Expressing God’s Love

Time was short.  He knew his own death was imminent.  He only had a few short moments left on this earth with those He counted as followers.  Jesus had to make a decision.  What would He teach these disciples in the last little bit of time they had left together?  Continue reading

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Never Give Up!

 

Howdy!

 

This is Markus, the German intern, and this time it is my turn to write a blog. I want to tell you all a story about how I got my driver’s license and my hope is that it will encourage some of you through the hard times!

 

Things in life are not always easy. There have been times in my life where I wanted to give up. This year when I turned 18, I was finally old enough to get my drivers’ license after all of my lessons and trainings.  So I told all my friends and went in to take my driving test. I was so excited I even put it on snapchat for EVERYONE to see. But, things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to.

 

When I took the test, I had to come to a hard, fast stop while going about 20 mph. I was supposed to check my mirrors and turn my blinker on to show other drivers that I would start driving again. But, because I didn’t do that, I failed.

 

The second time I took the test, I didn’t pass because I drove too fast around a curve. So, I went back to the driving school and took more driving lessons and continued practicing with an instructor. After all that, I took the test a third time, but failed yet again.

 

I knew what I was doing, but because I was so nervous I psyched myself out all 3 times. Because my nerves were so bad, I had to go to the doctor so that I could get medicine to help with my anxiety. I so wanted to just quit. It shouldn’t have been this hard. My friends were succeeding and I just kept failing. I felt like I was dumb. I did not feel good about myself, and I blamed others as well. It had cost my family over $3,000 for these failures because getting a driver’s license is so expensive in Germany.

 

Despite all of my shortcomings and failures, my parents supported me through it all. My dad told me that I would get knocked down a lot in life, but it only mattered how many times I got back up. So, I prepared for another round with the driving test.

 

On the fourth time I tested, I finally passed. I was so relieved. Because I was so embarrassed about failing the other times. I had told everyone about the other times but the fourth time I kept it secret. My failures were starting to make me doubt myself and doubt God, because I had prayed about it so much. People in church were praying for me. I shouldn’t have even passed the test the fourth time, but the driving tester was very nice and overlooked some minor faults.

 

I tell you all of this to tell you that you should never, ever give up. People will tell you that you should give up, but God is telling you to keep fighting. Satan will try and to knock you down, but God is building you up.  It is hard when you are going through the struggles but once you get to the good side, then you can see that your hard work has paid off.

 

You should never give up, especially if you’re having a dream or a passion for your own life. I always had the dream to preach and to teach other people about the Word of God with passion. It is something that I can’t really describe, but I definitely know that God has put it in my heart and that is something I want and will chase in my life. However, it hasn’t been easy so far chasing this dream and there have been a lot of times where I wanted to just quit.

 

But it is important to remember God’s promises that he has for us.

The bible tells us in Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

 

Jesus never said that things will be easy in your life, yet he said that he will be always on your side and never leave you if you follow him. Even when things look bad, keep fighting, because God is on your side. Jesus said in John 16:33, “… In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus has already won the battle with the world. We don’t have to do it, we must only have faith that God will work these hard times out.

 

Our best answer to the struggles is Jesus.

Our only hope is Jesus.

 

Markus Niederfranke

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Offended On My Behalf

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This is my happy face.

You maybe read the title of this and thought I was making some deep reflection about Jesus but it is way less theological. I had to share a story that happened recently about my honor being defended. What a funny thing, to think that chivalry still exists in this “selfie-sh” generation. (Forced pun intended!) Continue reading

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Ask the composer.

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Massimo Freccia

There’s a story that I heard recently about an Italian conductor, Massimo Freccia, and his brush with one of the great composers of Italian opera.  I have no way to verify whether this story is true, but it almost doesn’t matter – it’s one of those stories that ought to be true, even if it isn’t, because it makes such a great point.

As a young boy in the early 20th century, Freccia developed an early interest in music and took every opportunity he could find to watch musical performances.  One day, he snuck into the back door of the famous La Scala opera house to surreptitiously watch a performance of the opera Tosca, composed by none other than the great Giacomo Puccini, one of Italy’s most famous composers of that era. Continue reading

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When the answers don’t come…

This has been the hardest blog I have ever written. I now have 3 unfinished blogs floating in my head and in my computer, because the words felt off. The words of this blog are vulnerable and true, but they are the only words that seemed right. I hope this helps you as much as it has been helping me through the last year and especially the last few weeks. Continue reading

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Kobe and the Warriors

Clearly, this past Wednesday night was one of the most significant regular season finale nights in recent NBA history. When we got home from church, Matthew asked me which game I wanted to watch – Kobe Bryant’s last game in the NBA or the Golden State Warriors’ chance to break the record for the most wins in the regular season. My answer to him was that I would rather watch Kobe’s last game. I think after 20 years in the league, it is worth watching his last performance. Continue reading

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Don’t forget to look up!

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When I was in college, I always had at least one part-time job in addition to the classes I was taking.  Mostly, these jobs were at churches – part-time choir director, part-time youth leader, etc. – but occasionally I also held jobs in other fields.

Of my non-church jobs, by far my favorite was being a tour guide at the state capitol building in Austin. I had this job for a little over a year, and some of my best friends to this day are people I met while working there 15 years ago. Continue reading

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Some Thoughts on Zoning

planzeichnenAs many of you know, our church is in the middle of a major building program.  As a result of some of the amazing growth that God has sent our way in the last few years, we began having discussions almost a year ago about the need to build a new Sanctuary.  As that plan began to take shape, we realized that we would need to relocate our gym to our vacant lot across the street from our main campus in order to make room for the new structure.

That sounds pretty simple, but it’s actually fairly complicated.

The main complication, as it turns out, is zoning: While our main campus, on the north side of E. 6th Street, is in the central business district, the property on the south side of the street is considered residential and is zoned accordingly.  And, there are different requirements to build on a residential lot than a commercial lot.

In case you aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of urban planning, some cities choose regulate the use of different properties.  Because thriving cities need lots of different types of activities to remain healthy – commercial businesses, public buildings, warehouses, schools, houses, etc. – some cities choose to try to create specific places for those specific uses in order to promote a healthy mix of uses while maintaining the character of specific areas and neighborhoods.  This process is called zoning, and it’s why you usually don’t have a busy strip mall in the middle of a quiet neighborhood or an elementary school located next to a busy industrial factory.

In our case, we needed to get a variance from the city to allow us to build our new gym where we needed it to go.  Last week, after a process that lasted a couple of months and involved lots of assistance from city staff, both the Planning & Zoning Committee and the City Council approved our requests, so we are moving ahead with our plans to build our new gym.

Why did I just go through the trouble of explaining all of that?  Because I think that the concept of urban zoning has parallels with how God designed His church to operate.  Let me explain.

As I mentioned above, healthy cities will have lots of different people doing lots of different things, each one of which may seem insignificant on its own but all of which combine to form the community that we know and love.  A city that only has residential areas, for example, won’t have any jobs to support its residents, so we need commercial zones with shops, restaurants, gas stations, etc.  Likewise, a city that only has commercial use wouldn’t have any workers to staff all of those businesses.

It gets even more minute than that, however.  For example, if the only kinds of businesses we had were manufacturing, we wouldn’t have anywhere to get groceries, buy gas for our cars, or eat out.  If all we have are upscale homes, people of more modest means won’t have anywhere to live.  Variety is the spice of life, as the old saying goes, and perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the makeup of our communities.

So, what’s the parallel with the church?  We can find it in 1 Corinthians 12.

Paul begins this chapter by addressing spiritual gifts – the specific ways that we are empowered to serve God – and then segues into a discussion of the need for God’s people to use their gifts and abilities to work together.

Paul compares the church to the human body, pointing out that all of the different parts of the body are necessary in order for it to fully function as it was designed to (vv. 15-18):

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

(Notice that last sentence, about God putting everything together just as he wanted – we’re going to come back to that in a minute.)

Just as God designed our bodies so that each individual part has a role to play, he also designed His church to function in that same way (v. 27):

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Each of us has a specific part to play in the context of our church, and every part is important.  Unfortunately, we tend to think that there are only a handful of really “important” jobs in the church – deacons, Sunday School teachers, etc. – but the reality is that all of us have something to contribute, and each of those contributions is important to God’s work.

It occurs to me that we have some great examples of this in our own congregation.  I’m thinking about Pam Knotts, for example, who uses her skills for organization and communication to keep our calendar up-to-date and send out our email newsletters each month.  Although it may seem like a small thing, those emails keep us all on the same page and ensure that everyone knows what’s going on week-to-week.

Jeff Steinhauser is another great example.  Did you know that he sweeps the sidewalk leading up to the main entrance each Sunday morning?  He makes sure that our facility is clean and inviting, and he even stands in the foyer to open the door and greet everyone as they come in.

As far as I’m aware, neither Pam nor Jeff was ever recruited to those jobs – they saw a need, realized that they could meet that need, and stepped up to do it.  And, they are by no means the only ones who I could mention – there’s the Wednesday night supper crew that prepare our food each week, or the hostess committee that do such a great job expressing Christ’s love to our church each time we have a special meal or other event, or the ushers who collect our offering each Sunday morning.  I could literally go on and on, listing dozens of people, and that’s the point –  Flatonia Baptist Church is a great place to be precisely because we have so many people who use their gifts to serve God in hundreds of ways, large and small.

Now, remember that verse about God putting the body together just the way He wanted it to be?  Remember that the next time that you think that you have some shortcoming that prevents you from being useful to God’s kingdom.  God created you in a unique way, for a unique purpose.  Don’t let anything hold you back from reaching your full potential to do the work that God placed you here to do.

So, what will your contribution be?  Whatever it may be, remember this: there are no unimportant people in God’s kingdom or in this church.  Every person is important, valued, and needed.  We must all work together if we are to fulfill God’s mission for our congregation.

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