August 13, 2021

Do you know how to listen to a sermon?  On the surface that may seem like a crazy question to ask, but it really isn’t.  Actually, I think it may be one of the big problems in the church of Christ today.  People have ears to hear, but cannot hear – they cannot hear what God is saying to them through His Word.   They don’t know how to listen to sermons.  They are like the people that Jesus addressed on a few different occasions.  These people obviously heard the words that Jesus was speaking and they were even amazed at his teaching, but they really didn’t grasp the spiritual significance of those words.  In other words, the message didn’t penetrate their hearts so as to make a difference in the way they lived.  Sadly, I believe a lot of people sitting in churches on Sunday mornings fall into this same camp.

Why is that?  There are probably a number of reasons, but let me mention a few.

  1.  Our hearts have been hardened by sin (cf. Parable of the Soils in Matthew 13) so that the seed of God’s Word cannot penetrate the heart.  If God has convicted us of sin and we have refused to repent of it, we will not profit from the preaching of God’s Word regardless of who is delivering the message.
  2. We really don’t want to change.  We want our ears to be tickled (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3). We want to feel good so we’re not going to hear what God has to say.
  3. We’re too focused on the messenger rather than the message.  All of us like to hear good speakers but eloquence and spiritual power do not necessarily go hand in hand.  Let me remind you what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:4 – “my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”  I’m convinced that a lot of people today would not have enjoyed listening to Paul because of how he presented his message.  
  4. We want to be spoon-fed so we don’t have to think too hard (or at all).  We expect the preacher to fully digest the Scriptures and tell us what we need to know and if he doesn’t do that like we want,  if we actually have to think for ourselves, we become a little peeved.  

Well, I could list some more reasons, but I don’t want to be too wordy here.  The point I want to make is this:  if our hearts are right with the Lord and we really want Him to speak to us so we can change AND if our focus is on the Word and we’re trying to understand it so as to apply it to our lives, God’s Word will feed our souls and it will change us.  We may not think the messenger is the most eloquent in his presentation, but if he is faithfully turning our attention to the Scriptures, God will speak through him powerfully and we will grow as true disciples. 

The bottom line is this:  there are all sorts of preachers out there and some are better than others but if they are true to the Word, God will use them to feed us spiritually and help us grow as true disciples.  So, let’s ask God to give us ears to hear Him regardless of who is preaching.  

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July 30, 2021

As you all have read in my letter and the letter from the Session, we have two very important congregational meetings coming up. We don’t have many congregational meetings at Crossgate, so I wanted to clarify what is about to happen.  

Next Sunday, August 8, we will have the first of these meetings to elect a Search Committee for the next Senior Pastor at Crossgate.  As you already know, the recommendation of the Session and the motion that will be presented to you is that the Session serve as this committee.  And if so elected, the Session intends to recommend at the next congregational meeting two weeks later that David Story be elected to serve as your next pastor.  This is the direction that the Session believes God is moving our church.  We believe that David is a man of God who can effectively lead this church in the days/years ahead.  But having said that, you as the congregation have the responsibility to either confirm or overturn this.  It is not a “done deal” until the congregation votes.  This is one of the great privileges and responsibilities of a member of Crossgate.  You have a voice and get to have a say in who will pastor this church.

So next Sunday, you will vote by ballot on the Search Committee and if the motion of the Session passes by a majority vote, the Session will serve in this capacity.  But in the interim two weeks before the next meeting, the Session would like to hear from you if you should have concerns/questions or simply want to affirm the direction we are moving in.  We believe that God uses the counsel of godly men and women to reveal His will for a church and so we want to hear what you have to say.  In this way, we believe that Crossgate can move forward as one – in the unity of His Spirit.  This doesn’t mean that everyone agrees on every single thing, but it does mean that we “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21) and that we “give preference to one another in honor.” (Romans 12:10)  In other words, we must be willing to accept the vote of the majority in the congregation as, not only the will of God for Crossgate, but His will for individual members.  

This is one of the most important votes that you will ever cast as a member of Crossgate, so please plan on being at this meeting next Sunday.  We will begin the meeting at 10:15 am, and begin the second service at 11:00 am, rather than 10:45 am.  And in the meantime, let’s be praying that as we come together, we might clearly discern God’s will for us and we might wholeheartedly embrace this together.
 

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April 30, 2021

I love the passage in Psalm 67 which says “God, our God, blesses us.  God blesses us that all the ends of the earth may fear Him.”  Think about that for a minute.  God doesn’t simply bless us so we can be comfortable or feel good about ourselves or simply enjoy the good life.  He blesses us so that people around the world will stand in awe of Him, and will love, trust and obey Him.  God wants the nations to know of His mercy and grace that is found in Christ and proclaimed in the Gospel.  And He invites us to collaborate with Him in this great work.

One of the ways that we can join God in this is by giving.  Now there are two ways that you and I can give.  We can give by sight or we can give by faith.  Giving by sight is what you would imagine.  It is simply pulling out your budget and going over your income and expenses and then deciding how much you can afford to let go of.  Giving by faith doesn’t completely overlook this process;  you still look at your budget and evaluate where you are financially.  But when you give by faith, you take it a step further by asking an all-important question:  Lord, how much above my regular giving can I trust you to channel through me for your work?  At this point, it’s not a matter of how much you can afford – but how much can you believe God to supply through you out of His resources.  And so as you pray about this, you simply ask God to put an amount on your heart that He wants you to give (and it’s usually an amount that is greater than you could imagine giving), and once He does that, you promise to give that as He provides.

Over the years, our congregation has been able to support numerous missionaries around the world through our Faith Promise Giving.  Our congregation has accepted the challenge to help reach the nations by giving generously to this work.    Now the time is here once again for each of us to prayerfully consider what the Lord would have you give to missions over the next year.  Our commitment to various missionaries and missions over the next year is $122,400 but our hope is that we could even surpass this number so that we could expand our world outreach even further.  

So would you make your Faith Promise to Missions over the next week?  Simply click HERE to go to the page where you can make your Faith Promise.  There is also a link on our website’s homepage.  I’m excited to see what the Lord will do through us this year as we step out in faith to do His work.  Thanks in advance for your participation in the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus!
 

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April 2, 2021

A MESSAGE TO PARENTS: Whenever we baptize a child at Crossgate, we ask the congregation this question: “Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of assisting the parents in the Christian nurture of this child?” We believe that the parents are ultimately responsible for the spiritual development of their children. But this is a major undertaking and presents all sorts of challenges for us. How do we ground them in the Truth of Scripture so that they are not swept away by the lies of atheistic professors? How do we prepare them to live as true disciples of Christ once they get out from under our authority and begin living on their own? How do we keep our children from doing what so many college age children are doing now and that is dropping out of church because they no longer see it as relevant to their lives? These are some important questions that every parent needs to be asking. But sadly, too many parents give little if any thought to the spiritual development of their children and tragically, to their eternal destiny. We erroneously assume that if we inculcate in our children good morals – that if we teach them right from wrong – they will just naturally grow up to love and serve God. Nothing could be further from the Truth!
 
Listen! Parenting is tough and the stakes couldn’t be higher! And more often than not, we feel our inadequacy. Our shortcomings are somewhat glaring in our own eyes. Fortunately for us, God in His infinite wisdom has provided the help we need in raising our children and that help is found in the church, the body of Christ. There are godly men and women who are willing to invest in your children and assist you in your work. Through their teaching and example and outpouring of love, these godly people will reinforce the teaching that you give your children at home. This is why we ask our congregation to make this vow at a child’s baptism. We know that you need this help!!
 
Unfortunately, what we are seeing today is that too many parents are so busy promoting their children’s educational and social development, that they are neglecting the spiritual development of their children. Church is not a priority for them. They think that their children are so small that if they don’t go to church regularly, their children will not even notice. Well, not only are the children missing out on a great opportunity to learn the Truth of God’s Word, but the parents are also missing out on an opportunity to grow so that they can be the primary spiritual nurturers in the home. At Crossgate, we have had Kid’s Worship for years. Most of the teens in our youth ministry now, have grown up in Kid’s Worship. But sadly, we have had to pull the plug on this recently – not because we don’t have children in this age group – but because parents aren’t committed to bringing their children to church. We would like to start this back because we see the value in this ministry. It’s just another opportunity to invest in our children. We have adults who are committed to helping your children, but without the commitment of parents, it becomes an exercise in futility.
 
So I want to challenge each of the parents to re-think your priorities when it comes to your children. And I want to challenge you to make church a consistent part of their lives so that they will grow up with a love for Jesus and a love for His church. If you are willing to commit to bringing your children to church on a regular basis, call Debbie Chapa, our Children’s Ministry Team Leader at 781-883-6064 and let her know. Then when we have 3-5 children who are committed to this, we can re-start our Kid’s worship.
 
Our motto at Crossgate is “Growing True Disciples”. We want to do this with every age group – from small children to adults – but we can only effectively do this if people are willing to make church a priority and show up consistently. So, let us help you raise your children as true disciples! We’re willing to make this sort of commitment to you and your children; are you willing to do the same?
 

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Reflections with David Story

Well, this time a year ago we were having our Missions Conference, our last worship service before the world came to a screeching halt, with things shutting down left and right in reaction to the spreading pandemic. What an unexpected turn of events! And what a year it has been.
 
It brings a fresh perspective on the Biblical phrase from James 4, “you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” How little any of us knew then of what would come! 
 
It is worth looking back though now and reflecting on the path the Lord has brought us down. How often Scripture tells us to remember, and to remember the Lord! 
 
How have you grown? How have you also languished? What were things that have most challenged you? And were there unexpected things that encouraged you? What have these events exposed for you? Have you grown closer to the Lord or drifted further away? What lessons have you learned that you want to remember?
 
While we all may have different answers to these questions, the main thing I would encourage you to remember is that the Lord has been in it. He has had His purposes in it, and He has been with us in it, leading us through both pleasant and difficult times. And even now the Lord is working in us and in history for the glory of His name. 
 
Whatever other lessons you may have learned, I hope we all remember these two: that we need God desperately and that we need one another continually as well. 
 
At times, we wish we could push the veil to the side and see a little bit into the future (when will the pandemic be over? what else is coming?), but it remains unknown to us. As we take the time to reflect and look back though, we can face the future in faith, remembering that the Lord will be in it. 

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February 26, 2021

It’s been encouraging over the last few weeks to see the number of Covid cases decreasing both in Oconee County and nationwide.  This can be attributed to a couple of factors.  First, more people have gotten Covid so this is pushing us closer to the herd immunity (something that at least one expert predicted we will reach by the end of April.  Who knows??).  And of course, the vaccine has certainly helped move us in this direction.  Now as we witness the decline in the number of Covid cases, this obviously doesn’t mean that the pandemic is over.  The reality is that Covid will be with us for quite some time – maybe even years (just like the seasonal flu).  But it does help us to breathe a little easier and not be as uptight or fearful about catching this virus.  And hopefully, the fact that things are moving in the right direction will encourage more people to return to church and resume worshiping in person.  I’m so glad that we have been able to stream our worship services, but as you well-know, there’s nothing like being with God’s people and worshiping Him together.

Last week we saw an uptick in the number of people who came to our worship services and that was exciting.  It’s still not crowded, but as more of our people are vaccinated, we will see those numbers grow.  We still want to be considerate of one another in both services and not make anyone feel uncomfortable by how we interact with them.  But if you are still a little gun-shy about being around people, then let me encourage you to consider coming to the 9:00 am service.  We only had 45 people in this service last week, so there is plenty of room to spread out.  And remember, you are free to wear a mask if that makes you feel a little safer

Now I realize that some may not yet feel comfortable returning to church and we certainly respect that.  We will continue streaming the service and you can continue to join us online.  But I would like for you to ask yourself this:  At what point will I feel comfortable going back to church?  What conditions will have to be met?  As I mentioned earlier, Covid will in all probability be around for a long time, so if you wait till it’s completely gone, you will be worshiping online for some time.  And keep in mind that there are no guarantees when it comes to Covid.  Even with the vaccine, there is no guarantee that you will not get the virus.  So at what point do we step out and say, “God, my health and life are in your hands.  I’m going back to church – I need to be with your people – and I trust you to bring to fruition your purpose and plans for my life.”?  May God direct each of us as we seek to do His will.

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January 8, 2021

I’ve said this many times over the years – when God leads someone to become a part of Crossgate, I believe that this individual is nothing more than a special gift from God.  God intends to use this person to strengthen and build up the body of Christ, and He has equipped him/her with gifts, talents, and life experiences to do this. 

There are two people in particular that God has used over the years to help make Crossgate what she is today – Don and Barbara Nilsson.  This is a couple that loves the Lord and loves His church, and they have faithfully and diligently served His church at Crossgate.  Sadly, this dear couple will be leaving us in the next few weeks to move to Florida in order to be close to their daughter and family.  I’m disappointed that we can’t give them a proper sendoff because of Covid, but I want everyone to know how much they have blessed me and Joye personally, and how much they have meant to our whole body.

Don has his PhD in Theology and taught for some 30+ years at Nyack College in New York.   Over the years, Don has taught numerous classes in our Sunday School (Christian Growth Classes)  on apologetics, Bible surveys, Eschatology; etc.  These weren’t your typical Sunday School classes.  These classes were “meaty” and challenging.  Each week there would be a 4-6 page handout of things that he would be covering.  I personally loved sitting under Don’s teaching and profited immensely from this – as did all of us.

And Barbara – what a gem!  Barbara had been a school teacher at one point, and was a master at communicating with children.  For years on end, Barbara invested in the lives of many of our children – teaching them God’s Word in a Christian Growth Class or Kids’ Worship.  And when Barbara taught, whether it was one or two children or fifteen, she would always put her heart and soul into preparation.  She definitely made an impact on many of our children.

There is so much more that I could say about them.  I realize that some of you never had the privilege of getting to know them, but I wanted everyone to know that what you experience at Crossgate today is, in part, because of these two gifts from God and how faithfully they have served us.

Don and Barbara – from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the whole church family at Crossgate, thank you for loving Jesus and loving us!  We love you and pray that God would continue to bless you and use you to build and beautify His Bride!

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December 31, 2020

As you all know, Christmas is a time for us to reflect on and celebrate God’s amazing love to us – a love that was demonstrated some 2000 years ago when Jesus took on flesh and blood and became like us so that He could rescue us from the kingdom of darkness and bring us into His own kingdom of Light.  What a blessing it is to be a part of this eternal kingdom – to know the King, not only as our Sovereign Lord but also as our Heavenly Father.  And not only do we get experience this close relationship with God, we also get to experience a closeness with others who are a part of this kingdom – brothers and sisters in Christ who have also been rescued and redeemed.

I’m especially thankful for the family of God that meets at Crossgate.  It has been a privilege to minister to and with you over the past year.  It’s been a crazy year, for sure, but even in the midst of the craziness, God has been working to build His church and glorify His name.  

This past week, the Session (Elders) gave me and the staff of Crossgate a monetary gift as a Christmas present from you, the congregation. I have to tell you that I was blown away by your generosity, and touched by your love for us.  So I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of the whole church staff, for your kindness and generosity to us.  All of us count it a privilege to be able to serve at Crossgate and to work alongside of you in order to advance God’s kingdom.

As we move into the New Year, I’m excited about what the Lord has in store for all of us, individually and as a body.  Of course, none of us knows exactly how things will play out in this New Year, but we can be confident that God will be working in and through us to make Himself known as the Savior of the world.  I hope each of you have a blessed New Year, and pray that 2021 will be a year in which you will experience a growing intimacy with God that will fill your life with His joy and peace!
 

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November 20, 2020

Well, the holiday season is upon us – Thanksgiving next week, and then just four weeks later is Christmas.  Where has the time gone?  Of course, this year is so different thanks to Covid19.  That are a lot of people who are still trying to figure out what they need to be doing for Christmas and with whom.  They certainly know what they want to do – who doesn’t want to be with family?  But given the spike in Covid cases around the country, should they risk being exposed to this virus or should they just hunker down in their own home and enjoy (or endure) a quiet (and lonely) Christmas? 

Well, in the same way that some of you have struggled with knowing what to do for Christmas, we have also done some struggling at church.  We certainly know what we want to do – that’s not the issue.  The question is – what should we try to do given the pandemic?  What will be best for the health and well-being of our church family?  After wrestling with this, we have decided two things.  First of all, we will NOT have our annual Christmas party.  I know – that’s a bummer.  This has always been a special time for us to be together as a church family – a festive occasion that is always fun and encouraging.  But it’s just not wise for us to be gathering together in a big group at this point.  So, sorry – the Christmas Party will have to wait another year.  The second thing we have decided is that we will NOT be having a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service either.  These services have historically been attended by a lot of folks from outside the church – folks who are in town visiting their family.   The last thing in the world we want to do is expose someone to Covid19 at Christmas time.  I know that some of you will be disappointed because this has been a big part of your Christmas tradition, but I think everyone would agree that these measures are necessary given these strange times in which we live.

So, yes – Christmas will be different this year.  But hopefully this will not diminish our joy one iota as we celebrate the miracle of the incarnation.  Just think – the almighty, sovereign God took on flesh and blood so that we might live eternally with HimThis is what Christmas is all about and this is the source of our joy – something that not even a pandemic can take away from us!
 

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November 6, 2020

Well, the election is finally over – well, kinda.  Who knows how long it will be before we actually know who won the presidential election?  I know that it “seems” that Biden has won;  he’s certainly getting close to that magic number of 270.  And if he does win, then we need to begin praying for him as Scripture tells us to do.  But to be honest, I’m not throwing in the towel yet and not ready to concede.  God has a way of showing up in the eleventh hour – when all hope seems to be lost.  I think of the Israelites when they came to the Red Sea and the Egyptian army was breathing down their backs.  God provided an escape in just the nick of time.  So, I will continue praying about this election until a winner is declared, and then I will pray for the winner, whoever it is.

But even as we are in the throes of this election cycle, let me remind you that the solution to all the societal ills that we face today is not going to be found in politics.  Politics can only do so much.  But one thing it can’t do is change the hearts of people, and that, of course, is the source of all our problems.  Racism, sexism, greed, lawlessness, etc – all stem from hearts that are darkened by sin and in rebellion against God.  If we really want to see permanent changes take place in our culture, we need to be as enthusiastic about sharing the Gospel as millions have been about their political candidate.  We need to understand that it is the Gospel of Jesus that is the power of God unto salvation and it is that power that is able to radically change the hearts of people.

So regardless of who wins the election, our mission doesn’t really change.  If you are a true disciple of Jesus, God has entrusted to you the responsibility and privilege of sharing the Good News with those around you and doing so you can help change the world.  Millions of Christians have been praying about this election for months now.  Now that the election is over (or just about) we need to continue praying for our leaders, but more importantly, for a great harvest of souls – for true revival to break out in our churches, homes and in our country.  God is on His throne and continuing to work to build and establish His church, and we have the awesome privilege of joining Him in this work.  Te Deum Gloria!!
 

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