Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Singing and Signing

One of my brightest smiles this holiday season was last week when I attended the Christmas Play at the church my daughter's family attends.  My two youngest granddaughters played the parts of angels and were among  a couple dozen other angels.  During one of the Christmas carols in the program, the angels sang and also "signed" the words to the carol.

It was a heart-warming event, but for me, (not prejudiced), the highlight were those angels singing and signing.  The youngest  angel on stage was my 4 year-old granddaughter.   About half way through their song, I noticed her "signing" was different from all the others.  At first, I felt sad for her, because all of the others were in unison and obviously signing the words of the song they were singing.

Then it hit me.  She was signing the same words to the song as the others, but she was signing left-handed and all the others were signing right-handed.   Since signing is for the benefit of the deaf, it caused me to wonder if a left-handed "signer" could be as easily understood as one signing right-handed?  Would a person with hearing loss, seeing the signs from a "lefty," be able to understand the words being signed?  We had this discussion at home a little later that evening and even wondered if it would be the same as trying to read a book with backward printing.

All of this caused me to wonder if our presentation of the gospel message is easily misunderstood causing a lack of comprehension, all because of our method of presentation.   If we are well versed in the Scriptures, yet telling salvation's message from a heart that is not 100% convicted, it is no wonder our efforts are not successful.   But there may be a better way.

Consider telling your own story.  There can be no better way to convey the message of Jesus and the power of the cross than to share with others everything God has done for you.  Tell of your life before you became a disciple of the Lord, right up through the things He does for you daily.  Tell of your victories as well as your struggles.  Testify to God's presence in your daily living.  Let there be no mistake about the ownership of your life. 

I conclude by telling you how proud I am of each of my five grandchildren.  They are all active in church and youth activities, often providing leadership within the youth groups.  Last week, I was especially proud of my two angels, not only performing in the Christmas play, but also learning to communicate with those who cannot hear.  Their hearts, so young and tender, are already actively training to be an instrument for God.

We could take a lesson from them.......and in the new year, we should!


Monday, December 29, 2014

The New You

There was something really predictable that happened at church yesterday.  I had been thinking about it last week so I already knew there were going to be some changes from the previous Sunday services.  Since the first of the month every sermon, every song, and even all the prayers carried in their content the story of Jesus' birth.   Since we had been instructed so convincingly about the virgin birth and the manger scene, this event was the most important birth since the beginning of time.

With the passing of Christmas Day last week, it made me wonder how the messages from earlier in December, which directed all of us to increase our faith and loyalty to the truth about the baby's birth, could be expanded to reveal more truth.  The more I think about it, that's exactly how the four gospels in the New Testament begin.

After all of that has been proclaimed to the church, what kind of sermon could be preached the Sunday after Christmas, that could build up the body, the church?  The most important things had been taught every Sunday and it all centered around the birth of the Christ-child.   If, on one hand we can predict the December messages prior to Christmas Day to all be about the birth of Jesus, can we predict the sermon topic of the Sunday after Christmas?

Someone might suggest we teach on New Year's resolutions, and I suppose that's part of it.  There is certainly nothing wrong with us resolving to be a better person, a better parent, a better mate, or a better employee.

The real message of the new year centers around our understanding and application of the truth of the gospel being the "power of God to save us."   It may call on each of us to take a close inspection of our lives and the way we conduct ourselves.  We may need some changes in our attitudes or the way we handle crisis at home or work.  We may even see necessity for some different approaches to problems in the church. 

There are countless sermons that connect with the beginning of a new year, all of which are to lead us to improving ourselves.  It begins with a self-examination.  With that, we can more easily detect the areas of life which need improvement.  With all that is well and good when it comes to improving ourselves, we could hit a bump and decide we are just not up to the change.  The danger of that is when we revert to last year's person, and there is no change and no growth. 

Let's connect the sermons on the birth of Jesus, with the sermons on the NEW YOU.  When Jesus is out of the manger and into the business of his Father, then we can see how both messages are connected. It's the reason this Jesus could tell us the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love others.   It is also the reason we need to associate the baby in the manger, with his ultimate mission of becoming our Savior on the cross.  It's all for us, all according to God's plan, for taking us home for eternity.  "Father, teach us through the earthly birth of your Son, and the message of his gospel, the heavenly mission for which you call us. Bring us into relationship with you through your love, and the sacrificial death of your Son.  Amen"


Friday, December 26, 2014

Let's Just Praise the Lord

Psalm 147
 1 Praise the LORD.
   How good it is to sing praises to our God,
   how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
 2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
   he gathers the exiles of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
   and binds up their wounds.
 4 He determines the number of the stars
   and calls them each by name.
5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
   his understanding has no limit.
6 The LORD sustains the humble
   but casts the wicked to the ground. 

I have come to learn that praising God is a choice.  Yes, it should be the automatic response of those who have given themselves to Jesus, however, there are times in our lives when problems or weaknesses take over, and praising God seems distant from us. 

In the above psalm, God is being praised for what he has done, what he is doing, and what he continues to do. I suggest to today's Christian, even on the bluest of Mondays, even in the times of despair, and even when we are feeling weak, praising God is the first step toward the remedy we need. 

If our God has determined the number of the stars and calls them each by name, then he knows your problems and difficulties and is concerned about you. If he is great and mighty in power, and his understanding has no limit, then I know he cares and understands me. 

Our God promises to heal the brokenhearted and to bind up their wounds.  He is in the business of making us whole again. 

I love the way the psalmist is talking to God about things like exiles, building up Jerusalem, naming all the stars, sustaining the humble, and his limitless power and understanding.  When I can read of a God that keeps up with all those things, I know he cares for me. So I say to you, Praise the Lord.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, from our house to yours.

Here are the words again, to the theme song of our message during the Christmas season, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."  Read them again.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
As wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

 I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

 And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

 Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

 Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

                           --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Peace from the Psalms

Peace from the Psalms
Psalm 29:11
The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.

·        Psalm 34:14

Turn from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.

·        Psalm 37:37

Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace.

·        Psalm 85:8

I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints-- but let them not return to folly.

Is it any wonder, that our God, the God of peace, would have heavenly hosts announcing the birth of the Christ-child with this continual singing and praise:

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”    Luke 2:13-14

Monday, December 22, 2014

Knowing and loving peace on earth

We've spent a couple of weeks looking through the Bible at texts and verses which make us think about "Peace on earth, good-will to men."  Have you discovered any new applications which would bring peace to your life, the life of your family, your business, your community, or your world?

I talked to one man this past week, who indicated how troubled he was with the problems and turmoil going on in our world.  There is need for concern, and need for growing people and nations into making the world a more peaceable place.  Knowing this, we have suggested some Christian songs, more associating with the peacekeeping lives of the family of God, and passages of Scripture which can lead us to experience more peace.  In spite of all these, we still long for the "peace which passes understanding."

Recently I was told about a man who was called upon to lead a public prayer in the Sunday morning worship assembly.  He began:

Lord teach us to know and love peace--

That may sound simple, but in reality people will not seek peace until they become people who really desire peace.  That is true of national and international leaders, church leaders, community leaders, and eventually the average person in the pew....................Then he prayed again:

Lord, teach us to know and love peace--

It's one thing to pray it, but life-changing to become a person who is a friend to all creation, a friend to other nations, a friend to the lost, searching soul.............Then he prayed a third time:

Lord, teach us to know and love peace--

The prayer is an invitation for God to maintain such control in our lives that He, the God of peace, is the very core of our existence.  It supersedes our will, our desires, our planning, and places the direction of our lives completely in God's hands.

It may all sounds like a good prayer, but it will be only words, unless we discover the source of the kind of peace and good-will God wishes for us to experience.  

This Jesus, whose birth we celebrate this week, spoke about this peace when he was about to leave his earthly journey. He spoke to his closest followers and said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  John 14:27

So the prayer continues that Jesus, our source for peace, gives us an ever flowing supply of the peace only he can give.  It's a wonderful time of the year for us to learn and make a habit of practicing "Peace on earth, good-will to men."


Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Theme Applied

I don't know if Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the above words while knowing they would become a favorite Christmas carol, or if he was writing poetry for another purpose.  However, the closing words "Of peace on earth, good-will to men!" are biblically based and fit so well into the message of the gospel.

For the past couple of weeks we have looked at several Bible themes and verses, some from the story of Jesus' birth in Luke 2.  In each we have reached for the application of the message, actually looking into our own lives and activities, to make sure we are people of peace, with good-will to men.  It still amazes me how the gospel message in the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are blending so many events from the life of Jesus, in teaching us to live, how to act, and the goal set before us of becoming mature in our Christian lives.

As we have seen, each of our topics has led us to see their relation to "peace on earth, good-will to men!"  (We have a couple more to see next week.) 

Throughout this weekend, join me as we take a close examination of ourselves, in the light of a savior coming to earth to dwell with mankind, and bring the application of this Bible truth into the things you do.  Your speech, your conduct, your business, your home life, your marriage, your school.....don't leave anything out. 

Peace on earth, good-will to men not only sounds good in a song during the Christmas season, but IS good in bringing us to know we are growing and becoming the people of God, living according to his will.   God bless.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas for one special man

The man was a recent widower.  I had known he and his family for several years and recognized them all as true people of God, always helpful in local church work, and hearts of pure gold when it came to helping others.

Now he was alone and in his golden years.  He had spent Thanksgiving with his children and grandchildren, and was facing Christmas alone.  It wasn't something that bothered him but it really was an issue for all of those who were concerned about him.  He had received countless invitations to join other families for Christmas dinner, yet graciously declined.  Those invitations were still coming on Christmas morning, yet his phone went unanswered.  Messages were left on his answering machine, and there were some folks that even drove to his house, only to find his car was not there, and he wasn't at home.

It was later that Christmas afternoon he was finally located.   He had returned home and was taking a nap when his doorbell rang.  There were people concerned about him, but now relieved he was fine.  It took a while for someone to finally ask, "Where were you?  We were concerned about you being alone today." 

It took a while, but he explained to them how he had decided to volunteer at the Salvation Army's Christmas lunch for the local homeless and needy.  He had spent the day helping to prepare the lunch, serve the turkey and dressing, and organize the clean-up.  All that took most of the day, and now he needed his nap!

Some of the people checking on him that day, gave him a hug but others criticized his actions because he had visibly endorsed a religious organization other than his own.  I may get in trouble for this, but I was on his side! 

It was an easy decision for me to make, especially when I considered other families from our church whose bellies were full or over filled.  And while I will not criticize the idea of family gatherings and huge meals on Christmas, I had to admit, if it were up to our church, those homeless people would not have had a Christmas meal that day.

The memory of that Christmas returns to me each year as I vow to do something to help those who are helping others during the holidays. For me, that is not the time for us to become competitive over our religious labels, but to demonstrate the love of God through us, and extending our love for others through our individual actions.  It's all a part of the reason for the Christ-child coming into the world. And part of our responsibility to continually show "peace on earth, good will toward men."


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

More on Traditions

I sit in my chair, laptop in lap, noticing some changes taking place in my living room.  To my left is the piano which usually holds the latest pictures of the kids and grandkids.  Tonight they have been moved to make room to display a collection of Christmas snowmen.  They all look happy as they do their job of just sitting there, helping us get ready for Christmas Day.
To my right is a display of Santa Claus figures, also brightening the room with smiles and dreams of the season. This collection has come from numerous places and people, and they annually bring fond memories of Christmas past.  I like looking at the Santa figures and noticing how big are their smiles.

Soon the living room will be adorned with packages wrapped in bright colorful paper and adorned with ribbons and bows.  Gift bags will also be in their places, each bearing the name of one of the kids or the grandkids. 

Then there are the stockings, traditionally filled with smaller gifts for everyone.  There will be plenty of candy in each one, small and insignificant but usable trinkets, and maybe a lottery ticket.  Even PD looks forward to his stocking filled with dog treats. 

I like giving and often find myself wishing I could give more.  But I know each gift I give is received with the same love as it was given.  Our hearts and minds are never focused on the abundance of things, but on the opportunity to share and be together. 

To top off all that, we will be blessed by sharing a nice meal, again, being thankful for the chance to be together, enjoying the visit and the celebration.

Think with me about the season and your family's traditional celebrations.  I am blessed to have come from a Christian home, and have never lived outside a Christian environment.  I cannot fathom what it must be like to celebrate Christmas in a non-Christian home.  The joy would be gone.  The main focus would be on the accumulation of "stuff."  Even the togetherness would lose its magic. We do live in a world that prioritizes the material and minimizes the spiritual.  Sadly, we see this more and more at Christmas. 

The gift of the Christ-child for mankind is our pattern for the holiday of giving, sharing, caring, and real living.  He brings us great examples of the right way to live, while taking each step of his earthly life toward a death which gives us life eternal.  That is God's gift to each of us.  

Our Christian lives are evidence that this gift from heaven, given to us by God's love and grace, is greater than any gift we can give or receive on Christmas Day.  I encourage you to make your plans for friends and family this holiday season.  Enjoy the time of sharing.  It's the best time to share "peace on earth, good will to men."


Monday, December 15, 2014

Simeon's Song of Christmas

The preacher yesterday talked to us about a man named Simeon, from the story of everything that was surrounding the birth of Jesus.  Simeon is described as a devout man, one of the good guys.  Scripture tells us the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that in his lifetime he would see the Messiah.

I've tried to imagine how a revelation like that would make someone feel.  The preacher described him as "longing."   He lived in hopeful anticipation of the promised Messiah.  It was also the work of the Holy Spirit that directed Simeon to the temple on the day the earthly parents of Jesus had taken him there.  When that meeting happened, Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God.  The following from Luke 2, is known as Simeon's song.

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

Now Simeon, already described in the Bible as a righteous and devout man of God, having been promised that he would not die before the Messiah came, has now held the baby, beheld the baby, and comes away praising God, with a song because God has kept his promise.

By his very eyes he has seen the salvation of the Lord, a salvation which God prepared for all nations to see, the shining light for revealing salvation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel.

Simeon now knew he could die in peace. His days of longing to see the Messiah were over. He didn't have to face the possibility of dying before this promise of God had been fulfilled. 

All of this causes me to wonder how much we actually long to see the Messiah.  Do we feel the necessity of holding and beholding Jesus before we face death?  There is just such a description of what is accomplished by the life that seeks Jesus, supplied to us in Simeon's song.

For those who have longed for Jesus, and have met Jesus in the good news of the Gospel, there is a release for us at the end of our journey.  We can face death with peace. And yes, this is the same peace we experience when there is "peace on earth, good will toward men."


Friday, December 12, 2014

It's all about Jesus

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.

And in keeping with our theme this holiday season, his birth, life, death and resurrection, made it possible for us to live our lives with "peace on earth, good will to men."


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Let there be peace on earth

Kevin Ross is a young man, highly trained in his education of music studies..  He has been relatively unknown as a performer......until now.

If you have seen the Holiday Glade commercials on TV then you have seen and heard Kevin Ross and his song that has caught on and continues to gain in popularity.  He has been a guest on several of the TV talk/news shows, singing his song, "This is My Wish."

Who would have thought such an unknown performer a few weeks ago could become the talk of the nation, all because he took a gig with Glade Air Fresheners to sing a song about peace?  I normally don't get a song in my head, one of those that won't go away, but this song has me awestruck.  Maybe not because of air fresheners, but because of a fresh, new voice that has come out of nowhere, and captivated those who hear his message of peace.

(Lyrics) This is my wish
My wish for the world
That peace will find its way to every boy and girl
This is the time, the time for harmony
Let love be the song that everybody sings
Fill the air with joyful noise
Ring the bells and raise your voice
Let there be peace on earth
Let there be peace on earth
Lift you light and let it shine
Shine, shine, shine
Let every voice be heard
Let there be peace on earth

I hear the sweetest sound
The sound of hope to come
Together we could bring good will to everyone
Let it start with you
Let it start with me
Let every nation rise to sing this melody
 Fill the air with joyful noise
Ring the bell and raise your voice
Let there be peace on earth
Let there be peace on earth
Lift your light and let it shine
Shine, shine, shine
Let every voice be heard
Let there be peace on earth 

The message of the song not only relate to the messages of "Peace on earth, good will to men," they bring us to the point of desiring again the purity and the power of peace....peace like Jesus gives.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Back to the Basics

The basketball team had one of their best years and had qualified for the playoffs.  The team was well balanced with talented players who were successfully scoring when driving for the basket, as well as the long shot, 3 point shooters.

It was late in the game and the opposing team, though ranked quite lower, had done a great job of making the score close, and it could go either way.  In fact, with only a little over a minute left, the score was tied. 

The coach of the higher ranked team called a time-out.  What he said to his players was true for that game, and true for a lot of us in the game of life.  He began with asking his team a question, "Why are you making things so complex, when in reality, they should be much easier?  We have been successful with our game plan of playing the basics of basketball, but tonight you have made it difficult to control the game because everyone is trying to make the trick shots and the 3 point long shots.  We have made some but we have missed a lot of those shots, and our opponent has tied the game.  Each of you needs to return to the basic strategy, basic shooting, and basic rebounds.  We can win, if we keep it simple and play the basics."

You are probably getting ahead of me but you must agree that many of the problems we face in our churches today is because we have forgotten the basics.  We may have started in the right way, with the elementary things.  Often times, when we grow a little we forget the basics which have been a foundation upon which we should build.  If the foundation disappears, no amount of building and growing will succeed.  Then we wonder why.  Next, we start the blame game.

I point you to the question of Jesus when he asked, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things I say?"  It's also interesting to look at the things he said over and over, telling his audience that even a child could understand.  Add to that his statement about us becoming more like children because that kind of heart will inherit the kingdom of God.

All the while we wrestle with the most important commandments of loving God and loving each other, because so much of the way we treat each other in the church and in the world is less than Christian.  It's like the news report this week of the church that had white Christmas lights on the steeple of the church building for years. The new preacher moved to town that year and at Christmas time, he decorated his house, next door to the church, with red and green lights. Committees were meeting, secrets votes were being taken, plans were made to send the preacher on down the road.  It was during that time, the gospel was not being shared, sick were not being visited, the needs of the poor were not addressed.  All because the basics were forgotten and the members of the church found themselves in the far country arguing over things that were not relevant.

The angel announcing the birth of Jesus proclaimed a basic truth when "Peace on earth, good will to men" was introduced. That is a foundation upon which we can build and be more successful in accomplishing God's plan for us.  All men will know we are His disciples, if we show them we love each other.


Monday, December 8, 2014

God is with us

An article I received this past week poses the question, "If Christ was born into the world to redeem it, why doesn't our world look more redeemed?"  What is your take on the question?  Better still, how would you answer the question?  Did the birth of Jesus into our world actually bring about the changes to deal with sickness and disease. or hunger and homelessness?  Some might wonder why there is still war, or the greatest question, why do we still face death?

There is one verse in the Bible which, in announcing the birth of Jesus, lets us know "His name shall be called Immanuel."  Scripture further tells us, that name actually means, "God is with us."

Is that an adequate answer to the ills of mankind?  Actually, the questions are real, but the answer is real, too.  But connected with the answer is the unraveling of a great mystery.  The mystery that is easier understood if we take a look at what the birth of Jesus does not mean.  This is something we all must understand  and come to accept.  Brace yourself for this truth.  Believing in Jesus Christ as the Savior of mankind, the Son of God, who will return to claim the faithful, does not mean we have a " free-pass" to spare us from loneliness, pain, illness, anxieties, fears, betrayals, or the countless negatives that are a part of the human experience.

What is does mean is when those bad things happen to us, God is promising to walk with us.  We will have Him to lean on, to comfort us, even guide us in dealing with life's negatives.  Even while I type that I can sense the response from some, (a response that I, also have felt.)  It can be seen in this person's statement, "Ok, I belong to God and He belongs to me, and when something bad happens it's like I can reach out and hold his hand till the storms of life can we say 'God is with us,' when most of the time it feels like he isn't?"

The answer to the mystery begins to unfold when we take a glance backwards into the events of our lives.  When we see our own story we can see how He has been present with us all the time, in the sense of being our protector, our guide, our realization of his presence, and especially his love.  It is only when we see the real picture of all God has done for us, that we can, in glorious anticipation, know that he continues to be with us when we are facing life's issues.

The New Testament gospel writers were right in telling us the name Immanuel really does mean, "God is with us."  Even in our anxieties, he brings us peace. Our fearful hearts find comfort in Him.  Our sinful experience can find forgiveness only in Him.

Search for, and experience the peace he brings.  That's when we can rest assured in his promise, "I am with your always."  And the answer to the mystery not only brings a blessing to you in knowing he is with you, it molds your mind and your heart to be able to love others, just like God wants you to.  Every person in our world needs to be aware "God is with us."   It's the only way our world will know "Peace on earth, good will to men."


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Peace and Good Will

In this weekend leading up to the Christmas season, we are continuing our theme of "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men."  Please use this weekend to be in prayer for peace in our land and in our world.  Pray for those who are peacemakers and peace keepers. Pray for our government that it may lead us to  be peaceable people. 

In addition, think of ways you can practice good will to those people you come in contact with in your daily life.  Learn to be a person of good will.  Let others see the principles of loving God and loving one another, become priorities for you.

Then Monday, continue to study with us as we tie "Peace on earth, good will to men," into the truths we find in God's Word.

God Bless

Friday, December 5, 2014


What comes to your mind when you think of the word, tradition?  Maybe it brings a remembrance of a recipe for cookies your mom used to make every year for your birthday or Christmas.  Perhaps it involves going through picture albums of school pictures when you were growing up.  These and any number of things can make up traditions, and we generally pass them from one generation to the next.

Christmas traditions are always important to us.  From certain meals served, to opening presents at a particular time of day or night, everyone can remember the traditional Christmas events that have carried on from our childhood.

Traditions are usually good, but there is the possibility of traditions being negative.  In Bible days, there were those who had attempted to make their traditions primary over the commands of God.  We can easily see those would be traditions we would want to avoid.

But this time of the year when we are preparing for the Christmas celebration, let's look at some things which can happen with you individually, and as a family, and will be not only a memory for future generations, but will possibly be a molding factor for the type of lives they live.

Here are some examples of traditions I recently heard about, and with these, you may add your own family traditions as a vital part of the Christmas celebration.

1.  For those who cook and prepare the holiday meals, discuss with the younger family members the traditional menu for Christmas Eve and Christmas Dinner.

2.  Have someone read the account from Luke 2, about the birth of Jesus. (Grandpa is a good one for this.)

3.  Holiday house lighting and Christmas tree lighting are good times to share with the family.

4.  Set aside one evening in December to watch a Christmas movie together with the family.

5.  Deliver Christmas cookies and treats to your local fire station, police station, and other first responders.

6.  Place a phone call from the Christmas family gathering, to someone who was unable to be present with the rest of the family, and let everyone contribute conversation.

The number of things is limited only by your imagination.  Just keep in mind you are building family traditions, leading to valuable family time, with even more valuable examples.  Keep your traditions tied to the Christmas season of sharing the message of Jesus' miraculous birth and the love he has for all mankind.  Oh, and one more thing.  Tell your friends and work associates about your family and its traditions during Christmas.  Remember, we are working toward "Peace on earth, good will to men."


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Shopping Done?

Have you finished your Christmas shopping?  Have you started your Christmas shopping?  December is well under way and even though Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, stores are still advertising great prices to lure you to purchase their wares.

Here is something you may or may not consider important, but there is a financial data company that has worked long and hard to come up with an overall percentage of 1.4 percent increase in the prices of things you buy this year.  PNC Wealth Management has made their report to let us all know it's going to cost a little more to have Christmas this year. 

Part of PNC's analysis went so far as to check the pricing of the things your "true love" might want to buy for you this year.  They calculated  all the things in the seasonal song, "Twelve Days of Christmas," and came up with a total of $116,273.06 that would be spent in order to buy everything "my true love gave to me" in the song.  They even detailed a 71% increase in the price of those six-geese-a-laying, but the good news is the price of five golden rings, four calling birds, and nine ladies dancing, has remained the same.

I've tried to see where all of this fits into the story of our Savior coming to earth in human form, born of a virgin, actually living among people like you and me, and ultimately paying the price for our sins with his own blood. Where did all the commercializing come into the picture of God's son as he laid out his own mission statement when he said,  

“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."
  Luke 4:18

Christmas has come with many meanings and traditions over the years.  Family traditions are important to us and help us remember our roots and the things taught to us by previous generations.  The tradition of giving and receiving gifts is always a hit for us because we have grown accustomed to this time of year when loving one another becomes more real to us.

The true meaning of Christmas is in showing us God's love for mankind because of the exciting news that "a Savior is born in Bethlehem."  That greatly diminishes our wish list which might include a new big-screen TV or a new car or even those six-geese-a-laying.

When we learn the truth of God's love for sinful man, and his remedy for the sin debt that we could never pay, our hearts begin to lean toward loving God for his great gift, praising him for his forgiveness, and  "Peace on earth, good will toward men."


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Message of Peace and Good Will

As we approach the season for the Christmas holiday, I want to give you something to read and think about which will relate to every daily blog between now and December 25.  The scriptures which announced the birth of the baby in Bethlehem were accompanied with the encouragement  of "Peace on earth, good will to men."

Since that is going to be central in our study,  I've printed the words to the familiar Christmas song so you can have them close, while referring to them again and again.  Read all the verses and measure their meaning through their impact on your daily living.  This shall be our message of Christmas.  

 I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
As wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

 I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

 And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

 Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

 Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

                                                    --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882),







Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Praise awaits you, O God

Psalm 65:1-4
Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion;  to you our vows will be fulfilled.
O you who hear prayer,
to you all men will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!
 We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.
Are you happy as a Christian?  Do the joys and the happiness of day to day living show that you are a happy person that belongs to God?  Obviously David was a happy man when he wrote the beginning of the psalm at the top of the page. 

There is a story I tell often, of a time when my in-laws were coming to see us, just after we moved to a new town.  They were arriving on Sunday morning so we decided we would all meet at church. My directions were apparently not easy to follow and they were lost in a strange town, not being able to find the church building.  While stopped at a traffic light, my mother-in-law jokingly commented that the man in the car next to them had a huge frown on his face so maybe they should follow him. Sure enough, a couple of blocks down the street, he turned into the church parking lot.

I have often thought that all of us should reflect a more joyous appearance when we enter the meeting place of God's people. However, I believe all of us have sent a message to others that we are somewhat burdened with the worship experience. And to that I will add, our very lives become an example and testimony to those who see or meet us, that we are not joyous to assemble in the presence of God. 

The part of the psalm above is just the beginning of more positive things David has to say about God's followers and their lives of happiness. Read the entire psalm and see the things David has to be happy about.

How could he express such happiness?  After all, David had committed adultery and murder. Grievous sins were in his life.  But God is merciful and forgiving, and David sought the restoration of his relationship with the Father.  The same can happen for you and me. When we seek God we find a loving father who cares and desires the things that are best for us. In spite of our sinful ways, God still loves us and wants us to love him, and learn of his forgiveness.

David's life was a demonstration of the goodness and faithfulness of God. David didn't have to live behind a frown anymore. Neither do we. Yes, difficulties and disappointments come our way, but we learn to leave our burdens at the foot of the cross, where we find the restoration which brings true joy.