Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

For those who have been reading the blog since it began last February, we are grateful.  For those who have joined us along the way, we thank you, too. 

2013 is upon us and we are facing what is perhaps one of the most challenging years.  I am encouraging you to dedicate yourself to a closer walk with God for the entire year, and watch Him work "all things together for our good." 

We have seen his words of instruction to groups and individuals during our studies. We have taken note of what it means to honor God through obedience and praise and worship, and we have seen how that blesses the believer in all aspects of his life.

My hope is for you to experience the blessings of God and come to know his power at work in you as you commit yourself to living in his truth. The key verse for several of our studies has been John 3:16, and its demonstration through our lives will continue to be the reason we point you to the good news about Jesus. 

Regular and persistent prayer is also a vital part of your spiritual relationship with the Lord. It is important to maintain that line of communication and be open and receptive to God's answers.
While our relationship to Him is one that is always based on love, He encourages us to also be loving toward each other. Yes, there are those who conduct themselves by being less than lovable, but that means we need to demonstrate more of God's love to them.

So our time in prayer, worship, praise and meditation will continue to be on the basis of God's love for us, our love for him, and our love for one another.  His blessings continue to amaze me, in good times and in times that are not so good. He is always there for us. 

Join me in a promise to Him and to ourselves, that we are going to give Him first place in all that we do, in all that we are, and in all we share with others. 

2013 can and will be a time when God wants to change our world for the better, and he is anxious to start with you and me. 

"God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but inherit eternal life."


Friday, December 28, 2012

I am resolved

I hope I have stimulated your thinking about New Year's resolutions.  While there is nothing in Scripture that would instruct us to make them annually, there is certainly scriptural references that will encourage us to always be pressing forward, always be more diligent, and be constantly aware of our need to grow. 

There is a song we used to sing in church that had a dominate theme of resolving to come to Jesus, and it was a song that was usually sang following the sermon as an invitation song. Closer inspection causes me to believe this is a song which could be used at any point in the worship as encouragement to make right decisions toward being a servant of the Lord.  Look at the words of the song:

I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world's delights. Things that are higher, things that are nobler, these have allured my sight. 

I am resolved to go to the Savior,  leaving my sin and strife. He is the true One, He is the just One, He has the words of life. 

I am resolved and who will go with me, come, friends without delay.  Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit, we'll walk the heavenly way. 

Chorus:  " I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free, Jesus, greatest, highest. I will come to Thee."

In the New Testament book of 1 Peter, the Apostle begins his letter by reminding Christian readers of their confirmation as children of God. He told them to "make every effort to confirm their calling." It's like Peter was encouraging them to refresh their minds often concerning the things they have received and developed in their lives. He was making reference to his earlier statements about faith, goodness, knowledge, self control, perseverance , godliness, mutual affection and love.  And, if these qualities are in them in increasing measure, they will keep them from being unproductive. 

Those qualities are the evidence of Christian service, and yet, there is a need in the life of every Christian to see these qualities increase as long as he is on his journey through life.  It means we need more faith today than we had in times past. It means our lives should manifest more marks of godliness than in previous years.  He is saying the journey is always going to be laced with our commitment to growth and improvement. 

Quoting Peter in Chapter 1:12-13,  "So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live."

We serve a God who continually gives us the necessary ingredients to serve and honor Him, and at the same time enjoy a life of peace and security in Him.  "I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free, Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee."


Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Christmas is over and you would think everyone realizes it's time to get back into the routine to which we are accustomed, but reality sets in and we are just half way through the holidays. New Year's Day is rapidly approaching and if we are honest about this year's resolutions which we made back in January, we know we only have a few days to bring them into being.  

I read a story recently about a 2nd grader who was facing a school assignment to make some resolutions for the approaching new year. After the teacher explained New Year's resolutions to the class, Johnny began to think long and hard. The teacher had said the resolutions we make should be things which improve us and strengthen us, as well as bring us to be a better person. So Johnny started dwelling on how he could improve.  His mind didn't take long until it had him in deep thought about improving his school grades. As he thought, he decided he should also resolve to be more attentive in Bible class. That makes two areas of improvement and Johnny wasn't sure he could handle more than that. His mind wandered to the squabbles he regularly had with his sister and how he could make some improvement in that area. But the longer he thought about it, that was not going to be one of his resolutions. After all, she needed more improvement than he did!

Johnny, with his 2nd grade thinking, is a lot like those of us who are adults. Yes, we can find areas where we need to improve. Sometimes we resolve to be more kind, to lose some weight, to get ourselves to work on time, and be a better neighbor. Then we think like Johnny was thinking toward his sister. After all, we show more kindness than some people we could name. There are those who need a weight loss program a lot more than us. We may show up late for work too often, but there are always some who come in later. And those neighbors! If anyone need to be a better neighbor, it's the guy next door. 

Here is the usual thinking: I am about average in all those areas, so there are a lot of people who need those changes more than me. 

For the Christian, each and every day we should be keeping in mind those areas where we need to grow and mature. Certainly our New Year's resolutions should include spiritual matters.  If we think like most adults, and like Johnny, we settle the issue by remembering there are Christians who need more growth and maturity than us.  Then the resolutions fall by the wayside and accomplishment becomes impossible. 

Allow me to make some suggestions for Christians, and you do some serious thinking about each one, and see if any of these are areas where you can resolve to grow.  Personal prayer, Bible reading and study, ministering to the sick, jail visitation, helping the homeless, church attendance, volunteering wherever needed, improving relationships, feeding the hungry.......the list can go on.

My point today is that God has blessed each of us with talents and interests where we could be improving ourselves and helping others. My encouragement to you today is for everyone to spend some time with God, determining where you can bless others and glorify the Father. Then resolve to make your New Year's resolution a blessing to every life you touch.  God bless.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

May you and your family enjoy the joy and peace of the Christmas season, is my prayer.
Every reader, regular or occasional, is important to me and I thank you very much for your continued support and encouragement.  I look forward to having you stop by and read the blog as often as you wish, and please continue with your e-mails, comments and suggestions. 

I'm am eager to share more with you in the approaching New Year. God bless, and I hope your Christmas is merry. Shall we remember together the baby in Bethlehem, and renew our devotion and honor to Him in each of our lives. Only He brings us hope, peace and forgiveness.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Silent Night

Silent Night
Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright; Round yon virgin mother and Child, Holy Infant, so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night, Shepherds quake at the sight, Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing, "Alleluia!" Christ, the Savior is born! Christ, the Savior is born.

Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love's pure light, Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord at Thy birth. 

Joseph Mohr wrote this song in 1818 and it was to be introduced in a Christmas Eve service, but a malfunction in the church's organ led Mohr to suggest that organist Franz Gruber arrange the music for guitar and voice. Without the quick arrangement of the music, perhaps it really would have been silent that night. 

The words of the song suggest that Bethlehem was a quiet place, however even that can be argued. With the influx of citizens returning for the census, filling every available sleeping place, I can imagine there were noises being heard all over town.  Researchers advise us that while there may have been noisy happenings going on in Bethlehem, these were moments of peace when even nature hushed for the birth of the God-Child. 

Like many of the carols we have studied this month, there is strong reflection, not only on the birth of the baby, but especially on the Incarnation. God himself has come to earth in the form a baby. God is using this event to actually dwell among humans. For the Romans, who insisted in keeping order among the people, the happenings of the birth and life of Jesus were a challenge. For the keepers of the law, whether high ranking priests or local officials, this Jesus just did not measure up to their way of thinking. His dealings with people on the basis of love and forgiveness were contrary to the punishment of all evil, as prescribed by their law and tradition. 

There are a couple of lines in this carol which I want to emphasize to you. First, the line of the second verse which says, "Glories stream from heaven afar."  Certainly heaven's glories were released on earth that night when Jesus was born. I want you to see that glories still stream from heaven as you and I learn to love as He loves, and forgive as He forgives. 

Second is the line from the third verse, "Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace."  If there were one central purpose of Jesus coming, it was to reveal God's grace to us. In a world where we still feel we have to earn salvation, Jesus comes to show us he will take our punishment and we can live in the forgiveness of God's love.  


Friday, December 21, 2012

From Heaven Above

From Heaven Above

From heaven above to earth I come to bear good news to every home; Glad tidings of great joy I bring, Whereof I now will say and sing:

"To you this night is born a Child of Mary, chosen mother mild; This little Child of lowly birth shall be the joy of all the earth. 

"Tis Christ, our God, who far on high hath heard your sad and bitter cry; Himself will your salvation be, Himself from sin will make you free."

Welcome to earth, Thou noble guest, Through whom e'en wicked men are blest.! Thou comest to share our misery: What can we render, Lord, to Thee?

Ah, dearest Jesus, Holy Child, Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled, Within my heart that it may be, A quiet chamber kept for thee!

Glory to God in the highest heaven, Who unto men His son hath given, While angels sing with pious mirth, A glad new year to all the earth.

Now that Christmas is drawing so near, do you think God is pleased with the way you have celebrated the season welcoming Jesus? Maybe we should have sang more carols of read and reread Luke 2. Would spending more time in prayer have brought me closer to the Christ-child? Should our church have planned one more service  and gone all out in inviting the community?  

It's true this is the time of year where prayer and Bible reading and worship services seem more abundant. I am afraid we often go through all the motions of performance when God reminds us that performing all the rituals of celebration is a long way from accepting the gift His Son brings. The message of the Christmas season is that Jesus is born. The one who loves you and will save you from your sins, is here. Then God's pleasure is see when we believe, accept, trust, obey, and love Jesus as heaven's gift of life for the world. 

Martin Luther wrote the words to this song in 1535 and their message, almost 500 years ago, is the message of the good news about Jesus.  We focus our attention each spring on the Easter season with observance of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. None of that could have happened without the Bethlehem happenings. 

We place emphasis on the church, because the church is God's blessing for us in associating with Christians for worship and praise.  It is through the church we try to meet the masses with salvation's story. But the establishment of the church, the organization of the church, and the accomplishments of the church, would never have happened, were it not for the baby in the manger. 

I hope you can see that right now you can begin to share your faith and help others to see the importance of Jesus coming to earth. Our lives are strengthened in Him when we reflect on his birth, his life, his teaching, as well as his death.  Wise is the servant who will claim Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.