The first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church is a marvelous statement of God’s grace in calling us into a relationship with Himself. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,.. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.” (1:3,7&8) Unmerited, undeserved redemption through the blood of Jesus…complete forgiveness…blessed with every spiritual blessing…all lavished upon us. Read the whole chapter slowly and consider your own calling by God into our faith in Jesus Christ. If we truly take this seriously we are completely humbled by the depth of such love. We are thankful beyond measure for this grace. Our lives become ones of grateful service, not to earn this great salvation, but to share this greatest of all gift – the gift of life now and eternally. You have begun a new day. Whatever this day holds, live it in the joy of this amazing grace.
On Jan 10, 2019 1:13 PM, "IRVIN STAPF" <istapf> wrote:
My most sincere thanks to all of you for your love and prayers. It is now 4:45AM. I am in my room and have slept for the past 7 hours. I am not in any discomfort except that my mouth is dry. I’m sorry to make this such a personal message. I don’t like being at the center of attention, but there is a real witness to the Lord’s goodness here. I love the Lord’s sense of humor! On the wall facing my bed is a white board with the names of the nurses attending me, and the plan for the day. When I awoke a little while ago the very first name I saw was that of the Charge Nurse – JOY! God is so good. Not all circumstances or outcomes are good, but that doesn’t change the goodness of our gracious Lord. "Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I will say rejoice." My love, and above all God’s love to each of you dear readers. Stay blessed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
My most sincere thanks to all of you for your love and prayers. It is now 4:45AM. I am in my room and have slept for the past 7 hours. I am not in any discomfort except that my mouth is dry. I’m sorry to make this such a personal message. I don’t like being at the center of attention, but there is a real witness to the Lord’s goodness here. I love the Lord’s sense of humor! On the wall facing my bed is a white board with the names of the nurses attending me, and the plan for the day. When I awoke a little while ago the very first name I saw was that of the Charge Nurse – JOY! God is so good. Not all circumstances or outcomes are good, but that doesn’t change the goodness of our gracious Lord. “Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I will say rejoice.” My love, and above all God’s love to each of you dear readers. Stay blessed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
When I have a wedding, as part of the wedding message I emphasize the characteristics of love, especially that true love is based on actions and not on feelings. This is an important understanding for all life. We have many things to do each day. Not all of them are fun, or make us feel good, but we do them because they are necessary and it is the right thing to do. Our lives are to be governed by principles, and by seeking to do good for others. As Christians, our principles come from our understanding of our Lord and His Holy Word. So we do what we believe is right whether it is pleasant or not. But the amazing thing with seeking to live by our Lord’s principles is that we do find great joy and blessing. God does want us to feel good. All the bells and whistles that come with a wedding and beginning married life are great, but that is not our goal. We are in this life for the long haul, and having God’s joy is far more precious.
Today is more than a day for taking out the trash from all the gift wrapping paper and sorting out the presents to keep and those to be returned. It is more than searching for after Christmas bargains and merchants getting ready for the next holiday sale. Tradition in many areas notes today as the first of the twelve days of Christmas leading up to Epiphany and the coming of the Wise Men on January sixth. Even apart from tradition Christmas can’t be dismissed easily. God has come among us. In a wonderful and mysterious way He has bound Himself to His creation, and promised to complete the purpose for which we were made. Jesus is not only the reason for this season, He is the reason for life itself. The Baby of Bethlehem came to redeem us from the power of sin and death, giving life to all who come to Him. That is not a decoration to be put away until next year. It is the joy in which we live and the reason for our humble worship every day.
Our daughter teaches first grade at a local elementary school. I asked her how the kids were doing in this week before Christmas. She said they were pretty much off the wall with excitement which make getting their attention a little difficult for lessons. But maybe we should take a lessons from them. Should we not get excited about Jesus? Oh, I know, there is a lot to do to get ready for “the day”. Gifts to buy, cards to send out, dinners to plan, visits to prepare for. All of that is nice and important, and yes, we know that “Jesus is the reason for the season”. But the more we think about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ – the depth of love He has for the world that caused Him to come among us Himself; His plan of redemption to take punishment we deserve and give us the perfect righteous of His Son; the gift of forgiveness, new life, hope, and strength that we share in His presence each day. Are these not gifts far surpassing any package placed under the Christmas tree? The little ones don’t understand this yet. It is ours to show them that the love we share in material gifts can only come from the far greater love we have all been given in the Gift wrapped in clothes and lying in a bed of straw. And that is exciting!
I was sitting in a doctors waiting room a while back and the TV was on. It seems that TVs have to be on everywhere. We’ve lost the ability to sit quietly with our own thought – but that is a topic for another time. This particular TV was tuned to one of the afternoon soap operas. Thankfully the sound was turned down. I’ve never watched one of these stories, or know what the plot is, but what struck me just from the images on the screen, no one was happy. Everyone seemed to be in some kind of argument or serious discussion. Now I shift to a different media, internet features on my browser. Last week one was reviewing the fall line on the New York fashion runways. Not one model had any smile on their face. It seems that nothing the beautiful people on TV, or anything in the high end world of fashion, leads to real happiness. Many years ago King Solomon wrote, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, …”(Proverbs 15:13) Happiness is not found by latest expensive clothes, or going with the right crowd. It is in a heart that is at peace with God, and the knowledge that He is the ultimate strength and joy of life.
There are some verses from Scripture that bear repeating often. A few that we could use at the beginning of each day come from Psalm 18. “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. “(1-3) We face many things in a day’s time, some good, some bad, mostly routine. This reminds us of our Lord’s presence in all of it. He is our joy and our strength. Peter expresses it this way, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,…”(IP1:8) Whatever your day holds, you are God’s child in Jesus Christ. Rejoice in Him.
At our church we decorate the sanctuary for Christmas the Saturday before Advent begins. When our little year and a half old grandson came in church that Sunday morning He squalled out in delight when he saw the 13 foot tree, its light and white Chrismon decorations. He ran around waving his arms in excitement. I wonder if we would ever show such excitement at the Christmas event. When I think of the incarnation, the truth that Almighty God, the Creator of the cosmos, the ruler of realms and dominions unseen, the Almighty One whose greatness and glory cannot be comprehended, has loved the human beings He created so much that He was willing to take on a human body, that He was willing to humble Himself to be born of a woman in the most meager of circumstances, so that we might know and come to be a part of His life. The wonder of our little grandson doesn’t come near the amazement I feel at such a thought. I can only fall before the manger in worship and adoration. Think about that. Think about how our great God has done this for you. Let that awe, wonder, joy, and excitement fill your heart above all else that is happening in This Christmas Season.
One of the pieces of junk mail that came recently was a catalog for teen fashions. Boy did they miss the mark in his household! Nonetheless, I scanned through it. One of the things that struck me were the faces of all the models, mostly girls, a few boys, all sullen, and not a smile among them. I know part of this is the fashion industry ethos. You don’t see smiles on the faces of most fashion model advertising. These faces convey several things to me. Sometimes a sense of arrogance and pride of superiority. Other times a sense of the “whatever” attitude of the uselessness of life. I know these are only fashion presentations, but do they convey something of the attitude of our times? These are so opposite of the Good News we have to proclaim from our Lord. Life is not easy, but we have a joy in Jesus that transcends circumstances, and that conveys itself to the attitude we express on our faces.