Christmas Eve Services

We are excited about our annual Christmas Eve Candlelight and Communion services at Maranatha. Two services are planned, 5:00 and 6:30 PM. We had a huge crowd last year so you may want to arrive a little early. If you are regular attender, please consider coming to the 6:30 service because most of our guests will attend at 5:00 – we will need lots of extra room for them!

Please click on this link to send an e-invite to a friend.

our Christmas wish list(s)

Going into this year’s Christmas message series, Simply Christmas, we decided to provide the opportunity for people to submit prayer requests in the form of cards that were placed in a gift box on the stage. At some point in all of our holiday services, we included prayer time for the needs that were represented.

It is touching to read the cards that are placed in the box. I think partly because I have been trying to encourage people to be insightful when completing the cards and partly because there are lots of serious needs in our community, the “wishes” are pretty poignant. Of course, there are usual needs that are represented, but I am moved by the number of people who asked for the salvation of family members, for families to be healed, and for hope and peace in our troubled world.

I heard this morning about a few needs that have already been addressed by God. One man directly attributes to prayer the fact that he got a job one week after placing his request in the box. Another guy told me that a family he has been praying for was in our worship service this morning. These are only two examples of the things that are happening among us right now.

I am pretty excited to see and hear more stories. With the hundreds of cards and thousands of needs, this is a great opportunity for God to do some awesome things. I am continuing to pray for the needs. I believe that God will continue to answer and help His people that are in need.

Christmas is the season for miracles!

Simply Christmas 3

These are some of the notes I will use for tomorrow’s message – part 3 of Simply Christmas at Maranatha Church.

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 KJV)

Getting stoked about Christmas this time of year is one thing, but being impacted by Christmas all year long – now that’s difficult to attain!

The message of Christmas is so huge, it simply has to make a difference in our lives every day!
How do we keep Christmas beyond the few weeks surrounding the holiday?

An indicator of things to come:

Luke 2:34-35 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” (NLT)

The prophet was giving a hint as to what lies ahead for Jesus.
And it did not sound very promising, did it?

There is a declaration, made by angels, that identified Jesus with a particular title, with a responsibility.
A name that is given to no one else.

“Savior”

A Savior is Born:
Luke 2:8-12 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (NIV)

One of the same angel told Joseph (about Jesus)
Matthew 1:21 “He will save the people from their sins.”

Greek scholars use the word “sozo” (sode’-zo); to Deliverer. One who saves, protects, or makes whole.

Look at the specificity of God’s plan:
Galatians 4:4-5 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. (NIV)
“Redeem”: to buy up, ransom; to rescue from loss.

Where would all of this saving and redemption happen?
It would not happen while Jesus was a baby in the manger.
It would happen 33 years later.
Salvation and redemption would happen at the cross:

Matthew 20:28 “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NIV)

Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (NIV)

Here is why God gave Jesus the name and title which is above every other name:
Philippians 2:8-11 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)

What is the most appropriate symbol of Christmas?
I believe the greatest symbol of Christmas is the Cross.
The cross is vital to the story of the Gospel.

And here is the Gospel:
God sent his Son Jesus, born of a virgin.
He lived and loved and changed the world.
He died a gruesome death on the cross.
Jesus resurrected on the third day and came out of His grave.
Jesus is alive forever and now sits enthroned in heaven.
Jesus will one day come again to take His followers to be with Him in heaven.

Embracing the eternity of Christmas
Cling to the eternal symbol of Christmas – the cross of Jesus Christ.
You will then be able to keep Christmas every day of your life.

considering goals for 2010

I learned from Jack Hayford that seasons changing and holidays and major calendar events are worth getting excited about and an excellent time to celebrate transitions. In 14 days we will start a new year, a new decade! The last time we did this, we were going into Y2K! Do you recall the panic, remember that fiasco? Hopefully we will do better this time around.

I think that the beginning of a new year is the best time to set goals. But as important as setting goals is the task of preparing ourselves to actually attain our goals. “How to” is a worthwhile conversation, considering that most people fail, and miserably, at fulfilling their goals for a new year.

Some questions to ask when considering goals for a new year:
What am I passionate about?
There are things that are passing whimsies and then there are things that drive our hearts to beat. Passion is required if you are going to fulfill a goal. Passive interest won’t survive the resistance that true goal setting must endure. Don’t bother setting a goal regarding something that is not very important to you.
How will the world (or my world) be different if I meet my goal(s)?
Does this thing I am considering actually have the power to change someone’s life? Is it too ambitious to expect deep results from a decision I make today? Life-altering goals are made by leaders every day. If it doesn’t change a life, it probably isn’t worth concerned yourself over.
Am I called by God to do this thing?
I like what my buddy, Travis Johnson said, “Sometimes, I hate hearing, “Let me pray about that.” If God already told you to do it in Scripture, don’t ask Him again. Just do it.” While this is true, there are times when God just nails you with the call to do something specific for His kingdom. When that happens, you just have to lose the excuse and get on with whatever God is telling you to do. Conversation over!
How will I feel in one year if I let go of this idea?
If you can sleep at night without fulfilling this goal…if you can look yourself in the mirror without guilt… if, in one year, you will be able to feel good about yourself if you DO NOT meet this goal, then I would say – let it go. It is not that important to you. But, if you can’t bear the thought looking toward 2011 with this goal unmet, you had better get cookin’!
What will I have to let go of in order to see this goal come to fruition?
If you are like most people, your life is plenty full already. If you are considering tackling any kind of substantial project or goal in the new year, you will probably need to prioritize. So, what will have to be sliced from your schedule in order to make this thing happen? Are you willing to do it?

I am in the process of doing some in-depth personal planning and goal setting and we are doing the same for the church. This is not so much an attempt at New Year resolutions. It is more an embracing of fresh opportunities and the optimism that comes with new beginnings. I don’t want to start 2010 without new vision and innovative ideas.

Some of the things I am working on for next year include a significant writing project. I am hoping to get away for a few days early in the year so I can focus without interruption. This may not happen but you can’t blame me for dreaming a little. I have been kicking around an idea for a book and it would be fun to put some thoughts on the computer. Here’s the thing, if I don’t take time to get away from my routine, it will be tough to make the project happen. My daily schedule is fairly full and cramming in a major effort like this would be overload.

Two additional goals I have for this year are the completion of the launch of our non-profit organization to benefit orphanages around the world and some major progress on my study of the Spanish language. These are both ongoing ventures but next year will include some big steps in the realization of these goals.

So what are planning for next year? If you plan nothing, I am pretty sure that’s exactly what you will accomplish.

The Top 10 Gifts You Shouldn’t Buy Your Wife This Christmas

I found this article humorous but I can just see some guys reading this saying, “oh know, it’s too late, I already got my wife a membership to Weight Watchers!”

The Top 10 Gifts You Shouldn’t Buy Your Wife This Christmas
written by Laurie Wang, as seen on MenTodayOnline

OK, let’s be honest. Sometimes men are bad at choosing gifts. Your intentions are good, but pick the wrong gift and you send the wrong message. So before you go out and buy a present for your wife, girlfriend or whoever that lovely lady is in your life, be sure to read these gift no-no’s first.

10. Tools. Unless she’s a handywoman or she’s told you her great desire to take out the bathtub and build a new one, I’d save the wrenches for someone else—maybe yourself.

9. A vacuum. Any cleaning or kitchen appliance says, “Honey, clean the house for me.” Your wife or girlfriend wants to be the more than a housekeeper in your life.

8. A cookbook. “She has to cook all the time,” the rationale may go, “I’ll get her a cookbook!” But see the rationale for #9: She wants to be reminded how she is special and appreciated at Christmas time, not given more work to do.

7. Clothes. Now, some men are very good at buying clothes and they know the exact size of their woman. However, you must keep in mind that women are shaped very differently and sizes can vary depending on store. For example, I am a size 5 at one store and a size 7 at another, and I have shirts that are size small or large. To avoid complications, I suggest buying a gift certificate at your wife or girlfriend’s favorite mall.

6. Tickets to the monster truck rally. I have a feeling that I’m in the minority when it comes to women who enjoy monster truck rallies, so if I were you, I wouldn’t even bother lining up for tickets. And yes, this includes the car show, the motorcycle show, the boat show, NASCAR races…OK, you get my point.

5. Tires. Continuing the car theme, while your wife might need new tires for her car, she doesn’t necessarily want them as a Christmas gift. In fact, unless she’s a real greasemonkey or you’re buying her a completely new car, it’d be best to avoid car-related gifts entirely.

4. Computer equipment. There is a short list of tech gadgets, like an iPhone, that are a good gift. But whether it’s a new printer or a copy of Microsoft Office, Christmas just isn’t the time to buy hardware or software for your wife or girlfriend. Wait until you’re both doing your taxes.

3. Socks. Yes, socks are useful, but they’re just not the type of Christmas gift a woman is thrilled about. I don’t feel a need to explain further.

2. Fruitcake. Yes, Christmas fruitcakes last about 12 years, but that’s because nobody eats them. And neither will your wife.

1. Membership to a diet program. Maybe she’s told you that she’s always wanted to join one. Maybe she’s told you that she thinks she’s fat. Does that mean you think she’s not beautiful and won’t be until she loses weight? I sure hope not. But that’s exactly what a membership to a diet program says. Exercise videos have the same effect. Men, flee from the infomercials that convince you otherwise! I suggest giving her something that makes her feel special and loved. Be thoughtful about it, and don’t forget to tell her how beautiful you think she is this holiday season.

pray for a friend

A good friend of mine is going through a very difficult challenge right now. Today is a big day for him. Could you spare a moment to ask God to give him the strength and courage that he needs?

Thanks very much!

Update 13 hours later…

Thanks for praying! My friend came through a huge challenge with integrity and strength. If you pray, be encouraged, it really does work!