Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hang On Until The Due Time

Good morning as we look at the final day of 2013. I cannot hang on to the year, but I am promised a new one. You might think, "Ah, ah, you may yet sleep this day!" True, but then I awaken to a new eternity, so much better than just a new year. We use sleep as Paul did because our passing from this world is to go on to the better one. Some living this morning may not see the arrival of 2014 in this world. Those who believe in Christ look forward to that great day. Those who do not...I just don't know how they can face it without fear and trembling. However, we in Christ must hang on until the due time. We don't get to choose the time or day of our passing. Instead, we are to labor on in the harvest and planting until the order comes to go home. Thus, we look forward to a new year with hope. We close the chapter on 2013 today, as Pastor Swindoll mentioned on last night's radio program.

The passing of a year is a time to review and learn, not a time to review and despair. Too often we look back on the past and moan over our failures. Look upon them as a lesson to learn, learn it, and then close that chapter. We are still here, therefore we have another chance to do it right. Whatever your 'it' may be in this new year, you can try again. Some cases may not allow for another try; the moment has been lost for all time. Okay, that is what forgiveness, mercy, and grace covers. No need for despair, let God have His way and move on into the next thing He has for us.

Set aside a bit of time today to figuratively toss out those failures and fallings of this past year. Then, spend a lot more time on the successes and blessings of 2013. Give thanks to God and ask Him for a big hug. We need it for 2014!


Monday, December 30, 2013

Standing On The Sand of No Change

Good Monday morning! I saw a comic this morning that came to the punch line of finding a New Year's resolution that works, the character won't change this coming year. Hmm, are you sure that will work? Sounds like a shifting sands job to me. Give yourself to Christ and try not to change. Oh, we do. The rebellion of Adam still works in us and against Christ's Holy Spirit. We may resolve in our carnal flesh to not change over the coming new year, but we won't keep that resolution. The very sand we stood on to make that resolution to not change will shift out from under our feet of clay. Now, make a resolution to change in all the ways Jesus would have us changed in this coming year and we have something to stand on.

With the changing of the year, we will make resolutions that refer to the outside of the cup. What if, and we must pause in prayer to consider this, Jesus is not at all concerned about your weight this new year? No? What if instead our Lord is going to work mighty changes on the inside of the cup and leave the outside alone? Dare we consider that as we make our resolutions upon the shifting sand of the world? With the pressure placed upon us by the world's media, can we even begin to stop, ask God in prayer, and then make resolutions our Savior wants us to work on?

The carnal me knows so much; he doesn't want to stop and ask. Praise God for His Holy Spirit who gives me a little tap on the shoulder, "Hold up there, Hoss! We have some better ideas for this new year." Did the Holy Spirit just call me 'Hoss'? Whatever it takes to get the attention of His troops out in the world, our dear Holy Spirit will remind us that God has a better plan. One with resolutions we can keep through Christ who strengthens us.

In Christ!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Post-Christmas Downer

Good Saturday morning. Yes, it came a day late or so, but the post-Christmas downer arrives in all its depressing glory. The holiday is gone for another year, decorations are coming down and going into the boxes, and the happy of the Christmas season seems so far away once more. At such a time, we must enter into the prayer closet and begin thanking God for all that we have and all that He is. Salvation, grace, eternal life, and the love of God are still present and no passing of a holiday can take them away.

All we hold dear is kept safe in Christ. Passing of holidays, persons, and other things is a part of the curse sin brought to the earth. However, God is permanent and His love does not pass away. We have much that is not perishable, though we journey through this life in perishable flesh watching our perishable things pass away. When a passing comes, we must turn to that which lives in us now that is not on loan but a down payment of eternity, God's own Spirit. The peace and joy given in the Holy Spirit is not temporary, but is a gift to treasure when the gifts this world bestows have fallen apart. Indeed, not as the world gives does Jesus give to us.

Another year passes soon, but that is not cause for depression. With each passing year we are but a little closer to our Lord to stay with Him forever. Loss, pain, and passing will soon be but a bad memory for us in Christ. Up with your spirits! Christmas is gone for this year, but the One who gave us Himself for Christmas is coming soon!

Amen, come Lord Jesus!

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Final Friday

Good morning on this last Friday of 2013. Yes, the year is coming to a close once more. New calendars are needed soon, but what has changed? We have a tendency to think that a new calendar will make a new life. Then, we are disappointed when we fall back into the same old habits. When will I learn to love me as I love my neighbors? I don't get up in a new year expecting my neighbors to be totally changed by their own effort. Why then do I look to a new year to become SuperChangedMan, hero of his own making, champion of the concentrated self-effort, and glorifier of his personal grace?

Some of us must learn to love our neighbors as well as or as much as we love ourselves. But, there are also those of us who need to learn to love ourselves as we are loving our neighbors. Both me and my neighbor are beloved creations of God. Our Lord does not put His love out in unequal shares. Else one would get an imperfect love and another the full-blown perfect love we know our Father dispenses at His good pleasure. Jesus died for all sinners. God is not willing that any should perish. I do not believe that God can love me only a little bit, or that He can love my neighbor a whole lot more than me.

Circumstances are not a measure of God's love but a part of this fallen world. That person somewhere in the world whom all would vote as the most deprived and afflicted in circumstance is not less loved by our Father than me. The person wallowing in wealth beyond a man's ability to spend is not more loved by God than you or I. Our circumstances will differ, but God's love is poured out in full perfection on each of us. The Word tells us that God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. The tests we endure do not show God loving us less. Actually, the test we face this day shows me and you that God is paying close attention to our improvement. That our Lord wants to make us more like His Son is love.

Face the new year by loving the one God loves.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

When Does Christmas Time End?

Good morning on this great day after Christmas! I hope you enjoyed the company of your friends and family this Christmas. I wonder this morning when is a good time to call it quits for the Christmas time or season. What day means that all decorations must be put up or when should we stop playing Christmas carols? Many radio stations drop their Christmas music like a toxic potato by midnight of Christmas day. To me, that is a very sad thing to do. However, I'm a bit of a Christmas music nut, I'll admit that. Sadly, many churches will drop the Christmas music before this coming Sunday. Christmas should be the beginning, and not the end. Jesus didn't stop with Christmas day.

The good news here is that every Christian song began at that first Christmas, so all of it can be called Christmas music! All things Christ began with Jesus, and thus we have good reason to celebrate Christmas every day. I cannot separate Jesus from Christmas simply by dropping the Christmas music. And, I realize that all Christian music is really Christmas music as it all began with Christ! I don't need to separate Away in a Manger from Jesus is Coming Again! You don't remember that second one? I think I just made up that title, but we certainly should be singing it. Perhaps one of the Christian songwriters would be so kind as to get that tune ready for us. Oops, well of course it is! I just looked up the lyrics and the song is ready for us. As of 1872 ready for us that is. The hymn begins with this verse:

Lift up the trumpet, and loud let it ring:
Jesus is coming again!
Cheer up, ye pilgrims, be joyful and sing:
Jesus is coming again!

A note of thanks to the long-passed Jessie E. Strout and George E. Lee, I'm glad they knew to write a hymn for my title long before I thought of it, or was even born for that matter. As for putting away your Christmas decorations, do it whenever you like or wait as long as you like! Have a Merry Christmas on this day after!


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Christmas!

Good morning on this Christmas Day! I reminded Santa that this house does have a chimney, but I forgot to tell him there is no opening. If one day the house is demolished and a Santa suit with a skeleton is found, all I can say is "Oops!" Usually, this is explained by magic. Santa comes into houses without fireplaces through his magic. So, how do we explain the virgin birth? Well, we can't save by the power of God. This is not magic, but the authority of the Creator over His creation. The One who created everything from nothing, save His wish to do so, can create anything He pleases by His authority. Perhaps the better question is: Why would God want to come here?

This explanation can only come from a love so great that what our Lord endured He did to save us. Have you ever avoided something because you would rather not? Jesus didn't. This is not to shame us on this fine Christmas morning, but to remind one and all of the love our Lord showed on that Christmas night when He arrived in Bethlehem. The event caused rejoicing in the heavens and on earth. Stars, angels, wise men, and shepherds got involved in the early celebrations; we got involved in these more recent ones. Blessed be the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ on this Christmas Day!

Merry Christmas to you in the love of Christ Jesus!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Christ is Born!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! You may have a good day too. Whew! I made it past the 23rd this year without one of those gifts. You know what gifts, don't make me write it. Okay, last year, in case you missed it, the VA kindly sent me a jug of GoLytely for a Christmas present. I vowed to never again whine to the Lord about not getting any Christmas presents. Grumbling is certainly a bad thing. We learned that from the story of the Israelites in the wilderness. However, one horrible gift in one year should not make us flee all gifts. Many hurtful, evil people have been born and lived on this earth, but one precious baby was born in Bethlehem.

One most excellent gift at Christmas can overshadow a bunch of thoughtless ones. God gave to us the greatest gift of all at a time we needed it most. Sinners need salvation. We have no deeper need than to be saved from the payment sin brings to us. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 6:23) We hear the fist part of this verse quoted a lot, but this Christmas Eve let us remember the better part of that verse, the gift of God.

No Santy Claus can give us the one gift that stands above all others - that of eternal life in Christ Jesus. This gift from God is so critical, so huge, that our minds have trouble grasping it. To unwrap the gift of eternal life is to die from this life, and we have trouble seeing past the wrapping paper. Many of us would prefer the Rapture and take a pass on that dreadful wrapping. Maybe we look at it wrong. To a sinner, God's wrapping paper seems dark, mysterious, and filled with fear-inducing anxiety. If we could but see the gift from God's view, we no doubt would appreciate the gift of dying for what it is, a mere thin wrapper over the greatest of gifts. Look to the blessed Baby born at Bethlehem for us. His blood covers the dreadful wrapper in beauty and comfort. Many a saint has gone willingly into that last night with a smile and the light of Jesus shining through his or her countenance. Let the light of Christmas shine in your heart in the strength of Christ.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Wondering Wonderful Christmas Thoughts

Good Monday morning! Today we are not just in the season, but the very week of Christmas. We don't know the timing for sure, but today is one of those days when it is fun to do a little imagining. Joseph is leading the donkey with a very pregnant wife on board. He may be thinking dumb male things like: Broken water? How can you break water? The donkey of course is thinking, "Why am I all wet up there?" Mary just wonders how much further to Bethlehem. An innkeeper down the road is about to miss out on an incredible blessing. Some wise men are looking at the sky wondering why they have this feeling that something big is about to happen. The shepherds in the field have no clue at all that their wits are about to take a short journey into that place called Frightenedoutof. We don't know all these things, but we like to think what might have been going on just before the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Did the innkeeper ever have cause to regret not finding some way to make room? Did Herod have second thoughts about the slaughter of innocents? Did Joseph try to get away at the last minute - "There must be a room somewhere in this town! - only to find the hood of his robe in Mary's firm grasp? "Gaakkk! Guess I'll stay and make sure Mary isn't left alone." How many shepherds felt an urgent call of nature at a critical moment, then turned to find themselves surrounded by the glory of the Lord? Hmm, too many questions when the need is simply to enjoy the story just as it is.

All the players did their part just as God created them to do. Joseph may have worried, but God had the birth of His Son well in hand. Shepherds trembled, but the angel gave them a message of comfort and peace. Herod followed prophecy, but he still made his decision just as Pilate would some years later. In the Judean hill country, a six-month old baby may have pointed to Bethlehem, because John the Baptist knew who had arrived. Far away, the wise men took up preparations for a great journey. The Christ arrived in Bethlehem and immediately things began moving. What a wonderful story!

Have a very merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Forecast May Look Bad, But...

Hmm, a warming trend is in the forecast, chances of a white Christmas are poor, and winter begins today, what is going on? Christmas still arrives on Wednesday. The warmer weather will help people to travel far and near. A bit of a warm up in the winter is not at all unusual around these parts. So, maybe there is nothing to worry over. When we read the Revelation, the forecast certainly looks bad for quite a while. Plagues, vials, trumpet judgments, and a lot of suffering are prophesied for the earth. Yet, if we endure to the end, then the promise arrives with joy and healing in His wings.

Often, and I think that I go only a short distance out on the proverbial limb here, we must endure a time of suffering to reach the peak of peace, joy, and reward in Christ. In fact, that pretty much describes the life we have after saying 'Yes!' to Jesus at the salvation altar*. Maybe 'often' is an understatement in this case. Come to think of it, Jesus forecast our life exactly in John 16:33b. "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." We are reminded of this often. To enjoy a feast for Christmas dinner, much work in preparation and cooking is done first. To enjoy a time with family or friends, we must often endure a journey. To enjoy eternity with Jesus, we must endure a lifetime first.

Now, that sounds just dreadful! While enduring this lifetime though, we are not alone on the journey. Jesus promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Indeed, His Holy Spirit travels and endures with us, even to the point of intercession for us with God our Father. Without the strength of Christ in us, none would complete the journey. There is peace, joy, and love in this world too. I don't think our dear Holy Spirit could travel anywhere without those wonderful qualities.

Enjoy a wonderful Christmas weekend!

* A metaphorical place for our acceptance of grace, not a physical location or piece of furniture.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Too Much, Too Often

The Friday before Christmas! Schools will let out, vacations will begin today, and let the celebrations begin! When worried over something, those who seek comfort food tend to seek too much, too often. The addicted drug user takes an action the body could recover from and does it too much, too often, and then the body cannot keep up with the damage. We find it easy to fall into a too much, too often pattern of living in many destructive ways and means. However, sound the trumpet call, prayer is an action that we cannot perform too much or too often.

If you think that prayer must be done in a ritualistic fashion with head bowed, eyes closed, and hands and knees folded, then you may not want to do it while driving a car. Prayer is simply talking to God, out loud if possible, but silently in the mind is alright too. God is waiting to hear from each of us at all times, and wants to hear from us more often. We cannot overpray; that isn't even a proper word. Hooray! Give God a Christmas present of you. (A shout out to Naomi for this one!) Talk to your heavenly Father. Set aside a prayer time when you can get together especially for just talking. Leave no subject out (God knows what is in your heart anyway.) and let no thought be edited. Give up every evil thought to the Lord. Then, turn to praise and gratitude.

Have a very grateful Christmas!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Peter's First Christmas

Good morning! This morning let us wonder for a bit about the man who would one day lead the fledgling church. Where did Peter celebrate the birth of Christ? Did he even know about it? Until Christ chose Peter from off the boat, we know nothing about our future leader. Which might explain why we know much more about the life of our head, Jesus. Peter would become a leader on Earth, but Jesus is our ultimate leader. On the night that Jesus lay in a manger looking around at the funny faces of a bunch of raggedy shepherds, Peter may very well have been fixing a hole in his boat. We don't know how old Peter was when chosen by the Son of God. I think we can assume that Peter probably had a better idea of the exact day, week or season of our Lord's birth. Did Peter invent the Christmas holiday? Maybe.

This is speculation of course, and a little wondering is fun to indulge in once in a while. We miss our Lord Jesus in His body talking with us human to human. So we celebrate Christmas, Easter, and every day with His Spirit. We long to run to our Lord, to kneel before Him, hug His body and be hugged by Him. We long to see him as we see our very best friend and ask Him a host of questions. Peter may have felt all this and more. How many tests did Peter face in life where he longed for Jesus to be beside him in the flesh once more? We have but a hint of that I think, but we have the same hope as Peter. Jesus promised all of us to return, and that Christmas is one all can anticipate with great joy.

We don't know if Peter even thought of such a thing as celebrating the birth of Christ. Then again, he may have thought about it every day. Peter's first Christmas was celebrated on a boat on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus said, "Follow Me!" Peter may not have realized it at the time. Our best Christmas was the day we heard Jesus say deep in the heart, "Come to Me!" and we obeyed. Like Peter, we may not have realized it at the time.

Have a great Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gone Commercial

One week till Christmas! This morning, I woke up to realize that our local radio station, affectionately known as K-gerbil, had gone commercial in a constant sort of way. Perhaps the power outage last night did something or the manager needs some quick cash for presents, but their ads were playing in a continuous loop. I had to wonder if the ads were connected to billing software and if the advertisers were notified of the new policy. We may think that Christmas in the world has gone commercial, but after hearing the same ads a dozen times in a half hour I now have some idea of what the phrase means.

I have to wonder at times if I don't get stuck in a loop that way. Will it impress Jesus that I piously repeat the same phrases? The question about prayer I think is already answered in the scripture. I don't want to be one of those mindless prayer repeaters! Imagine how we might feel if every year someone sent the same gift to us. "No surprise this year, dear, Aunt Gert sent that thing with the candied fruit in it again."

Let us not get stuck in a loop in our worship and prayer. I think our Lord is endlessly inventive. We don't think about that much, but how many of us are exact copies of people from the 1st Century? Right, probably not one. Even identical twins aren't. How many of us said the same prayer to God last night as we did the night before? Hmm, maybe we changed a few words around or shifted a phrase, but we might want to give that some thought. Persistence in prayer requests shouldn't sound like a broken record or stuck ad loop. As for me, too many of my prayers sound like variations of: my will be done, Lord...my will be done, Lord...my will be done, Lord.

Have a fine and merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas? How Startling!

Good Tuesday morning! We don't usually think of the Christmas holiday as startling in any way. The surprise is reserved for presents and gift exchanges. However, the first Christmas did things a bit differently. The shepherds were abiding in the fields with their sheeps, probably not expecting anything more startling than the call of a wolf. Suddenly, perhaps instantly would be better, an angel stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. Well...yeah. I mean wouldn't you be? Did angels have another way to arrive rather than simply appearing without so much as a 'hello, mates!'? Did the angel have to say "Fear not!" while the poor shepherds were still trying to restart their heart beats and gasping for the next bit of air? Perhaps the first 'fear not' was to give the elder shepherds time to recover from fainting or maybe it was the younger sheep herders who passed out in startled fright. The glory of the Lord may have surrounded them to keep anyone from fleeing in terrified panic.

Think of it, 400 years or so since the last prophet gave the people of Israel a heads up on the coming Messiah, and angels begin appearing all over the place. Zacharias met one in the Holy Place, Mary had one come into her room, and Joseph heard from an angel in a dream. Our poor shepherds didn't get to see the messenger coming, he was just there before them. Then, just to make sure they didn't relax too much, the host of Heaven appears praising God. Yeah, I don't think the shepherds were going to sleep much that night. They caught their breath and took off for Bethlehem to see this new thing; this Christ child who came to save them (and us!) from sin.

Startled shepherds and all, the Christ child came and Heaven rejoiced. We have a merry Christmas each year to celebrate the arrival of our Lord. Praise our Heavenly Father for His Son on this Christmas season.


Monday, December 16, 2013

It's Christmastime

Merry Christmas! Work and school, among other things, go on this week almost as normal. Almost, because in every mind and heart is the knowledge that Christmastime is here. Some may grumble that the day has not arrived yet, but some days are so wonderful that anticipation is not possible to stop completely. We have a day like that out there on the calendar somewhere. You might call it a second Christmas. Our Lord is returning!

The cares and toils of this world try to stop our joyous anticipation, but always we have the knowledge that this world system will not last forever. Jesus is coming! Many will mock our belief and scoff at our credulity. If God's promise is nothing though, what do we have left to believe in? The goodness of man? Please! The strength of the individual? All will die eventually, and even the longest-lived do not have very long in this world. Our accomplishments? What good are they to us after we leave this life? No, we need something more permanent for placing our hope.

The Christmas we celebrate here comes each year, and then goes away once more. Leaving us with a feeling of having missed out on something, a little post-holiday blues so to speak. As wonderful as Christmas here in this world is, we hope for something lasting. A celebration of Christ's birth that never stops. Yes, that may not seem possible for us here in our worldly bodies. With God all things are possible, and though we cannot see the day, His Son is returning to us forever. That day is a Christmas to hope for and anticipate with joy.

Until that day comes, celebrate this year's Christmas with great joy.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Difference In Houses

Good morning! We tend to look at the outside of a house and consider what we like or dislike about it. This morning, I got a different take on that. After feeding the cats, I got a box of stuff out of the garage, and then spent some time watching the meteor shower. As I thanked God for the glory of His heavens, the sheriff pulled up to neighbor Bob's house with his emergency lights flashing in the darkness. Soon an ambulance arrived and later another car that I have seen at Bob's often. In my house, peace, well-fed cats, and time to gawk at meteors. Just over there, not even a block away, a medical emergency. How different the Saturday morning from the inside of one house to the next!

My friend Ric flew into sick this week. So we naturally spoke of when our time may come, or how many days we might have left on this earth. The subject of death and other morbid subjects seems to follow the flu. A serious illness on the other hand causes the subject to be religiously avoided. The flu is just miserable enough to bring old Morty to the door for a nice chat. This morning, I have another reason to be wondering. I am well, but my neighbor needed emergency help. What a difference in our homes today.

It was not my time to help. By the time I noticed something, calls had been placed and emergency services already dispatched. The sheriff didn't use his siren, but at six in the morning even I notice a pickup with emergency lights flashing when it rushes by a mere 20 feet away. The funny thing is that a siren did go from one point in town to another, but nowhere close to us, just a few moments earlier. Did our little town have two emergencies so early on a Saturday and at nearly the same time? The world rushes about, but peace is here.

Jesus gave us His peace (John 14:27), but not all will accept Him. The world rushes faster. In a city, hardly a moment goes by when a siren is not sounding somewhere. Yet, there are many houses in the same city where peace lives. We do not always get to decide in which home we will wake up. Better by far to accept Jesus and His peace this day.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Beware the Day of Superstition

Friday thirteen-twelve-thirteen...how many will just stay home today? Too late for me, I'm already in Sidney! Next month, 13-13-13, whatever will we do on that day? Yes, it's the new month of Eternuary 2013 where there is always a Friday on the thirteenth! Look at the bright side though, we'll never pay taxes again when the IRS computer blows up! Yay! Actually, if you paid in too much this year, you'll never see that return you were hoping for. Superstition is such a fickle mistress. Good morning on this fine Friday! We enjoyed a marvelous day yesterday and there is a cold front on the way today. Who I wonder, would dare to have the office Christmas party on Friday the thirteenth of the year '13?

We may laugh, but some folks are terrified of the day. Another person's fear is always too easy to take lightly. Even now, early in the morning, a Christian brother or sister might be struggling to fight off the grave rags of the former life of sin. He or she is saved, but those clinging things of the past won't let go just yet. We have similar rags in our life in Christ. Not all has been made new yet. A little empathy in prayer for our fellow humans might be in order on any day, but this one brings up a more specific target: superstition. Many are enslaved to this foul beast.

I may have a clinging rag in my life that appears funny to you. A little humor to salt the morning eggs, hermm? Maybe one of my 'rags' is a tendency to be silly about the serious stuff. I pray for a merry Christmas for all of us, and a blessed Friday too!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Closer, Closer It Comes

Merry Christmas! Closer and closer it comes, the big holiday. Shoppers begin to move a bit faster. Decorators wonder if they will have time before the day arrives. We see a date on the calendar and try not to anticipate, but some things are so good that we have difficulty. The celebration draws near and we feel the excitement. Every day is Christmas in our hearts as Jesus gives us new mercies. One day though, like that first Christmas, Jesus will arrive Himself. No more waiting, no more anticipation, just the view of our Lord coming in His glory.

We live in a period of waiting much like the nation of Israel did between Malachi and John the Baptist. Jesus is coming, but we don't know the date or the hour. A Christmas to cap them all comes closer and closer. Can we stand the anticipation? Like those folks of long ago, I imagine that on some days the coming of our Lord seems very far away and on others it appears imminent. Also like those folks back in the day, we rest in God's assurance that the day will arrive.

The only way to stand the anticipation of a day that is just out there somewhere is to live with Christ in today. I can't make this Christmas come any faster. All of us together will not advance the day of Christ's big return. A countdown of days winds down, but we don't know what the counter stands at today. The day will come, but let us live in the day God has given and rejoice in it.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hope In Christ

Soon we begin the celebration of our great hope. Christmas marks the time that God came down to us as a baby. None deserved this salvation. Few saw the birth for what it was, but it is our great hope for eternity. My great hope is in Jesus, and so is yours. We endure this world for this very reason.

From the time that Adam fell to the time of this birth, God kept a distance from His servants. Moses could not see God directly lest he perish. God spoke, sent messengers, and performed mighty works. But, until Jesus arrived that day in Bethlehem, none could reach out and touch the Lord. Did Mary look at Joseph and say, "I'm hugging God's own Son!" We don't know. Later, a woman would reach out in faith just to touch the robe of our Lord. She was healed. After the resurrection, Thomas of the doubting was invited to touch the risen Lord. But once more we are in a time when we cannot touch.

We miss the touch of our Lord. Who among us does not look forward to the healing and regenerating touch which will cleanse of our ills and pain. We live in hope and faith. The evidence of things not seen and the substance of things hoped for keeps our great hope alive in our hearts. Jesus also gave us a down payment of great things to come in the Holy Spirit. We do not hope alone. The Spirit gives us the strength to live and hope. This hope is not a vague wish, but a certainty based on the Lord's own word. Have a merry Christmas in the hope of Christ!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Time For Celebration

Merry Christmas! Why do we need to wait for one particular day to celebrate? What about today? Is there a reason to celebrate? Jesus is more than enough reason to celebrate any day. Moving my thoughts off of me and my situation to Jesus and His saving grace causes me to celebrate. Now to learn to do that all the time and every day.

Perhaps we should take Christmas not as a single-day celebration, but as a reminder to celebrate each and every day in Christ. The cat finds his sunbeam, and he celebrates. We must spend a little time each day in searching for our Son beam and learn to celebrate too. Prayer and the Word of God are great places to start our daily search. The heavens declare the glory of God. There too is a place to seek our reason to celebrate. This search is not easy.

We have many things to look around at in this world that would cause us to despair. I suppose that I at least should realize that it is in 'looking around' that I fail. Each of us must find the discipline to look to Christ our Lord. That Son beam shines within us, from the inside out so to speak. Prayer comes from within, and the Word lives within us. Faith grows in the heart, and I suspect that means joy does as well. As the world presses doom and despair upon us from the outside, we must look inside to the Spirit to remind us of the Word.

Aagh! 0923, I must quit gazing and get this out. Merry Christmas to all! A tip of the hat to my sister Kerri too, for inspiring this by her Facebook post yesterday.


Monday, December 09, 2013

A Little Acceptance

A light breeze on a single-digit morning makes for a cold wake up. The cat appreciated my effort to feed her in the cold though, so all is good. We may at times fear that any gratitude or appreciation in this world takes away from our treasure in Heaven. Our Lord told us not to do our good deeds to be seen by men. If we do good only for this reason, then we do indeed have our reward only here on earth. Those people do make sure that their efforts are seen and noticed by as many as possible. However, gratitude from the receiver and appreciation when word gets out about our good deeds, and it will sometimes, does not take away from the original good done in God's name. In fact, we are to let our light shine before men so that our Heavenly Father is glorified.

So...how does one not let the left hand know what the right hand is up to, and then hold up that light to shine at the same time? I know, three hands! No that's not it. We let the recipient of the good deeds shine a light on them while we run go hide. Hmm, I don't know there, seems like that might be that false humility hiding our light. Maybe, we accept the praise because we gave for the right reasons, did not do it for the wrong one, and now we have the chance to glorify God. Yes, that sounds better. Not easy, but better.

Accepting is not easy. We have trouble accepting charity. I can tell you from valuable experience that is not easy, but a season may come when it is necessary. We have trouble accepting a little recognition, even when we have a secret desire for it. We experience difficulty in accepting gratitude. Some of us may find it difficult to accept love from another in the romantic way (That may be just a certain level of stupidity too.). But,do we not have one thing that must be accepted above all others and cannot be earned by us in any way? Yes, salvation. I think we had better learn accepting or all is lost!

Accept a hearty 'Merry Christmas!' from me this morning to start.


Saturday, December 07, 2013

Questioning The Boss?

Good Saturday morning! A little story to begin the weekend.

Jake arrived back at headquarters from his mission in the field. He did not have to face reporting a failure to the boss, but he did have some questions about the supply chain. Jake thought up a few comments about the management of the company as well, but decided it best to keep them to himself. Jake turned half a thought to his smarting buttocks. The tool required for the job had not arrived, and Jake had been forced to spend much of the previous evening crawling on the floor or squatting behind an equipment rack. At middle age, the body did not take that sort of activity without dishing out some residual soreness. Now, he thought with some trepidation, he would have to sit on those same hurting things through another interminable status meeting.

The boss looked around with that look that said without words, "Shut up and start the meeting."

"Jake, how did the job go yesterday?"

"The job was completed, but supply chain screwed up the tool order. The rack lifter did not arrive at the job site." Jake didn't mention the crawling bit, the boss didn't like to hear the self-pitying stuff.

"I cancelled the order for that tool."

Jake didn't quite know what to say for a moment. "But, that tool is essential to the job! I needed that tool yesterday!"

"I wanted to see if you could handle the job without it. I wanted to know that you are qualified to lead a team through adversity."

"A test? Your job is to provide what is needed for the job! Are you sure you're qualified to lead?" Jake exploded.

An almost subliminal gasp went around the room. A couple of Jake's peers looked at the door as though to make sure it was still there and available for immediate use.

* * * *

A human boss is easy to question, we expect most of them to react much like we would in their position. We might well expect a boss questioned and disrespected in that way to blow up. Yet, do we not at times question God in this way? We think we need this or that and we know the verses about God's provision, and yet something doesn't show up in the way we expect or when we expect it. We complain to God or accuse Him of falling down on His job in some way through our lack of faith. God may not blow up in an Old Testament sort of way, but what we did was disrespectful and unfaithful. Praise God for His mercies that are new each day.

Have a merry and merciful Christmas!

Friday, December 06, 2013

My Christmas List

Merry Christmas on this cold morning! I have my Christmas list ready for you. Get as many of them as you want. Send as many as you like. You might even find something on the list that you can re-gift to others. Maybe you will want to take the list and copy it for yourself. Ready? Here we go:

1. Prayer

That's it. My whole list this year. I wonder if that fat fellow in the red suit deals in this stuff? Wrap it however you like, and I'll prepare a gift for you in the same manner.

It is easy for us to focus on the things; that stuff that we need or think we need. Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and the things we worry about will be added to us. The way to seek the kingdom of God, at least until I discover a better one, is in prayer. We can pray for one another, pray for ourselves, our country, the world, and even people we don't know. Prayer is available without cost or obligation, and God is eagerly waiting to hear from you and me. There is no waiting line for prayer, and no closing time on the prayer store. We can send our Christmas gift prayers from work, school, or from our homes. Churches are good places to find a selection of gift prayers. The Spirit dwelling in you will help too.

Is this a simple gift? By no means! We will need the help and intercession of God's Spirit to get a really good gift prayer for each other. Prayer requires time and effort when done well, but the gift can also be given on the fly during a busy day. Prayer is easy on light wallets, but requires a surplus of love. Prayer is far more effective than any of the things we might buy with a fortune in money. The poorest person can give prayers away for no money down. The rich person can buy useful things, but nothing can match the usefulness of a good prayer gift. Best of all, we can all afford to give more than once.

Rejoice in the birth of God's Son!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

I've Heard That One Before

Merry Christmas! Enjoy each day leading up to Christmas. Don't countdown the days or think of how short the time is, just enjoy each single day. Tough to do, isn't it? We like to read the weather forecast for days ahead. We count down the days left to some date like it's sure to happen. Christmas shopping is encouraged a month before the day arrives. We want as much information as possible about a day that is just short of 3 weeks into the future. Is that what Jesus told us to do, worry about a day that far off? Today, I can face the troubles of today.

I face those troubles in prayer. I pray over those troubles in faith. I will not look ahead to dates in the future. Yeah, I've heard that one before too. The imagination of troubles yet to come is a favorite pastime for us anxious types. Scrooge's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was formless and dark. The poor man was shown a terrible, and short, future that spoke of an unrepentant life. We don't get that sort of vision. We are repentant, but instead of finishing this life in ease and wealth we are promised troubles. However, Jesus commanded us to take it one day at a time. Does this mean that planning my Christmas is off the table?

No, we are to make our plans with God in prayer. Sufficient for the day are today's troubles, but God gave us minds and a brain to use them. Too often we use those minds to dredge up imaginary troubles that never come. Praise God that planning a wonderful Christmas is not imaginary trouble making. Planning a successful project is an attempt to account for possible troubles, not an anxious imagination of every terrible and ridiculous outcome. I'm opening up a whole new subject here, better reel myself in a bit. I cannot enjoy tomorrow. I cannot relive yesterday and make improvements. Today, let us enjoy this day in the Christmas season together. Wherever we are physically, God connects us together.

In Christ,

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Aren't You Glad?

Good almost noon on this Wednesday! Aren't you glad that Jesus never leaves nor forsakes us? I can get to Sidney before the storm, but if my password memory forsakes me, then I cannot sign in to my GMail to send out the devotional. I made it safely home, and my password memory was better than I give it credit for, but not good enough.

We live in a world where close, in many cases, does not make the standard. A computer password cannot be close, you must have every character correct. Almost remembering the thing does not allow access. Aren't you glad that Jesus has already acknowledged that not one of us will make God's standard and saved us Himself? We are not almost up to snuff by God's standard; all of us are sinners. In the final judgment, no one will be met with a sentence of "Darn, you almost made it." Without the intervention of Jesus, we are all out of the running for eternal life in Heaven.

With the saving grace of Christ, we live in a different state. I don't have to remember a certain number of Bible verses in the correct order to pass the pearly gates. You don't have to pile up a certain tally of good works to get past Heaven's nominating committee. We believe in Jesus, and we are in. Simple and straightforward. The only complication is our desire to make the grade by our own merit. My password creativity may easily surpass my memory recall-ability. If that prevented me from accessing Heaven, I would be doomed. However, Jesus holds the pass to access Heaven, I don't have to worry about forgetting, and no one should worry over not qualifying.

Whoee, now to warm up the outside of me! Cold...

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

First Cold Christmas

Merry Christmas! Was the first Christmas morning cold? The truth is that we don't know for sure what time of the year Jesus was born. Someone gave up their manger for a bit, but that doesn't give us a season. Joseph and Mary found a place to have God's baby, probably in a cave also used at times for an animal shelter, but again that does not speak of any particular month. Shepherds abode in the fields with their flocks so maybe not winter. Of course, maybe the shepherds were tough back in the day and slept out under the sheep in the cold. "Cold tonight, Moishe. Hand me another sheep, would you?" Nice weather or the dead of winter does not matter so much as the fact that Jesus was born.

In order to have the cross and the resurrection, some sort of incarnation was needed. Sure, God could have created Jesus as an adult human, but prophecy already spoke of virgin birth, Bethlehem, and a child knowing right from wrong at an early age. God didn't give His Son any shortcuts to the cross, so perhaps the little Jesus was born in the cold of winter. We might think that couples counted months so as not to have the babe in winter time, but Mary didn't get a choice in the timing. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, "baby time!" (my paraphrase) and the process began at the Holy Spirit's chosen time.

Did Mary catch a break on the duration, maybe a six-month term? Probably not. Did Joseph and Mary have to endure the occasional remark about infidelity or jumping the gun? Probably. Unbelievers had their time to scoff, just as they do now. Not only did Mary endure the other stuff, but the time drew close just as they had to pack up and go to Bethlehem for a census. Jesus was born in the usual way in those days, whether we know the day of the year or not, and we celebrate that birth well.


Monday, December 02, 2013

Ah, The Christmas Season!

Good morning with a beautiful sky on a Monday morning! Let us start the Christmas season! Encouragement, rejoicing, joy, peace, and the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus all bring about thoughts of contentment and giving. The thought of coming parties, celebrations, and the reading of the gospel accounts of Christ's birth bring joyous anticipation to mind. The sound of the season comes from the radio and television. People wish each other a Merry Christmas, and perhaps during the workday we even think a bit more often of the baby who started this thing we call Christmas. It's that time of the year; even those flirting with Scrooge-hood allow us to sing and play Christmas carols.

December, Christmas, Advent, it's that wonderful time when a little joy spreads from one to another without quite so much effort. Giving is a little easier for all of us in this time of the year. We welcome Scrooge into our homes and cheer on the four spirits warning him of dire consequences if his life does not turn to doing good. We watch a wish to have never been born turn to a realization that it's a wonderful life. A fellow who believes everyone has a little larceny in him does a good work out of his heart for his old commanding general. And, once in a while, we remember that a child was born and placed in a manger long ago. If Linus doesn't remind us first, a minister at church will tell the great story once more. Should the minister save the story for the Christmas Eve service, then a story on the radio or a desire from the Spirit comes to read certain scriptures. The reason for the season, as they say, will come to mind for those who will believe.

I wish you a wonderful Merry Christmas this year. May Jesus bless your home with a rich celebration.