Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Now Sing We, Now Rejoice

Come from on high to me;

I can-not rise to Thee.
Cheer my wearied spirit,
O pure and holy Child;
Through Thy grace and merit,
Blest Jesus, Lord most mild,
Draw me unto Thee! Draw me unto Thee!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Personal Bible Study of the Lord's Prayer

When I was in college, our professors used to tell us to use Scripture to interpret Scripture. The other day, it dawned on me that Jesus calls Himself the Bread of life and that a healthy faith-life really requires daily time with Him. So I dug around and found other verses which I feel like relates to and/or expounds on the petitions found in the Lord's Prayer. (It's in the Bible itself, in case you thought it was just a tradition the church developed somewhere along the line; see Matthew 6 and Luke 11).

Our daily bread

I tend to beg and plead with God when I get to the to the petition in the Lord's Prayer about giving us this day our daily bread (especially that last week before payday). But I bet you'll think about that part of the prayer differently when you remember what Jesus calls HIMSELF in John chapter 6, verses 33, 35, 48, & 51.

Go ahead, look them up. I'll wait. In fact, why don't you go ahead and pray the Lord's Prayer right away after reading John 6:33-51. Mind blown? Let it sink in. 

It makes me want to seek Him in His Word & prayer more and daily. Hope it will you too. Why starve, when there's so much mana every morning?

Monday, December 02, 2013

This Advent, may HOPE take you prisoner.

Isaiah 2

New International Version (NIV)

The Mountain of the Lord

This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.
Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.
Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Last Sunday's Old Testament lesson (above) was a wonderful reminder for me. Isaiah gave us an image of Heaven, where man "ain't gonna study war no more." 

Keep your eye on the prize, look past and through the darkness at the light at the end of the tunnel. Discouraged? Depressed? Frightened? Stressed? Look past your present circumstances and remember that whatever your're going through, it won't last forever.

If we put on the helmet of hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:8 & Ephesians 6:17), God's hope will protect our heads- God will guard our minds (Philippians 4:7).

Lets face it, the holiday seasons can be stressful; work, family, finances. So guess what, maybe instead of focusing on everything you have to try to get done and who you think you have to please and how you're going to afford it- focus on Jesus. What a gift! The creator of the whole universe gave His only begotten son as a sacrifice for our sins so that we too can be His beloved children! 

When you keep that love in mind, it puts things in perspective. That perspective has given me a new motto:

“I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.” - Prof. Cornel West

And this is why I have been praying this verse so much for myself and for others-  "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." -Romans 15:13

Psalm 33:20-22

New Living Translation (NLT)
20 We put our hope in the Lord.
    He is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,
    for our hope is in you alone.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Time for a Cease-Fire in the so-called 'War on Christmas'

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, -1 Peter 3:15
Why do some Christians become so hostile, defensive,angry, indignant, even downright belligerent about making sure to "keep Christ in CHRISTmas?"

If you truly believe that He is who He claims to be, then He certainly doesn't need mere humans to stand up for Him. God doesn't need us to fight for Him. And the truth is always able to stand by itself.

Instead, we should consider His example. Consider Philippians 2:3-8
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature] of a servant,being made in human likeness.8 And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himselfby becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Jesus didn't come down like Thor with a hammer and lightning and shout "Hey, look at ME!" Instead, He came as a frail, fragile, humble, poor, baby in a livestock feed-bunk.
Being sensitive to the cultures, traditions and feelings of others doesn't mean you're condoning apostasy. Being a Christian does not mean being territorial about His "birthday." So Jews, Pagans, Hindus, and Secularists all have festivals of light coincidentally this same time of year? So does materialistic consumer-capitalism, if you haven't noticed.

Originally being "Christian" meant being little-Christs, literally His imitators. How are we imitating Him when we are bullying others into silence and submission or whining about being allegedly victimized by the rest of the society? We are the mainstream majority here in the United States. There are certainly places where Christians face persecution and marginalization (Syria, Egypt, Nigeria) but the U.S. isn't one of them.
Back to 1 Peter 5, verse 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats do not be frightened.” and verses 17 & 18- For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
If we truly believe in Jesus, and want to be like Him, rather than DEMANDING that others honor Him, we will be ready, willing, and able to put up with whatever persecution might come. Both for His sake, and for the sake of those who would do us harm. Because that's exactly what Jesus did, He suffered and even died for the sake of those who hate Him.

It seems to me that all this getting prickly about this being a season just for Christ and Christians isn't very Christ-like. If anything it's pretty typically human. Sinful, selfish, short-sighted, human.