If it doesn't count for Christ, it doesn't count.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Other Side of "Those Banners"

OK.  I usually don't blog so soon after a posting.  Some things need to be set right, though, and I'm gonna try to do that. Yesterday's blog did not include the name of the particular town I was talking about.  I'm quite sure most of my readers know which one it is.  But, it's not about this city only.  It's about what is going on in communities all across our nation and the world.

I may have gotten something wrong, though, as it pertains to "our town", and I certainly want to put the other side out there for you.  It is not my goal to engage in misinformation, particularly when it leaves someone else open to criticism that they don't deserve.

About "those banners" (you can read about them in my previous post), I had a nice conversation with the mayor on the phone earlier.  I had stated that a conscious decision was made to leave "Merry Christmas" out of the mix of greetings that are on the banners.  Maybe I misunderstood, but that is what I heard from the source.  Again . . . maybe I misunderstood.  What I have now been told is that in all of the selection process, presentation to the businesses who sponsored them (whatever form that took), ordering the banners, etc. nobody noticed that there were no "Merry Christmas" banners.  Not that it has to make me happy or satisfied, but I am both happy and satisfied with the mayor's explanation.    

Next year, we will see some "Merry Christmas's" around town along with these same banners.  That's great.  Like I said, I have no problem with "Happy Holidays' and "Season's Greetings", we just should not leave "Christmas" out of Christmas!

So, apparently some other folks have been calling the city since this story was reported on a local tv station, with a little added controversy that really isn't there.  Nobody seems to know how the tv station got in on this, by the way.  I certainly don't, but, I'm thinkin' it was made to look like I was the instigator on that. In any case, I'm sorry that such a weight has fallen upon someone who does not deserve to bear it.

I have not changed my stance.  And I still believe that this is a matter of great importance not only to our community but to the "whole entire world"!  I just don't want incorrect information to be out there.  Somebody, somewhere along the line should have taken notice that the city's Christmas decorations didn't say anything about Christmas, but no single person should have to bear the brunt of responsibility for that. (This is not to say that such an oversight does not carry some responsibility somewhere.)

I am reminded, again, of something I wrote about last month following the election and a very important vote.  (See "issues with issues")  As we celebrate the birth of Jesus and contemplate all that He brought to us and restored us to, let's remember that one of His greatest desires for all of us who believe is that we be One.  Satan can so easily take our disagreements and the way we handle our disagreements to create division and resentment among us.  In our attempts to honor Christ we can actually do just the opposite, especially when we find that our self-guided words and deeds divide us from others in the Body.  Let's all remember to seek and accept the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the way we handle disagreements among ourselves.  Always approach one another in the love given to us by Jesus Himself.  We will be tempted to make it about us and our agenda, but let's strive to keep it about Him and His Kingdom.  That's another reason that it is so important not only to keep Christ in Christmas, but in everyday 24 hours-a-day life.
So, hopefully, with that, I can quote the great Forrest Gump and declare, "That's all I have to say about that."

“ Glory to God in the highest, 
      And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas,


PS  On another bit of misinformation; the tv station's website states that I am a resident of the particular town in question.  Easy mistake to make. But, I feel compelled to state that I am not a resident of the town. If my left throwing arm was any good, I could just about throw a rock across the city limits from my house.  We moved here a few years ago thinking that our neighborhood would be included in the city's incorporation.  Years of legal effort and money - most before we ever moved - went down the drain when a judge ruled against our petition.  My mail comes from the city, and I spend a lot of time and money in the city.  I am a supporter of the city..  Since the day we moved, I have automatically told people that this is where I live.  I do say "at" rather than "in".  If this disqualifies me from commenting on this matter, so be it.  I've been called an idiot, a cry baby, a zealot, etc.  Whatever else I am, I'm an honest one.    

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bothered By Banners

Back in 1978, Mac Davis and Bernadette Peters were in a Christmas Special on tv.  It was called "Mac Davis' Christmas Odyssey: Two Thousand and Ten".  I remember the show.  It was set in the distant future year of 2010.  "Christmas Day" was a faded memory as it had long been replaced by "Commerce Day".  There was no recollection of a celebration or observance of the birth of Christ.  There was no recollection of Christ Himself, as I recall.  I remember thinking how glad I was that nothing like that could or would ever happen.  And 2010 seemed to be so far into the future that I could not imagine what life might be like then, . . . which is now.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting at THE major intersection in our little town when I noticed some Christmas decorations, banners, hanging on the traffic signal posts, one on each corner.  "Those are nice looking," I thought to myself. And then I began to read them.  "Happy Holidays".  "Seasons Greetings". "Happy Holidays". "Seasons Greetings".  Four corners, four posts, four banners, four "holiday messages", and not one among them offered up a "Merry Christmas".  . . .  Not one.  I pointed this out to my wife. And suddenly, they were no longer Christmas decorations.  And they were no longer as nice looking.  And they had no real meaning to me.  It was obvious that a reference to Christmas had been purposefully left out.  Any real meaning had been taken out of them.  I mean, I know we are a superficial people, but "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons Greetings" are as flimsy as tissue paper with no holiday or no season to back them up.  It's like a train without a locomotive.  The cars are all loaded, but there is no source of power to take them anywhere.

Sometimes what is not said speaks much louder than what is said.  The same goes for what is seen.  And there are different ways to say things and to present things so that the thing you are saying is well understood without actually saying it, or drawing a picture of it.  Case in point:  It used to be that saying "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" fell right in line as another way of saying "Merry Christmas".  And for non-believers, they were a great way to acknowledge and enjoy the season as well.  "Merry Christmas's" abounded during the season and there was no purposeful effort to exclude "Merry Christmas" from acknowledgements and celebrations of the season.  "Everybody" knew that it was the CHRISTMAS season, CHRISTMAS Day was coming, and CHRIST, whether they believed or not, was THE reason for the celebration.  Also, if all was known, you would find untold numbers of "lost" people who love Christmas, love exchanging Christmas gifts, and love to say and hear "Merry Christmas". Christmas . . . CHRISTMAS . . . is a big deal to a lot of people.

Christ is the source of all true joy that is experienced during this time of year.   

So, back to what is not being said on those banners.

Each banner was sponsored by a local business, and the name of the sponsoring business was prominently displayed on the banner.  Obviously, the idea was to dress up the intersection, have local businesses pay for it, and, in return, the businesses get some advertising for adding to the "holiday cheer".  "Surely," I'm thinking, "somebody involved in all this gave some thought to what these banners were going to say!  Did they all get together and make a joint decision to leave "Christmas" out of the Christmas decorations???"  As a business owner, if my name is on something I want to know what that something has to say.  After all, if my name is on it, I am saying it, or not saying it, as the case may be. . . . One way to find out.

I called every business that advertised on the banners. They didn't know what was, or was not, going to be on them.  They were just participating in a program to decorate the city in some way, not only for the Christmas season, but for other holidays as well.  Two were surprised to learn that there was no "Merry Christmas" banner. They would not have participated had they known that would be the case.  The others really didn't seem to have a problem with it.  In fact, one seemed to have a problem with me having a problem with it!

I talked to "the city", where the banners were actually selected and purchased and, sure enough, the omission of "Merry Christmas" and the purchase of "Holiday Banners" was decided there.    

"Does every Christmas card you get have to have "Merry Christmas" on it?  Don't some of your cards say "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays?  What's the difference? We were just trying to do something for the community!" (Not all of these statements came from the city. In fact, the lady who made the purchase struck me as a very nice, sincere, Christian lady.)

And then there is the "have respect for other people and their religious beliefs" argument.                  

No, all of my Christmas cards do not have to say "Merry Christmas". That's because I know they are all saying "Merry Christmas" anyway.  As for the community, leaving Christmas out of Christmas leaves out a huge section of our community.

So, what's the difference?  Why does it even matter?

The difference is that, as far as I know, people who send Christmas cards to our house are not trying to eliminate Jesus from the celebration of His own birth.  And Christmas is called Christmas because it is the day we have chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the arrival of Christ on Earth. Those banners, like so many other things in today's society, were chosen with something else in mind.

To be fair, I doubt that anyone in this city's administration at the present time would actively and purposefully work to remove Christ from Christmas.  Likewise, certainly two of the businesses involved and probably all four of them would not do such a thing.  But, still, that is the effect of this display.  If a decision was made to purposefully leave out, not that accidentally left out, an acknowledgement that we are celebrating Christmas, how else are we to view it?  The city decided not to say "Merry Christmas" to and for the huge segment of her population that celebrates the birth of our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Deliverer, the Way, the Truth, the Life, THE Son of God

It would have been a way for the city to honor Him.  If you think that is not important to God, go back and read the Old Testament. And, before anybody starts hollerin' "separation of church and state", you can also see in the Bible how God feels about those "states" that choose to separate themselves from Him.  "It's the law," some may say.  "It's everywhere! How are we going to change it?"

Well, 1,God's law is higher than man's law.  "Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; All nations shall serve Him."  Psalm 72:11 And, 2, if we don't change it where we live, how are we going to change it anywhere else? "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15  Part 2 of 2, it is God who brings about the change.  He fights and wins His own battles. "Thus says the LORD to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s." . . . "You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you.” 2 Chronicles 20:15b, 17

So, here is what we as believers can and should do, also from 2 Chronicles:
  ". . . if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

This IS a big deal. It is a symptom of an already huge and growing problem in our country and throughout the world.  Just like that tv special back in 1978 where "Christmas Day" had been replaced by "Commerce Day", mark my words; there will soon be an effort to replace "Christmas Day" with something else.  Our cities and many of our merchants will gladly join in.  They will be relieved that the "Christmas problem" has been taken care of.  It may be presented as something designed to include and respect everyone, all belief systems. That is what it will look like.  But, it will be a continuation of Satan's centuries old effort to erase the name of Jesus from before the eyes and mind of man.  Satan is clever. He will use who he can where he can in whatever way he can, and those used may be none the wiser.

Just call some folks. Wherever you are, whatever city you live in or shop in, pick up the phone and call your local merchants who are, maybe unwittingly, participating in these things.  Call your city administrators and officials and let them know how you feel.  If they don't respond to your words they will respond to your money and your votes, or lack thereof.  They may even be glad to hear from you.  It helps to know what people are thinking.            

We know that the day is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  Let's not be found lacking in our prayers and our words and our actions that would seek to exalt His name above all others, now and always . . . not just at Christmastime, but always.

"May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!"  Psalm 20:5

Merry Christmas!

A Great song and A REALLY GREAT video!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Did You See What We Saw?

I have always been fascinated by the story of the shepherds and the angels.  What must it have been like to be there on that most special of all nights as a host of Heavenly Angels appeared in the sky to announce that the Savior of the world had been born just a short distance away in Bethlehem.  Then to hear them sing their praises!  It's hard to imagine.

And then, what of their very next encounter?  What would they say to the first person they saw just after such a glorious occasion?  Well, my abilities to describe this are so very limited. But, I do so enjoy writing scripts for church dramas . . . well, the two I have written . . . that I have been inspired by this poignant tale to try to put into words what might have happened on that night following that unimaginable visit.  I think it would make an excellent drama for a Christmas program. (Not that my version will be excellent.)  I'm very excited about what I have so far.  I've completed the first scene and I wanted to share it with you, though it may be some time before the manuscript is completed, if ever.

It's hard to put myself out there like this, but, here goes.

It's totally character driven, so you will have to imagine voice inflections as they might occur in a normal conversation.  It's a risky move, but I've added punctuation that might make it easier for your to hear as you read.

Did You Se What We Saw?
By Dennis Manor

Scene 1

(Men in shepherd's clothing are talking and gesturing excitedly as Ahijah walks into the camp.)

Benjamin:  Ahijah, did you see what we saw?

Ahijah:  I couldn’t see anything.  It’s pitch black out there!  I only found the lost lamb by following the noise he was making.

Caleb: You didn’t see?

Ahijah: See what?
Daniel: Who!

Caleb: Ahijah.

Ahijah: What!?

Caleb: I was talking to Daniel.

Daniel: What?

Caleb: I was asking Ahijah if he saw what we saw.

Ahijah: What!?!?

Daniel: Who!!!

Ahijah and Caleb: What?!!!

Daniel: Who! Who we saw, not what we saw!

Ahijah: I see.

Caleb: You saw???

Ahijah: What!

Daniel: Who!!!!!

Ahijah: You!!

Daniel and Caleb: What???!!!

Ahijah:  I see what you mean.  Who, not what.

Caleb: Who do you mean you saw?

Ahijah:  I didn’t see anybody!!  You did!!

Daniel: We did.

Ahijah: Who??????

Daniel: Us.

Ahijah: You???

Daniel: Who else?

Ahijah: What???????

Daniel: Who else saw what??

Ahijah: You just said you saw a who, not a what!

Daniel: We did.

Ahijah: What?!?!?!?!?!?!

Daniel: Saw a who!!

Benjamin: Lots of ‘em!

Ahijah: Lots of whats???????????

Benjamin: No, lots of whos.

Ahijah: Who did you see doing what?!?

Caleb: (looking off set) That lamb’s wandering off again.  You better go get him.

Benjamin: We’ll tell you all about it when you get back.

Ahijah: What????????????

Benjamin: It.

Daniel: Who!

Caleb: Me.

Ahijah:  God help us!

Benjamin: Oh! So you did see!

(All the other shepherds smile and nod knowingly to each other as the lights dim to black.)

(end of scene)

I can only hope that you were as touched by reading this as I was in writing it.



Of course there's a video! 

Monday, December 05, 2011

Blue Blue Christmas, a Christmas vignette, by Dennis Manor

 Christmas . . . everyone around her can't wait for it to get here.  She can't wait for it to be over.

"Christmas time is a jolly time."  The man hawking baby portraits in the aisle of the department store was clearly running low on things to say that might attract attention to his kiosk.  This particular phrase offered in his strange sing-song voice seemed to be sending potential patrons scurrying away.  She walked past him as if he weren't there.  

"Jolly time," she repeated under her breath. "I wish somebody would tell me what's so jolly about it!"

It has not been her favorite holiday since childhood.  Something happened.  Maybe it was in her mid-teens, but she can't be sure.  Life became more and more of a struggle.  Happiness was fleet and elusive and more often than not forced, which was no real happiness at all.  It must have been all this stuff that has to be dealt with as you grow into adulthood.  But, nobody else seemed to be having any problem with it.  Maybe they just hid it better than she did.  It was not an easy thing to hide.  There were those times when it just wouldn't stay hidden. It projected from within her like some kind of self-armed, self-activated weapon.  An automatic defense mechanism to protect her from the happiness of others that only served to magnify her sadness. 

It took years to understand that something had changed inside of her.  All of the "It's just you"'s were true.  It was just her.  Thing is, that was not the her she wanted to be.  If only it were as easy to be happy as they all said it should be.  Things that made "normal" people happy no longer had the same effect on her.  She kind of went the opposite way.  It might happen for no reason at all.  Certain events and occasions seemed to bring it on more than others.  And Christmas . . . Christmas was the worst.

Contrary to popular opinion she certainly had the desire to enjoy the whole Christmas Season as much as anybody.  Nobody understood that she couldn't . . . she just couldn't.  And trying to make someone else understand what you know but don't understand yourself, only comes across as weak excuses at best and self justification at worst.  It just wasn't there.  That happy gene, that attraction to festivity, dimmed to full dark at the mere mention of Christmas.  Whatever switch turned that light off had no opposite motion to turn it back on.

Unlike the other holidays, New Year's, Valentine's, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, anniversaries, and even birthdays, Christmas was a month long event.  A house decorated beautifully was still a home somewhat out of order.  Shopping for gifts on a non-existent Christmas budget, trying to get what for who, spotting the perfect gift only to find that it is out of her price range.  Traffic, crowds, people actually enjoying the experience.  All that wrapping. And then the cooking.  Her mother had never enjoyed it either.

What others experienced as a season of joy, she endured as a month of torture. Such sadness among such exuberant joy makes for a loneliness beyond compare.  There was no place that she fit amid all this.  She felt as if she were a square peg being pounded into a round hole.

She tried, but sometimes it all just became too much.  And knowing that being in the kind of pain she was in caused pain to those closest to her made it worse and created a vicious, swirling, downward spiraling storm.  "It could be worse," some would say.  How well she know that, and how surely she expected that it would indeed get worse.

How is it that the sheer anticipation of one day out of three hundred and sixty-five does this to a person?  Was there a disillusionment that had set in with the first Christmas that did not meet up to her childhood expectations and grown deeper and deeper with each succeeding Christmas?  Maybe it was the emotion, the sentiment, the memories that were brought up by the season that made it so hard to deal with.  She didn't know. All she knew was that as much as she had looked forward to it as a child she now dreaded it as an adult. It's a terrible way to feel, she knows. But, she can't help it.

And yet here she was shopping on Christmas Eve.  Making one last stand against the tidal wave of depression that threatened to sweep her away for the next day and a half. Two presents left to buy and barely enough money for one. They were "extra's", though.  An attempt on her part to make up for being so out of sorts on her last shopping fracas.  "Try to enjoy it," she told herself. "just try."

  It's the day before Christmas.  If only it were the day after.                       

Walking aimlessly through the store, she finds herself on the toy aisle.  Her poor children!  Gazing at the noisy, brightly colored items around her, she struggled to remember Christmas gone by. It was as if she had missed most of them.  The same cloud of depression that had covered the Day now allowed only glimpses of fragmented memories.  Happy little faces.  They didn't know any better. . . . God's mercy.  She had tried her best to show them a good Christmas.  She prayed that their memories of those Christmases were better than her own. 

She is suddenly aware of a conversation going on beside her.  The tones are whispered as if the couple is embarrassed at the prospect that someone else might hear.

"Oh, no," the young woman cries, "it's not on sale anymore! What are we gonna do?"

Her husband shifts his eyes quickly.  Thinking.  Trying to come up with a plan.  "I . . . I don't know!  I thought we would have enough."

"She has her heart set on it. "

"Another spoiled brat," she thinks to herself as she listens to the young parents discussing their options.  "Just tell her you don't always get what you want in this world," she imagined herself telling them.  "The sooner she learns that the better off she will be." 

"We've been everywhere. This must be the last one in town," the young father said.

"She'll be so disappointed."

"No, she won't," the young man replied. "She will understand . . . just like she always does.  I just hate that she has to deal with such things at her age.  A kid should just be able to be a kid at Christmas.  It's bad enough to tell her that we can't afford much for her birthday.  How do we tell her Santa Claus couldn't bring her the one thing she wants more than anything else?  It's not her fault that work is so hard to find."

"Is there anything left to sell?" the young wife asked, hopelessness in her voice.

"It's Christmas Eve. Even if we had anything left that anybody would want, there's no time left.  She'll have to do without. . . . again."

"How short are we?" she asked as if their scant funds may have grown in the past couple of minutes.

"Near as I can figure, about fourteen, fifteen dollars."

"Well, we'll just have to find something else.  She's always happy with whatever she gets."

"I know.  I would just like to get her something she really wants for once.  Fifteen dollars more and we could give her the surprise of her life! It might as well be fifteen hundred."

They took each other's hand and began to move away, looking at the few toys left on the shelves as they passed.

She wiped a tear from her eye.  Digging into her wallet, she pulled out all the cash she had.  This was no spoiled brat.  "Forgive me, Father," she whispered.  "Ma'am?" she called out to the young mother just before they turned to step out of sight.

She walked briskly toward them.  "Ma'am? Sir?" she called again, frantic at the prospect that she could not catch up with them.

"Excuse me," the young lady said coming back around the corner.  "Are you talking to us?"

"Yes, I am," she replied, relief obvious in her voice.  "Here," she said shoving the money into the astonished mother's hand.  "This is for your little girl." 

"But . . ." the father began.

She interrupted him.  "I wasn't eavesdropping. I couldn't help but over hear.  She should have this . . . your little girl.  And I think you two deserve to give it to her.  There's not much there, but it is enough for you to give her that toy she has her heart set on and maybe a couple of other things, too."

"I don't know what to say.  We . . . we can't take this," he replied reaching to take the money from his wife's hand.

"Please take it," she said.  "It will make me very happy if you do, and it will make for a better Christmas for all of us!"

"Thank you, ma'am," they said in unison.

"It's so very generous of you," the young lady added.

Thinking for just a moment, the reply came.  "You are not getting this because I'm generous.  You are getting it because Jesus loves you and . . . He loves me . . . all of us . . . very much."  It was hard to keep from crying as the truth of the words she said to them spoke to her.

The store was jammed full of late shoppers, all too busy and self absorbed to notice a lady gliding through the aisles on her way out, a slight smile on her face, 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful' barely audible in her voice, and a light in her heart.

The End

Give this  video a listen. I think you'll like it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

MAYBE NEXT YEAR, a Christmas vignette - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - by Dennis Manor

Time was, there were two days each year that were always good just because.  The season was great, but nothing bad could penetrate the inherent goodness, the sheer magic of these two days.  It was as if the days themselves were protected from even the faintest shadow of darkness or discouragement.  And it was all just because.

Just because it was Christmas Eve, the day was defined by near unbearable anticipation of what Christmas Day itself would bring.  There was that tangible feeling, the smells and sounds of the day.  Christmas Eve   . . . Everything came together on that day to create an atmosphere thick with excitement.  He didn't walk through Christmas Eve, he swam in it.  Christmas  Eve . . . it was the exciting day.

It was fun just because it was Christmas Day.  This is when it all happened.  And it all always happened.  It began by waking early from a sleep that was near impossible to find in the first place, followed by hurriedly dressing in the cold room.  The little space heater had not yet done its work, but there was no complaining about the temperature this morning, no hiding beneath the covers until the room was warm today!  Then, the kids waited for Mama and Daddy to open the hall door which resulted in a stampede to the living room and a mass dive under the far-reaching branches of the Christmas Tree.

Time seemed to move slowly amid  the "look what I got"'s, the "How does this work"'s, and the "Daddy, can you put this together?"'s.  After the socks they used for stockings were emptied to see what all Santa Claus had stuffed in there it was time to open the presents from each to all.  Ribbon, paper, and bows, flew in all directions!  There was no order to the event and it was over and done well within five minutes.

Next came the visits.  Up the road to visit aunts and uncles and cousins.  A little further up the road to visit the grandparents. It was a grand time . . . a favorite part of the day.  Even outdoors the day had a certain feel to it.  It was the way Christmas "seems".  And all just because it was Christmas.  It was only natural that they had to head back down the road to get home.  After all, the same people they had just visited were now due to visit them!  More hugs and jokes and "my, my, look at that"'s.  Lots of laughter.  And, just in time, everyone went home because it was a little past noon and Christmas Dinner had to be served.  Then came all the food and deserts that you eat just because it's Christmas.

After a "quiet" afternoon playing, a meal of cherished leftovers, and maybe another family get-together, the day he didn't want to end ended.  That was the fun day, and that's the way it always happened.

Years passed. Christmas changed.  Well, the way he celebrated changed.  He wonders if he should have held tighter to that magic during his teen years.  Maybe that's when he lost it.  He always wanted it to be the same, but, it changed and it never went back.  Now, decades later, he longs for the Christmas he knew as a child.  The coming of Christmas still arouses that child within him. He wants his family to know Christmas as he knew it.  Everything that used to be just because it was Christmas is no longer just because. It doesn't just happen.  He seeks it, and if he doesn't find it he makes it, he forces it.  All because it should be.  It should "just be".  And he feels like such a phony.

Christmas, which once brought such excitement and anticipation just because it was Christmas, now serves as an annual reminder of just what a failure he is.  Oh, he gets little notices all through the year, but Christmas really brings it home. 

He will readily admit that his failings are largely material.  Money is always tight. Always.  But, for a man who wants to do so much and yet can do so little for his family throughout the year, Christmas, with all of its grace and goodness, continues to taunt him with his own deficiencies.  Every year, he finds himself saying, "Maybe next year".  He embarrasses himself repeating it yet again.  It has become a joke.  He laughs when he says it.  . . . he hurts when he says it.

He doesn't really care about getting anything.  It's the radiant joy on the face of the giver that blesses him. To receive from someone who enjoys giving is a gift in itself.  It's not what he receives that matters nearly so much as how it is given.  He is never disappointed in the gifts he receives.  A book, a cd, a dvd, a pair of bedroom shoes offered with the joy of giving means just as much as a wide screen tv, a high performance sound system, or a whole new suit of clothes.

He can't seem to reconcile himself to that on the giving end though.  He has never been able to give "the nicer things in life" to those he loves.  "Maybe next year I can buy the real jewelry", he tells himself.  "Maybe next year I can buy the nice clothes and send my wife out looking like a million dollars!"  When the kids were little, it was the nicer toys, the things little children really wanted that eluded him. "Maybe next year," he said until enough next years had passed that they had outgrown toys.  Then it became the clothes, the shoes, the cd players, . . .  all the stuff that made for a teenager's "in" lifestyle.  "Maybe next year" until they were grown and gone and it still hasn't changed.  Every year . . . every "next year" seemed to stamp "failure" on his passport from one year to the next.      

The thing is, no one else shares his disappointment.  It's mostly internal.  He loves them all too much to let the outside know what is really going on inside.  If any of them knew the burden of the load he carries, the totality of their disappointment would be for him, not in him.  They love him very much. He knows this. And they love how he "keeps Christmas".  Disappointment in himself takes a back seat to the joy of the season. If he can't give the gifts, he can give the experience.  He can keep Christmas, and they can keep it with him.  And it is in this love, the love they share, that he continues to make the most of each Christmas that passes.  It's how he keeps Christmas.

It's about the love anyway.  The love of God who gave His Son.  The love of the Son who gave Himself.  The love that comes with knowing the Son. Love that wants to give and then give more.  Love that doesn't care what or how much or if it gets. Love that is its own best gift.

It's here that he ultimately finds himself . . . every year. Loving . . . loved.  . . . and keeping the Day . . . just because it's Christmas.  Because that's the way it should be, and that's the way it has always been, and that's the way it is.  After all . . . there's always next year! 

the end 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

On our way home

Acts 14:8-10   . . .Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed.  So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.

I had been working on a post inspired by this scripture, taking it in a much different direction, when I saw something there that I had not seen before.  I suddenly wondered if I was like that man Paul and Barnabus saw that day.  I think probably many of us are just like him.  

If you are a Christian you know what I mean when I say that you and I were born at the moment we were saved.  We had faith to be saved, but did we, or do we, have faith to walk? Now I'm asking myself these questions just as I am asking you.

Have you been like this man, crippled and unable to walk?  Has fear and uncertainty crippled you to the point that you cannot walk where Jesus would lead you?  Have you been unable to walk in the Kingdom of God because you are mired in the things of this world?  Do you lean on the crutch of religion and legalism even as Jesus calls on you to run freely in relationship with Him?  Do you lay paralyzed in your weakness on a cripple's mat when Jesus has command you to " . . . get up. Take your mat, and go home!"

"Go home."  The operative word here is "go", "walk".  For us, going home includes a journey in this life.  A walk in the Kingdom of God.  We are going home, but what will we do and how will we live along the way?

Your home is in Heaven, but, for the rest of your life on this earth, you are to live in the Kingdom of God. That's the route we take on our way home.  Life in the Kingdom of God is a life of faith.

 " . . . he had faith to be healed."

As a Christian you have been healed!  You have been healed of the eternally fatal effects of sin on your life. You have been healed of the contamination and condemnation of sin that disqualified you from entering and walking in the Kingdom of God.  You have been healed of all that sin and Satan have inflicted upon you. You have been healed by your faith, the very faith you had, and have, for salvation.    

What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1 explains it.

New King James Version:   Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

New International Version:  Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

English Standard Version:  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

New Living Translation:  Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

God's Word Translation:  Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see.

Amplified Bible:  NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

. . . the substance of things we hope for (expect).  

The man Paul saw that day heard the message of Jesus Christ proclaimed perhaps for the first time.  This story is a great example of the truth that "faith comes from hearing".  He heard and faith grew within him. From his faith, hope for healing also grew within him. His faith was the substance, the reality, of that hope. 

 . . .the evidence of things not seen.

His faith was the evidence, or the proof, that his healing existed.

If we do not have faith for what we hope for, then our hope is merely wishful thinking.  Our faith gives our hope substance.
If we do not have faith in that which we cannot see, then that which we cannot see does not exist.  Our faith is evidence of our hope's existence.
And, of course, it is God who acts on our faith.  ". . . God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist."  (from Romans 4:17)

concerning hope:
"For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?" Romans 8:24

I hope for it because I have faith for it.  I know it exists because of my faith for it.  My faith is in God, who calls into being the things that are not.
There are things that I hope for in my life that I cannot see.  They exist in my faith. It gets hard sometimes to keep that faith because I can't see them and I have no idea as to how they will be brought into being.  One thing I know, if I lose hope it is because I have lost faith, and if I lose faith then the object of my hope will surely cease to exist.

I could write pages (not so much from knowledge as from discussing scripture) and still fail to adequately and fully explain what and where the Kingdom of God is.  I confess that I don't have full knowledge on this.  And maybe, like so many of the things of God, I complicate the Kingdom of God far more than I should.  I heard it explained very simply one time and I'll pass this on to you, in case you haven't heard it.  The Kingdom of God is where things are done God's way. And, the Kingdom of God is where faith "works". 

So, I have to ask. Are things being done God's way in your life?  Does God's will rule in your life?  You have faith for salvation.  Have you been crippled since you were born again?  Have you never walked?  I believe that, as weak faith is intended to grow strong, we have all been given "a measure of faith" that will allow us to walk in the Kingdom of God, where things are done His way and where all faith grows stronger and stronger!

I have already told you that I've posed these same questions to myself. So, I'll close by telling you what I've told myself.  

"You have faith to be healed. Now stand up . . . and walk!"


Here's your video!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

issues with issues

I start a lot of blogs that never get finished.  This morning, I started one that was to be a fine synopsis on the reasoning behind all those pro-lifers who voted "no" on prop 26 and how they were all wrong.  I was going to say a lot, and I was going to change at least a few of those minds!  Yessir! . . . and Ma'am!  I was going to make a bold move and it was gonna be something to behold!  I was.  But . . . I didn't.  I couldn't.

You see, the blog I posted just the other day - my most read blog thus far by the way - was all about dying to self so that Christ may live in us and through us.  Now, that doesn't mean that we always keep our mouths shut and that we don't speak out.  It does mean that Jesus tells us when to open our mouths and when to speak out and what to say.  I was going to give you my two cents worth, and it may well have been right in line with His thoughts.  But, I was reacting to what had stimulated my brain, not acting on His guidance.  And, I can't really explain it, He just wouldn't let me post it here.  Why I can express my opinion on another venue (and I always try to be Spirit led) and I can't always do so here, I don't know.  He let's me do it there . . . holds me back here.  I'm not complaining, though.  It's His to do. But, I was about to mess up. Sometimes I forget that what I write for others to see is really for me to read. 

The thing is, there is a bigger issue than prop 26 that is rising out of that controversy.  As I was posting some comments on facebook earlier, I sensed that a very divisive issue was about to do just that . . . divide.  I fear that it has already caused division among some Christians, and I felt that it was on the verge of happening to me.  As Christians, we can discuss, we can disagree, we can even hold what might be called a civil argument. But, we must not allow ourselves to be divided.

I copied this from the very first blog I posted: 
"John 17:23 (New King James Version)23 ". .. I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one . . ."

When an individual comes to the cross and accepts Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, a connection is instantly created. The Holy Spirit comes into them, filling a place left void in humanity from the moment sin entered the world with Adam's act of disobedience. They are connected with Jesus. He is their personal Savior, Lord of their life.  They are connected with God. ("I in them, and You in Me . . .") They are connected with every other Christian in existence. ( ". . . that they may be made perfect in One.")  We are One. We're not perfect yet, but we are One, being made perfect by the work of Jesus Christ in us. We are connected by Jesus Christ by way of His sacrifice on our behalf on the Cross. We are connected by the cross. We are CrossConnected!"

I don't call this blog "CrossConnected"  merely to reflect my own connection to God by the cross.  I call it this to emphasize the connection all Christians have with one another by the cross.  We need to make sure that, whatever we do, we are growing closer together, even in times of disagreement, that we may become of one accord.  It's hard to understand how we can hold so strongly to so many different opinions, sometimes even totally opposite positions, at the same time that we are striving to have the mind of Christ.  We pray fervently about particular matters and approach them fully believing that we are acting under the leading of the Holy Spirit, and we think we are in the right, and yet we find that other Christian brothers and sisters whom we love and respect have "been led" in a totally opposite direction!

Few things fit into the "what's right for one is wrong for another" category.  Some things have only one answer.  So, obviously somebody got it wrong.  Here is where Satan can kill the relationship, steal the issue, and destroy the witness.  Here is where Satan can take whatever Jesus has accomplished in making us One and send us farther back than our original starting point ever was, divided and unwilling to come together.

The vote, like everything that happened yesterday, is done.  Hopefully, there will be another day.  Let's agree right now, all of us, to pray for each other and to pray for that day.  Let's pray that the Holy Spirit will do such a work in us that the whole Body of Christ will act with THE mind of Christ.  This won't happen unless we all seek His strength and wisdom in setting aside our own thoughts and opinions while we seek to acquire His.  We're on the winning team. Let's win!

 As for our relationships:

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

It's a new day. Let's not fail one another, but follow our LORD'S example and extend grace and mercy to one another, and be faithful to each other as He is faithful to us in our failings.  Let's not allow the stand we take on issues to cause us to stand apart.  If we are fractured by the very things we approach as Christians, the world will have no idea of who we are.  After all, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”       

I don't know just what "perfect in One" really means. But I can't wait to find out!
(And I'm glad, for once, that I didn't finish a blog post.)


Saturday, November 05, 2011

Sometimes you step up by stepping out

Big vote coming up here in the State of Mississippi.  We are going to vote on an amendment to our State Constitution that would define "personhood" as beginning at the moment of fertilization of an egg.  It is a controversial matter, to be sure. I am, however, surprised at where some of the controversy comes from.

I have stopped and given thought to some of those opinions that differ from mine, particularly as they come from those who I know to be my Christian brothers and sisters. I immediately weed out the ones with labels such as :"idiots", "haters", and so on.  I'm not going to give much thought to an opinion that has to be propped up by such things.  (By the way, this does not strengthen your position, it weakens it.)  And the ones I do consider have not changed my mind.  It just helps to know why someone feels the way they do.  And reasonable arguments compel me to examine my own conclusions, and the reasons for them, more closely. 

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and, indeed, we all have one.  You won't be seeing mine in this post. It is no secret. In fact, it is posted . . . often and prominently . . . on another venue.  The real truth is, though, that my opinion doesn't matter. And, if you are a Christian brother or sister, neither does yours!

"My" opinion is born of self, and is, therefore, in any form, at worst sinful, or at best worthless. I equate it with my own worthless "good works".  I cannot be good or do good apart from God.  My own thoughts apart from God are equally worthless except that they may lead me to a God directed conclusion.  "But, we have brains," you say. "Shouldn't we use them for thinking?"

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

This is my "life verse".  "My life verse" . . . it's not as big as it sounds . . . or as big as it should be. . . because I fall so short so often.  But, I strive for this to be the ultimate truth of my life.  I know many others who do a much better job of it than I do. The fact is, if, as Christians, we have died to self and we take up our cross daily, then we have no agenda of our own. God guides our actions, our words, our thoughts, and even our votes.

Sometimes we find it hard to discern God's direction for our lives.  But, I think that is mostly because we make it so hard.  "What do you want me to do here, Lord?" is a question that I often find myself in near agony over.  One thing, though, is that the answer, or a confirmation of the answer, can always be found in His Word.

The issue before us Mississippians at the polls Tuesday is no exception.  I don't know whether God ever intended that something like a definition for the beginning of life should ever be held to a vote. Who are we to even be voting on such a thing as the timing of our Creator's great gift of life?  The more I think about it, the more I wish this particular initiative were not even on the ballot here in Mississippi or elsewhere. But, it is.

I'm no prophet. I'm not about to try to tell anyone what God wants us to do on this vote. As for God's teaching on the existence of life in the womb, I believe that His Word is very clear on the matter. Nonetheless, I pray that I dare not enter the voting booth on Tuesday to express my own thoughts and my own opinions.

Research it from all sides.  But, above all, spend at least the same amount of time on your knees "researching" God's guidance. Be ready and willing, no matter what your present stance on the issue, for God to change that if He so desires. Do not fear the workings of man should this vote go one way or the other.  God is sovereign. We must seek only to do His will rather that our want.  

I pray that no Christian man or woman will vote their own conscious on Tuesday.  I pray that we will, in ways we have never before experienced, seek and receive God's guidance on this matter, and that as we mark the ballot or pull the lever it will be as if the very Hand of God Himself is casting the vote, and that rather than voting our own conscious we will, indeed, be voting the will of God!


Here's your video. Somehow, it seems to fit. I hope you meet God's will every moment of your life. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gas! Gas! Gas! . . . or, It's a Gas - Part 2

OK. If you didn't read my previous blog, this one is not going to mean much to you. But, if you did read it then you will remember "the gas man".

You should know that my "It's a Gas" blog, that I posted last week, was actually written, for the most part, in September. So, the day after I wrote it, -THE VERY NEXT DAY -  I had to go to one of our suppliers down on Terry Road in South Jackson. Usually, when I do this, I leave that store and head back the way I came, up Terry Road to get back to the shop.  On this day, I decided to go on down to McDowell Road and out to I-55 so I could get something to drink at one of the 4 convenience stores that occupy the corner of McDowell and 55.

Those of you familiar with the area know that there is a fairly new Exxon where the old Dixie station used to be. I haven't been to the "new" Exxon, and I generally like to try out the new places.  My plan was to stop at the Exxon, get my Diet Dews and go. Something was saying, though, "Go to the Shell", which is where I usually go if I go anywhere on that corner. I listen to the "something" a lot more these days, almost exclusively. Why? Because "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." (the question is not "Is He directing?", the question is "Are we listening?") 

So, I listened. I didn't know whether the Lord was protecting me from some kind of danger (easy to get into in South Jackson these days) or whether He was directing me towards someone who needed encouragement, or whether He was sending me to someone who had some encouragement for me. I went into the Shell, bought my Dews and I'm walking out to my truck, which is parked all the way across the parking lot past the gas pumps. I'm looking down, watching my step, when I hear, "Help! Help! Ain't it something when a sixty year old man is out asking for help?"

I didn't have to look up.  The voice and the line are now very familiar. "It sure is,"  I reply. I almost laughed as I'm thinking, "Lord, you really are something!"  It's the gas man!  . .  . and not in Byram, . . . but in South Jackson!  . . . and at the Shell station to which I was directed  . . .at the time when I was directed there. . . . and, to my discredit, at a time when I was least expecting it,  . . .and when I was least prepared.

"Don't look at my teeth," he says. (He has said this to me before knowing the conclusion that will lead to.)

I kept my cool and tried to talk to him as though I was concerned about him, which I am. I calmly informed him that this was the 5th time he had approached me with the same story. He said, "Well, sir, God has all kinds of children with all kinds of need."

"Yes, He does," I replied, "but I don't think gas is what you need right now." 

My mind was racing.  This was an appointment and I needed something to say to the man. Either it didn't come, or I couldn't hear it above my own thoughts. That was the end of our conversation. He didn't walk away angry or resentful or defiantly, as usual.  He just hung his head and walked back to his truck.

Any guilt or remorse or conviction that he may have felt had little effect on him, though. I watched as they drove across the street to the Texaco. And I stand there in my own guilt and remorse and conviction. I should have said more. I should have said something different. I should have been ready, particularly in light of what I had written just the day before.

It's not that I think I'm going to change the man. I don't know that Jesus will change the man at a gas pump encounter. He can. Maybe, though, something said out among the gas pumps will stick with him and come back to him when he is alone with his thoughts and not out chasing some kind of artificial high.  Maybe a desire to change, to have a better life, will grow within him, and God will keep making appointments for him until that heart is given over and all those chains are broken. You and I might not be thrilled when we see him and all those he represents coming toward us at a gas station, but all the angels in Heaven will rejoice when they see him coming to Jesus!

Proverbs 16:33  We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.

I have long said that nothing happens by accident in life.  There are no chance encounters.  This particular meeting proves it to me.  All the "random events" that put the gas man and me at that place at that time were orchestrated by our God.  There is His reason and His purpose behind seemingly insignificant and inconvenient events.

"Make me ready and able, Lord, to rise to the occasion, and always with Your purpose and Your glory at heart, and always speaking Your mighty Name into the situation whatever it might be."

As for the chains; It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

I'm glad I get to post the video below.  A great and beautiful reminder of what is at stake . . . and what is in store.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's a gas!

Jeremiah 22:15-17 (NLT)

 15 But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king!
      Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink.
   But he was just and right in all his dealings.
      That is why God blessed him.
 16 He gave justice and help to the poor and needy,
      and everything went well for him.
   Isn’t that what it means to know me?”

This is taken from a portion of scripture where God has sent Jeremiah to tell Jehoiakim how things are going to be.  Jehoiakim was a king of Judah who did evil before God.  Josiah, Jehoiakim's father, had been a good, Godly king.  For some reason, I keep running across this particular set of verses.  Maybe I finally got it . . . or, at least, I'm getting it.  

There's this guy who shows up in Byram from time to time. And he is always in a different truck. It's not that I know of his every visit to Byram, I've just seen him four times.  I recognize him, but he never recognizes me.  If he did, he would not keep asking me for money "for gas" to get to some place other than Byram.  He pulls out a stack of papers, along with his driver's license, just so I know he's being truthful.  He has also offered to trade a $20 Walgreen's gift card for $10 for gas.  Imagine that!

He doesn't need money for gas. I'm pretty sure of that.  If your problem is running out of gas every time you go to Byram (he's not from Byram) you don't need money for gas.  You need to plan better.  I really don't think gas or planning is his problem however.

I haven't handled the situation well.  The last time he did this, after he repeated his opening spiel, but before he had a chance to go further,  I told him - rather harshly - that he should start paying attention to who he is talking to.  He got back into his "empty" truck and sped away.  I don't know if I will see him again, but, if I do, I hope - no, I pray - that I can at least help point him to what he really needs.

"No hope of that," some might say.

Well, Jesus Christ is THE hope of the hopeless.  I can't do anything for anybody, particularly people like that man. But, Jesus can use any of His children to accomplish the otherwise impossible in anyone.

Hopelessness is a mirage projected by Satan to lure us into that state of acceptance that says things are the way they are and they are going to stay that way until Jesus comes back. It seems that there are so many people who find a strange kind of comfort there. If you can convince yourself that the situation is hopeless then you don't have to even try to do anything about it. 

Well, Jesus did come back - I'm not talking about the rapture - from death, and when He went back to Heaven he did not leave us in hopelessness. He left us with great hope . . . not a wishful sort of hope, but a hope of substance. 

Romans 15:13 (NIV) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Then there's this other guy.  I'm ashamed to say that the first time I encountered him, I rather harshly turned him away.  He looks like somebody that you would see in a movie about Gengis Kahn . . . from the losing side.  His hair matches the look on his face. It's kind of wild. And he looks like he could easily turn on you at the drop of a hat  To some, he might look dangerous. To me, once I really look at him, he looks like someone who is just trying to survive.  And his "look" might help him accomplish that.  He is not a big person. In fact he is rather small. Looks Oriental, hence the Gengis Kahn thing.  Maybe that's just the way he looks. I don't think it helps him when it comes to asking strangers for money, though.   

He really doesn't "ask" for money, he gestures for it. You know, palm upturned, rubbing your thumb and fingers together, the "money" signal.  And that's what bugged me so much the first time I saw him.  If you are going to ask for money, then ask.  Don't make gestures!  But, then, after seeing him a few more times in the same place, I have come to believe that he either cannot speak English, or he cannot speak at all.  Or, yes, maybe he just has a great scam going.  If the latter is the case, I don't think it is working out so well for him.

I saw him again, recently. He moves between a Shell and an Exxon that are next door to one another out on Highway 49.  I was coming out of the Burger King at the Exxon contemplating something that God was telling me to do in there.  (That's another story for another day.)  He is standing right in front of my truck, so it was unavoidable.  And I really had no intention of avoiding him on this day.  He held out his Burger King cup, and made his gesture.

"Are you thirsty?" I asked.

He gestured again and pointed at the cup.  I had two dollar bills in my pocket left over from my visit to Burger King. I reached toward him with the money, and he held out the cup, I suppose wanting me to put the money there.  By this time I had come to the conclusion about his language skills, or lack thereof, that I have already told you about.  But I had to try.

Throwing money at a situation such as this just to make it go away is just as wrong as doing nothing.  (Yep, I've done plenty of wrong in this area already. . . . both ways.)  Not that I have a lot of money to throw,  not that I throw " a lot" of money, and certainly not that two dollars is a lot of money to throw.  My "thirsty" question had drawn no response. So, as I am handing him the money, I'm looking into his eyes for some kind of spark when I say, "Jesus.  Do you know about Jesus?" . . . Nothing.  . . .No spark. . . . No recognition. . . .No acknowledgement of what I was saying or even of the money I placed in his hand. He turned and hurried away.  It occurs to me, even as I am writing this, that the man may be deaf.
The thing is, it really doesn't matter whether this man can hear what I'm saying, or whether he acknowledges what I am saying, or whether he acknowledges what I am giving.  I won't let that affect me the next time we cross paths.

Here's what I believe as it pertains to this type of situation.  I believe that there are no chance encounters in life.  God arranges them all.

Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)  A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.

Therefore, He has a purpose in each encounter.

Philippians 2:13 (NIV) for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

I believe that there is power in even the name of Jesus.  When His name is not taken in vain, but rather spoken in obedience to and at the urging of the Holy Spirit, His power and authority are brought into the situation.   

1 John 3:23 (NIV)  And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.


Philippians 2:10 (NKJV)  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,


Colossians 3:17 (NIV)  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


Acts 3:6 (NKJV) Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”


Acts 3:16 (NIV)  By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.


Acts 4:10 (NLT)  Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.


Acts 16:18 (NKJV)  And this she did for many days.  But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.


There is power in the name of Jesus! And all who have accepted His wonderful gift of salvation have been given the authority and, indeed, the responsibility, to speak in His glorious name.


So, an encounter that could have ended like countless others, as if it had never happened, nothing new for either party, has had the powerful name of Jesus spoken into it.  I didn't give much, but what I did give was given in the name of Jesus, not in the name of "go-away-and-leave-me-alone"Colossians 3:17 means something.  That man at the Burger King may not even know the name, but that takes no power from the name.  And the devil who has wrecked this man's life til now knows the name, and he cannot stand before even the mention of it!


I don't know what is going to happen next in this man's life.  Maybe there is a bigger part for me to play in it, maybe not.  Perhaps the power of Jesus spoken over this man's life will bring the next person along who God has gifted to take him a step or two further. Jesus changed the life of a naked man running around in a graveyard.  He can certainly change the life of a dislocated man moving between a couple of convenience stores with a Burger King cup in his hand.        


As for the other man, Jesus loves him, too, and I've got to do a better job of loving him. I have no doubt that I will again hear, "Ain't it a shame that a sixty year old man has to run around asking for help."  I hope I can do better by him.

Lord, help me to be just and right in all of my dealings, and to give justice and help to these whom you send my way.  You will bless me and everything will go well for me.  After all, isn't all that what it means to know you?  And I do want to know you, Lord. 


Here are two videos for you.  The second one is kind of strong, so some of you might need to stick with the first one! . . . great hair-do's, though.   :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011


2 Chronicles 29:3   In the very first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple of the Lord and repaired them. 

2nd Chronicles 31:21   In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.

As Hezekiah began his reign in Judah, there was no worship of the Lord, no praise, no prayer.  The Temple of the Lord, so lavishly built and furnished and supplied by King Solomon generations earlier, had been misused, abused, and ultimately closed. In chapters 29 through 31 of 2 Chronicles, we see a spiritual renewal throughout Judah, and parts of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  In very short order, Judah was changed from a nation of spiritual desolation to a nation which pleased God with their worship.  Judah went from a nation whose God was forgotten to a nation whose God was greatly praised and worshiped, and honored and obeyed. The nation was wonderfully blessed by Him.  The nation and the people were revived.

And it all began with reopening the doors of the Temple of the Lord.

As a Christian, YOU are the Temple of the Lord.  If you are experiencing a drought, it can only mean that your spirit cannot reach out, and God cannot get in.  Your "door" is closed!  Probably, you didn't realize the door was closed.  But, it happens.  Sometimes trials and difficulties, the pressure and stress of every day life press in on us.  Our focus shifts, maybe ever so slightly, from our Lord, our Deliverer, to "the problem".  The problem gains power in our lives.  Before we know it, the problem has all of our attention.  We are living to be rid of the problem rather than to worship our God, in whom lies the solution to all of our problems and needs. As the problem continues to press in on us, the door of our Temple swings shut.

It is the power of our own Holy Spirit inspired praise and worship that holds the door open.  In the absence of true praise and worship a spiritual vacuum is created that pulls that door closed.  We feel distant from God.  But, He has not moved away. We have allowed a barrier to be placed between us.  

King Hezekiah has shown us how to break down that barrier and open that door. The success of his effort to re-focus Judah's attention on the Lord was attributed by God to Hezekiah's wholehearted search for God.

Wholehearted . . . I think we sometimes fall short in what we call our own wholehearted search for God.  In this day and time, with so many powerful distractions, I fear that we have watered down the true meaning of wholehearted. The word defines itself, though, doesn't it?  Wholehearted.  Hezekiah didn't put God at the top of a list of goals and priorities.  God was the priority . . . the only priority.  Wholehearted.

Does a wholehearted search for God mean that you forget your responsibilities in life?  Does it mean that you ignore your problems?  Does it mean that you walk around in some type of spiritual la-la land oblivious to everything happening around you?  Of course not.  After all, we are in the world, but not of the world.

Essential to living wholeheartedly for God is putting every part of our lives - everything -, our responsibilities, our problems, our livelihoods, our fun - everything - in His hands, under His watchful eye, under His guidance and approval.  Did I say everything

Simply stated, what has your attention?  Why do you do what you do?  Where does God fit into all this?  Is He at the top directing you in all things as you "acknowledge Him in all things"?  Or do you have Him off to the side somewhere, and are you hoping that He can't see you from where you think you have put Him?

The Word tells us how to go about a wholehearted search for God.  It is filled with inspiration and practical, everyday life instruction.  The Psalms in particular and Psalm 119 specifically are, just my opinion, unmatched in their guidance in the area of keeping God as our one priority.  Psalm 119 is 176 verses of a wholehearted search for God.  A long Psalm, but one worth studying over and over again as God imprints His message of "Search for Me" upon our hearts.  I have resolved to study it at least weekly.  "Lord, please help me remember this and to avoid the distractions that will surely be placed before me." 

If your door is closed, push it open! Open the door to your temple by simply praising Jesus. Maybe all you can muster at first will be His name.  But, that is enough. There is power in the name of Jesus. "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, . . ."  If it is all you can do, just repeat His name. Don't stop. Keep repeating. You might feel a little silly at first, but soon you will see that what you thought was the least you could do was the most you needed to do.

Repeat His name with a heart set on worship.  The door will fly open and praise and worship will pour out from your soul.

At times, I feel that my "praise vocabulary" is so inadequate.  It is not the words that matter, it is the heart.  Even so, I like to go to Psalms and repeat out loud some of the multitudinous praise filled verses found there.  Begin your wholehearted search for the Father with praise and thanksgiving for all He has done for you.  Stay in the Word and be obedient to the God's revealed instruction as you learn to follow the urgings of the Holy Spirit within you.  And always remember, regardless of our physical circumstances, there can be no drought in a Spirit filled heart!

Isaiah 55:10-11 (NIV)
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Whether you are going through a little dry spell or an all-out drought open your doors. Praise God, worship Him alone, and expect the rain to come and refresh your spirit.

And now, I get to post one of my favorite songs and videos - again.  I hope it speaks to you.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Some Fathers Are Not

Amid all the "Happy Father's Day" wishes being spread on FaceBook, there were a few whose day was not so great. They were wishing others a happy day, but Father's Day is not a happy one for them. Simply stated, they don't have much to celebrate in the father they had, or the father they married. (which is to say that of their children, or that who gave them no children.)  I'm thinking maybe Father's Day is next in line behind Christmas as the holiday that produces great joy for so many, and great pain for some.  I'm thankful that I can celebrate my father on that day.


Let's face it. Not all fathers are worth celebrating. Not all fathers leave good memories behind them. Whether in the home or not, at best, some are merely a male presence while others run the gamut of poor fathering from non-involvement to extreme abuse.  And little children love anyway, and they want that love to be returned.


Some fathers are not . . . fathers, that is.


The lack of a father's love has life long effects on a person.  I haven't experienced it, but I see it.  I talk to people who are trying to deal with it as adults.  It seems that as resilient as young children are, the effects hit in teens, or early adulthood. And then it is dealt with for life.  I'm not the only one who knows someone, a father, who followed their father to the grave, these issues and effects still very present, unresolved, and continuing to eat away at them.  Left to carry on are two more generations to whom the same issues have been passed, and so many others rocked by the ripples that inevitably pass through their lives.   


This blog post is for the children - the grown-up children.  Since I read those few messages on FaceBook the other day, I haven't been able to cast the obvious hurt from my mind.  And like many things that stick in my mind these days, I soon feel the urge to write a blog on it.  Failing to have anything close to an answer or the smallest bit of hope or help within myself, I have asked God to give me something that might be of help to you.  Not just to sooth the wound for now, but to help you find the real victory over this situation that God has for you. And, yes, I know that some handle this very well for most of the year and then the holiday rolls around and disappointment and regret and resentment rise up for a short while.  I wish you had an earthly father to celebrate. And I know you, at times, feel short-changed, cheated, defeated, unwanted, and unloved, and maybe like you are something less than you should be.  You could probably add a few more things to the list.  But, God wants you to know that all that is a lie.  And He wants you to know the truth about yourself, because He wants you to start living in that truth.  



Know this:  You are a special creation of God Himself.  No matter how any person wants or causes you to feel, the truth is you have had God's full attention since before you were born.  You can live by what some other person has done to you, or you can live in what God has done for you.


Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart . . .”


Psalm 139:13  For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.


Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork . . . 


Psalm 139:1-4   You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.



Know this: You are no accident. God was paying attention when He made you.  Let's all face it.  No matter what circumstances we were born into, we exist here and now because God wants us here and now.  And we are all as He made us.


 Psalm 139:14   I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;  your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 


Luke 12:7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.


Ephesians 1:4-5 (NLT) Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.



Know this: You were created for a purpose.  God's own purpose!  Who can stand and call another useless, or a mistake, when the Creator of the Universe has work planned for us to do before we ever get here?  God has set your value and you are precious to Him. Therefore you are precious in all of creation. No one gets to change that.  You were made to bring glory to God and anyone who says or acts differently falls into the category of mockers and scoffers.  


Ephesians 2:10b  . . . created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 


1 Corinthians 1:9  God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


Romans 8:28b-29  . . . who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.


2 Timothy 1:9  He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,


1 Corinthians 12:7-11 (NLT)  A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.  To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.  The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing.  He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.  It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.



Know this: You are so very much loved.


Isaiah 43:4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you . . .


Romans 5:8  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


John 3:16  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


1 John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!


Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD appeared to us in the past,saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.



Know this: God is not mad at you. In fact, He thinks highly of you. 


Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake,  and remembers your sins no more. 


Romans 8:37-39  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Isaiah 43:6-7  I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” 

1 John 1:9 (ESV)  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


Zephaniah 3:17-19 (NIV)  The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” 


And know this:  God has a good life planned for you.

John 14:18 (ESV)"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."


Isaiah 54:17 (NKJV)  No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the LORD.


Philippians 1:6 (ESV)  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.


Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)   For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future


I know this is a long post. Longer than my usual long post.  But, I can offer no apologies for it. I want everyone to understand that these words of scripture are real. That are the truth, God's truth.  And they are true for you!  Don't let anyone, including you,  try to tell you anything about yourself that does not line up with the Word of God. And don't let anyone misuse the Word of God to tell you anything.


I'm sorry if your earthly father, or the earthly father of your children, was or is not there where he has been needed.  I'm sorry if that love has been missing. One more time, know this:  You have a Father in Heaven who loves you like no other can.  And He is not distant or aloof or unconcerned with your life.  He yearns to be with you, to talk to you and to provide for you in every way.  This is truth. Live the truth God gives you, not the lie someone else tries to lay on you.





PS I've been looking for a video for this post, and I just found this one by Mandisa. It fits very well, because, after all, this post is about the truth about you!