Christmas: The Story Must Be Told

Christmas is good news. When the angel of the Lord announced the news of Christ being born for us to the shepherds, the angel declared the news to be good and to be for all people to know.

Last week, for the 54th consecutive year, A Charlie Brown Christmas was broadcast on a major network to a national audience. You may be interested to know that the scene that stole the show almost didn’t happen.

Do you remember it? As the gang is preparing for their local Christmas play, everyone gets mad at Charlie Brown for buying a horrible and hopeless excuse of a tree.

charlie-brown-tree-johnny-mcnabbDejected, he says, “Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I don’t know what Christmas is all about.” And he cries out: “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

Linus says, “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.”

Then he steps up and starts reading the Christmas narrative.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 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. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
(Luke 2:8-14)

When network executives previewed the program, they objected: “You can’t read long passages of the King James Version on broadcast TV; you’ll lose your audience.”

Peanuts creator Charles Schultz was adamant. He said, “If we don’t tell the Christmas story, who will?”

The scene stayed in, and it turned out that the network executives were wrong. Linus reading from scripture, telling the Christmas story was a great success!

Schultz has a point — one which every church, every preacher, every believer would do well to consider. “If we don’t tell the Christmas story, who will?”

News is meant to be shared, especially good news. The news of Christ being born for us is news that brings great joy. Just as the angel announced the good news, Christians are invited and commanded to announce the good news to others. Christ is not only for us, but He is for all people, and He wants to bring joy to all people.

Some may never know, if they don’t hear it from you or me, that Christmas means that God is with us.

There are many that we know and encounter all the time, who, like Charlie Brown are down and discouraged and the best they seem to do, never seems to measure up (much like the tree). But be sure to let them know of the love of God, the wonder of the season and the message of Jesus Christ coming to earth.

Christmas is a great time to share the news. We have opportunities all around us. From the music that plays in the backgrounds at restaurants to the moments of pausing and reflecting, Christmas provides great opportunities for conversations about the great love of our Savior.

Christmas is also a great time to invite someone to church with you–to invite them to be a part of what matters most to you–your faith. Research shows that 8 out of 10 people said they would attend church at Christmas if someone invited them.

Now consider this for yourself:

Christmas is:

  • The Creator entered His creation to reconcile you to the Creator.
  • The Eternal and Infinite One of God took on finite flesh to give you the infinite gift of Himself.
  • The Bread of Life became a man and experienced hunger so He can relate to you in your weakness.
  • The Light of the World stepped into our darkness so He understands your dark days and is the Light in the midst of them.
  • The Life submitted Himself to death to give you life forever.
  • The Living Water entered humanity and experienced thirst so you would never be thirsty again.
  • The Healer was bruised and beaten to heal you and secure your forgiveness.

This is news too good to keep to yourself.

Go tell it on the mountain, over the hill and everywhere….that Jesus Christ is born.

(okay, maybe you don’t live near a mountain or even much of a hill) but go tell it…….

Good news must be told,

Pastor Bernie

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Thanksgiving all the time….

“Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies.”

be-thankful

Thanksgiving: all the time?  Okay, how about a question mark?  Thanksgiving, do we live it all the time? Do we drift to grumbling and complaining and neglecting all that God has done for us and others have meant to us?  Thanksgiving really is our calling in life.

The scriptures define this calling: To be thankful and rejoice.

(Philippians 4:4) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice…and with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.” (Abraham Lincoln, 1863)

Giving thanks is one of the difficult parts of faith for one simple reason: When things are going great, we tend to forget the importance of giving thanks, and when things are going badly we struggle to find something to give thanks for!  I want to remind you today and in this week of Thanksgiving, to truly give thanks and be challenged once again to look at your life and lift your voice to God in praise and gratitude.

Giving thanks is not an attitude, it’s not an emotion, and it’s not even an expression of faith. It’s a way of life. We are not called simply to give thanks;
we are called to live thankfully.

We give thanks to God not just through our words but through the way we live our lives, by living generously and being grateful to those around us constantly.  And we use all the gifts God has given us by loving and serving others – these acts of generosity are a form of thankfulness too.

Go for it! Express thanks to God today in your worship, to one another as we gather and during this Thanksgiving week, in church this Sunday, but more in the way we live each day.  Be Thankful.

Grateful for you,

Pastor Bernie

For the JOY of Serving

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness!”
(Psalm 100:1–2)

I marvel daily at the the fact that God actually invites me into a relationship with Him and then allows me to serve Him. Me? A servant of God? Me? Making a difference in the lives of others?  It is sometimes more that I can believe, that the God of the universe uses people like me to serve Him and others, and the fact that He really does not need us at all.

The Scripture reminds us in Acts 17:25 that the Lord does not need us for anything.

He does not need our service, our volunteering, or financial giving or any of our help. He is, after all, the Lord above all.

“Human hands can’t serve his needs – for He has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and satisfies every need.” – Acts 17:25

Because He is fully sufficient, He does not need us. This is really good news. If God needed us then He would not be God. And if He was so needy that He could not rule Heaven and Earth without our assistance, well, then He could not meet all our needs.

  • He does not need you to serve at LFC
  • He does not need you to be a greeter at LFC or be on our cleaning or maintenance team.
  • He does not need you to serve in our kid’s ministry or our student ministry.
  • He does not need you to facilitate a small group or even attend one.
  • He does not need you to volunteer at all.

If He does not need our service, then why are there passages in the Scripture commanding us to serve? For example, the apostle Peter wrote, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” (I Peter 4:10)

This is a glorious paradox. God does not need us to serve Him yet He invites us to serve Him. The command to serve Him is a glorious invitation to experience the joy of God working through you. It is a glorious invitation to join God in what He is doing in His church and in His world.  God knows the result of human serving – how it changes our hearts and our worldview. God knows that when we move for Him, find needs and fill them for Him that He can then fill us and use us again.

God may not need us to serve – but we need to serve!  It builds a joy in us that we can find no other way. Serving and giving become the conduits of generosity flowing through our lives and become the great tool of impact for those far away from God. The old quote is true today as it ever was:

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

If you are serving at LFC and giving financially to LFC, THANK YOU! If you are sharing your faith with others, praying for others, THANK YOU!  If you are impacting the next generation, caring for the elderly, helping people heal from brokenness or dealing with addictions, THANK YOU!

If you have not yet connected to serving, we are going to keep inviting you! We will keep asking you…..not because we need your help and not because God needs us, but because we want you to experience the joy of using the gifts God has given to serve others. And besides, we do not want you to miss out on all the fun too!

Serving with you,

Bernie

 

 

serving

Planning (allow me to ramble)

planning

 

Recently I was at a leadership meeting with some amazingly brilliant and experienced people in the room. As we began to discuss vision and direction for areas which we lead, a word emerged to describe the process we all felt we needed. The word was collaboration or CO:LAB for short.  Our future planning would be more synergistic than catalytic (not one person directing but all of us coming together to speak into the process and planning).  Now I personally like this, since I lead this way. I want to hear from people in the room.

None of us is smarter than all of us.

None of us is wiser than all of us.

Or maybe you have heard it said: It is best to be the guide on the side than the sage on the stage.

I like collaboration but not everyone does. I like to find people who have walked where I am walking, who are gifted in areas that I may not be, and those who can see things that I may just be missing.

Rather than simply ramble here: (and I have lots to say on this subject as there is lots going on in my leadership at various levels) I want to share a few important lessons for anyone that might stumble upon them.

1/ Plan early and include as many as necessary.

I love being a group with a white board and dreaming out loud. I also enjoy working on a goal (a win) with others who have expertise in various areas (collaboration).  When we get a jump on things (planning early) there is less tension, more gifting, more time to research, contact vendors, ask for volunteers and what have you.  Who knows where we can get lights, or ice, or promotional materials? Who knows the what, when, why and how of this event or meeting or goal?  Who needs to be at this table discussion that we may have forgotten.

When planning is done last minute, it is almost like failing to plan. Awhile ago I received an email inviting me to an important meeting. I could see by the large amount of people included in this email that the sender was scrambling for attendance. The email went something like this: Dear……………..We are really excited to invite you to an important meeting. We hope you will be there as your input is valuable to us. We will be meeting at ___________on the 10th at 6:30 PM. NO need to RSVP, but please be there. Thanks………….

Well there you have it. An email invitation for a meeting on the 10th at 6:30 PM. So what was wrong? It was sent out on the 8th at 10:45 PM. In our fast-paced culture, less than 48 hours notice is guaranteed failure. Of the over 50 people invited there were 8 of us in attendance and the person leading the meeting was late.  This kind of planning and promotion makes people NOT want to be engaged with your group or church or club or activity.

2/ What is really needed? Who will know what is needed and who will know how to get it?

Don’t marginalize people you know can get things done. Don’t overlook those who can help you figure out what is needed and or may know who can get what is needed.  I am often called upon to be a resource or to provide something myself or my church may own, usually at the last minute. What I have learned from others is, ‘don’t include me when the deadline is looming or when you want me to bail you out of your mess.’  If you really want me involved, and you value my time, bring me in early. If I cannot do what needs to be done, I may know someone who can. But don’t call the day of, the day before or even 48 hours ahead of time. Don’t expect everyone to bail your out of your poor planning. Always include some 35,000 foot people. These are ones who can see the whole event before it is even on paper. If you grab too many myopic people, you will be caught in the minutia of the event and not see beyond the hot dogs and mustard. No joke, I attended an event where all the planners could speak about was the great pies that the organizers were going to make (these ladies were really into pies). They set up some amazing table decorations and table clothes where the pies would be displayed and judged. Recipes for the pies would be handed out to all the guests. They spent so much time and energy on what they were passionate about – pies, that they forgot to get a BBQ or a way to cook those hot-dogs. Oh, and no one brought ice for the lemonade or cups. The event was more than pie eating but not to the organizers.

3/ Promote early and often. 

We have found that well done promotion is essential to a successful event.  As a rule, I like to make sure we are well on our way in our detailed planning of something big at least 90 to 120 days out. We have set the date and the time and pinpointed who needs to be involved in the planning and who needs to be notified. (this is like a save the date postcard or email of Facebook post) Yet, who specifically needs to know way in advance of the 90 and 120 days? Who needs to know? Who can help us plan? Who can help us promote?  Are we going to use local media (besides social media) are we going to print postcards and flyer, posters and more. Then set a timeline for promotion and what goes out when.  Get key players talking about it (this is what I call the buzz) and personally invited and raising up excitement about the event.

Well, just some rambling and I am sure there is more to say, but needed to share this.

Recently I was asked why I was not in attendance at an important meeting. Truth is, I was not asked to attend. Near the end of the meeting, I got a lengthy text asking me a ton of questions. Some of the organizers knew that I would know and might prove to be helpful, but forgot to invite me or simply felt, they could handle it on their own (and they can) but chose to ask a myriad of questions at the last minute. Because I care, and want to help, I gave them some good ideas and direction and there were some speed bumps they had to and will have to navigate. All of this could have been alleviated by better planning and collaboration, promotion determining who needed to be at the table early on.

So next time, plan ahead, invite the best and brightest you can find, do your research, promote well and you will succeed.

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

All the best,

Bernie

Back To School Prayer

school

I had the honor of leading a prayer for educators during all three of our services. Over 50 members of our congregation (in attendance today – we have more for sure) are involved in the education of the next generation. Principals, mentor teachers, all levels of education, custodians, bus drivers, school administration and more. These wonderful servants deserve our support and prayers and encouragement.

I challenge you to give them your best and to pray for the school nearest your house every single day this year!

As educators came to our platform, they were applauded and I had the honor of sharing the following scripture with them:

1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.  CSB 
The work our educators do is the Lord’s work and they are not laboring in vain – they are impacting lives more than they know.
Here is the prayer I prayed today:

Father God, thank you for godly teachers, administrators, custodians, district workers, bus drivers, coaches and more, who serve in our schools and school system. As well as those who serve in private schools or teach their children at home. Bless them Lord, as they have given their lives to serve our children. Fill them with strength to lead, grace to guide and hope to thrive in their classrooms, campuses and in all various roles they carry and the myriad of challenges they face. Help them to be encouraged today, just knowing that they are making a difference in the lives of the next generations and their families.

As this new school year begins, Lord, we ask that you will wrap your loving arms around them and give them grace, patience, love and wisdom for their best school year yet. Give them favor with parents, guardians, students and other educators. And for our students, we pray that you will protect them, fill their hearts with your power and presence, keep them from evil and harm and help them grow in grace and knowledge of you and the subjects that they will study. May respect, perseverance and joy be a part of this new school year.

In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

As a pastor, I stand ready to support our educators in any way that I can. As a grandparent with grand-kids in our schools, I will do all I can personally to support their respective schools. As a leader of our church, we will find ways to support, serve and financially make a difference as well.

God bless our educators and our students,

Bernie

Prayer for Wisdom

Get wisdom. Whatever you do!

Proverbs 1:5-6
A wise man will hear and increase in learning. And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.

Another passage says,

Proverbs 9: 10-12
Skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of God, insight into life from knowing a Holy God.  It’s through me, wisdom, that our life deepens, and the years of your life ripen.  Live wisely and wisdom will permeate your life; mock life and life will mock you. 

 

This passage is saying that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Knowing God and allowing Him to be in His rightful place in your life is the beginning of and the deeper growth in wisdom.

 

Prayer:
Lord, you said if we lack wisdom you’ll give it to us and all we have to do is ask you and you give it generously. I admit to you that I am facing some struggles, questions, and wondering which way to go. I am at a crossroads. I have attempted things that the world offers and it hasn’t worked for me. And so right now, I want to surrender my life and place you first – above me. I want to give you your rightful place and I ask that you would give me your wisdom from above. I pray, not only for myself, but every person who is in some way questioning which way to go. May they look to you and have you walk with them and show them your way, your wisdom, your path. And we pray this for your sake and in Jesus’ name. Amen

Share Your Faith

Share-your-faith-story-love-light-1024x768

I start this post with a question: In the end analysis, what is your life supposed to be all about? What is the first purpose of the church?

I will take a shot at answering that:  It’s about people. From cover to cover, the Bible teaches the ultimate treasure in this whole universe, God’s ultimate priority in this world, is to invite as many people as we possibly can into God’s family through Christ, His son. That is life……Nothing more exciting then people coming to KNOW GOD through JESUS. Nothing more exciting than to see them transformed and realize their identity as the sons and daughters of God. It is a book from cover to cover, expressing the Love that God has for us. It is our assignment to share our faith with others and in our message the truth of how deeply all people are loved by God.

Whenever Jesus was asked why he had come to Earth, he could distill it down to one truth, even though he said it in different ways.

  • Luke 19:10
    And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost.” (NLT)

Remember in his final commission, the Great Commission, just before he ascended to the Father, he said,

  • Mark 16:15
    He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”  (NIV) Share your Faith! 

“Now you go for broke. Get out of your holy huddles and take the message of the cross and get it out there. Go” –where? — “into the whole world. Your world first and all of your world, your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Then do all you can to see that the message is shared everywhere. This is our personal and corporate support of global missions. Try to lead people to faith. And when you do, teach them to observe everything I’ve commanded you.

We share our faith through our prayers, our acts of love and service and kindness and be speaking to others of what God has done for us. It is leading a contagious Christian lifestyle.

What if I go for broke with sharing my faith, and what if we all did as a church?

Well, the Bible says if we go for broke in the power of the Holy Spirit, there’s a high likelihood that our friends and family members, our neighbors and colleagues are going to be redeemed. There is a high opportunity for us in this region to go and catch some fish for God. Souls.

Can you imagine if all of us just led ONE PERSON TO JESUS this NEXT YEAR….and suppose that ½ of them live in this area. Take the attendance of our church or any church for that matter. Seeing 50, 100, 200, or 700 new baby Christians showing up over the course of 12 months. This would revolutionize any church.

The heavenly rejoicing would be intense.

  • Luke 15:10
    In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (NIV)

The upside potential for the people we reach and for us as a church would be nothing short of amazing.

What about the downside risk? It is playing it safe.

The worst thing that could happen to me is someone would decline my gentle suggestion that they take a deeper look at their spiritual dimension.  If I spoke to others about their spiritual dimension and they did not want to listen or go further….A polite “thanks, but no thanks.”

Don’t become so paralyzed by the possibility of a little social or emotional rejection that you fall into a pattern of never even trying, never risking, certainly not going for broke.

Jesus shed his blood for me and I cannot hang back and do nothing about it… I must in a loving and caring and kind way share my faith.

Remember a parable that Jesus told one time. It was a parable that has become famous now. It’s the parable of the sower and the seed. It is an encouraging parable, not a discouraging one. Jesus said, “There was once a sower. He had that bag of seed, and he knew what his job was. His job was to scatter seed and to scatter it and scatter it and scatter it.”

The Bible says he scattered it, and some of it fell on hard-packed soil. He would come back a week or a month later and realize all that effort, all that walking, all that scattering, it was a bust because the seed doesn’t grow on hard-packed soil. But he kept scattering anyways.

Then he would come back, and he would see that some of it fell on rocky soil, and it looked like the seed was going to come up, but then there wasn’t enough soil for the rootedness so the plant would die. It would be kind of discouraging to the sower, but he would keep sowing.

Then the Bible says that some fell on thorny soil and the seed would germinate and start to come up, but then the weeds would strangle it — another bust. A bust on the hard-packed soil, a bust on the rocky soil, a bust on the thorny soil. But what does Jesus say about the sower? He just kept on sowing. He did what sowers should do. He did not allow the lack of results to keep him from doing what he was called to do – sow.

He had character. He had perseverance. So he kept scattering seed, and then Jesus said, “Guess what? Some of it fell on fertile soil. And when it fell on fertile soil, it took root, and the roots went down deep, and the plant grew up. It became a big bush and birds nested in it. It was a beautiful thing.”

You know why Jesus told that story? Because you are the only Sowers Jesus has. There is no plan ‘B’ for Lompoc and Santa Barbara County and Vandenberg Air Force Base. It is us – Jesus entrusted the gospel to people like you and me. If you stop sowing there is no other plan.

Jesus knew: we were going to sow seed that falls on hard-packed soil and people aren’t going to respond. But Don’t quit! Sometimes rocky soil or the thorny soil and you’re going to get your hopes up and then your hopes are going to be dashed, but don’t quit!

Keep scattering seed, if only 25 percent will really take hold, the pessimist can say. Why do it? The optimist can say: Let’s just through more. I like that. Let’s just throw more seed. If 25% actually takes hold, then instead of through 100 seeds so 25 take root, how about we throw 200 seeds so 50 take root, or 300, or 400 or….well you get the point.

Because the return on investment is smaller (25%), just throw more seed. Tell more people, share more faith.

Faithful people share their faith.

A story in Matthew 9 tells about the friends of a man who was sick and paralyzed. They wanted him to be healed, so they brought him to Jesus by lowering him on his mat through an opening in the roof.  The compassion, the willingness to work, be creative and get their friend to Jesus.

“When Jesus saw their faith ….” It was not the paralyzed man’s faith that led to the healing; it was that of his friends. When Jesus saw these four friends cared enough to bring their paralyzed friend, he said, “Those guys have great faith. They expect me to heal their friend,” and he did.

You have friends who are paralyzed and can’t get to Jesus. They are paralyzed by fear, guilt, doubt, pain, or maybe even resentment over being hurt in some church in the past. They are paralyzed, and they can’t get to Jesus on their own.

God is watching to see if you are going to be faithful enough to bring them. And if you are, God will honor your faith. He’ll not only heal your friend; He will find ways to bless you too.

As long as Christians — as long as the church — keeps reaching out to more unbelievers, God will keep blessing it. The moment a church family says that their church doesn’t need to grow anymore, they’re saying they don’t care about the lostness of humanity.

But as long as we keep saying we’re going to continue bringing paralyzed people to Jesus, God will bless not only our churches, but also our families, our businesses, and our lives.

Here is a promise: Someday you’re going to be sowing that seed out of heart and perseverance, and some of that seed is going to fall on fertile soil.

“When it does and someone gets saved, and you see life change and the beauty of the kingdom of God advancing one life at a time and you had something to do with it, oh man, you’re going to be so glad you didn’t quit!”

  • There is joy in being a faithful sower of seed and partnering with God in the Harvest.

 

  • Acts 1:8

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (NIV)

  • Colossians 4:2-6Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (NIV).

The five habits of highly missional people are:

BLESS is a great acronym for sharing your faith.

B is for Bless: I will bless three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church.

E is for Eat: I will eat with three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church.

L is for Listen: I will spend at least one period of the week listening for the Spirit’s voice and asking Him who needs my life, my sharing of faith and hope.

L is for Learn: I will I will spend at least one period of the week learning more about Jesus Christ and how he related to and served people.

S is for Sent: Where is God wanting to send me and how can I help and support those who have already been sent, locally, globally, even within the context of our church ministry.

  • Romans 1:16
    “I am not ashamed about the gospel of Christ…” (NIV)

I’m not going to shut up about it. I’m not going to let something like discouragement or lack of results silence my witness.

Studies estimate that an unbeliever has to hear the gospel about seven times before, on average, before they respond to it. So, keep going and sharing.  Practice the B.E.L.L.S. points. 

How many of you were lead to Christ by someone else?

Did you give your life over to Jesus the first time you heard? See, you are living proof that we must keep sharing the Gospel and never give up.

Share your faith, your life, your story, your love. Be generous with all you have been given and all that God has done for you.

Sharing with you and sharing with others,

Bernie