March 21, 2019
Good morning, Church!
Kelly and I and the kids have the chance to visit with her grandmother in Pennsylvania for a few days this week. She had suffered a series of strokes several moths ago and has lost much mobility in her right side as well as the ability to speak, except for some monosyllabic sound she may repeat again and again. As you can imagine, it's very frustrating for her not to be able to communicate like she wants to, especially since she can still understand perfectly well what we are saying to her.
But in the midst of the frustration, we took out a pretty old edition of the Nazarene hymnal which she keeps in her piano bench, and Kelly and I began to sing a few of the songs that we knew. To our surprise, Grammie Grace started articulating the words along with us!
Apparently, anyone who regularly works with stroke victims knows this phenomenon--the brain had previously created pathways well-forged enough by her experience with the Church that the songs, too, were deep enough in her brain to sing again. And now by singing the familiar songs she can help her brain create new pathways toward her regular speech abilities.
It makes me think of that verse in Romans 12 which says, "Don't be conformed any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds." I believed this before but I'm even more convinced of it now: God's grace has the ability to change us, through and through. Not just our hearts or what we think about Him in our minds, but even our physiology, the very synapses of our brains are changed by familiarity with Him, with His Church, with His Word.
This Lent, as we seek to be made into better disciples of Jesus, I hope that we'd pray also for the Spirit to change us so deeply that even the very worst things in life--our sicknesses, our discouragements at work, even something like trauma--would not keep us from praising our King!
"Artist of souls, You sculpted a people for Yourself out of the rocks of wilderness and fasting. Help us as we take up Your invitation to prayer and simplicity,that the discipline of these forty days may sharpen our hunger for the feast of Your holy friendship, and whet our thirst for the living water You offer through Jesus the King. Amen!"
Grace and Peace,
February 26, 2019
The past couple weeks on Sunday mornings we've spent in "the low place" of Jesus' Sermon in the Plain where he's been painting a new vision for a different kind of reality for us, his disciples. It's one in which the poor, and hungry, and weeping, and those who are persecuted are actually considered blessed! And Jesus has invited us into a way of being that requires we give without expecting anything in return and even to love our enemies!
But this next Sunday we're going to move on up from "the level place" to the top of a mountain where Jesus will be transfigured. It's a very special Sunday in our worshiping life together and it will conclude this Season after the Epiphany of Jesus.
So next Wednesday, then, begins a new kind of journey for us all; it's called Lent. And it's a sacred time for us to re-learn in some ways what it means to be God's holy people in the world. Just as the Hebrews were re-trained in the desert 40 years on how to operate as God's people after being slaves to Egypt for so many generations, so will we have the opportunity to practice for 40 days some sacred disciplines which the Spirit has gifted to the Church for millennia, namely prayer and fasting. And it all starts on Ash Wednesday.
Join us for a special service on Wednesday, March 6th at 6:30p in order to open ourselves up to the Spirit's movement in, among, and through us for this next Season of life together!
Prepare for worship on Sunday with me by reading through the following passages of Scripture:
Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-43a
Here's a prayer offered by our District Superintendent this week:
My God, I desire to love thee perfectly,
With all my heart which thou madest for thyself
With all my mind, which only thou canst satisfy
With all my soul, which feign would soar to thee.
With all my strength, my feeble strength, which shrinks before
So great a task and yet can choose naught else but spend itself
In loving thee.
Claim thou my heart,
Fill thou my mind,
Uplift my soul and
Reinforce my strength,
That when I fail thou mayest succeed in me
And make me love thee perfectly.
From Love Is My Meaning by Elizabeth Basset
December 31, 2018
Back in 1755, John Wesley celebrated his first Covenant Renewal service, commonly observed on New Year's Eve or Day. It was an opportunity for folks to reflect on their lives, repent, and re-consecrate themselves to service unto the Lord. Since he's considered one of the "Fathers of Our Faith" in the Church of the Nazarene, I share with you just a portion of the Service:
O God, our Covenant Friend,
you have been gracious to us through all the years of our lives.
We thank you for your loving care,
which has filled our days and brought us to this time and place.
You have given us life and reason,
and set us in a world filled with your glory.
You have comforted us with family and friends,
and ministered to us through the hands of our sisters and brothers.
You have filled our hearts with a hunger after you,
and have given us your peace.
You have redeemed us, and called us to a high calling in Christ Jesus.
You have given us a place in the fellowship of your Spirit
and the witness of your Church.
You have been our light in darkness
and a rock of strength in adversity and temptation.
You have been the very Spirit of joy in our joys
and the all–sufficient reward in all our labors.
You remembered us when we forgot you.
You followed us even when we tried to flee from you.
You met us with forgiveness when we returned to you.
For all your patience and overflowing grace.
And now, a prayer:
"Bright Morning Star, Your light has come, and the birth of Jesus has overwhelmed us with joy. Like the magi of long ago, may we be drawn to You and offer You such gifts as we are able. Amen!" (Borrowed from the Revised Common Lectionary)
Grace and Peace and Happy New Year!
December 11, 2018
Peace-full Tuesday to you!
As we continue through this season of Advent, be in prayer with me this week:
"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the great road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone." (A Thrill of Hope devotional)
The scriptures for this coming Sunday are:Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18
Another Christmas Concert!?This Sunday, December 16th at 6p at the KC First Church of the Nazarene(11811 State Line Rd., KC MO 64114). If you couldn't make it to our performance, then you won't want to miss this one! A special offering will be collected to benefit the Kansas City Rescue Mission. There will be a cookie reception to follow.
Grace and Peace until we're together again!
New Horizons Church
December 4, 2018
We’re finally into the first week of Advent, the first week of preparations for Christmas, the first week of waiting. And I hope that yours will be a holy waiting as, together, we not only live into the story of Israel, but also help each other to see where God’s Presence is already breaking in among us.
I mentioned a few of these breakthroughs in my sermon just this past weekend (attached); perhaps you’d be inclined to partner financially what God seems to be up to through these ministries by giving toward Nazarene Compassionate Ministries here.
Keep in mind, also, that this coming Saturday the 8th will be the next time our church formally serves at Heart n’ Hand (you can always schedule another time during the week to volunteer).
The scriptures for this coming Sunday are:
Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 1:68-79; Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6
This Sunday, December 9th at 6p New Horizons will partner with Kansas City First Church to perform a special Christmas celebration called God Speaking. Why not consider inviting a neighbor or coworker to come along and get in the Spirit with you? There will be a cookie reception to follow. Also, prepare to give toward an offering for our partners at Heart n' Hand during the concert.
And now, our prayer for this week:
"God of our waiting time, with the holy ones who have gone before us, we long once more for the coming of Jesus, your Word made flesh. Utter your Word anew in our world at once beautiful and wounded. Open our hearts to listen for your voice as the human family cries out for justice and hungers for meaning. Wait with us, accompany us, work and pray through us for the unfolding of your promise, for the fullness of your dream this Advent and always." -Sister Christine Koellhoffer
Blessings on your Advent preparations,
October 30, 2018
What do Jesus, his flesh, and Halloween all have in common?
"Halloween’s such a weird event! And what in the world could it possibly have to do with Jesus…unless you’re planning to wear a really terrible, long brown wig and a goatee with a blue sash?"
Well, the truth is that Halloween is one of those days Christians used to help celebrate another important holiday of the Church. But since its origins, the holy day has been co-opted by our culture and manipulated into something completely different…and spooky. In fact, the word “Halloween” is a smooshing-together of a few words—All Hallows’ Eve, or to put it in more common language, the night before All Saints’ Day.
This is a very important holiday in the life of the timeless and catholic, or universal, Church because it’s a holiday during which we remember all those Christians who have died before us. We mention this in our Creed every week: “We believe in the communion of saints!” Of course, there are the saints proper, like Mother Theresa or St. Patrick. But there are also the saints, or “holy people,” you know by other names—maybe your grandmother or a really good friend who modeled Christ for you in significant ways. So, historically on the night before All Saints Day, Christians would dress up as their favorite saint and walk the streets hunting for small treats from their neighbors and friends. (I wonder how I’d dress up like my wife’s grandfather… Maybe I should try to grow a mustache and dye it sun-glaring white!)
So what about Jesus’ flesh?
One of the most significant things we believe about God is that He humbled Himself and chose to become vulnerable for our sake by entering the world as a human baby in the person of Jesus. The million dollar word we use to describe God’s act of putting on human flesh like this is “incarnation.” It comes from the Latin, in carne, which literally means, “in the flesh.” Jesus put on flesh and came to us where we are so that he could redeem us and the rest of creation through his loving-faithfulness to God who would then vindicate His Son by raising Jesus from the dead.
As Christians, we strive with the help of the Holy Spirit to become more and more like Jesus. And as you know, Jesus was always loving and reaching out and extending his grace to whomever needed it. It’s kind of like Jesus wasn’t “incarnated” just once. Rather, over and over again Jesus would leave his comfort zone and go out to those who desperately needed to know God. These were often people whom others thought to be too unclean or too sinful or too dangerous or, at least, not very fun, to be around. So in reality, being in relationship with these people actually cost Jesus something—ultimately his life. Yet, he loved these people because he was embodying the character of the God he served.
This Halloween we have the opportunity to be “incarnational” like Jesus and share grace with our neighbors in life-giving ways. We’re going to meet them in our parking lot and love them as Jesus does (as well as feed them candy and hot dogs!) for the sake of embodying the character of the God we serve. Let’s all get excited as the Body (or Flesh) of Christ located here in West Belton and provide a safe way for kids in this community to have fun on Halloween as they walk from car trunk to car trunk, splurging on gifts of candy!
October 16, 2018
Good Day, Church!
It occurred to me today how good I've got it. I'm not sick. I've got work to do that feels meaningful and fulfilling. I'm not worried about where my next meal is coming from. I have a house that's heated and where my kids will be able to play their toys in safety before the night's out. I have friends who care about me. A wife who puts up with me. A car that's running today. Dreams for the weekend (is it too early to dream about the weekend?). And a peace in my heart.
So often, and usually when things are going relatively well, I fail to give thanks to God for His many blessings to me, His mercies which are renewed every morning. And usually without an attitude of gratitude, we're also less likely to share those blessings with others.
Can I encourage you today to take just a moment and list out in your mind (or even on some paper!) some of the ways God has blessed you today. Practice with me the discipline of "thankfulness." And then join me, also, in wondering just how I might share those good things with other people.
Speaking of which--
Perhaps you'd feel so compelled by the love of God to consider giving toward hurricane relief today. I know that while I may not feel worried about the state of my home or the safety of my kids, there are many other people who are. Our denomination makes giving easy, and you can feel confident knowing that it's other Nazarene churches on the front lines who are administering our gifts of gratitude for the sake of others who need it most. Learn more here.
Please prepare with me for worship this coming weekend by reading through the following passages of Scripture:
Isa. 53:4-12; Ps. 91:9-16; Heb. 5:1-10; Mk. 10:35-45
"Most High, your Anointed One offered himself freely as witness against our violence, our acts of oppression, and our sin. As you delighted to call him your Son, give us the courage to bring you equal delight by our willingness to drink the cup of sacrifice on behalf or our sisters and brothers, and, with them, offer you praise unceasing and lives transformed as true heirs of your grace-filled realm. Amen."
(Revised Common Lectionary)
Grace and Peace!
New Horizons Church
October 9, 2018
I was reading an article in Holiness Today*--an encouraging reminder that in whatever tasks we give ourselves to today (and even in the tasks that may be foisted upon us!), in whatever we do, we can do them as an expression of love and service to our Lord Jesus (Col. 3:23-24). I hope you'll take pride in your work this week, in your errands, in your meal preparations, in your conversations with friends and co-workers. All of these things, everything can and should bear witness to the relationship we have with Jesus.
Please prepare with me for worship next Sunday by reading through the following passages of scripture:
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; Psalm 90:12-17; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31
How are your "Vineyard" prayers going?
Remember those Vineyard Cards I passed out the month of August? Has the Spirit opened any doors for you to disciple two others or introduce three other people to the Gospel? Keep me posted, and why not let me know whom you're praying for so that I can help you pray too?
Heart n' Hand, this coming Saturday the 13th, anytime from 10a - 1p
Don't forget to block out a little time this month to help serve our community through Heart n' Hand. Perhaps this could be a convenient way to begin discipling one of those on your Vineyard Card--invite them to breakfast beforehand and then to join you in service afterward together.
Church clean-out day, Saturday the 20th
Mark your calendars now to join us for a few hours of work at the church. The goal is to get rid of as many things as possible, things we haven't used or don't need. This will create space for future ministry to occur and help us to determine where our building might need some more tender love and care.
Hear our prayers, God of power, and through the ministry of your Son
free us from the grip of the tomb, that we may desire you as the fullness of life
and proclaim your saving deeds to all the world. Amen!
Grace and Peace,
*Holiness Today, God in the Workplace: A Theology of Work, May/June 2018
September 17, 2018
This coming Sunday the 23rd is a special one because it’s the date in the Church of the Nazarene when we corporately acknowledge the plight of the trafficked and human slavery around the world.
What is human trafficking?
HUMAN TRAFFICKING IS …
It’s the recruitment or movement of a person, by force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of profiting from the exploitation of that person. Individuals are bought and sold and forced into commercial sexual
exploitation or forced labor.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING IS …
It’s not just something that happens “over there.” It affects every country in the world in some way, and it can trap anyone—male or female, child or adult, rich or poor. Its victims cross racial, ethnic, geographic, economic, and educational backgrounds.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING IS …
It’s a criminal system based on greed, control, and power. In whatever shape or form, all people dream of a hopeful future, whether it’s to be loved, to be seen, to belong, or to find a better future for their families. Traffickers exploit those desires among those who are most vulnerable and makes promises that are deceptive.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING IS …
It’s often difficult to see or acknowledge. It’s sometimes hard to talk about. Yet it’s something that as a church we have to address.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING IS …
It’s something that dehumanizes people, turning them into objects and commodities. As God’s people, we care about the issue of human trafficking because we believe that every person is made in God’s image and is, therefore, valuable and worthy of dignity. Our hope is to see people
restored into the fullness of who God created them to be.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING IS …
It’s something too big to stop on our own. We need to come together with other churches, organizations, businesses, and community leaders to fight human trafficking, and above all, we turn to God asking Him to work through the church to stop human trafficking.
Things to which we can look forward this weekend:
- stories about God redeeming the suffering of modern-day slaves
- rehearsing the unique mission of Jesus and his followers to liberate those caught up in the Powers of Evil
- ways that we can respond to this crisis today!
So, in preparation for our special service this Sunday, I’m going to be emailing guided prayers we can all be focusing on each day this week:
Pray for those whose voices are not heard: the defenseless, the imprisoned, and the broken. Pray for the rescue and restoration of those who are enslaved both at home and around the globe. (Isaiah 42:22, Leviticus 19:29, Exodus 20:14)
Grace and Peace!
May 3, 2018
I hope that you're all still here after the winds last night in Belton! Seeing all the branches and broken limbs this morning reminds me just how powerful creation is. And, yet, we believe that Jesus was able to calm the storm. It's Jesus who deserves our awe and our praise, and I pray that he will remind you of his powerful Presence, the Holy Spirit, in a special way today!
As I look forward to worshiping with each of you this weekend, I reflect back on Jesus' words last Sunday in his metaphor of the vine (Jn. 15:1-8). I think it’s important we appreciate that a vine doesn’t exist with just one branch, but with many branches—it’s a community! And so to abide in Jesus is also to abide in the rest of his Body, the Church. It’s not possible to abide in Jesus all by yourself—we need each other! And so I count it a blessing to be gathered with you all on Sundays in order to be nurtured as branches rooted in the True Vine of Jesus.
April 4, 2018
Greetings, Church Family
He is risen!
We'll continue to bask in the glory of the resurrection story for about the next seven weeks as we look to Pentecost. I was so encouraged this past Sunday and am excited to experience how God's Resurrection Spirit will continue to help us live as His witnesses in the world. So, my prayer for us in these sacred days is that God would resurrect, inspire, and embolden us to live out our Easter hope in ways that mark us as a distinct kind of community, which offers life to the rest of our hurting world. Would you please pray with me?
March 24, 2018
Holy Saturday is traditionally the darkest day in the Church calendar--the day when Jesus lie dead in a tomb. Join us at the Belton New Horizons Church of the Nazarene for a time of worship and reflection as we ponder the depths of God's sacrifice as well as the extraordinary grace this day offers to our own suffering and the groanings of the rest of creation. Service begins March 31st at 7p. Childcare will be provided (birth - 5yrs; please pre-register your child by contacting Pastor Jay Wilson email@example.com).
March 20, 2018
Good Evening Church!
I pray that the beginning of your weeks has been an opportunity to express thanks to God--thanks for your health, your co-workers, friends, family, rain, food, etc. This coming weekend on Palm Sunday we'll recite with the Psalmist, "Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever!" Why not take stock, in the meantime, of things for which you're grateful, and then let's plan to encourage the rest of the congregation with our praises!
Read through the following passages of Scripture to be better prepared to encounter God in worship this weekend:
Isa. 50:4-9a; Ps. 118:1-2, 19-29; Philipp. 2:5-11; Mk. 11:1-11
For those not feeling as ready to lift their voices with thanksgiving but who are feeling more sad or otherwise these days, a short word about our coming Holy Week services:
These special services are an opportunity for us to enter more deeply into the suffering of Jesus. And just like if we were to skip ahead to read the ending of a novel--that would spoil the excitement leading up to the book's climax, so does our "skipping ahead" through Holy Week diminish the excitement intended for Easter Sunday and the Season to follow. Of course, that's part of the point of this past Lenten Season--to build up to and prepare for the resurrection of Christ by concentrating on his cross. But Holy Week, in particular, is intended to bring us low into the suffering and death of Jesus so that we might better appreciate his resurrection and what that means for us and the rest of the cosmos. I heard it said this way, "Resurrection doesn't matter unless death matters. And we typically shy away from death..."
Holy Week, however, invites us into the suffering of Jesus in a way that the rest of the world fails to recognize. Many are already celebrating what they think the Easter holiday is, but the Church has a much better appreciation for the greatest day of the year because we have been intentional about living into the whole story of Jesus. May this Holy Week prove to be a fruitful blessing for each of us.
The special services of Holy Week
Sunday, the 25th "Palm Sunday" 11a at New Horizons
Thursday, the 29th "Maundy/Commandment Thursday" 7p at New Horizons
Friday, the 30th "Good Friday" 7p at KCFirst
Saturday, the 31st "Holy Saturday" 7p at New Horizons
Easter Sunday, April 1st--breakfast at 10a, worship at 11a at New Horizons
"God of wilderness and water, your Son was baptized and tempted as we are. Guide us through this season, that we may not avoid struggle, but open ourselves to blessing, through the cleansing depths of repentance and the heaven-rending words of the Spirit. Amen!"
Grace and Peace to you!
February 28, 2018
We're about to charge through the midpoint of the week, and I hope that, wherever you find yourself today, you will intentionally consider what it might look like to be an embodiment of "cross-living." (In case you missed my sermon last Sunday, you can find the manuscript attached below.) As those who've determined to follow Jesus and strive to be like him, self-denial and service for the sake of others is a trademark of our discipleship. And so I want to encourage you today, that you might know you're not the only one trying to bear the cross with Jesus; the rest of God's Church is trying to do the same!
Part of bearing our cross sometimes means that we alter even the ways that we interact with others with whom we may disagree. (As always,) there seems to be a lot going on in our "current events" these days, and Christians may differ on how they interpret we should respond. But love is always a necessary aspect in our interactions with others. Check out what our interim District Superintendent and retired General Superintendent, Jesse Middendorf, had to say this week:
"In recent months I have been reflecting on our work as a holiness church. Our conviction is that God has provided grace sufficient to not only redeem from the sin and guilt that separates us from God, but that God has provided grace to defeat the power of sin in the life of the believer. We are not made 'flawless,' but by an utter surrender of our elves to the will and purposes of God, we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, may live a life of increasing likeness to Jesus Christ. We speak of it as 'entire sanctification.'
We say that this is an experience of “perfect love.” My concern is that we not forget that perfect love means that we must find ways to bridge divides that can so easily occur in local churches, in communities, in our culture at large. When we participate in the angry and bitter accusations thrown at those we oppose, we dislike, or that we fear, we deny the very heart of “holiness.”
Holiness at its most basic expression is love. Even those whose values we question must not become the objects of bitterness, shaming, shunning, and hateful speech. Even Jesus, as life was ebbing from his bruised and broken body, pleaded with the Father to forgive those who crucified him.
We do not have to agree with people to love them. In fact, the very ones most in need of God’s grace are the ones to whom we should express the most profound and visible expressions of God’s love.
Love like that will do more to break down the resistance to God’s grace than all our condemnations and accusations.
Let’s live true to our own beliefs and doctrines. Words on a page in our MANUAL are useless to change the world. Life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit can."
Prepare for worship by reading through these Scriptures:
Ex. 20:1-17; Ps. 19; 1 Cor. 1:18-25; Jn. 2:13-22
Remember that tonight teens are welcome to our home for "Souper Wednesdays." We're going to eat soup, discuss the Scriptures and my recent sermon, and play some games. 6p - 7:30p. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like more information.
Grace and Peace be with each of you today and the rest of this week until we're brought together again!
January 2, 2018
Greetings, Church Family
We've entered a new year! And while "church time" actually starts new the first Sunday of Advent, it's usually this time of the year in our civic calendars when we reflect on the past and look forward to what could be in the coming twelve months. I was directed by our retired General Superintendent, Jesse Middendorf, this morning that
"as we face the possibilities a new year provides us, it is a good time to be reminded that our God is a God of new things. We are not locked in to the old things done, the old battles and struggles that may have defined the past year. This is a time for renewed hope, a recognition that the Season of Christmas has awakened new awareness that God has entered into our world, has rearranged the realities that surround us... But because of this Season of Epiphany (of the appearance of our Messiah), we are captured by the words of Revelation 11:15, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.'"
This weekend in our worship together we'll be investigating a little more how life has, indeed, changed now because of Christmas and because of the revealing of the Son this coming Saturday on the "Epiphany." Would you join me in preparing for Sunday's service by, at least, reading through the following passages of scripture? (Note: I listed the incorrect passages in your bulletins last Sunday.)
Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11
Coming down the pike
Serve at Heart n' Hand, Saturday the 13th any time from 10a - 1p
Prayer Service for Christian Unity at St. Sabina's, Monday the 15th at 7p
Ash Wednesday Service/Beginning of Lent, Wednesday, Feb. 14th
The Peace of Christmas continue to be with each of you, and may the residual Joy of the Season embolden you to live and bear out the good news of Jesus wherever you find yourself today!
A Word about Advent
We live in a time and place where we don’t like to wait for things. We’re a people of fast food, fast technology, and the fastest route to retirement. We look up to musicians and political leaders and owners of huge companies, because they don’t have to wait for stuff; they get it whenever they want! And so in these cases, value is weighted more in the end rather than in the means, or the way that you get to your end-goal. And when we only value the destination (and not the journey), waiting isn’t just devalued, but sometimes it’s even treated with resentment—“I shouldn’t have to wait for gratification and pleasure,” becomes the idea. “I’m entitled to these things.”
But when waiting is not valued in our lives, then people, places, and things also lose their value in our lives. We often take for granted, and even come to despise, those things which cost us no effort in waiting. For when we wait for nothing, everything becomes commonplace. And when things are common, they can become dull and boring. Meaningless
We as a church have entered the Season of Advent. And while the rest of our culture has already pushed Christmas decorations and candy and gifts onto the shelves, Advent invites us to hold off on these things. It’s a time of waiting. It’s a time when, traditionally, God’s people have reflected on the forty years the Israelites spent in the desert before they were brought to the Promised Land. We think about how long they had to wait for the Messiah after that. We think about the events surrounding the wait of Mary’s pregnancy leading up to the very first Christmas—a call from God to be set apart, political distress, a desert journey, and finally a place to establish her household. These are great examples to teach us about waiting for the joy of the Lord and how He prepares us to receive that joy. And this is why I’m so thankful for Advent, four Sundays to prepare and be made ready to receive our King!
These next weeks will be important because it’s difficult to imagine how we could possibly be made ready for the joy and excitement and surprise of Christmas and the invading reign of God’s Kingdom without taking the time, first, to wait and to prepare for it. I really hope for all of us that when we sing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come” on Christmas Day (and for twelve more days after that!), we’ll be able to sing it not from a place of dull commonness due to the too-soon-indulgence of “Christmas” joy since the first of November, but from hearts that have long awaited the joy of the Lord in His excellent and perfect timing.
And hopefully, by posturing ourselves differently in these next weeks and by not indulging our joy as quickly, we’ll also become more aware of those for whom Christmas time is not joyful. Maybe our eyes will be opened to those who are still on a desert journey. And perhaps as we wait, just maybe, God will reveal to us a deeper need in our own lives which He has been waiting to meet for us.
November 22, 2017
I'm still encouraged by this past Sunday's service and the way that God makes Himself present to us when we're gathered in His name. It was so good to see some of those who couldn't worship with us for their health over the past few weeks to finally rejoin us and encourage the rest of us with their testimonial reminder of God's faithfulness. I do believe that God continues to be at work among us. And one of the other ways that became evident last weekend was through your giving.
This year's Advent Concert will take place at KC First Church on Friday, Dec. 15th at 7p and on Sunday, Dec. 17th at 6p. Our very own David Loscutoff and Kelly Wilson will be part of the choir! Think of someone to invite, and also be preparing for a special offering that will be collected to benefit the KC Rescue Mission.
Christmas begins on Christmas Eve! We'll celebrate at the church with a candlelight vigil from 6p-7p.
Please also keep on your radar that on Christmas Day this year we'll share a short time of worship and fellowship and treats in our home, probably mid-morning.
In parting, I'd like to reiterate what I shared with you all last Sunday, that something we have to be thankful for this year (and always) is the opportunity to be humbled, like Christ. In the ways that we suffer for righteousness' sake, in the ways that we give of our means and of our selves, we have the chance to be lowly like Jesus. And to be associated with our Lord in these kinds of humble ways is something to be especially grateful for as His followers.
Blessings on your holiday!
October 18, 2017
You know, I believe that we can encounter God much more powerfully when we've taken the time to prepare, when we're anticipating during the week and intentionally seeking Him and longing to experience His presence on Sundays. This preparation begins the moment we conclude our worship service and journey through our days looking forward to the next Lord's Day.
But we also have the opportunity to prepare ourselves in the few moments right before our worship service starts. Brother Ivan plays some beautiful music as a prelude, and I like to use that time to calm myself down, rid myself of distractions, and pray the God would meet with us in a special way. I fear that if we run into the sanctuary right at 11:00AM (or even afterwards), it's difficult for our minds and spirits to get "in the right place," and we miss out on some of what God might have in store for us.
So I encourage you to think upon these things. Do enjoy the time we have built in to our schedule to fellowship before the service, but remember ultimately why we've come and to Whom we're trying to "pay the proper honor." And maybe even begin planning now so that your Sunday morning can be as un-hustled and focused-on-Christ as it ought to be.
"The Lord be with your spirit! Grace be with you!" (2 Tim.4:22)
August 1, 2017
We’re well into the week by now, and I hope that you’ve been practicing looking for God. Remember, it’s often between the lines and behind the scenes that God’s Spirit is at work; we need only notice where He’s up to something and then jump into that same redemptive activity.
There are a few areas where God has already evidenced His work among us, and so I want to put some of them before you again:
In our small groups—Have you connected to one yet?
In our adult Sunday School class—We have a rich resource for discipleship in Janice. Why not come to Sunday School this Sunday?
Through Heart n’ Hand—Our next visit will be next Saturday, the 12th
In our brown-bag fellowship after worship—the next lunch is this Sunday in the Fellowship Hall
Through our giving—God has been using our generosity to bless not just those within our community, but, through our Nazarene connections, we’ve been able to bless our brothers and sisters around the world, even beyond what we covenanted to do this past year!
What about in your prayers?—Remember that this year we’re trying to intentionally and purposefully pray for one other person from within our church and then someone from outside it. Have you noticed the Spirit doing anything with your relationship with these people?
In last week’s bulletin I included a sign-up sheet for some yard work that needs to be done around the church. Thank you, Tressie Duncan, for your willingness to clean up our flower beds! Below is a list of other needs we have:
- trimming bushes
- planting some flowers
- cleaning up flower beds
If you could make some time to volunteer for one of these areas, would you please contact Robert Clasen, Jim Beckford, or Fred Hastie (our Building Committee)? I’ll include sign-up sheets again this weekend. Also, if you’re physically unable to help in these ways but you’d be willing to donate some money toward our lawn care, you could put a specially marked envelope in the offering plate Sunday.
Here are the scriptures to read to help prepare for worship this weekend:
Genesis 32:22-31 Psalm 17:1-7, 15 Romans 9:1-5, 30-10:4 Matthew 14:13-21
Blessings on you until we meet again Sunday!
June 28, 2017
Good Wednesday, Friends!
I hope that as you've been moving through this week you've been aware of God's presence, that He's waiting and ready to use you to be a blessing to your neighbors. I trust that you've been praying ever since Pentecost for your neighbor or friend or co-worker, as I have been for you. May the Spirit open even more doors for us to make an impact for the Kingdom on the people we encounter today.
Here are the texts that will be read and preached from this coming weekend:
Gen. 22:1-14 Ps. 13 Romans 6:12-23 Mt. 10:40-42
There has been some big news coming from our General Assembly in Indianapolis this week, not least of which is the election of Carla Sunberg and Filimao Chambo as our two new General Superintendents. There's also been a revision of our denomination's articulation of sexuality and the issues surrounding it. You might be interested in reading some of the other current events here.
A quick "thanks again" to Jim Beckford for his sweat and time spent in our church garden last week. Others of you who are secretly serving God and His Church--many blessings on you!
Grace and Peace!
May 29, 2017
I was grateful to be able to worship alongside you all this past Sunday. It is a special thing: to be gathered in the name of Jesus with the rest of God's people through all time and places. And as we continue to reflect on the sacred fellowship we share with those Christians who are persecuted for their faith... It's just no insignificant thing we do week to week. Please do continue to lift up in prayer our brothers and sisters in dangerous parts of the world, especially the families of those Christians who were killed on their way to pray at a monastery in Egypt last week. (Here is an article related to the incident.)
This next Sunday is extra special; it's Pentecost! And it's also going to be our Annual All-Church "Meeting." Please come prepared and intent to hear from the Spirit. I'll be rehashing some of the ways God's been at work among us this past year, and I'll be casting a vision for our future as vital agents in God's mission of redemption here in Belton. Members will be asked to vote for some new leadership positions immediately following the service. And there will be lots of food to eat and fun to have as we enjoy one another right on the church property.
Check out these scriptures to get ready for Sunday, June 4th:
Acts 2:1-21 Psalm 104:24-35b 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 John 20:19-23
In Other News:
1. The next opportunity to partner with Heart n' Hand will be the second Saturday in June, the 10th from 10:30a - 1:30p
2. Don't forget that you're all invited to Kelly's and my 10th wedding anniversary celebration. There will be a special service on Friday night, June 9th at 6:30p at our church with a dessert reception to follow. We really want to share this part of our lives with all of you, our family :)
3. In case you'd be interested, I also noticed that St. Sabina is hosting another blood drive, also on June 9th. Talk about giving your life up for the sake of others :)
Blessings on each of you today!