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Jan 12, 2022

Grace

A New Year is the perfect time to pause and reflect on your life. Often individuals choose to make New Year's resolutions or self promises for improvement. Personally, I like to skip resolutions and instead sit with God and ask Him for a word that might set the tone for the year. Last year's word was "trust" and God did not disappoint. This year's word is "grace". 

In considering "grace" there are several aspects including the definition and its meaning for Christians. The Webster definition is, "unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification; a virtue coming from God; a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance." 

From a Christian perspective, grace is God's favor towards us. Grace is a gift from God that cannot be earned. It's God giving us more than we deserve. God is grace. Grace is what God does because He is gracious. All we have from God is because of grace; creation, salvation, His never ending love, provision and protection are all because of God's grace.

As Christians we rejoice because of God's grace and still we have a responsibility to show grace to others. This is not always easy. As followers of Jesus Christ we are to have the mind and heart of Christ in all we do. This includes our interactions and relationships; especially with those we may feel don't deserve grace. Doing so demonstrates the love of Christ in action. Perhaps you too are hearing God say that you need to focus on grace. Pray that He with transform your behaviors and motives so that you can show grace to others.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. 
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."
Ephesians 2:8

Dec 10, 2021

Appearances



 If you had to sum up in one word what currently matters most in American culture, a good describer would be "appearances".  Yes, appearances seem to be what is most important to people. There are influencers, celebrities, and even famous people with no talent appearing to be important, wealthy, cleaver, or have some special quality that others are chasing after.

The truth is, things are not always as they appear. What is visible to the world via social media, Hollywood, or the news is almost always a made up version of reality. That is not surprising when you consider we live in a fallen world. Jesus warned us that Satan is a liar. His goal is to distract, attract and attack. He even tried tempting Jesus. He will stop at nothing to make what is bad look good, just to get his way.

God's "appearances" are quite different. With God we learned to never judge 'a book by it's cover' as he uses the small, unassuming, and meek to do mighty and often miraculous work. His ways are awesome and awe inspiring. He sent the Savior of the World as an innocent newborn baby and had angels and a star appeared to announce His arrival.  He used a small shepherd boy to take down a giant and become King. He chose an orphaned girl to grow up and become a courageous queen, saving Israel from annihilation.

What about you? Are you getting caught up in appearances and becoming distracted from what matters most? Are you focusing on Christmas gifts, decorating and hosting the perfect "celebrity"  version Christmas for yourself, or are you celebrating the true meaning of Christmas? The truth is, no matter how things appear, Jesus Christ, and the joy that comes from knowing Him as the Lord of your life, is the greatest gift of all.

Praise honor and glory to you Jesus Christ! 

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: 

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14


Nov 22, 2021

Give Thanks to the Lord


Revised and updated from original post in November 2009

Beyond the turkey and stuffing, past the mashed potatoes; broccoli with cheese sauce and the rolls, lies the true meaning of Thanksgiving. It is not about the pumpkin pie, the kick-off of the football game or holiday season. It has nothing to do with the traditional Macy's parade and the deals of Black Friday. Of course, our culture and the mainstream media focus on making Thanksgiving about these things instead of on its true meaning.

The true meaning of Thanksgiving is tucked away in the festivities and the meal preparation. In some cases, it is buried deep underground and not even mention. The true meaning of Thanksgiving is to praise and celebrate the goodness and grace of God. Many will fail to bow the knee, praise Him with grace before the meal, or raise their hands in gratitude. However, I am sure that you will join me in giving thanks, praise, and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ on Thanksgiving Day and every day.

As you celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with those you love, take a moment to reflect on the great man that was brave enough to acknowledge God before the world as evidenced by the proclamation that follows from so long ago. May you too proclaim God and His Son Jesus Christ this Thanksgiving and always. 

Proclamation: 
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A.D. 1863 
By the President: Abraham Lincoln

I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Oct 31, 2021

Simply Jesus


Growing up in an Italian Catholic family, I came to know about Jesus at a very young age. One of the first introductions was at the Latin mass at Our Lady of Peace Church in NY. My mom made the train trip there with me in tow, as it was her home church. The priest had his back toward the worshippers. The woman wore head coverings and dark clothing. The most important message to me was the need to be quiet. In the House of God you kneeled, prayed the rosary and were quiet. Although no one understood most, if any, of what the priest said, the adults left feeling they had fulfilled their "religious obligation".

We had a Catholic Bible at home that included glossy color photos of Biblical scenes and the different aspects of the church, rituals and sacraments. Most of these seemed scary, especially the ones of Jesus dying and being crucified. The book was written in a version that was difficult at best to read. My parents bedroom, in our modest 800 square foot attached home with "railroad" rooms, was complete with statues of various Saints on the dresser and the Infant of Prague. There were crosses with Jesus hanging on them in various locations.

Major changes in the Catholic church back then to including changes to say the mass in English, have the priest face the worshippers and updating the music and artwork to be more contemporary. Still, many of the rules and  rituals remained including providing hymnals with sections of the Word (an Old Testament reading, Psalm, Letter and New Testament Gospel) to each church attendee each Sunday. Although I was the only one of the children in the family that was allowed to attend public school rather than the Catholic school, I attended religious instruction throughout my childhood at the Catholic church.

It wasn't until I was almost an adult visiting California, that I was introduced to a New Testament Bible, in a version I could actually understand. I also was invited to attend a Bible study. It was beautiful, humbling, convicting and above all simple. In the midst, I went from knowing about Jesus to knowing Jesus. Eventually on my life's journey I was introduced (by my oldest child) to a non-Catholic church. The pastor at the Friends church shared the entire Bible and taught about how the Bible points to Jesus and is all about Jesus. There were simple messages of truth connecting the Old and New Testament. It wasn't about rituals, rules. and feeling obligated, rather it was simply about Jesus the Living God and his desire to have a relationship with every person. 

Times have changed and Jesus, our Savior, King, and Lord of Lords is no longer hidden, or veiled if you will, as he had been from me and so many for so long. Praise God for the truth and beauty of Jesus Christ and our ability to know Him and love Him without a third party or a process. Yes, it's simply Jesus. No sugar coating, redesign, steps to get to him or test to pass. Just Jesus.

Do you know Jesus? Are you in the Word daily feasting on the truth? If not, don't wait any longer. The YouVersion Bible app is a great place to start reading the Bible and provides so many devotionals with contemporary and real messages.  You can find it here store https://youversion.com/the-bible-app/ or at the app store.

"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 
John 8:31-32





Jun 27, 2021

Surrender



The dictionary defines surrender as "giving up, laying down or relinquishing power or control to another; to give up completely to something." Surrender is waving the white flag and giving up a fight or position you hold about something. Everyone surrenders at some point in life. As a child you may have surrendered to sleep by giving up trying to stay awake to actually see Santa bring your gifts on Christmas Eve. You may have given in to a friend, spouse or child to have their way over yours in exchange for peace. 

When you are tired, weary or up against a major obstacle that wears you down, you can be in a position to surrender more easily. Being bombarded by the world and its culture can lead you to surrender your morals, values and beliefs. You may over time be nudged to accept certain norms and ways of life as you slowly give up the fight against what you believe is right or appropriate.

Surrender isn't necessarily a bad thing and it can lead to positive change when you give up a bad habit, lifestyle or relationship. What are you surrendering to? You may not even be aware of that which you have given up control of for something that is less than authentic, righteous or aligned with what God would want for your life. 

The ultimate act of surrender is that of giving your life to Jesus Christ. It's when you relinquish and lay down control, fear and worry to Him and trust His will to be done in your life. Sounds easier than it really is. To surrender to Jesus is a daily decision to follow Him and give up the world and all its glamour, distractions and lies. You will have to be different, think differently and change what you fill your mind, time and life with. 

Think you have surrendered your life to Christ? Check yourself. Here are just a few things to consider. 

You:

        • spend time in the Word daily
        • put God first in your day not last or an after thought
        • pray rather than worry       
        • seek God's direction in decisions you are making
        • fill your life with positive relationships of believers
        • choose to listen to, read and watch programming that aligns with godly ways
        • trust God above all

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there." Galatians 5:24