Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Finding time...

I am sitting at my desk in the office, getting ready to start work on this week's message, and I've just noticed that my Bible is open to the reading for the week, sitting off to the side of my desk. That's a good thing. I should be ready to go.

What's not good is that my planner is sitting on top of it. It struck me the irony of that scene. How many people have the desire to spend time in God's word, only to have their hectic schedules keep them from fulfilling that desire.

Perhaps we can make an entry in that planner for spending time with God's word. Perhaps we can make it more of a routine to spend time in daily devotions – every day. Perhaps we can do our best to reign in out of control schedules that interfere with our time with God.

Don't let your schedule take you away from your Bible. It can be very difficult to get the Bible back!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Assembling Christmas...

Yesterday was actually Christmas Sunday. The Christmas Season is complete for another year. How do you feel? A little run down? A little tired? Maybe even a little depressed?

The message for this week was on how to assemble a Christmas that will leave you refreshed and invigorated. And how to keep the Christ-child at the center of it.

To read the message now, click on the title below...

12-28 - How to Assemble a Merry Christmas

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

God so loved...

For many, Christmas is a secular holiday to spend with our families, a time of exchanging gifts to show our love for those close to us.

But for the Christian, Christmas is a time for love. For remembering God's love for us. And that He demonstrated His love in such a powerful way.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

His Son was first given in the form a helpless baby, born in a manger. But when His Son grew, he became our sacrifice. The sacrifice for our sins.

The strongest evidence of love is sacrifice...

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Spirit of Christmas...

I know that Christmas can have a dark side. The pushing and shoving we hear about on Black Friday, the competition for just the right gift, the tired feeling we can get when we've been at the store all day, and how we sometimes treat others, both those close to us and those store clerks we'll never see, when we don't find what we're looking for.

But Christmas also has a good side. There is hope. It is a joyful time of year. The peace of the Christmas Season blesses people. Goodwill abounds. The Christmas Spirit is infectious, and it spreads to others, bringing the goodwill and joy.

But the Christmas Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christmas is the Spirit that Jesus sent to His believers on Pentecost. It's the same Spirit.

Why can't the goodwill and joy of the holiday season be with us all year? It can. When we abide in the Holy Spirit.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mary's Response...

Sunday's message was a look at Mary's response to the news given by the angel Gabriel.

What if we were visited by an angel, and given the same news? What would our response have been. Would we have been as strong in our conviction as Mary was?

To read the message, click the title below:

December 21, 2008 - Mary's Response

Thanks for reading...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Living our faith when it's not easy...

I have been preparing the message for Sunday, and I am really struck by the simplicity of Mary's response to the visit of the angel Gabriel.

There are very few passage in Scripture where we see that conviction of faith. In a very simple response, Mary said, “May it be to me as you have said.” Facing what could have meant a death by stoning as an adulterer, she stuck with God. She stood firm, and never wavered.

I'm not sure I could have done that. We have it pretty easy, and it's particularly easy to say that we would stand firm no matter what, as long as it's never tested. Mary's faith was tested. And she passed the test – she remained strong in her faith. She trusted God. Simple faith. Not worrying. Just believing.

How much simpler would our lives be if we could share Mary's complete trust in God. If we could be filled with such simple faith, rather than trying to over examine every little what if that came our way. If we could stop worrying, and just believe.

I think that's the lesson we can learn from Mary. That if we allow God to be that close, just a step ahead of us, and we obediently follow Him every step, we, too, can live a life of simple faith, never worrying, just believing. And the God that we love, the God that we trust beyond all doubt, will be with us.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

God's timing...

In the book, Experiencing God, by Henry Blackaby, he impresses on us that God is not “out there” somewhere, he is here, with us. He works through people to do His work. And when we see signs of His work, we are invited to join in with Him in what He is already doing.

That impresses me for two reasons, first, because I tend to be like so many, who get very busy doing things for God, without always checking to see if He is working there or not. If He isn't, I probably shouldn't be, either.

But the other reason that impresses me is because I get so amazed when I see God working. Even after ten years in ministry, it is still amazing to see God at work. This morning, we had a gentleman come in who is a member of the Masonic Lodge. They had put together a very large number of care boxes, mostly fruit and snack items, to deliver to the area shut-ins. He stopped by here because he had three extra boxes, and was wondering if we could find someone in need to give them to.

It just so happened that just a few minutes before he arrived, a couple of ladies on our Missions Committee had left. They were in to get some things from our Food Pantry for three of the families that we are sponsoring for Christmas this year. They went to the grocery store to get some more things for a Holiday Food Basket that will be delivered with the Christmas gifts. These boxes from the Masonic Lodge will give these families just that much more.

And as always, I am amazed at seeing God work so clearly, and with just the right timing!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The ABC's of Discipleship...

I have just come across, through the wonderful art of email, a very simple approach to discipleship called the ABC Squared approach.

In a nutshell, here are the ABC's of discipleship:

ATTENDING – The first step in the discipleship process is regular church attendance. Weekly worship is vital to all Christians. Those who attend regularly will be invited to join the church, if they have not already done so. Every church needs to develop a program to draw people into regular worship and the sequential steps needed to move them to the next step, belonging.

BELONGING – The second step in the discipleship process is belonging to a small group. In this way, the need for fellowship is met along with the opportunity for deeper study (discipleship). Here at Almond Union, the opportunities for small groups include one of our two adult Sunday Schools, a Bible Study, or the choir.

CARING – The third step in the discipleship process is caring fro others through service. All Christians are called by God to serve, both within the church and in the local community. At Almond Union, we have a number of opportunities to serve, including the Almond Area Food Pantry, the Samaritan's Loft homeless ministry, our Angel Food Ministries, or one of our six committees.

CALLING – In the fourth stop in the discipleship process, members are challenged to call others to Christ. Evangelism completes the discipleship process as those who are engaged in it begin to disciple others. On a personal basis, that means inviting neighbors to church. We have a plan (FRAN Plan) whereby we can intentionally pray for friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors, while looking for opportunities to invite them to be part of our church family, and part of the Body of Christ.

Where are you in the ABC's of discipleship? Are you moving along toward the calling phase? Are you actively inviting others to share your faith? Are you inviting them to be part of your Church Family?

Monday, December 15, 2008

There was a man...

"There was a man sent from God and his name was __________"

Are any of us comfortable filling in our own name into this line from John 6:1?

  • Have you helped remove downed trees from the roofs of homes after a hurricane?
  • Have you taken the time to be a father figure to a boy with no father?
  • Haveyou ever sponsored a child so that they can attend a youth event or a Christian Camp?
  • Have you ever just sat together with others from your church and had a great conversation about where we find ourselves in God's world and the pressures of today's culture?

God places before us many opportunities to glorify His name and the list above is a very short list of those things. What can you add to the list?

One only has to read the newspaper and watch the news to see that the American family and our churches along with them are in a terrible state of decline. The men of today are the key to bringing our families and our churches back to what God had planned. In order to bring men back into the church and fathers back into their families we need to lead them to see God's best for their life.

Are you willing to partner with the Holy Spirit and let Him guide us to fulfill God's plan? That's what it will take - Each of us partnering with the Holy Spirit, letting Him lead us, and reaching out to one person, one family, at a time.

This was based on part of a letter from Mike Gerega, President of American Baptist Men of New York State...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Who are we serving...

It has occurred to me that there may have been a fundamental shift in how we perceive the Church.

I'm talking about people inside the Church, how people inside the Church perceive Church. How the members of the Church perceive the Church. Hundreds of books have been written about how people outside the Church perceive the Church, and I'm not sure they've got it right yet. We seem to still be trying to figure that one out.
However, people inside the church see it differently than they used to. It seems to me that at the beginning, in the Bible days in the first century, that church was the resource given to believers to best serve God. People would use active participation in the Church to serve God. We were active in the Church to serve others, to serve God.

Today, it seems that many people are serving the Church. But we've lost that the Church was simply a means for serving God. It's become an end. We don't worry about serving God. We just serve the Church.

What happened? How did so many loose track of what we should serve? When did the resource, the tool, the means, become the end in itself? And perhaps much more importantly, how do we get back to where we were?

I suppose it's a heart issue. People's hearts aren't right with God. Even some people in the Church aren't right with God. Their hearts aren't right. Our hearts aren't right.

I know that God can work in the heart. It's not a lost cause. But it will take each of us examine our hearts. Making sure that we are right. Making sure that we are serving God as He has intended. When each of our hearts are right, then the Church will once again be the means to serve God.

Until then, I'm worried that the Church in America will continue to bob up and down on a sea of disbelief. Oh, the power God is waiting to give us. If only we would serve Him.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Take my son...

I've never done this before, but I received an email that I've received this time of year in previous years. It seems to go around every year. But it's really good, and I want to share it with you...

Take my Son
A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.
When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son wen t to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.
About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.

He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art." The young man held out this package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."
The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift." The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected. The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.

On the platform sat the painting of the son The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"

There was silence.
Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one." But the auctioneer persisted. "Will somebody bid for this painting. Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?"

Another voice angrily. "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!" But still the auctioneer continued. "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting." Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.

"We have $10, who will bid $20?"

"Give it to him for $10. Let's see the masters."

"$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?"
The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.

The auctioneer pounded the gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!"

A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!"

The auctioneer laid down his gavel. "I'm sorry, the auction is over."

"What about the paintings?"

"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings.

The man who took the son gets everything!"
God gave His son 2,000 years ago to die on the cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is: "The son, the son, who'll take the son?"

Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything..

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Christmas Message...

On Sunday afternoon, the local Historical Society here in Almond presented their annual Christmas Program. We host the program here in our church, and I had an opportunity to give a short message at the close.

As I was thinking about what to say, and how to say it, it really occurred to me that the message of Christmas is the good news of the Gospel. There is no way to separate it. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus came! That's it in a nutshell. And that's the Christmas message. Jesus came, a baby in a manger, an infant, yet Emmanuel, God with us.

There are a lot of distractions this time of year, but remember the good news. Remember the baby in the manger. And remember He is still with us.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The best gift...

I was reminded in an email from our American Baptist National Ministries team often the best gifts have nothing to do with pretty paper and shiny bows. Sharing time and talents with ministries that make a difference to others offers opportunities for giving gifts that bring God's love to those who need it most. Volunteers of all sorts are needed.

In our church, that can mean help with the food pantry, the Samaritan's Loft, the Angel Food Ministry, or the local missions committee. Locally, don't forget opportunities to serve at Faith in Action, the local hospital or various nursing homes. And tied in with one of our denominations, Camp Vick and Camp Whitman can almost always use nurses, chaplains, music teachers, painters, carpenters and plumbers.

Rochester is only an hour a way, and provides boundless opportunities to serve others in the hospitals, Cameron Community Center, or the Open Door Mission.

The best gifts are free – and the best way to get them is to give them!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sent to prepare the way...

Sunday's sermon message was a message looking at the ministry of John the Baptist. John's ministry was a ministry with one purpose - to prepare the way for Christ.

In the Old Testament, prophets foretold of this ministry, the one calling in the desert, make clear a path... In the Gospel of Mark, it is clear that John the Baptist was the one foretold of.

Throughout history, people have prepared the way for Christ. Saints throughout Church history have prepared the way for others to receive Christ. And I believe that in a very real sense, each of us are called to prepare the way for others to receive Christ.

To read the message, or hear an audio recording, click here.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Multiple copies...

Are others getting multiple copies?

I know that many are subscribed to get the daily post via email. I get one myself, but often I get multiple copies. I know that I have some email issues, but is anyone else getting multiple copies of the daily post via email???

Please click the word comment at the end of this post and let me know. Thanks. Pastor Steve.

Jesus in Us

Yesterday, I talked about how God is with us, we are temples, he has sent His Holy Spirit to be with us always. But do we really understand what that means? There might be a couple of things we should keep in mind...

First, If the Holy Spirit is in you, you shouldn't go where He would not be welcomed. Obviously, we wouldn't think to look for God in bars and nightclubs. If the Holy Spirit reside within you, others should probably not think to look for you in bars and nightclubs, either.

This is a dramatic example, but I think you get the point. Where do you go, what do you do, that the Holy Spirit wouldn't do. And knowing the Holy Spirit is within you, why do you continue to do it?

Finally, perhaps since the Holy Spirit is in you, you should play a part in keeping the area around you worthy of the King of Kings. Say you go to the grocery store, or maybe you're just walking down the street, and see something or or hear something that's inappropriate. What do you do?

Do you avoid it? Do you walk away? If the Holy Spirit is within us, shouldn't we do all we can to make Him comfortable? Wouldn't that include avoiding situations that are inappropriate? And getting out of those situations as soon as possible if we stumble into them. Perhaps even saying something, sharing that the behavior really does offend, and perhaps asking them to avoid it in public. Sometimes people just get carried away and need a reminder that they aren't alone.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

God's Vessels...

We are all vessels of the Holy Spirit.

I'm sure you know this. We've learned since early in our Sunday School days that when we become believers in Jesus, when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, that He sends the Holy Spirit to come to us and live in our hearts.

Paul kind of drives this home to us in 1 Corinthians. In 3:16, he writes, “Do you not know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?” Again in 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”

This is rather incredible fact that we should never forget, and never take for granted. Because it means more than anything else, that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Because God is always with us, we cannot be alone. Because of His continuous presence in the form of the Holy Spirit, we are never without the power to do everything that He has called us to, and that He will always see us through anything that comes our way.

How can we get through life on our own? Why would we want to? God offers His very presence within us. Struggling on in our own power makes no sense, when God is so willing to help.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Watching people being people...

I like to watch people.

I enjoy watching others engage in life. Watching them build relationships, meet others, and grow.

This morning I took my wife to a Doctor's appointment in Dansville. While waiting, I watched the people in the waiting room. Many people stayed very much to themselves. While very friendly when others would greet them, they would still stay in their magazines or books, and not offer anything of themselves.

But occasionally, someone would reach outside themselves, and be very open to a greeting, and willing to talk. Across the waiting room from where I was sitting, two people who had never met before began wonderful conversation. I remembered a line from a Geico commercial, “Humans behaving humanly!”

As followers of God, do we appreciate humans behaving humanly? Do we point out and quietly celebrate it when we see it? Perhaps most important of all, do we behave humanly ourselves?

Monday, December 1, 2008

First Sunday in Advent

It's hard to believe that the Christmas Season has begun. The stores are busy, Black Friday was a success from the marketing perspective, and the hustle and bustle of the holiday has officially begun.

Far more importantly to me, and I hope to all believers, the Season of Advent has begun. To me, the Season of Advent is the Christmas Season. Advent more accurately points to the real reason we celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Advent provides a time of reflection, Bible Study, and prayer to prepare our hearts for Christmas. Advent helps to keep our mind set on what is important.

I encourage you to do something special this Advent Season. Begin a new Bible Study, start journaling, change your time in prayer. Allow God to speak to you in the Advent Season to bring you to a new, fresh, and very exciting time this Christmas. A time of incredible closeness and spirituality. A time of blessing.

The sermon message on Sunday talked about Advent, and what Advent means to me. you can read it, or listen to the recording, by clicking here.

Thanks for reading.

Faith First

  Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him...