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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Lord Waits!

Last Tuesday, my friend and I shopped in a crowded store.  The signs were there – the crowded parking lot, bumper to bumper shopping carts.  My friend and I waited twenty minutes in the checkout lane.  What a relief when we finally completed the checkout process. 

As another New Year, my 87th, peeks over the horizon, I realize I have often waited.  Waiting for many things on earth… in the land of instant coffee, traffic lights and instant electronic communication….I waited, often without patience.

My daughter, Anna, called my attention to this verse and I read with wonder! Isaiah 30:18 - Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.  For the Lord is a God of justice;  blessed are all those who wait for him.

I read the last sentence over several times.  For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.  And the first phrase…Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you. 

To wait - God gives us many opportunities to learn to wait in our lives.  I never thought about God having to wait.  Yet, there it is….
So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.  Isaiah 30:18

Our Lord God is waiting for us to come to Him – to choose Him.  How many years from the eating of the fruit from the tree of good and evil since Adam and Eve have there been?  How many generations has our Lord God waited for us to come to Him? 

In the fullness of time, Jehovah sent Jesus into the world as a tiny helpless babe.  He grew into manhood knowing his purpose. Jesus was tempted just as we are and yet He was found to be without sin.  He gave his life on the cross to give us the way to be without sin.  Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day.  Jesus had victory over death so that we can have victory over death.  All this so Jehovah can show us his love and compassion.  We have a direct path to come to God through Jesus Christ.   

The Holy Spirit lives within us when we give our hearts to Jesus.  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.  Romans 8:23.

The word Advent means to wait for the beginning.  Usually we think of the Advent at Christmas time.  There is another Advent that we wait for when we accept Jesus.  We begin to wait for the Second Coming of the Jesus the Lord to gather his children home.

As 2016, dawns, what will be your resolution for the New Year?  Mine resolution is to live expectantly - awaiting the Second Coming of Jesus.  When my Mom was my age now, she taught me how to live expectantly.  When she awoke in the morning, she asked God, “What do you have for me to do today?”  Open-ended living, listening to God’s voice.

When I opened a Christmas Letter today, I found this verse – Ephesians 3:20 for the year of 2016.  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

The Bible is filled with beautiful promises and reassuring verses.  It never grows old for me.  Answers and encouraging words abound.  They fill my heart with hope and joy for the next glorious day in the Lord.  His mercies are new every morning.  He is faithful and steadfast and unwavering.

† - The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.  Psalm 25:10
† - Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.  Psalm 36:5
† - I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done. I will trust in your good name in the presence of your faithful people.  Psalm 52:9
† - But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.  Psalm 86:15
† - Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters, and may God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you love with faithfulness.  Ephesian 6:23

Is there any doubt as to Who God is?  He is faithful.  He loves us all.  When we give our hearts to Him, He rejoices.  And then we begin our wait eagerly for the Second Advent….the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him.  Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.  Psalm 62:1,5

Each day, I give my heart to Jesus and listen to Him – This is my New Year commitment.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Presents Past

I’ve been in lots of Christmas programs. Growing up I would be in a school Christmas program, a church Christmas program and then the big family Christmas program.
          Everyone took part, from the youngest to the oldest by singing, playing an instrument or quoting a Bible verse or reading a poem. The grand finale was when Grandpa and Grandma would sing a Christmas hymn together in German as they remembered their Mennonite roots. Next we would read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and then end with family prayer with everyone praying, from the youngest to the oldest.
After that it was time to enjoy food and fun and if there were any gifts they would be opened but usually they would be something like a game for the whole family. We didn’t receive many individual gifts, because my family wanted us all to understand that Christmas was a time to celebrate and worship the Lord God for sending us His perfect Christmas gift, a Savior.
        Except my Dad’s sister found out that her nephews and little niece weren’t getting much for Christmas about the same the time she began selling Avon products. So when I was about 9 years old my Aunt Norma Jean sent a box of nicely wrapped presents. We set them under Mom’s Christmas tree and eagerly awaited Christmas Eve. The first year I have to admit I was a little bit excited.
        All during the family prayer time I kept wondering just what my gift would be. It was too small I decided to be a Frisbee but it could be a Super Ball or maybe Silly Putty or maybe a Super Slinky. Those were the cool gifts back then. And then my Mom caught me peeking. So I had to open my present last.
        My older brother delighted and taunted us all as he twirled around his nice smelling soap on a rope, like only big brothers can do. My younger brother got a set of bathtub playtime toys that he could use during his weekly Saturday night baths and my sister got some bubble bath and a little toy that when cranked, it made bubbles. I was expecting something at least as fun but was let down. The box said, “Gentleman’s Manicure Set”. I looked at the flat nail file and finger nail clippers and wondered what I’d do with those?
I was sorely disappointed and probably the only living thing more disappointed than me was that stray cat when I tried to clip its toenails. Mom insisted we write thank you cards and I wrote:
       Dear Aunt Norma Jean,
      Thank you for my Gentleman’s Manicure Set.
      I will think of you each time I trim my toenails.
      Your nephew Paul
       I must have said the right thing because Aunt Norma Jean sent presents again the next year. Just before the family Christmas Eve program I decided to impress my Mother with my theological ability. I said, Mom, I have a question about prayer.
        Her eyes lit up for a second as she said hesitantly, “Yes?”
        I asked Mom why if it was so important for me to keep my eyes closed while we were praying why she didn’t have to… She said I could open my present last again this year for my impertinence. I guess she wasn’t impressed.
        So I set and sulked as I watched my older brother open his gift. He got some cologne that came in a bottle shaped like a lion’s head. I perked up. Maybe…I thought, I’d at least get a soap on a rope. But my younger brother got the soap on a rope and it was in the shape of a football. My sister got some peppermint-flavored lip gloss.
        While my sister taste tested her lip gloss and my younger brother caught touchdown passes and my older brother roared and pretended he was a lion about ready to attack me, but with a nice odor, I opened my present from Aunt Norma Jean. It was a Gentleman’s Hair Care Set. I looked at the comb and brush and rubbed my closely cropped head of hair. I wondered just what was my aunt thinking? Does she think I’m a gentleman or is she trying to turn me into one?
       At age 10 combing my hair ranked on my list of priorities right next to getting up on time for school. In fact about the only time my hair ever got brushed was on Sunday mornings if Mom caught me running past the bathroom door. And then she would briskly brush my head with varying force, depending on how much I had aggravated her that week. That might be why I have such little hair now.
        For several years, I kept hoping for that illusive soap on a rope, but it never came. In fact, my brothers and even my sister received varying styles of soaps on a rope, but not me. I did however have a collection of aftershave and cologne in normal shaped bottles. And then my aunt stopped sending us gifts at Christmas time.
       Years later, while attending a little church, my wife signed us up for the Secret Shepherd program. We were to secretly give gifts to everyone in another family. My anonymous Secret Shepherd saw me heading for the church basement one night after the church’s Christmas program and threw a box at my head. As the nicely wrapped gift went sailing by me and landed with a thud I knew my gift had arrived. And it was too small to be a Frisbee. I took it home and opened it up in the quiet after everyone had gone to bed, but I was so excited I had to wake up my wife.
       “Look what I got!” I said barely able to contain myself.
       “What?” My sleepy wife asked. “Are you going to take a shower? Who gave it to you?” She asked with a yawn.
“My Secret Shepherd!” I answered as I twirled around my soap on the rope. My wife rolled her eyes and lay back down.
     But I was excited…for a few minutes. Finally! I got the present I’d been wanting for all those years. And although I really, really enjoyed at last getting my soap on a rope, I realized, my family had been right all along. God gave us the only perfect Gift, and the only One we’d ever need. And I am thankful for His greatest Christmas Gift of all:  The Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior.

† - “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  John 3:16-17
Guest Blogger - - Paul Michael Combs

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Identity Amnesia

Who am I?  In today’s world, we often wonder who we are.  We go through so many phases in life and in each phase we wonder who we are and why we are on this planet earth.  We carry an ID with us to prove who we are.  As we enter adulthood we are known by our social security card with a number, our tax code, our driver’s license, our address, our telephone number(s), plus our medical records.

As a young girl I grew up with loving parents and two siblings.  When I was a teen I wanted to get away from the rules Mom and Dad placed on me.  I don’t know what day it was when I realized that those very same rules were applied in college, in a job, in marriage.  And they were but a step-stone in learning to obey God…every moment of every day.

Sometimes the I Am’s of life are overwhelming.  And you wonder who am I, really? I am a daughter, I am a student, I am a wife and the next I am was eye-opening for me.  I am a mother.  The moment came shortly after yet another move.  Breakfast time, and as I turned to the table I saw three little boys watching me expectantly – their eyes wide open. Suddenly the responsibility of three little lives hit me with the truth – I am a mother.  Then I Am a teacher. 

Then my three little boys and a daughter grew up and I am a grandmother was a matter of rejoicing. Then came the wonder of great grandchildren.  When we received the diagnosis Dementia – for my life long husband, I added a new I Am.  I am a caregiver.  Suddenly the weight of caring for my husband became heavy, and I realized I could not do this alone.  The understanding of I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ became clear.  No longer did my motto, how hard could it be didn’t excite me.   

For years, my real identity eluded me, and now I know the joy of coming to life.  I find strength through depending on God to give me strength.  I am no longer trying to do everything on my own.  I depend on His leading, realizing I am in a ‘wilderness’ of life.

One decision I made when 8 years old created an identity that paints the ultimate of who I am...that forever changes the who I am.  So many years I lived invincible in doing.  The bravado, I can do it by myself, is no longer true.  Belonging to Jesus, truly aware of His leading in my life gives new levels of meaning to my life.

This journey is not a solo performance. Without family and friends’ support and prayers, caregiving would truly never happen.  All the caregivers have compassion and concern from the doctors to the CNA’s. 

Curious, I wondered about the Word – and the first scripture I find is this:  God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”  Exodus 3:14.

Moses had the authority of God behind him as he led the children Israel from slavery.  Jesus has authority to lead us from our slavery to sin to the freedom living in Him.  And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;  and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Matthew 3:16-17

Jesus has the authority from the Father God.  No other god can say that.

The ‘I ams’ from Jesus tell all we need to know about our lives in Jesus. Read and draw your own conclusions…
† - Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Matthew 11:29
† -Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  John 6:35
† - Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12
† - Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  John 14:6
† - And iI go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  John 14:3

† - This is the Jesus, the one and only son of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”  Mathew 22:32

When I consider who I am, I know one thing…and the one thing is that I agree with David, who writes in many Psalms that he is in trouble.  Then he rejoices in Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

In this day and age, I need certainty, I need some one I can fully depend on and trust.  The decision I made 78 years ago sustains me even more today.  God brought me to the realization of the real I Am of my life. The amnesia of identity is gone.

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”  Revelation 1:8

“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”  Revelation 22:7


Tuesday, December 08, 2015

O Holy Night

The Joy of Christmas is brought home to us when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the gift of Love our Lord God gave us.  There is no other gift as precious as the birth of Jesus, for it is the gift of Life itself for each of us.  The birth of Jesus is the Gift that leads us Home to Eternal Life.

Families gather to celebrate Christmas, for Christmas is a time for being home.  Marjorie Holmes once said, “At Christmas, all roads lead home.”  A family is tied together by blood. The Family of God is held together by love and the sacrificial blood shed for each of us by Jesus, Our Lord. 

When we hear a Christmas Carol at Christmas, we are led through musical melodies and harmonies to the foot of the cross…we are drawn home.  The Carol, O Holy Night, this year brought memories of the joy in praising God.  This year the lyrics zinged straight into my heart as I realized more deeply the Joy presented to us so long ago, in the form of tiny baby boy, born to Mary. 

The care in which God created a brilliant star that led the wise men, the chorus of angels who sang Peace on Earth announcing the birth to the shepherds in the field, God’s safe keeping of Jesus -  all tell of the preciousness of the One and Only Son of God.

The words of O Holy Night were written in 1847 by Placide Cappeau de Roguemaure. He realized that they needed a melody…Adolphe Charles Adams is the composer.  O Holy Night lyrics were translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight.

On that night, most holy, God’s will was accomplished when Jesus came to this earth directly from Heaven. 
†-Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. I John 5:1
 †-If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  John 12:47. 
†-Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

O holy night the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn.

†-Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem.  For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. Matthew 1:1-2.
†-No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father have made known to you.  John 15:15

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend.

†-A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35. 
†-Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. Psalm 30:4

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

†-And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:13-14,
†-Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:10

Fall on your knees, O hear the angels' voices
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night divine o night, O night divine.

May God bless you and yours this beautiful Christmas as you worship Christ Jesus.

If you have the ability to click on this website, you will hear the blessing of O Holy Night, sung with all praise and joy to our Lord Jesus….