Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Practice in the New Year

Each year, I give prayerful consideration to expanding my spiritual practices. For this year, I am attempting to read through the Scripture using an "app" on my phone (and computer). Having already begun (about two weeks into it now), it is truly FUN! "Boring" sections (genealogies, for example) are broken up (in the reading plan I have chosen) with regular excerpts from multiple kinds of literature. My current schedule has a psalm, a section from Genesis, a section from 1 Chronicles, and from Luke each day. It is easy to read, fits into the little cracks in my schedule, and adds Scripture to my life in a new way. I encourage you to check it out: YouVersion or Bible.com. This app, along with Bible.is, offers audio options as well so that you can listen through the Scriptures as an alternative to reading through them.

Have a great 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Program - the Ark (3)

A beautiful celebration of Jesus' coming - and a surprise visit from the North Pole!

Sunday, December 29, 2013


The Cantata on Sunday afternoon Dec 22, with recognition of Lib's many years of ministry as part of the Christ Church choir. We remain blessed by Lib's faithfulness, joy, and welcome!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holding on to Christmas

An article published on QIdeas, by Peter Greer of Hope International.

A couple weeks after Christmas in 2002, a volcano erupted in Congo. Working for a development agency in neighboring Rwanda, I went to help.

Up on a platform, I handed out blankets to refugees. The orchestration was almost perfect—we had roped off lines like an amusement park—and I got to be the main attraction.

Here I was, on the front lines, personally handing out blankets and helping families that had lost almost everything. Noble cause. Noble mission. Noble actions of a twenty-five-year-old relief worker. A photographer snapped pictures. And I smiled wide for the camera as I did “God’s work.”

But I wasn’t thinking about the refugees. Instead I was thinking, I can’t wait until the people back home see these photos of me.

I saw the photos a few weeks later. 

I trashed them. Captured on film, I recognized myself as playacting for people far away, not thinking about loving the people in front of me. 

Check out the full article!

Christmas Program - the Ark (2)

More from the great program! Great work kids and teachers!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Program - the Ark

From Thurs Dec 19. Thanks to the Ark teachers and staff, to all the parents and family that filled up the sanctuary. A great celebration!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

WestJet Christmas Miracle

Shared prior to worship on Dec 22 - a great story with a tie to the invitation to Ahaz (Isaiah 7) to "ask for a sign - any sign". Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

There is Room for YOU! Christmas Eve Family Service at 7:00 pm and Reflections Service at 11:00 pm.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Room at the Inn - Christmas Eve 2013

Celebrate a Candle-Light Christmas Eve with us!
7:00 pm Family Service
10:00 pm Concert Prelude
11:00 pm Reflections Service with Holy Communion
There is Room for You!

Children's Home - Shares of Ministry

One more life-changing ministry that our Shares of Ministry support. Please plan to give generously this Christmas Eve as we give away our Christmas Gift for Jesus!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Caroling

Thanks to all who came out on a snowy night! Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Clergy Pensions - Shares of Ministry

Hearing the story of one retired pastor who served here at Christ Church, and one of the ways we honor those who serve Jesus as pastors among us.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Men's Christmas Party

Thanks to Tim for putting this together! Great time of fellowship, and wonderful food.

Hypocrisy, Authenticity, and the Measure of Sin

By David Kinnamen and Gabe Lyons, an excerpt from their book Unchristian. Check out the full article!

There is a twist—a deeper reason why the perception of hypocrisy exists. It’s not just our lifestyles that have gotten us in trouble; it’s the very way in which we convey the priorities of being a Christian. The most common message people hear from us is that Christianity is a religion of rules and regulations. They think of us as hypocritical because they are measuring us by our own standards.

In our research, we asked Christian adults to identify the priorities Christians pursue in terms of their personal faith. We did not prompt any answers; respondents were able to mention anything that came to mind.

What do you imagine was the most common response?

It was lifestyle—being good, doing the right thing, not sinning.

Christians describe their main faith priority in these terms. Indeed, Christ calls us to be different people, reflected in our lifestyle, so the fact that people are mentioning this is not inherently wrong. Scripture makes it clear that we are to prioritize the “fruit” or outcomes of people’s lives as a measure of their faith (John 15:1–8). The writer James points out that without some way of measuring the reality of our faith (our deeds), faith is nothing more than a series of empty beliefs (James 2:20–26). Remember that spiritual transformation means becoming more like Christ, which includes both living in a holy manner and having the humility to admit we’re not innately good or holy.

Nevertheless, given the pervasive perception that Christians are hypocritical, it is telling that “being good” is the primary way we define what being a Christian is all about. It is also sobering to see how other important passions of a Christ follower are way down the list. The “lifestyle” priority was more frequently mentioned than discipleship—learning about the Bible and about Christ. It was more often included in the definition of being a Christian than were evangelism, worship, or relationships. Serving others and the poor was identified as a main concern by just one-fifth of believers. Thoughts of stewardship or nurturing family faith were almost nonexistent as faith priorities.

Read the complete article.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Saint Mark UMC Christmas Eve - on ABC

From United Methodist Communications: A special one-hour United Methodist Christmas Eve worship service titled "Rethink Christmas: Unwrap the Gift," will be broadcast on ABC television affiliates. The hour-long program, produced by United Methodist Communications and taped at Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kan., invites viewers to take an hour from the hustle and bustle of the holidays to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by unwrapping the gift of Christ.

The service includes music, liturgical dance, a message by the Rev. Junius Dotson and a special interpretation of the Walk to the Manger. The 103-year-old Saint Mark United Methodist Church has a passionate music ministry which will offer familiar Christmas hymns with a gospel interpretation.

From Pastor JP: A number of years ago, I was part of a leadership development cohort across The United Methodist Church and Rev. Junius Dotson was one of our leaders. He is a highly effective pastor, great communicator, and a lover of Jesus. If you can't make Christmas Eve worship, please consider this opportunity!

Youth Bells

Joy in making music!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Developing Leaders - Shares of Ministry

From the youth leadership development camp, attended last year by one of our own young people! And, just one more example of lives changed by our Shares of Ministry. Plan ahead to give generously on Christmas Eve.

Gifts for Head Start

 Thanks to all who prepared gifts for children in our region! Children are at the center of his kingdom!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Disaster Relief: Shares of Ministry

One of many stories of how lives are changed through Shares of Ministry in The United Methodist Church. Our Christmas Eve offering this year is entirely dedicated to supporting our larger mission!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Vipers: The Gospel of Isaiah (2)

2013/12/08 Christ Church, Mountain Top, Advent 2
Prayer, from Psalm 72
Children, Matthew 3.1-12
Message, Isaiah 11.1-10
Blessing, from Romans 15.5-13

Vientiane viper

Gospel of Isaiah and overlap with Matthew’s gospel:
      Brood of vipers – the religious class!
            Who told you to flee the coming wrath? Bear fruit of repentance
            Not harm or destroy on my holy mountain
            Earth full of the knowledge of the LORD (not just the religious)

      Axe at the root of the trees, cut down thrown into the fire
            Bear fruit worthy of repentance
            Even the tree itself is not necessary to be Abe’s kids
                  Stones will do!

Isaiah’s songs of salvation matched with judgment, presuppose destruction
Look, the Sovereign, the LORD of hosts, will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the tallest trees will be cut down, and the lofty will be brought low.  He will hack down the thickets of the forest with an ax, and Lebanon with its majestic trees will fall (Isaiah 10.33-34)
      Isaiah: From the stump or root a new shoot

      Repent – for the kingdom of heaven has come near
            A shoot from the stump/root of Jesse … new royal figure

Out of utter destruction, God does a new thing
      Disaster relief story (Shares of Ministry)
New thing is not just new but impossible
      Scutt’s cat lying with the fox
      Spooky playing with the baby rabbit
      Bamboo viper
      What is natural?  To devour

Are we the vipers? (John the Baptizer)
      Kicking the soccer ball into my opponent

“The poem is about deep, radical, limitless transformation in which we – like lion, wolf, and leopard – will have no hunger for injury, no need to devour, no yearning for brutal control, no passion for domination” (Brueggemann, 103).

REPENT – and invite God to do the impossible


Walter Brueggemann.  1998.  Isaiah 1-39.  Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Communion Generation

Thanks Carol for 33 years of service as our Communion Steward - the third generation of your family serving the church in this holy service!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Peppermint Bark!

The Friendship Circle making their famous peppermint bark for Christmas orders. (Orders are due by Sunday Dec 15.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Decoration Day - indoors

Thanks to all those who showed on Nov 30 to do the decorating. Fun and beautiful!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mission Central & Typhoon Relief

From a recent update from Mission Central:

Mission Central continues to collect items for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.  Yesterday, we loaded up 1,750 pounds of diapers, bottles, personal care items and much more into a tractor trailer bound for Project C.U.R.E. in Tennessee.  The items will be sorted and shipped to the Philippines by the end of this month.   


Over the last month, Mission Central has shipped 2,162 pounds worth of resources to the Philippines.  That is more than a ton of disaster relief supplies in the hands of those who need it most!!   You have also generously gave $3,238.50 in monetary donations! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Swords into Plowshares: The Gospel of Isaiah (1)

2013/12/01 Christ Church, Mountain Top, Advent 1, Holy Communion
Children, Matthew 24.36-44 (and staying awake for Santa)
Message, Isaiah 2.1-5

Intro to the series: Isaiah the prophet anticipated the fall of Jerusalem to the cruelty and violence of Babylon.  Nevertheless, over and over, he breaks out in song, praising God for a deliverance so unexpected as to be an entirely “new thing” and describing a kingdom come of restored Jerusalem and renewed faithfulness for the people of God.  The New Testament and the early church fathers quote liberally from this prophet, particularly using the text to interpret the person and work of Jesus Christ, so much so that Isaiah is described as a fifth “Gospel” to stand along side of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  This year, during Advent, we will be focused in our messages on selections from the prophet.

I have a sword.  A samurai sword that has been in our family for 3 generations, almost 70 years.  Hold sword and scabbard together, press the release, and unsheath a still sharp and deadly weapon.  It is an officer’s sword, from an era in which they were more than decorative, in which they were still designed for battle.  It was surrendered to my grandfather in a Chinese port city at the end of World War II.

When we hear the beautiful song or poem from Isaiah 2 (swords to plowshares), we tend to think all cuddly and cute, all gentle and kind.  The vision, the word, is glorious.  Nations not only do not go to war, they do not even “learn war”, they don’t play war games, they completely disarm.  When it is all cuddly and cute, we actually diminish the glory of the vision.  The vision presupposes war.  The word of the prophet assumes destruction.  And, its glory lies in the fact that it sees not simply the next cease-fire, but the end of all battle, the end of all war in a lasting peace.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


A message from our Bishop:

"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ....And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation."
(2 Corinthians 5:18-19, NIV)

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
(Romans 12:21)

Dear United Methodists of the Susquehanna Conference:

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Prince of Peace, Healer of our brokenness, and Hope of the world!

The news finally came. President Nelson Mandela passed away. The world is mourning the death of "the most favorite son of South Africa."

I have some personal memory of him. In 2006, when the Council of Bishops had its first meeting outside the United States in Maputo, capital city of Mozambique, we received a surprising gift; he and his wife Gra├ža Machel visited with us. It was an awesome moment of privilege to be in his presence. After the Council meeting, Lisa and I had the opportunity to visit the house where he once lived in Johannesburg and the prison cell where he was a captive for 27 years in Robben Island. Our appreciation for what he was to the world, as well as to his people of South Africa, continued to expand after these experiences.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sunday School is FUN!

Thanks to our great team of teachers and leaders! We have a wonderful Sunday School with classes for all ages.