God's Gift of Family

Fresh on my mind are the thoughts of what has happened in our family over the past few weeks.  It has been for us a time of ups and downs, good news and not so good news, bright days and days of gloom.  I won’t open up all the details but I do want to allow you some insight into our lives. On February 23rd Denise got contacted from our daughter-in-law Katie that her water had broken and that she was at the doctor with her mother, since our son Brad was out of town.  Only being around 14 weeks pregnant this was not good news and the initial diagnosis was that the baby would not survive.  This was devastating to say the least and as a family we prayed together that night encircled tightly.  It was something we never would have expected but God had been preparing Brad all the way home as he traveled over 2 hours to get there as quickly as he could.  He was the husband and Daddy that Katie and Lexi needed in this moment and he reassured them of God’s provision and grace even in the midst of this.  Brad prayed a prayer for his wife and unborn son and his daughter who was very excited about being a big sister.  I couldn’t have been more proud of him as he thanked God, petitioned God, and praised God in the midst of an unforeseen tragedy.

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One Way

As I sit down to write this we have just begun the Lenten season, and with the beginning of Lent we have also begun a series of sermons based on the movie “Woodlawn”.  The movie is based on the true story of a high school in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 70’s when schools were being integrated.  The movie details the path of the school's football team who, along with other students, went through a radical change from division to unity based on the students' commitment to follow Christ no matter the cost.  The issues of prejudice, racism and injustice are unfortunately part of the history of our county.  Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to say that they are just a part of our past and we’ve moved on?

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Love

We are approaching a month that is filled with the sweetness of love.  Valentine’s Day is a day when people purchase cards, chocolates and flowers for one another.  About 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year.  This makes it the second largest seasonal card sending time of the year.  More than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine's Day.  Over $1 billion worth of chocolate is purchased for Valentine's Day in the U.S. alone.  189 million roses will be sold in the U.S.  73 percent of people who buy flowers for Valentine's Day are men, while only 27 percent are women.

Most folks don’t know the story of St. Valentine.  He was a saint who was imprisoned for performing weddings for Roman soldiers.  Why would someone be imprisoned and ultimately executed for doing this?  Because the Roman emperor at the time didn’t want his soldiers married.  He believed marriage would affect their loyalty to him and their willingness to fight.  Rumor has it, that before St. Valentine was executed he penned a note to the jailer’s daughter and signed it "Your Valentine."  You can fact check me on this of course, but it’s interesting that this holiday of giving and sharing with loved ones had its origin in the pursuit of protecting and promoting the framework of the family, a husband and wife.

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Resolution or Revolution?

Resolution is defined in the Encarta Dictionary as the process of resolving something, such as a problem.  Resolutions are often associated with the beginning of a new year, aren’t they?  We seem to always have something about us that we can improve upon, don’t we?  A resolution to make a change often comes with the New Year because throughout the Advent season most of us are focused on the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us!  Some of us have grown up making New Year's resolutions year after year.  We resolve that after the seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas we’ll do better.  And by better, for most of us that means taking better care of ourselves.  Of course, we always plan to start right after the last New Year’s Eve party!

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The Light of the World

“In the beginning the Word already existed.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He existed in the beginning with God.  God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”  John 1:1-5

There are different scriptures that tell of the coming of our Savior and Lord, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell of the birth in more detail, give the genealogy, and describe the prophecies being fulfilled.  They talk of time and place and what was happening around the birth of Jesus.  They tell of the family that God placed him in and of humanity and heaven, angels and people together hearing and proclaiming.  In John’s gospel, we get a different viewpoint and though the others contain everything we need to know about the birth of Jesus, this account speaks to the authority, power, and promise that God was, is, and always will be - in a way that seems to carry more of a spiritual tone!

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Content and Thankful

“How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again.  I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me.  Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:10-13

As I reflect over the past 9 years and all that you have done for Denise and me, I am truly content.  Not so content that I don’t think anything more can happen, but content in knowing as Paul did, that I have everything I need in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Paul was so thankful that these people had shown an interest in his life, not that he really needed anything, but that they just cared, and that "caring" was an expression of God’s love for him.  Our caring for one another is a sign of God’s love for all of us.  They knew then and we know now that caring for one another is an expression of God’s love.  We don’t do it out of obligation or for recognition, but our generosity toward others is done out of gratitude and humility.

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Filled With Joy

“Always be full of joy in the Lord.  I say it again—rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.  Remember, the Lord is coming soon.  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing.  Then the God of peace will be with you.”  Philippians 4: 4-9

Obviously the book of Philippians is still very fresh on my mind.  As I have read through it, I have found wisdom and life application for us today just as much as it was for those early believers in that Roman colony.  It is a letter that we have, I’m sure, quoted on many occasions.  Space doesn’t allow referencing them all, but as you read through this letter you’ll be reminded of all the nuggets of wisdom that can be mined for your own life.  So for this article I’m referring to just one of many that could be used.  Paul was sending them a reminder of what he had already given them in person.  He encouraged those new believers to hold onto what is most important.

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