Sunday, December 30, 2012

End of the Year Thoughts

English: A homeless man in Paris Français : Un...
English: A homeless man in Paris Français : Un sans domicile fixe à Paris. Tiếng Việt: Một người đàn ông vô gia cư ở Paris Polski: Bezdomny mężczyzna w Paryżu See below for more translations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

Psalm 77:11

English Standard Version (ESV)

      Bad times seem so much worse when they're happening.  Later when we look back we may be in wonderment of how we ever made it.  When we've gotten past the bad times we can often look back on them as a learning experience.  We might even be able to laugh about it and realize things weren't as bad as they seemed at the time or might have been if they'd gotten worse.

       God will guide us through the bad times if we allow him to do so.  When we open our eyes to see what God gets us through we may be amazed.  We hopefully will be thankful and give Him credit for what He has done.   It's important for us to remember how we survived the darkest hours and how God has been there for the faithful in ages past for thousands of years.

        None of us wants trouble, discomfort, pain, or sorrow.   Sometimes these things will come our way.  Always remember that we don't have to travel the difficult road alone.   There is a reason and a season for everything.   Live, learn, trust, and be thankful.   God is there when we call upon Him.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

New International Version (NIV)

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

What Is the Best Gift You've Ever Been Given?

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, ...
Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy: The Three Wise Men" (named Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar). Detail from: "Mary and Child, surrounded by angels", mosaic of a Ravennate italian-byzantine workshop, completed within 526 AD by the so-called "Master of Sant'Apollinare". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
    render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
    bring gifts!

Psalm 72:10

English Standard Version (ESV)

           Tis the season when gifts are given.  We give to loved ones and to those to whom we wish to pay tribute.  We give gifts to relatives, friends, and co-workers.  Often gifts are exchanged.  Other times gifts are given selflessly without expectations of receiving anything in return.  

            The Magi--those Three Kings of yore--brought gifts to one whom they knew was important even though they might have not had any idea why he was important.  During his brief stay on Earth, Jesus gave himself freely to the people.  He taught us how we should live and how we could live forever in his light.

           And what did the people give Him?   A cross, a crown of thorns, pain, ridicule, and death.

            Yet, this is what had to be.  We call it sacrifice.

              God calls it love, mercy, and justice.  Jesus was our ultimate gift from God.  His life for our sin. Don't forget Jesus Christ this Christmas.

...they (the Three Kings) went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.   When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.   On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:9-11

New International Version (NIV)

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Is the End of the World Near?

NASA Sunspot Number Predictions for Solar cycl...
NASA Sunspot Number Predictions for Solar cycle 23 and 24 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.

Psalm 22:27-28

New International Version (NIV)

           The end of the world is upon us...again.  

            Why do people keep falling for the old end of the world line?  These non-events seem to pop up every few years or so and perhaps with greater frequency in the last couple of centuries.  Often the predictions are pretty devastating ones that leave us little recourse other than to just die.   Other predictions give us a hope for survival if we take steps to be ready.

           For me being ready means heeding one source.  The plan is in the Bible.  Scoffers may rebuff the Holy Word while embracing the nonsense they are fed by the latest apocalypse fad.   Others may sail on obliviously, thinking everything will last for millions or billions of years more until it all fades into some natural celestial event.  Resistance to the Word can take a lot of work for some and blind ignorance for others.

          The predictions of the Mayans or anyone else who claims they know our final date of existence are absurdity.  The world is enamored by absurdity.  The truth is that no one knows when the final hour of the world as we know it will come except the One who created it.  The answers can be found in the Holy Bible.

         It's worth reading.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

Matthew 24:42-44

New International Version (NIV)

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Will Your Christmas Be Merry?

Why am I so sad?
    Why am I so troubled?
I will put my hope in God,
    and once again I will praise him,
    my savior and my God.

Psalm 42:11

Good News Translation (GNT)

           Are you planning to have a sad Christmas?

            For many of us Christmas can be a time of sadness, despair, and loneliness.  The memories of past happier Christmases may haunt us.  Perhaps we have loved ones who are gone.  Some us may be dealing with financial woes or health issues.  The holiday season may seem like a burdensome time that we'd rather forget about.

           I hope this is not the case for any of you.   We have plenty of reason for celebration.

...the angel said to them, “Don't be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people.

Luke 2:10

Good News Translation (GNT)

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hallelujah! 'Tis the Season For Handel's Messiah

Portrait of George Frideric Handel from the Ro...
Portrait of George Frideric Handel from the Royal Collection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will praise the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Psalm 146:2

New International Version (NIV)

        The rousing strains of Handel's Messiah will be oft heard over the next few weeks in many venues as we near Christmas.   Though a work appropriate and inspirational for any time of year, the Messiah is a musical work that has become closely associated with Christmas.

            This year I will be joining an assemblage at my church for a performance of this sacred oratorio on Sunday December 2nd.  This choir will consist of a handful from the church that I attend, a few members of a Japanese men's chorus from the city of Torrance, some professional soloists hired for this performance, and a number of Koreans from a church that uses our facilities in Downey, California.  

            We've been practicing since July under the baton of one Ken Taguchi who originally came to us from Japan.  It's a wonderful assemblage of peoples from several parts of the world, professional and amateur, all gathering for one evening of worshiping God.  

            Surely this amazing musical composition is but one example of the music of praise that will be sung to God in Heaven.  Thank you George Frederick Handel for the oratorio.  And thank you Jesus for the inspiration.

            Hallelujah!  He shall reign forever and ever.

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
    For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
 Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!

Revelation 19:6-7

New International Version (NIV)

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Does More Stuff Make for a Better Life?

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
    when the splendor of their houses increases;
17 for they will take nothing with them when they die,
    their splendor will not descend with them.

Psalm 49:16-17
New International Version (NIV)

          "Black Friday", the biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S., has come and gone.  Over the next few weeks consumers will be spending billions on material goods to be given as gifts to others or bought for themselves.  A boon for the economy, but perhaps a detriment to the soul.  

           Though touted as a season of good will toward others, it's difficult not to see a bit of the greed in this event that is meant to celebrate the birth of a Savior.  Companies are focused on the profits.  Employees clamor for bigger wages and more benefits.  Children are making their lists of what they want Santa to bring them.

           Sometimes Christmas seems more about the goods than about the good that we can find within us and others.   It doesn't take long for much of that stuff we've received at Christmas to end up stored away in closets, cluttering room space, or even ending up in the trash heap.  Can all of this increase really be considered gain?

            Perhaps it's time we think less about the presents and more about the Presence.  Life is short and passes quickly.  Enjoy the presence of family and friends and most of all, the presence of God.  The real reason for this season is not seeing how many more possessions we can accumulate.

But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

1 Timothy 6:6-7

New International Version (NIV)

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

When Miracles Are Not Enough

With all my heart
    I praise the Lord!
    I will never forget
    how kind he has been.
The Lord forgives our sins,
heals us when we are sick,

Psalm 103:2-3

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

        Recently I have been dealing with the death of my step-father and trying to comfort my mother concerning her loss of someone she loved dearly.  Many prayers were sent his way when the doctors discovered his cancer.  He had hope that healing might come.  We all had hopes.  But we were also aware of the reality of the situation.

        Sure, we were hoping for a miracle, but there are certain miracles that are just not usually going to happen.  Defying the odds of the most devastating types of maladies is one of those types of miracles.   Healing can come in some cases, but the inevitability of death exists for all of us.  When our time comes then it's time to accept what awaits us.

          I think my step-father had dealt with a lot of tough times in his life, but his last sixteen years with my mother were probably the best times of his life.  He had the experience of having a family which is something he had not previously had.   He had the joy of love and being wanted.   They were good years.

          Since I didn't live near to them, I didn't have as much time to delve as deeply into all aspects of my step-father's life as I might have been able to otherwise.   I guess I always thought I'd have time for that someday, but then that day was lost.  I don't know what his standing with God was in his life, but I think he was a spiritual person from what I did know about him.   I hope that he made the peace that is necessary for him to be with God for eternity.

           So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8:36

New International Version (NIV)

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Election Year Thoughts

The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove, surrounded...
The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove, surrounded by angels, by Giaquinto, 1750s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Psalm 146:3-4

New International Version (NIV)

          Just a thought I've been pondering over the past few days.  For the most part we trust in people everyday for our basic survival and provision.  We trust that the airplane pilot or the bus driver will get us to our destination safely.  We trust that the people who packaged our medicine or food products did so according to industry standards.  We trust that the drivers around us on the freeway can drive at least as good as we can if not better.

           We'd be greatly distracted and probably go nuts if we didn't have a basic trust in everyday things.  However when it comes to world leaders and the powers that affect our destinies our concerns can blow up to much bigger proportions.   It can be difficult to know which promises are true and who will truly take us along the path that will be best for all concerned.  Feelings of depression can even set upon us if we worry about it all too much.

          The bottom line is to participate if you can and want to, but don't let the process consume your thinking.  This is all a temporary situation.  Whether times here on Earth be good, bad, or miserable, there is always our promise of something better to come.  Trust in that hope and not in the words of politicians who may or may not be sincere or working in our best interests.  

            There's not much you can do about yesterday or today, but you can at least plan for tomorrow.  And the long range plans don't include politics.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

New International Version (NIV)

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Blessing Our Children's Children

He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea were hushed.

Psalm 107:29

New International Version (NIV)

        The recent storm Sandy has been a trying and difficult ordeal for many.  Three of my daughters who live in New Jersey with their husbands and my two granddaughters fortunately escaped harm.  They're all still young and I suppose this will be another adventure for them to remember in future years.  But you can believe than I was praying for them.  God is good.

        In a few passages of the Bible there is mention that the faithfulness and righteousness of earlier generations will bestow protection and blessings upon the generations that follow.  I think my family has experienced that blessing.  My father was very close to the Lord and I know he prayed for his children often.  There have been many members on both sides of my family who were very Godly Christians and I think that I and my offspring are all reaping the benefits of that faithfulness.

        My life has weathered many storms of physical and a spiritual natures.  I have always managed to come through them safely--sometimes seemingly miraculously.   I give thanks to God first and foremost, but I'm glad that someone in my past was blessing the future.  May those blessings continue.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

New International Version (NIV)

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Someone Hears Your Cries

As for me, I call to God,
    and the Lord saves me.

Psalm 55:16

New International Version (NIV)

           I'll be in Tennessee during this week.  My stepfather George is suffering from liver cancer and will soon be passing on.   Please pray for him, my family, and my travels.   This will be a difficult time in many ways, but a joyous time in others.  I'll be seeing my daughters and granddaughters.  I rarely get to see them since we all live so far apart.   And I'll be seeing my mother and siblings which is always a good time.

           I have a feeling I will be reflecting on the verses I quote in this post.   I want to be sure that all of my family is saved or is least thinking about this topic.  I'm praying for all of them. 

 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:11-13

New International Version (NIV)


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Under the Influences

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil
See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

Psalm 1:1

King James Version (KJV)

           I've hung out with some questionable people in my lifetime.  I suppose many of us think maybe we'll be a good influence on others who are not living by the highest standards.  More often than not those kinds of people will drag us down to their level rather than our taking them to a more respectable level.

            Fortunately my friends over all have been decent people.  Many of them now are committed in long term marriages with nice families.  They are involved in church and hold respectable jobs.  The people I once knew who lived immoral lives are now either dead or I've lost track of them.

            Still, it's sometimes difficult to really know the true hearts of the people we deal with if we aren't around them all of the time.   However it usually doesn't take too long to sense when something is wrong.  And now wrong often seems to be the norm.   If we are to believe much of television,  movies, and the rest of the entertainment world, immorality is cool.

           It can be tough to shake the worldly influences that distract us from the true goodness that comes from the love and obedience to God.    It's something to keep in mind before it's too late.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—  having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

New International Version (NIV)

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

God: CEO of My Life

Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
    and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

Psalm 71:17

New International Version (NIV)

         The years seem to have passed so quickly now that I look back on them.  Life is one crazy short fast- moving experience.  There have been some bad times, but all things considered life has been good to me.  I don't deserve the credit for that, for it is my glorious God who has given me this life.

          Sometimes I still feel like the kid I was so many years ago.  Yet I have progressed and learned to the point where I am older and I think a bit wiser.  I don't know how much more time I'll have on this Earth.  I may be getting older and more feeble of body, but I'm taken good care of because I'm God's kid

           God and I are in a partnership.  He always keeps His end of the deal.  I'll praise Him for that.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4:16

New International Version (NIV)

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