Christmas Joy Mondays Pt. 2

How have you seen God this Christmas?

Have you seen Him in the hustle and bustle of the city streets? He is there finding room in a world that declares “No room in the inn!”

Have you seen him in the quiet of the new fallen snow?

He is the God who calms the storm and brings the world to a hush with glory from His storehouses!

 

 

I have seen Him in the warmth of a Christmas hearth. He reminds me that He is the light of the world come to lighten my darkness. He fills my heart with joy at every turn!

Where have you seen God this Christmas season?

Christmas Joy Mondays

Now that Thanksgiving and Black Friday are past, the time has come to enjoy the season of Christmas! For the next Four Mondays I will post some Christmas cheer for all of you to ruminate upon! Enjoy!

God’s gifts
put man’s best dreams
to shame.

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Blessed is
The season which
Engages the whole
World in a
Conspiracy of love.

-Hamilton Wright Mabie

How many observe
Christ’s birthday!
How few, his precepts!
O!  ’tis easier to keep
Holidays than
Commandments.

-Benjamin Franklin

What is your favorite Christmas quote?

 

Gotta Stand Pt. 7

     “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church…. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean…. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself….  So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord,  for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.  Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites. A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  “ Ephesians 5:21-6:10 NLT

     I suppose I hardly qualify as a relationship expert here. I’m divorced. I have one adopted son who doesn’t even speak to me. If you asked me where I went wrong I’m not even sure where I’d begin. My faults are many. That’s just being honest.

     What I do know, though, is that Christians are supposed to relate differently than non-Christians. Our motto in every relationship is supposed to be love and submission, grace and sacrifice. Those concepts aren’t just fluffy theology; They are hard-nosed, practical applications. A lot of everyday life is stuffed into the middle of Eph.5:21 and Ephesians 6:10: dishes, carpools, date nights and daily devotionals, dead-lines, chore charts, discipline and double shifts. In all these relationship driven items we are called to act out of love and submission, grace and sacrifice.

     If we are going to stand in the now we need to begin to live Christian in our relationships now. Our past can not be allowed to dictate how we relate in the present. Also, love and submission, grace and sacrifice have nothing to do with changing our relationships. Relating right is not about winning other people over; It’s about reverencing Christ. We don’t change our behavior to fix our lives. We change our behavior to please God. Then God fixes our lives to whatever degree He feels necessary.

We’ve gotta stand! What do you think is the greatest hindrance to Christian relationship?

Gotta Stand Pt. 6

      Lights in the darkness! That’s what we are called to be!

     “  Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us  and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God….  once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! … Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Eph. 5:1-20 NLT

      Paul admonishes us that the time has come for the church to step up its atmosphere of sexual purity.  If we want to stand through the storms of life God insists we be sexually pure.

     We live in an oversexed culture and God calls us to come away from it. It’s time to shut off the bedroom scenes on the television, it’s time to stop listening to and telling off-color jokes. It’s time to shut down the internet porn. It’s time to make a covenant with our eyes that we will stop looking with lust at other people. It’s time to leave off sex outside of marriage.

        Paul wrote to the Corinthians “every other sin a man sins is done outside himself but he who sins sexually sins against his own body” I Cor. Chapter 6.

     When we sin sexually we weaken ourselves and our ability to stand through the storms.

      I will tell you, victory is not going to be had in resisting temptation; Victory will only come when we learn to flee it! Too many of us end up trapped by sin because we try to resist sinful urges. The Bible tells us the key to overcoming sexual temptation is not fight but flight into the arms of Jesus; So when tempted don’t resist Praise!

      “Sing songs hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves and make music in your heart to the Lord and give thanks for everything to God.” Eph.5:20 

Praise is powerful! We’ve Gotta stand!

Gotta Stand Pt. 5

…” If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.”  Eph. 4:28 NLT

      I just looked at America’s national debt clock. We are currently $14,272.208,…,… in debt. We are spending  about $1,301,087,950,… more a year than we take in. The dots stand for numbers changing too quickly to write down.

      If we are going to stand through the storms coming on the world, we are going to have to change some things individually. If we want our country to stand through those same storms, we are going to have to change some things culturally.

     Paul says “stop stealing!”

      Right up front that means, “If you’re breaking and entering CUT IT OUT!” 

     I do trust, however, that most of my readers are not moon-lighting as cat burglars. That doesn’t mean this verse has nothing to say to us. Culturally we have issues with wanting things that don’t belong to us… that is things God never intended for us to have. We spend more than we earn and think this is somehow O.K. with the Lord. A mindset exists which says  “surely God would not deny me anything I want.”

      I challenge you to find that in the Bible. What you will find is this : “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” Psalm 23:1 NIV

       David puts the onus on us. God shepherds. God provides. Therefore we will not allow ourselves to be wanting what He hasn’t provided. Wanting to acquire things outside of God’s provision is coveting. Taking things that God has not provided so easily turns into stealing.

     I know what I’m talking about here, because I’ve lived beyond my means to the brink of financial ruin. I nearly took my whole family down with me. The recovery process has been slow and painful but necessary, if I am to stand through what lies ahead.

      Tolstoy said “Wealth is knowing what you can live without.” 

      I am in the process of learning just that. Like so many of my fellow Americans I have a problem with self-control; Self-control, is a fruit of the Spirit according to Galatians 5:22. It’s not something I can produce in great quantities naturally. However God can!

     In the verse above, Paul is very clear about what we must do in order to stop a stealing spirit from inhabiting our hearts. When we work hard at honest labor and when we give generously to others, the Holy Spirit is given a door way into our lives which allows Him to come in and create self-control.

     In the hour it has taken me to type this blog our national debt has increased to $14,727,327,…,…! It’s up to us to change. No one else can do it for us.

We’ve gotta stand!

Gotta Stand Pt. 1

      As the Earth trembles, as the heavens convulse, as nations shudder the kingdom of God stands firm. God has given His people a method for standing when all around is falling apart. I would like to take a little bit of time this week to talk about how we as Christians can practically keep standing through the storms of life. We are going to be dealing with a passage from the Word of God starting in  Ephesians chapter 4:17 and going on until we reach  chapter 6:18. Along the way as we read I am going to stop and make some comments as we let the Scripture just speak to us. Let’s begin:

“With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.” Ephesians 4:17-19 NLT

    Here Paul begins by saying that when we become  Christian there has to be a change in the way we live. If we have given our lives to Jesus there should be a change in our behavior. As  Christians if we want to stand through life’s storms we have to begin to live for God and stop living for lustful pleasure and impurity. In a culture that highly values the pleasing of self, this idea of walking away from the things we desire becomes problematic for all of us; But as the Earth groans louder and louder the need for us to change in order to stand is going to become increasingly important. Let’s get a little more specific with this….

Check in on Friday for the sequel

Tomorrow is Pastor Wrinkles! 🙂

 

The C.C.A.C. Vision (There’s a Hurricane A’Comin!)

     

       Last Saturday we held our second monthly gathering of the Cornerstone Christian Artist’s Community. We had twenty artists in attendance throughout the day. As we awaited the arrival of Hurricane Irene, I had an opportunity to sow out the community vision.

     There is a hurricane coming on our nation. It’s a force that is going to reshape our culture: physically, emotionally, socially, and economically. In its wake Christians are called to respond in three steps: We are called to Pray; We are called to Plan; We are called to Perform.

Pray:

          In this cultural hurricane we must come to understand we cannot save the whole world. That is a task beyond us. Praying things like: “God don’t let anything bad happen to anyone anywhere.” Or “Dear Jesus save the whole world.”, while noble are a waste of breath. Our prayers must be “eyes wide open and heart exposed” so to speak. We have to come to it that we are in the end times. Things will be difficult. Bad things will happen. People will be lost. That doesn’t leave us hopeless though. It leaves us with the need to be specific. We aren’t called to save the world. We are called to defend our part of it. So let us pray specifically: “God save my son.”; “God show me how to fund this art project or that music project.”; “God show us how to raise our church missionary budget.”; “God strengthen my pastor and the pastor’s of my town.”; “God show us how to minister effectively so souls will get saved.” In prayer we have to stop losing the trees because of the forest.

Plan:

     As we begin to pray specifically God will give us His plans for the things we pray about. Inklings will begin to enter our minds…ideas of what we could do and how. We need to write down these God-given goals and plan how we intend to reach them step by step.

Perform:

     Finally we have to do our part. When once God has given us the vision, we have to begin to carry it out trusting that God will meet us each step of the way.

Cornerstone Christian Artist’s Community,  is a vision born out of specific prayer. It has been seen that the hurricane will affect the arts in two ways: As the economy dries up so will public funding of the arts. As the spirit of Antichrist rises the tide of wickedness in the arts will rise with him.

    The church has the answer to these issues. C.C.A.C. is that answer:

1.Our goal will be to influence the arts in our region for Christ, through our artist’s days apart, by providing a place where artists can come and practice their disciplines in a healthy, peaceful environment based in a Kingdom culture.

2. Our goal will be to provide training, through our artist’s days apart, so that artists may grow and excel in their craft.

3. Our goal will be to provide an opportunity for artists to display their gifts in two yearly art shows and in church settings where appropriate.

4. Our goal will be to bring the artists to the attention of church ministries in order to raise up the next generation of church artists should Jesus tarry.

     Perhaps we cannot fix everything in the world but with God’s help we can rebuild our corner of it!

What has God told you to do in your corner of the world?

Irene and the Seven-Fold Hedge

     Let me start by thanking all of you who prayed: for me, my family, and the church here in New England through Hurricane Irene. God was merciful to us! 

    Y’know, I believe that when we pray, our starting place is not requesting but abiding. For Jesus said,  “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.John 15:7

    For this reason I seldom ask God for something, until I have what I sense is His mind on the situation. I must first spend time in His presence and get His command for the particular situation that concerns me. Then and only then can I pray in faith believing.

    When I knew Irene was coming up the East Coast I was mindful of the fact that perhaps our turn had come to experience the wrath of God. I don’t mean to sound bleak but I do believe our nation, as disobedient as it has been, is beginning to experience God’s judgment.  Massachusetts certainly has no ground to stand on to say we should be exempt from what the rest of the country is experiencing. So as the storm approached I knew we could really be in for it.

     I began by asking God what He wanted for me out of this situation. Was He saying this was it? Was He saying to me “Head for the hills?”

     I didn’t get the sense that this was going to bring about destruction for me or my household. I felt the Spirit telling me to pray around the borders of my house seven times in the Spirit, a seven-fold hedge. On Friday I did just that. I started by the blackberry hedge and began to sing around my mother’s property in tongues. The first time around I sensed I was praying for the trees to stand. The second, I was praying for the ground to drink deeply of the rising waters. I prayed over a dead tree that if it fell it would fall straight down and not come near the house. I prayed that no flood would come to destroy. I asked that the gardens would be spared. I prayed over the transformer at the corner of our property. I prayed a shield of Holy Ghost protection over the walls of the house and the vehicles. I asked God to use the storm to cleanse the land of pestilence. I asked God to prosper us. On Saturday a group of us prayed over the church.

      Early Sunday morning the storm arrived. The rains fell thick and heavy as I walked the dogs at 6 A.M.. We were soaked to the skin in under a minute. The vernal brook that wraps around our house quickly swelled . Debris washed down from the upper pond. By 7 A.M. the brook had swollen to the top of its banks.  By 8 it had risen out of its borders and had taken command of the woods and back yard. It poured over the culvert below our house and into the street flooding our basement and those of our neighbors around the corner. By 9 we had eight inches of water in our cellar and could swim in our backyard. My mother, my sister and I headed to the cellar and began to bail in order to keep the furnace from being submerged. We bailed for a while and then called the town barn to ask them to come clean the culvert.

       A  beech tree loosened by the swelling waters fell over directly between the apple and plum-tree and didn’t break either! 

    The storm winds blew through the night and knocked over one more tree by the brook. The waters receded quickly once the town came and cleared the debris out of the culvert.

    As I watched the news this morning, I realized how blessed we truly were here in Winchendon. God chose to spare us and answer our prayers. Not one of our fruit trees was damaged. The waters are gone and left no sign of the flood.  We now have wood down for next winter and all we have to do is cut it up! And my mother has decided after a decade of haggling with her it is time to get a sump pump! As I see the footage of New York, New Jersey, and Carolina I realize His answer to me when I sought Him could have been far different. The pathway of protection was mine to walk in this instance. For that I am grateful. But I am also mindful that should my pathway have been different God would still have been with me and He would still have provided even if it had been through loss.

Look Up!

“Teacher,” they asked, “when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to take place?”

He replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’  and saying, ‘The time has come!’ But don’t believe them. And when you hear of wars and insurrections, don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place first, but the end won’t follow immediately.”

Then he added, “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

There will be great earthquakes, and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things and great miraculous signs from heaven.

“But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followersBut this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.  So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!

Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you. And everyone will hate you because you are my followers.  But not a hair of your head will perish! By standing firm, you will win your souls. And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived.

Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. Those in Jerusalem must get out, and those out in the country should not return to the city. For those will be days of God’s vengeance, and the prophetic words of the Scriptures will be fulfilled.

How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. For there will be disaster in the land and great anger against this people. They will be killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations of the world. And Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end.

“And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory.  So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”  Luke 21:7-28 NLT

 Lately I have been looking up! What have you been looking at?

Retirement…Vacation…Sabbath!

     Yesterday I wrote, “celebration is a necessity not an option.”  That may not seem like much of a lesson to you. But I grew up in a family where the protestant work ethic was king and most celebration was considered frivolous. I highly doubt we would have attended “moxie day”.

     If the truth is told, we probably would have worked “moxie day”. Dad would have cooked for the crowds; Mom would have driven the moxiemobile; My sister and I would have been dressed up in costumes throwing cans of moxie at the cheering crowds.

     I guess there is nothing wrong with that. I love to work and to serve. In fact, growing up as I did I learned that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.  The satisfaction from a job well done has proven to be one of life’s greatest joys. But admittedly it has made me a little unbalanced when it comes to life and work.

    So last weekend I learned that celebration is not an option for me it is a necessity. But I learned something beyond that. I was reminded that not only is celebration necessary, so is rest. 

     Here in the nation of 24/7 we generally make light of rest. We say things like: “No rest for the weary!”; “I’ll rest when I’m dead!”; or one of my personal favorites “Time to coffee up and get back to it!”

     Yet for a culture that really doesn’t value rest we certainly have a lot terms for it: chilling out, kicking back, retirement, vacation, holiday, respite, nap-snacking, long-weekending, beaching it, hittin’ the hay, taking a break, taking a breather, pacing ourselves,mental health day, sick day… sabbath…. Oh wait! that’s right we don’t actually use the word sabbath in our country anymore do we? Do you find it odd that the biblical word for rest is the only word we don’t use for taking a break?

      Now don’t get me wrong, I like the concept of retirement…and I really like the concept of vacation. Should the church suddenly decide to take away my 28 days I would be really….really….REALLY sad. 😥 Still I have to admit, I really don’t see “vacation” in the Bible. I like it. I just don’t see it.

       I do see sabbath as a concept everywhere in the Bible. I don’t see it in our culture. I like vacation. I like retirement. But they cannot replace sabbath.

I was reminded of this truth as I rested along the rocky coastline of Maine last weekend. God showed me I was there to rest, not to do, to listen not to speak.

     My brother-in-law spoke to his pastor about me before I went. Cliff told him who I was but also told him I was there to rest not to minister. I really appreciated that.

     We were built to work…just not all the time. Our lives require rhythm. We were meant to live according to a theme:  work… then rest…work…then rest. Six…then one…six… then one.

     I’m not religious about sabbath but I am beginning to realize that the pattern cannot be done away with without consequences. The sabbath routine might stand up to some stretching, but only so far before our lives begin to short-circuit. We cannot go 351 days of work then 14 days off and hope to remain healthy.

     We also cannot replace rest with celebration. I discovered as I lounged at Cliff and Andrea’s that I needed to recuperate far more than I needed to celebrate. I needed sabbath more than I needed “Moxie Day”.

    I came away from the weekend feeling I was going to change some of my vacationing routines.

    I am going to break my vacation up into sabbaths for rest. I think I am going to take a few days more frequently rather than a lot of days all at once.

Tell me how do you view sabbath?