2012 is nearly in the history books and I can say, goodbye. I think that this past year has been the most challenging year for me personally, great in many ways, and disappointing in others. Things I planned to do remain to do because of time, mainly. In ways, I feel that I have been able to have an effect on some in a positive way, in others I have more than likely disappointed them...there's just not enough time. People can be gracious, thank God. If they have a hurt feeling as a result of my lack of attention toward them, I apologize sincerely.
2013 looks like a carbon copy of 2012 from a natural standpoint. But I don't care to view the "natural standpoint" as normal for me personally. I want to attain a higher quality of service to those in recovery from addictions, spend more time with my wife, my aging parents, the children and grandchildren, writing, promoting my book through speaking engagements, and keeping spiritually fit. This is a tall order when you add 40+ hours per week on the job that is shift work. None of what I am saying is an excuse if I do not accomplish these things. I know whoever is reading this probably are thinking about their busy life, and how they can self-improve as well.
How is this possible?
The fact is, this is not an attainable goal. Too much on the plate can cause one to overeat. Overeating makes one lethargic and seeing how much they need to choke down. Less will be accomplished. My head says, I can do it, my family needs me, there are people to help...for crying out loud, "Lord how do I do all of this?" He is silent. He knows the exact answer to this dilemma.
"Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of his father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters-yes, even one's own self!-can't be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple." Luke 14:26-27 MSG
This statement by Jesus cause many to think the cost is too great to get serious about following him too closely. God wants us to take care of what he has entrusted us with, be a good steward, they think. This gives us the excuse we need to not do his will because we are busy doing his will. A bigger dilemma. Most of us have an issue with this passage, because we don't understand what Jesus is saying. His statement here is the answer we are looking for.
Willingness, Attitude, Surrender
He is saying this: You just be willing, surrender trying to hang on to the controls, and please change your hopeless attitude. Those things that overwhelm you, impossible lists of things to do, and trying to please everyone, blinds you to the most important thing you need to pay attention to...time with me. I have to respond to him...yes you are absolutely right. All of the insane attempts to serve the world of problems of others and my own, must be put to death in my mind, surrendered. I have to be willing to ignore the important things in my head, change my attitude completely about being "there" for everyone. I need to only be "there" for One...Christ Jesus. My long list of improvements, my concerns about 2013, must come second to Him. So I die daily to my ambitions, to know Him in the power of His resurrection, and in the fellowship of His sufferings...not my sufferings.
The funny thing is this: Those things placed at his feet get accomplished with less effort on my part. He finds the way to their fulfillment when you and I place our focus on Him. So spending more time in communion with Him is the goal for the upcoming year, at least for me.
Thanks for reading, god bless and keep you all!
I wish we lived in a time like the one my parents grew up in. People were polite, children were mannerly. Families, for the most part, stayed together. If you were in need of a job, you went to the company and applied for a position, not the internet. You could call to check on your application and talk to a person without listening to the entire menu because options have changed...I think they must change daily. Times were different then, no cell phones, wiis, Gameboys, no widescreens, microwaves, and all of the modern items that make life so convenient we actually forget how to live. They experienced nature much more than we do today, every time they had to go...you had to visit the little building outdoors. Well, that may not be a good old days feature I wish to return to.
I want to see my children to have opportunities that I have had in life. They may, or at least have been able to up to this point. A job, a home, cars, and all of the things I have enjoyed in life may get out of reach in their lifetime, certainly their children will not experience those things without a complete change in political thought and fiscal responsibility. The outlook is extremely dark for generations ahead, depending from where you are looking. I have heard that if you do not like what you see from where you stand...move.
This past week has been very trying for us as a nation. The tragedy in which 28 people, including 20 little children were murdered, has left us stunned once again. Our people are looking for answers and the government is trying to respond for they feel they must do something so we, the people, know they are in charge and really care. the debate on removing fire arms, and amending the 2nd amendment to the constitution is what they feel will do the trick. And the people, on the left agree. On the right however, anger is setting in again. The government takes, they are saying. They took away prayer from our schools and began this ripple effect of societal woes springing from our schools as God takes vengeance on us for removing Him, and the 10 Commandments, and anything related to the biblical God from our schools.
I do agree somewhat with how the people think. But the reality is this, He was dismissed from education long before prayer was removed from public schools. He was given His walking papers when we added the view of biological evolution to the textbooks. It was impossible to think that in 6 days everything made was created by a Deity by speaking it to be that way, so we traded one impossible for an even more impossible way to believe we exist. God, You can go, we can handle this. What disturbs me more is not that secularist and humanistic thought has invaded every aspect of society, but what has me really perturbed is that Christians do not see their part in this mess. Prayer was removed from the home long before it was removed from our schools. If petition to God does not return home first, forget it ever from returning to public anything. If your children know how to pray, they can pray in the school and the law cannot legally stop that.
We, the body of Christ, have been asleep at the wheel with every step toward the eventual downhill slide we remain on. We elect men and women who do everything to remove God, offending Him, and do it quietly as possible. Christians do a better job than they do to offend Him. Nowadays, 74% of Christians do NOT take the Bible literally, and do NOT believe it is the inspired Word from God. Many Christians believe that 6 days to create everything IS impossible, even for God, until they are in desperate need for His help...then we tell Him, God all things are possible with you! The reason for their doubt is that the mind hears much more about man's evolving than man's creation. Even atheistic scientist have been jumping off of the evolution bandwagon with so much being discovered about the human cell.
We must be concerned that God has taken a back-seat to government. The many tragedies we have already experienced with school shootings, postal rages, and all of the insane behavior to get attention, will likely continue. Laws are passed by lawmakers that submit bills that are for their personal promotion through mainstream media, or their foundational beliefs, or because lobbyist play to their personal greed, not what is best for the people. If the church, (the entire body, protestant and catholic, and anyone who claims Christ as the head and Lord), does not repent and unify, teaching prayer in the home, and foundational truths to their children, rejecting secular science and fully accepting the Word as Truth, we can only look to see more of what we are getting, and history proves it.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all!
Hope, is the forgotten virtue of the alcoholic, addict, over-eater, the couch potato, the individual fixed in their dead-end job, etc. Hope is used by so many of us in an off-handed way that when we say to another, "I hope you have a nice Holiday Season, and it is forgotten as fast as it was heard. I am guilty of passing conversation like that. In reality, I really want those I converse with to have a good day or a great holiday, I hope they do, I'm sure you do as well.
Hope is missing in so many people's lives today. Why? Many reasons, sickness, jobless without prospect, broken relationships, to name a few. I have mentioned this before, and feel it worth repeating. The happiest children in the world is in, of all places, Nigeria. These children face danger daily, possible genocide of the Christians from the Islamic groups that say convert or die. These children are happy because they have hope of a better tomorrow.
The most unhappy children in the world are right here in the USA. They seem to have everything, why are they unhappy? Because they have nothing to look forward to...everything they want is within reach, even for most of our poor, but certainly not all.
"Hope deferred, (unrelenting disappointment), makes the heart sick, but when desire comes, (a longing comes true), it is a tree of life." Prov.13:12
"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." Martin Luther King Jr.
Attend recovery meetings and observe the broken entering for their first few meetings. These people are hopeless, beaten down, and walked on, by their own doing. Nobody loves them, none care, even God...there is no hope for them, so they think. But by showing up and at least giving recovery a try, the lights come on for them to get a small glimpse of hope, and suddenly, that light is in their eyes, hope has been re-discovered! Desiring to live, accomplish, and to become someone who can make a difference is indeed a tree of life.
You do not have to have addictions, or overwhelming problems of any kind to be hopeless. Having no purpose, no ambition, and failures have left you totally defeated. You need that tree of life. That tree is the tree of death that Jesus died on, but life for anyone and looks to Him in hope.
"To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. HOPE means hoping when everything seems hopeless." G.K. Chesterton
Prior to the first advent of Christ, the people of God looked forward to the "Hope of Israel," the promised One who would appear. Their hope appeared in Jesus, but that wasn't what they expected. We still look at Him for hope today as we look back at what He accomplished through his death, burial, and resurrection.
By our believing on Him, and inviting Him into our heart for a personal advent, He arrives and our hope is realized, a real tree of life living and changing us continually. This is a mystery to the unbeliever that is hopeless, but certainly not unattainable. HOPE is found in Him. Just ask Him, he will come to you too, and then we can together look for to the second advent, the "blessed hope!"
"Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." Titus 2:13
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all, Merry Christmas!
I feel deep sorrow when I hear of how Israel is troubled on every side by people that want nothing less than her destruction. I feel I understand the reasons from both the biblical view of this chosen-by-God group of people, and from a secular view provided by media sources and personal testimony of the people themselves, (on both sides). My sorrow stems from my belief that they missed the advent of the Messiah and still wait for the Promised One. Why? How can you read Isaiah's messianic prophecies and not see Jesus?
Paul the apostle, explains this quite well in the book of Romans. Being a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, taught by one of the great teachers of his day, and extremely zealous for Israel's salvation, quotes repetitively from the book of Isaiah, showing how they missed the advent, and why. I cannot, because of time and length give a complete rundown of Paul's explanation, but if you take the time to read Romans, from a modern language translation, i.e., the NIV, NASV, HCSB, or even the NKJV, or the paraphrase versions, MSG or TLB, you will gain much insight, (and please do not judge), on the reason Jesus was rejected by them.
Why They Do Not See Jesus
But to Israel He (God) says: "All day long I have spread out My hands to a disobedient and defiant people." Rom.10:21
...as it is written: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that cannot see, and ears that cannot hear, to this day." Rom.11:21
...as it is written: "Look! I am putting a Stone in Zion to stumble over, and a Rock to trip over, yet the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame." Rom. 9:33
It may be hard to grasp what Paul is saying from these few passages. He is wanting to convey that God has reached out to Israel all this time, but they refused His fellowship. The Old Testament reveals the cycle-of-sin that Israel fell into after God brought them from Egypt into the land of promise. They chased after the false gods instead of Him. Though the Messiah was promised even before all of these events, because they fell into idolatry and all sorts of lewd iniquity, God allowed them to fall, He did not and does not force anyone to follow Him. In spite of their obstinance and disobedience, (skipping way ahead), when they returned to the land of promise the second time, religious groups eventually formed that attempted to follow hard after God, but pride and "law interpreters" brought their zeal for God to the ground, buried in impossible-to-follow dictates, and misguided directions as to the advent of Messiah. In other words, they were looking for Him though eyes of flesh not spirit.
They expected Him to come and with a mighty hand wipe out the Romans, and set up His kingdom at that time. Jesus came as a sacrificial lamb and His blood to cover their sin, and set His kingdom into being when He didn't stay dead but rose, and set down at God's right hand, enthroned forever, a spiritual kingdom, as it is today. When the church, His kingdom began, they rejected it too, resulting in their attempting to undo what Christ did, in order to keep their ritual and religious order intact.
And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Liberator will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness from Jacob, (Israel). And this will be my covenant with them, when I take away their sins." Rom.11:26
There was no intent on God's part for Christ to set up an earthly kingdom.
This one thing needs to be added; the earliest believers were Jews, Peter and they followers of Jesus' earthly ministry...don't blame Jews for the churches troubled beginning and subsequent persecutions. Satan, you know, the prince of darkness is to blame, he tried to used every pagan religion to destroy the "Way."
To wrap this up. Judaism rejected Jesus, and still look for their Messiah, blinded by unbelief, and by pride. God allowed this, and Paul adds:
"I will call not-My-people, My- people, and she who is unloved, Beloved. And it will be in the place where they were told you are not my people, there, they will be called Sons of the Living God." Rom.9: 9-10
But I ask, did not Israel understand? First, Moses said: "I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that lacks understanding." Rom.10:19
And again, Isaiah says: "The root of Jesse will appear, the one WHO RISES to rule the Gentiles; in Him the Gentiles will hope." Rom.15:12
Since Israel still waits, we non-Jews are given a window of opportunity, so to speak. God has mercy on all people, and for us looking backward to advent in celebration, they still look for the first advent. Sad, I agree. But God in mercy will not forget Israel, His beloved. There are many Messianic Jewish believers who are full of joy that even the Gentile converts do not experience. These Jews following Christ have received the promise and are filled with the wonder of the promise they received as a people centuries ago. A last thought, Paul warns not to become boastful that we Gentiles have the promise. If you noticed, we are no different. Our lawmakers and interpreters of our Constitution pervert original meaning purposely. They despise the original purpose, and want that to change but cannot gather support from all politicians, so they in judgment interpret the law to suit their personal morals.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.
All of our society seems to be steeped in idolatry of some sort. Let me see if you agree with this. We have professional sports teams in major cities. Within these teams there are some outstanding athletes that are say, on a major league baseball team, and throughout the metropolis you see fans wearing team shirts with these players names and number. If you attend the game, a particular player comes to the plate and smashes a home run, the whole stadium erupts in worship and praise of this players accomplishment. Hands are lifted in honor, dancing and singing, chanting, laughter, and tears are even shed. A baseball game, wow.
Um...let me see, there's Matthew, M...
Our idolatry isn't exclusive to the world of sports. The film industry, wall street, politics, and the music business all have their icons as well. They receive glory and praise just as much as the sports world. The Christian world has it idols too. Many have preacher religion. Some follow their favorite evangelist from town to town. The local church often talk about their pastor as though he is Jesus. If you asked the average Christian, "how has the life of Jesus affected their life, they can give you some sort of answer. If you asked them if they knew how many books in the Bible are about Jesus, the answers you hear will amaze you. The answer, by the way is 66, every book is about Jesus...haha, gotcha!
All kidding aside, we who follow Christ are often unaware of the idols we erect and honor ahead of God. We are so engrossed in the dictates of our society, the push, push, and rush aspects of day to day living that we do not realize our negligence of diligence to our relationship with the Father, until we face a major trial, calamity, or through a sermon. How do we know what things are stealing our allegiance in service to Him? Do we really have to ask? Does the children's sports or activities cause us to miss services regularly? Do we skip fellowship or opportunities to serve others, visit someone in need, or the sick because we don't feel like it? We all do. These all are evidence that we all do put God second to our personal needs and desires.
"This is the way it is with you. God's kingdom will be taken back from you and handed over to a people who will live out a kingdom life. Whoever stumbles on this stone gets shattered; whoever the Stone falls on gets smashed." Matt.21:43-44 MSG the words of Jesus
Advent has become a time of the arrival of the latest technology, the latest fad, the going to extremes to see that the kids have a good Christmas, meaning, a bunch of stuff that they will forget about in a week or so. Seriously, if you pointed out last years gift to a child and ask who gave them that gift, they would probably not remember. If you asked them who was born on Christmas day, would they say Santa? Do we really need to question if He is first? I do not. As I type this, my mind thinks of all of the areas I move without thought of Him, or live busily and omit time in fellowship with Him.
"For in Him we live, and move, and have our being"...Acts17:28 NKJV
Fools for Christ's sake
We have a God who gave His best, a Savior that did not hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and won a game. No, He left the splendor of the heavens, and came to rescue mankind from eternal separation from the Father for our utter rejection of Him. He banished our sin, and gave us rights as sons and daughters to enter into the throne room of God Himself with boldness and present our needs to Him...and He shows us mercy. That dance that we do at the ball game, the laughter and tears for our team, chanting, singing, throwing up our hands in victory...all of this man worship belongs to the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ the Righteous!
Advent, the real notable, Jesus came for you. And He has come in this moment for you and I to see Him ahead of every task, every chore facing us. Nothing compares to His exceeding great gift of unselfish, unconditional love He displayed by His arrival and gives to us daily.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all!
Faith to believe, faith to disbelieve.
It takes faith to see how Jesus, by His birth, fulfilled the scriptures written centuries prior to His birth. That first advent was the fulfillment of numerous passages found throughout the Old Testament. His entire life is denied by some, doubted by many, admired by a few, and cherished by the multitudes that trust in Him. Debating His existence is not so difficult with the arrival of the "Way," as the newly found religion formed following His death. This should quiet those who claim He never existed. Who Jesus claimed to be should silence the doubters as well, simply because with His coming and going, those following Him gave their entire lives in devotion to His existence, many martyred in horrible fashion. The admirers, think of Him as a peaceful pacifist that taught love and tolerance...no deity associated. To those who believe in Him as the propitiation for sin and the giver of eternal life, this is the only explanation, He is exactly who He claimed to be. He fulfilled the law, the requirements of the law, and the prophetic passages attributed to the coming Messiah.
It is written.
"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel." Is. 7:14
Then Mary said, "Let it be to me according to your word," and the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38
The Word made flesh.
This moment, these words of Mary's acceptance of the will of God, 'according to your word,' is the moment the Word was planted in her undefiled womb, advent became reality. Christ arrived in Mary with no shepherds, Magi, no angelic hosts proclaiming "peace on Earth," nothing except a young girl receiving the "Word" by faith. That moment, the accuser began his plan to destroy God's plan then as he does today using people's fallen defective nature as his weapon. Fear, doubt, hatred, lies were all a part of the arsenal he would use until that fateful day Jesus would die on the cross. Little did this ignorant fallen one know that he was used to fulfill the scripture, start the church, and seal his doom. Quietly, the plan was in full process.
Who gets it? How is this possible?
This advent can only be understood by the one who hears, believes and accepts. That moment of the individual's acceptance, that same word planted in the womb of Mary, is planted in the heart of the believer, and as the fetus grew inside Mary, the seed of faith grows in the individual until the reality of the scripture is fully revealed and every line of every verse written in the Old Testament reveals Jesus Christ, King of kings, and Lord of lords. The veil is lifted from the eyes, spiritual understanding arrives. Curiously, the believer is at the extreme other end of the spectrum of the disbeliever. The disbeliever sees absolutely no possibility in this reality, and questions purpose, meaning, and truth, blinded by the devices of the prince of darkness. The believer believes the entire reality and their eyes are opened to the spiritual by the Light of the World.
Receive and see.
Jesus came, and He now comes to all who hear and want sight as well. Imagine, the Lord of Glory loving this crown jewel of His creation, man, enough to come and rescue him from his outright rejection of the one that made him, and loves him, taking on a body of flesh and suffering insult, and physical abuse, being lied about, and suffering the shame of the cross and it's horrible death, for that creation. It is too wonderful for the mind to conceive, and I understand why it must be believed through the heart. If you believe His message, ask Him in. You can experience real advent now.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.
Raised in a church that wasn't nominal, I thought ritualistic worship strange, and even pagan. I had this, I'm right and you're wrong belief. It took a large amount of pain and disappointments in life to show me that I did not contain the whole counsel of God. Those were not great ideas in my head, as I think back. I believed that Ash Wednesday, lent fasts, and even advent were peoples way of showing God their loyalty to Him, to earn His favor. I was right, I was wrong. Many people do try to earn favor with God by ritual and their faith tends to be hidden and shallow. However, there are many that practice these rituals and traditions out of their love for Christ and desire to draw closer to Him.
Growing up into the full stature of Christ is difficult for all of us. We tend to take out our religious differences on each other in front of unbelievers, into heated arguments where nobody wins and reproach on Jesus is accomplished in the eyes of the unbeliever. Jesus prayed that we would be one. We're one alright. One bunch of messed up me-gotist, that insists on our own rights and ways. Yet, He loves us all and came to fix our brokenness. I can say I'm much better, nowhere near perfect, but very cognizant that I need fixed...and so do you.
Traditions are important. Rituals are important, and even more so in this time we are living in. We are faced with secular groups that try to eliminate Jesus entirely from our society. Public and higher education have to extremes to wipe God out of education with science they cannot possibly prove. They believe in tangible proof for fact, yet believe and teach a fairy tale. The media has gone overboard to remove religious thought from scripture to opinion of the talk-show host, and "new faith that is inclusive." Every TV sitcom or drama portray the follower of Jesus as a back-woods Bible thumper that is judgmental or just plain stupid. It has become urgent for the protestant to defend the Catholic, and vise versa. That doesn't mean you practice faith the same. That means you do not oppose each others right to believe, how they believe. I am convinced that we are to pray for each other, love one another, and disregard any minister, especially those with a TV audience, that tear down the body of Christ without telling their audience to pray for the ones practicing false doctrine. Expose it, fine, pray for them, we must. Unity is vital to our belief systems even if we disagree, let's be Jesus to unbelievers and let God fix them, and us.
These thing I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain it you, and that your joy may be full. John
Advent can be just a tradition or it can be holy, fresh, and experience year-long. I am big on forming personal family traditions that leave wonderful memories for us. Our family had a tradition that lasted a few years. My late grandmother was in her 80's and we gathered as always with my immediate family, my uncle, and his family. You will think of us as a bunch of weirdo's, but after everyone had opened their gifts, wrapping paper laid everywhere on the floor. As we went to pick it up, someone threw a wad of the paper at my brother, and he returned the favor. In moments, it was pandemonium! Paper was flying all over the room, even my mamaw was in the fight! We laughed until we cried. As are children grew, that short tradition ended, but the memories remain. Our family loves to cut-up and laugh, and we often find reason to do so, even when it isn't funny to others. We also sang the "Hallelujah Chorus," singing the words, but experiencing a stirring on the inside, very memorable.
I am awed by what Christ has done. That first advent is precious and dear to so many of us. The ones that follow cannot compare to it, but can be dear to us if we maintain the hunger for a daily visit with the most notable person in history, Jesus Christ.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all!