Monthly Archives: April 2017

Grace Changes Everything 

Just as many women (and some men) do, Hunny B enjoys decorating our home. With the changing of the seasons, and from holiday to holiday, B has home décor items appropriate for the times. Floral and other natural displays, artwork, crafts, knickknacks, splashes of color, and increasingly, words or even just letters. Right now, I am looking at a sprightly colored sign of cut out wooden letters that spell “SPRING”. Another that she added recently is a framed sign that reads “Grace changes everything.”

Some readers may have already noted that we were getting the kids a new puppy. After a couple of delays totaling more than two weeks, we finally brought the little one home from the shelter. As anyone who has ever brought a baby home – whether human or canine – can attest, your life becomes very different with a little one in the family. Oh, did I mention we named our puppy Grace? Yeah, Grace changes everything! Our usage of paper towels has increased about ten-fold since Grace came home on Good Friday. Puppy toys are strewn around the floor. I get up two or three times a night when she starts squirming around in her crate and needs to go outdoors. Oh, and you cannot just buy a bag of Puppy Chow anymore; that just will no longer do. Now, we buy wild bison and green pea, grain-free kibble that costs four times as much. Yes, Grace changes everything.

 

What I hope is that Grace does make some changes in our lives. Certainly, having a puppy can be very good for the kids, providing a fun playmate and offering the opportunity to accept responsibility for another life – feeding, watering, brushing, bathing, and walking. But, it is also good for me. I can be a bit of a hard task master. Like Hunny B’s sign, naming our puppy Grace can serve as a frequent reminder to me to exercise grace in my dealings with others. As one of my favorite authors, Chuck Swindoll, has written, “Grace is not something to be claimed, it is to be demonstrated.” I have spent too much of my life dependent on the grace of others, but too unwilling to extend it to those around me. How very wrong of me. I have repeatedly been the recipient of the greatest gift anyone could receive, but was unwilling to share that gift. In Romans 3:23-24, Paul famously tells us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus”. I have been tragically wrong at times in my life, and more generally wrong in one way or another every day of my life. I am gratefully justified by and completely dependent upon God’s grace, as well as the grace I receive from others. Perhaps I am growing more gracious in my life as I age. I know that I still have much room for improvement. At least now, I have some reminders in the house that grace does, indeed, change everything. Even me.

~ Hudd ~

Kevin Huddleston is an Elder at Fellowship at Cross Creek Church in Branson, MO

Of Death and Taxes

It has often been said that the only things that are certain in this life are death and taxes. As the Federal tax deadline looms, many of us may be thinking about this statement. According to research I did on the internet, the average American pays almost 30% of their income in taxes each year, in the form of income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and excise taxes (on things like fuel, tobacco, alcohol, and airline tickets). Welcome to Tax Day!
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It is estimated that more than 45% of Americans pay zero Federal income tax, so it appears that part of the old statement may not be true. It is, actually, the other part of that statement I want to consider: Death. Yes, death will come to all of us. Unfortunately, many in our Fellowship family have had to deal with recent death – spouses, parents, siblings, extended family, and even children. With just a few notable exceptions (Enoch and Elijah), every person who has ever been born in this world has either died or will sometime in the coming decades. Death is a natural, normal stage of life. That knowledge, however, does little to blunt its impact when those of us who remain alive must deal with its consequences. Is there anything in life more gripping in its reality than a grieving survivor making the arrangements for a funeral service of a dear loved one? Sometimes, if one could be so objective, death could be seen as a relief for some, either for the one who has died, or for the one who has been caring for and loving the departed. Few, if any, who are intimately involved in the final moments of a loved one’s life will ever feel that death brings such relief. It is the pain of loss, of separation, of finality that we feel at that time. Death is the ultimate dividing line.

As I write this, it is Good Friday. Given its origin, you wonder where the name Good Friday could have come from, since it commemorates the death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the cross. It is a most solemn reminder of the certainty of death and its associated pain. Think of it, the Lord and Creator of all suffering an ignoble death by crucifixion? It is a thought so horrific that almost none of His disciples could be at the site of the cross to witness His death. His death and burial had disillusioned His followers; had left them uncertain and frightened about their future paths. How were they to go on without their teacher, their Messiah? What were they to do, now that their purpose in life was suddenly gone? Driven to despair and discouragement, they retreated to an upper room of some residence, hiding from the authorities who had taken their King, and mourning His loss with one another. As Jesus himself had uttered while on the cross, they were asking, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
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Yes, many of us have at one time or another, felt abandoned and forsaken by God while suffering through the loss of a dear one. But then, somehow, the dawn of a new day begins to bring its light to our otherwise darkened existence. From our despondency, we are awakened to a hope. The core of this new start in our life is found not in the death of Good Friday, but in the amplified joy of Easter sunrise. Just as Mary found the tomb of Jesus to be empty, our hope is in a similar resurrection. Death is not the final separation we sometimes think it to be. Yes, each in our own turn will suffer a personal, physical death, that part is certain. But death in this life leads with the same certainty to a life hereafter and through all eternity. It is our joy to know that, because of Easter and the resurrection of our Lord, our eternity will be fixed in Him.

Apparently, neither death nor taxes is certain.

~ Hudd ~

Kevin Huddleston is an Elder at Fellowship at Cross Creek Church

 

Take Out the Trash  

At our house, I am someone. Not “someone” as in exalted or esteemed, necessarily. Rather, I am someone as in, “Someone needs to take out the trash,” or “Someone needs to fix that”, or the all too frequent “Someone needs to unstop the toilet.” We are getting a new puppy, and I am pretty sure that soon I will be hearing, “Someone needs to clean THAT up!”

Well, it is good to be someone, if only one someone who takes care of the house and those who live there. It provides a reminder that I am here to serve others, and that many of the ways we can serve others occur because we live in a fallen, imperfect world, and people find it difficult to make their way in life.

Do not misunderstand; the Garden was perfectly beautiful and supplied Adam and Eve with all their needs, but it still was to be tended to by God’s created people. In Genesis 2, we are told that God took the man into the garden “to cultivate and keep” it. Later, God fashioned woman from man’s rib to serve as a helpmeet to the man. No, the garden was not one never-ending vacation at an all-inclusive resort. Man did have work to perform in the garden. But it was, apparently, not heavy work and endless toil to keep the garden. After man’s fall, God cast him out of the garden, and told him that, because of man’s sin, the ground has become cursed, and now he will have to labor all of his days to scratch a living from it among its thorns and thistles.

And, so it has been ever since. Man and woman have to work, toil, and strive to survive in this world that has been damaged, forever altered toward the worse, because of sin and the evil that entered into the world. We toil and we struggle. With all our hard work, and by God’s grace and mercy, we get by. Not as in the garden, mind you, though many of us would even say we are blessed. Yet, there is ever this struggle, this conflict in our lives that did not exist in the garden.

The sad part of this toil and struggle is that we continue to make the bad choice, and listen to Satan to direct our actions. Oh, not all the time, but often enough that our behavior falls short of the standard God has set for us. We are still influenced by Adam’s sin in the garden. This struggle that you and I face today is not new. Paul wrote about it many times in his letters. In his letter to the Philippians (chapter 4), Paul writes, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Paul is telling his brothers in Philippi to stop wallowing in the sins of the past. Look to those things that are good, and practice then, to have any hope of peace – hope of minimizing the struggle – today and as we look to the future.

Do away with the sinful influences in your life. Turn from those television shows, websites, books and magazines that promise you luscious fruit, but are actually full of rotten garbage. Life in this world will always be a struggle, but if we have any hope for peace in our hearts, someone has to take out the trash in our lives.

~ Hudd ~

Set the Trend

This week, our youth program celebrated the opening of their new Four12 Youth Center. If you have not seen it yet, make your way there and see what Youth Director Tag Grisham and his team of volunteers, along with your financial contributions, have created. The very large room has been segmented into various uses, with areas for food and coffee, video games, table tennis and foosball, and teaching and conversation. The center is both warm and inviting, yet has a cool vibe – a very attractive place for our youth and their friends to gather and get to know each other better as they seek to know the Lord more fully.

As Tag has explained, the name Four12 comes from 1 Timothy 4:12, where Paul tells young Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” These areas of behavior – speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity – provide the base upon which our youth are to show themselves an example. As Tag has made it Four12’s “tag” (pun intended) line, “Set the Trend”. Let us set all this in its scriptural context.

In 1st Timothy, Paul is writing to his younger cohort, Timothy, whom Paul has left in Ephesus to help oversee the church there. As Timothy’s mentor, Paul writes to give instruction on church organization, the behavior of its leadership, and how its believers are to navigate through a fallen world. Specifically in chapter 4, Paul is advising the young Timothy that there are going to be troubling times, and even though Timothy is young, as an overseer (pastor, elder, bishop) of the church in Ephesus, he is to be an example, set the trend, for the believers there. Paul encourages Timothy in three specific areas:

  1. Nourish yourself in God’s word (verse 6)
  2. Train yourself in Godliness (verses 7-9)
  3. Mission – why we labor (verse 10)

In verse 11, Paul tells his younger brother to “Prescribe and teach these things.” Further, in verse 15, Paul directs Timothy to “be absorbed in them”. Finally, in verse 16, Paul says, do these things, and you will “ensure salvation for yourself and those who hear you”.

The instruction given to Timothy was given to one in church leadership, but is applicable to all believers. These points were made to Timothy so that he may serve as an example to others. By extension, those of us who are “others” are to learn from and emulate that example. How inspiring it is to us that our youth have accepted the responsibility to be that example. To set the trend. Let each of us follow the example of our young people in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. Let us be absorbed in God’s word, Godliness, and our mission. Let us join with Four12, and Set the Trend.

~ Hudd ~

(Kevin Huddleston is an Elder at Fellowship at Cross Creek Church in Branson, MO)