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Usually, teachers ask students to write a “What I Did Last Summer” essay at the beginning of the new school year. Well, here we are at the end of another school year and we have the whole summer laying before us. Let’s start our essay for next fall: “What will I do this summer?”

Here are some suggestions that might be helpful:

  • I will attend church regularly, just like I do the rest of the year.
  • When I take my family vacation, I will find time to worship God, especially if we’re gone over a weekend.
  • I will participate in some kind of mission activity (like Mission Spectacular in Chicago or St. Louis on June 3).
  • I will help with Vacation Bible School.
  • I will bring a friend to church with me.
  • I will get plenty of rest because I know that it is healthy.
  • I will get plenty of exercise because my body needs it.
  • I will find ways to be Christ-like to my friends, family, and neighbors.
  • I will attend (or sponsor) a summer camp for children.
  • I will actively look for a mission trip to grow in my faith.
  • I will start working in one of the on-going ministry efforts of my local church.

Fill your summer with wonderful things to do now and tell about later. Make this the best “What I Did Last Summer” essay you’ve ever written.

“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.”  —Psalm 86:12

Greeting card manufacturers, candy makers, florists, and jewelers. What do these people have in common? At this time of year, our go to answer would probably be “Valentine’s Day.” Some of the more argumentative among us might claim that St. Valentine’s Day was created by the card and candy industry to make more sales, but that misses the point of the celebration altogether. Inspired by the legend of a third century martyr (Valentinus) who taught of the love of God. St. Valentine has since been a symbol for and inspiration of love.

At this time of year, we like to remind each other of our feelings of love and goodwill. We send special gifts and messages signed with the legendary greeting “From Your Valentine.” The greatest valentine or love letter ever sent was the one that God sent because He loved the world that He had created, He loved the people who had rejected Him through sin and disobedience. That valentine bore the cloak of Jesus of Nazareth, and He brought with Him the greatest love as well as the grandest reason to celebrate love that ever was—God’s everlasting, redeeming, unrelenting, irreplaceable Love.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”  — John 3:16, The Message

I would like to take a moment to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas!

The word “Majesty” carries with it a lot of weight. In monarchies the king and queen are referred to as “Your Majesty.” Webster defines the word as “sovereign power, authority, or dignity.” When we look at a beautiful sunrise or sunset, or at a panoramic view of the beauty contained only in nature, we describe it with the term “majestic.”

And so, as we think of the event of Christmas on this Christmas Day isn’t majesty just the right word? Consider the Baby born in a manger, tucked away where no one would see Him. And then His very birth is announced out in the countryside to a group of unlikely witnesses:  shepherds, just going about their routine duty. So majestic was the announcement that they abandoned their duty (most likely a capital offense) and not only rushed to see the sight, but also spread the word throughout the rest of the night as they traveled to and from Bethlehem. Majesty!

And to top off the whole picture, we see wise men, sages from a far away land, arriving in a caravan shortly after the birth to present this One they recognize as a new King with gifts fit only for One of great majesty. And to think that we still celebrate all of these centuries later. That is Majesty!

  “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  – Isaiah 9:6b

Traditionally, angels have brought two emotions to the front of the mind of humans: Fear and Glory. I find it interesting as I note that nearly every instance that an angel visitation is recorded in the Bible, he introduces his mission with words like this, “Do not be afraid!” The angel said it to Mary when he told her she would be the mother of the Messiah. He said the same to Zechariah upon the announcement of his son John the Baptist’s upcoming birth. When Joseph dreamed of an angelic messenger, he was told not to fear taking Mary to be his wife.

And the moment that seems to top them all: when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the messenger said, “Do not fear! Look! I have great news for everyone!” and then with the help of a sky-full of angels told of the birth of Jesus that very night.

On the heels of the word of comfort, we see the angels announcing glory to God. And so, at Christmas time, one of the things that touches the heart and lips of celebrants of the Christ-child everywhere is glory to God. We like to use the Latin form of the word to bring to mind the season we celebrate, “Gloria!”

  “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory of the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth..”  – John 1:14

Jesus started His life, lived His life, and completed His life (on this earth) amidst miracles. Everything about Him is miraculous. As a matter of fact the miracles run rampant through the Christmas story. For instance, the birth of John the Baptist is filled with miracles—the miracle of his birth to a woman barren into her old age. The fact that he recognized the voice of the Savior’s mother even in the womb (see Luke 1:44). A few years ago I imagined what someone witnessing the world at the time of John’s and then Jesus’s birth:

It was a time for miracles. Miracles were all around me. I don’t know why. I can’t reason it out. I just know that I witnessed miracles, and I am glad to have been there to witness and can now report. It was a time for miracles.” (A Time for Miracles, p. 13)

Many people today would like to explain away that which is miraculous, but the Spirit of Peace that hovers over homes of those who celebrate Christ’s birth at this time of year gives witness to the miracle of Christ. The continued insistence of story and song writers to bear witness to the change that visits people at Christmastime gives us cause to believe. And we can say with Carlton C. Buck who wrote, “I believe in miracles, for I believe in God!”

  “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if they were written one by one, I suppose that not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written.”  – John 21:25

“Finishing Well”

(originally printed in 12/27/2015 bulletin FBC Mulberry Grove)

The wrapping paper is removed and disposed of. The tree looks a little sadder for the lack of bounty beneath its branches. And the Christmas feast has run its course. Some would say that, now that Christmas is done, the year is all but over.

What would it mean if we take a look at the last few days of 2015 and determine to make even a handful of hours mean more? It might mean that one more soul meets Jesus before the end of the year. It might mean that I (or one of my friends or family) am able to walk more closely with the Lord because I haven’t placed the rest of the year on hold. It might mean that I can choose to have a new beginning even in the midst of all of the closings down.

Who says that the last moments of one thing should be any less spectacular than the first? Not our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. According to His opinion, all of our moments count. So when we consider the countdown minutes of 2015 (just past) think: “Did I finish the year well?”

 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  –Paul (2 Timothy 4:7)

elliotMy wife returned from a few days with her parents with the news that Elisabeth Elliot died today. The inspirational life and story of this giant in Christian faith is one that challenges us all to greater commitment. Perhaps it is the tragic story about the loss of her first husband which spurred her on to greater faith and subsequently has challenged many Christians to live their lives for the purpose of God’s glory. In any case, we must be grateful for the years and inspiration that were granted to us for her life and we can rejoice that she has now joined her lost Jim in worshiping at the feet of the Savior.

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

 

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