Wednesday, December 30, 2015


I Was Just Thinking About - - -

We’ve arrived at the time of year when various “New Year’s Resolutions” will be listed and stated. The idea is that some area where self-improvement or correction is needed will be accomplished as the New Year begins. A question that is fair to ask is: How well has that worked in the past? How many resolutions have been made but all-too-soon forgotten or compromised? How often are similar resolutions made at the beginning of most New Year’s Days? By definition, a resolution is: “The act of determining upon an action, method or procedure; a decision or determination to do something.” With the best of intention, people will make a resolution designed to result in change and satisfaction as the goal of the resolution is reached.

It is indicated on the Cyber Hymnal website that in 1896, “James H. Fillmore, Jr. wrote a religious song for use at the convention of Christian Endeavor in San Francisco, California. Fourteen trainloads of people sang the song as they journeyed from Ohio to the Convention.” Some of the lyrics in the Hymn suggest the following as a spiritual resolution and determination:

I am resolved no longer to linger, 
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler, 
These have allured my sight.

I am resolved to follow the Savior,
 Faithful and true each day;
Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth, 
He is the living way.
I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free; 
Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.
I will hasten, hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free; 
Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.

In Luke 21, Jesus is calling and preparing His disciples for their world-wide mission. He does so in the context of “perilous times” that will be marked by “warfare, great earthquakes, famines, pestilences, fearful sights and great signs from heaven.” In addition to these things, Jesus stated in Luke 21:12-14,  “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. On account of My name, they will deliver you over to the synagogues and prisons, they will bring you before kings and governors. This will be your opportunity to serve as witnesses. So make up your mind – be resolved – not to worry beforehand how to defend yourselves. For I will give you speech and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” Just a passing thought: Are we living in the day of which the Lord was speaking? Is this a day when resolve and purpose must be the priority of our lives in terms of Christ and His Kingdom? The Apostle Paul addressed the need for resolve and purpose in Ephesians 6:10-13, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that in the day of evil you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand.”

All professing Christians should be ready and eager to demonstrate the reality of what it means to be committed to Christ and the work He ordained to be done. Whatever resolution(s) we think need to be made should include that we are ready to be engaged in the task Jesus mandated must be done. Each of us can and should resolve to do our part in this assignment. Consider these things with me.

Thursday, December 24, 2015


I Was Just Thinking About - - -

Reading or watching the News as it is being reported can sometimes be very depressing. Wherever one looks, there seems to be turmoil, division, conflict and death. The Middle East is marked by uncertainty; nations in Europe are flooded with refuges from the Middle Eastern countries in conflict; and America is willing to accept refugees – carte blanche – without careful and adequate vetting regarding who is entering this country. A decision was made in our government to eliminate as much as possible any collateral damage or death as part of the Military’s Rules of Engagement ordered by the President.

It is interesting to observe that the words of the prophets about the coming Messiah were given in days where tyrants ruled and conflict was a real and present danger. Even at the time of the Birth of Jesus Christ, King Herod ordered the murder of all of the male children under the age of two so he could eliminate any possibility of there being another King to usurp his place and reign (See: Matthew 2). The coming of Messiah – the birth of Jesus Christ – was couched in the language of Peace. Isaiah 9:6, “And He shall be called…the Prince of Peace.” Luke 2:13-14 records the words of the Angelic Chorus: “And suddenly there appeared with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men on whom His favor rests!”

Within different entries on Facebook, some of them contain sorrowful words due to the loss of loved ones; the ongoing illnesses that seem to be without remedy; the conflicts in this world that appear to be beyond any current remedy; etc. Some of these individuals we know personally and the emptiness must be especially difficult for them. I can’t even begin to know their depth of aloneness. Some time ago, a Hymn that became a favorite of mine – Deeper and Deeper – contains these words in the fourth stanza:
Into the joy of Jesus, Deeper and deeper I go,
Rising, with soul enraptured, Far from the world below.
Joy in the place of sorrow, Peace in the midst of pain,
Jesus will give, Jesus will give; He will uphold and sustain.

Another of these favorite Hymns is – Peace, Perfect Peace. The first line asks a question and the second line gives the response. Stanzas 3, 4 and 5 ask and answer:
Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?
On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.
Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.
Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.

In my perspective of life and this world, there is considerable significance in the words of Jesus Christ for all who follow and belong to Him. John 14:1 and 27, Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me as well… Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.” Jesus speaks to His followers about the difficult days of turmoil, uncertainty and sorrow in John 16:32-33, “Look, an hour is coming and has already come when you will be scattered…I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” Bask in His Joyful Peace as you celebrate His Birth! Consider these things with me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


I Was Just Thinking About - - -

In life, there is the tolerance of several anomalies (something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected). One of them occurs at this time of year when there is the Calendar designation of Christmas Day. It is supposed to convey that in a Judeo-Christian Culture there was a particular day in History when Jesus Christ was born. Whether or not December 25 is the accurate date is not the issue. It is a day that recognizes the fact of His literal birth more than 2,000 years ago in the town of Bethlehem. 

A deviation began to occur with the introduction of one derived from an 1823 poem entitled, “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” and of caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast. While Saint Nicholas is known differently in various countries, in the United States and Canada he has become known as Santa Claus. Children have been reared to believe that Santa Claus makes a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior (naughty or nice) and to deliver presents, including toys, and candy to all of the well-behaved children in the world, and sometimes coal to the naughty children, on the single night of Christmas Eve. He accomplishes this feat with the aid of the elves who make the toys in the workshop and the flying reindeer who pull his sleigh.

He has become a type of a cultural religious icon. An icon can be “a picture, image, or other representation; a person or thing that is revered or idolized.” In the matter of Santa Clause, he has become a substitute or alternative to Jesus Christ (God). The question may be, “Why? Or “In what way?” Reference the secular song “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” For those who are led to believe in Santa Claus, the lyric to this song contains an anomaly. On the one hand, the song conveys: “He's making a list and checking it twiceGonna find out who's naughty and niceSanta Claus is comin' to town. He sees you when you're sleepin'; He knows when you're a wake; He knows if you've been bad or good - So be good for goodness sake.” On the other hand, the song suggest that the way he knows is if you write him a letter: “Now Santa is a busy man, He has no time to playHe's got millions of stockings to fill on Christmas dayYou'd better write your letter now and mail it right awaybecause he's getting ready his reindeer's and his sleigh.” If he is assigned the ability to know who has been naughty and nice, Santa has been assigned the non-communicable attribute of God, namely, Omniscience (the capacity to know everything that there is to know).

The Biblical statement about God is that He is the only one with limitless knowledge. Proverbs 15:3 informs us: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” Psalm 33:13-15 indicates: "The Lord looks down from heaven. He sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.” The point made by the Psalmist is that God knows everyone personally (Matthew 10:29-30, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered”) and knows everything that one does privately (Matthew 6:4, “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret”). In Colossians 1:15-20, we learn of the supremacy and preeminence of Jesus Christ: He is “the image of the invisible God…in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together…in everything He is to have the supremacy (preeminence). 

In our nation, the Crèche (Nativity Scenes representing Jesus Christ's birth, displayed in public at Christmas) are forbidden in most places; the singing of Christmas Carols that name Jesus Christ are not allowed; Happy Holidays has replaced Merry Christmas; commercialization has replaced the solemnity of the Birth of Jesus Christ and worship of Him. Matthew 2 tells of wise men who came seeking Jesus Christ, King of the Jews. They rejoiced when they saw Him; bowed down and worshiped Him; and gave Him gifts. Wise people today should focus upon Jesus Christ and commit themselves to honor and worship Him alone. Consider these things with me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


I Was Just Thinking About - - -

Childhood memories conjure up all kinds of vignettes from one’s past. Some of us grew up in cities where we lived in tenements. In that day (1940s), they were known as “cold water flats” which meant there was no central heating and the hot water consisted of a 30 or 40 gallon tank with a gas coil connected to it alongside a coal stove. On “bath night” (whether or not one thought they needed it), the coil was lit and the heating of the water began. It was supplemented with pots of water being heated on the coal stove to supplement as the water needed warming. In very cold weather, a bath consisted of a circular galvanized tub brought into the kitchen near the coal and wood burning stove. When special times of the year arrived, there were anticipated fragrances as we sat in the kitchen to stay warm. There would be a Turkey roasting in the oven of the coal stove; baking of fresh pies; etc. We were poor in terms of material things but very rich in terms of these special occasions.

The neighborhood where we were reared had several individual businesses. One of them was a German Bakery where baked goods that we could ill-afford were baked. The obvious fragrances were present. A few blocks away, there was a Jewish Bakery where Rye and Pumpernickel Bread was regularly baked and delivered to area grocery stores. Those fragrances are memorable. There was a Jewish Delicatessen on the corner where we were reared. Across from it was an Italian Bakery where hard-crusted bread was baked daily; along with Soft Pretzels that people would buy, place in a lined Bushel Basket, put those Baskets into a Stroller Carriage and walk to where Movie Theaters and primary Subway Stations were located. One of our favorite moments was when we went down into the Pretzel Cellar where the pretzels were baked to see if there were any broken pretzels. For a nickel (5 cents), we would be sold a handful (more than we could carry) of the broken pieces.

Teenaged boys who sought to gain the attention of or make an impression upon a girl would purchase an inexpensive box with fragrances and powder called “Evening In Paris.” Some radio commercials would advertise products that were aimed at body hygiene care. For instance, Lifebuoy was the soap that was supposed to stop B.O. (body odor). Deodorants began to find their way into the ghetto culture. One of them was “MUM” and the commercial allowed that “MUMS the word” (some would add the words “keep it under your arm”). Awareness of bodily hygiene was also influenced by the Dick Tracy Comic Strip and one of the scraggily characters named B.O. Plenty. He would eventually get acquainted with Gravel Gertie (who lived outside of the city limits in a Gravel Pit) and they would live happily ever after.

The Bible references “Fragrance” in different contexts. In the Song of Solomon 4:11, the romantic words are: “Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.” In the Prophet’s words of the Lord’s impending judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem, Isaiah 3:24 records, “Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty.” In a very personal and directive way, the Word of God expresses how a follower of Christ is, II Corinthians 2:14-16, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us triumphantly in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one, we are an odor of death and demise; to the other, a fragrance that brings life. And who is qualified for such a task?” There are only two possibilities for the spiritual impression we can make on others. Either we are the sweet scent and fragrance of a fine perfume, or we are like rotting and decaying garbage or a dead body. Which one are you? Consider these things with me!

Thursday, December 17, 2015


I Was Just Thinking About - - -

If we lived in a time when a Ruler of the Nation decreed that everyone would have to return to the place of their birth (regardless of their situation, commitments or circumstances) because he decided the State Treasury was depleting and more taxes were necessary, what would receive your initial response and be your number one priority? It would not matter to anyone the inconvenience this would cause or the distance one would be required to travel. This was the situation recorded in Luke 2:1-3, “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world…And everyone went to his own town to register.” It would be logical for one to try and arrange for suitable accommodations in one’s home town.

One of my daughters posted a graphic that raises such a scenario and asks a pertinent and relevant question: Are you part of the “Inn Crowd” or are you one of the “Stable Few”? It’s relevant because most people would be motivated by their own vested interests and want to make the best of an inconvenient situation. This was the situation indicated in Luke 2:4-5, “So Joseph also went up from Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the City of David called Bethlehem, since he was from the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to him in marriage and was expecting a child.” The challenge and difficulty for Joseph and Mary was that they were nearing Mary’s due date for the birth of her child. However, when they arrived in Bethlehem, all of the more suitable accommodations had been reserved and were occupied. The Inn-Keeper did allow them to take shelter in the stable. The scene is described briefly in Luke 2:6-7, “While they were there (in Bethlehem), the time came for her Child to be born. And she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” At that point in time, the “Inn Crowd” was secure in their accommodations whereas the “Stable Few” consisted of Joseph, Mary and the baby. As they Angel had stated to Joseph, Mary “will give birth to a son, and you shall give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

There were some people who were used to living a portion of their lives outdoors. We read about them in Luke 2:8-12, “And there were shepherds residing in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” What should the shepherds do at this point? They make a decision to investigate the “good news” they have just heard about. Luke 2:15-16, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us. So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger. They the first ones to come and became identified with the “Stable Few.”

What should be done with this “good news for all people”? The shepherds could not contain themselves, After they had seen the Child, they spread the message they had received about Him. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17-18). What would you have done with this “good news”? What do you do with it now? Are you more identified with the “Inn Crowd” and your personal comforts and pleasures, or are you eagerly identified with the “Stable Few” who share this “good news for all the people” urgently and enthusiastically? Consider these things with me!

Saturday, December 12, 2015


I Was Just Thinking About - - -

Yesterday’s Blog touched upon the themes of Advent for 2015. One of the themes is PEACE. It was one of the statements of the Angels when they appeared to the Shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). It was a theme about which Peter wrote to the Christians of his generation as they were being persecuted and scattered, “We will love life and see good days if we turn from evil and do good and if we seek peace, for the Lord watches over the righteous and hears their prayers” (I Peter 3:10-12). Peace is that which Jesus promised His disciples who would face all kinds of uncertainty and challenge, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Similarly, in John 16:33 Jesus reiterated His all-sufficient peace amid the turmoil of life when He said: “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” 

One of the older Christmas poems/carols is: “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.” It begins:
I heard the bells on Christmas Day, 
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

As these words are sung, we forget that they were written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1864. The American Civil War was a time of great human suffering and loss for both sides of that battle. In his own life, Longfellow had experienced tragedy. The American Civil War began on April 10, 1861. In an unrelated accident on July 10, 1861, Fanny Longfellow (his wife) was fatally burned in an accident in the library of Craigie House. At the first Christmas after her death, the personal journal of Henry W. Longfellow contains the heart-rending words: “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays…I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace." Longfellow's journal entry for December 25th 1862 reads: "A merry Christmas say the children, but that is no more for me." Tragedy would occur once more in his life. His biography contains this entry: “Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his oldest son Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had been severely wounded (not fatally) with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades and taking off one of the spinal processes. The Christmas of 1863 was silent in his journal.”
And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth, I said,
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

How does one deal with the unexpected tragedies of life. How can one overcome the grief and despair of such moments? Longfellow included in his poem/Carol these words:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.

What is it that brings the Peace of which the Angels sang? Is it viable for those who experience tragedy, sorrow and grief? The words of Colossians 1:19-20 are applicable for all who may pass through the valley of the shadow of death: “For God was pleased to have all His fullness to dwell in Him (Jesus Christ), and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross.” Embrace the cross and find His peace. Consider these things with me.