Being Human in the Year of the Lord

So….as we count time, another year comes to a close. We actually have Sunday worship on the last day of 2017. New Year’s Eve! As much “new” as we might hope for, there will be plenty of the “old” to take with us into 2018! Some good, some not so good. Some a blessing, some more like a burden to bear (and both to be shared by the brothers and sisters in the faith). However, to God, who is eternal, the message(s) will be both the same yet ever fresh full of hope! God’s word is for all times in all places for all peoples.

In my absence, Bro Rob Dunbar will bring the message at Kedron and Carol Reynolds, Lay Speaker from Wartrace UMC, will speak at Locks. Our “connectional” churches and life together in the Stones River District make this collegial mutual support possible.

Pray for one another as we enter the opportunities and challenges and surprises of a New Year. May God be in all your “making plans and doing ministry!” Isaiah the prophet calls out for a “year of the Lord’s favor!” May it be so!

Pastor Barry

Tent, Temple, Total Body Workout

2 Samuel 7:1-16, Romans 16:25-27 and Luke 1:26-38.

These Bible verses are all about the mystery of God, immortal, invisible, infinite, wholly Other, Holy.  Yet, this God shows up! With us! In a really nice Garden, wilderness burning bushes, pillars of fire by night, tents, temples, and a young woman Mary!

We know that! I know that! I have prayed to this God in hundreds of common earthly places from mountain to plains, in cars and planes, in hospitals and wedding chapels, in clearest of days and darkest of nights. God is a circle whose circumference is everywhere! God is That which is greater than whatever we can conceive!

Advent and Christmas, in spite of all the visible flash and stir of shops and meals, giving and receiving, is about the Mystery showing up in our regular and irregular lives. A Mystery NOT to be solved like a good murder mystery novel but to exalt in and to enjoy! To be comforted by and to be saved from Sin and Death by.

The Mystery is often celebrated best by seeing and listening and not explaining. There is a place for explaining and teaching but we often learn over a lifetime by just looking around and listening to the sights and sounds of Creation and creatures.

Enjoy the Season of sights and sounds which point toward God the great loving Mystery! God is indeed Everywhere!
Blessings of Christmas to all!

Pastor Barry

The Good News of Christmas

“There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us.” (1 Timothy 2:5 CEV)

Christmas is all about good news. But it’s not the good news of special gifts. It’s not the good news of a big meal. It’s not even the good news of spending time with friends and family.

Christmas is about the Good News of God’s love.

The Bible says all of us are lost without God. We’re directionless. We’re without protection. Our potential eternal impact upon the world is unrealized. We’re without real joy. Our eternity in Heaven isn’t secure.

The Good News about Christmas is that God sent Jesus to seek and save the lost. The Bible says, “There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us” (1 Timothy 2:5 CEV).

If you’ve ever spent time in church, you’ve likely heard the word “salvation” many times. But you may not know what it means. The word is like a diamond; you can look at it from many different angles.

•Jesus came to rescue us. We can’t solve all of our problems on our own. Without Jesus, we’re trapped in the expectations of others. We’re trapped in living for the approval of our peers. We’re trapped in addictions. We’ve tried to change over and over again, but we don’t have the power needed to escape. Jesus came to give us that power.
•Jesus came to recover us. We all long to recover parts of our lives that have been lost. Without Christ, we long to recover our strength, our confidence, our reputation, our innocence, and our relationship with God. Only Jesus can do that.
•Jesus came to reconnect us. Many people think that God will scold them if they come back to him. But God isn’t mad at you. He’s mad about you. Jesus came to Earth on the first Christmas to reconcile us to God, to give us harmony with him again.

Jesus came to Earth to give us the gift of himself. Too many of us celebrate his birthday without accepting this free gift of salvation. It goes unwrapped year after year after year. That’s not smart! You were made by God and for God. Until you understand that, life will never make sense.

This Christmas, open up the most important present you’ve been given: a new relationship with God through Jesus.

May Each of you have a wonderful Christmas!


Rob Dunbar, Chaplain, Maj, TN ANG

The Grinch

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means, ‘God with us’. – Matthew 1:23

Are you a Grinch around Christmastime or do you know a Grinch?

I was reading to my daughter the famous “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and I came across words that made me rethink some things.

Maybe these words of Dr. Seuss sound familiar:

‘Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot…

‘But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville, did NOT!’

‘For, tomorrow, he knew…all the Who girls and boys would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their toys! And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise! That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!’

Now I’m a Who at heart, I love Christmas, but I can certainly relate to the Grinch. Sometimes there’s so much noise at Christmas, you begin to think Christmas is about the noise, and friend, that will make you Grinchy every time! When that happens, remember the Grinch’s wise discovery:

‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store.’

‘Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!’

What does Christmas mean to you? Can you get past all the noise and consider what it meant for Jesus to come to earth as a babe in a manger?

Can you stop from all the buying, running, cleaning, and stress to marvel at God’s love for us.

I hope and pray this Christmas Holiday that you would find true joy and peace in.

May God bless you all,

Chaplain Dunbar

Trust Him

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
– Matthew 1:24

Imagine waking up one morning, and being expected to do something out of the ordinary… something that went against your logical thinking… something that just seemed bizarre.

That is exactly what happened to Joseph. Here was a respectable man, a man who was righteous, and had a good grip on reality. A man who just found out his wife was pregnant, and it wasn’t his child.

Can you imagine? How would you feel if you found out your wife was pregnant, and you knew for a fact it wasn’t your child… wouldn’t it crush you? Wouldn’t it turn your world upside down? Imagine how Joseph felt when he heard this news…

Of course, Joseph, being the respectable and just man that he was, knew that the logical thing was to divorce Mary… In fact, he was even planning it out, so that he could divorce her without causing her public humiliation… (Matthew 1:19)

This doesn’t really sound like the story-book start for a king, let alone for the savior of man. But it does sound similar to the things we face in our lives, doesn’t it? We plan everything out, and we have such a firm grasp on our lives, and then all of a sudden something BIG happens.

Maybe we were planning on that big promotion, only to find out that it was given to someone else. Or maybe struggling with finances, unsure of how you are going to make it… and then you find out your wife is pregnant! Illnesses, Accidents, and other unexpected events quickly turn our world upside down, and leave us lost… looking for a logical way out… Just like Joseph.

And even though Joseph seemed to have it all planned out, God still sent an angel to him, and asked one thing of Joseph. He asked Joseph to trust Him, to believe that Mary being pregnant was God’s plan for them both. He asked Joseph to trust that He would take care of them.

Of course the end of the story is one of the most amazing, and most publicized events in the world today. A story where Joseph not only finds himself trusting God by staying with Mary, but trusting Him when Jesus was born in a stall… in a lowly manger; and even trusting God with the life of his family as they fled to Egypt.

Sometimes things happen, and no matter what we do they only seem to get worse. Just like Joseph, we face one thing after the other… And just like Joseph God asks us one thing… To Trust Him.

He asks us to believe that He will take care of us, and that He will provide for us… that no matter how “weird” or hard things get, He has a plan for us. And if we trust Him, just like Joseph, He will lead us to glory. (Psalm 138:8).

I hope this Christmas Season you will once again put your Trust in God!


Rob Dunbar, Chaplain, Maj, TN ANG

Don’t Miss Christmas This year!

John 3:16 (NIV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”

The Christmas rush is on! I know many of you are frantically searching for that perfect gift for someone special, wrapping presents, baking your famous sugar cookies or fudge, packing the car for a long trip and wrestling with overly excited children. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Right now – right where you are – stop. Take a deep breath and travel back with me to a time when there was no hope and no celebration, to the time before Christ was born. I simply cannot imagine a world without Jesus and yet I often live my life as if He does not even exist. A trial comes and I try to handle it on my own. Loneliness floods my heart and instead of reaching out to Him, I withdraw into the darkness. Financial stress gives birth to worry, filling my mind with doubt and the proverbial question, “What if …? Instead of turning to God, my source, I settle for a human answer when what I really need is a supernatural solution from our extraordinary God!

When I do cry out to God, He lovingly fills each black corner with Light. His love flows over the pain like a soothing balm and once again, I experience the manger. Once again, He steps into the smelly, unlikely and very ordinary existence that is mine to change everything. Yes, the presence of Jesus Christ changes everything! He could have come to us in many ways but He chose to interrupt the very ordinary with the most extraordinary! He could have chosen to be born in a palace. After all, He was a King. Yet His life on earth began in a manger – a dirty, smelly barn. The simplicity of His birth is one of His most precious gifts to me and one of my most profound life lessons. I often wish that I had been there that holy night when Jesus was born but then He reminds me that I have my own manger, my own holy moment when God became a reality to me, and I worship Him for all He has done in my life since I met Him.

Every year I am reminded of the very heart of Christmas – Emanuel, God with us. God wants to be involved in the simple, ordinary happenings of daily life: where we go – what we do – the smile we give the harried stranger – the patience we wear in the crowd of impatient shoppers – the love that prompts the secret gift – the heart that constantly celebrates His birth through every sparkling light, every beautifully wrapped gift, each special meal, every card, phone call and visit.

Join me in this quest – to celebrate Him and His birth in everything we do. Have a birthday party for Jesus! Adopt a family in need! Reach out to the lonely! Look for Him in the crowd! Emanuel, God with us! Wow!

Let’s Pray
Father, today I celebrate the reality of Your presence in my life. I celebrate Your birth, Your life, Your death and Your resurrection. And as I celebrate, Lord, help me to be “God with skin on” to those in need around me. Open my eyes and let me see them as You see them! I love You! Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Now It’s Your Turn

Put your faith in action by making a step-by-step plan to keep Jesus at the heart of your Christmas season. Give a gift to someone you don’t know.

Invite a needy family into your home for a special “Friends” dinner.

Go through your closet and give the clothes you don’t wear to those who have no clothes.


Chaplain Dunbar


The Unconquerable Gift of Joy

Scripture Reading
“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, ‘Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.’ But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. Then the angel told her: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.'” —Luke 1:26-33

Happiness is an emotion that can disappear as quickly as it rises to the surface. Joy, however, is a choice and is much deeper than happiness.

We have a choice. God gives us a joy that is unconquerable. We can choose to live in an attitude of resentment, anger and fear or we can choose to pursue the joy of Christ. So what is the picture of joy in the Bible?

Joy is trusting when you want to doubt.
“Trust in the LORD forever, because in Yah, the LORD, is an everlasting rock!” (Isaiah 26:4). As Christ followers we aren’t pressured to do it all for everyone. We trust in Jesus to do the heavy lifting. The key is trust. We just need to have Mary’s response to the coming of Jesus, “‘I am the Lord’s slave,’ said Mary. ‘May it be done to me according to your word'” (Luke 1:38).

Joy is receiving what you want to reject.
Can you imagine how the innkeeper would have felt if he said to Mary and Joseph, “Of course you can’t stay in that stable! That’s for paying customers. Who do you take me for?” We find joy in making room for people in need. Reflect on the mysterious words found in Hebrews: “Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

Joy is celebrating when you want to fear.
What’s the first thing angels say to mortals? It’s standard protocol. In just about every divine encounter the angels say: “Fear not.” I can hear Jesus instruct His most trusted angels. “OK, let’s go over this again … Most of the people that I’ll tell you to speak to will be scared out of their wits! So let’s practice the greeting one more time.” Then the angels would all say in unison, “Fear not.”

Application: Understand Why We Can Be Joyful
The message is clear. God is not looking for ways to scare us into faith. He drew near to us to relieve the worries we have about crossing over the divide between heaven and earth.

He wants you to know that He’s going to take care of you no matter what happens. One of the names that He was called long before he ever stepped on this world’s stage was Immanuel meaning “God with us.”

No matter what you go through we can whisper this simple truth: “Jesus is with me.” Think about it. He is with you in your greatest victories and your most humiliating defeats. Jesus is with you at all times in all things.

My prayer for each you as we head to Christmas is that you will choose to be joyful.


Rob Dunbar, Chaplain, Maj, TN ANG

Big Prayers—Big Peace

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6–7, esv).

Throughout the day we need little arrow prayers—quick prayers in the car, in the office, in the kitchen. When we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), this connects us to the Lord in sweet communion. But these quick-fire prayers, though important, don’t yield the deepest peace.

Nor does ritual praying. Mindless repetition is unbiblical and won’t bring you peace. Little prayers yield little peace. Big prayers yield big peace.

“Peace is coming like a flood to a person praying fervently to the Lord.”

Here’s a practical checklist: fervent prayer, by yourself, out loud, kneeling down, with a list. If you pray like that for five or ten minutes, a river of peace will rush down the parched canyon of your anxiety. Peace is coming like a flood to a person praying fervently to the Lord.

The enemy of your peace is anxiety. If you are living crippled by anxiety, that suggests your prayer life could use some focused improvement. Review the past month of your life. Have you been fretting over some things? Fearful? Anxious? Worried? No doubt, those feelings increased as you moved further and further from your last, fervent prayer time with God.

On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your prayerfulness over the past month? Ten means you’re rocking your world several times a day with faith-filled, awesome prayer. Zero means . . . zero. A prayer vacuum in your life. Perhaps you can’t even recall the last time you knelt down and prayed out loud fervently with a list.

On the same scale of one to ten, rate your anxiety level. Zero means you are calm. Nothing deeply divides you. Though bad things happen to you, they don’t rob you of peace. Ten equates to frequently freaking out, crippled by dividing cares—no peace.

Now notice the correlation. The lower your score in prayer, the higher your score in anxiety. The higher your score in prayer, the lower your score in anxiety. Where fervent prayer abounds, peace abounds.

If you want to lower your score in anxiety, the solution is to raise your score in prayer. This isn’t a mystery. It’s not a function of personality, as if some people are natural pray-ers and others missed out on that gene. Philippians 4:6 clearly links anxiety and prayer. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” When anxiety goes up, up, up, you must pray it back down. Start by reviewing what you know to be true about God and His faithfulness.

Go in a room by yourself, shut the door, pray out loud fervently with a list, and begin to thank God. Thank Him for who He is, all He has done in your life, the ways you’ve seen Him provide, and His personal, intimate care for you.

When you pray “with thanksgiving” and review God’s résumé of faithfulness, you become more aware of who He has been and will continue to be. In light of His faithfulness, your anxiety will minimize and your problems will shrink into perspective.

It’s a holy exchange—anxiety for peace, through prayer. Available for you today.

Our Father, thank You that You don’t want me to live crippled by anxiety. Thank You that You are available anytime I pray. Forgive me for my prayerlessness and my stubborn attempts to handle my problems on my own. I know that’s not working for me. Lord, teach me to pray with fervency, with thanksgiving. Give me a clearer view of You, Lord, that my anxieties would fade into perspective. Though my problems are real and at times feel overwhelming, they are but light, momentary afflictions. I choose prayer. I choose peace. I choose You. In the name of Jesus, my Savior, amen


Rob Dunbar, Chaplain, Maj, TN ANG

One Attitude Required

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. – James 4:10

Humility doesn’t save us, but it can save us a ton of grief. Humility doesn’t change your circumstances, but it helps you submit to God’s purposes no matter what the circumstances. Humility doesn’t speed up answers to prayer, but it accelerates the acceptance of God’s will. Humility doesn’t make decisions for you, but it inclines your heart toward decisions consistent with God’s plan. Humility doesn’t earn you more of God’s love, but it helps you experience God’s love at a deeper level.

For these reasons Scripture has a great deal to say on humility:

– Psalm 25:9 says, “God guides and teaches the humble.”

– Psalm 147:6 says, “The Lord sustains the humble.”

– Proverbs 11:2 says, “Wisdom belongs to the humble.”

– Proverbs 22:4 says, “True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life.”

– Isaiah 57:15 says that the Lord personally dwells with and refreshes the humble.

– Matthew 23:12 says that the humble with be exalted, and the exalted will be humbled.

– And James 4:6 says that God is gracious to the humble.

Rewards, sustenance, wisdom, guidance, intimacy, grace, renewal, and revelation—all hinge on an attitude that accompanies our faith. The early twentieth-century preacher and theologian, Oswald Chambers, called humility “the great characteristic of a saint.” For all its benefits and blessings, humility is the best way to go for God’s people. In fact, it’s the only way to go.

Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box. – Italian proverb


Father, give me a humble heart. As I approach your throne, I pray that I will do so with an attitude of humility and not entitlement. Amen

Rob Dunbar, Chaplain, Maj, TN ANG

The Power of Words

Words have the power to heal, encourage, instruct, and bless. Yet too often we use our words to brag, deceive, confuse, and wound. The apostle James wrote,

The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire ‘no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. – James 3:5-10

This should not be! Yet, this restless evil is a stumbling block to us all. So what can you do? James said no one can tame the tongue, so is it a lost cause? Maybe for men, but not for God. Submit your words to the Lord. He alone is able to change our hearts, and therefore, our poisonous words. But are you off the hook? No way. God calls us to strive after Him and bless the people around us. Below are thirteen practical ways to help you communicate without spreading a fire.

1. Avoid the Words “Never” and “Always”

These words are used when you are frustrated or irritated, but they cause the other person to feel unfairly accused. When you use these words, you are usually exaggerating and not communicating precisely. Using the words “never” and “always” may communicate your frustration, but they hurt the other person by creating defensiveness.

2. Don’t Blame, Shame, or Call Names

When you feel frustrated, hurt, or angry, you are tempted to strike back. You want the other person to feel what you are feeling. If you can blame or shame the other person, you think you will achieve a degree of satisfaction. But blaming and shaming statements cause both parties to feel miserable and will ultimately hurt the relationship.

3. Use “I” Statements Rather Than “You” Statements

It is much easier to hear someone say, “I’m feeling frustrated,” than to hear him or her say, “You frustrate me!” “You” statements cause people to feel blamed or accused. They can no longer listen with empathy because their attention is focused on defending themselves. Therefore, “you” statements are counterproductive to healthy, effective communication efforts.

4. Say, “I am Hurt,” Rather Than, “I Am Angry or Mad”

To increase your intimacy and decrease your aggression, you will want to reduce the number of times you use the words angry and mad. After you have been hurt in some way or another, it is a natural reaction to become angry. But more often than not, your hurt is your primary or root emotion. To communicate most effectively, you will want to express that root emotion. When you become frustrated, irritated, jealous, or hurt in some way, share those feelings rather than say that you are angry. When hurt is expressed, it leads to healing. But anger begets anger! Therefore, it’s best to share your hurt rather than your anger.

5. Take a Time-Out

If you become angry to the point of losing control or teetering on the edge of saying something purposely hurtful, we recommend that you call for a time-out. This technique protects your relationship from deteriorating further.

6. Don’t Withdraw or Isolate

When you withdraw or isolate, you hurt the other person. You create a situation where the other person feels ignored, cut off, or abandoned. Withdrawing can be perceived as a way to punish the other person. If you need to withdraw to stay in control of yourself, take a time-out.

7. Repeat to the Person What He or She Said to You Before You Share Your Thoughts, Feelings, or Possible Solutions

This process involves intentionally listening for the thoughts and feelings of your partner and then repeating them before sharing your thoughts and feelings. Acknowledging what the other person has shared is essential. First, it lets the other person know that you are listening intently, and he or she feels cared for. Second, it provides a way to check on the accuracy of what you heard. It keeps communication clear.

8. Don’t Interrupt

Give the other person a chance to share. Interrupt only if you need to ask a question to better understand what is being said. It is especially difficult not to interrupt when you hear your partner saying things that hurt you. Your natural tendency is to defend yourself. You may need to bite your tongue to keep from interrupting during these times, but forgo the temptation. You will need to tell yourself that you, too, will get a chance to share your feelings and thoughts, but you must wait until the other person is finished.

9. Don’t Demand

Rather than demand, ask! Demanding usually results in the other person’s feeling controlled. Since most of us felt controlled by our parents as children, we don’t respond well to demands. Demands can send shivers up our spines or even worse! It is much more effective to ask a question of the other person than to make demands. For example, ask, “Do you think you could?” or “Would you be willing to?”.

10. Use the Phrase “I Would Like.” Rather Than “I Need”

Rather than say, “I need you to listen to me!” say, “I would like it very much if you would listen to me.” To say, “I need,” is to sound more demanding of a person. Though you may have a legitimate need, it is still better to communicate with a statement of desire.

11. Don’t Use Threats

Threats can be detrimental to your relationship. You will have an instinctive tendency to use them when you feel hopeless, frustrated, or backed into a corner. Nevertheless, avoid threats at all costs. Call for a time-out, bite your tongue, but don’t use threats. Threats are identified by the keyword “if”:

–“If you don’t stop nagging, I’ll…”

–“If you ever do that again, I’ll…”

Threats should be considered extreme measures that don’t solve conflicts.

12. Be Affirming

Thank the other person for listening intently. But be sincere! Work very hard at keeping your communication positive. Even when you disagree with what your partner is sharing, you can still thank him or her for communicating thoughts and feelings. You can thank your partner for sticking with the conversation rather than isolating or withdrawing. Someone once told us, “It takes ten positives to balance out one negative,” and we have found this to be true. Force yourself to communicate in affirming ways.

13. Don’t Use the Statement “You Broke the Rule”

These rules are designed to protect your relationship. Be careful not to use them to beat up or criticize each other. Rather than say, “You broke a rule,” it is better to say something like this:

–“I felt hurt when you called me irresponsible.”

–“I felt belittled when you told me I wasn’t smart enough to understand that concept.”

–“I felt defensive when you told me that I never cared about anyone but myself.”

“You broke the rule” has a way of shaming the other person because it is a “you” statement rather than an “I” statement. It would be better to say, “I would like us to work as hard as we can to follow our rules. I feel that it really hurts us when we don’t.”

Rob Dunbar, Chaplain, Maj, TN ANG