No Worship Services on December 28th
We may not have worship services planned for Sunday, December 28th, but that doesn’t mean that there is NO CHURCH! Jesus said, “Whenever two or three of you come together in my name, I am there with you.” Experiencing the presence of Jesus at a church service is wonderful and powerful. That’s why we hold Sunday morning services to begin with. But this isn’t the only place or way to experience the presence of God. As we take a Sunday off from gathering together in the church building we still want to encourage the church to gather. One way to do this is to get together with family or friend (or both) and do it to honor the name of Jesus. Below are some online tools that can help you experience God in a new and unique way.
Below you will find some devotionals that we are providing for families with children. Below these is a special devotional Pastor Ken has put together so we can say a Good Bye to 2014.
Saying a Good Bye
We have reached that time of year again when the countdown begins to a new year. We are just days away from ringing in 2015! For some of us, we are still amazed at the fact that we have now spent 15 years writing “20” at the beginning of our years and not “19”. The older I get, the more I realize just how quickly the years do go by. What was a big year ahead through my windshield is now just a small year fading away in my rear view mirror. But we need to heed the warning: Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear and more significant than we realize. The new year is just waiting for you to enter it, but before we step forward, we need to take some time and look back. Really look back.
Throughout the Christmas story there is one refrain that has always captured my attention: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” – Luke 2:19 (NIV). Quite honestly, we would not have any of our favorite Christmas stories to listen to, talk about or ponder if Mary hadn’t treasured them and held on to them. One day a young historian named Luke came along and asked Mary about the time Jesus was born and it is her stories, her memories that fill this season with so much meaning.
Diane had a great idea that has turned into a tradition with our boys. It takes place every Christmas but is actually planned throughout the year. If you were to look at our Christmas tree, you would have a hard time picking out a theme. The ornaments don’t match in color, size, style or have any discernible order. It honestly looks like Christmas Chaos on our tree. Star Wars ornaments, homemade ornaments, turtle doves, gingerbread men, small picture frames and anything else you could possibly imagine. But there is a method to the madness, because each of these ornaments carries with it a story. Every time we take a trip we find an ornament that captures a memory and place it on the tree the following Christmas. This year we put on some ornaments we purchased last January on a trip out east. Every year we also buy each of the boys their own ornament for that year. One day we hope to send them along with these ornaments so they can start decorating their own trees. Decorating the tree in our household is less about decorating than it is about remembering. As the boys put their ornaments on the tree we often hear the phrase, “Hey, I remember this one” and a story often follows. Our tree is full of memories because we fill it with reminders.
In the same way, I think it is important to look back on the previous year and not only treasure the good and the bad that we have experienced but also to ponder it. Notice what Luke 2:19 says. It says that Mary treasured these moments and incidents that happened to them but she also pondered them. She thought about them. She weighed their significance. She wondered what God was up to in all of it. Jesus kept her guessing for much of her life, but at the end of the day, she and also the brothers and sisters of Jesus became believers and disciples of this once tiny little boy named Jesus. And it is her pondering, treasuring memory that helps inspire faith in us each Christmas season.
Psalm 107 is a song about all that God has done for those He has rescued from trouble. It begins in verse 1 saying “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, His love endures forever” and concludes in verse 43 saying, “Let the one who is wise, heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the LORD.” So before you rush out and take hold of the new year, pause a moment and take stock of the past one first. Where has God led you this past year? What has He taken you through? What has He spared you from? What has He blessed you with? What has He taught you? You were given an extra 365 days in 2014. Why do you think God gave you 2014? Are there things you are thankful for? Are there things you are glad will fade along with 2014 into the pages of history? What was your high point or points this year? What were the lows?
If you are anything like me, your brain is already hurting. I have enough trouble remembering where I put my keys yesterday, how can I even begin to think about things that happened 10 or 11 months ago? The Bible doesn’t say it is easy; the Bible just tells us that it is wise. It is wise to look back. To ponder and treasure. Tomorrow is not promised but yesterday was a promise kept. So take a look at the pile of yesterdays you were given last year. Think about them, thank God for them and see what you might need to repent of or what you might want to repeat in 2015.
For some of you who are a bit more mentally organized than others (and I include myself in the “others” category by the way) you may take things a month at a time. I can use my calendar for that one. For others of you, taking a seasonal approach might help. Over the past year, what was your winter, spring, summer and fall? I don’t really care how you do it, just do it.
Take some time and listen to the songs below. Sing if you like. If you are sitting in a Starbucks as you read this, feel free to sing nice and loud, just be sure to sing on key.
One Things Remains
Lord I Need You