November 21, 2017

An Encounter of Peace and Joy – The Simple Christmas Message

In 2013, I faced more twists and turns in the plot of my own life journey than I ever foresaw or expected the previous year. I guess that is how God works to build our faith…surprise challenges that often turn into blessings.

Before my recent move to Corpus Christi, Texas to change career paths with a health conscious nonprofit, I lived in Atlanta, Georgia for a year. I participated in many small group Bible studies with different formats, agendas, and communal activities. I felt that one group overcomplicated a relationship with Jesus, constantly preaching to “go deeper” with each other.

The leaders of this outreach group hired a supposed guru to come teach twenty and thirty something working professionals how to encounter the Holy Spirit with different avenues of personality strengths and preferences. It was deep, philosophical, and exploratory for those who participated in the every-other-week exercise.

That tends to become the focus of many church ministries: to perplex something so simple. I do not interpret God to be a secret formula. Personally I tend to encounter God in many ways and many levels with the simple approach to try. My remedy remains simple: I simply ask God to arrive with the blessing of His Presence in Spirit.

When you come to God on humble bended knee, I think that act of visual servitude invites God into our hearts and into our lives.

I grew weary in this specific past Bible study environment of writing essays, taking assessments, and answering short questionnaires that would “bring me closer to God.” God simply wants us. He does not need mathematical formulas for a life-changing encounter. Just come to Him. Just invite Him in. And God will do the rest.

In past times, I have spent countless hours in search of peace and joy, reading books, memorizing quotes, and researching professional academic opinions. At a Christmas service Monday night while home in Birmingham, Alabama, an old friend and pastor reminded me that God brings those gifts into our lives when we live in step and in Spirit with Him.

An encounter with the Holy Spirit no longer remains perplexing because God sent his son in the form of a manger. Jesus paid the price on the crucifix when he died for our sins. From that point in history forward, all we need to do is request his arrival into our lives, at any moment or any time. With the belief that our salvation remains secure, God shows up in an encounter with joy and peace that can only become experienced in His Precious Presence.

Through the delivery of a divine birth, we are saved. And that miracle makes for a very Merry Christmas with a Savior of uncomplicated proportions.

In the midst of a sometimes hectic holiday, this video reminds us to simply smile and enjoy Christmas moments. Church should be fun….a place we laugh….a place we want to go….somewhere we can build relationships without chemical equations. Perhaps we should sing Christmas carols depicted like this. We do not care what others think because we have a peace and joy that surpasses earthly understanding.

The Significance of Community – My Thanksgiving Blessings, Make It Be Yours As Well!

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

As many of you know or may not know, I am moving to Corpus Christi, Texas, for a new job in development with one of the United States’ largest nonprofit organizations. I am both nervous and excited about the move and growth opportunity. While everything typically works out for our betterment, I must admit I am stressed with packing and numerous wondering thoughts.

What I have come to realize and remain extremely grateful includes my faith communities, many mostly through Grace Midtown Church, located off Northside Drive, near a neighborhood known as English Avenue. I truly never experienced a relational congregation like this one. This Thanksgiving I realize the vital importance of friendship and the blessings I received from those friendships this past year.

I will miss Grace and my fellowship base of believers here in Atlanta! However I remain thankful for each of those I encountered there in the past year.

While I underestimate the power of living, socializing, and experiencing true life with others, Grace Midtown Church serves as a reminder of this breathing source of fresh air in people’s lives, especially in the midst of active adversity in life. To feel the Holy Spirit in communion with others still invigorates me to higher heights.

The following video illustrates the doldrums of a life journey alone. If missing out on the faith community experienced by others, I challenge you to rise out of your rut and come home to a faith family unlike anything you will ever witness before. As we simply say in the south, it will change your life!

Again, watch this video, and let it serve as a test to see where you lie in the spectrum of really living or just existing.