All I Want for Christmas

Lon“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”  Colossians 2:16-17

I don’t know that I’ve always understood, let alone believed, the “promise of Christmas.”  But there has always been something special to me about this time of year, going back to my earliest memories of childhood.

What is it that we love about Christmas, especially once we get past all the initial trappings?  For me, I think it’s the sense of wonder, beauty, and anticipation.  It’s the music, the look of surprise on a child’s face, and the amazing food.  It’s being in the companionship of family and good friends and church folks.  It’s also the absence, if only for a day, of meanness that is typically on display out there.

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Prayer and Faith

In Mark 9, there’s a great story with an even better lesson.

Jesus and His “inner circle” (Peter, James, and John) are on a mountain experiencing the miracle of the Transformation – the appearance of Moses and Elijah along with God’s voice from heaven.

Meanwhile, though, at the bottom of the mountain the other nine disciples are trying to carry on Jesus’ ministry without Jesus.  It doesn’t go well.  A father with a demonized son comes looking for Jesus.  He pleads with the disciples to help his boy.  They try, but are not successful.

Jesus comes down the mountain, walks into the commotion and asks what’s going on.  The disciples are embarrassed to answer, but the disappointed father speaks up, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out.  I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.”

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Love and Kindness Matter

It is almost numbing, isn’t it?  Way too often there’s another mass shooting with more people killed.  It defies rational thought.  So we offer up a prayer and file it away in that bulging file “Not Understandable.”  Then we move on to read about business or sports or politics.

There’s no one single reason these shootings are happening more often and with greater intensity.  You can pick out the people who think they’ve got it all figured out.  They’re typically the louder ones in the room.

We are all pretty helpless against isolated, angry, emotionally unstable people bent on doing evil.  Some of their weapons include guns and knives and homemade bombs.  Most of the conversation among talking heads and politicians have to do with outlawing weapons.  I’m hearing very little regarding anyone’s spirituality.

One thing is for sure.  No one with healthy relationships, with other people or with God, could do these heinous acts of evil violence.  I always think of that person who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge years ago and lived to tell about it.  He said that as he walked to the bridge that morning, if one person had greeted him or even smiled at him, he would not have jumped.  Obviously, no one did.

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Jesus, the Model Intercessor

Robert Murray M'Cheyne, a Scottish minister from the early 1800’s, said, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies.  Yet distance makes no difference; He is praying for me.”

The Bible says this about Jesus: “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  (Hebrews 7:25)

What you believe about Jesus’ prayers of intercession for you is really important to understand, because in finding out what Jesus is saying to His Father about us gives us insight into God’s plan and purpose for us.  And that is, I believe, the objective of prayer: to align my will with the will of God.

In John 17 we can read the greatest prayer ever prayed, which is Jesus’ prayer for you, me, and all believers.  In verse 11 Jesus prayed, “Now I am leaving the world, and leaving them behind, and coming to You.  Holy Father, keep them in Your own care – all those You have given me – so that they will be united just as we are, with none missing.”  (TLB)  Jesus prayed for our preservation.  God wants us to be strong spiritually!  God wants us to cross the finish line with flying colors!

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Ebe's Guidance Was Good, But God's Is Better

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5 ESV

It’s time for me to give an update on the Lorton household.  Most of you know that my mother has moved in with Pat and me.  It was sometime back in April, after we knew that my brother Len would be at St. Louis University Hospital for the long haul, receiving his regimen of chemotherapy that may go on for several more months.  His form of leukemia is a tough one to beat and the side effects are difficult, too.  He’s been hospitalized now for nearly five months, going back to the illness that led to his diagnosis.

Len and Mom shared an apartment in Macomb, Illinois.  We convinced her that it would be better for her to live with us rather than by herself.  More convincing was the fact that we can get her to St. Louis a lot more often from Kentucky than we could if she stayed in her apartment.  So, Len is in a strange place as he battles cancer.  Mom is in a strange place as she is living under someone else’s roof for the first time in her nearly 92 years of living.  And Pat and I are in a strange place as we all are trying to figure out a new normal on the fly.

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An Attitude of Gratitude

“Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:28-29

Grateful people live with an attitude of gratitude.  Do you have a grateful heart?  If you do, you can be infectious to others.  When was the last time you said ‘thank you’ to someone and showed your appreciation for them?  A month ago we were reminded to show gratitude for all that God and others have done for us and how much they mean to us.  Are you still showing gratitude, or have the Memorial Day sales lasted longer than your gratitude?

The writer of Hebrews said, “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe…”

God loves a grateful heart.  Gratitude shows humility and it allows us to recognize that God is the One who provides everything I need to be where I am and have what I’ve got.

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".....Bring A Friend to Christ"

We love to hear the stories in the news about ordinary people stepping up to save the lives of others.  Out of an hour of negative stuff going on in the world, it’s usually in the last 60 seconds before signing off that a story might be told about a person in peril being saved by some bystander who “just had to step up and do something to help.”  And a life is saved.  It makes me wonder about other similar opportunities where it may have been me who didn’t even take time to notice a person in some kind of peril – human indifference or possibly just being too busy to stop and help.  Sadly, that happens more than we know.  And the ones who are dying may be people we see every day.  We have our Bibles, and some of us even read them daily.  We know how our Bibles describe people who are without Christ: