Before you say "I do"
Today, people are getting married later in life than at any other point in American history. That means that many young adult Christians are single longer than young adults from previous generations. For those singles who have a desire to be married, the time to prepare for the journey of marriage is while you are waiting to be blessed with a mate. Spiritual preparation is essential for a thriving marriage. 2 Peter 3:18 instructs us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The characteristics that make a good Christian are some of the same qualities that make them a good husband or wife. Here are some areas of growth to consider.
Unconditional Love (agape). To love is to give of yourself, make sacrifices, and care for another like you care for yourself. When we love as God loves us, we treat others right in spite of what they do. Remember that the command isn’t to just love someone you are interested in with unconditional love. It is to love everyone unconditionally.
Forgiveness. Know that true forgiveness is behaving as if you have forgotten (that’s what God does). We shouldn’t say that we have forgiven someone then keep reminding them of what they did. In order for marriage to be enjoyable, there must be forgiveness. When we forgive we are seeking restoration of the relationship, not revenge. We should also grow in asking others to forgive us.
Selflessness. Realize that it ain’t all about you. Compromise is critical in a marriage. Regard others as more important than yourself (Philippians 2:3-5).
Patience and long-suffering. Remember that God isn’t through with you yet, so don’t expect Him to have perfected anyone else. Contrary to what you may think, you are not flawless. We all have some things about us that are difficult for others to deal with. Learn to resolve problems in a way that pleases God. Don’t run every time there is a disagreement, and don’t blow up in anger.
Self-control. You can’t say everything you think. Control your tone, and beware of sarcasm. Remember that when people are yelling, nobody is really listening. Control your temper. Control your hormones. Don’t get yourself worked up. Create boundaries and avoid putting yourself in situations where you are tempted to give in to your sinful desires.
These are just some of the areas in which singles should examine their spiritual lives. What areas would you add? Where are your opportunities for growth?
The 3 G's
Every congregation has its uniqueness. While we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, no two congregations will look exactly alike. While we all may do the same things, we don’t do them the same way. And there is nothing wrong with that. We need not be uniform in order to be united. In 2 Thessalonians1:3-4, Paul mentions three things about the church at Thessalonica that made them a special people. As we seek to be a congregation that pleases God, we must continue to grow in these three areas.
Grow in faith. Paul notes that the church’s faith had grown abundantly. After another year of living and after another year of receiving the Word through preaching and teaching, your faith should be at a deeper place now than it was in January 2015. It is not that you have finished growing in faith. Rather, it is that your faith has grown and is continuing to grow. In the midst of your sickness that has had you in and out of the hospital, you still find the will and the strength to worship God. Even when life has disappointed you, you still trust God. Thank God that our faith continually grows abundantly.
Grow in love. The love that every individual member of the entire congregation has for each other should be increasing. How beautiful it is to be a people known for the love that each member has for each and every member. The thing that lets the world know that we belong to Christ is our love. When people come among us, they should experience the love of Christ. It starts with each member loving God above all else. We grow in love for one another by experiencing life together. Note that we will not grow in love unless we are willing to take the risk of being hurt.
Grow in endurance. Endurance is the quality of a Christian that does not allow him or her to surrender to circumstances or give up when facing a trial. As members of the body of Christ, we are called to endure tribulations, the sting of death, economic downturns, and face uncertainty with bold courage. We have been troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed.
As I reflect upon my first year as senior minister, I want to use this space to say “Thank You.” First of all I want to thank you for your prayers I have been deeply moved by the public and private prayers not just for, but for my family also. Our children have noticed and appreciate the prayers too. We have experienced the covering of God over our lives in so many marvelous ways over the past year. I believe that it is in large part due to the prayers of the righteous on our behalf reaching the ear of God.
Thank you for your patience. Change is often difficult to embrace. As creatures of habit, we like things the way they are. Yet, you have endured and even embraced a significant number of changes in 2015. In addition to being patient during the transition and change in the pulpit, you embraced the change of the pulpit. Remember when there were two podiums on stage? You have endured replacing the floors on the first floor and in the fellowship hall, flooding in the basement on multiple occasions, and water damage in the auditorium. You have embraced a new vision, “Connect to God. Connect to the Church. Connect to the World.”, connection groups, homecoming weekend, impact awards, and changes in the flow of worship service. Our ministry leaders have been challenged to re-examine what we do and why we do it. You have welcomed new members, welcomed back former members, and shown the love of Christ to our visitors. Thank you for your patience.
Thank you for your participation. The shepherds ministers, and staff could not possibly do all of the work that needs to be done. You have done the work of ministry. There are so many people who do things behind the scenes that help the congregation glorify God and have a good name in the community. Continue to bear fruit for God. The church cannot be all that it should be without each member doing all that we should do.
I thank God for blessing me to minister to a great congregation and trust that God will use us this year to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we ask or imagine!
Thank God for the blessing of a New Year. Many people anticipate the New Year because it provides an opportunity to put the past behind them and start fresh. Some people hope that the blessings and good fortune of 2015 follow them into 2016. Others hope that the 2016 is nothing like their 2015. As New Year gets started, I want to suggest three things that we can do all year as we seek to have a remarkable 2016.
Minister Ross' creativity, wisdom, and insight have inspired community, church and corporate audiences throughout the United States.