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This is a Christmas repost from 2007. I thought about updating and dusting it off, but decided to let it stand, as is.

She was somewhere between thirteen and fifteen years old, and she never used a computer, talked on the phone, or rode in a car. TV would have seemed like witchcraft to her, and an airplane would have inspired sheer terror. She was a sweet, simple, country girl, from a poor working family, who probably never owned more than two dresses or one pair of shoes at a time.

For her, a formal education would have been impractical and out of reach. She learned from her mother how to cook, clean, care for children, and run a home. That was her lot in life and she was content with it. She had won the love of a good man, with a tender heart, and was looking forward to becoming his wife.

She lived during a time when speaking with angels wasn’t unheard of, and wasn’t as likely to get one locked away as it is today. And an angel told this simple, virgin, country girl she was going to have a child, not just any child, but the only begotten Son of God.

No one believed her, at first, but two thousand years later people, who don’t believe any part of the old story, know her name. She is honored in song, and remembered in films. Many of us wonder if we could have borne such a heavy responsibility.

Never think that God can’t use you, because of your lack of education or speaking skills.

1 Corinthians 1:27 “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;”

Never think your past life will hinder His use of you.

2 Corinthians 12:9 ”… for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Never be afraid to step out on faith.

Galatians 3:26 ”For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

God can and will use you, if your heart is willing.

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done well.

This, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is how we make God smile.

Impact of this game on players’ lives can’t be overstated

I’m not messing with it, because there’s nothing I can add.

You big dummy, why didn’t you let us know you were hurting? You have friends who would forgive you anything, and do our best to help you get through anything. You made the one decision that leaves us totally helpless. The store is so quiet, people with swollen eyes and weak smiles, trying to hide our sorrow and the thoughts we can’t help but have. Did I in some way contribute to the pain you could no longer bear? Was there something I could have done to help? You’ve left so many questions without answers. Why Ray? What made you decide this was the only way?

 

I have every confidence, my friend that we will meet again, some day. Right now I don’t know if I want to hug you or knock you on your butt, probably both, and each just as heartfelt. Until then, rest in Him, and enjoy the peace you couldn’t find here with us.

 

On Wednesday, September 2, Ray R. Vickers Jr. took his own life. He was a good man and my coworker and friend. He is already much missed.

When someone says “God” what image comes to mind? Is it an all powerful angry being waiting above to thump you on the head or make things go badly for you, if you do the wrong thing? Are you convinced that you been so awful, gone so wrong, that He couldn’t possibly love or forgive you? Do you feel as if you’ve been picked on by the All Mighty? That’s not the image the Bible gives of our Creator.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us what God thinks about us.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Child, God is not mad at you.

1 John 4:8 tells us that God not only loves but is love. “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

And there is the ultimate expression of God’s love.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
1 John 4:9 “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”

We call Him, Father, but we must be careful not to let the imperfect image of out earthly father overshadow who God truly is.
Luke 11:9-13 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Child, God is not mad at you, and he doesn’t want you to be afraid of Him.

Yes, I know the Bible says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:10) But the word “fear” here means “respect” not knee knocking fright.

Like any good father, God will let you suffer the consequences of your own actions, although many Christians, including myself, have noticed that said consequences are often muted by God’s mercy. And like any good father, God will discipline His children.
Proverbs 13:24 “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”

Correcting one’s children takes time and effort. It would be much easier to allow them to do as they please, but of course, because we love them we take the time and put in the effort to discipline them properly. God does the same for us.
Proverbs 3:11-12 “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.”

Child, God is not mad at you.

In fact, He’s crazy about you, loves you, and wants to spend all eternity with you.
2 Peter 3:8-9 “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

God is not mad at you.

He has made a way for you to spend eternity with Him. It’s yours for the asking.

“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

It seems one must admit how hurt they are, before healing can begin. It’s amazing the lengths God will go to in order to bring said healing and peace to His children. I wish I had the words to describe yesterdays service, how the Spirit settled over the entire congregation, and how He used a song to begin the process for one broken, battered, weeping child of God.

Cry Out To Jesus – Casting Crowns

To everyone who’s lost someone they love
Long before it was their time
You feel like the days you had were not enough
when you said goodbye

And to all of the people with burdens and pains
Keeping you back from your life
You believe that there’s nothing and there is no one
Who can make it right

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He’ll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus

For the marriage that’s struggling just to hang on
They lost all of their faith and love
They’ve done all they can to make it right again
Still it’s not enough

For the ones who can’t break the addictions and chains
You try to give up but you come back again
Just remember that you’re not alone in your shame
And your suffering

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He’ll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus

When your lonely
And it feels like the whole world is falling on you
You just reach out, you just cry out to Jesus
Cry to Jesus

To the widow who suffers from being alone
Wiping the tears from her eyes
For the children around the world without a home
Say a prayer tonight

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He’ll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus

Father, thank You, for loving this selfish, arrogant woman. Thank You, for bearing my anger and pain, and showing me the way to peace.

Watching a man and his two children baptized today, as his wife looked on with joyful tears streaming down her face, reminded me of why I do what I do. It’s more than the directive I feel coming from God, though that is a large part of it. It’s the incredible joy felt when I am blessed with the job of introducing someone to Jesus.

The Jesus I know is not that gorgeous, long-haired fellow with the sappy smile you see in so many paintings. He’s not a weakling nor a wimp, despite how badly He was treated while He was here. Yes, Jesus is “The Lamb of God”, but He is also “The Lion of Judah”, the “Alpha and Omega”, “Redeemer”, “Light of the world”, “Lord of all creation”, “Lord of lords”, “King of kings”, and “God with us.” He is my risen Savior.

The Jesus I know is strong. He was strong enough to face the criticism of the religious leaders of His day, strong enough to drive the money changers out of His Father’s temple, strong enough to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, give a voice to the mute, and raise the dead, strong enough to defeat demons, strong enough to flatten a troop of Roman soldiers with just His voice, strong enough to survive being scourged, and strong enough to stay on the cross and bear the sins of all mankind.

The Jesus I know is kind. He was kind enough to save a groom humiliation during his wedding supper, kind enough to have pity on a leaper and on a woman caught in the act of adultery, kind enough to bless little children, kind enough to not only forgive Peter but to make him great, kind enough to make sure His mother was cared for, and kind enough to forgive those who nailed Him to the cross. Jesus is kind enough to use a mess like me.

The Jesus I know loves. Loves us so much He gave up heaven, came to this earth as a helpless baby, submitted to His earthy parents upbringing, and in the prime of life started a ministry He knew would only last three years. Jesus loves us so much He bore the pain of the turning away of His Father’s face, so we wouldn’t have to. He loves us so much that He not only died for us but rose again on the third day to give us a secure hope in His resurrection. Jesus loves us so much He wants us to spend eternity with Him.

It’s an amazing honor and privilege to be used by my Lord and Savior, one I don’t take lightly, but it’s the joy of introducing someone to the Jesus I know and love, seeing the joy in their eyes when they really understand, knowing that one more soul has been added to the kingdom of heaven, that’s what keeps me going.

My vacation officially started at 10pm, and brother am I ready!

I won’t be around a lot from Tuesday to Friday, because I’m going to go spend some time with my mom and dad. Keep a good thought for me; I haven’t flown since before my middle son was born, and he’s 23.

I’m working on a rather long post and hope to have it up before I leave. TTFN

I wish you each a Merry Christmas, filled with love and light.

And leave you with a little something to consider.

“Oh little town of Bethlehem,
Looks like another silent night.
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
A giant star lights up the sky,
And while you’re lying in the dark
There shines an everlasting light.
For the King has left His throne
And is sleeping in a manger tonight, tonight.

Oh Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping?
For God became a man,
And stepped into your world today.
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King,
While you were sleeping,
While you were sleeping.

Mary shivers in the cold
Trying to keep the Savior warm,
Born among the animals wrapped in dirty rags,
Because there was no room for Him in the world He came to save.

United States of America,
Looks like another silent night
As we’re sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children,
And while we’re lying in the dark
There’s a shout heard ‘cross the eastern sky.
For the Bridegroom has returned,
And has carried His bride away in the night.

America, what will we miss while we are sleeping?
Will Jesus come again,
And leave us slumbering where we lay?
America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King?
Will we be sleeping?
Will we be sleeping

United States of America,
Looks like another silent night.”

 

While You Were Sleeping

Casting Crowns – Peace On Earth

Romans 13:11 “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”

Most of you have seen this one before, but in the current economy it’s good to remember you don’t need a lot to have a wonderful Christmas.

My favorite Christmas memory is from the year I was ten. My parents, like most people who lived in our area, were having a rough time making ends meet. There were six of us living in a one-bedroom quadplex, with walls so thin my aunt and uncle, who lived upstairs, could hear the percolator making the morning coffee in our kitchen. Two of my younger brothers and I slept in the living room on rollaway beds, while the baby slept in my parent’s room.

We kids never knew how tough or scary things had become, and thought we had the coolest mom on the planet when she let us have popcorn for dinner. It never occurred to us it was the only thing in the house to eat, or that the custard and toast, we loved for breakfast, was served because it was cheap and went a long way.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, Mom started dropping hints that we weren’t going to have much of a Christmas, and there was no way we could afford a tree.

Two weeks before Christmas, Dad brought home a sheet of plywood someone had given him. When we asked what it was for, we simply got a look that said he’d never tell and asking too many questions might be dangerous for one’s behind. Our curious ears listened to the sounds of sawing, hammering and the occasional curse, while speculating among ourselves what he might be building.

The day we got out of school for Christmas break my teacher, who had heard we weren’t able to get a tree, sent the one we’d made for our classroom home with me. It was a five-foot cardboard monstrosity that almost didn’t fit in our car, but once we got it home Mother put a few touches to it, and it looked quite nice sitting in our tiny living room.

Mom has always made Christmas Eve a special time, and that year was no exception. She had put tiny lights around the “tree”, and there was hot cocoa, and marshmallows roasted at the gas space heater. Mom read us Twas The Night Before Christmas and the Christmas story from Luke, then we sang carols to Dad’s version of guitar playing, before hanging our stockings. We always used Dad’s clean socks, and they were hung very carefully, because he needed them back.

Christmas morning arrived, and we raced to our stockings. One would have thought they were full of diamonds and gold the way we acted when we dumped the oranges and hazelnuts out of them, which of course, quickly became breakfast.

Dad slipped outside, and we finally found out what he’d been working on. The first thing he brought in was a rocking horse for the baby. He’d built it so the rowdy little devil couldn’t tip it over, even at his rowdiest. Next he brought in stilts for the two older boys. They were only six inches off the floor, but they became ten-foot tall every time they used them. I waited for my gift, and couldn’t imagine what he could have built me. Then he walked in with a dollhouse that was better than any I had seen in the stores, and I played with it until it fell apart, years later.

Dad found a job in Dallas that next year, and things got better for us. There were always nice gifts under the tree after that, but there are times when I long for oranges, hazel nuts, and homemade gifts.

 

My dad is very ill, and it’s breaking my heart that I can’t get there for Christmas, this year. I will, however, be visiting them in February. Those of you who pray, please send up a small one, for me, that it won’t be too late.

Retired, Christian, singer Ray Boltz, recently came out of the closet and announced that he’s gay. This revelation has cause a storm of controversy in Christian circles, so I decided to dust off and old sermon, update it a bit and post it here.

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Matthew 7:1
I often hear this verse from people, who are using it in place of, “Just shut up already.” The problem is that the verse is being taken out of context, and leads to an “anything goes” Christianity which is destroying the church. Let’s read a little further.

Matthew 7:2-3 “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
Let’s remove the beam, and see what God’s Word has to say.

When asked how I view homosexuality, I often ask if the person wants the short answer, that will piss them off, or if they want to know how I really feel. The short answer is that I believe homosexual sex is a sin, because the Bible says that it is, but there is more to it than that.

Romans 1:22-27 “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”

This is the passage which has been used for too many years to “gay bash’ from the pulpit. So often in fact, that it is considered hate speech in Canada. Once again taken out of context. Let’s look at the rest.

Romans 1:28-31 “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:”

Wow, there’s a lot of stuff listed here!
Covetousness: who of us hasn’t wished we had that thing sitting in our neighbor’s yard?
Maliciousness: bad mouthed any politicians lately
Full of envy: seen anything green today?
Murder: the Bible says a lie is like murder. Need I say more?
This list is long let’s move to,
Whisperers: heard any good gossip? Passed any on?
Backbiters: had the preacher “for lunch” this week?
Disobedient to parents: Ouch!
Unmerciful: yeah I know.

Anybody not get dinged yet? Do we need to go through the rest?

Let’s look at verse 32.
“Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”
Watched any prime time TV lately?

If I haven’t made my point already:
Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

That’s right all of us have sinned. We need to remove the “beams” of self-righteousness and hate from our eyes.

The church has turned it’s back on homosexuals, and that’s wrong. We all need the strengthening influence of a good church, and the fellowship of “real” Christians. We can’t continue with the lie that homosexual people cannot be Christians. If we are the body of Christ, why aren’t we using his merciful arms to reach out to all of our Christian brothers and sisters?

Christians are human. We lie, gossip, envy, and forget to be merciful. Some of us struggle with homosexuality. The sin is in the act, not in the temptation. And if I tell a lie it doesn’t mean I’m not a Christian. It means I’m an imperfect Christian, who still struggles with sin and will until the Lord calls me home.