Sharing Good Works with Christmas Joy and Hope

December 23, 2011

In most church lectionaries (a list of various portions of Scripture arranged by theme for reading within churches) the reading from the epistles for Christmas is from Paul’s letter to Titus, chapter 2, verses 11-14:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 

Notice the straightforward flow of Paul’s presentation: Grace appeared through Christ to bring salvation to all who would believe, to make a holy people, awaiting his “advent.” And while we wait, we are to be a people zealous for good works. May God’s gift of Jesus Christ so stir you and your family this Christmas and into the new year that you are eager to serve others with grace and joy.

It is in this theme that I am so grateful to share with you two stories of joy shared with the completion of our annual Giving Tree project. Thanks to the incredible generosity and good works of our body, we were able to deliver gifts, hope, and Christ’s love to 3 families in great need from the Richland Elementary School in our neighborhood. Keith Mason and Kari Jane Smith’s accounts of their experiences are included so that you too may share in the joy of this project.

[From Keith Mason – Youth Pastor]
Last week I had the opportunity to do one of my favorite things of the year: deliver our Giving Tree gifts. Thanks to the generosity of the TFC community we were able to give bags and bags full of Christmas gifts to some new friends in need. It’s hard to imagine people in such need just a few blocks from the church. They didn’t even have pillows. However, each mom I met was striving to care for her family. One mother of a special needs child told us the story of being given this child when he was only three months old. She has sacrificed to raise him as her own for thirteen years. It helped put our giving in perspective.

Another mom we met told us the story of losing her job this past month. She told us how she had worked odd jobs, one after the other for years to provide for her family. As we brought in the gifts her eyes filled with tears. She was overwhelmed by grace. This was going to be a difficult Christmas for them, but now our unexpected generosity changed things. Her tears of joy had a big impact on me. There’s only been a few times in my life when I’ve been overcome with tears of joy. I want to be overwhelmed by His grace. What I’m asking for this Christmas is for Christ’s unexpected generosity to change things. Change my heart – that I might have tears of joy.

[From Kari Jane Smith- Director of Children’s Ministry]
She rang the church doorbell shyly and waited.  I knew she was coming and wanted to ease her discomfort, so I ran down the hall and around the corner to welcome her. She was not alone…a hesitant child clung to her hand and looked up at me with eyes as big as saucers!  What to say?

“I am so glad you are here…come…let me show you what our friends (that is you all) want to give you today!”
“So many friends and so many presents…look!”

Quiet and unsure…they both follow me to the shinning tree and must be wondering how it is that they are here in a church and about to receive more than they see. What to say?

“This…this is for you, D’Juan…and for your sister Natalia. And what does this name tag say? And this one? And this one?  And look, this one says, “for D’Juan’s mom!”

Smiles and tears cannot be held back anymore….Cherry Hanes is walking towards Mom and a warm hug is offered with prayers.  

“God loves you so much!  He is with you. You are not alone. You need to know that…” 

Christmas is here…right here. Hope is here. Mom tells us she was just laid off and her children knew that there would be no tree or presents or stockings for Christmas this year. God surprised her with hope. 

If you are reading this, you are part of that hope!

As we load her up with food, gifts, and hope, I ask if she has a church family. I encourage her to come for Christmas Eve services.  Everyone gathers and smiles for a photo and one more hug. A hesitant child and shy Mom say thank you over and over, and drive away full with so much more than they can see. Hope-full!

Keith Hileman

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TFC NEW YEAR’S DAY PRAYER “SERVICE”

December 16, 2011

By now I trust you have already heard that we are going to emphasize the SERVICE part of our annual new year’s prayer service this year. We will meet on Sunday Jan. 1 at 10 am for a brief service before going out in groups to pray for every home in a few nearby neighborhoods. This is one practical way live out our church’s vision with emphasis on our desire to be a witnessing church with “enhanced engagement” into our community. We are hoping everyone can be involved together (“multi-generational reach”). We understand that this is new, different, and maybe even risky for some (“transformation & risk”). But we hope that in interceding together to pray in support of God’s clear will that “none should perish,” we might be strengthened even more as a community and changed personally (“connecting heads to hearts”). 

You may be wondering about some of the details. Since this is our first time trying such a project, there are a few things we just have to be open for God to surprise us. We are planning to equip the body as well as we can, learning from other churches who have ministered in similar ways.

So how exactly is this going to work? What are we going to pray? And how are we going to pray? All good questions.
We will assign a street or group of homes to groups of 3-5 people or a family.  The group will then walk their area stopping at each home to pray from the sidewalk, hang a door hanger (provided there is no solicitations prohibited message), and then quietly move onto the next home to repeat the process. We are estimating between 2 to 3 minutes at each home. That’s ~50 homes in an hour per group. Very do-able both on New Year’s day in neighborhoods near the church, and throughout the year in your own neighborhood. 

We are going to provide everyone a card with a few sample prayers from Scripture and a few other resources for you to use if you wish. The back side of the card will list a few helpful hints to keep in mind; some basic to-do’s and not to-do’s with Scriptural guidance. Specifically, when praying for others publicly:

BE HUMBLE (Mt. 6:1-2)
The point of this prayer SERVICE is to love and serve our neighbors with intercession of God’s blessing. This is not an exercise in self-righteousness.
“Be careful of practicing your righteousness before other people…”

BE DISCRETE (Mt. 6:5-6)
There is no need to draw attention to yourself. In fact Jesus warns against such things. Respect privacy with quiet. Respect property by staying on sidewalks and walkways. We may be walking the street, but we don’t have to draw attention for street-corner prayers.
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.”

BE THOUGHTFUL (Mt. 6:7-9)
Empty words come from empty hearts. Feel free to use the sample prayers provided. They can engage your heart. Or allow them to jump start other prayers with your words from your heart. Pray the Lord’s Prayer for the home. Let what you notice in the yard, driveway, and home decor to guide your prayer for kids, work, health, etc.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases..for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

BE ENCOURAGED (Rom. 8:26)
Have confidence, the Spirit helps us – especially when we are weak and dependent. We may not know the situation or spiritual receptivity within the home. But God does. And the Spirit knows how to use our words as well.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

BE HOPEFUL (2Pet. 3:9)
God created ALL men and women in His image, and He cares about redeeming that image. Our task is not necessarily or primarily requesting judgment and wrath upon anyone. God needs room to do what He is much better suited to do. Instead, remember God desires that all would come to, and grow in a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

BE GRACIOUS (1Pet. 3:14-16)
But what if…the residents come asking questions? Or worse yet, what if they come out after us with anger? Remember, a gentle answer turns away wrath. We aren’t in the neighborhood to create or make worse problems. When they ask why we are doing this, be gracious in your brief explanation of God’s love and your desire to share that.
“…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”

Earlier this fall our daughter church, Lake Cities Community, participated in an effort of a collection of churches to pray for every house in Rowlett—and they were greatly blessed. Malcolm McGregor – the chair of their “Sharing Team” – helped organize LCC’s efforts and will be at TFC this Sunday to provide a brief update of both the church’s and his personal experience.

Cataylst Rowlett – the organizing group for “Cover Rowlett” – put together a series of light-hearted youtube videos to show how NOT to, and how to pray for homes. You can check them out below.

Grace and peace,

Keith Hileman
Interim Pastor
Trinity Fellowship Church


Appreciation FOR and FROM Chaplain Michael Johnson

September 9, 2011

In the shadow of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 I wrote earlier this morning of the need to give thanks for those who serve our nation faithfully in the armed services. And then I checked the mail. How encouraging to pass along this certification of appreciation to Trinity Fellowship Church from Chaplain Michael Johnson (remember “Jamie” and Nicole while they were studying at Dallas Seminary?) who just returned from a tour of duty with 101st Airborne division in Afghanistan.

We give thanks for Michael’s safe return to his family.  Pray for great family time with Nicole and the boys as he readjusts to life at home.

Click on the links below.

The Certificate of Appreciation:
090911 Certificate of Appreciation Chaplain Michael Jamie Johnson

The accompanying thank you letter:
090911 Thank You from Chaplain Michael Jamie Johnson

Grateful in Christ Jesus,

Keith


Connections, Ephesians, and Remembering 9/11

September 9, 2011
Dear TFC Body,

Are You Connected?
As of this week our fall ministry programs are back in action. In addition to the children, youth, and adult Sunday morning classes at 11:00 am (see line up here), our Wednesday & Thursday programs (including men’s Bible studies and Discipleship GroupsWomen’s Bible studieschildren’s discipleship groups and choiryouth “Focus” connection groups, and adult choir are back in action.   And don’t forget the number of home connection groups that are starting up. It sounds like a lot of activity. And it is. But we’ve been emphasizing the need to connect – and we mean it.  We are serious about offering a place for everyone in the body to CONNECT in at least one other place beyond our Sunday morning worship service, so that in addition to discovering more about Jesus Christ and the story of salvation proclaimed in Scripture we can connect more deeply with Christ and others, and be strengthened to share the real life in Him together. Where are you connected? If you aren’t yet, please email the church office and let us help you.
New Sermon Series—Ephesians
In response to our leadership changes this summer, we have focused our Sunday mornings on the themes of the purposes and vision of the church (& TFC specifically), the nature of real community, forgiveness, and following after Jesus through uncertainty. This coming Sunday we will begin a new fall series through Paul’s Epistle to Ephesians. Without any major conflicts or corruptions within the church to address, Paul presents a glorious picture of the hope of the church, her gracious salvation, loving unity, and counter-cultural calling to the praise of her bride-groom Jesus Christ.
Remembering 9/11 & The Cross
As I trust you are certainly aware, this Sunday is also the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers in NY and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. That continues to be an event with details clearly carved into our memories. I imagine you can recall the very things you were doing when you first heard the news, when the first tower fell, and then when the second tower fell. Do you remember what life was like for you before that day when the false security of our nation was exposed? How has life changed for us as Americans since then collectively and individually? The tragic death of nearly 3,500 individuals on that single day has drastically altered our present realities and national future. Here is a link to a thoughtful collection of observations from various Christian leaders, pastors, and authors on life and ministry post 9/11. (Click here)
We need to continue to pray for God’s justice and mercy to reign in our government leadership. And we need to intercede for the safety of the many men and women who serve our country in the military and public services, and especially for those from our body and our families who are serving in armed forces, national guard, or police and fire departments.
Each week when we gather in worship we are exhorted by God’s Word to remember another tragic yet glorious death – on our behalf. The display of the glorious humility of Christ was no surprise: He willingly took on death for our benefit. And there is no other event in history which has shaped our present realities and collective future. Take a few moments today and reflect— how much your life has changed since your faith in Jesus Christ and work of His cross came alive? The cross of Christ gives purposes to our past, brings gratitude for our present, strengthens our church family in unity, provides perspective from which we see the world, and as we receive of Christ together in remembrance reignites hope for today and eternity.
From the above referenced article, Methodist Bishop and Pastor Will Willimon notes personally, “September 11 has changed me.  I’m going to preach as never before about Christ crucified as the answer tot he question of what’s wrong with the world.  I have also resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on our own terms by crucifying God’s own son.”  
September 11 has truly changed our global priorities, and our lives as Americans.  Even more so has Christ and His cross shaped our experiences of real life, both now, and for eternity.
Keith Hileman
Interim Pastor
Trinity Fellowship Church
972-690-9535

Wild Things and Our Worship Together

July 8, 2011

Just over a month ago close to 40 dads and sons headed out on the TFC “Wild Things Father/Son Camp Out” into the Oklahoma wilderness together.  The weekend focused on “Finding Our Way” following after Christ as the men & boys camped, hiked, sang, prayed, shared stories, asked questions into each other’s hearts, ate, and digested God’s Word , together in the Oklahoma wilderness.  Check out some pics from that memorable weekend.

God often takes us “into the wilderness” – individually and as a church. Yet He does not abandon us to find our way on our own. For we are children of wrath and experts at getting and being lost.  And He is available to help us “Find Our Way.”

Together, this Sunday,  we have the privilege of worshipping the Triune God of grace with a single service at 9:30 am.  This new, summer schedule, single worship service will be followed by a  “connection” hour with ministry programs for children, youth, and adults. The adult class options are listed below along with the youth and children’s ministry line-ups. Note that missionaries Jesse and Trish Marcos (with Campus Crusade for Christ in Bologna, Italy) will be with us and sharing about their ministry in room A3. Come hear, get to know, and encourage them. And don’t forget that the fellowship hall remains open for, well – fellowship. Plan to visit with and enjoy the company of others with whom we enjoy life together in Christ.

If you were with us last Sunday, or listened online at http://www.trinityfellowship.org, the message was from Isaiah 30— that God is sovereign and good. He is in control of our situation and our church. And He has not left us alone in the wilderness. Christ guides our way when we turn to Him to find rest. And the Holy Spirit leads us in love – a growing love expressed towards God and with each other.

May God continue to direct our paths clearly as a church family…

Together in Christ Jesus,

Keith Hileman


Tanzania Project: Pastors Training Conference Update

June 1, 2011

Here is a brief update from ALARM on our partnership work in Tanzania, and the completion of a recent pastor’s leadership training conference held in Morogoro from May 16th-27th. Thanks for your support. Continue to pray for the strengthening of the churches and church leaders there.

ALARM TANZANIA:  A REPORT ON THE MOROGORO PLTI

The Tanzania Partnership (Bent Tree Bible Fellowship, Northwest Bible, and Trinity Fellowship) was supposed to facilitate the Morogoro PLTL but due to unforeseen circumstances with scheduling, they were not able to come this year. Therefore, they asked the ALARM Tanzania Staff to facilitate the PLTI.  However, the partnership was still able to fund the two-week PLTI in Morogoro.

Robert (ALARM staff, and Masai pastor) was informed early on to prepare and together we started the PLTI at Morogoro on 16th to 27th May 2011.

The first subjects of the ALARM curriculum were taught while Anna (ALARM staff, and country director with husband Justin – the update author) was busy preparing teaching notes for distribution at the end of each course. She also took care of the Pastors while they were in training. We thank God that almost 50% of the trainees were Maasai pastors from rural cattle grazing areas in Morogoro. We had 60 Pastors in attendance.


Pastors posing for a photograph after lunch.


Participants attentively listening to the teachings.


A Group picture at the end of the pastors training.

Testimonies.

 “I can see that time has come for us to preach the Truth and to teach the truth in the Holy Spirit.  This Institute has widened my understanding of my calling. People call me pastor, but I am not fully trained in the word of the Lord. May He continue to bless this institute.”  Testified pastor Yohana Chapy.

Pastor Emanuel Ole, a Maasai Pastor from Mvomero District testified, “I have really been inspired. These are new teachings to me. They are not like the ordinary seminars that we are used to hearing.  I have not seen teachers like these, all of us see extraordinary teachings before us.  May God richly bless them with all blessings.”

“First, I didn’t want to come and be taught.  I was against my denominational leaders and I saw that coming to school was to leave the work of the church for two weeks without a pastor.  But when I saw four pastors from our area rushing to Morogoro for the ALARM training, I decided to come also.  I am very surprised at the quality of studies. I have now happily decided to study. May the Lord continue to bless our facilitators.”  Said Pastor Edward Mangame of Morogoro.

Justin Kiwovele
Country Director
ALARM (Tanzania)


ASHES TO ASHES

March 6, 2011

This coming Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – marks the beginning of Lent season and anticipates the climax of the Christian year, Easter. The early church established a pattern incorporating time and the senses to retell the truths of Scripture. Because Jesus Christ entered time and history to bring salvation, then even time experienced the blessings of redemption and could be used to reinforce the church’s life in Christ. This is the theological foundation for the church week and annual calendar. Days, numbers, and actions reflect Biblical meanings. The formal marking of Ash Wednesday doesn’t go back as early as the 40-day season of Lent, but both merged together to help followers of Christ experience the fullness of salvation received by faith.

Church history professor Jennifer Woodruff Tait explains the origins and meaning of the ashes in an article posted on ChristiantyToday.com’s Christianity History magazine. An excerpt and link to the full article follow.

Join us this Wednesday evening, March 9th, 6:30-7:30 pm for our Ash Wednesday service. Together we confess our deep need for Christ, for our personal salvation and corporate unity.

“Sometime around the ninth or tenth century, this 40-day Lenten discipline merged with another service the church had developed several hundred years earlier to help sinners embody their repentance. (The first mention of Ash Wednesday by name is in a seventh-century service book, the Gelasian Sacramentary.) Those who had fallen into what the early church considered serious sin—everything from committing adultery to serving in the military to performing magic and occult practices—after confessing that sin were enrolled in an “order of penitents” until they had made restitution. In many ways, they were treated similarly to converts preparing for baptism, as they sat separately from the rest of the congregation, sometimes dressed in special clothing, and did not participate in the celebration of the Eucharist. Also, they wore ashes on their heads, drawing from the biblical precedent and imagery of verses such as Numbers 19:9,17; Hebrews 9:13; Jeremiah 6: 26; Daniel 9:3; Jonah 3:6; Matthew 11:21, and Luke 10:13.

via Ashes to Ashes | Christian History.

From dust to dust, and unto life evermore in Christ Jesus,

Keith Hileman