These Three Things

“Faith, hope and love abide, these three…”

Calling on these three sacred commodities, Paul put a heartfelt exclamation point on one of the most loved, beautiful and referenced words of scripture. This triad of virtue makes a clear and succinct statement about what matters, what has great value. They are our most trusted spiritual possessions, and when understood and treasured, they change our lives and those around us. With all the truth and wisdom of the Bible to gather, a clear focus on and commitment to these things has great power. And great potential.

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Joining the Effort

Years ago I served on staff of a church whose slogan was “The Place of New Beginnings”. It was on all the printed material, and as I recall, there was even an personalized anthem commissioned to sing the theme. (Now that I wrote that, I know there was. The refrain has begun circling in my brain and who knows when it might stop.) The idea was that it could be New Year’s everyday for people who needed a fresh start. And the church was a safe place of grace where all sorts of souls could move beyond and move ahead. That idea has guided my ministry for many years. Still does. I am convinced that the currency of the church is changed lives. And most significant changes will point to a day when a marker was put down, a tipping point reached, a conversion experienced. Those are the kind of things we rightfully celebrate, and on occasion, deeply long for.

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Essential Ingredients of Abundant Life

Hope. Peace. Joy and Love. These themes light the way for all we desire and all that’s represented in the coming of the Christ child. More than most years, I have been taken by the drought of these soulful commodities in the lives folks known and unknown. It is a sacred thing to stand beside those whose year has been marked by the things that have robbed them of the capacity to hear the music from this holy quartet. At least not without distortion, dissonance, and distance. We’ve all been there and cared for those who have taken residence there as well.

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Christ Was Born For This

I’ve been preaching from the prophets this Advent season. In the Gospels we have a birth narrative from Matthew and Luke as well as John’s theological perspective. The stories of donkeys, shepherds, inns, stables, angels, and wise men give shape to the main attraction; the arrival of the holy baby entrusted to two scared kids. Indeed the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

I love those accounts, but continue to be intrigued with the passages about those who long waited for that arrival. The prophets spoke to God’s people at different times in history and stages of faithfulness. None were sure of how and when it would happen, or for that matter, what it would look like. But the promise remained as big as the need for it – God would make himself present and known in an unmistakable way.

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Amazing Journey

Today’s Money Talks Blog comes from FBC’s 2018 Advent-ually Devotional Collection for December 9th

Thirty-four years ago today, Lisa and I stood up before God and everybody, said our “I do’s” and started quite the journey together. The only thing that rivaled our love for each other that day was our fear. Like the song says, “we were two scared kids just trying to save each other.”

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The Tried-and-True Quartet

Lisa and I have a friend with a strong inclination to decorate her home with words. If you have made a recreational trek to Hobby Lobby, Kirkland’s, or TJ Maxx, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Picture frames come etched with belonging words like family or best friends. Inspiring words like courage show up on pictures of, well courageous looking things. Scriptures always sell well it appears. Graduations, births, wedding days all call for event specific words. And then there are the carved-in and painted-on sayings, possessing varied degrees of humor, advice, perspective, profoundness, and thanks to our friend and her word-worshipping tribe, profitability.

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Approaching Year-End

How can it be that Thanksgiving week has arrived already? I mean Easter was just the other week and school started back yesterday – right? At least it feels that way. We just got up from a great staff meeting putting the finishing touches on our Advent plans. As we get ready to get ready for the coming of the Christ child, there will be lots of ways to be meaningfully engaged at FBC. I trust you will take advantage of them and invite some friends to join you.

Approaching year-end brings about another important focus in congregational life; the fulfillment of the current budget and presentation of a new one. In 2018 we were intentionally ambitious in setting the annual ministry goal funded at 1.35 million dollars. We have received just short of one million of that to date, representing a considerable shortfall. There have been cuts, revisions, and postponements where possible, but the bulk of our commitments and unavoidable expenses have largely remained. In response to that deficit, we need a very strong financial finish over the next five weeks. That calls for all of us to be bolder in regular giving. And for those among us with the heart and capacity to dig deeper and step higher, now is an important time to do so.

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No Exceptions. No Excuses.

We have all been there; one hundred percent of us. No exceptions and no excuses. The Bible reinforces that with the declaration that all have fallen short. Sometimes it’s from aiming high and landing low. Sometimes from looking low and winding our way on down to where those thoughts take us. Patterns of behavior repeat themselves despite our sincerest resolve as “Here I stand” gives way to “Here we go again.” You get the picture. You know the pain first hand. At some level and at some time, we all do.

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Joyfully, Boldly, Faithfully “Take Ten”

A few weeks ago I challenged each of you to “Take Ten” as we prepared to enter into this, the tenth month of the year. In case you forgot, here’s the five tens that could change a lot of things for the good in a short order of time.

Well, how are you doing? The hardest one for me is the prayer for the church on the tens. (Kind of like the weather channel does local on the eights, or at least I think they still do.) Ten minutes one time a day focused on prayer and devotion may seem easier, but we are still forced to be intentional – and be still. Alas, our world is not known for either. I’ve pretty much got my participation trophy for good gatherings (yes, I do confess to a vocational advantage). Being Jesus for ten is heartwarming as we claim those chances. And the challenge has at made me surprisingly aware and regretful for the opportunities I missed or passed up.

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Licensing to the Gospel Ministry

One of my treasured roles in pastoral ministry is recognizing and pouring my life into young men and women who have sensed the calling and committed themselves to the ministry of the gospel in all its various shapes. One reason that matters to me is because some pastors and the churches they led did the same for me a generation or so ago. All of us stand on the shoulders of saints known and unknown as we live out our faith, and particularly vocational expression.

I am especially pleased to have the youngest ministerial staff I have ever led. (John, that should make you feel good, but you really do skew the numbers upward.) Of those, the one who was serving FBC before me was Chris Culpepper. I saw him almost immediately as one with special talents and aptitude towards pastoral ministry. He is young, but grew up in the temple and knows the rigors and rewards of vocational ministry. He has, and continues to serve us well at FBC. You cannot help but be impressed with that voice. And while that may be his most identifiable tool at this juncture, he possesses so many other attributes which are already evident to those who encounter him.

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