We have been considering together the concept from Colossians 1:28-29 of being Complete in Christ. To be “Complete” is to have grown to maturity in the faith. This maturity is able to be seen by others as they observe the believers walk with God, ministry to others, and multiplication of disciples. We began to give focus to the Path which leads a person to this destination of being “Complete in Christ”. The path to being complete is a path of growing. We must be committed to helping people experience growth in 3 vital areas. People need to be growing in the faith, growing in fruitfulness, and growing in faithfulness. These 3 areas of growth are all growing at the same time. We shared in detail in our previous blog about our growing in the faith. Today we desire to begin to look together at the 2nd area of growth “Growing in Fruitfulness”. In John 15: 4-5 Jesus shared the analogy of the Vine and the Branches. From this analogy we understand several truths related to our growing in fruitfulness. – Jesus is the Vine and we, who believe, are all branches – Abiding is the key to the experience of abundant life and fruitfulness of the Branches – Jesus expects us to abide in Him – Jesus made it clear that pruning was not only part of the process but essential to our being fruitful – Jesus declares that our relationship with Him is both Why we can be fruitful and How we can be fruitful – If we do not abide then we will find it impossible to be fruitful – Jesus expects and promises much fruit for those who abide in Him. In our next few blogs we will dig deeper into this idea of growing in our fruitfulness. Please share this blog with others if it is helpful to you. His Kingdom Come! Pastor Joe Durham

In my previous blog I began to share from Colossians 1:28-29 the unique way in which the Apostle Paul chose to describe the believers who had grown up to be mature and multiplying followers of Jesus Christ. He described them as being presented “Complete in Christ”. Our focus in the first post was on this unique destination. What did this goal mean? How would we know when we had reached this destination of presenting a person as “Complete in Christ”? To be “Complete” is to have grown to maturity in the faith. This maturity is able to be seen by others as they observe the believers walk with God, ministry to others, and multiplication of disciples. Today I desire for us to give focus to the path which leads a person to this destination of being “Complete in Christ”. For the church to be able to help people reach this goal we must understand the path we must encourage people to travel. The path to being complete is a path of growing. We must be committed to helping people experience growth in 3 vital areas. Those who have reached the desired goal of spiritual maturity have done so through growing in the faith, growing in fruitfulness, and growing in faithfulness. In this post we will seek to understand and apply the first area of growth. Becoming Complete in Christ requires Growing in the Faith. When I use the words “the Faith” I mean our personal relationship with God. We enter into a relationship with God by trusting Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Once a person has trusted in Jesus alone for salvation the person is given the gift of Eternal Life. This is assured by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The person is now described as being “In Christ”. They are eternally joined to the Life of Christ and now begin the journey towards completeness or maturity. The foundation of spiritual maturity and the source of spiritual fruitfulness are experienced in the relationship with God. Everything we are called to do by God is born out of our relationship with God. This is the model Jesus gives us as we see Him live out his life in the Gospel record. To grow in the faith is to grow in the relationship with God. Our growing to know God is how God describes eternal Life. (John 17:3). This is the priority to God. He desires to reveal to each of His children who He is, His ways, His purposes, His plans, His wisdom, etc. He loves and accepts us. As He reveals Himself to us we are transformed into the Likeness of Christ. To grow in this relationship, like any relationship, requires time and experiences together. As we grow to know God we experience the wonder of God working in us and then through us to help reveal Him to others. How does this growth happen? Why do some believers grow and others do not? What should the church be providing for people to help serve as catalysts to encourage this needed growth? These are questions that we need to be able to answer. A great book by Andy Stanley about The Path provided me with this path concept of growth. I encourage you to read it. From experience, when you listen to the testimonies of people who have experienced growth to a level of maturity in the faith you can discern the experience of 5 common catalysts. If the church can work to create an environment where people can experience these catalysts we will see more people growing towards this goal of “Complete in Christ”. The five catalysts are: 1.Practical Teaching of God’s Word- God’s Word is taught in a way that provides understanding and application. 2.Private Disciplines – Those who begin to receive the practical teaching soon develop a hunger for God and His Word that demands they learn to feed themselves. The disciplines of studying God’s Word, praying specifically, practical obedience, and regular gathering with other believers will become a part of the person’s lifestyle and produces growth as God works through these disciplines to reveal Himself. The likelihood of a new believer practicing these disciplines is directly related to whether or not the new believer is getting practical teaching and is in a relationship with another believer or group helping to provide mutual accountability. If practical teaching and mutual accountability are not provided then the new believer will seldom grow. There are exceptions but God’s ministry should not be built upon hopeful exceptions. 3. Personal Ministry – a person cannot grow in a relationship with God without experiencing God’s desire to work through them to serve others. Knowing that God is urging people to serve should lead the church to provide as many opportunities to serve as possible. These opportunities should be to help in the ministry to the church family as well as to serve people who are not yet in God’s Family. The church occasionally will have someone who does not wait to be asked before seeking out a place to serve. This is the exception. Most will have the desire but will not know how to ask or what they should be doing. This is why we must move people into relationships and offer many levels of serving for people to explore God’s call upon their lives to service. Sometimes through being allowed to serve alongside God’s people God is able to bring a person into His family. 4. Pivotal Relationships – Every person who has grown in the faith is able to tell who the people were that served as mentors to them whether officially assigned or more likely through a person’s teaching, modeling, and taking the time to pour their life into another person. The church must create as many opportunities for people to build long term mentoring and encouraging relationships. 5.Providential Circumstances – God handles this catalyst by bringing circumstances in the person’s life or in the churches experience. These circumstances are used by God to help bring brokenness, direction, opportunity to share Jesus and serve, etc. To help people to find and travel the path to being “Complete in Christ” churches must commit fully and practically to help each person grow in their relationship with God. Our desire should be to see everyone we are able to reach growing in a personal relationship with God. Can you envision being a part of a group of people who are each experiencing growth in their relationship with God? A people who demonstrate -confidence in hearing God’s voice -confidence in understanding God’s gift of salvation -confidence in sharing the Gospel with others – walking with God in greater personal obedience -confidence in discerning where and how God desire to work through them to serve others -confident application of the principles of stewardship of their lives -confidently building relationships with others to share the Gospel and /or to provide mutual encouragement and accountability – a willingness to take the time needed to pour themselves into another person or group of people with the desire of seeing the person(s) becoming a multiplying disciple(s). -commitment to unity, loving one another as Jesus loved us These examples create for us a picture of God’s vision and purpose for His church being lived out. What could a growing group of believers like this be used to accomplish for God’s kingdom? Have you begun to Follow Jesus? The relationship with God begins with trusting Jesus Are you growing in your personal relationship with God? Where are you receiving practical teaching of God’s Word? Are you growing experiencing God at work in your life as you practice the disciplines of the faith? Are you studying God’s Word learning to feed yourself? Are you praying specific prayers? Are you learning how to listen to God’s voice through the Bible and in your prayers? Are you committed to be a part of mutual accountability? Are you choosing to trust Jesus demonstrated in your obedience? Are you experience less choices to sin and more choices to obey and follow the Lord’s way? Who has God placed into your life to encourage you to grow in your faith? Who has God placed into your life that you can begin to encourage in the faith? Are you on the path to becoming Complete in Christ? If not, begin to make decisions today that will lead to this path. Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages us to trust the Lord with all of our hearts, to not rely on our own understanding, in all of our ways (all you think and do) acknowledge God (put God first) and God will make your path straight. For the church to be filled with people growing in faith I must be growing in the faith. I must be helping others grow in the faith. So must you. Together God can use us in mighty ways for His kingdom. His Kingdom Come! Pastor Joe Durham

It is my hope to begin to share truths from God’s Word through this blogging process which will help us grow as followers of Jesus Christ. Today I begin a series of blogs based upon the concept of “Presenting every man complete in Christ” from Colossians 1:28-29.This blog is an introduction to this truth. Please stop now and read Colossians 1:28-29. The Apostle Paul describes this purpose of making disciples in a unique way here in Colossians 1:28-29. Paul describes it as presenting every person complete in Jesus Christ. We must visualize this purpose of making disciples as our God given destination as we follow Jesus together. If making followers of Jesus is the task of the church then it must be the purpose of every member of God’s church as well. Decisions lead to paths. Paths lead to destinations. If the church is to be presenting everyone complete in Christ (making disciples) then the decisions and path taken must lead to this purpose/goal. If we are not making disciples then we must evaluate our path and see what decisions or lack of decisions have led us to where we are. We must then determine the path needed and begin to make decisions which we lead us on the path to making disciples. Every decision we make needs to keep us working towards making disciples. Every decision should be moving us further down the road to our destination. Decisions that take us off the path must be avoided. In this description the Apostle Paul reveals the destination, the path, and the power needed to reach the goal. Our hope is that as we consider these concepts we will be able to more clearly understand what God means by presenting people as complete. Our hope is to learn how we can apply this concept to enable us to be truly faithful to the purpose of making disciples of Jesus. In this message today our desire is to ask God to enable us together to see His Destination, His Path, and His Power that together enable us to effectively fulfill His Purpose. Understanding the Destination- “Every Person Complete in Christ”-As we seek to understand the meaning of “Complete” we need to look at other passages from God’s Word. It is always best to allow the Scriptures to define the any specific Scripture passage that seems unclear to us. When a person trusts Jesus alone for salvation the person is placed into Christ. Being “in Christ” means to experience our lives being joined eternally to Christ. Every person who trusts Jesus is given eternal life-a relationship with God. If everyone who trusts in Jesus receives the same gift of eternal life then what is meant by “complete”. We know from Scripture that the word “complete” does not mean to be finished serving. Paul said he had finished the race only as he knew he was facing the end of his life. It does not mean to have arrived at complete maturity with no more growth needed. In Philippians 3: 7-14 Paul clearly says He had not arrived but continued to press towards the goal. It does not mean we no longer struggle with sin. After 30 years of ministry Paul wrote in Romans 7 that he still struggled and would continue to struggle until he was set free from his flesh at death. The Scripture does indicate that we should be growing to be more like Jesus. The Apostle John described followers of Jesus as children, young men and Fathers. This indicates different levels of maturity in the faith. In Galatians 6 Paul urges those that are spiritually mature to help others who are struggling with sin. What does it mean to be complete? How do we know when we have presented a person as complete? The answer is in the process. Once a person has trusted in Jesus a walk with God begins. As the person walks in obedience to Jesus he or she will begin to know and apply God’s Word. This walk with God will lead them to a desire to serve. The person then begins to serve according to the spiritual gifts given to them at salvation. Now the person grows to share Jesus with others and to help others growth in faith. The person grows deeper in intimacy with Christ. Complete means the person is able to hear God voice with confidence. It means the person is being guided by the Lord. The person is serving the Lord. This service is both to the church and to the world. The person is also sharing Christ with others and modeling for them how to follow Jesus. When these goals have been reached and maintained the person is matured or complete in Christ. The person has become a disciple of Jesus. The person continues to grow both deep and wide. Deep in the relationship with God and wide as God flows through the person to bless others. Throughout the Old and New Testament the image of a tree with deep roots and fruit is used to describe this kind of person. The destination of the church is to see everyone God enables them to reach growing to this level of completeness. Now let’s consider the Path to presenting people complete in Christ. To reach this level of spiritual maturity a person must be growing in 3 ways. They must be growing in Faith; a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They must also be growing in Fruitfulness (ministry and multiplication) Thirdly, they must be growing in Faithfulness. Paul describes the process He used to help lead people on the path towards being complete in Christ. This same process can be followed by the church today. The process includes Proclaiming, Admonishing, Teaching, and Presenting. We will look at each of these steps in detail as God allows us in future blogs. The Power required for the process- to reach the Destination-(vs. 29) Presenting people complete in Christ is described by Paul with the words Labor and Striving. These are pictures of hard work in difficult, uncomfortable circumstances. These words indicate the need to stand firm against the winds of resistance to the Gospel which comes from our enemy. The difficult circumstances of people’s lives and choices along with the spiritual battles required to see God transform lives and communities often discourage the church. Most churches will make an attempt or two to try to reach people. The resistance causes most to quit. It is not easy to make the decisions needed to keep on the path to making disciples. It is much easier to simply love the people we have coming and care for one another. The key to making disciples is to stay connected to the source of power we need. We must at all costs resist the desire to rely on our flesh, or on what we believe we can do ourselves. Decisions based upon what we can see will seldom lead us on a path where God is needed. Only God can transform lives. Yet God has chosen to do this as He works through us enabling us to labor and strive in His field. Paul described it as “His power working mightily in me” Applications -Who are we responsible to “present in Christ”? Everyone we proclaim too. Who do we proclaim too? We cast the seed to every person from our community to the ends of the earth. Applying this Word means to ask and answer honest questions about how we are doing in making disciples. It means making decisions that will lead us on a path which leads to people becoming fully functioning followers of Jesus. Each of us make decisions daily that lead to paths. These paths either lead us closer to Jesus or away from Him. If the church is going to make disciples it will be because I do and you do; we do together. Let me know what you think about the blog. His Kingdom Come! Pastor Joe Durham

The legacy of a godly father

In a couple of days we will take a day to celebrate our fathers. I sometimes find that I cannot find words which adequately express my gratitude to God, my heavenly Father, for His gift to me of my Dad. Special days like Father’s Day cause reflection. My father has and continues to provide for me a model to follow as I too desire to leave a legacy concerning what it means to be a godly father.  My personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ stands alone as the source of every priority God has given unto me.  I do believe the God given roles of husband, father, and Paw-Paw to be my top priority and calling from God. This I first learned from my father’s example and counsel. These priorities were then confirmed by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word. My father taught me many truths about life and following God’s will through his example and teaching. To honor him and thank God for him I offer these few examples.

Dad taught me the value of hard work. He took the time to show me how to do things and then allowed me to give it a try for myself. He lets me drive the family van home from our family reunion when it was pouring down rain and the road was narrowed due to construction. Mom wasn’t quite sure this was the best time for me to learn but Dad believed in me. Thankfully, we made it safely. I came away knowing I could drive and handle the responsibility. The only time I believe Dad may have regretted this decision to teach me was when he was teaching me how to cut the grass. My first solo flight across the yard ended abruptly as I rolled over the metal cover to the water meter. I can still hear that exploding sound. When I taught my children this warning was my first instruction.

Dad demonstrated the value of family relationships and responsibility. During his final years of active duty as a Marine Dad had to travel and would be gone for several weeks at a time. When he would return his four boys would be excited to see what prize he had brought home for us. One time as we patiently waited for him to unpack he reached the bottom of the suitcase and it was empty. He could see the disappointment on our faces and waited a few minutes to see what we would say. I know what I was thinking but cannot honestly remember if any of us voiced our sadness. Dad then said to us words I have ever since treasured. He simply said: “I am your prize”. His returning home to us safely and our relationship with him was the prize. From this I learned that it is the people we love and the joy of these relationships that really matter. Whether we have earthly treasure is not important if we truly understand that our relationship with people is our prize. Later in life God would communicate the same truth to me. God Himself, alone, is my reward. The things I am allowed to manage and enjoy in this life are not the blessings. God is the blessing! The things I will see and enjoy in the Father’s house one day in heaven are not the blessing. My heavenly Father and all of my brothers and sisters in Christ, they are the prize.

Both of my parents grew up as children with a pastor as their father. My Dad had been called by God to serve as a minister of music. As my Dad served he was always bi-vocational in terms of the level of support. Often he would give back to the church what he had received in support or would ask that the church use the funds for other ministries. He was never bi-vocational in how he served. He served fully and faithfully. From his example I learned that my serving in a position in a local church was to be done with all of my heart. My calling from God was to be my motivation. God would be in charge of the level of support. God has always provided and I have tried to honor my father’s legacy by serving everywhere God has led me with all of my heart.

My Dad demonstrated how to be faithful to your vows. I watched my Dad love my Mom faithfully for 42 years. I watched my dad take care of my mom when she became unable to care for herself in any way. Watching him care for her 24/7 for a long period of time was a beautiful picture of how Christ loves the church. This unconditional, dying to self, love is the way in which I am to love my wife. I am so thankful to God that after my mom went to be with Jesus, God in His time brought Dot into my Dad’s life. I have watched him love and care for her now for over 19 years.

Perhaps my favorite lesson taught by my Dad was how to walk with God down the road of forgiveness. My Dad served in active duty as a Marine for 22 years. He is a Marine today. He celebrates the Marine Corp birthday more than his own. He served his country in the Vietnam War. I am very proud to have a father and brother who faithfully served to protect and provide the freedom we enjoy in our country. Dad has only shared a few stories from his experience in Vietnam. I do know that his soul was wounded by many of the things which he experienced. Our church, during my teenage years, began to reach out to people in our community from Laos. As I remember it at first my Dad was hesitant to be a part. Being around the people from this part of the world I am sure brought back memories that were very painful. I watched my father trust God to give him the courage to overcome this barrier. Watching my Dad grow in faith and lead the Laotian choir was a great blessing for me as well as a model of what it meant to die to self to serve others. I would find in time that following God’s call to serve would mean I too would experience being wounded by the words and actions of people. Because my father was able to overcome his hurt and discomfort I too understood that I could walk with God and continue to love and serve even when I have been hurt. Practicing forgiveness and serving in the power of Jesus love was I believe the greatest lesson my Dad taught me.

Dad has always been there to support, to listen, to pray, to guide, and to encourage me. We begin to form our understanding of God as our heavenly father through our experiences with our fathers. No father is able to perfectly fulfill this role. I hope however that when I reach the end of my journey I too will leave a legacy of a godly father for my children and grandchildren as my father has done for me. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

“Seeds Planted by Mom”

Like many of you, I find my mind flooded with memories of my mother during this season. I can hardly believe that it will be 20 years this July that my mom went from this life into the presence of our Lord Jesus. She truly left a legacy for which I give thanks to God.

In March of this year God blessed me with the joy of being called to serve as the pastor of the Fairview Family. I have been teaching from Colossians 1:28-29 on the concept of presenting people complete in Christ. This completeness means to grow to a level of maturity in the faith and to be actively multiplying oneself through living and sharing the faith with others.

For my Mom, the primary purpose was to present her 4 boys as complete in Christ. As I taught these messages, the preschool song my mother taught me called “deep and wide” helped communicate a truth. God desires each of us to grow in our fruitfulness, and in our faithfulness. As we grow in our relationship with God, He lives through us. We become instruments to help transform others. This is fruitfulness. As we walk in faithfulness (trust & obey) we are able to grow deeper and wider.

My Mom literally desired to present her boys before the world as maturing, multiplying followers of Jesus. Her wish upon her passing was for all 4 of us to sing, play the piano, and preach at her funeral. My mom was a model for me, both through her words and her actions. As I think about who God has made me to be, and what God has led me to do, I can clearly see how God used my Mom as a primary instrument to shape and mold me.

Mom modeled and strongly encouraged making family a priority. She always wanted us together to celebrate holidays and birthdays. We would take a long annual trip to West Virginia each summer to be with her sisters and brothers and all of their families. Mom loved us with passion and somehow found an even greater level of love for her grandchildren. I can remember being 18 and being awakened early on a Saturday after a late night of work. Mom wanted me to help Dad clean the garage. You can imagine my response. Mom held her ground. She told me a day would come when I would long to have this kind of moment with Dad. I got up, and today I am thankful for her encouragement.

Mom used to read books to us, one chapter per night. My favorite was Old Yeller. Mom required my younger brother and me to join her at the table each morning before school for a devotion and prayer. She wanted us to know Jesus, to know His Word, and to know how to pray. Mom lived what she taught. She loved the church. She was always serving and especially loved leading the ladies and girls in missions study and activities. Recently, a childhood friend shared how much my Mom meant to her. So many lives were touched because of her willingness to love and care for others. When I was alone trying to raise my two girls and pastor a church, she and Dad put their retirement on hold to come and live with me. I would not have made it without their willingness to sacrifice and love us in real tangible ways. I could go on but the simple truth is that my Mom planted many seeds in my life through her love, words, and actions. As I think today about my passions and how I live, I am thankful to say I see some fruit from the seeds she planted in me.

I have a strong passion for missions –thanks Mom. I have a love for reading—thanks Mom. I have a strong commitment to family – thanks Mom. I have a growing relationship with Jesus – thanks Mom. I have a calling to serve Jesus through His church – thanks Mom. I have a deep love for God’s Word – thanks Mom. I have a hunger to see people’s lives transformed through a relationship with Jesus. I have a longing to be making disciples of all the nations –thanks Mom. My Mom was a wonderful instrument in God’s hands to disciple me. As I grow older, I can only hope that my family, friends, and community will be able to say that I too have planted seeds that continue to bear fruit for Jesus Kingdom in my generation, the next generation and beyond.