Category Archives: church

Restaurants & Relationships

I’d like to disclose one of my strong personal preferences that actually drives a certain set of behaviors in my life: I will not go to a restaurant that has poor service. Let me clarify that…I will go once to that restaurant but I will not go back again. If I will be spending money to eat out then I not only expect the food to be to my personal liking but I also emphasize that the people who work there at least pretend to be glad I have come. Call it snobbery, call it presumption or call it reasonable if you choose. In the end, it’s my choice and this personal preference determines my actions… and I have no plans to change my standards. It is one thing for me to take such an elevated view of my individual tastes when it comes to eating out. It would be an entirely different issue if I allowed this same principle to determine my relationships. By the grace of God I have been made to understand that I must not walk out on people, refusing to return, because they don’t serve my personal tastes. Let me explain.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” – Romans 14:17-19

The Apostle Paul teaches us in Romans (chapters 14 & 15) that we owe each other a debt of love and a commitment to work through our personal differences in order to cultivate lasting, meanigful relationships. Specifically, he is speaking to Christians who clearly have opposite views on some peripheral issues within God’s Kingdom. Paul takes off his scholar’s hat for a moment and has to replace it with a black and white striped referee’s cap as he tells the followers of Jesus that they must think a little more deeply and try a little harder at maintaining the unity of Spirit in the bonds of peace with one another. The people to whom he was originally writing were very frustrated with each other over things like eating meat, observing Jewish holy days and whether or not Christians were able to drink wine. Paul clearly identifies stronger Christians as those who were liberated from fixating on religious technicalities and presumably binding traditions. The weaker brethren were seen to be those believers who could not feel secure unless they obeyed their scruples – and they expected everyone else to obey those personal tastes also. To the freed, stronger Christians Paul gave a warning for them to be careful how they exercised their spiritual liberty. To the weaker Christians he offered the command to stop judging the freedom of the stronger brother. As a pastor who has navigated these waters many times, I can almost hear Paul sighing as he writes those two chapters.

Have you thought lately about how your particular views/preferences/standards are affecting your relationships with others?  What does it take for you to give yourself permission to stop associating with another believer? Are you thinking of breaking fellowship with your church and finding one that better suits your personal tastes? Sometimes you can convince yourself that your individual preferences carry the weight of Gospel truth. They do not and we deceive ourselves if we assume that God always allows us to step away from others because we do not agree with them in non-biblical matters. Going back to the restaurant metaphor, when we come to moments of decision like these we need to slow down and consider whether the saturation of other available “spiritual dining establishments” makes it too convenient for us to move along from where we currently dine. Let’s be honest: in the Bible belt where many of us live, we can head out a few miles in a different direction to locate a new home church every time we discover that our current fellowship serves up the Sunday meal with some seasoning we do not find appealing. We glibly call it church-hopping but I think we might do well to consider that sometimes it is simply outright selfishness and sin.

Paul told the Romans in the verses above that God’s Kingdom can never be reduced to our personal scruples. God’s Kingdom involves you but it is never all about you. As followers of Jesus we need to seek the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to become more like our Savior in this area. Think about it: everywhere the Son of God went He was surrounded by people, words, ideas and events that failed to meet His own holy standards. Nobody thought like He did, everyone was truly “beneath Him” but they never felt that way. Interestingly, He just kept revealing His commitment & availability to those people. He pressed further into the needs of those people. He remained in places where He knew that His words, Kingdom-offers and saving mission would not be appreciated nor accepted. Jesus even washed the feet of the betraying Judas… but some of His modern day followers cannot even give the right hand of fellowship to other Christians who don’t carry the same English bible translation as they do. Jesus went to a party at the scandalized Zaccheus’ house while some of His 21st century followers won’t go to a local church whose music style doesn’t meet their personal tastes or whose denominational banner doesn’t mimic their own . Jesus asked the Father to forgive His tormentors while He was impaled to a cross – yet today some younger Christians arrogantly write off the older as irrelevant and some older Christians callously judge the younger as irreverent. Turf wars never begin in the church house. They find their origin in proud hearts.

I won’t be going back to yesterday’s restaurant where I took my family to eat after church. The food was pretty good but the way I was served was woefully lacking. To not ever go back is not a difficult decision for me. They won’t miss me and I can just go across the street to the place I am more familiar and where I am always appreciated and served. Yet I don’t view my relationships with others in this same light. Do you want to know why? Because they are not here to serve me in my relationships. I am here to serve them. I am not a consumer negotiating a transaction with them. I am a follower of Jesus as they are and we are part of a forever-family. When that driving principle takes up home in our hearts we will love more selflessly, work more thoroughly, stay more lastingly and hope more enduringly. Set up your personal criteria for restaurants any way you may choose. Be a little more deliberate and humble when you are considering Kingdom relationships.

 

GUEST POST:

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Jeff Lyle,
Lead Pastor of Meadow Baptist, Lawrenceville, GA

@Transtruth

Baptist Dysfunction #3

As we walk through the list of Baptist distinctives, we come to an issue of church polity and practice. Jesus Christ entrusted the church with many things, two of which get a special spotlight (and rightly so): Believer’s Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. There’s not a lot of controversy here, but I’ve got a few questions about these…

SacramentsStainedGlass01Two Church Ordinances

#1 – Believer’s Baptism

I know why we baptize believers – in obedience to Christ, for identification with His death and His church, and to proclaim the gospel. I also get the picture from the New Testament that baptism symbolized rebirth, so why can’t a believer be re-baptized when he rededicates his life? What would be the issue with re-preaching the gospel or identifying again with the church if one has become distant? Why can’t a Christian be baptized again? I mentioned that idea one time to some Christian leaders and they shot it down with disdain. Their answer was, ‘Well Jesus only died on the cross once, so you should only get baptized once.’  Not only does than answer lack basic logic, but it also implies an unhealthy connection to salvation.

Furthermore, at what point did churches get so particular about ‘receiving’ the baptism from other churches? I understand that some baptisms are given under false pretense (as if it is part of salvation) or by the wrong mode (sprinkling instead of immersion), but why do we dismiss baptisms from other brethren? Is it to pad our numbers? Is it because we are that distrusting of their water districts? I truly don’t get it!

Also, why don’t we work as hard for baptisms as we do salvation decisions? Why do we compare our baptism numbers (isn’t that a little self-aggrandizing)?  Some don’t, but many IFB pastors worship the numbers… or rather worship themselves through the numbers. They judge their entire lives by how many are in the pew on Sunday. If we count, we should count how many families had devotions this week, or how many people showed real patient love with a difficult person, or many hours our church spent praying for their co-workers… Those numbers are worth counting (if you’re gonna count)!

#2 – The Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper was given to the church as a sacred sacrament. It’s one of the major things that we are urged to do together that reveals the gospel. Some churches practice it once a year, others once a quarter, while others once a month. So why don’t we do it more often? I’ve know…because we don’t want it to get old / ritualistic… Right! So why do we do it exactly the same way every single time? We read the same verses and the same people pass the trays the same way. Every. Single. Time. Why? Would it be a sin to be creative with communion?

With regard to the ordinances, why -in most churches- are only ordained men allowed to participate?  I have never seen anything more beautiful than a father baptizing his child or when parents lead their family in communion.  Just because the church was entrusted with these doesn’t mean we get to monopolize them! Agree? (And by the way, I think foot-washing should be considered… maybe not as an ordinance, but at least practiced occasionally. Humility & soap would go a long way to clean up some of the stink in our churches!)

 

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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The Next Big Thing

The screaming-fast pace of technology keeps churches scrambling to keep up – at least the ones I’ve been involved in.  It seems like we’re always a step behind, a day late, a dollar short!  In some cases, the technology really doesn’t apply (or is too difficult / expensive to justify the investment), but in most cases, pastors and ministry leaders – with any real desire to impact their community and this generation – understand that it will involve a certain level of technology to be influential in this age.  Here is the NEXT big thing:

mobile church sites & apps

If you miss this, you’re missing a HUGE open door (see Col. 4:3; Rev. 3:8).

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Graphic from http://www.thechurchapp.org/ [not an endorsement]

As smartphones and tablets continue to develop, as WiFi and 4G networks expand, as people become more and more transient, this trend is coming faster than the super-train from Boston to DC.  My son, Austin, recently finished a school project on the evolution of cell phones (and got a 100% BTW); it’s a short presentation that’s well worth the read!

1st-thing

In 2012, there were 155.1 million smartphone users.

This year, there are 181.4 million smartphone users.

It is projected that 222.4 million will be smartphone users by 2017.

While some traditionalists and purists still argue about the use of screens, projectors, podcasts in the church, others are using the media very inexpensively and effectively to reach people with life-changing truth. I wrote about that here.  It’s NOT too expensive. It’s NOT too hard to do it yourself. Stop believing that lie!  Here is a clean & simple site that I compiled and offer to you [FREE, no strings attached!].

I’m curious: What do you think is the most important medium / technology to ‘do’ ministry? Is a mobile app better than a mobile site? Which is the most effective?  Why?  I can’t wait to read your responses…

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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5 Tips for Living On Mission with God

For us to live on mission with God and allow Him to do His work through us means that we must be attentive to how ‘we see life.’  It will help if we can see the whole of life in the context of sowing and reaping… understanding the importance and implications of this Biblical principle in the context of everyday relationships.

Sowing and Reaping1. Forget shortcuts

Don’t look for substitutes, cramming schemes, and quick-fixes when sharing the gospel.

2. Focus on sowing

Live to contribute, not consume… to invest, not get… to serve, not be served.  We are usually too harvest-driven, too focused on reaping.

3. The fruit is the seed

The Spirit’s fruit produced in my life is the seed planted in someone else’s life.  The Spirit’s fruit in me grows out of a good root system.

4. The field is not my solitude

The field of others is located a great distance from the solitude and isolation of self-interests.  I can’t live for self and others simultaneously.  Note: My interests may not be evil within themselves… only if they keep me from my purpose for being on earth as one who worships God.

5. My fulfillment in life will be the sheaves I bring forth with rejoicing

Praise the Lord!  It is after we go and sow in tears… that we come and reap with joy, bringing our sheaves with us… those we have influenced to follow Jesus.  In this experience, we find fulfillment and the joy of obedience.

 

by Pastor Bob Cook | facebook |  bio
The Church at Grace Park

The Representative

family-cross-silhoutteI spent the first few days of my two week suspension bitter.  The internal investigation had been little more than a formality.  The company I work for accused me of negligence and rules violations which caused a derailment.  My union representative, in my opinion, didn’t present the best defense.  I sat in the investigation watching both sides sling accusations trying to catch each other in a lie while both ignored the statement of events.  I didn’t feel like I had been treated fairly by the company or represented fairly by the union.  Neither had seemed to take my statement into account or had much faith in my ability.

It wasn’t until I was reading through the Sermon on the Mount that I realized I had no right to throw stones.

Matthew 5:16 says, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify you Father which is in Heaven.  As a Christian, I am God’s representative to the world.  I work for Him and on occasion have been called upon to defend my faith.  I have the Bible as a guideline with which to live my life.  All I really have to do obey, have faith in His ability, and let my light shine.  But how often did my light truly shine?  How much time did I spend in His word so I was familiar with the guidelines?

 All I really have to do obey, have faith in His ability, and let my light shine.

Matthew 5:44 says, But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.  Through the Bible and the Holy Spirit, He has taught me what to say and how to react in a given situation; not just for my own good, but for His glory.  But how often did I listen?  How often did I rely on His ability instead of counting on my own?  I would get caught up in worldly views and arguments instead of concentrating on my only true job – representing God.  When someone attacked my beliefs, did I heed Matthew 7:1 – Judge not, that ye be not judged?  Or did I take it personally and attack theirs.  Instead of relying on Matthew 7:12a – Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, when mud was slung, I slung it back.

As a Christian, I am God’s representative to the world.

Most importantly, when someone was curious and asking questions about God, how many times had I chosen that moment to be quiet?  My suspension was a glowing reminder of one thing – I have been a poor representative.  This is not a job that is at stake or loss of some income.  These are souls with an eternity of consequences.  We are to represent God before the world, with the same love and conviction Jesus Christ will represent us before God.  I will continually fall short, but my life is committed to Jesus Christ and I will try with every breath I have left.  How ‘bout you?

Article by C.S. Depew

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It Goes Without Saying

Gospel PaintingWhen the Partners for the Gospel was started, it was meant to be a helpful and encouraging tool for us and others in the ministry.  As I read the articles posted each week by my Christian brothers, I would call this a great success for which I am grateful to be a part.  Since we are all believers, our sharing of the Gospel especially to each other often goes without saying.  But in the last few weeks, I have felt under conviction because of exactly that…it has gone without saying.  There are believers and non-believers alike that visit our site, and every single one of us need to hear the Gospel message daily.

Jesus’ commission to the disciples after the resurrection was simple, and non-discriminate.  Matthew 28: 19 commands, Go ye therefore, and teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  Mark 16: 15 says, And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.  Luke 24: 46,47 tells us, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  And in John 21: 17, Jesus is speaking to Peter.  He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou me?  Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?  And he said unto Him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.  Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

I sometimes forget that any Scriptural advice or Biblical teaching I may offer without the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is little more than a twelve step program the world could find in any number of places.  2 Timothy 3:16 says, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.  All Scripture is profitable because all Scripture, from the Old Testament stories to the New Testament parables, point to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection.

Isn’t it amazing that the one thing about Christianity that seems the most unbelievable to the world is the only thing that gives us credibility in the world.  

Christ paid the price for our sins when He went to the cross.  He wasn’t dragged or forced you know, He went willingly and obediently so you and I can be perfect and righteous in the sight of God.  That is what the world needs to hear and I am thankful to Patrick, Michael, Bryan and the others for “preaching and teaching all nations.”  We don’t have to be eloquent or educated to be obedient.  Jesus did the work and provided the message…He told us to “Go.”

Article by C.S. Depew

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Postmortem for a Dream – Part Four

In February 2011, I wrote a series of blog posts for ChurchWorks Network about what has been by far the most acutely painful time of my ministry life. Though nearly two years have passed, I remember everything like it happened yesterday.

rowell2In the time between my announcement and the last gathering, some of the original people came back into the picture and expressed, with some degree of smug satisfaction, their disapproval of my leadership. These were people whom I’d ministered to as spouses became sick and either died or regressed irreversibly, whose bedsides I’d sat next to, weeping and praying. Their rhetoric stirred up emotions in me that I hadn’t felt in a couple years, emotions I thought were behind me.

So it became clear to me that the church had never fully moved on from what it was, because some people had never moved on. If I were to list the lessons I’ve learned, perhaps the first would be that some people will never change, and it’s better to know as much as possible ahead of time whether they will or not. In retrospect, I have to take responsibility for never asking them that question.

I’ve learned that I was irresponsible in going into a situation without having planned, as much as possible, for how I would provide for my family. Almost from the time I got here, I reacted to changing realities (in terms of the church’s ability to pay me, what kind of job I’d need, raising support, etc.), instead of proactively preparing.

I’ve learned that a dream is only as valuable as the plan for accomplishing it. And I’ve learned that the dream of healthy, deepening relationships with my God, my wife, and my children is of far greater importance.

I’ve learned that, even as the odds were stacked against me, God was shaping me and my ministry style. And I’ve learned that the end result of this chapter of my life does not invalidate who I have become and what I have come to value as a leader and pastor.

I’ve seen the grace of God, in giving a dying congregation five more years to advance His mission. I’ve watched God used a dying church to reach out to and completely, beautifully change the very life trajectory of some very special people. And I have every confidence that God will use our experiences in their lives to impact the churches they engage.

So there is pain, and there is joy. There is frustration, and there is gratitude. There is doubt, and there is faith. There is the end of one chapter, and there is the beginning of another, even as it’s fuzzy at the moment.

And above it all is God, Who gives and takes away, Who comforts and frustrates, Whose ways are not my ways.

I trust Him.

Article by Mike Rowell

@redhedrev

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Postmortem for a Dream – Part Three

In February 2011, I wrote a series of blog posts for ChurchWorks Network about what has been by far the most acutely painful time of my ministry life. Though nearly two years have passed, I remember everything like it happened yesterday.

People had been hinting at the possibility I’d made a mistake almost since I’d moved to Indy. Friends, family members, people who had my best intentions at heart, asked questions as a means of expressing misgivings about my situation. And then they voted with their wallets: when I sent out a letter asking for support from the churches I had grown up in, with leaders who had known me since I was a child, only one church responded with a one-time gift. Included on the list of churches who did not even respond to my letter was the church pastored by my father.

bible-reading-guy-912x340

And then there was my wife, who, sometimes with and sometimes without subtlety, pointed to various aspects of reality: I had to work 50 hours a week running a delivery route to support my family, I spent very little time with her or the kids, we didn’t have a facility for our gatherings, all our people were new to faith and not yet able to help shoulder the burden. Even as she expressed her concerns, she never turned on me, and eventually she just threw herself into the life, always thinking about the next Sunday night meal, the next prayer gathering, the next children’s program, even as she was mother to our four young children and just beginning the journey of home schooling.

I knew what she was pointing out was correct.

I knew she was hurting, and my kids were missing me. I knew that in juggling life as a husband, father, pastor, and employee, I wasn’t pulling off any of them particularly well. But I had this dream! This opportunity lay before me, and if I would just keep my nose to the grindstone, I’d look up several years later to see that it had all been worth it. After all, most pastors don’t stay in one place long enough to experience the fruit of their labors, I’d heard pastors preach. I demanded of God to tell me why He had given me such a blasted great dream and then allowed all this to happen. For months I went back and forth, and the vision kept me in my place, kept me thinking that if I tweaked this or that, things would change.

My dream kept bumping up against my reality. And, in the end, my reality won.

I can honestly say that I never lost sight of the dream: I just knew I couldn’t keep this up. I knew that I had started down a road and, at some point, I would not be able to turn back. My wife was experiencing health problems related to stress, and in the current reality, I couldn’t do anything about it. My wife and myself were exhausted during the times when parents build relationships with children, and with the way things were, I couldn’t change that. Eventually, my relationship with God suffered, as well, and I felt like I couldn’t change that, either, not the way things were going.

So, finally, I came to face reality: the right thing was for something to die that I had based my self-worth on keeping alive. And on December 19, I stood, sick to my stomach, in front of these beautiful stories of reconciliation that God had given us, and told them I needed to step away.

That turned out to be the easy part.

Article by Mike Rowell

@redhedrev

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Stuck?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a 1-day conference in Middle Tennessee at GVBC called ‘Stuck.’  This was not their first rodeo and you could tell.  They knew how to encourage pastors and church ministry leaders.  It was well-worth the 400 miles!  Kudos to Pastor Locke, the staff, worship team, and the church ladies who took care of the eats!  I feel compelled to pass on what I got out of the keynote session called

Top Reasons Churches Get
-[& Stay]- STUCK:

1. The lead pastor is not growing.  He is a catalyst for growth.  Everything rises and falls on -you guessed it- leadership! (-Lee Roberson)

“I’m not dying without trying.” (-GL)

2. No clearly-defined DNA.  If you can’t write down your church’s mission / vision on your palm – it’s too bulky and people will never remember it.  Not even your best people!  The church needs to know who you are and why you exist.

3. An aversion to technology and cultural advancement.  The website is the new front door of your church (more).  The hot-word today is contextualization.  Preach like they did in the past – but apply it to the days of the present!

4. An unwillingness to ask people to leave.  Some people are not part of the team.  They are not on board with your DNA and never will be.  Trying to keep them involved only deepens the problem (and your discouragement as a leader).  It’s not worth it!

New converts are never the ones who complain about the paint, the drum, etc.  It’s always the ‘transfers’ who are the most petty!

5. It’s structured for control rather than growth.  BR Lakin said: Beware of the church with two last names.  Some churches are run by a select few (a key family, the deacon board) and will never grow beyond those who dictate it.  It’s possible to have too many voices speaking into the vision of the church.  If you can’t trust your leadership, then you’ve got the wrong team!

6. Operating totally out of context.  Know your demographic.  You have an era – serve your “generation.”  You have an area – serve your “nation.”  Has your ‘target‘ audience been identified?  Do you really mean it when you say: Everyone Welcome!?  Really?  What about addicts, the homeless, hookers, the deaf, the bi-polar?  Are you ready to help them?

People want to hear your heart, but they are tired of hearing your head.

7. A lack of faith to operate out of the box – but by the book.  Zeal is the forgotten virtue, replaced by knowledge.  Look at the Old Testament prophets (Jeremiah, Hosea, etc.).  They totally destroyed the box of ‘How-to-Do-Ministry.’

8. An understanding of the gospel is merely assumed (especially in the Bible-belt / South).  Lost people are filling churches and, with their votes, controlling them.  Jesus gave no concessions for people claiming Christ who are not involved in church.

In Addition, Pastor Locke Gave 5 Pieces of Advice of Getting Unstuck…

1. Don’t pastor from a bitter heart or with a point to prove (spite and anger are terrible motivators).
2. Don’t allow the church to become to dependent on your personality as pastor – build a team of leaders.
3. Don’t build the church your critics want – build the church your community needs!
4. Don’t allow angry church people to make you an angry family man (leave that junk in the office).
5. Don’t read the Bible for material – develop the discipline of personal, private meditation for your own soul.

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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Be Evangelistic this Christmas

A story I read tells about a little boy and girl singing their favorite Christmas carol in church the Sunday before Christmas. The boy concluded Silent Night with the words, “Sleep in heavenly beans.” “No,” his sister corrected him, “peas, not beans.”

This little bit of humor reminded me that sometimes people don’t understand our message as well as we believe they do. The Bible tells us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14), and that this Word was and is Jesus (John 1:1-18). Christmas is about the coming of Jesus, God’s “Word,” and what better time to talk about it than during the holidays?

The Christmas season is always a busy time of year for a lot of folks but it also serves to remind us we have a mission to accomplish. We have been commanded to testify of the coming of Christ and share with others what Jesus has done for us. Christmas provides at least three opportunities for aiding in this command:

First, people are generally more charitable during the holidays. The Salvation Army begins to take up residence on every busy street corner and store front during this time of year because they know that people like to give during the holidays. In Christian theology charity has been understood as “the friendship of man for God.” Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Christmas is a great time of year to share with others the charity and goodwill of God the Father who gave up His Son that we may have eternal life.

Second, people are generally more open to religion during the holidays. In spite of the recent “war on Christmas” that has reduced Christmas to holiday trees and merry greetings, what other time of year will you hear songs of the incarnation in retail stores and shopping markets? Even people that aren’t professing Christians tend to “get a little religious” around the holidays. Christmas provides a great opportunity to talk about the purpose for the coming of Christ with regular acquaintances.

Third, people are generally more available during the holidays. One of my favorite aspects of the holidays is gathering and spending time with family that I just don’t get to see very often. Whether we’re sitting around the table together, watching television after having eaten a large meal or just enjoying passing conversation over coffee and tea, Christmas provides doors of opportunity for conversation between friends and relatives.

This Christmas season as you go about your busy schedule of planning meals, buying gifts and visiting loved ones, remember the reason for the season and tell someone about the charity of God, the visit of His Son and the hope of eternal life in Christ. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Article by Michael Waits

@michaelwaits

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