Christmas. It’s Your Story

write

Here we go! It’s Christmas season. Trees are going up. Decorations are being hung. Parties and events put on calendars. All leading to a December 25th celebration. What we do each year resembles the spirt of heaven as they prepared for our Saviors birth. Imagine with me the gasps of Heaven as our Lord begins to unfold His plans. From what family, what lineage will you come? A king? A priest? A politician or religious leader? God responds, no, a twelve-year-old girl who will be engaged to a fourteen-year-old young man. A puzzled look. A frown and questions. Are you serious? Don’t you realize the ramifications? What people will say? God says, I’m fully aware. This way people will know that I can come to anyone in any situation. Another angel, sensing tension, asked from what city will you come? Jerusalem? Hebron? No, Nazareth. More puzzled looks and questions. Why Nazareth? It’s off the beaten path? A poor and forsaken area? God replies, yes, so I can identify with those who are forgotten and broken. As the Heavens grow more still, another asks. When will you go? God responds, around the time that Caesar Augustus takes a census. More gasps. Gabriel says, you realize that means that she will be nearly full term? That they will have to travel for Nazareth to Bethlehem. The weather, it will be cold and wet. Yes, I know, but I will be with them and as I am with them, I will be with others who face hardships. The story of Christmas is not so far from your story. A story with ebb and flow, twist and turns. Christmas. It teaches us to never lose faith and never lose hope. God is with us.

Thank You, Jesus

tyj

Thank you, Jesus. Above all, we give thanks that the God that created all, robed himself in flesh. He came and dwelt among us, was crucified, resurrected and ascended into heaven creating a way that we could have eternal life. We give thanks for His love, mercy and grace. There is no sin that is too great and no place His grace and mercy cannot get to. There is always hope. We acknowledge and give thanks that God provides for us. He meets our needs of food, water, shelter and clothing. While we may not have everything we want, we are blessed with provision. Beyond meeting our needs, “He daily loads us with benefits,” as David says in Psalm 68. Many of our lives are filled with blessings and luxuries that makes life so much easier than many. We give thanks that God looks over us. As Jeremiah 29 says, “He knows the plans He has for us, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” While life is full of hardships and difficulties, we are blessed to have a God that knows our ways and goes through them with us. We look forward in expectation and thanks, knowing that if we obey His Word and trust His plan, we will share an eternal life with people of the ages, family and friends. Our future home is a land filled with mansions and streets of gold. It is a place filled with joy, happiness and worship. There is no more pain, sickness or death. No more sin and evil. It is where will meet Jesus again. Thank you, Jesus.

A Shout Out to Volunteers

voluntA person who performs a service willingly and without pay. It’s the definition of a volunteer, but actually describes so many people who make Life their home. Today, we honor those who make Life an amazing place to worship. They are the “seven men” of good character found in Acts 6. They serve without compensation, work in the shadows and often are under appreciated. Volunteers are the backbone, guts and glue of Life. They are single parents walking through difficult seasons. They’re young couples, some with young children, whose lives are filled with demands. They are seasoned adults who could relax and enjoy church. They are seniors who want the next generation to know and experience the powerful God they did. Its people who show up nearly every Saturday to pray for an anointing on everything we do; every service, every ministry and every person, covered in prayer. It’s worship teams, audio, video and lighting people, here early on Sunday mornings and in the middle of the week, making sure that the environment you experience in worship is the best. Its individuals serving in the nursery and toddler’s classes. Its teams creating incredible worship experiences for our kids’ classes. Its people who make FSM and Hyphen events work. Its gifted and talented people that share their abilities for the Kingdom. They do carpentry, paint, provide landscaping, plant flowers and help keep the place clean. Finally, it’s anyone who greets, smiles and makes every guest want to return. To everyone who serves, in any way, we honor you today. Without you, Life does not work. Thank you for blessing us with your gifts and talents.

Giving Thanks

thanksOne of the principles that the Bible teaches about God, is that He loves when we give thanks. In Psalm 136, David devotes an entire chapter to giving thanks unto the Lord. This month our goal is to do the same. Today, we say thanks to our Life family for the support of Life’s vision. Your commitment to the vision has created a wonderful place to worship and place where people feel safe as they discover God in a personal way. Your kindness to our family over the past year is so appreciated. As we walked through the difficult journey of losing Mary’s mother there were so many cards, text and kind gestures. We were absolutely shocked when we walked into the funeral home to find nearly half the flowers were from the Life family and friends. This past month we celebrated the marriage of our daughter, Risa. Again, the Life family was incredibly amazing as we celebrated her special day. We were so moved by your kindness and generosity of time and energy. Finally, thank you to everyone who sent cards, gifts, texted or simply spoke a word of encouragement during Pastoral Appreciation month. We are blessed to serve so many amazing families and people. People who serve unselfishly, are growing in Christ and many who have been walking through incredibly difficult times. We are thankful to call you a part of the Life family and thankful to be able to share life’s journey with you. Thank you for being a part of our life!

Three Trees

3 TreesThree sunset maple trees. All bought at an end of the year clearance sale. I planted the two best trees in the strip between our sidewalk and street and the scrawnier tree in the side yard. This week, three years after planting them, and while enjoying the colors, I noticed two things about the trees. First, the two trees near the street had brilliant red leaves while the one planted in the side yard had more golden-brown leaves. Second, the two trees in the front were now smaller, their trunks not as thick and branches not as high. The tree that was once scrawny was now much taller and thick. What produced the difference? Soil and water. The trees planted in poorer soil had taken in less water. While their color was brilliant, the smaller overall growth was evidence that they were getting less water. The tree in the side yard, where the soil was richer and water more available, showed growth; its roots had grown deep and its branches higher. What is true of trees is true of Christians. Where we are planted and how much spiritual nutrition we take in, is important. Jesus talked about the importance of soil, of being in the right place spiritually, in His parable about seeds. Paul said where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, or growth. May I suggest that where we plant our life is important. Here are a few suggestions where to plant your life. In His Word. In His presence. In a place of prayer. In His House. Get planted in the right place and watch your life explode in growth and brilliant color.

Modern Christianity. A mixture of Christ and Carnality

fuzzy-faith.jpgThere’s been a shift in what it means to be a Christian. Once being a Christian meant being Spiritual. It meant desiring to live godly and holy. It meant seeking after God, scouring the Bible, weeping as we learned more about Him and seeing how we had fell short. There was a desire in Spirit filled people to be led and controlled by His Spirit. Conviction would send us to prayer in tears. Today’s Christianity is filled with watered down feel-good intentions and warm fuzzy moments. It’s a verse posted on Instagram instead of devouring His Word in hunger to know Him. It’s a praying hands text, instead of hours of interceding for change in us or a situation. Most have no concept of the principle Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?” Today’s Christianity is a mixture of Christ and carnality. We exhibit our faith on Sundays but live by our feelings the rest of the week. In Acts there are many people we should emulate. Two in particular are Stephen and Cornelius. In Acts 6 we are introduced to Stephen. He’s a man full of faith; a man full of and controlled by the Spirit. In Acts 10 we discover Cornelius. He’s a devout man; a man of continual prayer, who idolized, honored and held sacred things that God valued. These men were not just Christians, they were Spiritual men. It’s a wonder that there is so much angst and rejection of Christianity. When Christianity is watered down it is worthless. As we end the Month of the Family, I challenge you to become more than a Christian. Dedicate to making your home and family more than passionless spectators. Let’s be Spiritual. People who are full of the Spirit, led by the Spirit and controlled by the Spirit.

A Pastor’s Heart

coffeeI make no claim that pastors are perfect people. We mess up. Most pastors I know are genuine, faithful followers of God. They’ve learned that the work of pastoral ministry carries heartache with it. Here are some of the aches of a pastor’s heart:

 

  1. We mourn when marriages fall apart and grieve at the pain divorce causes.
  2. We hurt when young people make decisions that lead to future difficulty. We understand that too often we cannot stop them.
  3. We beat ourselves up when a sermon wasn’t nearly as effective as we thought it should have been. We’re usually are our own worst critics.
  4. We grieve the sin of others more than they do. We know we can’t bring people to repentance, and it’s agonizing watching them moving toward the world and ruin.
  5. We ache when we must deal with difficult issues and carry out church discipline.
  6. We struggle when the churches we lead aren’t growing spiritually or numerically. We genuinely care that people are lost.
  7. We hurt alone when we see the loneliness and struggles of our families.
  8. We grieve funerals for persons who showed no evidence of Christian conversion.
  9. We wrestle with loneliness that comes along with ministry.
  10. We feel guilty even expressing any of these thoughts.

Your pastor and their spouses are men and women who care deeply about your soul and eternal future. While they cannot be at every event or solve every issue in your life, they want what is best for your life and family. For most, pastoring is not a job, but a passion. Make it a priority to keep them in your prayers regularly.

* Edited article from Charles Lawless,
Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary