Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

December 27, 2011

I Don’t Know When

by pastortimfowler

There are only a few days left in the year. Really?!?! 2011 is almost over? Time flies when you are having fun. I just hope that this isn’t our last days, because I have already paid for my cruise in January. What am I talking about? The Mayan calendar that ends in 2011. Oh wait; never mind. I was just told that we have until December 2012 before it all ends. The good news is that I won’t have to do any Christmas shopping for next year and I get to take my cruise if this is true.
What if we only had a few days left? What would it be like?
Imagine for a moment that we were told beyond a shadow of a doubt that the world would end in a few days. Do you think it would be a fun place to finish out your last days? Or do you think it would be pure chaos? I would put my money on the chaos. It would be nice to think that brotherly love would break out and we would all gather around to sing and hug for the remainder of our lives, but something tells me that it would be a dangerous and violent place with rape and theft and fear for those who are weak.
The Bible tells us that in the last days, there will be just that type of situation. Violence and fear, not peace and love. Left to ourselves, humanity will self destruct and there is not much that we can do about it. Laws can only restrain lawlessness as long as there is someone to enforce the laws with consequences that compel one to think twice before committing such an act. It is also God that puts a sense of right and wrong in our hearts and a fear of knowing that one day we will be judged. It is God that restrains evil and allows for order in our world and even with Him in control that potential for evil in humans is barely kept in check.
The difference between the last days of the world without God and the last days of the world with God are pretty simple. Without God, there is no hope and it all ends in destruction. With God, there is hope and He promises a new life, new heaven and new earth. God is the God of hope. He is the God of salvation. He is life and love and He offers this freely to all who ask.
The Bible tells us that no man knows the hour or the day of the end of the world as we know it. Only God. But He promises to those who know Him and His salvation that we will not face His wrath, but be saved. I do believe that it is a good thing that we don’t know the hour or the day. Many religious “know-it-alls” have tried to say that they know the end and predict the date, but they are fools. God does not want us to know the time of the end because He wants us focused on life. He wants us loving people and helping those in need and sharing the good news that He saves and He loves. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control.
I don’t know when it all will end but I do know Jesus, so…Bring on 2012!!!

December 22, 2011

From Me To You

by pastortimfowler

This will be my last blog for a few days. It will be Christmas soon and we are traveling several times. Although they are short trips of less than two hours, it is still traveling. I only get to spend time with my family like this a few times a year and this is always special since my kids have married and moved away. Christmas just keeps getting more special to me, a guy who use to despise it and regretted the whole family ordeal.
Christmas for many of my early adult years was spent acting like I enjoyed the facade of family when in reality I was bitter and hateful. After marrying my wife and meeting her family it was hard to watch so many people loving each other so openly and I had a hard time with it. But they were not putting on a front, they were real and I learned to like it. Then as I got older and God became more real to me and called me into the ministry I began to see things with a better light. It was about family and it was about getting together, but more so it was about Jesus and Jesus has given me even more family through kids and grand kids and my church. I am richly blessed!
This is the time of year when Christ is in the forefront. It is the celebration of His birth, regardless of what anyone says. And it is because of His love for me that I am no longer bitter and angry at Christmas, but joyful and at peace. It took time, but God is patient.
So for Christmas this year I get to drive to three different places on three different days and hang out with family and friends. I get to see kids smile and adults laughing and I can look in the mirror and see a once broken and bitter man now filled with Christ’s love and joy. This only happens because I took a long look in the mirror too often and saw something that I didn’t like and couldn’t fix. It was not until I personally met Jesus and allowed Him to be the meaning of Christmas and the Lord of my life that I was able to find the peace that I had longed for.
I hope that you have joy and love and peace this Christmas. I hope that your families are able to get together and celebrate and I hope that Jesus is the reason that you are celebrating. But if you are like I was and you struggle with this, take some time to get alone and see if God will meet you there. He only wants to know if you believe in Him. He will only help if you ask. God does not intrude where He is not wanted, but will meet you anytime you ask. The transformation takes time and the joy is hard to recognize at first. But with time and you seeking to know Him, God reveals this joy, gives this peace, and fills with love, even the hardest and most bitter heart, like mine.
Merry Christmas to you. Peace, joy, and love, from Christ the Savior.

December 21, 2011

Christmas Giving

by pastortimfowler

Christmas is a strange time of year. It is the time when most people are the most joyful, and at the same time it can be a time when they are at their lowest. It is a time of giving and receiving and spending time with family and friends. This is the time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. I would like to share what I get to be a part of every year at my church and I will try to remain as humble as possible, but at the same time I am running over with pride.
We are a medium-sized church of about 150 people and this number changes, lately it has been increasing. We reach a unique group of people, mostly young families and people who do not fit the typical “churchy” crowd. Like their pastor, many of these have been turned off by religion at one time or another and even hurt by the politics that often ruins what church should be. But for whatever reason, God has seen fit to bring us together under the roof of a building and in a church family called The Body, A Church for Anybody.
With the economy being as bad as it is, we find ourselves in fellowship with several families that are struggling to make ends meet and because these are families with kids, it is a difficult time to celebrate Christmas when some may not be able to give gifts to their kids. Giving gifts is a custom of the season that allows us to escape the reality of hard times and focus on putting a smile on the face of children, but when you lose a job or income gets cut, it can be difficult to make this happen on your own. Without a second thought, the people in our church have taken to the spirit of giving and made sure that these kids smile on Christmas morning. There are 5 families that will be blessed by receiving, but probably 20 more that will be blessed by Christmas giving.
One family told me today that they sacrificed giving their adult children gifts, with those adult children’s blessings, in order to provide for another family with children who still live at home. They took the $100 that they would normally spend for those gifts and bought for someone else. Today I was told that they received an unexpected bonus from work that doubled that amount. You just can’t help but think that God was showing how much He likes Christmas giving too.
On Christmas day, we will gather for a morning worship and after church several of us are going out to a restaurant that is open to sing a Christmas Carol and give a gift to those who are working. As grateful as they must be to have a job, it has to be tough to work on Christmas day. So we have been collecting “tips” for about two months now for the purpose of giving to those who are waiting tables and serving others on Christmas day a bit of Christmas cheer that will hopefully make their Christmas sacrifice well worth it. We have chosen a restaurant that only has 5 or 6 people who are working that day and because of the generosity of the people in my church, each person who is working will receive a Christmas card with over $100 in it.
Again, it is hard to be humble when you talk about something that you are involved in, but I am blown away by the love of the people who I serve at this church and it does truly humble me to know them. They love others and show it through their actions and the biggest action this time of year is in their Christmas giving. I love it!!!
Merry Christmas!

December 19, 2011

Christmas meal

by pastortimfowler

Yesterday was our church’s annual Christmas meal and this has become one of my favorite things about our church. We take all the chairs that normally form a semi-circle seating pattern for worship and set up tables and chairs for a family style eating extravaganza. Extravaganza is one of my favorite, but least used words in my vocabulary. The men and women of the church cook turkey and ham and all the favorite holiday type foods that you can imagine and after a brief, yet wonderful sermon, we eat and laugh and hang out until most of the food is gone. Then those who are able, load people into wheelbarrows and take them out back to sleep it off.
Our church is my family. No, I am not dissing my wife and kids, but this is a special relationship that we all share and it is truly family. We share food, share laughter and share tears. No one is left alone and everyone does their part of making it all work. Like in most families, there is always the grumpy person and the weird aunt or uncle that everyone tries not to act like we are avoiding, but other than that we can’t get enough of this special fellowship.
God wants His people to have a closeness. We are told that people will know that we are His because of how we love each other. I don’t think that there would be much doubt of that if you were to have been there yesterday. And, I can proudly say that most anytime that you visit, you will find the same love among the people. None of us are “holier than thou” and many of us are as “messed up as thou” and that makes it easy to find common ground.
As in most churches, there are always a handful who work hard to manage the chaos and organize the efforts. Those who did it this time are amazing in how well it was done and the love at which they used to bring us all together. It was not just a list of things to do but an effort to think of how people’s needs would be met. I believe the biblical term would be ministry, which means serving, which Jesus says makes you great, and I can only say that there were some great people organizing this whole thing.
The day did not end when the meal was over. Lots of folks stayed to help with the clean up. After that, many of the guys and youth stayed to watch football as many of the moms took the younger kids to see Santa. They are the brave souls in the crowd.
Later that night our youth had their Christmas party and another group of servants showed their greatness to make that happen. With nearly twenty youth and a handful of adults, the music was loud, the games were wild and the family was happy. I was the smartest of all; I went home after welcoming them and opening the party in prayer.
Christmas is a special time and can be difficult to those who don’t have family. Some people are alone because they have moved, other because of hardship. Some have been shunned by family and friends and others have condemned themselves because of past experiences. My plea is that you not allow the past to ruin the future. God can and will forgive you for whatever the past holds. God will provide a place and people for you to celebrate if you chose to seek it. I would like to invite you to be a part of my family and our celebration of God’s great love. We don’t judge, we don’t condemn, we don’t exclude. We are The Body, A Church for Anybody, and especially you.
Merry Christmas!

December 16, 2011

It’s In Us

by pastortimfowler

Last night about midnight I was trying to get my solid white, except for a brown eye patch, Jack Russel to come in and quit barking before the neighbors called the police on us. For about 20 minutes she had been barking continually. Finally I slipped my shoes on and went out to get her only find her in a fight with a very large possum. My dog is every bit if 13 pounds, but in her mind she is 130 pounds. The possum was at least 15-20 pounds and looked like it was doing well in the fight until they ran into the sandbox that has been converted to a mud-wrestling pit. It didn’t take long before the possum was not playing possum and I picked up my now solid brown Jack Russel and went in to give her a bath.
Over the years, we have been kept safe from all sorts of wild animals like squirrels, rabbits, mice, and possums. For the most part they are left outside and I dispose of them, but occasionally they get brought in through the doggie door and I find them via smell. That is always fun, but rare.
My wife gets very frustrated with her dog because she wanted a little froo froo dog and she can’t accept the fact that this one is a natural-born killer. As I was having lunch with her today, I was re-telling the story of how I was up bathing her dog at midnight while she was sleeping and she asked me, “why does she have to kill every rodent that comes in our yard?” To which I responded, “it is bred into her”. For those who don’t know, the Terrier breed was specifically bred to hunt rodents. They can’t help themselves no matter how you try to raise them, it is in their blood.
I believe that humans are like this in many ways. We are born to sin. No matter how well we are raised, we sin at early ages and continue our whole lives; we can’t help it. No one taught us to lie, yet we quickly deny our involvement with another sibling who has just gotten in trouble. As babies we learn that crying will get mommy to come pick us up. So what was meant to be a way of communicating pain, fear, or hunger, becomes a way of getting what we want. We grow up to convince ourselves that there is a right way of lying and deny that the truth is the best thing to handle a situation.
There is another thing that I believe humans are born with that is often covered deep with sin and humanistic teachings and that, is a desire to know God. God created humans with this in hopes that one day we would seek the truth and see that it is Him that has the answer to the meaning of life. In fact, it is God who is the author and finisher of life and until we get to know Him, life is a continual search for a purpose that we can’t fulfill on our own.
God has been the heart’s desire of every human ever born. The Greeks and Romans created gods for every reason a man could think of. They built statues and worshiped them as if they were alive but never found satisfaction because they were not real. The native Americans had gods of nature and animals but were not satisfied because the life that these gods had were taken by the humans that worshiped them. And from the beginning of civilization, man has claimed to be his own god more often than not. Believing that we are the saviors our selves, only to be let down by our own frailty. No god created by man will every satisfy what the one true God put in us and that is a desire to know the truth and He is that truth.
This time of year, Christmas, the whole world hears of a Savior that was born some 2000 years ago. Something in us tells us that this is a special time of year. A time of peace and hope and giving. A time of family and friends and brotherly love. A time of trying to deny the truth and substitute the man-made meaning of a God-given Love. So many times we hear tragic stories of brokenness and loneliness because what we desire is a relationship. This relationship can never be filled with people or things but rather the love of the meaning of it all, Jesus. For unto us a child was born, Jesus, and He will save the people from their sins. He was given because of God’s great love and His desire to know us intimately.
Like my dog, who can’t help but chase rodents, humans can’t help but chase God. Why not turn to the true God and forget about the lies that lead us in the wrong direction? Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ who died a sacrificial death for all who will accept it as payment for our sin. And whoever will call on Him will be saved and given eternal life. A life of meaning, purpose and hope. A life of love and a relationship with the God of love. It’s in us.

December 15, 2011

Elves on Shelves

by pastortimfowler

It is the latest twist on Christmas chaos, the Elf on the Shelf. My wife even sent me a link to a “Christian version” of it. I am assuming that because she titled the email “blog”, that she wanted me to blog about it, and, since I take other crazy ideas from other crazy people, I guess I should give this a try. But let me say this: If anyone gets upset with me over this one, you are a sick person and you need another hobby besides taking my blogs too seriously.
Why do we need an elf on the shelf? Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good and he doesn’t need no stinkin’ elf to tattle on kids. Its bad enough that you have to worry about that little snitch of a brother or sister, and now an elf? As a former kid, I look at it as an invitation to use firecrackers, like the ones I used on Barbie. And you know what? Barbie never snitched on me or GI Joe again.
My fear with this is 2 fold. First, the possibility that this will catch on and start running year round and taking more money out of the pockets of dads who really just want to keep kids and wives from whining when they could be spending it on a new fishing rod. Second is the fact that too many Christians get their panties in a wad about silly things, including elves on shelves, and feel like they have to do a “Christian” version of everything. They take a plastic Mary and Joseph and they “travel” all around the house. So is it better to lie about elves telling on you or Mary and Joseph traveling around your house?
Look: We have enough Christmas junk as it is. Between trees and lights and wreaths and stockings, and mistletoe, and Rudolf and baby Jesus with all the animals, why do we need anything else? I don’t have room in my attic for that much stuff and by the time I get it all out and put it up around the house, it is time to take it down and try to get it back into the attic. I quit drinking years ago and this, I fear, could cause others to start.
I don’t like elves on shelves and I don’t like the traveling plastic parents of Jesus. It is just one more thing to distract from the true meaning of Christmas and fill our kid’s heads with confusing stories of what the Grinch really stole. However, I do invite the Grinch to steal all the elves and traveling plastic parents of Jesus if they were to ever find their way to my house.
Merry Christmas.

December 1, 2011

Christmas Songs

by pastortimfowler

Christmas is rapidly approaching and I can’t wait to stop hearing Christmas songs on every Christian radio station, 24/7. Don’t even think it, I am not a Scrooge, it’s just that I like music, and I try to listen to Christian music as often as possible, and every Christian station around, and there are 4 that I know of, have been playing Christmas music since Thanksgiving. It is bad enough that the stores put out Christmas decorations right after Halloween, but if we are not careful, Christmas stuff will just get to be blah and barely noticeable and Christmas Eve and Day will become just another day. And, I wonder if this isn’t somehow the purpose behind a concerted effort to minimize Christmas and maximize sales.
Enough of my conspiracy theory, let’s get back to the Christmas music. Even better, let me talk about the Christian radio stations that we have here. They are difficult enough to listen to all the time. They all play the same songs and the same style of music. In case you did not know it, Christian music has many different styles, from praise and worship to head banging to rap and about anything in between. Don’t laugh, many of you who are not Christians probably have listened and liked some of these bands. Switchfoot and POD are two that have made a huge crossover into the secular music world and are Christian bands. But these stations play the same stuff over and over and half of what they play has been around for thirty years now.
I buy a few CD’s and download some stuff and listen to Pandora, but sometimes it is just easier to turn on the radio and listen. But now, when I turn it on and hear “It’s a Holly, Jolly, Christmas” for the umpteenth time and it is just the first day of December, I can’t stand it. What really stinks is that if I do stick it out for any amount of time and don’t turn it off or switch to a secular station, I don’t and haven’t heard the best Christmas song ever, The Chipmunks Christmas.
Secular stations won’t play Christmas music for another couple of weeks. Sure they may sneak one in from time to time, and maybe the week of Christmas, but mostly, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, is when they play them. That makes them special, fresh, or as fresh as a 100-year-old song can be, and it makes Christmas unique for the couple of days that we celebrate it.
I really don’t want to hear White Christmas when it is 75 degrees outside like it often is here in South Carolina for Thanksgiving. I don’t want to hear It’s a Holly Jolly Christmas when Christmas is a month away. I don’t want to hear Away in a Manger when churches are still doing Thanksgiving sermons. I don’t want to hear Grandma Got Runned Over By a Reindeer, unless she really did during a hunting accident. The only thing I want to hear is the Chipmunks Christmas song and nobody has played it yet.
Thanks for listening and may your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmas’s be white. By the way, I still want a HULA HOOP!

September 15, 2011

We Love To Give

by pastortimfowler

Early this morning I read the Old Testament book of Esther. It is a strange thing that not once in the whole book does it mention God. Yet the theme of salvation and deliverance run throughout. At the end of the book, Mordecai proclaims an annual feast and celebration called Purim, that involves the giving of gifts to people all around you. It is a celebration that sounds a lot like our modern Christmas celebration.
I do not know of a more joyful time than Christmas morning when you get see someone opening the gift that you thought so hard about and looked for days or weeks to find just the right thing. Or watching a child get that toy they have talked about all year-long. I love seeing a mom get that home-made gift from a child who is so proud of what he or she made and mom beams with love even if the gift is obviously made by a small child. What about the young woman who parades her new engagement ring around, showing it to everyone and the guy who gave it to her smiling with great pride as she does?
Giving gifts is a wonderful thing that is full of reward and joy for the giver as much as it is for the receiver. There have been times when I have heard people during a birthday party shout from the crowd, “That one is from me!” because they are so excited about giving the gift. Yes, giving is a wonderful thing and we love to give.
Then there is church. We spare no expense on gifts for our spouse, children, or even friends. We are willing to go into debt by the thousands of dollars during Christmas in order to give. But when it is time to give at church, we suddenly become cynical. We forget that giving brings us joy and we turn into Scrooge as we grumble to reach into our pockets for change.
I think part of the problem is that we are thinking about giving to an institution called the church instead of giving to a God who loves us enough to forgive our sins and allow His Son to die in our place so that we can have eternal life with Him. It would be a lot more difficult to give my wife something if I constantly thought about what I was giving to the institution of marriage instead of the mother of my children. But because it is personal, I give with joy. We need to get that mindset with giving to God.
The church is God’s way of being personal with people. We are His arms and feet and lips. It is organized and sure there are flaws, but only because humans are flawed, not God. But the church is how people who don’t know God, get to know God.
The Bible tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. That does not mean that we are not loved if we give begrudgingly. It means when we give with joy, He receives with joy. We love to bring joy to children when we give. We love to bring joy to our spouse when we give. We need think about bringing joy to God when we give. We love Christmas and birthdays and giving to those in need. God loves us so much that He gave His Son. So when it comes to God, shouldn’t we love to give?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96 other followers