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Waiting for Christmas

emmanuel

What is the longest time you had to wait for something?  We wait a matter of minutes for food at a restaurant and it feels like a long time.  We wait 5 years to start kindergarten classes at school.  We wait 20 to 30 years to find a spouse.  As a people, we do not wait well, no matter how great the reward may be.

The Advent of Christ is also a story of waiting.  The time between the Old and New Testaments total 400 years.  This time span moves from Nehemiah to the birth of Jesus Christ.  These years are known as the intertestamental period, but they are often called the “silent” years.  A time when people were waiting to hear something from God.

The New Testament gospels give us more than a whisper.  They announce the long-awaited birth of the Messiah, the Desire of nations, the Son of David, the Prince of Peace.  Jesus arrives as our Emmanuel.  Jesus arrives as our Redeemer, Savior, and King.  The most precious gift we could receive.

His birth shows the faithful promise of God to provide salvation.  His birth allows God and sinners to be reconciled.  His birth brings light and life to a world that has only known darkness and death. Jesus was born that mankind may have life, a second birth, a home beyond this world.

We celebrate the Advent of Christ on earth.  We celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the deliverance that it brings.

Now we wait again.  We wait on the second Advent of Christ and His promised return.  May God hasten the day when we can finally see Jesus, the one pierced for our transgressions, the one crushed for our iniquities, the one who died so that we may have eternal life.

 

 

 

There are certain times on the calendar when memories of past deployments run strong.  December often makes me mindful of my time overseas.

You are united with your unit as everyone has a job to perform.  You are also united in the hardships and difficulties of being separated from those you love.

December is a tough time to be separated from family and friends.  You miss the traditional family practices and customs like putting up the Christmas tree.  You miss the favorite food and dishes that made this particular time of year memorable.  You miss the gift exchanges.  But you also miss the church gatherings, Christmas pageants, and special worship services.  They are the times and events that keep us strong in faith.

When service members are deployed, we are able to receive packages in the mail.  Uncle Sam will serve us a meal with all the special fixings.  Folks will decorate an office or work station with a snowman, reindeer, or Christmas lights.  But missing church services as a family always proved to be a hardship for Soldiers to overcome, no matter where you were stationed.

This Christmas, 86,000 Soldiers will be forward deployed across the globe.  They will be overseas and away from their loved ones.  They will be working in guard towers.  They will be flying helicopters.  They will be driving tanks.  They will be constructing buildings, bridges, and roadways.  They will be aiding hospital patients.

As we gather in churches across America, let us remember those who are deployed around the globe.

Pray for our service members this month.  Lift them up as they perform their daily duties away from home and in harm’s way.  Pray for their families as they celebrate Christmas with an empty chair at the table and the heartache that can bring.  Pray for God to bring our warriors home safely and for families to heal when they are reunited.  Pray that they can gather next December and celebrate the birth of Christ as a family one more time.

Give Thanks

thanks

Thursday is the day that America will stop work, join with families, and give thanks.

In 1620, some 100 people seeking religious freedom, left England and landed in the New World. Little food, poor housing, and a harsh winter made their first year difficult.  Only 50 Pilgrims survived the winter of 1620.  They gathered together in the fall of 1621 to celebrate their first harvest and the blessings we often overlook today.

Thanksgiving became a national holiday in 1863, the midpoint of our Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring that a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. American has celebrated Thanksgiving Day every November since 1863.

As we gather around homes and loved ones, may we remember the gifts and blessings of this year. May we also remember the Giver, Almighty God, our Creator, and Eternal Father.  It is through Him that we can truly give thanks.

Veterans Day Prayer

veterans day

Holy God, you teach the importance of sacrifice, devotion, and being faithful.  Just as the Old Testament acknowledges the deeds of David and his Mighty Men, we lift up all who have served in the military.  We recognize the selfless service of our veterans and we remember the difficulty of their deeds.

There is a high cost to pay for freedom, liberty, and justice.  There are times when the sons and daughters of our nation must rise and stand for what is right. These are the difficult times that test our faith, our strength, and our resolve.

Precious God, may we always find our strength in you and respond to the needs of our nation, our state, and our neighbors in times of trial.  Amen.

money

As a nation and as a people we tend to overlook our blessings.  We have abundance, comfort, and wealth like few others.  Our standard of living is so good and so consistent that it becomes common place.  Success becomes normal.  While that sounds like a great problem to have, it can easily compete with or totally eliminate our desire for God.

We forget our beginnings.  We forget the early days of struggle, strife, and bare survival.  We also forget our reliance on God and the vital direction our Lord provided during those tough times in life.

When everything imaginable is working in our favor, it would seem that people should gratefully follow God.  It is often during the times of plenty that we are the worst followers of our faithful King.

While these situations seem contrary, you can even find them in Scripture.  Look at King Solomon in the Old Testament.  The poetic man who sang and wrote of romantic love for his bride also broke records of promiscuity with 700 wives and 300 concubines.  The wise man who composed so many commonsense proverbs, dispensed practical knowledge, and offered successful living advice quickly flouted it all with horrible extravagance and greed.  The devout man who built the temple of God took a final and terrible step of introducing idol worship into God’s holy city to please his foreign-born wives.

Success in the kingdom of this world often crowds out interest in the kingdom of God.

Solomon got whatever he wanted.  Gradually he depended less on God and more on the power, possessions, and people in his kingdom.  Solomon had the world’s largest harem, a house twice the size of the temple, an army full of soldiers, spears, and chariots, and a strong economy.

Success may have eliminated his disappointments with God, but it also seemed to eliminate Solomon’s desire for God.  The more he enjoyed the world’s good gifts, the less he thought about the Giver.

Let us learn the lessons that Solomon did not.  May we always count our blessings.  May we be obedient servants to a Holy and Gracious God.  May we demonstrate our Christian faith in times of joy and abundance.  May we enjoy the gift and praise the Giver.  May we always place God first and remember that I am second, no matter what level of worldly success I may find.

Pray for Canada

prayer invite

Today a terrorist took the life of a Canadian soldier who was guarding the War Memorial in Ottawa.  The gunman later ran to the Parliament complex and opened fire at innocent bystanders.  Over thirty shots were fired in the chaos.  Several people were rushed to the hospital with injuries.

Please pray for all the families, friends, and loved ones of those injured in this tragedy.

dv month

Silence regarding domestic violence only makes the problem worse.  Christianity should not be silent, nor should it struggle on how to address domestic violence. We cannot afford to be silent when sisters and brothers live under the threat of violence in their own homes and communities.

Christianity can serve as a valuable resource in a variety of ways to those suffering domestic violence.  The key is demonstrating the love of Christ. Here are some ways that Christians, churches, and ministry organizations can make a difference.

Understand the problem.  Violence, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form—physical, sexual, psychological or verbal—is sinful; often it is also a crime.  Knowledge on the issue is important.  If we know what right relationships look like and how the love of Christ should operate in families, we can practice and teach these examples to our children.

Make safety your priority.  Allowing a person to find safety can be a matter of life or death.  Spiritual leaders should work with a team of community service providers to help the victim-survivor establish a safety plan, should the abuse continue or escalate.  If the home is no longer a safe place, then encourage the victim to leave or stay somewhere else. Groups and organizations may want to create safety kits for temporary assistance.  Safety kits should include: cash, gift cards, a change of clothing, toiletries, emergency phone numbers and places of shelter.  Once physical safety is established, then it is time for spiritual care. Offer to pray with the victim, share a relevant Bible verse, give support, and provide wise counsel during this traumatic time.

Wait on marriage counseling.  The timing must be right for this to succeed.  Too often church leaders rush the situation in order to “save the marriage” or “keep the family together” when these goals should be contingent on the offender’s willingness to undergo treatment.  These are certainly worthy goals, but only after the abusive behavior has stopped, should the focus shift to repairing the relationship.  Domestic violence is not a relationship issue that needs to be resolved.  It is mostly about a person’s conscious decision to violently control the will of another to maintain power and dominance.  There are times when couples’ or marriage counseling is inappropriate and risky.  If people push the envelope on immediate counseling it could lead to further abuse or even the death of the victimized.

Minister to the offender.  This may not be popular or pretty, but it is the right thing to do.  Pick the right person to mentor and coach the offender.  Bathe this mentor in prayer.  Redemption work is tough and dirty, so make sure that he or she receives the prayer support necessary for the task ahead.  When Christians focus on the offender, we are performing restoration work.  We are working on the root cause of the problem, not symptoms.  The abuse should be dealt with directly, however the root hurt or trauma should be sought after as well.  Encourage the one inflicting violence to also seek professional counseling during this process.

Teach mutual submission to couples.  The biblical topic of submission is not grounds for abuse or violence in the home. Christians must understand that submission is not a license to control and dominate another human being. Christians should also work to breakdown a deception that the Bible supports abusive behavior.  In Ephesians 5, Paul tells husbands and wives to yield to one another in mutual submission out of reverence and love for Christ – abusive behavior violates this Scripture and is not a God-given right.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to love one another.  May God grant us the patience, strength, and ability to combat domestic violence where ever it may exist.

 

 

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