Sunday, February 11, 2018

Love Has A Name

Valentine's Day is once again upon us and the mad rush is underway to buy those last minute tokens that serve as our "expressions" of love. If the average person were asked the question, "What is love?" the answers would run the gamut from the tangible to the intangible. Some would reply that love is a feeling. Others would respond that love is flowers, a diamond ring, or some other tangible representation that defines love. However, if the question were asked "Who is love?" there may be some blank stares or head scratching in searching for an answer. The reality is the Bible provides us with the answer to the question who is love? 1 John 4:16b states simply, "God is love." 

God loved us first.

God demonstrated that love in the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ. God represents the purest form of love which is called in the Greek "agape" love. Agape love is totally unconditional regardless of what we have done or will do. Agape love does not demand that it be earned through perfection or performance. We as human beings are not fully capable of demonstrating agape love because of our sinfulness but it is the kind of love God seeks to have His followers emulate. In fact 1 John goes on to tell us that all love ultimately comes from God and genuine love is never self-generated by His creatures. "We love because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19) The token expressions given to those with whom we have a loving relationship are nice but they do not last forever. Flowers eventually wilt and die and candy is eaten leaving behind no tangible evidence of Valentine's Day. Even our "loving feelings" can vary on a day to day basis. However, God's love is not confined to token symbols that fade but God's love in seen in the symbol of the cross and ultimately in the One who died for our sins so that our relationship with God could be restored. 

Love has a name.

Singer/songwriter Kathy Troccoli has a song entitled "Love Has A Name." The chorus goes, "Love has a name, love has a face, and when you know love, you know you're not the same. Love never dies, love never leaves, and when hope is gone, love will believe. Love every day, gives love away, love has a name--Jesus." I encourage you this Valentine's Day to experience the depth of true love found in Jesus Christ.
In His Love,
Pastor Sheree

If you would like to listen to Kathy Troccoli's song "Love Has A Name" enter the following in your search engine.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Every Season

One of the unique things about New England is experiencing the change of seasons. Sometimes we have to guess what season we are in as we can reach 50 degrees in mid-January or fall to temperatures below zero which are more reminiscent of the weather in Alaska! Let's face it, we all have expectations about what we believe the weather needs to look like in any given season. But here in New England the seasons are unpredictable. So it is in our spiritual life. The writer of Ecclesiastes states, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV)

God moves us through spiritual seasons
Our spiritual seasons are unpredictable. God knows in His perfect timing when our seasons are to change.The time in between our spiritual seasons could be months or years. Yet when God brings us into a new season, it is often beyond our expectations. The Lord is bringing me into a new spiritual season. Last year I began to engage in a practice which many followers of Christ find helpful in their spiritual walk. I chose a word for the year and saw how God brought fruit from that word as He moved me through the spiritual seasons of my life. Last years word was "chosen." This years word is "brave." I don't know how bravery will play out this year but I have already decided to take some brave steps of faith. At the end of this month I will be joining a group of sisters in Christ who are serving as pastors and leaders in their respective churches. We will be meeting once every three weeks throughout the year to encourage, support, share, and pray for each other. Additionally, I have added my name to a speaker's directory of a different women's ministry. This opportunity may open up the possibility for me to speak at different churches on subjects in my area of ministry in the Christian counseling field.

Watch the seasons unfold
 I don't know what challenges and changes will take place as a result of the opportunities that God has opened up for me in these "activities under the heavens." However, I am grateful and excited to see what will happen. I encourage you to consider asking God to direct you to a word that will capture what He wants to do in the spiritual seasons of your life. Then like the ever changing, unpredictable nature of our New England seasons watch God unfold His seasons in your life. 
Pastor Sheree

Enter this link in your search engine to hear a song from singer/songwriter Nichole Nordeman entitled "Every Season"

Saturday, December 16, 2017

"Presents or Presence?"

If you were to ask a child, what is one of your favorite things about Christmas? I believe one of the popular answers would be--the presents. It is no surprise and pretty much expected that most children equate Christmas with getting lots of presents along with maybe a visit from Santa. If we are honest, many of us would probably agree with the children that we get just as excited about the presents and once in awhile it's fun to take a selfie with Santa at the mall. However, what would happen if there were no presents, no Christmas trees, no tinsel and lights, no Christmas carols and perish the thought not even Santa? What would we do? How would we feel? Well, the reality is there was such a time years ago. However, despite the circumstances there was joy.

The Joy of His Presence

 We read about it in a familiar passage from Luke 2:8-21. It's the passage where the angel appeared to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night. The angel announced the good news of Christ's birth in Bethlehem. The angel did not bring any presents wrapped in pretty bows and colorful paper but the angel came to announce a presence. The presence of the long awaited Messiah. When we awake to see those presents under the Christmas tree we are filled with excitement. On the other hand the shepherds were terrified. So much so that the angel had to tell them not to be afraid. After sharing with the shepherds the details of where they would find this presence of God, a host of angelic beings joined in a song of praise, their version of a heavenly Christmas carol. When the angels left, the shepherds were motivated to go and see with their own eyes what the angel had declared. In Luke 2:15 the shepherds state, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." (NIV)

The Promise of His Presence

 There were no flashing lights pointing the way, no neon signs, no Santa in his sleigh being pulled by Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer encouraging them to follow him. All they had was a promise from the angel of what the shepherds called "this thing," an event, a presence, a Messiah they had perhaps heard about in stories told as they moved their flocks from place to place. For you see as outcasts in that society, the shepherds would have no other way of learning about the foretold coming of the Messiah except through stories told by others as the shepherds would not have been allowed to keep company with the religious Jews nor have access to the temple and the teachings of the Rabbis. When the shepherds arrived at the manger there were no Christmas trees, tinsel, or decorations. Mary and Joseph did not offer them a gift with shouts of "Merry Christmas!" However we are told that when they had seen Him, they began to spread the word about Jesus. Jesus was only a newborn and He did not say or do anything, yet His presence was so powerful that the shepherds had to tell the story and as a result people were amazed and their hearts were stirred to believe. The shepherds didn't have any smartphones or tangible objects to show others. What they had was His presence carried along in their hearts. 

The Presence of God In Our Midst

As a result of the shepherds having been in the presence of God, there was an out pouring of praise for the gift they had received, not a gift wrapped in bows and colorful paper but the gift of the presence of God in their midst. Jesus grew into a man and by the power of His presence went on to deliver and save many people from their bondages. So, as we complete another Christmas and stand on the threshold of a New Year, people once again have spent hundreds of dollars filling their lives with presents--material things. There is a sense of contentment and self-satisfaction that they have purchased everything they need. However, just like the newness of Christmas toys fades for children as time goes on, we too grow tired and weary of our "toys" and seek something new and different. Think about how many people line up every year to purchase the newest iPhone! I am not implying that the giving and receiving of gifts is a bad thing but it is easy to get caught up in the presents and miss His "presence" which is at the heart of Christmas. All our material presents will only be enjoyed for a season but the presence of Jesus Christ in a life committed to following after Him is a gift that will not tarnish or fade for it is eternal. The good news is that His followers will dwell in His presence after their life on earth is finished. That is the message of Christmas and the true joy we are to celebrate and ponder in our hearts just like Mary did that first Christmas night. So have a Merry Christmas and enjoy your presents! The question that remains is will you accept the gift of His presence in your life? If so, you will experience the overwhelming joy those shepherds felt that first Christmas night. The overwhelming joy of kneeling in the presence of God Almighty and that is the best gift one could ever receive at Christmas!
Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!
Pastor Sheree