Ashes Tell The Story–Wednesday’s Wondering 26 February 2020

(picture from pghcitypaper.com

Today can be just another day in your life or. . . it can become the beginning of a journey into an adventure. This adventure is not for the weak or faint of heart. And it’s certainly not for those who choose the predictability of their current misery over the adventure that is anything but predictable. I’m speaking now to those who are willing to admit that the life they have been living is boring, painful and certainly unfulfilling.

Ash Wednesday is God’s invitation to leave behind everything in order to be filled with His Life. Jesus left behind everything in Heaven so that we could be set free. And face it, all of us are in some type of prison. An addiction. Fear. Anger. Disappointment. Despair. Frustrations. These are just a few of the names of our jailers. The Ashes of Ash Wednesday holds the key to be released from our jail cells.

For the last several days I have been praying the Scriptures and one verse has captivated my attention. Isaiah 61:3 says–“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” Do you know what ashes are? One definition of ashes is “the remains of something destroyed”. We can never have the life God intends for us until the old life–those old ways–are completely destroyed in us.

We cannot have a crown of beauty, a joyous blessing, and festive praise until the things that imprison us are turned into ashes. This process of turning our old life into ashes can be painful–but it’s not all that complicated either. Do what Paul did when he turn away from his old life and began his adventure with Jesus: “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8 NLT)

I want to challenge you today to reflect on two things: 1. Are the things I’m holding on really creating beauty, blessing and praise? 2. Have I given up everything, considered it garbage, so that I might have Jesus as my Lord and Savior? Learn the lesson from the ashes of Ash Wednesday. Then go and receive the sign of those ashes–at a church service, or with a friend, or if you’re alone, do it to yourself. You don’t need a seminary degree to impose the sign of The Ashes. Just a willingness to give up that old life in order to begin the journey into an adventure.

Sounds Of Silence–Wednesday’s Wonderings 19 February 2020

(image from gravitycenter.com)

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.
(1 Kings 19:11-12

Silence!  Sometimes silence speaks louder than words.  Sometimes silence is extremely awkward.  Sometimes silence is welcomed, especially after the grandkids leave after a 2 day visit.  Sometimes silence is painful, as when someone goes home, alone, after a funeral or divorce proceeding.  But the most painful silence of all is when it seems, at least to us, that God and heaven are silent to our prayers and our needs. 

It is not only painful, but as we see in the story of Job, it is often frustrating when God not only seems to be silent, but actually is silent.  We don’t like it when God is silent and demand that God speak and speak right now.  But God doesn’t always speak out.  He chooses a time of silence.  So, how do we deal with and respond to those times when God and heaven are silent?

Elijah had remained faithful to God even though many of his fellow Israelites have turned to worshiping empty, dead gods.  Then comes the great victory at Mt. Carmel where Elijah challenged the priests of Baal to a contest.  Prepare a sacrifice, one for Baal and one for the Lord God of All.  The God who answered by fire would be the God of everyone.  And we know that God answered Elijah’s prayer.

But then comes the threat from Jezebel:  “I will make you like one of my priests of Baal, dead as a door nail!”  Elijah, the man of courage and conviction at Mt. Carmel, becomes Elijah, a man filled with fear.  He runs away and wishes to die.  Yet God lets Elijah know that He, God, is not finished with him.  He goes to Mt. Horeb, anticipating a meeting and a word from God.  But when he arrives, something is wrong, or so it seems to the normal eye. 

The Lord was not in the wind, not in the earthquake, and not in the fire.  In other words, God was silent.  In all of the normally expected ways that God spoke in that day, He chose to remain silent; not a word of confirmation of His awesome presence in any shape, fashion or form.  If I had been Elijah I would have demanded:  “OK, God, you called this meeting.  You wanted to talk and I needed to hear and talk.  What’s all this silence about?”

Truth is, that God uses those times for silence for something far bigger and much better for us, even when we cannot see how His silence helps us.  I believe there are certain specific things that God teaches us individually in these times of silence.  God will reveal principles and truths that relate directly and specifically to us and where we are in life at that particular moment.  It depends on the situation what God is trying to teach us.  However, there is at least one principle that applies to us all; a single overriding truth that fits us all.  The fact is that the time of silence is the best way to discover the power and strength that wells up inside us during the times of silence.

Here is the principle:  God is trustworthy!  God does not have to move, or speak or do anything to prove that He and He alone can be trusted.  When we are silent, usually, but not always, it means we are not doing anything.  This is not true with God.  Because God can be trusted, His silence does not mean is not that He is not working on our behalf.  Truth is, God is hard at work for us, even when we can’t see or hear him; ESPECIALLY when we can’t see or hear God.

And even though God and heaven is silent, it never means that God has forgotten us.  And, it NEVER, EVER, EVER means that God has turned His back to us.  Remember the principle:  God can be trusted!  How can we be this confident that God hasn’t turned His back on us, even in the times of silence?  The answer is clearly simple:  because of the Cross!

Why Have Religion?–Wednesday’s Wondering 12 February 2020

God never offers you a Religion; He offers you and me Relationship.

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Lately I’ve been thinking about preferences. Not the preference of purchasing the name brand or the store brand. I’m thinking deeper; thinking about those questionnaires that have that asks you for your preference on Religion. Are you Christian, Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, New Age, Mormon, Jehovah Witness? The list goes on. And usually there is that last choice: None of the above.

I remember several years ago when I went to a pre-admit for a procedure my cardiologist had ordered. The nurse was asking the usual questions. And one made me laugh, and she did too when I answered her. “Do you have any memory loss or lapse of memory?” I replied, “Not that I recall.”

And when it comes to the answer of my Religious Preference, I think from now on I’ll respond: None Of The Above. No, I haven’t become a None or a Done; well, maybe I am a Done. Yes! I am a Done! I’m Done with

  • Form rather than substance
  • Appearance rather than growth
  • Going through the motions rather than passion
  • Appearance rather than character of heart, mind and actions
  • Promoting doctrine rather than proclaiming transforming Grace
  • and most of all Religion rather than Relationship.

Do you really think that Jesus gave up heaven for Mary’s womb? Gave up a Throne to be placed in a feed trough? Gave up being praised for the mockery of the crowd while hanging on a cross? Did He do that and so much more just so we could have a Religion? So why have you accepted only a Religious Preference as a “thing” He wants you to have?

God never offers you a Religion; He offers you and me Relationship. Relationship carries us and guides us through the complexities of life on this orb called Earth. Relationship takes us from what we really are to who we are created to become. I’m Done with Religion. So when I answer one of those Religious Preference questionnaires I’m marking None of the above. Oh, you can keep your Religion and be short-changed, but not me.

But He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.

Micah 6:8 (The Message)

Does AT&T Know More About Faith Than The 21st Century Church?–Wednesday’s Wondering 5 February 2020

This Wednesday I’m wondering about. . . faith; more exactly, Where Is The Faith In God Today? Clarification is in order: By the word FAITH I am talking about unconditional and unlimited trust in God–in God’s ways, timing, and most of all, in His Word to us, The Bible.

While the Church is supposed to be the one who leads the way in understanding and living in and by Faith, it seems that this huge corporation called AT&T® has a better grasp on Faith. Maybe you’ve seen this commercial:

For many who wear the name “Christian”, they think Faith is a set of beliefs and creeds. That is the context in which they use and apply Faith. If you are one of them, how can I say this??? You missed the boat. The plane has already taken off. You’re playing solitaire with a deck of 49 cards. Too many won’t believe until they see it. But AT&T® understands the power of Faith.

“A lot of people say I’ll believe it when I see it. But I’ll tell you what. They got it backwards. Because there are certain things in life that you can only see when you first believe.” Whoever wrote this script must have read at some point in their life Hebrews 11:1–“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

In the midst of this political chaos, if you do not believe there is a way forward for us as a nation, then you don’t have Faith. If you think your vote, your voice, your life will never make a difference, then you don’t have Faith. And for my United Methodist friends, if you think the future of our Tribe is gone, then you don’t have Faith.

Too many are living each day with those sleep masks, blind and oblivious to what God is doing right smack dab in the middle of all this messiness. Without Faith you are doomed to your petty, minuscule world and you will end up looking like and acting like that nameless Speaker of the House did last night.

On the other hand, there are certain things you cannot see until you first believe. Faith empowers and emboldens people to see beyond the immediate to what can be when we cooperate with God. Think about those 10 lepers who approached Jesus. Man! Talk about messiness. And Jesus had the audacity to tell them, “Go show yourselves to the Priests and get your certificate of clean health so you can be reunited with your families and communities!”

Now get this–they were STILL lepers. The signs of leprosy was all over them. The “rule” was you had to be clear of leprosy, now make sure you get this part, BEFORE YOU GO TO THE PRIEST FOR YOUR CERTIFICATE OF HEALTH! But these lepers didn’t go by the “rule”; while they were still messy lepers they acted as if they were already healed. They couldn’t see themselves healed until they believed they were healed.

And how did that work out for them? Well, they got a clean bill of health from the Priest. They were reunited with families, friends and communities. And it was all because they knew that certain things couldn’t be seen until they believed. And if you believe this nation, your state, your family, your community, and your church is doomed–then it’s time for Faith. Not faith in yourselves, but FAITH in Jesus who said…

17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, 19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” 20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

Luke 4:17-21

If you can’t see this happening in our time, take off that sleep mask and start living out your FAITH!

What Happens When We Share A Part Of Us With Another Person?–Wednesday’s Wondering 29 January 2020

Today’s Wednesday Wondering came to me easily. A friend of ours, Savannah, gave birth to a handsome young man, McCoy. However, McCoy was born with a condition called Biliary Artesia (read here if you want to know more about this condition). The only cure is either a miracle or a liver transplant (which IS a miracle, itself). I and literally thousands have been praying for Savannah and McCoy. Speaking only for myself (though I’m sure lots of others have been doing this), I have been doing what Jesus told us to do: Ask, seek, knock.

I’ve kept on ASKING, and I’ve kept SEEKING, and more than knocking, I’ve kept on POUNDING ON THE DOOR for McCoy’s miracle. A liver transplant would require a donor–either someone who died and was a organ donor (and I certainly wasn’t praying for that) or a living donor; someone who would share a part of their liver. And it requires what doctors call tissue match that would fit into McCoy’s DNA.

I am rejoicing this morning to tell you that McCoy’s miracle has happened. Savannah wanted to give a part of her liver to McCoy but couldn’t be a living donor because she had a Cesarean Section. As I understand it, people who have had a surgical procedure within the last year do not qualify as a Living Donor. And that’s not the end of McCoy’s miracle journey. Savannah’s Mom, Stacey, fit the bill perfectly. Yesterday she shared a part of her (in Stacey’s husband’s words) “slightly used but in like new condition” liver.

The picture I shared at the top of this post shows the results. In just hours after the transplant McCoy changed. Savannah changed. Stacey and the whole family changed. Their friends changed. The community of Sulligent changed. All because one person shared a part of themselves to another person, another life!

We’re quick to give some people a piece of our mind; and I know some who really can’t afford to do that because don’t have much of a mind to begin with–and it keeps getting smaller and smaller. And today I invite you to wonder–WONDER WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU GAVE A PIECE OF YOURSELF FOR THE SAKE OF ANOTHER? Not a piece of your mind–you can’t spare it and it’s not a match for what that other person needs.

I’m talking about investing and sacrificing your life for the sake of someone who needs more than a piece of your mind. It’s not easy; just ask Stacey. Pain is involved. But is it worth it? I refer you back to the above picture of before and after Stacey shared a part of herself with McCoy. You tell me if it’s worth it. You darn tootin’ it’s worth it!

Footnote: If you would like to be a Living Donor here’s a link with more information. And if you haven’t yet thought about it, think about sharing your organs as a Living Legacy. Click here for more information.

Is It Safe To Live According To Our Feelings? Wednesday’s Wondering 22 January 2020

Because we believe our feelings are true about ourselves, we allow those feelings to give us our Identity–to define who we believe we really are.

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“Feelings, nothing more than feelings, trying to forget my feelings of love.” If you listened to music in 1974, you know this song. Is it stuck in your head now? Then tell yourself, “Self, I am not going to be singing that song to myself for rest of the day!” Good luck with that! This Wednesday I am wondering about feelings–no not the song; rather the feelings that come from within us.

Can we live a full, productive, even successful life based on our feelings? We hear a lot in our culture about “feelings”. In our culture, feelings seem to be the landmark of defining one’s identity. We also hear a lot about emotions. In my own way I want to address this and specifically how that feelings and emotions are not one in the same. I want you to be able to distinguish the difference between a feeling and an emotion.

The are NOT the same. I realize that some of you may disagree with me, and say I’m wrong. It’s OK for you to disagree with me and tell me I need to change this thought of mine. I could agree with you that I’m wrong on this–but then we’d both be wrong. Anyway. . .here’s the difference between a feeling and an emotion.

A feeling is something we believe to be true. . .about ourselves. . .or another person/group. . .or a situation we have faced, are facing, or may face. Feelings are just that–something that we believe to be true about ourselves, another person, or a particular situation. I’m not talking about what IS ACTUALLY TRUE, but what WE BELIEVE is true.

Now, let’s get to that other word: Emotions! Emotions are our response to those feelings; whether they are our feelings about ourselves, another person, or that particular situation. Emotions are the way we express the response to our feelings. If you have no feelings, you have no emotions. If you have no emotions, you have no feelings.

Now, feelings and emotions were created by God for us as human beings. Feelings and emotions are both gifts from God that reflect a part of HIS Image that HE placed in each person. We cannot deny them. We cannot ignore them. And we cannot downplay the role they have in us successfully becoming a whole person. We need both feelings and emotions if we are going to become the best possible self that God created for us to be.

However. . .well, let me use a “preacher” term here: BUT! Yeah, yeah, the preacher’s but. Just when you think you’ve got something good going on, that blessed preacher inserts his or her BUT! Don’t you just love a preacher’s but! I want to center in on “feelings” But feelings do not give us our true identity as a person created in the image of God. Feelings are simply what we believe to be true about ourselves. Because we believe our feelings are true about ourselves, we allow those feelings to give us our Identity–to define who we believe we really are.

Now God gave us the capacity to have feelings. He gave us the ability to have emotions. These are just a part of God’s identity–but they do not give God HIS Identity. They are a wonderful part of that unique blend of so many parts. Just like you can’t have a cake with just eggs, or just flour, or just sugar or just milk. You got to have all those other ingredients–and don’t forget all those extra “flavorings” you can add that changes everything about a cake.

Feelings are not the whole of a simple organism; feelings are a part of a very complex organism–just a part, but an essential part. We are living in a time when people are being told they MUST live and IDENTIFY who they are as a person based only upon one part of this complex organism. Feelings are allowed to become the dictator, and our emotions follow the lead of that dictator.

God never designed us to live by our feelings. And He never intended that we allow our feelings to define us and give us our true identity. Living only by feelings creates a false self–never your true self. Yes, He gave us feelings, but they are only a part of the process if you would, to help us become who HE created us to become–Our WHOLE, TRUE SELF. The Best Self Possible.

Remember that “feelings” are something we believe to be true; not necessarily true–but we believe they are true. Just because we believe it is true, doesn’t make it true. I am so sorry Calvinists. I am so sorry progressive thinkers and theologians. I am so sorry fellow evangelical sisters and brothers! We are NOT who we are based solely on our feelings. We human beings can’t define what is really TRUE! That ability is way beyond our pay grade.

When we try to live out of our feelings it creates instability. Feelings can and will vary in a day–just like weather varies every day in Alabama. In the early mornings I get my jacket. By mid morning I hang it back up. By mid-day I’m putting on a short sleeve shirt. And my afternoon, I’m looking for my shorts and sandals. Feelings change.

God never designed feelings to be our sole or primary identification in life. And we need to be careful with our feelings. I’m sure you’ve had feelings in retrospect you knew were wrong. You didn’t know it as the time–but hindsight is always 20-20. And if you are honest, you know that those feelings (feelings you believed were true at the moment) caused damage and inflicted hurt–either on another person, on yourself, or both. And I bet right now you are remembering the damage your feelings that you believed were right at that moment caused. And that damage may still be present–the wounds haven’t yet healed. And you are aware of the damage that resulted when your feelings were wrong.

When feelings becomes the determining factor–the damage caused by feelings and the subsequent emotions runs deep; and it keeps us from our True Self, the one created in the Image of God.

Lips And Hearts–Wednesday’s Wonderings 15 January 2020

Wednesday is the day I’ve chosen to wonder about. . .well about life and God. And today I’m adding another point to wonder about–people. Oh, yeah, I know I’ve wondered about people before, but usually in the context of my gifts of sarcasm and snarkiness. But this morning I’m setting aside those gifts. . .because my heart is breaking for a group of people.

My heart always breaks for the least, the last and the lost–people hurting, struggling, and doubting that there’s enough grace with God for them. The group my heart breaks for this morning is. . .well, look at how God describes them:

Most preachers, myself including myself, quote this passage with the sense that God is angry. That God is criticizing these people of lips without hearts. Even Jesus quoted this passage and we envision Jesus full of anger and foaming at the mouth. So we point out with criticism and anger these people who’s lips say one thing about God, but there hearts are far from God. Could it be, that when God said that to Isaiah, and when Jesus quoted this passage that there was sadness in His heart? Could He have been crying for them?

Many times I have questioned…scratch that…criticized Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters and Progressives for their attitudes and ways of thinking. But this morning…my wondering has my heart breaking for them. I’m grieving because they are missing so much of who God is and what God wants to do in their day to day life.

Lips say one thing but the heart says something different. It’s not just the aforementioned Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters and Progressives who are herein described. I’ve seen Conservative and Orthodox folks who fit the bill of what God is saying through Isaiah. And even yours truly has been guilty of this. Seeing and believing only what we want to see and believe, and then say it’s God.

Why have we limited God? It’s easy to say, “Well, it’s the Devil! That’s what he does!” No doubt, that IS his job. But right now I’m remembering a sign on President Harry Truman’s desk:

WE have a choice; sadly many of us have chosen poorly. So today, I choose to accept responsibility for my lips; and My Heart! I choose to wonder about the Wonder Of God! I choose to remove the fences and walls that keeps me knowing ABOUT God to KNOWING GOD! I set aside whatever I’ve thought about God. I set aside everything others have said about God. And I open MY heart to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the mysteries of God. I long for this, and so I choose to start with a clean sheet of paper and let God write what I need so that His Image becomes more clearer and brighter in me.

And thus I wonder: “How could I even think that MY understanding of God (which is spoken by my lips) is the ultimate expression of God?” Yes, we need to fight Satan in this world. But before we go to battle, let’s make sure that we honor God With Our Hearts. And the best way to do this is to quit pretending we’re the experts and surrender our heart to the wonders of God. Only as we give up our concepts can the heart be cleansed–and be drawn closer to God.

Wednesday Wondering-The Long Suffering Of God

Last night as I was lying in bed I heard in my heart “long suffering”. And the passage I thought of first was Psalm 86:15. Even though I cut my teeth on the King James Version, for decades I’ve used more recent translations. But those other translations miss something, in my humble opinion, that the translators used in the King James Version; and here it is:

But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

The subject is God and David proceeds to add some descriptive words about Him. Most like the idea that God has tons of compassion, grace, mercy and truth; and why not like that idea. But there is another description David has: Long-Suffering!

We don’t use that phrase in our everyday conversations and rarely consider what it means when it comes to God. It’s my contention that it’s because those two words, long and suffering, are words our culture does not like nor appreciate. We avoid long–long lines and long waits; and we avoid by all means possible suffering –because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable so we avoid the vexatious.

I took a moment this morning to look up that word/phrase long-suffering in both the Hebrew and from the dictionary. The Hebrew word is ‘arek and it comes from another Hebrew word ‘arak. It means to draw out, lengthen. From the dictionary it defines it as: having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.

And I realize that God experiences LONG-SUFFERING in dealing with me. There are still moments when, after I fail, I wonder how in the world God puts up with me. The Enemy whispers, “You blew it again, Randy, and God is through with you.” If you’ve faced many failures, it’s easy to believe him; that God is simply tired of you.

But then I remembered King David. He lied to protect himself; lusted for his friend’s wife; murdered that friend; sought to do things without seeking God’s guidance–and here in Psalm 86:15 David proclaims hope–through God’s Long-Suffering. God prolongs giving up on me–prolongs giving up on you. He persists for us because of His love. He shows patience in spite of the trouble we cause Him.

So, today, I want to remember God’s Long-Suffering, not as an excuse to keep on failing, but as a reminder that HE loves me so much that Jesus Long-Suffered in the Wilderness, in the Garden, and on the Cross–and I don’t want Him to Long-Suffer again because of me. At times my heart is divided, but today–in this moment–I choose to have an undivided heart for the ONE who is LONG-SUFFERING for me. I can’t give up–YOU can’t give up–because HE never gives up on us. HE goes the distance for us–whatever it takes. So, why would any of us do less for HIM!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

Same Ol’ Same Ol’–OR

And they are OFF TO THE RACES! All those people who have determined that this year is going to be different! New gym memberships by the boatload. New weight loss memberships by the truckload. Downloads of fitness and weight loss apps by the tens of thousands. A New Year and A New You, proclaims the self-help gurus. Just buy this book; pay for that monthly webinar; subscribe to the other life-coach and YOU WILL SEE A DIFFERENT YOU! Yeah…right…pardon my sarcastic look right now.

It seems that there are still those who think that the purpose of a New Year is so that they can make some resolutions that, when followed, will make them better…make them happier…make them contented. So they Google and Google about how to make realistic Resolutions. Then they Google some more about Steps To Take To Keep Those Resolutions. All this with the Illusion that 2020 is really going to be different for them. Add that this marks the beginning of a new decade–the Illusion gains strength.

REALITY CHECK! Most resolutions are broken the first week; or at best, in the first month. And the rare person who actually keeps those resolutions for the whole year? If they are honest with themselves, they will admit their resolutions didn’t really change them. I not convinced that there are any who keep all their resolutions–It’s a myth, I say! A MYTH! So on January 1, 2021 they will get back on the hamster wheel and make it squeak even louder.

Well, can you? The Truth is that no amount of resolutions can really make lasting changes in you. There is only one Source where this can happen in my life, your life, anyone’s life and everyone’s life. It is the place that is resisted and that’s why so many keep spinning the hamster wheel and making it squeak. That Place is at the foot of the Cross where we surrender to the truth that we are all screwed-up sinners and utterly incapable of changing our reality.

Not only does it take surrender, but it also requires something harder–SUBMISSION TO GOD! Many want to submit to God–but on their terms. That’s not submission–it’s a negotiation and God doesn’t NEGOTIATE! If you really want to be more than a better person–if you really want to become a DIFFERENT PERSON you don’t need more resolutions. We all need Transformation! Transformation happens only 1 way–by surrendering and submitting to the only one who knows who you can become when you stop trying to allow others, or even yourself, to define who you are. Read this next part slowly (I’m typing it slowly to help you read it slowly:)

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

MERRY CHRISTMAS BECAUSE HE’S IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD!

I love to think–sometimes out loud (which many times gets me in trouble), sometimes in my mind (which occasionally wanders off and takes a while to come back)–and especially in my writing. But today, THIS DAY, I simply cannot match my thoughts to those who told about that moment when Mary gave birth to Jesus.

So, today, I will share with you what one of those who walked with Jesus had to say about that moment, and what followed. Not Matthew’s or Luke’s account–but John’s account. There are no full inns or stables or mangers or shepherds or Magi–just the wonder of that event. Read this slowly, and take it all in–especially that part about God moving into our neighborhood. That phrase is why I’m led to share it with you from The Message: John 1:1-18

1-2 The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.

3-5 Everything was created through him;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
    the darkness couldn’t put it out.

6-8 There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.

9-13 The Life-Light was the real thing:
    Every person entering Life
    he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,

    not blood-begotten,
    not flesh-begotten,
    not sex-begotten.

14 The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.

15 John pointed him out and called, “This is the One! The One I told you was coming after me but in fact was ahead of me. He has always been ahead of me, has always had the first word.”

16-18 We all live off his generous bounty,
        gift after gift after gift.
    We got the basics from Moses,
        and then this exuberant giving and receiving,
    This endless knowing and understanding—
        all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.
    No one has ever seen God,
        not so much as a glimpse.
    This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,

        who exists at the very heart of the Father,
        has made him plain as day.

For some of you, this is a hectic day trying to make all of your expected appearances. For some of you, it’s a day of deep sadness because you are alone. Remember, PLEASE REMEMBER, that Jesus has moved into YOUR neighborhood, whatever it looks like. He didn’t shun leaving Heaven to enter Mary’s womb–He didn’t shun being born in a stable–He didn’t shun the Cross. And He won’t shun your neighborhood–after all, He’s Moved Right In! And to quote another person:

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood
A neighborly day for a beauty
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day
Since we’re together, we might as well say
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please
Won’t you please
Please won’t you be my neighbor?

Mr. Rogers made this song famous–but it’s Jesus who makes it POWERFUL.

The Wonder Of The New Day

(Morning View from my hunting blind)

Some call it “Hump Day” because the weekend is closer and they can forget about all they’ve been dealing with and unwind. Others call it just another day filled with more stuff. How do you see Wednesday? How do you see ANY new day’s morning?

How you see this and every morning is YOUR choice. You may say, “Wait a minute! You don’t know what I’m facing, what I’m forced to deal with. I can’t change my circumstances!” No. . .you cannot change your circumstances. And if circumstances determine how you see this new morning–it is because you have chosen to allow those circumstances influence how you see this morning. . .and every morning.

There is a different way, a different CHOICE about how you see each and every new morning. Look back up at my picture. Sunrise! It happens every morning regardless of my circumstances. I can be in a place to see it’s beauty and wonder. . .or I can be in a place where I miss it all. And that, my friends, is my choice.

There is a different way to see this and every morning. This guy named Jeremiah, facing some tough and horrible and ugly circumstances wrote these words:

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Jeremiah 3:22-23 (NLT)

In every circumstance, even the toughest, count on two unchangeable truths: 1. God loves you. 2. He has fresh mercy and grace for you every morning. Your choice this morning is to allow your circumstances influence your day. . .or you can choose to allow God’s Love, Mercy and Grace to guide you and sustain you.

Some mornings the clouds block that view of sunrise. But you know what? Even if I can’t see it happen–It happens! Sunrise happens NOT because I see it happens–but because I KNOW it happens. You may not feel the faithfulness of God for you–but it doesn’t change the fact that He is Faithful to you. The choice is yours. And from that immortal line spoken by the ancient knight in the movie “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade”: CHOOSE WISELY!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way HE loves you. And make sure ALL the glory goes to HIM!