Fall is here and so is October. As I walk through Hobby Lobby and other stores, I am often amazed at how many decorations are out to be sold. There are fall decorations, Halloween decorations, Thanksgiving decorations and of course Christmas decorations. Since about July, it seems almost half of some stores are devoted just to these decorations. While fall decorations, can be used and focused over several months, it is October and a great deal of them are now devoted to Halloween. According to the National Retail Federation, almost 9 billion dollars was spent on just Halloween in 2018. Those numbers boggle my mind. What is even more amazing is that many young people don’t even go trick or treating. Younger people have learned and now spend their times most often at festivals and church activities on October 31.
This means that October 31 has become a very important day to churches, especially our church. October 31 is an important day for the church for another reason, and this reason is often forgotten by the church. Once upon a time, there was a man in a church that had become very discouraged by things he saw in the church. As he saw things, that seemed to be more talk than action, and he saw money corrupting the church, as well as church people acting less and less as Christian. He became angry and knew it needed change. He decided to air his concerns and even wrote them down in hopes the church would respond to his concerns. The church did not respond to his written “thesis” and even became so upset by his voice he was shunned, yelled out, even some called for him to be killed for his “heretical” statements. The man’s actions all began when he nailed his 95 Thesis on the door in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. You may realize that I am of course talking about Martin Luther.
Martin Luther saw the church selling indulgences (good standing) and using the power and money for its own benefit. Martin Luther had always struggled in his own life with his feelings of failure, and while reading through Romans, he first understood we are saved by grace.
Romans 1:17 says, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
Luther came to see what we as Christians understand-that God’s righteousness was a gift God gives to us as sinners. We are justified not by our works but it is a free gift God gives to anyone who will receive it.
While Martin Luther had no intent on starting what came to be known as the Reformation, God did. The fact is he had no idea what would happen on that October 31. We have Pumpkin Patch every year and we have no idea what will happen either. Pumpkin Patch is a lot of work, moving heavy objects, planning, cooking, and printing. But the lives that may be changed from it will and should have a lasting impact. If you work Pumpkin Patch, your smile or kind act may be the one thing that child or family may need to seek or find the Lord. While we may all be tired, or don’t see Pumpkin Patch as something worth our attention, I challenge you to think of Martin Luther. Martin Luther sought God’s help and direction and because of his act we see the life of the church changed forever. We need your help, we need your prayers, and we need your influence because people’s lives will be changed on October 31.
If "one is the loneliest number," then right has to be the loneliest direction. I don't mean right, as in opposite of left. I mean RIGHT...doing the thing that is correct morally, spiritually, biblically. I'm talking about loving the sinner, forgiving the enemy, accepting the repentant. Sometimes doing the right thing can be lonely.
Because the world tells us their sin is too great for us to accept them back in to church... Or their mistakes can not be overcome in a small town atmosphere... Or their life just doesn't live up to the picture of Christianity we've always been told to strive for....so, they don't deserve forgiveness, a second chance, our friendship.
Folks tend to avoid you when you befriend the sinner, but Paul points us to our own sin: judgement. Paul must have been dealing with some of these "do-gooders" when he penned Romans 2. I like how the New Century Version words the passage:
1 If you think you can judge others, you are wrong. When you judge them, you are really judging yourself guilty, because you do the same things they do. 2 God judges those who do wrong things, and we know that his judging is right. 3 You judge those who do wrong, but you do wrong yourselves. Do you think you will be able to escape the judgment of God?
Nope, it's a much easier route to just "thin those sinners from the herd" and keep living in our own little churchy world where we're "pretty good people" who don't sin much and who just love Jesus! Why is that? Why do we often turn our backs on those who have sinned publically? We don't want to be tainted by their sin? It could hurt our own reputation... Maybe being with them reminds us of our own sin.
But Paul goes on to say that it is God's own kindness, tolerance and patience that leads the sinner toward repentance. (v. 4) What?! I thought judgement, scolding and a good old-fashioned shunning would be the thing that leads a sinner to see and turn from his sin. Hmm, turns out that God's grace (and therefore, our grace as we seek to treat others in the same way as God does) is the best medicine for the sinner. Imagine that?!
I'll bet Jesus felt lonely sometimes, when he ate with the tax-collectors and then faced the turned backs of the Pharisees. After all, He did say in the sermon on the mount:
10 They are blessed who are persecuted for doing good, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. 11 “People will insult you and hurt you. They will lie and say all kinds of evil things about you because you follow me. But when they do, you will be blessed. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because you have a great reward waiting for you in heaven. People did the same evil things to the prophets who lived before you. (Matthew 5:10-11, NCV)
I guess if Jesus could handle a little loneliness sometimes then so can we. Just remember, when we do the right thing, we are never truly alone. Jesus always did RIGHT and He promises to stay right beside us as we strive to live a life that is pleasing to Him.
As I write this newsletter we are preparing for homecoming. This is a special time of year when people try to go back and visit friends and loved ones. Mollie is preparing for a volleyball game and homecoming court for the first time. It is all very exciting and it reminds me of 2 Corinthians 5 where the Bible talks about preparing for a new body. It says "17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" As we continue to prepare, we hope you will come home to First Baptist Church and fellowship with us.
Please stop by our Church Library in the Dorcas classroom and see the books that were added to the collection over the summer. There are about 65 of them! Thank you very much to those who donated. There is a list of the new books in the purple folder on the desk and “New to Our Library” bookmarks in the books on the shelves. To check out a book, just enter the date, book title and your name in the spiral notebook on the desk.
06 Raymond Pierson
13 JW Reeder
20 Robert Rogers
27 Byron Ryder
06 Susan Hawthorne & Cindy Early
13 Jeannine Myers & Mike Heffler
20 Phil Skelton & Bill Womack
27 Gary Danford & Brent Williams