Friday, December 27, 2013

A Reflection of Christmas Past


A Reflection of Christmas Past
 Romans 15:1-4
We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Far to the north in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reflected on the day, and Christmas days past. The season had held no joy for him for the past three years — not because of the war, but the tragic death of his wife Fanny in the summer of 1861.  She was the love of his life, and they were splendidly happy, but on July 9, 1861, while sealing a letter with paraffin, Fanny dropped the match on her summer dress, which burst into flames. Henry heard her screams and ran to help. He immediately tried to extinguish the flames with a small rug, and when that failed, he threw his arms around Fanny to smother the flames, causing him to sustain serious burns on his face, arms, and hands. His heroic act did not suffice, and Fanny died the next morning of her injuries. Longfellow was unable to even attend the funeral. Photographs of Longfellow taken or made after the fire usually show him with a full beard, since he was no longer able to shave properly due to the burns and scarring.

The coming of the holiday season in the Longfellow house became a time of grieving for his wife while trying to provide a happy time for the children left at home. It was during Christmas 1862 that he wrote in his journal, “A ‘merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” He had also suffered another disappointment when his oldest son, Charles Appleton “Charley” Longfellow, quietly left their Cambridge, Mass. home, and enlisted in the Union Army much against the wishes of his father. 

In mid-March, Longfellow had received word from Charles, saying, “I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave, but I cannot any longer.”  The determined young man continued, “I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good.” He was 17 years old and went to Capt. W. H. McCartney, who was in charge of Battery A of the 1st Mass. Artillery, asking to be allowed to enlist. McCartney knew the boy and knew he did not have his father’s permission, so he contacted the senior Longfellow to see if he could obtain it on his behalf. Longfellow conceded and acceded to the request.

It was only a few months later that Charley came down with typhoid fever and malaria and was sent home to recover, not rejoining his unit until August 15, 1863. Following the Gettysburg battle, which Charley had fortunately missed, the conflict made its way into Virginia, and it was at the Battle of New Hope Church, in Orange, VA., part of the Mine Run Campaign, that the young Lt. Longfellow sustained injuries, which seriously disabled him. He was hit in the shoulder and the ricocheting bullet took out some portions of several vertebrae. It was reported that he missed being paralyzed by less than one inch.  Longfellow traveled to where his injured son was hospitalized and brought him home to Cambridge to recover.

The following spring, Longfellow's lifelong friend Nathaniel Hawthorne passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. These had been difficult times for the poet; but sometimes it is only through great adversity that the promise of hope makes itself felt most strongly. Longfellow began to write:

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.’

I thought how as that day had come
 The belfries of all Christendom 
Had rolled along th' unbroken song
 Of 'peace on earth, good will to men.’

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.' 


It appeared for a time that Longfellow, in his heartache, had lost hope. Christmas was not joyful nor peaceful for him and the promise of hope had diminished. The inspiration of this Christmas song assures us that through this time of great despair he did find serenity, tranquility, and solace. The Civil War brought wounds to the heart and minds of the American people and they needed hope to prevail in this long journey. In his plight for peace and joy, Longfellow, penned these words that touched the heart of a war torn nation giving them hope in God. 

“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.”

 Till, ringing, singing on its way, 
The world revolved from night to day, 
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
 Of peace on earth, good will to men.

The poem was put to music by Jean Baptiste Calkin in 1872, and became the familiar carol "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” by James S. Robinson; Free Republic Browse


Thought: My dear friend in Christ, please do not lose hope. When we have confidence (believe) in Christ we obtain great hope and peace. Though troubles may come and perhaps you will struggle in times of deep despair, remember, “God is not dead, nor does He sleep.”  Trusting God with all things will give you the hope you so long for and the peace you desire. Romans 15:13 ~ Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Friday, December 20, 2013

No Guarantees


No Guarantees
Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

For years I looked at Proverbs 22:6 as a promise from God. I believed if I taught my children the truths of the Word of God, they would turn out right and never rebel. I have known parents that have done just that, “Trained their children in the ways of God,” and yet, they rebelled! The Book of Proverbs is not a collection of promises or prophecies, but as the name suggests, a book of proverbs. Proverbs are the collected observations of the wise on the way the world operates. We must remember that by definition a proverb is a rule of conduct, a concise general truth, not a promise. 

Why do we have the book of Proverbs and this particular verse, if it is not a promise? May I suggest that it is an encouragement to parents to take seriously their responsibilities towards the young, since (in general) the road they start out on is the one they will end up following. Early training and discipline is incredibly important and there are people who give praise to God for their parents godly example and instruction. But parents are seriously flawed by sin and if the child’s salvation depends on the parents ability to start them off right, then he or she is certainly doomed? God’s grace works in spite of our great sin and His mercies are new every morning.  It is God that moves and works in the heart of a child and not the parents abilities to train or discipline the child. What the proverb does do is to hold us accountable for our responsibility to give our children training in the ways of the Lord. God has not guaranteed our success as parents, but He has given us a great responsibility to train our children to know Him. 

The teen years are a time of transition between childhood and adulthood. It is a time when the child must decide or determine whether he or she will hold to the Faith of their parents or rebel. Parents should seek to maintain a biblical standard of conduct in the home to protect their child but not force their child into an external conformity or Christianity. When a child shows outward signs of rebellion, it may mean they are revealing an unconverted heart. Thank God for this rebellion even though it hurts, then pray they will realize that rebellion is a dead-end street. Remember, God is sovereign and He is in control even when a child is out of control. Don’t try to manipulate a child to get them to return to the Lord. As parents, release your child to the heavenly Father’s care, knowing that He is fully capable of bringing your son or daughter to repentance.

Rebellion is a choice and all children have a propensity to sin and rebel. You, as a parent, must understand that you are not held accountable to God for the sins of your children. “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4b). Parents will be held accountable for their own sins, including their sins in parenting, but they will not be held accountable for the sins of their children. Rebellion is our enemy and we need to know how to respond to it in everyday life. Realize that Christ is glorified when we trust Him in our trials, knowing He will use them for our good. When we worry or fret, it dishonors Christ because every situation comes through the loving and sovereign hands of God. When we become anxious we should confess it as sin and thank God for the trial, praying that God will give incomprehensible peace–––guarding the heart.

Ask yourself these questions:

Is God’s love evident in my life and in my home? Am I kind and patient or prideful and easily provoked? 

Do I bring Christ into my home through natural sharing of what God is doing in my life? Do I read the Word and discuss it with my child (children)? 

Am I too busy to spend time with my child (children)? Are other things more important?

Am I too much of an authoritarian? Teenagers need space to think for themselves and room to fail. They need to be respected as individuals. Parents can sometimes be overbearing, critical, and intolerant––––limiting communication and openness. 

Are you seeking to portray a false sense of perfection? Are you trying to make it look like you don’t struggle with sin in your life? Do you think the young person in your home picks up on that kind of hypocrisy? Are you approachable?

Thought: We are instructed to deal with our own sin before we can see the sins of others around us (Matthew 7:1-5). If you’re a parent with a rebellious teenager, take to heart the things that have been said and seek forgiveness from your child for any wrong doing that you may have done. You are responsible for asking for forgiveness and modeling a forgiving spirit but not for how your child may respond. Allow God to transform you through the extremely hard times of your life. What better way for God to teach you as a mother His kind of love than to give you a child that is hard to love in the midst of pain and shameful behavior. This changing process will not be comfortable. It hurts to be broken and shaped and molded. God has never promised an easy road, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Commit to obedience and remember not to be controlled by passing feelings but abide in God’s Word daily–––proving to be a true disciple and bringing glory to God (John 15:8).


*Thoughts taken from the book, “Women Helping Women” by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Carol Cornish




Friday, December 13, 2013

A Cherished Possession



A Cherished Possession

1 Peter 1:18-19
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;  But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

Satan has lied to us in the down times of our lives, in times of doubt and despair, when we’ve been the most vulnerable and susceptible to physical or emotional attack.  He lies to us about our worth in this life and whether we are valued by those we love most. The sad part is that we have listened to what he says and allow our hearts and minds to dwell on them, eventually persuading ourselves to act upon these lies.We are all guilty of feeling defeated, stressed out, lonely, and fearful from time to time, and are guilty of replacing the truth of God’s Word with the harmful lies of Satan. This puts us in bondage. If we are listening to Satan’s lies, and not to the Word of God, we miss the joy, confidence, peace and the radiant life Christ offers.

Christ came to set the captive free and He loves us without expectations or conditions placed upon us. We don’t have to work to earn God’s love and we can feel confident that He has our best interests at heart. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us any more or love us any less. God proved His great love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He manifested His love for us in giving us His Only Begotten Son and promising us eternal life through Him. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Nothing can separate us from His love, for we are secure in Christ. What a great Friend we have sitting at the right hand of God making intercession for us. Why? Because He loves us.

We cannot for one moment receive our worth from the world, the news, the TV, magazines, books, jobs, friends or family. Our worth comes from what Christ did for us on the cross and not what we can do for ourselves or for one another. We have been bought with a price, ransomed by the payment with an overwhelming cost, then lifted from the bondage of a life filled with emptiness and dread.

Psalm 49:6-8 ~ They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) Needless to say, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches, can ransom no one, nor give to God the price that is owed for one soul. The ransom of their life is costly and to buy freedom for one in bondage of sin can never be sufficed. We are His cherished possession, purchased by His precious blood–––– the price paid to a holy God to redeem us from the overwhelming burden of sin.

Thought: Can you see that you are worth something to God? His promises are trustworthy, His blessings abounding, and His merciful love, He has lavished upon you. Every day you can take pleasure in His Grace that He has given you and indulge yourself in His magnificent love, an immense benefit of your so great salvation. You are a cherished and precious possession to God and in knowing this, you must realize, if God be for you (us) who can be against you (us)? (See Romans 8:31). God loved you in your darkest hour, when you needed Him the most. He lifted you up out of the pit of destruction and put your feet upon a rock making your steps secure.  He put a new song in your mouth to give praises to Him. Trust that He cares and loves you, for He has mercifully and compassionately rescued you.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Loneliness


Loneliness
Isaiah 40:28-29
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.  He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 

God has created us as social creatures. We naturally have the desire and capacity for fellowship with other people. We, as human beings, cannot be truly happy unless the basic need of friendship or companionship is met. Many people become extremely lonely during the holiday season leading them down the road to depression and hopelessness. Loneliness often has two aspects and will not be solved unless both of these aspects are considered. The problem of loneliness often has a human and a divine dimension. The feeling of loneliness can stem from a deeper problem––––it may happen because a person does not have or maintain a proper relationship with God and with other people. Some people are hurt deeply from those that can help encourage, edify and befriend, but choose not to leaving people feeling rejected, unloved and lonely.  

Loneliness is often associated with a poor relationship to God. But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). What kind of relationship do you have with God right now? Are you struggling with trusting God with your future, or letting go of your past? Do you regard sin in your heart–––spoiling the comfort of prayer?  Your relationship with the Lord needs to be filled with gratitude and thanksgiving towards Him for His mercy and privilege of eternal hope. God, in His grace and mercy, does restore sinful, alienated man to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20-22).

Loneliness is also associated with a deficient relationship to other people. There are some qualities and behaviors that hinder good relationships with other people. Think about the behaviors that could be present in your life and the ones that may be contributing to your feelings of loneliness:

Fear of not being good enough, or being rejected by someone, even those you love.
Being impatience or irritable, and fearful of someone taking advantage of you.
Having educational and social barriers that may prompt excessive dependence upon other people or provoke a smothering or demanding personality.
A selfish––self-centered attitude that displays a critical complaining spirit causes people to feel alienated. 
Gloominess, perfectionism, gossiping, and deceitfulness will isolate you from your friends and family members making you extremely vulnerable and lonely.

Assess your relationship with others and with God. Have you been an example or a stumblingblock to the people closest to you?  Have you been faithful and loyal to your friends and family or unfaithful to those who matter most?  Have you communicated that you are sincerely interested in other people and not only interested in what they can do for you? While it is Biblical that the church exists for the purpose of worshiping God (I Peter 2:9) it is equally true that the local church exists for the mutual edification of each believer. Look at the kind of relationship the early Christians had with each other.  Acts 2:44-47 ~ And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,  Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.  Notice the deep involvement and concern they had for one another and what the early believers did to and for each other.

If a person is to overcome the problem of loneliness, he must first of all establish and maintain a proper relationship to God through His Son Jesus Christ. One’s relationship to God is maintained by studying and meditating on the Word of God, through prayer, by obedience to the Scriptures, and through Christian fellowship. But also, if one is to overcome the problem of loneliness, he must seek to establish good relationships with other people. These two dimensions of the problem can be summarized and solved by obedience to the words of Jesus when He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39). 

Thought:  For those of you who have tried to reach out to the lonely in your own time of need, but have been rejected in your attempt to encourage, love or be a friend, remember John 15:17 which says: “These things I command you, that ye love one another.”  Love then, rejoice in the Lord with them and for them. Aim for restoration gaining a friend, and bear each others burdens fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Continue comforting one another, living in peace with one another; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Who better to comfort the lonely than the Great Comforter. He knows and understands what it means to be rejected and the pain that comes from being forsaken. Isaiah 53:3 ~ “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”