Advent #2 Peace

Tomorrow is the second Sunday of Advent. At the GCR Church here in Midland, Jordan and Rachel and their precious kids and Rachel’s parents, Dale and Penny, will lead us in our reading and the lighting of the second candle.¬† It’ll be an intergenerational blessing for our whole congregation! I’m posting the scripts in this space each Saturday. I invite you to practice this in your own church or small group setting or use these words to guide your own thoughts and conversations with our Lord.

Today we light the second candle of Advent, the candle that represents peace.
Today we are reminded that Christ Jesus is the only source of true peace.
And he is coming.
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 and relationships.

Isaiah 2:3-5

Our Deepest Fear

I want to share with you a passage from Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love. Barry Thomas sent this to me immediately following Sunday’s sermon about God’s covenant of presence and partnership with his people. I hope you find this as inspiring as I do.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God!

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us – it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

The basic truth about you is that you are created by God in the divine image of God. Don’t ever lose that foundational fact about you. Sin distorts that fact, the devil twists that truth. Sin corrupts it and contradicts it. But it does not change you into anyone other than who God created you to be. You are a beloved child of God, created and saved and called by him to reflect his glory.



‘Twas the Month Before Christmas

When the kids get married and move away, you do what you can to celebrate the holidays together. If that means combining and cramming all your Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions into one weekend, you do it. If that means softening your hard lines on the order and timing of those traditions, you do it. If it means listening to the Chipmunks Christmas album at full volume two mornings in a row – back to back – instead of relaxing with a month in between, you do it. If it means setting up and decorating the tree and pretending it’s Christmas Eve the day after Thanksgiving, you do it. If it means waking up today and feeling like it’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so be it.

Valerie and David made the trip in from Tulsa and Carley and Collin came in from Nashville for a wonderfully truncated holiday season here in Midland. Thursday: turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie, a disappointing Cowboys win, ping-pong and pool and 99, and It’s a Wonderful Life. Friday: pancakes for breakfast, decorating the tree and the house, going out to eat, popcorn and egg nog and Dr Pepper while watching Scrooge, Christmas PJs, the Stanglin family dance and the clicking of the heels (sorry, Collin; I know Carley didn’t tell you about that), and the official reading of ‘Twas¬† the Night Before Christmas. Saturday: Carrie-Anne’s cinnamon rolls, followed by stockings and presents (put it on!) and the house empty by the time Michigan turned out the lights on Ohio State.


Carrie-Anne called it Thanksmas. I’m calling it good.



Advent #1 Hope

Tomorrow we begin the Advent season together with our church at GCR, preparing for and looking forward to the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. Bryce and Paige Williams and their three precious kids will lead us in our thoughts and the reading from Scripture. I will provide our weekly scripts and readings in this space each week.

Today we light the first candle of Advent, the candle that reminds us of our hope.
Today we enter a season of repentance and preparation for our hope to be made real in Christ.
We remember Israel’s covenant hope for the coming of God’s promised Messiah.
We remember our covenant hope for the promised second coming of Jesus.
And we prepare to welcome Christ Jesus into the world and into our hearts.

Titus 2:11-14

McKenzie’s Bet

Carrie-Anne and I hosted the GCR high schoolers at our house a couple of Sundays ago to watch the Cowboys -Packers game. We played ping-pong and pool, made Dr Pepper and root beer floats, and generally hung out and watched the game together. And McKenzie and I made a bet.

McKenzie is a precious child of God. She’s a senior at Midland High School (Go Bulldogs) and an angel straight from heaven. But she is a crazy Cowboys fan. Over the top. Too much. About halfway through the first quarter, with the game tied at 7-7, I proffered a wager: If the Cowboys win, I’ll preach next Sunday wearing a Cowboys tie; if Green Bay wins, McKenzie wears a Packers shirt to youth group class and to worship on Sunday. She took the bet. Cowboys fans always take the bet.

McKenzie’s a really good sport and we had fun with it yesterday. And I’m glad we didn’t go double or nothing on the Vikings.



Starting with Confession

Tomorrow at GCR Church, we consider together Act Two of the Story of God. Act Two is the major conflict, the thing in the drama that goes horribly wrong and must be fixed. Sin happens. Rebellion against God. And it wrecks everything.

We’re all guilty. We’ve all lived this part of the Story. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and his creation intentions for us as his people. We’ve all taken huge bites out of that apple.

Almost all Christian churches for almost all of Christian history have started almost all their Christian worship assemblies with a prayer of confession and repentance. Confession is an ancient Christian practice we’ve never really embraced in the Churches of Christ. But Holy Scripture and centuries of Church tradition and practice compel us to give it a good honest try. Confession is one of those places where our God meets us and transforms us. In confession, we acknowledge our sin before God and pledge to live more holy lives by his grace.

Tomorrow morning we will pray a prayer of confession and repentance together to begin our assembly at GCR. I’m hoping you’ll join us. If not in person, then in spirit.

“Almighty and merciful Father, we have sinned.
We have followed too much the desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against your holy will.
We have done the things we should not have done; and we have not done the things we should have done.
There is no health in us. O Lord, have mercy on us.
Spare us, O God, who confess our sins.
Restore us who are repentant, according to your promises declared to all men and women in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, most merciful Father, that we may live godly, righteous, and holy lives.

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