Celebrate with Grace and Gratitude

Although the daily practice of giving thanks is a year round discipline, one day of the year is set aside for us to inventory our blessings and to express our gratitude to God with focused intentionality.

As you plan your Thanksgiving schedule, I pray that you and your family will enjoy a fun and memorable gathering with renewing your appreciation for all of God’s blessings.

If you are staying in town this week, consider participating in our Community Thanksgiving Service at Christ Church on Wednesday evening at six o’clock.

From the inspired words of Holy Scripture to the treasured verses of classical and contemporary authors, much has been written about the experience of gratitude. The following verses are among those I continue to treasure:

Let us come before him with thanksgiving.
– Psalm 95:2

Count your many blessings, name them one by one; and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. -Johnson Oatman Jr.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; be thankful to him and bless his name. – Psalm 100:4

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
– II Corinthians 9:15

We thank Thee that Thou hast placed us in the world to subdue all things to Thy glory, and to use all things for the good of Thy children. -Edward Everett Hale

Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all. – William Faulkner

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’. – Hebrews 12:28

At Thanksgiving, may our feasts and our festivities remind us of our blessings and encourage us to live our days growing in grace and gratitude.

I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we gather for worship and Bible study, and as we begin our Advent series, Marching to a Different Drummer.

Understanding Gospel Math

Understanding Gospel Math

All during November we are trying to better understand gospel math. In our current sermon series, Quantum Faith, we have tackled perplexing questions: How can the least be the greatest? How can two become one? Why does God have greater expectations from those who have been given greater gifts?

This Sunday we will try our hand at “Calculating 70 X 7” as we focus on the healing experience called forgiveness. At the beginning of the Midmorning service we will celebrate baptism.

Don’t forget that our Community Thanksgiving Service at Christ Church begins at 6 o’clock next Wednesday November 26. There will be no services or activities scheduled on our campus for that evening.

This year Advent begins on November 30, the Sunday following Thanksgiving. On that Sunday morning we begin the lighting of the Advent candles, seasonal music, and our Advent sermons, all surrounding the theme, Marching to a Different Drummer. On that Sunday evening, we will meet in Chipley Hall at 6:00 for Deacon Ordination.

As we fulfill our vision to mobilize for ministry and match spiritual gifts to ministry tasks, check out the new online spiritual gifts link on our church web site. Take time to prayerfully assess your spiritual gifts and your personal passion as you commit to serve on a ministry team in the days ahead.

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday as we gather for worship and Bible study.

Tough Lessons for Tough Times

Tough Lessons for Tough Times

A few months ago a couple of the savvy business owners in our church indicated to me their concern that we were overdue a severe market correction. In other words the bull would become a bear, and probably persists as a fairly wimpy bear for while.

Now it is becoming apparent to many of us that we are not just experiencing a market correction, but we are at the uncomfortable beginning of a culture correction. While much of our discomfort is caused by the symptoms… market volatility, unemployment, personal and corporate budget reductions…at some point we must deal with the root of the problem. Dr. Vance Havner once asked, “What good is it to keep tearing down the web if you’re going to do nothing about the spider.”

My pastoral observations are somewhat naïve and certainly lack the expertise of an economist or a sociologist, but from where I sit, the following concerns seem conspicuously obvious:
1. Many have adopted unattainable or unsustainable standard of living goals, goals that are often incongruent with an individual’s faith, values, and productivity.
2. Many are experiencing great distress and anxiety as a result of the quest to achieve their desirable standard of living by utilizing excessive credit transactions. This personal crunch disrupts families and ultimately contributes to the overall corporate crisis.
3. Many feel trapped and hopeless in their personal financial dilemma or in their current business venture or vocation, with little or no hope for the future.

For further thought and reflection, I propose that a quick return to market normalcy, continued access to easy credit, and continued lifestyles of accumulation and acquisition, factors that might relieve the tension of the moment, actually only postpone the inevitable. We must adopt life goals and management strategies that enable us to live life with meaning and purpose, and embrace a way of life that minimizes anxiety, elevates passion, and enhances relationships.

As a follower of Jesus and a Christian pastor, the teachings of the Bible and the initiatives of Christ are constantly re-formatting my lifestyle, calling me to leave behind the errant ways of my past so that I might live more authentically, more passionately, and more faithfully. As I reflect on the tough times many of us are experiencing, I invite you to think with me about the life-changing lessons we can learn in tough times. For starters, consider some of the following suggestions asking whether they may be applicable to your life situation:
Seize the current season of adversity as an opportunity to upgrade the way you approach life, order your priorities, and live out your faith.
•Base your sense of self-worth and your self-esteem on the love and uniqueness that God has given you, not on your status or your “net worth.”
•Adopt a lifestyle of “living within your means,” avoiding unnecessary credit, and making informed purchasing and investing decisions.
•Teach your children to make life decisions based on faith and values, not by subscribing to default cultural trends.
•Be prepared to assist with vocational networking or engage in vocational transitioning and re-training.
•With a non-partisan disposition, pray for the current and future leaders of our community, our state, and our nation that they may act with extraordinary wisdom and discernment.
•Invest your gifts and passions in proactive service in the church and in the community, always toward the greater good of the whole body.
•Share from your blessings with others who may have greater needs and a lesser portion.
•In seasons of prosperity and seasons of adversity, honor God with all of your assets….your tithe, your time, and your talent.
•Practice the biblical principles of Sabbath, ceasing periodically from industry and anxiety to rest and worship, and jubilee, releasing your grip on property in order to rotate, revitalize, and restore.

This season of economic adversity could be remembered as the toughest time since The Great Depression. But out of that depression came those Tom Brokaw has described as “the greatest generation.” Perhaps God could teach us a few life-changing lessons during these tough times that will shape us into more responsible citizens, more respectable parents, more competent leaders, more productive workers, and more effective servants than we’ve ever been before.

Striving for Last Place

(Here are the powerpoint highlights of the sermon “Striving for Last Place” preached on Sunday November 2, 2008)

As you faithfully follow Jesus you will develop a passion to serve God by serving others. In Mark 10:22-31 after Jesus’ encounter with the young and wealthy businessman, Jesus debriefs his disciples on the costs required to follow him.

What do we learn from Jesus about serving in Mark 10:22-31?
• Those who “have it all” will find it difficult, but not impossible, to embrace the kingdom lifestyle.
• Nothing is impossible with God.
• You will be called on to make tough sacrifices.
• “The first will be last and the last will be first.”

How can we best serve God with the gifts and passions emerging in our congregation?
• Clarify our mission.
– Our mission is to share love and grace with those who are disconnected with God and the church.
– Stake our claim on 32501 and the surrounding community as our primary mission field.
– Claim the global community is our secondary mission field.
Mobilize for ministry.
– Spend more time ministering than meeting.
• Upgrade our model.
– Re-format our model of organization.
~ Leadership
~ Discipleship
~ Service
Match gifts to tasks.
– Discover and nurture the spiritual gifts of the congregation.
– Match spiritual gifts to ministry assignments.
Mentor the next generation.
– Establish cross-generational partnerships.

Where do I begin?
• Commit to radically follow Jesus in your daily routine.
• Cultivate your spiritual gift(s).
• Connect with a ministry project or ministry team.

Would you take your God-given passion and use it for a God-honoring purpose?