Saturday, December 31, 2016

Whole-Hearted Devotion

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."  Colossians 3:23

Experts spend a lot of time trying to figure out what makes people successful. They often look at people's credentials, intelligence, education, and other factors. But more than anything else, passion is what makes the difference.
Take a look at four truths about passion and what it can do for you as a leader:
  1. Passion is the first step to achievement - Your desire determines your destiny.   The stronger your fire, the greater the desire and the greater the potential.
  2. Passion increases your willpower - There is no substitute for passion. It is fuel for the will. If you want anything badly enough, you can find the willpower to achieve it.
  3. Passion changes you - If you follow your passion, instead of others' perceptions,  you can't help but become a more dedicated, productive person. In the end, your passion will have more influence than your personality.
  4. Passion makes the impossible possible - Human beings are so made that whenever anything fires their soul, impossibilities vanish.
A fire in the heart lifts everything in your life. A leader with great passion and few skills always outperforms a leader with great skills and no passion.

Excerpt from The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader

C. S. Lewis once said, "The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is."

Tomorrow is January 1 2017.  We begin a New Year.  No better place to begin the morning of a New Year than in the LORD's House.  Join us at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church at 11:00am for our new teaching series.  See you there.  I promise - I plan to preach with passion! I plan to begin the New Year with passion!  

Friday, December 30, 2016

Leaders eat last - a concept of leadership.

As I approach the new year I have been reading and filling my mind with concepts for the new direction and forward movement of ministry for the church I am privileged to pastor. 

Here is a concept of leadership that I see vast applications for ministry.  

Thursday, December 29, 2016

If you need a season of laughter - you have found the right place today.

On September 21, 2016, at Convocation, North America's largest weekly gathering of Christian students, Comedian Tim Hawkins blessed the students with a gift of laughter.

This is a presentation of about 40 minutes.  If you need a season of laughter - you have found the right place today.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Prayer is a lifestyle

Prayer is in many ways a very easy thing to grasp. However, we can often have a limited view of what prayer actually is. As it turns out, prayer is more of a lifestyle than just words spoken before meals and bedtime. 

We are committed to help you develop your prayer life and experience a fresh new understanding of why prayer is so vitally important in your Christian walk.  Join us one week from today - January 4, 2017 at 7:00pm for a time of prayer at First Wesleyan Church - Gastonia!  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Preparing for a New Year - Questions for Sleepy or Nominal Christians

Questions you could ask to help someone consider whether or not they really know Christ.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Here comes the letdown - Christmas is over

Here comes the letdown Christmas is over
Here comes the meltdown, there goes the cheer
But before we have a breakdown, let us remember
The light of the world is still here

Here comes the letdown Christmas is over
Here comes the meltdown, there goes the cheer
But before we have a breakdown, let us remember
The light of the world is still here

Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here
The light of the world

Come January I'm ready for summer
The Super Bowl's over and I'll settle for spring
Sometimes we all need a change in the weather
But it won't change the reason we sing

Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here

The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world


So take down the stockings, take back the sweaters
Take down the lights and the star and the tree
But don't let this world take your joy after Christmas
Take joy to the world and just sing

Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here

Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here

The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016 - God is with us!

From our home to yours - 
   We wish you a 

The skies don't seem to be as dark as usual
The stars seem brighter than they've been before
Deep within I feel my soul a stirring
As though my hope has been restored
The shepherds say they've heard the voice of angels
Confirming rumors spread across the land
That a child protected well from Herod's anger
Is our father's son, and the son of man
Love is raining down on the world tonight
There's a presence here I can tell
God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel
He's the savior we have been praying for
In our humble hearts he will dwell
God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel
I feel compelled to tell all who will listen
That peace on earth is not so out of reach
If we can find grace, mercy and forgiveness
He has come to save, he is all of these
Love is raining down on the world tonight
There's a presence here I can tell
God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel
He's the savior we have been praying for
In our humble hearts he will dwell
God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel
Love is raining down on the world tonight
There's a presence here I can tell
God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel
He's the savior we have been praying for
In our humble hearts he will dwell
God is in us, God is for us, God is with us
You're the savior we have been praying for
In our humble hearts you will dwell
You are in us, you are for us
You are with us
Written by Wayne Kirkpatrick • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

What is more important than remembering "God is with us" on the Lord's Day?

Today is Christmas.  Our family tradition is simple and probably similar to many other families.  The young children wake up early with great anticipation. Personally, I set my alarm early to be up and ready to face the excitement of the morning.  The children are restricted to an area away from the Christmas Tree. 

 When everyone is awake and ready - we gather as a family to hear the reading of the Christmas narrative from the Gospel of Luke.  Then a short prayer of thanks to the Lord. Then a loud rendition of Happy Birthday to Jesus is sung!  

Now the adults make their way downstairs to be near the Christmas tree. The children wait (impatiently) upstairs.  With cameras and recorders ready - the children are invited to join us.  This begins a time of opening gifts, laughter and excitement. 

Following the time of giving and receiving presents, placing all the gift wrap in large black trash bags, and finally catching our breaths; we prepare for a morning breakfast.  

This is be how we celebrate this morning. Then - something unique....

This year Christmas is on a Sunday.  Many churches will not have worship today and encourage families to enjoy their time together.  I do not criticize that decision. 

I do feel that in our culture today the holiday of Christmas is taking on other meanings, but what is more important than remembering "God is with us" on the Lord's Day?  I will be preaching this morning at the 11:00am worship experience at First Wesleyan Church in Gastonia NC.  I invite you to join us if you live in the area. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve message at First Wesleyan Church

Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate. The widowed elder man looked on with satisfaction as his only child became an experienced art collector. The son's trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world.
As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His beloved son was missing in action. The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again. Within days, his fears were confirmed. The young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic. Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season – a season that he and his son had so looked forward to – would visit his house no longer.
On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home. As he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hand. He introduced himself to the man by saying, "I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you."
As the two began to talk, the solider told of how the man's son had told everyone of his not to mention his father's love of fine art. "I'm an artist," said the soldier, "and I want to give you this." As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the man's son. Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man's face in striking detail.
Overcome with emotion, the man thanked the soldier, promising to hang the picture above the fireplace.

A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task. True to his word, the painting went above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars of paintings. And then the man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given.
During the days and weeks that followed, the man realized that even though his son was no longer with him, the boy's life would live on because of those he had touched. He would soon learn that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet stilled his caring heart. As the stories of his son's gallantry continued to reach him, fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease the grief. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces for which museums around the world clamored.
He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received.
The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation. With the collector's passing, and his only son dead, those paintings would be sold at an auction. According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned on Christmas day, the day he had received his greatest gift. The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world's most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled this day; greatness would be achieved as many would claim "I have the greatest collection."
The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum's list. It was the painting of the man's son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent. "Who will open the bidding with $100?" he asked. Minutes passed. No one spoke. From the back of the room came, "Who cares about that painting? It's just a picture of his son. Let's forget it and go on to the good stuff." More voices echoed in agreement. "No, we have to sell this one first," replied the auctioneer. "Now, who will take the son?"
Finally, a friend of the old man spoke. "Will you take ten dollars for the painting? That's all I have. I knew the boy, so I'd like to have it." "I have ten dollars. Will anyone go higher?" called the auctioneer. After more silence, the auctioneer said, "Going once, going twice. Gone." The gavel fell. Cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, "Now we can get on with it and we can bid on these treasures!"
The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, "What do you mean it's over? We didn't come here for a picture of some old guy's son What about all of these paintings? There are millions of dollars of art here! I demand that you explain what's going on here!."
The auctioneer replied, "It's very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son..gets it all."
Puts things into perspective, doesn't it? Just as those art collectors discovered on that Christmas day, the message is still the same – the love of a Father – a Father whose greatest joy came from his son who went away and gave his life rescuing others. And because of that Father's love..whoever takes the Son gets it all.
This story powerfully illustrates the love of our Father in Heaven, our GOD, for us. He sacrificed his only Son so that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life. The is the greatest gift of love to each one of us.

Today is Saturday - December 24th - Christmas Eve 2016 Join us today at 3:00pm

Today is Saturday - December 24th -  Christmas Eve 2016

Usually on this day I post with great anticipation of what God has planned for us the following day as we gather on the Lord's Day!  Today is different.  Today is unique.

Today at 3:00pm we will gather for our Christmas Eve Worship at 3:00pm

We will gather to hear the Christmas Narrative and sing the Carols of Christmas.  Our worship will conclude with Communion and a beautiful Candlelight service as we sing our praise to the Lord. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Thought #5 Selfless love

Selfless Love -
           An expression of the true meaning of Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Thought #4 Reflection

A 2 minute reflection on the significance
       of Christmas in 2016. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas thought #3 Not as the world gives...

We can all struggle everyday with the pressures and frustrations that can make life a struggle, but if we make time for Jesus then all of these worldly problems are put into a new perspective.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Christmas thought #2 : Jesus is the LIGHT of the World!

Jesus is the LIGHT of the world!

Do you ever think about that?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Thought #1 Where is Love? and Where is the LIGHT and Hope?

It's been a rough year for many of us. At Christmas we ask, where is the love? And where is the light and the hope?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Today at First Wesleyan Church - Gastonia Let it Snow!

Here is the clip I shared with in my message today:

Here is the song shared by Pastor Graham and Kelsey Smith:



Saturday, December 17, 2016

Preparing for the Sunday before Christmas - The Spirit of Giving

Christmas celebrations are underway.  Family and friends are traveling and excitement fills the air as we experience lots of food and fun.  I have viewed on Facebook a young dad experience a "rite of passage" as he assembled his daughter's first bike.  I am aware of a young man rising early this morning to be with his mom and she finally reveals the family secret of her famous "sticky buns" for breakfast. 

Christmas is truly about family and drawing near to those whom you love and who love you. 

Tomorrow is the Sunday before Christmas - one of my favorite Sundays of the year. 

Here is a primer for the message God has place on my heart for tomorrow to
 “Celebrate the Spirit of Giving.”

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Culture of Consistent Outreach

Lesslie Newbigin, the late British theologian, missiologist and missionary, called many of us to realize that some of the greatest mission fields in the world were right outside our back door—in the formerly Christian and missionary sending countries of the West.

That has become all the more true since Newbigin first called us to engage our own peoples.

So how are we doing in the U.S.?

Clearly, our country is becoming increasingly unchurched. According to Barna’s latest study, and in line with studies by Mark Chaves, the trend in church attendance is as follows:

  • In the 1990s, 30 percent of the U.S. population was churchless.
  • In the 2000s, 33 percent of the population was churchless.
  • In the 2010s, 43 percent of the population was churchless.
For the purpose of this discussion, we define the unchurched as people who have not attended a church in the past six months, not including weddings and funerals. Presently, the U.S. has a population of about 324 million.

So the unchurched population is about 139 million. If the unchurched of the U.S. formed a country, it would be the 10th largest country in the world, between Mexico (129 million) and Russia (142 million).

And apparently it’s still growing.

Which also means: The church’s local mission is growing!

Reaching the Unchurched

We at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism have also conducted a national study on the churches that are reaching the unchurched. As this mission field grows, we need more churches to become better at this. 

Our study, in partnership with LifeWay Research, looked at 3,000 Protestant churches nationwide to discover what separates the best from the rest. 

What we found was that in the top 10 percent …

1.   The pastor models relating to and reaching the unchurched.

2.   The people catch it and imitate the pastor’s lifestyle of outreach.

3.   Prayers focus on reaching the unchurched.

4.   Non-Christians feel welcomed, accepted and valued, and stick around in much greater numbers.

5.   These churches are also much better at reaching the younger unchurched.

6.   As a result, the unchurched commit to Christ and remain in the church in much higher numbers and percentages.

What is important to note is that these are characteristics of the culture of these churches. They have a culture focused on reaching people, which moves from the senior leadership throughout the church. They are therefore seeing more people come to Christ.

This raises the critical issue: If you want to see more people coming to Christ, the answer is not just finding the silver-bullet program. It is changing the culture of your church into a community that reaches out consistently and across the board, that prays for people, and that welcomes outsiders and the unchurched into your midst.


Dr. Rick Richardson is a professor of evangelism and director of the M.A. in Evangelism and Leadership and Missional Church Movement programs at Wheaton College. He is also an evangelism and research fellow at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Simple Question Changed a Life...

They lived across the street from us in a suburban neighborhood of split-level homes. One night we heard a knock at the door. The three children, two boys and a girl, had been kicked out of their home by their stepfather.

My husband Wayne and I took them in for the night. I sensed fear in the 8-year-old girl and enormous anger in her older brothers. We took the kids to church regularly, a church plant we led in a local elementary school. There they were welcomed and loved. There were Sundays when their stepfather would not let them attend, but apart from that they were regular attendees.
One Sunday morning I assigned parts to children for our Christmas program. I selected the children for the manger scene and turned to 8-year-old Sherry. "I think you would play the part of Mary really well. Would you like to do that?" Sherry immediately said yes.
After rehearsals that are always chaotic, the program went without a hitch. Sherry rode with me to church. On the way back I told her how lovely she looked in her blue scarf and white robe and that she was the perfect Mary. I could feel her smile beside me. She was hesitant to exit my car that night, undoubtedly experiencing love, calm, and acceptance as a result of the play.
Fast forward 40 years. I connected with Sherry a couple years ago. Her life had taken some painful zigs and zags, even into her adult life. Yet she had never forgotten what she learned as a child in church.
At one point, she found her way back to the same church, now obviously an established one. Her testimony is powerful.
"Remember when you asked me to be Mary in the Christmas play?" Sherry asked. I nodded yes. "Well, that was the most significant thing that happened to me in my life. I felt so honored and valued that night and those feelings stayed with me the rest of my life even in the hard times. I would go back to that night and know I had worth."
I could not hold back the tears at her admission.
This Christmas season, any act of kindness, word of encouragement, spoken word, or recognition could impact someone like Sherry. All it takes is to listen to the Holy Spirit's prompting to say or do something that could change someone's life.

Source:  Jo Anne Lyon

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

You can count on God!

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV).

When everything’s changing around you, it’s important to remember that God is a consistent Father. He will never let you down. He can be counted on. He is reliable. He is worthy of trust.

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (NIV). God is an unchanging, consistent Father.

Human fathers are often unpredictable. I’ve talked to people who said, “Growing up, I never knew how my dad was going to treat me. I never knew if he was going to be silent or violent. I never knew whether he was going to hug me or slug me. I never knew if he was going to take me in or reject me.” Inconsistent fathers produce insecure children.

But God is not moody. Your heavenly Father is consistent. One of the things you can count on is that God always acts the same toward you.

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

We know that the world is changing faster than ever before. Alvin Toffler wrote a book called “Future Shock,” in which he said that in times of rapid change, people need what he calls islands of stability. When everything else is up in the air, you need something in your life that never changes as an anchor for your soul. You need an island of stability in order to handle the stress.

There’s only one problem: On this planet, nothing lasts. There’s only one thing you can count on that is not ever going to change: the consistent, caring love of your heavenly Father.

“My God is changeless in his love for me” (Psalm 59:10a TLB).

You can count on that

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Receive the Word of the Lord

Each day I take my Bible into my hands and read a portion of God's Word.  It always brings peace to my soul and relief to my heart. 

What if I did not have a copy of the Bible in my own language?

So many people have the Word of God in their own language but it is considered just another book and lays on a table or shelf unopened.  

Here is a dated video but shows the Kimyal people of Papua, Indonesia, celebrate the arrival of the New Testament in their own language.  I think this will bless you today! 

Blessed are those who hunger & thirst after Your righteousness for they shall be satisfied!

Monday, December 12, 2016

One of the Easiest Ways to Glorify God

“Our lives are shaped by small habits, and one of the best ones I can recommend
 is giving thanks to God as much as you can.”

Fanny Crosby wrote over 8,000 hymns, including “Praise Him, Praise Him”
 and “To God Be the Glory.”

Before he was 20, Charles Spurgeon had preached over 600 times. 
He read six books per week and could recall what he had read and locate it, 
even years later. He started a pastors’ college that trained nearly 900 students                
during his lifetime. He is estimated to have preached to 10,000,000 people 
(The Reformed Reader). He answered 500 letters a week.

John Wesley rose at 4 a.m., traveled constantly, usually on horseback, 
formed societies, commissioned preachers, oversaw charities and even 
wrote hymns, including “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

Did these folks ever cut their grass? Did they ever have to clean their gutters?

 And really—500 letters a week! I can barely keep up with a few emails each day.
And I don’t even want to talk about guys like John Piper, who has probably
written three books in the time it’s taken me to do this post.

Fortunately, we don’t have to be giants of the faith to glorify God.
It’s pretty simple actually.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me (PS 50.23).

What could be easier? We can glorify God by giving thanks.
But how does gratefulness honor the Lord?

Thankfulness shows we appreciate God’s costly mercy in saving us.

We were blind and dead in our sins, under God’s wrath, slaves of sin and Satan,
 without hope or God, and unable to save ourselves, when Jesus came down,
suffered brutal torture, holy wrath and death to rescue us and bring us to God.
How can we not be thankful?
If for no other reason other than the fact that he saved us, we should overflow
with gratitude all the days of our lives. Even if God never gave us another blessing
in this life, we should be eternally thankful.

Thankfulness shows we appreciate God’s abundant goodness and generosity.

By thanking God, we acknowledge that all we have comes from him, that he is the
giver of every good gift. That he is a generous God. That Christ is our fountain
of blessings, spiritual and material.

Thankfulness shows what a wonderful Master we serve.

Our local hospital is consistently voted one of the best places to work in Pa.,
a reflection of the CEO and president, who is a Christian. The cheerful service
of the folks at Indiana Regional Medical Center shows what a great boss they have.

When unbelievers see sour, dour, down-in-the-mouth Christians, they must wonder
what kind of Master they have who makes their lives so miserable. Believers should
be the most thankful, cheerful people on earth, so that everyone can see what
a wonderful Master we serve.

Even when we suffer painful trials we can thank Jesus for his death, love and mercy,
and that our sovereign Savior will ultimately bring glory and good from our trials.

Here is a tiny habit that has brought a lot of joy into my life: Almost every morning,
after spending a little time in God’s word, I take about 10 minutes and write things
I’m thankful for in a moleskin journal. I write them as a prayer to Jesus. I might
thank him for saving me or for his steadfast love, or I might thank him for helping
me in a meeting the day before or letting me spend time with my granddaughter.
Or I might thank Jesus for things as mundane as indoor plumbing or heat in my house.
I limit myself to the front of one page. I don’t try to be profound. I don’t worry
if I repeat myself from previous entries. I just want to cultivate the habit of
 thankfulness in my life.

Our lives are shaped by small habits, and one of the best ones I can recommend
is giving thanks to God as much as you can.

You will glorify Jesus and increase your joy.

Mark Altrogge is the original triple threat: singer, songwriter, pastor. 
He has been the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA 
for over 25 years, and is the author of many well known worship songs such
 as “I Stand In Awe”, and “In The Presence”. When not pastoring or writing
 songs, Mark can be found consuming vast quantities of coffee. Unfortunately, 
                        Mark is not particularly gifted in the area of athletics.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Preparing for the Heart of Christmas presentation

I am so excited about what God has planned for us tomorrow at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church!  For several months the choir has been in rehearsals for this year's Christmas Cantata.  A children's choir has been established to sing in the presentation. 

Tomorrow morning at 11:00am the presentation of The Heart of Christmas will be the featured ministry of the day. I am praying for the songs of Christmas to fill the air and the message of Christmas to touch every heart. It is going to be a great day to be in church!

Friday, December 9, 2016

3 Things to aim for in Advent

We’re in the middle of Advent. Liturgically, it’s the beginning of the new church year. Practically, it’s the countdown to Christmas. It’s a season of waiting, expectation, anticipation and heightened awareness that a special day is on the horizon.

Some churches make a big deal of Advent and some churches skip over the whole thing and just start singing Christmas carols before people have even had a chance to finish their left-over turkey. I’d like to make a case, in whatever church/denominational/liturgical setting you lead, that you try to aim for at least three things as you lead in Advent.

1. Build Anticipation

The countdown to Christmas taps into a longing in people’s hearts that they might not even be aware is there. The presenting longing is for a fun party, or for some days off, or for time with family or opening presents, but the underlying longing in all of us is to be rescued. We all want a Savior. If you think I’m crazy just watch people’s faces at political rallies. It’s nuts.

At this time of year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the weeks the church has called “Advent” (for “arriving” or “coming”) for centuries, we’re crazy if we ignore the anticipation that everyone is experiencing and attempt to skip over it and jump to Christmas too soon.

Wait until the last Sunday before Christmas, or even Christmas Eve, to sing Christmas songs. Sing Advent hymns, not Christmas carols. Light the Advent candles. Pray Advent prayers. Let the prophesies of the coming of Christ be read in your services. Don’t decorate your sanctuary too soon. Intentionally hold off on bringing Christmas into things too early in the season. 

Build anticipation, even to the point of making people ask you why you’re waiting so long. The point is to tap into people’s anticipation and to remind them that the underlying longing is for a Savior. It will make Christmas (and Christmas carols) all the more sweet when you finally get there.

2. Express Lament

A few nights ago, I read a tragic story in The Washington Post about a murder/suicide about an hour’s drive from my house that claimed the life of a young mother and her infant while the 5-year-old daughter took a bath upstairs. She didn’t know anything was wrong until her Mom didn’t come to get her out of the bath, at which point she got herself dressed and then made the terrible discovery downstairs.

This kind of story makes me unspeakably sad. And angry. And confronted by the evil, sinful brokenness that has infected this world. And I don’t know what else to pray besides “Jesus, please come back quickly.”

We all read news stories like that, or hear of yet another case of incurable cancer, or read of more threats of war, or see the villages in the Philippines completely wiped off the map in the latest typhoon, and deep inside of us we know it’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

Advent is a time when we can (and should) sing songs and pray prayers of lament, crying out to Jesus to come back, and to come back soon, and to “make the sad things come untrue.” If we skip past Advent without giving our people an opportunity to express these cries, we do them a disservice.

Let your people lament. And lament in hope. Because one day Jesus came as a baby, and he’ll one day come again as King.

3. Give People Space to Be Still

Christmas parties, travel, buying presents, wrapping presents, buying a tree, decorating the house, having a good time, baking cookies, hanging lights outside your house, raking leaves, keeping everyone happy, sweeping up broken ornaments, watering the tree, sending out Christmas cards, getting a family picture taken, baking the pie, trying not to gain 20 pounds and, oh that’s right, trying to make it to church too.

The weeks leading up to Christmas are the most insane weeks of the people in your congregation’s whole year. We all feel it. I especially felt it last year as Catherine and I prepared to welcome baby girl number three, and release two new albums (great Christmas present idea!), and manage the Andrew Peterson concert two days after our new baby came, and the list goes on. All of us have our own long lists this time of year.

Wouldn’t it be a great gift to our people on Sunday mornings if we gave them some space to be still? Between songs. During a song. Between readings. After the message. During communion. Whenever.

Find some time in your services to intentionally leave some space for people to be still. Even just 30 seconds can be powerful. Just say something like: “This morning we’re aware that all of us are experiencing the usual pre-Christmas busyness and pressure and anxiety. We’re just going to take a few moments to pause, and be still, and enjoy God’s presence, and before we sing this next song let’s allow the Holy Spirit to help us to slow down. To rest. To remember our need for a Savior.” … Something like that. It will bless people.

So whether you’re in a really liturgical church or a really informal church, I’d encourage you to use the season of Advent to help your congregation anticipate the coming of Christ and the coming of Christmas, to lament all the brokenness and sadness that we long for him to redeem, and to see Sunday mornings as opportunities to rest in the grace and love of God that’s displayed in the cradle, on the cross, in the empty tomb and on the occupied Throne. 

Source:  Jamie Brown

Jamie Brown is the Director of Worship and Arts at Truro Anglican Church in Fairfax, VA. Before coming to Truro, he served at The Falls Church Anglican for ten years. Born into a ministry family and leading worship since the age of twelve, Jamie is devoted to helping worship leaders lead well and seeing congregations engaged in Spirit-filled, Jesus-centered worship. He’s currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Religion through Reformed Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Catherine, have three little girls. Jamie regularly blogs at and has released three worship albums: “A Thousand Amens,” “We Will Proclaim,” and “For Our Salvation.”

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas - The God who is - who was and who is to come.

The First Time Jesus Came
He came veiled in the form of a child.
A star marked His arrival.
Wise men brought Him gifts.
There was no room for Him.
Only a few attended His arrival.

The Next Time Jesus Comes
He will be recognized by all.
Heaven will be lit by His glory.
He will bring rewards for His own.
The world won’t be able to contain His glory.
Every eye shall see Him.
He will come as Sovereign King and Lord of all.

– John F. MacArthur Jr.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A date which shall live in infamy. A Pearl Harbor Remembrance

The 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor is an opportunity to honor the sacrifice and dedication of our "Greatest Generation" both civilian and military, the endured incredible sacrifices on December 7, 1941, the "date which will live in infamy." It would thrust America into World War II, changing Hawaii and America forever and continues to define their place in the world. The events of that date triggered our resolve as a nation, our can-do attitude and resourcefulness and an unmatched commitment to the defense of freedom.

At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.
With diplomatic negotiations with Japan breaking down, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew that an imminent Japanese attack was probable, but nothing had been done to increase security at the important naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was Sunday morning, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off base. At 7:02 a.m., two radar operators spotted large groups of aircraft in flight toward the island from the north, but, with a flight of B-17s expected from the United States at the time, they were told to sound no alarm. Thus, the Japanese air assault came as a devastating surprise to the naval base.
Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while valiantly attempting to repulse the attack. Japan’s losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men. Fortunately for the United States, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers. These giant aircraft carriers would have their revenge against Japan six months later at the Battle of Midway, reversing the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy in a spectacular victory.
The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” After a brief and forceful speech, he asked Congress to approve a resolution recognizing the state of war between the United States and Japan. The Senate voted for war against Japan by 82 to 0, and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. The sole dissenter was Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a devout pacifist who had also cast a dissenting vote against the U.S. entrance into World War I. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and the U.S. government responded in kind.
The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort spanned four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives.