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Some Thoughts on Christmas

Every Christmas Eve our church has a gathering in which different people volunteer songs, skits, readings and other things to share with the church family. At the end of the evening we gather in a large circle around the auditorium and sing ‘Silent Night. A great time of fellowship and rejoicing in the birth of Jesus. Below is my contribution to our gathering. I hope you enjoy it and have a wonderful Christmas!

Ever since I was a kid I have had a lot of questions; even about Christmas. Yesterday in the morning service we all sang a couple of songs asking questions;

What Child Is This?

Mary Did You Know?

So I am pretty sure I am not the only one with questions.

Angels seem to get a whole lot of attention at this time of the year.
Two Sundays ago we sang Angels We Have Heard on High; It seems like Gloria gets an awful lot of time in this song. Gloria, Gloria, Gloria but nothing about Suzy, Tom, and for that matter Vernon? Is it just the way the music is written … that it wouldn’t sound right?

Ever since I was a kid I have watched the movie; “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It’s an almost annual tradition. I really enjoy it but; where in the Bible does it ever talk about men dying and becoming angels? Even if it were true, why would a loving and gracious God who gave us eternal life through faith and faith alone; require works before we could “earn our wings”? To this day when I hear a small bell ring I still start thinking about angels, and their wings and Harold Franks.

While we are on the subject of angels and Harold Franks; those of you that have been around Community Baptist for years will remember Harold Franks; I miss him, know he is with the Lord in Heaven and I will see him again. I know Harold isn’t an angel and he is not trying to earn his wings….but what I don’t know is how many angels are called Harold and why are we harking to hear them sing?

On a different note or should I say song; Why is there no L? I can understand the First no L but 2000 years later? This is America…I know we are on the edge of the Fiscal Cliff…. but has our Wheel of Fortune turned so far that we can’t chip in and buy an “L”?

And what about the 3 Kings; you know ….We three kings of Orient are…No where in the Bible does it say that there were 3 kings, yes there were three gifts but any research into historical documents will show that there was undoubtedly a large group of “wise men” from the East and that many servants and others were with them. And they didn’t come to the stable….it was later at least a year or so. Look what the Bible really says about them to get some of those questions answered.

And the gifts they brought….most of us can remember those…. Probably because of the songs we have sung over and over. It might be my age but I can’t remember many of the gifts I have received over the years. I can remember events with grandparents, parents and children. I remember the things we did together much more than any gifts received or given.

If you don’t have much to give to someone this year….give them something they will remember more….your time spent with them. That is really what Christmas is all about anyway. God sent Jesus Christ, as God/Man, as a baby in the manger. He grew into an adult who would die on the cross for all of man kind’s sins Through-out the Gospels it tells of how Jesus took time to stop and share with individuals the Good News.

I still have questions about Christmas and life but I hope you have made time in your life to start that personal relationship with the One who we honor tonight. If not I encourage you to keep asking questions until you find your way to that place where a baby was born in a manger to set all men free!

Change of Seasons

Change of Seasons

Good Thursday Morning;

Yesterday afternoon at 23:09 UTC,  Summer began if you are in the Northern Hemisphere.  Coincidentally it was 70 degrees in the Bitterroot for the first time in weeks, we are having an abnormally cold and rainy spring.  If you were concerned how quickly your summer is going you will be even more flummoxed by the news that each day from now until December 21, will be getting shorter and shorter.  And of course if you believe in Mayan Calendar interpretations so popular today, things will be very bad on December 21st.

Yesterday was Wednesday, hump day…everything is downhill to the weekend, it was also the first day of summer and every day is downhill to the shortest day of the year in December.  As humans we are constantly trying to measure and partition off time to give it meaning and significance.  We have developed atomic clocks and now measure time in minute parts of minutes and seconds and coordinate the world time, UTC so that everyone can know precisely when an event is to occurs worldwide.

And then there is God.

Psalm 93:1-2

1 The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.

2 Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity

God has a view of time that we can only in part grasp and yet that is the view that will most change the way we live our lives.

Ecclesiastes 3 is a famous Bible text about time.

A Time for Everything

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace

What we don’t so often read is verse 11:

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

God has set eternity in our hearts if we will take time to consider it.  We may not be able to fully understand all that God has done from beginning to end but we can grasp his plan for us in eternity.  It is important to stop the business of daily life and try to view events through God’s reality of eternity.  John 6:27 speaks to this;

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

Our outlook on life totally changes when, after contemplating the eternal state we chose to follow John 5:24;

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

While we are still, every minute closer to a physical death of our bodies, we have the confidence of an eternity both with God and those who have also chosen to follow Christ Jesus.  We will have eternity and all that God has planned in it to enjoy.

Regular Joe

Fanning the Flame

Good Friday Morning Joes and Janes;

Well it is almost the weekend; I trust you have some rest time and enjoyable things planned.  This morning I wanted to share a little out of 2 Timothy.  Investing, investments, planning and estates and inheritances; how are yours looking?  Theses day’s the financial world looks shaky at best.  People, myself included question what the future will bring and if they will have money to retire or not much less what they will leave to their children. Sound monetary policy is lacking in many families as well as the government.  In 2 Timothy, Paul writes to Timothy about another kind of investment.

2 Timothy 1:5-10

5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,

9 who 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,

10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

In verse 5 Paul talks about a ‘sincere faith’ that both Timothy’s mother and grandmother had.  Do you suppose that they shared that with him as he was growing up?  When we are with our kids and grandkids what do we share?  Are we just sharing surface news and feelings or do we talk about what really motivates us?  Sharing our spiritual thoughts and feelings, how we solve problems in our lives gives a living inheritance to them that cannot be taken away.  They can lose the roof over their heads, jobs, cars, even their lives; but following Christ and living a life based on God’s Word cannot be taken away.  It has eternal value beyond measure.

In verse 6 Paul encourages Timothy to ‘fan into flame’ the gift of God.  Have you ever started a fire from just a few embers?  Maybe a campfire from the night before that appeared like it was completely dead?  By finding just a few small embers and blowing on them until they begin to glow, you begin slowly adding a little dry moss, dry pine needles until you get a little flame.  Gently protecting the flame from harsh winds and rain you slowly add larger twigs, sticks and as the fire grows eventually larger limbs and even split logs if you have them.  Soon you have a roaring fire.  This fire will not be affected by wind and rain; in fact a wind blowing on this fire can make it burn hotter and spread.  This is the image that Paul wants us to capture in our minds as he talks about a growing spiritual life!

Moving to verse 7 as we mature in our walk with Christ we should become that burning fire, not a timid little flame that wind and rain can extinguish.  We should have a ‘spirit of power, love and self-discipline’.  In other words we should be a strong fire that burns brightly but in a controlled way.

We should not be ashamed of the Lord, but speak boldly to those around us.  We should not be ashamed of those who are in prison because of their testimony for the Lord but be willing to join with them, through God’s strength according to verse 8.

The thought finishes in verse 9 by saying it is God who calls us and saves us because it meets his purpose and grace.  Grace; a small 5 letter word that has such huge meaning and implications for our life!

Definition of GRACE From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary 

1

a: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

b: a virtue coming from God

c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace

We cannot do anything on our own to deserve this gift!  This gift was given to us through Christ Jesus; when he died on the cross?  No, before the world was created!  Before the beginning of the Old Testament; the people of the time before Christ coming to earth looked forward in faith to a time that he would come.

Verse 10 gives us great joy; in that we, starting with Paul’s generation, live with the revealed knowledge of the ‘promised one’, our Savior, Christ Jesus, coming to fulfill prophecy of the Old Testament and destroy death.  He has revealed life and immortality through the New Testament.  He has revealed his plans for the ‘Last Days’.  What are the ‘Last Days’?   In my next post I will delve into that subject, but I can tell you that we have the privilege of living in them now!

Become that burning fire, without timidity, that Christ Jesus would have you be today!

Regular Joe

Ouch! That Hurts!

Good Morning Joes and Janes: It’s Hump Day Again!

Do trees and shrubs feel pain when they are pruned?  Oh don’t worry, I haven’t gone “green” on you, it was just kind of a lead in question for today’s devotional.   I don’t believe plants “feel” pain or are even self-aware.  But I will tell you this; I feel pain when I am “getting pruned”!

I have a problem when I am growing plants from seed.   I have trouble pruning and nipping plants back when they are little.  All the plant experts tell you that it is necessary to prune or snip back young plants so that they put more food into growing strong roots and stems.  It is actually good for the plants in the long run; I can tell you from experience!  When I haven’t snipped them back they end up long and gangly, need stakes to help hold them upright and sometimes just wither away once they get planted outside in the bright sunshine, wind and rain.

Our lives are like this and in John 15 verses 1-8 Jesus talks about us as branches on a grape vine in the vineyard.

John 15:1-8

The Vine and the Branches

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

There are times that I am like that vine that is trying to bear fruit by itself.  I get busy and don’t make the time to stay in fellowship with the Lord.  All of a sudden it has been 3 or 4 days and I can’t figure out why things seem out of kilter.  Verse 5 is the answer to this, assuming you have a personal relationship with Christ Jesus as Savior.  Jesus says “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Read the rest of this entry

Slavery and God’s Grace

Good Morning Joes and Janes;

It is a partly cloudy with a chance of rain showers to bring the spring flowers.  The early morning temperatures hover around 32  degrees but it will warm into the 50s today.  Don’t forget to put your two cents into the poll on the right regarding 12/21/2012!  If you have voted check out how other readers are voting.  

If you recall yesterday we ended up in Romans 6:11-14 in our look at al a cart Christianity.  In verse 14 we were encouraged that we no longer needed to let sin be our master because we are no longer under the law but rather under grace.  What is grace really?  Today we are going to look at grace from God’s perspective.  The Merriam Webster Dictionary, in part, gives this definition of the word grace.

1grace

noun \ˈgrās\

Definition of GRACE

1

a: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification b: a virtue coming from God c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace.

So this grace thing sounds pretty good!  God has given us sanctification through Christ’s death on the cross.  He knew that we could not meet all of the requirements of the law.  We would always fall into sin.  Even though we don’t deserve it, (unmerited divine assistance), God provides it so that we can be regenerated or sanctified.  This means that because of this we can have a close relationship to our Heavenly Father.

Great! So I don’t have to worry about sinning anymore right?  I mean God knows I will sin and grace takes care of all sin right?  Well, that doesn’t work either and that is what Paul addresses in the following verses in Romans 6:15-23

Slaves to Righteousness

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.  19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!  22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So God wants us to be slaves!  Well, I am an American I won’t be a slave.  Slavery is bad, we all learned that in school right?  Why would we even think about being slaves to anyone?  I am an independent self-made man!

Well that is not really true.  Paul uses the example of slavery because it was very common in Biblical times.  Everyone understood what he was talking about.  Today we often associate slavery with racism, which was not the case back then.  Slavery is nowhere condemned in the Bible but there are is a lot said about the relationship between slave owners and slaves.   For the most part slavery was considerably different than it is portrayed in popular movies and other media today.

Slavery was often voluntary; in that a person chose to go into slavery for a period of time either to learn a trade or to pay off debts, or feed his family in hard times.  Exodus 21:2-6 talks of some of the regulations to which Hebrew slaves and slave owners were held

“When you buy a Hebrew slave, six years shall he serve; and in the seventh shall he go out free, for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and the children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the slave shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: then his master shall bring him unto God, and he shall bring him to the door or unto the door-post, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.”

In fact, thinking about it this could be one of the “al a carte issues” you have chosen to ignore in the past.  The Bible condones slavery!    But one way you might think about this kind of slavery is to think about your service in the military, assuming you served.  When you joined the service it was for a period of time, (i.e. 4 years) and while you were in you were greatly restricted in your freedoms.  They told you how to dress, what to do, what you couldn’t do or say.  You couldn’t say “I quit, I am out of here!”  You could not just go into town whenever you wanted, you had to get a pass.  This is similar to what most slavery of Paul’s day was.  Sure, there were exceptions and abuses and no life, free or slave was as easy or long as it is today in America.  Count your blessings.

What Paul is talking about in the verses above is that we are all slaves when talking about our spiritual lives.  We are either slaves to sin as natural man or we can accept Christ’s gift of salvation and become a slave to Jesus Christ.  If we have made the choice to accept salvation through Christ Jesus we then have received the gift of grace.  This allows us to fellowship with God although we are not perfect yet.  If we are going to live in sin then death is the just reward for our rebellion.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

God, because of his love for us and his grace to us has provided Jesus Christ as a substitute to die for our sins in our place.  Have you taken advantage of that in your life yet?  Who would you rather be a slave to?

Tomorrow we will look more at why we struggle so much with sin if we are saved.

Regular Joe

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