Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Sunday, December 7, 2014
The race is on! We’re streaking toward the finish line of December 25th and I’m already starting to panic. My calendar is full, the hours left are short, and I’m not quite sure I will make it.
I started out really well, with plenty of time to spare. My daughter and I braved the howling storm and sea of people on “Black Friday”. We were among the midnight crazies at Walmart, doing the all-night shopping thing. Infused with caffeine and adrenalin, we sped from one end of the store to the other and got some decent deals. However, what seemed to be suitable gift ideas in the excitement and haste of early dawn, once home, turned out to be not-so-wise choices.
For one special item, I stood in a three-hour line that snaked through several aisles. While I waited, I had an opportunity to observe the people around me. Each person was cordial, courteous, pleasant, and helpful, but completely absorbed in their own shopping needs. They came from all walks of life with many different interests. Some more affluent than others, but all were doing the very same thing. In the wee hours of the morning, when Christmas bargains were uppermost in our minds, I pondered the question, “Can they tell I’m a Christian; that for me Christmas means much more than glitz, glitter, and gifts?”
Sadly, I knew they couldn’t. My fellow shoppers had no idea I personally knew the Baby born in Bethlehem, Who grew up to die on a cross for my sin and theirs, rising from death three days later and is alive forevermore. They were oblivious to the fact that at least one stood there among them who possessed eternal life and walked the narrow way, while they wander aimlessly down the broad. A thought flashed through my mind, “Should I engage someone in conversation about Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas?” Then just as quickly, the girl behind me asked a question and the thought was gone; never to return.
Thinking back to that night, I grieve, knowing the majority of people I encountered would probably say they believe in God or that God exists. They might even say they know the Christmas story about the Baby born in a manger. But, they have no real knowledge of who He is, nor do they desire it. They merrily go about their Christmas shopping in a joyous stupor, enveloped in the “giving” spirit and tradition.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas as much as anyone. I love the decorations, get-togethers, gift-giving and receiving, music, merriment, and laughter. But, there is a sadness for me when I see how many people do not recognize that Jesus, Immanuel, was and is God, come in the flesh. He dwelt among us for a time and then became our sacrifice, dying for our sin. Jesus was born to be the Greatest Gift of all. He is the “…eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us” (I John 1:2) giving us a chance to believe and receive this “… gift of God, which is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” For, “…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 6:23; Rom. 5:8) This Greatest and Priceless Gift is the true meaning of Christmas.
But think about it, if I am sad because of all the people who still walk in darkness and desperately need to see that great light, Jesus is infinitely more. How His heart must break to see the “form of godliness…” their playing at being holy. In Isaiah 65:2 God proclaims, “All day long I have held out My hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations-” (NIV)
Yes, I realize this passage was said to Israel, confirmed and repeated in Rom. 10:21. But, God’s word is for everyone. We all are warned to “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14)
So, my challenge for you this Christmas (like you have nothing else to do) is to help someone find The Greatest and Priceless Gift and enter through that narrow gate.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
Are you thankful for your family, your home, your job, your health, or countless other items?
We have so much, and in this season of Thanksgiving, we do see “thankful” people. In fact, there was a TV program Thanksgiving night called “Thank You, America”, where Robin Roberts and Jimmy Kimmel, surprised ordinary citizens who have done much to help their community and those in need. I must admit, I did not watch it. I’m only going on the Network’s advertisements.
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Sunday, October 5, 2014
It’s the time of year for parties, tailgating, and family get-togethers.
They can be large or small assemblies consisting of people with like interests, employment, age, or gender. Nevertheless, at most gatherings I’ve attended, small groupings emerge. In corners, around tables, standing or sitting, there are pockets of people, engaging in conversation. However, if the party is mixed company, I’ve noticed women seem to end up in one room, usually the kitchen, and men just naturally gravitate towards the living room, den, or man cave.
Why does this occur? It’s because, human relationships are important and friendship is a gift from God. He created us to need one another, and says through Solomon, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion…Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
When we have a decision to make, it’s nice to be able to talk it out or run it by a friend. They maythink of things we didn’t or ask questions that will make us reconsider. If we’re angry, a friend can help us see the truth of the situation and change our attitude. “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” (Proverbs 27:17)
These characteristics are true whether the group is Christian or secular. However, as believers we have an advantage.
God gives us friends and places us in groups to enhance the talents and abilities He has given. The groups and relationships, who resist envy, recognize each person as uniquely designed by God, and placed within it for edification, are the groups that will mold into a cohesive cluster and grow in love. These will bear one another's burdens, and fulfill the law of Christ. As Christ’s disciples, they will have fervent love for one another, above all things, because love covers a multitude of sins.
Nevertheless, we cannot encapsulate love or keep to ourselves. Love must reach out to someone or else it is not love. This is why our God, who is love, chose to initiate a relationship with His creation saying, "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love... Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. (Jeremiah 31:3; John 15:13)
So, the next time you are with your friend or your group of friends, remember you are a unique creation. You bring something to this group no one else can and because of Jesus, they bring out the best in you. With these friends, you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel…and…[together] you put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (Philippians 1:27; Colossians 3:14)
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Are you kidding? It isn’t New Year. Well, maybe not, but September always feels like it to me. With a new school year, new church programs, etc, the lackadaisical summer has turned into a disciplined schedule. Nevertheless, September-October is the month Israel celebrates their civil New Year, called Rosh Hashanah. Israel’s New Year begins Wednesday, September 24, 2014, but for them, it’s the year 5775.
Rosh Hashanah or The Feast of Trumpets is one of the seven feasts the Lord instituted in Leviticus 23. The first feast, The Sabbath, is weekly. Three spring feasts are next, ushering in the religious New Year: Passover/Unleavened Bread, The Feast of Firstfruits, The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. Jesus Christ, in His first coming, spiritually fulfilled these three. The remaining three are fall feasts, ushering in the civil New Year: The Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, and The Feast of Tabernacles are yet to be fulfilled. The gap of time between the spring feasts and the fall feasts represent this present church age.
Into each feast, God built deep spiritual meaning and unless you know Jesus Christ as Messiah, you miss the fullness. This is where Israel is today. Some suggest this feast commemorates the day of creation and some feel it represents the binding and deliverance of Isaac.
Israel’s Feast explanations do have the feel of spirituality, but they remain empty and flawed without Christ.
So let’s examine the deeper meaning of the Feast of Trumpets. It begins on the first day of the seventh month, the month of Tishri (Leviticus 23:24). On all other months when two witnesses spot the new moon, the celebratory silver trumpets are blown. However, the new moon of Tishri is different. The shofar (ram’s horn) is blown as a symbol of calling the hearers to the ten-day, soul-searching process of repentance, culminating with Israel’s national day of repentance, the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur.
Because Rosh Hashanah begins with the blowing of trumpets, most pre-millennial commentators see it spiritually representing the rapture of the church or the “catching away” to meet Jesus in the air.
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”(I Corinthians 15: 51-52)
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)
“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this’.” (Revelation 4:1)
Are there are scoffers? Of course, just as God said there would be (II Peter 3:3-4), but only because He is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)
While we wait then, let’s conduct ourselves in holiness “…and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God…” (II Peter 3:11-12). If we do, people will “see our good works and glorify…[our]…Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Sunday, September 7, 2014
Sunday, August 31, 2014
Two weekends ago, I had the privilege of attending the Franklin Graham Festival of Hope in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with my aunt and cousin. As volunteers, we arrived very early and the arena’s immensity stunned me. All I could say was, “Lord Jesus, fill this place with Your Spirit.”
After receiving our assignments, people began filling the seats. Soon the entertainment started with music of every genre, mostly appealing to the younger crowd. There was Rap, Grunge, Alternative, etc, and for us ole-folk, earplugs.
What a joy to see the kids having such a great time moving to the music of these Christian artists and then intently listening to their testimony. Each artist gave details of their life and the lies they believed until someone introduced them to Jesus. And as He does with everyone who calls upon His name to repent, believe, and receive Him as Savior and Lord, Jesus turned their lives around. They are new creations, who now sing for Him. Each evening, Jesus Christ was lifted up, Almighty God was glorified, and Franklin Graham had not yet taken the stage.
Reports of seven hundred teens going forward on Saturday night blew us all away. Adults and teens alike came forward to speak with counselors Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Nevertheless, with events like this, I’m always concerned about sincerity. To this day, I pray every seeker found Jesus, their conversion was true, and the seed of the Word of God fell on good soil, so the enemy cannot snatch it.
However, sitting at breakfast on Sunday morning my cousin posed a question. She said, “Each artist and musician seemed tattooed to the hilt. How does that jive with Scripture when it says, “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:28)
Remembering the tattoos I observed, clearly, these artists acquired this “ink” after they came to know Jesus. The only thing that came to mind was how Paul said in I Corinthians 9:22, “…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Paul was saying he tried to fit in, so those to whom he witnessed would hear the gospel and not reject it, because of his appearance.
I wondered would the tattooed crowd listen to me if I tried to witness? Probably not. But, would they listen to someone sporting tattoos? Possibly.
I didn’t have a good answer, but I knew someone who would. Therefore, I asked the Lord, “Since it seems like disobedience, how does one justify a tattoo when obtained after salvation?”
Incidentally, as I read the miscellaneous laws in Leviticus 19, I found some very curious, especially verse 27. This verse before the mention of tattoos says, “You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard."
But, a clean-shaven man with shorter hair is appealing in our culture.
So, since I’m still waiting for a clear answer from the Lord, I will pose the question to you. What are your opinions about tattoos and how do we reconcile these verses with the world in which we live?
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Sunday, August 10, 2014
Sunday, August 3, 2014
In this very busy digital age, we have all but lost the art of letter writing. Gone are the days of the eloquent handwritten letter with its etiquette and style. But here to stay are emails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and all the others.
For years, personal letters became keepsakes; tangible and identifiable items straight from the heart of a loved one, perhaps many miles from home. Just by observing the handwriting, the reader could recognize the writer and almost feel their presence. And no matter how many times they reread the letter, the feeling was the same.
I realize it is much faster to shoot out an email, post on Facebook, tweet, or text, and receive almost immediate gratification, but it’s not the same. Our busyness and time constraints necessitate this mode of communication. Yet, when someone does take the time to hand-write a letter or card, it somehow feels more special and so do we.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
The blinding stream of light swept across the courtyard. It wouldn’t return for another five minutes, I had it timed perfectly. Lying flat on my belly, head raised, forearms in position and toes dug in, I began an army-crawl across the compound. Inching toward a hole in the wall, something grabbed my ankle chains. I kicked to break free, but to no avail. Pain shot through my arms as I lugged my body toward that hole. Freedom was twenty yards away, but this thing held me back. With each pull forward, I’d be yanked back two.
“Let me go!” I whisper-shouted.
“No way!” it cackled.
“I’m not guilty! I’m innocent I tell you. I must break free!”
“You can’t, you will never be free!”
Sunday, July 20, 2014
|American Flags - www.wikipedia.org|
As we begin our second week of breaking free, consider your initial reaction to the thought of a physical, emotional, or spiritual prison. Did you think it too harsh an analogy, or did you have an epiphany and say, “Yes, that’s exactly the way I feel”?
Last time, we focused on physical prisons constructed of materials beyond our control. This time, we are discussing an emotional penitentiary built by someone else: A verbally abusive spouse, a domineering friend or family member, a child’s drug addiction, etc.
Many factors can cause emotional incarceration and we may feel these are also beyond our control, but are they? Although we cannot really control another person, or how they treat us, we can do something about our reaction and emotions. So, what can we do?
Sunday, July 13, 2014
|American Flags - www.wikipedia.org|
Freedom is one of our most prize possessions. As American citizens, we talk about it, sing about it, and we love our military for keeping us free.
However, in our personal lives we may not be free at all. Many things can hold us captive. They may be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Nevertheless, we end up feeling as though we live in prison.
But, what type of prison?
Friday, July 4, 2014
|Spirit of 76 - www.wikipedia.org|
On July 2, 1776, in a secretive meeting set in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence proposed in June 1776, by Richard Henry Lee. A committee of five men, with Thomas Jefferson as primary writer, compiled a document known to us as the Declaration of Independence.
According to http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration.html, “What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy [of individual liberty] in "self-evident truths" and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country.”
Sunday, June 29, 2014
|Washington Monument - www.wikipedia.org|
Since our Nation’s 238th Birthday approaches and we see activists and militants rising, I had thought to write about the coming persecution. However, in my study, the Lord showed me something I never knew.
Reading the Sermon on the Mount passage in Matthew 5, because verses 11 and 12 deal with persecution, it suddenly occurred to me, I always saw these as separate people. In my mind, the poor in spirit, the mourner, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the peacemakers, and the persecuted, were each unique and distinct. I thought we just needed to find which mold we fit into and that was that.
Because Matthew was set in a time before the crucifixion of Christ, I didn’t realize the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, etc. become this way by the power of His Holy Spirit. These are attributes of Christ; qualities we cannot sustain on our own.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Sunday, June 15, 2014
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