Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Family Christmas 2010


While Sharron and I were in Raleigh at the Christmas Eve Service at NRN
- Alyse had prepared the cookies and milk for Santa's visit later in the evening.

Soon after Sharron and I arrived - in the early morning hours of Christmas Day - we heard a noise from the family room and Santa was actually caught in front of the the family tree and the at the fireplace where the stockings were hung with care.

A little after 7:00am Alyse made sure everyone was awake and ready for the family events of Christmas Day. We began by gathering in the main bedroom and listening as Josh read the account of Jesus' birth from Luke Chapter 2. Then we sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus.

Now it was time to make our way tot he family room. Sharron and I led the way as Stephanie helped Josh with the girls - then she joined us with camera in hand.

There were sounds of glee by Alyse. She was almost overwhelmed by the gifts left by Santa and gifts from family that awaited her.

Since it was Breeley's very first Christmas morning - we were so glad when she paused to "pose" for this picture in front of her gifts.

Later in the day Danielle and her family joined us for breakfast and to share some gifts. I love this picture of Danielle holding her son Jordan and his niece Breeley.

And here is Jordan with his first family photo of Christmas 2010.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jesus: The Prince of Peace

Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!
Luke 2:14 (NKJV)

Today the snow fell in North Carolina. The first big snow on Christmas Day and the day after in NC since 1947. My teaching message today was to bring a series to a close by sharing about the peace of God. Here are some thoughts:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Over the past 4 weeks we’ve learned about the first 3 titles in Isaiah 9:6 – “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father.” You can check out my sermon outlines and podcast on our web site if you want to review what those titles mean as they are applied to Jesus. With that said, on Sunday following Christmas Day and this last Sunday of 2010 - we will focus on the meaning of the fourth title in Isaiah 9:6 – “Prince of Peace.”

Peace with God (spiritual) - "Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1 TEV).

Peace of God (emotional) - "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).

Peace with each other (relational) - "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9 KJV).

This reminds me of some of the words from the famous hymn “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” which we sang last Friday evening at the Christmas Eve Service.. Listen to some of the words from this hymn: “Hark! The Herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn king; peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.’”

With those words in your heart and mind, let God’s favor rest upon you and your homes, and make the Prince of Peace the center of your marriages and families – and then you will experience the peace of God that passes all human understanding.

"It makes no difference who you are or where you're from - if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open" (Acts 10:35 MSG).

A Prayer of Thanksgiving to God

"Because of Jesus, I now can live a life of joy, purpose, peace, and love."

God, I have so much joy right now, knowing that you decided to send Jesus to earth so I could be saved from a life of hopelessness and sin and be a peacemaker for you. I recognize in this moment that you saved my life when you sent Jesus, and that because of Jesus, I now can live a life of joy, purpose, peace, and love. I hold onto that hope today. When I look at the world around me, I see so many people who are struggling with stressful, meaningless, chaotic lives without loving, caring relationships. That was my life before you saved me. To say I am grateful doesn't begin to express what I am feeling. I just know I have a sense of meaning and peace I have never had before and could never get on my own strength - and I am full of amazing happiness.

I feel like celebrating right now, knowing that I am now on your side, instead of being at war with you. I know that with you I will never again be lost and alone. I am a new person today, and I recognize what I have just been given. I pray that, as I continue to grow spiritually every day, I will come to understand everything you have just accomplished in my life. By faith, I know I can trust you to be in my life today - and every day. I know I can count on you when things get tough, and knowing I will spend eternity in your presence gives me such hope!

Thank you, Jesus, for the peace you have given me. I pray you will use me as an instrument of that peace so I can help my family, friends, and the world in which I live. I feel so different right now, knowing that you and I are now OK, knowing I am on the road to a deeper understanding of what it means to live for an audience of one. I ask you to help me pray when I become upset so that I will have your peace in any situation I face - good or bad. Help me to get ready to help other people as others have already helped me. I want to make a difference in this world, and I want to help everyone I meet have the same hope I now have. I can't do this alone, so I ask you to make me a peacemaker.

Thank you for loving me. Thank you for saving me. And thank you for giving me a peace I have never known before. May everything I do, from this day on, reflect these same qualities as I tell others what you just did for me. I am full of anticipation at the kind of life I can now live.

I love you, Jesus!

Thanks to my friend Rick W. for some insights shared

Friday, December 24, 2010

The spirit of Christmas

On this Christmas Eve 2010 - I am making my final preparations for the Christmas Eve Worship Experience at NRN at 5:00pm. The service with feature a lessons and carols format with communion and candle lighting. I will bring a short devotional from Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23 "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us"). These words are truly trustworthy sayings.

Here is another thought to consider:

In 1977, Guideposts magazine reported a true story about a man hiking in the mountains. He was caught in a sudden snowstorm and quickly lost his way. Since he was not dressed for the cold weather, he knew that he needed to find shelter fast, or he would freeze to death. Despite all his efforts, time slipped by, and his hands and feet became numb. He knew his time was short now.

Suddenly, he literally tripped over another man who was almost frozen to death. The hiker had a hard decision to make. What should he do? Forget about the man and continue on, trying to save himself? Or should he try to help the stranger in the snow? He started to walk on, but he couldn't do it. He came back and threw off his wet gloves. He knelt beside the man. He began to talk to him while massaging the stranger's arms and legs.

Soon, the man in the snow began to respond, and together they were able to find help. The hiker was later told by the doctors that helping the man in the snow had saved his own life. For you see, the numbness in his hands had vanished while he was massaging the stranger's arms and legs. This man’ sacrificial love ignites somebody’s life. That is the spirit of Christmas. Jesus came to us to ignite our life eternal.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Advent Devotional Thought

The Presence of Jesus in This World

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
- Luke 1: 76-79

John the Baptist's father, Zechariah, saw the Advent of the coming Christ as a clarion call to peace: Jesus as our guide; the tender mercies of God breaking open like the dawn; real light made evident where things had once been grim and dark. Forgiveness of sins would counter the shadow of ongoing defeat. What a vision, and what an inspiration!

...A lot has been said about peace during this most turbulent past hundred years. There have been speeches, poetry, and folktales; countless hopes; beautiful dreams; and innumerable songs. But reality reveals a tragic contradiction. The more we talk about peace, the less tranquility and harmony we seem to actually witness.

The Home Front

My grandparents would tell stories about 1918, when millions of people stood in throngs on Armistice Day, both in London and around the world. It was a stirring sight, they said, and they cried passionately with all their hearts, "Never again!"

And they believed it. My grandmother Kemp's brother lied about his age, joining the British army at sixteen. He marched down to the docks with hundreds of other young men who also lied about their age, and he took the boat to Europe. Arthur Watts died in Belgium on Flanders Field, in the kind of wanton slaughter no one could bring themselves to believe the world would ever allow to happen again.

In my hometown of Folkestone, in the south of England, the hill the boys marched down on their way to the ships was later named the Road of Remembrance. But what did we all remember?

We remembered so poorly that, even though President Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to establish the League of Nations in 1919, the U.S. government neither ratified the charter nor joined the organization. We remembered so poorly that the world went at it again, just two decades later. We killed one another off by the tens of millions. As Europe hurtled toward war in 1938, Britain's prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, signed the Munich Agreement. He desperately wanted things to be different, and he declared "peace in our time." But it was more like whistling in the dark, a move that virtually guaranteed a more devastating confrontation. He did not understand that real peace has nothing to do with fear....

Be the Presence of Jesus

What are we really talking about, then, when we throw the word peace around so easily yet so earnestly? The dictionary defines peace most notably in the negative. It's a treaty to cease hostilities; it's the absence of mental stress or anxiety. Peace is harmonious relations; it's freedom from disputes; it's the prevailing state during the absence of war; it's the absence of armed conflict; or it's a kind of public quiet.

Most of us buy into this "absence of" model on a regular basis. Have you ever walked into your kitchen and announced, at the top of your lungs, "ALL I WANT AROUND HERE IS A LITTLE PEACE AND QUIET!!!"

Jesus is the Prince of Peace; we can find the antidote to our most common misconceptions in the person, the actions, and the message of Christ. His beautiful way challenges us to see peace not as a negative or neutral condition but as dynamic, purposeful, and vigorous.

The peace of God is not so much the absence of anything as it is the presence of so much. We can begin our weeklong emphasis on peace by inviting the tender mercies of our God to bring light into whatever darkness we find around us. We can be the presence of Jesus in this world. We can renew our commitment to God's way. We can make a difference.

Prayer: Gracious God, author of our lives, thank you for your active and purposeful love. Wash us with the refreshing waters of your peace. Use us to bring peace to our world. Challenge us to serve you faithfully. Amen

- A devotional thought from
In My Heart I Carry a Star: Stories for Advent by Derek Maul

Monday, December 13, 2010

An Awesome Day at NRN

Sunday - December 12, 2010 was an awesome day at NRN!

It was so wonderful to see the pre-school children from our Tot Town join us in the worship center to sing a few songs. Nothing quite says "Christmas" like hearing young children singing "Jingle Bells."

Later in the worship experience I was pleased to welcome a number of people into membership of NRN. Several of the new members were unable to attend last Sunday but we rejoice in the new 12 members.

A significant event of the day was the children's musical program presented by the elementary aged children. It was evident that many hours of preparation had gone into the presentation. The speaking parts were presented so well. The music was great!

The energy in the worship center grew as the children sang and then lifted their hands in praise and adoration of our great God!

You could not help but want to clap along with the children as they sang.

I thank God that I have the opportunity to pastor a church that is ethnically diverse. I have read several statistics that reveal the truth that the most segregated time in America is during the 11:00am hour on Sunday morning. That is not true at NRN. It is so refreshing to realize that children are "color blind" when it comes to friendship and Christian love. I feel that God is shaping our church to be a church that follows after the early church where all are welcomed to come an experience the love of God.

I wish to express my appreciation to Polly Barwick, Brad Pope, Sandy Floyd and all the workers and leaders in our ministry to children. It is exciting to see what is happening in our Children's Church each week as we provide graded programing and well staffed and well planned ministry each Sunday morning.
I continued in the current teaching series at the close of the worship experience. If you would like to hear that message - simply click HERE.
- Be patient - It takes a few moments to download and play.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thank you

Thank you. It’s simple, right? These two words seem so common place that they may have lost their impact. The real truth is that these two words can have serious impact.

I want to say thank you for the generosity shown last Sunday evening as we enjoyed the present ion from the improv group "The Unintenitials" and the delicious soup and salad bar prepared by Rodney Rhoades and this team of volunteers. The Toy Drive brought forth over 50 toys to be given to elementary aged children of families in need in our community.

It was a great sight to see the presents placed under the Christmas tree in the foyer of the church.

I want to say THANK YOU to all the people who prayed for our grand son - Jordan Bolder. Jordan underwent three surgical procedures on Saturday December 11th .

His recovery was remarkable. The reports of his progress is amazing.
He was in good spirits just a few hours after surgery.

Sharron and I brought our grand daughter Alyse home with us to Raleigh on Saturday. On Sunday morning we was asked if we wanted to sing with her friends from church. She jumped right in and had a great time. Thank you to our great volunteers in Tot Town for loving and caring for our children.

I am very thankful this evening. Today after church I had the chance to roll on the floor and play with Alyse. It brings joy to my heart to hear her laugh. It is simply wonderful to have her hug me and tell me she loves me. Being a Papa is a great gift from God.

I also feel loved by Alyse's sister Breeley. Do you think we love being together?

Friday, December 10, 2010

A cup of tea

Here is a picture of my grand daughter Alyse. I recently received an email with a little story that made me think this could possibly be a note from Alyse in the future.

One day, my mother and dad were out and my Papa was in charge of me.

I was maybe 2 1/2 years old. Someone had given me a little 'tea set' as a gift and it was one of my favorite toys. Papa was in the living room engrossed in the evening news when I brought him a little cup of 'tea', which was just water.

After several cups of tea and lots of praise for such yummy tea, my mom and dad came home. My Papa made them wait in the living room to watch me bring him a cup of tea, because it was 'just the cutest thing!'

Mom waited and, sure enough, here I came down the hall with a cup of tea for Papa and she watched him drink it up.

Then she said (as only a mother would know), "'Did it ever occur to you that the only place she can reach to get water is the toilet?"

Did this make you smile?
Thanks D.J.