Gardendale Nazarene

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Archives for November 2018 | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene

Advent and Expectation

We are just two days from the beginning of Advent. The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." Advent celebrates a truth about God– the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God.

The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power.

During Advent, we place an Advent Wreath in our sanctuary. The wreath contains five candles and each week we light another candle in the wreath.

One of my seminary professors writes, "The light of the advent candles itself becomes an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. It also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God's grace to others (Isa 42:6).

The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience. As the candles are lighted over the four week period, it also symbolizes the darkness of fear and hopelessness receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds the worshippers that something is happening and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ candle is lighted at Christmas, and worshippers rejoice over the fact that the hope and promise of long ago have been realized."

I invite you to make this Advent season a central part of your life. We have many activities planned and hope that you will join your church family as we celebrate this great season!

Be Thankful

We are less than a week from Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and it's not just about the food. Giving thanks is an opportunity to reflect on all that God has done for you. Being thankful is an important trait in the life of a Christian. Here are a few verses to remind us of the need of thanksgiving:
  • 2 Corinthians 9:11- You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
  • Colossians 2:7- rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
  • Colossians 3:17- And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
  • Ephesians 5:4- Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
  • 1 Timothy 4:4- For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,

This Sunday, I would like to invite you to bring an item that represents something reminds you to give thanks. It might be a picture. It might be a gift that you received. It might be a book. Whatever the item is, I would also invite you to place it on the altar during the service. It is my hope, that this exercise will remind all of us of how much we truly have been blessed and that, as Paul reminds us, that our mouths are filled with thanksgiving.

This Sunday is also our annual Thanksgiving Lunch following the morning service. Bring a dish to share and invite a friend to join you. It's going to be a great Sunday of worship, fellowship, and thanksgiving!

Be Imitators!

I know it has been a while since I have sent out an email (actually, it has been about 9 months!). I needed a little break, but it my hope to begin sending out emails again. I know that we are entering the busiest time of year, and if you are like me, having a little event reminder is very helpful. I'd like to give you a thought heading into the weekend and our last two Sundays in our series on Kindness.

Three times in Paul's letters, he writes something odd to our ears:
  • 1 Corinthians 4:16- I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:1- Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
  • Philippians 3:17- Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

It seems odd that Paul would call these churches to imitate him. Was Paul being prideful or self-centered? I don't believe so. I think Paul had come to an understanding about his relationship to Christ.

If there is a verse that has caught my heart in the past six months, it is Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

This verse has become central in my understanding of Paul's writing and his understanding of his relationship with Christ. Thus, I believe it must become central to our understanding of our relationship with Christ.

Galatians 2:20 is Paul's testimony that he has become so conformed to the crucified Christ, that Christ lives in him. Paul is not pointing to himself, he is pointing to Christ. Every fiber of his being is bound to his Savior. We are made in God's image and the Father ministers to the Son and has complete union with His Son. The Father and Son are also in complete union with the Spirit.

It is in our dying with Christ that we are resurrected (like Paul) to new life in Christ. Part of the beauty of Paul's testimony is that Paul is converted from a murderous raider to a minister of the Gospel.

It is no different for you and me. We too, through the cross, are given new life. This new life is not to be wasted, but in our weakness to minister as Christ has ministered to us. It is in this ministering that we can proclaim with Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!"

May we see ourselves as our Lord sees us, as His ministers who are alive in Him!

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