I Swear [thoughts from the Cutting Floor]

by Nate Powell
 
After last week’s sermon, a member of our church hit me up with a question. “So does Jesus want us to take vows in our marriages? Or is that wrong?”
 
The inspiration for the question was quite appropriate. We noted in Matthew 5:31-32 that Jesus has a very high view of marriage. Divorce is to be a last resort and for very limited reason. In the verses that follow (Matthew 5:33-37), Jesus speaks of not taking oaths or swearing to anything, but simply letting our yes mean yes, and our no mean no. So the question stands … Is Jesus saying we shouldn’t take marriage vows?
 
To the contrary, Jesus is affirming the limited oaths that we take. To take an oath of marriage is perfectly appropriate. We make a promise, and we resolve to keep it. The problem lies when we use oaths frivolously. In Jesus’ time, oaths were being manipulated. At times they would invoke God’s name in the oath, to say if it were a more serious oath or not. The oaths were a ploy to allow an individual to get away with their word if they didn’t swear to God or swear by heaven. Jesus says that in all matters, his followers should be truthful, and shouldn’t be people who twist words, white lie, or invoke that things were true “for me at the time it was convenient.” Yes should mean yes and no should mean know when coming from the lips of a disciple of Jesus.
 
So keep making your vows in marriage, and keep keeping them. What matters to God is that we are truthful and keep the covenants we make.


The More You Know

by Nate Powell
 
Remember when NBC used to run different public service announcements, with differing current television stars? They always used to end with the same graphic and phrase: The More You Know. They may or may not have told us something we knew, but we always felt a bit more educated when we saw that star and graphic fly across the screen. Often, someone can share a small bit of information that makes us a whole lot smarter, or (better yet) a whole lot wiser.
 

I’m feeling a bit that way in my new role. Sometimes a bit of info is all I need to feel a whole lot smarter. Much to the chagrin of everyone in the church, pastors are not psychic! There is a whole lot that we don’t know. We do our best to get a people and ask questions. But there are often some major pieces of information that would help us to do our job so much better. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

  • Surgery & Hospital stays: We want to do our best to make sure you have someone pray with you and for you when you have a medical need. One of the best things you can do is to drop a quick phone call to the church office or a text to myself or one of the elders (our cell numbers are listed in the bulletin every week). Or ask a friend to do it if you’re not able to. We want to pray with and for you. That’s what families do: support each other! We’re also well aware of your privacy in these needs, and will only ever share prayer requests to our prayer chain with your permission.
  • People needs: One of the best ways to make sure we are caring for each other is to keep an eye out for each other. When you know of another church member or person in our community that you care deeply about, let’s pray for them together and see if we can find a way to help meet that need, or display the love of Jesus to them in some tangible way.
  • Email power: Often, there are things that we remember about church or hold to communicate to the pastor only on Sunday. And sometimes we hold these things right until the time of service, either before or after. One pastor I listen to talks about how a lady stopped him 2 minutes before the service to complain about a toilet that wasn’t working. An important problem to be sure, but the gruffness with which she handled the issue made it difficult for the pastor to focus on his sermon and the service at hand. So here’s a tip: During the week, drop an email to the office or to me (or to Janell) and let us respond as we can. It will also help us remember your issue better, as Sundays bring many different things to the pastor: names, tasks, decisions, calls, prayer, the sermon, etc. You can see how all of that can feel mentally overwhelming, especially if you don’t want me to forget what you talked to me about. Email is a great way to do that with non-emergency requests. As well, this is a way to use the Connect cards in the pews to your advantage. I want to spend Sundays focused on the people who are present and on preaching the word. You can help me do my job better.

Thank you for your patience as I ease into my new role. I hope that over time, we will grow in the skill of good communication, and help each other know a bit more about Jesus and about the needs around us than we did yesterday!



Telling Your Story

by Nate Powell
 
We were in the middle of your typical Monday morning staff meeting the other day: Emily, Janell and myself. We were reflecting on the past week’s happenings, when we suddenly had some unusual visitors. A retired gentleman followed by four teenagers walked in. The teens seemed a bit on the shy side, but the older gentleman piped right up: “Hi, my name is Paul, and my dad used to be the pastor at the Auburn Christian Church.” I looked at Janell and we both knew we were going to need to take a recess from our meeting for me to talk with this gentleman.
 
His name was Paul Platt, and his father, Harold D. Platt, was the pastor at ACC from 1950-52. Paul spoke of remembering attending church in our building as a young boy, and attending elementary school at the old brick school by highway 136. His family had moved to Auburn in his younger years from a ministry with the Missouri Valley Church of Christ. Following their time here, his father would take a pastorate in Kansas, before eventually becoming a professor at Dallas Christian College.

 

While his story was interesting enough, I loved even more to hear why he had four teenagers following him to Auburn, Nebraska. Paul introduced me to his four grandsons. It turns out that they were on a long 2 ½ week road trip. Paul had left his home out east (Virginia, I think), picked up 2 grandsons in South Carolina, picked up 2 more in Texas. They then proceeded on a long road trip to explore the roots of their grandfather and great grandfather. It was so great to hand each of those teens a copy of our centennial church history book and hear them immediately exclaim “There he is!” as they found a picture of their great-grandfather. “We have that picture at home!”
 

What Paul was doing is something that is so important and is perhaps even a lost art among the young and old today: the art of testimony. It’s the art of storytelling and passing on the tales of how you have seen God work in your life.

Asaph, one of the psalmists, reminded us that this is our important duty: to remember what God has done and pass on those tales to the next generation. Hear his words in Psalm 78:1-7:

“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;     incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable;     I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known,     that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children,     but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,     and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers     to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,     so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.”

For all who call themselves Christian: Every one of us have a story, a testimony, to share with all who come after us, to remind them of the goodness of our God. These stories remind them that God wasn’t just good or moving in lives during Bible times; He does those things now.

So what is your story? You might not get to take a long trip like Paul and his grandsons; but you can make plans to tell your family of God’s goodness to you. We ALL have a story. Let’s not let them go to waste.

 

 



The Scrolls Affirm (The Cutting Floor)

by Nate Powell

You’ll be seeing a posts in the coming weeks called “The Cutting Floor”. It’s basically a spot to put stuff that I thought was really good, but certainly didn’t have time to cover in this week’s sermon

In this past week’s sermon, I said the following:

“This book is not going away. There are some in the current Christian community that question the helpfulness or the use of this OT text we were given. We must stand on Jesus’ words here and believe him firmly. We will treasure all of God’s words. They stand forever (Isaiah 40:8).”

I wish we had more time to examine in the sermon last week about what we know of the trustworthiness of the text of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Jesus said it best last week: “Neither the smallest letter, nor the smallest stroke of a letter will pass away.” (Matt 5:18) As we said, neither the Iota or the Yod (the two smallest letters in Greek and Hebrew) will pass away.

The question can come: How do we know this is true? How do we know that the biblical text didn’t get doctored up over time? I’d love for you to read this great article on the Dead Sea scrolls and how their discovery points us toward the truth of what Jesus said … This Word endures. Check out this excerpt:

“One of the most important Dead Sea documents is the Isaiah Scroll. This twenty-four foot long scroll is well preserved and contains the complete book of Isaiah. The scroll is dated 100 B.C. and contains one of the clearest and most detailed prophecies of the Messiah in chapter fifty-three, called the “Suffering Servant.” Although some Jewish scholars teach that this refers to Israel, a careful reading shows that this prophecy can only refer to Christ.

Here are just a few reasons. The suffering servant is called sinless (53:9), he dies and rises from the dead (53:8-10), and he suffers and dies for the sins of the people (53:4-6). These characteristics are not true of the nation of Israel. The Isaiah Scroll gives us a manuscript that predates the birth of Christ by a century and contains many of the most important messianic prophecies about Jesus. Skeptics could no longer contend that portions of the book were written after Christ or that first century insertions were added to the text.

Thus, the Dead Sea Scrolls provide further proof that the Old Testament canon was completed by the third century B.C., and that the prophecies foretold of Christ in the Old Testament predated the birth of Christ.”

Click here to read the whole article. The Dead Sea Scroll discovery was certainly a monumental find in assuring us that was the Bible says is true. It is God’s word, and as Jesus told us, it is unbreakable. (John 10:35) 



Service Changes Again? You Bet!

By Nate Powell

When we made some changes to the worship service at the beginning of 2019, the church was informed that we would make several changes to the service, and that we would solicit feedback, and then evaluate what we should do moving forward toward a service that includes more prayer, rearranged order, and streamlined timing to fit everything into the service.

We asked for feedback, and there was one consistent thing we heard, time and time again: Communion time needs work. We need more quiet music for meditation. Less singing while we are taking communion. And so, we have heard you, and now that we are through with staff transitions, we are ready to make some changes that I believe we will all be on board with.

Starting this Sunday, communion time will be moved back to the time proceeding the sermon. The bread and juice will continue to be passed from the back, as the deacons have been doing. But we will sing a song focused on the cross leading into that time, an elder will prepare our hearts to take communion and reflect on Christ’s sacrifice, and we will have quiet music playing so we can pray and meditate while the bread and juice are passed. But we will do one thing different: we will hold that meal individually until everyone has it, and we will then take, eat and drink together.

Why make this change? I do want you to know that it does have a scriptural purpose and is not simply change for the sake of change. When we read Paul’s reflections on communion in 1 Cor 11, we see him helping a church move from a trivial serving of the meal to a significantly deep demonstration of communal faith in Christ. How did they do this? 1 Cor 11:33: “So, my dear brothers and sisters, when you gather for the Lord’s supper, wait for each other.” Four key words: wait for each other. In doing this, we don’t just take and eat. We stop and reflect on what he did and why our sin put him there. Our few minutes to take a pause before makes us reflect more deeply on His greatness & our sin problem. The taking in unity reminds us that he didn’t just do it for me, but he sacrificed himself for all of us. I would encourage you to reflect on this 1 Cor 11 passage.

It will take a bit of time to adjust to this change. But in the end, it will help the believers here at ACC reflect deeply on the love displayed on the cross and sin that nailed Jesus there. I have been at and served at churches that do communion this way. I will be leading us through this change in the month of July, and then some of the other elders will join me in August. I’m looking forward to experiencing the Lord’s Supper over the course of the next few weeks with all of you.



The Mountainous Effect of Scheduled Prayer

By Nate Powell
 

The other day, I was doing my reading in Acts, and I noticed a detail about Acts 10 that I’d not seen before.

If you’re not familiar with it, Acts 10 is a ground breaking chapter of the Bible. It is groundbreaking, because it is the moment at which Peter and Cornelius both have the same vision and revelation: The church and new covenant are not just for the Jews, but for the Gentiles (non-Jews) as well. This may not sound like a big deal to you, but it should. Why? Because most of us are Gentiles! If the Good News of Jesus isn’t for me, then the gift of eternal life isn’t for me. Acts 10 is great news, because now the Kingdom of God is for both the Jews and the Gentiles.
 
But that’s not the detail I noticed. The detail I noticed is this one. First stated in Acts 10:2-3: “[Cornelius] prayed regularly to God. One afternoon at three o’clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him.” As well, we see down in verse 9: “Peter went up on a flat roof to pray. It was about noon …” It is from there that Peter has his vision and heaven is opened toward all of mankind. Why did this happen? There are many reasons toward God’s purposes, but a glaring reality stood out to me. The doors of heaven were opened to the Gentiles because two men scheduled time for prayer.
 
Wow! What a testimony! So often, we give lip service to prayer. But how often do we actually schedule time to come before the Lord in prayer? How will prayer be something more than a small sentence uttered in our mind or under our breath. This is convicting and powerful. You are a Christian and I am a Christian because two men made prayer a priority.
 
It is in this regard that we put a challenge forward to the church. Is it possible that we can be known as a people of prayer? That we would be people who regularly schedule time to pray. I do that personally. And I want to challenge our church to do it more as a church family.
 
That’s why I’ve started the prayer initiative. Each Monday morning, I will be here at the church at 8 AM. I would love to have you join us, either at the church or from your home. Today was the first day, and it was awesome. We are devoting a full hour to prayer for our church, school, workplaces and community. Would you make prayer a priority and give an hour toward this purpose?


Appropriately Dressed

By Pastor Nate Powell
 
I continue to be reminded about a certain truth since I moved roles at our church. I moved from being a secondary pastor (youth/worship/etc.) to the primary role of pastor at the beginning of this month. That truth is this: I am not ready for this.
 
Pastor Corey said as much in his last Sunday with us as he handed me that baton. But he’s not the only one. My wife reminded me of this the other day as I was about to leave the house. We had friends over that morning, and our friend questioned the fact that I was leaving the house in a Cardinals jersey, shorts and a ballcap. He said, “You wear that to work?” My wife responded: “It’s OK. He’s still getting used to being a senior pastor and being professional.” Literally 2 days later, I went to make a pastoral visit at the prison in Tecumseh. I thought I had all my ducks in a row, until I walked in the door and the guard let me know: “Sir, you won’t be able to make a visit because your shorts do not meet the dress code.” I felt pretty stupid.
 
When we wear different hats, we have different responsibilities. Needless to say, my desire to wear a baseball hat every day is going to need to end, and I’m going to have to get more longer pants and slacks. So I say all that to say this: thanks for your patience with me. I’m sure there will be several more times when I wear or say the wrong things at the wrong times. I’ll be grateful for your patience as I transition from being the “Youth guy”, a role I’ve had for nearly 20 years.
 
In the process of thinking about appropriate clothing, I was reminded of Jesus’ message to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6. In that message, Jesus chastises a church that appears to be alive, but is actually dead. But he says, there are some who walk victorious with Christ, clothed in white because they have been faithful and not succumbed to the world and to sin. When Disciples remember their faith and to follow Christ faithfully daily, they are clothed in white robes of victory. When we meet Christ, I want to be appropriately clothed in the righteousness of Christ. I want to be found faithful.
 
To be faithful is what it truly means to be well dressed. This is how we will be ready.


Owning Your Worship

By Nate Powell
 
Last week, I ended one of my articles talking about the importance of your own personal times of worship. I hope that as a Christian disciple, we do not simply have a Lord’s day. Our entire lives are His. (Romans 12:1-2, Colossians 3:17) There is no small portion that he can have of me. If we are surrendered to Christ, then we have said to him that he has an all-access pass to every part of our week, every part of our day, every part of our lives and hearts.
 
When we were at Passion conference a few weeks ago, speaker Francis Chan reminded us of this privilege that we have with God: the privilege to meet with Him. This is why our view of our worship must be so much bigger than our Sunday morning gatherings … because our God is much bigger than our Sunday morning gatherings!
 
Exodus 33:7-11 reminds us that Moses had this privilege that he alone enjoyed. He had set up a tent outside of the Israelite camp and he would go there to meet and talk with God directly. The text speaks of how Moses would enter the tent, and the pillar of cloud would come down, and Moses would speak face to face with the Lord as one speaks to a friend.
 
Wow! To imagine what that must have been like! Moses speaking with Almighty God, Creator of the Universe! We can hardly wrap our minds around it. And yet, because of Jesus, we have been purified and sanctified to stand in God’s presence, just as Moses did. Understand, this is not a Sunday morning thing; this is a God and you everyday thing. Moses met with God regularly, and so can you, because of what Jesus has done! (Hebrews 10:19-22)
 
This brings me back for a moment to our music as worship. How do you speak to God in this time that you have with him? Are you praying? Are you meditating on His Word? Are you silent? Are you singing? Those times with God for me tend to be a combination of all of these things. And it is then that I sing the songs that are nearest and dearest to my heart. Those are my best times of worship in song … when it is just God and me and I’m declaring my love for him. Those are the best worship services that you will ever be a part of.
 
But you can make it your own. Even in times that you wouldn’t consider “quiet time”. Working on the car? Drop in a worship CD that you love and sing along. Washing the dishes? Use your phone’s bible app to pull up an audio Bible and have the Bible read to you. Exercising? Pull up a podcast of your favorite preacher. In our day and age, the opportunities to have time with the Lord are more abundant than ever. Take time today to spend time with God. You’ll find that everyday can become an amazing worship service


How We Breathe

By Nate Powell

In the Summer of 2011, my family and I moved to Auburn, and I came on staff at ACC as the Associate Minister of Youth and Worship. There were many reasons we were excited to come to this church and be a part of this ministry, one of which was having a church family that invests in its students and their growth and development. So during that first Summer, we went to Joplin with students to help with Tornado Relief, and we took some of our worship students to Kansas City for the National Worship Leaders Conference, to invest in their development as musicians and future worship leaders.
 
While we were in Kansas City, we got to hear from some of the best worship leaders in the world: p2011-07-19_12-32-14_844eople who are writing and recording worship songs that churches around the world sing every Sunday. One of those worship leaders who invested in us was Matt Redman (the guy in the middle in the picture above). I’ve always admired Matt as a songwriter. He’s written songs like The Heart of Worship, Blessed Be Your Name, Better is One Day, 10,000 Reasons, and many more. I also love Matt’s heart as a worship leader. He never comes across as the most talented musician in the room when he is leading; there are always much better singers than him at conferences like these. But Matt has a pastoral heart for the church, and he has a manner of coaxing the Christians gathered to focus singularly on the message they are singing and the One they are singing those lyrics to, and to do so loudly.
 
When we got to sit in on Matt’s seminar, he talked about his view of worship: that it is all about breathing in and breathing out.
 
Worship is breathing in when we read the Word. Breathing in is the preaching of the word and us hearing it. Breathing in is meditating on the truth that God is speaking to us. Breathing in is coming to a greater understanding of the love or grace God has for us. When we take time to receive and think about God’s truth, we are breathing in.
 
Worship is also breathing out. We breathe out when we respond to the grace and truth we have been given by the Lord. We breathe out when we sing songs to God, when we pray, and when we live, love and serve as God wants us to.
One good example of this from the Bible is Psalm 136. There we continue to see a truth preached that we should breathe in: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good (Ps. 136:1); give thanks to Him who does mighty miracles (v. 4); He brought Israel out of Egypt (v. 11). And after each of those breathing in lines, the church is urged to breath out together “His faithful love endures forever.” This is just one example of our worship being like breathing, and it is what our times of corporate worship should do and be: Lessons in breathing praise to God.


The Must-go Moment

By Corey Miller
 
Do you remember where you were last Wednesday? I will never forget.
 
Williams BaptismNate and I went to Peru to visit Keith and Jackie Williams. I’ve watched the corn through their living room window harvested and now I’m watching it prepare for another harvest. When it was cold outside, their living room was plenty warm and now even in the August heat  it’s plenty comfortable. Keith’s hot coffee felt good in my cold hands last February and the bowl of homemade ice cream topped off with fresh Kimmel’s Orchard peaches left me very satisfied yesterday. I feel like family when I walk in the garage door without hardly knocking. We sit, talk, read the Bible, pray, embrace and then when I must, I go.
 
Wednesday I learned the joy of “Mustgoes” as the family insisted Nate and I join them for some Mustgoes. Ever eaten Mustgoes? In the South they open the fridge and pull out anything that must go, warm it up and put it on the table. Taco Soup? Must go. Stewed tomatoes? Must go. Cucumbers and onions? Pulled pork? Must go. You name it, a scoop of it went with me. Wow, it went well.
 
Must go. I will never forget Mustgoes. The truth is Mustgoes is what brought me to Peru that day. One day we all must go. The day draws near for all of us and we need to prepare for that moment when we must go, Keith and Jackie know that all to well. Keith has been fighting Pancreatic Cancer this past year, and he has fought hard. He also knows his fight will soon end and he must go to the place prepared for him.
 
While at the hospital a couple weeks ago, Keith and Jackie made the decision to prepare for their must-go-moment. Keith and his brother Danny had been reading the Bible and as they were talking Keith mentioned he really didn’t remember his baptism. They studied the Scriptures and talked some more with Jackie. Jackie called me and we made arrangements. Last Wednesday in a Kiddie Pool on their patio, Keith and Jackie were buried with Jesus in baptism and raised to live a new life with Jesus. When their must-go-moment comes, they will be ready. How about you and yours? Are you ready for when you must go?
 
Fun Fact: 3,954. Unless you’re an economist for the Federal Government, that’s a big number. Keith and Jackie Williams shared their faith with at least 3,954 people in the last 7 days. Someone every two minutes for the last seven days has looked at the picture you have in front of you. We posted the picture on our Facebook page and it went viral. As far as I know, Keith and Jackie don’t Facebook. Our next most popular post announced C4J Registration and was seen by 457 people. An average sermon post our announcement might hit closer to 100 people. When I asked Keith if he was ok with it he said, “I’m not ashamed of Jesus.” When you know you must go soon, you know you must go and tell now.
 
I hope this church soon knows the joy of Mustgoes.
 
We must go…now.
 
(Click on the videos below to watch Keith and Jackie’s Baptisms.)