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Sit in any Starbucks for any length of time and you will see a host of different people come and go. For that matter, sit in a park, city bench or grocery store for any length of time and you will have the same experience. It is amazing how different we all are all from one another. The next thing I would observe is that we are all very aware of these differences and then consciously or unconsciously go about grouping ourselves around those we share the most in common with or are most alike.
We are in the middle of a series at church entitled #lovechurch. One of the things I love about our church is how very different we all are from one another. Apart from the church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ we would most likely not connect, relate, or get to know most of the people we come to know and love in the church. Left to our own devices we will gravitate to that which is common and comfortable for us.
There is something about the Gospel, the love of Jesus, and our love for Jesus that tears down those walls and opens the door for relationships that so enrich our lives. So, I have to ask you; Are you regularly attending church and find that you still only maintain relationships that fit your demographic or your style or normal circle? If so, I would challenge you to take advantage of one of the great attributes of church - the opportunity to break out of the normal confines of relationship and expand your relational connections with those you share nothing in common with except our awesome Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Expand your circle!
I studied today for the first time at a brand new coffee shop, called EPIC coffee. They just opened a few weeks ago and I must have driven by it several times before I noticed it. I love checking out new coffee shops. As a matter of fact, I love new things period. I love the freshness of them, like new sheets. I love the opportunity they provide, like new ministries. I love the smell of them, like a new car. I love the mystery of them, like new relationships.
The other thing about new things is that new things don't have to be new as in “just made” or “never used.” It can be what is new to you, like an antique.
Yet when I think about this coffee shop that I am sitting in and enjoying very much, I think of the owners of this new place. This is their very first coffee shop. To accomplish this they had to invest and buy an old run-down building and renovate it. They had to pick out décor, hire and train new employees, on and on the list must go when opening a place like this. Then I think of all the risk, challenge and faith it must have taken to make all this come to pass. Now some months later, I sit here in their new place enjoying it. It made me think, “How many new things do we take a pass on because we are scared away by the risk, challenge and faith required to see it all come to pass?”
We are considering several new things as a church in 2014. May we not shrink back from them, for if we will step out and persevere, someday someone will sit and enjoy what we risked just as I am sitting and enjoying this coffee shop.
Not sure what to give as a present this year? Let me suggest HOPE. Last night at Trinity Church we sponsored our very first Christmas Outreach. We set up personal invitations for 25 families to come to church and receive a hot meal, decorate cookies, and then the kids were able to go to a room and wrap a present for mom, as well as do some crafts. Moms and dads were able to go to another room and stuff a bag full of stocking stuffers for their kids, pick out two presents for each of their children, as well as a pair of pajamas. There were several moms who welled up with tears of gratitude and joy, as well as dozens of smiling and blessed volunteers who were so blessed to be a part of it. Some of those volunteers were themselves in need of a little help this year at Christmas, but the smiles on their faces, as they were able to give hope to so many, were a pleasure to see.
The gift of hope is what we ultimately dispensed last night. Yes, there were toys, balls, dolls, hats, clothes, trucks, etc., but the most valued gift that went to all of those homes was hope.
As families drove away from Trinity Church last night, they may very well have looked at our sign that declares boldly, "Jesus Cares About You" and maybe, just maybe for the first time in their lives, started to believe that it could be true.
“But He was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace.” Isaiah 53:5 (NLT)
The most painful wounds we can suffer are those we endure from other people, and never more severe than from those who are closest to us.
Being misunderstood, judged, accused, abandoned, walked away from – words that are spoken that cut deep because they found access to our hearts. These kinds of wounds can cause wounded spirit that stays with us for days, months, maybe years.
Having suffered firsthand from those types of wounds and keeping in mind what Isaiah 53:5 says Christ endured for us, here is a bit of advice for dealing with wounds from people:
1. Continually speak forgiveness regardless of if you feel like you mean it.
2. Don’t let negative, condemning and self-hatred pile on.
Revelation 12:11 warns us that Satan loves to pile on as the “accuser of our brothers.”
3. Count your blessings like never before.
Overcome the pain by counting the many blessings in your life.
4. Don’t take it out on others.
Wounded people have a tendency to lash out and wound others.
Don’t pass the pain on.
5. Be careful who you share the news of your wound with.
Your wound may cause another to carry an offense which won’t heal you up any quicker.
6. Learn from it.
Some of our best lessons can be pointed to and they are called scars.
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