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Spare Change - September

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“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!” is a common motto of people competing in athletic competitions.  This slogan is plastered on encouraging memes on social media and on basketball sneakers; however, it is not just a slogan it is an important verse that is meant to be a great encouragement to believers that are facing all kinds of obstacles in their lives.

This verse is Philippians 4:13 and Paul wrote it to the church in Philippi.  Here is Philippians 4:10-13 to help us better understand the context of the verse.

“10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the  secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Paul was writing to encourage the believers from his own experiences.  They were greatly concerned about Paul’s wellbeing and with good cause.  We read a summary of Paul's sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11.  He tells the church he has been beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, gone without food, etc.  Paul understands he has suffered greatly for the cause of Christ, but he encourages the church not to worry because he has learned to be content in every situation.  Whether he has much, or little, he trusts the Lord.  It is in that vein that he says he can do all things through Christ.  Basically, he is relying on the strength of Christ to help him accomplish all that God has for him to do.  The challenges he faces are nothing more than obstacles that are to be conquered.  Paul is confident that God has a job for him to do and he is not going to stop no matter what comes his way because he relies on Christ through everything.

WHAT AN ATTITUDE!  Can you even imagine thinking about life in that way?  The sad reality is verse 13 is so much more than just a handy slogan; it is a banner that goes before us to remind us that we do everything for God’s glory.  First, we need to realize that God has a job for us!  God wants us to work, live, shop, eat, serve, parent, fill in the blank all for the glory of God.  He sets us on a course to accomplish His will in our lives.  It is carried out in how we raise our families, how we interact with co-workers, how we redeem our time and yes, even our possessions for the Lord.  That means you look for opportunities to share the gospel and actively disciple, serve, and love others in every facet of life.

Once we come to terms with our God-given mission, then we can understand that there will be challenges to that goal.  You will face internal and external influences that will try to get you to stop.  We fight against our flesh, the world, and the devil.  These three combine to challenge and defeat us and, often, they succeed.  However, if we take to heart what Paul says in Philippians 4 then we will not give up so easily.  We must understand that nothing can defeat us, not even death.  Paul makes that clear early in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  If we have nothing to lose then we cannot be beat!

Do you get it?!  We will face obstacles, we will be challenged but we cannot let that stop us.  Whether it is a ball game, a hard day at work, a failure as a parent or whatever, you can overcome it.  Just like Paul, you need to rely on the strength that is found only in Jesus Christ.  If you do that you will be unstoppable and God will get the glory for all it.  See this verse is bigger than just a sporting event, it is for every aspect of your life.  So, keep following the Lord, keep working for Him, and do not give up!  He will give you the strength you need, just rely on Him every day!

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Spare Change - August

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Is Covid Making It Too Easy to Drop Out of Church?

Usually, pastors can always tell when the church attendance will be down.  It happens when the weather is bad...or really good, when there is a holiday, in the summer, or when something big in the community is going on.  Do you sense a little bit of a trend?  It doesn't take much for people to find a reason to miss church.  This is especially true during this global pandemic.  A recent Barna research study says that 32% of Christians have essentially dropped out of church during this time.  They no longer attend church or watch their church online.  This is a shocking revelation! One third of regular church attenders are not participating in church at all.

Participating in church is essential for believers.  God created the church to bring glory to His name through worship, discipleship, and evangelism.  Church is the place where we take time to prioritize the things of God.  By not engaging during this time many Christians are putting their spiritual health in great danger.  We need to re-engage in church!

I understand what is going on in our world.  I know there is a pandemic going on; however, the church has made unprecedented strides in creating access to spiritual teaching, preaching, worship, and discipleship through online avenues.  There is no excuse for not taking advantage of what our church is making available.  I know there are many that are in high risk categories that cannot attend in person.  If that is you, you should stay home for your health and safety, but that doesn’t mean you should disengage from church.  Even now, our deacons are making home deliveries of sermon DVDs and CDs for those that don’t have internet access.  We are doing all we can to engage with our church body and if there is something else we need to be doing please let us know!

If you are not in a high risk category and you can safely be out in public then you should come to church.  We, like many churches, have figured out appropriate safety measures and have embraced the recommendations put forth by our government officials.  We encourage masks when social distancing is not an option.  We have gallons of hand sanitizer throughout the building.  We are spraying down the chairs with disinfecting solution after each service.  We encourage people not to shake hands or hug.  These are just a few of the safety measures we have implemented.

All this to say that you don’t really have an excuse as to why you are not attending church, or at the very least participating online.  Of course, like we have always said, we understand that you can’t attend when you have to work, have an illness, or when you go on vacation.  Those are valid reasons, but on the whole, you should be at church most every Sunday.

You need church not only for your own spiritual health, but your child’s as well.  LifeWay research found that each drop in regular attendance has a corresponding 1.25% drop in a child’s overall spiritual health as an adult.  This may not seem like much but if a child experiences 4 or 5 drops in attendance it can add up.  Church is important for the spiritual health of your children.  That doesn’t mean they will be spiritually mature as they grow up, simply because they attend church, but it will help to give them a gospel foundation for life.

Also, making church a priority in your family tells your children that the things of God are important!  Think about all the things you spend time and money doing.  Are the things of God less important than those?  Of course not!  But for some reason church is the first thing to go when we get busy, tired, or just plain lazy.

This is assuredly a temporary crisis that we are facing, don’t let it permanently keep you out of church!  Make sure to engage with your church.  Come in person, if you can, and please serve!  We need people to serve as volunteers like never before.   There are so many people that want to serve but are in a high risk category.  We need younger people to step up and serve in the nursery, drive the church van, help at the food pantry, etc.  If you can’t come in person then please go online and keep up with all our content that we are putting out.  You will surely be blessed.
●     For more on this topic listen to episode 9 of the Families for Life Podcast at www.oakhillbc.org/f4l
●     Find the Barna Research study here https://www.barna.com/research/new-sunday-morning-part2/
●     The LifeWay Research study is found in Settle for Nothing Less by Jana Magruder on page 105

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