Inn At Christmas And All Year Long

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”–Luke 2:7

As we gather with friends and family today to celebrate Christmas, let us remember the lesson of the inn. Mary and Joseph were turned away because there was no room for them. It was filled with people who were involved in the worldly matters. In a sense, we are that Bethlehem inn some two thousand years ago.

That same Jesus whose parents were turned away has come to us, asking if we have room in our hearts for Him. Let us ask ourselves; do we have room for Him, or are our hearts filled with the things of the world? When they were turned away the first time, it was a fulfilling of prophecy; if you turn him away today, it will also be a fulfillment of prophecy. Matthew 7:23 says, “Then I will profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

My Christmas prayer is that this season, everyone will search their hearts and find room for Jesus. Don’t remain filled with worldly concerns as the inn at Bethlehem; open up your heart to Jesus. May God bless you.

Basal Cell Carcinoma: A Lesson On Neglecting Sin

Basal Cell Carcinoma: A Lesson On Neglecting Sin

Basal cells are the producers of new skin cells when the old cells die, and when exposed to ultraviolet rays, these cells can become cancerous. If neglected, a person can suffer serious disfigurement or, in some cases, the basal cell carcinoma can spread. It can spread to the muscles, nerves, bones, and even the brain. In rare cases, it can even lead to death. The good news is it is easily treatable, and even curable. Treatments can include cutting it out, killing the cells with electricity, freezing them, radiation, cream, or surgery. This is a very brief description; check out the links below for more information.

So, why would I choose basal cell carcinoma as a topic for this blog post? The reason is simple; I am a very foolish man. Over the course of the last two months, I have had two surgeries to have this type of cancer removed from the base of my neck. For over a decade, I have had a place on my upper back that I have neglected to have checked. Initially, I thought it was nothing more than a pimple or something similar and gave it no thought. As the years passed, however, and it continued to grow, I let my fear of what it might be keep me from going to a doctor. Unfortunately, my fear came true, but I woefully lacked the proper information.

Had I simply gone to a dermatologist, or even taken the time to research my condition, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. I could have also avoided a lot of unnecessary pain. If I would have received a proper diagnosis several years ago, the two surgeries might not have been necessary. Of course, I would have first had to admit I had a problem. This is why I chose to write this post.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This verse, 1st John 1:9, says if we confess, he will forgive. It is so simple; confession brings forgiveness. But, what happens if we don’t confess—beyond the fact of eternal damnation, that is? One single, unconfessed sin, no matter how small, affects your life. Why? Because it never remains small. One sin never remains just one sin.

For example, if a person steals something and there is no confession, a lie, or lies, is often required to prevent the theft’s discovery. If the lie doesn’t work, perhaps bribery is the next step. And after that, well, you can see where this is going. True, this is a somewhat oversimplified, and even far-fetched, example, but I believe it makes the point. An unconfessed sin, any sin, that is not taken care of immediately is like a cancer that can grow and grow until it becomes unmanageable. It can rob you of your peace, your sleep, your livelihood, friends and family, and even your life.

Let us look at 1st John 1:9 again. “…he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God is ready and waiting to forgive and cleanse us when we sin. Much like my basal cell carcinoma, it has to be removed before any hope of a normal, healthy life is possible. One of the main risks facing me, according to my doctor, wasn’t the cancer itself, it was the possibility of the cancer being hit and me bleeding to the point I suffer irreparable damage. After seeing how easily things could have been taken care of, it simply makes no sense not to.

https://www.webmd.com/melanoma-skin-cancer/melanoma-guide/basal-cell-carcinoma#1

Sepulchre With No Stone

“The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.”–John 20:1

As we have heard in numerous sermons, this verse, along with the first few verses of Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Luke 24, gives the account of Mary Magdalene and her companions’ discovery of the empty tomb. In the following verses, we see the reaction of the disciples to the news followed by Jesus’ appearance among them. This is the culmination of prophecy and the fulfillment of God’s promise. There is no other point in history that could be called THE Game-changer. With the death of Jesus on the cross, His internment in the borrowed tomb, and triumphant resurrection on the third day, mankind gained direct access to the Throne of God. But this week’s verse is more than a great opening line.

One of the first things about Mary Magdalene’s trip to the sepulchre that we see is the time. She, along with other women, came early on the first day of the week. They were so anxious to go to where Jesus’ body lay, they didn’t even wait for the sun to rise. Their only concern was how they were going to roll the stone away that covered the opening of the tomb. Of course, they had yet to discover what awaited them.

Too often, we want to wait until things aren’t looking so dark before we are ready to go to Jesus; unfortunately, that means many won’t go to Him at all. We believe waiting until it gets light will help us see the obstacles in our path and, therefor, make it easier for us to overcome these obstacles. It is easy to forget we are to walk by faith. Mary and the others didn’t wait until daylight so they could see the stone, they went believing the stone would be taken care of once they reached the tomb. When they arrived, the women realized their one obstacle they had feared had already been taken care of.

We all have to deal with darkness of some sort at one time or another in our lives, and we are unsure of the obstacles in our path the darkness might conceal. When we step out on faith and begin to come to Jesus when it is dark, we often discover that the obstacles we were dreading to face have already been removed.

This Easter season, as we celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, let us remember it is never too early to come to Him. Whether you have yet to accept Him into your life, or have walked with Him for some time, He is there to help you past any obstacles you encounter. Isn’t it time we start walking by faith and not by sight?

May God richly bless you is our prayer.

Memorial Day: Remembering The Fallen

Memorial Day: Remembering The Fallen

Picnics. Fireworks. A paid day off of work. These are a few of the things most people think of when Memorial Day rolls around. To some, it is a day to gather together with friends and family to kick off the summer activities.

There are still those, however, who remember the reason behind this solemn day. It is a day of wreaths and flags placed on headstones and crosses, and of memories. It is the day set aside to remember those men and women in uniform who gave their lives, not only in the defense of our country, but in the defense of freedom itself. Memorial Day is not dedicated to any single war or generation, but to all those who served this nation and have left her in the safe hands of those who came afterwards. The patriot knows the price of freedom is always paid in blood.

While there is nothing wrong with taking the opportunity today to show your gratitude to those who have worn, or still wear, the uniform of the American military, there are those who deserve your gratitude. Today is the day we say “thank you” to those left behind, to the mothers and fathers, wives, husbands, and children, brothers and sisters. As much as freedom is bought with blood, it is also paid for with tears.

This Memorial Day, we want to honor the lives of those who have worn the uniform and been called to go over the top one final time. We also want to take the opportunity to offer our heart-felt thanks to those who were (and still are) left to carry on despite the loss. May God bless.

Hoarder In Another Man’s House

A cluttered life.

Hoarder In Another Man’s House

Are you a hoarder? It’s a simple question that often leads to complex answers. The word “hoarder” really came into its own a few years ago. At some point in the relatively recent past, we developed a fascination with those who chose to never throw anything away. For some strange reason we suddenly wanted to know all about the lives of those men and women who have an unexplainable obsession to hold onto everything. What is it about these people that have captivated us so? Is it because we want to know exactly how many empty pizza boxes they own? Or do we just like to feel sorry for people who are worse off than we are?

So, what exactly is a hoarder? This question is best answered by asking a second question; what is it that causes a person to become a hoarder? According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA for short), hoarding is a disorder that is often a symptom of another disorder. People who suffer from obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can become hoarders. Hoarding is also a symptom of dementia. Even as a disorder by itself, the effects it can have on a person’s life can be tragic.

Hoarding can cause rifts in families, widened by both anger and resentment. More than just rifts, it can tear families apart. It can affect the afflicted physically, mentally, socially, and even financially.

In Hebrews 3:6, we read about a house not our own. “But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house we are, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” As Christians, we are the house in which Jesus dwells. When we confess our sins and open our hearts to allow Him to come in, we are to step out of the way and let Him clean up our lives. That means we aren’t to sort through the things He tries to remove and hold onto them.

I was going to refer to us as “spiritual hoarders”, but realized that is not correct. When we hold on to the things God wants to remove, we become “unspiritual hoarders”. Too often we want to hold on to things like bad language, alcohol, lust, anger, grudges, hatred, discrimination, and so forth. (Let me just briefly say, as a matter of clarification, that calling something wrong which God has called a sin is NOT discrimination.) Once God removes everything unclean from our hearts and lives, it is up to us to make sure they stay that way. We do this through prayer, praise, worship, fellowship, and witnessing. When Christ abides in us, we are held accountable for everything we allow in our lives.

The best thing about letting God clean up our lives and remove the things we do not need is that He doesn’t leave us empty. He replaces what He removes with things from Him; blessings, love, joy, strength, hope, forgiveness, and more. Above all of these, however, is the gift of eternal life. The things we think we lose are worth infinitely less than the things we receive.

Finished Heavens And Earth

Finished Heavens And Earth

“Thus the heavens and the earth, all the host of them, were finished.”–Genesis 2:1

Six days. No more; no less. Two questions come to mind as I consider the entirety of the first chapter of Genesis. The first question is this: why did God need six days to produce a finished creation? The answer to this one easy. He didn’t NEED to take six days. God could have created the earth, the heavens, and all they contained instantaneously with a single thought if He wanted. He is not bound by space and time as we have seen; He is the Infinite, the All-powerful. Knowing and understanding this, then, brings us to the second question.

Why did God TAKE six days to complete creation? First, He did this to establish our days from beginning to end. These six days were the beginning of the concept of time. As with everything God does, these six days are intended to teach us a lesson. In every single verse, God has a lesson prepared for us…if we would only look for it. So, what is God trying to teach us by taking six days to finish the heavens and the earth.? He is teaching us both patience and pacing.

Ask any artist, composer, or tradesman about patience and pacing and they will tell you how important they are. Whenever we start something, the excitement (or anxiety) often pushes us to get the task done as quick as possible. However, this usually leads us to make mistakes. An artist will lay out her supplies before ever starting her masterpiece rather than continually run to a cabinet for the next item. It is the same with composers. Before putting any notes on paper, they will see how they sound when put together. Tradesmen will look at plans or schematics long before they start their next job. Everything must be done with care and in order.

God never asks us to do anything and then expects us to rush to get it done. When He called Billy Graham to preach, He started him in the church pulpit, not the stadium. A new church is started by just a few members and then begins to grow, not with a full congregation. Even Noah spent 120 years working on the ark. During the six days of creation, God was showing us the importance of taking your time.

To take your time, however, does not mean to waste your time. When God gives you a job or a task, he expects you to be diligent and do your best. Whatever obstacles you face, face them with patience. So, regardless of what God calls you to do, whether it takes six days or six years, remember this; God chose you.

Reflection: Between Betrayal And Redemption

Reflection

Reflection: Between Betrayal And Redemption

Where are you, spiritually, in your life? Are you on the mountaintop enjoying the peace and blessings only God can give? Maybe you are staring out at what appears to be an endless valley devoid of hope. Or maybe you are hiding from God, ashamed because, once again, you have sinned and feel as if you have betrayed Him. If you are on the mountain—and I don’t say this to discourage you—you won’t always be there. As Christians, there will come a point in our lives when we betray God with our words or our deeds. At that moment, whatever we do next is the most important moment of our lives—but first must come the reflection.

When this posts, we will be between the day of Jesus’ betrayal and His resurrection, and it is this time between the two we want to look at. Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot with a kiss for thirty pieces of silver; He was betrayed by Peter because of fear. What happened to them after their betrayal was a result of their reflections of their deeds.

In Matthew 26:14-16, we read of Judas’s betrayal.

“Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What

are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty

pieces of silver. So from that time he sought the opportunity to betray Him.”

In verses 17-25, we read of what occurred during the first day of Feast of Unleavened Bread. While Jesus and the twelve are sitting around the table eating, Jesus announces “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Of course, this causes everyone to begin asking, “Lord, is it I?” When it was finally Judas’ turn to ask, and, remember, he has already collected the money, he asked, “Rabbi, is it I?” To which Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

As the evening meal continues, Jesus, again, makes an announcement, telling the disciples, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night…”. This time, Peter speaks up and tells the Lord he would never be made to stumble to which Jesus replies. “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Again, Peter denies the possibility.

From here, Jesus and his disciples journey a short way away to the Garden of Gethsemane where He wants to pray. While at the garden, Judas along with the chief priests and elders arrive to “arrest” Jesus. The disciples forsake Jesus and flee. The Lord is taken before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling body, where He is tried and convicted to death. While this is taking place inside, prophecy is about to be fulfilled outside.

In Matthew 26:69-75, we read of Peter’s betrayal.

“Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You

also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before them all, saying “I do not know

what you are saying.” And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him

and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” But

again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” And a little while later those who

stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you are also one of them, for your speech

betrays you.” Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!”

Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said,

“Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept

bitterly.”

So, now we come to that moment of reflection for these two men. As we saw in Matthew 26:75, Peter went out and wept bitterly. At some point after this verse, but before the end of the Sabbath, Peter rejoins the disciples (all of whom had fled when Jesus was taken). We can only surmise that, after he had quit weeping, he decided to track down the others to figure out what they should do next. Before we get too far ahead, let’s go to Matthew 27 and see what came from Judas’ moment of reflection.

Matthew 27:3-5 says this.

“Then Judas, which had betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented

himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

saying “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.” And they said, “What

is that to us? See thou to that” And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and

departed, and went and hanged himself.”

Both men deeply regretted what they had done. What sets them apart is their moments of reflection. When Peter chose to return to his fellow disciples, he—unknowingly—was gaining the opportunity for redemption. Judas, on the other hand, saw no hope for himself after what he had done and committed suicide. (In Matthew 26:24, Jesus even commented concerning His upcoming betrayal that, “It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” Was He saying this because of the betrayal or because He knew Judas would end up killing himself? Something to think about.) When Jesus appeared to His disciple the third time, three times He asked Peter if he loved Him; once for each of Peter’s denials. Peter’s reflection led him to redemption.

Regardless of what is going on in your life today, whether you are a Christian or not, you might be at that moment of reflection. No matter how dismal it may seem, how deep and dark you valley appears, choose Jesus. Nothing in this life is worth missing out on redemption.

Sixth And Final Day Of Creation

Sixth And Final Day Of Creation

Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”–Genesis 1:31

The sixth day of Creation—the final day of creation—has ended and God has decided it was a good day. Beyond that, He reviewed all He had made and determined everything He created was very good. The obvious take away from this verse is everything God created was good, but we see so much more than that. God is giving us another example of how we should view what we do in His name.

By looking at completion of all He created, He is teaching us to focus on the present. Read over today’s verse again and take note of the first sentence. “Then God saw everything He had made, and indeed it was very good.” At no time does the Bible say, “for now”, or “but things were going to get worse”. God already knew what mankind was going to do and had made plans to deal with what would take place. Instead, He is focusing on what He has just created.

Too often, we become jaded by the world around us and the people we must deal with. Take, for example, someone with an addiction. You can, with the noblest of intentions, do all within your power to help them overcome. Once they are clean, you feel the sacrifices you made were worth it, but before you know it, the addict returns to his or her addiction. Out of love, or the sense of responsibility, you, again, do what you can. Again, success, and, again, a return to the addiction. You begin to see the inevitable return to addiction before they ever set foot on the path to sobriety. And this is just one example; talk about disheartening.

This is why we need to follow God’s example. Do good for the sake of good. Even if you know things will go wrong in the future, focus on the present. When we begin to question why we even bother to do good, we forget what God can do with the good we’ve done. Reconsider the addiction scenario. When we help someone for the fifth or sixth time—wondering why we still bother to help at all—we forget God is helping us. If we give up after the fourth intervention, we rob the addict of the chance to find God after the fifth intervention. Just because there is a pattern of reverting back to the old ways, it doesn’t mean God can’t break that pattern.

Regardless of how many times you help someone, or do good in your own life, focus on that. We know the future is in God’s hands so let’s trust Him to take care of it. Continue to do what you can and do it in God’s name, He will see that good comes from your efforts.

Food For Substantial Thought

Food For Substantial Thought

Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food; and it was so.”–Genesis 1:30

While your actions may be your own, the end results can have long-lasting consequences on those around you. In last week’s verse, we saw how God intended for us to live on the herbs and fruits. We also saw how God put His original intentions on hold because of sin. (We cannot confuse man’s choice to go against God’s law as a mistake on His part. Had Adam and Eve obeyed God to begin with, we would not need the meat as we do now.)

In today’s verse, we discover man was not the only species designed by God to be vegetarian. God designed the birds, the animals, and every creature that creeps on the earth to subsist on a meat-free diet. Although it is hard to imagine a pack of hungry wolves wandering into a garden for a lovely tossed salad, that was God’s original intent. We need to remember, however, God neither gave up on nor abandoned His initial plans. He has prepared for us a world where blood would not be necessary for us to survive. In Isaiah 11:6-7, we find the prophecy of the day we get back to what God intended all along.

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” [Just a quick side note: These verses show the lamb and the wolf lying down together, not the lamb and the lion, as many often quote.] Not only will the need for animals to kill to live be taken away, they shall live in unity as was God’s goal all along.

Everything we do—good or bad—is going to affect someone, or something, else, just as we will be affected by the actions of others. A few years back, before we did anything, we were to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”. While I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, perhaps we should start asking ourselves “How is this going to affect others?”

In today’s post, my original intent was to show simply this; what we do affects others. God’s intentions, however, was to show me even more. He has shown me how, even when something interferes with my original goals and I have to put them on hold, I shouldn’t abandon or give up on them. He has also shown me the necessity of preparing for changes in my plans. Most of all, He has shown me to trust in Him in all things because He knows the outcome.

As you read these posts, if God shows you something I don’t touch on, feel free to share with us. We could all use a little food for thought

Have a blessed day.

Vegetarian, But Not For Long

Vegetarian, But Not For Long

And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.”–Genesis 1:29

God’s original intent—according to this verse—was for mankind to be vegetarian. He designed every herb and every piece of fruit so mankind would have food indefinitely. And just as He created these to sustain us, He made our bodies so this would be all we would need. It was never God’s desire for blood to be shed for man to survive. Unfortunately, He knew the day would come when it would be required, so He prepared us for that eventuality. Unlike many of the herbivores in the world, He gave us the teeth of a carnivore. While we can get protein and certain vitamins from plants, science has proven we need meat.

These herbs and fruits are a great representation of God’s Presence and fellowship. After the creation of man, God walked with him and talked with him. Had he not listened to Satan in the guise of the serpent, God would have sustained all his needs eternally. When man sinned, he lost the sustaining Presence of God. Man now needed something more to maintain contact with God; he needed blood. God Himself killed the first animal to make tunics for Adam and Eve. He fashioned the tunics to cover their nakedness and their shame; it was also to protect them from the elements.

While it is unlikely we will all return to our vegetarian roots, God made a way for us to return to Him. It, too, required blood. Just as He took the lives of the animals for Adam and Eve’s sake, He gave His only begotten Son for our sake. It is now His sacrifice that sustains us. It is the grace and the mercy that allows to come into God’s Presence and partake of His fellowship.