December 2022

Fireworks New Year's Day New Year's Eve

The Wonder of New

My wife and I had a wonderful gathering at our home the day after Christmas. We had relatives, children, and grandchildren packed into our small house; it was wonderful.

While my sister and brother-in-law conversed about things that I mostly understood, my adult kids spoke some strange language that didn’t seem to be English, and my grandkids, well, their hugs, communicated much more than their talk about games and some Australian cartoon called Bluey.

During the height of the evening’s conversations, the din swept me into a corner of my heart that seldom surfaces in my consciousness. I saw with my heart the wonder of “new” woven by the mixed conversations among the old, the young, and the ‘littles.’ I could see love creating a new, warm tapestry of joy that blanketed all of us. Eventually, as din declined, the tapestry evaporated, but the joy remained, tucked away in each of our hearts.

How staggering it must have been for Mary, the mother of Jesus, when “The angel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.‘ (Luke 1:35)”

Out of the newness of Christ’s virgin birth, a new thing was done. Jesus, the baby, was born, and He is holy and is called the Son of God, and He is the way to the newness of life for us (Romans 6:4).

God seems to love “new”. One of the last promises He gave us in the Scriptures is that someday, He will make a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). So, as we prepare to face this new year of 2023 – New Year’s Eve is my oldest son’s favorite holiday- let’s receive God’s joy of “new.” We don’t know what is in store for us, but we do know that God’s will shall prevail.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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All Connected

No man is an island – a poem by John Donne (1572-1631)

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee.

What a remarkable statement, “If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.” That line never fails to stir my heart, as does the line, “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” During John Donne’s time, the ringing of bells let people know when someone within their community had died. It was important for the whole community to know they’d lost one of their own. We need that kind of thinking in our local churches.

A church can’t be just a loose association of Christians. Whatever befalls any one of us affects us all. Christ Jesus, the Head of the Church, has declared that we are to “love one another” in a way that is so unique that people of the world take notice and see what can’t be found in their world. Sadly, somehow in America, the frequency of ‘death tolls’ has skewed our understanding of love. We say we love, but what remains of love if we fail to share the Gospel with the living and ignore the needs of those that remain after death?

Speaking of death, death is taken too casually in our world. I think that’s because we read about it every day – the casualties in Ukraine, the people that froze to death in Buffalo, New York, and so forth. The totality of daily deaths numbs us. It is difficult for us to see the preciousness of life buried in those numbers. Nevertheless, we must.

As John Donne wrote, “Any man’s death diminishes me.” So, as we begin to fold and pack away 2022, before we fasten that box, let’s ask our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to assess and show us how we represented Him to those in this lost and dying world. How did our local church respond? And for 2023, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to change us, so that we will hear with Christ’s ears, actively love with His heart, and always see the preciousness of life in everyone. For, if not us, then who?

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Let Us Celebrate Cristes Maesse

The word for Christmas in Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ. This phrase was first found in a manuscript written in 1038 AD. A word closer to our word, Christmas, is Cristes-messe, found in an 1131 AD manuscript. In Dutch, the word Christmas is Kerstmis; in Latin, it is Dies Natalis, and from Latin comes the French Noël. In Italian, Christmas is Il natale, and in German, Christmas is Weihnachtsfest which means sacred vigil. 

Controversies 🙁

The celebration of the birth of Jesus has a long and messy past. The first evidence of the feast came from Egypt in 200 AD. Egypt played a vital role during the early Church. Still, there has never been any agreement on the year or day of the birth of Jesus. Christmas has also long been a controversial celebration. In England, Christmas was banned by an Act of Parliament in 1644. People were forced to fast, and shops were ordered to be open1.

Nevertheless, regardless of edicts and theological proclamations, Christians have felt in our souls that we should join together around the birth of Jesus, independent of denominational differences. All of us should thank God for begetting His One and Only Son. So, let us do so. Let us set aside all malice or contempt and corporately humble ourselves, worshiping God and celebrating Jesus for being the pilgrim that made the only way of salvation, for we are all sinners saved by grace.


This coming Sunday is the day we jointly celebrate the birth of God’s Beloved Son, born in a manger. Let us rejoice in God’s prophecy of Jesus in Isaiah 9:6 (ESV): “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Merry Christmas!

Photo by Chris Sowder on Unsplash

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Heaven Travel Blue Passport

Being Known

Now, I want to address Christians, much like the Christians in the church in Corinth, that think of themselves as better than others. This statement may seem harsh; that is not my intent. Please hang with me on this.

20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish…29 no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

1 Corinthians 1:20,29 NLT

I hope we all seek to be known by Jesus Christ, our Lord, as trustworthy servants dedicated to bringing glory to God. (2 Corinthians 4:15) Education and knowledge are vitally important. Paul, the Apostle, encouraged his “son” Timothy to study so that he could correctly demonstrate a thorough understanding of the doctrine of Christ within the Scriptures. We all should continually strive to increase our knowledge, but the end purpose of knowledge is not for our benefit. Instead, it is to bring others to a greater understanding of the glory of God. Jesus leaves us no room to point some of God’s glory upon ourselves.

A person who loves God deeply and walks humbly in righteousness is more valuable to God than anyone that thinks they have all the answers. And that humble person is one whom God uses. Paul’s 2nd letter to the church at Corinth gives them, and us, a clear reminder: “[Presently] we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)

God knows us “fully,” and this won’t change when we enter heaven. God won’t have a sudden epiphany about anyone! However, we will find that some of the things we were adamant about in this life, we misunderstood or completely missed the boat. Therefore, let’s study while recognizing we cannot be experts in anything concerning God. And let’s not learn for our ego but let our hearts burn with a hunger to know God more intimately and encourage everyone while calling upon God’s grace and mercy while drawing near to Him so that He will draw near to us.

Image by Nahchon Guyton from Pixabay

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No entry sign on gate

The Value of Never and Always


Today, I’d like us to consider the extraordinary value of “never.” First, we should thank God, for He created the idea and truth of “never.” After all, God created everything and “never” exists, so He made it (John 1:1–3).

The word “never” always sits on the shoulders of “truth.” Nothing can be “never” unless it is verified by objective truth (not opinion). Can you say that there has never been a purple horse? You can’t unless you know all of the history of earth plus all of the history of every celestial object in the universe. Right? 

When you think about it, “never” sets a very high standard. It is an eternity word, like “always.” If you never give your heart to Jesus, then your sin remains on you, and your eternity will be eternal, horrible punishment (John 3:36). 

On the positive side, if you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you have received within you the Holy Spirit, and He will never leave you. He is with you now. He will be with you during your death. And He will be with you continually throughout eternity.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate [Holy Spirit], who will never leave you.

John 14:16 NLT


The word “always” is another eternity word. It, too, sits upon objective truth. Only God can use the word “always” without some qualification. We may say, “It’s always nice this time of year.” But, there is an understood qualifier. It is “often” nice or “usually” nice, but we all know that the weather tomorrow may be really miserable. When it comes to Jesus, He gave us an eternity “always.”

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19–20

Now you may say, “Whoa! Jesus used a qualifier. It says ‘to the end of the age’.” Yes, this promise is specifically about teaching Christ’s will to the world. So, let me hasten to add this verse:

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he [God] has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5

Good News

We live in a pretty messed up world that has mostly abandoned the objective truths of “never” and “always.” Instead, our culture places little value on anything that is eternal and unchanging. So, isn’t it comforting to know that God gave us the gifts of “never” and “always?”

Image by Tony from Pixabay

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Steep Mountain Road

Practical Faith

In the opening paragraphs of 2nd Corinthians, the Apostle Paul tells us something surprising. Here’s what he wrote:

8 We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die.” 

2 Corinthians 1:8–9a NLT

Practical Faith

We would have lost much of the New Testament if Paul had died. But God brought them through what appeared to Paul and his companions as certain death. We may be tempted to discount Paul’s statement since he is an Apostle, but we would miss God’s message for us. We find God’s intent in the following verses.

9 But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again.” 

11 “And you are helping us by praying for us.” 

2 Corinthians 1:9b–11 NLT

Paul found God to be reliable. This is practical faith. It’s easy for us to pray and trust God to help the orphans in Syria, but when it comes to our life-or-death situations, we quickly find out how well we’ve learned to trust God for immediate and practical matters. 

My Telephone Poll Story

Once, when I was a missionary in Eastern Europe, I was in the back seat of a very old Mercedes Benz full of people. The driver had little experience driving, but he decided to drive up a small mountain to get a telephone pole-sized log.

We strapped it to the roof of his car. As I sat down in the backseat, I had a bad feeling about this adventure. The Holy Spirit often prepares me for bad situations. Oh, I forgot to tell you the car had a manual shift (stick shift) transmission. Our driver started the car and immediately began going backward – he put the car in reverse – and he didn’t stop!

As the car sped faster and faster in reverse, we passengers began yelling instructions. Our frantic instructions accomplished one thing; the car stalled. This might have been good, but the driver held down the clutch while trying to start the vehicle.

So, as we free-wheeled down the side of a mountain, backward, with a telephone pole strapped to the roof and passengers screaming in multiple languages, my trust in God didn’t waiver; the driver was another matter!

We had picked up quite a bit of speed as we rapidly approached a jam-packed highway. Oh, the road was on the side of a high mountain. The lane we needed to end up in was the one that would take us down the mountain to a small village at the bottom. 

It was as if we were in a 1930s Laural and Hardy movie. Cars were whizzing down the highway while we bumped and bounced toward it. And just like in the film, a gap opened right when we sprung upon the pavement. Thankfully, the driver steered us, so the front of the car pointed down the mountain.

Praying for Others

Sitting in a dead car on a busy highway is not the time to learn how to pray. It’s time to pray. We made it to the village – that’s another story – and we all lived to tell our versions of what happened.

For me, the most important verse in today’s Scripture is verse eleven: “And you are helping us by praying for us.” Praying is very practical; it is based on practical faith. When we pray for the orphans in Syria, God hears us, and with the measure of faith we have, He measures out His help. You see, God answers our prayers, no matter how small or far away the need is. So when it comes to practical faith, remember this verse:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippians 4:6

Photo by Henry Lo on Unsplash

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Walking in Faith, Hope, and Love

This post is a follow-up to my last post, “Firm in the Faith.”

We live in a world where wickedness confronts us often and unexpectedly. We all have learned that media, in general, and entertainment, specifically, is in lockstep in its effort to normalize wickedness and demonize objective truth – objective truth is the opposite of opinion. 

If we read a new novel, watch a new show, listen to an interview with an athlete or hear a new song, we are sure to find some new subjective morality that we would never voluntarily allow to enter our ears or eyes. 

However, I am not writing this to vent or moan about our conditions. Paul wrote that we can’t hold the unsaved to the moral standard of Christians. (1 Corinthians 5:12)

What has me concerned is this worldly agenda being embraced by people convinced they are saved and doing God’s work. Paul gave the church at Corinth a stern warning about this kind of sin (1 Corinthians 5:6–12). This concern brings me to an unexpected verse in the Bible.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

Notice the word “forever.” This word is why we can trust in the objective truth of faith, hope, and love. If something is an objective truth, it always has been true, and it always will be true. 

If we had said that the landline telephone was the best communication method, we would now be wrong. That wasn’t an objective truth. But if we say that theft is a sin, that is an objective truth that always has been true and always will be.

No matter what happens, faith, hope, and love will continue; they will never be taken from God’s children. Sure, we have to continually “clean our feet1,” but what is happening to many American and European Christians is the same as what happened to the church at Corinth; the creation of local beliefs, based on human wisdom, that supersedes and displaces the Gospel.

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. 

1 Corinthians 3:18–20a

This problem of wickedness within the Church has been a problem since Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit2. The world has been carnal since Adam and Eve and will continue to be carnal until God’s final judgment. 

Our need is the same as the early church. We should pray that the Holy Spirit will direct all of us to reform our local churches so that they embrace being a Christian community that continually encourages, teaches, and assists each other, healing the wounds their members suffer as they go into the world and share the Gospel of Jesus. The Bible should be our standard, with nothing added and nothing removed. There are some churches that do this, but many more have wandered into worldly wisdom.

We “must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God 3.” We must go out even though unsaved people hate us4. We must go out because this is a command Jesus gave us5. If we love Jesus, we must obey His commands6. We can’t go out unless the body of Christ receives us back and heals us. 

Our local churches are the people that possess faith, hope, and love. We must not try to make it on our own. It won’t work because it violates God’s command: “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)

I pray that each of us walks daily in faith, hope, and love.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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1: John 13:5–11 
2: Acts 5:1–11 
3: Acts 14:21–23 
4: John 15:18 
5: Mark 16:15 
6: John 14:15

Firm in the Faith

Last night I heard a PSA (public service announcement) that was very hateful. It got me thinking about how we, as Christians, should live in our nation(s) with their subjective truths and ungodly morals. Then, this morning, I read this verse:

13 Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. 14 And do everything with love.” 

1 Corinthians 16:13

These are marching orders, marching orders for all who claim Jesus as their Lord. How different they are from those we hear in the media. 

Love is Our Command

The last word in our marching orders is “love.” How weird is that! Usually, aggressive marching or a chant ends with words like “hate” or “hell.” Even non-violent protesters usually pit themselves against their enemies, but not those who imitate Christ. We offer to help our enemies, pray for our enemies, to be slaves to our enemies. We commit ourselves to love with true love those people that hate us because those people are made in the image of God.

If you’ve ever loved a newborn baby or a grandchild, you know you could never wish them harm. It’s that kind of love that Jesus expects from us for people that want to be our enemies. So, if they steal from us, offer to give more; if they seek to put demands on us that the unrighteous don’t carry, offer to carry more. When we are oppressed, we pray out of love for our oppressors, and we seek out ways to tangibly demonstrate our love. (Matthew 5:38-45)

Love the Lost

Oh, you may say, “We must stand against the wicked.” I say, “We must stand against the wicked in our churches, against anyone that claims to belong to Jesus but openly rebels against His Holy Bible. But it’s different for the lost. 

12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 

1 Corinthians 5:12-13

The lost will never receive the Good News of Jesus unless they see that His people are uniquely different from their friends and families. Hate always hardens people, but sacrificial love resonates with those who know their hearts need filling.

Our Marching Orders

So, especially during Christmas time let’s embrace our marching orders. Let’s be the people that Jesus desires. Let’s love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and love inexplicably people that desire us harm. Remember, Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

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Get God’s Attention

You probably have read the following verses in one translation or another, but there’s something here that you may have missed. I chose the New Living Translation because it takes Koine Greek and translates it into a very familiar vernacular for us. So let’s consider for a minute or two these verses:

Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.

1 Corinthians 3:8–9 NLT

God Knows

There is an important truth packaged in these two short verses. This truth is one I recently learned from my dad despite the fact that he went to be with our Lord sixteen years ago.

Dad left behind six Bibles that he had studied, cover-to-cover, and written notes in their margins, augmented with post-it notes when the margins were insufficient. So, today, when I read 1 Corinthians 3:8–9 NLT I saw a note my dad had made in the margin. It read, “To love God, get His attention.” This struck me as a gem.

As I thought about what Dad had written, I reread the verses. Then I looked up the greek word that the NLT translated as “recognizes.” This word means: to ‘know’ in a great variety of applications and with many implications.

How We Do It

Now I began trying to put today’s verses into my own words, not to replace Scripture but to test my understanding of God’s Word. Here is what I came up with (try it yourself): “A person who loves God knows more than the people that think they have all the answers because a person who loves God knows the One that has all of the answers. And that person is one whom God knows everything about.” Remember, at the final judgment, Jesus will tell some people, “Depart from Me for I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:21–23)

We are to love God. In return, God comes close to us, and He recognizes us; He knows us. God’s recognition isn’t like getting a good pair of glasses. Instead, it’s like knowing how you feel when your pet dies. Now I wondered, does coming to God and loving God square with Dad’s statement: “get His attention?” Then I remembered a scene from a 1990s Australian tv cop series that my wife and I watched.

In this one scene, an intense senior detective is on the phone, trying to carry on a conversation with a small child while the police are desperately searching for the child. As the detective continues his toddler-talk a female police officer becomes enraptured with him as he humbles himself to speaks toddler-talk in his attempt to keep the child on the phone.

Good News

In that one scene, I saw how to get God’s attention; we do it by becoming enraptured with Him. Our unhindered love for God will naturally result in us performing good works that testify to the majesty of Jesus Christ our Lord. This is how we get God’s attention. We do it with our love.

Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

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