Posts Tagged ‘Christmas

17
Dec
14

Christmas is a time of Expectancy…

edwinlouiscole360084When you think of Christmas is your heart full of Expectancy or Expectations? The answer to that question will determine whether you experience miracles and the glory of God or disappointment and disillusionment.

Expectations are things that I decide that I want…at Christmas, in life, in relationships, at church. Usually I have to work hard to make these things even come close to happening. When they don’t work out like I expected, I am disappointed and can get disillusioned…even to the point of giving up.

Expectancy on the other hand is exciting and unknown. When I approach God with expectancy, then I am trusting HIM, not ME. If I come to Jesus with a heart of expectancy this Christmas, I am simply anticipating Him to do something miraculous in my life. If not here on this earth nor in a way that I expect, I can trust that whatever He is doing is going to be for my best.

The ultimate expectancy is in eternity. If you have truly put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, then you can look with expectancy to Jesus second coming where He will make all things right in this broken world. Your expectations won’t matter because He will do all that He has promised. Everything in God’s Word will be fulfilled.

That is why Christmas matters. Jesus came the first time to make a way for us to know God and to be made right with Him. Our sins are forgiven and our debt for sin has been paid. Jesus paid the price by dying in our place on the cross and conquered sin and death by rising from the grave! That is the Hope of Christmas!

He returned to heaven with this promise:

 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.And you know the way to where I am going.Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.(John 14:1-4,6)

 If you still have expectations that are unfulfilled, why not lay them aside and put your trust in the only WAY…Jesus. Then you can look forward with expectancy in life knowing that He has it all in control.

 Jesus isn’t  “A-way in a manger” He is “THE -Way in the manger”! Merry Christmas!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

17
Dec
09

Ease or Peace?

As I was praying and journaling this morning, God gave a word to me. It was just one of those things that flowed off my pen as I was writing in my prayer journal. Funny how God does that sometimes. It wasn’t even really what I had been reading in the Word this morning, but I believe it is something that has been in the back of my mind and God brought it to the forefront. Here it is…

God never called me to live at ease, but to live at peace.

In Micah 5:4-6, the prophet speaks of the Messiah, Jesus…

4And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
5And he shall be their peace.

The angels announced His birth, saying

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

Jesus said in some of His last words to His disciples,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

Yet we think that “peace” means “ease.” We can easily fall into the trap that the peace of God means that everything is going to be easy. All lights will turn green, everyone will love me, I’ll have all the money I want and everything my heart desires, my kids will turn out perfect, I’ll never have any troubles or sickness or difficulties. Yet, look what Jesus said, “Not as the world gives do I give to you.” We are not promised to live with ease…the world’s definition of peace…but,

…the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Then He says, Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27) He is saying, “I got your back!” No matter the circumstances, no matter what the past has been nor what the present looks like, despite what the future may hold…peace. Don’t let your heart be troubled…don’t be afraid. He IS peace and He gives us peace. I love that verse in Micah 5:5:

And he shall be their peace.

Your peace. My peace. As we approach this Christmas, remember that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. And while peace doesn’t mean ease, it does give us ease in our soul because we have hope…in Jesus the Messiah! He is Immanuel and He is with us!

09
Dec
09

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh…Christmas shopping for 8 kids

People ask us from time to time how we do Christmas with 8 children. Well, we’ve done a variety of things over the years, but we have always kept it simple. We don’t put this huge emphasis on Santa and we only give a couple of gifts to each.

We draw names among the kids. They used to try and buy each sibling something, but as the family grew it just became more practical to draw names. They really enjoy doing this too. Searching for that special gift. We give them a budget (usually $5) and they get to pick a special gift for their siblings. Sometimes they will make gifts too. My oldest daughter knitted scarves for her younger sisters last year.

In recent years we have settled on buying each child “Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh” gifts. This is not original to us, but I share it as a possibility for your family too. It really helps keep the perspective of Christmas.

The GOLD gift is something they want…a toy, gadget or something. Not something ridiculously expensive, mind you. The FRANKINCENSE is something they need…usually a clothing item. While the MYRRH is something spiritual…a Bible, devotional book, Christian CD, etc.  The total for all these gifts per child may be $25-35 or less. Even at that, it can get expensive. We usually set a total budget and divide it out based on what we can afford. (We NEVER use credit cards..aren’t you proud Dave Ramsey? 🙂 )   However, we have never put a big emphasis on buying lots of expensive gifts. We shop sales and use discounts and coupons as much as we can. Sometimes a toy or game may be given to more than one child, combining the gift. This is helpful on the budget too. 🙂

This year, the economy has made us have to work harder at saving and stretching and even cutting back. We won’t be able to do as much this year as we have in the past. BUT it is likely that we all should be doing that anyway. We are praying about what we should give as a family to The Gift this Sunday @ The Ridge. Many people at other churches are taking special offerings for missions and ministries. You may be thinking about supporting a worthy ministry in your area. I would challenge you to GIVE GENEROUSLY this Christmas…to OTHERS. Give to meet needs in your family, give out of love for your spouse and kids, but teach them the real reason we give…out of WORSHIP of a God who GAVE everything for us.

For a little perspective on spending, giving and worship, check out this video from Advent Conspiracy:

08
Dec
09

the gift ’09

Each year at Christmas, we give a special offering @ The Ridge called, quite simply, The Gift. This is a special offering over and above our regular tithes that is used for some very specific ministries, missions, and needs. With the economy being in such turmoil and many people struggling or at the very least making more conservative financial choices, giving at all churches and non-profits has suffered this year. The Ridge is no exception…”But God”…has always provided! He is Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord Provides…and He always keeps His promises.

Many churches have had to close this year because of economics. However, I don’t believe that is God’s plan for The Ridge! I believe that the most exciting days we can imagine are ahead of us. God is moving in our community and His hand is at work. Lives are being transformed, marriages and families strengthened and restored, and people’s perspective on God, themselves and others is being changed. It is awesome to be a part of God’s Kingdom work!

We have had a tough year financially. For the past 7 months, we have operated “in the red.” Our Stewardship Team has done a great job of helping us navigate through these difficult waters. We have cut spending by 30-40 %. In addition, we have had to make some tough choices in other areas. This year, I had to tell our staff that we would not be doing any bonuses at Christmas. I realize that many of you have had that same thing told you at your job too. I hate doing that, because I really want to take care of our staff, but it is what it is. We are trying to avoid cutting salaries in 2010. We still want to continue moving forward in areas of community outreach and family ministries as well as missions and church planting. We like everyone else just have to prioritize. And I want you Ridgers to know that we are doing that. “But God…”

That is where The Gift comes in this year. I have attached this PDF of The Gift brochure, if you have not already received one. This has all the details of what we are planning and praying for. Read it and PRAY about what God would have you give. I want to challenge you to give your greatest gift to the Lord this Christmas by matching the largest amount you plan on spending this year OR matching the total amount you are spending this year and giving it to The Lord. One thing I know for sure by watching Black Friday is that people can and will spend on what’s important to them. What will you give to The Gift? You are investing in something that God is doing that is eternal. Remember to remain faithful in your regular tithing, as God will honor and bless that. But I am simply asking you to pray about what God would have you give over and above that.

One thing I believe God wants is for us to BE HERE. I believe that He wants us to be here for the community, for other churches who need help, for people who don’t know Him, for those who need Hope, and for the church (that’s us, by the way!), and for the world!

I am challenging you to give BIG on December 13th or 20th and to commit to give faithfully throughout 2010. We are also starting a new series on January 10th called Squeezed: what to do when your bailout doesn’t come. It will be very practical and will give you a fresh perspective from God’s Word as well as put some tools in your hands that will help you and your family.

What will be the greatest gift you will give this Christmas? Will you give it to the Lord?

07
Dec
08

Sunday Recap 12-7-08

Great day @ The Ridge today as we kicked off our Christmas series. Here are the highlights:

  • The band was kickin’ today! Scott England was with us to lead again and we had a couple of other new faces on the stage. Kerry opened with a great, rockin rendition of It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. They followed with a fantastic version of Emmanuel that led into the message. Major props to Jason and the rest of the team! Outstanding! 🙂
  • We started off our It’s All About The PRESENCE series with The Person Of The Presence…God with us. It was a very encouraging message of hope and peace. Lots of positive vibe and feedback. I’m glad God spoke to and encouraged folks. Can’t wait for the rest of this series.
  • Props to Chris, Ross, and Michelle and the Creative/Tech teams who did a great job of set design and lighting. Really set the tone. Looked awesome! Amazing what you can do with cardboard, paint and duct tape! 🙂
  • Attendance was strong again. Back up to 400.
  • Giving has been amazing the last 10 weeks. We have actually made budget the last 10 Sundays. The most consistent since we started The Ridge! Praise God! You Ridgers have been faithfully knocking it out of the park! God is setting us up for something big! I’m proud of you all and am excited to see how God is blessing your families. Check out some encouraging stories of those who took the 90-Day Tithe Challenge back at the first of October HERE.
  • Santa Claus was actually @ The Ridge today. No kidding! A first time guest was the man himself…in the flesh! Kids were gathering and peeking and pointing all morning. Pretty fun! He told me this time of year when he goes to a restaurant, he never gets to eat a hot meal. 🙂
  • My two oldest daughters got to go to a youth conference together up in Chattanooga. They had a great time and actually ran into some old friends from our days living in Chatt-town. These were kids they played with 10-12 years ago, but hadn’t seen in a long time. They had fun hanging with them and catching up. My wife had to leave right after our first gathering to go up there to pick them up. I was single dad after church with the younger six, which was a challenge because we had Partnership class after our gatherings today. A challenge, but we managed.
  • Partnership 101 is the first part of our membership process and today we had 14 new folks attend this first class. It was great! Looking forward to seeing how these folks grow and develop and serve God @ The Ridge!
  • My wife and I took our youngest 5 to Dollar Tree this evening to shop for their Nanny and PawPaw for Christmas. Their grandparents always look forward to the special gifts the kids pick out themselves. It’s a lot of fun watching them go around with their own baskets picking out stuff that they think is important and perfect. Good times!
  • Falcons lost today. Bummer!
  • BCS bowls came out this evening. I hate that system! It is just as screwed up as usual.
  • Busy week ahead and I’m toasted right now. Going to bed.
04
Dec
08

What’s Christmas All About?

Charlie Brown famously asked that question in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (my favorite, by the way). Even we Christians THINK we know what its all about, but do we really? Join us this Sunday @ The Ridge as we kick off our Christmas series. In the midst of a crazy world, much economic turmoil, uncertain times, war and rumors of war we need to realize…

its-all-about-the-presence-promo-slide

19
Nov
08

Advent is Approaching

Palestine,4 B.C. A shepherd boy shivers against the cold of night — lost, alone, surrounded by jackals. Where could they be, he wonders again of his family. Where are you, Father? I’m sorry I got mad…
After running away from his father’s tents in a moment of anger, ten-year-old Jotham has lost his way, and his family. As he journeys through Palestine in search of his nomadic home, Jotham is helped by a fool, a priest, a zealot and a wise man. Chased by a gang of thieves, thrown from one “foster parent” to another, Jotham slowly discovers the miracle of the first Christmas, and some miraculous things about his own life and his own family…

Growing up and for years in my own family, we didn’t really do anything formal or structured for Advent (the weeks leading up to Christmas). It was more or less a time of fun and anticipation. Sadly, we had bought into the secular side of things and tried to throw in the spiritual. We were so involved in Christmas programs and projects that those things became the spiritual emphasis and we didn’t make a concentrated effort to focus on the real anticipation of Advent: anticipating celebrating the birth of the Messiah vs. anticipating opening gifts. Thus there was always a let-down after Christmas day.

Several years ago, my wife came across this book, Jotham’s Journey , that changed our perspective on Advent.

jothams-journeyIt is an exciting story about a boy and his adventures after being separated from his family, which ultimately lead him through death-defying obstacles, narrow escapes from evil villains, amazing encounters with famous characters of faith all the way to Bethlehem. Written as a devotional for parents to read to their children during Advent, Jotham’s Journey unfolds day by day until the exciting climax on Christmas Day. Each day’s installment of the story is followed by a short devotional which will challenge your family to share in Jotham’s discoveries.

Each evening, during the Advent season, we light our Advent candles and read a chapter and share some insight and questions to ponder. Every day the story ends with a cliff-hanger which causes our kids to beg to read “just one more.” The love it, I love it! If you have never done anything consistent as far as a family devotional is concerned, this is a great, easy way to start. If our schedule causes us to miss one night, then we read two the next night. It has helped draw our family into, and kept our focus on, the true meaning of the season more than anything.

There are two additional books in the trilogy, which have been out of print, but will be available next year. These two books, Bartholomew’s Passage and Tabitha’s Travels, all intersect with Jotham’s story. They enable you to have a three year rotation of these Advent stories. We have all three and have thoroughly enjoyed them all.

We will have a limited number of the Jotham’s Journey books available at The Ridge in our resource center. Or you can order one HERE. You’ll need to get one soon, however. Advent begins November 30th!




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