“Winter’s Back !” declared the radio announcer this morning as I drove to the church to meet someone for an early-morning discipleship session.
Believe it or not, this was Joy FM ! It didn’t seem like a very joyful message, … but it was true : after our wonderful but brief January thaw last weekend, it was looking like another cold, windy Missouri day with highs only in the 20s.
Winter is a struggle for some of us, isn’t it ? Dark nights. Cloudy days. Threats of snow or ice. The cold temperatures themselves can get a person down. When the “polar vortex” hit a little over a week ago, I thought I might go crazy if it didn’t finally warm up some. I made the mistake that Monday night of turning down the thermostat as I usually do at night ; the next day (Tuesday), the house just couldn’t get heated back up, … no matter how hard the furnace tried. Too much cold, too much wind, too much winter.
Each winter day, though, carries us one day closer to spring. I think our spirits long for it just as much as our bodies do. Personally, I think the coming weeks and months are some of the most exciting of the year, spiritually speaking, as we begin the climb toward the sunshine and triumph of Easter.
I even got a glimpse of it last Sunday when …
… I saw 16 smiling people of all shapes and sizes engaged in a Bible study of the book of John during the 9:00 hour ;
… I had 9 fun, earnest members of our Discovery 101 class in the dining room ;
… there was such a good turnout for the church congregational meeting and a joyful consensus in the election of new church officers ;
… some 25 of us gave a good portion of our afternoon to planning out ministry for the spring semester at Emmanuel.
Watching you was like watching daffodils already trying to sprout their way through the ground, … or buds on trees expecting to burst out into spring, just daring anyone to say, “Winter’s back !”
I anticipate that in the coming weeks we’re going to have more bursts of spiritual color, as we anticipate …
a JAM lock-in and Winter Blast trip to Iowa,
the start-up of a new women’s Monday night study,
infant dedications in February (our chance to commit to being involved in new lives),
the continuing 201, 301, and 401 courses in our CLASS (Christian Life And Service Seminar) series on Sunday mornings,
a Seder (Passover) meal on Good Friday,
Easter, and more.
Emmanuel has always been like an experiment to me. Can a church put in place certain principles —
a climate of acceptance,
individual spiritual growth,
an emphasis on everyone ministering,
a spirit of servant-leadership,
and a relatively simple structure —
and live according to those principles over any length of time ?
Can our lives with the Lord grow more and more fresh, rather than drift into stagnation ? Can a church maintain a heart for reaching its community (and beyond), … and not drift into the much easier role of just “doing church” ? Can we learn to be servants of all … at all times ?
Thanks for being part of the experiment ! Your commitment to being involved, using your spiritual gifts, praying, and serving make this a great place to be, … even in winter !
This Sunday we will have a visit from Al Frank, of St Louis, who is our Associate District Superintendent for the Central District of the Evangelical Free Church. You are going to enjoy hearing from Al as he speaks to us on the theme of “Multiplying Healthy Churches” – a challenge to be a healthy church and to be involved in growing more healthy churches. Al has been a wonderful support to me personally and has a heart for the work God is doing among us here in Hermann. Come be encouraged, and find out more about our connection to the EFCA Central District (E-Free churches in Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas).
Adult Bible Studies this Sunday at 9:00 – Gospel of John, in the Conference Room ; Discovering Christ and Our Church 101, in the Dining Room. If you missed last Sunday’s 101 course, it’s not too late to join in this Sunday. We’re learning about the local church and what it means to be a committed member at Emmanuel. This is the last time we will hold this course during the current school year. Please join us this Sunday !
Day of Prayer – Please plan on being part of a Day of Prayer, Wednesday, January 29, from noon ‘til 7:00 pm at the church. God calls us to pray, and He has been so faithful to answer prayers we’ve brought to Him on these quarterly Days of Prayer. Come when you can, and stay as long as you can. There will be opportunities at the church to submit a personal or ministry-related prayer request in advance of the Day of Prayer. Or you can email me your prayer request(s). We would love to pray for you on the 29th.
Faith Tested By Fire – On Sunday, January 26, we will begin a several-part sermon series from the book of 1 Peter entitled “Faith Tested By Fire.” Many at Emmanuel have known some degree of trial, sorrow, or suffering. The little book of 1 Peter tells us how to withstand the pressures and pain of opposition, trials, and suffering … and win ! (Or, as Peter puts it, … come forth shining like gold !) Our theme verses will be 1 Peter 1:6-7 —
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
God bless you, and I hope to see you this Sunday !