What Matters Most

"For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ.  It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes - the Jew first and also the Gentile."  Romans 1:16

I would like to pass along my thoughts on what matters most, not just to me, or to our church, or to our community, or even to our country, but to every living person on this planet.  The most important thing that everyone can know is that God has created each one of us in His own image.  He has gifted each one of us for a specific calling and purpose that only we can accomplish.  God gave an ancient people instruction to shine on those around them, and to share that their God is the one true Lord, and that all are to love Him and Him alone with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.  To know Him is to know how much He loves us and wants us.  Even though we are a fallen people living in a broken world, He still calls us to reflect His image as we trust in Him and allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to counsel and guide us.  He went to the extreme of sending His Son, our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, into our brokenness to redeem us and to repair our relationship with Him so that nothing could ever separate us from His love.  That true love is shown to us in the person, fully man and fully God, Jesus Christ.  We did not earn grace and we don’t deserve grace, but it was, and is, freely given.  It is not dependent on you to create this relationship, but only to receive it as your true compass for your purpose here.  We were created to worship and adore God, and unless we do this we will never be content.  So I pray that as we approach life each day, we will know what matters most - God loves us unconditionally and He has raised us to a new and everlasting life.

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United We Stand

The events that we have seen recently in our country influence this article.  The shooting of congressmen and others at a baseball practice in Virginia has reminded those elected officials that there is more to unite us than to divide us.  It is unfortunate that it takes a tragic event to remind us of that, but we are people of strong opinions and those who oppose us can be seen as enemies.  The rhetoric following this year’s election of a new president and the main stream media’s attempt to elevate everything that is divisive have fueled the fire of hate and division, in my opinion.  We live in a society where it has become acceptable to accuse, berate, and belittle others who are not in agreement with our opinions, and I guess I'm not much different.  There are those who will disagree with my comment on the "main stream media," and that’s okay.  It’s just an opinion.  The problem arises, though, when we use our opinions to justify attacks - verbal, emotional or physical -  on those who have differing opinions.

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Mission Opportunities

Where do you find your mission?  Is it in the people closest to you?  Does your immediate family know the truth of Jesus love?  Has a spouse, a child, a sibling, or a parent been your mission for years?  Don’t quit and don’t allow them to ever get away from you without showing them the goodness of God revealed to us in His Son, our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ who dwells in you!

Maybe your mission field is at your work.  Do you enter your work place with an attitude that you’re grateful to have the job you have and everyone can see that?  Are you working for your employer as though you are working for God?  Do you show those around you that everything you have is not your own but a blessing from God?  Are you generous with your speech and time toward your coworkers?  Do they know that God has given us the responsibility to manage everything He has created for us here?

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Achievement, Celebration, and Transition

May is when we normally celebrate our graduating seniors.  Our Grill Masters competition was birthed out of this celebration and we’ve now added the Sweet Treats prize as well.  It’s a milestone that for a lot of us is a distant memory.  But for Olivia Thomas it’s just over the horizon and I know she’s excited and prepared for what lies ahead of her.

I have the privilege of working with young people usually from their middle school through their high school years, but I’ve known Olivia for most of her life.  What a blessing it has been to watch her grow up and go through all the stages.  We’ve shared a lot of life here from VBS to Great Escape to Fall/Winter Retreats to Mission Trips to Chrysalis and much more.  It’s been one of those journeys when you know the young person is in it for the right reasons.  That’s been the case with Olivia.  Her heart is tender, her attitude is humble, and she has a great work ethic that she has shared on so many occasions with our group.

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Lent to Easter

Most of you have been in this for a while.  By this, I mean you have been followers of Jesus and the Way for several years.  On Ash Wednesday, we had a service where we began a journey over 40 days leading up to Easter.  It’s a time of self-reflection, a time to contemplate your life and your personal journey with our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.  For several, it’s a time to give up something that may be getting in the way of that relationship.  Or you may have chosen to add more prayer time, scripture reading time, or time serving others.  The journey, though, is not just limited to 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  It’s true that this is a time when we reflect, but what about before and after?

On March 3rd and 4th we hosted a youth retreat here for middle and high schoolers from 5 different churches in our Presbytery.  We spent a good amount of our time together going through an exercise of self-reflection on where we feel we are in our individual journeys with God.  To be honest I had high expectations of what God would do during our time together.  When you work with teenagers though, what you expect doesn’t always happen the way you think it should.  And that’s okay.  Over the years I’ve learned that God is in the business of touching and changing hearts.  My job is to point them toward Him.

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There are certain things that catch my attention.  Survival intrigues me.  For some reason, I have this interest in how folks live off grid and completely on the land.  There are shows that help fuel my interest and teach how to succeed, and quite frankly how not to do some things too.  Mountain men are examples of those who have chosen lives that put them out of the rat race of society, but in a never-ending battle to survive.  "Live Free or Die" is a show that depicts the lives of those who have moved out of the mainstream into secluded, and sometimes isolated existences, living off the land with only their own two hands and the wits they’ve gained through experience.  One show that I have been watching recently is “Alone”.  It's about a group of experienced survival experts who were dropped off in the wilderness of Patagonia with just a few essential items, and then left alone to survive until everyone else quits. It’s getting down to the finale and only 3 are left, two women and one man.  As it is in all of life, there are lessons to be learned, even from survival shows, about us and our relationship with God.

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Saint Valentine

We are approaching a month that, for some merchants, contains a huge holiday.  Valentine’s Day is a holiday for which people purchase cards, chocolates, and flowers for spouses, significant others, and friends.  About a billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year.  This makes it the second largest seasonal card exchange time of the year.  More than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine's Day.  Over $1 billion worth of chocolate is purchased for Valentine's Day in the U.S.  189 million stems of roses are sold in the U.S. for Valentine's Day.  73 percent of people who buy flowers for Valentine's Day are men, while only 27 percent are women.

Most folks don’t know the story of St. Valentine.  He was a priest who was imprisoned for performing weddings for Roman soldiers.  Why would someone be imprisoned and ultimately executed for performing weddings?  Well, it seems that the Roman emperor at this time, Claudius, didn’t want his soldiers married.  He believed that marriage would affect the soldier's loyalty to him and the soldier's willingness and ability to fight.  Rumor has it that before Valentine was executed, he penned a note to the jailer’s daughter and signed it "Your Valentine."  You can fact check me on this, but it’s interesting that this holiday of sharing with loved ones had its origin in the pursuit of protecting and promoting the framework of the family, a husband and wife.

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