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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Merry Christmas to all!

The halls were decked and the stockings were hung…

Like most homes, each of our decorations has a meaning or memory–an interest of our children, a place we’ve visited, a significant experience, something we value, etc. One of the more significant ornaments on the tree is The Christmas Nail. It comes with the following poem and/or instructions:

“This is the Christmas Nail. It is to be hung on a sturdy branch, a branch near the trunk, a branch that will hold such a spike without being noticed by well-wishers dropping by to admire one’s tinseled tree. The nail is known only to the home that hangs it. Understood only by the heart that knows its significance. It is hung with the thought: The Christmas tree but foreshadows the Christ tree which only He could decorate for us, with nails such as this.”

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2013 in Christmas, Family & Friends, Photos

 

A visit to the Dr.

With two of our kids here for the holidays, we took a visit to the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden in Springfield, MA.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Family & Friends, Massachusetts, Photos

 

Christmas Lights

One of my favorite aspects of Christmas is Christmas lights

In December 1990, which was BC (before cell phones), a snow storm dumped 12 inches of snow on Seattle in 24 hours. It took me six hours to drive five miles during the storm. People abandoned their cars on the side of the road and walked.

DSC_0053At the time, our house was half a block off a major street. The Christmas lights on our house had been turned on. The lights stood out in the midst of the darkness and reflected on the snow. As a result, several stranded travelers stopped and asked if they could use the phone to call for help.

When you are stranded and alone in the dark, lights can attract and guide you to safety. They can be warm and inviting, letting people know that they are welcome and safe inside.

In December 1992, our children were 2, 4, and 6 years old. One evening, we experienced a power outage due to a wind storm. Needless to say, the children were scared. After the lights came back on, the kids were afraid it would happen again.

We gave each of our kids a flashlight to keep near their beds. It helped them feel safe and secure. The flashlight would chase the darkness away. It would also lead them to someone would could take care of them—Mom & Dad.

When you afraid in the darkness, you need someone to lead you to the light so that you can once again feel secure.

christmas_lights - PP-crosshatchPerhaps you feel like you are in the dark this year at Christmastime. Maybe rumors of layoffs at your company leave your job security shaky. Perhaps you are waiting for tests that will reveal you or a loved one is not as healthy as you’d like. Possibly you and your spouse have drifted apart and cracks are appearing in your marriage. Maybe you are facing the prospect of retirement but your finances leave you wondering how you afford to quit working.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could shed a little light on the problems of life so that our darkness would be chased away?

The Scriptures tell us that God sent Jesus to light our way in the darkness.

Isaiah 9:2 – The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

John 8:12 – Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Manger-and-CrossThe baby born in Bethlehem attracts our attention. One person spoke truth when he said, “We are drawn to the baby in the manger as a moth is drawn to a candle.”

Jesus guides our path to safety and security. He lights or illumines the things that are hard to understand—in the dark about life, questions, problems, relationships. He is ready to welcome us into his presence.

This Christmas, come to the light. You may be attracted by the lights and the decorations. Come close and investigate the meaning and the reason for the season. Look closely at the child in the manger.

If you feel like you are in the dark, confused or questioning, come to the light. The one who claimed to be the light of the world will provide answers, security, and peace. This Christmas, come to the light.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Christmas, Scripture

 

If children are our future…

A friend posted pictures of his church’s children’s Christmas program. Underneath, he wrote that he was encouraged because the children are the future of the church. His statement caused me to ask some questions.

If children are the future of our church…

  • Why don’t we see children and youth as the “present” of the church?
  • Why don’t we invest more significantly in children’s ministry and youth ministry?
  • Why are many churches adult-centric in their programming?
  • Why do people resist serving in the nursery, Awana, or children’s Sunday School?
  • Why are those programs often the hardest to staff and many times barely have a skeleton crew of volunteers filling the slots?
  • Why do we view recruiting for children’s ministries as filling slots rather than inviting people to invest in eternity?
  • Why are adults often reluctant to leave their adult classes and small groups to serve with children or youth?
  • Why aren’t the children’s and youth ministries the most creative programs in the church?
  • Why isn’t the nursery and children’s classrooms the most colorful, creative, warm, inspiring, and inviting rooms in the building?
  • Why do we try to replicate the favorite programs of our past rather than create new programs that will better meet the needs and interests of today’s kids?
  • Why do we view the nursery as babysitting and children’s ministry as childcare rather than see these ministries as opportunities to love, teach, and disciple kids?
  • Why do we not take youth on short-term ministry trips?
  • Why do we often focus on entertaining children and youth instead of discipling them?
  • Why do we not engage our children and youth in service projects and teach them they can make a difference regardless of how old they might be?
  • Why are we not matching adults with children as prayer partners?
  • Why don’t we believe children can make authentic decisions for Christ?
  • Why don’t we expose children and youth to missionaries and encourage them to consider a future in missions?
  • Why don’t we teach children and youth how to share their faith?
  • Why do we get caught up in keeping adults satisfied rather than focusing on reaching children and youth for Christ?
  • Why do we ask children and youth, “Did you have fun?” instead of asking, “What did you learn?”
  • Why do we ask, “How many kids were present?” instead of asking, “How were they changed?” or “What impact did we have?”

I don’t have the answer to all these questions, but I certainly have a lot to think about. Perhaps it’s time to gather our children and youth leaders together and do some prayerful brainstorming.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Church, Ministry

 

God’s Christmas Gift To Us

under-the-christmas-treeWhat’s the best gift you ever received for Christmas? Not the one you bought for yourself and placed under the tree. Not the one you stood in line on the 26th to return for cash so you could get the size, color, or item you really wanted. Not the one you saved for next year’s white elephant gift exchange or National Regifting Day.

The best gift is not necessarily the one you thought you wanted the most. It’s not the one that we place at the top of our wish list. The best gift doesn’t always come in the biggest box or is wrapped in the shiniest paper and have the biggest bow on top.

special giftThe best gift is the one that is personally picked out just for you. The best gift is the one you open and exclaim, “How did you know? This is not what I asked for, but it’s what I always wanted!”

In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed that God’s best gift to us is a child. It is a son whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus is God’s Christmas gift to us.

In Isaiah 9:6-7, we read,

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. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah used four descriptive names or two-word titles which revealed the character of this child. The child who was born, this son who was given would be both God and man.

When we are discouraged and ready to give up, we need a counselor who will come alongside and encourage us.

God’s gift to us is more than just one who dispenses good ideas. As Isaiah explained, he is the Wonderful Counselor. He is a supernatural counselor who will implement supernatural wisdom in discharging his office. He has the wisdom to rule justly.

Where do you need wisdom? Do you face difficult decisions about your children or parents? Do you face problems at work for which you don’t have answers?

The promise of Christmas is that we can go to the Wonderful Counselor and know that he will give us wisdom.

Do you ever feel like David, facing a Goliath with only a sling and a few stones? Can you identify with Gideon, being heavily outnumbered and short on resources? Do you face a situation like Mary, having to trust God for seemingly impossible promises?

Take comfort in the assurance that our Savior is a powerful warrior. He is the irresistible battle champion who will obtain the final victory in the arena of history. He is the Mighty God.

Where do you need God to intervene on your behalf? Do you need him to change the heart of your employer?

God hears those prayers and it is in just such situations of hopelessness and helplessness that his almighty power is born. It is there that God leaves his treasure.

The promise of Christmas is that the Mighty God has the strength that we lack.

What does a good father do? A good father protects his children from those who want to harm them. He provides for their needs and many of their wants. A good father cares, counsels, accepts, loves, challenges, and encourages his children.

Yet with all of their good intentions, earthly fathers come and go. Earthly fathers grow old. Some become ill and die. Others serve in the military and are deployed overseas. Some are killed in battle. Still other fathers abandon their children.

In contrast, our Savior is an Eternal Father. He will never leave or abandon us. There is no end to his protection and provision.

Where do you need a father’s touch in your life? Do you need to crawl up into daddy’s lap and pour out your heart to him? Where do you need your father to step in and tell you that it will be all right?

The promise of Christmas is that the Eternal Father will love and care for his children forever.

As much as we desire peace, we cannot achieve it through our own efforts. Fortunately for us, our Savior is the one who brings in and maintains peace. Not only is he a peacemaker, he is the Prince of Peace.

Where do you need to experience God’s peace? Are there problems and concerns that are troubling you? Are there broken relationships that you would like God to heal and restore?

The promise of Christmas is that the Prince of Peace both makes peace and gives us peace.

More than 2,500 years ago, the prophet Isaiah told of one who would be the hope of mankind, the long awaited Messiah who would establish an eternal kingdom based on justice and righteousness. Isaiah’s important pronouncement told that this one would be a God-man: a child born, referring to his humanity, and a son given, referring to his deity. The four names ascribed to this one give further insight into His character and ministry:

He is the Wonderful Counselor. He is our guide through life, and our advocate before the heavenly Father. He is the one who freely gives wisdom when we ask.

He is the Mighty God. He is the God before whom every knee shall one day bow. He is the one who intervenes and works on our behalf.

He is the Everlasting Father. He is the God of eternity. He is the Father who cares for and meets the needs of his children.

He is the Prince of Peace. He is the one who will bring a true tranquility among all nations. He is the one who brings peace to our troubled hearts. He is the one who heals broken relationships.

Slide 1As you long for joy and peace during this Christmas season, remember that Jesus Christ is God’s Christmas gift to us. The more intimately we know the “child-Son,” the deeper grows our love and devotion for Him. Worship Him even now and throughout this season as you sing of the joys of Christmas.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on December 22, 2013. It is part of a series on Christmas. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

What are you doing with what’s in your wallet?

How to be richBook Review: How to be rich: It’s not what you have. It’s what you do with what you have, by Andy Stanley

“Generosity changed the world once. What would happen if the church became known for inexplicable generosity once again?”

The above quote lies at the heart of pastor and author Andy Stanley’s short book, How to be rich: It’s not what you have. It’s what you do with what you have. The author starts with the premise that simply because we live in the western world, we are incredibly rich compared to the rest of the world. The question is, how will we use what we have?

Throughout the book, the author seeks to explain the Bible’s perspective on wealth as found in 1 Timothy 6. He begins by explaining the potential dangers of money—arrogance and self-sufficiency (verse 17). The antidote is found in being generous with what we have (18). Our giving strategy should employ the three P’s—priority, percentage, and progressive. Giving should be a priority. We should start by giving a fixed percentage of our income, and progressively increase that as our income increases. Generosity coupled with contentment is extremely beneficial (6), and will spare us from all sorts of problems (9-10).

Throughout the book, the author includes illustrations from history and his own life. He provides practical ideas how to implement the principles in one’s life. The book also includes a study guide for use in a small group discussion setting.

My only reservation about the book is that it is too short. It barely scratches the surface on the subject of finances and giving. It will whet one’s appetite for the topic, but the reader will need to engage in research and digging on one’s own to take it further. In that sense, the book is perhaps more motivational than explanatory.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2013 in Books, Finances

 
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The Season of the Incarnation

12-19-Frost

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2013 in Quotes, Theology, Tim Challies