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Day Two: The Gift of Vision

 

The Gift of Vision

“Write the vision and make it plain on tablets; that he may run who reads it.” Habakkuk 2:2 (NKJV)

Another translation of this verse says it this way: “Write my answer on a billboard, large and clear, so that anyone can read it at a glance and rush to tell the others.”(The Message)

This verse makes it very plain that God has a vision, not just for the Body of Christ, but also for you and me.  If this verse is not proof enough to persuade you, here’s another one that is more specific in meaning: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11) If there has ever been any doubt in your mind as to whether or not God has a plan for your life, you can banish that doubt now.

God gave Mary a vision – she was to be the mother of the Savior of the world. Put yourself in her place. Just imagine how she felt. Awestruck? Afraid? Nervous?  Can you see this young teenager in your mind? What would you do if an angel of the Lord appeared before you to give you God’s vision and plans for you? Would you agree? Or would you look around the room to see who the angel was speaking to because, surely, it’s not you. But it is you. You are the only one in the room. He loves you enough to want only the best for you.

 When Mary questioned the angel who brought the news, she was not doubting—just curious. “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34). The angel explained to Mary that it would be by the Holy Spirit and went on to say, “For with God, nothing is impossible.” (vs. 37). Mary accepted God’s vision for herself: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be done unto me according to your word.” (vs. 38) She never doubted, never questioned whether or not the angel had visited the right person. She believed and moved forward in the vision.

God gave Jesus a vision. He was to be the Savior of the world. He was to live on earth as God-made-man for 33 years, die on a cross for the sins of the world and rise again in three days. Jesus didn’t balk, protest or do anything that would have indicated a lack of obedience. He went willingly into cities and countries preaching the gospel of Christ. He went willingly to Gethsemane. He went willingly to Golgotha and He went willingly to the grave. But God’s vision for Jesus did not end at the grave. Three days later, the vision continued as Jesus rose from the grave, triumphing over death, and the vision was completed as Jesus ascended into heaven.

God has a vision for YOU.  If He has shown you that vision, be obedient and walk in it. If He has not shown you the plans He has for you, ask Him to share it with you. In His time, He will show you His vision and it will be better than anything you could ever ask for or think.

 

Abba Father, thank You for the vision – the plan – that You had for Mary and for Jesus. Thank You for the vision You have for each one of us. I pray that You will give us courage and help us to walk boldly in that vision with confidence in You and Your plan for our lives. Amen!

 

 

 

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Annnndd They’re Off!!

The race has begun! Actually it started earlier this year than ever. One retail store, no name mentioned, but it starts with a ‘K’ and ends with ‘mart,’ aired Christmas ads before Halloween. They were urging parents to lay-away every toy their little darlings’ hearts’ desired.

Last week, the week before Thanksgiving, was quickly named “Pre-Black Friday Week.” And of course, last Friday, the 22nd, was “Pre-Black Friday.” This week the hype has built–“Black Friday Week,” and major retailers announced they would have  “Pre-Black Friday” sales by opening Thanksgiving night–Thanksgiving night!! at 8:00 PM. How kind of them to allow their employees time to have dinner with their families. Most stores closed at 11:00 PM only to reopen at midnight, or maybe 4 or 5:00 AM.Then there is that major retailer, whose name I won’t mention, but it starts with a ‘K,’ ends with ‘mart’ and is mentioned in the first paragraph of this rant, er, post, who opened at 6:00 AM on Thanksgiving morning.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good sale. Almost everything I buy is on sale. If it’s not on sale, I don’t buy it. Once, I waited almost a full year to buy a sweater vest that I had seen in a catalog.As soon as the catalog arrived I would rip through the pages to see if the vest had gone on sale. So I’m all about the sale.

I’ve done my share of shopping before the rooster gets up. This was when the day was known as the”Day After Thanksgiving.” On several occasions my daughter and I have been in line when stores opened at 5:00 AM or 4:00 AM to get those bargains. One year, we flew to New York City the day after Thanksgiving just to shop. (She works for an airline, so it didn’t take all my Christmas money just to get there and back.) That day was quite an adventure and loads of fun! The straw that broke that poor camel’s back, was the year I went by myself to the major retail store that begins with a ‘W,’ ends with ‘mart,’ but is in no way related to the other retail store that ends with ‘mart.’   My first mistake was not realizing that this particular store had opened at midnight , so when I arrived at 5:45 am for the doors to open at 6:00 am, the doors were already open.  My second mistake was getting out of my car and going into the store. Never in my life have I seen such a sight and I hope I never see such a sight ever again. Hundreds of people moving like a herd of turtles from one spot to another only inches away. If a person had a shopping cart, they weren’t moving at all thanks to those people who had abandoned their shopping cart in the hope of moving a little faster. And for what? That toy their precious little one absolutely must have or else? The 66″ screen TV that they can’t live without? I made it into the store to about the second aisle, decided that nothing was worth fighting this crowd (where was the Fire Marshall?), and 20 minutes later, made it back outside. Never. Again.

I can hear you now. Why the rant, er, post? Because the commercialization of Christmas begins earlier every year, and every year there is less ‘Christ’ in Christmas. And He is, after all, the reason for the season.

 

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Different Celebrations for Thanksgiving Day

Unless you live on a deserted island in the middle of no where, you know that today is Thanksgiving Day. A national holiday set aside to give thanks for all of the blessings given to us this past year, and even previous years. But who do we, as a nation of many different nationalities, different religions, different beliefs, give thanks to? As Christians, we acknowledge that the only true God is the one who gives all things. As the Doxology, which many of us sing every Sunday, says, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” (emphasis mine), we know that everything on this earth is created by Him and belongs to Him.

In researching for this blog, I found that most American Jews do celebrate Thanksgiving. But they give thanks every day. Every single day the first thing the Jewish people say upon awakening are “I give thanks before you, eternal King, for having restored to me my soul.” Every single day there are one hundred blessings they recite, one hundred times to say thank you. One hundred times they emphasize not what they are missing but are grateful for what they have. Imagine…what if we adopted their “thankfulness policy?” How different would our lives be if we made a point to give thanks and praise to God 100 times a day–every day? Selah.

There is great debate among Muslims as to whether or not American Muslims are allowed to celebrate Thanksgiving. The saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” is most applicable here. American Muslims observe Thanksgiving Day as a time to get together with friends and family, share a meal and have fun. There are a number of restrictions to their celebration , foremost being they must acknowledge and give thanks to their god, Allah.

Wherever you are and however you celebrate, my prayer for you is that you will be with friends and family, that you will enjoy a delicious meal of your family’s traditions, whether it’s turkey and all the trimmings, or an Italian feast, and that you will, indeed, give thanks!

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? Does your family have traditions surrounding the holiday? Feel free to share below!

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“What If?”

I am pleased to have as my guest today, Bishop David Epps, pastor of Christ the King Charismatic Episcopal Church. 

 

A few days ago, a gentleman who is a leader in our church, Richard Thompson, came to the church office.

He dropped off something for someone in our congregation and then, after some conversation, he shared that he had seen an interesting question on a sign somewhere.

The question was: “What if, when you woke up tomorrow, the only things you had in your life were those things for which you gave thanks on the previous day?”

I have to confess, it was a question that caught me off guard and led to some serious pondering.

As I thought back over the previous day, which happened to be my day off, I couldn’t remember giving thanks for very much. It wasn’t that I am not grateful or unthankful … I guess that I simply take things for granted.

Here’s a short list of what I did NOT give thanks for on the previous day: my home, my job, my family, my freedom, my country, my health, my friends, or my vehicles which are in fine operating condition.

Likewise, I didn’t give thanks for my eyesight, my hearing, my ability to speak, or to think, or to reason.

I didn’t give thanks for the ability to feel deeply, or to care, or to love. Sadly, I realized that I didn’t give thanks for the food I ate, or the air I breathed, or the water I drank.

Neither did I give thanks for the forgiveness I have received, the mercy I have experienced, or the grace that has been extended to me. I didn’t give thanks for the memories I have of, and that I made with, my grandparents, or my dad and my mom.

I didn’t give thanks for the teachers that taught me, the men that coached me, the drill instructors that molded me, the preachers that helped to raise me, or even the people around me that add so much to my existence. I didn’t give thanks for my friends, my co-workers, my colleagues, and others with whom I share life.

The longer I pondered, the longer the list grew. It’s not that I am not thankful — it’s that I am neglectful. On that previous day, I neglected to be thankful for, well, for anything.

“What if, when you woke up tomorrow, the only things you had in your life were those things for which you gave thanks on the previous day?”

If that had occurred, I would have had … almost nothing.

I certainly can’t blame anyone for my neglect. Not my parents, not an entitlement society, and certainly not my raising. I know to be thankful. But I wasn’t. Not on that previous day and, I fear, not on many other days in my life.

It’s like the question was a traffic sign to me on the road of life. Some signs, if ignored, can lead to heartache and ruin. I have run a few stop signs and red lights in my life and, for the most part, I have been lucky. The signs are there for a reason.

“What if, when you woke up tomorrow, the only things you had in your life were those things for which you gave thanks on the previous day?”

I made a list of those things for which I did not give thanks. That same list has become my list from which I can now faithfully give thanks so that all of the “todays” and all of the “tomorrows” will be better.

Whatever kind of day this day will be, it is still a good day to give thanks.

 

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]

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Book Review: Catching Serenity

Author, JoAnn Durgin, has another best seller in her latest book, “Catching Serenity.” Striking a perfect balance between intrigue and romance, the story immediately captivates the readers’ attention with a cryptic note sent to the heroine, Serenity, by person or persons unknown. With every chapter, the reader is drawn more into the characters’ lives and the mystery that surrounds them. We are not only attracted to the characters because of the mysterious plot, but also because of their attributes.  A heroine who is strong, yet vulnerable, a mother who will sacrifice everything for her family, a stoic father,  and a hero, Jackson, who is protective and loyal, are the characters you will love long before the story’s end.

As the mystery builds, so does the romance. This part of the balance is written so well that one’s heart dips and soars along with Serenity’s. The reader experiences the love that Jackson has for Serenity, and as their relationship falters, one may even get a little teary-eyed. 

The lives of the hero and heroine are also used to point the reader to God’s unconditional love for each of us, his forgiveness, mercy and grace.  

If you love to read Christian romance, you will love this book! 

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All Saints Day

Today (November 1) is All Saints Day. All Saints Day is the day that we remember and honor our family members and friends who have passed from this life on earth to their eternal home in heaven. Many churches take the first Sunday after All Saints Day to celebrate that day by recognizing their members who have passed and then allowing the congregation to recognize their family members and friends who have passed by calling their name out loud, or perhaps lighting a candle for them. That Sunday in the church calendar year was not one of my favorites. It is a somber, solemn ceremony as names are called, candles are lit and tears flow. In years past, I’ve called out my grandparents, Bernard and Jessie Evans, Nelson and Velma Thompson, aunts and uncles – Ellis and Grace McMichael, Eugene and Nellie Evans, Buddy and Lillie Mae Lands, J. W. Jackson. And my dear cousins, James McMichael, Doug Jackson, and most recent, Tony Reavis.

This year is different. Even though I love all those relatives I listed above, this year I remember my mother. Hazel Thompson Evans. She has been gone just over two months and I miss her more than I ever thought I would. The pain is still great, the grief still runs deep into my soul, my heart is still shattered and a piece of me–that is irreplaceable–is gone. I am grateful that she is no longer in pain and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I will see her again someday in Heaven. But oh, what I would give to have another day, even just an hour, with her.

Mother, you have no idea how much you are missed. I love you.

Mom at Christmas, 2009
Mom at Christmas, 2009