Category: Uncategorized



It’s that time of year again and, as usual, the controversies rise to the top. It is my goal to simply celebrate the season, celebrate the birth of Jesus, celebrate the friendships I have, and celebrate the family I have.

There are always many discussion concerning the real birthdate of Jesus. The truth: Weborn-in-a-manger-by-yori-narparti will never know; neither the Bible nor history tells us anything. Certainly, many have attempted to deduce the birthdate but truthfully, we will never know. Could it have been December 25? Possibly, but there are 364 other days it could have been too. The Catholic church, (you know, the one from which most of us “descended”) has laid claim to the December 25 date since before the middle of the fourth century. And many of the Orthodox church hold that the birth occurred on January 6. The reasons for these dates are many but typically relate to the dates of the Passover season or the Feast of Tabernacles and the sentiment during the middle fourth century that dates and events were cyclical and occurred with relation to each other.

Of course other theories abound, including the concept that the Church borrowed the dates from pagan practices of the times. While this sounds good and feasible … and even diabolically conspiratory … all probability points away from this because the early Church was a body of people which chose to steer far away from anything pagan. (Certainly, there did come a flood of pagan practices to be related to Christmas but these came also in the fourth century after dated Christmas celebrations began.)

The greater truth is this: the date of Christ’s birth really doesn’t matter; let’s celebrate Him all year long.

roman_empire_by_bamoon-d4hsq3dNow there is something to be said of the adaptation of certain pagan practices.The Roman Empire was built not only on its strength, but also on its syncretism, or ability to adapt what was already found in a place with those practices and principles of the Roman Empire. In other words, they would adapt the current gods of a conquered land into their own panorama of gods, and this even included the adaptation of certain buildings purposed for the worship of these gods into the worship of other gods. We can see this in the invasion of Israel by the Romans. Israel could have bowed under Rome’s pressure like every other country did EXCEPT that Israel WAS NOT willing to incorporate their God into the Roman worship of many gods; they KNEW that God Himself had declared that He was THE ONLY God, that He was ONE, and that Israel should worship NO OTHER. Therefore, the Jews WOULD NOT abide by the addition of other gods and customs because of their reverence and fear of the one, true God.

So, although Christmas now occurs in the season of year that is recognized as a season of Saturnalia and other pagan practices related to the solstice, it probably originated as a December 25 (or January 6) celebration purely out of respect and desire to honor Christ.

Again, if we choose to celebrate Him all year long, we will definitely cross some days that coincide with pagan celebrations … so don’t worry too much about it.

Another controversy that takes place at this time of year is that of the place of the birth of jesus birthChrist. Some say that there was no room for Him in the inn, others say there was no private room for Him in the family household, and others say there was no available space in the family guest room. In all probability, a more proper understanding of the place of His birth is that it DID occur in a home, although it more accurately took place in the animal-keeping area of the home … probably under the house in a hollowed out place. It might even have been a natural cave that a house was built upon … the main thing is that it was a place where animals were kept. It was dirty. It was lowly. It was smelly. But it was a portrait that the Messiah was born to relate to all humankind.

I have had the privilege to go to Israel three times. I have seen two different places that tradition says were the burial places for Christ. I have seen at least two places where he was said to have been born in … one being a church and the other being a cave. I am told that there are other places where He might have been born and where He might have been buried. (By the way, in both places claiming to be the Tomb, He is not in either one … His IS RISEN!)

The point with ALL of this is that we need to simply worship the savior, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We are not to revere a date, a place, or a tradition; instead, we are to worship Him.

So wherever you are, whatever day of the year it is, and whatever you are doing, why don’t you stop for a moment and praise Him … and thank Him … and exemplify Him.

worship

If this has resonated with you, please drop me an email at jgarrett1958@hotmail.com. Thanks.

Advertisements

tdd-12days-card-example-copy

One of the beloved Christmas songs that gets a lot of airtime every year is the song known as the 12 Days of Christmas. It is often rumored that this song was originally a coded reference to the Catholic catechism in order to veil their persecution by the Church of England. Another version of this story is that the song was again, used as a hidden message, but this time between believers in societies where the Gospel was frowned upon or outlawed. According to Snopes.com, however, these are popular rumors that have little to no substance.

There are however, surface truths that we can gather from this song: It DOES concern the 12 days between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi (or wise men.) Additionally, it probably grew into a song as a game where competitors would add various verses while repeating all previous stanzas until one player “messed up” a previous line. We DO have record of it as a song as far back as 1780 although it surely is much older than that. It is also believed that the song is of French origin, not English.

What else can we derive from this song?

01dayThere is a certain “un-ending-ness” that occurs in love.

There is a material way to show and observe love.

There is a “value” in and from love.

Surely, each of these truths are voiced throughout the song. Of course, and I know that I am very prone to spiritualize things … even to over-spiritualize them … but I think there is perhaps even more that we can derive from this song.

On the initial glance, I want to observe the rumored meanings because I do think the song can help us to understand various aspects of our relationships with God and with fellow believers.

Perhaps each of the gifts could mentally correlate with teachings of the faith. Immediately, the One known as the "True Love" could refer to God Himself and the one receiving the various gifts would represent the believer.

Other imagery could be represented as follows: 
One (a) partridge in a pear tree could represent the one and only Son of God, Jesus Christ.22257s

Two turtle doves could perhaps represent the two divisions of the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Three French hens could represent the three extremely important virtues of 1 Corinthians 13: faith, hope, and love.

Four calling birds could represent the message of Jesus Christ as revealed in the four Gospels.

Five golden rings could perhaps, represent the Pentateuch or Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Six geese a-laying could be thought of as a reference to the six days of creation.

I had a difficult time imagining this next one but as I began to look through the lens of Catholic theology, I understood the Seven swans a-swimming as the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church:  Water Baptism, Confirmation, Communion, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Ordination, and Marriage.

imagesEight maids a-milking has been thought by some to note the eight beatitudes found in Matthew 5 as a part of the Sermon on the Mount.

Nine ladies dancing could represent the nine fruit of the Holy Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV.)

Ten lords a-leaping may be used to represent the Ten Commandments, the Foundation that points us toward our need for God and His perfection.

Eleven pipers piping can be thought to represent the 11 apostles who remained faithful to Christ.

And the 12 Drummers Drumming could simply point to the 12 statements of the Apostle’s Creed: (http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/music/12days.asp accessed 12/04/2014.)

514_400x400_NoPeel

I know that various other methods have been devised for the aide of the remembrance of certain doctrines and other elements of the Christian faith. Many have used songs, poems, even decks of cards … so why not use the song, the 12 Days of Christmas as a device to remind ourselves of various aspects of our faith. And this Christmas, while we focus our attention on Christ as the infant, let’s also remember that He is the Risen Lord and the Conquering King and that He has surrounded us with a whole multitude of examples, witnesses, and relationships..

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.[a] Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT)

marathonn


The Bible tells us an important story concerning the place of the delivery of Jesus by His mother, Mary.

3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. (Luke 2:3-6 NLT)

no room 4The Bible tells us that during the birth of Jesus, there was found no room for Him in the normal lodging places.

Certainly there are many facets to this story than can be exhaustively discerned in this blog; the question that I want to confront each of us with is this: Is there room in your heart for Him?

Many images are found throughout Scripture of times when God’s chosen people had no room in their lives for God … and times have not changed so much as many may think.

There is a popular video that is found on the internet and in popular leadership books concerning the placement of many objects in some type of container. The objective is that as we fill the container with instantly gratifying things, we do not leave room for the important things; conversely, as we cleanse our lives of the instantly gratifying things and begin to place those things of greatest importance to our lives in the container, more room is left for the other things.

Here is one of those brief videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmV0gXpXwDU

no room 2downloadWhile this video is particularly focused on time management, the principle shown carries over to relationships, particularly our relationship with Jesus Christ.

And rarely is this more evident than at this particular season of the year.

As we approach the season known for the birth of our Savior, we also face the season known for the hustle and bustle of shopping, eating, going, and everything else.

The pertinent question I want to ask in this hour is this: Is there room in your heart for our Savior this season … and all other seasons?

At Christmas time, I often listen to a local radio station that features 24/7 Christmas music well before Thanksgiving day. They are a commercial station which means that commercials are interspersed throughout their daily playlists. That’s not a problem; that is how they are sponsored and I get that. However, there are a few commercials that play throughout the day that feature one of these “hey-let’s-rattle-off-the-legal-details-as-quickly-as-we-can-because-it-has-to-take-place-but-we-don’t-want-to-take-up-precious-airspace-for-those-important-but-minute-details.” When I hear these, I am quickly made aware that these folks are rendering their own version of what is really important for Christmas. One of these ads tells me that they KNOW what my wife wants for Christmas; diamond jewelry. Another soon beckons that I NEED a new car for Christmas. And yet another tells me that I need the latest new toy.

no room 3And immediately after we have experienced a time of giving thanks to God (aka Thanksgiving), we enter into the season of the self: Black Friday, Cyber Monday … and who knows what we will come up with next. These are all days when retailers supposedly offer their best pricing for the entire year. What actually takes place though, is that we see signs of the self-indulgent greediness of our modern society. Have you seen videos clips of the fight scenes in some of the stores over TV bargains or other electronics deals. http://socialnewsdaily.com/45985/5-of-the-best-in-store-fights-from-black-friday-2014/

Even though I am appalled by these signs, more so I am faced with the understanding that all of this is a characterization of another distraction from our relationship with God.

While I could drone on concerning these various situations, I want to focus on my premise for writing this paper: to ask if there is room in our hearts for God this Christmas season (or any other time, for that matter.)

Have you found yourself without time for prayer?

Have you found that church is often difficult to attend because it is so early in the morning (or late on a Saturday afternoon … or conflicting with a child’s rehearsal/practice)?

Mary and Joseph found a place of shelter where the Christ-Child could be birthed.

If we will diligently seek, we, too, will find a place for relationship with Christ in our hearts and in our life-situations.

no roomSo again I ask, is there room in your inn?

Is there room in your heart for Christ this Christmas season?

Is there room in life-situations for Christ to be honored, adored, and proclaimed?


pyrotechinics

What we do in order to draw people to us is what we end up doing in order to keep people coming to us.

I once had a friend tell me this. It made sense when he told me that and it makes sense now. There are many parallels to this statement but the recurring truth is simple, profound, and applicable: the means, shows, glamour, glitz, flash, money … whatever … that we use to draw people to us, to our churches, to our homes, to our stores, etc. are the recurring ‘cards’ that will have to be played in order to keep those people coming again and again.

I’m pretty sure that each of us can relate to this statement.

Maybe we drew friends close to us by the way that we spent money on them. Maybe we attracted hundreds and thousands to our shows by the features we continually blitzed past them. Maybe we attracted masses to our restaurants by the service and consistent quality of food we presented to them. (And by the way, that’s NOT a bad thing at all.) Maybe as musicians, we continually presented the listeners with punch and ‘tight’ music in a way that habitually explored new horizons. Or maybe we built our churches by being on the edge, trying new things, and bringing in big name speakers,

What I’m saying to these and other approaches, is that this things you used in order to draw people to you ARE THE SAME THINGS you are going to have to use in order to keep them coming.

Please note, this IS NOT necessarily a judgment call (but by the same token, if you feel judged or convicted … then maybe it IS such a call … to you.) One of my favorite music bands is a group known simply as ‘The Rippingtons.’ They began 28 years ago as a guitarist assembled around him a group of hot, experienced, and talented musicians who were very tight in their sound and who were explorers of new traditions of music. After all these years, they continue in this same vein. They are often criticized, mind you, because they never stay the same but continue to explore and branch out in their various arts. The truth, however, is that the way they started is the way they have maintained and sustained.

And churches who begin as centers of the loud, the glowing, and the famous have sometimes failed because they could not effectively continue to keep up the hype that surrounded their initial, gathering stages.

Certainly, you and I can both find exceptions to this concept but, overall, this is the rule: the way you bring them in is the way you’ll have to maintain them.

What we do in the sowing is rewarded in the reaping.

 

A Biblical mandate is found in Galatians 6:7-10 sowing-and-reaping[6]

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (NLT)

It is a known and proven fact that we cannot plant a seed of corn and expect from that kernel a plant of green beans to grow. This is called the law or principle of sowing and reaping.

We must respect and acknowledge that, in the natural realm,  whatever we put into something is indicative of what we will attain from that effort/deed. Granted, there have been moments when we may have mistakenly put great efforts into something that we deemed as worthy … only to see that particular something founder and fail. But generally, the things we pay attention to, the things we put efforts into, the things that we spend time and perhaps, money, on … these are the things that will grow and prosper.

If we as parents will spend more time with our children (and make THAT time both quantity and quality time), the better those children’s future will be.

If we as husbands/wives will pay the needed attention to our mates … through listening, adoring, and just BEING with them, the greater and more beautiful benefits we will receive from that attention spent. Our marriages will be better. And our appreciation for one another will soar.

If we as Christians will take the time to pray, to read God’s Word, to spend time in community with His saints, the more seemingly efforts our attempts at service/ministry will seem This will happen because our service then becomes an outgrowth or over-flowing of the relationship we have with Him and He with us.

What we sow we will reap

What we do in life echoes in eternity

image48

And finally, as a culmination of all these previously mentioned things, eternity will be positioned, altered, and perhaps, enhanced because of the life that we have each lived.

It is been suggested that the tiniest of drops of water in the deep, blue sea affect the remainder of that sea in a ripple effect.

The falling of one leaf in the forest affects the entirety of the forest because of  its presence … whether that presence covers something needing shelter, presents itself as food to the various creatures of the forest, or simply becomes fuel to the garden compost of the earth.

So each life affects eternity.

You and I are making a heritage … whether good, bad, or seemingly non-influential. Someone is watching us. Someone will read about us or hear about us through a story.

Our families are greatly influenced by us.

We are important.

The musical group Kansas once sang a song, ‘Dust in the Wind.’ While some have interpreted this song to mean that our lives are short and meaningless, others have (correctly … I think) understood the song to mean that although life may be short, and that each of us will return to the dust from which we have come, our future lies outside of ourselves and more importantly, in the hands of a Savior.

It IS important that we acknowledge that we are a part of something greater than us … and that something greater is a future.

That future is dictated by the responses we make to the ‘cards’ we have been dealt.

That future is positioned by the investments we make (or not).

That future is granted based upon the decisions we make in this brief life.

And that future is sealed by the ultimate decision we make concerning Jesus Christ.

Let’s all consider our present … with an eye for the future … not for the purpose of worrying about that future, but for the purpose of intentionally assuring a good future.

The Journey


So many times we find ourselves in a place or a situation that causes us frustration or pain.

It is in these times that we find ourselves crying out to God (or sometimes, just crying.)

dead end Is there a better way to handle these times?

Is there something different that we can do?

Certainly prayer is a necessary and beneficial step … but is there something else we can do?

I believe that a personal change of mind and attitude needs to take place.

What would happen if we stopped looking at these situations as destinations, ends, end results, drastic events, pains, etc. … and in turn, began looking at them as markers along the journey?

You see, we ARE on a journey with God.

None of us have stopped along the way yet.

None of us have reached our final destination.

We have ALL gotten from yesterday to today.

Oh, I know you may be thinking that it seems that you may have stopped along the path BUT … as long as we are breathing, there is still a part of the journey within us.

As we transition our thinking to see things as markers along the journey, we can more easily see that things WILL NOT remain as they are, that change can and will happen, and that we WILL get through this until we get to the next stage of life.

Paul, in fact, defined such circumstances as this:  Rough road

… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11b-13 NLT)

When we determine to let God be Lord in our lives, and we learn, through the process, to trust in Him and His control, we are able to go through the journey.

And as we learn to walk through the journey, our situations may not change, but our attitudes in those situations will definitely change.

I encourage you today to begin the process of trusting Him for a change in your attitudes … to the point that you can see the events NOT as ends and destinations; instead that they appears as markers along the journey.

And in doing so, watch yourself more and more becoming content where you are … in any season and circumstance of life.

Again, that doesn’t mean that we no longer face the circumstances of life; we do, however, see them as markers along the journey.

… and our life is made better and more stable.

… and our trust in Him is increased.

… and we live for another day

… and we see Him magnified.

Enjoy the journey!journey

Overwhelmed


Have you ever felt overwhelmed with something in your life?

We are continually faced with news reports of war in the Middle East, world-wide terrorism, and the growing threat of militant Islam. Just this morning, I read a threat to America from a zealot saying that it was too late to defend ourselves against the various threats; they were already too big and continuing to grow.

But you know, the truth is that we are going about this all wrong!

Oh, but before I go further … then we have movies and books telling us that Christians are all about to escape these life events. That’s what is really scary because such teaching provides a false hope of escapism.

Now I DO believe that Jesus IS COMING to meet His bride BUT…

300px-UA_Flight_175_hits_WTC_south_tower_9-11_editThere are people groups RIGHT NOW facing horrors that many of us cannot even imagine.

Tell the Christians in Syria that they are going to escape the threat and reality of being murdered for their faith.

Tell the families of victims of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Senegal that they are going to escape sickness, pain, and death.

We are looking for an escape …

… and missing the reality of the NOW hope of Jesus Christ.

He is with us when we are overwhelmed.

He is with us when terror strikes.

He is with us when sickness attaches to our bodies.

He is with us when death enters of familial homes.

ebola-in-usHe is with us regardless the circumstance and His Word tells us that He never leaves us or forsakes us (Matthew 28:20b).

Again, Jesus IS COMING to meet His bride BUT it is a false hope for us to believe that we (as Americans) are somehow going to escape all of this when Christians all across the earth are facing a NOW reality of these things.

So here is my plea:

1) Let’s put a renewed trust in Christ. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (NLT).

2) Let’s pray with a fervency greater than we have ever known. James 5:16 reminds us that God DOES hear the pleas of His people- “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (NLT). That means that if we will really mean business with God, He means business with us. He hears us. He answers us.

Go ahead, lose sleep while you’re praying.

Go ahead, weep some tears while you’re praying.

Go ahead, see God move while you’re praying.

3) Let’s do our part in the trust process. Solomon had just finished the construction of the Temple and God appeared to him in the night with certain words. (2 Chronicles 7:11-22) Among these words, God set forth some conditional statements. He told Solomon that there would be times of disaster and horror in the earth. And then He introduced a VERY IMPORTANT word, “Then”.

“Then” means “at that time” or “in that given event.” In other words, God was telling Solomon that difficult times would still be ahead … but that WAS NOT time to turn FROM God; instead, it was time to turn to Him as never before. 2 Chronicles 7:14- “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (NLT).

So God sets this before His chosen people who are called by His Name:

A) They are to humble themselves. This means that they are to recognize WHO God is and in turn, they are to recognize who they are. They are, in fact, nothing without Him.

B) They are to pray. Not only are they to speak with God BUT they are to listen to God, and they are to be willing to respond accordingly to what He tells them.

C) They are to seek God’s face. Remember, this was written to the people who had heard the following blessing often:

‘May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.’ (Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)

They equated the Face of God with the favor and grace of God. So in other words, they were to seek His face or His favor in their lives, in their people, and in their land.

D) They are to repent. They are to turn from their wicked ways. And in this sense, wickedness is further stretched to mean ALL thoughts, words, and actions that are displeasing to God. They are to change their ways of thinking AND their corresponding actions.

E) And in turn, God will heal their land.

Now many would tell us that this is Old Testament and therefore, no longer applicable to God’s people. But Jesus NEVER disavowed the Old Testament; in fact, He Himself told us that He came to fulfill or complete the Old Testament. And His continual quoting and referencing of the Old Testament clearly indicates His approval of what was written therein.

rapture-postcard-640x437So when we are overwhelmed, when we are threatened, when we are fearful … it is not time to look for the big escape. It is not time to put our trust in the doctors or in the military (although we ARE thankful for both the medical profession AND the military profession.) Instead, it is time to put our trust in Him.

Will you join me in taking this endeavor to task … to humbling ourselves and recognizing His magnitude and simultaneously, our smallness … to praying to Him with a preparedness to listen to and to obey … to seeking His face, grace, and favor … and to repenting of ALL of our sins, wrong-doings, wasted words, and uncontrolled thoughts.

We live in a world of uncertainty … and we DO look forward to being with Jesus … but let’s don’t wait until that time of His returning to do something.

Let’s not get caught up so much in watching for His return that we forget to maintain a close relationship today.

Let’s do something NOW!

Let’s stay prepared NOW!

Hope in the future is always a NOW hope.

Let’s trust HIM!

Let’s put our hope in Him … Now!

Write Pastor Jim  at jgarrett1958@hotmail.com


 

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to obey a Montgomery, Alabama bus driver’s order to she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. Although her action was not the first of its kind, Parks’ action sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

download (1)

With that thought as my introduction, I want to propose to you that our destiny is determined by whether or not we seize the God-ordained opportunities presented to us.

In other words, are we seizing the God-ordained opportunities before us?

Like Rosa Parks did, we first need to see the opportunities that stand before us. Rosa Parks saw her opportunity AND she moved upon that opportunity (or in her case, she stayed, because of frustration and anger at the abuses she and those like her had suffered.} She stated that she was "tired of giving in.”

that reminds me of a biblical character, Gideon. Gideon, known as a Hebrew Judge or leader, almost missed his opportunity.

Judges 6: 11-16- “Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”

“Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”

Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” (NLT)Gideon threshing floor

In this narrative, the Messenger of the Lord, perhaps an angel … and some say God Himself in a pre-incarnate form, was standing before Gideon and was calling him to his destiny to lead the people of Israel.

Gideon was not only hesitant but he was almost defiant to the destiny God had before him.

But finally, Gideon realized that his destiny was a destiny from the Lord.

John Maxwell has paraphrased the saying, “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized during the life-time of the opportunity.” Rosa Parks had seen enough and was moved to action … and she was terribly out-numbered in her endeavor.

Gideon, too, was grossly outnumbered.

Judges 7:1-7- So Jerub-baal (that is, Gideon) and his army got up early and went as far as the spring of Harod. The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain[a] and go home.’” So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.

Gideon ParesBut the Lord told Gideon, “There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.

The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.” (NLt)

Then God gave Gideon instructions regarding how to defeat the Midianites and they were, seemingly, ridiculous.

In fact, when he had finished this paring down of his soldiers, Gideon was left with 300 brave men and he and his army were facing at least 135,000 enemies.

But Gideon took God at His Word, saw his opportunity, and realized that a great opportunity has been set before him … if he would simply obey what was placed before him.

From this idea, we should take the following to heart: Never underestimate your power as “one” … especially when you are equipped with the power of God.

Helen KellerHelen Keller, the famous deaf-blind girl who, by the way, was the first deaf-blind person to earn a college degree, once said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

 

So with this in mind, I k\now want to ask you: How’s your Prayer-life going?

Many people don’t know that Rosa Parks was a strong and devout Christian, and that it was her faith that gave her the strength to do what she did that day in 1955.

Read here Parks’ words regarding her faith in Jesus:

"Every day before supper and before we went to services on Sundays, my grandmother would read the Bible to me, and my grandfather would pray. We even had devotions before going to pick cotton in the fields. Prayer and the Bible, became a part of my everyday thoughts and beliefs. I learned to put my trust in God and to seek Him as my strength."

So I want to ask you again, “How’s your prayer life?”

Gideon, too, had a vibrant prayer life that not only sought God … but heard from Him as well.

Judges 7:8-15- “So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other warriors and sent them home. But he kept the 300 men with him.

Gideon hears dreamThe Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon. That night the Lord said, “Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”

So Gideon took Purah and went down to the edge of the enemy camp. The armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore—too many to count! Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!”

His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!”

When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord. Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up! For the Lord has given you victory over the Midianite hordes!” (NLT).

If we expect God to meet us in prayer, we must realize that He expects us to be obedient to that Word with which He has shown up and spoken.

Remember that prayer is only in (small part) speaking to God; it is also listening to God. … And a huge part of the art of listening in then acting upon when you have heard.

Here is another truth: If you wait for perfect conditions to seize an opportunity, you will be waiting until the day you die.

Judges 7: 2-7- “The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain[a] and go home.’” So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.

But the Lord told Gideon, “There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.

The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.” (NLT).

Gideon men dip waterGideon strategically did not have too many soldiers; in fact, he didn’t have nearly enough. He started out with 32,000 soldiers. (We don’t know exactly how many Midianites they were facing but according to Judges 8:10, there were at least 135,000.) Gideon had pared his men initially down to 10,000. But God still wanted fewer men in Gideon’s army. These were pared down further, to 300.

God’s ways and ideas are much higher than ours.

Isaiah 55:8-9- ““My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord, “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”” (NLT).

God wants the glory for His fights.

Judges 7:2- “The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength.” (NLT).

And in like manner, God wants the glory in your and my life too.

Rosa Parks was convinced that she had a right. And because of that, she refused to get up. "Since I have always been a strong believer in God," she says, "I knew that He was with me, and only He could get me through that next step."

Certainly, there is a whole lot more to this story than what I have told here … and perhaps I‘ll get to tell more in the not too distant future

But I want to close with this very simple set of questions:

1) Are you afraid to fail?

2) Do you want to be used by God?

3) Can you recognize when He places an opportunity in front of you?

4) Then, how’s your prayer life?Warriors strike

Coco’s Challenge


 

Can you imagine the feeling of defeat and despair that one who has lost 10 family members to the Ebola virus could sense? We recently sat down with Coco Dahn and her husband, Peter, as she talked about the pain of having ten close family members pass away due to the Ebola virus over in Monrovia, Liberia. And if that pain isn’t enough, she still has three teen-aged children there who are trapped in isolation inside Liberia and whom she hasn’t seen in months (although she has spoken with them on the phone.) Their names are Bernice, Luther, and Nelson. Luther and Nelson are 15-year-old twins.Coco3

As you have probably already heard, the CDC is currently urging everyone to avoid nonessential travel to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone because of the unprecedented outbreak of Ebola in those countries. The CDC further recommends that travelers to these countries protect themselves by avoiding contact with the blood and body fluids of people who are sick with Ebola.

There are reports of civil unrest and violence against aid workers all over West Africa as a result of this outbreak. In fact, the public health infrastructure of Liberia is being severely strained as the outbreak grows.

Coco1

Of course, the Liberian government has responded by recently implementing enhanced measures to combat the spread of Ebola. These measures will affect travel in, out, and within Liberia. This creates another aspect of Coco’s Challenge. movement of her children within and without the country. Here are the five-point measures that the Liberian government is taking.

  • All Liberian borders are closed except for major entry points.
  • There are new and stringent measures of screening for the virus to be implemented at those major entry points. Again, this affects ALL incoming and outgoing travelers.
  • There are new restrictions concerning public gatherings.
  • Quarantine measures have been established for communities heavily affected by Ebola; travel in and out of those communities will be restricted.
  • Authorized military personnel have been placed to help enforce these and other prevention and control measures.[1]

Coco2All of these situation make Coco’s story even more difficult. She wants to get her teen-aged children out of Liberia to a place where they can be reasonably safe. But they are trapped within their own city. Because of the quarantine measures there in the city of Monrovia, they are essentially confined to their house … even though they are not sick nor show any signs of the sickness.

So ISOH/IMPACT is trying to help Coco by getting her children out of Liberia. Phone calls are being made to immigration attorneys, emails are being sent to embassies, questions are being researched concerning medical and health screenings, and finances are being raised to support this massive project.

We are aware that there are many who are in a similar situation to the one that Coco is in. And we know we can’t help them all BUT … together, we can help one or two.

Would you consider making a gift of love to help us with this project? We are not sure what the final price tag will be because we are only in the initial stages. But we promise to be good stewards of the gifts that God gives us through you.OFDA-CDC_EbolaMap_08.20.2014 copy

If you want to donate, please go to the following website and click on the “Donate” button under “Where Needed Most”: http://isohimpact.org/make-an-impact-with-hope/ Be sure to let us know that this gift is for “Coco’s Challenge.

Thank you in advance and May God richly bless you in your giving.

Dr. James Garrett


[1] http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/warning/ebola-liberia (Accessed September 17, 2014.)

Tomatoes


Tomatoes

I really like tomatoes. I like them on hamburgers. I like them on other sandwiches. And I even like them simply as tomato sandwiches.

I like them as a juice. I like them in ketchup. I like them in salsa. And I like them in other sauces as well.

I like them in salads. I like them as fried green tomatoes. And I even like them raw (when they’re good and juicy.)

I recently picked up six cases of tomatoes and was amazed at their flavor and beauty.

Tomatoes originated in the Andes Mountains of South America and spread throughout the western hemisphere and eventually, the entire world after the Spanish began their exploration of the world.

Tomatoes are interesting because most individuals think of them as vegetables but in reality, the tomato is a fruit. (I think the fact that tomatoes are not “sweet” causes many to think this way.) To further complicate this issue, the state of Arkansas has named the tomato as both the state fruit AND the state vegetable.

And yet, the thing that I want to feature about tomatoes here is this fact: tomatoes are often harvested “early” or in an unripe state. This means that they are usually harvested while they are still green, before they turn red and are deemed as ripe. We often equate ripeness with readiness to be used and enjoyed. I think there is a parallel here with the Christ-follower, especially for the new believer. Often, it is believed that a new believer cannot be fully used by God because s/he is new, unknowledgeable concerning the faith, and, in fact, a novice. But I believe that EVERY believer can and should be used of God. Oh, maybe they are not thought of as mature, full of knowledge, and full of power; nonetheless, God is able to take even the most unlearned, unskilled, and  and use them for His glory.

And the sweetness and tenderness of the tomato continues to improve as the time for ripeness approaches.

And so it is for the believer.

So do not be discouraged because of your newness is the faith.

Do not be discouraged because of your lack of knowledge or immaturity.

Instead, be assured that God loves you.

Be assured that He has an awesome plan for your life.

Be assured that He equips you for the task.

And be assured that true ripeness WILL come … all in His time.

Build Them a House


photo

I was recently having a meal with the children and staff at the Children’s Lighthouse in Perrysburg, OH. This place is certainly a bit of a haven for the kids … and also for the various animals. There are koi, chipmunks, cats, a couple of dogs … and two pigeons, Hope and Harmony.

Hope and Harmony come and go as they please … but they seem to love being here. In fact, it is nothing for them to eat out of the hands of the children or to stay overnight in the greenhouse on the property.

As we were all sitting out on the courtyard, I saw the two birds perched on the roof of one of the houses. My initial thought, as I was pondering how much these birds obviously love this place and feel welcome here, was: “Why don’t we build them a house of their own?”

Immediately, I was reminded of the Scripture surrounding the narrative we know as the “Transfiguration.”

Matthew 17:1-6- “Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials[a]—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. …” (NLT)

And it was as if I could hear the Father saying to me, “I have sent these birds here for several reasons. One of those reasons is this: that you might be reminded that I am pleased with this place and with the ministries it is carrying out to these children, the community, and indeed, the whole world.”

Certainly, there are many other truths that we can derive from this narrative BUT I am encouraged to look only at this one right for the time being.

What is truly done for Christ is what is blessed.

God empowers us to perform those tasks to which He has called us.

And He speaks over us, “These are my beloved children who bring great joy to me.”

I am not attempting to take the power of the Matthew 17 passage away from the words it speaks concerning Jesus Christ; it certainly speaks to His divine purpose … but I want each of us to know and to understand that God truly loves us. He is pleased with us … not because of anything we do or have done … but because of what Jesus has already done … because of Who Jesus is.

And He is pleased with the ministries to which He has called us.

And He empowers us to perform those ministries.

That makes me really excited about what God is doing in me, in the ministries in which I am engaged, about what God is doing in you, and in the ministries in which you are engaged. So let us go forth, knowing that He loves us, He purposes us, He equips us, and He is pleased with us … and it is all because of Jesus.