Month: November 2016

My Favorite Family Thanksgiving Traditions

I think there is something healing and rejuvenating that comes from the holidays. I love how my mom has created and carried on so many sweet traditions in our family. Taking a break from the busyness and slowing down to enjoy those that we are most thankful for is comfort to our souls.

I love our family Thanksgivings. I love that everyone is responsible for the same things every year. My mom prepares the turkey and dressing and basically just tries to keep the kitchen somewhat orderly while my dad morphs into master chef. I will give him credit, he has talent in the kitchen, but cleaning as he goes is not his strong point. My dad is always in charge of the gravy and no one makes better gravy than Tom. My grandma makes at least eight homemade pies. She is sure that everyone has their favorite, and most of the time, they all make it to the house. I say that because a couple of years ago, one ended up in the grass outside of our house. We all laughed… and cried a little on the inside. My amazing aunts fill in the sides and they have all mastered their dish. My mom’s entire serving counter is packed meticulously to make sure every dish fits. I can close my eyes and picture it!

After meal time and meaningful conversations, my mom covers her dining room table with a tablecloth and we break out the crafts. Most of the time, we paint Christmas ornaments and assemble gingerbread houses… and most of the time, we laugh at our finished products.

As our family grows, traditions adjust, but the sweetest tradition is just being together.

Last year, I went to Monroe, Georgia with my husband’s family. I love becoming acquainted with his family and their traditions. I recognized that it doesn’t matter where you are or what food you eat (or even some times what food you burn or drop on the way into the house), family gatherings are beautiful, unique and never to be taken for granted.

My little family has adopted our own Thanksgiving traditions. One that I have really enjoyed is our Thanksgiving tree. I’m normally pretty strict about waiting until AFTER Thanksgiving to celebrate Christmas, but I do make an exception for one of our trees. It is our Give Thanks Tree and it has become such a meaningful part of our holiday. We write down what we are thankful for and hang it on the tree in our dining room. It does my heart and soul good to remind myself of all the ways God has blessed me. I cannot walk by it without thanking Him. My cup surely runneth over.

I hope you enjoy your family traditions this year, and remember — it is never too late to start some that will make a lifetime of memories.

Election Thoughts

The results from the recent election were unexpected by many people and have resulted in a reaction that reveals just how divided our country really is. I had been more prepared to write a post about the role of the church in an increasingly more hostile culture, but have shifted my thoughts to how the church should respond in this election season.

Division in our country demands a thoughtful response. It is clear that the margins of the left and right movements have taken over the middle. That is what happens when we demonize things that are different and idealize our preferred political solutions. The problem is that those things that we demonize are not bad enough to completely explain the mess that we are in and what we idealize is not good enough to get us out of the mess we are in.

It is clear that both in our education systems and in our current culture, there is a real lack of understanding of how the political system works. There are always winners and losers; half the country is not going to be happy with the results. When you create a culture where everyone gets a trophy for participating, then when they face real life where there are winners and losers, people are completely unprepared.

The more desperate people are in their response to the election results, the more obvious it is that their hope is in the government. Government, by its nature, lacks the ability to deliver on the expectations that we place on it. Our hope should be in Jesus Christ, not government institutions.

Our allegiance to Jesus should take precedence over our ideology. It does not matter if you are liberal or conservative, or if you hold to progressivism, naturalism or socialism. None of those ideologies should supersede our allegiance to Jesus Christ.

We need to do better at addressing issues that are at the heart of our division. We are the only people with real answers and we must find a way to encourage healthy, civil debate and be able in wisdom to turn the conversation to the only real hope: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let’s be committed to pray for our country, pray for our incoming President — Donald Trump, his new Administration, and our Congress. Let’s be the best citizens that we can be by living out the Christian life in clear and compelling ways.

 

Go Experience the Church on Mission

Our church does not just have a mission; it exists for the mission of God. That mission is to make Christ known to all people in the world. I love what past movements have said about missions, “The whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world.”

In the past we have focused our role in missions on the “sending side” of missions. This is where we challenge the church to give, to pray, to surrender, and to encourage those that we send to take the gospel to the world. This year, our focus is the whole church being able to go! Our focus is on giving as many mission trip opportunities that we can, so our people go and experience missions in a short- term environment.

I have had the privilege of taking many missions trips over the years. Here is why I am excited about challenging our people to consider a missions’ trip:

*I have never been on a mission field where the spiritual impact did not stay with me for weeks or months.
*Seeing the church in another context gives me a deep appreciation for all that we enjoy in America.
*Prioritizing my time and money in order to do a missions’ trip will have a lasting impact in the way that I use my time and money on a regular basis.
*Going on a trip is an act of faith in many ways (getting out of your comfort zone, raising the money, etc.).
*The impact that you make on the missionary that you visit will likely stay with you for a long period of time.

This Sunday, on both campuses, we will continue the focus on World Missions. We will be taking an offering for our missionary guests and we are going to challenge you to sign up for a missions’ trip this coming year. If you are still considering missions in the coming year, I would encourage you to explore options here and you can talk with our missions pastor, Greg Mann, at gmann@tbc.org.

Go – Experience Church on Mission on a Short-Term Mission Trip

The theme of our global missions emphasis this upcoming year is, Go – Experience Church on Mission. In a very intentional and strategic way, we desire to mobilize 100 of our people to participate in short term mission trips this year. Personally, I don’t know of a single more effective tool to thoroughly transform a church than through well-planned, strategic, short term mission trips.

Recently I had the opportunity to ask a couple of our global partners, Steve and Amanda, to share a few of their thoughts on short-term missions. Their answers were both insightful and encouraging. Amanda’s first short-term missions experience came at the tender age of just 7 years old. She shares, “A desire to go on mission trips was instilled in my life when I was a child. I was 7 when I went on my first missions’ trip. Because my family made it important when I was young, I have never had any fears or hesitations.” Amanda’s story should remind us all of the importance of building in the home a healthy perspective of missions at a very early age.

Over the years, I have found that God will often speak to people on a short-term mission trip unlike any other time. Steve echoes that observation with the following, “Every short term trip has revealed something that God has continued to use in our lives today. Experiencing God outside of our normal routine is an awesome way to expand our world-view of God and how He is always at work.” There is something profound in getting ourselves “outside of our normal routine,” where God has our attention. Amanda adds, “My faith increases every time; the more you go on trips the more you will want to go.” If that is true, and I believe it is, imagine a church where 100 or more of its members have a faith-growing experience through short-term missions. Can any of us even imagine what God might do in and through TBC after a year of mobilization and growing our faith?

The value of a well-planned mission trip is significant and eternal – for all parties involved. Yet there are many who still have a fear or hesitation about traveling and/or ministering in a new place. Steve suggests to us that we ought to, “Pray, pray, and pray some more. We get 5 personal friends to pray for us even now over short-term trips because we really believe that is what will make the biggest impact and bring peace on short-term trips.”

In conclusion, there is no substitute for personal presence in the lives of those who need Jesus the most. Amanda observes, “The eye affects the heart. Every short-term trip has opened my heart and made the world smaller simply because I went and my eyes saw.” Not only are those who need Jesus changed forever, but it is also those who respond to the prompting to go who are changed as well.

Election Matters

In the next few days, God willing, we will have chosen a new President of the United States of America. This election, unlike any other in my adult life has brought about a great deal of angst, disgust, and discussion both on social media and in person. While I wish we were presented different candidates, I actually think this can be positive for the church on many levels. It is an opportunity for us to have to teach people to think for themselves, instead of just telling them what to do or who to vote for. 

In 2012, I read an interesting blog that was largely based on a Pew Research paper discussing generations and their voting views. The study specifically referenced young evangelical voters and how they are trending toward a belief that a larger government is preferred. The idea is that they have yet to see an institution rise that is capable of addressing the challenges that we face as a nation.

The reality is that young people face legitimate concerns about their future, about poverty, health care, education, and national security. You could add to the list now, a concern over the character of those that aspire to political office. The Scriptures remind us in Proverbs 29:2 that, “When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice and when the wicked beareth rule the people mourn.” 

I see this as an opportunity for the church to step into the void created by government and begin to speak with clarity and conviction on the issues that matter based on the authority of the revealed Word of God. It should be obvious to us that when the church fails to offer solutions that address the needs in society, people will naturally look to the government to solve those same problems and provide for a better future. 

In an election that is critical on many levels and confusing for many different reasons, I want to offer some observations that will help you to think through how you are going to vote in this election.

• There is no single candidate that will champion every issue that we deem to be important – every candidate has flaws. While this is not necessarily new; it is just more evident than in the past because of media coverage and social media availability.
• The culture that we are living in is increasingly becoming hostile to the gospel and traditional biblical values (traditional marriage, sexual identity, etc.)
• There seems to be much more media bias that fuels the divide between more liberal, progressive views and more traditional conservative views.
• You can speak against the behavior or conduct of a candidate and still vote for him/her.
• Criticism of a candidate regarding a position or a character concern does not automatically equal an endorsement for another candidate.
• You can disagree with other people’s decision on who to vote for in the election and still remain friends.
• In voting for a candidate, you need to consider the overall over all policy platform.
• Finding candidates objectionable does not mean that you cannot vote on other issues.

Remember, as the world becomes more secular and less amenable to Biblical values you are going to have to adapt without compromising your integrity or the your spiritual convictions. Consider Daniel, Joseph, and Esther, each of them were engaged in the public square (political life) and had to accept some degree of cultural engagement before they reached a line that they would not cross.

In the end, I know that God remains in control and He is Sovereign even over those that rise to power. This is why we pray. Prayer is the ultimate recognition that there is a power and throne above earthly powers and rulers. Psalm 75:6–7 “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another.” 

Perhaps most importantly, how we live the day after the election as people that do not belong to this earth, but whose citizenship is in heaven may well be the greatest witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. How you vote matters; how you live after the vote matters even more.
Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Living on Mission

As someone who is passionate about helping people to live on mission, I love when I see people from our church using their gifts and passions as a way to have a gospel influence on others. Recently, I was walking across campus and saw one of our teachers being followed by a line of elementary aged girls looking like they were on a mission. The teacher, Lauren Hollenbeck, had just completed a 31 mile, 50k race the weekend before. I asked her about the race and what she was doing with the girls. The story was so compelling I wanted to share it as a source of encouragement.

Lauren and her husband, Daniel, are faithful members of Trinity and she has been teaching at Trinity Christian Academy since graduating from Trinity Baptist College in 2006. Five years ago, she began running recreationally, which has grown into both a passion and a platform for ministry. She established a Christian running club for young girls, called GROW. It is an acronym for Girls Run Our World. They meet twice a week in the fall and spring, begin with devotions, exercise (helping the girls to build up to running a 5k), and end with a healthy snack. In the fall, they have a costume run on campus and in the spring they support the Brady Kinder 5k run.

Lauren saw the need to get children outside and get exercise.  Remember, she is also a busy mom. She wanted to teach girls that they can be active and have fun at the same time. With over 50 girls from 1st to 5th grade participating, she has a captive audience that she is molding and shaping into successful and active young ladies.

We ought to all be passionate about helping people find and follow Jesus. Using your interests as a platform to help others is a great life investment and ministry strategy. Remember that your talents were uniquely gifted to you by the Creator. Like Lauren, you can find a way to turn your passion into Kingdom work.