Pastor’s Pen

Gifts of Joy, Prayer, and Thanksgiving


         I’ve been spending time this Advent with Paul’s Letter of I Thessalonians.  I chose this book because of its’ eschatological focus on the Second Coming of Christ, and Advent is about the time we live to prepare for the 2nd Advent, the Second Coming of Christ.  What caught my attention today were three verses found in I Thessalonians 5:16 – 18 where Paul writes, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” 

I found it interesting that Paul places joy with prayer and thanksgiving.  Joy, prayer, giving thanks have a common denominator; they require our choice to make them happen.  You choose to pray, you choose to give thanks, you choose to be joyful.  In a way, I think of these as God’s gifts given to you and me, so we might know how to live with any circumstance.

Chuck Swindoll once said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”  Imagine what may happen when we choose to react with joy, with prayer, and with thanksgiving in all circumstances.  Try it this Christmas season.  It may change the way you look at your world, and those with whom you share this world. 

Happy Advent,

Pastor Dennis

Jesus is Coming, Again!

This past Sunday we kicked off Advent with a focus on the teaching that Jesus is coming, again. In Advent, we remind ourselves that we live between the two Advents, the 1st Advent when Jesus was born and the 2nd Advent when Jesus will return. What do we do as we wait?
Read I Thessalonians this Advent. A reference to the 2nd coming is found at the end of every chapter in I Thessalonians. Paul uses imagery like trumpets, archangels, the dead rising and the living flying to describe his view. Pretty interesting!
But before Paul paints his vision, he tells us what our own ambitions should be in this time of waiting. It is to live a quiet life, mind our own business, and make our own way. In other words, leave the drama to the Lord when he returns. For now, focus on the quiet life of Christian discipleship. If you do this, then Paul says you will win the respect of outsiders.
Call it Paul’s Advent advice from I Thessalonians 4:11 – 12.
  1.  Live a quiet life of faithfulness.
  2.  Don’t mettle in the affairs of your friends and family this Christmas season.
  3.  Don’t use this season to leach on others’ generosity. Just live a quiet life.
In this way, you will win the respect of outsiders, and who knows, you may even win the respect of family and friends too.
Happy Advent,
Pastor Dennis


It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!  Really? 


It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas! 
     The Christmas season is now upon us and my heart is now singing, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”  But my head thought, “really?”  There’s no snow on the ground, many homes are not yet decorated, our Christmas tree just went up in our house, and my dear wife hasn’t started hinting at what she wants for Christmas yet. 
     But what about that first Christmas?  I doubt there was any snow, and no decorated homes.  What you would find is a manger, a pregnant woman and her husband who could not find a place to stay so they stayed outdoors in a manger.  Yes, the smell of a manger, not snow, told the first Christmas story.  But that was their story, not ours.  Your Christmas story, and mine, is not about a manger where the Christ child was first born, but about our hearts, where Christ makes all things new. 
     So I say, go all out.  Put those lights around the outside of your house, and every time you see lights anywhere, let them remind you of his light that was born into the world’s darkness.  Celebrate the gifts that Santa Clause brings to boys and girls all over the world, and when you do, let it remind you of the gift God gave us when he sent his own Son to be born in a stable to live among us.  Decorate those Christmas trees, one in every room if you can, and when you see each tree, let it remind you that Jesus died on a tree lifted up high to save us from our sins. 

     This Christmas, don’t bah humbug the lights and trees and Santa Clause as if you are somehow above all that as a follower, a true believer of Jesus.  Use those symbols as a way of telling a great story, the greatest story ever told.  Maybe this is the song we need stuck in our heads this Christmas, the one that says … “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere.  Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.”  What a tune! 

Pastor Dennis  


Stop – Look – Listen!

Stop – Look – Listen!
If there are but three words I hope you will remember this Thanksgiving weekend, let them be “Stop” … “Look” … “Listen.” If you’re like me in any way, my tendency is to remember these three words … “Turkey” … “Football” … “Black Friday.” Okay, that’s four words, but who besides you is counting? Whatever! Truth is these three words of “stop” and “look” and “listen” are more than just words to drive by on Black Friday. Think again!!
It’s important to take this weekend to just
  • stop what we’re doing,
  • look at what God is doing, and
  • listen for the Holy Spirit.
The Rev. Rosanna Anderson, the Associate Pastor of Stewardship Ministries for Discipleship Ministries in the United Methodist Church gave me a most intriguing idea for my Thanksgiving dinner when she wrote about gratitude in the Interpreter magazine where she said, “I think a life of gratitude can be nurtured when we share conversations around the dinner table. We’re on the lookout for where the Holy Spirit has been working in our lives. Instead of focusing on the negatives and frustrations, we can search out the times that were good.”
Marvelous! What if my wife and I did that during our meal on Thanksgiving Day? Imagine what we’d learn about God? Are you game? Why don’t you try Rosanna’s idea this weekend and let God speak. It’s can be amazing what we might see when we stop and look and listen. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Pastor Dennis

Are you a Christian? Why?

 November 14, 2017

Are you a Christian? Why?

Has anyone ever asked you that question? The first time I ever had this question put to me was when I was in seminary in the early 1980’s. I was working a part time job at a children’s shoe store called, Jeff’s Stride Rite, in Fayette Mall. The job helped to pay the bills. I worked at the store with several students from a nearby university. One night, when it was a really slow night at the store, the university student I was working with that night asked me why I was a Christian.
I confess that the question caught me off guard. I know it really shouldn’t have, but it did.


Saying “No!” to a Culture of Violence

November 7th, 2017
     26 dead in church shooting:
that was the headline in the Johnson City Press on Monday, Nov. 6. Think about it … over the past number of years we’ve had shootings take place in high schools … elementary and middle schools … in malls where people shop … at Walmart … in movie theatres … at outdoor concerts … in workplaces … and in churches, just to name a few places. It seems there isn’t an institution left that is completely safe from this insanity.
     I worry that we have created a culture of violence