Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy 2010


The beginning of a new year is a time when in a certain sense we can start afresh about things. It ought to be a time when we aim higher, reach further, dream bigger, and believe stronger. As Henry Ward Beecher said, "Every man should be born again on the first day of January and take no interest in the things that were and are past."

While most of my goals were met this last year, I found the week before Christmas it would not end as complete as hoped.

While speaking to the Lions Club at a breakfast meeting I began to have extreme pain and hardly concluded the address. Later it subsided until in the mid-day, while in a filming session at Parkland Hospital for Charter communications, my pain returned as I stood during the interview.

Afterwards, I headed upstairs to my doctor and suggested, “This pain is from more than a pulled muscle!”

After an hour the report from the MRI revealed I had a disk laying flat on my spinal cord and within minutes I was headed for BJC in St. Louis where an operation was scheduled.

At 4:30 I was moved into the waiting area and prepared for an 8 pm operation. At 9 pm my wife was approached by the head surgeon who announced “Your husband is paralyzed and I haven’t even made an incision. After he returned to the Operation Room, it was discovered the remaining surgical team had awaken me from my sedation and asked me to see if I could move my toes, feet, and legs. I did and then I was put back into darkness awakening in recovery at 4 am to discover my body was painless and the enlightenment that the device used to monitor my responses had malfunctioned.

Once again I learned that the same God who has sustained me, not just from my various operations since 2006, but for the previous 72 years.

As we face a New Year there is no guarantee that we will not face difficult experiences. I wish I had it within my power to wave a magic wand over each of you that would place about you a shield that would guard you from anything distressful, disheartening, disagreeable, disconcerting, and disconsolate.

This Year may have brought things that we never expected or anticipated. There may be things that will happen that will break our hearts. The very foundations of our life may be washed away by some storm of adversity. There may be great days ahead, but it is also possible that there are grievous days ahead. There may be much to make us glad, but it is also possible there may be things ahead that will make us sad. Difficulties are not out of the realm of possibility.

As we come to the end of 2009 and stand on the threshold of 2010, I think of the words of the hymn writer Francis Ridley Havergal:

Another year is dawning,
Dear Father let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with thee.

Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.

Another year is dawning,
Dear Father, let it be,
On earth, or else in heaven,
Another year for thee.

As another year is dawning, I want it to be one that richly counts for God. I want it to be a spiritually prosperous and productive year. I want it to be the kind of year that I will look back in the years to come and view it as one of the best years of my life as far as eternal things are concerned.

An unknown author has written:

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Jonathan Edwards, the great American preacher from the 1700's, was known for making covenants with God. He referred to them as resolutions. He had 70 such resolutions that he made when he was age 20 and read them once a week. For example, resolution number three read, "Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again."

In a similar fashion David had made certain covenants or resolutions. In Psalm 39 he is recalling those resolutions. We read in Psalm 39:1, "I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me." David had made certain resolutions. One, he had resolved to take heed to his ways.

A poem suggests my strength:

Though the cover is worn,
And the pages are torn,
And though places bear traces of tears,
Yet more precious than gold
Is this Book worn and old,
That can shatter and scatter my fears.

I mentioned the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. Let me give you a couple more of his 70 resolutions. Resolution number six was, "Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live." Resolution number seven: "Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life." Those would make good resolutions for all of us.

Someone has said, "Complacency is a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and causes a drain on the brain. Complacency makes people fear the unknown, mistrust the untried, and abhor the new."

We need a burning heart to keep us from getting complacent, from becoming satisfied with things as they are, rejecting what could be, and accepting the good instead of the best. A burning heart will keep us reaching higher, aiming further, seeking more, and going forward. It will keep us growing.

You will notice the source of David's burning heart. He says in verse 3, "While I was musing the fire burned." It was while meditating that his heart began to burn. Meditation is a match that ignites a fire in the heart. Meditating on God's goodness and grace, His word and work, His power and plan will create a spiritual heartburn.

Gypsy Smith was once asked why God had used him in the way He had through the years and his answer was, "I never lost the wonder of it all."

Vance Havner said, "They were right in their chronology and in their theology, but they had no doxology." The fire had gone out in their heart.

A. B. Simpson said, "Our God has boundless resources. The only limit is in us. Our asking, our thinking, our praying are too small, our expectations are too limited."

Let the words of the hymn writer Edwin Hatch be your prayer:

Breathe on me, Breath of God;
'Till I am wholly Thine:
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Offers the Trip of a Lifetime

More and more I am becoming troubled with the way we celebrate Christmas, because it -seems like a glorified excuse for indulgence rather than a HOLY-day.
“We participate in the holiday hustle and bustle of shopping, parties, etc. while raging against the system. Our priorities are all tangled up just like our tree lights when we get them out each year, no matter how hard we try to keep them neat and orderly. So we close our eyes and try to focus on the reason for the season, but when we open them the world keeps getting in our face” ~ Pastor John Beehler

C. S. Lewis hit the nail on the head when he said, "We really celebrate two holidays on December 25th. One we call ’Xmas’ & the other we call ’Christmas.’"

How true! Perhaps we should separate them and see the real difference, because most people today celebrate Xmas, few truly celebrate Christmas.

XMAS offers frivolous gifts – CHRISTMAS offers forgiveness

Luke 2:11 - Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

A little boy wrote a letter to Santa Claus that said, "Dear Santa: There are three boys living at my house. Jeffrey is two, David is four and Norman is seven. Jeffrey is good some of the time, David is good some of the time, and Norman is good all of the time. --I am Norman."

You know the problem with that? None of us is a Norman. None of us bats .1000. None of us is always perfect or right. We all live with a sense of regret because none of us is perfect. That's why we need a Savior.

If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so he sent us a Savior.

"Unto you is born a Savior." You can be forgiven. Now that's the most priceless gift you can get.

XMAS can get you stressed – CHRISTMAS can give you peace.

God has given us the Recipe for Life. He says: "You want Peace? Then here is the Recipe. Find forgiveness through Jesus Christ."

That is why there is so much depression and so much suicide and so much rejection especially around Christmas time!

Real peace of mind is having a relationship with Jesus Christ, God's Son, and becoming friends with God.
Real peace is knowing that no matter what I do, God will never stop loving me.
Real peace is knowing that no matter what happens, God will never leave me alone.
Real peace means that no matter what happens in the next year, I know that God is going to give me the strength to handle it.
Real peace is living by God's Word, the Bible, so I can avoid a lot of the needless hang-ups and hurts and habits that mess up my life.
Real peace is teaching my children God's word as a foundation for life, so as I see them make decisions, I can say, "Boy, I'm proud of that. I'm not even there, and they're making that decision on their own." That's real peace.

So how do you and I get this peace? Listen to what God tells us:

Philippians 4:6-7 – “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Corrie Ten Boom said of worry, “It does not empty tomorrow of it’s sorrows, it empties today of it’s strength.”

XMAS is celebrated annually – CHRISTMAS is for eternity.

Two facts of life: We're all going to die someday and you're going to spend more of your life on that side of death than you will on this side.
I don't stand a chance in a million of getting into heaven on my own effort, and neither do you. I lost my chance at perfection a long time ago. So God had to come up with Plan B. He sent us a Savior. So we could get in on somebody else's ticket.

Fortunately, the good news is, that's what Christmas is all about too. That's why God sent Jesus Christ.

John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

He says you can find it through trusting Christ. God says, "I'll take care of your past regrets, your present problems and your future fears."
Can you imagine being given a gift at Christmas and never unwrapping it? It would be silly. I mean, if you gave me a gift at Christmas and a year later you came over and I still hadn't unwrapped it, you'd think I was a little nutty. "Why haven't you unwrapped it?" "Oh, I love the wrapping paper. I'm sure I'm going to love it." "Well I'm going to get to it one of these days." And yet, many of you continue this Christmas after Christmas after Christmas after Christmas. You've celebrated every Christmas for as many years as you are old; you know the songs and the stories, and you know what it's all about, but you've never unwrapped the gift. Now what gives? What's the logic behind that?

God says, "I want to offer you forgiveness, peace of mind, and eternal life," and you haven't unwrapped it? Be serious. You're never going to be offered a greater deal than that.

May God truly bless you this holiday as you enjoy the gifts He has given you!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


The Reason for the Season

I cannot remember how long it has been since I have spent a whole week with my sister. I am sure it was before her marriage more that 47 years ago. In any case, my wife Delois and I spent last week in Branson with my sister Glenna and Jesse, her husband of these years. It was a joy to be able to discuss old times and enjoy just being together.

The desire started a few weeks ago when I told her we had an extra bedroom in Branson and wanted them to join us. They accepted and we began to make plans for the visit by picking out the shows we both wanted to see.

My wife and I had reserved this week because the Christmas lights and shows would reflect the season.

We had a conference call with a Branson travel agent and began to discuss the shows we wanted to see. After a period of time we had ordered tickets for five shows during the week and became excited about seeing each.

My sister and husband live on the Louisiana-Arkansas state line so it took them about twice as long as it did us, but the meeting was exciting on their arrival. Both of our families were very tired so the first night was spent visiting and relaxing.

The next day started with our first show. The musicians were good, but the show was not to our expectation.

The next day we took in two performances. The afternoon show, a well known Christian comedian, was flat and didn’t reach his ability as seen on Television.

That night we attended the Christmas presentation, my wife and I had planned to see before deciding to go to Branson. My sister and brother-in-law did not know this famous pianist to my knowledge, but we all went away totally elated by the performance by Dino Kartsonas.

Dino's Christmas Extravaganza was an amazing, joy-filled celebration of Christmas. America’s Piano Showman brings the sights and sounds of Christmas to life and proves to be one of the biggest production shows in Branson. The centerpiece of this show is Dino’s spectacular piano artistry, but is backed up by the lovely voice of his wife Cheryl Kartsonakis and the lively children’s dance troupe - making this show one you’ll never forget! Dino is one of the premiere performers of our time. "America's Piano Showman" – is a title given to him by more than 80 million who have heard him play.

Not only was he outstanding, but he spared no expense in making the show gowns and props extremely beautiful. He also introduced a new young violinist from Portland, Oregon who played a number of times alone or with Dino.

The end of the show they did something none of the other shows we saw before or after that night. They concluded with all the performers bowing toward the scene of Joseph, Mary and the Christ child. Dino ended his show by saying “remember Jesus Christ is why we did this show!”

The DVD I purchased of the presentation has been watched a number of times now and each time reminds me of the purpose of Christmas.

Dino was raised in a Greek family in New York City to a father and mother who owned a bakery. They shared with him their secret recipe for what he now calls his 24Karet cake.

We visited Dino’s 24Karet Cake company near the landing and had coffee and cake. The performer and wife were both there and joined us for conversation and photos.

No matter how famous or rich one becomes, he owes it all to the Savior of the world,

Jesus Christ--the Reason for the Season.

“And now, Lord, What wait I for? My hope is in thee.” Psalm 39:7