What's Happening at Faith
Since hurricanes Laura and Delta, life's been anything but normal. Everyone has some form of damage to their home and property. Some are still repairing their homes. Some had no home to come back to. And we have families who are still displaced.
Spare time is scarce. We're tired. We need to rest. We need to be replenished.
For the next few months, we will concentrate on rebuilding our lives as well as our homes. It will be a time of comforting, encouraging, and building up one another as we continue to meet in homes.
After this time, we will focus on seeking God's will for our future direction as a local church and how we will carry out His mission to reach our community and beyond.
Keep looking up. God is still in control!
The Hope of Christmas
What does Christmas mean to you?
For many, it's a time of year to visit family, exchange gifts, and attend parties.
But is that what Christmas is all about?
Of course not. It's about the birth of our Savior.
Many families have Christmas traditions. One such tradition is to have a birthday party for Jesus. This becomes a sacred time when the account of the birth of Jesus is read, and family members share what they're grateful for.
But for many, Jesus gets shut out of the celebrations. It would be like attending a party where everyone gets a gift but you.
That tends to be Christmas. Everyone gets a gift but Jesus. But what do you give the God who has everything?
Actually, there are at least four things Jesus doesn't have unless you give them to Him:
- Give him your trust. Faith is a voluntary matter. Jesus doesn’t have your trust unless you give it to him. He will never force it.
- Make Jesus first place in your life. If anything or anyone other than Jesus holds first place in your life, it’s an idol. This Christmas, choose to make Jesus first in your finances, interests, relationships, schedule — and even in your troubles.
- Give Jesus your heart. Your heart is what you love, what you value, and what you care about most. Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34). One important way you give Jesus your heart this Christmas is by giving your resources to his work. Jesus doesn’t need your money, but he wants what it represents — your heart.
- Bring other people to Jesus. God wants a family more than anything else this Christmas. He wants children who choose to love and trust him. It is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Invite someone to Jesus this Christmas. Tell someone about what Jesus has done in your life.
The Bible tells us that the Wise Men didn’t give Jesus their leftovers when they visited him on the first Christmas but instead gave three very significant and valuable gifts: “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11).
As you give Jesus your trust, make him first in your life, give what you value to his work, and bring other people to him, you’re giving him gifts far more valuable than the ones the Wise Men brought.
So tell Jesus “happy birthday” this Christmas. Give him your best.
This Week's Worship Location
Jeremy and Elaine Leger's home
1289 E. Lincoln Rd. Lake Charles
Weekly News and Prayer Requests
Move from Stress to Gratitude by Meditating on the Psalms
2020 has been a year of uncertainty. It has been filled with stress, anxiety, isolation, fear, and unpredictability. And things don't appear to be dramatically improving soon. Social distancing, "stay-at-home" orders, and mandatory face masks are standard practices in the COVID-19 era. The long-term impact - psychologically, socially, and spiritually of these preventive efforts is currently unknown.
How can we counter the negative effect of such isolation and uncertainty? Fortunately for the Christian, we can use a two-step strategy. We can cry out to God amid the pain and discomfort and keep a sense of hope and gratitude that help is just around the corner.
After all, God is powerful, active, and always present to offer His loving care from moment to moment. The psalmists understood this. Even a quick reading of the Psalms reveals the two-step strategy that can help us gain much-needed insight into the human problem of suffering on this side of heaven. What is this strategy? Offering a "complaint" and then a "praise" to God.
The Seasons of Life
In the Psalms, the various writers revealed three seasons of life. As they moved through these "seasons," we notice "orientation," "disorientation," and "new orientation" (Brueggemann, 1984). An understanding of these "seasons" can help us in our times of difficulty and uncertainty.
If we're fortunate, we will spend much of our time in seasons of "orientation." This season is when we're in a state of well-being, experiencing God's blessings and in relative comfort. Things are good and in balance.
Then, when we least expect it, things go sour. Often to the point of suffering, hardship, and adversity. These are our seasons of "disorientation." We're placed "off balance." We experience discomfort. All because we're living in a fallen world.
Finally, following this season of despair, we find new hope in the power, presence, and past faithfulness of God. Here we enter into seasons of "new orientation," reflecting a state of gratitude, thanksgiving, and new-found hope. We recognize God has or will deliver us from our suffering and provide us again with His blessings.
By following the pattern of the psalmists, we can often move from seasons of "orientation" to "disorientation" to "new orientation." We can gain a new and deeper awareness of, and trust in, God's providential care.
The Psalmist's Model
No one would argue that we're in a season of "disorientation" during this era of COVID-19, political unrest, recovery from natural disasters, and economic upheaval. If the psalmists were writing today, we would hear them lament to God in easily recognizable steps.
The first step of the lament would involve some sort of "plea" or "complaint." This step includes a request to God, the reason for the complaint, and pretty authentic language reflecting their anguish and pain.
The next step would include remembering the times in the past when God has delivered them from similar circumstances. This remembrance would naturally ignite the spark of hope and begin the next phase of the process.
In the last step, the psalmist would offer his "praise" to God, acknowledging their trust in Him, realizing He's heard their "plea" and would come through for them again.
In other words, the bridge from "complaint" to "praise" usually involves an expression of our pain, followed by gratitude and an awareness of God's providential care. The beauty of this process is we can move through these "seasons" to our new-found hope regardless of the outcome.
The Psalmist's Example
There are many examples of this process in the Psalms. One such example is Psalm 13 (NLT). This psalm captures a "complaint," followed by a "praise":
"O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. Don't let my enemies gloat, saying, "We have defeated him!" Don't let them rejoice at my downfall. But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me."
Here we can easily see the psalmist's "complaint" (e.g., "How long…"), then his "praise" (e.g., "I trust in your unfailing love," "I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me"). These steps offer us a model as we lament to God in our difficult times.
In these uncertain times, meditating on the Psalms can help us move from our "disorientation" to gratitude and a "new orientation" by:
a. crying out to God from moment to moment, especially in our seasons of stress, uncertainty, and widespread suffering, and
b. praising and thanking God, anticipating that we are inevitably moving toward a new season of hope where we can be surprised by His blessings.
What follows is a two-step approach to meditating on the Psalms during our periods of stress and pain. These will help us to:
a. lament to God to authentically expressing our true feeling and state of mind in the present moment, and
b. cultivate gratitude, thanksgiving, and praise to God, even when it doesn't seem our current predicament will be resolved soon.
When we follow this pattern, we prioritize our relationships with God and turn to Him in response to social distancing, online-only social interactions, and financial instability that may increase daily stress.
A Two-step Strategy for Meditating on the Psalms
To begin your time of meditation, find a quiet location free from distractions. Sit up straight in a supportive chair and offer up a prayer expressing your willingness to yield to God's providential care in the here-and-now.
For the next 20 minutes, you will be using a two-step strategy, lamenting to God, and then thanking Him. As much as possible, try to slowly and deliberately stick to the following steps. Feel free to take a break if you begin to experience significant discomfort or distress.
1. Select a psalm of lament (e.g., Psalm 13) that includes both a "complaint" and "praise," slowly reading through the passage to immerse yourself in the biblical author's experience.
2. Apply the psalm to your current situation, selecting one verse that captures your "complaint" to God, as well as one that reflects your gratitude to God.
a. Lament. Slowly meditate on the chosen passage, such as, "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and have sorrow in my heart each day?" In this very moment, express your pain to God, sharing your experience of whatever is causing you pain in the moment. Repeat the passage over and over again, slowly absorbing it as you sink deeper and deeper into your heartfelt cry to God.
b. Give thanks. Slowly meditate on the chosen passage, such as, "I trust in your unfailing love." In the here-and-now, thank God for His perfect, loving presence, even as your future seems uncertain. Repeat the passage with confidence, knowing that God will hear your lament and respond to your need.
3. Whenever another thought, feeling, or sensation arises, simply acknowledge it, and then return to the two-step strategy of "problem" and "praise."
4. Carry this two-step process with you throughout the day, presenting your pain to God and then expressing gratitude to Him for His active, loving presence during the times of confusion in your life.
Even though our earthly future is uncertain, we can trust that a new season is just around the corner as Christians. As we continue to move from one season to the next, God is walking with us, loving us, and offering His perfect presence.
After all, it's God's will to "rejoice always, pray continually, [and] give thanks in all circumstances…" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).