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Archive for December, 2012

CONCEDING CHRISTMAS

Guest blogging today is my friend and writing partner, Lori Freeland. Welcome to Moving the Ancient Boundaries, Lori.

Conceding Christmas is one of my favorite past posts and tells the story I wrote about our Christmas in 2004, less than two months after Kyle was diagnosed with leukemia.

Here is Part One:

Conceding Christmas

3 AM

I burrow deeper under the covers, the bed large and lonely. Thirteen days until Christmas, but I’m not planning a celebration.

Arranging a funeral seems more likely.

My husband stayed at the hospital tonight with our ten-year-old son. This time, Kyle struggles with fever, low blood counts, and multiple infections—staph in his central line and fungus in his left lung.

The neighbor’s Christmas lights shine through my curtains, pulsing red and green. An ache sets in around my temples. I’ve been lying here for hours, watching the numbers on the clock glow and change, trying to ignore God tugging at my heart.

Give Kyle to me.

My chest squeezes in response to the words. “Lord, let me sleep.” (more…)

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Do you remember a number of years ago hearing the story of the nurse who stumbled upon a partial-birth-aborted baby the doctor had left in a hospital sink to die? She appeared on the Bill O’Reilley show and upon hearing her account, O’Reilley was speechless.

She wept and said, “The only thing I could do was sit and hold this precious baby and watch it die.”

You and I know those who kill innocent babies will stand before the King of Kings one day to receive His just judgment. But do you know in Ezekiel 33:1-9 God says that you and I will also stand before Jesus to hear Him say:

“When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man,  you shall surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand” (Ezekiel 33:8 NAS).

Shortly after the nurse’s account became public, Congress passed legislation out-lawing late term and partial-birth abortions. This nurse became a watchwoman on America’s wall.

Would that there had been a watchman on the wall in that quiet Connecticut town before the events of last Friday. The evidence of impending tragedy was apparent and seen by many. But not a soul sounded the alarm.

Up to this point in America’s history there have always been chosen watchmen. Preachers who have spoken the truth of God’s Word and sounded a warning about the consequences of ignoring God and turning to embrace wickedness.

During the course of my lifetime Billy Graham has been sought by previous Administrations to seek God’s blessing upon our nation. The last evangelist who advised, gave counsel, and prayed with the presidents of his generation. But Billy Graham has not been an invited guest and counselor to this Whitehouse. Will another man of the Lord God Almighty be invited to fill this gap?

There are a few men who stand and boldly proclaim God’s Word on the national scene, Dr. Robert Jeffress, Dr. John Hagee, Dr. David Jeremiah, Dr. Charles Stanley, and a few others, but we are left without a recognized and nationally accepted watchman on the wall of America.

America’s spiritual bulkhead is broken and crumbling. We are a people divided. Half the people have no interest in repairing the barrier—they don’t even recognize the fortress is fractured and disintegrating—yet. And the other half are too timid to speak the truth of God’s Word. Afraid of ridicule.

God appointed Ezekiel to be a watchman for the house of Israel during his lifetime. A prophet called to speak God’s truth to His people and God told him whether they listened or not, they would know a prophet had been among them. He told Ezekiel:

“I have made  your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint I have made your forehead. Do not be afraid of them or be dismayed before them though they are a rebellious house.”

The priests of Ezekiel’s time were participating in despicable abominations—in the Temple—telling the people everything would be okay. Telling them there would be peace and prosperity.

But God said judgment was coming. And it did.

God has used pagan nations to deliver His judgment. And yet Israel still does not accept Jesus as God’s Lamb and their Messiah. But the Word tells of a day when they will wake up and recognize Jesus as Lord. Not because of their wisdom and understanding, but because of God’s faithfulness to His Word. However, they’ve never worshiped  idols since their journey to captivity in Babylon.

Well folks, history indeed repeats itself. America has preachers who tell their congregations lies too. Preachers who never mention sin. Preachers who never mention the blood of Jesus Christ, the only remedy before the God of all Creation for the cleansing of sin. Preachers who, as Dr. Homer Lindsay, Sr. said, “deliver sermonets-by-preacherets-to-christianets.”

Have you considered that God has called you and me to be His watchmen on the wall in our times? Watchmen and women in your home, your neighborhood, your work place, your school?

Ezekiel didn’t have to stay up half the night to prepare a sermon. No sir. God told him, “speak to them the words I speak to you.”

Words recorded in the Bible, the complete Word of God.

Do you know enough of His Word to tell your friends and neighbors what He says about …you name the subject? The list of discrepancies against His Word is abundant and practiced by many today, and some of those who rebel against the Word sit next to you each Sunday morning.

But the truth you must deliver is:

“God sent Jesus to pay for your sins. God still loves you and so do I.  If you are sorry about your sins, turn from your sins and trust that what Jesus paid was enough to present you before His righteous, holy Father, then, by the power of His Spirit, you choose to walk in obedience to God’s Word for the remainder of your life…scripture tells us you will be saved” ( Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:16 NKJ).

This past week I received a large red lapel pin that states, “It’s okay to tell me Merry Christmas!”  I went to the mall and grocery store wearing my pin. Many folks stopped me and asked, “What does your pin say?” I pulled my jacket back each time so they could read the words and their reactions were astonishing. Many faces smiled and said “Merry Christmas”. But just as many looked at me with faces hard as flint, turned, and walked away. What a sad commentary of our times.

But God’s Word is clear. “Go tell and make disciples.”  Tell them what? What has Jesus Christ done for you. For me. If we don’t tell and they continue in their wickedness and rebellion they will be doomed. Separated from Christ forever, and God will require their blood from our hand.

This could be our last Christmas celebration before Jesus returns for His own people.

Will you stand on America’s wall to be God’s watchman? Will you go and tell? Better to speak-up now than be required to give the Sovereign God of the Universe the reason for your silence.

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Ever throw a party and no one showed up? I have. It’s humiliating. But have you ever heard of not having a party and everyone came? It happened at our house one Christmas Eve many years ago.

My earliest memories of Christmas Eve were Mama and Daddy’s annual Christmas Open House. Invitations went out the first of December, addressed, with times staggered, so folks would arrive in small groups because of the size of our modest home. But every year they came, fifty, sixty, seventy-five of them, all arriving early and staying ‘til…

Laughter, singing, and joyful conversation filled all the rooms of our house and Christmas Eve became a Rockefeller-Center-event for my brother, Andy and me.

Mama’s food would have made Paula Deen proud. The house sparkled, the tree shimmered, and the table—always a picture out of Southern Living. My brother and I were as excited about the party as we were the gifts under the tree. And we were allowed to stay up late while other kids had to go to bed. Daddy said Santa made an exception for us and placed our house on his last-stop-list before returning to the North Pole.

But one Christmas Eve in the mid ‘50’s, my parents decided not to have their annual Christmas Eve party. No polishing silver, no party preparations, no delicious smells from Mama’s kitchen. It didn’t even seem like Christmas to my brother and me.

Andy and I moped over Christmas Eve dinner and prepared for a gloomy evening with the folks and the sentence of an early bedtime.

Until headlights shined in the driveway, followed by a second set of headlights, and then another and another. The doorbell rang and a crowd of expectant-party-goers shouted “Merry Christmas”.

Daddy opened the door and after an awkward moment of silence between the guests and would-be-hosts, Mama and Daddy’s smiles lit up as bright as our Christmas lights and they ushered the confused guests into our living room.

There would be a party after all.

Mama’s Christmas cookies were rushed to the table, and the fresh coconut cake ready for tomorrow’s dinner would soon be gobbled. She was the poster model for magic chef. Within minutes the table miraculously filled with delicious tidbits from Mama’s fridge and pantry.

I heard ladies tell her over and over, “I thought my invitation was lost in the mail.” And, “it wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without gathering at your house.”

Next day we ate left-over’s for Christmas dinner and laughed and agreed it had been the best party ever. Mama and Daddy pledged never to cancel their party again. They couldn’t—the people would come even without an invitation.

How times and relationships have changed. I marvel at these precious memories. A night so many years ago filled with good news. The good news of friendships—love and delight in just being together. The good news of  Mama and Daddy who gave us a home where grace and love and friendships trumped all else. The good news of confidence that all who came to our table would be blessed and welcomed by my folks.

How appropriate is this loving memory of my parents tonight, at the beginning of the 2012 Christmas celebration.

Yet, over two thousand years ago, another invitation was issued by an angelic choir in the skies over Bethlehem. An invitation first given to shepherds who received the Good News of Jesus.

God’s invitation, brought by His Son, who guarantees a place at God’s table. A table in an eternal home, with a forever family where mercy and grace and a loving relationship wait to be lavished on any and all who will come to Jesus.

Have you accepted your invitation? It’s not lost in the mail, it’s in the Word and in your heart. He promised, there’s a seat at His table—just for you. Your name is engraved on the place card and the smiling face and loving arms of Jesus are stretched open to welcome you.

The date’s been set. The preparations are in order. Will you be there?

Award winning article in North Texas Christian Writers 2012 “Write Before Christmas” contest.

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