Monthly Archives: November 2014

AND THEY LIVED THANKFULLY EVER AFTER

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe

Thanksgiving Day is now past. However, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, every day is Thanksgiving! All Christians should live “thankfully ever after”.

NOT EVERYONE MADE IT TO THE FIRST THANKSGIVING

When we think of the First Thanksgiving, what we have in mind is the feast celebrated by the Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620.

One year later, in November of 1621, the survivors of a rough first year celebrated a three-day feast. God had blessed them with the religious freedom they desired, and a bountiful harvest which they enjoyed.

As you can see from the graphic above, many of the original 102 Mayflower passengers did not survive to enjoy that first Thanksgiving meal. Few families were unmarked by death that year. Funerals must have taken place with mind numbingly frequency.

To mark the first year and the harvest, the survivors celebrated with deep gratitude to God. The following description was recorded by Edward Winslow, one of the Plymouth Colony leaders:

“Our Corne did proue well, & God be praysed, we had a good increase of Indian Corne, and our Barly indifferent good, but our Pease not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sowne, they came vp very well, and blossomed, but the Sunne parched them in the blossome; our harvest being gotten in, our Governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a more speciall manner reioyce together,

after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst vs, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoyt, with some nintie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed fiue Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed upon our Governour, and upon the Captaine, and others.

And although it be not alwayes so plentifull, as it was at this time with vs, yet by the goodneses of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

Whatever has been our share in life this past year, if we are in Christ, we have the rich abundance of God’s mercy. And ahead of us is the fulfillment of God’s wondrous promise to have us share our eternity in communion with Him!

GET TO KNOW YOUR PASTORS: KYLE HUBER

This is the fourth in a series of weekly blogs that answers some of your questions about getting to know the pastors of Greentree Church

Kyle is married to Debbie. They have three grown children: Jordan, Jillian (married to Ryan), and Elyse

When and how did you become a Christian?

From the age of nine days, I have been in church. Hearing the gospel preached caused me to know my sin even as a child. Around the age of 7, I remember praying with my mom before bed to receive Christ.

Where did you go to college and what did you study?

I attended Taylor University in the small rural town of Upland, IN. My studies were in Political Science and Bible

What led you to become a pastor?

I cannot remember a time when my heart did not desire to serve the church. By the time I entered college I knew I would enter pastoral ministry afterward. In 1982 I came on staff as a pastoral intern and then served many years as Executive Pastor until beginning the transition to Lead Pastor in 2002

What are your main responsibilities at Greentree Church? 

Prayer is the most essential responsibility I have as a pastor. Most of my time centers around preaching. The pastoral team has also delegated to me the responsibilities of planning and leading meetings of the pastors and staff. The pastors have also graciously encouraged my role as President of SEE Global (a mission organization serving Belarus).

What is your passion in ministry?

Teaching has long been a passion. Later a love for developing young leaders grew in me. In recent years my passion for encouraging and equipping pastors has increased

In what area would you like to see our church strengthened?

A healthy church needs to focus on every area that Scripture directs. My heart is that we keep growing deeper in the area of Biblical community. My leading prayer is that we grow in Love for God, which motivates us in all other godly things

What is your favorite book outside of the Bible?

I discovered JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” in grade school. Since then I have read the trilogy over 20 times

Do you have favorite authors?

My favorite Puritan author is Jeremiah Burroughs, and my favorite Bible Commentator is Douglas Moo. In general Christian writing CJ Mahaney, Paul Tripp and Mark Dever are authors I tend to reread

If you could only read one book of the Bible for the coming year, which would it be?

The richness of the gospel in Ephesians is why I would pick that book

Is there a Bible verse that you go back to frequently?

Habakkuk 3:17-18 has been a tremendous help in forming my daily perspective

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail, and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls; Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

If you were not a pastor, what would you do?

It’s hard to imagine not being a pastor, but my love for teaching would probably lead me to teaching on the university level

What are your favorite foods?

Mediterranean cooking is my favorite. I enjoy trying new cheeses and always have a few varieties at home

If money was no object, what would be your dream vacation?

A few months of slowly cruising around the Mediterranean coast on a very comfortable yacht

What is a perfect day off?

Reading the newspaper at a coffee shop, then lunch at a restaurant with an intriguing menu & walking in a quaint town with Debbie, followed by being engrossed in a historical novel

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.24.14

“Living in God’s Big Plan”                  

James 4:13-17

In James 4 we are challenged to consider how we plan and to consider God’s place in our plans

Our best laid plans are untrustworthy

We don’t have the power to ensure that our plans will work

Our best wisdom – has corruptions and insufficiency

Our best strength – runs out and can be overwhelmed by a simple cold

Even if life appears to be going our way, we have expiration date

Bottom line: there is little we can make go our way (our children are exhibit A)

James is not against planning, as v15 shows us

He is chiding us for planning as if we have life in our back pocket

What is Jame’s criticism if planning is okay? 

It is the arrogance of self-sufficiency v16

The word used for arrogance is also translated “pride of life” in 1 John 2:16

Pride of life is thinking life is our playground rather than God’s Kingdom

Life belongs to God!  All living that ignores Him is “evil” (v16)

It’s arrogance to live as if we are in control and only accountable to ourselves

James adds that we “boast in” our arrogance (or self-sufficiency)

When we treat God as if He is for emergencies we boast in ourselves

When we are content & take joy in our independence, we boast in ourselves

Animals live without considering God, as do demons and unbelievers; will it be true of Christians as well?

James wants to make sure our perspectives are in focus

1.  Is the perspective we have about ourselves in focus?

“Come now” in vs 1 is a blunt call to reality (i.e. Get real!)

We should know that we are limited in our wisdom

So rejoice God has given us His word:  perfect, unfailing truth (2 Peter 1:3-4)

We should know we are limited in what we can do

So rejoice that the Holy Spirit who lives in us, is flowing as rivers of living water

We should know this world is broken and our time limited

So see life as both everlasting and temporary; let both truths guide our plans

2.  Is our perspective about God in Focus? (v15)

We gain little help if we see the truth about ourselves, without seeing the truth about God

All things are made by His hands, and they remain in His hands

God is not simply a powerful God; He is the only Sovereign God! (1 Timothy 6:15-16)

Full clarity will say “Amen” to God’s sovereignty 

3.  Are we in focus about the big plan in which God has placed us?

God is doing the most extraordinary things

He is making all things whole, new, perfect and at rest – forever 

We are included in God’s beyond-amazing plan

We are in the middle of it, God is using us!

Every day you are in it. All our actions and prayers can be part of it

What does it mean to live by God’s big plan? 

1.  God’s way is always first

Nothing should rise above it (not our desires, hurts, relationships or careers)

How big of a check can God write on our life?

2.  God’s way is always in hand

We will intentionally use our life to serve Christ’s Kingdom

3.  God himself is where we go for contentment

We stop depending on relationships or our favorite soul-soothing habits

James has one more comment on this matter (v17)

Failure to do what we know is right, is sinful

James is uncovering an area of sin we minimize: our failure to depend upon God

If we rarely read God’s word – we are not depending upon God

If prayerfulness is not an integral part of how we live – we are not depending upon God

If we expect people to sustain us – we are not depending upon God

If we live disconnected from the Church which God established – we are not depending upon Him

Whose big plan are we living for?

SHARING LIFE AS WELL AS A BED

This is an ‘pre-used’ blog that is worth reading again. Please share your practical ideas with the rest of us in the comments section.

On the day a couple gets married, they intellectually accept that there are still things they need to learn, but emotionally, they generally think they have the love part figured out.

Yes, they will have their share of disagreements, but it will be over little stuff like which end to squeeze on a tube of toothpaste. But even through struggles over what TV show to DVR, their abiding love will quickly pave the way to dewy-eyed “I’m sorry” kisses and life will be grand once again!

Somehow living in love becomes more complicated than that.

Why is it so hard to see our sin instead of our spouse’s sin?

Why is it easier to think we are sorry than to actually say the words?

Why is it so hard to stop acting in the same self-centered manner as we did the last time we acted in a self-centered manner?

It does not take long to realize that relationships are work; and the love that pops up most is love for self.

Since as foolish sinners, love will often be hard, it is good to consider practical steps to help us live with the consistency of love and affection that newlyweds imagine they will never lose.

1.  Be holy. Sin is junk. Sin is destructive. Holiness is good, and beautiful, and restorative. True holiness – which is built on loving God above all else – will keep your heart fresh and in turn your marriage as well.

2.  Thank God for your spouse each day. Thankfulness has a connection to love. The more we express heartfelt thankfulness for someone, the more our love for them will flourish. To be most effective, it is important to be specific about particulars

3.  Do stuff together that does not involve sitting in front of an electronic device. Get out and enjoy the world God made with each other.  Trees, flowers, rivers and beaches were created to be enjoyed; so enjoy them with the person God gave you. And while you’re at it, you might as well talk

4.  Forget little stuff that doesn’t matter. Yeah, yeah, you would do it this way and they did it that way – so what!  Many arguments are nothing more than our desire to be right and wanting to share that we are right with our spouse

5.  Save money. Indebtedness and financial pressures are one of the primary sources of ongoing tension in marriages

6.  Instead of having your expectations built upon what your spouse should be and do for you, build your expectations on what God wants you to be and do for them. Now that would be a change!

7.  Never end the day without expressing to your spouse that you love them. It amazes me how powerfully those words can cut through my bad attitudes and remind me again that I truly do love my wife

These are some of the practices I have found helpful in my marriage. There are many more, but this should give us all plenty to work on.

Please share with us in the comment section what has been helpful in growing love in your marriage

We Have Life-Saving-Truth

by Debbie Huber

Recently while attending a banquet I heard someone at my table say, “look over there, someone is receiving the Heimlich Maneuver.”  Without thought or hesitation, I found myself at the side of this person ready to provide that life-saving assistance. 

As part of my job as an occupational therapist, I am trained and re-certified in CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver on a regular basis. Because we are retrained in the same techniques over and over, I was able to react without hesitation in a life threatening situation. Fortunately, the person in distress ended up being fine.

This situation made me ponder how I react with the life-saving truths of the gospel.

Everywhere I go there are people who are in great danger of being separated from God for eternity and I have the life-saving help for them!

Every day, we face situations such as difficult relationships with family or coworkers, children who cause heartache, financial stresses, broken down cars or appliances, the monotony of a job we do not like.  How does the gospel impact how we react in everyday situations?

The life-changing truth of the gospel can often seem separated from daily reality. But daily speaking the gospel to ourselves helps it to soak into our hearts so that it overflows to the point where the lavish, amazing, undeserved love of our Savior impacts every situation without hesitation.

Take the time everyday to thank God that through His death and resurrection you now have eternal life!  What an amazing reality that we were spiritually dead in our sins with no hope but that Jesus loves us so much that he snatched us from the grip of death and eternal separation from Him.

We are entrusted with this life saving knowledge of the gospel and if we do not share it, it is like knowing the Heimlich Maneuver and being afraid to use it because we might offend someone.

And when this life-transforming gospel is ingrained in our thoughts, it can’t help but overflow into our circumstances.  It transforms the words that come out of our mouths, our reactions and the way we view things, even when the circumstances do not change.

I Thessalonians 2:4 tells us “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”

We are entrusted with the gospel to speak it, to ourselves and to others, because this Gospel changes lives for eternity.

GET TO KNOW YOUR PASTORS: PAUL LONG

This is the third in a series of weekly blogs that answers some of your questions about getting to know the pastors of Greentree Church

Paul is married to Erin. They have four young children: Lily, Lydia, Elina and Philip

When and how did you become a Christian?

As far as the when, I don’t know. I grew up in a Christian home with Godly parents who always taught me what the bible said and pointed me to the truth of the gospel. I remember at the age of 5 “asking Jesus into my heart”. I always attended Church and Sunday school (which was kind of hard not to when you grow up living on the Greentree property.) I was a good Sunday school kid yet in my heart I don’t know if I was truly a Christian. Through most of my school years I really led a double life; trying to be a good church kid yet fit in with the crowd at the same time. It wasn’t until college after a few bad relationships that I really began to seek God. So I don’t know if I was saved then or when I was younger. But from that time on I took my relationship with God seriously. 

Where did you go to college and what did you study?

I went to Gettysburg College and studied Health and Physical Education. I got a minor in Spanish. 

What led you to become a pastor?

Before working at Greentree I was working for my good friend Tim installing granite counters. It was a good job and I really loved working with Tim. But I was becoming increasingly frustrated and dissatisfied in my job. It was a that same time that Pastor Jerry called me into to see if wanted to take a greater role in developing recreational ministry here at Greentree. At the time I was serving as a youth leader and really didn’t have time to commit to more volunteering. 

Several months later, Jerry called me in again and offered me a job as the Director of Children & Youth Ministry.  I was excited, yet I dreaded telling Tim; I didn’t want to let him down but I continue to feel this dissatisfaction at work. When I finally got up enough nerve to talk to him about it he was very encouraging and excited for me.  That was a big confirmation for the direction God was leading me in. 

After I had been working at Greentree for a while the other pastors began to develop me for pastoral ministry.  I spent time with each of them working through various areas of study and practical ministry.  This “on the job” type of training was really helpful because that is how I learn best.

Becoming a pastor was honestly nothing I would have pursued on my own but really came from the encouragement and support of the other pastors. I don’t feel particularly gifted for what I do (most days I feel pretty inadequate actually), yet I am humbled that God would use me in this way despite my failures and inadequacies. It has been a very exciting, yet soul stretching experience. 

What are your main responsibilities at Greentree Church? 

I oversee the children and youth ministry as well as general church administration.

What is your passion in ministry?

My passion is that as a church we would train, equip and encourage families in how they raise, guide and teach their children. 

In what area would you like to see our church strengthened?

I would love to see those who just attend become vibrant members; serving, giving, participating in small groups and making disciples. 

What is your favorite book outside of the Bible?

I don’t really read for fun that much.  I have read a few books on Navy Seals over the years that I have enjoyed.  I like to spend free time bow hunting, fishing, working in the garden, and hanging out with my family. 

If you could only read one book of the Bible for the coming year, which would it be?

Colossians

If you were not a pastor, what would you do?

I really want to be a farmer. My dream some day is to own a farm. 

What are your favorite foods?

I could eat a whole bag of chips.  I really love some traditional Armenian food my family makes like lahmaǰun.  I like any meat product on the grill, sushi, subs, a nice soft homemade oatmeal raisin cookie and ANYTHING my wife makes!

If money was no object, what would be your dream vacation?

I would like to take my wife back to the Cayman Islands.  We went there for a day on our honeymoon and I told her I would take her back some day. But I would settle for a log cabin in the woods for a week or so. 

What is a perfect day off?

Breakfast out on the deck (bacon AND pork roll).  Spending time with my wife and kids. Taking the kids on a bike ride.  Going hunting or fishing.  Sushi for dinner. Finish it off watching a movie with Erin; ice cream of course.

LEFTOVERS TASTE BETTER

My “Sermon Leftovers” began 4 years ago during my first week of blogging

It was Thanksgiving weekend which inspired the title of Leftovers

Since I don’t have leftovers today and it is near Thanksgiving, I will give you my original Leftovers article

Sometimes leftovers just taste better

In soups and stews the ingredients need that extra time for their flavors to fully meld; and Thanksgiving is famous for providing satisfying leftovers.

A fresh snow flake roll piled with cold turkey, stuffing, hot gravy and some cranberry sauce seems to taste even better than when those favorites first appeared on our plates the day before.

Could it be possible that Sermon Leftovers are also better the next day??

On Mondays I will be offering a modest portion of those leftovers. Having heard a sermon once already, we are ready to feast on those biblical truths once again, as the Holy Spirit sharpens our appetite to apply them in our life.

Since we are in the midst of a series, I will give a small portion from each of the three messages:

“God Has An Opinion About Pride and Humility”

James 4:6

Pride relentlessly seeks to erode God’s glory and His Lordship.

Pride is always seeking to make us the center of our world.

Pride opens the door to virtually every other sin.

Our pride is groundless – illogical – corrosive and foolish.

Humility is an unrestrained desire to have God fulfill His role in everything.

Humility leads us to embrace God’s assessment in all areas of our life.

The humble can have an unobstructed relationship with God.

If we don’t think we have a pride problem, it is a serious problem, because we are not seriously examining our heart.

Are we willing to ask God if He would reveal where pride is lurking in us?

“Christ Is Our Example For Humility”

Philippians 2:3-8

Amidst the glories of heaven, the eternal Son of God exercised inexpressible humility to become a man. The events of Jesus’ birth underlined the humility of his incarnation.

Jesus’ earthly labors required him to exercise humility every moment. No one he met ever had the zeal and faithfulness he possessed.

In his death, Jesus embraced wrath he did not deserve, to give us a grace we did not deserve. The events of Jesus’ death underlined the humility his sacrifice required.

Without the deep humility of Christ, our salvation would not be possible!

For Jesus who deserved glory, every expression of humility was extreme.

We cannot follow Christ very far without humility.

If we are to imitate Christ, we must exercise humility in our relationships with each other.

Jesus’ example makes our lack of humility toward others – indefensible.

What role does humility have in our relationships?

“The Gospel Is Our Path to Humility”

Ephesians 2:4-10

Our experience tells us that fighting pride is a constant battle. How we grow in humility needs to be as persistent as our pride. What is more persistent than our pride? The truths of the gospel!

The gospel is the antidote for pride, and it is the sure path to humility.

The gospel is not just for those who need to be saved, the gospel is the foundation for all Christian living.

To grow in humility we must stay on the path of gospel truths.

The gospel saves us from pride, by saving us from ourselves.

The gospel keeps us from the pride of self-focus.

The gospel will always point us to God . . to reality . . and to humility.

Be a worshipper: it is hard to exalt ourselves when we are exalting God.

DO FAMILY CURSES EXIST?

Do family curses exist?

The idea of Family or Generational Curses has gained a lot of momentum is Christian circles. It is another disappointing trend that grabs a few verses and then ignores the rest of Scripture when defining them. I hope you will read this short article by RC Sproul Jr to get a clearer understanding on the matter.

Without question there are influences that are passed down by the generations. But the current teaching on generational curses minimizes the power of the cross for all have trusted in the saving and freeing work of Christ

GET REAL PEACE

Real Peace by Andy Farmer

For this month’s book recommendation blog, I am going to make it easy for me and hopefully both interesting and helpful for you.

Andy Farmer has written a book on How to Find Real Peace.

That should be of interest to all of us!

The full title is “Real Peace: What We Long For and Where to Find It”

For those of you from Greentree, you will remember Andy as one of the speakers for our Family Equipping Conference last year. Andy is Pastor of Community & Care at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA

Brian DeWire already wrote a strong recommendation for Real Peace which you can read here (this is the easy part for me)