New Years 2013

Kenny Rodgers once recorded a song titled, “I am the greatest.” The song tells the story of a happy little boy who went out into the field wearing a baseball cap. In one hand he carried a baseball and, in the other, his trusty bat. His face bore a look of tremendous confidence. Cocking his bat, he tossed the ball into the air, saying, “I’m the greatest player in the world!” Then he swung and missed. “Strike one,” he said. He picked up the ball, examined it, and then threw it into the air again. As he swung, he repeated, “I’m the greatest player in the world.” Once again he missed. “Strike two,” he said. This time, he stopped to examine his bat as if looking for a hole in it. Then he picked up the ball, adjusted his cap, and tossed the ball into the air for the third time. He repeated again, “I’m the greatest player in the world,” and swung with all his might—and missed for the third straight time. “That’s strike three.” It’s supper time and his momma calls him in. The little boy starts home with his bat and ball. Now, most boys might be discouraged, but this boy said, “I am the greatest, that is fact, but even I didn’t know I pitch like that!”


Cast of Characters (Part 4)

If you’re just joining us, we’ve spent the month of December getting to know the colorful cast of characters associated with the birth of Christ. The story of Christmas is wrapped around people—real life people. Common people whose lives are marked by unexpected surprises, unusual signs, and unbelievable stories. And in the midst of them all… hovering over them all… is the writer and director of it all. God.

We’ve seen how God chose Mary, a humble Hebrew girl, to be the mother of his own Son. How he spoke to Joseph, a confused carpenter, encouraging him to take Mary as his wife. How he sent the angels to announce the birth of the Savior to unassuming shepherds keeping watch over their sheep in the fields nearby. There’s just one more group of cast members in the Nativity story that we’ve yet to see—the Magi, the Wise Men from the east. The Magi come cloaked in magic and mystery.


Cast of Characters (Part 3)

This December—between the presents, lights, reindeer and Ralphie—we’ve been getting to know the cast of characters God chose to play the most memorable roles in the greatest story ever told. A small-town carpenter, a teenage girl, and more to come. They were common people in the hands of an uncommon God. They became characters in a story written and directed by God. And I think that we find our stories in theirs.

Mary reminds us that even in difficult circumstances, if we will surrender our hearts and lives to God—allowing him to write our story—then Jesus will step into our world and change our lives forever. Josephs illustrates how, even when we are hurt and confused, God’s voice longs to be heard; that God will speak to us and our situation, if we will listen and obey. But the story isn’t over.


Cast of Characters (Part 2)

This time of year is always special. Families all have their different traditions: decorating the Christmas tree, hanging stockings, traveling to visit family and friends. You may enjoy driving around the neighborhood, looking at the twinkling lights decorating people’s homes.  As you drive around the town, you inevitably come across various nativity scenes, displaying the birth of Jesus. Many churches throughout the community will often tell the story of Jesus’ birth through dramas and children’s plays, reenacting those fateful events.

The cast of characters associated with the story of Jesus’ birth is colorful and memorable. We recognize them by their unique speaking parts. With dramatic words, the Angels take center stage to announce the birth of the Savior. They appear to Joseph to announce that the name of the child would be Jesus. The angel Gabriel makes the unforgettable announcement to Mary. An angelic choir interrupts the shepherds, singing, praises to God and goodwill toward men. Mary offers a beautiful hymn. The wise men ask to see the newborn King. The shepherds become early evangelists—spreading the news of Jesus birth.


Cast of Characters (part 1)

Each December as Christmas gets closer and closer the story of Jesus’ birth is told many times and many ways. Maybe you enjoy reading the story from the Bible with your family on Christmas Eve, or attending a Christmas Cantata, or a living Nativity scene. One of my favorite retellings of Jesus birth is the movie, The Nativity Story. I think it captures the feel of the ancient world and brings the cast of characters to life.

The story of Christmas is wrapped around people—real life people. Servants, shepherds and sages. Common people whose stories are marked by scandal, stumble, and spectacle. And in the midst of them all… hovering over them all… is the hero of it all. God. Shaper. Sovereign. Savoir of sinking hearts. God. Passing out high callings, second chances, and moral compasses to all comers and takers. These were common people in the hands of an uncommon God. If we look closely enough at this cast of characters, we find our story in theirs. We find our hope where they found their hope—in the hands of an infant God laying in a manger.


Stress Relief

Now that Thanksgiving has passed and Black Friday has turned into Broke Saturday, I think that we can safely say that the Christmas season is in full swing. While Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, it can also be the most stressful time of the year for many people. Shopping pressure, holiday stress and financial strain can leave you feeling more burned-out than lit-up.

Women seem to get more stressed this time of year than men do. In fact, I heard a story about these two men whose families lived next door.  The husbands opted to go sailing while their wives went Christmas shopping. An unexpected storm surprised the sailors. Before long, the weather started getting rough, and their tiny ship was tossed around like the Minnow on Gilligan’s Island. While heading toward the harbor, the boat hit a sandbar and grounded. Both men jumped overboard into the icy water and began to push and shove in an attempt to get the sailboat into deeper water. Knee-deep in mud and repeatedly bounced against the hull by unfriendly waves, one of them turned to the other and said with a smile, “Sure beats Christmas shopping, doesn’t it?”


Thanksgiving 2012

With only four days left until Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for this year? Multi-colored leaves on a crisp afternoon? Football? Turkey, cranberry-sauce, and pumpkin pie? Friends, family and freedom?

I read about a young family this week that had always spent Thanksgiving at grandma’s house. But this year, the young mother wanted to try cooking Thanksgiving dinner all by herself. Before serving the dinner, she announced: “Now I know this is the first turkey I’ve ever cooked. If it isn’t right, I don’t want anybody to say a word. We’ll just get up from the table without comment, and go out to eat for dinner.” Then she disappeared into the kitchen. When she came back into the dining room, bearing the turkey, she found her husband and son seated at the table—wearing their hats and coats.


Veterans Day

In many churches, just like ours, there stand two flags—the American Flag and the Christian Flag. These two flags represent two types of freedom. One is a freedom that allows us to go where we want to go, say what we want to say, to live where we want to live, to dream big dreams and pursue them. Someone once wrote:

It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.

It is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.

Veterans over the centuries have sacrificed so much to obtain and preserve this precious freedom—which also includes the God-given right to worship our Creator anytime anywhere. That leads us to the other type of freedom, represented by the Christian Flag—a greater freedom that can only be found in Christ, who died as a ransom to set us free. This is a freedom from a life of futility, freedom from the tyranny of sin, regret, hate, and bitterness. It’s the freedom to love God and love our neighbor.


How Should Christians Vote?

With the Presidential election just a couple of days away I’m guessing most of you are pretty tired of all the political ads and campaign coverage flooding your television sets.

I heard a good story this week about a four-year-old girl whose dad who had been watching the presidential campaign coverage. She tugged on his pant leg and begged him to stop and read her a fairy tale. Weary from all the political ads, he agreed and began reading the fairy tale. No sooner had he begun, however, than she interrupted him and asked, “Daddy, do all fairy tales begin with ‘Once upon a time?’” He responded, “No, sweetheart, most fairy tales begin with, ‘And when I’m elected…’”