Intentionality and Selflessness

  • I intentionally use my spiritual gifts to serve God and others.
  • I intentionally give up certain purchases so I can use that money for others.
  • I intentionally try to serve people outside my church who have tangible needs.

These are just a few of the statements presented by LifeWay researchers as part of a “Transformational Discipleship” study among Protestant churchgoers in North America. Read the study here:

63% agreed with the statement that they intentionally attempt to serve those outside their church with tangible needs.

45 % stated that they use their spiritual gifts to serve God and others. Serving God and serving others is one of eight attributes of discipleship that show up in the lives of spiritually mature believers.

33% agreed with the statement that they intentionally gave up certain purchases in order to use that money for others.  OH! And, 39% disagreed with that statement.

Would you have agreed or disagreed with these statements, if you were asked?

  • Do you Intentionally serve those outside the church with tangible needs?
  • Do you intentionally use your spiritual gifts to serve God and others? if so, how?
  • And, do you intentionally  give up certain purchases so you can use that money for others? Or do you spend all your money on yourself, family, and friends?

These are good questions for us to consider as we journey forth into 2014!

10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss

As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”. But, for some people, Christmas can be a miserable time. There are many reasons why this is true. If it is true for you, please know that I am praying for you and all who endure this season of the year.

Ron Edmondson recently posted an article suggesting 10 ways to overcome a sense of Christmas loss. I will briefly touch on them but please read the article for his complete explanation.

1) List your losses: Write them down and admit the pain

2) Share them: Certainly with God but also with a close friend. Don’t be embarrassed to seek out a professional.

3) Grieve the loss: Every loss MUST be grieved.

4) Resist falling into despair: All hope is NOT gone.

5) Take care of your physical body: Eat, exercise, and get adequate rest.

6) Be aware of negative thinking: See Philippians 4:8

7) Do something for someone else: It helps remind us that loss is universal and others are struggling as well.

8) Force yourself to participate in social activities: No one benefits by becoming a recluse. In fact, you will more likely become depressed.

9) Avoid the comparison game: Although natural, it’s dangerous.

10) Honor your losses with new traditions: Begin something new to honor the good things you experienced.

And one more! A Bonus: We have to learn to worship in tears. Never be ashamed of shedding tears as you share, grieve, and/or remember. They are cleansing. Remember, “Jesus wept.”

 

Advent: What Love is This

One of the questions I posted on Facebook this week was, “What makes Christianity different from other religions? Bottom line, it is the grace of God. God comes to us we don’t have to make the effort to go to God. We do not have to seek the approval of God. Our acts as noble as they might be are not the formula for a relationship with God. God loves us and that is grace.

The two passages for study today (Revelation 2:1-5, I John 3:1-3) reflect on the love that God has for us and the love we need to show God in return.

In Revelation, the Lord commends the Ephesians for their hard work, endurance, intolerance of evil, discernment, and quiet suffering. These are all great attributes. It is a description of a fine and upstanding church. They were an example for all churches to follow.

However, they are missing an important characteristic. One that is so crucial, that the Lord warns them, that he will remove their lampstand (their church) if they don’t get it right. The missing ingredient is love for God and for each other.

In the second passage (I John 3:1-3), we are reminded of the great love of the Father. He calls us “children” and what good the Father has in store for his children we can’t even imagine.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, may we once again be reminded of God’s great love and grace toward us. And, may we also be reminded not forget our first love for God and for each other.

Immanuel: God With Us

The three readings today are in need of some context, especially the Matthew and Isaiah passage.

Isaiah (read through chapter 7) challenges King Ahaz to chose a sign to prove that God is with them and that they have nothing to fear from the enemy. He refuses. If Ahaz  chooses a sign and it did come about then the king and the people would have to obediently follow the Lord and put away their false worship. He and the people are not willing to do that so he declines the opportunity to be comforted. In other words he believes that “ignorance is bliss.”

Not to be outsmarted by a snotty nosed king, God gives him a sign anyway.

NOW the term, “virgin” used in this context (7:14) does not mean that the baby would be born as a result of a virgin birth. The word simply refers to a young maiden.

The Isaiah passage has a fulfillment in the time that it is spoken as an immediate fulfillment.

FAST FORWARD to Jesus birth. It is obvious that Matthew believes that Jesus was born to a virgin. (Matthew 1:18-19). His quotation from Isaiah 7:14 is used as an ultimate fulfillment of that prophecy, that one has come to  provide ultimate comfort. Again the challenge is trumpeted to obediently follow the Lord and put away our false worship.

Jesus was completely his father’s son “full of grace and truth”

What signs has the Lord given to you that Jesus is the one who has come to comfort you?

What makes Christianity different from other religions?

What a great question. Hope you will join us Sunday at 9 AM as we discuss this question and several more. Our Bible study groups will have some breakfast for you as well. 

I am preparing my Bible Study lesson using Good Questions Have Group Talking from Josh Hunt

Here is some insight on the question: 

During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith.

They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.

The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.” After some discussion, the conferees had to agree.

The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of Karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.

— Citation: Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace? (Zondervan, 1997) / PreachingToday.com. (2002). Perfect Illustrations: For Every Topic and Occasion (pp. 116–117). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.