The Key to Successful Christian Living! #36

I believe the most important key to Christian living is seeking to do what is right every time, in every area of life. As I type I am thinking “this must be an over statement” yet I cannot come up with anything more important to Christian living!

To seek to do what is right every time I must abide in the Bible – the objective Word of God. The Bible does not change – and when I read it I am continually brought back to reality! God said to Joshua “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” God provided His Son to demonstrate the nature of God, to clarify what God would have us do, and ultimately to die on the cross for our sins. When Jesus left earth he provided the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us. The Bible teaches about all three.

As you read the above paragraph it is easy to get up tight…to become afraid you will do the wrong thing. To live worried about sinning does not sound much like: “My yoke is easy, my burden is light” The Lord is always good news to those who truly seek to live a life pleasing to Him – to seek to live our lives “In Partnership With God. Jesus died that our sins could be forgiven. God knows our hearts!!!

When we live obediently, we will at times make decisions that, when we look at the total picture, just do not make sense. To act in this way requires faith -faith in God’s direction and in His provision so we are able to do what He would have us do. Hebrews 11 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. God seems to provide us with opportunities to be obedient and to see Him provide, or to be disobedient and to see/live the consequences. God’s provision may take considerable time – but if we got our signals straight, it will happen!! In the same way, if we choose to run our own lives, it may take considerable time for us to live out the consequences of our decision, but it will happen.

So where does all this? My making of two decisions: one easy, the other was painfully difficult. I do not remember making the first decision – yet it was made. The building committee developed the plans to provide the finest possible parsonage for the Bakerville Church. When construction began, Sally Jo, who was the director of the children’s choir, said she thought we should have a piano in the parsonage – it was difficult for her to take a baby and toddler to church for the rehearsal, and during the winter months the sanctuary was heated only minimally. I agreed. The decision was made that quickly. The young organist and went to the piano company, picked out a piano and put our name on it. I did not give much thought to the fact that we had no money with which to buy the piano. God had provided before – my challenge was to do what I believed was right/best…every time!

About a month later the piano company called: “We have a piano with your name on it – and you have not made a down payment. How do we know you will purchase the piano?” I responded with “you have my word” He responded with “No one has ever said that to me before. When will you pay for the piano?” I said “When the parsonage is finished in a couple weeks, and the piano is delivered”. He was as surprised by my answers as I was surprised by his call – and my answers. What had I just promised? And then…I just got on with life.

As the parsonage neared completion, Sally Jo and I were building the low retaining wall at the entrance to the basement. John Kinsey drove up and as I went to greet him he chewed me out for having Sally Jo work so hard, and then said: “You will be receiving a dividend check from Waterbury Bank and Trust…it is a gift. I don’t need it.” A few days later the check came – within $7 of the cost of the piano! My guess is that John and Edith spent no more time thinking about their gift than I did about the purchase of the piano. That the check matched the cost of the piano confirmed to me that God had guided us both! A week later the piano was delivered to the newly completed parsonage – and I paid for it in full!

Please, please do not go and make a foolish decision – based upon what I have just written! On the other hand, do what you believe God would have you do – every time! As you will see next Monday, when we seek to Live In Partnership With God, sometimes it is tough to know and do the will of God. The piano resides in our home – a reminder of God’s ability to guide me – and of His ability to support my obedience. “God’s work done in God’s way never lacks for God’s supply” (Hudson Taylor) Our challenge: to do God’s work as God would have us do it!

On this page is a biblical basis for what I have written above.

Our key to successful Christian living is doing what we believe God would have us do – to do what we believe is right every time. There are times, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, when we must make decisions that are not logical…we make them because we believe they are right before the Lord. Keeping God’s directives separate from our personal desires is at times tough…but if we do, God will guide us. I firmly believe this. If we live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ there will be times He will guide us – when we are not aware of His leading. But most of the time we will need to make a very conscious decision…to know and do the will of God for us.

What other conclusion can we come to? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” The King James translates the end of the passage: “And He will direct your path”. Proverbs 3:5-6 the next verse underlines the truth of 3:5-6. Verse 7: “Do not be wise in your own eyes”.

When we say…”God answers prayer”, we need to remember the context of the promise: ”Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself…I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” John 15:4-8 To tell people, including children, God answers prayer without their understanding the context is cruel! It sets them up for disappointment – possibly to destroy their faith: ”it does not work for me!!!” Often we say: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” Psalm 23:1 or “I shall not lack any good thing.” This promise of provision is to those who live with the Lord as their shepherd.

Paul writes “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13 in the context of persecution – not as truth to be applied in every area of life – we cannot lift buildings! And for a person to quote this verse after winning an Olympic metal…this can sound great, but is a total miss-use of the verse. When Paul writes “but my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19, he does so in the context of persecution, but the teaching is consistent, in a broader sense, as seen in other biblical passages. “All” is all to those who abide in Christ.

It is sheer folly to think for you or me to ignore what we believe we should do when, deep down, we know our decision would not be God’s best and expect God’s best for us – and through us, for others

A Refreshing Body of Believers #35

Our challenge was quite simple: Build a healthy church, a healthy body of believers. With only 8 people attending church, there were few deep theological convictions, or church traditions, or church leaders, or functioning committees or church groups. The Bakerville Church was the only one church in town. It was wonderful to welcome people as they moved into town with “I am Chuck Gieser, the pastor of the only church in town”. Every effort was made to have the church building be the community center – where people came to vote, to have exercise class, for a club meeting. We wanted everyone to feel comfortable in “The Bakerville Church”.

Preaching/teaching was focused on the basics of the Christian faith; the person of Jesus Christ, His actions and teachings. There was no need to focus on our sinfulness – most of us have a pretty good idea that our thoughts and actions were not the same as those of Jesus Christ – and in time the Holy Spirit would convict of sin. And why even bring up areas where the Christian community had never come to agreement. Sally Jo and I both taught small group Bible studies – if a group got up to six members…start another group. Three of Sally Jo’s closest friends came from one of those Bible study groups.

.As a part of our focus on the life and actions of Jesus, it was easy to see the value of a body of a group of like minded people coming together to learn about, and in time, to worship Jesus Christ. Having people organized in some way was logical. It was quite obvious that people had different abilities/gifts– encourage their use.

And so Mr. Dobrick, a little old man, stood at the door between the sanctuary and the fellowship hall/class rooms and welcomed everyone every Sunday. He was so special that our girls named on of their gerbils “Dobrick”. Many people filled little niches, and this was clearly seen on the Sunday night before Christmas. Each year members of the congregation went caroling, and then came back to church for hot chocolate and cookies. After four years the church young people were building a huge bon fire in the church parking lot, those unable to carol baked an incredible number of cookies, Hal Glowsky provided fresh, whole milk with which to make the hot chocolate…and it took two school buses, provided by the school, to carry all of the people who wanted to go caroling. The buses went in different directions well beyond the little community where the church was. Those “being caroled” were not the church members or their close friends – they were already involved in the evening. Those being caroled were the shut-ins…and anyone else where people wanted us to sing. At an agreed upon time…back to the church, light the fire, drink the hot chocolate, and eat cookies and more cookies.

We still remember those evenings together…and the Christmas pageant, pot luck suppers, working on each other’s homes, sharing over-productive garden crops, painting the church with the young people, skiing together, the apple festival. Church was closed one Sunday each summer for a church picnic. The wedding in Cana must have been like the weddings, particularly Polish, we celebrated – with lots of dancing, laughing, food…and just in case Jesus did not show up, an adequate supply of beer and wine. Wonderful celebrations!!! This church did not have as many festivals and celebrations as are talked about in the Bible…but we got close!

After three years the church members decided it was time to build a truly wonderful parsonage with no debt: sell the old parsonage and a lot given years before. Bob Morse headed the building committee. Granny Jones gave the building site: set back off the road – stream, beautiful pond with an old stone dam, and a great view! As the plans were developed, the parsonage grew: a living room to hold junior choir rehearsals, a dining room to seat 15, a family room with a fireplace built of stone slabs from an old house, a kitchen that was incredible. Upstairs: 4 spacious bedrooms, 2 baths. And in the walk-in basement: the pastor’s study, a large play room, and a workshop wired and ready to go. Church members began building on August 11 and on the Friday night before Thanksgiving 35 people came to paint the interior of the parsonage.

Our message to the church during the planning and building process: “Do not build this parsonage for us! This is for the church, long term!” Though we did not use the phrase, Sally Jo and I lived In Partnership With God, a God who has a plan for our lives.

The Anticipated Visit #34

Sally Jo and I were very excited! My parents were coming to visit us again in Bakerville! The church was coming back to life, we had come to know some wonderful “salt of the earth” people, my school work was completed, the church had just started a nursery school, and the large vegetable garden was producing wonderful food!

During our second fall in Bakerville, Sally Jo and I went to a local orchard to buy apples. It turned out that the owner was an Elder from the church down the road from Bakerville. When asked where we were from, we told our story. He asked if we could get a minister like me for their church. What he was really saying was: “Can you find a minister who will bring our church back to life?” Their part time minister believed as little about the Bible and God’s message of Good News as the previous pastor in Bakerville had–and their church was almost dead. Pat and Mary Ann Cate, who became missionaries in a Muslim country, accepted the opportunity and the Nepaug Congregational Church came back to life.

We were working hard, we were happy, and we were excited about what was happening!

We had enjoyed wonderful few days with my parents! The day they were to leave, my mom, dad, Sally Jo, our toddler, Carla, and I were in the back yard. It was a beautiful day. We were standing near a huge willow tree, next to the sandbox I had built for Carla. Seemingly out of the blue my dad said “Chuck, when are you going to quit wasting your life – and get out of this place?” He was serious!

I was close to my parents. They had encouraged me when I struggled in school, had bought me tools, and had taught me how to work. My mom and dad helped my brother and me plan great summer experiences including summer camps, working on a farm, working as a dishwasher for Young Life, and building a house in Costa Rica for Latin American Mission. They were at all my football games. They had been missionaries in China, and now Mom taught a weekly Bible study. Mom and Dad had started the Missionary Furlough Homes Foundation. Dad was a Board Member of The Christian Medical Society, The Medical Assistance Program, Young Life, Intervarsity, and Wheaton College.

“Chuck, when are you going to quit wasting your life – and get out of this place?” He was serious. We were stunned!!!!!! This was one of those water-shed moments in our lives: Were we going to continue doing what we believed the Lord would have us to do – or were we going to take my father’s advice? We stayed in Bakerville for two more years.

The Lord continued to bless His ministry in Bakerville. At the end of four years church attendance was about 100 each Sunday, the church organization was working well together, the nursery school was at capacity, the new parsonage was built and paid for, and Chris Phillips, the young organist, was in college–the first member of his extended family to attend

We were able to participate in the selection of the next minister and his wife. George and Judy Smith stayed 34 years. When they retired, there were 3 worship services each weekend – about 500 people were involved. And there were 13 Evangelical pastors from the area meeting weekly. We were glad we had stayed!

In Bakerville we faced many challenges – some would say “tests of our faith”. We would say it was in Bakerville we gained a much greater understanding of ourselves, and of God’s ways: His guidance, His provision, and His blessing.

I live my life with two basic verses:

  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths”. Proverbs 3:5-6. KJV.
  • “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do”. Ephesians 2:10

Living In Partnership With God continues to be a challenging, rewarding experience!