Month: November 2011

Let the Little Children Come

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  He also spoke about having faith like a little child.  Little children need to hear God’s Word just as much as the rest of us.  However sometimes in the course of a service, the message may not be the easiest for them to understand, apply it to their lives, or be able to focus for the whole time.  So I started something new to try and include them.  I started a children’s devotion explaining the Advent candles – what each one means. (more…)

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I might lose everything.

Genesis 6:1-3, 5-14, 17-22

 

6       When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

5 The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

9 This is the account of Noah.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.

17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

 

It’s Christmas! So why aren’t I happy? …I might lose everything.

  1. What are you losing?
  2. What are you gaining?

(more…)

I don’t want to go.

Some of you may have noticed that Thanksgiving has come and gone. I, for one, am exhausted. That was two sermons, hosting family, and lots of the pre-Christmas busy work of a church worker. I love my family dearly, and it was awesome seeing them, but it also meant my wife and I didn’t really get the chance to relax for a while.

Then, Sunday evening arrived. And it was a good thing. Sunday evening, once all the Sunday morning worship and related activities ended, usually means relaxation time with family. It means playing games with my kids and shelving books with my wife (yes, trust me, that’s relaxation time for us).

And then I get a text.

I could have ignored it. I could have, but I saw who it was from — not a normal person to be sending me a text. I check it. This congregation member has a friend who just lost everything. He’s asking help. Could the church provide it? (more…)

Don’t Be Deceived!

James 1:16-18 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

 

Don’t be deceived!

 

“I just lost my job and now I can’t find another! God sure knows how to give good gifts!” When’s the last time you heard someone say that? Doesn’t happen very often? How about this one: “I just totaled my car and my insurance won’t provide enough money for me to get a replacement! God is good!” What about, “I just won the lottery! What a terrible thing to happen!” We don’t often think of things that way because we look at things in a certain way… but God views them very differently. (more…)

Behold Your King

Matthew 27:27-31

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

 

Behold your King.

 

You want a strong leader? You want someone who can battle your enemies? You want someone who can lead you to peace and prosperity? Look somewhere else.

Behold your King. Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him.They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. (Matthew 27:27-31) (more…)

It’s Christmas… so why aren’t I happy?

Christmas is coming! Ah, the music is already out, the stores are decorated, and pastors are scrambling to get their Advent series ready.

About a month or two ago, as I looked ahead to Christmas, I considered what my congregation does well. As many churches, we want to use the season for outreach opportunities. The problem is, if someone wants to “feel good,” there are way better options than what we offer — at least on a superficial level. You want beautiful music with a full orchestra? Head to MegaChurch One down the street. You want to rejoice with a full, powerful choir? How about BigOl’Church Three right over there. You want the drama of a pageant? Yeah, SimplyHugeChurch Seventeen is at your service.

We have a small church. We can’t offer the bells and whistles. What can we offer?

We offer a small, welcoming group. We offer a close gathering at worship that can explore personal things… because we are small.

How do you capitalize on that when so many churches offer glitz and glamor?

Our solution for this season: Deliberately avoid the glitz and glamor and tackle something that most people don’t want to talk about. Let’s talk about real problems. Let’s talk about how everyone’s supposed to be happy at Christmas… but you’re not. Let’s talk about that empty feeling in your gut. Let’s look at real problems… and the real solutions Jesus provides.

I think our congregation will excel at this series. I pray my sermons bear the weight put on them, but I do know that no other church in our area is publicly addressing Christmas in this manner. And for those who are hurting at Christmas, to know that there’s a place where they don’t have to fake happiness… hopefully that’s welcoming.

One member of the congregation expressed some concern. “Shouldn’t we be putting out a positive message?” he asked me.

So I open the door to you: Is this a good idea or one doomed to utter failure? Is this a good theme for this time of year for a church situated in a community facing violence and unemployment and racial strife? Or is it just asking for trouble?

The Party at the End of the World

 

Matthew 25:1-13

 

25          “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

9 “ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

 

The party at the end of the world:

  1. Be ready!
  2. Be excited!

(more…)

Seed Today, Fruit Tomorrow!

I have frustrations.

At our church, we have a number of ministries, all overseen by the church council. One of our ministries is a teen center. We share this outreach effort with other local churches. The center offers free snacks and games to local teens (most of them unchurched). It also offers a Bible study every day.

When I arrived, I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not to spend time in the teen center. My predecessor spent much time there, and is perceived to have neglected the rest of the church because of this use of time. (I, personally, have doubts to the validity of this view, but that’s probably an argument for another day.) The council wanted to avoid this, so they told me that the pastor and volunteers who usually run the teen center would do it without my help.

Another reason I was told to stay away: We never got anything good out of it. The children were not coming to church and their families remained distant. (more…)

“Everyone, this is Vanessa.”

Sunday I had the extreme honor of administering a baptism. I got to be the one to hand over the adoption certificate as God took another child into his family.

Wow!

I followed the rite straight out of Christian Worship, my church body’s hymnal. It’s very straightforward and repeats the promises straight from Scripture. It communicates God’s Word effectively. And, hey, ain’t nothin’ more powerful than God’s Word! And when it’s combined with water, according to the promise of God, it is effective in creating faith in the hearts of infants.

Following the rite, I marked a cross on the infant’s head and heart, to mark her as a redeemed child of Christ. She was sleeping. And then, the water. As I poured the water over her head and spoke those amazing words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” — she woke up. But no crying she made! And as I blessed her following the water, her bright blue eyes locked on mine. I spoke those words of blessing, and she watched me and listened.

And then I took the infant from her mother. (So you know, for safety’s sake, I have changed the child’s name for this post.) I held her so the congregation could see… and I walked down the center aisle of the church slowly, so every row of peopel could see that little baby. “Everyone, this is Vanessa. She’s your little sister. Just like Jesus loved you and died for your sins, Jesus loved Vanessa and died for her sins, too. And now she’s a member of your family. Treat her like the little sister she is. Watch out for her. Love her. Encourage her. She’s a member of our family now.”

And that’s when I had completed my walk through the church and made it to the front again. I looked down at the infant’s face. “Vanessa, this is everyone. We’re your brothers and sisters now. We love you. Welcome to the family. Welcome home.”

Welcome to the family, Vanessa. May God keep you in your baptismal grace all the days of your life, until he takes you to your true and final home.

No surrender! No retreat!

Matthew 10:16-23

 

16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

17 “Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

 

No surrender! No retreat!

  1. Focus on your objective.
  2. Stand your ground. (more…)