Wednesday, December 31, 2014

NEW YEAR'S EVE

BY STEVE DUNN

Just a couple of hours until the New Year arrives.  Dianne and I are at the age where a quiet evening at home is preferable to parting til the ball drops.  We both slept a little later to start the day.  Then we binged on popcorn at a nearby Regal to see "The Hobbit--The Battle of Five Armies" (4 1/2 stars out of five).  Had an early dinner at Applebees (meaning three in the afternoon).  We shared the restaurant with yet perky wait staff, families with very young children (who will probably be in bed by seven) and couples of an older persuasion trying to get off the road before the crazies come out.

This evening more popcorn, some dangerous sweets, and in about two hours, a cold bottle of sparkling cider.  Our TV fare has been a Big Bang Theory Marathon on TBS.  Since we have lost touch with the music pop culture, all the variation's of Rockin' New Year's Eve have no appeal.  We will switch to Ryan Secrest at 11:45 and watch the ball drop.  Break open the cider, the annual New Year's Eve Kiss.  Both of us will probably be asleep by 12:25.

Sound boring.--No, satisfying.

New Year's Eve means an end to 2014--filled with memories, challenges, mistakes, and triumphs.  It means that tomorrow we will awaken on a fresh new opportunity (although  it will not look much different from this morning, still embedded in 2014.)

Satisfying is preferable to sensational, the latter often like a comet speeding across the night sky, but forgotten with the sunrise of the next day. Satisfying is a sign of contentment.

The Bible has a thought on that with which I wrap up this post.  "But godliness with contentment is great gain." - I Timothy 6:6

Good counsel with which to greet 2015.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Saturday, December 27, 2014

THE CHRISTMAS WITNESS

A favorite of many a child, brought from Celtic Woman

Friday, December 26, 2014

GOD WITH US

Todd Agnew reminds us of the meaning and the purpose of the Incarnation.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

THE FIRST CHRISTMAS EVENING

That first Christmas night, the hope of the ages had entered the world. The beginning of new creation, the redemption of humankind, the declaration of God's unconditional love and amazing grace. - Steve

CHRISTMAS DAY - BEHOLD HE COMES

The First Arrival, the Nativity, the Fist Coming should always remind Christians of the Second.


O HOLY NIGHT--THE RESPONSE TO THE ARRIVAL

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

ADVENT 2014-CHRISTMAS EVE

SUNDAY AFTERNOON FUNNIES-CHRISTMAS EDITION III


Meant to post this Sunday and it slipped past me. Merry Christmas everyone. - STEVE

TRULY KEEPING CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS - A CHRISTMAS EVE POST

BY STEVE DUNN

 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." – John 1.14

People in today’s America all seem to have firm priorities over Christmas and the battle that often ensues between those muscling to "Keep Christ in Christ" or militantly shouting "Happy Holidays."  Then there are those who are satisfied with the sentimentality of Santa plus a nice Christmas Eve service (which is a whole lot of Christians.)  To those I must say, "If this is all there is to your Christmas, then you will never truly bear witness to the world that Jesus has come."  To the politically correct holiday police, "Do you really think that Christmas has nothing to do with Christ?"  To the strident "Keep Christ in Christmas" crew, "Why are we so concerned that Christ is the center of a 2-3 week celebration? Are we equally concerned that Christ is kept 365 days a year, 24-7?"  In fact, to Christians everywhere: "If Christ is not obviously the center of your life year round, if you only let your allegiance come to the forefront at Christmas, how can you reflect the glory of God that we claim to behold at Christmas?"

I have this persuasion.  The glory of God--His holiness express in unconditional love and amazing grace-is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.  That glory is revealed in the manger and the cross and the empty tomb.  But that glory is also revealed by those who live transformed by His glory. Paul says in Colossians 1:27. "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."       

I cannot speak for those who believe that political correctness is more beneficial to our society than the Truth that Sets Us Free.  I am not satisfied with a faith that is at the level of the sentimentality of Santa (as much as I like the Jolly Old Elf).

I believe that the world needs more than a declaration of "Christ in Christmas" or a rhetorical "Jesus is the reason for the season."  Jesus is the answer, the only one in fact, to everything that separates us from God and keeps us from living in His image.  We need more than simply Christ in Christmas. We need Christ embodied in His people as they serve that Servant King, who came in humble human form to reveal the full measure of God’s love

.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

REDEEMING CHRISTMAS COMMUNICATION

Walt Mueller is head of the Center for Parent Youth Understanding and the author of one of the blogs we feature Learning My Lines.  He is among the best at articulating the nuances of youth culture and how parents and the church can impact young people positively. - STEVE

Christmas Story
Ok. . . one week from tomorrow. It’s almost here. And if your family is like mine, the Christmas holiday season affords you more time than usual to spend together. Your kids are home for a few extra days of vacation, you spend more time around the table at meals, and you might even be spending extended periods of time together in the car as you travel to visit family and friends. The good news is that all this time together opens doors for communication.

But communication with our teenagers is not always easy. The cultural and developmental differences between our generation and their generation sometimes makes it difficult to communicate effectively with each other. In addition, the fact that some or maybe all family members are “wired up” to their hand-held devices adds an extra challenge at our efforts to communicate. While we might be satisfied with blaming our poor communication on our teens, the burden falls on us as parents to be dissatisfied to the point where we take the burden on ourselves to do what we can to improve our intergenerational communication.

Dr. Wayne Mack offers some very helpful communication advice in his book, Your Family God’s Way. He lists a number of “circuit jammers to family communication” that can clog the lines and weaken relationships. Parents, the burden falls on us to be sure that we aren’t adopting any of these harmful communication patterns. Here are five communication “circuit jammers” to avoid as you spend time with your children and teens this Christmas season:

Excessive negative talk. This takes place when we constantly complain, find fault, and seldom affirm or talk about the positive virtues of our kids. Excessive negative talkers rarely acknowledge the good things happening in the world, the church, or their family. These verbal purveyors of gloom and doom foster a depressing atmosphere in the home. Home becomes a place where heaviness, rather than happiness, prevails. Look for the positive, and talk about it!

Mind-reading speech. We throw a real monkey wrench into our communication with our kids when we assume and tell them what they really meant by what they said. If you’ve been the victim of someone who’s told you, “You can’t fool me. I know what you meant,” you know how quickly communication breaks down. Just to be sure, ask clarifying questions so that you get at the heart of what they’re trying to say.

Verbal manipulation. Because we’re older and more experienced than our kids, it’s often easy to enlist verbal attempts to control, manipulate, or punish our kids. Statements like “You’ll be the death of me yet,” “I wish you had never been born,” and “You’re just no good,” destroy relationships. Think before you speak, and choose words that build up rather than tear down.

Cotton candy speech.  If cotton candy is the main component of your diet, watch out. Likewise, homes built on conversation that is superficial, lacking depth, and void of substance will weaken and starve. Relationships will be shallow where serious issues and deep concerns are never discussed. Look for and make opportunities to talk intentionally and deeply about God’s Word, current events, and your teen’s cares and concerns. Since it’s Christmas, talk about the amazing wonder of God coming into His world as a human being. . . and all that means for us.

Knee-jerk speech. A quick, thoughtless response is usually an unwise response. Hastily spoken words are seldom profitable. Choose your words carefully by thinking before you speak. Maybe we should more regularly heed the words of Proverbs 18:13 – “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and shame.”

Have a blessed time celebrating the birth of the Savior with your family. And, may your communication with your kids bring honor and glory to Him!

Monday, December 15, 2014

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - TIME'S PERSON OF THE YEAR

 
 
BY STEVE DUNN

Each year Time Magazine names a Person of the Year.  Men like Albert Schwietzer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bob Dylan, and George Bush have had this distinction.  So have women like Queen Elizabeth and Miley Cyrus have held this distinction.  Some choices have seemed odd, some have made us question the Byzantine criterion that goes about selecting them. Some have been politically a matter of taste or party. Some, like Adolf Hitler, have made you want the year to simply be forgotten.

There is no ambiguity or objectionability to this year's choice - the Ebola Fighters.
 
Time magazine's editors decided to honor the "unprecedented numbers" of doctors and nurses who responded when Ebola overtook an already-weak public health infrastructure, and Time Editor Nancy Gibbs outlined how governments were ill-equipped to respond, WHO "was in denial and snarled in red tape" and first responders were accused of crying wolf as the disease spread.

Reported  Time: "Yet many doctors and nurses, especially those from Doctors Without Borders and Samaritan's Purse, responded and worked alongside local physicians, nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams, Gibbs wrote. Some were driven by God, while others did it for country and some simply had "the instinct to run into the fire, not away.".

The fact that these medical persons would risk life to go into such Third and Fourth World basket case nations make them heroes of the first order.    And they have reminded many of  us our moral responsibility to the "least of these" who are neighbors in shrinking global world.  

I am proud to add my vote of confidence to this year's decision by Nancy Gibbs and her colleagues.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

THE TRUTH ABOUT CHRISTMAS

BY STEVE DUNN

"Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else,
because Christmas is telling you that you could never get to heaven on your own. God had to come to you.” - Tim Keller

We live in an arrogant world in arrogant times.  "It's all about me" is the self-talk of fallen humanity.  "Me-first" is measure of relationships.  "I deserve the very best" is the ambition of our actions.  Humility is viewed with suspicion.  Entitlement trumps sacrificial servanthood.  The Golden Rule  is considered the philosophy of losers and the naive.

Twenty centuries ago Paul wrote these words explaining the meaning of the first Christmas:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5.6-8

The first sin was that of idolatry, to replace our Creator God with ourselves.  To be our own God.  Twenty centuries later, humankind continues to pursue this lie with deadly results on our planet and its people.  Christmas was the First Strike that God launched to to set things right again.

And it came, ironically, through the humble instrument of a baby in a borrowed manger of rough-hewn wood in the presence of the "least of these."

This is what Christians affirm and celebrate when we celebrate Christmas.


© 2014 by Stephen L Dunn
Permission is given to reprint this post as long as it is not included in material that is for sale, that it is reproduced in its entirety including the copyright notice, and that a link is provided to this blog.