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Sister
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« Reply #20 on: August 22, 2010, 12:17:07 PM »

Giving Your Life to the Mission
 
This past week I have been thinking about people who have been obsessed with mission. Some years ago, Scott Carpenter died. Scott Carpenter was one of the great citizens of the United States of America. He was one of our seven first astronauts. He was truly a great man. Scott Carpenter was a man who had a sense of mission. Let me read what Scott Carpenter had to say, “This project of being an astronaut and going to the moon, gives me the possibility of using all of my capabilities and all of my interests and gifts at once. This is something that I would be willing to give my life for.  I think a person is fortunate to have something that you care that much about that you would give your life for. There are risks involved, that’s for sure.” Then Scott Carpenter went on to say in the following words in a letter to his wife, “My dear, if this comes to a fatal, screaming fiery end for me, I will have three main regrets . I will have lost the opportunity to prepare for my children’s life here on this planet. I will miss the pleasure of seeing you and loving you when you are a grandmother. And will have never learned to play the guitar.” Signed, Scott. He cared for his wife. He cared for his children. He wanted to play the guitar. But more than that, more than his love for his wife and children, more than his wanting to learn to play the guitar, Scott Carpenter was willing to give his life for the mission to go to the moon.
 
What does it mean to give your life for THE mission of Jesus Christ?
 
Edward F. Markquart, Christ Brings Division
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« Reply #21 on: September 06, 2010, 12:31:43 PM »

The Sin of Excuses
I am concerned about the second sin.  Philosophers wonder about the first sin, and the average person doesn’t usually keep count . . .  but I very concerned about the second sin.
Part of my concern stems from the feeling that I may be the only one concerned about the second sin.  And of course it is so subtle.  That’s why so few are thinking about it, which naturally makes my burden all the greater . . . because I witness it every day . . . yes every day, within myself, within our church, in our communities and beyond. 
But before we go farther, let’s review the circumstances of the first sin, since this is where the whole issue begins.  You remember the story.  Adam and Eve were living in an utterly perfect setting, in a place so ideal that they called it Eden . . . paradise.  It seemed they had everything their hearts could desire.  The only thing forbidden to them was the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
One day a spectacular visitor, the serpent, struck up a conversation with Eve.  We don’t know why he ignored Adam, who was with her (Genesis 3:6), and spoke to her, nor why she carried the whole weight of the conversation.  The serpent raised in Eve’s mind a question about the goodness of God . . . Why would God refuse her and Adam the privilege of anything in the Garden, especially something that obviously must be the most desirable thing there?  And then an  accusation . . .  God refuses you this particular fruit because God knows you will become equal to the Divine if you eat it.
So Eve was convinced, and she ate.  And being generous by nature, she shared the fruit with her husband, and he ate.  And that was the first sin.
Of course that story doesn’t satisfy us . . .  it only quickens our curiosity.  What, exactly, was that first sin?  Some have suggested that it was the discovery of sex, because Adam and Eve became conscious of their nakedness and made themselves garments of fig leaves.  But that explanation misses the point, even if it succeeds in making the story more exciting.  The issue was the human desire to be equal with God -- to do what God could do.
The Bible, in its profound wisdom, portrays the first sin in entirely symbolic language.  If it had described the sin as the violation of a specific commandment, we humans would ever after have thought that act to be the worst sin and probably the only one to worry about . . . and I expect we then would have been unconcerned about all the others.  But the writer of Genesis sharply gives us a picture . . . The first sin is the eating of the forbidden fruit.  It is the basic act of disobedience and disbelief.  As such it is the essence of our human problem.
This first sin is highly significant because its the first.  But the second sin may, in fact, be more important . . . because we’ll never recover from the first sin so long as we’re guilty of the second.  The scriptures and human experience both testify that God has provided a remedy for the first sin, no matter what it is.  But the second sin can make God’s remedy ineffective.  That’s why it concerns me so.  One might even say . . . that the second sin is the unpardonable sin.  And yet, you don’t hear anything about the second sin, do you?
Let’s go back to the Bible story to see how it all happened.  After Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, they became ashamed of their nakedness . . .  but far more important, they became uneasy about God.  So when God came walking in the Garden soon thereafter, Adam and Eve tried to hide.  They must have realized that it is impossible to hide from God, but sin makes us humans do irrational things . . .  sin is never very smart, you know, not even when it dresses itself in sophistication.  “Why are you hiding?” God asked.  And Adam, who had been quite silent in the conversations with the serpent, replied, “I heard you coming and didn’t want you to see me naked.  So I hid.”
Now God pressed the matter.  “Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten fruit from the tree about which I warned you?”
Adam answered, “Yes, but it was the woman you gave me who brought me some, and I ate it.” And Eve, not to be left bearing sole responsibility, chimed in, “The serpent tricked me.”    
Now there you have the second sin.  It is even more dangerous than the first, because it prevents our recovering from the first . . . it is the sin of excuses . . . the unwillingness to admit that we are wrong and the refusal to see ourselves for what we are.  Whatever our original sin may be, whether it is lying, adultery, cheating, unforgiveness, ill temper, gluttony, drunkenness, gossip, or murder . . . there is always hope for us.  But when we become guilty of the second sin . . .  the sin of excusing ourselves and of being unwilling to face ourselves . . .  we close the door against God and hope.
Ah, it brings us to that word we don’t like to use -- repentance.  The world does, indeed, stand or fall with our readiness to repent.  This is true of nations, of institutions, of individuals.  If a nation takes a wrong road and repents, she can recover . . . but if she insists on justifying her policies, she will disintegrate.  It may be a slow process, but it is a sure one.  The prophets called it the judgment of God, but it is written into the very nature of the universe.  Either we face ourselves and repent, or our world falls.
The same rule applies to institutions.  When investigative reporters revealed that a national charitable organization was paying exorbitant salaries to a few top officers and that money was being used recklessly, the organization could either tough it out or admit it had erred.  It chose to confess its sins, and it survived.  I doubt that the public would have continued its support if that organization had done anything less than make an abject apology to the nation.  But the key word is not “abject” . . . it is repentance.
Fiorello La Guardia, whose name has been taken by both an airport and a musical, was the flamboyant but effective mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945.  He was an institution!  But he made mistakes and acknowledged them.  He noted that he didn’t make many and said, “But when I do, it’s a beaut!”  His voters laughed with him, because he knew enough to acknowledge when he was wrong.
Mistakes don’t destroy us . . . nor will the eternal mistakes called sins . . . what destroys is our inability to face ourselves and confess that we’ve been wrong.  If a child doesn’t do well in school . . . there’s still hope if they will say to their teacher, “I must be doing something wrong . . . I need help.”  But there’s almost no hope for the person who insists on excusing their poor work . . .  the teacher doesn’t like me   . . . the kids make fun of me . . . I forgot to bring my homework home.  Those who make the most of the educational enterprise are not necessarily those with a high I.Q.  The secret is to be teachable . . .  and to be teachable you must be willing to admit that you don’t know . . .and that’s a form of repentance . . .  repenting of ignorance.  As long as we excuse our failure to learn, we frustrate the learning process.
But even learning is relatively inconsequential compared with the issues of the soul, our very being.  The personalities of the Bible might easily be divided into those who were willing to learn . . . that is to repent . . . and those who were not.  Those two categories could also be classified as the victorious and the tragic.  Moses and Balaam both erred, but Moses repented his way to greatness while Balaam died a fool.  Saul and David were both sinners, dramatically flawed, but Saul exited in tragedy while David was declared a person after God’s own heart.
One of the current buzz words for not taking responsibility . . . for making excuses for our behaviour is . . . my family was dysfunctional . . . the Holy Scriptures are filled with dysfunctional people . . . some of histories most magnificent human beings have been marked by major sins, mistakes, and dysfunctions . . . yet they have come to greatness because of their capacity for acknowledging their failures.  They are great, in some instances, not in spite of their sins . . . but because of them.  Character grows out of the soil of our lives like a tender plant.  If we repent of our sins, repentance breaks the soil of life so that the plant gets a new and stronger start.  But if we excuse or ignore our failures . . .  the soil of life hardens until the plant of character simply cannot survive.
I have suggested that the second sin may be what is often called “the unpardonable sin.” The unpardonable sin is defined as the sin against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28, 29), a blaspheming of the Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit is the persuasive agent in our lives, the power which convicts us of sin.  When we excuse ourselves and refuse to recognize our sins, we harden ourselves against the Spirit’s work of persuasion.  That very act of resisting and hardening is a sin against the Spirit . . . a blaspheming, so to speak, of the Spirit’s work.  If this rejection continues long enough, we come to a place where we no longer hear or sense the Spirit’s pleading.  How could we be more lost than to be in a state where we are no longer disturbed about being wrong?  We come to such a place by the continuing process of self-excusing.
What experts we are in hiding from the knowledge of what we are!  Adam and Eve set the pattern for us, and we’ve been refining it ever since.  When God asked Adam if he had eaten from the forbidden tree, he had the opportunity to step forward and confess what he had done.  Instead he answered, “Yes, but the woman . . .”  What a courageous soul he was . . . brave, ready to shoulder responsibility!  “It was the woman.”
And the woman, I regret to say, did no better.  Several differences exist between the sexes, but sin isn't one of them.  Male and female, we have a common facility for excusing ourselves.  While it is often noted that the woman committed the first sin, it must also be said that the man led the way on the second.  And in both cases, the other was all too prompt to follow.  So when Eve saw the blame heading toward her, she quickly said, “The serpent tricked me.”
But I’m not done with Adam.  His excuse doesn’t stop with shifting the burden of blame to Eve. He complains to God, “It was the woman you gave me.”  In other words, “It’s your fault, God, for so generously providing me with this lovely creature who leads me astray . . . this one of whom I said so recently that she was bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.  It’s your fault for giving her to me.”
We’ve been talking to God that way ever since.  “It’s the temperament you gave me.  I can’t help myself.”  “My father was an alcoholic -- It’s in my genes.”  “My wife/husband doesn’t show me love . . . I was made a loving person . . . I’ve got to get it somewhere.”  “We’re poor, and we have to sell drugs for money.”  “I don’t have any friends    . . . so I steal to be cool.”  “It’s my lack of talent.  If only God had given me more talent.”  “I’d help keep the church clean or help cut the grass or work on that committee . . . but God didn’t give me enough energy.”
The truth is . . . we have refined the skills of earlier generations.  Our great learning has given us new ways to excuse ourselves.  Vast numbers use psychiatry and its related sciences to aid and abet their natural inclination to blame someone else . . . we blame our parents . . . we blame lack of parents . . . we blame our neighbors . . . we blame each other.  It just doesn’t cut it . . . at least scripturally.  We make the mess of our lives . . . how to solve that . . . for all of us, that means stripping ourselves of all excuses and making a new start.
Our knowledge is leading us, it seems, to a veritable epidemic of fault-displacement.  George A. Tobin, the Washington attorney and writer, recalls an acquaintance who excused his various moral lapses by saying, “Well, I’m just the kinda guy who. . .”  All of us have known such a person . . . some of us have sometimes been such a person!  But now we have science, of sorts, on our side.  We’re quite sure we can find secrets in our genetic code to prove that we’re really not responsible for what we do.  “What can one expect of a person whose intricate makeup is like mine?” we ask.  “Pastor, you just don’t understand” . . . oh yes I do.  There’s something both perverse and amusing about the fact that some who scorn the idea of a devil, have shaped a devil of their own and have christened it in the name of science.
The ultimate tragedy of the second sin is that it prevents us from finding God.  The ancient poet cried out in his guilt:
   The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  (Psalm 51:17)
God can visit the penitent soul because the penitent soul has an open door.  But God is shut out of the life that covers over its failures with a hard surface of excuses.  The Forgiving One never has opportunity to forgive and restore those who will not acknowledge that they want such a divine Friend.
When Adam and Eve sinned, a great mercy came into their lives.  God called, “Where are you?”  When you’re trying to run from yourself and from God and from life, that call doesn’t at first seem a mercy.  In his epic poem “The Hound of Heaven,” Francis Thompson describes God as one whom we flee  “down the vistas of the years.”  But kindly and persistently, God pursues us, hounds us, follows after us.
I imagine a community that has been devastated by a fatal epidemic.  Now a physician comes who has a sure, accessible remedy.  Through the streets of the village he walks, past closed doors, crying out as in ancient Eden, “Where are you?  Where are you?” 
Some hide in the basements of life and die.  But others sense the mercy in the cry and recognize that as painful as it may be to confess the possibility of their infection, they must submit themselves to treatment so that their lives can be saved.
Shall we say to the physician, “My neighbor is responsible . . . or  the woman you gave me . . .  or  I was born with a weakness . . . or the environment is against me . . . or the system is bad . . . or who can get well where I live? . . . or she hurt me most . . . or he says he’s sorry about the same thing, over and over.”  No . . . no!  Say, “I'm infected.  Please heal me.  Please make me well.”
Whatever sin or weakness or inadequacy affects and afflicts us, God offers the remedy.  Only one thing can prevent our getting well.  Only one!  The second sin.  Our innate unwillingness to confess that we need help . . . and on the basis of that confession, to seek God’s remedy.
Whatever we do with this life, whatever course we follow, let us be sure that we don’t die making excuses.
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Kat_Gram
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« Reply #22 on: September 14, 2010, 11:18:14 PM »

Thank you sister, very intersting reading.
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Sister
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« Reply #23 on: September 15, 2010, 08:00:26 AM »

Thank you sister, very intersting reading.

One of the issues I think hurts all of us, including me, is not taking responsibility for our actions, the sin of excuses.  From that can come the lack of respect for others and that is a huge issue in our society now, IMO.  Somewhere along the line, we were not taught to respect others . . . I often wonder if it began with the "Me" generation.
Glad you read here Kat_Gram . . . what I write I try to make thought provoking.
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« Reply #24 on: September 15, 2010, 09:12:47 PM »

I really thought about your writing after I had closed the computer for the night. I also copied it to a word doc to read and am going to put it in my purse. Sometimes we get so entrenched in our judgemental thinking about other persons that we fail to look at ourselves.
..
I went to work today and cleared up some old work that I felt I needed help with and had several different reasons at the ready as to why I hadn't finished it, in case anyone asked.
I tackled 80% of it, going to do the rest tomorrow. Just a small thing, but I need to apply some of your writing to my family relationships, which is the big thing. Nothing is wrong in my immediate family, but we get way too verbal with each other from time to time and then don't speak. I want to stop that and can only work on it from my end. And I have been.
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« Reply #25 on: October 06, 2010, 06:04:36 PM »

Wanting the best for our children
Matthew 20:20-23

Faith is only faith when it has learned to accept the nos as well as the yeses of God.  This was a lesson all of the disciples who walked with Jesus had to learn.  This was a lesson that Paul, who counted all things as lost for the sake of Christ, had to learn.  This was a lesson that Jesus learned as he agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane about the necessity of the cross.  This is a lesson each of us most learn if we intend to follow Jesus to the end.
Several years ago, one of my parishioners, a young man, had prayed that God would heal his grandfather.  When this young man’s prayers were not answered in the way he desired, he was deeply disappointed and hurt.  His attitude toward God and religion soured, and he stopped attending church.  It wasn’t that his grandfather had died . . . but after his stroke, he wasn’t the same.  The young man stopped believing in God because his prayer was not answered in the precise way that he had desired.  Faith cannot survive unless it learns the nos as well as the yeses of God.
This was a lesson that Salome had to learn on her own faith journey.  Salome has the distinction of being the only woman in the Gospels whose request was denied by Jesus.  In the Gospels, whenever a woman made a request of Jesus, he usually complied.  When Jesus’ mother asked him to intercede for a young couple whose wine had run out at their wedding feast, he complied.  He may have been irked because his mother was disregarding his timetable, but he did what she asked nevertheless.  When Martha and Mary sent for him to come see about their brother Lazarus, he came.  He may have been late according to their standards, but he came nevertheless.  When mothers brought their children to Jesus to bless them, he did so despite the misguided efforts of his well-intentioned disciples to shield him from those who disturbed him.  When the woman with the issue of blood touched his garments to be healed, Jesus responded to her unspoken request and ameliorated her condition.  In the Gospels, whatever women sought from the Lord they usually received.  Yet he turned down the request of Salome.
Jesus’ no to Salome is significant when one considers who she was.  The Gospel of Matthew identifies her as one of the women, along with Mary Magdalene, who had followed Jesus from Galilee and had ministered to him.  Thus, she was one of his loyal supporters and as the wife of Zebedee, who owned a flourishing fishing business, she was undoubtedly one of his strong financial backers.  There is a tradition that believes Salome was the sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother . . . if that is true, then she was Jesus’ aunt.  As his aunt, she had probably known him all of his life . . . she may have even cared for him when he was an infant.  Thus, when she spoke, she did so from the perspective of strong and close family ties.  Whether she was actually Jesus’ aunt or not, she was, in fact, the mother of James and John, two of the Lord’s closest and most prominent disciples.  We naturally tend to feel close to the parents or relatives of our best friends and closest companions.  Thus, when Salome spoke, she did so from the perspective of strong personal ties of friendship.  Salome was one of the Lord’s loyal supporters . . . she may have been his aunt . . . she was a person with political and personal clout among the disciples . . . yet Jesus told her no.
The response of Jesus is significant when one looks at the way in which she came to Jesus.  According to Scripture, she knelt before him. . . she came humbly.  She didn’t come to Jesus demanding anything because she was one of his supporters.  She didn’t come to Jesus claiming any rights due her because she was his senior.  She didn’t come trying to lay any guilt trip on the Master because she was his aunt or because he had deprived her of the two sons who one day might be needed to take care of her.  She came to him humbly . . . she came with the right attitude and spirit . . . yet Jesus told her no.
The response of Jesus is significant when one considers the nature of her request.  Essentially she was not asking anything for herself . . . she was interceding for others.  Her request reflected the spirit of Christ, who was always giving.  We often talk about the cost of discipleship and what is required of us to be Christians.  We often refer to the fact that we are called to take up crosses.  However, let us not forget that Jesus is essentially a giver.  He gives much more than he receives and returns much more than he keeps.  When he asks something, he does so, not to receive, but that we might be blessed even as we give.  With all of the charges and accusations that the enemies of Jesus brought against him, no one accused him of taking or keeping anything for himself.  Whatever he received he gave back to them.  When he received a little boy’s lunch, he gave back a banquet for five thousand persons.  When he received words of praise, he gave them back as praise to his heavenly Father.  When he received bread and wine, he gave it to his disciples as symbols of their redemption.
Jesus was essentially a giver and so was Salome.  She gave her time to minister to Jesus and her sons to be his disciples.  Her husband, Zebedee, was not getting any younger.  She could have resisted the call of James and John to become disciples of Jesus.  She could have asked them, “Who will take care of the family business and look after me if the two of you follow your poor cousin, Jesus, or that young vagabond prophet from Nazareth?”  She may have had her own dream regarding the careers of her son.  Salome, however, did not put any hindrance in the way of her son’s calling but became a follower of Jesus herself.  She gave of her substance . . . she gave of the most prized possession that any true mother has . . . she gave her sons to Jesus.  Salome, who had been so unselfish, so loving, and so giving, only made one request of Jesus . . . yet he told her no.
On bended knees with her two sons she came to him and said, “Master, I have something to ask of you for these two sons of mine who are already close to you and whom you have already taken into your confidence on more than one occasion.  Command that one may sit on your right hand and the other on your left.”
Now before we criticize Salome for her request, let us observe that there is nothing wrong per se with a mother looking out for the best interests of her children.  What good parent doesn’t want a better life for his or her children?  Good parents are not envious of their children’s successes.  Good parents hope that their children will go further in life than they have, and if they can do anything to pave the way to help them, they will.  Salome in her request was only looking out for the well-being of her children as any good mother should . . . yet Jesus told her no.
Let us note further that there is nothing wrong per se with the desire to be next to Jesus in the kingdom that he will establish.  Salome and her sons are to be commended for believing in the power of this homeless, penniless, weaponless, armyless preacher of God’s word whom they followed to bring a kingdom into being.  Their request showed an audacious leap of faith.  Some mothers want their sons to be seated next to the Caesars of history . . . others want their sons seated next to persons of great social standing and wealth.  But Salome desired that her sons be seated next to Jesus.  There is nothing wrong per se with a request to be next to Jesus . . . but our Lord told Salome no.
Jesus recognized that although Salome’s faith was well intentioned, it had much to learn.  He said, “You don’t know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink.”  They said to him, “We are able.”  He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and my left hand is not mine to grant; it is for whom it has been prepared.”
Before we can fully enter the kingdom, there are some cups from which faith must drink, there are some which can be bitter.  Our inclination is to ask God to remove the bitter cups from our lives.  Sometimes God says no to us because those cups qualify us to enter the kingdom of God.  I once knew a lady of great faith who constantly prayed for healing for her husband.  That healing never came, but she had such a sweet disposition and such faith that she encouraged everyone who met her.  I don’t deny that her cup was bitter, but the fact that she drank it well allowed her to enter the kingdom.
There was a period of time when I had several dreams about the marks of Jesus upon my own body.  Then I dreamed of the mark that the world –  and certainly I –  had forgotten.  It was the mark upon Jesus’ shoulder made by the cross that he bore to Calvary.  I discovered that I could only have the marks of the Lord on my hands and feet if I had the marks on my shoulders that came from bearing the cross.   If we do not drink of certain cups, then we lose the key to the kingdom for which our faith unlocks the door.  If we do not drink from certain cups, then we cancel our reservations on the journey that leads from earth to heaven and from time to eternity.  If we do not drink from certain cups, then we cease going from strength to strength and from glory to glory.
Perhaps, Jesus gave Salome a further explanation: “You and your sons will drink of my cup.  James will be among the first of my disciples to be martyred for the cause of the kingdom.  John will live to be an old man, but he shall experience persecution, banishment, and distress.  He will see all of his companions die one by one until in extreme old age he will be left alone with nothing to comfort him but the memory of vanished years and the hope of an eternal future..  As their mother and as a loyal follower, you will have your share of the cup of sorrow, but I must still say no to your request.  To sit any my right hand and my left hand is not mine to grant, but it is for those whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
Jesus could have added: “If I say yes to you, I’ll have to say no to too many people.  If I say yes to you, I’ll have to say no to too many Christians who will come after you, who will face raging lions and be burned at the stake, and who have as much right to those places as you.  If I say yes to you . . .”
Sometimes God says no to us so that he can say yes to others.  Many a Christian has stayed beside the sickbed of someone, praying for recovery in this life.  But while God said no to the one who was praying, God said yes to the one who was sick.  God told that person, “Yes, you’ve fought the good fight . . . yes, you’ve run the good race . . . yes, you deserve your reward.  Yes, come, blessed of my father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
I’m glad Jesus said no to Salome because he was able to say yes to another host.  John, the Revelator, wrote about it:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belong to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” . . . Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?”  I said to him, “Sir you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation, they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple; and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence.  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; . . . for the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
(Revelation 7:9-10; 13-17)
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« Reply #26 on: November 07, 2010, 12:26:14 AM »


Death Is A Door
by Nancy Byrd Turner

Death is only an old door
Set in a garden wall.
On quiet hinges it gives at dusk
When the late birds call.

Along the lintel are green leaves;
Beyond, the light lies still;
Very weary and willing feet
Go over that sill.

There is nothing to trouble any heart,
Nothing to hurt at all, --
Death is only an old door
In a garden wall.





I come to the garden alone
while the dew is still on the roses,
and the voice I hear
falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.

He speaks, and the sound of his voice
is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
and the melody that he gave to me
within my heart is ringing.

I'd stay in the garden with him
though the night around me be falling,
but he bids me go, thru the voice of woe,
his voice to me is calling.

And he walks with me
and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own,
and the joy we share as we tarry there,
none other has ever known.
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mymonkey
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« Reply #27 on: November 09, 2010, 10:27:45 AM »

This is a wonderful thread Sister...thank you for taking the time to post here for all the monkeys... an angelic monkey
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« Reply #28 on: November 21, 2010, 11:12:18 PM »

Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving

   In Luke 17:11-19, we read that Jesus healed ten “untouchables” . . . ten lepers.  This incident is not only another example of the healing power of Christ, it is a demonstration of the Master’s sensitivity to human need and his ever-present compassion.
   The sight of lepers was common in Jesus’ day and most people grew accustomed to seeing them.  Suffering and misery are like anything else . . . we can get used to them.  If we see them enough, if we’re confronted by them enough, then we cease to be shocked by them and we learn to accept them as the natural order of things.
   However, Jesus was not so accustomed to suffering and misery and tragedy that he could take problems, injustices, and pain lightly.  Whenever he saw misery, something moved within him . . . his heart was touched and he responded.  He knew that he couldn’t heal everybody in the world, but that didn’t stop him from healing those that he could.  Thus, when the lepers cried out to him, Jesus responded.
   As the lepers followed Jesus’ command to go show themselves to the priest, they found themselves cleansed.  As they followed the instructions of Jesus, they found themselves healed.  It came to pass that as they went, they were cleansed.  Deliverance, cleansing, salvation, and healing come to us only as we listen to the directives of the Lord and obey.  Sometimes those directives may seem strange, but it is only as we, in faith, venture to do as the Lord has commanded and the Spirit has directed, that we are set free from that which once held us bound.
   When the lepers discovered their healing, what was their response?  Nine went their way, while one returned to give thanks.  When the one returned, glorifying God for what had been done in his life, Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten? Where are the nine?” 
   I don’t know exactly where the other nine went . . . the Scriptures do not say.  Perhaps a couple of them didn’t return because they took their healing for granted.  There was no reason to be thankful because they felt that they had been given a raw deal in life.  The disease had been unfairly thrust upon them, so the healing was only what they deserved.  They were embittered about their condition and, because their bitterness was so deep, they were not particularly thankful for their relief.
   There are some people in life who feel that the world owes them a living . . .  they take God’s blessings for granted.  When we think of the unemployed, the destitute, and the hungry, what makes us think that we are any more deserving of the jobs we have, or the food on our tables, or the shelter above our heads, than anyone else?  If we have been blessed, it’s not because we have an inherent right or that we are more deserving.  There are a lot of deserving people who don’t have what we have.  We have been blessed because God has chosen to bless us.  What I am saying is that every good and perfect gift comes from above.  So instead of taking life for granted, we should live life in gratitude.
   There are some church people who feel that if things go right in the church: “It’s what we did,” but if things go wrong: “It’s what the pastor did or did not do.” Some people feel that when something good comes their way: “It’s what I did, what I worked for; it’s my accomplishment.”  But the minute something bad happens, our tune becomes: “Why did God do this to me; why did God let this happen to me; why is God so hard on me?”
   But when we approach life with an attitude of gratitude, we give thanks in all things.  Like Habakkuk we can say, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be shot in the vines, the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields yield not meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation" (Habakkuk 3:17-18, KJV).
   Perhaps not all of the lepers took their healing for granted.  Some probably meant to return to say thank-you to Jesus, but they became sidetracked and never got around to it.  They meant to return to Jesus just as soon as they left the temple.  But they decided to go home first and show themselves to their families.  They decided to go by the old neighborhood and see their old friends, as well as some of the people who had shunned them before.
   When they went home they started celebrating and before they knew it the day was gone and the night was gone.  Before they knew it a week was gone, a month was gone, a year was gone.  Before they knew it  . . . Jesus was gone.  Before they knew it Jesus had been crucified, and they never got around to thanking him.
   They probably didn’t do it purposefully . . . they had the best of intentions.  They meant to thank him . . .  they just became so engrossed in their own agendas, they got so caught up in their own celebrations, they just never got around to it.
   There are a lot of people who will end up in hell because of “meant to” religion.  We meant to visit the sick . . . we meant to ask our neighbors’ forgiveness . . . we meant to say a kind word.  We meant to go to church . . .  we certainly meant to keep all those promises we made to God when we were down and out or when we were sick.  We meant to be a good Christian husband or wife, son or daughter, father or mother . . . but we just became sidetracked.
   We became so engrossed in doing what we wanted to do . . . we kept putting it off.  Then we looked around and our opportunities were gone.  The best years of our lives were gone . . . our children were grown . . . the person we intended to be reconciled with was gone . . . but we meant to do it.
   “Meant to” religion has never done anything but talk.  It has never saved a soul, comforted the sick, or repaired any hurt feelings.  That’s why we must act whenever we get the chance.
   The one grateful leper had to turn back and retrace his steps to get to Jesus.  Perhaps the others were grateful, but they didn’t feel like going through the trouble of turning back to give thanks.  They found it much easier to go on their merry way.  To find Jesus, they would have had to return to the spot and revisit those same places where they were once lepers.  They wanted to forget all about that and so they just continued on their journey.
   It’s easier to continue on our way than to pause and do a little backtracking to give thanks.  It takes a little extra effort on our part to give thanks.  It’s easier to lay in bed on Sunday morning and not struggle with the kids to get them up and ready . . . it’s easier to think . . . I’ll go next Sunday for sure . . . it’s easier to make excuses than come to church to thank and praise God for last week’s journey.  It’s easier to stay at home in the kitchen or in front of the television than it is to get up and go out to that holy place to say, “I thank you, Jesus, for what you’ve done for me.”
   It’s easy to get so involved in our activities that we can’t find the time to serve God.  Some of us don’t want to think about the time when we were outcasts, when we didn’t have much of anything, before the hand of the Lord rescued us.  Some of us have conveniently forgotten all those promises through all those years that we have made to God -- we assume we have plenty of time to make good on them.  Some of us are so far on our way that we think it’s too much to retrace our steps back to Jesus.  It’s easier to just go on our way.
   Yes, a lot of people, for one reason or another, fail to give God proper thanks.  Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten?  Where are the nine?”  Ten were healed but only one returned, but thank God for the one.  No matter how bad things may get, no matter how many turn their backs on God, someone will return to give thanks.
   I’ve found out, as a preacher, that when things get rough and supporters seem few, God always sends someone to offer a word of encouragement.  God always has one who says, “I’m praying for you.  I’ll do what I can.  I’m with you.  I can’t speak for the others, but you can count on me.”
   God always has one.  That one’s name may be Noah, Abraham, Moses . . . it may be Joshua, Gideon, or Esther . . . it may be Elijah, Isaiah, or Jeremiah . . . it may be Daniel, or John the Baptist, or Stephen, or Paul, or John of Patmos . . . it may be a friend named Dennis or a sister named Rose . . . but God always has somebody.  Sometimes God has more than we think . . . as a pastor I have found that out too . . . many more are willing to pray and thank God for the good we do as a community of faith . . . than the one or two squeaky wheels who always need to be oiled.
   Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men?  Where are the nine?  Does only this foreigner return to give glory to God?”  Among the ten lepers there was one who was a despised Samaritan.  There was one who was not only the victim of leprosy, but he was also the victim of intense prejudice and hatred from the Jews.  Yet when the healing took place, it was the Samaritan who returned to give thanks.  Jesus’ own people went on their way.  It was one who was considered a foreigner, the one we would least expect, who came back shouting, “Glory to God, I’ve been healed.”
   Many times God’s choice is the one that we would consider to be the least likely. 
   When God got ready for a deliverer for the children of Israel, God picked the world’s most unlikely candidate: Moses.  A son of Pharaoh’s court, Moses was a former general of the Egyptian army and a murderer who spoke with a stammer.
   When Samuel went to Jesse’s house, God chose David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, who was only a shepherd boy and who was the least likely candidate to be a king over Israel.
   When God was ready for an apostle to the Gentiles he got the one least likely: Saul, a zealous Pharisee and ardent persecutor of the church. 
   That’s why, from the youngest to the oldest, we have to treat everyone right.  Jesus says, “Whoever receives a little child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me . . . :Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:37, 42).  Jesus says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least; you have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40, KJV).
   In the church, God’s anointed is not always the one with the squeakiest wheel or the highest office.  God’s person is not always the individual who is up front all the time or the one who gives the most.  God’s person may not say much and may not even get any recognition.  They may not even hold an office, but that’s alright because God knows who these persons are.  Their souls have been set free and their names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life.
   Jesus was thanked by the one least likely.  Often our blessings come not from those we’ve helped the most . . . but from those about whom we have not given much thought.  Often those for whom we don’t think we’ve done very much, are the most appreciative.  Maybe what we did was a little thing to us, but it was a big thing to them.  That’s what makes doing good worthwhile.  The nine may go their own way, never bothering to say thank you, never thinking about how we’ve helped them or what we’ve tried to do for them.  But when the one comes back, we know the kindness we’ve tried to do has not been in vain.  Let us not become discouraged over the nine . . . just thank God that we’ve been able to help the one.
   I don’t know about you, but this is how I approach life.  I may not be able to sing like angels . . . I may not be able to preach like Paul . . . I may not be rich or smart . . . history books may never record my works . . . but if in the course of this life I’ve been able to help one person, then everything’s all right.  If one person has been brought closer to God . . . if one young person has been guided in the right way . . .  if one old person has been comforted in their loneliness . . .  if one sick person has been helped to hold on until deliverance comes . . . if one soul has been saved . . . if one life has been redeemed . . . if one person has seen the beauty of Jesus shining through my wretched life . . . then my living has not been in vain.
   Just think of it!  There is something we can do for God.  Saying “Thank You,” in our prayers gives Him delight.  Can we . . . will we . . . let go and pour forth our thanks?  But even here He must help us.  And so we pray, “You have given so much . . . give me one more gift . . . a thankful heart.”
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« Reply #29 on: December 05, 2010, 03:14:55 PM »

Matthew 3:1-12

Who Do You Say That I Am?
I think all of us have something that “pushes our button”  – if you know what I mean.  And for me, as a pastor, one of the things that really “pushes my button” is when folks talk about other people’s past like it was today.  They recount hurts and wrongs done to them . . . or not . . . as if the tears had just flowed this morning.    Sometimes, I wonder if we Christians have a clue about forgiveness – for when we retell old tales – where does the forgiveness lie – or are we telling the tales in order to look “good” that we forgave.

For I think the truth is . . . most of us probably have something in our pasts we regret . . . regret deeply.  It is very difficult to put away our pasts.  Most of us  . . . can think of some decision that we made that turned out to be the wrong decision . . .  some situation that now we wish we had handled differently . . . or some act that we committed that we would never do again if we had the chance to live that part of our lives over.
   
If there is something bad in our past, and there surely is in everybody’s past, that is a high hurdle to jump.  In the prison ministry I see this often . . . folks who serve their time, pay their debt to society . . . many of those people will spend the rest of their days trying to outlive the bad things in their pasts.
   
We know that convicted felons aren’t the only ones who struggle to put past mistakes behind them.  There may not have been any charges filed . . . the man may have lost control only once, but the memory of his open hand on his wife’s face will haunt him as long as he lives . . . the woman who had an affair with a married man . . . the child who stole something from a store or cheated on a test . . . it is hard to put our pasts behind us.

Some bad things are well known and the news makes the rounds all too quickly.  Some bad things are words and deeds and thoughts known only to us.  The fact that our mistakes are lesser known does not make them less serious.  As Tony Campolo says, “We need to be saved from those things about ourselves that would cause us to hate ourselves.”  Sometimes we are harder on ourselves than we need to be.  Sometimes the people around us are not nearly as tolerant as they should be.  Whatever the situation, it is hard to put away a past that has some glaring flaw in it.  Yet, there is good news.  God loves us.  God forgives us.  God longs for us to come to grips with whatever it is that is keeping us from full communion with God.
   
Sometimes we have made no mistake, but some visit from tragedy’s storehouse has left us sad and angry and bitter.  We can’t explain some of the diseases, but we know what they have done to our lives.  We are left without the ones we love and with a gaping hole in our lives.  One man was accused falsely of raping a family member’s friend.  He was the victim of a sick world where people allege all sorts of things which never happened anywhere except in their own imagination.  That man has experienced enormous pain, yet he made no mistake. Yet, there is good news, even in those cases where we are not responsible for the pain in our past.  We may never get over some things, but we can learn to live with them.  God will be present as we begin to heal bit by bit.  God will be the fellow traveler as we rise and continue the journey.

If you don’t have anything in your past that is bad, if there isn’t anything that you need to work through, then praise God, give thanks, and look out!  Sometimes dealing with a good past is the most difficult task of all.  People who can’t think of any bad in their pasts are people who quickly lose sight of their need for God.  It is easy to reach a comfort level where we convince ourselves that we already know what we need to know.  Sermons become a form of entertainment or conversation starters . . . rather than a discussion about applying the words of scripture to our daily lives.  It is easy to come to church because we enjoy it instead of coming because we need to be here . . . scripture is intended for somebody else because we have heard it all before.  In the comfort zone, we can relax and draw upon the spiritual capital we have accumulated through the years.  A good past is hard to overcome.

We can fall into the trap that by being a “Christian” . . . we are separated from everybody else.  Congregations fall victim to this problem.  Churches become satisfied with their pasts to the point that they do not make the changes necessary to live in the present with the same degree of faithfulness shown in prior years.  It’s one thing to be proud of certain things . . . but it is possible to lean too heavily on a good past and live too scantily in the precious present.

In the great hymn “There’s A Wideness In God’s Mercy,” there is the most wonderful phrase.  One verse begins with good news for people trying to deal with some mistake in a bad past.  “There is welcome for the sinner,” the verse begins.  To know that we are welcome to come back is often what leads us to come back.  To experience that welcome, at home or church or work or among friends, prompts tears of joy.  But then hear how that line continues.  “There is welcome for the sinner, and more graces for the good.”  Those of us who think we are on the right track are the people who need that double dose of grace.  We are the ones who depend too much on ourselves and lean too heavily on our own accomplishments.  The people who have to deal with a strong and rich past need more grace, not less.  We have to be convinced ever so gently of our need and then nurtured toward making God our center . . . instead of making our center god.
   
For the Jewish people, Abraham was more than a special ancestor.  Abraham’s life and faith had made provision for everybody who followed Abraham in the faith, even those who came along many generations later.  To the “children of Abraham” belonged the favor of God, and the favor of God would never be taken from them.
   
Then comes John the Baptist.  He tells them that just because they are children of Abraham doesn’t mean that the requirements have been eased or that they can slack off.  We hate to hear John the Baptist say that because we know how it translates to our situation.  We can hear him now.  “Just because you are members of the church, just because you give your weekly offerings, just because your great-grandparents were in this church, just because you are an officer, just because you are the minister, just because you sing in the choir  . . . doesn’t mean it is time to relax and take it easy and give in to this temptation of thinking this matter of being Christian is under control.”  In other words, don’t presume your past has taken care of your present.  Don’t presume either way.  Don’t presume that your life is over if you have something bad in your past.  Don’t presume, either, that a good past is permission to relax.
   
The call to repent, to turn toward God, is for all of us to hear, and for us to hear over and over again.  Wasn’t it John’s concern that people were taking their faith for granted, experiencing it secondhand through Abraham, and coasting in automatic pilot?  And shouldn’t that be our concern?  There is more to see and hear and experience than we have seen and heard and experienced!  Every day requires a renewed commitment to God, an increased awareness of God, and a greater participation in the ways of God.  Every day calls us to engage our lives with the spirit of God.  Others will contribute to our growth and understanding, and we will learn some things from our pasts, but responsibility falls on us to respond to the presence of the living God every day in a way that deepens our faith.
   
At some point, we must start answering for ourselves.  It is frightening at first, and sometimes it is still frightening years later, but the call to repent is a call each person must answer for himself or herself.  The fact that we answered that call once doesn’t answer for us today.  It is not a matter of having to prove ourselves over and over . . . but a matter of daily confessing that we stand in constant need of the strength and grace of God.
   
When Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” it was a pointed question aimed at each person.  Jesus didn’t ask, “Who did your grandparents say that I am?” The question was not, “Who does your church say that I am?”  It wasn’t even, “Once upon a time, who did you say that I am?”  The question is present tense.  “Who do you say that I am?”
   
Who do you say that I am?  Isaiah responded, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
   
Who do you say that I am?  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
   
Who do you say that I am?  John of Patmos said, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).
   
This very day . . . regardless of what is in the past, Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?”  This is our chance to speak for ourselves . . . to claim the faith . . . to experience the nearness of the kingdom firsthand, and to live our answer every day of our lives.
   
Be assured, there is a wideness in God’s mercy.
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« Reply #30 on: December 05, 2010, 03:34:36 PM »

The hymn "There Is A Wideness In God's Mercy" is beautiful.
Here it is song in Swedish:

Now the Green Blade Riseth (1981) :: ---Libretto Language: Swedish
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzJkNo9ilc4&feature=related
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« Reply #31 on: December 13, 2010, 12:09:31 PM »

God’s Christmas Card
   “Mail Early” is a slogan we often see and hear during these Advent days.  The Postal Service would like the more than four billion Christmas cards sent annually in America to be mailed early.  When you consider the costs of cards, stamps, and time . . . there is a tremendous amount of resources invested in just sending season’s greetings to friends and families.  What message could be worth that amount?
   This is the season to send a message to each other.  What are we saying on these Christmas cards?  Are we saying “Cheer up” or “sorry about that misfortune” or with Job’s wife, “curse God and die”? 
   What is the message?  Isaiah wondered too. . . he felt called to preach, but he did not know what to say to the world.  He asked God, “What shall I cry?”  These were bad times in Israel.  For 50 years they had been in captivity in Babylon: despised people, displaced persons, disgruntled and discouraged.  God called Isaiah to proclaim good news.  God’s Christmas card to us is a message of comfort: “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.”
   There is the good news of mercy.  God tells Isaiah to tell the people and us, “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem . . . her penalty is paid.”  This is good news for a people who have suffered a lot.  The Israelites paid double for their sins.  Before their captivity the Jews were faithless to God by worshipping and following other gods of the day.  They practiced social injustice that made the rich richer and the poor poorer.  They were guilty of gross immoralities.  For 50 years they paid the price for their sins.  They were captives of a foreign power and compelled to serve a hated people.
   We Americans can identify with the ancient Israelites in Babylon.  We have had it rough in recent years, too, because of our sins.  Americans have left God for other gods - the gods of Wall Street, of Madison Avenue and of Pennsylvania Avenue.  We put our trust in the power of money, stocks, and bonds and boasted of our national wealth. We continue to face overwhelming drug problems, increasing racial tensions and unrest, crime, poverty, domestic violence, an AIDS epidemic, and the threat of terrorism both home and abroad.
   For a people in that condition, there is a message from God. It is the good news that God will forgive our sins.  This is the basic need of every person and nation.  Realizing our sin, we cry from the depths of our beings –  “Lord, have mercy upon us.”  God assures us that there is a balm in Gilead for those who repent and are weary of their sins.  There is forgiveness with God.  It is not God’s will nor pleasure to condemn but to have mercy.  (Do we realize the penalty of our sins has been paid?)
   There is comfort for God’s people because of the good news of hope.  Isaiah calls to us: “Here is your God!”  God will come with strength, and in love he will gather his people to him like a shepherd.  We like sheep have gone astray, but God will come and gather us again to himself. This is the good news of hope.
   When times are bad, we tend to lose hope that things turn out all right.  The American people are presently in a state of cynicism and pessimism. The fad is to downgrade everyone and everything.
   Is there any basis for hope for our time?  To be sure, there is no lasting hope except in God.  Once again we need to lift our heads to the heavens and hear: “Behold your God!”  God is greater than we . . . God is mightier than our problems. This is God’s world and God holds the world in God’s hands.  God is God and the ultimate victory is God’s.  We can live today in hope because we are on God’s side in this conflict and God will see us through.  With God we can never be in a hopeless situation.  There is hope for a better world because Christ is the answer to these problems.  This applies to any problem you can mention.  There is no problem that cannot be solved when the problem is approached in the spirit of Christ – a spirit of justice . . . a spirit of love . . . a spirit of goodwill.
   This is the message on God’s Christmas card you are getting this Advent. Are you interested in the message or just the card?  An elderly couple was in a card shop looking for Christmas cards. The wife said, “Here is one I like but I don’t care for the words.”  Her husband replied, “That doesn’t matter, because nobody bothers to read the message anyway.”
   Maybe the world – you and I – feel the same about God’s message on the Christmas card.  We want the trappings . . . the music . . . the Santa . . . the good times of Christmas . . . but not the message. Yet, it is the message that is all-important . . . for it is a message of good news     . . . what does God’s Christmas card say to you?.
   May we fill our hearts with God’s glory . . . Jesus our Christ.
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« Reply #32 on: December 18, 2010, 09:53:50 AM »

One of the most beautiful e-mail Christmas cards:
http://www.jacquielawson.com/viewcard.asp?code=2007134554829&source=jl999
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« Reply #33 on: December 21, 2010, 06:47:52 AM »

He Moved Into the Ward with Us

Dr. John Rosen, a psychiatrist in New York City, is well known for his work with catatonic schizophrenics. Normally doctors remain separate and aloof from their patients. Dr. Rosen moves into the ward with them. He places his bed among their beds. He lives the life they must live. Day-to-day, he shares it. He loves them. If they don't talk, he doesn't talk either. It is as if he understands what is happening. His being there, being with them, communicates something that they haven't experienced in years - somebody understands.

But then he does something else. He puts his arms around them and hugs them. He holds these unattractive, unlovable, sometimes incontinent persons, and loves them back into life. Often, the first words they speak are simply, "Thank you."

This is what the Christ did for us at Christmas. He moved into the ward with us. He placed his bed among our beds. Those who were there, those who saw him, touched him and were in turn touched by him and restored to life. The first word they had to say was "thank you."

Christmas is our time to say "Thank you."

Mark Berg in Donald L. Deffner, Seasonal Illustrations, p. 21.

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« Reply #34 on: December 21, 2010, 09:33:26 AM »

I posted this in the song thread in error.
I apologize.

THIS I recall to my mind and therefore I have HOPE:
It is because of Your mercy that we are not consumed.
Because Thy Compassions fail not; they are new every morning.
Great is Thy Faithfulness!
Lamintations 3: 21-23

Tol
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« Reply #35 on: December 21, 2010, 09:50:50 AM »

Sister, Thank you.
Your words and thoughts are Grace for me, through our Great Big God.
Tol
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« Reply #36 on: December 24, 2010, 03:36:04 PM »

Sister, Thank you.
Your words and thoughts are Grace for me, through our Great Big God.
Tol
Toly, you are welcome.  I praise God folks read here.  It is such a blessing to me and I know to our Father.
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« Reply #37 on: December 24, 2010, 03:38:38 PM »

Luke 1:26-38
Thank You, Mary

   The story of the birth of Jesus . . . with the angel . . . with Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem, the wise men, the shepherds . . .the manger . . . the Star . . . is on of the best known stories of the world.   Believers and non-believers, Gentiles and Jews, theologians and scientists, young and old, literate and illiterate -- you would be hard pressed to find someone who does not know the Baby Jesus story.
   I have always had a special feeling for the mother of Jesus -- I can see her in my mind when Jesus died -- standing so straight and proud of her son and her Saviour.
   Yet during this season of celebrating the birth of our Saviour, I’m struck anew with the young woman, Mary.   We often forget that she too endured an Advent . . . a time of watching and waiting . . . for it is safe to assume that for nine months she carried in her womb the child . . . a child that an angel had told her was the Son of the Most High.   To this virgin, a king would be born.   
   Would we have believed such a thing if an angels were to tell us that a child we would carry within ourselves was to be the Son of the Most High -- or would we have doubted that experience . . . angels and all . . . would be possible.  As we put ourselves in Joseph’s place a couple of Sundays ago . . . can we try this evening to put ourselves in Mary’s place?
   One of the first things I can recall that I remember about the Christ story is about the angel.   Maybe the reason that stuck out in my mind is because when I was a very little girl, we lived in the country -- no street lights, and I was afraid of the dark.   My grandmother used to tell me angels watched over me and I truly believed her.   So when I found out “Mary’s” angel talked to her -- I was enthralled -- and I can remember laying in bed being very still, listening for “my” angel to talk to me.   Do you ever . . . lay perfectly still, and wait and listen for an angel?  Maybe as a child you also had such thoughts . . . but what about today . . . what if an angel wanted to say something to you . . . could it get a word in edge-wise . . .or are you so busy planning, and hoping, and pleading and asking?
   Mary could have missed the angel talking.   She could have been so busy planning her marriage to Joseph  . . . oh, the details and things to do -- she could have missed the angel.
   And when the Lord’s messenger spoke to her, he said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you.”   My goodness, if and angel spoke these words to me, I’d probably look around to see who he was talking to.   Think dear Mary’s heart was racing?   If that wasn’t enough to make a body faint . . . then the angel Gabriel told the saintly soul she was to be used in a special way . . . she was to bear a son whose name would be Jesus. 
   The Bible does not reveal the emotions Mary assuredly had . . . but don’t you think she wondered . . . why me?   Why Mary?   Why this little maid of a small village?   Do you think she wondered of all the women in the world -- if she was worthy of such a task?   Do you think she said . . . let somebody else more educated, more qualified, be the mother of Jesus?   Do you think she said . . . but what about my wedding plans . . . or . . . what will people say when they find out I’m pregnant?   I’m poor.   Joseph is poor and even if he’ll still marry me, how will we ever be able to take care of a child, we’re just starting out?   In other words, did Mary shirk from her duty?   
   Would you, if you were Mary?   Even knowing how God provided for her, if you were Mary, would you say I can’t make that commitment of my time, of my body, of my soul -- I have other obligations.   When we are asked to work for the church -- the body of Christ -- like visit the sick, or phone shut-ins  -- make a sacrifice of our time, the very body of Christ, how do we respond?   Do we think and say, let someone else do it, let someone else make that commitment?   
   Or do we respond like Mary, “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”   You see, I believe God chose Mary because He could see in her heart and He knew she was agreeable to His will.   Certainly Mary did not understand all that God was doing but she was ready . . . right then . . . to be a servant of God.   She didn’t say, “Look Gabriel, I’m not quite ready for all this.    Maybe I need to be better educated about the Scriptures . . . my prayer life really needs improving . . . let me get an even keel in my new marriage . . . how about waiting until I learn how to be a mother . . . or . . . look God, you know how imperfect I am, how about picking someone a little more righteous.”   No, she didn’t say any of those things.   With no details about how God would provide (we say but do we believe God will provide?), with no signed contract, she simply said, whatever God wants me to do, I am ready.  And so she was.  .
   Christmas has come because -- because of Mary’s commitment, Mary’s faith, Mary’s cooperation.   This is not to suggest that if Mary said no, Jesus would not have been born.   God gives us all choices.   When God wants us to do His will and we refuse, or ignore it, or even fail to hear it, God’s will is still done.   God always finds a way for divine work to be done.   No begging, no pleading.   If not in an inn  . . . then a stable.   If the baby is not safe in Bethlehem . . . then Egypt.   God would not have stopped in sending Jesus into the world . . . but God did need Mary and her commitment made Christmas possible.
   Christmas comes with commitment . . . my friends, Christmas comes through a total, personal involvement -- that stems from faith -- a faith of Advent in waiting and watching and being prepared -- being prepared to be God’s servant -- like Mary.
   The nine months Mary carried Jesus in her womb had to have been a wonderful time -- because during advent, the waiting for the birth -- the kicks, and hiccups, and jabs in the belly that an unborn naturally make -- theses joys were likely the only times she would not have to share her son, her baby, with the world.  For from the moment of His birth, her tiny child belonged to the world -- He was a King!  For God’s will through Jesus involved loving lonely people, giving respect to despised persons, feeding the hungry, going to the prison, clothing the naked . . .  Do you agree? 
   Do you believe God will provide?   
   Be careful, because if you truly believe and say it . . . it means more than sending Christmas cards to people you haven’t spoken to all year.     
   Be careful,  because if you truly believe and say it . . . it means more than planning the next church fundraiser. 
   Be careful . . . for if you truly believe and say it . . . it means more than just showing up on Sunday morning and putting money in a collection plate.
   Just as Mary gave her heart, her body, and her soul -- and we thank her -- God wants to use us.   Christ wants to take form in us.    Christ wants to be born in us.
   Christmas comes, my friends, not in standing back to admire or regret what happened in the past, but in opening ourselves to what God wants to be doing today -- faith is required -- commitment is essential.
   Mary, dear Mary . . . a supreme example of a believer.   She accepted God in her heart . . . abandoned herself to God’s will . . . strived to do the Word of God -- and brought forth fruit with patience.   And she did it all the while -- trusting in the promise of God in the midst of a reality that seemed to deny them.
   God is ready to act in your life today!   God wants to use you!   He will not plead, He will not beg!   He simply invites!   
   Yet, even if Christ were born a thousand times, in a thousand stables, laid in a thousand mangers, in a thousand Bethlehems, to a thousand Marys . . . died a thousand times on a cross, and rose a thousand times from His lovely grave -- unless, unless He is born in your heart, your heart -- through your own responsive love, you own commitment -- then Christmas and the true value of Christmas will never come.
   For my dear, dear friends, Christmas is not a season . . . it is what we allow God to do for us in Jesus Christ.   “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His Glory.”
   Want Christmas? The true Christmas? Close you eyes and say:
   (keep your eyes closed and reach down into the knowledge of your own personal truth and say:)
   Lord, Jesus, come into my life.  /Change me.  Renew me.  /I accept.  I believe.
   Christmas now has one more person . . . you!
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« Reply #38 on: January 02, 2011, 03:59:57 PM »

The Interview with God

http://www.theinterviewwithgod.com/popup-frame.html
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« Reply #39 on: January 11, 2011, 06:38:22 AM »

Martin Luther King, Jr. - Captured by the Spirit of Christ

 

Two months before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke to his congregation at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta about his death in what would oddly enough become his eulogy.

"Every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral," Dr. King told his congregation. "If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don't want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize, that isn't important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards, that's not important. I'd like someone to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I'd like someone to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to be able to say that I did try to visit those in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity." Dr. King concluded with these words: "I won't have any money left behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind."

Did Martin King have that level of commitment when he first began his ministry? It's doubtful. He had youthful enthusiasm to be sure. He had strong convictions. He was well brought up, with an outstanding Baptist preacher as a father. But people who are truly captured by the spirit of Christ do so generally after years of walking in Christ's footsteps. Our faith is validated and grows as we "come and see."

King Duncan, Collected Sermons
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