stories of seeing “Emmanuel”

This past Sunday morning, we asked folks to share stories of how they have seen “Emmanuel” lived out around them. We always emphasize the Sent One who has now sent us. We know that the One who came near calls us to take His love near into all of our relationships daily. Here are excerpts from those stories that were submitted Sunday morning. Hope it encourages you to not only celebrate “Emmanuel” this Christmas but to also everyday give the love of the One Who came near.

Two years ago, my mom’s mom moved in with my parents. My dad has loved and cared for my granny better than any son-in-law could, taking the burden off of my mom. But this is nothing special for my dad, because he simply loves people. He pursues and cares for the people God has put in his spheres of living. It amazes me that at times we choose to neglect those closest to us that God has directly put into our lives. May we simply love God and love people.

 

A woman whom I work with has shown unselfish love this advent season. Her own family has struggled over the last one or two years during the economic downturn. At times I have reached out to her and shared God’s love as well as financial support. In the past two weeks, she has adopted two families for the holidays and has encouraged her coworkers to share their blessings with these families. Her family continues to struggle to make ends meet, yet they are giving to others and spreading God’s love to those around them. She is one example of several of my co-workers in whose lives the seeds of love have been planted and are growing!!!

 

Only a few months have passed since the women of S.A.S.H.A. were homeless. This Thanksgiving and Christmas, these same women gave “presence” by serving dinner and fellowshipping with those who are currently homeless!!!

 

At Florida Virtual School, we lost a young teacher in September to an aneurysm. She knew she had the condition and put the surgery off until after our annual all-staff conference, the one event each year when we bring all of our virtual staff together in person. Susan didn’t want to take a chance on missing this special time with her colleagues. Susan went in for surgery the Monday following the event. She was on Facebook while waiting to be taken to the operating room with happy thoughts and no worries. Susan died during surgery leaving behind a loving husband and two young children. I have been overwhelmed with the love and giving to her family by our staff. They have given themselves away to her family with their money, their talents, and their time. She is greatly missed.

 

Every time we put our change in the jar which we call “the well,” we say, “I hear another child drinking a fresh glass of water!” Gulp, gulp, gulp. Precious one. (from those ladies with the S.A.S.H.A house as they give toward the well we are helping to build in Ethiopia)

 

I won four free tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and took the opportunity to invite the family of a woman I work with who wouldn’t ordinarily have the chance to go. It was such a blessing!!!

 

One I have experienced in the last week in my life has been watching Josh Taylor and his family truly giving themselves away and going the extra mile in helping me to get to worship gathering and assisting me in a number of ways financially to help me get back on my feet. Truly I have to say they are the definition of what it is to be an ambassador for Christ, as well as also giving the perfect example of being a friend. I thank God for them. They are truly a blessing to me!!!

 

I am so thankful to have had the chance to give wish list gifts to a woman who stays at S.A.S.H.A.’s Haven.

 

I’ve got a colleague who every Christmas organizes what she calls an “Angel Drive” to provide items for elderly in need. These are often widows living at or very near poverty. The energy she throws into this is amazing, and it’s a group oft forgotten. On another note, this will be my first Christmas living at home in three years. God has been faithful even though it has been so difficult waiting for the chance to reunite with my wife and family. God is so good. I have been blessed!!!

 

To Westpoint Church – thank you so very much for your partnership in ministry here at Walt Disney World through your prayers and generous financial support. We are so thankful to God to be alongside you in what God is doing here. Just this past week, we got to see God bring one of our Norwegian friends into relationship with Him as we stood in line for Toy Story Mania!!! And it was even on her birthday!!! God is amazing and continues to do incredible things among us. Thank you for supporting us in what God is doing! –Kevin Dennis with Campus Crusade for Christ

 

Thank you Westpoint. Our family has been witness to your beautiful love. My children and I have been blessed by your teachings, your kindness, and your wonderful support. Thank you.

 

My mom volunteers at Matthew’s Hope. She often comes home with stories to tell about the people she sees. One was about one man who was recently hit by a car. The man received a settlement, and his very first check, totaling $5000.00, he gave right to Matthew’s Hope. Another story she told me was about another man who came up to her and asked for a hug. My mom hugged him and asked if he was okay. He said he missed his mom. “She died a few years ago, and I always miss her around this time of year.” I am so proud of my mom for giving her time and her heart to Matthew’s Hope!!!

 

Through the love and concern of your church family, we’ve been able to pass on the concerns about my husband’s health issues. Your prayers have been soooooo wonderful. We are feeling God-sent and are especially passing God’s love on to others we meet at his tests and treatments. The situations are all different and we are finding so many who need our love and compassion. Thank you for encouraging us to do so!

 

All through the Christmas season, I’ve been trying to think of gift ideas of what I really wanted this year. I even woke up at 2am on Black Friday to go out and pick stuff out. I saw so many people fighting over silly things. That day, as I was driving home, I started crying. I realized I already had so many things that I don’t even use. I called my mom crying, because all of a sudden for some reason (God!!!) I no longer wanted anything for Christmas! I told my mom to use all the money she was going to use for my presents to buy presents instead for kids who won’t get any gifts this Christmas. My heart was flipped upside down at that moment and it was a God moment. I am thankful!!!

WOW!!! So grateful for the God who came near who loved us first, who took the initiative to come near and reconcile and restore us before we even said we were sorry, and who longs with expectancy for the day He will come near again to bring us home to be near to Him forever.

Merry Christmas to all of you. May we GIVE MORE, SPEND LESS, and WORSHIP FULLY!!!

-jason

a poem about Joseph

My friend Sandy sent me this original poem he penned about Joseph, the husband of Mary and earthly father to Jesus. Great stuff. I liked it so much, I asked him if I could share it with you. SO, here you go:

JOSEPH

Four times.
the common laborer laid down to rest
to seek the ordinary solace of night only to be
astonished in sleep by the arrival of power,
an advent, the dream voice beyond all voices
speaking into his life with easy authority:

Forget convention and marry the overshadowed girl.
Forget  plans and flee to a place
as alien and angular as its monuments.
Forget your fears and journey again through the desert
to the occupied country of your father.
Forget home and settle instead in the land of prophecy.

Four times he saw – what?
A blazing messenger, an other-worldly prince of light.
Four times he heard – what?
Words of thunder quaking the solid ground on which he lived.

Who knows so clearly what he truly dreams?
Who trusts so deeply the strange revelations of
his own inner landscape?
Who acts so boldly on what he knows in himself
against the evidence of everything he sees?
Who believes so humbly that he is chosen, too,
for a role that makes miracles possible?

This one did.
Four  times.

[ Sandy S. | Advent, 2010 ]

BY THE WAY – my dad is up next to teach in our Christmas series this coming Sunday morning. He will be leading us as we consider what the story of Joseph teaches us about God, how we relate with Him, and how we relate with one another. If you can make it, join us at the worship gathering for @WestpointChurch at 10am at Whispering Oak Elementary School in Winter Garden.

Merry Christmas!!!

-jason

a not so “merry” message about America

During the Christmas season, is it just me, or does it seem like there really is a little more peace on earth? Maybe it’s because we quit fighting over land and power and start fighting over talking Elmo dolls and the last iPad in stock. Whatever it is, I wish we could be a little more peaceful all year round.

On a less merry note. One news source editorially reported an article entitled “How America Will Collapse (by 2025).” My friend Bill sent me the article. I wanted to share it with you. Take a few minutes to read it. In some strange way, I was glad I did. Here’s the link:

“How America Will Collapse (by 2025)”

Now, one question. How should the church, the followers of Jesus, think of and prepare for such a thing, assuming hypothetically speaking of course that it is actually gonna be true?

I have some ideas. Before I share them, will you share yours? Leave a comment and let’s dialogue about it…

your thoughts on the story of Mary

Yesterday morning, our church family focused for a time on the story of Mary.

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at thisstatement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 “For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. [ Luke 1:26–38, NASB ]

We asked three simple questions that I wanted to ask any of you interested in considering it and even commenting. Here you go:

  1. what does the story of Mary teach us about God?
  2. what does the story of Mary teach us about how we relate with God?
  3. what does the story of Mary teach us about how we might relate with one another?

The comments and conversation was very meaningful. What do you guys think?

Here was the Bottom Line that we concluded with:

Do you trust God to complete what He started, to do what He said? Do you believe Him beyond your own limitations? What part do we now play in this awesome story of redemption and restoration? May the story of Mary remind us of the nearness of God and the potential of our own lives because He has come near.

I’d dig reading your thoughts. Merry Christmas!!!