Sunday, November 28, 2010

The History of Advent

History of Advent
            It cannot be determined with any degree of certainty when the celebration of Advent was first introduced into the Church. The preparation for the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord was not held before the feast itself existed. Advent comes from the Latin "Veni" which translates the Greek word parousia - the "coming" of Christ.
            One of the earliest references to Christmas being celebrated on December 25 appeared in Antioch in the middle of the second century (100s). At that time, Christians were still persecuted. An official determination was made in the fourth century (300s), when the Roman emperor Constantine embraced Christianity, thereby ensuring the legality of Christmas celebrations. The Council of Tours in 567 established the period of Advent as a time of fasting before Christmas. They also proclaimed the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany a sacred, festive season.
            The time before Christmas hasn't always been a celebration. Advent was once a solemn preparation but not for Christmas. It was a season preparing for Epiphany, January 6—which commemorates the adoration of Jesus by the Magi. Some claim Peter started Advent, but the exact starting even though it’s been lost to history, was probably after Peter’s death.
            Whenever it started, Advent originally was a time of fasting and self-reflection - instead of Christmas parties ord "thinking of others for a change." In the 300s, two events changed all that: Emperor Constantine built in Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity, also declaring Jesus' birthday a holiday; also the Bishop of Rome, Julius, set the date as December 25. Christmas took on a happier atmosphere and became a time of joyous anticipation for the “Next” coming of Christ and commemorating the first one.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Preaching the Gospel in Public School

This morning was GREAT! I was invited to NorthRidge Middle school for Career Day. I wish they'd had Career Days when I was in School, I was pretty clueless about what the real world was about till just a few years ago. Now I'm slightly less clueless.

Mrs Eva invited me to come and this was my 2nd time.
Now since I am there to talk about my "career" choice and, very importantly, "Staying In School," I don't treat this as a chance to preach an evangelistic sermon. But I do try to inject what I can. I talked about the importance of a Pastor maintaining hsi relationship with Jesus Christ and things along that line. I had 3 groups of 20 to 25 kids in each group, and in the last group, a soft spoken young lady raised her hand during Q&A time and asked this; "What can I do to guarantee that I can go to be with Jesus when He comes back?"
Right there in a public school! In front of 25 kids who seem to be fairly engaged in the moment!

What would you say? You know that any minute now the bell is going to ring and an announcement will interrupt what you are saying, so you want to answer this question thoroughly and briefly.

What would you say? These kids are bright, they don't need sugar-coated religiosity.

What would you say? I'll stop asking that now, so you can stop and think about it.
Are you ready for MY answer?

I think there are several important points I needed to make.
1. There really was a Jesus and He really rose from the dead. It's a historical fact. Every bit as true as there was a George Washington. There was a Jesus and there was a resurrection.
2. The reason Jesus came and died on the cross was because we have all sinned against God. And God is so HOly and Awesome He doesn't tolerate sin at all. In fact He hates it, He won't put up with it.
3. But He loves us. He made us and loves us and since somebody had to pay for our sins, God sent his only son to come to earth and pay the price for your sin and for my sin. He paid by dying a horrible death.
We couldn't pay for our sin, we were too much sinners, Jesus was perfect.
4. So what do we need to do to guarantee that we will be with Him forever?
We need to Turn and Trust.
Turn from our sins and our selfish way of living and turn to Jesus. Then Trust Jesus, that since he paid the price for our sins, and since he rose from the dead and is still alive today, he will forgive us of our sins when we ask him too, and he will take our sins away from us, as far as the east is from the west. And that's pretty far.

Then I said, now sometimes people need help knowing how to do this, and if you have a youth minister or a pastor you can talk to or simply another strong believer, you can ask them and they'll help you. Or you can ask me. (I had handed out my church name and contact info just in case they ever need me.)

Did I include the essentials in that brief amount of time that I had? Did I miss anything?
Sure there is much you can say if you have the time and you have a dialogue going. But for two minutes I tried to hit a home run.

Now every home run needs a great pitch. I think that young lady asked me that question Solely so that I could tell her friends how to be saved and what it means to become a Christian. I could be wrong, but I think I'm right.

That's one reason its good to have a Christian friend with you when you have an opportunity to talk to someone about their faith. Having a friend ask a question like this young lady did is a great way to go. It might be the kind of question a non-believer might ask if they knew how to phrase it. They can ask other questions of you like, "What do you mean by Repent?" Or "how would you give your life to Jesus?"

I hope you'll say a prayer for the kids that heard the gospel today. It's not everyday you get to share Christ and the message of Salvation in a public school. And when I think of what a wicked little brat I was at their age, I know I needed the gospel badly! And I thank God for loving me that much in spite of myself!
I saw a Tweet this week that said:
Good News, you're worse than you think you are, but
Good News, God's grace is greater than you can imagine.

I Love you all, God bless,  Clark

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In Everything Give Thanks

My Speech and Homiletics teacher in College (Don Loose) used to tell us, “don’t ever get up in the pulpit and “share”, just Preach the word.” So what I’m about to do today is a little scary for me. It’s a little scary because I’m going to be a little more forth coming than I am comfortable with. I don’t intend to write anything shocking, just more revealing than I like to be.

1Th 5:16  Rejoice always,
1Th 5:17  pray without ceasing,
1Th 5:18  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Ever wondered what God’s will is for your life? It’s right here. This is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Ha ha, very funny, right? No seriously, if you are doing these things you’ll be in the will of God. If you rejoice evermore, you’ll have the right attitude to follow God’s will.
You think Paul was good at following God’s will? 

Listen to his testimony in 2 Cor 6:8 We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. Paul rejoiced in jail, in prison, in sickness, and with a thorn in his flesh.

One way to Rejoice without ceasing is to Pray Evermore – or continually.
When I was a teenager a book became very popular. The funny thing was the book was 300 years old! It was written by a Bro. Lawrence and called the Practice of the Presence of God. In it Bro. Lawrence, who lived and worked in a monastery, shared about his life and his learning and how to continually live in and enjoy God’s presence. Some people think they have to bow their heads and close their eyes when they pray. First time I saw someone lift their heads and pray with their eyes open I was surprised; “Can you do that? Is it allowed?” But this is a life that leads to joy. Yes even in suffering and sorrow.
And when you learn to rejoice evermore and pray continually, THEN you can begin to give thanks in everything. The importance to giving thanks is all over the Bible. Especially in Romans 1 you see how when we cease to give thanks to God we take the first step to idolatry and rebellion.*
But Give Thanks IN EVERYTHING?
Now I know you’ve heard sermons on this before. I know this isn’t new. And you may have heard different explanations of How you can Thank God in everything. Some say you don’t thank God “FOR” everything, but IN every circumstance. Well, OK whatever.
A Dangerous Road
I’m going to take the dangerous route. Ever want to take the safe route to get someplace? Well if you have other people in your car the safe route is probably wise. But in your own mind and heart the safe route Rarely has any reward! You want adventure? Excitement? Don’t take the safe route! You wanna see wild animals up close and walk through tornadoes? Take the dangerous route! The wildest thing you see on the safe route is roadkill!
Here’s my dangerous route today. I wanna thank God For EveryThing! Everything!
So, I want you to find a pen and paper. I don’t want you to write down anything I say. I want you to write down things YOU are thankful for AND things that you have a very hard time being Thankful for. Go ahead admit it. Tell God, "I don’t know how to thank you for this help me."
Ready? Here goes. I’ll start with the obvious.
I thank God for God! I am so glad that God loved me enough to send His Son the Lord Jesus Christ to Secure my salvation on the cross! I’m glad Jesus loved His Father and me enough to do that. I’m glad the Holy Spirit shines the spotlight on my sin that needs to be confessed and forgiven. And I’m glad he comforts me in distress and gives me gladness when I’m stressed. Thank you God Almighty for loving me!

Another easy one? I thank God for my wife Marney. I sometimes think she rescued me from a life lived at the impulse of my Attention Deficit Disorder. She brought order and love and baby girls into my life. And I am eternally grateful.
Donna, Marney, Clark, Ruth, Paul where's John?
Dad-Paul O Dunlap
Mom-Eunice McCord Dunlap
And yes I thank God for my three girls and for my siblings and my mom and dad. I could tell you stories! But I’ll spare you most of them. My dad modeled rock solid faithfulness. My mom, heartfelt devotion to Jesus. My brothers and sister modeled how to wrestle with life and with God and come out still trusting and loving him on the other side. My three girls taught me so much about myself that they made me a better version of myself. And I love them all dearly!
How about a hard one. I thank God I am deaf in one ear. It ended my music studies in college, but led me to a strong Christian young man named Dewey, who took me under his arm and loved me and challenged me back to health and to learn to walk with God. And that led me to follow God’s call to ministry in my life which is where I needed to be. It’s not fun being so deaf as many of you also know. And it caused me to worry about going completely deaf. But I learned to thank God for it.
Dr. Dewey

HOW ABOUT YOU? Anything go wrong in your life for which you are now thankful? Write it down!
Lets Go back to an easy one. I am thankful to live in such a great country. It is the absolutely greatest country ever in the history of the world! Our constitution and bill of rights are the greatest man-made documents ever written. I know there are many great things about other places in the world and I love to visit them. But for the best collection of freedoms and creativity and God-fearing people all in one place? The USA is greatness.
But now I have to go back to a hard one.
Let me preface this by saying that Tuesday night I saw something on Channel 5 news that blessed me. They did a
Add caption
short piece on pastor Matt Chandler of the Village Church in Highland Village Texas. Matt is a Baptist pastor of a church of 6000. He’s a Hardin Simmons graduate who God has used in mighty ways. And since last Thanksgiving day he has been battling brain cancer. He has been written up in USA Today, NY Times, several Christian magazines and now on the local news. I can truly say, Thank God for Matt’s cancer because it has given him a great platform for the gospel of Jesus Christ! And because his story has helped me learn to say, …Thank God for Cyndi Steven’s cancer. Cyndi is our Church secretary, Jack's wife, mother of Caleb and Dustin, friend of many, helper of anyone, and probably one of the sweetest ladies I know. Even in the midst of chemo and radiation she often cares more for others than herself.
It is REALLY hard to say, "Thank God for Cyndi's Cancer!" I hate her cancer every bit as much as I hated it when Marney had cancer. And I don’t have a lot of reasons to thank God for it but here goes.
I thank God for it because I have seen the heart of Job in Cyndi. Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I serve him.” That is how strong Cyndi is-by the grace of God. She is Semper Fidelis - always faithful!
 I thank God for Cyndi’s cancer because I have seen in her the sweetness of one who is trusting in Jesus for every day of her existence; joyfully, sweetly, and with great patience.
Add caption
I Thank God for Cyndi’s cancer because even though I don’t know what the Providential Hand of God is doing or why He is doing it, I know, when I look in Cyndi’s eyes that she trusts Him no matter what - and so can I!
I don’t know what God is doing. I don’t understand it. And He knows I don’t like it- I cannot hide that from Him. But I know I can trust in Him no matter what.
Are you trusting in God no matter what today? 
Is there a mountain in your life that you cannot see around? God can. 
Is there a pain that God doesn’t already know? 
Is there a sin he cannot forgive? 
Is there a life he cannot reach? NO. Trust him today. Trust Him forever. 
Turn your back on your sins and on your way of doing things and trust in Him today. And be thankful. Thank Him that you can trust His Providence. Trust Him when you receive good things from His hand and things you think are bad; just-trust-Jesus.

Oh ...Here's John

*Rom 1:21  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24  Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25  because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thankful For No Term Limit

Here's a good Christian view of the electoral process in America, from my friend Terry Austin.