Opinion

...now browsing by category

 

#ChristmasChallenge#Post15

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

In my #ChristmasChallenge#Post13 I mentioned there were three gifts we all need at Christmas.  Love. Joy. Peace. #Post14 was about that first quality we all want: LOVE. I want to continue on that idea with a post about JOY.

Alexander Whyte was a British pastor from many years ago. He once wrote something that seems to become more and more true each year (or maybe each day?) in our world:

We tend to hang very heavy weights on thin wires.

What he meant by that is that many of us have a tendency to put the weight of our happiness on thin wires that may easily break.  For example, I know of people-as I’m sure you do-who have put a lot of stock into their health. They eat right. They exercise. They go to bed at a decent hour for the right amount of sleep. They avoid smoking or being around it. They avoid alcohol (or do so sparingly). They get regular check-ups. But they also hear the dreaded “C” word that causes their world to come crumbling down.  We have also watched as people have put the weight of their happiness on family, possessions, fame and fortune.  We have also watched them crash and burn.

Have you ever watched the movie Titanic? (Yes it has one nude scene as Jack is drawing Rose. Skip over it.) Anyway, as Rose helps fill in the blank spaces of the sinking of Titanic, and as she tells her story of survival, she talks about Cal Hockley. He was a fictional character who thought money could buy love (at least Rose’s). As she recaps her life, Rose tells of how Cal took his life after the downturn took his money. And yes, it still happens.

Many of you know happiness and joy are not the same thing. Imagine the Christmas carol we sing: “Happiness to the world, the Lord has come.” Just doesn’t have the same ring as “Joy to the world.”  🙂

Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life, in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Joy is found in Jesus. Joy is found in His presence.  I’ll close my thought with the lyrics from a song Chris Tomlin sings:

Joy, unspeakable joy/ An overflowing well, no tongue can tell/Joy, unspeakable joy, Rises in my soul, never let me go.

“Father, help me to know real joy. Help me to find that gift that far outstrips happiness of fulfillment. You have promised unspeakable joy. May it be mine and may those I love find it as well.”

Check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers:

Diane and Hadarah

Ed at Word!

#ChristmasChallenge#Post14

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

In my last post, I mentioned the need we all have of Love, Joy, and Peace. As part of my #ChristmasChallenge I thought I would take each one of those needs and expand on them a bit.

My topic today is Love.

One of the top songs of 1984 (was it that long ago?) was by the group Foreigner called I Want to Know What Love Is. It was a moving ballad that even today still speaks to hearts and gets down to the root of what we all want...LOVE.  I think if we are all honest we would admit that we all want to be loved or to experience love. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old; married or single; rich or poor; employed or unemployed; male or female-we all want to know what love is and what it is like.

Why? Because it is part of our DNA. Babies want to know they are loved and they don’t have a clue what it is. Every child wants to know they are loved and still they aren’t sure they know what it is.  As we get older and understand a bit more about how the world works, we still want to know we are loved.  Why else would someone sing a song with the lyrics of  “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”

So here is the million dollar question: why do need love? We all do things that make it hard to love us or we search for love depending on our feelings to somehow answer that question. Why love? I am taking a stab at 4 reasons:

  1. Love covers sin. When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant and he knew it wasn’t his, he could have walked out. In fact, he planned on it. But God changed all that. Joseph couldn’t throw Mary out on the street. I believe his love for her was enhanced by the message of the angel.
  2. Love listens to God. In the midst of his pain, God came to Joseph.  He still does that and if we are listening we can hear His still small voice in the pit of our heart.
  3. Love believes God. Joseph believed God that all would be right. I have to believe in love since John 3:16 says, “God so loved (me)…”
  4. Love obeys God. Joseph did not put Mary away; he loved her and took care of her. Just as God would have him do.

Love is the focal point of the Christmas season. John 3:16 becomes like a beacon shining brighter the closer we get to that miraculous night celebrated on Christmas day. 

“Father, help me to pursue love…real love. And help me to give love to others. There are so many people searching for love because we all want it. Help me to be your instrument to show love to others.”

#ChristmasChallenge#Post13#Gifts!#Don’tMissThem

Friday, December 13th, 2019

In his book When God Whispers Your Name, Max Lucado wrote about a fictional game called “What’s Your Price?” The contestants were presented with options and must choose one. The pot was fed more when the price was 10 million dollars. You might be shocked to know what some of the choices were:

  • 25% would abandon their family.
  • 25% would abandon their church.
  • 23% would become a prostitute for a week.
  • 16% would give up their American citizenship.
  • 16% would leave their spouse.
  • 3% would put their children up for adoption.

That’s not counting the 7% who said they would murder; the 6% who would change their race; and the 4% who would change their sex.  I realize some may choose to argue with those stats…that’s okay. But that leads me to a point.  For whatever reason, we are becoming (some have already become) people of no commitment.

As a result, we are often missing out on the three gifts most people would love to have: Love. Joy. Peace.  Those three ideas are probably the most talked about gifts people want and need for Christmas.

I’m posting this today and then will be using those three as “seed” for my #ChristmasChallenge. They are the crux of my sermon Sunday so I would appreciate your prayers as we get closer to Christmas and try even more to bring the focus on Jesus. Thanks.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post12

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

I have been blogging each day as part of a #ChristmasChallenge I asked others to participate in. Due to my schedule I have been using virtually the same post here and at my other blog. But this one is different. This will stand alone from my other blog.  So…I give you my thoughts on this sensitive topic.

Recently we have had two holidays together which emphasize family, love, happy times and togetherness. For many they are anything but. For various reasons pain, hurt, emptiness, loneliness and depression are more apparent than the aforementioned family, love, happy times and togetherness.

Consider why:

  • A divorce has rocked the world of a woman or a man or their children.
  • A downturn at work has left him or her out of work.
  • An ugly spat has taken away family unity.
  • A death of a loved one is a painful memory that crops up even bigger during this time.
  • Friends are visiting out of town.
  • Family is unable to make the trip to see you or visa versa.
  • Perhaps you can think of more reasons.

My heart aches for these people. I realize what the church does in offering a lunch at Thanksgiving and a hot breakfast on Christmas morning is a small token when compared to the price of loneliness or pain.  Making our presence felt is needed more than just those special times.

When I look around-when you look around- we see people all around us going through the motions of life. Aimless. Heartbroken. Lonely.  Out of sorts. And sadly, it is just as easy to miss them. Avoiding their eyes. Rushing past their pain. Ignoring their tears.

BUT…and this is a big BUT…if we are to have the heart of Christ, we can’t pass by unaffected or closed off.  Having the mind and heart of Jesus demands we see people through eyes of love and compassion.

So let me challenge you this year to keep your eyes and heart open to really “see” other people. Reach out. Invite them to your family gathering. Take them a meal or take them out for one. See if there is something they need done which they are unable to do, but perhaps you can help by doing it or having someone else help. Speak to people as you see them. Don’t ignore them or divert your eyes.

The following song is on one of my favorite Christmas albums. It is not a “spiritual” Christmas song by any stretch but does touch on my thoughts for this post. And yes, it was partly responsible for me writing what I have.

https://youtu.be/V3Z3-z8eXuM

If you have trouble with understanding the lyrics, underneath the video is a “Show More” tab.  Click it and the lyrics will show up.

I encourage you to check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers.

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!

 

#ChristmasChallenge#Post11

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

In Philippians 3:10 Paul writes, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings…”  I’ve always liked that verse than for no other reason than one word: know. Our English language fails us here because our idea of know is sometimes pretty shallow. But the Greek word goes much deeper. The Greek word means to know intimately. Simply put: there is a difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone.

It goes without saying that there are plenty of people who have a knowledge of Jesus. Many non-theists and atheists have a better knowledge of Jesus and the Bible (for the purpose of arguing) than many followers of Christ. But that is different than what Paul is talking about.

It is also different than the “Christmas experience” (for lack of a better phrase this morning). When Jesus came it was for many reasons, but one of the primary ones was so God could reveal Himself to us. So we might know Him. We will never “know” Him like we should-our ability falls short because we are humans with limited everything. While Mary knew her son because of the mother/child bond, she too had limited knowledge.

But the limits placed on us by our humanness should not inhibit our desire to pursue Him, to want to know Him. If anything it should fan the flame of desire in our hearts. So use this Christmas time to pursue knowing Jesus. More than a baby; the Son of God.

“Father, may my Christmas season be one of a desire to know You. Help me not to be content with the baby in a manger. Help me to want to get to know Jesus-the King of kings and the Lord of glory.”

Please check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge colleagues at their respective blogs:

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!

#ChristmasChallenge#Post10

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

One of the most beautiful scenes of Christmas is a decorated house. Even better, a house of lights with music! 🙂  (Check out the multiple entries for this). The lights transform a dull, dingy exterior into a wonderland of beauty. In our house, one of our traditions is a Christmas tree (now of the artificial variety) that goes up on Thanksgiving Day and stays up until after sometime after Christmas. It doesn’t just stay up; it stays on. That’s right. 24/7. The lights on the tree are never off. Growing up our lights were on Christmas morning when we came downstairs and then each subsequent evening. I suspect some of that was economically and safety-driven since both were suspect back then, but with the advent of smaller bulbs which don’t get hot or have you see your electric meter going nuts, ours stay on all day. We have certainly come a long way from the first lights on a tree…candles. Of course, many a house burned down back then. 🙁

The light displays are as numerous as the houses, as is the amount of work put into the display. Each year a local florist puts lights on their giant outside tree. I keep forgetting to ask him if he puts them up and takes them down or just unplugs them.

But those lights pale in comparison to “the Light of the World.” In John 8:12 Jesus calls Himself “the Light of the world.” If you are a Christ-follower the light of Christ has shown into your heart. Why not share that light with someone else this Christmas? Brighten their world.

“Father, your light transforms even the darkest scene and the darkest night. May your light shine in me and then through me to others.”

Please check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge Takers:

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!

#ChristmasChallenge#Post9

Monday, December 9th, 2019

It is not unusual to hear or say-and I have-that Thanksgiving should be and is to be more than one day out of the year. Thanksgiving should be 24/7/365. The inference (although it is more than just inferred or implied) is that the spirit of Thanksgiving is so dominant in us that it weaves its way into every day of the year.

What would that mean if I said, “Christmas ought to be every day of the year? Does that mean we ought to have candy and cookies and eggnog and gifts and the other trappings of Christmas all year ’round? (I can say you will have a hard time with me saying no when it involves chocolate. But I digress… 🙂 )

In all seriousness, what does that mean? Seemingly endless shopping? No. Lights and decorations all year ’round? No. A tree in the foyer or living room? No on all counts. To say Christmas all year ’round is to have the attitude we find in Philippians 2: “Have this mind (attitude) among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Paul had just been talking about doing nothing out of selfishness or conceit. But instead, we are to look out for the interest of others.

THAT’S the spirit of Christmas! Humility. Selflessness. Who couldn’t benefit from an attitude like that displayed. Giving our lives away for the sake of the Gospel.

“Father, may my life exhibit the Christmas spirit of humility and selflessness all year ’round. May Christmas not be just a once a year event but a lifestyle of giving myself away on a daily basis.”

Please check out Diane at Hadarah and Ed at WORD! for other Christmas Challenge offerings.

#Don’tMiss#Announcement

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

I’m a little bit behind for posting this. Sorry about that. My week was anything but normal. Besides, what is normal anyway? But I guess better late than never.

Depending on circumstances, announcements can be either a curse or a blessing. How many of us can remember the announcements made over the loud speaker at the beginning of every school day.  (Oh you can’t remember that far back? They didn’t have PA systems when you went to school? I’m sorry. 🙂 )  You don’t mind hearing announcements of a special award or a day off from work. But you don’t want to be on a airplane and the captain coming on the speaker saying, “Strap in folks. We are going down.”  Then there is the infamous church announcement time when most don’t hear or it goes over their head. Gender reveal parties are all the rage today as the big announcement is made about the sex of the baby.

Can any announcement be bigger than the proclamation to the shepherds at the fields of Bethlehem? While we have Christmas plays with cute kids dressed up in towels and robes and groans of “Ooooh” and “Aaaah” and “Ain’t he cute!” coming from our mouths, this story is so much bigger than that.

My sermon this Sunday continues the theme for this month of “Don’t Miss Out!”  As you probably can guess, my sermon will be based on the story of the angel’s announcement to the shepherds. While I will be talking about the shepherds, the main idea will be the names Jesus is given: Savior, Christ, and Jesus (Matthew 1).

I’d appreciate your prayers for Sunday. And I thank you ahead of time.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post7

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

So much about the Christmas story impresses me. A few examples: the number of players involved-wise men, shepherds, innkeeper, Herod, etc.

But what really impresses me are three people in the cast of many.

  • First and foremost: Jesus. The whole story is about Him.
  • Second: Joseph. Put yourself in his place. he is in love with a young girl who turns up pregnant. It is not his because he hadn’t touched her. The only thing that could have gone through him ind was the only thing that did. But a dream changed all that.
  • Third: Mary. her story is told over and over but let’s not forget her response. I’m not a Mary worshiper by any stretch (I despise it actually) but I can’t help but be impressed by this young girl’s response to the news: “I’m yours. Have your way.”

How can I-how can you-read the account of the Christmas story, see the responses of these players-and not be impressed? How can we be unfazed as though nothing happened? I say we can’t. If we are unfazed by it all, perhaps we need to check our heart and revisit the story again.

“Father, you involved so many in this story. Each had their own story to tell. The three stand out to me. May their response be mine.”

Please check out fellow Christmas Challenge takers:

Diane at Hadarah

Ed at Word!

#ChristmasChallenge#Post6

Friday, December 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Generosity vs Stinginess.

I think one of the overarching themes of this time of the year is generosity. The idea of Jesus’ words through Paul (“It is more blessed to give than to receive”) are, perhaps, never more prevalent than at Christmas. I know for me I get great joy in giving and seeing the faces when that gift if accepted and opened.

In many minds the “seed” for that generosity is a somewhat mythical creature named Santa Claus. I don’t get on the bandwagon about SC. I have bigger fish to fry. That is not a battle I choose to fight because, frankly, I don’t care. I really don’t. Those fools who say things like, “SANTA had the same letters as SATAN…they are just mixed up a little” are fighting a losing battle. That is just dumb. The legend of SC comes from the supposed inspiration of a real person, St. Nicolas. His idea? Generosity. Seeing a family or someone in need and trying to help.

Granted, some have taken it too far. Christmas is often more about trees, gifts, lights, etc than about celebrating the birth of Christ. But rather than protest in rebellion to that, we ought to use that as a springboard to be the most generous people around. Generosity ought to be one of the “calling cards” of the Christ-follower, not stinginess.

After all, the greatest example of generosity is the story we want to promote: the generosity of a loving God to lost humanity with the greatest gift of all.

“Father, help me to be a generous person not one who is stingy and wrapped up in himself. Help me to follow Your example.”