Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What a Decade Brings - Y2K and Beyond

Five, four, three, two, one!

I remember it pretty clearly, I had the flu and there was the ball dropping to touch off the year 2000. Most of the world was waiting for computer system failures, airlines couldn't sell a ticket, Disney released the newest Fantasia while churches were saving water in barrels, food stuffs and buying generators. One prophet said "nothing would happen," and another said that "little would happen." Y2K came and went like any other New Year.

In my personal life, 2000 was a though one. My divorce was finalized, I got laid-off and started back to computer school. I packed everything I had left in a VW Bug and moved in at a friends home.

That same year: February 13th was the day that Peanuts creator Charles M. Schultz died - it was the second anniversary of my dad's death.

August 21st - Tiger Woods wins golf's PGA Championship to become the first golfer since 1953 to win 3 majors in a calendar year.

November 16th - Bill Clinton became the first U.S. President to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War.

December 13th - The long and highly contested election of G. W. Bush ends with Vice President Al Gore delivering his concession speech.

2001 brought my first date with Mary Anne in June, the 9/11 disaster, and my mother's death from cancer.

April 1st - Same-sex marriage becomes legal in the Netherlands, which is the first country to allow it.

May 25th - 32-year-old Erik Weihenmayer, of Boulder, Colorado, becomes the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

October 23rd - Apple releases the iPod.

2002 was the year of missions - I was in Londrina, BZ in January, Norway in May, and in Brasilia in September.

Jan 1st - Euro banknotes and coins become legal tender in twelve of the European Union's member states.

April 14th - Tiger Woods becomes the third golfer to win The Masters in two consecutive years

2003 was the year I married Mary Anne and the one in which Charlotte was born. We spent our 1st Christmas together in Hyannis.

March 12th - Elizabeth Smart, was found after having been missing for 9 months.

August 10th - The highest temperature ever recorded in the UK - 38.5°C (101.3°F) in Kent . It is the first time the UK has recorded a temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

October 19th - Mother Teresa is beatified by Pope John Paul II.

2004 was a year of ministry to the Brazilian community, new jobs and hope for lots of things.

June 24th - In New York, capital punishment is declared unconstitutional.

October 20th - Boston Red Sox come back from 0-3 to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 to win baseball's American League

2005 - Another new job for David and Mary Anne.

March 16th - Israel officially hands over Jericho to Palestinian control.

May 16th - Kuwait permits women's suffrage in a 35-23 National Assembly vote.

July 24th - Lance Armstrong retires after winning a record seventh consecutive Tour de France victory

2006 - We moved to Natick, MA. New jobs, new home, new church - new challenges.

February 22nd - At least six men stage Britain's biggest robbery ever, stealing £53m (about $92.5 million or 78€ million)

March 6th - South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds signs a bill into legislation that would ban most abortions in the state.

March 22nd - 3 Christian Peacemaker Teams Hostages; held in Baghdad for 118 days after the death of American, Tom Fox.

July 5th - North Korea launched two short-range Nodong-2 missiles.

December 18th - Fire & Grace goes online.

December 30th - Saddam Hussein is executed by hanging.

2007 - We settled in for a quiet life - well, except for another move to a bigger place.

Jan 9th - Apple Inc CEO, Steve Jobs announces the iPhone.

May 11th - Pope Benedict XVI canonizes the first Brazilian-born saint, Frei Galv√£o.

Aug 7th - Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants breaks baseball great Hank Aaron's record by hitting his 756th home run.

Oct 9th - The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes at an all-time high.

2008 - More of the quiet life.

Feb 24th - Fidel Castro retires as the President of Cuba after nearly fifty years.

Sepember 7th - The US Government takes control of the two largest largest mortgage financing companies in the US, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.Sep 7th - The US Government takes control of the two largest largest mortgage financing companies in the US, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

October 3rd - The $700 billion bailout bill for the US financial system is signed by President Bush.

2009 - I was laid off at work and found a new job in record time! Charlotte graduated from Little Folk Farm and was accepted into a Spanish immersion Kindergarten. Mary Anne had a cancer scare, and we took Dave Ramsey's advice to get out of debt.

January 15th - US Airways Flight 1549 makes an emergency landing into the Hudson River shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport in New York City. All passengers and crew members survive.

January 20th - Barack Obama, inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America, becomes the United States' first African-American president.

A lot has happened in 10 years. I was thinking how has God spoken to me during this decade. Here are a few things that I finally learned.

- I learned trust Him in desert, even if the cloud far off wasn't coming for 3 1/2 years.

- I learned the joy of a committed wife. Mary Anne is the best thing that ever happened to me since I first met Jesus!

- I learned that I am more peaceful near the beach.

- I am often reminded that I am the church, and if is not perfect, it's just me.

- I learned even if you lose just about all your earthly possessions, that the weakness which comes from that, God can use in amazing ways.

- I learned that having parents was better than not having them, regardless of what they did.

- I took me another daughter to better appreciate the two I already had because she caused me to remember their young lives.

- That we haven't had a president that I liked as much as Ronald Regan.

- Revivals come and go, but God is faithful regardless.

- Relationship is better than church.

- That we are another year closer to the end times, and the last trumpet.

- The church prefers religious folks that fit their molds than folks who are passionate for the Kingdom.

- Prayer still works, and people still fail.

Happy 2010

Monday, December 28, 2009

I Can't Take it Anymore!

Well, I've lost it. I tried so hard to fit the religious mold, I really did. I went to a church for all of 2009; tried to follow all the little programs, got a newcomers gift; mints and all, reached out, gave out business cards, called everyone that gave me a number and emailed everyone else I met. I attended a few small groups, volunteered for some stuff and stood by the coffee pot trying to catch a little conversation.

Religion is not working for me. Instead of lifting my spirit, it makes me sad.

I finally had to tell myself I am not of this world I call church. I am sorry, this can't be the gathering that I was warned against forsaking!

I must be doing something wrong. I might not be needy enough, old enough, short enough, clean enough, interesting enough or of the right lineage. I dunno. Maybe I am in denial, but my daughter's youth pastor thinks I am awesome. Too bad I am not 16, I could go to those meetings!

What am I going to do?

I am going to pray this prayer I wrote for a New Year's blog over at Kingdom Bloggers.

I did manage to have breakfast with a friend today. We try to go once a month - but I missed November and just about all of December - I have just had a hard time - I was at fault. We talked about software programming, music, and Jesus. He always has wonderful, yet simple revelations. I love that about him. I always feel refreshed because he is so "real" about what God is doing. Today we talked about the "same God, different denominations" theme.

I'm in this strange holding pattern. If I had finances and a prayer covering, I'd be doing mission trips and ministry trips all over the world. That's why I am praying this PRAYER.

Until then, I am going to do a little visiting, and see if I can find the real Jesus somewhere near by.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Boxing Day . . .

. . . Or Happy I Ate Too Much Yesterday Day; depending on where you are from.

The sizzle of Christmas is over for most of us. The heightened awareness of giving has subsided - there is still a bit of mess in the living room as daughter number 3 has tried to find her favorite Christmas toy - leaving some unfavorites in a pile. She slept with her new American Girl Doll, "Star" and has already put on her first concert for mom and dad.

Please hang on as I post a few random thoughts about Christmas and New Year's - eventually I'll make a point.

I had prime rib and pecan pie for breakfast - oh and Mary Anne shared her chocolates - a Christmas miracle.

The post office never delivered the Christmas gifts I bought online for the older girls. It wouldn't be a big deal, but I only got them one. The Post Office said they tried to deliver them on the 24th and left a notice - they lied. I filed a complaint. Can't wait for their health care to come online. How about you?

I was trying to remember what I did on this day last year. Turns out I wrote this Blog about the spiritual gifts. I was also working on a book that I had hoped to have published last Spring, but I lost my job and it is still unfinished.

Today is my brother's birthday - kinda stinks being so close to Christmas and all.

You'll also find a lot of predictions and sermons about 2010 this week. You probably can't remember what God was supposed to/going to do in '09. I can't either. So, I don't know if He did it. I haven't perished yet.

You may have a resolution for the New Year; something that you want to do bettering yourself or your family. I say go for it! Personally, I haven't had one that really went well. I tried to quit smoking a few times, but it took and act of God to make that one stick. HERE'S that story.

As I reflect on yesterday, here is what I am thinking. I got a cool present from Mary Anne - an iPod dock; some place for me to put my 91 days of music and videos. It was nice to wake up and spend some time with Mary Anne before the 6-year-old came bounding in shouting, "It's Christmas!" That is a joy that doesn't last long. How much fun it is to see my little one and her mom so enjoy a few gifts on Christmas morning. It brought a tear to my eye. They are a blessing.

Then there was the teenager; moody over a disappointing Christmas Eve with her mom. It isn't easy being a child of divorce. I did remind her how proud I was when she sang Silent Night in the school Christmas pageant all those years ago, the one in which she wore a gold sequined evening gown. It helped turn the corner on her sadness.

Today is Boxing Day or Tape Day or Ribbon Day - I was never sure where the name came from. It just sounds like something that you would do to clean up after Christmas. However; traditionally, it is a day to give to the poor. Did you?

Have you thought about the poor? Not just the poor in 3rd world nations like Brazil or Cambodia.

Today I am thinking about the poor in spirit. The ones that have not been able to get traction in their Christian walk because of a bunch of factors: some in the church, and some in the spiritual realms.

I am thinking about millions of believers that have been hurt, wounded and in some cases left for dead in our churches. I am thinking about the ones that have messed up and been judged by those around them - no second chance, no restoration. I am thinking of the ones that are hoping that someone will call, someone will care, someone will open their home for a visit or some other from of unselfish love.

Hmmm... I just received a real postal Christmas Card from someone in my online prayer group as I was writing this. I got one from a buddy who blogs with me over at Kingdom Bloggers the other day - family photo - man those guys are a handsome family. Neither of them have I met. Interestingly - no cards from anyone at church. I guess I'm more palatable online.

I just need one question answered, isn't there anyone that you know that needs you? Why don't you make that a resolution? Why not start today and get a head start? And then do it again to tomorrow and by New Year's you'll have something to celebrate.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009 - Reflections

Bah Humbug! This is the first Christmas Eve that I have had to work since I can remember. I am getting out at 1 pm, and looking forward to the day's activities - family, wrapping, eating and church - yes, in that order.

Today I am thinking about my family: My 6-year-old; her excitement this morning, my wife and her joy about visiting her family for another Christmas Eve, my 20-something at work showing off her new engagement ring while styling doll hair, and my 18-year-old who is in the midst of the difficult transition from teenager to adulthood.

Holidays can be tough sometimes. For me, for the most part, I can look back and find times of joy. The first Christmas I spent with Mary Anne. My little ones coming down the stairs to survey their gifts, quiet moments in a church service - ones like now where I remember when I was in the presence of Jesus, times with family and even those when I wasn't with them. There is a sadness as I miss my parents for another year.

I am thinking about a few friends that I have met online this year - Christians that I enjoy. I have thought about all those that I have reconnected with on Facebook; some from Kindergarten and before!

I am thinking about our service men and woman - in particular my nephew stationed on Iraq and an old classmate en route to Afghanistan.

Whatever feelings Christmas brings to you, I hope that you will find some that you can cherish; moments with our Savior, and those that He has given us to love.

To you, and yours, a very Merry Christmas. Go and adore Him.

I wrote a couple of other blogs about Christmas on Kingdom Bloggers and there is a archive of the Fire & Grace ones too - here are a couple of links.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Don't Return! Learn the Practice of Regifting

Well, it's going to happen and you know it - and it's just around the corner. You will receive something that you don't need, don't want, don't like or don't fit. It will happen. Like creamed corn at a food pantry, you'll be wanting to get rid of some gift this year.

I remember my sister getting an angora sweater from my dad for Christmas some years ago. It was so fluffy I think it "meowed." Her eyes shifted around the room looking for a place to land other then the anxious gift-givers. At the car in the driveway she held it up and said, "what the hell am I supposed to do with this?" It wasn't exactly the type of gift you give a hippie living in a tee-pee.

This is why gift cards are so popular - well until you get one marked $50 with $7.86 remaining on it. That'll kill your self esteem in a heartbeat. Actually if you are related to, or friends with, someone that would do that - it's likely that you already have self esteem issues. Maybe counseling, I don't know.

Regifting has an up side. There are only a few dozen iridized purple glass vases with molded raisins on them. They continue to circulate for years because they are easy to clean, no one has ever received one with a hang tag so it can't be returned, you haven't been able to buy them since 1976, and nobody wants them. If you think about it in terms of green, it's the way to go. If there were more of them we might be able to avoid Cap & Trade!

Regifting is certainly a way to save money - but I am suggesting a few rules. After all, you don't want to get caught!

-1 When you receive an ugly or useless gift, pretend to like it. It's good PR for unloading it later on. Because someone will agree with you that it's beautiful if you are in a room full of family and friends. They now become a prime candidate for the regifted item. "Well, you were so excited when I got mine!"

-2 If you can't be happy about it, be sure to pencil the givers initials on it, so that you don't mistakenly, and embarrassingly regift it to them next Christmas.

-3 Always put regifted items in a new box - mildewed tissue paper is a dead give way. The new box and shiny bow lessens the impact of the "ugliness quotient" on the recipient. They'll think it looks familiar for a few moments, but will chalk it up to too much eggnog the year before. New boxes are key!

-4 Regifting is not for used stuff, tag sales and Yankee Swaps are. See my blog on Yankee Swaps.

-5 To prepare your family for regifting - dulling the senses - removing the anticipation of getting a really thoughtful gift, you need to find something that can be given each year that is so ugly, it will become a family heirloom and tradition. It is a great way to bring new spouses and grandchildren into your clan. I suggest a vase with molded raisins or something similar. Each year it goes to someone new in the family. It is best distributed with the fanciest of boxes, ornate wrapping paper and lots of ribbon. Like selling furniture, you mark it up to mark it down.

-6 Don't bother regifting junk from the dollar store. Have you noticed, it all smells the same? Even if it looks like it's worth more than a dollar, don't do it. Just don't go there. And that goes for stuff on the clearance table at the supermarket, just leave it alone. One more quick tip, the stuff you can get a second one free on TV by calling now - don't bother. There is a reason the As Seen on TV stores all went out of business.

-7 Gifts from children under 12 MUST never be regifted. In fact they should be worn or displayed immediately. You get to throw them away while they are off at college.

-8 If the gift really stinks, and regifting is just not possible, I suppose, as a last resort you can return it. It is possible that everyone you know has a Clapper or Clapper Deluxe with a remote - or the gift; like gold jewelry, is worth much more in cash than as a gift, then it's OK to return it. But please do it quietly. I have a big mouth friend that can't wait to ask for the sales receipt before we've finished eating. Then get yourself something nice for Christmas. After all, it IS all about you.

-9 Never regift cash. ;o)

-10 And finally, there is hopefully one thing that although you can't regift it, you can package in such a way that someone else might even ask you for it. That's Jesus.

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fire and Grace Top 100

For over three years I have been writing Fire and Grace, and my readers have their favorites. Here are the top 100 most read blogs from the most popular to the least popular.

Role Of Holy Spirit - Power To Be a Son Or Daughter of God

The Cost Of Following Jesus - For What It's Worth

5 Fold Ministry - Prerequisites Part 1

Poor Or Poor- The Poor of the Bible

Demonic Curses, Oppression and Possession

Rhema! Hearing God Right Now!

5 Fold Ministry - Ephesians 4:11

When Prophetic People Do Stupid Things

My How You've Changed

Glory, Glory Hallelujah He Reigns

Facebook 10 - Commandments Dos And Don'ts

The Perfect Church - No Kidding You're It

Intimacy - A Really Personal Relationship

Nobel Peace Prize - What Is It Really?

Case Against Fundamentalism

The Prophet Part 6 Of 7

Closer Than a Brother - What Is a Friend?

Real Faith - Following Voice Of God

Sound Of Rain - Revelation And You

Parable Of the Water Buffalo - Kids And Cars

God Grant Me the Serenity - Some Things Change

Reaping What We Sow

Water Buffalo - Epilogue

Supernatural Happenings - Know It All

WTF 10 Questions For Social Networkers

Do You Really Need a Miracle?

Seeds Of Division - Unifying the Church

Most Annoying Phrases - Verbal Fatigue

Cancer Prayer Update

Who Is Jesus?

How Can You Tell God Exists? What Atheists Haven't Thought About

Reasons Why Being PC Is Anti-Christian

New Political Vehicle - WWJD

Prayer For Cancer

Power Of Resurrection In Your Life

Embracing the Desert - Understanding Dry Times

More Intellectual BS

Can You Believe It? You May Have Been Railroaded!

The Work Of Ministry - My Boss Is Jewish Carpenter

Some Pages Are Missing From My Bible

OK I'm Mad As Hell - Quagmire Of Stupidity

If God's In Charge, then What?

Grinches Who Came To Christmas - Skinny Santa

Not Sin Not God - Is It OK To Golf?

Top 10 Stupidest Things Christians Do Part 1

The Apostle Part 7 Of 7

Preach the Gospel At All Times and If Necessary Use Words

Til Death Do Us Part - Living Without Regret

Secret Santa and the Yankee Swap

Global Freezing - Record Lows

Top 10 Stupidest Things Christians Do Part 5

6 Foundations Of Spirit Filled Life

Do Not Be Squeezed - 9 Commandments

Handshakes, Baby Kisses, And Hemorrhoids

Operation Bass Pro Shops - Make a Splash

Jay Leno Hoax - Actual Message Worth Reading

30 Minutes Until

Everyone Gets To Play

Spiritual Gifts - Call Me Thomas

Why Jesus Anyway? Come On Does It Really Matter?

The Best Wife

Black BMW - God Cares About Cars

The Road Ahead - Have, You Thought About It?

Thomas' Resume - The Misconception Of Doubt

What If Dog Catches Car?

God Is Great Beer, Is Good and People are Crazy

Time Doesn't Heal Everything

I Should Be Committed and Maybe You Should Too!

Graduation - We May Never Pass This Way Again

Til Death Do Us Part - Learning From Your Wife

How Many Calls Do You Receive From. . .

Lesson In Christian-ese

How Christian Are You?

Living Water vs Dead Religion

Miracle Of Facebook - Relationship

Restoration - The Art Grace

Great Divide - Relationship and Anointing

You're Kidding, Right?

Silencing the Debate - Intellectual Elitism

The Grind - Back To Work

Overhaulin' When You Need Everything Fixed

Christianity, the Bottom Line

Chuch-i-anity Are You Kidding Me?

American Girl - Heritage And Blessing

Moving On - Follow Your Heart

Things That Make Me Chuckle

Why I'm Not For Federal Health Care

Church How Do We Fit Into God's Plan?

Report Cards Already? Performance Review

Misunderstanding the Gospel

Unemployment - The Bright Side

I'm Looking For Answers, Are You?

Freedom Of Choice - The Role Of Decision

Nickels And Noses

Gifts - A Great Time To Receive

Health Care Ethics And Community

Hearing God Part 1 Of 2

America About To Be Railroaded Again

Supernatural Happenings

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Grinches Who Came to Christmas - Skinny Santa

My friend Tony C blogged about Christmas this week. The comment thread turned into quite a discussion. Like teetotalers at a cocktail party, and dieters at a Thanksgiving feast, the church is again split on whether on not to celebrate Christmas - breaking rule #2! BTW - Can we have a skinny Santa? And where would we be without gifts and a tree?

Here are the top 5 reasons Christians hate Christmas:

- Pagan Roots
- Commercialism
- It's not the day that Christ was actually born.
- It's not a biblically sanctioned feast or celebration.
- Fertility symbols such as the Christmas tree and Santa Clause.
- And this one is for free - people who don't have faith in Jesus celebrate it making it worldly.

There you have it, 6 good reasons NOT to participate in any type of Christmas festivities. If you are a Christmas-ee and not a Christmas-or, you might feel a little empty perusing the above list.

Christians have been doing this seasonal madness for almost 2000 years. The celebration has taken on new traditions depending on the culture and the century. There were not many public church traditions until the 3rd century because Christians were heavily persecuted: burned at the stake or on metal chairs, fed to the lions, or jailed. If that is pure Christianity - the kind without tradition and celebration that you hope to go back to, then there are a lot of other things that you'll need to consider. The absence of a church building, hymnals, PA systems, printed Bibles, salaried pastors - you get the idea.

Every culture in the time of Jesus had celebrations including the Druids, the Romans, the Greeks and of course the Jews. They were timed based on the seasons and the cycles of the moon - well until astronomers got involved inventing the "year" based on the sun.

Just as the Jews asked for a King, Christians clamored for "Christian" celebrations. Like our modern worship services with electric guitars and special effects, these holy days were modeled after familiar secular and pagan celebrations of the period.

In the same way our evangelicals rail against Halloween by having a "Harvest Night," our spiritual forefathers had their own form of the local rituals with a scriptural twist.

The holy day of Christmas first appeared on December 25, in the city of Antioch, during the 2nd century. ( Antioch, at the time, was the most advanced Christian center in the world. They had a teaching school, and the church was founded by apostles and prophets. They were well known for their evangelism which was growing the church at a very fast pace. It is a church model we would do well to examine.

The church began to revere mighty men and woman of God calling them saints. They still do it today - Billy Graham, John Wimber, and whoever the latest Christian author with a moving message is. We even do books now - The Shack, The Screwtape Letters and Nooma videos. Oh, Billy Graham is probably the only one that will get a statue. Listen to any Evangelical sermon these days and you'll hear a name or two dropped as great Christians are still held in high esteem - even ones that have graduated to glory.

One of these saints named Nicholas, was born in 280 AD, in Patara, a city of Lycia, in Asia Minor. He became the gift giver of Myra. His gifts were given late at night, so that his identity would remain a secret (another lesson for Christians that need their names in the bulletin, on sanctuary walls and narthex plaques). The ruler of his time actually asked his subjects to worship Nick! His service to God was great, and he was canonized as a saint. You can see what's happened to make that tradition grow. Nicholas, with a humble gift for giving - that was his ministry - turned 21st century Christmas icon.

By the way, the same "sainting" has run a muck for St. Patrick who raised not one, but two of the king's children from the dead! The king's whole family was converted along with much of the pre-Irish kingdom. But who gives a rat's behind? Some fool will pray to him instead of the One who anointed him; missing their own opportunity raise someone from the dead. St. Valentine - same deal - he was a martyr who was imprisoned for his faith. He had been a friend to the orphan children and had a ministry feeding the poor. Those that loved him apparently wrote him love letters and tossed them through the bars on his prison cell. Valentine was a lover of God who gave his life for the work of the Kingdom. Only the foolish look to man, instead of the One who empowered him with the gospel message and heart for the poor.

That is how we got many of our "Christian" celebrations including All Hallows (saints) eve - Halloween. It's amazing how this tradition went from a holy celebration to the most demonic one of the bunch.

The sainting goes on. Pentecostals revering Smith Wigglesworth and Charismatics applauding the anointing and ministry of Kathryn Kuhlman and Benny Hinn. And the Baptist have theirs, Henry Blackabee and John McArtuhur - the 4 Square theirs; Jack Hayford. Over the centuries there have been many great men and woman of God. I am fan of Watchman Nee who stood against the wiles of the devil in communist China.

I am lover of Jesus, and the point is that you should be too.

My pet peeve in the Catholic church - Mary prayers. And my pet peeve in the evangelical church - Paul worship. Paul this, and Paul that... blah blah blah. Let me tell you Jesus was the one that said, "for God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten Son!"

You may dislike some of the Christmas traditions - I do too. What I find interesting, however; is that every denomination now has their own traditions. I could walk into any church meeting, and find something that has been made into a tradition or a religious act that has little or nothing to do with connecting to God. Just closing a prayer ins Jesus' name every time is religious!

Trees, lights, gifts - if they keep you from God, don't buy them. Just remember, they are not illegal in the Bible. Me, I kinda like them.

Tradition that preserves an avenue for God to advance the Kingdom is good! Anything else grieves the Holy Spirit. Beauty and generosity are often signs that God is afoot.

There are no specified Christian celebrations - everyday is a day for celebrating. You're right! And because we are no longer Jew nor Gentile in Christ, we should not celebrate Jewish holidays or be all legalistic about church Saturdays either. But from a mostly 9 commandment country, one that rarely takes a real sabbath, we should try to establish some dedicated time with the Lord. If you are working 7 days a week you are breaking a commandment - one of the 10 big ones.

Not celebrating Christmas - it's not one of the 10.

Church, a time is coming when the Antichrist will be here on earth ruling for a season. He will ask you; or your children; or your grandchildren to worship him. Christmas will no longer be a holiday - no longer will it be a point in which Christians have a season they can call their own. The mainstream church will have to go underground to survive. Like it was in time of Daniel, Christians will be persecuted and put to death for any act that defies the worship of the ruler.

And when it's gone - when the remembrance of your beloved Savior's birth is treated as a lie. Will that make you happy? Will you be blessed that you can no longer be public about your faith, or invite a friend to a Christmas service?

If you really hate Christmas - then look for a good Chinese restaurant on your Federal holiday. Chances are it won't last another decade here in America. Some of restaurants are attractively decorated, donning their perversions of Jolly Ol' St. Nick. I hope you won't find their Buddahs dressed in Santa coats offensive - that would probably not be a good time to share your faith in the Savior born to save a wretch like me.
Happy Day to those the think Christmas is a commercial sham. Merry Christ-Mass for those of you that find something deeply touching about a Savior born in Bethlehem; one the prophets of Israel predicted; Emmanuel - God with us; born of a virgin in a dirty little stable under a miraculous star - His Father messaging the shepherds with angels - a man - a God - one day every knee shall bow to Him. He is the one named Jesus. My God, my Savior, my eternal companion.
But you probably haven't really thought about that since last Christmas.
And one more thing - did you know that Christ hung on a tree?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'm Looking for Answers, Are You?

My readers are vigilant, often giving me kudos for going after the relationally insensitive, and calling out those that knowingly break the "rules." It makes me wonder, are we cheering on the under-dogs, or are we enjoying the prideful, yet well deserved smack upside the head from Mr. Fire and Grace? I was just thinkin'.

There is the constant battle against the rationalization that we are "not perfect" - which is true, and the notion of unobtainable legalistic perfection. Embracing the truth about grace, however; is not permission to act badly. It should be a sign that we need to constantly, as Paul said, "take our thoughts captive," and examine our behavior.

How many of us do you suppose actually do that; examine our behavior? Are we sitting here having some of these thoughts: "I am a poor employee because they don't really pay me that well." "I am a bad wife/husband, but my spouse is worse." "I am a rebellious child - it's just cool." Or I smoke too much, drink too much, indulge in illegal drugs; eat too much, or I look at pornography too much, all while saying, "Hey, nobody's perfect!" Then continuing on our merry way, while rationalizing our own behavior. Somewhow believing that we are more "good" than another person that we know who REALLY needs Jesus. "At least I don't do that!" "That," being whatever it is that makes you feel less sinful.

God is always after more from us. Think about the rich young ruler that kept the commandments (when a lot of us haven't), yet Jesus asked Him to sell everything that he had and follow him. (Luke 18:18-23)

Matthew 5:48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

To use a Sarah Palin lead in, "here's a little news flash," you're not good, and you can't be good enough for God. You'll be judged on what you did, not on what someone did or didn't do to/for you. In your own mind maybe you've elevated yourself above Hitler, Manson and a slew of politicians. You might even think you are close to Mother Theresa - and you may be - but even she needed a savior - and so do you and I.

Most folks find sin without major consequences attached, is hard to overcome. Repentance is a lot easier when you are upside down in a ditch, wondering if OnStar called for help, or when the cell door slams closed behind you.

The notion that we can just be who we are, and stay that way because of grace is wrong. That is the core of hypocrisy; believing that we can fail, and because of grace it doesn't matter. God is a holy God - it does matter.

Sure, there are big hypocrites like those that tried to cover up the Clergy Sex Scandals, the PTL Club and Ted Haggard. I honestly don't feel those are the biggest PR problems that the church is facing today. But I bet you know one that lives near by - one that says one thing and does another. Sure, they are everywhere - well, because no one is perfect.

James, however; encourages us to be doers of the word. More on that HERE - a blog I wrote for my friend Tony C Today.

Some days we are just too busy to think about eternity, and I fall into that category more often then I'd like to admit. The is why I like to read The Room, by Brian Moore. It's a very short essay that puts grace and sin into perspective while giving deep meaning into the word "salvation." I hope that you'll take a few more minutes to read it HERE.

The Bible says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, what will they see from you today?

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I Thought PC Was Being Polite, Not Stupid!

Well, score one for the Taunton, MA Pubic School System. Today they suspended a 2nd grader for drawing a "violent" stick figure of Jesus on the cross. (left) Top that off with sending him to the shrink before allowing him to come back to school. (Article)

Around these parts, the Catholic church is the most well attended church denomination in New England. There are crucifixes everywhere! That's why the little sign over Jesus on the crucifix says "IN RI." Not really... it says "Jesus Christ King of the Jews in 3 languages.

When I was in Norway, we heard that Sweden had enacted a law which basically said any "Born Again Christians" had mental problems and were to be treated as such. We were on a team with some guys that had been put away because they "heard from God!" Now I understand that most churches don't want to hear from God, but this was pathetic.

I was reading the comments on the article, and they range from "fire the incompetent idiots" to, "why would a public school teacher ask kids to do a Christmas assignment?" I am shaking my head.

A the end of the age, Christians will be persecuted around the world. It will not be supposed private comments by left-wing politicians like, "Christians cling to the guns and religion." The question then will not be "Are you willing to stand up for your faith?" but "Are you willing to die for it?"

And for the record - I don't buy the pre-tribulation rapture theology. I think we're going to be here for the tribulation. And like the real body of Christ, the body of Christ will suffer. But this blog isn't about your tribulation theology, I am just wondering if you are willing to die for your faith?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Kids Will Be Kids - You Get What You Pay For

Today I am having a hard time not going to a few churches and turning over a some tables! For years I have attended church with my family in the hope of us growing closer to Jesus and His people. In the process of "not forsaking the gathering of believers," I have watched my family get hurt by shallow religious folks; who were for the most part, clueless.

Today, I am mad about it.

The lesson our kids have learned is this: If you are normal enough to fit our religious paradigm, we'll be your friend; otherwise, we can't be bothered with you.

1 Corinthians 4:15 (Amplified Bible)15 After all, though you should have ten thousand teachers (guides to direct you) in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers.

It is stunning to me how often "church" abandons kids to loneliness by buying into the lie that "kids will be kids;" teaching it like truth. The problem with that philosophy is that kids will become immature adults who can't take care of their own kids. It is a generational curse that must be broken.

What kids need is adults! They need spiritual mothers and fathers as well as parents.

Kids need more than supervision, they need parental love, and a church that values them - not as having a junior Holy Spirit, but as kids that have THE Holy Spirit.

With approximately 50% of our youngsters abandoning Christianity for some other form of philosophy, their parents with a divorce rates hovering around 50%, teenage drug use, suicide and promiscuity on the rise, can parents and churches tell themselves it is just "kids being kids?"


In order to give kids value, we need to not only train them in the word, but we need to model it (read that SHOW THEM UNTIL THEY GET IT) - that includes loving the unlovable.

And parents, do you really think that your kids are equipped to be adults at age 18? Consider this verse:

Ephesians 5:31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.

You might want to think about being an involved parent until your child is mature and marries. I'm just sayin'.

Maybe you have you looked at a kid in church (or anywhere) and decided they are a "bad apple" or nothing but trouble. Then you are the problem.

Have you seen kids at risk, and avoided them? Then you are the problem.

Have you said to yourself, that one is going to get pregnant, or that one is into drugs? When you decide who is going to "make it," and who is not, that is called judgement; which is sin.

We can't impact everyone at church, but we should be impacting someone at church. Take a look around this Sunday and see who needs a friend, who needs someone to talk to, who needs someone to model a two-parent family - then invite them over, and get involved.

And no, I am not exonerating bad parents from their part in this - but if a kid is at your church, they are YOUR family. If you have bad parents in your church, it just might be your job to step in and help out.

Have you thought about what it means to lay down your life? I'm just askin'.

Galatians 2:6 (NIV) As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance.

Do I seem a little upset today? You bet I am. When I see another young life derailed simply because "church" was too busy to notice or care, it makes me angry. How about you, do you care?

Luke 6:32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

America; about to be Railroaded Again! - Weigh In, Don't Check Out

Today's blog is for Americans. I don't know if you've been watching, but the debate of health care reform is at a boil. I don't care which side of the debate you are on, we NEED health care reform. It needs to be affordable, cover all Americans, and most of all be fair to taxpayers!

I don't want to pay anymore than I am already paying in taxes. How about you?

The current bill in the senate is not any of those things: it is not fair, it doesn't cover all Americans, and it is not affordable - nor does it lower costs. The Senate is pushing around the numbers, somehow hoping that we'll not be aware of the details and they can pass it in the middle of the night. This is not a rant, but a serious discussion on what is about to happen to you; well, if you live in America.

A true democracy requires the input of the people in it. How do I nicely say, "get off you butt and participate -- in Jesus' name!" You need to be praying, listening, discerning and most of all voting - and when you can't, sending emails, faxes and letters. I know, I have said this before.

Here is why you need to weigh in, instead of checking out. As I have previously written, Massachusetts legally (but in a sleezy way) appointed a successor to Democrat Ted Kennedy. That you had no control over - we didn't get to vote here either. Why it matters is that he is the 60th vote in the senate for health care, thus giving the Democrats a majority that cannot be beaten. I am not against Democrats, but I am against being railroaded by folks that could care less about me and you.

The only reason that we need to win, is that we are jamming through a bill that is flawed, it is not understood by many, and costly. Worse, we will be taxed for 4 years before it ever covers anyone new! Would it not be better to take a year or two and get it right? Then we could start it immediately. I don't know about you, but that seems to make sense to me.

What can you do? In Massachusetts we will elect a new Senator to represent you in January! Every Senator regardless of the state in which they come from, represents all Americans. There are 100 of them, and their majority vote is equal to that of the President, or the House of Representatives. One vote in this case can mean the difference between thoughtful debate and sane solutions, as opposed to power-grabbing legislation that is unfair and costly to all Americans.

How can you help? By encouraging folks that can vote in MA, to vote. And writing your senators about your feeling on health care, taxes, Cape and Trade and anything else that matters to you, your family and future generations.

The unfortunate truth is that many of the power grabbers in the "bluest state" run unopposed. Unseating Ted Kennedy was impossible for over 25 years! There is a chance now that Martha Coakley will be opposed by Scott Brown.

Even if you don't care about politics, you might be interested in her stances on social issues that matter to Christians.

Lastly, based on the primaries we had a few weeks ago, millions of voters in MA did not vote. Losing the fight is one thing, but forfeiting one is unacceptable.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Heart Sick

Today, for my coffee break I decided to click through the NEXT BLOG link on the Blogspot interface - yup, it's right up there. I believe that it is intended to join random blogs by topic. I have actually found some good blogs that way - you can see a list of some of them down yonder on the lower right.

I have also found a lot blogs that didn't really catch my attention - denominational clones and religious blather that, well, I am tired of hearing. I also saw a lot of judgement and defenses for liberal (read that non-biblical Christianity). Personally, I want to hear something fresh! I am looking for some rhema, or at least some satire that gets me from one end of my coffee break to the next.

Over the years I have come across lots of sites and blogs that pound Christians into the ground - some deserve it. Today I came across a blog site which posts mug shots of clergy, pastors, youth pastors, choir leaders and Sunday school teachers that have been arrested; mostly for sexual offenses. Some were from the To Catch a Predator TV series with Chris Hanson.

I have to say it made me sick. Here are the very folks that are supposed to be offering eternal hope, and yet they are too sick to function as ambassadors of Christ.
Yes, I know, we are all sinners. Hopefully we are saved by grace, and are in a church where we grow, confess our sins on to another, and be healed.

It made me think of the calling of Levi (Matthew) where the religious folks, who in this case, are also not right with God, point out that Jesus is eating with sinners.

Mark 2:15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

It makes simply ask the question following questions: What are we doing as a church? How do these people get in leadership (not to mention BTK!) and stay there until they fail?

What are we, the church, going to do about it? I'd like to know your thoughts.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Does it Cost? - The Real Story

Today my friend's child asked for a ride to school, and in jest, he replied, "why do we have kids?" His daughter fired back, "I didn't ask to be born?" Her dad, not to be out done, said, "Well, if you had asked, the answer would have been 'No!'"

I have always wondered what God was thinking was when he "cursed the day he was born." (Job 3) What I do know is that when children sin, God's gives them over to the penalty of sin. (Job 8:4)

I also heard another tale. It was about a man that had made a deposit of $10,000 at a local bank. One day he came to make a withdrawal and the banker seemed a very surprised. "I'm sorry, but I have to confess," said the banker "I didn't think you'd be back for it so soon, and I spent your money on a new bass boat."

Of course, if this had happened to you, you would be upset. Very upset. Even if it happened to someone that you loved, you might feel a sense of righteous anger.

But what if the banker was you? (Malachi 3:6-11)

That fact that we have been Born Again changes our citizenship from this world; to the one of Heaven, it changes our ability to come before God and hopefully it changes our hearts.

The real story is that we are adopted into the Kingdom of God and become His children. We stand in awe of our great King, and yet, we can call him Abba (Aramaic for Daddy).

And as children of God, each one of us is given gifting to carry out His will in our lives, and in the lives of those around us.

I like analogous stories, but I like the parables of Jesus even more. HERE is a good one. (Matthew 25:14-30) If you are a Christian, it's all about where you are right now, and where God wants to take you. God has entrusted us with gifting - how will we spend it?

Maybe you have asked God, "Why was I born?" It is a good question. God, however, might answer it this way. "Because I love you, I want you to be born again, just ask Me. My grace, it's free."

Again, you might ask why? His answers: "Because I have plans for you."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Secret Santa and the Yankee Swap

I love Christmas time. Unfortunately, I am usually too busy to enjoy the season. I seem to parachute in a day or two before, and poof, it's gone like a rabbit in a Doug Henning magic act. There's just not enough time from Halloween to Christmas. And besides, our house still smells like pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving for cryin' out loud.

In spite of all that I need to do, I have been trying to be more purposeful in getting in the Christmas spirit. I started playing holiday music on Black Friday, but I have to admit, I switch it over to news radio every time I hear Madonna. It's like oil and water, Madonna and Christmas. I like traditional hymns like We Three Kings, even though they were not there when the real Jesus was born. It took me 30 years to discover the real words did not include "smoking on a rubber cigar." Next time I see my brother, I'm going to punch him in the nose for teaching me that. You have no idea how mad the blue-rinse widow was at midnight mass.

I am not PC - and I say "Merry Christmas" unless you have a "Bah Humbug" button - actually that doesn't stop me either. I guess if I was certain that someone was an atheist, I might say "Happy April Fools Day" - nah, I am more polite than that. If I know that someone is Jewish, then I say "enjoy your holidays" because I still don't know if it's Chan-UH-kah or Hah-NI-KAH. I wish that Adam Sandler's number wasn't unlisted - I am sure he knows. And what the heck - 8 days, that is very cool. It's easier to hit the target! I wonder why Christians didn't choose Chanukah - Hanukkah - whatever it is - for their own? We could have had a over week off!

We already have snow here in Boston - and black-ice and major car accidents. Winter is here, and that makes me want to stay in and watch Home Alone I or II, The Santa Clause with Tim Allen, the original Grinch Who Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas or Jingle All the Way with the Governator. I even like DOA with Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan.

Holiday food is good: eggnog, shrimp, hot chocolate and ribbon candy - they are all my favorites. Diets are out the window - it's a time for a celebration! And regifting the fruit bread, don't forget that.

I don't get involved in all the hoopla over Christmas trees and Menorahs on public property. The only true symbol of Christmas is the creche. I think every church should put one up for the season. And I like Christmas lights - the more the merrier.

I even like shopping - just no money in the budget this year thanks to Dave Ramsey and President Obama.

And yes, I know that Christmas is just a made up Christian tradition - so are church buildings! Oh, and the fact that it falls on a pagan holiday. The pagans can go to h--l, I am celebrating Christmas on the 25th - besides it's a Federal Holiday - and so far the government has not completely ruined it. Hey - If you don't want to join me, most Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas day - you can have yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Two Christmas traditions I do like are the Yankee Swap and Secret Santa. If you haven't done a Yankee swap, let me start by saying they are better than yard sales! You wrap up some junk you don't want, don't need, and wouldn't wish on your best friend, and then take your chances on giving it away. One guy I know wrapped up a broken lamp and another gave away an entire Laurance Welk CD collection.

Most folks set a dollar limit, and get a gag gift such as a miniature velvet Elvis or Bon Jovi CD. Each person attending chooses a number from one to the amount of folks at the swap. These are most often slips of paper in a basket. And no, this can't be the host's present. It has to be wrapped. It's Christmas, right?

Play starts with number one, who chooses from any present in the room, and opens it. Number 2 chooses an unopened gift, unwraps it and then decides to "keep it," or "swap it" for any opened gift in the room. Number 3 chooses an unwrapped gift and does the same, going through the numbers until all gifts are opened. At then end, Number one gets to swap or keep the gift they have. The official rules are HERE.

Just remember, it is not fair to buy a great gift for $10, when some slug brings a Deep Purple 8-Trac tape.

The Yankee Swap is good for a few laughs, and a good lesson for covetous Christians. If you hold on to a good gift, it usually gets confiscated in the swapping; circulating from one person to the next. If you get a bad gift that no one wants, you'll get to take it home. And number 1 gets to play God, choosing last, once all the gifts are opened. Now that's a real Christian dilemma.

As much fun as a Yankee Swap is, I like Secret Santa. You get to purchase a gift for someone, and they don't know who is buying it. It's a chance to be thoughtful and anonymous. Everyone that participates puts their name in a hat, and then everyone draws one name - this is the person that you'll buy a gift for. This is also a good exercise for Christians. Official Secret Santa tips HERE.

But there is a twist to the Secret Santa game. It's really the same game, but you don't put your name in, you simply choose someone in need, a co-worker that needs to know God, a poor family at church, a foster child, the child of a man or woman in prison - if you need more ideas, just Google "abandon children," "loneliness" or "Christian charities."

I like Angel Tree and Toys for Tots.

The only rules are that you remain anonymous, and give generously. It's pretty easy. And that's what I love about the Christmas season.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Supernatural Power - Evidence that Demands a Verdict

Last month I posted a survey on the blog - maybe you took it. I asked my readers what their basic belief or religion was. Here is how things tallied up.

I am a Christian. (69%)
I am an Atheist. (19%)
I just believe in God. (11%)
I am Other/Jewish/Muslim. (0%)

I also asked the same folks what their particular religion or belief encompassed.
I believe in a supernatural God. (76%)
I believe in spiritual gifts. (63%)
I believe that prayer works. (63%)
I believe in the paranormal. (30%)
I believe in don't believe in the supernatural. (10%)

It is not a very scientific poll, but it does reveal a few things. Here are a few conclusions.

19% of the respondents are atheists. I guess I am doing OK for a Christian guy - even non-believers are reading - or at least taking the poll. Our churches should be so lucky as to have 1 in 5 who need to hear the gospel.

80% responded saying that they believe in God or god. 76% see him as a supernatural entity. Hmm... 4% believe in a God that is what? A confusing statistic for me. Possibly they don't believe in God, just in prayer. That said, who is listening?

19% who were atheists, only left me with 10% who do not believe in the supernatural. Are we saying that 9% don't believe in God, but believe in prayer or some other supernatural manifestations? I am thinking, if you have enough faith to believe in the supernatural, why not make it God? I'm just thinking out loud.

11% of the poll-takers just believe in god. That is an encouraging sign. I am assuming that some have had a religious upbringing that wasn't all that pleasant or valuable, yet they've seen a need for help from a power greater than themselves. It's a good start - keep on going.

And lastly, I am assuming that all the Christians believe in a supernatural God; the numbers bear this out. Another encouraging sign is that almost all of them believe in the spiritual gifts and that prayer works. Wow, that is not the norm. What I find confusing is that Christians believe that prayer works, but they don't believe that the paranormal is a valid supernatural expression. Apparently no demons have showed up at one of their services.

In more scientific polls than this one, about 1/3 of all atheists believe in prayer. About 32% of Christians read horoscope and 12% rely on non-Christian (psychic) means for obtaining spiritual insight for their lives.

Barna reports that although over 80% of Americans believe in God, 66% consider themselves "casual Christians" - that is they don't use the Bible as a means for making moral decisions, instead they use thought and/or feelings.

I happen think that the real problem is churches that don't teach a simple gospel, and are not relative in peoples lives.

Church, if we are going to influence others, we need need to provide beliefs that are based in truth and in the power of God to back them up. Christianity without a living Jesus, is simply another philosophy. If atheists want to believe in the power of prayer - and many do, then it should be a short walk for them to Jesus. It is unfortunate that many who were raised in the church; and only got religion; not a relationship with Jesus, now consider themselves atheists.

It is something 100% of all Christians need to do something about. Amen?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Best Wife

The sweet summer air drifted by like a butterfly on swaying milkweeds. By night the lakeside; gentle waves lapping the sandy beach, glistening ripples transforming the stillness - as a stray headlight lit her hair and gentle smile. We sat like royalty overlooking our future -

She laughed when I poked her in the side.

The warm cascade of endorphins swirled about the cogs of logic - from surreal to real and back again, the hours passed. There we were atop the lifeguard chair, holding hands, talking, and gazing at heavens.

Mary Anne is the best thing that ever happened to me. Sure, meeting Jesus and all that religious stuff is eternal. Me, I still have to live here on earth, amuse my 6-year-old, manage teenagers, commute to work, pay bills, go to the dentist and grow old. I don't know about you, but that is a lot of work. And if you have to work that hard at life, it's nice to spend it with someone that recharges your batteries!

Have you ever noticed that when you buy a new car, it seems like everyone is driving the same model? I thought I was unique when I bought my VW Bug - but all of a sudden they were everywhere. I went to the mall one day, and I parked in a row of 5.

It's not like that with Mary Anne; there is no one like her! She meets an endless list of needs in my life, and leaves a few so I don't get spoiled. From her gentle hugs to my morning breakfast sandwich, she does it all. And then there's the morning coffee in bed as we lay in wait for the newscasters to make a mistake - a twisted tongue, a heavy Boston accent - they'll never live them down!

Our room, a sanctuary from three dogs, two young adults, Dora the Explorer and MTV, is filled with photos of us, a framed bulletin from our wedding and some mementos of our 8+ years together. We have three windows, each one with a view of an old maple tree. In the Fall, one turns yellow, one orange and one red.

My mahogany dresser has watches, a retro radio/CD player and some other guy stuff - err, I mean clutter. Hers has perfume, a pair of antique giraffes, and a statue of Jesus. The TV armoire is pedestal to one her favorites, a pair of ceramic figurines: The Tortoise and the Hair. She often references them during discussions.

Mary Anne is very thoughtful, and she added a new one, it is a lifeguard chair lamp. I may find myself referring to that, that next time we talk.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Top 10 Stupidest Things Christians Do - Part 10

-10 Lack of Deep Relationship - I think of all the stupid things Christians commonly do, the fact that so many do not understand what it means to be a church family, a brother or sister in the Lord, or a godly friend tops the list.

John 15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Somehow this scripture from John (above) has been Americanized to mean "be nice to each other." Sure, some will take it deeper and pray for others, and some will even serve each other by bringing a meal or visiting someone in the hospital. The deeper the better - but I don't go to church to be "niced" to death!

I think the basic problem is that we love as we have been loved, not as Jesus has loved us.

The true test of a loving and deep relationship, however; is not good feelings, personal satisfaction and a plaque for expressing love using one of the 5 Love Languages. A deep relationship creates an atmosphere of trust, accountability and camaraderie. It is sacrificial - an intimate expression of God's lovingkindness, mercy and grace; facilitating the sharing of burdens, confession of sin and prayer for one another.

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

Christian "fellowship" as it is often called, tends to be focused on Sunday services, Bible studies, chit-chat at the coffee pot and other small group activities. Fellowship focuses on religious activities, occasionally on Jesus, and rarely the building of healthy relationships. IE: Getting to know one another.

What would it be like if every Christian, instead of hoping that their sins remained private, had someone that they could trust to share them with?

I confess, I have never been to a church that taught true relationship. They threw a few books at it - temperaments such as DISC or the Greek Model, The 5 Love Languages (for married couples) and a few sermons on love - often aimed at married folks. Others have focused on personal healing - using books like the Boundaries series, 12 Steps for Christians and Search for Significance.

Many men's groups used Wild at Heart, are touting leftovers from Promise Keepers and other materials pertaining to the differences between men and woman. All of these are EXCELLENT resources. They are helpful in understanding yourself and others, which; results in better quality relationships. Some, however; are aimed at fixing the old man, the very same one that must die so that the new man in Christ can be released!

There are practical things you can do to facilitate relationship, those are listed HERE.

If we are first going to develop real relationship, then we need to know what God expects of us in those relationships. As previously stated, just telling folks to love another, doesn't seem to be doing the trick!

The following is a list of Bible versus using the Greek word ALLELOUS; often translated as one another along with a few of others that imply one another. As doers of the word, I am sure you'll find them handy.

Leviticus 19:11 "'Do not steal. "'Do not lie. "'Do not deceive one another.

John 13:14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.

John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.

Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Romans 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 5:19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

James 4:11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

1 Peter 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Peter 5:5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another , because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1 John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

James 5:9 Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving each other as brothers.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

1 Thessalonians 5:13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.

1 Thessalonians 3:12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Philippians 4:2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Galatians 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Galatians 6:2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Corinthians 12:25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

Galatians 5:15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

1 Corinthians 11:33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other.

Romans 1:12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.

Ephesians 4:16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Philippians 2:3-5 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Top 10 Stupidest Things Christians Do - Part 9

-9 The Influence of Witchcraft In the Church - What? The church does not engage in witchcraft! Well, some Christians do.

Human beings are designed to engage the supernatural realms. Some of it's just not God! Even 33% of atheists believe in the paranormal and prayer.

Martin Luther taught that witchcraft was a sin because the 2nd commandment says, "you shall have no other God before me." With that in mind, and before we look at the scriptures, here is brief list of practices and topics that I found in the Google search "christian witchcraft."

- Divination, Fortune Telling, Horoscopes, Tarot Cards, Psychics and Ouija Boards

- Fantasy characters such as Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Disney, Santa and the Easter Bunny

- Holidays that take place on pagan holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Valentines Day

- White and Black Witchcraft, Wicca and Liberal Christians only casting loving spells (I really found that!)

- Satanism

- Repetitive prayers and mantras

- Positive Thinking - you thinking good thoughts, random acts of kindness.

- Study of the temperaments and other psychological practices

- Eastern Religions and their practices

- Santeria, Skull Worship, cannibalism, shrunken heads and various Indian traditions

The Bible definitively condemns the practice of witchcraft. Deuteronomy 18:10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD.

Exodus 22:18 Do not allow a sorceress to live. Some who practiced near-east religions acted as "mediums", channeling messages from the dead or from a "familiar spirit". This would include things like ghosts, seances, demons inhabiting homes, and other tangible items such as crystals and dream catchers.

Saul rightly consulted prophets (supernatural hearing from God) as king of Israel and sinned when he consulted the witch Endor (supernatural hearing from the demonic) 1 Samuel 28.

The difference is the source!

The church (Catholic, Pentecostal, Charismatic and some independent denominations) maintain their own supernatural arsenal sometimes called charism (plural: charismata). The word comes from the Greek, charis - grace. It's a reflection of God's grace and power. These are described in 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14, Ephesians 4 and Romans 12.

The gifts of the spirit are from God, however; they can be duplicated by demons. I once ministered in a church full of false tongues. I have also ministered in hundreds of churches with the real deal. These are the type of spiritual phenomena that Paul said need to be spiritually discerned. The same is true of prophecy, healing and other types of miracles. If you don't know God, it is doubtful you'll recognize His handy work.

As we contrast the above list to the second commandment and the verse from Deuteronomy , we can easily weed out a number of practices.

Off the list are all types of spells, divination, psychic readings horoscopes and the like. We'll call that the occult. Also off the list are non-Christian religions - eastern, western, Indian, New Age, and Wicca. HERE is a related blog by Tony C Today.

That leaves us with holidays, fantasy characters, and psychological practice. Regarding psychology, there is some very good stuff out there, but use your discernment. Good psychology simply observes healthy godly behavior. I'd stay away from Jung, Freud, and some of the pop stuff. Remember, we can't make this stuff our god or we risk sinning against Him.

I am going to state my opinion when it comes to stuff like Harry Potter. If it looks like sin (witchcraft), it is likely to cause sin.

I am big fan of the imagination, and therefore artistic and creative writing is on the good list. God gives talents and creative thoughts. Like everything else, we must keep the truth in perspective, and enjoy that which is created by artists. Certainly I am not talking about profane images, and other types of art that will cause us to sin.

With such a tremendous saturation of video games, entertainment, movies, online activities and a barrage of other media that runs 24/7, we need to find ways to keep our Christian life in balance. A steady diet of non-Christian books, music, media and games, is not going to develop godly character!

When it comes to holidays - as Christians we must careful of the appearance of evil. If it looks like we are sinning, or we are doing things that cause others to sin, we're in trouble. The Christian calendar has been primarily established by the Roman Catholic church. Holidays were meant to "compete" with secular celebrations. It is not what I would have done personally, however; tradition is not harmful unless it keeps us from God.

There is a realm between sin and holiness that I like to call Not Sin, Not God - Read About It HERE. It is possible to know which activities that are not strictly forbidden by scripture, are permissible.

Paul said this:
Romans 14:20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Enjoy that which is legal, refrain that which is not, and keep your mouth shut about what is neither.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Top 10 Stupidest Things Christians Do - Part 8

-8 Settling for Less - Mediocrity in the church is a foothold for Satan. As church members are lulled into lifeless religious pursuits, believers grow lukewarm in their relationships, commitments and passion.

Revelation 14"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

We have all heard this verse. Most church hoppers use it at least once to describe the church they are leaving for another church.

The question is this: is being lukewarm the fault of the believer, or the fault of the church?

I believe the answer is both. When individuals are not passionate about the Jesus, about the mission of the church, then, for lack of a better word, they get bored like teenagers on MySpace. When you have enough of these folks, then it becomes widespread in the church.

If we look over the letters to the churches in Revelation, we find the following faults and encouragements:

Ephesus Revelation 2:1-7
-Left their first love

Smyrna Revelation 2:8-11
-Be faithful, even to the point of death.

Pergamos Revelation 2:12-17
-Hold the doctrine of Balaam (Balaam's heart was perverse and he spoke for gain, abuse of grace)
-Hold the doctrine of Nicolaitions (A spiritually smug hierarchy, a ruling class in the church, abuse of power)

Thyatira Revelation 2:18-28
-Allowed Jezebel to seduce God servants to commit fornication and eat things offered to idols. (She was a Phoenician queen that turned Ahab's people from Yahweh to Baal.)

Sardis Revelation 3:1-6
-Have a name that you live but are dead. There deeds were not complete.

Philadelphia Revelation 3:7-13
-You have kept my command to endure patiently.

Laodiceans Revelation 3:14-30
-Think you are rich and increased with good, but are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.

I believe that there are two teachings that can help turn these church "faults" around; neither of which I have ever heard preached on 30 years! I believe the manicured American church suffers from some of the failures listed above. The following two spiritual principals embody the encouragements to the churches at Philadelphia and Smyrna.

-1 Excellence - This is the spiritual principal of running the race in such a way that we push ourselves for a better time each lap.

Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This is a verse that can be casually dismissed by saying to ourselves and to others, "No one is perfect, so why bother trying?" Yet, it embodies the very essence of the new man in Christ.

The pursuit of perfection is called excellence. As Christians we don't get to say, "That is good enough for me." We need to ask ourselves if it is good enough for God?

-2 Commitment - The principal of adhering to a godly vision regardless of the personal cost. Commitment is the determination to finish the race in spite of all hurdles, obstacles and conditions.

Matthew 5:37 Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

This is another verse that can be causally dismissed and yet it is very powerful when we think about how many of us, can run our lives apart from committing to God, the church, and His people.

Paul reiterated the message.

2 Corinthians 1:16 I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, "Yes, yes" and "No, no"? 18 But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No."

And finally, mediocrity is sin. Without godly repentance, and a spiritual commitment to life building activities, we are just going to end up in the same place.

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

I have come to believe that if a person will seek God's face in repentance, they will be in a personal revival. If a church does this, they will be in revival, and if a country does this, they to, will be in revival. No matter what the church global does, their action is the result of the individual decisions that are part of that entity.

We need revival, are you willing to repent, to work for excellence, and commit to the process?
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