Good News - December 2023

Largest Christian Newspaper in America • goodnewsfl.org • December 2023 • Volume 25, Issue 9

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PUBLISHER 6 December 2023 www.goodnewsfl.org Good News • South Florida edition I think back with great reverence and a bit of childish mischief thinking what the fabled Andy Rooney would have to say about things like Christmas. “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly.” And “The Christmas tree is a symbol of love, not money. There's a kind of glory to them when they're all lit up that exceeds anything all the money in the world could buy.” - Andy Rooney. Kind of bland for a curmudgeon like Andy Rooney, so I’m thinking he only wanted to sideswipe the subject. If Rooney only had wistful reverence, let’s take a deeper dive here. So, let’s go to the tape as they say in the sports world when reviewing something of significance to be discussed and debated. What Is the Meaning of Christmas? Christmas is one of the most important Christian and cultural holidays of the year, but what is the true meaning of Christmas? For Christians, the true meaning of Christmas is the celebration of the Savior, Jesus Christ. The Christmas season, especially in the West, is a mix of pre-Christian, Christian and secular traditions. What’s interesting is the etymology of the word Christmas. It literally means Christian Mass. It’s a shortened form of Christ’s Mass. Christmas is a time of spiritual reflection on the important foundations of the Christian faith. It’s also a celebration. It’s when Christians celebrate God’s love for the world through the birth of the Christ child: Jesus. The Bible tells of his birth hundreds of years before, fulfilling prophecies. The Christmas story in the Bible The Christmas story is recorded in Luke 2:4-19. "So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’ “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:4-19) So the everlasting messaging of Hope from our Savior is particularly meaningful with a world seemingly intent on mindless hatred of ideology. We must bend a knee and pray that a Christlike spirit dwells deeply in the souls of those with such hatred not yet redeemed. Merry Christmas everyone and don’t forget; Don't clean up that mess of Christmas wrappings too quickly, savor the moment and true meaning. Les South Florida Edition • Good News • December 2023 • Volume 25, Issue 9 Advertising: We reach over 110,000 readers each month. 80,000 in print and 30,000 via our online digital edition. Placing an ad in our publication is affordable and effective to help grow your business. Call us today! Distribution: Available in more than 800 locations throughout South Florida. To become a free distribution point for the newspaper, please contact Shelly. The Good News is published by Good News Media Group, LLC, Reproduction in whole or part strictly forbidden without the consent of the publisher. Copyright 2023. All rights reserved. Good News Media Group, LLC. PO Box 670368, Coral Springs, FL 33067 954-564-5378 • www.goodnewsfl.org Publisher: Leslie J. Feldman LJF@goodnewsfl.org Editor: Shelly Pond ShellyP@goodnewsfl.org Advertising & Marketing: Robert “Buddy” Helland Jr. V.P. Sr. Marketing Manager BuddyH@goodnewsfl.org Art Director: Milton McPherson milton@goodnewsfl.org Associate Art Director: Joseph Sammaritano joesam@joelogoart.com Social Media Manager: Ariel Feldman ariel@goodnewsfl.org Editorial Assistant: Eric Solomon Eric@goodnewsfl.org Cover Photography: Justus Martin Justus@justusmartinphoto.com Leslie J. Feldman PERSPECTIVE . . . . . . . . . . .8 ChristMISS - by Stephan N. Tchividjian IN THE WORD . . . . . . . . .10 Franklin Graham: The Absolute Authority of God’s Word – by Franklin Graham PARENTING . . . . . . . . . . .12 All I Want for Christmas Is… – by Dr. Bob and Torrey Roberts MARRIAGE . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 Our Christmas Family Trees – by Lisa May CHURCH UNITED . . . . . .16 Unity for the Sake of Mission: Local Churches Embrace Unprecedented Evangelistic Opportunity – by Edwin Copeland FOSTER CARE . . . . . . . . . .18 The Warmth of A Home – by Kevin Enders HEART AND SOUL . . . . .20 Anchored in Faith and Guided by Hope – by Dr. Debra Schwinn YOU ASK WHY? . . . . . . . 22 The Hope of Christmas – by Dr. Tommy Boland THE CODE . . . . . . . . . . . . .24 The Promise of Christ’s Return – by Dr. O.S. Hawkins GOOD NEWS WANTS TO KNOW . . . . . . . . . .26 28 If you could live one of the days of someone else's life, who would it be and why? GOOD NEWS SALUTES CELEBRATES 2023 – 2024 FAITH LEADERS . . .29 – 44 FAITH AND VOCATION 46 Holi-DAZE: Trepidations and Transformations of the Holi-Day Season by – Alison Kennedy-Davis LEGAL Q&A . . . . . . . . . . . .48 AI and You: Let’s Be Careful Out There – by William “Bill” C. Davell and Paul Lopez ENCOURAGEMENT . . . .50 Out With The Old, In With The New – by Omar Aleman WE GET LETTERS . . . . . .54 CALENDAR . . . . . . . .66 – 67 CLASSIFIEDS . . . . . . .68 – 71 Merry Christmas On The Cover Good News Celebrates 2023 – 2024 Faith Leaders in the cover photo shoot graciously hosted by Pastor David Hughes and the talented team at Church by the Glades. Front Row (L to R): Ezra Tillman, First Baptist Church of Piney Grove; Stephan Tchividjian, National Christian Foundation South Florida; Dr. O’Neal Dozier, The Worldwide Christian Center; David Hughes, Church by the Glades and First Baptist Fort Lauderdale; Doug Sauder, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale; Virgil Sierra, Vertical Church; 2nd Row: Rick Weber, Sheridan House Family Ministries; Anthony Scibelli, Calvary Chapel West Boca; Eddie Bevill, Parkridge Church; Dr. Thomas Manning, Christian Life Center Fort Lauderdale; Myron Rhodes, Grace Wesleyan Church; Daryl Jones, The Rock Fellowship; 3rd Row: Casey Cleveland, The Avenue Church; Arthur Connor Jr., Metropolitan Baptist Church; Justin Beam, New Presbyterian Church; Ken Kerrigan, Calvary Chapel Cornerstone Church; Dr. Preston Williams II, Gateway Church; Josiah Graves, The Exchange Church; 4th Row: Newton Fairweather, Faith and Joy Church; Chad Czischke, Shepherd of the Coast Church and School; David Rosa, Church United and Cruciform: Our NBHD Church; Dr. Jason Jackson, The Lion’s Den Mission Based; Rabbi Joe Vitkus, Temple Aron HaKodesh; Dr. Mark Van Dorn, Florida Faith Church and The International Swimming Hall of Fame; 5th Row: Rob Taylor, CrossBridge Church; Dr. Alex Umole, Christian Life Center Sunrise; Trevor Wallace, Jesus Team Ministries; Darren Davis, Harbour Church; Bob DiScipio, Hope For All Nations; Steven Chapman, Christian Life Center Coral Springs; 6th Row: Sean Thomas, Abundant Life Church; Steve Daigle, Calvary Chapel Parkland; Mark Hattabaugh, The Pentecostals of Cooper City; Raymond Mas, The Bridge Church; Shawn O’Neill, Christian Life Center West Boca; Tracy Lewis, The Pentecostals of Coral Springs. Photography by Justus Martin www.justusmartinphoto.com CONTENTS Good News • December • Volume 25 Issue 9

PERSPECTIVE 8 December 2023 www.goodnewsfl.org Good News • South Florida edition I often have regrets after Christmas. I regret spending too much time on the unimportant. I regret cutting a conversation short because I became bored with it and wanted to move on to something else. I regret times when I was more concerned about my diet than indulging in someone’s baked cookies begging me to simply “try one.” I regret worrying about the next year while not enjoying the moment. I regret not saying “thank you” enough. I regret seeing the next item on my calendar as a duty and dread rather than a God-given opportunity. I regret the momentary noise of life interrupting the cackling of my grandchildren. I regret missing the opportunity to indulge in one of those, “hey dad, what if...” conversations or hanging with friends or simply holding the hand of my wife. I regret being too busy, too worried, too anxious and too distracted, and the greatest regret of them all…not drinking enough eggnog (what other time of year do you drink that stuff, honestly). Many of those regrets stem from not noticing, not listening and not seeing. Invisible Many truly important things simply fade away into the background, as if they become invisible. Christmas morphs into ChristMISS. I watched an interview of an actress by the name of Viola Davis, who enjoyed a successful career in television, film and the stage. I remember her from her role as Aibileen Clark in the screen adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel “The Help.” Viola Davis commented that she had grown up in abject poverty and made the statement that when you are poor you are invisible. I thought about that word invisible. I remember as a child thinking that if I could be a superhero one of the greatest powers would be to have the ability to be invisible. We all dreamed how fun that would be. I am not exactly sure why it seemed so exciting. Perhaps the idea of being able to never get caught, enjoy the element of surprise or simply be a part of something that you were not invited to. Charles Dickens uses Ebenezer Scrooge’s dream sequence in much the same way. The invisible Ebenezer has the opportunity to watch the full spectrum of his life and that perspective acts as a catalyst for a complete transformation; Scrooge is born again. I am an adult now, and yes, there are times the idea of being invisible seems incredibly appealing. I have a “cave” I visit sometimes to be invisible. The cave is a place my mind takes me to when I want to be invisible. I like my little cave. However, to be completely frank, I do not like being invisible. The idea of not being noticed has less to do with ego than it does with feeling insignificant. God created me, and He created me for a purpose. My life is significant, and I never go unnoticed by my Father… this is the Christmas story, isn’t it? The child that was invisible to the world was visible to the Father. Therefore, I was challenged by that word “invisible,” and realized just how many people I pass each and every day who feel invisible. I have the opportunity to simply notice them… to make them visible. I asked myself the question: “What if every day I simply looked for the opportunity to shed light on one invisible person?” Think about it; the person who serves you at a restaurant, the co-worker in the meeting next to you, the individual who delivers your FedEx, the person on the other side of the counter, telephone, e-mail, text… We are surrounded with invisible people. I cherish the fact that Christ modeled this time and time again. Frankly, each of the disciples were invisible people; each person healed was invisible; each person that is listed as part of the “crowd” was invisible. However, Jesus had this incredible desire to not keep them that way. Jesus has asked you and me to be His ambassadors on this earth, and perhaps part of my calling is to simply make the invisible visible. Imagine what a smile does, a kind word, a look in the eye, a word of encouragement, a thank you, a gift, a phone call or just a simple act that says, “right now, you are important and visible.” Festivities Christmas and its many surrounding festivities have the potential to mask a hidden reality. Please don’t misunderstand me. Christmas is a lot of fun. What other time of year do you get to put a tree inside your house, sing carols and eat such a variety of stuff in so many wonderful shapes (including little houses with people in them)? However, it does seem to mask the reality of the pain that so many of us live with. I can’t help but notice that this time of year seems to pressure people that are suffering to “simply keep it down because your pain interrupts my festivities.” Pain that is asked to take a hiatus is often pain such as the loss of a loved one, the need for a job, the inability to pay bills, my health, a divorce, a chronic sin, a body that is not working, a struggling loved one and the all too present, regret. The “ha ha ha” and “joy joy joy” and “shop shop shop” just seem to remind us of the loss. The overall impression may be that we feel that no one really wants to hear it. The voice in our head says, “we know you have pain, but just not now.” So, we suffer quietly and too often, alone. We become invisible and so does everyone else. Therefore, as we enjoy this Christmas season, with our parties, gifts, feasts, family members, church services, pageants and some good down time, perhaps God is asking each of us to be superheroes, but not invisible ones… Our secret power is to make the invisible visible. I find that when I use my God-given secret power, I avail myself to become a pain reliever, a guide towards True Hope, an example of someone whose identity is sourced in God’s identity. Perhaps, I will be able to look back on Christmas and have a few less regrets. Merry Christmas Stephan N. Tchividjian is the CEO and co-founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more. - Stephan Tchividjian - CEO and Co-Founder, National Christian Foundation South Florida ChristMISS

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10 December 2023 www.goodnewsfl.org Good News • South Florida edition IN THE WORD As I write this, I’m preparing to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in Essen, Germany, and in Rome. Germany, of course, was the land of the Reformation under the ministry of men like Martin Luther, where the authority of the Word of God was reclaimed after centuries of misuse by church authorities. The timeless, Biblical truth of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, swept across the German frontier and beyond and changed the face of much of Europe. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The battle cry of the Reformation became Post tenebras lux, which when translated from Latin becomes “After the darkness comes the light.” Sadly, even in a country with such a historic faith, secularism and theological liberalism have become predominant in virtually every sector of public and private life. Less than 10 percent of Germans attend church on Sundays, and evangelicals comprise a small percentage of the country’s population. So, how wonderful it is when we see men and women place their faith in Christ alone after hearing the unchanging message of the Gospel — the Good News of forgiveness of sin through repentance and faith in the saving death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Of course, we see the same secularism and liberalism in our own country as in Germany. America was founded by Pilgrims looking for the freedom to openly practice their faith after suffering stiff persecution at the hands of their countrymen. These separatist Puritans, who first fled England to the Netherlands before landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620, led devoted lives of faith in Christ, influencing large swaths of the culture. Later, there came the Great Awakenings during the 18th century, when tens of thousands were saved through the powerful preaching of the Gospel by men like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards. Now, fast forward a few hundred years, and we have the same scenario across much of Europe. Progressive, anti-God public policies and errant theology bend and move along with the cultural winds, no longer tethered to the unchanging truth of God’s Word. Marriage between one man and one woman is under attack. Homosexuality is celebrated and promoted by the highest government authorities. Godly men and women who stand against these strong cultural, godless winds are attacked and ridiculed. A growing number of young people and adults now claim no religious affiliation at all and are classified under the sad title of “nones,” people who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular.” In 2007, when the Pew Research Center asked its questions about religious identity, Christians outnumbered “nones” by 5-to-1. Now that ratio is just a bit more than 2-to-1. That’s alarming! And if the current hostility toward people of faith continues on the same trajectory, we are in serious trouble as a nation. Meanwhile, Italy has experienced a somewhat different scenario than much of Europe. Religion is still highly valued and practiced by many Italians. Thankfully, strong religious traditions there have been a buttress against some evils. For example, the abortion rate in Italy is seven times lower than the worldwide rate. However, religion cannot save a person’s soul, and evangelicals and Protestants who hold to a saving, Biblical faith make up an extremely small minority of Italy’s population. Last year, I preached an Easter message from outside the Roman Colosseum, and it was a privilege to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ from the very city where the Apostles Paul and Peter were imprisoned and martyred. It was several hundred years later, when the Roman Emperor Constantine proclaimed Christianity as the official religion of the empire, that the persecution of Christians finally subsided. My father never had the occasion to preach in Rome, so I am grateful for another opportunity to proclaim Christ in that great city. When I preach, I hold up the Bible just like my father did because I want people to understand that the Bible is the absolute authority for all of life. It is the Word of God, without error, from Genesis to Revelation. Once again, the notion has spread that man is saved by faith plus works. No amount of good works can lead to salvation, because one then has to ask, “How good is good enough?” Well, the only answer is that the sum of our good works, our righteousness, is as filthy rags before a holy God. We can never be good enough or do enough good works to stand blameless before Him. Only through repentance and faith in Christ and His atoning, saving work on the cross, can anyone be saved. We stand justified — made right with holy God — through faith alone, in Christ alone. The notion of a purgatory, a place where people go if their good deeds fall short, is never found in Scripture. Upon death, the soul either goes to be in the presence of the Lord in Heaven, or away from the presence of the Lord in hell. There is no halfway house. Those who make decisions to follow and obey Christ spend eternity with Him. Those who reject Him in unbelief spend eternity in hell. “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Wherever the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association goes, it is always the power of the Holy Spirit acting upon the hearts of men and women as the Word of God is proclaimed that ushers them into the Kingdom of God. My son Will recently finished preaching to 17,000 people in Curitiba, Brazil, where nearly 1,000 people made life-changing decisions for Christ. We give God the glory. Great things He has done and great things He will do as we proclaim Jesus Christ as “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). ©2023 BGEA Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Decision magazine, November 2023; ©2023 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; used by permission, all rights reserved. - Franklin Graham - President and CEO Samaritan’s Purse and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Franklin Graham: The Absolute Authority of God’s Word I want people to understand that the Bible is the absolute authority for all of life. It is the Word of God, without error, from Genesis to Revelation.” “

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12 December 2023 www.goodnewsfl.org Good News • South Florida edition PARENTING “All I want for Christmas is...?” The answer to this question could determine the success or failure of your Christmas experience. As a parent the question is: What do we really want for Christmas? Don’t we want something that will last for generations to come? Something powered by more than batteries. I have never heard anyone say, “We have a great family tradition of giving each other video games for Christmas. It’s been an awesome part of our Christmas for generations. It’s what brings us back home each year.” There are many electronics we could get for our family members, items that will not have an impact on the development of the mind and heart. Gifts that won’t start traditions that help define who we are. Commercials are cranking up to attempt to make us believe their toy or piece of jewelry, iPhone or gaming system will change the whole atmosphere in your family. Get the right thing for your child, and you’ll be living a re-enactment of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Defining moments There’s nothing wrong with giving gifts to your children; but Christmas is about so much more than things. A family’s personal celebration of Christmas plays a part in defining who they are and Whose they are. Finding the right gift for your family at Christmas doesn’t begin by finding the right sale, website or store, but by going to the very Creator. Spend the beginning of this month asking God what the family needs to receive this Christmas. He has promised that if you seek His will, He will give you the desire of your heart. (Psalm 20:4). That doesn’t mean God will give you what you have been marketed to desire; it means, if you ask Him, He will plant His perfect desire in your heart … and thus your family. This Christmas season spend time seeking the gift He wants to give your family. Chances are He has a richer experience for you rather than a toy or trinket. Doing things for others The things I remember about the early years of Christmas were the times we did things for other people. The years we were in elementary school, and we made cookies, boxed them decoratively and delivered them to people in our neighborhood. I remember being embarrassed by the fact that I thought I was the only one who felt awkward about singing, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” (I have since learned we all did!) As we arrived at the door of our neighbor, I was sweating…and it was sixty degrees. When she opened the door to receive our cookies and listen to our song, she began to wipe tears from her eyes. This is something that I never quite understood until adulthood. She apparently knew we were delivering cookies and singing, but she thought we would skip her because she was Jewish. This particular delivery was the highlight of our Christmas. That moment will be etched in my memory and the memories of myself and my brother, certainly, longer than any toy we received. We all learned the reality of the truth that it is more rewarding to give than it is to receive. (Acts 20:35) The greatest Christmas gift we can give ourselves and our children is the truth that giving is more rewarding than getting. But this is a difficult lesson to teach in a culture of rampant materialism. It cannot be taught passively. Respond like the Magi The original Christmas attendees showed up and did what? The Magi came to Christmas and gave. Next month when the children return to school, they will be asked a standard post-Christmas question: What did you get? Orchestrate a time of family giving that prepares them to respond with, “I got some great stuff but let me tell you what we did … We gave Christmas to other people.” Give a gift that will last a lifetime. Give the gift that keeps on giving. Give your family the gift of giving to others … in honor of the gift Jesus gave on His birthday, Himself. - Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts - Sheridan House Family Ministries All I Want for Christmas Is…

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MARRIAGE 14 December 2023 www.goodnewsfl.org Good News • South Florida edition Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition by the 16th century when sources record devout Christians bringing decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if the wood was scarce. It is widely believed that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. According to a common version of the story, walking home one winter evening, Luther was awed by the stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and decorated its branches with lighted candles. Another legend says that in the early 16th century, people in Germany combined two customs practiced earlier in different countries around the globe. The Paradise tree (a fir tree decorated with apples) represented the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. The Christmas Light is a small, pyramid-like frame, usually decorated with glass balls, tinsel and a candle on top, symbolizing the birth of Christ as the Light of the World. Changing the tree's apples to tinsel balls and cookies and combining this new tree with the light placed on top, the Germans created the tree many of us know today. Our family trees Like the history and evolution of a Christmas tree with unique traditions, meaningful decorations and cultural practices, our family trees are much the same: a collection of moments, people and experiences. How we celebrate, when we celebrate, our expectations, our responses, and even our taste in food, clothing and décor are birthed in the experiences of our childhood homes. Just as a Christmas tree is the whole of many parts: ornaments, lights and traditions, so is the family tree. Families can't be understood in isolation but rather as a part of their extended family. Every family has a cast of characters with colorful personalities and stories. They matter; we see glimpses of ourselves in them, our talents, our tendencies and some of our troubles. When put together, our family tree creates our family portrait. During this season, gather around your Christmas tree with family and friends and explore your family tree. Take time together and share the stories of special family memories. Tell your loved ones your stories of growing up, what your dreams were and are, share your story of coming to know Jesus, and write them down. You might not think your stories are significant, but it may be to a loved one later in life. The gift of memories Gifts under the tree are lovely, but I don't remember what I received five years ago, much less ten years ago. But I remember our family driving to Georgia for Christmas with our grandparents. I remember the smell of my uncle's cigar, the fireplace crackle, the men sitting together, reminiscing. Again, I don't remember the gifts, but I still remember how I felt: a sense of belonging and love. This season give a gift of memories, a gift that helps us understand one another and connects us emotionally. Ask and share the answer to a few questions: • Tell us about your grandparents. • Who were you close to growing up? • Who was your best friend? • What was your favorite Christmas memory? • What was your favorite toy as a child? • What was your first job? • Tell us about your best birthday. • What are three things that have brought you joy this year? Not all our family stories are sweet, but neither was our Lord and Savior's, Jesus Christ. Born to an unwed mother in a stable with an earthly stepfather, he grew up in a blended family with half brothers and sisters who thought he was crazy and a stepfather who probably died when he was a young man. He began a revolution and was left to die a horrific death on the cross. What didn't appear significant to most at that time has changed the world and our place in eternity. None of our families are perfect. It's where we come from; they shape us, but we must choose who we become. Jesus's birth and death on the cross provided us the way to become a part of a shared legacy in His family tree. What will your family story tell? If you haven't chosen Jesus, will you choose Him now? Will you lead your family, spouse and children to a shared family legacy of intimately knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior this Christmas season? I encourage you to gather your family around your Christmas tree and read the Christmas story from the Book of Luke. Invite them to be a part of Jesus' family tree, the tree of everlasting life. Live the Life South Florida exists to strengthen marriages and families through healthy relationship education, beginning in middle school through senior adults. We are educators, coaches and pastoral counselors. If you're looking for a clinical counselor or therapist, we are blessed to have many in the South Florida community. We'd be honored to provide you a list of highly qualified and reputable individuals. Visit livethelifesoflo.org - Lisa May - Executive Director, Live the Life South Florida Our Christmas Family Trees

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16 December 2023 www.goodnewsfl.org Good News • South Florida edition CHURCH UNITED Last month, Church United rallied over 53 churches from across South Florida for a collaborative teaching series called, A Seat at the Table. The series was spearheaded by Pastor Jon Elswick of Crossway Church, co-created by local pastors, and designed to catalyze Christians in our region and awaken them to one of the greatest evangelistic opportunities in the history of our generation. Each week, pastors preached the same sermon text with a shared goal of envisioning God's people to intentionally share their lives and their faith with unbelievers around them. “Its moments like these that can shape our churches and our region in a profound way for years to come,” said Pastor Arthur Connor, of Metropolitan Baptist Church and President of the Broward Baptist Association. With only three percent of the South Florida region identifying as committed followers of Jesus Christ, and over 70 percent of our unbelieving friends, neighbors and co-workers open to discussing the relevancy and teachings of Jesus, the unprecedented evangelistic opportunity ahead is clear. We believe that God powerfully used this series to help Christians gain a broader perspective and deeper love for the spiritually lost in our community and begin to actively offer a "seat at the table" in their lives to those who are far from God. For some perspective, Pastor David Hughes of Church By The Glades and First Baptist Fort Lauderdale, put it like this: “Two churches coming together is amazing, but during the next three weeks, dozens and dozens of Churches here in South Florida are preaching the same sermon text, and the same Jesus. You may be thinking, ‘these churches must agree on everything’…no…no they don’t. We have differences in our liturgy, our polity and small differences of theology, but other churches are NEVER our competition. These other churches are family – brothers and sisters – even though we do some things differently. All of these different churches coming together is a statement of spiritual solidary in our region.” Series Overview: Week 1 The goal of week one was to set the stage, REMEMBERING God's love for us when we were lost. This message emphasized how God demonstrated his love for us by offering us a seat at his table of relationship. Just like the sinful woman in Luke 7, when we were lost in our sin, God didn't reject us. He invited us into a relationship with Him. The hope in week one was that people will remember, receive and rest in the reality of how amazing it is that God welcomed us to his table of relationship. It is only from this place of remembering how God invited us to the table of relationship that we can cultivate a heart to invite others into the table of relationship with God. Series Overview: Week 2 The goal of week two was to EMBRACE God's heart for the lost around us. This week’s message emphasized how if we are truly God's children, we must embrace our heavenly Father's compassion for the lost. Unlike the older brother in the Prodigal Son story found in Luke 15, we are called to see those who are far from God with eyes of empathy and care. The hope in week two was that Christians would discern what their hearts are like towards the lost, repent of self-righteousness, and ask for the compassion of God to fill their hearts, giving them an urgency to reach the lost around them. Series Overview: Week 3 The goal of week three was to MOBILIZE God's people to actively invite the lost into their lives so they can meet Jesus. This message emphasized how we are called to build tables of connection - not walls of separation - with people who don't yet know Jesus. Like Matthew in Luke 5, we must choose to create opportunities to invite people into our lives so they can encounter Jesus. Our hope in WEEK 3 is that every Christian would take one active step as we enter into Thanksgiving week towards building a deeper friendship with someone in their life who isn't a believer - with the aim towards inviting them into a relationship with Jesus or attending an Alpha group. Allision Hix, who attends the Avenue Church in Delray beach put it this way: “We were in week 3 of the Church United series as a church, and I found myself at Walmart buying Thanksgiving groceries. I asked the cashier if she had plans for her Thanksgiving dinner only to learn she did not. To my surprise, she accepted my invitation to join our family meal and showed up on Thanksgiving Day. We saved her a seat at our table and were able to share the love and hope of Jesus with her.” Final Word Pastor Luis Egipciaco of Elevate Church in Miami said this of the series: “Unity like this has the potential to change the spiritual trajectory of our community. Pastors from across our community preaching with a unified heart, a unified message, and a unified goal to awaken the body of Christ in our region to share their lives and their tables with those who do not yet know Jesus.” Interested in joining in the collaborative teaching series next year? Get your church involved by visiting churchuntiedfl.com. - Eddie Copeland - Director, Church United Unity for the Sake of Mission: Local Churches Embrace Unprecedented Evangelistic Opportunity

FOSTER CARE 18 December 2023 www.goodnewsfl.org Good News • South Florida edition We have this tradition at 4KIDS where every Christmas season we gather all our foster and adoptive families for big Christmas parties in our different regions. One part of that Christmas party is our gingerbread house competition. We break out into groups and decorate all of these gingerbread houses, which with hundreds of kids in one room, you can imagine, is quite the sight! One of my first years going to these Christmas parties as 4KIDS’ President, there was a young boy who eagerly recruited me to be on his gingerbread house team. His little brother was in a wheelchair and together, with their dad, we made a great team. The next year at the same party he sought me out to be on his team once again. He knew he belonged somewhere, that there was this sweet tradition he coutld count on and that he was a valuable part of a team, all through something as small as making gingerbread houses together. Year after year we made these gingerbread houses, and it had me thinking about what countless kids feel this time of year. A place to belong Right now there are kids looking for their place to belong. Through a sea of people, they are looking for someone they can count on. They see it in Christmas movies, in grocery store advertisements, in their school hallways, and countless other places. They see that Christmas is filled with families, but what happens when yours isn’t together? It is so easy to miss these kids because we don’t know their names or see their faces, but they are all around us in our community. This Christmas season we celebrate that over 429 babies, children and teens were able to find a home with a 4KIDS Foster Family this year. In their time of need, they were met with compassionate love and care. They had a place to belong. But in the midst of that joy, we are still heavily burdened for the 434 kids in our community who are living in shelter and group homes instead of with a family. One lost sheep It makes me think of the parable of the lost sheep, where in Luke 15:4 Jesus asks, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Just like Jesus we cannot lose sight of even one of His precious children. It’s that same heart that made the little boy I befriended at our Christmas party feel so special. In a room filled with hundreds of kids, he knew he was seen and cared for, so by the time the next party came around he knew he’d have a place to belong. Our heart’s desire You may have never faced the hardships these kids are facing in the foster care system, but we all know that feeling, that deep desire to belong, to be loved, and to be sought after. It’s part of what makes this time of year precious to people from all walks of life. We’re drawn to the warmth of our families, to the light of the Savior, and to the big and small traditions we can count on. As we think about the homes and the families that we are blessed with, and we look out at this world filled with pain, war and division, we see the power of opening your home, offering that warmth, and being that light in a child or family’s life. This Christmas Season I pray you look for one who needs a place to belong, whether that is pulling up an extra seat at your table, picking out a present for a child who longs to feel special, supporting a family looking for the light, or praying about opening your home to a child in crisis. There are so many ways we can extend hope, homes, and healing before the year is over. Don’t miss your chance to go after a lost sheep this year. Learn more at 4KIDS.us/programs/foster-care The Warmth of A Home - Kevin Enders - 4KIDS President & CEO

HEART AND SOUL 20 December 2023 www.goodnewsfl.org Good News • South Florida edition In the face of all the atrocities that are occurring in our world today, it is easy to feel discouraged and weary. It is impossible to watch, listen to or read the news without the constant reminder that our world is broken. In 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, the apostle Paul speaks to the troubles we will face because of the fallen state of our world, and he reminds us of the hope we have in Jesus. He states that we “have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God, and not to us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” The slaughtering of innocent Israeli civilians on October 7 and the continued hostage crisis are heart wrenching, and it is only by the mercy and grace of God that we can have hope amidst the tragedies we see happening. The Bible assures us that God will not be mocked, and one day He will right all wrongs. My prayer is that we will continue to fix our eyes on Jesus and remember that He will have the final say. I pray that we will cling to God’s promises and rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation and constant in prayer, as we are reminded in Romans 12. I am grateful for the professors, faculty and staff at Palm Beach Atlantic (PBA) University who remember these truths and are not afraid to boldly proclaim the promises of Jesus to our students, our community and the world. The LeMieux Center for Public Policy, one of PBA’s Centers of Excellence, promotes thoughtful conversation about issues that matter. They issued the following statement the first week of the terrorist attack on Israel. Statement on the Hamas Attacks Against Israel from Palm Beach Atlantic University’s LeMieux Center for Public Policy On October 7, hundreds of heavily armed men of the Islamic Resistance Movement, also known as Hamas, launched an unprovoked, unjustified and coordinated terrorist attack against civilians and soldiers living near the Hamasruled Gaza Strip. Images of defenseless men, women and children — even babies, brutalized, murdered and taken hostage make clear the purpose of these attacks — to create terror. The massacre of innocent Jews at the hands of genocidal killers is a shocking reminder of a long and bitter history of antisemitic attacks, culminating in the Holocaust. Some have attempted to minimize or even justify the murder of innocents by calling Israel an oppressive state that has unjustly taken Palestinian land. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is complex and difficult, but to argue that slaughtering hundreds of Jewish Israelis and nearly two dozen Americans is an acceptable way to resolve the conflict is grotesque, wicked and wrong. The LeMieux Center is committed to its mission of reasoned, thoughtful, and civil discourse on matters of public importance. Israel is a democratic and sovereign state that shares those values. The government of Israel has the right and obligation to exist and defend its citizens from terrorists who fundamentally seek to destroy the Jewish state. The LeMieux Center for Public Policy stands with Israel in the face of these evil actions, while fervently desiring justice and peace among all who live in the region. – The LeMieux Center for Public Policy Dr. Debra A. Schwinn, a physician, researcher and innovator, is president of Palm Beach Atlantic University. (www.pba.edu) - Dr. Debra A. Schwinn - Palm Beach Atlantic University President Anchored in Faith and Guided by Hope

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22 December 2023 www.goodnewsfl.org Good News • South Florida edition YOU ASK WHY The Hope of Christmas I think we could all use a little infusion of hope just about now. I don’t believe anyone would say that the last few years have been the best. Ever since the onset of COVID-19, all that was solid, familiar, and safe seems to have been jarred shockingly loose. Social media, once a place to connect with “friends,” is now a hotbed of harsh and hurtful diatribes. Family members won’t speak to each other because of sharp political disagreements. Many of our major cities have degenerated into debauched crime zones. Everything from automobiles to groceries to insurance is considerably more expensive. Just two months ago, we saw the horrifying terror assault on the nation of Israel, and suddenly the specter of our own country being drawn into war seems disturbingly real. The traditional Christmas message of “Peace on earth, good will toward men” may seem like little more than cheery words printed on a greeting card — quickly scanned and just as quickly dismissed. Many people are discouraged; some are frightened about their future and the future of our country. Some are losing hope. It has been well said that you can go weeks without food, days without water and minutes without air, but you cannot go one moment without hope. As we enter this Christmas season, I want to encourage you with what I call the Hope of Christmas — not just cheery words, but a solid, unwavering hope that is located in the person of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul articulated this beautifully in the following passage. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope . . .” (1 Timothy 1:1), What hope Is not Let’s make sure we understand what biblical hope is not. It is not wishful thinking; it is not hoping that something might or might not happen in the future, such as “I hope it won’t rain tomorrow.” No, biblical hope is the absolute assurance in the promises of God. Every promise of God is “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). We read in the Old Testament that “Not one of all the Lord's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled” (Joshua 21:45), and we can have that very same confidence in the promises that God has made to you and me in the New Testament. They will not fail, because it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18). And so, “We wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own” (Titus 2:13-14). The world around us seems to be shaken and broken and changing in startling, almost incomprehensible ways, but we can and should appropriate the unshakeable, unbreakable, unchanging promises of God by faith, a faith that does not waver because there is no variation or shadow of turning with God (James 1:17). We can trust Him . . . fully and completely and forever. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Past, present and future hope Christmas hope has a past, a present and a future. The promise of the coming Savior was accomplished on that first Christmas morning. Space does not permit me to go into it here, but the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the best attested facts in all of history. The life of Christ is not a nice story; it is a matter of solid, proven, historical fact, and just as we can fully trust in the fact that Jesus Christ lived, died, and walked out of His tomb alive and well, we can trust that the promises He made will also come to pass. If we have placed our trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation, Christmas has a present hope: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). I am well aware that the Christmas season is not a time of “Joy to the world” for many of you. We have a number of people in our congregation who will be observing this Christmas while feeling a searing ache in their hearts because a loved one is no longer here with them. Many of you are struggling because there is too much month at the end of the money, or you are bewildered how a job that once seemed so certain is suddenly gone, or how a child who once seemed so solid in his or her faith has plunged headlong into today’s godless culture. “Where is Jesus in that, Tommy?” you may be wondering. Believe me, I’ve heard those questions, and I’ve shared in the tears that come with them. What is that present hope that anchors our soul in the midst of times of doubt and discouragement and even despair? It is the promise that Jesus made to His disciples before He ascended into heaven, and it is a promise that He makes to you and me today: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus Christ is God; He is the same yesterday and today and forever, and He has promised us, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, 8). When we are not feeling peace, when all reason for hope seems to have abandoned us, we can confidently cling to the hope that is the anchor for our soul, the hope that Jesus Christ loves us so much that He left the glory of heaven and came to be born in the filth of a stable, only to die a terrible, excruciating death on a cross because He loves you that much. Before Adam was formed from the dust of the ground, our Lord loved you (Ephesians 1:4-5), and you have His promise that nothing can ever cause Him to remove His love from you (Romans 8:38-39). And if that isn’t enough to fill your heart with hope, Christmas also points toward a future hope: the blessed hope of the return of Jesus. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus Christ looked His accusers in the eye and said, “You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64). Again, let me remind you that not one of God’s promises has ever failed or will ever fail. So, bask in this promise of hope this Christmas season. The apostle John was given a glimpse of our future, and he recorded it so that you and I might be filled with hope this Christmas season: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . . I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’” (Revelation 21:1-4). Christmas is a time of hope. We know that Jesus Christ was born to die . . . for us. And He gives us a present hope that He loves us and will never forsake us, no matter what! And no matter how bleak the present may seem, we can look to the future, where He will raise us up to be with Him in a place where sorrow and doubt and despair will be as far from us as the east is from the west . . . forever! I pray that you will be filled with hope this Christmas season, a real, living hope that is found only in the Babe in the manger: Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas! Dr. Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach (www.thecrosscc.org). He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com. - Dr. Tommy Boland - Pastor, Cross Community Church

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