Pastor Steven’s Message

       My dad and I had planned to build our own little kingdom someday so that we
could spend time together and run our model trains together just as we did when I
was a boy. So, we collected model kits of bridges and tunnels and buildings with every
intention of actually building something that would enable us to come together regularly
as father and son. As time went on and life happened, my brother Michael was killed,
I joined the Marines, and mom and dad moved to Beaumont, and our plans faded into
just another thing we never got around to doing. We stored all those things in boxes
and we never got around to building our little kingdom. My dad’s been gone for almost
20 years now.

       Last year as the Christmas season approached, I began to get this twinge of
melancholy; this nagging feeling of something left undone, something left unsaid,
something left unspoken. One morning, as I was having coffee while poking around in
old boxes in the garage - thinking we may need to have a garage sale soon to move
some of this junk out of our garage to somebody else’s garage - I came across an old
Märklin train catalogue in a trunk with some old Märklin railroad track, and a familiar
feeling of peace and contentment came over me, and I heard something from the
deepest part of my memories that I hadn’t heard in a very long time… it was my dad’
s laughter.

       As Christmas was nearly upon us, I couldn’t get the sound of dad’s laughter
out of my head and I knew that somehow there was a connection between my sense of
melancholy, and the old train catalogue, and my dad… So for several nights after
finding the train stuff in the old trunk in the garage, as Angela and I settled in for
the evening, I would be online on my iPad looking at Märklin train sets. Angela would
glance over at what I was looking at so intently, and then she would look at me with
that look she gives me when she thinks I’ve lost my marbles (a look that is happening
more and more frequently these days), but she also acknowledged that sometimes I’m
just a twelve-year-old boy anyway, so she ordered a train set and gave me a card
with a picture of it under the tree because it couldn’t possibly make it by Christmas
Day. It was a marvelous gift that she gave me last year… it looked like a trainset,
but in reality it was an opportunity to reconnect with my dad and to finish something
that was important to absolutely no one else but me and Dad.

       And so this past year, a little here and a little there, I have been building our
little kingdom in my garage. In my little kingdom, there are mountains and valleys and
rivers and streams, and there are people too, who drive little cars and operate
trains, of course, and live in houses and work at industries and there are villages and
shops and towns and churches in the towns and everyone there goes to church on
Sunday and the laughter never fades away into memory because life never gets in the
way, and death and separation never happens - not in my little kingdom. My little
kingdom is a kingdom of restoration, of reconciliation, of second chances, of hope and
peace and love and it is made that way by the power of the king who reigns supreme
with righteousness and justice and holiness. I am thankful for the kingdom and what
it has restored in me...

                       Paul is Thankful for the Kingdom

       In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul is writing to the
church in Ephesus and he is expressing thanks for the kingdom in which the church at
Ephesus has chosen to abide. And so he prays a prayer of thanksgiving for, yes, the
church at Ephesus, but also the church at Countryside… he writes,
“15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,
and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in
my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that,
with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he
has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19
and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to
the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he
raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21
far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is
named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things
under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is
his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

       Paul tells us here about the power of God in the kingdom of God - the power
and energy that comes from Christ, that comes from God the Father through Christ
the King -  God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in
charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and
no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in
charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ
rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is
peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts,
by which he fills everything with his presence.

       The church, the body of Christ, and this community of faith we call
Countryside is at the center of the kingdom of God and believe it or not, as the
church we are central to Christ’s rule of his kingdom - we are not on the sidelines,
we are on the frontlines and we need to rise up and embrace that authority and
responsibility that we have been given so that his kingdom will be established on the
earth just as it is in heaven. That’s why we have got to make participation in this
community of faith and its missional purpose on the earth to make disciples for Jesus
Christ for the transformation of the world the highest priority in our lives… there is
nothing, and I mean nothing, more important than that sending of God to accomplish
His purposes in the world so that all may be saved that will be saved.

       Building His kingdom here is very much like my building my own little garage
kingdom in that it is an opportunity to reconcile, to redeem, to reconnect so that we
may experience wholeness again, so that we can experience peace again, so that we
can experience love and joy and healing again the way it was always meant to be
before things happened, before brokenness happened, before war and death
happened, before separation happened… before all of the hopes and dreams of the
world got stuffed away into boxes and hidden away from the light and life that was
their intended purpose in Christ the King…

       We were meant for more than broken dreams and missed opportunities and
Paul prays for us to realize that today. I pray that we realize that today as Advent
approaches. That’s my hope for our little kingdom together.

By His Grace,

   Pastor Steven †

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Splendora, Texas 77372
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