The Beginning

A new year will greet us in just two days. That's right: 2016 will only last for under forty-eight hours more, and then 2017 will arrive. New years always begin full of hope and promise. They offer us a proverbial blank slate, a fresh start, a chance to begin anew and do better than the year before. What are your hopes for 2017? I'm not talking New Year's resolutions (we'll break all of those anyway); I mean honest goals and visions for a new year. Do you want to grow closer to your family? Closer to God? Lead lost souls to the foot of the cross? Make a difference in your corner of Russell County -- or a different corner of the world? Volunteer more at church? Change jobs? Accept the calling

The End

As we wrap up 2016, I want to take time to review what all we've experienced this year. RSCC -- you -- has been through quite a bit: loss of a minister, loss of members, deaths, interim staff, you name it. We endured quite a bit, and we did it by coming together as a church family and seeking the will of God. But look at all the good things from the past twelve months: great events, a lot of fellowship, service in the community, working together with our sister churches, a new minister (hi!), a number of new members, and, most importantly, three souls have been saved this year in our church. Even if we enjoyed nothing else this year, knowing we have three new brothers and sisters in Christ m

"Born That Man No More May Die"

There's an oft-forgotten verse of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" that goes like this: O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan's tyranny From depths of hell thy people save And give them triumph o'er the grave Personally, it's my favorite verse of the song. This verse is a clear declaration of the gospel: Jesus Christ, the messiah from David's bloodline, saves us from sin, hell, and the grave. Anyone who really knows me knows I have a deep and abiding hatred for only one thing (and no, it isn't spiders): death. Let me make it clear: I don't fear death; I despise it. I take seriously Paul's declaration in 1 Corinthians 15:26 that death is an enemy to be defeated. And a heartless, cruel

Before the Beginning

In our haste to read Luke 2, we often barrel right past the first chapter of that book. We can all quote "In those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed." But how many of us have ever memorized "In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary"? Before the birth could happen, Mary had to give her fiat, her "Let it be." God cooperates with human beings, never overriding our free will. Mary, teenager that she (probably) was, could have listened to Gabriel's spiel and said no. She could have refused to

Misfits

I realize I've already posted one Rudolph-inspired blog, but hear me out. The Island of Misfit Toys is a place for any unusual or unwanted toy to find a home, toys like a Charlie-in-the-box, an ostrich-riding cowboy, and a train with a square-wheeled caboose. Seen as different or useless, the misfits banded together on an island until (you guessed it) they're rescued by Rudolph & Company. The Church is the place for Misfits. The Church is something called an alternative community. It's a family made up of people who live in ways that don't line up with prevailing cultural values (hence "alternative"). Society will value one thing; the Church will value another. The Church says, "Do this!"; S

On a Snowy Day

It may not actually be snowing today, but I'm still reminded of one of the few things in the Bible having to do with snow. Benaiah son of Jehoiada, one of David's Thirty Mighty Men, has one of the strangest feats attributed to him in all of Scripture. 2 Samuel 23:20 and its parallel, 1 Chronicles 11:22, contain the only two instances of the word "snowy" in the Bible: "[Benaiah] also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion." Killing a lion is an accomplishment in and of itself, but to kill a lion in a pit on a snowy day is so incredible it has been preserved in two different places for about three thousand years. Lions and snow don't go together. For that matter, many things and

Slow & Steady Wins the Race

My elementary school had what we called the Kinder Derby. Kindergarten kids were given stick horses to race in our own pint-sized Kentucky Derby, running from one end of the gym to the other and back again. I won mine (I used to be fast), and my stick horse won the roses. Its name: Slow 'n Easy. At times, it seems, slow and easy really does win the race. Many parts of our faith flourish when done in a slow-and-steady sort of way instead of a mad dash to the finish line. The current joke is our Revelation Bible study, now in its tenth month with no end in sight, will still be going when Jesus comes and we see the words on the page happen in real life. But think of how much we would have left

A Christmas Fundamental

In the early 1900s, a group of conservative Christians banded together to protect the "fundamentals" of our faith from the liberal theology which tried to get rid of them. These men and women of God rallied together around five key points: the virgin birth of Christ, substitutionary atonement (Christ died in our place), the inerrancy of Scripture, the divinity of Jesus (that he was fully God), and (taken together) the bodily resurrection of Jesus and his future Second Coming. As more and more theologians and churches left these doctrines behind, the Fundamentalists sought to preserve them as essential to biblical Christianity. It's easy to spot which of the fundamentals relates to Christmas:

Pea Soup and Peanut Butter

Every Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, that Rankin/Bass classic, goes on repeat. Whether it's on DVD, VHS, ABC Family, or whatever your preferred media acronym is, Rudolph and his shiny nose (so shiny you could even say it glows) appear on the television set. And great as Rudolph himself may be, my family has always preferred another character: Yukon Cornelius. In one of my favorite moments in the show, Yukon declares, "This fog is as thick as peanut butter!" Hermey retorts, "You mean pea soup." And then Yukon's classic line: "You eat what you like, and I'll eat what I like!" In a lot of ways, that's how people approach church. There are enough styles of worship, kinds of music, an

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was originally published in 1843. Over the last 173 years, it seems to have taken on a life of its own. We call people scrooges, cartoons have their own versions of Tiny Tim regardless of setting, and everyone talks about the ghosts. I have to admit, ghosts don't generally show up in Christmas stories, but Dickens' quartet of them (Marley and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come) are holiday staples now. Aside from Ebenezer's visitor, though, there's another sort of Ghost of Christmas Past. These live on in our hearts and our minds as memories, echoes of people no longer with us. For the first time, countless families will gather together

Prayer Block

When I sat down this morning to write today's blog post, nothing came. I sat there and stared at the paper for a while, got up, did a few other things, sat back down, stared at the paper, updated the rest of the website, gave the paper a dirty look, talked to people, frowned at my pen . . . you get the idea. I'm not usually one to get writer's block, but I definitely had it this morning. The bigger problem comes when I have the same problem with prayer. It seems like I have nothing to say to God. Those times are usually when I have the most to say: a long list of people who have requested prayer, problems in my own life, national or global tragedy, days of great joy. But at those moments, as

Carded

It's officially Christmas card season. My weekend will be spent signing my name more times than I care to count and addressing enough envelopes to make a postal worker faint. But, as they say, "'tis the season," and I actually enjoy doing it. Like me, most of you will be sending out cards, and, on the flip side, you'll be getting cards from other people, many of whom we may never communicate with the other eleven months of the year. I mean, sure, I vaguely remember Hank from the place we worked thirty-five years ago, but we haven't spoken since I quit. Why do we trade Christmas cards? (A hypothetical scenario.) Or maybe you're one of those people who never even open the card to see Mildred's

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