we have added a new tab to our site, weekly sermons please take a moment read with us as we explore the messages the bible teaches us.
As we prepare for the Easter season, let us take this Lenten season to reflect on why lent is an important part of the Easter season. In Matthew 4:1-11 we are told that Jesus fasted for 40 days and night in the Judaean desert, where he was tempted by Satan. Why would Jesus put himself through this? Part of the answer I believe it that he was preparing himself for what was to come. He was making himself ready to resist the temptation to walk away from what his Father had sent him to do. Surly the temptations that Satan lay before him would have made any other man abandon his fate in exchange for the riches and power that was offered to Jesus. However, Jesus knew that what his Father had done by sending him to live among us was more important that anything that Satan or anyone else could have offered to him.
During lent, we take time to reflect on the things that we have before us, the things that we are tempted with. I am not speaking of giving up smoking, or fast food or not eating meat on a certain day of the week, any number of things that we may have done year after year, to the point that we can do these things without even thinking about them. By doing this are we really turning away from temptation?
Rather than do what is easy, perhaps, take on what is difficult, such as stop procrastinating about attending services at your church. Take time to volunteer, helping others who have less than we do. Or even taking time to meet with neighbors who you have not talked to in a while. One may ask how is this giving something up for lent? I would say you need to walk way from your computer, put down your cell phone or tablet, turn off the TV and make the time to spend with others. Giving up the things that distract us from each other, will allow to spend time interacting with others we do not know, would be more fitting, rather than, doing something that is easy for us.
For those of you who are not Christian or do not have a faith, I would ask the same things of you. Take time to put down the phones and tablets, walk away from the TV or computers and spend time with people whom you do not know, but may need assistance or would enjoy your company even for a short time.
Take time to reflect how, in giving of yourself, your time, by removing your distractions to make a difference in the life of another person.
May the peace of Christ always be with you
As we gather with family and friends and enjoy the time we have with our loved ones, let us give a thought this year to those who do not have the blessings we have. Let us pray about the people who are in places far away from their families on this night, let them be safe and let them come home soon. Let us also pray about those who work on this night that they may be safe.
Let us remember those who do not have loved ones to share this Christmas with and those for whom Christmas is just another day. We pray for those who struggle and try as they may to bring joy to their families on this day. Let us remember those who have been forgotten, for it is with them that the Christ Child shines his light brightly to give them hope and comfort.
As we spend this time together, let us be truly thankful for all that we have. Let us remember that on this day, so long ago a child was born, and it was to poor shepherds that angels came, to let the world know the king was born.
This Christmas Eve at our 9:00 pm service, we would like to light a candle for you. How can we pray for you today?
During this Christmas season, we need to ask ourselves what we are truly seeking after is. Are we looking for a special gift under the tree, a collective dinner with all our friends and family, a new year that we’ve promised ourselves to make better than the last? Exactly what is it that we thirst after in our imaginations and spirits.
During this season, many of us spend time being thankful, some would be thankful for their health, our families or our abilities to make a nice Christmas for our children or grandchildren. Others may be thankful for the food on the table, while others may be thankful for having a place to call home. However, are these the only things that we consider being thankful for? Is being thankful for these things what this season is about? Are these the things that we long for or thirst for?
One thing I believe that we forget is that at this time, we are presented with a gift. We have been given a gift that guides us, a gift that saved us and a gift that was given out of love for us. The question that I would ask is, are we accepting this gift? Are we opening our hearts that we may understand what has been done for us?
This Christmas season let us think about what God has given to us on that night long ago, let us accept and take into our hearts the babe that was born for our salvation.
To You I Lift Up My Soul
To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul; 2 In You, my God, I trust. Let me not be ashamed, nor let my enemies exult over me. 3Surely none who wait for You will be put to shame; but those who are faithless without cause will be disgraced.…
You are my God and Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
20 Guide my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame for I take refuge in you. 21 May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you.
Let us pray
Father in Heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your word.
Increase our longing for Christ our savior and give us the strength to grow in love and that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming of the light of his truth.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord
Following prayer, Light first Advent candle
As Advent begins, we are reminded that, the coming of the Christ child was foretold by the prophets, Malachi explains:
“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings of righteousness. And the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years. Malachi 3:1-4”
In the process of refining metals, the metal is heated with fire until it melts. All the impurities separate from it and rise to the surface. They are then skimmed off, leaving nothing but pure metal. Without this heating and melting, there could be no purifying. As the impurities are skimmed off the top, the reflection of the worker appears in the smooth, pure surface.
With the patience of the Refiner of silver He sits till He sees His own image reflected in the molten metal. Now, just as we are purified by God, it is his reflection in our lives that become clearer to those around us.
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come”. Says the Lord almighty.
Isaiah 9:2, 6–7:
“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned. […]
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.” (NIV)
It is written in Isaiah the prophet, “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare the way”, a voice of one calling in the desert, Prepare the way for the Lord, make paths straight for Him. In Matthew, we read,
"A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight paths for him.'"…"People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River" (Matthew 3:1-3, 5-6).
It seems like everywhere you go during the month of December people ask the same question. At the grocery checkout counter - "Are you ready for Christmas?" At the bank drive through window - "Are you ready for Christmas?" At the doctor's office - "Are you ready for Christmas?"
I think the answer to that question depends on how you define "ready." Let me ask you this question: "Are you ready for Jesus?" Now that puts the idea of being ready in a completely different Christmas light, doesn't it?
Jesus came in a time in history when the world was relatively peaceful under the Roman rule. Travel was easy and there was a common language. The news about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection had the potential to spread through the vast Roman empire. In Israel, common men and women were ready for Jesus, the Messiah. For 400 years, there had been no God-sent prophets since the days of Malachi. Now, the growing anticipation of a great prophet, a Messiah as described throughout the Old Testament, would soon come.
In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
As the people were waiting expectantly, they were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. When John appeared on the scene, the people were excited. Could he be the Messiah? Could this be the one they were eagerly awaiting? John, spoke with particular urgency that the people must turn from their sin to avoid punishment and to turn to God so they may experience his mercy and his approval. John had answered them all, I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come. The thongs of whose sandals, I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. John continued to prepare the people for the coming messiah.
Ready for Christmas?
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matthew 3:2 NIV).
We don't like the words "repent" or "repentance" very much. They mean "to make a radical change in one's life, to turn and go in the opposite direction from sin (another word we're not too fond of today) to God". Repentance involves an element of grief over the way we have lived apart from God and a decision to run toward the Father. That was God's idea of the way to prepare for Christ's arrival in the book of Matthew, and it is still God's idea of preparing to worship Him today. Now that's what I call getting ready for Christmas!
Let's reflect for a moment on the words to this poem and then answer the question, "Are you ready for Christmas?"
"Ready for Christmas," she said with a sigh
As she gave a last touch to the gifts piled high…
Then wearily sat for a moment AND READ
Til soon, very soon, she was nodding her head.
Then quietly spoke a voice in her dream,
"Ready for Christmas, what do you mean?"
She woke with a start and a cry of despair.
"There's so little time and I've still to prepare.
Oh, Father! Forgive me, I see what You mean!
Yes, more than the giving of gifts and a tree.
It's the heart swept clean that He wanted to see,
A heart that is free from bitterness and sin.
So be ready for Christmas - and ready for Him.
Father, just as You sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus, help me to clear the path in my heart, too. Show me the distractions in my life that block me from all-out worship of You this Advent. Lord, I await Your coming! As I celebrate the first Advent––the first coming––I look toward the day where I will see You face to face. I imagine what it will be like. Give me a heart, Lord, that looks for Your coming on a daily basis. Help me to live my life where I'm constantly seeking Your presence. My offering to You today is my righteous life for I know I am only clean because of Jesus. Show me today how I need to be refined, purified, forgiven. Give me the strength to ask for forgiveness and to then change my ways.
~Sarah Martin, from “The Awe & Wonder of Advent: Day 18”
I want to be ready for Jesus today and every day. I come to You now in repentance for my sins: my sin of selfishness, stubbornness, and rebellion. I turn from my self-centeredness today and commit to keep my focus on You. God, I cannot do this on my own. I am not able. So I ask that You fill me with the power of Your Holy Spirit. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
In Jesus' Name,
Now It's Your Turn
What do you think it means to be "ready for Christmas?"
What do you think it means to be ready for Jesus?
My hope as we await with anticipation for the Messiah is that we take the energy that we have in preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday and rather prepare our hearts for Christmas and cultivate the spirit of expectancy.
As with many holidays, the days leading up to them are hectic, exhausting and can be frustrating. Looking for that perfect bird for dinner. Trying to find all the fixings, most of which have been completely picked over.
Yet through all of this we seem to pull the holiday together and enjoy the company of our family and friends. Afterwards, we are left with a mountain of dishes, napkins to be washed, tables and chairs that need to get put back where they came from. Spills on the table clothes, or worse yet, spills on the carpets and floors!
And once again, we get through all of that. We are satisfied that we have puled off yet another Thanksgiving Day. What follows next can only be described (at least the was I see it). Is three and a half weeks of insanity. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, endless emails extending black Friday and cyber Monday deals all the way until Christmas eve, or even New Years Eve.
The continual barrage of the holiday season is in full swing (from the end of October) until Christmas eve itself. Have you noticed that the stores place Christmas stuff up two weeks before Halloween?
Then on Black Friday, the season kicks off with a bang! As the old Carrol says, “Strings of street lights, even stoplights Blinkin' bright red and green as the shoppers rush home with their treasures!” 1
As wonderful and peaceful as this sounds and may have been at the time the song was written, has been replaced by “People pushing, people shoving, trying to get that special thing, (that the store only has 50).
Then we begin the process of preparation once again, cleaning the house, decorating the house, finding all the things we need for Christmas dinner. Wrapping (endless wrapping of gifts) losing our tape and scissors in a pile of gift wrap. Then it is the big day! The kids, or grandkids, run to the tree and destroy all the work you put into wrapping, within seconds. The squeals of joy and happiness feel the room almost to the point of needing ear plugs.
After a successful morning of present opening, and cleaning up all the gift wrap, it is time to start working on Christmas dinner, cooking, place settings, seating charts (yes, I have seen this before). Your guests arrive, and the festivities begin! You enjoy company and a meal together, talking and laughing and then its over. Once again you are left with dishes and cleaning and, well what ever one needs to do to return their lives to normal.
However, in all our preparation, our decorations, gifts and dinners. Our shopping and cleaning, stressing and fretting, have we actually stopped for a moment to think about why we celebrate this day? Over the years, Christmas has changed over the past century or so. It has become more of what can we get or give, rather than looking at what we have been given. It has become more of parties and trees, decoration and wrapping paper rather than a child who was born more than two millenniums ago.
We seem to have lost sight that we have received the greatest gift that humanity had ever been given on this day, so many years ago, for Christians this should be a day when you reflect on what we have been given, and not on the material things we have been convinced, makes Christmas what it is.
For the Christian, this time of year should be one of reflection on the perfect gift given to us, that would one day, atone for all the evil we have done and all of the sin we have committed. Christmas is a time we need to consider the amazing hope that was presented to us in the person of Jesus. It is in the spirit of giving that we are Christians should look beyond all of the giftwrap and lights. We should take the time to see those who need something more than we need that extra package to place under the tree. We should be willing to look beyond the narrow vision of our homes, but to the wider vision of the community that we are a part of, as Christians we should be willing to give of ourselves. We should look to those people who are not as blessed as we are. We should take the time to make a difference in their lives, as God makes in our lives. Jesus was a gift that touches all who are Christian, as he has touched us, we in turn need to take the spirit from which he was given to us, and share it with others who need our help, others who need someone to care just as God cared for us.
Maybe you are not Christian, or religious, then I would ask that you consider this time of year as a way to help others. In this spirit of giving you take a moment to make a difference in someone else’s life. Take the time to bring some joy into the life of those who are not as fortunate as you are. It wont take much, may be provide a meal to a family in need, of a coat to someone who is cold. This simple action of generosity can make a profound and lasting difference in someone’s life.
This Christmas season take the time to look past the gift wrap and bows, the trees and decorations the parties and lights. Take the time to understand that, as Christians as humans, we must take the time to look past the hype and look towards others who could us some human comfort. God brought comfort to us those many years ago, so should we give comfort now.
Have a blessed holiday season
1 Silver Bells Bing Crosby, Carol Richards
From my family to yours, may you have a very happy, safe and blessed Thanksgiving day
Today I wanted to post something different for my meditation. Please take a few minutes to read this, it is from the book: Only Love Today, by Rachel Macy Stafford. In reading this, I could only think that “she is talking about me!” This story hit a raw nerve with me, it has made me take a long hard look at myself, and though I am happy in my life (with my husband, our children and even the furry ones who keep me up at night). What I was seeming to lack was my “Joy”. As you will see, Stafford makes a strong point about finding joy in our lives, and how, the absence of joy affects not only ourselves. But all the people that we love and care for. Take a few moments and give this excerpt a read and see if you too can relate to the points Stafford brings to light.
“In an especially chaotic rush out the door to go on a family vacation, I sat in the passenger seat fuming. Mad because I didn’t have time to put the dishes in the dishwasher. Mad because we were late getting on the road. Mad because the garage door was acting up. I’m talking trivial, insignificant, minor inconveniences here, but that was the state of a distracted woman who could no longer see the blessings, only the inconveniences, of her life.”
“Before we were about to pull out of the driveway, my husband looked at me as if someone he loved very much had died. In a barely audible whisper he said, “You’re never happy anymore.”
“I wanted to defend.”
“I wanted to excuse.”
“I wanted to deny.”
“But I couldn’t.”
“Because I knew he was right.”
“Where had that happy woman gone? The one who smiled at people she passed on the street just because. The one whose friends often spoke of her positive outlook on life. The one who felt happy simply because she heard her favorite song or had a pack of strawberry Twizzlers in her purse. The one who could laugh off mistakes because mistakes happen, and they are certainly not the end of the world.”
“Where had she gone?”
“And that’s when I glanced to the backseat to see if my children, then ages six and three, had heard my husband’s words. Staring back at me was my older daughter picking her lip with worry the size of a small boulder weighing down her small shoulders.”
“As she pinched that tiny piece of fragile skin on her upper lip with wide eyes, I could practically read her mind:”
“But there was more. I could practically hear how a young child would interpret her mother’s unhappiness.”
“Mom’s mad at me.”
“Mom’s tired because of me.”
“Mom’s stressed because of something I did.”
“That’s when an even more powerful question hit me.”
“Where had my happy little girl gone? The one who woke up with the most gorgeous bedhead and good morning smile. The one who beamed at the words “sprinkler,” “cotton candy,” and “pet store.” The one who laughed so hard tears came to her eyes. The one who licked beaters with sheer pleasure and danced happily to any song with a beat.”
“Where had she gone?”
How many of us can relate to what the author has said thus far? How many times have we allowed ourselves to lose our focus on the ones who we love most?” Pastor Lisa
“Because my happiness was based on external measures—on tasks being completed, plans running accordingly, goals being met, hairs being in place—I was continually disappointed … upset … impatient … and stressed. In the process of making my own life miserable, I’d funneled my unhappiness straight into my daughter’s once joyful heart and spirit. Her pain was a direct reflection of the expression I wore on my face.”
“I desperately wanted to bring a smile back to my daughter’s face. I knew I must bring it back to my own. I began praying for small steps I could take to become a more positive, present, and peace-filled person. On brightly colored sticky notes, I posted daily goals and positive mantras that came to me during morning prayer time. Especially prominent on my mirrors and cabinets were these two go-to phrases: “Only Love Today” and “See Flowers Not Weeds.”
“I used the phrase Only Love Today to silence my inner bully. Whenever a critical thought would come to my mind or my mouth, I’d cut it off with Only Love Today. I used See Flowers Not Weeds as a pathway to gratitude, to see what was good in situations and people.”
“As Only Love Today and See Flowers Not Weeds became a daily practice, I felt a profound transformation occurring in my heart and home. No longer were my goals exclusively items that could be measured or checked off—they consisted of immeasurable items like listening, laughing, dreaming, playing, connecting, and loving. With a more meaningful daily goal, I was able to see the blessings in my imperfect self and in my imperfect life.”
“My eager-to-please, helpful older child looked different too. I saw her for who she was, not an annoyance or a bother, but a loving child with clever thoughts and ideas. For once, I could see all the things she was capable of doing—not perfectly, but good enough for today. The tightness in my face relaxed and the smiles came more easily for both of us.”
“One morning, I looked out the kitchen window to see her making a little garden right there in the middle of the yard. I watched as she tended to her miniature plot. Her joyful smile made me take pause. Clearly, she was at peace tending to her garden. I took a picture and sent it to my parents. Nothing could have prepared me for the response I received. My parents wrote:
“Thank for this precious picture of our beautiful granddaughter. Over the last two years, we have seen a tremendous change in her. We no longer see a scared look in her eyes; she is less fearful about you being upset or impatient with her. She is much happier and more relaxed. She is thriving and growing into a content, creative, and nurturing person. We know for a fact the changes we see in her coincide with the changes we have also seen in you.”
“I covered my mouth to muffle the sobs.”
“When I was struggling to breathe beneath the weight of perfection, distraction, and self-induced pressure, my child was too.”
“My daughter had absorbed my tension.”
“She had absorbed my frustration.”
“She had absorbed my anxiety.”
“She had absorbed my unhappiness.”
“And as my negative emotions were being filtered down to her, they impacted her ability to grow, thrive, and blossom. If I didn’t know it before, I know it now.”
“Our children are our garden. They absorb our stress, just as they absorb our peace. They absorb our negativity just as they absorb our joy. And we have the power to control what they absorb, but first, we must tend to ourselves.”
“It might sound like this:”
“Dear one, you have feelings. They are worth listening to and acknowledging. You have limits. They are necessary to keep in place as a means of valuing your time and honoring your health. You have dreams. You are worthy of time to pursue what makes your heart come alive. You have needs. You deserve affection, rest, sustenance, and grace. Perhaps you forgot that it is necessary to look after YOU. It’s okay. I forget too. But we still have today. Thank God, we still have today.”
“Today let’s tend to ourselves as we do our loved ones. Perhaps we can make it a habit. We’ll never know how much we can grow and flourish until we take time to tend to what is most precious.”
Could you relate to this author? Do you see yourself in a similar place? Do you see yourself so absorbed in your perception of how the world should run? Better put, have you taken a moment to look in to the rear-view mirror and see how you have affected those around you because you see life through the narrow light you have made for yourself? Take a moment to look into the eyes of those who you love, take the time to find the joy you had, and take the time to share it with others.
You can purchase “Only Love Today” by Rachel Macy Stafford’s book here: https://amzn.to/2S2BAVZ
Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving Day
We all need a place that we can find peace, tranquility or a safe place. But once we find that place, can we keep it? Or is it better to ask, do we want to keep it? How many of us have busy lives? We have kids, work and our own relationships. We have responsibilities to our families, our jobs, our churches and someplace in the mix, to ourselves.
Many times, the part of ourselves, gets lost or buried in all that “must do”, or at least what we believe we need to do. A good example of this is this blog entry. The last time I wrote here was in July of this year. Can I give a good excuse as to why I have not posted? Most certainly, however, does that excuse have anything to do with why I have not taken the time to write? Well no.
From the time of my last post many things have happened, some good, some not so good, some happy and some sad. Suffice it to say all these things have gotten in my way. I have allowed myself to become complacent, overwhelmed and even lazy at times. The turbulence that I found myself in was much like a hurricane, or sometimes like a tornado, seemingly coming out of nowhere and disrupting everything I was trying to do.
Why did I let this happen? Well, the short answer is that I am human. I do not have a cape or a flashy costume that helps me fight off all that I allowed to take up my time. Rather than keeping myself focused on all that I needed to do, I allowed myself to lose sight of my quiet place, I allowed myself to think I did not need a quiet place. However, I was wrong. I was wrong to think that I did not need a moment alone each day. I was wrong to think that I did not need a respite from all that happens in my day. And I was wrong to think that I could do everything, myself.
We learn in Mark 6:31, after the disciples had told Jesus all that they had done, and taught, he told them to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Before Jesus fed the 5000, he told those closest to them to take time for themselves, to rest and to eat before they faced the crowds of people waiting for Jesus. Jesus also tells us in Matthew 6:5 of the importance of having a quiet place when he tells us, “when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”
In both verses we learn of the importance to have someplace quiet, someplace away from troubles of the day. Someplace where we can talk to God, where we can nourish our hearts with His word, and take time to rest our minds that we may not be over whelmed with all the world places before us.
So, this week will you take the time to find your quiet place?
Just for today: Mark 6:30-34, 53- 56
After 21 years of searching, my son finally found his quiet place.
He had been gone only 3 days. Things around us changed so much in those days. We were drained, uncomfortable and short with one another. There was nothing left in us to give. We were literally breaking under the weight of being burnt out. Although my son was beginning to show signs of “staying clean” could we trust that this might be the time? He was getting anxious, excited and nervous all in one. He was riding an emotional roller coaster. He was on his last day of work, and the time had come. We had our talk, our crying and our busyness placed before us..
He had been gone only 3 days:
I received a phone call today!. “Mom, I never knew how peaceful life could be”. “I have never been this peaceful, ever!” “Thank you . Mom, for helping me find my way.”
This week, in our study, Jesus is telling us that we need to come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile. It does not matter how long you rest, whether it be an hour or a day… heck take as long as you need. In our deserted place, it will change our perspectives on life, just as it has for my son. So, for a while, come away, see that His yolk is easy and His burden is light. He is the refreshment in the presence of God. Take some amazing time alone in your quiet place. No wifi, no email, and yes forget about the voicemails. No twitter, or facebook or Nooks. Recharge your batteries and have a spiritual renewal.
Last word of advice: Leave your phone behind so you will not forget it when you go to the ocean and forget it is in your pocket.....
What is your quiet place, for a while?