Sunday, December 29, 2013

I RESOLVE . . .

AT THE BEGINNING OF A NEW YEAR many of us take time to quickly assess our present need for change in our lives. This often begins with a quick step onto the scale hidden by the trashcan in the bathroom (well, now you know where my scale is hidden.) Thus, resolution number one: lose weight or its kissing-cousin, get in better shape. The first days of the new year are often fraught with regrets from the past year and hopes for a better year to come.  So, what do you resolve to change or accomplish for 2014?

I suppose I could suggest a few things you could resolve to do, or I could share with you my “resolve to do list,” but in the first instance I would be intruding into your life and plans, and in the second instance I might by default make your choices for you. That being; if Pastor Randy thinks this is important then maybe I need to deem it an important thing to resolve to do. Both instances seem rather intrusive on my part.  That being said, I would like to offer you some ideas about how to go about developing your “resolve to do list.”

  • First, grab yourself a favorite beverage; a beverage that speaks comfort to you.
  • Second, find a place where you can sit quietly, undisturbed if possible.
  • Third, enter into a time of thankful reflection for the blessings God has given you throughout the recent past.
  • Fourth, ask the Lord to speak His heart to your heart as to your resolve list. Don’t be afraid here that God is going to give you more than you can handle, I have found that God is less hard on us than we are upon ourselves.
  • Fifth, write down those thoughts (resolutions) that come to mind. Don’t worry if they lack substance and details. Those details will come later as you and the Lord work through them in the coming year. Yes, do write them down, this is an important part of bringing life to your resolutions.
  • Sixth, offer these items back up to God, seeking to commit them to Him to be done for His glory, with His guidance and His strength.
  • Seventh, find a trusted friend (soul-mate, spouse, child, sibling, Christian brother or sister, or even your pastor) and share your list, and ask them to pray over it with you, right then and there and later as the Holy Spirit brings it to memory.

Once you’re finished you may want to make a couple of copies and then them places where you will be forced to encounter them throughout the year.  Continue to bring them before the Lord, allowing Him to adjust them as needed.

How will you do this year with your God-shared resolutions?  I really don’t know. But this I do know, keeping in close contact with God will always help you move in the proper direction.  And isn’t that the real goal, to make sure we are moving in the right direction with God at our side? Whether or not you accomplish all your resolutions is not really as important as knowing you’re headed God’s way and the suggestions above will start you on that process.

May the Lord richly bless you as together you continue upon that journey to Christlikeness for that is the resolution that should top all our lists.  Oops, sorry, I said I wouldn’t do that!

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Monday, December 23, 2013

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS GIVING. THE GIFT OF LIVING WATER

Thanks to some gracious members of our church, their Christmas gift to me allowed us to give $100 to this project through the ministry of Living Water International!  You know who you are. The people of Burkina Faso and I thank you! 

Living Water International has many projects from which to choose, not only to bring clean water to those that need it most, but to also introduce them to the One, Jesus Christ, who offers to all living water -- FREE! (John 4:1-26 and Revelation 21:6)
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GRACIOUS GETTING


OH, YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE! I’ve repeated that phrase at numerous gift-receiving events. And I have also had that phrase repeated to me.  Sometimes I would like to respond, “Yes, you’re right, I shouldn’t have, but I did.” The phrase, given or received, is often done with a sense of false humility. We’re actually glad that we were thought of, and we might have even thought we were entitled to receive the gift, but we surely don’t want to seem too greedy or heaven-forbid, ungrateful, so we dutifully say, “Thank you.”

The reality is the whole idea behind the giving of gifts is that what is given is not done so because we deserve it, or have earned it, but because a true gift is given out of love for the receiver.

This model of gift-giving finds its foundation in God. We are reminded in the Scriptures, that we truly love only because we were truly loved by God first. (1 John 4:19)  This is what the first Advent of our Lord was all about; God expressing His love to us, not just because we needed it, but because God loved us!

I suppose we could say to God’s gracious gift, “Oh, You shouldn’t have.” To which He could have responded, “You’re right, I shouldn’t have, but I did!”  God gave to us because He is love and out of His very nature He poured forth His unconditional love upon us.

What is our part?  Our part is to receive the gift with abundant, open-hearted gratitude.

This Advent receive the gift and give thanks!  It’s the proper response.

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EMMANUEL -- GOD WITH US!

GOD CAME TO US, SO THAT WE COULD GO TO HIM!
(Note: in the video "messes" = sin)

Friday, December 20, 2013

LET'S FILL UP THOSE BUCKETS!

NO REASON TO FEEL GUILTY WHEN YOU HAVE TO RUSH BY one of Santa's Helpers, but if you CAN each little gift helps when you drop in your coins! THANKS!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

FINDING GOD IS THE UNEXPECTED PLACES

HERE'S A GREAT LITTLE VIDEO TO GO WITH OUR ADVENT SERIES: "FINDING GOD IN THE UNEXPECTED PLACES"  (thanks ken for the link!)

LISTEN! GIVE YOURSELF A GIFT!

I KNOW THAT IT MAY SOUND A LITTLE SELFISH, but I want to encourage you to give yourself a gift this Advent season. A gift that you can use long after the batteries in your kid’s toys wear-out, or that new sweater gets a snag or the pounds you promised yourself to lose go away. It is a gift that really will not cost you too much and it really will not take away from the gifts you desire to give to others.

What is this special, and I would add much-needed gift? It is the gift of listening. For all the non-stop information transfer that takes place in our lives, whether in the form of texting, or Facebook chatting, or FaceTime interaction on your iPhone, very little deep listening takes place. Yes, lots of interaction, lots of information streaming by you, but very little listening. Especially listening to yourself.

This Advent season give to yourself, and others around you, the gift of listening. The cost involved consists mainly of two things: time and caring. Deep listening to others, or even to yourself, will demand taking time to fully concentrate and caring enough to really hear.

Here are some ways and places to use this often unappreciated gift:
  • Take a walk in the woods, as far from road noise as possible, and listen.
  • Grab a loved one, sit down over a cup of ______ and ask them how their soul is today? (Note to self: your job is to listen, not respond or fix or suggest.
  • Open God’s Word and listen to what you read. Don’t study. Don’t analyze. Listen.
  • Grab a family photo album, peruse its pages and listen to your heart.
  • Turn on a classic piece of music, I’m talking more classic than your father, maybe Mozart, or Chopin or Haydn, and listen.
  • Find a spot, where you can be alone, and listen to your heart. Your physical and spiritual heart.

It may not seem like much of a gift, but believe me learning to listen deeply is one of the best gifts we can give, to ourselves and to others. So, listen up!

MORE ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS . . .

WELL, OK MAYBE YOU DIDN'T ASK THIS QUESTION . . . BUT SOMEONE MIGHT!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Monday, December 09, 2013

THREE NAILS AND A BLOCK OF WOOD

A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO one of my children gave me a special gift. It was a foot-long piece of 2x4 with a few nails pounded in it. It was supposed to be a tie rack, or was it a belt rack, maybe it was multi-purpose rack, I never did quite know, but the truth is it was handmade especially for me without another one quite like it in the world (that I know of.)

I liked that gift for a couple of reasons. First, it made me smile to think that I had made similar gifts for my dad and mom when I was young. Second, I was struck by how a simple gift, made in a simple manner, given for a simple purpose could bring pride to the giver and joy to the recipient.

When you think about all the money and angst that often accompanies our Christmas gift-giving is it any wonder we find ourselves driven to wit’s end by the time Christmas day arrives? Something tells me this is not what the Lord Jesus, whose birth we are celebrating, would require of those who seek to follow and honor Him. Truth-be-told, the Scriptures never tell us to celebrate His birth; His death and resurrection, yes, through Communion, Baptism and proclaiming the Word of God, but not His birth.

His death and resurrection were quite public events with many witnesses, but His birth was incredibly humble (in a barn) and unnoticed (except for a few fear-struck shepherds.)  I wonder if we would better celebrate His birth as it happened; humbly and unnoticed by the masses.  Would it not be more true to His birth celebration if the gifts we give and the manner in which we give them be of a simpler nature?

Wouldn’t three nails in a block of wood be a clearer reflection of the original Gift?  How then should we give?   
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Monday, December 02, 2013

SHOP GLOBAL

YES, I REALIZE THAT WE ARE ENCOURAGED to shop local in order to help out the “Mom & Pop” stores that are seen as the backbone of our economy. Some of the more militant among us would push for the closure of the multi-national Big-Box stores that are seen as the nemesis to all that is American. I truly am not trying to take sides and certainly do not want to start a battle between the various rights afforded to us as an affluent and consumer-driven culture.

My desire is that as we once again enter this season of giving we take time to consider the needs of those beyond our family and friends. I am asking you to stop and contemplate your giving in light of the reality that the giving of this season finds its foundation in the giving that God the Father did when He sent His Son into our world. A gift given at great cost and with the possibility of great reward. I suppose we might say the greater the sacrifice the greater the reward.

When we ponder the gifts to give to those we love, we should also be pondering what we can give to those that God loves but we have yet to meet.  I would encourage you to shop globally (See: Global Giving for ideas) this Advent Season. By that I do not mean buying gifts via the internet from some shop keeper on the other side of the planet; rather I am calling us to seek ways in which we can shop to best help those who do not enjoy the blessings afforded us here in America. It must also be said that there are those who call America home, but are still globally distant from the blessings and lifestyles that most of us
know.

Therefore, this Advent Season be sure to see how you can shop so to bring a blessing to those in true need of your gift. We started out well this year with 517 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child! Well done, church! We’re off to a great start, let’s just keep the blessings rolling.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

MY FAMILY OFTEN THINKS THAT THE THRILL OF THE HUNT is better than the final result. This is never more true than on birthdays or Christmas. We have been known to lead a person, via written clues, from place to place, from mailboxes to neighbor’s front doors, deciphering riddles and completing little stunts, all to find the present that is hidden in some obscure location, or even right-under-your-nose.

A case in point is when my family had bought me a bike and hid it in the closet in the girls’ bedroom. I went to the closet, slid open the doors, saw nothing and closed the door and continued on my way solving clues, never seeing the bike that was in the closet!  We’re talking a full-size bicycle. It was right in front of my face. As my mother used to say, “If you were any closer it would have bit you on the nose!” Well, I am thankful the bike didn’t bite, and my family thought dad had gone blind. Oh well, memories were made.

As we enter the Advent Season we discover that it too is best experienced as a journey; a joy-filled journey of discovering the long promised Savior. When Christmas becomes nothing more than the 25th of December we miss the true joy that God desires for us. Joy, I believe, He purposefully designed into the whole of the event of the birth of the Savior.  It is my hope that you will join the family at Felton Bible as we discover God in the unexpected places. Let’s be honest, the birth of the Christ-Child was anything but normal, surely not what was expected.

Sure, the Hebrews had been waiting for hundreds of years for the coming of the promised Messiah, a King of all kings and a Lord of all lords. They were waiting in eager expectation for the day the coming King would ride into the city of Jerusalem and establish once again the throne of the greatest of all Hebrew kings, King David. But, the promised king’s arrival came in thoroughly unexpected ways. The promised Messiah was to be found in the most unexpected places.

Each Sunday during this Advent season, as we gather to sing carols, light candles, and retell the Christmas story I invite you to discover God in the unexpected places of life. In the unexpected places of that first Advent over 2,000 years ago, and in the unexpected places of our lives today.

I invite you to purposefully set aside time during this often hectic season to gather with your church family, and to invite your friends and neighbors to join us as we journey to these unexpected places. Places in which we will discover the presence, power, peace and plan of God.

O, come all ye faithful! Joyful and triumphant!  Let us together discover God in the unexpected places.
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Monday, November 25, 2013

A CONFESSION!

Corcovado jesus
I HAVE LOTS OF THINGS TO CONFESS. Sins. Faults. Needs. Desires. Much too many things for the front of a church bulletin and later in my blog. I mean who really wants to hear the confessions of a pastor?  Just as I thought . . . there are a few of you. Well, for the sake of brevity and personal disclosure issues, suffice it to say, “I am a sinner. I am in need of the Gospel of grace everyday. And, I hold secure to the sacrifice that Jesus, the Son of God, paid on my behalf when He died upon the cross, and I am resting in His grace, wrapped in His robes of righteousness.”

The Apostle Paul wrote, in response to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.(Ephesians 2:6-7)

So, here is my confession:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, 
Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; 
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, 
born of the Virgin Mary, 
suffered under Pontius Pilate, 
was crucified, dead, and buried; 
He descended into hell; 
the third day he rose again from the dead; 
He ascended into heaven, 
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; 
the holy catholic Church; 
the communion of saints; 
the forgiveness of sins; 
the resurrection of the body; 
and the life everlasting. 
AMEN!

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

English: A flashlight Svenska: Ficklampa
English: A flashlight Svenska: Ficklampa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
EVERY YEAR IT’S THE SAME, I don’t check the batteries in the flashlights until the power goes out. Why do I do that?  Something about being human I guess; like checking the oil level in your car because the little red oil light came on.  We don’t check things until we really need them.  Take those preventative doctor appointments that some health insurance companies pay in full, we don’t take advantage of those either.  Let’s face it; why go to the doctor when you’re feeling good, right? They’re just going to order more tests . . . blood tests . . . yuck!

OK, back to the flashlight and batteries. Too often we are not prepared simply because of one of  two reasons. First, we’re just not thinking about it (my excuse) and second because we’ll get to it before the flashlight is needed (my other excuse). It is of course better to plan ahead, to check and replace the batteries before they are required. So, write this down, “Note to self: Change batteries in flashlights. Second note to self: Find flashlights.”

As with a flashlight, so too with God’s Word. The psalmist writes, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) God’s Word can illuminate the path we are on and also help us to see the path we are to take. Sadly, like the flashlight and the batteries, we often only seek to “turn God’s Word on” when we find ourselves in very dark places. Then we find ourselves fumbling around trying to make sense of both Word and world. The key to the Word’s light is to keep it lit all the time. You see the great thing about the Bible, it does not need batteries (unless you have it on your iPhone or iPad, but I digress.)

Life is full of unlit streets, dark allies, and sometimes even complete power outages. The key to keeping yourself safe in the dark is to be sure the light of the Lord’s Word is always lit. Bumbling and fumbling around in the dark is not the Lord’s desire for you. 

Open up the Book and leave the light on!
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Sunday, November 10, 2013

NOT SO NEW

JESUS SAID,
“A new command I give to you: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another”.
John 13:34
But surely this is not a new command, was this not the design and desire of the LORD in the Garden of Eden? What we have in Jesus’ “new” command is a new example and empowerment to keep the very design of God.
Love ? I love love love you.
Love ? I love love love you. (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Love reigned in the Garden. Like a morning mist it soaked everything, refreshing the relationship each day between God and His creation, especially the creation that bore His Image.

Love reigned in the Garden. Love reigned in between God to man, and man to God, love reigned between man and woman, husband and wife. As with love, so too with the Truth, as with Truth so too with The Light.

But, darkness entered, obscuring the truth, darkening the love and sin was conceived in a lie and gave birth in the shadows. The reign of love stopped. The drought of death had begun. The desire and design of Love, the living agape of God, was replaced with the destruction and death-bringing lie.

BUT GOD DEMONSTRATED HIS OWN LOVE for us in this: while we were still sinners (blinded by darkness and death) CHRIST DIED for us.” (Romans 5:8) In the self-giving act of God darkness was dispelled and death destroyed.

Love reigns. Providing for a restored relationship between God and the image-bearing creation He loves. Thus, the commandment is reignited, and can disperse the darkness. Yes, as the beloved Apostle John wrote, “Dear friends, I am not writing you a new commandment, but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2:7-8)

May His Light shine!  May His Love reign!
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Sunday, November 03, 2013

THE GIFT OF ONE MORE BOX

OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS I have had the opportunity to attend the kick-off events for Operation Christmas Child held in the Bay Area. At the events we were privileged and humbled to hear first-hand from the recipients of one of the shoeboxes. The truth is there is not a dry eye in the room by the time they are finished telling their miracle stories of receiving just the perfect gift, and how that gift led them to make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and how God is now using them to help tell the story around the world.

Each year we hear more stories, watch more heart-rending, heart-enriching video reports of lives being touched by a simple shoebox filled with gifts of love and compassion. For those of us blessed and privileged to live in a land of plenty and of conspicuous consumption, we might even feel a tinge of guilt for not doing more.

Now guilt may be a great motivator, but in regards to the shoeboxes of Operation Christmas Child, it is the wrong motivation. Our motivation to give should come from hearts filled with love and grace because we have been recipients of the great love and grace of God.

As I listen and ponder the wonderful stories of lives touched by these boxes filled with not only toys and helpful items, but also with the message of the Gospel, I am given to wonder, what about that one child that didn’t get a box? What about that far away village that couldn’t receive shoeboxes because there would be too little to go around? What one child’s life would miss the life-saving, life-changing message of the Gospel because we were one box short?

What if there were one more box?

That question lingers with me now. It haunts me. Couldn’t I package a little more love? Couldn’t I spend a few more latte-buying dollars on helping the Gospel reach a child, a family? In the grand scope of the Kingdom of God, will there not be more blessings poured out because I produced one more box, than raise the profit margin of the local coffee bar?  I believe the answer is quite obvious.

So, here’s my challenge: no matter how many boxes you gave last year, I challenge you to give ONE MORE BOX! Let’s make that our theme, our call to action, our cheer.  Let each of us this year give ONE MORE BOX!

Maybe, just maybe, that will be the box that will make all the difference in the world. And who could pass up a possibility like that?
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