a blog from our pastors and staff
Welcome to my Advent Blog. This is the 10th of 13 blog posts. You are encouraged to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."
-- John 15:15
Kids are friendly, sometimes too friendly. Most kids will talk to anyone at any time. In fact, it doesn’t take much for a kid to give a hug to someone they barely know. While, I know this kind of friendliness can be dangerous in a world of sinful people, I still have to admire children for their kind disposition.
Jesus had a way of being friendly that disarmed people. He was proactive in his loving nature. You didn’t have to earn kindness from Him. Many of us struggle to be like Jesus in this way. We struggle to be like the child we once were.
It is much easier to keep to oneself. It is must simpler to just stare down at my phone rather than look up at people who come across my path. God likes to engineer circumstances and He also lets us choose our course of action. If you believe these two statements, then you have to wonder how many times God is giving you a chance to be friendly and kind to people who are in desperate need of a little light in their dark day.
When I had little kids, they were a great ice breaker to meet people and to have conversations I might not otherwise have had. But now my kids are a bit older. It is up to me to find new ways to be kind to those around me.
The next blog will be posted this evening, Thursday, Dec 19. Please feel free to comment below. What are ways you try and be kind to those around you?
Welcome to my Advent Blog. This is the 9th of 13 blogs and I encourage you to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.
-- John 17:13
Why do children exhibit such joy? Is it because of their lack of responsibilities? Is it because of their trust in their parents to take care of them? While even the youngest of children don’t have joy bubbling out of them all the time, compared to adults, they win the bubble contest every time.
So when do most bubbles get popped? You can see a steady decline starting about 2nd grade (even earlier for some). By the time, we get to adult-hood, joy doesn’t come so easy anymore. In fact, it takes effort to do what once came natural to us.
The weight of sin, work and winters in southwest New York tends to drag us down. My only hope is in the one who is willing to take my sin upon himself. My only hope is in in the one who redeems my work and amplifies my gifts. My only hope is in the one who can make the coldest of winter days seem beautiful. My only hope is in the baby born in a manger.
The Christian life is not meant to be one long, glorious moment of unbridled joy. You really don’t have to read very far in the Bible to know that. But God does offer us a way to get back to the child-like joy we once had.
Maybe this Christmas will not be your best Christmas. Maybe it will be more blue than white? There are some things that are just beyond our control. But I do know that Jesus came so that we don’t have to stay blue. There is still joy to be found in this life. Our God came down to earth to show us how to regain it.
The next two blogs will be posted Thur, Dec 19, one in the morning and the other in the evening. Please feel free to comment below.
Welcome to my Advent Blog. This is the 8th of 13 blogs, I encourage you to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
Have you ever said (or been with someone who has said), “I have seen it all.” For example, as a pastor I have heard a lot of people share their stories. I have heard about tragedy, heartache, and sin striking people in a vast array of circumstances. Sometimes, I try to comfort them by telling them, “I have heard it all.” In other words, you won’t shock me. But the truth is I haven't “heard it all.” And problems arise when we think we have. When we think we have seen it all, we become jaded to new possibilities. Sometimes, we become skeptical of things that don’t fit neatly in our box of things we have seen.
When was the last time you were amazed at anything? Now, ask a child the last time he/she was amazed at something? I am guessing they are amazed a lot more than you and I. While that may be somewhat understandable due to adult’s life experience compared to a child’s, it is also very sad. I think the saddest part is that it shows up in our faith. We can easily become skeptical of God answering our prayers or guiding our circumstances. We are even more skeptical of God doing miracles of any kind.
A child seems to have a greater sense of wonder than an adult. They also have a greater sense of the miraculous. The Bible even says that our unbelief can have a correlation with lack of miracles. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying God promises a miracle if you believe hard enough. But I am saying that is sometimes miracles are more likely for people who don’t put God in a box.
Be open to the possibilities --
you might just find yourself amazed at what God will do.
The next blog will be posted Tuesday, Dec 17. Have a great weekend and please feel free to comment below.
Welcome to my Advent Blog. This is the 7th of 13 blogs, and we encourage you to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.
-- Hebrews 12:10
A million books have been written about why there is evil and pain in the world. Most of the conclusions come down to four possibilities. 1) God is the author of your pain, 2) Satan is the author of your pain, 3) you are the author of your pain or 4) the world in which you live is the author of your pain. (By the way, the answer is 5) all of the above.)
We think that if we know who or what is behind all this hardship, we can find a way to avoid it (or at least reduce it). Hebrews 12:7 says that we should “endure hardship as discipline from God”. While, claiming that God is the author of all hardship is a big mistake, I can’t overlook this passage in Hebrews. It may a bit unclear whether God is the originator of the hardship or He just wants to use it to make us holy. Either way, the bottom line is that God wants to discipline us. Nobody likes to be disciplined. I think most of us would choose to have an easy life over having a harder life that helps us grow.
So what does any of this have to do with having a child-like faith? While children hate to be disciplined, I think they come to accept it as normal and even necessary as a way for them to grow and learn. But as adults, we hate to be corrected. Being corrected makes us feel like a child.
But we are still children in God’s eyes and discipline guides our path. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11-12). Pain and hardship are two of hardest gifts to receive, but they are a gift. God isn’t always the author of the gift but He does want the gift produce good in you. And it will, if you will see it as way to make you righteous.
The next blog will be posted Friday, Dec 13. Please feel free to comment below.
Welcome to my Advent blog, this is the 6th of 13 blogs and you are encouraged to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
-- Luke 11:11-13
God has put this parable on my heart the last couple months. Luke 11 tells a story of a man looking to borrow some bread from his neighbor. The neighbor doesn’t want to get out of bed and help his neighbor but he eventually gives into his demands. The reason he gives in is because the man has the audacity to keep knocking on his door.
I find it interesting that Jesus told this parable immediately after he taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Apparently, Jesus not only wanted to teach them what to say, but how persistent to be. You know who is persistent in asking for things? Kids,
us to ask for things that are in line with His priorities. God not only wants us to ask but to keep on asking. God honors a devoted and persistent heart. There is no guarantee here. There is no formula to get God to give you what you ask for. God is not Santa Claus.
But God likes giving gifts to His children. One of greatest gifts God gives, according to this text, is the Holy Spirit. Our community and churches need a special wave of the Holy Spirit. I have to believe that God wants to give that to us. God’s timing may not always align with ours, but God wants us to be diligent in our prayers for this gift. God is testing our resolve. Do we want Him enough to keep asking for it?
Crawl up in our Father’s lap and tell Him what you really want this Christmas season. And keep doing this in every season.
The next blog will be posted Thursday, Dec 12. Please feel free to comment below.
Welcome to my Advent Blog. This is number 5 of 13 blog posts and you are encouraged to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
We know very little about Jesus’s childhood. The gospels jump right from his birth to his adult life; except for one story in Luke. Luke 2 tells one story about Jesus when he was twelve. Do you remember being twelve? Your parents are not quite the idols they once were, but when it came to bragging rights among your friends, they would often be described as extraordinary. “My dad is stronger than your dad” and “my mom is the greatest cook ever” are just a couple of phrases you might have said when you are twelve.
I wonder if Jesus had any of that inclination when he was twelve. His family had just finished attending the Passover Festival in Jerusalem and set out on their journey back home. After a day’s travel, they realized Jesus was not among any of his relatives. If you have ever forgotten a child somewhere, you are in good company. It took them three days to find him and they were quite exasperated when they finally found him in the temple talking with the priests. When asked about his decisions, Jesus responds, “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
If it was me, I might have chosen to say this a bit smugly (always a smart idea to act innocent and logical in the face of possible punishment). But since this was Jesus, I have to think his motives would have been better than mine.
But I do wonder if there is a sense of pride in his voice, not about himself but about His Heavenly Father. I don’t know if Jesus’s parents had told him that he was born of a virgin and that God was his birth father. Maybe it makes little difference in his response to his parents; Jesus was more than happy to explain his priorities. He was very proud of his Father. Jesus could actually say to the other kids, “my dad is stronger than your dad” and would be right every time.
I know we have to choose our words correctly in this day and age, but we can carry a similar pride. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name” may sound more proper but deep down we need to pray, “Daddy, you are the best and strongest daddy ever.”
The next blog will be posted Wednesday, Dec 11. Please feel free to comment below.
Welcome to Pastor Dan's Advent Blog. This is the 4th of 13 blogs, and I encourage you to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. -- Ephesians 2:8
Yesterday, I talked about enjoying the gift of Jesus. Today, I want to talk about being a special gift. One of the most difficult things people struggle with is how to correctly view themselves. But once we get a handle on that, life becomes much clearer. First of all, should I view myself as special? After years of struggling with identity questions like this, I have come to my conclusion. The answer is “yes.” Certainly, more needs to be said for a truly accurate view of ourselves, but let us start with the positive. You are special (in a good way). Most children believe that when they are young. Children will dance, jump, sing and draw. And each time they do, they look around to whoever is watching like they have just done the most amazing thing ever. Why is that? Because they understand they are special. As we get older we compare ourselves to others and stop believing that, it is hard to see yourself as a gift.
God sees you as important and gifted. You are made in His image. However, there are a few other things we must keep in mind. First of all, your special-ness doesn’t make you any more or less special than anyone else, because they too are created in God’s image. Secondly, your special-ness doesn’t mean God owes you anything or that you deserve God’s forgiveness. You are special to God because He says you are, not because you did anything to deserve that title. Finally, your special-ness doesn’t mean you aren’t also sinful and in need of Christ’s redemption.
Let me try to give you a simple image. Imagine yourself as toy given to a child at Christmas. Every child wants something different. One child wants Buzz Lightyear, another child wants Woody and another child wants Jessie (if you haven’t ever watched a Toy Story movie, you need to). Like a special toy to a child, we are special to God. But not long after we came out of the packaging, we broke. We stopped working right. And that is why Jesus came. The broken toys are repaired. We are no longer stuck on the island of misfit toys, (if you haven’t ever watched Rudolph, you need to).
You are special, your neighbor is special too, but we are all broken. Thankfully, God loves us too much to leave us broken. That is why Jesus came.
The next blog will be posted Tuesday, Dec 10. Please feel free to comment below.
Welcome to my Advent Blog! This is the 3rd of 13 blogs, and I encourage you to read them in order. We are exploring ways to rediscover the child-like faith we once had.
The baby Jesus was given gifts at his birth. Jesus was himself the great gift from God to his prized creation, us. Children love getting gifts. While adults like getting them too, it gets more complicated to receive as adults. We have a hard time receiving if we are not also giving something in return, kids don’t have that problem. Adults have a hard time not earning our gifts, kids don’t have that problem. The gospel is about getting something we don’t have to earn. And while God hopes that we will give back after receiving, it is not the reason He gives the gift. God gives because that is who He is.
Children will take any gift you have from them, at any moment, for any reason. Jesus came to give the gift of peace, love and hope that is only found through Him. Isn’t it time to take the gift and enjoy it? To enjoy something, you have to use it and to use it, we must spend time with it.
Too many people don’t enjoy the biggest Christmas given to them. In fact, Christmas is about the gift of Christ that we don’t earn or deserve. The great thing about getting Jesus for Christmas is that it never stops or fails to teach us something new about peace, love and hope. There are always new ways to explore and learn about the gift.
We need to stop seeing God as a tyrant making us feel guilty about our lack of faith. We need to start seeing God as one who gives the ultimate gift and can’t wait to see us unwrap and enjoy the gift of Jesus.
Be looing for the next blog post Friday, Dec 6. Please feel free to comment below.
Welcome to my Advent Blog!
This is the 2nd of 13 blog posts, and I encourage you to read them in order.
Christmas vector created by macrovector - www.freepik.com
At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.
-- Matthew 11:25
Yesterday, I asked why God sent Jesus in the form of a child if his ministry came thirty years later. Clearly, Jesus came as example and even in his young life he showed us the importance of being a child of God. This blog is primarily about how we need to find the child-like faith that we once had. Jesus was able to retain his inner child, but as most of us got older we have lost the child in us.
One thing many adults lose as they get older is the ability to play. I am not talking about playing computer games or even playing tag (although that could be good for us). I am talking more about having a playful spirit. When people play there is a trust element happening, everything is under control. God has got you and you have time to have fun. As Christians, we have a serious mission given to us but that does not mean there isn’t a time to play. A playful attitude in life often shows an absence of worry and despair. There can even be a peace that comes from a good day of play.
If we are God’s children, we come to Him as children and we can even come to Him to play. This might seem contrary to what many of us think the Church and our faith is about. Do our services, classes, and programs allow for an element of holy play? I am not talking about replacing Sunday worship with a good game of hide-n-seek, even if for a Sunday or two it might be just the thing to help us find our inner child. We need to trust God enough to relax and see God in the fun of life.
Christmas season is not a time to play for most of adults, even though most kids still think it is. We are too busy prepping for a moment that lasts a day or so. There is season for everything under heaven. Do you prioritize play? Is it in the rotation of activities? Again, it isn’t so much about what you do, it is about the spirit in which you do it. God is in control. Look up to heaven and ask God if He knows a good joke. Lots of us will be hustling and bustling over the next couple weeks, but if you are not careful you might fail to see God’s answer to that joke.
The next blog will be posted Thursday, Dec 5th. Please feel free to comment below.
Jesus’ birth is more than getting people excited about Easter, as great as that is. If we go back to verse one of Isaiah 9, it states, “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” I do understand that these verses have a context in which they were said but it’s also clear that Isaiah was foretelling of Christ’s birth. Christ would come but 2000 years later and we still see plenty of gloom and distress around us. Why is that so? One major reason is that Christ coming to earth is a two-fold prophecy; the birth of Jesus that happened over 2000 years ago and the return of Christ in the clouds that has yet to happen. We are in the time in history called the “already and not yet.”
While our world still has plenty of gloom and distress, Jesus offers a way to overcome the world. Not that we can avoid trouble or hardship but that there is now a path and person to help us find peace even in our worst pain.
One way Jesus tells us to find that peace is to be like a child. “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:2-4).
While these verses help us to understand something of what a child-like faith is. There is still lots of room for discussion. After all, every quality of a child is not something to be sought after. “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (I Cor. 13:11).
I find it interesting that as Jesus grew and matured, he was able to retain his child- like faith while putting away childish qualities. Jesus came to be our example as well as our Savior. But while Jesus retained his child-like faith, most of us are hoping to rekindle something we lost a long time ago. This almost-daily Christmas blog is about possible ways to find the inner child in us.
I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below. The next blog will be posted Wednesday, Dec 4th.