Pastor Ron Swor
Dear Church Family,
I’m praying that your New Year will be filled with God’s presence and His joy. These past few weeks I have taken some time to look over some goals I set for myself in 2018. Now that’s a dose of reality.
To evaluate how I was doing, I divide my goals into three categories:
1. Accomplished; 2. In Process; 3. Needs a lot more work.
Here’s what I came up with, I found that my list of goals were evenly divided between categories, or in other words, each category was one third of my list. This seems pretty accurate and if you set goals you might reflect on your experience as well. Some things get accomplished, some things are in process and some things need a lot of work.
I have not only been looking back over the 2018 year, I have taken some time to think and pray over the year ahead. Annette and I have been asking Jesus for a theme for 2019; the phrase that keeps coming up is: A Year For Radical Love. We believe that radical love is something the Holy Spirit is up to in our lives and our church community.
God’s radical love changed our lives forever when He sent Jesus, “. . . who, being the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage . . .” (Phil 2:6). Now that’s crazy, radical love. It’s this incredible and eternal power of God’s love working through us that makes a transformative difference in the world.
Jesus told us how this works in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you; LOVE one another as I have LOVED you, so you must LOVE one another. All men/women will know that you are my disciples if you LOVE one another.” What if in this next year we see and expect God’s love in ways that aren’t passive but as the most powerful weapon against the schemes of Satan . . . hate, darkness, selfish behavior and all other things that destroy relationships and deceive people. What if we expect this coming year to experience God’s love as an active force that’s seen in our prayer life, our giving and, of course, our relationships. This kind of love runs to the lost and broken, runs to those who mourn, runs to . . . (this one is scary) . . . our enemy, pretty audacious, isn’t it?
Honestly, when the Holy Spirit started speaking to me about His radical love, I didn’t want to listen and i am still extremely uncomfortable with this theme. Mainly because of what it will require of me - humility, generosity, sacrifice. But I know it’s the only way, what really stood out was this Holy Spirit conviction about what I live for. So much of my time is spent living for things that aren’t bad, just not the best. Here’s what God spoke to me, “Live more for the things you would die for.”
Here’s what I am asking from you, put this to prayer, to conversations with trusted friends/family and then commit to ways you can show God’s radical love to others.
You are deeply loved,
PS - I will be unpacking this more with you on the first Sunday of the New Year.
Pastor Chris White
There was a man who worked for the Post Office whose job was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses. One day, a letter came addressed in a shaky handwriting to God with no actual address. He thought he should open it to see what it was about. The letter read:
I am an 83 year old widow, living on a very small pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had $100 in it, which was all the money I had until my next pension payment. Next Sunday is Christmas, and I had invited two of my friends over for dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with, have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope. Can you please help me?
The postal worker was touched. He showed the letter to all the other workers. Each one dug into his or her wallet and came up with a few dollars. By the time he made the rounds, he had collected $96 which they put into an envelope and sent to the woman. The rest of the day, all the workers felt a warm glow thinking of Edna and the dinner she would now be able to share with her friends.
Christmas came and went.
A few days later, another letter came from the same old lady to God. All the workers at the Post Office gathered around while the letter was opened. It read:
How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me? Because of your gift of love, I was able to fix a glorious dinner for my friends. We had a very nice day and I told my friends of your wonderful gift. By the way, there was $4 missing from the envelope. I think it might have been those darn thieves down at the Post Office!
Aren't we all a bit like Edna sometimes? God does something great for us and we focus on what we don't have. God supplies His child with everything they need and if we perceive something is missing it might be so by design. I have had some wonderful additions to my life as well as a few painful subtractions over the years. But I have learned that I am under the mighty hand of God and both, yes both, are from One in the same and are part of the wonderful story He is unfolding in this world.
As many of us celebrate the Christmas season, there will be empty chairs at our dinner tables, less than happy prognoses about our health, heart-breaking relational strains, reminders of failures and unreached goals, maybe even the specter of job loss and a very uncertain future. Life is messy and has a lot of moving parts and things don't always go the way we have hoped or prayed.
But here's my point: are you going to focus on what you don't have or will you focus on the goodness of God and what He has already done for you? God, in sending His Son to earth, the Incarnation we celebrate each year at Christmas, did so that we might have life and have it abundantly. He has taken care of the "big stuff" so there's no need to sweat the "little stuff". The joy of the Lord will overshadow any and all of our present sorrows in eternity. As a dear friend said to me once, "When we are finally with the Lord in heaven, this life will just seem like one night in a bad hotel."
And we can always make it through one night in a bad hotel.
With eyes on the Savior this season,
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.