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Christmas2016

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

godsgiftofchristmas

I have been virtually absent from this blog and others’ blogs as well. A comment here or there. A post here or there. I’ve had some time to re-evaluate how I feel about a lot of things, but in this case, Cycleguy’s Spin. Curiously, instead of slowing down, life picked up speed. Things which seemed second nature to me suddenly became more laborious. I chalk it up to the wreck on November 7th and the life-pace change which took place as a result. I have not been able to sleep horizontally (in my bed) since November 7th. My recliner has become my favorite place to spend my restless evenings trying to grab some uncomfortable sleep. That has lessened pretty much (for which I am grateful) but I still haven’t been horizontal.

The wreck. 6 hours in an ER getting x-rays. A huge dark purple hematoma developing on my hip which eventually moved down my leg to blow up my knee, then my calf and lower leg, and then finally my ankle/foot.  A visit to an Urgent Care Clinic. An ultrasound to make sure of no blood clots. Finally a reference from a PCP to a general surgeon for a possible slice and drain of the hematoma. After two weeks of Lasix and heat compresses and God’s amazing machine called the body, the surgeon has said no surgery will be required. YES!!!My body is absorbing it.

Add to that mix two weddings, a funeral, a growing & involved church in the community and the recipe is for busyness. The church is preparing for a Christmas breakfast for our community, plus a Christmas Eve service and one on Sunday morning. Fortunately, they are identical. I had planned on taking a Tuesday and going off to a retreat center for some solitude but even that blew apart.

My grandson is now with us for a few days. (Yeah, that brings peace and quiet). 🙂 But he is a joy to have around. And joy is something we all need. That, after all, was the message the angels carried to the shepherds that first night: “I bring you good news of great joy.”

So that is what I wish for you this Christmas season. A season of JOY.  My next post will be after Christmas so please have a blessed and joy-filled Christmas. And thanks for hanging in there with me.

“IT”

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

godsgiftofchristmas

No…not IT as in technology.

“It” as in what you call your baby until you know its sex.

Jo & I had our two girls in the age when knowing the sex of your baby was, at best, guesswork. They listened to the beat of the heart. Watched the way mom carried it (not an exact science). But before the modern technology, knowing the sex of your baby was, as I said, guesswork. So we tended to call the baby “it.” Unless, of course, you are like me who would not let Jo look at any girl’s clothes while pregnant and then boldly stated from the pulpit on the second one that I put my dibs in with the Lord and this one is a boy.

Yeah…both were girls…and I wouldn’t trade either of them for all the money in the world. I’m convinced God said He was going to have some fun with me for the first one and probably changed the sex of the baby in the womb when I bragged it was a boy. 🙂

I just got a text from an expectant mom Tuesday that their baby was going to be a girl. Oh…modern technology. Takes the guesswork out of the sex of the baby and takes the wonderment out of it as well.

Last week I talked about Emmanuel (God with Us). This week I’ll be speaking on Isaiah 9: 6-7, the passage where names of Jesus abound. While Mary and Joseph knew the baby was to be a “he,” the names given in this passage tell so much more about Him.  It is a good way to prepare for Christmas-to know the names of the future Messiah.

Which one means the most to you?

Treasure

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

When someone mentions treasure our thoughts most often turn to financial things.

But there is another kind of treasure…one (sadly) I’m not very good at most times. The reference is found in Luke 2:19 where it says that after the shepherds visited the baby and then left, Mary pondered or treasured these things you her heart. That word has always intrigued me.

As I probed what it meant to “treasure” something in your heart, I knew exactly why I was so bad at it! 🙂

The expression “treasured these things in her heart” has more to do with the emotions and the heart, than the physical organ beating in our chest. It literally means to keep something alive or to savor.

I think we all tend to do that. It is called memories. I have them. You have them. Good and bad. I have memories of Christmases in the past which were good. Waking up on Christmas morning to find a tree, a running train, and more than I ever dreamed of under the tree. I can also remember the Christmas my dad was about to walk out of the house.

These days I treasure my Christmases. As we get older, the awareness becomes more apparent that Christmas memories are to be treasured. I like what Tim Keller says, “The treasuring is not so much a technique as an attitude.” The sad part (and am I alone in this?) is that treasuring is getting harder to do. I’m really having some difficulty focusing this Christmas. Maybe it is the accident. Maybe it’s the volume of work. Maybe it is preoccupation with things to do. But I do need to slow down and treasure my memories.

How about you?

Some have asked for an update on my accident. I continue mending. I am totally grateful to God for His healing. I found out the good news that my auto insurance is going to cover the medical bills. That is a huge relief. I go to the general surgeon this coming Monday for a follow up on the hematoma and whether she will remove it or continue hoping my body will absorb it. Continued prayer would be appreciated. And thanks.

Loneliness

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

godsgiftofchristmas

That word…loneliness…seems to be so empty. Drafty. Lifeless.

For many, Christmas is one of the loneliest times of the year. They feel like they are home alone. When the movie Home Alone first came out, I was not a fan. It just didn’t turn my crank, so for years I never watched it. One day, I think we were at a friend’s house, and they wanted to watch it. I found myself chuckling then laughing at the gags. It was almost like watching the old 3 Stooges, only updated with modern antics.  The story centers around a young boy who is left behind when his family heads for vacation and his attempt to keep the thieves away from the house. What ensues is an adventure in comedy that keeps you laughing.

What isn’t funny is how many live lives of quiet desperation in today’s media saturated world. Busy but alone. Surrounded but isolated.

That is what is so good about the name Emmanuel (God with us!). Not only is it a beautiful name for God’s Son, it also explains one of the great reasons for Christmas in the first place.

There is more. Guess you will have to come Sunday to hear it. But just in case you can’t, I will give you this preview:

  • The glory of Christmas means we are far more precious to God than we could ever imagine.
  • the glory of Christmas means there is far more to celebrate then we thought.
  • The glory of Christmas means we will never be alone

Those alone give us reason to celebrate Christmas. I hope you are not one who spends time alone. Find friends. Find others who are alone and get together for a Christmas dinner. Go visit a nursing home.  You will find others just like you-dreading the holiday because of some memory. You can have a mutual “pulling-out-of-the-doldrums” party.

Until then, I’d like to ask you to pray.

 

Reason

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

Daniel Hamlin and his family are five of the neatest people you will ever meet. They came to OVCF just a tad over a year ago in a search for something different than what he/they had grown up in. They were also concerned for their three children (one a teen and another real close and an adorable young girl). So he actually first heard of OVCF from living in the community about all his life, but when Daniel started searching with earnest his father told him about us. Daniel checked out the church website and then a few podcasts. Something resonated in him and a “chance” encounter with him at a local restaurant (we were supposed to eat somewhere else) led to him coming to OVCF. They have not left (that’s a good thing…a very good thing). He is a fine young man who wants to seek God with all his heart and wants to lead his family that way also. The following is what he posted on FB after helping with the Thanksgiving Dinner the church puts on annually.

Today, our church provided Thanksgiving meals to the community.  At one point my family was tasked with delivering 5 meals to a local low-income motel.  As we stepped out of the car I realized that we were probably not relatable to those who were receiving the food.  I had grabbed my LL Bean jacket, the boys were wearing Nike shoes and shorts (yes, shorts in November), we were a clean cut family.  One lady asked us to come in to her apartment.  After passing through the blanket that draped the door we enter her cluttered, dark apartment.  She had no kitchen table and had an aged container of Ramen noodles sitting on the stove.  We delivered her the prepared meal and she became emotional, expressing thanks for the food.  Amy asked her if she had any Christmas needs and she responded that she would like prayer for her son who suffers from scoliosis.

As I reflect back on this, it brings new appreciation for the Incarnation.  Just as I felt that our appearance would make us not relatable to those we were serving, if Jesus had come to earth in all of his power and glory we would not be able to relate to him.  Instead, he came to earth as a baby, grew up as a man, was tested, tempted, beaten, suffered loss and eventually killed.  I’m thankful that because of God’s grace and his love for us, Christ made himself relatable by becoming human.

And that, my friends, is the reason for the season.

I would say Daniel has it right. Not only that…do you see any doubt he will be able to lead his family well? I don’t.

MIA

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

deck the halls3

With the glut of media-ancient papyrus (called the newspaper), Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and countless other venues, it is hard for us to imagine there being people who would miss Christmas. It is hard to forget Christmas is upon us. What is equally hard to fathom is there will actually be people who will miss what Christmas is all about.

But like it or not, agree or not, it is easy to miss Christmas, even for those of us who are followers of Christ. We vow it won’t happen each year but we end up being part of the masses who lose sight of Christmas. Now, you know I’m not talking about the day or the time of the year…right? This Sunday I’m going to talk about those who missed Christmas (the coming of Jesus):

  1. The Innkeeper– the infamous “no room here” guy.  Luke 2:7.  I personally don’t think this was malicious. It is sort of hard to miss a very pregnant mother in discomfort. He missed because he was preoccupied.
  2. Herod- Matthew 2. The old “tell me so I can go worship Him” guy. He missed because of his jealous fear which drove him to a mass execution figuring he would kill the baby.
  3. The Religious Leaders- Matthew 2 (again). Big wonder why they did, especially after quoting the Scripture to Herod. These guys were legends in their own minds. The missed because of indifference.
  4. Jerusalem- Luke 2 contains the story of the shepherds. And while they heard, saw and went, the rest of Jerusalem slept. Ironically, the shepherds were probably watching the sheep used in temple sacrifice. The people of Jerusalem missed because of their religion.

Don’t miss Christmas this year. Focus on the birth of Jesus.

Highlight

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

You may have heard or read this before but I think it is worth sharing again:

In 1809, the evening news would have concentrated on Austria…not Britain or America. A little man was sweeping across Europe and wiping out little hamlets. From Trafalgar to Waterloo this diminutive dictator was showing his superiority.

But to focus on Napoleon would have meant missing some pretty significant births:

  • William Gladstone was born in Liverpool.
  • Alfred Tennyson began his life in Lincolnshire.
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes cried out in Cambridge, Mass.
  • Edgar Alan Poe, a few miles away in Boston, started his brief and tragic life.
  • A physician named Darwin and his wife called their infant son Charles Robert.
  • A rugged log cabin in Hardin County, KY, owned by an illiterate wandering laborer was filled with the infant screams of a newborn baby named Abraham Lincoln.
  • Felix Mendelsshon was born in Hamburg, Germany.

All those (significant) births would have been missed because of a focus on something else.  The news would have seen the destiny of the world being shaped on the battlefields in Austria. But the news would have been wrong! (Not that it ever is…choke choke)

Over 2000 years ago a birth happened which changed the world…in more ways than one. It also went without a lot of fanfare.  While all eyes were on Augustus, the cynical Caesar who demanded a census for tax purposes, a tiny baby was being born in a manger. Who cared then?

Maybe even more probing: who cares today?

The above story was edited from Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life by Chuck Swindoll (p.34-35)

Mistletoe

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Time for another Christmas tradition lesson!

I love mistletoe. Let me rephrase that: I love what mistletoe suggests. 🙂 But then again some sarcastic person will say, “Who needs mistletoe?” and technically they would be correct. If people only knew…

Do you know what the origin of mistletoe is? In Old English, mistel is the word for “dung,” and tan means “twig.” Mistletan is the Old English version of the word we know today as mistletoe. Well…I guess it just lost some of its romantic appeal. Don’t you think?

But, let’s move on. In ancient times, mistletoe was viewed with awe, as a miracle plant. It is actually a parasite, and yet it is radically different from what we think of a parasite. It is a beautiful, flowering plant which thrives in treetops when all else dies. Scandinavian warriors would stop battles if they found themselves under mistletoe (No…not to kiss each other). They believed it would dishonor a plant which stood for life by killing. It became a symbol of peace.

Eventually, the restorative powers of the berries migrated to England and the plant became a symbol of love. When a couple passed under the plant they stopped to kiss. If they did (they believed) God would bless them with everlasting love.

By the time Dickens wrote The Christmas Carol, the plant (for Christians) had become a symbol of life after death, of faith that was so strong it could grow even in the harshest of environments. Like the FISH symbol of the ancient Christians, the mistletoe was hung as a testimony of a person’s love for the God who had sent His Son.

Today, sadly, the message of peace, faith, and hope has been largely lost, but if even in a childish way, the message of love remains. (Sounds strangely biblical doesn’t it? See I Cor.13)  So…the next time you see a mistletoe hanging take advantage of it! Remind yourself it stands for the message of love.  (Had you going there for a minute didn’t I?)

This was adapted from this book:

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Prophecy

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

http://www.sermoncentral.com/cms/images/christmas-essentials/christmas-essentials-powerpoint-7.jpg

In my last post I talked about a man who once told me he believed Jesus was simply the “right man born in the right place at the right time.” When I questioned him about the prophecy which Jesus fulfilled at His birth alone, He held to his statement. In the comments of that post, Martha asked if I would share some of those prophecies in a future post so I thought I would do that here. My sources are three-fold: the Bible (Duh!); More Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell; and God With Us by John MacArthur.

  1. A star and a scepter came out of Israel. Numbers 24:17/Mt.2:1-2. Along with that Scripture is “a star of Jacob” which is fulfilled in Lk.3:23,34
  2. Born of the seed of a woman. Gen.3:15/Gal.4:4 (also Mt.1:20)
  3. Born of a virgin. Is.7:14/Mt.1:18-25 (also Lk.1:34)
  4. He was the Son of God. Ps.2:7/Mt.3:17
  5. He was the seed of Abraham. Gen.22:18/Mt.1:1
  6. He was born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2/Mt.2:1-6; Lk.2:1-7
  7. From the family line of Jesse (David’s father). Is.11:1/Lk.3:23,3

There are more. One OT prophecy after another promised a coming Savior-a Messiah, the Anointed One. He was the One who would set His people free.

A man who happened to be “in the right place at the right time?” I don’t think so.

Highlight

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

deck the halls3

Highlight reels are staples of nighttime sports shows. They will show an amazing dunk, a towering Homerun or acrobatic catch, pinpoint passing and other seeming improbable event over and over. We magnify the whole “I want to see that again” with Instant Replay. We “oooh” and “aaaah” over eye-popping actions.

The highlight of Christmas has nothing to do with video or touchdown or eye-popping stunts. In fact, those types of displays were not even thought of (in the biblical cultural realm during which this happened). No fanfare. No fireworks. No written birth announcement. No website.

But definitely en event worthy of note.

I once had a man tell me to my face while we were discussing Jesus that “Jesus was a man born at the right time and the right place.” When I asked him about prophecies about Him, he told me Jesus just happened to be one lucky guy. He wasn’t pulling my leg; he was dead serious. I spoke to his daughter probably about 10 years later and he never swerved from that and never came to know Jesus. To read the prophecies concerning Jesus which are found in the Old Testament and to see them fulfilled is a miracle to behold. The promised Messiah-the Anointed One.

I’ll be sharing some of those prophecies this Sunday. That first Christmas was quite different from what we experience today. But the beauty of the Story is still the same.