Santa Calls Out For Peace In a World of Strife

Christmas Carols of the Past

Listing to Pandora today I was amazed at the references to LORD, JESUS, GOD, and the what Jesus brings.  One name for Christ in the book of Isaiah is Prince of Peace. Imagine the fearful shepherds in the presence of God’s angel. The angel is quick saying don’t fear.  God”s peace is not the cessation of war but a restored relationship between two people–God and man. Many translate the pronouncement of the angel as “good will to all men.”  The Greek says “peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (NIV Zondervan 1984)  Peace comes to those whom his favor rests because our relationship is restored by Jesus Christ.

Peace during a contentious political season seems impossible.  People harming others in the name of their political candidate.  The name-calling, throwing of eggs, and physical contact reminds how far mankind has fallen.  Even computer programs have come to make judgments.  (My grammar program just showed me somewhere in the course of this discussion I have said something politically incorrect or offensive language.)

Christmas Carols of Today

In our culture speaking about Jesus, using his name, praying, worshipping, and acts done in the name of Christ is dangerous. The offensive, myopic, narrow-minded, or homophobic speech will not be tolerated, even though their speech is offensive.  It has even affected the music sung by children in schools, malls, and other public venues.  Adults feed the message we must be inclusive and so our Christian gospel judges people instead of bringing them together. So malls and other public places restrict the singing by choirs to secular music during the Christmas season. The music overhead no longer includes such songs as “God rest ye merry gentlemen”.  If you ever hear the song by Gene Autry “Here Come Santa Claus”, he speaks about God, say your prayers, and peace on earth will come to all if we just follow the Light.

Peace is removed from Christmas–the day we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.

The world struggles for peace and but we have taken out the one who brings peace. We see hurting people with addictions; the insults of others; joblessness; and poverty. The Day has become a massive marketing event.and we call the day after Thanksgiving Black Friday as people madly rush the doors to get the best deals.  Christmas day many are grateful it is over and they can begin their normal hectic routine.

From the Word of God:

If it is possible as far as it depends on you live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

 

Let us make every effort to live at peace with others and we may find the very peace we need. 

Saint Nicholas

Is God On My Side and Does He Care?

Does God take Sides?

Yesterday, I watched the New England Patriots play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Foxboro, MA. The contest was one-sided so how many Steeler fans prayed in the stands during the game? We hear of high school students praying before a game and ask God for the victory. Surely there are soldiers in the midst of a battle asking for victory against their foes. Then, I wonder how many people pray to God so they can win the lottery?

All of these scenarios beg the question, “Is God on my side?” Theologians and philosophers could spend eons discussing this very topic. With all of the evil in the world, we need to know if the Creator works for our benefit. The trials of the world are seen in sporting events. There are the good guys(our team) and the bad guys(the other side). During the contest, referees ensure teams obey the rules. However, they are not perfect and when we feel the things are not fair, we rebel against the call.

Does God Care Who Wins?

We love winners in the United States and look at successful people as self-made individuals. We give awards to winners but losers get nothing. We look at winners with envy and wish to be them. The famous West Virginia lottery winner Jack Whittaker faced unlucky events after he won. The winner of $315 million lost over $500,000 cash at a strip joint by thieves breaking into his car.  His dead granddaughter, wrapped in a tarp, was found with illegal drugs in her body. His home burned down to the ground without insurance and was a total loss. He regretted winning the lottery a few years after winning at the death of his daughter. No matter how much he has, Jack Whittaker will one day die.

“I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.”

                                                                  Ecclesiastes 3:18-20

God Cares Who Lives

The fate of mankind is God’s great desire in the face of his greatest enemies. Our simple wishes of sports victories or lottery winnings pale in comparison to Death and Sin. His desire is so important his plan required complete faithfulness by his Son, Jesus Christ. During the prayer in the garden, Jesus asked the Father if the cup could pass but willingly accepted his Father’s plan.

All of God’s creation will cease to live according to Scriptures. The flowers and grasses will wither and die but God’s creation of the animals and mankind will return to the dust of the earth.  However, man faces the chance of the Second Death–eternal separation from God. We have no understanding of what this means but God describes it in terrifying images. Death, Hell. and those who rebelled against God are cast in the lake of fire for eternity. Pain and agony encompass the lost but, a loving God wishes man will turn from their wicked ways and return to Him.

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THE GOSPEL MESSAGE IN CHARLES DICKEN’S “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”

Dicken’s Christmas Carol

Alastair Sim is my choice for Ebenezer Scrooge. A Christmas Carol reveals Charles Dicken’s hatred for the poor’s condition in 19th century Great Britain. Charles Dicken’s family live in Camden Town, the same poor section as Bob Cratchit. His father was imprisoned for debts when Charles was twelve. Alastair Sim gives a wonderful portrayal of this greedy and lonely man.

Memories of Christmas Past

We buried our sinful pasts in the past and are aware of the sins of others. Scrooge mistreatment by his father was for his mother’s death in childbirth. His younger sister’s intervention enabled Scrooge to leave his boarding school like Christ’s intervention freed me from the bonds of my sins. Scrooge saw things he rejected for the love of money.  His greed separated him from his first love, his nephew, and his fellow man.  The first ghost’s appearance along with Jacob Marley found this wealthy man alone in his room behind a locked door. A good picture for the heart of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Hopes for Christmas Present

The second spirit of Christmas shows Scrooge the joyful celebration of the day. Christmas celebrations are far different than those of today. The wealthy could buy extravagances like trees and gifts but the common man was glad for a special meal with family.  Singing, prayers, fellowships, and charity are replaced today with avarice and waste.  Children rip into packages without reading tags or giving thanks.  We remember the blessing from a small boy, “God bless us, everyone!” This handicapped child would die according to the second spirit unless things changed in the Cratchit household. Still, Ebenezer retained his greedy nature and rejection of humanity.

Expectations for Christmas Future

The third spirit for Scrooge was the ghost of Christmas future. This ghost frightened Scrooge because the future was unknown. Scrooge knows his life but the ghost showed him his fate.  Scrooge would die alone, unmourned, and into eternal damnation.  It was Scrooge’s promise to keep Christmas in his heart every day of his life that changed his future.

 

The Final Chapter

As sinners, we denied our futures but God declared our guilt. The judgment of God was death and the eternal death but with Christ, our future is assured. Eternity with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and all believers celebrating the wondrous works of God. Words cannot describe the plans and future will inherit but I know like Ebenezer I did not deserve the intervention which changed his life but like Tiny Tim I can say, “God bless us, everyone!”

Have Santa and Mrs. Claus check your children and grandchildren after Christmas and remind them again, Christmas is about Christ. 

Guidance from the North Pole

Guidance which leads

The tax forms arrived in the mail today from our accountant. John is a Christian and an approved professional with the Dave Ramsey ministry. His knowledge and expertise are why we call him every year. Is it John or the fear of the IRS?

Plans fail for lack of counsel but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22 NIV

We trust our guts, our friends, or horoscopes in the newspaper as we search for advice. We look for opinions aligned with ours because we have already decided our path. This may feel good but never really leads in the right way. Godly counsel may be one-hundred and eighty degrees in the opposite direction and if we seek Godly counsel we may not like it.

Guidance which supports

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that can endure it.  I Corinthians 10:13 NIV

Things happen for a purpose if we don’t flee the difficult circumstance because God uses a circumstance to train or guide our life. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul uses the image of a building as a picture of God’s help. The word endure refers to the support beam of a house which held up the roof. The beam needed to be strong since the roof is used by the family as a place of prayer or entertaining. As we rely on his love, mercy, and grace, we learn how to endure the circumstance and see them as opportunities.

Guidance which loves

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20 NIV

Christ lives inside me! What a wonderful thought!  Instead of looking for someone to give me guidance why not interact with Christ who lives in me? Maybe it is because his counsel will disagree with my plans.  He might answer me if I ask him and then I would be responsible.  This is the idea of living by faith.  Faith in the Lord means living by this faith. During hard times this faith reminds me over and over of his love.  If I can trust in his love then maybe I will accept his guidance.

 

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A Child Asks: Santa are the Real One?

Are You the “REAL” Santa?

I appeared this Christmas season before children asking, “Are you the “REAL” Santa?” It seemed as childhood disbelief, but children seek proof before revealing secret desires. What determines a “REAL” Santa?  Does an investment in large sums of money for a spectacular suit with real boots and fur cuffs make you a “REAL” Santa? Is it a “REAL” beard instead of a designer beard which makes you a “REAL” Santa?  Will children seeing a beautifully carved leather belt say, “He is the “REAL” Santa?”  I have an International Sleigh Driver’s License and credit cards with Santa’s name in the pocket of my royal robe. Taking time showing these things, I realized time may be the proof needed to authenticate the one in red.

Children spell love: T-I-M-E!

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, sacrifice is the act of giving up something of value.  Saint Nicholas sacrificed his own money caring for children and the poor; sacrifice describes a “REAL” Santa. Time is a commodity in this microwave society. Cell phones equipped with applications help with events plaguing our daily lives. At dinner, we see parents, teens, and tweens with cell phones ignoring family time and the smallest member of the family. Is this why children ask for cell phones to have time with their family?  Children spell love: T-I-M-E!

“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” Charles R. Swindoll, pastor 

Making a deposit in the life of a child

Years ago a deposit at the bank required a person to person transaction.  Face to face with a teller,  you brought your check and deposit slip. Today, I can take a picture of my check using the mobile deposit app and never see a person. I  get immediate credit for most deposits but with a child, it is not so easy. We pick up the children from school, drive them to their favorite fast food restaurant, and then to their next activity.

Parents, be  “REAL” Santas in children’s lives

  1.  Like deposits at banks years ago, you must decide to have face-to-face interactions with your child.
  2. Children will remember piano lessons, gymnastics lessons, and sports, but will they remember the time you deposited in their lives?
  3. You may need to decide which is more valuable: activities or personal time.
  4. Realizing your deposits are not immediate it will require T-I-M-E to earn interest. 
  5. Parents, you may have to sacrifice something you value to make these deposits. 

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Santa Salutes the Military Worldwide

A Heritage to All

Around the world, military personnel are deployed in distant lands apart from families and friends. Their cathedrals of worship are canvas tents, temporary buildings or open air churches. Dinner is served in a chow line instead of the family table.  Finally, the means of contact with the world back home might be a letter read so often it is wrinkled and torn. These serve not for a career but the commitment to share the blessings of freedom to those under oppression.

Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. 

Abraham Lincoln September 11th, 1858 in Edwardsville, Illinois

While some believe our nation has alternative motives, these men and women surrender the comforts of home and hearth to bring this heritage of liberty to the world.

A Hope in the Heart

Hope is not a feeling because there abides an expectation for a desire result.  For the Christian who celebrates Christmas, Hope is one of the candles seen in the Advent ring.  The candle of hope reminds believers of Christ’s victory over Death and Sin. Likewise, military personnel hope for the end of the mission and this mission in not without cost.  Over 1 million Americans have died since the Revolutionary War. Seeking freedom from the British crown, our own Civil War and to the present, Americans have died here and on distant shores.  Crosses, Stars of David, and other designations can be found in cemeteries on almost all continents for the hope of bringing peace and freedom. The mission hopefully will continue till all are free.

 

John F. Kennedy was injured during World War II and the rest of his life dealt with back pains which debilitated the president. Knowing the cost in his own life, President Kennedy reminds us the commitment of the American military is never surrender or submit. The adversity on the field of battle, the absence from family, and the assault to the body has never been a deterrent for the American Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airmen or Coast Guardsman. They serve when others refuse to accept these costs.  This Christmas, thank them for your freedom.

The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission. John F. Kennedy

 

Everlasting Love Goes the Distance

Going the Distance for a Child

The last few weekends Santa has traveled to West Virginia from South Carolina and from the upstate of South Carolina to Beaufort, South Carolina.  The mileage for these two trips was near 1,700 miles but, the payoff was seeing a child smile as only they can in the face of Saint Nicholas.  A child’s smile can melt even the hardest heart.  Recently a story about a four-year-old and a man in his eighties came across my phone. He had recently lost his wife and his zest for life.  It was the smile of this small child giving him a reason to live.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (Disney Movies 2006) Lucy Miller melts Jack Frost’s heart with a warm bear hug.  Posing for photographs with a child I have seen adults looking foolish with babbling words and strange faces to get the toddler to smile.

How Far Did Someone Go For You?

In Luke 15, Jesus faces down the condemnation because he fellowshipped with those the religious rejected. The religious Jews condemned tax collectors who worked for the Roman government collecting taxes and extracted more for their own pockets. Jesus gives them a picture of the shepherd leaving the sheep who were cared for to find the one in danger.  A wandering sheep is easy prey for wild animals  Such is the loving Shepherd who sought us.  Those who know they are sinners cause the heavens to rejoice when we turn our lives around through Christ.

 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:4-7 NIV BibleGateway.com

What is the Message For Us?

Over years of pastoral ministry I learned the Great Shepherd’s seeks after the lost sheep and not me. The reason many of us are not looking  is we have not learned how to love ourselves.  I received a message from a lady asking the very question.  After several exchanges I explained our ability to love ourselves comes from understanding who loves me.  If he loves me then how can I not love myself and consequently others.  Santa reminds children how much they are loved and how can we not be so loving to seek after the lost sheep.

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.     Jeremiah 31:3

Santa Goes the Distance and brings smiles to children.  See us at http://santacallsforyou.com  A discount is available by typing in the word, CHRISTMAS in the appropriate box.

 

This Christmas Don’t Buy Love & Respect; Earn It!

Santa Claus and parent’s respect

When I was a young and naughty boy, my parents informed me they had Santa’s telephone. Imagine a child’s fear when one call and Santa would not stop by my house.  Gone was the bike and Army men! The very thought sent a chill up my spine. Parent’s used the Jolly Ol’ Elf to improve my behavior. In the sixties, no one knew about a child with Attention Deficit Disorder, and I most definitely qualified!

Over the years of pastoral ministry, I worked helping family issues.  Divorce, infidelity, finances, and many others plagued the entire family.  Once, a mother came to me from my church seeking help for the teenage son.  When making the appointment, she swore her son would grow to be an axe-murderer.  I informed her expectations could hauntingly return.  Another woman, seeking help, called to make an appointment with her son.  She gave him everything, and he disrespected her. When I tried to help them face their shortcomings, they never again darkened my door since it was the boys’ problems.

The first woman did not respect herself allowing her mother to assault her. The boy disrespected her because she did not respect herself.  The second mother was divorced and parented from guilt trying to earn his love and respect. While one demanded respect the other sought to purchase it.

“Blood, Sweat & Respect. Two You Give, Last one you earn.”

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, is an accomplished actor, former professional wrestler, and a motivational speaker. Dwayne seems a gentle giant seeking to help others from what he has learned. Destroying evil or playing the Toothfairy, this hulk-of-a-man lives a life many would envy.  Some people seek respect in destructive ways. Some young inner-city youth kill if they feel disrespected. Parents may resort to physical violence with misbehaving teenagers. Managers become bosses and demand respect instead of earning it as leaders.

Santa Claus Cannot Bring Respect

Today’s generation has been raised feeling the world owes them by their mere existence.  Parents tried purchasing love and respect instead of saying, NO! Their offspring did not earn as their grandparents’ generation because by whining or waiting they got what they wanted. My parents said I would need to earn money to buy the things I wanted.  For twenty dollars I could buy gas and go to the movies with a date.  However, at $1.90 per hour, which was the minimum wage, it would take some work to date.

So, what is the answer? Young adults, after graduation from college, learn those who told them they could find plenty of jobs in underwater basket weaving will not earn the things they expect.  Once they find themselves struggling to pay back college debt may realize the struggles in life truly prepare us for LIFE!

 

Point your kids in the right direction–when they’re old they won’t be lost. Proverbs 22:6  The Message

 


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Christmas and Childlike Wonder

A Child’s Question of Creation

When Stefani was six years old, she called out with a question about God’s creation.  It wasn’t about how or why He created but her question caused me to stop in my tracks.  Stefani wanted to know when God created color.  I explained the story of creation from the Bible but she had a simple understanding.  She asked another question which made me laugh. She said, “Daddy if God created everything in color, why are your favorite movies black & white?”

Laughter is a Good Medicine

Christmas is a time of Joy, Love, Peace, and Hope.  These qualities are present in the Baby of Bethlehem.  I enjoy the Christmas season because I lived in a home of chaos as a child.  However, during these seasons things seemed better and looked forward to Christmas with childlike anticipation.  It wasn’t until I became a Christian at twenty-six years old I began to know the qualities of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. I am not saying as a new believer I was bubbly and trouble-free.  In fact, as I grew as a Christian, I had Stefani’s dim understanding of God’s plan.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  Proverbs 17:22 NIV 

Childlike trust brings Hope, Peace, Joy and Love

Stefani trusted her Daddy and came asking her questions. Trusting in our heavenly “Daddy” we begin experiencing the four qualities remembered during Advent. Advent means to come, and as we look forward to his 2nd Coming, we have the hope of the resurrection. We have peace knowing our relationship with God is secure in Christ. We have eternal joy which no one can diminish. We have love for God, Christ, and God’s creation, man.

The Manger’s Misfits and God’s Invitation to All

Mangers Hide a Great Truth

As we lay out the decorations of Christmas an important part is the manger.  As we place Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, sheep, shepherds and the Magi it reminds us of God’s wonderful gift in His Son and holds a special message for all.

Unmarried women found pregnant could die for breaking the Law of Moses and be stoned at her father’s house.(Deuteronomy 22:21)  Joseph had the law on his side but wanted a quiet solution to Mary’s condition. Joseph accepted this child and Mary as his wife but faced years of ridicule to obey God.

Shepherds announced His Son’s birth! The loving image of Jesus as the Great Sheperd is a different reality than shepherds during the time of Christ. Mistreated and losing civil rights, shepherds could not testify in court proceedings.(www.epm.org) These misfits, according to the religious leaders of Israel, testified throughout the city of Bethlehem about Jesus.

Gentiles to His Son’s birthday

In our mangers, three kings or magi come to worship the One called King of the Jews. Magi are a priesthood of the Medes with profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. Some Magi proved expert in the interpretation of dreams and were established over the state religion of Persia by Darius the Great. The Magi became the supreme priestly caste of the Persian Empire. Holding Daniel of the Bible in high regard, they may have been exposed to the prophecy of the coming King. Those who looked to the stars for guidance followed the Star to Bethlehem.

God’s invitation to all 

A woman pregnant before marriage, a godly Jewish man, mistrusted shepherds and gentile magicians invited to the manger of the Son of God. In the greatness of God’s sovereignty we see the depth of his mercy.  All are invited to the manger of the Lord to be fed for a MANGER was used to feed.

 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. 

Psalm 34:8 NIV

Christmas Traditions Bring Happiness Through the Generations

Taking the secular to celebrate the Holy

I know the things we see at Christmas originated from other cultures and beliefs. Today we are going to see what they mean today for believers as we celebrate Christmas.  The first item is the ever present Christmas tree taking center place in living rooms. Pagans used the fir trees centuries ago, but around the 1500’s Europeans started decorating trees with paper, cookies, and sweets. As the tradition started the top was adorned with Baby Jesus but changed to an angel who told the shepherds and finally the star which led the wise men.

During the Victorian era, candles were used representing stars. With the risk of fire Christmas tree lights were invented by Ralph Morris in 1895. After a hospital burned down because of candles and with pressure from insurance companies, people started using electrical sets of lights for the tree. (whychristmas.com)

Singing from the secular to the sacred

Again, the earliest carols were taken from the pagans who sang for the Winter Solstice. They sang and danced around stone structures and the word carol refers to dancing.  The early Christian carols were written in Latin so the common person did not understand and by the 1200’s most people stopped celebrating Christmas.  Centuries later carols and public singing  became popular during the Victorian era and so many of today’s carols were written during this period.

One such song, Silent Night, was written by Father Joseph Mohr in 1816 and the music added two years later by Franz Gruber.  It was sung by the two on Christmas eve 1818 at midnight mass. (whychristmas.com)  Over the years carols spread across Europe. During World War I, carols led to a temporary truce among the death and destruction of the war.  It is attested by two soldiers, Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment and Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade.

“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.” (time.com Christmas Truce 1914)

O Holy Night…

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14 NIV (Biblegateway.com)

 

Never believe the most simple and common things cannot be used by God to point to his Son–even us.