Archive | December, 2012

Guest Post: Responding to Jesus’ Name

29 Dec

((This weekend we welcome Phil Bartelt once again to Faith Church.  Here’s some thoughts that Phil shared to help prepare for worship tomorrow.))

Philippians 2:9-11 tells us there is an appropriate response to Jesus’ name. Here is a poem that may help us as we prepare to explore our response.

Let not my humble presence affront and stumble

your hardened hearts that have not known my ways

nor seen my tracks converge to this uniqueness.

Mine is the strength of the hills that endure and crumble,

bleeding slow fertile dust to the valley floor.

I am the fire in the leaf that crisps and falls

and rots into the roots of the rioting trees.

I am the mystery, rising, surfacing

out of the seas into these infant eyes

that offer openness only and the unfocusing

search for an answering gaze. O recognize,

I am the undefeated heart of weakness.

Kneel and adore, fall down to pour your praise:

you cannot lie so low as I have been always.


(J.V. Taylor, “Christmas Venite,” A Christmas Sequence and Other Poems, p.15.)


Why our church prayer meeting tripled in attendance this week

22 Dec

We normally have 8-10 faithful pray-ers at the Faith Church prayer meeting each Wednesday evening.  This week we had 27.

On Sunday night, a lady in our church family, who lives just a few doors down the road from the church building, was walking to a Bible study Christmas party, and she was struck by a car as she crossed the road.  Her injuries are severe, and she has been in a persistent vegetative state ever since.  I had a first in my short tenure as pastor yesterday as I sat with her family and the neuro-trauma staff of our hospital to discuss the likelihood of removing her from life support.

Those who knew her remember that, though she had a very difficult life, she laughed loud, smiled broadly, and served God with all heart.  My last memory of her was a week ago, as she stood behind the food counter in our church kitchen helping serve a meal to kids who had come for a Children’s Ministry event.

She is part of the reason why we had to bring extra chairs into our prayer meeting room.  The tragedies in Portland and Connecticut filled our hearts with grief too.

Over the last few weeks it seems like the light and life of Christmas has been shaded by darkness and death.  At Faith Church we regularly start our prayer meetings with a psalm of praise.  This past week I used Psalm 23, which famously mentions the valley of the shadow of death.  The image is quite vivid: high walls of a ravine that shadow daylight and invite treachery from thieves.  It was a real-to-life scene that the author of the psalm, David, knew quite well.  You might not be in a ravine, but you feel David speaking to you.

And we’re supposed to be happy and celebrate the birth of Christ in a few days.  Celebrating can feel like such a burden when we’re in pain.  We have a sister church that holds a Blue Christmas service every year because many people can’t fathom singing “Joy to the World.”

Tomorrow at Faith Church we finish our series studying the Minor Prophets with the prophet Malachi.  The people in Malachi’s day felt like worshipping God was a burden too, mostly because they lost sight of what it meant to be in relationship with God.  I wonder if we are like them.  Perhaps you might read Malachi before joining us tomorrow.  Look especially for how God responds to the people.  Does God have emotion?  How does he feel?  It would be great to discuss this.

Prophecies That Were Actually Fulfilled

12 Dec

As we get closer to 12-21, the date the world will end based on a Mayan calendar (I know…they might have misinterpreted it…), we’re going to hear more and more about prophecies.  Last year it was Harold Camping’s rapture date, and then the other one too.  Or was that two years ago?  I really don’t want to take the time to do the research.  You get the point.  Prophecies come down the pike regularly, and they just as regularly go unfulfilled.  I’m having a hard time caring.

Are any of you jaded about prophecies?  I am.  Having grown up in an environment that prophesied a rapture behind every major world event, I’ll admit my skin was tingling a bit that day of Camping’s first prophecy.  But in the end I played REM’s song “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, And I Feel Fine” over and over, and it did make me feel fine.  These so-called prophets regularly get it wrong.

What we need are some prophecies that actually come true!  Wouldn’t you like to see a prophecy that is fulfilled?  I know it is Christmas, but Christmas always points toward Easter.  So how about reading the prophet Zechariah to search for some prophecies that did come true, prophecies about Easter.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Are Zechariah’s words just a bunch of Nostradamus-like gobbledy-gook?  Or is there something more here?

And just for fun, since it is 12-12-12, another supposed day of significance, here’s a laugh from

12-12-12 Coffee with Jesus