Tuesday, December 28, 2010

When the song of the angels is stilled...


When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way,
 in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.
...Howard Thurman image by Greg Knapp

"I heard a bird sing..."


"I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

'We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,'
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December."
- Oliver Herford, I Heard a Bird Sing

Friday, December 24, 2010

The sky can still remember the earliest Christmas morn...


The sky can still remember the earliest Christmas morn,
When in the cold December the Savior Christ was born.
No star unfolds its glory, no trumpet wind is blown,
But tells the Christmas story in music of its own.

O never failing splendor! O never silent song!
Still keep the green earth tender,
 still keep the gray earth strong,
Still keep the brave earth dreaming
of deeds that shall be done,
While children’s lives come streaming
like sunbeams from the sun.

O angels sweet and splendid, throng in our hearts and sing
The wonders which attended the coming of the King;
Till we too, boldly pressing where once the shepherds trod,
Climb Bethlehem’s Hill of Blessing, and find the Son of God.
...Philips Brooks

What does it mean when we call this God a living God?

What does it mean when we call this God a living God? It means that this God is not a conclusion we have reached by thinking, which we now offer to others in the certainty of our own perception and understanding... When we talk of the living God, it means: This God shows himself to us; he looks out from eternity into time and puts himself into relationship with us. We cannot define him in whatever way we like. He has "defined" himself and stands now before us as our Lord, over us and in our midst. This self-revelation of God, by virtue of which he is not our conception but our Lord, rightly stands, therefore, in the center of our Creed: a profession of faith in the story of God in the midst of human history does not constitute an exception to the simplicity of our profession of faith in God but is the essential condition at its heart. That is why the heart of all our creeds is our Yes to Jesus Christ: "By the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary." We genuflect at this clause, because at this point the heavens, the veil behind which God is secluded, are swept aside, and the mystery touches us directly. ...Benedict XVI image

All my heart this night rejoices!

All my heart this night rejoices,As I hear,
Far and near,
Sweetest angel voices;
“Christ is born,” their choirs are singing,
Till the air,
Ev'rywhere,
Now their joy is ringing.

Come, then, let us hasten yonder;
Here let all,
Great and small,
Kneel in awe and wonder,
Love Him Who with love is yearning;
Hail the star
That from far
Bright with hope is burning.

Bless├Ęd Savior, let me find Thee!
Keep Thou me
Close to Thee,
Cast me not behind Thee!
Life of life, my heart Thou stillest,
Calm I rest
On Thy breast,
All this void Thou fillest.

Ye who pine in weary sadness,
Weep no more,
For the door
Now is found of gladness.
Cling to Him, for He will guide you
Where no cross,
Pain or loss
Can betide you.
...Paul Gerhardt

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Meditations for the End of Advent


Dec 23, 2010
William Doino Jr

Advent is the season of hope and reflection. It is a time of prayerful expectation for Christians who await the Second Coming of the Lord, just as they celebrate his birth at Christmas. Many, however, do not really appreciate its significance, or see Advent as a dramatic call upon their lives.

One man who did was Fr. Alfred Delp.

A German Jesuit who joined the anti-Nazi Resistance, he was arrested and executed for his activities in 1945. Though not as well known as other martyrs, the writings he left behind are among the most moving in Christian literature. Ignatius Press has published a book, Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons and Prison Writings, which collects Delp’s writings during the lead-up to his arrest and six months in prison. Most of them, as the title indicates, have to do with Advent, which Delp believed to be central to the Christian life.
the rest image

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Cosmic Culmination


Recalling the earth-shaking, kingdom-sized message of Christmas.
Charles Colson with Catherine Larson
 12/22/2010

Sometime this Christmas season, you are sure to hear those rousing words of Handel's Messiah, taken from Revelation 11:15: "The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ" (ESV). Tradition has it that the music so moved King George II that he stood to his feet out of respect for an even greater King. The rest of the audience followed, as have audiences for generations since. The Hallelujah Chorus is the culmination of our Messiah's story, a story that Handel rightly showed was foretold by the Prophets, heralded in the Annunciation, and has at its heart a message about a king and a kingdom.

Sadly, that kingdom message is often missed in our saccharine retelling of the Christmas story. Somehow we glaze over the angel's words to Mary, that she will give birth to a son whose "kingdom will never end" (Luke 1:33). The myopia continues as we read the Gospels. We skim over pages of kingdom references. We miss Christ's inaugural address when he opens the scroll of Isaiah and proclaims that Scripture has been fulfilled in the people's hearing (Luke 4:21). We muddle through the parables that tell us repeatedly, "The kingdom of God is like …." And we glance over the very reason our Savior was crucified, a sign crudely scrawled beneath the cross: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (John 19:19). the rest image

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Here is the Truth...

Here is the Truth in a little creed,
Enough for all the roads we go:
In Love is all the law we need,
In Christ is all the God we know.
...Edwin Markham image by Sharon Mollerus

A Christian may for many days together see neither sun nor star...

A Christian may for many days together see neither sun nor star, neither light in God's countenance, nor light in his own heart, though even at that time God darts some beams through those clouds upon the soul; the soul again by a spirit of faith sees some light through those thickest clouds, enough to keep it from utter despair, though not to settle it in peace. In this dark condition, if they do as Paul and his company did, cast an anchor even in the dark night of temptation, and pray still for day, God will appear, and all shall clear up, we shall see light without and light within; the day-star will arise in their hearts. ...Richard Sibbe image

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening...

Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening
Into the house and gate of heaven,
To enter into that gate and dwell in that house,
Where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling,
 but one equal light;
No noise nor silence, but one equal music;
No fears nor hopes, but one equal possession;
No ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity;
In the habitations of thy glory and dominion,
World without end.
...John Donne  image by Brian Snelson

Friday, December 17, 2010

There is a time appointed...

There is a time appointed in the history of our world, when that very Jesus who appeared on earth, "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," shall reappear with all the circumstances of majesty and power, "King of kings and Lord of lords." We are led to expect a day when Christ shall find a home in the remotest hearts and families, and the earth in all its circumference be covered with the knowledge and the power of the Lord. ... Henry Melvill image

High o'er the lonely hills black turns to gray...

High o'er the lonely hills black turns to gray,
Bird-song the valley fills, mists fold away
Gray wakes to green again,
Beauty is seen again,
Gold and serene again dawneth the day.
So, o'er the hills of life, stormy, forlorn,
Out of the cloud and strife sunrise is born;
Swift grows the light for us,
Ended is night for us,
Soundless and bright for us breaketh God's morn.

Hear we no beat of drums, fanfare, nor cry,
When Christ the herald comes quietly nigh;
Splendor He makes on earth;
Color awakes on earth;
Suddenly breaks on earth light from the sky.

Bid then farewell to sleep: rise up and run!
What though the hill be steep? Strength's in the sun.
Now you shall find at last
Night's left behind at last,
And for mankind at last, Day has begun!
... Jan Struther
images

He comes to us...

He comes to us
in the brokenness of our health,
in the shipwreck of our family lives,
in the loss of all possible peace of mind,
even in the very thick of our sins.
He saves us in our disasters, not from them.
He emphatically does not promise to meet
only the odd winner of the self-improvement lottery:
He meets us all in our endless and inescapable losing.
Robert Farrar Capon
art

Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness...

Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!" ...Henri J. M. Nouwen image

If we could condense all the truths of Christmas...

If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: "God with us." We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth! ...John F. MacArthur, Jr. image

The Lost Virtue of Courtesy

It doesn't necessarily "get better."
Gina Dalfonzo
12/16/2010

Excerpt:
Could it be that, as a post-Christian society, we no longer have any clear notion of why we should be considerate of other people? The whole idea of political correctness was formulated as a sort of secular version of "Love your neighbor as yourself," and yet the backlash it created seems to have made things worse than ever. How often have you heard someone justify an unkind remark by saying, "I'm sick of being politically correct"?...

...Christian courtesy is rooted and grounded in the idea that every person—however much we may dislike him or her—is made in the image of God and precious in his sight. It is an ideal that we may struggle to live up to, but the struggle makes us better people; it reminds us to show kindness when every impulse and instinct is urging us to do the opposite. It requires of us something deeper than a rally or a video, something more than the obligatory apology that follows most celebrity catfights. It's a lifestyle that has to be consciously lived every day. image

Full essay here

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What Christmas is all about...

To know God, this is eternal life...

To know God, this is eternal life; this is the purpose for which we are and were created. The destruction of our God-awareness was the master blow struck by Satan in the dark day of our transgression.

To give God back to us was the chief work of Christ in redemption. To impart Himself to us in personal experience is the first purpose of God in salvation. To bring acute God-awareness is the best help the Spirit brings in sanctification. All other steps in grace lead up to this.

Were we allowed but one request, we might gain at a stroke all things else by praying one all-embracing prayer:

Thyself, Lord! Give me Thyself and I can want no more.

...AW Tozer image

Monday, December 13, 2010

The divine awakening produces in the soul...

The divine awakening produces in the soul of the perfect a flame of love which is a participate of that living flame which is the Holy Spirit Himself...this is the operation of the Holy Spirit in the soul that is transformed in love, that His interior actions cause it to send out flames...This flame wounds the soul as it is given, but the wound is tender, and, instead of causing death, it increases life; for the soul is holiest that is most wounded by love. ...John Of The Cross art

When we stand in the middle of a lifestorm...

When we stand in the middle of a lifestorm, it seems as if the storm has become our way of life. We cannot see a way out. We are unable to chart a course back to smoother waters. We feel defeated - and broken. Will that brokenness produce a cynicism that will keep us forever in the mire of if only thinking? Or will we yield up that brokenness to the resources of One who calms the winds and the waves, heals the brokenhearted, and forgives the most grievous of sins? The choice is ours. ...Verdell Davis image

In the same manner in which we clean and prepare our homes...

In the same manner in which we clean and prepare our homes in the anticipation of welcomed guests and family members this Christmas season, let us also prepare our hearts in anticipation of the Lord's coming. Christ, our most honoured and eagerly anticipated guest, desires to meet with us in a heart prepared for his arrival. So eager is he to meet with us that he offers to help us with our spiritual housecleaning, working with us; creating a resting place for Himself within our hearts. ...Katherine Walden
 (picture by Raymond Dague)

What Love means to a 4-8 year olds...

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, 'What does love mean?' The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined See what you think:


'When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore.
So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love..'
Rebecca- age 8

'When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different..
You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.'
Billy - age 4

'Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.'
Karl - age 5


'Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.' Chrissy - age 6

'Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.'Terri - age 4


'Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.' Danny - age 7


'Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that.. They look gross when they kiss' Emily - age 8


'Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.' Bobby - age 7 (Wow!)


'If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,' Nikka - age 6 (we need a few million more Nikka's on this planet)


'Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.' Noelle - age 7


'Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.' Tommy - age 6


'During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore.' Cindy - age 8


'My mommy loves me more than anybody You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night..' Clare - age 6


'Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.' Elaine-age 5


'Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.' Chris - age 7


'Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.' Mary Ann - age 4


'I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.' Lauren - age 4


'When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.' (what an image) Karen - age 7


'Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross.' Mark - age 6


'You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.' Jessica - age 8


And the final one:
The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.
Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there..
When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said,
'Nothing, I just helped him cry'

Friday, December 10, 2010

Great God, what do I see and hear!

Great God, what do I see and hear!
The end of things created!
The judge of mankind doth appear
On clouds of glory seated!
The trumpet sounds; the graves restore,
The dead which they contained before;
Prepare, my soul, to meet Him!
...Martin Luther
image

If there be anything that is capable of setting the soul in a large place

If there be anything that is capable of setting the soul in a large place it is absolute abandonment to God. It diffuses in the soul a peace that flows like a river and the righteousness which is as the waves of the sea. ...Francois Fenelon image

Prayer like incense...


Call for prayer for Christian guesthouse owners being sued by gay couple
...He asked Christians to pray that the judge would come to a “just decision” and for the Christian Institute legal team. image

For the Mouth of the Lord Hath Spoken It

File:Charles Jennens.jpgAlbert Mohler
Friday, December 10, 2010

Though his work is almost universally known within the English-speaking world, Charles Jennens is virtually unknown. He was a brilliant librettist — a writer of texts to be put to music by others. Born in the year 1700, Jennens inherited his father’s vast estate and wealth, attended Oxford University, and became a gentleman scholar. He published a controversial interpretation of William Shakespeare and lived a life of extravagance and eccentricity. That could have been the end of his story, but it was not.

His emergence as a brilliant librettist was driven by a sense of theological and spiritual urgency. Jennens was greatly concerned to confront the deism that was then spreading so quickly among the educated classes in England in the wake of the Enlightenment. Deism rejected the self-revelation of God in the Bible, the need of humanity for salvation, the deity of Christ, Christianity’s message of salvation, and any divine judgment to come. Deists rejected the very idea of a personal God who can be known, the intervention of God into human history, and all of the Bible’s claims of miracles, prophecies, and divine promises. the rest image

George Frideric Handel did agree to compose an oratorio based on Jennens’ great “Scripture collection.” He began composing on August 22, 1741, and completed the entire massive work in just twenty-four days of breathtaking intensity. Messiah was first performed in Dublin in 1742, and the work has been in continuous performance for over 250 years.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

But who can endure the day of his coming.....


But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:2-5
photo

The cry of the Christian religion is the gentle word, "Come."

Come unto me."—Matthew 11:28.

The cry of the Christian religion is the gentle word, "Come." The Jewish law harshly said, "Go, take heed unto thy steps as to the path in which thou shalt walk. Break the commandments, and thou shalt perish; keep them, and thou shalt live." The law was a dispensation of terror, which drove men before it as with a scourge; the gospel draws with bands of love. Jesus is the good Shepherd going before His sheep, bidding them follow Him, and ever leading them onwards with the sweet word, "Come." The law repels, the gospel attracts. The law shows the distance which there is between God and man; the gospel bridges that awful chasm, and brings the sinner across it.

From the first moment of your spiritual life until you are ushered into glory, the language of Christ to you will be, "Come, come unto me." As a mother puts out her finger to her little child and woos it to walk by saying, "Come," even so does Jesus. He will always be ahead of you, bidding you follow Him as the soldier follows his captain. He will always go before you to pave your way, and clear your path, and you shall hear His animating voice calling you after Him all through life; while in the solemn hour of death, His sweet words with which He shall usher you into the heavenly world shall be—"Come, ye blessed of my Father."

Nay, further, this is not only Christ's cry to you, but, if you be a believer, this is your cry to Christ—"Come! come!" You will be longing for His second advent; you will be saying, "Come quickly, even so come Lord Jesus." You will be panting for nearer and closer communion with Him. As His voice to you is "Come," your response to Him will be, "Come, Lord, and abide with me. Come, and occupy alone the throne of my heart; reign there without a rival, and consecrate me entirely to Thy service." ...CH Spurgeon icon

"When shall the day of the Lord come?"

WOE to those who say, "When shall the day of the Lord come?" and they don't care to know and understand that day. For the Lord's Presence in the faithful has already come, and is continuously coming, and to all those who wish for it, has arrived and is firm. Because, if He is indeed the light of the world (John 8.12) and to His Apostles has said, that with us until the end of time will be (Matt. 28.20, cf. Matt. 1.23), how, with us being, will come? Not at all. For we are not sons of darkness and sons of night, in order for the light to overtake us, but sons of light and sons of the Lord's day, hence and living in the Lord we are, and dying in Him and with Him will live, as Paul says (Acts 17.28). ...St. Symeon the Theologian photo

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes...


A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes... and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent. ...Dietrich Bonhoeffer image by Jayel Aheram

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

If I were but sure that I should live to see the coming of the Lord...


If I were but sure that I should live to see the coming of the Lord, it would be the joyfulest tidings in the world. O that I might see His kingdom come! It is the characteristic of His saints to love His appearing, and to look for that blessed hope. "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." ...Richard Baxter image by Per Ola Wiberg

In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength...

In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength. Isaiah 30:15

It is always weakness to be fretting and worrying, questioning and mis-trusting. What can we do if we wear ourselves to skin and bone? Can we gain anything by fearing and fuming? Do we not unfit ourselves for action and unhinge our minds for wise decision? We are sinking by our struggles when we might float by faith.

Oh, for grace to be quiet! Why run from house to house to repeat the weary story which makes us more and more heart-sick as we tell it? Why even stay at home to cry out in agony because of wretched forebodings which may never be fulfilled? It would be well to keep a quiet tongue, but it would be far better if we had a quiet heart. Oh, to be still and know that Jehovah is God!

Oh, for grace to be confident in God! The holy One of Israel must defend and deliver His own. He cannot run back from His solemn declarations. We may make sure that every word of His will stand though the mountains should depart. He deserves to be confided in; and if we would display confidence and consequent quietness, we might be as happy as the spirits before the throne.

Come, my soul, return unto thy rest, and lean thy head upon the bosom of the Lord Jesus. ...CH Spurgeon
art

The Ransomed Shall Return...

The Ransomed Shall Return-Isaiah 35

1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
2 it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.

3 Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say to those who have an anxious heart,
"Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you."

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7 the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

8 And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
9 No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
image ESV

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Drawn by grace

Many Chinese immigrants hear the gospel for the first time in the United States—and many are responding 
 Angela Lu
poated December 4, 2010

Grand Street sprawls like a clogged artery to the heart of New York's Chinatown. People brush through sidewalks packed with shops selling fresh fruit. Restaurants display whole shriveled barbecued ducks. Old women haggle for fish in harsh Cantonese tones. Souvenir shops offer fake golden Buddhas, fish carved in cheap jade, and bonsai trees growing in porcelain vases.

For some Americans, stepping into this ethnic enclave feels like stepping onto another continent. It might seem that Li Rong Liu, a native of Fujian in southern China, would read the Chinese lettering on shops and feel at home—but it's a bleak home where he started on the lowest level as a busboy, working seven days a week from the early morning to midnight for six years before upgrading to a sushi chef. He now works a more modest 10 hours a day. the rest
"There was something genuine about this faith, unlike the idols we worshipped in China," Liu said. "When I was in China, I had heard of Christianity, but I didn't think I needed it. Now in the U.S., when I'm alone and facing new hardships, here is where I find God."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Welcome Advent into our Deepest Void

Thursday, December 2, 2010
Elizabeth Scalia

I shed tears of gratitude and joy that you have come round again, O Advent, to shake us from our torpor as early night comes, and the match is struck, and the message is brought home once more; that we are forever in the absence of light; it is beyond us and exterior until we make it welcome and bring it, like a lover, within.

Welcome into our deepest void; welcome into the parts of us touched by human frost, and stunted. More-just lovely! image