How do you have eternal life? The answer is to love the Lord with your mind, heart and soul in addition to loving your neighbor as yourself. How much am I to do and who is my neighbor? Do you help everyone or just people like you? Anyone who needs your help is your neighbor and there are endless opportunities each day to help others. Acts of kindness can be as simple as letting someone go ahead of you at the checkout or saying an encouraging word to someone that seems sad. Ministry happens in everyday life. As you travel through your day, become aware of Jesus and the people around you. Who is God saying to notice and who can you serve today? Listen to your heart because when God speaks to you, you will feel it. Compassion comes from within. It is a strong feeling in your gut for a person, group of people or a certain cause. What moves you? Is it the homeless, the elderly, people with addictions or our Veterans? Focus your attention on those you feel passionate about. You can’t do everything, but do what you can. You need work within your personal time, energy and financial limits. Pastor Jack concluded by giving out pocket crosses to keep in your right pocket. When you complete an act of kindness then change the cross to your left pocket. This is a reminder to be alert, observant and that each day is a mission to help those in need.
Pastor Jack asked us what gifts do we give our children? There are many things that come to mind, but Pastor Jack focused on three gifts. The first is faith. As a parent you are there to meet the needs of your children. By always being there for them no matter what, you are laying the foundation for trust. Faith happens as we experience everyday life with our children. Take every opportunity possible to talk to your kids, pray with them at mealtime and tell them why you believe in God. Begin this process when they are young. You have spiritual authority over your children. The next gift is hope. Children are naturally hopeful, but it’s nice to have something to look forward to. One way to do that is by setting aside time each week to celebrate as a family and do something special. A little bit of hope can get you through those stressful times. Take the time to encourage your children and help them to discover their calling in life. You can help shape their dreams by telling them things they would be good at. The last gift is love. You begin bonding with your child just minutes after they are born. That is when you know what unconditional love feels like. Love that is full of grace and comes without expectations or strings attached. That is the kind of love that we receive from God. Love can be expressed through meaningful touches and expressed verbally. We are not perfect parents, but there are always good gifts that you can give your children no matter what their age.
Pastor Jack continued the Christmas sermon series by giving Mary’s point of view on giving birth to our Savior. He broke it down into three points, which were the amazing announcement, assignment and acceptance. An angel came to the Virgin Mary and told her she will give birth to a son who will be named Jesus. That announcement was an absolute miracle because it meant God was becoming a human being. When the prophets spoke of God being empathic to our suffering, it was helpful but we didn’t really understand. God became sympathetic when He came in human form. Now we know that He understands our suffering. It was important that God came as a person, because the real problems in life involve people and relationships. God will enter our lives and help us with them.
Often times God will choose the most unlikely and weak people to do His work. When you realize that you need help because you can’t do everything alone, then there is room for God to come in. God doesn’t wait for perfection. The redemption of the world was given to a teenage girl. God trusted Mary and Mary probably thought how could this be happening to me? The acceptance of this assignment came with some serious consequences. Mary would be considered an outcast and a sinner for having a child out of wedlock. She would lose her engagement and be disowned. She would have to become a prostitute or beg in order to survive. Mary was a servant of the Lord so she accepted this assignment and everything that came with it. It may not have been what she wanted, but by understanding that God had put her there, she was able to experience joy. Mary knew it was going to be ok because God will always bless a decision to accept His will.
How do you transition from how can this be to may it be? You make the decision that you would rather be in God’s will than apart from Him. You may not want to go in that direction, but you accept that is what God wants for you. A death may occur inside you as you let go of your own desires, hopes and plans. Once that happens, you can be born into God’s plan for you. To experience peace, joy and the true meaning of life you need to let Christ in.
Pastor Jack told a story about an incident that Jesus was involved in early on in his ministry. Jesus was invited to a dinner party at the home of a Pharisee named Simon. A woman, who was a known prostitute in the town, showed up at the party crying for her sins. She began to weep and her tears fell on His feet. The woman proceeded to wipe His feet with her hair, kiss them and pour perfume on them. It was an awkward situation. As Simon watched the woman, he thought that she didn’t belong in his home as he never associated with those type of people. Simon viewed her as below him and put her down. Simon commented to Jesus that if He were a prophet then He would know this woman is a sinner. A prophet had two jobs and one of them was to point out sin. The other job that Simon forgot about, was to proclaim the forgiveness of God on people.
Jesus told a story in response. It was about two people that owed money to a lender. One owed 50 days wages and the other owed 500 days wages. Neither of the people had the money to pay him back, but he forgave the debts of both. Then Jesus asked which one would love the moneylender more? Simon answered the one who had the biggest debt forgiven and Jesus agreed. The woman had given Jesus water for His feet and kisses since she arrived at the house. Simon had not. We compare and categorize people all the time to make ourselves feel better. The bottom line is that both Simon and the woman were in the same category because they both had sins. The only difference is that the woman’s were more obvious and Simon’s were hidden behind a cloak of respectability. Both of them are debtors. Jesus had called Simon out.
There are times when we get down on ourselves and feel unworthy, unattractive and unloved. It’s difficult to love others when feeling that way because if there is not enough love for yourself, then how can you possibly share? Being fearful that there is not enough love to go around can cause you to hoard it for yourself. God says there is plenty of love to give away and still have enough left for you as the supply is endless. God is there to answer prayers, take care of you, and guide you. When you know how much you are loved, then you are able to love. Ask Jesus to fill you with an awareness of His love for you so it will spill over. The need to hoard is gone when you realize how much you are loved. That feeling occurs when you recognize that God’s grace is for you and that He will pour unlimited blessings into your life. You can act generously when you feel rich. If you feel poor, you will act poorly and that is when it’s hard to love.
There are times in life when you have to make a decision and you choose not to take the risk at that point, only to wish later on that you had. God calls you to take risks in life for His cause. Those that do will be rewarded and those that play it safe will be punished. Pastor Jack told the story of Jesus becoming King and how He gave ten of His servants mina, which is money equal to 100 days of wages. Jesus instructed them to “put His money to work” until He came back. One servant kept the money hidden as he was afraid of Jesus and the other servants invested the money making a profit. Those that took the risk were rewarded by Jesus and the one that played it safe had the money taken away.
When you go through life playing it safe, you spend most of your time trying to avoid things. You want to avoid sin, conflict and problems. What ends up happening is that you never get around to doing anything with your life. When you take a risk it shows your faith in God. Even if you fail, He will still honor you because you took the chance. You will succeed because betting on God is a safe bet. He always wins. The only way to grow your faith is by taking risks. There is no challenge by playing it safe. By taking risks you learn to trust God more. God is watching to see how you respond to challenges and opportunities. If you are patient, work hard, and remain faithful then you will be rewarded down the road.
There are times in life where your faith may waiver. You may feel unworthy or that you are not a good enough Christian. There may be times that you feel God doesn’t accept you. Jesus is always going to be the Lord of your life. He is there for you regardless of how you feel. In the story Pastor Jack told, the mina represents your life. Life is a generous gift that is on loan to you. God has given you this life to use for His purpose. God should be at the center of your life and if He is not, then what is?