Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday Flashback

Sunday on a Christmas weekend. Lots of our folks are still "over the river and through the hills", but while the attendance (particularly at 9) was down, the spirit was high!

Thanks to the MP13 Band for keeping Christmas in our hearts with a couple of songs about the coming of the Lord. Chris Tomlin's version of "Joy to the World" just makes a great song even better. All told, the music today was top notch and as I watched from my vantage point on the front row left I could tell the worship was heart-felt.

I'll miss the decorations when they come down in the next few days. Set against our black background, the trees, lights, packages and bows pop! As one guest said, a "visual treat".

I started a series today that will take us through the month of January from Isaiah 55. There, the Lord is telling Judah what it will take after they return from 70 years in Bablylonian captivity to become again the holy people of God. And He invites the Gentiles to join in. All this was 190 years before the event.

Our focus today was on verse 6 - the heart of the passage. "Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near." With "seek" being the verb it is telling us that we can't move from point A to point B passively. And the thought that God may not always be "near" to aid us is a scary thought.

Tammy S., one of our newest partners also shared with us about her mission in Nepal, where she'll be building an orphanage in a remote area. First, she goes to Thailand to get training in a machine that will be used to make the bricks! We committed to praying for Tammy's safety and for her witness of the Gospel to a culture with hundreds of gods.

So as we move into a new year, let's evaluate the old and take whatever steps are needed to grow.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

And the best is yet to come!

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.
And the government will rest on his shoulders.
These will be his royal titles:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end.
He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David.
The passionate commitment of the LORD Almighty will guarantee this!

The Prophet Isaiah
c. 700 BC

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Ebb and Flow of Life

My racquetball game got interrupted today. A police officer was on his way to the Y where I was playing to get me to accompany him to make a death notification - one of my roles as a chaplain in public safety.

Often when someone has died suddenly, unexpectedly or violently (as was this case), next of kin, if they are in another location, are notified by their local police who have been contacted by law enforcement at the scene of the death. Telling someone, even a stranger, such news is always sad. That is is 3 days before Christmas even magnifies the pain.

Thankfully, however, death is only one end of our existence. At the other end of the scale is birth, and as making a death notification is painful, receiving a birth announcement is joyous.

While we were tracking down the next of kin I received a phone call from a close friend that her daughter had just given birth to their first grandchild! Her joy was in stark contrast to the misson I was undertaking at the time.

That's life. The Bible's Job understood more clearly than most when he said about God, "He gives and takes away. Blessed be His name."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How Can It Be?

The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.

- Martin Luther

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Flashback

Today was the 2nd message in our Christmas series "Christmas in Our Hearts". We're taking a look at our Christmas traditions and how to ensure they allow us to worship and celebrate the birth of the Savior, but how to use them to teach and reach. This morning my message was about our tradition of Christmas carols and songs.

If all we had at Christmas were our songs - no decorations, no cards or gifts or movies to watch - would our songs be enough? Hope it gave us all something to think about.

Our "Contagious" youth band opened up our worship this morning - their first time in "big church", and they did great! They taught us a song they do at our youth group called "We Shine" and then did an awesome rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" that totally rocked. It's so great to see teenagers leading worship and serving the church.

Again we showed a video from Advent Conspiracy. Along with that movement, we're collecting winter coats to give out Friday night to those in need in our community, taking an offering this month for foreign missions and will be providing the meal and serving at our local "soup kitchen" later this month. Friday night at our Christmas Concert (Unspeakable Joy!) we took up an offering for a local church that sustained a fire a few days before Thanksgiving. The spirit of giving and serving is never so strong, it seems, than at Christmastime.

Like most churches, this time of the year finds us with several MIA partners due to sickness. Get well soon! But it's so great to see others stepping up to be sure the gaps are filled. Team spirit is something we find both a spiritual sign of maturity and also something we value greatly.

After church we had lunch with our son and daughter and their families, then went together to visit grandma in her new digs. She's moved into an assisted living home that is really great! Her only complaint is that they give her more food than she can eat!

Tonight we're visiting with visiting missionary friends Larry and Sheila for pizza and I'm sure, lots of laughs.

BTW, Friday night's concert played to a full house and was most excellent! My son, Nathan, who is our worship leader has done a fantastic job pulling together a great band and a choir that knocked it out of the park. Lots of new Christmas music as well as new renditions of the old. It was incredible. Next year we'll do it twice!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Remember Pearl Harbor

Before the day passes I want to say "Thank you" to those who served our country on Dec. 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor, HI.

Few of you remain. We owe much to your generation.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Flashback

This first Sunday in December felt like winter is arriving! And I think the colder temps kept people sleeping in, because the 9AM gathering wasn't nearly as well-attended at the 11 o'clock. It's tough getting out of bed on these chilly mornings!

This morning kicked off a new series "Christmas in Our Hearts". We all have Christmas traditions. Our take in this series is how our traditions can and, I believe, should pass on the celebration of Christ's birth to future generations, and point those who don't yet know Him to Him.

The Worship Choir joined the MP13 Band to start off the morning with a couple of great contemporary Christmas songs, including "Gloria" (I can't escape the line in that song that asks 'How could heaven's heart not break on the day that you came?') and a new song from Chris Tomlin, "My Soul Magnifies the Lord", taking lyrics from Mary's prayer in Luke 1 and Isaiah's prophecies that His name would be called "Wonderful, Counselor.." It may be one of the greatest Christmas songs this generation has produced.

At the end of my talk I asked the congregation to respond by bringing the names of friends and family who need to know Christ up to an "altar" of Christmas gift-wrapped boxes. This is the season for us to give ourselves to others. Everyone who participated wrote the name of someone they care for on a Christmas gift tag and affixed it to the boxes while the band played "You Gave Your Life Away". This is the most wonderful time of the year to share Christ with others.

Via video we were challenged to join in with The Advent Conspiracy and make our Christmas count. Did you know that Americans spend $450 BILLION on Christmas gifts? Check out their site.

Each Sunday I am amazed that God can use me, especially when I know my own failures and imperfections. Today was one of those days. His grace is amazing and His faithfulness uncompromised.

Have a Merry Christmas! Let it joy begin. In excelsis Deo!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Series Starts Sunday

Wish Me a Merry Christmas!

Can Christians just sit back and allow the politically correct and secular whims of a culture moving farther away from our moorings to secularize the birth of Christ?

Here's a movement that says they shouldn't.