Can The Lord be in an Annual Business Meeting? Indeed!

Our Annual Business meeting was a great way to start the year.  Yes, a business meeting of all things.  What made it a good start for us is the spirit and camaraderie felt at the meeting that demonstrates unity of purpose, generosity and a desire to move forward toward being a great church fellowship.

   We learned a few things.  First, the financial generosity is evident, and has been a characteristic of this church for many years.  Of the total amount of giving, 18% made its way to church planting and missions at home and overseas.  Much of that impacted our own state through the planting of Vector Church in Boise and the growth of our sister church in Cebu City, Philippines.  We were also able to finish 2018 in the black with all bills paid including parking lot maintenance issues and upgrading our security system.

   We also have made a stated commitment to growing our young families both through outreach and passing leadership to the younger families.  This really won’t be too difficult as we have very capable and godly family leaders and truthhfully, most of the rest of us were doing it in the early days of this church’s history.  We are confident in our younger leaders.  It isn’t the church that belongs to the old folks, it is Christ’s church and we are all in this together.

   I look forward to what God will do this coming year, and trust that we will never tire of being amazed by who God is and how He works.

Making another lap around the sun, is that all there is?

We start off yet another year that simply tells us we have made another lap around the sun.  That is all, unless we choose to make it more than that. 

   I received a call from a 90 year old lady who asked me to drop by as she wanted to discuss something with me.  So I dropped by and had a delightful chat.  She feels her mind is beginning to fail, her body certainly is, and she knows her time is soon to finish making laps around the sun in her life.  What she wanted to talk about was so refreshing, a true blessing.

   She wanted advice as to sharing the gospel with her two grown children before she dies.  Now, her kids are in their 60’s, maybe close to 70!  She brought them up in church and took them to Sunday School.  Yet, she senses by their lifestyles and priorities that the gospel did not take root in them so as to bring about fruit.  So her request was how to go about setting them down one more time to simply lay it out for them.

   This woman, funny, godly, yet wracked with the infirmities of old age, has one priority on her mind, the desire to make clear one more time where her hope is and her desire to see her kids embrace that truth.

   Many are making and breaking resolutions this year.  I, for one, will stand with this lade and help her keep hers.  There is no more worthy goal than to tell people about Jesus and His worthiness to be trusted.  God grant to her her heart’s desire. 

What is yours?

  

Giving does not end after the holidays!

In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter a stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim worship night and day,
A breast full of milk and a manger full of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and Archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But only His Mother in her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —give my heart.

 Christina Rosetti, 1872

Kindness happens only at Christmas?

  If you have ever wondered what the twelve days of Christmas is all about, you can always Google it.  Don’t be shocked by the many answers and traditions that will come up.  I read on one site that claimed the cost of all the gifts mentioned in the song would total $170,000.00 in US currency!  There are sites that suggest the twelve days are some code or formula to recognize either saints, martyrs or different highpoints of Biblical history.

     I bring this up because there is so much that centers on the Christmas season.  Hallmark movies galore.  TV commercials.  Movies both traditional and new, and then “special episodes” of regular prime time TV.  Most often, themes are that we should be extra nice this time of year.  Christmas ought to be the time when people come together, giving extra kindness to our fellow man. 

   Whether it’s the season or the 12 days of Christmas, or just that one special day, the fact is that if we are true followers of Jesus, what difference does it make what time of year it is; or what day it is?  Should we act special for occasions or seasons?  Or is Christ the Lord of May 3rd, July 19th, September 4th and the other 362 days as well?

   We should enjoy the season, the songs, and the celebration of Christ.  We must, however, live consistently every day until He comes for us all. 

   Always kind, considerate, generous and always loving.

"Doesn't anyone know what Christmas is all about?!" Charlie Brown

Today our kids will perform their Christmas program.  It has become a staple of our Advent celebrations.  This year’s program has been co-written by Lisa and Emma Spooner, an adaption of the Peanuts Christmas Story.  It is one of my all time favorite TV programs.

   I’ll never forget that my first year as a real Christian, I watched the show.  It was already becoming a classic, but like many things, I was missing so much because I was literally dead in my trespasses and sins.  I believed in God, I certainly did not want to go to perdition.  I was just hoping I was a decent enough chap for God to let me slide through.

   Once I faced my sin, however, and then believed in the Risen Christ, I became a new creature.  So many subtle things changed.  One was watching the Peanuts Christmas special.  I laughed at Snoopy and sadly identified both with Charlie Brown, as well as, his mockers.  Then Charlie Brown cried out, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!”, Linus takes the stage, and in that most famous speech, begins quoting the gospel of Luke, that is still the most iconic sound track today.

   But, like Charlie I heard it over again for the first time.  Yes, today, in the City of Bethlehem there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  His name is Jesus, for He is saving His people from their sins.

 

A Christmas Carol

One of my all time favorite stories is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I was given a book last year entitled Inventing Scrooge, an historical account of the purpose and process  Dickens used in writing his timeless classic.  His motivation was to bring attention to the neglected poor in England, of the government’s failed policies to effectively deal with the crisis of poverty, lack of education, coupled with the fraudulent practices of the poor houses and the cold hearted greed of the industrialists, many of whom were members of parliament at the time.

   It is hard to image the social conditions of the day, except as we see them portrayed in many plays and movies.  Still, with the exception of the Salvation Army and other evangelicals, ministry to the poor and destitute due to spiritual complacency dominated England.

   Dickens was raised in a home that inspired the Cratchit family. His father was loving, a hard worker, but a poor financial manager and often squandered resources to a point in which the family was relegated to a poor house for a time.  Through these experiences, Dickens knew first-hand the trials of destitution.  Even in his success as a writer affording financial prosperity, he never forgot where he came from and those who were still locked in destitution’s grip.

   Dickens tried to affect politics through speeches and essays, but to little affect until one day he happened upon the idea of writing a short story that would reveal root of the problem. He would use the characters in his story to reveal the nature of both good and evil, and of the possibility of true change in a person’s heart and how that could turn the tide for a whole nation, one family at a time. He would leverage the traditional affections of people during Christmas by using the holiday as the stage for the story. 

   The success of the book goes without saying. The variations of the story in plays and movies continue to this day.  It is a story of redemption, of second chances. May we remember that the original plot was given through Jesus Christ and the gospel.  He is the real power in lasting change.

Celebration of Christmas...is there a right way?

 I have been asked on occasion to give my opinion on the best way to celebrate Christmas.  Certainly there is no shortage of ideas on radio, TV, and family traditions.  What would we do without Pinterest?  Is there really a better way?  Does the Bible give us instruction on how to celebrate Christmas?  The answer may surprise you. 

   The Bible does in fact tell us how to celebrate Christmas.  It also tells us how to celebrate Easter, Thanksgiving, July 4th, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day.  It tells us how to properly observe President’s Day as well as Martin Luther King Day.

   What?  You did not know it was all in there?  1 Corinthians 10:31 reads; “Whether, then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  There is the basis for celebration, and the purpose for it, the glory of God.  If you celebrate anything, the way in which you celebrate must be governed by one single guideline, does God receive the glory He deserves? 

   God is certainly not against celebration.  He commanded the Israelites to have great feasts and celebrations.  The Bible says there is great celebration in heaven each time a person comes to believe and follows Jesus.  The only rule is that it brings Him glory.  And why should that be?  Well, He does deserve it, but more fundamentally, everything finds its purpose and joy in His glory.  When HE is glorified, the result is always joy and blessing for all His people.

   So whatever you do or don’t do, be guided by this great truth and let the celebration begin.

I'm Fighting Back!

   Here we go again, it’s Christmas, the angels are singing, and I know the reason, the Savior is born!

   I’m going to fight back harder this year.  I’m going to fight back against the elimination of Jesus and God during this season.  There wouldn’t even be a season with all the commercial hype of the fact of Jesus being born had not occurred.  The world is doing all it can to drown out the message, but I’m not going to let it. 

   I’m fighting back with Chris Tomlin, Andrew Peterson, David Crowder and others who have written wonderful songs, or re-arranged some old classics.  I’m fighting back with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in my car (and heart) to the Lord.  I’m cranking up the spiritual songs and turning off the one that don’t proclaim Jesus as Lord, the God-man come to earth to bring light and salvation to all who will hear and heed the call of God.

   I’m stoked!  Not for presents or for sweets, not even for football.  I’m stoked to hear again and proclaim even louder that Jesus is the reason for the season for not only the season, but for everything.

Colossians 1:15-20

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

  

   Will you join me this year in telling the people in our lives of Jesus.  They will listen if you ask them to. 

Anything to win....?

A couple of years ago we had a missionary couple visit our church, the Long’s, who serve in West Africa.  On Saturday, Patty and I took them to Ritter Island to kayak in the scenic Snake river Canyon with the amazing spring waters.

   The Long’s have two children, a boy, who was four at the time and a girl, age seven.  Mark had Anna the seven year old in his kayak and I had Simon in mine.  We started to paddle and Mark and I began to have a little fun racing each other.  We alternated the lead with each other, prompting the children’s natural rivalry in shouting for us to paddle harder to get the lead.

   Toward the end of our excursion, Mark and Anna paddled to the lead and got to the pull out just ahead of us.  Simon was upset because his sister’s kayak arrived first and her taunt of winning the race only made Simon angrier.  I said to Simon, “Listen, we really won because Jesus said, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”  I asked Simon to quote the verse several times so that he could tell that to Anna whenever she might taunt him.  He learned to say it accurately.  But the taunting finally got to him and he said vehemently, “I don’t want to do it Jesus’ way!” 

   We all laughed, and yet our hearts were also smitten by the reality that sometimes we don’t want to do it Jesus’ way.  There are times that what we want collides with God’s will and we don’t want to be last.  We have to settle this issue once and for all, or we will be taunted by our spiritual enemies relentlessly.  Only when we surrender to our Lord in totality will we be able to let our rivals go and be content in the promises of God.

Party Invitations - Joyful or Stressful?

  When was the last time you were invited to a party?  Was it an exciting feeling to receive the invitation, or was it, “Oh no, another thing to do.”

   Schedules are so full these days that what was once a joyful thing to be included in an invitation is now viewed as an intrusion into our leisure time, or what’s left of it.  But this essay really isn’t about time constraints or parties. 

   I want to talk about how people might come to experience our church family.  I think that our services are celebrations.  We celebrate the resurrection, eternal life, God’s forgiveness and fellowship with Him and with one another.  I watch as our family is genuinely happy to see each other, and I see people inspired in their collective faith each week.  I see us praying one for another, and I wonder if we ever invite others to join in the party.  Do we worry their schedules are too full?  Are we worried they may reject us out of hand if we bring up something about religion.  God knows we don’t want to jeopardize a friendship over something so personal.

   Why not just invite?  Why not tell them how this fellowship is impacting your life for good?  If they have a good, life teaching church already, bless them – (but don’t accept their invitation!)  Seriously, people are really not against the truth if someone has excitement over what it is doing in their own life or family.  The worst that can happen is a response that says, “ I’m not ready or I’m to busy.”  but we can keep asking and pray for them.

Celebration of Our Veteran's

Today is Veteran’s Day, celebrated since 1918 when it was originally called “Armistice Day” when WWI came to an end on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  The holiday is now 100 years old and is called Veteran’s Day.

 WWI was the “war of all wars,” and was so horrific that the so called civil nations of the world were totally appalled by the tragic loss of life and the terrors of the weapons of mass destruction utilized.  Some people felt that the horrors were so acute that it was believed that hell itself had emerged onto the surface of the earth.

   Veteran’s Day should not be confused with Memorial Day, set aside each year in May to remember those fallen service men who paid the ultimate price for freedom since the Revolutionary War.  Veteran’s Day is the day we celebrate Veterans living who have given sacrificially to serve our country, many having been in and survived harm’s way.  Today, we thank all of you for your sacrifice in serving the call of duty.

   I say sacrifice, rather than service, because this is truly what our service men and women do.  Often these sacrifices are not even shown to or seen by the civilian population.  What many have experienced, especially those who have served in combat, is beyond imagination.  These things can be so traumatizing that it becomes unspeakable to those who have lived through them.  Our prayers are with you, as is a listening ear.

   On this day of acknowledgement, please know that this holiday we stand as a grateful people for you.  Thank you again, for your sacrifice to our nation, and to us your friends and family.

Celebrating Generations

It is always a joy to celebrate the milestones of our succeeding generations. When our children are born, birthdays, significant achievements or experiences are things we love to witness as parents. The same is true for the body of Christ, and for local churches.

Back in 2002 our church had a baby. The Rock Church was launched in Nampa, Idaho under the leadership of Cliff and Wendy Williams. Cliff had served for a decade as both a volunteer and paid youth pastor, and had a vibrant ministry. In 2002, God called him to pastor a church plant, and under the providence of God led him, along with a number of active members of Heritage Alliance to move to this new location and start a church.

The church grew, and was poised for building a building when two difficult events happened. One was Cliff’s sudden diagnosis of ALS, which ultimately took his life. The second was the collapse of the real estate market that left the church is suffocating debt.

In spite of these events, the church continued on and successfully launched a church in Boise, Sojourn Alliance Church under the leadership of Dusty Benner. On November 4, the church will be celebrating the milestone of dedicating their own facility after more that 15 years in rented schools and building.

It is wonderful to see God’s faithfulness to that congregation, and to the people of Nampa by supplying a wonderful family of faith in a growing community with many un-reached people. We give thanks to God for being part of His plan in making disciples of the nations, including our own Judea.