The Pondering Pastor

These "Ponderings" originally appeared as articles in our church newsletter or bulletin or just as the musings of one bald pastor. I place them here to encourage you, my fellow blogite and maybe to help us all in our pondering.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU


TODAY USHERS IN THE SEASON OF ADVENT. It is that time of year when we recall the birth of the Christ Child. It is a time of year when candles are lit, carols are sung and stories retold of the One who entered into our world as Emmanuel.
     The Old Testament points to the Messiah’s first advent (Isaiah 9:1-7; Isaiah 53:1-12) and the New Testament points to His second advent. (Revelation 22:12-21.) It is an advent that is still to come. That leaves us stuck in the middle. But, that is not a bad place to be stuck.
     It is here and now that we can recount the events of Christ’s first arrival. It is now that we can celebrate the reality that God became a man and dwelt among us for the sole purpose of bringing the gracious gift of God; the redemption from our sins and the restoration of our relationship with our Creator. (Philippians 2:5-11)
     It is here and now that we can not only point to the Baby in the manger, but also to the Savior upon the cross and the coming Lord of glory. It is here and now in this place that we can stand together to proclaim the greatness of our God and Savior, Jesus, the Messiah, the One who came as the Light of the world. (John 1:1-5; John 1:14; John 8:12) We may be in the middle of the two advents but we are not in the middle alone and without hope. We are here today as the church, the Body of Christ, to declare His glory and to rest in His hope, the hope that does not disappoint. (Romans 5:1-5)
     Therefore, let us celebrate being stuck in the middle and in doing so let us proclaim Him who is the “Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13)
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Friday, November 25, 2011

BLACK FRIDAY & GOD'S GREAT GIFTS

YESTERDAY MANY OF US GATHERED WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS AND GAVE THANKS for the blessings and abundance we have received. 

HEB Downtown Houston Holiday ParadeImage by Texas.713 (thisIsIt2) via FlickrTODAY, THOUSANDS of people stood in the dark of night in order to grab good deals on more stuff. The thankfulness declared yesterday for the abundance we have has quickly given way to to the unbridled lust for more.

The Community Group from our church, of which I am a part, will be studying Psalm 130 this Sunday evening. In Psalm 130:6 the psalmist writes,
 I wait for the Lord,
More than the watchmen wait for the morning,
More than the watchmen wait for the morning.
I don't think the psalmist had in mind the thousands who were waiting for the morning in order to grab the gifts and "stuff" that will bring hope and joy to themselves, and yes, to others as well.

Black Friday is America's answer to Good Friday. That day, 2,000 years ago that brought us the gift which each of us really needs. The psalmist describes those gifts in verse seven,
Israel (America) put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD there is unfailing love
and with Him there is full redemption.
Now those are the gifts that we all need, those are things worth waking up early for; God's unfailing love and full redemption from our sins. That's the difference between Madison Avenue's Black Friday and God's Good Friday.

This morning, as I pondered the reasons for the thankfulness we gave yesterday, I stumbled upon a blog entry by Seth Godin, entitled "A great way to give thanks." Mr. Godin wrote,


A great way for us to give thanks for the privileges we've got is to do important work. . . .For every person reading this there are a thousand people (literally a thousand) in underprivileged nations and situations that would love to have your slot. Don't waste it.
 I appreciated his challenge. To take those things we declared we were thankful for and to use those things for the betterment of others, which does not mean buying more stuff to cover the stuff we already have, but to use what we have to lift others up.

Over the last few Advent season I have been pointing people to the Advent Conspiracy and I would do so again this year. As I have told my family, the greatest blessing they can give me this Christmas is to give to those who truly need. 

As the Advent season begins this Sunday, I encourage you to take time...even if it means "waiting with the watchmen," to refocus your thoughts on the One, whose advent we are supposedly celebrating. Take time to re-count the Story of the arrival of the Christ-child. Take time to contemplate the meanings of the Advent season. I have found some good daily  Advent resources at YouVersion, an online Bible resource. They have a number of different Bible reading programs to lead you through the season.
[AC] Promo 2011 from Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

God bless you as you maintain your focus on the One who has made thanksgiving possible by His entering into our world to bring us the gift of God's unfailing love and full redemption.


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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE


THE FIRST "SERMON" I EVER "PREACHED" was at a college retreat for Garden Grove Community Church (Now known as The Crystal Cathedral Ministries).  If memory serves me well (not always a given these days) I was a senior in high school when I spoke at this retreat. I only did one message and it was in the most part an interpretive peice based upon Dr. Robert Munger's sermon/booklet, "My Heart Christ's Home."  I don't remember how effective I was, and I surely wasn't original as Solomon says, "There's nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Today I received this "back-story" about how Munger's sermon became a little booklet, that has touched the lives of thousands. Take a look at, "Behind the Booklet" and read about the "rest of the story."

Happy Thanksgiving! Here's a link to a pdf, "My Heart Christ's Home."
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

WHAT'S IN THE BOX?!?



WITHIN THE NEXT SIX MONTHS millions (praying for over 8,000,000) of children will be handed a Christmas box filled with love and all sorts of fun and needed items and most importantly the good news about Jesus Christ. (Part of the ministry of Samaritan's Purse and Operation Christmas Child)   For many of the children this will be the only gift they will receive all year long.
     Can you imagine the anticipation bottled up in each of those children as they see before them a pile of brightly wrapped packages? Can you imagine the smile birthing joy that will break upon their faces as they open these special gifts filled with love? Can you imagine the life-changing opportunity that these children will experience as they read about the love of God, wrapped-up in the Person of Jesus Christ? Can you imagine the millions upon millions of people, young and old, to whom this good news message will reach just because somebody cared enough to fill a shoe box with love and prayers…and yes some toys as well? 
     It’s enough to make me burst just imagining it!
     Each week, here at Felton Bible, we take time with our children (and adults, too) to answer the question, “What’s in the box?” and each week God provides a message of His love and grace; a message that never ceases to surprise us.
     As I was contemplating all these boxes, I realized that each one of us is a box waiting to be opened. The question is, “What would be found if we pulled open the lid? Would there be a message of God’s love and grace? Would there be exciting stories to tell? Do we hold in ourselves the Gift that brings Life?
     What’s in your box today?
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

TRUST IN ME


IN THE JUNGLE BOOK (Disney’s version), the snake, Kaa, sings a slithering song to Mowgli, luring him to fall asleep and succumb to his ever-tightening grasp. Kaa’s hissing song goes like this,
Trust in me, just in me
Shut your eyes and trust in me
You can sleep safe and sound
Knowing I am around
Slip into silent slumber
Sail on a silver mist
Slowly and surely your senses
Will cease to resist
Trust in me, just in me
Shut your eyes and trust in me.

The song reminds me of another snake I know that might have sung to an unwary couple in a garden millennia ago. Sadly, today many of us find ourselves in the coils of the one who seeks our demise.
     In our journey through the 84th Psalm, today we arrive at the final verse. It too, calls us to trust, and in that trusting we will discovery blessing. The psalmist writes,

O LORD, Almighty,
blessed is the man who trusts in You.

     We can see that trust is not the problem. In fact, trust is a good thing to develop. The clincher is in what, or in whom, we place our trust. Trust in the snake and you’ll find your life constricted. Trust in the world and you’ll find yourself lost in the materialistic masses. Trust in the LORD, there you will find yourself in the midst of the overflowing blessing of God.
     The question therefore is in whom or what are you trusting today? Let us not be lulled to sleep by that which will ultimately destroy. Rather, let us be fully awake to God from who showers of blessings flow.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

PRACTICAL THEOLOGY

THE COURSE OF STUDY REFERRED TO AS PRACTICAL THEOLOGY has to do with those aspects of ministry that touch real life. For example: the visitation of those who are sick or the conducting of a funeral or a wedding or even overseeing a business meeting. (Yep, business meetings are to be theological, too.)
     For the most part, practical theology is where the truths of Scripture are borne out in the events of our daily lives. You see, the Bible was meant to be more than a book we keep on our shelves for those special times. (Though it is good for all times.) It is more than a book we deeply study, learning every nuance of the Greek or Hebrew language. (Though deep study is highly recommended.) The Holy Scriptures are more than just a historical encyclopedia to help us to know God better. (Though they can truly help us to know God.) The Word of God was given to us so that we would know how to relate to the God whom we learn of in its pages, and how that God desires us to live.
     In Psalm 84 we have been learning about how following and obeying God has practical ramifications for our daily life.  The psalmist writes in 84:11

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.

Here we see God as our guide (sun) and protector (shield) and the giver of good things (favor and honor). These are all practical things, items that we need and from which we gain benefits. Yet, note that there is a practical application on our part as well. We are to walk blameless. Yikes! That’s a pretty big responsibility, thankfully He has given us His Spirit to live within us and to help us live out the truth God has for us.
     We can choose to walk blameless this week. Difficult? Maybe. Impossible? No, for nothing is impossible with God.  Just ask Jesus’ mother!
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