Friday, December 22, 2006

The Christmas Challenge

32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Luke 6:32-35 NIV

Thinking about these verses through the lense of this Christmas Season, Jeanine and I have really been challenged to reach beyond the normal giving of gifts to friends and family. Really, the idea was born out of the Christmas Challenge at Southland Christian Church last year as they charged the congregation with going and being Jesus on Christmas Day. Through that challenge and the drive to remember what Christmas is all about, we decided to extend this challenge to our families.

We purchased gift cards from area grocery stores, restaurants, and department stores (Target, Walmart, Kroger, Cracker Barrell, Applebee's, etc.); one for each family group. They were then given the challenge with the following parameters:

  1. Gift cards can be used in one of two ways: They can be given as a gift card, or participants can use the card to purchase an item that they believe will fill a need.
  2. Gift cards, regardless of the method, should be used to help someone that the participants do not know.
  3. The challenge should be completed within three weeks.

We encouraged everyone to be as creative as possible with their gifts; keeping in mind that people's needs manifest in different ways, participants should be open to the Lord's leading in this project. Our prayer for this project is that each person would be blessed by the opportunity to share a gift of love with someone outside their typical zone of proximity.

Each person was asked to come here and tell the story of how the gift card was used. The stories will be written in the comments section of this blog. Check back soon and see how this Christmas Challenge does (or doesn't) play out. We'll see :)

We certainly wish each of you a Merry Christmas!

Celebrating Him,

Justin & Jeanine

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Finals are over, Now what?

From : Justin -

What a semester and what a week! Of the 91 pages I wrote this semester (not to mention the other 44 that I was in collaboration on writing and editing), and the nearly 50 hours put into a video project, about 20 of those pages and 25 hours of the video were crammed into the past 5 days. Of course that doesn't count the couple thousand pages of reading I had to do this semester (there was a lot of "skimming" involved :) I closed down the library three nights in a row this week only to come home and continue working into the early morning hours. In the midst of it all it can be easy to forget why we're all doing this, and what its all about.

As I just pause even for a minute to look back on the semester I can see some amazing transformation that has taken place in my life. Through the development of accountablility relationships, consistant time in the word, the meeting of a small group affectionately known as "the fellowship", great friends and the love of my wife - God has revealed Himself and His amazing love in so many ways. It has become more and more clear that God has called us here in our brokenness to be prepared for ministry regardless of the when and where. It's not until we realize that the murderer and adulterer are loved just the same as the devoted church goer that we can begin to confess our own sins and begin to move to a deeper relationship with the one who created us and died for us.

This truely has been an amazing semester, difficult for sure, but the "ordeal" is good. As Os Guiness puts it, we have two callings. The first is to relationship with God and the second is to our vocation. It is has been this first call that has deepened to new places over the last few semesters and through it has come some initial discernment of my second calling. So, finals are over - Now what? I continue to chase after the one who made us and came to redeem us; to strive to be a better husband and to love people. I pray that the coming semesters will be more of the same as I still have a lot to learn!

Have a great Christmas!

Celebrating Him!