December 18, 2017 |How do you celebrate the “Reason for the Season”?
 
There’s no doubt that we make our home in the midst of a culture that is very secularized, commercialized, and has all but ostracized Jesus from Christmas. But I’m beginning to feel a cultural shift in which people of faith are pushing against the culture-war surrounding the “holidays”.

While shopping for Christmas gifts this month, many of the salespeople have greeted me with a warm “Merry Christmas“. Recently, I watched a news report of the uproar that came in response to a billboard paid for by an atheist activist group.
 

So in all of our family Christmas celebrations, how should Christians balance the secular and the spiritual traditions? How do we allow our fun family Christmas traditions to not distract from the real reason for the season? What do you think?

Personally, I love this time of the year! From all of the festive decorations, special Christmas scented candles, the Christmas music (Frank and Bing play non-stop in my office), to my personal favorite: Starbuck’s Mocha Mint Latte (don’t knock it until you try it). Our house has three elves that sit on our shelves (count ’em, three). Our tree is full of lights and ornaments from our childhoods. And Santa spoils our children with gifts to open Christmas morning. And while our family lauds in all of these fun traditions, we are also careful to focus our hearts on Jesus as the first reason we celebrate Christmas.

When I ask my three children what Christmas is about, they quickly respond with excitement that “Santa Claus is coming”. Rather than offer correction, we use this as an opportunity to give direction. We share with our children that Santa is great because he brings us presents. But the bigger reason that we celebrate Christmas is that it’s Jesus’ birthday (they understand this because they love birthdays too and our oldest daughter’s birthday is two days before Christmas). We tell our children that the reason Jesus was born is so our sins can be forgiven and we can go to be with him in heaven (we tell them that even if they still don’t quite understand this part yet).

Here’s something I’ve learned about my kids: if I say it often enough, they accept it as truth, even if they don’t understand it. If I talk about Santa more at Christmas than I do Jesus, then guess what Christmas is all about?

Here’s my point… I’m a sinner. On my best day, I deserve hell. I do not want my kids growing up thinking “dad thinks he’s perfect”. So I say “I’m sorry” a lot to them when I’ve made mistakes. You see I want my kids to grow up realizing that we all make mistakes and we need forgiveness. And Christmas is the time of the year we can focus on the forgiver – Jesus. Jesus’ birth ultimately leads to the cross. You cannot have one without the other.

So make Christmas a time for sharing Jesus. Not just His birthday, but His very reason for coming in the first place. Tell your kids why Jesus’ birth is so wonderful for you as a Christian – that He has saved you from your sins. For me, this brings a clear sense of anticipation and expectation on the real reason for the season.

Merry Christmas,

Pastor Ashton

 
December 11, 2017 |Because He loves, We love
You remember the children’s song “Jesus Loves Me”, don’t you? Even if you didn’t grow up in Church, you probably know how the song ends … “the Bible tells me so.”

And while this is true, I’ve been around the church long enough to observe that this is our answer for many of the questions we have about our faith … “the Bible tells me so.” Think about a question you’ve had about your faith. “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “Why should I pray if God already knows what I’m thinking?” “Why should I forgive someone who has hurt me so badly?” Why…why…why… “Because the Bible tells me so.”

I’ve known many who spent time in the church asking these types of honest questions who were given the pat answer, “the Bible tells me so”…you just have to believe it. And while the answer is true, it may not be so helpful for someone who has yet to believe that the Bible is true.

So the question I want to ask you to consider is this: If a person doesn’t believe that the Bible is true, how will they know that God loves them? Or what about the person who has never been taught the truth of the Word of God (like you and I have), how will they know that God loves them? For them our answer, “the Bible tells me so” remains insufficient.

Allow me to give you my answer to the question that I’ve asked. God displays His love to an unbelieving world through His believers. For the Christian love must be more than academic. The truth of God’s love must become action in the way we live. This is what the Apostle John was saying when he wrote 1 John 4:9-12: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

Because He loves, We love. And Church, I want to encourage you because you are so wonderful at this. You are helping over 30 kids wake up Christmas morning with presents to open — Because He loves, We love. You serve an amazing, home-cooked meal for families after the funeral of a loved one — Because He loves, We love. You pack backpacks every single week for about 50 kids to have food at home over the weekend — Because He loves, We love. You generously support the ministry of our Church which intentionally ministers to about 60 elementary kids and 30 Jr High & High School students each week — Because He loves, We love.

And I could list dozens of other examples like these. This is an amazing Church which loves other because we have been so loved by God. I simply want to encourage you to keep doing what you’re so good at — loving people with the love of God. In the words of the Apostle John in 1 John 4:17, In this world we are like Jesus. There will be people in your life who don’t know Jesus; and, they’ll one day say, Jesus loves me, this I know, for my friend loved me so. Don’t stop loving like Jesus.

In Christ,

Pastor Ashton

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One Response to “Beyond Sunday”

  1. Nancy perry says:

    Thank you. It’s a pleasure to go to church now.You not only preach from the Bible but also from your heart. If I didn’t know any difference I would think you were Dr Stanley son. I watch him 3 times each week. Keep up the great work and I will be their every Sunday if Lords willing
    God Bless you and your family.

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