Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Real Cost of Christmas

Wow!  Can you believe that Christmas is over already.  Time to prepare ourselves for the credit card bills in January.  Time to try to figure out how to pay for it all.  The financial costs of Christmas can be almost staggering. 

But Christmas isn't about the gifts.  Jesus didn't come to earth so we could exchange gifts.  Jesus came to earth so we could reconnect to a God that loves us.  What if we followed Jesus' example this year - what if we committed to reconnecting with a loved one who has become distant.

Our Christmas message looks at that subject.  How do we reconnect?  What might that cost us?

To read the message, click on the title below.

December 25 - The Real Cost of Christmas

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Not to Miss this Christmas

It's Christmas Eve already!

Did you get done what you needed to get done?  Cards mailed?  Family and friends invited?  Presents all wrapped?  Dinner items for tomorrow's big dinner all purchased?  House clean?  Kids in bed?  There is so much to it, isn't there.

It seems that societies demands this time of year keep increasing.  There is more to it every year.  Have you ever felt that way?  Yet as we get busier and busier, something is missing.  do you feel that, too.

With all that there is, how do know what's most important.  How do we know what key message from Christmas is so important, we can't miss it?

At our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, I'll be sharing a message that looks at that very question.  If there so much that we can't possibly do it all, see it all, or understand it all, that what do we choose?  What part of the Christmas Story might really speak to us this year?

To read the message, click on the title below.

December 24 - What Not to Miss this Christmas

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Restore Us, O God Series

I've just noticed I've been remiss in giving you the copies of the sermon series for Advent.  This can such a busy time of year, and for me, it certainly was.

Our Advent Series is based on the Psalm readings for the weeks of Advent, and share the theme (which is the title of the series), Restore Us, O God.  Each week we looked at the themes from our lighting of the Advent Wreath:  Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

I have previously given you the first two messages in the series, here are links to the last two, if you are interested...  (just click on the title)

December 11 - Restore Us, O God:  Joy
December 18 - Restore Us, O God:  Love

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 5, 2011

December 4 - Restore Us, O God: Peace

This weeks message continues our Advent Sermon Series on the four themes of the Advent Season:  Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  Starting in Psalm 85, we look at peace.

We know what it is to be at peace, but how do we get there?  Is there a secret?  Can we find peace? 

If you would like to read the message, click on the link below:

Dec 4 - Restore Us, O God:  Peace

Thank you for reading!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Restore Us, O God: Hope

Last week's Sermon message was titled Restore Us, O God:  Hope.  It's the first of a four week series during the season of lent, and will follow the four Advent themes of hope, joy, peace, and love.

This week was hope.  Where do we find our hope?  On what do base our hope on?  Using Psalm 80 as a backdrop, we explored the need for hope, and the source of our hope. 

If you would like to read that message, click on the title below and you will be redirected to the message:

November 27 - Restore Us, O God:  Hope

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ringing the Bell...

Today I spent an hour in front of Wal Mart ringing the bell for Salvation Army.  I helped through our local Christian Motorcyclist Association chapter, who rings the bell on Black Friday every year.  But even if they were to stop for a year, I would still help.  I love it.  It's a great cause and I'm glad to be a part of it. 

When you walk by a red kettle, please donate.  And better yet, when you get some time, give Salvation Army a call and volunteer for an hour.

You'll be glad you did.  I know I was.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

Almond Union of Churches was a relay center for Operation Christmas Child again this year, and had set a new record for the number of shoeboxes collected at our church.

As a Relay Center, we collect shoeboxes from area churches, groups such as boy scouts or girl scouts, junior grange groups, even businesses and individuals.  As we receive them, we carton them up and transport them to the collection center in Big Flats (Big Flats Wesleyan Church).  When we drop them in Big Flats, we put them onto the big Roadway semi-trucks and they go to Boone, North Carolina.  From Boone they are processed then distributed to some of the neediest children in the world.

But before they get distributed, each shoebox gets a gospel story book, so that as children get a shoebox gift (for many, it might be the first gift they've ever received), they will also learn of the greatest gift of all, Christ's gift of salvation.

This is an incredible ministry, and I'm proud that Almond Union has embraced it and works so hard every year to make it a success. 

This year, we collected 774 shoeboxes.  Perhaps just as impressive is the fact that we had 24 volunteers working 121 hours.  Yet I don't think anyone thought it was work.  We have fun serving together.  And we made a difference!  Thank you to everyone who helped, who donated a shoebox, and who prayed over the shoeboxes that were collected.  Your efforts are appreciated.

On the Churches FaceBook page, we have pictures of the event.  Feel free to check them out at Almond Union of Churches FB.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Last week's Sermon message was titled Sheep & Goats. We looked at the lectionary reading last week from Matthew 25:31-46.  This is the passage where Jesus promises that at the end, He will separate the sheep from the goats.  The sheep will come with him into the kingdom of heaven, while the goats will go into the lake of fire.

What was the difference between the two?  Was it faith?  No.  Both groups had faith.  It was works.  The people who made a difference in the lives of others were counted as sheep.  The ones who helped others meet their basic needs were the ones counted as sheep. 

The message looked at this.  Paul says we are saved by faith and faith alone.  What then is the lesson here? 

If you would like to read that message, click on the title below and you will be redirected to the message:

November 20 - Sheep & Goats

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

From Our Daily Journey...

I don't usually do this, but this post was something that made sense to me, so I wanted to share it with you, and maybe get your comments on it.  It's from Our Daily Journal, a daily devotion from RBC Ministries. 

According to a study conducted by a local newspaper in Singapore, 97 out of 100 students polled have private tutors or receive supplemental training at academic centers. So common are these practices that Singapore has been called the “tuition nation.”
Academic education is important, but I wonder, Is equal—if not greater—attention given to instructing our children to become men and women of high moral character? People imbued with a clear purpose and mission in life?
In Deuteronomy 11, we’re reminded that God is interested in our children’s education (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). He wants us to teach them His Word, ways, and values. In Psalm 78:7-8, we’re told the purpose of this instruction. It’s so that “each generation [will] set its hope anew on God, not forgetting His glorious miracles and obeying His commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors—stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God.”
And God is the best teacher with the best lesson plan for us to follow. First, we teach by example. Parents must “commit [themselves] wholeheartedly to these words” of God (Deuteronomy 11:18). He states, “Lay up these words of Mine in your heart and soul” (ESV). Yes, God’s Word must personally shape our heart, mind, and will. Second, the place of education is not in the classroom, but in the situations of life (Deuteronomy 11:19-20). So it’s good for us to ask: Are we seizing opportunities to turn life experiences into teaching moments? Are we freeing up the quality time that’s required?
Whether you’re a parent or perhaps—like me—you’re an aunt (or uncle) to some precious children, let’s take their education seriously. We must instruct them to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [their] God” (Micah 6:8 NIV).
 Love to hear your comments!  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The State of the Church

Rick Warren had posted on Twitter about a Wall Street Journal article published on August 26.

It was written by Rodney Stark and Byron Johnson, and it was titled Religion and the Bad News Bearers.  The story is primarily concerned with how the news media tends to pick up on trends and surveys that are negative to the church, but don't seem to notice those that are positive for the church.  I guess we all know that unless it's bad news, it doesn't get covered, but I guess I didn't realize how much so.

For example, here is an excerpt I found really interesting...
The national news media yawned over the Baylor Survey's findings that the number of American atheists has remained steady at 4% since 1944, and that church membership has reached an all-time high. But when a study by the Barna Research Group claimed that young people under 30 are deserting the church in droves, it made headlines and newscasts across the nation—even though it was a false alarm.
The article also spoke of women in the church, young evangelicals remaining conservative like their parents, and other trends in the church that were reported in negative terms.  In reading this, perhaps the church is doing better than I feared. 

There are so many conflicting stories out there, it's hard to know what to believe.  But you can believe this:  Remain faithful, stay in the Word, pray daily, be an active part of the church, and the rest will work itself out.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Last Week's Message

Last week's Sermon message was on How Not to Shorten Your Life.  We talked a little about those people that irritate us, that annoy us and get under our skin.  We even saw some evidence that people that that high strung personality don't live as long.  But then we see in Scripture that we have nothing to fear - niether about not living long, or about those people who take everything so serious ruining our day.  There are three tips from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 that can help us with that.

If you would like to read that message, click on the title below and you will be redirected to the message:

November 13 - How Not to Shorten Your Life

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Living by the standard's of this world...

By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you - I Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" when away!  I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.
2 Corinthians 10:1-2

Have you seen this verse before?  Have you considered it?  I'm thinking of the last part of it.  To put it in context, Paul is writing the Corinthians, and is nearly at the end of his letter, telling them he is planning to come back to Corinth a third time.  But it's not all good news.  He's coming back because he's heard of things that are happening in the church in Corinth that are not good things.

And we can see in this passage that one of the things is that the people in the church, at least some people, are living by the standards of this world, and not the standards of the church.

There should be different standards.  We, as followers of Christ, seek to imitate Christ.  He is our standard.  That's a much higher standard than the world.

If we can be successful in living to that standard, we will be different.  We will stand out.  We will have something unique that those living to the standard of the world will want.  We will have the power of God.

Unfortunately, we don't always do too good at living to that standard.  Is it because it's too hard?  Is it because we don't see the value?  Is it because we have lost our first love?  Is it because our faith is weak?

Whatever it is, we can do better.  We can be people of faith.  We can cling to Jesus our Master.  We can follow His example.  We can live His life.  We can experience His peace.  We can be comfort and compassion and love in the world around us.  Not in ourselves, but in Christ.

Don't live by the standards of this world.  There is something so much better within your grasp. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Last Week's Message...

Last week's Sermon message was on Murphy's Law.  We talked a little about what it is and how we've all seen it lived out in our lives, then we looked at an example from Scripture, and how we can learn from that.

If you would like to read that message, click on the title below and you will be redirected to the message:

November 6 - Murphy's Law

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Faithful and fruitful, or ready for destruction...

My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.  He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines.  He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well.  Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.    
Isaiah 5:1b-2

In this passage, Isaiah is telling a story to the people of Israel and Judah.  He later explains that the people of Israel and Judah are the vineyard.  The Lord planted the vineyard, but the vineyard didn’t produce any good fruit.  Hear this as, “The people of Israel and Judah didn’t produce any good fruit.” 
At the end of this story, he told what he was going to do.  He (the Lord) was going to send people in to trample on and destroy the vineyard, to make it an utter wasteland.  Starting in verse 8 there are a series of woes to the people of Israel and Judah, six of them in all.  Then begin prophesies of Assyria descending on Israel and Judah.  We know that happened.  Israel and Judah were invaded, many of the people taken back in exile.  All this because the Lord found them unfaithful and unfruitful.
In the midst of these verses, we see Isaiah 6:13a, "And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste."
Here’s my concern:  In Romans 11:17-20b, we see..
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches.  If you do, consider this:  You do not support the root, but the root supports you.  You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.”  Granted.  But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. 
As I read this, has the Church of Christ become the vineyard of Isaiah 5?  If so, are we doing any better in the 21st century American Church then Israel and Judah did?  I read that only about 15% of American’s attend church, and I know that in my community, that’s about right.  But though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste.  How do we stand?  How secure is the church we love?
In the end, it depends on each of us.  The church is as strong as it’s members.  The whole is equal to the sum of its parts.  When God looks at us, will he find us faithful and fruitful, or ready to be trampled on and destroyed?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Of Demons, Pigs, and Fearful Men

When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gaderenses, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him.  They were so violent that no one could pass that way.  “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted…  The demons begged Jesus, “if you drive us out, send us into the heard of pigs.”  He said to them, “Go!”  So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water…  Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus.  And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.  
 - Matthew 8:28-29a, 30-32, 34

This was a passage I shared at the Council Meeting at Almond Union of Churches on Monday.  A brief look showed two thoughts worthy of our reflection. 

First, the demons that possessed the two men in the story immediately recognized Jesus as the Son of God.  They were powerful demons, the men they possessed were so violent that no one could pass that way.  Yet, they seem to be afraid of Jesus.  Asking if He was going to torture them, then finally begging to be sent into the pigs.  The demons recognized and feared the Son of God.

But the second thought I had was that the townspeople didn’t.  When the townspeople heard what happened and came out to see Jesus, they didn’t seem to immediately recognize Jesus.  In fact, they asked him to leave their region.

They must have acknowledged his power, they surely heard of the demon-possessed men that lived by the tombs, and most certainly feared them greatly; these were very violent demons.  Yet with one word, Jesus cast them out.  They must have recognized His power. 

Were they feeling convicted and unworthy?  Is that why they asked Him to leave?  Or was more a matter of inconvenience?  Jesus’ presence had already cost them an entire herd of pigs.  What more was he going to do? 

Aren’t there times when we struggle with the same issues?  We know of Jesus’ power to transform our lives.  But we are pretty comfortable where we are.  Beside, a radical life of faith will cost us a lot.  Are we prepared to give up those things that get in the way of a relationship with Jesus?  Or will we ignore him.  Or worse yet, ask him to leave.

We’ve seen His power.  We know He can do amazing things in our lives.  Will we choose to follow Him?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

See You at the Pole

Today, September 28, was the National See You At the Pole.

See You at the Pole is a student-initiated and student-led movement that started in  Ft. Worth, Texas, in 1990.  Since then, it has grown by leaps and bounds.  The following year, 1991, an estimated one million people gathered at flag poles outside schools to lift up the students, teachers, and administrators, to God.  Some sang, some read Scripture, but most importantly, they prayed. Like those first students the year before, they prayed for their schools, for their friends, for their leaders, and for their country.

Today you can find See You At the Pole in schools in every state in the US, and in more than 20  other countries. In places like Canada, Korea, Japan, Turkey, and the Ivory Coast, students are responding to God and taking seriously the challenge to pray.

It is estimated over three million students gathered this morning at their schools.  I was at Alfred Almond this morning, and was a part of about 20 people who had gathered.  Let's get behind our students and support them as they try to live a life of faith in sometimes harsh surroundings.

Doing the Master's Will

Have you, like me, struggled at times to know what God's will is for your life. 

I know that I am saved by God's grace, not by anything I do, because of my faith in Jesus Christ.  I know I'm not saved by works.  But what is the proper relationship between my faith and my works.  Does my salvation seal my status and a child of God?  Is there something else I should be doing?

Sunday's message dealt with some of these questions.  If you've struggled with these questions, I invite you to read it.  Just click the link below:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Be the Church!

I was watching a video of Dr. Tony Evans on the Role of the Church.  It was an excellent video, and I'll share some interesting and challenging thoughts from it later, as I've had a chance to digest them a little more.

But for now, I wanted to share some of his closing words:
It is my hope that God would enable you in whatever ministry He has called you to, to not simply go to church, or grow a church, but to be the church...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ministry at School alive and well!

There are two things happening at the Alfred Almond school that you should be aware of, and pass along if you have children or grandchildren in the school

First is happening this Wednesday, September 28, at 7:15 am, and it’s the National See You at the Pole event.  This is a national ministry, yet student led activity.  It will be held all over the country, and students at Alfred Almond will be involved as well.  They will meet around the flagpole for some singing, a short time of devotion, and most of all, for prayer.

Everyone is inivited to attend, and I encourage you to stop by Wednesday, 7:15 am, and show your support to the students, take a few minutes to pray with the students, and encourage them as they seek God before starting their day at school.

The second thing at the school is that Bible Club is starting up again.  It will meet every Thursday morning, at 7:15, in Mr. Vance’s room.  The Bible club again is a student led ministry open to any students from 7th to 12th grades. 

Again if you have children or grandchildren, mention the Bible club!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How Can I Help?

Pastor Ben was working in his study when the newly ordained deacon, Don, knocked at the open door with a question, "Pastor, how can I help the church?  I don't have special gifts."

Pastor Ben paused for a moment and replied, "Each of us is a witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives and we can each send that message to others."

Pastor continued talking, "We may not be able to serve as a missionary in a foreign country or preach or sing in the choir but our lives send little words and deeds of encouragement to another who is struggling with some problem or crisis.  What we become is important to God more than what we think we can do.  I remember when I was younger that a woman in my home church encouraged me to become a minister of the Gospel.  She wrote me while I was in seminary and sought me for conversation when I was home on holiday.  Her life was a living testimony to Christ and inspired me when I was going through a period of doubting.  I learned that encouragement of another doesn't require a talent, only a dedication and commitment to Christ.

Pastor Ben leaned backward in his chair and asked Deacon Don what were his thoughts on helping.

Don thoughtfully responded, "Pastor, I thought you might help me learn how to visit members with needs.  I'm not confident enough to say the right word or do the right thing."

Pastor Ben suggested that Don might wish to accompany one of the experienced deacons in hospital or home visits.  Pastor continued relating a personal experience.  "In an early church where I was pastor the choir director wanted to produce a Resurrection Cantata.  He recruited a church member to sing the part of Christ.  This member had initially declined saying he had no musical talent.  It seems this church member denied he had the talent to sing other than hymns in worship.  The choir director assured the reluctant member that he had the voice and that the choir director, who had a trained tenor voice, would sing with the member during practices.  Practice after practice they sang together.  This director arranged special coaching sessions and extra practice for the doubting singer.  Always the choir director encouraged the novice singer as he struggled.

"At the reception following the evening performance, which was open to the public, a neighborhood woman approached the church member with a question, 'were you the Irish tenor who sang the part of Christ?'"

Pastor Ben said to Deacon Don, "You and I hope that when our concert of life is over, someone will say, "Were you the one who lived for Jesus Christ?"

Rev. Dr. Ernest Bee
from the QUEST, the Newsletter of the
Alfred Station Seventh Day Baptist Church.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Last weeks message...

Last week's Sermon message was on using the God given gifts to serve others.

If you would like to read that message, click on the title below and you will be redirected to the message:

August 18 - Don't Quit Your God Job!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We're back in Almond!

The Lord certainly does work in mysterious ways!

After ten months in Florida taking care of my father, we are back in Almond.

My dad is now in an assisted living facility, still in Florida, and he has a guardian that is taking care of him, which allowed us to return.

We've been back for nearly a month, and still very busy getting unpacked and planning out the preaching calendar and all the other things that go with a new ministry.  I hope to have a chance to visit with you and talk and see how you've been the last ten months. 

It's an exciting time - I hope you share my enthusiasm for the church and the work God is doing in Almond!  Together we can do great things.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Message shared at Brooksville Presbyterian Church

On November 28, I was invited to the Brooksville Presbyterian Church to share a message.  This was the first Sunday of Advent (now that Christmas is over, that sounds like it was so long ago).  Here is the message from that Sunday...

When O Lord?

Have you gone shopping for Christmas yet?   Did you fight the crowds at the stores on Friday?  We didn’t go out this year.  Last year, my wife Sandy went out on Friday, she was one of the early risers last year.  That’s one day of the year I avoid shopping for anything.  I know how hectic things can get.  It seems every year, somewhere there is some ordeal over some little thing, pushing and shoving to get the last of a super deal.  
On Thanksgiving morning, we went through the papers, looking through the store ads to see what might be really good deals.  I know that a lot of people were up extra early, and it keeps getting earlier every year.  One store was open at 3:00 am this year.  Several were open with special deals good on Thanksgiving day only.  That seems crazy to me, I remember a few years ago Computer City had a really nice laptop computer on sale for half off - it was a really great price, and my niece was planning on getting there at 4:00 am to try to get some deals.  She was after the computer and a digital camera.  But even if she got there at 4:00, she knew there would be a line, and that she probably had very little chance of getting either one.  But she figured it was worth a shot.  
I can understand why tempers get a little short, getting up hours before the sun to stand in line for hours more, waiting for the store to open, being one of the first ten or fifteen people in the store, and still not getting that item that you so badly wanted.  When stores do things like this, advertising so heavily for something they only have a couple of, it’s little wonder that people get frustrated and a little angry when they miss out on that one thing they really wanted.
Like it or not, a lot of people participate in this yearly ritual.  Pushing and shoving for the years most popular gifts, always stocked in very limited quantities.  And the saddest part is, this is what the Christmas Holiday has become to many people, isn’t it.  At least for some, consumer driven, materialistic people that see Christmas as just a retail holiday, rather than the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior.  
I hope that we, as believers, have not lost track of that true meaning of Christmas.  I hope that we don’t get sucked into that game.  I hope that our faith makes a difference in the way that we live our lives, and most of all, in the way that we approach our shopping this time of year.  
This is, as you know, the first week of Advent, and while the retail world has been preparing their store displays for Christmas for several weeks now, pretty much since Halloween, and the retail season began in earnest on Friday, we see the Christmas season as officially beginning today.  And as they see it as a chance to dramatically increase sales before the year-end, we see it as a chance to prepare ourselves again for the coming of the Messiah.  
I love Advent.  It is a holy time of year for me.  A chance to reflect on God himself becoming human, being born in the most unholy of circumstances.  Truly becoming one of us, even one of the least of us.  Yet inside, he was still God.  Living on the outside just as you or I might have, yet, pure and holy.  Our divine Lord.  
So in the season of advent, we remember His coming, and we prepare our hearts and our minds for His coming again.  Especially today, on the first Sunday of Advent, when we emphasize his promised coming again.  What does that mean for you?  Does the promise of his second coming influence your attitudes this time of year?  Does the knowledge that when the time is right, he will come back, change your outlook?  I hope that you are filled with an inner peace knowing that.  I hope that it not only affects who you are, but that it actually defines who you are.  That you are truly one that lives for the day he will come back, just as he said he would.  
Our reading in Isaiah gives us a glimpse of what it will be like when he gets here.  The mountain of the Lord’s temple, which is Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, will be established as the chief among mountains, all nations will stream to it – they will look to it as the center of power in all the world.  Revelation 21 talks about the New Jerusalem, God himself will live there and will rule the nations.  And as we heard this morning, swords will be beat into plow shares and spears into pruning hooks, because swords and spears will no longer be needed.  The world will be at peace.  My friends, I don’t believe the world will ever truly be at peace until this day comes.  But this day will come!
In fact, I think that it will more than likely come in my lifetime.  If not, then at least in the lifetime of our kids.  I have a couple of reasons for believing that, maybe someday I’ll share them with you.  But we can certainly echo the idea that Paul wrote to the Romans, that that time is nearer now than when we first believed.  Surely the day is almost here, the hour has come for us to wake up from our slumber.  
If they felt that the time was that close 2000 years ago, then certainly it is much closer now.  He talked about the night being almost over, that refers to the evil times they lived in.  Those evil times are not yet gone, are they.  We live in evil times today, don’t we?  If you watch the news, you know that.  Last year, a hunter shot six people dead because one of them told him to get out of their tree-stand.  This guy was hunting on posted property without permission, climbed up into somebody else’s tree stand, and when the owner of the property told him to leave, he got into an argument and wound up killing six and injuring at least two others.  
If that’s not enough proof of the evil around us, how about this one.  A soldier from Iraq had to fly home to be with his wife, who was in intensive care in the hospital after being shot in the head while going to a shopping mall.  The fellow that did it didn’t know her, it was a drive by shooting, and the police said he was just out looking for someone to kill, it didn’t matter who.  This guy spent a year in a war zone, only to find out that the home he left was just as dangerous.  We don’t need any more proof that we live in evil days, do we?  The media wants to convince us that Iraq was a big failure.  We heard of names of every soldier that died there.  And each was a tragedy

But we don’t often hear how many thousands are killed here in our own country each day by the evil around us.  We don’t often hear how many young women are shot down trying to get into the shopping mall.  Or how many hunters shot down while trying to enjoy their own property, and maybe even bring home some dinner.  Innocent people that just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and fall victim to the same evil Paul wrote about 2000 years ago.
But the Bible tells us that daylight is coming.  The day is almost here.  The time to behave decently is here.  The time to clothe yourselves with our Lord Jesus Christ has come.  Three quick ways to do this:  first, we identify with Christ by getting baptized and becoming a member of his church.  This shows that we are a part of His body, the church family.  We need to commit to him, and to his family.  Second, we live by the qualities Jesus lived by while he was here on earth; these are love, humility, truth, and service to others.  In other words, we sort of role-play what Jesus would do if he were in our situation.  We try to become imitators of Christ.  And thirdly, we watch ourselves carefully, so we don’t fall into any sin.  We need to monitor this carefully, because sin starts with such a tiny temptation.  We need to make sure we avoid any opportunity to fall victim.  When we work on these three things, we will be ready for his return.
Our final reading in Matthew reminds us that while the time is near, we won’t know the exact time of his return.  Therefore, we need to be ready all the time.  
I guess it’s probably good that we don’t know the exact time of his return.  If we did, we would probably be tempted to live for ourselves right up to the last minute, being lazy in our faith, not doing the work Christ would have us do.  But we must live our lives of faith here on earth.  We have work to do here.  Christ put us where we are for a reason, he has work for us to do.  And we must keep doing it, working on, until he determines the time is ready.  
One final thought, the way that Matthew words this, ‘the Lord will come at an hour when you don’t expect him.’  This sounds to me like there won’t be any chance for last minute confessions, no opportunities for last minute repentance or bargaining.  We must be found living a life of faith.  We must be ready before that time comes.  For there will be a day when it’s too late.  
William Coffin once said, “We have learned to soar through the air like birds, to swim through the seas like fish, to soar through space like comets.  Now it is high time we learned to walk the earth as the children of our God.”  This advent season, make sure your ready for his return.  Make sure you’re walking as one of his children.  

I'm still here...

Last September, I moved from Almond to Brooksville, FL.

We are now living with my Dad and helping him get by.  As such, my ministry at Almond Union of Churches has ended.  I am now looking for another ministry in Florida, and as such, have had a few great times providing pulpit supply for a couple of churches.

My thanks to First Baptist Church of Sumterville, FL, for having me come out two weeks.  I love the church, and enjoyed with time with all the great folks in Sumterville.

A couple of weeks before that, I was able to fill in for Pastor Andrew Berry (who also went to Northeastern Seminary).  I performed a wedding for a great couple, and then covered two services on Sunday.  Thanks to the folks at Brooksville Presbyterian Church for welcoming us so heartily.

I'm going to publish a the messages that I shared in both Brooksville and Sumterville in the next couple of days.  If you're interested, please read, and I pray that the Lord may work through these messages and the Holy Spirit reveals His truth.

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...