Wednesday Night Reflections

So, it’s Wednesday night. Actually, it’s more like Wednesday evening. Tonight would normally be reserved for student ministries. We typically follow the school calendar with Mosaic, meaning that if school is off, Mosaic is off, so that explains my early post and the reason we didn’t have student ministries tonight.

The last month has been a whir of activity. My job at The Salvation Army kept me busier than I ever thought possible. It was tough keeping it all together. Once Christmas arrived, we went home for Christmas, which was really good. Yesterday we got home and as the old Bob Denver song goes, “Hey, it’s good to be back home again.” Today, I went back to work for one day at Salvation Army and tomorrow we have off — what a wonderful word. Unfortunately, that busyness has kept me from writing anything significant for the last month. Tonight my head is a little clearer.

One of the blogs I read regularly is from Mark D. Roberts.  He had a great article that reflected back on a former church.  He asked the question:

What did I do that really mattered?

Tonight is New Year’s Eve.  I really feel in a reflective mood this evening.  As I write, I can glance over the top of the laptop to our Christmas tree.  I’ve been thinking about one of our former churches quite a bit lately.  One of the reasons is that we have a beautiful tree topper and ribbon that was made by one of  the ladies at First Wesleyan in Flint, MI.  Our family has joined the Facebook group and we have put up several pictures from our time there.  Several years ago, I had the chance to go back there and preach.  Now that was an experience because while I was there, I never preached — I never felt up to that time that God was calling me to do that.  I was the worship pastor and tech guy.  When I went back to preach, I had the chance to experience that church all over again.  What was amazing to me, was the number of things that I implimented while I was there that were still in place.  That gave me a great feeling.  Preaching there was cool too.  Since I have pastored in small churches, I have never really preached to a large crowd.  That was one of the few times that I had to preach to a big crowd.  It’s amazing how much easier it is to preach to a larger crowd.  As I look back, was there anything that I did that mattered?  Yes, we made advancements in the Kingdom of God.

That becomes the question today.  Pam has written several posts reflecting back on this year.  In reflecting back on this past year, what have I done that really matters?  What have you done this year that really matters?  By really matters, I mean what things have made a difference in the Kingdom of God?  I challenge you to look back and determine — as I write I am thinking about those things — what really mattered in the Kingdom of God?  What did you do that made a difference in the Kingdom of God?  That question begs a second question; What will you do in 2009 that will advance or make a difference in the Kingdom of God?  The answer to that question, could make a world of difference.

It’s History

A couple of days ago, Rebecca and I were watching the Today show’s 2008 review. We both like history and all of us need to realize that 2008 will soon be history. I have always like watching the year in review shows since I was a teen ager. I would love to spend my New Year Eve watching the year in review. Ok , I was not normal. I stopped watching them after Dale and I got married because we would spend New Year’s Eve at church. I started watching them again when we moved from Pennsylvania. This was until someone told me that they didn’t want to watch because they had already lived through the year and they did not want to watch a review of it.

That statement, made years ago, has haunted me this year. People tend to forget history for one reason or another. There is a phrase that says, “Those who do not remember history will be doomed to repeat it.” I have seen this in the world and in the church. Perhaps it is because of our me-centric culture – perhaps it’s because we don’t care, or perhaps it is out of ignorance, but there are people who have no clue of history.

Here in America, we tend to forget that our Constitution guarantees the right for us to worship as we please. We tend to forget that the colonies were religiously diverse; Puritans, Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, and others. Our nation is even more diverse religiously today. Even so, our founding fathers gave each one the right to worship as they please, even if we do not agree with them. Sometimes that thought is tough for Christians to process. Yet, that is our history as a country.

When it comes to church history, we may like to forget (how convenient) that there was 1500 years of church history before the Protestant Reformation. As those who are connected to the holiness movement, we tend to forget that there were almost 350 years between the Reformation and the start of our church history. Our daughter Rebecca loves church history. She has read and reread several books on the history of the Church. The Church (the holy, apostolic and catholic) has been around for 2000 years – many times as Dr. Earle Wilson has said, “Not because of us, but in spite of us.” Let us not forget that.

My point is that we need to go back and take a look at history. We will find many great lessons that we can learn. It will help us from making similar mistakes. Let us embrace history so in the future we do not fall on our faces.

Isaac Watts

wattsOver the last few days we have been on vacation.  We are visiting family, which means we weren’t at our church this morning.  We got a chance to worship at another small, rural, yet non-traditional church this morning.  It was planted by my Father-in-Law and is now pastored by one of Pam’s brother-in-laws.  It was a wonderfully simple service.  One of the things that amazed me was the fellowship after worship. The people stood around and talked with each other for over an hour.

This morning we had a carol sing, which is very appropriate for the Sunday following Christmas.  Before we sang each carol, my brother-in-law gave us a brief history of the song.  While I have heard Isaac Watt’s story before, it was again interesting to hear how this man got started writing many of the great hymns we sing today, including Joy to the World.

Young Isaac quickly showed himself at ease with words. He learnt Latin at four years of age, Greek at nine, French at 11 and Hebrew at 13. His mother was astonished by the quality of the poetry he wrote when he was only seven. Once when his father reprimanded him for laughing during family prayers, Isaac pointed to a bell rope by the fireplace, where he had just seen a mouse run up, and speedily explained in verse:

There was a mouse, for want of stairs,
ran up a rope to say his prayers.

As his father picked up the cane, Isaac sought to save his skin with a second verse:

Oh father, father pity take
and I will no more verses make.

Sadly for Isaac it seems he was punished then, but thankfully for us, he did go on to “make verses”.A famous story about Isaac Watts tells how it all began. The teenaged Isaac complained bitterly to his father about the dreary Psalms sung in church – the tunes were tiresome and the words meaningless, he said. His discerning father, who recognised the burden oppressing his son’s soul, encouraged him to see what he could do “to mend the matter”. Isaac went to his room and wrote his first hymn.

The next Sunday that first hymn Behold the Glories of the Lamb was sung in the Congregational chapel to which the Watts family belonged in Southampton. Isaac was about 19 years old at the time. There were to be very many more hymns – almost 700 in all – before he died at the age of 74. Some three centuries later we are still singing them.

Isaac Watts was the man who, virtually single-handed, introduced, developed, invented, the hymn as we know it today. This influence was so strong that he has been called the father of English hymnody. One other interesting fact I learned this morning was that at one time Watts was composing one new tune a week for 222 weeks. Each week the congregation would sing a new Watts hymn. I think Isaac Watts really knew what it meant to sing to the Lord a new song.

(Personal) Top Events of 2008

This is the time when all the news media recalls the top events of 2008.  The following five stories are the top stories in my view.  Some of these stories didn’t even make the headlines.  Some will change the world and others will not.

  1. Political – President Elect Obama’s historic win.  (While we may not agree with him on some of the issues, the Scriptures command us to pray for our leaders.)  Obama will be the first African-American president of the United States.
  2. Personality – Sarah Palin – I could see her as the next president and possibly another historic election.
  3. Religion – The Wesleyan Church during its General Conference in Orlando elected Dr. Joann Lyon (Founder of World Hope International) as our first woman General Superintendent.  Dr. Lyon leads with Dr. Jerry Pence and Dr. Tom Armiger.
  4. Most important person who died – Shirley Christman – my mom, how I still miss her.
  5. Technology – While Facebook has been around for several years, I have discovered a way of contacting old friends and staying in contact with current friends.  It has been great keeping up with my nieces and nephews as well as chaplains and missionaries.

So, what are your top five stories of 2008?

Weekly Lectionary Reading

First Sunday after Christmas Day
December 28, 2008

Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 148; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:22-40

4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

The blessed event has come — Jesus has been born of a virgin — the event for which we have been preparing our hearts has arrived.  Now what?  On Christmas Eve, I answered this question “Why did Jesus come?” with a scripture.  This passage in Galatians reminds us again why Jesus came.  On Thursday we began the Twelve Days of Christmas.  There are twelve days between the Western celebration of Christmas on December 25 and the Eastern Celebration of Christmas on January 6th.  On these twelve days, we focus on why Jesus came as a baby.  I was discussing this with one of my new friends.  She talked about the glory and the humility.  Jesus is worthy of all the glory and yet he came to earth humbly as a baby — not a royal baby — not in a royal city — but born in a lowly city — Bethlehem — born of ordinary parents – except that Joseph was part of the royal line of David.  He was born in a manger and wrapped in cloths.  Paul tells us he was born of a woman to free us from the bondage of sin.  Those of us who are in Christ are free from the bondage of sin and we are adopted into the family of Christ.   We can call God, “Father!”  The Greek equivalent is “daddy.”  Because of Christ’s arrival on this earth, we have the ability to enter the family of God.  This is reason to rejoice.  Blessings.