Unoffendable: A Better Way To Live

“How Just One Change Can Make All Of Life Better”
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I know. I know. We live in a time when everyone is trying to tell you they can make your life better. All one has to do is go to a bookstore or perhaps google “self – help books” and the response can be amazing! There are products and gurus to improve your relational, financially, mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. All you have to do is buy their book or their program or their supplements or a ticket to their presentation!  All you have to do is to sign up – and pay – for a few lessons!

But this advice is different. It comes from Jesus and it is offered free of charge.  Jesus said, “I have come that they (that YOU!!) might have life - and have it to the full.” Jesus came so we could have the best life possible –yes, certainly forever with Him face to face in heaven - but also every day here and now. And in these next few weeks we are going to look at one change that He would empower us to make that will make our whole life better!

So, how is life working for you? Could it be better? Are you stuck? Are you willing to listen to what Jesus has to say? After all, you don’t have to buy a ticket or a book or other products….and this in itself would seem to make it different from all the others, some of which you may have tried. So, what do you have to lose? We’re even going to GIVE you something; a FREE book with the deal! So why not give it a try?


Saturday, Sep. 9th and Sunday, Sept. 10th Leaving the Anger Behind (The Better Way)

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Ok. Be honest now. What gets you offended? How about when another driver does something down right inconsiderate – or even stupid?  How about when things don’t go your way at work or school or on vacation? Or maybe when the mechanic doesn’t get your car fixed?  Or maybe when your spouse does that thing again?..or maybe when your children do what they do?  Or maybe because of all the stuff that is just NOT RIGHT everywhere you look? So, given all this, how often do you have an attitude of offense? Did you know when you look up the word, “offended” in a dictionary, it will invariably use words like “anger” or “resentment” in it’s definition? So, let me ask another question. How often do you have an attitude of anger? …And how’s that working for you? Today, Jesus gives us a better way to live.


Saturday, Sep. 16th and Sunday, Sept. 17th Living in “Beautiful Expectation” (Gratitude vs. Anger)

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When Sarah, our oldest, began to crawl, we immediately moved the things we had on shelves on all the furniture in the house up a little higher…and then a little higher…and then a little higher. We also put those plugs in the electrical outlets and those baby locks on the cabinet doors. Why? We knew what kids do. It’s just who they are. But what we had to get used to was seeing all the amazing things she did day after day. And we were thankful. Today, Jesus would change the way we see things, empowering us to live in gratitude – in “Beautiful Expectation” – instead of anger. It really is a better way to live.


Sat, Sept. 23rd and Sun, Sept.24th         Living in Grace: Received And Given (“Being” vs. “Having To Do”)

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In the home I grew up in, we always helped with everything. Yardwork. Dishes. Clothes. Housework. It didn’t matter. We always did it together. But I remember, as the years went by and Jane and I would come home for a visit, how I would jump up after dinner to do the dishes and mom just said, “Just leave them. Let’s go sit in the patio and talk.” There is a difference between “being” and “having to do.” It’s called grace. It is a better way to live. Interested?


Living in True Relationship (Self-Righteousness vs Peace)
Sat, Sep. 30th and Sun, Oct 1st

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“I can relate.” Have you ever heard this phrase? Have you ever said it? When you think about it, the one place we can all relate is in the things that don’t seem to go right…in our common brokenness. In fact, is it not when we self-righteously deny our brokenness – or at least say and believe that we are better than the other guy -  that we lose relationship? What is the conversation stopper – to connect with others in brokenness or to communicate that “this brokenness” has never touched you? Self – righteousness as one compares themselves to another is a relationship killer. Refusing to be offended by others is a powerful door-opener to actual relationships. Only when one is at peace with themselves and who they are can there be true relationship. This is the gift of Jesus to you today. Interested?


Sat, Oct. 7th and Sun, Oct.8th            Injustice: We Have to Do Something! (Anger vs. Action)

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I was talking with a friend of mine a couple of years ago concerning the death of his father. It was during WWII. His father was not in the military because he worked on the farm. One day his father suffered an appendicitis attack. They took him to the one hospital that was near them, but it was now on an Army Base which was on a routine lockdown. They refused to allow his father on the base. By the time they did, his appendix had burst and the ensuing infection killed him. There are many things in our world that are just wrong – things that need to be changed and that cause us to be angry - but what should be our reaction? Should we “fly off the handle” in anger or look to respond in action?...or is this a false dichotomy? Today, Jesus would guide us in the better – the best - way to live!


Sat, Oct. 14th and Sun, Oct. 15th          Living Healthy – Just Chill Out!    (Fear vs. Trust)

Sat, Oct 14th and Sun, Oct. 15th Living Healthy- Just Chill Out! (Fear vs. Trust)

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Vitamins. Supplements. Protein powder. Regimens. New diets. It seems everyone has an idea about healthy living. Today, Jesus would show us what it means to live healthy –in trust, not fear. Interested?

 

 


Sat, Oct. 21st and Sun, Oct. 22nd          Living in The Bottom Line: Grace (Power vs. Weakness)

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So, bottom line, where is the place of power when it comes to living our lives – and what is the place of weakness? And how do these flesh out in our lives? The bottom line is grace. In grace is power to live a better –the best - way. Today, we explore what this means and what it looks like with Jesus as our guide. For He came so we could have life more abundantly!

Life Animated

Life Animated

Can you believe it? August marks the beginning of a new school year!! Back to school we go! What a great time to revisit this fun and exciting special focus using the animated children’s films Inside Out, Zootopia, and Moana. This is going to be a blast! It will be like “going to the movies” but even better! Come and check it out! And bring your friends! It just may make “going back to school” a little easier! Oh, and we just may have an “ah-ha” experience or two as we see how these stories reveal things about ourselves and how our stories intersect with the story of God for us in Jesus! Don’t miss out on this fun adventure!

Stories….Told By Jesus… “How the Kingdom of God Works”…

Stories….Told By Jesus… “How the Kingdom of God Works”…

Have you ever heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words?” The idea is that one could use a thousand -10 thousand – words to describe something to you which is beyond words…and in just one moment of seeing it, you would have a greater understanding than all the words in the world could give you. Such things as the vastness of the ocean stretching beyond the eyes…or the crashing of 20 foot waves on the shore…or the awesome grandeur of the Rocky Mountains… or a blanket of snow that covers the Great Plains for miles. This is why Jesus used stories –pictures put to words – to describe how the kingdom of God works, so that we might see a picture of the hidden kingdom revealed and come to a greater understanding than all the words in the world could give us

Blueprint for Ministry

Blueprint for Ministry

INVITE, CONNECT, APPRENTICE, SEND

Blueprints. When I was 9 years old, my mom and dad put an addition on our house. I will never forget when they rolled out the blueprints and showed us what it was going to look like! It was so much easier to visualize after seeing those blueprints! And, of course, without those blueprints, the builders would have had no directions, no guide, no “map” with respect to what they were doing!

Did you know God is a God of “blueprints?” All one has to do is to look at a living cell or the DNA molecule as well as countless other examples in nature! It even says in the Bible, talking about our lives together as the people of God, that, “God is not a God of disorder but a God of peace.”

The Story Continues

The Story Continues

Have you ever watched a movie which was a true story and at the end of it they tell you what happened to the various people in the story as their lives continued? “Remember the Titans” was one movie that did it. So did, “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” And just recently, “Heartbreak Ridge.”  It really pulls everything together, doesn’t it? It reminds you that these were real people and their stories continued….and in fact, maybe they lived through a number of stories after the one you just saw.

Resurrection Stories

Resurrection Stories

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with a friend of mine – a young guy about 30 years old. We were talking about God-stuff and applying it to our lives when all of a sudden he looks at me with a smile on his face as well as in his eyes and says, “Imagine how it would change you if you came face to face with Jesus right now! Wouldn’t that be amazing?”…What do you think?...

Jesus: Face to Face…

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There is something about a face to face encounter. For generations and even to this day, the way professional boxing advertises a fight is to have a poster (or perhaps a still on Television) of the fighters face to face –nose to nose even – with faces contorted, ready for battle. The WWF (World Wrestling Federation) takes it even a step further as they have their wrestlers go face to face screaming at each other on live television. It’s good for ratings!!...and for ticket sales! People want to see even more who is going to win! In the next few weeks we are going to be in the audience as Jesus goes “face to face” live with some interesting characters. He WILL win (and yes, it’s worth the “price” of admission!)…but He will also show us what in each case this win looks like and  how we can go face to face with these same characters in our lives and win also…in Jesus! And here’s a hint; when Jesus wins, it is always for the good of those He came to save!

Sunday, March 5th               …With Satan (The Enemy)

There is a Bible passage in the Old Testament which goes something like this; “This enemy is too great for us. We don’t know what to do. But our eyes are on You!” Have you ever been faced with an enemy that was just too great for you?....one that would overpower you no matter what you did? ...an enemy whose strength was so beyond yours that no matter what you did, you knew you would be overwhelmed? Today, Jesus squares off with the enemy of all enemies –Satan Himself – face to face. Who do you think will win? What do think the win will look like? And what does this mean for us who daily square up with the same enemy face to face? Come and see!

 

Sunday, March 12th            …With Nicodemus (The Seeker)

Every teacher, instructor, and professor, at least in my experience, said,you can ask any question” and also, “there are no dumb questions.” But sometimes, at least in my case, this wasn’t true. How about with you? I even remember one professor who was kind of a bully and who would yell at you to “speak up!” but then would be quick to make you look silly! Today, Jesus comes face to face with “the seeker” who had many questions and who just didn’t seem to get it. What do you think Jesus did? What did His victory look like? And what does this say to us when we are ‘the seeker” or when we come face to face with “the seeker?”

 

Sunday, March 19th          …With a Samaritan Woman (The Skeptic)

Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that spells out the word, “coexist” in a way which represents all the major religions of the world? It seems to me the message here is, “one is just as good as another and there is no ‘right’ one, so just get along and we ‘enlightened skeptics’ will put up with you.” Today, we see what happens when Jesus comes face to face with an “enlightened skeptic.” And in seeing, we are shown how, as His followers, we can do the same.  Interested?

 

Sunday, March 26th          …With A Blind Man (The Broken)

Have you ever noticed how we tend to want to blame “the broken” for their brokenness? When a person dies, especially one who was seemingly healthy and “younger than me,” we want to find a reason, something wrong that they did, perhaps to calm ourselves that it won’t happen to us. When people fall into unfortunate times, we want to blame it on “something they did!” (and conversely what we did not-and will not- do). Today, we will see what Jesus did when going face to face with the broken. Yes, he wins!...but His win is far different than we might think. And yes, in His win, He shows us His face when we are “the broken” and also how to win when going face to face with “the broken.”

 

Sunday, April 2nd               …With Lazarus (The Dead…and Grieving)

Do you remember the story of how Robin Hood and Little John met? They each started across a log bridge from opposite directions at the same time. When neither would back down, they had to fight it out until one “hit the water.”       

Today, we see Jesus coming face to face with death…and grieving. Guess who “hits the water?” Come and see what this means for us in the lives we live when we come face to face with death…and grieving, not only for us but in the lives of others. Sooner or later, death…and grieving, touches each of us. But in Jesus, we too can win!

Sunday, April 9th                        This One You Can Follow  Palm Sunday

Have you ever been disappointed in a leader? Perhaps it was a politician or sports figure or religious leader who did something horribly unlawful or immoral. Perhaps it was a teacher or professor who belittled you or held you up to ridicule. Perhaps it was somebody close that you looked up to, followed, and trusted…who then betrayed that trust. In the first movie in the Hobbit trilogy, one dwarf is explaining to Bilbo why they follow Thorin Oakenshield, the dwarf who leads them, and towards the end of his story, he says, “Here was one they could follow.” Today, we come face to face with a King we can follow. He is a King “like no other.”

Maundy Thursday Worship                         One….in JESUS!

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It seems that we are put together to want and to need to be a part of others, to be part of a group, something beyond ourselves. We have families and couples and communities and circles of friends and clubs and well, it goes on and on. Even those of us who are extremely independent would find ourselves living in emptiness if we had to live a totally isolated life. Tonight, we are renewed in what brings you and me together and makes us one. It is not me. It is not you. It is another. And it is all about Him! And He is always with us!

 

Good Friday Worship, April 14th, 7pm                   “Grace” 

More and more, when I have the honor of walking with a family during a difficult time, I find myself praying with them out loud asking God, the Holy Spirit, to give them hearts and insight to give each other a little grace as they go through this difficult time together.

How about you? When is the last time you needed a little grace? And where do you have an opportunity to give it? Life is hard. Sometimes we foul up. Sometimes tragedies strike us. Sometimes the enemies just seem too great and we fall. Sometimes –maybe all the time? – we need a little grace. And sometimes –maybe all the time? – we need to be able to give a little grace as well. Tonight, we see the source and heart of grace; Grace given to us…and grace that we can give another.

Easter Sunday, April 16th         “No More Going to the Mailbox” 

On this day -Easter Sunday- millions of Christians as well as millions of others who are not sure or who are searching and are welcomed in hundreds of thousands of Christian Churches throughout the world will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Why? Because we don't have to go to the mailbox anymore.

At the Cross

Lenten Wednesday Worship

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Socrates, an ancient Greek philosopher, once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”  How about you? When is the last time you stepped back and examined your life – how you are living and, perhaps more important, what or who you are living for?

For millennia, Christians have used the 40 days before Easter (not counting the Sundays) as a time of reflection, repentance, and growth, to prepare anew to celebrate - and live in - the Easter victory of Jesus through His cross and resurrection from the dead!  We intentionally take time on these 6 Wednesdays before Easter to slow down, admit our brokenness, and turn away from how we have embraced and lived in this brokenness in our lives and in the relationships that make up our lives. By God’s grace, we take time to turn our eyes on the cross and what this means for us. And in all of this we strive to remember – and live in – the reality that God is with us, He became one of us, He is not far away from us, but rather He continues to step into our world and our lives to lift us up out of our brokenness and to empower us to live in His victory! We take time to examine our hearts and our lives….and to humbly receive anew by faith the life we were meant to have –and to live in – in Jesus! Beginning with Ash Wednesday, we do this by focusing  on the thoughts and lives of those who were “At the Cross,” seeing ourselves reflected in their lives as they come face to face with Jesus.

Ash Wednesday – Wednesday, March 1st     “Barabbas: ‘This Changes Everything’” 

Have you ever seen one of those pictures where if you look at it one way you see one thing and if you look at it another way you see something else? Tonight, even as we begin by remembering our brokenness and sin with ashes, we focus on the “picture” completely changing for Barabbas….and also for us… in the midst of our brokenness. What will this mean as we go forward?

Wednesday, March 8th         “A Face in the Crowd”

Have you ever wanted to be “anonymous?” Perhaps you hated to get called on in class…and not because you might not know the answer, but just because you wanted to be “no one” – invisible, so to speak, so that nothing and no one would have a claim on you. Or perhaps you just wanted to go in to work, do your job, but not have anyone realize you exist.  Nameless. Faceless. Invisible. When did you want to be simply, “a face in the crowd?” Today we meet a “face in the crowd” at the cross. Funny thing is, Jesus doesn’t seem to “let it go.”

 

Wednesday, March 15th      “Peter: ‘Rock or Quicksand?’”

Each of us pictures ourselves in an idea of who we are...our self-identity….and we try instinctively to live within this self-identity. We try to live as who we conceive ourselves to be.  And this is good because most of us would like to think we are super heroes as opposed to super villians. We have expectations of ourselves driven by our self-identity. Who do you think you are? Have you ever disappointed yourself? What did you do? What happened? How did you feel? Did it perhaps shake up your self-identity? Tonight, we look at these things under the cross.

 

Wednesday, March 22nd     “Simon of Cyrene: ‘Drenched in His Blood’”

Have you heard the stories of someone being robbed or shot or beat up or even raped with lots of people around hearing something happening….but no one wanted to get involved? When we hear these things we instinctively recoil at the injustice and heartlessness of those who did nothing. How dare they!.. But when was the last time you chose to do nothing when you could have done something? Where, in fact, is this even a mindset or a lifestyle for us? And how can we possibly get it straightened out so we can change once and for all?

 

Wednesday, March 29th         “Mary Magdalene: ‘Free’”

Do you remember the film, Braveheart? It focused on a real historical figure that fought and died for freedom for Scotland against the English. In the final scene, he is suffering a horrible execution and, as the cameras pan out away from the awful scene, he cries out, Freedom!!! What “demons” do you have that tend to rob you of freedom? Tonight, we focus on a woman whom Jesus set free!..and how she lived in that freedom….and how we can as well.

 

Wednesday, April 5th          “Joseph of Arimathea: ‘Reboot’”

Reboot. It’s what the computer does once in a while – right? It’s like a death and resurrection. And it’s not just with computers. My cell phone was acting crazy the other day. I asked my electronically astute son, James, what to do…and he said to turn it off and then on. Death…and resurrection. It’s kind of like when the TV doesn’t work or when the copier in the office goes wacko and when everything else fails, we turn it off and on and presto! It works! A death and resurrection. A new beginning. Today, we focus on Joseph and his “reboot.” Where do you need one?

Playing to Win

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Do you remember the board game called, “The Game of Life?” The players wind through a number of different circumstances in “life,” and at the end of the game, the one with the most money wins...kind of like monopoly. But the “win” could be different. Last week my daughter skyped me and showed me the board game – I think it was “The Game of Life” -  she had been playing with Lili, my almost three year old granddaughter. She raved about how Lili could throw the dice and begin to count how many spaces to go. This was “the win” for Sarah and Lili! It had nothing to do with how much money they had at the end of the game. Theychanged the object of the game and with it what they focused on, their mindsets, what they worked for, and what they celebrated. And from what I saw, they were in a great place!

How about you? As the holidays fade into the rear view mirror and you get back into the full swing of the game of life, how are you doing? Do you feel like you’re winning? Or do you feel as if something is missing?...that you are somehow falling short of the win? As you look at the game of life you are playing, what is the object of your game? And how is it working for you?  What are you focusing on? What’s your mindset? What are you working toward? What are you celebrating?.....And how’s it all working for you? Would you say of yourself, “I’m in a great place!”...or something less?..

In the next few weeks we are going to focus on “Playing to Win” for each of us in the game of life. Interested?

 

Sunday, February 5th                              Eyes Up  (What Are Your Eyes On?)

One of the things that gets drilled into you by a running instructor –whether it’s sprints or long distance – is to get your eyes up and focus on where you are going. This keeps your energy pointed in the right direction as well as your body pointed in the right direction, not veering to the right or the left. What are your eyes on? And how’s it working for you? In your “game of life,” are you going in a straight line?...or do you keep veering this way or that?  Today, God shows us where to focus our eyes so we can “Play to Win!”

 

Sunday, February 12th                           Mind Set  (What Are You Working For?)

When I was 10 years old I wanted to play on a little league football team. The only problem was that I weighed 8 lbs. too much for my age group and they would not allow me to “play up” in the next age group. What did I do? Since I had a paper route and therefore my own money, I bought these Sego diet drinks and ate nothing but those drinks for lunch (my parents didn’t know) and very little for breakfast or dinner for a week. And when I was still a pound over on weigh-in day in the morning, I simply did not eat or drink anything until the afternoon weigh in. And yes, I made weight! (though I did see stars and almost pass out in the ensuing practice…) When one knows what they are working for, it makes a difference! Do you know what you’re working for? And is it enough? Today, God shows us what He, in His grace, would have us work for as we look to “Play to Win!”…And yes, it is always enough!

 

Sunday, February 19th                      Training Smart  (How Smart Are You Training?)

In High School, I had a terrible time putting on weight – which was pretty important, since I played football. When I got to college the weight coach told me (rather forcefully, as I remember) that I was training “way to much” and he cut down what I did and how I did it drastically….and presto-chango, I put on weight and got much faster and stronger. It matters how one trains. In this “game of life,” how are training yourself so that you can “win?” And how’s it working for you? Today, God, as the greatest coach ever, shows us how to train so that we might “win!” Interested?

 

Sunday, February 26th                               Tasting Victory  (It’s A Done Deal!)

“It’s so close, I can taste it!” Have you ever heard this expression?  Every football team runs “polish” with their offense the day before a game. There is no one lining up against them. The object is to run each play perfect. For many coaches, this includes practicing the celebration when they score. They want their players to geta foretaste of celebrating the victory so they know what they are playing for! -“It’s so close, I can taste it!” Today, in this game of life that each of us is in “to win,” this is the gift our loving God would give to us: to taste the victory so we can live in it right now! “It’s so close WE can taste it!”

God With Us….Fleshing It Out!

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On Christmas Eve, our focus was on the presence of God with us in our worldthrough the reality of Christmas; that God, at a particular point in history, really and truly became a human being and stepped into our world, taking our brokenness on Himself that He might make us whole. We focused on this Jesus stepping into the existence of humankind – our existence - stepping into the stuff of life, healing the sick, raising the dead, making the blind to see and lame to walk, and bringing a message of life and hope, doing all that was necessary to make this message certain through the cross and the empty tomb. We focused on Jesus as He came to do life with those around Him when He walked this earth, and how He continues, as Immanuel – God with us - to come to us to do life with us, not as a God who is far away from our condition, but as our brother who understands and has come to rescue us.  In the next few weeks, we will flesh out a little more what this message of Christmas – God with us -  means (or was meant to mean) in our lives. Let’s keep opening these wonderful gifts of Christmas! 

Sunday, January 1st         Restart!/Fresh Start!   (Yes!..It IS possible!) 

God seems to have built the idea and message of the hope of new beginnings into the very fabric of our existence and really into our very souls. No matter how difficult today is, night will come and then a brand new morning….a brand new day, a brand new month, a brand new year! And on this day there will be the joy of beginnings as babies are born, marriages are begun, first steps are taken, and new things are learned; as humankind throughout the world experiences a myriad of new beginnings in what we do, learn, create, and experience! All of these point to the new beginning that God would give us through Jesus, who is Immanuel, god with us! As it says in the Bible, “God’s mercies are brand new every morning!”...Where do you need a new beginning in your life? Where do you need a “fresh start?” And where, as you see your past, are you sure you have no hope of one? This God of new beginnings, who began something brand new on Christmas as He came as Immanuel – God with us – has plans to give you a brand new beginning right where you need it in Him! 

Sunday, January 8th    The Gift of Belonging The Wisemen  (This Family’s Big Enough for You!) 

You can always tell. You can always tell when you are being welcomed as family…and when you’re not. Growing up and even into High School and college, my dad was great at honestly, from the heart, welcoming any of my friends as family. What was amazing is that they knew it…so much so that when I moved away they kept stopping by my parent’s house, especially at Christmas, to see my dad!... who had become “family” even as he welcomed them as family. Some of them, who I hadn’t seen in years, even came to his funeral. Today is about God welcoming you as family. This family’s big enough for you!  

Sunday, January 15th           The Gift of Community  (Doing Life Together) 

Have you ever noticed how we are all interconnected? Whether we like or not, it is as if someone put life together in a way that made us interdependent on one another…so that life, by necessity is made up of community. In a real sense, from a Christian perspective, we “love our neighbor” when we do our work (our vocations) honestly, before God, to the best of our ability and for the good of those we serve, whether we are a plumber, a grocer, an engineer, a parent, or an elected official. Life with Jesus – the life we live out in flesh and blood – was also created by God NOT to be lived out alone, but rather in a community of believers. We were not made to go it alone! We were created to be interdependent on one another. We are meant to be gifts of God to each other! This Christmas gift is also for you! 

Sunday, January 22nd          The Gift of Relationship  (It’s Personnel!) 

Fifty percent of Americans have no one to talk to. We live in an epidemic of disconnectedness! We can move in and out of large crowds and yet be alone. (Did you go Christmas shopping this year?) Even when we are together with people or with an individual, we can maintain our isolation as electronic connectedness takes precedent over flesh and blood connectedness. But we know there is something missing! Deep down we know we were made to be personal with others and have others be personal with us. This too is a gift that God would give to us through one another. Together, we are His Family. And in this Family, we are empowered to be personally there for one another in the flesh and blood of life, the flesh and blood into which Jesus was born. This Christmas gift is also for you! 

Sunday, January 29th         The Gift of Purpose  (Lived Out In The Family) 

Some of my earliest memories is of working together with my dad and brother to accomplish a task…painting a fence, doing yard work, putting on a new roof, tearing down a wall, etc… It was a blast….not because of the task but because of who we did the task for and with! What, finally, gives something purpose and meaning? The task or the one we do it for and with? God would fill our lives with purpose and meaning as we live them out in flesh and blood for Him!...But again, we were not made to go it alone! Rather, He gives us one another to work with and for as we live out our mission in Him!  And yes, this Christmas gift of Immanuel – God with us – is also for you! 

The Call of Christmas

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Together with the kids next door, my brother and I would often spend summer nights sleeping under the stars in the backyard. I remember that sometimes, as we looked up at the stars into the vastness of space, I would feel so very insignificant and yes, alone – even though my brother and friends were around me. It was as if the vast universe had overwhelmed me, yet it was silent. Do you ever feel this way about God? You feel overwhelmed and you long to hear His voice, but all you hear is silence? There was a 400 year span between the last word given by God and written down in the Old Testament and the first coming of Jesus. 400 years where God’s people longed to hear Voice but only heard silence. It was the messengers of God – the angels – who broke the silence first to Zachariah, then to Mary, Joseph, and finally the Shepherds, all of them pointing towards that moment when God would break the silence toward all humankind with the voice of a baby.  On these three Wednesdays leading up to Christmas week, we focus on how God broke the silence then and now. On these Wednesdays, will hear anew the call of the angels, the call of Christmas. Where do you feel all alone? Where do you long to hear God’s voice? Where are you desperate to know God’s presence in your life? Where do you especially need Christmas, yet the cacophony of the many voices of bus-y-ness in our world during this time only makes it seem that God is even farther away and even more silent?  Right here is where God would speak to your heart on these three Wednesdays in Advent with, “The Call of Christmas.”


Wednesday, November 30th    “Hope Grows Where Hurt Was Rooted”  (God Breaks the Silence: Zechariah)

Zechariah and his wife were both old. They had vainly longed for children. They had lived in that place where God seemed silent as they poured out their hearts to Him. Hope had gradually faded and died in the seeming silence of God. Where can you relate in your life? But God did not leave them in this place. He broke His silence to Zechariah. He breaks His silence to us as He gently calls us to Christmas.


Wednesday, December 7th    “When WeSay ‘Yes,’ It Changes Everything” (An Angel Comes Mary)

Mary was probably just a teenager…a humble believer in Jahweh, the saving God who had promised to send a Savior. She live in a small village. Not many knew she even existed. It would have been understandable if she thought that God didn’t even know she existed…or at least cared that she existed.  But God knew. He had plans for her. And when the angel came, in humble faith she said, “May it be to me as you have said.” And it changed everything. He also sees us- you and me, even when we don’t think anyone knows we exist. And the Christmas message is that He comes to us, also, to change everything. What will we do?


Wednesday, December 14th    “God Uses the Humble to Do Great Things!” (The Angels Appear to the Shepherds)

Shepherds, in the time of Jesus, were on the low end of the economic and social totem pole. No one would have thought God would choose them to experience the Bethlehem angels! Yet, God chose well. They obeyed the angels and excitedly went in search of the baby. Why? Because they knew they needed Him. Why? Because they knew they needed God and He had spoken to them through the angels. So, God used them and honored them to be the first eyewitnesses to the birth of Jesus! God comes to us, also, through His Word. Most would not understand why He would choose us….but He has and He does! And just like the Shepherds, as we witness to the baby, we do great things for the glory of God! How can you witness to the baby right now?

We Still Need -We Still Long For- Christmas

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“Lift up your heads….Look, the King of Glory comes!” Ps.24

Deep down there is a longing in the heart of each of us…a longing to know hope and love, to experience joy, and to live in peace….and to give these things away in our lives. Perhaps this Christmas, you find yourself especially hoping and dreaming and longing for these things. Where is this longing especially great in your life? We dream of a world ruled by these things. We desire these things for those we love. We long for these things in our own lives.

Christmas is a time when these universal longings of the heart that mysteriously are part of every human being bubble up and burst out from beneath the surface in unmistakable ways.  Donations to charities go way up as many want to help others experience the hope they themselves so desperately want to know and feel at Christmas. Heart- warming special movies and programs on TV are seen-some newer, and some shown over and over again (Charlie Brown’s Christmas, The Grich that Stole Christmas). Most buy gifts for one another, a tangible way of trying to bring hope, love, joy, and peace into our lives and the lives who are special to us. Certainly, people cry out about the “commercialization of Christmas,” but it seems to me the fact of the matter is that we all are looking and longing for hope, love, joy, and peace, with the giving of gifts just one way we try to find –and give- these things. We may stuff these longings inside of us for a whole year, but finally, it is impossible to keep them buried. We all –every single one of us- know that our world and our lives are broken. Every day we experience hopelessness, lovelessness, joylessness, and no peace in our lives and our world… AND WE KNOW THIS IS NOT THE WAY THINGS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE!

We long for hope in our lives…For love in our lives…For peace in our lives…For joy in our lives. We need Christmas. We long for Christmas…And not just for a moment or a day or a month, but a Christmas that transcends all time…every day of our lives and beyond.

The problem is that so often year after year we look for it in all the wrong places. We try to build it or to find it in all the wrong ways. And like one who is insane, we keep thinking we will get something knew –that we will finally find Christmas - by doing the same things that have not worked over and over again.  This year, God would give us the gift of what Christmas really is…His gift of hope, love, joy, and peace that can and does transcend all time, transforming our lives and our world not just for a season but all year through and beyond. Where do you especially need -long for –Christmas?  Right in this place, God would bring you the free gift of the hope, love, joy, and peace of Christmas. This is our focus on the four Sundays leading up to our Christmas celebration. Interested? We’d love to have you join us!...and bring a friend! (Bring these gifts into their lives as well!)

“Lift up your heads (from all that would weigh you down!)…Look, the King of Glory comes!" Ps.24

Sunday, November 27th“You Can Know (and give!) Love -Christmas Love- Even Now, Even Today”

Love. We – everyone – seems to know instinctively, deep in our souls, that we both need love and we need to give love away for life to be what it was meant to be. Where do you especially need love in your life right now? Where is your life being turned upside down and you just need someone to hold you close in love? Where do you know you have fouled up and don’t deserve it, but still so desperately need someone to still love you? Where do the dangers and challenges and questions of life seem absolutely overwhelming so that you cry out for someone to stand with you – to be there for you – in love? All of these is what God does- what He offers you and empowers you to give away – in  the love of Christmas….the special love called grace. Where do you need this love in your life? To whom can you give it?



Sunday, December 4th “You Can Have (and Give!) Hope –Christmas Hope- Even Now, Even Today”

When I was in Hungary for the first time,  my heart went out to a number of people who talked to me about how there was no hope for change amongst the people –and especially the young people- of this proud yet at times economicallystruggling country in Eastern Europe. No hope that anything can or will change….maybe this is a good definition of hopelessness. Where do you need hope - hope that things can change, that things can be different - in your life?...and in our world? To whom can you bring such a hope?  Such is the hope of Christmas…a free Christmas gift to you….so you can give it away!


Sunday, December 11th “You Can Experience (and share!) Joy –Christmas Joy- Even Now, Even Today”

Have you ever played with a Beach Ball which has sprung a leak? As the air goes out of it, gradually it loses its form and soon you can’t do much of anything with it.  Joy is being filled with a deep happiness. But often we spring a leak and soon lose it, especially if our joy was based on something that was “here today and gone tomorrow.” Christmas joy is a gift that transcends all time. It is a gift that  God would give us every moment of everyday and beyond. Christmas joy is meant to fill us up always….and it is a gift that was meant to be given away. Where do you need such joy in your life? To whom can you give it away?


Sunday, December 18th “You Can Live in (and share!) Peace –Christmas Peace- Even Now, Even Today

Peace. It seems like a pipe dream, doesn’t it? Where do you struggle to live in peace?...Peace in body, soul, mind, and spirit. Peace that “passes all human understanding.” Peace that transcends all time, peace that is greater than any situation, any problem, any hurt, any pain, any-thing. Peace to take into our world.  This is Christmas peace, a free gift that God would give us today and always. Where do you especially need such peace in your life? To whom can you give it away?


Christmas Eve Worship- With Us.. With You!

Is God there for us?...for you?...For me? Christmas is God’s resounding “YES!” answer to this question. It is our focus tonight. It is for you.

Christmas Day Worship  Good News! Joy! For All!

What is Christmas all about – really? How is it to be understood? This morning we remember: “Good News! Joy!...For All!” This is Christmas understood. And it is for you!

Worship in November

Worship in November

Sunday, November 6th      “Celebrate, Celebrate, Dance to the Music!”  (All Saints Day Celebration!) 

We are family in Jesus. While God, the Holy Spirit, invites and gives us a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the gift of faith, it is never only just “Jesus and me.” Rather, we are part of the family of God! This is what the church is- the people who believe in Jesus and therefore are brothers and sisters (family!) in Him! This, really, is what we celebrate today. The word “saint” means “holy one” – and that is what each one of us is declared to be through faith in Jesus Christ. We are the family of saints! Today, we give thanks to God for our family; Those saints who have gone before us who were faithful so that we might know Jesus. Those saints around us –our living family in this place -  who walk beside us in life and mission. And finally all of ussaints as we catch the vision of heaven when we will all be together with Jesus forever! Celebrate! Dance to the music, as today our focus and worship is led by Deacon Rich Toms. May God, the Holy Spirit, richly bless and empower him today as he serves us! And no, you won’t want to miss this celebration! 


Sunday, November 13th        Signs, Signs, Everywhere is Signs 

Do you remember this song? To me, it kind of explores the idea that while you can have a sign that tells you to do something, you can also have a sign that points you to know a particular reality. This is how God talks about the signs he gives us in His Word, the Bible. Today, we look at the signs that Jesus gives us concerning the “end of the age.”  Pastor Hank Scherer will lead our worship and what they are to mean for us in our lives until That Day. Interested? Don’t miss it! 

Sunday, November 20th     Jesus Christ is Lord and King!   (Christ the King Sunday!)  

Jane and I had three children, each of them two years apart with two of them being boys. It goes without saying that at times it was crazy - with some maybe even saying it was a "nut house!" But in trying to balance understanding, love, and control, I would say to Jane, "I don't mind a 'nuthouse,' I just need to be in charge of it!" Jesus Christ is Lord and king! He is in charge...always. He is the King! On this Sunday we welcome Pastor Mike Lange, the Mission Executive of the CNH District as we celebrate that Jesus is King and what this means for us. Mike will share with us what we are doing together in the CNH District as we partner with our King and Savior, Jesus, in His ongoing mission in this world He created and came to save! You really do not want to miss this as we rejoice in Jesus, our King, but also in the wonderful opportunities we have as together we work in service with our King! 

Wednesday November 23  Don't be a Turkey  Thanksgiving Worship