Sunday, December 30, 2007

Journal Entry #6

New Year’s Eve was always a night that my brothers and I would stay up late with our neighborhood friends and watch the dropping of the ball in Times Square as our parents were off partying. It was always a lot of fun to run up and down the street at midnight banging pots and pans in celebration. Most nights now though I am in bed early and I have seen my share of New Years come and go.

In Jewish culture Rosh Hashanah represents the Jewish New Year. It starts with the sounding of the shofar, the ram's horn, which represents the trumpet blast of a people's coronation of their king. With every new king there was a hope that he would be the promised messiah. The cry of the shofar is also a call to repentance; for Rosh Hashanah is also the anniversary of man's (Adam’s) first sin and his repentance. One of the customs of the Rosh Hashanah is to offer apples or bread dipped in honey as a symbol or wish for a sweet new year.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Journal Entry #5

My nephews from Utah are in Southern California spending time with their dad over Christmas. I have not seen the boys in quite a few years and they have grown up a lot since the last time I saw them. Tonight my mom and dad had the boys over to spend the night with them and I stopped by to hang out with them too. It was a great time reconnecting with family.

One of the Christmas gifts that my nephew Andy got was a Timex watch. My first watch was a Timex; I still have it somewhere in the house. My Timex required me to wind it daily to keep the proper time. I remember many times looking at my watch and realizing that it was no longer keeping time because it was in need of being wound. That watch never needed a battery though and it survived some real abuse. In the words of John Cameron Swayze, “It takes a licking but keeps on ticking.”

Journal Entry #4

Last night we lit some candles that we have in our fireplace to create a mood for the evening. Thankfully living in Southern California we do not have a need to use our fireplace very often, it rarely gets cold enough to light a fire for warmth. Thinking about candles and the light that come from them, it is also great that we do not have a dependency on them for our only source of light. But not that many years ago an open flame was the only source of light for the world.

We now have candles on our dinner table to create a nice relaxing mood for a meal. We have the candles in the fireplace that help settle us and add an atmosphere of warmth without actually adding heat. In our bathrooms we have fragrant candles for obvious reasons. And in our bedroom we have had candles to help build a romantic feel.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Journal Entry #3

Matthew 2:7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. [8] He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

[9] After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. [10] When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. [11] On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. [12] And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Yesterday was filled with gift giving and receiving. But as I was thinking about the gifts received and given, for what benefit did we go through this exercise? I remember desiring something so much and spending weeks asking my parents and Santa for this special gift. But once I received the gift it broke that very Christmas morning or it was less than I had expected. This happened on numerous occasions.

I have given gifts to friends and loved ones and seen their faces turn to disgust when the gift was opened, “What is this?”

Journal Entry #2

I love the birth story of Jesus. It is miraculous just as it is written. But sometimes we have added to the story and taken away from the mystery of the invasion of God to the world. The stories we have been told tell of Joseph franticly looking for the right place, an inn, for his wife to give birth to the Savior of the world.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Daily Journal

Starting today, and for the next two weeks, I will be posting a daily reading at Barclay Press. If you have time stop and give it a read.

First posting:

I woke up this morning and realized that tomorrow is Christmas. This is one of those years that Christmas morning will have a different feel. Hiding presents from treasure seeking children this year was not a challenge. No longer will we have our daughters up early to see what Santa brought them. No longer will my girls be running into our bedroom to jump on the bed demand that we all get up. This is our first year as empty nesters.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Advent Week 4: Joy

This Sunday we light the pink candle. This candle represents joy. Imagine the joy of becoming a mother. Sometimes pregnancy comes at the wrong time. The parents are ill equipped to face the responsibility. Some times it is a mistake that has brought this baby into existence. And on one particular time a mysterious pregnancy did happen that is not easily explained. It was not planned and it was not an accident.

Luke 1:26

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, [27] to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. [28] The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

[29] Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. [30] But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. [31] You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. [32] He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, [33] and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

[34] "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

[35] The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. [36] Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. [37] For nothing is impossible with God."

Eastern Orthodox tradition calls Mary, Theotokos, which simply means that Mary was a Godbearer. She literally brought God into the world through the birth of Jesus.

In this section of Luke, we read that the angel Gabriel, a messenger from God, has been sent to Mary. Mary is a teenager of maybe 14 or 15, and a virgin. Mary has integrity, she is uncompromised by the world. She hasn’t fallen into the worldly trappings and temptations.

Think about this: God has just asked a teenager to bring salvation into the world

One theologian said this:

Mary struck the angel Gabriel as hardly old enough to have a child at all, let alone this child, but he had been entrusted with a message to give her, and he gave it.

He told her what the child was to be named, and who he was to be, and something about the mystery that was to come upon her. “You mustn’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel said.

As Gabriel said it, he only hoped she wouldn’t notice that beneath the great, golden wings he himself was trembling with fear to think that the whole future of creation hung now on the answer of a girl.

Did you also notice that God did not force the situation? Mary had the opportunity to say no. Maybe Gabriel stopped at the homes of other girls before stopping at Mary’s. What sets Mary apart? She said Yes!

Verse [38] "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

All of us have the ability to be carriers of God. Although the coming of Jesus in a virgin’s womb is an unrepeatable mystery of God, God invites all of us to be Godbearers. Sometime in our life we need to make a decision to allow Jesus into our hearts. It is here that we can smuggle Jesus into the world through our own lives.

Mary led a great example of how to be a mother. Never do we read about her complaining. She accepted her lot on life. She allowed God to use her and she gave birth to the Savior of the world!

May you experience this Christmas the mystery and the joy of the birth of this precious baby boy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Consider this:

Currently we are all in the busyness of shopping and buying presents for Christmas. It is all about getting just the right gift for that special person in your life. Many of us have many special someones. What drives us? Why are we giving and getting? And what happens when it is all over? For some, we get so much that we forget. I have never not received presents at Christmas, so I do not know what that feels like. But I am sure that not getting makes us forget as well.

Consider the following:

Proverbs 30:7-9

"Two things I ask of you, LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, 'Who is the LORD?'
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

Remember why we celebrate

Friday, December 14, 2007

Advent Week 3: Love

in a young girl's song;

in a mother's song;

is god's song;
curious yet timid,
playful and wondering,
coming among us again.
we light a candle for love.

1 Corinthains 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. [5] It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. [6] Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. [7] It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

[8] Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. [9] For we know in part and we prophesy in part, [10] but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. [11] When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. [12] Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

[13] And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I have done countless weddings using this passage to describe to the bride and groom what love is. Some of the weddings I have done have been for non-Christians. This is open for debate and maybe one day I would to express my feelings on why pastors should welcome the opportunity to perform these services. Even at these weddings I have read from this passage. It is a very pretty passage and it fits nicely into any wedding.

But I wanted to focus on the last 7 words, “But the greatest of these is love.”

We live for a time of peace, comfort, joy, and hope. Do you realize that we cannot experience any of these things without love? If we are not loved can we know peace, comfort, joy, and hope? If we are not sharing love can we know peace, comfort, joy, and hope?

I was talked with a friend the other day about life, school, music, creation, and God. We pondered on the question, “Why did God create us?” One answer I have always heard was so that we can worship and honor Him. This is good, but is there more?

I feel that God created us to experience love, to be loved and to share love. We share that love with one another and we share that love with God (Matt 22:37). We are complete in love (1 John 4:12). Rather we are incomplete without love. When we are loving God, worshiping and honoring Him comes natural.

So what has caused this great separation from us and God? Maybe we have forgotten how to love Him (Rev 2:4). Consider the ultimate sacrifice that God made for us because He loves us. God’s love has never been far away and the chasm is not that deep, it just seems that way. He loves you! May you experience the gift of love this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jesus and Hanukkah

John 10:22-23 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade.

The Feast of Dedication that John mentions in his gospel is Hanukkah. This has always intrigued me. Did Jesus celebrate Hanukkah? Why is Hanukkah mentioned here?

Hanukkah’s history dates 160 years before Jesus’ birth. It was a time when the Jewish nation was being oppressed by a dominate Syrian or Greek rule. The king of the Syrians was a man named Antiochus IV. His desire was to convert the Jews into a Hellenistic society. This was first accomplished by introducing the Jews to education, the arts, sports and commerce. For some this was not an issue, in fact they embraced it. For most though, they felt this was a threat against their heritage. In response, Antiochus imposed a stricter rule: celebrating Sabbath and other festivals were outlawed. People could not perform circumcision on their male children, mothers were even killed for circumcising their baby boys. It was illegal to own a copy of the Torah, and many copies ended up being burned.

Antiochus also erected a statue of Zeus in the temple, surprisingly the image bore a striking resemblance to Antiochus. It was ordered that sacrifices would be done in the name of Zeus. Antiochus called himself Theus Epiphanies or god manifest, he considered himself god. Finally Antiochus had pigs sacrificed on the altar to the Lord.

Ultimately a revolt happened against Antiochus. A priest named Matthias had had enough, with his five sons, he started a rebellion against Antiochus. Matthias’ son, Judas Maccabee (the hammer) was able to drive Antiochus and his rule out of the temple and Jerusalem.

Following their victory, Maccabee and his allies visited the Holy Temple, only to find it severely damaged. Eventually, they cleaned and restored the temple, and, upon completion, decided that it should be re-dedicated and celebrated. Hanukkah means dedication. As part of the celebration, they relit the Menorah (candelabra) that was damaged and repaired after the fighting. Unable to find a supply of purified oil, their only source came in a small flask. It was determined that there was enough oil to keep the candle lit for just one day. It is recorded in the Talmud that miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, which gave them plenty of time to acquire purified oil to refill and keep the Menorah lit continuously.

The altar the pigs were sacrificed on had to be destroyed and a new altar erected in its place. But since the stones were holy they could not just be discarded. Outside the temple area, and under the Portico of Solomon the stones were piled up. It was hoped that when God sent a prophet he would tell the people what to do with the stones (1 Maccabees 4:47).

Once the Temple was 'rededicated, they proceeded to observe the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles, three months late, because they were unable to do so under the rule of Antiochus. Judas Maccabee set aside these eight days as the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) as a remembrance of the successful revolt over Antiochus .

Hanukkah is a national holiday, like our revolutionary war victory celebration on the Fourth of July, or like Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Presidents’ Day, Thanksgiving, Flag Day, Columbus Day, Labor Day. It would have been a day filled with parades, maybe even a hot air balloon of Under Dog. Like the Feast of the Tabernacles, the people would be waving palm branches and shouting praises to God (Hallel, Psalms 113-118) as they circled the sanctuary. This is the setting of John 10:22.

John 10:22-24 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

We do not know if it was evening or midday when Jesus was confronted by the Jews. We do not know exactly who “the Jews” were. They could have been average citizens or any of the religious leaders. But it is evident that they have heard the rumors that Jesus is being called the Messiah. How does Jesus respond?

John 10:25-29 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.”

Jesus is telling the Jews that His miracles should be evidence enough. But for me I think the Jews were hoping for more. They are asking Jesus this question at the time of the Feast of Dedication. They are hoping that the long awaited Messiah will be like their hero Judas Maccabee. Instead Jesus speaks of sheep. Sheep are tame creatures that would not be able to revolt against the current Roman rule. But Jesus didn’t stop there!

John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”

I think nothing is more plain that this statement. But to the Jews hearing Jesus say this is blasphemy. And speaking in a such a manner deserves death.

John 10:31-33 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"

"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

This is the second time stones have been picked up to be thrown at Jesus (John 8:59) for blasphemy. But where did these stones come from? Remember the altar that was torn down because a pig was sacrificed on it? Could these be the very stones?

Is Jesus similar to Judas Maccabee? This was a time for a revolution, but it wasn’t against the Roman rulers. It was time for a change in the religious system of the time. Were the religious leaders looking for someone to start this revolution or one to keep their religion the way it always has been done? Here was an opportunity to get closer to God, but for some it was missed. Are we any different?

May the eternal light of Jesus shine through this holiday season. May you experience God through His gift to us: Jesus.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Advent: Week 2

Peace Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is offence, pardon,
Where there is discord, unity,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is error, truth,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is sadness, joy,
Where there is darkness, light.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

St. Francis of Assisi

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 11:6-9

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

The second candle represents peace. What images come to mind when you consider the meaning of peace? The definition of peace is an absence of war, conflict or strife. But how does the world define peace?

For many, peace is accomplished when we are smarter, more beautiful, rich, famous, strongest, the hero, have the biggest or the best. But aren’t these things enemies of peace? Striving for these things only brings worry, guilt, fear, jealousy, anger and chaos to our lives. We live as self survivalists. People are willing to hurt, injure or kill at any cost to get its way.

In Isaiah 11 we see that the peace that God offers us will change nature. We see all of creation living together in harmony. This peace goes beyond God just caring for mankind; He gives peace to His creation. We lose our dependency on ourselves and become dependant on God. Consider the Sabbath, where does our daily bread come from? God provides enough.

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. Though it is also generally translated as a single word like peace, rest, favor, safe, health, welfare and prosperity, it has, as the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states, "a basic meaning of totality or completeness including fulfillment, maturity, soundness, and wholeness."

Generally, peace in the Old Testament is the state that occurs when conflicts are resolved. In the New Testament peace is more an inner quality of those having been blessed through reconciliation with God, knowing His purpose and trusting in His authority over the affairs of mankind and their lives.

May you experience shalom, peace this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


One way that many have prepared for Christmas is through Advent. The four weeks leading up to Christmas is called Advent. Advent means coming or arrival. Jesus’ coming to earth was a history changing and life changing event for people of that day, 2000 years ago. It is still just as significant for our culture today, and we continue to today to be prepared for the day when Jesus comes again.

Advent is filled with symbolism too. The wreath is a circle that has no end and symbolizes the eternity and Jesus’ reign for all eternity as our Lord and Savior. It is also a reminder that God has always been, He is called the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Rev. 22:13). The wreath is green which represents life, and the new life we have in our relationship with Jesus.

Let’s look at the light that comes from the candle. Jesus is the light of the world (John 1:9). Jesus came into a world filled with sin and darkness. And as Christians, followers of Jesus we are to carry that light for others to see. We are not to hide our light. (Matthew 5:14) Each week as we light a candle we move that much closer to the coming of Jesus.

Notice there are four candles on the outside ring of the wreath. These represent the 4 centuries of waiting between Malachi and the birth of Jesus. They also represent four emotional responses that come from our relationship with Jesus: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

Three of the candles are purple and they are lit first, one week at a time. Purple represents repentance, purple also represents royalty. Jesus came from the line of King David. We are adopted into that royal family.

The fourth candle, the pink or rose colored one represents joy. It also represents Mary who carried Jesus in her womb. Mary was highly favored by God. Imagine the risk, imagine the ridicule that Mary faced by having to explain to her future husband that she was pregnant with the Son of God. Imagine the joy that a mother experiences waiting for the arrival of her baby.

The white candle, the one in the middle represents Jesus. It is white because it represents the purity of Jesus, who was sinless. This candle is lit on Christmas Eve to represent that Jesus has come. He is Emmanuel, God with us.

Week 1: Hope

Jeremiah 33:14-16
‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.

‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land.

In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.’

In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, God’s people had forgotten about Him and were facing their destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. But God had not forgotten them. Despite their disobedience and unbelief, God declared that He would still keep His part of the promise and send a Savior. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was the beginning of the fulfillment of this promise, and the death and resurrection of Jesus was the complete fulfillment of our salvation.

Read Luke 21:25-36

From the early days of the church, Christians believed that the same Jesus whom they had come to deeply know and love, would come again at the end of the world.

At first, like St Luke in today’s Gospel reading, they expected the end to happen in their generation. Slowly they had to adjust to the fact that God was not in such a hurry. Yet they never wavered from the belief that at the end, one day, Jesus would come again in the cloud (shekinah) of God’s glory. It was a theme repeated with sparkling eyes. Good news: The Gospel.

The Final Coming of Christ Jesus is first a message of hope and joy. It is always Gospel, good news, something to get excited about.

Let’s pray from the Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness,
and put on the armor of light,
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;
that in the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge both the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Two Amazing Videos!

This first video is the lost pilot episode for the TV show 24. It was made in 1994, Pay attention to all the old technology. It is really funny! How far we have gone.

This next video is of a favorite TV show of mine, American Gladiators! Guess what? It is coming back! I cannot wait!