How do we remember them?

Posted on May 31 , 2011 in Announcements

How do we remember them?

Years ago when I was a kid in Rahway, New Jersey, there was a river behind our house.  It was the Rahway River.  Us kids used to like to go to the banks and throw rocks into the river.  The city had put all of these wonderful rocks along the banks for a build up against floods, so we just took it that they wanted us to have more fun… just throwing the rocks.  Whatever way we threw the rock it left a ripple there.  After the rock had sunk out of sight there was still the ripple going out to the ends of the river.  That is how life is.  One life that is lived leaves such an effect upon the world around it that we cannot ignore what has taken place.  So that we ask what impact does one life have upon another?

As a hospice chaplain who has been in various situations with the people that I have served, I have noticed some things about folks that are dying.  First, they do not want to be alone.  Secondly, all of them in their own way have some hope of eternity, which is difficult to explain for someone who says they don’t believe in an afterlife, yet and still it is there.  And lastly, they want to be remembered.  This last element intrigues me as I eulogize people, some of which I have not met until the time of their death.  The Bible gives clear instruction on the idea of memorials.

Both the Old and New Testaments give rituals to examine/observe in order to cope with the loss of a loved one.  In Joshua 4:5 the people of Israel are crossing over the Jordon River and God stopped the river in order for them to cross over on dry ground.  Joshua 4:7 states … “ These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” During the Last Supper, Jesus gives a command for his followers at the last supper.   Luke 22:19 – “This do in remembrance of me.”

In these examples, they set apart specific time for mourning, connected a real life with physical reality, and they called for mourning to done in community.   These are perfect examples of how we should remember those we know and love.

When remembering others:
1)    Give intentional time of remembrance.  Time gives place for the special un-microwavable things to brew/consummate.  Remember in school when you had a friend with a silly idea and you were in class about to laugh but the teacher would not let you be silly just then?  You just couldn’t hold it back.  Some of the funny events or happy times are great for reflecting upon someone who has meant so much to us. Laughter should not be held in and weeping should not be suppressed until it has been realized/ expressed.

2)    Tie the thoughts of loved ones to material elements.  Every person should be remembered in the context of real time.  They lived on this earth, they laughed, loved and made a difference in this place.  They came into contact with a physical world.  Remember the Classic Movie “It’s a wonderful life”  Remember what the angel Clarence said to George in the story?  He said, “Each man’s life touches so many other lives, when he isn’t around it leaves an awful hole doesn’t it.”

*A real life that has been lived.. needs acknowledgement with material substance to connect it with time, our time.

3)    As best you can, share that time of remembrance with someone else with similar feelings.  Gives time for real weeping/mourning and a renewal of who we are and how the lost loved one would want us to go on.  Man was made a spiritual being as well as a physical.  We relate and respond to our surroundings.  The context of memorial is healthy because it gives place for remembering how our loved one related to others, gave of themselves or effected change in our hearts.    Rom 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Thru every phase of life, find healthy ways to cope with events and circumstances through relationships.  This time can also be very effective in building new relationships that help us to continue on in life and not get stuck in mourning.

Conclusion:   What impact does one life have upon another?  As we have been made Mind, Body, Spirit, we give our mind the time to remember how they touched us.  We help our body to adjust to the space they have made in our lives.  And we allow a place for our spirit to connect with others to keep the memory of them alive, forever.

So in the middle of this time of memory we will do it:  In the spirit of a real or sacred time, With the duty of using real material items.  Within the intimacy of real relationships.

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. NLT 1 Thessalonians  5:23

~ Former Assistant Pastor Horace Cutter

Victories Over Evil

Posted on May 24 , 2011 in Announcements

By Former Asst. Pastor Horace Cutter

As I got out and about this morning, I continued to hear the reports of the killing of Osama Bin Laden by American Military Forces. I felt happy and proud to be an American. After facing the terror in Sept 11, 2001 that we all remember and can look back to cringe over, we are so grateful of the military blood and effort that brought about this great feat. I also remembered the relief and resultant effect of Adolf Hitler’s death in Germany many years ago. I was not thought of at the time (my boys would disagree with me) but having an appetite for history for so many years and reading up on the wars we have fought I have found that evil men seem to crop up at their own special time in history. The only good thing I have to say about evil men coming on the scene is that they give a definite lesson that good and evil do exists.

~ Click title to read full text ~

Pray for the people of Japan

Posted on Mar 13 , 2011 in Announcements

By Former Asst. Pastor Horace Cutter

We are all praying for the people in Japan. They have experienced a double disaster. May the glorious God of mercy and security, rescue the lives, hearts and minds of those who were affected by the earthquake and tsunami of 3-10-11. Our Father in Heaven has the peace and providence to help each person to come to the knowledge of His gracious presence at this terrible time.

~ Click title to read full text ~

Miss Renee's Candy

Posted on Oct 18 , 2010 in Announcements

Every Sunday after worship, I watch excited children line up at Miss Renee’s Candy Store; which is actually not a store but her office; and she doesn’t sell the candy; she gives it away. However, to get the “free” candy, you have say a verse from scripture. Since Renee started this post-worship routine a few years ago, parents have had to help their children learn their verses to ensure that they didn’t miss out on the “goods.” Some of the children have allergies to peanuts, chocolate, etc. so now Renee offers a colorful selection of rubber wristbands. But whether wristbands, Snickers or Three Musketeers, I am just glad that we have another strategy to motivate children to learn scripture at an early age and help fight biblical illiteracy. Oh yeah, many of the grownups sneak into Renee’s candy stash without her looking–I catch them ever so often. Next time, I will be naming names, but for now I will just give the initials of the culprits–JS, GB, PB, HC, LE, SH, RN, AS, MH, SR and SC. See if you can figure out who these people are and you could win a miniature Tootsie Roll :)

Former Sr. Pastor Mike Higgins

What's on the Pastor's Mind?

Posted on Jun 23 , 2010 in Announcements

Today as I sit here in the office, I am wondering how I can reflect the glory of God by offering more of my time as a servant and comforter to those in need.  This sounds like it should be a simple task for a Christian and especially easy for a pastor, and some days it is as quick as jumping into a swimming pool on a hot day in Atlanta–no problem, you just fall forward a let gravity do the rest.  However, I have been a little tired lately with traveling and writing papers and preparing sermons and counseling and being a dad and being a husband and being a faithful son and you get it…don’t you?  The “ands” just keep on comin!

But as strange as it may sound, I still believe that God is calling me to a greater passion for service to those in need.  Don’t get me wrong, God isn’t telling me that I am not doing enough to please him; He is saying that my passion should spring out of the joy of my love for Christ–that would make the serving easier.  I want my service to be out of my gratitude and love for Christ and not just out of guilt and being on the payroll.  This leads to anger and burnout. I am asking the Lord to help me walk in His example.  He took time to refresh Himself and spend time in prayer and meditation while He worked to meet the needs of those around Him. He was a gentle, loving, tireless and effective servant of His Heavenly Father–I want to be like that and you do too.  Today we must submit to the leadership His Holy Spirit in order to know what Jesus knew about service.  He will teach us how to serve others with the passion and vigor that comes with our being the grateful children of a generous Father. If you love Jesus, you will serve the way He served.  He was glad to do it and He did it with passion.

Former Sr. Pastor Mike Higgins

Sermons Are Now Available Through iTunes

Posted on May 03 , 2010 in Announcements

If you enjoy hearing the Word of God from Pastor Cobbert, then you are in for a treat. I am proud to announce that you can now subscribe to Redemption Fellowship’s sermons via iTunes (and yes it is free)!  If you have an iPod, iPhone, iPad, a computer, or any other device that can play a MP3, then this is for you.  You can now get your sermons downloaded to your computer (or your device) right as they are posted.  You can click -> HERE <-  to get started, or you can just search for “Redemption Fellowship” in the iTunes Store.  Thank you in advance for help spreading the word, and being a witness to our growth.

P.S. If you want to give your friends, family, and/or co-workers an easy to remember link to our sermon podcast… http://bit.ly/RedemptionSermons. If you do not have iTunes, but use another program for subscribing to podcasts, you can subscribe using http://feeds.feedburner.com/RedemptionFellowshipChurchSermons

Pastor Mike's Book Review of "Christ Centered Preaching" (abbreviated)

Posted on Apr 06 , 2010 in Announcements

Book: Christ Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon by Bryan Chapell

Description of the Reading

This is a textbook that basically delivers instruction on how to develop and preach an expository sermon.  The book suggests that sermon has the basic structure of “explanation,” “illustration,” and “application.”  The book builds around this structure as it seeks to explain how to create a sermon faithful to the original intention of the text.  The book treats the subject of preaching as something that is well done when it is handled as a step-by-step process in which the preacher exposes the text in a way that resembles a sort of “Indiana Jones” type of exhuming original meaning.  The text explains everything from picking a text, developing introductions and conclusions, determining main and subpoints and effectively transitioning between these points as well as how to illustrate and apply the text.  The book has as a continuous thread the use of a proposition statement that depicts how the text’s Fallen Condition Focus (FCF) will be brought forth to the listeners.

Central Concerns of the Author

I know Bryan Chapell; he is what I call a pure preacher.  He is gifted and passionate about sermon preparation and is a master of sermon delivery.  If the church was a baseball team, Bryan would be a designated hitter as these are usually the guys who are pure hitters and don’t have to practice fielding to ball.  Bryan usually hits it out of the park.  I say all this to enhance my remarks on what I think Bryan’s concern are in writing this book. It is my belief that the author is concerned with the proper preparation of faithful and effective sermons and how they are delivered in our preaching to a contemporary congregation.  He wants sermons to be about the grace of God and the work of Christ and he wants the preacher to reach the audience in a way that touches the heart and communicates not just the sin of man but also God’s remedy; I believe he is continually stressing the need for sermons to be relevant to fallen people.  He writes a “basic training” manual for preaching and to me that says that he wants preachers to give thought to each part of the process and not just grab a text, say a prayer for understanding and just start preaching.  He wants the preacher to do the work it takes to present a well prepared meal for people who need to hear a true word from God.  He understands that we live in a society where people don’t pay attention to well and very few want to be told that they need to be saved by God or surrendered to God.  Therefore, he sees the need for our preaching to reach out and grab the listener quickly and hold on to them unto the final application is made.

How the Book may affect my preaching

I intend to employ as many principles from the book as I can.   I believe I am at the point where I can assume that the Lord has given me this text to make some adjustments to my preparation process.  The book is simple and easy to follow.  I attended the required homiletics classes during my seminary years, but never really got the hang of preparing a sermon as a step-by-step-process; as a result I see that I may be omitting some very important steps such as “formally” developing a fallen condition focus based on man’s needs and God’s gracious solution.  I tend to pick the text and eventually bump into the FCF somewhere during the process. I also tend to preach from narratives, so I was especially interested in the chapter that talked about using narratives to bring out biblical principles.  I believe that the book has caused me to think about the amount of time that I am putting into sermon preparation and whether I am using the time as efficiently as possible.

Mike's Book Review: "The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text"

Posted on Mar 23 , 2010 in Announcements

Book Review by Mike Higgins–yes, I do read books :)

Book: The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text by Sidney Greidanus

Description of the Reading

When I first started reading this book, I figured it would be difficult and extremely technical as compared to the other books that I had read on the subject of sermon prep and preaching.  I was initially bogged down in the early chapters on historical-critical method and the various types of criticisms that can be used to help preachers prepare to preach a text and I just knew this book would be a tough read.   I tend to get frustrated when I have to constantly stop and look up technical terms or re-read sentences to understand what they are saying.  However as I got out of the “hedgerows” and into chapter four, things got better.  And as it turns out, that this book has greatly informed my sermon preparation.  The detailed descriptions of the different types of literature in the Bible and how to interpret this literature, helps me see the scriptures more clearly.  I am a “systems” type of person and I appreciate it when something helps me see how parts of the system fit into the whole.  I am thankful for Greidanus’ guidelines for interpretation as they have reinforced the fact that the Scriptures may all be inspired by God, but they are not all the same and must always be preached as dictated by their appropriate genre (history, wisdom, epistle, poetry, etc.)

Central Concerns of the Author

The bottomline up front is that the author wants the reader to understand that the bible is about God; God’s love, redemption, judgment, plans, etc.  He wants the reader to understand that all of the characters in the bible are accessories to grace, mercy or judgment, but that God Himself is what the Scriptures are about.  Next, I believe the author is concerned that preachers prepare sermons that say what the original authors intended.  I believe the author wants the reader to understand that doing the proper exegesis of a text and understanding the literal, historical, and theological interpretation of the text in view will serve to provide a sermon that is true to the original audience but also relevant to the contemporary congregation.  The author stresses that we should always pick a complete unit to use as our preaching text and that text should be treated with various litmus tests to bring out what is really before us. The author wants us to understand that preachers are given the task of bringing people the word of God and that this task is worth doing well.  He seems burdened to get us (preachers) to “slow down” and put time into doing justice to the work of “rightly diving the word of truth.”  The author presents his feelings of disappointment when preachers isolate a set of scriptures outside of their proper context and then tries to use them to support a personal agenda, for example using Malachi 3:8-10 just to get people to pay their tithes without considering the surrounding scriptures to tell the whole story.  The author challenges us to treat the genres of Old Testament prophecies, histories, poetry and narratives and New Testament gospel narratives and epistles in accordance with their genres so as to get the maximum understanding out of the writings.

How the Book may affect my preaching

This book has already caused me to slow down and dig beeper into the historical, literary, and theological meanings of the ‘preaching unit” (see, already I am adapting the language of the book).  I am presently preaching through The Gospel of Mark and have discovered that, according to Greidanus, I employ the “inductive” form of preaching.  This was refreshing as I personally did not know what my style was called.   I just pick a text and pray over it, stay with it, live and sleep with it until I feel I understand it and then preach it.  I have never stopped to classify my form of sermon prep, I just employ what gets me where I am going.  I have always thought that the sermon was a trip to a conclusion that I, as a preacher, help the congregation to arrive at using transitions or helpful road signs along the way.  I especially love preaching New Testament narratives, and Greidanus’ book has deeply influenced how I look at this wonderful genre.  Of course, I will consult Greidanus’ guidelines when I am preaching from any of the other types of  literature in the scriptures.  The important thing to me is that this book provides guidelines that will make my sermon prep not only simpler, but better–more impacting.  As an army guy, I am always looking for something that will enhance ‘mission accomplishment.”  I am always looking for the “regulation” that covers what I am trying to do—maybe that’s what I love about the reformed faith—it has a theology for almost everything!

Greidanus has done the preacher a great service and I wish I had read this book sooner as I see a lot of my own mistakes highlighted in its pages.  I am seriously concerned with preaching that keeps Christ as the central character and does not focus too much on the other characters of a narrative.  It is so easy to give too much attention to the faith and circumstances of the Syro-Phenician Woman in Mark Chapter Seven and forget about Jesus’ call to persevering faith, His compassion, and His sovereignty over demons.  I hope to remember how the author calls us to remember that the Bible is “God’s words about God.”  I am also reminded by the book that I tend to moralize things especially in the conclusion of my sermons and I have started watching that tendency very closely as not to nullify God’s grace.  Good book.

Walking Up The King's Highway

Posted on Feb 03 , 2010 in Announcements

WALKING UP THE KING’S HIGHWAY

ITS A HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN
NONE CAN WALK UP THERE
BUT THE PURE IN HEART
ITS A HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN
I AM WALKING UP THE KING’S HIGHWAY

VRS 1
MY WAY GETS BRIGHTER , MY LOAD GETS LIGHTER
WALKING UP THE KING’S HIGHWAY
THERE’S JOY IN KNOWING WITH HIM I’M GOING
WALKING UP THE KING’S HIGHWAY

VRS2
DON’T HAVE TO WORRY, DON’’T HAVE TO HURRY
WALKING UP THE KING’S HIGHWAY
CHRIST WALKS BESIDE ME, ANGELS TO GUIDE ME
WALKING UP THE KING’S HIGHWAY

VRS3
IF YOU’RE NOT WALKNG, START WHILE I’M TALKING
WALKING UP THE KING’S HIGHWAY
THERE’LL BE A BLESSING, YOU’LL BE POSSESSING
WALKING UP THE KING’S HIGHWAY

Here's the Problem

Posted on Jan 19 , 2010 in Announcements

We are not satisfied.  Our culture tells us that we need more.  We are falling for the big lie that we are not supposed to be satisfied with Christ alone.  We are wearing ourselves out trying to make things better financially and physically, but we have forsaken the spiritual.  Jesus said that he who sought to save his life himself would lose it, but we don’t really believe that anymore.  We have become god and are attempting to use our human “power” and “might” to fix things that only God can fix.  The best we can do is put a bandaid on a compound fracture.

As a pastor, my prayer for the church in the West is that she will not fall victim to the spirit of “Just do it,” and “Obey your thirst.”  Trials and temptations come to strengthen our faith in someone who is greater than ourselves.  However, the problem is not the world, it is us.  Let’s recover our sense of awe of God by meditating on his word in scripture such as Psalms 23 which tells us “that the Lord is our Shepherd, we have everything we need.”

Former Sr. Pastor Mike Higgins