Archive for December, 2010

Undeserving

Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins – Romans 3:24

Not sure how to express this or even if I should. Hope you understand. This has been a particularly difficult year financially for me and my family just like it has been for many of you who are reading this. With all the hope of more prosperous times on the horizon, we just haven’t seen it. As always we remember that Christmas is not about receiving presents, Santa and eggnog – these are fun things but it just not the truth. It’s about the giving of hope to a world that is in desperate need. It is about receiving the hope given as God came to the earth as a baby and endured everything that we experience, suffered terribly on the cross so that the hope of spending eternity with Him in heaven is not a dream but a reality through Jesus.

Someone walked through the doors where I am employed and gave an envelope to one of our customer service reps for me. The envelope read “a blessing from the Lord”. She brought it back to me and said, “Merry Christmas. You can’t ask who it is from.” Upon opening the envelope and examining the contents I was astonished to find a  sum of money.

I am overcome with amazement and a little bit bewildered. There is nothing particularly special about me. I am not a particularly good person. Not a particularly good husband or father. I am not deserving of such a gift. Yet someone felt that we needed help; that we needed hope.

Isn’t this what Jesus did for us? He came as a baby, lived a perfectly sinless life all the while being tempted, tried, beaten and put to death on a cross – for me and you; even though we aren’t particularly deserving  or particularly good person, husband, wife, son, daughter or father. I am not deserving of such a gift. Yet God knew that we needed help; that we needed hope. And so God made a way for us to be ever hopeful in the person of Jesus the Christ. He is Savior, Counselor, Wonderful, Everlasting, Father, Prince of Peace – My Rock!

To my anonymous giver, I thank you. Christmas is still a magical time where miracles and blessings arrive just like Jesus – when the time is just right. It’s true that I am not deserving – not deserving of being blessed with such a terrific family, loving children, beautiful wife and most importantly SALVATION. I thank God that it is not based on me but on Him.

Lord, Thank you for changing me and the change in me. I can never be worthy but You still made a way for me and have given me so much. I love You. Amen.

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Christmas Magic

On Sunday, the magic of Christmas really shined through. With all the normal pressures and stresses of Christmas if you are not careful, you could miss the magic. For me it began Sunday. 3 high school students started off the service at church.  As the string ensemble started off with “The First Noel”, I imagined myself walking down the streets of yesteryear, people wearing overcoats and top hats and on the corner a street lamp decorated with Christmas greenery and ribbon, maybe seeing Ebenezer Scrooge. It was a simple thing but it really moved my heart as the instruments sung, “Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel”.

Later that afternoon a group gathered at the church to go see the Festival of Lights in Charlotte. To many is may sound boring but it was magical. The first sight my eyes beheld was about 14 students with every sort of hat to keep their head and ears warm; from camo and the strangest most awesome rooster tail hat worn by one of the boys, students were running around laughing and smiling exhibiting some carefree joy in what has become a stress-filled season.

We all pile into vans a head toward the lights and on the way the kids are chattering away about the excitement of Christmas and even the unspoken, “I’m glad we are all together.” As we arrive at the speedway and pull in the gate we notice some more Christmas magic – snow. With that beautiful white stuff beginning to fall accompanied by some of the most amazing lights I’ve even seen I felt like a kid again. And not just strings of light everywhere but lights that told a story – everything from Humpty Dumpty actually falling off the wall to the 12 days of Christmas to Santa’s sleigh taking off to castles and more. My particular favorite was up in the stands; a light show that moved and blinked in time with a Christmas Radio station playing on the radio.

As we park, we move through the village of Bethlehem where a Nativity scene was set and villagers great us with, “Welcome to Bethlehem.” We move inside and just about everybody grabs some HOT CHOCOLATE. I was blown away by how it tasted – rich and creamy and of course very hot. It seems as though everyone in the place was smiling (except for one lady when I got in the way of her picture she was taking – oh well, Ebenezer)

Now I have to tell you that there was even Christmas Magic when we ice skated….on plastic. That’s right…a big piece of plastic. When we got there it was as though no one was going to go first so Zak went for it right away and I wasn’t far behind him. And let me say that it was tough. I tried and tried but it was tough and after about an hour a guy came on the ice and sprayed some stuff down to make it….you guessed it…slick. Until then I had not fallen so you can guess that shortly thereafter I was on my back,,,or front; but only twice. The rest of the time it looked like sidewalk surfing with an ear infection. And as hard as it was it was a magical, amazing time to spend with the students, watching them laugh and fall and wobble and for me to provide entertainment for ALL the onlookers – I could have charged money for the show and not have to work again.

It came time to make our way home so of course I needed to stop again for something hot to drink, this time coffee and as we walked through the doors to the outside the snow was really coming down. Even though I knew there was little chance for sticking much less accumulation it was beautiful. We mounted again in the van and drove through the backside of the speedway to view the remaining lights which were just as spectacular as the rest leaving me breathless and bid the lights farewell.

Christmas is Magical!

Max Lucado writes in his book “One Incredible Moment” these words – “a ragtag chorus of longshoremen, Boston lawyers, illegal immigrants, housewives and a thousand other peculiar persons who are banking that Bethlehem’s mystery is in reality, a reality. “Come and behold Him” we sing, stirring the sleepiest of shepherds and pointing them toward the Christ-child. For a few precious hours He is beheld. Christ the Lord.”

Can you see the magical Christmas now? If not from my memories of Christmas with the students or from this small excerpt from a heartwarming book, then from the hope that come to everyone in a magic time, a wondrous time – a time of good will, a time of hope, a time of joy that truly everyone can feel. I am reminded of one of the most hopeful passages in the scripture that comes from Luke chapter 2…

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!
And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven and peace on earth and good will to all men.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about
.”

Joy to the world my friends – the Lord is come. Let the magic of Christmas and the hope that it brings warm your heart and give you peace knowing that He has come and He is coming again – returning soon to get His people and wipe away every tear, cure every disease and right every wrong. Make haste friends, make haste. Run! Seek Him! Come and see! Run to see this magical thing called Christmas and may the present that you receive this year be the Christ-child

I have shared my little piece of magic and the magic that Jesus brought to the world. What about the magic that you have experienced this time of year? Please share. Merry Christmas!


When God doesn’t make sense

  The birth of a child is supposed to be a happy time; a joyous to of celebration. Unfortunately that is not always the case. I will never forget the birth of Joshua and the emergency C-section due to his fading heart beat or the birth of Emma and the relief we felt when we saw 10 fingers and toes after the scare of possibly having Amniotic Band Syndrome. And while these 2 events in our life didn’t end in tragedy, for a belief time God didn’t make sense to us. I am certain that Job had similar feelings when he lost everything.

 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.   And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. – Job 1:20-22

 We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people, where tragedy strikes and loss is felt as commonly as the breeze. Just watch the news – murder, rape, child molestation, poverty, death. During these times it is difficult to seek God face. Why, we ask: is suffering allowed, pain, poverty, war, hunger, abuse…the list goes on and on. The fact of the matter is that sometimes God just doesn’t make sense to us. What do we do in those times? The first thing that we should do when God doesn’t make sense is… 

  • Understand that we live in a fallen world

In Genesis 1-2, God created the heavens and the earth, the planets and stars, animals and every plant and everything and the scriptures says that it was good, pleasant, and desirable. Then God created man from the dust of the ground and when He saw that man needed a companion, He created woman from one of Adam’s ribs.

 Let me point out that the rib was not taken from man’s head so that he could rule over her or be her task master; not from his foot that he could trample her under his feet but from man’s side, close to his heart so that he might love her and cherish her; from under his arm that he might protect her. Then in Genesis 3 sin is introduced to the world and it spread like a cancer. The curse of sin! We now live in a fallen world that is NOT the way that God intended it to be.

 Newspapers report what are known as “Natural disasters” – the Christmas Tsunamis, Hurricane Katrina, tornadoes. Experts say they are caused by El Nino, global warming but I say to you that the earth is sick with the curse of sin. These disasters plague the earth as we see in the book of Job…

While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” – Job 1:18-19

 Then we have 911 – Men hating men. The bible describes men with this kind of heart – “Their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed innocent blood; Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; Wasting and destruction are in their paths.” – Is. 59:7. We need to understand that we live in a fallen world. When God doesn’t make sense we need to… 

  • Rely on our faith in God

Scripture says that Job was a perfect man – not sinless but that he was righteous. In spite of his righteousness, in spite of his godly perfection in an instant Job lost everything – everything that meant anything to him. Yet Job responded to God in trust. I’m not saying that it would be easy because it never is but we learn from Job that fully relying on God, depending on Him is of paramount importance because when everything is gone all we have left is our faith.

 God is sovereign! That means that He has absolute authority. He never has to ask my permission for things to happen. Sovereign means that God has complete and absolute authority and control. He does what He wills for the sole purpose of His glory; for a purpose that we may never know on this side of heaven. But make no mistake that the One Sovereign of the universe is not a president or even a king but The King of Kings.

 We read in Exodus, “And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” – Ex. 33:19

 3500 years later our Lord says in the Sermon on the Mount…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’   But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,  that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”

 Both the Old and the New Testament speak of our sovereign Lord. When bad things happen to good people and when good things happen to bad people we need to remember that God is sovereign; in control and to remain faithful like Job.

 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. – Job 1:21-22

 Job knew that God has a plan. When God doesn’t make sense we need to rely on our faith in God and… 

  • Exercise Godly character

We have to ask ourselves, “What kind of character did Job have?”

  1. He Feared God – reverenced God, respected and honored God, He stood in awe of God
  2. He Shunned evil – Turned away from evil; He rejected evil.

 Character helps to guide the believer; it acts as a moral compass. When no one is looking, when you are all alone in the privacy of your own home, your car, your bedroom and no one is looking – someone is watching, someone CAN see you. That someone is Jehovah God. Realizing this will be the difference between a person with character and no character, integrity and no integrity. It just may be the difference between someone who knows the Lord God and one who doesn’t.

We need to continue to obey God. We need to continue to listen TO God’s voice, to listen FOR God’s voice. And whatever we aspire to do or be in this world we need to exercise Godly character.

 So when ever God doesn’t make sense to us we need to…

  • Understand that we live in a fallen world
  •  Rely on our faith in God
  • Exercise Godly character and we need to…
  • Worship

 In Job chapter 1 we have seen that Job suffered incredible loss.

  • 7 sons – killed
  • 3 daughters – Killed
  • 7000 sheep – stolen
  • 3000 camels – stolen
  • 500 yoke of oxen – stolen
  • 500 – female donkey’s – stolen
  • Servants – killed – Job 1:2-3

 Let me just tell you what Job could have done…

  • He could have said, “The heck with God”
  • He could have went to bed and stayed there hoping that everything will be better if I just check out
  • He could have blamed God

 But he didn’t. Instead, “he got up”. As hard as it might have been “He got up”. He pulled himself together. I wonder if in all of heaven there was silence at this moment in time as they waited to see if Job would curse God, blame Him, turn his back on God. The heavens watched as Job tore his robe, shaved his head and falls to the ground….and worships God.

 In Job’s worship he truly shows the supremacy of the One True Living God by showing the Lord God’s worth; that God is worthy. And job says this…

 “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”   22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong”

 Amazing isn’t it. He did not sin nor charge God with any wrong. Folks, Job understood something that most of us haven’t figured out yet. There is no darkness in God. There is no sin in God. There is no sin nature in God. He doesn’t sit up in heaven on His throne and fire away with His lightning bolts trying to wreck our lives.

 Sin and darkness is in us. In fact the book of Eph. 5:8 says this, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of Light.”

It doesn’t say that you were once IN darkness but that you WERE darkness. But in Christ all things are made NEW. In 1 Cor. 5:17 that “Any man that is in Christ is a new creation; old has gone, new has come”. The word new is where we get the word “Metamorphosis” Brand new, inside and out, a whole new thing not resembling the old in any way. The next time you look at a butterfly, remember this…it used to be a caterpillar and now it is a whole new creation.

This can only be experienced in Christ Jesus.

Lord, In a world that is filled with heart ache and struggles and our difficult attempts to weather each storm of life, I pray that You will strengthen us all; Give us courage and joy as we walk through the fire together. And when we get to the other side I pray that there will not even be a hint of smoke on us.

I love you, Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You
Oh, my soul rejoice!
Take joy my King
In what You hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear
(Lyrics by Laurie Klein)

The Strangest Things

Sometimes children say the strangest things. Strange I believe because as adults we think on a totally different plane – not always good. We have gone through a season of sickness in our family over the past few weeks. Around and around it goes, vomiting and other nice things that shouldn’t bear mentioning. It would seem that everyone except me has passed around this horrible stomach bug at least twice. Just a few days ago, my little princess Emma was the unhappy recipient of nausea, cramping and yes, vomiting.

As I sat on the couch just an hour or so after putting her down, I heard her in making some pretty disgusting sounds. I ran into her room only to find that she had thrown up all over the bed, the wall and herself including her hair. I rushed her to the bathroom to the toilet to let her finish her business and this is where the strangest thing came. As she leaned over the toilet all she could say was, “I’m sorry I threw up on my bed”. No crying. No dramatics. Just an apology. Such humility is to me unbelievable.

When Jesus was asked by His disciples “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”, Jesus made a profound statement, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” – Matthew 18:3-4

Rarely do we see examples of loving-kindness and thinking of others first unless it is from an innocent child. My child seemed to be so concerned about the impact of her sickness on Mom and Dad that she completely ignored the fact that she was the one in need of attention, she was the one that needed to be held and cared for and yet all she could at that time think of was us. To my Emma – “I thank my God every time I remember you” – Phil. 1:3