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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

SIGNATURE OF JESUS

Most people begin the new year with a plan, whether it is as simple as a resolution, or as comprehensive as a multi-step strategy to keep you on track for improvement. Similarly, Shepherd of the Hills Church operates on a plan, in order to focus on a common theme that comprises the activities, events, and sermons of the entire year. This vision or theme helps us maintain our focus and purpose as well as ensure progress throughout the year.

If you think keeping your personal schedule organized is difficult, imagine planning for an entire church with 10,000 members. As the Senior Pastor, I’m humbled by the responsibility of developing the direction for our congregation year by year. So how do I decide on a theme? Typically, I take two weeks in August to seek God’s direction for the next year. I plan the schedule based on that guidance, and I usually begin by looking at last year’s theme. Our theme for 2007 was “Stewardship,” which dealt with being accountable for the blessings God has given us, such as our treasure (finances), talent, time, and truth (the Gospel of Jesus Christ). The previous year’s theme becomes a stepping-stone to take us as a church to another place that the previous year did not.

Furthermore, I try to get a feel of the spiritual pulse of our church. Because I spend so much time watching over and praying for our church, I develop a sense of where our church is spiritually, and the Lord impresses upon my heart the direction in which we should go. In addition, even as I strive to plan for the coming year, I am very sensitive to what the church might be doing for the year after. So, it is almost like working two years in advance.
For 2008, our theme is “The Signature of Jesus,” which was inspired by the book of the same title written by Brennan Manning. Just as we all have signatures that we use to verify our identity, Jesus Christ’s signature—the cross—bears His. It is the symbol of our salvation through His death and resurrection to pay for the penalty of our sins. It is also the pattern for our lives in which Jesus calls us to love and bless others, even if it means sacrificing our own comfort. We invite you to join us this year as we walk through a series of messages focused entirely on Jesus: The Person of Jesus, The Power of Jesus, The Parables of Jesus, The Passion of Jesus, The Preaching of Jesus, and The Prophecy of Jesus. (Please visit www.callonJesus.com for the sermon schedule for this year.)

In addition to learning about Jesus each week, we will commence new projects that will translate these messages from words to action in the community and world. On March 15 and 16, we will kick off the first of our Community Days in which we hope to make Jesus’ love known to the community through acts of service, such as trash and graffiti removal and cleaning, for our local schools and businesses. Moreover, we want to bless individuals on a personal level, just as Jesus did during His ministry here on earth. Through the Signature Project, we hope to show people who don’t know Christ, the signature of Jesus by extending His love and care to them. This includes serving in any way from fixing up the yard of an elderly neighbor, to making a dream come true for someone who is ill. (Please visit www.signatureofjesus.com to learn more about these projects and how to get involved.) We will also trace the very steps of Jesus as I, and one hundred other people from our church, travel to Israel in May, as well as carry His love to the reaches of the world as a large group of us sets off for China in August.

We invite you to join us as we embark on this new adventure of knowing, experiencing, and living out the signature of love that Christ Jesus desires to place in our hearts—throughout the community and the world!

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