i was recently eating at a restaurant where they served chips and salsa. i love good chips and salsa, but who doesn’t, right? Anyway, as i anticipated the chips and salsa arriving at my table, i was hoping they would be warm. Why? Because that would indicate that they had been in the warmer and, therefore, would be crispy. Interestingly, last night i was out at a restaurant that served bread before the meal, again i found myself hoping that the bread would arrive warm. Why? Because that would indicate that they had ensured that freshness by warming it.
Have you ever had a slightly stale chip or piece of bread? A stale chip can be a little soft, whereas a stale piece of bread can be a bit firm or hard—the remedy for both heat. If you put the chip in the oven for a bit, it will crispen up . . . whereas the bread, if done correctly, will soften. Both will taste fresh again. A warm chip dipped in salsa is as heavenly as a warm piece of bread that melts the butter as you spread it on.
The Christian life can be much the same thing. Believe it or not. We can find ourselves stale, in a place where we are too soft, or we have grown to firm or hard. Both positions are not good or healthy. And just like chips and bread, the solution to our problem is heat. How many worship songs do you know that talk about “Fire?” Are you feeling a bit flimsy in your walk with Jesus? Turn up the heat! Do you feel your heart hardening, especially seeing what is going on in this world? Turn up the heat!
We are called to stand firm in our faith and be at the ready with compassion. We are called to be prepared in season and out of season. It is easy to lose that freshness of when we first came to know Jesus; it’s also easy to lose that refreshing feeling you get from a camp or retreat or even a good sermon. Especially now, with all these restrictions and long periods of isolation. One could very easily find themselves growing stale in their faith or walk with the Lord.
In fact, with the way the world is going, this verse seems rather fitting: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Peter gives a remedy: “Repent, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time of restoring all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago.” Acts 3:19-21
If you find yourself in a stale relationship with Jesus. If you find yourself growing weak or arrogant, you might want to repent and allow the Spirit of the Lord to refresh you. And keep yourself in the warmer.
“I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence, there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:8-11
This is not the time to allow ourselves to grow cold or stale. We need to remain HOT and FRESH for the battle that is before us. People who are looking for answers are not looking for stale Christianity. They want something real, authentic, refreshing, and pure. The Lord is coming again . . . Whether that is in our generation or one to come, the time is short . . . when He does, i pray He finds us faithfully about the Kingdom’s work.
As the world around us crumbles, and as my life seemingly crumbled around me, i can only say, “i am beyond blessed.” How can one make such a statement, how can i make such a statement? Easily! But first, you need to know the road i choose to travel. my road is much like yours in many ways, yet completely different, and that is the mystery of life. Everyone is the same, and yet completely different. To think otherwise is to be a fool. Furthermore, everyone is on a journey, influenced by others, affected by decisions, changed by events.
How one traverses these life influences and how these things imprint one’s life is one hundred percent the choice of the individual. It is called taking responsibility, being self-aware, and stopping to breathe and to use a skill often left in the annals of history, critical-thinking. You may not be able to stop what happens to you, but you can definitely determine how you respond to it.
Romans 15:13 —May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 12:12 —Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Philippians 4:4 —Rejoice in the Lord alwyas; again I will say, Rejoice.
Galatians 5:22-23 —But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .
Life might suck. Lord knows my 2020 has! i have shared before, besides all that is going on with the world, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and died four months later. Through a series of events, i find myself yet again divorced. It has forced me to step away from full-time vocational ministry after 20 plus years! This is the first summer that i have not had any of my son’s with me. With all the travel back and forth to visit my mom and be with family for the last four months, my finances are shaky at best. i have been eating out more. Taco Bell, mainly, as i am on a very tight budget, and i can get a meal for $3.50, which is actually far less than if i went to the store. Because when i cook like i did this morning, i make food for a family, and it reminds me of the fact i am alone. So how is it that i can say that i am beyond blessed?! Because of the road, i choose to travel, and on this road, i am never truly alone.
If not for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within me, i would not. It is the hope that i carry within me that allows me to have joy unspeakable. i can’t even fully explain it. All i know is that i have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and an opportunity each moment to choose Jesus, to choose joy, to stand and say, “i am beyond blessed.” And it is true, no matter my circumstances, i am beyond blessed. You can be too! If you choose.
What is the Church, or where is the Church? Both of those are loaded questions. Of course, they both have simple answers. We are the Church, those of the Way, born new through Christ. Its location is the gathering of those of the Way. These are the prominent answers of the western church, and although they are correct, they are also far from right.
i could spend hours writing out the answers, but the problem with the western church is our answers. They are too theological and represent vast knowledge but lack simple wisdom, in the sense that the people who need to know don’t want that theological answer. They want simple, not for lack of intelligence but because they lack interest, and they aren’t coming to the Church to find out. What they see, doesn’t match what they are told, so what hope is there in that? Why would they want to be apart of something steeped in hypocrisy?
When i moved into my little apartment, my new neighbor and i struck up a friendship. We will sit out on our shared deck and talk about life. One day he shared his passion for pool. He once upon a time was a ranked semi-pro pool player and participated in a U.S. Amateur Open Pool Tournament; he owns a million pool cues!
One Sunday i was headed to Church and then to drive. It would be my first Sunday in town in some time as i have spent many weekends on the road between here and Colorado with my family during my mom’s final performance this side of heaven. i was going to try a local Church out but as i was returning from a morning walk with my ride or die, Shiloh, he is a six-year-old mini-Aussie, and perhaps the coolest dog on the planet. Anyway, as i was entering my apartment, my neighbor was exiting his. “Hey, I am going to Bugz’s to shoot some pool, do you want to go?” Now for those who don’t know, Bugz’s is a bar/casino.
At first, i started to make an excuse for why i couldn’t go. After all, it was Sunday; one doesn’t go to a bar on a Sunday and definitely not to shoot pool! But something grabbed my tongue, and i ended up saying, “Yes, i will meet you there in a few.” And so i did. He shot pool while i pushed balls around with a stick. He showed me some ways to hit and plan and see the table as a whole, each shot, although, individual, is part of a greater plan. Even if you mess up, there are ways to redeem your previous shot. Don’t waste opportunities and sometimes the easiest shot is not the one you take, defense can be a good strategy, don’t slam your stick on the table, sorry, pool cue.
We talked about a lot of things around that pool table. Life, current events, Jesus, each moment was blessed. It reminded me of something; This is the church. It is living in community. It isn’t a place or a building or a set time. It is lived in the heart of the believer and pours out in moments of time, every encounter, every conversation, each relationship. Jesus in me, Jesus through me, because Jesus is for me.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but have itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill you ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
i am not discouraging the assembling together of the saints. i am a firm believer in that! The Church should gather in groups to share life and worship. But as i have written previously, the Church cannot just be a building; it is not a set time; it is every moment, every encounter, every decision. Choose to be the Church today, love the unlovable, show mercy and grace, walk humbly.
The title is not just clickbait, i did actually spend the evening with a “professional” prostitute; actually, i am not sure how she would title her profession, but you get the idea. i guess i should explain how we met before you all jump to conclusions, as is human nature. i picked her up in my car off the street, well it was a parking lot, her and her little dog, a Yorkie, super cute and i think she liked me, still talking about the Yorkie. Just to make it easier to read, let’s give my new friend a name, let’s call her Elaine. If anyone has ever watched Seinfeld, you might get that reference. Elaine jumped right into the car . . .
Elaine: “hey, baby, how’s your day?”
me: “i am good, staying busy! How’s your day going?”
Elaine: “****! They were supposed to have my order ready to pick up, but it’s not ready. It will be later today, they say. I don’t have anywhere to go, and I can’t just wait here so I am going back to my hotel.”
me: “Well, that’s a bummer. Although, you are at the second-best hotel in town.”
Elaine: “Best! Hotel in town, have you layed in there beds?”
me: “Can’t say that i have. i am guessing you like their beds?!”
Elaine: “Yes, I have a great bed at home, but I think theirs just might be more comfortable than mine!”
We continued to talk about life, as i do with everyone i pick up, and i pick up a lot of people. Elaine was my first . . . how do i say this without sounding disparaging? Um, an escort or just prostitute? At this point, i was yet unaware of her profession, however. In fact, we reached her hotel, i was preparing to drop her off when she propositioned me.
Elaine: “I don’t know if you can do this but would you be willing to pick up my special order when it’s ready and bring it to me?”
me: “Well, i suppose, but i can’t promise that i will be available to do it, i might be busy.”
Elaine: “Oh, it’s ok, baby, there’s no rush. You would just be saving me round trip fare. Besides, I would much rather pay you.”
me: “Ok, that’s fine, i would be glad to do it.”
Elaine: “Give me your number, sweety, so I can text you when it’s ready.”
At this point, we exchanged numbers, and i waited for her to text me that it was ready to pick up. The rest of the day passed, i drove till 1:30 am. No text.
The next day . . . or as it was 1:30 am when i stopped, later that day, i did receive a text. Her item was ready, she had contacted the store and changed the name to mine, and i went and picked it up. i met her where i had dropped her off the day before. She handed me some money for my trouble, a sweet smile, and a “thank you.” i responded with the typical response of, “you’re welcome,” and i drove away. i was still oblivious to what she did for a living. She was to me just a sweet lady, who needed help with picking up an order, and i am a helpful guy.
Fast forward to 8:07 pm the same day as the item drop off.
Text Message from Elaine:
Elaine: “Hey CJ, I have two questions for you… First of all, are you free tonight? Ps – thank you again for picking up my order the other day btw.”
me: “i can be whats up And you are welcome”
Elaine: “Thanks.. I could use someone to drive me but to Gillette… Yes, I know. But I’ll pay cash upfront (when you pick me up..)
me: “Wyoming? 😳 i could do it tomorrow but the turn around tonight i just don’t think i could do it.”
Elaine: “Okay. I have a ride tomorrow but I also have someone who wants to see me tonight which would be lucrative and worth it for me to find a ride.”
(This was my first clue, but i shook it off, telling myself, “don’t project that onto anyone.”)
me: “How much are you thinking?”
Elaine: “200? You tell me.. Plus gas..”
me: “i am in the middle of a delivery and i will need to go home and let my dog out When did you wanna leave?”
Elaine: “Ok… Let me confirm with my client. Hang on..”
i thought to myself, “maybe she is a masseuse or something, late-night clients, though?” i wasn’t so much confused as i was just hoping that it wasn’t what i was thinking. At this point i prayed, “Lord, i don’t know what is going on here but if you want to use me in this situation, first, help me not to miss what you are doing. Second, help me not to screw up what you are doing. Lastly, help me to be faithful to You, in Jesus name . . . amen.”
Elaine: “Okay, so they flaked. I hate when that happens. Sorry to bug ya.”
me: “No worries”
Elaine: “Thanks for being kosher…. “Ya .. I thought I had something going on here. But it turns out I don’t. So it got a little happy when I’m had a prospect even though they were in Gillette!”
me: Always kosher and happy to help out . . . The world needs more nice people
Elaine: “Amen! “I find that people really suck more times than not “I don’t understand what’s so hard about doing what you say? Why say it to begin with! #facepalm
“well I don’t know what you have going on or what your home life is like butt if you would like to grab a drink at some point this evening I -evidently- am free and would like to.
At this point, i paused, “Lord, this is a terrible idea! And yet i believe you put me here, in this situation, on purpose. So, give me grace, give me wisdom, give me strength. In Jesus Name . . . amen.” i then agreed to meet her, and i did. We went to one of the billion casinos that Billings has, and she won $160—some luck. We eventually talked about her profession. i asked if i could ask her questions. She agreed. We talked about why? She was very candid with her response. It boiled down to money. i attempted to express that life was more than money and “things” (possessions). As we walked her dog, i invited her to my blog . . . she would later text me for the information again, and i sent her a link. i have no idea what she is thinking. There is a good chance she is reading this right now! And if (YOU are), i hope that i did not offend you, “Elaine,” and i meant every word i said to you. You are loved!
In sharing the following verse, i am in no way elevating myself to Jesus. However, Jesus, through us, should encourage us to do and be and go and serve and love . . .
36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”
40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
So he said, “Teacher, say it.”
41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the onewhom he forgave more.”
And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (New King James Version).
This morning my downstairs neighbor told me she thinks we have a rodent between the floors because when i am gone, she can hear gnawing. “When you leave that rodent comes out and gnaws on wires or something for hours,” i suggested it may be Shiloh, my mini Aussie, gnawing on his bone, he has two really yummy bones; not that i would know, they just look yummy. Anyway, she did not agree. Growing up, we lived in several apartments. One thing about them is everything, every noise, anytime you drop even a pin; it’s like setting off an atomic bomb or something. Knowing this i attempt to walk softly and minimize my clumsiness. When Shiloh does enjoy his bone, he uses his paw to press it firmly to the floor so that he can, well, gnaw on it. i am fairly certain this is the rodent.
my bike was stolen from my porch or deck or landing, whatever it’s called. i was away, you know if you have read any of my previous posts, at my parent’s home. When i returned, it was the first thing i noticed. It had a tire lock on it and a flat tire, so i am not sure how they managed to run off with it, but one thing is for sure, they did not ride off into the sunset. i hope they needed it, Jesus said, if someone steals your coat, give them your tunic as well. Basically, a tunic is a shirt, so if someone steals your coat, give them your shirt as well. In this instance, i should probably put a sign on my deck that says, “here is the key to the lock on the bike you stole.” Maybe add a footnote, “thanks for being my final excuse not to ride it.”
my apartment is so tiny it is like a studio; only it has a wall between the bedroom and the living room. i lived in a very small apartment when i first moved to Wasilla, AK. It was two bedrooms and although the square footage is probably not much more than this place . . . it now feels like a mansion in comparison. Have you ever seen the sketch, Joe’s Apartment? i am not recommending it, i just remember bits of it from my younger years. i don’t even know what the premise was except that Joe, the guy living in the apartment, had made a bond with the many roaches residing with him. Except for the fact i keep my home clean, and i don’t have roaches, and my name isn’t Joe, it’s basically the same thing. Although, it does appear that i have at least one R.O.U.S. that comes out when i leave. So who knows maybe a T.V. Show in the works, “cj’s apartment.”
Why am i telling you these random things? Well, here goes; You never know what life is growing to throw at you. One minute, a family, a big house, and the next . . . um, not, that. One could easily give up, some do, but the story doesn’t have to end there or here. Each day, every moment really is another opportunity to see the good, to choose joy, to do what is just, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. A lot of introspection has and is going on in my tiny apartment. i suspect that will continue for some time. The one constant in my life, Jesus, i know He will always be with me. His mercy is new every morning, and His love is sure.
Here is a final note, don’t put your hope and your joy and your worth in possession, or influence, or others, YOUR WORTH is in knowing the LORD and in His presence, period.
“”Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:25-34 ESV
Sitting with my mom as she withers away is the most difficult thing i have ever done. Today, i sat with her and we listened to hymns together (some Christmas because my mom loves Christmas) as we held hands . . . She slept, i cried. Each hymn so sweet and just brought back so many memories. When i was younger we traveled as a family and sang in churches. One particular summer that i recall is my favorite summer of all time. i lived in two shirts and one pair of jeans, although i am sure i had more. The two shirts were from the movie, “Return of the Jedi”. Both were softball style shirts (if that makes sense) one was blue, that one was my favorite, the other red. i also lived in a fifth-wheel trailer.
That summer between concerts i remember the road trips, the stops, the hikes, the sandwiches, we ate so many sandwiches! i remember setting up for the concerts, eating at all the potlucks, so many potlucks, and the tearing down. i remember every concert was exactly the same and yet completely different and that is the best i can describe them. Shawnee our German Shepherd was the best traveler! She and i were buds. i remember all the family and old friends of my parents that we saw, some for me, meeting them for the first time. We even did a mini concert at the home of a cousin or family friend.
i remember all the historical sights we visited, some recently destroyed because humanity has gone mad. So many state and national parks too. i learned so much and am so thankful for those memories. It is the source of my appreciation for music and music of all kinds but especially my fondness of the hymns. my mom’s voice echoing through the sanctuary’s of big churches and little churches . . . Brick churches and log “cabin” churches, old wooden chapels and fancy plush churches. Her voice was angelic, she will definitely be featured in the heavenly choir where i am sure she will be found shortly upon her arrival into heaven.
Music is her life blood i think. my mom loves music. In heaven, the Bible says that the angels sing around the thrown. This will definitely be where mom is found. She will have that old voice back, strength in her bones, and air in her lungs, as she sings out around the thrown joining in with the angel choir, a new song! It is this image that fills my mind and heart with comfort and peace. i am reminded of Jesus words at what is referred to as the sermon on the mount.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10)
In these final days, moments, with my mom i am thankful for these words from Jesus. May His Kingdom come, may He reign in our hearts and minds and lives forever and ever, amen. Be blessed today knowing that He cares for you. How do i know? Because of sandwiches, so many sandwiches! He comforts through His word, through His Spirit, and through memories, so many great memories! i love you mom, may you enter your much deserved reward in peace; May your heavenly concert tour be as full of joy as our earthly ones.
my mother is dying. Six months, that’s the best the doctors think. Being a pastor i have sat with countless families as they have said goodbye to a loved one. i have been there to support, pray with/for, encourage, and cry with them. i have helped with final arrangements, from just giving ideas to even taking on the full planning of a funeral for those who just didn’t know or couldn’t plan it themselves. Now here i am with my mom, and its as if i am completely clueless. my brother has taken on the significant role of caretaker during these days of home hospice, nurses do come in, a few days a week, to check on things, but the day to day care, my brother has taken on, and all i can say is WOW! He amazes me. Again, i am clueless, i can’t even think of what to do. my sister is here as well, and she has stepped right in, and i just sit back . . . oh, i do some, when asked, or the task is obvious.
Did i mention that i have sat with many a family in this very situation and have had the whereabouts to know what, how, when, where, to do, and or give support. It’s like i am frozen here. i feel helpless, and it makes me feel selfish because the only one here who is genuinely “helpless” is my mom. Stuck in bed, dependent on her family and a team of nurses. i have tried and will continue to try and do all that i can, i am trying to change my mindset, move in different ways, trust more, pray more, be more . . . aware?!? Is that the right word? i don’t know. i want to honor her the best i can, for she has been the joy and inspiration of the family.
The commandment in scripture to “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) is actually in reference to older or elderly parents, of course, the principle can also be applied to children and their parents. Although we mostly refer to it in the latter, it definitely is more the former. i stated above, i want to desperately honor my father and certainly now more than ever my mother in these final days. i believe that i have done a fair job to this point of my life, but at the same time, i think of all the times i fell short in this area. my mom would say if asked, that she is proud of me. That makes me happy, but i wonder, is it warranted? Have i earned it?
Jesus didn’t, nor does He expect us to earn His forgiveness. He gave freely of Himself on the cross to make us righteous and holy. What a gift! There is a song by Steffany Gretzinger called, “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.” WOW! What a powerful song and a fantastic voice! The opening lines of the song are so powerful; the song opens like this: (i will link to a video of the song at the bottom)
“If my heart could tell a story If my life would sing a song If I have a testimony If I have anything at all
No one ever cared for me like Jesus His faithful hand has held me all this way And when I’m old and gray and all my days are number on the earth Let it be known, in You alone My joy was found Oh my joy, my joy
Let my children tell their children Let this be their memory That all my treasure was in heaven and You were everything to me
This song is my mom. This has been her testimony, and it has been my challenge. i can’t listen to this song without getting lost in memories where my mom’s joy filled the air. She has been the bedrock of our family, the glue if you will, and she did it all with joy. And that joy was founded in her faith in Jesus. Her legacy, her testimony, can be found in this song by Steffany Gretzinger, and i am glad that i stumbled upon it. i hope that it blesses you and challenges you as much as it has me. i pray this becomes my testimony as well, for no one ever cared for me like Jesus . . . and Jesus, through my mom, is her testimony. May Jesus, through me, be mine.
It was 198?. i was 8ish years old. We lived in Burbank, CA. on Keystone Street. It was a budget crunch year for the family, and we had the option of a Christmas tree or buying a Christmas present for the grandparents. The parents left it up to us kids. The three of us decided on buying our grandparents a gift. That meant no tree. However, not entirely. We did own a small, and by small, i mean not much more than a foot tall fake tree. We decorated it and placed it on the coffee table. So, in the end, it was three feet tall.
i don’t recall what we purchased for the grandparents. i am sure it was lovely. i can tell you, however, what i got that year! With great anticipation, looking under the coffee table, i wondered for weeks, “what could these gifts be?!?” i would pick them up and give them a shake or two, no hint was revealed. Finally, the day arrived! Christmas!!! i was so excited. But we waited. No gifts that year until after the Christmas dinner. We waited for our relatives to arrive. They did. With them, MORE GIFTS! i believe this picture (featured image above) was taken on Christmas day just before we opened the gifts . . . But i could be wrong.
Here is a list of my gifts. From my parents that year i received, i don’t remember. From my sister i received, yeah, i don’t remember that either. From my brother . . . Again, nothing comes to mind, oh, he got me something, they all did, but i don’t remember. What i do remember is i received the memory of the merriest of Christmases. i remember that year; my dad read the story of Christmas from the Gospel of Luke. i remember the joy of my Aunt Helen as she played her accordion that was twice the size she was. i remember the birthday cake my mom made for Jesus and singing Happy Birthday to Him.
i miss that Christmas. It was to me the sweetest most merriest of Christmases. This year my prayer for you is that you will experience the sweetest most merriest of Christmases. May it not be about what is under the tree, but WHO is in your heart. Enjoy the family, read the story in Luke, out loud, bake Jesus a cake, and sing Him happy birthday.
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” Luke 2:10-14
“For to us a child is born, to us, a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Well, can you believe it?! It is already November. We are a week away from Thanksgiving and the start of what has been the tradition of the Advent season leading up to Christmas. Which is something that we have been talking about as we have looked at paganism and the church. So the struggle for me is real as i digest all this information and find my center, as well as appropriate Worship of our Lord Jesus in the context of a seemingly pagan holiday.
However, we are budding up against our annual fall/winter vacation week. Therefore i will be taking a break from my regular posting and then upon my return will be talking about how i am handling the Advent this year in the context of the church. We have already scheduled our calendar as far as Advent goes, including each Sunday evening in December. We will, however, be looking at Hanukkah as well this year as it lands on the week of our traditional Christmas. Definitely taking a different spin on our traditional Christmas this year.
We have themed it “Find the Light, the birth of THE King,” as i don’t see why we can’t celebrate that within the proper context and outside of anything pagan. Again, i am just now awakening to this and tearing down the false idols without tearing up the wheat.
“But He said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'” Matthew 13:29-30
i understand that this is taken mostly out of context, i say mostly because it is still useful here as it relates to not being too aggressive as to not lose the weak or shallow-rooted. Yet, until then, as i said earlier, i will be taking a break as i vacation with the family. Although, as any writer knows, sometimes you get hit with something, and you just have to write it down. That may happen, but there will be no posting until the first week in December.
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” Ecclesiastes 2:24-25
“You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, ‘How have we wearied Him?’ By saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them.’ Or by asking, ‘Where is the God of justice?'” Malachi 2:17
This looks and sounds a lot like what we have today in our culture. It is in fact what is warned about in Isaiah 5:20 That in the last days. . . “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” And not just in the Old Testament writings but also in the New. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” 2 Timothy 4:3 And in 2 Peter 2:1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” There are so many more, but i will only add one last warning from Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Have we as a culture wearied the Lord by watering down His grace because we have removed judgment? Rather than wrestle with challenging topics, we simply say, “God is love.” There is no denying that, seems a legitimate way to end an argument. However, it is a false hope for without judgment, there is no grace, and without repentance, there is no hope for mercy. As history always does, it is repeating itself again. i worry that as a culture, and by that i mean Christian Culture, that we are wearying the Lord with our acceptance of evil as good or just our lack of ability to call evil, evil by saying, “God is love.”
Our battle, as written in Ephesians 6:12 (quoted below in the ESV), is one in which the ruler of this world, Satan, fighting for our heart in an epic spiritual battle that attempts to deceive us into believing the lie, “Did God really say . . .?”
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.“
Awake! God is not mocked! Sanctify yourself and work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You are loved so much that God, through Jesus Christ, made a way for us to enter into the holiness of God; Even still, we are being called to be holy by a holy God.