November 27, 2019

Dear Friends,

This time of year, there is no shortage of articles and blog posts online that provide suggestions and guidance on how to navigate what can be uncomfortable conversations around the Thanksgiving table. It’s a pretty safe bet that not everyone in your extended family pulled the same levers in the voting booth three years ago. And it’s the rare Thanksgiving table where family members all agree on spiritual matters. Add to the mix past hurts or other kinds of emotional baggage and you have what is a potentially highly combustible mixture.

That’s why some face Thanksgiving with more anxiety than anticipation.

So here’s a quick coaching tip as you prepare for another helping of green bean casserole or pumpkin pie. Meditate on Ephesians 4:1-3 before you travel over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. And pay attention to four big ideas.

From his cell in the Mamertine Prison, the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus “I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

The priority is clear. God wants our behavior and our speech to be worthy of our calling as His children and His ambassadors. That’s our first priority when we interact with family members or friends.

In order for our interaction to be pleasing to the Lord, we need to be humble. Gentle. Patient. And tolerant.

Humility means that in our conversations with others, we maintain a posture of openness and teachability. We recognize that our own opinions and thoughts are not infallible. We remind ourselves that we still have things we can learn from those with whom we disagree.

Gentleness means we remain calm as we engage with our family members. We are careful about the volume and tone of our speech. We make it our goal not to score points or win the debate but to demonstrate that we care for and value the other person. We keep our dialogue measured, remembering that a gentle answer can turn away wrath. At the same time, we guard our own hearts against a kind of gentleness that comes across as smugness or condescension.

Patience means that we are not easily provoked. It means that if someone becomes harsh or is angered, we don’t mirror their behavior. We allow the peace of God that passes all understanding to keep our hearts and minds in Christ. If we are reviled, as Jesus was, we do not return evil for evil, but we give a blessing instead (1 Peter 3:9).

And tolerance means that we keep 1 Corinthians 13:7 in view – we bear all things and believe the best about the other person as we continue in hope that truth and love will ultimately prevail. In the meantime we endure all things, demonstrating that love is more important in our conversations with others than winning an argument. The word tolerance has been hijacked in our day to convey the idea that opposing viewpoints can somehow both be simultaneously true or “true for you.” That’s not what tolerance means. It means that we don’t allow our disagreements or differences to sabotage our commitment to express and demonstrate love for one another.

These virtues are not the natural inclination of our flesh. These are Spirit-empowered attributes. Our ability to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace will only happen as we are filled with and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. That means we approach the holiday with prayerful dependence on God. We make it our goal that when our time with family members and other friends is over, we have acted and spoken in a way that the aroma of Christ is clear to all.

Here’s to a joyful and peaceful time of thanksgiving to our God!

You may have seen the sample shoeboxes we had on display at church last week. What we didn’t have there is what will be perhaps the most important part of each shoebox. That’s the personal note you include along with the gifts for the kids.

While we can’t include a pre-printed tract with these shoeboxes, we can express our faith through the personal notes we include. Here’s an example of what you might write to the child who will receive your shoebox:

“We hope you have a happy and joy-filled Christmas. What makes this season so special is what we celebrate – the birth of Jesus! He is God’s greatest gift to us. He came to give us new life and to forgive us for the bad things we have done. We are praying that you and your family will know and experience God’s love for you this Christmas.”

Together with your note, we plan to include an invitation for the students and their families to join us at our Christmas Eve service.

Our prayers are that these personal notes together with the expression of our love through the giving of gifts will be used by God to plant a seed in the heart of the child. Thank you for being part of this outreach to our neighbors.

If you haven’t yet selected any ornaments, please remember to get a few this Sunday. Here again, detail.

Each ornament you select will provide you with the following information about the child you’ll be preparing your shoebox for. You’ll attach the upper portion of the label to the shoebox so we know the age of the child your gift should be given to:

Alex and Malia Stauffer are excited to introduce all of us to their son Gray Parrish Stauffer who was born Monday. Mom and baby are both doing great!

Ladies, I hope you have this on your calendar. It’s always a great event!

When a thirsty Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for a drink, the surprising request led to an even more surprising conversation about living water. We’ll look at the details of their dialogue as we meet together for worship on Sunday.

See you in church!

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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