Thursday, December 31, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
As the Lord, He had a different way of ruling;
As a King, He wore a different kind of crown.
Jesus is greater than any ruler,
mightier than any warrior,
nobler than any king,
wiser than any sage,
lovelier than any name;
He is the ultimate Christmas gift!
Would your plans for Christmas need changing if Christ were to spend the holidays at your home?
Saturday, December 5, 2009
A friend of mine was buying an expensive TV and said "Merry Christmas" to the clerk, who said, "I can't say that to you." When my friend suggested he by a TV elsewhere the clerk quickly wished him a "Merry Christmas." I hope we don't become like the Japanese, who celebrate all the secular elements of Christmas and none of the religious ones. They learned this from us.
D.A. Carson writes about towns denying religious displays on town property, "If the display is located in a neighborhood where many religious traditions compete, then a great deal can be said for celebrations that inform the entire community of those different traditions. But where there is one whiner worried about loss of self-esteem, one begins to wonder why there is so little concern for community self-esteem, for forbearance within the community, for community pleasure at supporting the majority tradition."
One of my closest friends is a Jewish attorney, who never fails to wish me a "Merry Christmas." He is not offended by my celebration. I, in turn, wish him a "Happy Chanukah." It is, after all, a festival Jesus celebrated, but regardless of that, we ought to respect our differences and show true tolerance. Even atheists ought to be glad that religious people are free to celebrate their traditions and not be offended by public expressions of faith. No offense is intended. I don't have to agree or be indifferent to allow a religious display. As a former Army Chaplain I supported the free exercise of all religious beliefs, even those I felt were completely wrong. Religious liberty is part of our American heritage, which means we are compelled to adjust to a pluralistic society. This means we do not try to take religion out of religious holidays and reduce Christmas to "Happy Whatever."
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Our Lord Jesus Christ died upon the tree of the Cross.
He overcame the sin caused by our first parents,
Who ate of the forbidden tree of Paradise in the garden.
We trust in the sacrifice of Jesus, Whose manger points to Calvary.
If there is no cross in the manger, there is no Christmas.
Prayer: Lord Our God,
We praise You for the light of Creation:
the sun, the moon, and the stars of the night.
We praise You for the Light of Israel:
the Law, and the prophets,
and the wisdom of the Scriptures.
We praise You for Jesus Christ, Your Son:
He is Emmanuel, God-with-us, the Prince of Peace,
Who fills us with the wonder of Your love.
Lord God, let Your blessing come upon us
as we light this tree.
May the light and cheer it gives
be a sign of the joy that fills our hearts.
May all who delight in this tree
come to the knowledge and joy of salvation.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, a lesson you can teach us.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, a lesson you can teach us.
That hope and love and faithfulness, are precious things we can possess.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, a lesson you can teach us.
Scripture reading – John chapter one (excerpts):
In the very beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. He created everything there is. In him was life, and this life He gives to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not extinguish it…The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him when He came. Even in his own land and among his own people, he was not accepted. But to all who did believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God…The Word became flesh and lived here on earth among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God of glory, let our hearts’ door be ever open, ready to welcome the newborn King.
Let us offer the best we have, to Him who gives us everything...Amen!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
But another wall has come down, the wall separating us from God. A dreaded wall has been torn down by the sacrifice of Christ, who removes our bondage from the tyranny of sin and sets us free. When I departed the 3rd Armored Division, I was given a plaque with a cross made from the rebarb within the Berlin wall and an enscription under my name: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free", Galatians 5:1. In Him we are free indeed.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
This doctrine of grace says that we have been chosen by God the Father. This is the Biblical doctrine of “election”. God has a plan to save us. We cannot save ourselves. We don’t generate faith; it is a gift. We were chosen, set apart, according to God’s plan. God has a special use for us. Nothing can happen to us apart from God. We are part of His ultimate purpose. The Apostle Paul says in II Thessalonians 2:13, “from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” God is sovereign in salvation; our destiny is in His hands.
God isn’t searching for people who are able or willing to accept salvation. He knows that, apart from His involvement, none would. But God is not limited by our choices. Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I have chosen you…many are called, few are chosen” (Jn 15:16 & Mt 22:14). Someone said, “God has reasons of His own for choosing me for salvation, but I did not supply Him with those reasons.” It remains a mystery.
It’s important to understand that God does not owe any of us His mercy. If He had wanted to simply be just, He could have condemned the entire human race. Since none deserve salvation, in saving some, God is merciful. Some receive mercy, and others receive justice. No one receives injustice.
Election means that we’ve been adopted, taken into God’s family. We’re given a new identity and destiny as His children. We’re outsiders no longer. Peter says in his first epistle that we have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade” (1:4). This is a great comfort.
After considering this teaching, you might wonder: “Am I one of the elect?” The answer to that question is easy: Trust in Jesus as Lord. If you do that, you are one of the elect. God’s free invitation is simple: Look to Jesus, and live.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Contemplative~ Quiet listening and intimacy with God through silence, spirituality, and solitude to illuminate the dark.
Holiness~ Striving against sin and seeking after virtue and righteousness
Charismatic~ Yielding to the power of the Spirit to transform us into Christ’s image.
Evangelical~ Proclaiming the Good News of God’s Kingdom.
Incarnational~ Focusing on Christ within us, through symbolism and liturgy.
There is a place for everyone in the Church...we simply find where we best fit.
(adapted from Michael Mangis)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Rabbi Kushner offers encouragement to all who suffer fear and dread, and he addresses various types of fears; not phobias, but anxieties common to the human condition. His objective is to achieve mastery over (not the absence of) fear. He states, “Our goal should be to recognize legitimate fears, dismiss exaggerated fears, and not let fear keep us from doing the things we yearn to do.”
Naturally he encourages spiritual resources, and especially prayer--not to seek removal of things we fear, but to ask God to be present, so that we may be less alone as we face our fears. We can then be happy in an unsafe world. “Fearful people cannot be happy.” We may even find that we hurt less by resting in God’s care.
Topics include: terrorism, ageing, rejection, job-loss, natural disasters, end-of-the-world anxiety, change, failure, and fear of death. He points out how God does not explain why life hurts (there is much we cannot grasp about God’s ways); instead He challenges us to respond with hope and rebuild our lives.
I found this an engaging, encouraging book. While I didn’t agree with every point, I felt enriched by Rabbi Kushner’s wise insight, born of experience.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1 can condensed milk, 1 cup chopped walnuts; 6-oz bag of chocolate chips.
Put ingredients in a bowl, adding the milk last. Combine till mixed. Grease bottom of a small rectangular pan. Spread mixture on bottom. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Cut into squares and remove from pan before refrigerating. It doesn't get better than this.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
As I cross the threshold of this day
I commit myself--body, soul, affairs, friends--to Thy care;
Watch over, keep, guide, direct, sanctify, bless me.
Incline my heart to Thy ways.
May I engage in nothing in which I cannot implore Thy blessing,
and in which I cannot invite Thy inspection.
Let those around see me living by Thy Spirit...
-trampling the world underfoot,
-unconformed to lying vanities,
-transformed by a renewed mind,
-clad in the entire armor of God,
-shining as a never-dimmed light,
-showing holiness in all my doings.
May I speak each word as if my last word,
and walk each step as my final one.
If my life should end today, let this be my best day.
~from The Valley of Vision
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
"Anyone can be nice to people who are nice. We need to learn to love people who are difficult to love without expecting anything from them."
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The way to help people is not to be dispassionate, nor to be empassioned, but to show compassion. The English word compassion is derived from a combination of two Latin words, com and pati, which together mean "to bear with" or "to suffer with" This means caring about people's pain--but with a plan to help them through it. Just having the right words to say isn't enough. We need to spend time with those who hurt; compassion is often a non-verbal ministry. Just being with them can be just what the doctor ordered.
Henri Nouwen claims that, "We learn compassion through the life of Christ, who clasps Himself to us in our moments of greatest pain and who is our companion in suffering." As we identify with our Savior's woundedness, we become, in Nouwen's words, "wounded healers."
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
"If I should find out tomorrow that God's method of creation was something quite different from either creationism or evolution that would in no way shake my faith, because that is not where my faith is centered. Thank God. If my faith were based on anything so fragile, how could I have lived through my husband's dying and death? How would I continue to live a full and loving life? My faith is based on the wonder that everything--all the laughter, all the pain, all the birthing and living and dying and glory, all our stories, without exception, are given dignity by God's awareness and concern."
Because this is God's world, life and death both have meaning. How do people who see human existence as an accident find any comfort in death? My comfort is that expressed by CS Lewis who said, "there are better things ahead than anything we leave behind."
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
"In the final analysis, no one is justified by faith; we are all justified by works, but they’re not our works, they’re Christ’s works. We put our faith and trust in the One who alone fulfilled the terms of the covenant of works in our behalf. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness as the New Adam. The fact that God enters into a covenant with us is gracious. Our only work is to believe." –R.C. Sproul
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Genuine renewal/revival depends on:
- Repentance--that starts with me.
- Faithful teaching/preaching and obedience to the Scriptures.
- United, believing prayer
In his book, Dr Rosell states (p. 13) that unity among believers comes from a shared theological focus (the Cross), a shared authority (the Bible), a shared experience (conversion), a shared mission (worldwide evangelism) and a shared vision (the spiritual renewal of church & society).
May our sovereign Lord bring about revival!
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Faith in God is an important part of healing. A medical doctor remarked that to withhold prayer was like withholding a necessary drug or surgical procedure. Faith is trusting God, the Great Physician, in spite of our confusion, in spite of unanswered questions, all the time knowing that God loves us and wants what's best for us, even when we're unable to understand the purpose of our suffering. God may not change our situation always, but He can change us. Faith accepts the outcome/answer to our prayers as what is the best possible outcome, because God's answers are wiser than our prayers.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
We reach out to others because we’ve seen the light--we’ve had a “spiritual awakening”. The Good News of Jesus has changed our lives and we believe it has the power to change others. We’re like the people Jesus healed, who go and tell others of the Master’s touch. “I once was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see.” There are only two kinds of people: sinners, and recovering sinners. Christians aren’t “better” than unbelievers; we’ve simply accepted the remedy for all of life’s pain and hurt, and we want others to have it. The kindest thing we can do for someone is to introduce them to Jesus.
Being a silent witness isn’t enough. St Francis allegedly said, “Preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words.” We have to live our faith before we can give it...but if the media followed this approach they’d be obligated to report the news without words. We need to communicate the Good News and this means telling people facts they need to know. We need to seek opportunities to share Christ, teachable moments. There’s something wrong when we can’t talk about Someone we love.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
You are more wonderful than we will ever be able to say.
We cannot "do You justice";
Hymns, prayers, sermons, and theology can at best bow in wonder.
We love You and confess You as Lord.
You are the son of all sons,
The ultimate embodiment of unfallen humankind.
You carry the image and essence of the invisible God.
You radiate glory as the exact, full representation of God.
We desire to know You as our friend, our brother, and yet our Lord.
We are in relation to You because You have initiated this connection.
We are Yours, not due to our grasp of divine knowledge;
Not because of any superior righteousness.
We have nothing to boast of, except Your grace,
Giving us what we don't deserve;
And Your mercy,
Not giving us what we do deserve.
You chose us while yet estranged sinners in dire need.
You are our Bridge to life.
Cause us to ever celebrate Your person and work,
And to live as Your devoted followers always.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
"The whole world is your province as a preacher of the Gospel of Christ. Be interested in the teachings of science, in literature, in philosophy, and art. Do not be content with a superficial study of the Holy Book, but be a scribe who has become a disciple of the Kingdom of God. Do not be content merely with a chance acquantance with the Book, but seek to study it in the light of the grand, exegetical tradition of the Christian Church. Then you will know that nothing, no hostility of the world, no adverse decisions of souls and bodies of the visible church, no defections, no hostility can ever separate you from the great heritage that God has given you and these people in this Book."
~from The Surprising Work of God, Garth M. Rosell
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Paul speaks of spiritual renewal “in view of God’s mercy”, the theme of the previous eleven chapters. Our standing before God is entirely due to His initiative mercy. We “offer” or “present” ourselves; the aorist tense indicating once-for-all time, like the commitment of a bride and groom…or like a soldier; our response to God’s mercy is giving up our old life and reporting for duty! We are set-apart for God, at His disposal, to work through us.
Why are we “living sacrifices”? Or perhaps a better question, What is a living sacrifice? R.C. Sproul notes: “There is a New Testament sacrificial system. It is not a sacrifice that we give in order to make an atonement, but a sacrifice that we give because an atonement has been made for us.” We respond with gratitude to the One who gave His all for us, Who provided all we need for this life and for the next. The faith-response is commitment.
What hinders us from doing this? Our priorities; God doesn’t have 1st place in our lives; we haven’t died to self; “my will” is #1; we haven’t committed to living for God.
Paul wants us to “conform” to God. As military personnel, we’re accustomed to conformity. But as followers of God, we are non-conformists. We have a distinctly different worldview & lifestyle.
The Phillips translation renders verse 2: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” We live in culture; we're affected by it, yet warned in Scripture against it. We live and function in two worlds--the Kingdom of God and the fallen world about us…these are at odds with one another frequently, and we at times have to appraise to what extent we have become “worldly”. We’re so well-adjusted to our culture that we may fit-in too well.
To be “transformed” means to be changed from the inside-out…an indicator of true conversion. Paul uses the same Greek word used to describe Christ’s transfiguration, where we get our word metamorphosis. Not conformed but transformed. Do we have a distinctive spiritual identity, or have we adapted to a secular worldview? We need to be counter-cultural; in the world but not “of” the world.” By God's grace, we can.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
>First and foremost, the resurrection happened. This historic event was visibly observed by over 500 witnesses, proving that this was not some fable or legend. Even the Jews and Romans knew that Jesus was dead, and also that the tomb was empty on Easter morning. They all knew that it was heavily guarded and blocked with a 2-ton stone sealing Jesus’ body within. They knew Jesus was heavily wrapped in cloths that were soaked with myrrh, enough to suffocate anyone. They had seen the severity of his scourging and execution. And without doubt, they knew Jesus had returned to life. The empty burial clothes were left behind as a testament to His victory over death.
>The resurrection takes away our fear….A father and son were driving along a country road on a warm spring day, when suddenly a bee flew into the car. The boy was deathly allergic to bee stings, and began to panic as the bee buzzed inside the vehicle. The father reached out and caught the bee in his hand, then winced in pain. He opened his hand and showed his son the stinger still in his palm. “Relax, son,” he said. “I took the sting—the bee can’t hurt you anymore.” The empty tomb is God’s way of saying to us, “Relax, My child; I took the sting—death can’t hurt you anymore.”
>The resurrection gives authority to our witness in the world. In every evangelistic sermon in the book of Acts, the early church leaders pointed to the fact that Jesus was risen from the dead. This Easter event gave weight to their message that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah and Savior of the world.
>The resurrection gives powerful significance to the Lord’s Supper. Without Easter, this meal would be no more than a memorial service. But when we remember Christ’s atoning death, we also recall His resurrection, the death of death. Holy Communion is a victory banquet! The resurrection gives us hope for the future. Without Easter, Communion--and life itself would be meaningless. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we break bread with our risen Lord, and our eyes are opened, our hope restored.
>The resurrection unites all Christians, even our Eastern Orthodox friends, who observe Easter on a different day. We may worship differently, we may not see eye-to-eye on all issues…but one central belief unites and inspires all Christians. We are united in our celebration that the power of death has been forever conquered through the resurrected Christ.
>The resurrection showcases Jesus’ authority. In Oscar Wilde’s play Salome, King Herod learns about the raising of Lazarus and is enraged. He cries out in protest, “I forbid Jesus to raise the dead. This man must be found and told I don’t allow people to raise the dead.” Herod the tyrant felt threatened; he knew that if somebody is going around raising the dead, then his power has met a greater power.
>The resurrection matters. We may differ on minor doctrines, but this is a critical, essential truth of our faith. Scripture tells us that the payment of sin is eternal death: “the soul that sins will surely die”. We all deserve eternal death…but when we look at the empty cross we have a reminder of God’s promise that we are forgiven.
This key fact of history is something we cannot be neutral about. Everyone knows about Jesus, but not everyone knows Him in His saving power. For that to happen, we have to respond to His love by trusting Him for salvation.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
- Are all politicians corrupt?
- Are all pro athletes on steroids?
- Are all journalists biased?
- Are all soldiers war-mongers?
- Are all lawyers unethical?
- Are all CEO's pragmatists?
- Are all Christians hypocrites?
When people disgrace their profession, rebuke them, not their profession or what it stands for. Don't dismiss theism because some "professing believers" aren't living their faith.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
"Are we close to God because we have this comforting (devotional) activity or because we love God? We can become selfish in our spirituality. We should have a daily devotional time for God and not for what we get out of it. We need to stay dependent on God, not on our devotional habits."
Thursday, March 12, 2009
TV consumes a lot of our time. It has been called the “plug-in drug.” I wondered what the Bible might have to say about all the time we spend in front of the tube. I discovered some principles:
-Proverbs 15:14 advises, “A wise man is hungry for truth. The fool feeds on trash.”
-In Psalm 101:3 we read, “I will set no unclean thing before my eyes.”
-And in Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, right, pure, lovely, admirable or praiseworthy, think on such things.”
All television is “educational”; it expresses a (sometimes subtle) worldview that may well be quite different from the values we hold. The more we watch, the more we’re influenced. A 4-year old child was told by her mother, “It’s past your bedtime.” Dancing in front of the TV the child called back, “Mom, it’s not bedtime; it’s Miller Time!” Many TV shows push the envelope of decency. What was unthinkable ten years ago is commonplace today. How will things be ten years from now? Not a pleasant consideration.
What should we do to tame the tube? Here are some suggestions...
-Have a family night without TV. Play games, do craft projects, get out the photo album, have a sing-along, tell stories—creative and constructive activities.
-Make a log of what you watch for a week; this will help you decide if TV takes up too much of your life and help you make changes.
-Regulate what you watch. Get a TV guide and circle what you intend to watch, and watch only that. Regulate how much you let TV into your life.
-Watch TV with your kids; don’t use it as a babysitter. Tell your children that they can watch an hour of TV for every hour they spend reading.
-Keep it off during family mealtimes (another good rule is to let your answering machine get the phone during meals).
-Record the programs you want to see and view them when the time is right.
-Watch actively—discuss the shows, ask questions like, “What is this program trying to make me believe?” “What is this show’s viewpoint on sexuality?” “What is the characters’ basis for morality?”
-Turn off the sound during commercials. Lessen their influence and annoyance. Hurray for the mute button!
-Write to stations and sponsors to support good programming and to “vote against” harmful shows.
Consider your home a sanctuary and your TV set a guest. Your home is a refuge, set apart from the onslaught of negative influences of society. If a guest in your home were to tell dirty jokes to your children or use God’s Name in vain, encourage them to drink beer, or describe acts of graphic violence, you’d ask this visitor to stop or leave. Why should TV be any different?
Our need to unwind and be entertained is legitimate, but we have to be careful how we meet that need, by not watching whatever happens to be on. We should make better use of our precious time.
I heard someone complaining recently about having to go to church and I thought, “What a small investment in a person’s week.” I wondered how many hours this person spent watching television every week, compared to the time spent in worship, reading the Bible, and in prayer.
Be in control of your free time, and don’t become a couch potato!
Friday, March 6, 2009
When I send my sermons out by email, people gain the text of my message.
-The verbal and non-verbal energy of the delivery;
-The satisfaction of receiving the Bread and Cup; they've missed an important meal!
-Fellowship, connecting & encouraging--they need ours, we need theirs!
-A structured, intentional focus of dynamic praise to our worthy God (corporate worship).
Which would you prefer: a “love letter” or to spend time with & in the presence of your beloved? “Where two are three are gathered in My Name, I am in their midst.”
Friday, February 27, 2009
Make a list of ten people you’ll pray for daily during Lent.
Memorize Bible verses about Jesus’ sacrifice, recite them when saying family grace.
Make a table-top Easter Egg tree (the egg represents new life) with Christian symbols.
Display a palm cross in your home or on your front door, and/or a banner proclaiming the victory of Christ.
Observe a family Passover Seder or foot-washing in your home; include singing.
Construct a crown of thorns for display and contemplation.
Pin sequins on a thick candle; on one side, a cross, on the other, spell out JOY.
Make (or buy) hot cross buns.
Play a recording of Handel’s Messiah or attend a sacred music concert.
Read a devotional book; give one to a friend.
Participate in a small group Bible study; carry your Bible with you.
Give up something pleasurable during Lent to show repentance for your sins. This is not to gain favor with God but to show we’re under His Lordship and we identify with our Savior’s sufferings.
Wear religious jewelry as an expression of your faith.
Visit an art gallery, taking special note of its sacred art.
Set aside a day for prayer and fasting.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Many things that provide pleasure cannot provide happiness. For happiness we need God, and the company of fellow believers. We may feel better with artificial means, but only in God can we overcome life’s hurts. Our discomfort in life stems from our choices; lifestyles don’t choose us. We’re either the recipients of our good choices or the victims of our bad choices. We can choose something better: God’s will. God alone can help us start a new life.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Jonathan Edwards pointed out: "As there is no true religion where there is nothing else but affection, so there is no true religion where there is no religious affection." It's possible to have zeal yet lack true faith that transforms one's outlook and lifestyle.
Are we inclined toward God? Do we delight in God's glory and majesty? The affection we have for God now is a foretaste of our heavenly happiness.
Friday, January 30, 2009
aOne positive note: Fox has decided to pick up the next Narnia Movie (the Dawn Treader)!
Monday, January 19, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
Worry becomes a form of atheism because it tries to manage life apart from God. Or we could say that worry is praying to the wrong god. Regardless of what we claim to believe, when we worry we are practicing a subtle form of distrust in God. And it becomes a fear that can paralyze us. Anxiety ought to be a reminder for us to pray. God is handling our troubles and doesn't need our help. "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength" says Isaiah (30:15). Worry is SIN in that it is questioning God's love and purpose. Prayer combats worry by building trust. By spending time with God we take a break from our cares and gradually gain peace and learn serenity.