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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years Eve

Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

The calendars flip over again in a few hours.  But if you think about it, what is this really about?  Every 30 or 31 days we flip the calendar over from month to month and we don’t make a fuss about it.  We don’t stay up till past midnight and have a party.  But every twelfth time we do.  It’s not because it’s a biblical command or anything.  The passing of one year to another is simply an event on a calendar devised by human beings.  Yet we hold on to it at least partly because we want to think that things are going to be different in the New Year.  Changes are going to be made, hopefully for the better.  We make resolutions.  We plan.  We hope.

Tonight’s flipping of the calendar is about change.  Not only the change from one year to another, but changes in our lives.  There are changes that we can and will make, changes we hope to make.  But there are also changes that will happen that we have no control over.  We will just have to come to terms with them.   

As we come into a new year, it’s good that we do some reflecting on what this means.  It’s good for believers to be circumspect – to be thoughtful and reflective.  We need to meditate and carefully think about what’s going on in our lives.  With 2014  just hours away, we are faced with possible changes and inevitable changes.  But there are also solid truths that will be the same.  There is someone whose person and work never changes.  Though our lives may be in flux, he is a rock.  Jesus  remains the same yesterday, today and forever. 

Today, in the present, Jesus Christ represents his people in heaven.  He represents you.  Today, as in the past, he intercedes for us and pleads our cause at the right hand of God.  Not only that, but he sympathizes with our weaknesses.  That sympathy perfects his intercession.

In the future, we may continue to expect our Savior  to intercede for us.  We also can be confident that he will continue to be our perfect teacher, teaching us the will of God concerning our redemption.  He won’t leave us in the dark but will come to us through his Word and Spirit to teach us and lead us.

And, of course, we are sure that he will always be our faithful King.  As he was in the past and is in the present, we know that he will constantly rule over us and take care of us.  He has promised that he loves us and that he will guard us in our salvation.  We’re safe with him today and tomorrow and forever.  Believe this, brothers and sisters:  he’ll never change. 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever.”  In 2013, He was our Lord and Savior.  He proved himself faithful again, through all the ups and downs we experienced.  As individuals, as families and as a church, we have seen the reliability of our Lord.  We called out to him for His help and He answered us, showing us His love.  As the calendar turns to 2014, we know that He will be the same in the days, weeks and months ahead.  We can face this New Year with hope and confidence.  Though the calendar changes, our Savior never does.  May God give us all a blessed 2014.  

Dear Lord, We thank you for the New Year.  We thank you for having always been our faithful Lord and Savior.  What a blessing to know that you are the same yesterday, and today, and forever.  Lord, help us fix our eyes on you in this coming New Year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Conclusion: Myth Busted

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

In 1523, an English animal trainer named John Fitzherbert said, "The dog must be trained when he is a whelp, or else it will not be [trained]; for it is hard to make an old dog [find a new scent]." Today, we've summarized his insight into this well-known adage: "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." It sounds good, but is it really true?

One of my two sons’ favorite shows on Netflex is a show that originates on the Discovery Channel called Mythbusters.  The goal of Mythbusters is to take timeworn adages like this one and see if they're true or false. So MythBusters' hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage decided to go after this one, too. They found a pair of aging Alaskan malamutes who didn't know a single trick in the book. Malamutes are known for their stubbornness. As 7-year-old canines, siblings Bobo and Cece were equivalent to a couple of 50-year-olds in dog years, arguably qualifying them for the "old dog" category. After four days of training, Bobo and Cece proved Fitzherbert flat wrong. Each could heel, sit, lie down, stay, and shake upon command from Jamie and Adam.

Their conclusion: Myth busted. You can teach old dogs new tricks.

As we head into the New Year no matter the rut you find yourself in you can make a change for the better. Take a minute today and ask God to give you the encouragement and strength to change from the old tricks and start new ones that will make you more like God wants for you to be.

Dear Lord, We thank You for the New year we are fast approaching. Help us to make that changes that You would have for us to make so that we would be more like You, so others will see You in us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

No Excuses in 2014

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

This is an alleged New Year’s letter written from a church member to the pastor of their church.

Dear Pastor:

You often stress attendance at worship as being very important for a Christian, but I think a person has a right to miss now and then. I think every person ought to be excused for the following reasons and the number of times indicated.

Christmas Holidays (the Sunday before & after) 2
New Year’s (the party lasted too long) 1
Easter (get away for the holidays) 2
July 4th (national holidays) 1
Labor Day (need to get away) 2
Memorial Day (visit hometown folk)        1
School closing (kids need a break) 1
School reopens (one last fling) 1
Family reunions (mine & wife’s) 3
Sleep late (stayed up too long Saturday night) 9
Deaths in family 2
Anniversary (second honeymoon) 1
Sickness (one per family member) 5
Business trip (a must) 1
Vacation (three to four weeks) 6
Bad weather (ice, snow, rain, clouds) 2
Ball games 2
Races 2
Unexpected company (can’t walk out) 2
Time changes (spring & fall) 2
Special on TV (superbowl, etc) 3

Pastor, that leaves two Sundays per year. So, you can count on us to be in church on the 4th Sunday in February and the 3rd Sunday in August unless we are providentially hindered.

A Faithful Member

As we approach the New Year and everybody is talking about making resolutions from losing weight to getting in shape.  Let’s make a commitment to join together with God’s people at church where we can grow to be more like what God wants for each of us.

See you at church in 2014

Dear Lord, thank You for the new things You give us each and every day.  As we get ready to celebrate the beginning of 2014 help us make it a priority to attend church and be an encouragement to those you put in our path. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Bible According to Yoda

James 1:22-25 (NIV)
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

There is a scene from Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, in which Luke Skywalker is training down in the swamps of Dagobah, “where it bubbles all the time like a giant carbonated soda.” Jedi master Yoda commands Luke to excavate an X-wing fighter that has sunk at the bottom of the swamp. You remember that scene, right? Upon Yoda’s request, Luke responds, “All right, I’ll give it a try.” Notice Yoda’s answer to Luke. Are you ready? This is deep theological stuff.

Yoda says, “No! Try not. Do. Or do not!! There is no try.”

Sometimes we use “I’m trying” as an excuse. Don’t we? I know I do. I think the tiny, pointy eared, green puppet might be on to something. Either we do, or we do not. Sure, sometimes we fail in the middle of doing. Sometimes we fall short. Sometimes we mess up. When we say we are trying, however, often it is an excuse for not giving our best, or it is a way out if we fail.

If we want to be a good parent either we are doing the things it takes to be a good parent or we are not. We are giving our kids the time they deserve, investing in them, putting our needs second, disciplining them, loving them, and caring for them, or we are not.

If we want to be close to God we are praying, reading God’s word, attending worship, memorizing scripture, confessing our sins, and having others hold us accountable or we are not.

If we want to be good at something we are practicing, educating ourselves, placing ourselves around others who are better than us, and devoting time to it or we are not.

If we want to have a good marriage we are spending time with our spouse, setting appropriate boundaries, doing things for them, putting their welfare ahead of ours, meeting unspoken needs, loving them unconditionally or we are not.

When it comes to our lives we often deceive ourselves and say we are trying, when in reality we are not doing what it takes to accomplish the task set before us. Sometimes simply trying is the easy way out. Sometimes trying is an excuse. Sometimes trying is leaves us an open window to exit through when the going gets tough. Shouldn’t we be doing?

At times we even fool ourselves into thinking that knowing is the same thing as doing. We know what it takes to be a good parent, spouse, Christian, hobbyist, and we delude ourselves into thinking that knowing is enough. It is the doing that makes the difference. It is the application of the knowledge that brings us the desired results.

Are you trying? Do you fool yourself into thinking that knowing is the same as doing? Let’s forget trying and let’s start doing. In doing we are going to fail. We will fall short at times, but at least we can say we only stumbled in the midst of doing and applying what we know it takes to reach the goal.

Dear Lord, Help us not just try but to do. Thank You for giving us the strength to accomplish everything that is before us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Friday, December 27, 2013

I Am Your Father

Psalm 2:7 (NIV)
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.

While you may not consider yourself to be a huge Star Wars fan, you would have to have been living under a rock not to know some of the quotes or the story line of this blockbuster movie created by George Lucas. It is the ultimate Good vs Evil story line with a few twists and special effects thrown in for good measure.

One of the best known scenes from the film series is when Luke Skywalker is fighting the evil Darth Vader. (Spoiler alert – if you haven’t seen the films and don’t want the plot ruined, do not read on!) Darth, wearing his black mask and cape, is working for the dark side and has supposedly been the one who’s killed Luke’s father.

In an infamous light saber duel, Luke tries to destroy his nemesis only to hear Darth Vader say, “No Luke, I am your father.”  All Luke can do in response is scream a mortified, “Noooooooooooooooo.”

While Star Wars is a fictional story set “in a galaxy far, far away” you can’t help but feel for Luke. Here he is, fighting for good, not evil, and yet he discovers that he is connected to one of the most evil men in the galaxy.

I could not help but think of this scene when I read Psalm 2 – “You are my son; today I have become your father.” Hearing these words for God would have the reverse effect on us compared to Luke Skywalker.

When Luke heard these words he realized he was connected to evil and destruction. When we hear these words it is the opposite.

God is love, hope, purpose, and grace, power and pure. We are made in His image and have the choice to connect into all of these life-giving attributes.

Instead, it is us who often reject our creator and turn to ways that are destructive and selfish.

Psalm 2 is a great reminder of the One we have come from. We have been created with love and we have the power of the greatest God we can ever imagine behind us.

Dear Lord, we often forget who we are made in the image of. Thank You for loving us so much that You formed us and set us on this earth to spread Your word and love to all those around us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

1/2 Full or 1/2 Empty?

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

A king wanted to test the wisdom of two of the wisest men in his court. Two men were given a silver goblet, each containing equal portions of crystal clear spring water. Each was asked what he saw in the cup. The first man looked and said he saw a half-empty goblet. The second man replied, "My cup is half full." The men were then asked to drink the contents of the cup and relay how drinking the liquid made them feel. The first man complained that the water tasted fine, but there was not enough, he wanted more. The second man then took his turn. "The water tastes good and it has quenched my thirst."

The king smiled and, finally, declared who was the wisest man in all his court. "It is you," he said, turning to the second man. Now I will tell you why. Looking to the first man, he said, “The cup represents one's life, the world in which you live. When you looked into the cup, what you saw was a cup half empty, even though the goblet contained the finest spring water in all the land. Instead of sipping and finding satisfaction in its contents, you desired more. In life, you will never see all your many blessings, for your greed and lust for more will always cloud your thinking."

The king then turned to the second man. "When you looked into the cup you saw a cup half full. So, too, will you regard life in this way, reaping all its many blessings and being grateful for the gifts bestowed upon you. A half full cup is not a full cup, yet its contents can still be sweet and satisfying."

The moral of this story is that life is not always perfect, yet how we view our cup will determine what mind frame we have when sipping of its contents.

How many people do you know who feel discontentment in their life? Someone ELSE has the perfect car, job, spouse, or girlfriend, and a generally much more exciting life. Yet, chances are they think YOUR life is better and that it is YOU with the perfect spouse, home, job, etc.

Man, in all his fleshly desires, always wants more. Often this desire for more gets us into trouble, and sometimes we find ourselves losing the very precious things we thought we never had in the first place.

Dear Lord, thank You for all we have. We pray that we would be thankful for what we have and not worried about what we don’t have. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Birth of Jesus

Luke 2:1-16  (NIV)

2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

Dear Lord, Help us remember the birth of Jesus, That we may share in the song of the angels, The gladness of the shepherds, And worship of the wise men. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Santa's Letter

Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The sleigh was all packed, the reindeer were fed, But Santa still knelt by the side of the bed.

“Dear Father,” he prayed “Be with me tonight. There’s much work to do and my schedule is tight.

I must jump in my sleigh and streak through the sky, Knowing full well that a reindeer can’t fly.

I will visit each household before the first light, I’ll cover the world and all in one night.

With sleigh bells a-ringing, I’ll land on each roof, Amid the soft clatter of each little hoof.

To get in the house is the difficult part, So I’ll slide down the chimney of each child’s heart.

My sack will hold toys to grant all their wishes. The supply will be endless like the loaves and the fishes.

I will fill all the stockings and not leave a track. I’ll eat every cookie that is left for my snack.

I can do all these things Lord, only through You, I just need your blessing, then it’s easy to do.

All this is to honor the birth of the One, That was sent to redeem us, Your most Holy Son.

So to all of my friends, least Your glory I rob, Please Lord, remind them who gave me this job.”

Dear Lord, This Christmas Eve let us take a minute to remember that it is You that gave each of us our jobs. Help us do our very best and bring honor to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Quiz

Luke 2:10 (NIV)
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

Today I thought it would be fun to take a Christmas quiz. After you have taken the quiz let me know how you did. The answers are at the end of the post

1.  As long as Christmas has been celebrated, it has been on December 25th?   True or False

2.  Joseph was from:
None of the above
3.  Who insisted that Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem?
The Angel
Mary’s mother
Caesar Augustus
Alexander the Great
no one told them to go

4.  How did Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem?
Joseph walked, Mary rode a donkey
Who knows?
5.  Mary and Joseph were married when Mary became pregnant?  True or False

6.  Mary and Joseph were married before Jesus was born?  True or False

7.  Mary was a virgin when she delivered Jesus?  True or False

8.  What did the innkeeper tell Mary and Joseph?
There is no room at the inn
I have a stable you can use
Come back after the Christmas rush
None of the above

9.  Jesus was delivered in a:

10.  A manger is a:
stable for domestic animals
wooden hay storage bin
feeding trough

11.  According to the Bible, which animals were present at Jesus’ birth?
cows, sheep, goats
cows, donkeys, sheep
miscellaneous barnyard animals
lions, tigers and bears
we don’t know
12.  Who saw the star in the east?
Mary and Joseph
Magi (aka Wise Men)
both shepherds and Magi
none of the above
13.  What “sign” did the angels tell the shepherds to look for?
A star over Bethlehem
A baby that doesn’t cry
A baby in a stable
A baby lying in a manger
None of the above

14.  What is a “heavenly host”?
The angel at the gate of Heaven
The angel who invites people to Heaven
An angel choir
An angel army
None of the above

15.  What did the heavenly host of angels say?
Joy to the World
Unto us a child is born
Glory to God in the highest

16.  Did the baby Jesus cry?
He never cried
He cried just like other babies
He cried when the little drummer boy banged his drum

17.  We Three Kings of Orient Are…Who were they?
Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar
Astrologers, Seers, Fortune tellers
Scholars from Persia
Royal Astronomers
We’re not 100% sure

18.  How many Magi came to see Jesus?
Probably less than 10
We don’t know for sure, but there were probably dozens in their entourage

19.  Where did the Magi find Jesus?
in the manger
in the stable
in an inn
in a house

20.  Which Gospels give details about Christ’s Birth so we can answer these questions and get the TRUE facts?
Matthew and Mark
Matthew and Luke
Matthew, Mark and Luke
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

1.  False.  For the church’s first three centuries, Christmas wasn’t in December—or on the calendar at all.  If observed at all, the celebration of Christ’s birth was usually lumped in with Epiphany (January 6), one of the church’s earliest established feasts. Some church leaders even opposed the idea of a birth celebration. Origen (c.185-c.254) preached that it would be wrong to honor Christ in the same way Pharaoh and Herod were honored. Birthdays were for pagan gods.
Not all of Origen’s contemporaries agreed that Christ’s birthday shouldn’t be celebrated, and some began to speculate on the date (actual records were apparently long lost). Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c.215) favored May 20 but noted that others had argued for April 18, April 19, and May 28. Hippolytus (c.170-c.236) championed January 2. November 17, November 20, and March 25 all had backers as well. A Latin treatise written around 243 pegged March 21, because that was believed to be the date on which God created the sun. Polycarp (c.69-c.155) had followed the same line of reasoning to conclude that Christ’s birth and baptism most likely occurred on Wednesday, because the sun was created on the fourth day.
The eventual choice of December 25, made perhaps as early as 273, reflects a convergence of Origen’s concern about pagan gods and the church’s identification of God’s son with the celestial sun. December 25 already hosted two other related festivals: natalis solis invicti (the Roman “birth of the unconquered sun”), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian “Sun of Righteousness” whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers. The winter solstice, another celebration of the sun, fell just a few days earlier. Seeing that pagans were already exalting deities with some parallels to the true deity, church leaders decided to commandeer the date and introduce a new festival.
Western Christians first celebrated Christmas on December 25 in 336, after Emperor Constantine had declared Christianity the empire’s favored religion. Eastern churches, however, held on to January 6 as the date for Christ’s birth and his baptism.

2.  Joseph was from Bethlehem (Luke 2:4)

3.  Caesar Augustus  decreed that a census be taken and all people return to their places of birth.  (Luke 2:1)

4.  Who knows?  The Bible does not say anything about a donkey.  Luke 2:4 simply tells us that Joseph and Mary went from Nazareth to Galilee.  Many biblical scholars think that because of their economic status they probably both walked but that is just speculation.

5.  False, Joseph and Mary were not married when she became pregnant.  (Luke 2:5, Matthew 1:18-25).

6.  True.  Joseph and Mary were married before she gave birth to Jesus.  (Matthew 1:24)

7.  True.  Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus.  (Matthew 1:25)  However, she did not remain a virgin after Jesus’ birth.  Scripture tells us that Jesus had brothers and sisters after He was born.  (Matthew 13:55)  Read a great article on this topic here: http://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-siblings.html

8.  None of the above.  The Bible does not say any words spoken by the inn keeper.  In fact, Luke does not even mention an inn keeper, merely an inn and the fact that there was no room.  (Luke 2:7).  To get really specific, there is also no mention of a stable.

9.  Unknown.  Just like no words being recorded by the innkeeper, there is no mention where Mary delivered Jesus.  Matthew says Jesus was born in Bethlehem and Luke 2:7 says Mary gave birth to Him and laid him in a manger.

10.  A feeding trough for animals.  Perhaps it was this fact alone that has brought about the popular assumption that Jesus was born in a stable or barn because of a manger being close at hand to put the Baby in.  Using deductive reasoning, culture has also determined that if there is a feeding trough, there must also be animals nearby.  Countless Nativity or crèche scenes depict that as fact.  It is merely speculation and assumption.  Scripture doesn’t back up those theories in any way.

11.  We don’t know.  There is no mention of animals of any kind around Jesus after His birth.  Refer to my explanation #10.

12.  The Magi.  The star is only mentioned in conjunction with the Magi.  They told Herod they had seen the star.  (Matthew 2:2)

13.  The sign the angels told the shepherds to look for was a baby lying in a manger.  (Luke 2:12)

14.  A Heavenly Host (Hebrew Sabaoth “armies”) refers to a large angel army (Luk.2:13; Rev.19:19).

15.  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  (Luke 2:14)

16.   Absolutely the Baby Jesus cried!  Baby Jesus was fully human.  He cried when He was hungry, tired, wet, and in pain just like any other baby.  (Hebrews 2:14)

17.  We’re not 100% sure.  Matthew 2:1-12  reveals nothing of these visitors’ ancestry.  Over the centuries, legend has assigned them names:  Gaspar, or Casper; Melchior, and Balthasar.  Balthsar has a Persian sound.  If indeed these men were scholars from Persia, they would have been familiar with Daniel’s prophecy about the Messiah or “Anointed One.” (Daniel 9:24-27).  The designation “Magi” refers to a Persian religious caste, but when this gospel was written, the term was loosely used for astrologers, seers, and fortune tellers.  Matthew does not call them kings; that title was used later, in legends.  They may have been royal astronomers, advisers to kings.  http://christianity.about.com/od/newtestamentpeople/a/Three-Kings.htm

18.  We don’t know for sure.  The Bible does not tell us how many Magi visited Jesus.  The tradition of “3″ probably developed because they presented 3 kinds of gifts.  According to scholars the Magi’s journey probably lasted up to two years with an entourage of dozens or more people.

19.  Sorry to wreck your Nativity scenes, but the Magi were not present the night Jesus was born.  Scriptural evidence shows Jesus could have been as old as two by the time they arrived.  If that is true then Jesus, Mary, and Joseph would have been staying in a house.  (Matthew 2:11)

20.  The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give us all the details of Jesus’ Birth.

Dear Lord, thanks for all You gave us on that first Christmas day. We pray as we get ready to celebrate we will take the time to remember that its because of You and what You gave. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Letter From Jesus

John 1:14  (NIV)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

As Christmas day approaches and you check the mail box for the last Christmas card imagine as you look at the return address on the envelope it says it’s from “Jesus”

Dear children,

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking my name out of the season.  Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate my birthday on what was actually a time of a pagan festival.  No worries, I do appreciate the sentiment though and being remembered anytime.

I don’t really care what you call the day.  If you want to celebrate My birth just GET ALONG and LOVE ONE ANOTHER.  Now, having said that let Me go on.

If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of the Santas and snowmen and put up a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn.  If all my followers did that there wouldn't be any need for a Town Square scene, because there would be hundreds of them all around town!

Please, stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a “holiday tree” instead of a Christmas tree.  It was I who made all trees.  You can remember Me anytime you see any tree and at any time of the year.  Decorate a grape-vine and leave it up all year if you wish and remember I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my “wish list”.  Choose something from it.

1.  Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home.  They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year.  I know, they tell Me all the time.

2.  Visit someone in a nursing home.  You don’t have to know them personally.  They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3.  Instead of standing by the water-cooler with your colleagues complaining about your boss and how stingy he was with the Christmas bonuses this year, why don’t you go into his office with a gift card and tell him that you’ll be praying for him and his family this year.  Then follow-up.  It will be nice hearing from you again.

4.  Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts they really don’t need, spend time with them instead.  Tell them a story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here.  Hold them in your arms and remind them how much I love them!

5.  Pick someone who has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6.  Instead of griping about a retailer in town saying “Happy Holidays”, be patient with the people who work there.  Give them a warm smile and a kind word and even if they aren't allowed to wish you a “Merry Christmas” that doesn't keep you from wishing them one.  Think about those who have to work over the holidays and bring them a plate of cookies to tell them you appreciate them for their hard work.  Take it one step further…when you go out to eat after church on Sundays, rather than look down your nose at all the people who “missed church” because they had to work, when that waitress takes your order, pray for her and thank her for her service to you and then leave her a good tip…not the chintzy ones you have been leaving.  My children should always be generous!

7.  There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only have no “Christmas Tree”, they have no presents to give or receive.  If you want to make a difference this Christmas, support a local charity that provides clothes, food, and shelter to those who are homeless or who help families in crisis.  Don’t just send them a check at Christmas either, support them year round.  If you can’t afford to support them with a monetary donation, give them your time.  Volunteering your time is just as helpful!

8.  Support a missionary, especially one who takes My Love and Good News to those who have never heard My Name.

9.  Finally, if you believe that I am the real “reason for the season”, how about spending more time with Me rather than spending time complaining about how commercial Christmas has become?  Live every day like you believe that I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE, and remember I am with you always!

All My Love,


Dear Lord, this Christmas season help us to focus on You. Help us show Your love in our actions and deeds. We pray that those around us will see You through us. IN Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Innkeeper

Luke 2:7 (NIV)
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Let’s think for a minute about the Innkeeper. Everyone puts him down as being so mean for not making room for a pregnant woman to have a place to give birth; for turning them away. In doing so Joseph had to search for some place warm and safe for Mary to give birth.

Think about this, what were the Inns like in those days? Would it have been a decent place for a woman such as Mary to give birth to the Son of God? What kind of people hung out in them, was there drinking and carrying on. I do not believe, either, that they were that clean or warm. When the Innkeeper looked at Joseph and Mary maybe . . . Just maybe he felt something special and turned them away for that purpose.

The only place Joseph could find was a stable; a nice warm stable with a lot of clean straw. The stable would have been warm from all the animals giving off heat. I just have a feeling that they, too, knew something special was about to happen and kept still and quiet.

As-much-as Joseph loved Mary I can see him cleaning and mucking out the stalls, arranging bales of hay for Mary to have some privacy. Piling them up making it almost like a room so no one, who was passing by, could see her. He would have had to make a bed so Mary could rest. Joseph would have piled fresh hay and covered it with a blanket. Next he would have built a fire for extra heat, boiling water and maybe for cooking a bite to eat. After all that was done and he was waiting for the arrival of his 1st born, the true Son of God, he would have found a trough and washed it out, lined it with fresh hay and a soft warm blanket to lay the infant in. (Luke 2:7and she [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

What better way to prove your love for the woman God had chosen for you and to show God that you were worthy of the honor of looking after His Son while He was here on Earth.

I believe God wanted His’ Son to come from the most humble of beginnings. What could be more humble then to be born in a stable?

Maybe that Innkeeper wasn’t so bad after all; who knows? Of course God knows and everything was set in motion for it was His’ will and His’ perfect plan for His’ Son to come down to Earth to save mankind from sin and the grave.

I think I just might look at the innkeeper in a different light. After all, if you look for it you can find the good in just about everyone . . . even an innkeeper who turned the young couple away all those years ago.

Dear Lord, as we think about the Inn Keeper this Christmas help us to look for the good in people and not the bad. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Great Surprise

Luke 2:8-9 (NIV)
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

As a group journeyed to Israel the tour guide announced "I have a surprise for you,".

Just as evening was closing in, the bus stopped, and entered a kibbutz, where they loaded onto the elevator travelling to the sixth floor. They exited, crossed the wide hall, and passed through a doorway onto the roof. Then they entered into a room something like a tower enclosed on all four sides by glass. As each entered, they were handed a lighted candle.

The guide called out, "This is your surprise." They all looked over to the east of the building where the shepherds' fields lay. The huge glass windows were opened like doors. They all looked in awe and silence across the fields -- where once the shepherds heard the announcement by the angels on the night Christ was born.

As they took a few pictures,  one in the group started to sing "Silent Night", and all joined in. One carol led into another, and so, with candles held high, they all sang glory to His name as they looked across the shepherds' fields, where now the night drew nigh. It was a surprise that none of them would ever forget.

But imagine the surprise the shepherds experienced when the angels came across the fields with the announcement of the birth of our Savior, Jesus. What a surprise to learn that God could come in human form as a baby -- and not just a physical gift, but a spiritual gift from God!

Let us open the glass doors of our hearts and let Jesus come in. Only then can we experience the surprise of having our hearts be filled with joy.

Dear Lord, thank You the for the surprise You gave for us all that first Christmas morning. Help us share that great gift to all those we meet today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Can You Hear God's Voice?

Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

One night a family with multiple children was noisily chattering away at the dinner table when the youngest, a four-year-old, stood up on his chair and shouted, "Pass the butter!" His parents sat in stunned silence for a moment and then sent the young, ill-mannered child to his room.

The father of the family later told his noisy bunch that he had sound recorded the evening meal. On playback a quiet voice was heard asking, "Please pass the butter." A few moments later the voice called out a little louder, "Could someone PLEASE pass the butter." A few moments later there was the thundering shout everyone remembered from the meal, "Pass the butter!"

Often it isn't that God didn't tell us something, it is that we weren't listening. Maybe there was too much noise and activity to recognize the still small voice of God speaking to our hearts.

The story of the angelic visit to the Bethlehem Shepherds bids us consider why they were chosen to hear the announcement of the Savior's birth. Could it be at least in part that they would listen? The shepherds led a quiet life; being around sheep required peaceful conduct. The shepherd's lives were not cluttered with "a thousand things to do." They were hushed enough to hear the angels and hushed enough to visit a newborn baby. Are you?

Can you hear the Lord's voice over the noise of this Christmas? Take some time to hush your heart, turn off the TV and radio, go to a quiet place and listen for the Lord's voice.

Dear Lord, we pray today that we would have a quite spirit so that we can hear You when You speak to us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Are You Listening to What God is Telling You?

John 10:27-28 (NIV)
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Sister Maurella Schlise, a Catholic nun from Fargo, South Dakota, was spending the holidays with her family in Florida, and planning a visit to a nearby maximum security prison.  Sister Rosemary and her husband conduct a weekly prayer meeting there, and they invited me along," Sister says. Usually, no more than 35 men attended, but Rosemary and Pat refused to become discouraged. If, for just a little while, prayer lifted these prisoners out of despair and regret to focus on the One Who loved them despite it all, the hours Rosemary and Pat donated were well worth it.

Visitors were never allowed to bring anything to the prison, not even food. But when Sister Maurella arrived at the Ryans' home, she found food preparation in full swing-not just for the family but for the convicts too. "Because our regular meeting falls on Christmas Eve this year, the warden decided we could bring each man a few goodies," Rosemary explained. "We're going to make some Rice Krispies bars and homemade cookies for them. Enough to fill about fifty bags."

"Fifty bags! I thought you said the turnout was pretty low," Sister pointed out.

"It usually is. But maybe on Christmas Eve, some extra men will come. We wouldn't want to run out of food. Besides, for most of the inmates, this will be their only gift." Sister Maurella was glad she had arrived several days early to help with holiday preparations. Rosemary obviously had even more to do than usual.

The following morning, Sister Maurella attended mass. She thought about the inmates, wondering if they--if anyone--could actually experience the miracle of Christmas from behind bars. What would it be like? Then, "Although God is not in the habit of speaking directly to me," she says, smiling, "I distinctly heard a voice in my spirit. It specifically said, "Bring one hundred bags to the prison."

One hundred! That seemed far too many for Rosemary's small group. Had the message been Sister's imagination? Perhaps. But she decided to step out in faith, and tell Rosemary. Rosemary and Pat were skeptical. But they too had had experiences when God seemed to nudge them just a little, and they respected Sisters' insight. "It's a lot," Rosemary finally said, "but I'd rather have too many than not enough."

The women spent the day filling one hundred white bags with goodies. The men would be pleased, each happy to have a small gift of his own. As they came through the prison gates that evening, the chaplain flagged them down. "The chapel is packed!" he exclaimed. "There must be a hundred men inside!" One hundred. Rosemary and Sister Maurella smiled at each other. The little nudge from heaven had been real.

Instead of Rosemary and Pat leading the service, the men had prepared a program of their own. An inmate with a vibrant voice sang the poignant story of the Little Drummer Boy. Another did the Ave Maria, having somehow discovered that it was Rosemary's favorite. Everyone sang hymns, and one man read the Christmas story from the Bible. The chapel was hushed, small candles providing the only light. It was truly the most moving Christmas Eve service that Sister had ever attended.

Finally the program ended, and the men eagerly lined up. Sister Maurella and Rosemary handed each a white bag...until there were ten men left, and no more candy to give away. There had not been one hundred men in the chapel. There had been one hundred and ten.

Sister stood, dismayed. How could this have happened? If God had truly spoken to her that morning, why hadn't He told her to bring one hundred and ten bags? What should they do? "God, multiply the bags," Rosemary prayed silently.

But a young convict had also seen their dilemma. "Sister," he spoke quietly, "we others..we'll share our bags with them."

Sister looked at the faces surrounding her. Men of every color and nationality, murderers, thieves... But men who now, because of His birthday, were willing to reach out to one another in forgiveness and love. Healing sometimes came in tiny steps, Sister knew. But once begun, it could grow.

The young convict opened his bag, preparing to share his treats. Just then, a prison trustee entered the chapel, carrying a sack. "Rosemary, we had some leftovers from a group that came this morning," he said. "Can you use them?"

Rosemary took the sack. Inside were sweets--divided into ten white bags. She smiled. "You see?' she told the men. "God cares, even about the littlest things."

Everyone rejoiced as the remaining men received their bags, especially Sister Maurella. She had wondered if Christmas could come in a prison, but now she knew. Where love is, God is.

Dear Lord, we thank You for You special gift You gave at Christmas. Help us to listen to what You have for us to do so that Your love can be shown through our actions. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.