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Monday, December 31, 2012

Flipping TV Channels

This actually happened a day or two ago. I was trying to relax and watch something nice on television.

The sports channel. Willowy people are trudging through the snow on skis, guns on their backs. They go round and round a circuit and sometimes, they shoot. In the snow! I think this is some kind of cold torture and change the channel.

A pile of gray rubble in an unrecognizable place. Is it Syria?

I switch to another. They’re giving the world weather. I watch to see what the weather is like where my far-flung family members live.

I go to another channel. A gentleman was brutally assaulted while walking to church on Christmas Eve. He died of his injuries a few days later. Motive and killer unknown.

Click the remote. I see monkeys beside a river. The commentator says they are our nearest relatives. (I’m insulted! They don’t look anything like my nearest relatives!) They go on to interview a young man from a prominent American university who has gone to Africa to study these monkeys. His major is evolution/anthropology. They go back to filming the monkeys who are doing what animals do. All the while, the commentators use human terms to describe what they do, even though they could have chosen animal terms for their actions. (I know humans were made in the image of God. We have a soul. We were made above the rest of creation. I know this from reading Genesis, chapters 1-2, straight from the inspiration of God, the One who created beasts and man.) I am tired of being compared with monkeys!

I turn the TV off.

Black screen now.

No murders, violence, torturous sports (Sorry, if you like biathlon!), or being compared to apes. Just our peaceful house.

Aahhhhhh . . . .

Have you ever felt the same frustration with television programming? Would you like to share how you deal with it? How do you honor the Lord with your choices? Do you find more relaxation just turning it off? I’d like to hear your ideas.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

My 2013 Purpose Statement

Praise ye the LORD.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.
While I live will I praise the LORD:
I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.
(Psalm 146:1-2)

I wrote yesterday about Goal Making, so I thought I’d share with you my personal goal for this year. I want to have a life that exemplifies praise. I want my whole life to be a song of praise to God, an expression of joy in Him and praise to Him.

How will I work toward making this goal a reality?
  • I will meditate in the Lord, in who He is, in how great He is, in His works, His dealings with mankind.
  • I will enjoy nature and beauty.
  • I will delight in my personal relationship with Him.
  • I will strive to give Him more praise with my mouth. (For some reason, this isn’t easy for me. I will have to work on being more transparent with my praise.)
  • I will praise God through my writing, my song, and my living.
  • I will listen more to music that praises God.

These are practical steps to help me develop a life of praise.

Would you like to share your own goal for 2013? I’d love to hear from you.


(Yesterday, Barbara commented on my blog about New Year’s resolutions and left a link to one she had written in 2008 on the same subject. It's a blessing! You can find her blog here.)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Why I Hate New Year's Resolutions

Another guilt trip!

I didn’t keep my New Year’s resolution past March—if I got that far. In fact, in all my life, I remember only mostly keeping one New Year’s resolution all year long. A lousy record, considering I’m over fifty!

New Year’s resolutions are always noble. We want to improve something so much that we’re willing to make a commitment to someone. That commitment could be yourself, your mate, your family, your pastor (made by uplifted hand during a New Year’s Eve service), and even to God. Any promise we make is serious business.

And, all too often, we break our resolutions.

The Bible says, When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5). That verse is about vows to God.

I find it’s better not to make a set-in-stone promise to anyone, not even to myself.


I call it Goal Making. It’s not the same thing as a resolution, because it’s not a promise. Rather, it’s a purpose statement for the year. There are all kinds of things we could come up with, all worthy goals.

Here are some examples:
  • I want to read my Bible and pray daily and thoughtfully. I want to have a closer walk with God.       
  • I want to incorporate more praise in my daily attitude.
  • I want to find a new ministry in my church and use my spiritual gifts to edify others.
  • I want to share my faith with my friends, concretely “Susie, Bob, Heinrich, Edna, and Pablo” (or whomever). I will pray for them and seek the Holy Spirit’s leadership when I am with them, so I will recognize God’s leading for sharing Jesus with them.
  • I want to be a light to those in my family that don’t yet know Christ as Savior.
  • I want to help children in my neighborhood know the Lord. I think I could do two (or any number you choose) neighborhood Bible clubs over this next year.
  • I want to better this (whatever) talent so that I can serve God more effectively in the future.

Why not pray and ask the Lord what He wants you to strive for this year?

Pick out one or two that I suggested above, or come up with your own. Write it/them down on a card. Maybe weekly, evaluate how you are doing towards your goal. This is a goal. It isn’t an obligation. It isn’t a vow. It isn’t a promise. It’s a goal. Work towards your goal and pray about reaching your goal. Do your part, and pray for the Lord to give you strength and wisdom.

No guilt trips. Just prayer and working toward something of real value.

I think Goal Making beats resolutions all to pieces!

What do you think? What do you do? I’d love to hear your ideas.       

Friday, December 28, 2012

Caution Contents Hot!

Our daughter gave me a beautiful purple and white insulated mug for Christmas. It is porcelain with a silicon top that says “Caution Contents Hot.” I laughed when I read it. There were no contents except for the packing paper. Definitely nothing hot . . . yet. (I used it for my morning coffee today. And yes, I like my coffee hot.)

You’ve probably opened other gifts or other packages with plastic bags, which warn: “Keep out of reach of small children. Do not place over head.” And, of course, “Small parts. Do not swallow.”

I got a new food processer years ago. I was reading the instructions, as the brand was new to me. It said, “Do not touch the blade. It is sharp and could cut.” I was laughing. Yeah, the whole reason I buy food processors is because the blade is sharp and it cuts!!! Do you know what I did? When I had it all apart in sudsy water for its first wash before use, I put my hand down into the water and . . . sliced my finger! That’s why they have those dumb warnings! For people like me!!!! (And to keep the company from being sued by dumb people like me, who forget to be careful with a sharp blade.)

Probably some of those warnings are necessary. I’m sure you’ve known a child who swallowed a LEGO or stuffed something up his nose and had to be rushed to the hospital. Maybe you burned your tongue on too-hot coffee or tea. Or maybe you—like someone I know too well—cut your finger on something that’s supposed to be sharp.

When we read warnings, we have several options:
  1. We heed them.
  2. We laugh at them.
  3. We forget them. 

There are consequences for both ignoring (cut fingers!!!) or heeding (happy fingers!). Some are pleasant, and some, not so pleasant.

All through the Bible, we see God warning His people. If you obey, you will receive blessing. If you disobey, you will be judged. There are always happy and sad results. The people’s actions determine the outcome.

And so it is today. God warns us. Here are just a few warnings from the New Testament:
  • Flee from idolatry--anything that replaces God. (1 Corinthians 10:14)
  • Withdraw yourself from discontent and the love of money. (1 Timothy 6:5-10)
  • Flee fornication. (1 Corinthians 6:18)
  • Flee also youthful lusts. (2 Timothy 2:22)

Following the warnings are the consequences of sin. In most of these passages, God gives us alternative actions to do instead of these negative things. 

When we heed God’s wise cautions, we will live purposeful, joyful lives. If we choose to sin, we pay the sad consequences and miss some of His blessing. We also hurt others.

Just like with package warnings, we can do what we like with God’s warnings. We can ignore them, laugh at them, or heed them.

Let’s obey God’s caution labels!

Do you have any “caution label” stories you would like to share? I’d enjoy hearing them!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Long-Distance Love Story

It was summer of 1995. A young lady was asked if she would be open to meeting a widowed pastor. She agreed to pray about it, and God gave her peace. The young pastor had asked and obtained her father’s permission to write to her, and soon their letters crisscrossed in the mail. They wrote for three months before meeting. During this time, they started to care about each other. When they met, they knew God was leading them to be together. A few weeks later, the young pastor proposed.

The young lady’s letters endeared her to the young pastor. He could sense her love of God, her love for her family, and her love for the ministry. The sharing of mutual goals made it easy for him to fall in love with her spirit. But, when he met her . . . wow! She was beautiful! No wonder he didn’t wait long before obtaining her promise to marry him! They were married the next summer.

I thought of their love story* when I read this verse: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Our love story with the Lord Jesus Christ begins with His Word, 66 books of His letters to us! We learn about Him, and little by little, we trust Him and confide in Him. We share our heart with Him. Then, we ask Him to save us, because we understand that His death on the cross was to take our place. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). We are started on a path of love. We rejoice in our salvation.

Whom having not seen ye love . . . . We look forward to the day when we meet Him face to face, and then the day when we start our forever honeymoon with Him.

(*This is the true story of a pastor we’ve known for the last thirty years. He and his wife have five wonderful children and a thriving church ministry.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Day After Christmas

Yesterday, my husband and I watched by Skype as our grandson opened a gift and played on the floor with his toys. He was shrieking with delight—and sometimes frustration, as the little cars or train pieces didn’t do exactly what he wanted them to. (He’s not yet two.) Our little grandson was interrupted by the dog, who’s big enough to totally block the camera, and then some. Our daughter and son-in-law and his mother sometimes joined the little guy. It was a fun peek into a Christmas morning 4,000 miles away. It was made all the more special because the scene was family.

This morning, I read Psalm 145, a psalm of praise to God with lessons for the family. Two verses speak specifically about sharing His praise from generation to generation. (Verses 4 and 13) The whole Psalm is about sharing God’s works, His goodness with others.

Here is what I found:
  • Bless His name forever. (Verses 1-2, 21)
  • God is great, so great we can’t comprehend it. (Verse 3)
  • We share God’s greatness down through the generations. (Verse 4)
  • We’re to share: God’s works, His majesty, His might, His greatness, His goodness, His righteousness, God’s graciousness, His compassion, His mercy, His glory, His power. (Verses 4-12)
  • God’s kingdom is everlasting; His dominion is through all generations. (Verse 13)
  • God holds up those who fall, and picks up those who are bowed down. (Verse 14)
  • God provides for the needy who depend on Him. (Verse 15)
  • God is holy. (Verse 17)
  • The Lord is near anyone who calls on Him in truth. (Verse 18)
  • God will meet people’s desires when they call on Him. (Verse 19)
  • God will save those who call on Him. (Verse 19)
  • God preserves those who love Him and destroys the wicked. (Verse 20) 

Psalm 145 ends with another beautiful verse, summing up this song of praise:
My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD:
And let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

What are we sharing about God Himself with our family—our children and grandchildren? Are we giving them a godly heritage by sharing the Lord with them? Are we showing His praise and greatness to them?

How do you share God with your children and grandchildren?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Walking in the Light

At Christmastime, we enjoy lights, stars, and all kinds of brightness. God tells us we need to walk in the light, an awesome concept. Walking in light . . .

And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you,
that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness,
we lie, and do not the truth:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
we have fellowship one with another,
and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
(1 John 1:4-7)

The Apostle John writes to Christians so that their joy may be full. We could paraphrase it to say, “I’m writing God’s Word to you so you’ll be filled with joy.”

Following this purpose statement, John tells us God is light. In fact, He’s so much light that there’s no darkness in Him. Why should this fill us with joy?

Think with me a little. When we know the Lord Jesus as our Savior, we’re in Christ. Jesus is God, and God is light. In Him there is no darkness at all. In Him there’s complete victory over sin, sadness, and temptation!

There’s absolutely not any darkness!

If we walk in the light, it spills over into our social life. What does it say in verse 7? We have fellowship one with another. Fellowship is defined as “a mutual sharing, brotherhood.” This is a sharing, caring friendship between Christian brothers.

These thoughts conclude with the fact that Jesus blood cleanses us from all sin.

Is this an encouragement to you? It is to me.

Let’s recap briefly:
  • God is light.
  • We’re in Him.
  • God enables us to have Christian fellowship.
  • God forgives all sin.

These themes are repeated many times in the Word of God, yet sometimes we forget to walk in the light so that our joy may be full.
Let’s walk in light today!

                      Have a wonderful Christmas! May God bless you!

(I’m going to take a few days off. I hope you can, too.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Did the Angels Sing?

The angels sing in our traditional Christmas hymns. “Angels we have heard on high sweetly singing . . .” “Glooooooooria in excelsis Deo . . .” “Glory, glory! How the angels sing . . . .” We could list more!

Did they really sing?

The Bible says: And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. . . . And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:10-11, 13-14).

All of these words mean: proclaiming, saying, affirming.

So, did the angels sing?

You’ll have to ask the shepherds when you get to heaven! (I’ll ask them, too!)

What is really important is the content of their message. The single angel at the beginning and the multitude who formed a choir announced the Savior!

I’m going to separate the Bible passage in “chunks” so we can appreciate what they said. Listen to their message:
good tidings of great joy,
to all people.
 born this day in the city of David
a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
praising God,
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Look again at these sayings, Old Testament prophecies fulfilled:
  • Born in the city of David, i.e. Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
  • A Savior (Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:47)
  • Christ the Lord (Psalm 110:1)
  • Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

I love this scene! First, an angel spokesman appears. The Bible says the glory of the Lord shone round about them (the shepherds): and they were sore afraid. I don’t think this was a group of overgrown chickens here. These men weren’t afraid of lions or wolves or bears. They knew how to use weapons and to defend their sheep from harm. (Think of young David.) So, this must have been an appearance to remember. Great light! Such that they were afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Can you imagine it? Not only one angel, much light, and an awesome message. But now, many, many angels praising God! So super cool!
No wonder the shepherds wanted to go and see for themselves! No wonder they said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

Love the next phrase: And they came with haste. They ran! They didn’t wait. They didn’t mosey along the road. They ran . . . .

And they found what they were looking for:
the babe lying in a manger.

This Christmas, may we, like the shepherds, run to Jesus.

May we worship Him, and later, may we tell of Him to all who seek the Truth.

Do you think the angels sang?

                                      (If not specified, Scripture quotations are from Luke, chapter 2.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Learning From the Shepherds

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:8-11).

What a familiar Christmas passage! How wonderful—tidings of great joy to all people!

Why did God first reveal the birth of His Son to shepherds?

I come up with two answers. (I’m sure you will have some ideas, too.)
  1. Since Jesus came for all people, God revealed Himself to normal, working people first. This group of shepherds was representative of all.
  2. God wanted, from the very beginning, to illustrate the relationship of Jesus (the Good Shepherd) with His sheep (us!).

Let’s take these one at a time:
  1. The shepherds are out at night, watching over their flock. These were the blue-collar men of the day, normal guys doing normal jobs. They worked the night shift—and ended up being delighted that they did. God revealed the birth of His Only Son to these very normal, everyday men. Don’t you love that? God cares about the normal person, the people who aren’t royal, aren’t rich, aren’t famous, aren’t “special” the way the world counts special. (Of course, God cares for everyone, the rich, famous, royals and specials, too.) This was a statement of His love for all people.
  2. God announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds. In those days, everyone was familiar with shepherds. Indeed, today, virtually anyone from a rural background—no matter what part of the world you live in—would have some idea of shepherds and sheep. The Shepherd of spiritual sheep is first revealed to shepherds of animals. Jesus said, I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. And, I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine (John 10:11, 14). He also said, I am the door of the sheep (John 10:7). In Luke 15:3-7, Jesus tells a parable about the lost sheep and how there’s rejoicing over the sheep that is found—and sinners who repent. Even in the Old Testament, this same relationship between the sheep and the shepherd is explored. We think of Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd . . . . Read this verse about God’s care, He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young (Isaiah 40:11).

The shepherds were told to go to a very familiar place—a stable—to find the Baby.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger (Luke 2:15-16).

We can only imagine the impact this visit had on these men! They knew they were seeing the promised Messiah. They knew Jesus was the Lord. They were excited! So much so, that they ceased being shepherds for a while and . . . they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds (Luke 2:17b-18).

Applications for us:
  • Jesus came to everyone, to save everyone.
  • Jesus is the Good Shepherd. We can learn more about Him and His relationship with us by watching shepherds and sheep (or reading about them).
  • Anyone can proclaim Christ.

God bless you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

We three kings of orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar . . .

I always loved this Christmas song! When I was a little girl, I witnessed a living nativity scene where each of the “three kings” sang the verse about his gift. It was a memorable night for me. Each wise man dressed in a different bright color of satin, each wearing a fake beard. (No one wore beards in those days; I guess they were out of style. I thought the wise men looked very funny!)  

We’ll travel farther back in time to that first visit from the wise men to little Jesus’ house:

The first approaches the tiny Boy. He worships Jesus. He sets his gold down next to the little One. He can’t keep his eyes from the face of this Child, his Savior.
Gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
over us all to reign.

The next wise man joins the first. In his hands is a box of the fragrant, amber resin called frankincense. It speaks of the Savior’s deity. It’s incense, to be offered with prayer.
Prayer and praising, all men raising,
Worship Him, God most high.

Another wise man comes close and begins to weep. His gift speaks of death. He knows the Child will give His life for him and for the sins of the whole world.
Myrrh is mine,
Its bitter perfume breathes
A life of gathering gloom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

They worship. Grown men on their knees, praising God, praising the Child. Their gifts represent prophecy. The wise men love Him. They know they are seeing the promised Son of God. That little Person sitting on Mary’s lap is the Messiah!
Glorious now, behold Him arise,

King and God and Sacrifice.

Alleluia, Alleluia
, Earth to heav'n replies.

O Star of wonder, star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to Thy perfect light.

And when they were come into the house,
they saw the young child with Mary his mother,
and fell down, and worshipped him:
and when they had opened their treasures,
they presented unto him gifts; gold,
and frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).