I just read a marvelous little book by J.I. Packer called Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength. It is easy to read and applicable to life. He leads the reader through a study in First and Second Corinthians. In these to Bible letters, the Apostle Paul speaks of weakness—his weakness and even the weakness of Christ.
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NLT, 2 Co 12:9–10).
Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you, we will be alive with him and will have God’s power. (NLT, 2 Co 13:4).
We live in a culture that banks on power and strength. From childhood on, we want our children to grow strong and self-reliant. But Paul says that in our self-assurance, we lose sight of our real strength—Jesus Christ.
Packer reflected on a humorous Peanuts cartoon when Lucy asked a gloomy-looking Charlie Brown what he was worried about. Charlie answered, “I feel inferior.” “Oh,” said Lucy, “you shouldn’t worry about that. Lots of people have that feeling.” “What, that they’re inferior?” Charlie asked. “No,” Lucy replied, “that you’re inferior” (14).
The perception of being weak, which everyone feels at times, leads to feelings of inferiority, which Packer calls the Charlie Brown syndrome. We can feel worthlessness and wonder what benefit we bring to our families and churches. “Original sin in the form of pride, ambitious independence, and deep-level egocentricity has infected everyone, we all crave to be admired for strength in something, and the expectation that it is not going to happen makes one feel like a punctured balloon and plants bitterness in one’s heart,” says Packer (50).
When we discover the fact that we really are weak, Packer advises that we LOOK to Christ as the “loving Sin-Bearer and living Lord.” When we receive Him a Savior and make Him Master of our lives, we can legitimately leave behind our self-pity and feelings of failure.
Then we can LOVE Christ, find our worth in pleasing him with our lives instead of looking to others for their approval. Consequently, we can say with the Apostle Paul, “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide” (NLT, 1 Co 4:3–4). How freeing it is to depend on Christ for our commendation, not other people or even ourselves.
Lastly, Packer says we should learn to LEAN on Christ and rely on him to supply through the Holy Spirit all the strength we need to serve Him. As Christians, we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us to do God’s work. Why would we even bother relying on our own strength when He who is stronger wants us to lean into Him?
I want to encourage you to take a look at J.I. Packer’s excellent work. I know you won’t be sorry.
Packer, J. I. Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013. Print.
Last year, Reader’s Digest created a list of the best places to live in America. Can you believe one of the sites found on the list is located in the Bronx? Harding Park is a blue-collar neighborhood on the East River in New York City’s Bronx borough. The neighbors are friendly and “crimes of compassion” occur regularly. After snowstorms, folks anonymously shovel the sidewalks of their neighbors. On garbage collection days, one neighbor will carry another neighbors trash cans back up the driveway to the backdoor. Gardeners share their produce with their neighbors, many times without taking credit for the vegetables they leave on the doorstep. It’s like crime in reverse. Everyone tries to outdo the good deeds their neighbors do for them.
My daily Bible reading has me in the Gospel of Matthew right now. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, ESV). The “Golden Rule” can be found in one form or another in a myriad of religions. Most of these religions state the rule in the negative: “Do not do to others what you don’t like them doing to you.” Jesus expresses it in the positive. Those who follow Jesus should eagerly do good to others. The good that the followers of Christ do is not dependent on other people returning the favor. Instead, we should look to serve others when we are not noticed—even doing good to our enemies: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35, ESV) and “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:15, ESV).
The Christian life is not easy, is it? Why should we actively pursue doing good for others? Because that is how God treats us. In the passage before the “Golden Rule” text, Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7–11, ESV). Can it be that we have the privilege as children of God to imitate our Heavenly Father? Let’s not miss that critical fact, sons and daughters of God look like their Father. We live differently from the “norm” because God is transforming us through the Holy Spirit into something better.
So, let us do what the Apostle Paul encourages: “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:18–19, ESV).
Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 172.
Lydia Clark-Sumpter, “The Nicest Place in New York: Harding Park in the Bronx.” Reader's Digest, (Trusted Media Brands, Inc., 2019), www.rd.com/nicestplaces/the-nicest-place-in-new-york-harding-park-in-the-bronx/.
As we begin a new year at Blainsport, we will focus our attention on the Book of Esther. When we think of the book, our minds go to the fact that it never mentions God’s name. Despite the absence of His name, it is clear that God orchestrated all the events that take place. Sometimes it is hard to understand how God works in life’s messy situations, even using brokenness to bring about His good plan. The Book of Esther keeps reminding us that God is working even when we don’t see Him at work.
During this series, we will be singing the Michael W. Smith song “Waymaker.” It precisely emphasizes what is going on in Esther and most likely in many of our lives. I trust that God will encourage you in your faith journey as we study these passages together.
Jon Wenrich will kick off the series this Sunday with his message “When You Can’t See the Way” from Esther 2:1-18. As you see, we will jump in at chapter two. Feel free to look at Esther 1:1-22 before Sunday; it lays the background for the message.
Another reminder as we begin 2020—it is a year of generosity. With our financial commitments to the Declaration House and EMM, we want to steward our resources well from the start. Your generous giving will give us the kick start we need to bless these ministries. Really, they serve as an extension of our ministry as a congregation. Needs are being met and lives are impacted as we partner with these ministries and other churches to extend the Kingdom of God right in our “hometown.” I pray that we will find joy in our giving and that God will do mighty things as a result.
I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday.
I love this time of year. Christmas is over, and the New Year is on the horizon. There is a blank slate in front of me and I get to decide how I will launch into the year ahead. With notes of ideas that I collected over the past year, I look for a common thread to link these ideas together. Handwritten notes, counsel questionnaires, and remembered conversations from folks in the church help solidify the goals for the New Year.
The work is always hard, sometimes confusing, but consistently profitable. Without the planning week before the calendar rolls over, I am in trouble. There is nothing worse than trying to find my bearings after I start the journey. The plan does not need to be perfect, it can always be adjusted, but it does need to exist.
As I look to 2020, discipleship, leadership development, and focused worship gatherings top my chart. There are lots of ways to work at each of these things, and each of us plays a role. Jesus’ Great Commission still remains the same,
I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18–20, NLT).
Indeed, Christ is still calling us to fulfill His great instructions for us. Making and teaching disciples is at the heart of Christ’s command, yet we do not do it alone. In fact, it is in His authority and with His constant presence that we can do what He asks of us.
Part of my planning for 2020 includes some focused sermon series starting with a study from the Book of Esther. This study coincides with the Bible Quizzing Teams' material. We will use the English Standard Version (ESV) for that study since the Quizzing Team will be using that version. Following our survey in Esther, we will turn to the Book of Hebrews. There are so many deep connections with the Old Testament Law in Hebrews. I think you will find the series insightful, challenging, and instructive for living the Christian life.
I hope to do a book study with a few potential leaders in the congregation in 2020 as well. I am still working out the details on that at this point.
Over the past few years, I’ve enjoyed working with a team of song leaders and creative minds in the congregation as we plan our worship gatherings. I named this group the Creative Team. As we discuss our Sunday morning gatherings, ideas come out that challenge the different learning styles. Last year we incorporated art and music in our services that help draw all of us closer to Christ. I want to see us pull everything together even more in 2020. The goal is to give us a single voice and emphasis as we worship God together.
One last thing, next year is a year of generosity. As we accomplish our giving challenges over the next five years, we will need to stay committed to being generous. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:7–8 (NLT),
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
It is our pleasure to advance the Kingdom of God through our giving commitments. In 2020, I look forward to seeing the ways God blesses us because of our faithful response to His leading.
As you celebrate the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, may you fix your eyes firmly on Jesus. Follow Him wherever He leads and be amazed by what He will do in your life and in the life of our congregation.
The Book of Revelation brings out great fascination for some people while it leads others into controversy and confusion. It contains mysteries, symbolism, and predictions about future events. The language found in the pages of Revelation is colorful and at times, baffling. If you decide to search for expert interpretations, you will likely find extremes ranging from vague to ridiculous. Some people come away from the text with dates and names, which often results in arguments or skepticism.
With all of that as a background, we will take the next sermon series at Blainsport to explore the Book of Revelation. The hope is to give a clearer picture of Almighty God and a sense of urgency as we discover how quickly we are racing toward eternity. You will not, however, come away with dates or even a list of things to do in case of an “Apocalypse.” Upcoming sermon titles and texts are available on the message tab above. I want to invite you to pray for the speaker since this will not be an easy series to tackle.
One last thing, I added two brief videos below from the Bible Project. They provide an overview of the Book of Revelation that will help you get ready for the messages in the sermon series. I look forward to studying with you in the weeks ahead!
Historically, Christians take time to solemnly observe the week proceeding Easter Sunday, calling it Holy or Passion Week. Indeed, these seven days were the most intense days of Jesus’ life and notably the most significant week in all of history. All four Gospels (Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19; John 12) record the details of the dramatic events occurring during Christ’s final days on earth. In fact, the Passion Narratives of the four Gospels receive the greatest attention from the authors. The Gospel writers slow down during the last week of Jesus’ life, providing greater detail than earlier events of the Gospels. The slow down indicates the importance of what is happening.
Let’s not miss the importance of this week. If God, through the Gospel writers deemed it necessary to devote so much time to one week in the life of Christ, then we ought to give it our attention too.
In summary, Passion Week began with Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the “Hosannas” from the crowd that changed to cries of “Crucify Him” before the week was over as Ken Martin taught us this past Sunday. Reading the Gospel accounts, it looks like Jesus spent most of the week teaching in the temple area during the day. In the evenings, He spent time with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany. During Passion Week the Sanhedrin plotted to kill Jesus, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, handing Him over for arrest, different leaders tried Jesus in their mock courtrooms, He journeyed to Golgotha where the soldiers ultimately crucified Him, and gloriously God raised Christ from the grave on the first Easter Sunday.
I want to encourage you to take a step back and reflect on the events of this week. If you have children, take time each day to read the events that happened on that day of the week. Ask and answer questions together as a family; passing on the amazing story to the next generation. Most importantly, see your place in the account. Christ died as an atonement for sins—your sins, and by satisfying the wrath of God, He makes it possible for you to have a relationship with the Father. Our part? “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Ro 10:9, NLT).
Plan to join us this Sunday as we celebrate the most important events in history: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Be sure to bring your family and friends as we reflect on the price God paid to save us from our sins, remember Christ’s great love poured out for us on the cross, and celebrate the victory we have in Jesus Christ!
I am finally back to the blog. Since I last posted, I finished up some school work. Now I can reclaim some of my time.
This past Sunday we had a fantastic time at Blainsport. We baptized four persons and received another eight into membership. All shared their testimonies leaving few dry eyes. I am still receiving comments about how inspired people felt following the worship gathering. I am grateful for the way God is moving in the lives of folks here at Blainsport.
Some exciting things are coming up. This Sunday Ken Martin from Weaverland Anabaptist Faith Community will be with us. He is steering our attention toward Matthew 21:1-11 as we celebrate Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday was the Sunday before Christ was crucified. On that day, the crowd of people proclaimed Jesus as king. Lamentably, the following Friday that same crowd called for His execution.
The following Sunday, April 21, is Easter. We begin the day at the church at 5:45 AM where we carpool to the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. At Willow Point, the youth group will lead us in songs and Scripture readings as we watch the sunrise. One of the most spectacular verses of the Bible tells us “Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance” (Lk 24:1–2, NLT). The stone was removed, and Christ was alive again. Seeing the sun coming up over the lake reminds us anew the miracle of the first Easter and the hope for all who trust in Christ as their Savior. If He lives, so shall we!
Please invite your friend and family to our worship gathering at 10:00 AM. Several people have been planning an unforgettable morning that you don’t want to miss. It will truly be a celebration for our Living Savior.
Now, catching up a bit, I want to let those who like to know what I am currently reading see my reading list. First, in the leadership category, I am reading John Maxwell’s new book, Leader Shift. It is pretty good. His recognizable writing style emerges for those familiar with his books. Many of the principles he highlights you can find in his other books. A second book I have my nose in during my free time is Ernest Hemingway’s classic For Whom the Bell Tolls. It takes me a while to read it since I continually research some of the historical activity going on as his book describes. It takes place during the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939). Not being knowledgeable of the war, I must dive into other sources to gain more insight. As a whole, I am learning a great deal because of all the extra research.
People ask me from time to time what I am currently reading. Here are four books that I am into right now in addition to my regular Bible study.
Coming to the end of the summer is always an exciting time of the year. Students enter a new grade in school; home life goes back to normal; church ministries gear up for another year; and maybe my tomatoes will get ripe! Autumn is definitely a “reset” for so many of us.
We had a terrific summer with Anthony Martin teaching the combined adult class. He did a masterful job of walking us through 2,000 years of church history. This Sunday will be his last one with us. He will also close our preaching series from Ephesians. With the summer Sunday School class coming to an end this Sunday, September 2 will kick off our next quarter. Remember to select a class so that we have the right materials order for the first Sunday. Sign-ups are in the lobby.
September will also be the kick-off of our Declaration House five-year commitment. We have a huge giving goal so don’t miss the introduction to the project on September 9.
I am so encouraged by the number of first-time guests we got to meet this summer. So many of them are no longer guests, they have quickly become family. Friends are bringing friends to church. Why not reach out today and be a part of connecting someone to our church? Bring a friend, or co-worker, or neighbor, or family member with you and allow God to change your life—and allow God to change their life!
One last thing. I received an email from J4C saying that they have the 2019 J4C Retreat on the calendar. They will return to Kenbrook on August 2-3-4, 2019. So, if your Junior Higher wants to attend, be sure to mark it on your calendar now to avoid planning another activity that weekend.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!
Blainsport Mennonite Church is the place to be this Easter. This Easter we would love introducing you to the God who defied the grave and rose victorious. Piercing Word, a premier drama team that brings the words of Scripture alive by performing Bible passages word-for-word straight from the ESV Bible, will join us for the morning. They make the story of Jesus and the invitation of God crystal clear for all age groups.
You do not have to be a church member to attend this Sunday or any other Sunday at Blainsport. The morning costs you nothing while it gives you the opportunity to see and hear what Easter is all about. Will you join us? We look forward to meeting you.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Eric grew up in the little town of Gibraltar, PA with his grandparents. He met his wife Cheryl while working at Good’s Greenhouse in Bowmansville, PA. He has three adult children and values watching them grow into the people God wants them to be.