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Monthly Archives: December 2013

If children are our future…

A friend posted pictures of his church’s children’s Christmas program. Underneath, he wrote that he was encouraged because the children are the future of the church. His statement caused me to ask some questions.

If children are the future of our church…

  • Why don’t we see children and youth as the “present” of the church?
  • Why don’t we invest more significantly in children’s ministry and youth ministry?
  • Why are many churches adult-centric in their programming?
  • Why do people resist serving in the nursery, Awana, or children’s Sunday School?
  • Why are those programs often the hardest to staff and many times barely have a skeleton crew of volunteers filling the slots?
  • Why do we view recruiting for children’s ministries as filling slots rather than inviting people to invest in eternity?
  • Why are adults often reluctant to leave their adult classes and small groups to serve with children or youth?
  • Why aren’t the children’s and youth ministries the most creative programs in the church?
  • Why isn’t the nursery and children’s classrooms the most colorful, creative, warm, inspiring, and inviting rooms in the building?
  • Why do we try to replicate the favorite programs of our past rather than create new programs that will better meet the needs and interests of today’s kids?
  • Why do we view the nursery as babysitting and children’s ministry as childcare rather than see these ministries as opportunities to love, teach, and disciple kids?
  • Why do we not take youth on short-term ministry trips?
  • Why do we often focus on entertaining children and youth instead of discipling them?
  • Why do we not engage our children and youth in service projects and teach them they can make a difference regardless of how old they might be?
  • Why are we not matching adults with children as prayer partners?
  • Why don’t we believe children can make authentic decisions for Christ?
  • Why don’t we expose children and youth to missionaries and encourage them to consider a future in missions?
  • Why don’t we teach children and youth how to share their faith?
  • Why do we get caught up in keeping adults satisfied rather than focusing on reaching children and youth for Christ?
  • Why do we ask children and youth, “Did you have fun?” instead of asking, “What did you learn?”
  • Why do we ask, “How many kids were present?” instead of asking, “How were they changed?” or “What impact did we have?”

I don’t have the answer to all these questions, but I certainly have a lot to think about. Perhaps it’s time to gather our children and youth leaders together and do some prayerful brainstorming.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Church, Ministry

 

God’s Christmas Gift To Us

under-the-christmas-treeWhat’s the best gift you ever received for Christmas? Not the one you bought for yourself and placed under the tree. Not the one you stood in line on the 26th to return for cash so you could get the size, color, or item you really wanted. Not the one you saved for next year’s white elephant gift exchange or National Regifting Day.

The best gift is not necessarily the one you thought you wanted the most. It’s not the one that we place at the top of our wish list. The best gift doesn’t always come in the biggest box or is wrapped in the shiniest paper and have the biggest bow on top.

special giftThe best gift is the one that is personally picked out just for you. The best gift is the one you open and exclaim, “How did you know? This is not what I asked for, but it’s what I always wanted!”

In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed that God’s best gift to us is a child. It is a son whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus is God’s Christmas gift to us.

In Isaiah 9:6-7, we read,

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah used four descriptive names or two-word titles which revealed the character of this child. The child who was born, this son who was given would be both God and man.

When we are discouraged and ready to give up, we need a counselor who will come alongside and encourage us.

God’s gift to us is more than just one who dispenses good ideas. As Isaiah explained, he is the Wonderful Counselor. He is a supernatural counselor who will implement supernatural wisdom in discharging his office. He has the wisdom to rule justly.

Where do you need wisdom? Do you face difficult decisions about your children or parents? Do you face problems at work for which you don’t have answers?

The promise of Christmas is that we can go to the Wonderful Counselor and know that he will give us wisdom.

Do you ever feel like David, facing a Goliath with only a sling and a few stones? Can you identify with Gideon, being heavily outnumbered and short on resources? Do you face a situation like Mary, having to trust God for seemingly impossible promises?

Take comfort in the assurance that our Savior is a powerful warrior. He is the irresistible battle champion who will obtain the final victory in the arena of history. He is the Mighty God.

Where do you need God to intervene on your behalf? Do you need him to change the heart of your employer?

God hears those prayers and it is in just such situations of hopelessness and helplessness that his almighty power is born. It is there that God leaves his treasure.

The promise of Christmas is that the Mighty God has the strength that we lack.

What does a good father do? A good father protects his children from those who want to harm them. He provides for their needs and many of their wants. A good father cares, counsels, accepts, loves, challenges, and encourages his children.

Yet with all of their good intentions, earthly fathers come and go. Earthly fathers grow old. Some become ill and die. Others serve in the military and are deployed overseas. Some are killed in battle. Still other fathers abandon their children.

In contrast, our Savior is an Eternal Father. He will never leave or abandon us. There is no end to his protection and provision.

Where do you need a father’s touch in your life? Do you need to crawl up into daddy’s lap and pour out your heart to him? Where do you need your father to step in and tell you that it will be all right?

The promise of Christmas is that the Eternal Father will love and care for his children forever.

As much as we desire peace, we cannot achieve it through our own efforts. Fortunately for us, our Savior is the one who brings in and maintains peace. Not only is he a peacemaker, he is the Prince of Peace.

Where do you need to experience God’s peace? Are there problems and concerns that are troubling you? Are there broken relationships that you would like God to heal and restore?

The promise of Christmas is that the Prince of Peace both makes peace and gives us peace.

More than 2,500 years ago, the prophet Isaiah told of one who would be the hope of mankind, the long awaited Messiah who would establish an eternal kingdom based on justice and righteousness. Isaiah’s important pronouncement told that this one would be a God-man: a child born, referring to his humanity, and a son given, referring to his deity. The four names ascribed to this one give further insight into His character and ministry:

He is the Wonderful Counselor. He is our guide through life, and our advocate before the heavenly Father. He is the one who freely gives wisdom when we ask.

He is the Mighty God. He is the God before whom every knee shall one day bow. He is the one who intervenes and works on our behalf.

He is the Everlasting Father. He is the God of eternity. He is the Father who cares for and meets the needs of his children.

He is the Prince of Peace. He is the one who will bring a true tranquility among all nations. He is the one who brings peace to our troubled hearts. He is the one who heals broken relationships.

Slide 1As you long for joy and peace during this Christmas season, remember that Jesus Christ is God’s Christmas gift to us. The more intimately we know the “child-Son,” the deeper grows our love and devotion for Him. Worship Him even now and throughout this season as you sing of the joys of Christmas.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on December 22, 2013. It is part of a series on Christmas. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

What are you doing with what’s in your wallet?

How to be richBook Review: How to be rich: It’s not what you have. It’s what you do with what you have, by Andy Stanley

“Generosity changed the world once. What would happen if the church became known for inexplicable generosity once again?”

The above quote lies at the heart of pastor and author Andy Stanley’s short book, How to be rich: It’s not what you have. It’s what you do with what you have. The author starts with the premise that simply because we live in the western world, we are incredibly rich compared to the rest of the world. The question is, how will we use what we have?

Throughout the book, the author seeks to explain the Bible’s perspective on wealth as found in 1 Timothy 6. He begins by explaining the potential dangers of money—arrogance and self-sufficiency (verse 17). The antidote is found in being generous with what we have (18). Our giving strategy should employ the three P’s—priority, percentage, and progressive. Giving should be a priority. We should start by giving a fixed percentage of our income, and progressively increase that as our income increases. Generosity coupled with contentment is extremely beneficial (6), and will spare us from all sorts of problems (9-10).

Throughout the book, the author includes illustrations from history and his own life. He provides practical ideas how to implement the principles in one’s life. The book also includes a study guide for use in a small group discussion setting.

My only reservation about the book is that it is too short. It barely scratches the surface on the subject of finances and giving. It will whet one’s appetite for the topic, but the reader will need to engage in research and digging on one’s own to take it further. In that sense, the book is perhaps more motivational than explanatory.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2013 in Books, Finances

 
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The Season of the Incarnation

12-19-Frost

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2013 in Quotes, Theology, Tim Challies

 

Awana Christmas Party

Last night was the Awana Christmas Party at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. In addition to the usual learning of verses and Bible stories, the kids also enjoyed hot dogs, chips, and Christmas cookies. See you in 2014.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2013 in First Central Bible Church

 

Share my faith?

While most Christ followers acknowledge that Jesus made a huge difference in their lives, sharing that knowledge with others is not the easiest thing for us to do.

Is Evangelism Going Out Of Style? is the latest research from the Barna Group that shows the difference between evangelical’s thoughts about evangelism and our practice. If you are like me, the article will prompt you to reevaluate your approach and practice regarding this subject.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2013 in Evangelism, News stories

 

When plans go awry

Granted, firefighters need to be flexible and adapt to any situation, but this event certainly took it to a new level.

“Firefighters mistakenly pump jet fuel on fire instead of water.”

Oddball stories tend to catch my attention, even more so when they occur near where we used to live.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in News stories

 

How can we celebrate Christmas?

How do you celebrate Christmas?

christmas_lights_jspad800Do you put out Christmas lights and try to have the brightest, most colorful house on the block? Or do you have trouble just getting the lights untangled?

Do you attend Christmas activities like the Nutcracker Ballet or drive through the Bright Nights at Forest Park? Or do you approach the season with the “Bah, Humbug” of Ebenezer Scrooge?

Do you use NORAD’s Santa Tracker to follow Santa Clause’s deliveries? Or do you have the conviction that Christians should not promote Santa at all?

Do you use an Advent calendar, a story like Jotham’s Journey, or a Nativity set to teach the meaning of Christmas? Do you enjoy a festive family feast on Christmas Day? Or do you skip the meal and instead serve at a homeless shelter or the Union Gospel Mission on that day?

Do you exchange gifts with others? Or give donations to a cause such as Angel Tree or the Salvation Army instead?

How do you celebrate Christmas?

AnnaThe story of Anna in Luke 2:36-38 provides us with a model of how to celebrate Christmas. Her example teaches us that we can celebrate Christmas best by praising God for Jesus and telling others about him.

Anna was a godly senior citizen. She was married for seven brief years and was a widow for the rest of her life. Anna chose a lifetime of service over remarriage.

Anna lived with a sense of expectation. She was part of the remnant looking for the Messiah. Anna knew her only hope was in the mercy and grace of God.

Anna demonstrated single-minded devotion. She made the temple her permanent home. Anna was not idle, but made worship, prayer, and fasting her chief occupation.

Anna was in tune with God. In God’s providential timing, she was in the temple near where Simeon stood as he blessed Joseph, Mary, and Jesus (Luke 2:25-35). Without an invitation, Anna approached the baby Jesus just as Simeon had done. She recognized what God was doing in the person of this child.

Anna responded with praise. She gave thanks to God. Anna’s long years of passionately petitioning God gave way to an outburst of joyous praise.

Anna responded by telling the good news to others. She did much more than sing praises and give thanks. Anna turned to the other worshippers and announced that the Messiah had come. She could not stop talking about Jesus.

How Do You Celebrate Christmas?Like Anna, we can celebrate Christmas best by praising God for Jesus and telling others about him.

Look for opportunities to praise God during the season of Advent. Consider making the commitment not to criticize or complain during December. Instead, look forward with confidence to what God will do in your future. Find something new each day to give thanks for. Give praise each day for a different aspect of God’s character. Study the prophecies about Jesus and give thanks for how God kept his promises. Read the five songs of praise in Luke 1 & 2 (Elizabeth, Mary, Zechariah, angels, Simeon). Celebrate Christmas by praising God.

Look for opportunities to tell others about Jesus. Consider hosting a birthday party for Jesus and inviting the neighborhood children to attend. Deliver cookies to your neighbors along with a gospel tract. Go caroling to shut ins. Ask God to open your eyes to someone in need. Give a gift without expecting one in return because of what Jesus did for you. Celebrate Christmas by telling others about Jesus.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on December 15, 2013. It is part of a series on Christmas. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

CEOs and the semi-churched

During this time of year, we are aware of CEOs who come to church. They are the Christmas and Easter Only attenders. Now, Kevin DeYoung has written a thought provoking article on “The Scandal of the Semi-Churched.” These are the folks who are here one Sunday and then gone for two. He concludes with five questions each Christian should ask themselves about their commitment to the local church. I’d encourage you to read the article.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2013 in Church, News stories

 

What on earth are you doing?

I started reading Finish the Mission: Bringing the gospel to the unreached and unengaged, by John Piper & David Mathis (editors). It is a collection of messages from the 2011 Desiring God National Conference. I was captured by two paragraphs in Louie Giglio’s chapter, “The galactic God who invites us into his glorious plan.”

Early in his essay, he writes about what our purpose in life is to be.

Christians are not at their leisure–that’s the heartbeat of what I sense God wants me to bring in this chapter. We are not at our leisure. Rather, we are under the mandate of the grace of God–grace that found us, restored us, redeemed us, breathed life back into our dormant lungs, and brought us back from the grave for a purpose. And that purpose is that we would, with everything in us, become an amplifier of the beauty of Jesus among all the peoples on this planet. This mission is crystal clear.

He begins his conclusion to the chapter with these thoughts.

If you want to be close to Jesus–and maybe you haven’t felt very close to him lately–if you want to dwell intimately with the Son of God and feel the breath of heaven on your life, then you need to be where Jesus is. Perhaps you have spent way too long trying to get Jesus where you are. What you need to do is start getting onboard with the idea of getting where he is. And I’m telling you where he is: going to all the unreached peoples of the earth. That’s where Jesus is. If you haven’t felt a real intimacy with Christ and closeness with the Holy Spirit, it may be because you’re off doing your thing, and God is elsewhere doing his thing. He’s not responding to all your invitations to come over and join up with your thing. Now it’s finally time for you to respond to his invitation to join up with his thing.

Giglio closes the chapter with this paragraph.

So who’s asking? The one asking is a God who doesn’t need us but who’s inviting us, out of kindness and generosity and love, to get onboard with the thing he’s doing in the world right now, and until the end of time. He’s inviting us to walk with him as we share a role in his glorious plan.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in Books, Missions, Quotes