November 29, 2017

Dear Friends,

 When the Christmas season rolls around each year, I find myself thinking about one of the more obscure people who are associated with Jesus’ birth – an old man who had been waiting for years for the Messiah to come. 

 His name is Simeon, and his story is found in Luke 2, immediately after the account of the birth of Jesus.  Simeon, when he was still a young man, had received a promise from God that he would live to see the fulfillment of the messianic promise.  So even in his advanced years, Simeon would go to the Temple every day and wait and pray and hope that this day would be the day.

 And then one day, something stirred in Simeon’s spirit.  As Mary and Joseph brought their son to the Temple for Mary’s rite of purification and the dedication of Jesus as the first born son, Simeon knew that this child was the promised “Consolation of Israel.”

 Luke uses two interesting words to describe Simeon.  He was a righteous man and a pious man.  And in Luke’s mind, those were both good things.

 Most people in our day would hear those words and think “no thank you.”  We tend to associate righteousness with self-righteousness (they are, of course, distant cousins and very different).  I we associate piety with people who have forgotten how to have any fun (if indeed they ever knew how in the first place).

 But God’s favor was on Simeon, in part, because of his righteousness and piety.  And while we might not want to use those words to describe ourselves because of how easily they can be misunderstood, we ought to desire to be people like old Simeon. 

 The word that is translated righteous in Luke 2 is a word that means a person who seeks to fulfill his obligations to God and to his fellow man.  And the word translated pious (a rarely used word in the New Testament) describes someone who has reverence for God. 

 People who are righteous but not pious are legalists.  Those who try to conform to some religious code but who lack a genuine reverence for and respect for God are people who are counting on their religious practices and behaviors to earn them some kind of benefit.  They go through their religious motions out of duty and not delight.

 Meanwhile, people who are pious but not righteous are people who recognize that God is worthy of honor and respect.  But somehow, that recognition never translates into any kind of spiritual transformation in their lives.  Their reverence for God may influence how they think about Him.  It may show up on their lips.  Or it may stir their hearts.  But it never makes it to their will, to their hands and feet. 

 Simeon was both a righteous and a pious man.  He loved, feared and respected the God of Israel.  And he was faithful to take part in regular Temple worship, to pray and to serve God however he could.

 Our response to God’s Christmas gift to us – the giving of His Son as our Savior and Lord – should be to live lives that are characterized by the qualities that defined Simeon’s life.  We should be righteous and pious people, in the best sense of those words. 

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The Advent season, which begins this Sunday and continues to Christmas day, ought to be a season of reflection and meditation on the goodness of God in sending Jesus to earth.  During our worship services each week, we’ll be lighting the advent candles as a way of thinking about how God sent light into our dark world.  And as you think about Advent, you might want to take advantage of resources to help you keep your heart focused on Jesus during this holiday season.  You’ll find some suggested resources that will help you do just that when you click here.   

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Were you planning to head down to Carthage Arkansas this Saturday to pick up some free household furnishings?

Looks like you can make other plans.  Due to a mix up in communication, the items Jeff Brinsfield expected to have available are no longer available. 

Jeff sends his regrets for getting anyone’s hopes up.

 Your yard probably needs raking anyway.

 ______ 

Last call to sing up to attend the Redeemer Women’s Christmas Tea. It’s next Saturday, Dec. 9th at 10:30 am.  

 It will be a fun time of fellowship, encouragement and a yummy brunch will be provided. It’s a great event for inviting a friend. 

 Contact Maria Goff and let her know if you’re planning to come.  Or text her any questions you have about the event.  252-947-8114 or mrs.mlgoff@gmail.com

 ______

And the Kids Small Group Christmas Pajama Party happens next Thursday night at church, starting at 5:45.  Contact Matt Gurney if you have any questions about the party.  MattGurney77@gmail.com

______

We have two leadership related announcements.  As you know, we recently installed Matt Gurney as an elder.  With that move, we’ve also changed Matt’s official title from Pastoral Associate to Associate Pastor.  It may sound like a small thing, but it’s a recognition that Matt meets the biblical qualifications for pastoral ministry, and his new title reflects that. 

 Also, Tom Arnold has agreed to reengage with the leadership of the church as a fellow elder.  Although Tom stepped away from the ongoing responsibilities of spiritual leadership last year, he has continued to be active as a shepherd and leader in our church.  We’re thrilled to have him back with us as an active elder once again.

 ______

Finally, please pray for us as we continue to seek God’s leading about beginning construction on a permanent church home for Redeemer on our land on David O Dodd Road.   For several months, we’ve been working with a builder to lay out plans for a facility that would meet our needs as a church and would fit our budget.  We hope to have plans we can look at in the next 60 days.  As soon as we do, we’ll update you.

 One factor that may affect whether we’re able to build relates to our financial giving at Redeemer.  Over the years, God has graciously and abundantly blessed our church financially.  We are grateful for His provision and for your generosity.

 This year, we’ve seen two trends that you should know about.  First, our expenses as a church have increased this year as we have sought to provide more ministry opportunities at Redeemer.  The addition of paid staff along with new programs, activities and some unbudgeted benevolence needs have us over budget through the first ten months of 2017.

 At the same time, the average monthly giving during that same period of time is at a five year low point.  Two years ago, our average monthly giving in the first ten months of the year was a little over $26,000 a month.  So far this year, our average monthly giving has been roughly $22,800.

 God willing, we believe we will still end this year with sufficient giving to cover our expenses.  But the downward trend in giving may affect our ability to borrow money for a building project. 

 For those of you who give regularly, thank you for your faithfulness.  For those of you who give from time to time, please think about giving on a more regular basis.  Online giving makes that easy to do.  And for those of you who give occasionally, or not at all, would you pray about joining with us and worshipping God with your giving?

 If you have questions about where we are financially as a church, please email me or feel free to ask any of the elders.

 And please pray that God will give us wisdom and favor as we seek to honor Him in all we do as a church.       

  ______ 

How can God be involved in hardening people’s hearts and still hold them accountable for their unbelief and rejection of Him?

 That’s a question Paul answers directly in Romans 9.  And we’ll see how he answers it when we gather for worship this week.

 

See you in church!

  

Soli Deo Gloria!

Bob Lepine

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