How is your Christmas going?

How is your Christmas going?

“Rejoice! Lift the song! Rejoice! God has come! Rejoice! Oh, what love! Rejoice! God with us!”

That is the opening line to our christmas program “The King is Here”

Rejoice… God with us…

As I’m sitting here in the middle of preparation for the Christmas program, I’m trying to force myself to think of that one, single word that starts the concert. Rejoice! What does it really mean? To give joy to… to feel joy or great delight… To welcome, to enjoy, to be glad.

Do those words describe most people’s Advent season?
Do those words describe my Advent season?!?

I was asked yesterday during lunch prior to our choirs rehearsal - “How is your Christmas going?” A simple enough question…

I’m guessing many would answer ‘Good’ or ‘Great’... maybe ‘Busy’. Others would answer that simple question with a simple, “easy” answer - but inwardly would be thinking ‘Difficult’, ‘Lonely’, ‘Painful’...

I’ll be real and honest here - at times I have mixed feelings about it.  
-I think back to my childhood when my Grandpa passed away just before Thanksgiving…
-This was my dad’s busy season with work, I didn’t get to see him much between thanksgiving and Christmas - there were times he wasn’t even able to go to a Christmas eve service.
-Jesus certainly wasn’t born in December
-Things are so commercial
-Aren’t all the decorations taken from Pagan traditions? The christmas tree?
-I’m just so busy! Seriously! Ask any music director - Christmas and Easter.  I remember hearing a worship leaders wife tell her son early in December “we’ll get to see daddy after Christmas!”

But on the other side:

-I’m coming up on 5 years being here at The Chapel
-My first born son came 3 weeks early on December 14th just after I started at the church
-I get to see the delight and joy in my kids eyes as they see lights decorating the neighborhood, and soon our own home
-This may be one of the only two times in a year that many will step foot in a church. What a great chance to share Christ’s Love with them!

So what am I choosing to dwell on? What is going to be my focus during this season? That this is the time of year that we celebrate Christ’s coming into the world to be with us.

To be like us.
To have a personal RELATIONSHIP with US!
With ME!
With YOU!

Think about that! What could be more important than the fact that the Creator of the world wants to have a relationship with each and every one of us?

So what was my response to the question “How is your Christmas going?”.
I had answered “My own Christmas doesn’t start until the 10th after the Concerts”...

But I want to change that. I want “To give joy to… to feel joy or great delight… To welcome, to enjoy, to be glad.”

In this season that has sooo many distractions, that may be busy, painful, lonely - I want to Rejoice in Christ’s coming.

Rejoice! Lift the song! Rejoice! God has come!
Rejoice! Oh, what love! Rejoice! God with us!

I hope you will join me in prayer for those who need to hear that message. Pray for the choir’s health. Pray that those who need to come to the concert will. Pray that you, and I, will be able to share the true ‘reason for the season’. And lastly, I ask that you pray that many will accept Jesus and start a personal relationship with him!

-Pastor Matt

Blown Away

As I’m sitting here thinking about our services this morning, I’m blown away. Blown away by God. Blown away by His love for me. Blown away by His faithfulness and provisions.  Blown away by the blessings of having the most amazing woman I know as my wife and having 2 (and soon to be 3) amazing kids who already show a heart for Jesus. Blown away by having a great church family and getting to do what I love.

Blown away…

But what is hitting me now more than anything is how awesome it has been working with the kids who are leading worship for our Family Fun Fest events.
It’s been great seeing how they have grown in the last few weeks… how comfortable they are becoming… how much fun they are having praising Jesus.
And as I'm realizing that the choir season is coming up way too soon, and that I really do need to listen to that huge stack of music next to me... What I really want to do is just keep worshipping with these young hearts.
At some point I’ll post my own testimony about how worship ministry connected me into church and, more importantly, connected me to Christ.

Lord Jesus, I pray that these young hearts will connect to You… that Your love will overwhelm them… that they will see You as the only source of truth in this world. Help me to lead and guide them. I thank You for the gifts You have given these youth and that they are using them for Your glory. I thank You for the blessing that they are to our church and community. Thank You, Jesus.

-Pastor Matt

Use Your Walks to Think About God

I enjoy walking, and especially with my two dogs. Lulu and Mable, I call them. I occasionally call them “Lulu Sue” and “Mable Sue”. Sue is my wife’s middle name and I remind her that the dogs were named after her, which she should consider an honor. She isn’t so sure.

It had been a long day of working on a sermon. Several reference books were laid out, having been used earlier in the day. The dogs sensed that the time had come for their walk. Excitedly they jumped up and ran to the basket where I keep their leashes – even if I had not planned to walk them, it was now an inevitability. So off we went, down the shady lane on this sunny, late afternoon. If we made it a short walk, we would be home in time for supper. If it went a little too long – well, microwaves are very good at warming up food.

I made a few observations on the walk.

I watched a bee gathering pollen. It extracted the pollen, then buzzed around to another plant, pollinating it. So much of our food is the result of busy bees, working at pollination. This is a wonderful aspect of nature (I use “wonderful” in its true sense: giving an aura of wonder). The sight reminded me of God’s discourse with Joh, where in Chapter 39 of Job one after another of the intricacies of nature are presented as evidence that God knows what He is doing. Job is simply to trust. All of creation, from the largest galaxy to the fine detail in the root system of plants, speaks of an infinitely intelligent and wise Creator.

We continued our walk down the shady path and soon turned a corner where two boys were playing a game of one-on-one basketball in the driveway of a home. I would guess the boys to be fourteen or fifteen, just at the age when boyhood is being left behind and manhood is beckoning. I watched as they dribbled the ball, made moves to drive to the basket and took outside shots. It put me in mind of Psalm 139:14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” The human body is a real masterpiece, isn’t it? All the parts work together to make a person. The eyes see, the legs and arms move, all the while the brain coordinates everything, even keeping the internal organs – lungs, heart and all the other parts – working as they should. Who could ever really believe that such a masterpiece as the human body is a random, accidental act of nature? No, we are created by an awesome and loving God. How genuinely wise and good is God!

We were now turning the same corner as earlier, but this time headed back home. A car approached, so I reined the dogs over to the side. Since they have been trained this way, they obediently walked over to where they were safely off the road. As they sat there, waiting for the car to pass, I spoke softly and affirmingly to them, letting them know that their obedience had earned my pleasure. What they don’t seem to realize is that their obedience also earned their safety. As I expressed my pleasure of their obedience to them, the look on their faces was one of trust and love toward me. Nothing seems to please them more than to please me, their Master. And when they please me, I desire to bestow greater love upon them. Obedience and love go together in our relationship with Christ, our Master. When we obey God, it pleases Him – and it brings a benefit to us. And then, God is more inclined to bestow His love upon us than before. And where does that leave us? With an attitude and face that express trust and love for God.

I suggest that for real peace of mind, you use your walks to think about God.

Thoughts on Cancer

I have been cancer free for over twenty years now. And for this, I am extremely grateful. When I first heard the words, “You have cancer”, it was shocking. Surgery followed and annual checkups now occur. My specialist now practices in Cincinnati and it was just a week ago that I was examined by him. On the drive home from Cincinnati, I had a few thoughts on being a cancer patient. First, if you ever hear the words “You have cancer”, do not panic. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God is still God, and He is in charge of your life. Plus, the medical field has made so many advances in recent years in treating all types of diseases, including cancer, that there is no cause to panic. By the way, medicine and medical treatment is not prohibited in scripture. Quite to the contrary, one of the New Testament writers was Luke, a physician and companion of the Apostle Paul. It is apparent that Paul needed the assistance that Luke, as a physician, could provide (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). Thus, and this is important, God uses Paul’s infirmity as cause for Luke’s development as a Christian, researcher and author. God can use whatever infirmity you may have. He has permitted it. He can also cure it or lead you to a treatment center where relief may be found. If you do hear those frightening words, “You have cancer”, you will probably ask, “Why?” You may never know why. Don’t panic. Accept it, but fight it. Cancer is an enemy, just like other illnesses and, of course, death (1 Corinthians 15:26). Use prayer and medical treatment. Medicine is a gift from God, as are physicians. Take this gift and use it. Secondly, keep a positive attitude. John Haggai, a Christian motivational speaker and former pastor, has written “Today’s attitude is tomorrow’s reality.” Don’t let illness of any kind cause your faith to waver. Be in prayer. Ask God for healing but also ask God to use your illness to encourage others. “Lord, don’t let this illness be wasted. Use it to inspire others through my attitude.” Lastly, count each day a blessing. Jesus himself told us to pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” Every day God gives you on earth is a blessing, a gift. Use each day wisely. Tell the people you love that you do love them. Pet on your bird, dog or cat. Plant some flowers. In winter, make a snowman. On Sunday, attend church. Nourish your faith and deepen your walk with God. There will come a day for all of us, cancer patients and non-cancer patients, that it will be our last on earth. Do not waste the days God gives you. Use them beneficially. For Christ and His Church, Pastor Joel