Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Challenge

Time is running out for 2013.  Tomorrow will be the beginning of a brand new year.  Are you ready?  Have you given any thought to you New Year's resolutions?  You know........those promises or plans of promises to make improvement in ourselves......those promises which we traditionally break within the first month of the new year. 

This year, I am challenging myself and challenging you, to go about our resolution making a little differently.  I am suggesting we put our resolutions in writing.  They can remain personal and private unless you choose to share them with others, but we just might do a better job of keeping our resolution plans if they are written.  Perhaps if we stumble on the piece of paper later in the month or even later in the year, reading our resolutions will spur some encouragement to make them happen. 

Oh, and one more thing.  After you have written your resolutions, include the following statement, or a similar statement in your own words. "By God's grace, and with His help, I will use these positive changes in my life to become more like Jesus every day."  Then sign your name. 

You are always free to share your resolutions with someone close to you, but it isn't part of my challenge.  The help of a friend just might mean the difference between success and failure in bringing your resolutions to reality.

Here is a starting place for some resolutions from Psalm 51:
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

That last verse should be on everyone's resolution list!

Sometime before the end of New Year's Day, give this some thought and put your resolutions on paper. Love to all of you for your continued support of the blog.  Happy New Year to you and your family. 


Monday, December 30, 2013

New Creation

The verse says it like this. "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come."   Recorded by the Apostle Paul in one of his letters to the Corinthian church, this is the verse from Scripture that gives us the hope to keep on keeping on, in our journey to eternal life. 

By virtue of creation, we are a part of Adam's race, human form created by God, in his likeness.  It didn't take man long to mess things up as sin enters the picture and man finds himself separated from God. In case you haven't been told, that is the real tragedy of every sin you commit.  It builds a separation between you and God. 

The mission of Jesus coming into the world was given by Jesus himself, in reading from the Prophets, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free"  Matthew 4:18.  His mission found you and me when he gave his life on the cross and paid our sin-debt with his blood. Through that sacrificial event, we have the chance to be created again, starting all over, clean slate, fresh and new. We sing, "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!"   But it doesn't stop there. 

The love and grace of God, involved in everything since the beginning, continues to be extended to cover the sins we commit as Christians.  Yes, Christians are sinners, too.  As we continue to seek the face of God we live under his grace, loved and forgiven.

We, like everyone else, come to this time of the year thinking of changes we could make in our lives which would make us a better person, more caring for those in need, closer in our relationships, more loving toward others, resolving to be what God wants us to be. He offers newness of life. We should be willing to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. 


Friday, December 27, 2013

Who God is......

I was about to follow the Christmas celebration blogs with one encouraging everyone to make God and spiritual things a priority as we close out 2013 and look forward to the new year.  I ran across this list someone has written and posted on the web, and it uses many of the points and verses I had planned to share.  Take a little time and read each of the scriptures, then prayerfully make the application to your lives and situations.  See for yourself who God is.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas. Enjoy the season with family and friends. 


(Blog resumes on Friday, December 27, 2013)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Eve

Busy times on this Eve of Christmas.  Last minute shopping, trying to keep the kids calm, food preparation underway, house cleaning for the guests.   I suppose most households are seeing lots of activity today. 

Many churches are having special Christmas Eve services with special songs of the season.  Churches are usually busy all through the year, but tonight's assembly is very important to those who believe in Jesus Christ.  The Bethlehem story reminds us of the divine becoming human, God inhabiting humanity, all to lead us through the events of his earthly life, to the cross where he pays our sin-debt with his life. 

This is the time of the year when we try to think of a more regal way for Jesus to have been born. The picture I get of there being no room at the inn, is a picture of Jesus being rejected before he was born.  Then I think of the multitude of people in today's world that do not make room for Jesus.  I become ashamed when my thoughts carry me to times when I become busier that I should, and Jesus gets the leftovers. 

I must say also there are countless people that continue to be an example to me and to others, of how we are at our best when we make the spiritual realities found in the Lord, a priority.  I count myself among those who need these good example people as a personal mentor. 

So if you were the inn keeper in the story from Luke 2, would you try harder to find a place for this young couple to spend the night, and for the baby Jesus to be born?  Would they find the same rejection if you were deciding who sleeps inside and who is sent on their way?

I have often wondered if there was someone they had to ask for permission to use the stable, or did they just find this place where animals slept, and shared the softness of the hay, and a roof over their heads? 

The picture says it all, as we personally examine ourselves and come up with answers to these questions.  This is a yard decoration in San Antonio, spotted by my daughter, and borrowed for you to see.  God bless.


Monday, December 23, 2013

The Elf on a Shelf

I have been trying to learn all the available information on the "elf on a shelf" tradition that is growing each Christmas season.  From I have copied and pasted the following information:

The Elf on the Shelf® is a special scout elf sent from the North Pole to help Santa Claus manage his naughty and nice lists. When a family adopts an elf and gives it a name, the elf receives its Christmas magic and can fly to the North Pole each night to tell Santa Claus about all of the day's adventures. Each morning, the elf returns to its family and perches in a different place to watch the fun. Children love to wake up and race around the house looking for their elf each morning. 

There are two simple rules that every child knows when it comes to having an elf. First, an elf cannot be touched; Christmas magic is very fragile and if an elf is touched it may lose that magic and be unable to fly back to the North Pole. Second, an elf cannot speak or move while anyone in the house is awake! An elf's job is to watch and listen. 

Elves typically appear in their families’ homes at the beginning of the holiday season (around Thanksgiving in the U.S.). On Christmas Eve, the elves return to the North Pole with Santa Claus--until next year!

This is a big deal.  No longer do we only have to be concerned about Santa knowing when we are sleeping and when we are awake, we have a little toy elf, somewhere in the house, watching our every move, listening to every word, like a spy for Santa Claus, to make sure we are on our best behavior. 

My further reading on the subject informed me about one family that had the elf hanging from a chandelier above the dining room table, and during dinner one evening, fell into the gravy, splattering everyone seated for dinner.  Another family had designated mom to move and place the elf in its new location daily, then mom found out she was also responsible for changing  the elf from its pajamas and into its day clothes every day.  This went on for about 3 weeks and the mom realized she had spent so much time tending the elf, she missed  the Christmas specials in all the major stores.  

As is usual with me, there are some Bible verses that come to mind.  Like Hebrews 4:12-13:
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

The elf on the shelf may be a fun thing for families in that the kids will be on their best behavior when the elf is around.  In contrast  "nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight," is pretty serious business.  We may successfully hide our thoughts, our words, even our actions, from the sight of others, but God knows.  And knowing that God knows, even at Christmas, should bring about close examination of those things that originate in our hearts. God isn't the "big bad wolf" that sneaks around waiting for us to step out of line so he can zap us, rather he is the loving Father, wanting only the best for his children, in everything we say or do. He asks us to love him, and love each other, at all times. 


Friday, December 20, 2013

Jesus, Make Your Bed in My Heart

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 or 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.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oceans and Sunsets, Church and Christmas

I was a grown man before I ever saw an ocean. It's only a drive of 8 hours from my hometown in west Texas to the Gulf of Mexico, but I had never made the trip. Now, over the years, my travels have allowed me to see both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.

My first look at the Pacific Ocean was one of those breath taking experiences. That evening I watched from the beach in Oregon as the sun was setting in the west.  I was in awe of the majesty and the power of God. His creation had brought me to experience him and know him more closely. 

Another time, a friend and I had secured permission to go fishing at a stock tank in west Texas and our afternoon and evening showed us the sun setting over mesquite trees and pasture land. My friend made a statement to me, indicating he can see God in a pretty sunset, but it is difficult sometimes to see him in church.  I thought for a moment and had to shamefully agree. 

I know the Scripture says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork."  God is evident in all aspects of creation and lots of people make that their "church." But God has different plans.  Look at Ephesians 3:10-12:

" His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,  according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."

There are many good things we can say about the church.  We are added to the church by the Lord. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the head of the church and he loves the church. Much of the New Testament  is composed of letters written to churches.  The verses above tell us something about the church that is of vital importance. Look again. Paul told the Ephesians it is" through the church, the wisdom of God should be made known to our rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms."  All of this is wrapped up in God's eternal purpose that has been accomplished in Jesus. 

I enjoy seeing God in church. You can see him in the lives of the church leaders who are chosen to lead us with wisdom, with love, and with a watchful eye for the security of the people. You can see God in the lives of those who contribute food items to be distributed to the needy. You can see him in those who attend to special projects which benefit those who are sick. You can see him in the smiles and cheerful greetings of those who welcome us to the assembly.  I will add, you will be able to see God just about anywhere you look for him. 

Yes, we can see God in his creation, but we must remember creation is not the object of our worship. The creator is. We need the church in order to accomplish the intended plans of God. In the church, we can individually and collectively praise and worship while the evidence of God in our lives becomes the greatest outreach for others. 

This week while we are filled with anticipation of the joy and happiness of the Christmas season, may we see God not only in the Christ-child born in Bethlehem, but in his love overflowing through our lives. Share the celebration with friends and family, but also allow God's love show in your goodness and loving kindness to the stranger you meet, the beggar at your door, and the neighbor across the street. God bless.