Something you may not know about about the Christmas story

I think I know something about the Christmas story you don’t. But, you’ll have to wait for me to get there.

We start Christmas in our family the moment the Thanksgiving turkey disappears from our plates, and one of my favorite traditions is working through a long list of Christmas movies.

A favorite is any variation of the story of the Ebeneezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim tale called a Christmas Carol. The new computer animated version was the first movie I watched this year, and a single phrase leaped out at me: “He knew how to keep Christmas well.”

I’ve heard how people enjoy, look forward to, and even miss Christmas when it’s over, but I’d never thought about “keeping” Christmas.

So, where is the bit about something I know of the Christmas story that you don’t? Patience, it’s coming.

This leads us to Joseph, not from the Charles Dickens novel, but a character from a much older book: the Bible.

The Joseph I am speaking of is the man from THE Christmas story: the carpenter, the husband of Mary, the stepdad to Jesus. Yeah, that Joseph.
He holds a monumentally significant role in the Christmas story.

First, he was chosen by God to raise the Son of God. What must that background check have been like to make the cut and be picked for team Savior?

Second, he was able to wrestle through the cultural embarrassment of a fiancé who showed up pregnant and claimed the Father was God. Instead of dropping her like a telemarketer’s call at dinner, he responded with gentleness and courage simply because God told him to in a dream.

Third, three kings show up at his door to bring his stepson gifts. But, when that same night God warned him again to take his family to Egypt and keep them safe, he hit the road. Left friends, family, job, everything familiar to take care of that little Boy and His mother.

Fourth, he spent the hard years digging it out and providing for Jesus, helping Him grow up, and teaching Him to become a man. Even as Jesus got left behind at the Temple, it’s a reminder that Joseph took the reigns of spiritually leading his family as Luke 2:41 says, “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.”

You’re probably ready to interrupt saying, “Yes we knew all of this. I thought you said you knew something we all didn’t?”

You’re right, here it is.

Were you aware that in all of these stories, over all of these years service, through numerous interactions that Joseph… is silent.
It’s true. Go back and look at every story. The Bible never records a single spoken work from this epic character.

Mary speaks to him.

Angels speak to him.

The Lord speaks to him.

But, Joseph never says a word. He simply lets his actions speak for his life and heart.

Matthew 1:24 says, “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.”

That’s just how Joseph rolls… a man of action.

I think this is the essence of “keeping Christmas.”

Feelings are good, and words do mean something. But, “keeping Christmas” is about what we do.
What forgiveness can you offer? What sacrifice can you make? What joy can you share? In what way can you go past the words and feelings and begin the practice of “keeping Christmas.”

Merry Christmas to you and yours, and many blessings to you as we “keep Christmas.”

 

Special thank you to the Hutchinson News for printing  this in the Faith section December 9, 2017. 

The thankful part of Thanksgiving

It is that time of year again. Holiday music starting to play, some crisper days with chilly temperatures and the calendar filling up with holiday celebrations.

First up, Thanksgiving.

How are your preparations?

It’s usually at this point in the season that I get sent in as a cleanup hitter to pick up items at the grocery store that were missed in the first pass.

They already got the big stuff: the turkey, the stuffing, and a pie or two. But, we forgot the cranberry sauce (because no one eats that stuff anyway), the celery/olives/pickles that you put out just to make it feel like you’re trying to eat right, and the cream cheese for the last minute cheese ball.

Yep, finishing the list is important if you want to be ready for the big day. I wonder if we make the same effort to be prepared to actually be thankful on this day we called Thanksgiving. I mean, we named the day after thankfulness… I think we should give it a shot.

In fact, I’ve come to believe in studying God‘s word that thankfulness is actually one of the signs of spiritual maturity that let you know you’re making progress. The Apostle Paul was one of those who was thankful no matter the circumstances. Let his words be our guide this holiday season:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Let me start a shopping list for you, not one for you to run to the store and pick up, but one you can assemble right at home in your prayer closet.

If were truly going to be thankful we will need a big cup of self awareness: so many times we are not grateful because we haven’t taken stock of how blessed we are. A few minutes praying through, writing down, or speaking out loud the good things that we have and have experienced will sometimes put it in perspective.

I would also grab a couple of cans of expectations. Things may not be exactly the way you want them in the moment, but when you follow the God that I know you’ll soon discovered that you’re being set up… for the next move, for breakthrough, for hope, for blessing. Praying in expectation that God has heard, does love, and will answer… Now that will add Some thankfulness to your holiday.

Also, pick up a big bag of get over yourself. Yeah, maybe not the tone you expect from a holiday article, but come on… you know we need a heaping helping of that. It’s hard to be thankful when we haven’t looked around, and seen the needs of others and not just how blessed we are in comparison, but the joy of seeing how we might be used by God to help in their life.

Looking outward not only get your eyes off of the things that you think are inadequate or troublesome in your own life, but it gives you the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s. I can tell you, one of the best ways to become thankful is to live in a way that makes others thankful.

Sure, there are a few more things that may round out your thankfulness meal, but this is a good starting point.

Let me encourage you as a CrossPointer to remember how blessed we are, let that fill your heart, and take a step or two to share that reason for thankfulness with someone else this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving… I’m thankful for you, I’m thankful for our blessings, and I’m thankful for our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Seeking more of Him and less of me,

Pastor Andy Addis

John 3:30

Note from a spoiled pastor

Yesterday was an epically monumental day. I just need a moment to process with you, if you don’t mind.

First, I had the privilege of preaching at the finest church I know, CrossPoint. As we have been walking through the sermon on the Mount we have had to tackle difficult, controversial subjects. I’m privileged to serve a church that doesn’t become defensive, or look for an easy out. We accept, repent and walk on in grace.

I can’t tell you how rare that is.

Second, we heard 26 testimonies and saw as many baptisms at an outdoor, public gathering of the church. It was devastatingly beautiful. Still reeling from that.

But third (and most significant to me), my youngest son preached his first solo sermon yesterday.

He rocked it.

I could spend the rest of my words here expressing the joy I had in listening to him stand up in a friend’s church to deliver God’s word. I could  try to convey my own nervous tension seeing his name in the bulletin next to the line “preaching of the word.”

I might even reach back and share with you the struggle of the last month and watching him move from excited about the opportunity, to nervous about the coming date, to several text messages asking “Dad, can you meet me at the coffee shop to work on the sermon.” I loved every minute of it.

But, what I really want to share with you is in the picture at the top. Not only did Kathy and I go to hear our son, but many others gathered to be there with and for him as well. And, though there were some ladies as well, I asked for this picture with the men who showed up.

We have strived to be an intergenerational church and I think this picture tells a story.

Starting on the left is Ryan. A servant in the church who has known Nathan from early on. Ryan and his wife have been in our Grow Group  for years meeting at our house, their house and restaurants.  I’ve watched Ryan greet Nathan as a young man long before the world gave him that title.

Second in from the left is Dave, a more recent addition to our Grow Group, but more importantly a student ministry leader deeply invested in Nathan’s class. Not just a Wednesday night commitment, but a prayerful, interested and respected leader believing in the young men of our church.

Third in is Nathan, and next to him is his friend Max. Friends for years through ups and downs, playing music together, skateboarding together, but most importantly worshiping together, leading worship together and wrestling with Scripture as countercultural young men in a dark age.

Next to Max, well that’s me. I’ll bet you can assume I’ve been invested as well.

Near me with my hand on his shoulder, Nathan’s brother and my oldest. They’ve never really gone through the fighting phase, they’ve always shared friends, experiences and life. To hear Noah turn to me after Nathan’s first message and say, “That was amazing” was confirmation enough of a brother who has invested.

Next, Tom is our prayer warrior. This man is not only genuinely steadfast in caring for and praying for my sons. He calls them out for individual conversation every time he sees them. He picks them up to go shopping just so he can talk Scripture with them. He gets in their face and tells them the right way to live. Invaluable.

On the far right, Dave: my son’s student pastor and co-laborer with me at the church. Yes, taking a Sunday off to go sit and listen to one of his students grow. Then affirming him in such a way that he is also willing to develop them further by challenging him to deliver that same message to his own peers back home. Amen.

There is someone not in the picture you also need to see. When I told my church they would have to watch video instead of having their preacher live and in person, I did not expect positive affirmation. But, when I told them I was going to hear my son preach for the first time, they interrupted my announcement for raucous applause. That’s my church!

Of course there are others including mom, wives and such that could be in this picture. There are countless other men who have prayed for, served in ministry and contributed to the life of my son that aren’t pictured here either.  But I wanted you to see what I believe is so important. That generations of men investing in other men is what we need in the church today.

It’s the way church was intended if you read Scripture. Older men helping younger men, younger men respecting  older men. Growing together, stronger together.

Today I’m relishing in the fact that I am a blessed man, a proud father and a spoiled pastor.

Thank you my friends, thank you godly men, and thank you my church.

Psalm 145:4One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.

Here’s a good question…

What do you want me to do for you appears in two different stories, from the mouth of Jesus, back to back in Mark 10… must mean something, eh?

 

 

Thoughts on graduation… help me out

Here’s a podcast on graduation… this is really more for me than it is you. Many blessings:

 

Proverbs 3:5-6 English Standard Version (ESV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Hey pastor, calm down

As I’m preparing for Easter weekend, I was thinking about my fellow pastors who are doing the same all across the country and around the world. It caused me to want to send them a note, but since I don’t know all of them personally, I thought I’d just put it out there and let anyone willing to read listen.

So, here we go… pastor or not, here I come.

For my personal devotional time, I’ve been cycling through the book of Romans. Many of you in the theological “know” will recognize that portions of this book are a battleground for certain theological camps regarding issues of predestination, free will, determinism, free agency of man, Calvinism, Arminianism, reformed… if there’s a title to make you pick a side, it can be applied somewhere here in the book of Romans.

I’ve also thought about all the strained friendships I have over these issues. I tried to recount the endless hours lost in friendly (?) debates. And I remembered numerous side conversations where invisible lines were drawn around people and groups saying so-and-so belongs to ‘that’ school of thought and so-and-so was lost to ‘this’ way of thinking.

Honestly, I was praying through that study and taking a walk around a pond thinking about these things when the Lord put in my mind an image from the not-too-distant past. It was a couple of school-age children at camp who didn’t realize I was overhearing (because eavesdropping sounds too creepy).

They were arguing with one another about God, one struggling to believe and the other confident in his faith. The childhood skeptic had weak arguments that you could tell were repetitious banter heard from some adult that he admired. And, the childhood believer offered unsubstantiated proofs that offered no philosophical underpinnings as to why he believed what he believed.

I wanted to jump in and correct them both, show them the error of their ways… but, I controlled myself since they were children… and it was Rec time at summer camp.

Again, as I’m walking around the pond, this was the image that popped into my mind. I didn’t have to wonder why very long.

The foolishness of their arguments and the silliness of their debate seemed so obvious to me. And, to an infinitely greater degree so must our tiny theological squabbles appear before the enormity of God.

We argue, brood and fight over a 6-inch gap on a theological spectrum that’s a football field long. In no way shape or form can I ever think that the God of the universe is pleased with us. In fact, we probably looked like small children arguing about something they know relatively little about sitting on a wall looking at a pond eating grape snow cones.

This weekend pastors, as we think about what we’re going to share with those crowds who come filing in for the annual remembrance of Easter Sunday, let me remind you of one small verse from Romans that should keep us all in check:

“So do not become proud, but fear.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ro 11:20.

Paul was speaking of Gentiles grafted into the vine that is the kingdom of God. He warned that instead of thinking much of themselves they should remember that broken off branches don’t do anything on their own.

Only the Gardener can save them from the brush pile. So, instead of arrogance… tremble .

I would offer us the same advice.

Don’t worry about astounding the crowds with our theological prowess. Don’t determine that this is the weekend we should establish our doctrinal purity. And, whatever we do, let us not think that we have to impress the crowds this weekend. It’s just like every other weekend when we only have an audience of One.

Instead, drop the pride and come to the podium with some fear and trembling working out your own salvation. Share the message of broken humanity rescued from itself by a loving and amazing God.

Reject the urge to “pull off” a service to make them think that you have the best church since the apostle Paul retired, your worship band is the most gifted crew this side of heaven, and that you are the best preacher they’ve ever heard.

Instead, remind them God is great, even if we must play the fool to make sure they see it.

May this Easter we be the blessing that God wants us to be for those who have yet to hear.

May He increase. May we decrease.

Happy Easter.

Which one is it? Yes.

I have an experience common to many of you.
Raising teenagers, specifically teenage boys, comes with a series of predictable issues and outcomes. 

There will be emergency room visits.

There will be “shenanigans.”

There will be drama.

I guess you don’t even have to be a raiser of teenage boys to know this is true; you just need to be near them, those jokers can eat!

Depending upon what cycle of the growth spurt there in, I cannot tell you which will be higher on any given month, my utility bill or my grocery bill.

A few weeks ago my boys came in from some outdoor summer frolicking. Before they got into the kitchen, I heard from their brotherly conversation that they were “starving.”

Good timing.

Mom had laid out a spread, and I had grilled up brats, dogs, and burgers. It was a teenager summer food dream come true.

As they walked into the room, they both eyed the kitchen table, and I felt a little fear for my life recognizing that I stood between them and the bounty that lay before them.

Mom told them to grab a plate and asked if they wanted a hamburger or a hotdog.

In unison, they both said, “Yes!”

I love that answer because it’s one of my favorite responses… Not either/or, but both/and.

They didn’t want one; they wanted one of each.

I think the church needs to get a good dose of both/and.

We argue about which is right or best and often it’s both.

It’s either traditional or contemporary… what if both were appropriate?

It’s either seeker sensitive or hardline fundamental… what if both had a place?

It’s either Baptist or nothing… well, let’s not get crazy.

Last week I had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of Dr. Claude Thomas. The former pastor of First Baptist Euless, Euless, Tx and now president of C3 Global.

He made an incredible statement that is probably the most important both/and I have heard in a while.

He said, “We (the church) need to grow spiritually, that’s true, but if we do not grow numerically we will eventually become irrelevant.”

True words, life-giving direction, and hard to reproduce.

I think there has long been a belief that we don’t need to be effective as a church as long as we’re faithful. That perspective has lead us down a road where we say that we may not be growing numerically, but we are growing spiritually.

I wonder, has this become an excuse? 

Have we traded in the difficult work of the objective growth of the church numerically as we point to a subjective growth that we want to believe is there?

The truth is, healthy things (spiritual growth) will naturally grow (numerical growth). 

And, didn’t Jesus himself say you will know a tree by its fruit? Fruit is also called produce… because it is something that is produced. 

I’m not arguing for numerical growth over spiritual growth. And, I’m not asking for spiritual growth to be dominant over numerical growth.

In fact, you may ask, “Andy, which one do you want spiritual growth or numerical growth?”

And my answer would be, “Yes!”

The truly healthy church and the truly healthy believer is growing spiritually, and the evidence of that is a fruitfulness in which the believer reproduces, multiplies and adds to the Kingdom.

Honestly, numerical growth is evidence of spiritual growth. And spiritual growth is the predecessor to numerical growth.

It is a both/and.

So step up to the table, the church is famished, and the world is in need. When you’re thinking about the direction of you, your leadership and your church, and that little voice inside your spirit asks which do I pursue… spiritual growth or numerical growth?

The answer is difficult and easy… it’s a both/and. 

The answer is yes. 
————-
Originally published in the Baptist Digest, Oct 2016

Risky Haircuts

I have had the same haircut for 17 years.

First, I know this because I cut off the rebellious ponytail of my youth the same week my first son was born, and he’s 17.

Second, no comments from any of you about not having hair options because of the ‘limited resources’ I am working with as of late. I am aware.

So, back to the beginning. I have had the same haircut for 17 years.

I was pondering this recently as my son and I went for haircuts together. He sat in the chair first, giving direction for the new thing that he desires for the massive mane that God has given him. If you’re picking up on a scent of jealousy…oh yeah, it’s there.

While he was explaining his complex cut I was reflecting on the many iterations of his ‘do.’

As a toddler, he had a mullet. I know some would say that’s abuse, but he saw pictures of me in college and wanted “a haircut like daddy.” Come on, who is going to refuse that?

Then, he had the typical toe-headed little boy cut.

As a preteen, he morphed into a mop that could shame the Beatles.

Out of nowhere, a couple of years ago came the high and tight athletic cut (he looked all the stud).

And, now he’s doing this… thing. I don’t quite understand it: white wall sides and back, then long on top down the middle. We’ve already had the talk that if I ever see the man bun, he’s homeless.

They finished up, and I have to admit he can make any head of hair look good. There’s that jealousy again. I’ll pray about it.

Next, I climbed in the chair, and it’s funny. I don’t recall any conversation. She just started cutting.

Like I said, I have had the same haircut for 17 years.

Maybe I am not just jealous of Noah’s luscious locks. Maybe I am a little jealous of his willingness to take risks. And, I should be.

I think God blesses and encourages the risk taker.

Matthew 25 contains one of the most interesting parables in Scripture concerning a master, his servants, and entrusted resources.

Let’s talk about this in 21st-century terms. The boss goes away giving one guy five bucks, another two bucks, and another one buck.

He gave it to them according to their ability. That’s an interesting note, isn’t it?

The guy with five went out and traded his dollars, doubled down and cashed in big. The guy with two did the same. But, the guy with one went very safe.

He hid it, buried it and protected it. So when the boss came back he could say there was no loss on his watch.

But, the boss’ response was to praise the risk takers and the cautious, conservative operator he called, “You wicked and slothful servant!”

I think the theological term for that is, yikes.

Apparently, the Boss (with a capital B) is looking for the risk takers.

What are you doing to take a risk? Where is your church stepping up and stepping out? Where is your foot landing that will end in failure if God doesn’t show up?

I think that believers today, and consequentially the church, have confused faith with fear, stewardship with doubt, and holiness for the status quo.

We need Godly risk takers who know that betting on God is always a good bet. Who is willing to go big, because there is nothing more important than the calling upon us?

God’s has given us much, so let’s take a flyer. Life’s too short to play it safe.

In fact, I think I’m going to get a mohawk. Well, maybe a reverse mohawk. Just using what I got!

________________________________

This article was originally published in the Baptist Digest… you should check it out:

http://www.baptistdigest.com

An open letter to church planters (and others)

I write this open letter to church planters because of the importance of the work you do, because I have a heart for pioneers and risk takers, and because  I pastor a church that believes in church planting and lives it.

But, the truth is this letter is for pastors, leaders, and believers of all stripes.

This is a dark world and times are (to use the nicest term I can think of) precarious.

These truly are days when people have started to call good things evil and evil things good. Doing the work to which you are called often feels fruitless at best and dangerous at worst.

But you, we, are not alone. The Apostle Paul was a man who obviously knew how to suffer for the sake of the Gospel and kept his joy, even singing in prison. This rock star pastor saw the miracles of God drip from his fingers and proclaimed that any suffering here is light and momentary compared to the eternal glory that awaits.

If I could be completely honest, his strength, determination, endurance and spiritual prowess are so amazing that sometimes… I really dislike him.

That’s why I was drawn to Acts 18.

  • Paul moves from the cosmopolitan, spiritual epicenter of Athens to the dirty, outskirts travel hub of Corinth. Comparatively, this place was a hole.
  • The city was hard and full of sexual dysfunction and immorality.
  • He was broke and had to revert to a day job to support himself.
  • And, the people he was trying to reach with the love of Jesus “opposed and reviled him” (Acts 18:6).

The rejection was so public and defeating that Paul “shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads!’” (Acts 18:6)

It was an obvious low point for Paul, and maybe this says more about my brokenness than his circumstance, but this is where I started to like him again.

He apparently doesn’t wear a cape; this guy bleeds too. Now we can share a cup of coffee and lick our ministry wounds.

But, at just this point in the story, we see one of the rare ‘red letter’ passages in the book of Acts.

18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

I don’t believe we doubt the continual presence of Christ with us, even in the dark times.

I bet most of us don’t struggle with speaking up, even when the world tells us to shut up.

And, most of us have just settled in with the knowledge that attacks will come, and personal loss is a part of the game.

But, did you catch that last part?

“For I have many in this city who are my people.”

I wonder if Paul woke from his vision and said, “Really… where are they?”

Paul couldn’t see them because God was talking about His “already not yet” church. They were unknown, unreached, unconverted, undisciplined, but they were there! When Paul was ready to shake the dust from his feet and move to some place where things were more fruitful, God showed up and allowed him to see through the eyes of God.

God was doing more than Paul knew, expected or could even begin to understand.

This same chapter says that Paul’s response was to plant, dig in and commit. He stayed there for 18 months, even in the face of failure. He adjusted his ministry to focus clearly on his calling.

That’s when God did what only God could do:

  • A new location, right next door to the synagogue (the house of Titius Justus)
  • A celebrity convert who caught the city’s attention (Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue)
  • New friends and instant leaders that would be with him for the next 16 years (Aquila & Priscilla)

I don’t know where you are right now leader, but don’t give up.

God is doing more than you know, expect or can even begin to understand. There are many in your city who are already His, beginning with you.

 

Seeking more of Him and less of me,

Pastor Andy Addis

John 3:30