Trading Stress for Joy at Christmas

At this time of year, almost in spite of ourselves, we begin to expect remarkable things from the Christmas Season.  We want happy family gatherings, meaningful traditions, and deep spiritual experiences...Instead, we often experience stress, fatigue, over-indulgence, and consumerism.

As children of God, how can we have the Christmas we've always longed for?  I hope you'll get some help in answering that question this Advent Season through worship and fellowship and study.  It seems we get so caught up with all the other parts of the holiday that we end up giving in (or giving up) when it comes to what our time together at church might offer – a holy day.

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"All The Earth Is Mine"

This is the month of Thanksgiving.  So, let's give thanks right now and all month for the many, many blessings of God we enjoy – an abundance of everything we need and even more, so that we can be not only grateful, but generous, too.  This also is the month of stewardship in the church.  Will you just shut down at hearing that, expecting the next thing you read to be about getting your checkbook out?  Or will you read on?  We'll see...  Well, if you're still reading, good for you.  Because, the subject of stewardship causes both confusion and consternation among some of the best of Christians.  The issue of money is really only a very small part of the topic.  I doubt that God is worrying right now about how our little church is going to pay its bills and commitments to ministry.  I believe if He really just wanted your money, you probably would have an empty billfold at this moment.  Money is mentioned a lot in Scripture; about as much as any other topic.  I'm thinking the only reason for that is not because it's so important to God.  I think He put so much in the Bible about money because it seems to be so important to us!

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#whatsyourpart

"You are Christ's body – that's who you are!  You must never forget this.  Only as you accept your part of that body does your 'part' mean anything."  [1 Corinthians 12:27]

The quote above from Paul's letter to the church at Corinth is from "The Message (The Bible in Contemporary Language)."  I like the way the emphasis is in reminding the individual Christian that he or she is a unique entity, but his or her purpose can only be fulfilled in the context of belonging.  The story told of the first-generation church in The Acts of the Apostles covers about 30 years.  It is pretty much story after story of believers getting up each day with a desire to walk by faith and serve God.  And in the midst of these stories, we see the Lord at work day after day joining them in miraculous and amazing ways.  It is the story of His Holy Spirit working through the lives of obedient believers.

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In His "Mayan", He's Already Seen It

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."  [2 Timothy 3:16]

Okay, one last thing about the wonderful vacation Pat and I had on the Riviera Maya in Mexico at the end of July.  We only ventured away from the beach and pools one day out of the week we were gone.  It was an all-day inland excursion to the Mayan ruins of Chichen-Itza.  They had an amazing knowledge of astronomy, architecture, and farming over 900 years ago...but a really warped kind of theology (unless you get your inspiration of sacrifice by cutting off peoples' heads, yanking out their hearts, and rolling their bodies down the temple steps).

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Commitment

Random thoughts are about as good as it gets right now for this article.  It's been a pretty busy time here with much going on over the past two months.  If there is a common theme I hope for you to hear as you read on, the word might be commit...

* Commitment to the kids...
As I'm writing, I'm reflecting on this summer's wonderful Rocky Point VBS.  It was good!  We had a lot of good help – from the kitchen to the classroom to the sanctuary to the project room to all the games...Lots of good help – from some of us with graying and/or going hair to the middlers and high school youth to those somewhere in between...
The commitment of Director Laura McAfee and everyone who had any part in making VBS the wonderful day it was for all the kids who showed up is to be seen as an example of faith lived out in very real and tangible ways.

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Hot, Cold, or Lukewarm?

A country church was having their annual revival meeting.  On the first night, the preacher preached a message about repentance and the need to return to the Lord.  At the altar call, a man came down the aisle saying, "Fill me, Lord! Fill me!"  The next night, again, the altar was opened, and like the night before, the same man came forward saying, "Fill me, Lord! Fill me!"  The third night of the revival, the preacher warned the congregation of the evils of sin and urged them to live lives of holiness.  Again, as the invitation was made to give one's life to Christ, the same man came down the aisle saying, "Fill me, Lord! Fill me!"  To which an elderly lady in the back pew yelled out, "Don't do it, Lord! He leaks!"

"I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold.  I wish you were one or the other!  But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!"  [Revelation 3:15-16]

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Give Your Heart to Jesus

What we did on May 18th looked a lot like a wedding. Neal and I, along with the other groomsmen stood there at attention.· The bridesmaids came slowly down the aisle, followed by the flower girl and ring bearer.· Then the big moment.· Elizabeth, more beautiful than ever with Brooks at her arm, made that stately march down the aisle as people stood for the grand entrance.· Brooks "gave away" his daughter...She and Neal stood before me...and ultimately the young couple (all smiles now) marched back down the aisle together.

But they still weren't married....It was only the rehearsal.· So on Friday night, they entered separately and unmarried.· And they left, you guessed it, unmarried.

But Saturday night, they entered separately and unmarried...and they left married!· The difference?· On Friday, they were just going through the motions.· On Saturday, they committed themselves to each other.

There are a lot of people who walk into churches Sunday after Sunday, looking Christian...but without Jesus.· And they walk out the same way they came in...without Jesus, because they're only going through the motions.· Some don't even feel the need to show up in church on Sunday, thinking it's not a requirement!

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