Monthly Archives: December 2012

God With Us

GOD WITH US

Poem by Isaac Wimberley

The people had read of this rescue that was coming through the bloodline of Abraham

They had seen where Micah proclaimed about a ruler to be born in Bethlehem

Daniel prophesy about the restoration of Jerusalem

Isaiah’s cry about the Son of God coming to them

So for them—it was anticipation

This groaning was growing, generation after generation

Knowing He was holy, no matter what the situation

But they longed for Him

They yearned for Him

They waited for Him on the edge of their seat

On the edge of where excitement and containment meet

They waited

Like a child watches out the window for their father to return from work—they waited

Like a groom stares at the double doors at the back of the church—they waited

And in their waiting, they had hope

Hope that was fully pledged to a God they had not seen

To a God who had promised a King

A King who would reign over the enemy

Over Satan’s tyranny

They waited

So it was

Centuries of expectations, with various combinations of differing schools of thought

Some people expecting a political king who would rise to the throne through the wars that he fought

While others expecting a priest who would restore peace through the penetration of the Pharisee’s façade

Yet a baby—100% human, 100% God

So the Word became flesh and was here to dwell among us

In His fullness, grace upon grace, Jesus

Through Him and for Him, all things were created

And in Him all things are sustained

God had made Himself known for the glory of His name

And this child would one day rise as King

But it would not be by the sword or an insurgent regime

It would be by His life

A life that would revolutionize everything the world knew

He would endure temptation and persecution, all while staying true

Humbly healing the broken, the sick and hurting too

Ministering reconciliation, turning the old to new

A life that would be the very definition of what life really costs

Saying—if you desire life, then your current one must be lost

And He would portray that with His own life as His Father would pour out and exhaust

And Jesus would be obedient to the point of death, even death upon the cross

So just 33 years after the day that He laid swaddled in the hay

He hung on a tree suffocating, dying in our place

Absorbing wrath that is rightly ours, but we could never bear the weight

So He took that punishment and he put it in the grave

And He died

And when I say that He died, what I mean is that He died

No breath, noheartbeat, no sign of life

God is a God of justice, and the penalty for our sin equals death

That’s what Christ did on that cross

Then… On the third day, in accordance with scriptures, He was raised from the grave

And when I say that He was raised, what I mean is that He was raised

Lungs breathing, heart pumping, blood pulsing through His veins

The things that He promised were true

He is the risen Son of God, offering life to me and you

Turning our mourning into dancing

Our weeping into laughing

Our sadness into joy

By His mercy, we are called His own

By His grace, we will never be left alone

By His love, He is preparing our home

By His blood, we can sing before His throne

Jesus paid it all

All to Him I owe

Sin had left a crimson stain

He washed it white as snow

So now we, as His bride, are the ones waiting

Like the saints that came before, we’re anticipating

He has shown us that this world is fading

And He has caused our desire to be for Him

So church, stay ready

Keep your heart focused and your eyes steady

Worship Him freely, never forgetting

His great love for you

Immanuel, God with us

The Gospel is so beautiful!  What do you think of this Gospel presentation? How does it speak to your soul?

For More on Folk Angel go here

Our Identity in Christ

I’ve been reading, Gospel Coach: Shepherding Leaders to Glorify God, by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood, and ran into a good list about our identity in Christ (pg. 71-72).  The authors call this our “position in Christ.”  This is who we are positionally before God, though in reality we don’t always or mostly live up to it in the here-and-now.  They say we are positionally children of God, yet we still live like Spiritual orphans.  The authors recommends keeping this list somewhere where you’ll see it regularly and be reminded of who you are in Christ.  Such a list, understood correctly, can lead one to repentance, strengthen them in their Gospel Identity, and call them to live the Christian life.  Here’s the list:

  • Through Christ, I am dead to sin (Romans 6:11)
  • Through Christ, I am spiritually alive (Romans 6:11; 1 Corinthians 15:22)
  • Through Christ, I am forgiven (Colossians 2:13; 1 John 2:12)
  • Through Christ, I am declared righteous (! Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • Through Christ, I am a child of God (Romans 8:16; Philippians 2:15)
  • Through Christ, I am God’s possession (Titus 2:14)
  • Through Christ, I am an heir of God (Romans 8:17)
  • Through Christ, I am blessed with all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3)
  • Through Christ, I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
  • Through Christ, I am free from the law (Romans 8:2)
  • Through Christ, I am crucified with him (Galatians 2:20)
  • Through Christ, I am free from the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:24)
  • Through Christ, I am declared blameless and innocent (Philippians 2:15)
  • Through Christ, I am the light in the world (Matthew 5:14-15; Philippians 2:15)
  • Through Christ, I am victorious over Satan (Luke 10:19)
  • Through Christ, I am set free in Christ from the power of Sin (Colossians 2:11-15)
  • Through Christ, I am secure in him (I Peter  1:3-5)
  • Through Christ, I am at peace with God (Romans 5:1; Philippians 4:6-9)
  • Through Christ, I am loved by God (1 John 4:10)

As you read through this list:

  1. How did these words make you feel?  Are they helpful to remember?  Why?
  2. What do you feel is missing fro their list?  What truth do you cling to shake you from sin, to return you to the Gospel and your identity in Christ, and to motivate you to live the life Christ has set before us?

Image found here

Christian Meditation On the Mass Shooting At the Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut

Today’s headline read, “27 dead, including 18 children, in elementary school shooting” in Newtown, Connecticut.  Parents, children, brothers and sister are not coming home to their families this afternoon. They won’t be with their families this Christmas. Like most parents, I couldn’t help but hug my daughter and pray for the families of the dead. How could such a thing happen? Why does it keep on happening? When will it stop?

More and more people are self-proclaimed atheists. Many others are functional atheists as they live as if God doesn’t exist. Yet if you reject God, you must reject the idea of right and wrong. You have to accept that death created us. Death becomes your god of sorts because through the death of billions of life forms the fittest survived and passed on their genes and evolved into us. So if you reject God, even the kind of death we saw today, is what created us. It’s nothing more than the “weak” being removed so the “fittest” can survive. You have to accept this if you reject God and accept evolution.

Yet when such a tragedy strikes, many suddenly get religion. Their worldview doesn’t provide the answers to the questions of their hearts or they close their eyes to what their worldview actually says about death. So when something horrible happens, suddenly God is alive and real…and to blame for allowing such tragedy. Yet is this really God’s fault? Is it really his will?  If someone asked me what I thought about today, I’d respond by telling them the story.

Creation

While evolution says death created us, the Bible says God never created us for death. Death was never part of his plan. We were always meant to live. God created us to live in a perfect world, where we had a perfect relationship with Him. Because we were in a perfect relationship with God, we were at peace with one another. There was never any violence like we see today. God never designed us to suffer and die. Rather we were meat to live forever by his side.

Fall

Yet this world isn’t perfect, not anymore. You see our first parents thought they could improve on God’s creation. They were tempted by God’s enemy into believing that they’d be better off if they were in control of their own lives. So they rebelled against God and His ways. Suddenly their relationship with God was broken, and just as quickly their relationships with each other fell apart as well. Now sin, suffering, wars, famine, disease, aging, and death hold the world captive.  People even kill each other now.  Yet this wasn’t part of God’s plan and God didn’t want to leave us this way.

Redemption

God continued to pursue His children. He continued to call them back to live a life close to Him, in His ways, under His rule and protection. Yet his children kept rebelling. All of us keep rebelling. Yet God keeps calling us. Finally, God sent his Son who was called Jesus, which means “The Lord Saves”, and Immanuel, which means “God with Us.” He lived perfectly as His Father always created us to live. Yet he died the death we deserved, because of our rebellion, on the cross. As we believe and are baptized in Him, His perfect life becomes our perfect life. Our relationship with God is restored. His death then becomes our death, so death will not hold us because death could not hold Jesus.  We then have hope, on days like today, that death does not have the final word.

Restoration

One day, there will be no more death. The peace that the angels sang about on the night of Jesus’ birth will be realized. God’s enemy, and all who chose to follow in his ways of rebellion and refuse to be cleansed, will be locked away forever. The world will be perfect again. God will raise all those who trust in Him, will give us new life, and never again will there be any anger, fighting, wars, sickness, pain, or death. Such things won’t even be remembered.  Even days like this day will be forgotten.  God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and we will live in joy, true joy, in a perfect world forever more.

Today something horrible happened. Yet if someone asks me why such tragedy happens, I’ll share with them the truth and “good news” of God’s story. We still mourn today, we pray fervently for the families of those who were killed, because we’re still awaiting the Restoration of things. Yet we have hope because one day God will make everything right. We sing, “Come, O Come, Emmanuel!” We pray come quickly, Lord Jesus! And we look to the day when He comes again to make everything right.

Picture found here

Who Has God Put Into Your Life That Needs Jesus?

Above is a picture of a Web of Relationships.  Scripture says we’ve all been put in our own web of relationships so that we might win people there for Jesus.  The Apostle Paul says in Acts 17:26-27,

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Paul says that God has placed every person where they are at, and when they would live, so that they might perhaps find the living God and Savior of us all.  Paul also says, in Romans 10: 9-17, the only way (outside of supernatural means) that people find God is through others sharing the word of God with them.  So then, with these two passages together, I’ve always thought that God has placed each Christian exactly where they are because they have friends, neighbors, coworkers, family, accuatances, etc. that need to know the love of Christ.

Think thorough the following five areas of your life and think of who you introduce to Jesus:

  • Vocation – Every Christian is a full time minister.  God just route our paychecks through different routes.  God has placed you in your job so that you could serve others well through those means, but also so that you might be a witness to others.  Who do you know at work that is unchurched?  Do you ever get together with them socially?  If not, how can you engage them to grow your relationship?
  • Location – All of us live in a place surrounded by people,.  Even if we live in the country there are people around us.  Do you know you’re neighbors?  Do you know who are churched or unchurched?  If so, who can you start engaging or growing in relationship with?  Who can you invite to hang out with other MC members, join you in serving others, or to hear The Story?  If you don’t know your neighbors, get to know them.  Bring them over some extra soup, invite them to a party, or serve them in some way.
  • Recreation – All of us have hobbies that we enjoy.  God’s given us all different skills and interests.  God has also given us all unique relational connections to others.  How can you use your passions and interests to connect with others?  Who are you already in relationship with that you can connect to other members of the MC or invite to an event?
  • Relations – Who in your family needs to know Jesus?  Can you invite them to social gathering of other MC members?  Would they enjoy The Story?  Would they join us in service projects?
  • Frequentation – being a Patron or being a regular somewhere.  “Sometimes you want to know where everybody knows your name.”  How do people get to know your name, when you take interest in their names and engage in their lives.  Where do you frequent?  Where are you a regular?  Have you stopped to learn the names and stories of the people you see regularly at the park, bank, theatre, market, restaurant, pub, etc? If not, where can you start?

Action Steps

  1. Walk this week with eyes open to the people in the background of your life.  Do you know them?
  2. Make a commitment to try to meet 3 new people each week and grow in your relationship with one person you have met or already know who is unchurched.

What do you think?  Is this list helpful?  Why or why not?  What do you think of the terms that are used.  They’re all real words, yet some, such as frequentation, doesn’t get used all that much these days.  I’m interested in your comments and suggestions.

The Gospel: 321

Here’s an awesome video displaying the Gospel in terms of God’s Community of Love and Mission.

  1. What’s new to you in this Gospel Presentation?  How did it awaken you to what the Gospel means?
  2. What do you feel, if anything, should have been added in?
  3. We often share the Gospel through Creation -> Fall -> Redemption -> Restoration.  We’re all the elements in this presentation?  What would you like to have seen more of?

 

Video by Jeremy Poyner

7 Ways To Be Missional This Christmas

Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year.  While there are a lot of distractions from its true meaning, Christmas is still a great time to share the message of God’s love through Jesus Christ.  Below are seven ways you can reach out to others and show God’s love this Christmas.

1. Give gifts to people who really need help. 

  • There are scores of organizations that help you give a Christmas Gift in the name of Christ.  We do a giving tree at our church and collect toys and presents that have been request from poor parent’s for their children. Toys for Tots is another great tradition.  Let you kids help and see that Christmas isn’t about them and their presents but giving gifts because of the gift we’ve receive of Jesus and the eternal life He brings.
  • Give a Life-Giving Gift because of the Life-Giving Gift we’ve received in Jesus.  World Vision  and Living Water are great places you can give life-giving gifts of water, food, or animals to improve the lives of children across the world.  You can give a gift on behalf of another in addition or in replacement of a gift you would normally give.
  • Is there someone in your neighborhood or at work that is in need of something this Christmas?  Don’t just spend money to spend money, but if you know a need, try to fill it.

2. Give Small gifts to your Neighbors 

  • My wife loves to bake.  Every year, she makes a number of goody sacks to hand out to our neighbors.  Then we go door-to-door and hand them out to people.  It’s a great reason to knock on a neighbor’s door and spend a couple of minutes getting to know them a little better.  We just had a neighborhood bonfire last month.  When we invited one neighbor, she immediately asked if we were the people who came over and gave them cookies two years before.  She still remembered and it seemed to make it easier for her to join us because of the groundwork that was laid two years before.

3. Invite someone to your Christmas Celebration 

  • At certain times in our lives, we know people who don’t have anywhere to go on Christmas.  Some just don’t have family.  Some Just live too far away for their families to get together.  Is there someone like this in your life, Maybe a college student or an elderly neighbor?  If so, make sure you invite them to join your family for Christmas.  You don’t have to invite everyone, but if you see someone who will be alone, invite them into your family for that evening.
  • We have a Christmas Celebration every year.  Our Church has a few Church services every Christmas Eve.  We have people over  between 5 and 7 that night.   We invite anyone we know to come over for some chilli, soup, and a lot of Christmas snacks and beverages.  We invite friends who volunteer and have to be at each church service that night so that they have somewhere to go to kill some time.  But we also invite some neighbors to stop by if they like.   Surprisingly, a number of them do.  We then reserve Christmas Morning just for family.

4. Bless those who can’t celebrate Christmas

  • Think about the Firefighters, Police officers, Gas Station Attendant who have to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.  Bring them a gift basket of donuts or Christmas goodies to bless them when they are probably feeling low from being away from their families.  Maybe even leave them a Christmas card and a written message about Jesus’ birth.   For more check out this article.

5. Rehearse the Christmas Story

  • Peter says we must always be ready to give an answer for our faith anytime someone asks (1 pe 3:15).  At Christmas time, especially if you’re showing love in unexpected ways, people are going to ask you why.  We have to be ready.  In our Church plant we are always rehearsing the Gospel Story through the major themes of Creation -> Fall -> Redemption -> Restoration.  It’s real easy to be ready to tell a shortened version of this story with an emphasis on the expectation of the messiah and the birth of Jesus.  Don’t just tell people “This is the day Jesus was born.”  Explain to them the whole story and why Jesus’ birth is important.  If not, people won’t understand the message.

6. Invite people to your Christmas Church Services

  • As Christians, we should be in the habit of inviting people into our lives before we invite them to church.  Yet if there is any day when unchurched or dechurch people are willing to go to church it might be Christmas.  During the Christmas season, many are hurting and longing for something more.  They’re searching to reclaim some magic in the world.  If you know someone who isn’t going to be going to church, invite them to join you.  Pick them up, sit together, and talk about the message, the music, and anything else that can further the conversation.

7. Gather your MC and sing Christmas Carols

  • I was hesitant to put this one down.  I’m not sure if caroling is really helpful in the Christian witness.  It seems a bit intrusive like cold-call evangelism.  Yet, I do believe this could be done right.  I think elderly people would be more accepting of this gift of music.  It’s something they experienced or participated in as a youth and is likely to bring warm feelings of nostalgia.  The other group I think would benefit this is if you went caroling at people’s homes that you’ve been sharing life with through your Missional Community.  If enough ground work has already been laid, Caroling could be a great way to sing the Gospel message and show love, yet not seem too strange.

Related:

6 Ways to be Missional with the Super Bowl

4 Ways to be Missional this Easter

9 Ways to be Missional this Thanksgiving

13 Ways to be Missional this Halloween

 

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