Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Year's End - a few thoughts

Today, for New Year's Eve, just a thought.

As we look back on 2009, a year that commentators seem to think was a little maddening for all of us, let us take time to remember the times of joy and happiness. No matter what this past year was like for you, there were moments of joy. Moments Moments of peace, life, and love. There were good moments.

Sometimes, we look only at the bad. We only see our failures. We only see where we messed up. We only look at the mistakes that we have made, we only see the things we have done wrong.

We can focus only on the stuff that has gone wrong, the ways we have failed, the ways that others have failed us. We can, if we are careful, be overwhelmed by the negative.

We only see the trials that have come our way.

We see the problems. It's just not just us. That's a universal thing. I remember when I worked with kids at camp during the summer years ago, they always told us, you have to say 7 positive things to a child to overcome 1 negative thing that is said. We remember the bad stuff more than the good.

So, as we move forward, first, let's make an effort to remember the good. Remember the moments of grace and joy. Remember the good stuff that's happened to you and your family in this past year. Moments of joy, laughter and peace. Remember these things. And mark them on your soul. Let them be part of who you are.

And, second, let us be glad that God doesn't first look to our mistakes. The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 103: 13-14
As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.

For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust

We look at the mistakes first. We know we are not what we ought to be. Sometimes, we don't see ourselves the way that we ought to see. Particularly at the end of a year when we look back.
Thankfully, though, the Lord knows how we were made. He knows we are just dust. He knows that we are weak and frail. He knows we are not what we ought to be. He knows that we aren't perfect. And He loves us anyway.

As we look back, and as we look forward, may we look above. And may we know that we are loved.

Live like the loved child of God that you are!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas with the Stoddards

Here's some of our Christmas Adventures this year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

No blogging for a few days. I'll resume next Wednesday. Until then Merry Christmas. May God bless you in this Holy Time of year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Advent: Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Old Testament Lesson

2 Samuel 7:1-17

We see the Lord tell David - I will establish your house. It will reign forever. Your kingdom will have no end, the Son of David will sit upon the throne.

Who is Jesus? The Son of God, yes. He often called Himself the Son of Man as well. However, there is another title for Jesus in scripture and in the New Testament. The Son of David. Through Joseph His family is traced back to David. He is the Davidic line, He is the Son of David, He is the king, the ruler, the mighty one promised here. He is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and He reigns. Today, and always.

New Testament Lesson

Titus 2:11-3:8a

Paul reminds Titus to tell the people, basically, just be good people. Be quiet. Be good citizens. Do what right. Be simple. Love, serve, and care. Be humble. Be kind. Just simply to what is right. Grace has been given to us through the giving of the Son, and that grace calls us to that. God doesn't demand that we be perfect. He just wants us to be faithful. Faithful to Him, faithful to each other. Faithful to the calling He has given us. Today, and always, may we be faithful.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 1:39-56

Mary sings her song of praise to God in this passage - He had brought up the humble and has scattered the proud. He has brought up the weak, the hungry, the poor, and gave them good things. He has brought forth salvation to those that desire salvation. The proud are not aware that they have need for such things. The humble, the weak, the know they are needful, and they find there, waiting for them, a God that knows their needs. Today, God knows your needs. He knows what you need, what you fear, what you worry about. And He is a God that longs to fill you up.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Old Testament Lesson

1 Samuel 2:1b-10

The Lord is the one that brings life. The Lord is the one that makes all right. The Lord protects the weak, the orphans, the widows, those that hunger, those in need. This is a season of Good News. That is what the Lord wants you to hear this morning. Good News. Rejoicing. No matter what is going on in your life today. Good News. God loves you. Gave His son for you. Love you. You are loved today. Live life a loved child. That's what you are.

New Testament Lesson

Titus 2:1-10

Every person in this list of commands is basically given this command - think of others before yourself. Think of their needs. Their lives. Their feelings. Before thinking of yourself and your life, think of them. Here's the miracle of that. If we each do that, if we each think of each other first, we will each find we have all we need. For in giving our life away, we find life. The truest road to a miserable life is to think only of yourself. The truest road to a happy life is to think of others first.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 1:26-38

Mary says the truest word of faith in all the Bible today - Let it be unto me according to thy word. Mary didn't know what the future held. She didn't know what people would think. She didn't know what Joseph would say. She didn't know how her life would turn out. She knew none of those things. All she knew was that God had something for her. And her response was this - let it be unto me according to your word. She trusted. Even though she didn't know the road. She trusted. May we do the same.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent: Monday, December 21, 2009

Today, just a quick thought. I've found folks like these as much as the longer ones. The less said the better sometimes :)

The will of God may lead us on a winding road that doesn't make sense, even to the most mature mind. But when the way gets puzzling, we can still trust in God. He knows the end from the beginning, and we can trust His character, knowing that His plans are aimed at accomplishing the best goals.

Donna Morley

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent: Thursday, December 17, 2009

Old Testament Lesson

Zechariah 4:1-14

We see the Lord remind us today - not by might, not by power, but by my spirit. The Lord doesn't always choose the strong or the powerful, He chooses the willing. And then, through His spirit, He makes all things possible. So, His concern for you today is not if you are perfect or if you are strong or fast or any of these things. Are you willing. Are you willing to be used by God? And if so, then by His Spirit all things are possible.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 4:9-5:5

Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Lions are not safe. They are kings of the jungle. There is a great line in CS Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when they are talking about Aslan, the Christ figure, who is a Lion.
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Jesus is good. To say He is safe is to imply that He will ask us to remain the same. He will not do that. He will ask us to change, to do. To go. He will ask us to do more than we think possible. He is not safe. But He is good.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus reminds us again, be ready. Be ready for what is to come. Live your life aware. Live you life with an awareness of who you are, what you are doing, what's going on. Don't just float through. Don't just sleep through. Be aware. Live fully. Seize the day. This is a moment to start living!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent: Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Old Testament Lesson

Zechariah 3:1-10

The Lord took away the filth, took away that which was unclean, and made the priest clean. The Lord is a God is at that takes away our sin, it was cast upon Jesus, and makes us clean again. You are not defined by your failures, by your sins, by your mistakes. You are not defined by the things you have done wrong. You are defined by the grace of God. That's what make you who you are. You are more than your mistakes, you are more than your history. You are more than whatever in your past steals you joy and sleep. You are more than these things.

You are a loved child of God. Go out and live like it today!

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 4:1-8

There's a lot in Revelation that I don't understand. I don't claim to be an expert, I don't claim on know all the details. I try to look at the book from a big picture view. And what does the big picture show us? We see here what heaven looks like - the worship of God. We see here the different parts of the court of heaven worship God, declaring His worth, declaring how worthy of praise He is.

And He is worthy of praise. No matter what is happening in your life, He is worthy of praise right now. All good gifts come from above, and no matter what is happening in your life, there is something good happening there. And, for that good thing, God deserves praise.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 24:45-51

The Lord tells us today - the wise are always ready. They live with an awareness of what is coming, they are prepared, the know that anytime could be our last breath. If today was last day, would you be able to look back at your life with pride? Are you proud of the way you've lived? Are you proud of what you've accomplished?

Today is a new day! Let's live in such a way that we honor God and help each other out! There's so much for us to do. Let's be faithful to God, and faithful to each other. And know that it's all in God's hands.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Advent: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Old Testament Lesson

Zechariah 2:1-13

We see the Lord promise what is to happen - a time will come when the people will live in Zion, it will be restored and He will be glory within. He will be the one that will protect it, there will be a wall of fire around it and it will be fully inhabited by people, by animals, by life. He will restore that which has been destroyed and forgotten. He will bring life back to death, He will bring hope to the hopeless and bring back to life that which is death.

God is a God of hope, life, and restoration. No matter what's going on in our life, God is a God that longs to restore. That what His promise here, and His promise now. He is a God that will restore and bring life.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 3:14-22

The harshest words written to the seven churches are, in my opinion, these written to the church of Laodicea. The Lord says this - be hot, or be cold. Don't be luke warm. Don't half way do it. Either be for God, or not. But, don't be divided. Faith is really is serious business. God doesn't want just part of us, He doesn't want half our heart, or part of our heart - He wants it all. He doesn't want us to play religion or church, He wants us to have a true and deep relationship with Him. He wants our hearts to be on fire. He wants us to life fully for Him. Either hot. or cold. Not luke warm.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 24:32-44

No one knows the day or the hour. No one knows the future. No one knows what it is to hold. No one knows what is to come. so, what we do is this. We live faithful today, and we trust in God. That's what we do. We place the future in His hands. We place the unknown in His hands. We place what don't know, don't understand, can't control, we place this His hands.

And we live faithful today. We live fully today, and faithfully today. It's what we have, and may we live it to the fullest.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent: Monday, December 14, 2009

Today, just a quick thought:

If you feel like you're at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on! Because God's a God of miracles, and He's holding the other end.

Pat Hicks

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Advent: Thursday, December 10, 2009

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 9:1-10

Even here, in this passage full of judgment, in this passage full of the Lord's anger with His people, there is a moment of grace. The Lord is saying how He will destroy the people, destroy the sinful nation, destroy all those that have stood in opposition to Him and to His will. But, the House of Jacob (His people), He will not destroy completely. Even through they deserve it. Even though they should receive it. Even this it is fully within His rights and power. He will not. Because they are His. And even at this moment full of judgement and anger, His love for His people is greater than everything. That's the amount of love God has for His people, and for us.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 2:8-17

In the letters to the seven churches at the start of the book of Revelation, there is a constant refrain. You will be tested. You have been tested. Tests will come. It won't always be easy. There will be very hard times. But, God is with you. God will not leave you. Even in the tests, God is there. And to those that over come, through the power and strength of God, there is a great reward. There is a crown, there is life, there is all this an more.

So, when your test of faith come today, don't give up, don't be discouraged. You are not the first to be tested, and you won't be the last. And above all, God is there. Even in the tests. God is there.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 23:13-26

These are part of what's called "The Seven Woes," Jesus' harshest condemnation of the Pharisees. He really hammers them. Really takes them to task. Why? They are more focused on the letter of the law than the heart of the law. They are more focus on the acts of religion than the heart of religion. They are more focused on legalism than helping others. They are more focused on appearing religious than having a heart for others. Remember, our faith is something that starts on the inside, but that then calls us to serve one another, and God. Our faith calls us to love God, and seek justice, love, mercy, all these things. Let's be faithful to the one that died for us. And let's leave all the rest in His hands.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Advent: Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 8:1-14

We see the Lord speak judgment against His people. Why? What had the done wrong? How had they failed? How had they not done what they should have done? This judgement is pronounced over the way they treated each other, over the way they treated the poor, the needy, the sick, they soar. They had not shown God's mercy to all, they had robbed, they had stolen, they had abused.

Perhaps Christianity, in the end, in not shown by the words we say, the music we listen to, the shirts we wear. Perhaps, in the end, Christianity is shown by the way that we treat each other.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 1:17-2:7

The constant message of Revelation is heard for the first time in this passage - do not be afraid. Do not fear. Revelation reminds us over and over again, that not matter what happens, God is at work. God is doing something. Something good, and something for God's glory, it will come out of this. God is at work in all things. Do not fear. God is with us, and God is at work.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus tells us not to seek praise - but instead to serve. Let's not be about tooting our own horns, lets not about about showing off, let's not be about showing everyone how great and awesome we are. Let's serve. Let's serve God and let's serve our neighbor. That's what we are called to be about, that's who we are called to be.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Advent: Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 7:10-17

Amos wasn't a trained priest. He's wasn't a learned prophet. He was simply someone God had called to do something, and he did it. God doesn't always call the most qualified, the ones that look like they'd be the ideal candidates. God calls the willing, God calls the ones that would be willing do what He says, go where He sends, speak what He lays on their heart.

Today, God will not just call the perfect, He will call you and me. God will have something special, something divine, for us each of us. We just have to respond. Where is He calling you today. He is calling. May we listen for His voice.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 1:9-16

We see that John is given this word while in prison on Patmos. One of the mistakes we can make is that if we assume we follow Jesus, everything will be perfect, nothing bad will ever happen. That is not true. Following Jesus is not a magical amulet that protect us from all harm. We are not promised that bad thing will not happen. John, here, is in prison for his faith after all.

What we are promised is this - God will never leave nor forsake us. No matter what happens in life today, God will be by your side. He will not leave you. He will not forget you. He will not abandon you. He will be with you. Trust in Him today, and always. He will not forget His children.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 22:34-46

Love of God, love of neighbor. That's it, that's the list. That's what we are called to do. That's who we are called to be. That's how we are called to live. Loving God, loving neighbor. That's the goal of the Christian life, that's the purpose and plan God has for us. That's the highest goal we can have today, and each day. To love our God will all that we have and love our neighbor as ourselves. That's what we are called to do today and each day. Love. God. Neighbor. That's it. Let's be about that.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Advent: Monday, December 7, 2009

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 7:1-9

We see here a potential vision of the Lord's judgment. He stands and says, this could be coming. If you do not repent. Yes, the Lord is a judge. Yes the Lord will be the judge of each of us. Yes the the Lord is the righteous One, the Holy One, the Perfect One. Yes, we all bow down before Him.

But the Lord is also gracious, and kind, and loving, and merciful, and caring, and forgiving. The Lord is a God that longs to give second, and third and one hundredth chances. The Lord is a God that longs to give His people grace.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 1:1-8

It all comes down to Jesus. That is the message of the beginning of Revelation. His the first the and the last, the beginning and the end. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He holds it all together. Him. That's what our faith is about, our life, our all. Remember, it's all about Jesus. Let's love Him, let's serve Him.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 22:23-33

God is the God of the Living. He is the God of life. He is the God of newness and hope and tomorrow. God is the God of life. Now, since He's our God, let's go out there today and live! Let's live boldly, let's live passionately, let's live with all that we have. This is a new day, let's go make the most of it!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent: Thursday, December 3. 2009

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 4:6-13

We see God's desire for His people today - return to me. In all the stuff that happened to the people, the Lord was using it for one reason and one purpose - to get His people to return to Him. But they would not. That is always God's desire. God desires isn't to get us or punish us or any of these things. His desire is for us to live in peace with Him and with each other.

New Testament Lesson

2 Peter 3:11-18

The author of this passage reminds us that as we wait for the return of the Lord, we should wait with grace in heart, peace in our lives, and serving God and each other. None of us know when the hour will come, none of us know when the day will be. But, we do know that it will happen and we want to be found ready when it does. So, no matter it if its today, or a million years from now, let's live today to the fullest, and lets live today as if it were our last day.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 21:33-46

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders, He was rejected by the powerful, He was rejected by the ones that were in power. And this stone, Jesus Christ, is the cornerstone of our lives. He is the foundation, He is the one that holds it all together, He is the hope, the power, the source of life. He is. No one or nothing else. Jesus.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Advent: Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 3:12-4:5

One of the condemnations the Lord makes through the prophets is this disconnect that had happened in to His people. The people were going through the motions of religion (sacrifices, feast days, etc) but yet their hearts were far away, and they were oppressing the poor and the needy of Israel.

The Lord says - no. Do not oppress the needy. Do not harm them. Do good. Give yourself to me. God doesn't desire the motions of religion, He desires a heart committed to Him, a life committed to loving Him fully and loving our neighbor fully. And as we fall more in love with God, we will fall more in love with our neighbor. And in that, He honor God, with all that we do.

New Testament Lesson

2 Peter 3:1-10

Even less than 100 years after the resurrection, people saying, when is the Lord coming back? What's taking so long? Maybe He's not coming. There was doubt and dismay even then. And the word says - don't worry. Don't doubt. God's time is different than our time, God's schedule is different than our schedule. Trust in God. He knows what He is doing. In all things. Trust in God. He knows what He is doing.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 21:23-32

Instead of listening to Jesus and His words, instead of trying to learn from Him, instead of following His example and His love, the religious leaders tried to trip Him up, tried to confuse Him, tried to trick Him. The could have learned, loved, and found life. Instead, they were threatened by Jesus, they didn't like what He was trying to do it, so they ignored Him, they abused Him, they tried to trick Him, and eventually crucified Him.

Today, let's spend time listening for Jesus. Let's spend time following His example of love. Let's spend time following His example of peace. Let's learn from Him. We don't have to understand Him fully, but we can understand this. He love us, and love all the world. Let's live into that.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent: Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 1:21-31

In the prophets there are two things the Lord normally condemns the people for, and they are linked to each other. The first is idolatry. They have worshipped idols and have not given their true devotion to God. The second is something that He condemns just as strongly. They are not treating each other as they should. They are taking care of the poor, the orphans, the needy. They are not caring for the oppressed, they are robbing and stealing. They are not caring the needy in their midst.

As we draw close to Christmas, let's make sure that God is our first love, above all else. Let's give our devotional to Him, above all. And let's take care in this time to to take care of the needy all around us. Let's give. And love. And serve. Let's show God's grace and mercy to all.

New Testament Lesson

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Paul, in his ministry, kept the first thing the first thing. His calling was to share the Good News of Jesus with as many as He could. His calling was to share the grace and salvation of God with everyone. Why? Because He had been saved by this goodness of God. And that salvation called Him to love others.

That is what being a Christian is supposed to look like. Loving God because of what God has done for us. And loving others, because of what God has done for us. God's great love for us should motivate us to be the most loving, forgiving, serving people out there. Look at the love given us! How awesome is that!?! May we love one another in the same way.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 20:9-18

Jesus was rejected by many during His ministry. He came showing God's love and power, and He was rejected by many. He was rejected because they didn't like what He was calling them to do, or they didn't like the way He did it, or they didn't like what He said, or how He said it. He came offering life, life abundant and life full, and they rejected it.

Today, through following Him and living in His love and mercy, He offers us life. Life full and abundant. May we not reject His life today. May we live in His life today. And may we find more life there than any place else.