On Friday, Jon, Carol, and I headed north to Lincoln, NH (about 3+ hours). After an early dinner at The Common Man, we enjoyed a walk through Ice Castles. Ice Castles is built in five cities in North America. It contains unique manmade, sculpted formations and ice slides with varying colors of lights. There was a chainsaw ice sculptor in the entry way to the castle. Yesterday was the opening day for the one closest to us. It was an ‘ice place to experience. A long drive to get there, but well worth the experience.
Monthly Archives: December 2016
Below is a letter I sent to our congregation at First Central Bible Church whetting their appetite for what’s coming in 2017.
Book Review: Moving Forward: Overcoming the Habits, Hangups, and Mishaps that Hold You Back, by John Siebeling
Many of us move into the new year like a traveler with an overloaded car or suitcase. We want to move forward and make changes but we are carrying way too baggage. John Siebeling has written a helpful book for those who want to lighten their load.
Moving Forward: Overcoming the Habits, Hangups, and Mishaps that Hold You Back is designed to help the reader develop an uncluttered heart and focused mind in order to embrace the fullness of what God has called each one to be and to do. With an uncluttered heart, we can obey God’s commands, live by God’s direction and counsel, and carry out the purpose attached to our lives.
The author tackles 10 areas where change is needed: (1) taking responsibility rather than blaming others; (2) not letting emotions control your life; (3) gaining victory over worry; (4) controlling what you think about; (5) getting rid of bad habits and starting new ones; (6) getting rid of anger; (7) learning to forgive; (8) developing a stronger faith and working at it; (9) gaining financial freedom; and (10) learning to be patient.
The author combines biblical principles, personal examples and illustrations, quotes from business leaders, research studies, as well as practical exercises. While the book is easy to read, it would help if one slowed down and processed each chapter so as to put it into practice.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.
During the Christmas season, we enjoy singing familiar Christmas carols. There are two in particular that cause me to think.
The words to, O Little Town of Bethlehem, say, “O little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by; Yet in thy dark streets shineth the ever-lasting light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
The carol, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, expresses this sentiment: “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.”
After singing these carols, I was struck with this question, “If the words of these two Christmas carols are correct, what hopes, fears, and desires are met in Christ? How does Christmas meet our needs?”
The search for an answer to that question took me to the gospel of John. Seven times in that gospel, Jesus makes the statement, “I am . . .” Through these statements, Jesus reveals his identity and purpose in coming to earth. In so doing, I believe that Jesus meets us at our point of need.
Each one of us longs for satisfaction. In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Hunger and thirst are two of the most basic needs of life. They reveal a desire for satisfaction and contentment. As the bread of life, Jesus satisfies the deepest desires of our hearts.
Many times throughout our lives, we need guidance and direction. In John 8:12, “Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” When the power goes out, we look for candles or flashlights to lead us to safety. Children want a light to lead them to mom & dad. As the light of the world, Jesus leads us out of the darkness and guides us to safety.
John 10:7–9 reveals another aspect of Jesus’ identity. “So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.’” A door keeps out the bad people—the thieves and robbers. It makes us feel secure. But it also opens to a place where we can rest and relax. As the door, Jesus brings us into a place of rest, safety, and provision.
In John 10:11–14, Jesus meets our need for belonging. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” Jesus is more than a hired hand who takes care of people. As the good shepherd, Jesus knows our name and our needs. He builds a relationship with us. He treats us as part of his family.
John 11:25 addresses the question of whether there is hope beyond the grave. “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.’” As the resurrection and the life, Jesus assures us that heaven awaits for those who believe in Christ
We live in a world of multiculturalism, pluralism, and world religions. We are told that truth is what you determine for yourself. Every belief is of equal value. We are left confused and wondering. In John 14:6, Jesus addresses our need for certainty. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” As the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus gives us a sense of certainty in an age of perplexity.
At times, we may feel like our lives and careers are going nowhere. We feel as if we are spinning our wheels. In John 15:5, Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” As the vine, Jesus produces fruit in us if we stay connected to him. Jesus will give our lives purpose and meaning.
During the holiday season, our eyes are drawn to scenes of the nativity; to the babe lying in a manger. This year, let your heart come closer. Draw near to the One who says “I Am the Bread of Life, the Light, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection, the Way, and the Vine”.
If you are . . .
- Hungry, yet longing for something to truly satisfy.
- Lost and alone in the dark, searching for answers and guidance.
- Feeling insecure and defenseless, or searching for security and protection that will be there when you need it.
- Feel like you don’t belong, and are searching for a sense of family and relationship.
- Long for the assurance that there is more to life than just this—that there is life beyond the grave.
- Confused by so many different beliefs and options, and are searching for certainty in an age of perplexity.
- Wondering if you matter and if your life will make a difference, longing for a sense of significance and a source of fruitfulness.
. . . then come to Jesus. He will sooth your fears and satisfy the deepest longings of your heart.
This message was preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on December 25, 2016. It was part of a collection of sermons on Christmas. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
Below is a letter I sent to our staff, elders, boards, and ministry leaders at First Central Bible Church.
One of the best gifts I received was the freedom to fail. I spent 14 years as an associate pastor at Crossroads Bible Church in Bellevue, WA. On several occasions, Jerry Mitchell, the senior pastor, publicly stated that he expected his staff to fail at least three times a year. If we weren’t failing, it meant we weren’t taking risks and trying new ideas. He encouraged, challenged, and publicly supported us in stepping out in faith, trying new things, and taking risks in our ministry. And in the event we failed in the doing, he had our back.
On one occasion, I cost the church $5,000. I joined the staff of Crossroads as the Singles Pastor. The previous Singles Pastor hosted a winter retreat at a lodge near Mt. Baker the weekend before Christmas. I inherited what sounded like a good idea. We guaranteed a minimum of 100 people in attendance. The next year, my first at the helm, saw 35 people in attendance. While it was a good retreat, it failed spectacularly and expensively. Needless to say, we canceled the event the following year. Rather than be criticized for costing the church so much money, I was supported and encouraged. If an event or idea bombed, we jokingly said, “Well, that’s one …”
The gift of the freedom to fail was especially meaningful seeing as how I came from a church was I was fired, not for doing anything wrong, but for not doing enough right. Arriving at CBC, I had the tendency to look over my shoulder expecting that my next mistake would be my last one. I needed to be encouraged to take more risks rather than settle for the safe bet.
I want to extend that same gift to you in 2017. Keep in mind that the gift comes with some strings attached. The gift of the freedom to fail comes with the requirement that you take more risks in your ministry endeavors rather than settle for the familiar, safe approach. Try new ideas. Attempt an innovative approach. Look at an issue from a different perspective. Rather than repeat the “tried and true,” “same-ol-same-ol,” or “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” approach, start something new and different.
I applaud the energy and creativity Robin Dolbow brings to our Children’s Ministry. “A Night in Bethlehem” was a huge risk because it was new and unpredictable. It was also a resounding success. I appreciate the creative approach to using video in announcements that Jack Gilbert has brought to our ministry team. I have encouraged him to try new attempts in preaching and teaching as well. I am grateful that our Missions’ Board was willing to set aside a traditional missions conference and try out the “What in the World lunch” approach. While it was a risk, it has proven effective in helping us to get to know our individual missionaries better. In June, we moved the annual picnic to Buttery Brook Park in South Hadley and held our worship service at the park that morning. Whether or not we do it that way again, it was worth the risk in trying something new. I appreciate Dave Krok and Wayne Erik Jarvis and our worship teams introducing new songs with which we can praise God.
As you look forward to 2017, think about new ways to communicate, serve, praise, meet needs, and share the gospel. Be creative and try new approaches. Scripture repeatedly challenges us to sing new songs in praising God (Psalm 33:3; 40:3: 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10). What we do on earth will become part of our practice in heaven (Revelation 5:9; 14:3).
We have shown glimpses of creativity in the past. I want to encourage us to strive for even more in the future. My hope is that First Central will become an even more creative think tank where we can experiment and try out new approaches to ministry in a safe, affirming, encouraging environment. Let’s encourage each other to worry less about what other people think and focus more on serving and pleasing God in new and creative ways (Galatians 1:10).
Try new things. Be creative. Take more risks. Fail more often. Who knows what God might do in and through you.
Let’s work together to build a community to change the world.
Robin Dolbow, the Children’s Director at First Central Bible Church, organized a Cookie Decorating party since we didn’t have Awana this evening. It was a y’all come gathering–Sojourners, families, youth, Awana kids, adults. It was a very fun evening of talking, decorating, and eating. Thanks, Robin!
Our daughter in New Zealand sent us a link to a news article making the rounds in NZ. It seems Kiwi’s are rather inventive about moving. They strap swingsets, couches, and trampolines to the top of their cars. You can read the full article, Swingsets, couches and trampolines – more pictures emerge of Kiwis’ unorthodox transport options.
It reminded me of some pictures a friend in Russia sent me several years ago. It was the Russian version of a Ferrari – a car with a horse on/in it.