Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Do You Do With Your Old Christmas Cards?

We are blessed to receive Christmas cards during the Christmas season. Some have the enclosed letter that tells the tale of annual family events. I love reading those. I have to admit I am never that adventurous to put our story together like that. Others are just lovely cards with Christmas scenes, Bible verses or good wishes. I grew up in a home where my mother never threw cards away. She kept them and would occasionally look back through them. She also read cook books like they were novels…but that is a different story. So what do you do with your Christmas cards? I want to make two suggestions.

First, before you decide to discard them (see what I did there…dis-card?), let’s make them into a New Year prayer list. Perhaps you could set aside a time to go through each card and pray for the sender and family. There are many great prayers in the Bible that you could pray for them or just pray your own blessing upon them. How cool! Someone praying for them possible separated by time and distance but not separated by love and care. So, your Christmas cards can become a prayer list.

Second, let’s make a mission project out of them. Mark Livengood takes Christmas cards with him on his trips to Ukraine. He uses them as a witnessing tool and the kids love them. What a great way to tell the Christmas story…in the middle of the year. So, just put them in a grocery bag and bring them with you to worship this Sunday. You can drop them in the box outside the office door or just find Mark. Talk about the ultimate recycling! I hope you will consider making this a final wrap up of Christmas.

By the way, another thanks to Susan and her team for organizing the Christmas gifts. Kind of/sort of the final numbers are:
  • Florence Crittenton Home - 84 pop up hampers
  • Lowcountry Orphan Relief - 170 pairs of pajamas and 10 slippers
  • Lowcountry Pregnancy Center - 3,661 diapers and 134 packages of wipes
  • James Island Outreach - 230 jars of jelly
Thank you for your generous giving and your faithful living.


Pastor Tom

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


If you are going to pick a fight, why choose a giant. It would be easier to choose an opponent not so big, right? David did not have the option of fighting Goliath. That was the giant in front of him and that was the giant facing the people of God. Imagine how the story would look if David faced multiple giants not just Goliath. That is the visual I have when I think of the ministry of JIBC. We have taken on some of the largest giants in our community. Truthfully, it would be easier not to.

One of the largest and most imposing giants in Charleston County is addiction. The Surgeon General has said that 1 in 7 Americans have an addiction. In Charleston County that means 50,000 people have addictions. Again, the Surgeon General said only 10% of those will seek any treatment. Think about that for a moment. The number of people suffering from addiction is just about the same as the number of people who live on James Island. One American dies every 19 minutes from opioid or heroin overdose. There are more people addicted (21 Million) than those who have all types of cancer combined. There were 54,000 drug overdose deaths in 2015. That is almost as many Americans killed in the entire Vietnam war. This is a war with a giant enemy we must fight even if it would be easier not to.

Celebrate Recovery and the Recovery-Transition House are like David taking on Goliath. JIBC is like David taking on Goliath. It would be easier not to and certainly many, like David’s brothers, would counsel us not to. But we have the answer, we know the Higher Power by Name and we have experienced the life changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. Nobody was placing a bet on little David but they did let him go out and try. I love that about JIBC…you are not afraid to try. “Goliath is too big to hit” his brothers cautioned. “He is too big to miss…throw the rock and trust God” was David’s commitment. Truly, this problem is too big for us. The good news is we do not come in the name of JIBC or Tom Brown or Celebrate Recovery. We come and trust in the Name of the Lord our God. Until He tells me otherwise, it’s on. Not everyone who has cancer has a favorable outcome…yet we encourage them to trust God and seek treatment. Not many who battle with addiction are successful at first…or second…or third. When they are ready…we know The Way, The Truth and The Life who will help them.

See you Sunday, Good Lord willing,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


The word “advent” means coming. It is used by churches around the world to celebrate the four Sundays before Christmas…the Advent season. My goal is to assist our church family in the desire to keep Christ as the central part of the Christmas season. It is very easy to get overwhelmed with the magnitude of the world’s celebration of Christmas. Some stores start before Halloween to make sure they take full advantage of the Christmas spending splurge. Ok, all that aside, it is my goal to lead our church family to keep focused on the reason for the season.

We start with worship. As always, our worship is centered on God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We include the beautiful seasonal songs that celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. It is a story worth remembering and celebrating. The Word of God has been the focus of our sermon series: Advent: The Whole Story. We will finish the series on Christmas Eve as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper and baptism! The birth of the babe in Bethlehem resulted in our rebirth! From the Cradle to the Cross until He returns, we see the whole story of the advent of Christ. To God be the glory.

The third part of keeping Christ in Christmas is the outward focus of our mission effort. So far, you have given 113 packs of diapers (3,427 individual diapers!) for the Lowcountry Pregnancy Center; 76 pop up hampers for the Florence Crittenton Home for unwed mothers; 196 jars of jelly for James Island Outreach (that represents sending love to 196 families); and 128 pairs of pajamas and 10 pairs of slippers for the Lowcountry Orphan Relief. That is Christmas at its finest! Thank you for being so willing to give love to our community. This is a better place to live because you reach out!

See you Christmas Sunday, good Lord willing.

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Have you looked at your calendar lately?
I don’t mean the picture of the Kittens…I mean the dates? This is one of those years where Christmas Eve, Saturday December 24 and Christmas Day, Sunday December 25 present an interesting challenge!

Christmas Eve, Saturday night, not a problem…we got it. It often surprises people to know our Christmas Eve service is often our largest attended service of the year. Sometimes it is even larger than our packed Easter Sunday. No wonder, it is traditionally a lovely service of Christmas Carols, Communion and Candlelight. We read the Christmas stories and sing some of our favorite Christmas hymns and usually we celebrate a baptism by candlelight. This year we have three scheduled to be baptized. We do have a lot more seats available since our Chinese Church outgrew our facilities and Luz Y Verdad have grown to being able to have their own services. Of course they are all welcomed to come back…but isn’t it great they are doing so well?

Christmas Day is on Sunday. I mean what could be more appropriate than celebrating Christmas on a Sunday? But is does present a challenge. I suspect that many churches will just not have Sunday worship services. We have decided that we will meet for Christmas Sunday worship at 11:00. We will not have our Sunday morning Connection Groups that meet at 9:45. We are hoping this gives everyone time to enjoy a relaxed Christmas morning and still make it to Christmas Sunday Worship at 11:00. We will start at 11 and end at 12…he says with all the faith in the world. There will be a special children’s time during the service, we will sing great Christmas hymns and have a few special treats!

Back to back worship services will be a little different for us…but it will be inspiring. What a great way to set the pace for your Christmas Celebration. It will be a little different, but different is not always bad…it’s just different.

Join us Wednesday, December 21 for our Annual Evening of Christmas Caroling. It is always fun!

See you Sunday, good Lord willing.

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Excuse me for sounding like a broken record, but I love Christmas time. It is a great time, not the only time, but a great time for the followers of Jesus to stand strong about the reason for the season. It is very easy to drift into a secular mind-set about Santa and the consumerism mentality of Christmas. So, as we say on so many occasions: anyone can curse the darkness, let’s light a candle! In this case, it is a Christmas candle or an Advent candle so to speak.

The entire reason for the Advent emphasis at JIBC is to call our attention to the stronger messages of Christmas. Let’s focus on Christ coming and the reason; let’s renew our emphasis on worship and Bible Study; let’s ride the wave of Christmas cheer and reach out to help those in need; let’s sing songs of faith and songs of joy! Sorry, you are not going to get a bah humbug from me. I love Christmas. I love Christmas joy, songs, charity, lights, Advent, musicals…I love the Christmas time. As I have said, about the only thing I don’t like about Christmas is seeing people go in debt to buy what they cannot afford or to bust a budget that is already strained. There are a lot of ways to show some Christmas love that does not cost you a penny! OK, one other thing I don’t like about Christmas…those who take it upon themselves to be an unofficially elected Grinch. The song lyrics go like this: “Every party has a pooper that’s why I invited you!” Why invite the Grinch…unless he needs Jesus and the joy of Jesus in his heart! OK, I even like inviting the Grinch!

So why don’t we do this all year long? WE DO. We worship the Prince of Peace all year long; we do acts of kindness and charity all year long; we give to support missions all year long! That is one of the things I love most about JIBC…you are the hands and feet of Jesus all year long. You don’t just come to church, you are the church. You take the salt out of the shaker, the believers out of the building, all year long. You go to the homeless; feed the widows; bless the orphans; support cross cultural ministry; send out workers into the high schools; serve the poor; heal the sick; etc, etc. YOU DO THIS ALL YEAR LONG! I love His church known as James Island Baptist.

No bah humbug from me. If you can, bring a jar of jelly, a pair of p.j.s, some diapers or a pop up hamper to show a little love to our community.

Pastor Tom

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


One of the parts of Christmas I love the most is giving. Of course I love giving gifts to the children. I particularly love giving a gift that is just perfect…a gift they have wanted and hoped for. The practical side of me hopes they ask for tennis shoes or jeans but I understand monster trucks and ball equipment too. I love hearing the stories of those who still remember when Christmas gifts were nuts and fruit. A reminder of how far we have come and how blessed we truly are.

I also love the idea of our Advent “Giving On Purpose” emphasis. We are loving our community in ways that are practical, giving gifts that they have actually asked for. How cool is that? God so loved the world that He gave…we so loved the community that we gave! Susan Warren has provided us with four great opportunities to love our community. First, the pop up baskets for The Florence Crittenton Home. These are young girls from 10 to 22 who are pregnant and cannot stay at home. We have a group that occasionally goes to love on these girls. Second, The Lowcountry Orphan Relief ministry has asked for pajamas. These pj’s are for kids that have to be removed from their homes and often have nothing of their own as they start their new journey. Talk about true religion. You can volunteer to go and help pack these emergency kits. Susan will help get you connected. The third group we are loving is our friends at The Lowcountry Pregnancy Center. They have asked for baby wipes and diapers. Oh my, have you bought diapers lately? A pack of diapers represents a whole lot of love. The fourth group is our very own James Island Outreach. What do they want? JELLY, JELLY, JELLY. Look for the BOGO deals. Nobody on James Island goes to bed hungry unless we don’t know about them. By the way, like Christmas music? You can buy a Christmas CD for $10 featuring local musicians, including the Mayor of Charleston!

I am so happy to have a church family that gives generously. Would you like to make my joy complete this Christmas? Let’s give Susan so many volunteers to deliver these Christmas gifts that she cannot schedule us all. Hands on love, delivering gifts of love, because of God’s love. I love Christmas! I love giving to Lottie Moon International Missions and Salvation Army and….

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


I am so grateful for our talented volunteers who decorate the worship center for Christmas. I am four days from being in full Christmas mode! As I said last week, I try really hard not to get all Christmassy until after Thanksgiving. But come this Friday, November 25, my grandson, Noah, will join me in our official Christmas season kickoff…decorating the tree. It is a tradition that I love. By Saturday’s Clemson/Carolina game, the house will be decorated, Christmas songs will be the norm and presents will begin finding their way under the tree. I love Christmas and I love the Christmas season. I prefer for it not to start before Halloween…but I still love Christmas.

What is there about Christmas that I love so much? First, I am blessed by the story and meaning of the coming, the advent, of our Lord and Savior. Whether you celebrate His birthday or just the idea that God became flesh…I love it. Second, I love Christmas music. The only Christmas CD I have ever bought that I did not like was Destiny’s Child. I thought it had to be great if Beyonce was on it…WRONG. I love old the old crooners and the new contemporary singers; I love Manheim Steamrollers and the Trans Siberian Orchestra; I like 102.5 and my growing collection of CD’s; I love Christmas hymns and I love hearing it in the malls. Third, I love the charity of Christmas. I love giving to missions and missionaries; I love giving gifts to children and grandchildren; I love dropping money into the Salvation Army Bell Ringers Kettle. I love people who give money to help single moms and struggling families. I love a trickle down economy that gives a boost to so many. And last for today’s list, I love the lights. I love tree lights, James Island County park lights, the lights of those wonderful people who go nuts and decorate their whole house and yard lights. Thank you.

Maybe the only thing I don’t like about Christmas…if anyone goes into debt or unwisely strains their budget to buy Christmas gifts. I hate the old days when we would be tempted to use credit to buy something that would take longer to pay for than the gift would last. Please be careful. Be a good manager of your money. Be creative and be joyful. But don’t go into debt or bust your budget.

See you, good Lord willing, this Sunday as we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent, the coming of our Lord.

Pastor Tom