Doing Church: New Year’s Service

Today, we had a different kind of service at The Well.  We did not have a sermon like we had in the past.  We had a time of prayer as a church.  Being as we are stepping into a New Year, we, as a church, decided to pray for our New Year endeavors.  After our time of prayer, I gave the benediction.  Here is the benediction I gave for the New Year:

So we are going to enter a New Year.  Many of us will make resolutions.  The top three are:  1.  Lose weight, 2.  Stop smoking, 3.  Find faith.  I am surprised that faith found its way to the top three.  Unfortunately, these resolutions normally never are met.  We fail at them within weeks and decide that we will perhaps try again next year.  I have decided to make an acronym for New Year’s in hopes that we will be able to make our New Year’s resolutions count this year.

N.    Never forget the love of God.  It is deeper, longer, and wider than we could ever imagine.
E.    Enjoy the simple things God has given us.  We have so much to be thankful for.
W.    Wait on God.  He is worth it.

Y.  You were made in the image of God.  We are valuable.
E.  Each day is a gift from God.  Lets live like it.
A.  Always be willing to forgive others.
R.  Remember we are saved by the grace of God, lest anyone should boast in himself.
S.  Serve one another.  Jesus came to serve.  We should be willing to do the same.

Have a great New Year’s Folks.  God bless.

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Question…

The Kingdom of God – Jesus only tells us what it is like, not what it is.  Anyone have any ideas?

Its All Over!

Christmas is over. For some of us, the passing of this holiday is more of a relief than that of sadness. For the past two months, many of us have been set into frenzy with the “holiday spirit” of buying and shopping. For two months, many of us have been listening to Christmas music and have been bombarded with “50 percent off” sales in every window. Each year, it seems to be the same way. There is no break from the hustle of mall discounts and Christmas preparations. Then, all at once, after months of planning and buying, the presents have been opened, the family has both come and gone, and we are back to reality. As my friend, Gary said Christmas Eve; it is like we can finally breathe again.

I am not trying to write a sad story here but it happens so often in most situations, I figure I might has well call it what it is. Many people this year have allowed Christmas to be a time where they end up disappointed in the lack of change they wanted to experience. Many of us who are single (cough) have not found that significant loved one we so desperately desire to get to know. Many of us have hoped that we would become more popular this year only to find out that at the end of the day, we are left once again alone.

I wonder what hopes and aspirations Mary had after she had Jesus. I wonder if she was at all disappointed after the first Christmas. After the angels left and after the bright light went away, was Mary disappointed? I don’t think she was. To think that the Godchild nursed at her breasts and slept in her arms – that must had been an amazing site. Life was not this “bed of roses” for the couple though. They went through hard times, as any couple that had just had a baby in a stable would naturally have. The next time we read about Mary, Joseph and Jesus, they are in a house. The wise men come and visit him and they present gifts to the Family. It is about two years later by the way. I have often wondered what those first couple of years where like for the new family. Just a few more questions I would ask if given the chance to ask them.

So for us, like Joseph and Mary, once Christmas is over, will we allow the glitz and glimmer of the holidays to leave behind the darkness that looms over us or will we look down and see Jesus sitting in our arms fast asleep? Will we end up disappointed by all the “should have, would have, could haves” or will we make a decision to hold on to the hope of Emmanuel, God with us? It is a decision that will not make our life easier. We will not necessarily find the significant love one nor will we necessarily find true companionship by the world’s standards. We will have what truly matters most – Jesus.

It is with that, I encourage you to enjoy the post holiday season and know that the greatest gift is with you. It is truly a breathe of fresh air

Mary: Do Not Fear!

Since today is Christmas, I decided to leave the amazing story of Mary till last. I also did so in order to not put Mary on a pedestal. I don’t believe she deserves one at all. She should be understood as a young girl who was faced with a dilemma and not some “prized possession.” Mary could have been any daughter of any family. What I believe is significantly different about her though, compared to most likely any of the young ladies that we know, is that she had a very unique encounter with God in a way that had never existed before – and will never exist again.

She was a young girl. Tradition says she was perhaps between the ages of 13-16 (though we really do not know for sure). There was a guy who wanted to marry her named Joseph. He was a carpenter and would be able to financially provide for this young girl. We know from tradition that she agreed to be married to him and thus they were betrothed. It must have been weird to be engaged at a young age as she was. Mary no doubt, really had no idea what she was getting herself into. All she knew was that in a short amount of time, she would be married to someone she probably had known all her life.

So an angel of the Lord comes to her and says, “Do not fear.” Right. I wonder what it would have been like for her to hear this. Here you are (13-16 years old), an angel comes to you and said, “Do not fear.” Then she is told something that must have been almost laughable to her: You will be indwelled by the Holy Spirit and you will bare a son – name Him Jesus.” Let’s just stop right there for a moment.

I am not trying to be graphic with anyone but last time I check it takes a man and a woman to conceive a child. Unless science has new ways of doing things, you need sperm and an egg. How on earth was the Holy Spirit going to indwell her? Was one of her eggs going to be used? How would the “sperm” part of Jesus really go to be added without any form of penetration? Did it just “happen” or was there a spiritual process that you and I do not know about that occurred? After she accepted her fate as this woman of choice, did it happen right away? Or was there some time before it happened? These are honest questions I would love to ask if I had the opportunity to ask them. Am I the only one who has never thought about asking these questions? I sure hope not!

After all this happens, she probably realizes that she will have to tell her parents. Can you imagine having to go home and tell your parents that you will be having a baby but you have not had sex with anyone? Could you imagine the look on their faces? If your daughter came home and told you she was pregnant but she was not raped nor did she have intercourse, how would you look at her? How would you respond? I have to imagine that is how her parents felt when she told them.

Mary was a bold young lady. She told her parents the truth, held on to the truth, and believed that since it was a gift from God, He would protect her. She could have been stoned. She could have been humiliated in her town by everyone. Labeled most likely a whore, Mary allowed the young child inside of her womb to grow. Because Mary was obedient, Jesus came into this world. Emmanuel, God with us – in the flesh. Please do not forget the most significant reason for this holiday. It is to remember the birth of a Godchild who came to save us and redeem us. He came to love us and teach us the ways of the Kingdom of God. He came to meet our needs and live among us – God will us. It truly is the best gift we can be given this year. Merry Christmas. God bless

Shepherds: Do Not Fear!

Did you know that the shepherds got to see the baby Jesus before anyone else? They were the first visitors of the King of the Jews. As a bunch of smelly outsiders, the shepherds were oftentimes alone. And, though their job of herding sheep was important for the economical status of each town, the job of a shepherd was not very glamorous or exciting to say the least.

These shepherds were the first to see the baby Jesus. Could you imagine herding sheep in the countryside and all of the sudden, a massive host of angels how up in the sky and start singing the most beautiful song you had ever heard? I have never heard angels sing nor have I ever seen an angel. The sight of the host of angels must have been absolutely crazy. Words most likely could not describe what the shepherds saw. All we know is that they were really freaked out. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t blame them.

The angels must have known they were going to create an atmosphere of fear. Their response was one that resulted from their majestic presence: Do not fear. Could you imagine hearing their voice? I wonder what it would have sounded like. Would I have really not been scared after they told me to not fear them? I somewhat doubt it.

They then were given the way to see the King of the Jews. They were obedient and followed the instructions they were given. Go to Bethlehem, look for a manger, and find mother, father, and son.

The angels told the shepherds not to fear. I guess I just find it interesting that God would find it so important that you and I would learn that the shepherds were there after Christ was born. Perhaps it is not a big deal to most but it is significant. God thought it was significant because it is written down for you and I to read. I figure if God thinks it is important for us to know, we might as well take some time and recognize the significance for ourselves. God bless

Doing Church: If He Didn’t Come…

This Sunday’s serve was difficult to sit through. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable in church because whatever is about to come forth through the Word of God is difficult for me to hear. That is not a bad thing though.

Today, Todd spoke on a few passages regarding what Christ came to do. Christ even said Himself; “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:16-19).

Every time I used to go to church, I was told Jesus was coming in order to do a bunch of other things. Jesus was not really coming to preach to the poor. The poor were people we saw on the streets and never bothered to be concerned with. Jesus would never come to free prisoners or really help the blind see. The blind are those who do not know the Gospel of Jesus. The prisoners are those who were held to their sin and needed to be free from their lifestyle. The oppressed were those who needed forgiveness in Jesus, not the world. It seems my perception of Jesus growing up is much different than the literal picture of Jesus we see here in this passage.

Jesus did come though so that those who needed to be freed from prison. He did give sight to the blind and He did release the oppressed. I hope this holiday season; we do not forget all that Jesus means to us. If Jesus didn’t come, we would be missing out on so much. That is what I took away from this service. I hope it is something for all of us to take away this holiday season. God truly is good.

Joseph: Do Not Fear!

Since we are coming close to Christmas, I thought I would share some thoughts on what I have been learning through the event of His birth, told to us in Scripture. I began to read the first few verses of Matthew’s account tonight and stopped when I reached the words, “Joseph, do not fear to take Mary as your wife.” I believe we do not give Joseph the credit he is due in this situation. At lest I haven’t. It says Joseph was a just man. He was looked at in his community as someone to be looked up to. He followed the Torah and did what the Jewish men of that time did.

I am convinced that Joseph really loved Mary. Though it is not spoken of, I am not sure Mary was too excited to be with Joseph. He was a carpenter (most likely someone who worked to build houses with stone). Joseph followed the routine for asking Mary to be his wife. He began working on a house and preparing himself to be married to a woman perhaps he had known most of his life. I am sure she was very pretty as well (in the Jewish standards of the day) and was most likely sought after by many different men. She was however, betrothed to Joseph (a ritual that basically announced that they would be married as soon as Joseph finished building his house and received his father’s permission to marry her). In all respects though (except sex), Joseph and Mary were “married.”

The Scriptures say, “Marry was “found” to be with child” (Parenthesis mine). I wonder what it must have been like to see Mary’s stomach growing and a baby taking form within her womb. Joseph must have looked at her in disbelief. How could he marry a whore? Perhaps a Roman guard raped her. Maybe they could pass it off as an unwanted child. How could a man like Joseph ever marry a woman like Mary now? She would have to be stoned for her actions.

I am convinced that Joseph really loved Mary. He could have passed her off to the town people and killed. They would have dragged her outside of the town, dug a pit, filled it with mud, stuck her in it, tied her feet and hands together, and hurled large rocks at her until she was dead. The law said that this is how a woman like Mary should be treated. There must be no sin among the people.

I am convinced that Joseph really loved Mary. He decided that he would attempt to privately divorce her. The annulment would take place behind closed doors and no one would know except for Joseph’s family and Mary’s. That really is love. It is a love that goes beyond what would naturally follow. As Joseph was considering all he options (and there were many options), he fell asleep. I wonder if he prayed continuously about it. It does not say Joseph prayed about how to handle this situation but I have to believe he did. I have to believe Joseph came to God broken and confused about all that had transpired. When Joseph was asleep, the angle of the Lord appeared to him. I have never seen an angel nor am I ever expecting to meet one before I leave earth. I am almost sure that the awesome sight of what he was seeing frightened Joseph. “Do not fear, for what has been conceived is by the Holy Spirit.” If that dream had happened to me, I would have began to ask a lot of questions. “Why me?”

I am convinced that Joseph really loved Mary. Joseph woke from his dream and realized what had just taken place. He took Mary as his wife. He maintained a sex-free relationship with her until after Jesus was born. Even though Joseph was seen in a different light now that he had married Mary, Joseph took the angel’s words to heart. “Do not fear.”

I am convinced that Joseph really loved Mary. Without him, Mary would have been killed. Jesus would have had to be born another way, through another person. I love the fact that God takes note of Joseph’s love for Mary. And, for me, it is worth writing about and sharing with others this holiday season. God bless