Assembly Required

This afternoon I sat down to assemble a mini-trampoline that we bought out grandson, Connor, for Christmas. We chose this model because it had very high ratings and reviews; the only negative mentioned (by almost every reviewer) was the difficulty and time to assemble it: average 3 1/2 hours. I was quite pleased when I was about half way done in only 45 minutes. But I knew the hardest part, installing the mat and bungee cord, was still ahead. As I began to study the instruction I noticed that one step was completely impossible to do. No matter what, I was going to have to do this step differently than the instructions because it just couldn’t be done as described.

As I laced the last hole, using my own method, I was pretty pleased with how well I got the thing together. Then I noticed some thing: there was a step right before the “impossible” one that absolutely had to be done first. I was so focused on the unattainable step I missed the necessary first part, causing me to have to unlace the whole thing and start over. I still finished well under the average time of 3 1/2 hours (only 1 1/2) but would’ve been done even quicker if I’d not focused so much on the impossible and went in order.

It seems to me in our walk of faith we tend to focus too much, too often on the “impossible” step as well. How much more growth could we see individually and in the Church if we focused on the Word of God and His promises rather than what we see as the impossible step, what ever it may represent? The Bible tells us that all things are possible with God. The Word promises that we can over come all things through Christ Jesus. We have the hope and promise of some place far better. And we are told if we will be obedient the Comforter will guide us, direct us, never leave us. I could go on and on. If only we would keep our eyes on Jesus and our focus on God’s Word instead of that “impossibility” in our lives we could be so much more of use to our Lord, so much more a help to one another, and see lost sheep brought into the fold. What a mighty and wonderful thing for each one, each church, if only…

A Cup of Cold Water

This is a true story I came across in my reading, penned by William H. Hassler in “The Christmas Spirit,”

Proverbs 24:17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:

It was 11 days before Christmas. Peace and good will were far from the thoughts of 200,000 Union and Confederate soldiers facing each other across the broad, blood-spattered arena of Fredericksburg, Virginia, on December 14, 1862. The past few days had been gruesome with more than 12,000 soldiers killed. Nineteen-year-old Sergeant Richard Kirkland, Company E of Kershaw’s Second South Carolina Brigade, had seen enough. Kirkland went to see Confederate General Joseph Kershaw. “General,” he said, “I can’t stand this!” He startled his commanding officer. “All night and all day I hear those poor Federal people calling for water,” he said, “and I can’t stand it any longer. I ask permission to go and give them water.”

Kershaw shook his head sympathetically. “Sergeant,” he replied, “you’d get a bullet through your head the moment you stepped over the stone wall onto the plain.” “Yes, sir,” answered Kirkland, “I know that, but if you let me, I’m willing to try it.” The General responded, “The sentiment which prompts you is so noble that I will not refuse your request. God protect you. You may go.”

Quickly the South Carolinian hurdled the wall and immediately exposed himself to the fire of every Yankee sharpshooter in that sector. Kirkland walked calmly toward the Union lines until he reached the nearest wounded soldier. Kneeling, he took off his canteen and gently lifted the enemy soldier’s head to give him a long, deep drink of refreshing cold water. Then he placed a knapsack under the head of his enemy and moved on to the next. Racing against the lengthening shadows of a short, somber December afternoon, he returned again and again to the lines where comrades handed him full canteens. “Troops on both sides who had watched this unselfish act paid young Kirkland the supreme tribute — not a standing ovation, but respectful awed silence.”

To repent means to change our attitudes toward other people from one of suspicion or hatred to one of love.

Merry Christmas

Matthew 7:11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

As we prepare to exchange gifts over the next 24 or so hours with our loved ones I begin to think about what these gifts mean to us, or me personally. Of all the gifts that I receive the most precious ones are the quality time I get with my family. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the “stuff” but nothing can replace the time and memories both made and recounted.

I am also reminded of the wonderful promises God has made to us in His Word. Pondering in today’s verse, particularly at thus time of year, makes it so much more real and vivid just how great His love for His children really is. I am so grateful to Him for each gift, each blessing He has bestowed. But I’m especially thankful for the saving grace He has given me through and by the blood of Jesus Christ.

The “W”- Part 2

2 Timothy 4:1 …the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead…

Yesterday we looked at a heart-warming story that ended with the accidental display of the message “CHRIST WAS LOVE”. But this story doesn’t give us the whole picture and, as Paul Harvey would say, let’s look at “the rest of the story”.

Jesus most definitely was love; the Bible asks what greater love could you have than to lay down your life for another, which He did. But Christ still is love today; He is at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us even now, and He still has the power to save any and all who will come to Him. Truer love than that of Jesus Christ will never be known!

However, there will come a day that that love as we know and understand it will cease. When a person stands before Him for judgment the Door of Mercy will be closed; if they had yet to enter it there will be no other chance then to do so. I imagine that He will still love that person and there will be no joy in His sentence. But the way has been clearly laid out for us all; He paid the price so we won’t have to. If we choose to ignore His mercy now it will be us, not Him, sending us forever from the presence of God, into an eternity of pain and sorrow.

Gifts are some thing we receive from someone with no merit on our part. We give them because we love the recipient. Christ did the same for us with salvation. What better gift could anyone receive this Christmas season than the free gift of salvation through Jesus? We will all most likely see folks we don’t usually see on a regular basis in the coming days at family get-togethers, parties, etc. Take time out of your schedule to share the Good News of this most precious gift with someone when God gives you that opportunity.

The “W” in Christmas

This is part one of two emails. This first one was forwarded to me by a friend. Tomorrow I plan to add some thoughts to this illustration.

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

The “W” in Christmas

“Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience.

I had cut back on nonessential obligations – extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending.

Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.

My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old.

For weeks, he’d been memorizing songs for his school’s “Winter Pageant.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there’d be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation.

All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then.

Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.

So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.

Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the
holiday as “Christmas,” I didn’t expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer.

So, when my son’s class rose to sing, “Christmas Love,” I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.

Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads.

Those in the front row- center stage – held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song.

As the class would sing “C is for Christmas,” a child would hold up
the letter C. Then, “H is for Happy,” and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, “Christmas Love.”

The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter “M” upside down – totally unaware her letter “M” appeared as a “W”.

The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little
one’s mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her “W”.

Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together.

A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen.

In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities.

For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:

“C H R I S T W A S L O V E”

And, I believe, He still is.
Amazed in His presence…humbled by His love.”

Focus

James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.

The other day I was trying to take a photo of an ornament on our Christmas tree. I wanted to frame the ornament among the lights and the garland, with the lights as a soft, blurred background. I took several shots hoping to get just the right angle to make a great photograph. When I downloaded the photos to my computer I was sorely disappointed; none of the pictures were focused on the ornament but all on the garland. In my attempts to frame the shot I forgot to make sure I had my intended subject focused on properly. I think some times we do similarly in our walk of faith.

Things in our lives cause us to loose focus on our relationship with Jesus. We are so busy with every thing that we feel like we “have” to do that we let those things blur our sight of Christ. Instead of being our main focus we allow what should be incidental or background items to draw us away from His will for us.

There isn’t much that our adversary likes more than to distract us from our relationship with God. We must watch and guard vigilantly what we have as our main focus. Thankfully if we see we are drifting a bit all we need do is call out to our Father and draw nigh to Him and he will mercifully draw nigh to us.

Holiday Springboard

Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Do you get irritated by people saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas? Does it make you really want to bring to their attention that the holiday is all about Christ, thus the name Christmas? It does me. And judging from the number of emails circulating and other movements to keep Christmas, well, Christmas I’d say it does you, too.

Here’s a “springboard” for you to do that very thing. Do you know the origin of the word holiday? Let me share it with you: “Middle English, from Old English hāligdæg, from hālig holy + dæg day”
So, holiday actually means holy day. Explaining this definition to the “holiday” greeter is the perfect way for us to bring Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas out. It’s not too often that folks give you such an open opportunity to share your faith, is it? Don’t let a single opportunity slip by you this Holy Day season!