My Christmas Prayer

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Father, what I am going to say is what is on my heart; I know You know all this already but please listen and let me share it with you in my way.  I also know You hear me every time I speak with You but today I am speaking as if I am talking to a friend here on earth,  Father, You are not only God but you are my friend and so much more.  I want to thank you from the depths of my heart for all You do for me; for Your love, Your guidance, Your provision, but most of all I want to thank you for sending Your Son Jesus to die in my place; to die as payment for my sins, not any He did.

Lord, we are again in what we here on earth call the Christmas season; that time man has set aside to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus when He came here to earth, taking on the trappings of mankind so He could be our kinsman redeemer.  If You will bear with me I would love to share with you many of the memories I have gathered over these years of Christmas.

I am not trying to present these memories in any order but write them to the best of my ability as they come to mind.  I guess the first thing I remember about Christmas was that it was a family time.  No, we weren’t the riches family around except we had loads of love for each other.  We had a real tree that was cut from a fence row here on the farm and decorated with simple decorations.  I remember chains made of rings of bright paper, we even used stringed popcorn a few time.  My uncle, and cousins came to our house to share the Christmas meal and after then we exchanged presents.  I remember my Dad and uncle always received a shirt and tie from my grandmother.

In school we celebrated Christmas much as we did at home, with a tree decorations and some of the parents usually brought cookies and things for our party.  In school we drew names and got the person a small gift whose name we had drawn.  I remember that even then I realized that some kids didn’t have the money to get a gift or not a very good gift.  I felt sorry for those kids.

I forgot to mention Lord that my family always hung stocking on the mantel by the fireplace, yes we had a fireplace which was used for heating the hose.  The stockings were an interesting mixture; you had the socks of me, my brother, and my dad.  Mother usually borrowed one of Dad’s socks and so did my Aunt.  My Grandmother worn long cotton stocking so that is what she hung; my sister when she got that old hung pantyhose.  It was funny to see oranges roll out the leg of those hose and stretch them across the floor.

Father, thanks for giving me all these experiences as I grew up and the memories I have stored away to look through from time to time.  God, you know all these experiences helped to form me into the person I have become.  I learned the importance of love, family, giving, and always remembering why we had this holiday.  I remember that many Christmases we listen to a record call “For Whom the Chimes Rang”, I think that was the name.  It was the story of a little boy that gave up going to the church to present his gift with hopes of making the chimes ring to help a poor old lady stranded in the snow.  His sacrifice for the old woman was the cause of the bells ringing.  I even today think of that and remember the importance of helping those in need.  Jesus you did the same for all of us when you decided to leave heaven and come here to be the sacrifice for our sin.  I can’t imagine what You gave up for us but I am so thankful you did.  If the little boy hadn’t help the old woman in the snow, she would have died just as we would have eternally died if you hadn’t cared enough to help us.

After my first son was born and my first wife and I split ways I developed the habit for a number of years of reading the Christmas story form the Bible to him each Christmas season.  I wanted him to grow up knowing the real reason for the holiday.  I want him to know it was about gifts, big meals and church programs.  It was and is about you birth Lord Jesus.

I met my second wife and I thank her for getting me back into church.  I had turned my back on going to church for a number of years but she got me back involved.  We got deeply involved particularly with the youth and I got into putting out a newspaper for Mountain View Baptist Camp.  Being involved in the newspaper got me to writing.  Once I wrote the Christmas play our church presented.  It was the story of the birth of Christ as told by one shepherd to another while others acted out the scenes being talked about.

For a few years You Lord led me into being the pastor of a small church and I remember Christmas there.  Since this is the celebration of your birthday Jesus we had a cake and sang “Happy Birthday”.  Yes we did many of the traditional things of Christmas but I thought we should remember why we have the holiday.  Jesus it is about your birth and the time man has set aside to remember that birth.

Sometime my after my experience as a pastor I was asked to speak at the church I attend at that year’s candlelight service.  The subject of my talk was “What Christmas Means to Me”.  I don’t remember all was said but I do remember that I said Christmas is about family and said that each of us who are children of God should approach you, crawl up on your lap and say “I love you Daddy”.  According to your Word, You are our Father and as your children we should come to you as early children come to their earthy fathers.  I know some kids in this world have no father and at least none available to them but we as your children always have you with us.  Thank you for that love and that relationship.  As you know when we talk I often speak with you as I would my earthly father because I see You as my eternal Father that I can speak with at any time on any subject.  I could do that with my earthly father, I felt I had to keep some things secret.

Father, throughout my life I have many memories of helping those in need; it might not have been around Christmas but my memories of Christmas have led me to be more giving and helping to those I feel I should help.  I see that the experiences you allowed me to have throughout these seventy plus years have created in me the willingness to give, love and share with those I come in contact with particularly those that are in need.  Father you guide me often to these people and even at times bring them to me.  Yes, I probably have been taken advantage of by those that weren’t so needy but for the most part my motives have been to do your will and to love my neighbor as myself.  Thankfully You are the judge and yes someday I have to answer to You for all I have done.  I didn’t do any of it with the idea I was earning a bigger portion of Your love but simply because You had taught me to love and to help others.

I look at my time with EMS and what was that but serving and helping those in need.  Father, I am not bragging about any of this; I am just trying to thank you for forming me into the person I am.  I see myself as being weird and different from many but if I am as You desired I am content.  Lord, please this Christmas give me more experiences that will created warm lasting memories and allow me to love and aid someone in need.

Father, thank you for listening to me, for loving me, for making me into who I am; may I be the person You desire me to be and to fulfill Your purpose for my life.  In Jesus name I pray Amen.

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Overcast Skies

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I am one of maybe many that strongly dislikes when we have an overcast day.  Yes, I like in Kentucky and it seems we have more than our fair share of these days during the winter.  The cold isn’t too bad unless it is accompanied by one of these overcast sun hidden days.  I am definitely a light person; I will drift into depression and a bad mood if my vision of the light is blocked.

Today I was on the tractor going to put hay out to the cows when the overcast skies said something different to me.  I usually just mutter something like “I hate these old overcast days”; today what flooded my thoughts were a comparison.

Years ago I was flying from Asheville NC to London KY and my way home from college; sure enough North Carolina had an overcast day, no sun on the sky; dark and dreary.  Well, off we go on the trip to London and up we went through all those clouds.  I was shocked soon by the brightness above those clouds that had any rays from reaching the ground.  Above those clouds is was as bright and shiny as any day you have ever seen.  Sure enough as we neared the London airport we had to travel back through clouds and again dark and dreary.  On exiting the plane I looked up and saw the same overcast conditions I had seen in North Carolina.

Today what, for the first time, entered my mind was yeah I remember the sun is shining brightly just above the clouds and even some of it light and warmth is sneaking through the clouds.  I remember the woman who loved me and I ruined that.   Then I compared what I was seeing to a spiritual subject.  Jesus said He is the Light of the world and He is always shining around us, always visible to us.  Well that last statement is not 100% true; sometimes there is a block between us and Jesus and His light doesn’t shine brightly on us; yes there is some light so we can still find our way but just not the brightness we are accustom to when nothing is between us and the Lord.

We all know what hinders the rays of sunlight from reaching us on the overcast days I have spoken of but what is the reason for the light of Jesus not shining brightly on us.  I Matthew Jesus said He would be with us even to the end of the age and once said it is settled.  Once we are His and have accepted Him as Lord and Savior, He is always with us.

Now here comes the but, when we are involved in sin and we have failed to confess that sin and repent of that sin; the sin creates a buffer between Jesus and us.  Our fellowship with Jesus has been weakened and when we look up to see the Son, Jesus Christ, we sometimes have trouble seeing through that sin buffer.  Just like in my plane experience, when we got through the clouds the sun was shining brightly; same is true when we get through our sin problem the Son is shining brightly.

The Bible says that if we will confess our sins that He is faithful to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we want the buffer removed between us and the Lord it is up to us to do something about it.  You must first acknowledge the sin separating you from Jesus, confess that sin to the Lord, and repent or turn away from that sin.  He says He will forgive our confessed sin and clean us up or remove the buffer between us and the Lord.

Just like on my flight it was bright above the overcast so your life can be flooded with the brightness of Jesus if you make the effort to remove the overcast block.

The next time you are outside and see an overcast sky remember the sun is shining brightly just a few feet above you head but mainly think that Jesus is very near and if you are having difficulties in reaching Him there may be a problem of unconfessed sin in your life.  It doesn’t take long to breath a pray of confession and a request for forgiveness and once done the overcast sky of your spiritual life will be gone.  God is faithful to forgive us anytime we will humble ourselves in confession and repentance.

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My Favorite Bible Verse

 

maxresdefault            My problem is that what I consider my favorite verse isn’t a verse but just four words from a verse but these four words speak volumes to me and to me, are the most important four words in the Bible.  Everything centers on these four words and are the reason for everything.  Enough of my being illusive and slow to divulge my favorite verse or four short words from a verse.  I usually respond to with saying my favorite verse is Genesis 1:1 but quickly will add that really it is only the first four words; ‘In the beginning God”.

As I said those four words speak volumes to me and sum up the whole Bible.  Allow me a moment to broaden this thought and try to explain what these words mean to me.  Repeat them over and over to yourself and meditate on them for a few minutes; allow them to expand and grow clear in your heart and mind.

Now that you have consumed these words and allowed them to begin to digest into your system I will continue by giving you a few of my thoughts and reasons.  The first verses to explain this to me are in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord (trust God) with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding (self- confidence or self-sufficiency) in all your ways (everything you do) acknowledge Him (God) and He (God) shall direct your paths (guide your every action).

We as often self-sufficient humans will sit and pondered and fret over the things we face and never even think of taking them to God.  My point with ‘in the beginning God’; are first step is to take everything to God and lay it at his feet.  We like to run around saying God loves and cares for us but then we limit God’s ability to do anything for us.  How would you feel if a person you love deeply and desire to help never came to you with their needs and problems?  God not only loves us and wants deeply to be close to us and a part of our lives but God is the source of all love.  That love you have for others is the product of God.

The minute your eyes open and you face a new day your first thought should be of God; I do occasionally but I should every time.  My life and your life would be much better if are first action on waking was to go to God for our first instructions.  I ask people what they will be doing an hour later and some will respond with I plan to do so and so but I again ask what will you be doing.  They think and then say I am not sure but God is sure of each step we take throughout the day; He sees it in detail and wants to guide us as we venture down that path.

The next verse is Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (rightness), and all these things shall be added to you.”  We are told again to look to God first and to seek His righteousness or rightness; we are to strive to make His rightness are way of living.  This verse ends by saying all the things will be given to us.  In the previous verses it tells us what things we can expect if we allow God to be first and we seek Him.  Simple things but the necessities of life: food, drink, clothing, and rood over our head.  No, He isn’t going to open our mouths and pour food down our throat, we have to work to obtain it just like a bird has to fly to the ground an peck up the seeds that God has provided for it or the cows has to walk around a field and bite off the grass to receive nourishment.  The Bible also says if you don’t work you don’t eat but our culture has changed that, too many think they are entitled to the necessities of life and even nature shows us otherwise.

I have to pat myself on the back and say I do what I am saying occasionally but need a kick in the hind end since I don’t do this every time.  There is not a decision or move I make during the day I should not first take it to God for guidance.  We make decisions on what we know about the circumstances but our knowledge is very limited; God knows everything.

Are you beginning to understand why I chose those four words or that verse as my favorite?  I know I am saying things that I need to listen to as much as a lot of other people.  We all have room to improve and with God as our guide and as our Lord we can make maybe just baby steps closer to the person we should be.  God knows we are perfect but does want us to strive for perfection.  Don’t beat yourself up because you haven’t attain it, neither did the heroes of the Bible; this is a process.  You and I are a work in progress and the finished product is to be in the likeness and image of Jesus Christ.

All of this is just so many words and probably meaningless if you have never trusted in the Son of God who He sent to the world so we could regain the fellowship we once had as mankind with Him.  You may have heard the story how man originally disobeyed God and that was sin; the product of that sin was death.  God didn’t want this death sentence to be the finality of man so He instituted a plan for man to return to the love and fellowship that was there from the beginning.

The sentence was mandatory so death was required and God determined that this death sentence cold be satisfied by His Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus was sent to this world for the purpose of dying as a payment for man’s sin and thereby taking on Himself what we each should have suffered.  To obtain this substitution for our sentence we have to believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that His death paid for my sins, we must also believe that Jesus rose from the dead as is now seated on the right side of God the Father in Heaven.  Once you have made this all important step then the idea of in the beginning God becomes more important.  At the moment you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior or substitute then you begin on the process of being made into the likeness of the one that sacrificed Himself for you and the words ‘in the beginning God’ will start making sense to you.

I hope someday as you traveled the path God has set before you that you can respond when asked for your favorite verse with Genesis 1:1 and then explain it is really just the first four words, ‘In the beginning God”.

 

 

 

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The Truth

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Sometime back I was reading the fourth chapter of Galatians.  It deals with the Galatians attempt to add the keeping of the Jewish law into God’s plan of Salvation.  The part that stuck out in my mind or shall I say the part that God amplified to me was the last part of the chapter dealing with the birth of Abraham’s two son and what each represents.

The first son was Ishmael the son of Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian maid and also a slave.  Sarah didn’t believe God when He had told her she would have a son so Sarah did exactly the same as many of us do; she handled the situation herself and found an answer for the birth of the promised child.  Sarah was much too old to be having children according to the way she thought and I am sure according to medical standards of the time and even today.  If we can’t see the answer then we look harder until we find an answer.  This is man’s way but not faith’s way.

Abraham and Sarah may have thought God had no idea what He was talking about but sure enough He did and Sarah gave birth to Isaac.  Isaac was the freeborn son of Abraham and Sarah; Ishmael was the slave born son of Hagar and Abraham.  From this point on the world has never been the same.

As I see it, Ishmael represents natural man and a slave to sin.  When we were born of our parents we were also slaves; slaves to sin.  If you have ever watch young children play, it doesn’t take long to see selfishness, stubbornness, and other negative characteristics surface.  I know it is terrible to speak of a small child as a sinner but they have that DNA passed down from the forefather Adam.

Sarah and Abraham sinned in what they did to produce Ishmael.  They realized later their sin and asked forgiveness and received it from God.  Ishmael was the slave son Isaac was the free son.  When we are born into this world we enter as slaves.  We have the genetic makeup of the Adam who ushered sin into the world through his disobedience of God; he was accompanied in this disobedience by Eve, Adam’s God given wife.  Once these two had disobeyed and sinned, that was passed down to every generation following.

What I gleaned from all of this every one of us are slaves unless we have been granted freedom.  The only one capable of granting freedom is God since He is the one that established the penalty for sin.  Since we are enslaved and hopefully seeking freedom, I have found that since God is the only one capable of giving me freedom then just maybe He has given me directions to that freedom in the Bible.

Sure enough, in the last part of John 8:32 God’s Son Jesus said these words, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  Something as simple as truth is the key to mine and your freedom.  Hey, I don’t have to pay a bunch of money or even do a lot of hard work to prove I am worthy to be freed.  I simply have to seek the truth and find this truth spoken of by Jesus.

Now what do I do, I know I am a slave and need and want to be freed.  I can’t blame father Adam completely for my slavery because I followed in his footsteps and too was disobedient to God.  According to the Bible that makes me a sinner and enslaved in the shackles of my own choices to do it my way.  I know you would hate to admit you have done this but we are all guilty; we are faced with a decision and often our response is to say, “Butt, out God, I will take care of this myself.”  I know I have done this too many times.

Now back to my search for truth, where oh where will I find truth in this world?  I can find truth in the same way I found what could set me free; I will look into God’s Word, I am sure He included a map to lead us to Truth.  Diligent reading and studying and with God’s guidance I will find the answer.  I never thought I had much faith but I must have more than I thought; I found Truth.  Look in John 14:6 and you too will find truth; this verse says “Jesus told him (Thomas), I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one can get to the Father except by Me.”

Hey I have found my key to freedom; I first found that Truth would make me free and then I had to find Truth.  Only one thing lacking what do I have to do with this Jesu who says He is Truth.  Maybe I can sweet talk Him, maybe I can wash His car or rake His leaves, maybe I can slip Him a bribe, and I have been told everything has a price.

The book that tells me about this Jesus and my way to freedom was written many years ago.  None of those people are around and since I am sure they all have died that means Jesus died too.  Since I have had great luck in the Bible, back to burning the midnight oil and reading and seeking this Jesus.

The two answers I found were in the book of John so I will search there first.  Just maybe God made a backup plan since all those have died that are mentioned in the Bible including this one that says He is the Truth.  I did get a clue from the answer as to who or what the Truth is; Jesus said He is the Truth and no one can get to the Father.  Hold on a minute!  Is Jesus saying He is the son of God?  Wow!  Now I can look for not only Jesus by name but references to God’s Son.

Bad news, according to the latter part of John in chapter Jesus was crucified whatever that is?  I looked it up and says they executed criminals at that time in history by nailing them to a cross and allowing them to die slowly.  That is terrible.  All is not lost, I kept reading and in chapter 20 of John is the account of this same Jesus rising from His grave.  He was seen by many people after He arose and walked and talked with them.  I just read about a miracle, the Truth is not dead and since the truth is alive maybe there is some way He can set me free.

Sticking with John, I found this verse.  John 5:24 says “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My words and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

Hallelujah, I am free!  Jesus you had better believe I believe in Your Father and also in You.  I am in awe how you set up this plan so I can find freedom and don’t have to spend this life enslaved to sin and then to have everlasting life with you and all the other folk that found the Truth.

Jesus it is kinda weird how you covered it all.  Once it became necessary to have a plan for freedom you set it in place.  Jesus I don’t know much about you and even all you have done but to make a way for me and all the others to escape slavery is just awesome.  I want to thank you with every fiber of my being and with your help and what little I know I will strive to point other slave seeking freedom to You who are the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Thank you, thank you Thank you Jesus!

 

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The Tattered Old Man

674c33ec0e2aa293df6731b103e689fa   When they called the guest preacher to the stage to deliver his sermon of the day; up walked and older white-haired man with a white goatee.  He was dressed in patched bib-overalls, a tattered tee shirt and scuffed work shoes.

Whoa! Where did they dig up such a person to speak to this church; I
didn’t know we had anyone like he appeared in this community. He looks like he just came walking from the field or barn.  Didn’t anyone explain to him that we don’t dress like that at this church?  We dress up here to show honor and reverence to God.  He is dressed showing an uncaring attitude to God, almost showing contempt.

After the old man spoke a few words to introduce himself; he begins by opening his old tattered paperback Bible or was it one of those that is just the New Testament; he asked that everyone turn to James 2:1-8.  He continued to read it aloud.

“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.  For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?  But you have dishonored the poor man.  Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?  Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.”

As he concluded, he closed his ragged Bible and begin to speak.  The first words from his mouth were, “I know some of you may be offended by my dress but I chose this today to help make a point.”  He continues, “If you listened or followed along as I read those verses from God’s Word, you noticed it was about outward appearance.”

The old man began to walk around stroking his goatee as if he were in deep thought.  Then out of his mouth came this question; “In complete honesty, what did you think of me as your speaker of the day with such an appearance?  I did the best I could to hide behind the person sitting in front of me as I had to admit to myself somewhat unwillingly that I had had negative thoughts and had questioned those that selected this ‘bum’ to speak in my church.  To be honest he looked very much like a bum or maybe even one of the homeless that live on the other side of our town.

The old man said, “I have a feeling that most of you didn’t consider me as the one that came in in fine clothes with a gold ring on my finger; you put me with those you consider poor.  The poor that I am afraid many of you wouldn’t want seated by today.”

He continues by having us to get our Bibles out again as he said, “Acts 10
-34 says, ‘Then Peter opened his mouth and said of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.”  The white haired speaker stopped his pacing and slowly gazed over all of us present; I again made sure I was behind the person in front of me.  Back and forth he surveyed the crowd and then very softly began to speak, “I am sure I have upset some of you today with how I look and how I am dressed so I might as well complete that and upset all of you.”  “If it were possible and I could strip away the blood of Christ from those of you who have been washed in His blood; then as I would gaze on you again, I would see you as your once were and some of you as you are today.”

Where is this old man going with this as I make sure not to make eye contact with him.  He continues with his thought by saying, “I look out over this well dressed crowd and see a room full of filthy, hell deserving sinners.  I would see the same of myself if I had a mirror to see my own reflection stripped of the precious blood of Christ.” “What I see are those that fit with the worst sinners of this community and even this world.”

“Yes, y
ou all clean up pretty good but that is on the outside; Jesus had to do an amazing work on our inside to make us acceptable to the Father.  Jesus didn’t even consider what our outside was like, I doubt He even looked at it.” “Folks, don’t ever forget from whence you came, if it were up to your abilities you would still be hell bound.”

“Think for a minute on the last verse I read; part of that last verse says, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.”  “Hey, those drug pusher and users, that live on the other side of town; that adulterer that may be your next door neighbor; that liar that you work with daily; all those are in need of that cleansing that only Jesus can provide and they are all your and my neighbors” We are to love them, not what they may do but them.  “Jesus loved them enough to suffer and die for them, surely we can love them enough to get to know them and seek an opportunity to share the gospel with them.”

“Jesus has gone back to heaven and is seated on the Father’s right side; we are here to complete the work He started with the guidance and assistance of the Holy Spirit.”  “Yes, if you befriend some of the people I have mentioned and seek ways to share with them the saving grace of Jesus you will probably be condemned by some of the people around you; maybe even by some of the people sitting around you today.  If you are condemned you are in good company, Jesus was talked about for visiting and eating with sinners: should we do less?”

“All we need to do is to sincerely pray, asking the Holy Spirit to lead us to and then open the doors to that person we are assigned to share the gospel with.”  It will definitely help if your first prayer is to asking forgiveness for your attitude about such people as the poor, sinners and other you may be asked to have contact with.”

“The dirty and poor are not the only people in need of forgiveness and salvation, there are many wealthy who are rich in the things of this world but bankrupt spiritually and as the rich man in the Bible lifted up his eyes being in torment.”  The person you are led to may be a prominent member of your community.  Whether rich or poor they are all our neighbors and may need for you to introduce them to Jesus Christ”


The old man closed his tattered Bible and sat down.  The musicians began to play and the invitation was given to anyone that needed to get things right with God to come forward.  With tears running down my cheeks I almost ran and fell on my knees before god in prayer.  I have no idea what affect today had had on others but I needed forgiveness for my snobby attitude and unwillingness to even consider so many people as neighbors.  I asked the Lord to open doors for me to share him with any He desired me to have contact with and I asked Him to guide me to find ways to share the love He had placed in me with those that are so unloved by the world.

All the old man said changed me, did it change you?

 

 

 

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All Lifes Matter

6771634_orig    I have the solution; I have the answer.  What is the question or problem?  Have you ever asked yourself is there anything that can be done to solve the situation that leads to all the killings we have in this country and I am sure around the globe.

There is something that each of us can do that will decrease the likelihood of these killings.  Have you ever heard of the Golden Rule?  In Matthew 22:39 Jesus said this, “And the second is like it; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Just think if we made a commitment within ourselves to live by those few simple words this old world would be vastly different.

I realize this is a Christian blogsite but as I researched this idea I was amazed to find that the idea is universal and is stated in the writings of many of the world’s religions.  My point here is that even if you are not a part of the Christian religion and a follower of another religion the chances a very good this thought is a part of the teachings of your religion.

In Buddhism a similar thought is set forth when it teaches it this way; “Hurt not others with that which pains yourself or in ways that
you yourself would find hurtful.  One should seek for others the happiness one desires for one’s self.” (Udana-Varqa, 5:18) Yes it is stated a little differently than the words of Jesus but think on both and see if they are not expressing the same idea.

Islam has the same concept it its teachings.  “Do unto all men as you would they should do unto you, and reject for them that which you would reject for yourself.” (Mishkat-el-Masabih)  I know we hear much about radical Islam and the group call ISIS is said to be part of Islam but if they are they are failing to uphold one of the teaching of their religions.  Can you imagine the decrease level of fear in the world if ISIS adhered to this simple idea?

The residents of this country before we came here had a teaching, though said differently expressing a very similar thought.  From the Shawnee people we have this teaching, “Do not kill or injure your neighbor, for it is not him that you injure, you injure yourself.  But do good to him, therefore add to his days of happiness as you add to your own.  Do not wrong or hate your neighbor, for it is not him that you wrong, you wrong yourself.  But love him, for The Great Spirit (Moneto) loves him also as he loves you.”  I am sure many if not all the other tribes had teachings much like the one I gave.

Jainist teach this concept in the following way; “A man should wander about treat all creatures as he himself would be treated.” (Sutrakritanga 1.11.33)  I am not going to burden you with other examples but I found others and I am sure I didn’t find all that are available.  Please don’t be offended if I didn’t include your religion and its teaching my reasons are I either didn’t find one of your particular religion or I had to limit the number I included and for no real reason I included those I did just to provide an example.

Now sit back and meditate on this teaching; think about how your little corner of the world would change if you first and those you have contact practiced this principle, this universal teaching.  No more road rage; everyone would drive as they want and expect their fellow travelers to drive. No cursing when someone does something inappropriate or no flipping them off.  Worse no pulling a gun out and shooting at them and maybe killing them or someone else.

Think about your child at school.  No more concern that they will come home with a black eye or bloody nose given them by some bully.  No more fear that someone might decide to vent their frustration by shooting a few people, often people they don’t even know.  No more fear of your daughter being mistreated on a date; no date rapes.  No abuse from a teacher; yes, it may not be the norm but it does happen but if all those you have contact with practiced this policy then your worries are over.

Think about the difference you would experience in the business world.  You would have to be intimidated by all the fine print.  If every business person treated all their customers as they want to be treated then honesty would prevail.  There would be no price gouging or price fixing, business would set a fair profit margin and conduct their business fairly.  You think about how the business world would change; there are many other ways I have not mentioned.

We in this country have developed a distrust of government.  We seem to take all that is said with a grain of salt and much doubt.  What if those in all levels of government would practice this idea?  What if they said it, it was the complete truth to the best of their knowledge.  Would your life be more peaceful and would you sleep better at night if you had trust in all levels of government.

We have a movement now in this country called “Black Lives Matter”.  What happened to all the other lives are they now worthless?  When I read those different ways of expressing the teaching of Love thy neighbor as thy self, I didn’t find a color mentioned.  I work every Thursday with a black friend first he is a friend and then his skin is darker than mine.  I could have said about the same person, I have a bald friend.  Is he my neighbor? Yes! He is a wonderful person and I love him very much.  We have some very open discussion about what we call the races but the Bible speaks of one race.  Yes black lives matter but in truth all lives matter.  Asian lives, Hispanic lives, African lives, all lives are important and all should be consider of great value to us.

Yes there are some people of all colors that do wrong and injure or abuse others but we are to remember we have those given authority by society to handle these situations.  They go by many different names: patrolman, police, cop and many others.  These have been entrusted by society to protect all of us.  I was once a cop and when I went to work I rarely saw another white person.  That was fine with me, I realized quickly skin color had nothing to do with character; most were very nice people but some had done things against the law and brought me into their life.  I tried to treat each person I had contact with as I wanted to be treated, with respect and love.  These were all creatures of God and like me were loved by God.

This world in all ways would be so much better if we all practiced this concept.  I think of those running for the highest office in this land; if they continually followed the rule to do unto others as they want to be treated then we could listen to either of them without have to constantly hear all the negative points of their opponent.  They would want to be honest and speak about their challenger as they wished to be spoken about.  Then when one of those are elected to the office and begin to fulfill their duties we could all take a deep breath and relax because we know they are considering us in reality not just political rhetoric.  They would before making any decision try to determine what is best for all the people.

A number of years ago we had the fad of people wear bracelets with WWJD on it; What Would Jesus Do.  The concept behind this was they were supposed to decide to the best of their ability what Jesus would do in the situation they were facing.  Since Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thy self”, we know any decision he would make and we should make following Him would include deep concern for any that our decision might touch.

Yes, this idea of loving our neighbor may be universal but it is not practiced universally.  I hate to say it but it isn’t always practiced in our churches; hard to say you are loving someone when you gossip about them and maybe even spread rumors about them.  In churches we make it churchy by beginning with “we need to remember so and so in prayer they are having trouble with and then tell all the dirt that is known about the person.

I have no control over you and probably very little influence but if this is going to become a reality then I have to start practicing it.  I do have some control and influence over me.  I am the one responsible for my action and I and the one that decides what and how I will do things.  I am the one that can stop and consider the impact my decisions will have on those around me or those in the outflow of what I do.  In the Christian religion Jesus said for us to love our neighbor as our self and in many other religions the same concept was voiced; it must be a pretty good idea if so many have included it in their doctrine.

If you love you neighbor you will want the best for them, isn’t that what you want for yourself?

 

 

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What is a Christian?

chalkboard-crossWhat is a Christian? That was the question I asked my Sunday school class a few Sundays ago. This was not the subject we had been covering; we were going through the book of Ephesians verse by verse.

Allow me to tell the story of how this question was used in class and the outcome of that simple question. I was sitting at my desk going over the next few verses. I was reading from the Bible, checking commentaries, and praying about the upcoming class and the material we were to cover that next Sunday. As I talked with God, He said, “Ask them what is a Christian”? This really didn’t fit into the verses being studied. I was shock at what God said, so I responded with What?

The Lord repeated Himself which didn’t relieve my shocked condition. I just didn’t understand why He wanted this done. I don’t know how you are but I asked “why, Lord?” He said for me to ask the question and He would lead from there. I said “okay, Lord, I’ll do it and I am depending on you to lead this class because I have no idea what I am doing.

I continued to think about God telling me to ask the question for the two or three days until Sunday. I even thought I had lost my mind at one point and this was just something I had come up with from no telling where. I decided for a short time not to ask the question but then I remembered I had promised God. Also, over these few days God added to His direction. He told me to have those present to privately come up with a ranking of themselves concerning being a Christian.

I was a bit nervous about today’s class as I entered the room. I was going to do it but had no idea where it would go after asking the question and having them to rank themselves. Question asked, answer given. All said to be a Christian was to be a follower of Christ. I did what I had promised God I would do, then He reminded me to have them to rank themselves from 1 to 10, 10 being always and 1 being rarely. I told the class I didn’t want to know their ranking but after a few minutes I asked if any were a 10. They just shook their heads “no’.

The Lord was living up to His promise that He would lead the class so He had me to give an example that maybe they ranked a 7 or that they followed Christ 7 out of 10 times. They smile and nodded in agreement. I said that is wonderful but here comes the next of God’s questions. Who do you follow 3 out of 10 times or 30% of the time? And I mentioned that if I asked them if they were a Christian during one of these 3 times they would have to say “no”.

Who are you following when you aren’t following Christ? Someone said “the devil made me do it”. I said Satan can’t make you do anything, that choice is yours. Another student said I am following my own desires and wishes. I become my own god. Either we are following God the Son or we are following some god and usually it is ourselves. We may say we are seeking money, fame, power, or something else but in reality we are serving ourselves. When we stop following Jesus Christ and lay down the badge of being a Christian we pick up our “I” badge and begin worshiping our new god. We work hard to provide our new god all the desires we think our new god wants, we will sacrifice whatever it takes to please this new god.

I was shocked by what was coming out in this class and everyone seemed to have a shocked look on their faces. We continued by discussing what had been revealed to us today and where we were falling short. Someone did say that it is impossible to be perfect and to follow Christ always and we all agreed. I pointed out that even if it is impossible to be 100% Christian we all seem to have room for improvement. Maybe today I am a 70% Christian but I should seek to gain and by this time next year become a 70.00001% Christian. That is not a big improvement but it is a positive result.

I have learned one thing in my years of trying to follow Christ, you can never get to a level and just stand still. We either move closer or we move further away. It is much better to be a 70.00001% Christian next year than to be a 69.99999% Christian.

God knows we aren’t perfect and we aren’t going to attain perfection in this body but He also know we can and should strive for perfection; one step at a time. Don’t beat yourself up because your aren’t where you think you should be just talk it over with your Father and then allow the Holy Spirit to help you to make a step closer to where you should be.

One other thing came out of this class and maybe some of you reading this think this too; some believe that being a Christian and being saved are the same. NO! You can be born again, be baptized into the body of Christ, be a member of the family of God and still not be a high ranking Christian. You must be saved to be a Christian but they are two different things.

Are you a Christian? What percent of the time are you a Christian? Who do you follow when you aren’t following Christ? God loves you in all your imperfection and is very willing to aid you in moving just one small step closer in your walk with Christ. All you have to do is ask and then do as He directs. I am striving to daily be more like Christ even though from time to time I get off track but God is faithful and just to forgive me and help me to get to walk the right path again.

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Always

image “I am with you always”; we find these words of the Lord Jesus recorded in Matthew 28:20.  They are a part of what is considered the Great Commission.  All the words of the Great Commission are important but for now my mind is focused on this one phrase: “I am with you always.”  And to narrow it down further, I will mainly focus on the one word, always.
As usual when I begin to think on a word my first stop along the road to discovering all that is being said is to find my trusty dictionary. The dictionary defines always in this way; “at all times-forever.  To put it in language I can understand it is saying there is no time omitted. Regardless of where I am, what I am doing, who is with me none of these times are exempt from what is included in the always.
So we are all on the same page let us consider who is making this statement and who the pronoun ‘I’ is referring to.  The speaker in these verses is the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is addressing the eleven disciples as they had gathered on the mountain where Jesus had told them to meet with Him.  Jesus appears to them, the disciples worshipped Him but some doubted.Jesus speaks to these men, His disciples the words recorded in Matthew 28:18-20.  He is giving them their final ‘marching orders’ just before He returns to His Father in Heaven.  We can debate if these words apply just to the listeners or are they representative of all disciples during the ages to follow.  I believe when Jesus spoke these words he was speaking to me and I am sure He had me and all other believers in mind as He spoke.  If you are a believer then Jesus was speaking to you.
My focus for this writing is that phrase; ‘I am with you always’.  Jesus said to me and you that He will be with us at all times; there is no time when He won’t be with us.  This is easy to write but when I think of the implications it becomes awesome.  Jesus the Son of God has said to me and to you that He will accompany us throughout all the time we have here on earth.  Think about it, Jesus is with you now as you read this, He will be with you as you eat your next meal, He will sit beside you as you watch TV and then go with you when you go to bed for sleep. There is no time you are alone.
Some of the things we do, it is almost a given, that Jesus is with us. When we attend church or Bible study it is assumed Jesus is there. Maybe we don’t consider Him being with us personally but just there as a spectator, overseeing the meeting.  Don’t expect me to explain it but Jesus is with each of us at these times very personally.  Too often I live my life as if Jesus, God, are somewhere off in the heavens and may from time to time glance down to see what is happening to me but not intimately close to me.  I say my prayers as a good little ‘Christian’ should and have said I don’t think they got above the ceiling.  Now when I pray I just talk with Him and have even offered Him a chair so we can have a comfortable conversation. But even with this line of communication I hadn’t comprehended that Jesus is with me every second.
When I have had major problems in my life I knew He was close when I called on Him.  I once received a hug from Him when I was going through some heart problems.  But when I had regained health I didn’t think of Jesus being with me as I went through my daily routine. Problem is I am not sure I always wanted Him around; maybe it would be better for Him to just rescue me when I mess up really bad.
This thought of Jesus being with me always is a bit scary.  That means that when I listen to my worldly side, and yield to the temptations that confront me, Jesus is there with me when I dive into things he has said for me to refrain from.  I have no idea what sins you have indulged in but did you think as you enjoyed the pleasures of that sin for a short time that Jesus was there watching you?  I am not about to say I don’t sin because that would be a sin to make that statement.  I am not proud but I have and if I continue to live, I will again be involved in some sin.  I am not getting into all the sins I have been involved in but there and many times I disobeyed the commandments of God.  I have taking Jesus into some not very wholesome places.  He has witnessed me indulging in activity that, I don’t doubt, brought tears to His eyes.
He has already paid the penalty for that sin when He died on the cross but humanly speaking I am sure it breaks His heart to see one of His turning their back on Him and becoming involved in things He has told us to avoid.
We were given ‘free will’; we have the option to make choices as we desire. Even though He is with us and beside us Jesus won’t take that free will away and stop us from making choices even if they are wrong choices.  He will just watch with tears running down His cheeks; He knows the outcome.  Could he stop us?  Yes, but He won’t and neither will He protect us from the consequences of our choices.  If we make wrong decisions and disobey then the results are our responsibility.
Jesus told His disciples and through them told us that He would be with us always.  It isn’t important what we are doing , Jesus is there.  In the scope of life it is very important what we do and whom we obey but our conduct has nothing to do with Jesus’ closeness.  Maybe we should think before we act; maybe we should ask our companion for guidance before we act; maybe we should listen to Jesus and obey God before we act.  You are never alone; Jesus is with you in all you do: good or bad.  Remember, I (Jesus) am with you always.

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Have Need of Nothing

“Have need of nothing,” this phrase is taken from Revelation 3:17; this is one phrase Jesus used to describe the church of Laodicea.  Jesus said that the Laodiceans considered themselves as rich and in need of nothing; they were self-sufficient.No wonder we of this age are often compared to the Laodicean church; yes, we good western or more directly, American Christians think of themselves as rich and need nothing.  We have fine buildings, state of the art facilities for all types of sports, entertainment, and even instructional
materials.  We need nothing!  We have it made.  God has so blessed us and we are sure He will continue to shower us with undeserved blessings that we can continue our great work of reaching our neighbor.  We have all we could possibly need to do this work.

Are we really reaching our neighbor?  Are we reaching the young people of our community?  The numbers don’t lie; we are a dismal failure at truly reaching those around us.  Yes, we may temporarily reach the ‘kids’ with games, sports, and even concerts but we fail to apply the glue that will make them stick.  Maybe we need to find something to make our presentation or program more adhesive; maybe young people aren’t really looking for sports and concerts.  Maybe these ‘kids’ want love, attention, a listening ear, and even a meaningful hug.  Maybe they are looking for a filler for that big void in their lives; their physical, emotional, and their spiritual lives.  We all have had that void; some of us have been fortunate enough to find the permanent filler but the majority of those around us are seeking.

On whatever day or night your church has its weekly service, will God attend?  I am serious will God attend what you call a worship service; a service to worship God?  Will God feels He is being welcomed, honored, and worshiped by what happens at your assembly?  Yes, you may have an awesome band, with all the best instruments, fantastic light show, wonderful audio, and when the time comes a ‘sermon’ that is just what you came to hear; you giggle throughout because your ears are tickling.  Is this worshiping God?  Sure it is, you say.  The people love it; they feel so good after as they rush out for lunch.  They will be back next time but will they stick, did they receive anything they really needed; sure they felt good for the moment but what happens when the ‘rush’ wears off and that gnawing inside returns?  What happens when that vacuum of the void begins to torment them?

We may be rich of the things of the western world; America has it all but where is God?  One of the last verses to the Laodicean church shows Jesus standing atthe door of that church knocking.  He isn’t inside as the guest of honor, the one being worshiped but outside knocking on a closed door seeking entry. He wants to come inside and share with those onthe inside; He says He will share a meal with the church. We may not need anything of this world in our churches; they seem to be running over with the world: we need God.  A number of years ago there was
much talk that God was dead; He might as well be based on our demonstrated need for Him.  Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me”, have we stopped lifting up Jesus?  Jesus is that glue I spoke of earlier, if a person receives a good dose of Jesus he will stick.  Sure the person may drift away for a short time but he will always be drawn back by the pulling power of God, through the
Holy Spirit.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not condemning sports, concerts, or games as a part of a church’s program but there must be a
time when Jesus is lifted up.  We need God in our churches.  First we need God in our lives then in our communities, and lastly in this country.  I think I need to pray that God will do something in my life to awaken me to my need for Him.  I am also going to pray that God will do something in this country that will awaken it to the need for God.  I know from history it takes a calamity to arouse the slumbering but many’s eternal destination depends on those professing to be Christian to be renewed in their love of God.  Once our love for God has been renewed our obedience will follow and then will come multiple fires in our churches.

We have free will; will we decide to open that door to our hearts and churches and allow God to return or will we be content with all we have and brag that we need nothing.

 

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In The Beginning God


  


            “In the beginning God” probably isn’t
a good response when asked to give my favorite verse in the Bible; I know it is
only a phrase from Genesis 1:1 but it speaks volumes to me.  Those four words are in many ways the summary
of all the words given or spoken by God in His Word.


            God is the beginning of everything;
I know He created everything but as important as His creation is how I view God
as being in the beginning is in my everyday life.  Even while I sleep in my bed before I am
blessed by awakening, God is there.  As I
struggle to open my sleep filled eyes and renew the vision of the world around
me that I closed by shutting my eyes and to place myself in the care of God as
I slept; if I respond properly God will be recognized for His importance at this
renewing of my conscious life.


            God knows each detail of this new
day, new to me; God is already there in the full day I am yet to live.  I have a habit of propping up in bed for a
few minutes before I roll out and my feet hit the floor; at this time I
occasionally, I should every day, speak with God and ask Him to guide me
through the day.  I know He knows my day
and everything I will so if I am thinking properly I will acknowledge this fact
and seek His aid to me as I face this new beginning.


            Proverbs 3:6 tells us “In all your
ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path”.  Amazing little verse and most of us fail to
read it correctly.  The second word in
that verse is “all”; we somehow see it as ‘some or most’ but not ‘all’.  All says to include everything leaving
nothing out but that isn’t how we read that verse.  Have you ever acknowledged God concerning
what you should wear today, what you should eat for breakfast, or any of the
other routine tasks we face each day? 


            Maybe you think I am being a bit too
inclusive of God in our daily life but isn’t that what is said in Proverbs
3:6?  I know we have intelligence and I
guess most of the time we feel we have no need to consult God concerning these
simple every day happenings.  What if you
are like me and have the same thing for breakfast almost every morning but you
decide today to include God in your decision about breakfast; as you talk with
Him you are impressed to skip your usual meal and today to stop by a fast food
place on your way to work.  I am sure if
you are like me you will question this impression but for sake of this article
you decide to follow God’s leadership and stop at the fast food place.  You had planned to go through the drive
through but for some reason decide to go inside to order your breakfast.  You get in line to place your order and
realize you are behind a fellow you had seen at your church but also remember
it had been many weeks since he had attended. 
You speak to the man and as you wait to order the two of you
converse.  For whatever reason you ask
why you hadn’t seen him at church recently and immediately you notice as change
in the expression on his face.  He tries
to give an answer but you can tell he is hesitant giving the true reason.   You ask him if he would like to talk about
his situation and suggest he get his order to stay and you will do the
same.  He at first says he is hurry but
soon he agrees.  As the two of you sit
and beginning your meal you ask if it is alright to ask the blessing, to this
he looks confused, but he agrees.  
During your talk you find he has some serious problems in his family and
is blaming God for them.  You assure God
still loves him and his family and you offer your support and promise to pray
for him.  You offer to meet him again
tomorrow for further talk and with reluctance he agrees.  To make a long story short, after a week of
breakfast together the following Sunday he with his family returns to
church.  Today he has a smile on his face
and gives you a hug as a greeting.    Where
would this man and his family be if you had not included God in your decision
about breakfast?


            I know this may never happen to you if
you ask God daily about breakfast but somewhere during your day God will lead
you down a path that was different from the one you had planned.  God has a plan for our lives, we were created
for a purpose and saved for good works but we will never know that purpose or
what works we are to do if we fail to consult God. 


            I once asked God to drive me home
from Florida.  I had a trip of over 800
miles and my reasoning for my request was that God knew each inch of the way
home and each obstacle I would face.  No
I didn’t ask got to get behind the wheel and let me ride in the passenger’s
seat, I want God to take complete control of me and direct every move I made and
every decision I made on that trip.  In
the beginning of that trip I talked with God and allowed Him to be not only in
the beginning but throughout.


            “In the beginning God” may not be a
complete verse but to me it is four words that says it all.  If I can ever get those words as my plan of
operation daily I will a successful peaceful life in the will of God.  I pray I stop being the beginning and reason
for what I do but allow God to take His rightful place in the beginning of all
I do; not only in the beginning but throughout.


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