New Year: A Time to Implement Some Things

     I don’t know what, specifically, there is about a “new year” that drives millions of people to construct lists of resolutions.  Usually, these are nothing more than things we (as people) are either:  (1) Under conviction of; or, (2) In full recognition that action must be taken.  Some might say those 2 are related and for the most part, they are.  Yet, it is also true that some are in full conviction of something but will take no action. 

     Years ago when I was working in Manufacturing, I had an employee in my department who had a continual pattern of being late to work on Monday mornings.  This went on for several weeks.  Then, coupled with the Monday morning tardies, a new pattern started to emerge:  having to leave early on Friday afternoons.  It didn’t take long to put 2 and 2 together.  The pattern began to negatively impact the department and others, and we had to go through the process of warnings and time off w/out pay (the company regulation).  Things improved for about 3 weeks, and then, it resurfaced once more.  Unfortunately, this person was told they had to go 3 months without an unexcused tardy, and they missed it by 10 weeks.  So they were terminated.

     Stepping back from that situation and looking at it as an illustration of a deeper issue, I saw a person who was “under conviction” to break a poor pattern.  In meeting with them on 3 occasions, it was obvious this person realized the issue, the problem, and the need to correct it.  But the conviction itself did not generate the desired outcome.  You see, this individual verbalized (in very sincere words) their desire to “turn things around” and “get back into good standing.”  But the conviction itself necessitated action, and the action failed to meet standard.

So what does this have to do with me?  How is this practical? 

What are you saying, pastor?

Those are great questions, stick with me.  The Church, the body of Christ, is full of people who are under conviction but fail to act and/or allow God to act.  It could be some sinful habit that lurks, that is hid in the dark where “no one will see.”  Most of the time, however, it is seeking forgiveness from someone, reaching out to that person God has laid on your heart, getting serious about your faith, failing to give our very best to God, or allowing something petty to distract us.  The conviction is there – the Holy Spirit provides it.  But the action (on our behalf) ends up being no more than a thought.  I know.  I’ve been there.  I’ve done that.  Will not revert back to it : )

     In 2011, with a new year and a new opportunity, perhaps we should pray and begin to allow the Holy Spirit to move us from conviction to action.  Maybe there is something that we really need to do.  I submit to you that each day God gives us is an opportunity to “throw out the old and put on the new” – for daily, He makes all things new.  Procrastination and complacency do not draw us closer to God.  Doing the doggy-paddle in lukewarm water and straddling the fence between God and the things of this world gets us no where.  We are to cast the ballot, this day, Who (and what) we will serve, and worship, and give witness to.  As 2010 closes out and as 2011 begins, why don’t we truly make this a year of worship, work, and witness for the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom?  He is worthy!  He alone is worthy!

     This Sunday (1-2-11), we will examine this in more detail.  Yes, a year of the 3 “W’s” – all for Him. 

     Hope you will join us : )

     Pastor Porter

Christ is Here

     Well, Christmas 2010 is just 24 hours away.  For the most part, all of the shopping is done, most of the gifts are wrapped, much of the baking has commenced, and several are traveling (or just arriving somewhere). Yet in all the hustle and bustle – no matter how prepared or totally stressed we are – Christmas comes. And so it will be this year, Christmas is here!

     Think back 2,000 years. Put yourself on the scene where Jesus entered the world and took on our flesh. What a lowly scene it was:  no hoopla; no grand entrance; no earthquake or parting of the sky. Just a young Jewish teenage girl (probably 13 or 14 years old); the man who she was pledged to be married to; and a few shepherds who had gathered. Of course there is the star – the supernatural divine sign that something monumental had occurred that night. The magi would be on the way, bearing gifts.

     The manger scene is quite humble.  Many find ways to dress it up and then, put 3 wise-men around it – it ends up looking precious, noble, and not too overly personal. But in reality, in that 1st Advent, two worlds collided with such force that we can’t totally understand it. You see, the Lord of Creation – God with us – came and became “raw meat” and “flesh.” He stepped into our existence, into time, in order to once and for all bring us back to Himself and show us “The Way.”  Christmas is a message of Salvation – never separate the two. It is about the One-True God loving us so much that He would rather come and die for us than have eternity without us. This is just Who He is.  This is just His character, revealed and demonstrated. It is of course foretold in the OT.

     I am convinced that Christmas isn’t too confrontational. After all, who is offended by a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger?  It’s precious – it’s cute – it’s a baby. Even unbelievers are overwhelmingly not affected by this. Sure, there are the exceptions – but a large % don’t even broach the subject because it is not threatening. Here is what IS threatening:  The Cross.  You don’t believe it – ask people what they think is more threating, personal, and offensive:  The manger or The Cross.  See what kind of results you get. Yet, as I have come closer to God in relationship, as I have studied and explored His Word, as I have the Spirit living within me…leading and directing my path – I am more and more convinced that the manger directs us in the Way of the Cross.

     Consider this:  Bethlehem (Hebrew) means “house of bread.”  Jesus is the “bread of life.”  So, the bread of life is born in the house of bread. Later, at the end of His ministry before He is betrayed, Jesus enjoys intimacy with His disciples in what is referred to as “The Last Supper.” There, He breaks and shares bread (His body) and commands His followers to continue this practice “in remembrance of Him.” Additionally, Bethlehem was the spot for the sacrificial sheep that were used in those days. There is much evidence to suggest that in Jesus’ time, only the sheep from Bethlehem were utilized for the sacrifices.  So, the Sacrifical Lamb was born in the very city where lambs were raised for sacrifice.

     Let’s move to the gifts of the 3 magi.  No one has a problem with gold or frankinscence – expensive and “high-end” products.  But what about this gift of myrrh? What does myrrh have in common with a baby? On the surface, one might say “very little, I just don’t get it.” As we dig deeper, here is an interesting revelation:  myrrh was used for embalming the dead, and while it had a fragrance, it’s predominate usage was in prepping bodies for burial. I am sure some have wondered about the symbolism – others have probably brought into question the significance of bringing a baby, a newborn baby, a product normally reserved for the dead. But isn’t it powerful? Isn’t this gift a clear sign of something much, much greater than what any of us could imagine?  Yes, it points directly to something that was a part of His coming; that is, His Cross.

     Friends and family:  This Christmas, let’s steadfastly remember and recall that the Boy Who brings joy is also The Man Who takes away the sin of the world. He came to give us life and life more abundantly (in Him). For there is no condemnation for those that are “in” Christ Jesus. He is our Salvation. May we remember and recall these truths, this Christmas, and may we make the plea of the magi who said on their arrival, “we have come to worship Him!”

     Merry Christmas to you and yours…

     Pastor Porter

Advent Interruptions

Read John 1:1-5; 14

This week, we will explore interruptions.  Without giving too much away, let me just say this:  Christmas interrupts our lives.  The coming of the Lord Jesus, born of a virgin in a lowly and humble backdrop, was intended to break into your life.  This was God’s purpose in coming, not to just interrupt but to truly set things straight.

We sure make much ado about the seasonal aspect of Christmas:  shopping; decorating; baking and cooking; traveling and celebrating.  Now those things aren’t necessarily “bad,” but we must ask ourselves the question:  What is our motive?  Better yet, where does our heart lie in it all?  We would do well to remember the incredible collision of 2 worlds as Jesus took on flesh and became one of us.  Our minds cannot fathom the totality of His Kingdom invading the kingdoms of this world, but we do know that a major collide occurred in the reality of His 1st Coming. 

Again, I don’t want to give away our direction for this coming Sunday (12-19-10), but know this:  It is God-ordained at such a time as this, for this 4th Sunday of Advent.  Please be sure to join us this week for the special Kid’s Presentation of “STICKS: Away in a Manger.”  It’s the inaugural launch of this new kid’s ministry; plus, we will explore interruptions. 

May God bless you and yours richly, this Holy Season…

Pastor Porter