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Christmas Joy

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Delivers Joy to the World and to You and Me

In Dr. Seuss’ Christmas story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the small-hearted Grinch steals food and toys from all the Who's in Whoville in order to steal their Christmas joy. But on Christmas morning, “the tall and the small sang without any presents at all!”

"And the Grinch with his grinch-feet, ice cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, is a whole lot more."

Oh, we know that Christmas surely is a whole lot more than ribbons and bows and packages and lighted trees. Christmas is about the God of the Universe coming in person to earth as a baby, born in humble and poor circumstances, laid in a manger in Bethlehem. We know that shepherds came to honor and adore Him. Wise Men came from afar bearing gifts to worship and adore Him. We don’t know how many others came to that stable in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago because they, too, got some sign, some revelation, from God that the Messiah, the Savior of the world, was born to them that night. And surely we know that for all who receive Him today as King, and Lord, and Savior, there is mercy, forgiveness, new life, peace, comfort, hope, and great joy in the heart forevermore!

Our message this morning is about Joy and comes from Psalm 126. The wondrous message is that for all who call on Him and trust in Him, God will come and restore, heal and forgive, and fill the heart with nothing less than “songs of joy!”
In his book, Naked Spirituality, Brian D. McLaren, leads us where we need to get to in life as Christians in terms of experiencing joy:

“But the scandalous truth is …that when we connect with God, it is as if we are plugging our souls into a pure current of high-voltage joy …that God is a joyful being and to enter or awaken to God's presence is to enjoy a bracing jolt of invigorating delight followed by increasing levels of unending pleasure…when we tap into the joy of the Lord, when we step into the pure joy that burns like a billion galaxies in the heart of God, we'll soon find ourselves shouting, dancing, singing, leaping, clapping, swaying, laughing and otherwise jubilating and celebrating.”

Brian McLaren is tapped into something exhilarating and powerful, wouldn’t you say? It’s the joy of the Lord! The bible overflows with it and encourages us to overflow with it, too. Joy drips from the nativity and Christmas story. Open yourself today to the Joy of the Lord. Like McLaren says, who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself dancing, singing, laughing, and jubilating! Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King!

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

Advent Season

Friday, December 02, 2011
Get Your Advent Devotional Today!

I am excited about devotion time in Advent! I’m looking forward to sitting down each morning, opening the Advent Devotional Booklet, and receiving food for my spirit and soul. Of course, what will make this Advent devotional time special and exciting is that the church family has written each message! We are giving to each other a very special Christmas gift: a love note from the heart.
Make sure you pick up your Devotional Booklet before you leave church today. And remember, the first day of Advent is next Sunday, so no peeking!

Come out Today at 3PM and Help Decorate the Church!

I hope you’re planning to come out today to be a part of the fun as we decorate the church buildings and grounds for Christmas. Join friends in laughing and talking and, oh yes, actually decorating the sanctuary and other buildings for Christmas! Next Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, the church will be beautifully decorated for the Christmas Season!
Also, remember that everyone still here at 5:30PM is welcomed to stay for a spaghetti supper in the fellowship hall. No RSVP needed! Just come out and enjoy!

Have a safe, blessed, and Happy Thanksgiving this week!

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

How’s Your Oil Supply?

Friday, December 02, 2011
A Two Part Message Mini-Series on The Second Coming of Christ

One of the most dynamic and thrilling tenets of Christianity is that Jesus Christ will come to earth again. Jesus talked a lot about His second coming. In what is called The Little Apocalypse, Matthew 23-25, Jesus told three stories, or parables, to teach humankind about his coming again. Jesus clearly taught that no one knows when that time will be (not even Jesus knew, only God the Father…24:36), but there are a few things people can do until that times comes. Our two part message mini-series that begins today is on the essential things we ought to be doing while we wait with great expectation for His Coming again.
This morning we ‘ll look at “How’s Your Oil Supply?” and hear God’s word emphasize the importance of always being spiritually ready for Jesus’s Second Coming. Next Sunday, we’ll look at “The Ultimate Use It or Lose It,” and hear Jesus’ instructions on how we should use our time, gifts, graces, and talents while we wait with hopeful expectation for the Second Coming of Jesus.
In today’s story, ten virgins fell asleep while they were waiting for the bridegroom. Five of them were equipped with extra oil and five had no reserve at all. For these, the bridegroom came at the worst time imaginable. They had no oil and while they were gone to buy more, the bridegroom arrived. They missed the bridegroom and they missed the wedding banquet because they ran out of oil.
You and I might call this phenomenon Murphy’s Law: if something can go wrong, it will. I ran across these lesser known Murphy’s Laws:

*The things that come to those who wait will be the things left by those who got there first.
*Flashlight: A metal tube used to store dead batteries.
*The shin bone is a device for finding furniture in a dark room.
*Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
*Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
*Those who live by the sword, get shot by those who don't.

Let’s hear Jesus’ word today. He wants us to avoid Murphy’s Law, especially when it comes to keeping ourselves spiritually ready while we wait with eager expectation for His Second Coming.

Two Important Reminders:

The Deadline for Getting Your Christmas Presents for Orphanage Emmanuel to the Church is Next Sunday! The container in Tennessee ships on Wednesday, November 16, so have your presents at the church no later than next Sunday!
The Deadline for Getting Your Advent Devotional to the Church Office is Monday, November 14. Step into the hearts and homes of your church family every single day in Advent with a personal, devotional word from the Lord!

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

Let Your Lights So Shine

Friday, December 02, 2011
Tunnel Hill Revival and Thank You Rev. Nancy Morgan!

As you read this bulletin front, I am preaching the first of a four service Revival at Tunnel Hill UMC about ten miles north of Dalton.
I’m praying for you this morning and hope your worship is a blessing to your heart, mind, and soul. Please keep me and the Tunnel Hill church family in prayer for the next three days!
Being gone is doubly hard for a United Methodist minister because when we’re gone from our own pulpits, we miss the rich blessings that take place in our absence! This morning is one such example. I sure wish I were with you to hear the life and word teaching and preaching of Rev. Nancy Morgan. I am awed and inspired that Nancy still chooses to serve the Lord so faithfully at a stage in her life when you or I might easily say, “Hey, I’ve already done my part! Let someone else do it!” Not Nancy. To that, I’m sure Nancy would say, “You never retire from serving the Lord!” So, thank you Nancy for filling in for me today. Thank you for your example, your spiritual presence at Redwine, and mostly for your constant and reliable loving spirit that always shows us the way to Jesus’ heart. I, we all, love and respect you more than we ever say.

Lord, Keep Those Precious Honduran Lights

Jesus said:
 “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father who is in Heaven.”
Around 10PM one night at Orphanage Emmanuel week before last, Wayne McDonald, Kerry Skinner, and I stood on the rock wall in front of the Team House. We stood there, under moonlight and starlight, looking out over the many girls’ and boys’ houses on the campus. There were a few lights on in some of the buildings: a porch light here, a street light there. For the most part it was very quiet: the girls and boys having been retired to their beds for a number of hours at that point.
In those moments, we thanked God that each and every boy and girl were sleeping soundly and safely in their beds. What an awesome relief it is to know that, as “limited” as their life experience may be (they’re confined to the orphanage and do not ever leave it), they are infinitely safer at Emmanuel than outside it.
And what a special wonder of God it is that most of those children and youth, despite horrendous personal past experiences, have a Light that shines in them that warms your heart, makes you smile, and compels you to glorify God in Heaven above! Their inner Lights have the spiritual wattage to make your moment, your day, even your life!
I’m glad Redwine UMC supports and goes to Orphanage Emmanuel. You, and volunteers like you around the world, make life possible for 500 children there. The need is 24-7-365. In return, those kids have Light, not just any Light, but the brightest Light in Honduras and in the world: the Light of Jesus Christ. And that’s the only Light they need.

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

When To Let Go

Friday, December 02, 2011
What bad habits do you have? You and I probably aren’t all that quick to share what are our deepest, most bothersome habits are. But we do have them. You have them. I have them. The fact of life is, the playing field for bad habits is a very wide one. Bad habits can hurt us physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I surfed the internet for “bad habits” and found a List of The Ten Most Common Bad Habits: gossip, spitting in public, cursing, lecturing, not washing your hands, slouching, biting your nails, cracking your knuckles, talking with your mouth full, and procrastination. The common consensus is that these are bad habits that people need to Let Go of.
There are others we could add to the list like: impulse shopping, eating when we’re not hungry, staying up too late, associating with bad influences in our lives, smoking, excessive drinking, and hanging on to that darker nature that lives and lurks inside us.
Of course, it’s hard to Let Go of things and people, even when we are absolutely positive they are bad for us. Perhaps you have heard these quotes:

The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. - Samuel Johnson

Ill habits gather by unseen degrees - as brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas. - John Dryden

Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables. - Spanish Proverb

A habit is something you can do without thinking, which is why most of us have so many of them. - Frank A. Clark

The kicker is we instinctively and intuitively know that over time, if we continue to allow negative and lesser thoughts to rule our behavior and our actions, we will never become what Almighty God created us to be in this life. The sad truth is, bad habits derail lives. You’ve read or heard this quote:

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Last Sunday, we looked at When to Hang On. Today, we’re going to look at When to Let Go. It is absolutely essential that we Let Go of certain things if we ever hope to reach full spiritual maturity. Let’s open our hearts and minds this morning and let God help us Let Go of the things that are keeping us from being all God created us to be in this life.

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

When To Hang On

Friday, December 02, 2011
When to Hang On and When to Let Go

“When to Hang On and When to Let Go.” This is our Message focus for today and next Sunday, September 25. These two messages form a duet of sorts and in them we will be using scripture to shed light on these two essential and critical life questions.
The Bible gives very clear teaching on precisely when we should get tough and tenaciously hang on: hang on to life, hang on to love, hang on to dreams, hang on to faith. It also gives some clear and inspiring teaching on when to let go: let go of things that hinder faith, that harm our bodies, that wreck our emotions, that squelch our dreams, that affect our ability to interact sincerely and authentically with other people.
Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly when to hang on to something and when to let go. One thing is for sure, the answer to these two questions is often the difference between low and high quality of life. In some cases, it is the difference between life and death itself.
These principles are not only true and central in our personal lives, they also are applicable to the life of organizations, including churches. Hanging on and letting go are necessary for growth, staying relevant, being efficient and effective. For example, I’m sure there are things in our church life and ministry at Redwine UMC that we need to hang on to and some things we need to let go of. There are likely some things in your own life or consciousness that you need to hang on to and some things you need to let go of. God’s word guides us to always have a positive outlook, always stand on the firm footing of faith, and always address, identity, and properly act on the issues that confront us.
The wisdom of Ecclesiastes teaches precisely this: there is a time to hang on and a time to let go.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. (NIV)

When to hang on and when to let go are integral and critical life issues. The answer clears the way for us to live more fully and more freely, more purposefully, powerfully, and productively. Are you struggling with hanging on and letting go right now? Let the word of God inspire you and guide you on this important issue the next two Sundays.

Peace and Blessings to you and your family.
Your Pastor and Friend,

Are You Living Right?

Friday, December 02, 2011
An Important “Don’t Forget” Charge Conference and Wednesday Nights!

Our annual church charge conference is Tuesday night at 7:30PM. I hope you will come out! Our District Superintendent, Richard Chewning, will preside over this annual gathering that includes special music by our chancel choir, an Overview and Celebration of Ministry by our Lay Leader, Bruce Townsend, and words and prayers by our new DS.
Also, remember that our Wednesday Night programming starts back up THIS Wednesday. Children and Youth resume their schedules and supper is served at 6PM! I hope you and your family can make it for delicious food, warm fellowship, and “Something for Everyone” following supper at 6: 45! Fill out a Supper Reservation today!

An “Are You Living Right?” Quiz

Our scripture passages last Sunday and this Sunday encourage us and instruct us on how to live the right Christian life. I ran across a Quiz this week that I thought was pretty good. It was in the spring 2011 issue of Just Between Us:

1. Have you talked to someone about Jesus this week?
2. Have you used your time wisely?
3. Have you taken the time to thank the Lord this week?
4. Have you had your quiet times?
5. Have you had a good attitude toward your spouse and children this week?
6. Have you said damaging things about another person either behind his/her back or face-to-face?
7. Have you succumbed to a personal addiction?
8. Have you continued to remain angry toward another?
9. Have you fantasized about a romantic relationship with someone other than your spouse, or read or seen any sexually-alluring material?
10. Have you lacked integrity in your financial dealings? Have you spent recklessly?
11. Have you secretly wished for another's misfortune so that you might excel?
12. Have you been completely truthful with me just now?

This morning in scripture, St. Paul makes a very strong statement in the direction of Christian living: “Understand the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber.” Just Between Us is a magazine for women, by women, but this quiz serves to make both genders, everyone, accountable for their actions. Just how true, how pure, how Christian, are we? In Romans 13:8-14, Paul wanted everyone to know one thing: Jesus is coming back and time is short, so get serious about how you live! If we “clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,” we will not only experience life to its fullest, we will be ready when Jesus comes to earth again! Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.

Your Pastor and Friend,