Sunday, November 29, 2015

Where Are You, Christmas?


First Sunday of Advent

Today's lesson is based on the Scripture reading Luke 2:41-50 in which we learn the twelve-year old Jesus accompanies his parents and extended family to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.

Wherever there is a crowd, anxiety level goes up; tension increases.

At the Passover feast amidst all these people and all these things they lost Jesus.
Passover is all about the children, and specifically about the eldest son, and what God has done.  Jesus was such a child, the eldest son, that is, Passover revolves around Jesus.  Yet they lost him.

Picture the family explaining that to God.  "Uh, God.  We lost your son."
When they returned to Jerusalem to look for Jesus amidst the crowd of probably two hundred thousand people it would have been like a bad case of "Where's Waldo?"

They found Jesus in the Temple.  
Mary filled with anxiety is now relieved, probably yelling at the boy says, "Why did you treat us this way?"  Jesus responded, "Why?  Didn't you know that I'd be in my Father's house?"

Where are you, Christmas?
We have allowed the busy-ness of the festival to crowd in, traditions have consumed our hearts.  Instead of peace there is chaos because Jesus is missing.

Of all the things you do this season, how much is centered around Jesus Christ?

"Jesus gave his all to be with us and we have made it all about us."

What we do may not be bad, but if we are missing Christ we are missing the point.

Jesus is saying, "I am right where you left me."

When we realize he is missing, we must get back, back to the feet of Jesus.
It is about the Presence of God coming to Earth to dwell among us.

Think about rearranging your traditions to put Christ at the center of it all.
Jesus is what you are looking for.

Pastor Johnnie Blair
Sunday morning

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Early Christmas

I am a bit of a traditionalist.  No, I am a dyed-in-the-wool-there-are-things-that-should-be-done-and-things-that-should-not-be-done sort of guy.

1. I lean toward the notion that for everything there is a season, and all things should be done in an orderly fashion.  (This does not rule out fun and spontaneity.)

2.  The progression of the seasons requires me to celebrate Christmas after I have concluded the Thanksgiving celebration.

3. The annual Christmas bickering is already in full swing.  It's annoying.

4.  "Put Christ back in Christmas."  What nonsense.  Put Christ in your life and live your life in emulation of His.

5.  Chastise the heathen for his failure to say "Merry Christmas." Or heaven forbid that he should say "Happy holidays."  Please. Take a greeting of good will in the spirit of good will, no matter the wording.

6.  Or, be all offended when someone does say "Merry Christmas," or puts up a Christian symbol, or reminds you that Christmas is somehow connected to Christ.  Get really hot about it.  No. Stop being offended at everything and appreciate that people can love one another and care for each other regardless of their personal beliefs.  "Live and let live"?  Yeah, that.

7.  Season of "Peace and goodwill."  Verily.  Let it be.

 Image result for christmas decorations

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Simply, Be Thankful

Scripture: Philippians 4:4-20

1) Be positive.  (Phil. 4:4-9)
Thinking positive means
  • Take captive every thought.
  • Smile even when you don't feel like it.
 Some people like to wallow in the mud of their own misery.  Need to get a case of the "whatevers." (Verse 8):  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (RSV)

Smile even when you don't feel like it.  It will be harder to be grumpy.

People who smile appear to be more gentle.

2)  Be content.  (Phil 4:10-12)
Contentment is a learned behavior.  (v.11)

Being content means learning how to
  • rejoice in every situation 
  • have peace in all circumstances. 
It is true as scripture says that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  It is also more blessed to be able to do without than to have to have. 

Society trains us to be discontented.  Being discontent can make you ugly, ungrateful for what you have.

3)  Be generous (Phil. 4:14-18)
Generosity is proven by
  • our obedience in giving of tithes and offerings
  • our attitude in sharing our resources.
Generosity  is one of the key components of a life of thanksgiving..
What you have does not belong to you.
"Your level of generosity runs parallel to your level of thanksgiving."

4) Be blessed (Phil. 4:19)
We are a blessed people because
  • God is our strength (Phil. 4:13
  • God is our provider (Phil. 4:19):

"And our God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

Your strength is not your own; it is God's.  He is your provider.  You are only blessed because of God.

You may not be batting 1.000, but what if you improved a bit?

How thankful are you, measured by each of the four points in this message?
Pastor Johnnie Blair
Sunday morning.

 Auditors note:  This is the seventh message based on this passage that I have heard in the past eight years.  I should be "getting it" by now.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

There was T-Rex, then there was TB, and now we have T rump.

 I had the above one-liner in queue to be posted this morning then in the interim Mr. T came up with the dumbest of his dumb ideas.  At minimum anyone who would be President should have read the Constitution at least once during his adult life.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

...and another thing

Have you noticed pharmaceutical advertising on tv (how did we ever get to this deplorable condition in our society, anyway?) wind up with something on the order of "if you experience this or this, stop at once and contact you doctor"?

Contact your doctor?  Are you kidding me?  In what universe are these people living?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I could be wrong here...

...but bear with me a minute.

I am not quite sure why it is that I get the sense that some people will say anything, true or not, to make a point.  I read the other day that a vast glacier in Greenland is melting at an alarming rate.  This of course, according to the writer, is due to anthropogenic global warming.

The kicker?  The statement was made that should the glacier melt completely the world's ocean level will rise a foot.

I am not a physicist nor a cartographer.  But I have looked at a globe on occasion and it appears to me that were Greenland to melt entirely the result would be but a drop in the bucket to the world's oceans.

Not that I would like for that to happen. 

*Or half-metre, if you are of the British persuasion.  By the way. half-metre is well over a foot and a half.  
In the interest of fairness and should you like a different point of view which might scare you witless, see this blog.
Don't say I didn't warn you. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Press On

Rome, Paul and the Underground Church

"I am so thankful that I have certainty.  He has brought me from death to life."  Thus testified Pastor Joe as he introduced the message.

Scripture lesson:  Ephesians 4:22-24.  Paul from his prison cell writing to the church at Ephesus.
 That ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, that waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit;
and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
and put on the new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth. (ASV)
Even though Christ has entered into your heart there is still war around you.
The battle of letting go of sin.  "I want.  I deserve.  I need...I, I, I..."
Can you be saved and not be a disciple?  Is the struggle what God has planned for you?  No, and No.
One cannot be a Christian and not be changed.  "No one is perfect," but it is a mistake to use that as an excuse for failure to grow.  We should strive harder to be Christlike.  In the letter to the Philippians, Paul says,

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (3:13.14KJV)
 "Press on," that is, "strain toward."  How?
1. Face your shortcomings.  Along with Paul, "I don't claim to be perfect, but I try harder to be more like Christ.  The passionate Christ-follower never stops growing.

2.  Let go of your past. Memories linger, but move on.  Do not let your past control you.
Let go.  Move on.
    a) failures.  God has forgiven you.  Forgive yourself.
    b) successes.  We can hold on to them too long.  Don't stay in the past. Make now a success.

3.  Focus on the future.  As Paul said, Press on; move forward. No looking back.

4.  Fight to win.  Press on = pursue. 

 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (KJV)

You do your best; God will do the rest.

Pastor Joe Deckard
Sunday morning

Friday, November 13, 2015


Trying to think of something to be outraged about today.  It occurs to me that the abundant blessings I enjoy so overshadow any petty annoyances I might encounter that outrage would be a total waste of intellectual and emotional energy.  And inappropriate.

Thank you, Lord, for your undeserved and unswerving graciousness to me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Modern Miracles

Medicine as practiced in his day, according to my father.
Patient:  I have this (pain, cough, ache, whatever).
Doctor: Have you had it before?
Patient: Yes.
Doctor: Well, you have it again.
Medicine as practiced today, according to my observations.
Patient: I'm having water retention.
Doctor: No problem.  Here's a pill for that.
And a couple months later.
Patient: I'm having a problem with incontinence.
Doctor:  Pshaw.  Not a problem.  Here's a pill for that.
Not to mention the pills for treatment of the side-effects from the previous pills.

And so on.

Say what?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I Will Follow Jesus Christ

Making a decision:  the ability to make up ones mind.  We are told that the modern adult makes up to 35,000 decisions every day.

Decision fatigue breaks down the power of the will making it more difficult to take a decision.

Today, One Decision, the most important decision of your life. 

The lesson is found in the Gospel of Mark 1:14-20.  Jesus has returned from the forty days in the wilderness.  He is preaching, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel."  As he walks along the shore of the Sea he observes Peter and Andrew, fisherman casting their nets.  Jesus calls to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."  The immediately forsake their trade to follow Jesus.  A little farther along he calls out James and John who at once left their father at the boat and followed Jesus.

Key:  The disciples dropped everything to follow Jesus.
We would more likely want to set up a conference or coffee chat with Jesus to find out what he is all about.  Why did the disciples drop everything at once? Jesus was so real they could not deny him.  He was so bold that they were compelled to follow.

Jesus had already made the decision but the choice to follow was up to the disciples.
And so it is with us.  The decision is already made, but the choice is up to us.

Two myths that people believe.
1.  I have to get my life together before Christ accepts me.   Wrong.  He accepts you as you are.  Peter is a good example of this truth.  Peter was a mess. 
If you think you have to be perfect to come to church you haven't met many church people.
The Church:  the decided ones.  We are going to follow. 
2. I can offer God a little bit; that will be enough.  Truth:  You must be all in with Christ; all or nothing at all.  The disciples dropped everything.

"You are going to continue being confronted with thousands of decisions.  Christ is asking for just one."  

God will orchestrate our lives such that every other decision makes more sense if we are all in.

This decision is your only guarantee.  Yes or No.
Are you in or out? 

Pastor Johnnie Blair
Sunday morning
Window: Grace United Methodist Church,
Manassas, Virginia

Friday, November 6, 2015

Unnecessary Trip

Needed some 65w floods for the kitchen.  Knew I could buy half-dozen in Kokomo for half what I'd pay here in town.  Oh, and this is key.  I had checked to see if we had any here in the house.  Refer back to this statement later.

I went to Lowe's, bought a six-pack.  Of bulbs, I mean.  Came home, replaced burned out lights.

Went to store remaining two bulbs and behold, on the top shelf in the laundry room, next to the ceiling, that is, I found not one but three cartons of 65w lamps.  17 (seventeen!) bulbs.

That is life as she is lived hereabouts.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

More Fun at Wally World

Big guy, six-five or so, in a public restroom, phone to left ear, whiney tone, "No.  No, there's been a misunderstanding.  Listen,"  L o n g silence.  "Well, hell." Shoves phone in pocket, storms out of the room.

I am ambling past the jewelry counter.  Stocky guy, sixty-something slams an item down on the counter, spins, walks rapidly past me muttering, "I don't know why I come in this damn place."  Talking to himself, for he is oblivious to my presence and there is no one else around.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Pastor presented a brief discussion of the book  Who Moved My Cheese using the characters in the book as illustration of different types of reaction to change.  Some anticipate change, some  are good at seeking change; some fear change will lead to something worse; some see that change can lead to something better but adopt it slowly and with consideration.

In an informal poll (show of hands) it seemed that most in attendance claim to be in the last group.

God never changes, but we have to.
 Change happens; we have to deal with it.  The cheese is always moving.

The scripture lesson: Joshua 3:2-7.  Here we seen God's directions to His people concerning the movement of and the following of the Ark of the Covenant.

Three ways to deal with change.
  1. Dwell in the past.  We often have fond memories of the past. Yet there are memories of wounds and hurts, too.  We are reminded of the children of Israel during their journey saying, "Choose a leader and go back to Egypt."  Some people cannot get past the past.
  2.  Stay in the present.   Change is scary.  However, though we may prefer to stay where we are, there really is no "present" so those who choose the present are really living in the past.  Change happens with or without your help. 
  3. Hope for the future.  Some fear the future rather than hoping.

Five things to help us cope with change.
  1. Must be flexible.  Joshua 3:4  We have not passed this way before. (Some people are more fearful than others.)
  2. Must be focused  v.3 "When you see the Ark go after it."  We must focus on the right thing.  There are distractions; must know how to stay on track. 
  3. Be faithful.   v. 5 "Sanctify yourselves."
  4. Be futuristic.  v. 5 "God will do wonders among you."  We must think about what God values most-- the salvation of souls.  
  5. Be fearless.  v. 7 "I will be with you." 
Change is not something we do; change is who we are.

Philippians 3:13-14: Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

 All of us who are mature should take this view of things.

"The Lord will be with you."  Joshua 1:9 
Pastor Johnnie Blair
Sunday morning