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Book Review: Embracing Obsurity

Review by John Worley

Embracing Obscurity                            

If you read one book this year, this should be the one.  It confronts our conditioning in this society to equate our worth and purpose in life with getting recognition from others, gaining status among others and achieving influence or authority over others. The author contrasts this with our role as Christians being that of a servant to God and others, revealing His greatness rather than trying to establish our own.

Other than the Bible itself, this is the most personally challenging book I have read in many years. I may have said  a few things more carefully than the author did, but he does an excellent job scripturally with a difficult subject.  If I had written a book myself, I would wish this to be the one. There are copies available in the church bookstore. The cost financially is little ($2), but the cost in being honest with yourself may be high. Believe me, it is worth it.

John Worley was an FCC Elder and the beloved husband of Judy Worley.

 

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Giving is Grace

By John Worley

After pastoring for 20 years, I did project fundraising for a   Bible College for 7 years and for a missionary organization for another 7 years. Most nonprofit Christian ministries employ many of the world’s ways of motivation for giving money. Why? The world’s approach is commonly used because it seems to get results, but sometimes with the sacrifice of integrity.

What should be the approach in reminding us of our accountability in giving? The same means employed in our church to hold us accountable in all other aspects and roles of life, the Word of God.

Basically, a steward is one who manages gifts on loan from God, answering to Him for his attitude about and utilization of those gifts. These may be the spiritual gifts God gives every believer for the work of the gospel and the building up of one another in the faith, or they may be financial resources entrusted to us while on earth. These gifts are grace, and we are accountable for the grace given us by God. Our world believes that money is the medium for measuring value.

The Bible, however, teaches us of the unseen evidence of spiritual and relational realities that have true and lasting value. These can give contentment, with or without money.

There is, of course, a practical side to money. It is, in effect, the fluid form of things; it makes property portable and serves as a medium for exchange of both material things and services. For this reason, most people come to view money as what matters most, that is the objective for life’s enjoyment. The status or influence that comes with money, and the so-called security of money, they view as their motivation in achieving this objective. Consequently, they buy things they do not need, with money they do not yet have, from people they do not even trust.

Our society has come to think of money only in terms of accumulating and spending, like the farmer who desired to make more money so he could buy more land, so he could plant more corn, so he could sell more hogs, so he could buy more land, plant more corn and so on. The Bible, however, deals with money mostly in the context of giving. When Jesus taught his

disciples about living for God, he invariably ended up teaching them about giving to God and to others. Half to two-thirds of our Lord’s parables deal with our attitude toward and responsibility for material possessions.

In 2nd Corinthians 7, Paul explained the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow.  In the next two chapters, he taught the difference between worldly charitableness and biblical giving.  2nd Corinthians 9:6-8 tells us,

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, that you may have an abundance for every good deed.

Verse 8 gives a promise, but one that is conditioned upon its context. There are two conditions to the promise of verse 8. One is the bountiful participation of verse six and two is the cheerful attitude of verse 7. The promise is abundant grace; all-sufficient provision. This gives grace for all-sufficient contentment with what we have, all-sufficient confidence in the Lord who gives it and all-sufficient convictions about how we should use that which he gives.

Is this bountiful giving from God intended for the abundance of things for ourselves? No. Rather, Paul says, it is for the enablement to undertake every good deed (verse 8c).  Christ Himself is our example, as indicated in verse 9. “He scattered abroad, He gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever (from Psalm 112:9).  Verse 10 tells us, “Now he who supplies seed for the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (taken from Is. 55:10 and Hosea 10:12 and providing the sowing/reaping principle of verse 6).  We are doing the sowing, but God provides the seed. The reaping is not in material things, but rather reaping a harvest of righteousness (vs 10c).  This is the same truth presented earlier in verse 6, that “…you may have abundance (“increase” in vs 10) for every good deed.”  These acts are done in right relationship with God and with right intentions. That is, in submission and in sacrifice through service and giving. It is this right attitude in our giving that God loves (vs 7 “cheerful giver”). The harvest (results) is our increasing in right behavior and increasing in developing in right character. We honor God by purposing in our heart how much and when we give, and God provides the righteous enablement to us. The reason for our giving (vs 7) is that God loves it (that is, it pleases Him). The resource for our giving (vs 10) is out of what He supplies (vs 8), that is, all-sufficiency in everything. We sow in attitude and service and we reap spiritual enablement and spiritual, material and physical contentment.

A promise we are all familiar with is Philippians 4:19: “and my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory.”  Yet this, like the 2nd Corinthians 9:6-10 passage,  is a conditional promise. The preceding context of Philippians 4:13-18 reveals that this promise of God supplying all our needs is conditioned upon our meeting the needs for ministry as the Philippians did towards the Apostle Paul. They were actively engaged in sacrificially, voluntarily and thankfully responding to the opportunity. The conditional promises of 2nd Corinthians 9:6-10 and Phil. 4:13-19 are tied to the practice and the practicality of our present, responsive obedience to God-given opportunities, and to our enjoyment of our relationship with God through Christ our Lord.

2nd Corinthians 9:7 identifies how we are to give, “just as he has purposed in his heart.”  To have “purposed” is to have chosen beforehand.  “Heart” is used here in parallel to the word “mind,” as it is in 2nd Corinthians 4:6 where it says that God has put the light of the knowledge of the glory of God “in our hearts” (minds).  Chapter 9:7 goes on to present two negatives and one positive truth about giving. It must be “not grudgingly” (that is not with regret or grief over the giving, and not to view it as a loss) and “not under compulsion” (that is out of mere obligation, duty or embarrassment). Rather, to give cheerfully is to have joy over the privilege of the opportunity.

We are in the midst of raising funds for our new building. How should we each respond? In accord with a Christian liberty principle Romans 14:5 “let each man be fully convinced in his own mind.”  Make a deliberate, predetermined response based on personal conviction before God (read Romans 14:17-19, 22-23).  As an American businessman was visiting a pastor in Korea several years ago they came across an unusual scene for the American. A strong young Korean was in a field pulling a plow with straps upon his shoulders, while his father guided the plow. The American commented, “they must be very poor.” “Yes, they are” replied the pastor. “Do you remember the small new church that we just passed? The people of this village built it themselves and the family had no money to give, so they prayed about their desire to participate. They then gave what they had, their most valued possession. They sold the ox and gave the money to the project.” We might not need to choose to postpone buying a new car or to take a less expensive summer vacation in order to give. Some will give out of their abundance and some will give out of their meager assets. The amount given by one person may differ substantially from another, and yet the sacrifice may proportionately be the same. As Pastor Tim reminded us recently, we serve a God who can do all things, including things which seem improbable and things which seem impossible.

John Worley was a former FCC elder,  the beloved husband of Judy and father of Jackie Rebiger.

 

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Partners for Life

By John Worley

Partners in marriageMarriage Retreat Ministry Web Banner

partners in life.

Partners prepared to handle

responsibility or strife.

Partners who learn together

to lean on the Lord.

Partners whose course through life

is based on His Word.

Partners together

through all the tough times.

Partners who trust each other

at all times.

Partners in whose love

each finds fulfillment.

Partners for Christ

in whose Lordship

both have contentment.

 

John Worley was an elder at FCC from 1996-2016. John went home to be with the Lord in 2016.

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Consider the Question: How Are You Feeling Today?

feelingBY JOHN WORLEY

Many caring people ask the question of me on a daily basis here at Riverstone Community, a facility designed for the elderly or the disabled, where Judy and I are residing.  The question is intriguing for one who is in submission to the Lordship of Christ.  For the Christian, how we are “feeling” has a different context than for others.  Let me try to explain what I mean by considering the contrast that exists in comprehending how the context of living in this world effects us.

People’s anticipation of each day’s circumstance, i.e. of coming events and encounters that await them on a given day… this anticipation is based on how they might be feeling at the moment of their contemplation.  However, the Christian’s anticipation, of what is not yet experienced, must rely instead on his faith perspective regarding the reliability of God’s provisions and promises.  Faith’s perspective is assured to “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:10)   How we feel about something, has proven to be notoriously unreliable.  We cannot, perhaps, help having an immediate emotional reaction in many circumstances.  These initial emotions are spontaneous, unguarded and untrustworthy however.  As Christians, our old sin nature is still alive, though no longer in control… not eradicated, and therefore available to be appealed to.  Because God has enabled us spiritually we are accountable to Him for obedience.  We may now evaluate and choose to act out of a disciplined dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

Scripture says of every man, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7a).  We are what we think…what our thoughts focus on.  Attitude determines outlook.  When we lack contentment, it is because we are focused on comparison—comparison of our present with our past, comparison of our experiences with our expectations, comparison of our provisions with our preferences.  Jesus taught us God’s truth, while exemplifying being a servant to God and to others with humility.  He said in John 13:17, “If you know these things, you are happy (blessed) if you do them.”  He might seem to be saying that we feel happy or consider ourselves to be blessed if we “do” certain things (i.e. perform certain “works”).  Jesus is actually saying quite the opposite.  He teaches that if our attitude or perspective is faith based, i.e. reliant upon the truth declared by God, that God will use our obedient responses, enabled by His grace, as a means of blessing us with confidence, peace, joy and contentment.  “Blessed,” as used biblically, means spiritual prosperity …living in satisfaction and appreciation for God’s provisions and protection.  Society’s use of our English word “happy” reveals its meaning through the root word’s origin.  “Happy” comes from “hap,” as in “happenstance” i.e. chance circumstance.  “Hapless” therefore means without luck.  To be happy, in its root sense, means to have good “luck.”

An abiding expression of joy is the blessing of persevering obedience, enabled by the grace of our faithful Redeemer.  We may experience the same life circumstances as those without faith in Christ, but we must never come to rely upon the feelings of happiness or other emotional stimuli for a thankful attitude, contentment and endurance.

John Worley was an elder at FCC from 1996-2016. John went home to be with the Lord in 2016.

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John Worley’s Last Words to the Church

By John Worley

Jesus my redeemer has been the anchor of my soul, an anchor hidden behind the veil because He preceded us and opened up access to the safe harbor of heaven. Where he is, I am now also.

I asked to have this read to you at my memorial service to share with you some of my final thoughts. You, my family and my fellow believers in this community of faith, were in these thoughts. In reminding myself of all I had to be thankful for, it occurred to me that you also share in those things because of this safe haven on earth that the Lord has brought us to, which we call Faith Community Church. My last 20 years in this church have been more nurturing and satisfying than all the years I spent in pastoral ministry. You are this church and Christ Jesus is your Lord. For that, be grateful today and rejoice.

The Lord gave me a good life, though not necessarily an easy life. He gave me mercy and grace though I had deserved his wrath.Worley

As a father and particularly a Christian husband, it was hard to think of not being here to fulfill my role to shepherd my family and to nurture and protect my wife. God graciously gave me peace in this, because he made us to be part of this church. I have served with the elders of this church and they are exemplary men of faith, integrity and wisdom. I have no misgivings about entrusting my wife Judy to their spiritual watch care. I am comforted especially by Scripture’s promise that God will become husband to the widow whose God is the Lord.

This is an immensely caring church; a burden bearing, interconnected body that loves in both word and deed. A Church rooted in sound doctrine, biblical proclamation and godly consistency of lifestyle. And so, I entrust Judy, Jackie and the generations of her family into the care of this congregation as well. They will grieve and you will grieve with them, grieving is normal and to be expected. What is not normal or acceptable is obsessive persistence in grief. I don’t expect it will be necessary, but if need be, come along side and help them to move on in living. Our living is for the Lord and His purposes. Life will be filled with losses of all kinds and occasional gains as well. Death is part of life. It is an inescapable occurrence that our Sovereign God has predestined for each of us.

Having had an advanced approximation of the approach of my death (with a few unexpected extensions), it made each final day bring a special awareness of the grace and mercy of God renewed every morning. It heightens one’s appreciation for what God is accomplishing in each of us as he daily makes us his workmanship, creating in advance, daily good works i.e. faithful stewardship responses to opportunities given by God. There is an old saying, “You should not wait till someone’s funeral to say something nice about them.” In like manner we should not wait till we know we are dying, to experience each day with a spirit of rejoicing and thankfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m glad I didn’t wait, I hope you don’t either. In Him alone there is life eternal.

In conclusion let me add that some of you will no doubt miss my presence or our opportunities to interact. I wanted to say that I will miss you all as well. Realistically however, I expect I will be so occupied with experiencing all the wonders and the worship in being absent from the body but present with the Lord that, as the old hymn puts it, ” the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

John Worley III was an elder at FCC from 1996-2016. John went home to be with the Lord in 2016.”

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