Last week in the Advent devotional that Christina and I are reading entitled God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas we were reminded of the faith and faithfulness of Mary.
“To be anxious is to be human. The question is what we do with our anxieties. The decision is between hanging on to them or handing them over. After listening to the angel, Mary handed over herself, including her anxieties – ‘behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ That is Mary’s great fiat – ‘Let it be.’ It is not fatalism, but faith. Fatalism is resigning ourselves to the inevitable; faith is entrusting ourselves to the One who is eternally trustworthy, who is worthy of trust... Faith is not blind faith, but trust with eyes wide open. Faith does not deny the reason for anxiety but rejects the rule of anxiety.”
The weeks leading up to Christmas are always busy. Christmas parties, the pressure of family requirements, additional financial burdens, loneliness or depression can all add extra anxiety around the holidays. Are you hanging on to them or handing them over? What might it look like to trust with eyes wide open this Christmas? To say “Let it be,” reject the rule of anxiety, and receive the gift of Christ.
Published on Thursday, December 13, 2018 @ 3:47 PM EDT
Dr. Steve Seamands was a professor I had in college. He tells a story in his book “Give Them Christ” of a 1962 Christmas newspaper story…
In 1962, the Christmas Day edition of the St. Petersburg, Florida, Times had two front pages. “In keeping with Christmas spirit” the editor explained, “only good news will appear on the front page. For a full report on other happenings around the world, see page 3A.”
So true to his promise, the front page had only good news that day. There was a picture of the Pope standing on the balcony blessing those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, a story of a church helping a needy family, another about pilgrims entering the gates of Bethlehem. And best of all, there was a large picture of Santa Claus, stretched out on a patio next to a swimming pool, with his boots off and toes wiggling in the warm Florida sunshine.
The other front page included the real headlines: Cuban freedom fighters retreat; masked gunmen grab $100,000 in Chicago; father and nine children perish in fire; civil war rages in the Congo; government is overthrown in Tunisia. (p. 33-34)
Dr. Seamands goes on to point out that Jesus was not born into a good news; good vibes nor good times kind of world. If you look at Luke 1 and 2 you see rulers who were ruthless and very cruel. King Herod was willing to do whatever was necessary for him to keep his power (Matthew 2:16-18 NRSV). Jesus came into this world to face the world as it was - chaotic and troubling. He did not get a pass on suffering. Remember what is written in the Gospel of John: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us” (1:14). I truly appreciate that phrase – “lived among us”. The message by Eugene Peterson reads that Jesus “moved into our neighborhood”.
Dr. Seamands writes more about Jesus living among us. He states that; “He was born in a smelly, unsanitary stable, forced to flee as a refugee from his native country, raised in poverty, spurned by the religious establishment, run out of his hometown, misunderstood by his family, betrayed by one of his own disciples and executed as a common criminal. We could go on, but the point is, from the cradle to the cross, for Jesus to live was to suffer”. (p 34-35)
Jesus knew the joy of weddings, and friendships but he also knew the pain of despair and death. Jesus lived among us and knows how we feel. Jesus did not learn this second hand or by distant observance. No! He was among us. He felt the sun on his face, the sand between his toes, and cool water that quenched his thirst.
During this season of Advent may we celebrate Christ coming to live among us! May we turn to Christ to help us celebrate the good things in life and may we also turn to Christ to help us deal with the “not so good” things in life too. Good news, He is living among us now!
Published on Friday, December 7, 2018 @ 8:34 AM EDT
In 2 Corinthians 8:9 Paul writes, “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”
During the holiday season, especially Thanksgiving Day, I receive an untold number of calls from people that want to serve in our ministry “feeding the poor” on Thanksgiving Day. Many will ask what I am doing on Thanksgiving Day. My reply is “spending the day with my family.” Many will say, “but I want to help you serve.” I then graciously tell them, “our ministry has 3 opportunities to serve the poor almost every week of the year. There are all kinds of people out there during the holiday, so I spend it with my family. You can always join us on one of those days.” Most say to me then, “well what am I supposed to do? I just want to serve on Thanksgiving Day.” Honestly I want to respond, “well put a turkey in the oven, fix some sides and go to one of the many poor areas in Hamilton County and serve as many people as you can with what you fix.” But, I don’t. I usually give them a list of the vast number of agencies that I know are out there on that day.
If you really read 2 Corinthians 8, Paul is talking not only about the generosity of God, but also about the generosity of a very poor Macedonian church. Though they had little themselves they gave big to help others in their need.
It’s that time of year when most people will get a little generous, but I think God wants us to be generous all year. I don’t know but that is kind of how I read it. Hope you have a generous spirit this holiday season and the rest of your life too.
–– Geaux Tigers, Barry
Published on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 @ 10:16 AM EDT
During the Fall Festival on October 24, Christina and I hosted a trunk in the “Trunk-or -Treat.” We were handing out candy and invitations to worship. I would introduce myself by saying, “Hi! My name is Will and I am one of the Pastors here. I hope you are having a great time.” I had a number of kids stop and ask me, “What is a Pastor?” In those moments and the brief conversations that followed I was reminded how much work we have left to do across this city, region, nation, and world sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
We were the first trunk in the line and for some reason Michael latched on to Christina and wanted to do whatever she was doing. Michael is intellectually disabled and has been a part of our Mustard Tree Ministries for years. No matter how many times we told Michael to only hand out 2-3 pieces of candy because we had so many people in line he always responded with “OKAY!” and then proceed to place a handful of candy in each child’s bag. I wonder what the world would look like if that is how we gave grace and love.
I learned a lot that night. I learned that we have lots of work to do and I also learned how we are to give the love and grace of God to this world. It’s not a few pieces at a time but by the handful. Let’s get to work!
Published on Friday, November 9, 2018 @ 11:58 AM EDT
I was looking through my grandmother’s Bible the other day and was amazed at all the information that I found in it. This particular Bible was given to my grandmother by my grandfather on June 18, 1950 which was my grandmother‘s 49th birthday. Looking through the pages I found birthdates, wedding dates and dates of deaths. She had marked certain Bible passages in her Bible that meant something to her. She even had sayings like this one:
“A careless word may kindle strife.
A cruel word may wreck a life.
A bitter word may hate instill.
A brutal word may smite and kill.
A gracious word may smooth the way.
A joyous word may light the day.
A timely word may lessen stress.
And loving words may heal and bless.”
I also found a hand written note which showed her deep desire to know, trust and lean on God more fully and completely. It read: “I met God in the morning when my day was at its best and his presence came like sunrise. All day long His presence lingered. All day long he stayed with me...”
Her husband died when she was 59. With little money saved, she went back to work and supported herself for a number of years. The following years were filled with health issues. I found another handwritten note…
“1987 - This year is rough - pain sometimes seems almost unbearable.”
Then there was another note with the scripture passage from
1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
My grandmother had a deep impact on my faith journey.
In thinking about All Saints’ Day on November 4, may we all remember people, like my grandmother, who had a lasting influence on our faith journey.
Who has had such an influence on your life?
Published on Friday, November 9, 2018 @ 11:57 AM EDT