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Showing posts from November, 2015

Daily Devotion - Monday, November 30, 2015

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This is the first week of the season of Advent.  Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year.  We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath.  This week our theme is "Hope."  

"Hope is being able to see there is light despite of all of the darkness."  - Bishop Desmond Tutu

I love the above quote from Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.  His tireless, selfless work to free South Africa from the evil of Apartheid is a testament to his hope.  In fact, I think we would be hard pressed to find someone in the world who could speak more confidently of the power of hope.  

It was Tutu's work after Apartheid ended, however, that actually inspires me even more.  As the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Tutu spearheaded efforts to help black and white South Africans com…

1st Sunday of Advent - Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs

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The countdown begins.  

Macy's parade is over, most or all of the Thanksgiving leftovers have been eaten. Can I get a witness on some Turkey sandwiches, church?  

Black Friday is all done (thanks be to God).  Although, Cyber Monday is about to happen, and then there will undoubtedly be a host of other special days for shopping, but still... 

So the question that so many of us have right now is simply, "Why don't we just get on with it?  Let's go already!  The Christmas decorations have been up in the stores for a month already, it stands to reason that we should just move right along and get right to the heart of the silly season.  

More than a few of us are probably wishing that the whole thing was already over.  Perhaps it's too much--all of the shopping, busy-ness, traffic on the streets, commercials, emails advertising, expenses and the like...  

I get all of this.  Heck, I even feel the same way to be honest.  

And for those of us who do the church-y kind of thing …

Daily Devotion - Friday, November 27, 2015

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Yesterday was a pretty great day.  Not only was it Thanksgiving Day, it also happened to be my birthday--a happy coincidence that occurs every few years. 

Because of this, I went off of my diet for the whole day and just ate whatever I wanted.  You see for health reasons I've been on a pretty hard core diet that doesn't include sugar, starch, most dairy products--in other words, anything good.  So yesterday I fell off the wagon and bounced down the road a piece.  

Whenever I started to feel guilty I would say to myself, "What the heck, it's THANKSGIVING and MY BIRTHDAY!"  My oldest son told me several times, "Go ahead man!  You deserve this!"  I would subsequently agree with him that I did indeed deserve whatever it was that I was about to consume, and would do so without reservation.  

At some point yesterday, I started thinking about that phrase, "You deserve this."  I paused and just took in everything and everyone around me for a moment.  And…

Daily Devotion - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

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For the remainder of this week we'll be reflecting on Gratitude--because it's Thanksgiving Week, brothers and sisters!  

Tomorrow many of us will gather around tables with friends and loved ones, and we'll celebrate Thanksgiving.  We'll share a meal (or three), the many blessings we've been given and perhaps some laughter, too. More than a few of us will fall asleep on the couch afterward with football on the television, and the sounds of our family in the background.  

While most Americans will enjoy Thanksgiving to the fullest, there are few of us who know the history of this great holiday.  It was, in fact, Abraham Lincoln who set aside the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving.  For the next 75 years each President would do the same--annually declaring Thanksgiving a national holiday.  In 1941, Congress finally acted to make Thanksgiving a permanent national holiday. 

So why did Lincoln think it was so important to celebrate a day of thanksgi…

Daily Devotion - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

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For most of this week our daily devotions will be reflections based on the sermon I preached earlier in the week for Christ the King the Sunday.  In the sermon, I made the assertion that if Christians truly believe Jesus is in charge, they should be without fear, worry, anxiety, etc.  Our devotions will be centered on that premise for the first part of the week--and then we'll turn our thoughts toward thankfulness as the week progresses.  

Some time ago, a friend sent me links to a series of news articles about the horrible atrocities being committed toward Christians living in countries surrounded by extremist Muslims.  The stories were terrible to read.  I was disheartened and dismayed to read through them all--each more horrible than the next.  

I have to admit, when I read or hear stories about the systematic persecution of Christians around the world at the hands of extremist Muslims, I get angry. More than once I have wondered aloud whether God might see God's way clear to…

Daily Devotion - Monday, November 23, 2015

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For most of this week our daily devotions will be reflections based on the sermon I preached earlier in the week for Christ the King the Sunday.  In the sermon, I made the assertion that if Christians truly believe Jesus is in charge, they should be without fear, worry, anxiety, etc.  Our devotions will be centered on that premise for the first part of the week--and then we'll turn our thoughts toward thankfulness as the week progresses.  

As part of my daily readings this morning, I read the story of how the Apostle Peter had to explain to the church leaders at Jerusalem (who were all Jewish) how God had led him to go to the house of a Gentile--a Roman centurion named Cornelius, who accepted Christ and received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  

The church leaders in Jerusalem, were not too thrilled that Peter had basically broken all kinds of religious laws when he not only entered Cornelius' house, but also ate dinner with him, and then claimed that he and "all of his househ…

Christ The King Sunday - "The King Is Coming"

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Today we are celebrating what has come to be known as Christ the King Sunday--the Sunday before the beginning of Advent.  Since it is Christ the King Sunday, I got to thinking about what it would be like if I were king.  Which is kind of how my mind works.  

So, I thought I would share with you a bit of what I wrote.  You can call it, "If I Were King: A Treatise to Whomever" by Leon Bloder.  I hope you like it.  

If I were king, I would immediately make the following things sugar and calorie free:  chocolate candy bars, particularly anything Reese's, chocolate chip yo-yos from Publix, red velvet cake, kettle potato chips, most beers, bread, latte's from Starbucks, extra large coffees with cream and sugar from Dunkin Donuts and everything at Donut King.

If I were king I would make the following things illegal:  driving when you can't see over the dash, medians that make you drive four hundred blocks to do a u-turn, the SEC Network, phone trees, the IRS, the Kardashia…

Daily Devotion - Friday, November 20, 2015

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This week all of our Daily Devotions will be reflecting on the sermon that I preached this past Sunday at my church, the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis--a sermon entitled, "Three Chairs." We believe our church has a rich history, a vibrant present and a hopeful future. Not all churches or communities of faith feel that way, though.  Over the course of this week we'll be getting to the bottom of how that can change.  

Some time ago I was asked by my regional denominational representatives to assist a small church who did not have a pastor.  They needed an ordained minister to moderate their elder board meeting, and I agreed to do it.  It was an aging congregation that had begun to shrink some years ago, but had recently fallen to under a hundred active members.  

The topic that drew the most debate in their meeting that night was how to secure their church campus from the young teens and pre-teens who were using it to play and skateboard.  The discussion turned to insu…

Daily Devotion - Thursday, November 19, 2015

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This week all of our Daily Devotions will be reflecting on the sermon that I preached this past Sunday at my church, the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis--a sermon entitled, "Three Chairs." We believe our church has a rich history, a vibrant present and a hopeful future. Not all churches or communities of faith feel that way, though.  Over the course of this week we'll be getting to the bottom of how that can change.  
In his book The Integral Vision, author, philosopher and teacher Ken Wilber asks an important question:  "Why is it that religion is such a complex, confusing, and polarizing force in the world? How could something that on the one hand teaches so much love and life be, on the other hand, the cause of so much death and destruction?"  I've often asked myself that same question.  Maybe you have, too.  There were times in my youth when I wanted nothing to do with "organized religion."  I preferred to find spirituality everywhere but ch…

Daily Devotion - Wednesday, November 18, 2015

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This week all of our Daily Devotions will be reflecting on the sermon that I preached this past Sunday at my church, the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis--a sermon entitled, "Three Chairs." We believe our church has a rich history, a vibrant present and a hopeful future. Not all churches or communities of faith feel that way, though.  Over the course of this week we'll be getting to the bottom of how that can change.  

Jesse M. Bader, a leader in the Christian Church in the 1920's & 1930's once wrote,  "[As a Christian] you can be a clerk or a salesman--the clerk waits for a customer, and the salesman goes out for him. [Christians] should be ringing doorbells, instead of church bells; we have been doing by proxy what we should do by proximity; by purse instead of by person."The interesting thing about Bader's exhortation to Christians is that it was made during a time in U.S. history when the vast majority of Americans both claimed to be Christ…

Daily Devotion - Tuesday, November 17, 2015

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This week all of our Daily Devotions will be reflecting on the sermon that I preached this past Sunday at my church, the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis--a sermon entitled, "Three Chairs." We believe our church has a rich history, a vibrant present and a hopeful future. Not all churches or communities of faith feel that way, though.  Over the course of this week we'll be getting to the bottom of how that can change.  

"Do not act out of selfish ambition or conceit, but with humility think of others as being better than yourselves." - Philippians 2:3 
One of the distinguishing marks of the true Church is when followers of Jesus put the needs of others ahead of their own.  One act of sacrificial kindness and grace has more power to draw people to Jesus than anything we might say, and infinitely more power than any of our doctrines, dogmas or traditions.  I have seen the hardest hearts melt when faced with the humility of a Jesus-follower who simply served and l…

Daily Devotion Monday, November 16, 2015

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This week all of our Daily Devotions will be reflecting on the sermon that I preached this past Sunday at my church, the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis--a sermon entitled, "Three Chairs." We believe our church has a rich history, a vibrant present and a hopeful future. Not all churches or communities of faith feel that way, though.  Over the course of this week we'll be getting to the bottom of how that can change.  

I watched from the chancel platform as the visitors to my church made their into the sanctuary and down the aisle, looking for a pew where they could sit down.  The organist was playing a prelude, and I was sitting in my "throne chair" as I not-so-affectionately called it with the choir to my left as we awaited the start of the service.  

It was their first time visiting our small church.  They were a young couple, appearing to be barely in their early thirties--a rarity in our aging congregation. They found a pew and sat down, and I smiled in t…

Three Chairs - Promise Sunday Sermon

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This Sunday at my church we'll be celebrating what we've affectionately referred to as "Promise Sunday."  Promise Sunday is a day when we invite our members and friends to make a commitment to financially support their church family throughout the coming year.  

We used to call these kinds of commitments, "pledges," but we realized a few years ago that the word "pledge" wasn't strong enough for what we were doing together.  The word "promise" fits our commitments so much better.  We make a promise to God, not to the church.  

In the past, I also used to preach on giving this time of year.  I figured that it made sense because we were asking people to commit to giving money to the church. And then it occurred to me that preaching on giving when we were asking people to give actually diminished the message of giving in the Bible.  

I thought of what it would feel like to me, if I was sitting out in the congregation, and a preacher got up …