Before we blast into the fullness of all that 2017 has for us, let me take a moment to reflect on the Holiday season of 2016. A popular biblical passage used at Christmas is Luke 2 in which an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and said; “I bring you good tidings of great joy”! The good tidings or good news that the angel referred to was the birth of Christ. This good news is for all mankind, and is intended to bring us great joy.
As I was preparing for the Christmas sermon, I thought about the concept of great joy. Joy is an interesting subject that isn’t discussed very much. It is a state of great delight and happiness. The interesting thing about joy is that it can be caused by a multitude of different things. It can be triggered by love, appreciation, good fortune or—in this case—good news. While many different things can create joy, it can only be expressed in ONE WAY. True joy must be shared. Joy isn’t complete until it can be expressed and shared with other people. In that way it is a lot like love. If you are in love with someone, you have to share it or express it.
In Luke’s report, as the angel announces, “I bring you good tidings of great joy”—suddenly a heavenly host breaks into the scene praising God—so filled with joy, they had to share in the experience.
I am excited about 2017. While there are many things I want to accomplish this year, I want to live in a state of joy by sharing my joy with others and completing their joy—celebrating the good news with one another. For more on this subject, visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html
I recently had the privilege to lead a team of 11 people on a two week, short-term mission trip to Ghana, West Africa. A favorite part of my job is to encourage people to participate in international ministry opportunities. These opportunities are rich is so many ways. One benefit is that you can establish deep relationships with the team and the nationals—in a short amount of time. You also get to step out of your comfort zone and experience things you never would in the United States.
On this particular trip, we spoke at several pastor conferences and ministered at several Sunday morning worship services. We held 4 medical clinics, preached daily on the radio, and visited a school. Although our ministry varied from day to day, one thing was a constant. Each ministry opportunity demanded an interpreter. We needed translation for everything we did.
The Americans all spoke English. The Ghanaians where we were (on the coast) mainly spoke “Ewe” But, at a couple events we had churches that had driven from the northern part of Ghana and they spoke “Twi”. You would probably be surprised to know that the official language of Ghana is indeed English. Everyone speaks their tribal tongue and the educated Ghanaians speak English as well.
If you have ever used a translator, you know that you are to speak slowly and clearly—in succinct thoughts—and then wait for the interpreter to re-state the thought that you just communicated. It is difficult to do if you are a fast thinker/talker like me, or if your interpreter isn’t fluent in your language. On this trip, there were several times when an American speaker would talk, then an interpreter would translate the message into Ewe, and then a second interpreter would translate that into Twi! Many times people in the audience who knew one of the languages—would clarify or correct the interpreter as he spoke.
As I considered how difficult it is to communicate like this, I started thinking about e-mails, text messages, Facebook and twitter—and how social media is another layer of speech that has be interpreted to get our message across. Social media has become the primary way Americans communicate, and I do not think we fully consider how much of what we say is “lost in translation” by using these mediums.
I came home from Ghana wanting to look people in the eye, speak my language, and communicate in a deep and personal way. I didn’t want to “talk” through social media. I wanted to talk like we used to—eyeball to eyeball. I know I will surrender back to our culture though I hope it isn’t anytime soon. And I hope you understand what I am trying to say. After all, I am communicating with you right now through a blog found on social media! For more on this subject visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/the-voice-of-victory.html
I am fascinated by relational topics. That is probably because I have spent most of my life “relationally challenged”. As you might expect, there are some good reasons for that. But there are no good reasons to stay that way. I am always shocked when I discover a relational truth that other people know, but I was totally unaware of. That happened this week.
I have always been a productive person. I do not need anyone to look over my shoulder and create a list of tasks for me to accomplish. I start every day with a To-Do list that I have created. In the past, I suffered from a “performance mentality”. That mentality says, “the more you get done; the more you are worth”. I don’t live there anymore. My value is now based on the fact that I was created in the image of God. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and Jesus paid the ultimate price to have relationship with me. That is my value.
So, why can’t I rest???
A pastor friend asked me one time why I took adventurous vacations instead of just sitting on the beach and relaxing. He said my life was chaotic enough, why did I want to add more stress to my life? He saw a striving in me that I could not see in myself. Looking back, I realize I never took a REAL day off, even when I was on vacation.
So, why can’t I rest???
A dear person in my life recently took a year off from her career. She was exhausted and needed a break. She actually was being totally re-worked by the Lord. Upon hearing her story, someone else dear to me said that they would be miserable if they had to take a year off. As they pondered this, they realized that they could take an extended period of time off IF THEY COULD SPEND IT WITH THEIR FRIENDS. They deduced that rest sounded attractive, only if it involved hanging out with people they enjoyed being with.
So, why can’t I rest???
I can now. I have found some friends (relationships without a purpose). I never really had friends in my life outside of high school. I hung out with the people I worked with. So all my relationships were, to a degree, performance based. Today, I have friends that I can hang out with and talk for hours without any concern for time. In fact, I leave energized when I have been with them.
I am convinced that the reason I could never rest was I never developed friends outside of work. Maybe that is your struggle too. I am now on the other side and hope you can get there to. For more on this subject visit