How? Well, only by God’s help “because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 2). That “truth that remains in us” is the Spirit of Truth when we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, resulting in faithfulness to the Word of Truth.

Have you ever met someone who is faithful to God’s Word but does not have a godly reputation? No such person exists because someone who faithfully obeys the Word of Truth will be proven to be a person of character and integrity. A godly reputation requires Truth.

2. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES LOVE

John wrote a lot about love in his three letters. He was certainly an expert, or as close to an expert as a human can be, for he was, after all, the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” John experienced God’s love in and through Jesus Christ, and he embraced Jesus’ command that we love God and love others. John knew love was essential for genuine Christian faith and likewise essential for a godly reputation.

Specifically in 3 John, there is an emphasis on the commitment to the mission of the church that demonstrates sincere love for God and others. If you truly love God, you will be committed to His mission. And, if you are committed to His mission, you will love and serve others; you will love and serve His church; you will long for others to experience the love of God through Christ Jesus.

Gaius and Demetrius are great examples of this in 3 John. Gaius, for example, was showing his faith by supporting Christian missionaries, including those he did not even know (verse 5). In other words, Gaius’s love for God was proven in his commitment to God’s mission, and his commitment to God’s mission was proven in his love for others in God’s church.

What was the result? A godly reputation. Have you ever heard of someone known to not be loving and yet known for a godly reputation? Of course not. A godly reputation requires love.

3. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES GOODNESS

Are you known for your kindness and goodness toward others? This goes along with the love John mentioned earlier in the letter but is more about the visibility of love. Whereas the love is ultimately an issue of the heart, the goodness is about your actions, particularly those actions seen by others.

John shared a few contrasting examples in the letter, and in all three examples, it was each individual’s reputation that was proof of his goodness. Furthermore, goodness is proof of faith.

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).

While people can “fake it” for a while and sadly deceive others, the truth eventually comes to light. And, most importantly, God knows the truth. He knows our real reputations because He knows our hearts. He knows if we are doing what is good or doing what is evil. Others will know and see this, too, though, which is why there is ultimately proof from reputation of genuine Christian faith.

If you were to sincerely examine your own heart and life right now, can you see faithfulness to the Truth of God’s Word, a love for God’s mission, and a desire for good, not evil? If not (if any of those three proofs are missing, would you humbly ask God for His help? Would you willingly surrender everything to Him? Only a new life can bring about such radical change.

The amazing volunteers of Richland Baptist Church exemplified godly character and sacrificial service this week, and I praise God for them! They are the reason so many parents and grandparents gladly dropped off so many kids each night and why those kids wanted to keep coming back. Thank you, Richland Baptist Family!

These are most of the kindergartners Marsha and my mom had the pleasure of teaching and leading this week in VBS.