Cathy & I enjoyed watching a 6-part (about 25 minutes each) teaching/dramatization by Kyle Idelman called “The Christmas Experience.” I think you’ll enjoy it. You can view it on RightNow Media by clicking HERE.
Beginning on January 1st, we are offering you a 21 day challenge. Psychologists say it takes 21 days to break a habit and establish a new one. Part of the challenge is for those who do not have a consistent daily quiet time. You’ll be asked to read a chapter in John’s gospel per day for 21 days. Don’t just quickly read the chapter, read it slowly. Meditate on it. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring a fresh word from it to you. Abide in Him.
Those who have a regular quiet time can still do the reading, but you may want to refrain from something you’d like to eliminate in your life. Or, refrain from a good thing for 21 days for the purpose of focused prayer. There is much to pray about.
Another possibility is to view a RightNow Media video series by Dallas Willard called Hearing God. I’ve found this to be helpful. If you are not on RightNow Media, contact Linda in the church office and she will help you set it up. HERE is the link for the Willard series.
We want you to have solid spiritual growth habits in 2023. We hope you will participate in these exercises.
I’m really looking forward to celebrating the burning of our mortgage this Sunday during the worship service. I’ve invited three community leaders who were instrumental in helping us achieve that goal. We’re having our monthly covered dish dinner following and then the congregational business meeting. I hope you will attend!
Be sure to check the “Christmas mailbox” this holiday season. More than likely there will be a card in there for you. Cathy & I have written a message on each of our cards for you. We love you all!
We had a nice group of about 25 people praying for the election and for revival in America. Keep praying!
I also want to encourage you to vote. Chuck Colson, former special assistant to the President, reminded us: “It is our duty, as citizens of the society we live in. To do that, we must vote. Christians are citizens of two kingdoms: The kingdom of this world and the eternal Kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13-14; Hebrews 12:28.)
Vote for character, morals, values like life, marriage between a biological male and female and religious liberty. Be informed! Consider being involved at the local level.
I have more I want to say to you about maintaining unity in the church. These thoughts are spurred on by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together.”
It can be easy to become discouraged by the gap between the ideal in your mind on what church “should be” and the real. You must love Christ’s Church in spite of its imperfections. Longing for the ideal while criticizing the real is immaturity. On the other hand, settling for the real without striving for the ideal is complacency. Maturity is living with the tension.
Believers are going to disappoint & let you down, but that’s no reason to stop fellowshipping with them. They’re family, even when they don’t act like it. You don’t walk out on family.
People become disillusioned with the church for many reasons: conflict, hurt, hypocrisy, neglect, pettiness, gossip, legalism and more. Rather than being shocked & surprised, remember the church is made up of real sinners, including ourselves. Because we’re sinners, we hurt each other, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. But instead of leaving the church, we stay and work it out if at all possible. Reconciliation, not running away, builds strong character & deepens fellowship.
Divorcing the church at the first signs of disappointment is a mark of immaturity. God has things He wants to teach you & others. Besides, there is no “perfect” church to go to. Every church has weaknesses and problems. You’ll soon be disappointed again.
Groucho Marx was famous for saying he wouldn’t belong to a church that would let him join! If a church must be perfect to satisfy you, that church’s perfection would exclude you because you’re not perfect either!
Every church could put out a sign saying “No perfect people need apply.” The Church is only for those who admit they are sinners, need grace, and want to grow.
To quote Bonhoeffer: “He who loves his dream of community more than the community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter… If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even when there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness in faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we keep complaining that everything is paltry and petty, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow.”
We had a touching Celebration of Life for Penny Huizinga’s homecoming on Saturday. Here are Maureen’s words about her daughter.
“It seems reasonable to start at the beginning of Pen’s story. Before she was our daughter, she was God’s gift to another couple in another country. Her mom and I both waddled our ways into December of 2000, full of baby belly and dreams for our little girls. Would she arrive before Christmas? Who would she look like? Would her name fit her? Who would she grow to be? A thousand dreams and prayers were probably had. While I would continue to waddle along right through the holidays, Pen’s first mother brought her baby girl into the world on the 20th day of December and exited it herself the same day. It was likely apparent that the tragedy that took her mother didn’t spare Pen, and her father placed her into the care of the state who promised to meet all of her needs. Nearly 13 years went by. Her orphanage provided less than even the absolute bare minimum, but defying the evil of this world, our girl survived. Hidden away, nothing should have changed, ever, until her tiny body caved to the intolerable conditions. But God. In a series of events that only He could orchestrate, our hidden treasure and so many others were discovered and covered by prayers, found families who would cross an ocean to bring them home and shower them with love. We knew, collectively and individually, that we’d never love that place away nor could we fully undo the harm that was done. But we were resolved to love our girl without placing expectations on her. Only the confidence that He who began a good work in her would faithfully continue it. So, with prayer and arguably a certain amount of blissful ignorance on board, we brought a 20 lb. virtual twin daughter home, and began the hardest, most beautiful journey. Our journey as a family was as inexplicable by earthly standard as those first 13 hidden years. We watched a tiny girl bloom into a curious little girl, then a sassy teen, and into a tender young lady who loved her pets, her music, babies, and her family with a devotion I could only dream of having. We watched her develop communication skills and charm every nurse, tech, physician, and therapist she ever met. She fought back against multiple conditions that threatened her life and inspired others to support the care and hospital that helped her live WELL. Most of all, she radiated the light of Christ, beautiful, grace-filled, and miraculous. A good work completed indeed. And then, God in His perfect way, called our baby girl home. Our beautiful girl’s life was never without challenges, and even with the miracles we saw manifested, her body bore the brunt of Cerebral Palsy, epilepsy, and chronic lung damage. Numbered days are the truth of all our lives, but no amount of knowledge, right doctrine, nor understanding keeps your heart from shattering when you must say goodbye. Her greatest day, entering into glory, to praise the Lord whole and healed, was the hardest day of my life. Praise God-the God who understands the pain of saying goodbye to His child, for His peace. There isn’t a neat & pretty ending I have to offer. The loss of a child is beyond comprehension. Grief floods in and over you like a tidal wave. Existing hurts. Explaining hurts. Beating back against the enemy’s whispers that if I had done more, done it better, prayed more, or tried harder this wouldn’t have happened exhausts you-body, mind, and soul. God’s goodness doesn’t negate the pain of her absence, the soul crushing grief of seeing the empty space where her bed was, where her chair should be, where SHE should be. The pain is real; the mercy of Christ is in the hope; the ability to withstand this knowing that I will see her again. The hope is real, and it is what I cling to. Trust. Believe. And what I pray for you. Trust the Savior who will make all things new. Then love–love with unfiltered joy. Pet kittens. Get puppy kisses and play the music louder than you should. Cross oceans and take big risks that don’t make sense to the world. It won’t be safe; it will probably break your heart. But remember:”
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.. James 1:2-4
Please be in prayer for Paul Rodgers, son of Richard and Dimetra, as he is having hernia surgery Tuesday morning.
Cathy and I will be heading up to Canton this weekend for the Leadership Development Team meetings. Thank you for your prayers & we’ll be praying for you.
In Sunday’s sermon, I mentioned the belief system of many American teenagers. I’d say it’s not just that age group, but many Americans of all ages. Read that quote again to make sure you haven’t slipped into that kind of thinking.
Researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina interviewed more than 3,000 teenagers about their religious beliefs and have released findings in a new book. The social scientists concluded that American teenagers believe:
– A god exists who created the world and watches over human life.
– God wants people to be nice to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
– The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself.
– God does not need to be involved in one’s life except when needed to resolve a problem.
– Good people go to heaven when they die.
Commenting on the research, Gene Edward Veith writes, “Even these secular researchers recognized that this creed is a far cry from Christianity, with no place for sin, judgment, salvation, or Christ. Instead, most teenagers believe in a combination of works righteousness, religion as a psychological well-being, and a distant, non-interfering god. Or, to use a technical term, ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.’”
Men and older children, you’re welcome to come to the shoot/eat/fish event this Saturday from 10-5 at David Vaughan’s house, 2198 Old Church Road in Old Church. If you’d like to go from the church, meet there by 9:45. Bring some cash to donate for lunch & ammo costs.
I wanted to give you three of the quotes that I used in yesterday’s sermon in case you wanted them.
C.S. Lewis: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything & your heart will certainly be wrung out and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries, avoid all entanglements, lock it up safe in the casket of your selfishness. But in the casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken, it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.”
Albert Sweitzer – “Whatever you have received more than others – in health, talents, abilities, success, a pleasant childhood, harmonious conditions of home life – all this you must not take yourself as a matter of course. In gratitude we live forever thru giving.”
Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts, but the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, who knows the cause, who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; & who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold & timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Two talent person is praised by God the same as the five talent person. The reward is more work. Not a siesta! The reward is more opportunities. A player works extra hard in practice so he can work extra hard in the game. Extra work is the reward.
There will be a Day of Reckoning at Christ’s Second Coming. The faithful servants will be rewarded. Look at (Mt. 25:31-36). Jesus gives us examples of 5 & 2 talent work. (Heb. 6:10) – “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.”
I really enjoyed the Float Trip that John Schmutte put together last week! You’re in a gorgeous location – the Shenandoah River, fishing and catching smallmouth bass, eating like a King and getting to know great guys better. What’s not to like? I encourage you to go next year. Talk to John for more details.
If you haven’t heard yet, the Hanover County’s Board of Supervisors approved Stein Investment’s purchase of 6 acres of land from us. The closing is next! We’ll keep you informed.
We really enjoyed our time at the EFCER Pastors Conference in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I recommend it as a family friendly vacation destination.
We enjoy walking around the little town of Gatlinburg and the nearby nature trails. We rode our bikes on the Gatlinburg Trail.
The speakers we heard were great. Executive Director, Tom Crawford, reminisced on his 50 years of ministry by telling stories of miracles that he experienced. “Believe God and get out of the way!” Multiplication Team Leader, Rusty Savage, spoke on the life of missionary William Carey who went to India. He shared how Carey called himself a “plodder.” Just be faithful and God will use you. Malone University’s incoming President, Dr. Greg Miller, preached a rich sermon on looking at life through Christ’s soon coming. Students, have you considered Malone as a possible college?
The Keynote Speaker was Dr. John Bryan Smith, a Friends college professor and author. His specialty is spiritual formation, how we grow as Christians. He had a sweet spirit! Here are 3 quotes he shared:
The Wisdom of Dallas Willard for pastors (in Australia):
“You don’t have to make it happen.”
- That you would have a rich life of joy and power
- That in your work you would see supernatural results
- That your work be uniquely fitted to you
- That you would live with a constant clear vision of never-ending life in God’s world before you
- That you would understand the everlasting significance of your work each day
- That you would live a radiant life, and one day cross over to glory in a radiant death
“I am a rotten sinner”
“I am ugly”
“I am not enough”
“I don’t matter”
“I am a divinely designed, deeply loved, fully forgiven, fully alive, sacred person with a sacred story of grace and a sacred body. I was perfectly designed before the foundation of this world to do great works that give glory to God. I am an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe. I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights, and I live forever in the strong and unshakeable Kingdom of God” (James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful you)
I quoted Francis McNutt on ministering to others. Here it is again.
“It is necessary that the minister be free of the need to prove anything, that he be free of any personal desire for achieving results. To be cast down when his prayers have failed to effect a cure means it is time to examine his motives to see how much of his own fear of failure is mixed into his ministry. I may think I am defending the honor of God by demanding faith; but perhaps what I am really defending is my own self-image as a minister of healing. I must call to mind over and over again that the gift of healing is a manifestation of God’s Spirit working through me. It is not “a thing” I have in my possession, which I can turn on or off at will, but a transient grace, a passing movement of God’s Spirit working through me to help someone else. In most healings three persons are involved: God, the sick person, and the minister of healing. My part, as the minister of healing, is to pray the prayer of faith and then to move out of the way. In fact, the sick person is capable of asking for God’s help himself without anyone else being with him at all. The key persons are God, who is Love, and the sick person, whose sickness elicits God’s loving compassion. I am simply the human channel of God’s love, and I should be humble about that. I feel very uncomfortable when someone calls me a healer. The connotation is much like putting on a label of certification, a kind of rank – a something which one possesses permanently and over which he has control. But that is not true. Sometimes God uses my prayers and touch in order to heal; at other times, he does not. Why this is, I do not know. What I do know is that this inability to control keeps me humble; it helps me realize where the healing power comes from. So, the minister is simply to pray as best he can and, above all, to love all the sick who come to him.”
Also, in observance of The National Day of Prayer, the Sanctuary will be open on Thursday, May 5, from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.