This week is a period of “in-between” time. Advent 2017 is behind and we anticipate the New Year 2018. All sorts of thoughts flood my mind as I think of the new year and reflect on 2017 as it draws to a close. Thoughts come to mind of the many good things experienced, the accomplishments achieved, and in all candor, the missed opportunities and even the failures.
Yes, something within us prompts a mental review of the previous twelve months to evaluate what we have done with the time, talents and resources with which God continues to richly bless us. Each year brings new challenges, and 2017 was no exception. Much was achieved, yet there is much more to be done still.
God has entrusted each of us followers of Christ to use our gifts faithfully and wisely. Please give consideration to your commitment of support (whether that be contributing of your hours or expertise or finances) to glorify God and His church in 2018. As such, we all must acknowledge that the wise use of financial means is only a part of living faithfully and responsibly.
I am sending this hoping you will take the opportunity to renew your commitment to faithfully use your time, talents and resources in the new year. Additionally, since this is the last week of the calendar year 2017, you may want to review your financial support of Southside Baptist Church, and make an additional gift for this tax year. This is extremely important this year since the tax reform bill recently signed into law may significantly impact the charitable giving received by Southside Baptist Church in the years to come. Your gift, whether great or small, is needed for Southside Baptist Church to continue on and to increase our efforts to be the “Presence of Christ” we are called to be.
It is my prayer that you will most certainly feel the joy and the fullness of our Lord, Jesus Christ, as the closing of the 2017 year approaches and that you will know the hope and the grace of our Lord in the dawning of the new 2018.
The experiences of worship this Advent season continue to be wonderful! The Advent and Christmas decorations carefully arranged add to the beauty of the sanctuary and enhance the already worshipful atmosphere. Excitement and anticipation of this season lift our spirits as we hear the timeless promises of God found in scripture, beautiful music, homilies and prayers. Corporate worship is always important, but it is especially so in times when we open ourselves more to God’s activity in our lives and in the world around us. Someone told me recently that the circumstances in her life this Christmas prompted her to focus on individuals close at hand that needed to experience the love of God and the presence of Jesus in their lives. This led her to look for ways to be an instrument of God’s love to people within her sphere of influence rather than looking at what was lacking in her own life this Christmas. This adjustment in perspective produced unexpected joy, and for this individual, a reclamation of the true meaning of Christmas. We all know the season of Advent and Christmas is really about much more than all the superficial activities we engage in, many of which leave us feeling empty and even a bit depressed. This season embodies the hope, peace, joy and love that we have because God became flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus. Jesus, God in flesh, who sacrificed himself that we may receive and experience His unfailing love today and for eternity. Celebrate this season and experience the greatest joy through loving acts toward others as the Spirit of Christ guides you.
Missions education and missions giving are major emphases during Advent and Christmas. We give to various missions organizations in response to the love, mercy and grace of God that we experience, hoping that through the efforts of these organizations others will come to know the grace of God experienced in and through the person of Jesus the Christ. Southside Baptist Church is receiving the annual offering for Global Missions this month which will be used to sustain Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel around the world. These individuals are working in many different capacities; however, the primary focus is building “beloved community.” These individuals share God’s love as they work to supply very basic needs along with teaching many life skills necessary for displaced refugees to assimilate into another culture. Please prayerfully consider how you will support these efforts.
Another mission effort supported, in part, by Southside Baptist Church is the Good News Children’s Education Mission in Kolkata, India. Tonight at 6:00 p.m., Subir and Eunok Roy, will share with us some updates and tell us a little about the vision they have for further ministry efforts. Make plans to be present to hear their presentation and to fellowship around the table together.
This Wednesday evening is one of those very special times our church family gets to gather around the table, give thanks and share a traditional Thanksgiving meal together. Breaking bread with family and friends is always special and, at times, extraordinary. I hope you will share in this time of fellowship and that you will invite your friends to join you.
After the meal we will have a time of prayer and share some thoughts on Thanksgiving. We will also be assembling hygiene kits for those who don’t have homes and family to be with this holiday season. Then on Thursday evening at 5:30 pm, we will gather in Memorial Chapel (2nd floor across from the church office) for a time of reflection and meditation on Psalm 100. This service ends with the celebration of Holy Communion.
In both gatherings, the table is central to all that transpires and, in both, we have the opportunity to express to God, the giver of all that is good, our gratitude for innumerable blessings. The physical needs that are met, the health we enjoy, the family and friends with which we are blessed all have deeper meaning and bring greater joy when we celebrate and give thanks for the tie that binds us together as followers of Jesus the Christ.
Join your church family and feast on the table from God’s bountiful creation, and feast at the table provided by our Savior and Lord who promised that whenever we gather in His name, He is present with us. That is surely reason to give thanks!
Several of our Sunday School classes complete a four-week study this Sunday on the use of time, talents and resources. The series, using Paul’s letters to Christians in Corinth and in Rome as the text, looks at the motivation and commitment of using all that God has provided for the benefit of God’s Kingdom and others. How do you look at all with which you have been blessed? Do you see your time, talents and resources as solely your own, or do you see them all as really belonging to God? As Believers, we are called to follow Christ and allow the Spirit of Christ to teach and guide us in using all that we have and all that we are to demonstrate and communicate to others the love, mercy and grace of God. All of this we know, but the daily living of our lives can skew our perception of who has really provided all that we have and enjoy. Through these lessons we are challenged to ask the hard questions of our commitment to using our time, talents, and resources. The financial gifts most make on a regular basis are important but there are other ways to give by using our time and talents. Here are some ways that we can join together in helping others and in celebrating God’s blessings this week:
- Participate TONIGHT at 5:00 p.m. assembling hygiene kits for the needy. The project will take place in Drennen Hall.
- Attend the Family Promise Fundraiser at St Stephens Episcopal Church on Thursday evening to benefit homeless families.
- Join your church family by taking part in the Magic City AIDS walk this Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Railroad Park.
In 2 Corinthians 9:7 we read, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Please pray for discernment, understanding and guidance as you decide what you will give.
A heightened awareness and understanding of what is truly important has been the dominant focus of thoughts for many in recent days. When faced with the threat of a natural disaster, or in surveying the aftermath of the two massive storms that took the lives of 107 individuals and brought destruction and great loss of property, it is only natural to think about what is most valuable; to put it another way, what brings real meaning to our life.
Crises and critical needs jolt us back from the routine of life that dulls our senses and spirits to the really important aspects of life. The layers covering the innate goodness created by God in our hearts are peeled away in a single moment and we catch a glimpse of what life can be as we respond to the needs of those facing life changing events. The world would be very different if we all demonstrated concern and compassion for others everyday, even in the absence of a natural disaster, and lived a life that reflected the generous heart and character of the God who gave us life and who sustains life.
Generosity is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) made evident in one’s life as the Spirit of Christ guides and teaches us to see the world and all that is in it as Jesus sees it. Generosity is seeing human pain and suffering and taking action to help and bring comfort and healing. Developing a spirit of generosity and using the time, talents and resources that God has blessed us with brings us closer to God and to one another. Thus we develop an even greater understanding of Jesus’ words “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
Please prayerfully consider how the Spirit of Christ is guiding you to use the time, talents and resources that God has entrusted to you for your spiritual journey of growing more into a likeness of Jesus the Christ.
I enjoy our journey together,
Ways to help:
- Give money to the Disaster Relief causes through Southside Baptist Church as you feel led to do so.
- Give items for relief efforts that are on lists provided by collection centers. (We have plastic bins for toiletries collections around the church.)
- Offer displaced friends or other victims a place to stay as they have to leave their homes.
- Volunteer at collection sights or even join teams traveling to help in recovery efforts.