The Angelic Announcement

13 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
14 Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
15 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” 16 They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. 17 Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. 18 All who heard the sheepherders were impressed. (Luke 2:13-18 MSG)

A proclamation by a stunning Angel of light would have been extremely amazing to see in and of itself.  If we had been in that field on that night would our reaction been any different from that of the Shepherds?  Probably not.  There aren’t too many people in our day and age that have witnessed such a sight as these humble shepherds saw in pasture that night.  It’s almost a scene right out of some paranormal show, right up until the angel actually speaks you could almost envision an alien stepping out of the light with tendrils extended and the spooky sci-fi music is cued to end scene.   What happens next, by all intents and purposes shouldn’t have occurred.  The first people to hear of Messiah’s birth are lowly shepherds.  It wasn’t the mayor of Bethlehem awakened to an angelic announcement, or a foreign dignitary, the message was directed at common shepherds doing the work that others would not be caught dead doing.  For many, being a shepherd was beneath their stature in the community…yet apparently these shepherds were so important to the nativity story that God’s messengers make this startling revelation to them.  Herod wasn’t alerted, and of course we’re thankful for that.  The officials in Rome were not on the announcement list either.  Shepherds, with staffs and slings, sitting around a fire at night get this mighty earth changing announcement.  Think about that for a moment, then think about who you are.  If you’re someone important then you have some grain of confidence already, but for the rest of us who, in a very real sense, are nobodies in this world…you and I matter to God and his purposes here on this earth.  We don’t have to have Bill Gates’ money, or Kim Kardashian looks, or the mind and intellect of Stephen Hawking to be important to God, all we have to be is available to God.

The shepherds had nowhere important to go that night; their responsibility was to care for the sheep in that field.  There wasn’t a party for them to attend, or a famous symposium to speak at; they were just there protecting weakest, simple minded animal known on earth.  I still find it astounding that after all this time, after prophesies had foretold Messiah’s coming, this late breaking news reaches the common working man first.  It’s comforting to think, that though status on this earth is important, wealth on this earth is revered, God doesn’t care about such earthly titles and status symbols.  What God does care about is the heart.  It’s a humbling thought.  James 4:10 says “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.”  Shepherds in a humble, lowly state embody this verse for me today.    Not only did they get a single angelic messenger, they actually experienced the first and best Christmas choral arrangement never written on this earth…a master piece of music written in heaven.  That additional fact boggles my mind.  I’ve heard some amazing choirs, listened to some of the world’s best voices, but nothing would compare to the vocal concert the shepherds must have heard that night.  For me it’s has to rank up there like an extended guitar solo at an encore performance of stairway to heaven by Led Zeppelin.  The shepherds had front row seats to the best concert available at any time on earth.  That blows me away!  What these lowly sheep herders did next is not only extra ordinary but it reflects their angelic visit.  They leave their sheep in search of this foretold child in a manger.  Following their visit, still high on angelic fumes, they declare the world changing news to everyone they meet, and once told, everyone who hears is impressed at the news.

This amazing news is still relevant after all these years, and it doesn’t take the most eloquent speaker to declare it either!  God wants you to declare His majesty this Christmas!  God wants our humble hearts and lives to celebrate his birth once again.  We may not have ever experienced that front row concert of angels, but we can’t but help to be propelled to the manger bed once again.
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:15 (NIV)Image

Excuse me…you have a plank in your eye…

Matthew 7:1-5 (MSG)
1 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. 2 That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. 3 It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. 4 Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt?
5 It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

The judge lifts the gavel, prepared to declare her judgment on the case that she has just presided over. She looks over her glasses with brow furrowed and a frown on her face. As she strikes the dark wooden gavel on the table, she declares her decision rendered. “Guilty”…followed by the prescribed sentence in order to pay restitution for the crime committed by the offender…but does judgment only occur in a court of law? Of course not!

You’ve seen it happen too, that moment when a supposed “Christian” has passed judgment on a person or situation. They cross their arms in indignation, placing their nose in the air in an act of contempt and then insinuate that if one were a “true Christian” they wouldn’t do what just happened, and perhaps this statement is followed by an equally contemptible comment laced with false pity or compassion which holds no measure of care or love, “we’ll just have to pray for them”. We all know that comments like this get tossed around from time to time in our home churches and truthfully, actions of people from Jesus’ day and actions of people in our day has not really changed all that much. Don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say, for I do not want to become another judge in a long list of hypocrites, though dare I say that there are times in my own life where I have worn the coat of indignation and hypocrisy myself, and I’m here to say that it’s never a pretty picture.

Jesus had much to say about such attitudes. To say that it’s wrong to assume judgment on another believer is an understatement especially when one neglects one’s own faults, failures and temptations. He points out that it’s like focusing on the speck in someone’s eye when we have this unflattering, ugly, sin throbbing plank of wood in our own eye socket.

Ever get something in your eye? I have. It hurts. The eye waters, the face contorts, the hand moves to cover, rub, and dislodge the piece of dirt or eye lash trapped on the eye ball. How then could anyone have time, metaphorically speaking, to focus so much on someone else’ discomfort when a nasty, sin riddled plank is protruding from the eye?

Judgment is not the job requisite for us sinners saved by grace! Judgment is reserved for God alone…that doesn’t mean that we don’t care for one another and hold each other accountable as brothers and sisters in Christ, but what it does mean is that we stop the gossip, we stop the bad habits of looking at everyone else’s faults and failure instead of seeing our problems and faults staring us in the face. The Holy Spirit does the convicting, not us. God does the judging, not us. I believe there would be many more new believers seeing God if His people would stop the judgment, the bossy attitudes, and sometimes the downright hypocritical nature that is evident when greeting new visitors coming into our churches.

When Jesus came to this Earth, He did so not because we deserved anything but judgment and death, but because He loved us…He still loves us! We didn’t deserve this love given to us, we still had logs wedged in our eye sockets, so to speak…but grace was extended to us. Perhaps this is what we should consider the next time we think to pass judgment on another person because of the way they dress, the way the talk, or the way they act. Let’s extend that grace to others…and allow God to do the convicting and the judging.

–Just a thought for today!

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In the winter

Coating the earth, dormant

Tree tops bowing heavy

Protested by the birds above

And the residence of squirrels

Perched in holes near the thicket

Of pine needles bursting forth in all directions

The sound of breaking glass or

Crinkle chips under foot as we

Wander out in the still evening

Crisp, below freezing the wind

Whispers on the cusp of the new

Snow just fallen. ..in the whisper

The nagging reminder that it has begun

The race has started,

The doldrums of early sunsets

And dark midnight’s solemn chorus

Howls in frost bitten ears;

Perhaps this time I should have worn

my stocking hat…but ah

This season of frost and snow

Beckons me onward and I

Break the unseen underfoot

Blanketed until the melt of

early spring…when life renews

its hibernation and these ears

stop protesting the bitter breath of winter.

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Mercy or Anger?

Matthew 18:23-35 (MSG)

The kingdom of
God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants.  As he got under way, one servant was brought
before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay
up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to
be auctioned off at the slave market.   “The
poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and
I’ll pay it all back.’  Touched by his
plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.   “The servant was no sooner out of the
room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He
seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’   “The poor wretch threw himself down and
begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’  But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and
put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on,
they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.  “The king summoned the man and said, ‘You
evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy.   Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to
your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’   The king was furious and put the screws to
the man until he paid back his entire debt.   And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven
is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone
who asks for mercy.

 

There is a truth in this bible story that is wedged in deep
for us to discover.  It’s kind of like a
piece of food stuck between our teeth that needs to be flossed out so that our
gums don’t hurt anymore,  ignore it and
it could lead to an infection, more pain and perhaps other health issues.   Yeah it’s gross, but it is the truth,
nonetheless.   Sometimes the truth has to jump up and slap you
in the face before you stop and take notice.
The initial hurt could save you from
a deeper more lasting pain that could damage you permanently if you ignore the
warning.

 

Let’s try to peel back two very difficult topic to confront
in our lives.  Anger and Grudges.  Have you ever been angry?  Have you ever let your anger fester, over
flow, explode?  Anger can be a deadly
weapon delivered first with words that seemingly spill out of your mouth and
flow on into our actions if we let them.
If someone gets in our way during our drive home from work “WATCH OUT
YOU MORON!” might be a tame expression of how we really feel.  If we let this type of anger control us, whelm
up in us, then become a slave instead of free…because we are owned by our
emotions and owned by our outbursts.
These outbursts can become damaging to relationships and destructive to
those around us.  Ephesians 4:26 says “In
your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still
angry…”  in other words, anger by itself
is not wrong, but letting anger enslave you and anger coming home with you into
your house day in and day out is a recipe for destruction.  There is a time and a place for anger.  Jesus got angry didn’t He?  But His anger was righteous anger, or anger
that was justified by the actions of sinful people, making God’s house a Wal-Mart
super center instead of a house of worship.
But when we get so bent out of shape for the smallest of things then we
become known by others as the “angry person.”   Do you know anyone like that?  They are always flustered, always mad at
something, people walk on egg shells around them.  If that was a child, they’d be in a “time out”…sitting
in a chair until they calm down.  Maybe
we adults need to take emotional time outs too.
Anger, uncontrollable anger is one of those food kernels stuck between
our teeth that needs to be flossed out to make us healthy again.

 

The other issue we may face in our life that is detrimental to
us as Christ-followers is Grudges.  The
opposite of holding grudges is expressing forgiveness.  When we have been emotionally and physically
hurt by people, the easiest and most human response is to lash out and strike
back at them.  To inflict the kind of
pain that was done to us.   In the
ancient world and still today it’s the “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”
mentality.  But when we don’t forgive
someone, who are we really hurting?  When
we hold a grudge in our lives year after year who’s life are we really
hurting?  It’s our own life that we’ve
put on hold in order to stew over those things that people have done to
us.  It’s our own life that doesn’t grow
but shrink when we hold onto these bitter roots of anger and hurt.  The offending party that may have inflicted
these wounds years ago, maybe not even know or care anymore.  They probably don’t lose sleep over this
hurt, but we do all because we haven’t learned to let go of this bitterness in
our lives.  When Jesus tells his disciples
and those listening to turn the other cheek, He wants them to let go of revenge
and bitterness, because it brings not a humble pliable heart, but rather a
proud, angry, fist clinched heart.  Tell
me which heart is prepared to learn and grow in the knowledge of Jesus?  Certainly not the heart that is still broiled
up in bitterness and anger!  This kind of
heart is a divided heart.  This is a life
that is not completely sold out to God because there is something in the way, a
stumbling block that keeps the person from truly growing.  Hosea 10:2 says, “Their heart is deceitful,
and now they must bear their guilt. The LORD will demolish their altars and
destroy their sacred stones.”  This is a
reference to Israel, but we could easily put our names here instead if we let
anything divide our hearts and keep us from our intended relationship with
God.  God wants a true and sincere
relationship with us, but if we let anger and bitterness (Grudges, lack of
forgiveness) remain a wedge in our lives, then we are no better than the
wretched servant that Jesus speaks about in Matthew chapter 18.  This guy receives forgiveness from the
master, but instead of turning around and showing this kind of forgiveness and
mercy to those who owe him; he goes out and inflicts vengeance and anger on them,
and even though this is a fictitious character that Jesus talks about, we could
easily be that foolish, vengeful, blustery servant.

 

Do you want freedom, or do you want to continually be slaves
of your own making?  Anger and Bitterness
come from within, and if we let them, they can be a wedge in our lives that
will fester, hurt and ultimately lead to other spiritual health issues.  It’s time to get out the spiritual floss…yeah
kind of gross to think of it this way.  But
the truth hurts for an instant in comparison to the kind of damage permanent
anger and bitterness can create.  Jesus
said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

 

-Just a thought.

The Country of the blind (A poem by C.S. Lewis)

Hard light bathed them-a whole nation of eyeless men,
Dark bipeds not aware how they were maimed. A long
Process, clearly, a slow curse,
Drained through centuries, left them thus.

At some transitional stage, then, a luckless few,
No doubt, must have had eyes after the up-to-date,
Normal type had achieved snug
Darkness, safe from the guns of heavn;

Whose blind mouths would abuse words that belonged to their
Great-grandsires, unabashed, talking of light in some
Eunuch’d, etiolated,
Fungoid sense, as a symbol of

Abstract thoughts. If a man, one that had eyes, a poor
Misfit, spoke of the grey dawn or the stars or green-
Sloped sea waves, or admired how
Warm tints change in a lady’s cheek,

None complained he had used words from an alien tongue,
None question’d. It was worse. All would agree ‘Of course,’
Came their answer. “We’ve all felt
Just like that.” They were wrong. And he
Knew too much to be clear, could not explain. The words —
Sold, raped flung to the dogs — now could avail no more;
Hence silence. But the mouldwarps,
With glib confidence, easily

Showed how tricks of the phrase, sheer metaphors could set
Fools concocting a myth, taking the worlds for things.
Do you think this a far-fetched
Picture? Go then about among

Men now famous; attempt speech on the truths that once,
Opaque, carved in divine forms, irremovable,
Dear but dear as a mountain-
Mass, stood plain to the inward eye.

The Country of the blind – Poem by CS Lewis

Hard light bathed them-a whole nation of eyeless men,

Dark bipeds not aware how they were maimed. A long

Process, clearly, a slow curse,

Drained through centuries, left them thus.

At some transitional stage, then, a luckless few,

No doubt, must have had eyes after the up-to-date,

Normal type had achieved snug

Darkness, safe from the guns of heavn;

Whose blind mouths would abuse words that belonged to their

Great-grandsires, unabashed, talking of light in some

Eunuch’d, etiolated,

Fungoid sense, as a symbol of

Abstract thoughts. If a man, one that had eyes, a poor

Misfit, spoke of the grey dawn or the stars or green-

Sloped sea waves, or admired how

Warm tints change in a lady’s cheek,

None complained he had used words from an alien tongue,

None question’d. It was worse. All would agree ‘Of course,’

Came their answer. “We’ve all felt

Just like that.” They were wrong. And he

Knew too much to be clear, could not explain. The words —

Sold, raped flung to the dogs — now could avail no more;

Hence silence. But the mouldwarps,

With glib confidence, easily

Showed how tricks of the phrase, sheer metaphors could set

Fools concocting a myth, taking the worlds for things.

Do you think this a far-fetched

Picture? Go then about among

Men now famous; attempt speech on the truths that once,

Opaque, carved in divine forms, irremovable,

Dear but dear as a mountain-

Mass, stood plain to the inward eye.

CS Lewis 

Hard light bathed them-a whole nation of eyeless men,

Dark bipeds not aware how they were maimed. A long

Process, clearly, a slow curse,

Drained through centuries, left them thus.

 

At some transitional stage, then, a luckless few,

No doubt, must have had eyes after the up-to-date,

Normal type had achieved snug

Darkness, safe from the guns of heavn;

 

Whose blind mouths would abuse words that belonged to their

Great-grandsires, unabashed, talking of light in some

Eunuch’d, etiolated,

Fungoid sense, as a symbol of

 

Abstract thoughts. If a man, one that had eyes, a poor

Misfit, spoke of the grey dawn or the stars or green-

Sloped sea waves, or admired how

Warm tints change in a lady’s cheek,

 

None complained he had used words from an alien tongue,

None question’d. It was worse. All would agree ‘Of course,’

Came their answer. “We’ve all felt

Just like that.” They were wrong. And he

  

Knew too much to be clear, could not explain. The words —

Sold, raped flung to the dogs — now could avail no more;

Hence silence. But the mouldwarps,

With glib confidence, easily

 

Showed how tricks of the phrase, sheer metaphors could set

Fools concocting a myth, taking the worlds for things.

Do you think this a far-fetched

Picture? Go then about among

 

Men now famous; attempt speech on the truths that once,

Opaque, carved in divine forms, irremovable,

Dear but dear as a mountain-

Mass, stood plain to the inward eye.

 

CS Lewis

Don’t be the box of chocolates and roses kinda guy!

Hey guys, do you want to do something different this year than the same o’ thing? Are you predictable, do you do the same thing year in and year out? No this is the the start to some cheesey info-mercial, but it’s a reminder that valentines day shouldn’t be the only time you express your love for your significant other! Infact, I know some of you out there don’t like valentine’s day…it does seem to be a Hallmark created holiday doesn’t it? Just another marketing ploy by companies to make a buck…well putting the cynicism aside how about we look at it as another day to display love to the one you love! We don’t need to buy stuff to do that! How about write a poem, clean the house, take the kids for some much needed alone time by your spouse? There are countless ways to say “I love you” other than the same o’ thing. Let your attitude and actions say what words and chocolates can’t do. -Just a thought!

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