We've been talking about living and operating in Hostile Territory for five weeks of Sundays now, and I'm wondering if you ever feel like the man in this picture. Alone in the fight, waiting for the other shoe to drop with what seems like inadequate resources at your disposal with which to survive, let alone thrive. If so, I don't think you're alone! Many times we see the world around us, our circumstances, and wonder how we're going to make it. In Psalm 27, David, a guy who knew a thing or two about living in Hostile Territory, wrote this: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" He continues on and brings hope to his hard place. If you're in one of those places, I'd encourage you to read the whole Psalm and be reminded that God is greater than your circumstances, however large they may be looming, and He will redeem them for His good purposes as we are faithful in serving our Heavenly commander! Then reply to this post and share how God has worked in your life despite your circumstances. Testimony is an encouragement to all of us, so don't hold back!
I read a great article recently that began sounding like a joke. There were two pastors and a rabbi at a Christmas gathering... The rabbi, over the course of some good conversation was able to make the point that we should not be apologetic as Christians about making Christmas all about Jesus. Just as one would expect a Jewish gathering to be distinctly Jewish in all that happens, we should not be afraid of keeping Christmas as a Christ centered celebration. Instead of feeling that we need to water down who we are, and what we're about, celebrating those distinctives as we gather around the Christ child who was born to set us free. While there are other images, such as the one in this post, associated with the secular understanding of Christmas, we are setting our focus on something, someone else-Jesus Christ. As I write this, there are only five days until Christmas, and the voices around us are all clamoring for our attention; last minute "deals" flood my inbox and the commercials on TV (I'm so thankful for DVR-I can fast forward through them all!) all speak to my "needs" this Christmas, promising happiness and fulfillment. My favorite Mercedes commercial has been brought back and I admit that I don't skip that one. But in the midst of all the clamor, there is a voice that simply says "don't forget my Son, the divine inspiration for all of your gift giving." May we not miss that voice, choosing to focus on Him instead of all of the other that shouts for our attention. While it may not be normal for the time and place we live, it is infinitely more fulfilling. "For God so loved the world, that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16 (ESV) Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
While change is sometimes hard, and what was comfortable difficult to part with, new things bring excitement as well as a little apprehension. Pastor Vaugn and Marlene have moved to the Alliance Church in Onamia, MN as Pastor and God will do good things there I'm sure. For us then, we enter a time of new beginnings. Not only have we added a new staff member in Pastor Robert Segovia, but we have begun a new ministry year in WAY and Awana. We are already excited about what God has done this year and look with anticipation ahead to what is yet to come. Our dedicated youth volunteers have a new leader in Pastor Robert, and Justin Malone and James Middendorf continue in their roles of Awana Commander/Asst. Commander again this year. Together with all of our faithful volunteers we anticipate that God is going to do great things among us this year. If you aren't actively engaged in our Wednesday night ministries, would you be willing to commit to actively praying for them? If you contact the office we can get you a list of our volunteers to add to your prayer list! So, instead of being fearful of new beginnings, let's embrace them and see what adventure God takes us on!
So, here's try number three to get this blog post to work right! The last two times have cut off after the first sentence for some reason. Evidently small groups aren't all that interesting...no, that can't be it. Regardless, I'm excited about our small groups. The group I'm part of has met twice now and it's been a great start. The Not a Fan material is challenging, the people are interesting and have great input as we discuss the material and the food has been really good. But I know that some of you have not chosen to be part of a small group, whether at our church or elsewhere, for many reasons, some of them valid, others excuses to avoid feeling uncomfortable or of "being put on the spot" by a small group leader, or something else altogether. I want to encourage you to give small groups a chance. God has wired us to be in community; doing life with others who understand us, care for us, pray for us, laugh and cry with us. Can that be scary and intimidating? Absolutely. But awesome at the same time. In a small group you get to move beyond the pleasantries exchanged on Sunday morning in the lobby of the church you attend and dig into the issues that you actually care about, are concerned about, scared or excited about, even if that's not on the agenda of the curriculum. You will form relationships that enable you to have those conversations before and after the actual study, or perhaps over coffee with a new friend that you have discovered who has Godly wisdom to share with you that will impact how your life is experienced. If you think I'm overselling, why don't you give a group a try and see what you think. I'm not saying this will be everyone's experience, because just like everything else in life, you get out what you put in, but it can and does happen like this. We have two groups with space available should you want to get plugged in; one at Kent and Dorothy Smith's on Sunday evenings, and one on Thursday nights at Jenny Steinkopf's. If you have questions about those groups, you can contact our church office for more details. Don't miss out on the joy of community by sitting at home and watching something on TV instead of going to a small group. After all, isn't that why DVRs were invented?! Have a great week and may God bless you with a wonderful small group community to do life with!
If you missed our service yesterday, you missed out on a good thing. Teen Challenge brought a group from their Brainerd campus and shared testimonies of God's mercy, grace, forgiveness and restoration. My world is so far removed from their reality that at times I have a hard time comprehending it, but I know that for many around us, in our community, the stories we heard are their reality as well. I am thankful that we have such a resource available, and for the chance we have to help support the work they are doing. Thank-you for all who came out to support them, and who gave to enable them to continue changing lives. Please continue praying for the men who are working toward wholeness in Christ in the days and weeks ahead, and if you would like to be involved in more of a hands on role, check out their mentoring opportunities on their website.
Thanks for checking out our website. If you'd like to talk but prefer typing over face to face, this is a great spot to do it. Feel free to reply, respond and post here as we all walk along in this adventure we call the Christian life.