It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

On my day off today, we did quite a few things to prepare us for the upcoming Christmas season. I took advantage of the warm late fall weather. It was 60 degrees and sunny; a nice day to put up outside Christmas decorations. I’ve included a few pictures like the train and one of the two spiral Christmas trees. We also have blue icicle lights, but it’s hard to see them in the picture. I also decorated our dogwood tree with a few lights. It looks really nice and there are even electric candles in the front windows.

I love the symbolism that is in the decorations. Since the decorations are mainly up during the season of Advent, I choose the blue icicle lights to remind me of the coming King. The spiral trees have white lights and remind us of Jesus, the Light of the World. Can I come up with anything for the train? Not right off hand, but trains have always been a part of Christmas for me, so there is a train as part of our decorations.

This is probably the earliest I’ve ever put up decorations inside or outside. I usually wait at least until the First Sunday of Advent, but it was warm today and won’t be next week. I realize that many stores have had decorations up for weeks if not months, but that’s not why we celebrate this season. We celebrate the birth of our Savior at Christmas.

Advent is a preparation season, not only do we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus (His first advent (or coming)), we also remember that Jesus is returning again (His second advent). That’s what gives us hope. This week we are going to celebrate hope during our worship. In addition we will partake of communion, which Jesus commanded His disciples to celebrate until His return. I hope you take the time to prepare for Jesus this season; it will make all the difference.

The Purpose

This is something I’ve wanted to try since college. The Wesleyan Church does not typically use the lectionary. While in New York, my wife and I were involved in an ecumenical clergy group. All of the churches except ours, used the Revised Common Lectionary. I thought it was interesting that most of these churches read four passages of scripture each Sunday. How many do we read each Sunday? I’ve seen preachers preach a sermon from one verse.

I’ve felt challenged to write a weekly devotional based on those weekly readings to follow up on our emphasis on the Year of the Bible last year. The church year begins this Sunday with Advent. Join me on this journey.

Bowling Stories Again

Yes, tonight was Monday Night Church Bowling League. Our team was in 7th place before tonight and we can forget about being there next week. We lost 5 points and won 2. My average continues on a downhill slide because I bowled a 120 average tonight. I started the night with a 129 average.

Last week my FLAME and blogger land buddy Mark Wilson commented, “Jesus still loves you even if you can’t bowl worth a hoot.” That’s a great reminder. I am competitive by nature. I play with all my heart, just ask the members of my team. I try to do everything that way. I do it because I want to do my best.

I wasn’t always the best sportsman, but God has helped me be a good winner and a good loser. It does matter to me whether I win or lose and it’s also important how you play the game, but I’ve learned to be a gracious loser.

Jesus loves us. Jesus wants us to do our best to build His Kingdom. That’s what I want to do.

Uno Attack!

Wednesday night at my in-laws, we played something called UNO Attack. It was a unique version of the card game UNO. We played it with about 12 people around the table. It has a card dealer that will either spit out no cards or a random amount of cards. Before we were around the table twice the 3 of us at one end of the table had twice as many cards as we started with. It wasn’t long until we had three times as many cards. I came no where close to winning the game and that’s alright. I had a lot of fun spending time with the families that had gathered there.

There are just times when you need to spend time with the family and last Wednesday night was one of them. We had a lot of fun even though we got a little loud for my Mother-in-Law.

Sunday Night Thougts – November 26

We had a great day of ministry today. God has been working among us and for that I am greatful. We celebrated Christ the King Sunday today. Not many Wesleyans would even know what Christ the King Sunday is. It is the last Sunday on the liturgical calendar. It is always the Sunday before Advent begins. We celebrated the King who’s reign is forever, with a great reading from Revelation 1:4-8. Then we sang several songs about His Kingship. I preached a message called “Worship the King,” and then my daughter finished the service by leading us in worship with the song “Beautiful Savior.” What a great morning.

I am looking forward to starting our preparations for Christmas. Over the next few Sundays we will be preparing for the King who is coming. Next week, we will remember that Jesus Christ is coming again. The first time He came (the First Advent) He came as a helpless baby. The next time He comes, He will come as the King of Kings. We will remember that by celebrating communion together as Jesus commanded His disciples to celebrate it until He returns.

Our choir is doing a great job in getting ready to lead worship on Christmas Eve morning. We rehearsed tonight before church. I led my last discipleship class of the year, because of the many activities in December on Sunday night and the children and teens practiced their musical which will be in two Sundays.

It really was a great day of ministry, but now I am looking forward to relaxing a little. I’ll probably fall asleep right away, because it’s been a busy weekend between church and Radioshack. Have a great week.

Worship the King

For quite a few weeks we have been taking a look at something called Lifesong Lessons. We have been taking a look at what it means to worship and glorify God. The series for the most part was inspired by a CD of the same name by a band named Casting Crowns. This band is formed by regular men and women who are pastors in their own churches. If at all possible they try to be home for the weekends and Wednesday nights to minister to their own churches and youth. Part of the appeal for me is that they love the church. They desire to see the church be what God intended it to be. That is my prayer as well. I love the church. Is the church perfect? No, (I speak for myself…No church is perfect because it is made up of imperfect people.) But the church is God’s instrument for bringing people to salvation through His son Jesus Christ. Not only are we (the church) to bring them to salvation, but we are to make them disciples. My prayer is that we (our local congregation and the holy, universal, apostolic church) would be the church that God has called us to be.

We have focus quite a bit on what it means to worship and how we honor God in what we do. Our key passage for this series comes from Romans 12:1-2; “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.”[i] We have discovered that most of the time our worship has nothing at all to do with music or singing or with being happy all the time, but it has to do with giving the One we worship the honor and the glory; to offer up our bodies as living sacrifices to God. We’ve learned that:

  • Worship is more than the songs we sing, but it’s how we live our lives.
  • That we need to worship God in the storm as well as the calm.
  • When others are going through hard times we honor God by loving them and caring for them.
  • God honors those who take off the mask and are real with Him and others
  • God has called us to listen to those who are hurting and to be His ambassador to them.
  • We honor God by watching, praying, and occupying the time (making many disciples) before His return.
  • We honor God by serving Him. (sometimes if full-time service.)
  • We honor God by living lives set apart to Him even in our marriages.
  • We honor God by pulling people out of their sins.
  • We honor God by boasting only in the cross of Christ
  • We honor God by being set free of our sins.
  • We honor God by being thankful.

So we’ve learned quite a bit of what it means to worship, but since today is Christ the King Sunday and we honor him, let’s ask this question, “Who is this King that should be honored in this way.” Let’s open God’s word and find out who this King is. We’ve already heard Revelation 1:1-4, but let’s read it again.

4 …Grace and peace from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the commander of all the rulers of the world.

All praise to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. 6 He has made us his kingdom and his priests who serve before God his Father. Give to him everlasting glory! He rules forever and ever! Amen!

7 Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him—even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the earth will weep because of him. Yes! Amen!

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come, the Almighty One.”[iii]

Let’s break it down. This King always was, always is, and always will be. He is everlasting. He was the first to rise from the dead. Everyone will see him. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the beginning and the end. How long is forever? It’s a LONG time and yet Jesus is both the beginning and the end. He loves us even the sinners. He freed us from our sins by shedding His blood on the cross. This is great stuff. Everyone will worship Him, even those who pierced his side. There is coming a day when everyone will call Him Lord, whether you want to or not. What does it mean to call Him Lord?

Let’s take a look at another passage in Psalm 93

1 The Lord is king! He is robed in majesty. Indeed, the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be shaken. 2 Your throne, O Lord, has been established from time immemorial. You yourself are from the everlasting past. 3 The mighty oceans have roared, O Lord.

The mighty oceans roar like thunder; the mighty oceans roar as they pound the shore. 4 But mightier than the violent raging of the seas, mightier than the breakers on the shore—the Lord above is mightier than these! [iv]5 Your royal decrees cannot be changed.

The nature of your reign, O Lord, is holiness forever. [v]

Look what the King is! The Lord is king. His throne is forever. He is robed in majesty and armed with strength. His kingdom is unshakeable. This king is mightier than the pounding off the loudest waves pounding the shore. This king is mightier than the crashing of the thunder. The king is above all of these. This king is holy forever. He is worthy of our worship.

Let’s look at what the prophet Daniel says about this king. Daniel 7:9-10,13-14

9 I watched as thrones were put in place and the Ancient One sat down to judge. His clothing was as white as snow, his hair like whitest wool. He sat on a fiery throne with wheels of blazing fire, 10 and a river of fire flowed from his presence. Millions of angels ministered to him, and a hundred million stood to attend him. Then the court began its session, and the books were opened…

13 As my vision continued that night, I saw someone who looked like a man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, honor, and royal power over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.[vi]

We overuse the word awesome. Only God is truly awesome. As we listen to this passage, I sense the awesomeness of God; millions of angels attend to Him (the King.) His clothing was white as snow. He was given all authority on heaven and earth so that all of us would obey Him. He has a kingdom that will never be destroyed. What does that look like, let’s take a look at Revelation 7.

9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout,

“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne
and from the Lamb!”

11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. 12 They sang,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and strength belong to our God
forever and ever! Amen.”

Who is this King? He is a King that deserves our worship. Let’s take one more look at John 18:33-37.

33 Then Pilate went back inside and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the King of the Jews?” he asked him.

34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate asked. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you here. Why? What have you done?”

36 Then Jesus answered, “I am not an earthly king. If I were, my followers would have fought when I was arrested by the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

37 Pilate replied, “You are a king then?”

“You say that I am a king, and you are right,” Jesus said. “I was born for that purpose. And I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”[vii]

Let’s take a look at Jesus’ words. Pilate asked Jesus if He was King of the Jews? Jesus replied that His kingdom is not an earthly kingdom; it is not of this world. If it was Jesus disciples would have fought, but Jesus commanded them not to. Jesus replies that yes, he is a king…he is the true king born to bring truth to the world. His kingdom is unshakable. So what should we do? The writer of Hebrews says, “28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.This morning my desire is for each one of you to worship the true King. Will you do it?

[i]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.

[iii]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.

[v]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.

[vi]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.

[vii]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.

Black Friday

As some of you know, I pastor bi-vocationally. That means I have an job outside of the church. I enjoy it. One of the reasons is that it reminds me of what the laypeople in the church go through everyday in their “secular” jobs. It helps me stay down to earth and practical in my preaching. I do work at Radioshack here in Martinsville. It’s interesting working “Black Friday” from a customer service perspective. Met several of the women from our church walking and shopping in the mall as well. If was fun and we even had a little friendly competition going on. I am tired but it is a fun tired. It was a good day.

Back Home

Our family made a quick trip to PA Tuesday evening and returned tonight so that I can get ready to work at Radioshack tomorrow. We got to see both sets of parents on our quick trip. We are so thankful for traveling safety while on the road. We got caught in two big traffic jams on the way to PA. Tonight was smooth sailing, making the trip from East Berlin to Martinsville, in just over 6 hours with two short stops.

Carving up the turkey
What was left of the potato filling. (It was real good!)
Some of the family who attended at Pam’s mom and dad’s house.

Thank you God for the ways you work, even in the small ways. One more short story; on the way to PA, the brakes started squeaking. We had it checked out and turns out the front brakes needed to be replaced. I am thankful for ALL God’s provisions.

Happy Thanksgiving

All across America families will gather for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Tonight, we met my parents for dinner. It was good to see them again. We like many other families will be celebrating together with my wife’s parents tomorrow. One of my favorite parts of thanksgiving is Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Filling. It is a wonderful mixture of sauted onions, celery, and bread, mixed into mashed potatoes with butter, milk, and eggs. You take all that and put it in a casserole dish and bake it. (There are usually no leftovers!) This afternoon, my father-in-law and I chopped up the onions and celery. We put it all together in the morning.

Several people on Sunday commented that they couldn’t wait to try it at our church Christmas banquet. They even gave me some suggestions for improvement and I think I’ll try them.

Take some time to thank God for all the blessings He has poured out on you. As I mentioned Sunday night, we are a blessed people. God bless you and have a blessed Thanksgiving.