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God’s Inexpressible Gift

December 23rd, 2012 | Posted by bvosler in Brent - (2 Comments)

As I write these words, I’m sitting on Inell’s and my old couch from our days as missionaries in Uganda. Yes, I am in Kampala. It is a perfect 73 degrees, just like it is almost every day here. The flowers are in bloom and the sky is blue. Christmas music is heard everywhere you go in town as believers prepare to celebrate the coming of our Savior as a baby.

I’m reminded of the wonder of the prophet’s words, “For unto us a child is born.” Whether in the warm tropics of beautiful Uganda, or in the crisp cold of beautiful Michigan, Jesus came for us. To the farthest corners of the world, Jesus has come. His name is adored and His salvation is at work.

He came for you. I don’t know where you find yourself today. It may not be a location so much as a situation. You may be basking in the warmth of family celebrations and reunions, or you may be sitting quietly alone. He came for you. You may be awash in blessings you never expected, or you may be facing challenges you never imagined. He came for you.

One child. One Savior. One King. He is enough.

Let us look to Him this Christmas. Let’s worship Him wherever we find ourselves. Let’s trust Him completely and only. Remember, He came for you. God’s inexpressible gift. Jesus!

Brent Slater
Senior Pastor

10,000 Feet Above Christmas

December 21st, 2012 | Posted by bvosler in Student Ministries - (Comments Off on 10,000 Feet Above Christmas)

If there is one thing about Christmas almost everyone can agree on, whether you are a Christian or non-Christian, it is that Christmas has lost its intended meaning. Most everyone knows that behind Santa, the elves and reindeer, the real meaning behind Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth. And yet most are content with celebrating it anyway and changing the meaning to however they see fit. For some, its about family and gifts, for others its about vacation and friends, and for most kids its about gifts, presents, gifts, toys, and some more gifts.

I ran into one of my neighbors, who I rarely see, and we had the usual acquaintance holiday conversation that went something like this.

Me: “Hi Doc Brown, How are ya?”

Doc B. : “Im great, how are you? It’s nice to see you again.”

Me: ” You too! Do you have any Christmas plans?”

Doc B. : “Oh you know, Christmas has just become a commercial holiday set up by hallmark. It’s just a time for everyone to make more money. I like to wait till January when everything is on sale to buy my stuff.”

And of course, after he said that I completely disagreed and put him in his place and told him that Christmas was about Jesus and he should know that and shame on him for turning it into something else and not celebrating on December 25th!!!!!

Actually, I didn’t do that.

I didn’t know what to say because even though I had just came from church I couldn’t help but agree when I took into consideration his perspective. And maybe we could have had a significant conversation about it if I couldn’t tell that he was scrambling to get in his apartment and avoid the conversation. But still, I couldn’t disagree at the time because I was almost paralyzed by his answer.

I’m sure that most of you put together that Doc Brown’s perspective was far too up close for him to see the greater picture. And for most of us, its our perspective that needs to change to understand Christmas. If we look at it up close, we will only see the small stuff. Gifts, Santa, Family, Vacations, and maybe a sprinkle of the real Christmas message.

But lets take a second and step back. Way back…. Some philosophers like to call it the 10,000 foot perspective. Go as far back as you can possibly go and then go a little further and look at the meaning of Christmas. And let it blow your mind!

God… Creator God. All-powerful, all-knowing, before everything and after everything, and in-everything God. Came to us! In the form of a baby!

Okay pause, hold your breath, close your eyes and think about that if you really believe it and try to believe it more.

(If you really just did that, let me know and I will give you a giant high-five.)

And for 2,000 or so years, the entire earth, whether they know it or not, celebrates His birth every year.

God. Who can do anything He wants… Who can write any story He wants to save humanity from their sin…  Chose to come in the form of a baby. It does not get more humble or beautiful than that!

And!!! His plans work out perfectly beyond His arrival on the scene! He lives a perfect life. Tells people all about the Father’s love in the best stories ever told, heals the sick, makes the blind see, walks on water, calms storms, willingly dies on a cross, defeats death, rises up from the grave, shows up to His friends and tells them to tell other people about this story. And then those people went out and told people about it.

And here is the difference in those people who saw Jesus after He had risen from the dead… They knew that it was NOT JUST A STORY! That it was real and that it changed people instantly when they believed it. They couldn’t stop telling people about it and they couldn’t stop singing! Even when they got put in jail for telling people about it it didn’t even matter because they knew that the story was REAL. So they just kept on singing and telling people about it!

We need to take steps to get closer to this kind of a perspective about Christmas. The Doc Browns of the world will continue to see the smaller picture if we do not. Plus, Christians everywhere will complain that a fairy tale about Santa has stolen their holiday. Maybe, Santa didn’t steal our holiday at all… Maybe we gave it to him because we chose to make Christ’s story equally as powerful as a fairy tale in our own lives.
But we know It’s NOT a fairy tale.

Its real. And it changes everything.

Brantley Vosler
Student Ministries Worship Director

Homesick

December 17th, 2012 | Posted by bvosler in Student Ministries - (Comments Off on Homesick)

Growing up, my parents always tried to teach me to be a disciplined and organized person. I was told everyday to make my bed, make sure my room was clean, take out the trash, and finish all of my homework before I played with friends. Though I was not perfect in these areas everyday, I tried my best to do these things because I loved my parents.

Then I graduated from high school and moved out of my parents’ home into a college dorm room. With this newfound freedom some of those deeply ingrained disciplines began to slip away. Without the threat of punishment or my mother checking on me there were days that the bed would remain unmade.

And believe it or not, there were times where I actually missed my parents. And if I was missing my parents and having a hard time, I would not simply begin cleaning my room, and finishing my homework. It would not make any sense for me to take out the trash because I missed my mother! Would they be proud of me for these things? Absolutely! Are these things honoring to them? Definitely. But these actions alone would not bring me any closer to my parents. So what I did is what any homesick college student would do: head home for laundry and good cooking! However, the remedy in my homesickness was spending time with my parents.

I began thinking about how this related to my spiritual life. I realized that there were often times where I would recognize that my relationship with God was not where it needed to be. I found myself trying to strictly follow all of the commandments, or become as involved in church as much as possible. However, those things were not bringing me closer to Christ because I was not putting in the time to build a deep relationship with Him, and honor him through those actions. There is a reason that Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul with all your strength and with all your mind.” In order to properly love God we must pursue a real relationship with Him, not solely do things that we think He would be proud of.

I think too often we get caught up in the expectations and “regulations” of religion. We forget that being a Christian is about having a real relationship with the all-powerful God, and loving Him. It is not simply trying to prove to Him through actions that we love Him. Those actions hold so much potential to know God deeper, but they can also be done lawlessly (Matthew 7:21-23). Being obedient to God and his commands were designed in a way for us to know him deeper, not simply follow the rules of a religion.

Through all of this I realized that loving my Savior means more than only doing things to prove myself to Him. It means actually building relationship with Him through spending time with Him, and that foundation gives meaning to all other actions. But the most important thing in all of it is responding to an unconditionally loving Father by truly loving Him in a personal way with all that we have.

Jeremy Einem

Co-Director of High School Ministries

“Every warm winter is the answered prayer of a homeless man.”

December 13th, 2012 | Posted by bvosler in Missions - (Comments Off on “Every warm winter is the answered prayer of a homeless man.”)

This quote is something that God laid on my heart several years ago, during the winter of 2008-2009.  It was a brutally cold winter and my first year at university.  On January 29, a story was published in The Detroit News of a man found frozen in ice in the bottom of an elevator shaft in Detroit.  As was later discovered, the man’s name was Johnnie Redding, a long-time resident of the streets of Detroit.  It took me a long time to wrestle with the implications of this article, but no other news story has had a more lasting impact.

As I sat in my dorm room in Southfield, just off M-10, a twenty minute drive from where this man died, the words of Jesus came clearly to my memory:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  Matthew 25:34-40

What an incredible opportunity we have to serve Jesus!  All of the resources we have been given are opportunities to bless.  As I started looking at how I was spending my time and money, I realized I was spending it primarily on myself.  After that point, I started getting more involved in ministries in downtown Detroit.  Suddenly, I was friends with the Johnnie Reddings that were still on the streets.  I got to know Keith, Terry, Brother Fred, Mr. Wilson, Bruce, Gill, Will, David, and many others.  Each of these men had a story to tell.  The day I met Keith he had come to commit suicide in the park where we hosted our BBQ, but his life was changed because he saw the love of Jesus in a tangible way.  Although he lived on the streets, Brother Fred knew that he was a full time missionary to the men and women God put in his path and every time I see him now he reminds me, “When I see you guys down here, I just see Jesus”.  Bruce was struggling to keep afloat, but he experienced the love of Jesus when we helped him furnish his apartment and shared Christmas Eve dinner with him.  Men and women like these are all around us, not just downtown.  Many around us are hungry for more out of life.  They are thirsting for a purpose and satisfaction, imprisoned by sin.  Let us love our neighbor as if they were Jesus.  As we pray this winter, let us pray and ask God to move on behalf of these people.  When the weather outside is frightful, let us pray that all would find their delight in Jesus and that we as a church would love them like He would.

Brad McCarthy

Missions Associate

Bring it on!

December 5th, 2012 | Posted by bvosler in Dave K - (2 Comments)

Our family is one of those families that begins decorating for Christmas right after
Thanksgiving. This was not my custom prior to marrying Julie but that’s the way
things are done now!

Even though I wasn’t used to it, it is indeed a natural flow to move from
Thanksgiving right into Christmas. Thanksgiving puts us in a mindset to reflect upon
all that we have in Christ. As we reflect on those spiritual blessings, we cannot help
but look to Jesus and be reminded of the fact that He “made Himself nothing, taking
the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human
form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on
a cross” (Phil 2: 7,8).

As we look at Jesus – who He is, and what He’s done – we are driven to worship.
Jesus is worthy of our worship and His birth is certainly worth celebrating
so…..bring it on!

If our worship of Jesus, however, is only in word, it is meaningless. Our words need
to be matched by our actions. We need to obey. So, let’s be thankful, let’s celebrate
and then let’s be a people who are marked by our obedience to Him. Let’s live out
our faith in such a way that we reflect Jesus to a watching world around us!

Dave Kuntzman
Missions & Business