Author: Allan (Page 1 of 381)

Third Candle – JOY

This is the liturgy we’ll be using at GCR this Sunday:

Today we light the third candle of Advent, the candle that symbolizes joy.
This candle is pink in color, which represents joy and marks a shift during the Advent season from an attitude of repentance to one of rejoicing and celebration.
The joy of the Lord builds within us as the coming of the Savior draws near.
We rejoice together in the gift of salvation through the birth of Jesus Christ.
And we joyfully praise God for the coming fulfillment of his promises.

Luke 2:7-14

Peace,
Allan

Richly Blest by Willie Goudeau

You can’t be the preacher at Golf Course Road and not know Willie Goudeau. Willie is THAT guy here at GCR and, frankly, in Midland. He’ll be 100 years old next month. He’s been at Golf Course Road for almost that long. He’s a shepherd. A Bible class teacher. A small groups leader. His name comes up around here at least once a week. He’s the legend.

My first week in Midland I was introduced to Willie via a video that’s come to be called the Lawnmower Man video. It’s the true story of how Willie won over his gruff, hard-hearted neighbor by mowing his lawn every week while he was recovering from surgery and a broken leg. The video reveals Willie’s kind heart and his sacrificial nature, his desire to consider the needs of others more important than his own, his generosity and love. I watched it twice. It moved me to tears both times. I was told about Willie’s son, Eugene, who was killed by a drunk driver and how Willie publicly forgave the driver and appealed to the judge in the criminal case for leniency and grace. He studied the Bible with his son’s killer and prayed for him fervently. Dozens of times I’ve been told about Willie’s signature line, “Richly blest.” That’s what he says about himself. That’s how he answers any inquiry regarding his well being. The line inspired a song written by Ken Young. Most people around here use the phrase quite often. Not everybody knows it comes from Willie.

For the past three months I’ve been regularly getting asked, “Have you met Willie Goudeau?” Because everybody at GCR knows Willie Goudeau. Everybody here has been blessed by Willie Goudeau. Encouraged by Willie Goudeau. Everybody has a Willie Goudeau story. And now, finally, I do, too.

I was honored last week to spend a little over half an hour with Willie at his home on Bristol Court where he has lived since 1973. I was privileged to be joined by Tod Brown, Kyle McGraw, and Gary and Gaye Glasscock, all of whom have known Willie for decades and have their own wonderful Willie Goudeau stories. Tod tells me Willie has been his biggest cheerleader his whole life. Kyle interviewed Willie a few years ago for Ken Young’s two hour documentary appropriately titled “Richly Blest.” Gary and Willie taught a Bible class together. Everybody’s deeply connected to Willie Goudeau.

From the moment I walked in the door and shook his hand, he knew exactly who I was and seemed genuinely delighted to meet me. He told me he watches me preach online every single Sunday. He quoted my own words to me from a couple of recent sermons. And he very graciously said many kind things about me that just aren’t very true.

We talked together about GCR and the good people at this great church. He reminisced a bit about the Browns and the McGraws and the Glasscocks and their families. He offered me some advice about loving people and serving others. He told me he was ready to meet the Lord in person and then to get things ready for us. I told him I could officially be the preacher at GCR now that I have met him and have received his blessing. He said I was blessing him, he wasn’t blessing me. He said I didn’t need his blessing. He said he knew that I was listening to God and following Christ when we came to Midland to worship and serve with Golf Course Road.

Willie is a saint. He has an incredibly warm and sweet spirit that reflects the glory of our God. He is gracious and kind. His impulse is to encourage and he does it easily and naturally. And it’s obvious that he has a tight relationship with the Lord. He and God are close. They are friends. They know each other intimately. Being in Willie’s living room is like being in the presence of Jesus. Not because Willie is Jesus – he’s not. But because it’s so clear that Jesus lives in Willie.

I thank God for Willie Goudeau and the Christian impact he has had and continues to have on this congregation of God’s people. I feel official now. Of course, I’ve met Willie Goudeau! And. Wait for it. Here comes the line. I am richly blest.

Peace,

Allan

On Passing Trays

For the first time in almost 20 months, we are passing communion trays up and down the aisles and across the rows on Sunday mornings here at GCR Church. And I would urge you and your church, if you’re not already, to begin doing the same.

The original Greek word for “communion” in the New Testament is koinonia. It means “sharing together.” Fellowship. Partnership. It’s a communal word that describes a communal event. Community. Togetherness. The Church in the New Testament expressed and experienced the righteous relationships they had with God and with one another with frequent and regular thanksgiving meals. Fellowship meals. Communion meals. We shared our food and drink with one another. We served each other and were served by each other. The meal fed us, but it also formed us. It taught us. It reminded us that we belong to one another and we are saved in order to share with and to serve one another.

Over the centuries the Church has watered down the meal itself to almost nothing. It’s not a celebratory feast anymore, it’s a solemn snack. We took the Church’s meal from a full fellowship supper to an individualized, introspective crumb and a sip. Even then, as awful as that is, we always retained the practice of serving and receiving; of making eye contact with the person serving you or the person you are serving; of recognizing the relational aspect of Church and the blessings we share together in Christ.

With COVID, we lost even that.

For years, I had imagined there was no way we, specifically in Churches of Christ, could make the Lord’s Meal any more individualistic. But COVID made the unimaginable our new reality. For more than a year-and-a-half, most of our churches, including us at GCR, have been using those rip-n-sip disposable communion kits. We completely stopped serving others and began serving only ourselves. For 20 months we grabbed our own little plastic container of Chiclets and juice, ripped off the tops, and served ourselves.

Christians never take communion; we receive communion, we are served communion. Except for the past year-and-a-half. We took communion. This new way of eating and drinking has been shaping us, too, and it’s not good. We’re able to eat and drink independently of anyone else. That forms us. Our practice during the Supper has been to only serve ourselves. That becomes habit. It has become habit.

At GCR, we are no longer willing to eschew the serving and sharing character of the Lord’s Supper that our God always intended. It’s gone on long enough. We’re passing trays again. Eye-contact is in again. Participating with one another to make sure everybody eats and drinks is in again. And the reviews have been wildly encouraging. Overwhelmingly positive. We’re talking during the passing of the trays; we’re teaching our kids, sharing encouraging words. Fellowship. Community. Koinonia. Serving and sharing are the nature of the meal again.

Okay, it’s still not a meal. But one thing at a time.

Peace,

Allan

Second Candle – PEACE

We are observing Advent together here at GCR as a tangible way to participate in the Gospel story, as an active way to “remember.” Each Tuesday I’ll be posting here the liturgy we’re using the coming Sunday.

Today we light the second candle of Advent, the candle that represents peace.
This candle is also purple, which stands for our spiritual preparation for the coming of Christ.
Today we remember that Christ Jesus is the only source of true peace.
We resolve to make peace in our families and in this community of faith.
We pray for the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts and in this world.
And we prepare to welcome God’s peace on earth and into our lives.

Isaiah 9:6-7

Peace,

Allan

A Thanksgiving Prayer

At the end of Matthew 11, there’s a short little prayer of praise and thanksgiving from Jesus. Two short little sentences. It seems very spontaneous, like it just comes out of nowhere. It’s almost buried in the middle of a whole page of red letters, so it’s easy to miss. When people do studies on the prayers of Jesus, this one never gets mentioned.

But this prayer really doesn’t come out of nowhere. This is a specific setting, a particular time and place for Jesus. There is a reason this prayer is where it is. And it has a lot to teach us.

At the beginning of Matthew 11, John the Baptist has been thrown into prison and he questions the Messiahship of Jesus. Through his own followers, he asks Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” For John, things were worse for him now than before Jesus arrived. John is suffering and King Herod has even more power and control. You’re not getting the job done, Jesus. I’m in trouble for preaching truth and the political powers are getting away with murder. Jesus is misunderstood by John. Everything Jesus is working toward, the whole reason he came, who he is – John doesn’t see it yet.

At the same time, the fishing villages around Galilee where Jesus was raised and where he was now living and teaching, were ignoring him. The synagogue in Capernaum was Jesus’ home church. The text tells us that Jesus did more miracles in Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum than in any other towns. But they were indifferent in their response. Jesus did not matter to them. So our Lord blisters the citizens of those villages, comparing them to Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom.

Verse 25 says, “At that time…” In the middle of all this. While Jesus was dealing with this. When Jesus was going through this. In this setting. In this time and place in his life. Jesus prayed praise and thanksgiving to God.

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” ~Matthew 11:25-26

Jesus says the wise and the learned don’t get it. He’s using irony in his prayer. I praise you, Father, because you have hidden these things from the smarty-pants and the know-it-alls. What God is doing through Jesus has nothing to do with worldly wisdom or worldly values or worldly knowledge – it comes from above. So those who are entrenched in the pursuits and goals of the world, those who identify with the ways and means of the world – they miss it. Jesus knows that. And he gives thanks to God. Jesus knows that misunderstandings and indifference are not reliable indicators of the presence of the Kingdom of God. And he praises the Lord.

The powerful and unstoppable energies of the Kingdom of God are always moving. Always growing. Always surging. Just beneath the surface. All around us. Huge rivers of prayer and faith and hope and praise and forgiveness and salvation and holiness flow right by us every day. In every single nook and cranny, hidden in the shadows, overlooked in the crowds, drowned out by the noise, it’s there. It’s always there. We just don’t always see it. Or experience it.

So, when Lazarus is in the tomb. When Paul is on a sinking ship. When Peter is confronted near the enemy’s fire. When the Samaritan woman is by herself at the well. When the broken man is living among the dead outside his community. When nobody will help the crippled guy into the healing waters. When Silas is arrested. When the apostle is sent to exile on a prison island. When the crowds are shouting “Crucify him.” When Jesus is hanging on a government cross. Our God gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17).

When the doctor gives his diagnosis. When the marriage counselor says, “I’m sorry, but I’ve done all I know how to do.” When the pink slip shows up in your box. When your children have gone off the rails. When your best friends leave your church. When you have been completely misunderstood. When you’ve been hurt by that same person, again. I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

Peace,

Allan

Cowboys Rerun

We’ve seen this movie. Three weeks ago the Cowboys were 6-1 with a four game lead in the NFC East and, according to Cowboys fans, serious Super Bowl contenders. Today, after Sunday’s beatdown in Kansas City, Dallas is 7-3 and the division lead is down to two-and-a-half. It’s time for the November fade that precedes the December implosion. Same script.

The Cowboys have lost two of their past three games, going 116-minutes without a touchdown in those two losses. Dak Prescott was sacked five times by the Chiefs and forced into three turnovers. Ezekiel Elliot ran for a measly 32 yards, marking the fifth straight game he’s been held to under 70 yards rushing. And the Cowboys converted only five total third downs.

The Cowboys defense was clearly playing over its head in the early part of the season and, now that opposing offenses have enough tape to study, are being exposed for the middle-of-the-road unit they really are. As for the offense? Injuries to the receivers and along the offensive line aren’t helping, but Dak is not sharp and Elliot is running in quicksand. This offense is struggling against good defenses. And for the remaining seven games, the Cowboys will be facing only good defenses.

I don’t know what to expect on Thursday. The Raiders are a mess and the Cowboys are desperate. But the Saints have the number six defense in the NFL. The Cards have the number two defense in the league and a dynamite offense and the best record in the conference. The Giants defense allows fewer than 14 points per game when they’re not facing Tom Brady. And Washington and Philly both have defenses that are capable of shutting down a run game. The Cowboys still have four division games remaining, three of those on the road in the coldĀ  northeast. The last game of the year is against the Eagles in Philly. Today, the Eagles are two-and-a-half games back. The last game of the year is in Philly. Oh, I already said that.

This only ends one of two ways. Either Dallas wins this awful division and backs into a first round playoff loss at home. Or they flop in five of these last seven games and lose the division on a tie-breaker to Philly and miss the playoffs altogether.

We’ve seen this movie, Cowboys fans. And it’s delicious!

Peace,

Allan

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