Monday, December 24, 2012

Those New Zealand Kids Sure Know How to Tell the Christmas Story!

Need a refreshing retelling of the original Christmas story? Look at how the kids from New Zealand pull it off....very refreshing!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Really Small Church with a HUGE Impact

Salem Methodist Church near Hilda, SC
This church reminds me of Bethlehem, birthplace of our Savior.  We read in Matthew chapter two,  the story of the wise men looking for the baby Jesus. King Herod, a local ruler (under the thumb of Rome) , heard about this and wanted to destroy this child who he perceived as a threat to his throne.

Beginning in verse 3 we read: When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel. '"

God picked a tiny town in Judea to have a HUGE impact on the world. Salem Methodist Church reminds me of Bethlehem and of God's immense power to impact the world. This church building is located about six miles from Denmark, SC, where I live. I like this church a lot. I have taken many pictures here because this is one of the most encouraging churches I know. Most people drive by without thinking anything about its impact on the world.
Historical Marker at Salem Methodist Church

I never stopped until, quite by accident, I discovered an important bit of history.  Holland McTyeire was born on a farm near Govan, SC, and was brought up in the love and nurture of this church. Holland went into the ministry and became a Methodist bishop in Nashville, TN, where he dreamed of establishing a Methodist university. 

In the wake of the Civil War, there was not much money available for his dream, but in 1873, he got sick and had to go to New York City for treatment where he stayed with his wife's cousin and her husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was so impressed with McTyeire, his character and his dream, that he gave him just short of a million dollars (this was in 1873 mind you!)  to establish his dream college. Vanderbilt gave the money under the condition that McTyeire would be President of the Board of Trustees for the rest of his life. McTyeire selected the campus and the faculty for the school which eventually became Vanderbilt University. This university (and its medical school) is known for excellence, and its graduates (including, at last count, EIGHT Noble Prize winners) have impacted the world in immeasurable ways.

This church now only has a handful of members (and I heard was in danger of closing), but its lasting impact on the planet shows how just ONE life impacted for Christ can alter the world. I wonder how many of those saints whose bodies are buried in the church's cemetery taught Holland McTyeire the Bible in Sunday School, and taught him the value of Jesus Christ through their examples.

Why do I like this church so much? It reminds me that each conversation I have with someone could yield eternal results. So small churches take heart! You may not have huge budgets, and massive worship services with spectacular videos, wonderful orchestras,  and amazing praise bands (mind you, God uses those churches, too!), but each life that is influenced by your ministry and witness is powerful in the hands of our amazing Lord and Savior.

I'm glad our Father chose little Bethlehem as the entry point of His Son into our world. I'm glad He gave us the gift of little Salem Methodist Church to impact the world in great ways through the life of Holland McTyeire. And I'm also glad He's giving me opportunities every day to put my tiny, little life in His hands so He can surprise me in Heaven one day, with all the impact I had for His glory and didn't even notice.

Do NOT measure the quality of your life by the standards of the world. Instead remember little Bethlehem and Salem Methodist Church. Remember that we know and serve a loving, powerful Father Who specializes in taking tiny things and using them to accomplish MASSIVE good!!!!

(NOTE: I just submitted a picture of the church to which includes a link for more of the history behind it!)

Monday, December 03, 2012

My Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

A year or two ago I bought a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree for $5 as an after-Christmas clearance bargain. I thought about giving it away as a gag gift, but then I decided I could use it for something else. Every year a handful of dedicated ladies in our church (plus a couple of men to be wreath-lifters and tree-constructors) do an excellent job of decorating our sanctuary for Christmas. I added my "tree" to the decorations! 

Sure, it looks a little out of place, but it's supposed to. I told the church yesterday that I was keeping it out to remind us that one gift we can give to Christ (year round) is to take care of the poor.

It's amazing how often throughout scriptures, our Father tells us to take care of the poor. Jesus reminds us in Luke 14:12-14: Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

So remember the poor during Christmas (and through the year); it's a gift that our Savior will really like! Remember what that brilliant philosopher Linus Van Pelt said about this little tree in the original Charlie Brown's Christmas special: I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It's not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love. The gang then takes decorations from Snoopy's doghouse and transfers it to the tree for an amazing transformation. All it really needed was love, just like you and me, and just like the poor.

The Bible gives us VERY little wiggle room with regards to our obligation to love those in need. One of my all time favorite passages that sums it up is 1 John 3:16-18: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Once again I owe a lot to one of my seminary professors, Dr. Rick Yount, who told our class over thirty years ago, "love is acting in the best interest of another PERIOD!" I've never forgotten that, and I never will. I hope you won't either! So if you want to give Jesus a Christmas present He'll really "love," then love others, especially those in need! 

Sunday, December 02, 2012

My Wish for Your Advent Season...That Christ Will NEVER Be Just an Heirloom!

I'm going to try and be true to blogging more, and what better time than Advent. I spent some time this morning browsing the Kindle Store at Amazon for Henri Nouwen books. Here's part of the reason why....a quote from Nouwen's book, Making All Things New: "The beginning of the spiritual life is often difficult not only because the powers which cause us to worry are so strong but also because the presence of God's Spirit seems barely noticeable. If, however, we are willing to live a life of prayer and practice the disciplines of solitude and community, a new hunger will make itself known. This new hunger is the first sign of God's presence. When we remain attentive to this divine presence, we will be led always deeper into the kingdom. There, to our joyful surprise, we will discover that the power of our worries is weakening and all things are being made new."

My prayer is that the presence of God's Spirit this Advent season will NOT be "barely noticeable," but that you will experience Him more and more. One way is to commit yourself to meeting with Him daily meditating on His Word. As you experience Him, I assure you that the "power of your worries will weaken." I also pray for us all that we will hunger for more and more of God's presence as He leads each of us deeper into His amazing and wonderful Kingdom where ALL THINGS ARE BEING MADE NEW!

Jesus died to be more than just a memory or an heirloom. Here's a pretty old Christmas song by Amy Grant that drives home the truth that the most important "things" in our lives are NOT "things" at all!