ACTS OF KINDNESS

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There are days when I wonder what’s happened to the human spirit. The old fashioned rules – like the Golden Rule – seem all but forgotten.  The population of It’s all about me,” seems to dominate and often our children are learning the same bad habits.  Simple things like “please” and “thank you” are almost non-existent.

It’s times like that when my attention turns inward.  Hey, it’s all about me, right? What I mean is, I have to look beyond others to see if I am just as much at fault as anyone else.  It really begins within our own hearts and how much we’re willing to give a part of ourselves away.  The thing with kindness is that no matter how much you give away, you’ll always receive twofold in return.  That shouldn’t be the reason for doing acts of kindness.  It’s just a bonus.

Yesterday, as I joined fifty million others who were restocking their refrigerators and cupboards, I was witness to a sweet act of kindness.  Two elderly ladies (older than me) were shopping side by side, each with their own shopping carts.  They stopped at the egg section and spent a great deal of time trying to decide what size to buy.  I didn’t know there were that many choices.  Their carts blocked the aisle and many impatient shoppers rudely pushed their way past them.  One woman waited patiently for the women to make their choice.  I backed up and continued to shop in a different aisle, opting to return later for my eggs.

I went down a couple more rows and returned to find the same scenario.  The two ladies were still trying to decide which eggs to purchase and the patient woman continued to wait.  At last, they walked on with their dozen eggs.  I’m not sure what size they finally decided on.  The patient woman proceeded to grab a dozen and apologized for taking so long.   She showed respect to the women.  She cared enough not to push her way in.  Not only was she kind to them, she took time to be kind to me as well.  I truly hope she is blessed with many acts of kindness towards her.

It seems such a little thing to some people – an unnecessary courtesy – an unimportant gesture – yet so important in our relationships with each other.  There could be a billion reasons for this lack of kindness which seems to pervade our lives today.  Maybe we simply have forgotten how to be nice or how to communicate, but there really is no excuse for not exhibiting a simple act of kindness to those we encounter each day.

Imagine how things might change in the course of our lives.  Imagine how those simple kindnesses will bless another human being.  Imagine how much better our world would be if we simply cared about each other again, rather than putting “me” first.

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JULIE’S FRIDAY FUNNY

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INTERSECTIONS

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ORIGINAL ART & POETRY BY PAUL & KATHY BOECHER©

Like ships that pass upon the open waters,
We sail through life effortlessly, or so it seems,
Under the surface there are tangles and weeds that strangle,
Above, prevailing winds determine the journey,
There are perils at sea as in all parts of living,
Storms that take our breath away,
Dangers that surround and drown us,
No matter the breadth or depth,
No matter the willingness or weakness,
No matter our desire or passion,
There is still only one way to reach home,
By taking His hand and following Him,
By living life with Him at the helm,
By putting complete trust in the pilot,
The Captain of the ship,
Will lead us to our eternal home.

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ON THIS SILENT HOLY NIGHT

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All the anticipation – all the joyful music of the season – the reunions, the special laughter, the gatherings – suddenly came to an abrupt halt.  On this silent, holy night, as I looked out the expanse of wide windows into a fog covered night, a glorious moment occurred. There was no fanfare, no angel choirs, complete aloneness and not a sound.

Through the corridors of time, my mind swiftly covered seventy seven years of Christmas.  I remembered the yearly church services, with memorized Bible passages and the sound of beautiful hymns filling the sanctuary.  This was part of my Christmas for as long as I can remember.  It always began in church where the story of the Son of God has been told and retold through the ages.

There were the Christmases of plenty and those where there was very little to give, but the focal point of that special night never changed.  Jesus would be placed in a feeding trough for animals, after being wrapped tightly in strips of cloth.  This was not a bed fit for a King.  It wasn’t fit for any human habitation.  The humility of that very act shows us what the cost was for Christ to leave His home in heaven to take on our sins.

My mind quickly fast forwarded to this Christmas.  For weeks we had been anxiously awaiting our family from S. Carolina.  Our Minnesota kids helped to ready our home for the holiday.  Our usual Christmas Eve would be spent in church with all our clan and then off to our youngest daughter’s home for a fine dinner and celebration of being together.  Instead, I was in a hospital room, looking out at the blanket of dense fog, cuddling every thing in sight.  I felt very small, yet part of something extremely big.

Even in the aloneness of that moment, I felt my heart leap for joy, because I knew God was with me and the treasure of His Son, laying on a mound of hay was enough to fill the empty spaces.  None of us should ever feel alone, even in our darkest times. The promises of God’s presence in our hearts has seen to that. He has made a place there for the Christ Child to live.

It was midnight when I looked out the window.  I contemplated the first Christmas and thought of the beauty of that silent, holy night. Time stood still for a moment and a feeling of peace rushed over me.  The story never changes.  It always ends the same way and yet each time I hear it, something new lands in my brain.  God is like that, you know.

 

 

 

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I’ll be back

Taking a brief hiatus due to health issues. Prayers of thanksgiving, praise and needs for all the wonderful friends I’ve made this past year. May God carry you into the New year and decade with His protection, grace and mercy. Happy New year 🎈🎈

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PONDER THEM IN YOUR HEART

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“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

When I was little I thought the word ponder meant to pound. In a child’s mind it made perfect sense for Mary to treasure the things that were happening and pound them into her heart.

Today I know what that word means, but it makes me think about how children minds work and the innocent faith they have. Mary’s accepting faith is just the kind that God wants from all of us, whether old or young.

As impossible as the story of the first Christmas seems to some, the fact is that it’s true. God conceived a child in Mary so that He could be born human, live as our brother, suffer and hurt just like we do and die. After death He would conquer the devil and rise again to return to His heavenly glory.

Think about it, treasure it and POUND it into your heart.

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LUKE 21 THE END TIMES

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READ LUKE 21

Christmas is just around the corner and we’ve almost completed this look at Luke.  Jesus has had many things to teach His followers over the past three years – things that will help all of us through the trials of life, give encouragement and hope, support us through times of doubt and help us to grow our faith.  It is getting close to the end of His time on earth. Still He has things to share with those who cling to His every word.

In the first few verses He talks about our giving when He notices a poor widow giving her last bit of money to the temple treasury.  Jesus knows that she is giving completely out of faith that God will provide for her needs, even though this is all she has.  We too should give with such faith. God will never fail us, neither physically, spiritually or monetarily.

His disciples notice the beauty of the temple and all its adornments, so Jesus uses the opportunity to talk about the coming destruction of the building when not a stone will be left unturned.  He continues to talk about the end times and the disciples are eager to know more.  I believe that we still wonder about the future, because it’s one of those unknowns that causes us to fret.  What will it be like?  Will everything be destroyed? Will we go to heaven?  Will Jesus have mercy on His people?

Jesus tells them that many will follow Him, claiming to be the Messiah. He warns them not to believe those false prophets.  He speaks about wars and rumors of wars must happen before the end arrives and even then there will be a while before it happens.  He tells of some of the physical signs such as nations rising against nations – earthquakes, pestilence, famine and other natural disasters.  There will be persecution against those who follow Christ, but we should arm ourselves with God’s protection and new life is promised for those who believe.  This is all part of the coming of the end.

He paints a picture of horrible things happening.  The people will become anxious with the anticipation of the terrors yet to be. The heavenly bodies will be shaken and the seas tossed.    He tells us not to be afraid even during these horrific events.  He will appear in the clouds and we can be assured that our redemption is at hand.

He tells those listening and us as well, that we should be prepared for the end, for we don’t know when it will come. We can do so by staying in the Word of God, following the commandments and believing that God has already forgiven the world from its sins.

Jesus continued to preach at the temple every day.  The undercurrent from His enemies was beginning to come to pass.  They were plotting against everything He ever said.  At night Jesus would retreat to the Mount of Olives for much needed rest and refreshment.  Each morning the crowds reassembled and waited to hear what He had to say.

 

 

 

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JULIE’S FRIDAY FUNNY

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THE BEST GIFT

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ART & POETRY BY PAUL & KATHY BOECHER

The merriment of Christmas, brings smiles to everyone,
But often we forget the joy of God’s own precious Son.
The packages are opened. The paper now is torn.
The ribbons lay upon the floor, expectation has been worn.
The wonderment of Christmas is over in a day,
But Christ, the Savior of the World, our sins for us did pay.

He walked among His people. He chose to do God’s will –
A perfect life He lived for us and took death’s bitter pill.
When all the joy of Christmas is packed and stored away,
The Light He came to bring us will live in us each day –
A light that can’t be hidden no matter what we do –
A light that lasts forever is shared through me and you.

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LUKE 20 – THE PLOT THICKENS

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READ LUKE 20

After a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus continues to preach to the crowds, but there’s a faction that wants to put a stop to what they consider heresy.  They’ve had enough of this rabble rouser and are determined to end it.  They go along with the crowds and add their questions, raising confusion, but Jesus uses His story telling skills to prove His authority.

In the Parable of the wicked tenants, He foretells His own death.  The owner of the land is God the Father.  The tenants are those He has rented His land to.  They are called to account at the time of harvest to give Him some of the fruits of the vineyards.  He sends three of His servants to collect on their contract and each of them is beaten and sent away empty handed.  Finally, the owner sends His own Son. The Son referred to here is Jesus.  The tenants plot to kill the Son so they can gain the inheritance.

When Jesus says that the owner will then come and destroy the evil doers and the Pharisees are outraged.  Jesus replies with the words of scripture Psalm 118:22 “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  He follows that verse with His words, “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

As we continue through Luke 20, you can see the undercurrent of indiscretion as the priests and scribes try with all their might to find something wrong in Jesus’ teaching.  They asked Him if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar.  He shows them a coin with Caesar’s image and tells them to render unto Caesar what belongs to him and to God the things that are His.  His accusers marvel at His words and become silent.

The Sadducees come at Jesus again with a question about the resurrection and those who have married more than once in this life.  He replies by telling them that the world to come will be unlike the world we live in.  There will be no marriage. We will be sons and daughters of God and accountable only to Him.  The leaders were stunned by His response and said no more.

Jesus talks about who He is by telling them that He is both God & man. Christ as God was David’s Lord, but Christ as man was David’s son. In the presence of the crowd He speaks to His disciples about His accusers.  He already knows what they’re up to and He wants His followers to know that will be judged by God for their actions.  He tells them to be wary of them.

Jesus is coming closer to the end of His life.  His mission is about to be fulfilled.  As God, He knew what the future held, yet He remained confident that His sacrifice was necessary.  As a man, He must’ve felt overwhelmed by the questions, the accusations, the lies.  His words silenced His accusers for the time being, but that would soon change.

 

 

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WHO IS THE ANGEL OF THE LORD?

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If you’ve ever read, “The Best Christmas Pageant, Ever!” by Barbara Robinson, you’ll remember how the nativity was portrayed by the five Herdman children – the worst kids in town. The only reason they came to Sunday School was for the snacks.

I’ve directed this as a play and found it to be a story which portrays beautifully the best Christmas pagent ever.  As with any casting process, the part of Mary is the most important to the girls along with angels.  No one wants to be sheep.  The boys are stuck with being wise guys, shepherds or the step father of Jesus, Joseph.

Gladys, the youngest of the Herdmans, wanted to play the part of the Angel of the Lord, because she figured it was the best part. After all – out of nowhere – there she was in the middle of everything – Shazam! Kind of like a super hero with magical powers.
It makes me wonder who was the Angel of the Lord anyway? How do you refer to this angel? Do you simply call her “Angel of the Lord.” Do you greet her by saying, “How’s it going, Angel of the Lord?”

As this story unfolds we see a little family who has been deserted by their father and their mother works two jobs to keep them alive. They are well known by the welfare department as well as the police and fire departments. This tight knit group of hooligans is bound together tightly and the Christmas story is new to them, but it kind of fits their lifestyle.

Jesus was born in a difficult time – in poverty – in a time in history filled with sin and corruption. His little family was cast aside by relatives, who thought Mary and Joseph had betrayed their premarital vows of chastity. They had no money, no one to turn to and yet they faithfully carried out the work God.

The tough little rabble rousers want to know all the details about the Christmas story and of course wanted to be the main characters.  They even came to the manger carrying gifts – a ham given to them by a kind family was deposited in the manger with great care and honor.  They understood what it was all about.  Their childlike faith is what we should strive for as we enter this Christmas time.

Angels don’t speak to us today like they did before the Bible was actually written.  I believe they are among us though.  If you ever run into one, you may not realize who they are until after the fact.  If they were to speak to us as the Angel of the Lord spoke to the shepherds, we’d sit up and take notice. Still I wonder what it would be like to talk to the Angel of the Lord.

Someday, I’ll get the chance.

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CHRISTMAS PROMISE

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ART & POETRY BY PAUL & KATHY BOECHER

Children stare in awe at the ornaments and lights,
Each sparkle puts a twinkle in their eyes.
The cookies are in the oven, such tantalizing bites,
The gifts of Christmas come in every size.

The special clothes and widened smiles are evidence complete,
That something extra special waits right there,
Beneath the tree of balsam in a box wrapped oh so sweet.
It’s Christmas and the perfect time to share.

As children sing their songs to God in heaven up above,
Let’s take the time to ponder what it means.
That on that day of Jesus’ birth our greatest gift was love,
A love that takes our sins away and cleans.

And so we join their voices and with hope and childlike trust.
We thank our Savior for redeeming us to life.
He’s crushed death’s sting, defeated sin and stomped it in the dust.
With Him we now can tolerate all strife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LUKE 19 – RIDING TO JERUSALEM

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READ LUKE 19

As Luke continues His narrative on the life, death and resurrection of Christ, He’s given us a look at the many eye witnesses along the way.  There were many that truly believed He was the promised Messiah.  The Pharisees and Sadducees looked at Him as an imposter and tried everything in the book to trip Him up.  There were the disciples who were still trying to make sense of it and those who were along for a free ride.  The fact is, great crowds were coming to see and hear Him.

One of those eye witnesses was a fellow named Zacchaeus a very rich man, who made his wealth by skimming off the top of the taxes he collected.  He wasn’t a very popular man,  nor ethical.  However, there was something about  Jesus he simply couldn’t ignore.  He began to walk along with the crowds and heard the words, but couldn’t get a good look at the man.  I know how he must’ve felt, because I’ve been short all my life.  I know what it’s like to go to a parade and or a show and not be able to see the spectacle, because of the obstacles in front of me.

Zacchaeus climbed a tree and sat in the branches to see Jesus.  His words were amazing, but his actual appearance must’ve been even more so to Zacchaeus. When Jesus reached the spot, He told the man to come down from the tree, because He needed to eat at his house that day.

Of course the wagging tongues of Jesus’ enemies accused Him of associating with sinners.  We have all sinned, in our thinking, our doing and because sin has been passed down through our DNA like a never ending deformity.

Zacchaeus vowed to pay back all the money he stole from the people fourfold.  He  promised to give half of his worldly goods to the poor.  Jesus acknowledge Zacchaeus’ faith and his lineage.  He told the crowd that His mission was to seek and save the lost- which in effect means every one of us.

Jesus continues to press on to Jerusalem.  When He reaches Bethpage and Bethany, He sends two of His disciples on ahead. He tells them to find a colt which has never been ridden.  They are to untie the colt and bring it to Him.  He notes that if anyone asks why they’re taking the colt, they should respond by saying, “The Lord has need of it.”   From there on, people laid their cloaks in front of Him – symbolic of the entrance of a king.

Jesus weeps over the city of Jerusalem and those who do not believe He is the true Messiah.

In the final verses of Chapter 19, Jesus becomes incensed with the state of the temple – how the many merchants were prospering by selling sacrifices, and the church leaders also taking a cut.  The rage He exhibited showed His humanity.  The words He spoke were directly from God. “My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.

Jesus continued to preach His message of salvation in the temple.  The authorities tried to find something to use against Him, but the people were hanging on His every word.

 

 

 

 

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LIFE IS JUST A BREATH

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ART & POETRY BY PAUL & KATHY BOECHER

 

My life on this planet is merely a breath,

There isn’t enough time it seems,

No work that I do here will help me face death,

The love of the Christ child redeems.

 His sweet little hands reach up from the manger

To touch the face of His mother,

One day those hands will be subject to danger.

Giving His life for another.

 

We thank you, dear Jesus, for loving us so,

We praise you for what you have done,

You redeemed our salvation and we can go,

To heaven the home you have won.

 

 

 

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LUKE 18 – PRAYER, FAITH & DISCIPLESHIP

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READ LUKE 18

Earlier in the book of Luke, Jesus teaches His disciples to pray by giving the words of His own prayer.  In Luke 18 He talks about the sincerity of our prayers when He gives the example of the Pharisee and Publican.  The Publican comes humbly before His God and lays out his thanksgiving, praise and petitions, relying on the blood of God’s mercy.  The Pharisee takes credit for his own good deeds and sets himself above the Publican because of it.

Prayers come out of suffering or need, but we can’t approach God by bragging about what we’ve done to deserve an answer.  Our salvation is not based on our merit, for if it was, we’d all be doomed to an eternity in hell. Therefore we call on Jesus and His atoning sacrifice which covers us with salvation.

He uses an example of the faith of little children.  We should believe as they do, without question.  A childlike faith has no strings attached.  It is completely dependent on God.  That trust in the Word of God as truth will not fail us.

As Jesus continues His ministry, He has more parables for the people.  The unjust judge, the rich young ruler and the story of the Pharisee and Publican.  He heals a blind man as they near Jericho.  He speaks about true discipleship and being willing to give up everything to follow Jesus.  His reference to the rich man is too much for the man.  His wealth has become more important to him.

Luke 18:24-25   “Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

The crowds are growing.  Jesus knows His time on earth is coming to a close.  He speaks again of His coming suffering and death, that these things must happen for the purpose of fulfilling God’s plan for our redemption.  He would die so we could live forever in paradise along with Him.  He spoke the truth as He told them he would be turned over to the Gentiles, flogged, spat upon, treated shamefully and killed.  He also spoke of His resurrection, but the disciples didn’t understand a word of it.  Their minds were clouded and they couldn’t grasp it at all.

Dear, Lord, give me the faith of a child to accept the wonderful truth of your mission here on earth.  You overcame death and rose again so we could be washed clean of our sins.  Help me to share that wonderful news with others and give them the same peace and joy we receive during this Advent time.  Come again quickly, Jesus.  AMEN!

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PLEASE, DON’T STEAL MY JOY!

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Every mother who sees her first born child experiences a myriad of emotions.  For most of us the word “joy” comes to mind.  She counts fingers and toes, holds the baby close to her breast and experiences the ecstasy of this new life.

It was that way for Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Though she’d spent this latter part of her pregnancy, traveling over rough terrain on the back of a donkey, her discomfort disappeared at the sight of her newborn child.  Her husband, Joseph, must’ve had such mixed feelings at the time, but the fulfillment of the angel’s words resonated in his mind as this tiny baby made His appearance.

Their travels were prompted by a census ordered by Caesar August.   At the time, the world as they knew it, was under the control of Rome.  The timing of all of this was part of God’s plan of salvation.  There was unrest among the people.  Not much different than the world today, they were looking for someone to rescue them.

Today we face troubling times as well.  We sit at the dawn of a sad day in history as an American president faces a vote for impeachment.  Everything about this is enough to bring a person to his knees, begging for it to be over.  It comes at the most blessed of seasons, when we celebrate the birth of the King of Kings.  My heart is so sad, that this has taken the spotlight in our country.  People are angry.  They are divided.  They are frustrated, unsure, undecided and have lost the joy usually associated with this time of year.

“I know that my Redeemer lives,” said Job after suffering loss after loss.  We likewise must rekindle that precious thought into our minds.  Jesus came to the world as a little baby.  He was subject to all kinds of peril in those early months and throughout His existence, yet as He lay quietly in a manger full of hay, peace and joy entered the world.  His birth is our promise of eternal life.  No one can take that from us.

Tongues will wag today.  Truth will be challenged.  Many have already made up their minds and many have been coerced into the popular way of thinking.  Yet, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27.

Dear, Holy, God, I ask that you watch over the events of today and give the government, which you’ve established, the wisdom to do what is right.  Whatever happens, remind me always that you are in control of all things and you know what is best for us.  In the name of your dear Son, Jesus, I pray.  Amen!

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LUKE 17 – FORGIVENESS, FAITH, COMPASSION & END TIMES

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READ LUKE 17

Isn’t it wonderful to be forgiven by God? All of our sins have been paid for by the sacrifice made on the cross. Our redemption was made evident when Christ overcame death and gave us the promise of eternity with Him. The gift of forgiveness gives us complete freedom.

How different we feel when we must forgive another human being. Our minds are filled with anger, feelings of being abused or insulted and not wanting anything to do with the one who has wronged us..

In Luke 17 Jesus tells us that temptations surely will come our way, but we must take care not to be the one causing someone else to be tempted. He says,

“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

I have never enjoyed confrontation. Whenever I’ve been involved in it, I feel horrible. If someone has wronged me, I find it difficult to forgive. I think that is the human nature in us. However, if we don’t find it in our hearts to forgive another person, we’re not only putting them in a bad place, but the wounds will fester and surely end the friendship or relationship. Remembering the freedom we feel knowing God has forgiven us should be the impetus to forgive others.

The disciples asked Jesus how they could increase their faith. Jesus answered by using the example of the mustard seed. This minute seed will grow into a huge tree some day, just as a small amount of faith will continue to mature. That little bit of faith will, in time, become strong enough to move mountains.

Jesus also talks about humility when he refers to the unworthy servant. A servant is required to do certain things, because it is his job. As humble servants of our Holy God, we also are required to live a certain way, follow the commandments and do His work, because we now serve Him.

In the parable of the ten lepers, only one returns to thank Jesus for healing him. This man is a Samaritan – an enemy of the Jews – yet he knew the compassion Jesus showed him. We don’t know what happened to the other nine, but this one took the time to give thanks for his healing.

In the final verses of the chapter, Jesus talks about His own suffering and death, the kingdom of God, and signs of the last days. We all need to prepare for those final days. He compared the time to that of Noah. I guess we haven’t yet reached that time of deprivation and falling from grace, but it is coming soon. Be ready!

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JUST A TINY BABY BOY

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ART & POETRY BY PAUL & KATHY BOECHER

He was just a little baby boy, but like no other one.
He fussed and cried like babies do, but this was God’s own Son.
People came to see the King and found Him in a place
Unlike all other kingly homes, in any time or space.

His Mother held Him gently and nursed Him at her breast
While sheep and cows lay quietly, His bed was not the best.
When shepherds came to see Him, they knew Him right away.
He was the boy whom Angels hailed upon that glorious day.

The boy would grow into a man and worked beside His father,
He knew that He must do The work of God and not another.
When He became a rabbi, His words were straight from heaven.
He spoke with such authority of sins to be forgiven.

He lived among the people and felt each pain they bore.
He ate with them and healed them, His words meant even more.
He spoke of love and peace. He taught things new to them.
How we should forgive others, as He did for all men.

When on the cross at Calvary, my Savior died for me,
But rose from death as promised – from sin He set us free.
So as we come to Christmas with gifts for everyone,
Let’s not forget the Son of God whose work has just begun.

 

 

 

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TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS

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Like the Fiddler on the Roof, I love tradition but it doesn’t carry the same punch it used to. Maybe it’s because we want to make new traditions that fit our lifestyle and some of the old ways are nothing more than old-fashioned.

Did you know that the practice of having a Christmas tree was first started in the 16th century? The beautiful fir trees that lined the forests of Germany looked like God had sprinkled glitter all over them. The people often hung apples on them as a reminder of the Tree of Life. They also added lit candles to depict the Light of the World.

I have memories of going to the woods to cut down a tree. We’d bundle the kids up so they could barely move. We trudged through deep snow and since my husband has an eye for perfection, we had to find just the right tree. He then would take out his axe and begin chopping. This is where the fun began. The kids loved the idea of cutting down a tree each year, but the tradition died after a while. Like many traditions, they simply don’t fit our lifestyle anymore.  What should’ve been a fun event, often turned extremely cold.  The thought of hot chocolate soon replaced that annual event.

I also remember making fresh egg nog for my family during the holidays. It was made from fresh, raw eggs – cream, sugar and nutmeg. Occasionally the adults would add a bit of brandy to spice it up. That doesn’t happen now, because of the danger of salmonella poisoning.  I’m really surprised I’ve lived so long.

Traditions come and go, but the message of the season should never be clouded by a change in our lifestyle. Jesus came to us at Christmas. He was born of a virgin – conceived by God Himself – became our brother. That isn’t tradition. It’s a fact and one that will never change.

As we come to the end of the advent season, let’s take time to look at some of the old-fashioned traditions, but not forget the One that never goes out of style – JESUS!

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LUKE 16 THE REALITY OF HEAVEN & HELL

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It seems that society has not only lost sight of sin in our every day lives, but also the fact there will be consequences for our actions when we pass from life to death.  Many believe that the philosophy of Christianity is to scare us into believing in Jesus, which is far from the truth.  Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament – the long awaited Savior and Prince of Peace.  He loves us and wants the best for s.

In this Chapter of Luke, Jesus talks about the reality of sin, hell and salvation.  The first parable deals with a dishonest manager who connives to save his job.  Jesus tells us that,

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”        Luke 16:13

The Pharisees, who have been keeping a close eye on Jesus, began to ridicule Him.  Jesus rebuked them because they truly were of the wealthy class of society.  They loved money and were making a lot of it through their false teachings.  Still the Pharisees pressed on.  They were determined to find something to hold against Jesus.  In their eyes, Jesus was the false teacher and must be done away with.

Jesus continued to chastise them by saying that God knew what was in the heart and they would be judged accordingly.  He also stated that He had come to fulfill the law, but that the law still remains.  We are still responsible to God, even though the ultimate price has been paid.

The last section of this chapter is the story of the Rich Man and Poor Lazarus.  This vivid analogy was one that stuck tightly to my mind as a child.  It gave such a clear picture of what heaven and hell would be like.  Hell being the constant state of  torment with no relief and heaven as the paradise God intended for His earthly creation.  Who would want to spend eternity in hell?  Maybe that’s why it took me so long to realize God’s love for us.  It’s so simple really.  God wants us to join Him in the place He originally created for us – a place where there is no more sadness, hatred, anger, competition, chaos – only eternal peace.  The devil wants us to join only in his misery, from where there is no escape.

When the two men in the story die, their roles are reversed and Jesus talks about the giant chasm between heaven and hell.  The rich man in the story calls on God for intervention from those he left behind, but Jesus tells the man, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.

Our time of grace – our opportunity to reach heaven is real.  It occurred when Christ died on the cross and rose again to life.  The simplicity of the gospel is that our sins are already forgiven.  We still need to follow God’s law in life, but the ransom has been paid.  All we need to do is accept that with believing hearts.  Nothing we accomplish on earth will earn us a spot.  It’s all about JESUS.

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