LifePoint Church, we are about to enter into a new Sunday series on the book of Matthew beginning Sunday, March 3rd. On the heels of our vision series – which was all about what it actually looks like to follow Jesus – we believe it’s important for us to begin to dive deep into the life of Jesus. We want to step into his world, listen into his conversations, walk in his footsteps, and get covered in his dust. And, what we’ll discover is that the book of Matthew depicts the good news of the new Genesis that has been brought about through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the anointed King of the world. I believe this will be a transformative journey that will help our community step into the new identity we have in Jesus, and make us effective partners in bringing his good news to the world.
I know not everyone is like me, but there is something about the New Year that makes me feel like I can get a fresh start.
…almost like I get a do-over.
I know the truth is,
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
— Lamentations 3:22-23
But we’ll come back to this later…
…because I still feel like the New Year offers a freshness that I often anticipate and spend a fair amount of time reflecting on. My reflections typically lead to some habit-forming resolution that I believe will solve whatever discontentment I have with myself from the previous year. Maybe it’s losing weight, being more active, spending more quality time with family, being more generous, reading through the Bible in the next year, giving up drinking soda, etc…
From there I will typically come up with some sort of a plan of attack and get to work on it.
…I think resolutions are good things and I don’t think I’ll stop feeling this way about the New Year, but in this particular season of life I believe I’ve had somewhat of a divine intervention when it comes to the way that I look at my hopes for the year ahead.
I recently started reading a book recommenced by Pastor Brady called, Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God, by Macrina Wiederkehr. I didn’t have to make it through a couple paragraphs before I realized how this book was going to wreck me. As I’ve slowly journeyed through it over the last week, it has done nothing short of that.
In the introduction, the author poses two questions to us from a conversation Jesus had with to some of His first followers in John 1:35-42. I believe, that as we approach this New Year, these questions and their answers are especially important ones for us to consider if we have any interested in approaching 2019 with any kind of resolve. They are:
What are are you looking for?
Where are you staying?
…let’s say you made a New Year’s resolution… you have the best year ever and you accomplish your resolution (Yay you!!). Would you be satisfied? Or would you have another resolution after that? What would be your next resolution be? Say you had the same success… would you be satisfied? Or would you have another resolution?
You’re probably saying over and over, “No, I’d never really be satisfied… I’m always trying to grow… I’m always trying to get better.”
Is this the pattern to which we created to live our lives? Is this why we work? Is this why we strive? To what end? And this is the best case scenario, no less! Most of us don’t even meet our resolution within the first month of the New Year.
How sad is it that we live in this perpetual cycle of striving and failure! It’s no wonder why we are such a stressed, depressed and broken people! This is increasingly one of the biggest motivators for people to avoid resolutions all together.
The good news is that we can have something that is infinitely more satisfying than most of our resolutions and that has the power to break this cycle. It’s Jesus!
If you want to experience freedom from the cycle of guilt, shame, fear, failure, comparison, doubt and discouragement, Jesus is your answer for the what and the where of these two questions.
Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
Don’t you want freedom in your life? Isn’t that why we make most of our resolutions to begin with? So how is Jesus the answer? How can we find satisfaction in Him that we don’t find in most other resolutions?
Let me unpack this statement from Jesus a little just to make sure we’re all still on the same page on how this answers our what and where questions. John 1 tells us, in short, that Jesus is the perfect eternal manifestation of God’s Word. That is to say that Jesus has and will always embody, perfectly, what is right, best and true according to God. Jesus also parallels this statement later in John 15:5 by saying, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Here we see Jesus as being synonymous with the Word of God. If we are to be followers of Jesus, He must be the what we are looking for if we truly want to live a free and fruitful life. Why wouldn’t we want what was, is and will always be good, right and true? Friends, we have an overabundant access to it through the Holy Spirit and our Bibles at any moment of our day. We just have to want it.
Secondly, where are you staying? Jesus’ call to abide is the where. Jesus is telling us that being with him, or following him, is a constant thing. It isn’t just when He is physically present, it isn’t just when we are at church, around other believers, or when people are looking. No, probably most importantly, our relationship with Jesus has to be in the secret places of our lives as well. Wherever we can find Jesus is our location — there’s a whole devotional topic there! Jesus wants us to have freedom from the worries and cares of this world. Jesus wants us to know the truth. Jesus wants us to know Him deeply, intimately and regularly and He spared no expense to show us that. Praise God!
As you imagine the year ahead, I hope you would consider taking a journey of deeper intimacy with me in our relationship with Jesus. I have a feeling we won’t be disappointed and we’ll never be the same! And on those days when our relationship begins to drift, just know that we don’t have to wait until next year to find our resolve again….
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is [His] faithfulness.
— Lamentations 3:22-23
It’s essential that we as a community are on the same page when it comes to the particular vision and direction God has for our church body. “Unexplainable” is a teaching series intended to cast vision for where LifePoint is headed. God has called us to live lives that, to the outside world, seem odd and unexplainable apart from the supernatural work of the Spirit of the God of the universe working mightily amongst us. Join us Sunday mornings beginning January 13th at 9:00 and 10:45 for this transformational series.
Christmas Eve might be one of my favorite days of the year. We like to say around our house that Debbie and I don’t have children anymore. We have adults. But, come Christmas time, we have kids again. Just the other day our son Cameron was grabbing a gift from under the tree with his name on it, shaking it to see if he could figure out what it was. Our nephews are coming over in a day or two to make sugar cookies and my kids (I mean adults) are all asking if they can help. It’s that time of year that has us thinking about family.
Thoughts of family are all the Woodards seem to think about these days with the return of our oldest from the mission field. God’s faithfulness in her return from China and hearing of her work there has been such a blessing this Christmas season. It has also given me pause. As Savannah and I hopped in the car to go to church for our first service at the new building she stopped and said, “I forgot something!” She ran inside and came out with her Bible. She said, “It’s so weird. I can carry my Bible with me out in the open. I haven’t been able to do that in a while.”
I wonder if in the midst of this busy season, we’ve forgotten what Christmas is all about. While I’m busy thinking of presents, food, and family, I think I’ve lost perspective on what this thing called Christmas really means. It’s a day we stop and celebrate the birth of a Savior. A day to celebrate the greatest gift ever given. I hope you’ll join us on Christmas Eve as we take time to pause and proclaim that our Savior has been born and salvation is a gift that can be opened by anyone that calls upon the name of the Lord.
Join us today at 2pm or 4pm as we celebrate Christmas Eve together.
I was sitting rocking my 18 month old son who had just got done
throwing a 10 minute tantrum because Daddy went to Youth Group and he was stuck with me for the rest of the night. I was feeling a lot of emotions after a long day and as I rocked my sweet boy I began
reflecting on my day and the past 18 weeks.
We’d had a rough day.
Honestly, it’s been a rough three or four weeks.
Listening and watching a screaming toddler for the last ten minutes hadn’t made me feel much better. So I began thinking about the sermon that morning…”unwrapping our expectations”. This Christmas message had ended up being a message that spoke to my heart and exactly what I was going through. Brady said,
“God didn’t come down to us to change our circumstances. He came down to be with us IN our circumstances.”
You see, the Israelites were expecting Jesus to be a mighty warrior, a fearsome king, a terror that would vanquish all their enemies and take away all their problems. While all of these things were or eventually will be true, he didn’t come in the way they expected him to. He didn’t act in the way they expected him to. Their long awaited wants and desires were not met. What they didn’t expect was the only thing they truly needed. What he gave them was better than their expectations. Much much better. Infinitely more satisfying. He gave them Himself. He gave them a savior who didn’t sit on a huge horse with a sword and shield but knelt on the ground in humility and understood their pain, suffering, and sorrows. He not only understood those things but would eventually take all those things upon His own shoulders as he died a painful death in our place.
While Brady reminded us of these wonderful truths I sat there completely overwhelmed because something in me finally broke. I was sitting there with no escape from my own problems and I realized that he wasn’t just talking about a people that lived thousands of years ago. He was talking about me. Because I’ve been waiting for God to come in and save the day by changing my circumstances.
These past 18 weeks have been difficult. When Jacob and I found out we were pregnant we were over the moon excited. God had given us what we asked for and he’d done it fairly quickly. I know enough people that can’t get pregnant that I felt thankful that I would be given such a wonderful gift. It’s something I wasn’t taking for granted. I felt a little sick and a little sleepy but other than that things were awesome. I had what I wanted. And then things started to get hard. Between the migraines and the puking I wasn’t sure if I could handle running around with a toddler as well as being constantly sick. Then I get diagnosed with gestational diabetes again, even after praying that the Lord would just take it away because I didn’t want to have to deal with it again. Then we find out I’m going to have to get a painful shot every week to help keep this baby in. Then we find out I have to go to get a
special ultrasound every other week to check and make sure everything is ok. That’s a potential of 3 doctor visits a week.
Uhmmm….are you kidding me?
I’m thinking, “seriously, God? Did you really think I needed to handle all this?” and “how come you made me this way? Why can’t I have a normal easy pregnancy like other ladies?” and “I prayed that this would go away and it didn’t. Then I prayed that you’d make it easier and you didn’t do that either.” I was angry, frustrated, disappointed, sick, and HUNGRY!
I realized this morning that the anger and discontentment was not because God was not answering my prayers. It was because he was not meeting my expectations of how I thought my pregnancy should go. I expected God to give me a safe and easy pregnancy… after all, hadn’t we been through enough with Gideon? But just like the Israelites, thousands of years ago, God wasn’t (and isn’t) giving me what I want. He’s giving me what I need.
Instead of saying, “Here Emilie. I’m giving you this nice easy pregnancy just like you asked. Aren’t I a good God?” he’s saying, “Emilie, these are your circumstances. Trust Me. Cast your burdens on Me. Run to Me. I will take care of you. I have numbered your days and know the hairs on your head. I know the days of your unborn child and know the number of hairs on this baby’s head. I’m currently forming this child and I knew this child before you even thought of it. I haven’t given you want you wanted. But I’m giving you something infinitely better and much more satisfying. I’ve given you the opportunity to grow closer to Me and know my character. I’ve given you the gift of Myself. Aren’t I a good God?”
The answer is YES. He is a good God.
Do I totatlly understand and accept this? If I’m honest, not yet. I’m not there yet. Let’s go back to rocking my sweet baby boy as I was reflecting on the sermon. I know all these things. But just how much more am I going to sacrifice for these babies? I’ve given up food, sleep, comfort…I’m experiencing pain as I check my blood sugar 4 times a day and every week I get an injection that makes my arm feel like it’s on fire for hours and then I’m bruised for several days. I sat there asking God, “Just how much more are you going to ask me to sacrifice? I love these babies, but this just feels like more than I can handle right now.”
I felt the Spirit say, “How much did I sacrifice for you? Everything. I gave up food, sleep, comfort. I went through excruciating pain.” Everything. He gave me everything I need. Himself. And isn’t that all I need? And is it really that big of a sacrifice for me? To be able to show my babies just a little bit of the love that was given to me? But this isn’t the end point. It’s a journey. I must choose this sacrifice every single day. Sometimes I must choose to sacrifice by the minute. Why? Because He did. So I will pray as David did,
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51: 10-12)