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Christmas Eve Reflection: Born to Save

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The Wonder and Paradox of Christmas No one knows the exact day that Christ was born.  It’s really not important.  December 25th is the day that the Church has chosen to celebrate his coming.  But we do know that the true meaning of Christmas has been under attack for quite some time now.  I don’t want to rehearse the stuff about whether or not we should say, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or whether or not public schools should sing Christmas carols.  It does seem a bit hypocritical to me that we can use the word “Christmas” and sing the carols to draw big audiences and sell products in our culture, but to actually believe the story and the Bible from which it came is deemed somehow bigoted and uninformed.  The limitations that the world imposes on the Gospel aren’t fair.  But when has the world ever been a friend to God? 
Let’s lay that aside.  We get ourselves sometimes so worked up over the cultural battles that we can be distracted from noticing our own shortcomings as Chris…

The Spiritual Power of the Choral Experience

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I’ve been a senior pastor now for over a year.  It’s been at least fifteen months since I last directed a choir.  While I know I am exactly where God has put me, I confess that I do miss the choral life.  Two current experiences are catalyzing this reflection. 
In two weeks, Grace Chapel, the former First Baptist Church of Lancaster, CA will hold its centennial celebration.  Part of the celebration is the reunion of a remarkable youth choir that flourished roughly between 1965 and 1975.  The director during most of those years was Don Swanson.  To read the Facebook posts and scan the pictures leading up to the reunion, you can’t miss the fact that Don, or “Swanold,” as he was called, was deeply loved.  Regretfully, Don went home to be with the Lord in 2000.  I never sang in the “Real Life Chorale.”  I missed out.  I was a band guy at the time and, in fact, didn’t start attending First Baptist until my senior year in high school.  But most of the people involved in the reunion are my c…

God Knows

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God Knows Psalm 139:1-6 August 18, 2013
Introduction I’m not a fan of “chick-flicks.”  Of course, I’ll watch one from time to time with Diane.  I can tolerate and even enjoy romantic comedies.  But movies based on novels by Jane Austin?  I’m sorry.  I’d rather eat lutefisk.
Doesn’t mean I don’t have any romantic sense.  In fact, did you know that August is National Romance Month?  At least I know that!  (Thanks, Proflowers.com for the email reminder.)  OK.  I’ll admit that I’m quite clumsy in romantic matters, but I do have a heart.  I well remember, as I suspect many of you can, those adolescent and early adult years that were miserable in their loneliness.  I was very unsure of myself and shy.  How many times did I dieon the inside because I didn’t have the courage to risk rejection? I was scared to death to initiate conversation with any girl I liked.  Diane says I ‘m still reluctant to initiate communication with her! 
I think that, deep down; every one of us yearns to be known as we …

No Shadow of Turning

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Introduction One of my favorite movies is The Patriot.  Admittedly, it’s not a film for everyone.  The violence of war is graphically depicted.  But the themes of courage, patriotism and redemption make it a very inspiring movie for me.  I usually watch it every year sometime around Independence Day to remind me of the cost of freedom.
The story centers on Benjamin Martin’s experience during the Revolutionary War.  The Mel Gibson character is loosely based on a real American hero, Francis Marion, the so-called “Swamp Fox” who terrorized British troops in South Carolina during the war.  The film opens with Martin’s confession, “I have long feared that my sins would return to visit me, and the cost is more than I can bear.”  He is a widower with six children and a dark past.  How is he to raise his family properly in such an uncertain world?  Martin and his children look to the memory of their deceased wife and mother for moral guidance.  She was called their “North Star.” 
People on a jo…

From Everlasting to Everlasting

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Introduction Have you ever been lost?  I don’t mean the times when you refuse to ask for directions and your wife has to go into the gas station and figure it out.  I don’t mean that.  Maybe you got lost in a store as a little kid.   We lost our son for a couple of minutes at Knott’s Berry Farm when he was about seven years old.  I still don’t think he has forgiven us for our parental incompetence.  Those experiences are fairly common.  I’m talking about being disoriented in an unknown place with no idea of how to return home.
People get lost in blizzards and in the wilderness.  Some of them don’t survive.  But I think the absolute worst would be being lost at sea with no means of movement and no hope of discovery.  Imagine the horror of being alone in a small raft floating on an expanse of water that extends in every direction beyond what your eye can see.  There are no landmarks – no guiding lights to help you on your journey over which you have not control.  The loneliness would be t…