We have many things to be thankful for. Just take a look around and your list should be too numerous to count. For me, this week ushers in the Advent season. It is a choice to be thankful in the midst of a dark world around us. But I choose to see the light and be the light. For Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
When this verse says, “In the same way,” what is it referring to? That is a good question. Let’s visit the verses prior to this verse and see what it says.
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house."
We are to be salt and light in a dark world. I know you could choose to focus on all the things that are wrong in the world or even disrupting your peace of mind right now. But you could also choose to trust the Lord with those things and not let it become a weight that you carry from house to house. I love the way that verse 15 ends. It says, “it gives light to everyone in the house.” So let’s talk turkey.
What are you serving or eating on Thanksgiving? I know some families that try to be creative or rebellious and serve anything but turkey on Thanksgiving Day. I have an idea. How about serving, “Light” to everyone in the house? Now that may not get you out of cooking or taking a dish to your family get-together but I know one thing, everyone will see God if you serve up the Light of Christ. Take the time to share your story of how Jesus continues to bring Light into your life. Don’t let the preparation for the meal get in the way of what God wants to do in the house. God comes and exposes the darkness so that we may see the path that leads to His righteous ways. It will be a good lead into the Advent Season that is starting this weekend.
Speaking of Advent, I am looking forward to experiencing Advent with my church family this season. I will be preaching about the “Unexpected” things that the Lord does to fulfill His promises this Christmas. He goes to whatever lengths He needs to in order to show us the purpose of His birth and ultimately His death and resurrection. Come and bring someone to experience Advent here at FFCN.
Joy in Jesus!
We are coming near the end of the football season. In just a few weeks, Ohio State will be playing Michigan. It’s going to be intense, especially if the game is close in the final few minutes. At the end of each game, the two-minute warning reminds both teams that the outcome of the game is now on the line. If the athletes intend to win, this is the time to give it all they’ve got. These final 120 seconds are often the most intense moments of play.
When revival comes in its full expression, it’s as though a spiritual two-minute warning has been sounded. The battle intensifies, and the stakes are higher than usual. Certainly the enemy is aware that this is the time to pull out all the stops! He knows that something good is about to happen.
The book of Ephesians talks about the Spiritual battle we are in. The weapons of our warfare are not to be carnal or worldly. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Most people have not experienced this kind of battle or spiritual warfare. When we come to a place when we encounter this kind of resistance, then we are not sure how we are to combat it. We need to understand that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ then you already possess the tools you need to fight off the enemy. Paul tells us to stand firm in Ephesians 4:14.
The Lord has given the church her purpose and direction. It is to be faithful in making Christ-like disciples. We know what we are to do with every breath we have been given. The devil’s business is to hinder us. Let me remind you not to flinch when you hear the lion roar. Let the devil do his worst. Just be sure to let nothing hinder you from fulfilling the work of God before you.
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:7-10
In one sense, I get excited about what God is doing in and through our church as the enemy pulls out all stops. As Paul admonishes us, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
Do whatever it takes to see the Holy Spirit work and bring us together as one. May the Word of the Lord be honored, praised, and lived out. I look forward to finishing up our series, “Simply Grace” on Sunday.
Joy in Jesus!
In the middle of Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the chief priests start to openly confront Jesus to try to expose Him as a false teacher and blasphemer. It was backfiring on them because people were amazed at His teaching. The power of God was flowing through Him and no one could stop it. He is looking like a prophet in the eyes of the crowds gathering around. The Pharisees try to stump Him on paying taxes or not. Jesus amazed the people at His response. The Sadducees get in the ring and pull out the marriage of several brothers to one wife and whose wife will she be at the resurrection. Jesus flies through this as well and the crowds go from amazed to astonished at His teaching. This just means that they were impressed at what He said and how He handled Himself. Why wouldn’t they be, He was God.
Now comes the Pharisees again. An expert in the law is intent on stumping Jesus in front of everyone.
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Again Jesus drops the microphone and moves on. He was the Word that became flesh. They were never going to be able to trap Him. As a matter of fact, they helped Him reveal who He was. His light was exposing the darkness in which they were living.
Have you ever loved anything with all that you are? Have you ever risked giving the totality of your being, entrusting it to the care of another? In the first part of the greatest commandment, have you ever considered that it’s not God who needs all of us? It is we who need to give all of ourselves to God. For those of us who are followers of Christ, we know that we need all of God, but do we know as clearly that our wholeness is dependent on our giving all of ourselves?
I don’t know if I fully grasp what it means to give all of myself in every dimension as Jesus describes. I am learning and growing more everyday to understand it a little more than I did yesterday. Here is what I do know – I know what it is like to love healfheartedly or to be doubleminded. I am far more acquainted with holding back, playing things close to my chest, and keeping my inner most vulnerable part guarded. Love always requires trust, and trust always requires risk. Yet God is inviting us to give all of ourselves, even down to the core. Did you know that God can be trusted with all of who you are? He knows we will never fully experience the love He intends to give us until we give all of ourselves away. Even those who have been hurt and betrayed in the past, God wants all of us. He will never betray us. Paul discovered in his own life experience that if you take the risk and give your whole self to God, you will never be put to shame.
11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:11
May you trust God with your all today. Let God comfort you at your deepest need. It is much better to live vulnerable before a loving God and trust that He will carry you through than it is to protect yourself and look like everything is in control. That choice leaves you all alone with no place to go.
I’m looking forward to continuing our series, “Simply Grace” on Sunday. Invite someone to come with you and experience the grace of God.
Joy in Jesus!
Next week we will have over a thousand people go through our Family Life Center in 3 days. Why? That is a great question. Families will be coming and bringing their children to be evaluated for Upwards. We try to divide the teams up with kids at different skill levels. It makes the competition a little more even and more fun. Cheerleaders will come and learn a few basic moves for the season coming up. The place will be hopping. This is our 22nd year of hosting Upward Basketball & Cheerleading. It has brought many children and their families to church and we have seen many of those same kids come to faith. That is why we invest so much into this ministry.
Pastor Tracy has been doing a great job leading this ministry for the past several years. This year is going to be a great year of seeing many more come to Christ.
Having a ministry like this for as long as we have had it can have some challenges. Many people will assume that someone else is volunteering for it since we have had it for so long. That is a myth. Every year we need to be as passionate for Upward as we were when we first began in 1999. We need everyone to come and work together to see a great harvest. There are many ways we each could serve next week and next season as our games begin in January.
I think of the story of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet in John 13. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” John 13:14-17.
Sometimes we need to get out of our routine and not only minister to people who participate in Upwards, but we need to minister to those who are on the front line. We have several people who put many hours in behind the scenes in order to make this season as smooth as possible and to remove any obstacles that distract us from our purpose and mission. We will have more people come through our building than any other ministry over a period of 3 months. Can you imagine the relationship of trust we can build with some families? This is where you come in.
Would you be willing to help us serve the many families that will be here for Upward Evaluation week? Next week Monday through Wednesday, we will be registering people, helping kids with proper uniform sizes, finding out their skill level, and loving each person who comes through the door. Don’t assume someone else will do it. Inform the church office that you are willing to help with something during these crucial days.
Remember that this Sunday night we will also have our Harvest Dinner at 5:30pm. Who have you been inviting to come with you? Let’s all come together as one and see Jesus transform lives.
I pray that you will pray and do what you can to help us love others in the name of Jesus this next week.
Joy in Jesus!
Rev. Mike McClurg
Senior Pastor, Findlay First Church of the Nazarene