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Guard Your Heart

Guarding your heart agaist bitterness, jealousy and pride.  So God can send seeds of victory inside you, so that you can inherit all of God's promises for your life!

Holyblues

Holyblues

Hoping

Hi! It's been week or so since my last post.   These first few weeks into the new year I've been struggling with an icky cold that is NOT the flu, but feels exactly like the flu,...or in other words,...I've been waiting to get well.   Been to the doctor,...check. Resting,...check,...Christmas tree is still up!
Humidifier, check.
Meds, check.
Lots of fluids, check,...but this lingering cold just loves me.   Am I better?   Praise the LORD, yes! I am upright at the computer and have been planning for an upcoming trip that can't be postponed.   Will I be completely well in time?   Maybe, maybe not,...but this is where the rubber meets the road. About a thousand separate pieces from many diverse quarters had to come together to make this trip possible. We're talking miracle territory. It's obviously meant for me to be on this trip, and yet it's been sniffles, sneezes,...and cough, cough, cough.   Thus, I am waiting in hope for the Lord, HE is my help and my shield.    Truly this territory is where you trust in the LORD for what is not in your control. Somehow, someway I know the LORD will make it possible for me to go from,..."strength to strength" (Psalm 84:7),...and that the LORD'S grace will be sufficient for whatever lies ahead.   “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9   Life's not perfect,...but it's such a comfort to know that the LORD is!   Hope YOUR new year is not as sniffly,...but no matter what you are facing - be it sniffles or not - put your hope in the LORD,...our help and shield!   God bless!

Katherine Johnston

Katherine Johnston

 

Gracious Love

It is within Your gracious love
that Your words are kept,*
not within the mere doing
but action born from Awesomeness.**   Beyond feeling and emotion
divided by the Spirit's edge,^
is a new world of devotion
our hearts grasp and move within.^^ ____________ * Psalms 119:88
** Ephesians 2:8
^ Hebrews 4:12
^^ 2 Corinthians 5:17   (feel free to reply with a link to song that you think of after reading the above)

Ragamuffin_John

Ragamuffin_John

 

The Two Tax Collectors

Levi and Zacchaeus were two tax collectors that took advantage of their positional authority to reign in wealth at the expense of the taxpayer.  Paid by the Roman government, they were to collect money to finance the occupying army of the Roman Empire.   Outside of the Romans themselves, they were the most despised group in Israel.  Caught up in greed, they would manipulate the taxes so that they got their “fair” share, while ensuring that the Roman’s coffers stayed full.  It was these two individuals that Jesus sought out to change their lives forever.   Levi (Matthew) was sitting in his tax office (booth) gathering the bounty, when Jesus changed his life with two little words: “Follow me.” Those words are still offered today.  Jesus is not concerned with someone’s history of what he has done or is doing.   He offers a life of forgiveness and purpose.   Levi immediately responded to Jesus’ invitation and exchanged his love of money for his love of others.  We do not know the immediate chain of events, but it seems Levi accompanied Jesus for a number of days before he held a dinner party for those tax collectors that had previously worked with him.  Jesus was the main speaker and Levi was the illustration of a changed life.  I can hear Levi standing up and saying, “What He has done for me, He can do for you!”  We need that kind of witnessing today.  A changed life should be contagious by the offering of our testimony.   Also at the dinner were Scribes and Pharisees.  They sat in back of the room and challenged Jesus’ disciples as to why Jesus would be eating with tax collectors and sinners.  Jesus overheard their judging and simply responded by telling them that when someone is sick they need a physician.  What followed was a “homework” assignment that, sadly, the Pharisees would fail to complete.  He told them to “Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”  (Matthew 9: 9-13)  Jesus wanted to see them exhibit mercy instead of meaningless rituals.  Today, Jesus would like to see mercy and compassion instead of religious exercises.   Zacchaeus was a district manager (chief) of the Roman tax bureau in the Jericho area.  He had made himself very rich by “cooking the books.”  One day, Jesus was traveling through Jericho and saw Zacchaeus up in a tree.  He had climbed up there to get a better look at Jesus, since he was short, and the crowd was so big he could not get a good visual of Jesus.  Jesus simply told him to get down because He was going to stay at his house.  Zacchaeus’ excitement must have been palpable, for a man with a reputation like Jesus to come to his residence was almost unbelievable.   The people who heard the exchange began to “grumble” about how bad it was for Jesus to go to a sinner’s house.  We will always have murmurers and complainers, especially when people do not understand the facts behind the situation.  It was during the meeting at his house that Zacchaeus’ life would change forever.  Whatever Jesus said caused Zacchaeus to stand up and proclaim that he would give half of his goods to the poor, and if he had cheated anyone, he would restore them four times.  Jesus not only heard his words, but saw his heart and proclaimed, “Salvation has come to this house.”  Jesus then continued with a teaching about faithfulness. (Luke 19:1-27)  Today, Jesus is still offering an invitation to follow Him, and whoever accepts His invitation will experience a life changing reality.   

simplyrhetorical

simplyrhetorical

 

God's Gaze

Narrow is the way;
Once inside it is wide.*
If sparrows gain His gaze,
more so all creatures in earth and sky** _________ * Psalm 119:32 and Matthew 7:13-14
** Luke 12:4-7    

Ragamuffin_John

Ragamuffin_John

 

Judean Hearts

. . . about the shepherds who "watched their flocks by night", the day Messiah Jesus was born . . .   Quick!  Your gnarled hands grasp your staffs, Poke, fast, the road to Bethlehem, Stack them, leaned against the wall, Kneel, join Heaven’s madrigal.     Sing the earthly shepherd’s way, Spirit touch flesh in what you say. Many have walked past your pastures, Yet, this One comes with Heaven’s cure.    Hint of Nazareth on mother's tongue, Strange parentage for unique Son. First Judean hearts to praise, Scent of sheep and sweetest Grace.

Ragamuffin_John

Ragamuffin_John

 

New Year’s Resolutions and the God of Grace

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. (1 Peter 5:10 RSV)   I am notorious for making New Year’s resolutions that never quite get off the ground, but which somehow manage by the grace of God to leave their mark on my body, mind, and soul. What I mean by this is that, while I neglect to carry out a disciplined, biblically-based, Church-sanctioned program of New Year’s life renewal, God, in his infinite goodness and perfect timing, allows my resolutions to unfold nonetheless over the course of the year and find their fruition through trial and painful transformation until I become a little more the man I was meant to be.   This year, however, God elected to make a preemptive strike in my life by turning a little Christmas overindulgence into a full-blown medical emergency, literally knocking me off my feet and causing me to step back and reevaluate both my life choices and the attitudes that had inspired them. While I thought that my little ordeal would excuse me from my regular writing obligations, I became convicted that God was making me painfully aware of the necessity of letting his divine discipline lead to a thorough and open confession of my greatest needs and his greatest love.   Light and Momentary?   My Christmas started off with a wonderful Italian dinner with my wife’s family at our home. Following the appetizers, we feasted on antipasto, chicken parmigiana, stuffed shells, and desserts galore. There were quite a few trips to the glass Christmas tree filled with candy as we opened presents and shared good times. After my family left we had some friends over to play games by the fire. I remember thinking – as I always do at this time of year – that this minor bit of intemperance was only for a time, and once the New Year was upon me, I would gradually get back to the business of watching my weight, spending more time with God, and growing as a godly man.   It was then that I noticed I was not feeling too well. After a night of intense abdominal pain, and a day spent going from the walk-in clinic to the Emergency Room, I found myself admitted to the hospital with an acutely inflamed gallbladder that needed to come out. I must confess that one verse that did not come to mind during my festival of unrestrained bodily agony was this beautiful passage from 2 Corinthians:   So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 RSV)   While I tried to maintain my composure throughout the entire tribulation, I freely admit that at the time I saw my extreme discomfort as neither light nor momentary, though I was keenly aware that my outer nature was no longer what it used to be. But as I accepted the inevitability of my fate and sank under the influence of the anesthesia, I slowly began to view this divinely-enacted respite from a more eternal perspective, surrendering my control to the One who holds all things in his loving hands.   Suffering, Endurance, Character, and Hope   While it may seem that most of the passages in the Bible that speak of suffering relate more to persecution for the faith than to personal trials like physical distress, financial hardship, or spiritual sickness, there is a transformative nature to our pain that leads to a greater awareness of our fallen nature without Christ, our need for God’s care, and the true heavenly goal we should be seeking. Look at these words from Paul’s letter to the Romans:   Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5RSV)   Being knocked on one’s backside by a medical emergency is certainly not akin to the persecution that so many Christians suffer for their faith, but it does force us to fix our eyes upon the only One who can see us through our trials to our eternal end. This little temporary ordeal allowed God to refine me in the fires of pain and harsh realities, burning off my casual selfishness and my petty schemes, my self-important pride and my self-pitying attitude. I became keenly aware that life was not to be taken lightly, and that even the simple and silly lies I so often told myself were giving way to a disciplined and persevering faith that would build my character and open the doorway to hope revealed.   A Message of Glory from Memories Gone By   That first night home, I remember not wanting to take the prescription pain pills the doctors had given me, but was in quite a bit of discomfort and desperately needed sleep. But as I expected, within a half-hour of taking the medication, I could feel its effects on my mood. I drifted off into a very long night of strange visions, intense images, and disheartening dreams.   At one point I saw my long-dead mother walking through our old house in her bathrobe, smiling at me. I ran up to her, somehow knowing she had died and wanting to spend time with her. I remember her saying to me, “You need to go out and play; don’t stay in here with me!” and I desperately tried to explain to her how life goes by all too quickly and then it is gone. I woke up with tears in my eyes, but understood the message I had received.   As I meditated on the meaning of my restless sleep, my changed physical condition, and the future considerations it would demand, I thought about how fleeting is the nature of this life and the trivial temporary resolutions we make in comparison to the glory that awaits those who believe in Jesus. I thought about this verse from 1 Peter:   In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7RSV)   I came to realize that the “slight momentary” troubles we experience here on earth are meant to remind us of the glory that we experience now by faith and will experience fully when Christ is revealed. Yes, our lives are fleeting. Children all too soon grow up and the shape of our families changes as the years go by. But we are called to go right on playing – to enjoy life, to endure our trials, and to live and laugh and love will all our might as these wonderful realities point us to the greater glory that will be ours in the end.   You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down   There is a calm that comes after a storm such as this, offering a moment of clarity so profound that time seems to stand still. In my weakness, propped up in my recliner with a cup of tea and my family around me, I gladly yielded to my helplessness and my need for recovery. And when I think about it, that is really what making resolutions is all about. Life throws so much at us, and we who are faithful must push through the days of joy and pain and seek that holy place of recovery where we allow the renewing power of the Savior to pour itself into our lives once more.   New years come and go and we continue the cycle of spiritual transformation from sinner to saint, from the fires of suffering to the glory of the vision that shapes our souls. As I step into the days to come, I rejoice that God is loving enough to allow the afflictions we experience to cause the love and life of Christ to manifest itself in our words and deeds as we continually offer our lives to him. Consider this thought from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians:   We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 RSV)   What a joy it is to know that, through my suffering, the life of Jesus is being displayed in this fallible, fallen man who has been redeemed by grace. It turns my yesterdays into treasures, my tomorrows into hopeful dreams, and my present into an experience of eternal satisfaction and immeasurable joy. I think that is worth a little bit of belly pain, after all. It is overwhelming to think that the One who has overcome the world is working out that same song of salvation in my battered body and the soul that is being transformed from glory to glory, day by precious day.   Resolutions and Real Resolve   I spent New Year’s Eve alone this year. My son and older daughter went to be with some young adult friends and my wife and younger daughter spent time with a few families, laughing and sharing some happy memories. But I wasn’t lonely at all. As I sat watching a movie and listening to the rain fall softly outside my window, I thought about the great gifts and eternal blessings I had been given. Their power is what has fueled my unspoken resolutions with true divine resolve and allowed them to unfold over the course of my life.   I have a wife who has walked this journey of ups and downs right alongside me and is still there to share the road of trials and triumphs with a glad heart. I am father to three incredible children who still love to spend time with each other being silly and carrying on family traditions that remind us of who we are. I have my health and heart and sense of humor and all those little giftings and idiosyncrasies that make me who I am.   Most of all, I have the grace that Jesus has given me that has rescued me from sin and the worst of myself. I have a relationship with the God who is wise enough to guide me, strong enough to move me, and loving enough to drive me to my knees and occasionally my back in order to teach me the wonder of conversion.   As you travel the narrow path this new year, may the spiritual surgery that the divine surgeon performs in your life empower you to demonstrate the joy of salvation and the power of transforming love to all you meet. May we surrender our less-than-careful prayers to the One who delights to make all things new as each year rolls around to carry us home!

Mark C McCann

Mark C McCann

 

The Music of Christmas: Heaven Meets Earth in Holy Sign

There is a beauty and blessing to Christmas music that enters anew into my soul each year as soon as the season of Advent begins. It summons within me a joyful longing that calls out to the Savior to pitch his tent within my heart once more. It announces itself softly in the holy words and moving melodies, building slowly to an unrestrained expectation of the joy to come. Like an evening snowfall that calls us to fireside reflection around the Christmas tree, the music of Christmas sends me inside my heart to contemplate the great mystery of our redemption:   And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father. (John 1:14. RSV)   Christmas is the time when heaven joins with earth, when the vertical and the horizontal natures of our faith come together in the little baby of Bethlehem. It unites my earthly past to my glorious future. The incarnation is the greatest sign, the purest sacrament, its grace falling down upon us and spreading out into our world as hope renewed. Such is the awe and wonder of Christmas I find in poetry and song. Like the passage in John, I am moved beyond the words to see the power and presence of Christ.   The Poetry of Christmas   Nothing stirs my soul quite like the music of Christmas, the traditional hymns and joyful songs the sons and daughters of God have composed over the many years since the birth of our Lord. They do for me what no theological text could ever do. The words that pour forth from the pens of these inspired poets raise me up out of time and seat me in that sacred space where my soul is truly satisfied with the message and meaning of the incarnation. There, my ordinary life gives way to unimaginable possibilities. I see myself through the eyes of the One who looked out upon the plains of Bethlehem and cried tears so deep that heaven itself bent down to gaze in astonishment. Like the shepherds and the wisemen, I am called to witness the holy child before me: sleeping in a manger, nursing at the breast of his young mother, warmed by the breath of the animals on that cold and quiet first Christmas night. In the Christ child I see heaven’s perfect love flowing freely upon the earth:   The people who walked in darkness      have seen a great light;  those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,      on them has light shined. (Isaiah 9:2, RSV)   The Sign of the Cross   As I listen to the music of Christmas, the majesty of heaven descends from the throne room and walks upon the weary road of this world. The light of truth bursts forth like the dawn upon the darkness of sin and despair. I no longer look at the manger scene, the sacred Word or the bread and cup and see something ordinary and sentimental. Instead, I see the Son of Maninvading our world, giving Himself to us to consume, and sacrificing Himself on the cross where heaven finds satisfaction and earth is redeemed. The tiny shoot of Jesse becomes the righteous branch that spreads out to all the earth as the fullness of the Godhead comes to dwell among men. To Bethlehem, the House of Bread, comes the Bread of Life, the One who will give His life for the whole of humanity. Jesus becomes the Savior who fills the height and depth, the length and breadth, of creation with His perfect, sacrificial love. In Him, the promise of the Sabbath’s rest becomes a daily reality that fills my heart with unspeakable joy. He is God with us:   Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman'u-el. (Isaiah 7:10, RSV)   A Covenant of Coalescence   As I sit by my fire during this blessed time, listening to songs that celebrate the birth of Jesus, I am transformed by the salvation of Christ that came in the fullness of time. I can gaze upward to the heavenly realms, and yet look to the east and west to see a world still longing for what only Jesus can bring. In Him, heaven and earth are joined together at the cross, and I see my place in His marvelous plan.   The Wonderful Counselor reveals His truth to my heart and makes me wise. The Mighty God speaks His power into my actions and calls me to serve. My Forever Father shows me the heart that bled upon that cross and I surrender to my sin. The Prince of Peace fills me with contentment and sends me forth to bring harmony to my world. Through the poetry of God’s Word, I see what my senses fail to grasp.   For to us a child is born,      to us a son is given;  and the government will be upon his shoulder,      and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, RSV)   Prophecy and Profound Fulfillment   The Bible is the Word of God. It is a divine love letter, a song of hope sung into our hearts from beginning to end. We hear the prophets calling out through time to the One who will fulfill all their hopes and dreams of redemption. We hear it in the words of Mary as she rejoices in God’s favor. We see Jesus, the Word, the Suffering Servant, speaking and moving through this world with his profound purpose that ends with His death on the cross. And we experience in the writings of the New Testament the hope that is ours to the end.   I would like to end this brief sharing with some poetry of my own, written in love to the Savior who has spoken into my heart and helped me to see the power of the incarnation that has linked heaven and earth in the person of Jesus. These new “hymns” speak of the promises of old fulfilled in Christ, and the response of heaven and earth to His coming to our world as the little baby of Bethlehem. May God bless you as you take time to listen to the music of Christmas and experience the joy of heaven and earth coming together in redemption through the Christ child this Christmas.   Unto Us   Unto Us a Son is given, To our Race a Child is born, In Him all our sins forgiven, Love fulfilled on Christmas morn.   Bethlehem of Judah’s numbers Not among the least you be, In you now your ruler slumbers, Israel’s Shepherd God is He.   Chorus…   In the wilderness preparing, Way made straight and hill brought low, Broken reed His life repairing, Seed now planted, soon to grow… Our Messiah, King and brother, Sinless Savior, One so mild, Holy God alone, no other, Born to us as lowly child.     Days are coming, branch increasing, King from David’s royal line. Righteous Judgment, never ceasing, Sacred ever-living sign.   Holy Scepter rightly reigning, Kingdom rule without an end. Promised Land forever gaining, Broken staff His law will mend. . Chorus…   Lo the Virgin, hour nearing, Calls His name Emmanuel, King of kings in flesh appearing, Saves us from the pow’r of hell.   Chorus…   Unto Us a Son is given, To our Race a Child is born, In Him all our sins forgiven, Love fulfilled on Christmas morn.     Hymn for the Holy Child   In the fullness of the ages, Word of God in flesh was born, God from God, the light of Heaven, Came to earth on Christmas morn.   Hope for man, our sinless Savior, Infant child at mother's breast, Sleeping still in straw-filled manger, Holy Lord and Sabbath's rest.   Shepherds in the wasteland watching, First to hear the angel's call, Hasten now to lowly stable, To their knees in reverence fall.   Host of Heaven now united, Mighty chorus, hymn of praise, Yahweh’s presence shining brightly, Blessings ‘till the End of Days.   Star shines brightly, Sacred Godhead, Fills the sky with radiant light, Perfect peace and Holy Power, Bringing day to darkest night.   Wisemen seeking, search the heavens, Follow star to House of Bread, Bowing low to new King rising, At his feet their gifts they spread.   Men rejoice for your salvation, As our God breaks into time, Fall before the child in worship, Pure transcendent truth sublime.   Sing with joyful hearts surrendered, Praise the babe on manger throne, All creation in submission, He is God and God alone!

Mark C McCann

Mark C McCann

 

Facing

No matter what you face in life remember to have no fear. You have a constant companion on your side to see you through. Jesus said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Holyblues

Holyblues

 

Our All Knowing God

Is God aware of our thoughts, words and actions, and if He is, do these things influence His involvement in our lives?  Scriptural exposure will reveal that God is very much conscious of every aspect of our lives: body, soul and spirit.  In fact, nothing exists outside of His awareness.  If He is knowledgeable of every aspect of our lives, then He must be aware of the challenges to our faith.  How is He involved when tragedies strike?    Man has always quested to be able to express himself without restraints.   Around the world, revolutions abound with regularity as dictatorships and communistic/socialistic governments are challenged.  People want freedom, but they also want the government to provide for them.  The Christian is part of the Kingdom of God.  There are “laws” to follow which do not jeopardize their freedom to accept or reject.  God’s Kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom that is displayed through its citizens.  God is not a dictator, but He lays out His will through His Word.  It is up to the Believer to decide what to do with it.  When the Christian walks in His Word, he will experience what an abundant and full life is all about.  When he ignores the Word, the consequences of his rejection will be displayed by his actions and responses to life.   Many wonder how much physical protection is offered to the Believer.  How far reaching is God’s “hedge?” (Job 1:10)  Instead of wondering about our physical immunity, let us emphasize God’s presence during those challenging times.  When tragedy strikes, stop asking God where He is, and start proclaiming, as David did, that God is my “very present help in trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1)   I have no answer as to why God allows certain things to happen, all I know is that He loves me and will never leave me during those darkest hours.  As Jesus said to His Apostles, He also says to us, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (Matthew 28:20)  Many of the problems we face are a result of our freedom to make wrong decisions.  The problems we have in spite of our obedience to His Word are there for our learning, as well as the testing of our Faith.  The question mark should not be verbalized:  rather, the exclamation mark should always flow from our lips!   In both the secular and Christian Kingdoms, people want freedom with benefits.  They both feel that they are entitled to receive everything that would help them achieve personal fulfillment.  Some Christians believe that God owes them a plethora of things related to money.  (Much of the Christians financial problems are a result of their mismanagement of money.)  GOD OWES US NOTHING but by His Grace He offers us His love with all the benefits.  If we must complain about why things are going the way they are, we need to stand before a mirror and have at it!  God knows our thoughts, words and actions, and promises to see us through the valleys and construction zones, as well as celebrating with us on the mountain tops.  Center on God’s love and you will have the answer to all you needs!  
 

Brokenhearted

God loves us all,  If for some reason your feeling Broken hearted or just not loved know this, that you are loved by someone who will never turn the other way. God loves you more than you could ever possibly imagine. His word says "He Heals the brokenhearted and binds their wonds. it also says The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.     t

Holyblues

Holyblues

 

'Til

Psalm 119:71 (KJV):   It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes   Lamentation's sun rises this morning
Eclipsed by the moon of my own moaning
Darkness for a moment fits the truth,
Enables my soul's shaking, within vicissitudes   Regret cuts like slices before eclipse
But at the climax of my sorrow, Holy Spirit,
The gleaming from your scimitar awakes
'Til your brightness graces over my mistakes
 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to Everyone, May God richly Bless you more then he every has. I pray that each and eveyone has a great and blessed year  and God's Love shine more on you then ever before.

Holyblues

Holyblues

The Sun Is Always Shining

Welcome to 2019,..new day,...new year,...new beginnings for one and all!   How was 2018 for you?   Thankfully I didn't get too retrospective on New Year's Eve as I've been battling a traditional end of the year cold,...with everyone else it seems. Sniffle, cough, sniffle, sip tea, reach for a tissue, and sniffle-cough some more. It's life.   However there is always something to be thankful for. Yes, 2018 had its challenges, but Praise the LORD, there were joys, and lots of answers to prayer as well. The sun, you know is always shining on the other side of the clouds. Or for me, after I lost my father, it was helpful to remember that Every Storm Runs Out Of Rain,...but I didn't want to post a picture of rain clouds for the new year. Hello,...let's start out 2019 as cheerfully as possible,..even if one is sniffling and coughing - ugh.   So the beginning of the new year is already here, and if you are having any regrets about 2018,...or even previous years here is some encouragement.   "You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending." - C.S. Lewis   The 'start where you are',...really spoke to me as it seemed to shut the door nicely on past regrets. Everyone has regrets, we wouldn't be human, if we didn't. No one is perfect, and that's no shock to the LORD.   The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
 He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103: 9-14   Dust? Hello,...only the LORD can refer to us as dust and make it sound like a compliment!   "High as the heavens,"-- that's way beyond the clouds, or even our solar system. How many zillion light years is that? It's a bunch,...and it's comfort to know such love is available to us for the coming year.   2019 is a blank slate. No doubt there will be challenges, and joys. Why do we always seem to forget the joys so quickly while those gloomy challenges seem to linger like a mid-winter head cold? On those gloomy days look up,...our view may be dark clouds,...but above those clouds the sun is always shining.    Happy New Year,...may God bless and keep you!  
 

The Wise Men's Story

Understanding Scripture and acting on the knowledge that it offers, gives way to wisdom which opens the door to a whole new life style.   The Bible relates an event that happened in the city of Bethlehem that would have an effect upon every living created individual, both past, present and future.   It was the birth of the Jewish Messiah.  Not only would God’s chosen people be restored to a living relationship to their Creator, but the invitation to God’s family would be offered to every person, no matter race or gender.  The news of the long awaiting Messiah was first revealed to the Shepherds who became the first evangelist to spread the “Good tidings of great Joy.” (Luke 2:10)  About 900 miles to the northeast of the city of Bethlehem were a group of scholars that made it their business to share and expand their range of knowledge.   On one particular night they happened to notice a new star that had suddenly appeared.  To them it meant that something very special had happened, but what?  Seven hundred years earlier the Southern Kingdom of Judah had  fallen to the mighty army of the Babylonians.   Many of the elite Jews and their possessions were brought back to Babylon.  Among the bounty were probably the Holy Scroll’s and religious artifacts.  One of the individuals captured was Daniel.  Many of the Jews who were loyal to God continued to worship Him in their hostile environment.   I can imagine the “wise men” engaged these new arrivals in quest of knowledge.  Studying the Scroll’s they could have found a reference to a star in Numbers 24:17.  Further study would have shown that a great person would appear on the earth. (Micah 5:2.  Daniel 9:24-27.)  Convinced in the validity of the Word, they decided to seek the individual who had just been born.   After months of travel through all kinds of terrain they finally came to the restored capital of Judah (Jerusalem.)   Desiring to find the specific location of the “King of the Jews,” they met with the political leaders to get specific directions.  I image they thought the country would still be celebrating the arrival of their Messiah.  Instead, the rulers were dumb founded.  King Herod’s cabinet immediately searched the Scroll’s and found that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2)  Herod informed the Wise Men where they could find Him.  He also told them when they found Him, to return and tell him so he could worship Him.  I imagine they thought how could Herod not have known of this great event.   Finding the house where the Messiah was, they entered and immediately fell to the ground and worshiped Him.  How long they worshiped we do not know, but when they finished, they opened the gifts they had brought and laid them at His feet.  They must have lodged in Bethlehem overnight, for they had a dream to not return home by way of Jerusalem.  So the next day, they set off by an alternate route.    What does the Wise Men’s story tell us?  They read and believed God’s written Word. (Scroll’s)  They sought Jesus. (Traveled far) They found Him. (In Bethlehem)  They worshiped Him. (Fell down before Him)  They obeyed God. (As a result of a dream)    Let us read His Word and be willing to seek Him.  Let us worship Him and then obey God’s leading!

simplyrhetorical

simplyrhetorical

 

Who Is This Lamb?

The cup still tips The crumbs congregate Resembling the motley Joyfully passing the plate   The wine is a river The bread is an ark Which by the Spirit Flows through Christ’s heart   Who is this Lamb Who tells us, “Remember”?* He is I Am Who, being with us, is Savior!   This crust is the bow Christ’s love is the anchor  Faith in Him our sail That captures hope’s breeze, forever ___________ * 1 Corinthians 11:25

Ragamuffin_John

Ragamuffin_John

 

What's Life Bringing You?

Whatever life is bringing you - joy or sorrow, pain or blessings  everything you need to live a victories life  that will be fulfilling is already waiting for you. As long as you believe in Jesus Christ .  He will never let you down.  

Holyblues

Holyblues

 

Lifeguard

A person approached by a lifeguard has a natural tendency to want to grab the lifeguard and hold on.  This only increases the odds of drowning, and also puts the lifeguard in danger of drowning.  Instead the drowning person needs to relax, give up on their own efforts, and put their trust in the rescuer.  This way the lifeguard is able to do what he has been trained to do; he is able to grab the person and swim to safety.      I want to stop thinking of holding on to Jesus.  I don’t trust myself.  My muscles weaken, my palms get clammy, my hands turn cold.  I will lose hold.  If I think I am strong, like Peter, I will find how weak I am, like Peter.  Instead I want to think of Jesus holding on to me.  If I give him permission to hold me, I will be held in his everlasting grip that will never let go.  Today, tomorrow, every today, every tomorrow I want to give him permission to hold me.  Then I must understand that, if I am willing for him to hold me, I must also be willing to go where he goes, willing to do what he does, and willing to become the hands and feet of Jesus to a world filled with others who are drowning in sin.      Relax, give up on your own efforts, and put your trust in the Lifeguard, the Rescuer, the Savior.  The journey can begin today.  I’m ready.  Will you join?

Lester Carney

Lester Carney

Christmas NEVER Fails

Have you ever felt like your Christmas has failed?   Come on,...everyone has the tale of THE worst Christmas season ever!!!   For myself the Christmas season has always come from a different perspective, especially since my husband has always worked in retail, which is a sub-culture in of itself where holidays are concerned.   Funny story about when my older guys were very little and I was speaking to an acquaintance about not seeing my husband from mid October to mid February, and she sympathetically lamented, "Oh,...he must be in the military." "No," I replied, "He's in retail."    Thus sending out hearts and hugs to retail families,...it's tough during the holiday season,...we know,...we've been there,...hugs,...hugs,...hugs!!!   Experiencing loss: loved ones, jobs, disappointments can add to Christmas stress. Grief is a subject in of itself,...my Daddy made a big deal of Christmas,...and I sure do miss him!!! Also money worries can be pressing when one can feel pressed to spend,...and spend,...and spend in a seeming never ending holiday cycle. Sickness doesn't stop for the holidays, serious and otherwise,...we've all had that Christmas with the sniffles, or even worse holding a loved ones hands during a more serious doctor's appointment. Interpersonal relationships, especially familial, for you know everyone's got those darling dears in their outlying family who seemingly love try everyone's patience, should be proof enough we live in a fallen world!!!  If that doesn't convince you,...just turn on the news,...no one seems to be getting along these days.   And then there is Autism.   Boy,...oh boy were those early Christmases tough to take. EVERYTHING was soooo confusing. Hello,...when a child is not excited about gifts and toys and sparking ornaments,...and joy,...joy,...joy,...where do you turn?   Not that there wasn't joy,...it just took a while to recognize it.   You see the gift of Autism is that it pares down life to the bare essentials. I love you.
You love me.
And what else is really important?   Did Christmas really HAVE to look like I thought it should look? Did traditions really matter? Did one really need a Christmas tree,...cookies,...caroling,...and even gifts to celebrate?   Guess what?   Christmas arrives December 25th,...presents or no presents,...joy or no joy,...laughter or tears,...grief or healing,...reconciliation or not,...you get the gist. No matter what Christmas comes,...the miracle,...the great joy,...and,"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." - Luke 2:14   Peace on earth?   "The Lord is near.Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:5-7   "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33   The world will alway try to steal your peace usually by setting you to live up to unreachable expectations. Think just about any Christmas commercial on television! Seriously what percentage of Christmas cookies made EVER look like those professionally perfect ones on Pinterest from the seemingly stay-at-home mom, who secretly has a degree in design? Not that our wonky ones don't taste good,...but those unreachable expectations which we are bombarded with, especially on social media are always out there ready to embroider: FAIL, FAIL, FAIL,...onto your Christmas stocking.   The Good News,...the real meaning of Christmas NEVER fails.   "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16     God is gracious,...so very gracious to the world,...and to us.   This is our eighth Christmas with our little guy. Therapy works, thus he's come a long way from those very confusing Christmases where everything seems upside down. NEVER, EVER, EVER give up hope,...those Christmases taught us,...traditional traditions don't make Christmas,...Christmas.
Hello, we ready knew that fact in our heads,...everyone does,...we've all seen the Grinch Stole Christmas a zillion times,...but for the first time we learned it in our hearts.   Autism can't stop Christmas.
Nor sickness, or grief,...or disappointment,...the list goes on to infinity,..for NOTHING can stop the miracle of Jesus Christ's birth.  And that alone is cause enough to celebrate!     MERRY CHRISTMAS from our family to yours!    May you truly know the 'peace of God that transcends all understanding' -this Christmas season!!!    

Katherine Johnston

Katherine Johnston

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