Monday, November 29, 2010

Watch for the Light

We have quickly jumped into Advent. Advent is the time of preparation for the celebration of Christmas. The Christmas decorations are up at the church (and mostly up at home) and we are singing Christmas songs in Sunday worship. It seems early to me, but I am excited for this Advent Season.
The focus I have chosen for this Advent is the Light of Christmas. In Isaiah 9:1-7 the prophet foretells of a dawn that is coming. He says those walking in darkness will see a great light. And I want to encourage us to watch for the light this Advent season.
The light is Jesus Christ. In John chapter 1 Jesus is called the light of all people. That light is seen as God's love shows up in our lives. The light shines when we offer love and grace to those around us. This light will always shine in darkness.
The darkness is anything that draws our attention away from the light. The darkness comes as we focus on our own wants and desires. The darkness is there when we think Christmas is about gifts, gatherings and getting time off of work.
And isn't it interesting that this Season of Light begins with Black Friday. This year 138,000,000 consumers were out hitting the stores before dawn. And there were a few stories of dark events as people fought and stole to get the items they wanted.
So how do we move from Black Friday to the celebration of the birth of the Light of the World? That is what we want to do this Advent. Let's watch for the light. Let's give God our attention and notice the many places the Light of Christ can be seen during this holiday season. God's Light can show up in some wonderful places and amaze us. We can also be intentional of inviting Christ to be the center of all we do as we celebrate. So watch for the light and if you want to let me know where you have seen the light this year that would be wonderful too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mary is Different

I want to encourage you to check out two passages of Scripture that tell us about Mary and Martha. The passages are Luke 10:38-42 and John 12:1-8. Mary and Martha are sisters of Lazarus. You may recognize Lazarus' name as the man who was dead for four days, but then Jesus brought him back to life.
As you read these passages you may notice that both take place around dinner tables. And in both, Martha is serving the meal. In the Luke passage she gets frustrated that Mary is not helping serve the meal, but in the John passage we do not hear Martha complaining. (Maybe she is used to Mary's behavior by now.) In Luke Jesus stands up for Mary not serving. He says it is better for her to sit and listen to Jesus teach. Then again in John's Gospel Jesus stands up for Mary as she offers a generous blessing to Jesus. The disciple Judas was not pleased with Mary pouring a scented oil on Jesus' feet because the oil is worth a year's wages. (Think $45,000 perfume today.) Judas thought it could have been sold and given to the poor. Jesus said what Mary did again was good.
So in both of these passages Mary does what others do not think she should be doing. Mary is different. She does not hesitate to do what she feels God calling her to do, even when others think she is doing the wrong thing.
As I looked at the John passage and thought about the generosity of the gift Mary gave to Jesus I was challenged to be different by being generous. Recent statistics say that 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. I think it would be tough to be generous when your money runs out before your next paycheck. Another statistic says Americans spend $1.22 for every $1 we make. How do we do that? Well, we go into debt as we spend money we do not have. Again, being in debt is not going to help us be generous.
So my suggestion to help us be different and generous like Mary is to plan and prepare ourselves to be generous. Have a written budget, so you can look over your income and expenses. Mary had to plan and save in order to have that expensive perfume to offer to Jesus. We too can plan and save, so that we can be generous when the opportunity arises. If you need help with a budget let me know or sign up for our Financial Peace University class that will begin in January.
Mary may not play a major role in the whole Scripture story, but she stands out to me as a great example of a follower of Christ.

Monday, November 15, 2010

$5 Challenge

[I just checked and I have had only one comment on my blog in the last two months. The reason I do a blog is to try to have some extra interaction with people that is not always possible on Sundays. So I am wondering if it is worth my time and effort if I am not hearing back from people. So let me know if there is something I need to do different to get responses. Or maybe blogging is just not my thing.]

Yesterday I encouraged our congregation to step up their generosity. I believe we have been generous as a congregation, but to continue the ministry Christ has called us to we need to continue to grow.
I used the parables from Matthew 13:44-46 to remind us that we have a priceless gift in the kingdom of God. I define the kingdom of God as our experience of God with us. It is about our relationship to the Creator of the Universe. And it is because of this gift that I am generous towards the ministry of the church. I have experienced the kingdom of God and I want every else to experience it as well. I know it will be a priceless gift for them as they experience it.
So I am challenge people first to tithe, which is giving 10% of our income to God's work. And secondly if you need help moving towards the tithe to start by giving at least $5 more per week this next year.
We have 205 families in our congregation that support our ministries. If 200 of them give $5 more a week that will be an additional $52,000 for ministry in 2011. If we all join in and do our part, great things can be done. Now if $5 a week sounds like a lot. It is just $20-$25 more a month or $260 for the year.
What I would like comments back on is how to save $5 a week in order to give that $5 to God's ministry. I would love to hear some creative ideas on how people could find an extra $5 a week. I keep thinking about my $5 mocha at the coffee shop. If you have a home phone, internet and cable at home and you could go without one of those you could probably save over $25 a month. If you drink a lot of pop you could save money by purchasing the generic brands instead of the name brands. Let me know your ideas of what you have done or what you might do to free up $5 a week to continue the God work that is happening around us.

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints Day

Today is All Saints Day. It is a day to remember those who have gone to heaven this past year. In our congregation we remember six saints: Esther Evans, Vianna Langley, Donna Lehnst, Elaine Lortz, Fern Orr, and Jerry Riggs.
In this group are some great saints. Esther was a great spouse. She was married to her husband Joe for 73 years before he died two years ago. Donna was a great mother who sacrificed and worked hard for her children. Fern also was a servant of her family. I heard Elaine was a great baker and I will always remember Jerry for some toys he crafted for my children. I did not personally know Vianna, but through letters knew she cared deeply for how God was working through our congregation.
I hope we will always remember these great saints and everything they have meant to their loved ones and how Christ worked in their lives. I hope we also remember to live our lives in a way that will be remembered. Jesus says the way to be great is to be the servant of others.
So aspire to be great by serving others. And post a comment if there is someone you want to remember today.