Monday, December 30, 2013

The Keys To The Kingdom | galenamissions

The Keys To The Kingdom | galenamissions

Who is Jesus? This is the most important question we can answer according to Jesus. "Who do you say that I am?"
This sermon is in a series on church planting delivered by Pastor Chris Kopp to the Galena Bible Church, Sunday December 29th, 2013.

Friday, December 27, 2013

It's just different here

As I look out the window this cold December afternoon and gaze at the ice fog that -45F creates I cant help but be reminded that it's just different here.  Not different bad, not different good, just different from what was once normal. The week leading up to Christmas framed that well for me. Though the outcomes would have all been the same, the challenges and difficulties are just...well different.

Sunday of that week a friend asked me to come check out the plumbing situation at his home. To his and my chagrin we discovered that the boiler line that is supposed to keep the sewer tank from freezing was not working. This created a 4 foot by 3 foot by 6 foot block of...bush learning opportunity. There are a couple of things that are different here: First, who asks their pastor about plumbing problems? Outside the bush you call a plumber or boiler repairman. Second, who has a sewer tank in their home? Well most of Galena does. This has to be pumped out periodically by the city. We set up a heating system to thaw the pipes and tank and let it be to do it's work. It's just different.

The following day (Monday) I decided that I needed to go to the post office and stop by to check on our plumbing progress. I made a right hand turn but my van decided that it really wanted to move diagonally rather than follow the path that I was telling it to go. This resulted in me running into the drivers side corner of a community members truck. Mortified I got out, made sure he was OK, and assessed the damage to his rig. It was all surface damage to the bumper, fender, and door. Nothing mechanical, or structural. There are a couple of things different here: If I lived on the road system, we would exchange insurance, call a cop, and then call a tow company.  Higher insurance rates would come later, his truck would be fixed and that's the end of it. Here we have no cop, no insurance, no body shop, no wrecker company, nothing. So as I've committed to fixing his truck I'm still calling around to auto parts companies and dealing with the challenge of "we don't ship to Alaska". Once I locate parts I'll have to borrow someones garage and replace all the parts. It's just different.

The following day (Tuesday) I went to pick up our mail from the Post Office and when I put the van into reverse, the shifter on the steering column broke. It would go into Neutral, Drive, and Reverse, but not Park. No problem I'll just drive it over to the local auto shop and ... oh we don't have one of those. No problem I'll just stop by the auto parts place and pick up what I need to...oh we don't have one of those either. No, I'll order the part on Amazon and wait for it to arrive. A week later, the part has since arrived and the shifter has since broken further which has the van stuck in drive. The negative 40 temperatures outside have made it where I am not encouraged to work inside the van. (The repair involves me disassembling the steering column.)  It's just different.

The following Friday, our dog that we've had since we got married over 12 years ago decided to eat some uncooked bread dough that Shell had rising by the woodstove. She looked miserable when we found her, but we thought nothing of it since she's a dog and has been known to eat too much of things she wasn't supposed to. By Saturday morning she was unresponsive, and Sunday morning she died. Unbeknownst to us uncooked bread dough when ingested by dogs will let off Ethanol in sufficient volume to cause alcohol poisoning. If we lived where there was a vet we probably wouldn't have brought her in until it was too late anyway, but they would have made that discovery for us rather than us discovering it on our own. The outcome would have probably been the same, but the way it all happened was just different.

Two days later was Christmas Eve. We had a nice Christmas Eve service planned for the church body. However around 1pm I got a phone call from someone who stopped by church and told me that the thermostats were showing 40F. This is the lowest temp they display meaning it could be colder than that. I hurried over and found that the circulating pump on the boiler had seized up and wasn't heating the building. How many of you have a spare circulating pump sitting around? Galena Bible Church does! It's just different. After that was fixed and the heaters were working I left. When I returned at 5:30 to set up for the 6:30 service it had warmed up to a balmy 46F. In my experiences people would normally have said, "We should cancel church" or something like that. But these people kept their parkas on, drank coffee, sang beautiful Christmas Hymns of the joy in Christ's Advent, and observed the Lord's Supper. Never once a complaint, even from the kids warming their hands over the advent candles. It's different...and I love them.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.... Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.     James 1:2-4&12
The call to follow Jesus is just different. It's different from this world and it's different from how we normally think our lives should flow. We are always uncomfortable with different. I'm so glad that Jesus is not concerned with my comfort. Rather he is concerned with my joy in Him. He's just kinda different that way.

Things you can be praying for:
  • It would be great if we had a working vehicle again.
  • The Hornfischer family is still stuck in Germany awaiting the US Government to clear their religious workers Visas. Pray that they can return home soon.
  • Pray that the Lord would lead us to persons of peace in villages all across Alaska. 
  • There have been crisis reports up and down the river. Pray that the Lord would hold back the spiritual darkness that leads so many men to self harm.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Why Christmas?: The Wisemen and the fool


Earliest known depiction of the Magi, Mid 3rd Century fresco in the Catacomb of Priscilla


Does anyone else other than me judge the value and validity of a nativity set by how many wise-men it contains? We recently purchased a PlayMobile set and it came with one wise man. ONE! Haven't they read the Bible? I mean it says right here......hang on let me find it......I know it's here somewhere........it's right after the little drummer boy, right? Hey, there's no little drummer boy in my set either! I'm calling heresy!

All joking aside (I hope you were following that) the magi (or wise men) contain for us a mysterious element of the Christmas story. Who were they? From what nation did they come? How did they know that this star would lead them to the King born of the Jews? All questions that scripture does not answer. It just says:
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."     Matthew 2:1-2
Most scholars and traditions understand what was said about them to mean that they were astrologers from Persia. Men who's daily responsibility was to "read" the heavens. How a star moved through the sky and in what constellation it appeared was understood as a sign or omen about events in their world. It's interesting to note that this practice was expressly forbidden in the law of Moses. Herod, who was a puppet king of Rome, was a madman. Paranoid and murderous Herod would kill even his own children if he felt they were a threat to his power. No wonder the response of Herod to these magi's declaration is one of suspicion and espionage.
 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him...Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying. "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I to may come and worship him."
Funny how the man who was to lead the Jews was ignorant of the Scriptures yet these pagan astrologers were willing to leave their home, their king, their gods and worship this baby born in the obscurity of Bethlehem. 
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. They, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
The magi brought kingly gifts that were worthy of a royalty(Gold), worthy of a Divinity(Frankincense - incense for worship), and worthy of a mortal man  (Myrrh - used for embalming the dead). Valuable gifts that speak to what they believed about this newborn baby. They fell down and worshiped. Herod, more concerned about the security of his kingship, missed his King. The Magi, more concerned with worshiping Jesus, turned from idolatry. What can we learn from Herod and the Magi about Christ Worship (Christmas):

1. Worship is about submission: 
- Just as a wicked man sat on the throne at Jesus' birth, so too a wicked man sits on our thrown as well.
- Following Jesus means we give up our thrown to the only one worthy to occupy it.
- Herod thought he could thwart God's plan. That NEVER works.

2. Worship is about giving BECAUSE we've received. 
- Jesus is worthy of our worship because of who he is and what he has done. 
- Our worship is just our responding to who he is.
- The magi brought kingly gifts because God had given them a king.

3. Worship is about repentance:  
- Turning from idolatry to Jesus is about us exchanging what has no value to what holds greatest value.
- Repentance is not us being sorry for what we've done. It's about us turning from rebellion to submission.
- In the Magi's worship of Jesus they were acknowledging that what they had worshiped was not worthy of their worship. Our sin never leads us to great joy. 

It dawned on me that Herod did believe that Jesus was the Messiah. That's why he asked where he was to be born. He just didn't put his faith in him to follow him as the Magi did. Too many today do exactly as Herod did. They believe that Jesus is the Christ, Messiah, Savior of the world, but are unwilling to follow him by faith. Don't be a fool: follow and worship. Then one day maybe others would refer to us as wise men too.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why Christmas?: When God interupts your night with favor.

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby..."


Luke 2:8-20

Shepherds around the time of Jesus' birth were the modern equivalent in society of the garbage man: Someone that we know we really need, but not someone you generally think of as being "clean". This was the main problem for shepherds, they were unable to carry out the ceremonial washings that had made their way into Judaism. BUT they were the ones that made sure there were lambs available for temple worship and passover. Kind of a rock and a hard place. So it was that Shepherds provided their service on the edge of culture. They were brave, hardy men who lived in an open field and often were threatened by wild beasts and thieves who were trying to steal the sheep. 

It was to men like this that the greatest heavenly declaration was made: "Do not be afraid! I bring you good news (Gospel) of great joy (literally Mega-joy) that will be for all the peoples...a savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord." Then a great company of heavenly hosts appeared praising God and saying "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to men on whom His favor rests."

In an instant the night was shattered with Good News and God's favor. What were these men to do with this? Settle back down to their job? Discuss the personal ramifications of this information? Just forget all about it? No. They didn't do these things. And neither would we. Confronted with the Good News and God's favor our response should be the same as the Shepherds: Grow in Faith, Share the Joy, Adore God.

1. Grow in Faith - In the last blog post we understood that Immanuel (God with us) calls us to faith in God. The Shepherds heard of the good news, and of God's favor, and said "let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." Faith is never simply mental assertion, it is always accompanied by action. When we see a chair we judge if it will hold us if we sit in it. But it is not until we attempt to sit in it that it proves faithful. And once we have sat in it our faith in the chair grows because it has proved itself faithful. Simple illustration of what went on with the Shepherds and what goes on with us. When we comprehend the Gospel, and understand God's favor towards us in giving us His son we can either intellectually agree or dis-agree with the information, but we do not have faith in it until we "go and see". God's faithfulness is never in question. Jesus was already born. He was already lying in a manger. He was already wrapped in cloths. God invited them into His faithfulness, the same as He does for us.

2. Share the Joy - The Greek for the declaration is amazing. "Megas (Great) Chara (Joy)". I wish we'd just leave the first part in Greek: Mega joy. When the shepherds heard and saw (grew in faith) they "told everyone what had been told them concerning this child." Here he is! The long awaited Messiah! What else could they do but tell people. He was not just A messiah, he was THEIR messiah, THEIR savior, THEIR Christ! Unspeakable, glorious, wondrous joy was theirs because "a savior has been born". Evangelism is not about the simple dissemination of information to people who just need to know the facts. Evangelism is the proclamation of MEGA joy! We have a savior. God is with us. You should see this! And these shepherds didn't know the full story of their deliverance. By God's favor we know the full story of just what Christ would save us from (sin, death, and the wrath of God) and whom he would save us to (himself as a covenant child of God). Can we not help but share the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Or have we forgotten that joy.

3. Adore God - Vs 20 says "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them." We praise what we enjoy. When the mega-joy of the Gospel is seen and heard, not only do we tell others what we've seen and heard, but we praise God who orchestrated it and gave it. The famous CS Lewis quote on this seems appropriate:
All enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise...The world rings with praise - lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game...I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. (1)
 As we will see next week, we were made for worship. And with the "Good news of Great Joy" we cannot help but follow suit with the angels "Glory to God in the Highest" and the lowly shepherds "glorifying and praising" the One whom they now believed in. When God interrupts your night with His favor you will enter the dawn worshiping Christ the Lord.


(1) C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (Orlando: Harcourt, 1986, 94-95



Monday, December 9, 2013

Why Christmas? - Give me faith like Joseph


I remember seeing this video a number of years ago that was the Nativity as if it was told through Facebook. It was cute and funny but the part that really gripped me was that it was told mostly through the lens of Joseph's story. There isn't much told to us about this man other than he was a carpenter, and he was "a righteous man" who didn't want to expose his wife to be to public shame or death because she was pregnant, engaged to him and the baby wasn't his. This aspect of the Advent story has gripped my heart every Christmas for the past several years. His reputation is at stake, let alone his marriage, and future family. When the angel appears to him in a dream he calls Joseph to remember his Bible, to the story of Isaiah's appeal and prophesy to Ahaz, King of Judah.

Isaiah 7 "(Vs 4)Say to him (the king), "Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood (Syria, and Ephraim)...(Vs9b) If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all."

The prophet Isaiah had been called by God to deliver a message to the King of Judah who was facing a terrible situation. The leaders of Syria, and Ephraim had joined in opposition to Judah. The king had decided that the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" and was trying to align himself with Assyria. Isaiah's message is that the Lord will destroy both opposing nations, and that the king need merely to have faith in the Lord. Apparently the king does not listen and "again" in verse 10 Isaiah brings a message to the king, this time to show the quality of the kings faith.  (Vs11) "Ask the LORD your God for a sign" but Ahaz does not want proof because he does not want to believe God. So he acts pious and says (vs 12) "I will not ask: I will not put the LORD to the test." Isaiah responds with what has become one of the most famous prophecies of the Old Testament:
Vs 14 "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."

Immanuel

God with Us

Fear, Uncertainty, and a reputation on the line. These were what Ahaz had when he was confronted with Immanuel, a fulfilled prophesy in his own day. This prophesy was what we can call a "now and not yet" prophesy: one that would see a literal fulfillment in the time of the original hearer and one that would not see its full fulfillment until some time later. Ahaz did not choose faith in the Lord. He rather chose faith in an Assyrian kingdom, which would ultimately lead to the destruction of his linage and kingdom.Oh and God did still destroy Syria and Ephraim as He said. He just didn't deliver Judah. As one author says,
 "So it always is. Evidence cannot create faith; it can only confirm it. Where there is not faith, evidence is merely unwelcome, something which needs to be explained away."(1)
 Joseph is gripped with much the same as king Ahaz: Fear, Uncertainty, and a reputation on the line. The messenger of the Lord appears to Joseph and says:
Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:20b-21
A command and a sign (miracle), what does Joseph do?
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. (1:24)
 Immanuel means "God with Us" the significance is that in our fear, uncertainty, and identity God calls to us and says, "I'm with you". In His declaration of love for us he does not merely have someone else tell us of the love for those made in His image. He comes down and says it himself. Jesus says "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."Mt28:20

I am with you

Jesus is still Immanuel and he still poses the same question as He did for Ahaz and Joseph: Where's your faith?

"Why Christmas?" is a question I'll be asking over the next couple of blog posts and preaching about at church. Immanuel teaches us that Christmas was in part about our faith in God. Do we believe that He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do? Your choice this Christmas is when it comes to Immanuel, will you be like Ahaz or Joseph? Does Christmas evoke in you a deeper faith in the saving work of God through Christ? That God would show his salvation to us by being with us is one of the most glorious displays of grace that God gives to us. Let Christmas swell your heart in the assurance of your faith in Christ Jesus.



(1) - Oswalt, John. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40-66. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1998. 203. Print.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Reclaiming Thanksgiving

When you lose a significant amount of physical possessions in a natural disaster you begin to realize how much stuff you consider to be treasure. You realize this when you are looking for something that you need or "need" and are unable to find it. You can get really mad, grumpy, frustrated, and irritable that you can't find said object. It reminds me of how Gollum responds when he realizes that he doesn't know where his "precious" is. (Did I let my inner nerd slip out there?) Try as we might to not allow things to become "The Thing" our old nature slips us back once again to the place were we anchor our happiness to the temporal rather than the Eternal. And as I think of these things I stop, pray, and ask God how to be thankful with what I have.

Does anyone know what national sacred holiday happens this week?........... You guessed it, Black Friday. Oh that's not what you were thinking? You didn't think it was a holiday? Tell me how many commercials or ads did you see this week promoting thankfulness, contentment, family, grace, or community? I saw ads promoting covetousness, lust (does not just include skin), discontentment, greed, and idolatry. Oh and an ad for a new toaster oven that imprints the face of Jesus on every slice of bread. I need that.

No wonder our world, our country, and our families are in the state that they are in. Jesus says of those who hold value to this evil treasure that"out of the abundance (treasure) of the heart his mouth speaks" Luke 6:45b. What we have or don't have becomes the central focus of our speech. This is not thanksgiving. When that first group of Christians set foot off the Mayflower they were not looking for fortune (unlike other explorers of this new world). Rather they were looking for a place that was simpler, where they would be free to love Jesus and hear and obey His commands. Were they perfect? Of course not, but there was something that they had figured out that we could stand to be reminded of: "Thankfulness".
 My ancestor, William Bradford (great to the 11th power grandpa) , described the legacy they desired to leave by saying:
“May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: "Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice, and looked on their adversity, &c. Let them therefore praise the Lord, because He is good, and His mercies endure forever. Yea, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord, shew how He hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the; desert wilderness out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry, and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the Lord His loving kindness, and His wonderful works before the sons of men.” - Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647

The foundation that these men secured their lives to was that of the faithfulness of God. When the trials came they were not shaken because their foundation was secure. Too many today are like the man who Jesus described as "building his house upon the ground without a foundation." When the flooded river broke against the house its instant destruction was complete. That man's home was surely his treasure but he neglected the foundation that simply lay beneath a few feet of soil. He had the same opportunity as the man who built his house with a foundation. He had to "dig down deep" to build off of the foundation that was offered to him. That involved a clearing away. Maybe for Thanksgiving you can take the opportunity rather than looking at what more you want, to clear away that which isn't anchored to the foundation of Christ. If what you treasure cannot be anchored to Christ one day you will call it "rubble".

This Thanksgiving let Christians everywhere rejoice that they have a Rock to anchor all good things to and find our true happiness in His steadfastness. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Empty: At His Feet

Sunday Sermon Galena Bible Church November 17th, 2013.
galenamissions

We're Back

We are back. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually back in the job God has called us to. I want to apologize that I did not do a stellar job of keeping people up to date on the challenges we were facing via this Blog. To be honest every time I thought about sitting down to type this out I got nauseous because it seemed like one more thing out of a thousand to do. Let me give you the broad overview leading up to our 5 week hiatus "outside".

From the end of June to the beginning of October we recruited and hosted over 230 volunteers to come and serve in flood ravaged Galena. We had volunteers from Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvanian, Alabama, California, and Washington State. We also had volunteers from all corners of the road system in Alaska (Homer, Soldotna, Kenai, Anchorage, Big Lake, Glen Allen, Palmer, Nenana, and Fairbanks). These volunteers logged just shy of 11,000 man-hours of volunteer labor (or 1 1/4 years of non-stop work) in about 14 weeks. The last number i was told was that we helped in some capacity to restore 45 homes.

While on our recent trip when people asked about the challenges of rebuilding I came up with the best non bush explanation that I could think of: "How many trips to Lowes does it take you to complete a basic weekend project?" Average answer was 4 trips. I said now imagine that you had 45 weekend projects and each trip to Lowes took about 2 weeks in transit (at best) and you'll begin to know the frustration that we felt. There was a significant amount of time spent driving around Galena looking for a specific plumbing part that "might" be in a tote that "should" be under the garage at "so in so's house". The Galena Bible Church early on began to gather basic consumible "job stopper" goods and became a clearing house for basic tools and supplies. Even the FEMA volunteers began to use us as a resource to meet their needs. It was a unique way that we were able to be a practical help.

Speaking of FEMA volunteers ours were not the only volunteers in town. FEMA sponsored about 80 United Methodist volunteers and around 10 Southern Baptist volunteers who in teams of 10 served two weeks at a time. Sunday services were packed to bursting and standing room only on most Sundays with attendance near 100.

During the middle of October Shell, Me, and the kids left for a 5 week homeservice/vacation. I mentally felt like I crawled on the plane exhausted and burnt out. And God's timing and peace are perfect. We had opportunity to rest, reconnect as a family, be loved on and share the story of what God has accomplished. I was blessed to preach at two different churches, take my wife on two date nights, read one and a half good books, and regain a clarity for the next season of ministry. When I stepped back in the pulpit at Galena Bible Church yesterday I did so with a renewed spirit and a fresh burden to share the hope of Christ. I'll be preaching a series I'm calling "Empty" as we look what it means to be emptied for Christ so that we can be filled with Christ. Check it out at our podcast (www.galenamissions.podbean.com)

Things you can be praying for:
  • Galena Bible Church Elders will meet this week to plan how to most effectively move forward with recover efforts in the Spring. Pray that we would know what to say no to and what to invest our energy in.
  • Galena YoungLife has several blessings and challenges you can be praying for. GYL has started a weekly Campaigners (Bible Study) and WildLife (Jr High club) in addition to regular Club. Pray that the volunteers would be able to build deep and impacting relationships with teens. You can also pray that the Lord would provide the right Area Director to fill the open position.  
  • The infrastructure of Galena is still strained from recovery. In addition to that our Police officer resigned and we have no local law enforcement. Pray that cooler heads would prevail and that the Lord would protect Galena.
  • Martin and Silke Hornfischer (SEND Missionaries who serve in Galena) are still awaiting their VISA Renewal in Germany so they can return to here. Martin oversees outreach for the Bible Church and is desperatly needed back. Would you agree with me to pray that the Lord brings them back soon.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What does moose hunting have to do with disaster recovery?

What does moose hunting have to do with disaster recovery. Well I asked myself the question "how do you rebuild a village?" And the answer was the same as asking how do I harvest this 1200 lbs moose 1.3 miles from camp?"
1. You don't try to do it all in one piece. 
       The average moose has to be butchered into 7 to 8 game bags each weighing anywhere from 75# to 125#. 
Some projects are really simple for recovery: a valve needs to be installed or paint needs to go up. Other projects are really big: lifting a house 3 feet, moving a bathroom from one side of a house to another, etc. The list of needs feels like a thousand moose on the ground, but the principle is still the same. One piece at a time. 
2. Expect to get tired. 
       1.3 miles with a hundred pounds on your back will be tiring. Doing that four times with a 1.3 mile return each will leave a lasting mark on your back and knees. 
Sometimes in life we are presented with challenges that we would rather sleep through. The keys to moving forward when exhaustion comes is to take a breather every now and then, just focus on getting the next goal not the end, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. You're going to get tired but rest is coming. 
3. Ask for help. 
    I (by God's great grace) was able to send a text message to Shell to let her know of my success and asked if there were any guys from church who were available to come out to help. Two men responded and came to pack out the last two loads! Which was awesome cause I was physically spent. 
Galena Bible Church has facilitated the recruitment of around 200 volunteers to serve in Galena. The United Methodist Disaster Relief has now sent  50 volunteers to date and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers hit the ground today in Galena. This is outstanding because BIble Church Volunteers end around the fourth of October. And there's still work to be carried out. 

Things you can be praying for:
- pray for GBC recovery leaders who are exhausted. 
- pray for safety and success for hunters who are trying to replace meat that was lost in the May flood. 
- pray that as more complicated decisions are needed to be made about how we respond through the winter that the Lord would grant wisdom to leadership. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Modern Day Footwashing

John 13:1-17 is one of my favorite stories in scripture. The imagery of Jesus washing His disciples feet is almost unbelievable. When you picture this man who spoke the wold into existence, called a dead man back to life, walked on water, and gave sight to the blind on his hands and knees washing dirt from between the toes of some twenty-somethings it is always a startling picture. And Jesus meant for it to be startling. Because this is not how the world, in it's fallen nature, works. The president does not take the job of opening the door for the White House janitor staff. The chairman of the UN does not expend effort to collect everyone's' jackets and hang them up at the UN meeting. The CEO of the Fortune 500 does not help the unpaid intern file last years expense receipts. And the King of the Universe certainly does not pick toe cheese from disciples toes. But he did. 24 dirty, smelly feet. And then he asked them a question: "Do you know what I have done for you?"

Do you know what I have done for you?

Foot washing was the lowest common courtesy that was extended to anyone that came into a home in the culture of Jesus' day. Like asking someone if they would like something to drink when they come into your home, it was just common courtesy to wash your guests feet. And it was the job for the "lowest" ranked person in the house to do. Since Jesus and his disciples were borrowing the space to prepare to celebrate the passover there was no one there to perform this task. And none of the disciples were anxious to volunteer for the task. So Jesus set an example for them that they should follow in it. He did this for us too. It wasn't that he just washed their feet. He washed them with his life. Giving it up for them and us that we should be washed by his blood for our guilt. Then he said to them: "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet." What does that mean for us today. It means taking the tasks that others need but are "beneath" you. It means asking "How can I serve you?" to your coworkers, family members, and your congregation. It means looking for those people who are in need or have needs that are not being met by their current circumstances and saying "What can I do to help?" Jesus said that if we did these things that those around us would "know that you are my disciples, by your love for one another." Does the world know that we are disciples of Jesus because we wear tshirts that say so, or because we listen to music that says so, or because we have shown them by our love for one another.

As the Galena Bible Church has been trying to respond to the flood disaster that has devastated Galena we have been asking the question "How can we wash their feet?" So far by God's grace and the generosity of our sister churches we have cycled through close to 160 volunteers over the past 5 weeks.  Working in nearly 40 homes we've been involved in everything from building material lists, fixing unstable foundations, insulating, sheet rocking, rewiring, plumbing, heating, cabinetry, flooring, painting, framing, finish carpentry, automotive/small engine repair, baby sitting, meal preparation, firewood cutting/splitting, demolition, house moving, berry picking, and winter meat preparations (jarring). All jobs that desperately needed to be done, but no one else was able to step up to and accomplish. I've watched as members of the church laboriously served each other and their neighbor sludge through wet insulation, and painstakingly sort through damaged possessions to see what could be salvaged.

We're exhausted. The Bible Church team that has been coordinating volunteers, providing transportation, cooking, prioritizing work, evaluating work, documenting jobs on facebook, recruiting additional volunteers, and shuttling tools and materials has done a fantastic job. Every entity from the federal, state, and local level has over and again acknowledged that without the volunteer efforts of the Bible Church most of the domestic work that has been accomplished would not have been. The hard (rather impossible) work that the entities were powerless to do has been done by the body of Christ. Why? Because we remember our Lord's question: Do you know what I have done for you? What we were powerless to do, Christ did on the cross on our behalf. Our greatest prayer is that Galena would know that about Jesus as they see what we are doing for them.

Things you can be praying for:
- Safety for the volunteers as they travel and work in Galena. Last week one volunteer fractured her hip when she fell off a dozer while trying to get away from a bear. (Can't make this stuff up.)
- Safety and success as men from the church venture out for moose.
- Rest for the GBC members who are tirelessly serving Galena.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The "outside's" alright.


At a dinner prepared for volunteers, a local man stood in the middle of the crowd and declared his deepest thanks to those serving in the community. He said "for many of us who consider those non-Alaskans as "those from the outside" there are some really great people out there". 
In the coarse of the previous two weeks, volunteers through Galena Bible Church had come from Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Washington as well as Anchorage, Palmer, Glenallen, Willow, and Fairbanks Alaska!
To varying degrees of construction GBC volunteers have served in 15+ homes. From helping to muck and gut, to building material lists, to insulating, building stairs, and putting the final coat of paint GBC members and volunteers have been in the mix of rebuilding the hope of the village.
In the above photo of the church service, over half of those in attendance were volunteers here to help rebuild homes!
Things you can be praying for:
- Pray for GBC families as they try to reunite after an entire summer apart. 
- Pray for Galena City School District as staff begins the challenging work of putting the school back together in time for school to start.
- Pray that volunteers would continue to be drawn to come and serve in the community.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Our evacuation story

I've been so busy rebuilding that I have not taken the time to write out our story from the flood. Luckily I am married to a very talented writer who took the time to get the story down. It is worth your time to read it.
http://koppfamilynews.blogspot.com/2013/07/our-evacuation-story.html?m=1

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Positions of Strength in the Valley of Adversity


Sunday Sermon "Positions of Strength in the Valley of Adversity"

Federal Disaster Declared









The day in day out work continues all around my village. You can see on people's faces the wearying nature that this desaster is putting on people. But in the midst of the trial God's good favor is ever present.
Conditions report: As I previously mentioned our home took 2 feet of water, with our shop taking right at 4 feet. The church building took right at 1 inch. I spent the first week after I returned      removing damaged furniture, clothing, bedding, food, books, toys, etc, then was able to pull the carpet. I left for a brief time to get Shell and the kids off for a more normal summer. When I returned I began to cut out all drywall/insulation at four feet. Along with removing the insulation from the floor of the house. Thank the Lord for the help from other men in the church. I'd still be cutting Sheetrock otherwise. After three weeks of no functioning sewer I was finally able to reconnect the lines. One week after that I was able to cobble together a system for running water. This is only a temporary fix and will have to be drematically altered before winter if the city isn't able to reestablish running water.
Two Sundays ago we coordinated with a team of three snow machine mechanics who worked one day and were able to save 13 snow machines for 10 families.
Currently I'm hosting a team of five from the Gathering Place Church in Pineville Louisiana. Three teens and two adults. And they have been doing a great job serving. 
Finally I've been blessed to have a SEND Summer Missionary named Ben Martinkie who chose to come to Galena. He's staying with me and has been here since mid June.
By the end of this week the parsonage and church building will be compleatly ready for materials to arrive.

Things you can be praying for:
- that Galena would know of the love and  grace of God through our continued actions. 
- Pray for the pastors that will be seeing Galena next week. Pray that God would stir up in them a deep passion for missions and church planting in the villages of Alaska.
- pray for me and the other men of the church who are separated from our families for this season.
- pray that The Lord would lesson the mosquito population.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Beginning to rebuild


We are beginning to get our feet under us as we process what has happened and how we can best move forward. Over the next two to three weeks we'll be looking to mobilize a couple of small teams to help in the tear out and clean up of homes. The church was largely spared major damage and will be used to house volunteers. 
If you would like to come on a team or organize a team please contact Kim Kopp at galenarebuilders@gmail.com
If you would like to financially contribute you can see the previous post for an avenue that will support the church in relief efforts.
Things you can be praying for:
- safety for Shell and the kids as they travel south for the summer.
- sanity for me as I serve without my family.
- prayer for the body of Christ as we live the Gospel in this situation.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Galena flood relief

As I write this I sit in the church office of Fairhill community church of God in Fairbanks. Undoubtedly many of you have heard of the enormous floods that we've had in Galena. My own home and the church building along with many if not most of the community members homes were damaged by flood waters. Many of you have been asking how you can help. Many of you have asked how you can help in an immediate way. We need funds available to purchase needed things immediately. Would you consider going to www.akmissionconnection.org/galena-relief/
And donating as you feel led. All monies donated will be given to the Galena Bible Church for the use of rebuilding Galena and the community. 
If you have resources or volunteers that you would be willing to donate to use in the restoration process please email
Galenarebuilders@gmail.com

Things you can pray for:
- Safety for those who are still in Galena working.
- Wisdom for my leadership as we try to establish how to best recover.
- That the glory of God would be seen in how believers love this community with the Gospel.
- Pray for me and other men in the church as we return in the next few days to help with the rebuilding process.
 

Monday, May 20, 2013

The LONG Spring

Gassing up for my morning commute to Church.
A good Sunday morning service.

 What a busy, but great month it's been. The first weekend of this month, Galena YoungLife hosted an After-Prom that had a 95% participation from students from both the city school and boarding School. We hosted some of the out of town participants at our home and members from our church helped chaperone the event, and made breakfast for all the kids.

At the same time that was happening, retired Lt Colonel Kent Wong came on a vision trip for a week to learn how to support bush missions. One of the highlights of his trip was to get to go to Huslia with Don and Brenda Ernst. Don pastors the Huslia Community Church and they have been in Huslia for 23 years.

Lt Col. (ret) Kent Wong and I on our way to Huslia.

Pastor Don Ernst calling in our ride on his Satellite phone.

Our Taxi arrived
Our Sister Church in Huslia. Huslia Community Church.                  


 We were able to attend their church service (which they do on Sunday evenings). And get a tour of Huslia. Don shared about how they've become a part of the community, and his vision to see missionaries in the other villages of the Koyukuk River system. They're church of 35 is busting at the seams and they will be adding onto the log church building this Summer.
No joke...this was missionaries Don and Brenda Ernst's first house in Huslia. They used to get a sheet of ice build up inside the house during the winter.


Chris "shopping" at the "mini-mall" (next to the city dumpster, not to be confused with the "mall" which is the city dump.)
 Mother's Day Sunday was our last Sunday with the students before they left. We spent about a third of the service praying for the students. Many are returning to places where there is no Gospel witness. Our charge to them was that they would be so empowered by the Holy Spirit that they would begin to lead Bible studies and share their faith in their own communities.  This past Friday was graduation and Saturday was the mad rush of planes flying the 160 dorm students back to all corners of Alaska.

As of right now, the Yukon river has not broken up. If the river does not break before May 26th, it will be the latest break-up since records have been kept (100 years). This is delaying our drift wood harvest which we need to get for the boiler that we will be installing in the church this Summer.

Things you can be praying for:
  • Pray for the Students that Galena Bible Church has invested in over the last year. Pray that young believers would be protected from the temptations and dangers that exist for many of them.
  • Pray that the river breakup would be uneventful. Pray for the Village of Eagle that flooded late last week. 
  • Pray for Brad and Madeline Fox (SEND Missionaries) who will be returning to Galena at the beginning of June from a home service.
  • Pray for Martin and Silke Hornfischer (SEND Missionaries) as they travel to Germany for the summer months and work through their Visa renewal. Pray that they'll be able to smoothly transition back to Galena from their home service.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Meta-Narative

Several years ago there was a movie called "The Truman Show" where Jim Carey played a man who's whole life had been a TV show without his knowing it. He thinks the world around him is normal and real, but in reality it is all an act. Since that movie was produced psychologists have categorized a mental disorder for people around that idea. The Truman Show delusion is a type of persecutor/grandiose delusion in which patients believe their lives are staged plays or reality television shows (1). They believe that the story revolves around them.
Unfortunately all of us at some time or another can slip into that same mindset. That the world does (or at least should) revolve around us. We're not clinical, and when confronted with the truth we are quick to acknowledge that we are in fact not the center of the universe. This is where it is helpful for us as Christians to understand what it means for us to be in the "Meta-narrative" of God's redemptive work(that can be your new word for the week). A meta-narrative is a larger story that is comprised of many smaller stories, but ultimately is about one story. Think Lord of the Rings trilogy, not just Gollum and Sam Wise arguing over the proper preparation of rabbit. The Bible is Meta-narrative. There are individual stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, 700 left handed slingshot welding hair killers (it's in there...you'll have to dig for it). And of course there's Jesus, the cross, resurrection, ascension, and coronation. And then there's us. Did you know you are in the Bible? Jesus prayed for you. God knew you before the foundation of the earth and determined to redeem you for His glory. The story isn't about us, though we are in it. The story is about Jesus who is throughout it all, from the first promise, to the covenants, to the sacrifices, to the remnant, to Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church, and You. The story is one whole story of God's faithfulness, love, grace, and justice. Our little subplot is a small part of the eternal story of God.
A young woman who became a Christian a couple of months ago blessed my and Shell's story by sharing what God is burdening her heart for. There is no church in her village. No one who would teach the Bible. No one who would declare God's love to her people, her family. So this summer, she will. She's already asked permission to hold a Bible study. This young believer has come to know the story of God and wants to be a part of it! Who knows what the Lord can do with her, but I'm praying that he leads an entire village to faith in Jesus because this precious one was willing to walk in faith. Would you be praying for that with us?
No matter where you are in your own story, remember you are a part of the Meta-narrative of God's eternal glory, and redemptive purpose in His creation. Thanks for being a part of our story as well.

Things you can be praying for:
  • Students - As school ends our students will return to places where, for some of them, there is no Gospel teaching church. Pray for them for streangth, and pray that we as a church would be able to stay connected with them over the summer.
  • SEND North Missionaries - Many of the missionary families that we work closely with are experiencing various trials. Pray that discouragement would not win the day, but rather that perseverance would be built up leading to greater faith.
  • The City of Galena - currently the Yukon river ice is just under 5' thick. When the river finally breaks there is always the possibility of severe flooding for the villages along the Yukon. Pray for protection and specifically for gradually warming weather.

Monday, April 8, 2013

My Beloved Friend

Song of Songs 5:16 "...This is my beloved, and this is my friend..."
Getting  seated for date night in the decorated church.
Marriage and relationships take a special kind of abuse when one lives in a place such as rural Alaska. There are stressors and battles that are somewhat unique to the environment. Lack of date type opportunities, physical demands of a subsistence lifestyle, and the direct exposure to loss and grief on almost every level take a toll on marriages.  I've seen this from a distance before being here and have witnessed it first hand even in my own marriage since beginning to pastor the Bible Church. The primary job of a pastor is to shepard his people as an under-shepard to Christ. This means that one of my main jobs is to lead them to places of rest and refreshment. I can't make them rest, and I can't make them refresh themselves, but I can provide the opportunity for it to happen. It's also REALLY expensive for me to say "Hey there's a marriage conference in Anchorage ($900per person round trip) or Fairbanks ($420per person round trip) you should go!" So what does the 'do-it-yourselfer' in me do... we do it ourselves!

April 1st and 2nd Galena Bible Church hosted a marriage conference that we titled "My Beloved Friend" based on the scripture above. On April 3rd we held a date night for anyone who had attended at least one of the sessions of the conference. By God's grace a team of four guys through Arctic Barnabas Ministries and AK Mission Connection were able to come and help put on a Bible kid's club with the help of our local CEF teens to provide childcare for all three days! They also coordinated the meal preparation and served the food at the date night!

After multiple unsuccessful attempts at finding a speaker I ended up teaching the two different sessions. We offered two time slots during the day to accommodate for those who work an evening shift. The first day I taught about five threats to oneness that effect every married couple and lead us away from God's intent of husband and wife to be "one flesh". The second day I taught on friendship in marriage as it relates to romance according to Song of Songs 7 and 8.  All told we had 32 people who attended the conference sessions! Unfortunately there was a virus that started around the village and a ton of our kids got it so there was a big drop off the night of the date night (major bummer!). But those who were able to attend extremely enjoyed the Halibut enchiladas, Mexican side dishes, and non-fried fried ice cream for dessert! We made up plates and delivered them to the other attenders at their homes. All said and done, it was a huge success and I pray that marriages will be strengthened through what we learned in God's Word.

Things you can be praying for:
  • Next week we'll be heading in Anchorage to attend the SEND North Annual Conference. Pray that we'll be intentional to take it as a time to rest as a family.
  • Pray for the ministry team here in Galena as the Lord continues to open up doors for church planting and ministry in the surrounding villages.
  • PRAISE - For Easter Sunday we had over 80 people in attendance at Church. Pray that the Gospel that was presented would soften the hearts of it's hearers.
  • Galena Bible Church's annual meeting is at the end of this month. Pray that as we seek to implement some changes in the constitution that the body would be unified and directed.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Just a Picture Post

I've posted a lot of blog posts in recent months that are just me rambling. And I know everyone really wants to see pictures. So here ya go!
Kid's Sunday School

Church Service (kinda low Sunday)


The master mechanic Beau who fixed my rig. (I have to admit that I had serious beard envy while he was here!)


Getting the kiddo's ready for a Snowshoe race at the Spring Carnival.


Arctic Barnabas Ministries sent Jim and Terri Hibbard out to house sit one of the SEND missionary families homes. They were such a blessing to us and fixed dinner for us several times. Thanks guys!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ministry, Missions, and the Hope of the Resurection

Today we celebrated Maudy Thursday, the day that we celebrate the Last Supper, and Jesus washing the disciples feet. Most people are familiar with Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. But lowly Maudy gets forgotten. To me, it sets the stage for the for the culmination of the passion of Christ. On this day we remember the King of Kings (as seen on Palm Sunday and Easter) becoming and serving as the lowliest of household slaves. He told His disciples that they did not understand what he was doing yet, but they would. And so it was that the next day, Jesus was crucified. A death reserved for slaves and criminals. I often dwell on the image of Christ washing the disciples feet. It's the reason that I preach barefoot. I long to have Jesus wash my feet, and I long to do likewise to my church and community. Jesus told Peter, "Unless I wash your feet you have no part in me."
Ministry, and mission is just that: Finding culturally specific ways to wash peoples feet with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is as challenging today as it was for Jesus. There are Judas' today, who will wound you deeply. There are Peter's today too, who will be by your side until you really need them and then they are gone. But there is no distinction between them in the manner in which we are called to love and humbly serve them. As we have been united with Christ "unto death" we know the hope of the Resurrection. It has shaped our hearts after His heart, the same heart that washed the disciples feet. Peter came to know the hope of the Resurrection after Jesus washed his feet. So it is that all who come to know Jesus will do so by the washing of the Word.
Jesus prayed for His Disciples and for us on that evening before His death. He prayed "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (Joh 17:17-23)

This is what the people of Alaska so desperately need. May the remembrance of our resurrected savior fill your hearts with love for the family of God and a unique desire to wash the feet of those around you.



Things you can be praying for:
  • This Monday and Tuesday, Galena Bible Church will be hosting a marriage conference. Pray that I (Chris) will be able to clearly teach and encourage the people who attend to understand what Solomon was talking about when he said "This is my beloved, and this is my friend". Pray that members of the community would attend.
  • Pray for the Dennis Agajanian concert tonight, that the Gospel would be clearly understood and that the Holy Spirit would move people to respond.
  • Pray as we send a Galena Bible Church team up to Ruby Bible Church to hold an Easter service with them. Pray the small body there would invite members of the community to come hear the message of Christ.
  • Pray for our connection to the village of Nulato, that the Lord would continue to open up doors for church planting in that village.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

All things new

 Good book I just finished. This was one of my favorite lines: "The cross of the battered Christ will be the battering ram for the barricade of Eden." - Matt Chandler The Explicit Gospel

One does not need to look far to see that there is something broken in the world around us. Something deep and pervasive. Something spiritual and natural. We also know there is hope in the brokenness. We can see it in the "feel" of the changing seasons. Spring is showing hints that winter's icy grip is being loosened upon the interior of Alaska. Days are growing longer, daily temperature highs are reaching into the 20s (above zero). Hope is returning. There is a unique sense of hopelessness that comes as a result of the drudgery of winter. Haul wood, burn wood, try to get outside when the sun's up...repeat. A pile of firewood is the ultimate illustration of what Solomon meant when he said that everything was vanity. You do all this work cutting, hauling, splitting, and stacking. What happens to all this work...it turns to smoke. Vanity. There is a lingering memory of warmer days, and sunshine. But as the season changes, we are reminded that there is something more splendid coming than what we are experiencing now.
The more I talk with people who are believers and non-believers alike I find hurt and longing. Hurt as a result of the wounding of sin and death. Longing as it relates to the ancient memory that we once walked with God. Everyone feels that there is (at the very least) the possibility of something better. For those who, by the grace of Christ, have become disciples of Jesus we have experienced the reality that He "makes all things new." (Rev 21:5) We know the end of the story. We've seen the promise of spring. We know that in the end He will "wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Rev 7:17) I've seen a lot of tears over the past several months, and I long for that holy day when God's almighty finger gently removes the last tear ever cried. He promised it, and he is not one to break a promise. Until that day, I am reminded that there are tears to be wiped by me, there's wood that needs to be hauled, sermons that need to be prepared, and people who need to hear the Gospel that Christ has by his cross made all things new.
Teaching young men how to fell a tree. We've done an event the past two months for young men teaching them basic "manly skills" and sharing the message of the Gospel in how it relates to who we are as men.

Hauling wood. Thanks to Jim Hibbard from Arctic Barnabas for his help on this trip!

Things you can be praying for:
  • We are attempting to host a marriage conference, April 1-3rd at the Galena Bible Church. Pray that all of the resources and man power would organize for us to be able to do this event. 
  • Pray for safety for the men of the Bible Church as we cut firewood this month. 
  • Martin Hornfischer and I will be traveling to Aniak to connect with other missionaries for training this week. Pray that God gives us clarity in how we can best reach our communities and unreached villages with the Gospel.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Baptism at ten below

Testimony



Theresa (SEND missionary) who spent a year living the gospel in front of Kimberly!
Well, as you can tell by the above pictures we cheated the weather for this baptism. It may have been -10F outside, but thanks to the City of Galena, the indoor pool was very comfortable. Sure beats cutting a whole in the Yukon (don't worry, we wouldn't actually do that.)
Kimberly shared her story of God's great grace towards her. We celebrated baptism after our normal church service and all drove over to the pool. Later that day I was talking with Martin Hornfischer (a SEND Missionary in Galena) and we realized that since we've been here, there have been four people who have become believers who are faithfully growing in their walk with Christ! What a great encouragement to know that God is blessing the faithful service of believers in Galena.
Last week the youth group from Faith Bible Fellowship ended their 8th annual mission trip to Galena. They were such a blessing to the various ministries in Galena. One of the guys spent an entire day helping me get the transmission out of our explorer. Praise God, we got it out and sent into Anchorage to be rebuilt. Hopefully we'll have it back by the middle of March and can start putting the truck back together. Just another example of the unique challenges experienced while serving in the bush.

Things you can be praying for:
  • We'll be sending a team to the village of Ruby in the next couple of weeks to encourage the group of believers there. Pray that God would grant safety, and provide new connections to the community.
  • Pray for Brad and Madeline Fox (SEND Missionaries) as they continue to wait on the Lord's leading for where to plant a church in the interior of Alaska.
  • At the end of March Galena Bible Church will be hosting a Marriage conference. I (Chris) will be leading the teaching and a team from Louisiana will be providing child care and facilitating a date night for those who attend. Please begin praying now that as we advertise this in the community we'd make some connections with couples that need encouragement. Pray for the couples from the church that will attend, that they will be reminded of what it means when Solomon says "This is my beloved, and this is my friend." 
  • Pray for Carry the Cure & Broken Walls as they come and share their message of hope along the Iditarod trail. They'll be in Galena March 5th.

The Work of the Gospel: Adoption


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Martin Hornfischer preaches on Adoption at the Galena Bible Church on February 24th, 2013.