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Archive for May, 2017

Toxicodendron Radicans (Poison Ivy)

By Matt Greco

I can think of no earthly reason why God created Poison Ivy!  I am relatively sure that it was not in the Garden of Eden but came along after the ground was cursed, somewhere between the thorns and the thistles.  It has been a problem for me all my life and approximately 85% of all humans have allergic reactions to the oils from the plant.  When I was younger, I could get the rash if I went past the plant and a wind was blowing in my direction.  It is estimated that 2 people a year die from exposure to poison ivy, not many, but I bet that everyone who is allergic to it suffers from its effects.

I got it again this year.  Weed eating my neighbor’s back fence and not paying attention to what I was doing.  It was all up and down my arms and a little on my legs.  So I am lying in bed the other night trying not to scratch and praying to the Lord, no sorry…, complaining to the Lord about my plight and it hits me all of a sudden that in many ways poison ivy is like sin to the believer.  Let me explain.

Scripture teaches me that before I confessed and believed in Christ, that I was dead because of my sin.  (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2: 1 – 10)  But now, because of Christ’s death and resurrection, I have new life and sin no longer has the power to kill me spiritually. (Romans 8:  2; Corinthians 5: 17) But, sin is still around and as believers, we still battle against sin.  Enter my analogy about sin and poison ivy.

If we are careful, we can avoid stepping into or brushing up against it, however, if we are careless or overconfident, we can get into it. It is not usually fatal, but it can sure make our lives miserable for a while.  It is unsightly, it is annoying, it itches, and it can make it very difficult for us to participate in certain activities.  No one wants to hug who is covered in it, you are not supposed to go swimming if you have open sores from the rash, and if you have it and you sweat at all, it irritates the outbreak all the more.

Now I do not want to trivialize sin when I compare it to poison ivy!  Sin destroyed man’s relationship with God.  Sin separates us from God.  Sin causes judgment and death. Sin has had and is much more destructive and can have much more lasting consequences in your life.  However, sin is also unsightly, it is annoying, it itches, and it can make it difficult or impossible for us to participate in certain activities.  God’s answer to sin was and is Jesus Christ.  My life and your life can be transformed by Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I can say I am grateful to the Lord that I was lying awake at three o’clock in the morning because of the burning and itching of poison ivy because as I turned to Him, He met me in my situation and gave me comfort and instruction.  He is there for all of us who will turn to Him.  Don’t wait until you are drowning in your sin or suffering from the consequences of bad decisions or scratching from Toxicodendron radicans.  (Deuteronomy 4:28 – 30)

Matt Greco is a member of FCC and the Headmaster of Faith ChristianAcademyy.

Posted in: Christian Living, Men's Ministry

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A•pol•o•get•ics

By Dr. Timothy Juhnke

After the service one Sunday, a brother approached me very meekly and simply asked, “What is apologetics?” I was so appreciative of that question. In a post-Christian culture, we need to be so mindful of the Christian jargon that we use almost carelessly. We regularly use terms that many people have absolutely no idea what we are talking about. The answer is NOT to quit using the terms but to explain the terms.

Apologetics is a word that comes straight from the Greek the language. It is a word that is found in 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense [the word “defense” is apologia in Greek] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” The dictionary defines apologetics as “the branch of theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity.” So when a seeker or skeptic of the Bible asks you a question or challenges what you believe, apologetics is the ability to defend or answer that challenge.

Although apologetics is useful in answering the questions and challenges of skeptics and unbelievers, that is not its only function. Apologetics can be an integral part of evangelism, and it also helps believers grow and become assured in their own faith. Apologetics demonstrates that the Christian faith is not just wishful thinking or a blind faith, but rooted in historical and logical realities.

Remember: Apologetics isn’t just for pastors or seminary professors. According to the Apostle Peter, every Christian should be ready to give a defense (an apologia) for the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3:15).

Dr. Juhnke is the senior pastor of Faith Community Church.

 

Posted in: Apologetics, Pastor Tim

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Book Review: A Heart for Freedom

Review: A Heart for Freedom: The remarkable Journey of a Young Dissident, Her Daring Escape, and her Quest to Free China’s Daughters, by Chai Ling. Tyndale House, 2011

I wish Chai Ling had waited a few more years to tell her story.

In A Heart for Freedom, she recounts the events that led to her involvement in the leadership of the Tiananmen Square student protest in China in 1989. We have a front-row seat as the students and the Chinese government come to a stand-off over personal freedoms, and we vicariously experience the horror of the massacre. Ling evokes our sympathy as she tells us what like to leave her country as a political refugee to start over, a young girl alone and misunderstood.

The final third of the book was the most compelling, as Ling details coming to terms with her helplessness to change the political system in China, her conversion to Christianity and the process of grief and repentance over her four abortions.  We see her understanding progress— first Ling realizes that her abortions ended the lives of real children—that something wrong happened. She grieves over her loss and begins to talk about it. At first she blames China’s one child policy and her ex-husband, but eventually she comes to realize her own role and to understand grace and forgiveness.

On the positive side, it is possible for someone to read this book (and especially the description of grace  on page 320) and learn enough about God to be converted.  Ling’s honest testimony of struggle, of learning about God and the truth about her own sin and helplessness over the period of several months is no simple reciting of a sinner’s prayer – there was real change involved in her life and I have no doubt that she knows God.

But on the negative side, I found that Ling came across as judgmental toward nearly everyone she mentions in the book. Everyone from her father, boyfriends, friends, potential employers to her current husband (whom she seems to love very much) seems not to have “done it right” in their relationship to her. For example, when Ling finally confesses her abortions to a spiritual mentor, she is asked, “Did you confess to God? He will forgive you.” Sound advice, right? Not according to Ling. She left judged by her friend. Over and over she says in her book, “For the Chinese women who will someday come out of their trauma, what they need to hear first is not, ‘Come to God and He will forgive you.’ but, ‘Come to God and He will love you, heal you, and free you.’”  It’s as if Ling cannot stand even the implied criticism by her friend that she needs forgiveness. This is only one of dozens of examples where Ling explains to us her “rightness” sometimes at the cost of condemning the actions and attitudes of others. This is where a little Christian maturity might have tempered some of her judgments and made the book a more edifying read. Her theology is not always perfectly on target, and the book is probably not suitable for young people because of the general (not detailed) descriptions of her sexually immoral teen years.

That being said, I do believe that because of her unique role in China’s history, Chai Ling has a story to tell about grace that no one else could tell.

Review by Susan Verstraete, church secretary at FCC.

Posted in: Biography, Book Review

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From Dust to Dust

By Matt Greco

Genesis 2:7 – 9, “…then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.  And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.  And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

I love this time of year!  During springtime it seems that everything has potential, everything gets a new start.  Cold and drab winter has no choice but to turn the season over to the warmth and freshness of spring.  What a blessing to live in a location where we can experience four different seasons!

I especially love that it is time to ready and plant the garden.  I feel a special connection to the soil (dust) that no doubt comes from my being raised on a farm in south central Kansas.  But Scripture tells us that Adam actually came from the soil and, since I am (we are) Adam’s descendant(s), we all have a connection.  I was sharing my love for the soil with one of our elders, Greg Dull, and he said that he has a couple of his children that really love the soil as well.  “They love it so much, they eat it!” he joked.

All joking aside, the soil / my garden has taught me many things and I wanted to share a couple of lessons I have learned through many years of gardening.

THE SOIL

I am not sure if the county was named after a person or after the soil, but there is plenty of clay in Clay County.  Where I grew up, the soil was red and had a lot of gypsum in it.  Where my wife Pam grew up, the soil was a dark, rich brown color.  Where we had our first garden, the soil was actually a river bottom.   And even though all these soils were different, things grew in them!  One soil might be better for growing beans, and another for growing tomatoes, but it is all useful for growing.

I did not make any of the dirt; it is a creation and miracle of God.  The ground always came with where I was living.  However, if I wanted to have a garden, I had to work with whatever kind of soil I had.  The garden would not just magically appear.  I have had to constantly weed, water, plant, fertilize, etc… to get the most out of my dirt.  In a similar way, I have to work with what God has given me to make the most out of my service to Him.

THE SEED

Along with the soil, there is another creation and miracle the seed. Here is a simple lesson that has a Biblical reference—what you plant is also what you will sow!  Galatians 6:7 teaches, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”  I have never planted tomatoes and from that same plant harvested watermelons.

So, what will your “garden” look like?  Have been working alongside the Lord to take care of the soil?  Have you been planting the types of seeds that you want to see come to a harvest?  If you are not sure what I am talking about and you want to know more, I would love to talk to you about the spiritual truths gardening can teach you.  Or I can have you come on over to my garden and give you some practical instruction as I introduce you to Mr. Garden Hoe and Mrs. Shovel!

Matt Greco is a member of FCC and the headmaster at FCA.

Posted in: Christian Living, Men's Ministry

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