Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas Wish List: ForGIVEness

GiftOne of the many promises of Christmas was that Jesus would “give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:77).

Forgiveness is a gift of God paid for by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross (see Ephesians 1:7). It’s given freely to those who put faith in His finished work for their salvation (Acts 10:43). Further defining this word gets us to the reason its such a great gift. The word can actually mean pardon, release from captivity, and freedom and is translated like this in other Biblical passages (Luke 4:18; Colossians 1:13-14). When we put our faith in Christ, forgiveness of our sins becomes reality, releasing us from the bondage of sin and setting us free to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

Many of us don’t have a problem with God’s forgiveness and our need of it. The problems come when we have to live this out in our relationships. And we must!

“if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.” Matthew 6:14-15

“be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32

“bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.” Colossians 3:13  

This past Sunday, as part of our Grace and Truth Message series at Bridge Church, we proposed an exercise to get free, or begin to get free, from relational conflict through forgiveness. This was a personal challenge as this year has been a tough year relationally for me. This challenge has helped me gain freedom from the onset of bitterness.


Steps to Forgiveness:

“forgive as God forgave you” Colossians 1:13

>> List three sins that God has forgiven me for:

>> List three sins that others have forgiven me for:

>> Make a list of people I’m harboring resentment, anger, or unforgiveness towards:  

Love… pray for…” Matthew 5:44  “do good to…” John 6:27

>> What good can I do for them? How can I pray for them this week?


Resentment, anger, unforgiveness grows in marriages, in churches, in extended families, in workplaces. Identifying and extending the gift of release to others sets us free to love and live.

Get the audio from last week’s Bridge Gathering here or on Itunes. Join us Sunday, 10am, at the Maritime Museum in Madisonville for the conclusion of our Grace and Truth Message Series

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Worship is…

nativityThe Christmas story says a lot about the nature of true worship. We can say that God sent Christ into the world so that we could have unfettered opportunity to worship Him. However, worship is misunderstood today as a place and time (“the Worship Service starts at…”) or an experience or element of a gathering (“the worship was great today”). We find a great definition of true worship in Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55.

Worship is humble surrender born out of knowledge of God. 

Mary’s worship demonstrated three things:

1. Humility – “It’s not about me.”

Real Worship starts with the reality that life is about HIS value, and then wonder that I can be accepted, cared for, given to, by such an incredible God. Mary says, “my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant” Luke 1:46-47. Mary demonstrates for us that the proper attitude in worship and in life is, “It’s not about me. It’s about Him.” And “who me? I get to be part of this?”

2. Surrender – “Lord, my life is Yours.”

Mary was a true worshiper because her heart was surrendered. In Luke 1:38 she said, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your Word.” In Luke 1:48, she again calls herself “His Servant.” The word here is literally bond-slave denoting one that has intentionally surrendered themselves to be in servitude to another. To surrender is to make your whole self available to God for whatever He desires. It’s to say to God, “Your way is best. I’m listening. I’m ready to respond with yes.” The opposite of surrender is to resist, to fight, to struggle, to run away, to make our way best and essentially ourselves god, which is idolatry. Mary’s worshiped with a heart that was without resistance.

3. Knowledge of God – “He has done great things for me, and holy is His name” Luke 1:49.

In this song, Mary shows us that she knows God’s word, has a deep understanding of God’s purposes, she knows His work in history, and that she’s internalized His promises to be for her and all that have led her to worship Him.

What has God done for you? How has God worked in your life? You can’t worship what you don’t know. Humility and surrender will open your life to know and experience God, which will lead you to a life of worshiping Him.

So, is life all about you? is there resistance in your heart when it comes to the will of God? can you point to God’s work in your life? If not, during this Christmas season, humble yourself, surrender your heart and will, and get to know His story. Worship Him.

6 Simple Holiday Outreach Ideas for Your Church

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Here’s a few simple Holiday outreach projects that any church, small group, family, or individual can afford. I can testify that these make a big impact with a small investment of time & money.

1. Gift cards for ICU Waiting Rooms. At any given time in your community there are people reeling from traumatic events or devastating illness. Their families can be found in waiting rooms at your local hospital. Pick up a handful of Gift Cards to the closest restaurants & coffee shops, drop by & give them out with a “Praying for You” card from your church. Offer to pray for anyone you get to talk with. Simple act of kindness can breathe life into someone that is overwhelmed with bad news. If no one is there, give them to the nurses desk & they’ll pass them out for you. These nurses could also use prayer & encouragement. Call ahead & find out when visiting times are so that you know when people are in the waiting rooms. $100 for 5-10 gift cards.

IMG_56232. Care packages for the Homeless. If you live in a metro area or near the interstate, you probably get an invitation to serve the homeless everyday at area red lights. “Should I give them money?” is a constant question. Few of us carry cash anymore. Doing nothing is not desirous for most believers. How about make up some simple care packages with some goodies that that can be passed out the window of a car? Keep 3-5 in your car at all times. $10 per bag.

3. Christmas Decor for Nursing Home Residents. Go to your local nursing home & ask for a list of residents with no local family. The reality for these residents is often few visits if any, few seasonal decorations for their walls, few convenient items like warm socks or lotion. Offer to pray for them. Find out what they want or need & plan a return visit. Spend some time listening to their story. $25 for a few Christmas decorations & simple cards colored by kids.

IMG_57214. Fruit baskets for Elderly shut-ins. Local shut-ins are lonely. They often feel trapped. They often have simple to-do’s around their home that can be taken care of in less than an hour. Making up fruit baskets to deliver to them gives you a reason to encourage them with a visit & find out other needs that your faith community can take care of on their behalf.  $25 for a bowl or basket & fruit & other goodies to go int them.

5. Weatherization for Local Widows. In every community there are widows & widowers that can no longer take care of simple things like wrapping their pipes or preparing their home for winter. A great project for the men’s group could be spend one Saturday per year wrapping pipes. $100 worth of weatherization supplies.

teachersloung6. Holiday Treats for Local Teachers Lounges. We often hear laments about churches not being able to “get into the schools.” Most of the time, we’re trying to get in on our terms instead of thinking of ways to be a blessing. We found one way that is enthusiastically accepted 100% of the time at our local schools: stuffing snack baskets full of goodies for teacher’s lounges at the beginning of the school year, holidays, & end of school. Christmas is a great time for this. Shoot for the week that school is getting out. There’s probably a party going on! $100 per Teacher’s lounge.

What other similar outreach ideas have you or your church done at Christmas?

What if…

  • Every ICU Patient family got a gift card & a prayer.
  • Every homeless person got a care packet.
  • Every Nursing Home resident had Christmas decorations.
  • Every shut-in got a fruit basket.
  • Every widow had her pipes wrapped for winter.
  • Every Teacher’s lounge had holiday treats & a note of encouragement from your church.

Merry Christmas from the Corleys!

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Grateful for another year of growth & grace. Hudson (9), Lane, Kate (3), Heather, & Jackson (13)

Picture taken by Amber Veuleman. Location: Madisonville Lighthouse, Madisonville, LA. And you can’t tell, but swells were pretty high that day, so we’re kind of holding on for dear life. Lol!

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5 Books to Put Under the Church Planter’s Tree

giftwrappedbookWondering what to get the church planter friend or loved one in your life for Christmas, etc.? It was actually a great year for books for church planter types. Lots of great books to choose from. Here’s five recent books that I think will make most church planters smile this Christmas or just because.

>> Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt.  See some of my thoughts about the book HERE.

>> Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send by J.D. Greear. Great book on creating a culture of sending. Lots of how to’s. Must read for any missions or church planting enthusiast.

>> 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation by Clint Emerson. Do I have to explain why he’d love this?

>> The Great Fire: One American’s Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century’s First Genocide by Lou Urenek. This would be a great movie, were it not for today’s political correctness. Inspiring story!

>> Staying is the New Going: Choosing to Love Where God Places You by Alan Briggs. Fellow church planter Alan Briggs helps all of us with a strong case for being on mission locally.

And if you wait too late you can’t go wrong with coffee shop or bookstore gift cards for church planters. :)

I keep an up to date, best stack of books for church planting HERE.

Signs of Hope in the Christmas Story

It was Kate McAllister who called Christmas “the season of perpetual hope.” But as we look around at our world, it seems to be getting worse & worse. The Christmas story as told in the Gospels offers us many signs of hope that we can rest in.

1) Prophecy Fulfilled. Some estimate that over 300 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by the coming of Jesus Christ. These prophecies gave hope to generations of followers of YHWH. And today they testify to us of how trustworthy God’s word is. The preciseness & detail arranged by God could not possibly be just happenstance. From being born in Bethlehem to a virgin (who was not from Bethlehem) to fleeing to Egypt to escape King Herod’s wrath. We can look at prophecy fulfilled & say GOD’S WORD IS TRUE. Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14, Genesis 22:18, Numbers: 24:17, Hosea 11:1, Jeremiah 31:15, Mathew 2:16.

2) He used ordinary people who dared to believe. As you read through the Christmas story, & really all of the New Testament, & get to know its characters, you’ll be struck by their ordinariness. Elizabeth & Zachariah – aging priest & barren wife. Mary & Joseph – young & poor village dwellers. Shepherds in the fields – like modern day janitors. No one probably ever even ask their names. The only thing spectacular about them was that they dared to believe God & get caught up in this miraculous story of God’s rescue of the world by sending his son. If he used them, he can use you & I.

3) He made a way for everyone. His was no a temporary intervention. His solution to the needs of the world went right to the heart, to the greatest enemy of humanity – sin & death. Real & lasting change is possible for EVERYONE through Christ. In his Arrival Jesus touched every socioeconomic sphere – the wealthy wise men, the poor shepherd, the old – Anna & Simeon, the young – Mary & Joseph, the powerful – Herod. In his ministry he touched every type of person – the rich – zaccheus, the sinful woman at the well, the diseased lepers, the religious Nicodemus, the destitute – woman caught in adultery. Today the gospel has universal appeal & changes everyone it touches no matter who or what or where you are. 

How can I Experience & Give Hope? You can be a sign of hope to the world if you will: 

  • Believe God’s Word is True. 
  • Believe that God can Use Me.
  • Believe that God has provided the way for everyone. 

These truths lived out will lead to the adventure of lifetime.

Taken from Give Hope, part 1 of Bridge Church’s Christmas Message Series. Get the audio HERE. Gather with Bridge Church Sunday’s at 10:30am at the Maritime Museum in Madisonville.

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#Devo – The Messy Reason for #Christmas

nativity-sketchesWith the Beauty of the Christmas season, don’t forget the MESSY reason that it came about.

Here’s some verses we’ll be sharing around our table on Christmas Eve:

  • 1 Timothy 1:15 – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…”
  • 1 John 3:5 – “Jesus came to take away our sins…”
  • Luke 7:34 – “The Son of Man came eating and drinking… a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”
  • Luke 19:10 – “the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
  • Matthew 20:28 – “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This Christmas, celebrate the fact that God was willing to enter the world to take on the messiness of our sin that we might know Him & experience His presence.

#ChurchPlanting as Incarnational Engagement

“The Word became flesh & moved into the neighborhood.”

John 1:14 MSG

The Way Church, 4 years old, worships in its new facilities.

The Way Church, 4 years old, worships in its new facilities. 200+ now have space to seek God b/c of church planting efforts in Denham Springs.

This time of year I love seeing the different ways churches reach out to their communities & the world. Christmas shoe boxes, Angel Tree’s, gifts to local at-risk kids, Christmas festivals & Block Parties, Special Christmas Musicals & Worship Gatherings, Christmas offerings for missions, etc., etc. But seeing new churches do these things really helps drive home the truth of the incarnation in my heart. The Incarnation is the truth that God became flesh & blood & dwelt among us in the person of Jesus Christ, in order to meet our deepest need in a way that had never been possible. When a new church begins to reach out in a community, we can realistically think about the day in the not too distant past, when that service or ministry was NOT available to those people. The word of God has “moved into the neighborhood”

Church Planter Josh Holland prays with a man on the streets of New Orleans as Level Ground Community Church, 2 years old participates in a gift distribution.

Church Planter Josh Holland prays with a man on the streets of New Orleans as Level Ground Community Church, 2 years old participates in a gift distribution.

to bring the truth & be the hands & feet of Jesus. That’s why I tend to get goose bumps when someone says, “If it hadn’t been for Hope Church or Bridge Church (two church plants that I’ve been a part of), I don’t know where I’d be…” Because I can remember when there was no Hope Church or Bridge Church. And I can remember times when I almost gave up because of hard soil & my own discouragement. But through his grace we were blessed to be a part of bringing Jesus & being Jesus in these neighborhoods.

Grateful for those who are incarnation-ally engaging this Christmas season.

This truth can also apply to individual Christians in your neighborhood, workplace, or extended family. How can you bring Jesus & be Jesus to those around you who need light this Christmas?

And what people group in your community does not have an active witness to the light of Christmas this year? How could church planting bring the gospel to new neighborhoods around your church & through your church?

Merry Christmas from the Corley’s

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We’re grateful for another year of growth, fruitfulness, lessons learned, & God’s grace. Looking forward to 2014! Praying that it’s a year of life to the full for you.

 

 

 

Merry Christmas from the Corley’s

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