This past week, a friend of mine texted me a question that ended up turning into a Wednesday Night Bible Study for our prayer meeting. I thought I would share it with the rest of you who were not at prayer meeting. My friend, a fellow pastor, wrote an article called 5 Things Your Pastor Wants for Christmas. (He actually quotes me in the article). It got me thinking and then praying - what would I want for you, the good people of FBC Shawnee. So here is my list of 5 prayers for you this Christmas season:
5. I pray that you know that life is more about the person you become than the accomplishments you achieve.
Some of you might remember the comedy series "Everybody Loves Raymond." Much of that comedy came out of Ray Ramano's own experience of living in his parent's basement until his big break happened at 29. When Everybody Loves Raymond was in its final season, Ray was the highest paid actor per episode in television history. Quite a long ways from his parent's basement! On the final day of the show, Ray went out to greet the audience and he pulled out a note that his brother had written him before moving to New York. With tears in his eyes, Ray Ramano read the letter which included Matthew 16:26 "What good is it to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul." Many of you have achieved great accomplishments. The Kingdom of God is not as concerned with those as it is the state of your soul. Who are you ruled by?
4. It's OK to not be OK.
Sometimes church culture can lend itself to faking. We put on our Sunday best, place a smile on our face and rejoice in the Lord always, when inside our soul is wasting away. The only problem with that is the Bible. The Bible contains most honest exploration of the human soul. For instance, the Psalmist cry out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22). Jesus quotes and prays this Psalm up on the cross. It's OK to not be OK. Even the Son of God had times of deep grief and anxiety. Just be honest. You will be loved here. But also remember . . .
3. You are an unceasing spiritual being with a destiny in God's great universe.
Ok, so I didn't come up with that. That line is from Dallas Willard, one of my mentors from afar. His mother died when he was 2 years old. Her dying words to her husband were, "Keep eternity in front of the children." It is ok to not be ok, but also remember that this is just temporary. Because of the life of Jesus, we have the promise of life in the world to come. This in no way minimizes suffering, but gives us hope that through suffering God weaves meaning and purpose.
2. Don't be in such a hurry.
Hurry is the greatest enemy to a spiritual life with Jesus today. I was speaking to one of our kids a few weeks ago and just asking about life. She answered with one word, "Busy." Then she told me her schedule. I got tired just hearing it. It's one thing to be busy, but another to hurry through life, missing the Kingdom of God when it is in front of you.
1. Our God is With us, Immanuel
Matthew tells us that we shall call Jesus "Immanuel," which means God with us. This has become a theme in the life of my family with the tragedies that we have walked through this year. However, God truly is with us. There is suffering, sin, and pain in this world. But God has not abandoned you or this world. One of my favorite hymns is "This is my Father's World." The last verse starts off with "This is my Father's world. O let me ne'er forget. That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet."
I hope that you are having a blessed Advent Season. I love you and see you Sunday.