In the observable universe, there are an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. That’s 1 billion trillion. And that’s not counting planets, moons, and so forth. We can’t truly comprehend that number, yet each celestial object is unique. Here’s what our God said about this starry host:
Isaiah 40:25-26 (ESV) “To whom will you compare Me, or who is My equal?” asks the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high: Who created all these? He leads forth the starry host by number; He calls each one by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
Indeed, God is beyond our understanding, and yet He knows everything and everyone in the universe! He knows you, and He knows me, and He knows what we need and what our hearts desire.
Thanks to Jesus, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)
We have joy, mercy, grace, and peace in God through Jesus Christ. Rest in Jesus, no matter what you need!
The clock keeps moving us closer to the end of the year. As we draw closer to the closure of this year, it’s wise for us to do some spiritual house cleaning. Have we paid our tithe, have we forgiven everyone that may have caused us harm, whether through intent or ignorance, are we reconciled with our fellow descendants of Adam? Is there anything we promised that we’ve left undone? Have we gone to the Lord our God and sought His forgiveness for sins of commission and sins of omission?
The way God forgives us, so we are to forgive others. “For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.”, King Hezekiah proclaimed (Isaiah 38:17 ). As God forgives, so we should forgive others.
Corrie ten Boom, in her book Tramp for the Lord, wrote: It was 1947–. I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I like to think that that’s where forgiven sins are thrown. “When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever–. Then God places a sign out there that says ‘No Fishing Allowed'”
Thankfully, the one true God is long-suffering (2 Peter 3:9), He is impartial (Acts 10:34), and He stands against the mistreatment of people (Zechariah 7:10). Our God has relieved us from retribution for He has said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19).
No, I’ve not forgotten about Christmas, Christ’s mass. We’ll talk about that as that time draws nearer. But, today, I thought it best to remind us of God’s character and His extraordinary expectations of us in 2019.
Colossians 3:15-17 The Message (MSG) 15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
As long as I’ve been a Christian, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. Shouldn’t Christmas be it since I am a Christian? Good question. Yes, it SHOULD, but the intention of this Holy Day is more soiled, shredded, and mutilated than the items people hold in their avaricious hands as they stand in line at Walmart. Why not Easter? Same story. The Easter egg hunt reigns supreme on this intended Holy Day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior.
No, for most of my Christian life the best that conspicuous consumption could stir up against Thanksgiving was a turkey and pumpkin pie. Both good but not able to overshadow the 800-pound gorilla in the room; to whom do you give thanks?
Giving thanks implies a Giver and places the Giver above the receiver unless you can give back as much, and in kind. A one-shot, day of giving stuff at Christmas pales in comparison to receiving every breath you take for every second or every day for the whole year. – My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for, to me, too many years. But I won’t know until I get to heaven what was gained in God’s kingdom from her battle.
Well, I am still grasping on to Thanksgiving despite its slow, maniacal disassembly. We have Black Friday, Shop Local Saturday, and Cyber Monday. We have Christmas commercials that overlap Halloween. Commercialism is in a no-holds-barred battle against Thanksgiving, and it’s winning.
Just last week I saw a commercial that called Thanksgiving “Friendsgiving”; they’ve tossed the gorilla out of the window. My guess is that the Thanksgiving Holy Day will fall in line with the other three-day weekend holidays: FaceTime a few friends and family, pop some popcorn and watch football. Yes, I think that is the future of my beloved Holy Day. But not for me. Not in this house. “… as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV).
Take A Little Time
In closing, I’d like to leave you with Andrae Crouch’s song, “Take A Little Time”. You will be blessed.
I had started a technology company and had a handful of employees. I had bootstrapped the company – no venture capital. At this point, the company was about four years old. I had expensive professional employees. Most held advanced degrees.
We’d experienced steady growth. Never once during those four years had I missed a payroll. God always provided.
One day, close to a payroll, I went through the company’s financials. It looked grim. Even if I didn’t draw a paycheck, there just wasn’t nearly enough to do a partial payroll. All of my cash was tied up with “work-in-progress.” I was deeply concerned, but God had led me to start this business, and He’d never failed me.
On the morning of payday, my company’s cash flow was the worst I’d ever experienced. Realizing this was a watershed moment for the company, I rushed to my church’s office. I asked the pastor and everyone there to join me in prayer for God to overcome this moment that otherwise would harm my staff and crush the company. We prayed. God provided. The payroll was fully met that day.
God Loves You No Less
This crushing financial event in my life is why I relate so strongly to King Hezekiah’s actions when an invading force conspired to crush him and all of Judah. But God miraculously saved him and his people from destruction.
Look at what King Hezekiah did when he heard the threat: Isaiah 37:1 (ESV), “As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord“
I didn’t tear my clothes or put on sackcloth, but I tore my heart and humbled myself before Father God, and I went to the house of the Lord.
God loves you no less than me. When you are “hard pressed on every side (2 Cor. 4:8),” and all seems lost, tear your heart, run to your church, gather Godly people around you, and pray. God will hear, and you may see inexplicable events unfold, for “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1).
2 Corinthians 13:12, “Greet each other with a holy kiss.”
People Need Human Contact
There are five references to a “holy kiss” in the New Testament. I know the idea of a “holy kiss” freaks out Americans, myself included, yet most Americans are comfortable with a hug as part of a greeting or farewell. And the European tradition of air-kissing each cheek when formally greeting someone has long been practiced.
Every culture has its own approach to personal contact during a greeting or farewell. “The traditional Māori greeting, the hongi (pronounced hɒŋi) is performed by two people pressing their noses together; some include, at the same time, the touching of foreheads.” –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hongi
By nature I’m not a hugger. Over the years I’ve learned from my wife and her family how to hug but I’m still a bit clumsy. This seemly insignificant deficiency of mine proved to be a problem during my ministry in Romania.
I Kiss Your Hand
I was in Romania shortly after that country’s independence from the Soviet Union and the “old ways” were in full force. When formally introduced to a woman I was expected to air-kiss both cheeks. That was too much. Thankfully, a friend taught me to say “Îți sărut mâna”, meaning, “I kiss your hand.” This statement was an acceptable formal greeting. Yeah!
The Power of Touch
There’s a fascinating article in The Atlantic, titled, “Can We Touch,” which highlights the medical and psychological benefits from platonic, human touch. For example:
From a small initial study the psychologist Tiffany Field published an article in the journal Pediatrics in 1986, which showed that just ten days of “body stroking and passive movements of the limbs” for less than an hour led babies to grow 47 percent faster. They averaged fewer days in the hospital and accrued $3,000 less in medical bills. The effect has been replicated multiple times.
Tiffany Field has published similar findings about the benefits of touch in full-term infants, and then children and pregnant women, adults with chronic pain, and people in retirement homes. Studies that involved as little as 15 daily minutes found that touch alone, even devoid of the other supportive qualities it usually signifies, seems to have myriad benefits.
Be a Hugger
So, what’s my point? With Thanksgiving and Christian nearly here, we’re entering a time when we will be meeting, greeting, and farewelling (?) lots of people. As Christians, we should always offer to hug anyone. People will let you know if they don’t want a hug. However, it seems that many people are desperate for human touch, and hugging someone might make their day and cure their cold! ( read the article 😉 )
In the wilderness of Shur, the Israelites had no water. At Marah, they had water, but it was bitter (poisonous); so that they could not drink it.
We find this account in Exodus 15:23-25 (ESV): When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
God Leads us to Bitter Waters
There’s a great lesson (probably several) in this brief passage of Scripture. God often leads us to “bitter water,” not to be cruel but to use us for change.
Moses and all of Israel arrived where God led them, but what they found was unsuitable for them or anyone. Immediately all of the Debbie Downers began complaining. Wow, if you’ve ever been in a leadership role of any kind, you know how “helpful” whining and complaining is to solving problems!
We’re There for a Reason
Nevertheless, God put His people there for a reason. And He will do the same for each of us. Why? Because God chooses to use His children to affect change; to transform bitter waters into sweet waters. We are well equipped for these assignments because the Holy Spirit lives within us, and He intends to use us to point people to Jesus.
No, we don’t walk around with blessed logs that we’re to through into bitter situations (there’s a lawsuit). What God does is show us the tool, the instrument of change, the “log” that He has prepared to transform situations, problems, people that are poisonous into something wholesome, healthy, and refreshing.
Don’t panic, don’t join the complainers but pray, seek God’s will, ask for the Holy Spirit to show you the “log” that is needed and then act in faith and watch God work. When once you’ve experienced this, you will desire God to lead you to the next crises; well, maybe not, but you’ll sure be ready!
As you may know, redemption is not a New Testament idea. Instead, what Jesus accomplished through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension was the fulfillment of promises made thousands of years before His birth. If you will, take a moment and read this passage from Isaiah written about seven-hundred and forty years before Jesus was born.
The Redeemed Shall Walk There
Isaiah 35:10 (ESV emphasis added)
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Doesn’t this resonate with the same truths proclaimed in the New Testament? Sometimes I fear we have built too high of a wall between the Old and New Testaments.
Old Testament Scriptures
When Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV), by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The Scripture to which Paul referred was the Old Testament, for the New Testament had not yet been written. In fact, 2 Timothy is thought to have been written around 67 AD (https://tinyurl.com/vo2kctx). Well before many other books in the New Testiment.
Get a Bible Reading Plan
If you get some extra time off from work during the holidays, make or download a Bible reading plan for next year. Be ready for January 1, 2020. I believe all Christians everywhere will need an extra measure of grace next year.
I pray: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26 ESV
As I recently mentioned, we bought a shed for my office. Getting the electrical installed was easy-peasy because we “have” an electrician that is reliable and affordable. However, we have struggled to get my office insulated and drywalled. It seems that my project is too small for anyone to bother with.
My wife and I are about ready to do this work ourselves. When we were younger, we’d already had the job finished. However, time is catching up with us, and our strength is waning. Still, I’m confident that God will make a way for this work to be accomplished.
Just as a house or office needs insulation to keep out the extremes of weather, so we as Christians need insulation to maintain a barrier between what the Holy Spirit is working within us and what our society is attempting to stifle within us.
One of the best spiritual insulators for our minds and souls can be purchased for free. It is be found in
Philippians 4:8-9, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
This passage of scripture gives us the insulation that we need to keep the world from chilling the Holy Spirit’s fire within us or overheating our passion for the work God has given us, which can lead to frustration and anger.
Keep the Precepts of Philippians
Daily we need to keep the precepts of Philippians 4:8-9 at the forefront of our thoughts. If we do this, then the storms of life may buffet us, but we will remain warm and snuggly with God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many years ago, we were about to have breakfast with some friends when our four-year-old son announced, “We don’t pray over breakfast!” We’ve prayed over breakfast and all of our meals since then.
The Bible documents several times when Jesus blessed the food before a meal. We see this when Jesus joined two of HIs disciples on the road to Emmaus on the day He arose from the dead. The Scripture states in Luke 24:30, “When He (Jesus) had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them.”
Paul, too, gave us an example of giving thanks before a meal in Acts 27:35 (ESV): And when he (Paul) had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.
Before a Meal, I Pray
I spent much of my life traveling the world for my work. During those travels, I’ve eaten in some very sketchy places. So I sincerely pray before a meal. I have no doubt these prayers have saved me from significant discomfort. I believe this because the Scripture in 1 Timothy 4:4-5 (NLT emphasis added) states, “Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer.“
Whether we “say grace,” or “give thanks,” or “ask God’s blessing,” or “pray” before eating a meal, we are following the example that Jesus established. He set the precedent for us.
Do you remember when it was important for a person to have “a good name?” For you youngsters, I don’t mean having a name like Michael or Michell instead for Schweinestall (German for pigsty). No, a good name comes from possessing noble qualities such as being truthful, generous, trustworthy, courageous and so forth.
There are many accounts in the BIble of people that had a good name. One of those is found in Acts 10:22: And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.”
Developing a good name takes years, but it can be lost by a single inappropriate moral action. Mess up, and to the back of the line, you go. Thankfully, through confession and repentance, Jesus forgives and restores, but this isn’t synonymous with recovering a good name. A good name only comes with time.