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Archive for the category “Holidays”

Redeeming Halloween (Shea Sumlin)

 

halloween

Once a celebration of an old Celtic tradition, Halloween is now the second most celebrated family holiday in America. Nearly 70% of Americans will participate in some form or fashion, and it’s the only night of the year where the world around me actually comes to my door – that of a pastor.

With that in mind, I want to share just one of the ways my family and I have decided to redeem this night, not only as an opportunity for some fun together, but also as an opportunity to invest the gospel into the community around us.

Most of the places we’ve lived have been in suburban neighborhoods that are full of kids who love to go trick or treating. 150-250 kids come by our door on Halloween – no doubt because we give out really good candy!

Years ago, one of my mentors challenged me to redeem this night by taking advantage of the context I live in. He challenged me to take some creative steps to get these folks to linger for awhile, instead of just grabbing the goods and taking off. The idea that evolved: “HALLOWEENies & BOOgers.”

For this event, my family and I invite over 200 families in our surrounding neighborhood to join us for some hot dogs and hamburgers while they’re out trick or treating. We show It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on our garage door for the kids, put up some fun decorations and serve plenty of hot cocoa and apple cider.

In addition to being a ton of fun for our family and neighborhood, it provides other redemptive wins.

  1. Gives us an opportunity to connect and build relationships with our neighbors and their friends. This night continues to build already existing relationships with our neighbors, as well as establish new ones. From this one event, we have scheduled many dinners with neighbors, been invited to kids’ birthday parties and built more touch points with those around us.
  2. Gives us an opportunity to share the hope of the gospel. Because we’ve gotten the neighborhood to “linger,” we’ve been able to establish conversations with them. Because we’ve opened up conversations with them, we’ve been able to share our testimony and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just last year I met a guy who was going through a divorce and struggling with a drug addiction. I shared the gospel with him, connected him with a counselor and helped him plug into a local church. He has since trusted in Jesus Christ as his Savior.
  3. Involves my whole family in the process. What a great opportunity for my three daughters to see creativity and evangelism play out on a night like this. Each year my girls get more and more excited to invite their classmates and friends over for Halloween.
  4. Involves other Christian families in our neighborhood. Over the years other Christian families in our neighborhood have partnered with us for this event. Together we host the event, gather names of folks in the neighborhood and pray for the families.
  5. Most significant for us – the missional investment of the church.Rather than taking my family out of the neighborhood on the one night of the year when everyone is walking my street and coming to my door, it keeps us in our own neighborhood and allows us to make a gospel-centered deposit right where we live.

This is just one idea for redeeming Halloween. I’m not sure of your context or conviction when it comes to this holiday, but maybe our story will encourage you. Consider creative ways that the Lord could use you and your family to be salt and light on what has, historically, been a dark night for the world around us.

Loving and Celebrating A Defective Nation (Jon Bloom)

There has always been a “culture war” of one kind or another being waged in America. It is actually part of the design of the American Experiment and the exercise of democracy. And so there is certainly a place for Christians to participate in this exercise and advocate for our constitutional rights.

But if Christians are mainly known as conservative cultural warriors and the defenders of our constitutional rights, the true gospel freedom that we are really here to promote will be obscured. Jesus said that the world would know that we are his disciples by the way we love one another (John 13:35) and by the way we love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Love is the greatest mark of the Christian (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The Greatest Freedom Ever Instituted

And the greatest love that we can show to our neighbors is to help them hear the gospel of the greatest freedom that has ever been instituted. Like Jesus, our primary focus must not be on the culture war, but on the kingdom mission. We must be mainly about planting gospel-proclaiming local churches, lovingly engaging our neighbors and family members, sending gospel-proclaiming missionaries to the unreached, and, like the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25–37, compassionately meeting every need the Lord brings across our path. Regardless of the media’s portrayal of Christians, let us show the people we actually live with the real gospel by embodying it in relationships.

And let us not lose sight of the fact that the American Experiment, for all its failings, remains a wonderful thing. It has secured, promoted, and defended unprecedented historical freedoms for an unprecedented and diverse amount of people. July 4th is a moment to remember and celebrate the remarkable common grace of God that we — and hundreds of millions of others — have received through the United States.

Our national celebrations have always been tempered with the reality that the U.S., throughout its history, has at times legalized terribly destructive immoral things, such as the enslavement of African peoples, the genocide and social alienation of native North American peoples, and the systematic killing of 50+ million unborn children, just to name a few. It is right to be grieved over legalized sin.

But let the current events increase our resolve to seek America’s greatest good. Being citizens of a better country frees us from trying to make this one the kingdom of heaven. Our time here is short and “here we have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14). Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). So let us give ourselves to bringing as many Americans to the better, lasting country as possible.

 

The above was an excerpt taken from Desiringgod.org. 

 

Show Honor on Mother’s Day…Even When It’s Hard (Jen Wilkin)

Mother’s Day is fast approaching, sending children of all ages scurrying to the greeting card aisle to find just the right sentiment to send to Mom. This celebration touches all of us. Though we may not all be mothers, all of us have a mother. And for the people of God who delight in the commands of God, Mother’s Day holds a special meaning, going far beyond a mere calendar date that can only be traced back 100 years. Honoring our parents is an ancient and beautiful command given to us for God’s glory and our good.

The fifth of the Ten Commandments speaks of showing honor to our parents. Often repeated by parents to young children, I wonder how frequently we remind ourselves of the command’s relevance to us as adult children. Some would say that this command is actually directed primarily at adult children because it is found in a list of other commands so clearly addressed to adults: “Adult children, honor your aging parents whose days have been long upon the land, that your days might be long as well.”

Yet, honoring our parents would be a simple matter if all parents were worthy of honor, making a command to do so almost unnecessary. But for some of us, that aisle of Mother’s Day cards, awash with loving sentiment, can feel like an annual gauntlet we must run. Yes, all of us have a mother, but not all of us have a mother who is easy to honor.

So how can we think beyond the card aisle to fulfill the fifth command so far as we are able?

Maybe your mother didn’t do everything right. If you’re a parent yourself, you have probably learned already to extend the gracious proposition that she did the best she could. Show honor to your mother by telling her two of your favorite memories of her from your childhood. If you have children of your own, repeat those stories to them. And think hard about what other stories they need to hear. Giving your children the gift of relationship with a grandmother un-weighted by the baggage of your own childhood can be a way to show honor. Sometimes we honor our mothers by demonstrating forgiveness in what we leave unsaid.

Maybe the mother who raised you was a mother in name only. Maybe she caused or allowed harm to you. Look to show honor where you can. Who mothered you? A teacher? An aunt? A grandmother? A stepmother? Express your gratitude to the woman or women in your life who looked beyond the boundaries of biology to demonstrate motherly love in tangible ways. Make a donation to a cause that helps women to mother and children to be parented.

Maybe your mother is no longer living. Show honor to her memory by making a recipe she made, by reviving a family tradition she started or by making a donation to a charity in her name. Maybe you know someone whose mother recently passed away. Ask them what they miss most about her. Send a note to acknowledge their sorrow. Maybe you know someone aching to be a mother. Maybe you know a mother whose child will never wish her a happy Mother’s Day. Reach out to them with empathy and comfort.

Maybe your mother was the kind for whom the entire greeting card aisle was written. By all means, take your time finding the perfect card and writing the perfect sentiment. But also feel the weight of your privilege. To be raised by a mother who consistently places the needs of others above her own is no common thing. Show honor by being that kind of parent to your own children. But don’t stop there. Turn your eyes to those you know who are physically, emotionally or spiritually motherless and be a mother (or father) to them according to their need.

All of us are sons and daughters. This Mother’s Day, may we think beyond the card aisle to outdo one another in showing honor, each of us according to the grace we have been given.

 

This post was taken from thevillagechurch.net

The Rescue (Ralph Davis)

For Good Friday…..

Good friday

Fourteen year old John Smith, who had been rescued from an icy lake, was not responding to CPR. He had been underwater for almost fifteen minutes, few ever survive that. He was rushed to a hospital, all the while the paramedics kept up the CPR compressions. Dr. Kent Sutterer and his team continued to perform CPR on John with no success. They knew it was useless to continue, they felt the boy had, in truth, been dead for 45 minutes.

But his mother suddenly rushed into the hospital room and began to pray out loud. The mother shouted, “Holy God, please send your Holy Spirit to save my son. I want my son, please save him.” That’s all she said.

What happened next absolutely amazed everyone there. The lifeless boy’s heart restarted and his pulse returned. The doctors couldn’t believe it. But they thought, surely his brain, without oxygen for all that time, would have been irreversibly damaged. However, in a few days John could talk and he could walk. “A miracle!” That’s what all the doctors proclaimed. His return to life and health defied medical science and understanding. The same could be said of these people from the Bible–

The only son of a woman from Nain.

The dead daughter of Jarius, an official of a synagogue.

The wealthy man named Lazarus.

And now, in 2015, you can include John Smith of Lake St. Louis, Missouri.

All have one thing in common—they were dead, but by the power of God, through Jesus Christ, they were returned to life. Undoubtedly, many more have called on God to save a loved one and the Lord answered.

So, wait a minute…why didn’t God save His own son when he was in agony on the cross? Just imagine, a host of angels appearing in blinding white light at Golgotha, raising Jesus off the cross, bathing Him with life, restoring his body to perfection as the Romans, Gentiles, and Jews all watched in astonishment. There would have been no doubt, absolutely no doubt who Jesus was.

But…Our sins would not have been paid for.

Paul wonderfully says in Romans 3:21, “But now, a righteousness apart from the law has been made known.” Friends, there would have been no righteousness for us if Jesus did not stay on that cross. There could be no resuscitation for Jesus; it had to be a resurrection!

I am so happy for faithful Joyce Smith that the Lord, and the power of the Holy Spirit, proved themselves available to save her son.

Although I am pained and grieved every time I think of poor Jesus on that cross; I am forever grateful that no one tried to rescue him.

Because He was rescuing us!

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” John 12:27 (NIV)

God at Work in Maple Leaf This Christmas Season (Pam Hess)

maple leaf pic

 

The weekly homework club at Maple Leaf has taken on a whole new look this month as we celebrate the Christmas season with them.

On Saturday, Dec. 6th many of us participated in a two-part Christmas party inside the clubhouse. With decorations and Christmas tree in place we invited all the children from the community to join us for an afternoon of games, crafts and desserts!

Our first party, for the middle school and high school students, included a beautiful mason jar craft that they got to take home as a gift, decorating and eating a giant Christmas cookie, and a fun game involving throwing marshmallows through a wreath [and at Jerry!]. A Christmas letter was read that explained the true meaning of Christmas and a gift bag was handed to each student on their way out, blessing them with a yearly Bible devotion. This group enjoyed an added surprise as Officer Kelly and one of his partners from the K9 unit came inside to do a demonstration with Max. While the kids were a little nervous at first, they soon realized that Max was well controlled and learned more about how the K9 unit works here in Brick.

The younger kids showed up early, of course, and had to wait patiently outside until it was their turn. They heard the Legend of the Candy Cane and then participated in ‘Pin the Star on the Tree’ as well as making a Christmas ornament that gave the Gospel message. Around the Christmas tree they all had the opportunity to participate in handing an ornament on the tree as they heard the message of Jesus’ birth and they also decorated and ate a giant Christmas cookie. They too were given a gift bag with a yearly Bible devotion after enjoying some desserts and hot chocolate.

On Friday, Dec. 12th the homework club had their first bus trip to Grace Bible Church. Twenty-eight families, a total of 70 children, enjoyed watching ‘Christmas on Silver Pond’ put on by the Agape FaithWorks Homeschool Co-op. What a wonderful evenings for the families as they not only saw a beautiful play, but also enjoyed many great desserts and then received huge gift bags filled with presents [that their parents had signed up for]. The mom’s also received a gift bag filled with gift cards that they can spend at local establishments. 

God is at work in the Maple Leaf community and we have so much to celebrate this Christmas season!! Thank you for your prayers and participation!!

Pursuing Rest During the Crazy Holidays (Mandy Mercado)

The below was written by Mandy to the worship team in an email. She graciously allowed us to post it on the blog as an encouragement for everyone.

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Hey everyone!  Hope your week is coming along awesome!  🙂  I have the whole week off from work, so I am enjoying some wonderful rest 🙂

Here comes that busy time of year… Thanksgiving is only a couple days away and Christmas is only 4 weeks away (yikes!).  My thoughts this morning in bed, as I was just lounging around (I’m really not trying to make you annoyed! ;))  were about just that… Rest.  I thanked God, out loud, for this blessing of being able to take the week off and sleep in, stay up late reading or watching a movie, etc.  And then the spirit put it on my heart… What does it mean to really rest, and what kind of rest does He give me?  He definitely wants us to physically rest when we need it.  He knows we have hectic, busy lives.  He tells us to rest physically.  In Exodus, he said “Six days you will work, but on the seventh day, you will rest…”. And there are times in the Bible where it tells us about Jesus resting or his disciples resting.  In the next 4 or so weeks it’s gonna get really hard to physically rest!  But God knows the importance of it… our bodies
physically need it.  So even if it’s for a few minutes here and there, take some time to rest.  Our bodies need it, but our minds and hearts do too.  I think sometimes it’s hard to focus, or even hear the spirit talking to us when we’re on the go, go, go!

Then there’s the other kind of rest… Resting in Him.  Rest four our souls.  It’s a crazy world.  So much distraction and busyness and crappy things going on here.  But our Father says “Come to me all who are weary and burdened. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me.  I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.  My yoke is easy and my burden is light”.  Right there, He tells us that He knows we may become weary and burdened at times.  And He says to come to Him… give it to Him… lay it at His feet.  I love how He says He’s gentle.  I imagine me going to Him weary, and Him with His arms open, gently waving me over to come sit in His lap.  And in that moment, what rest my soul would have, knowing that He is the one to take my heavy load.  He takes it off of me… and then He gives me His yoke.  And I can put that easy, light yoke on my back and rest.  When we do that, we no longer have to carry our burdens… we can lay
them at His feet and put a new, easy and light yoke on and rest.  We can breathe easy and have peace and rest of mind.  And then we have this: Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.  LOVE this!   We no longer have to be anxious or heavy with unrest.  We can take on His yoke and then freely pray and ask for whatever we need and He will give us rest and peace that the world can’t even understand.  Isn’t that awesome?  🙂  So during this crazy and busy time of year, I’m gonna remember that when/if I get weary, I’m gonna go sit in my Daddy’s lap and let him take that load off my back, and then take his light yoke and put it on.  And then ask Him for whatever I need (peace of mind, comfort, rest, just to be held, etc.) knowing that because
I’ve asked and made my requests known to Him, He delights in giving them to me.  🙂  Wow.  One more thing… God gives us each other, as Christ’s body, to be there for one another.  To come alongside one another.  Please know, that you are not alone!  Not only did He promise us His rest and peace and His yoke, He gave us one another right here and now to lift one another up and walk alongside each other.  We were created to need each other and are a family.  So I just want to encourage you all to reach out to me or anyone on our team when you’re in need.  But also be there to reach out when you see one of us needs it.  🙂

What is Ash Wednesday?

Since True Life Church is a church full of people from many different denominational backgrounds, questions often arise as to why we do or do not make a big deal out of various traditions that other churches observe.

And since Ash Wednesday was last week, I (Chris) thought the below article might help explain the origins and purpose of it.

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What Is Ash Wednesday? taken from GotQuestions.Org

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Its official name is “Day of Ashes,” so  called because of the practice of rubbing ashes on one’s forehead in the sign of  a cross. Since it is exactly 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Easter  Sunday, it will always fall on a Wednesday—there cannot be an “Ash Thursday”  or “Ash Monday.” The Bible never mentions Ash Wednesday—for that matter, it  never mentions Lent.

Lent is intended to be a time of self-denial,  moderation, fasting, and the forsaking of sinful activities and habits. Ash  Wednesday commences this period of spiritual discipline. Ash Wednesday and Lent  are observed by most Catholics and some Protestant denominations. The Eastern  Orthodox Church does not observe Ash Wednesday; instead, they start Lent on  “Clean Monday.”

While the Bible does not mention Ash Wednesday, it does  record accounts of people in the Old Testament using dust and ashes as symbols  of repentance and/or mourning (2  Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job  2:8; Daniel 9:3). The modern tradition of rubbing  a cross on a person’s forehead supposedly identifies that person with Jesus  Christ.

Should a Christian observe Ash Wednesday? Since the Bible  nowhere explicitly commands or condemns such a practice, Christians are at  liberty to prayerfully decide whether or not to observe Ash Wednesday.

If a Christian decides to observe Ash Wednesday and/or Lent, it is important to  have a biblical perspective. Jesus warned us against making a show of our  fasting: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they  disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they  have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and  wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but  only to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew  6:16-18). We must not allow spiritual discipline to become spiritual  pride.

It is a good thing to repent of sinful activities, but that’s  something Christians should do every day, not just during Lent. It’s a good  thing to clearly identify oneself as a Christian, but, again, this should be an  everyday identification. And it is good to remember that no ritual can make  one’s heart right with God.

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