Friday, December 31, 2010

Exit History! Enter Mystery!

Last evening was our night to undecorate our 2010 Christmas tree. The 8-foot Fraser Fir with its twinkling lights and colorful ornaments brought a glorious glow to our home and to our hearts during the sacred month of December.

Each morning during the Advent Season when I arose from a night's sleep for my morning quiet time, the first thing I would do was switch on the tree lights so I could sit in its light as I communed with my Lord. (My daily quiet time prayer chair sits in the same room that we set up our Christmas tree year after year.)

Anyway, last night the tree came down. Our son helped his mom carefully remove the ornaments and I took the lights off one strand at a time. Once the tree was bare, I loosened the bolts in the tree stand, firmly grabbed it out of its' anchored position and through the back French doors the tree and I wildly went. Mission accomplished. Out with the old (once wonderful, but now withering) Fraser Fir. It's leaning against the back of the house now awaiting it's final resting place at the county dump. I'm a tad sad.

This morning as I arose from a night's sleep and walked into our living room, I must confess, I really missed the sacred December ritual of switching on the lighted Christmas tree. The room seems somehow less inspiring and light deprived. I'm still sitting in my prayer chair, looking out those French doors and realizing that like 2010, this year's 8-foot Fraser Fir is all but history. Yes, it's about to be 2011, and in my mind I hear this invitation:

Out with the old -- it's now history, and in with the new -- it's all mystery!

Friends, let's pray together that we can somehow begin to place yesterday where it belongs -- in the backyard, yes, in the rear view mirror. It's now time to focus forward. Surely, we can take comfort in knowing that our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. In other words, He is more than capable of handling what is now our history and He knows how to move us onward toward the future. What we see as mystery is not mystery at all to Him.

Yes, our God is an out with the old and in with the new kind of God. His name is I Am, meaning He's our ever-present Peace in whatever time or place we find ourselves in. He's been Faithful. He is Faithful. He will Be Faithful.... forever and forever and forever! How long is that?

This link to a Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir song inspires:
Click > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdO2cRXVHII

Here are three soul-glowing passages to closely consider as December 31 races for the finish line and January 1 is rising on the horizon before us:

(25) Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. (26) Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. (27) Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.
-- Proverbs 4:25-27 (NLT)

(1) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. (2) We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on Whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be his afterward. Now He is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven.
-- Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

(6) And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.
-- Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

Time to exit our history and enter His mystery! So help us, God!
Grateful

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Have I Told You Lately?

Lord, have I told You lately that I love you?
Have I told You there's no one above You?

I do love You, Lord!
And there's no one above You!

I dedicate this love song by Van Morrison to You, My Loving Lord:
Click > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFF1wJN75Z0

"Lord, You know everything. You know I love you."
-- Peter's Declaration to Jesus in John 21:17

You fill my heart with gladness and take away my sadness!
You ease my trouble. That's what You do!
Grateful

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Not Human Imitation, But Holy Manifestation!

God does not expect us to imitate Jesus Christ. He expects us to allow the life of Jesus to be manifested in our mortal flesh.
-- Oswald Chambers

(3) For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in sinful man, (4) in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
(29) For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. (30) And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.
-- Romans 8:3-4 29-30, (NLT)

Christ in you, the hope of glory.
-- Colossians 1:27b (NIV)

My Prayer Today: Merciful Lord, help me to allow Your extraordinary Life to be so fully manifested in my ordinary life, that sin itself is condemned by the glory that is all Yours, yet in me -- not my human imitation, but Your holy manifestation. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Holiness Unto the LORD!
Grateful

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

You've Got a Friend!

In John 15:15, Jesus said: I have called you friends...

If you're down and troubled, close your eyes and think of the One Who has called you friend. Yes, You've Got a Friend... in Jesus!

To hear four great voices singing the song, click link below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58D4elqQqbg&feature=related

And for a double blessing, listen to Kathryn Scott singing "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" by clicking this second link below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaaQC3xPVfE

Oh, What A Friend We've Found...
Grateful

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bethlehem Encore

I know it's already December 27th and nearly December 28th as I load this late night blog post, but Bethlehem is still strong on my mind. Those hope-filled words in the last verse of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" are still touching my soul deeply:

Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born is us today!

If you believe a Bethlehem Encore is in order, just click the link below and watch as Amy Grant introduces my friend, Jim Cole, to play and sing his Holy Day contemporary Christmas carol titled In Bethlehem Tonight for a Direct TV Christmas Special:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh_NwTtCxLc&feature=related

The Lamb sent to free us
lies asleep on the hay...

Simple but profound poetry! Thanks Baby Jesus! Thanks Big Jim!

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD... STILL!
Grateful

I Belong Between The Bread & The Blood

We have now entered that season between Christmas and Easter.

During the Holy Days of the Christmas season, it slowly but surely struck me that Bethlehem is called The House of Bread and Calvary is all about The Blood.

As we live between The Bread and The Blood, let us be in constant Communion with The One Who was born as our Baby King. Yes, and let us be intentional about an ever-increasing intimate relationship with Immanuel, The Lamb Who was once (and for all-time) slain for our sins (but is now Alive forevermore!)

Soon enough we will find ourselves in that celebration season between His glorious Resurrection and His powerful Ascension with the remarkable reality of Pentecost on the horizon.

Lord Jesus, during every season leading up to my faith finally becoming sight -- on that Day when You return for me -- I want to belong to You, and never betray You! I belong between The Bread and The Blood. Amen!

Click link below for Kathryn Scott's song "I Belong":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dg9TchaiOck&feature=related

(23b) The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, (24) and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." (25)In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me." (26) For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. (27) Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. (28) A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. (29) For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. -- 1 Corinthians 18:23b-29 (NIV)

Lord, from Your first cry in Bethlehem's Manger to Your final cry on Calvary's Cross, You have given to me everything necessary to succeed spiritually in every season of life and death! You are so Faithful. Find me ever so...

...Grateful (for Bethlehem's Bread and Calvary's Blood!)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Please Pray Psalm 145 With Me

Praying the Psalms is so powerful! As a Christmas afterglow, I invite you now to pray with me the 145th Psalm:

Psalm 145 (NLT)

(1) I will praise You, My God and King,
and bless Your name forever and ever.
(2) I will bless You every day,
and I will praise You forever.
(3) Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise!
His greatness is beyond discovery!
(4) Let each generation tell its children
of Your mighty acts.
(5) I will meditate on Your majestic, glorious splendor
and Your wonderful miracles.
(6) Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue;
I will proclaim Your greatness.
(7) Everyone will share the story of Your wonderful goodness;
they will sing with joy of Your righteousness.
(8) The LORD is kind and merciful,
slow to get angry, full of unfailing love.
(9) The LORD is good to everyone.
He showers compassion on all His creation.
(10) All of Your works will thank You, LORD,
and Your faithful followers will bless You.
(11) They will talk together about the glory of Your kingdom;
they will celebrate examples of Your power.
(12) They will tell about Your mighty deeds
and about the majesty and glory of Your reign.
(13) For Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
You rule generation after generation.
The LORD is faithful in all He says;
He is gracious in all He does.
(14) The LORD helps the fallen
and lifts up those bent beneath their loads.
(15) All eyes look to You for help;
You give them their food as they need it.
(16) When You open Your hand,
You satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
(17) The LORD is righteous in everything He does;
He is filled with kindness.
(18) The LORD is close to all who call on Him,
yes, to all who call on Him sincerely.
(19) He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him;
He hears their cries for help and rescues them.
(20) The LORD protects all those who love Him,
but He destroys the wicked.
(21) I will praise the LORD,
and everyone on earth will bless His holy name
forever and forever.


In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Grateful

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Teach the Children the Meaning of Christmas

Last evening was our local church's Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion Celebration. For the message portion of the sacred gathering, I shared one right set of answers for telling and illustrating clearly to all people, especially the children -- yes the future generations among us -- the real meaning of Christmas:

1. CHRISTMAS TREE -- Object Lesson: A Fir tree or an evergreen branch -- the pure green represents life year-round, everlasting hope, and the needles point heavenward reminding us our thoughts also should turn towards heaven.

2. HEAVENLY SIGN -- Object Lesson: A Star -- distant stars in the sky remind us of the promises God made long ago. God promised a Savior for the world, and the Star over Bethlehem was proof that God kept that promise and stars today should remind us that God still keeps His promises.

3. RADIANT LIGHT -- Object Lesson: A Candle -- Christ is the Light of the World, and with His presence in us we are now reflctors of His light to our world. His Light (Hope) destroyed Our Darkness (Hopelessness).

4. INFINITE LOVE -- Object Lesson: A Wreath -- symbolizes the eternal nature of love. Yes, like a circular wreath, true love never ends.

5. SAINT NICK -- Object Lesson: An Ornament of Santa, Father Christmas, St. Nick, Santa Claus simply illustrates to us the generosity we practice and the good will that we extend to one another especially during December, but also beyond December.

6. TWINKLING LIGHTS -- Object Lesson: A string of lights -- The power of Unity, yes, joining our little lights together produces an ever-increasing reflection of Jesus, The Light of the World, so that we can also BE LIGHT & GO SHINE and make our world delightfully different for His glory. Jesus said, "They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." -- John 13:35 (NIV)

7. CANDY CANE -- Object Lesson: A Candy Cane -- represents the shepherd's crook/staff. The purpose in part is to bring lost sheep back into the presence of The Good Shepherd. Also, a reminder that we are our sister's/brother's keeper.

8. HOLLY HANGING -- Object Lesson: Holly Leaves and Red Berries -- The holly plant represents immortality and the crown of thorns Jesus wore when He was hanging on the Tree to save us from sin. Yes He died painfully and bled to free us, yes to save us "from" sin. He didn't come so we could be freed "to" sin.


9. INDESCRIBABLE GIFT -- Object Lesson: A Wrapped Gift -- represents John 3:16-17... "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son..." Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift -- 2 Corinthians 9:15. Also, earthly kings bowed before the Eternal Baby King, bringing the best gifts they could afford.

10. LOUD BELLS -- Object Lesson: A Bell -- Lost sheep are often found by the sound of a bell. It brings them/us to the fold. The sound of bells is symbolic of guidance and return. "Christmas bells call us home to the embrace of Father God." Silver bells equals Salvation Army Bell ringers. (See Youtube link below to illustrate loud bells leading sheep to the fold.)

11. DIVINE ANGELS -- Object Lesson: An Angel -- Angels came to the world with the message of Good News... "unto (you) _________ (put your name in the blank) is born this day, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord..." "Glory to God in the highest, on earth, peace and good will to those on whom His favor rests..."

If you take the first letter from each of the eleven numbered clues above, note that you have the real meaning of Christmas simply but profoundly defined: C-H-R-I-S-T C-H-I-L-D!


Isaiah 9:6 (NLT) -- For a Child is born to us, a Son is given to us.

Enjoy this Youtube clip that helps to validate #10 above -- "Loud Bells leading sheep to the fold". Watch the whole clip. It's in a foreign language but the point is quite clear, just watch the sheep and listen for the loud bell to ring:


Click > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=133H90eDai4&NR=1

As we look at our decorated Christmas trees, especially on Christmas Day, let us never forget that One Day of Passion when God the Son hung on the Tree, not as an ornament, no not as a mere decoration, but as an undeniable and mighty demonstration. Yes, He hung there as an object of God the Father's Amazing Love for you and for me.

A Real and Meaningful Merry Christmas To You and Yours!
Grateful


P.S. Outside right now, a light snow is falling steadily. A white Christmas adds even more meaning to this sacred day. Psalm 51:7 -- Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Angels Among Us

For me, Christmas Eve is a lot about remembering the angels as they made their Glorious Good News announcement during the night that preceded the birthday of the Christ Child:

(8) That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. (9) Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, (10) but the angel reassured them. "Don’t be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! (11) The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! (12) And this is how you will recognize Him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!" (13) Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: (14) "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors." (15) When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Come on, let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." (16) They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the Baby, lying in the manger.
-- Luke 2 :8-16 (NLT)

For me, Christmas Eve is also a lot about recognizing, even realizing that there are surely still angels among us these days:

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!
-- Hebrews 13:2 (NLT)

The vocal group known as Alabama recorded a song a number of years ago that has been playing through my thoughts this week. The song is titled Angels Among Us.

Here's the link if you'd like to take a listen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ey0HrEvh44c

Dearest Lord Jesus, it's Christmas Eve once again!
Open the eyes of our hearts and give us ears wide open!
Help us to see Your glory and to hear the angels still announcing:
"Good News of Great Joy!" And make us Your witnesses! Amen!

Grateful (to be surrounded by the sound of angels' wings!)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pre-Christmas Childlike Anticipation

I cannot explain it, but about this date every year, yes, on or about December 23rd, I get a fresh dose of childlike celebration from an undeniable Pre-Christmas anticipation that spreads like a strange and wonderful warmth throughout the depths of my soul. It's as if my heart is a welcoming manger and the Bouncing Baby Boy of Heaven, Jesus the Baby King, is laughing out loud because of the Life and Hope He knows He has brought to me from Heaven when He was delivered on Christmas Day.

Lord, my heart is Bethlehem. Thanks for being born again within my eternal soul. Amen.

O Holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel!

I posted this Youtube once already this month. Hear it again.
Sarah McLachlan's "O Little Town of Bethlehem:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyPMDD8fGeA

Grateful

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Hope To See My Pilot

The Willis family celebrates Christmas together each year a few days before Christmas. It allows us to come together without the pressures of rushing through our immediate family time so everyone can hit the road to be present at other extended family gatherings. This year was no different. On December 20, 2010, Mom and Dad along with my brothers and their families were present at our home for about seven sacred hours together.

There was one touching highlight of the evening that crested above all the others. It was when Dad stood in front of the Christmas tree and read his favorite poem from a seven-dollar book I gave to him as sort of an extra "little personal gift" of Christmas.

When Dad reached the last two lines of the poem he began to cry. So did the rest of us. It was a good cry. A cry of Hope for the future to our Faithful God of the past and the present.

The poem is a piece of English literature that my sea-captain-fisherman Dad has quoted aloud from memory throughout all the years of my life. Here it is:

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,

And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place

The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

The poem is Alfred Lord Tennyson's Crossing the Bar.

Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow!
Grateful

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peace... No Matter What Happens!

During these days of Advent, with Christmas just days away, "Peace" is showing up with renewed emphasis in my prayer life.

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.
-- Luke 2:14 (NLT)

May the Lord of peace Himself always give you His peace no matter what happens. The Lord be with you all.
-- 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NLT)

ALL JOY TO THE WORLD! ALL THE BOYS AND GIRLS, NOW!
Grateful

Monday, December 20, 2010

A White Rose, A Baby Doll And A Picture

The following is a touching Christmas story by an author who simply calls herself Annie:

I hurried into the local department store to grab some last minute Christmas gifts. I looked at all the people and grumbled to myself. I would be in here forever and I just had so much to do. Christmas was beginning to become such a drag. I kinda wished that I could just sleep through Christmas. But I hurried the best I could through all the people to the toy department. Once again I kind of mumbled to myself at the prices of all these toys. And wondered if the grandkids would even play with them.

I found myself in the doll aisle. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a little boy about 5 holding a lovely doll. He kept touching her hair and he held her so gently. I could not seem to help myself. I just kept looking over at the little boy and wondered who the doll was for. I watched him turn to a woman and he called his aunt by name and said, “Are you sure I don’t have enough money” She replied a bit impatiently, “You know that you don’t have enough money for it. The aunt told the little boy not to go anywhere that she had to go get some other things and would be back in a few minutes. And then she left the aisle. The boy continued to hold the doll.

After a bit I asked the boy who the doll was for. He said, “It is the doll my sister wanted so badly for Christmas. She just knew that Santa would bring it.” I told him that maybe Santa was going to bring it. He said “No, Santa can’t go where my sister is…I have to give the doll to my Momma to take to her”. I asked him where his sister was.

He looked at me with the saddest eyes and said “She has gone to be with Jesus”. My Daddy says that Momma is going to have to go be with her. My heart nearly stopped beating. Then the boy looked at me again and said, “I told my Daddy to tell Momma not to go yet. I told him to tell her to wait till I got back from the store”. Then he asked me if I wanted to see his picture. I told him I would love to. He pulled out some pictures he’d had taken at the front of the store. He said “I want my Momma to take this with her so she don’t ever forget me.” “I love my Momma so very much and I wish she did not have to leave me”. “But Daddy says she will need to be with my sister.”

I saw that the little boy had lowered his head and had grown so very quiet. While he was not looking I reached into my purse and pulled out a handful of bills. I asked the little boy, “Shall we count that money one more time?” He grew excited and said “Yes, I just know it has to be enough”. So I slipped my money in with his and we began to count it.

Of course it was plenty for the doll. He softly said, “Thank you Jesus for giving me enough money.” Then the boy said “I just asked Jesus to give me enough money to buy this doll so Momma can take it with her to give to my sister.” “And he heard my prayer”. “I wanted to ask him for enough to buy my Momma a white rose, but I didn’t ask him, but he gave me enough to buy the doll and a rose for my Momma.” “She loves white roses so very very much”.

In a few minutes the aunt came back and I wheeled my cart away. I could not keep from thinking about the little boy as I finished my shopping in a totally different spirit than when I had started. And I kept remembering a story I had seen in the newspaper several days earlier about a drunk driver hitting a car and killing a little girl and the Mother was in serious condition. The family was deciding on rather to remove the life support. Now surely this little boy did not belong with that story.

Two days later I read in the paper where the family had disconnected the life support and the young woman had died. I could not forget the little boy and just kept wondering if the two were somehow connected. Later that day, I could not help myself and I went out and bought some white roses and took them to the funeral home where the young woman was. And there she was holding a lovely white rose, the beautiful doll, and the picture of the little boy in the store.

I left there in tears, my life changed forever. The love that little boy had for his little sister and his mother was overwhelming. And in a split second a drunk driver had ripped the life of that little boy to pieces.

“We make a living by what we get; We make a life by what we give.”

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son...
Grateful

Sunday, December 19, 2010

God's Child -- God's Children

For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given...
-- Isaiah 9:6a (NIV)

God the Father gave His Child to be physically born in Bethlehem so we could be spiritually born again as children of God the Father.


For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.
-- Luke 19:10 (NIV)

So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
-- Galatians 3:26 (NLT)

Look Up And Be Radiant! Let Your Hearts Swell With Joy!
Grateful

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Everyone Who Believes in Him... Come!

In all the public pageantry of Christmas, let's not miss the personal promise of Christmas. Jesus came to be more than a decoration. The Son came to be the Father's demonstration of love, that we might be delivered from every sin and the eternal death it deals.

The personal promise of Christmas is a directed declaration to all who will individually embrace His inclusive invitation recorded in John 3:16-17 (NLT):

(16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (17) God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.

This Christmas will you and be among Everyone Who Believes in Him? Will we come to the earthly cradle and receive God's Heavenly Compassion? Will we come?

Jars of Clay Singing "Drummer Boy"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb0hAPimGrU

Come They Told Me... Pa RumPa Pum Pum!
Grateful

Friday, December 17, 2010

Evangelism 101: Go Tell It On the Mountain

One of my faithful Dawn Patrol Prayer Partners on Tuesday mornings is Mike Barko. Mike is also president of an evangelism ministry known as "Communities 4 Christ". Mike was recently interviewed for Chuck Colson's Breakpoint Program. Click the link below and take a listen to Mike's witness. Someone's soul might be eternally dependent on it.

http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/discourse/entry/15/16044

Well done, Mike. You are indeed unashamed of Christ. You've surely found one right answer for sharing our Savior's Hope with the seemingly hopeless among us. Pray for us.

You have nothing to do but to save souls. -- John Wesley

Folk need Jesus! Please tell them! -- Mike Barko

LET'S GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN, OVER THE HILLS AND EVERYWHERE!

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!
Grateful

Seven Near & Dear Words To Me

The words of the last verse of the Christmas Carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem" have been nearest to my heart this Advent Season:

O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

These seven words have been especially near and dear to me:
Cast out our sin, and enter in...

Sarah McLachlan singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyPMDD8fGeA

1 John 3:8-10 (NLT):
(8) But when people keep on sinning, it shows they belong to the Devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy these works of the Devil.
(9) Those who have been born into God’s family do not sin, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they have been born of God.
(10) So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the Devil. Anyone who does not obey God’s commands and does not love other Christians does not belong to God.

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD! THE LORD HAS COME TO CAST OUT SIN!
Grateful

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Sender of the Snow

We are experiencing our first substantial snowfall of the season. The local forecast is calling for 2-5 inches of accumulation but that may be a little conservative?

There's something mysterious and marvelous about the first snowfall of the year. It tends to slow us down a bit and causes us to remember that we are not the ones who are really in control. The Sender of the Snow is.

He does great things which we cannot comprehend.
For He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth’...

-- Job 37:5b-6a (NKJV)

Fresh fallen snow reminds us of purity. Under a fresh blanket of snowflakes, the world seems almost innocent. As I sit here by the window in the soft glow of our decorated Fraser Fir Christmas tree, the snow is still coming down. It's as if time is standing still. And it seems I can faintly hear voices throughout the ages singing that familiar, sacred, and beloved hymn of the holy days:

Silent Night, Holy Night,
All is Calm, All is Bright.

Thank you Lord, Oh Great Sender of the Snow. Thanks for being in control and for proving it most undeniably by being the Sender of Your Son. Long before today's snowfall arrived to bring a blanket of purity to the landscape, Your Son arrived, was wrapped in a blanket, to purify our lives from sin. As time seems to stand still, I give thanks for the silence, the holiness, the calmness, and the brightness of Your amazing love. It is all quite mysterious, but even more marvelous. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!
Grateful

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S According to Mr. Jack

If you haven't visited a rest home for the elderly this season yet, let me recommend that you do so. I recently went along with another pastor to encourage the aged at two separate homes, but I was the one encouraged the most.

One very frail elderly man, Mr. Jack, seemed sadly confined to his bed, but surprisingly all joy flowed from his life. From memory and with great passion Mr. Jack proclaimed multiple times through a glorious grin his original acrostic for C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S:

Christmas
Hearts
Rejoicing
Infant
Savior
True
Message
Angels
Sounding!

Thanks to Mr. Jack. You inspired me. During our time together, you certainly gave to my soul a dose of undeniable holiday "rest" and an increased appreciation in my heart for "home", yes, all from your "rest home" bed. Amazing! You are a vibrant witness. Your life is proof that if we know the Christ of Christmas, then we absolutely and positively lack nothing! I want to be like you, Mr. Jack, especially when my earthly life seems near to the end and I am coming nearer and nearer to eternity.

(2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. -- James 1:2-4 (NKJV)

Thanks also to Pastor Al for allowing me to partner with you at the rest homes during the Advent Season.

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!
Grateful

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Home" for Christmas & Beyond

Will L. Thompson penned the words of this old invitational hymn of the faith back in 1880. During this Christmas season with songs like "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Please Come Home for Christmas" in the air, saturating in these words seem to have additional meaning for my soul:

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Refrain
Come home, come home,

You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

Refrain

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.

Refrain

O for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.

Refrain

(Read the Words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30.)

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!

Grateful

Monday, December 13, 2010

One Heck of a Day

If you laugh, and if you think, and if you cry? That's one heck of a day! -- Coach Jim Valvano

Here's a link to Coach Jimmy V's most memorable NC State college basketball highlight. He later died of cancer and up until the end of his days, the Coach served as an inspiration to many:

NC State 1983 Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8l5N2eKdvL4

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!
Grateful

Sunday, December 12, 2010

God Came As A Child To Touch Our Lives

During this Christmas season, let's not forget that Almighty God became a baby, yes a child, in part so He could disarm us, yes draw us near to Himself and touch our lives with His Amazing Love on earth and for eternity.

This video about the life of a child named Josiah Viera has the miraculous DNA of the Christmas Story throughout it. You might want a tissue or a box of tissues by your side before you click the link.

Josiah Viera Story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCSzysu_flY

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!
Grateful

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Welcoming a Child, The Child, The Father

(36) Then He (Jesus) put a little child among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, (37) "Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on My behalf welcomes Me, and anyone who welcomes Me welcomes My Father who sent Me."
-- Mark 9:36-37 (NLT)

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!
Grateful

Friday, December 10, 2010

God's Own Special Treasure

God takes more pleasure in you than you will ever find in Him.
-- Dennis Kinlaw

(4) You know how I brought you to Myself and carried you on eagle’s wings. (5) Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure... -- Exodus 19:4-5 (NLT)

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!
Grateful

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Were It Not For Grace

The words of this Larnelle Harris song touch me deeply:

Were It Not For Grace

Time measured out my days
Life carried me along
In my soul I yearned to follow God
But knew I'd never be so strong
I looked hard at this world
To learn how heaven could be gained
Just to end where I began
Where human effort is all in vain

Chorus
Were it not for grace
I can tell you where I'd be
Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere
With my salvation up to me
I know how that would go
The battles I would face
Forever running but losing this race
Were it not for grace

So here is all my praise
Expressed with all my heart
Offered to the Friend who took my place
And ran a course I could not start
And when He saw in full
Just how much His would cost
He still went the final mile between me and heaven
So I would not be lost

Repeat Chorus

Forever running but losing this race
Were it not for grace

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!

Grateful

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More & Less

Christmas always means more to those who have less.
-- Pastor Bill Wilson

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!
Grateful

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

You Shall See Me No More...

These words from Jesus have been on my mind this morning:

...for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" -- Matthew 23:35 (NKJV)

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!
Grateful

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiness Unto the Lord

This old classic hymn was written in 1900 by Leila N. Morris and has been very impactful in my life since childhood and continues to be. I especially thank the late Professor Charles Baldwin, who had me memorize each word for my Doctrine of Holiness final exam in Bible College. The words are deep in my heart.

“Called unto holiness,” church of our God,
Purchase of Jesus, redeemed by His blood;
Called from the world and its idols to flee,
Called from the bondage of sin to be free.

Refrain
“Holiness unto the Lord” is our watchword and song.
“Holiness unto the Lord” as we’re marching along.
Sing it, shout it, loud and long,
“Holiness unto the Lord,” now and forever.

“Called unto holiness,” children of light,
Walking with Jesus in garments of white;
Raiment unsullied, nor tarnished with sin;
God’s Holy Spirit abiding within.

Refrain
“Called unto holiness,” praise His dear Name!
This bless├Ęd secret to faith now made plain:
Not our own righteousness, but Christ within,
Living, and reigning, and saving from sin.

Refrain
“Called unto holiness,” bride of the Lamb,
Waiting the Bridegroom’s returning again!
Lift up your heads, for the day draweth near
When in His beauty the King shall appear.

Refrain

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD! ALL HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD!
Grateful

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Who Lights Up Your Life?

Jesus said to the people, "I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life." -- John 8:12 (NLT)

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD! (ALL LIGHT, TOO!)
Grateful

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Whiter Than Snow

Lord, wash me and I shall be whiter than snow...

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!
Grateful

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stripes on the Candy Cane

When we see the stripes on the Christmas Candy Cane, let us remember:

He was whipped, and we were healed! -- Isaiah 53:5 (NLT)

Lord, by Your stripes we are healed. We are humbled. Amen.

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!
Grateful

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent Stances

In Luke 2, we see within the faithful lives of Simeon and Anna three stances for the Advent Season, yes three wonderful ways to approach the Coming-of-the-Christ-Child Season:

Let us be found:
(1) Waiting on the Christ Child.
(2) Witnessing about the Christ Child.
(3) Welcoming in the Christ Child.

The Prophecies of Simeon and Anna -- Luke 2:25-40 (NLT)
(25) Now there was a man named Simeon who lived in Jerusalem. He was a righteous man and very devout. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he eagerly expected the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. (26) The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. (27) That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, (28) Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, (29) "Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me, (30) I have seen the Savior (31) you have given to all people. (32) He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!" (33) Joseph and Mary were amazed at what was being said about Jesus. (34) Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, "This child will be rejected by many in Israel, and it will be their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy to many others. (35) Thus, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul." (36) Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, and was very old. She was a widow, for her husband had died when they had been married only seven years. (37) She was now eighty-four years old. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. (38) She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about Jesus to everyone who had been waiting for the promised King to come and deliver Jerusalem. (39) When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. (40) There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom beyond his years, and God placed his special favor upon him.

ALL JOY TO YOUR WORLD!
Grateful