Thursday, December 15, 2011

Strength for the Weary

Tonight marks the end of my busiest stretch of ministry each year. We opened our men’s shelter on December 1st, welcoming 12 men to our church each night. Last Saturday we had our annual Glenwood Family Ministries banquet for the children and their families (over 200 people), and tonight we had our annual Community Christmas Banquet for our Wednesday Community Fellowship guests (we served close to 350 people). In the midst of that I’ve also preached 3 times in the past 7 weeks, had ongoing involvement with Glenwood Family Ministries on the board and in tutoring, and had regular work appointments and family responsibilities.

Last night I got home at 10:30 from a board meeting, and I had nothing left. Empty. Done. And I knew that I had not been spending time with Jesus like I should over the past few weeks (busyness will do that to me sometimes) and the banquet was looming. It made me sad that I wasn’t excited for the banquet, that I just wanted it to be done, and I asked God to change my heart.

God in His goodness brought a Scripture to mind that really turned the tables for me – 1 Samuel 30:6 “And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” (ESV)

David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. At my point of weariness, with a lack of joy over the upcoming banquet, all I wanted to do was go to bed, but the Spirit reminded me that real rest and strength and refreshment come from Him. And so I spent an hour in the Word, praying, journaling, asking God to give me strength, joy, and love that I just didn’t have.

This morning when I woke up, I had energy, I had life, and I had hope. I had a hunger for the Word while I ate my breakfast, and all day I have anticipated, not dreaded, the Community Christmas Banquet. I can’t explain the power of that verse and how it called me to find strength in the Unseen Source,  and I can’t praise God enough for how He met me, carried me, and even empowered me to preach a living word tonight at the banquet.

Maybe you’re wiped out, too. Strengthen yourself in the Lord, your God, and watch what happens. He is mighty and He lives in you, and we cannot exhaust His strength.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Whole Lotta’ Giving Goin’ On!

(this is an excerpt from a sermon I preached this past week at Grace. Click here to listen)

There were SO MANY things being given during the first Christmas. God gives revelation and favor to Mary, Mary and Joseph give their trust and obedience to God. God gives words of hope to Elizabeth and Zechariah, they give God praise and joy. Elizabeth gives Mary a place to stay and encourages her on her lonely journey to come. Joseph gives Mary his faithfulness even when it seems unfounded. God gives His son to the world in order that they might have peace with Him. The angles give God glory and praise. God gives Simeon and Anna the joy of seeing their savior, whom they’ve waited for years to see. They give God their testimony of His faithfulness, sharing with all who would listen. Mary is given treasure for her heart. There is only one material gift giving time recorded, and that gift is given to Jesus, provision in a foreign land for a poor family who are soon to flee Herod’s killing spree.

No, the gospel accounts of Christmas are FULL of giving, But what we see in the Gospels is that the gifts that are given contrast the way we give today, the way we spend today. Gifts are given vertically (from God to man and man to God) and relationally  (people sharing their hearts, lives and joys, rather than horizontally and materially). We tend to give gifts to one another and the gifts that we give are gifts of things, stuff. What the people spent on the first Christmas was their hearts, their praise, their lives because God had interrupted and they received it with joy.