Could I get a “do over”?

As 2013 comes to a close, many people may regret they did or did not accomplish certain goals in the year. Some will opt to make a New Year’s Resolution.

Statistics are now showing that as few as 8% of the US population plan to make a 2014 Resolution. Interestingly however is that only 11% of that already small percentage believe they will keep it (that’s less than 1% of the total that will decide to change and actually do it!)

I’m not proposing you don’t make one, and I’m not in support of you making one. Ok, so why the blog? – good question!

Each of us undoubtably will admit that there was something that we wish we had done different this past year. Why? that’s the real question here.

What happened that made you choose to take a certain path, and make a particular decision?

Sometimes the environment affects our choice, other times our friends and family influence us. Hopefully our beliefs and values also weigh in heavily to our decision making process.

What I’m suggesting then is to affect the one thing you can: your values. If you decide to make a resolution, the best thing you can do is to clarify your objective.

Let’s say you want to lose weight (the #1 resolution every year, including mine for the last few years). First off, “losing weight” is very abstract, and the goal is arbitrary.  Instead of “losing weight,” make a definite achievable goal.  “I want to lose 10 lbs by April 1st.” Now I have a goal, and it’s close enough that I can’t afford waiting to start.

No matter what your resolution, or any regret may be from 2013, I hope that 2014 is a better year for you.

Happy New Year!

…and thanks for supporting me and reading this. I plan to continue this ministry in 2014. I hope you’ll stay here with me.

One thought about the new year from a famous singer “Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to.”

Underwear for Christmas . . . again?

I remember many Christmas mornings as a child waking up and getting toys under the tree from Santa. It was such a fun time with joy and celebration: opening presents and seeing all the goodies under the tree.

Then, we would make the trip across town in the afternoon to visit with relatives we hadn’t seen lately.

It always started with the quite embarassing and unappealling kiss from a lady so old she could be my great grandma (oh, wait, she was my great grandmother).

Only to be followed by one of the largest home cooked meals on the planet, enough to feed 50 people (which would feed us for hours).

Then, the opening of the gifts. For some reason, this was not what I looked forward to:

The first gift always seemed to be something for school – oh great, why do I NEED that? And as a Christmas gift?

Then, some miscellaneous items that probably only cost a few cents back then. They were rarely anything cool, but did contribute to some fun (at least for a few hours).

But before it was all over, each of us boys would unwrap that fateful gift – the TIGHTY-WHITEY UNDERWEAR. Not that we didn’t need it, but to open it up in front of the whole family! And we got it EVERY year! I mean come on, really grandma? (At least the girls would unwrap pastel colored panties, not stark white!)

  • What did YOU get for Christmas? Was it what you wanted?
  • Or should the question be: Was it what you NEEDED?

What we want for Christmas and what we need often do not go hand in hand.

In fact, many times in life, what we want and what we truly need are rarely the same.

Paul, formerly known as Saul, seemed to really have it together after his life changing experience on the road to Damascus. From the very beginning of his preaching, to his many mission trips, and even during his time in jail, he realized what was truly important in life, and what mattered.  In his letter to the church at Phillipi, he noted:

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:12-13 NIV).

Wish I understood life a little more like Paul does. Sometimes I think I really need more than I have.

Paul goes on to share later in the passage concerning what we need:

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:19 NIV)

Isn’t it great to know that God WILL supply our needs!  Let’s try to remember that in 2014.  Maybe we didn’t get what we wanted for Christmas, but do we really need that?

 

 

 

Merry Christmas Everyone!

John 1:14 (NIV) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

“Opposites attract”

An old adage states that opposites attract.  We find this true for many things in life.

What I think is more interesting, however, is this verse in the Bible concerning opposites:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV)

Summary: Jesus is telling us what His true purpose was on earth – to bring us life (eternal) in Heaven above.  This is discussed throughout the Gospels, and is the main storyline behind the Bible: come to Jesus so that you may have life (and have it more abundantly).

However, the opposite comes in to place when Jesus speaks first about thieves and their purpose in life.  Their purpose is bringing sin into our lives – and in turn, destroying us.

So how do these opposites attract?

Simply put, Jesus did not come to save the righteous, but to save the sick:

16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2: 16-17 NIV)

I think this is an important aspect for us to remember this Christmas season.  Jesus came to save everyone. You may be a believer, and have already received the free gift of Salvation from God. However, have you shared this gift with others?

Jesus didn’t spend extra time with righteous ones. He sought out those who needed Him.  He sought out opposites.

John One

It’s hard for me to really add anything to this.  What I will say is this is one of my favorite passages, because it tells the Gospel account in just a few short verses:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through Him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. 11 He came to his own, and His own people did not receive Him. 12 But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about Him, and cried out, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because He was before me.’”) 16 For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:1-17 ESV)

Your PC has a Virus!

That’s right, if you clicked to get here, you are one step closer to fixing your PC – that is your Political Correctness….

You see, your God given American Freedom has been violated; you have been told that you must be Politically Correct by the world (despite what our Constitution clearly states in the FIRST Amendment).

It is interesting that the idea to write this blog came a little over a week ago. Now this week, the popular Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty has quickly held to his beliefs and NOT been Politically Correct. Hallelujah for him! 

This week we saw the world attempt to influence and distract the beliefs of many Americans as A&E suspended the patriachal leader and Duck Commander, Phil, from filming in future episodes. All of this because he took his right to free speech to heart and expressed his opinion. Oh my!  He can’t do that! Well, that’s what A&E said. Supporters of the LGBT community and GLAAD were outraged and wrote letters demanding A&E do something about Phil’s freedom (uh… I mean his remarks). Interesting that they have the right to speak out against him, but he doesn’t have the right to speak?

How is it that A&E aired the series Bonnie and Clyde that promoted robbing banks and killing people ON television, but yet they have a problem with something a Christian says off-air? Sounds like a double standard!

Sure, I’ll admit the First Amendment really states that “Congress shall make no law….[prohibiting] free speech.” BUT, what happened to the popular phrase we all have seen on TV:

“the views and opinions expressed on this program by the artists, producers, host/co-hosts, etc. are solely the opinions of the original source who express them. They do not necessarily represent the opinions of _____, it’s sponsors, or it’s Affiliates.”

That’s a pretty easy out for any company, and we have all seen or heard that statement innumerable times in our lives. Why didn’t A&E just choose to use this during the upcoming season starting January 15th?

It’s because of Christ and people are offended by His truth! It hurts when people are scolded, and he scolded some people, but he also mentioned that he himself is not perfect. And in the actual interview Phil is quoted saying: “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether  they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists.”

I’m not a big fan of the show although I have watched a few episodes, but I am a fan of Christians who speak the truth.

The Bible records Jesus on keeping His Truth:

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-34 ESV)

Many will try to argue with Christians saying that Jesus promoted love and that we should love one another. This is absolutely true, however, that did not stop Him from dropping the hammer on sin:

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)

This is not meant to say we should attempt to bring war (sword) to the world, but to bring truth to it. We are not to love the world more than we love Jesus.

Stand your ground Christians, this is a democracy. We founded this country on Christian principles, let’s keep it that way!

Thanks Phil for standing up for your Christian beliefs!

The Christmas tradition begins at home

Everybody knows the Christmas tradition of giving gifts, and most people celebrate it. But do you know when the first time gifts were given to celebrate Christ’s birth?

  • Was it when Christmas became a legal holiday? (the first state to declare Christmas a holiday was Alabama in 1836; it became a federal holiday in 1870 under President Ulysses S. Grant)
  • Was it in the 300’s AD when the church first organized the celebration of Christ’s birth?
  • Or was it as early as the night of his birth in the manger (as most Nativity scenes portray?)

Let’s see if Scripture tells us…

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-11 ESV)

This is one of those passages that we sometimes miss the facts about due to worldly influence. Most Nativity scenes display Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the stable, an angel, some animals, shepherds, and the wise men. However, this passage clearly states that the wise men did not find Jesus in a stable, but in a “house.”

This challenges the widely held concept that we see publicized around the world in Christmas scenes. Further investigation will reveal that the wise men did not find Jesus as soon as He was born, but possibly up to 2 years later (when Herod issued the order to kill all male babies in Bethelehem). Matthew 2:16 ESV: “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.”

Please don’t use this information to “dispute” Nativity scenes, and argue with others. Nativity scenes are an excellent way for us to spread the Gospel, and we need to tell the story to more people. The timing of the Wise Men is really a small piece of an excellent story.

Now that you know that Christmas started at “home,” make sure that you start the Christmas tradition by being home for the holidays.  Spend time with family, give thoughtful (not necessarily expensive) gifts to celebrate the occassion of Jesus’ birth. And if you haven’t already started one, make a family tradition: maybe it’s singing carols, baking a special dessert annually, or sitting around a fireplace reading the Bible. Whatevery you choose, make Christmas special, for the occasion of it could not be more special!

Do you have to do that today?

Each of us have busy lives; I get it. With a recent move in my past, I can attest to busyness. I have so much to do, and only 24 hours in a day.  Thankfully, NOT everything has to be done today (although it sure would be nice to get it all done and relax tomorrow).

Because we have limited time on our hands, we must establish priorities.  Unfortunately, I am one that even if I establish a list of priorities, I still seem to miss the boat, and get distracted by other things that need done.  This happens whether I am at work, or at home.

So, what is the best way to focus on our priorities? Well, a lot of experts will tell you to start by making a list of everything to be done. Then, focus on the important, not necessarily urgent items. What’s the difference? A good example of an important task is feeding your family or paying your bills. An urgent task on the other hand is answering a ringing phone (wait, does it really need answered right now? – most times the answer is “no”). Focus on the important things first! [Of course, some will say you don’t know if the phone call was important unless you answer it; this is correct, but how many times are phone call topics urgent? Not very often.]

I’d like you to read the story below and see what you think about the importance and urgency of the tasks the shepherds had to do:

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. [note: important and urgent task]

9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” [note: urgent task]

16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. [note: important task]

18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. [note: important task] (Luke 2:8-20 ASV)

Do you agree with my assessment: important vs urgent?

Did you find that the shepherds left their important task [tending sheep] to answer the call of the angels [urgent task]? Was it important for the shepherds to visit the Babe in the manger?

. . .

Further point to ponder, prior to today’s reading had you ever noted what the shepherds did in verse 17? They told others about Jesus’ birth [was this an urgent or important task], and then in verse 20, they returned to glorify and praise God [important task].

Is it urgent or important that we tell others about Christ?

You’re writing a book!

I always find it perplexing that non-Christians celebrate “Christmas” – a truly Christian holiday. Every dictionary and common website clearly identifies the primary definition of Christmas as a celebration of Christ’s birth.

Looking at history, a variety of sources will claim that the Christmas season began around 354AD (St. Nicholas who became known as Santa Claus died in 345AD), while others put the origins of Christmas in the 1600’s to as late as the 1900’s.  Bottom line is this: Christmas started at Christ’s birth, that’s when Christ was born!

1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7 NKJV)

We are now just 8 days from Christmas.  It’s easy to get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas. And even if you aren’t caught up in it, it’s still easy to get distracted; delayed by others – waiting in lines, sitting in excessive traffic delays near stores. And these delays can be easy and quick to aggrevate us.

At all times, no matter where you are, remember this: YOU may be the only “bible” a non-believer reads.  How is the plot of your book coming together?

. . . Mine is a work in progress . . . that continues to need editing!

Prayer works; obedience helps!

57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. (Luke 1:57-58 NIV)

Why did they share her joy?  Remember that she was barren and could not have children, yet in their old age – the Lord granted Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s prayer for a baby.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him. (Luke 1:59-66 NIV)

We don’t know how long Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for a baby.  However, the Lord did answer their prayer. And it was with greatness! John the Baptist would foreshadow Jesus and bring many people to the Lord through his preaching.

Sometimes it is easy to think the Lord does not hear our prayers.  However, He does hear us. Sometimes the answer is “no,” sometimes it is “yes.” Even other times it is “not yet.” Whatever you ask for, don’t think the Lord does not hear you. The Bible reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:7 (NIV) to “pray continuously.” Don’t give up! The Lord is listening!

Kimberly and I had longed for a baby for years, and after about 12 years, many prayers, many trials, hard decisions, and a final step of obedience on my part to enter the ministry, the Lord gave us a wonderful baby. With God nothing is impossible!