Sunday, December 23, 2007


Merry CHRISTmas and a blessed 2008th

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful," remarked the famed Dutch Reform preacher Norman Vincent Peale.

But for only for a few weeks the spirit of Christmas lasts--that special feeling of love and brotherhood that affects the world at Christmastime. For one glorious month, feuds are forgotten, grudges go on the back burner, and everyone adopts a spirit of friendship and cooperation.

Then it's gone. When the whistle sounds on the last New Year's Day bowl game, life gets "back to normal." Workplace worries bring stress, tension, and the disunity that so often infects everything. However, Alexander Smith reminds us that, ”Christmas is the day that holds all time together."

Mary Ellen Chase said, "Christmas is not a date. It is a state of mind."
This year, let's resolve that Christmas is not just a season, but a state of mind. Let's permit the love that was in Christ Jesus, be in each one of us. Let's sacrifice for others, be tolerant of their mistakes, and keep their best interests at heart. Christmas doesn't have to be a once-a-year event. It can be a lifelong passion, a lifestyle of love that says to others "You matter to me."

Many have a single object--to make it to the top! Money, resources, and even people, become tools to be used in the pursuit of success. Climbing the ladder, punching tickets--whatever it's called, the goal of the game is always the same: to be king of the hill.

Jesus took a different route.

He didn't climb up; he stepped down. He wasn't after the chair at the head of the table; he took the lowest place. By being born as a helpless baby and placed in a manger, Jesus Christ demonstrated the most potent lesson of all time: the way up is the way down. If we are to help others best when we should first be willing to serve.

1. Nowhere is Strength found better that in what many call a Weakness.
Herod's soldiers were sent to kill the helpless Christ-child, but they failed. God's plan may have seemed foolish, sending the Savior of the world in the form of a helpless child. But here as always, his strength was made perfect in weakness. The child rose to be king. I am constantly reminded by Helen Keller, who was both deaf and blind, who said, "The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart."

2. Good servants will Know Their People.
Jesus left the splendor of heaven to live within the confines of a human body. By doing so, he did something that had never been done--not even thought of--before. He brought God and man together.

Human beings can't be helped by remote control. Servants must be among them, talk to them, and learn from them. Building friends is necessary to gain their confidence in you. If Jesus saw the need to step down from heaven, certainly we must be willing to step out from that which governs us, and spend some time among those whom we have the privilege of sharing His grace.

3. The only thing at the top is nothing.
Seeking to help others know the real action is never at the top, but at the bottom. Politicians know that public opinion counts more than any summit. Business leaders know that buying habits, not boardroom decisions, are what make their bottom line. Remember the words of Benjamin Franklin, "How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep holidays than commandments."

"Give to others, and you'll receive something really special this Christmas—love," says, my friend, Stan Toler. He further states, "We celebrate Christmas best when we give to those who need the most."

People should be the goal of your servanthood. If you want to be a great servant, you must love people more than you love power, prestige, or perks. If you finally do "get to the top," you'll probably find that it's a lonely place without the love and respect of others. "Christmas began in the heart of God. It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man." --Anonymous

4. People who do something in life learn to move out and forward.
Jesus didn't stay in the manger. Because he was willing to humble himself, he was given the position of highest authority. There's a U-turn at the bottom of self-sacrifice. When we truly humble ourselves, we are exalted in the eyes of God and others.

If you are a true servant, your sacrifice will not be in vain. You will accomplish your goals for your church, your organization, your people, and--most important--for the Lord. Don't be afraid to give yourself away. There's a bend in that lowly road that leads to heaven. "God is with us. That's the best news I've heard all year!" writes Stan Toler.

I'm praying for you--for your family and your church and your job--praying that Dec. 25 was the first day of a brand new year!

Sunday, December 16, 2007



“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
1 Thes. 5:18

This is the season to give thanks. It is a time to remember with love those who touch our lives in so many special ways.

Many of my readers are unaware that I have had eight operations, spent 132 days in the hospital, with the remaining time mostly homebound since July of 2006.

It has given me so much time to think and to appreciate friends. I have learned to take my thoughts about myself and turn it toward those who have cared for me.

I give thanks to my wife who has given all her time to me during these 17 months.
I give thanks to my sons and their families through this time.
I give thanks to the hospitals whose staff aided in my recoveries.
I give thanks to my many doctors whose expertise has given me continued life.
I give thanks to therapists who were patient with me while they taught me to walk again.
I give thanks to my BJC homecare nurses whose care and friendliness made me confident in my recuperation.
I give thanks to my pastors and our church members who have not forgotten us.
I give thanks to other pastors whose visits and prayers were blessings.
I give thanks for churches around the country who have kept me furnished with DVD’s of their services.
I give thanks for those from business, organizations, and the editor of this paper whose visits were rewarding.
I give thanks to a young couple’s class that decorated our home for Christmas while the men powerwashed the mold from our house and fence. The dinner and worship time afterwards brought real joy.
I give thanks for the hundreds of cards, emails, and phone calls from around the country and abroad.
I give thanks to my McDonald’s Sunday night friends (5 couples) who brought snacks, coffee, and offered a worship time.
I give thanks for friends who have driven us to the doctors or hospitals in St. Louis without complaint.
I give thanks for a friend who shoveled snow last Sunday morning my entire drive and sidewalk.
I give thanks for my classmates who have called and prayed
I give thanks that, besides our local paper, other state and national publications have published my writings.
I give thanks for a room for rest with a computer nearby to write, research, or to just enjoy surfing the internet.

But most important of all, I give thanks to God who loved the world so much that He gave His son who offered eternal life beyond the troubles of this life.

“O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people” Psalm 105:1

Sunday, December 9, 2007



When we lived in Ohio every December in front of the State Auto Insurance Company in the heart of downtown Columbus was built a large nativity scene covering nearly two hundred feet recogning Christmas.

While nativity scenes are not uncommon at this time of the year, this one had some unique features. The scenes make changes every day in December as the night of the birth draws near. On the eve, the donkey, with Mary aboard, and Joseph nearby, arrives finally to the inn in Bethlehem. The manger is empty until the next morning...Then the babe appears, the donkey is barren, the parents are inside, the star brightens. All has changed.

The night we know as Christmas Eve, had closed down Columbus just like it did Bethlehem. And like other unassuming Columbusites, I did not know this scene had been changing daily.

"All is changed; all is bright, round yon virgin, mother and child,
Holy infant, so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace."

In fact, this Child of God has changed a whole world for the good, and a simple faith in the Christ child will produce a greater faith in the Child-the-Savior of all men.

This reminded me that changes are ever occurring as the Lord prepares His new coming. He advises us in His Word to be ready, and I don't want to simply be a passerby unaware of the daily changes going on before my eyes. I desire to be in total awareness of what is changing so the unexpected to the world will not be a surprise to me.

Luke 2:4-11
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) [5] To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. [6] And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. [7] And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. [8] And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. [9] And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. [10] And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord”

Sunday, December 2, 2007


My wife and I had visited many of the woolen shops in Windsor, England and decided we would cross the street to enter St. Patrick's Cathedral to view its interesting architecture and listen to a lecture from its guide about the kings and noblemen who had made this famed old church their place of worship.

As we turned the corner a guard in full red and black dress took a fast step into a prone position lifting his gun and snapping his heels as he momentarily changed into complete attention. His eyes without moving looked forward, but obviously surveying every move made by those of us entering through the gate.

After everyone was in, he relaxed and returned the heel of his gun to the ground. Again, his piercing eyes continued forward. I had been told they never speak nor make any signs of response except to their superiors. To this point my informers had been correct.

As I removed my camera I waited for a change in his pose which never came. Then I asked if he minded me taking his picture. No response. I went to his side. No movement. I returned to look straight into his eyes and face and said, "I bet you get tired of people taking your picture," and added, "but you know your mug is probably seen around the world."

At which time he broke into a great big smile.

As I departed to view this huge church, I was reminded of another gate I will pass though in the future. We have teased about it being the gate of St. Peter, but it actually is the gate in which the children of God will walk.

Psalm 118:19-20 recorded it so well, “Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord: This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.”