Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Christmas 2010 is now in the past! I hope your day was fill with the blessings of Christ!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tell It!

Luke 2:20 (New International Version, ©2010)

20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

After you experience this Christmas Holiday, don't keep it to yourself! This amazing story is meant to be told. The Shepherds could not contain themselves. How can we celebrate this Holiday Season and then on December 26th forget all about it and go about business as usual. As a matter of fact, if you look back on 2010 and realize all the blessings you have received, you should Glorify and Praise God just like the Shepherds. God is great and during this year he has amazingly blessed me and my family. This amazing God that came down to Earth as a baby born in Bethlehem, is still with me here today. I am so blessed by his presence in my life. Thank You Lord! 

 Merry Christmas to All and to all a Good Night!

The County Line Worship Choir recorded its 2nd CD this year. One of the songs we recorded is "Go Tell it on the Moutain."  Click on the link below to hear this great song. I wish I could give you our Choir, but this Choir is pretty awesome!

Go Teil It on the Mountain -- Prestonwood Choir

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas = Family Treasure

Luke 2:19 (New International Version, ©2010)

19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Tomorrow I get to share Christmas Eve with my daughters and grandkids. (Except Kelley, Darn it!) I have my annual shopping trip first thing in the morning. I hate shopping, but one day a year I go, by myself, and I really enjoy it. Tomorrow is the day! 
McKenzie and Lindsae will be coming in the afternoon with their families. Lindsae and Brian are staying over night so we can share Christmas morning with them and Ayla. Christmas mornings are amazing treasures. I remember the magic of these mornings when the girls were home. I remember the time we just barely got home from Riley Hospital to enjoy Christmas morning. I remember each of our homes and each of the special mornings with the girls. I can't wait 'til tomorrow and Christmas morning.

As I get older and older, I notice that I am starting to treasure the times with my kids and grandkids even more. Not just Christmas, but all the times we have together. It seems just like yesterday Kelley graduated, Lauren was born, McKenzie and Jeff were getting married, Lindsae and Brian were getting married and Hannah and Ayla were born. They are all getting older and wiser. The greatest treasure is how these families are all devoted to Jesus. There is not enough money or Christmas gifts in the world to surpass the joy of knowing your kids love the Lord.  It is a treasure worth more than all the silver and gold on this planet!

Dear Lord, Thank you for my family. I ask you to take care of these special treasures. Please be with all my girls, their husbands, my grandkids, and my wife. Thank you for providing special times to be shared with my family. I know these times are gifts straight from you. Thank You Lord. Thank You! Amen!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Glory to God in 2010 and more in 2011!

Luke 2:13-14 (New International Version, ©2010)

 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Every year I get nostalgic around Christmas time. Things always start slowing down for a short couple of weeks. The fast paced AD's life of tournaments, contests, and preparation for the next season, fade away for a short time and I can look back at the year. It has been a great year.

One of the highlights of this year has to be my CMA memories. Stephanie and I made a big commitment this year to get more involved with CMA. From the International Motorcycle Show in February, Seasons of Refreshing in April, Run for the Son, CMA Church visits, No Borders Rally, State Rally, Cross n Dagger, and various other rides, I had a great year on the Harley. I love the idea that God can use anything and anyone for his purposes.

I am nothing special but I have found that I am so blessed the more time I spend praising God. I have found the more I commit my time and resources to the kingdom of God, the more peace I am given.  I challenge all of you to look at your commitment level to Jesus Christ before we start the new year, 2011. The great company of angels that sang praises to God on this Christmas night can tell you of the special rewards that await you. All we have to do is give all the praise and glory to our most high God and then we will experience the greatest peace and blessings our lives can imagine. We don't have to be perfect all we need to do is praise him continuously.

I hope that this time next year you can look back on your year with fondness and say how blessed you are because of the goodness of your Father! “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Dear Lord, We praise you for your love and the peace and joy you grant us. I am not deserving but you grant us favor anyway. Thank you Lord for a great 2010. Thank you for the CMA ministry. Help us to do more to praise you in 2011. Help us to bring others to know of your love and grace. Amen!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shepherds Stink!

Luke 2:8-15 (New International Version, ©2010)

 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

As amazing as the Christmas Story is. My favorite part is about the Shepherds. I just can't understand why God chose to proclaim his message to these poor, lowly shepherds before anyone else. He didn't just tell them what happened. The birth of the savior was ushered in by a company of Angels. Only one other time in the Bible do you ever have Angels appearing in such a group.  So, he chose to bring this amazing message in spectacular fashion. 

These shepherds were desert dwellers not unlike the Bedouins of the middle east.  When you're a desert dweller, herding sheep, you just might have a unique odor to you and you probably have some unique social skills. My guess is you don't make it to the big city very often. Yet, through all of this God chose them to be the first to witness the birth of Jesus.

If that doesn't fill you with hope nothing will. God cares for everyone. He has no limits to his love and if he chooses Shepherds to celebrate with at the birth of his son, he certainly cares for you and me. These Shepherds were NOBODY. Do you know someone who is a "Nobody"? If they don't fit into your social click, do you just ignore them like their invisible? Maybe if we want to really share the Christmas Spirit, we should make sure that no one is ignored, no one is left out, no one is invisible. The homeless, the garbage man, the UPS man, the mailman, the hog farmer, the cab driver, the school bus driver, the school custodian or cafeteria worker are all invisible people to most of us. How many of these people have you taken time to get to know? How many of them have you ever tried to engage in a significant conversation?  The Christmas story started with the Shepherds and should continue to the ends of the Earth. It's not just for a privileged few.

Monday, December 20, 2010

WARNING: "Do Not READ this, it might ruin your Christmas Spirit!"

Luke 2:1-5 (New International Version, ©2010)

 1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

Most people are amazed that Joseph would marry a woman who was pregnant with someone else's child. An Angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, (Matthew 1:20-21), and convinced him it was ok. I am more amazed that Joseph was able to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem with a pregnant wife-to-be and they still got married! 
Bethlehem is about 80 miles from Nazareth. It's about 80 miles from Fort Wayne to Anderson.  We can make the trip in just over an hour and 15 minutes. Although the mode of transportation is not ever mentioned in the Bible. It is believed Mary traveled by donkey while Joseph walked by her side. More probable is they traveled by caravan. Regardless, they probably traveled about 20 miles a day. Because Christmas is such a peaceful time of the year. We all get the feeling this was such a peaceful and thoughtful experience for Joseph and Mary. But, I am guessing it was anything but peaceful and serene. This 80 miles would have been through Samaria. The Samaritans and the Jews didn't get along and this trip would have been very dangerous. The threat of attack would have been continuous. The trip would have taken about 4 days. Can you imagine a woman 9 months pregnant, riding for 5 hours a day for 4 straight days on a donkey, a camel, or some other ancient mode of transportation? I wonder how many "Rest Area" stops they had to make for Mary. I know Mary was a special woman, chosen by God. But she WAS human! I can't imagine Joseph didn't feel her wrath on more than one occasion. I am sure he hit all the bumps, he took the wrong trails, and traveled too fast, or too slow. I have never been pregnant, but I have been at the mercy of a pregnant woman who was uncomfortable. Let me just say they are very difficult to please and on occasion they are down right mean. (Sorry Steph, I still love you!) When they pulled into Bethlehem I am sure it was Joseph's fault their was no room in the Inn. I'll bet Joseph never heard the end of it. You can go ahead and think of it as a quiet, peaceful experience, while singing "It came upon a midnight clear" But, I am guessing is was a bit more stressful and tense. But, after it was all done, I am sure the bod between Joseph, Mary, Jesus, and the God of the Universe was a bond we can only hope for. The Birth of our savior is the most special event of all time. I think it becomes even more special to realize the amazing adventure Mary and Joseph endured to witness the Birth of Jesus. It puts me more in Awe of this amazing couple.

Now that I have ruined the quiet peaceful Holiday mood you were in. You can go back to singing "Silent Night! Holy Night! All is Calm, All is Bright!"  ..................All I can think of is Mary telling Joseph "Shut-up and Rub my Back!"

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I bet John had a tatoo!

Luke 1:76-80 (New International Version, ©2010)

 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
   through the forgiveness of their sins, 
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
   by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 
79 to shine on those living in darkness
   and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

 80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit[a]; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Doesn't it seem kind of weird that John was born with all this fanfare and then he went out to live in the wilderness to prepare to speak for God? Here is a guy who was labeled a profit at such young age, chosen to prepare the way of the Lord, to teach about salvation, and he leaves everyone behind to go out and eat locust, wild honey and whatever else he can find in the wilderness.  Mark also describes John as being a bit extreme with what he wore. I guess Camels Hair wasn't in fashion then. It would probably be perfectly find today! He was also preaching a message that was pretty radical for the time. Yet, people flocked to him in the wilderness. He didn't have to travel into town and speak at the big arenas or in the synagogue. People came to him. He spoke to everyone, not just the elite or the religious leaders. He spoke to the poor, the "middle class" man and woman. He also wasn't very much of a politician. He spoke what he thought, didn't mix words.  He didn't care who he was talking to the message was the same.  I really kind of admire him. For the most part, I am a conformist. I fit pretty well in middle class america. I don't have any tatoos, no piercings, I have short hair, I dress conservatively, I really work hard to be a normal, average, every day person. God called John to be exactly the opposite. If he were around today, he would definitely have at least one tattoo and I am sure he would have several piercings. His hair would be long and unkept. He would wear torn or ripped jeans, and  would stand out in the  crowd. Am I right?

Am I afraid to go out on a limb like John. If called by God, would I put myself out on the limb like John did. There are a few things I do that are somewhat unconventional. I got married at a really young age,17 (and have been married to the same women for 32 years).  Steph and I had our kids when I was real young and I am now a very young Gramps.   I chose a nontraditional route to get into teaching and I like hanging out with Bikers.

Sometimes we are called by God to step out of our comfort zone and be a little on the radical side. We are not called to melt into the fabric of society. We are to step out and proclaim from the Desert "The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand. Repent and follow the Savior who is Christ the Lord!".  It is a lot easier to just sit back and not create waves, to just be quiet and hope they hear the message of salvation on their own. Getting Bold for a Christian is so important. Boldness in the Creator of the Universe is a great place to be a nonconformist!

Dear Lord, Help us to be bold for you and to step out of our comfort zones to full fill your plan. Help us to listen for our calling and to act on it regardless how bold it is. Amen!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stop the Hate!

Luke 1:69-72 (New International Version, ©2010)

69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David 70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— 72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant,

Have you ever had anyone you thought was an enemy? I can't really think of someone who I thought of as an enemy. I also can never say I have hated someone. In sports, we sometimes view our rivals as our enemies. I have heard kids say "I hate you!" on more than one occasion. But every time they said it, it was out of the anger of the moment. I never really thought they meant it. I don't really think of my athletic opponents as "Enemies". I wonder if someone out there considers me their enemy. I wonder if their is someone out there who hates me. (Please don't post it in the comments if you do, I'm not sure I could take it!) I think everyone has someone who hates them and even some who thinks you are the enemy. I am no different. But, as a Christian, we are not to hate people. We may hate what they do. We may hate their actions, but we must love each other.  Remember these verses:

Matthew 5:43-44 (New International Version, ©2010)

Love for Enemies
    43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

One of the most popular sayings this time of year is biblical. "Peace on Earth, Good will to men!"

Luke 2:13-15 (New International Version, 2010)

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

This can't happen unless we as Christians take the first step and stop our own hating. We need to get rid of our list of enemies. We need to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you. It is like the old theory, "kill them with kindness." Maybe we should change this to "Kill them with Love".  I know first hand how easy this is to say and how hard it is to do. Although I can't think of anyone who I would call an enemy or anyone I hate, their are certainly many people who I don't get along with. Since I don't hate them or consider them an enemy, can I just mistreat them or maybe just ignore them? Can I wish them ill--will? The answer is obvious. No! We need to love these people just as much. Avoiding someone is not loving them. Wishing failure or ill-will is not loving someone. You also can't show love from a distance. (Darn it!)

God has every right to hate us for how we treat him and how we treated his son when he came to live with us. He doesn't. He loves us so much and has shown us great mercy. Even as we treat him with hate and constant disrespect, he loves us all the more. He is the model for how we should all live. He doesn't ignore us. He doesn't observe from a distance. He is right here with us, his love is not conditional on us. It is always present.

Dear Lord, Thank you for the grace and mercy you show us. Please forgive our hate. Please forgive our treatment of our "Enemies". We know you have told us to love our enemies and we continue to ignore you. Please Lord, help us to treat each other as you would have us to. Amen!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Are you a Prophet?

Luke 1:67-69 (New International Version, ©2010)

 67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
   because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 
69 He has raised up a horn[a] of salvation for us
   in the house of his servant David

Like father like son. John is a Prophet of God and Zechariah is a Prophet of God. This message coming from Zechariah is very specific in what is going to happen through Jesus. Jesus is God coming to his people to save them from their sins.  He was brought here as a horn (strong and powerful king). He will redeem (purchase) all of us with his blood on the cross.

I am always fascinated by Prophecy and really I am not familiar with what it is. I know in a limited way that when someone prophecies, he/she is foretelling the future. But in my investigation. Prophecy is also any sharing of words that God has put on your heart. This prophecy from Zechariah is both a foretelling of the future Messiah and also a sharing of the heart of God.
God still sends people to prophesy today. I don't know too many people who tell the future, but I do know several people who are spokesmen of God. Really, they might be telling the future but how are we going to know until the future happens. But, It is a lot easier to tell someone who is speaking the words of God's heart. That too is Prophecy.  We can look back on these words of Zechariah and NOW we know he was foretelling the future. At the time, these people didn't really know what he was telling.

As Christians it is our place to listen for the words of God from many different places. I always point to the Bible and I think the Bible is so important in listening to God. Prayer is also just as important. Not Babbling to God, but opening ourselves to hearing God speak to us specifically. But, we also need to listen for the words of God through his Modern Day Prophets. We need to listen to the words of God through others. We don't label all our preachers as Prophets. But, some of them are. Shouldn't we be listening to those Prophets just as much as these people were listening to Zechariah. God speaks to us all the time, we just have to be open to listening.

God, Please open our ears to hear your voice. Open our hearts and minds to the Prophets you send to us every day. We know you are speaking to us. I pray lord that you will give us the ability and desire to hear you. Amen!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oh to be young again!

Luke 1:66 (New International Version, ©2010)

66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

Do you remember when you were young and someone asked "What are you going to be when you grow up?" I don't remember specifics but I do remember changing my mind constantly. I remember my brother Mike and I wanted to have a ship and travel the world just like Jacques Cousteau.  For those of you who don't know who this is, google it. He filmed fantastic TV specials about the oceans and everything connected with it. He and his Cousteau Society were Ocean explorers and pioneers in bringing science to your living room LONG before the Discovery Channel. i have heard rumors that the Cousteau Society is still active and gong to revive the Calypso (his ship).
Before wanting to be Jacques, I wanted to be a sea otter. During the Apollo Space Program, all young boys wanted to be Astronauts. Later I wanted to be a Doctor and then a biologist. I never in a million years dreamed I would be in education, not as a Math Teacher and certainly not as an Athletic Director.

I remember holding each of my daughters and thinking exactly the same as the community John grew up in. As much as I tried, I could not see into the future to see what my daughters would be. If you dwell on this question too long you could start to get anxious. Your whole life could be filled with worry about your kids. But, with God as my savior, I can rest easy that He knows what my kids are going to be and he watches over that plan from the first day of their lives. God knew what lie ahead for John. He knows what lies ahead for your kids and he knows what lies ahead for you. It is so comforting that he knows and cares!

Dear Lord, Thank you for your heavenly plan. Thank you for the plans you have made specifically for us. Thank you for watching over my kids. I pray that they will grow closer to you each passing day and they will full fill your calling in their lives. Amen!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Luke 1:62-65 (New International Version, ©2010)

 62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things.

Have you ever been in "Awe" of something. Maybe you have been a part of an awe inspiring moment.  When I started thinking about it, I didn't even really know what "awe" is. The definition of Awe : a feeling of profound respect for someone or something. This emotion is not the same as the emotion of "wonder". The difference is very suttle. How do you feel about people who have been the subject of a Godly miracle? I can tell you that I am in awe. I have a deep and profound respect, not for them, but for the God of the miracle. When God chooses to do a miracle in someone's life, it is awe inspiring because GOD himself chose to show his power and might through THAT person. I think Zechariah's neighbors felt the same way. They knew this family and they knew everything Zechariah and Elizabeth had gone through. I'm sure some of them were the shoulder Elizabeth cried on when she tried to get pregnant over and over again. Some of them had to deal with Zechariah when he was frustrated about not being a Dad. They knew the struggles this couple faced. Now, they were a part of this miracle of God. How could you not be in awe. When we see God work a miracle in the life of someone who has done nothing to deserve it, we are awed!

This Christmas miracle, from John to the birth of Jesus, is an AWE inspiring story because we can feel for Mary and Joseph. We know what they went through and God chose to use them literally out of thin air. They didn't do anything to deserve to be a part of this magnificent story. They were chosen by God and that has to give a sense of awe.

Sometimes we ignore God's  AWEsomeness. We miss the idea that God has specifically chosen us to be a part of a miracle story.  We discount our importance and the part we play. God chooses us and the people around us to be a part of his miracles. We can do whatever we want to explain it away, but instead we should just accept it and be in Awe of him!

Hillsong United sings a song about being in AWE of God. I love the song. Here are the words. Click on the link to here the song.  We should all stand in Awe!

Hillsong United - I Stand In Awe Of You
by Hillsong United

You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful of comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard
Who can grasp you infinite wisdom
Who can fathom the depth of your love
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty enthroned above

And I stand, I stand in awe of you
I stand, I stand in awe of you
Holy God to whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of you.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Do you like your name?

Luke 1:59-61 (New International Version, ©2010)

 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

When Stephanie and I got married. We made a deal. I got to name all of the Girls and Stephanie got to name all the boys. Our First Boy was to be Timothy Jeffery (TJ). Stephanie and I had two really good friends with those names. We never got to use them because we had three girls. So, I got to name all the kids.

McKenzie Lu is our oldest. I chose that name because of a cute little girl that Steph and I babysat for one weekend. McKenzie's middle name is the same as Stephanie's.

Our Second Daughters name is Lindsae Sue. I chose this name because it rhymed with McKenzie and Lindsay Wagner was a tv star. Her middle name is the same as Steph's sister.

Those were really the only two names I had picked out. When Stephanie was pregnant again for the third time, I was panicked. I stayed awake nights trying to figure out another name that rhymed with Lindsae and McKenzie. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't! So I gave up and settled on Kelley Marie. I just thought the those two names together sounded awesome. I'm sorry Kelley, I couldn't come up with anything better than that. I thought about family names like my mom's name, Ellen or Steph's mom's name Judy. I thought about my grandmother's names Gertrude and Thelma. I also thought about Steph's grandma's Betty and Mary Ella. None of those sounded just right. (Nothing personal!) Kelley Marie just seemed to be right! Maybe God inspired it like the name John!

When Kelley was in elementary, she came home one day and said she was tired of being Kelley. So I told her I would shorten her name to "K". Ever since then I have called her "K".  Now she is used to it, but there have been times she really got mad at me for not using her real name.

What's in a name? People really put a lot of thought into the names of their kids. As an educator I wish some of them would have put more thought into it. I have really felt sorry for the names of some kids. They really set them up for teasing.

The name of John was special for one reason. It was given by God. It wasn't a family name or the name of some important movie star. It was a gift of God. This name was the prelude to the naming of an even more important baby. God has also chosen your name. He wants you to be a part of his family tree and he would like nothing better than to right your name in the book of life!

Dear Lord, Thank you for making us unique and naming us as members of your family. We know your family is open to all who choose to follow you. We know their is no family name so precious as to be named a child of God. Thank You Lord! Amen!

Monday, December 13, 2010

It takes a village!

Luke 1:54-58 (New International Version, ©2010)

54 He has helped his servant Israel,
   remembering to be merciful 
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
   just as he promised our ancestors.”

 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

You've heard the saying "It takes a village to raise a child." states the following about the origination of that saying:

The phrase is attributed to an old African proverb. Its exact origin seems to be lost in time. In 1994 children's author Jane Cowen-Fletcher released a book, published by Scholastic Press, titled It Takes A Village in which a young African girl searches for her younger brother, only to find the rest of the village has been watching over him as well. 

In January 1996 publisher Simon & Schuster released hillary Rodham-Clinton's 
It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us in which then First Lady Hillary espoused more the expansion of government than any true wisdom or insight into the nurturing of children. Reviews are mixed on the impact this book has made on society as a whole. 

In May 2001, publisher Harper-Collins released the seventh book in the Lemony Snicket's 
Unfortunate Events series titled The Vile Village, it was mentioned at the beginning of the book, "It takes a village to raise a child".
Read more:

This old proverb is true. Don't misunderstand, the responsibility for raising a child is primarily the parents. But, as in biblical times, we all have a part in raising the children in our community. Right now it is very popular to blame the teachers and education for all the failings of a child. I know first hand that parents play a big part in the success or failure of their kids. But, it is also the community who has to share some of that burden. I have said before that Garrett, Indiana is a great place to live. This community DOES support it's kids. We have a wonderful community center to help provide activities for kids after school. We also have a wonderful park system and pool for the kids. We have churches who provide a variety of youth group activities and numerous youth sporting organizations to help them develop their skills. But, more important than all of these things are the actions taken by the community. If we want kids to be service oriented, the community adults should also be servants. If we want kids to grow up with positive character traits, the adults must exhibit those character traits. If we want kids to aspire to be more than what they are, our community needs to provide opportunities to give them those chances.

When a community comes together to share the raising of it's next generation, they can all celebrate and share the joy. Parents, business leaders, coaches, teachers, churches, and government officials, all have the responsibility of providing for the education of our youth. When they all come together the results are awesome. It takes a village!

Dear Lord, Help us to accept the important responsibility of raising the youth of our community. Help us to be good examples and to take the extra time to show them we care. Help us to share your love, not just with our words, but with our actions as well. In your great and holy name. Amen!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Rich and Famous!

Luke 1:52-54 (New International Version, ©2010)

52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
   but has lifted up the humble. 
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
   but has sent the rich away empty. 
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
   remembering to be merciful

Power corrupts.  I think we have seen a lot of that in this country lately. We have seen greedy CEO's and Banks create major disruptions in this country. We have seen powerful politicians abuse power, make poor decisions in their social and political lives, then ultimately loose their influence. It is a common theme throughout history all over the world. Many of these men and women don't make any connection with their loss of power and God. But, God has a way of dealing with rulers and powerful people. Sometimes I wish he were more open about bringing these people down off their thrones, but the result is the same.
God has his hand in world events. He takes care of the weak and humble. He holds the rich and arrogant responsible for their actions. I know that their are good CEO's out there. I know that not all bankers, lawyers or politicians are evil. Some of them are very humble people, but we sure do see a lot that are not.   We see many that start out as humble servants and end up consumed with power and selfishness.

The Christmas story is about lifting up the humble. Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, they are all humble servants of the lord. They have lived lives that were just focused on God and living life. They had no power except the power given them by the creator of the universe. The Christmas story is also about the rich and powerful being brought low. There's no better example than God's choice of who to deliver and raise the Son of God. The most important task of raising the Christ Child wasn't given to the rich and famous, it was trusted with a lowly carpenter and his wife. He wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he probably used a wooden spoon.

We should all take heart in this. I will never be rich and powerful, but God loves me and loves me just as much or more than those people. He wants nothing but the best for all of us. But, he knows the corruption behind money and power. He can't stand being second place. He deserves to be first!

Dear Lord, Thank You for caring for all of us. Thank you for giving the lowly and the humble a love which never ends. We are truly humbled by your love for us. We don't deserve it but accept it with gratitude. Please lord help us to always remain your servants, to love you regardless of our position in life!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

14 more days!

Luke 1:48-51 (New International Version, ©2010)

48 for he has been mindful
   of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
   holy is his name. 
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
   from generation to generation. 
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
   he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

14 more days until Christmas. I know, it's kind of childish to still do a Christmas count down. But, Christmas is such an exciting time of the year. I just love the traditions of Christmas. Our Christmas tree is filled with decorations we have accumulated over the years. We have an Angel on top that has been with Stephanie and I for a very long time. Last year the lights finally went out. So, we went to WalMart and got a short set and I replaced the light set. It was not easy without damaging the fragile symbol. We couldn't do without that Angel. We also have a tree skirt that Stephanie made. The girls still argue about which side needs to go up. One side is red and the other side green.  We have the girls stockings that Steph made and all sorts of keepsake bulbs.  Our kids have started  many of their own collections and traditions. They are the next generation!

I am so fortunate to have a wife, daughters, and grandkids that love Christmas and the traditions. I am blessed because they also love the Lord. They are the next generation to know of Mary and her great place in the coming of our Savior. They are the next generation to be blessed by the mercy of God. I also know that the traditions started by my Mom and Dad, and their parents before them, will be continued to the next generation through my kids and grandkids. They will cherish their own angels and decorations because of the memories they bring. They will love the gifts and more importantly the times they shared. They will have a hope because God chose to send his son to us as a tiny baby. They will know and cherish the sacrifice of that Son to save us for eternity. They will have the joy of sharing that story with their own families and friends. I hope and pray they will have a part in bringing others to know our Savior. May that story always be shared from generation to generation.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I believe in Santa!

Luke 1:45-47 (New International Version, ©2010)

45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
 46 And Mary said:“My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

Do you believe in Santa Claus? If you don't believe, you miss all the rewards of believing. If you don't believe, how can you enjoy the season and the wonderment of christmas time. You can't enjoy presents, you can't enjoy the decorations, or the stockings, or the magic of Christmas. If you don't believe in Santa how can you enjoy the excitement of a child who does. I love the Christmas season. Belief in Santa is central to that love. Santa is the "poster child" for giving and faith and hope. You can't be blessed without believing. 

There are some times in our Christian lives that we just have to believe and if we do believe, we will be blessed. Mary and Elizabeth were both more than a little astonished by the circumstances they were in. Elizabeth had tried and tried to get pregnant and now she was carrying a messenger of God, even in her advanced years. Mary was carrying a Baby, who would be the Son of God, and she was a virgin. All of this was amazing. God didn't ask them to do any special works. They didn't have to demonstrate their faith through works. All they had to do was believe and then leave everything up to God.
I don't want to discount works or active faith. But, their are times when all God asks of us is to believe in him. I think this is true more often that not. God does not NEED us to DO anything. Faith is enough to get us blessings from God. Obviously, he loves our good works for his kingdom, but he doesn't need them. He also doesn't even ask for them, all the time. 
When we come to know our Savior all we have to start with is belief. We just need to confess that God is in control and trust him to take us where we need to go. That is really all we NEED to do. God can do the rest. Our works are a bonus.  This is such a relief that we don't need to feel pressured to PERFORM for God. He just wants us. When we free ourselves of those demands, then we can truly be open to being used by God.  Being free of the demands of works, frees us to do more works. Sounds like double talk but it is true. Just Believe. Just Believe. Just Believe.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bad Mood Buster!

Luke 1:42-44 (New International Version, ©2010)

42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

Why am I so blessed? What a great question. It is one of those questions I ask all the time. I know myself better than anyone and I can tell you, I'm not that great a person to be blessed like I am. I'm not going to go into all the details of my weaknesses. Some of you know exactly what I'm talking about.

But, what struck me about these verses? Elizabeth not only recognizes her own blessings, but she recognizes the Blessings of someone else, Mary. It may be a little awkward but sometimes people need to hear how blessed they are from someone else. We can get so bogged down in our own daily grind that we might forget that we are truly blessed. I know people that are stuck in "Woe is Me" mode permanently. They live their whole lives going from one tragedy to another. Their families are terrible, their jobs are terrible, and every waking moment of their lives is terrible. I don't know about you, but hanging around with these people  can really depress you.

The next time you come across one of these people. Do everything you can to appropriately help them recognize their blessings.  We are all blessed beyond what we really deserve. Sometimes I really get depressed about my circumstances and when things aren't going well, but sometimes it is helpful to hear how blessed I am in order to get us out of my "Mood".

Dear Lord, Forgive me for not realizing how blessed I really am. Forgive me for not recognizing your greatness and the grace you give me. I know your blessings are beyond what I deserve. Thank You for your love!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stop kicking your Mom!

Luke 1:39-41 (New International Version, ©2010)

 39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

It's been a long time since I put my hand on the stomach of a pregnant woman. Ok, don't think I'm some kind of weirdo. My daughter was pregnant for my youngest grand daughter. That was the last time I have had this opportunity. It is so amazing to feel the movement of a baby in the womb.  I don't recommend going up to a pregnant woman to ask to feel the baby. You might get punched in the mouth. But, if you get to experience this with your own child or a grand child, you can't pass up the chance. I just can't believe this unborn child is already kicking Mom. That's gratitude for you!

When a baby is developing in the womb of it's mother, it is aware of the surroundings of it's environment. I have heard women talk about unborn babies having their nights and days mixed up, just like a newborn. I have seen unborn children with hiccups. I have seen unborn babies respond to voices or certain sounds. So, I think unborn babies can also feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and in this case can feel the presence of God!

For this reason, I think it is so important to start training up the child even before it is born. This new life can sense your heart felt prayers. It can sense you being filled with the spirit as you read God's word, pray, or worship. I don't have any proof, but I am sure the baby will be healthier if he/she is "exposed" to the presence of God even before they are born.  When the Angel of the Lord came to Mary and told her of the pregnancy of Elizabeth, she just had to be with her. These two ladies were carrying a messenger of God and the Son of God. They were carrying the two most important babies to ever be born. There births were heralded by Angels and prophesied throughout the old testament. Yet, they were developing babies. The joy of those two lives was already spreading even before they were born. But, I will assure you that these two righteous women began training these babies before their births. They didn't wait 'til they were old enough to walk or old enough to read. I am sure they started their relationship with God at the first moment of their life. We should all do the same thing!

Dear Lord, Bless the young mothers to be in this world. Fill them with your spirit just as you filled Elizabeth and Mary. Help guide them to begin their relationship with you at the earliest possible moment. Lord, Help us to care for our unborn children as if they were a messenger of God or your Son. Help us to love them and cherish every moment, every kick, every little movement. Thank you Lord for the gifts you have given us. Amen!

I couldn't have said it better myself!

My Sister sent this to me. Thanks Teri, I just had to share it with you!

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS  
Sunday  Morning  Commentary.
 My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish.  And  it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees...  I don't feel threatened..  I don't feel discriminated against.. That's what they are, Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me.  I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto.  In fact, I kind of like it.  It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period.  I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country.  I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him?  I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too.  But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different:  This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Hurricane Katrina)..  Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response..  She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.  And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out.  How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'

In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc..  I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.  Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school.  The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself.And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide).  We said an expert should know what he's talking about..And we said okay..

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out.  I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell.  Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.  Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.  Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.
If not, then just discard it... no one will know you did.  But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in. My Best Regards,  Honestly and respectfully, Ben S

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Over Hill, Over Dale, my Love will EVER fail!

Luke 1:36-38 (New International Version, ©2010)

36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

OK, You are really going to think I'm weird. When I read this verse, the only thing I could think of was a M*A*S*H episode. In this episode Margaret (Hot Lips) lost her wedding ring. Clinger decided to get another one made to replace it. But, the inscription on the re-made ring was messed up. It was supposed to say "Over Hill, Over Dale, your love will NEVER fail." Instead it said, "Over Hill, Over Dale, your love will EVER fail." Oops!  Just one tiny letter made a huge difference.

Mans words are not reliable, Gods words will NEVER fail. I hear so many non-Christians criticize the faith because our Christian Brothers and Sisters  are severely flawed. You know what..............we are severely flawed! Real Christians will tell you, we are all sinful and fall short of the glory of the Lord.

Romans 3:23 (New International Version, ©2010)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

 It doesn't say all NON-CHRISTIANS fall short, it says ALL. We do not worship Christians. We worship Christ. We do not rely on the words of Man whether they are Christian or Non-Christian. Mary knew that God's word will never fail and she wanted to be a part of the fulfillment of that word.  What a great statement for all of us to make a part of our daily life:  “I am the Lord’s servant, May your word to me be fulfilled.” When God speaks to us, we need to accept it as a servant and do what we can to see it fulfilled in our daily lives. First of all we need to actually hear the word of God. That can only be done if we get to know GOD. How many times have you heard me say that?  We need to know God's word before we act on it. GET TO KNOW GOD AND YOU WILL HEAR HIS WORD!

Dear Lord, we pray for you to speak to us. Help us to be your servant and to listen for your word and then see it fulfilled in our lives. We are sinful and know your plan is perfect even when we are not. We ask that others will learn to rely on your word alone and not the word of Man. Amen!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Are you Crazy, God?

Luke 1:33-35 (New International Version, ©2010)

33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

How can this be? That is a really good question. She might have said, "Are you Crazy, God?"
Our God is amazing. I could say he is very "Creative", but saying that about the God of the Universe seems crazy in itself. His mind is infinite. We are so limited! One of the most popular sayings now days is "You have to think outside the box."  God thinks outside the box. The Christmas story, The miracles of Jesus, The sacrificing of his son are all outside the box.
Why is that we have a hard time thinking outside the box? We are capable of so much more than we know. God has created us to think like him. He has created us to serve. He has NOT created us to be limited by our circumstances. Could you serve as a missionary? Why not? Are you limited because of time, finances, job, family? I know I could come up with so many excuses why I can't do something. What if God asked you to quit your job and go into full time ministry? What excuses could you come up with to squelch the idea? We miss so many blessings because of our limited vision. We miss so many blessings because of our limited faith.
The story of Christmas is filled with people who took risks at the direction of God. The faith of Mary to follow through with such an outlandish plan might be the most amazing.  The Faith of Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, the wise men, and the shepherds all are great examples.

During this Christmas season take some time to pray to your father in heaven. Ask him to help you think outside the box. Ask him to open your mind to the unique plan he has for your life. Ask him to give you the strength to take the Leap of faith to pursue that plan.  I can guarantee you will be blessed in so many different, amazing ways.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Plain Jane!

Luke 1:30-32 (New International Version, ©2010)

30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,

Our Pastor spoke on these verses today. I don't want to take credit for all these comments because many are from him. We are very fortunate to have a great Senior Pastor. Stuart Kruse is a wonderful speaker and he has a wonderful heart for Jesus. His messages are always Biblically based and straight from his heart which is filled with the Holy Spirit.

Did you realized that there was really nothing special about Mary. She was not royalty, she was not from a wealthy family, and she could be considered just a "plain Jane". I really wonder how she was chosen by God.  How is it that she became favored so much by God that he chose her to be the mother of the Son of God. The bible never really says anything about this. Yet, It is clear that Mary was an obscure young lady who was chosen by God for a very special task. In todays society we would probably only give this task to someone famous. God chose Mary on purpose. His choice makes a very important statement to all of us who live obscure lives. God has a very special plan for us just like he did Mary. Oh, we might not raise the Son of God, but he will use all of us to save the life of the people we meet. Jesus was born to save all of us. We can save others by bringing them to know Jesus. You know our biggest problem? We just aren't as open to Gods plan as Mary was.

God has blessed us all with gifts. Many of us don't believe it, but God has promised to fill us with the Gifts of the Spirit. Our only task is to find out what those gifts are. Pastor Stu gave us some great scriptural references that identify many of the gifts of the spirit. Here is a list of the gifts I could find:

List of Spiritual Gifts:

  • Prophecy
  • Leadership
  • Healing
  • Apostle
  • Service
  • Teaching
  • Exhortation
  • Giving
  • Mercy
  • Wisdom
  • Knowledge
  • Faith
  • Helps
  • Administration
  • Evangelist
  • Pastor
  • Hospitality
  • Intercession
  • Healing
  • Miracles
  • Discerning of Spirits
  • Tongue
  • Interpretation of Tongues
  • Voluntary poverty
  • Martyrdom
  • Exorcism
  • Intercession
  • Celibacy
As Christians we usually value some gifts more than others. Yet, nowhere are we told that these gifts are ranked in some type of order from the greatest to the least. We might Value Preaching or Leadership, but Voluntary Poverty or Celibacy may be just as valuable in the sight of God. He has designed you for a specific Gift. There are many places to search and find what your gift or gifts are. Find out what your gifts are and listen to the Spirit of God in using those gifts.

Dear Lord, Thank you for treating all of us in a very special way. We love you and are blessed by your Holiness. Please help us to follow your plan for our lives. We have to find out what that plan is and we can't do that with out listening to your guidance. Help us to hear your voice and do your work! Amen!