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.”


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.

Mom always did like you best!

From Biblical Recorder

Many of you will remember the famous line from the Smothers Brothers, “Mom always did like you best!” Joseph’s brothers resented their father’s clear favoritism of their baby brother, and became more indignant as he explained his dream about reigning over his brothers. Consequently, they sold him into slavery and faked his death. Things seemed to improve for Joseph after he was sold to Potiphar and put in charge of all that his master possessed. However, His righteousness and faithfulness to his master landed him in jail, falsely accused of raping his master’s wife because he would not have an illicit relationship with her. Joseph then oversaw all the other prisoners and interpreted the chief cupbearer’s dream only to be forgotten by him when he was released.
What do you do when life takes you where you don’t want to go, and the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be a train? Surely Joseph faced unbelievable discouragement as he sat falsely accused in prison for two years, but the Lord was with him (Genesis 39:21, 23). We all have a tendency to become near-sighted in the midst of adversity and forget about the big picture. Do we really believe that God is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28) even when our circumstances are terrible? Moses didn’t record what Joseph was thinking during his prison years, but he does reveal the fulfillment of God’s purpose for Joseph. Joseph forgave his brothers and realized that God had used their evil deeds to preserve the lives of countless people (Genesis 50:20). Are you in a troubling situation with an unpredictable outcome? Will you look for the big picture of God’s glory when the current snapshot tempts you to be anxious about everything? The same God who has delivered us from the darkness of sin and death through the sacrifice of His Son will deliver us from our temporary tribulation. Remember, when you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart. 

Who is that masked man?

The Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore) and Tonto (Jay Silverheels)Most everyone remembers the story: a Texas lawman who is the sole survivor of an ambush, fights crime with the aid of the Native American who has nursed him back to health. Donning a mask, this lawman chases down the gang who murdered the members of his division. In some early versions of the story, someone would usually ask as he rode away with Tonto, his Native American companion, “Who was that masked man?”

He was then identified as The Lone Ranger.

Through the decades since The Lone Ranger first appeared on radio, then on television, and most recently a movie version, he has come to symbolize American justice and the making right of wrongs.

Though this idea seems commonplace to Americans, The Lone Ranger is not the image for how we live the Christian life. In fact God has promised His very presence to ensure that we will not be alone. His Holy Spirit indwells each and every believer. We are never alone.

Read the rest of Ronnie Floyd’s blog here

Sunday School Contacts Make a Difference!


I have personally seen lives changed as a result of contacts. I have seen people begin to attend Sunday School and church. I have watched some accept Jesus. Some have become leaders, teachers, and deacons. And it all started because someone cared enough to invite them. Someone cared enough to write a card or letter, make a phone call, or make a visit.

I remember having classes set goals for Easter high attendance Sunday. When I totaled them together, I was stunned. It was more than 200 above our average attendance. I really did not believe it was possible. But we had added lots of communication, prayer, and contacts into our preparation plans. In fact, on that Sunday more than 2,000 contacts above the usual number were reported. Andy Anderson had researched churches and discovered that 7-10 contacts above the usual number will result in one additional person attending. Our contacts that day resulted in nearly 300 more people being in Sunday School. Andy was right on! Contacts work!

Allow me to share an experience by Jeff Crabtee who serves as the Minister of Outreach & Education at Central Baptist Church in Corbin, KY:

As we began our Sunday School year, we realized we had a large number of people on our enrollment that should be coming to Sunday School. As we prayed, we felt that it was a stewardship issue. When we became more responsible for those on our rolls, God would bless us with new people. Simply put: we needed to take care of what we already had.

On October 29, our battle cry became Contacts Count! We began recording our weekly contacts on the back wall of our worship center for each class. For the next ten weeks, we logged 4,315 Sunday School contacts by call, cards, e-mail, and visits. I felt the excitement in many classes as they began to reach outside of their normal class attenders. We began seeking some on a more regular basis.

In those ten weeks, our Sunday School average attendance went up 34 per week over the same period of the previous year. We continued to record contacts and have had a total of 17,134 contacts for the year and have seen the average attendance for the year increase by 37. Now, the best part is that making weekly contacts for Sunday School are in our DNA!

Contacts do make a difference. We are accountable to care for the sheep God entrusts to us, and some of them are not in our churches yet. Pray. Make a call. Send a card, letter, or e-mail. Make a visit in a home or business. Let them know you care. Invite them to come. Share your Sunday School testimony. Be revolutionary!

Parties predict growth

lets party

Groups that have nine or more parties a year are more than twice as likely (104%) to be growing than a low-fellowship group—those with four or less gatherings a year. The group that parties together grows together.

So it’s time to take parties seriously—at least in terms of helping your groups to grow. Have fun, and be intentional about it.

Parties can, and should, take on a wide variety of forms:

• Short and long. Parties can be Sunday brunch or a weekend retreat.

• Expensive and cheap. Usually cheap is better, and easier to do often. But if it’s a Valentine’s Day dinner, Red Lobster might work better than Burger King.

• Guy things and gal things. Stereotypically, we think of things like sporting events for guys, and shopping for the ladies. But do whatever works best for your particular group.

• Fun things as well as service things. Ministry and/or outreach projects can be included in this list.

• Seasonal events such as New Year’s parties

• Anytime events. Have a party just because.

There are biblical reasons, as well as sociological ones, why groups that party together grow together.

From –  Make Your Group Grow – Josh Hunt

Church Members, Here Are 10 Ways to KILL Your Church

I have the awesome privilege of serving a church that has been around for over 80 years. In those 80 years, the church has only had four senior pastors. While our congregation has had its share of struggles over the years, we are pleased that we have survived!

Considering the staggering statistics on church mortality in America, we are grateful to God for still standing strong. Some researchers suggest that between 3,500-4,500 churches close their doors (or die) each year. That means that in the time since our congregation was founded over 80 years ago, over 300,000 churches have died!

I suspect that most church “deaths” occur for a few simple (and oftentimes avoidable) reasons.

Recently, one of the senior members of our congregation — who has been there for all 80 plus years — handed me a church newsletter that was written in 1959. As I delicately flipped through the tattered pages of this precious document, one article in the newsletter pricked my attention. The title, which I have borrowed for this blog post, was simply “10 Ways to Kill a Church”.

The thing that interested me the most is how this list of “church killers” written in 1959 looks so much like the usual suspects in many church deaths today.

Here is my slightly paraphrased version of the 1959 list of “10 Ways to Kill a Church”:

1. Don’t come.

One of the biggest church killers is waning attendance. Many people simply can’t find the time to spend an hour or two in the Lord’s house. We find excuse after excuse as to why we can’t come to church.

I wonder what our lives would look like if God only showed up at our house as often as we showed up at His. The Bible is clear about the importance of assembling or coming together (Hebrews 10:25).

I believe in the importance of going to church, which is why I do a weekly Twitter hashtag called #Go2Church. If we don’t go to church, we just might be playing a part in killing the church.

2. If you do come, make sure it’s late.

So many of today’s worshipers (and apparently those of 1959) have a lackadaisical attitude toward worship. We have an “I’ll get there when I get there” attitude when it comes to church attendance.

I wonder, however, if we showed up to our job the way we show up to our church … how many of us would still be employed?

We say that God is an “on time” God, but can He say the same about us? A lack of punctuality when it comes to worship is a microcosm of our overall view of God. It says that whatever else we are doing is more important, and God can just wait until we get there. This type of attitude is a major church killer.

3. Only show up when the weather is good.

Ever been to church in a driving rainstorm? Neither have most of the other people in your church! Some people only go to church when the sun is out and there are no clouds in the sky.

We have produced a culture of “fair-weather” Christians, who only attend church when everything is going right in their lives. The moment a storm hits their life, they get mad at God, the pastor and the church.

There are some people who you can tell exactly what’s going on in their lives based upon their church attendance. When things are great and they have a little money in their pockets, they’re on the front row singing “Amazing Grace,” but as soon as they get laid off or deal with some sort of difficulty, they’re ready to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). The only thing that dies with that kind of attitude is the church.

4. Find fault with everything (and/or everyone).

Most homicide investigations begin by researching those who had something negative to say about the victim. Similarly, when a church dies, you can be sure that the fault finders are prime suspects. These are the folks who sit “in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1).

Fault finders can always SPOT a problem, but they never SOLVE a problem. They are definitely church killers.

5. Never accept a leadership role or responsibility.

Many people have a “renters” mentality when it comes to church; they take no ownership.

When you rent an apartment, if something breaks, you call the landlord to fix it. Since you don’t own it, you have no obligation to fix it. There are too many people renting pews (and some pulpits).

It’s far easier to criticize than to mobilize. As Seth Godin says, “No one has ever built a statue to a critic.” If we want to make a difference, we have to accept the responsibility to lead — whether formally or informally.

Leadership is not about position; it’s about productivity. A congregation full of followers is on life support and is getting ready to die.

6. Get mad if you’re not appointed to a leadership position.

So many people in church are focused on titles. They want to be directors, deacons and dignitaries, and when they are not appointed to a position, they begin to stir up trouble.

This is a manifestation of deep-seated pride, and pride is one of the most dangerous killers of all.

7. Never give your opinion in a meeting … wait until AFTER the meeting.

A surefire sign of a church that is on its deathbed is one that has major “meetings-after-the-meeting.” You know, where no one voices their honest opinion or offers useful insight during the official meeting, but are quick to huddle in a corner or the church parking lot after the meeting to harp on how “it ought to be done.”

There are chalk lines all over church parking lots outlining exactly where the murder took place.

8. Do nothing more than absolutely necessary.

Show up, go home, but don’t be an active, engaged member of the church. It’s hard to reach “the least of these” when we’re only doing the least we can do.

The sad reality, however, is that most people who only want to do the least, love to criticize those who are doing the most! They howl about how the church is being run by a clique, when they never offered or took initiative to get any work done.

They just stand on the sideline and watch the church die. At the very least, they are an accessory to the murder.

9. Hold back on your giving to the Lord.

It takes money to do ministry — especially to do mercy ministry for the underserved in our communities. Tim Keller says that “Mercy ministry is expensive.” When we hold back on our giving to the Lord and His work, we are limiting the work that can be done through the local church.

Additionally, since there are operational costs associated with a church or ministry, a lack of giving can lead to the church being foreclosed, laying off staff and other adverse results.

Some people say, “Well, all the church wants is money.” The same can be said of Walmart, yet they keep taking their money there! While I do not discount that there have been those who have abused and misused the church for financial gain, there are thousands of churches serving in their communities who are dying because of a lack of finances. When we stop giving, we are killing those churches … and the countless lives they touch each day.

10. Don’t reach out to the unchurched.

The primary purpose of the Church is to introduce people to Jesus. The people in the pews must take ownership of that responsibility and become “mini-churches” that reach out to the unchurched every day of the week and bring them to the house of the Lord to be discipled.

Churches need regular and consistent “transfusions.” When new people are brought into the church, they bring new life and vibrancy. They ensure that the church doesn’t get stuck in the old way of doing things. They bring fresh perspective, and they help keep the church alive. Don’t kill your church! Go and bring in some new people today.

These are 10 ways to kill a church.

Click here for the full article by Tejado Hanchell

Quotes To Think About When you Are Thinking

  1. As we grow up, we realize it becomes less important to have more friends and more important to have real ones.

  2. Making a hundred friends is not a miracle.  The miracle is to make a single friend who will stand by your side even when hundreds are against you.

  3. Giving up doesn’t always mean you’re weak, sometimes it means you are strong enough and smart enough to let go and move on.

  4. Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, etc…

  5. If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

  6. Don’t choose the one who is beautiful to the world; choose the one who makes your world beautiful.

Click here to to see the complete list of quotes


A Five Fold Strategy


The following article is a shortened version of Joel Rainey’s original article “A Five Fold Strategy Guaranteed to Kill Your Church.”  Read the complete article here. 

In his article he guarantees that by implementing these five strategies  you can accelerate the demise of any congregation. Do you agree?

1. Perpetually send an unclear sound. Make sure that key leaders remain clueless, and divided, when it comes to the identity, purpose, vision, and direction of the church. Speak in terms of, “We just want to follow the Bible.” “We just want to love Jesus and each other.” Just sound biblical without being biblical.

2. Invest More Time in Needy People than in Leaders. “The squeaky wheel gets the most grease.” And the grand mistake of church leaders is to give inordinate attention to the loudest and most needy people in the congregation, rather than invest in those God has gifted to lead the church.

3. Try to Please Everybody. Inevitably, good decisions are always sabotaged by someone suggesting that “doing this might really upset . . .[fill in the name of your preferred group.]” Guess what? THERE IS NO SIGNIFICANT DECISION THAT WILL EVER BE MADE IN A CHURCH THAT MAKES EVERYBODY HAPPY!

4. Refuse to Confront Troublemakers. Principled dissent is one thing. Saboteurs are an entirely different matter and in too many churches, they are allowed to run free and do what they please, no matter the negative impact they have on the rest of the body. Some “hold back” financially. Others pull the brake on what they disagree with. And still others, use  the technology of the day as a means to gossip and undermine the forward movement of the church.

Strong leadership is needed in these situations.. Without strong leaders to confront such nonsense, troublemakers will be free to throw additional anchors over the side of their drifting ship to ensure that it goes precisely nowhere.

5. Seek to Live in the Past. Churches actually do this in a number of ways, the most obvious of which is to be highly suspicious of any sort of change. Music styles, architecture, structural paradigms, and cultural engagement in general are all evolving concepts, and if the church does not reflect the culture in which it finds itself in all these areas, the result is far worse than simply an unclear Gospel. In the end, the church may lose the Gospel altogether, because they have identified its delivery with certain cultural accessories rather than a bloody cross and an empty tomb.

Roughly 3500 churches in North America close their doors for good each and every year. The vast majority of those that  I’ve seen close with my own eyes, did so by following the strategy outlined above. Many of them were not even aware of what they were doing, and when their subconscious path was pointed out, they simply chose to deny it . . .and keep dying!