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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.

 

 

 

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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.

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lent-give more

Today was exhausting.  After a full day of counseling, visiting Soldiers, and spending four hours in the car, I finally made it home.  I shut the door and breathed a sigh of relief.  There was just enough energy left to go upstairs, kick off my boots and take a nap.  That way I could salvage part of the evening at home. In order to give quality time at home and offer something significant, I needed to take a break and re-engage at a later time.

We often face this dilemma with our families.  We also face the same dilemma with God.  What kind of offering do we give God?  Does God get our first fruits or the leftovers from our day?

As we focus on the season of Lent and strive to maintain our spiritual practice, it is important to examine the offering we bring to God.  Exodus 23:19 shares, “Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God….”  Not only should God get what is currently available, but the best of what we have to offer.

Giving our best to God is a daunting challenge.  It requires time, energy, and devotion.  Allow this Lenten time of self-examination and sacrifice to strengthen your spiritual commitment and resolve.

The Lord has given grace, healing, and redemption to an afflicted world through Jesus Christ.  God has given His Son as the atonement for the sins of humanity. While there is no way to repay this perfect and holy gift, it cries out for a response.  Christ’s crucifixion should call us to tears, shame, seeking forgiveness, acknowledging our need for a Savior, and ultimately changing our lives so that we pursue Him.  It should create a spark in us that never dies or wavers because of God’s great love for us.

As we mark another week in the season of Lent, examine your gift.  What offering did you bring?  Will God see the first fruits or the leftovers of your day?  Do not “call in” this season of sacrifice and commitment.  God deserves our very best from start to finish.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

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We love this simple story because it speaks to our condition.

Christmas can be downright maddening.

First, everyone wants a piece of your time.  Once you flip your calendar to December there is an immediate flood of invitations to office parties, family gatherings, teas, banquets, and more.  The rush of the Christmas season only seems to get worse as the month continues.

Second, there is a flurry of activity.  Get out the decorations.  Put up the lights.  Set up the tree.  Start baking cookies and other delights before the guest arrive.  Don’t forget the multiple pageants and plays you need to attend also.  And remember to get your annual Christmas card out before everyone else.

Third, commercialism and consumerism run amuck.  Celebrate Christmas this year with a 60 inch flat screen tv for $200 this Saturday only.  Remember that it needs to be HD or the kids won’t like it.  We really go crazy buying presents.  Our focus easily turns to material items and excess instead of providing gifts of joy.  This year the local Christmas bureau didn’t have enough people to adopt needy families.  They ask for food, blankets, coats, towels, cleaning supplies and other necessities.  Perhaps those were the gifts that we should have given this year.

This cartoon is a timeless classic because it sums up our struggle with Christmas.  Charlie Brown and company encounter all the typical distractions that try to steal the real meaning of Christmas.  In his frustration, Charlie Brown asks, “isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”  The turning point of the cartoon is when Linus takes center stage to share the story of Luke 2, Jesus being born in Bethlehem.

We too, get caught up in the parties, the activities, and the gift giving, but there is much more to the season.  Take time to hear the simple story.  Take time to focus on the importance of angels proclaiming his birth.  Take time to focus on what is truly important this Christmas season, our Savior, Christ the Lord.

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This week PBS aired, “The Dust Bowl” Ken Burns’ latest film.  The documentary chronicled a decade-long drought during the 1930s and how it impacted farm families across the heart of America.  Survivors shared powerful stories on how they endured incredible suffering and hardship.

It was truly moving to hear the personal accounts of loss and sacrifice.  Sand and dust dunes covered crops and livestock.  Money was so scarce that mothers would turn used flour sacks into dresses for daughters.  Ranchers would burn the needles off cactus plants so their cattle could eat.  Farmers went years without rain and crops.  Families lost homes, mortgaged their farm machinery, and send children to live with relatives.  Many who decided to ride out the dust storms lost infants and elderly family members to “dust pneumonia.”

No one can watch this series and remain the same.  The hardships and trials of this generation will shock you.  The stories of survival will amaze you.  They endured the suffering and poverty that few can imagine in our country.  This series is an important reminder to be thankful and consider our blessings.

I encourage you to watch the series and consider how God has personally blessed you this holiday season.

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There is new interest in trying to prop up the Stolen Valor Act, a federal statute that prohibits people from lying about military service and being awarded military medals.

Last week the Supreme Court struck down the law on grounds that it violated free speech on a 6-3 ruling.  Many were disappointed with the action.  Veterans and military groups across the nation spoke in favor of the law.  While honest and integrity are at the heart of the law, people forget the impact this ruling will have on our service members.  As veterans continue to return home and seek jobs, there is an increasing need to separate fact from fiction.  Many private firms, along with government agencies, have veteran hiring preferences.  Those with military service may be placed ahead of others when applying for a job.  So there is something to gain from lying on a resume or job application.

Lawmakers will likely take a second bite at the apple.  Efforts are underway to pass another version of the law, one more narrowly focused.  The Stolen Valor Act 2.0, will make it illegal to lie about military service for profit.  This way charlatans cannot benefit from claiming military medals or combat tours.  By changing direction and focusing on the issue of fraud, let’s hope that this version will make constitutional muster.

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Each Fourth of July we celebrate the birth of America.  We celebrate freedom, independence, and the precious rights that guarantee the blessings of liberty.  But it is important to remember how religious freedom was the original goal of living in our land.  And by that, I mean prior to signing the Declaration of Independence.

Christianity operated in a very different environment from what we know today.  Prior to the Pilgrims leaving England, there was no separation of church and state.  There was one official church for people to attend and the King was the head of the church.  During the 1600s, British law required citizens to attend worship services.  Those who did not attend would be fined one shilling for each Sunday and holy day missed.  People who conducted unofficial church services could be fined, jailed, or executed.

As persecution and arrests grew, the Pilgrims left England for Amsterdam.  By 1617 the congregation was stable enough for another, more permanent move.  They wanted an enduring place where opportunity and religious freedom could be secured for their families.  They turned their eyes to the new America, braved a sixty-five day voyage across the Atlantic, and started Plymouth Colony.

Days after sighting land, The Mayflower Compact was established as a way to honor God, guarantee just and equal laws in the colony, and create a free form of government.  The Pilgrims decided to establish a system where every member of the colony could enjoy guaranteed rights and freedoms under majority rule.  Freedoms that they were unable to enjoy until that very moment when the ink was dry.

Their voyage and vision created the first written constitution on our continent.  It became the seed of American freedom and democracy.

We often forget the past difficulties that Christians have faced trying to worship God.  We also forget the difficulties in our present age.  We have been so blessed with liberty in our nation, that we forget the inequalities that exist elsewhere.  While we are not fined, jailed, or executed for practicing our faith in America many others suffer across the globe.  We have brothers and sisters in Christ who live with the same fears, torment, and punishments of seventeenth century Pilgrims.

Recognize the incredible gift we have as Americans and utilize your religious freedom.  Glorify our risen Savior in song.  Strengthen your faith in a worship service.  Read your Bible in public.  But also take time to pray for the persecuted Church beyond our borders.  Their current plight was ours not so long ago.

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