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Exploring the Adventure of Aging

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Christ

Christmas Without or Christmas Within 2015

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It is just not Christmas without…
You fill in the blanks

Snow or at least frost in air

A spouse, parent, a child, a friend, someone you loved

Who is not there

Health, wealth, or just enough money

to put presents under the tree

or maybe not even a tree

being home to celebrate with family and friends

without clothes to keep warm 

or a home in the storm

You fill in the blanks…
It is just not Christmas without. . .

Yet the truth of it all, it is all those with outs 

That speak to what Christmas’s about

The broken places in our lives and hearts

The empty spaces at the Christmas table

The health issues, the presence of sin

Christ came to a world filled with doubt

The promise of love, peace, hope within

In spite of all the with outs

It is Christ that Christmas is about.

I pray the world, especially the ones that I love take time to figure that out.

Engage: Advent 2015

imageCrowds push and shove around on this Advent journey.

Initial reactions to our fellow travelers, so many who do not seek the Christ child. Instead the masses appear caught up in holiday cheer and materialism that leaves them exhausted, inebriated, and often angry. With no vision beyond the celebration, all the cheer in the world cannot fill the emptiness.

This journey may be the only opportunity some people have to find Jesus, the real Jesus. You may be the only one who speaks graciously and attractively to them.
Do not be afraid to engage people of other beliefs or no belief in conversation. Listen to their statements. Listen to their questions, overt or covert. Respond from your heart, the very heart where the Holy Spirit resides.

Engage your fellow travelers today.

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭4:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Vanity, Vanity…Giving up a Sense of Entitlement for Lent

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Sense of entitlement – The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace. from “20 Things to Give Up for Lent”, Pastor Phil, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, March 4, 2014

A fact about Entitlement:

It is a relatively new word; the first known use of this word was in 1942.

The full definition says a lot:
a. the state or condition of being entitled
b. a right to benefits especially by law or contract
c. a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group and the funds supporting the program
d. belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges by reason of birth, family, accomplishments, need or (my words not the dictionary) just because I think I deserve special privileges because I think I do.

While there may be pro and con arguments regarding a-c of the definition, I treasure the rights I have as a citizen of the United States based on the Constitution and I believe that human rights should be defended throughout the world. So here during this Lent season, as I consider the Word of God in Philippians, I know that I must dig out the weeds of vanity, selfish ambition, concern for my own interests which lead to a sense of ENTITLEMENT and I must seek to have the same attitude that Jesus did. I am always moved by these words:

Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose.

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.

Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.

You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but

emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.

He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!

As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11 NET)

Even though Jesus existed as fully God, he did not demand EQUALITY. HE gave it ALL up, all the privileges of BEING GOD, took on the form of a slave, human form with all its fleshly needs, all its mental anguish, its heartaches, its fragility.

HE Humbled Himself…and was obedient to the death…death on the most horrific form of execution Crucifixion.

So, giving up Entitlement means that I must take on an attitude that does not demand to be First, or maybe even equal. It means that I need to be concerned for the needs of others and be faithful to carrying my Cross daily without comparing it to anyone else’s.

After all, in Jesus heart He always knew Who he was…He was One with the Father and One with the Spirit. And by His Blood, by my belief, and baptism I am an heir of God.

What more could I ask? “Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.” (Lyrics and Music by Norman J. Clayton)image

Please, Please…Giving up the NEED to Please Everyone for Lent

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The need to please everyone – I can’t please everyone anyways. There is only one I need to strive to please. from “20 Things to Give Up for Lent”, Pastor Phil, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, March 4, 2014

Admittedly, I have lived my life trying to please everyone and sadly failing. So here I am on this third day of Lent 2014 giving up “the need to please everyone”. Even writing that causes a little quiver of anxiety…probably giving that up later…because I realize how great a grip “pleasing” has on my life. The roots are deep, so yanking them up is painful.

God reminds me as I write that I am not giving up being pleasing or even pleasing others I am giving up the NEED to please, because it is that need that separates me from Christ. That need implies I am responsible for a myriad of things, other people’s happiness, their attitudes, the flow of traffic, world peace…ok, I know I am exaggerating, but suffice it to say the NEED to please everyone undermines my Faith in God and pleasing Him.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 NIV)

My need to please people increases the possibility that I entertain popular cultural and societal shifts that move away from God’s precepts or simply strife to ignore them so as to not appear “intolerant” or a “religious nut.” Clearly, the evil that can permeate culture is not a 21st Century phenomena and giving up the NEED to please, humbling myself, seeking to please God will open up my prayer life and the forgiveness of Christ will wash over me and cannot help but splash on those around me.

if my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray, seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NET)

Giving up the Need to please people, requires that I turn my “pleasing” ways another direction toward the One who Died for me. Relying on Him, rather than relying on what I do or say to please people and maintain homeostasis…I admit my arms are tired of juggling, my heart is weary from failure to please, the weight on my mind over others’ attitude pounds…So Lord Jesus, I lay the NEED at your feet. I have sinned before you by trying to control my world through pleasing others. Work in me to rid the imbedded roots from my life so I can draw closer to you. Amen

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Fear Less, Love More…Giving up Fear for Lent

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“Fear – God is on my side. In him I am more than a conqueror. (see Romans 8)” from “20 Things to Give Up for Lent”, Pastor Phil, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, March 4, 2014

You are from God, little children, and have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world’s perspective and the world listens to them. If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has in us. God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him. By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love. We love because he loved us first. (1 John 4:4, 5, 15-19 NET)

365 times, one for every day of the normal calendar year, God proclaims in His Word, “Fear Not”, “Don’t be afraid”, or some version of the same. Fear crowds out love. Fear focuses on the temporary. Fear separates us from Christ. And so today on this second day of Lent, with the help of Christ Jesus, my Lord, I cast out fear. I give up the panic over growing old, senile, and feeble, the fear of what non-Christians say about the Church and Christians, the fear of death, the fear….oh, my goodness, I have entertained so many. Know what fear has held me captive long enough.

In 1 John 4, God clearly says, “LOVE drives out fear” and so when tempted to fear, I need to replace that fear with love, first the knowledge of that I am loved by God and then to extend love to others. Nothing can keep me from aging and eventually dying, but LOVE, God’s Love can dispel fear. As Romans 8 reminds us “if God be for us, who can be against us.”

Lord Jesus Christ, Draw me closer to living a life that LOVES as You Love. A Life that draws me out of the shadows, the hiding places and into your light. Help me GIVE up Fear this Lent and extend the grace of a loving life to others and myself. Amen.

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Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down…Giving up Guilt

“Guilt – I am loved by Jesus and he has forgiven my sins. Today is a new day and the past is behind” from “20 Things to Give Up for Lent”.image

For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God. (Hebrews 9:13, 14 NET)

Ash Wednesday plunges us into the season of Lent, traditionally a time of contemplation and drawing near to Christ and the Cross. It is a time to sacrifice, give up, anything that separates us from Christ. For many that will mean giving up little pleasures like chocolate, or video games, or meat. But after reading the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd devotion “20 things to Give Up for Lent” that I shared yesterday, I have decided to sacrifice internal walls that keep me from Christ and His Cross. Admittedly, doing this will require constant vigilance and rejection of thoughts, feelings, and maybe even some long held beliefs, and cling to Christ.

First on this Ash Wednesday I give up GUILT for Lent because Guilt separates me from the recognition of what Christ’s Blood does for me.

For sure, I am guilty of a multitude of sins, but when I allow those sins to leap from the shadows, hurl me into scenarios past, and strangle me, I deny Christ and the power of His blood to forgive and sanctify me. By the same token, if I harbor unconfessed sins, I deny that same power to cleanse me.

The Time has come to recognize guilt for what it is, a tool of Satan. It is not nor has it ever been a tool of God. Over and over scripture tells us that God does not condemn us. God saves us. The Holy Spirit convicts me of sin so that I can recognize my need for forgiveness, my need to repent, and my great need for Christ. The Holy Spirit’s conviction does not creep into my mind with graphic reminders of past sins nor does it taunt me with what I have failed to do. Guilt may force me to do something good, but the motivation taints the action. Guilt over past infractions leads me to view myself as an unworthy servant of Christ. Guilt denies the POWER of the CROSS.

Not only is it a tool of Satan, it is also Satan’s tool in my hands. Anytime I use guilt to motivate another person…Spouse, Child, Parent, Friend…Anyone..I sin. But THANKS BE TO GOD, I can confess my sins, I can turn from my sin and I am forgiven, redeemed, worthy because He makes me worthy.

Guilt…I deny your entrance in my mind. With Christ’s help, I will not allow guilt to strangle the life out of me or separate me from the fullness of His presence or the ministry He has prepared for me. So YES, I am giving up GUILT for Lent and I invite you all to do the same.

Fat Tuesday

Today marks the final hurrah for the self-indulgentimage gluttony of body, mind and spirit that can so easily imbed itself in our lives. And truly, I am feeling fat but not sassy. The following devotional from Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Old Bridge, NJ really hit home. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Tomorrow I am challenged by Pastor Phil’s list and I hope you are too to really draw closer to Christ by daily giving up that in my life that separates me from Him. Gotta expand it to 40 but I suspect that is possible.

20 Things to Give Up for Lent
FEBRUARY 27, 2014 BY PHIL

Last week we talked about all the wrong and right reasons to fast for Lent. We are less than a week away from Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Many Christians “give something up” for Lent, but it usually has very little of impact on their life and walk with Christ. The reason is that we usually give stuff up for all the wrong reasons.

With that said, I want to offer up 20 things you might consider giving up this Lent. And these are things to give up not just for Lent, but for the rest of your life.

Guilt – I am loved by Jesus and he has forgiven my sins. Today is a new day and the past is behind.
Fear – God is on my side. In him I am more than a conqueror. (see Romans 8)
The need to please everyone – I can’t please everyone anyways. There is only one I need to strive to please.
Envy – I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
Impatience – God’s timing is the perfect timing.
Sense of entitlement – The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace.
Bitterness and Resentment – The only person I am hurting by holding on to these is myself.
Blame – I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions.
Gossip and Negativity – I will put the best construction on everything when it comes to other people. I will also minimize my contact with people who are negative and toxic bringing other people down.
Comparison – I have my own unique contribution to make and there is no one else like me.
Fear of failure – You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fail forward.
A spirit of poverty – Believe with God that there is always more than enough and never a lack
Feelings of unworthiness – You are fearfully and wonderfully made by your creator. (see Psalm 139)
Doubt – Believe God has a plan for you that is beyond anything you could imagine. The future is brighter than you could ever realize.
Self-pity – God comforts us in our sorrow so that we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
Retirement – As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. That does not come to an end until the day we die.
Excuses – A wise man once said, if you need an excuse, any excuse will do.
Lack of counsel – Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.
Pride – Blessed are the humble.
Worry – God is in control and worrying will not help.
God has so much more in store for you. But so many of these things above are holding you back from walking in the full destiny he has laid out for you. Today is a new day.

So there you have it. What else might you add to the list? Please share in the comments below.

God’s blessings,
Pastor Phil

For Those Who Need it Most

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If I am full of love the temptation is to share that love with others who are lovable, loving and who expess kindness to others. Loving the lovable is not wrong or evil, but it is incomplete. It isn’t unChristlike, but it is also not fully Christlike.

To love like Jesus means recognizing as God did that it is the sick who need a physician, it is the enemy of the Cross who most needs the Cross, and it is the unkind who most need kindness.

My prayer today is that I can express Love and Kindness to ALL. It is the least I can do and I cannot do it without the Holy Spirit within, but with Christ’s help I can. If it gets hard, I will remind myself that while I was buried in sin, Christ died for me. Christ died for all! And the ones who reject that idea need to be loved the most.

The Power of a Grateful Heart–Mindful

I hope my words and thoughts please you. Lord, you are my Rock, the one who saves me. (Psalms 19:14 NCV)

“A Mind is a terrible thing to waste” Motto of the United Negro College Fund since 1972.

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Here I am propped on three pillows, considering the capacity of the mind, my mind, anyone’s mind. Certainly one quality of being created in the image of God, the ability to think, reason, choose, plan, the mind of human beings most closely mirrors our creator.

And yet, we all know that not all human minds, no make that not one human mind, comes close to the creator’s. We have seen the effects of genetic mutation, injury, disease and neglect on human minds. We have encountered those with genius either personally or through their works. We have been graphically led by the media through the aftermath of acts committed by those with twisted minds. We know that what we fill our minds with matters.

A Mind is a terrible thing to waste” And yet, sometimes I treat my mind less like a gift from the Creator and more like a garbage dump. I found myself stewing over a Facebook post, that did not concern me and certainly did nothing to make me a better person yesterday. I worried about today when it was still tomorrow. I allowed myself to sink into a brief depression. I read scripture, but did not meditate over it. And when I tried to fall asleep last night, it all came crashing so that I had to wade through it, bag the trash and pray before I could get my mind to rest so I could sleep.

A Mind is a terrible thing to waste.” I watched the ravages of Alzheimer’s steal my mother-in-law from us over the course of many years. I know that no matter what the disease did to her mind that God still held her in his grasp, but to witness the decline of Dorothy devastated us all. It seemed such a waste of human spirit and I had to keep reminding myself that her spirit and the Holy Spirit still resided within her frail body with or without her mind. It was hard to say good-bye when she died, but I sense as she ascended to heaven her mind, body and spirit were whole and clothed in Christ. For us it had been a LONG good-bye.

“A Mind is a terrible thing to waste” So on this final day of November 2013 I am thankful for my mind and seek to use it to explore all God has for me in each day I have left here on earth. I want to fill it first with Love for God and then Love for others. I want to consider things that matter, not things that shatter. I want a mind with thoughts like God recommended through Saint Paul in his letter to the Philippians:

Brothers and sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected. Do what you learned and received from me, what I told you, and what you saw me do. And the God who gives peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8, 9 NCV)

I want to be someone whose mind daily gains ground, clears the mine fields of toxic thoughts and memories, a mind more like Christ’s everyday. To have a mind of joy and peace requires a mind active in the things of God. So for as long as God chooses to let my mind work in this world I want to fill it to overflowing with good so that what tumbles out of my mouth, off the tips of my fingers, in my expressions and actions helps others see God.

So if my earthly mind begins to be pockmarked with dementia, my life will have had purpose in the building of the Kingdom of God. Because the motto of the American Negro College Fund stands true for ALL :

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Jesus answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39 NCV)

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