A Sad Anniversary

Yesterday Dale and I were watching a video about a baby who slipped the bonds of this earth 99 days after his birth. You may have seen the video called 99 balloons. [If you haven’t click on this link.] All of a sudden Dale started to cry and did not realize at first, why. The reason our tears started was because today is the 18th year anniversary of my miscarriage. On December 14, 1991, I found out that we were expecting our third child. But our life was very busy at the time. It was during the Christmas season and we were involved with every event you could think of at church. I was recovering from a car accident. The week of Christmas the doctor put me on bed rest. As you can imagine with two preschoolers, this was very difficult. I tried to stay on bed the best I could, but as much as I tried a day before New Year’s Eve, I started bleeding. I went to the doctor and a couple hours later we got the news that the baby was not developing the way it should be. There was no way we could save the baby. I lost it on New Year’s Eve. The pain and the loss I felt and Dale felt were incredible. It was hard because, except for our parents and family and our pastors, nobody really knew what happened. Since I had just discovered I was pregnant, nobody knew, except for those we had told. Just imagine losing a baby that you could never, ever hold in your arms. Each New Year’s Eve is a time of mourning for the little one I lost. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that the Christmas season is so difficult for me. It seems that there are many difficult things that have happened during the Christmas season. There are even certain Christmas songs that I try to avoid, “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas” is one of those, because of the memories that they stir up.

Paul writes in his second letter to the church at Corinth:

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

Today is a sad day for Dale and I. We could dwell on that fact alone, but the scriptures give us a reason for hope – God can comfort us through our deepest trials. When we have walked through that trial, we can use the comfort that God gave us to help others. We have been able to tell this story several times. Each time God has used this story to help others in similar circumstances. The first time we told our story; there was a young lady who was thinking of aborting her baby. After hearing our story she kept her daughter and today she is a pastor’s wife. There have been others who have experienced similar pain and disappointment in their lives. They were told, “Don’t get emotional over it – just act like it didn’t happen.” I know it sounds crazy, but people have said that to me about things that have happened in my life. As we remember this anniversary today, our hearts are sad, and yes, we will get emotional about it. In telling our story, others have found the strength to overcome their own hurt and they have found healing in the God of All Comfort. It is ok to cry when the memories hurt. That’s what being part of the body of Christ is all about – providing a place to comfort others who are in trouble.

While it is still a sad anniversary, I know that God has put it our lives to help others.

Personal Top Ten Songs of the Year

Pam’s Top Ten

  1. Until the Whole World Hears – Casting Crowns
  2. City on Our Knees – Toby Mac
  3. Tears of the Saints – Leeland
  4. Follow You – Leeland w/Brandon Heath
  5. Glorious – Newsboys
  6. It’s Your Life Francesca Battistelli 
  7. Speaking Louder Than Before – Jeremy Camp
  8. Heaven is the Face – Steven Curtis Chapman
  9. Always – Building 429
  10. God of This City – BlueTree

Dale’s Top Ten

  1. Holy God – Casting Crowns
  2. There Will Be A Day – Jeremy Camp
  3. Our Hope Endures – Natalie Grant
  4. I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin
  5. Sing, Sing, Sing – Chris Tomlin
  6. More Beautiful You – Jonny Diaz
  7. You Found Me – Big Daddy Weave
  8. God You Reign – Lincoln Brewster
  9. In the Hands of God – Newsboys
  10. Glory to God Forever – Fee
  11. (Bonus) Two Hands – Jars of Clay

Our Personal Picks for the Top News Stories of 2009

My top news stories of the year (Pam)

5. A couple crashed a dinner at the White House and was able to get to some of the most important people in our country.

4. Grass-roots “tea parties” are organized around the country.

3. Military recruiter shot Little Rock AR on June 1, 2009

2. Salvation Army officer shot on Christmas Eve. Little Rock AR

1. Chaplain Botsford made is home safe with the solider that served with him in Iraq.

Dale’s top news Stories

5. The attempted Christmas Day terror attack

4. Michael Jackson died as well as Senator Ted Kennedy.

3. The inauguration of the first African-American president.

2. The Fort Hood Massacre

1. The “Miracle on the Hudson”

The top 5 fastest rising searches on Google in 2009 globally:

1. Michael Jackson

2. Facebook

3. tuenti

4. Twitter

5. sanalika

The top 5 fastest rising searches on Google in the United States in 2009:

1. twitter

2. michael jackson

3. facebook

4. hulu

5. hi5

While You Were Sleeping

Micah 5:2-5a

2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,

are only a small village among all the people of Judah.

Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you,

one whose origins are from the distant past.

3 The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies

until the woman in labor gives birth.

Then at last his fellow countrymen

will return from exile to their own land.

4 And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength,

in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

Then his people will live there undisturbed,

for he will be highly honored around the world.

5 And he will be the source of peace.

Bethlehem – Over the last several weeks, Pastor Barry has been doing a series called The Little Town of Bethlehem during Advent. For this morning’s Christmas message I again want to focus on this little town. There really wasn’t much important about Bethlehem — this little Judean village lies 6 miles south of Jerusalem — the big important city. Bethlehem is important in its own right however. The entry at Wikipedia has this to say and reminds us of several of the messages of the past few weeks:

Bethlehem, located in the “hill country” of Judah, may be the same as the Biblical Ephrath,[12] which means “fertile”: There is a possible reference to it as Beth-Lehem Ephratah.[13] It is also known as Beth-Lehem Judah,[14] and “the city of David”.[15] It is first mentioned in the Tanakh and the Bible as the place where the Abrahamic matriarch Rachel died and was buried “by the wayside” (Gen. 48:7). Rachel’s Tomb, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem. According to the Book of Ruth, the valley to the east is where Ruth of Moab gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi. Bethlehem is the traditional birthplace of David, the second king of Israel, and the place where he was anointed king by Samuel.[16] It was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his warriors brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam.[17]

It is Bethlehem where Jesus was going to be born — the long awaited promise. If a king was to be born surely he wouldn’t be born in Bethlehem. So, many years ago, a child was born, his name is Jesus and as we are told in Matthew’s gospel, he will save his people his people from their sins. Yesterday, I began working on a sermon for the Sunday following Christmas. I’ve been listening to the song by Casting Crowns, While You Were Sleeping. Mark Hall wrote it while trying to rework the classic Christmas carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem. The people of Israel were sleeping when Jesus came to earth so long ago in Bethlehem. In fact only a few people were even aware that Jesus had arrived on earth. There was Mary and Joseph, those are the obvious ones. Then there are the shepherds who were out in the fields around Bethlehem. I love the way the movie The Nativity Story depicts the shepherds watching their sheep. The angels of heaven came to announce the good news to the shepherds and then there are those curious wise men. Again, I love the different perspective that was presented in the movie. We don’t know when the wise men arrived, but they came to worship this newborn king. The rest of the world, as far as we can tell, was clueless.

For the most part, those in that part of the world were more concerned with the oppression of the Romans and the crazy head of state Herod. Rome was in complete charge of its territories and it was quick to squelch any uprisings. This is in part what made Herod so nervous. According to the biblical narrative, not even Herod was aware of what was going on at least until the arrival of the wise men in Jerusalem. After all, if a king was to be born to Israel, wouldn’t he be born in the capital city — the religious center of Israel? It was only after Herod had his scribes and wise men check the ancient writings did Herod discover what was happening in the shadow of the capital.

Why were so many sleeping? We do know that it had been 400 years since God last spoke to the people of Israel through the prophets. Perhaps the people had been lulled into complacency because of the silence. Hasn’t that ever happened to you? When things become quiet, we get sleepy, perhaps that’s what happened to those who were waiting for the promised one — they became spiritually sleepy. They began to go through the motions. Look at the Pharisees — they had all kinds of activity — the followed all the laws — they made sure everyone else was following the laws — they knew the scriptures and yet, all of this happened right underneath their noses. Yes, as Jesus became known, several Pharisees and others from the spiritual counsels began to discover who this Jesus was and God even opened the eyes of several, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Aramethia. Most, however, remained spiritually blind and spiritually asleep to the fact that Jesus had come to earth.

The question that I have for you is, “Are you awake to the true meaning of Christmas or are you sleeping as well?” As I mentioned several weeks ago during the First Sunday of Advent, not only was Jesus promised to come the first time, but Jesus has promised that he would return for those who believe him and call on his name. This second coming or Second Advent is not something that you will want to sleep through. Just like those at the time of Jesus’ birth who were sleeping to his coming, there will be those who will be sleeping when he comes back. I would hope that you are not among those who are sleeping when he returns.

In Matthew 25, we have a powerful parable about what happens to those who are sleeping when Jesus returns.

1″At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.4The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6″At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

7″Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

9″ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10″But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11″Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’

12″But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’

13″Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

And so it can be for us – we can be too busy for Jesus and we can completely miss him. I have enjoyed this Advent and Christmas more than I have in a long time. Even Pam has really enjoyed this particular Advent and Christmas season. One of the reasons for me is that this is the first time in ten years that I haven’t worked in a retail setting during Advent or Christmas. I feel spiritually alive this Christmas. Retail has a way of taking the fun out of Christmas and our Savior’s birth. It can make you spiritually sleepy. Another thing that I always will guard people against is getting too busy at Christmas. It’s been a unique Christmas for our family — It’s been a simple Christmas for our family — Perhaps that’s why I feel so alive and awake this year. I really want to encourage you not to miss out — not to sleep through Christmas this year. Will you be sleeping our awake this year?

Jesus gives each one of us an opportunity to respond to him. This morning Jesus may be calling you to turn your life over to him – to become spiritually awake. We don’t know when Jesus is coming again. Scripture makes that plain. I want to encourage you to have a relationship with the one person who is more important than any other.

The praise team is coming to sing a wonderful song of the season, “Silent Night, Holy Night.” As we are singing I encourage you to think about where you are spiritually. If Jesus is calling you, the altar is open for you to seek him here. Come now and offer your life to him.

How Religious is Your State?

My good friend Mark Wilson posted this link

How Religious is Your State?

It’s interesting to see how the different states we have lived in stacked up against the rest of the country.  Indiana was ranked 16th — Virginia was ranked 18th — then we move down a long way, Pennsylvania and Michigan were 26 and 27 respectively and finally New York came in at 39.  It was interesting to note that Vermont came in ranked at the bottom.  The other thing that was interesting to note is that the seat of the Great Awakenings in the United States (the New England states) are now the least “religious” states in the country.  It really gives you something to think about.