Christmas Season at Calvary

This past weekend we kicked off the Christmas season here at Calvary with A Night in Bethlehem.  If you missed last Sunday night you missed an incredible time.  We had several hundred people touring ancient Bethlehem, which was constructed in our church basement.  They saw all sorts of shops with cool crafts and games, 70+ sheep, manger scene, and so much more.  Definitely some major improvements this year.  A special thanks to everyone who helped out, and to all those who participated.

As great as last weekend was it was only the beginning of what we have planned for this Christmas season at Calvary.  Tomorrow begins our performances of The Gospel According to Scrooge.  We have four performances this year Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at 6:30, and a matinee peformance at 2:00 PM on Saturday.

We also have a Christmas Eve Service at 6:00 pm on the 24th, and even some special Christmas festivities for some of our services leading up to Christmas.  For a full listing of events that are going on around the church check out our website at www.lynnfield-ccc.org.

The Wrong Goal

“He [Christ] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.  To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”  – Paul in Colossians 1:28-29.

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Many churches are short-sighted.  Many focus entirely on the number of people they can get out to church, and not on the spiritual growth of the people sitting in the pews.  Don’t get me wrong, it is important to count how many people are coming out to church.  As the old axiom goes, you should “Count people, because people count.”  Every person is an eternal soul, and if the number of people coming out the church is not growing, or worse is getting smaller, then there is a problem.  A large Sunday morning attendance though, is only a small part of the picture.

I don’t think Christ had a large group of uncommitted undiscipled believers in mind when he pictured His church.  In fact, Christ always seemed to be running the uncommitted crowd away.  Yet, many churches seem content with filled pews.  They seem to think God is happy with a full church, yet Paul in Colossians 1 says that ultimately that is not what we are working towards.

“So that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.”  That is the ultimate goal.   Mature believers, that is what churches should be counting in addition to Sunday attendance.  Not just how many people fill a pew, but also how many people are involved in ministry, how many people attend a small group, how many people are involved in personal evangelism, how many people are parenting their kids in a godly way, how many people are applying Biblical ethics in their marriage and their work, how many mature believers there are as a result of the church’s ministry.

It was to this end that Paul strenuously contended, and it should be the end that we work towards as well.

Giving Thanks

If anyone had a reason to not be thankful it was them.  They had just been conquered by a foreign army, despite being the children of God.  Their city lay in ruins.  Their kings and leaders were removed. The people where starving in the streets with no food to mock.  Their enemies mocked them, and their friends and allies abandoned them.  It had become so bad that the people in Jerusalem somberly stated in Lamentations 2:5, “The Lord is Like an enemy.”  Basically they were saying, “God, why is this going on?  Where are you at?”

Pumpkin

You would think that if there was anyone who would have a hard time giving thanks it would be these people.   Their city destroyed, their nation in shambles, their lives turned upside down.  Yet they stated in Lamentations 3:21-25, “Therefore I have hope; because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.  I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion.'”

In this midst of tragedy these people realized that they had at least one thing to be thankful for, and that was that God was there for them.

This past Thanksgiving you may have struggled to come up with something to be thankful for.  Maybe you lost someone dear to you this year.  Maybe you or a loved one is facing a major medical issue.  Maybe the stack of unpaid bills just gets taller and taller.  Whatever is going on in your life you have at least one reason to be thankful, and that is that God is there for you.

The people of Jerusalem realized this.  Even in the midst of great tragedy they had at least one reason to be thankful.  And so do you.

How to Pet a Porcupine

I discovered something new in a staff meeting a few weeks ago, and that is that you can pet a porcupine without getting hurt. I have never actually pet a porcupine, but I was told it is possible without a follow-up trip the hospital, if you do it correctly.

Porcupine

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If you want to pet a porcupine without getting stuck by a bunch of quills you don’t run up and startle it.  You don’t quickly scoop it up into your hands and give it a big hug.  If you want to pet a porcupine you have to develop trust with it.  First, you hold out your hand to see if it wants to come near and sniff you. Only after it sniffs you can you pet it, but you have to do it a certain way starting at the head and petting down.  To pet a porcupine any other way could potentially hurt…a lot.

Some people are a lot like porcupines. They have quills, and they will stick you if you handle them the wrong way.    You know the kind of people I am talking about, they tend to be a bit grouchy, pessimistic, standoffish and avoid personal contact, have a tendency to complain and point out the bad in a situation, etc…  These people tend to be a lot like porcupines.  If you run up and startle them you’re going to get hurt.  If you try to pressure them into doing something you’re going to get hurt.  If you cross their path in a way they don’t like, start looking for the nearest hospital.

To pet one of these porcupines requires developing trust just like a real porcupine. No, holding out your hand to see if they sniff you is probably not the best way to go about it, but spending time getting to know them is.  Learning about their perspective, their past, their priorities can give you insight in how best to go about working and getting along with them.  Taking the time to building trust with can go a very long way, and save you a lot of pain in the end.  Just as I am sure petting a real porcupine is an amazing experience, I know that getting someone who is a bit prickly on your side can be just as fulfilling.

Also, for those who are pastors of churches and have opportunity to work with porcupines, the reality is that they are also sheep in need of a good shepherd. They can’t simply be dismissed. You can’t just steer clear of them like you might a real porcupine in the wild. You have to learn to pet them.  You have to learn to lead them. So you might as well do it the right way, and save yourself some pain.

Worship Leads to Missions

Charles Spurgeon once said, “There is only only step from rapturous worship to a radiant missionary spirit.”

To The Ends of the Earth

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The Lord’s Prayer starts out in worship by saying “Our Father, hallowed be thy name.”  The next line is about missions, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Worship leads to missions.  Or, perhaps I should say, true worship leads to missions.  If we worship God wholeheartedly then then out of that pure worship you would expect to see commitment to what is most important to Him.  If on the other hand our worship is half-hearted then one would expect some to see some pathetically diluted down form of Christianity lived out in the life of the “worshiper.”

So the question to ask is does our worship lead us to be passionate about those things that God is passionate about?  Does our worship lead to missions?

Recent Reading

Fairly often I get asked what I am reading.  Here are a few books I just finished, or currently have down off the shelf…

old books

Look Unto Me: The Devotions of Charles SpurgeonFor $5 this book is a steal.  I have been reading this book devotionally on-and-off for some time now, and the days I do read it I am always challenged.

The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns – Our church takes the month of October to focus on missions, so my Home Care Group decided to work through The Hole In Our Gospel by World Vision’s Richard Stearns.  Some of the group may have just participated in watching the DVDs.  Those, however,  who took the time to read the book as well were additionally challenged to do more to fight against world hunger, lack of clean water, education, shelter, medication, and for billions of people around the world a lack of an adequate presentation of the gospel.

Think Orange by Reggie Joiner – I have slowly been reading through this book by Reggie on family ministry.  We just started using Orange Curriculum in our main children’s services at Calvary this past week so I thought I would read through the book as well.   This book is a must read for any pastor, but especially for children or youth pastors.  It discusses engaging parents in what is going on at church with their kids, recruiting mentors to work with families, provoking kids and parents to work on their relationship, and a whole lot more.

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook by Ben Mezrich – This is a bit of guilty pleasure reading for me.  It’s my nerd side coming out.  I just love finding out how successful companies, organizations and people got started…. especially when it involves computers.  :)

No Perfect People Allowed: Creating a Come-as-you-are Culture in the Church by John Burke – As a pastor I always try to be reading something on the church.  This book is a great read to get you thinking about what we could do as a church to be more inviting to those in a post-Christian culture.

Primal by Mark Batterson – I’ll probably say more about this book in a later post, but this book is a great for anyone who is looking for more depth in their relationship with God.  Primal is about getting back to an authentic Christian faith.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin – I honestly haven’t picked this book up in a while.  But I love reading history.

Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush – Just like history, biography isn’t something I read real consistently, so this auto-biography by Laura Bush has been on my shelf (actually my kindle) for a while, but I am slowly getting through it.

Well, that’s what I have been reading?  Any recommendations on what I should read next?

A Question [Great Quotes]

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering and injustice when He could do something about it.”

Kids Poverty

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“Well, why don’t you ask Him?”

“Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”

– Anonymous

Tell Your Kids That They Can Do Anything

There is nothing your kids can’t do if God has called them to do it. It doesn’t matter how difficult it is. It doesn’t matter how large the challenge. If God has called them, then they can do it.

kid

Phillippians 4:13 puts it this way, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  This verse isn’t saying we can choose do whatever we want and we will be successful.  I could choose to pack my bags, move to Japan, and enroll to be a professional sumo wrestle (which I would need a lot of God’s strength for!), but odds are it isn’t going to pan out so well for me.  What this verse is saying when God calls us to do something, if we follow his leading, we will be successful.

God calls kids to do some amazing stuff, even when they are still kids.  I’ve seen kids raise thousands of dollars for missions, feed the homeless, go on missions trips around the world, and so much more.  As it has been said before, kid’s are not the future of the church, they are the church! Kid’s can do some great things.

I pray that throughout their lives when God calls kids to do difficult things, things they even know they can’t do in their own strength, that they will trust him and do them anyway. Whether he calls them to be a pastor, a school teacher in the inner city, or run for President, I pray that our kids would hear God’s voice and obey.

The trouble with kids and trusting God to do amazing things is that a lot of times other people get in the way.  They say medical school is too hard for them.  Being a missionary is too dangerous and too far away.  That there is to slim a chance of being a professional golfer.  They discourage the dream that God planted in the child’s heart.

There is nothing your child can’t do when God is calling them.  As parents one of the responsibilities we have is to help our kids learn to hear God’s voice, and learn to follow it once they hear….no matter how difficult a task He is calling them to do.

Stop Telling Your Kids They Can Be Anything They Want!

Stop telling your kids they can be anything they want.  Really, stop doing it.  There are two reasons you should stop.  They can’t, and they shouldn’t.

Michael Jordan Dunking

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Your kid can’t be anything they want.  I am 5’10”.  The average male has an 18” vertical jump, and I am not sure that I am average.  I am also not sure what my free point shooting average is, but I know that I have a hard time making jump shots.  I cannot be a professional basketball player.  Sure I could work really hard, and get better.  I might even be able to get better than my friends, but even if I gave it everything I had the odds are I would never be a professional basketball player.  The bottom line is that we all have different gifts and talents, and there are some things we do not have the ability to do.  Your child can’t be anything they want.

But even if your child could do anything they wanted, they still shouldn’t.  God has created us all with a plan for our lives. One of the best things a parent can do is help their child discover what God created them to do, and help their child nurture that calling in their life.  Why let your kid settle for second best?  Help them discover the singular reason they were created.  Help them discover what God created them to do.

You kids can’t be anything they want, and even if they could be anything, they shouldn’t.

A Moment That Changed My Life

There have been a few moments that have radically changed my life.  The moment I became a Christian.  When Becky and I met, and when we got married.  The day my son was born.

Nicaragua Poverty

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There was another moment that changed my life.  It happened while I was on a missions trip to Mexico.

I was a 21 year old intern working for the Youth Department Northern Missouri District of the Assemblies of God.  My job was to help lead a group of teenagers on a missions trip to Reynosa, Mexico.  We did a lot of ministry that week, but one moment stands out more than all the others combined.

One afternoon we headed out to an outreach.  I didn’t know exactlly where we were going, only that we reaching out to some children.  As we drove, we passed by parks and schools with tons of kids, so when turned down a dirt road that seemed to be leading to the middle of nowhere I started to question our host missionaries strategic intelligence.

The road didn’t end up leading nowhere, it ended up in the city dump. I remember being confused as to why we were at the dump, and not back at one of the parks we passed, but as soon as we unloaded the truck and turned on the sound system I understood why were there.

When the music started playing people, kids, started coming out….literally from under the trash.

As we ministered in the dump that day I saw poverty first hand.  I saw kids without clean water, without adequate clothing or shoes, with houses made out of cardboard, and families whose food consisted of the trash others had thrown away.

This is a little embarrasing to say, as I was 21 at the time, but until that day I didn’t realize what poverty was.  I honestly don’t know that it had clicked in my brain that there were kids dying every day from malnutrition, from diseases they caught from drinking contaminated water.  I don’t know that I really grasped that there were children who had no homes to live in, or schools to attend.

That moment changed my life.  The size of my world more than doubled that day.  I realized that there is a big world, with a lot of big problems, outside of Missouri.  On that day I vowed that I would be someone who got involved in helping to solve some of these problems.  This one moment in my life is a major reason I am both the sponsor of a Compassion child, and am a Compassion Advocate.  It is a major reason I love BGMC as much as I do, and am driving to Panama to raise support for “No Child Without.”

I’m thankful that I experienced the dump on that day.  It changed my life.

What about you, have you had a moment that changed your life, your perspective, your entire world?

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