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The Gifts We Bring

Gift giving can be difficult at times. Let’s face it: some people are hard to shop for! But have you ever stopped to wonder why gift-giving is important? What’s a gift really about anyway? Giving gifts to friends and family is an ancient ritual of nearly every known human culture. Gifts signify a relationship (or the desire for one) and are meant to delight, honor, and/or surprise the recipient. In our attempt to do just that we seek to give a gift that is an expression of that loving relationship, but it often gets deduced down to giving the gift that a person either wants or needs but does not already have.
 
So what do we give Jesus, the King of kings? On Epiphany, we are fondly reminded of the story when magi journeyed from afar to worship the newborn King Jesus bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Now these were extraordinary gifts to be given to a child. But what should we give Jesus, today? What does Jesus need or want that he doesn’t already have? What would bring him delight, honor, or surprise? And what do I really have to offer? In honor of the magi, I’d like to propose three gift-giving suggestions:

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The World Needs Jesus

No doubt about it, the news in recent weeks has been grim as we have been bombarded by story after story of violence that has erupted on our own homeland. In the span of just a few short weeks we’ve awoken to stories of racially motivated hatred that sparked violence in Charlottesville, the senseless mass shooting of concert-goers in Las Vegas which killed dozens and injured scores more, and the brutal and inexplicable massacre of more than two dozen Christian worshippers far too close to home in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
 
And as human beings and Americans we grieve and cry out all sorts of questions: why all the suffering, the hatred, and the violence? What’s going on here and how can we stop it? Some answer with cries for gun control. Others answer it with a call for law-abiding citizens to bear arms. But as Christians, in addition to lovingly supporting and encouraging those directly victimized by this senseless violence, what is our unique calling and witness in response to this season of increasing violence? I believe that the Church can provide leadership to our culture and society by responding faithfully at this dark and difficult hour.

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Reformation Spirit

As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is important to reflect on the faithfulness of our churches today with the same Reformation spirit that Luther and the other reformers looked upon the church of their day. We need to ask ourselves the important questions in evaluation of our life and ministry: are we, the church of today, a faithful expression of God’s intention for his followers? In what ways would God smile down on us and in what ways have we fallen short of God’s call as Christ’s bride?
 
For some the answer is clear: the church in America has lost its way. Some might go so far as to say the issues that the church in America faces today are as big or bigger than the issues the reformers faced in Europe 500 years ago. As I work with congregations in renewal workshops, the question has often been raised, “How has the church in America gotten so far off course?”

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HeBrews 10:24 – A New Way to Start a Church

Fourteen months ago, God planted a seed in the heart of Chuck Knudson to go and live on mission in San Antonio. Today, after months of prayer, study, planning, and practicing, Chuck and his wife Azeneth are very close to fully living into this calling. One important question that every church planter has to answer is, “How are we going to engage our new neighbors? What will be our strategy to meet and connect people to a life-giving relationship of following Jesus?”
 
In their first few months of practicing evangelism in their current community of New Braunfels, the Knudsons discovered that while it is difficult for someone to accept an invitation to church, it is easy to accept an invitation into your home or a restaurant. And with this, God began to reveal to the Knudsons a unique approach to starting a church: coffee – more specifically, a local coffee shop featuring fresh-roasted coffee.

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Beyond Boats and Babies

We recently concluded our 2017 LCMC Texas District Annual Gathering where we explored the question, “What does it mean multiply?” About 40 pastors and church leaders attended the Pre-Gathering Leadership Seminar to explore the biblical and theological foundations of multiplication. But before we dug in, we went around the room, introduced ourselves, and each answered the question, “What does ‘multiply’ mean to me?” The responses were wonderful! We began to see the rich diversity of thought and ideas regarding multiplication. And we even had a good chuckle or two. My favorite answer came from one of our pastors who simply answered “rabbits!”
 
To multiply means to bring a great increase, to make many, to reproduce, etc. And after we explored these various definitions, we asked this question: “What has multiplication looked like historically for Lutherans in America?” The two answers I was prepared for were stated from the group almost immediately: boats and babies.

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