Thoughts on A Thursday2020-08-18T13:58:33-04:00

Pastor Ken’s Thoughts on a Thursday

Legacies – January 26th, 2023

Hi, this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Legacies

This week I have attended several funerals. One might think that pastors get used to going to funerals…this one probably never will. It is the fact that I know that so many people are hurting in such close proximity to me that makes them difficult for me. Many people dislike funerals because they believe them to illustrate our frailty. My physical weaknesses don’t necessarily bother me. What is hard, is knowing there is nothing I can do or say for those experiencing the pain of loss that will be of any immediate comfort. I must admit, as a counselor, not having the right words of encouragement sometimes does leave me feeling quite frail. Some dislike funerals because they believe them to point out the fact that all of us are mortal. Its true that one day we will all be the focus of everyone’s attention at a funeral. Again, personally I am not bothered by that notion. As a Christ follower, I know and believe that this life is only a mist, I am here today and gone tomorrow. Others still find funerals difficult because they view them as indicating the end. I choose a different outlook…I subscribe to the perspective that they simply signal the beginning.

Christians know these things to be true. We hold fast to the belief that when our mortal bodies cease to function, our eternal life begins. We believe that because of the faith we have confessed in Jesus Christ as the one and only Son of God, in light of our acceptance of the fact that He died on the cross for our sins, specifically that we might live with Him forever…we will do just that. We understand that His word tells us that when we die here, we live there…in the twinkling of an eye, we will see Jesus, face-to-face. The bible tells us that in Heaven, there is no more pain or sorrow. All of our weakness will be gone forever. We know that there, we will live forever in His presence and in His power.

However, that is not the only reason I don’t think of frailty, death or an ending of life when I attend funerals. There is another consideration that addresses each of these concerns and unlike the truths I mentioned a moment ago, they occur here in this world as well as in Heaven. When a genuine Christ follower draws his or her last breath here on earth, they are able to experience the following scripture in a way we can only imagine. In 2 Timothy 4:6-8 Paul wrote of what was for him yet to be experienced, but for the ones we honored at the funerals I attended this week it is their current reality. That scripture says; For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. The two men I am referring to today, Bill and Gary, fought the good fight, they each finished their race and finished it well. What does that mean? It means they lived as best they could the way Jesus wanted them to. It means that their acceptance of His free gift of life and forgiveness of their sin had the effect on their lives that Jesus desired when He gave his life in exchange for theirs. It means that the outcome of their lives was the joy set before Him that enabled Him to endure the cross…It means they each left an amazing legacy.

Each of their legacies will live on here in this world. When we consider legacies, we often think of the few largely notable things that a person may have accomplished in their lifetime that will stand to help others. When I think of a legacy, I ponder the smaller multitude of things done in their lives that illustrated the image and likeness of God. I think of the daily investments in others, starting with their own families that built their legacies. I think of how these two men fulfilled the legacy building actions found in Deuteronomy 6:5-7; You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Both Bill and Gary went home to be with the Lord in the space of a week’s time, but that was not their only similarity. They were different men to be sure. They had different occupations, lived in different towns, but they served the same God, and lived their lives empowered by the same Spirit. Both of them loved God with everything they had. They weren’t perfect…just being perfected, but the commandments of their Lord were on their hearts. They did pass them on to their children and their children’s children. They did talk about their relationship with their Savior everywhere they went and with everyone they met. The Jesus they showed to and shared with others impacted many lives, lives that will go on to show and share Jesus to with others, who will do the same. That is a legacy that lives on…here and in Heaven. That is a legacy that illustrates the power of Christ…which knows no weakness. That is a legacy that is strong, never frail…and that legacy will never die!

These two men left amazing legacies. Each of theirs began when they accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives, and they built them one day at a time…for the rest of the time they were given on this earth.

Each of us will also undoubtedly leave a legacy. Ours will be remembered as examples of what a person should do…or not do. Bill and Gary knew what to do and they did it. They have heard those coveted words “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.” Their joy is now full and complete. Their legacy lives on here as it changes lives going forward, and in heaven as they are able to gratefully and lovingly place the treasure they stored up there at the feet of Jesus.

So how can we ensure we have a legacy like Bill and Gary get to enjoy? First and foremost, be in constant, close relationship with Jesus but then carry out the example of the Apostle Paul recorded in Philippians 3:12-14. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

So now, following Jesus and living a life that will produce an amazing legacy like the ones Pastor Bill Sammons and Gary Bollinger left us…GO be awesome!

Really Enjoying The Meal – January 19, 2023

Hi this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Really Enjoying The Meal

As some of you are aware, My wife Lynn and I traveled to Albania a few months ago to present a marriage conference for a church in the city of Tirana. While we were there, the Pastor of the church and His wife took us and several other people to a wonderful restaurant. The destination was a farm-to-table restaurant up in the mountainous countryside about an hour and a half outside of the city. It was a beautiful setting for a wonderful meal. Literally, for several hours the waiters kept bringing course after course of pure deliciousness to our table. In my memory, I still enjoy all of it. If I wanted to share it with you, I might try to recreate some of the dishes we had there. Although I might be able to lay my hands on the ingredients here in Delaware, they might be those specific ingredients by name, but they wouldn’t be the same. First of all, the conditions in which they were grown would be different. The climate and soil in Delaware would produce a different tasting Basil for example than the same plant growing in the mountains of Albania. Even the beef would taste different depending on the local grasses it was grazed on. Here we use tomatoes, there they have tomatoes.

My point is that though the ingredients used to cook the meal might be identified by the same names, the fullness of the flavor wouldn’t always translate. If I made the dishes I wanted you to enjoy here, you would come away with an idea of how good that meal in Albania was. But…if I wanted to you understand the total experience I had in Albania at that restaurant I would have to take you there.

This can sometimes be the case when we read the word of God. It was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. The bible you and I read was translated from the original text by teams of theologians using prescribed rules of interpretation. Their task was to put into the English language as close as possible the original meaning found in the Hebrew and Greek. Sometimes however, a little bit gets lost in the translation. There are times you have to eat at the original restaurant to get the entire culinary experience.

The problem is most of us don’t read Hebrew and Greek. Thankfully though, there are tools that can help us get a better understanding. Using some of those tools I want to take a really well known scripture and explore some of the deeper meanings so we can have a fuller experience with that scripture. I won’t be using the Greek words, but I will do my best to explain the meaning of them in comparison to the English ones we find on the page.

Philippians 4:6-8

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Let’s enjoy this meal one bite at a time, shall we?

Be anxious for nothing…When we think of the word anxious we might imagine someone who worries a lot, is a nail biter, or someone who is always considering the down-side of the future. I would have called some of my children anxious when they were teenagers. They concerned themselves with all kinds of things…one even fretted all the way to school each day, anxious about being late. However, the original text that we have translated to the word “anxious” actually means to be divided into parts, or drawn into opposite directions. This is very interesting because it means that the warning is against allowing anything to keep us from considering everything. In other words Paul is writing that we should never allow any circumstance no matter how disturbing to cause us to only consider the down-side.

Paul continued…but in everything by prayer and supplication…here he says; instead of being divided or letting all of our thinking move toward the negative…take everything (every concern) to prayer and supplication. Supplication is another word I want to look at the deeper meaning of. We sometimes think of supplication as prayer, but it can’t only mean that because Paul wouldn’t say “but in everything by prayer and prayer”. No, supplication means more. It means praying or even pleading with the Lord for a heart felt need that is personal and urgent. So basically what Paul is doing here is covering all of the bases. He is saying don’t be divided so that worry is near and faith is too far away, instead take it all to God, take the general things that cause you concern, and take him the things that are personal and urgent, those things that are too close for comfort.

Let’s continue…with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…Here Paul tells us what kind of a headspace we need to be in as we bring our requests and deep concerns to God. We like to say “Just give it to God” but that’s not actually correct. Yes, He wants us to give Him our concerns it’s true. His word tells us to Cast our cares upon Him because He cares about us (1 Peter 5:7) but here and other places we are told there is a correct way to do that. Here we are instructed to do it with thanksgiving. You might say “but Pastor Ken, I am not thankful to be dealing with the things that are making me anxious right now. I don’t know how I am supposed to be thankful for these things.” Don’t worry, Paul isn’t saying we have to be thankful for the things that are bringing us trouble. This is another word where things get lost in the translation. The original text infers what we are to be thankful for…and it isn’t the trouble we are experiencing…we are being told here to be thankful for God’s Grace as we navigate through the trouble. In other words Paul is writing that as we go to God with our concerns we need to do so with a thankful heart knowing that His grace is going to be sufficient to see us through. Having this mindset is what prevents us from being anxious or allowing all of our considerations to fall on the side of our difficulty.

And the peace of God…Ah the peace of God…here is another one that deserves a little attention. The Greek here means wholeness or complete wellness . What Paul is explaining to us is that if we take our concerns to God with a heart of thanksgiving for His grace which we know will sustain us even as we endure the trouble then we won’t be anxious or divided, we will experience peace…emotional and spiritual wholeness from God

Which surpasses all understanding…This phrase actually infers that it takes an ability to reason that is far superior to human understanding in order to even begin to comprehend the peace or wholeness God is able to administer to us through His amazing grace.

Will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus…This is one also worth noting the intricacies in the meaning of the original text. This word we have translated to guard means more than simply watch over, it means to consistently stand ready to step in. In this context it means that God’s grace is consistently ready, willing and able to step in and use whatever offensive or defensive means necessary to protect our hearts and minds through the power of Christ Jesus. Did you catch that? Because of our relationship with Christ we can count on the working of His grace in our lives to be so strong and powerful that it will use whatever means are necessary to keep us steadied and held upright in faith, no matter what the trouble is. When you understand that, approaching God in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving for that all sufficient grace seems to be the only thing that makes any sense. Right?

So now that we know that our anxiousness has a remedy. Now that we are aware that we should take our concerns big and small to God, but only in the confidence that peace is forthcoming as we approach Him with gratefulness for His unending grace. More than that, we know we can count on Him to use His grace to steady us and hold us upright in the midst of any trouble. Now that we know all of that, His final instruction on the subject becomes much more than a pop-culture idea of “Positive thinking”

Paul closes with this…Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

What Paul is telling us with in His closing remarks is that God’s unending grace is true. God’s delivering grace is just. God’s matchless grace is pure. God’s undeserved grace is lovely. God’s wondrous grace is worthy of a good report. God’s perfectly complete grace is the epitome of virtue. God’s amazing grace is deserving of all of our praise! When life’s circumstances cause you concern, meditate on God’s grace until it has your complete and total attention…and then…meditate on His grace some more.

So now, Thankful for God’s power that enables you to be free from divisive anxiety no matter what you may be going through…taking in His awesome grace…go be awesome!

Indelible Ink – January 12th, 2023

Hi this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Indelible Ink

Years ago while riding past a fast food restaurant in a nearby town my wife began laughing as she looked up at the sign where they advertised their current special sandwiches. There big as life was the offer to come in and enjoy their latest creation the “Big N’ Tatsy” Somehow the person placing the letters on the sign had reversed the correct order of the ‘S’ and the ‘T’. clearly it was supposed to read “Big N’ Tasty”. Lynn’s laughter increased as she turned her head to read the other side of the sign as we passed by, surely there was no way the mistake had been repeated there. And yet, no matter if you approached from the north or the south, at that restaurant and no other that I know of on the planet, for a limited time you could try the “Big N’ Tatsy”. Either no one told them of their mistake or it was simply too much trouble to correct until the next scheduled advertisement change, but for weeks we laughed as we drove by the establishment that sold the “Big N’ Tatsy”. To this day, in our home when something tastes especially good we deem it to be “Tatsy”.

That sign wasn’t immutable and after providing our family with a good deal of entertainment, it did eventually get changed. When we want to leave something open to change in our vernacular we can use several phrases to indicate that. We might say “I’ll pencil that in” suggesting that it could be erased if it becomes necessary to do so. We might also use the Phrase “It’s not chiseled in stone” to indicate that change might be possible. Sometimes we might say of something we do not want to be altered, “It has been written in indelible ink”. This statement is meant to convey that whatever has been written isn’t going away and is not subject to change. It is for this reason that we write checks or sign documents in indelible ink. The use of an inerasable media suggests that our signature represents our unchanging word of honor and even sometimes legally binds us to what we have signed in indelible ink.

In the early 1980’s erasable ink pens became popular, and some makers of writing utensils still manufacture them today. During the height of their popularity they were so prolific that one had to look to make sure a legally binding document like a contract or check was not being filled out using one of these pens. They were popular because they had all of the look of something written with a regular ink pen but could be erased as necessary to correct spelling errors like ‘tatsy’. Actually they weren’t really an ink pen at all because they didn’t contain any ink. The media they utilized was technically a colored rubber cement that allowed it to be erased. Interestingly enough, not only were they not really ink pens, they weren’t even truly erasable. It took about 10 hours for the rubber cement to set, after which time whatever had been penned using one was not so easily removed.

Ironically using ink, the Apostle Paul once wrote to the Corinthian church concerning indelible ink. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 his thoughts are recorded for us. Are we starting to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some [false teachers], letters of recommendation to you or from you? [No!] You are our letter [of recommendation], written in our hearts, recognized and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Read from the Amplified Bible.

Paul was saying that letters of recommendation concerning the message they were bringing were not needed. Though they would have been undoubtedly written in indelible ink and would have carried the full authority of whomever had written them, they were not necessary. He went on to use one of those phrases I spoke of earlier and said that it wouldn’t even bring further validity to their message if those letters authenticating them and the message were to be chiseled in stone. He said that he wasn’t even laying claim to the message. It had been delivered by him, but he understood it was written by the Spirit of God. He was explaining the message was not written with ink that could be destroyed, nor chiseled in stone that could be eroded with time, but rather that it was recorded on the tablets of their hearts. Paul was making the point that the changes in the hearts, minds and indeed the lives of the people the message of Christ had impacted was far and away more authoritative and longer lasting than the most indelible of inks.

Our lives should be no different. The mark impressed on our heart, mind and our spirit by the presence of the Holy Spirit should be everlasting. The integrity He instills in us should be immovable. Others should be able to look at the witness of our life and know it to be unwavering. We don’t pencil Jesus into our lives…His presence and influence must be a permanent fixture. Our reflection of His character ought to run deeper than ink channeled into parchment by the pressure applied by a pen. It should be far more permanent than granite struck with chisel and hammer. As Christ followers. the impact of Jesus on our lives should run so deep that when people see us…they see Him…because His message of love, mercy and grace is written indelibly on the tablet of our hearts.

So now, reflecting Jesus’ unchanging love, mercy and grace toward everyone you meet…go be awesome!

New Year’s Resolutions – January 5th, 2023

Hi, this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…New Year’s Resolutions

I imagine all of us are guilty. I know I am. I’ll just be transparent with you. In the past, I have proclaimed that I was going to make seemingly necessary changes in my life. I have even attempted to harness the potential power of a “New Year” to fuel my purposeful behavior modifications. Yes, I am afraid it’s true, I am guilty of making New Year’s Resolutions. You might be asking, what’s wrong with resolutions? Aren’t we supposed to be about the business of bettering ourselves? The problem doesn’t necessarily lie with a desire to improve this or that, the difficulty is in the results. I make resolutions…but I am not resolute. I say on January 1st that this year I am going to exercise more…but I know that on December 31st I will not likely be able to claim that I have regularly exercised more this year than I have in years past. If the answer to that problem were to simply stop declaring I am going to make changes, my integrity might remain intact, but I would be seeking peace in lethargy. I am pretty sure that won’t work. I am also pretty certain that particular understanding is what propels me to desire to see more change. It all seems like a such vicious cycle…so what’s the real answer?

In year’s past I have repeated the age old “Dad Joke” that my “New Year’s Resolution this year is to not make any New Year’s Resolutions”. Like most Dad Jokes, all that one lacks is humor. So, since it’s not funny anyway…I’ve decided to take it seriously. This year I am not going to make any “new” New Year’s Resolutions. I am simply going to focus on being faithful to the commitments I have already made. One of my favorite definitions of a faithful person is this. Faithful people continue to do what they have been asked to do, with the same level of enthusiasm they had when first asked, until they are asked to do something else. Faithfulness it seems takes great resolve.

I want to be known as someone who is faithful to what God asks of me. I want to be that guy who is so resolute that I can’t be pulled off task. 1 Corinthians 15:58 in the New Living Translation says; So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. Christ is the Beginning and the End, He wasn’t simply present at the beginning, and will be present at the end, He is the Beginning (time existed in His presence there) and He is the End (time will also exist in His presence there) Christ encompasses all, including time, time does not encompass Him. As my omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent God, I can trust there is nothing He does not know, no place He is not preceding me, and nothing He cannot do (even using me). Because of all of that, and more than I could share with you in the limited time I have here, I can be confident that nothing I ever do for Him will be useless. I may not see the results with my own eyes, I may not experience the results in my lifetime, I may not even get to know what the results were supposed to be. None of that matters, because the results aren’t on me, those are His lane…obedience is mine. The verse I reference a moment ago is clear. My responsibilities are to be strong and immovable, and to work enthusiastically for the Lord. Those are simply obedience moves…the results of my obedience, those are His moves.

But what about the times when my resolution to be faithful are met with adversity? James 1:2-4 answers that question. It says; Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. Apparently, the plan is that we are supposed to let the adversity build more resolve. Because we know ahead of time that adversity will come…and it will…Jesus said so, we can take joy in it because we also know that He intends to use it to produce some awesome results. Jesus wants to take all of the obstacles in our lives and use them to show us that when we see Him bring us through, our faith increases. As our faith and confidence in Him increase, we have far more patience, endurance or resolve that He will always bring us through…no matter what the adversity might be. James goes on to say that as our patience or endurance becomes fully developed, we will have all that we need. Only a good, good God would make sure to use even our negative experiences to bring about positive change in our lives!

But then that’s what He promised He would do right? Romans 8:28-29 say; And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. God is more than happy to take every trouble, difficulty and outright evil that comes against us and use it to make us more like His beloved Son, Jesus. His plan is to accomplish His work in you and you can trust that work is for your best. So resolve to be strong and immovable, be resolute that you will take joy in your adversities, be faithful knowing that God has your back!

So, make your New Year’s Resolutions if you will…I won’t judge you for it. I think this year I’ll pass though…and ask you to give me the same grace. By the power of the Spirit of Grace, let’s resolve together to hold to a commitment already on the books. Let’s all choose to walk in faithfulness before our God. Let’s all be grateful for another year to serve Him. Let’s encourage one another to continue doing the last thing He asked us to do, with the same enthusiasm we had when He first asked, until He asks us to do something else. That way we can all be men and women of outstanding faithfulness.

So now being a faithful child of the King…Go Be Awesome!

Shepherds, Angels and a Manger

Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday. Actually, this Thursday I will not be sharing with you my own thoughts. Fort the past three years on the Thursday before Christmas I have shared someone else’s thoughts with you. I have read a poem or essay someone wrote that I find to convey important truths about the greatest gift ever given at Christmas…Jesus! Today I want to share the thoughts of Dr. Wilson concerning the night that Jesus was born. I came across this account he had written from the perspective of the shepherds and I felt it especially worthy of sharing with you today.

Shepherds, Angels and a Manger

The hundreds of sheep were quiet now, except for an occasional bleat.  Night had fallen, stars were sharp in the nippy sky, and shepherds reclined on a steep hillside above Bethlehem, watching their flocks.

The men talked quietly, their low voices soothing to the animals.  Old Elias had spent his lifetime on these sheep fields.  Then there was Judah ben-Ozzri, twenty years old and cynical.  His uncle had been imprisoned by Roman occupation troops for some minor offense.  When he could, Judah plotted secretly with a unit of Zealot guerrillas.  David, Israel’s greatest king, had been a shepherd on Bethlehem’s hills a millennium before.  As a teenager, David had defeated the giant Goliath and thrown off the yoke of Philistine tyranny.  Judah ben-Ozzri longed to do the same.  If only a Leader, a Deliver, would come
and drive the cursed Romans from their land!

“The lambs will all die before long,” he muttered darkly.  “Only the ewes will survive.”

“Eh?” said Elias, a bit too loudly.  His hearing had faded over the years.

Judah spoke a bit louder, “The ewes will be sheared next summer, and bear more lambs, but the lambs themselves….”

“What?” asked Elias, leaning closer.

“The lambs,” said Judah loudly into his ear, “won’t live beyond Passover. In the Jerusalem temple, they’ll be sacrificed.”

“Ah, Passover in the temple,” returned Elias. “On the Holy Day they’ll sacrifice a lamb for each family.”

Jerusalem and its temple were just six miles north of Bethlehem, and supplying lambs for the Passover sacrifice was these shepherds’ livelihood.

“Passover…” reflected the old man. “I wish I could have seen the first Passover!”

Elias would rather talk than listen, since it was hard for him to catch the words when others spoke.

“Moses was our Deliverer on that first Passover night when God’s judgment fell upon Egypt.”  As he spoke, his listeners could picture the destroying angel that had passed through Egypt.  “The Egyptian firstborn were killed,” said Elias, “but each Israelite slave family had sacrificed a precious lamb, and put its blood across the top and on both sides of their doorways.  Their sins were atoned for, the lamb’s life for theirs.  And God’s terrible judgment passed over them.”

“The ewes will live on,” repeated Judah, “but the lambs will be sacrificed.”

“What?” said Elias, but Judah didn’t say it again.

“I don’t think I’d like to be a lamb,” the youngest shepherd said solemnly.

The shepherds now fell silent, and tugged their heavy cloaks about them to shelter them from the whistling wind.  Their eyes were accustomed to the blackness.  Every few moments they would look up to scan the hills for wolves or thieves.  They weren’t about to lose sheep by carelessness.

All of a sudden their hillside was flooded by the light of a thousand arc lamps, blinding them with its intensity.  When they could finally see, a man in shining apparel stood before them.  “Do not be afraid,” he declared in the ringing voice of a herald.

“I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David
a Deliverer has been born to you.
He is the Lord’s Messiah.”

“The Messiah! The Deliverer!” breathed Judah ben-Ozzri.  “He is come at last to set our people free.”

They could scarcely comprehend. Good news! Great joy!  In the town of David, the Son of David is born this night.  The Lord’s Messiah! The shining man, glowing with the very Shekinah glory of God, had declared it.  It must be so!

The angel continued: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

What a strange sign.  But there was no time to think.

Now the shining angel drew himself to full height, and as he opened out his arms, the radiance and glory upon him began to spread until it covered rank after rank of angels, the heavenly host, the army of God himself — more and more, company after company, battalion after battalion, began to fill the sky.  And now they began to chant, to shout in unison.

“Glory to God in highest.”

The sound bounced off the hills and echoed from the valleys, like the rumble of thunder, like the roar of a great waterfall, the shout of triumph reverberated.  The shout of worship, the shout of honor, the shout of glorious praise.

“Glory to God in the highest,” they shouted together with one enormous voice of worship.

“Glory to God in the highest,” they chanted in unison, the overwhelming resonance blotting out everything else and infecting shepherds with its utter joy.  The host of God, overcome with awe at the archangel words, now shouted again, “Glory to God in the highest!  And on earth Shalom — peace — to those whom God has favored.”

Again and again the waves of praise rolled over the hillsides, until finally the voices began to fade, and only in the distance could the shepherds still hear shouts of “Glory, glory, glory,” that finally diminished to silence at last.  The brilliant light, too, was fading, like the final streaks of sunlight dipping below the horizon and painting the clouds red and pink in departing splendor.

Old Elias was first to speak, “Praise the Lord, dear friends.  We have witnessed what the prophets only dreamed of.”

“Angels,” breathed the youngest.

“The hosts of God’s army,” said Judah.

“Something greater still,” Elias said. “The chance to see the Lord’s Messiah with our own eyes. You heard the angel. He’s here, yonder in Bethlehem, and we must find him.  The angel told us how — a baby, wrapped in the swaddling bands of a newborn, lying in a manger…. A manger,” repeated the old man.

You could find dozens of cattle troughs if you searched all the outlying farms, but a manger with a newborn lying in it — that was the sign!  In Bethlehem itself, Elias could think of just one — inside a cave at the very edge of town where travelers’ animals were quartered.  The old man careened down the hillside at a pace that left the younger shepherds breathless.  He was ahead of them now, almost running to the cave behind the inn.

When they finally caught up, the old man was standing at the doorway to the cave, tears running down his cheeks.

“The Son of David,” he was saying, “The Lord’s Messiah.  The Deliverer has come.”

The shepherds moved inside and knelt at the manger, peering at the sleeping baby boy, all tightly wrapped in swaddling bands.

The youngest explained to the mother, “An angel told us,” he stammered, “and then thousands, millions of angels filled the sky, lit up with God’s light. ‘Glory to God,’ they shouted, and we joined them until we were hoarse, until they were gone.”

Then Elias addressed her. “Young woman, mother of this blessed Child.  You are one of the favored ones of whom the angels spoke, upon whom God’s glory and grace is resting tonight.”

You could see her lips form the words, “Yes, I know,” but no voice came.

The old shepherd went on, “The angel told us that your Child is God’s promised Messiah, our Deliverer.”

Then the old man was silent.  He just knelt there for a few more moments.  Finally he rose up, took the mother’s hand, and pressed it with his own. “God has entrusted you to raise his own Son, my dear. Our prayers are with you.”

He motioned his compatriots towards the door, and they got up, leaving the cave and its manger and its Christ-Child.  Nor were the shepherds silent about what they had seen.  They spread the good news far and wide.

Then they went back to their flocks, and carefully tended lambs that were destined for sacrifice on Passover.  And though they could not know or understand it, the baby Deliverer in the manger would not challenge the Roman oppressors, but instead deliver us from the sin and death that oppress us all.  For these lamb-herders had seen God’s Lamb, born to be a Passover sacrifice for the sins of the entire world.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, Shalom, for us all.

So now, Living in the Shalom that only Jesus can provide, celebrate Him this Christmas…and go be Awesome!

Do It Again…Do It Again! – December 15th, 2022

Hi this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…”Do It Again, Do It Again”

For over a decade now I have been affectionately known as Papa to my grandchildren. Over the years, the number of little voices referring to me that way has grown to be more than the number of years that I have held the title. When my grandchildren were little I would do fun things with them like hold them in my arms and twirl around as fast as I could allowing the centrifugal force to carry them outward. Sometimes I would toss them up into the air (just inches from my grasp of course) and then “catch them” on their way down. On occasion I would bounce them on my knee or reach out and tickle them as they went by my chair. Regardless of the game we were playing, one thing remained a constant. When I would tire of the game, often because it had actually become physically taxing for me to continue, their response was the same. Invariably they would come back to me just moments…or even seconds after I stopped, and plead with me…Do it again Papa, do it again”. Whatever we had just been engaged in, they were having fun, they were enjoying it, and they wanted it to continue. Out of that desire came their pleading for me to “Do it again Papa…do it again.

Our heavenly Papa has times when He looks at us and says, “Do it again…do it again”. So what is it that God wants us to “Do again”? And why does He want us to do certain things with repetition?

One of the activities He asks us to do again and again comes from Matthew 16:24-25. It reads as follows from the Amplified Bible.  24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity]. While it is true that Accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior is a onetime event in our lives, Jesus made the point here that as a result of that decision there are things that we will need to do again and again until the day we find ourselves safely with Him in heaven. We will have to deny ourselves repeatedly. A walk with Christ does not make us devoid of desires, some of those desires are selfish. To respond correctly Jesus said we will need to deny them, and willingly accept whatever may be come as a result. If we ‘do it again’ each day He promises to give us the necessary grace to face the resulting situations, but we still have to make the daily choice (sometimes moment by moment) to deny ourselves, accept whatever comes…and follow Him. That means that no matter the consequences…we choose to look and act like Jesus. And the consequences may end up being severe. In a recent trip overseas I was privileged to meet Christians who had been born into the Muslim faith. For some of them, their decision to follow Jesus had regrettably severed ties with their own families. They were treated as outcasts, ostracized by their own mothers and fathers. What a blessing to get to meet Christians who know what it means to lose their lives (their own identity) to follow Jesus and accept the identity they have in Him! Jesus went on to say that it might even mean a physical death to follow Him, but He reminds us in this scripture that anything we lose for Him in this life will be well worth it when we have eternal life with Him. Our heavenly father loves it when He sees us deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow His Son, Jesus. And His response to seeing that take place? “Do it again child…do it again”.

In Romans 12:10 Paul wrote about another ‘Do it again’ request that comes from God. There it tells us to Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. This is practical instruction that helps us know how to follow the directive above. It gives specific instruction as to one way we can be like Christ. When Jesus submitted to God the Father and came to earth in the form of His own creation He did not do so because He had a need to come, He did it because we had need of Him to come and make the ultimate sacrifice paying the penalty for the sin of humankind…once and for all! He came giving preference to us and our need, out of His great love for us. So if we want to look like Jesus, if we want to take on His character, then we must learn to honor others give preference to one another. Why does he ask us to do this again and again? I believe it is because He knows that as human beings we learn best through repetition. There is going to come a day when those of us who know and love Jesus will go to be with Him in glory. There we will be asked to return the favor He showed to us. There we are asked for eternity to prefer Him, to give Him all of the honor and love he is deserving of. Recently I had a conversation with some men where I asked a legitimate question. How many years is it appropriate for us to spend on our faces thanking Jesus for what He has done for us once we get to heaven? A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand years? A million? A billion? You get the idea. I am not sure if eternity is going to be long enough! If we are going to prefer Him alone for that length of time, then acts of selflessness are probably something we can all use as much practice at as we can get now. I am convinced that when God sees us selflessly loving one another by preferring other’s needs above our own, He says, “Do it again daughter… Do it again son”.

While I am on the subject of a loving God who was willing to give His one and only Son to die in our place so that we can live, if we are going to be like Him in that way, we definitely need to learn to become givers. Givers of our time, givers of our talents, givers of His love. How do we become givers? Through repetition. Through doing it again and again. I believe this is the idea behind the tithe. God’s word says that he doesn’t need our money. Psalm 50:10-12 in the New Living Translation reads as follows; 10 For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine. 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it. Here God is clearly saying, He owns it all and if He physically had need of anything (which He doesn’t) He certainly wouldn’t come to us to meet His need, He would take it from His own infinite wealth. So, if God doesn’t need our money why ask for it? In the book of Malachi, He quite clearly says that we should bring our first fruits into His storehouse, which represents the local church in our society. Moreover He says that if we fail to do so we are robbing Him! So why does He ask for our tithe? I believe whole heartedly it is because the ultimate giver wants to make us awesome givers as well. As a part of the lesson He uses repetition and asks us to tithe again and again and again. So when God sees us tithing with a joyful heart and becoming happy givers I think He looks at us and says, “Do it again loved ones of mine…do it again”.

So now, in response to your heavenly Papa, Do it again…Do it again, so that His joy and yours may be full…and go be awesome!

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