Changing Lives For Christ

Middle Creek was recently blessed with the opportunity to hear from a representative of Gideons International. He shared with us the story of a man whose life was forever changed by the work of the Gideons. 

Let’s call this man Jimmy. 

Jimmy was thief. As a young man, he began picking pockets. Time passed and Jimmy's thievery evolved. He began breaking into homes and hotel rooms to steal. One day, he had broken into a local hotel room while its occupant was away. He removed the pillow from its case and began filling the pillowcase with any valuables he could find - everything from jewelry to credit cards to the book in the nightstand drawer.

Mid-robbery, the occupant of the hotel room - a tall, burly man - returned, catching Jimmy in the act. Jimmy ran to the balcony and jumped over the railing to escape. Well, unfortunately for Jimmy, he had forgotten that he was on the fourth floor.

With two broken ankles, of course Jimmy was caught and taken to the hospital. While laying in his hospital bed recovering, he searched the bedside table and found a book. Jimmy thought to himself that this book looked just like the one he took from the hotel room. He opened to book to find one particular verse staring back at him in capital letters: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS (Matthew 27:37). He kept reading about this Jesus person and learned he was crucified between two thieves and that he died for the sins of the world.

Of course, Jimmy still had to serve his punishment for what he had done, but he left that hospital room a changed man. He continued to read the Bible and grow in his faith. His sentence was shortened by his good behavior and he now serves in ministry. 

This is just one small example of the impact made by the work of the Gideons.

Founded in 1899, the Gideons International has distributed over 2 billion copies of God’s word and have over 3000 members worldwide. They have a presence in over 200 countries and distribute bibles in over 95 different languages. They've even developed an app to make the bible even more accessible in today's tech-centric society.

These bibles are distributed two ways: First, as we learned from Jimmy’s story, scriptures are placed in many locations, including hotels, motels, hospitals, medical offices, shelters, and prisons. Pocket-sized bibles are also distributed personally to individuals whenever possible.

The work of the Gideons is truly incredible and has been changing lives and bringing people to Christ for many years.

So, how can you support this ministry with us?

Well first, as our speaker put it to our congregation, “If we could buy bibles with dirt, I’d be standing up here talking about dirt.” But the fact of the matter is, it costs money to buy bibles. Hotel room bibles cost $5 and personal bibles range from $1.25 to $1.40. Every dollar donated goes directly toward the purchase of a bible that will impact someone’s life for Christ. If you feel so inclined, donations can be made online: https://www2.gideons.org/donate

You can also support the Gideon’s in prayer - prayer for open doors to share their message, safety for those ministering in dangerous parts of the world, and prayer for funding that their ministry may continue to grow. 

“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ…” (Col. 4:3)

Giving To God

If you think for a moment, I’m sure you can think of a time (maybe even today) that you’ve given something. We give all kinds of things like time, love, attention, and money… The list goes on and on.

As Christians, it’s easy to lose sight of the purpose behind our giving. We are taught almost from the moment we accept our Savior that giving is part of the Christian life. But do we really understand why that is? Let’s look together at what the Bible tells us about how and why we should give.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
– Matthew 6:1-4

There are plenty of Bible verses about giving, but this passage stands out to me. In just four verses, we are reminded of the most significant principle behind Christian giving.

  1. We are expected and required to give
    Reread the passage. Notice that Jesus said to His disciple “when you give” not “if you give.” Jesus is telling us that, as Christians, giving is a requirement. It is an expected part of our daily walk with God.

  2. Our motives for giving matter
    Immediately, Jesus warns against “practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them.” He later goes so far as to say that your giving should be done in secret. This means that we should not give for our own glory, recognition, or praise. Jesus states that those who do “have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” As Christians, we give to honor God and bring glory to His kingdom.

  3. Ultimately, we are giving directly to God
    Of course, you aren’t literally placing your tithe or offering into God’s hands, but as mentioned previously, Christian giving is done to bring glory to God and His kingdom. When you give you are doing more than just padding the church’s budget – you are giving and offering directly to the Lord and He sees and rewards your gift.

The bottom line? When you give, do it for the right reasons – for God’s kingdom and glory.

A New Tradition: Celebrating God This Valentine's Day

It’s that time again…

Valentine’s Day is upon us. The gifts are bought, the flowers are sent, and the reservations are made. Today is the day that everything we see is red or pink and covered in hearts. This is tradition, right?

But what if we were to start a new tradition? What if, in addition to celebrating and loving the special people in our lives, we spend some time celebrating and reflecting our love for God?

This Valentine’s Day, let us have a heart like David’s. In Psalm 63, David writes about the love and satisfaction he finds in God:

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you for sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.” – Psalm 63:1-2

A powerful testimony, isn't it? David w as devoted to being a man after God's own heart. An we are called to do the same. On a day dedicated to love, let's take a moment and remember our love for God and what that means.

To love God is…… to know Him, to worship Him, to praise Him, to put Him first, to desire Him, to obey Him.

Today, amidst the gifts and plans, I challenge you to set aside some quiet time to talk with God and reflect on your love for Him – your true Valentine.

Why Churches Should Be Welcoming, Not Affirming

In today’s culture, the lines between what it means to welcome someone and to affirm their beliefs and behaviors have become blurred almost beyond comprehension. Many churches today are self-proclaimed “Open & Affirming” places of worship. You can even find maps online directing you to the closest “affirming” church. (Don’t believe me? Google it.)

Let’s talk for just a moment though, about why this increasingly popular trend is actually going against the Bible’s teachings and detrimental to one's walk with Christ.

If the title didn’t scare you away, I’d guess that by now you may have a few ruffled feathers, but I’d encourage you to keep reading.

So, what does it mean to welcome someone to your church? What do you think it would look like in your church? At Middle Creek, every person who walks through the doors is greeted with a warm smile and a friendly face. They are given a bulletin, find a place to sit, and mingle with members and other guests until the church service starts. No matter who you are or where you are in life, we hope that every guest leaves knowing that we were genuinely happy to have met them.

Your mental picture may be slightly different, but I’d be willing to bet there are quite a few similarities. Welcoming is something that all churches should strive to be. Jesus made it very clear that there was no exclusivity in Christianity. After all, I’m sure you can think back to many instances where he could have chosen to use an affluent person to carry out his will, but instead chose someone from the lowest of the low.

However, this idea of being welcoming isn’t synonymous with being affirming. To affirm someone’s behavior is to encourage it, to promote it, and to accept it as good. Across the country, churches are adopting the philosophy that a person’s lifestyle should not have to change in order to have a relationship with God. This is simply not God’s truth.

Each of us is born with a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5) and this sinful nature is the reason that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross became necessary. Though Christ’s sacrifice and offer of salvation, when we place our faith in Him, we are transformed into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Here, the argument against affirming sinful behavior becomes apparent. How can a person become a new creation if they make no effort to change their ways and carry out Christ’s will?

A wise man spoke in our church a couple of months ago, and left us with a wonderful sentiment that has stuck with me every day since: “God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.”

I hope this statement resonates with each of you the way it did with me. Because yes, we all struggle with sin. No matter how hard we work to follow God’s path, we are going to fail. That is our nature. The danger in affirming sin comes when we no longer try to grow in our faith, but condone our own sinfulness. We are called to turn away from sin (Acts 3:19) not to affirm it.

With this idea of affirming sins becoming so common in our society, it is only fitting to close with this reminder we are given in the book of James:

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”  - James 5:19-2