He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Blessings

           I’ve read the story, “A Christmas Carol,” before but had never seen the movie.  Today, that changed.  I watched the classic tale with excitement, fear (somehow the ghosts managed to scare me with all their antics), and anticipation of a change in Ebenezer Scrooge.  I completely knew what to expect given I’ve read the book and knew the story plot.  Still, I found myself completely drawn in by the special effects of the movie which will, no doubt, leave a lasting impression!
            What I take away most from the story is how much like Scrooge we can be, even if unintentional.  Scrooge was “owned” by his money.  While there may be people who are possessed by the funds they’ve accumulated, it doesn’t have to be specific cold hard cash that claims us. 
            Our society has fostered the ideals of “work” so you can buy anything and everything you’ve ever wanted and accumulate wealth greater than your neighbor.  Our possessions bought with the funds we’ve worked so hard for can occupy a greater place in our lives than anything else.  Careers and the need to work so much has created the tag “work-aholic” that is not an uncommon term in our world.
            Aside from material goods, there are other “things” in our world that can be all consuming.  Sports or Hollywood stardom has claimed many victims who’ve fallen prey to the call of worldwide fame.  Food, oddly enough, can be a culprit that overshadows all else in our world as can substance abuse in a variety of forms.
            Scrooge found his Christmas Spirit at the end of the movie because he was finally able to see the cold, bitter man he had become.  While this is certainly important, there is a greater reason to find the “Christmas Spirit” and a better way than having to be visited by ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
            The Messiah came over 2000 years ago to give us the “Christmas Spirit” of love, goodness, understanding, kindness and everything good!  Christmas is all this and more!  The Messiah brought salvation to the world!  He is the Christmas story! 
            As you celebrate this year, I encourage you to reflect on your Christmas’s Past, Present and maybe even Future.  Remember everything you do today has a ripple effect on everyone around you, even those people you pass by and do not know.  Be someone’s Christmas gift today and show a kindness, love, and gratitude as you recall your Christmas Blessings!
The message of Christmas may be best said by Charles Dickens through Ebenezer Scrooge, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year.”  We do this best when we remember Jesus, the Child born in a manger, who is the Savior of the World.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The First Newsletter

I finally put all my Christmas cards in the mail!  I, like millions everywhere, updated my address list from last year, bought stamps, sorted the cards, signed them, stuffed them with a newsletter, sealed and stamped them!  Are you, like myself, one of the many people around the globe who sends newsletters with their Christmas cards each year?

Some detest the task since writing anything seems like a daunting chore, while others relish the idea of putting their last year’s events down on paper.  It’s exciting to re-visit the memories from places traveled, company received, new little ones born, accomplishments and awards, weddings and engagements, moves and career changes, or any other exciting news.  Some believe it’s an archaic idea with all the social media available to anyone who chooses to use it; while others love the tradition.

There are all kinds of ways to get the job done, from writing a simple note in a Christmas card, to sending detailed pages of text interspersed with photos capturing every moment.  Some write it newspaper column style, while others may omit paragraphs completely and just give the bare bones of the “happenings” in their family.  I’ve even received the “news” in poetry.  How fun!  Even if the poetry doesn’t rhyme there is something about giving the effort and having rhythm while reading.  There is no wrong way to share your news.  It’s a message of joy!    

Can you imagine the FIRST “newsletter” that was shared by the angels? It had a single theme.  Christ, the Messiah was born, followed by a simple statement, telling them where they would find him.  While I tagged this event as the “first newsletter,” there had been messages years before.  There was great expectation of the Messiah coming.  People had been waiting for generations.

People had waited and wondered about their new king, who would save them.  Most never expected a little babe in a manger.  They pictured, instead, a great warrior riding a magnificent steed purging the land of their enemies.  Because of their perceptions, many completely missed the “big event!”  They never saw their deliverance, despite the Word given to the prophets, years before!

That mentality, sadly, still remains.  People are so caught up in what they believe Christmas is, they miss the Joy that is The Christ.  Even when attending a worship service and hearing the message, singing the Christmas Carols, and hearing the prayers, they still don’t get it.  Instead they focus on the celebration of the tree and the glittering ornaments that adorn their landscape and home.  Extravagant gifts are purchased, parties are attended, Santa is visited, and foods prepared.  But the “Joy” that is Christmas remains fleeting.

True Christmas Joy can only be obtained by accepting the most extravagant, yet most humble gift ever given: The Christ Child.  He is the Messiah, the Savior of the World.  Just as the Angels proclaimed over 2000 years ago, this is the greatest news!  This is a message worth proclaiming.  But just as the Shepherds had to believe and “search” for the Child, we too, must believe and “search” our hearts to find Him.  He’s there, just waiting for your acceptance and worship!

 Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Asking For Forgiveness

            A friend of mine tells the story of a time, while in elementary school, who did something that hurt another.  This episode must have really made an impact because my friend, nearly forty-five years later was still searching for the person whom she offended.  After continued seeking over a period of nearly fifty years and several states, she located him.  Due to the circumstances of the event, my friend wanted to apologize.  Once she found out where her “friend” lived, she drove to his home unsure about what she would say. 

            Knocking on the door, she prayed God would give her the courage to carry through to completion the journey she’d been on for so long.  Her “friend” opened the door, and she recognized him to be the person she was looking for and immediately shared her heart with him.  He forgave her and a new friendship was forged.  They shared coffee and conversation for the next several hours.  Walking away from his home, my friend knew she’d done the right thing.

            It struck me that this seemed so dramatic.  Who even remembers what went on in grade school?  I admit, I haven’t a clue what the offense was, but that it bothered my friend is significant.  How often do we, even if inadvertently, hurt someone through a negative comment, a slip of the tongue, or gossip?   Or worse, what if words were said in anger?  Sometimes the words we speak when angry are cruel and emotionally damaging.

            When we speak in anger or deliberately hurt someone, it is sinful.  We, as Believers are supposed to build each other up, not tear down.  The Bible discusses sin in absolute terms.  Sin cuts us off from God.  Our moral and spiritual conduct are relevant to our relationship with Him, just as loyalty and love in marriage to our spouse here on Earth.  It is what cements the connection with another.  When that trust has been broken there is separation.

            So my friend’s efforts at making things right with her friend, even though it had been many years ago wasn’t an extreme position after all!  Forgiveness is vital to building bridges.  When we let anger and resentment build, it is we who are hurting.

            I have another friend who has chosen to break the ties with his family because of lifestyle and choices that has hurt his family.  It’s a sad thing to watch as it rips the relationship apart.  But this friend has chosen his path and will have to deal with the consequences, if not now, then later.  The time will come when “family” may be no longer of this world, and forgiveness cannot be asked for or granted – on either side. 

            As we move into another week of the Christmas season, ask yourself if there is someone who needs forgiveness or someone who needs to forgive you.  It’s hard to swallow pride and admit a wrong, and sometimes it’s even hard to grant forgiveness, because the pain was so intense.  But it’s what we are called to do.  It’s what Jesus taught.  We all make mistakes and even bad decisions.  We can, however, make things right, if we want to.  To not make things right is sinful.  That sin can not only separate us from those we care about here on earth, it also separates us from the Father.

            Forgive someone, even if you can’t make an immediate connection with them…..  or ask forgiveness, if you are the offender. Make your Christmas joyous!

           Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Limited Range

Plants require specific soil elements lighting, sun, warmth, and water to grow best.  Some are specific to well drained, moist, sandy soil; while others require full sun.  Some plants want dark, shady areas and some want acidic soil or specific nutrients to grow best. When plants are deprived of what they “need” or prefer, they tend to shrivel up and die.

I considered how we, as a people, are a little like these plants.  We find ourselves in “our little corner of the world” and rarely wander out of our boundaries.  We require a specific kind of soil to grow in, or at least in which to remain “alive”.  We allow our boundaries and growth requirements to limit us to our abilities and talents God has given us.  We choose to not place our “roots” in uncomfortable surroundings for fear of failure, ridicule, or timidity!  We don’t trust God to help us move forward.

God is not limited to what we can see.  His space and time dimension flows well beyond ours of length, width, height or even time.  He is not limited to physical laws or physical senses.  He lives in eternity, in that which at this time, we cannot see.

During a recent conversation with a friend of mine, the idea of how we let “religion-osity” rule our world was discussed.  We get so caught up in the rules and traditions we’ve learned over the centuries since Christ walked the earth, we lose what the Bible says.  His Word clearly gives the directions for our lives, but we try to conform and fit in, if not with the “world’ certainly with those closest to us, even if it’s a skewed understanding of Doctrine.  By following our own creeds, standards, traditions and principles we are not gaining right understanding and acceptance of God’s laws. 

The Pharisees were rebuked by Jesus for exactly this.  They worked to be noticed by man, were hypocritical, didn’t speak the truth and turned people from the right way and even rejected the prophets.  Isn’t this what we are doing today?  Our world is filled with those who would twist, contort, water down, add to, delete or otherwise change what God’s Word says!

Using God’s Word as a guideline, we have to choose to follow or not follow someone we believe to be godly leaders if they are not giving us truth from God’s Word.  If we don’t know His Word because we aren’t studying, it is easy to become so comfortable where we are, that we don’t even recognize we aren’t hearing truth.  It’s like we have blinders on because we choose to not question ---and we are instructed to search God’s Word as truth, when someone speaks.  We aren’t just to accept it as “golden” without “proving it through His Word.”  If it’s not truth, we must not believe (or follow) the person who says he is a man of God.

He told us in the end days, many will be deceived.  So, I challenge you to know God’s Word; study it, be in fellowship with the Creator, so you are prepared should someone ask questions about the Word or challenge your faith in some way.  It is what God not only wants, but expects us, to do. Along with this we must remember, God’s truth is not limited and neither are we, when we are in Him!