Sunday, December 27, 2009

Playing Santa Has It's Rewards

As little children we all most likely were sold into believing in the "man in the red suit". I think that was our first lesson in actually believing in something. Then, as we got older, the reality of the "man with the fat belly" wore off, probably when we caught our parents sneaking the gifts under the tree.

When my older sister's two kids were younger, ages 2 and 4, they were enrolled in a Kindercare Daycare school. At Christmas time they were preparing to do a pageant. Little did I know that "someone" had volunteered me to play the role of Santa Claus!

At first I was a little hesitant when eventually asked, but then I kind of got excited about the whole thing. Of all the Christmas plays I had done in school and church, and never getting the lead role, this was finally my big break. A breakthrough in letting my acting skills come to life.

I approached the day with bold confidence. I wanted my acting skills to be so impeccable that these kids would really, truly believe that I was the one and only Santa Claus. Unfortunately my acting was a little too good.

At the end of the pageant I entered and approached the stage much to the delight of everyone. And then it happened. About 30 kids began to cling to me all at once, tugging at any part of my suit that their tiny little fingers could take hold of. Once some of the teachers were able to restore some kind of order, I began my civic North Pole duty of giving out presents to each child.

Just as soon as I handed out the first present, I felt some small hands tugging at my suit again. To my backside stood a little boy about four years old. He asked where my reindeer were, and of course I didn't want to blow my cover, so I told him my sleigh and reindeer were on the roof.

"Can I see them?" he curiously asked.

Silly me I answered, "Sure, just as soon as I give out all these presents."

My thinking was that once he got his present and opened it he would forget all about seeing the reindeer. Boy was I wrong! Once he had opened his gift his attention did not draw nigh. His persistence in seeing the reindeer only grew stronger. He was on me until the last present was gone from under the tree.

As parents started making requests for pictures with their children and Santa, this little boy's mother finally would intervene and rescue me. She would pry her son's tiny fingers from my suit then apologize for his tenacious behavior. She forced his coat on him and literally began to drag him away as he kicked, screamed, and cried. All the way out the door you could hear him shout,

"I want to see Santa's reindeer! I want see his reindeer!"

What I'll remember most about that day is the innocent belief that was in the eyes of that little child. He really, truly believed that I was Santa Claus.

Little children are open, trusting, and transparent.

"Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, will by no means enter it." (Lk.18:17)

Here God is saying that's all it takes to come to Him is having the faith of a child.

One of the more often used illustrations on childlike faith is that of a child on a swing at the park:
"C'mon daddy, push me harder so I can go higher and higher!"
The child then musters up enough courage to take that giant leap from the swing and into the arms of their father, knowing full well he will catch them.

As the New Year approaches, test God in your situation. Believe in Him with a childlike faith.
It's so easy even a 4 year old can do it!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Nativity Story

Of all the stories depicting Christ's birth, The Nativity Story is my favorite Christmas movie. Why? Because it is one of the few that concentrates not just on the birth of Jesus, but the faith and courage that Mary and Joseph had to have to carry out the task that they were chosen for.

First we are presented with the thoughts and emotions dealt by Mary when visited by the angel Gabriel who tells Mary:

"Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!
Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus."

And when the angel explains to Mary that when the Holy Spirit comes upon her she will be barren with child, naturally Mary, who has yet to be with Joseph in marriage, asks,

"How will anyone believe me? How will they understand?"

Now Mary's feeling at that moment had to be one of fear: a fear of being stoned for being pregnant before marriage, a fear of what her family might think, and especially a fear of what Joseph might think.

The angel also informs Mary that her relative Elizabeth, who is very old in age, is barren with child.
So when Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, she sees that the Word from the Lord is indeed true, and Mary herself receives a renewed confidence in God.

Upon Mary's return home and visibly pregnant, her family wassn't so cordial. And neither was Joseph.
As for Joseph, the Bible says he was a just man: a man who was upright, blameless, and righteous. So Joseph's natural instinct when seeing Mary with child had to be one of anger and disappointment.

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. (in other words possibly hide her somewhere and not wishing to be betrothed to Mary anymore)

So we see Joseph lying in bed that night in a state of confusion and filled with anger and possibly thinking "How could she betray me."

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying " Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.

So far we've gathered the notion that God has chosen Mary and Joseph to be together for a reason: He knew He could trust them to carry out His will. Mary, a highly favored woman of God, and Joseph, a just man.

At that time King Herod makes an unruly demand: each man, with his family, must return to his place of birth for a census. Which meant Joseph and Mary had to travel close to 70 miles on a donkey over rugged, rocky terrain from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where the baby Jesus would be born in a stable.
As we follow their journey to Bethlehem, it's hard not to imagine the struggle they both had to endure. Shortage of food and water, Mary barren with child and probably in much pain physically throughout the trip, the blisters upon Joseph's feet as he most likely walked the whole duration.

And of course, the faith and determination Mary and Joseph carried out to fulfill the prophecy that was made many years ago.

After the birth of Jesus, some shepherds tending their flocks are confronted by an angel declaring that Christ the Son of God has been born and then a multitude of angels appear proclaiming,

"Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

The shepherds travel to Bethlehem to see their new King then:

Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things and pondered (consider deepily) them in her heart.

Mary had the right idea, keeping close to her heart the name of Jesus.

So, who is this High Priest we are celebrating this week?

But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession (to fall in with, to meet with in order to converse) for them.

God is unchangeable and loves to intercede on your behalf. May you keep Him close to your heart, not just at Christmastime, but all year around.

(texts are taken from Mathew chpt.1, Luke chpt.2, and Hebrews chpt.7)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas in Connecticut

"Everyone makes fun of Elizabeth Lane. Oh, she's so smart, knows all the answers, get's herself in a mess and doesn't have the moral courage to get herself out of it!" --Elizabeth Lane, mocking herself

The 1945 classic Christmas in Connecticut was the first to put comic relief into a Christmas movie. Barbara Stanwick plays Elizabeth Lane, a columnist for Smart Housekeeping magazine. She also plays what some folks in today's world would call "a poser".

Everyone that reads her column is under the impression that Ms. Lane is America's greatest cook, housewife, and mother living on a farm in Connecticut. In Ms. Lane's real world it's more like: can't cook, unmarried, and the view from the living room window of her apartment is clothes hanging from a clothes line tied to a chimney stack upon the rooftop.

Ms. Lane's Christmas charade begins when her publisher, who is unaware of her fraudulent cover, asks her to entertain a war hero at her Connecticut farm over the holidays. This soldier has spent 18 days at sea in a lifeboat, and the next 6 weeks in a hospital dreaming of eating the food he's read in Ms. Lane's columns. He also has memorized every little detail about her through the words she has written.

Ms. Lane begins to search for help in order to pull off the charade:

1.Her best friend John Sloan happens to have a Connecticut farm and Elizabeth gives in to his demand of them getting married first, even though she doesn't love him that way.
2. She requests her Uncle Felix, who has his own restaurant, to come along to do the cooking.

3.And as for the baby part, Sloan's housekeeper happens to babysit the neighbor's baby every day.

Game, set and match, right? Nope. Everything goes crazy soon as they get to the farm.

The soldier, Jefferson Jones, shows up 2 hours early, so the wedding that was planned to take place at the farm between Sloan and Ms. Lane never happens.

The publisher also has shown up and expects to eat a delicious meal made by, you guessed it, the great American cook herself.

One of the funniest moments is when Ms. Lane brags about the baby boy before giving him a bath, then when the soldier request's to watch, they both discover the boy is actually a girl instead.

Throughout the whole Christmas charade the truth from every fictional detail that Ms. Lane has written about herself becomes revealed. What's interesting is she continues on with the game even though every part of it is falling apart before her eyes. And of course, she falls in love with the soldier, who declares his love for her no matter what the truth may be.

The questions I now pose to you are:

"Do you consider yourself a Christmas Spirit poser? Are you only joyous at Christmas time because that's the way the world dictates we should be? Or are you in a Christmas Spirit all year around?"

I like to think the Christmas Spirit that we should be carrying with us all year around is the Fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Gal.5:22,23)

When you ask Jesus into your heart you are a new creation in Christ, and your old life has passed away. Therefore the Fruit of the Spirit, which are the characteristics of your new life in Christ, should be manifested in your life daily and in essence, this makes your walk in the Lord more simpler.

Keep your Christmas Spirit all year around. Don't be a poser!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Jingle all the Way

"Always keep your promises, if you want to keep your friends." ---Turbo Man

It is very rare to see an action packed Christmas film, and one that is actually pretty good, but Arnold Schwarzenegger delivers a yuletide knockout in Jingle all the Way.

Arnold plays Howard Langston, a dad who works alot and has trouble fulfilling his promises to his son Jamie. Howard tends to either be late or all together miss his son's karate class and other activities. When he misses Jamie's latest karate competition, Howard loses the trust of his wife and his son. His promises of being there have turned to dust. So Howard decides he has one last chance to make it up to his son and ask's Jamie what he wants for Christmas. His answer: only the hottest Christmas toy ever, the Turbo Man action figure.

Howard sets out on Christmas Eve morning to search for the hot new toy every kid wants. He also finds himself in stiff competition:

1.Competition from Ted, the single-dad neighbor, who thinks he could be a better husband and father to Howard's family.

2. And a duel with a mailman, played by Sinbad, who's searching for the same toy to fulfill his own son's wish.

Before Howard leaves to begin his great quest, Jamie ask's his father if he'll be home in time for them to go to the Holiday Parade. And of course, Howard's famous last words were, "I promise!"

Howard's adventure starts out with the discovery that Turbo Man is such a hot Christmas toy that it's sold out in almost every store. Howard and the maniacal mailman duke it out on several occassions when receiving tips on where to get one:

1. Mall of America has a minimum supply of the toy and has a lottery drawing. Howard and the postman vie for the same lottery ball which bounces away from them and is retrieved by a little girl. Howard chases her down only to get beat up by a large number of angry moms.

2. A store front Santa and his elf lead Howard to a warehouse full of toys, promising him a Turbo Man for only $300. Turns out the Turbo Man is a Spanish speaking model and all of the Santa's there are con-men, then the Swat team comes charging in.

3.Howard and the mailman make a mad dash down the street to a radio station where a contest is being held for a Turbo Man. They find out all the winner gets is a gift certificate for a free one, whenever they are back on store shelves.

Howard finally gives up and retreats back to his home. He remembers Ted commenting that he had a Turbo Man sitting under his Christmas tree for his son. Howard decides to steal it, he not only gets caught red handed, but gets chased through the house by a live reindeer.

With his wife and son disappointed, they leave ahead of Howard for the Holiday Parade. When Howard wonders off to the parade, he gets mistaken for the man who is to play Turbo Man in the parade. He is rushed into costume and into the parade. Howard becomes Turbo Man, and in turn becomes his son and wife's hero.

What I love about this movie is the determination by the father to fulfill his son's Christmas wish. And he was willing to go to great lengths to accomplish his promise to his son.

In a somewhat similar fashion, we also have a Heavenly Father who desires to fulfill His promises and give us good gifts. In fact, there are over 800 promises in His Word.

"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:11)

May our gracious Heavenly Father fulfill your desires this Christmas and in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas)

Aside from the various stories about the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of Christ, there is probably no other more powerful Christmas film than Joyeux Noel. If you don't mind a foreign film with sub titles, this is definitely a must see movie.

This film is about the World War 1 truce on Christmas Eve 1914, depicted through the eyes of French, Scottish, and German soldiers along the Western Front.

The one fact that you come to grip with throughout this film is that: we are all one people. It doesn't matter which side you are on, what religion you are, nor what race you are, we are all one people. And through each of these soldiers we see:

1. They share the same emotions of war, the battle of survival.

2. They carry with them the feeling of wanting to be home for Christmas.

3. They all have someone back home that they so desperately love and want to be with.

4. They all share that same dream, one of peace.

On one of the battle fields on the Western front on Christmas Eve we see: the French in their trenches preparing to celebrate Christmas with champaigne, the Scottish playing Christmas carols with their bagpipes, and the Germans in their trenches with Christmas trees and the voice of one Nikolaus Sprink, the famous German Tenor. Now mind you, each side is still leary of a surprise attack from one another.

Once the sound of the bagpipes in the cold, desolate air begins, emotions begin to swirl amongst all three sides. The German Tenor grabs a Christmas tree and galantly makes his way to the center of the battlefield singing Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

The leaders of the French, Scottish, and Germans boldly come out and agree on a cease-fire for the evening. All three platoons would then acquant themselves with one another and share: chocolate, champaigne, photos of wives, girlfriends and family, and stories of their past.

At the stroke of midnight a British priest delivers a brief mass in which all the troops respond in unison and are deepily moved.

"Tonight, these men were drawn to that altar like it was a fire in the middle of winter. Even those who aren't devout came to warm themselves. Maybe just to be together. Maybe to forget the war." Palmer, the British priest.

And so, one night of peace drew all men together.

On Christmas Day these men who were once enemies do the unthinkable; shelter each other during an artillery barrage. The leaders then decide to go their separate ways with their respective regiments.

The Germans are scolded by the Crown Prince of Prussia and are shipped by train to the Eastern front to fight the Russians. As the train departs, they start singing a Scottish carol they learned from the enemies they brefriended, I'm Dreaming of Home.

May we all continue to pray for: peace on earth, and goodwill toward men.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Charlie Brown Christmas

"I think there is something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I'm not happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel.

I just don't understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents, sending Christmas cards, and decorating trees and all that, but I'm still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed."

This timeless classic from 1965 carries us through Charlie Brown's plight in finding happiness at Christmastime. After spilling his guts out to Linus about being unhappy, Charlie makes a trip to Lucy's famous "Psychiatric Help 5 Cents" stand. Lucy begins her examination of this depressed boy:

"Are you afraid of responsibility? If so, then you have hypengyophobia."

"Are you afraid of cats? If so, then you have ailurophasia."

"Are you afraid of staircases? If so, then you have climacaphobia."

"Do you think you have Pantophobia?"

"What's that?" Charlie Brown asks.

"A fear of everything."

"That's it!" exclaims Charlie Brown.

Lucy then offers up the suggestion of Charlie Brown directing the school play for Christmas, hoping his involvement in something will make him happy. Charlie accepts.

Along the way though the commercialization of Christmas brings him back down:

1. Snoopy decorates his doghouse and enters it in a neighborhood lights and display contest.

2. Charlie Brown's sister ask's for help in writing a letter to Santa. Sally ask's Santa to just send money, preferably tens and twenties.

"All I want is what's coming to me. All I want is my fair share!" she exclaims.

3. The cast members of the school play all seem self absorbed, not wanting to cooperate.

Charlie Brown decides what the school play really needs is a Christmas tree. He and Linus set out to find a tree, one that really stands out. Charlie Brown chooses the smallest, the frailest, and the most unimaginable tree you could think of. His thinking is all the tree needs is some love and care. And of course, he becomes the laughingstock of the cast.

"Can't I do anything right?" Charlie beleaguers to himself.

"I guess I really don't know what Christmas is all about.
Doesn't anyone know what Christmas is all about?" he shouts out.

Linus approaches center stage and gives the story of the real meaning of Christmas:

...And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

"That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown." Linus exclaims.

Unfortunately there will be more Charlie Browns out there this holiday season than in seasons past. And for whatever the reason, now is the perfect time to spread the good news. The real meaning of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Home Alone

When someone mentions to you the Christmas classic Home Alone the first thing that probably comes to your mind is the homemade booby traps Kevin uses to outwit those bumbling burglars played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Some of my personal favorites of those contraptions:

1.The flaming hot doorknob

2.Hosing down the outside steps so they freeze up

3. Black tar on basement stairs

4.Flame thrower to Joe Pesci's head

5.And of course, the old, flying paint cans across the staircase to nail you in the face

In case you've seen the movie less than 10 times, let me refresh your memory:

Macaulay Culkin plays an 8 year old named Kevin who is considered by his family as helpless and irresponsible. Kevin and his mom have harsh words with each other the evening before the family's scheduled flight to Europe for a Christmas vacation. Kevin gets sent to a bedroom up in the attic to sleep off his steam . And in a huff, Kevin wishes his family would disappear.

When he wakes up the next morning he finds out his wish has been fulfilled. Not really. The family oversleeps and leaves in a flurry for the airport so they won't miss their plane. Once up in the air they finally realize they've left Kevin behind!

Along with all the humor and budding jokes within the booby traps, this John Hughes classic carries with it a great message on forgiveness:

Kevin is fearful of old man Murphy (who likes to salt the sidewalks in the neighborhood every winter evening) because of his brother Buzz's ficticious tale of the old man murdering his family and hiding out in their neighborhood and being callously known as"The Shovel Slayer".

While sitting in the neighborhood church on Christmas Eve observing the Childrens Choir rehearsal, Kevin sees the old man sitting across from him. The old man recognizes Kevin and comes over to say hello. As they make small talk we learn:

Old man Murphy's granddaughter is singing in the choir and he is not welcome to come see her perform tonight because of some harsh words he and his son had in the past. The old man admits to Kevin that he's afraid of calling his son for he may not want to talk to him.

"No offense, but, aren't you a little too old to be afraid?" Kevin asks.

"You're never too old to be afraid", he replies.

Kevin encourages him to call his son,
"Then you can stop worrying about it and you won't be afraid anymore."

After spending the night fending off the Wet Bandits with his homemade booby traps, Kevin gets some sleep and wakes up Christmas morning and in walks his mom, who made countless detours and finaggling to get home to her son. And all is forgiven between not only Kevin and his mom, but the reconciliation of the old man and his son.

In our forgiveness of others we need to show God's love, for out of it comes the same grace that God has bestowed upon us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away;
behold all things have become new. (2Cor.5:17)

When you ask Jesus into your heart you are totally forgiven of all your sins. You are made new, the slate is wiped cleaned, a chance to start all over again. A chance to live a victorious and abundant life in Christ Jesus. You are a brand new person!

And even though we are bound to make mistakes, God still forgives us for His love is unconditional. That same forgiveness God grants us on a daily basis when we have done wrong should be the same forgiveness we have on others.

Make this Christmas Season a joyous one. A season of love and forgiveness.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas with the Kranks

Yes, it's that time of year again! Here's the first of my Christmas movie posts:

In Christmas with the Kranks, Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis play Luther and Nora Kranks, a well-to-do couple who find themselves spending their first Christmas without their daughter Blair who has joined the Peace Corps.

With the two of them feeling down, Luther offers up this suggestion to his wife,
"Why don't we skip Christmas, save the money, and spend it on ourselves for a change."
Luther's number crunching comes up with them having spent $6100 for Christmas last year, where an island cruise for the two of them would cost only $3000. Nora buys into the idea!

Luther begins his boycott of Christmas by sending out a memo to his office co-workers that he is not celebrating Christmas this year: no christmas cards, no gifts, will not attend office party.

While Nora abruptly lets her gal pals know that she and Luther won't be having their annual Christmas Eve party.

When confronted by the Cub Scouts to purchase their usual Christmas tree, Luther declines, simply stating "We're not doing Christmas this year!"

The Cub Scout leader informs the neighborhood of the Kranks dastardly selfish deed,
"Luther Kranks just stiffed the scouts on a christmas tree!"

When Dan Ankroyd, who plays the neighborhood watchdog, gets wind of this and Luther's refusal to put up the traditional Frosty the Snowman upon his rooftop, the Christmas guilt trip onslaught by the neighbors begins.
Luther and Nora become the talk of the village, even finding their picture on the front page of the town newspaper with the title "Skipping Christmas".

When Christmas Carollers are suggested to confront the Kranks home to bring them some Christmas Spirit, Luther and Nora go hide in the basement.

Luther and Nora even receive threatening phone calls from a kid named Spike, who wants them to: "Free Frosty! Free Frosty!

Suddenly things take a turn when they receive a phone call on Christmas Eve from Blair who surprises them with her returning home for Christmas with her fiance from Peru, Enrique.

Luther and Nora are now in panic mode as Blair is coming home in a few hours expecting a Christmas tree, house decorated, Frosty on the rooftop, and a Christmas Eve party with friends and neighbors who the Kranks originally made enemies with.

As Luther has trouble finding a Christmas tree, he asks his neighbor across the street if he could borrow theirs since they are leaving out of town. With the help of Spike, Luther tries moving the decorated tree across the street in a little red wagon, something I would not suggest you do for two reasons: one, might attract the neighbors, and two, will attract the police.

When the neighborhood finds out that the Kranks Christmas is back on, they pitch in to help out, but make known they are only doing this for Blair's sake. One of my favorite lines in the movie comes from Dan Ackroyd,

"Don't blame the daughter for the sins of the father!"

Many mishaps happen during the frantic pace of putting their traditional Christmas back together. But it all comes together. Blair comes home to a festive home and party as if nothing happened.

Later Nora becomes upset with Luther who's hiding in a corner of the kitchen wallowing in self pity and trying to figure out how they can still make their flight out which is tomorrow. She reminds him of what great lengths the neighborhood went to make Blair's homecoming a success and that,

"The true meaning of community is putting others before yourself."

Luther decides to give the cruise tickets away to the old man and woman who live across the street who are spending possibly their last Christmas together as the woman is dying of cancer.

Luther Kranks finally realizes one of the things Christmas is all about:
friends, family, and community.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:4,5)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Evidence He is There For You

The wind blows where it wishes. You hear the sound of it but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

So we can't see the wind blow, but we can see objects blowing in the wind to support evidence of a wind. The same as with God. We can't physically see Him but we can see signs and wonders of Him.

Sometimes we find ourselves asking God, "Where are you?" in the midst of our struggle. How soon we forget that God didn't go anywhere, He is right there beside each of us. And He knows of our need.

Sometimes we forget how powerful God really is. I mean if you stop and think about it, God is literally everywhere. Just as you are reading this, somewhere around the world there is at least one baby being born who's mother elected to make the right choice. Right now someone is just coming out of critical surgery and going to live when doctors originally gave them no hope. Right now there is a fatal car accident taking place and someone is going to walk away without a scratch.

Testimonies are evidence that God exists.

A couple of my friends are missionaries so I love hearing what great things God is doing in other countries. My Pastor shared a link of a crusade in Nigeria where the average nightly crowd is 300,000. Some of the testimonies from there:

A woman with a skin infection, malaria, and a crippled hand was healed.

A 7 year old boy, dumb from birth, spoke for the first time.

A woman unable to lift her arm for 4 years now waves her arms proudly.

When you see what God is doing in the poorest and unhealthiest living conditions of other countries, our problems seem to pale in comparison. But God is concerned about your situation just as much as that 7 year old boy in Nigeria.

Nothing is too big for our God.

He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Just as an author writes a book with a beginning and an end, God wants to take our faith from just accepting (believing) Him to fully relying(trusting)on Him.

Believing in God is easy. But trusting in God takes faith.

link to Nigeria crusade:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stay The Course

While out running the other day I came across a deer moving through the brush on the side of the trail. Wouldn't it be great if deer traveled on the trail like everyone else? Instead of weaving and dunking their way through branches and thicket.

I remember my high school days and participating in Cross Country. All of the races were the same as today, 3 miles. One of my favorite coaches was Coach K, who had the distinct pleasure of trying to break me of my bad habit of always looking behind, trying to see who was following or how many were following me.

My best finish throughout high school was second place in a race I should have won. No, my bad habit didn't do me in, it was not remembering where to turn on the course. What happened was I didn't pay attention during my team's warm-up to familiarize ourselves with the course. During the race I was in the lead up until about the last half mile, then I found myself coming up to some intersecting trails and didn't know which one to take. That's when I decided to non chalantly slow down hoping another runner was close behind. From what I can remember there were a few runners coming up behind me. Once they caught up I stayed with the pack, then once we got out of the woods and the finish line was in sight, it was everyman for himself, a sprint to the finish. Of course I had to save face and forget what pain I might have been experiencing and sprinted my butt off, winding up in a close second place.

Sometimes in life we have that tendency to veer off course when the path we are on isn't going the way we want it to. Or we think God is moving way too slow on our behalf. And when we take it upon ourselves and try to do it on our own that's when we get blindsided and make a mess of things. That's when we need to remind ourselves of God's Word:

As for God, His way is perfect;
the Word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him. (Psalm 18:30)

Though you may feel your life isn't going according to plan, or should I say, "according to your plan", remember we are under the grace of a great God who can do all things to them that believe. Though He may seem silent to you and your difficulty at times, or may appear to be at a distance, He really isn't at all. God is right there beside you, every step of the way. What does He say?

"I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Here is something to carry with you on your journey down that straight and narrow path; this taken from the poem Footprints in the Sand:

When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Having That Ebenezer Moment

I recently got the chance to view the new Disney film A Christmas Carol and was surprised that Disney finally got it right. They stuck to the original classic tale by Charles Dickens only adding in some amazing 3D special effects to make this movie a sure fire Christmas classic. I was also surprised to find out my 10 year old nephew already knew the story of Scrooge before we sank ourselves into those plush seats with our new fangled 3D shades.

Ebenezer Scrooge is a callous old miser who receives some uninvited guests on Christmas Eve night: the ghosts of past, present, and future. They each remind Scrooge of how cold hearted he really was and still is. These haunting visits help Scrooge see the error of his ways as he is spooked into changing himself as a person and begins to open his heart to others.

Once in awhile it is good for each of us to have an Ebenezer moment. No, I'm not talking about being visited by the ghosts of our past. Revisiting our past does sound scary though, doesn't it? An Ebenezar moment is about being reminded of who we were and where we were and to what we've now become or at least hope to be. Some of the hardships we may have gone through in our pasts have prepared us for the future. And those mistakes we've made can be used to relate to those who may be dealing with that same issue here in the present. Our greatest testimony to others is simply sharing our past and what God may have brought you out of.

I believe God places Ebenezer moments in our life to remind us of what He did for us in the past, where He brought us from, and what He can do for us today. A couple of weeks ago I had a couple of hard core days at work where I was overwhelmed with many projects to fulfill. I was dragging myself home too tired to do any of my extra curricular projects, so I naturally became upset. Then one day at work God simply smacked me in the head with the reminder of all those less fortunate who have no job, and the times I struggled finding the right job. I then began to feel blessed and started thanking Him for being overwhelmed with work.

If an Ebenezer moment comes your way accept it with gratitude. It's only a reminder of how great God is.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In Honor Of...

In honor of Veterans Day this week I thought I would dust off an old blog post on Leaving on a High Note:

No, not the George Costanza showmanship scheme of leaving: Make a funny comment in an office meeting, if everyone laughs exit quickly, then your assured of going out on a high note. This is more about leaving for that great mansion in the sky.

A couple of weeks ago Hall of Fame baseball announcer Harry Kallas passed away. He had been calling games for over 45 years. Harry died in the broadcast booth just a half hour before calling the Phillies game. Harry was 73 years old, loved the game, and didn't want to retire. But I think he went out the way he probably would've wanted to: in the booth at the ballpark.

Unfortunately we don't have a choice of how or when we leave, only where we leave to.

I was recently on an airplane for the first time in awhile. As the stewardess went through all the precautionary safety procedures, I, like probably so many others, didn't really pay much attention. I was aware of the drill but did not care.

There was a time in my life when I was afraid of dying, sure, I knew I was going to heaven, but somehow I still had that fear of exiting. Since my extended growth in the Lord that fear has completely disappeared.

If I had a choice of how I would like to go out, my high note would be just leaving knowing that I exemplified Jesus the best way possible.

One of my favorite holidays is Memorial Day, when we honor those who served our country in the military. All those men and women who were lost in battle, they left on a high note, doing what they were called to do.

I fondly remember a woman who would come into the music store every Friday to buy soundtracks to sing in church. She loved to sing about Jesus. Then all of a sudden she stopped coming in. Through a mutual acquantance I discovered why she stopped singing: At a Good Friday service she sang a duet with the music director. After the first verse of the song, the gentleman she was singing with fell over and died right there in front of the whole church.

The music director exited for heaven doing what he loved best and was called to do. As for the woman who stopped singing, after a few months and much prayer from many people, she came back into the store and continued on with her passion of singing unto the Lord. My guess is she would probably want to go out the same way as her music director, singing unto the Lord.

So, what's your exit strategy?

The only exit strategy any of us should be concerned with is our destination. And, did we exemplify Jesus to the fullest.

The reason we recognize and celebrate memorial holdays for our armed forces is so we never forget that freedom comes with a cost.Those that serve have taken up the oath of: life or death, I will serve and protect. And I am so thankful to those that made that honorable choice to protect our freedom, they are much more worthy of leaving on a high note than I am.
And to them I say, "Thank You."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Are You More Than Who You Appear To Be?

This American Bison, otherwise known as a buffalo, weighs over 1300 pounds. He doesn't look like he can run as fast as a speeding bullet, but he can. Buffalo can actually reach a speed of 40 mph. I got to witness this speed first hand at the zoo last week as 2 of these big guys hoofed their way around 2 pens. They were moving so fast you could actually hear their hoofs pattering upon the ground with a thunderous sound. At first glance you would never suspect these guys to move so quickly.

I sometimes have the tendency to call my younger sister "my baby sister" only because she is small in size compared to my brothers and I. At first glance you would never suspect this 30-something gal as being someone who is strong. But looks are deceiving.

About 12 years ago my baby sister's husband left her with 2 little kids just before Christmas time. It was pretty much a huge shock to everyone as the 2 of them grew up in the same church and there were no visible signs of anything wrong. But it happened. Needless to say my parents were outraged at what he had done to their daughter, but they did what any loving parent would and should do, made the sacrifices that were needed and let her move back home with the 2 young one's. My sister was able to find a full time job during the day and my parents would watch the kids. Each of us siblings pitched in to do our part as well to help encourage her. And of course, there was a whole lot of praying.That was probably the most I ever prayed for one person up until now.

The next couple of years I watched my sister literally grow up. She tackled the challenge head on as her faith in herself and in God grew stronger. My sister eventually got an apartment close to my parents and things began to work in her favor in all areas of her life. A couple years after that she would meet her future husband, a good hard working guy who loves kids. She is now happily married with 3 kids. Yes, prayer works!

I can no longer call her my baby sister for it is I who looks up to her.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
For our light affliction , which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.
For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
It's those challenges in life that sharpens our faith, and helps us grow into mature individuals.
But it is up to us to find that courage within us to slay those giants in our life.

Monday, November 2, 2009

These Things I Observed....

These things I observed while attending the Chicago Bears game this past Sunday...

1. God is a Good God

My brother and I were totally surprised when we find out we were going to the game that would be commemorating Walter Payton, Chicago's favorite Bear. Plus, God gave us incredible weather along with a victory.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

The Lord will give grace and glory;

No good thing will He withhold

From those who walk uprightly. (Ps.84:11)

God loves to give good gifts to those who follow.


On our 2 mile trek from the train station to the stadium along with many other fans, we were followed by a fan of the opposing team, the Cleveland Browns. Two things you should know about these Browns: one, they have been a losing team for a very long time, and two, they fit in the same category as the Bears, a historic team from long ago.

A Bears fan non-chalantly asked the Cleveland fan, who was with his girlfriend in a Bears jersey,

"So, you're a Browns fan? Are you from Cleveland?"

"Yes. I moved to Chicago in 2000."

"And we haven't converted you yet? That's real loyalty!"

I love seeing loyalty with our favorite sports teams. It says alot about who we are as a person.

3. Camaraderie

On our trek back to the train station after the game (did the walking since it was nice outside)
we found ourselves following a group of about ten women and young ladies dressed in their Bears attire. Obviously coming from the game as all their accessories had Bears' logos. Yes, the demographics have changed!

I noticed this at a Bears game about three years ago, 30-35 percent who attend are indeed women. So, it was good to see not just groups of guys hanging out at the game, but now women as well.

4. Leaving a Legacy

As I mentioned earlier, throughout the game and at half time they were commemorating the 10 year anniversary of the death of Walter Payton. In case you aren't from Chicago, Walter was the beloved running back of the Bears from the mid-70's to early 80's. He played 13 seasons, all with the same team, and in that span only missed one game. They called him "Sweetness" for his gracefulness both on and off the field. Walter refused to celebrate after scoring a touchdown and disapproved of the growing practice of touchdown celebrations. Imagine what he would say to the players today.

Walter was one of those rare athletic specimen's who could do it all. His highlight reel of football moves would put you in awe. He thrived on giving 120 percent. He was a total team player.

After the game, as my brother and I were talking about the half time celebration for Payton, my brother remarked,

"I think the old guy sitting next to me cried ."

So, here was this big old burly, beer drinking, diehard Bears fan getting misty eyed. That's the effect Payton had on all of Chicago.

Walter Payton died of a rare liver disease at the young age of 45. In his final months before passing he became an advocate for organ donation. After his appeals, donations in Illinois skyrocketed. I became an organ donor the day after he passed away.

Becoming an organ donor doesn't cost you a thing: you don't need your organs after you have passed, and, if you know Christ, you are going to get a new, glorified body in heaven anyways.

Wow! The things you learn just by going to a football game. Amazing!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Unconditional Love

The following excerpt is from a daily devotional that I've been reading, called"40 Days To Your Best Life For Men" :

A respectful, sensitive young boy turns into a rebellious teenager and breaks his parents' hearts. In the middle of the night, he comes home drunk and passes out across his bed. His mother slips out of her own bed and minutes later her husband goes to the kitchen expecting to find her crying alone. Instead he discovers her at the boy's bedside stroking his matted hair. "What are you doing?" her husband asks. She replies,"He won't let me love him when he's awake."

This is a great example of unconditional love.

I am so thankful for that unconditional love during a season in my younger years when I wasn't living the way I should've been. I was brought up in a Christian home, knew right from wrong, but for awhile there I fell asleep to Jesus and was awake to the world and what it had to offer. And even though I slipped away from God for a season, I was still in His grasp and He still loved me. This is grace. This is God's unconditional love for us. A love that has no boundaries.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ( Rom. 5:8)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Did You Know...

Did you know that swans and geese, even though they are from the same bird family, don't get along with each other. In fact, geese are actually afraid of swans. Go figure! When you think of geese you think of an aggressive, dirty bird. And swans, their behavior represents one of grace, and are also considered a symbol of love. Could this be the reason Tchaikovsky chose the title "Swan Lake" for his classic ballet?

One other interesting tidbit on swans:

In Hinduism, swans are compared to a saintly person whose characteristic is to be in the world without getting attached to it, just as a swan's feather does not get wet although it is in water.

I love the fact that the aggressive behavioral goose is afraid of the graceful, symbol of love swan.

In todays society we see the aggressiveness of man more than we want to: on the road during morning and afternoon rush hour, in the lines at the supermarket, in our workplace, in our schools.

But Jesus taught us that love overpowers all things, and:

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 1:14)

Imagine what we could do if we took that grace, faith, and love that God has given to us and applied it to the aggressive world we live in.

Just like the swan versus the goose, grace wins!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Community Within Tragedy

Some of the good causes that take place within our communities were created unfortunately from tragedy:

John Walsh, the host of Americas Most Wanted, began his crusade after the abduction and murder of his 6 year old son Adam. His show, on television for 22 years now, has helped capture over 1,000 fugitives and criminals, and has brought home more than 50 missing children.

Many of the child safety and protection laws that now exist are because of John Walsh and his family's tragedy.

A friend of mine, also named John, was involved in a one car drunk driving accident back when he was in his early 20's. His jeep flipped over at an intersection well after midnight, thankfully an off-duty state trooper was there to pull him from the huge fireball wreckage. After pulling him from the car to safety, the trooper took pictures of not only the car on fire, but photos of John lying in a hospital bed hooked up to many tubes and machines; the officer hoping John would pull through and use those photos for a good cause. John spent several months in the hospital. My friend was sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service, talking to high school kids about the dangers of drinking and driving. Some 20 years later, John still goes around sharing his pictures and stories at high school assemblies. If you ask him why he does it after already fulfilling his sentence many years ago, his reply is simple:

"God spared my life for a reason, and I am going to make the most of it."

Just this past weekend Jasper Howard, a University of Connecticut football player, who was also an expectant father, was stabbed to death after a homecoming dance on campus. Their coach was one who always stressed to the team that they were all one family and were to look out for one another. One of Jasper's distraught teammates exclaimed,
"As Jasper looks down on us, I can promise him and his family that when that son or daughter is born, they will have 105 uncles."

We don't necessarily need to wait for a tragedy to happen to get involved in our community ( your town, your family, or your church).

In 2 Timothy 4 , Paul urged Timothy:
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

God has called all Christians to share their faith with others and to lead people to Christ. We do not necessarily have to be called into full time ministry to do this. We are also called upon to do good to others, especially those in need.

When we use the gifts and talents that God has given to us in a positive way,
positive results are sure to follow.

As Winston Churchill once said,
"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yes, Believe It Or Not, It Happened

A couple of days ago I went on my usual 3 mile run on the trails after work. When I do go running I am usually praying or just plain old "talking to God". This day I decided to keep my mouth shout and just listen, hoping to hear from Him, and I pocketed my camera along as well, as the picturesque colors of fall are beginning to spread. As I got deeper and deeper into the woods, not much photographic colors were found, nor any Word from God. Sure enough, as I pro gressed further along, it happened. Not quite what I was looking for, but it was the ultimate, unexpected surprise.

As soon as I crossed the wooden bridge over the creek and made the turn, there it was: along side the trail, spread out upon a log were letters spelling out the words Happy Birthday.

My birthday is coming up this Saturday. The letters must have been laying out there for a few days as their color was faded out from all of the recent rain. Don't know who that message was intended for, but I have a feeling God just wanted me to see that. And I'll gladly accept it!

Thanks God, your the greatest!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hitting That High Note

This past Saturday both my parents and my aunt and uncle celebrated their 50th wedding anninversaries. A huge milestone you will rarely see within todays society. I think it speaks volumes of the word faithfulness.

I have been blessed to grow up in a close family and to learn from both my parents and my grandparents how to apply that word faithfulness into every area of my life:
1. faithful to God and to my church
2. faithful to my job
3. faithful in my relationships
4. faithful to my family
5. even faithful to my football teams (sticking with them even during the losing seasons)

In an episode of the very old skit comedy show The Honeymooners, Ralph finds his old coronet and still struggles with hitting the high note. While reminiscing, Ralph discovers that he could never hit that high note (succeed) in anything he tried. The coronet inspires him as he decides to be a success. Ralph receives some good advice from a successful business man on taking stock of his qualities. So, Ralph makes a list of both his strong points and his weak points. And if you're familiar with Ralph Kramden, then you guessed it, his bad points far outweigh his strong points. Ralph makes a conscientious effort to correct his bad points and takes a civil service test for a large job opening with the city. Though he succeeds in ridding himself of the bad points, he fails the test. His wife Alice still encourages him with, "You can't always win on the first try, you have to keep trying until you succeed." This being just another way of saying, "Be faithful to the task."

Our great Heavenly Father is the greatest example of faithfulness:

Oh Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise Your Name,
for in perfect faithfulness You have done marvelous things,
things planned long ago. (Isaiah 25:1)

Even when we may not always be at our best, God remains faithful and is perfect in His plans for our lives. So for us to hit that high note in life and to succeed in everything we do, all we need to be is faithful.

Just faithful.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

God, Football, and Community (conclusion)

If any of you had a chance to watch football on Sunday you probably noticed a new color upon the players uniforms, the color pink. No, they weren't trying to make a statement like T.O. or Ochocincco would do at times. They were simply raising awareness of this being breast cancer awareness month. The players are now auctioning off those pink uniform articles to raise money. What they are participating in is a partnership with the community, which is just another term for fellowship.

The word fellowship comes up alot within the church community. In greek, the word fellowship is koinia which means: sharing,unity,partnership,a society,a brotherhood. As believers we are called to have fellowship with one another. But, in the Book of Acts we are also called to share that "community" outside the church:

Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,
and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
(Acts 2:44,45)
Community is all about sharing; sharing God's love through our words, through our actions.
And through all of this God shows favor upon us as individuals, and as a church:

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,
praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46,47)

And in fact, earlier in this chapter in Acts we see the church receive the word from Peter gladly and they were baptized, and on that same day 3,000 people were saved and added to the church. This was God's way of showing favor upon that church, and He continued to do it daily all because they chose to give with simplicity of heart, and praise Him.

Through these hard economic times I have noticed the word "community" at work more than usual, through individuals and through churches. In my earlier post on this subject I had mentioned the Sports Illustrated article on the Detroit Tigers embracing their community; another tidbit from that article:
The Central United Methodist Church, just a block away from the Tiger's stadium, serves a free sloppy joe lunch (with the game available on television) during Thursday home games, to those less fortunate to have a ticket. Thus bringing even more community to a city that so desperately needs it.
The church can still be a powerful resource for the community today. We just need to bring that fellowship we have outside of the box.

Monday, October 5, 2009

God, Football, and Community (part 2 of 3)

On last weeks Focus on the Family one of the questions asked of Tony Dungy, recently retired from coaching the Indianapolis Colts, was:

"Why did you stick around in football for 30 years?"

Tony's answer was: "I stuck around to prove that a Christ led man could be successful in an industry that calls for you to be rough, tough, and hard-nosed."

Tony was known to be one of the more mild mannered coaches; one you never saw yelling and screaming at his players on the sidelines. And yet, very successful:

1. Only coach to take his team to the playoffs 10 straight years.

2.First black coach to win the Super Bowl (3 years ago against the Chicago Bears)

3. Only one of a handful that one a Super Bowl as both player and coach.

One of the more interesting things I found in his interview was that as a Christian he modeled that behavior to his team. Every season the very first practice he made sure his players knew that first and foremost he was a Christian. He didn't care what you're beliefs were, he wasn't there to persuade you, just that this team was going to be a team of character, and as a team we are representing the community.

Tony still lives in Indianapolis and works with the youth in the community where the graduation rate stands at only 19 percent.

You don't need to have a high profile job to make an impact in your community, or in your church. You could be a plumber, a janitor, a lawyer, or a doctor. God can and does use every heart who is willing and able. He has given each of us various talents and spiritual gifts to use to bring forth the Good News.

God does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called.

Friday, October 2, 2009

God,Football, and Community (part one)

A couple of days ago I had already prepared my prep work for my next 2 blog posts, and then it happened! One of my colleagues at work gave me this week's issue of Sports Illustrated with a cover story on the Detroit Tigers and their winning ways in unifying a city and state that is in economic turmoil. It is a really great , inspirational article, a must read for all. With somewhat similarities, here's my own:

What caught my attention Sunday afternoon, besides my beloved Bears victory, was what transpired after the Detroit Lions who, after losing 19 straight games over the last 2 and a half years, finally won a game. In the locker room afterward, their coach Jim Schwartz, congratulated them and then had them go down on one knee, say a prayer for their community, and then go back out onto their home field turf to celebrate with their fans.

The state of Michigan has been hit the hardest within these difficult economic times. The state relied heavily on the "big three" of the auto industry. The unemployment rate is now at 28%, many neighborhoods in Detroit are abandoned. There are other small towns within the state completely vacant where they have decided to not rebuild, but simply bulldoze them down and replace them with trees.

All sports teams carry with them an allegiance of faithful fans who stick with them even in the not so great seasons. So I love it when I see coaches and players make an effort to recognize those fans. In case you aren't aware, I am extremely bias towards my sport, football. In my opinion football has the hard core, extreme fans. In no other sport will you see 50 to 70 thousand fans sitting in 20 below temps to watch a game. I've endured that experience a few times and I have to say, I enjoyed every minute of it.

My love for football began when I was 6 years old, and Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "What about Christmas?" But, I can honestly say, I still love Thanksgiving more. And that is how this mid western kid became a Cowboys fan.

Football on Thanksgiving brought community within my family. I am one of 27 grand kids, so it was great when my grandparents had everyone together for that one holiday. It was the one holiday where my grandfather had taught us about putting aside our various differences, feel blessed to be able to be together as one family, and thank God for those many blessings.

In a recent interview on Focus on the Family, Coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts mentioned that in all of his 12 years of being a head coach for 2 different teams, 3 of every 4 players on those teams had no father. That is an astounding number! So I thank God for family.

In Michigan these days they are desperate for anything that can bring a smile to their faces. It was very gratifying to see that thousands showed up for the National Baptist Convention held in Detroit, and to hear them say that their true hope lies in Jesus Christ.

It is also good to see some of their sports teams do well, to bring some enjoyment to these peoples lives. The Detroit Tigers are close to winning their division after finishing in last place a year ago, and, who would've thunk it, last year's very bad University of Michigan Wolverines are 4-0 this season.

Go Detroit Tigers!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Our Life a Witness

"Jesus' disciples will need to look more saved if I am to believe in their Savior."

Sadly to say, Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher and pronounced atheist who stated this, denied Christ all the way to his death. In fact, most of his writings contained the statement "God is dead".

The Apostle Paul taught that our walk in Christ is our greatest witness. Paul says we are to,
"Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the flesh, to fulfill it's lusts."
(Rom. 13:14)

When we put on the Lord Jesus Christ we are not only walking in the Spirit, we are walking in God's love and should then edify others with that same love. The Apostle Paul's whole ministry was based on these principles:

1. Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to dispute over doubtful things. (Rom.14:1)

2. Pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.
3. Receive one another just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. (Rom.15:7)

4. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called. (1Cor.7:23,24)

5. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more. Paul became all things to all men, that he might save some. (1Cor.9:19,22)

6. For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil.1:21)

Paul set the example for us, to live as we are called to live, in Christ.

If you were arrested today for being a Christian,
would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Power of Prayer

This past Wednesday evening church service was one part "history 101 on power of prayer" and one part "getting honest with God individually". A visiting Pastor Edds delivered a timely message that in some ways "revived" myself on the power of prayer. He brought to point some stories from back in the 1940's where people's prayers not only brought revivals, but individual lives were changed, as well as entire communities. Something that's much needed in our country and the world today. And most of these changes were through only a small handful of souls praying together:

"Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

His history lesson reminded me of my own personal lesson on prayer I had experienced in seventh grade:

I was coming home from summer church camp with my cousin when she suddenly fell ill and went into a coma which lasted a whole month. For that entire duration, my grandfather literally lived at the hospital, at her bedside praying for her recovery. And while he was doing that, I remember my parents having our entire church pray for her recovery as well. And so, when she came to, she was diagnosed with the worst case of diabetes one could contract. But today she lives her life to the fullest for Jesus Christ. And through advance medical technology and God's grace she just recently acquired an insulin pump to make her life more simpler, and enjoyable.

When two or more people come together in agreement concerning something, a greater amount of spiritual authority and power seems to be released than when just one is praying. So it is important for brothers and sisters in Christ to come together in agreement in prayer. If there's one piece of history we need to be reminded of more frequently it is just that, the power of prayer. If an elderly woman and a blind woman could change a whole community in Scotland by praying (1948), imagine what we could do!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


As I spent much of last week in much conversation with God since I was sick and then yesterday(tuesday) after work doing my prayer walk at the zoo(brookfield zoo in chicago 'burbs), God kept placing the word sustain into my thoughts. This word shows up 40 times in scripture, and for good reason.Yes, the last few weeks have been tough for me and what God was alluding to was in Psalms 55:22,

Cast your burden on the Lord
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

As soon as the Psalmist David says to cast your burden on the Lord , he immediately delivers to us the promise, that God will sustain us. The word sustain means: to hold up, to protect, to support, to defend. God does all of these for His people. All He asks from us is to act in faith.

Faith has nothing to do with feelings, nor is faith some passive response to adverse circumstances. Faith is a conscious choice to act on God's Word.

In the very next Psalm David goes a little further on trusting in God:
Whenever I am afraid
I will trust in You.
In God I will praise His Word,
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?

It is so easy for us to think about our circumstances and act on it in the flesh. But when we apply God's Word and remind ourselves of His promise to sustain us in our circumstances, our fear turns to faith. Which is why He calls us to:
Cast your burden on the Lord.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Say So of my Own

Of all the blog posts on testimonies that I've done so far, never actually did one on myself.
So, here's the first:

I have been sick for the past week with a bad cold, I even took a couple of sick days from work, which for me is not normal. On Thursday as I was driving home from work a small piece of a throat lozenge that I had eventually chewed became stuck in my throat. So here I am in the left lane of bumper to bumper traffic, freaking out at what to do. Before starting my trek home I had filled my tank with gas and did an uncommon thing, at least for me, buy something to drink for the ride home. So, while my face is turning red in panic, I asked, well, pretty much pleaded with God for his help. He reminded me to take a drink of the juice I just so uncommonly purchased. I took a swig, no, still lodged in there. Took another swig, nothing, then another, and another. Then...Yes! It became dislodged and went down to my stomach. Whew!!!

One of the things I love about God is we can call on Him in an instant and He is always there for us:

I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live. (Psalm116:1,2)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

God of Wonders

It's amazing what you can design through the great creation of God.

Those of you who know me well, know my love for nature: animals, flowers, trees, ocean, waterfalls, sunrises and sunsets, mountains, stars and planets. Need I say more??

On my last few runs on the trails after work, I have come across a woman walking her 3 legged dog. He lost one of his front legs in an accident. Nevertheless, he has adapted well I might say. And I somewhat marvel at his genuine happiness amidst his handicap: his joy of being petted by walkers and joggers ,and I' ve caught him on more than one occassion stopping to sniff the wildflowers along the trail.

I have also come across on those same trails an elderly woman on an electric cart walking her dog. Or should I say driving her dog? My guess is she has chosen to enjoy God's creation no matter what she has to do in order to do it.

I think one of the best ways to connect to the majesty of God is through nature. The greek word for majesty is megaleiotes, which means: grandeur, glory, magnificence, splendor, superbness, greatness.

One of my favorite verses of scripture is 1Peter 1:8:

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an expressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

When we view the creation of God, we not only see the handiwork of God, but we are filling ourselves with an expressible and glorious joy of Him.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Breath of Heaven

A couple of night's ago I woke up in the middle of the night ( not so uncommon with my sleeping patterns). For some strange reason God had reminded me at that moment to pray for a friend who had been struggling lately. Well, I obliged, and after that, the next thing you know, the song "Breath of Heaven"came into my head. Why me, Lord?
In case you are not familiar with the song, it's a Christmas song, which just so happens to be one of my favorites. This song is also entitled "Mary's Song", hence the lyrics being about Mary's struggle with being chosen to carry the Son of God.

I have traveled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside
And I wonder what I've done
Holy Father, You have come
And chosen me now to carry Your Son.

Could you even imagine what must have been going through Mary's mind when this happened? To be chosen by God to carry His Son. And what about Joseph and his mindset in all of this? The Bible says that Joseph was a just man, meaning: upright, blameless, righteous, conforming to God's law. I think God knew He could trust Mary and Joseph!

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now, be with me now.

Before any of this happened to Mary, I believe she lived a simple, quiet life. But to now feel like she's carrying the weight of the whole world on her shoulders had to be burdensome. And there may have been times when she did feel alone in all of this.

Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of Heaven.

I'd imagine Mary had many nights of crying out to God to "Hold me together".

I know the struggles we bear may not be as immense as that of Mary's. But, just as Mary did, we can cry out to God for help, for Him to "hold us together" in the midst of our struggle. Within our trials sometimes it's best to just give in: find a place of solitude, and let God breathe new life into our mortal bodies.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Second Chances

A recurring theme of "second chances" has been making it's way in the news lately:

1. Some of the 155 passengers who survived the plane crash into the icy waters of the Hudson River back in January have recently come out and have spoken, not only of their ordeal, but about being given a second chance at life. Many of them have taken the solemn oath of now making the most of their new lease on life.

2. One of the more notable people being given a second chance is the controversial Michael Vick. He has been reinstated to play football again after serving his prison sentence for dog fighting.

3. A couple of weeks ago Nick Schuyler, a football player, spoke about being the lone survivor of a boating accident where 3 of his companions died. Nick was found 46 hours later clinging to the engine of the capsized boat in the Gulf of Mexico. He says he has continuous nightmares of the accident and frequently asks himself,"Why did I survive and not them?"

4. Another boating accident in the Gulf of Mexico, this one in August, where 3 Texas boaters held on for 7 days before being rescued. The men said they did alot of praying. One of the men even exclaimed,
"Lots of promises were made out there. And I'm gonna hold every one of them."

At one time or another in each of our lives we have been given a second chance. Whether it be through:

1. Health situations
2.Mistakes made in relationships
3.Job related
4.In our relationship with God

Over the weekend while visiting relatives out of town, I befriended an elderly man who was recovering from a stroke. If Arlo wasn't wheeling himself around and popping wheelies in his electric cart with an oxygen tank, he was cracking jokes with his wife and just having a grand old time. I admired this church-going man's zest for life. God gave him a second chance at life and he was appreciating every minute of it.
God's grace is an all sufficient grace. He is a loving God who forgives and doesn't hold our mistakes against us.

And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 1:14)

No matter what your second chance in life may be, make the most of it, with God's love.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Trees of Righteousness

Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.

I recently saw this quote, in memory of someone, engraved on a park bench at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center in Illinois. I have always enjoyed the uniqueness of trees. Here is a picture of a Eucalyptus tree in San Diego. My first time seeing this tree I was totally blown away by it's beauty within the oddly shaped branches. A couple of facts about trees:

1. There are approximately 100,000 known species of trees that exist throughout the world.

2. The worlds tallest tree is a Coast Redwood Sequoia, found in Redwood National Park in California. It stands 379.1 feet tall.

I once heard in a sermon an illustration on the apple tree:

Have you ever been to an apple orchard when the apples are in season and are so ripe you could eat them as soon as you pluck them from the tree? The one common thing amongst all those trees with their ripen fruit; each tree has a trunk that looks battle scarred. The bark on those trunks are so scaled with rough, rugged, torn skin, you could tell the trees had weathered through many years of storms even though the fruit that exists on those trees are ripe in season.
What the Preacher was doing was likening us to those trees.

Throughout the Bible there are many scriptures where God makes reference of us to be like trees:

1. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters that spreads out it's roots by the river; and it shall not see and fear when heat comes, but it's leaf shall be green. It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought, nor shall it cease yielding fruit. (Jer.17:8)

When we branch ourselves out toward God, His springs of living water flow through us, refreshing us with His Spirit. When difficulties arise, fear will not take over us if we stay close to those living waters. Our souls should continue to prosper (bear fruit) even in the midst of storms.

2. Either make the tree sound (healthy and good), and it's fruit sound (healthy and good), or make the tree rotten (diseased and bad), and it's fruit rotten (diseased and bad);
for the tree is known and recognized and judged by it's fruit. (Math.12:33)

We each have a choice on what kind of tree we want to be: healthy and good, or rotten and diseased. Our outer appearance may show rough, jagged, battle scars, just like those tree trunks in the apple orchards, but what really matters is the fruit. Are you bearing fruit? Are you consumed with blessings? When we choose to follow Christ, living our life the way He wants us to, blessings will overtake us. Your fruit will be ripe!

Even if you are facing difficulty at this very moment, if your soul is prospering,you are a good and healthy tree. And the other fruit (blessings) in your life will surely follow.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blessed to be a Blessing

One of the more inspirational movie's I like to watch from time to time is the film Cinderella Man. The true story of boxer Jim Braddock and his family's struggle through the Great Depression. Braddock was an up and coming fighter for a couple of years just before the economic turmoil hit our country. By 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, Braddock was already considered a washed up boxer who couldn't get a fight. In New Jersey at that time, the only jobs available were at the docks, and the jobs were scarce. Someday only 6 or 7 out of a crowd of a hundred or so men were picked for that day's jobs.

The money he earned on those limited days on the dock went directly for food. Jim, his wife and 3 children, lived on bologna for many days, weeks, and months. And through all of this, his wife still continued to pray, and thank God for what they had, even when the utility bills mounted up so high to where both the electric and gas get shut off in the dead of winter. When they begin to pray one night Jim finally caves, "You know what? I'm all prayed out. I can't do this anymore."

Jim Braddock was a man of pride, he was reluctant to ask for any handouts nor go and file for public assistance. He ends up doing both. With his wife clinging to her faith in God as they struggle to get by, Jim is met by his long time trainer who brings him good news: he has a boxing match set up with one of the contenders. The bad news is, it's tomorrow! It's a last minute notice due to a boxer backing out and because it was already billed with a bunch of other fights for one night only at Madison Square Arena. But, for $250, Jim wasn't going to turn it down. No one in the country had Jim winning the fight, for he hasn't boxed in over a year, but he pulls off the upset. Soon, Jim finds himself back in the limelight. After winning the next couple of fights, Jim goes back to the public assistance office, and pays back all of the money that the government assisted him with (over $300)

Jim would go on and contend for the heavy weight championship of the world, the whole country pulling for him in the process. (please see movie for ending)

Of all of the history books, documentaries, and films I have viewed on the Great Depression, this is the only story that comes to mind of someone actually paying back the money the government assisted them with. Could you imagine if someone were to do that today?

Though our economy is not as drastic as it was back then, you do have to feel blessed if you can say,"I have a job, my health, a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in, and food to feed my family."

There are many less fortunate right now. Operation Blessing, a food pantry which serves the south suburbs of Chicago is seeing a record number of families in need of food. If your church does not have a food pantry and you or they may be interested in helping out for a worthy cause, checkout their website linked on my blog homepage for details.

He who shows kindness to a poor man gives to the Lord and He will pay him in return for his good act. (Proverbs 19:17)

In our country, and the world, we can't take anything for granted anymore. Except the provision that our great God provides:

And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.