Through the grace of God, we have reached the final week of the year. I phrase it as such because as we began 2021, we carried a faint hope into the new year of what it would entail; however (as per normal) the reality was much different. Obviously, the hope of Covid leaving was quickly dispersed as the Delta variant was discovered, and now we have moved on to the Omicron; this set a tone for the year. Enough about Covid. Many set out this year with intentions to accomplish various plans and ambitions, only to discover God had other plans for their lives, and they went home before the year ended. That part saddens our hearts.
As we look back over our shoulders as a congregation, even during this Covid infested year, there were still some bright spots which bring smiles to our faces. I will highlight a few. It was because of the generosity of our family members that the dream of attending school for many young children in Africa has now become a reality. The poverty of their parents was overshadowed by the hearts of our congregation, and now young minds full of potential are breaking the cycle of poverty through (Christian) education. The year also contained a wonderful campaign of providing financial assistance to those in peril in India. My heart was overjoyed when the final total was calculated, as the amount far exceeded my expectations for this effort. I thank God that He touched your heart in such a magnificent way, enabling us to be a part of this humanitarian effort. Also, closer to home, as per our usual, 50 families were fed during Sack-the-Pulpit. Unfortunately, you aren’t privy to the comments I hear from the schools. Year after year they are blown away by the kindness of our little group as we share our two fish and five loaves with those in need. Lastly, as we delivered Christmas gifts for the kids at Keewahdin Elementary, the office staff was so grateful for what we did for the children. Each time we would return to the office with more presents (there were quite a few), the office staff would express their disbelief that we would do such a thing. We have spread some significant seeds for the Kingdom in 2021, and plan to do likewise in 2022.
In 2021 (like 2020), Covid has derailed our normal activities which I realize left many disappointed. Even with the good news that we would resume meeting in the building, it was still far from our normal. For those experiencing this frustration, I want to remind you we made an impact in Africa and India. We also blessed people in our community. Although limited by the virus, God still provided us with opportunities to bring glory to His name; and as you always do- you rose to the occasion and went beyond what was asked or expected. Yes, 2021 wasn’t all we hoped it would be, but remember we never know what God is going to do with the good we were able to accomplish. So, I ask you (in your prayers) to thank God for these opportunities and for that which we were able to participate in to bless His kingdom.
With 2022 right around the corner I can assure you the coming year will be full of many changes, possibilities, a few surprises and unfortunately more heartache. But God be thanked that as His kingdom continues to march on, we are among the saints in the procession.
Blessings for the coming New Year!
It appears on the surface the world is doing everything possible to remove Jesus from Christmas, they even inserted an “X” for his name. I realize there are many arguments concerning this holiday. Therefore, we will not debate if Christmas is Jesus’ birthday or if we should celebrate it at all, that’s for another time. I want to focus on the holiday itself and what is happening in these modern times with shouts of anti-God everything in the air. Recently, I read an article by a Christian, he complained; after having removed God from the schools, public places, and most homes; they are now trying to remove him from Christmas. He was pretty vocal about this issue. Before we get emotionally caught up in his point, let’s step back and take a look to see if such is even possible. Right up front, I am going to vote- no (I’ll do my best to present my case it in the ensuing statements). Before we begin, I will admit it is difficult to determine where all of this originated because the pieces were added by different entities at different times, however we can know its intended purpose.
Where shall we begin? Let’ begin with the Christmas tree. Did you know this tree is symbolic of the tree of life, and the lights on the tree represents Jesus who is the light of the world? Does that change anything for you. Let’s continue. Next there is the giving of gifts, which represents the Magi who brought gifts to baby Jesus; and we mimic this when we give gifts to one another. Here’s another Christmas factoid, it is reported, the worldly are the closest to God during the Christmas holiday season because for whatever reason, people are kinder to one another, and the world just seems to be filled with more joy and peace. So, from just a few familiar details of the holiday, we can clearly see it would be impossible to completely remove the religiosity from the holiday, unless you insert something acceptable in its place. Sorry Mr. Claus it takes more than you.
Blessings to you at this special time of the year.
Last week, we gleaned our thoughts from John chapter 21. As you recall, the focus of our thoughts was centered around casting our nets on the other side of the boat. In our case, as it applies to us, this equates to a willingness to do things differently in the future than in the past. Covid-19 has changed the landscape of how churches reach the lost. However, on a good note, it has opened a new avenue to draw those seeking a relationship with Christ to do so within the privacy of their own homes. This provides us with a tremendous opportunity to put the gospel into the ears of many whom otherwise would not hear it. It also gives this group an opportunity to SEE us, FEEL us and to get to know us, which means their physical visit would be less intimidating. Consider this, during the Covid shutdown, more people tuned in to our broadcast on one Sunday, than have visited the building in an entire year - that is powerful.
With that said, it behooves us to take advantage of modern technology to reach the lost. Therefore, plans are in the making to enact such changes in 2022 which will set the direction of our congregation on an upward path regarding our evangelism. We will utilize everything at our disposal to reach our community; as we demonstrate to all, Jesus is the answer for the world today. So, strap in and hang on, it’s going to be an exciting year full of various methods to reach the lost. This will be different from the methods which have traditionally defined our congregation. We ask all to cover our plans in prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we seek to embark on this heavenward direction. May God be praised!
It’s a most unusual scene. The boat is filled with professional fishermen. They’d fished all night and caught nothing. Something that would be unusual for this group of fishermen, who had fished this lake many times and successfully earned their living. So as a fisherman myself (of sorts), from personal experience, the first thing that happens when you aren’t catching fish is you begin to try different things, hoping to discover the one which will prove successful. In my mind, this had happened this night. Nothing is more frustrating for a fisherman than trying everything and nothing works. This is why I concluded this to be an unusual scene. So, let’s fast forward this story in John chapter 21 and see what happens next. After a frustrating night, the guys haven’t given up yet and are still at it as morning strikes. Suddenly, in the midst of their frustration, a voice from shore instructs them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. This can’t be a novel thought. Surely, they have cast their net on every side of the boat throughout the night- and caught nothing. So, they complied with the advice; and now as Paul Harvey would say “for the rest of the story.” After casting their net on the other side of the boat, they caught a “boat load” of fish.
Well, considering the voice from shore was that of Jesus, the outcome comes as no surprise. But there is something to learn from these brief verses of chapter 21. Sometimes you must be willing to be adaptable and change your plan. Now is a challenging time for churches everywhere. With the mass exodus of those who have gone back into the world, it’s time for the church to rethink what we do and how we do it. It’s time we realize perhaps we too need to cast our net on the other side of the boat and let God determine the rest from there. There is an old adage in business which says, “if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”
More on this next week.