Jesus is Reason for More Than a Season


“Christ delights to think upon His Church and look upon her beauty. As the bird returns to its nest, and as the traveler hastens home, so the mind continually pursues the object of its choice…we may often forget to meditate upon the perfections of our Lord, but He never ceases to remember us. Let’s admonish ourselves for past forgetfulness, and pray for the grace to always keep Him in our fondest memories.” – Charles Spurgeon.

One of the reasons I think people like Christmas is because of its beauty and its peaceful atmosphere. Typically, people are happier this time of year; they are more giving; they are more willing to serve. As the angels sang in the Shepherd’s hearing,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14).

At Christmas we get to experience a bit of peace; we partake a slice of His glory; it’s a wonderful time of year.

Sadly though, as quickly as this peace comes, it leaves when the festivity of a Christmas holiday is over. We return to our daily grind, forgetting that Jesus is still with us. All His peace remains. It is not the holiday that brought the peace, it’s our Lord Jesus. It’s not the gifts we gave or received that brought the joy, it’s our Lord Jesus. It’s not the tree and its trimmings, or the lights and it’s brightness that brought the beauty, it’s our Lord Jesus. It’s not the carols or the sweet-smelling scents that created an aroma of comfort, it’s our Lord Jesus. Christmas only ushers in the reminder that Jesus is reason for more than a season. He’s daily; He’s monthly; He’s yearly, He’s forever; He is ceaselessly peace. May we never forget, may we always remember.

Instead of dressings for the tree and spices for the meal, let’s choose to remember that Jesus gives us garments of salvation to wear and makes our lives a sweet aroma of life that breathes brightly in this dark world. Jesus truly is the reason for more than a season. He is always, evermore and for all time.

“Some may forget, but I will never forget you. You see, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” – Jesus.

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What’s a Good Gift to Give Each Other?


Christmas is a gift-giving time. And it’s a great time at that! I love picking out that one special gift for that one special person. It brings me great joy to share my love for others with others in this way. But the greatest gift we can give others is our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul says to the Romans, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong…” (Romans 1:11). This morning, Dan and I read Romans 1-2 together and we were imparting to each other a spiritual gift. As a result we were giving power and muscle to each other’s faith.

First, we shared a special truth from scripture that was specific to each other; and by this we encouraged one another.

Secondly, we shared what God is teaching us; this gave credence to our own faith and affirmation to the other’s faith.

Thirdly, we took the opportunity to build each other up with specific words from the passage.

Fourthly, in this sharing we gave energy to each other’s calling.  And that calling is to share Jesus with a dying world.

When we share our faith with a dying world, we (like the Romans) can develop a name in the community. Paul thanked God for the Romans, because “their faith was being reported all over the world,” (Romans 1:8). Notice that Paul did not thank them for their service to the church, their outreach projects or even their faithfulness to their families. These are all good, but his greatest praise was because their faith was being reported all over the world.

These Gentiles were living the truth – by sharing their faith – and they were making a mark on an unbelieving world. Because of their outward mission, the Romans had developed a reputation!

At Christmas, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the wrong things. We can get caught up in the decorations, gift buying, our personal projects, the system of doing church, and even our church programs. All are good; but they only serve as a structure. While this structure is necessary for organization, we must remember Christmas is not about us, it’s for us. And it’s not about what we gain as much as what we give. If we gain anything, I pray it’s a reputation of sharing our faith in a dying community.

This Christmas, give your good gift of faith to each other. Communicating our faith with each other helps us all carry on the mission of God, which is to share boldly Jesus, the Savior of the world, with those who are far from Him. Much of what we have wrapped under our tree is temporary, but faith offers timeless gifts of peace, hope, and love that just keeps being unwrapped day-to-day until the second Advent of Jesus.

Christmas presents piled underneath a christmas tree.

 

 

Are You a Welcoming Church or Just Friendly?


Tony Morgan, a strategic leader who helps churches learn ways to grow the kingdom of God in our communities wrote an interesting article entitled, “Would you rather?: 10 Competing Choices for Growing Churches.” And point seven of this article stood out to me the most.

I’d rather have a welcoming church than a friendly church. The welcoming church is always thinking guests first. They expect new people to show up every week. They are intentional about how they greet and welcome those guests. They are intentional about how they communicate, worship and teach with guests in their services. Friendly churches, on the other hand, can be some of the most unwelcoming places in the world, because the focus is on people who already are part of the church.” Great insight! (For the complete article you can go to tonymorganlive.com.)

You see, while being a friendly church is not a bad thing, it lends itself to focus on those people we know versus those who are new. When we have the mindset that someone new is coming to our church, we will put our best effort forward. If we are serving, we will be on time, even early. We will be extra nice. We will be more accommodating. And if we think that this new guest might not know Jesus, we will practice more grace and understanding. Paying attention to details is constantly on the mind of the welcoming church. The beauty of this mindset is that not only will the new guests benefit from the welcoming atmosphere, the known members will gain so much more, too.

The sad truth is this. If we don’t create this welcoming atmosphere in our churches, we lose people. They come once; they may have a nice time, but not a wow time. Nice times don’t attract people. Wow experiences create a hunger for more. This may sound a bit consumerist, but the reality is this, the first impression is often the most lasting one. People with immense grace will come back, but it often takes a while to overcome that first bad experience.

Sunday morning is an opportunity to treat everyone (guest and regular attendee) as if it’s their very first time.  And when it comes to children and their parents, this is all the more critical! We are more than who we are as a person on Sunday; we are the face of Jesus to these families. His warmth and his love are experienced best if we…

  1. are on time.
  2. are prepared to receive.
  3. smile.
  4. communicate clearly.

I don’t think we always realize that we are serving Jesus when we serve the many people who come to our churches on Sunday morning. Jesus said to his disciples, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me….Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:34-40).  We have many strangers (guests) who come to our churches. When we welcome them, we practice invitation as Jesus spoke of. This word “invited” means hospitality. To be hospitable is to be welcoming with the intent to serve someone.

To be an outward focused church starts with how we treat the guest who shows up on Sunday. Let’s do more than just be friendly, let’s practice hospitality and serve Jesus by serving the many who come to hear from and be changed by Him.

Greeting-ChildMatthew 25.40

Inviting People to Christmas


Just yesterday, I went shopping for the Kids Quest Store. I was in Five and Below. The young man (probably in his early 20’s) that rang me up asked me about my purchases. I told him I was a Children’s Minister and as a church we held a store for the kids where they could spend the coins they earned. He reminisced the days when his grandmother would drag him (his words) to church as a child. Smiling, I asked him if he still attended church and he promptly said, “No.” Probing, I asked him why he did not attend anymore. His response, “I just grew out of church.” Ignoring his answer, I invited him to our church anyway. I gave him the details and directions as well as encouraging him that many young people his age were attending our church; he smiled appreciatively, but I could tell he was not interested in my invitation. Sadly this young man did not see his need for Christ. In his mind, going to church was just a “kid” thing to do. The bottom line: every person not attending church has their excuse. The question is, “Should I ignore this young man or persist?”

This experience reminded me of the parable Jesus shared about a Great Banquet to be served. We read…

A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all began to make excuses.

  • The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
  • Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
  • Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ (Luke 14:15-24).

People make excuses constantly about why they cannot attend church. 1 John 2:15-17 tells us why? They love the world too much. They are more enticed by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life than seeing their need for a Savior.

For example, the land owner in our parable suffered from the root called, “the pride of life.” His focus was on his position. Because he was so wrapped up in what his place in life had to offer, he saw no need to attend the banquet. In his mind, owning land was his greatest prize.

The oxen owner suffered from the root called, “the lust of the eyes.” His infatuation with materialism was stronger than his need for a Savior. In this man’s case, his prize was material not spiritual.

The newly wed who could not attend the banquet suffered from the root called, “the lust of the flesh.” We all know what newlyweds want to do with their time. Have sex! There is nothing wrong with having sex with your spouse, but in this case, it was more important to him that he feed his flesh than seek His Savior. He could still spend time with his new wife and attended the banquet. But like his former counterparts, he did not feel he needed a Savior. So being wrapped up in his new wife, he disregarded the banquet. His prize was the here and now.

What people don’t seem to realize is that “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God (attends the banquet) lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

The man holding the festivities decided to turn his anger into grace; he told the servant to go into the streets, the alleys of the town and bring the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame – in other words, the desperate. The desperate know they need something more. They are at the ready to receive the grace of God. The pride of life has no hold on them, because often they feel unworthy. Position and material possessions do no lure them; simplicity of survival and someone who will simply care for them is their desire.

The interesting character in this whole parable is not the men who give excuses or the people the servant invited. It’s the servant. After the servant invites so many, there is still room at the banquet. But the man is not satisfied with some attending; he wants his banquet hall FULL. So what does the man tell the servant to do? He tells him to, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in…” The phrase “make them” does not mean to forcefully make people come, or drag them as the young man I met at Five and Below put it. Instead it means to persist, not give up – keep inviting. Specifically, look for the broken, the downcast, and the desperate, because they are ready to dine with the Savior.

So, what am I to do with this young man at Five and Below? I’m to persist. I’m going back to that store, not to buy things, instead to invite this young man again. To show him, that as an adult, he is more ready to attend church than he ever was! Pray for me and pray for this young man to listen and come to Christmas. I don’t know if he is desperate or downcast, but I am desperate for him to know Jesus.

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