Advent Week 1 – “Friday” by Pastor Randy

From the haunting tune to the arcane language I have always loved listening to the great Advent Hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.

For me it is a symbol of the beginning of Advent as it encompasses both the longing of the Israelites waiting for their Messiah as well as the longing that we have today for that same Messiah’s return.

It also embodies the hope that we have been focusing on this week as there is an inherent sense that rejoicing will be inevitable as the redeemer will come. So take a moment to meditate on the lyrics and listen along with the video.

Advent Week 1 – “Thursday” by Pastor Randy

For today’s Advent Blog I invite you to read and listen to the lyrics of Tenth Avenue North’s song “I Have This Hope” as you consider the hope that you place in Christ this Christmas Season.

As I walk this great unknown
Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?

I don’t want to live in fear
I want to trust that You are near
Trust Your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

But sometimes my faith feels thin
Like the night will never end
Will You catch every tear
Or will You just leave me here?

But I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

Yes, I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

So, whatever happens I will not be afraid
Cause You are closer than this breath that I take
You calm the storm when I hear You call my name
I still believe that one day I’ll see Your face

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

Advent Week 1 – “Tuesday” by Dave Good

Welcome to another Advent edition of GSM’s Refill with Randy Blog. My name is Dave Good and I am honored to have the opportunity to share a few words with you today. I pray this will be of benefit to you and deliver just a ray of hope to your life.

Pastor Randy approached me and asked me to share my thoughts on the subject of Hope. At first I thought it would be great idea to bring up the areas in the world that seem so hopeless. All around us we are impacted by the long-lasting pandemic, racial tensions, vaccine mandates, political strife, rumors of wars, and what seems to be nonstop chaos around the world. People everywhere are looking for something to hold onto, something to take refuge in, something to give them a sense of hope.

When I thought about the Advent season and our search for hope I immediately recalled the journey of the Magi to see the Christ child. The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the Magi who followed a bright star to the town of Bethlehem “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”

No one is certain who the Magi were, how many there were, or where exactly they originated from, but we do know that they were searching for some hope. The Christmas narrative tells us that they had left their country in the east and followed a bright star through the desert for several weeks if not months. It is said that they led their caravan of camels and other animals on a journey in search of the Messiah—the long anticipated King of the Jews. They endured days of scorching desert sun and freezing cold nights. They probably encountered thieves and bandits as well as wild animals along the way. The journey was no walk in the park to say the least.

Another bit of information that the Gospel of Matthew shares with us is the valuable gifts the Magi brought with them. “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, frankincense and myrrh.”

They presented to the child gold frankincense, and myrrh, some of the most precious things in the world at the time. So to put this whole journey in perspective. The Magi leave their distant home, follow a bright star, and journey through the desert with valuable gifts, all to go see a child. To me the story seems a little absurd. What would make these men even consider this voyage? The only answer I can come up with is hope.

They were hoping the star they were following would lead them to the long awaited Savior. They were hoping to pay homage to the King of the Jews. They were hoping to worship and adore the Christ child. They were willing to risk it all just to find some hope.

Just like the Magi all of us are chasing after hope. How many times do you hear exchanges like, “I hope this happens or I hope I get this for Christmas or I hope the Bills win or I hope you feel better”? Hope is all around us and something we pursue on a daily basis. Hope often causes us to take risks or chances just like the Magi. Hope is definitely an integral part of life

My question for you is where, what, or who is your hope in? For some it’s a job. For others it’s a country. And for some it’s a loved one. We place our hope is so many things. I can’t decide for you what to place your hope in but I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you where my hope comes from. My hope comes from the Lord.

I can say that my belief in that same child the Magi visited some 2000 years ago brings so much hope to my life. I believe that the child born on Christmas Day grew up, died on a cross for my sins, and paved a path for me to have eternal life with my Heavenly Father. The name of that precious child is Jesus.

To be honest with you my hope in Jesus didn’t just come overnight. Just like the Magi I had to go on a journey to secure my hope and I misplaced my hope in many things along the way. Things like my career, my reputation, my status, my football teams, my talents and abilities, etc. And I will be honest with you, at some point or another all of these things have disappointed me. All of these things have let me down. The only thing I’ve found that I can always count on and hope in is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.”

There is so much hope in the Bible and with a relationship with Christ. I pray that this Advent season you find your hope in the Lord. I pray that you prepare your heart for when he will come again. And I pray that the hope of the Lord becomes more real and alive to you each and every day.

Advent Week 1 – “Monday” by Pastor Randy

Advent is a season of remembering the events of Christmas past and getting ready for the time when Christ will come again. It is a time filled with anticipation, preparation, and expectation. It is also often marked by weekly themes, celebrated with the lighting of a different candle each Sunday, and so from now until Christmas we will be highlighting those same themes here. They are: Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. And I say “we” because there will be some other contributors, such as GSM’s own Dave Good who will be writing tomorrow’s blog.


The dictionary defines hope /hōp/ as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. In relation to Advent we are talking about both the hope that the Jews had that God would send them a Messiah and the hope that we have today that, because that same Messiah (Jesus) came to earth on that first Christmas, died for our sins on Good Friday, and rose from the dead on Easter, we can be saved and will join Christ when he comes again.

It is the kind of hope that the Israelites held onto generation after generation, even while wondering when it would happen, and it is the kind of hope that we hold onto today even though nearly 2,000 have passed since Jesus made the promise to return.

Isaiah spoke to this hope long before Christ when he shared in 9:2 that, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (9:2‬ ‭NIV)‬‬

A few verses later he would go on to paint a picture of what this hope, this light at the end of the tunnel, would look like. He says in vv. 6-7 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (NIV‬‬)

The reason why this gave them hope was not because they thought it would happen immediately but because they fully believed in The One Who said that it would indeed happen. They trusted that God would fulfill this prophesy when He deemed that the time was right.

Unfortunately I think that many times today we read about God’s promises in Scripture but we want instant gratification so when something doesn’t happen the way we want at the time we want it we tend to get cynical and our hope starts to wane.

The reality though is that if God has promised it but it has not happened, it’s not that it won’t happen but that it just hasn’t happened yet. Like our Jewish forefathers we need to have patience and perseverance trusting in The Author of our hope Who says in Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The fact is that Christ came at just the right time, he died at just the right time (“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans‬ ‭5:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬), and so we can trust that he will return at just the right time. Until then we walk in hope.


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“Happy Thanksgiving!!!” By Pastor Randy

Hi all and Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!!!

I will be back with 4 straight weeks of Advent Devotions starting next Monday but in the meantime I wanted to let you know how thankful I am for each one of you and to share my latest Refill with Randy video with you (click the link below).

Also, if anyone is wanting to contribute to my ThanksGIVING Fundraiser through PayPal here is the link…

“Intentional Acts of Generosity” by Pastor Randy

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭9:6-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I hope that you all are having a blessed week. More importantly, I hope all of you are being a blessing to others this week. I’m sure that you’ve all heard of doing Random Acts of Kindness but today I want to encourage you to do INTENTIONAL ACTS OF GENEROSITY!!!!

Since this is the season of giving I would challenge you to find creative ways to bless others and show them Christ’s love in a tangible way.

And whatever you do doesn’t have to be extravagant but it does have to be intentional. The main thing is to bless someone, put a smile on their face, and remind them that no matter what their current circumstances might be that there is hope in Christ and we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to get a glimpse of what is to come.

So, as you start thinking of what you might do, let me share a few ideas as a catalyst. You could:

  • order a pizza for someone and have it delivered anonymously
  • get a roll of quarters and fill all the machines at the laundry mat
  • pay for the person behind you’s (fast food, groceries, coffee, etc.)
  • donate to a charity
  • rake up your neighbor’s leaves or shovel their driveway
  • give somebody a gas card
  • tip the wait staff or delivery person 50%
  • send someone a hand-written card
  • visit a shut-in
  • donate food for Thanksgiving or presents for Christmas

The list goes on but it doesn’t have to end there. If we are all willing to be aware, intentional, and generous (especially this time of the year) we can bless others in amazing ways and it doesn’t cost a lot because the reality is that its not a money thing–it’s a heart thing.

LET’S SHOW PEOPLE GOD’S GENEROUS HEART IN A TANGIBLE WAY!!!!

Let me know what you do. 😇


I will be taking a short break through Thanksgiving but will return the Monday after with four straight weeks of Advent Devotions. In the mean time I hope that you have a nice holiday with your family.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

GSM “ThanksGIVING” Fund Drive

This is not my usual blog content but from 11/15-12/15 I am having a fundraiser through PayPal and the details and link are below. During this season of generosity I would ask you to consider supporting my mission for 2022.

“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” ‭‭(2 Corinthians‬ ‭8:1-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

This fundraiser is to support Go Scatter Ministries and the ongoing evangelistic efforts of Rev. Randy LeBaron.

Much like a modern day missionary Pastor Randy must raise support through the generosity of other Christ-followers like you.

All funds raised will be applied toward GSM’s 2022 budget. The donations received make it possible for Pastor Randy to be an itinerant speaker and teacher (by subsidizing honorariums), to create content that encourages and disciples others online, and to come beside local churches and mission organizations to assist them on a volunteer basis.

If you would like to give a one time gift click the link below and you are interested in becoming a Monthly Ministry Partner you can find out how at GoScatterMinistries.Org

Thank you in advance for your generosity!

Pastor Randy

You can also give by check. See below…

“HAPPY MONDAY!!!” by Pastor Randy

Happy Monday!!!

I spent yesterday praising God in the morning at FreeChurch.net and then praising Him more at the P.A.C.T. Good Friday Service in the evening and I can honestly say that even if The Bills hadn’t trounced The Jets yesterday that I would have gone to bed with a smile on my face because there is just something joyful about being in the presence of God and His people.

I want to encourage you to find time each day this week to spend in worship. It may not always be possible to gather with others but it IS always possible to praise God throughout the day.

  • Turn on Your favorite Christian station or playlist while you commute to work
  • Start and end the day with prayer
  • Ask a friend to get a cup of coffee with you and enjoy the gift of fellowship
  • Intentionally look for things that you can thank God for throughout the day
  • Spend some time in The Word
  • Meet with a Small Group
  • Find a mid-week service to attend
  • Watch a service online (better yet, sing along!)
  • Find ways to acknowledge God’s generosity toward you by extending generosity to others

There are a lot more possibilities. Get creative. And I guarantee you will see a difference in your own attitude at the end of each day.

“More Love More Power” by Pastor Randy

The song, “More Love More Power”, played a significant part in my Christian journey as it played on the radio one night—prompting me to pray for Christ to be Lord of my life.

Even as I listen to it now it brings back more than just a feeling of nostalgia. It reminds me that being a Christian is not about what I’m saved from but rather what I am saved for—to live this life on purpose with a passion for God!

Listen to the song, meditate on the lyrics, and ask The Lord to refuel your passion for Him today.

More love, more power
More of You in my life
More love, more power
More of You in my life

And I will worship You, with all of my heart
I will worship You, with all of my mind
I will worship You, with all of my strength
For You are my Lord

More love, more power
More of You in my life
More love, more power
More of You in my life

And I will worship You, with all of my heart
I will worship You, with all of my mind
I will worship You, with all of my strength
For You are my Lord

More loveMore love, more power
More of You in my life
More love, more power
More of You in my life

More love, more power
More of You in my life
More love, more power
More of You in my life

performed by Michael W. Smith

“Judas’ Kiss” by Pastor Randy

Happy Thursday! Continuing on with this week’s song lyric theme I wanted to share a older song by the classic Christian rock band Petra.

This song helps us understand how our sinful choices affect God. It gives us a different perspective which will hopefully cause us to think twice before doing something that will hurt Christ to the extent that Judas’ betrayal did.

I invite you to listen to the song and meditate on the lyrics.

“Judas’ Kiss”

[Based on Luke 22:47, 48]

I wonder how it makes you feel when the prodigal won’t come home

I wonder how it makes you feel when he’d rather be on his own

I wonder what it’s like for you when a lamb has gone astray

I wonder what it’s like for you when your children disobey

It must be like another thorn struck in your brow

It must be like another close friend’s broken vow

It must be like another nail right through your wrist

It must be just like

Just like Judas’ kiss

I wonder how it makes you feel when no one seeks your face

I wonder how it makes you feel when they give up in the race

I wonder what it’s like for you when they willingly disobey

I wonder what it’s like for you when they willingly walk away

What is your favorite classic Christian group/song?

“Come Alive (Dry Bones)” by Pastor Randy

Much like yesterday’s post I wanted to share a song with you in which the lyrics have resonated with, and impacted, me. I have always been drawn to the account of the dry bones from Ezekiel 37 and Lauren Daigle gives it new life with her hauntingly soulful voice.

So spend some time today meditating on the words, listening to the song, and being reminded of what a great and powerful God we serve.

Through the eyes of men, it seems there’s so much we have lost
As we look down the road where all the prodigals have walked
One by one, the enemy has whispered lies
And led them off as slaves

But we know that You are God, Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come
That we may not yet see
So with the faith You’ve given us
We’ll step into the valley unafraid, yeah

As we call out to dry bones, come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts, come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones, come alive

God of endless mercy, god of unrelenting love
Rescue every daughter, bring us back the wayward son
And by Your spirit, breathe upon them, show the world that You alone can save You alone can save

As we call out to dry bones, come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts, come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones, come alive

So breathe, oh, breath of God
Now breathe, oh, breath of God
Breathe, oh, breath of God, now breathe

Breathe, oh, breath of God
Now breathe, oh, breath of God
Breathe, oh, breath of God, now breathe

As we call out to dry bones, come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts, come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones, come alive

We call out to dry bones, come alive
Oh, come alive

Lauren Daigle

“I Have This Hope” by Pastor Randy

One of my favorite bands is Tenth Avenue North. Their sound, their lyrics, and even their lead singers testimony resonates with me. And so, on this Tuesday, I simply want to encourage to meditate on the words of one of their popular songs. Enjoy!

As I walk this great unknown

Questions come and questions go

Was there purpose for the pain?

Did I cry these tears in vain?

I don’t want to live in fear

I want to trust that You are near

Trust Your grace can be seen

In both triumph and tragedy

I have this hope

In the depth of my soul

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me and You won’t let go

But sometimes my faith feels thin

Like the night will never end

Will You catch every tear

Or will You just leave me here?

But I have this hope

In the depth of my soul

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me and You won’t let go

Yes, I have this hope

In the depth of my soul

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me and You won’t let go

So, whatever happens I will not be afraid

Cause You are closer than this breath that I take

You calm the storm when I hear You call my name

I still believe that one day I’ll see Your face

I have this hope

In the depth of my soul

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me

I have this hope

In the depth of my soul

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me and You won’t let go

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me and You won’t let go

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me and You won’t let go

performed by Tenth Avenue north

“Living Sunday’s Sermon on Monday” by Pastor Randy

Good morning! It’s Monday which means it’s time for you to start living the sermon you heard on Sunday.

When I would preach regularly at the church I pastored at I would often stand in the back to greet people as they left and inevitably I would hear things like, “Nice message” or “Good sermon Pastor”. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to hear feedback like that but it’s better to hear about how someone applied the sermon to their life.

In fact, after a while I started to respond to those who complimented me with, “Thank you! I would love to hear how you put some feet on it this week.” And you know what, after a while some started doing just that.

I would getting mid-week texts or e-mails telling me about their actions in response to the message and sometimes I would walk into church the next Sunday only to have someone run up to me excited to share a testimony. To me this was the most encouraging feedback that I could receive because it meant that the words that God was giving me actually impacted lives and the lives of others around them.

So… how will you start living yesterday’s sermon today?

How will you take a Scripture, a point, or a challenge that your pastor shared and put some feet on it?

How will you go from passively hearing God’s Word to actively living it today?

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James‬ ‭1:22-25‬)

I would love to hear some ways that you are doing this and I’m sure that your pastor would love to hear it too!

“Compline: Night Prayer” by Pastor Randy

[This week I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

Compline comes from the Latin which means to complete. It is the final prayer before going to bed. It marks the completion of our day and is considered to be a daily exercise in the act of dying.

Luke 2:29-32 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (NLT)

Psalm 121:1-8 “I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (NLT‬‬)

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hoursof this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes andchances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Look down, O Lord, from your heavenly throne, andillumine this night with your celestial brightness; that bynight as by day your people may glorify your holy Name;through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us inpeace; and let your blessing be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

————————————————-

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, orweep this night, and give your angels charge over those whosleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

————————————————-
O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we livein and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may neverforget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
————————————————-
Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awakewe may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

————————————————-

The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.

excerpts from The Book of Common Prayer

“Vespers: Evening Prayer” by Pastor Randy

[This week I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

Vespers, celebrated at dusk, takes on the character of evening when day is almost over and our work has come to an end. This hour is marked with rest and contemplation of the day’s successes and failures. It is often marked by thanksgiving for the day just past and a sacrifice of praise for the night yet to come.

Psalms‬ ‭141:1-2‬ “O Lord, I am calling to you. Please hurry! Listen when I cry to you for help! Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.” ‭‭(‭NLT‬)

Psalms‬ ‭119:55‬ ‭“I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord; therefore, I obey your instructions.” ‭‭(NLT‬‬)

Praise From All Creatures


Praise be to you, O Lord
Who spins shining stars across the wondrous heavens
And stretches out the seas,
Who lifts the dawn into place And sets boundaries for night,
Who awes the earth with storms And gentles it with green,
Who gives everything a season
And breathes life and love into the dust of us.
Praise be to You.


Praise in all things, For all things,
The soft slant of sunlight, The sweat of battle,
a song in the wilderness, the evening breeze,
the deep breath,
the tended wound,
mercy, quietness, a friend; for the miracles of the daily,
the mysteries of the eternal.
Praise be to You.


Praise from all creatures, Laughers and list-makers,
Wonders and worriers,
Poets and plodders and prophets,
The wrinkled, the newborn, The whale, and the worm,
From all, and from me. Praise, praise be to You
For amazing grace.

by Ted Loder

“None – The Ninth Hour” by Pastor Randy

[This week I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

None, refers to the ninth hour, roughly mid-afternoon. Much like with Prime, it is a time to pray for perseverance and for the strength to continue bearing fruit. It is a time when one becomes aware of the sun’s eventual setting and the strength one needs to cope with the demands and responsibilities of life.

Philippians‬ ‭3:7-21‬ ‭“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (‭‭NIV‬‬)

STAY STEADFAST MY SOUL


Stay steadfast my soul
when the waves seem too high
When my confidence wanes
and my well has run dry


Stay steadfast my soul
when the hurts of ministry cut deep
When I am sad
when I am tired
without tears
without sleep


Stay steadfast my soul
when from depression I can no longer hide
It is always hungry
all consuming
yet never seems satisfied


Stay steadfast my soul
when other’s voices drown out my own
When their troubles and their vices
on my weary shoulders find a home


Stay steadfast my soul
for it will all come to an end
When my Savior and Lord
comes back again


Stay steadfast my soul
continue to be fervent
And on that day He will say
Well done faithful servant

Randy LeBaron

“Sext – The Noonday Devil” by Pastor Randy

[This week I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

Sext is Latin for the sixth hour. It takes place at midday when the sun is overhead and one has become tired and lost their motivation. It is a time for earnest prayer to resist temptation, to keep from being overcome by the demands and pressures of life. We are reminded of Christ being crucified at the sixth hour and we unite ourselves with Him. One is aware of one’s failures and mistakes and prays for true conversion even to the point of sacrifice.

I don’t know about you but this describes me after lunch when it’s hard to concentrate, easy to fall into a FB scroll spiral, and the only thing I am motivated to do is take a nap. It’s this time of day that I need be that much more intentional about how I spend my time. When I was pastoring I would often plan visitation at this time because then I was alone so I wouldn’t be tempted to go into a social media spiral and it was much easier to pay attention to another person than whatever project I was currently working on.

Psalm 55:16-23 “As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me. God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change— he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God. My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant. His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords. Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. But you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you.”‬ ‭(NIV‬‬)

In the strong name of Jesus Christ I stand against the world, the flesh, and the devil.

I resist every force that would seek to distract me from my center in God.

I reject the distorted concepts and ideas that make sin plausible and desirable.

I oppose every attempt to keep me from knowing full fellowship with God.

By the power of the Holy Spirit I speak directly to the thoughts, emotions, and desires of my heart and command you to find your satisfaction in the infinite variety of God’s love rather than the bland diet of sin.

I call upon the good, the true, and the beautiful to rise up within me and the evil to subside.

I ask for an increase of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

By the authority of almighty God I tear down Satan’s strongholds in my life, in the lives of those I love, and in the society in which I live.

I take into myself the weapons of truth, righteousness, peace, salvation, the word of God, and prayer.

I command every evil influence to leave; you have no right here and I allow you no point of entry.

I ask for an increase of faith, hope, and love so that, by the power of God, I can be a light set on a hill, causing truth and justice to flourish.

These things I pray for the sake of him who loved me and gave himself for me.

Amen.

Richard Foster

“Terce – The Third Hour”

[This week and next I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

Terce simply means “third hour” in Latin is prayed mid-morning around 9am. Traditionally it is dedicated to the coming of the Holy Spirit which took place at mid-morning as stated in the account of Pentecost in Acts 2. It is time to ask for a fresh refilling of The Spirit and for strength for the day.

‭‭Acts‬ ‭1:8‬ “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (‭NIV‬)

Psalm 51:10-12 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (NIV‬‬)

“Holy Spirit”

There’s nothing worth more

That will ever come close

Nothing can compare

You’re our living Hope

Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen

Of the sweetest of love

When my heart becomes free

And my shame is undone

Your presence, Lord

Holy Spirit You are welcome here

Come flood this place

And fill the atmosphere

Your glory God

Is what our hearts long for

To be overcome

By Your presence, Lord

There’s nothing worth more

That will ever come close

Nothing can compare

You’re our living Hope

Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen

Of the sweetest of love

When my heart becomes free

And my shame is undone

Your presence, Lord

Oh, Holy Spirit You are welcome here

Come flood this place

And fill the atmosphere

Your glory God

Is what our hearts long for

To be overcome

By Your presence, Lord

Oh, Holy Spirit You are welcome here

Come flood this place

And fill the atmosphere

Your glory God

Is what our hearts long for

To be overcome

By Your presence, Lord

Overwhelm us with Your presence God

Overwhelm us now

Oh, beautiful name

Let us become more aware

Of Your presence

Let us experience the glory

Of Your goodness

Let us become more aware

Of Your presence

Let us experience the glory

Of Your goodness

Let us become more aware

Of Your presence

Let us experience the glory

Of Your goodness

Oh Lord!

Holy Spirit You are welcome here

Come flood this place

And fill the atmosphere

Your glory God

Is what our hearts long for

To be overcome

By Your presence, Lord

“Holy Spirit” by Jesus Culture

“Prime – The First Hour”

[This week and next I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

Prime, which is celebrated during the first hour of daylight, is a minor hour which many stopped observing around 1970. I include it however because it began in the 4th Century for a reason I find a bit humorous and one that I that I thought some on here might relate to.

Typically the monks would get up and begin their day with Lauds at Daybreak but some of the “lazy” ones would sleep in and not start their day until Terce. As a way of compromising with these monks who needed more sleep, but who they didn’t want to start their day without prayer and devotion, the practice of Prime began by offering a chance o pray and read Scripture together as the monks met to start their tasks for the day and it took place in between Lauds and Terce.

So for you non-morning people out there, who need more than just a cup of coffee to start your workday, this hour was created for you. 😇

Psalms‬ ‭5:3‬ “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” ‭(NIV‬‬)

Colossians‬ ‭3:23-24‬ ‭“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (NIV‬‬)

Jesus, I desire to start this day with you.
And yet, my mind keeps flitting to so many things:
the projects I want to accomplish,
the people I want to talk to,
the people I wish I didn’t have to talk to.
I wonder. Are these things distractions to spiritual concentration
or invitation to see God in the ordinary? I’m not sure.
Jesus, I know that you are that Center who knows no distraction.
So I offer up my mental fragmentation to you, O Lord my God.
May my scatteredness become your gatheredness.
As I am contemplating a thousand things,
Jesus, may I somehow be contemplating you.
Amen.

~Richard J. Foster; Prayers From the Heart

“Lauds – Prayer at Dawn”

[This week and next I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

Lauds is celebrated at sunrise when the night is dispelled and the new day is born. The Church has always considered the sun to be a symbol of Christ rising from the dead. We thank God for the first light at the beginning of creation and for the second light that came into the world—Christ. This hour is filled with joyful prayers and songs.

Genesis‬ ‭1:3-5‬ “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” ‭(NIV‬‬)

John 1:1-9 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” ‭(NIV‬‬)

John 8:12 “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” (NIV‬‬)

“Light of the World” by Lauren Daigle

The world waits for a miracle
The heart longs for a little bit of hope
Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel
A child prays for peace on Earth
And she’s calling out from a sea of hurt
Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel

And can you hear the angels singing
Glory to the light of the world
Glory the light of the world is here

The drought breaks with the tears of a mother
A baby’s cry is the sound of love
Come down, come down, Emmanuel

Oh, He is the song for the suffering
He is Messiah, the Prince of Peace has come
He has come, Emmanuel

Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world

For all who wait
For all who hunger
For all who’ve prayed
For all who wonder
Behold your King
Behold Messiah
Emmanuel, Emmanuel

Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world

Behold your King
Behold Messiah
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
The world waits for the miracle
The heart longs for a little bit of hope
Oh come, oh come Emmanuel

Shed your clear light on our hearts, Lord, so that walking continually in the way of your commandments we may never be deceived or misled. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, (one) God, for ever and ever. Amen.

“Vigils – The Night Watch”

Some of you may be familiar with a candlelight prayer vigil, where you gather together and stay up late praying for.a specific purpose, and that practice comes from the same concept of what is practiced here in The Daily Office.

Vigils are prayers offered up in the middle of the night when one would normally be sleeping but instead is up waiting and watching in prayer. It is a time of learning to trust the darkness as one is immersed into the mystery of the night. It has also been referred to as “purposeful sleeplessness” with the focus on staying awake to watch for The Bridegroom.

When I started staying at The Abbey of the Genesee this was the first office and it was celebrated right after the Monks woke up at 2am. Since then it has changed and now Vigils are being celebrated at 3:30am. Here are some Scriptures and a prayer to meditate on…

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:145-148‬ ‭‬ “I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord, and I will obey your decrees. I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” (‭NIV‬‬)

Luke 12:35-40 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (NIV‬‬)

“Night Time”

(a prayer poem)


As the darkness draws in,
you are the light in my heart
As the air turns colder,
you are the warmth in my soul
As the stars are revealed,
you renew my spirit
As the moon shines,
I know I am held safe in your arms.

“The Divine Office” by Pastor Randy

Happy Monday! I’m praying that your week is already off to a great start and just keeps getting better. 😇

Both this week and next I want to draw your attention to a different hour of The Divine Office, also referred to as The Daily Office, each day. If you are unfamiliar with this terminology, or the practice of pausing to pray and read Scripture at set times throughout the day, then you are not alone. Many Protestants, like myself, have never even heard of this practice let alone observed it. In fact, it wasn’t until over a decade ago while doing my doctoral work at Northeastern Seminary that I first learned about it. I then stayed at The Abbey of the Genesee in 2012 for my initial experience of practicing it. And though I don’t even attempt to observe them all on a consist basis, outside of when actually staying at The Abbey, even observing one in the Morning and one in the Evening helps me draw closer to The Lord by facilitating a rhythm of contemplation throughout each day. It is for that reason that I would like to share a bit here because I have found it to be a a very beneficIal part of my personal devotional life and you may find the same to be true for you.

There are what are determined to be Major Hours and minor hours and, depending on your tradition, some may observe all or only a few. The hours I will be sharing about are as follows:

  • Vigils (during the night, at about 2 a.m.)
  • Lauds (at dawn, at about 5 a.m.)
  • Prime (early morning, at about 6 a.m.)
  • Terce (mid-morning, at about 9 a.m.)
  • Sext (midday, at about 12 p.m.)
  • None (mid-afternoon, at about 3 p.m.)
  • Vespers (evening, at about 6 p.m.)
  • Compline (before bed, at about 7 p.m.)

Every morning I will share about the purpose of one of the hours and will provide a hymn, chorus, Psalm, or prayer that you can use as part of your own personal praxis. Unlike the more traditional observation of the hours I will sometimes add contemporary prayers and songs into the mix. For example, let’s start the week off by praying together the…

“PRAYER FOR THE WORKPLACE” by Anonymous

Dear Heavenly Father,

As I enter my workplace today, I invite you to join me so that everyone here will sense your presence. I give you this day and ask you to work through me by the power of the Holy Spirit.

May I convey your peace, just as I am aware of your comforting proximity at all times. Fill me with Your grace, mercy, and power to serve you and others in this place.

Lord Jesus, I want you to be glorified in my life and in this place of business. I pray you will be Lord over everything that is said and done here.

God, I thank you for the numerous blessings and
gifts you have given me. May I bring honor to your name and spread joy to others.

Holy Spirit, help me to depend on you wholly today. Renew my strength. Fill me with physical and spiritual energy so that I will be the best employee I can be. Give me eyes of faith to see from a heavenly perspective as I do my job.

Lord, guide me with your wisdom. Help me to work through every challenge and conflict. Let me be a beacon for you and a blessing to my coworkers.

My prayer is to be a living witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the name of Jesus,

Amen.

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.“

“Father Forgive Us” by Pastor Randy

Happy Friday! We are going to close the week with a prayer of confession accompanied by the promise of forgiveness.

Father forgive our eyes
when we linger too long where we should not have been looking

Father forgive our ears
when we entertain gossip and listen to godless chatter

Father forgive our mouths
when we speak careless words to or about others

Father forgive our hands
when we raise them to root for our team but refuse to lift them in praise

Father forgive our feet
when we run races but will not walk out of our way for another

Father forgive our hearts
when we compartmentalize our love for You and for others

Father forgive our minds
when we conform to the patterns of this world
instead of being transformed by Your Word

Father forgive our souls
when we seek to be forgiven even as we sin by not forgiving

Father forgive our pride
when we only use our gifts to work for personal gain

Father forgive us

Amen

“An Alert Mind and a Thankful Heart” by Pastor Randy

Colossians‬ ‭4:2‬ “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” ‭‭‭(NLT‬‬)

I love how Paul places the emphasis here on having an alert mind and a thankful heart when we pray.

How many times have you rattled off a recited prayer before a meal or during a church service without a thought about what you’re saying?

Or how many times have you neglected to thank God for an answer to prayer or taken for granted some of the blessings in your life that others would be more than grateful for if they were in your shoes?

We’ve all done it, right? Not intentionally but it’s easy to get busy, to get distracted, or to get caught up just going through the motions. That’s why Paul reminds us to go to God intentionally, considering what is coming out of our mouths as well as what The Spirit is speaking to our hearts, and to learning to be grateful to God for all that He has done.

I encourage you to take even ten minutes today to do just that. Pray on purpose with the expectancy that you will encounter the Creator of the Universe and praise Him for all that He is and all that He has done.

“Fall Fund Drive”

Hey friends, would you consider giving toward my evangelism efforts and the mission of GSM throughout 2022? Much like a modern missionary, I am self-funded and seeking Monthly Ministry Partners (there are 5 levels w/ benefits shown in the pic) as well as one-time givers. And, for the remainder of October, any gifts given (and 2022 Monthly Ministry Partners willing to start this month) will be matched up to $2,500. This also included any current Monthly Ministry Partners who renew their commitment through the end of 2022. For more info. on how to sign-up and send your gift please read below. You can also find out more at GoScatterMinistries.org
——————————————————————————————————
After two and half decades in full-time pastoral ministry Rev. Randy LeBaron took a step of faith and followed God’s call to step out of his role as a Lead Pastor in order to share God’s Word and Christ’s love outside the walls of the church and alongside other organizations that also serve the underprivileged and the overlooked. On July 1, 2019 he was commissioned and appointed as an Evangelist in the Genesis Conference of the FMCUSA and simultaneously founded Go Scatter Ministries—a non-denominational, non-profit, ministry with a mission to“Engage in, and Equip Every Christian for, Everyday Evangelism”.

This is being accomplished by offering a variety of services both on site and online. Pastor Randy has had the opportunity to share Christ in multiple coffee shops, churches, denominations, and countries, spanning four continents. He has served as a Lead Pastor, Camp Evangelist, Retreat Facilitator, Mission’s Team Leader, Guest Speaker for Men’s & Mission Events, Volunteer Sheriff’s Chaplain, Care-Net Peer Counselor, Hands 4 Hope Team Member, Community Kitchen Volunteer, Co-Founder of P.A.C.T. (Pastors Aligned for Community Transformation), and as an officiant for weddings, funerals, and other ministry related services. He is also the host of the FB Page & YouTube Channel “Refill with Randy” (recently highlighted on the Family Life Radio Network) and the creator and co-contributor of the various blogs offered via GoScatterMinistries.org and GoScatter.blog

In addition to honorariums received for speaking engagements Pastor Randy relies on the generous support of individual donors and churches. As both the Conference Evangelist and the sole employee of GSM he has established different methods of fundraising much like a modern day missionary. To that end, and in an effort to create a consistent and sustainable support structure moving forward, we have launched the Monthly Ministry Partner Program.This is a great new way to invest, and take more of a vested interest, in furthering the gospel message through the ongoing mission and ministries of Pastor Randy and GSM. There are five different commitment levels to choose from for individuals and churches and each comes with benefits and services as a way of saying “Thank You” as well as keeping you up to date and engaged with the life of the ministry.

PLEASE E-MAIL ME at randylebaron@gmail.com with: (1) The giving method you will be using (see below), (2) The monthly amount you are committing to over the next year, (3) The day of the month it will be sent on, (4) Your contact info. (Full name, Phone, e-mail, address, etc.)

TO GIVE BY CHECK AND RECEIVE A YEAR-END TAX RECEIPT
Make your check out to: Genesis Conference FMC and write: Evangelist Fund in the memo line.
Mail to: Genesis Conference 2260 Westside Drive
P.O. Box 206
N. Chili, NY 14514

*For monthly giving I would suggest setting up automated e-checks from your bank.

TO GIVE ONLINE AND NOT RECEIVE A YEAR END TAX RECEIPT
You can either give directly through PayPal using randylebaron@gmail.com
or go to GoScatterMinistries.org and click the DONATE button at the bottom of the page.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS…

Q. WHY DO YOU RECEIVE HONORARIUMS FOR SERVICES?
As much as I would love to be able to offer all services for free the reality is that until I am fully funded by donors like you this is the primary way for me to provide for my family.

Q. HOW ARE THE DONATIONS USED?
Currently, as a self-funding evangelist and the sole employee of Go Scatter Ministries Inc., the primary purpose is to provide me with a salary and cover the costs of insurance, pension, and Soc.Sec. I remit funds to The Genesis Conference of the FMCUSA and they issue me a paycheck out of it on a monthly basis. Beyond that donations are also used for: audio/video equipment, website fees, promotional material, and funding community mission projects.

Q. WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF APPROACHING MINISTRY THIS WAY?
In a word… FLEXIBILITY. By not being attached to only one church or congregation I am free to share the messages God has put on my heart with many more people, churches, and denominations. Also, by not having to be bi-vocational in a traditional 9-5 sense, I am freed up to use my time to assist other churches and organization at no cost to them. Currently I volunteer with: Hands 4 Hope, Care-Net, P.A.C.T., as a volunteer Sheriff’s Chaplain. I also serve as a Chapel Speaker for Christian Schools and Colleges and assist with community mission events and am available for counseling, pastoral care, coffee ministry, and all the time it takes to create, edit, and share online resources and videos.

Q. WILL I RECEIVE A TAX RECEIPT FOR MY DONATIONS?
If you send your donation by check to Genesis Conference with Evangelist Fund in the memo line then YES. If you choose to send your monthly gift electronically via PayPal or any other method then NO.With the current standardized deduction being so high most people no longer itemize and therefore do not need a tax receipt.

Q. WHEN WILL I START RECEIVING THE BENEFITS OFFERED?
You will receive your partnership certificate and welcome e-mail within the first month and other ongoing benefits, such as the newsletter, quarterly update videos, and ZOOM sessions with Pastor Randy, will start whenever the next one is scheduled after you sign up. Mugs will be sent after the second donation is received and other things like pulpit supply, the sermon series, ministry assessments, and the bi-monthly spiritual guidance sessions will be at a mutually agreed upon day and time. When possible, these should be scheduled 1-2 months in advance.

Q. WHAT IF MY CHURCH IS OUT OF THE AREA?
Practically speaking, if your church is more than 100 miles from Albion I would still be glad to have you partner with me but we may need to meet over ZOOM and extra $ for travel & accommodations might be necessary.

Q. WHAT IF I CANNOT COMMIT ON A MONTHLY BASIS BUT STILL WANT TO GIVE SOMETHING?
I understand that there are those receiving this who may want to support me and my ministry but cannot on a continual basis. Your one-time gifts are always welcomed with gratitude!

Q. WHAT IF I WANTED TO PLEDGE A DIFFERENT MONTHLY AMOUNT?
You can pledge any amount that you like but you will be included in whichever partner level you are closest to without going over (i.e. $175/ mo. would be a Gardener/Supporting Church).

Q. CAN I CHOOSE A PARTNERSHIP LEVEL BUT GIVE ONE TIME OR ON A QUARTERLY BASIS?
Of course! For each partnership level the donations and benefits are structured on a 1 yr. basis so if you wanted to become a Scatterer ($50/mo.) you could send a one-time gift of $600 or quarterly gifts of $150 and still receive all of the benefits and services offered throughout the year.

“Anam Cara… Soul Friend” by Pastor Randy

So, what is a Soul Friend? Someone who willingly joins you on, and helps shape, your Christian journey. A person who intentionally enters into a long obedience in the same direction alongside you, not as an advisor so much as a traveling companion, and who offers spiritual direction during times of crisis or confusion. A brother or sister that shares in and helps you create a sacred space for such things as common prayer and contemplative practices.

The concept comes from the Celtic monastic tradition where an Anam Cara (literally translated Soul Friend) is considered an essential companion on the spiritual path–someone to share your struggles, as well as shape your life, with. In doing so they can become an anchor during a storm as they sit silently with you weathering the waves of grief and confusion all the while refraining from trying to simply fix your situation. What they provide is not answers per se but the ability to help you ask the right questions.

This is what we all need and what we all need to be…

“Thin Places” by Pastor Randy

Happy Tuesday! Today I want to talk about thin places. Thin places are considered to be those geographical locations where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and the divine is more readily felt.

In the Celtic tradition it is thought that they can relax us and transform us — or, more accurately, unmask us. For some it is a place in their home, for others the altar, and for some a special place on spiritual significance. For me it is The Abbey of the Genesee.

I have already mentioned The Abbey in previous posts, including yesterday’s, but for those who are unfamiliar with it it is a small Benedictine Monastery in Piffard, NY just outside of Geneseo. It is a place where Silence, Solitude, and Hospitality are held in high regard and where I go to connect with God outside of the chaos of this noisy, busy world that we live in. And yes, it’s where they make Monk’s Bread!

I first encountered The Abbey during my time of Sabbatical almost a decade ago after the death of my parents. Having been drained after a difficult period of caregiving followed by deep depression it provided me with a place to rest, reflect, and to have my call to ministry reaffirmed. Much like with Elijah it was my broom tree and mountain cave all rolled into one. And, whenever I go back to stay or visit (which has been long overdue due to the pandemic) I feel a closeness with the Lord simply because of the healing that I received while I was there.

So what is your thin place? Where do you go where you sense God speaking louder and clearer than other places? Can you take some time to go there even for a day or an hour to bathe yourself in His presence? If so, I encourage you to do so.

Mark 1:35 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

Matthew 17:1-9 “Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus. As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (NLT‬)

“Abbey Road” by Pastor Randy

At one of my stays at The Abbey of the Genesee I took note of how fast people drove down the road next to the walking path from the Retreat Center to The Abbey because it seemed liked such a juxtaposition and, as a result, I wrote the following poem. As you read it think about your week ahead and make a conscious decision to enter it hurried and overwhelmed or at a slower pace, spending time in prayer and pause.

As the cars and trucks speed by
filled with people with hurried schedules
and urgent appointments
inside there are others
moving slower
focused and steady
but slower

They too have full days
work to be accomplished
a schedule to follow
commitments to keep
Their urgency though is in their being
not their doing

There are prayers to be said and psalms to be read
psalters to create and bread to bake
but the most important moments of the day are filled with
silence
solitude
spirit speaking to Spirit

“Oh, How He Loves Us” by Pastor Randy

For this Friday’s post I have chosen to simply share the lyrics to the song “How He Loves” written by John Mark McMillan and (in the embedded video below) performed by Kim Walker Smith.

This is a beautiful song that is a simple reminder of how much God really does loves us, whether we feel like we deserve it or not. So please meditate on the lyrics, listen to the song, and allow God’s love to flow over you and fill you up.

… He is jealous for me
Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy


When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me…

And oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us all…

And He is jealous for me
Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy

When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me…

And, oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us all…

Yeah, He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves…

And we are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking


And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about, the way……

That He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves…

Yeah, He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves…

Yeah, He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves

“Five Ways FB Can Positively Impact Your Prayer Life” by Pastor Randy

Let’s face it, it’s pretty easy to pick on FB these days between the whistleblowing, the unending political posts, the cries of censorship, and the general time suck that can result from any social media. But, being the glass half full kind of guy that I am, I want to share…

5 Ways Can Positively Impact Your Prayer Life

(1) Scroll Down Your Newsfeed and Pick People to Pray for

I don’t know about you but there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to pray for everyone that I might want to but scrolling through FB gives me a chance to see who is specifically asking for prayer as well reminding me of others who I may not have been in contact for a while but God has put on my heart.

(2) Put a Post on Your Wall Offering to Pray for Others

I have some pastor friends who consistently do this on the same day and time every week, which makes it helpful for others to know that the opportunity will be there, but whether you do it weekly or once in a while I think it conveys to others that you are willing and wanting to pray for others so they will message you whenever something arises.

(3) Pray for People You Disagree with VS Debating with Them

If someone posts something that you disagree with you don’t have to get angry and get into an argument, instead you can practice self-control and simply pause, pray for them (not just for them to start thinking like you), and scroll down.

(4) Choose a Few Friends Everyday Who You Will Take the Time to Read Their Wall, Pray for Them, and then Reach Out via Messenger

Simply put, you can’t keep up with everyone all the time, nor should you), but you can take the time to show care for a few, or even one, each day.

(5) Pick Out at Least One Person Each Day to Publicly Praise

After choosing someone you should spend time: praying for them, praising God for them, and then posting an encouraging message on their wall to publicly affirm them.

Try any or all of these out for at least a week and then let me know if it has not only helped your prayer life but also your overall attitude when online. Happy scrolling!!!

“Practice the Pause” by Pastor Randy

Happy Wednesday!

As you pause to read this in the middle of your week I want to talk to you about Practicing the Pause.

In my post last Friday I shared about spending time in Silence & Solitude, learning to listen to God, but the reality is that as Christians we are to become people who pray perpetually.

Now that doesn’t mean that we should all just hide away in our prayer closet all day, every day rather that we you become the type of person to whom prayer becomes a second language that you use throughout the day to talk with your Father.

When Paul exhorts us to “pray continually” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 I don’t think that he is asking us to become “so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good” as the saying goes but, rather, to learn to be in constant communication with the Father—through the Son—as directed by The Holy Spirit.

And I believe the key to praying continually is to practice a holy PAUSE

Before you get out of bed in the morning PAUSE and ask God to make His Agenda your agenda.

Before you eat PAUSE and thank God for all that He has provided for you.

Before you make a big decision PAUSE and ask God to give you wisdom and discernment.

Before you speak to, or about, someone PAUSE and ask God if it is beneficial for building them or others up.

Before you leave your house each day PAUSE and ask God to give you an attitude worth catching.

Before you go to bed at night PAUSE and thank God for all of the blessings of the day.

I could list more but you get the picture. I encourage you to try it and let me know how it goes.

“My Praise Drawer” by Pastor Randy

Good morning!

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I had kept cards and other notes of appreciation from over the years so I thought that today I would talk a little about where I keep them—my praise drawer.

This is simply a drawer that I use to keep any cards, letters, pictures, drawings, ect. that have been given to me with the primary purpose of: acknowledging something I did that they appreciated, affirming my call, letting me know that they are praying for me, or just generally something that brings a smile to my face and boosts my spirit. I use to have a criticism drawer too but decided a while back that it wasn’t very good for my mental health, especially when I realized that both drawers were filled with things from the same people. 😏 

Seriously though, I have been collecting these items for more almost three decades and every now and again when I am going through a difficult time, when I am questioning my call, or when I am hurting from something someone has said to me, I will open this drawer and read a few of the notes in an effort to counteract the criticism. I’m not saying this always works (it’s true that we tend to remember the negative more so than the positive) but it does help give perspective and is a good reminder that just because someone might act unlovingly toward me that it doesn’t mean that I am unloved.

So, to that end, I would encourage you to do two things today… (1) create your own praise drawer to put meaningful messages away for a rainy day and (2) do your best to help fill other people’s praise drawers. We live in such a negative, critical culture that a hand written note of affirmation or thanks can mean the world to someone so why not buy a card, pick up a pen, and make someone’s day. It won’t cost you much but it might mean the world to that person who is believing the lies of the enemy and needs to experience God’s love through your encouraging words.

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Pastor Appreciation Month” by Pastor Randy

“Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.”
‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

October is PASTOR APPRECIATION MONTH and I would like to encourage you to be intentional when it comes to showing love and support for the spiritual leaders in your life. Also, as someone who has served in this role previously for more than two decades, allow me to share some insight with you into why and how you should participate.

As rewarding as ministry might be it can also be stressful, isolating, and even hurtful at times (Sheep bite!) Imagine being in a position where there is an unspoken expectation to be all things to all people (leader, counselor, life coach, biblical expert, visionary, manager, preacher, teacher, evangelist, missionary, friend, encourager, disciplinarian, boss, employee, etc.) all the while being on call 24/7, never feeling like you are “done” for the day, trying to balance church & family, and making appropriate time to care for necessary physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. And did I mention coming up with a fresh message every week! Considering the fact that The Fear of Public Speaking ranks ahead of the Fear of Death that is no small fete. 🤔 😇

WHY?

Obviously no two clergy or congregations are alike but in a culture that constantly asks, “What have you done for me lately?”, why not make sure that those who care for you know that you care about them.

HOW?

I would suggest that you attempt to make it…

MEANINGFUL – Knowing that my top love languages are Words of Affirmation & Gifts and that I like watching football and collecting Batman memorabilia I have been blessed to receive many thoughtful cards and letters of appreciation over the years and have been surprised with Buffalo Bills’ tickets for me and my boy as well as everything Batman from lunch boxes to clothing & books.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR PASTOR’S PERSONAL INTERESTS AND HOBBIES? WHAT COULD YOU GET, OR DO, FOR THEM TO SHOW THAT YOU SEE THEM AS A PERSON AND NOT JUST A PASTOR?

PRACTICAL – This isn’t maybe as necessary as making it meaningful but it is always great to get something meaningful that is also useful. For example, I have received numerous gift cards over the years as well as new tires, a years worth of oil changes, free babysitting, meals, etc.

WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT WOULD BE USEFUL TO YOUR SPIRITUAL LEADER?

MEMORABLE – For my very first Pastor Appreciation Month back when I was a bachelor serving as an Assistant Pastor I received a gigantic card filled with coupons for free weekly meals and desserts, oil changes, movie nights, and other fun stuff good for a full year! My second year at that same church I was thrown a surprise party in my own apartment that took me forever to realize what was going on. Lol I was taken to Universal Studios once while already in Orlando for a Church Conference and I once I even came home from church to find a goat tied to a pole in my yard with a card letting me know it was my new lawnmower (named Billy). 😂

WHAT IS REALLY REMARKABLE THAT WOULD MAKE YOUR PASTOR’S DAY?

The reality is that it doesn’t have to be something big or expensive but it should be intentional and convey what you feel about him or her.

Here are some suggestions…

  • Take them out for a meal to show your appreciation and to share with them what they mean to you.
  • Send a handwritten card (not just hallmark with a signature) to encourage them (I have kept everyone of these over the past two decades of ministry and they still bring me joy when rereading).
  • As mentioned above, it is always a welcomed idea to give cash or gift cards that could be used for days off, date nights, and family outings. BONUS… offer free childcare too!
  • Commit to praying for your pastor on a certain day or time period and then let them know in case they ever want to share something specific. Better yet, recruit others to each take a day of the month so that they will be covered daily throughout the entire year.
  • Go the extra mile! One time the Jr. Teen Sunday School Class literally covered my minivan with post-it-notes sharing thank yous, encouragements, funny stories, etc. IT! WAS!! AWESOME!!!

Whatever you can do will be great as long as you do something! I would love to know what types of things you choose to do so please message me what your plan is. 😇

“Feeding Ourselves Spiritual Food – Part 4” by Pastor Randy

“How are you feeding yourself spiritually these days?”  So far we have talked about different methods for digging into God’s Word and about the benefits of creating sacred space in our calendars for silence and solitude. Yesterday I shared some of the ways I have done this on a daily basis and today I’ll write about creating space in our calendars for longer times of this on a  monthly and quarterly basis. And just in case you are wondering why I am not including a weekly basis here as well it is because I will be sharing about that in a different post focusing on all of the aspects of Sabbath keeping, So for now let’s start with monthly.

Once a month I like to get away to a specific place, anywhere from a few hours to a good portion of the day, for a mini-spiritual retreat. It could be somewhere close by or a couple hours drive but the main thing is that I go somewhere that I can be alone, for the most part, and spend a significant amount of time away from my devices and other distractions.

In the past I have…

  • hung out at a friend’s place while they were at work
  • hijacked a room at a church or some other organization
  • sequestered myself in the Conference Room of a local Bed & Breakfast
  • walked around Holley Falls
  • Sat under a tree at a park
  • spent time at a campground
  • gone to a Christian retreat center

There are more that I could list but that gives you a sense of some of the places that I have chosen to go to. As you can see, there are some similarities and the first and foremost one is that they are all FREE!!! Taking money out of the equation also helps take away the excuses we make about getting away.

And while I am spending time at these places I typically bring a few things…

  • my phone (on airplane mode) so that I have access to my camera as I love to take pictures while I am out on a prayer walk – especially at a place like Holley Falls.
  • My Bible and a Retreat Book that gives me a devotion to read and then asks questions or offers prayer suggestions to help guide my time
  • A notebook and pen for the dual purpose of writing down anything The Lord is saying to me as well as jotting down the multitude of things that I need to do and that always come to my mind during these times.  The main reason I do this is because if I can write them down then I don’t need to keep trying to remember them throughout.

That’s it. Pretty simple. Basically I spend time in listening prayer mode but also have on hand tools to help me stay focused when other voices, including my own, start to get too loud to hear The Voice of The One Who I truly want and need to hear from. So that is what I do for my monthly retreats and my quarterly ones are similar though longer and with a few more elements.

I have done these 3-5 day retreats in different places but by far the one that I go to the most and and have gotten the most from over the past decade is The Abby of the Genesee. This is a small Trappist Monastery in Western New York where I truly experienced Silence & Solitude for an extended period of time and it remains a sacred place that I hold dear to my heart. And it’s also here they literally make Monk’s Bread!!!

Beyond the fact that I bring a few more books into the mix, my focus is pretty much the same as my monthly retreats except that: (1) there is a minimal fee for room & lodging and (2) since the majority of the time there is spent in silence I do participate also in some of the speaking events hen they are offered which include: observation of The Daily Office (corporate worship at different times through the day and night which including chanting,singing, and sometimes a short homily), seminars which are given twice a week for roughly an hour on a certain topic or segment of Scripture, and one on one Spiritual Direction with a monk. For me this is most beneficial because it helps me to process out loud with someone what God has been speaking to me in my silence up to that point.

So there you have it. If anyone wants more details about specific books I might recommend, places to go, or other things that I use to aid my effort to sustain the practice of silence and solitude, in spite of my ADHD and extrovert tendencies, I would be happy help. Also, I only mentioned a few practices and methods to that I feed myself spiritually in these posts but would love to hear what other things you are doing as well.

“Feeding Ourselves Spiritual Food – Part 3” by Pastor Randy

The question this week is, “How are you feeding yourself spiritually?”  So far I have shared different methods  for getting into The Word but today I want to shift the discussion to prayer. And, since we are focusing on finding nourishment for our souls, I want to look at the more passive aspect of prayer—listening.

Most of the time when someone says they are going to pray they mean that they are going to petition God for something, for themselves or someone else, but the reality is that for us to experience prayer as it was meant it needs to be a two-way conversation.

I must confess that for me listening doesn’t come easy. I write and speak words for a living and am used to shaping a conversation but when it is time for me to open my ears and close my mouth it feels like foreign territory. That is why I have to be very intentional when it comes to setting aside time on a regular basis for silence and solitude.

The reality is that we live in a very noisy, fast-paced world where there is little margin for quiet time with God if we do not purposefully build it into our schedule. For me, I try to find some sense of this on a daily, monthly, and quarterly basis. I’ll start with daily here and then share more about monthly and quarterly in tomorrow’s post.

As a father of four it can be difficult finding sacred space to do this. Sometimes I feel like Jesus who was overwhelmed by all the people constantly crowding around him and so he had to sneak off by himself early in the morning to the solitary places.

For me this often means either getting up earlier or staying up later than everyone else. I have also found being on the lawnmower with my noise-canceling headphones on helpful. When I was at the church I would regularly hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my office door so that I could spend uninterrupted time listening to The Lord.

Even if it’s for just 10 min. a day in order to hear and learn to recognize The Shepherd’s voice more clearly on a more consistent basis above all the other voices in this world, including your own, it is worth it. And once you start really hearing Him, and wanting to hear Him louder and clearer, you will want to find longer stretches of time to spend with Him. I will share more about that tomorrow.

“Feeding Yourself Spiritual Food – Part 2” by Pastor Randy

Yesterday I posed the question, “How are you feeding yourself spiritually these days?” focusing on the fact that we aren’t supposed to starve ourselves, spiritually speaking, six days a week and then try to gorge ourselves on Sunday morning with the fruit of someone else’s study. Well, I said it more clearly yest- – – you know what, go back and read it. I’ll wait…

Ok, all caught up now? Good. I started to share about methods that can assist us in intentionally spending time with God and the first one I shared was “Listening to the Bible”. Now, I don’t need to to recap because you just read it, right? 😉And so right along with that I would say that the second method I have found invaluable when it comes to consistently spending time with God and finding nourishment in His Word is doing online devotions with other people. In particular, using the same YouVersion Bible App that I recommended yesterday (If you didn’t download it yesterday go back and do it. No… not now. I already had to wait for you while you got caught up. Do it afterward. 😇)

Just like the App (which I promise I do not have an endorsement offer with—though I am open to it. Call me!), has thousands of Bible translations to assist in your personal study they have tons of Bible Study Plans and Devotional Topics as well.

And, as much as I like doing personal devotions, one of the biggest benefits of using the App is that you can also do them with friends. For me this adds accountability, encouragement, and fellowship to the mix, which definitely helps me stay more consistent. And, since it is online, each person can do it when they want and geography does not play a part in who can join in.

Currently I am doing a devotional by Jordan Raynor with a couple guys of which one lives a few houses down from me and the other about 70 miles away. Even cooler is that they have never met but we can all connect by studying God’s Word together and applying it to our lives.

So what about you? What helps you stay consistent and accountable in your daily walk?


Do you have others that you are growing together with?


Let me know and come back tomorrow for Part 3!!!

“Feeding Yourself Spiritual Food – Part 1” – by Pastor Randy

“You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.” (Hebrews‬ ‭5:12-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

How are you feeding yourself spiritually these days? I’m not talking about going to church one hour, one day a week, and expecting to be fed steak (the reality is that you wouldn’t be able to digest it if all you lived on the rest of the week was milk) but rather what are you doing to help yourself grow in the Lord by eating right (Bible Study) and exercising (prayer, worship, and service). Too often we leave food prep to the professionals on Sunday but the fact is that we need to learn to fend for ourselves as well so that we don’t starve the rest of the week.

What are some of the methods that you use to intentionally spend time with God and nourish your soul?

For me personally the struggle is not getting into The Word or spending time in prayer as much as my motivation for doing so. As someone who is constantly studying Scripture for sermon prep and praying for others as part of my role as a pastor/evangelist it is easy for me to spend all of my time fixing meals for others while forgetting to feed myself. This is where the intentionality comes in and here are a few things I do to help stay on track.

Listening to The Bible – I’m not talking about “hearing the word” so much as literally listening to someone read it out loud. I only started doing this at the beginning of last year as it was promoted by the leader of BFMC’s Men’s Group as we started a year long journey of reading through the Bible together. I find that I not only hear things that may have not stood out in previous readings of the same passage but I also listen while I am driving, walking, even showering, and so even if the urge to write an outline for a future was there the opportunity is not and so I listen for me—I approach it as drinking living water vs using it as a tool to quench someone else’s thirst. This may sound a bit selfish but it is very necessary because you can’t feed others what you yourself are not eating and you cannot lead others toward someone that you yourself are not following.

I am finishing up my second year of going through the Bible in this manner and would offer a few tips if you want to try this yourself.

  • Use a Variety of Reading Plans – last year we simply read straight through the Scriptures  from Genesis to Revelation but this year we are using a Chronological Reading Plan which organizes passages according to actual event timelines.
  • Try a variety of Translations/ Versions –  sometimes listening to a different version than you typically use can help you see things from a different point of view. Also, some versions like The Message are easier to listen to as they use contemporary language and are written in a more casual, conversational matter.
  • Choose a Narrator that you actually like listening to – for me this is very important because years of listening to books on Audible has taught me that it doesn’t matter how good the subject manner is if it is read in a way that is more distracting than pleasing. Now personal preference certainly plays a lot in this but I can tell you that, for me, I often study using the NIV but when it comes to personal listening I much prefer the NLT because the narrator has a much smoother, and less monotone, voice adding just the right inflections. Additionally, other voices have been added in recently to create a more dramatic overall effect.

You can find many audio version online, on Audible, or even going old school with a DVD set but my suggestion would be to try the YouVersion Bible App. It has a permanent spot on my home screen so it is convenient, It has thousands of different versions and translations to choose from, and best if all it’s FREE!!!

It is also very helpful with another method I use to feed myself spiritually which I will write about in tomorrow’s blog. Until then… Be Blessed and Be a Blessing!

“An Ode to Autumn” by Pastor Randy

Good morning! I hope that you are ready for the start of a great week. As you begin your day I have a confession to make—Fall is my favorite time of the year (and not just because I love to watch football).

When the leaves start changing and the temperatures start dropping I just feel more alive. I tend to sleep better, I spend more time outside, I take more walks, and I don’t even mind having to mow more often because it feels like less of a chore and more of a chance to connect with my Creator in His Creation. I will often even take whatever project I’m working on to a nearby waterfall and allow the sights and sounds to inspire me as I write.

I’m not a big fan of pumpkin spice but pumpkin pie is high on my list. I love apple picking, apple cider, apple pie (with Muenster Cheese on top), and Pennsylvania Dutch Style Apple Dumplings. I look forward to being able to “fall back” an hour for Daylight Saving Time, even though I really don’t like having to “spring ahead” the following year, and I especially enjoy wearing comfy clothes and bundling up on those cooler nights.

I also have to admit that I look forward to a certain holiday that falls on October 31st and am already grieving the fact that all of my kids are grown and too old to take trick or treating. I like the colors, the costumes, carving Jack-o-lanterns, and collecting candy (from my kids’ stash 😉). I like movies set in Haddonfield and tv specials Linus’ search for The Great Pumpkin.

I. Like. Fall. 🍁🎃🍎

How about you? Do you enjoy this time of year or is another season your favorite? Why?

“I’m Fine” by Pastor Randy

“I’m fine.”

We’ve all given this pat answer when asked how we are doing, right? It’s the easy answer, the simple answer, even the expected answer, but it’s not always the real answer.

Now you aren’t expected to bare your soul with every person who offers you a polite, “How are you doing?”, as they pass you by at the grocery store but there does need to be certain people and certain places where you can let your guard down, show some vulnerability, and share what is really on your heart and mind.

Whether it’s your spouse, best friend, pastor, therapist, coworker, or member of your small group at church I would encourage you to figure out who the person(s) is and make it a point to be real with them at least once a week. And, if they are wanting and willing, allow them to do the same.

As we navigate this world filled with pseudo friendships founded through social media we need to make sure that we are intentionally making some real connections with real people who really care about how we are doing physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

John Wesley used to start his Class Meetings by asking the question, “How is it with your soul today?” Imagine if even one person asked you that one question even once a week and you answered honestly, knowing that you would be heard with intent to pray for you and not simply fix you or your situation?

My hope is that each of you would seek out and find such a person and, in the meantime, let me ask you sincerely…

HOW ARE YOU TODAY?

“Feeling Happy VS Finding Hope” by Pastor Randy

I know that this is a bit of an over generalization but, often times, it seems that people walk into church on any given Sunday wanting to hear a message that makes them happy about their current spiritual situation when what they need to hear is a message offering them hope for something better. It is then the preacher’s job not to give the congregation what they want but, rather, what they need. Not pointing fingers but painting a picture of what our potential in Christ could be.

Jesus was fantastic at this! When the Samaritan woman from John 4 simply wanted well water (and to avoid being talked about because of her poor relationship choices) Jesus gave her living water instead. He did this only after exposing her failed efforts at happiness in the past and offering her hope for the future.

People would rather have their actions / lifestyles / sins condoned rather than sit through a message where they might feel convicted. This is where it’s the pastor’s job to share what could be, and should be according to God’s Word, and to then assure them that no matter how far from that picture they feel at that moment that there is hope of redemption through a relationship with Christ.

And as Christian’s we are all called to paint this picture for others by offering ourselves as a canvas whereby God can exhibit the proof of a changed life—not perfect, but being perfected in Christ.

“Be Still” by Pastor Randy

Today’s post is meant to facilitate a short pause in your day/week in order to fix your eyes back on God. In the midst of your busyness, your circumstances, your deadlines, your chaos, it’s an invite to pause… to be still… and to be reminded that HE is God.

Simply read through each line of Psalm 46:10a meditating on the meaning of the words left in each phrase. If you would like I have also embedded my episode of “Refill with Randy” that came out today and adds some audio/visual elements to this practice.

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM

BE STILL AND KNOW

BE STILL

BE

“The Sin of Recreating VS Being Recreated” by Pastor Randy

Something I have observed both in the Scriptures with the Israelites and in today’s times with the Christian Church is that too often we as human beings spend our time and energy trying to recreate the atmosphere we were in, the emotions we felt, and the endorphins we had on the day God began a good work in us rather than allowing God to recreate “us” and renew us on a daily basis.

Too often we would rather “feel” Christian than “be” Christian which can lead to idolatry and idolatry–whether it means putting way to much focus on an inanimate thing, on a certain style of worship, on a certain place of worship, or on reproducing a particular ritual–is a sin.

It’s a sin that I feel comfortable pointing out because it’s a sin that at one time I felt comfortable participating in and perpetuating in my own life. When the “new” feeling of my Christian walk starting wearing off I started to try and reproduce it by going back to the altar I had originally laid down my life on (nostalgia), praying the prayers I once prayed out of conviction though now prayed as if wanting a prescription filled (ritual), and when neither of those worked I tried being around other Christians more, hoping that somehow their “holiness” would somehow rub off on me (proximity vs. praxis), rather than spending the time and effort to develop my own relationship with Christ through fresh prayers and spending time in His Living Word.

Rather than expending all of our effort trying to recreate a temporary feeling and worshipping God falsely (i.e. focusing on The Golden Calf rather than God on the Mountain, The Bronze Snake rather than the God that Saves, and the Gifts of the Spirit rather than the Giver–The Holy Spirit Himself) we need to take down anything in our lives, no matter how good or instrumental they once were in our walk, so that what was once part of our salvation story doesn’t become the stumbling block that keeps us from experiencing further sanctification.

Recreating takes a lot of time and effort but is ultimately fruitless because we are attempting to control God and turn our Christian walk into a life of comfort.

Being Recreated also takes time and effort but the focus is not on trying to control God or how we feel on any given day but, rather, on giving up control and allowing God to lead us into deeper and often more dangerous waters. It doesn’t feel as safe but stepping out of the boat in order to follow Jesus never does. And it never should.

Rather than going back to a well that once brought us Living Water, but has now dried up because the water itself has moved on to where we need to go, let us like the Samaritan Woman in John 4 leave behind our water pitchers behind and look to The One who knows everything about us and can fulfill our every need. Anything less is a sin and will not lead us back toward but, rather, away from the saved and sanctified life that we so desire.

“I have decided to follow Jesus. The world behind me the cross before me. No turning back. No turning back.”

Hospitality (The Ministry of Presence)


Happy Monday! Let’s start this week off by talking about hospitality. The featured picture is one that I took of my typical snack when staying at The Abbey of the Genesee where the monks consider hospitality to be one of their greatest gifts to others. I have been on the receiving end of this hospitality for more than a decade now and one of the significant ways came through Spiritual Direction with Father Jerome.

I think that the ministry of hospitality is too often misunderstood, underused, and overlooked. It is the act of allowing someone the gift of sacred space and quality time but people often equate it with a clean house and a lot of cooking. The fact is that it is easy to equate hospitality to Martha the busybody from Luke 10 but Jesus pointed out that it was Mary sitting at his feet listening intently to his every word who actually demonstrated it better.

Hospitality is…
– offering someone the gift of quality time
– making someone feel comfortable/valuable even in their own home
– offering someone a cup of coffee and good conversation to go with it
– a listening ear and a closed mouth
– caring for others’ needs before they have to ask for it
– more about “being” with someone than “doing” something for them

I know many people who have ministered through the typical definition of hospitality, an open home and an open heart, but there have also been those times when others have gone above and beyond and the overall effect cannot be diminished.

Some example are…

  • putting an old orange recliner in the sanctuary to make it possible for a woman with cancer to worship with her church family
  • sitting with someone on their deathbed so her son could get some rest before the inevitable, emotionally draining outcome
  • showing up at someone’s house with groceries or a cup of coffee
  • sitting next to a newcomer at church rather than in the comfort of your close circle of friends
  • asking someone how they are doing and then taking the time to listen for the real answer
  • Offering hug or flashing a maskless smile
  • praying with someone rather than simply for them
  • being willing to do extra cleaning after the fact to allow guests the option of keeping their shoes on vs requiring them to remove them
  • thinking more of the comfort of others than self
  • child proofing (at least to a degree) even if you don’t have kids
  • sitting in silence even when it’s awkward as long as it is valuable to another
  • learning to communicate with someone from another generation, culture, etc. rather than waiting for them to learn your ways and your customs in order to try to fit in
  • attending to someone’s physical and emotional needs before worrying about the state of their spirituality or citizenship

These are just some of the acts of hospitality that I am personally aware of (and more often than not on the receiving end) and I’m sure there are many more to be discovered and tried so, rather than holding onto a narrow definition, let’s expand it together and be Jesus to everyone we come in contact with.

What is one way that you have shown or received hospitality recently?

“A Simple Prayer “by Pastor Randy

Father,

Allow me always to act
with Your Purposes in mind;
Never simply to react.

Help me always to make decisions 
     based on faith in The Known;
          Never on fear of the unknown.

Guide me in paths of righteousness
     in order to serve You well;
          Never compromising in order to please others.

Give me the courage to pursue my Call
     out of a sense of humble obedience;
          Never out of a sense of self-worth.

Mold me into the man You created me to be
     when you knitted me together in my mother’s womb;
          Never letting me forget that I was forged in Your Image.
          
Sanctify every aspect of my life
     that I might become more like You;
          Never withholding Your Refiner’s Fire.

Forgive my sins against You
     even as I forgive those who sin against me;
          Never allowing me to believe that I am deserving and they are not.

Hear my prayer
     and receive my praise;
          Never ceasing world without end.

Amen.

“Love” by Pastor Randy

Yesterday’s post was long so today’s will be much shorter—though not always simple. Yesterday I shared the effects of feeling unloved so today I want to encourage you to LOVE extravagantly and make a difference in the lives of others! I challenge you to intentionally…

LOVE those closest to you in the way that they will recognize and receive it best.

LOVE those who have offended you without waiting for them to make the first move.

LOVE your friends and family unconditionally based on who they are instead of what they do.

LOVE your enemies and treat them kindly as you would want them to treat you.

LOVE people–not things.

LOVE good–not evil

LOVE.

“The Unseen Scars of Being Bullied” by Pastor Randy

Today’s post is a little longer and deals with a difficult subject for many but my hope is that if you have dealt with abuse, bullying, or poor self-image, that you will take comfort in the fact that (1) You are not alone and (2) Even old wounds can heal with the help of Christ.

Hi. My name is Randy. I am 47 yrs. old and I have the receding hairline and protruding waistline to prove it. I have been happily married for 22 yrs. and am a proud father of four. I have spent early 3 decades ministering to others in churches, in community, online, and around the world, I have several degrees and have accomplished many things which you might think would help one’s self-esteem and yet, on a fairly regular basis, I find myself feeling inadequate and more often than not unable to see myself through any other eyes than those who bullied and abused me as a child. I find myself wanting to walk by faith and yet I feel more like a failure and a fraud in spite of the apparent fruit of my actions.

I mention Gideon briefly in a post last week and want to highlight him again here. He was a man who succeeded in spite of his somewhat lackluster faith, as seen by his testing of the fleece, and one of the things that often sticks out to me is how God addresses him during their first encounter when he appeared and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12b) The reason why I find this so interesting is because how God views Gideon seems the polar opposite of how Gideon sees himself. Later, when God wants him to step up and He tells him to go up against the Midianites and save Israel Gideon’s reply is, “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6:15b)

Isn’t it amazing how differently we can see ourselves compared to what God sees? We often focus on our past failures while God focuses on our future potential. We need to start seeing ourselves through His eyes.

Easier said than done though. I mean, I get why Gideon had a hard time seeing what God saw in him. Just as God called him a Mighty Warrior long before he lived up to that title others had probably called him other things that had already shaped his own identity and caused him to focus on what he couldn’t do and would never become. I get it.

As I stated earlier I am nearing 50 and have received and acted upon God’s call on my life for almost three decades now but, no matter how many times God addresses me as Pastor, or Leader, or Evangelist, I immediately find myself feeling like I’m back in the body of my 8 year old self; listening to my father explain why he never wanted me and that being a dad again was not worth it, or when I was 10 just waiting to get off the bus so that I could burst into tears over the hurtful words heaped onto me without further humiliation, or beginning middle school and realizing that even though it was supposed to be a fresh start that I was still the odd man out (no thanks to my speech problems or alternative sense of style), or trying to find any excuse to avoid the rest room (or school all together) because of the constant array of verbal, emotional, and physical attacks that I had to endure on a daily basis.

I get why, when God called Gideon “Mighty Warrior” that, he countered with the excuse that he was “the weakest man from the weakest clan”. I get why when God called Moses (a murderer who had gone AWOL) to set the slaves free his initial response was, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11b). I get why when God called Jeremiah saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) his initial response was, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” (Jeremiah 1:6)

The emotional scars that are carried from a tormented childhood may not be visible in the same sense as other physical wounds that have since healed yet they are often the hardest to overcome because the wound has not healed; it has cut too deep; down to the core of a person’s very identity.

People often wonder about my fascination with Batman but why wouldn’t I relate to a boy who had his childhood torn away from him because of the ruthless actions of others and, rather than dwelling in that feeling of helplessness, took control of the situation and chose to become a symbol and to stand up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. The irony is that even in becoming “The Batman” Bruce Wayne was still just a scared little boy trying to overcome his fears by becoming fear itself to those who would prey on the weak. I get it.

I AM a pastor. I AM a leader. I AM a husband. I AM a father. But I am also that wounded young boy that longs to be accepted, affirmed, acknowledged, and appreciated—not because of what I have done but simply because of who I am, who I was created to be, and who I am still called to be.

The scars are still there but the healing has definitely begun. Thanks to The Lord names like “Mighty Warrior” and “Pastor” seem more suitable than weakest or worthless. The struggle is still there and I pray to The Lord constantly to erase my old identity from my heart and mind but, like Paul and his thorn, I have come to the place where I hear God saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9b,10)

And if you are reading this today and can relate I just want you to know that, no matter what anyone else says…

YOU ARE LOVED.

YOU ARE VALUABLE to God and others.

YOU ARE FORGIVEN if you confess you sins to Gods and no longer need to feel guilt or shame.

YOU ARE SAVED if you confess Jesus Christ as Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead.

YOU ARE REDEEMED! A CHILD OF GOD!! AN EQUAL HEIR TO THE THRONE!!!

“Lord of All Pots & Pans and Things” by Pastor Randy

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
since I've no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming heaven's gates,
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food,
in room, or by the sea,
accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee.
Amen

This is the prayer of Brother Lawrence, a monk who worked in the kitchen, who sought to speak to and honor God in all that he did. Now you may not think that praying while brushing your teeth or taking a shower is “holy” but in the day and age that we live in as ideal as it would be to always get away to our prayer closet it’s not often practical. Besides, we are to “pray continuously” in all circumstances so why not practice at the start of each day so that you will continue communing with God throughout the day.

“Spur One Another On!” by Pastor Randy

Happy Monday!

In Hebrews 10:24 the author writes, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Growing up in Gerry, NY (That’s Rodeo City USA to you non-natives) when I think of the term “spur” I think about the many times that I have watched cowboys and cowgirls kick their heel against the side of a horse or bull to get it moving.

Now that may not seem to fit within the context of motivating someone to love and good deeds but I believe the author realized that sometimes (often times) we tend to lean toward complacency and need to be reminded in a loving yet firm way to “never tire in doing good”. That’s probably why the author follows up with a challenge in the the next verse…

Hebrews 10:25  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 

So today I want to encourage you. I want to encourage you that following Christ is not foolish even when you can’t immediately see the fruit. I want to encourage you that God has begun a good work in you and will be faithful to complete it. And I want to encourage you to continue getting together with other Christians often and spurring them on with love and encouragement.

Remember, we’re all in this together. 

YEEHAW!!!

T.G.I.F.

T.G.I.F. stands for “Thank God It’s Friday”. And, though it is often times used by those who are excited about the end of another work week or who are preparing to party over the weekend, I would like to adopt a more straight forward definition here. Let’s take time to. literally thank God today—not just because it’s Friday but because He Is Worthy!

As your week comes to a close what are some of the things that you are most thankful for?

Where have you seen God working in your life or in the lives of those around you?

Who has come beside you this week to help with a need? To show you Christ’s love in a tangible way? To be a listening ear? To offer a word of encouragement?

Take some time this morning to thank God for all that comes to mind and then go into the day expecting more things to be added to your list!

“I will exalt you, my God and King, and praise your name forever and ever. I will praise you every day; yes, I will praise you forever. Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness. Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power. I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles. Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness. Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness. The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation. All of your works will thank you, Lord, and your faithful followers will praise you. They will speak of the glory of your kingdom; they will give examples of your power. They will tell about your mighty deeds and about the majesty and glory of your reign. For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations. The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does. The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it. When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. The Lord protects all those who love him, but he destroys the wicked. I will praise the Lord, and may everyone on earth bless his holy name forever and ever.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭145:1-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

“Ministry is Art” by Pastor Randy

Ministry is Art. It’s creative and it’s messy. It’s seeing something, like an unmet need or someone’s potential in Christ, and then taking the necessary steps to make the desired result a reality.

And, whereas most artists either use paint and palette or simply put pen to paper, one of the primary ways I get to share my passion and creativity is through the preparation and preaching of sermons.

The goal of course is to make sure that God is always ALWAYS the author, poet, and painter while I simply become His ink and canvas; allowing Him to use my personality, passions, and past experiences for His purpose. A work of art shared through my words and actions to serve as a catalyst for the spiritual transformation of those listening. A work in progress…

What tools/skills do you have to work with? What is your canvas? How can you creatively bring about God’s Vision today?

“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (Romans‬ ‭12:6-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

“A Midweek Prayer for Focus” by Richard Foster

Jesus, I desire to start this day with you. And yet, my mind keeps flitting to so many things:

the projects I want to accomplish,

the people I want to talk to,

the people I wish I didn’t have to talk to.

I wonder.  Are these things distractions to spiritual concentration or invitation to see God in the ordinary?  I’m not sure.

Jesus, I know that you are that Center who knows no distraction.  So I offer up my mental fragmentation to you, O Lord my God.

May my scatteredness become your gatheredness.

As I am contemplating a thousand things, Jesus, may I somehow be contemplating you.

Amen.

~ Richard J. Foster; Prayers From the Heart

“Our Potential in Christ” by Pastor Randy

Happy Tuesday! I hope your morning is already off to a great start (even if the only thing you’ve checked off your todo list so far is ☑️ Drink Coffee). I’m praying that God will do some amazing things to and through you today and that you will realize your potential in Christ. And its that potential that I want to talk to you about today.


po·ten·tial /pəˈten(t)SHəl/ (adjective): having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future.

For the purpose of this writing I am talking about the potential that we have to live up to God’s Call on our lives. The problem is that too often when God asks us to do something we don’t see what He does. We tend to fixate on our present imperfections while God focuses on our future potential. We too often see ourselves as the sum of our weaknesses while God defines us by who we can be and what we can do when we rely on His strength. If this describes you you’re not alone.

God used Gideon to defeat an entire army with only three hundred men but when the Angel of The Lord first appeared to him and called him a “Mighty Warrior” who would save Israel from Midian’s hand Gideon replied very timidly, “Pardon me, my Lord, but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”” (Judges‬ ‭6:12-15‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

God used Jeremiah mightily but when He first gave him the message, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations”, Jeremiah responded, “O Sovereign Lord, I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” (‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭1:4-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

God used David to defeat a giant and eventually become the greatest king in the history of Israel but when Samuel went to his father’s house in hole of anointing the next King David was thought of as too young, too undersized, and he wasn’t even called in from the fields.” (‭‭Exodus‬ ‭3:10-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

You get the picture. God doesn’t see what we see, or even what our friends and family might see, rather He sees Who He called and created us to be. And the good news is that we don’t have to try to live up to that high calling on our own, instead we can rely on Him to equip us and mold us into who we were meant to be.

So when you feel like you don’t measure up or that God made a mistake when He called you to [Fill in the Blank] just remember what God told the Apostle Paul when he felt the same way, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) and then proclaim like Paul did in his letter to the Philippians, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians‬ ‭4:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“I’m in a Monday Morning Kind of Mood” by Pastor Randy

Good morning and welcome to the new blog from Go Scatter Ministries… “Refill with Randy: 5 Cups of Coffee”


Every weekday morning you can expect to find something here to motivate you for the day ahead. Whether it’s a poem, a prayer, a Scripture quote, or simply some pastoral pondering, my hope is to both challenge and encourage you as you live out your faith on a daily basis.

I encourage you to get engaged by answering questions, sharing insights, offering feedback, and sharing your prayer requests and praises. My hope is that this blog would bless both you and me!

And now that you’re here…

Grab your favorite Cup
Fill it up
And let’s start this day right
TOGETHER!!!

It’s Monday morning and, like many other Monday mornings, I am overly tired, caffeine deprived, and lamenting a Buffalo Bills’ loss. I know, great way to start off a blog that is supposed to inspire and motivate, right? Lol

The reality though is that I know I will eventually wake up, drink some coffee, (maybe in reverse order) and The Bills will inevitably win The Super Bowl. (What can I say, I’m an optimist!) The point is that even if I was having the Mondayest Monday ever I know that it is probably just a temporary setback and that the potential for things to turn around is much more likely when I remember that it often has little to do with my circumstances changing and more to do with me choosing to adopt a different attitude.

I’m a big believer that my attitude will eventually shape my day and that over time it will have a profound effect on my life, my relationships, and my walk with Christ. I see evidence of this all the time! There’s the guy who has a good job and a healthy family who for all intents and purposes should be happy and content but is constantly in a bad mood. On the other hand there is the poor widow who has scraped by for years but is the first one to offer to come beside anyone else in need to encourage and pray for them.

I wish I could say that I always choose right or that I do not allow outside factors to have any affect on my worldview but that would not be true. However, I do make this my goal and so when I find myself moping or starting to feel cynical about a situation I go to God and ask Him to renew a right spirit with me. It’s amazing how such a simple request can help turn the tide just by allowing me to pause and gain some much needed perspective.

So how about you? Do you intentionally ask God to give you a right attitude as you start your week or do you allow your attitude to be dictated by others or outside factors? Do you dwell on difficult situations and expect things to just get worse or do remain hopeful, believing that even if God doesn’t change the scenario that it will be beneficial to change your mindset?

The best thing about choosing a right attitude is that it can have a positive effect on others around us. Unfortunately the same could be said of choosing a bad attitude. So what attitude will you choose today?

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:1-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

New Blog Starting in 1 Week!!!

Starting September 13th!!!

Happy Labor Day! This is just a reminder that the new “Refill with Randy” Blog will begin one week from today so starting next Monday be sure to check your inbox every weekday morning for a spiritual boost to your day.

Also, remember to check out “Refill with Randy” on FB & YouTube. The new season starts on September 15th and then new episodes will come out each Wednesday morning.

Please pass along and encourage there to sign up as well!

Blessings,

Pastor Randy

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:23-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

NEW BLOG STARTING IN SEPTEMBER!!!

Welcome to GSM’s brand new blog “Refill with Randy – 5 Cups of Coffee”

Every weekday morning, beginning September 13th, you will receive a digital cup of coffee in your inbox to kickstart your day! Some days it will be a straight forward devotional and other days it may be song lyrics, a poem, a testimony, a ministry musing, or even thoughts from a guest blogger.

The one thing that will always be the same though is our desire to inspire you, encourage you, engage with you, and sometimes even challenge you in order to better prepare you to be Christ’s hands, feet, and voice in the world today. As the author of Hebrews says in ‬10:23-25

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”‬

I personally consider it a privilege to spur you in your spiritual walk in the days, weeks, and month ahead and I hope that you will respond by doing the same for others!

Be blessed and be a blessing!

Pastor Randy LeBaron

“A Prayer to Start Each Day” – Pastor Randy LeBaron

I took this photo at one of my favorite places to go for study, silence, and solitude… Holley Falls. The prayer that I have paired with it with was written by Richard J. Foster in his book Prayers from the Heart.

I find that whenever, and wherever, you are when preparing to start your day that a good practice is to go somewhere out of earshot of the noise and chaos of this world and to pray a prayer like this one.

“A Prayer for the New Year” – Pastor Randy LeBaron

I remember taking this photo a few years back while staying at The Abbey of the Genesee. Little things tend to catch my eye and so I was drawn to this one lone leaf holding on while all the others had already fallen.

As we prepare to say goodbye to the year 2020 I felt it fitting to pair this picture with this prayer. As we move into 2021 I would encourage you to cling to the good of the year past while letting go of all bitterness, anger, hurt, unforgiveness, and anything else that would keep you from moving forward.

God bless and have a Happy New Year!!!

“The Greatest Gift of All” by Dave Good

Welcome to the final edition of the Take Five Advent series. I hope our various styles and viewpoints have been a blessing to you. Over the last four weeks we have been preparing our hearts for Christmas and the birth of our Savior, Jesus. Today, I’d like to wrap up the entire series with some words of encouragement and hope. Let’s see if we can discover the true meaning of Christmas and receive the greatest gift of all. Jesus.

Christmas has many meanings to different people. To some, Christmas is about family and friends. Christmas signifies an opportunity to gather with loved ones, have a wonderful meal, and just spend time together. Unfortunately, the year 2020 has put a damper on the majority of the festivities. The company Christmas parties and large gatherings have been deemed unsafe and cancelled. Even the large family dinners have been discouraged. The traditional means to celebrate Christmas will be challenged for sure.   Despite all the restrictions, I want you to know that Christmas will still be a joyous time. I encourage you to utilize technology like Zoom and phone calls to keep in touch with those we can’t gather with. Although family and gatherings mean a lot, it is not the true meaning of Christmas.

To others, Christmas is all about the presents.  Christmas is the time of year when the tradition of gift exchanging takes over. Everyone spends their free time thinking about what present to buy or what present they would like to receive.  The kids make out a Christmas list and send it to Santa. Grownups have to answer the tough question served up by their loved ones simply stated, “What do you want for Christmas?”  The whole world shifts their attention and energy to picking, giving, and receiving the perfect gift. Despite the good intentions behind the gifts of generosity, this is also not the true meaning of Christmas.

The true meaning of Christmas is derived in the life of Jesus Christ.  There are some of you who may be asking, “Who is Jesus and why is He so important?” I’m glad you asked. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us’” (Matthew 1:23) (NLT).

The birth of Jesus was the culmination of God’s plan to save the world from our sins.  Sin entered the world as soon as the forbidden fruit was consumed by Adam and Eve. The result of their sin was separation from God. There was a wedge formed between the world and God the Father. At first, God gave the people a system of sacrifices and burnt offerings to resolve their sin issue. This system however was only temporary and offered no long term solution to the separation from God. There needed to be a more permanent solution and that solution is Jesus

God decided from the very beginning that the first Christmas night was the perfect night to give the world the greatest gift of all, Jesus. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life to become a sacrifice for our sins.  “And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him” (1 John 3:5) (NLT).

Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later. This perfect sacrifice restored our relationship with God and gives us a way to eternal life. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6) (NIV).

On that first Christmas when the baby Jesus was born in a manger in the town of Bethlehem, it was the beginning of the salvation of the world. God sent His Son to give us life. To me, that is the true meaning of Christmas.

Friends, I’d like to conclude this entire series with an invitation to receive the greatest gift of all: the gift of eternal life through Jesus. If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, I’d love for you to pray this prayer with me.

If you just prayed that prayer with me, I’d like to welcome you into the community of believers. I would also like to congratulate you on accepting the greatest gift ever given.  You now possess eternal life though belief in Jesus Christ. I pray that this series has touched your heart. I pray that this Christmas has a meaning unlike any other Christmas you have ever celebrated.

On behalf of the Take Five team and Go Scatter Ministries, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas filled with the love of Christ.  May the true meaning of Christmas resonate in your heart all year long and may the peace and joy fill you each and every day.

Blessings

Dave

“Good Good Father” by Wende Swick

For as long as I can remember, I’ve made use of Advent calendars, historically fancy calendars made from paper, with windows you open daily to view a new verse or picture, leading up to the birth of Jesus. I’ve given those calendars to my niece and nephews, used them with students, etc. If they had glitter on them, all the more festive!

In recent years, I’ve used 3-D wooden calendars whose compartments with doors or drawers hold daily gifts. My first Christmas with my husband, I bought him an LL Bean tree-shaped calendar. The drawers are too small to hold more than a piece of candy and a little gift tag. Thus, that is exactly what I place in them. Each tag tells him where to look for the day’s gift. Some are on or under the tree, some hanging in a doorway (mistletoe!) or on the wall (plaque) and others on a table, stovetop or pillow- or at his office, or the home of a relative. Each gift is selected with care, and not just in December. When we visited Letchworth Park at the peak of fall foliage, for example, I bought him a leaf ornament with the location and year printed on it. Spreading out the acquisition of gifts allows me to put thought into each one and capture memories from throughout the year. It’s also easier on the purse if you acquire gifts over time. I try to bestow gifts which bring pleasure to the various senses… home-baked goods and specialty candies for taste (Bye’s caramel corn with cashews went into a tin nutcracker container this year!); CDs of special Christmas music for hearing; seasonal candles for sight and smell; mistletoe and coupons for adventures for the sense of touch/kinesthetics; personal messages on cards, decorative items, etc. for sight. I try to make or choose gifts which show that I know and love my husband and that I care about what HE likes. I want to let him experience the fact that I value him, that he’s important to me. I also want him to experience the elements of surprise and pleasure as he discovers, opens and enjoys daily gifts during Advent. I try to do some of these things, howbeit not daily, all year long.

God treats me/us in this way. He knows me even more intimately than I know myself. He loves me. He cares about what I like, want and need. He values me. I am important to Him. He loves surprising me and bringing me pleasure! Each of these is true of you as well.

Ever since I surrendered my heart and life to God, I’ve experienced and enjoyed growing intimacy with Him. I have learned that He is a good, GOOD Father, who loves me (and you!) VERY MUCH. I experience His love expressed in various ways…from the words on the pages of His Word to Him surprising me with things that bless my heart! He knows each of us so intimately that He brings us exactly what will communicate His deep knowledge of, and loving care for, you and me.

He does this in both personal and professional areas of my life. In recent months, my colleagues and I have been overwhelmed by God’s goodness to us! We have seen parents choose to keep their babies rather than abort them and experienced the joyous privilege of seeing those precious babies in ultrasound images. We’ve seen His astounding provision of all our financial needs at Care Net Center of Greater Orleans. We have watched God answer prayers literally before we’ve voiced them, with the answers showing up right after we’ve prayed…obviously set in motion before we prayed with His heart and mind. We have seen so many individuals, churches and organizations bring us beautiful baby clothes, diapers, furniture and more, to help meet the needs of clients we serve. We’ve received not only necessities, but also stylish jackets for moms, boxes of food for those who need them and wonderful books and toys for babies/children. The Gideons have provided us generously with Bibles. We’ve been pleased to see people receive those, receive Jesus into their hearts and lives, and even take Bibles to give to others! It is glorious to watch God meet others’ needs, to experience people’s generosity and to be a part of it.

When I first started working at Care Net, there was a sticker on my bulletin board which reads “I am PRO Abundant Life”! (I am, and I was thrilled to see it expressed that way!) My colleagues and I, marveling aloud together, expressed and affirmed that “Everyone wins!” when you’re walking with God and serving Him. We wondered aloud why anyone would choose not to be in relationship with Him.

Christmas is a great time to take stock of where we are in our relationships with God, and to do what it takes to be as close with Him as possible. Someone once spoke this truth: “You’re as close with God as you want to be.” Thankfully, He wants to be very intimate with you and me!

“A Grandfather’s Gift” by Kyle Holz

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4) (NIV).

Christmas is a time of giving, love, happiness, joy, peace, and so much more. There are always gifts we get or receive that have a lot more meaning than others. Lately with my aunts and uncles, instead of getting them a tangible gift, my wife and I decided that a donation on their behalf to a charity they support would be best. This has a lot more meaning and lasting impression than a box of chocolate, etc. As I get older, giving gifts that have meaning seem to be more important. There is something special about touching other people’s hearts and sparking true happiness inside of them. As we age, I truly believe that we find giving gifts of meaning go farther than many other gifts under the tree. One of the most meaningful gifts I have ever received was from my grandfather, who is no longer with us. When I talk about gifts that touch the heart, this was truly one that touched mine.

For those of you who don’t know, my grandfather lived a very long and healthy life. Towards the end of his life, he battled cancer.  The doctors told him that he only had six months to live. Fast forward and he lived over ten years.  God wasn’t done with him. He had a plan for him! Over those ten years of battling cancer, he struggled with pain, sickness, and bouts in the hospital. Through it all, my grandfather stuck close to Jesus and developed the strongest relationship he ever had with Him. Despite his circumstances, he exuberated happiness and positivity which touched so many lives.  He was a shining light for all to see and an advocate for Jesus! My grandfather loved Christmas; I should mention!

My grandfather gave me his watch with a letter he had written.  He held onto the watch as a Christmas present for me; it was his last Christmas. I didn’t receive the watch until February 1st 2019 as the letter was dated.  Without actually typing out the whole letter or giving away too many details, I want to highlight what stood out to me. There are random times when I swear God nudges me to read the letter.  I picture my grandpa telling Jesus to send his family members little reminders. This letter is the reminder for me! In the letter, my grandfather had mentioned wearing the watch to keep his memory alive and that he would always be around me. That watch is old, used, and worn, kind of like my grandpa was just before his passing. I should mention that the watch was part of many happy times too!

A watch and a letter from my grandpa have made me feel so special. When I get the nudge to go upstairs and sit quietly to read the letter and hold the watch, there is a special connection happening. To see his handwriting and remember his voice in my head, to know that something so special to him was passed on to me is such a beautiful and moving reminder for me. It helps his legacy live on.  I know that he is with Jesus and that Jesus has wiped away his tears and promised him no more pain or death! But, oh, what I would give to hear him say, “I am so proud of you,” just one more time.

“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” (John 3:16) (NIV).

One of the most recognizable verses is found right in the Bible. Thinking about the watch and the letter that had meant so much to me, I couldn’t help but think of John 3:16. God gave His only Son to you and me.  His most prized possession, the one He loves, was given to you and me. Have you ever actually sat down in the quiet and truly took in what Jesus did for us? Have you thought about the facts that He was beaten so badly, mocked, spit on, and hung on a criminal’s cross? None of it was done for Him. He did it for us. I am moved to tears when I truly take this thought in. I, Kyle Holz, don’t deserve any of it. Thirty plus years of my life I chose to do things my way.  I chose to purposely mess up. I had repeatedly said ‘no’ to Jesus and ‘yes’ to sin. No matter how many times I messed up, Jesus was always there in the background. His selfless love allowed my chains to be broken and for my addiction to not have a grip on me. You know what? Jesus offered Himself on the cross because He loves me ever so dearly. That is a gift that means so much to me. He gave me the true gift of forgiveness.  Just like the watch and the letter that my grandfather selflessly gave to me with meaning, Jesus selflessly gave up Himself to bear the weight of all of our sins. I’ve mentioned it multiple times before, but there is importance to the gift we can give to Jesus.  That gift is ourselves, and I cannot reiterate that enough! No matter where you are or what you have done, Jesus loves you and He is waiting with arms open wide!

“My body and my heart may grow weak, but God is the strength of my heart and all I need forever” (Psalm 73:26) (NLV)

Like the watch that my grandfather had given me, he had grown old and worn. His body and heart had grown weak, but he relied on Jesus for his strength. Jesus gave him the gift of life. He chose to accept the gift and acknowledge what Jesus did on the cross. Will you choose to accept and acknowledge the meaningful gift that Jesus wants to give you? It is the most beautiful and significant gift that can make yours and His Christmas complete!

I hope you have enjoyed following us along this Advent journey together here at Go Scatter. From my family to yours, I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas that is full of cheer. Spend time with your loved ones and cherish these moments.  Don’t forget to open the gift Jesus has for you.  Go ahead and open the Christmas gift for him, that is your heart! Have a blessed Christmas!

Challenge:

Give someone a gift or do something nice for someone you may think doesn’t deserve it. That is where love and forgiveness come into play.

“The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” by Debbie McClarin

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned….For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given…and He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:2,6) (NIV, NKJV).

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey became a favorite almost immediately.  Maybe it was because it was introduced to me by the author herself. Susan Wojciechowski visited the school where I was teaching.  A former librarian in the Rochester area, she had a wonderful backstory to this amazing children’s book.  But, let me say, it is not just for children.  Susan wanted to write a story about the light of Christmas but to come at it from a unique perspective.  Sitting at her computer, God gave her the inspiration that she needed.  She shared that she sat there, typing away, and without stopping wrote the whole story.  This story did not even need editing to go to publication (or at least very little!).  It was truly a Christmas gift from God to her and then to the countless others that have read it.  This backstory and the story itself have been gifts to me, and I have given this book as a gift numerous times.

Jonathan Toomey, an excellent woodcarver, is known as Mr. Gloomy because of his sadness and the distance he puts between people.  He especially does not like Christmas.  Thomas and his mother, the widow McDowell, enter the story when they want him to carve a nativity scene.  Their connection grows as he carves each figure.  You will have to read the story to see how it all plays out!

For me, it is a story of how God can change our darkness into light.  My story is not the same as Mr. Toomey’s or the widow McDowell and Thomas,’ but just the same, I experience times of darkness, grief, and loneliness like most people do.  I love how the author interwove the Christmas story into the characters’ lives.  It reminds me that the coming of Jesus means that we can be transformed.  I find that the illustrations are also instrumental in bringing this meaning to my heart.  Just as in this story, transformation is not always immediate.  Jonathan Toomey was experiencing the message of Christmas through his carving of the figures along with the kindnesses of the widow and Thomas.  Whenever I read this story, especially out loud, I get choked up.  It always touches something deep inside of me reminding me of Jesus’ love and light. 

It has also been a gift to me to grow in understanding of others’ darkness and brokenness, especially as it relates to deep grief.  Although each and every person’s experience is different, this story teaches me to remember that grieving is a process.  It can’t be forced or put on a timetable.  The healing can fluctuate from growth back to despair and then more growth.  Small kindnesses and spending time with someone can help bring bits of light to their darkness, each time allowing the light of Jesus to do a healing work.  But as in this story, it is God’s love through Jesus that ultimately brings the deepest healing. 

Many times when friends and family had young children, I gave the families this book.  Often I would read it out loud to them.  My hope has always been that it would be a spiritual gift to them along with the actual physical book.  Maybe at that point they were too young to fully grasp some of the things that I shared above, but I believe that they still connected to the unique way of looking at the Nativity scene as described while Mr. Toomey was carving the figures.  Kids love animals and within this story we can see things from their perspective.  The boy, Thomas, is important to the meaning of this story, so again they have a point to connect to.  Sometimes a familiar story can be gone over quickly.  This story helps us to stop and think about Jesus’ birth in a different way.

When I have given this book to people, I include this note below and explain how I met the author at my school. Knowing how an author wrote a story increases its meaning and connection.  I think it expresses my thoughts behind the gift:

Mrs. Wojciechowski shared that she barely recalls writing this book because it was inspired by God; the words just flowed out of her without her having to think about them.  Although publishers always have the authors make many, many changes, this time they didn’t have her make hardly any at all.  This is very unusual.  She also told us that she had been wanting to write a Christmas story, not one about Mary and Joseph specifically, but a story about how Jesus came to make a difference.  You will notice that in the pictures at the beginning of the story Mr. Toomey is in the darkness.  At the end of the story he is pictured in brilliant light.  Mrs. Wojciechowski wanted her story to remind us that Jesus came to be the Light of the World for us.  You will notice many other changes as well as she weaves the story of Christmas into her characters’ lives.  I hope that you will read this book many times and that it will become one of your favorites.  Learn from it and remember that Jesus is here to help you.  I pray that you will show kindness to others especially when they are sad.

I always love stories where characters go through inner transformation.  Think about classics like A Christmas Carol and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  While all three of these stories are very different, in each one the characters’ hearts are changed.  Their darkness is turned into light.  Their sorrow is turned into joy. Their loneliness is turned into connection.  I hope you will read The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey and experience how Mr. Toomey’s life went from darkness to light because of God’s love.

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5) (NIV).

“The Love Language of Gifts” by Pastor Randy LeBaron

If any of you have read Gary Chapman’s famous counseling book, The Five Love Languages, you know that in it he teaches that we all show and receive love in five primary ways: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Gifts, and Acts of Service. At different times I went through the process of discovering which ones were highest for me, and “Gifts” always popped up near the top which actually surprised me,

The reality is that I enjoy getting gifts as much as the next person, but I never thought of it as a significant way for me to feel loved. Once I thought about it more, I realized that I scored so high not so much because I liked getting gifts but rather because I loved giving them. To me gift giving is a long and painstaking process because I try to put a lot of thought and care into each item that I purchase or create. To me it is not so much about the material gift but the thought behind it. I like for the recipient to know that I KNOW THEM and know what they need or what would make them smile.

When I get it right it is an incredible feeling. When someone reciprocates in the same thoughtful way, I feel grateful… blessed… seen… understood… known. Things like my wife making my mother’s signature Wacky Cake for my birthday or a friend taking me to a Bills’ game means more than words can describe. And when it comes to Christmas, I have been given many thoughtful gifts over the years. My favorites are homemade items from my kids.

That being said, the greatest gift that I have ever received was being wrapped 1,974 years before I was even born. Jesus, the Messiah wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger, was the greatest gift because His birth gave my birth, and yours, meaning! Subsequently, His death and resurrection have made it possible for me, and you, to be reconciled to our Heavenly Father and ultimately KNOW andbe KNOWN by the Creator of the universe.

“‘Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.’ ‘No, we don’t know, Lord,’ Thomas said. ‘We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!’” (John 14:1-7) (NLT).

Challenge…

Friends, if you have not yet unwrapped this most precious gift, then I encourage you to do so today. If you confess Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, not only will you be saved, as Scripture says in Romans 10:9-10, but you will be given the gift of renewed hope by the One who knows you better than anyone else and Who has the power to give purpose to your life.

“We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:24-28) (NLT).

“The Christmas Narrative” – Advent Scripture Reading

Please spend some time today, at the end of this third week of Advent, to meditate of The Christmas Narrative represented in the following two passages.

“At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” (Luke‬ ‭2:1-20‬ ) NLT‬‬

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’ ” Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A cry was heard in Ramah— weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.” When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”” (Matthew‬ ‭2:1-23‬ ) NLT‬‬

“Away in the Manger” by Dave Good

Happy Thursday! This week the Take Five blog has been exploring our favorite part of the nativity story. As we are getting closer and closer to the birth of Jesus, it is important to take a few minutes and highlight the circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ.

The Gospel of Luke gives us a detailed narrative of His birth. Let’s take a minute and read what Luke has to say:

“At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born” (Luke2:1-6)(NLT).

The next verse in the Gospel of Luke is the verse I would like to examine.  “She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them” (Luke2:7) (NLT).

I’d like to translate that verse into everyday terms. Mary gave birth to Jesus, wrapped Him in some cloth and laid him in an animal feeding bowl.  Take a few moments and let that verse sink in. We have the long awaited Messiah of the world born in a barn, wrapped in cloth, and His first bed is a filthy trough. That whole image is hardly fitting for the King of Kings.

Now the question arises, “Dave, why did you choose this aspect of the nativity narrative? I mean don’t you want to talk about the miracle of the virgin birth, the angels proclaiming the good news to the shepherds, or the wise men who visited from afar?” All those details are very interesting and important, but for me the details of His birth resonate the most to me. 

There was nothing pretty about the birth place of Jesus. It was basically a smelly barn filled with livestock of various kinds. Jesus was born amongst the sheep, goats, and cattle. Again, this is hardly the place for the Messiah to be born. Shouldn’t the Messiah have been born in a palace, in a kingly manner, surrounded by other members of royalty? How could God allow His only begotten Son to be born in a barn?   Didn’t Jesus deserve more?

All these questions made me ponder the circumstances a little further. To me, that verse gives me so much hope in life. My personal reflection on the humble beginnings of Christ led me to this encouraging conclusion. If Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lord, King of Kings, the Messiah can start His life, His ministry from the brink of obscurity, then why can’t we do the same? God could have very easily chosen the perfect married couple, living in a beautiful house in the suburbs as the perfect setting for His birth. Instead, God chose an unwed couple and the outskirts of Bethlehem as the ideal destination. Here is the conclusion that I drew from the manger.  God doesn’t need everything to be perfect or the beginning to be perfect in order to save the world. God can use the adversity of life and the humble beginnings to bring joy to the world. So don’t worry if your life started off on the wrong foot. Don’t worry if you aren’t in a pretty situation. God likes to turn humble beginning into joyous endings. The key is to follow the example of the three wise men and allow God to be the guiding star in your life. If you put your life in His hands, I promise you His plans are perfect. Take a look at my favorite verse and decide for yourself. “’For I know the plans I have for you’ — this is the Lord’s declaration — ’plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah29:11)(CSB).

The verse says the plan is perfect not the life. Don’t misconstrue that fact. The plan God has for our life is perfect. We just like to mess up the plan. There was only one man who was able to stick to the plan and live a perfect life. That is the same man who was born in the manger on the first Christmas day, Jesus. 

Friends, I pray you allow the humble birth of Jesus to give you the hope in your life. I pray that you trust your life to God, who can take the most adverse situation in life and bring hope to it. I pray that you are comforted by the fact that it isn’t how you start life that matters, but it is how you finish life that impacts the world. I lift up your situation with prayer and offer you the hope of Christ. I extend to you the fact that God doesn’t need you to be perfect or be in the ideal situation to impact the world.

I hope the words of this blog give you a ray of hope and encouragement. As always, have a great week and hope you join us again.

CHALLENGE…

  • Spend some time today thinking about how Jesus’ life began and how God wants your life to end. It’s never too late to get back on the perfect path that God had planned for us!

“Harbinger of Good News” by Wende Swick

As soon as an audible quote of, or reference to, the following Bible verse commences, I chime right in, my rote memory kicking in:

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10b-12, KJV

During my elementary years, I attended a Monday afternoon religious education class at the CCD center of the Roman Catholic church I attended growing up. One Christmastime, I was selected for the role of head angel. (Perhaps this is because I was the tallest student in my class!?!) I recited the above verse from Luke, draped in a white gown and, if I remember correctly, feathery wings and a golden tinsel halo. I stood at the apex of a heavenly host of young angels on risers, declaring this great news to whosoever would listen.

One of the definitions of the term ‘angel’ is ‘a messenger or harbinger’, and many add ‘from God’. I only know a few people who have seen actual angels, spirit beings who’ve never been human, but I have met people who have served as messengers of God to me, and I trust that I serve in that capacity for some of the people I encounter in my lifetime.

I have had the privilege of sharing the ‘Good News,’ or the ‘Gospel’ with others. It’s not that different from the message I delivered in an angel costume at around six years of age from some risers at St. Bartholomew’s Church. God CHOSE to come to earth in the form of a man, as Jesus Christ (Yeshua, in Hebrew), because He LOVES YOU. He knew you and I would be imperfect, but He wants to have a relationship with us, and to enjoy our company and our worship, and to have us enjoy HIS company, now and forever. Thus, He came, born as a babe, to die in our places (yours and mine), so that we can rise again after our physical bodies die, to live with Him forever. The price for our imperfections and our purposeful choices which hurt God, ourselves and others, is death and eternal separation from a perfect God. “What fellowship has light with darkness?” ( 2 Corinthians 6:14) the Scriptures ask. God is absolute light, and we choose to allow darkness into us. However, …the Gospel, the Good News, is that we can be cleansed, forgiven and made right, through the blood of Jesus… something we celebrate at Easter, but which can be celebrated every day of the year, including at Christmastime, when we celebrate His birth… Christ + mass = Christmas.

May your Christmas be joyful, and may you know that you will enjoy eternity with God! (We each make the choice whether or not we will.)

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10, KJV

CHALLENGE…

  • Have you ever seen, or talked to someone who has seen, an Angel?
  • Share a time when you acted like an Angel by sharing the Good News with someone.

“The Three Wise Men” by Kyle Holz

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.’” (Matthew 2:1-2)

The story of the wise men has always stuck out to me.  It’s not always one that people would necessarily talk about first when you think about the many different Christmas narratives.   It has always intrigued me when I think about these men bringing gifts to the Savior.  Here is a narrative that almost sets the stage for our modern-day Christmas and gift giving.  But, what sticks out to me most about this narrative is the fact that three men (or kings), were led to Jesus from a star and were used as part of the plan to ensure King Herod didn’t find Jesus as he wanted Him dead. God has a true plan and a true love for a relationship with us.  He guides the way to protect His Son here on earth.  You never know who might be part of the plan, including three wise men who we do not know much about!

“King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, ‘Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?’ ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they said, ‘for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities] of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:3-6)

King Herod felt threatened and disturbed by the fact that a potential religious king would come and overtake him or be more powerful. When the wise men came to tell him of this news, that they were going to worship Jesus, he knew that the Jews expected the Messiah to come soon. Civil unrest was a huge thing with Herod in Jerusalem. News of the birth of the Messiah had the opposite effect on him and his government compared to the hope of the Jewish people.  Herod came up with a ploy to find out where Jesus was so that he could kill Him. But we soon learn as we read further in Matthew, that evil will not prevail and that God and His plans will succeed!

“Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, ‘Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!’ After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2: 7-11)

These wise men had such great faith as they traveled hundreds of miles to deliver these gifts to Jesus. As part of what the season is about, they were filled with great joy of seeing the Messiah in person and giving Him these gifts. An amazing piece to this story is the fact that they were guided by the star in the east to Jesus.  Suspense and expectancy build as the climax to this story is about to take place. What really struck me was in verse 11 when they entered the house, and all of them bowed down to worship Him. Under regular circumstances when children are born, we don’t usually bow down and worship them.  This is a little perplexing.  The great faith they had in a baby being the one true Messiah is amazing.  Their faith was unwavering, and they could feel His presence.

While Jesus doesn’t need material things, these gifts that they had brought were the true essence of it being the thought that counts.

  • Gold- associated with kings and Jesus was the King of Kings!
  • Frankincense- used for worship in churches; people would use this for praise and worship towards Jesus.
  • Myrrh- this is a type of fragrance used on dead bodies to help them smell more pleasant. This symbolizes Christ’s crucifixion.

“When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.” (Matthew 2:12)

God led them in faith to the King of Kings in the flesh on the earth. A star shone on the earth to let them know that Jesus was born! He also used them to help ensure that Herod would not make his way to Jesus.  We thank God for His plans and how He uses us to expand His Kingdom and plans here on earth!

Their steadfast faith and devotion to Jesus was one that led them right to Him in the flesh! As Christians, we can take something from this! We can acknowledge that Jesus came in the flesh to die for our sins. He gave us the ultimate gift of salvation. We need to acknowledge Jesus as our King and Lord of our lives. As I mentioned in my previous blog, Jesus gave us the ultimate gift and wants the ultimate gift from us, ourselves. Bring Jesus your best gifts as He is worthy. The three wise men’s narrative lives on in our season of giving gifts to those we love.

May He bring you peace, hope, love, and joy this holiday season!

Challenge:

This holiday season, as you give a gift; remember the gift God gave you, His only Son!

References: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-stories/three-wise-men.html

www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%202&version=NLT

“A Shepherd’s Tale” by Debbie McClarin

I have always loved sheep. I’m not really sure why, but since childhood I have been intrigued by them. As my family would walk along country paths, I would always be the one lagging behind because I was watching the sheep, talking to them, and if there was a brave one or two, scratching them behind their ears. Maybe it was the picture in my mind of King David as a boy shepherd. What young Jewish boy doesn’t have David as his hero, slaying predators and then Goliath?! “The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd.” This makes for a good cadence for walking when young feet and legs are getting tired. “Are we almost there yet?” “He leads me on paths of righteousness. He leads me on paths of righteousness. He leads me on paths of righteousness.” I keep moving, step by step. The path is long, dusty, and rocky. But, sometimes when I am tempted to do wrong…I think, He leads me on paths of righteousness, and it helps me to make a much better choice.

At a young age it was determined that I would follow in my father’s footsteps and become a priest.  This decision really was a joy to me as I have always wanted to serve Yahweh God.  I was part-way through the training by the rabbis and priests when I found out that there were special priests who were shepherds for the Passover lambs.*  My heart leapt and I sought out how I could follow this path.  My love for and knowledge of sheep helped to procure me this position.  And, that is how I ended up being in that field on that most holy of nights. 

The flocks of Passover lambs are the only herds of sheep that do not have to go out into the wilderness.  We were not too far from Bethlehem.  Taking care of the lambs brought me great delight.  There was a sense of constant vigilance because for a lamb to be accepted as a Passover sacrifice, it must be free from any injury, defect, or blemish.  I loved watching over these precious creatures.  While it did pain me to think that most of them would be sacrificed to atone for our sins, it was part of who I was as a young Jewish man.  All my life we had celebrated Passover, remembering that the Angel of Death passed over any Jewish household that had the blood of a perfect lamb spread along its door frame.  There was great rejoicing every year in remembering God’s miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from the cruel enslavement of the Egyptians.

These thoughts and more often went through my mind as we guarded and cared for these lambs destined to provide the Passover sacrifice.   That particular night it was crisp and clear, maybe a little colder than usual.  The stars were definitely bright, and as it was my turn to be in the Migdal Tower watching over the sheep and lambs from up above.  Tradition stated that the Messiah would come from the “tower of the flock.”  I thought of that every time it was my turn to watch from up high in the tower.  What did it really mean?  So many years, and still no Messiah.  Obediently, we continued to follow the Jewish traditions and celebrate the yearly feasts, never losing hope that one day He would come.

Sometimes the nights seemed extra long and I would get sleepy.  This night, however, was different.  I could never find the words to describe the sense of electricity in the air, but even the sheep seemed to feel it.  They wouldn’t settle down, moving from place to place instead of sleeping, and the repeated “baa baa” could be heard instead of the gentle sound of their sleeping breaths.  I kept watching for intruders.  Were there wolves nearby?  Was there a storm brewing somewhere despite the clear sky?  Could they hear voices somewhere that we could not hear?  “Just keep watching over them,” was the voice I heard from God in my mind.

My eyes were roaming back and forth over the expanse of the field.  As I turned to gaze over the field once again, there was an indistinguishable glow, wait, no, it was not a glow, it was a brilliant light!  I shouted down to my fellow shepherds from my place in the tower, “What is that amazing light?” I admit it; I was a bit frightened!  Then I heard the words, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you today in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”*  I had to stop and think.   Could I really be hearing an angel announcing the coming of the Christ, the Messiah?  But the angel continued to speak, and I had to listen. “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

Just when I realized I had been holding my breath that whole time the angel was speaking and began to fill my lungs back up with the night air, that majestic angel was joined by a whole multitude of angels!  I mean, there was no chance of us ever counting how many, even if all of us shepherds worked together to do so.  It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.  Their words of praise filled the air and every cell of our bodies.  “Glory to God in the highest!  And on earth peace, goodwill to those on whom His favor rests.”

I wanted to shout praises along with them.  I wanted to bow down in humble reverence, but that was to come just a while later.  We began saying to each other, “Now, we have to go now, right now, to see this baby Savior!”  I don’t think we ever ran that fast in our lives.  Somehow in our exuberance we found the humble place where Joseph and Mary and the precious newborn baby were.   Then the time for humble reverence came.  There He was; the most beautiful baby that I ever saw.   How could it be that He was wrapped in swaddling cloths?  They were the very same cloths we used to protect the Passover lambs.

Tears began to roll down my cheeks.  I gazed at this baby, this perfect baby.  He was a baby with no blemish, injury, or defect—the perfect Passover Lamb.  Our Messiah.  God had sent the Messiah in the form of a baby.  Our Savior.  My Savior.   We could not contain ourselves, and yet after a time we left, and all along the way we praised God and told the story to whoever would listen.  “For there is born today, for you, a Savior who is Christ the Lord!  Glory to God!”

*Scripture passages/references: Psalm 23: 1,3; Luke 2: 4-17; Exodus 11, 12 (NKJV/NIV)

*Historical information:  https://steppesoffaith.medium.com/the-real-truth-about-the-shepherds-on-that-first-christmas-night-c32296181a27

Challenges:

Read through any of the above passages and put yourself into the narrative.  What do you hear?  See? Smell?  What emotions are flowing through you?

What part of the story above most resonates with you?  What might God be trying to say to you or wanting to do in your life this Christmas season? 

Like the shepherds, go and share the good news of Jesus’ birth!

“The Shepherds Told Everyone What Had Happened” by Pastor Randy LeBaron

Although I do love each element of the Christmas narrative, if I were to pick out one piece that stands out the most to me these days, it would be the account of the angel of the Lord appearing to the shepherds. Please take a moment to read and meditate on it. It is found in…

Luke 2:8-20 “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” (NLT)

It should not be a surprise that, as an evangelist, I would be drawn to the event where the participants all take part in sharing the good news—the very definition of evangelism. First, you have the angel of the Lord, later joined by many other angels, sharing with the shepherds. Then you have the shepherds themselves going around and sharing the good news with others after witnessing the promised Messiah in the manger with their own eyes.

One of the things that I often emphasize when teaching about evangelism, is that every Christian is expected to actively participate—not just the experts or extroverts. This passage is proof of this because even though it starts with an expert, an angel was literally “a messenger” after all; it ends with simple shepherds sharing the good news with anyone who would listen.

A lot of Christians tend to over complicate things and become reluctant to share the gospel because they feel like they lack biblical knowledge or fear rejection. The reality is, much like with these shepherds, evangelism is simply sharing the good news that you have witnessed firsthand. You do not have to take a theology course before telling your personal testimony to others and you do not have to fear rejection. Our job as Christians is simply to proclaim the good news about Jesus. Success does not depend on the response of those we are proclaiming it to.

Another thing to note is that the shepherds weren’t sitting in the temple praying when this happened; they were in the middle of a shift at work. Not only does God call common people to evangelize, but He also calls us to do it in the midst of our everyday lives. God wants to use who we are to share His good news where we are.

Another example is when Jesus revealed Himself to the woman at the well in John 4. She subsequently left her jar to go and tell everyone about this man who knew everything about her. One minute she was so focused on her sin and shame that she was getting water during the heat of the day to avoid running into others and the next she was actually running toward those she had wanted to avoid because her focus had shifted onto the possibility of Jesus being the Messiah.

This Christmas my prayer is that each of us, like the shepherds, would become so excited about what we have witnessed Christ do in us and through us that we would be willing to share the good news of the gospel with others, and without hesitation!

CHALLENGE…

Read through the Christmas narrative found primarily in Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, and John 1.

Share which person or event stands out to you the most and why.

Ask God to give you the name of one person you can pray for and share Christ with this week. Let us know so that we can be praying for them and for you—that the Holy Spirit would prepare his/her ears to hear and prompt you when an opportune time arises.

* This is meant to be an interactive blog so please share some of your responses with us.

“The Magnificat/ Mary’s Song of Praise” – Luke 1:46-55

‭‭As we come to the end of of second week of Advent spend some time today meditating on the Song of Mary after she learned that she would give birth to The Messiah.

Luke‬ ‭1:46-55 “Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.””

“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” – An Advent Prayer

In keeping with our theme of the week here is an Advent Hymn that is very much a prayer…

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.


Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.


By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Tom Howard / R. H. Pritchard / Charles Wesley

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

“Silent Night” by Dave Good

Hello!!!! I hope you had the opportunity to read the blog from Day 1. If not, I would encourage you to take a look at the entries from our Take Five team. Last week we discussed some of our favorite things about Christmas. This week we are going to discuss and explore our favorite Christmas hymn.

The hymn I chose is “Silent Night.“   If you have ever attended a Christmas Eve service, you have probably participated in a candlelight vigil. The preacher finishes his or her Christmas message and candles are distributed to each and every churchgoer.  The church lights are lowered, and darkness fills the air. A single flame is lit in the sanctuary and passed from person to person.  After a few short moments, the entire church is filled with flickering flames. Looking around, it is a truly serene and beautiful atmosphere. Once the candles are lit, the familiar notes of “Silent Night” flow from the worship band. The result is a wonderfully peaceful moment in time. 

The atmosphere created by the words of “Silent Night” creates a similar effect. Let’s take a moment and break down this beautiful song, verse by verse.

First, let’s take a look at the title, “Silent Night.”

Contrary to the title, that night in Bethlehem was anything but silent on the night Jesus was born. “At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” (Luke 2:1, 3-7) (NLT). The entire town was completely occupied, there was not a hotel room left to be found.  The only option the expecting couple had was the stable of an innkeeper who had compassion on them. Mary and Joseph made their way to a barn to seek shelter for the night.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
‘Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

The first verse of the song was written to describe the moments after a child is born   If you’ve have had the privilege of experiencing the birth of a child; it is the most incredible blessing in the world. There is a moment, immediately after the birth, that transitions from urgency, noise, and chaos to an incredible feeling of serenity–the moment when all the screams and commotion are transformed into joy and peace. It’s the moment when the newborn is laid on the mother’s chest and tears of joy flow from the parents’ eyes. The long awaited child is here, the bonding between the mother and child has begun.  The room filled with doctors and nurses soon clears and the exhausted mother and child are allowed to finally rest and usually fall asleep in each other’s arms.  What an incredible moment in time!  There is a peace and tranquility that is present that is hard to describe; it just has to be experienced. 

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from heaven afar;
Heavenly hosts sing Al-le-lu-ia!
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born!

The second verse portrays the announcement of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:8-11) (NLT). Imagine how frightening this moment must have been. The night is dark. The only sounds to be heard are the animals and the crickets. Then, out of the blue, the angels of the Lord light up the sky with glory and song.  I don’t know about you. I’ve never seen an angel, and while I’m sure they are beautiful, this would have scared the living daylights out of me.  I’m sure they let out a few screams and yelps. Once they regained their composure and gathered themselves, they were greeted with the greatest news in the history of mankind. These lowly shepherds were the first to be told that the Savior of the world, Jesus, was born on this day. In just a few moments, the shepherds went from fear and panic to joy and exaltation. This exact thing takes place when we accept Christ as our Savior.  Our life goes from out of control and fear to restoration and peace with the Father. 

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth

The final verse tries to depict the image of the precious baby Jesus lying in the bed of hay; His face so innocent and full of the glory of God.  There is nothing more precious than a sleeping baby. Their calmness and sweetness are reflected in their peaceful existence. The very last line, “With the dawn of redeeming grace,” points directly to the upcoming amazing grace still to come.

Friends, “Silent Night” is more than a song to sing during a Christmas Eve service.  The words of this song bring joy and hope to a world looking for salvation.  Next time you hear the words of this beautiful song, try to envision yourself gazing into the sweet, innocent face of the baby Jesus. Look at His radiant face and thank Him for what He was born to do. He was brought into this world to die for our sins and offer us salvation.  If you honestly take a moment and let that sink in, you will be filled with thankfulness and joy.  I pray that the words of this blog and the analysis of this song bless your life.  Lyrics are so powerful and if you let the words of this song soak in, you will soon be filled with the joy experienced by those shepherds.  Christ the Savior is born! Hallelujah!!!!!

Please join us next week as we continue to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord. Have a great week and I hope you join us again.

CHALLENGE…

  • If you have participated in a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service please share what your experience was like? Did you find it meaningful? Why?
  • Both Dave and Kyle (in Tuesday’s blog post) wrote about “Silent Night”. Why do you think that this is such a popular song? What stands out to you? The words? The melody? The meaning?
  • Spend a few minutes quietly listening to thus sing and meditating on it’s words. https://youtu.be/h8lJWj3R7ng

“Handel’s Messiah” by Wende Swick

Handel’s Messiah is a powerful musical composition which moves me. I don’t remember the first time I heard “The Messiah,” but I’ve had friends who host an annual “Messiah Sing” in their home, where folks are invited to participate in a very personal singing of Handel’s masterpiece.

When I lived in Jerusalem between 2007 and 2010, I became friends with Irene Poe Duce Levy, who translated Handel’s Messiah into Hebrew, with the help of a friend. (Irene is an American-born woman who’s related to Edgar Allen Poe. She made her way to Lebanon by ship in the 1940s, as one couldn’t travel to ‘Israel’ at that time. Modern-day Israel, as you may know, was ‘born’ in 1948, after Irene was already living there. Once in Lebanon, she made her way south to Israel by land. She can communicate in Hebrew and Arabic. Into her late 90s, Irene was still teaching Hebrew lessons at her congregation in Jerusalem. She is over 100 now!) I was in Jerusalem at the second performance of Handel’s “Messiah” in Hebrew, and bawled like a baby. It was very beautiful and powerful to be in the nation where our Messiah, Yeshua, (‘Jesus’ in English) was born, lived, died and appeared after His bodily resurrection, and to hear this performed in their native tongue. WOW!

I also received an invitation to, and happily attended, a community performance of Handel’s “Messiah” once living back in the Adirondacks after 2012. A family friend was playing in the brass section of the orchestra which made this performance more personal and enjoyable for me. It was performed in a cozy church sanctuary where the audience was invited to sing along with certain parts. This warmed my heart, which was already alive with a Christmas glow.

Here are lyrics I pulled from an online source:

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.


Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given,
and the government shall be upon His shoulder:
and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion;
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee.
He is the righteous Savior.
And he shall speak peace unto the heathen.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.
Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
The kingdoms of this world is become the kingdoms of our Lord,
and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever.
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power,
and riches, and wisdom, and strength,
and honor, and glory, and blessing.
Blessing, and honor, glory, and power,
be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne,
and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
Amen.”
 
Those of you who've been to a performance of Handel's Messiah, or listened to a recording of it, may recognize the various parts overlaid in the culminating "Hallelujah Chorus" and recall beautiful harmonies which stay with you:
“Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
 
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth (Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah)
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth (Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah)
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah (Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah)
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth (Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah)
Hallelujah
 
The Kingdom of this world
Is become
The Kingdom of our Lord
And of His Christ
And of His Christ
And He shall reign forever and ever
And He shall reign forever and ever (And He shall reign forever and ever)
And He shall reign forever and ever (And He shall reign forever and ever)
And he shall reign forever and ever (And He shall reign forever and ever)
 
King of Kings (Forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah)
And Lord of Lords (Forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah)
King of Kings (Forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah)
And Lord of Lords (Forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah)
King of Kings (Forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah)
And Lord of Lords
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
 
And he shall reign forever and ever (And he shall reign)
And he shall reign forever and ever (And he shall reign)
 
King of Kings forever and ever
And Lord of Lords hallelujah hallelujah
And he shall reign forever, forever and ever
 
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
And he shall reign forever and ever (And he shall reign forever and ever)
 
Forever and ever, forever and ever (King of Kings and Lord of Lords)
 
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah

CHALLENGE…


* Be sure to check out last week’s and today’s Episodes of “Refill with Randy” featuring Wende Swick!!! You can find last week’s episode here https://youtu.be/0ODrKH5YxJA and today’s will premiere on FB and YouTube at 8:15am.

“Silent Night” by Kyle Holz

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night!

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon virgin mother and Child.

Holy Infant, so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Worship through music is one of the key ways I connect to the Lord.  While I am not very musically inclined, I spiritually connect the most through song.  In moments of worship and raising my hands to the Lord, I get absolute chills.  I feel the Lord’s presence and it means I am connecting with Him. When I hear “Silent Night” at Christmas time, I really feel that heavenly peace and connection with Jesus. Going to church and hearing that song, the cares of the world are drowned out.  You almost feel as if you are invisible! Sitting and listening to “Silent Night” while staring at the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, driving in the car in the dark listening to this song and seeing the snow and houses lit up—these are such wondrous moments.  Little did I know that this song that gives me such great peace came from someone who had a rough back story.*

If you’ve never heard the story of how “Silent Night” came to be, it is quite the story that illustrates how God works in people’s lives and creates something beautiful. Joseph Mohr was born in circumstances that made him socially unacceptable, therefore, he was an outcast. Joseph’s father had abandoned him and his mother. Without this father figure, God orchestrated a father figure in his life which was the church choirmaster. Joseph had musical abilities and learned many instruments, along with a musical education. He ended up becoming a priest and was ordained at 23 years old. Joseph wrote a poem that was inspired by a painting of Mary and the three wise men. Franz Xaver Gruber composed the music to Mohr’s poem. Joseph sang the song and Franz played a guitar.  The song was played shortly after midnight on the morning of December 25, 1818 at the St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria. The organ at the church wasn’t working so they performed it with just a guitar. An organ repair man heard the song and brought it back to his hometown.  A family of singing sisters heard this song and incorporated this into their set as they traveled around. The song eventually became a German tradition at Christmas. “Silent Night” was performed for the first time in Central Park, Manhattan in 1839. It was then translated into English by John Freeman Young in 1863.

It is an incredible example of how God takes something broken, from the pit of despair, neglected by society, and turns it into something beautiful. One of the single greatest moments in history, and God reminds us with this song.  A song that is really so simple, yet it cuts so deep.  I love this story because it shows me how God can use anyone.  He gives us all these talents to make such a huge impact in the world. Joseph’s talent for music was used by God to touch hearts and bring about peace. Little did Joseph know that this poem would turn into a Christmas music staple.  This poem would have such a profound impact on how it touched hearts and how it still continues to touch hearts today.

This has always been one of my favorite Christmas hymns.  There is something so calming and peaceful about the song.  The overall elements of the song just soothe my soul. It is moments like these when I hear the song during the holidays, where it just moves me to tears.  I can picture that night; Jesus was lying in the manger. His parents were by His side and He was sleeping in ‘heavenly peace.’ Everyone there I can imagine was in a ‘heavenly peace’ as well. All I can think about is the fact that this peace was driven by the single greatest moment in history. Imagine the awe and wonder in everyone there, what that moment must have felt like seeing Baby Jesus in that manger.  God sent His Son, Jesus, in human flesh to die for our sins. Jesus, the only one who can bring us peace; He is the Prince of Peace!  Joseph ends the poem in such a powerful way…with Christ our Savior being born!

Silent night, holy night!

Wondrous star, lend thy light;

With the angels let us sing,

Alleluia to our King;

Christ the Savior is born,

Christ the Savior is born!

Challenges:

“O Holy Night” by Debbie McClarin

Holy. Set apart. Sanctified for God’s purposes. This is how I have always heard “holy” defined. That night when Jesus was born was truly a holy night. It was like no other night before it or after it. There in the sky was a miraculous star shining over the town of Bethlehem. An angel proclaimed to lowly shepherds, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you today in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” Then angels burst forth from heaven shouting, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:10, 14) (NKJV). These words were proclamations that God had come to earth in the form of a tiny baby. The baby Jesus was sanctified for God’s purposes. “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel,” which means God is with us (Matthew 1:23 and Isaiah 7:14) (NIV). Truly it was the holiest night.

But what about the song, “O, Holy Night”?  Some interesting facts* are that it was written as a poem by a man who was not a church-goer, at the request of the local French Catholic priest.  Music was added to the poem by a Jewish man. “O, Holy Night” was the first song ever broadcast over the airwaves.  An assistant to Thomas Edison read the words from Luke chapter 2, and then played this song on his violin, all to the wonder and astonishment of anyone who heard it.  The words we sing now are changed somewhat from the original, but what remains the same is the song’s popularity and spiritual depth.

Reading about the history of its creation makes me even more appreciative of the song.  God can use anyone!  You, or I, do not have to be a perfect Christian person to do something amazing for God!  That is exciting to me! 

I have heard this song sung many times over the years.  My favorite time to hear it is at a Christmas Eve service when, no matter how many times I’ve heard it, it still brings tears to my eyes and shivers to my body.  It is beautiful as a solo, but I love when the congregation gets to sing it!  When the music is soothing and peaceful, I feel calm.  When it begins to crescendo, my spirit also soars!  When we get to the powerful words of “Fall on your knees, O hear the angels voices, O night divine, O night when Christ was born…” I feel like we should all be on our knees worshiping the baby Jesus just as the shepherds did that night. 

There are some words in this song that stirred up some controversy back in the 1800s, and maybe those issues are still a sticking point today. Did you notice the phrase, “Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother, And in His name all oppression shall cease”? This did not sit well with some folks during that time. I find this stanza meaningful for several reasons. First and foremost is because Jesus loves everyone no matter their color or their role in life. It breaks His heart to see people in slavery or any kind of bondage. He does not want people to be in shackles whether it was in the first century, the 1600’s, or today. Yes, today. Slavery abounds. It is in different forms than the days of cotton or tobacco plantations, but it still exists. The United States is not exempt. These words are meant for freedom!

I think I connect with this section for several reasons. Here in Rochester, New York where I live, there were important happenings in regards to abolition in the 1800s. Frederick Douglass,** a former slave who became a strong abolitionist speaking and writing tirelessly to gain freedom and rights for other slaves and free persons of color, lived and worked in Rochester for part of his life. There is a New York State historical marker along the north end of the Genesee River, not too far from my home, that states that it was the final ‘stop’ of the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman’s house is about two hours from Rochester. The western NY area is the birthplace of the Free Methodist denomination. Benjamin Titus Roberts wanted everyone to be able to worship freely and equally no matter what color or socioeconomic status they were. He was an abolitionist as well. These and other matters led him and a group of people to start the Free Methodist denomination, the first church being in Albion, NY. The Free Methodist Church today continues to fight against slavery in the Set Free Movement. These parts of history that surround me physically and historically create greater meaning for this part of the song.

Part two of the above quotation is, “And in His name all oppression shall cease.”  We know that oppression continues today.  It will continue until we are in heaven.  But—there is good news!  Jesus, through His death and resurrection and the work of the Holy Spirit, can break chains and oppression that we experience.  People are set free from addictions, depression, and anxiety.  Difficult situations can be remedied or improved.  Relationships can be restored.  Work places can become areas where people are empowered not degraded.  Ethnic differences can be embraced rather than causing division.  Yes, these types of oppression and more can be released with prayer, but they are also released with praise to Jesus, our Savior. “He knows our need, to our weakness He’s no stranger….let all within us praise His holy name….Christ is the Lord, O praise His name forever…” 

O, what a holy night.  Thank You Jesus for coming to be with us.

Challenge:

  • Go to YouTube, Spotify, etc., and listen to several versions of this Christmas hymn. Really listen to the words. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElJ0fiD0lkc)
  • Notice where in the song you feel moved. What is God saying to you? Is there a place within you that He wants to set free?
  • What are some things you can do this year to focus on the holiness of the Christmas season?

https://christiantoday.com.au/news/four-things-you-didnt-know-about-o-holy-night.html

https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/occasions/christmas/o-holy-night-original-lyrics-composer-recordings/

https://www.beliefnet.com/entertainment/movies/the-nativity-story/the-amazing-story-of-o-holy-night.aspx

Frederick Douglass statue near the sign signifying the last stop of the Underground Railroad. Rochester, NY

O Holy Night image: currentcatalog.com

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by Pastor Randy LeBaron

Please share one of your favorite Advent/Christmas hymns and why it is meaningful to you.

I have a confession to make, when it comes to Christmas songs I fall into the crowd that plays them early and often. Hymns, carols, old classics, or new choruses, it doesn’t matter as long as it puts me in the holiday mood. That being said, even with all the great choices out there like “Joy to the World,” “Hallelujah,” and “Mary, Did You Know?” my favorite song is actually a 19th century translation of an older Latin hymn using a metrical paraphrase of the O Antiphons.* With its haunting notes, and lyrics that echo the longings of the prophets, every year I look forward to singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Take a moment please and meditate on each verse taking note of the invitational prayer that each verse begins with.

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by The Piano Guys

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

One of the things instilled in me throughout my time in seminary was that you cannot fully celebrate the joy of Christmas without first experiencing the anticipation and expectation associated with Advent—the reason being that you lack context. If you truly want to understand why the birth of Christ was such a monumental event, you have to spend time learning about the history and hardships of the Jewish people as well as the messianic prophecies, particularly those found in Isaiah, which foretold of the one who would come to set the captives free.

Many of the verses in this song are inspired by, or taken directly from, Scripture.

For example:

Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (reference to Emmanuel)

Isaiah 9:2 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (reference to Day-Spring)

Isaiah 11:1 “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (reference to Rod of Jesse)

Isaiah 11:2-3 “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord” (reference to Wisdom from on High)

Isaiah 11:10, 12 “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious… He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.” (reference to Root of Jesse)

Isaiah 22:22 “I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (reference to Key of David)

I do love that this song is permeated with prophecies, but I am also thankful that it is equally pervaded with prayer. As each verse begins with a plea of those who longed for Christ to come the first time around, it also serves as a reminder for us to pray in expectation for Christ to come again. And so, as we continue through this season of Advent together, let us sing and pray…

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20b)


What are some of your favorite Christmas Hymns/Carols?

How early do you start playing Christmas music? How early is too early?

What practices do you participate in during this season that help you experience the anticipation and expectation associated with Advent?

Advent – Week 1 “Scripture Readings”

Take some time today to meditate on these passages as we finish the first week of Advent and prepare to start Week 2.

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine… For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” (NLT‬‬)

Romans‬ ‭13:11-14‬ “This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.” (NLT‬‬)

Advent – Week 1 “Prayer” – Pastor Randy LeBaron

FYI – each week of Advent starting on Sunday each of our TAKE 5 bloggers will take turns answering a question or commenting on the same theme. That takes place Sun-Thur. On Fridays I will be posting an Advent Prayer that coincides with that week and then on Saturday I will simply post a passage of Scripture for you to meditate on your own.

O’God of Christmas past
and of Christmas still to come.
We pray to You during this first week of Advent
and ask that you fill our hearts with the same longing for Messiah
as those who watched and waited centuries ago.
Help us to be mindful of all of our desires at this time and to cleanse our hearts by casting aside any that take our eyes off of You.
Let us live is such a way that should Christ return tonight
he will find us doing those things expected of us and be pleased.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

ADVENT – DAY 5 “Getting Into the Christmas Spirit” by Dave Good

Advent is a time of anticipation, preparation, and expectation. What are some things that you look forward to each year as you prepare for Christmas, and what are some things you would suggest that we all do in anticipation of Christ’s coming again?

For those of you who may be new to the blog, my name is Dave Good. Thank you for taking time out of your day to join us as we prepare our hearts for the Christmas season and more importantly, the coming of the Lord.

I have to make a confession, and my family would support this statement, I am not completely in the Christmas spirit yet. So, in the attempt to foster this, I decorated the majority of my front yard with hundreds of red and white Christmas lights and a vast assortment of inflatable devices while slowly transforming the inside of my house into the North Pole. I have to admit my Christmas spirit is emerging.

I am going to play the part of Captain Obvious and remind you that the year 2020 has been a really long and challenging year. We are enduring a world-wide pandemic. We have had to endure social lockdowns and restrictions.  We have faced challenges such as social injustices. We are currently trying to finalize a highly contested election. The year 2020 has challenged us in just about every aspect of our lives.

With all that being said, I’d like to flip the script on the year 2020 and inject some hope into this letter. Geez Dave, now that you have us dwelling on all this adversity, how in the world are you going to do that? I’m glad you asked. Let me pull out one of most inspiring verses in the Bible.

Matthew 12:21 “And his name will be the hope of all the world.” NLT

Friends, this Christmas season is all about Jesus. He is all that we hope for and all that we need. Jesus came into this world as an innocent babe lying in a manger. His arrival caused joy to the world and signifies a hope to all mankind. I don’t care how bad this world gets. No matter how this world seems to fall apart. The fact is that we have hope to hold onto in the life of Jesus and His salvation on the cross. Our hope is solidified in the life of Jesus, period. He is all that we need.

That being said, I have a few favorite things that I enjoy about the Christmas season.

Time with my family. Christmas is one of those times where you just want to be home or go home. There is something about being surrounded by the ones you love. It’s a time to enjoy each others’ presence, a time to share a great meal, and a time to show others we love them with gifts and generosity.

Christmas cookies. I love to gather the family around and decorate cookies. My favorite is good old-fashioned iced cut out cookies. I don’t care what shape they are, just cut them out and top them with some icing and some sprinkles. The trick around our house is you have to eat them fast or hide a few for later.

Christmas movies. What holiday season would be complete without Christmas movies? Whether it’s Christmas Vacation, The Polar Express, or the wonderfully made and predictable Hallmark movies. There is just something about each one that lift your spirits.

Christmas presents.  Who doesn’t like presents?  I have to admit I’m really hard to buy for. Each Christmas season my family and friends ask for some ideas and I always give them the same response. “How ‘bout some golf balls and Buffalo Bills’ gear.” I’m just at a period in life where I really don’t have a lot of wants. What I love most of all is buying gifts for others. Christmas is a time to show others you care and love them. I love to see the look of delight on my kids’ faces or a look of appreciation on a friend’s face. It is so much better to give than receive.

Christmas is such a festive time of the year. We tend to spend several weeks preparing for the big day. I challenge you to approach this year in a different way. Make sure you take some time to enjoy the season.  Take some time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. Don’t get absorbed by the hustle and bustle of an already exhausting year. My prayer for each and every one of you reading this blog is simple. May this Advent and Christmas season be filled with love and joy. May the true meaning of Christmas fill our hearts and may Christ be ever-present in every family dinner, every present unwrapped, and every “Merry Christmas” we speak this year.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS…


What are some things that you personally are struggling with in trying to prepare for Christmas while still feeling the effects of such a difficult year?

What were some things you like to do to get yourself into “The Christmas Spirit”?

It is easy to simply focus on the infant Jesus this time of year but Matthew 12 reminds us that Christmas is part of a much bigger picture. What can we do to keep both the cradle and the cross, Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, and promise to come again, at the forefront of our minds?


This is meant to be an interactive blog so please share some of your responses with us.

ADVENT – DAY 4 “Advent Traditions at Home and Around the Globe” by Wende Swick

Advent is a time of anticipation, preparation, and expectation. What are some things that you look forward to each year as you prepare for Christmas, and what are some things you would suggest that we all do in anticipation of Christ’s coming again?

Last night, with Thanksgiving behind us (just!), the Christmas classics began showing in earnest on TV. One channel broadcasted “Frosty,” another “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and a third, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” As a child, I loved watching “Rudolph” and some of these other animated shows. It still strikes something deep within me to hear the music, narrators’ voices (Burl Ives ring a bell with anyone, or Danny Kaye?) and the classic lines from these programs.

As an adult, I’ve continued some traditions from my family experience, and developed new ones of my own. Sadly, some have been lost, like Christmas caroling door to door and returning home for shared refreshments afterward. Perhaps that one should be brought back? In China, friends and I carried lit candles as we caroled door to door one year—a very memorable and heart-warming experience!

Among those retained from my childhood are the following:

My mother would pack our Christmas stockings full of treats- small gifts, candy, and practical items like socks, a new toothbrush, etc. Always, there would be an orange. I continue this tradition, making sure to include some nuts, holiday candy and topping it all off with a teddy bear who sticks out of the top! My mom would set our stockings at the foot of our beds, and whenever we awoke in the a.m., we were allowed to open them…2 a.m., 4:00 a.m…., BUT we couldn’t go downstairs, where the tree stood encircled with gifts for a family of eight, until my parents arose, and dad slipped down to turn on the tree lights, adding to the ‘magic’ of the season!

My mother and I picked Ground Pine (before it wound up on the protected species list!), from which we created wreaths and sold them to earn $ for Christmas gifts we’d bestow. I continue to create wreaths, firstly, for a front door decoration, and sometimes extras to bestow upon family or friends, and secondly, so that it feels like Christmas! There are some traditions which truly help ‘make’ the holiday, and for me, wreath-making seems to be one of those. However, instead of collecting Ground Pine, which has been outlawed for years, I simply ask the tree vendors for branches they lop off trees they sell, for fitting in tree stands- a much simpler way to get greens!

I always hang mistletoe in a doorway, so that whoever wants an excuse for extra kisses during the holiday season may avail him/herself of it!! While in Lebanon during the Christmas season of 2011, I happened upon a floral shop which had BALLS of Mistletoe suspended in front of its shop! (I’d never known that’s how it grows- in a sphere!) I bought one, broke it into sprigs and hung them with burgundy ribbon, from front door and classroom door lintels of neighbors and co-teachers. I actually had folks whose doorways I didn’t decorate ASK me for some! It was a new and welcome tradition to some. No wonder!! I also understood finally, the tradition my mom and others had of creating ‘kissing balls.’

I’ve always loved using Advent calendars, where you open a window every day during the month of December, counting down the days till Christmas. Some paper calendars have a Bible verse inside each window telling the Christmas story, others a picture. In one German town, I actually saw a building with 25 ‘windows’ created with shutters on its exterior, for this purpose! I’ve given my nephews paper Advent calendars annually for years, perhaps long after they’d ‘outgrown them,’ because it does MY soul good to think of their use! This year, I gave my grandsons a calendar which contains a small Lego character or item behind each window, and those pieces get added to a winter scene which accompanies the actual calendar. I actually use wooden Advent calendars from LL Bean and The Christmas Tree Shops for my husband and daughter now. In each little drawer, opened daily during the month of December, is a gift tag which directs them to where they’ll find their gifts for that day- whether in their offices, on the tree or other. Shhh… don’t tell them, but this year’s gifts include things like a tin nutcracker containing Byes’ caramel corn, an Amaryllis potted bulb, and a small holiday ceramic cake pan with pumpkin bread. This is a fun tradition I look forward to annually!

My mom used to create an Advent wreath, which would, by Christmas Eve, hold three purple candles and one pink candle. This wreath decorated our dinner table during the month of December. Some years, I have done the same. I’ve bought the candles for this year, and intend to ask for boughs when we go for our tree next weekend. (Helpful hint: wreath frames can be found at a Dollar Tree near you! Every once in awhile, you come across one which contains candle cups. If not, you can use candle holders for tapers inside any round evergreen wreath.)

Whatever age I’ve been, attending a Christmas Eve church service, whether at midnight or earlier, has been a key part of the holiday for me. When we light candles each of us is holding, as we stand together in a giant circle ringing the sanctuary, or in rows in front of our seats, the sharing of the growing light is a powerful tradition which often brings tears to my eyes.

Gift exchanges with people I care about are also a vital part of Christmas celebrations for me every year. It’s not so much about the gifts themselves as it is the expression of the love shared between and among us.

As we look forward in anticipation of the return of Jesus, our Messiah, there are a few things I think are good for each of us to be doing…. expressing the love we have for God and for each other often and freely; gathering together regularly to worship Him- something we will enjoy doing FOREVER!!; practicing generosity, as our heavenly Father is SO VERY generous with us, and making sure that we keep clean, pure hearts before Him. He came and died for us; the least we can do is live for Him!

I pray your family and you enjoy a beautiful Advent season.


REFLECTION QUESTIONS…

What are some of your favorite animated Christmas specials that you still watch and enjoy as an adult?

Are there any special things that you make every year such as a wreath or favorite holiday snack? (And am I the only one who had not heard of “Ground Pine” or “Kissing Balls”? 😇 ~ Pastor Randy)

Wende mentions many good scripturally-based activities that we should be engaged in during this season (and all year round) such as expressing love, gathering together, and practicing generosity. What are some ways that you plan to participate in each of these?


This is meant to be an interactive blog so please share some of your responses with us.

ADVENT – DAY 3 “Christmas Is What You Make It” by Kyle Holz

Advent is a time of anticipation, preparation, and expectation. What are some things that you look forward to each year as you prepare for Christmas, and what are some things you would suggest that we all do in anticipation of Christ’s coming again?

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year from childhood on. My family has always instilled this love of Christmas in me. My grandfather had a love for Christmas, and he started a tradition that our family would get together on Christmas Eve every year. We still do that tradition. This is a time of presents, warm hugs, food, and, of course, being together. I might be biased, but my family gives the best hugs! My aunt on my father’s side loves Christmas and decorations. I have a great love for everything Christmas. From childhood on, I would decorate the tree, house, and anything that I could. I remember being so excited to take $20 and go through the dollar store and buy my relatives Christmas gifts. There would be great excitement on my face watching them open their gifts. Giving was something that was always instilled inside of me.

There is something about the preparation and the anticipationn of Christmas. As soon as Thanksgiving had passed, it would be all about Christmas. Excitement would fill my whole body as I was eagerly waiting for the season. I regularly would decorate inside and outside, play Christmas music, and open the Advent calendars my aunt would get us every year. I can remember as a child opening up each door and closely monitoring how long until it was Christmas day. While I was very excited about presents myself, I was more excited about seeing my friends and family open their gifts. I always found such enjoyment with this.

Here and now, having a family to celebrate the season with, takes on a whole new meaning. There are certain traditions like: decorating early, watching Elf, watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” The Polar Express, and blasting Christmas music.  These are all new traditions my family has started as well as continuing some of the ones while I was a kid like Christmas Eve with my mom’s side of the family. It is a month-long celebration and anticipation of Christmas day!

We all know that 2020 has been a rough year and I really believe we all need the spirit of Christmas.  It is an entire season of peace, hope, love, and joy that the season brings.  I recently saw a Hobby Lobby Christmas commercial where at the end it says, “Christmas is what you make it.”  That really struck a chord with me. This country needs Christmas. I know it is kind of silly to think about ‘magic and wonder’ of the season.   But, to see the wonder and anticipation in children eyes, to see the spirit of giving at its best is so refreshing for the heart and soul. We need the promise of Christmas and that is the promise of Jesus.

It is easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas and what the season is about with all of the hustle and bustle of the season.  As a whole we tend to get lost in the present buying and gift giving, along with prepping for food and guests.  While the 2020 holiday season may look a bit different because of COVID, we haven’t lost the true meaning of Christmas.  The true promise of Jesus isn’t lost. Some of the big ways that helped me to put things into perspective are lighting the Advent candles and my father reading each Sunday from the Bible.  Little did he know that this would have a profound impact on his two sons.  The Advent candles and Bible reading are traditions I am passing down to my son and daughter.

I challenge you this holiday season to take a look at the true meaning of Christmas and remember that God sent His Son, Jesus, in the flesh to die for our sins.  Take a read through Matthew chapter 2 on your own time.  The wise men had full anticipation that Jesus was finally here on earth and they prepped for this moment. They got together expensive items of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

Matthew 2:11  “They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (NIV)

The wise men prepped for this moment and with hope and great anticipation, they followed the great star to Bethlehem. The wise men worshiped Jesus for who He was and honored Him.  They gave valuable gifts as He is worthy of the best gifts they had to give. Jesus is worthy of the best gifts that we have to give.  He just wants you as the gift. Come to Him and accept Him.

There is nothing wrong with the anticipation and the hustle and bustle of the season. There is nothing wrong with traditions, good food, family time, etc. It is important to have all of these things as I cherish the holiday season for these moments. Just remember the real reason for the meaning of the season. Don’t get lost or stressed out trying to make others happy if it means you are losing sight of the true meaning. Remember that above all of these things, the ultimate gift you can give to Jesus and to yourself is to turn your life over to Him. That is a true Christmas miracle!


REFLECTION QUESTIONS…

What were some of your your family’s favorite Christmas traditions when you were growing up?

What are some things you do during the Advent Season to keep the “Real Meaning of Christmas” forefront in your mind?

What else sticks out to you from Matthew 2?


This is meant to be an interactive blog so please share some of your responses with us.

ADVENT – DAY 2 “Expecting Jesus” by Debbie McClarin

Advent is a time of anticipation, preparation, and expectation. What are some things that you look forward to each year as you prepare for Christmas, and what are some things you would suggest that we all do in anticipation of Christ’s coming again?

Welcome to Week #1 of Advent Reflections.  In all honesty, I struggled to get this blog started.  But, I just started writing, and got out some of my frustration, and then deleted it!  I believe God then gave me the words to write.  I hope you are blessed by what He gave me to share.

Growing up, there were a lot of fun Christmas activities.  I always liked helping my mom decorate the Christmas tree.  There were some favorite ornaments that I liked to hang.  Our tree was never ‘finished’ because my mom would always be rearranging the ornaments, getting it to be just-right.  I do that now to some extent, but I like to say that it’s done!   Each ornament has a story.  I enjoyed making cut-out Christmas cookies, especially the decorating part (and the eating of the cookies).  My grandparents usually came over on Christmas Eve, which meant that we got to open their gifts.  Yay!  My other grandma often stayed overnight, so she was with us first thing in the morning.

I think I was in high school before we started going to a Christmas Eve service.  My favorite service was at our little, very old but beautiful, church up on the corner close to our house.  At the end of the service, when it was time for the candle-lighting, we moved into a circle around the perimeter of the sanctuary.  The only light was the glow of the candles reflecting on the stained-glass windows. We sang a song—probably “Silent Night”—and I could see all the faces of my church family.  I was filled with warmth and awe. There was something so impactful about that moment that it is etched into my memory.  It was also at that church that I first heard about Advent and got to participate in some of those traditions, like making Chrismon ornaments and learning the meaning behind the symbols. I like the time of preparation.  Oh, yeah, and Christmas caroling with cookies afterward!

Fast-forward to adult years.  Christmas Eve service is still one of my favorite aspects of the season.  After a service of Scripture readings, congregational carol singing, and special music, it is the time for candle-lighting.  Starting from the front, the flame is passed from person to person while we are singing “Silent Night.”  The sanctuary lights are dimmed and candlelight glows brightly but warmly.  As the last lines of the song are completed, and the candle flames have reached the back of the sanctuary, the first chords of “Joy to the World” begin.  “The Lord has come!”  The excitement builds for those of us who know what comes next.  As we get to the last verse, “He rules the world with truth and grace….” everyone raises their candle high into the air.  The light in the sanctuary glows even brighter.  It’s Christmas now!  I don’t think I have ever gotten through those moments without shedding a few tears because it is so moving and beautiful. 

When I was working as a teacher, I always enjoyed the last few days before vacation.  Most times the teachers did not give a lot of work that week, we got the kids caught up on back assignments, and it was a time to just enjoy them as people.  I was able to do some fun holiday activities, with an educational twist, that were a lot of fun.  We did holiday puzzles and learned about Christmas customs around the world.  Even now I sometimes hear about a cultural tradition and remember that I learned it when teaching it to my students.  Earlier in my career, all the teachers would wear Christmas sweaters, shirts, ties, etc.  Then it changed into “ugly” sweaters, but it was still fun.  I loved when we did Secret Santa exchanges. 

In recent years, on Christmas day, I have gone to some friends’ house for a small gathering of delicious brunch and good company.  Then I head out for my family’s get-together.  We have rotated who hosts it, which is a good idea!  A few years back we decided to not spend so much time preparing food and started doing cheese/crackers, cookies, fruit, breads, etc.  People can eat whenever they want.  This has worked out really well.  And of course, opening presents.  When my nephews and niece were little, their gifts were a surprise.  Then we moved into me taking them out shopping and they could pick where they wanted to go for lunch or dinner.  I still buy some surprise gifts!  This was a great time for one-one conversation and learning about stores I had not frequented before! 

Christmas music, decorating the tree, shopping for gifts, and wrapping presents are all fun, but in all reality, sometimes it is overwhelming, especially when I was working.  There were many times that I was finishing wrapping at the last minute even though every year I got an early start.  Some years I have chosen to not put up my tree and only do limited decorating.  That usually comes with mixed feelings, but it is a good way to have more energy to focus on what matters relationally and spiritually.

I am very aware of people who struggle at this time of year.  People have family or personal issues that are heightened during this time.  Depression and anxiety increase.  For some it is the first Christmas since someone passed away.  Maybe the anniversary or memory of a death, a divorce, or a falling out happens during the Christmas season.  Rooms filled with colorful decorations might also be filled with tensions and hurtful words.  There might be a mixture of joy and pain, fun and stress—that is probably the reality for the majority of people.

More than any other time of year there are high expectations which are hard to live up to.  More than any other time the reality that life is not exactly what was expected is glaring you and me in the face.  But, more than any other time of the year, there is the birth of hope. 

There is the birth of Jesus!  “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people!  For there is born to you this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:10-11) (NKJV).  “And you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins…they shall call His name Immanuel…God with us” (Matthew 1:21, 23) (NKJV).  This is the expectation that God wants us to have.  His people had been waiting for centuries in expectation for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus the Savior.  He has come!  We can expect Him to save us from our sins.  We can expect Him to be with us.  It is promised.  It really does not matter if the tree is up or if the presents are all wrapped perfectly (or not at all) or if our lives do not look like a beautiful Christmas card. 

This is a season to spend time in the presence of Jesus.  Allow Him to heal your hurts and restore your soul (see Psalm 23).  Try writing a letter to Jesus telling Him about your struggles.  Stop in the midst of the busyness to see the faces of those around you—look into their eyes.  Hear their hearts, not just their words.  Love them with God’s love and let them love you.  As you look at the Christmas tree or wrap presents, name your blessings and give God thanks.  Listen, really listen, to the words of Christian Christmas songs. Read the Christmas story in the Bible.  Read it again.  What parts stand out to you?  What might God be saying to you in those passages?  Find a Bible or book study that speaks to your heart.

Maybe you have happy Christmas memories, maybe you don’t. Maybe this year’s celebrations are filled with happy expectations, maybe they aren’t. No matter what the situation, Jesus is still your Savior. He loves you. He was born for you. He is still God with you.


REFLECTION QUESTIONS…

When you decorate for Christmas do you set aside a specific time to do it all or are you always adding more throughout the month?

With many restrictions this year due to COVID in what ways do you plan to observe Advent and Christmas Eve if Candlelight Services and Small Group Gatherings are not an option?

What are some ways we can reach out in love to those who may be experiencing grief or hardship this Christmas? If you yourself have been in that position in the past what were some positive things that others did to show you that they cared?


This is meant to be an interactive blog so please share some of your responses with us.

ADVENT – DAY 1 “Ready & Waiting” by Pastor Randy LeBaron

Advent is a time of anticipation, preparation, and expectation. What are some things that you look forward to each year as you prepare for Christmas, and what are some things you would suggest that we all do in anticipation of Christ’s coming again?

Long before coming to a saving knowledge of Christ or being called into the ministry, I looked forward to celebrating Christmas with great anticipation as most young children do. I found that my family’s traditions enhanced the time leading up to December 25th and aided in increasing my excitement for the day. I look back now with nostalgia at that time of my life even as I realize that Christmas has taken on a new meaning for me now which includes new traditions. One thing that has stayed the same though is that the elation I experience this time of year has never waned.

Growing up I would say that the foremost focus of Christmas was on getting gifts. I didn’t know a lot about Jesus when I was a child, but you can be sure that I was on good terms with Old Saint Nick. Every year there would be gifts wrapped and placed under the tree by my parents long before the actual day but then, on Christmas morning, there would always appear new gifts with the familiar tag attached, “From Santa.” It was fun picking up and shaking all of the packages that had been laid out beforehand in an attempt to guess what they could be, but the “Santa” presents were special because they always seemed to be bigger or better than the others—something that I truly wanted. It was fine if my folks wanted to give me socks or some generic version of a toy, but it was Santa, or rather Grandma and Grandpa as I found out when I was older, that gave me such amazing gifts. I received things like my first Big Wheel, The Dukes of Hazzard Race Track, a tape recorder (the one everyone started out with that was a black rectangle that lay flat and chewed up every other cassette that you placed in it), and even my very own TV. (Yes, it was only 13” inches and was B&W but it was mine!) Every year I was like the boy from the classic movie A Christmas Story who, only after unwrapping all of his other presents, was surprised to find out that his father had saved the best for last. Ralphie received his very own Red Rider, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle and Randy learned repeatedly that good things came to those who wait. Oh, and that you WILL shoot your eye out! 

Fast forward a decade or two after finding out that Santa wasn’t real (I learned the hard way when one year there simply were no extra gifts hiding around the corner after everything else had been opened), after learning the true meaning of Christmas, and after intentionally forming traditions with my own family and the church families that I pastored. The emphasis I had placed on “getting” gifts has been replaced with “giving” them but some things are still the same. I still love watching all of the movies and television specials dedicated to this season (Charlie Brown, Elf, The Muppets Christmas Carol, and It’s a Wonderful Life are among the many staples in my house), I still love belting out Christmas carols whether in the shower, in my car, or walking down the aisle at Walmart, and I still believe that the best things come to those willing to wait. To that end, I thought a good passage of Scripture to focus on for this first week of Advent is…

Luke 12:35-38 “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.” (NLT)

Waiting is doable when you know the time and the date, like December 25th for example, but it is hard to stay vigilant when you do not know either. I think the uncertain times that we have been living in over this past year have helped us gain some perspective on this. Between wondering when the pandemic would end, the protests would subside, and a president would be announced, we all have learned how exhausting it can be sitting on the sidelines waiting for a solution and how easy it is to find ourselves focusing on other things. So, knowing that many who were supposed to be waiting and watching for Jesus on that first Christmas ended up missing out on meeting the Messiah, we need to make sure that we are that much more intentional as we anticipate the Advent of Christ’s Second Coming. We need to make sure that we do not get so distracted with the things of this world that we too will miss him. Like the servants waiting for their master to return, we need to be constantly ready, always alert, and perpetually prepared.

We do this by making sure that we that we are consistently doing those things that help us to keep in step with the Spirit and keep our eyes focused on Christ. Just as you might decorate your house, watch the movie Elf, put Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” on a loop, and read Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol to help put you in the Christmas spirit, it is much more important that we spend time in the Word, in prayer, in worship, and in fellowship with other believers so that we might remain in Christ’s Spirit. And, in addition, while we are waiting we should do what waiters do—serve.


REFLECTION QUESTIONS…

What were some of your Christmas traditions when you were growing up and what are they now?

What are some practices you can commit to that would help you keep your eyes on Christ?

What are some practical ways you can serve God and others during this season of Advent?


This is meant to be an interactive blog so please share some of your responses with us.