02/04/2018 - When God Sends Encouragement

March 14th, 2018

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When God Sends Encouragement

Luke 2:22-40

  • One last look at the first Christmas...

    • Mary & Joseph

      • The "scandal" of Mary's pregnancy
      • Herod's attempt on the life of Jesus
    • In the midst of the trials, God gave them gifts:
      • The baby Jesus!
      • Messages of encouragement!
    • Treasured Words and Experiences
      • What do you do when you are "running on empty?"

        • Seek comfort
        • Remember moments of encouragement the Lord has sent
      • Mary's approach
        • Luke 2:19 "But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart."
      • As God's children, we know they come from Him
        • How often have words of encouragement come right when we needed more courage! And how often do they come from Him, but come through His children?
      • A community of encouragement
        • Hebrews 10:24-25 "And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
        • How grateful we are for even a drop of encouragement; how amazed we are when others encourage by word and by deed!

  • A call to reciprocity

    • Luke 6:36-37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
    • Pay it forward!  Listen when God directs you...

02/11/2018 - Love Is ___________!

March 14th, 2018

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Love Is ___________!

1st Corinthians 13:4-8a

  • Let's Talk About Love 

    • We apply these verses most often to marriage, don't we?
    • These verses were originally written to a church
      • The Corinthian church was blessed. And when we are blessed, don't we assume God is pleased with us?  (see 1 Cor 1:4-11 )  These verses show us what real love looks like in action
    • Paul's words on Love
      • Breaking it down 

        • Agape love: “a caring, self-sacrificing commitment which shows itself in seeking the highest good of the one loved.”
      • Love is patient.
        • If you’re patient, you’re slow to anger, you endure personal wrongs without retaliating. You bear with others’ imperfections, faults, and differences. You give them time to change, room to make mistakes without coming down hard on them.
        • Patience says, "you are worth the wait."
      • Love is kind.
        • Patience in action. The kind person shows kindness in response to harsh treatment. (see Luke 6:33, 35; Rom. 2:4). Kindness, not harshness, motivates others toward positive change.
      • Love is not envious/jealous.
        • The envious person wants what others have. In relationships, they have to have all the attention. James says that jealousy is often the source of quarrels and conflicts (James 4:2).
      • Love is not boastful or arrogant.
        • “Jealousy is wanting what someone else has. Bragging is trying to make others jealous of what we have. Jealousy puts others down; bragging builds us up” (John MacArthur)
        • The humble, loving person is aware that everything they have is a gift from God (1 Cor. 4:7), not something they "deserve."
      • Love is not rude.
        • Love does not needlessly offend. It is courteous, polite, sensitive to the feelings of others and always uses tact.
      • Love does not insist on its own way.
        • It is not selfish, does not demand its rights. Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t insist on His rights? He would have stayed in heaven and we wouldn’t be saved!
      • Love is not irritable.
        • Phillips: “It is not touchy.” Love does not have a hair-trigger temper. Some people make everyone around them walk on eggshells. When you’re angry, usually you’re not loving.
      • Love is not resentful.
        • This word is used of God not imputing our guilt to us, but instead imputing the righteousness of Christ to us ( 4:6-8).
        • One married man said to his friend, “You know, every time my wife and I get into a conflict, she gets historical..."
      • Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
        • These qualities are the flip side of one another. The Moffatt translation: “Love is never glad when others go wrong.” If someone you don’t like falls into sin, you don’t gloat; you grieve. If they repent, you rejoice.
      • Love bears all things.
        • Love doesn’t broadcast the problems of others. Love doesn’t run down others with sarcasm or put-downs. Love defends the character of the other person as much as possible within the limits of truth. Love won’t lie about weaknesses, but neither will it deliberately expose and emphasize them. Love protects.
      • Love believes all things.
        • This does not mean gullibility; it does mean that love is not suspicious and doubting of the other person’s character and motives without good reason, even if the actions offended you. Sometimes you will get taken advantage of when you trust, but love persists in trusting.
      • Love hopes all things.
        • It is not pessimistic. It does not expect the one loved to fail, but to succeed. Love refuses to take failure as final. It rests on the promises of God, that He is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
      • Love endures all things.
        • The word “endures” is a military word meaning to sustain the assault of an enemy. It has the idea of holding up under trial, of perseverance in spite of difficulties. It means that love hangs in there.
        • There is a trend among in our culture of bailing out of tough situations. Aren't you glad Jesus didn't bail on us?
      • Love never ends
        • Real love doesn't fail. It does not dependant upon the behavior of others, but upon God.  It's a "father, forgive them" kind of love.
      • Conclusion
        • And we can all probably do better.  I encourage you to make each of these "love is" statements a point of prayer over this week, especially the ones that are personally the most challenging...

02/18/2018 - A Difficult Journey

March 14th, 2018

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A Difficult Journey

(sorry, but the computer ate my sermon notes)

02/25/2018 - Sacrificial Victory

March 14th, 2018

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“Sacrificial Victory”

Mark 8:27-37


  • Spending your life for Christ

    • The Rev. Billy Graham
    • The Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer


  • Peter: Right belief, wrong goals

    • Peter's great confession of faith: that Jesus was the Messiah. He was correct. He was even inspired by the Father to make that statement of faith.
    • But when Jesus began to openly teach the necessity of the Cross, Peter - of all people - took Him aside, and began to rebuke Him. This the sternest rebuke that Jesus ever gave (Mark 8:31-33).
    • Was this the "more opportune time?" Hard enough to endure temptation from Satan, but what about those from your friends...?
    • Also notice the "get behind.." Jesus had called Peter to follow Him; now Peter was trying to talk Jesus into following what Peter wanted instead. 
  • Taking up the Cross
    • If you wish to follow Jesus, you must learn self-denial. You must “deny yourself” (Mark 8:34). The Christian life involves choosing the way of God rather than our own path. You must follow the example of Jesus, who surrendered Himself to the will of His Father (Luke 22:42).
    • If you would follow Jesus, you must be willing to walk with Him, and to go wherever He leads.
    • Sometimes this is spending a life in service, like Rev. Graham. For others, it has been giving up their lives for Christ, as Rev. Bonhoeffer. 
    • It means surrendering our goals to God. That's hard...
  • Conclusion
    • We are told by this world to place our will at the forefront

      • "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."- from Invictus by William Ernest Henley
    • And yet the message of Christ still shines through the lives of His children:
      • In her book, Out of the Saltshaker and into the World, Rebecca Manley Pippert relates that she was afraid of becoming a Christian, because (she thought) she would cease to be herself. But surprise!  In losing herself to Christ she found the authentic "self" she was always meant to be.  The truth was that in Sacrifice she found Victory.
    • You have a choice: Savior or Self
      • “The opposite of wasting your life is to live by a single, soul-satisfying passion for the supremacy of God in all things. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you have to know one great all-embracing thing—and be set on fire by it. Like Paul, declare, ‘I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.’” (Don’t Waste Your Life, p. 43-44)

03/04/2018 - When Jesus Got Mad

March 14th, 2018

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“When Jesus Got Mad”

John 2:13-22


  • Why talk about anger?

    • ...especially on Communion Sunday?

      • We are in the season of Lent
      • The lectionary reading for today is Jesus clearing the temple
      • If we are in any way connected to the larger world via news reports, podcasts, social media, anger is now in the air we breathe.
    • Earlier this past week, while the news was still focused on the Parkland..
      • Did you watch the CNN town hall meeting?

        • I listened to it, and when the NRA spokeswoman was speaking I did indeed hear a cry of "burn her," although it could have been someone mangling the word "murderer." So much anger.
      • Did you hear the Broward county deputies (multiple) stayed outside?
        • We have since learned they were told to set up a perimeter
        • So much anger over that.
      • What do we do with this anger?
        • Write nasty replies on social media?
        • Take it out on other people during the day? (or worse, when at home in the evening?)
        • WWJD?
      • What Jesus did...
        • Why was He upset?

          • (Yes, He really was upset. The "wrath of God" is real...)
          • Disrespecting God's holy place was a part of the story... (John 2:16)
          • The other part was the "unjust scales" alluded to in Matthew 21:13 with the "den of robbers" quote
            • How often had Jesus and Mary and Joseph traveled to the temple, and how often had Jesus seen exorbitant prices demanded of the poorest people?

          • How did He respond?
            • Not politely! But not out of proportion, either...
            • A "whip" would have been used to get the animals moving
            • Turning over the tables and chairs got the moneychangers moving
            • He did not go around wailing on the money changers...
            • And when it was over, it was over! It doesn't say Jesus was carrying the anger around with Him, even against those who crucified Him.
          • How are we to follow Him?
            • Paul speaking to the church as a whole:

              • Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. - Ephesians 4:26-27 (NRSV)
            • The writer of Hebrews (maybe Paul) addressed lingering anger:
              • See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. - Hebrews 12:15 (NRSV)
              • Ever let a bull thistle grow in your garden?
            • Do not allow yourself to be infected by this era of anger that we are living in
              • If your anger is just, do not allow it to become sinful

                • Treat others as persons deserving respect and understanding
                • Do not respond disproportionately
                • Do not in frustration take past wrongs out on present family, friends, churchgoers, coworkers, motorists...
              • In short, give your frustration and anger to God!
                • Allow just anger to move you to action, but don't allow it to curdle into bitterness.
                • Make no room for the devil, but make room for love and forgiveness instead.
                • Do your best in this age of anger to spread love, not hate, through the power of Jesus Christ.
                • Even if you don't feel it yet, set an example by your actions not only for others, but for yourself! If you do this, the feelings will start to change...

03/11/2018 - The Heart of the Gospel

March 14th, 2018

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“The Heart of the Gospel”

John 3:14-21


  • Those very special verses...

    • The Golden Rule
    • The Great Commission
    • John 3:16
      • Our focus: "For God so loved the world..."
    • The Context:
      • Jesus has been speaking to Nicodemus
      • Jesus recalls the story of the Israelites, judged for idolatry and bitten by serpents, who only had to look to the bronze serpent Moses placed on a pole to be healed (Numbers 21)
      • In coming to see Jesus at night, Nicodemus had moved from darkness into the light
    • The Heart of the Gospel
      • For God so LOVED...           

        • For God IS..
        • Love stretches back through eternity past, BUT God chose to share that love by creating others with the capacity to love each other and to love Him
      • For God so loved THE WORLD...
        • NOT "worldliness!"
        • God so loved every fallen, broken person that has ever been or ever will be; though He hates the evil that we do, he loves each and every person He created so much that He bore our sins in Christ on the cross.
      • Are we sharing God's Love?
        • Are we sharing and living the message that God loves everyone He created?

          • Or do we send the message that God only loves some?
          • We are all human. We have our "comfort zones."
          • Christians have a reputation for being a clique. Is that fair? 
        • Are we sharing God's love within our fellowship?
          • John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you..." How well are we doing this?
          • Christians have a reputation as divisive and combative, with churches splitting even over little things. Is that fair? 
        • Are we sharing the kind of love God has?
          • God's kind of love is not content with those that already share in it.
          • God's kind of love is explicitly self-sacrificing. How many times have we placed our wants before others' needs?
          • Jesus said, "Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) Many Christians, including Methodists, understand that to mean "perfected in love," so that every decision, every action, has love of God and love of others as its motivation. 
          • Example: In 1st-century Rome they practiced sex-selective infanticide.  Imagine living in a world so callous that the cries of abandoned infants are ignored as an accepted, necessary part of a "modern society."  Then imagine this one, crazy group of people who start to say, "we will take them!  Don't kill them!"  That was a shock to the Roman world that left an impression of God's kind of love.  And such extravagant love went on to transform the world...
          • That is the kind of love that can fill our hearts, our minds, our very lives... if we let it.

12/03 - When the Time Comes

December 7th, 2017

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When the Time Comes

Mark 13:24-37 

  • What were you doing on Monday, September 26th, 1983?

    • ...In Hickory Level the high temperature was a perfect 72 degrees, with 8 miles of visibility.
    • It was also the day our world almost ended.... Stanislav Petrov, the man who quite possibly saved the world, died this past May at 77.
  • The first Sunday in Advent is one of hope: the hope that Light will shine amidst the darkness
    • Jesus spoke of a time of darkness: Signs in the heavens, light being extinguished!
    • Jesus spoke within a time of darkness: Israel occupied by Rome, 400 years since God had spoken through the prophets
    • And the darkness still tries to surround us: 34 years ago we were so close to destruction, and never even knew it!  And this week we find out that North Korea can now reach Washington DC with their brand new ICBMs
  • But Jesus assures us that Light will overcome the darkness, and councils us to keep awake!
    • The problem with the darkness is it makes you want to pull the covers over your head, to go to sleep. But He tells us not to, even though it might be more comfortable to be lulled by things that don't matter, to drift off into distraction.
    • Are we awake? We are ready if it were to BE now?, if an angel appeared and said, "It is time to stand before Jesus...?"
    • Would you be comfortable with...
      • your prayer life? ...your treatment of others?...your patience or lack thereof?...
    • If the answer to all of that was yes, then are you maybe too comfortable?

  • Final words
    • Do you remember David Cassidy?

      • 1983's Joseph in his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?
      • Teen heartthrob star of the Partridge Family?
      • He also passed away this year, this past week actually, at 67.
      • His daughter Katie Cassidy (Laurel Lance on "Arrow") shared this on Twitter:
        • "Words can't express the solace our family’s received from all the love & support during this trying time,” the Arrow actress wrote. “My father’s last words were ‘So much wasted time.’..."
      • Yet we serve a God who "redeems the time," who takes what this world calls a waste and makes it fruitful and holy.
        • "Arise, shine, [people of God] for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you."
        • "Wake up, and strengthen what remains..."
        • May God open our eyes, convict our hearts, lead us to repentance, forgive us our sins, and fit us for His service.

11/26 - On the Word of the King

November 30th, 2017

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On the Word of the King

2 Timothy 3:14-17

  • Are We Confident in the Word?

    • "From childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." As true for many of us as it was for Timothy.
    • "... for the Bible tells me so." The secular culture replies, "so what?" 
      • That HAS to have an impact. If not on you, then on your children, or grandchildren...
    • So let's spend ONE Sunday just on this Word of our God and King
  • You Can Be Confident in the Bible's Construction
    • Let me tell you the story of the New Testament...

      • Sharing the Stories of Jesus, reading letters from the Apostles

        • Letters being recognized AS scripture (2 Pet 3:16)
      • As the Apostles start to pass, the Stories are written down
        • Matthew, Mark (Peter), Luke (Paul), John
      • Each local church has their own copies of letters and gospels, each deciding whether they are genuine, with the same Jesus
        • The earliest list was compiled in AD 170. It included all of the New Testament books except Hebrews, James, and 3 John. Some of them accepted the Apocalypse of Peter, although others "will not allow [it] to be read in church."  They rejected the letters claiming to be Paul's letter to the Laodiceans and to the Alexandrians.
      • Over time, a consensus developed as to what was accepted:
        • (1) Because the apostles were the eyewitnesses of Jesus, the writing had to be directly connected to an apostle.
        • (2) The writing had to be "orthodox"; that is, it could not contradict Old Testament or the teachings of the apostles.
        • (3) The writing had to be accepted in churches throughout the known world, not just one group of believers
      • In 367, the Festal Letter of Athanasius listed as authoritative the same twenty-seven books that appear in our New Testaments.
      • In 382 a group of bishops and theologians, including some eastern representatives, met in Rome. The list was discussed, formalized, and published.
        • Not at all like Dan Brown's claim that " books were compiled and edited by men who possessed "a political agenda... to solidify their own power base."
      • You Can Be Confident in the Bible's Translation
        • American Bible Society: "the number of printed English translations and paraphrases of the Bible,... complete or not, is about 900."
        • Things to remember as an informed consumer:
          • Modern translations have better sources than older translations
          • All translations come from a particular time, place, and people, which effects the translation choices
            • : NIV "the man of God" vs NRSV "everyone who belongs to God" in verse 17
          • Paraphrases translate idea-for-idea, rather than word-for-word.
            • “And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks (goads)” (Acts 26:14 KJV). But The Message? "Why do you insist on going against the grain?’"
          • My personal choice? A more literal translation with study notes to explain the meaning or background of difficult passages...
        • A good practice: test the translations against one another (easy for you, or your grandkids, to do now); weed out the bad ones
      • You Can Be Confident in the Bible's Teachings
        • "I have a problem with..."

          • v16: "ALL Scripture..."
        • Things to remember
          • The letters were, for the most part, written to particular churches with the understanding they would be shared with others. You can expect them to target the particular problems at that church.
          • The entire NT was written within a first-century context. Sometimes that means we have to step back from the particular practice to look at the principle underlying it before we can apply it to our lives.
          • Within their context of a small, persecuted religious minority, the status quo was subverted instead of protested
            • Can you find the letter to Philemon?... A slave is sent home to his master, but the master is told the slave is his brother.  How can slavery survive? 
            • The church challenged Rome by rescuing babies from exposure in trash heaps, taking care of the poor, etc.
          • We are more distant from the first century, but have greater resources than any of the generations that have gone before.
            • Granted there is a lot of chaff mixed in with the wheat, and a lot of people with agendas, but they usually reveal themselves.
            • If I could leave you with one thing, it would be a holy excitement for the Word of God, and a desire to spend TIME studying this Word, given by the Creator of the universe, whose message to us is Life and Love.

11/19 - Consider the Lillies

November 30th, 2017

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Consider the Lilies

Matthew 6:25-34

  • The Enemy of Thanksgiving

    • Taking things for granted/Always wanting more? Good candidates, especially in our consumer culture!
    • But there is another: fear, worry, stress
      • I want to be thankful. But all these things I'm stressed about keeps getting in the way!
      • And even if "life is good" for you, there is a whole smorgasbord of stress offered up to you each day! So much to fret over, to say "what is this world coming to" about!
    • Cares and Lures of life:
      • Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23):

        • 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.
        • 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.
      • Most of the Christians that I spend time with, and I myself... we seem to have a pretty good handle on the lures. It is the cares that are tripping us up.
        • ...And that's why I always seem to return to these verses in Matthew 6...
      • Giving Thanks, Being Content
        • In Matthew 6, Jesus seems to be talking to those distracted by the cares more than the lures

          • They weren't the rich (whom Jesus did spend time with)
          • They were stressed over things most of us take for granted
            • Q: Are you more concerned with having too little this Thanksgiving, or eating too much?
          • Jesus redirected them:
            • Your Father knows what you need... yes!
            • But also, isn't if "funny" that Jesus directed them to look at the birds flying overhead, and the flowers blooming all around them?
              • Doesn't that sound restful?
              • Paul said "whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy... think about these things!" (Philippians 4) Jesus seems to be saying, "look at them, seek them out!"
            • Against Our Society of Lures and Cares...
              • Advertisers offer us lures; the news offers us cares
              • Jesus offers us contentment, and thankfulness is key. They go hand-in-hand. 
            • Homework:
              • You know yourself (God knows you better, but...)

                • If you are vulnerable to the lures... Remember that story (maybe you lived it) of the parents who spent a fortune on a Christmas gift, and the child had more fun with the cardboard box it came in?... BE THAT CHILD
                • If you are vulnerable to the cares... If you've got the weight of the world bearing down on you, quit trying to prepare yourself for how bad things can be, take it one day at a time, and be thankful for what, and who, you have. Consider the lilies and the birds flying overhead, that God provides for them, and will provide for you...
                • If you've learned how to practice thanksgiving, if you've learned (as Paul did) the secret of contentment beyond your present circumstances, help your family to see it.

11/12 - For The Coming Generations

November 16th, 2017

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 For The Coming Generations

Psalm 78:1-8

  • It Makes a Difference

    • My Dad was a soldier

      • Paratrooper, purple heart recipient
      • Didn't talk much about it; only shared a few stories
      • But he handed down to me a fundamental respect for soldiers, for their struggles, for why they fought
      • And having received this from him, and having seen my father's service respected at his funeral, it is almost painful to see the American flag held in contempt...
    • That connection is becoming more rare
      • Recent statistics show just one-half of one percent of American adults have served on active duty at any given time. Fewer that one-third of those under 30 have immediate family members who served. 
      • And if you look at the difference between those who live in the big cities and those from the rural areas, the differences get larger.
    • And with the loss of that connection comes a loss in understanding, respect, and common values. That happens when the important things are not passed on to the next generation...
  • So it is with our Faith, and its Foundations
    • Remember that push years go to "not force our kids into our faith?" Against this today's scripture says: " We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. "
    • How well do you think we've done?
      • Noah, Jonah, Moses, Sampson...ok
      • Do they know the story of David and Jonathan? Or David and Absalom?
      • Do they know that a prostitute named Rahab became the ancestor of Jesus?
      • How Elisha prayed so his servant could see God's armies defending them, and he saw the hillside surrounded with "chariots of fire?"
      • They know the 23rd Psalm; do they know that the 22nd Psalm was the cry of Jesus on the cross?
      • For that matter, have we told them of our personal struggles with faith, when God delivered us, or gave us strength to carry on?
    • These are the foundations of our shared faith, mutual understanding, common values...
      • Are our foundations solid? Will "the children yet unborn,... set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments;... that they should not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God"?
      • (God's church is there to equip you and support you in this calling; this is something God's church and God's families do together. But the church can never take your place.)
    • Beyond the Foundations, we must Build Well
      • But even if we get that RIGHT, that is only the first step!
      • Do you think the Pharisees had a strong biblical foundation?   And yet they put Jesus to death...
        • Of all the national instances of violence in the last few months, only one was (possibly) seeking fame. The others killed, at least in part, because they thought they were in the right... just like the Pharisees when they had Jesus killed.
      • The foundations must be solid, yet Christ-like love is the mortar that holds them together...
        • Every story we share is told in the light of Jesus' love, sacrifice, and resurrection... done so ALL may come to Him
      • Please consider this well...
        • God has given us infinite grace, but in this world we have a limited amount of time

          • We know (hopefully) that our faith has made us "better," in how we handle the trials of life, how we reach out to others...
          • But bringing it down to that limited resource of time, please consider this question: What practical difference has it made in my family's life that we identify as Christians, excluding all church-based activities? And should I be satisfied with the answer?
            • Maybe there should be more time with my spouse, with my kids, sharing the stories, talking about the faith, praying for the hurting and lost?

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