Because God is Eternal

Psalm 90:1-4

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.

Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn men back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”

For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.

Before us stretches a new year, a new beginning. The old is past, put away forever. God invites us always to forget about all the distrust and fears, all the anxieties of the past, all the resentments we have been holding against others, all the grudges, all the criticisms–to put them away and begin again.

On what basis am I going to live in this new year? Will it be on the old basis of it-all-depends-on-me, do-it-yourself goodness before God, trying my best to be pleasing to God and meaning it with all my heart but never realizing the depths of evil with which I have to deal?” Or will I live in the gift of God that is waiting for me every day, fresh from His hand, a gift of forgiveness, of righteousness already mine, of a relationship in which He is my dear Father and I am his cherished, beloved son, and in which I therefore have provided for me all I need, all day long?

Because God’s love NEVER fails.  Not now.  Not ever.

My 2013 prayer is that my life will be characterized by peace, fragrance, and beauty.  I strive to ever better imitate the love my Savior has shown to me.  My source for comfort–even when I fail–God’s love does not!
Lord, thank You for this new year that lies before me. I choose You. I choose to depend on You, trust You, and accept from Your hand all that You would give me.

Nothing can separate
Even if I ran away
Your love never fails

I know I still make mistakes
But You have new mercies for me everyday
Your love never fails

Chorus:
You stay the same through the ages
Your love never changes
There may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsty.com/jesus-culture-your-love-never-fails-lyrics.html ]
And when the oceans rage
I don’t have to be afraid
Because I know that You love me
Your love never fails

Verse 2:
The wind is strong and the water’s deep
But I’m not alone here in these open seas
Cause Your love never fails

The chasm is far too wide
I never thought I’d reach the other side
But Your love never fails

A Tribute by Cameo Smith

In honor and remembrance of the children and
teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary school.

Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38,
When 20 beautiful childr
en stormed through heaven’s gate.

Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say.
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
“This is heaven.” declared a small boy. “We’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
But Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name,
And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring.
Those children all flew into the arms of their King,
And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
One small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had,
He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of Mom and Dad.”
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below,
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”
“May this country be delivered from the hands of fools.”
“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
“Come now my children, let me show you around.”
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
“In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”

Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA

Rejoicing and Weeping

My heart aches.  The 1,866.5 miles between St. John’s School and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is but a tenuous breath.

In a heart beat, while watching children reenact the birth of the Prince of Peace, in walked evil.  In the last few hours, the news has numbered some twenty precious gifts stolen. The lives lost are counted by tens while the tears number in the millions.   Add the servant hearted adults included in the murderous scene and it becomes even more senseless.

I do not know what to say to “make it all better.”  Even the concept that God will make all this “work together for good” is, at this moment,, simply unfathomable.  In faith, I believe, but my whelmed emotions, fail to grasp.  The only refuge I have is God’s Word.  The verse that rises to the surface in a transient burst of clarity is “Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice!”  (Romans 12:21)

A portion of the tears are those of joy!  Parents who feared the worst celebrate with tears of joy!  These families wake from the nightmare mostly unscathed.   Lots of hugs, lots of tears!   We rejoice with these who rejoice!  Hallelujah!

But what of those whose bad dreams have become a stark reality?  How does one console the inconsolable?  The best we can offer today is to “weep with those who weep.”  We have a God who understands tears and death.  In a wondrous Imageblur of His humanity and divinity, Jesus  cries out to the crying.  The same God who weeps over Jerusalem is the same God who weeps with a Connecticut elementary school.

Life is filled with the extremes of joy and sorrow, victory and defeat. But we have been given the privilege of entering into those moments in people’s lives to see the grace of God at work.   Right now, forget the words and open your heart.  Embrace those who are happy!   In the same way, cleave to those wracked by sobs.

Lord, give me sensitivity
To people in their grief and pain,
To weep with them and show Your love
In ways mere words cannot attain. —Sper
I remember hearing about the military chaplain who, at the funeral of a soldier killed in action, went up to the dead soldier’s weeping father, embraced him in his strong arms, held him close, and whispered in the father’s ear, “Let me take some of your pain.” Then the chaplain held on while the father sobbed, finally releasing some of his pent-up grief and sorrow.

That’s compassion in action: walking with someone through their situation, identifying with them, feeling what they are feeling – whatever it is. That’s what God has done for us in Christ. He became like us in every respect except sin.  Our God weeps with both the uplifted and the down-hearted.  The invitation is now open for us to do the same.

Back to the Basics

michael-header.jpgI love to cheer on leaders!  I am blessed to be part of community that not only sees the pastor as a shepherd but also as a “cultural architect.”   It is expected that I, by the power of the Holy Spirit, be a part of making the world a better place.  Encouraging leaders to use their gifts is my joy!  Because I regularly speak to groups and also coach individuals, I have opportunity to come across helpful tools that help facilitate healthy missional leadership.This week, I was introduced to a helpful summary article by Thom Schulz that helps us to understand the basics of chuch health and well-being!Enjoy:

5 Ways the Church
Will Change
by Thom Schultz

Is the American church fading away? Will the losses in membership and attendance lead to a marginalized church presence such as that in present-day Europe? What will the American church look like in ten years?

Church leaders, denominational executives, and religion researchers gathered in Colorado recently to examine the church’s health and prognosis. The Future of the Church Summit was sponsored by Group Publishing.

After evaluating current trends, Summit members predicted a number of likely scenarios for the American church in the next ten years:

  1. Emphasis on relationships. Whereas the church and congregational worship today are largely spectator-oriented, the new coming trend will prioritize spiritual growth through personal relationships.
  2. Return to Jesus. The current church is preoccupied with the “ABCs”—attendance, buildings and cash. A Summit pastor said, “We need to deal with the idols of the church.” The coming church will highly focus its mission, goals, measurements and message on Jesus.
  3. Community focus. The church of tomorrow will be much more engaged in addressing the needs in the community. The church will be known more for its members’ relational acts of compassion outside of church walls, taking ministry out rather than waiting for outsiders to come in and sit.
  4. Conversationally oriented. The current church relies primarily on one-way messaging—from the preacher/teacher at the microphone. The new church will rely more on person-to-person conversation, sharing messages of God’s love with one another. Churches will begin to trade pews for conversation tables.
  5. Rise of the laity. Shrinking resources will trigger fewer paid ministry positions—and more reliance on unpaid ministry work. The concept of “the priesthood of all believers” will re-emerge.

To see these principles in a different media format click on the following video:

Waiting…

imagesWaiting is not in my nature.  When I want something, I want something NOW!  God is in the waiting business.  Often His promises involve waiting.  He does not come early, He

 

is never late–but it usually involves waiting!

We are a people of promise. For centuries, God prepared people for the coming of his Son, our only hope for life. At Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of the promises God made—that he would give a way to draw near to him.

Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas. It begins four Sundays before December 25, sometimes in the last weekend of November, sometimes on the first Sunday in December. This year it was November 29.

1 Peter 1:10-12 is a clear description of what we look back to during Advent.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:10-12 )

We Christians on this side of Jesus’ birth are a God-blessed, happy people because we know God’s plan. The ancient waiting is over. We have the greatest reason to celebrate.

wait

For four weeks, it’s as if we’re re-enacting, remembering the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus. That’s what advent means—coming. Even God’s people who foretold the grace that was to come didn’t know “what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating.” They were waiting, but they didn’t know what God’s salvation would look like.