Christmas is a Revolution!

My Pastors most recent sermon on the unrivaled revolution of Christmas caused me to think of my ministry in the light of this holiday. The Christmas story sets the stage for an epic battle that unfolds in the sleepy town of Bethlehem. This unsuspecting baby was that which the temple of the Old Testament foreshadowed. The full deity of God that dwelt in the Holy of Holies was personified in flesh, and born to live amongst us, pursuing the restoration of the relationship we had lost in the garden.

The Messiah, Savior that would free his people from bondage as David had fought off Giant, and armies. However his revolution would look different than people would expect. Instead of rallying an army to fight, he would touch peoples lives on an individual level, healing, teaching, forgiving, and calling people to a relationship with him and the father. Ultimately the blood that he would spill would be his own, fulfilling the full cost of our sin, then conquering death he rose. He finished his work by calling us to carry out His mission, and sent us his spirit, the spirit that dwelt in the temple, then in him, would reside in us.

It’s this mission I desire to carry out working with the men in my ministry, and people in my church. I have a passion to inspire them to fight for the heart of their King, serving and loving everyone they come in contact with.  He has a specific calling in his mission for each of us to serve in.  This Christmas lets focus on the deeper meaning of the holiday as we celebrate with friends and family.

 

This Fall has been Fruitful

This fall has been fruitful! God is moving and lives are being changed. I have never enjoyed work so much in my life as I am now. I have been able to use my talents while doing what I am passionate about. I am using my skills in management while serving people and being able to go deep in relationships. On a logistical side I have been able to help organize the lobby and implement actions to better utilize our space and help the flow of services based on feedback from consultants Pastor Steve brought in. On a personal level we have been blessed to connect over 60 new people to life groups this fall, and have performed 13 baptisms in the past two months, two of which were men from my men’s group.

This last weekend characterizes my work at Calvary really well. As Director of Operations for Sunday services it was my job to organize and prepare for baptisms this week. We meet in a theatre so there is no baptismal. Tim and I brought a large watering trough to the theatre on Saturday and filled it with water. On Sunday I set up the lobby, checked on various volunteers from lights and sound to kids connection. Then during the service I helped Baptize Tim a member of my men’s group. I thought it would be great to let you hear about Tim in his own words:

 

My name is Tim Palmer and I and God has radically changed me from the man I was to the man I am today. I grew up in a Christian home and knew in my head all the things of God but I never really knew God. My dad was a preacher and I just played along with church when deep down I wanted nothing to do with it ! In 2010 I graduated high school and started rodeoing and training horses full time. God was the last thing on my mind and I took every opportunity I had to live that crazy cowboy life. Amazingly God allowed me to be very successful in rodeo and I went pro in 2012 and made it all the way to the national circuit finals my first year in the bareback bronco riding! I continued to think I was all that and party away my life! In 2013 I was doing great till I got kicked and compound fractured my left tibia ” shin bone” that stopped everything! I lost my job, my career, everything! But still God never gave up on me! I looked back at my life and I realized I had nothing in myself! I had won thousands of dollars, had story’s and trophy buckles but I was lost in my self! Through a series of events I came to visit Calvary not even knowing why I was there but God showed up! I went to visit a Jordan’s small group and God tore me apart and showed me he is all I need! I gave my life to Him and I’m a changed man!! There is no gold buckle or party that had given me the peace and joy and love that God has! I can’t even describe the difference other then life changing! I’m set free from my past, I’m a Son of God and now I Ride 4 Him!!!”

Tim baptism hug

It is such a joy to be a part of God’s work here in State College while preparing for future work in ministry. Based on my performance in my two classes this semester I am taking on a full load in the spring semester so that I can finish seminary in two years. Part of those classes is a Perspectives in World Ministry class that I am taking locally that also acts as part of missionary training. I am planning on going on a missions trip to Honduras with my mentor Johnny Pons, and am scheduled to take part in the Collaborative Church planting conference in Oakland CA with Pastor Lutz. My goal for the Men’s group is to plant a second group by summer so we can reach more men.

 

Tim and I baptism

Ministry Needs:

Real differences are being made especially in the lives of the people I work with. It is the generosity of people like you that allows me to carry on this work.

As the calendar year comes to a close, will you consider investing in this ministry by either giving a year-end gift, a pledge for 2015, or by supporting this ministry on a monthly basis? I am trusting God to close a funding gap of $2000/month for the new year. Your support is truly appreciated.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT OUR WORK!

Thank you for prayerfully considering this opportunity. With your help, I can continue my work with men in my area, my Internship at Calvary Church, as well as my training in Seminary.

        

 

 

Christmas Season

This Christmas season I have found a renewed joy to the season.  I was one of those people!  The kids and I had the tree and decorations up before thanksgiving, and I find my self almost giddy about celebrating.

In the past our family made a huge deal about this season.  I so wanted to be intentional about teaching the kids the true meaning of Christmas, and focusing purely on Christ and what his birth means to us.  Last Christmas was our first that we faced as a new family, and honestly it took every bit of inner strength I had to put up the tree and decorate the house.  The season brought pain because of the memories and realization that life was different.  It was a year of firsts…

However this year is different.  This year I realize it is a joyous season not because of who surrounds us, or where we are, but who it is all about.  Also an awesome thing I appreciate is everywhere I go people are decorating, and playing music, excited to celebrate this wonderful holiday.  It’s true many have no idea what it is they are celebrating, but the revelation of God is being proclaimed and opportunities are wide open.  Guards are down.  While people are shopping, in the background music is being played announcing the Christ, nativity scenes cover the landscape, and people that never think to visit church come.

It reminds me of Gods general revelation.  His creation proclaims who he is, and yet people don’t notice.  The same is true of this season.  Jesus birth is being proclaimed everywhere, and yet people miss it.  I have missed it in the past as well.  I was celebrating him but I wasn’t appreciating the opportunity this season presents us to proclaim him to others.  To make the most of opportunities to celebrate and invite friends, family, and neighbors to celebrate with me.  Christians we should be having the best parties because we have the most to celebrate!  This is when we celebrate the entirety of the Old Testament coming to fruition.  The prophecies came true, Hope would have a reason, finally the relationship with creator father would be redeemed in the person of the Messiah, the Christ Child.

I never appreciated the secular part of the season until now.  The fact that so many celebrate even though they are not observing the religious aspect can be a win for us.  The holiday itself acts as a common ground culturally.  Friends that may not normally come to church with us will feast with us, and some may come to a Christmas eve service.  It’s also an opportunity to love on people who are hurting, or struggling.  Like Christ entered the darkness in a poor stable, under threat of an oppressing government, we can reach in to brokenness or loneliness and live our faith.

This year I want to make the most of the opportunities, get out of my comfort zone, and pursue new relationships with the purpose of sharing the greatest gift.  Gods love.  Merry Christmas!!

Thankful

Today I find myself thinking differently about what I am thankful for.

I took all four of my kids across the mountains to visit family and enjoy a meal along with great quality time with them.  Cousins played while adults talked, prepared food, and played as well.  I enjoyed everything about this time together, and when we arrived back home and I tucked them in late, and started to pray I thought of where we’ve come.

It’s natural and normal to be thankful for the good in our lives and what hasn’t went wrong, but tonight I found myself thankful for the course through which life has brought me.  I am also thankful for the struggles, and pain.  These times have shaped me, have revealed my calling, and brought so much good that I don’t think would have been possible without them.  While I never would have considered being a single dad, starting over completely to be a blessing, I consider where God is leading me now and how he has used these times to shape me, humble me, and teach me.

I’m thankful for my family that has loved and supported me every step of the journey.  I’m thankful for friends that are just as close as family.  They have truly shown me what it looks like to be the hands and feet of Christ.  I’m thankful for a Church that has and is helping me find my calling as a pastor through an internship while also referring me to seminary.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to receive training and an education online so I can juggle being a father, working in ministry, and seminary simultaneously.  I am so grateful for three great mentors speaking in to my life and allowing God to use their advice and guidance to help mold me into the man God intends.  I’m thankful for housing options that allow people in my position an opportunity to afford a safe place for my kids.  I’m thankful for the current missions field I find myself in, while training for a future in missions abroad.  I’m also thankful for friends, family, and even some strangers who support me financially so that I can minister to the men and women in the church I serve in, life groups I lead, and future ministry I am preparing for.

I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be thankful for so much if life was never challenging.  I marvel at his creativity, his ability to use a broken world, and tough circumstances to bring about good, and ultimately glorify him.  We brought sin in to his creation and seemingly ruined it, but he continues to create in our mess, redirecting our sin at times to bring about his eventual good.  To fulfill his ultimate plan of a creation redeemed, restored, and renewed.

Most of all I’m thankful God is in control and not me, and that by his grace I am his child.

 

 

Christ in Community

This last Sunday I had the privilege to talk to our congregation about the importance of life groups in our walk with Christ. I shared my personal story of why I started a group in my home, and how it has blessed me and others.  

My life group has become my nuclear family. These guys are the first people I call in times of need and when I want to share good news. I didn’t always have people like this in my life though. A little over a year ago I felt like I had no one. I knew Christ, and had an internal call to ministry but with no one speaking into my life, I didn’t have external affirmation about this. I had no one to encourage me, or challenge me. I had also just been through a very rough time in my life emotionally, and had no one local to help me through that or counsel me.

I started a group out of loneliness and out of a realization that if I felt this way, there were other guys out there that felt this way as well. I felt like I had slipped through the cracks and I wanted to be there for other guys and wanted other people in my life.

It’s one thing to read about stories of struggle or praise of what God has done, and it’s another to live through these experiences with others. You sharing your life with others acts as a blessing to both them and you, and being in community gives you and others the opportunity to speak truth in to these experiences. You need someone to struggle with!

Being in community wasn’t the end result, it has purpose.

Being in a life group has been a great opportunity for me to grow in my relationship with Christ. You can certainly gain knowledge on your own, attending Sunday services, reading the bible, listening to pod casts, reading books, but I’ve noticed when you study God’s word with others, and share intimate details about your life with that group you gain an opportunity to gain so much wisdom and real life application. It’s an opportunity for discussion. This dialog with others is an important part of your spiritual growth that can’t happen sitting in a service, or reading a book.

As we grow in Christ we are called to respond to our faith, he has a mission for us.

The guys in my life group and close friends from church have acted as an external calling in my life in to ministry. Spending time with guys in the word, disciplining them, and living life with these guys has given me an opportunity to live out my calling. Also because I am in community with them, it gives me the opportunity for others to speak into my life, they have affirmed strengths I didn’t know I had, and helped me develop those, and encouraged me to take the next steps in my calling such as going to seminary, and going on staff with Calvary Church. Many of them are actually financially supporting the work I am doing.

The purpose for our life group is to connect with a community of believers for the purpose of knowing Christ more, and living out our calling together.

Along with sharing my story we invited others to get connected to a life group and had inserts in the bulletin so people could request to be connected to a group, and by God’s grace almost 40 people responded.

Please be praying that we will be able to make good matches for these people and that we would be effective in training new leaders to meet the need of more groups in our church.

The Standard

The last verse of Matthew five sums up the beatitudes and lays out the real standard for which God measures.  “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt 5:48

In the beatitudes Jesus was addressing the pharisees and the keeping of the law.  They measured righteousness by their ability to follow the law and rules in order to keep them from getting close to breaking the law, but what Jesus addressed was that God was really demanding a change of heart.  God is not perfect because he merely follows his own commands, how he acts is a result of a perfect/pure heart.  He wasn’t commanding his people to merely follow rules he was commanding a new way of life, he wanted them to be a people set apart by their relationship with the one true God.  This relationship is trans-formative in nature, if we are God’s people our heart will reflect that.

This standard of perfection also sets the stage for our need for atonement.  No one can meet this standard, and he knew that, that’s why he was there.  Old testament prophecy spoke of the one who would sacrifice himself as a guilt offering (Isaiah 53:7-10), John spoke of him as the “lamb of God” a sacrifice for our sin (john 1:29), and Jesus actually referred to himself as the passover lamb, his blood was spilled to pay the debt of our sins (matt 26:26-28).

In Galations 3:10-14 Paul says that we are cursed if we are relying on our own works to keep the law.  It is in Christ that the curse is lifted and we are redeemed and made perfect, receiving the promised spirit in faith.

Love your enemies

This week my pastor preached on Jesus command to love our enemies in the beatitudes.  In Matthew 5:43-44 he said “You have heard that it is said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”  He goes on to tell us it’s easy to love your friends, anyone can do that, he is calling his people to a greater standard that we will stand out by how we live our life.

Jesus was addressing the Laws of the Old Testament in the beatitudes, in v 17 he confirms he has not come to abolish the laws but to fulfill them, he goes on to say whoever follows them and teachers others to do the same will be called great in the kingdom of heaven, and unless your righteousness exceeds the scribes and Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Pharisees were known for being great keepers of the law, they created additions to the law, commentaries on conduct to make sure they didn’t break the law.  What Jesus goes on to address is that they were concerned with the law not with loving their God.  They were considered righteous on the outside but were dead inside, he called them white washed tombs!  An appearance of piety on the outside and dead on the inside.

Indeed he wasn’t throwing out the law, he actually had a higher standard.  He demanded their heart, don’t lust, hate, instead Love.  Not just when its easy, but when it’s hard.  Not just your enemies but also those who persecute you.

He gave an example of this kind of love in the parable of the good samaritan.  In Luke 10:25-27 A lawyer asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asked “How do you read it?” The lawyer said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Jesus affirmed his answer as correct to which the lawyer asked who is my neighbor?  Jesus answered this question with the parable of the good samaritan.  The Samaritans were the Jews enemies, they traveled far out of their way just to avoid going through their land.  In this parable their was a man who had been beaten, robbed, and in great need.   Both a priest and Levite passed him by while his enemy the Samaritan stopped and served him, tending to his needs.

Jesus in this story defined his neighbor not just geographically but as everyone, even our enemies.

He also did the very thing he commanded in the action of love.  He washed Judas’ feet, he bore suffering and death for us who were his enemies before he paid the penalty for our sin.  While suffering on the cross he prayed to his father asking him to forgive the people afflicting him!

Back in Matthew 11 he gave a reason for loving our enemies, in verse 45 he said “so that you may be sons of your heavenly Father who is in heaven.”  The sign of a believer is a soft heart, “they will know us by our love”  As children of God we are commanded to Love, and not just the feeling of love but the action of Love.

Truth in the Tinsel

I know it is not quit November yet but the Christmas season is right around the corner.  I just wanted to share what has become a huge part of our Christmas tradition in my home with you.  From the time my children were born I wanted to be intentional with them about sharing my faith with them, and allowing our faith to form the traditions in our home.  We choose to do Christmas differently and from the start of the season we begin talking about the real meaning of this holiday.  A huge part of how we have done this is using the Truth in the tinsel program.

This program is for elementary aged children, and takes you through scripture daily telling the story of Christ’s birth leading up to Christmas.  Each day has a verse and a project for the kids to do.  Each project is an ornament to hang on the tree to help them remember the parts of the story.

sample page

I have found by the end even my youngest can talk me through the story of the birth of Christ by pointing out each ornament they made and telling me what they represent.  This has been a great family tradition with fun memories, and a great teaching tool.

xmastree
If you would like to add this to your family tradition click the link below and check it out for yourself.

Can Pain be Merciful?

 

In Acts 9 the story of Paul’s conversion is told.  While he was actively persecuting believers he had an encounter with Christ.  Jesus appeared in a flash of blinding light which threw Saul to his knees, then he spoke to him, giving him instructions.  Saul, who was a very confident, self reliant man was left blind, incapacitated, and having to submit to the help of others.

While talking about this account with a close friend one point really struck us,  Saul’s suffering here was caused by Christ, intentionally, and this suffering that was caused was a merciful act.  Saul in his righteousness was doomed, by causing this blindness he got Saul’s attention and gave him an opportunity to rely on others, and to obey Jesus.  He would be healed but first he had to respond to Jesus, he had to go into the city and wait for further instructions.  He had to submit to Jesus, and the very people he had been persecuting.  However first he had to undergo suffering, and that suffering was the vehicle by which he received grace and his heart was softened.

Now what I am not saying is we are all Paul and any suffering we undergo comes from God.  This specific event happened in history, this was how Christ got Saul’s attention and redeemed him.  We all find ourselves in a broken world.  Some suffering is a result of that fact, because sin is present it affects us.  However here is just one example of God using suffering to bless us.  Also it seems to me he uses suffering that is a result of sin, intended sin from others to do his eventual good.  An example of this can be found in Joseph.  His brothers intended evil in selling him off as a slave, and God redeemed that act by using him to save his family and the entire region from a time of famine.

What I do want to point out is that God is always in control, suffering does happen, will happen but God can be glorified in spite of it, or through it.  It can cause us to turn to God, at times it removes stuff in our lives we wouldn’t give up or turn from otherwise, and when we go through it while glorifying God it can be a testimony to others.  Also our response always needs to be that of submission to Christ, and obedience to his word.

Who are you?

       My brother in Christ shared these words with me this morning, he started out by saying how he was thankful for my friendship then blessed me with some Godly wisdom and encouragement.  In receiving this blessing, I couldn’t allow it to terminate on me alone, I had to share because I know these words will bless you as well:

“Sociologists agree, that how a person answers the question “Who am I?”

will determine how they think and act in almost every situation in their life.

May God reveal to you today, that you are:

1. Loved by Him, by me
Romans 8:35

2. His masterpiece.
Ephesians 2:10

3. A new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:17

4. In Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:20-21

5. Chosen.
Deuteronomy 7:7-8

6. Free.
Romans 6:18

Receive his Grace today. His unmerited favor. Receive his mercy today.

His mercy covers your sins
His grace covers your shame.

Have a grace and mercy filled day today.”

-Jeremiah

Be blessed friends, and be a blessing.

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