Friday, December 27, 2013

A personal note

My apologizes to my regular readers. I've been dealing with an issue at church and then we moved into the Christmas/New Year's holidays. This will be followed by a week of vacation. I shall return on January 13, 2014. I hope that your Christmas was merry and that you will have a safe and great beginning to the New Year. God bless as always, Pastor Jim

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Christmas Gift that really makes a difference!

Christmas has always been about the children. We try to refocus our emphasis with the “Jesus is the reason…” stuff, but while placing an emphasis on Christ, we focus our time and energy on the children.  You’ve heard people say, “Well, it just won’t feel like Christmas since I’m away from my grandchildren.”

We pour out our affection and adoration for the children in our homes and in our community. We light up in the presence of children, especially as they are taken in by all of the trappings surrounding Christmas.

We will go out of our way to do anything, if within our power, to meet the expectations of a child. We will or have hunted down that “special” toy because one of our precious ones asked Santa for it. We love children! Jesus said, in Luke 18:16 - "Allow the children to come to me. Don't forbid them, because God's kingdom belongs to people like these children.” (CEB)

Well, here is a simple way that we can start loving the children of the world. I do not know if the following little article appeared in the morning newspaper that you read, but it did mine last week and it caught my attention:

Global efforts to curb malaria are stalling after a drop in funds to buy bed nets, according to the latest report Wednesday from the World Health Organization. For the second year in a row, WHO noted a dramatic decline in the number of bed nets given out to protect people from the mosquitoes that spread malaria. In 2010, 145 million bed nets were distributed; that fell to 92 million in 2011 and 70 million last year.

Bishop Tom Bickerton came our way last year and in his message he shared his work with NOTHING BUT NETS, Send a net. Save a life – the global effort to provide bed nets to fight malaria. For just $10 a bed net can be purchased and given to a person to protect them from this deadly disease … just $10! Wow, that is something nearly every one of us can respond to and make a difference in the life of someone else. Most of us spend more than that eating out.

We can stop malaria in 2014 and save millions of lives – most of them children!

It’s Christmas. Under our tree will be many wrapped gifts that is just more “stuff” than we really need. Actually, a lot of those gifts we really don’t need, but a loved one felt they needed to purchase “something” for us. Well, here is a novel idea… why don’t we give a gift that really is important. We can give a net in honor (or memory) of our loved one(s). It is rather easy. Just go to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web page and make a donation using your credit card – we already have put a lot on those cards anyway why not another $10… or $20… or more?

In making a donation you are saving a life… it could be a life of a child… a child who is the joy of some parent’s eye… who might grow up and accept Jesus Christ as their savior.

We can stop malaria in 2014 if each one of us gets behind WHO’s effort and SEND A NET. SAVE A LIFE.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The power and comfort of being present (Isaiah 40:1)

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 40:1 (TM) – larger reading Isaiah 40:1-11
"Comfort, oh comfort my people," says your God.

Once during Queen Victoria's reign, she heard that the wife of a common laborer had lost her baby. Having experienced deep sorrow herself, she felt moved to express her sympathy. So she called on the bereaved woman one day and spent some time with her. After she left, the neighbors asked what the queen had said. "Nothing," replied the grieving mother. "She simply put her hands on mine, and we silently wept together."

There is comfort and power in being present. We seldom appreciate this unless we are on the receiving end. We engage our mouth when all we really need to do is put our heart in gear.

God understands the human condition better than we understand it ourselves. His comfort can be found not so much by what is said, but just from the power of being present.

During my growing up years we had two foster sisters who lived with us. The oldest wasn’t more than 5 years old. She had a tender heart. One day I hurt myself, probably fell of my bike. She came right over, sat in my lap and said: “That’s okay I will cry with you” and she did.

Too many will be having a blue Christmas this year. It matters not why. It is just a reality that their spirit is low and the season of good cheer is not for them. God has a word for them… comfort. We are the channels of that comfort. We are the ones who show up, hold their hands, and weep with them. Why? Because Jesus showed up, held our hands, and wept with us.

He shared our grief… and comfort came.


For those who are blue bring comfort. If that comfort is to come from us may we make it so. May none go through today without the comfort you made real in Jesus.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Joining the dance (Psalm 65:9)

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 65:9 (TM) – larger read: Psalm 65
Oh, visit the earth, ask her to join the dance! Deck her out in spring showers, fill the God-River with living water. Paint the wheat fields golden. Creation was made for this!

On a plaque marking Abraham Lincoln's birthplace near Hodgenville, Kentucky, is recorded this scrap of conversation: "Any news down 't the village, Ezry?" "Well, Squire McLain's gone t' Washington t' see Madison swore in, and ol' Spellman tells me this Bonaparte fella has captured most o' Spain. What's new out here, neighbor?" "Nuthin' nuthin' a'tall, 'cept fer a new baby born t' Tom Lincoln's. Nothin' ever happens out here." Some events, whether birthdays in Hodgenville (or Bethlehem) or spiritual rebirth in a person's life, may not create much earthly splash, but those of lasting importance will eventually get the notice they deserve.

Birth announcements are received. Some are responded to with a congratulations or something along those lines. Some are discarded and quickly dismissed. Birth announcements rarely tip the scale one way or another in our world. The world as a whole seldom takes note of a birth. Unless you are related it is normally nothing more than just a little curiosity. The world doesn’t stop. Life goes on. Such is the case for most births.

The world slowed slightly this year as many anticipated the birth of a child to Prince William and Kate Middleton. The press gathered … waiting. The people gathered … waiting. Some of us turned to watch daily updates. It’s a boy. The world cheered. We waited for the first look. But soon we returned to our lives. The press went back to doing what the press does. The crowds returned to their homes and their daily routines. Life goes on… undisturbed. The news of the birth was received. We took note… nothing more and nothing less. Our world didn’t stop. It was just another birth announcement… albeit a royal birth announcement. We will be updated as he grows, but our lives will not be affected. Life goes on.

Other births … well, they have a different affect. Some change the course of human history. Some affect the future of a whole people. Contributions made by some are not recognized in their lifetime. Others simply grow on you over time.

God’s birth announcement to the world delivered by an angel goes like this: “Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger." (John 8:10-12 – TM) This angel was soon joined by a heavenly chorus singing: “Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.” (vs 14)

And the world throws a birthday celebration every year, but does it ever become more than just a birthday celebration?

I danced in the morning when the world was young
I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun
I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he.

Are we dancing yet? Are we dancing so that the world would notice?


Help us join the eternal dance. May our dancing affect everyone around us. May the birth announcement this year be received different so that they too might join the dance.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday's Inspirational Story - A Mysterious Gift… A Man's Reflection by Mike Woodard

A Mysterious Gift… A Man’s Reflection - By Mike Woodard

I looked at the gift. It looked SO different than the others under the tree. It was so carefully wrapped and even had a ribbon tied in a bow. In rich red paper it was beautiful! THIS gift was larger than the others too. Something was missing… It didn’t have a name on it. I couldn’t ask whose it was; it seemed too special. I just looked in wonder. Just having it under the tree added something special to Christmas.
That Christmas, along with other holidays, was not special. Holidays, in my home, were filled with lots of drinking.
Drinking always led to yelling. . .
Yelling led to fights. . .
Fights sometimes went beyond words . . .
In our home the “special” had been lost in holiday events. This Christmas in particular was framed in angry discussions of job loss and financial stress.  I overheard a lot.
The GIFT was so mysterious; it was a blaze of red color in my black and white world. It captured my mind.
I could hardly contain myself as the time came to open presents! I am the youngest of four. Presents were handed out in order, oldest to youngest. Each time another gift was handed out the anticipation built.
It did not go to my sister. . .
My oldest brother did not get it. . .
My middle brother was given the box next to it. . .
Next, my mom’s hand reached for THE gift . . . my world went into slow motion when she handed THE mysterious, beautifully wrapped gift to me! For just a moment I didn’t move. Maybe it was a mistake… then I saw the hidden tag; it said, “To Mike from Santa.”   It was real. It was for me. My fingers began to un-wrap the box; I was still in disbelief.  As the paper fell away, I could hardly believe my eyes; a brand new pair of black ice skates. New for ME!  Being the youngest boy with two older brothers almost nothing was new coming to me. Now right in front of me were brand new shiny ice skates.
I remember nothing else of that day beyond skating up and down the ice covered country roads. I was the only one thankful for the recent ice storm! In the next few days, I’m sure I must have broken some world record for the distance skated by a 9 year old boy.
That gift lifted me out of a fog. I’m not sure what I would label the fog. Maybe it was the expectation that somehow Christmas should be special. Maybe it was TV or maybe comments I heard at school but somehow I thought Christmas should be a special time. The mysterious gift made that Christmas the most memorable of my childhood. I never found out who “Santa” was. I wish I could say, “Thank you” and let them know how much that gift meant. Someone’s kindness made a significant impact and a memorable Christmas.
I now know there is another mysterious gift that makes Christmas special.  Often it is missed in the busyness, emotion or misplaced focus of the season. This gift has removed the fog of despair that had a grip on my life. This mysterious gift came in the form of a baby born in a stable. When I consider that Jesus left the perfection of heaven, it is almost incomprehensible. He came to walk the planet He created. Each day, His heart was broken by the people he came to serve. He did this for nine year old boys. All this is wonderful, mysterious and beautiful. What a gift. Since I do know THIS gift giver, I can say “Thank you” for a life changing gift. 
Have you considered Jesus, the One whose heart has been broken and He knows all your hurts and sorrows. Would you like to know Him personally?  You can by simply opening up your life to Him and asking Him to come into your life, forgive you sins and be direct your life from this moment on. You can pray a prayer something like this:
Lord Jesus, I want to know You personally. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to You and ask You to come in as my Saviour and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Bring peace to my world this Christmas. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.

If you invited Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life. As you learn more about your relationship with God, and how much He loves you, you’ll experience life to the fullest.