Second Sunday of Advent, a Tree of Blessing

Tomorrow, the church I serve will celebrate the second Sunday of Advent.  The second candle on the Advent wreath will be lit.  This candle symbolizes the second theme of Advent, love.  This candle is often called Bethlehem’s candle.

Micah 5:2   “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” NIV

Love incarnate was born in Bethlehem.  The love of God, the love that IS God, came to dwell with us.

We have a tradition at our church.  We put a Christmas tree and then have people bring ornaments that represent how God has blessed them this last year.  We have had pill bottles, mirror from a motorcycle that had crashed, pictures of children and grand children, origami cranes, and other interesting objects put up as decorations, symbols of God’s blessing, protection and love.

We used to decorate this tree on the first Sunday evening of Advent, but have decided it would be better to do so on the second Sunday morning.  The more I think about this move (it was done for attendance reasons) the more I believe it will be more meaningful to do during a time in which the theme is God’s love.  For it is only because of and through the love of God can we be blessed.

Dallas Willard Devotional

I have just received a copy of Dallas Willard’s new daily devotional, Hearing God through the Year.

It is an excellent tool for a person’s daily spiritual health.  The words Dr. Willard writes are not only lesson leading to a deeper grasp of our relationship with God, they remind us it is God who seeks us as well.

The daily devotions have the Scripture Dr. Willard brings to our attention, commentary, and then a suggestion to turn study into experience.  The time required depends more upon the time you have to give than time demanded.  The devotion could be read in less than five minutes.  The exercise recommended could  be done on the run or all day long.

I am going to enjoy this year long journey.

Approaching Advent

In just two Sundays, Advent begins.  It is time of remembrance and hope for the promise our Lord made to us.  Jesus said He would return and He will.

I am excited that an Advent hymn I wrote has been included in a new hymnal.  We will probably try and get this hymnal next year as a church.  This year we will just use the copies of it we have used for years.

We will light the candles and remember Jesus’ first advent while we remember the Scriptural promise as we await.

God is so good.

A Possibility of a Grant

I have been working on learning how to write a grant. I want to write for a grant for funds to help churches go green and utilize wind power technology to help cut down on the energy costs. I have come across what may be an excellent product to do just this.

http://www.swiftwindturbine.com/

Currently, you cannot get this particular system in Texas. I am hoping to find a way to do so. This particular product could be mounted on the steep roofs many churches have. it could also be used on a steeple without changing the symbolism of a steeple that much.

What I am hoping for is to get an organization like Texas Baptist Men or some other construction-oriented ministry to get trained to do the instillation and then have the churches pay for the cost out of the money they would save. Within a short period of time, once the money is paid back to help other churches, the church with the system would have more money to use for ministry. This could really be helpful to small churches.

If I am trying to get a grant to do this, why blog about this idea? Isn’t it a possibility that some else will get the grant? It does not matter who get the money if the goal is obtained. It is time we seek to build the Body rather than just our own nests.

Lectio Divina & the MBTI

On Wednesday nights, we are focusing on studying (and practicing) prayer.

I am certified to give and interpret the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I am using this tool to help members of the church I serve to understand the differences and commonalities of their personalities and how this relates to prayer.

Lectio Divina is perhaps the most widely used method of prayer in the history of the Church. One of the reasons it has been so popular is that it utilizes all of our type functions and attitudes.

Lectio uses the sensing function
Meditatio uses our thinking function
Oratio uses our feeling function
Contemplatio uses the intuition to bring the steps together in life application

It is a shame this tool is often overlooked in helping those of a Baptist heritage develop their prayer lives. It really is a powerful and effective method of developing a more active and fruitful prayer life.

Lectionary Study Group

I am part of a small group of local pastors who follow the Revised Common Lectionary. By using the lectionary, we have a common focus. Each member of the group brings their own theological background and particular heritage to the discussion. This makes for great ongoing education and promotes wonderful fellowship.

It is also interesting to find out that even though we serve in different denominations, we share many of the same problems and concerns.

May prayer for this group:

Lord,
Thank you for the body of Christ.
We are different, yet share a common desire;
to live out or calling
as faithful servants.
Amen

Wonderful Surprise

This Sunday was my 8th year anniversary with the church I serve.

They surprised me with a plaque, a cake, a special gift, and wonderful cards written by the children’s Sunday School class. I am blessed.

Also, what makes me feel even more blessed is the way God is rebuilding this church, member by member, family by family. We are baptizing more adults than children. We are gaining new members by salvation rather than transfers. People are becoming involved rather than watching.

It is a real joy to see God work and to know it is not by our efforts but by his Spirit we are blessed!

Fridays

God intends for us to have a day of rest.  The method of rest has been debated about as much as any religious topic.

Today is my rest.  I rest by doing things I need to do without the rush and tension of a work day.  The slow pace allows me time to breath and practice.   On Fridays I wear jeans.  On Friday I do chores at home.  On Friday I even rest by giving the dog a bath.   But also, on Fridays ,  my awareness of God working around me increases and I reflect on the reality of prayer reaching people!

The text for Sunday keeps me company.   Fridays are often a walk in the garden with the Word.  My feelings toward the final unveiling grow.  Even so, our Lord is building the confidence of his own.

My rest comes in the mundane yet important, in the slow, unhurried mindset of doing those things I enjoy without the pressure of a “hobby”.   My rest, I am always reminded, is on a battlefield.  Even in rest one must be ready.

God is in this rest.  He overtakes temptation and gives strength and focus to those he loves.

This is my Friday prayer:

Lord,
I ask you for rest.
Amen

Standing Watch

One of the lectionary readings for this week is Habakkuk 2:1-4.  This passage is about standing watch and willingly waiting for the promises of God to be fulfilled.  It is a wonderful passage to be recast into a personal prayer.

Lord of Heaven and Earth,
I will stand at my watchpost
and station myself prepared for conflict.
I watch and wait for Your direction
and for the response to my emotional wonderings.

Lord of Truth and Justice,
You have told me in Your Word,
You have proclaimed it loud and clear.
I am to await Your appointed time.
There will be an accounting
and a time for truth.
Help me to be patient, to trust
that You will vindicate and reward.
I need not fear the Proud,
Their own spirit will convict them.
Help me, Lord,
to live by faith
and to seek Your righteousness.
Amen.

Romans 7

There is a painful reality we live with.  It is the reality of our own repeated failures.

Try as we will our efforts are just that, our efforts.  Our efforts will always be limited by our finiteness.   Our efforts will, no matter how hard we try, still face the reality that we are sinners and we will sin.

Romans 7 is a special gift from God.  Romans 7 reminds us of nature we are born with and the grace which holds us in spite of the continual influence of our shadow, our dark side.

Praying through Romans 7:15-25 can be a powerful way to repent and return again to our dependence up Jesus for our justification.

Gracious Lord and forgiving God,
I do not know why I continue to defy You
and do those things I know are wrong.
I know they are wrong
because You have told me so
in Your word and in my heart.
I do know how easy it is for me
to give in to temptation
so I know that sin is still a powerful force
in my life.
I want to do what is right,
but time and time again I fail.
These failure weigh me down with guilt
and shame.
It is a war that is fought every moment
as long as I live in this present reality.
My heart,
stubborn as it is,
still cries out to You.
Thank You
My Savior, my Lord, my forgiving God
for loving me so much
and giving me the grace to continue
to seek You and the life You give.
Amen.