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Showing posts from December, 2014

Not the beginning, nor the ending - but the middle

We are reaching the end of 2014 - for some a grateful end to a tough year, while others will look back and not even realize the passing of time.  Some will mourn the loss of loved ones, or the devastation of properties in the wake of some natural disaster.  Others will celebrate new life coming, or the advancement into a new place in life's journey.  Regardless of mourning or celebration, it all comes to an end and it is the end which also marks a new beginning.  We don't mourn forever - this is not God's way.  We don't celebrate without something also taking us down a pathway of "lesser" enjoyment - this is the way growth occurs.  It is not uncommon for us to judge the end of something to determine if it was worth the journey - the final scene determining the value of the whole.  We forget the "middle" simply because the beginning and the end stand in such stark contrast to each other at times.  Yet, it is the middle where the rubber hit the road, …

Take 'er easy, there!

Mae West once said, "An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises."  We often find ourselves making all kinds of promises to ourselves, others, and even God as we enter into a new year.  These promises are filled with all kinds of grand schemes about how things will be different for us this year - complete with the plans to actually see them fulfilled in one manner or another.  Problems will rise though, obstacles will come - and these promises will blow away like chaff in the wind.  Why?  We lack the wherewithal to fulfill them ourselves. At best, we can give an "ounce of performance" and hope for God to take that "ounce of performance" and turn it into "pounds of progress"!
God cannot tell lies! And so his promises and vows are two things that can never be changed. We have run to God for safety. Now his promises should greatly encourage us to take hold of the hope that is right in front of us. (Hebrews 6:18 CEV)
We each have purpose in …

Journey on...

Anne Lamott said, "I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are, but does not leave us where it found us."  If you are not familiar with her writings, you might just be surprised by her openness in describing struggles with things like single parenting, alcoholism, and even her father's struggle with brain cancer.  Tough subjects, but honest discovery of the ups and downs (including the depression) of living life as it really is.  At best, this is where each of us finds ourselves - living life as it really is.  We may try to make life what it is not, but in reality, we don't control the "strings" which direct the actions of others or those which will affect our lives - we just live what comes.  I think we need to recognize the value of not living this life on our own merits, or in our own efforts. We need the grace which comes from God alone - the grace which makes us holy, not because of our own merit or actions, but…

Material or Immaterial - you decide

Christopher Columbus once said, "Riches don't make a man rich, they only make him busier."  Maybe there is more to this little bit of wisdom than first meets the eye!  The writer of Ecclesiastes said it this way:  If you have to work hard for a living, you can rest well at night, even if you don’t have much to eat. But if you are rich, you can’t even sleep. (5:12 CEV).  The riches we amass are both material and immaterial, but the ones which seem to give us the greatest of concern are the material.  They require so much of our attention and the last "big thing" we managed to get is almost outdated or not as useful or as good within just a short time of attaining it.  I could spend a great deal of time lamenting the many purchases I have bought over the years only to share how disappointing they were because they didn't perform "as seen on TV" or they simply were outdated within just a short time of getting them.  The this which never goes out of s…

The spirit of man

The spirit of man - stop for a moment to consider all that is inherent in the spirit of man. Scripture points to man being a tri-part being:  Body, Soul, and Spirit.  Body we understand for it is what we see and feel each and every day.  Soul we get because we can think rational though and learn concepts such as arithmetic or steps in a process - understanding that soul consists of the mind, will and emotions.  Spirit we don't so easily comprehend because it is not as "systematic" as our  minds or as "evident" as bodies.  It is this spirit part of man which allows man to commune with God and experience the things God has in store for us.  It is this spirit which many will say will either make or break a man. It is this spirit part where man differs from animals - for it is the place God's Spirit and a man's spirit become one.  We can trace this three-part make-up of man back to the creation story in Genesis.  I think the most important difference we can…

A new pair of shoes

"The first step to victory is to recognize the enemy." - Corrie Ten Boom
As we take a moment or two together today, I'd like us to consider the wisdom of those simple words.  There are many steps we can take "toward" victory, but none as profound as the very first one.  If Corrie's insight holds true, we come to the place of actually taking the "right" first step by recognizing exactly who the enemy is!  For some of us, it is that tiny voice within which continues to limit our progress toward good in our lives because we are believing the lies it tells us.  Last week, our pastor spoke on the importance of not putting too much stock in how others see us - because if we do, we will find ourselves burdened down under the load of much "performance".  Performance which never really measures up, never really quits, and never really helps us realize who we are in God's eyes.  I think for many of us our #1 enemy is ourselves - the voices we l…

One last gift....

Christmas day... Packages will be opened, paper strewn all over the front room, ribbons left in a pile.  Kids will discard the undies brightly wrapped in favor of building with those brightly colored Lego blocks.  Moms will rush to try out the new counter-top mixer or cookware sets all festive in their holiday attire.  Dads will head to the garages and yards to put on display their newest of tools and gadgets galore.  Grandparents will soak in the memories of family glee and holiday festivities.  It is a magical day indeed.  Yet, I would remiss in not sharing how it is I celebrate this holiday with the greatest of joy and the fullest of hearts.  You see, it is because I have Christ living in me that I celebrate with all fullness and joy!  I chose a passage we could explore today because it was a perfect illustration of what Christ has done in me - and what he would delight to do in all those who would choose to put their faith and trust in him as their Savior this Christmas Day!
Once I …

The greatest gift under your tree this year...

One of the most overlooked parts of the Christmas celebration is this idea of forgiveness. Without the birth and life of Christ on this earth, the offering for our sins would not have been possible.  The burden of sin would still weigh heavy upon our shoulders and keep us out of fellowship with God our Father.  Through his birth - forgiveness became possible. Through his death - forgiveness was assured.  No greater gift was provided on any Christmas since his birth!  No greater gift could ever be sought!  His life for ours - what a gift!
Our God, you bless everyone whose sins you forgive and wipe away. You bless them by saying, “You told me your sins, without trying to hide them, and now I forgive you.” (Psalm 32:1-2 CEV)
Forgiveness is a much overlooked gift of this holiday season.  Why?  We have become so "familiar" and "comfortable" in the misery of our sin that we no longer seek a way out!  Sad as this may be, it is evident in relationships everywhere that rem…

Not exactly angelic, but divinely provided!

Back in the day when Christ was born, there were several announcements to herald his birth. One such announcement started outside of his home, in the home of Mary's relative Elizabeth.  Elizabeth and Zechariah had been waiting for a child for a long time.  They receive this visitation from an angel when it is Zechariah's time to be tending to the altar in the Temple.  The angel announces the "fore-runner" of Jesus - John the Baptist.  To this aging couple would come a child - one who would point the way to the Christ child.  He would be a Nazarite, live in the desert, and announce the coming of the Messiah.  Imagine the pleasure to have waited so long for a child, almost past your childbearing years, and then receive a grand message such as this.  What an honor to be the parents of the one who would prepare a way for the earthly ministry of Jesus!  Angels came to Mary to announce the birth of Christ.  Angels set Joseph's heart at ease that Mary hadn't "s…

Some "mulling spices" for you

We all  have those moments in time when our dreams seem to be far away and sleep seems to be a little elusive to us.  We toss and turn a little, drifting in and out of restless slumber, only to come awake again, mind thinking on things we should have shut off long ago.  In those times where slumber seems to evade us, we often think about stuff which we have been mulling over previously.  I think this is why God asks us to learn the "skill" of meditating upon his Word and upon him.  When those sleepless nights creep up on us, we will have some better "fodder" for our mulling than if we just ruminate on the worries of the day!  We can "mull over" his grace, think a little bit about his goodness, and contemplate his blessings in our lives - all because we have filled places in our minds and hearts with the right "fuel" for "mulling"!  As I was in the Big Lots last week, I came across a display of "mulling spices" and had to ask …

Not another "mystery" gift under the tree!

But when the time was right...   This is a phrase which should bring such awe to our hearts, for it is the phrase expressing God's heart for all of humanity.  He purposed to provide for our needs - in the right manner. He purposed to provide for our deliverance - with the right means.  He purposed to provide for our short-comings - through the right sacrifice.  All when the "time was right".  This is something we struggle with - timing.  We all have a tendency once in a while to be a little too early or too late - our timing just not being perfect on all accounts.  We are subject to our own whims and fancies - something which will mess with our timing whenever it has a chance.  Yet, God's timing is perfect - and his ability to endure until exactly the right time is awe-inspiring.  If you remember back to when you were a kid, you would count off the days until Christmas.  You'd have advent calendars or the like to help you know just how many days till the time you …

Settling in for a long winter's night

Quite some time ago, I learned the light-hearted song, "All I want for Christmas..."  You know the one I mean - the little jingle about wanting my "two front teeth" for Christmas.  I think we all want something for Christmas - some of us will be quick to announce what our wish list includes, while others will be more reserved and not really be able to make any grand gestures toward letting the world know what it is we are wishing for.  Many a child will be making their lists and checking them twice, then sealing them in an envelope addressed to the Jolly Ole St. Nick care of the North Pole.  It is kind of what Christmas has come to these days - a lot of hustle and bustle to get the right gift and to ensure everyone has something special they will want.  As the grand-boys have been growing up, I have asked for their "lists" because it makes it easier for me to actually get things which fit their current interests.  Imagine my surprise this year when I foun…

Christmas lights strung with great care!

Light - most don't equate Christmas with light - but I think the glowing and twinkling lights of the season are a reminder to us of the simplicity of the truth that LIGHT came into the world that one Christmas night so long ago.  In the decoration of our homes with the icicle lights and the twinkling rows of bright LED, we see more than just brightness - we see the love that goes into taking all the time to bring those lights into order and arrange them into a display of beauty.  I remember the hours and hours my dad would take designing how he'd put them up each year.  Each year brought some new addition, usually created by his own hands and in his tremendous imaginative way.  I remember one year with a huge cross on our roof, fashioned from tin pie pans mom had saved throughout the year, each with a glowing light in the center.  The piece was magnificent!  In fact, it drew the attention of the neighbors as they commented how creative the piece was and how much light it broug…

What did obedience cost Mary and Joseph?

As we have looked at the birth of Christ, we have considered the fact he was born of a virgin, with an earthly father so willing to honor God with his life that he married a woman who was already pregnant.  In that day and time, a very taboo thing.  We also saw how the mother of Christ was chosen by God and given the dramatic news that she would carry the Son of God.  Imagine her awe, but also see her tremendous amount of fear as she would have received this announcement, knowing all she knew about the time in which she lived about how a woman out of wedlock showing up pregnant would be treated.  We also explored the lowly birth of Jesus in a stable of sorts, surrounded by animals, visited by shepherds, and then honored by magi from afar.  The announcement of his birth was by angels - start to finish.  Mary heard from an angel (a messenger from God), while Joseph was set at ease by a messenger from God on another occasion - assuring him the thing he was about to do in marrying Mary wa…