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Archive for the ‘Sunday Reflections’ Category

The message from Matthew 13:44 yesterday – generosity is something we want to do if we’re part of God’s kingdom. Some great conversations are happening and people are starting to dream some incredibly generous dreams and make some life-changing steps towards generosity.

Excited about next week’s message from 2 Corinthians 8 – more about how Jesus makes us generous – even when we have nothing to give.

Speaking of generosity – we’re up to $2800 taken in for Churches Helping Churches (www.churcheshelpingchurches.com). Thanks for your willingness to invest resources into the needs of our brothers and sisters in Haiti. If you haven’t contributed yet, we’ll take up money through next Sunday.

Because of the MLK weekend, we bumped the internship meeting to next Sunday after the worship gathering. Can’t wait to see who ends up on our team and really can’t wait to unveil the two-year Protege program!

We’ve had 33 people sign up for the free preview night for Financial Peace University – and we’re expecting more to show up. If you’d like to sign up, shoot an email to Todd Harrison at toddharrison@mindspring.com.

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Jared Bryant, our director of ministry to parents and children, was supposed to preach yesterday from Philippians 2:1-11. But on Saturday night his 21-month old son, Ethan, broke his leg and had surgery yesterday at 9am. Everything went well and Ethan is back home (albeit in a body cast for the next 4-6 weeks).

I bring that up here so you can pray for Ethan and his mama and daddy – and to thank God for his kindness to us during yesterday’s worship gathering. Since Jared was with his family, I jumped in for him, preaching the same text from Philippians that he had planned to preach. What came out was a call to run together in 2010 – living out our unity in Jesus with a humility that puts the needs of other people before our very own needs. Clear, simple, and impossible unless and until the Holy Spirit creates the kind of freedom that makes obedience possible (more on that tomorrow).

I love how many people God has woven into the life of our church – talented musicians, a hard-working set-up team, and a great team of nursery workers and children’s worship leaders. I thank God for all of you.

Two other things to get in front of you:

  • We’re hosting two preview nights for Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University on Tuesday, January 12 and Tuesday, January 19. Regular sessions begin on February 2 and will run through the end of April. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t need to show up for a preview night – if nothing else, it will help you make an informed decision about whether to be part of this class of FPU. For more information, contact Todd Harrison at toddharrison@mindspring.com
  • Please pray for a series of conversations among some of the leaders in our church called Re:Boot. We’ve grown to a point that we need to fight for a clear vision and to line up everything we are and do as a church around that vision. Looking forward to seeing what comes out of these discussions.

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Sitting at home listening to Lindsey help the boys wrap some presents – I’ve always loved the week leading up to Christmas. Everyone and everything seems a bit more alive – that much was obvious on Sunday morning during our worship gathering. Great set list from the band and y’all helped to create a great vibe with your singing, your listening, the raw emotion you brought to communion and the intentional way you connected with the people around you. I love being your pastor and I love what God is doing in and through you.

I also wanted to make sure I thank Katie Homeyer again for the set design. I love watching people do what they love to do and just wait until you see what she has planned for our different teaching series in 2010!

Our history as a church does not contain a lot of stories of radical generosity but over the past six weeks you have invested $40K in the kingdom work that is going on in and through our church. So far, we’ve raised almost $8K for Advent Conspiracy and I can’t wait to see how that money is going to be used to make a deep and lasting impact for God’s glory and the good of his world.

OK, now about this Thursday. Man, there aren’t words to describe how thrilled I am about what’s going down in our gathering on Christmas Eve (5pm, Westminster Christian Academy). Here are a few things I want you to look for when you show up (early!) for an incredible hour together:

  • You’ll notice a lot of unfamiliar faces. We’ve invited Faith Presbyterian Church here in Watkinsville to worship with us so that means we’ll have more than 300 people in the gym – an exciting prospect if we understand that we’re not just using the time to slow the stampede heading towards the presents under the tree.
  • You’ll see faces you didn’t expect to see. We have a ton of UGA students who don’t live in Athens but are making the trek from their homes just to be in the room when we have the gathering on Thursday. I can’t even wrap my mind around how crazy and wonderful it is to watch Jesus take hold and animate the lives of students.
  • Y0u’ll notice some changes. With so many people in the room, we’re doing stuff like communion a bit different than we normally do it.
  • You’ll hear me talk about Jesus. That’s not new but because you’re bringing friends and family with you, I promise you that Jesus will be front and center throughout the gathering.

OK, so seriously – this could be one of those nights we’re talking about months and years from now. I know some of you are going to be out of town (even out of the country!) but if you’re around, I hope you’ll come and engage God as we thank him for sending Jesus to live and die for us.

One last thing – would you pray for a few things:

  • A movement of the Holy Spirit that shows us Jesus and compels us to press deeply into him;
  • Conversions and renewal – my prayer for the gathering is that it will be a catalyst for a great Christmas where Jesus is seen and savored as the best present in the universe.
  • The room to be filled with the love of Jesus. And then show up ready to serve and shake hands and hug necks and help our visiting friends feel at home.
  • My voice. As of 5:18pm on Tuesday, I don’t have one. I don’t feel bad…just can’t talk. So ask God to work things out in a way that me, you and all of our friends get more of Jesus when it’s all said and done.

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Peace – the God-given longing for a perfect life…for everyone in everything.

That theme of Advent was our focus yesterday and it carries both bad news and good news. And as devastating as it is to hear that we’ll never experience perfection in full until Jesus returns to finish the job of making all things new, there is much for us to cling to and enjoy because of the reality of the incarnation. Jesus is born and the kingdom of God breaks into our world and begins the slow, steady work of making God’s universal rule a distinct reality for all peoples in every sphere of life.

This tension keeps Christmas from becoming glib or morose. There is real reason to celebrate in ways that run much deeper than our cultural displays of happiness during the holidays. There’s a freedom that comes in knowing that we can out-merry everyone else at Christmas because our delight is drawn from the deep well of Christ whose rule over all things creates beauty out of devastation. True Christmas Spirit is not something we create but something that is birthed in us as the Holy Spirit shines a spotlight on the God who became weak and vulnerable to give us strength and confidence.

So, press into Jesus as the Prince of Peace and get ready because the joy of Christmas is just around the corner.

Few other things from yesterday:

  • Really fun to introduce all of our new members. This round was made up (almost) exclusively of students; in the spring, we have several families and adults lining up to become part of the family.
  • We have students and families who visit every week – are you playing a role in helping them get to know us by saying hello, asking about their story, inviting them to lunch or community group?
  • Loved having Craig Hensley (banjo) and Chris Parsons (drums) sit in with the band – seriously, I wouldn’t trade our musicians for any other group on the planet.
  • Great response so far from the commitment cards for January-March, 2010. We’re going to blow your mind when we tell you what we can do as a church if all of us invested 10% of our post-tax income into the kingdom of God.

Couple of upcoming opportunities for you:

  • Advent Conspiracy giving continues this week – we’ll tell you a bit more about some of the ways we’re wanting to invest our resources in the community as the week goes on.
  • This is going to be an incredible Christmas Eve gathering (5pm at WCA). I love it that so many of you are asking your families to come with you – praying that God gives the grace to make that happen. And if you can’t be with us, end up somewhere and take in the grace and mercy of God to you in the incarnation.
  • We’re creating some great opportunities for you to be involved with us as interns. More information to come…
  • During our Money teaching series in January, we’ll be launching Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University – a 13 week process to help you follow Jesus with your money. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t need to be there – we’ll have details about where and when in the next week or so.

Hope you have a great week – I love you and consider it a great joy to run with you as your pastor.

Matt

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I was floored by the stream of people who came forward to invest in this year’s Advent Conspiracy:

  • If you were part of that yesterday, thanks for contributing over $6,000 to meet real needs in our church, community and world.
  • If you weren’t able to be part of yesterday’s collection, feel free to give generously during our worship gatherings on December 13 and December 20.
  • On top of that, our regular giving was almost $6,000 ($1,500 higher than an average week). Here’s why that matters – for many of you, this is the overflow of grace not the dreary compulsion of people who think they have to give.

Few other thoughts:

  • I love preaching during Advent because the season is hardwired to tap into the longing and hope we have that life can be better than it is today. Our hope is that we can push through the shiny veneer of Jesus that envelops Christmas in the American South and dig around in the dirt of our lives to find freedom from fear and doubt because we find true freedom in Christ.
  • Great arrangements from the band yesterday – Christmas songs are not easy to play or sing
  • Really looking forward to having around 400 people with us for our Christmas Eve gathering at 5pm. Still amazed by stories of people traveling back from out of town with their families to be part of our time together.
  • If you want a picture of what I have in mind when I talk about community, check out the book Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. Their context in Denver doesn’t translate perfectly to our situation here in Georgia but the collision of what they call communion, community and mission and the challenges of individualism, consumerism and materialism very much resonate with who we are and what we want to be about.
  • Husbands and fathers – your job this Christmas is to create or continue traditions that fight against those challenges I just mentioned. What will shape the story of your family’s Christmas?
  • Should have an announcement or two over the next week about some ways we’re planning to equip you in the area of finance. I think you’re going to love it.

Stuff you should pray for this week:

  • A God-saturated Advent season and Christmas.
  • Freedom and forgiveness as people trust in God and the gospel daily
  • A movement towards community, not away from it, during this season of the year.
  • Continuing generosity through this year’s Advent Conspiracy. I can’t wait to tell the stories of how God begins to use those resources to help people around us.

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Two weeks away from Advent Conspiracy – can’t wait to see what God does in us and through us as we take the resources that he’s provided us and invest $10K in the Kingdom. Don’t forget how you can help:

  • Pray. Pray through Malachi 3:10 as you consider how you and your family can personally invest in the Advent Conspiracy. Ask the Holy Spirit to ignite radical, passionate generosity in our church.
  • Plan. Budget your Christmas expenses and move the money God leads you to invest from spending on each other to investing in local, state-wide, national and global needs. Look for posts this week and next week on the particular projects we’re investing in.
  • Pitch In. Be ready to show up on December 6 and celebrate God’s gifts to us and through us. We’re planning out how we want to mark this day in the life of our church – it’s gonna be a great day!

Other thoughts from Sunday:

  • Climate controlling a gym is not easy. Thanks to those of you who let us know whether you’re too hot or too cold on a Sunday. We’re finalizing a plan to make the room comfortable for everyone. If you get cold easily, I’d encourage you to bring a sweater or light jacket, thank Jesus for the gift of said sweater or jacket and make much of him with the rest of us.
  • I had a good time with the message from I Samuel. I’m amazed at how often God takes the stupid stuff I do, uses it to humble me and turn it into something beautiful.
  • Good turnout on what has become one of the lower-attended Sundays of the year for us with UGA students getting an entire week off for Thanksgiving. We love it that so many students have embraced us as their church – and I’m personally blown away when they choose to stay in town like they did on Sunday or make plans to bring their entire family to our Christmas Eve gathering.
  • We remain financially bipolar – $11,000 two weeks ago and less than $1,000 last Sunday. It makes us laugh a bit in the office – which we can do because God continues to provide and we continue to learn how to be generous.
  • Had a great conversation after the gathering with a man who comes every 6-8 weeks and usually leaves during the sermon because he disagrees with something I say. He came up to let me know that he didn’t have anything to argue with this week and said God was working on him. Let’s continue to pray for all of us to be converted and renewed to Jesus, his community called the church, and the mission he has for us.

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Thanks for the prayers, emails, tweets and questions about last week’s Acts 29 Boot Camp in Louisville. This was the most encouraging and helpful boot camp I’ve been a part of – really thankful to be part of such a great network and encouraged particularly by what God’s up to in Georgia.

Let’s talk about Sunday:

  • I’m still stunned by the generosity God expressed to us as a church through you. We had some unique expenses that created a need far greater than our normal weekly budget expectations and you went above and beyond those needs! In a two-week period where we needed to bring in $12,000 you invested $14,000 in our church. Thank you.
  • We continued our Journey through the Old Testament by walking through the story of Judges – a brutal story that got us to the beauty of a brutalized Jesus. We’ll talk more about this as we get into 1 Samuel this Sunday but these stories remind us that the heroes and kings we lean on in this world can’t hold a candle to our real Hero and King.
  • Really fun bluegrass set at the end of the gathering – I’m wondering if there’s a musical genre our band can’t pull off!
  • Huge turnout for our community lunch. Great time meeting some new people and watching so many of you meet new people and make some connections we hope will continue in the future.
  • I love coaching our community group leaders – stunned by the phenomenal job they’re doing in following the lead of the Holy Spirit as he creates families of missionaries empowered by the gospel.

Couple of quick hits:

  • Advent Conspiracy is going down on December 6th. We’re asking you to pray, plan and pitch in as we invest $10K in the Kingdom. More information is coming this week about the specific ways we’re looking to express the generous heart of God to our friends in the community, around the state, across the country and throughout the world. You can start by budgeting for Christmas and investing 50% of what you plan to spend on the needs we’re tackling together through Advent Conspiracy.
  • The Christmas Eve gathering is on the books for 5:00pm at WCA. We’ve started working on it and seriously, you don’t want to miss this!

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