Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

It’s once again the time of year that our world is invaded by the commercial glitz and glamour of the Christmas season. We plan special meals to share with family and friends. We take special trips and participate in traditional holiday activities. We watch the requisite seasonal movies. As the songwriter put it, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

In 1957 the book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was written by the beloved Dr. Seuss, and the story became even more popular 10 years later when it was transformed into a cartoon. Now this classic animated tale has become an essential part of the Christmas season. One of the more delightful parts is the little ditty we all remember, the Grinch song: “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch. You really are a heel. You’re as cuddly as a cactus; you’re as charming as an eel. Mr. Grinch, you’re a bad banana, with a greasy black peel. You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch. Your heart is an empty hole. Your brain is full of spiders; you’ve got garlic in your soul. Mr. Grinch, I wouldn’t touch you with a 10 foot pole. You’re a villain, Mr. Grinch. You have termites in your smile. You have all the tender sweetness, of a seasick crocodile.” The song is of course intended to characterize the Grinch as a cynical, pessimistic and generally unappealing fellow. In short, the Grinch has become synonymous with the type of person who is so miserable they want everyone else to share their misery!

As this Christmas season comes upon us Americans there seems much to be concerned with, both on a national level and globally. The general feeling of discouragement prevailing within our society would certainly make the Grinch “happy” I suppose!

But as Christians we should focus our attention this Christmas on the true reason we celebrate the season, the Divine One who invaded history, and who continues to have all authority, both in Heaven and on earth!

So don’t let the “Grinch’s” come along and ruin your Christmas celebration. Light the tree and let’s be jolly, Christ has come to a world of folly!

Enjoy the celebration by remembering It’s not to be based on present circumstances, but rather on whom it is we are celebrating.

“and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” Mt 1:21.

See ya Sunday!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Choose To Be Thankful!

The prophet Habakkuk declared, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there be no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

In 1620, 102 Pilgrims sailed to this continent to build a new world where they could be free to worship God. Within a short time after they had landed on the shores of what would become Massachusetts, 56 had died due to a variety of hardships, including starvation, disease, and exposure to the unrelenting, bitterly cold winter weather. However, despite the difficulties and suffering they encountered, they did not give up. They persevered and continued trusting God, and in 1621, 46 Pilgrims and 91 Indians met to give thanks for the bountiful harvest and for the preservation of their crops. Though they had every reason to be concerned as to what the future might hold, they chose to be joyful and give thanks for the modest success they had enjoyed, and which they recognized as a blessing from God.

The circumstances which life presents to us are constantly changing, often dramatically so; one day the cupboard is full, the next we may struggle to put food on the table. One day we may exhibit the epitome of good health, the next day we may be informed of a serious illness. It is an unfortunate fact of life, but no one ever lives constantly on the mountain. We all will have our share of burdens to bear, and very often these will be thrust upon us by conditions which are beyond our control.

But one thing over which we do have control is our attitude. And as Habakkuk and the Pilgrims clearly demonstrate, one of the most important decisions we can make is to have an attitude of thankfulness. As Psalm 100:4 instructs us: “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” We must choose to be thankful.

As a nation America is certainly experiencing some unsettling economic times. But God through his lovingkindness has been mighty good to all of us. And while there will certainly always be struggles which we must endure, God is obviously pleased when we establish an attitude of thanksgiving in our hearts. This Thanksgiving let’s pull some groans out of our prayers and shove in some halleluiah’s! Make a conscious choice to be thankful.

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” Col 2:6-7

See ya Sunday!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Winning and Losing

Yesterday our boys’ soccer team played in our conference championship game. Over my years of coaching I have planned and prepared for many such games. Thankfully we have won far more of them than we have lost. Unfortunately, this was not the case yesterday as we were beaten handily by a better opponent.

I did my best to lift the wounded spirits of the guys, but at times such as this, words, no matter how eloquently spoken, often fall short of accomplishing this intent. The sting of losing a game of this magnitude stays with you for a long while. My Dad used to say “show me a good loser and I will show you a loser.” The fact the boys took this loss so hard is a tribute to their competitive spirit.

Sad to say, losing is an unfortunate but inescapable part of life. It certainly is not what most of us would consider something to be embraced. But in reality, not all loss is bad. Some loss can be a pathway to bigger and better things, which is especially true in the Christian life. Take these few examples from the Bible: We must lose our childhood to become adults (1 Cor 13:11); A man must lose father and mother in order to cleave unto his wife (Gen 2:24); Jesus Himself told us that in order to find our life we must first lose our life (Luke 9:24, among others).

Though losing is often quite painful, it is never the less an inevitable consequence of life, in particular for those of us who truly want to live life to the fullest, as the following quote by Teddy Roosevelt makes plainly evident:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Simply stated: those who are afraid to lose will never win.

I have invested umpteen hours into the soccer program this fall. Although I feel this has been valuable time well spent with our young people, it has regrettably meant many of you reading this have been without a “full-time” Pastor these past 3 months. Soccer is now over, and so I will be returning to my “normal” duties! ;)

One final comment: although losing is part and parcel of life, one thing we can rejoice in is the fact we can never lose our salvation!!!

See you Sunday!