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The Humble Christmas

Feed My SheepChristmas is the time of year most filled with expectations.  Some from our childhood experiences, some from our culture, and some from the constant onslaught of our media.  But I have the privilege of spending Christmas with many whose experience does not measure up to these expectations.

I am with those living in the shelter of a rescue mission, feeding those who are homeless, and ministering to men in a recovery center.  None are situations that we dream of spending our Christmas in.  So how do these experience the expectations of Christmas?

Actually, I am not sure their experience is not much closer to the original Christmas experience.  As a young virgin girl is preparing to give birth among her family in her little hometown of Nazareth, she and her husband hear that the emperor is requiring that all register for his empire’s census in their town of origin, which in their case means traveling to Bethlehem some 90 miles south.  I can’t imagine the fear and disappointment as this young couple takes on this week long trek journeying over treacherous mountain terrain away from all that is familiar.  At a time when all that is familiar would be all that mattered.

They arrive in the strange town of Bethlehem only to discover that there is no place to stay.  So homeless and broke they persuade a man to let them stay in his stable.  I am sure their hope is to register quickly and get back to Nazareth, so that Mary can have her firstborn child among her family.  But instead, she goes into labor that night in the barn.  In a strange city, her only support is her husband having to coach her through this painful ordeal.  So among the filth and stench of a stable full of barnyard animals, Mary gives birth to her firstborn son.  I am certain, not quite the way she imagined the event.

After the birth, their first guests are not family to see their first grandson, or dignitaries to see the King of the Jews, or medical professionals to lend assistance, or synagogue officials to celebrate the Messiah, but shepherds; lowly, dirty, roughneck, weather beaten shepherds.  I am sure their arrival did not improve the smells of the stable environment.  I imagine their calloused, dirty hands were not the first a young mother wanted touching her newborn as he lay asleep in a feeding trough.

The amazing thing about this whole story, as scripture reveals, is that it is exactly as God had orchestrated it!  It was God’s idea to move Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem through the instigation of a Roman census, so that Jesus could fulfill the prophesy of His birth being in the city of David. (Micah 5:2)  It was God’s plan for there not to be a reservation or place for them in Bethlehem, so that His son would be born in humility and obscurity.  God sent the angels to tell, not the city council or mayor or the religious elite, but shepherds.  These social outcasts would be the first to announce the birth of God’s glory.

Because Christmas is about humility – not the glitter of Christmas cards or the warmth of a Hallmark moment or the pleasantries of a holiday hymn or the generosity of a jolly old elf, but the reality that God left the Most High to arrive at the least low so that He could save everyone in between.

So as I stand among all those who are trying to find meaning in a Christmas this year that is far below their expectations, I come to Paul’s encouragement in Philippians,

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (2:5-8)

And I realize that this year in the homeless shelter or in the rehab, we need not resolve the humility with Christmas glitter and expensive gifts because we may be far closer to God’s  original Christmas than any expectations we had in the past.  Let us not solve our humility but embrace it.

Let us humble ourselves this season that we may find the true meaning of Christmas.

Tom Reynolds

Saying “Yes” To His Way

(taken from Tom’s Reynolds’ message at His Way’s December 3rd Christmas dinner)

Tom Head ShotHis Way is about God’s power transforming lives eternally.

He began by transforming mine.  As God led me through the greatest tragedy of my life, through the wilderness of an unknown future my unwavering belief was, “All things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. “ (Romans 8:28)

Just last night, I shared that vision with one of my His Way brothers, Neil, who is trying to allow God to transform his life.  This passage emphasizes that as long as we keep loving God and pursuing His purpose, all things are redemptive and for His transformative purpose.  Although we may face many difficult things, nothing has to be bad!  Because “All Things” can work together for good. 

Eight years ago, through God’s leading of Clyde Jones, who had a desire and a building, and Doug Stogner, who had an experience, a passion, and willingness, I was placed in the middle to help create a vision.  Through this experience, His Way was born.

After six months of volunteering, I was asked by the board of directors, if I would be willing to leave my comfortable, secular job to commit full-time to His Way.  As I considered my lack of qualifications, my ill-prepared abilities, my ignorance, as well as my feelings of still recovering from my greatest life trauma, I prayed earnestly.  And one day, a Friday, about this time of year I went to a local restaurant to find a corner by myself to allow God to give me a final message of clarity as to what I should do.  As I entered the restaurant, I saw a friend, Jesse May.  My first thought was, “Oh, No! I want to be by myself, but I also don’t want to be rude, so what do I do?”  Well I went with not rude and sat with Jesse to eat.  He asked how everything was going and what I was up to.  I began to explain the significant decision that was before me.  To my amazement, Jesse asked, what would it take financially to make this decision clear.  I gave him an amount and he said, “If I make sure that can happen, will you do it?”  There was no clearer voice from God that I could have expected that day.  So I said, “Yes!”

I have now spent eight years saying, “Yes” to:

-Seeing over 400 men and their families touched by this ministry.

-154 graduates.  By the end of 2015, we will have had 38 men graduate into sobriety in Christ which is a 48% growth of our best year in the past.

-78 baptized into Christ.

-Every resident having the seeds of God’s transforming power sown in their lives.

Just this year:

We have had 15 men say “Yes” to Jesus in baptism

We have had 38 graduates begin new lives, like:

  • Zach going into the Navy
  • Tyler at 21 becoming the spiritual leader of his family, community, and church  
  • Thomas graduate into bringing the message of recovery hope as a nurse to the psychiatric unit of Marshall North hospital.
  •  Chad experience stability and a God directed life with his family after over one year in the program.
  • Kyle step into a lead position on a construction crew
  • Don celebrate his 70th birthday
  • Lee achieve his first “Real” job at 44 years old
  • Chris asking his girlfriend to marry him at his six month graduation with plans to get married after he graduates his one year at His Way.

On November 21st, we had three brothers who had been involved at His Way get married in three separate ceremonies.

By saying, “Yes”, I get to watch God’s transforming power every day!

It is not always pretty because God’s grace applied to the lives of men in recovery can be mesy, ugly, stressful, and confusing, but always amazing!

As the Old Testament closes, God announces a dream that will not begin to unfold for over 400 years with the coming of the Kingdom of God through Jesus.

Behold, I will send you Elijah, the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.  And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to fathers.” Malachi 4:5, 6

This vision is being fulfilled through His Way.  Parents getting sons back, but also getting brothers and grandsons and fathers and uncles.  Through His Way, families are restored, future families are created, and the gospel is entering and transforming entire families. 

At a graduation this past summer, David’s father stood up and thanked His Way because not only had his son’s life been transformed, but the gospel had begun to change their entire family through David’s change.

An entire generation that has been lost to drugs and alcohol is being reclaimed!

By saying, “Yes” to God’s work through His Way, you are helping to change lives.

Please understand that every man who goes through our program invests in his own recovery, but what he pays only covers a third of the cost.  Another third is raised through our business ventures such as “The Saving Way” thrift stores.  And your support of our stores blesses these men with the opportunity of recovery.  But the expense of this opportunity would not allow these families this experience if it were not also for your generous donations that cover the final third of the expense.

Tonight, we are asking you to say “Yes” by contributing generously to this life altering opportunity.   Please also remember us with your year-end giving and throughout the year as we continue to say, “Yes” to these families in desperate need.

Tom Reynolds