Archives For December 2013

Hello and welcome back!

January 1st lies just up ahead and 2013 reflects already in my rearview mirror and disappears into the past behind me.  Somewhere, even further in that river of time flowing past me, lies a memory that has not faded, even in the passage of decades.

“What is it that has stood on the periphery of your thoughts all those many years,” you may ask?

Physical Growth Pains

Back in the early ‘60’s, my younger brother became ill with rheumatic fever.  I remember through the mists of time – a whole school year passed when he had to stay in bed, take aspirin, and rest.

Bed rest.

Something we think of elderly persons in nursing homes doing, not eight year old boys with freckles, red hair, and a mischievous smile on his face as he slips out of bed and sits on the floor to play marbles with me on the brown, oval rug on the floor between our twin beds.

“I’m gonna win yer big ol’ cleary, Zach,” he would shout with evil glee as he took bead and let ‘er fly.

It wouldn’t be long until one or the other of us would shout or giggle loud enough to draw mom’s attention and it was back in the sack for ‘lil’ bro.

Yep, it’s hard to keep an 8 year old boy in bed for a year but looking back on it all – he was actually the model patient!  I can also remember the worried look in mom’s eyes as she and dad would discuss Mark after he had been seen by his doctor who, yes, made house calls.

One of the main things I remember was how my brother would moan and cry when his legs hurt.  I didn’t know it then but my brother Mark had a condition that created sharp and pulling pains in his legs from thigh to ankle.  This problem was exacerbated due to his having to remain immobile for long periods of time.

Mom would hear his anguish and always come with the lotion and oil mixture that the doctor left for the purpose.  Many days she would massage and lotion his legs five or six times.  That was quite a dedicated mission.  I didn’t have the empathy to understand back then.

I can still hear Mom saying to my brother as he whimpered while tears rolled down his cheeks,

“Baby, I know it hurts but they are just growing pains.  Just remember that when you hurt you are growing more and more.  You will keep on growing and growing and getting better and better!”

The years passed, Mark kept growing and the pains became less severe as well as less frequent.  Over six years, his symptoms diminished and finally disappeared.  He likes to say,

“Yep, I suffered with pain for many years, but it got easier as I grew up.”

He and I are walking on the other side of youth these days: less days ahead than have already passed.  Being a preacher, I have an eye for illustration.  When I consider the pain my brother suffered and how it has created a person who is thankful for good health today, I can’t help but visualize the connection between his physical growth pains and the growth pains of young Christians.

“Self was the downfall in the Garden when Satan tempted Eve.”

A young Christian, regardless of physical age, must face the growth pains of walking with Christ.  There are many growth pains that cause hurt and anguish for the babe in Christ.  Like my mother used to soothe my brother as she crooned and massaged the lotion into his muscles,

“I know it hurts baby, but pain is gain.  The pain shows that you are growing up!”

3 Common Spiritual Growth Pains

There are three common growth pains that all new Christians will face when growing to maturity.  If your roots are planted in good soil, these Christians will persevere to maturity:

  • Persecution – whenever a new Christian begins to walk a new life in Christ, he or she will run into opposition to that walk.  Old friends, family, fellow employees at work, etc. will not appreciate the change.  Sometimes a person’s career is threatened because of the morality changes apparent in the newly converted.  The bottom line here is that persecution, regardless of the origin, puts pressure on the new Jesus follower to return to the old lifestyle.  The cure is discipleship.

 

  • Old Temptations – the new Christian returns to the world he experienced before his conversion.   He may not realize that the flesh and  temptations of the flesh will still influence his body and senses.  The conversion was for his spirit, not his body.  These temptations can cause a new Christian to slip back into a previous pattern of behavior that produces guilt, doubt, and a falling away from church attendance, worship, and Bible study.  This can produce a downward spiral if not addressed.The cure is discipleship.

 

  • Self – this is the biggest danger of all.  Self was the downfall in the Garden when Satan tempted Eve.  The ultimate sin is self-will rather than submitting to God’s will.  The sin of self is the father of all sin because it is the opposite of loving others.  Obedience to one’s own human desires is sin and the great destroyer of fellowship with God.  Christians must be taught how to defend against this insidious enemy. The cure is discipleship.

 

There they are, three main causes for new Christians to fall away from the church.  These are by no means the only causes, but they are at the top of the list.

We see that the cure for all three revolves around discipleship.  Besides salvation, discipleship is the single most important step in the lives of new Christians.

Taking Inventory

Like my brother’s leg pains, when a Christian is discipled (had his spiritual legs lotioned into a disciplined, mature Christian), he becomes able to feed himself from the word and not be completely dependent on others.  He still needs the fellowship of the Christian community but can study God’s word alone also.  The pain brought gain.

Does your church have ongoing discipleship for all new Christians?  Are mature Christians in the church working with new Christians on a one on one basis to help guide these new sheep along the path that Jesus trod?  Pray for your church’s discipleship programs.  If there are no such programs in effect, pray for them to be initiated.  Volunteer to start a discipleship class.

Discipleship is key.  Spread the word.

 

Blessings,

Zach

QUESTION:  Are you a discipler?

Hello and welcome back!

As many of you know, I have been under the weather (is that another lightning bolt getting ready to strike?) and passed through a murky fog throughout the Christmas holidays.  I am getting past it all but still remain very weak and tire easily.

However, I am looking forward to the New Year.

Before you say,

“Here it comes.  Another article casting hype about New Year’s resolutions and about doing better this year than last!”

 What’s that?  Did I accidently hit a nerve?  I’m here to tell you that no, it won’t get better.  Not just from making a resolution to do so.  New Year’s Resolutions?  Bah! Humbug!

Surprised?  Wasn’t expecting me to say that?

Here’s the deal.  Nothing changes because you write it down.  Nothing.  Sure, it is good to have written goals but just what is a goal?  Is it a plan?  Nope.

A goal is something that you wish to accomplish.  A plan is a blueprint for getting that goal accomplished.  So, you ask,

“Is the plan what it takes to do better in accomplishing things this year?”

Nope.

I don’t care if you have a battery of assistants that you dictate goals to and formulate plans with for a month, you will not be one step closer to accomplishing even one of the goals you planned to accomplish.  Was your time spent in planning a total waste then?  Of course not.

“No one is happy about every little thing in their life constantly.”

Here’s another part of the deal.  Most people spend either too much time planning or they don’t spend enough time on planning.  What do I mean by that?

I mean, if you are an overly compulsive planner, when and where do you stop planning and start doing?

How long do you plan before you start to take action steps that the plan calls for?  If you don’t plan enough, in other words, don’t get an action plan down on paper in detail – how will you know how to logically go about accomplishing it?

Where is that golden mean?  That sweet spot?  Where is that motivation and perseverance to accomplish your goals?

Here is the last part of the deal.  If you are following Jesus, you have an advantage that those in the world who don’t are lacking in.  That advantage you have is the vertical aspect.  The God factor.  The Bible tells us that with God, all things are possible.

It is a truism.

As true as it is, however, it is only true – don’t miss this – if what you are trying to accomplish is in the will of God for your life.  In other words, it is God’s will not yours that happens.  It has always been this way and it will continue to be this way.  In the Garden where Jesus prayed for the cup to be removed he prayed,

“Father, not my will but yours be done!”

What is the secret for success? To know the will of God for your life and then to follow the path He sets for you.  How does one discover the will of God for their lives?  If you need to ask that question, perhaps you are not in the will of God for your life at the moment.

Why do I say that?  I say it because if you are in God’s will for your life, you wouldn’t have to ask it.  You would be in God’s perfect will already.

You might probably think,

“Zach, you don’t know a think about my life.  How can you say that if I am not happy that I might be out of the will of God?”

First, I didn’t mention being happy.  I said content.  No one is happy about every little thing in their life constantly.  But they can still be content.  Content means satisfied with your life not happy over every little part of it.

I can be content in my place in God’s will and still not be happy if a dog bites me on the leg.  Right?

In the beatitudes, Jesus says, “Blessed are…”  Blessed in the Greek means happily content, satisfied, and filled. This is the opposite of being hopeless and bereft.  If you are feeling bereft, hopeless, and cast adrift in life, you are surely not feeling blessed, are you?

To be blessed, is to be in alignment with God’s word.

This is not to say that people who do not follow Christ do not have happiness.  They do.  Sometimes, they have happiness in much more abundance than a Christ follower does.  This fact does not defeat the formula for being blessed by God.  Happiness is temporal and fleeting.

You can be quite happy with a thing or a situation, only to become tired, bored, and just plain disillusioned with it over time.  Not so with the things of God.  Knowing the complete peace of Christ and to be found Him satisfies that place deep inside of you that nothing else in the universe can satisfy.

That is what being blessed accomplishes.  That is what that walk in the perfect will of God accomplishes.

         

With this scenario, your plans will not just get shoved to the back of your desk before you can follow them to completion.  When happiness fades, the intense benefit of contentment in Christ provides you with hope.  Hope is born in the love that Christ has for you and the grace that God has extended to you because of what Christ did on the cross and the gift His unselfish act bestowed on you.  The gift of eternal life with Him.

Jesus died for your sin.  He suffered so you could have abundant life.

Your sin was paid for when you first believed upon the name of Christ for your salvation.  When you confessed Him as your savior, because you could not save yourself, that is when the miracle of God’s blessings were materialized in your life.  Only you can restrict those blessings.

How?

You hamper the work of the Holy Spirit in your Christian life by falling into disobedience.  To disobey God is sin.  Sin separates you from God and His blessings.  The answer?  If you have sinned against God, repent.

Yes, repent.

Confess your sins, clear and make straight the path back into fellowship with God, and drop whatever ungodly willful thing that you are doing – and follow Christ!  Confession destroys the restriction and allows the blessings to flow in your life from God once again.

That opens the door for prayer for guidance in following your god-led plan.  This allows you to accomplish goals within His perfect will for your life.  True life change occurs in your Christian life as you count your blessings, persevere, take the necessary steps in contentment and watch those accomplishments happen!  They will happen because they glorify God, not self!

God bless you until we meet again,

Zach

QUESTION:  Where are you in your relationship with God?

Hello and welcome back!

Reflecting back over years gone by with the practiced eye of knowledge after-the-fact and looking ahead towards the unknown sea of events yet to happen – I wonder.

The old year is growing dim with age.

The New Year looms ever closer, brightly illuminating the open end of your tunnel of yesterday with the bright promise of yet another chance. A chance for you to accomplish that which seems to have slipped away from you like smoke into the clouds of the past year.

Time.

What is time, if not an illusion?  A mysterious wisp of vapor that marks your existence and separates your life into increments.

Reality.

Is what you see, hear and touch the substance of what is or but a shadow or visage of a reality that is yet to come?  When you touch an object, is it really there or does it have its reality in an eternity beyond and what you touch is just illusion?

Thoughts.

Do your thoughts originate within your mind of substance as something original and concrete of your own creation and unique to you?  Or could they be echoes from some vast eternity without end confirming that there is nothing new under your sun?

Knowledge.

Is knowledge the culmination of all that has happened since the beginning of time and stored within the fleshly computer that processes your existence or is knowledge beyond you and apart from you – emanating from a source existing before your creation?

Is knowledge accumulated over time by finite beings or is it granted to you by some great, uncaused, infinite cause of all things that has always been and shall always be?

The answer.

Can there be an answer without there first being a question?

Would an answer ever be sought without the question that begs it?  Which came first, the answer or the question?

Mankind is full of questions.  You are continuously seeking the answers to these questions.

Why? 

Good question.

If mankind is the source of total knowledge, why do you question?  To question implies a lack of knowledge.  Answers that truly answer the question implies knowledge granted.

This being said, what is enlightenment?

Enlightenment.

Does enlightenment come from within the person receiving it?  Do you produce the answer from a source of knowledge existing within self or do you receive the answer from a source of knowledge from without?

Does the questioner receive the answer (enlightenment) from self or an external source of knowledge?

If the answer lies within you why should you need to question?  If the answer already exists within the finite, why the need of a question?

Does knowledge stem from you, the individual, or did the knowledge exist before you came into physical being?

These are all questions that have answers.  Mankind, in his arrogance, tries to answer his own questions.  If he has to question, doesn’t this mean he doesn’t have the answers?

The answers are to be found within the Bible, God’s holy word.

God is omniscient (all-knowing).  He is the source of all knowledge.

Begin your New Year off right.

Discover the answers to your questions.

Read the Bible.

Until next time,

Zach

QUESTION:  What questions are you trying to find answers to?

The “W” In Christmas

December 25, 2013

I wanted to share something with you all this Christmas.  You may have seen it before.  If so, please share it with those you care about.  It’s not anything I have written, in fact, it is my understanding that the author is unknown.  Or is He really?  All truth comes from above so — I pass on to you –this FREE gift…

——————–

The “W” In Christmas

Author Unknown

cid:X.MA2.1385918877@aol.com  
 
  Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations — extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas. 
 
 
  My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six-year-old. For weeks, he’d been memorizing songs for his school’s “Winter Pageant.”
  I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there’d be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.
 
 
  So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.
 
  Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as Christmas,” I didn’t expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment – songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son’s class rose to sing, “Christmas Love,” I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.
 
 
Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in the front row-center stage — held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing “C is for Christmas,” a child would hold up the letter C. Then, “H is for Happy,” and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, “Christmas Love.”
 
 
  The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter “M” upside down — totally unaware her letter “M” appeared as a “W.”
 
 
The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one’s mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her “W.” Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities.
 
 
  For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:
C H R I S T W A S L O V E
And, I believe, He still is.
Amazed in His presence…
Humbled by His love.
May each of you have a Merry Christmas and a blessed
New Year as you reflect on His Amazing Love for us.
Hope you all have a wonderful Christwaslove holiday season.
Wasn’t this a beautiful story?  Have you ever heard it before?
share it with someone you love and care for!
 


 
 

Hello and welcome back!

Countdown to Christmas is 8 days and counting!  Excited?  Not sure?  Well – let’s take a look at the Christmas pros and cons, shall we?

Are your Empty-Nest Years Christmases feeling lonely?  Children of elderly parents or surviving parent – do you know how parent or parents are feeling?

Christmas In The Empty-Nest Years

 “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even my spouse.

The stockings had been hung out of Christmas tradition

The absence of children does not halt the decision.

No children are all nestled asleep in their beds

it’s many miles distant where they now lay their heads.

My dear spouse has passed and I sit here alone

With Christmas, old stockings, and a quiet telephone.”

 The above rendition of the old poem is taking place in 1,000’s of homes this Christmas.  It doesn’t have to be that way and that is the reason for this blog post article.

If you find yourself in a similar position this Christmas and God has graced you with the gift of mobility, here are 3 wonderful things that you can do that will brighten your Christmas and put joy back in your step!

Let’s Do Unto Others

…Give a gift to a child you do not know.

 Try as we may not to be selfish, we humans must die to self on a daily basis in order to allow God’s will to take place in our lives.  How can this be accomplished?  By following the word of God in such instances.

Rather than hibernate at home and feel sorry for ourselves (and let’s admit it, that is just what we are doing), we need to take God at His word and be doers of the word and not hearers only.

Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 (NKJV): 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.

Let’s do that!  What better way to get out of self than to do for someone else rather than how we feel.  Here’s the plan!  How about going to Walmart or wherever you like to shop and pick out a children’s gift, no, make that two: male and female.  Have it wrapped and take the presents to the church of your choice, school, etc. and give them to the person in charge to give to someone they feel is needy.  What better way to do something for others without expecting the selfish motivation or expecting to get something in return.  Don’t even tell them who you are – let the gift be truly anonymous!

Visit An Elderly Care Home

visit the infirmed – make a new friend?

 If you feel lonely, think how lonely it might be for someone in one of the local elderly care homes in your area.  Do you already know someone who is in an elderly care home?  If not, just find the nearest one to you and take a Christmas present to a stranger.  They won’t remain a stranger long!

Galatians 5:14 (HCSB) says:  14 For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.

 What better way can we show love to another than to pay a visit to an elderly care home and give some attention to someone alone on Christmas.  When we show love to others, we will be fulfilling Jesus’ commands.  Who knows?  You just might make a wonderful friend!

 Attend A Church Service

…what better way to celebrate the reason for the season!

 Are you a Christian and already have a church home?  Please don’t let loneliness or depression keep you from this joyous event!  Get together in services for worship and praise to Almighty God.  There is nothing that can get rid of loneliness better than being close to God within the family of God in collective celebration for the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son.

Again, the word of God states in Hebrews 10:24-25 (HCSB): 24  And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, 25  not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

If you are not a Christian, go to a church and meet some of the family of God.  We are not perfect but we follow Someone who is and you need to meet Him.   I can pretty well guarantee you that you will not feel alone.  You know what?  How about commenting on this post and let me know how you are doing?  If you need prayer, go to the contact page on the site and send me a prayer request.  I would love hearing from you.

Until next time!

Blessings!

Zach

QUESTION: If this blog post fits you or someone you know, please put a prayer request in the comments.  I would love to pray for you or someone you know!

Hello and welcome Back!  I hope that You have the happiest Christmas ever!

It’s eleven days ‘til Christmas!  I made a decision this year—only reasonable portions and NO seconds!  Yep, I said it…the “N” word.  NO! NO! NO!

Why, you say?

I’m tired of being overweight, for one.  I’m tired of being a glutton, for two.  I’m tired of procrastinating, for three.  Oh yes, there are more numbers after these three but these are the main, motivating reasons.

THE PROBLEM

Somehow, I have slowly evolved from a 150 lb. 5 – mile a day runner to this 180 lb. couch-lovin’ blob that has mastered the defense technique of no-moves karate.

What is no-moves karate?

Let’s break it down, shall we?  You know what karate is, right?  Ok.  Let’s concentrate on no-moves then.  No-moves means just that.  No movement that is not absolutely necessary or desired.  Let’s look more deeply at the word necessary.

Necessary, according to Webster’s Online Dictionary, means inescapable.  Notice above: not absolutely necessary.  The meaning here is ANY movement that is escapable.

I practice that.

The other word necessary (no pun intended) for us to examine is desired.  Webster’s gives us this definition: longed or hoped for; felt a need for.  In other words, no movement unless it is longed for, desired, or a need is felt for it.

 I practice that.

THE SEASON

Holidays are the bane of every person considering on cutting down on the grub and increasing the exercise. Right?  Guess what?  It’s almost Christmas and New Year follows a close second behind it.

Dilemma: to eat or not to eat—that is the season’s question.

Most people around the holidays are quick to justify their actions by saying, “It’s the holidays!  I’ll get serious when they are over!”  Self-justification.  Is that Biblical?

Hmmmmm.

Romans 8:33 (HCSB) states: 33 Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies.

Seems that if I fall into the self-justification trap, I am trying to do God’s job.  I am not up to that.  I can’t even control my elbow from raising food to my mouth.  How could I justify myself?

I am going to quit self-justifying.  When I do that, I have to forget the old standard methodologies of the past.  No more Christmas excuses for me.  The same holds true for New Years.

Meaning?  I diet.

THE SOLUTION

What is the solution?

Trust.  Total trust.  I am going to trust the Lord’s word.  I am going to put my hope and faith in Him and believe Scripture, such as, Proverbs 23:21 (HCSB): 21 For the drunkard and the glutton will become poor, and grogginess will clothe them in rags.

Looks like the glutton

It appears that the glutton falls into the same soup as the drunkard, doesn’t it?  I suppose it is the excess, it is the disobedience, the lack of control because to indulge in either is to indulge in self-control.

Self-control or being in control of yourself and not allowing God to set your sail and decide your course—is sin.

The Bible says that I am to die to self.  In another place it says to take off the old man and to put on the new man.  In other words, I am supposed to put on Christ and let the old man die.  On the cross.

If I am in Jesus and Jesus is in me, I need to give up control and let Him take the wheel.

There it is.

The answer.

No more self-justification and procrastination.  Diet begins today, not after Christmas or after New Year’s resolution time.  I didn’t keep it last year, odds are I won’t keep it this year.

I begin now.  For the salvation of my health, my peace of mind, and my Christian walk.  God provides salvation in ALL things and the Bible says, “today is the day of salvation.”

“Father in heaven, I give up all control of my life and hand the wheel over to you.  You drive and I will act upon your word.  You give the directions and I will follow them, wherever they lead.  You give the orders and I will carry them out.  I trust you.  It’s in Jesus Christ’s name I pray,

Amen.”

Until next time!

Zach

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on this post?

Hello and welcome back!

It’s great to see you again!  Merry Christmas!

It’s snowing again.  I just looked out of the window of my office and it appears to be going to hang around for a while.  That’s ok.  It’s almost Christmas!  Looking out the window again, I remember a Christmas past.

I was 12.  Christmas was just ‘round the corner and everyone I saw was joyous.  Looking out the picture window that night with Christmas only 10 days away, I was fascinated by the falling snow reflected by the street light on the corner.

Snow was falling!  Jolly ol’ St. Nick would be arriving on our roof in 10 days and all of the presents I had asked for would finally be mine!  I kept looking into the snow as it continued to fall and enjoyed trying to follow individual snowflakes to the ground.

“Hey son,” dad called, “Come here a minute, Mom and I have something we need to tell you.”

I followed one more snowflake to the ground then turned and went over to where my mom and dad was sitting.  He looked up at me as my mom began to cry.

“What’s wrong, Mom?”  I questioned while watching as she dried her eyes on her apron.

Dad reached out and took me on his lap and then told me the facts.  He had been laid off from his job that day and would have to leave the next day with some other men who were also laid off to take a job in another state.  Dad was an electrician and there was an overtime job that was hiring electricians and dad couldn’t turn it down if we were to survive.

In those days, credit was something people just didn’t have much of.  These were days before credit cards, easy home equity loans, etc.  This was basically a cash and carry world that we lived in and if a man got without work he went to where he could find it.

“No son, I don’t take charity, never have and never will,” he stated while shaking his head vehemently.

Since I was in school, mom and dad decided that we would stay behind and she and dad would decide what to do about things when summer came.  My younger brother was eight years younger than I was so that made him 4 years old that Christmas.

Well, I remember thinking that the end of the world had come.  Dad was going to go away and here it was only 10 days until Christmas!

Mom asked dad if he would run to the store before it closed for bread and milk.  He said that he and I would go get it.  That’s when dad handed me the envelope.

“Here son, this is the best we can do this Christmas what with me having to go to a job out of town.”

“I understand,” I managed to say.  I thought about the list I had written to Santa but I was old enough to know that he didn’t really exist.  I looked in the envelope and found a $20 bill.

“If you wait until after Christmas, you can get twice as much for that $20,” dad said trying to make me feel better.  I took the $20 out of the envelope and put it in my pocket.  “Yeah,” I muttered, “prolly so.”

We drove to the store that evening – both lost in our own thoughts.  I was going to miss my dad, especially on Christmas day.  We were a very close family and this was the first Christmas that my dad wouldn’t be with us.  Not very pleasant thoughts were crossing my mind as we arrived at Thompson’s Grocery Mart.  I remember feeling distinctively bitter that my Christmas was ruined as we entered the store that evening.

I looked at people laughing and talking, people greeting friends and neighbors with hearty, “Merry Christmas!”  I felt jealous as we sought out the bread and milk, found a check out isle that wasn’t too crowded and I was feeling about as low as a 12 year old kid can feel, I guess.

As we were preparing to leave, dad noticed a family preparing to leave at the same time.

“Merry Christmas,” dad offered as he held the door for them.  That’s when I noticed something.  The lady was sobbing and the man had a look on his face I couldn’t identify when I was 12.  It was the look of a man totally void of hope I discovered after I had some years on me and had experienced some of the highs and lows in this life.

“Is there anything I can do to help you out?” dad offered as we all exited the store.

“Not much anyone can do,” the man said in a hollow, ethereal tone, “they took the house today.  All’s we have to our name is in the car.  Three kids in the car and it’s Christmas.  Nothing anyone can do,” he repeated as he and his wife walked towards a dilapidated old Chevrolet sedan like people twice their ages.

As we walked up beside of them, I saw three kids in the back seat.  The hollow, haunted eyes stared back at me.  I felt something within my chest that I had never felt before in the 12 years of my young life.

Something inside of me guided me up to that window as the man started the engine.  I remember the look on his face as he noticed me standing outside his window on that cold, snowy, winter night. That look touched my heart.  He rolled down his window and bent out the window.

“What is it, son,” he asked as I just stood there shivering in that dreamlike moment as snow landed on my eyelids.

I reached into my coat pocket and found that folded up $20 bill my dad had given to me less than an hour before.

“Here sir, please take this,” I offered as he just sat there staring at me.

“No son, I don’t take charity, never have and never will,” he stated while shaking his head vehemently.

“No it’s not for you, sir, it’s for your kids – a Christmas present from me to them,” I stated as I offered that $20 through the window again.

He stared at me a moment then said, “Son, you sure?”

“I’m sure, sir,” I smiled as I handed the $20 into his halting hand.  “Thank you for taking it sir, I want them to have it for presents.”

He sat there looking from the $20 in his hand to me as I stood there grinning broadly and trying hard not to shiver from the cold seeping through my coat.  His expression changed from one of stubborn pride to one of understanding.  He looked me in the eyes and I sensed he realized that this was as much for me as it was for his kids.  He reached out and took it.

Clearing his throat, he managed to croak out a guttural thank you as he started the car.  He looked from me to my dad standing next to our car and nodded.

“That’s a fine boy you have there, mister.  You’re bringin’ him up right.  I thank you both from the bottom of my heart.”  They both nodded at one another.  He started that old car and pulled off.  I just stood there watching until I could no longer see the taillights.  I then turned and walked over to my dad and we hugged.

“Proud of you son,” dad whispered.  We got into the car and rode home.  I remember that ride like it was yesterday.  We didn’t say a word.  Dad was lost in his thoughts and I was lost in mine.  I remember thinking, “This is what Christmas is all about.  It’s all about the giving.”

Looking back upon my 12 year old memories, I think that was when I began to grow up.  I never thought of Christmas in the same way after that day.  I remember the Christmas Eve sermon Pastor Hinton preached.  It has stuck within my mind and heart through all these years.  That was a half century ago.

He preached on Acts 20:35:

“I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I knew when I heard Pastor Hinton’s message that Christmas Eve that had I heard the same message the Sunday before I would not have understood it at all.  I felt humbled sitting there on that pew as a 12 year old boy.  Christmas would never be the same.

I smiled.

Until next time!  Merry Christmas!

Zach

QUESTION:  I would enjoy your comments about when you first remember experiencing the blessing of giving over receiving! 

Hello and welcome back!

I saw something today that I would like to share with you.

I was driving down the street and noticed some activity taking place off to my right.  What appeared to be Christmas decorations were being installed by the city.  The closer I got to the intersection, I noticed that the wording on the sign read, Happy Holidays!

I understand the need for diversity.  I even understand the importance of social relevance.  What I do not understand is why there isn’t parity in America in terms of equal opportunity for Christianity as a religion.

“What?” you say?  “What are you talking about?”

I’m talking about an article in the Christian Post in on June 24th, 2013 which stated, “It’s illegal for Christians to pray in public school, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. But in Michigan, Muslims are being given special prayer privileges by school administrators, raising questions as about due process, equal protection, and freedom of speech for followers of the faith of America’s Founding Fathers.”

I’m talking about a school in Boston reportedly had a Muslim poem recital over the intercom instead of the Pledge of Allegiance on the 12th anniversary of 9/11.

I’m talking about a NBC news report on NBC News.com on January 31st, 2013, and I quote, “According to The Washington Post, about 10 Muslim students at Parkdale High School in Riverdale, Md., leave class for about eight minutes every day to pray. They are part of the school’s Muslim Students’ Association, Principal Cheryl J. Logan told the Post, adding that another student is hoping to raise his grades so he can join the others.”

“As an American, I would fully defend the right of anyone who had the desire to worship a 1/4” wing nut if they so desired.”

I’m talking about the seemingly unfair practices where Christianity is concerned.  Is it my imagination that Christianity is being discriminated against in the public school system? By the government?

Am I just imagining it?

First of all, I am an American.  I believe in our constitution.  I also believe that the first amendment of the constitution grants equality to all religious freedoms.  Don’t take me wrong in what I am about to say.

I am a practicing Christian and I will always remain one.

As an American, I would fully defend the right of anyone who had the desire to worship a 1/4” wing nut if they so desired.

Would I be attempting to deliver the gospel of Jesus to this person if I had access to them?

Of course!

However, I would still defend their right under the U.S. Constitution to worship as they please if they refused to act on the gospel of Jesus.

Here’s the rub.  It appears that the United States government at the national, state, and local levels are running scared and being desirous of following “Politically Correctness” for the sake of being considered a cultural bigot.  I leave room for being wrong but I do not see any other reason for this post-modern behavior.

Here is my opinion – how I really feel about it.  Christmas is Christmas.  It is a holiday.  Christmas is not just a holiday, it is the birth of Christianity’s Savior, the living Son of God.  For Christians, it is one of the most significant of our religious holidays.  We want it recognized as Christmas not just a happy holiday.  When I see Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas, I need a plausible reason.  I have not heard a truly plausible reason, have you?

I don’t condone bigotry or cultural bias.   I am a non-racist and happy that I am.  I am not approaching this question from any prejudices.  I am simply stating my opinion regarding the rightness of it.

This is a different type of blog post from my regular fare.  It’s intentional and directional.  It was time for a change!

Until next time!

Zach

QUESTION:  Do you have an opinion on the above rant?

Second Installment:  God’s Call

Hello and welcome back!

ABRAHAM’S CALL

Abraham was living in Ur at the time of God’s call.  He didn’t accept the idolatry that was taking place all around him.  Abraham was a man, according to historical Jewish tradition accounts, under persecution for his stand for morality.

What we do know for fact is that God called Abraham as recorded in Acts 7:2-3 (NIV):  2  To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran.  3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’”

Can you see the shadow of things to come in this call God gave to Abraham?  Think on it: this first voice pointing to many such calls throughout the history of God’s people.

“When God calls us, he doesn’t always answer the question, ‘Why, Lord?'”

This same voice called to Matthew who left his position during the course of his work and followed Jesus.  This same voice called out to Peter to leave the nets and follow Him.

The voice that Abraham heard that day was a voice that is a call to separate – to abandon the known and to walk into the unknown.

This was a call to walk a different path.

Such calls from God prepare the called one to grow.  Leaving everything known behind and obediently following God’s call forces the called one to become responsible, to pay attention to his surroundings, to expand his understanding without relying on other’s to do it for him.

YOUR PERSONAL CALL

Has God called you to action?  Has He given you a direction that He wants you to follow?

When God calls, be an Abraham.  Do not deny God.  When god calls, you may need to leave everything you know behind but God never calls without He leads the way to the destination.  To be a person who walks with God and not with the world, you have to follow His lead in order to be in fellowship with Him.

What does answering God’s call and following Him look like?

1.       There are trials and difficulties.

Following God means giving up yourself.  In other words, you may need to leave familiar surroundings.  You may have to say goodbye to family and friends.  You may be required to give up a secure material lifestyle to follow Him.  Following the Lord can at times be isolated from friends and loved once we are on God’s path for us.  Although we are expectant of unbelievable riches in heaven, the here and now can be rough.  To sum it up, seven words from the mouth of Jesus says it all in the garden, “Not my but Your will be done.”\

2.       It always proves to be for our own good.

Sheltered and surrounded by family can lead to weakness.  Strength develops when we find ourselves alone and in different surroundings.  We can discover how to handle responsibility.  Learning to trust God rather than self comes from being helpless and alone.  Total trust in Jesus grows faith.  When we release our grip upon the material world, we open the door to spiritual growth.  The world benefits too when we begin, through faith, to be salt and light to a spiritually dead world.

3.       The call comes with a promise.

When God calls us, he doesn’t answer the question, “Why, Lord?”  He may not give reasons for His call but he always gives a promise.  The promise is easily understood while the reason might be beyond our comprehension.  Let’s look at a call (command) and a promise (God’s promises are a guarantee): John 11:25-26 (NIV) 25  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26  and whoever lives and believes in me will never die…”  We can see the call being to believe and the promise to be never dying.

The promise is always greater than the price of the calling.  This is because He who guarantees is our Almighty Father in heaven.  Glory to His name!

(…to be continued)

Until next time!

Zach

QUESTION:  Are you fulfilling God’s call on your life?