Turning Our Hearts Towards Advent

Merry Christmas! Signs of the season are everywhere, Black Friday! Cyber Monday! Giving Tuesday! Best discount of the season, we’ll match your donation…the list goes on and on.

I’m reminded today that when God chose to give humanity a sign of His glory and power, a sign of His love and mercy, a sign of His gift of the Gospel of Salvation…He chose no splashy billboards, no glitzy ads, no fanfare, pomp or circumstance…but rather, a young girl – a virgin, no less – and a baby, helpless and frail.

How very different God is from us! The Bible puts it this way:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 NIV)

Immanuel means “God with us.” To evidence His presence, God gave us a sign of His own humility to show us His power and glory:

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11 NIV (Emphasis mine)

Where are the places this season where we can model the same humility as Christ? How can we make ourselves nothing, becoming a servant to the least, the lost and the lonely? When we model the humility and servanthood of Christ, we become a sign to all people of God’s love, mercy and grace. We become a beautiful picture in stark contrast to the crass commercialism of our world. When we do this, people will see Jesus through us.

Therefore the Lord himself gave them a sign: you.

May God bless you as you bless others this holiday season, Merry Christmas.

Happy Fall Ya’ll!

Fall has finally fallen! The temperatures have dropped and a new season is upon us. I love the chill in the morning, the lower humidity and the crunch of leaves under foot. As a church, we have entered into a new season as well…we’ve seen new people joining, healthy growth in our members and we’re ready to begin a growth project for our facilities. All this as we enter into one of the busier seasons of the church. It’s exciting and daunting all at the same time. Sometimes it feels as if things could “fall” apart at any moment. I’m reminded of Paul when he writes:

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

It could all “fall” apart at any moment, because living a life following God puts us in a place of constant danger…in a position of possible “falling” or failing at any moment…a place of “always being given over to death for Christ’s sake.” And yet Paul goes on to write:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

We don’t have to lose heart because of our circumstances. Though we are surrounded by death at every turn, danger around every corner, potential “fall” and “fallenness” everywhere we look. God renews us inwardly everyday…and besides this is only temporary…light and momentary. But we are heading toward something eternal.

So be encouraged in this season of busy-ness and change, of trial and sometimes painful growth. Let’s fix our eyes, not on what we can see, but rather on the unseen beauty of Jesus our Hope and Salvation!

Where’s Your Passion?

We now have the Passion week in our rear view mirror – the celebration has given way once again to the everyday realities of life.  But should the Passion be a rear view event, or should it be front and center of our everyday lives?  I know every year we say it, “We celebrate Easter every day…”; but is that true in reality?  We live in a culture that enjoys when people get enflamed with passion for many different things, sports, hobbies, eating, fishing, learning…you name it people can get fired up and passionate about it.  But the world also loves to see an ardent, “on fire” person go up in flames…as Lokey in Thor Ragnarok says, “Easier to let it burn.”  When someone flames out, it reassures us that we have made the right choice in remaining passionless, in order not to burn out.

But God has given us a Passion, His Holy Spirit, that empowers us, motivates and moves us…consumes us, “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)  That Passion, when kept in the proper place…front and center, orders and directs all other passions.  The center driving Passion for us?  I think it just made it to our rear view mirror.

Everything Begins Somewhere…

“You have to start somewhere,” or so the saying goes.  Everything has to have a beginning.  The perfect example? This is my first blog post.  It exists now (or will when I finish writing it), because you’re reading it (hopefully). But in order for it to exist, it had to be thought about, written, then posted (with a whole lot of behind the scenes computer script working in the background!).  Maybe you are ready to start a new job, or to begin “a new phase of life,” or to “turn over a new leaf.”  Maybe, you are searching for hope, or looking for answers…

For whatever reason, you find yourself reading a blog on a church website from someone you may have never even met.  Maybe the thing you need to hear is just this, “start somewhere.”  When I look back for a starting point, the place I inevitably wind up is: “In the beginning, God…”  The gospel writer John, picks up on this idea when he wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  This “Word” (God) spoke the universe into existence.  This “God” revealed Himself to us in words that we know today as the Holy Bible.

Need a place to begin?  Start somewhere.