Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

Happy New Year and may God Bless you in every way in 2013

Friday, December 28, 2012

Generations

I visited my mom in the nursing home today and noticed the decline in her health after recovering from a broken hip. I had expected it but actually seeing it got to me. Humanity lives from one generation to the next so I will soon find myself the oldest generation of my family. That gives me a new perspective on the subject.

How does each generation collect the best of the previous generation and pass it on to the next? The challenge is for me to take all that my mother gave me and make sure my darling daughters grasp the importance of it for their own lives?

I span two generations and am the key between them. God help me!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Christmas Baby


My youngest daughter Larua Lea was born sixty seconds before mid-night on December 24th. She was so very close to being a Christmas baby and what a joy she was to behold.

I use to worry that she felt cheated by the fact that many times she received combination birthday/Christmas gifts. So we planned every summer a halfway party for her to correct that supposed problem. Later the adult Laura told me that she grew up thinking it was so wonderful that the whole world threw a party on her birthday. My Christmas baby has always had an interesting way of looking at the world.

Laura Lea was my best Christmas present

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Words


                           
We can all see the sights and sounds of Christmas all around us. We can also speak the words of Christmas, words that carry power and feeling. Most of us are most comfortable with the Familiar words like family, friends, fellowship, feasting, trees, lights, surprise and memories.

There are also Bible words like love one another, love our neighbor, love the stranger, love our enemies, and love the Lord with all your heart. These all come from the love God shared with us on that first Christmas.

Then there are the Season's words like peace, service, sharing, gifts, fairness, honesty, greetings, and have a happy. These are words that flow like a gentle stream from Thanksgiving through New Years.

At last there is the Supreme word: Christ, without whom there would be no Christmas. Preachers always want to remind us to keep the Christ in Christmas and I am no different. When ever you are speaking the words of Christmas remember that one supreme word that gives us all the rest.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What does it take for YOU?


The story is told about an angel walking down the street of Old Jerusalem with a torch in his right hand and a bucket of water in his left hand. Another angel saw him and asks, “What are you going to do with that fire and water?”  The first angel replied, “With the fire, I’m going to burn down the mansions of heaven, and with the bucket of water, I’m going to put out the fires of hell. Then we’ll see who really loves God.”

What a thought! Do you have to have hell scared out of you or the promise of golden streets to make you love God? Is it enough for you to love and praise God simply because God is God. Is it enough to love God as the creator of the universe, including the good earth we live on. What does it take for you to really love God?

God has expressed love for us many times but never forces us to love in return. But our love is what God desires from us. To be in love with God can be the most exhilarating feeling one can have. Sadly to few people feel the full effects of that kind of relationship and their lives suffer from the lack of it. Do you truly love God? How do you express you love for God? Does your love flow from a heart filled with joy because of God’s great gift of His son Jesus? What does it take for you to really love God?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Your Many Roads to Bethlehen


There were many roads to the manger in Bethlehem. The family of Jesus took one road; the shepherds took another and the wise men yet another. Today the roads that the pilgrim takes are also many for we come from many places. Can we travel with Mary, the wise men, or the shepherds? Is it possible for Christians to get so caught up in the real excitement of the birth of Christ that we can hear the angels sing?

The pilgrim who has the courage, faith, and discipline to make the journey will discover there the very presence of God. Travel the roads of adoration, joy, and giving as some of your personal roads to Bethlehem and the presence of God in your life. This is a week to put freshness in our faith as we prepare to receive the Christ Child and celebrate the advent of His first coming. This is a time to learn to serve God again, to act on our faith and live it our for Christ.

When you attend worship Christmas Sunday go the House of the Lord as a pilgrim on the road to Bethlehem seeking the light of the ages to guide you. Go and share in the adoration of the Christ Child who was the promise of the prophets and the hope of eternity. Join your fellow pilgrims on the road to Bethlehem.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Children In Church




I think most churches have a “Children’s Sermon/Moment” during worship where the children come to the front of the sanctuary for a message at their level. Adults often get more out of that message than a thirty minute sermon.

Sunday as I sat and looked at the children sitting on the chancel steps my thoughts went to those Connecticut who were missing from their congregations worship services. Pastor Mike mentioned that same thought later in the service. I think how we are so use to seeing our children sitting there and how precious they are. I felt for those parents the sadness of their children not being there.

I know that the whole country is praying for that community and their missing children whose funerals will darken this week’s spirit and joy.
Praying with tears today. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bill of Rights Day 2012


On Dec. 15, 221 years ago, the First Ten Amendments to the United States Constitution was ratified. The First Amendment, is the first of ten  known as the Bill of Rights, guarantees our right to worship, speak, petition the government and assemble. 


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.[56]
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
  • Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Celebrate and protect your rights as Americans on this Bill of Rights Day.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gutted



We are all feeling gutted tonight after the terrible news of school children being shot. What manner of person does that sort of thing? So many questions fill our minds as our hearts ache for the parents of those dead children.

Our country has endured so many of these senseless killings over the last decade and before then. Some want stronger gun control laws and perhaps that is needed as anybody can purchase a gun either through a store or on the black market. There are more guns than people. Even though more control makes sense I am not sure it would work.

Those who do such a heinous killing have lost their conscious moral center and respect for society. If they did not have guns they would use knives or bows and arrows so the question is how do we deal with our pain and grief?

I am praying for that small community in their grief and praying for our country. How do we reach out to those so lost that they kill others and keep them for acting on their intent? Every one pray!

Happy Birthday Jesus


Happy Birthday Jesus

“The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all people.’” Luke 3:10

This good news of great joy was an announcement for the birth of a child. When a new child come into the world, the parents and family send out birth announcements that express their joy at the birth of the baby. The card usually says, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” We are excited about the hope for new life that has come among us. Even people who are not members of the family get caught up in this excitement when that joy is expressed.

As Christians, we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ every year. It’s a strange thing, but we are not putting 2,012 candles on the birthday cake. We are however sending out birth announcements as though the birth was a recent event. Plays are staged to recount the story of the birth. Choirs sing cantata’s and lots of special music. We have parties to celebrate the good news.

We do all these things and more because in a real sense Christ is still being born into the world in 2012 AD. The birth of this child continues to bring good news of great joy for all people. Each time someone hears the gospel and accepts Christ as savior, a new birth occurs. A new life begins as Christ takes control, cleanses us of sin and gives us the spirit to live for Him. No wonder we celebrate this one birth in this way every year. Jesus was born to us and in each one of us.

Consider your own experience of Christ being born in you and express your joy in the new birth that is good news of great joy for all people. Express your joy that God loves you so much that He sent us a child, His Son.

            “For unto you is born this day a savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 3:11

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

About John The Baptist



Growing up I remember bible stories about John the Baptist as a crazy Jewish wild man wandering in the desert. So strange was this preacher dressed in camel hair cinched with a leather belt eating locust and honey. So many people came to hear him preach and I often wondered why they would do that. Well we have a lot of crazy preacher that people flock to today so we have not changed all that much.

As a student of bible history I later discovered the real reason that so many people, including the elite, went out to the Jordan to hear John preach and be baptized. It was unusual for ordinary people to be baptized as the ceremony was mostly for the ritual cleansing of the priest and for converts to Judaism. Here was John baptizing lots of people every day and not for ritual cleansing but for forgiveness of sins.  

The Gospel According to Luke gives us some clues in the first chapter when we are introduced to the father of John the Baptist who was Zechariah a Priest who worked in the Temple. His wife Elizabeth is also a descendant of the tribe of Aaron the first high priest of Israel. That by itself makes John the Baptist a priest of Israel by birth so he was not just any wild man preaching in the desert.

As if that is not enough Luke’s description of what Zechariah was doing is most intriguing for the student of bible history who pays close attention. It puts Zechariah in the sanctuary of the Lord alone while all the others are out side. You may read that as the Holy of Holies where he offers an incense offering. WE note that because of his encounter with the angel his stay in the Holy of Holies was a lot longer than usual and the other priest outside were wondering what was going on.   They could not go in to find out because only the High Priest was allowed in there.

This tells us that John was the son of a high priest and would have been inline to become a high priest him self. Truly he was no ordinary man preaching to the people.  John likely spent time as a priest serving in the temple so one can imagine the talk of the people when the son of a former high priest shucks his priestly garb and puts on camel hair to go preach in the wilderness. No wonder they went out to hear him and be baptized.

On a side note we also learn that Mary the mother of Jesus was relative of Elizabeth perhaps a second cousin so that she also was of the house of Aaron and Jesus would be too.  Very interesting!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Anger Management


I learned a hard lesson as a young man in Texas. When I get angry enough to be out of control I lash out with abandon and create havoc in the world around me. This havoc would often come back to haunt me and cause me grief. I decided that my anger needed to be managed.

This was before the days that I knew of “Anger Management Seminars” so I was left to fend for myself in finding a solution to my fits of peak. My best example was my mother who had plenty to be angry about but always seemed calm. I sought her advice and she said to pray about it. Well that was her answer for everything as she is a lady of great faith. At that time prayer did not come easy for me because even though I could say the words I didn’t have a feeling for it and it was just words.

Then I experienced a spiritual awaking and found the power of a daily prayer life. I read in Daniel 6:10 that Daniel prayed three times as day to put himself in the presence of God. When you put yourself in the presence of God you are doing more than just saying words. Now I am having a conversation and it puts my anger at others in perspective. Prayer becomes my source for patience, gentleness, self control, and a sense of power over my emotions.

Now havoc no long rules and I am at peace even during the storms around me caused by other people’s anger. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

More Jesus Less Santa


There is an old story about a young woman who greeted her pastor at the door following the worship service at Christmas Eve. Beaming with enthusiasm she said, “Oh Pastor, everything was just so wonderful. I have a real feeling of Christmas. You know just like in the mall.” When you ask most school children what Christmas means to them the resounding answer is, “Getting presents from Santa Claus.”

I am not calling for a ban on Santa or taking all the fun out of Christmas as I can remember my childhood and the excitement of Christmas morning. I do want us to give more focus on God’s great Gift to all of us in sending Jesus to be our savior. I want our children to remember that it is the birthday of Jesus that we are celebrating. I am very concerned that the American, I would even say the world’s celebration of Christmas is out of balance with the jolly old elf of myth taking over. Santa with his bag of toys has become more important than the infant Jesus in the manger. The legend of Santa grew out of a real person, Nicholas who was bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey. He gave special anonymous gifts to people in celebration of the birth of Jesus and the church later declared him a saint for his goodness. Only in America could Saint Nicholas be transformed into an elf who lives at the North Pole and rides a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

I know that preachers all over the country remind the church of this issue every year, but it is a very necessary reminder. Keeping Christmas “CHRIST” centered is our job. The commercial interest spends millions of dollars each year to focus our attention on spending money. The church must speak out for Jesus with a loud voice. Christian parents must help their children understand the real meaning of the birth of Jesus the Christ. So that when someone ask them the question, “What is Christmas?” they can quickly answer, “Jesus’ birthday!”   


Saturday, December 8, 2012

MORE THAN HISTORY



Christmas is not only an event in history; it is also an expression of our hope for the future. It is a time of the year we welcome as a season of general good will. People give more to charity at Christmas than any other time of year. More families come together to celebrate and share. We are enriched by the art and music that has enshrined the birth of Christ over the last nineteen hundred plus years.

Christmas means much more than an annual glance backward in the midst of secular festivals. Christmas is also a long look forward into the future. Christmas is a promise of hope for all people yet to come. It is a time when we sense for a brief season that the world can be better and that people can be nicer. A small child in a manger gives us hope that we can be closer to God. That child was the great gift of God to a sinful world and he is our blessing.

Christmas is an event that takes place in our souls and it is an ongoing renewal that gets a gentle shove once a year. More than a single day in history Christmas is the light for today that shows us the promise of tomorrow.

During this Advent season give some thought to the Christmas in your future. Remember that first Christmas, celebrate this Christmas, and pray about the future of Christmas

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dec 7th 71 years later:



Many people over the age of eighty will ask each other, “Do you remember where you were this day in 1941?” It is like aour asking about where we were on 9-11.  There are many who do remember when they heard the news of the bombing of our naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. They can recall the shock and anger of neighbors and remember hearing the broadcast of President’s Roosevelt’s speech before Congress the following day, asking for a declaration of war against Japan. He said it was a day that would live in infamy and now the US and Japan are best friends and the date is hardly noticed. In time it will be just a note in history that our grandchildren will have to remember for a history test.

I knew a couple whose wedding anniversary was December 7, 1941.  The wedding was scheduled for that evening. Andy was in the Army, so when the news broke, they knew he would be going overseas. Their parents wanted them to wait, but the couple decided to go ahead with the ceremony. Their marriage lasted 45 years, ending only at his wife’s death.  Andy reflected, “We just knew it was the right time. We believed that the war would end and we could create a good home and life together.” They did just that.


This is truly a word of hope in desperate, trying times. A thoughtful reading of history uncovers many periods when people believed that the times were so evil that the world must soon come to an end. Something had to happen—a change big enough and bold enough to stop the destruction and make new beginnings possible.   

In a letter to the Galatian Christians, Paul wrote, “When the right time finally came, God sent His Son, born of a woman…”  Just think:  when the world was in terrible straits, God sent…a baby!  This birth is a sign of help and hope in a vulnerable human form.

Yet, isn’t that how hope comes:  in a stirring of confidence, a glimpse of possibility here or there,  a flicker of something new and different.  And then it grows, slowly at first so we can comprehend and embrace it..so we can understand how hope can become a reality.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Gift to:_______?


Almost every advertisement this time of year is also focused on giving gifts. TV, radio, newspapers, e-mail, flyers in the mail all remind us that there are only so many shopping days till Christmas. We have gifts to buy, wrap, mail or carry to give to friends and family.

I am remembering the tag we find on Christmas gifts, you know with To:____ and From: ____ with blanks to be filled in. Well we do need to know  whose gift is under the tree. A tagless gift has us asking whose gift is this. A gift to:_________ that blank to be filled in carries a lot of meaning. 

Before we forget the reason for the season with all our gift giving, let us remember the original Christmas gift. It was God’s gift to the world. Indeed it is a very inclusive gift to all people every where. But the gift is also a very personal gift as well. The great gift of  God’s love  is for you and for me. Jesus was given as a savior of the world but he is also your savior and my savior on a personal basis. God’s great gift for the world is my gift because I am personally individually saved. What a powerful gift both inclusive and specific, both universal and individual.

This Christmas remember that even though the birth of Christ was a gift to the world it was also your gift from God. Remember whose birthday it is and remember the gift.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Church Member OR Disciples of Jesus?


Jesus gave his disciples these simple commands to follow. If we are His disciples we will take them seriously.  With sadness I recognize that there are far too many people who are members of churches but who are not "Disciples of Jesus." By that I mean that they belong to a church but do not accept the commands of Jesus as their personal marching orders.

Remember Jesus' last command in Matthew 28:19, “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember that I am with you always.”

Therefore your personal marching orders from Jesus are:
1.     You Go make disciples of all nations.
2.     You Baptize them.
3.     You Teach them all I have commanded you.
4.     You Remember I am with you always.

To make it personal pray about your part in these final commands, what we now call the "Great Commission." Recognize that you do have a part in this commission and make it personal. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Here Am I


In Isaiah 6 the prophet came face to face with God and said, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips…” Isaiah hit the floor with the realization of his position, a sinner living among sinners and in the presence of God. Isaiah did the one thing that is absolutely necessary for any person to do in relation to God, admit our condition. That allows God to grant us grace and call us into ministry. For this scripture was Isaiah's call to ministry.

It is not that God is so worried about our sin and the guilt that arises from it; we are the ones that have the problem. What God wants is our loving relationship and our load of guilt stops the relationship cold. Once we recognize where we are in the relationship we free ourselves up to let go of the guilt and let God deal with our lives.

Once by the grace of God, Isaiah was free from his guilt, and then he was able to hear God ask the great question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Wow what a question! Notice that it was not a command of Isaiah you must go, now that you have received forgiveness. NO! God still gave Isaiah the choice and the opportunity to volunteer. He had a free choice in a relationship of mutual love and so do we. How many times do we pass up the opportunity to volunteer for God? Isaiah could have said, “Well God I don’t know but old Hosea might be available, yes let someone else do it.”

Instead Isaiah did say, “Here am I, send me!”

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas in the Gospels



On this first Sunday in Advent I read all of the Bible birth stories and not that each of the Gospels portrays the events of Christmas differently.

The Gospel According to Mark ignores it all together. That Gospel starts with the Baptism. Even if Mark was all of the Gospel I had I could be a Christian.

The Gospel According to Matthew has an angel visiting Joseph to inform him what he must do. Joseph is apparently living in Bethlehem. He is told that the child shall be called “Emmanuel” but he names the boy Jesus. After that the “wise men” from the East show up to honor the new king of the Jews. Joseph is warned in a dream to flee to Egypt.  King Herod has boys under the age of two in Bethlehem killed. After Herod’s death Joseph moves to Nazareth.

The Gospel According to Luke starts with the story of the birth of John the Baptist who is apparently a relative of Jesus. Here in Luke the angel comes to Mary to announce the startling news that she will conceive with out the help of a male and bear a son. She goes to visit her relative Elizabeth for three months. In Luke Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth and go to Bethlehem to register for a Roman tax. That was a rough trip for a pregnant woman. Luke has humble shepherds’ come to visit Jesus. They take Jesus to the temple where to prophets Simon and Anna proclaim him the one. After all that the family returns to Nazareth with no detours. 

In the Gospel According to John what we have of the Christmas story is all from the point of view of heaven “The Word” became flesh and dwelt among us. John is all about God’s side of the story.

Since the first century Christians have combined Matthew and Luke birth narratives and added many human traditions about the story that are not in the bible text. Just where did that drummer boy come from?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sibling Rivalry


Abraham’s descendants who fathered nations:

1. Jackob was the second son of Isaac and Rebekah and he was the Father of the nation of Israel through his 12 sons.

2. Esau was the first son of Isaac and Rebekah and the twin brother of Jacob. He was the ancestor to the tribe called Edomites, well he had six wives so he had lots of children. King Herod the Great was from the tribe of Edom.

3. Ishhmael was the first son of Abraham by the Egyptian slave Hagar and he became the father of nation of Midian the ancestors of the Arabs.

Sibling rivalry among the children of Abraham is still going strong today. Now you know!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Word for Advent 2012

 The Living Word

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his Glory … Full of Grace and Truth.” from the Gospel of John chapter one.

Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent 2012 I love this scripture and the idea that “The Word Became Flesh.” It has been very interesting and challenging for me to take a different word for that phrase each week to use as the focus for my devotions. This week I will focus on “Flesh” as the direction of my thoughts.

From the very beginning the “Word” was there alive and creating all things and then it became flesh and dwelt among us. The “Word” is still dwelling among us as the living Word of God in our lives. Once Christmas has come and the baby boy is safely delivered we then must deal with the “Word” being with us. Now what do we do?

As we are also busy getting ready for the year 2013 perhaps we need to think about how the “Word” lives in us through out the coming year. How does the “Word of God” come alive in our living in the here and now? How will those around us be affected by the “Word” living in us? What difference will it make in 2013 that we accepted Jesus the Christ into our lives as Lord and Savior?

The real challenge is for each of us to have more than words on pages in our bibles but have “The Word” alive in our hearts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Old Boy Scout


Be Prepared


The old Boy Scout in me remembers the motto: “Be Prepared.”
There were never any limits for that motto we were trained to be prepared for anything and everything. We are to be physically prepared, mentally prepared and spiritually prepared for all of our life.

I was thinking about that for my worship and devoting experience and about how that motto would apply for me today. In my prayers I need to focus my thoughts and center my spirit and make it ready to accept God’s Holy Spirit.

As part of my preparations I open my heart to feel the love of God for me and all humankind. In my open heart I share that love and express my love for all of God’s children.

With my centered spirit and open heart I then can open my mind and clear it of all the noise of my life. Now I can be ready to listen to God.

Being prepared is something this old boy scout does every day in my walk of faith.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Uniform of the Day




Before my darling and I were married I did not own a pair of sweats. My clothes consisted of suits, lots of white shirts and a variety of casual clothes. Not long after our wedding she began to have an influence on what clothing I owned and that included clothing to relax in after hours.

I just looked at the sweats and wondered what on earth. It took some encouragement for me to wear them and then only in the house. Over time I was won over to their comfort and utility. Once they came with pockets I was happy with wearing them a lot more often.

After I retired my sweats have become my Uniform of the Day every day. Going out to church or meetings I don the street clothes or a suit for Sunday but once back home I make the switch as fast as I can. My darling began calling them my uniform and so it is. Sweat shirts, pants, shorts and even jackets are my favorite style of clothing now.

I know it is hard for a husband to admit but 34 years ago my wife was right.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Are You A Player or Spectator?



Is our experience with God and His church a blessing? Worshiping God is an important part of our faith experience that suffers if we only watch it. To get more out of our worship experience we must become more personally involved in it.

When I was a soccer referee I noticed a correlation between church and the soccer field.  Both boys and girls play the game equally well and all the players are in constant motion. Everyone has an opportunity to touch or kick the ball, as soccer is a team effort. There are great rewards for team cooperation in the results of the game. Coaches and referees also get a lot of pleasure from sharing the experience. Spectators who have little knowledge about the game can easily bored as the ball goes back and forth with little scoring.  Spectators who take the time to be involved with players and coaches learn about the game and enjoy it more.

I find worship has some of the same qualities. Spectators who do not involve them selves in the actions of worship can be board by the experience. But one who participates in the singing, praying, and devotions are never board. Those who focus their minds on the prayers, and scripture participate in the actions of worship. Singing out with gusto during the hymns or feeling the emotions of the choir’s anthem lifts the spirit to a new level. Even adding an amen as affirmation to the pastors sermon engages the worshiper in the actions of worship. Natural blessing flow from being actively involved in worship.

I encourage you to participate and worship with new energy to both share and receive. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Three Little Words



For some people those three little words “I Love You” roll off their lips with such ease that they seem insincere. Those words said too much or to everyone can lose their meaning. Yet they remain some of the most important words we can speak.

On the other side of that coin is not saying those words at all. I have talked to many wives who have not heard their husbands say I love you in a long time. It can be a brutal existence to live with someone and never hear those precious words of endearment.

The in-between place is where the words are said and actions back them up. We all need to feel loved and express our love for another. If you love some one let them know. You can love a lot of people while you are in love and committed to one person. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Take it to heart.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A THANKSGIVING



What can we be thankful for on this Thanksgiving? Well I for one can be thankful that I am not a turkey.

As the pilgrims gave thanks that they made it through a hard winter followed by good crops, so we too can give thanks. We can be very thankful that we have made it this far in life and that through the Grace of God we are followers of Jesus the Christ. It is our faithful service to Jesus that has helped us to see the need to celebrate Thanksgiving.

We can be thankful that we live in a country that still celebrates a day of thanksgiving and created a holiday for us to be with family and friends to be with in our gratitude. We can be thankful that even with all of our problems and challenges God has given us what ever we need to overcome each one. We can be thankful that every day God gives us new opportunities to bless other people.

In what ever way you plan to spend Thanksgiving Day please also remember those people both here and around the world who find themselves in such great need and be willing to share part of your blessing with them. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cultural Context in Translating



One of the most important things to consider in translating scripture is the cultural context when it was written.

An example in English is the word “gay” as it is used in context. A hundred years ago one man could say to another put on your gay clothes and let’s go party. That has a totally different meaning today. A hundred years ago “gay” equaled fun and today it means homosexual. [except when singing Christmas Carols.]

In every language there are these kinds of word shifts that need to be taken into account when translating from one language to another. Consider that the shift for the word gay has happened in less than a hundred years and the scriptures were written over a period of more than two-thousand years. How many word shifts took place in Hebrew and Greek over that time? Many and not all of them are well known to us today. You can not isolate the text of scripture from the world it from and pretend it is the whole truth.

It is an awesome task to translate scripture from the original Hebrew and Greek into the ever changing languages of today. Is it any wonder that there are over three hundred English translations for us to select from and that they are so different. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Changing Demographics




The stats from this election are coming in and some of the demographic changes in this country are beginning to flex their powers effectively.

For the first time it was women who cast the bulk of the votes this election with 53%, and women who proved the deciding factor, providing Barack Obama a lead by 11 percentage points. One state elected an all female delegation to Congress for both the house and senate.

Tammy Baldwin is the first openly gay senator to be elected. Three more states voted to approve same sex marriages.

A big change comes in the non-white vote as Barack Obama won 71% of the Hispanic vote on Tuesday, up from 67% in 2008. In the same period, Latinos grew from 9% of the total electorate to 10% on Tuesday. They are expected to continuing gaining electoral importance.

The white male population is shrinking as a share of the electorate. The total white vote was 72% on Tuesday, down from 74% just four years ago and 87% in 1992.
A change in perspective is apparent among the over all under 40 group is also on the way as two states legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
Old white right wing males are not going to like any of this news but there it is as a fact of life. We better get use to it as more change is on the way.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Voting In America

Today is Election day in America and we are a country that is very blessed to be able to vote for our leaders and have that vote count. It is a messy process but it is the best process for the people and the country.

In a close election like this one we may not know for days who will be our president for the next four years and all we can to is pray and vote and pray again. Who ever wins will have a difficult job to do leading our country and I will pray for him every day and pray for peace.

I love my country and am confident that God will bless us.

If you haven't voted GO DO IT!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Control Z



Back in the days of DOS based computing to hold down the control key and hit the Z key lets you undo your most recent mistake.

What if we had a Control Z for our lives?

You just ran a stop sign with a police car behind you. Control Z
You yelled something at your spouse that should never be said. Control Z
You and your drunken friends go into a tattoo parlor. Control Z

Almost every day we could use a Control Z command in our lives but what is done is done and can not be undone. We can learn from mistakes and change how we do things in the future to overcome our lack of a Control Z for our lives. We may not be able to undo a hurt be we can make amends and heal a wound.

No Control Z ??? But it is fun to think about.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Concerning Opinions



My eldest darling daughter wrote a note expressing her opinion in response to one of my puns and then added In point of fact, the combination of my mother and father could only lead to children not afraid to voice any opinion, on anything.”   

I am very pleased that both of my darling daughters have excellent logical minds that are able to form opinions and then defend their positions. They are both loquacious and competent communicators. Their father is very proud of their abilities.

As one who loves a good turn of words, including puns, I am not surprised that they also enjoy reading and exploring ideas. I firmly believe that learning is a life long occupation in an effort to expand our minds.

Our own opinions are important but we need to be able to examine new information and if it warrants a change of opinion be willing to make the change. It has been said that where three are gathered there are four opinions. There is the opinion of each person and the group opinion. I always believe that my opinion is correct or I would not hold it. I have always been willing to reflect on new information and reconsider my position.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

War on Drugs



The “War on Drugs” like the War on Alcohol in the 1920’s was lost at inception. In both cases the over zealous government created a monster that caused more crime and filled the jails. Thanks to the three strikes laws there are thousands of people serving life sentences for possessing small amounts of marijuana. We have created a drug culture much like the bootleg culture of the 1920’s and Mexico, Central and South America are paying the price.

As with controls on alcohol and tobacco, including sin tax, a realistic set of controls and tax on legal drugs needs to be enacted.   It is a matter of making sense concerning people’s rights to personal choices for their lives. The use of heroin and marijuana for medical purposes could be place under the same controls as present prescription narcotics. Currently doctors can not prescribe heroin for sever pain hospice care.

I do not promote the use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs and would advise against all of them. I have made the choice not to use them. I do not need to limit other people their right to choose for them selves.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Generations of Generosity




I love the idea of  “Generations of Generosity” because it reminds us that generation after generation followers of Christ have faithfully preserved and proclaimed the Gospel for almost two thousand years. It has been an awesome task and often dangerous. For most of the first three hundred years of the Christian Church it was a crime to be a Christian. The penalty for being a Christian was death in the Roman Empire until 324 AD. For us to remember that those early Christians kept the faith under those conditions makes being Christian in America today seem very easy.

Allow me to give you encouragement and a prayer that you will faithfully respond with the same faith as past generations of Christians to pass along the Gospel message to the next generation. Now it is up to each one of us to take the time to personally examine our faith in God, our commitment to Christ and His church, and live our lives proclaiming the Good News that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and our Savior.

This can be a time of decisions and grace for you to stand with those early Christians. Think of it they put their lives on the line every day to tell others about Jesus. What does it cost you to tell others about your faith in Jesus? Open your heart and mind to be generous with your faith.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Changing Crowds



I heard a preacher say that the fickle crowds that praised Jesus as the Messiah on Sunday shouted for his death on Friday. Actually I have heard that sermon many times in my life. I do not think that it is a true statement even though it may make for a good sermon about back sliding Christians.

The people who lined the street as Jesus entered Jerusalem were likely the common people who were anxiously looking for the Messiah. They praised God and shouted hosanna blessed is he that comes in the name of the lord. Those people were out in the light of day for all to see.

The people at the trial were out while it was still night. The Jewish leaders who wanted Jesus out of the way very likely routed friends and family out of bed to show up at the early morning trial to support their case. They were prompted to urge Pilot to kill Jesus or he would not be Caesar’s friend. It was a conniving and political crowd that shouted for his death.


It was not the people in the Sunday crowd who changed it was the crowd itself that was different.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

From Saints to Deamons


From 371 AD the Church has celebrated an ALL SAINTS DAY it was sometimes referred to as All Hallows Day. By 741 AD November first became the regular day for that great feast and celebration. It was and is a time to remember all the saints of the church who have gone before us. It has been a good celebration.

Sometime during the dark ages when superstition was at its height, people began to fret about demons being on the loose on All Hallows Eve. Naturally that became an excuse for pranksters to play tricks on people. By the time this tradition transferred to the shores of America, Halloween as All Hallows Eve was being called had grown to the status of a national holiday. Commercial interest keeps the tradition alive and well. Kids will be out in numbers with calls of "Trick or Treat" and the rest of us will fill their sacks with candy.

It may seem strange that a holy day could be so turned that the day before becomes a time to celebrate things we normally consider evil. Everyone knows about Halloween, but many people have forgotten All Saints Day. This November First take some time to think about the saints of your church or your family who have died in the past year.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What Owns Us?



In the Gospel according to Mark chapter ten Jesus tells a rich young man that if he wants to enter the Kingdom of Heaven he must sell everything and give the money to the poor and then follow Jesus. The young man could not do it and his money owned him.

The question for us is “What owns us?”  What keeps us from following Jesus completely? There are many things that view for our attention such as money, wealth, power, houses, cars, pets, success in business and other people. The list of possibilities is quite long. What are the things that come between us and God?

To put all that in perspective we can ask what can we take with us when we die. We will not take things or fame. What we take to heaven with us will be our personal spiritual development based on our relationship with God.

So what are you planning to take with you?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Christian Wedding and Marriage


Last night I officiated at a wedding for a dear friend who could not be there to do the honors for her nephew. The young couple is delightful and everything went well. I was very happy to do this wedding.

The introduction of the wedding ceremony that I use states that, “Marriage is a relationship of mutual trust and esteem, blessed by God for the security, enjoyment, and growth of a man and a woman.” When any couple chooses to be married in a church or by a Christian Minister their vows are made not only to each other but also to God. A vow made to God is a sacred promise to be taken carefully and fulfilled with all devotion.

May Mr. and Mrs. Alex Heim have a long and blissful marriage.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Trespasses – Debts OR Sins




Every Sunday in worship we say the Lord’s Prayer but congregations may have variations on one particular word in that prayer. Some use the term “Debts” others use “Trespasses” and a few use “Sins.” For the most part these terms are interchangeable in this context. They each do carry other meaning in different context.

Trespass - is to cross a boundary of another person and cause damage. There are places where you can be shot for trespassing on the property of another person.

Debt – as in owing money on a loan or to be in someone’s debt for a kindness.

Sin – is a separation of a relationship particularly with God.

We do a dangerous thing in the Lord’s Prayer when we ask God to forgive us our debts/trespasses/sins as we forgive other for what they do to us. If we are unforgiving by this agreement we will not be forgiven and that will have eternal consequences. Which ever word you use say it with care and understanding.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Why Spend Money?



The numerous ads on TV, papers, email, and internet promise us special products to enhance memory, produce hair growth, loose weight with out exercise and other things I won’t mention here. Foolish people spend good money on things that do not satisfy and do not produce what was promised. The old, and I mean very old, saying is, “If it seems too good to be true it most likely is.” can be taken to heart and mind.

Yet we who are over weight, loosing hair, slipping memory and failing body parts are anxious to return to our youthfulness. There are of course some well known things we can do such as a good diet, exercise, both mental and physical, that will prolong our abilities. Far too often by the time we realize our condition we are years too late to do anything about it.

Isaiah 55:2 asks the very question, “Why do you spend money for that which does not satisfy?”    This is a lesson that has physical, mental and spiritual context and it calls upon us to consider the true focus of our lives. If we live simply and maintain good habits through out our lives we will prosper. Perhaps the Amish and Quakers have the right of it by living as simply as possible in the presence of God. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gas prices ???




Last week I was talking with a neighbor who was complaining about our current President. During the conversation he said that the price of gas in 2009 was $1.87 a gallon and now it was almost $4.00 heading for $6.

I said that it didn’t sound quite right and he claimed it was the gospel truth. Curious I went home and got out my 2009 tax receipts. The lowest price I paid in Louisville that year was $2.39. That was also a year when the economy was struggling to come out of the recession so a lot of us cut back on driving.  I went on line and checked the national average over the last ten years.
2006 - $3.26
2009 - $2.35
2012 last week I paid $3.55  and I note the price is falling after refineries came back on line following the hurricane.

I reported this to my neighbor who was miffed at the actual information. He had received his information from a GOP ad and was sure it was right. I don’t believe any political ad during a presidential election year – from either side. Gas prices rise and fall on market conditions through out the world. I have traveled to countries where the price of Gas was over $7 a gallon in 1999. We have it easy by comparison to Europe

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Suddenly It’s Over



Yesterday afternoon I visited with my neighbor and friend Don as we waited for the mail truck to come down our street. We both then collected our mail and returned to our homes. Less than an hour later I went outside and found him collapsed by his pickup truck. His next door neighbor arrived at the same time. We called 911 and started CPR until the fire truck arrived and they took over. Don was likely dead before they took him to the hospital where he was pronounced.

The suddenness with which our life can end has been well known to me for a long time. It is one of the reasons that I have not worried about the “Last Days” of the book of Revelation that fret so many Christians. We must always be ready to meet our Lord at any time. It may be the time of Revelation or our personal last day and it doe not make any difference which one it is. This is also the reason we should all share our faith in Jesus with our friends and neighbors as we do not know when their last day may be upon them.

One moment all is fine and then suddenly it’s over.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Heresy




Defined: Heresy is the formal denial or doubt of any defined doctrine of majority religion.

The saint of one church is the heretic of another. So who decides what a heresy is? Splits have occurred in the Christian faith as well as other faiths because of differences of opinion over doctrine. For example after the New Testament Christian church became legal in the Roman Empire about 325 AD, The church in the western part began using statues as objects in worship. At the same time the church in the eastern part began using pictures or icons in their worship. The Eastern Orthodox claimed that the Catholics were idol worshipers and the Roman church claimed the same about the Eastern Orthodox.

Protestant and Roman Catholic both made similar claims about each other. Today there are over 350 Christian denominations with many claiming to the only true church with all the rest being in heresy. Human pride, stubbornness, and traditions come between us.

We are not alone. There are three main branches of the Jewish faith and at least that many of the Moslem faith.   The Buddhist have also split in the same fashion. We all decide that we are right and every one else is a heretic and then fight about it. So sad.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Learning From Genesis


Many think of the book of Genesis as shrouded in the mists of time-- strange stories of people so different from ourselves that they could be from another planet!  Others see it as an interesting, but quaint, collection of myths to explain why there are dinosaur bones (they died in the Flood of Noah) or why the Jews and Arabs are such bitter enemies (Jews are descendants of Isaac, the Arabs the descendants of Ishmael).  Some might consider Genesis as the first chapter of human history, told just to ‘get the ball rolling’ for the more interesting parts that follow!

          In the first book of our Scriptures, we begin to learn some things about God, who set the principles of creation to work as he gave much thought and care to what he created.  We discover that God does not count creation, including the human enterprise, as just another project to check off the ‘to do’ list before moving on to the next one. From the beginning, God decided to take an active part in the lives of men and women, and to reveal himself to those who responded in friendship and trust.


Hearing about the lives of our ancient ancestors, we are drawn into the stories of these men, women, and children. Genesis introduces us to the idea of a ‘Family Tree of the Human Race’.  We meet adventurers like Noah and Abraham, strong women like Sarah,  schemers like Rebekah and her son Jacob, scoundrels like Cain, and dreamers like Joseph.  We read their stories of family feuding and sibling rivalry, of envy and jealousy, of love and hate, of greed and generosity.

That family tree extends through time and history to include our own family branch— as immigrants, as Americans, and the generations that come down through us to our descendants.  And the centuries melt away, and we realize that Genesis not only tells us something about God but aslo we learn something about ourselves.

Take the story of Esau and Jacob.  Parents of more than one child will nod in recognition at this account of sibling competition. Brothers and sisters may chuckle at the memories of deals made with unsuspecting siblings.  One of Esau’s more important blessings was his birth right.  As the eldest son, he would inherit his father’s position in the community and the bulk of his family’s wealth. And he was entitled to a special blessing from his father—not just in the titles and goods of the world, but a bestowing of power and confidence to be able to accept and increase the benefits of his birth right.
Because God loves each of us as if we were the only child, we all have a birth right—an entitlement to gifts and blessings which we do not earn and cannot demand, but can only receive from a kind and gracious Giver.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Wicked Tongue




Pastor Mike preached from James chapter three this morning about keeping our tongue under control. The same tongue that can pronounce blessings can turn around and utter curses.

Word can indeed hurt. Most of the bullying is with words that cause children to feel bad about them selves. Lies repeated often as gossip can ruin a career and a reputation. The power of the spoken word is great for either good or evil.

We were challenged this morning to use our words to bless and to not cause harm with a wicked tongue.