Sunday, December 30, 2012

THE MAYAN'S WERE WRONG!


YES, THE MAYAN’S WERE WRONG, the world did not end on December 21, 2012, but let’s not be too rough on them . Lots of people have made predictions throughout the years regarding the end of the world. Thus far, none of them have been correct.

Here we sit saying farewell to 2012 and wondering what 2013 will bring to us. We don’t know what this year will bring. The end of the world, or worse? Will the jobless rate decline? Will housing prices rise? Will there be peace in the Middle East? Will there be an end to the war in Afghanistan? And closer to home, will the creek stay in its banks? Will the trees remain upright? Will the kids do well in school? Will the family remain intact?

So many questions and so few answers. People could drive themselves crazy just worrying about what today will bring, let alone tomorrow. We can plan and prepare. We can communicate and stay connected, but the reality is, no one knows what tomorrow holds.

No one except the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9; Isaiah 43:11-13), the One who declares that I am the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Is it any wonder then that Jesus tells His followers not to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:28-34)? The One who is the I AM, is the only One who knows the fullness of eternity.

As in all things in the journey of following Christ, it comes down to a life of trust. In the movie, The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit, asked the wizard Gandalf if he could promise that he would come back alive from their great adventure, to which Gandalf responds with a decided, “No. But I can promise you an adventure.”  I often try to nail down the Lord with the same question, “Lord, will I make it through this in one piece?” His answer has often been to me, “Randy, it doesn’t matter. Be it life or death or something in between, I will be with you, and that is always enough.” (Joshua 1:7-9; Matthew 28:16-20)

I invite you to join with all the Lord’s people in the great adventure of seeing the Kingdom of God expanded, and quite an adventure it will be!  

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Monday, December 24, 2012

RE-GIFTING RE-IMAGINED


RE-GIFTING IS NOTHING NEW, my mother did years ago. She always had a closet full of gifts the various members of the family had previously received but either did not like, or did not need. My mom would even cut off the fronts of various cards she has received and used them as gift-tags. I suppose she learned this “art” by living through the Great Depression and World War 2. I realize that others have done this too, but my mom raised it to an art form.

I believe re-gifting is not the evil thing that some make it out to as long as you remember these tips: 1) Be sure to remove the gift tag. 2) Be sure not to give it back to the person from whom you received it, or their family members, or close friends. Of course, it could be kind of fun to leave the tags attached and see just how far the gift travels before it finds a permanent home!

Christmas is about re-gifting, is it not?  The Bible tells us that God so loved us He gave His Son (John 3:16). The Bible also tells us that Jesus so loved us, He willing laid down His life for us. (John 15:13) The Lord then tells us, His followers, that we are love each other and so prove to be His disciples. (John 13:34-35)  Finally, late in the Scriptures we read that our ability to love at all comes from the fact that God, who is love (1 John 4:8) loved us first (1 John 4:19). It seems that all this love we give is a re-gifting of that which was first given to us. This kind of re-gifting is not only good, it is encouraged. (Romans 13:8).

Therefore, this Advent season, and throughout the coming year, let us re-package and re-gift that which was first given to us. In fact, this is one of those times you might want to even leave the First-Giver’s gift tag in the “box.” (1 John 4:7-21) And this is one gift you can give back to the giver.

May our loving Lord grant you an increased awareness of His love as His special gift to you, Merry Christmas!

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Friday, December 21, 2012

SO MUCH CAN BE SAID..

WHEN I CONTEMPLATE THE HORRENDOUS EVENTS OF LAST FRIDAY, I realize that there is very little that can be said.

Biola University
Biola University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Therefore, I am thankful for people like Dr. Corey, President of Biola University, who shared the following entitled, "O Little Town of Newtown."   

Thank you, Dr. Corey.  May we all determine to be peace-makers in a world that waits for the second Advent of He who is the Prince of Peace.
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Monday, December 17, 2012

A FAMILY AFFAIR


LAST SUNDAY I TOOK AN INFORMAL SURVEY. I asked, “What aspect of Christmas do you enjoy the most?” The almost unanimous response was, “being with family.” Second highest response was eating holiday meals, which of course included being with family and friends around the holiday table.

It only makes sense that Christmas would be about family, since the event we celebrate as Christians revolves around a small family experiencing less than perfect conditions surrounding the birth of their first child. You know the story, no room in the inn, thus this unique birth takes place in a cattle stall. Cold, less than sanitary conditions, and removed from family and friends. A young couple becomes three, but not alone.

The child born to them is Emmanuel, God is with them. In a miraculous event the three in the barn are joined by the other members of the Three of eternity. Soon, the news of the birth of the long awaited Messiah is declared by heavenly host to lowly shepherds nestled among the hills of Bethlehem. The gathering in the lonely stall is now filled with awe, wonder and praise of the shepherds who responded to the angelic good news.

Family has always been part of God’s plan, even before the first family drew their first breaths in God’s Garden and family will remain God’s design even as we re-enter the Paradise of God at the culmination of all things.

This Advent season let’s ask the Lord to open our eyes to those around us who may need a family with which to celebrate and then let us open our hearts and homes and invite them in.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

GIVE MORE! LOVE ALL!

THIS COMING SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2012, I am to continue in our Advent series, "Turning Your Christmas Upside-Down." The theme this coming is Give More, and in light of today's tragedy in Newton, Conn. we might well be asking ourselves how we can Give More?

Well, as our President rightly said, we can hug our kids a little tighter tonight, and tell our family that we love them. 
We can give love, where anger may abound. We can give our prayers where peace is hard to be found.We can hug, and squeeze our children tight,And help them to know in this awful fright,That we are there all through their night.


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Monday, December 10, 2012

GIFTS OF LOVE LAST

CHRISTMAS 1980 WAS THE YEAR that Linda and I threw down the Christmas gauntlet to our family. We strongly suggested, dare I say, urged our extended family that all family gifts should be “made” and not “bought.” I do believe we allowed for some crafts supplies to be purchased, but the rule was to be that all things were to be “made.” Gifts could be something built, or clothes sewn, or a poem written, the field was wide open.  The whole purpose was to make Christmas a little more personal and a whole lot less expensive.

Some of the family members refused to comply. Some gave it a little effort, but spent more and bought extra stuff too. The one who came though the best was my dad. He made a toy box in the shape of Noah’s Ark all out of scrap lumber and hardware he had laying around the house. It was made for Trinity on her first Christmas, and it has been used by all the siblings since, and still holds a place of honor in our home…awaiting the next bunch of little ones (hint-hint).

The toy box has gone through some repairs through the 32 years it has been within our family. It has traveled from Felton to La Mirada to Cokato, Minnesota, to Crescent City, California and rests comfortably back in Felton once again. It has held stuffed-animals, My Little Ponies, doll clothes, blocks and Legos. It has been sat on and in and stood on a few times, too, and yet still serves its function well. What about the other Christmas gifts from 1980? To be honest I really can’t remember them, but I am sure Linda can…she’s better at that.

Now, I am not saying that all the other gifts our family has received throughout the years were not appreciated. Nope, we have received some great gifts over the years, but what grabs me here is that the gift that cost nothing but time and love is the gift that seems to have lasted the best. We really can spend less in order that we can give more so that we can love all and in doing so worship fully the God who gave His best. That’s what turning Christmas upside-down is all about.

If you're thinking about giving gifts that change lives consider Living Water International.


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Saturday, December 08, 2012

BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING

 HAVE YOU BEEN BLESSED THIS PAST YEAR? Would you like to be a blessing to someone who could use a true blessing? Are you looking for a way to give a Christmas gift that would  truly be a blessing on both sides of the gift-giving? A blessing to giver and receiver and even one in the middle?

Well, why not help me build a well?  Check out my "Gift-Site" and help me give a gift that will give in so many ways! Help me give cup after cup of clean water in Jesus' Name.

You can also see the good work that is being done in Jesus' Name through the ministry of Living Water International and Advent Conspiracy. Join us as we seek to "Turn Christmas Upside-Down" through learning to Worship Fully through Spending Less and Giving More so we can Love All in Jesus' Name and for God's glory!

What better way to celebrate Christmas?!?
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Friday, December 07, 2012

THE CHRISTMAS KISS -- Keeping It Seriously Simple

Keeping It Seriously Simple


ALL THE HUBBUB SURROUNDING CHRISTMAS can often lead to Christmas Humbugging. Being a “Christmas Humbugger” is not in the spirit of Christmas and it leaves the humbugger and the anyone around them feeling the joy of Christmas being sucked right out of the chilly winter air. I should know, I have been both the Humbugger and the one Humbugged. In order to change this seasonal situation I have come to discover a simple secret to maintaining the Christmas spirit, I can it is the Christmas KISS (Keeping It Seriously Simple.)

I discovered the example of the Christmas KISS in the giving of the original Christmas Gift, the Gift of the Christ Child. On the day the Jesus entered the world, He did so simply. Born to a young, traveling couple in a borrowed barn where His first bed was a feeding trough filled with hay.  Rather simple I would say, and yet, His simple arrival came with serious implications. This Child was born for one ultimate purpose which was to obediently offer His life was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. (Matthew 20:28)

Over the past few Christmas seasons I have sought to employ the model of Jesus in the giving and receiving of Christmas gifts. I have endeavored to give and receive that which is both simple (It does look like much. It doesn’t take wrapping paper. It may not even cost much) and yet it is very serious in its purpose and result.

My gift of choice is to follow the Heavenly Father’s giving in giving that brings life to those who need it most. Over the past few years I have both given and received the gift of clean water, through the aptly named Living Water International.

This Advent season I am once again putting forth the challenge I first heard proposed through the ministry known as The Advent Conspiracy. I am calling us, the recipients of God’s seriously simple gift, to help turn Christmas upside-down. The call is to worship more fully, to spend less while giving more all to the end of loving all. I believe it is the model exhibited in the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus, God’s promised Messiah.
I encourage you to join me the Advent season as we seek to “Turn Christmas Upside-Down.” Our Sunday morning times of worship will focus upon the seriously simple Gift which God, our Father, gave 2000 years ago. I encourage you to not only come and sing the carols of the season, and reveal in the Christmas story, and enjoy the warmth of Christian fellowship, but also to consider how you can give in a more seriously simple way. You can discover some ways of seriously simple giving by clicking on the links in this Pastor’s Pondering. If you’re reading a hard-copy of the Chatter here are the websites to check out www.water.cc and www.adventconspiracy.org, both will give you great ways to give. You can also check out www.globalgiving.org for more ideas.
My prayer is that we will all push through the hubbub of the holidays and to give gifts that are full of the love of God and that bring the opportunity to worship Him more fully. Let’s together replace the humbugs with hallelujahs by giving gifts which honor God by giving to those who need it most. Let’s give the Christmas Kiss as we share the Savior’s love with all.

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Monday, December 03, 2012

THE UNUSUAL PLAN


THAT’S NOT THE WAY I WOULD HAVE PLANNED IT. I have said that statement numerous times throughout my life, and I have heard many others repeat it as well. Tonight, if all things go as planned, my daughter Trinity will marry Freddy Garcia.  As I can attest to, there have been many months of planning that have gone into this special evening of covenant-making and celebration. Over those months the plans have changed from time to time, but hopefully, by now all things are set and ready to go.
     All that being said, there is the possibility that not all things will go as planned, but we are praying that all our planning and designing and practicing will produce a memorable evening for all who attend, especially for the bride and groom.
     Two-thousand years ago there was another event that had been in the planning stages since before the beginning of time. Two millennia ago in a little village called Bethlehem the long-promised king of Israel was born. From the outsider’s view it could seem that things did not go as planned. This long-awaited king was not born in the capital city, but in a small village down the road. He was not born in a castle, but rather a cattle stall. He arrived not in a flare of majesty, but meekly, born to a young couple far away from home. Yes, to the outsider it looked like things did not go has planned.
     The reality is they did go exactly as planned, in fact the whole of His life which might have seemed at the time unplanned, and even tragic, was in fact, just as God had designed it to be. This humble and mainly unnoticed birth, took place at just the right moment in time. From our vantage point His life did not seem to take any of the usual paths that one who was to be king would take. His birth, His life, His sacrificial death, all of it was highly unusual. Not the way we would have planned it.
     Then of course, there was His resurrection. Once again, highly unusual!
     This Advent season I call you to explore those highly unusual aspects of the Savior’s birth. I challenge you to turn your Christmas upside-down by taking a look at it not from your vantage point, but from His. I encourage you to utter a simple prayer, “Lord, help me to see Christmas, the day we are to celebrate Your birth, from Your eyes.” And as you do, may your Christmas be anything but usual!
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