December 30th News

December 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Well, Christmas is over and we now look towards the beginning of a whole new year. Although there is a lot of uncertainty in the world of politics, financial institutions, the economy, the Middle East, our schools and dozens of other areas in life, we still all head into 2013… The question is will you be hopeful or hopeless; fearful or fearless; cautious or energized. The way you answer these questions depends a lot on the foundation upon which you’ve built your life.

We will talk about that for the next couple of weeks as we transition into a new year and, perhaps, a new beginning. It all depends on your foundation.

Looking forward to Sunday (and 2013)!!!

Grace and peace,
Doug

 



 

December 23rd News

December 21, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

This Sunday we will continue to look at the story of Christmas by hearing what this all means from Jesus himself.

In John 3, Jesus has a night time encounter with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. They discuss many things, but in the discourse Jesus reveals the reason he came to this earth. In perhaps the quoted verse in the Bible (John 3:16), Jesus tells us about what we celebrate at Christmas.

Read all of John 3 to prepare your hearts and minds for this Sunday. I can’t think of a better verse to ponder as we head towards Christmas Eve.

We will also celebrate the Lord’s Supper this Sunday to remember Jesus’ sacrifice for our salvation.

On Monday, December 24th, we will gather at 5:30 for a special Christmas Eve Service in the Fellowship Hall of Hilltop Community Church (where we normally meet). The service will be about an hour and will be a great time to celebrate God’s gift of Jesus!

 

Grace and peace,

Doug

 


 

Christmas Memorials

December 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Last Sunday in our service at Grace Family Fellowship, we looked at some of our holiday traditions from a spiritual/Biblical point of view.

I wanted to share the notes from that message for folks to review (or see for the first time!). There was a story/poem that provided the framework and I added some scripture to illustrate the points.

I hope that the thoughts and words here can add some depth and significance to the things we all see so often at the time of year.

God is redeeming and restoring everything (whether it seems like it or not) and we can rejoice in this truth…

 

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What are some Christmas Traditions?

Many of the traditions have a foundation in pagan rituals

  • Some use this to argue against Christianity

But part of God’s plan is to restore everything in the world

  • God can even redeem or restore or “set right” pagan ideas

 

Another Night Before Christmas

(the true meaning of Christmas)

Just last Christmas Eve I had a strange visitor. This is how it happened: I had just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door of the front room, and to my surprise, I saw Santa Claus himself stepping out from behind the Christmas tree. He placed his fingers over his lips so I wouldn’t cry out.

“What are you doing here…” I started to ask, but the words choked up in my throat as I saw that he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager, boisterous soul we all know. As I stood there in my robe bewildered, Santa said, “We’ve done it all wrong. You need to teach the children.” My perplexed expression still showed in the near darkness. Fumbling in his sack, he drew forth a bright shining gold star.

“Teach them the old meaning of Christmas—the meanings that Christmas nowadays has forgotten. Teach the children that the star was a heavenly sign of promise long ages ago. God promised a Savior for the world and a sign of the fulfillment of that promise was the great Star of the East. ”

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Micah 5:2

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Luke 2:10-11

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

 

The star now reminds us of God’s love for mankind and of God fulfilling His promise. The countless shining stars at night now show the burning hope of all mankind.”

Santa gently laid the star upon the fireplace mantle…and drew forth from the bag a glittering red Christmas ornament.

 

*********

“Teach the children, red is the first color of Christmas. It was first used by the faithful people to remind them of the blood which was shed for all people by the Savior. Jesus Christ gave his life and shed his blood that every man might have God’s gift to all, eternal life.

Matthew 1:20-21

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Ephesians 2:13

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

Revelation 1:4-6

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

 

Red is deep, intense, vivid. It is the greatest color of all. It is the symbol of the gift of God.” As Santa was twisting and pulling another object out of his bag, I heard the kitchen clock begin to strike twelve. I wanted to say something, but he went right on.

“Teach the children”, he said as the twisting and pulling suddenly dislodged a small Christmas tree from the depths of the toy bag. He placed it before the mantle and gently hung the red ornament on the Christmas tree. The deep green of the fir tree was perfect background for the ornament. Here was the second color of Christmas. “The pure color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round,” he said. “This depicts the everlasting hope of mankind, and the everlasting life we can only get through His Son.

Colossians 3:3-4

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

John 11:25

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;

John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 1:4

In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

 

Green is the youthful, hopeful, abundant color of nature. All the needles point heavenward— symbolic of man’s need to focus on heaven. The tree itself is a symbol of that other tree, the one that became a cross. The great, green tree has been one of man’s best friends. It has sheltered him, warmed him, made beauty for him, formed his furniture.”

Santa’s eyes were beginning to twinkle now as he stood there. Suddenly I heard a soft tinkling sound. As it grew louder, it seemed like the sound of long ago.

“Teach the children, that as the lost sheep are found by sounds of the bell, so should it ring for men to return to the fold; it means guidance and return to God; it further signifies that all are precious in the eyes of the Lord. He left the 99 and went in search of the one.”

John 10:11, 14-15

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Luke 15:3-7

Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

 

As the soft sound of the bell faded into the night, Santa drew forth a candle. He placed it on the mantle and the soft glow from its tiny flame cast an eerie glow about the darkened room. Odd shapes in the shadow slowly danced and weaved upon the walls.

“Teach the children,” whispered Santa, “that the candle shows man’s thanks for the star of long ago. It signifies the Light that shines within all God’s people. A light that should never be hidden.

Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Acts 13:47

For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”

2 Corinthians 4:6

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Ephesians 5:8

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light

1 Thessalonians 5:5

You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.

 

It’s flame seems very weak, but it chases away the darkness, just as the stars do. It’s small light is the mirror of starlight. At first candles were placed on the Christmas Tree—they were like many glowing stars shining against the dark green.

Safety now has removed the candles from the tree and the colored lights have taken over in remembrance.”

Santa turned the small Christmas tree lights on and picked up a gift from under the tree.

He pointed to the large bow ribbon and said, “Teach the children. A bow is placed on a present to remind us of the spirit of the brotherhood of man. We should remember that the bow is tied as men should be tied ~ all of us together, with the bonds of good will and love toward each other.

John 13:34-35

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


Romans 12:10

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 13:8

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

 

Goodwill forever is the message of the bow.”

Now I wondered what else Santa had in his bag. Instead of reaching in his bag, he slung it over his shoulder and began to reach up on the Christmas tree. I thought he was hungry as he reached for a candy cane, purposely placed high on the tree. He unfastened it and reached out toward me with it.

“Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherds crook. The crook on the staff helps bring back the strayed sheep to the fold. The candy cane represents the helping hand we should show at Christmas time. The candy is the symbol that we are our brother’s keeper.

Carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)

 Speak truthfully to one another (Ephesians 4:25)

Look to the interests of one another (Philippians 2:4)

Offer hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)

Build up one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

 

The red represents the Blood of Salvation, and the white the Purity that only comes from it’s cleansing flow.”

1 John 1:7

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

 

Santa then paused. He seemed to realize he should be on his way. Later would be his big day. As he looked about the room, a feeling of satisfaction and relief showed in his face.

He reached into his bag and brought forth a large holly wreath. He placed it on the fireplace and said, “Please teach the children that the wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of God’s love; it never ceases, stops or ends. It is one continuous round of affection.

John 3:16-17

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

The wreath does double duty. It is made of many things and in many colors. It reminds us all of the things of Christmas. Please teach the children.”

As I gazed at the wreath, he slipped away, his job done….pointing people back to the real meaning behind this celebration.

I pondered and wondered and thrilled with delight, As I saw and viewed all those symbols that night. I dozed as I sat in the soft candle light, And my thoughts were of Jesus and all He made right. To give and to help, to love and to serve, Are the best things of life, all men can deserve. Old Santa Claus that jolly fat little elf, Is not the best symbol of Christmas itself. Jesus gave us the gift of love and of life, The ending of evil, the ceasing of strife. Santa’s message to me on the pre-Christmas night, Has opened a treasure of deepest insight. The one thing on earth we all ought to do, Is the teaching of children the right and the true.

Author Unknown

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May you have a blessed Christmas… Remembering how much God loves you!

 

Grace and peace,

Doug

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GRACE2F HAPPENINGS

Christmas Eve Service

Our Christmas Eve service will be Monday, December 24th (that’s a shocker) at 5:30pm in the Fellowship Hall of Hilltop Community Church (where we meet on Sundays). The service will be about one hour.

 

December 23rd News

December 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

This Sunday we will continue to look at the story of Christmas by hearing what this all means from Jesus himself.

In John 3, Jesus has a night time encounter with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. They discuss many things, but in the discourse Jesus reveals the reason he came to this earth. In perhaps the quoted verse in the Bible (John 3:16), Jesus tells us about what we celebrate at Christmas.

Read all of John 3 to prepare your hearts and minds for this Sunday. I can’t think of a better verse to ponder as we head towards Christmas Eve.

We will also celebrate the Lord’s Supper this Sunday to remember Jesus’ sacrifice for our salvation.

 

Grace and peace,

Doug

__________________________________________________

GRACE2F HAPPENINGS

Christmas Eve Service

Our Christmas Eve service will be Monday, December 24th (that’s a shocker) at 5:30pm in the Fellowship Hall of Hilltop Community Church (where we meet on Sundays). The service will be about one hour.

 

December 16th News

December 13, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

This Sunday we will focus on the Christmas season by looking at the spiritual significance of many of our holiday traditions. We will connect things that people do at Christmas–whether they are Christians or not– with scripture.

I think that the things we talk about will provide an opportunity to create some “Stones of Remembrance” for the holiday season (that’s what we talked about last week). In other words, we will see somethings that we can use to start spiritual conversations or teaching.

I hope you can join us as we prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas Eve.

I also want to thank everyone who came and brought the wonderful food last Wednesday. it was a great time together.

 

Grace and peace,

Doug

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GRACE2F HAPPENINGS

Christmas Eve Service

Our Christmas Eve service will be Monday, December 24th (that’s a shocker) at 5:30pm in the Fellowship Hall of Hilltop Community Church (where we meet on Sundays). The service will be about one hour.

 

December 9th News

December 7, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

This Sunday we will continue our series called Love One Another.

This past week, Hayden and I got to go to Washington DC together to watch the Wizards play the Miami Heat. The tickets were a present for his birthday that we finally got to enjoy (it was a great time and exciting for the

 

Wizards to actually win and we were with two old friends). Before the game we had the chance to walk in the mall and see all the memorials that help define this great country.

As we were enjoying each other and the sites, I was struck by how important memorials are in our lives– both individually and collectively. And how we can memorialize good things and bad things because they both shape who we are and who we are becoming.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. We are told to “remember” over 200 times in scripture. Why? because we can often forget.

This week we will look at a story where God tells his people to build a memorial. To prepare, read Joshua 3 and 4. It’s a cool story that shows how remembering is important to build unity in a group. i can’t wait to share this and hope you can be with us…

Looking forward to Sunday!

 

Grace and peace,

Doug

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GRACE2F HAPPENINGS

Christmas Caroling and Dinner– Wednesday, December 12th

We will be gathering to sing some Christmas carols at Russell House (a government subsidized housing facility) this week. After singing, we will meet in the Fellowship Hall at Hilltop Community Church (where we have our services) to enjoy a pot luck dinner. The folks at Russell House will be thrilled to hear us (even my singing!) and it is always good to be able to get together informally as a church body. We will gather in the parking lot of Hilltop Community church (Fellowship hall side) at 5:00pm and then head to Russell House. We will eat at 6:30pm in the Fellowship Hall. If you can’t make the singing, you can just come to the dinner (bit realize, if I’m the only one caroling it will not market our church very effectively… in fact, the police may be called).

We will try to organize the food so that we have enough and a variety.

 

Christmas Eve Service

Our Christmas Eve service will be Monday, December 24th (that’s a shocker) at 5:30pm in the Fellowship Hall of Hilltop Community Church (where we meet on Sundays). The service will be about one hour.