Tag: Christmas at Antioch

The Gifts We Give // Part Four –
The Gift of A Sign

This week Vincent Carpenter concluded our series, The Gifts We Give, with a message on the gift of a sign. Just as God gave the Wise Men the star as a sign that led them to Jesus, God gives us signs to lead us. At times, the signs may seem hard to discern, but we can be confident that God is kind and desires to lead us into greater life.

Throughout our morning, we talked about things that keep us from seeing the signs God is giving us and how we can discern where God is leading us.

HOW CAN WE MISS A SIGN?

If we aren’t looking for something, it is likely that we’ll miss it. The distractions of life can keep us from all God has for us. Life at times can seem discouraging, but in His kindness, God encourages us to seek Him. If we are faithful to seek God, He will reveal Himself to us.

GOD DOESN’T JUST WANT US, HE WANTS US TO WANT HIM.

If a sign feels difficult to read, it is an invitation to pursue God. In our pursuit of God, we find so much more than direction. We also find joy, peace and love, even when our journey feels difficult.

Our own flesh and desires can also keep us from seeing what God is trying to reveal to us. We can be confident that God has the best for us, and we lay aside our own desires, we can pick up all He has for us. If we miss a sign, God is gracious and faithful to bring us back.

WHEN WE ABIDE, WE GIVE GOD AN OPPORTUNITY TO REVEAL HIMSELF.

God isn’t trying to make things difficult for us, He just wants us. When we abide in Him and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, we’ll understand what God is trying to show us.

HOW DO WE DISCERN SIGNS?

Sometimes what we should do next or what God is speaking can seem so unclear. That is why God calls us to walk in community. God uses His people to help us discern the signs He is giving us. He also uses us to be a sign to others. God can also use the things that cause our heart concern as a sign. If we feel unsettled about something, it is likely that God is trying to show us something in that situation.

IN RESPONSE //

  • Abide: Rather than focusing on what God is trying to tell you, focus on abiding in Him. As we abide in Jesus, we create space for the Holy Spirit to lead us. Take a look at this message Vincent shared earlier this year on abiding.
  • Ask God if there is any distractions that are holding you back. Be intentional about setting those things aside, and making space for God to reveal Himself even more to you.

 

The Gifts We Give //
Part Three – The Gift of Humanity

During the holidays many of us feel lonely, isolated or rejected. But we all want to be loved, honored and valued. That is part of our humanity. Today adult pastor Vincent Carpenter continued our series, The Gifts We Give, with a powerful call to reclaim our humanity through Jesus, and in turn, give it to others.

OUR HUMANITY IS A GIFT FROM GOD, NOT A PRODUCT OF SOCIETY.

God created mankind, and He is the originator of our humanity. When sin entered into the world, our humanity was distorted. Our distorted view of humanity can lead us to try to find our ourselves outside of God, which ultimately leads to hurting others in order to find self. God sent Jesus to restore mankind to Himself and reestablish a right understanding of humanity. In Christ, we are not only loved, honored and valued, we are also included in the family of God. We have a newfound identity as sons and daughters of God.

WE UNDERSTAND OUR OWN HUMANITY THROUGH THE GLORY OF GOD.

In Luke 2, the shepherds got a divine visitation that frightens them and awakens them to their part in God’s bigger plan. As some of the most lonely, isolated and rejected people in the world, God chose to reveal His glory to the shepherds as a way to show us that even the lowest among us are invited in. After the shepherds were invited into God’s bigger plan, they shared all that they had seen and heard with others, and “all who heard it were amazed” (Luke 2:17-18). In order to share the humanity they had been given, they first had to receive it through the glory of God.

HUMANITY LEADS US TO THE PEACE OF GOD.

Peace is not a state of mind. We can all be deceived into believing that we can find peace in economic status, achievements, relationships or power, but this is a false peace. Peace is a person, and Jesus wants us to experience the kind of peace that the world cannot give or take away. Jesus gives us peace, but we maintain peace by making peace with others. Our true humanity is our ability to accept the peace and favor of God, and turn and give it to someone else.

IN RESPONSE //

  • Start your day by declaring your restored humanity in Christ. Open up your hands to the Lord as a sign of submission as you declare, “In Christ I have peace with God. In Christ I have peace with others.”
  • Christ gave us the gift of humanity and empowers us to give it to others so that we can walk in His peace. Pray for those in your life that you need to extend peace to.
  • Make space in your life to invite others to share their part in God’s bigger plan with you.

The Gifts We Give //
Part Two – The Gift of Praise

Praise: to glorify, to worship and to value

This week college pastor Luke Whyte continued our series, The Gifts We Give, with a message on the gift of praise. The songs we sing typically end up becoming the soundtrack of our lives. We have a tendency to match our music to our mood, but what if we shifted things? Let’s let praise resound regardless of how we feel because ultimately praise brings the power of God in our lives.

THE MUSIC OF OUR LIFE MAGNIFIES WHAT WE GLORIFY.

Throughout our morning, we took a look at Mary’s response when her life didn’t play out as planned. Mary had reason to be moody and fearful, but instead of allowing her circumstances to define her response, she clung to faith. Take a look at her response in Luke 1:46-56.

MARY PAVED A PATHWAY OF PRAISE TO ENSURE SHE WOULD LAND IN A PLACE OF VICTORY.

Mary declared the goodness of God instead of complaining about her problems. When we magnify our problems, they tend to become a lot bigger than they actually are. Really, the promises of God are way bigger than our problems. When we choose praise, we magnify God and His promises instead of our circumstances.

THE CHORUS’ WE CONSUME BECOME THE SONGS WE SING.

We won’t find freedom from fear if we focus on the thing that is causing us to have fear. We won’t find contentment by complaining. When we turn our focus from our circumstances to God, we position ourselves to consume the goodness of God.

THE SONGS WE SING ARE CONTAGIOUS.

The songs that we sing not only get stuck in our heads, but they also get stuck in other peoples’ heads. Our demeanor plays into the lives of those around us. If we sit in our anxiety and continually complain, the people around us will do the same. When we allow praise to be our anthem, we make a way for others to also sing a new song.

THREE POINTS OF PRAISE //

1.Praise is not about emotion, it’s about sacrifice (Hebrews 13:15-16) // We may not always feel like worshiping, but we can’t let our emotions dictate our actions. We have to allow our praise to shift our mood.

2.Praise is a pathway to His presence (Psalm 100:4) // Dwelling on our problems does not lead to a move of God. Praise leads to a move of God.

3.Praise lifts us up out of the pit, and puts our feet upon a rock (Psalm 40:1-3) // We need to stop singing our old songs, and start declaring a new song. When we stop proclaiming our problems and start praising our promises, we allow our praise to lead us into the presence of God.

The Gifts We Give // Part One – The Gift of Silence

On Sunday adult pastor Vincent Carpenter kicked off our Christmas series, The Gifts We Give. Throughout the Christmas season, we will be unpacking various gifts that lead us to celebrating the ultimate gift of Jesus. The season is more than the material gifts we give one another.

IT IS A SEASON OF ABUNDANT JOY.

This morning we took a look at Zechariah and the unexpected gift he was given. Zechariah was promised a child, but because of life circumstances he had doubt. In his disbelief, God made him silent until he saw the promise of God come to pass.

SILENCE WAS GOD’S GIFT TO ZECHARIAH.

We all find ourselves in a season of silence. It’s those seasons of waiting for a promise to be fulfilled or for problems to be resolved. It’s those seasons when we sit down to spend time with God, but feel like we just can’t connect. Silence typically feels like anything but a gift.

SILENCE LEADS TO LISTENING, LEARNING AND LOOKING.

  • Listening // The season of silence is an invitation to lean in and listen. God longs to speak to us, but sometimes we just need to lean in, ask and wait for Him to respond.
  • Learning // Silence is never a punishment, but an opportunity to learn things about God that our life circumstances could never teach us.
  • Looking // The worst thing we can do in the silence is look at ourselves. Many times we put the focus on ourselves, and God is asking us to look outside ourselves and look at Him.

SILENCE ULTIMATELY LEADS TO BREAKTHROUGH.

The silence will not last forever. And in the midst of the silence, we can still declare what God has done and what He will do. Our declaration in the physical will ultimately lead to breakthrough in the spiritual.

IN RESPONSE //

  • Start your day off with thankfulness! When you sit down to spend time with God in the morning, start by writing down a few things your thankful for.
  • This morning we talked about the story of Zechariah. Throughout your week read the full story in Luke 1, and find out how Zechariah learned to listen, learn and look.
  • Take time to declare the goodness of God. Even if we are in the middle of silence, we can declare what God has done and what He has promised to do.

A Christmas Letter from Danny Mulkey

If you’ve seen one sheep, you’ve seen them all. Sameness, day after day, season after season, year after year. The shepherd’s high school motto was probably something like, “Once a shepherd, always a shepherd.” All of life was pretty much “same-old, same-old” for these guys.

THEN ONE NIGHT THE COURSE OF THEIR LIVES WAS CHANGED FOREVER.

A real, live angel walked up to their campfire, glowing in the awesomeness of the glory of God. As the shepherds reached for their Ray-Bans, the angel gave them the greatest news in all of history. The Savior had finally come, born right in their home town. The words had barely left the angel’s lips when suddenly the sky cracked wide open and a whole army of worshiping angels spilled out into view, praising God and giving Him glory!

GOD’S GIFT OF JESUS TO THEM AND TO US WAS WAY MORE THAN A GAME CHANGER. IT WAS A HISTORY CHANGER.

Do you think those shepherds understood the sweet shock of the events of that night? Not likely.

Okay, so that was a long time ago, but doesn’t a spark of the majesty of that night still linger in our hearts?  Don’t we long, even just a little, for the rekindling of the glorious reality of Jesus?

Well, what are we waiting for? Christmas 2017 is a great season to carve out some time to get alone with Jesus, to listen to Him speak to our hearts, to hear His encouraging, identity-stamping words and to let Him empower us to make His great news known to folks we connect with in every area of our lives.

The Gospel of Luke tells us these shepherds, after seeing the glory of God and hearing the birth announcement of the savior of the world, responded by getting in the presence of Jesus and by sharing His Great News with everybody around.

As a church, we are called to do just what the shepherds did. It’s not complicated, we can simply:

  • Remember // The gift of Jesus and His presence
  • Rejoice // Give thanks and glory to God, non-stop
  • Retell // Share Jesus’ Great News

We, the Elders of Antioch Community Church, pray you all will be filled to the brim with His peace and joy this season.

Merry Christmas,

Danny Mulkey – Caleb Zone Pastor and Elder

Isaiah 9:6 // The Promises that Never Fail

God does not do things like we do. His ways are upside down to us. That may be one of the reasons the season celebrating the birth of His Son captivates people. A child born in a barn.  A child who comes into our lives low. No legions of soldiers or loyal subjects at His command. He introduces His upside down Kingdom from the beginning. Don’t be fooled, though.

THE BOY-CHILD MAY BE WRAPPED IN FLESH, BUT HE IS WHAT WE NEED, WHAT WE MUST HAVE.

Seven hundred years before His humble entrance, God told us who He was and what He would offer to all of us. Isaiah 9:6 gives us details because human beings have a lot of questions— Who can I talk to? Who is really in charge? Is there anything more to life than what I am experiencing right now? Where is peace in the midst of the chaos that I see around me? The God of the universe addressed these questions. Instead of just giving answers, He gave a Promise/the Promise of Isaiah 9:6. You have seen the words of this verse during the Christmas season on cards, marquees and posters, or you have heard them sung during Christmas concerts.

“For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

Messiah, the Promise, carries with Him the answers we need. He is the One who always offers the best advice for any situation. He is our Wonderful Counselor.

He is the One who is in charge. He is the Mighty God and He will always have the last word. The government of nations and of our lives rests on His shoulders.

He is the everlasting Father. No, this life is not all there is. There is an everlasting life option of Heaven if we make the choice to trust in the Messiah. He wants us, but we must choose Him and then we can have a Father who never fails, disappoints or leaves.

AND, WE DON’T HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL HEAVEN TO EXPERIENCE THE FATHER’S LOVE.

He is the One who brings a deep peace to every circumstance of life. The promise is not that the winds of life won’t sometimes blow furiously, but that He will always be the peace who holds us in the midst of the gales.

IN RESPONSE:

Take a few minutes to read this verse out loud and let the promises capture and comfort you. Then, using the links below, worship the Promised One by listening to portions of Handel’s “Messiah.”

By Penny Allison – Adult Pastor and Women’s Ministry

And He Shall Be Called // Part Three

Today Carl Gulley shared part three of our series, And He Shall Be Called, with a message on Jesus’ family history. To set up the Christmas story and the arrival of Jesus, we first had to go back to the book of Ruth where we find Ruth and Naomi. Ruth was considered a cursed foreigner and Naomi called herself bitter, but it was through their family line that Jesus would eventually come through. He was the redeemer that would redeem their past and our future.

Check out some of our takeaways from today’s message:

  • We like to know where we’re from because it feels like solid ground to stand on.
  • The visitation of God is consistent throughout history.
  • You know how to say God is good, but that doesn’t mean your heart believes it.
  • Just because you know the definition of Immanuel doesn’t mean you know the God Immanuel.
  • God intended to show grace and mercy to those who couldn’t provide for themselves.
  • Redeem means to obtain at a high price.
  • God doesn’t leave you without a redeemer.
  • The outcasts, the scandalous, the foreigners and the cursed enemies of God find themselves in the family line of Jesus because if there’s a place for them, there’s a place for you.
  • The family Jesus came from anticipated the family He would come for.
  • Those who don’t know they fit into the family of God get bought by a redeemer.

By Carl Gulley – College Pastor

How to Holiday // Contentment

Can you feel it? When I walk into Target, when I see the commercials or hear the music, I can feel it – Christmas spirit. It’s so funny how tangible the energy and momentum of the holidays can be.  And that energy stirs up a wide range of emotions and memories in each of us: some good, some hard.

SOMETIMES THE NOSTALGIA AND THE MEDIA AROUND US CREATE EXPECTATIONS WE CAN’T ATTAIN.

And sometimes the holidays are the most difficult time of the year because we face loneliness or pain in our families.

WHETHER ITS HALLMARK EXPECTATIONS OR HARSH REALITIES, HOW CAN WE FIND CONTENTMENT THIS CHRISTMAS?

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice.” – Philippians 4:4

Again and again, Paul’s advice in his letter to the Philippians is to rejoice. It’s ironic that he would use this word so much in his letter because he is writing to the church amid great struggle and some acute relational conflict. Paul himself writes this letter from prison, not knowing if he will live. Yet, repeatedly, he takes time to rejoice! He seems to realize that contentment doesn’t end in rejoicing.

REJOICING ENDS IN CONTENTMENT.

Contentment is Reasonable

In Philippians 4, Paul is writing to two women at odds with each other. Apparently the conflict is so severe, Paul feels the need to weigh in. He tells the others in the church to help these women reconcile and then moves directly into his encouragement, “Rejoice in the Lord” in verse four.  Then in verse five, Paul encourages the church to, “let your reasonableness/ gentleness be known to all.  The Lord is near.”

Each of us have different dynamics at play in our families when we are home for the holidays.  Some of us routinely face conflict or tension. Paul’s instruction amid relational drama is to rejoice and be reasonable (also translated to gentle or moderate). Paul is encouraging the people to avoid the emotional extremes that our relationships and circumstances can pull us into.  We want to rejoice and be reasonable, NOT overwhelmed and swept away in our relationships this holiday season.

We do this by zooming out and aligning our expectations:

  • Zoom Out // If you’re feeling discouraged or overwhelmed this season, take time to zoom out from your current circumstance by rejoicing at how God is working in the big picture and in other ways in your life.  When you can look back or look ahead and see how God is at work, it will give you faith for how He can move in your current situation.
  • Align your Expectations // Notice I said align and not lower your expectations. It’s amazing how our imagination and our expectations of what will or won’t happen over the holidays can run wild without realizing it. Take time to sit down and pray, “God, what do You want to do in my family and in my life this Christmas?” Write down what the Holy Sprit says and let that drive your expectations and faith.

Contentment is Not Neutral

“Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will be with you always” – Philippians 4:6-7

“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me- practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:9

The promise of Scripture is that the peace of God beyond all logic and God Himself will be with us. Yet the Bible is clear that there are things we DO as believers to access the peace He wants to give.  Don’t sit back and wait for contentment to find you this season. To walk in peace we need to be proactive in praying and rejoicing.

  • Take time to pray this holiday season //  You aren’t too busy to find Him, and you’ll find Him in your prayer life.  Spend quality, if not quantity, time rejoicing out loud for what God has done in your life.  Pray specific prayers and ask for specific answers in areas your worried about this season.  You’ll be amazed at what God can do!
  • Practice// Paul encourages the church to keep doing what they’ve learned.  The holidays are a time for rest and celebration.  But too often we push pause on the disciplines of prayer and time with God that actually give us the peace, hope, joy and strength we need. Keep practicing the things you’ve learned in your walk with God.

Contentment is an Atmosphere

“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content…I have learned the secret of facing abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” – Philippians 4:11b-13

We often see that last verse on the wall of a weight room or maybe scrawled on the sweatband of some famous athlete. Ironically, this verse isn’t about victories and overcoming. This verse is about having the strength and character to face both victories AND defeat. Paul is expressing that he’s learned something about walking with God in good times and in bad times. Sometimes we have to walk through difficult circumstances to truly learn the contentment that Paul is talking about. Contentment doesn’t look like the ideal place or scenario you might imagine. Rather, it is the atmosphere you live in everywhere you go!

My final encouragement this season is to embrace the situation God has placed you in. Learn and get all that God has for you!

  • Embrace, don’t escape // Press into your relationships this season, press into that family Christmas or that difficult, even painful situation.  Leave your phone in the car when you go inside, get good rest and don’t stay up late watching endless media.

IN RESPONSE:

What is one thing you can do to embrace the season that God has put you in this Christmas? If nothing else, God wants to give you His contentment, His peace and Himself this holiday season!

By Chase Moore – Associate Young Adult Pastor

Making the Most of Your Christmas Break // College Edition

College students, you made it through finals and are finally rewarded with a much deserved break! Believe it or not, Christmas break is a critical time for you personally in your walk with God. The holiday season is more than a reprieve from school, finals and dorm life. It is more than a time to catch up on sleep, spend extended time with family and get a bunch of gifts.

I TRULY BELIEVE CHRISTMAS BREAK IS CRITICAL BECAUSE YOU HAVE A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO GAIN GROUND IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS.

God has done a lot in you, through you and around you this past semester, and He desires for the seeds of faith, hope, life, freedom, breakthrough and revelation to continue to bear fruit and send you into the year of 2018 with strength and power.

However, there is one who stands in direct opposition to God’s desire and design, and that enemy is the accuser himself, the Devil. Satan seeks to shift your gear from a drive and direction toward God into neutral so you reverse to old patterns, behaviors and temptations. This break, you have the choice to take ground in Jesus or to lose ground to the enemy. “Greater is He who is in you than any power that is in this world” (1 John 4:4). I am confident that this Christmas break, you will be those that do not shrink back but those that press in and take ground.

HERE ARE THREE STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO MOVE FORWARD AND GO FURTHER IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS:

  • Lean into Jesus and community // Jesus said it best when He reminded His disciples in John 15:5, “for apart from me you can do nothing.” You and I both need consistent and powerful personal connections with Jesus to stay strong in faith, full of hope and capable to fight temptations and serve others. We cannot take ground if we are not grounded in truth every morning. Make it a priority to start each day with set aside time to dive into the Word, set your gaze on Jesus in worship and dialogue with God through prayer. Not only is it essential for us to lean into Jesus, but we also need to lean into community while we are home for the holidays. When you feel weak, isolated, discouraged or tempted, reach out to your community by text or phone calls to strengthen you through prayer and encouragement. As you have learned this semester, light exposes darkness. We will lose ground if we keep sin in the dark from people. This Christmas, be sure to lean in and take ground.
  • Be intentional to serve // “Never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord (Romans 12:11)”. Taking initiative to serve your parents, siblings, neighbors, and others around you will accelerate your hunger for God and allow the revelations you have gained to take root in your heart. Don’t expect revival and restoration in your family if you are not willing to roll up your sleeves and serve your mom and dad, brother and sister. Make a list of two to three ways you could show kindness to your family by serving. Beat your mom to the dishes, do not allow your dad to have to take out the trash, volunteer to be the taxi driver to your younger siblings. Your family will listen to your words as you display your heart with your actions. This Christmas, roll up your sleeves and take some ground.
  • Tackle temptations // “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).” I am sure the sins of your past and schemes of the devil are already crouching at your door (Genesis 4:7-8). Since the beginning, the devil has sought to tempt, distract and disillusion God-lovers from the truth. Decide today that you will not give way to his schemes. Our College Pastor Carl Gulley called these temptations, CORNERS, in his sermon on the, “young man lacking sense” from Proverbs. I encourage you to daily put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6), identify your corners (apathy, ex-boyfriend, binge-TV, pornography, masturbation, slanderous speech, jealousy, etc…) and distance yourself from them. This Christmas, choose to take ground and not return to past corners.

You can do it! This is going to be a transformative Christmas break for you as you seek to lean into Jesus and others, be intentional to serve and tackle temptations. Three to four weeks at home can be daunting for some of you. However, if you try and WIN your first three days by taking these steps, I have faith you will return to school refreshed, refueled and strengthened for all that 2018 has for you! Stay LIT this Christmas:  lean into Jesus, be intentional to serve and tackle temptation. We believe in you!

By Maddie Phenix – Associate College Pastor

Making the Most of Your Christmas Break // Youth Edition

Have you ever come to the end of a Christmas break and felt anything but rested or restored? Maybe you slipped into a lethargic state, ate WAY too much junk food or binge watched Netflix, or maybe you played video games for hours on end, got sucked into a book and forgot anyone else existed, barely tolerated your family or let the days unfold with very little intentionality?

IN THE END, YOU HAD SOME LEVEL OF REGRET ABOUT HOW YOU SPENT YOUR TIME.

HERE ARE SIX TIPS FOR MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR CHRISTMAS BREAK:

  1. Prioritize consistent time with God // This is one thing you need to hold on to in the midsy of ditching the routine and being in vacation mode. Set aside time to meet with Jesus daily. He will fill you, refresh you and give you His heart for those around you. If you have a little more time than usual, mix things up a bit. You could have an extended time of worship, go on a prayer walk, choose a book of the Bible to study or spend time journaling.

 

  1. Bless and serve your family // Look for opportunities to do things without being asked, and go out of your way to show your family love in creative, practical ways (i.e. do the dishes, make a special breakfast, fold laundry, write notes to each person, plan a fun night, etc.). Check your motives, and refrain from complaining or drawing attention to yourself.

 

  1. Invest in the relationships around you // Maximize this opportunity to build memories and deepen relationships with your family and relatives. Enter their world, do things they enjoy doing and pursue family members or relatives you don’t typically get much time with.

 

  1. Have fun // Identify things that are restorative and make time for them. Watching a movie or playing a video game is great in moderation, but don’t forget things like drawing, painting, playing an instrument, doing a puzzle or going on a hike.

 

  1. Unplug and be present // It’s such a huge temptation to get sucked into social media or really anything online. Carve out time to set aside your phone or laptop, and be fully present with the people around you. Come up with a plan for healthy boundaries in advance. One idea is to choose a day or two that you won’t use your phone at all.

 

  1. Reflect on 2017 and dream with God about 2018 // Spend time, individually and/or as a family, reflecting on things you’re thankful for from the past year. Ask God for words, verses, vision and goals for 2018.

Parents, one last thought is that you could designate a “free day,” where everyone has permission to spend unlimited time doing things they chose without feeling guilty. While this shouldn’t be every day, it’s fun to do every so often.

Ready to make a plan for Christmas break? Click here to get started!

By Shannon Jones – Youth Ministry Pastor