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Love

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Scripture Reading – I John 4:10,16-19; Rom. 5:8

 

Emmanuel, Prince of Peace

Loves come down for you and me

Heaven’s gift, the holy spark

To let the way inside our hearts

 

Bethlehem, through your small door

Came the hope we’ve waited for

The world has changed forevermore

When Love was born

(Lyrics from When Love was Born by Mark Shultz)

 

The scripture passages for today tell us a couple of very important truths about God’s love. They tell us that God loved us even before we could begin to comprehend what it meant to love Him. They also tell us that God demonstrated his love for us by sending Christ to die for us that we might be saved. Christmas was a demonstration of God’s love for us!

I began to wonder, how do we demonstrate our love for God? How do we demonstrate our love for others? Does the world see the love of God on display in our lives? In Hebrews, we are challenged to consider how we might spur one another on toward love and good works (10:24). Through that love, may the world see the true message of Christmas. May they see the gift of love and grace that has been given to us in Jesus Christ!

 

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Joy

Third Sunday of Advent

Scripture Reading – Luke 2:10-11 

“I’m as light as a feather, I’m as giddy as a schoolboy,” Ebenezer Scrooge proclaimed. He was beside himself after a long night with  the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Why was he so giddy with joy? He was a new man, a redeemed man, who had discovered the true meaning of Christmas. Scrooge is a fictional character, but he portrays for us what contagious joy looks like when a person knows Christ as Savior.

Christmas is a season of joy. At the birth of Christ, the angels had the privilege of announcing the news of great joy that would be for all people. We have been singing about joy and rejoicing in the birth of our Savior since that time.

C. S. Lewis wrote “Joy is the business of heaven.” It is an integral part of the Christian’s life. What does joy mean to you? A recent blog post revealed one man’s testimony:

Many years ago, I used to think that joy was about “God making you happy” and spreading the “cheer” all around. But as it turns out, I had joy all wrong. I no longer think of joy as walking around with a cheesy smile on my face but more of a condition of the heart. I’ve learned that true joy exists independent of our circumstances.

That joy can only come through a relationship with Christ. Knowing and serving Christ brings an unspeakable joy to our lives. May you know the joy of the Lord this Christmas season!

 Joy to the World! The Lord is Come

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Peace

Second Sunday of Advent

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 33:6;14-16

Israel lacked peace. They lacked peace with their enemies, they lacked peace with one another and they lacked peace with their God. Through the prophets, God reassured His chosen people that peace was coming. It was coming in the birth of a child from the lineage of David. It was coming in the birth of a King who would rule forever. It was coming for everyone who would be willing to accept God’s gift of Grace.

That peace is still available today. Unfortunately, so many in our world today lack real peace. Every day they struggle with stress, they struggle with family problems, they struggle with financial issues, and they struggle to find purpose.

The scriptures teach us that genuine and lasting peace can only come through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us in Romans 5:1, “having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace with God is the foundation for peace in our lives every day. In the midst of hectic days and ongoing struggles, God provides an abundant and overwhelming peace that is beyond explanation.

I pray you will know God’s peace this Christmas season. As you celebrate, may the peace of God rule in your hearts and may you know the abundance of His grace that He gives so freely.

May our voices rise with the angles as we worship our Savior: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill toward all men.” AMEN!

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Hope

First Sunday of Advent

Scripture Reading – Romans 15:12-15

 

One of my favorite passages is Jeremiah 29:11; “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” Through the prophet, God was giving Israel a word of encouragement and promise about their future. They were a nation in exile with little or no signs of hope for any kind of future. But God had a plan and a promise.

Many in our world live day to day with the same pessimism and despair that overwhelmed Israel, living without hope or purpose. As God fulfilled His promise to Israel and brought hope to the nation, we have been given the same hope. Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law…” The birth of Jesus Christ gives hope to the hopeless. He gives purpose and the potential to have a loving relationship with Almighty God.

Our hope is twofold: because of God’s gift of love, we can live life now with purpose and hope. In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the fullest.”  We also have the great hope of spending eternity in heaven because of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

This Christmas let us celebrate the hope in us, Christ Jesus!

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Chick-fil-a

Recent headline: “Rham Emmanuel says Ckick-fil-A values are not Chicago Values.” My immediate response-Praise God. This coming from a mayor of a city with rising crime rates and murder rates. But he doesn’t want a restaurant in his town that promotes traditional family values. What a sad commentary on our culture today. Recently, Chick-fil-A came out in support of the Biblical definition of marriage. It has never been a secret to the public that the chain owned by the Cathey family operates their business on Christian principles. It is well know that they close their stores on Sundays to allow their employees time with their families. I applaud Chick-fil-A for sticking with their principles in light of an onslaught of negative press. I appreciate their commitment to God and to family. I will continue to support them with my business and my prayers. August 1st has been set aside by supporters as Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. I will be at our local store to show my support.
As for Chicago, and other cities that suffer from the same problems,  support of Biblical, traditional values might go a long way in helping your cities deal with the ongoing moral decay that is rampant.

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Study Study Study

2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth”  (NIV). The King James translates the first part of that verse with these words, study to show thyself approved…. The past few weeks have reminded me of the truth of this passage and how important it is for believers to stay in the word.

In our world today we are faced with a culture that will corrupt the message of God’s word to suit their own lifestyle. If they are unable to find justification then the next step is to deny its authority or attack its credibility.  On the other end of the spectrum we find believers who cannot defend even the simple tenets of  their faith. When confronted by the first group, believers wilt in their ability to justify their own faith.

So what is the answer to this dilemma? Study!! Devotional reading of scripture is a wonderful discipline, but we also need to move deeper in our reading and understanding of God’s word. I understand some feel intimidated by this challenge, but the only way to overcome that fear is roll up your sleeves and get busy. When you get to passages that are difficult to understand don’t gloss over them, get a commentary and read it. Talk to other believers and ask them what they think it means. Go to your pastor and talk with him about the passage. The key is to come away with a better understanding of what the scripture means.

Don’t give up. God will honor your desire to know His word.

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3rd Team Ministry

There are several reasons why I enjoy officiating High School football:  1) I love football and it allows me to be involved in the game. 2) As a pastor it allows me an opportunity to extend my ministry outside the walls of the church. 3) I look forward to the fellowship with our crew every Friday night.

Several years ago I remember meeting at midfield with our crew right before kick-off. I don’t remember the referee that night but will always remember what he said, “guys, there are three teams out here tonight and the crowd is only going to cheer for two of them so we need to be the best team out here.” He was right on target. The only time the crowd ever cheered for me was when the running back knocked me on my back side. Over the past several years I have sensed a need to have a ministry to sports officials. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes does a great job but their ministry is focused on coaches and athletes. So after a time of prayer I have decided to form a non-profit ministry entitled 3rd Team Ministry.

At the present time, I am in the process of filling out all the paperwork to form a non-profit corporation. Last week 3rd Team was recognized by the state of TN as a non-profit. But that is just a beginning. Bylaws must be written and a board of directors recruited. Still much work to do.

The main purpose in sharing this information with you is to request your ongoing prayer support as we continue in the process of getting the ministry off the ground. Let me share with you some specific ways you can pray.

1. Time Management-My first priority is to pastor the wonderful congregation of West End Baptist Church. Time devoted to 3rd Team comes after that commitment.

2. Vision Planning-Working out the plans on how to make the vision a reality.

3. Board of Directors-Seeking God’s leadership in enlisting directors that provide leadership to the future of the ministry.

4. Funding-3rd Team is a not  for profit and will need funds for initial costs such as incorporation fees, web development, publicity and event planning. Pray that in the future the ministry will be self-sustaining through its events.

5. Pray that God will open the door to share the good news with sports officials and encourage them in their walk with the Lord.

Thank you for your prayers. I will keep you up to date on our progress.

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