Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Memories Part 4

Another one of my Christmas took place when I was 9 years old and in the 4th grade. For months I had been infatuated with a pair of shoes. Now this wasn't just any pair of shoes, it was a pair of high-top Reebok Pumps! For what seemed forever I would look at this pair of shoes and wanted them soooooo bad. My parents who were always good at teaching me lessons in finance and responsibility would not purchase these shoes for me. However they made me a deal. If I would save up half of the cost of the shoes, then they would fund the other half for me to purchase them. This was a great deal! Except I had no source of income as a 9 year old. I saved every cent I could come across in what seemed like years (probably was only a few months but you know the concept of time for a 9 year old). Well Christmas came and with the money my grandparents gave me, I would finally have enough to purchase the shoes! I was so excited and couldn't wait for stores to open back up so we could go purchase this awesome set of footwear. As my parents did so many times in my life, they surprised me with their generosity. I woke up on Christmas morning to get what to me was the greatest Christmas present- the Reebok Pumps! I couldn't believe it. I was so excited! I loved those shoes and took exceptional care. I don't care if they're out of style 19 years later, but I would wear them today if I had a pair in size 14. And that was one of my best Christmas memories! The picture below is almost identical to the pair I had except the green stripe aside was blue and see through. Love those shoes!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

That's What Christmas Is All About!

We wrapped up the series titled "A Better Than Perfect Christmas" this week by taking a look at what this season is really all about. There are so many things in life where we have missed the mark as humans, Christians, and the church in general and this is one of those areas. We must not only take a look at the scripture of Jesus' birth, but allow it to move us to action, to live for Him and to serve Him. I heard a story this week of a local school teacher who read her students "The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever" and half of her students had never heard of the story of baby Jesus or knew that it is what Christmas is about.

After our time of worship, Paul Gentry opened up by rocking out his guitar to "Christmas Time is Here" while we watched the video of the Peanuts gang ice skating and going about as they do in the movie. At the end of the video everything got quiet as Linus quoted from Luke 2:8-14 and ended with this statement "That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown". So going along with that we looked at the Who, What, and Why of Christmas.

1) Who - Who did Jesus come for?
When we look at verse 10 it tells us that the good news the angels were delivering to the shepherds was for "all the people". This means it is for everyone! For you and everyone you love and care for and those you think are good people, and even those people who you despise and can't stand. He came for everyone, period! It wouldn't have been good news if He only came for some people.

2) What - What did Jesus come to do?
Romans 5:6-9 tells us that Jesus came to die for you (and everyone like I previously mentioned). He came to be the substitution of death that we deserved and were headed for. He came to save us from the wrath of God that is real because of our sin, because sin angers God and it should anger us too. He not only suffered a brutally terrible death, He carried the weight of every person's sin that they have ever committed or ever will commit for all of eternity on earth. That's a whole lot of sin! The thought of that should make us want to live our lives for Him!

3) Why - Why did Jesus come to die?
To demonstrate His love for us. Because He loves us. Why would He love me? I don't know but He does and that drives me to serve Him. We show others we love them by giving them presents at Christmas. He gave us His life which is the greatest gift we could ever receive. He left His perfect home in heaven, took on human form, suffered the greatest sufferings imaginable- all to show us that He loves us and to give us life through Him!

We closed the night with prayer time as we listened to the song "How Many Kings" by Downhere. The lyrics to this song are incredible as they challenge us to consider that Jesus was the only king, leader, lord, etc. that gave up His life for all mankind. The best way that I can consider the love of Jesus is like this: If I (or you) were the only person in history throughout all the billions and billions of humans who ever needed a savior, then Jesus still would have come to earth in human flesh and died the same terrible death for me. I truly believe that because I know that's how much God loves me and you. This love that has been displayed for us is what Christmas is all about!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Memories Part 3

My third Christmas memory that I want to share is another one that occurred only in the past few years. In 2007 I came to a point in my life where I knew that God was going to do something different with me than what I had planned for my life, but I didn't know exactly what that meant. Finally after many many hours of prayer and tears I realized in December that God had called me into full time ministry. Only a couple people knew at the time, one of which was my mom. She asked that when our family (grandparents, cousins, uncle, sister, you get the picture) got together if I would either read the Christmas story in the Bible or share something relating to it. I was honored to do so and remember sharing out of Luke 2 and the things that God had been revealing to me in the passage. A few weeks later my granny was with my mom and told her that I "would make a good preacher". My mom shared with her that I felt that God was calling me into ministry. A few weeks after that my granny unexpectedly passed away. She didn't get to see this all come to pass as I am now serving as a youth pastor, and she won't be at my ordination later this month, but I know because of her decision to follow Jesus that she is worshiping Him in a way we can not even fathom. God used my granny to speak to me many times over my life, even in unexpected ways. Being able to share with my family, and my granny on her last Christmas will always be one of my most cherished Christmas memories.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Memories Part 2

Another one of my favorite Christmas memories takes places after Belinda and I were married a few years. In 2004 we decided to go to Disneyworld the week before Christmas as our present to each other. We love going to Disneyworld, it's probably our favorite vacation place. It's great to go before Christmas because it's the value season and so we can afford it and it's not crowded until the week of Christmas. So we went and enjoyed our time. It was kind of odd wearing shorts in December but I loved it. We headed back home on the 23rd so we would be able to actually spend Christmas at home and spend time with family. We left Florida that morning and I was in shorts since it was so warm, but as we headed closer to Tennessee the temperature started to drop- quite drastically for us since we had been experiencing warm weather. As we got closer to home I finally had to confess to Belinda- "I just can't stand not buying you a present for Christmas!" She said she felt the same way and so we stopped at Wal-Mart about an hour before we got home. I had to put on pants in the parking lot because it was freezing cold to us. Then we went into Wal-Mart, split up and went our separate ways, and did some quick shopping with something like a $30 max we decided upon. I got her the "Indiana Jones" trilogy and she got me a season of "Boy Meets World" on DVD. It was a pretty fun crazy night, and definitely a good Christmas memory!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Memories Part 1

I thought I would take some time over the next week to post some of my favorite Christmas memories. I love the Christmas season and I always like to think back on some of my favorite times growing up and after I was married as well as making new ones.

I think one of the funniest ones is probably also one of my first memories of Christmas. I was either 3 or 4 years old and at the time He-Man was my favorite toy and cartoon. I remember waking up and that morning I received what had to be the ultimate He-Man toy collection. It included Castle Grayskull (for anyone who remembers the series) and tons of figures. One thing that stands out about that memory is that my mom and dad went back to bed and I remember I kept going into their room to show them things about my toys and they were asleep. Come to find out as I got older I was informed that I had woken everyone up around 3:00 am to go through our Christmas festivities! That is why my parents were so tired. I hate that I woke them up so early but it sure was a good time playing with those toys, and a great memory!

Friday, December 11, 2009

All I Want Is My Fair Share

I thought I would go ahead and post a little bit about what I would spoken on this past Wednesday. Instead we were blessed with a student testimony. But looking at the Charlie Brown Christmas special there is a scene where Charlie Brown's sister Sally asks him to write a letter to Santa Clause for her. She talks in the letter about how good she has been and wants many presents and at the end of the scene she says "All I want is what's coming to me, all I want is my fair share!" Sometimes in our minds we think that in order to have a perfect Christmas that we should receive whatever we think we deserve. The truth is, we don't deserve anything but because of God's love we can receive salvation through Jesus Christ! Here is a few things we should consider on this subject.

1) Be thankful for what we do have- Psalm 106:1-2
We have so much to be thankful for. We have a God who loves us and many of us are blessed beyond what we can imagine. We must consider even if we don't feel this way that there are people who have so little in this world. We are very fortunate!

2) Don't judge the needy
I recently read a post on the Stuff Christians Like blog about how he had a time in the past when he judged those that they were helping at Christmas time. He noticed that these people were driving very nice cars, etc. I can relate because I lack in the area of mercy many times. Its terrible but I admit that a lot of times when I see someone on the side of the road I'm usually quick to think "get a job". I don't know their circumstances and so I shouldn't judge them. When Jesus said to "love your neighbor" in Mark 12:31 He didn't place stipulations on that love.

I think we should all challenge ourselves to do with less this Christmas in order to share the love of Jesus either by giving to those in need and/or giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. To quote an old song by my favorite singer Michael W. Smith- "Love isn't love until you give it away".

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Better Than Perfect Christmas Part 2

We continued our "Better Than Perfect Christmas" series this week with an awesome twist. I had already planned the sermon I would preach this week, but God changed those plans. I was contacted on Sunday night by one of our students stating she needed to share what had been going on in her life and how God had been at work. So last night Addie Ann shared with the group her testimony and the ways that God has been at work in her recently. I believe that when we allow God to work in our lives, that is one of the greatest Christmas presents we can receive. We then need to take that gift and share it with others to bless them and challenge them. What is God doing in your life right now? What has He been revealing to you through personal Bible study? Have you been sharing that with others?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Playlist

If you know me then one thing you'll know is that I love music. I love to sing, worship, and play guitar. There have been so many good cd's out lately that I thought I would share some of my favorite songs that I am listening to currently. I'm also very excited that my favorite singer Michael W. Smith is beginning in the studio today writing and recording for his next album.

-How Many Kings - Downhere
-For the First Time Again- Jason Gray
-I Am New- Jason Gray
-Desert Song- Hillsong United
-How He Loves- David Crowder Band
-Shadows- David Crowder Band
-I Need You- Nathan Head
-Safe- Phil Wickham
-Because of Your Love- Phil Wickham
-Follow You- Leeland
-Get Up and Walk- Bethany Dillon
-Everything is Different- Shane & Shane
-You're Not Shaken- Phil Stacey

Most anything by these artists are great. Jason Gray, David Crowder Band, Leeland, Shane & Shane, and Bethany Dillon all have albums that have just recently came out and are all definitely worth checking out!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Awesome Gifts!

A few weeks ago we had our Thanksgiving service and the church also recognized the pastoral staff for "Pastor Appreciation". It was an incredible time to be honored by a church that I love so much. It's very humbling to know that you have a church body who supports you, is praying for you, and loves you! I received some incredible gifts which included a baseball bat signed by the entire youth group and a card from the children's ministry that had the fingerprints of every child in the church and says "When I see you, I see the fingerprints of God!" I love my church and am thankful that God has placed me to serve at Clearwater.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Don't Be Distracted!

It's hard to believe that it's already December and the Christmas season. Since it is I am excited that we are looking at a Christmas theme for this month. The series is called A Better Than Perfect Christmas and is based off the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.

We all have our ideas of what the perfect Christmas would consist of: the right music, gatherings, presents, food, traditions, etc. This is what we find Charlie Brown talking about in the opening scene. He clearly loves all that goes on at Christmas, but he's left feeling depressed each year. This happens easily when we build up something in our mind then it doesn't live up to our expectations. This especially can happen at Christmas when we try to focus on everything but what we should be- Jesus. I know for a fact because I experienced this for several years of my life. Each year I felt like something was missing. I didn't take the time to truly focus on the time to celebrate our Savior coming to earth. I just realized this a few years ago and decided to make a change- to not be distracted anymore.

We read in Luke 10:38-42 about two sisters- Mary and Martha. One sister-Martha- was distracted by things that were good, but wasn't exactly the best while her sister was Mary was focusing on the greatest thing- Jesus! Its very easy with so much going on this month to be distracted. I know I have a fully loaded calendar with good things, but I have to remain focused on Jesus or I will go back to being like Charlie Brown was.

So how do we remain focused and not be distracted by everything going on. Well I think the greatest example to learn from on this is the same exact person we need to be focusing on. In Luke 5:16 it tells us that Jesus would slip away often to pray. It also tells us this in Matthew 14:23 and Mark 1:35. The original Greek construction of the sentence in Luke indicates that it was a continual practice and could also be translated that he was regularly withdrawing and praying. Even though there were increasing crowds following Jesus and demands of his time grew, it did not deter Jesus from spending extensive times in prayer. This of course helped him to stay focused on what he needed to.

Here is a list of some things that I am challenging myself, the youth, and yourself to do this month to stay focused on the miracle of Jesus.
-Pray each morning for protection against distractions throughout the day
-Pray each night over the next day
-Share the true meaning of Christmas with someone that doesn't understand what Christmas is truly about
-Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering
-Pray for missionaries
-Give up something for God- bad habit, hobby, purchase, etc.
-Give to someone in need
-Read the account of Jesus' birth in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, more than once