Our Marriage Course will run on Sunday’s starting with our preview night on January 7th 2018 at 4:00 p.m. All couples are welcome, whether they’ve been together for one year or sixty-one years, whether they are married or living together, and whether they consider themselves to have a strong relationship or are struggling. Although the course is based on Christian principles, its practical tools are applicable to all couples whether they are church goers or not. Sign up for The Marriage Course Register Here
Spring Break Mission Trip
Trip Dates: March 17th-23rd
For Ages: 7th grade and 99th grade
This is an intergenerational mission trip to the Hurricane Harvey area.
Why do some people see opportunities others miss? In the book Did You Spot the Gorilla?psychologist Richard Wiseman describes an experiment that provides a clue:
Volunteers watched a 30-second video of two teams playing basketball. They were asked to count the number of times one of the teams passed the ball. What they weren’t told was that halfway through the video, a man dressed in a gorilla suit would run onto the court, stand in front of the camera, and beat his chest. Amazingly, only a few of the volunteers spotted the man in the gorilla suit. Most were so intent on counting passes that they completely missed the gorilla.
Wiseman concluded that most people go through life so focused on the task at hand they completely miss “gorilla” opportunities.
He gives the example of a team of 3M researchers who were trying to develop a high-strength adhesive. One of their attempts produced a product that was actually the opposite—a very low-strength adhesive. Most of the team thought the result was a failure, but one saw it as an opportunity. That failure became the glue on 3M Post-It Notes.
If we aren’t careful, we can be so fixated on the mundane, that we miss God-given opportunities of significance.
Look, I am sending my messenger who will clear the path before me; suddenly the Lord whom you are seeking will come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you take delight is coming, says the Lord of heavenly forces. 2 Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can withstand his appearance? He is like the refiner’s fire or the cleaner’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver. He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. They will belong to the Lord, presenting a righteous offering. 4 The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in ancient days and in former years. 5 I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against the sorcerers, the adulterers, those swearing falsely, against those who cheat the day laborers out of their wages as well as oppress the widow and the orphan, and against those who brush aside the foreigner and do not revere me, says the Lord of heavenly forces. 6 I am the Lord, and I do not change; and you, children of Jacob, have not perished. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors, you have deviated from my laws and have not kept them. Return to me and I will return to you, says the Lord of heavenly forces. But you say, “How should we return?”
We often get caught up in being busy for weeks only to miss Christmas completely. Even with our best intentions, some are just glad when it is over. This need not happen nor be the case. The Advent season is indeed a perfect time of personal spiritual preparation to joyfully receive the promise of God in His Son, Jesus.
Malachi, a prophet of Israel, wrote 3:7b “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, “How shall we return?”
Jesus did not come to complicate our lives, but to bring to us that the assurance of a new or renewed relationship with God was possible. When we understand Advent is about getting a fresh start in our faith, Christmas can be a new beginning. The story of Christmas itself teaches us how the new or renewed journey to life in Christ can begin for us.
Hopeful shepherds set out in faith on a search until they found the promised one. Magi, from a distant world searched against odds until they too found the one who was to come. Traveling through this life in a world offering little hope, may we keep searching until we too have found the faith, hope, and peace in God’s promised Son.
Read: Scripture Reading: Luke 17:11-19 Common English Bible
11 On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him, 13 they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”
14 When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. 16 He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” 19 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
Let me tell you what I learned from Kenneth Mason. When we served the church in Goodwell out in the Oklahoma Panhandle, we grew to love some amazing people. One of those families was the Mason family—Kenneth and Margaret and their three sons, Jeff, Todd and Lee. Margaret was an accountant, working for one of the companies in the area. Kenneth was a farmer, growing mostly wheat and milo, and grazing cattle on the wheat over the winter. Kenneth had lost one of his thumbs in an accident working on a combine many years before, and he used to startle the children by “pulling his thumb off” and showing the nub! They were hard working folks, good folks. But I don’t know how they paid the grocery bill for those growing boys!
I asked Kenneth to share his witness on why he gave to the church, and this is what he said. “We make an estimate of giving each year because we know our church does great things in our community and around the world, and we want them to be able to plan on what they can spend. You know that we farm. Now farming for wheat is always a gamble. I never feel the urge to go to Las Vegas to gamble for fun. We do that every day, and all you farmers understand. Some years the harvest is strong, but the prices will be low; some years the harvest is low, but the prices are up. Some years we lose money on the wheat but make it on milo and cattle; some years it’s just the opposite. Since we never know from year to year, we just make our estimate of giving based on our average income—Margaret’s salary plus the farm income. When we have a good year, we pay off loans and buy new equipment. When we have a bad year, we take out a loan to live on and keep farming. With that loan we pay the mortgage on our house, and our living expenses. Just because the harvest was weak, we’re not going to stop eating or driving to the boys’ basketball away games or buying clothes for them. And with that loan we also pay our tithe. That’s right. We borrow money to pay our tithe. Margaret and I figure that God has blessed us immensely with each other, the boys, the farm and so much more. If I’m committed to pay obligations to the bank who doesn’t love me, (And don’t get me wrong, they’re good people; they just don’t love me.) then (At this point he pointed that nub of a thumb to his chest.) shouldn’t I be more committed to God who does love me?
I don’t remember what I said that Sunday, but I will never forget what Kenneth Mason said, “If I’m committed to pay my obligations to the bank who doesn’t love me, shouldn’t I be more committed to God who does love me?”
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let’s continue to express our gratitude. With this gratitude, let’s serve in a way that is pleasing to God with respect and awe. (Hebrews 12:28 CEB)
Ever stumble across a verse in the Bible and go “Yes, this is it, this is what I needed!” This verse came to me as I was putting together the barebones of what this devotional book would look like. After reading it, I celebrated and thought to myself, “this is thanksliving!” Thanksliving to me is sharing with the world what you have because you are thankful for what God has given to you. With 2018 around the corner, how will you express gratitude this year?
Here are some suggestions:
Praise God with gratitude. Read Psalms of gratitude and give God thanks for all your blessings each day.
Love with gratitude. Offer at least 365 acts of kindness, encouragement and witness this year.
Serve with gratitude. Check with myself or James Bon how you can serve in our Church and World.
Give with gratitude. Assess your financial goals and priorities and approach you prepare your 2018 annual giving commitment as an expression of your gratitude for the blessings you have received.
Recognize the people and blessings for which you are grateful.
Start a Gratitude Journal.
Send regular notes of gratitude.
On Thankful Thursdays Share your gratitude through social media if you have it.
In John Reynolds’ Anecdotes of the Rev. John Wesley (1828), he tells the story of Wesley’s student days at Lincoln College in Oxford. A porter knocked on Wesley’s door one evening and asked to speak with him. After some conversation Wesley noted the man’s thin coat, for it was a cold winter night. Wesley suggested that he had better get another coat. The porter replied: “This coat … is the only coat I have in the world and I thank God for it.”
Wesley asked the man if he had eaten and the porter replied: “I have had nothing today but a draught of spring water … and I thank God for that.”
Wesley, growing uneasy in the man’s presence, reminded him that he would have to get to his quarters soon or be locked out. “Then what shall you have to thank God for?” Wesley asked. “I will thank Him,” replied the porter, “that I have dry stones to lie upon.”
Wesley was deeply moved by the man’s sincerity and he said to him, “You thank God when you have nothing to wear; … nothing to eat … [and] no bed to lie on. I cannot see what you have to thank God for.”
The man replied: “I thank God… that he has given me life and being, and a heart to love Him, and a desire to serve Him.” (8-9)
After the man had left with a coat from Wesley’s closet, some money for food and words of appreciation for the witness he had made, Wesley wrote in his Journal: “I shall never forget that porter. He convinced me there is something in religion to which I am a stranger.”
Are you a stranger to the strangeness of true discipleship?
“Unless we are thankful, we will suffer the leprosy of ingratitude. We will be depressed and full of self-pity and jealousy.” ― from “An African Prayer Book”
I say, “our attitudes matter,” a lot and they really do. When we are not living a life full of gratitude for all that God gives us we become self-centered. Psalm 43:5 reminds us to not be self-centered and to have our hope in God who is our saving presence.
When I was walking with my mother in the final months in her life we were not centered on the Cancer that was taking over in her body or the Early Onset Alzheimer’s that she was living with. Instead every meeting with her we focused on the hope that we knew this journey for her on earth was ending and that her time in heaven was coming. That hope did give us some comfort and we were so thankful we got the three months with her.
It was my mother who taught me that my attitude matters. We can take adversity head on with Hope that God is with us and we are not alone in this time. Or we can have a pity party that no one will attend. Living a life of thanksliving is sometimes taking a bad situation and finding the light in it. It is there, we just have to wade through the muck to find it and we go through the muck with God on our side.