Be of Good Cheer!

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Memories are an important part of Christmas.

Can you remember a special Christmas that you spent with people you love and cherish? Can you remember a Christmas when you simply stopped, looked around the room, and realized how richly God had blessed you? Maybe you can remember a year when Christmas was overshadowed by the loss of a person you loved? Those are all parts of your story.

We all have stories that we could tell about Christmas. Just imagine the story that Mary and Joseph could tell about the year they traveled to Bethlehem and couldn’t find a motel room. Just think about the stories that the shepherds could tell about the night when the sky opened-up and they heard the voices of angels. Can you imagine the story that the innkeeper told his friends about the night that he turned a pregnant woman away and forced her to deliver her baby in a barn? Think about King Herod sitting in his palace and biting his fingernails – knowing that something was happening and that he couldn’t do anything to stop it.

In today’s message, “Be of Good Cheer!”, we’re called to think about the most powerful part of Christmas. God came into the world to meet us! God came into the world to meet us wherever we find ourselves in our journey through life. We might be filled with excitement and joy this year. We might be finding Christmas difficult because our lives are different than they were last year. But the Good News is that wherever we find ourselves in life as we draw near to the manger, God comes down out of Heaven to meet us; to feed and to nourish us; to restore a sense of peace in our lives; and to remind us that no matter what happens in our lives – or in the world – God will be with us and good will prevail.

May God bless you today and every day. May God lift you up and strengthen you with His love. May God be with you – and fill you with peace – and make you whole!

Merry Christmas!

Finding Faith in Times of Doubt

the pain by emilio gallori 1846 1924  siena palazzo publicco

We all face times of doubt and fear, don’t we?

We’re taught to believe that God is good and that God is in control of everything. We’re taught to believe that God’s going to take care of us, and that God’s going to protect us as we journey through life. And then, we listen to the news. Or, maybe, we get sick or lose our job. Perhaps, we’re forced to face the death of someone that we love. Perhaps we’re forced to watch one of our kids go astray and walk in the wrong direction.

John the Baptizer was a man of faith who faced a life-changing crisis. He believed with all of his heart that Jesus is the Messiah. He stepped out on a limb and pointed others toward Jesus with total confidence. But, then, he was arrested and he was thrown into jail by King Herod. And, in his jail cell, John asked some difficult questions.

In this week’s message, “Finding Faith in Times of Doubt”, we’re encouraged to enter the story of John the Baptizer, and to confront our doubts and fears. We are called to explore what we can do when doubts and fears surround us, and when our faith begins to waver.

This is a message where life and faith connect! This is a message that points us toward the streams of living water where our faith can be renewed – even in times when we face the doubts and uncertainties that all Christians encounter as they journey through life.

Blessings!

 

Come Out of the City!

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Have you ever moved or traveled into an unfamiliar place?

We, often, take things in our lives for granted. We have favorite grocery stores and favorite places to grab a cup of coffee. We have favorite restaurants. We have favorite places where we relax and recharge our batteries, and where we feel safe and secure. You might say that we all have places that we call “home.”

The places where we worship can be a “home,” too. We all enjoy being in places where we know people; and where we know, exactly, what’s going to happen – in a chaotic world. We like to hear music that’s familiar to us played on instruments we’ve learned to appreciate. We settle into routines. We begin to think about life and even about God in the same ways. And, as we settle into routines and into a “community” where we feel comfortable, we can start to feel at “home” – like we’re in a safe place where we can come to have our batteries recharged and to have someone stoke the fire of our faith for the week ahead.

And then, John the Baptizer appears!

In John’s time, people were born in the “city” and never left the “city.” People lived in the “city” and bought food in the “city.” People’s friends lived in the “city”  – they worshiped in the “city” – they raised their families in the “city” – and they felt at home in the “city.”

And then, John the Baptizer came along, and he called people to come out of the “city,” so that they could experience God’s presence in their lives in a new and deeper way.

In this week’s message,  “Come Out of the City!”, we’re called to stop and to think about what it means to be Christ’s Church in quickly changing times. Many churches still believe that, if they simply unlock their doors on Sunday mornings, people will come to worship – because that’s what good people are “supposed” to do. Many churches believe that it’s the pastor’s job to attract young people in the community and fill empty seats; and, when that doesn’t happen, it’s time to get a new pastor . Many congregations believe that the church can successfully address existing financial challenges by simply finding better stewardship programs that ask people, who are already faithfully supporting the ministry, to dig even deeper. Deep inside, we want to build our churches and ministries by convincing people to come into the “home” where we feel comfortable. And, of course, we don’t really want our “home” to change when that happens, do we?

“Come Out of the City!” is a message that challenges Christians to seek a path toward the future that’s going to be found outside of the existing walls of their own “home.” This is a message that invites the Church to allow God to lead it into a Wilderness filled with scary unknowns and uncertainties. Do we have the faith to follow where Christ leads us? Do we have the faith to move beyond the walls of our buildings and to more deeply engage people in our communities? The “mission” of the Church is NOT to fill buildings with more warm bodies, so that we can maintain the “home” where we feel safe and secure. The “mission” of the Church is to clearly proclaim the message of Jesus Christ in an expansive Wilderness – trusting that God travels with us as we do that, and knowing that it’s God’s job to create and to sustain the Church of Christ in every Age.

Blessings!

When Times are Tough

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When times are tough and storms arise,

I thank God that the path to the future isn’t paved

with only my own inner strength and courage.

God is Mighty!

The One who holds me in the palm of His hand

has the power and the ability to carry me

in safety toward better days.

© 2016 Wayne Gillespie