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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WE ARE NOT ALONE!

WE LIVE IN A PLACE AND TIME IN HISTORY where the existence of God is constantly coming into question, and yet our culture is alive with the searching desire to believe that something else must be out there.  We cannot be alone in the universe. It’s too big a place to think that we’re the only ones.

Not only is our culture seeking for life out there, but we also exhibit a hunger for finding the supernatural in our midst, just as long as that supernatural thing does not in any way, shape or form resemble the God of the Bible.

This cultural milieu in which we find ourselves as Christians, can cause us to feel that we are all alone in this world. Oh, sure God is up there in His heaven keeping watch over us, and we hold to the doctrine that the Holy Spirit resides within us,  but somehow those realities seem far away and distant from the everydayness of our lives.  We often feel like it’s “us four and no more.”  Being a Christian is a lonely existence, well except for the fact that there is that person sitting next to you in the pew. 

REALITY CHECK. We are NOT alone! We belong to a family with millions of brothers and sisters. (Talk about a Christmas gift-exchange party!) Today, as we stop and pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, we are reminded of just how large the family of God is.

Today, we who enjoy the freedom to practice our faith, gather to pray for those who do not possess that freedom. Not only do they lack the freedom to gather to pray and worship, they are often are dragged from their homes and churches. They are beaten, imprisoned, martyred for simply bearing the name of Christ-follower.


No, my brother or sister, we are not alone. And we must make sure that they, our suffering sisters and brothers know that truth as well.  It can start with your prayer today!
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