Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Courage in the Everyday

 by Dina Sleiman

...Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you... ~ I Chronicles 28:20

Last week Acts 2 Church went Christmas caroling in a trailer park where we deliver food for our food ministry. This simple little excursion got me thinking about the courage needed to reach out to others in our everyday lives.

One of our caroling groups

Going door to door, knocking on a stranger's home, in a neighborhood that's a bit rough, takes some courage, especially when you have a bevy of children in tow. By the end of the Christmas cookie fellowship following the caroling, our kids were all running around in the pitch dark. We didn't know if we'd face rejection, harassment, or even drunken threats, but we went to spread Christmas joy and cheer nonetheless--to spread Christ's love. It would have been easy for someone to talk themselves out of going and facing those risks. But reaching out takes courage and inconvenience. Living life to its fullest involves taking risks.

These neighbors tagged along and joined in the fun.

And when God calls you to do something, those risks pay off! By the end of the caroling many wonderful neighbors had joined in with us to sing. We concluded the evening with a fellowship including a fire pit and Christmas cookies, and about 25 people from the neighborhood came to hang out with us :)
The Christmas cookie fellowship was a big hit.

I'm sure it would have been safer and easier for the Good Samaritan to have left the beaten man on the side of the road, but God calls us to a higher standard. Will you dare to reach out and take risks? Will you find the courage to live life to the fullest?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Advent - Preparing for Jesus

by Pastor Bill

2As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way; 3The voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.'" ~ Mark 1:2-3

It’s the Christmas season. Christmas lights are on the houses. Christmas songs are on the radio. And, department stores everywhere are open Christmas hours. Christmas is a joyful time of year.  Spirits are generally high. Christmas holiday parties with Christmas treats are held in offices all over the country. But, sadly, by mid-January, it seems that Christmas is just a faded memory.

Perhaps, as Christians, we need to worry less about the “war on Christmas,” and focus more on what the entire season is all about.  And, perhaps, we need to look no further than the liturgical roots of the season and come to a deeper understanding of Advent.

We’re right in the heart of our Advent series, and right in the heart of Advent.  But, for many of us, even many believers, our knowledge of Advent is very limited. In fact, despite the fact that I grew up in liturgical churches where there was great devotion to Advent colors and the Advent wreath, I assumed it was simply a celebration of the Christmas season.  What better way to prepare for Christmas than open a little window of an Advent calendar and get a piece of chocolate for 25 straight days!
Beyond the Advent calendar, I had never given much thought to the Advent season until a few years ago. It was then that I decided to really study Advent, what it meant, and why it was an important season (assuming it was).  

To make a long story short, the word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.” As Christians, we are to prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.” In the season with this name, we keep in mind both “advents” of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come.

While certainly the birth of our Savior is worthy of celebration, much like each of our birthdays, it’s far too easy to celebrate the remembrance of our birth on one given day, and quickly move on with the busyness of life. But, this should be a season of so much more.  Advent is a season of hope, a season of preparation, a season of joy, and a season of love. It’s a season of reflection of our deep need of the Savior who came some 2,000 years ago. It’s a season of expectation that He will return again to reign forevermore. 

Oh, that we would spend more energy on anticipating the return of Christ than we do worried whether the grocery clerk wished us a “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Holiday!” Let’s take this season and reflect on why Christ came the first time and that moment when he returns. You see, when we focus not just on Christ’s birth, but also on his return, we don’t have to experience a post-Christmas letdown. Our excitement, our hope, and our anticipation can last, long past the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Supertones Was His Name

Written by Pastor Rob Stevenson in 2006

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." ~ 1 John 4:10

(April 12, 2006) – Supertones was his name, after a Christian band popular in the 90s.  I didn’t want this active, little Dalmatian puppy 10 years ago when he came to us, but Bev and I felt like the Lord was saying, “Take him.”  So we did.  

About a week later, he contracted parvo virus, a deadly infection that few animals recover from.  He was a deathly ill little pooch.  One night, after many days of him not eating and being extremely sluggish, I stayed up all night with him.  I cradled Supertones in my arms, and hand fed him.  To my joy, he started nibbling on some regular dog food in the wee hours of that morning ordeal.  I was thrilled!  It was the beginning of his come back.  

  He hated my neighbors though.  Over time he had bitten the two kids, and jumped on and scratched the mom.  It was too much for me to handle having a dog I so enjoyed, that could act so hostile.  I had to put him down.  This was the HARDEST decision and action I have ever made.  I didn’t realize how difficult a task until after it was done, but taking him to the vet was hard enough.

I brought him into life by my hands, and I sent him to death by my hands.  I honestly could not see it any other way.  I felt as if I had to be the one, because he was my dog.  Then, afterwards, I realized each time I walked into the laundry room that I was thinking of him.  It dawned on me that I had fed him over 3,600 times in that place. I had given him water over 3,600 times each morning when I got up, walked into the kitchen, and was greeted with his expectant stare.  No wonder it was so tough. 

Then, it hit me that our Father God had sacrificed His Son so that we might live.  In addition, His Son had been totally innocent.  Even though our pets are animals, we have a capacity to love them, don’t we?  And the Father, His capacity to love us and to go through the agony of seeing His Son brutalized and killed had to be a devastating experience.  He did it for us.  Jesus did it for us.  Such love has no bounds, no limits, and no equal.  Hallelujah!  Thank you Lord for such a saving sacrifice.
-Rob Stevenson