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The ARP Church: The Future is Now

 

0515 eben groupWhat do you picture when you imagine the future of the church? ATM machines positioned at every entrance, drones serving communion, or viewing a sermon telecast on your iPad?

The future of the church is alive in your church now. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The little children and youth are the leaders of our tomorrow. Every church has a story, and the ARP denomination wants to hear yours. We want to witness the precious moments with the younger generation and encourage the volunteers who are passionately building relationships with and training these future leaders.

This is the beginning of a series that will continue through the end of the year focusing on the future of the church. ARP Agency Directors were asked to explain their long-range plans along with the resources utilized to implement these goals. You will notice in this, May/June issue, Outreach North America expounds on this idea and how to encourage your congregation, especially the future generation of leaders. ONA has shared not only about church planting, but also about church vitality and how to meet people where they are. You can read more on page 16.

Below is taken from an interview with Rev. Boyce Wilson and Rev. Doug Jones, both former pastors of Ebenezer ARP Church, Rock Hill, SC, along with a few of the youth who grew up in Ebenezer.
So the big question is how did you do it? How do you build a youth group? How do you minister to them? How do you know the direction of their hearts? How do you train the future of the church?

Youth Leaders

It is vital to any church to have dedicated volunteers and staff involved in the ministries of children and youth. Ebenezer ARP has been fortunate enough to have staff positions making children and youth a top priority. During Doug Jones’ ministry, he would meet weekly with the staff to review and coordinate all programs and activities. Boyce Wilson emphasizes that Ebenezer’s youth ministry is strengthened by facilitating the Youth Council made up of parents, youth leaders, elders, deacons, and the youth director itself.

In determining the best fit for your church, it is important to have volunteers and staff who can identify with today’s generation. Growth and outreach in youth ministry is typically generated from the youth themselves bringing friends and even families to church. Building strong relationships is the core. The weekly large and small group meetings along with retreats, lunch dates, and sports activities are just a few examples of opportunities for life change.

Pastoral Counseling

Wilson suggests that, if possible, the pastor should learn the names of the children and youth, along with their interests and concerns. Engaging them after worship, ask about their lives and what is going on in the world around them. “My direct involvement in the youth ministry was through the preaching of God’s Word week-by-week in worship. It was not uncommon to see a quote from a sermon appear on a high school student’s Facebook page,” Wilson said.

Doug Jones used his children’s sermon as a way to teach a valuable lesson. The youth sat as a group and later discussed the sermon. Jones prepared sermons with all ages in mind, and in addition to teaching, always concluded with a challenge and an invitation for those who were led by the Holy Spirit to accept Christ as their Savior. The pastor would lead the communicants and new members classes, giving the opportunity to minister and relate on a deeper level.

“You can learn a lot from the youth of the church. They have real and vital relationships with Jesus Christ, which are shown in their boldness to speak up for Him among their peers and their desire to serve and reach out with the gospel. Simply put, I learned of their desire to speak the gospel and live the gospel,” Wilson said.

 Congregational Support

“It is vital to have the congregation support the children and youth programs. Having an annual Youth Sunday set before the congregation shows the importance and vitality of youth ministry,” Wilson said.

Doug and Ruth Jones adapted several dramas to take advantage of the particular talents of the youth and wrote several original scripts for them. They strongly encouraged all who played various musical instruments to share their talents with the congregation as well. Each person in the drama was given an individual part—either speaking, singing a solo, a duet, trio, or quartet. These were performed at the church and even during World Focus at Bonclarken.

Conclusion

The Jones and the Wilsons have been grateful to God to see so many youth at Ebenezer committed to full-time Christian serving as ministers, missionaries, youth ministers, or Christian Educators. It is equally rewarding to know that others who did not feel led into full-time Christian service are now church officers, Sunday school teachers, and youth leaders in various churches.

It takes a church to raise the next generation. It is obvious after talking with Rev. Doug Jones and Rev. Boyce Wilson that it takes more than a pastor to raise and train the future of the church. The youth leaders, volunteer or paid, spend hours dedicating their energy and talents to leading children and youth programs. The support from the congregation financially and prayerfully is vital for a program to grow.

Will you use your talents and gifts to help your church with the next generation?

 

You can read real testimonies from a few of the students who were brought up in the Ebenezer ARP youth group by clicking on the May/June digital magazine to the right. You can see firsthand how God used the different staff and volunteers in the church to minister to each of them.

 

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Young Kids Can Learn in Church

0515 future billyBy Billy Graham

Q. What good does it do to bring our young children to church? They are too young to get anything out of it, and anyway, I know their constant squirming must be a distraction to others.

A. Many churches have nurseries for babies and young children; if yours doesn’t, you might volunteer to help get one started. Other parents would probably appreciate it also.

However, don’t conclude that children never get anything out of church. They might not get much out of the sermon, but they will learn hymns and they will also realize that God listens when his people pray. They will also understand that God is real, and one reason you and other members of your church come together each week is so you can learn about him.

Most of all, your children will learn that God is important to you.

Billy Graham: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Originally printed in the Charlotte Observer.

51P--abIV-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Book Recommendation “Parenting in the Pew – Guiding Your Children Into the Joy of Worship” by Robbie Castleman. https://arpbookstore.com/parenting-in-the-pew?search=parenting&page=2

 

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Gratitude and the Imprint of God

By Lee Shelnutt

images-75I have been asked to write on the role gratitude plays in our reflection of God’s imprint. As I do so, I am sitting in a local coffee shop with a large cup of this magic elixir we call coffee. I am looking out at the bustle of 21st century Americana alongside a shop full of chatting patrons. I am listening to some nice acoustic music. If I just pause, just slow down, just reflect for but a moment, I realize there are untold things for which to be grateful. Right? There are ears to hear. There are musicians to create and play and record the music I am hearing and the engineering marvels that make it possible. There are the gifts of the earth like coffee beans and water and the taste buds and health that enable me to recognize this goodness. There are my eyes, which view the hugs of friends as they leave, the wave and smiles exchanged between the shop workers and regular patrons who step in from a grey and cool March day. On and on I could go.

Seated beside me is one of those beautiful souls like we see at Camp Joy – and a loving, patient, and kind mother right by her side. There is goodness; there is blessing to see here. Yes, indeed. Just pause. Just slow down. Just reflect.

As I do, I realize that even in a broken world where sin has affected all, in a broken world where a beautiful young lady can not feed herself well, where snappy words of hurt and discontent are exchanged nearby, where someone sits well-practiced in the lonely art of being unnoticed – even here, if I just pause, just slow down, just reflect, I will realize that there is still much for which to be grateful. Grateful for the promise that in Christ one day these hurts will be no more. Grateful for the fact that we, the Church, proclaim by our words and actions that in nail-pierced hands of the risen and coming again King Jesus there is hope; that our King in the fullness of time stepped into this fallen world, took on human flesh, and did everything necessary for this hope – perfect obedience, the agonies of the cross, and as St. Patrick’s Breastplate so beautifully puts it, “His bursting from the spiced tomb!”

“O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

I have much for which to be grateful. You too, right? Just pause. Just slow down. Just reflect. The coffee shop is a great place to do this. Yet, there is an even better place that helps us pause, slow down, and reflect and that place is where and when we are gathered with our brothers and sisters in Christ before the Table of the Lord.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

“The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24).

The word behind our English, “when he had given thanks” is the word many rightly use for the Lord’s Supper – Eucharist.

The Dutch theologian, Herman Bavinck, wrote this about the Lord’s Supper:

“It is both an ordinary natural meal and an extraordinary spiritual meal, in which the host, Christ, offers his own crucified body and shed blood as nourishment for our souls. Accordingly, in the meal that Christ has instituted, everything is important. Nothing in it is devoid of meaning. Everything about it is charged with deep meaning” (Reformed Dogmatics).

The Lord’s Table

Brothers and sisters, if that is so, then the words, “when he had given thanks,” are charged with deep meaning.

In this meal we give thanks. Thanks for what? We give thanks for the beauty of creation. The bread and the cup are symbols and realities of God’s creation and sustaining bounty and his goodness shown to us. They are reminders of fertile soil, sunshine, and rain. They are the fruit of fields of golden grain and vineyards of lush grapes, of plenty. Truly, they are gifts of God. Pause, slow down, reflect and give thanks.

God created all things good. Despite man’s sin there are still these divine, good gifts before our eyes – bread and wine. We struggle to understand why God would still give us, sinful though we are, good things and in our struggle we give thanks.

Yes, there is sin. Yes, there is brokenness. Yes, there is evil in this fallen world. However, evil, brokenness, sin and death are not the final words. This fallen world will be restored, made new in a glorious new heavens and new earth. Therefore, we do not yield to despair, or to cynicism. No, we receive and we take good gifts, prophetic gifts, bread and wine, again and again. We take bread and wine in a counter-cultural, this-world-system-defiant, powerful act of hope and we do what? We pause, slow down, reflect, and we give thanks!

Giving thanks is an act of certain hope. We do not engage in just wishful thinking – no! No, we give thanks because our Savior, our King has done all that is necessary to defeat evil, brokenness, sin and death. He has shed his blood. He has born the wrath of God on the cross. He has crushed the serpent’s head. He has died. He has been buried. He has bursted the bonds of hell and death. He is alive even now! He is the ascended and coming King. He is the bread and wine. We pause, slow down, reflect, and boldly give thanks.

How could we not? We who deserve this brokenness and death to the fullest? We, who instead, receive forgiveness of our sins and the perfect righteousness of Christ to cloth us in the sight of a holy God? We who receive the promise of life and life eternal with our glorious God, worshiping the Lamb? How could we not? Bread and wine. We pause, slow down, reflect and humbly give thanks. How could we not?

Until we get there, there is the gift of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. There is the glorious Bible which feeds our souls. There is prayer, our communication with the Triune God. There is the family of God, the Church. There are the waters of baptism. There is bread and there is wine. We pause, slow down, reflect, and give thanks.

Now, where should such thanksgiving lead our hearts? To that for which we are made. To what Christ came to bring his disciples, his brothers and sisters, his followers, his bride – what he came to give us – to joy! When Jesus taught his disciples that he was the vine and they were the branches and that they must abide in him, he ended with these words:

“These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)

Where does thanksgiving lead? Joy.   Gordon Smith writes:

A simple but powerful principle of the spiritual life is that thankful people are happy people. It is not that the church does not see the brokenness of the world and the pain that intersects so much of human life. It is not that the church is naive and does not care about the pain; the Christian community sees and feels keenly the brokenness of this world. But in celebration of the Eucharist, the church declares that in the midst of all that is wrong, God is the ruler yet, and God is good. The church believes that something bigger and more ultimate stands at the center of the mess. As Chesterton often insisted, we take joy in the deep things, those things that matter most. Yes, we grieve. But we know that one day those things will pass. When we take the larger view, when we think cosmically, the center of the universe is a throne, and on this throne sits the risen Lord Jesus Christ. This, more than anything, establishes us a people of joy.

Where then does thanksgiving in the Eucharist, in the Lord’s Supper, that place where our hearts are focused on the Lamb of God upon that throne, where does it lead? Joy! Isn’t that where the breaking of bread and giving thanks led the early church? What do we read in Acts 2?

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. ….And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God!”

Here is the point. When we rejoice, when we cast our eyes upon bread and wine and see all the good signified, and in our grateful hearts say, “This is very good,” what are we doing? Aren’t we reflecting the image, bearing the imprint of the One who looked upon his creation and saw that,

It was very good!”

Who looked down upon his Son receiving the waters of baptism and said,

“You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

Who will say one day,

“Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)

At the Lord’s Table, when we share bread and wine and give thanks, is not our grateful, joyful agreement with God a very reflection of the beauty of our Triune God? Oh, what a privilege and honor it is, to pause, slow down, reflect, give thanks and in the process, reveal the very imprint of our glorious, gracious, triune God!

Rev. Lee Shelnutt is the pastor of Huntersville ARP Church, Huntersville, NC.

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Protector of the Imprint

 

kneelingLove is the Father’s imprint

Which cancels all my fear;
Love remakes me like Jesus,
And love draws me near.

Character is Jesus’ imprint
Upon any the Father calls;
His mark is everlasting
And that one never falls.

The Spirit imprints holiness 
In a life born anew;
He comes with great power
To sanctify through and through. 

So my soul give thanks,
And let my heart be raised 
To God, the Imprint Maker,
Forever to be praised. 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:16-17).

“The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” These words from the catechism call us to become more God-centered and less self-centered. They call us to proclaim who we are in Christ Jesus and magnify Him at all times with thankful hearts, words, songs, prayers, and worship. Thanksgiving protects His imprint as we declare our Lord’s loving-kindness in the morning and His faithfulness at night.

Thankfulness humbly recognizes and acknowledges the abundance of God’s love in pursuing a relationship with us. Thanksgiving powerfully refreshes and revives the weary soul and spirit as we enumerate the Father’s manifold gifts. Thankfulness restores and enlivens the believer as his soul is drawn to the Giver of every good.

Thanksgiving names the Father’s blessings and mercies. The remembrance of His constant care engages our hearts and minds on things that endure. Recalling and proclaiming His holiness and His majesty broadens our appreciation.

Thankfulness abundantly praises and honors Jesus for His atoning sacrifice, His powerful resurrection, and His glorious ascension. Thanksgiving passionately exalts and worships our great, interceding High Priest. Thankfulness applauds and awaits the Rewarder of our faith.

Thanksgiving admires Jesus’ matchless name and His flawless character. The recounting of our Elder Brother’s commendations and excellencies focuses us on His superiority. Thinking on and proclaiming His word and His witness builds our strength.

Thankfulness rightfully lauds the Holy Spirit for life and light, for freedom and fruit. Thanksgiving properly lifts up and praises our wonderful Counselor and constant Encourager. Thankfulness recognizes and practices the presence of the Holy One who indwells.

Thanksgiving acknowledges the constancy of the Holy Spirit’s watchcare. The enumeration of the ways in which He protects us from fear and reinforces our faith fills us with boldness. Remembering and proclaiming His presence and His provision bolsters our faith.

Unthankfulness mars and destroys God’s imprint with its self-centered focus. Thankfulness beautifies and builds it with a God-centered focus. Unthankfulness discounts and forgets the great price that was paid for our redemption. Thankfulness exalts and remembers it with a Christ-centered focus. Unthankfulness deadens and destroys our spirits as we question His lovingkindness and faithfulness. Thankfulness enlivens them with a Spirit-centered focus.

How about thanking God through the Psalms for the next 150 days? Or if that seems too big a start, then invest ten days and thank Him for ten different things each day. Move to 66 days and thank Him through the books of the Bible; there are riches in each one for which to offer Him praise. Start a thanksgiving journal. Get a friend to hold you accountable for a complaining spirit. Meditate on a thanksgiving Scripture passage. Look for ways to amplify thankfulness to God in the coming days.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things (Psalm 107:1, 8-9 (ESV)).

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)).

Words matter not only in our thankfully praising God, but also in our rightfully thanking others. Proverbs 25:11 says: A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Over this next year, at least once each month, I challenge you to give your own Golden Apple Award. Contact someone who has made God’s imprint on your life, and thank him or her. Both of you will be blessed.

Thank you for letting me think and share with you this year our choice standing as those imprinted with the Father’s love, with the Son’s character, and with the Spirit’s sanctifying presence. Let us faithfully make His imprint in word and deed until we receive the eternal reward of our faith, glorification in our Lord’s presence.

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ARP Synod Executive Board Announcement

ARP Seal

2015 Concurrent Synod Meeting of Associate Reformed Presbytery Church (ARPC) and Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA) June 9-11, 2015

ARP Synod’s Executive Board would like to encourage everyone to pay close attention to the modified Synod meeting schedule.  In order to accommodate two combined worship services and the Wednesday afternoon agency presentations with the ARPC and RPCNA, it is likely that the business portion of the Synod meeting will continue into Thursday afternoon and potentially into Thursday evening.

Since we have had issues in past years with delegates leaving the meeting early when the meetings progressed into Thursday afternoon, we ask that you plan accordingly and commit to fulfilling your obligations as delegates by participating in the meeting until it is adjourned.

View the complete schedule, including Pre-Synod Conference June 8, 2015 (www.arpchurch.org/meeting).

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Imprint of Christ on Our Lives

By: Max Bolin

“As those marked eternally with the Father’s love, Jesus’ character, and the Spirit’s holiness and fruit, we have the privilege and responsibility to make His imprint on our world today.”

images-73When I was asked by Moderator Larry Littlejohn to write on the topic of the “Imprint of Christ” on our lives, the first thought that came to my mind was of another Moderator of the General Synod, the late James M. Dickson, Elder in the Clover ARP Church. “Mr. Jimmy”, as I knew him, was a man who bore the imprint of Jesus in a way that was obvious to everyone he met, and who in turn left an imprint of Christ on each person’s life. From the night in the mid-1960’s in the Clover ARP Church when Jesus made Himself real to Mr. Jimmy, until He called Him to heaven not many years ago, there was an evident presence of Christ in his life. That presence, that imprint of the living Lord, was seen in his personal life, in his family life, and in his law practice. It was visible in his ministry as an Elder and as a youth leader in his local church. It was on display in his involvement in missions and in his service to the greater church. He lived his life through Christ. I can still hear him quote Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” The imprint of Christ in his life made a tremendous impact on the lives of countless people.

I remember the night Jesus made his imprint on the life of Jim Dickson (and on myself and others) through the words of a young college student who gave her testimony that night at Clover. The presence of Christ was evident in her life and in her words to everyone sitting in that sanctuary. Christ lived in her. And from that night forward His presence was evident in the life of Jim Dickson. It was evident in the quality of his life and in the purpose of his life.

Moderator Littlejohn described the theme for this article in the words, “As those marked eternally with the Father’s love, Jesus’ character, and the Spirit’s holiness and fruit, we have the privilege and responsibility to make His imprint on our world today.”  Those are the very qualities I saw in Jim Dickson for many years. There was an awesome work of God transforming Jim’s life, making him new in Christ. He was a new man with a new purpose. He wanted everyone to know Jesus in that same life transforming way. Jim felt deeply the privilege of knowing Christ and he knew the responsibility of allowing Christ to make His imprint on everyone the Lord brought into his life.

As new creations in Christ we have that same privilege and responsibility. We are privileged to know Christ. By God’s grace in Christ we have been made new. And as new people we have both the privilege and the responsibility of allowing Christ to make Himself known to others through us.

Jim Dickson regarded 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 as his marching orders, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” Jim shared the good news of Christ wherever he was. This responsibility took him from the streets of Clover to many places in the world with the purpose of being Christ’s ambassador.

To Know Him

It has been my observation in my thirty-eight years of ordained ministry that most ARP’s have a sense of the responsibility of sharing the Gospel with others. Most recognize the responsibility to share Christ with their friends and neighbors in a local sense. Most are supportive of the idea of taking the Gospel to the unreached peoples of the world. The problem we ARP’s have is not in recognizing our responsibility, but rather that the sense of responsibility fails to produce actions that allow Christ to impact others through us. Why is this true? Why are we often hesitant to share the gospel or to show compassion to someone in need in the name of Christ?

The answer often is that we often have no sense of the privilege we enjoy in knowing Christ. I once asked Jim what had happened to him on that night. His answer had two parts. He said, “First, I saw Jesus living in her. And second, I realized that by His grace He lived in me. I experienced the reality of the answer to Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:18-19, I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.’” He recognized the privilege of knowing the living Christ. He had been a church member and a church officer, but for the first time he recognized the privilege of knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord. That privilege of knowing Christ translated into an awareness of the privilege of sharing the good news with others. He loved to have the opportunity to talk about Jesus. It was a joy to share the good news with someone who did not know his “friend.”

We Are New

The imprint of the living Christ changes us. It changes us in terms of who we are and in terms of what we do. The New Testament stresses to us that we are “new” in Christ. We look at Acts 2 and we see the disciples made new. We see the Spirit making Christ known through the sermon of a transformed Peter. We see the people convicted, brought to repentance and to faith by the power of the Spirit. We see the imprint of Christ placed on their lives as they begin to live in a new way. That imprint of Christ is recognized by the society around them as the early Christians “enjoy the favor of all the people” and as “the Lord added to their number daily those being saved.”

Theologically none of us would quarrel with the truth that the imprint of Christ in us should be seen in a new quality of life and in new purpose in the life each individual. Nor would we argue with the truth that the church should display the imprint of Christ in a clear way before the world. Our problem is not a theological one, but a practical one. We need to experience the reality of the imprint of Jesus in our lives so that we are motivated to allow Him to make an imprint on others through us.

If we recognize deficiencies in our efforts to carry out our responsibilities in allowing Christ to make an imprint on the world through us, then it is likely that we don’t need new ideas or better programs, but rather that we need to experience the privilege of knowing Christ so that the imprint of His presence is truly placed on our lives. We need “to know Him and the power of His resurrection”. When that knowledge moves from just a theoretical knowledge about Christ to a knowledge based on a relationship with Jesus that visibly affects who we are, then Christ begins to impact others through us. We begin to have a new desire to allow Him to do so. We begin to see people through His eyes.

Jim told me that he continued to pray Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 for himself and that he prayed it daily for others. It was a particular prayer of his in the year he served as Moderator. He wanted the ARP Church to be a church that very clearly bore the imprint of the living Christ in its character and in its mission.

Join me in praying that each of us in the ARP Church may “know Christ” and in praying that “the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which Christ has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe”. As our Lord answers that prayer His imprint will be seen in our lives as we recognize the privilege and the responsibility of allowing Christ to imprint Himself on others through us.I

Rev. Max Bolin is the pastor of Old Providence ARP Church, VA.

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Why Believe?

By: Rev. Phil McCoy

images-82Why do we believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? The resurrection of Jesus is the center of the Christian faith. With it, everything stands or falls. Because of this, all skeptics through all the centuries since Christ have aimed their largest guns at the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been examined more carefully than evidence for any other fact of history. Let’s look at some of the evidences. There is the fact of the Lord’s Day. A group of early Christians who were Jews changed the day of worship from the seventh to the first day! Why did they change? Because the resurrection of Christ from the dead took place on the first day of the week. He appeared to His disciples on the first day of the week. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church at Pentecost took place on the first day of the week.

Then, there is Easter. What other fact than that of the resurrection can explain our celebration of Easter? What other fact than that of the resurrection can explain the existence of Easter, which goes all the way back to the time of the early church?

There is the fact of the Sacraments of the Christian Church, which not only point to the suffering and death of Christ, but also to His resurrection in power. There is also the fact of Christian Hymns. In the earliest days of the Christian church, hymns were sung to the resurrected Christ. There is the undeniable fact of the Christian Church. The Christian Church began in Jerusalem in A.D. 30 when the Apostles began to preach that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The heart and substance of the message of the early Christians was that Christ was risen from the dead. At Pentecost, the first message delivered was entirely about the resurrection of Christ; about the Old Testament prophecies that went before it; about the fact that they had crucified the Lord of Glory and God had raised Him from the Why Believe? dead; about the fact that they were the witnesses of these things; about the fact that the risen Christ had now poured out His Spirit; and about the fact that because He was risen, He could grant forgiveness of sins to those who would believe in Him.

The resurrection of Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. There is the empty tomb, the eyewitness testimony, He appeared to over 500 people who saw Him risen. The Apostles were transformed from timid, fearful cowards to confident, bold proclaimers of the Gospel. We have the faithfulness, the character, the suffering and death of many of these witnesses, most of whom sealed their testimony with their blood. And there are many more.

We, as Christians, can rejoice for Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!?

Rev. Phil McCoy is the pastor of First ARP Church in Statesville, NC.

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Who Will You Adopt Into Your Life Today?

 

images-76By Elizabeth Burns

Marked for eternity. What does this mean? What is this mark? Can this mark be seen now by me? By others? Or, is it something that can only be seen in heaven, in the life to come? Is this even something I need to think about now, today, when there are so many other pressing issues that demand my immediate attention and energies?

Like me, your first reaction might be to think this is something we will have all eternity to think about so why take the time and energy to do it today. But upon closer examination, you realize this is something that impacts not just eternity future, but eternity here and now. What began as just a few thoughts has exploded into more thoughts and words than I have time or room for.

Scripture teaches that this ‘mark for eternity’ is given us by God through His Holy Spirit. “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put His seal on us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (See also Ephesians 1:13-14, 4:30). God’s official seal declares ownership and protection and the gift of His Spirit is guarantee of our salvation now and always. We are in God and He is in us. The implications of this truth, the transformational power of this truth, the far-reaching effects of this truth are too weighty and wordy to cover in this short span of time and small bit of space. But there is one aspect of this ‘being marked for eternity’ that I believe timely and applicable to women’s ministries: adoption. Yes, that’s right, adoption.

Remember the precious teaching of Jesus in John’s gospel where He promises not to leave His disciples as orphans but would send another Helper to be with them forever (John 14:16-18). Jesus also speaks of abiding in Him, the True Vine (John 15:1-11), and of the intimacy of our relationship with Him and with the Father: . . .that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that you have sent Me. (John 17:21)

When we hear the word ‘orphan’, we naturally think of an infant or young child who has no mother or father, and rightly so. The definition of orphan is: a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents. But adult children who lose both parents are orphans as well. How marvelously has the Father provided for His children as He brings us into a right relationship with Him, a parent/child relationship, to protect us from ourselves and the evil one, giving us an advantage to enjoy life abundant now and forever, to supervise, by His Spirit, our sanctification for He cares for us.

The hallmark of women’s ministries, because we are marked for eternity and bear the imprint of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, should be adoption! Yes, that’s right, adoption. Instead of inviting women to come to a Circle Meeting, church or a Women’s Ministries meeting, invite them into your life! Adopt them into your life. Older women, invite a younger woman, young women, invite an older woman out for coffee, lunch or have them over for dinner. Get to know them and let them get to know you because this is what Women’s Ministries is all about: relationships – not meetings, events, collecting money or finding warm bodies to fill a position. These things are necessary but they are not the heart of ministry.

Each of us is orphaned in some way or another: some lack the advantage of godly relationships or godly families. Some women have lost the advantage of a husband either through death or divorce. Others need godly mentoring, guidance, supervision as they learn how to live for Christ, and which one of us couldn’t use more people in our life who care for us? The Father has brought each of us in, adopted us, into His family, at great expense.

Who will you invite into your life today? If this is something you think you might be interested in but aren’t sure how to start, I invite you call me so we can work on this together.

 

 

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Waiting for Sadie

 

0115 shoger choice 2By: Kristin Shoger

I often compare myself to a turtle who likes to keep it’s head stuck tightly in it’s shell, remaining oblivious to what is going on in the world around it. It’s easier that way. When you are tucked deep inside, your eyes don’t see the evil taking place near and far. Your ears don’t hear the cries of those who cannot help themselves out of the hardships they are forced to endure. Inside the shell it’s safe and warm and, if your head is dug down deep enough, your heart is allowed to remain in tact.

But God, in His wisdom and love, in His desire to mold me and refine me, has chosen to tug my head out of my shell and open my eyes to the plight of orphans around the world. Not only has He opened my eyes, but He has opened the eyes of my husband and my kids. He has shown us that there are millions of children who have deep hurts, fears, and sadness. They need someone to love them, someone to give of their time and energy, someone willing to fight valiantly for them for the rest of their lives. They need families.

And, so, with eyes wide open, Andrew and I took a leap of faith into the world of adoption on December 15, 2013. The Lord has led us step by step over the last year. After calling us to adopt, He laid it on our hearts that we were to look for a child with Down Syndrome. After much research on orphans with Down Syndrome, God led us to adopt from Bulgaria. He walked us through fundraising over $30,000, through paperwork mazes that made our heads spin, and through a whole lot of waiting. Finally, on November 16, 2014, God led us to say, “Yes” to a beautiful little girl, about to turn 3 years old, whom we will name Sadie Caroline Shoger.

Has the path been easy? No. The waiting and lack of control over many parts of the process have often left me cross and short tempered. Seeing so many faces that need a family and having to choose one has seemed impossible. Meeting our daughter and then having to leave her for 4 to 6 months while finishing up the adoption process will tear my heart apart. Once we have her home, there will be adjustment to a new culture, new people, new rules, and new food. There will be healing that will need to take place after years spent in an orphanage and in foster care. There will be doctors appointments and therapies to navigate as well as decisions to make about schooling. There will be the growing pains that inevitably come with adding a child (adopted or biological) to the family, juggling not 3 children anymore but 4. It has been hard and it will continue to be hard. I don’t want to remain naive to that fact.

But, will it be worth it? The adoption of a child is often compared to the adoption that we, as Christians, have in Christ. We were lost, dead in our sins, floundering without a father. Then God sent His son as a ransom for our sins. Even now, after we have been adopted into the Lord’s family, we continually cause Him grief. We sin, we fall short of His glory, we hurt His heart. So, was it worth it, what Christ did for us? Yes, friends, it was. Because His sacrifice has eternal value. Because of what He did for us, we will be able to live in eternity with Him! There will be no more tears, no more pain, no more sadness.

So, will the adoption of a little girl from Bulgaria with an extra chromosome be worth it? Will it be worth the tears, heart ache, and frustrations that are sure to come our way? Yes! Because the decision to adopt a child has eternal value. Andrew and I truly believe that this little girl will bring us much joy and happiness here on this earth, but even if she doesn’t, even if it’s just hard – really hard – we know that her life has eternal value. The things of this world? They will pass away. But, eternal life is forever. We are called to go in to all the world and proclaim the good news of Christ. As we invest in this child, as we teach her about Jesus and about God’s Holy Word, we are investing in her soul, that she may live with God in eternity. And that, friends, is worth it!

Rev. Andrew and Kristin Shoger live in Bartow, FL. Andrew is the Associate Pastor of Bartow ARP Church.

 

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Marked for Eternity

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.07.28 AMBy: Larry Littlejohn

When I originally thought aboutGod’s eternally imprinting His own,Revelation 22:3-4 came to mind: No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their forehead.Ivisualizedan outward, literal mark on our glorified bodies; God’s own imprint for all to see

God’s forever imprinting through a‘divine tattoo’may be true.But,since only His children inhabit that glorious placewhere He reigns,it may mean something else. Reflecting on this and other passagesled me to considerthatGod may primarily identify His ownby restoring completelyHis image inus. The work ofsalvation complete is the glorification ofthose for whom Jesus died.

John Calvintaught,“Our happiness lies in having God’s image, which was blotted out by sin, restored and reformed in us. Christ is not only,as the eternal Word of God,His lively image, but even onHis human nature, whichHe has in common with us, the imprint of the Father’s glory has been engraved, thatHe might transformHis members to it.”

Believers will be marked for eternity in our final redemption from the curse in a place where we can forever worship aright the only true and living God. To see the face of our Lord, to be in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and to bask in their glorious holiness is the eternal privilegeand delightof saints alone. 

I Corinthians 15:19 reminds us:If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.If we are not assured of a hope beyond what we experience here, then the Christian life makes no sense. We may as well join in the world’s party,go for the gusto, and ‘eat, drink, and be merryfor tomorrow we die.’

Now and Then

What makes us different is not only that which is taking place here, but also that which will take place for eternity. Now we are those upon whom the Father has set his love;now we are those in whom the character of Jesus is being perfected;now we are those for whom the Spirit brings holiness. These awesomenowsprepare us for the gloriousthenof eternal joy as we live with ourGod forever in the place He prepares.

Yes, the hope for those of us marked with life supersedes the temporal.Hebrews 6:19-20says:We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.Ourhope is an anchorof the soul,amostunusualanchor, not dropped, butraised and steadfastly secured on the Rock of Ages in the ultimate Holy of Holies.Ouranchorisas sure as God’s own promise and oathandas eternal as our resurrectedand ascended King and High Priest.

Return now to I Corinthians 15 and lookat verses 47-49: The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

No, we are not to be pitied! Onlybornagain believersget to eternally bear the image of our Forerunner, Jesus, the Man of Heaven. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson in his bookA Heart for God asks, “Do you want a God who is made in your image or one who calls you to be conformed to His?”May our answer be found in thewords of songwriter Thomas O. Chisholm:

Oh to be like Thee; oh to be like Thee;
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art.
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

Dear friends,what Godpurposedin the garden, He will accomplishin heaven. We shall see His face, a privilege reserved for the saints. We shall have His name on our forehead, an imprint reserved for the saints. We shall worship Him, an activityreservedfor the saints.

His imprint will be clear and complete in our glorious, resurrection bodies. We shall be likeour blessed Lord Jesus Christ when we see Him as He is. What glory!

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