Pastor’s Pondering: September 2016

Here it comes!  The tsunami of activity is upon us with the start of another school year and the end of another summer.  I hope you have enjoyed your summer vacation and I hope that you, like me, are looking forward with great anticipation to the year of church activities ahead.  In this pondering I would like to address several things that are coming up so you will be more informed.  Also, I want you to hear about these things from me so you’ll have my perspective.

 

All adults are invited to 4x4s.

These 4×4 groups are not just for married couples; they are for everyone who would like to participate.  Also, you are not expected to host a meeting at your place of residence.  If you have limitations, we’ll work to overcome them.  4×4 groups can meet in someone’s home or they can meet at a restaurant or at the church or at a ball game, etc..  The idea is to get small groups of people together for fellowship.  We want you to get to know folks in the church.  The format for the 4×4 can be whatever you want it to be.  Maybe you go as a group to a movie and then spend time discussing it over dinner.  You could have a picnic together in the park.  You are only limited by your imagination and of course by your group’s abilities.  We hope these will be successful and we can do new groups once every four months or so.   If you have a desire to be a part of a 4×4, we want you there so don’t hesitate to sign up.

 

The nursery needs you.

  Changes are coming to the nursery schedule.  The Lord has been richly blessing our church with new babies and young children.  That is a great praise!  It is also the catalyst for some changes that we need to make.  Do you remember all those baptisms where you raised your hand pledging to help parents raise that child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?  Well many have been doing that by serving in the nursery.  We are about to expand that to include you if you are between the ages of 21 and 70.  If you are over 70 and already serving in the nursery, God bless you, we will continue putting you to good service for as long as you want to participate.  If you are over 70 and wish to participate in nursery service, let Mary Claire know in writing.  Otherwise all adults 21-70 will be put into the rotation.  If for some reason you are incapable of serving or you have other church duties that conflict with serving in the nursery, that is fine, please let Mary Claire know in writing and she will not put you in the rotation.  As the Teaching Elder I will be seeking to serve in the nursery during Sunday school as the need arises and I’m not otherwise engaged teaching.  I hope you look forward to this great opportunity.  We’ll be sending out a letter with more details in the near future.

 

Are you looking to serve? 

We’ll have a number of service opportunities this fall including a chance to go help with disaster response in Louisiana.  Locally, the deacons are planning a “Sparkle Day” and the Local Mission Committee (LMC) is planning a service project with one of the missions that we partner with here in the Frederick area.  The Lord has called us to be salt and light in the world and one of the ways we do that is to go out and get involved in helping those in need.  There is no doubt that the devastation from flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi needs a large outpouring of support.  I’m very pleased to see the number of people from our church that are interested in going to help in that good work of clean up.  If you are interested please see Ruling Elder Bruce Brierly for more information.  For those of you not able to travel and give the time to go away to serve, we have something for you right here in Frederick.  The LMC is hosting this year’s mission conference and as part of that event we will be participating in a local mission project.  I’m excited about the prospect of getting many in our church out to help with the worthy work our LMC is planning for late October.  I look forward to seeing you there.

 

Youth group is starting this month!

  In all the activity we have not forgotten our youth.  In fact we are calling all youth from grades 6-12 to come and join in when we kick-off our new year on Sunday, September 18th at 5:00PM.  Ministry to and with our young people is such a vital thing for the life of any church and we want to make our young people a priority.  Our first meeting will be a time of fun, fellowship, and planning for the 2016-2017 school year.  We plan to be doing some service projects together as well as hanging out at private homes once a month.  Most weeks we’ll have games, a challenge to discipleship, and of course food.  So it should be a good time for all.  If you have questions please contact Mary Claire or John Armstrong at the church office.  We will need people willing to provide food and we are looking for some that are willing to host the youth group in their home.

 

Many other things will be happening in the coming months and hope you will, as you are able, come out and join your church family in our life together.



Pastor’s Pondering: August 2016

So how do you feel about “kinism?”  A couple of weeks ago I would have asked, what is kinism? A week after General Assembly I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook and saw a post from a page I had never seen before called “Tribal Theocrat.”  The article was speaking about the PCA’s passage of the racial reconciliation overture.  It caught my attention because of its negativity and vulgarity.  It seemed to be put out by people either posing as or considering themselves to be Presbyterians.   I was taken aback by their unabashed, hateful speech.  Without thinking much about it, I went to the main page and messaged the administrator of the page asking simply, “who are you?”  I wish that I had paid more attention to the name of the page and thought before I clicked (always a good idea).  I found myself caught in a place of dealing with a “theonomist” and I couldn’t just back out because I had initiated the conversation.  Very generally speaking, theonomists believe the Old Testament Civil laws should still apply everywhere today.  Unfortunately I’ve had a lot of interaction with theonomists and have seen how they can ravage a church, it is not pleasant.  I should say here not all “theonomists” are bad and evil people, but I know some that are the virtual reincarnation of the Pharisees and should be avoided.  These folks are typically very well versed in their ideas and wantonly blind to any germane biblical arguments.  They tend to be “sophists” and embody the idea of knowledge “puffing up.” Making biblical arguments to them is like casting pearls before swine.  More than just espousing theonomy, I discovered these folks also are putting forth the theological error called kinism.

 Kinism is a belief that God has created the world with different ethnicities (races) and that these various ethnic groups should stay separate.  They see segregation as something God has ordained and it is to be pursued.  The few kinists that I have encountered also believe in the superiority of the white race, in short they are racists.  Guarding the sheep is the responsibility of the shepherd.  It is as one tasked with guarding the flock, that I write this.  These people are snakes in the grass, calling themselves Christians, yet believing in racism and the segregation of ethnicities as God’s will for the world.  It is not a particularly new idea, but I could have gladly done without this acquaintance.  “Kinism” is a heretical philosophy.  Why am I telling you this?  Well they’re out there and I want you to be able to recognize the danger these people represent.  They hate in the name of Christ.  The very idea is abhorrent, but that is who they are.  They love to arrogantly boast and spout their appalling theology and in a social media context, they will do it using pseudonyms and pen names in order to avoid being recognized and disciplined by their churches.  They are cowards and heretics.  Remember what Jesus said in John 3:19-20, And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed…

Now how do we deal with kinists so that we don’t fall into the same categories of arrogance, hatred, and heresy to which they are subject?  First, pray for these people, they are trapped in bondage. Pray that they will see the light of Christ and come into the light rather than continuing to love the darkness.  Speak the truth to them in as loving a way as possible realizing they’re not really interested in what you have to say.  Finally, ask the Holy Spirit to guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus so that you may walk in the light and be kept in the truth.



Pastor’s Pondering: July 2016

“How was GA?”  I hear that question every year.  Some years there is much to talk about and some years not so much to talk about.  This year there is much to talk about.  For the sake of this article, I’m just going to talk about one thing; racial reconciliation.  Going into the Assembly, an amazing 43 of the 63 overtures coming up from the presbyteries addressed the issue of racial reconciliation.  Of those 43, three overtures actually made it to the floor of the Assembly for a vote.  Two of the overtures (44 & 45) dealt with separate issues relating to racial reconciliation and therefore needed to stand on their own.  The Committee on Overtures was able to blend into one the remaining 41 overtures.  To me, that is clear evidence that the hand of God was upon the men of that committee as they spent many hours in deliberation.  Their finished work that was adopted by the PCA is before you.  Please take the time to read it and I will make a few comments at the end.

 Overture 43 of the 44th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America:

Therefore be it resolved, that the 44th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America does recognize, confess, condemn and repent of corporate and historical sins, including those committed during the Civil Rights era, and continuing racial sins of ourselves and our fathers such as the segregation of worshipers by race; the exclusion of persons from Church membership on the basis of race; the exclusion of churches, or elders, from membership in the Presbyteries on the basis of race; the teaching that the Bible sanctions racial segregation and discourages inter-racial marriage; the participation in and defense of white supremacist organizations; and the failure to live out the gospel imperative that “love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10); and

Be it further resolved, that this General Assembly does recognize, confess, condemn and repent of past failures to love brothers and sisters from minority cultures in accordance with what the Gospel requires, as well as failures to lovingly confront our brothers and sisters concerning racial sins and personal bigotry, and failing to “learn to do good, seek justice and correct oppression” (Isaiah 1:17); and

Be it further resolved, that this General Assembly praises and recommits itself to the gospel task of racial reconciliation, diligently seeking effective courses of action to further that goal, with humility, sincerity and zeal, for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel; and

Be it further resolved, that the General Assembly urges the congregations and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in America to make this resolution known to their members in order that they may prayerfully confess their own racial sins as led by the Spirit and strive towards racial reconciliation for the advancement of the gospel, the love of Christ, and the glory of God; and
 
Be it further resolved, that the 44th General Assembly call the attention of churches and presbyteries to the pastoral letter contained in Overture 55 as an example of how a presbytery might provide shepherding leadership for its churches toward racial reconciliation; and

Be it finally resolved, that the 44th General Assembly remind the churches and presbyteries of the PCA that BCO 31-2 and 38-1 provide potent and readily available means for dealing with ones who have sinned or continue to sin in these areas.

Now that you have read this historic overture, you might be wondering what do we do with this? Often when the General Assembly, Presbytery, or even a local Session takes action, it leaves us asking, “how do we actually follow through?”  This overture is one that will require concerted and intentional action for years and even decades to come.  We as a congregation just as we as a denomination will have to wrestle with this and pray that God will move mightily to bring forth the fruit of repentance that will lead to life and blessing.  The Lord has been gracious to us, may He continue to bless us as we seek to work out that which is pleasing to Him in the area of racial reconciliation. 

For your further reading, just a quick note: Overture 55 mentioned in the text of 44 is 23 pages long, the pastoral letter attached is found on pages 4-16.  It is a letter sent out to all the churches of the Mississippi Valley Presbytery from that Presbytery.  If you would like to read it, you can find it at:


Pastor’s Pondering: June 2016

As I have been engaged in conversations with believers and unbelievers lately, I’m struck by the whole concept of “loving the unlovely.”  If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, if you are trusting by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, then you should know about loving the unlovely.  You may ask yourself, “Why should I know about loving the unlovely?”  The simple answer is because you, in your sin, are unlovely and yet God by His grace has loved you and brought you into the saving knowledge of His Son.  Loving the unlovely is all about grace and that is really difficult for us to grasp even when the Holy Spirit reveals it to us.  It goes against the way the world works and the way we naturally think.  We have to remember the world is fallen and the “natural” way was turned upside down by sin.  

 It is easy for us to love what is lovely, it is natural for us to love our own, as long as they stay loveable (lovely).  What happens when someone is unlovely or becomes unlovely?  We need to remember what the apostle writes in 1John 4:19,

“We love because he first loved us.”  The love that God loves with is a love that looks beyond loveliness; it is a love that chooses to love in spite of loveliness.  In our sin and fallenness, we were rebels against God and yet in that state God sent forth His Son to die for us to show His love for us.  Since God has loved us in this way we are freed then to love even the unlovely.  Jesus even commands us to love this way when he quotes from Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 Then of course the question comes, “Who is my neighbor?”  The short answer is, anyone that is not you.  So we are commanded to love everyone else with the same care and respect that we would show ourselves.  How is that possible?  It is not possible.  You can’t love your neighbor as yourself.  This is where we run headlong into the wall of the law.  We can’t keep it on our own and that is a grace to us because it keeps us humble before the Lord.  The love God calls us to is a supernatural love that shows forth His presence in us.  Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have the indwelling Holy Spirit and we are united to Christ.  Therefore we have God the Spirit working in and through us to love.  When that happens the kingdom of God is made manifest in our lives, as we love even the unlovely.
God loves you in spite of your un-loveliness.  God saved you in spite of your un-loveliness.  God lives in you to make you lovely.  God frees you from your natural (unlovely) self so that you can do what is supernatural (lovely).  Stop looking for and judging what is unlovely; those people are there you need not go looking for them.  Let them see Christ in you, let them experience love they don’t deserve and see if God will not do a miracle.  He may not change them and then again He may.  I can guarantee you one thing; He will change you to make you more like Jesus.  Praise the Lord!


Pastor’s Pondering: May 2016

How old are you?  Have you ever found that you had trouble remembering exactly how old you are?  When you are a kid it is easy to remember because your age is much more important to you.  You mark birthdays as milestones in your development toward adulthood.  There are all kinds of reminders of your age when you are a child.  When you become an adult that is not so true any more.  We mark milestones like when it is time to have a mammogram or a colonoscopy and other fun stuff like that.  For some of us, we just don’t care about what our age is or we don’t want to be reminded.  For example my wife doesn’t care, she has to figure out how old she is by doing the math in her head. 

 I think about age from time to time, it doesn’t bother me to be getting older and I do remember how old I am, most of the time.  One thing that does concern me however is not age so much as maturity.  As a disciple of the Lord Jesus, am I maturing into true Christian manhood?  Paul writes about the work of the church and says this in Ephesians 4, starting in verse 11,

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…

 I look at that verse and am humbled for several reasons.  First, am I growing to mature manhood (“manhood” meaning a Christian adult)?  Am I becoming more like Jesus?  Unfortunately, age and maturity don’t necessarily go together.  I know that from personal experience.  The second reason I am humbled is what Paul writes in v. 12.  It is my job as one of the shepherds of the church to be equipping you “the saints” for the work of ministry.  Part of my job is to make sure that you are growing in grace and being built up to mature manhood.  That is a task that will keep you on your knees in prayer. 

 A vital part of discipleship for each of us is asking the hard question, “Am I maturing in Christ?” 

Do you act your age when it comes to Christian maturity or do you act like a child?  I struggle sometimes because I look at how I respond to things and I realize how childish I can be at times.  It isn’t always easy to see it in myself, but I can sure see it in others.  What about you?  Do you see how mature you are in Christ?  Let me caution you to be careful how you answer that question.  Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought.  Let me encourage you to do some serious self-reflection asking the Holy Spirit to show you your heart and to give you more of Jesus.  Pray with me as the psalmist prayed,

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Lord, forgive our childishness.  Forgive us for being wrapped up in our own little lives with our own selfish little expectations.  Holy Spirit of God, lead us to follow Christ; give us more of Jesus.  May we decrease that Christ might increase!  In Jesus name we pray, amen.



Pastor’s Pondering: April 2016

I buried my Dad on March 28 and I find myself preaching another funeral a week later.  I’m surrounded by the things of death.  There is much to deal with when someone dies.  First of all there is the grief that I will not address here, but that is huge.  You also have to deal with the person’s body, you have to deal with their possessions, not to mention a host of administrative details that have to be attended to; there are people to call, subscriptions to cancel, and the list goes on.  Over the past several weeks these things have consumed my attention and as I’ve thought about what I should write for this issue of the Tapestry, I thought what more fitting issue could I focus on but inheritance. 

Some of us know beforehand what we will inherit.  Some of us don’t know until a will is read.  When we talk about inheritance we have a tendency to speak in terms of the material.  Certainly if you do a study of inheritance in the Bible you will find it is a major theme and much of the focus is on material possessions; particularly of the land.  However there is another aspect of inheritance that is most important biblically, every other aspect of inheritance is ultimately meaningless apart from this one aspect and that is a spiritual inheritance.  A spiritual inheritance is not something that is bequeathed in a will.  It is given in a life lived unto the Lord and passed on to future generations.  By God’s grace I’m fortunate to have received a spiritual inheritance from my parents.  As we think about a spiritual inheritance we must remember that we are only a generation away from apostasy.  If we do not pass on a spiritual inheritance to the next generation, who will? 

At funerals and times of death we tend to look back and remember lives lived.  We share stories and anecdotes.  People come and share their memories of loved ones.  It is a precious time and it is to be savored and experienced to the full, but we cannot stay in that place.  Some may try, but it is not healthy, is not how we are designed.  We need to remember so that we can move forward.  We do not live in the past; we live in the now and we look forward to the future.  We cannot serve the kingdom of God in the past; we serve the kingdom by living in it now and preparing to live in it in the future.  That kingdom life is following Jesus.  That is the inheritance that is most important.  Is that the inheritance that you are seeking to pass on to your children?  Is that the inheritance that you are seeking to pass on to those in your spheres of influence; your family and friends?  The beauty of a spiritual inheritance is that it can be passed from a child to a parent as we share the love of Jesus.  What inheritance will you leave?  My prayer is that I will leave a rich inheritance to my children and to anyone else I, by God’s grace, am able to share the love of Christ with.  Ponder these things with me.



Pastor’s Pondering: March 2016

I like Latin, I’ve never studied it, but I like it nonetheless.  There are all kinds of cool sayings in Latin.  Of course our founding fathers all studied Latin as part of a classical education.  Also the Roman Catholic Church has held on to the use of Latin and still uses it today in many places.  It was not until sometime in the early twentieth century that ordination exams for Presbyterian ministers were conducted in English, before that they were given in Latin. The influence of Latin is indeed widespread and that is why it is common to see Latin sayings carved into the architecture, embossed on coinage, and used for mottos for all kinds of organizations.  Why do I mention Latin?  Well I like Latin because people that use it usually are trying to say something important.  One of the best Latin phrases I’m familiar with is “memento mori.”  Literally the phrase translates to “remember you must die” it is often translated as “remember thou art mortal.”  I was reminded of that several times in various ways in the past few days.

 
I saw a Facebook post about an old pilot buddy of mine from the Marines that said he had passed away this week as a result of Leukemia.  In this day and age we are surprised to hear about a fifty some odd year old person dying.  We have gotten used to people living longer and longer.  Our tendency is to think of our lives and not think of our deaths.  In fact we will tell people that think of death that they are being morbid and depressing.  Indeed, that can be the case and we must be careful there.  However, we do well to remember that our next breath is a gift from the Lord and that we are not guaranteed tomorrow no matter how old we are.  Thus “memento mori” becomes all the more important.  This should be one of the main considerations we have as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.  As Christians, remembering that we are mortal and dying is not a bad thing.  It is certainly not something to lead us to depression.  In fact it is something to encourage us to live everyday to it’s fullest.  We should heed the psalmist to “order our way rightly.”  Unlike the rest of the world, Christians need not fear death because we live in the hope and promise of the resurrection.  In Christ we do not experience death eternal, we experience life eternal. So we say with Job,

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another (Job 19:25-27).

 

This month we commemorate the crucifixion of our Lord and we celebrate His resurrection.  Therefore let us live life in the fullness of the freedom for which Christ bought us with His precious blood.  We live rightly when we live in the gospel, that means taking up our cross and following Jesus, finding His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  While we have the faculties of this body, in this world, let us be poured out in service to Jesus.  Memento Mori!



Pastor’s Pondering: February 2016

When I was a very young man I used to catch rattlesnakes when I worked at Scout Camp.  I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a snake in the wild that I didn’t have my “blood run cold.” It is a strange feeling and I think it is our natural reaction to snakes that harkens back all the way to the curse and the enmity put between the serpent and man. I’m not particularly fond of snakes, but they are important to the environment and as long as they leave me alone I’m happy to leave them alone.  There are those that keep snakes as pets and I have nothing against that practice so if you want to have a snake as a pet, go for it.  However, if you keep a snake that is capable of killing you, then there is a problem.

 There are plenty of stories of people who kept a poisonous snake as a “pet” that ended up being killed by that pet.  There are all kinds of stories of people keeping exotic animals or vicious dogs that have had their “pets” turn on them and kill them.  Why am I talking about deadly pets?  These deadly pets serve as an illustration for us of the dangers of sin.  Maybe you have heard the term “pet sin” that is used to describe a besetting sin that people are not willing to let go.  What is your pet sin?  Maybe you have pet sins.  One of the first indicators that you are harboring a pet sin is that you don’t want to confess that sin or you deny that it is sin.  You maybe embarrassed by your sin, but you enjoy it too much to give it up.  You know it is wrong, you know it is dangerous, but it is what you want.  On the other hand you may simply deny that your sin is sin.  That is usually the case for those who are not struggling with the sin of pride or anger or other sinful attitudes.  So why is this important?  Well James 1:14 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully-grown brings forth death.”

 This sin thing is a life and death issue.  Just like a deadly pet that is apt to rise up and kill you, any sin that you have made peace with is even now in the process of killing you.  Sin promises fun and life for the moment, but it brings disaster and death every time.  It may not kill you physically, but it will definitely kill you spiritually and it could kill you emotionally as well.  For those who are in Christ Jesus, our pet sins become repugnant to us and we will seek to kill them because the Holy Spirit dwelling in us will be at work to change our heart’s affections and desires.  If that is not happening in your life, you have reason to be concerned for your salvation.  Yes, it is that important.  Confess your sins to the Lord and repent (turn away from them).  Will you ever be free of your sin in this life?  No, but as you mature in Christ, more and more you will be able to truly say, “I’m not harboring any pet sins.”  If you have a pet sin, don’t hide it, find someone you trust and share it.  The body of Christ is here so that we have brothers and sisters who can help bear our burdens, who will love us enough to hold us accountable, and who will walk along side us in the struggle.  



Pastor’s Pondering: January 2016

It is a new year and a new beginning in many ways.  I want to take this opportunity to thank Faith Church for so graciously allowing me to have a sabbatical this past fall. Like so many other things in life a sabbatical cannot be truly appreciated until you have a chance to experience it first hand.  Think about trying to describe eating strawberry ice cream to someone who has never had it and you’ll get a feel for what I’m talking about.  Now don’t start thinking a sabbatical is the “be all end all” because it is not.  However, a sabbatical can be very necessary.  I needed the rest; I didn’t realize how much I needed it until I started experiencing it.  I needed time away for reflection, time to think and to examine what it is I have been called to do.  I needed the time to ask myself some hard questions. 

 Now there are a couple of things I should address.  First let me address the idea that a sabbatical is some sort of signal that the pastor is leaving.  I don’t know what your experience has been, but let me assure the congregation that I have no intention of leaving.  I’ll be here, Lord willing, for a long time.  He has not released me from this call nor am I seeking to be released.  Until the Lord calls me elsewhere, I’m here and my prayer is that He will make me faithful and fruitful here at Faith Church.  That said; let me now say that I’m returning from sabbatical with an intention of making the most of this opportunity to start over, to start fresh, and that is exciting.  Now join me in praying for the patience to walk before I try to run.  What am I talking about?  I’m not talking about making any major changes.  I’m talking about focusing on those things that are most important. All of us who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by grace through faith are called to be disciples.  One of the best definitions of a disciple is seen in the motto of the Presbyterian Church in America: “Faithful to the Scriptures, True to the Reformed Faith, and obedient to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.”  That is who we are called to be in the PCA and by God’s grace that is who we will be.  That is my prayer; I invite you to join me in it. 

 As we enter 2016 there is much that needs to be done and much that needs to change.  You are a part of that need because you are a part of this branch of Christ’s visible church here in Frederick.  Just like me, there are things you need to do, and there are things about you that need to change.  Praise God!  He doesn’t leave us as He found us.  For His glory He is committed to transforming us into the image of His Son as the Holy Spirit applies the Gospel to our hearts and lives.  He has done exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ask or imagine and He will continue for that is in keeping with His immutable character.  He has saved us to the uttermost, let us shout it from the mountaintops!



Pastor’s Pondering: December 2015

Christmas time is probably my favorite time of year.  I tend to love every time of year for what it is, but if I had to pick a favorite it would have to be Christmas.  There are a number of things I love about it.  I love the joy of the season, the singing of carols, and the gathering of family.  It is a wonderful time of year when we celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus.  Christmas can also be a terribly hectic time when we get so busy and sidetracked with all the hustle and bustle that we tend to miss what it is all about.  So this year slow down now before it gets ahead of you.

 As we come into December each year it is time to think of Christmas, it is the Advent Season.  Celebrating the coming of Christ is such a wonderful time because we wouldn’t have Redemption if we didn’t have the Incarnation.  The love of God is made manifest in our flesh in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Should we celebrate the Incarnation?  Absolutely we should rejoice in the coming of our Lord!  Now here comes the tricky part; how do we celebrate the Incarnation in a way that truly honors the Lord?  The predominant culture tells us we need to celebrate in a certain way (read “commercialization” here), which really has nothing to do with Christ and the Incarnation.  Now I’m not saying these things to put anyone on a guilt trip.  If you know me, you know I love some of the non-Christian aspects of the season.  So, I have a few self-diagnostic questions to help me think in the right direction.  I share them with you here; maybe you will find them helpful as well. 

 1) What do I do to keep my focus on Christ in the midst of all the distractions?

2) Does my celebration of the Incarnation of Christ depend on decorations or lack thereof?

3) Does my celebration of the Incarnation of Christ begin at 4:00AM on “Black Friday”?

4) Is Advent a time of peace and joy for me?

5) Am I a conduit of God’s grace to my friends and family?

6) Do I tend to miss the celebration because I’m distracted by details of doing a cultural Christmas where Christ is not the real focus of what is going on?

 I’ve gotten to December 26th too many times having missed the blessing of sincerely celebrating the coming of the Lord Jesus.  Maybe you can relate to that as well.  That is something I don’t want for the flock at Faith Church.  As disciples of the Lord Jesus we should celebrate His coming well.  Like everything else in the Christian life, we need to take time to reflect on who we are and who the Lord is changing us to be.  This is the time of year to finish well and put these things before the Lord asking for His gracious hand upon us to keep the Incarnation forefront in our hearts and minds for His glory.  Praise God for loving us to such an extent that He sent His One and Only Son that we might be saved by His grace through the faith that He gives.  We of all people have reason to celebrate!