Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?
It’s a common practice for many Americans; recent surveys indicate that 40% of Americans engage in the practice.
There’s nothing wrong with setting goals and having ambition, but what seems to happen is that the enthusiasm for doing more, giving up certain vices, or starting good habits wanes over a period of time.
Ed Stetzer commented on this kind of behavior in his recent article “Gospel-Centered Resolutions: Not all About You, but God working in You.”
He writes, “New Year’s is, without a doubt, every try-hard’s favorite holiday. But the thing is, this whole ‘do more, work harder’ mentality hasn’t just become evident in our celebration of a once-in-a-year goal setting tradition. In fact, many of us now live in a culture that is more achievement focused than any other in recent history.”
I’m excited about starting a new year; I learned a lot of lessons from last year which I hope will help me in my walk with Christ and as I lead His church. One key lesson I’ll be bringing into 2019 is simply this: “If you’re a follower, then you’re not the leader.”
Profound, right? Yet, it’s imperative that recognize that walking with Christ is a process of learning and growth, and yielding to His purpose of our lives. This is a simple truth but one that is difficult to grasp.
I’m so grateful our church acknowledges Epiphany Sunday. Many churches tend to truncate the Christmas season and have the Magi showing up at the stable along with the shepherds. Epiphany is a culmination of the “12 days of Christmas” and a time to soak in and realize the true meaning of Christ’s birth.
In a sense, each one of us in on a journey. This new year signifies our beginning a new chapter walking together and walking with the Lord. We’re not in the same place we were this time last year, nor will we be in the same place as we end this year. We learn on the way, walking in faith, and by sharing life together.
I want to thank Dr. Bob Perry for preaching last Sunday which allowed time away for me to be with family. It was greatly appreciated and much needed.
Sunday’s coming. I haven’t seen some of you since last year, and look forward to being with you once again for worship. Let’s begin the New Year in the Lord’s House for LifeGroups and worship together. Happy New Year!
To belong in the church is not just to belong to a community of believers who come together to ‘get something out of’ a church service, to be ‘fed’ and ‘blessed.’ It is to belong to a community of people who come together to be renewed so they can go back into the world to serve God as they serve others.”
I’ve been thinking about these words by Shirley Guthrie a great deal these last few weeks. They aptly describe what it means to be part of a family of faith. It isn’t about “coming or going” to church, but rather about “being the church” each and every day.
We all use the phrase “going to church” and that isn’t likely to change, but I do want us to understand the privilege of being part of a group of believers is more than showing up for an hour or two on Sunday morning. It is about allowing our relationship with Christ to impact every aspect of our lives.
Our church continues it’s discipleship discernment process. Rev. Muriel Johnson has been an invaluable resource and consultant. She’s maintained her interest and involvement, guiding us through an intentional period in which we seek God’s direction as it relates to growing His church.
The next step in the process is that Muriel will be meeting some selected “young people” from our church in a few weeks. In our deacon retreat several weeks ago, the refrain regarding what “young people” wanted or needed kept coming up. So, it makes sense to actually talk with people who have a personal stake in the future of this church.
The Lord is giving evidence of His work through meaningful worship experiences, the guests and new members who are coming through our doors, and as we as continue our life together as God’s people.
This Sunday offers another great opportunity to be together. We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper in morning worship–a tactile reminder of our shared faith and unity in Christ.
On Sunday evening, we’ll enjoy a GREAT concert with “Southern Raised” at 6 pm. This family band is extremely talented and you won’t want to miss it. There’s no charge for admission but a love offering will be taken. Bring a friend!
Indeed, church isn’t something we go to or primarily strive to “get something out of.” It’s more than that. It’s about contributing through our prayers, participation, and service to God and others.
I appreciate so much your faithful in your prayers, financial support, and participation in the life of this church. I’ll see you soon.
“Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts.”
These words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer are from his book “Life Together.” Even though he penned them decades ago in a different time and culture, they have meaning for the church today.
I’ve known about this book for some time, yet have only now been able to work through its pages. This has had additional meaning for me as I’ve been leading a group of men in our church through a discussion on Bonhoeffer and this classic book on Christian community.
It’s a small book, but going through and sorting out the implications of Bonhoeffer’s words for the 2018 church has been a challenge. Perhaps the central lesson thus far from reviewing these pages is that the American church has a whole lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is the freedom we have to gather and worship as the people of God.
I admit I can’t comprehend a context in which the church couldn’t meet freely and without fear, yet Bonhoeffer did and indicated the value of community especially in a culture where persecution existed and could be expected. When he wrote “when Christ bids a man come to him, he bids him come and die” this was not merely a “spiritual” kind of death. It was very real and personal for him, and Bonhoeffer’s bravery in the face of his arrest and ultimate execution is something that should convict all of us.
I’m not a Bonhoeffer expert by any means, so it’s been rewarding to work through this work alongside of men who have a similar viewpoint of this theologian and martyr. We’re learning through the reading and shared time together that the church doesn’t do a very good job of celebrating little victories or expressing gratitude for what we have been given.
I’ve still unpacking his challenge of “giving thanks for the little things” as a precursor for being given larger blessings. But, it rings very similar to Jesus’ admonition to “be thankful in the little things” in order to be granted access to the greater things.
It can be frustrating being the pastor of a local church. There are any number of complaints, criticisms, and unmet expectations voiced from unhappy churchgoers. Sometimes, I admit, these unpopular critiques can weigh on me, especially when there is so much (in my view) to be thankful for as God’s people.
I’m reminded that the church needs to distinguish between being inconvenienced and being persecuted. There is a lot more of the former and very little of the latter. And, I wouldn’t count going through another round of “the war of Christmas” in a few months to qualify as being persecuted.
Bonhoeffer didn’t know what it was like to live in a free church in a free state. He risked and ultimately lost his life by leading the confessing church rather than compromise with the Nazi government. The church at that time sacrificed its prophetic voice in order to secure its existence, and as is always the case, anytime the church becomes associated with the government, the church loses every time.
We can’t wait until things get better or more to our liking in order to make a difference for Christ. The only time we have is the present, and now is the most important time that we have because we aren’t guaranteed another day.
Based on what I’ve read so far, it is evident that Bonhoeffer recognized a time of persecution and crisis as an opportunity for the church to be a witness for Christ. The American church doesn’t have that hardship to be concerned about, so it’s entirely possible and likely that we don’t realize the little things that are given to us each and every day.
The church definitely needs renewal, and a good step in that direction would be revisiting the value of practice of being thankful. It would transform us as the body of Christ. We would appreciate more our unity in Christ rather than our political biases, and there would be less grumbling about “not getting our needs met” and more gratitude about the time we have together as the people of God. There would be less critique about the kind of music or preaching we experienced in worship and more celebration that we had the freedom to be together in the first place.
Life Together. It really is a challenge, but it truly is a gift. And it’s worth it. Let’s not take it for granted.