• Jim’s mom, Brandon’s grandmother, passed away yesterday evening. Please keep the Llewellyn family in your prayers as they make decisions and mourn their precious loved one.
    1. Along the lines of 10 Psalms of Thanksgiving, I ran across this post on Wineskins.org by Bobby Valentine and thought it was worth sharing. “I will continually sing hymns of thanksgiving” (Sirach 51.11) This year, 2020, has been a long, challenging year, for a great many people. Not only disciples of Jesus but those who are not. Not only for those in the United States but those in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and literally around the globe. It is not the first pandemic that has ravaged humanity in history but COVID-19 is certainly the biggest in my lifetime. This has been a year where many of us have learned a great deal about ourselves and what we are willing to endure for the sake of loving the neighbors around us. But even with the challenge of this year, as we enter into November, we have so much to be thankful, indeed grateful, for.  May I recommend a short reading to you. I want to urge you to read Psalm 103 and Psalm 111 tonight and even tomorrow. Read them out loud. Let the Spiritual words of the Psalm flow through your lips. Thanksgiving bubbles to the surface of anyone who is genuinely grateful for what has been received. I hold it as a spiritual truth that the depth of Israel’s thanksgiving is living testimony to the profound depth of their experience of grace in the Hebrew Bible. The extent of our own thanksgiving likewise reveals the depth of our knowledge of grace. Thanksgiving is directly proportional to our knowledge of being graced. Sometimes, we resist public (and even private) thanksgiving because it “demands” an “embarrassing awareness” that we are on the receiving end of gifts that are essential to life. These gifts we neither merit nor come close to earning. This is why the line between “thanksgiving” and “praise” is so often extremely fine. The more we know we exist by the grace of God, every second of the day, the more pervasive thanksgiving dominates our lives. Psalm 103 (and 111) is pure thanksgiving to Yahweh, the God of Israel. The Psalm opens and closes with the imperative “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” (103.1) “Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation” (111.1) Then Psalm 103 proceeds to present a series of “benefits” that deserve our thanksgiving. For our purposes I suggest there are four as we follow the length of the Psalm. Thankful for … “Forgiveness” (v.3f) Ours is a world of ungrace. Besides being a world of full of COVID, the year 2020 has reminded the entire world how ungracious humanity can be. Democrats and Republicans attack each other as if possessed by rabies. Spouses hold grudges near their heart for decades. Our world is withering away in a slow agonizing death of ungrace. We, all of us, crave to be forgiven. Yet we, all of us, have an extremely hard time forgiving. The Psalm tells us that Yahweh forgives. Forgiveness is not merely letting us off the hook. Rather forgiveness takes our broken lives and heals them from top to bottom. Grace makes us whole. We are set free by forgiveness and empowered to be a forgiver. So, we praise Yahweh, “who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases …” Wow! Thankful for … Renewal of Life (vv. 4-5) An ungrateful life is hard. It sucks “life” right out of our heart. The world, and often the church, does everything it can to reduce us to mere existence rather than thriving. We become lifeless, almost like sectarian zombies. But God did not create us to merely exist but to have life to the full, as Jesus said (and Qoheleth shouts “Amen!”). “who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with HESED [steadfast love, NRSV] and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” With Yahweh we receive renewal of life. We were in the “Pit,” living a death like existence. But we are “redeemed” out of that Pit and “renewed” like the wings of an eagle. Love and compassion are gifts of God that course through our veins making us feel new life. What a gift to be thankful for. Our lives are renewed. They are crowned with God’s HESED. Thankful for … Love that is Gracious (v.8) Israel is brought face to face with the “God Creed” in v.8 which came from Yahweh’s own voice in Ex 34.6. “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger abounding in HESED [steadfast love, NRSV]” When God “revealed his ways” to Moses (v.7), he revealed the depth of his HESED (i.e. steadfast love). God’s ways are Hesed ways! Hesed ways are compassion, grace, slow to anger and extremely rich in love. Hesed ways are not dolling our punishment on the basis of what we deserve but on the basis of HESED. “He does not repay us according to our iniquities.” What if this was the basis of how human beings treated one another or Christians (at the very least) treated one another. Bless the Lord, O my soul, for his infinite HESED. Thankful for … Covenant (v. 18) I am so thankful that I learned what a “covenant” actually is. For years, growing up, I imagined (because I was taught) that God’s covenant was a contract. My fingers almost get leprous even writing the word “contract” next to “covenant.” Psalm 103 knows nothing of a contract but everything about a covenant. Covenant is relationship. A relationship between a husband and wife; a relationship between parents and children. I pity the wife (or husband) or the daughter (or son) who has a spouse or parent who views him or her in the framework of a contract. “As a father has compassion for his children, so Yahweh has compassion for those who fear him.” “The HESED of Yahweh is from everlasting to everlasting” for those who are true to his covenant of love. Why is it that God does not give us up? It is not because we earn it, deserve it, have precision obedience. God keeps us for the same reason a Parent never gives up on a daughter/son, because of his covenant of love (cf. Deuteronomy 7.7-9)! Because he is our Father. I am so thankful for the Covenant of Love. That is why We Thank Him (vv. 19-22). Forgiveness. Renewal of Life. Gracious Love. The unbreakable covenant of love. These are Yahweh’s “benefits!” So, the Psalm declares that is why we “bless” the Lord. That is why we lift our hands in praise. That is why we raise the cup of thanksgiving (116.13). This is why we gather with other people and feast at his table. This is why we “give thanks to Yahweh with our whole heart, in the company of the upright” (111.1) Thank you, God our Father. Thank you, Christ the Son. Thank you, Spirit of Life.
      1.  — Edited

        I added 10 Psalms of Thanksgiving to our Group Readings if you would like to join in and read a Psalm of Thanksgiving everyday leading to Thanksgiving. In case the app on your device doesn't have "Group Readings" the first day was Psalm 18.
        1. Mid-Month Harbinger

            Rick’s ’Ritin’s


          Welcome to my first-ever Mid-month Harbinger article. I thought since we just had our Annual Meeting I would report some of the topics we discussed as well as introduce a few other ideas. (But don’t worry, we will still have more information for the regular Harbinger that will come out in a couple of weeks.)


          Vote Report Five men were nominated to continue their service on the Board. Elder: Todd Clevenger; Danny Pease. Deacon: Fred Bessell; Richard Kramberg; Ken Worcester. All five men received at least 89% favorable vote, so all have been re-affirmed for service on the Board. Congratulations to all five. We look forward to your leadership over the next few years.


          Faithlife The church is moving to Faithlife.com as the media platform. You will need to set up a Faithlife account to be able to be a part of the online community. Go to: fl.vu/f and download the Faithlife app. Create a Faithlife account (username and password) and search for the name of our church in the list. Click on our church and join the group. You have now entered a wide world of possibilities. If this does not work, bring your smart phone to church with you Sunday and we will have people here to help you join. If you want to see how wide the world is that is opening to you, go to equip.faithlife.com and enjoy examining all the possibilities. Just a few of the features available through Faithlife are: new website (coming soon); online giving (available now – text Give and amount to (217) 651-4845 to try it out), Faithlife tv; and much more. If you have questions, we can find people who have the answers.


          Financial Report A summary of income and expenses to date as well as the budget for 2021 were presented at the Meeting. Copies of these reports are available on the table outside the church office.


          Church Revitalization University We want to establish a Strategic Leadership Team composed of about 12-15 people who are interested in working to help identify who we are as a church and where we want to go. Four weekend workshops (beginning in January and meeting one weekend a month) will lead the Team through identifying the Mission, Core Values, Pathway to Discipleship, Vision, and Implementation Plan for the church. The Team will be composed of women and men, young and not-so-young – anyone who is interested in helping to forge the future of this church. If this sounds like something that fits your passion for the church, please talk to Rick about further details.


          Homecoming Update We are still planning on having our 185th Anniversary Homecoming (remember, we aren’t counting 2020) April 25, 2021. Greg Lee will preach in the morning service, John Plunkett will preach in the afternoon service, and in between we will serve lunch on the grounds and then be led in a Concert of Praise by Dr. Dinelle Frankland of Lincoln Christian University. Our theme is “Honoring Our Heritage; Forging Our Future.” 


          Lamoine Christian Service Camp We just received this request from Gordon Blankenship at camp. You have an opportunity to increase your wardrobe and Covid-19 mask collection and also provide funds for the camp. Here is Gordon’s email: “Hey all! I pray things are going good with you, your families, and the churches you serve. I would like you all to share the following link with your congregations regarding a fundraiser that our t-shirt guy is doing for us (at no cost or risk to us). We get $10.00 from every shirt and $3.00 from every mask. Please share this link: Lamoine Christian Service Camp.” 


          The link will take you to a place where you can order masks or t-shirts, or both. Because of Covid-19, camp was unable to meet this past summer. You can imagine the damage that caused to the bank account as expenses did not stop because of Covid-19. New heaters and A/C units had to be installed, in addition to the regular maintenance and upkeep of the camp. Order some masks (keep the government happy) and order some t-shirts (make yourself happy) and help the camp. They could make great Christmas presents and stocking-stuffers. And, you would be helping the camp.


          I hope this brings you somewhat up-to-date. If I could have done so, I would have included some of the tasty calories we enjoyed at the Annual Meeting, but I could not copy and paste them into this newsletter. Guess you’ll just have to attend our next “Caffein, Calories, and Conversation” evening.


          Thanks for reading,


          Rick


          PS If you have any difficulty trying to set up your Faithlife account, please bring you phone or computer to church Sunday and we will have people available to help you join. You will be glad you did.

          1. Nov
            8
            Sunday, November 8th, 6 pm (CST)
            First Christian Church of Camp Point
            210 S Ohio St, Camp Point, IL 62320, USA
            1. ReadThe Gospel Harbinger

              Rick’s ’Ritin’s

              “Caffeine, Calories, and Conversation.” This is what we are calling our first second-Sunday of November Annual Meeting. The intent is to talk together about where we are as a church and where we want to go as a church. The only “business” of the night will be to vote on the nominees for elder and deacon. The rest of the evening will be devoted to discussing where we are as a church financially, present the budget for the next year, and highlight some future plans:

              ·       We will introduce programs the elders have approved, such as Church Revitalization University and Faithlife Equip and Faithlife Proclaim. These are programs that will position our church to reach out to people who are not currently attending church at our building and design a way to lead them to become active disciples of Christ.  

              ·       The Board members responsible for the Internal Property of the church have been examining our building for projects to repair and improve our facilities. They will present a report on what they have found and highlight the projects we are focusing on now and also list future projects that need to be done as the funds are available.

              ·       We will talk about the Anniversary coming up in April and inform you of the plans we have made so far.

              ·       We will present updates and plans for the Young Adult Ministry and the Youth Ministry.

              ·       We will also have time for your questions about any of these, and other, programs and plans for the church.

              Our goal is that when the evening is over, you will have a clear picture of what we want to accomplish and where we are headed as a church in 2021 and beyond. 


              Board Nominees. The nominees for Elder are: Todd Clevenger and Danny Pease. The nominees for Deacon are: Fred Bessell, Ken Worcester, and Richard Kramberg. Some other men were nominated, but after the interview process decided this was not the best time for them to serve. We honor their decision and look forward to the time that will be right for them.


              All Board terms are for three years, and after two terms, a person must take at least one year off the board. The idea is there will be a smooth transition each year of men on and off the board. However, because of unusual circumstances, we currently do not have men to go off the board each year. The board has determined that in 2021 we will look at the schedule of expiring terms and adjust the number of years the new men will serve so we have people leaving the board every year. It may sound a bit complicated, but we will let you know how all this plays out once we have it figured out. 


              Sermons. The first four Sundays of November will look at some of the Great 3:16s of the Bible. We are all familiar with John 3:16. Three other 3:16 passages we will be looking at are Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 3:16; and 2 Timothy 3:16. The last Sunday of November we will begin addressing the themes of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. These sermons will provide us some great promises from God that we need to remember as we close out a crazy 2020. 


              Thanks for reading,


              Rick