Month: December 2017

What Will be New for You in 2018?

How many New Year’s resolutions have you made? How many have you kept? Each year, many people try to set aside bad habits when they start the New Year and turn a new leaf. Generally, these last about a week, maybe two. Did you know that the first quarter of the year is the busiest time for gym memberships. We resolve to get ready for summer, to lose a few extra pounds, or to simply get in better shape…until we don’t. In a recent Washington Post article entitled, What Your Gym Doesn’t Want You to Know, one gym reported a 40% increase in attendance (people using their memberships) in December and January. One report, from Planet Money, says that half of the members at one gym never use their membership. So where is the disconnect? Why do people pay for memberships they don’t use? Why do we start out the year with good intentions, then fall back into our old routine? More importantly, how do these good intentions affect our spiritual life?

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, we do more paving than ever this time of year. The above example is about being physically fit, but our New Year resolutions cover the gambit of life. We want to grow closer with those who are important to us, grow deeply spiritually, read the Bible more, get out of debt, move forward in our business, or strengthen our marriage. I believe that the reason we do not follow through is found in Proverbs 29:18. “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” (ESV) This may sound a little different from what your used to. If we simply talk about the vision and perishing, we may forget about the God part.

So, as you look toward 2018, here are a few ways that your dreams can become goals, then your goals can become your new reality. First, ask God. Pray and ask the goals that he desires for you. As you sense his leading, ask your tangible next steps. Did you know that you are 42% more likely to accomplish your 2018 if you simply write them down and review them regularly? As you pray for goals, use a journal to write down what God brings to mind. Next, intentionally ask people to support you and hold you accountable for your goals. If one of your goals is bible reading, the YouVersion app has a feature that allows you to read the Bible in community and to be held accountable. Check it out in your Apple or Google AppStore.”Blessed is he who who keeps to the law.” God desires for us to look to him and his Word as we follow his vision for our life. So after you pray about and write down what God is telling you, look to his Word and see if your goals line up with God’s teachings. Finally, celebrate what God has done as you achieve in your year ahead.

Advent – What Child is This?

What Child came at Christmas? That is question that we

Advent – Christian Freedom

Someone recently said that freedom from shame and guilt is the missing piece of the Gospel. Here is this past week’s sermon where we discuss how Christ’s birth relates to our freedom from our shame and guilt.

Friday Favorite – Take Heart YZ Prayer (Arranged by Bill Senyard)

God, my shame and guilt are pretty deeply rooted. I messed up again. I am a mess. What is wrong with me? I don’t feel right. I have given You a thousand reasons to be disappointed, or to turn Your back on me. However, 2000 years ago You poured out Your anger, and justice, and disappointment, and criticism upon Jesus, Your own Son, in my place. So now, You can’t be critical of me, or disappointed in me, ever again. Make me really get that in my head and heart so that my guilt has less power over me right now.

I see again that Jesus’ record of doing everything right is now, for some crazy reason, put into my biography, my resume – and everything His life earned- heaven, eternal life, Your love, forever. You can’t ever love me more than You do, as much as You love your Son and He loved You. You can’t love my any less, ever. You have to like me, no matter what I did or didn’t do last week, no matter what I suspect that others feel toward me. It may feel like it. Yet the messiness is on my end, not yours.

Give me power to undo my fear that I am unlovable, or likeable. Give me, through the Spirit of Christ in my inner being, the power to be able to overcome my shame, guilt, and fear. Quick, before I go and mess up some other relationships again. Simply put, make me feel loved by You. Make me see Your smile and hear Your voice. Fill my beat-up, emptied cup. Now please.

(2 Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 3:14-21)

What Day is It? A Joyous Christmas Memory

What do you look forward to the most about Christmas? Gifts? Seeing your family on Christmas day? Is it seeing your friends and community members at parties and concerts that continue all through December? Christmas brings a feeling of joy, community, and hope. During college I worked at a restaurant called Bob Evans. One night, I was washing dishes until late at night. We had been very busy that day and had to work extra late to clean up. Most of the staff were tired and ready to go home. As I was nearly done washing dishes, I heard the voice of our manager, Cliff. His tone sounded different from the rest of us. The rest of us were exhausted. We just wanted to go home and go to bed. But not Cliff. Cliff was exuded joy as he went about his work. As he approached me, I turned around and inquired, “Why are you so happy?” He replied, “It’s Christmas.” In the busyness of the night, in the lateness of the hour, I had completely forgotten that it was the night before Christmas Eve. The next day, we would close early to enjoy a Christmas Eve service with our families. And then, Christmas Day would come. Our families would gather. We would celebrate the coming of Christ.

Does that ever happen to you? Think of everything you must get done this holiday season. The Christmas tree and decorations need to go up. The gifts need bought and wrapped. Christmas cookies need to be baked, decorated, and delivered. The meal needs to be planned, purchased, preserved, and prepared. The kids need to be taken to their school concerts and Christmas parties. The list gets longer and longer. The stress builds. I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha. In Luke 10, Jesus is visiting their house. Martha is rushing around the house preparing the meal for Jesus and the other guests. Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him. Imagine the frustration and stress that must have been building up in Martha. There was so much to do. Food needed cooked. The table needs set. Meanwhile, Mary is simply listening to Jesus. I feel like our culture pulls us toward the Martha side of the equation. Get the to do list done, then use the dregs of our cup to hear from Jesus. The realization hit me when my manager walked up that in my stress and busyness, I had completely forgotten the reason that we had been so busy. People were doing their last minute shopping. They were enjoying time with family and friends from out of town. We had served people who were enjoying their Christmas holiday, just as we would be doing the next two days. When Cliff reminded me of this, it lifted me up and helped me to refocus on the reason for what was going on all around me. I pray that for you as well. In the midst of the busyness, remember the Christ of Christmas.

Friday Favorite – God in in the Manger

Wisdom at Christmas, a forgotten love story, and the hope of Christ’s birth at Christmas. You will find all of these in “God is in the Manger,” a devotional based on the story and writings of renowned Christian author, pastor, and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Our current Christmas series is based on this devotional.