History and the Rest of the Story

I love history, especially when it involves the American story. I’ve been fascinated with our beginnings since I was little. I love to learn all the ins and outs of the personalities that helped form our country. It always amazes me when I see how fragile we were/are. How many countries can say they chose, under duress, their own form of government, elected their own officials to fill the slots they created and then walked that system out for the next 250+ years? Our founding fathers were not at all perfect. They weren’t super heroes. They all had their scars and wounds, but they were amazing men. Amazing.

I am fascinated as I read the American history. But I am something entirely other when I read the story of the Kingdom of God. I don’t read the Bible like I read a history book. I’m not in it for a good story. The American story has shaped my life for better or worse and will continue to do so until I die. But it is over then and there. It is not something I will carry with me into eternity. Heaven will not have zip codes, be governed by imperfect men and women, issue Social Security cards or give out 911 addresses. We will not have bank accounts, police officers, insurance bills or food stamps in Heaven. The American story has shaped my life—to a large degree—but the Biblical story has shaped my heart. The latter is far more important. The American story is moving but it will come to and end one day. When it ends Heaven will not be shaken. It won’t have to reorganize based on the emergence or disappearance of this country…or any other country. The Kingdom of God is as established as it has always been and will continue to be so forever. No other country on earth can boast that!

Many people grow nostalgic this time of year. We see manger scenes, beautiful lights and wrapped gifts. We hear worship music inspired by God, read tender stories written by God and witness the power of the incarnation designed by God. We can be tempted to catalogue these things under “Christmas memories” and move on. We might share traditions like baking cookies, large family meals and parties or the hanging of the greens and then put those traditions down at the end of the season. But Christmas is more than a season, its larger than a tradition and it goes much deeper than our other good family memories. Christmas is all about a loving God who gave the ultimate gift of His Son, not so that we could enjoy Him, remember Him at a funeral and then move on, but so we could be changed by Him.

Jesus entered the world unlike any who has ever entered the world before or since. Announced by angels, foretold by prophets, gifted by wise men from another country, and filled with the Holy Spirit from birth…Jesus was set apart from the very beginning. He was never designed to just be another good guy. This guy was announced as and always claimed to be God. All of the markers surrounding His life point to this fact. Everything about Him smacked of the Divine. The way He lived, the things He talked about, the uncanny way He spoke to people, the way He caused God’s Kingdom to be apart of this world…this was no ordinary guy. He wasn’t even an extra ordinary guy. He is God. Period.

This matters and needs to be said because this fact is designed to change our lives. Every season of the year is a good time to worship God and reorient your life to His purposes. Christmas is just one more chance to hear His story, see Him at work today and yield yourself to Him. And the story isn’t over. The last page has not been written. Jesus left the period off when He went back to Heaven. He handed the pen to the Church. Our job is so much more than lights, cookies and soft manger scenes. We have been charged with lighting up the world we live in every one of the 365 days that occupy our calendars. Will you be a part of God’s activity in and through the Church this Christmas?

I say these things not to drum up attendance at a Christmas Eve service or manipulate you into giving better gifts to your family. I say these things, these facts, because it is my joy to say them! I love to tell this story ALL YEAR LONG! Jesus has totally changed my life and is constantly changing the lives of the members of His Church right here and around the world. I love to say these things because I love my community. I am constantly reminded that we will rarely see a dead city in a place with a vibrant Church. Living Churches breathe life into dying cities. Dying Churches take life and leave chaos in the cities they occupy. I am always excited to tell the story of the Living Church in and around SW Arkansas. There are so many parts to the Body here that are vibrantly alive! I know the Lord is doing some powerfully big things here! I don’t want to do anything to hinder it and I want to do everything I can to help lead it forward. Will you join me/us this Christmas? Will you be a part of what God is doing here and around the world? It is my prayer that the Christ means more to you this year than any year you can remember in your past.

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