Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lessons in Humilty

A few days ago, we attended our grandson, Dominic’s pre-school Christmas program. Some of Dominic’s classmates rang bells to the tune of a familiar Christmas carol. Not wanting to miss the perfect timing to ring his bell, one little guy got so overly excited that when his moment finally arrived, he hit himself in the head with his bell! Bamboozled by the incident, he held one hand to his throbbing forehead while unsuccessfully attempting to get back into rhythm with his bell in the other hand. Poor little fella!

Lessons in humility start early, don’t they? But, why do they have to be so stinkin’ painful? Could it be because of the critical importance of humility in our relationship with God and with others?

Humility can be defined as, "A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a humble opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God's sake."

Humility is said to be the foundation of our spiritual life and inferior only to faith. However, humility is considered the leading virtue inasmuch as it removes the obstacles to faith. It removes pride and makes a man subject to and a fit recipient of grace. According to the words of St. James, God resists the proud, and gives his grace to the humble, (James 4:6).

A humble person recognizes their total dependence on God.

The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority.
He has accepted God's estimate of his own life:
In himself, nothing; In God, everything.
He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him
and he has stopped caring.
-- A.W. Tozer

You know what struck me most about the little bell ringer? I’m not sure that he gave one thought to the 250 hundred people witnessing his blunder. It seemed that his only concern was ringing his bell! Oh, to be so humble that we are more concerned about using our gifts for the Glory of our King than what others might think of our performance!

Therefore anyone who humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, (Matthew 18:4).

God’s richest blessings to you as you seek to glorify Him throughout this new year!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Gift - how good do I have to be in order to receive it?

A few days ago, I over-heard a young mother threatening her misbehaving child with this old familiar standby, “Santa’s not going to bring you any presents if you don’t behave!” While it may be a common coercion, my heart immediately cringed.

Ponder, if you would, the meaning of the lyrics to this familiar Christmas tune:

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

By instilling such beliefs, we are communicating the exact opposite of the unconditional love proclaimed in the Gospel message of Christ’s birth. Without even realizing it we are breeding a performance based mentality. Constantly standing in fear that maybe their efforts are not “good enough,” the child begins to wonder, “How good do I have to be in order to obtain these gifts? Is it even possible?”

The unfathomable gift of God’s Son, Jesus, was given to us to take away our sins, no holds barred. He doesn’t withhold His forgiveness from us when we are “bad” or “naughty” nor do we have to “get our act together” before we can receive the precious Gift that Father God has to offer!

“Due to God’s favor
you have been saved through faith,
and this is not due to anything you yourselves have done,
rather, it is God’s gift to you.
You weren’t saved by your actions,
and so no one can boast,”
Ephesians 2:8-9.

Pursuing a righteous standing before God through our own merit is a futile effort. No matter how hard we try, we cannot contribute to our salvation. It is a free gift! It is through our faith in Jesus that we stand before God as being worthy, yet even this faith is not something we can muster-up; rather it is a precious gift from our Creator and Redeemer, Christ Jesus!

How can we help our children come to recognize the immeasurable worth of such an unfathomable gift? How do we communicate to them that their worth is not measured by how well they perform?
Could it be that if our focus was on being living sacrifices to the Christ child rather than on assigning happiness to consumer goods and character labels to behavior, then our children would come to realize that they have already received the greatest gift? Rather than being frenzied with trying to be “acceptable,” could it be that their behavior would then naturally reflect the realization that they are unconditionally loved for who and what God created them to be? How desperately our children need to see the truth of the Gospel message lived out.

The message of Jesus is based upon
being loved as a sinner
rather than perfecting our performance in order to be worthy.

May you and those you love rest in this peace as you celebrate the birth of our Savior! Christ Jesus, thank You for sacrificing Your life that we may be considered worthy in our Father’s eyes. May all that we say and do in Your name, truly honor and bring glory to You!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Baby Who Doesn't Cry and other common Christmas myths

The air is filled with merry little jingles about good ol’ St Nick. Mailboxes are stuffed with images of Father Christmas and frazzled parents wait in line with little ones anxious to make their wishes known to Santa.

This is also the time of year for many to be in a tizzy about “putting Christ back in Christmas” and ousting Mr. Claus. Many Christian congregations, homes and town squares are certain to pull out their nativity scenes to proclaim, “Jesus is the reason for the season!” Moms and dads will soon be dashing for the best seats to “aww” over their child’s special role in this year’s Christmas pageant.

Like many parents, I was very concerned about the disconcerting focus on Santa. I didn’t want to be deceptive or want Jake to conclude that celebrating Jesus’ birth is a time to get something based on his behavior! Consequently, I told him early on that Santa was not real and repeatedly exposed him to the “truth” about Christ’s birth. While I meant well, I unknowingly continued to deceive Jake by teaching him the traditional Christmas story as it is often told:

“About 2000 years ago Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem. With Mary riding a donkey, they frantically scoured the city for a place to deliver the baby who was making his way into the world! Because there were no vacancies at the hotels, baby Jesus was born in a stable on the evening of December 25th. Upon this joyous occasion, the angels sang to the shepherds and they all joined three kings in a barn to worship a newborn who doesn’t cry.”

Where do we get such a distorted picture of Christ’s birth
and why are we passing it on as truth?
A careful look at Scripture quickly exposes our traditional Christmas myths!

Mary rode a donkey into Bethlehem having contractions. –.With other modes of transportation available, picturing her on a donkey is only an assumption since Scripture does not say. “While they were there [in Bethlehem], the time came for the baby to be born” (Luke 2:6). We don’t know how long Mary was in Bethlehem before she went into labor.

Having no vacancies, Innkeepers turned Mary away – In this account the word kataluma is unfortunately translated as “inn.” Luke offers a more accurate picture in his description of the kataluma where Jesus and His disciples shared the Passover meal before His death. This “upper room” was a large furnished “guest room” commonly found in a private Jewish home. Jewish tradition would have it that Joseph and Mary went to his ancestral home rather than a pandocheion (inn) [Luke 10:34]. However, the family’s kataluma was already full.

Jesus was born in a stable in December. – We assume that placing Jesus in a feeding trough means that He was born in a barn; however animals were kept in the lower level of the Jewish home at night for protection. This main part of the house is where baby Jesus came into the world most likely in the month of September.

Having no clothes for poor Baby Jesus, He was wrapped in ripped-up cloths. – “Swaddling clothes” were the standard baby garments of the culture.

Angels were singing in the fields and were present at the birth of the Christ Child – We are told that angels praised God after announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, however there is no indication that they sang. There is also no record of angels being present at the birth of Jesus. In fact, Luke 2:15 says that they returned to heaven after appearing to the shepherds.

Three kings from the orient came to visit baby Jesus on camels. – Although they were not kings, star-gazing priests from the East came to see Jesus. While these men typically traveled in large groups rather than threesomes, there is no indication of how they arrived. If we want to assume the regal mode, it was horses and chariots, not camels! Regardless, it is clear that these visitors didn’t come until after Jesus was a paidion (toddler) and no longer a brephos (infant) (Matthew 2: 11).

I could go on and on with examples of common misrepresentation of this glorious event.

Some may feel that all the details aren’t that important.
Unfortunately, however, many are revolted by those who proclaim to know Christ,
yet who fail to know the facts about what they so adamantly profess to believe!

Multitudes of teens become disillusioned with the faith of their parents while many new and life-long believers also become disheartened. In seeking truth for themselves, they come to realize that those whom they trusted and those who claim to have a hold on “truth” are scripturally illiterate! Sadly, they recognize that, smirking in the shadows, people of various beliefs, including many atheists, know Scripture better than most who assert their Christianity!

Before we can rightly profess truth… we need to know what truth is! Before mocking those of various beliefs and criticizing the disenchanted ones who turn away, we need to make sure that what we believe is truly based on Scripture!

We should make a point of keeping the Christ child at the center of celebrating His birth. However, if Jesus is truly the reason for our celebration, then let’s honor Him by telling the story according to His Word rather than the deception of tradition!


Thursday, December 8, 2011


Some of my fondest childhood memories are standing next to Momma’s side while helping her in the kitchen. As young as I can remember, she patiently gave me little jobs that would fulfill my curiosity and keep me learning. Even now it is rare for me to be in the kitchen without reflecting upon those precious memories. Although she doesn’t cook much these days, at 85 years of age Momma still enjoys rolling out the finest egg noodles that I’ve ever eaten!

I do miss those days with Momma and often wish that they could be recaptured, however I’ve been learning new baking tips from my dear friend, Rhoda Plank. I love to bake and Rhoda doesn’t mind having me “tag along” in her new bakery,


2974 County Highway P32.

(a quarter mile off of highway 169 east of Redding)


Friday & Saturday from 8AM – 7 PM.

While my friendship with Rhoda is my most precious treasure there, I’m not sure I can adequately prepare you for the wonderful surprises in store for you if you should decide to visit Berry Farm Bakery. One of several things which makes Rhoda’s bakery unique is that her savory treats are baked in a four level wood-burning oven! I feel welcomed by the aroma of the burning wood even before I open the door to the bakery! Yet, aside from Rhoda’s smile, nothing compares to the hospitable fragrance of her freshly baked delicacies. The minute I open the bakery door, I’m transported into a whole new delightful world!

I’ve never tasted anything which Rhoda baked that wasn’t sensational. In fact, she is known for miles around for her raised donuts. One day when I was there, a couple came all the way from St. Joe to purchase them!

Not only will you find scrumptious refreshment at Berry Farm Bakery, Rhoda’s prices are so reasonable that I’m not sure how she makes any profit! Check this out!

PIE: LRG. – $6.00 / MED. – $4.50 / SM. - $2.00 / SINGLE SERVE - $1.25

CINNAMON ROLLS: LRG. - $3.00 / SM. $1.50


BREAD: WHEAT or WHITE - $2.00 / CHEESE or JALAPENO - $3.50

BARS: 6 PIECES - $2.00 / 3 PIECES - $1.00

CAKE: LRG. - $5.00 / $2.50

COOKIES: 1 DOZEN - $2.25 / ½ DOZEN - $1.15

DONUTS: 1 DOZEN - $3.00 / ½ DOZEN - $1.50

Rhoda will receive special orders at the bakery or you may contact her at 641.344.1620. She’d be glad to fulfill your baking needs for a special occasion and is always willing to consider adding items to her list of tasty products!

It is such a joy for me to spend the day baking and sharing with my friend. I’m sure you’d also be blessed to meet her and to experience the bliss of savoring her delicious baked goods.



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Prayer & Healing - Beware of False Advertising

I’ve never heard anyone explain their understanding of prayer and healing quite like my husband, Gary. I asked him to share his thoughts on this issue with you. While they may differ from what many of us have believed, it seems that his insights are worthy of prayerful consideration!

A few weeks ago, a huge class-action lawsuit was filed against a major corporation for misrepresentation of some of its products--"false advertising." Even if that company eventually is found “not guilty” of the grievances brought against it, its reliability has been seriously challenged and there will be a long road of damage control ahead. Many former customers will never be won back.

It seems to me that a similar situation has developed regarding God. Those who claim to speak for our Lord often misrepresent Him. While there may be no lawsuit, many have turned their backs to the One who has been falsely presented. What is even worse is that the honor and integrity of our Creator and King has been unnecessarily soiled.

Recently, I have been re-evaluating my prayer-life and how I perceive God, especially in the area of "healing." As a young boy I was intrigued, yet puzzled by the religious "faith-healers" I heard on the radio and whom my friends in other denominations raved about. In our denomination, the "gift of healing" was never mentioned. We were encouraged to pray for ourselves and others who were ill; we were reminded that modern medicine was a miraculous gift from God, but certainly were not directed to a "faith healer." Whenever I read the New Testament accounts of Jesus and His disciples proclaiming miraculous healing, however, questions continued to stir in the back of my mind:

• Are some Christians truly gifted healers?

• Does God always desire to heal?

• Does lack of faith prevent healing?

• If healing is always related to faith, how much faith is needed?

• When there is no healing, who is at fault?

• What roll does modern medicine play in the context of “faith healing?”

When these and other connected questions are answered with different and even contradictory firmness by Christians of various backgrounds, the result is often confusion, disappointment, frustration and even intense guilt and shame. Adamant responses by well-intentioned Christians who have not thoroughly and personally searched through the ways of God, is certainly not honoring to the Lord whom they desire to represent. While I claim no special insights into the ways of God, beyond what He has revealed in His Word and the evidence of personal experience, many years of studying these things perhaps affords me an opportunity to share a few thoughts along with a few cautions.

• While prayer is vital in the life of a child of God, nowhere in the Bible are God's people ever instructed to pray for healing, either for themselves or for others. Even James 5 which connects healing and prayer does not specifically command "prayer for healing."

• God certainly does heal in miraculous ways. Even today people of faith, gifted by the Holy Spirit, are often used by Him to pronounce healing.

• While it may be beyond our understanding, God does not always desire to heal. In the case of the apostle Paul, for example, God's strength was made more evident because of Paul's infirmity.

• Often it is people of greatest faith who are not healed when afflicted, for reasons which ultimately glorify God.

• While illness and adversity are sometimes “from the hand” of Satan, it is God Himself who does the assigning (see Job 1:8,12). Satan is never able to thwart the plans of God who always remains in control.

• While Jesus rebukes an illness in Luke 4:38, I find no Scriptural evidence for an “evil spirit” of any illness that needs to be driven out.

• Professional healthcare may have a place; however, Scripture never identifies the care provided by medical professionals as miraculous. In fact, while doctors at the time were quite advanced and doing amazing things, no direction is ever given to seek their help.

I understand that many faithful Christians hold views different from these. However, I also realize the importance of brothers and sisters in Christ sharing their views with one another in order to come to deeper insights into God's ways. I am definitely eager to visit with others about such things. My specific concern in this article, though, is that we learn from one another to be cautious about how we represent and seek to honor our Great Physician. Only then can the world see our God and Savior for Who He truly is.


Gary Jaeckle