Keep the Wonder

I loved the first time my kids saw Christmas lights. Each of them, when they were first old enough to speak, stared with wide eyes and let out a whispered, “Wow!” We go to see the lights again and again during the Christmas season. Most of us adults, though, have seen the lights and no longer feel that sense of awe. This tends to happen when we see something again and again. We can develop that same familiar attitude toward Christmas. We have heard the story so many times. We have so many things to keep busy with. And we have all of that stuff to buy and extra hours to work to afford it. Christmas can become only marginally more special than the rest of the year. Fight that familiarity! Cultivate wonder in your family! We are celebrating the Incarnation, the moment where God openly broke into our reality. The Divine Word became flesh and lived among us. We were too far from God to get back to him and too blind by sin to find him, but he made the first move. He came to us. He stepped into the mess of our rebellion and loved us and gave us a way back to himself, regardless of how far we had run. That’s crazy! That’s huge! That’s good news! Wow! Meditate on this truth daily during the holiday season. Pause and stare with awe at the goodness of God. Build your celebrations around this truth, constantly lifting it up before your family. Do good to others that they might taste the love of God. Pack your world with beauty so we can constantly bask in the beauty of God. Let’s keep looking at the Light and whispering, “Wow!”


Undivided Lives

Most of us live to compartmentalized lives. We have our Christian parts of our life and our not-so-spiritual parts of our life. God is present in all of our moments and we can live with him in all of them, but many of us buy into this false idea that only a select few practices are “spiritual”.
 
When we believe in this division, we live a divided life. We try to find a balance of required “spiritual” things like praying and reading our Bibles, and “unspiritual”, but necessary, things like going to work and cooking dinner. Trying to balance this divided life will wear you out. God did not intend this.
 
Rather than trying to strike this balance, we can live whole lives totally centered on Jesus, finding him in every moment. We can do all things in his presence, by his power, for his glory. In fact, those things we consider more spiritual, such as praying and reading the Bible, serve to help us develop a closeness with God that we continue to abide in while we go about our daily lives. In this way of living, we find rest and peace.
 
Through September, the teens on Wednesdays will be learning how to tear down the compartments and open their whole lives up to God. Each week, they’ll bring home a sheet with some practices to implement. Take a look at it and discuss it with them. You may find some practices that would be beneficial for you to work into the regular rhythm of your family.


Read the Bible Aloud with One Another

Twenty-some years ago I sat in a church leader conference of four or five thousand people. I assume all of us gathered to hear great preaching by some very well-known ministers, and we were not disappointed — the messages we heard were inspiring — but I cannot remember any of those messages but one. The memorable one came from a young man wearing a white robe (he looked like the Jesus pictures you often see in church), who simply took the stage and recited the entire Sermon on the Mount, from memory. It was the best sermon of the night and I’ve never forgotten it.
Every pastor or small group leader wants the people he or she leads to become disciples of Jesus. Every Christian parent wants their child to follow Jesus and find an abundant life, rather than a disastrous life. The living God has equipped us for this divine and noble task: He has given us the Bible and He wants us to read aloud to one another. Church leaders are to read it to their students and parents are to read it to their children. “Is that it?” you ask. No, there’s more to making disciples and raising children than just reading the Bible aloud to them, but that is a BIG part of it, and far too often neglected.
Recently I heard about Bill, a New York City office manager who invited his associates to come into his office at lunchtime to listen to the Word of Promise audio Bible. Bill gave no comment or sermon at the end of lunch; each one just listened, then went back to work. Here’s my point: the Bible was designed to be read aloud in community for the purpose of transformation. Why not invite people to your home or space at work to simply hear the Bible read aloud? YouVersion, ESV Bible, and Dwell are a few of the apps available to assist anyone in having the Bible read aloud.
The Lord God instructed Moses to regularly read the Law to Israel (Exodus 24:7). To begin His public ministry, Jesus read aloud from the Book of Isaiah in the synagogue. Paul instructed Timothy to “devote himself to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13). The most practiced spiritual disciple in the Bible is reading the Bible aloud in community. If we do likewise, it may be the thing that does the most good for others, and what others remember most about us.
 
Grace & Peace, Bob Paddock


Guard Against Every Kind of Greed

Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own. — Luke 12:15

Jean Paul Getty, the world’s richest private citizen, amassed more than $25 billion (by today’s standards) before his death in 1976 — financially wealthy beyond comparison, but spiritually and relationally bankrupt. His greed led to a strong distrust of people and five failed marriages. Getty was also infamous for his frugal ways: for example, he washed his own clothes, reused stationary, installed a pay phone for guests in his Sutton mansion, and when his grandson J. P. Getty III was kidnapped, he negotiated the ransom from $17 million down to $3 million. His grandson never fully recovered from the five-month kidnapping, and the trauma eventually led him to drug addiction and death. Greed will always leave a wide wake of destruction in its path.

The essence of greed is to hoard God-provided resources for selfish desires. Material things often create the greatest test of our devotion as Christians. Greed reveals that we see ourselves as owners rather than stewards. Jesus instructs us to guard against greed because it works in a stealthy manner, distorting reality. Jesus’ parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16–20) illustrated how a wealthy farmer’s greed kept him from sharing with those in need and fooled him into thinking he would live in luxury for many years. But the farmer dies in greed and loses everything.

Jesus follows this parable with a statement that provides the very best security against the attack of greed: “[be] rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). Greed is overcome through investing in the Kingdom of God. The Christian makes deposits in His Kingdom through acts of mercy, sacrifice, generosity, worship, service, and faithfulness.

“The meek shall inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights,” Getty famously said, revealing how greed corrupts a person’s worldview and mocks the Creator God.  As followers of Jesus, our worldview has both earthly justice and eternity in sight. Be on guard against greed and be rich toward God.

Blessings, Bob Paddock



Tend the Garden

On Wednesday nights, we recently finished going through the book of Genesis with the teenagers. One of the big themes we focused on was humanity’s special identity and purpose. We all bear the image of God, and with that special identity comes the important task of tending the garden. God gave humanity the privilege of ruling alongside him, of making sure that his will was done in creation. Jesus renewed this original calling for humanity in the Great Commission.
 
After finishing the series, we have spent time examining our present world, how it is in line with God’s will, how it is out of line, and what we can do to make things better. Our actions, big and small, can push things closer to or further from the way God intends things to be. If kids go without food, we can start a backpack program at a school to provide for them. If our schools have lonely people, we can befriend them. If a person loses everything in a fire, we can lead the charge in rounding up supplies to provide for them.
 
We have received an exciting role as citizens of the Kingdom of God. Join with your kids in learning to recognize the areas in our day to day lives in which we can bring the light of Christ into a situation and make the world a little bit better.


My Identity Found in Christ

Finding our identity in Christ can seem like some mystical process comparable to becoming a Jedi knight, but it’s really not difficult or complicated, because the Holy Spirit directs our steps if we simply follow his lead. When the two would-be disciples Andrew and John showed curiosity by following Jesus, He turned to them and asked, “What do you want?” That question underlies almost every other question Jesus asks.

In his book You Are What You Love, James K. A. Smith penned, “Our wants and longings and desires are at the core of our identity, the wellspring from which our actions and behaviors flow.”

Pay attention — this is important: finding our identity in Christ and becoming a disciple of Jesus (a Christian) go hand in hand.  Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, fasting, living in Christian community, generosity, practicing a weekly time of Sabbath rest, and attending weekly worship, cultivate our new identity. Each of these disciplines puts us under the influence of the Holy Spirit, which steadily extracts our corrupted nature and rebuilds the new person in the likeness of Jesus. Church people call that process “sanctification”.

A great many would-be disciples fail to find their identity in Christ because their connection with Jesus is more like adding chrome to a Harley, redecorating their house, or adding a new Christian playlist to their Spotify account. Surface treatments never result in transformation. Finding your identity in Christ requires a change of heart and action.

Quoting James Smith once more: “So discipleship is more a hungering and thirsting than a knowing and believing.” As we align our desires to God’s (mercy, justice, forgiveness, etc.), we will super-naturally identify more with Jesus. Our goal is to fully match our desires to God’s desires.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you submit. Make yourself available to watch and learn from other disciples. Our desire grows with our doing, so practice your faith, and in the process your identity in Jesus will become more evident.

Grace & Peace, Bob Paddock



Be Still

Our world has more noise than ever before. We have grown so accustomed to it that most of us can’t tolerate sitting in silence with nothing consuming our attention. We have a constant pseudo-connection with our friends, a buffet of television and media to consume at any moment, teenagers consume more than 24 hours of media a day. All of this can be good and fun in moderation, but when we fall into an uncontrollable binge of it, the result is no better than any other sort of binge. Our media binges leave no time for deep thinking about anything. Not having to sit through quiet moments makes us highly prone to boredom which drives us further into the rut of seeking that next hit of entertainment. Less free time leaves us less capable of creativity. A life spent bouncing from one passive consumption of media to the next leads to looking back on large swaths of time spent doing nothing of value leaving us unfulfilled and unsatisfied. And the person with no quiet moments to spare undoubtedly lacks any sort of participation in spiritual discipline.
As parents, make time where the thunder of outside voices gets silenced. Set up times and places where the tv doesn’t come on and the phones don’t come out. Set aside a specific period, maybe even a day a week, in which we don’t use our screens. Enjoy a day out in nature. Help your kids learn a skill or hobby that isn’t reliant on screens and content creators. Talk face to face and develop the conversation skills that young people increasingly lack. Grapple with big issues and develop critical thinking. Pray. Meditate. Read. Exercise.
 
Lead on this parents. After all, study after study shows that our screen addiction is actually worse than our kids’.
Larry Hunt, Student Minister


Mercy

This is an interesting process for me. Writing a newsletter article to go with my word/topic for the month isn’t as easy as you’d think. What I do on Facebook every morning is finding God’s words and various song writers’ words about the word/topic of the month. I enjoy reading many different variations on a theme (and I hope those who are following are, also). It’s amazing how many different ways you can talk about (sing about) a particular topic and it opens your eyes sometimes…kinda’ like how you can read a Bible passage over and over, for years and years, and suddenly “ding ding ding” it makes sense or you have a whole new understanding of it. But to sit down and think about the word/topic, and write out my own thoughts, memories or opinions is a bit more difficult. Hopefully it’s making me more aware of things I should be doing…..or not doing!
 
My word/topic for February is MERCY. An appropriate topic for the month of February when the world tends to focus on love (Valentine’s Day), don’t you think? One dictionary defines mercy as “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm” and “an event to be grateful for, especially because its occurrence prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering”. Hmmm….do I practice this? In some instances, particularly in the past, not so much. I may not have physically done something to harm someone, but I definitely have thought of all sorts of creative ways that it’d be nice to get back at those who’ve done things to me or to those I love. Pretty sure this falls in the same category as “…anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28 NIV) and “ ‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.’“ (Matthew 5:21 and 22a NIV)
 
Are we really showing forgiveness to those who do us wrong? Would we be there to help them if they fell on hard times? Are we truly praying for them? And I don’t mean praying for God’s judgment to fall on them either….y’all know exactly what I mean! Are we following God’s directive “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44 NIV)? This month (and ever afterward), let’s all actively work to put this concept into practice. Let’s look for ways to show mercy to those folks that we believe have wronged us. I’d be interested to hear how this works out. Shoot me an email evidencetech@juno.com or let me know when we see each other. Would love to share and celebrate how God works!!
 
Tia Harmon, Administrative Assistant


Elevate Your Compassion

Since the Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade in 1973, 58 million children have been killed through abortion and today one in three women have suffered through an abortion. In Virginia 51 abortions occur every day. I pray the following points in bold will assist the Church to elevate our conversation and compassion for unborn children and their pregnant mothers.
 
Preborn people are people. From the first moment of fertilization the child has her own DNA, distinctly different for her father and mother. The child’s heartbeat often begins 16 days after conception. Abnormalities that begin inside the womb can often self-correct and babies born long before due dates can survive. Babies who survive abortion should convince everyone preborn babies are people. Gianna Jessen, a survivor of a saline abortion two months before her due date, educates groups all over the world on the issue of abortion. Mother Teresa said this after hearing Gianna’s story, “My prayer . . . for all who listen to her, is that this message of God’s love will put an end to abortion with the power of love.” Listen to her story at (www.giannajessen.com) and share it with others.
 
Young mothers, especially the unwed, need loving support. There’s nothing more beautiful to see a church reach out to support a single mom and nothing more tragic when a church only offers condescending judgment. The single parent needs love in action.  Recently a first time single mom shared with me the overwhelming support she and her baby received through several churches and how it gave her courage to not give up and deepened her faith in God. Each year at Cornerstone we raise support and awareness for the Martinsville Pregnancy Care Center (www.pregcc.com), which offers love and resources including sonograms to mothers in need and other mothers considering abortion.
 
Millennials are passionate about social justice. In a recent Barna survey 53% of millennials agree that abortion should be made illegal in all or most circumstances. And in a 2010 Gallup poll found that “support for making abortion broadly illegal was fastest growing among young adults.” A few of the reasons for this cultural shift include younger generations include: a reduced stigma toward single parent families in which many grew up, exposure of the dark industry of Planned Parenthood and they come from a generation which believes they can enact change through social media.
 
One day the courts may reverse Roe vs. Wade, but that won’t eliminate the needs of the unborn and their mothers and fathers. The crisis of an unplanned pregnancy creates an opportunity for the Church show God’s love in a life changing way.  We read in James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

 

Blessings, Bob Paddock



When Wrong Turns Happen

“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.” C.S. Lewis The Great Divorce
 
I have been attending a women’s Bible study in Danville.  The drive there each week consists of many twisted backroads that make you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.  I have finally mastered all the turns on the way there, without using my GPS!  However, on the way back I almost always miss the first turn.  I don’t know why.  It comes up fast and it is often several minutes before I realize that I must turn around.   On my most recent trip to Bible study I once again missed the turn, but discovered it right away.  I was so proud of myself that it didn’t take as long to turn around that time!
 
I have been parenting for over thirteen years (that’s a story for a different day).  You would think that I should know my way around by now.  That I would know what roads lead to peace in my home and the hearts of my children.  That I wouldn’t often miss turns.  WRONG!!  I still make many of the same mistakes over and over.  I miss signs of tiredness, needs for attention, hunger…. all things that might contribute to a child acting differently than if those needs were met.  
 
God has grown my heart in repenting with my children.  There was a time when I would hold on to anger and be unwilling to yield.  I am happy to say that often now after I make that wrong turn in parenting I realize quickly that I need to turn around.  I stop, take a minute and pray.  I ask God to tell me what to say to the child that I need to ask for forgiveness from for my harsh tone, unwillingness to listen or quickness to anger.  I am thankful to God that He helps me get back on the right road.  “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Romans 12:18 “Pursue peace…looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble.” Hebrews 12: 14-15

Because of Jesus,

Michelle Clinton Children’s Minister

Proverbs 3:5-6