Monthly Archives: December 2018

If Christmas Comes!

Dear Church Family and Friends,

Well, the calendar says that Christmas will be here this Tuesday.

I get a little uptight this time of the year because I realize the responsibility that is mine in presenting the Christmas message, and ordering church services trying to get people to think about God loving us so much that He would come into our world, become a part of our lives, & die on the cross for us.

This Pastor’s Pen I am calling, “If Christmas Comes.” That naturally prompts the question, “Do you mean that it is possible for Christmas not to come?”

Yes, it is possible, for even with all the activities of the season, too often & for too many, when Christmas is over we’re not any different than we were before. Because, you see, when Christmas really comes, it changes us – it makes a difference in our life.

So, every year, for millions of people, Christmas never really comes. Oh, I’m not saying that Dec. 25th doesn’t come. It comes, but Christmas doesn’t really come into their hearts & their lives.

My prayer is that somehow, this Christmas, God’s Spirit will come upon us & change us, & Christmas will really happen. With that in mind, I have noted some things I want to share with you as we celebrate this Christmas season.

The Christmas season has come. Christmas decorations went up, Santa Claus started making his appearance at the malls, & newspapers nearly doubled in size because of all the advertisements they contained.

In fact, it seems that more attention is being given to the shopping habits of Americans on the day after Thanksgiving – we now call it “Black Friday” – than ever before. Both on TV & in our newspapers there were pictures of crowded malls, & people shopping.

And during this season, we’re encouraged to buy things we can’t afford, with money we don’t have, to give to people we’re not even sure we like. The commercial side of Christmas has really arrived.

The social side of Christmas has begun, too. It’s a festive time, a time for dressing up, going to parties, & enjoying ourselves with family & friends.

And as the Day approaches, many will travel, finding a way to get over the river & through the woods to grandmother’s house. And for those who can’t get there physically, we’ll be there in our dreams.

Did you hear about the man in Salt Lake City who decided to send out 600 Christmas cards to total strangers?

He got telephone directories from several cities, addressed 600 cards to people he had never met, put his return address on the envelopes, & mailed them.
Amazingly, he received 117 responses from total strangers. One lady wrote, “It was so good to hear from you. Your card arrived the day I got home from the hospital, & I can’t tell you what an encouragement it was to hear from an old friend.”
Another wrote, “I have to admit that when we received your card we couldn’t really picture you. We had to think hard for a long time before we remembered. By the way, please give our regards to your father. He is such a wonderful man!”
But I think this one took the cake. One guy wrote, “It was so good to hear from you after all these years. By the way, we’re going to be in Salt Lake City next summer. Would it be all right if we came & spent a few days with you?”

You need to be careful who you send Christmas cards to, don’t you?

The Christmas season has arrived in the church, too. We see the beautiful decorations, & lift our voices in song & special services celebrating the “Reason for the Season.”

But will Christmas really come? Oh, the earth will make its 359th revolution of the year & Dec. 25th will come right on schedule. But will Christmas really come? That’s the question, for there are several things that have to happen before Christmas really does come in our hearts & in our lives.

Looking at Galatians 4:19, I realize this verse is not usually considered a Christmas verse, but listen to what Paul says, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…”

We often talk about being “born again” when we become a Christian. But may I suggest that Christmas is also a good time to remind us of our need for Jesus to be born again in our lives, our families, & our relationships.

That is what Paul is praying for, that somehow in a wonderful way Christ will be formed inside the hearts & lives of each of us.

We sing about it in our songs.
“O holy child of Bethlehem, descend on us, we pray.
Cast out our sins & enter in. Be born in us today.”

And another beautiful song mentions some of the names of Jesus: He is also called “Emmanuel, God with us!”

We have adapted fairly well to our environment. We have learned how to clean the air we breathe, purify the water we drink, & enrich the food we eat.

We’ve adapted ourselves to technology, too. We’ve learned how to program our computers, operate our smart phones, & figure out the GPS system. Over all, we have adapted pretty well to our modern world.

But we have not learned how to get along with each other. Even though more than 2000 years have passed by since that first Christmas, & even though we are reminded every year of the angel’s message, “Peace on earth…” we still haven’t learned to live in peace with each other.

So our greatest need this Christmas is to have Jesus formed in us, to live with us, to show us how to accept & forgive each other, how to get rid of the tensions that divide us, & how to overcome our fear & prejudice.

Let me raise another question, “How will Christmas come?” When you read the Christmas accounts in Matthew & Luke, you read about Mary & Joseph making their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. You read about crowds, & people who have come to pay their taxes.

Luke takes us through the whole story of shepherds & angels, of Jesus being born, & then being wrapped in swaddling clothes & placed in a manger.

Then he adds something we could easily miss. And I think he adds it because he knows someone will ask, “Why was he born in a stable?” Almost as an afterthought, Luke says, “Because there was no room in the inn.”

There it is, & it bothers us. Luke doesn’t condemn the innkeeper. He doesn’t even comment about him. He doesn’t say, “He was bad,” or “He was good.” He doesn’t say, “He was right,” or “He was wrong.”

But forever this crowded inn that shut out Jesus stands as a symbol of crowded, cluttered lives that still have no room for Him. It’s not that we’re bad people, it’s just that we’re busy people, & our schedules are so full.

But if you don’t have time for Him, then your schedules are just too cluttered. You need to allot some quiet time to be still & to acknowledge that He is God.

Then I think something else must happen before Christmas really comes, & that is that we must desire Him to come – to come into our lives.

There is a part of me that wants Him to come. I want His blessings, but I’m not sure I want His cross. I want His forgiveness, but not His judgment.

I want His salvation, but I’m not sure I want to serve. I want a Savior, but I’m not sure I want a Lord to direct what I do.
Yet, as I read the Bible, I’m convinced that the one thing Jesus teaches over & over again is that we must make His kingdom our top priority.

There are a couple of short parables that Jesus tells that teach us that. These two parables take up just a little portion of the New Testament. But they speak volumes.

Jesus tells about a pearl merchant who has looked all his life for the perfect pearl. He has gone from marketplace to marketplace, from city to city.

He has accumulated some wealth in the process. He has a bag of precious pearls, & other valuables that he has collected. But he keeps looking for the perfect pearl.
Finally, one day there it is right before his eyes, & within his reach this wonderful, fabulous, perfect pearl. So he approaches the merchant, trying to act uninterested & asks, “How much?”

The merchant says, “It will cost everything you have.” Well, he tries to bargain with the merchant. “How about this much?” or “How about that much?”

But the merchant never comes off his price. “It will take everything you have.” Finally, all his other precious pearls, & all his wealth, are placed on the counter, & he walks away with this one wonderful pearl.

People, I think Christmas will never really be Christmas for us as long as we have just a casual desire for entering the kingdom of God.

Jesus said, “Everything! Everything you are. Even your life must focus on this one great treasure, the kingdom of God.”

Finally, if Christmas is really going to be Christmas for us, then I think we must approach Christmas with a feeling of humility.

I grew up on a farm. In the wintertime during the coldest months we kept the animals inside the barn.

Early in the morning Papaw would go out to the barn & milk the cows. If you went with him, you would have to wear galoshes or boots because of the manure. I can still remember smelling the stench & seeing the steam rising off the floor.

And when I think about him & the farm, I remember that old barn, & I smell the smells & see the sights once again.

Then I think of Bethlehem & that stable, & those animals. That stable must have smelled a whole lot like my uncle’s barn. I see Mary & Joseph entering that stable, & inside her womb is God in the flesh. And I marvel that God would come down that far & sacrifice that much to enter our world.

Yet, it was for a reason. God was stripping everything away & saying, “Now there is nothing that stands between us. There’s no place for arrogance or pride. You can’t come here if you’re looking down your nose at someone else.”

And through the doors of that stable come cows & sheep & livestock, & Mary & Joseph, & each of us. We come to worship Him, God born in the flesh.
Without anything to brag about we come humbly before Him & say, “Here am I Lord, use me.”

I think that is what it will take for Christmas really to come. It will take some broken hearts & broken wills for Christ to be born again in us.

If you’re not a Christian, please realize that there is nothing that stands between you & God except yourself.

God has done everything to make it possible for you to be freed from your sin. God has done everything to make it possible for you to spend eternity with Him. And right now I extend His invitation & pray that you will respond by allowing Christmas to truly come and allow Christ to be reborn in your life if He has been pushed aside. May the Spirit of Christmas Be Reborn In All Our Lives This Christmas!

Until next week, Love and prayers,
And A Very Merry Christmas!
Pastor Rick Signature
Church Phone: 423-272-7676
Church Email:
Let us know if you have questions or if you made a decision for Christ.

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Love, The Motive of Christmas!



Dear Church Family and Friends,

I learned in Christian College that John’s Gospel does not contain the Christmas story. I beg to differ. I think the Gospel of John contains the Christmas story in a nutshell and clearly gives the motive of Christmas. John 3:16 (KJV) 16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. You see the motive of Christmas is love, God’s love for a fallen world.

Love came down at Christmas;

Love all lovely, love divine;

Love was born at Christmas,

Stars and angels gave the sign.

—Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830–1894)

I have always thought of Christmas time, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem to open their hearts freely, and to think of other people as if they really were fellow passengers through life, and not another creature bound on some other path of life to some other destination.

Christmas is best enjoyed when it isn’t centered on decorations, gifts, or festivities, but when love is at its core. Love is the motive for Christmas. Christmas should mean taking quality time with your family and friends. It’s about cherishing and celebrating the love you share.

Christmas is a time to renew bonds of love. It’s a wonderful time when loved ones can show appreciation for each other. It’s also a great time to use that love to build bridges of understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness.

Christmas is a time to see the world through the eyes of love. It’s a time to remember that the world is made up of people like us and to see them for who they are inside. All have problems like we do, no matter who they are or where they come from. And we all need love. We need to love each other.

A couple of years ago on America’s Funniest Home Videos, a young boy was shown on Christmas morning. He came down to see a large present beside the tree and ran over to tear it open to see what was inside. The paper went flying and suddenly he broke into a dance and jumped around the room saying, “Wow Just what I wanted I really love it. Wow ” After awhile he went over to look at it again and said with a puzzled look on his face, “What is it?”

On that first Christmas the angels announced the birth of a new child. The heavens were opened and all the company of heaven broke into praise. Shepherds went racing to Bethlehem to see what it was all about. And for two thousand years we have been jumping up and down saying, “Just what I wanted! Exactly what I needed!”

But in the next breath we look again inside the stable and ask, “What is it?” We are puzzled by God’s gift.

Jesus mirrored God’s emotions over his lost children as he wept over Jerusalem. Luke tells us Jesus longed and wept for His people, crying out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem.”

The Christmas story is not as cute as it is profound. A child born to die. A child destined for suffering, abuse and misunderstanding. A child whose life was in danger shortly after his birth. It is a story of a God who gave until it hurt — until He had nothing left to give. Why? Because God loves this world even though we are unloveable.

It’s amazing to realize that God knew what would happen and was still willing to place His Son at the mercy of our inhumanity. God realized there would be multitudes in every generation who would not believe or even care, and yet He was still willing to send His Son. And if you were the only one in all the world who would receive His gift, He would still have come just for you. It was an act of mercy which our hearts, minds and spirits have difficulty understanding.

Christ gave up his position and place in glory, so we could have Christmas. It began in a dirty manger and ended on a dirty wooden cross. He was born in a borrowed stable and was buried in a borrowed tomb. God became a refugee in the midst of his own creation.

God had a plan in mind. It was not a last minute plan which God hurriedly put in place because it looked as though things were going badly. From the very beginning God knew what He was doing. And it was all motivated by love!

Every day is like Christmas for us because Jesus is so good to us every day, but this time of year is extra special because He pours out His love in extra measure. We feel His love from loved ones, acquaintances, and even strangers. There’s just something about Jesus’ birthday that turns people’s hearts and minds to peace and love and goodwill. It brings out the best in everyone because it brings Jesus out, and He’s the best!

Until next week, Love and prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

Church Phone: 423-272-7676

Church Email:


Let us know if you have questions or if you made a decision for Christ.

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Looking For Peace This Christmas!


ThePastorsPenDear Church Family and Friends,

There is an elusive emotional and spiritual commodity most of us seek for in life. It is called Peace! Let me share this story…
Lucinda Norman writes of her experience Christmas shopping at the mall. People had been pushing, elbowing and cutting in front of her all day. During a 10 minute extra 10% off special, one woman grabbed a lace table cloth from her hands, looked her in the eye and said, “Mine!” She yanked it back and won. By 4 pm her mood was belligerent. She met some friends at a mall restaurant and flagged down a server. She barked, “I need a hot tea now!” The waitress snapped back, “I’m not your server. Wait your turn.” Lucinda responded, “Lady, I’ve been waiting my turn all day. Bring me some tea!” But the waitress ignored her. A few moments later, a friend young man came to their tables and said, “I’m Rob, your waiter.” After he took their order, Lucinda watched Rob as he helped the rude waitress with her tray. He greeted the other customers and staff with a smile on his face. In the midst of all of the hurried customers and chaos of the season, he had a polite and unhurried atmosphere of calm. When he refilled her tea, Lucinda noticed a silver ring on his hand made of connected letters spelling Jesus. And then she writes, “From that moment, my attitude changed. This young man’s example had reminded me of the peace that Christ came to bring.” And for the rest of the day, Lucinda enjoyed shopping, opened doors for other and let others in front of her in the checkout line, all in an atmosphere of peace.

What is it about you that would cause others to see you as a worker or maker of peace. Jesus pronounces a blessing for peacemakers in His sermon on the Mount. Our lives should not and will not be marked or characterized as one who creates hurt, anger, gossip, backbiting, or talebearing as children of God.

How do we go about discovering this peace?

This question was once asked, “If you could choose what you want most in life, what would you ask for?” The most common answer was “Peace.”

People want peace in their marriages, families, workplaces, country and world. Our country has some of the best medical and psychological treatment centers, highest educational institutions and worldwide communication abilities. Yet with all of these things, most people are yet without true inner peach. The results are devastating… broken marriages, split families, hatred, rebellion, financial anxiety, a country unsettled.
The world will offer you peace through many forms of escapism… drugs, alcohol, immoral relationships, and constant entertainment. It is sought through all forms of pleasure, self-satisfaction and positive thinking. Many believe that peace is defined as the absence of trouble. They refuse to face the problems in their lives believing that this is finding peace. The world, however, has never held the answer to true peace.
You can choose to have true peace. True peace comes not from man but from God. This peace is the fruit of the Holy Spirit spoken of in Galatians 5:22.

This peace means to be in harmony with God, to be bound, joined and woven together with God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. It also means to be assured of, confident of and secure in the love and care of God. There is a consciousness and a sure trust God will provide, guide, strengthen, sustain, encourage, deliver and save completely those who seek Him with all their hearts. This supernatural peace must come first and foremost from receiving Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord. Second, it comes from a knowledge of and a love for God’s Word.

The Apostle Paul knew this peace. He suffered greatly because of his love for the Lord, love for God’s truth and because of his commitment to the commission given to him by Jesus Christ. Yet in all this, his heart was kept in perfect peace.

He had been imprisoned, stoned, left for dead and scourged by the Romans, and yet he said in Romans 8: 28, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Note the conditions of knowing God’s peace: 1.) You must love God, and 2.) You must be called according to His purpose, which means fitting into His plan and into His perfect will for you so you can be “… conformed to the likeness of His Son.” (Romans 8: 29)

Most reject God’s peace because they surrender to their own selfishness and their lust for the pleasures of this world. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you.” A legacy of inner peace is offered to all who know Jesus Christ, regardless of their circumstances.

In these days of uncertainty and distress, will you receive Jesus Christ into your life? He is the Giver of eternal life and the Prince of Peace! Then share Him with someone this Christmas Season and throughout the year.

Until next week, Love and prayers,
Pastor Rick Signature
Church Phone: 423-272-7676
Church Email:
Let us know if you have questions or if you made a decision for Christ.

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Are you part of the Inn Crowd or one of the Stable Few?


ThePastorsPenDear Church Family and Friends,
And in the blink of an eye, Thanksgiving has come and gone. Amazing right? It feels like just yesterday when we were dreaming of elaborate feasts with family and friends. Similarly, Christmas will be here soon enough and our time anticipating and leading up to celebrating Jesus’ birth will have come and gone.
You don’t need me to tell you that the Christmas season is one of busyness. We all know it. We all experience it. And we all hope to have a more peaceful Christmas this year than we did last year. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the busyness of the season and miss out on what really matters to us. But without acknowledging that this is a tough season or having a plan in place to keep priorities in line, then we are destined to be caught up with the demands of the season and find ourselves sacrificing the very things we love in order to keep up. If we feel this way, then we can safely assume that others feel the same way.
On a particular occasion, a professor was speaking to a group of his business students about time management. In order to drive home a point, he used the following illustration.
He pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, ”Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, ”Yes.” Then he said, ”Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, ”Is the jar full?” By this time the class was catching on. ”Probably not,” one of them answered. ”Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, ”Is this jar full?” ”No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, ”Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, ”What is the point of this illustration?” A student raised his hand and said, ”The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!” ”No,” the speaker replied, ”That’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all. We are talking about priorities – things that are to be placed in order of importance.”
So, here is my point. IF we don’t focus first and foremost on the most important things this Christmas, we will find ourselves like the inn keeper of the Bible, with no room.
With all that was going on in Bethlehem, and the influx of people no wonder space or room was in short supply. And the same holds true today. With family, friends and even church activities coming into our calendars at breakneck speed, if we are not careful we will find ourselves so tire, covered up with activities, hustle, bustle and frustration that we will have no room for the real reason of the season.
I find it interesting that there were very few in the stable that night. Some who were made aware of the events of that night, stopped what they were doing. Realized something of much greater significance was happening, were willing to travel some distance, and even brought special gifts of time and heart to worship a new born babe. The Inn and the city had it’s crowd, but the stable had it’s few who recognized the real meaning and significance of the events that night.
Thanksgiving is behind us and the busy Christmas season looms before us. I pray we won’t miss “it!” The holiday busyness can make us bone tired and we know too well how fatigue makes cowards of us all. I hope we will sit down and make a conscious decision to not miss the true meaning of this holy season—the birth of our Savior.
Even as I write, I sense His sweet presence asking me if I will make room in my busy schedule for Him this Christmas. (I am a pastor. If I am not careful, the busyness of ministry can creep in and cause me to miss “it.”) Will I be in tune with His Spirit and what God is doing on planet earth or will I miss “it?”
The call is going forth from Heaven this Christmas. “Will you make room in your heart for Me?”
The choice is ours. Will we be part of the “inn” crowd or one of the “stable” few?
Bible Quest

BibleQuestLast week, November 25th’s Pastor’s Pen had the last of the Bible Quest for 2018. This is to give time for you to complete your questions, find any you may have missed, and turn them in, so that I can check them. If you have missed some of the questions and wish to try and get them before time runs out, please text me at 423-754-0750 and I will send you the questions you need. Remember, there is a $100 gift card to the one with the most answered correctly. Final day to turn in questions, answers and scripture reference for answer is Sunday Dec. 16th. The gift card will be presented on Sunday Dec. 23rd. Just so you know, There were 160 questions this year.
Until next week, Love and prayers,
Pastor Rick Signature
Church Phone: 423-272-7676
Church Email:
Let us know if you have questions or if you made a decision for Christ.

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