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marriage dance

Everyone wants a good, strong, happy marriage.  Our marriages often start out well.  They are full of enthusiasm, joy, love, compassion, and devotion.  But as time goes by, couples often find it difficult to carve out time, space, and energy for their one true love.

It seems so odd and sad, but it is a common story line with a majority of married couples.  The things of life get in their way and dampen the romance that once burned bright.  A few years prior, nothing could separate this pair of love birds. Now priorities have changed.  Distractions are everywhere.  Demands must be met. Children must be fed. Bills must be paid.  Somehow couples seem to lose the fire and energy that brought them to the altar.

We all need a wake up call when it come to marriage.  Everyone!  We husbands need a reminder to date our wives and make her a priority.  Wives need a reminder to love and cherish husbands.

February 7-14 is National Marriage Week.  It serves as the national alarm clock for couples to remember why they got married in the first place.  It also allows groups, organizations, and churches to join the fight in saving marriages across America.

If you are planning a marriage enrichment event, a workshop, or presentation, join the campaign by sharing it on the national website.  Let your community know what resources are available in their own backyard.  This simple act can go a long way to encourage or even salvage a couple on the brink of divorce.

National Marriage Week USA, offers several marriage resources, date night suggestions, event guides, reading lists, and videos on how to build a satisfying marriage.  Check out the website to find a tip, idea, or suggestion that can improve your marriage in 2016.

This can be the year that you turn things around.  Stop allowing distractions and insignificant events to suck the life out of your relationship.  Take time to strengthen your marriage.  Reconnect with your spouse.  Focus on the romance that brought you together.  Use National Marriage Week as a way to strengthen your marriage and focus on the one you love.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR, sitting in the Jefferson County Jail, in Birmingham, Alabama, 11/3/67. Everett/CSU Archives.

Martin Luther King Day will have a variety of messages and themes across the globe, but above all else MLK Day must highlight the role of Christianity and Christians in society. In his “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” King writes that there will be times for people to stand up to injustice and defend what is right.

As King endured eight days of imprisonment, he encouraged people to practice their faith even when there would be a cost for those unpopular actions. A faith that,

“was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. . . .”

These words still ring true today.

There are causes that demand more than words. There are struggles and fights that Christians must lead. There are many wrongs in our world where the church must be a vehicle for change. The church cannot be lax, it must be vigilant. The church must stand for truth no matter the price.

John the Baptist was arrested for sharing the law with King Herod Antipas. Simon Peter was jailed for being a bold messenger of Jesus Christ.  Paul and Silas were arrested for simply preaching the gospel.

Martin Luther King was arrested several times in his pursuit of establishing greater equality in America. Each time, he pointed back to Scripture as a reminder to pursue the cause of justice. In a time when laws forced segregation and inequality, people of faith had to remember the standard God established as they slowly pushed forward.

“A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God.”

As the laws of our nation continue to change and religious freedom shrinks in the land that we love, let us view MLK Day as a reminder to serve God and be true to His commands. Let us remember that boldness is often required instead of compromise. Let us also demonstrate that churches can be a place where Christians stand up for what is right and just.

Prince Charles

Prince Charles gave a gift to Aid to the Church in Need for Christians in the Middle East during an Advent reception. He said, in part:

At this traditional time of prayer and reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation, it seems to me vital that we pause for more than a moment to think about the plight of Christians in the lands where the Word was actually “made flesh and dwelt among us”.  For, despite what the brainwashed militants would have people believe, Christianity is not a “foreign” religion.  As the atmospheric Chapel of St. Ananias in Damascus and countless other holy sites bear witness, Christianity has been part of the rich tapestry of life in the Middle East for two thousand years.  And it was the early Middle Eastern church communities in places such as Antioch, Alexandria, Bosra in Syria, and Mesopotamia which eventually brought Christianity to Asia and the West.  To take just one example, the Armenian Apostolic Church – which, of course, is the oldest Established national church in the world – traces its origins to the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddaeus.  And, ladies and gentleman, it is, perhaps, worth remembering that those of us who are members of the Church of England will be only too familiar with the Nicene Creed, whose words were first formulated in the Middle East in the fourth century.  Far from Christianity being a “Western” religion, Christianity was born in – and shaped by – the East…!

This is what makes the plight of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ so especially heart-breaking.  Their suffering is symptomatic of a very real crisis which threatens the very existence of Christianity in the land of its birth.  In fact, according to Aid to the Church in Need, Christianity is on course to disappear from Iraq within five years, unless emergency help is provided on a greatly increased scale at an international level.  This affects us all.  Consequently, the greatest challenge we face is how to ensure that the spiritual and cultural heritage of Christianity in the Middle East is preserved for future generations – quite apart from doing all we can to provide practical support to those who are persecuted.

Please continue to pray for the persecuted church in the land of its birth.

blank page

Everyone talks about a different kind of list this time of year.  And it has nothing to do with being naughty or nice.  Our New Year resolutions for 2016 are taking shape on apps and lists across the globe.

Most resolutions focus on going to the gym and eating less.  The need for personal improvement can be physical, and it can be spiritual as well.  As you consider items for your list, here are five items that can strengthen your faith in 2016.

Schedule prayer time.  Find the right time of day where you can devote some effort to this.  Prayer is central to our faith. It is deliberate communication with our Heavenly Father. It is an act of worship. It is a spiritual discipline. It allows us to adore, petition, praise, and confess. On several occasions Scripture shows us examples when Jesus made time and space to pray. Follow in the example of Christ and find time to pray.

Meditate on the Bible.  You can read the text, receive a daily email, or listen to it on your smart phone.  Once you have a mode that is meaningful to you, make it a routine.  Spending time with God’s Word is vital to any Christian. It encourages and educates us. It provides direction when we feel lost. It reminds us that God is near.

Take a break. God gave the Sabbath for two reasons.  First, it is a day dedicated to honor and worship Him. Second, it is a day for us to rest.  Prevent burnout by setting aside work for one day out of the week.  Activities and events are always quick to crowd the Sabbath for other purposes. Resolve to use your God-given day differently in 2016.

Talk to your parents on a regular basis.  Set aside time for your family.  It can be on the phone, a video chat, or just stopping by the homestead.  Show them love and respect.  Show them that you care.  Continue to connect with them.  It will serve as a reminder of God’s love.

Try a new act of worship. This may sound radical, but too often we stay in a rut.  We stay with what we already know.  Try something new and different.  Feed your creative side and let it honor God.  Write a poem. Paint a picture. Learn to play an instrument. Create a new song or chorus for church. Volunteer your time at a local charity.  Find a new way to glorify God with a talent you haven’t used before.

As we prepare for 2016, make faith a part of your New Year resolutions.  Make a plan to strengthen your faith today and for the new year.

nativity

Just about everyone loves the Christmas season. While reasons may vary, from hearing a performance of the Hallelujah Chorus to watching snowflakes, people love the Christmas season. It is the arrival of our promised Emmanuel, “God with us.” This season also has a funny way of changing people.

Yes, Christmas is the best time of year, but we often forget what it does to us. Christmas brings out the best in us. No matter where you live, there is an increased effort for people to be kind, caring, and generous. Drivers are more courteous on the roadways. You open the door for someone when their arms are full with shopping bags. Neighbors help each other by raking leaves or shoveling snow off sidewalks. We even tell total strangers “Merry Christmas!”

This spirit of gratitude and grace comes from our Creator. God has demonstrated His love in sending Jesus Christ to earth. We celebrate this perfect gift in many ways, but the power of God’s love changes us.

We reciprocate the love that God has shared with us, His children. The gift of Jesus is so tremendous that we live in a different way. We choose to be transformed, and in turn, show greater compassion. This beautiful event happens more now than at any other time of the year. Christmas and the celebration of our Savior yield a new and different world, one where people give gifts, adopt orphans, feed the homeless, care for widows, support unemployed veterans, and show compassion to total strangers. In short, we decide to live out our faith. We put God’s plan of grace into action.

As the Christmas holiday approaches, make the decision to be transformed. Reflect the love that God has poured out from heaven through Jesus, the promised Messiah. Demonstrate your faith and share the love that you have received from our Heavenly Father.

 

Words of Thanksgiving

pilgrim landing

There are many words that express the attitude of the day. You will hear thankful, grateful, and blessed. Our day is focused on early American settlers who crossed a freezing ocean on a little rickety boat because of their faith. While those words and themes are important, let us also focus on the words that inspired these settlers.

In Psalm 103, we find a hymn of Thanksgiving.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit, 

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

These words reminded them to look beyond their losses, their hardships, and difficulties. These words reminded them to instead focus on the Almighty. 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.

May we follow in their example. No matter the problems we have experienced in 2015, let us join together and bless our God, whose love and care sustains us through all things.

Veterans Day Prayer

veterans-day

Almighty God, I give you thanks for veterans. I give thanks that there are men and women willing to leave families, farms, and factories to sacrifice for a nation. They demonstrate right with blood, sweat, and tears.

The Bible shows warriors like Gideon and David who were unsure of your calling, but stepped forward in faith to protect others in danger.  We still have warriors like this today. People who will step forward in uncertain times to protect the ones they love and a nation they cherish so deeply.

For these men and women, I give you thanks. Bless their efforts when in conflict. Protect them in the heat of battle. Heal their wounds of war, both inside and out. Bind their families together and strengthen their faith in you. I ask these things in the name of our risen Savior. Amen.

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