Pastor’s Page by Rev. Jim Barnes
Pulpit Ponderings- December
I am excited about this Advent/Christmas season.
I am excited because our area has so much to offer in terms of activities and opportunities. I am excited because most of the stores at which we will do our Christmas shopping are only 10-15 minutes away and thus should take less time and fewer gallons of gas.
I am excited because of the joy of helping to decorate the church and the joy of preaching in the decorated church. I am exited too by the joy of decorating the parsonage and living in the decorated parsonage. And I am excited about spending our first Advent/Christmas with you.
But most of all I am excited because this is a season of hope. And hope is God’s great gift to a congregation which has experienced some challenging years and to a pastor now serving such a congregation.
That is a gift that you and I need to embrace, and which we must allow to lead us forward in our service and devotion to Christ.
I need this gift because, as much as I love it here and as well as I have been treated by this congregation, I admit to some discouragement during my first four and a half months here.
You see, in my previous appointments, the churches got stronger quickly and then continued to grow in numbers, in giving, and, most importantly, in faith, spirit, and service. However, by the time we reached mid November, I had not seen evidence of similar growth here. Thus, my discouragement and self doubt.
But then came mid- November when God started giving “pre-Advent” signs of hope.
Hope blasted away much of my discouragement on Sunday, November 15 when I realized that the children had brought forward 67 Christmas Child shoeboxes. Having exceeded the goal of 65 which I had arbitrarily and unilaterally set, I pumped my right arm into the air with unbridled and barely contained excitement. That moment wiped away so much self doubt that it was hard for me to keep my composure.
But God was not done giving us more signs of hope in November.
On Thanksgiving we had 30 people here to worship at 9:00. And rather than complain that “having to be at church at that hour on a holiday was unfair,” those present embraced the idea of worship as an essential and meaningful part of the holiday celebration.
A few days later, the formal Advent season opened with an explosion of hopeful signs, including the highest worship attendance since my arrival. It touched my heart, restored my self confidence, and lit my path every bit as brightly as the star which led the Magi to the Christ child.
Having been recharged with hope while just barely into Advent, I cannot help but be excited about where hope will lead us by the time the season is over!
I pray that you have a wonderful Christmas and a New Year filled with the hope that we are experiencing this season.
“A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of the fool blurts out folly.” --Proverbs 12:23
When I was in fourth grade, we moved to a new house in a subdivision. The front and back yards were not seeded nor sodded. After we had been in the house for a while, my dad decided it was time to work on the front yard. He hired me to pick up dirt clods and rocks at the rate of twenty-five cents an hour. Then I helped him rake the soil out evenly. He put the seed in the spreader and walked back and forth, back and forth, the width of the yard to scatter the grass seed. Then he proceeded to do something I have not seen before or since; he placed squares of burlap on top of the seed and nailed each corner securely into the ground.
Our neighbors came by, stopped and asked my dad what he was doing. They scratched their heads and wondered if my dad had lost his. Our front yard looked like a tan patchwork quilt. I even had a couple of my friends ask me about it. My dad took the questions, jokes and criticism in stride, saying little, knowing he was doing the right thing.
After a week or so, the grass had begun to grow up through the burlap pieces. One day as my sisters and I were released from school and started walking home, a torrential rain started, soaking us to the skin as we ran as fast as we could to the house. It probably rained a couple of inches as small rivulets ran through our yard and into the street. The burlap stayed in place and the tiny blades of grass held on tight. After the storm passed and the sun came out, it appeared the grass had grown a tad more with the soaking.
The neighbors realized my dad’s wisdom and never tried to provoke him again. The burlap eventually rotted away. Later that spring, we had the nicest front yard on the street, a dense green carpet! I have always fondly remembered my dad’s tenacity to follow through with a plan that was questioned by all and ridiculed by a few.
Is there something you desire to do, but are holding back for fear of criticism? Trust in the plan that God has placed on your heart. God will see you through and you will be blessed with His favor.
The Pastor’s Page
IT IS ALL ABOUT OUR POINT OF VIEW
(Paul said) Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Phil.4:8b)
The following illustration is a powerful reminder of the fact we will find what we are looking for:
Jim went to church on Sunday morning. He heard the organist miss a note during the prelude and he winced. He made note of a teenager talking when everybody was supposed to be bowing his or her head in silent prayer. He felt like the usher was watching to see what he put in the offering plate. He caught the pastor making a slip of the tongue exactly five times in the sermon. As Jim slipped out the front door he thought to himself: Never again! God expects more that this!
Ray went to church one Sunday morning. He heard the organist play an arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress” and he was thrilled at the majesty of it. He heard a teenager whisper to her friend during the service about how knowing the Lord had made a difference in her life. He was glad the church was sharing a portion of their weekly collection to support a new school in Uganda. He really appreciated the sermon as it answered a question that had bothered him for a long time. Ray thought as he walked out the door: How can a person come here and not experience the presence of God?
Both men went to the same church, on the same Sunday morning. Each found what he was looking for. What do we look for on Sunday morning or for that matter, any morning? Our point of view does make a difference!
In Christ’s service, Pastor Beth
"Start running and never quit! Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished the race we're in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed--that exhilarating finish in and with God--he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. "
Hebrews 12: 2-3 from The Message by Eugene Peterson
President Lincoln, an incredible communicator, was known during the Civil War to attend a church not far from the White House on Wednesday nights.
The preacher, Dr. Gurley, allowed the President to sit in his study with the door open to the chancel so he could listen to the sermon without interacting with the people. One Wednesday as Lincoln and a companion walked back to the White House after the service, the President's companion asked, "Mr. President what did you think of the sermon?"
"Well," Lincoln replied," It was brilliantly conceived, Biblical, relevant and well-presented."
"So, it was a great sermon?"
"No," said Lincoln, "It failed. It failed because Dr. Gurley did not ask us to do something great."
God has called me to preach from the heart, with relevance, but also with the emphasis on life-application. As I prepare sermons, my weekly question to myself is: Will this message challenge us to make a positive change? As Christians we are sanctified by God's grace, that is, we continue to grow in faith, grace, commitment to the Lord, and in service to other people. You are invited to come hear the Word of God and to be challenged to greatness!