Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bible Challenge 1/1 - 1/2

Greetings All! As we begin this new year we begin anew our Bible Challenge. For those that participated last year I am excited to hear the new things you learn this go around. For those waiting till this year to begin, here is your opportunity.

Our Bible Challenge is a reading plan where we read 4 chapters of Scripture a day and within a year you will read the New Testament twice and the Old Testament once. It is a wonderful way to create daily time to spend in the Word and with God.

I had a few people ask me what do we do when we participate in this challenge. My answer is whatever works best for you. For me, I keep a journal. After I read, I write one brief (five to ten words) statement about what impacted me the most. Then I write a few sentences about the message I got from the reading that day. Next, I just begin writing, or brainstorming, about what I read. Some days it is in perfect sentences, other days it just a collection of ideas and phrases. All of this helps me to process and unpack what I read and what I believe God was trying to tell me. With that done, I pray. Having a clearer understanding about what I read and felt gives more focus to my prayer time. After I have unpacked and prayed, then I listen. That step of listening is what brings all of this together for me.

Again you have to find what works best for you, but hopefully this will give you a starting point.

Here is the schedule for the first two days of the new year. I will post next week's full schedule on Saturday.

1/1, Friday - Matthew 1-4

1/2, Saturday - Matthew 5-8

Happy New Year!
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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Are You Willing? - Jeremiah 31:31-34

Introduction
Several weeks ago we discussed the idea of what a covenant is, both historically and presently. Today we going to spend just a moment exploring the relationship between God's New Covenant for us and Wesley's Covenant Service as we prepare to participate in Wesley's Covenant Service.

The Need for the New Covenant
Covenants are important. They help to keep us focused. They tell us what we can expect for our energy and our commitment. Covenants are also our creation and for our benefit. And God loves us so much that God uses them to relate to us. God uses them to connect with us. When we enter into a covenant with God there is no worry on our end that God's word will be kept. But there is always the issue of humanity keeping theirs.

Our Scripture lesson this morning speaks of the creation of a new covenant that God will make with humanity. It speaks of a wonderful bond where people will no longer need to be taught about God because they will know God inherently, instinctively. It will be a covenant that will not be written merely on paper but in the hearts and minds of all people.

This portion of Scripture from Jeremiah is as important as any there is in the Bible. It is foundational, transcendent, and vital to our faith in God. Jeremiah was a prophet in the time of Judah's decline. Judah was weakening and was close to being captured and overthrown by Babylon. Jeremiah's entire ministry was about warning the people of what was to come if they did not repent. Jeremiah was grieving over the current state of his homeland. But no one listened. His family abandoned him, his friends rejected him. In fact as Jeremiah was writing this particular piece of Scripture he was in jail.

But was so important that Jeremiah would risk humiliation, imprisonment, and abandonment of his family and friends? God was preparing the way for a new covenant, a new way to reconcile God's people. Our ancestors had broken the old covenant, even though God was faithful. Even though God did everything that was promised as they were led out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, the Israelites still broke the covenant.

But this new and glorious covenant was going to be different. It was not going to be written on stone but on the hearts and minds of believers. It not going to be a set of laws but a new way of life. It would be internal, part of our nature, permanent. We would no longer require human intervention to interact with God. God was going to be accessible to all people, directly, personally, intimately. God's existence was not going to be something to be taught, but made known by the infusion of the Holy Spirit through the forgiveness of sins. The birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was going to make all of this possible not out of requirement or obligation, but out of love. A love so deep and broad that we can barely take it in. A love that would foster such gratitude that this new covenant would create spontaneous obedience. This New Covenant is not dependent on us or our constructs. As one theologian put it, “The new covenant, which differs so much form the old, focuses on its permanence and its sustaining principle that evokes gratitude for the forgiveness of sin. The overarching emotion is love, not fear.”

This covenant is here. And our response to that devotion from God is to do the best we can to live a life that glorifies God and works to establish God's reign here on Earth. One way to accomplish that is through persistence. Wesley firmly believed that we need to be persistent in our faith so he created a covenant that we can all enter into in order to help us foster that persistence.

What is Wesley's Covenant Service?
“Wesley believed that the most widely neglected means of "increasing serious religion" was the joining of believers in a covenant "to serve God with all our heart and with all our soul. He urged his converts to renew, "at every point, [their] Covenant, that the Lord should be [their] God." [27]

On August 11, 1755, John Wesley's Journal refers to an occasion when he conducted a service that provided opportunity for making or renewing individual covenants with God. At the close of a 6:00 PM meeting, he writes, "All the people stood up, in testimony of assent, to the number of about 1,800 persons." The entry closes with "such a night I scarce ever saw before. Surely the fruit of it shall remain for ever." [28]

The success of this Covenant Renewal Service encouraged Wesley to have it published as a pamphlet in 1780. He urged each of his societies to conduct such a service once a year, most often on New Year's Eve.” (George Lyons Address 1997).

Wesley was extremely moved by the crowd's reaction and acceptance of this service that he did repeat it annually. Can you imagine 1800 people standing up to renew their covenant with God. What a sight it must have been.

Conclusion
Today we have that opportunity to renew our covenant with God. For us to come together as one voice, one body, and express to God that we are rededicating ourselves to the Kingdom. As we gather for the last time this year we are going to participate in John Wesley's Covenant Service together. Found in your bulletin is the litany that we will use to profess our bond before God and one another as we publicly, spiritually, and corporately come together and resolve to make our Triune God our ruler and leader, and lives our lives accordingly.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bible Challenge 12/27 - 12/31

This is it! You have made it! CONGRATULATIONS!!! You have just read the Bible from Psalms 3 through Revelation. For those of you that did not have the opportunity this year we will begin again on January 1, 2010 and will go all the way through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice. We will read four chapters a day. I promise that you will be blessed and rewarded for your effort.

For those that have done it, I am very proud of you and look forward to hearing what this has done for you. So here are the last few days.

12/27, Sunday - Revelation 11-14

12/28, Monday - Revelation 15-18

12/29, Tuesday - Revelation 19-22

12/30, Wednesday - No Reading

12/31, Thursday - No Reading

Do not forget January 1 we will start again and I will post those two days later. Have a Merry Christmas!
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Greatest Journey of All (The Word Becomes Flesh)
Luke 2:1-14 and John 1:1-14

Introduction
I love this season. It’s one of my favorite all year. Somehow it seems like the veil separating heaven and earth is somehow smaller – that we are closer to God during this season than any other. I love the pageantry of this season, the traditions like the carols and the candles and the reading once again of the Christmas story from Holy Scripture.

Tonight we heard the Christmas story told in two ways from Scripture. Luke’s text is the one that we typically associate with Christmas. His account contains the details with which we are all familiar: Mary and Joseph, the stable, the angels singing to the shepherds. Luke answers some of the important questions that we have concerning Christmas – the what, the how, the when, the where, the who…

On the other hand, our reading from the Gospel of John is not what we would consider a traditional story. There are none of the familiar characters, none of those familiar details. But don’t let that fool you. With grand and eloquent words, the Gospel of John describes the great mystery of the greatest Advent journey of them all – God’s coming to earth to take on human form and become one with us. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1, 14)

You see for John, the mystery of Christmas is not the “what” – that Jesus was born a baby.

Nor is it “how” – Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Nor is it the mystery of “when” – it took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Nor “where” – Mary gave birth to her baby in a stable in the city of David called Bethlehem.

Nor is it the “who” – the angel Gabriel telling Mary “You will call him Jesus.”

The mystery of Christmas for John is the question of “why.” Why would God undertake such a risky and difficult venture? Why would God choose to become one of us, knowing that it in the end it would mean abandonment, betrayal, suffering and death? Why indeed?

He Finally Gets It
Have you ever tried to tell someone something or explain something to someone and they have no idea what you are talking about? Once there was a man whose entire family believed in God, but he did not. And so when they went off to church on a snowy, cold Christmas Eve, the man stayed behind beside the fire at home. He thought them silly for believing in a virgin birth, that an Almighty God would condescend to come to earth. But as he sat beside his nice warm fire that night, he looked out his picture window to the snowy front yard. And he saw this little group of sparrows huddling together in the cold. For some reason, the man was moved with compassion for these little freezing birds and so he bundled up and went outside and tried to herd them into his garage so that they might be a little warmer. But the birds were scared of the man. He was so much bigger than they were and he didn’t speak bird at all. They kept running away from him and scattering and finally the man gave up. In great frustration he yelled out, “If only I could become one of you and fly among you, then I could make you understand.”

No sooner had the words left his lips than the man realized the truth of Christmas. God had the same problem with His people that the man had with the little birds. For centuries God had spoken to his people from above – through creation, the law, the prophets, burning bushes and leading clouds. And while his people would try to follow them, it would eventually become too hard to believe in something they couldn’t see, or hold on to, or talk to and they would fall away from God. By Jesus coming to earth as a human, he was telling us that he loved us enough that he would endure everything that humans could experience. He felt joy, love, friendship, betrayal, sorrow, pain, and death. There is nothing that we can experience that Christ has not felt before us. Christ truly understands our emotions and our situations because he has experienced them first hand. That is part of the why for him coming to us.

Proof of God's Love
I look out over all of you gathered here tonight and I noticed how you were all gathered talking to one another before the service. That shows that you all understand community. In order for this community to exist you have to have a level of trust with one another, some sense of affection, in some degree, for one another. That is similar to the community that God wants to have with us. You see God loves us so much, that He wants to be in community with us. He wants to walk side by side with us, laugh with us, cry with us, live with us. Have you ever heard the word Koinonia? It is a Greek word that means fellowship or a close mutual relationship. All the many years ago, God sent his Son to be one of us, so that He could have community with us, that true koinonia. Just as God calls all of us into koinonia with one another He wants that same type of fellowship and community with each one of us.

All of this boils down to God's love for us. It is a love that is never ending. There is a Christian band that calls themselves Petra. In one of their songs they are speaking about how easy it is for us to turn from God. The lyrics go on to outline how before we know it we can feel like we are so far away that we cannot possible see God nor God see us. But they wind up the song by expressing how it is always, always only one step back. There is nothing that we can do that will make God not love us. We can be sure of this by the fact that God sent his one and only Son knowing that it would cost Jesus his life. You see God is absolutely nuts about you. The love he has for us, the complete love that he has for us, is so deep, so strong, that I do not believe that our feeble, human minds can comprehend its breadth. But the good news is that we do not have to. We just have to believe that it is so.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” so that we might be able to finally understand our loving Heavenly Father and His plan for our lives.

Conclusion
We wrap this wonderful season is so many beautiful trappings and traditions: lights, ornaments, tree, carols, decorations, candles, family dinners, and exchanging presents. But as wonderful as all these things are, none of them can contain the wonderful exciting truth and miracle of Emmanuel: “God With Us” – “The Word (becoming) flesh and (dwelling) among us.”

John’s Gospel reminds us that the birth of Christ at Christmas was an event which changed the world forever, and the lives of all who have lived since. The miracle remains for us to experience by opening our hearts and lives to the God who wants to dwell in us. Even on our off days, even when we can’t see stars or don’t feel like singing carols, we can rest assured that God’s incarnate love seeks in us a dwelling, a birthing, so that our spirits may be filled with the Word whose light shines through all darkness. Won’t you let Him in this Christmas? Won’t you offer Him your warmest hospitality? Won’t you welcome Him into your life this year with open arms? Won’t you receive Him into your life as never before? I beg you to not let another day pass without taking time to speak with God, listen to what God has to say, and then invite God to dwell within you so you can be a beacon…a source of light and hope for someone else as we celebrate God coming to us, to be one of us, so we can dwell with Him for eternity.

And all God’s people said: Amen! and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Friday Fives

Since Christmas is this Friday this will not be a Friday Fives installment for this week. But I do want to wish all you a wonderful and joyous Christmas!

Please be mindful of the reason we celebrate this time of year. One of things I do is before any presents are opened I gather the family and we read the Christmas story from Scripture. It helps me remember. I have heard other people tell me they have birthday cake on Christmas day as part of their celebration. Whatever you do, I pray you have fun, enjoy your family and friends, and live in the love that you will share.

Merry Christmas to all of you!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

January 2010 Newsletter

Greetings All!

Here it is...hot of the presses! Below is the January 2010 Newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading it and having another way to get this information.

Merry Christmas!!


Jan10NwsLtr

All I Want for Christmas is Joy – Isaiah 9:6-7 and Luke 1:26-38

Introduction
This week we are continuing our preaching series entitled, “All I Want for Christmas Is...” Two weeks ago we talked about the idea of hope and how God's actions deliver just that very thing to us this time of year. Last week we spoke about the idea of peace, what God means by peace, and how we can live to achieve it. Today we are turning our attention to joy, what it is and where we can find it.

What is Joy?
I am sure all of us have people and events that bring us joy; time spent with a best friend, a favorite memory of days past, a special event you attend, a certain time of the year. And when we think of those things it brings a smile to our face, a tear to our eye, or even an audible laugh from our belly.

For me right now I find joy in my boys. They wear me out but recharge me all in the same breath. They can frustrate me and then in a way no one else can, remind me of what true joy is. I love to watch them learn and to see their eyes get as big around as a silver dollars and the joy just explodes on their faces. When they walk up to me and want to show me affection or place a blanket over the legs of their sleeping daddy, I melt. For me that is finding joy in my boys.

When I see my boys I often think about my relationship with Christ. I think about how Christ must feel towards me. Do I wear him out? Does Christ get a feeling of complete happiness, complete contentment, when He thinks of me? Does he find joy in his interactions with me?

Now some days joy comes easily, others it seems so far away that you wonder if you will ever see it again. And looking at the circumstances Mary finds herself in, one might think that is how Mary might be feeling at the beginning of our second Scripture lesson this morning.

As our lesson opens we read that Mary is in the sixth month of her pregnancy. And this poor girl has already gone through so much. She has avoided a quiet divorce from her fiance, she has avoided the customary stoning for being pregnant out of wedlock, and the shame heaved upon her must have been horrific. Not to mention, the horrible accusations, the unfair judgments, and the hours of crying. This had to be trying on Mary. But here in the sixth month comes good 'ol Gabriel to give Mary a visit and to help her understand what it is that is happening. But more than that Gabriel comes to give her joy. He greets her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you” (NRSV Luke 1:28b). Scripture tells us that Mary is troubled or perplexed by this and not quite sure what to make of all of this. Understanding that dynamic Gabriel tells her not to be afraid for she has found favor with God. Then he tells her just how special and wonderful this child in her womb will be. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end" (NIV Luke 1:32-33).

Mary then asks just one question, “how can this be?” and Gabriel tells her because nothing is impossible with God.

How can Mary possible find any peace or joy in the midst of what was happening to her? There’s a clue in how she answers the angel. Listen to her words: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be with me as you have said.” Mary had a deep trust and faith in God that carried her even through times when she could have questioned and doubted the wisdom of God’s plan for her. She had surrendered her life into the hands of the Almighty and trusted him to take care of her. That’s how she was able to journey into peace and joy instead of sorrow or bitterness over what was happening to her.

Christ is Joy
And if we look to our Scripture lesson from Isaiah we get a better understanding of just who this baby will grow to be. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” (NIV Isaiah 9:6-7)

This tells us that Christ by his very nature will be joy. He will bring peace, he will bring justice and righteousness. And for all of this there will be no end! This child that Mary is carrying will bring a joy like never before to a world that so desperately needs it.

So often if we look to movies we see a serious, unemotional Christ. All He does is walk and preach and very seldom do we see a joyful, laughing Jesus. But for me Christ is so much more than that.

I have always been drawn to happy images of Christ. In fact my favorite verse in Scripture is from the Old Testament, from the book of Zephaniah, not one that would typically make your favorite verse list. But listen to the words: "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Think about that - God will sing a song of joy over you!

In John Ortberg's wonderful book The Life You've Always Wanted (Zondervan, 2002), he writes: “We will not understand God until we understand this about him: "God is the happiest being in the universe" (G. K. Chesterton). God knows sorrow….but [his sorrow like his anger] is his temporary response to a fallen world. That sorrow will be banished forever from his heart on the day the world is set right. Joy is God's basic character. God is the happiest being in the universe.”

Conclusion
Joy is what makes Christmas. Each of us may look to some annual family tradition to trigger that joy. But the trees, the carols, the cookies, the presents, the parties, are only various expressions of a single experience of the spirit JOY born again into our souls.

This Advent season we can all experience the joy that is Jesus Christ. Mary showed us how. Regardless of our situations, regardless of how we are treated, regardless of how we feel physically and spiritually, we can all find joy.

It is found by releasing all our circumstances, all our fears, and all our apprehensions into the hands of that little baby born so long ago. When we trust Christ to take care of us, to turn over everything to him, and to surrender to His will, and not our own, then and only then will we find joy. Christ came for you, Christ loves you, and Christ wants you to know the joy that only comes from him. Trust the baby, trust our Savior, and I pray that you experience a joy this year like none you have ever felt before.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bible Challenge 12/20 - 12/26

Greetings to all my fellow Bible Challengeers! ( I am not sure if that is a word...but it sounds good!) This week is a busy one again as we finish 1 Peter and make it through 2 Peter, 1, 2, & 3 John, Jude, and into Revelation. So with no further adieu...

12/20, Sunday - 1 Peter 3 - 2 Peter 1

12/21, Monday - 2 Peter 2 - 1 John 2

12/22, Tuesday - 1 John 3 - 2 John 1

12/23, Wednesday - 3 John 1 - Revelation 2

12/24, Thursday - Revelation 3-6

12/25, Friday - No Reading, Merry Christmas!

12/26, Saturday - Revelation 7-10

Have a wonderful, safe, and joyous Christmas! May God bless you and yours!
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Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Fives

Hello All -- Here are few things that I wanted to make you all aware of this week.

1. We are continuing our preaching series, "All I Want for Christmas Is..." as we take a look at Joy. We will talk about the Joy that we are reminded of this time of year.

2. New Bible Study - Beginning January 14th we will begin a new study on spiritual gifts, entitled Serving From the Heart. This is a four week study that will help you discover your gifts and talents for the Kingdom. I will offer the same lesson twice every Thursday, once at 11:30am and again at 7pm. This will give greater flexibility for more people to attend. Look for a sign-up sheet in the bulletin in the coming weeks.

3. Literacy Tutors - Karen Hill will be here January 12th at 6:15pm to lead an informational meeting where she will explain how we can get involved with the Literacy Coalition and become tutors for adults. If you are interested or think you might be, please make plans to attend. We will meet in the Fellowship Hall.

4. Silver Springs Annual Festival of Lights - This Sunday, 12/20, our choir will be performing at Silver Springs at their Annual Festival of Lights. If you have a chance come on out and have a listen as we and other people perform. I hear it will be quite an evening!

5. Christmas Eve Service - Our Candlelight Christmas Eve service will be Thursday at 6:00pm. I hope everyone can come as we celebrate together the little baby that came to bring us hope, peace, joy, and love. Please invite your family and your friends and come and join us.

Have a great and joyous week!
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Great Day!!

We have had a great day! A WONDERFUL Choir Cantata then a great turnout at the Open House. Thank you to everyone for coming by...Debbie, the boys, and I really enjoyed it!

Introduction
This week we are continuing our preaching series entitled, “All I Want for Christmas Is...” Last week we talked about the idea of hope and how God's actions deliver just that very thing to us this time of year. Today we are going to spend just a moment talking about the idea of peace, what God means by peace, and how we can live to achieve it.

A Heavenly Choir
There is an old Christmas legend that tells of how God called the angels of Heaven together one day for a special choir rehearsal. He told them that He had a special song that He wanted them to learn. This was a song that they would sing at a very significant occasion. The angels went to work on it. They rehearsed long and hard with great focus and intensity. In fact, some of the angels grumbled a bit but God insisted on a very high standard for His choir.

As time passed, the choir improved in tone, in rhythm, and in quality. Finally God announced that they were ready but then, He shocked them a bit. He told them that they would sing the song only once and only on one night. There would be just one performance of this great song they had worked on so diligently. Again, some of the angels grumbled. The song was so extraordinarily beautiful and they had it down pat and felt surely, they could sing it many, many times. God only smiled and told them that when the time came, they would understand.

Then one night, God called them together. He gathered them above a field just outside of Bethlehem. "It's time," God said to them and the angels sang their song. O my, did they sing it! "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will toward all". And as the angels sang, they knew there would never be another night like this one, and that there would never be another birth like this birth in Bethlehem.

What is Peace?
Those angels were singing about peace. Our Scripture lesson this morning tells us that after the initial announcement of Christ's birth, a whole host of angels appeared saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people on whom His favor rests." So what is this peace they were talking about? We have all heard about what people think peace is. Some say no wars, others say no famine. But God's peace is like nothing we have ever known. It is about harmony, justice, equality, joy! It is a paradise, it is what exists in Heaven right now. No pain, no longing, just peace. Your heart is at peace, your mind is at peace, everything about you is right.

How do we get it?
So how do we get this peace that God longs for us to have? How do we live to achieve peace? Renowned writer and Catholic Priest, Henri J Nouwen came up with a “spirituality of peacemaking” that had four parts.

First, Nouwen believed that peacemaking requires a life of prayer. We have spoken several times about how important prayer is in our lives. Prayer is that life-line, the channel by which we communicate with God. Without prayer there is no link. Prayer is vital, prayer is essential, prayer is utterly necessary. Prayer should not be an event for us but a way of life. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. God tells us to take everything to Him in prayer. Christ took time to teach us how to do it while he was here on Earth. Prayer is critical to us achieving the peace that God desires for us.

Next, “Peacemaking demands ongoing resistance to the forces of violence”. We must be a people that not only desires peace but a people that take the steps to see that it comes about. We must not be involved in those organizations whose purpose is to bring about war, destruction, and fear. Jesus came to us as a sign of that. Christ came in a non-violent manner, as a vulnerable baby. Christ's life demonstrated that very ideal of non-violence. He did not come and demand His way. He came and loved people into understanding what it was He was trying to teach. Bringing about peace is about resisting the forces of violence.

Nowen also believed that “Peacemaking necessitates community”. We need to be in community with like minded believers for this to happen. We can try and do it alone, but we can be much more effective when we do things within a community. If we are a people seeking peace, trying to establish peace, we almost cannot help but develop community. Besides, life is so much more fun when lived with others!

Finally, “Peacemaking requires living and working among the poor and the broken”. We have to get outside of our ivory towers and help those less fortunate than us. This week I had the privilege of getting together with some of you to pick fruit to take to charity. We were a community, having fun, doing work to help those less fortunate than us. It was not a chore, for me anyway. It was fantastic! And it was Kingdom work! God has a very large place in His heart for those that are poor. We are called to care for them, we are called to learn from them. To gain peace we should live and work among the poor and broken and be looking for ways to get outside of our walls.

Conclusion
This time of year, we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child. We read the Scriptures that remind us of that night so long ago when love came to Earth, when God Himself came to live among us, when peace was wished upon us, when a gift of peace was given to us.

You remember that legend I told you about earlier? Well, when the angels returned to heaven, God reminded them that they would not formally sing that song again as an angelic choir, but if they wanted to, they could hum the song occasionally as individuals. One angel was bold enough to step forward and ask God why. Why could they not sing that majestic anthem again? They did it so well. It felt so right. Why couldn't they sing that great song anymore? "Because," God explained, "my Son has been born and now earth must do the singing!"

It is now up to us to take the peace that God wants for us and deliver it, give it, grant it to all that we meet. Peace is what God wants for you this Christmas and Jesus was born to make sure we had a chance at receiving it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Want to Help Serve Communion?

Hello all,

If you would like to help serve Communion there is a sign up sheet at the welcome station waiting for you! This sheet has three spots for each month of 2010 at the welcome station, as we need three volunteers each month. To sign up, simply find the week that you would like to volunteer and sign your name. It is a wonderful experience to help with this and we will explain everything you need to know. We would love to see as many as possible sign up!

Our Chance

Hello Church Friends,

It is with a sad heart that tell you that we are going to be saying "See you later" to two dear friends, Mary and Rudy Richardson. They are moving north at the end of the year and while we completely understand their reason, we are still saddened that we will not see them as much as we would like.

With that said, if you would like to tell Mary and Rudy how much they mean to you now and how much they have meant to you over the years, then here is your chance. There will be a basket in the back of the sanctuary for the next two weeks for you to put a card in and we will make sure they receive all that are brought in.

Mary and Rudy you will be missed and we are very grateful for all that you mean to so many of us!

Bible Challenge 12/13 - 12/19

Greeting my fellow Bible Challenge friends! We are getting through several books again this week, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, and James. Here is the schedule for the week.

12/13, Sunday - 2 Timothy 1-4

12/14, Monday - Titus 1 - Philemon 1

12/15, Tuesday - Hebrews 1-4

12/16, Wednesday - Hebrews 5-8

12/17, Thursday - Hebrews 9-12

12/18, Friday - Hebrews 13 - James 3

12/19, Saturday - James 4 - 1 Peter 2

Be blessed and be safe!
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Fives

Here are a few things that I want to share with you all this week.

1. This week in worship we are going to continue our preaching series, "All I Want for Christmas Is..." as we take a look at the idea of Peace. We will talk about what God's peace is and how we can live to achieve that peace.

2. This Sunday during worship our Chancel Choir will perform their Annual Christmas Cantata. Please make plans to attend and bring a friend. You will not want to miss this!

3. Sunday, 12/20, our Church will participate in the Festival of Lights at Silver Springs. If you would like to attend and participate please let us know. I am told this is a wonderful event and a lot of fun! Hope to see you there!

4. If you have not seen it yet, our Monthly Newsletter, the Sunshine Herald, is now online! Right here on my blog I will post each month's newsletter for you to read. There are all sorts of options and views you can use to read it. January's is getting ready for print and when it is done you will see it right here...so keep checking!

5. Finally I want to leave you with a prayer that was shared with me this week from a fellow pastor I know in Florida City.

God, I abandon myself into your hands. Do with me whatever you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you. I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. Into your hands I commend my spirit. I offer it to you with all the love that is in my heart. For I love you, Lord, and so... want to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve and with confidence.

Have a safe and wonderful weekend and I hope to see you in worship on Sunday!!
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Sunday, December 6, 2009

All I Want for Christmas is...Hope
Isaiah 7:10-14 and Matthew 1:18-25

Introduction
Today we begin a new preaching series for Advent entitled, “All I Want for Christmas is...” where we will look at the aspects of Hope, Peace, and Joy and the role that each of them play during this time of year. Today we are beginning with hope and how God's actions delivers just that very thing to us this time of year.

Illustration
At the mere mention of Christmas time I think we all feel some sort of emotion. Lately, for me I have felt a sense of hope. When I think about what this season is truly about and what that little baby Jesus really means for you and me today, I get a real sense of hope. A real sense of anticipation about what God will do this year during this advent season. And I think if we look closely at the Scriptures from today we can see that hope, we can see that anticipation, in how God worked behind the scenes to orchestrate this wonderful event.

When I was in high school, the church that I attended was extremely fortunate to have a playwright in our congregation. This woman would write our church two plays a year, one at Easter and the other at Christmas, and her scripts were absolutely wonderful. She would pull from her long life of experiences and really write some truly magnificent plays. You see she was 90 years old when she began writing these plays. She told me that she had seen and experienced so much that she felt this would be a great way to pass those experiences on to others. I was usually involved in these productions and would get my copy of the script about three months before she wanted to put it on. Realizing that she did not have the desire to direct these plays, she enlisted the help of another woman in our congregation, Sandy. Sandy loved directing the plays and she always had such good suggestions. She would help us figure out the best places to stand, what to do with our hands, and give us direction on our acting. Sandy was tireless in her duties. You see since Sandy was so involved behind the scenes, most people rarely had any idea that Sandy was even involved. But you see, as wonderfully as those plays were written, without the love and care of Sandy to take care of the behind the scenes stuff, those plays never would have gotten off the ground. And it is in that manger scene we read about in Scripture today, that we can see God working so tirelessly behind the scenes to give us hope.

In the beginning of this passage a few things have already happened that we need to be aware of. First, we learn that Mary and Joseph are engaged, Next we read that Mary is already pregnant. Third, we read that Joseph has been informed of Mary's pregnancy, although he does not yet understand its divine source. And finally, we learn that Joseph has decided to avoid the letter of the law and not have Mary stoned but decided to divorce her quietly. And it is in what happens next that we see how utterly and completely God gives us hope.

Hope in God coming to Earth as a Human
At his point everything is centered around Jesus. We the reader, understand that Mary is pregnant and that her child is Jesus Christ, but Joseph is still in the dark about this. As Joseph is sleeping he is visited by an angel and he is clued in as to what is really happening and what his role is going to be in this wonderful miracle. He is told to take Mary as his wife, that she will give birth to God's son, and that they are to name him Immanuel, "God is with us". Everything is about the baby. I am sure we have all seen the manger scene and we all know about baby Jesus and how cute babies are. And that is where the hope lies, in how Jesus came to be among us. Jesus came as a baby, God came as a helpless, dependent, vulnerable baby. He did not come as a mighty warrior or as a powerful king, but as a baby. He came into this world in the exact same way each and every one of us did. Now he could have come triumphantly but I believe that he wanted to make a connection with us, a bond with us, and that was best accomplished by coming into this world the same way we did. To understand that Jesus came as fully human in order to connect with us and show us just how important we are to him, then and today, can give us great joy, great hope, that he loves us so completely and so dearly.

Hope in Who God Used
But you see it is not only in the act of Jesus coming to Earth as a human baby that is remarkable but it is also who God chose to be the parents of this blessed miracle. He did not choose a king and a queen of some large, powerful land. He did not choose some adored religious leader. God chose two very ordinary people. I have often thought that if it was not for being the earthly parents of Jesus, that we may have never known of Mary or Joseph. There was nothing particularly special about either one of them. But that is the point. By God trusting these two ordinary people, to be the caretakers of his one and only son, of God himself in human form, God is telling us that we do not have to be socially important or powerful or some sort of world leader for God to love us and to use us for his work. There is great hope in that knowledge that God loves all of us so fully that we are all important to God.

Hope in God's Work Behind the Scenes
And we can also find hope in God's faithfulness and we can see that throughout this story if we look closely. If we give this passage a quick reading we will find no mention of God performing any action. But we do find God mentioned as being the possessor of angels sent to talk with Joseph and of a prophecy from God that Isaiah proclaimed many years ago that a virgin would give birth to a son to be named Immanuel, God is with us, being fulfilled in Jesus' birth. You see just because God does not perform a direct action does not mean that God is not present. And we can find hope in that. It is in the difficult or hectic times of our lives that we often fail to see God or think that God is not there. But God is. God is always there supporting us, guiding us, and most importantly loving us. You see, God knew what would happen to Jesus before Mary became pregnant. God knew that Jesus would have to die and God knew the pain that God would feel watching Jesus die. But he chose to send Jesus anyway; he chose to come to dwell among us anyway. What a pure and beautiful act of love and devotion to us, God's children.

Conclusion
God is nuts about us and we can see that in our advent story today. It is in that love that we can also see hope, that we can feel with great anticipation the wonderful things that God does with and through us, each Advent season. This time of year is a very hectic time. With the decorating of our houses and the buying of gifts we can get very distracted and lose sight of what Christmas is really about. I know we have all seen those clich├ęs like "Jesus is the reason for the season" and "Keep Christ in Christmas" but do we truly apply them? When we are caught in the hustle and bustle of Christmas are we looking for the ways that God is at work even though we may not be at church? Are we looking for God in the places that we would least expect God to be? That is the hope that I am talking about with Advent. The hope, the anticipation of the wonderful things that God will do this year. I challenge you that as you go through this Advent season, the Christmas time, to not only look for God, but to expect God. And I pray that each and every one of you will find hope in this time of year, and be amazed with the wonder of a child, at what wondrous good work God will do through you this year.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bible Challenge 12/6 - 12/12

Greeting my fellow Bible Challenge friends! We are getting through several books this week, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and 1 Timothy. (whew!) Here is the schedule for the week.

12/6, Sunday - Ephesians 1-4

12/7, Monday - Ephesians 5 - Philippians 2

12/8, Tuesday - Philippians 3 - Colossians 2

12/9, Wednesday - Colossians 3 - 1 Thessalonians 2

12/10, Thursday - 1 Thessalonians 3 - 2 Thessalonians 1

12/11, Friday - 2 Thessalonians 2 - 1 Timothy 2

12/12, Saturday - 1 Timothy 3-6

Be blessed and be safe!
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Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Fives

Hello All,

Here are five things that I want to bring to your attention this week.

1. Through modern technology we have found a way to place our monthly newsletter on my blog. If you scroll down to November 30th you will see last month's newsletter with a brief description about some of the features. I hope you enjoy it!

2. Our Facebook membership is growing! We have had five new people join in the last several days. Thank you to all that have joined! This is a great way for us to stay connected throughout the week. Feel free to tell your friends, stop on by and post something on our wall.

3. Tomorrow is the annual UMW sponsored, Advent Breakfast, at 9:30am. I will be giving the devotion and we will have some poems read and sing a few songs together. If you can, come on by!

4. This Sunday we will start a new preaching series, "All I Want for Christmas is...". We will focus on the ideas of Hope, Peace, and Joy over the next several weeks.

5. Sunday December 13th from 12:30pm till 2pm, Debbie and I will be hosting an Open House at the parsonage. After worship, go get some lunch at the Fellowship Hall, and then walk up the backyard, and come on by for some snacks and beverages. Hope to see you there!

Have a great weekend!
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Facebook Info

Several people have asked for help in finding the Facebook page for our church. Here is a link that should take you directly to it.

For Druid Hills Facebook Page click here!

Give it a try and let me know how it works. Once you are at our page, just click on the "join" button next to our church name, sign into your account, and you will be a member of our page! Remember, Facebook is free to join and a great way to keep up with our church family!

From that point on when you click on your groups button we will be right there. Just a click away.

For those that have found it, I just updated our calendar for December. Take a trip over and give it a look. We are very active this month!!

Blessings!