January is often a time of reflection as we close the chapter on one year to open a door for the next. As we take steps toward a new beginning I would like to take a moment to share a few reflections on the past year. It has certainly been an eventful year filled with an abundance of God’s grace and guidance from beginning to end. I am thankful for many things:
1. The undeserved grace and love of Jesus … Every day I take great solace and comfort in God’s immeasurable love for me. I am in constant awe of this gift I open through faith a little more every day. It is a gift, wrapped with His undeserved grace, which is the lifeblood that unites us as His people, the sustenance flowing through our veins as a Body. Along these lines, thank you for sharing your “Pipe Cleaner People” stories with me. I am inspired by them and your commitment to pray for these men, women, and children who fill our lives. In case you are wondering, a “Pipe Cleaner Person” is someone we know who does not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. To represent this person, we made a “person” out of pipe cleaners and placed them on the cross in the sanctuary. We have committed to praying for these wandering souls on a daily basis that God would enter into their lives with the Gospel in a significant way. Based upon the stories I am hearing, God is doing mighty things! Thank You Jesus!
2. A great Christmas season … Thank you Redeemer for making this the best Christmas season yet! It was filled with a delicious hot chocolate bar, beautiful décor, inspiring worship and music, the Happy Birthday Jesus Party, and uplifting midweek worship with super-yummy meals (a big thanks to the youth for their help with the set-up and clean-up for the meals). And most importantly, the Gospel was proclaimed! I walk away feeling extremely blessed!
3. Dedicated, passionate leaders … Redeemer is a busy church, and I am constantly amazed at how in times of need, people step up to fill the gap. God has richly blessed us with a gifted Council, Board of Elders, board members, as well as you, the laity. I cannot even begin to name the “many” people who went above and beyond these past weeks in numerous ways. If you are reading this, give yourself a pat on the back. Words cannot express how grateful I am for you and your service to the Church. Between the funerals, ministry events, and discipleship opportunities, we have been busy serving our faith community and neighborhoods in meaningful ways. May God bless you!
4. The Children’s Christmas Program … I am always amazed at how the Christmas program comes together every year. It was a terrific day! There is nothing better than a bunch of grade-school kids singing “Away in a Manger”! A special thanks to Sharon, Jill, and their many helpers who pulled together a wonderful morning! We are truly blessed by their ministry! Thank You, sweet Jesus!
5. The Happy Birthday Jesus Party … Fun was had by all with the crafts, living nativity, cupcake walk, Advent wreath-making, cookie decorating, and food stations. I was humbled by the many hands that came together to pull this outreach off in a meaningful way. A special word of thanks to Jill, Gina, and the Board of Missions for their continued diligence in orchestrating the many pieces of the event to create a family-friendly, fun-filled, Christ-centered day. Here was the highlight of my day: It seemed as though wherever I turned there was someone I did not know! How cool is that!
6. A bright future … We have so much to be thankful for: a place to worship, dedicated leadership, but most importantly, we follow a God who loves us unconditionally and wants what is best for us. He has given us an important mission to carry out into our neighborhoods, the places we work, our schools and classrooms, and beyond. Our God-given mission is to “connect people to Jesus.” We do this as we commit ourselves to GATHER as the Body for worship and fellowship, to GROW in His Word, and to GO make disciples in the places the Lord has placed us. I am excited to be a part of a community of faith not afraid to try new things to accomplish this God-given discipleship task.
The above list is by no means complete, I could go on and on with blessings: Things like an amazing Vacation Bible School this past summer, our beautiful new “shingled” roof, the new Redeemer shirts and other logo gear, the Senior Youth preparing for their trip to the National Youth Gathering in San Antonio, the numerous stockings for G.R.A.C.E. that were filled, and your generously providing gifts for our adopted local families in need at Christmastime. God continues to bless us in many ways!
Of all the things I am thankful for, I am most thankful for you! I am proud and honored to be your pastor! With a humble and sincere heart, I often and frequently thank and praise God for you! 2,012 was a really good year, but I look ahead to an even greater year in 2,013 with the help and guiding hand of God. There is much to anticipate: We will soon be officially launching a Second Service with a more modern sound, a new Sunday morning children’s discipleship opportunity called “KidZone” is in the works for launch the Sunday after Easter, facility improvement plans are well underway, and we are rapidly retiring the debt on the Family Life Center as well as raising significant capital in the Facility Improvement Fund. I am in constant awe of God’s goodness to us, His faithful servants. All praise and honor be to God whose mighty hands have led us thus far; through the challenge as well as the joy, “blessed be the Name of the Lord.” He is the reason we exist, that one more person may hear the Gospel.
I encourage you to join me in praying David’s words from Psalm 9. They are powerful words of praise in response to God’s mighty hand at work in his life, words appropriate for a time such as the one we now face. As we turn the page on another year, may you know and experience the peace of Christ in the days and months ahead! God bless you!
I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High. (Psalm 9:1-2)
Take comfort, my friend, in wherever you may find yourself, the God of the ages—of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David—is our God! The mighty hand that led these faithful men is also upon us, leading us toward our eternal home!
O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come
Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Soon bears us all away;
We fly forgotten as a dream Dies at the op’ning day.
O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come
Be Thou our guard while troubles last And our eternal home.
(O God, Our Help in Ages Past, LSB#733, v.1, 5-6)
Let’s GATHER, GROW, and GO into a new year!