Tag Archive | A Christmas Story

The Path of The Polar Express

I love Christmastime! There is so much to enjoy — time with family and friends, the music of the season, the decorations and lights, wonderful food, nice presents, and…

Christmas movies.

KS12503From wonderful, timeless classics like A Christmas Carol (Alastair Sim), White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, and It’s A Wonderful Life, to animated favorites like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, these Christmas movies bring back memories of long-ago, transporting us to other places and innocent times. Add to these more recent films such as The Santa Clause series, A Christmas Story, and Elf, and you’ll either be crying tears of nostalgia or laughing tears of joy.

One such movie that came out in 2004 was The Polar Express, based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg. It is the story of a boy who, on the verge of not believing in Santa Claus anymore, takes a ride on the magical Polar Express, and visits the North Pole one Christmas Eve. What starts out with a boy who no longer believes — and actually hesitates to even get on the train in the first place — ends with a fantastical trip to Santa’s workshop, and the great Christmas Eve sendoff, where he is personally given a gift by Santa. No longer in doubt, the boy becomes a “true believer” in Santa.

As the train returns him to his home, and he says goodbye to his new friends, the Conductor turns and says these words to the young boy:

One thing about trains… It doesn’t matter where they’re going.
What matters is deciding to get on.

Holly and snowAs I have often alluded to in my blog, truth comes from odd sources with unlikely messengers. This time of year, that very truth is more obvious than ever, starting over 2,000 years ago with a group of shepherds as the unlikeliest of messengers — sharing the news that the angels proclaimed, and the witness of what they had seen with their own eyes.

Making the decision to relinquish the “engine” of your life to Jesus is full of uncertainty. Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we are immune to the bad stuff that life throws at us. I have presided over more funerals than I can count — people who have been the victims of, not just old age, but cancer, heart attacks, car accidents, bullet wounds, and drug overdoses. When we sign up for the Spirit-led life, we would do well to remember the words of Jesus…

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ~ John 3:8

The Spirit-led life is full of uncertainty. There is no guarantee of good health, unshakable happiness, financial prosperity, or immunity from any other disaster.

That is, unless you are looking “beyond the veil”… beyond the borders of our finite minds and the constraints of time itself.

Here is what surrendering to the will of Jesus, and living a life controlled by His Spirit does guarantee, however…

Eternal life. Surrendering to Jesus, and accepting His finished work on the cross (salvation) guarantees your place in Heaven. (John 3:16)

Peace. Relying on Him as your sufficiency and source is the gateway of the path to peace. Peace with God means that, regardless of what shaky ground we are standing on in this world, our position with Him is never in doubt.

Hope. We hear a lot about hope, but all this world can offer (at best) is a cheap imitation. REAL hope begins and ends with a right relationship with God, and has eternal ramifications… beyond world peace, job security, climate change, and health and wellness. (Hebrews 6:19)

Joy. Not the same thing as happiness, real joy comes from knowing Christ. The very thought of His abiding presence, and the hope that He gives us invokes a joy that the world has no influence or control over. Joy in spite of circumstances. Joy in spite of pain. Joy in spite of sorrow.

These things await the life that is surrendered to Christ.

Can I explain it all to you? No.

That is what living the life of faith is about. After all, if I, or anyone else, could explain it, where would faith come into the equation? One thing I can guarantee you, however, is that there is no peace, no hope, and no joy that can compare to the love and life that Jesus offers.

So this Christmas, if you would like to surrender your life to Christ for the first time, I invite you to pray this prayer…

Dear Lord Jesus,

Please come into my heart, forgive me of my sin, and save me.

Wash me and cleanse me. Set me free. Jesus, thank You that You died for me. I believe that You are risen from the dead and that You’re coming back again for me. Fill me with the Holy Spirit. Give me a passion for the lost, a hunger for the things of God and a holy boldness to share Your love with others.

I’m saved, I’m born again, I’m forgiven and I’m on my way to Heaven because I have Jesus in my heart.

If you prayed that prayer, leave me a note below, and share your decision with me so that I can rejoice with you.

If you wanted to pray that prayer, but still have questions, or if you are already a Christian and need to walk deeper with God, just remember: It doesn’t matter where you think the journey will take you… only God knows the answer to that.

What matters is taking the first step of faith, “getting on the train”, and deciding to start the journey with Him.

Merry Christmas,
Pastor Ron

There Was A Time When…

red ryderEvery Christmas season, Americans have countless opportunities to view the holiday classic, A Christmas Story. Who can forget the adventures of Ralphie, his family and friends, and his trusty “official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle“. Many of Ralphie’s experiences ring true, for those of us who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s (and even the 70’s). The sights and sounds, the camaraderie of friends relegated to playing in the great outdoors… who would be best friends one day, fighting the next, and back to “buddydom” the very next day. Many of us can relate to having friends like Flick or Schwartz…

And many can relate to having a Scut Farkus in our lives as well.

In Ralphie’s life, Scut Farkus (and his “little toadie” Grover Dill) were the community bullies, bullying Ralphie and his friends until one day Ralphie had had enough, and in a moment of pure rage, turns the tables on the bullying Farkus. From that point on, Scut and Dill never pick on Ralphie or his friends again, proving the belief that, for most bullies, all they need to back down is for someone to stand up to them.

While I don’t condone senseless violence, watching that movie reminds me that there was a time when friends stood up for friends, when right and wrong were simple choices, and the world (much like the television of the 60’s) was black-and-white.

I remember that there was a time when…

  • A person’s first reaction to seeing another person in distress was the lend a helping hand. It is maddening these days to see videos posted online and on the news of an individual being taunted, bullied, picked on, or beaten down with no one coming to that person’s aid, but to look and see a dozen people standing by — all with cell phones — videotaping the altercation. Romans 14:7 reminds us that “none of us lives to himself“. In his classic, My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote…

If you allow physical selfishness, mental carelessness, moral insensitivity, or spiritual weakness, everyone in contact with you will suffer.

And friend, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our culture is suffering.

  • Freedom of speech, good or bad, was a basic right. Freedom of speech is a double-edged sword. The same right that allows a Christian to unashamedly share the love of Jesus also allows people to espouse some pretty offensive things — words of hate, negativity, profanity, etc. It is a simple right, guaranteed by our Constitution. Yet recently, the story came out that a university police department is encouraging students to turn people in for “hateful and/or hurtful speech”. One problem (of many) with such a rule is this: Who defines what constitutes “hateful or hurtful” speech? To a non-believer, the idea that they face an eternity in Hell, devoid of the presence of God might be considered “hurtful speech”. Sometimes the truth — regarding things of faith or not — hurts. The Bible says that, to someone who lives a life of spiritual disobedience, Jesus is considered “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (see 1 Peter 2:1-8). Does a person’s right — under any circumstances — to not having their feelings hurt trump another person’s right to free speech, guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution? Whether we like it or not, starting down that path is a slippery slope to totalitarianism.
  • Police officers were respected in our communities, and supported by our leaders. Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in violence against police as a result of misleading stories and irresponsible reporting in the media, and lack of support of leadership in government. When criminals are afforded the assumption of “innocent until proven guilty” but police are not, we are on a dangerous path to societal rebellion and anarchy. When police have to go into hiding simply because they either did their job or protected themselves (or both), we are in danger of becoming a completely lawless society. In Romans 13:2-3, Paul writes…

Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.

  • IMG_1905Men were men, women were women, and society knew the difference. The LGBT agenda has
    permeated every facet of our society. From local gyms where “transgender” individuals are allowed in opposite-sex dressing rooms (and those who object have their memberships revoked), to school systems where “transgender” students are (considered) being allowed into opposite-sex locker rooms… the lines of decency and propriety are rapidly disappearing…When a young girl is subjected to awkwardness and embarrassment in a locker room because a boy is in there who claims to “identify” as a female;

    When a national magazine selects a man who dresses up like a woman to be their “Woman of the Year”;

    When a group of black-robed justices defy the God-ordained institution of marriage —

    Such things bring to mind the warning of the prophet Isaiah…

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! ~ Isaiah 5:20

  • The world knew we were Christians by our love. While it is vitally important to stand for what is right, we as Christians have become known more for what we are against than what we are for. Oftentimes, instead of focusing on the Great Commission, we brow-beat a secular world over things that amount to no more than a diversion they don’t understand. We are inconsistent in our priorities, which sends a confusing signal to a culture watching us through a “microscope lens”. Consistency in the message of Christ matters, otherwise we seem disingenuous at best. For instance, IF I am going to boycott a secular organization, it should probably be less over the color of their “holiday” cups and more over their support of abortion groups like Planned Parenthood.

CoffeeWith all of the mayhem that is going on in the world, we are seeing an unprecedented assault on Christians in our lifetime. Things may never return to “the good old days”, but there is definitely room and opportunity for improvement. Regardless of how we are accepted in today’s society, one thing is certain: We won’t change the minds of people in our culture until God changes their hearts, and what God will use to change their hearts is a Body of Christ that operates in righteousness, walks in unity, and talks in truth and love.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. ~ 1 Peter 3:15

Love is the language that all people understand, because love is the language of God. He IS love, and as creatures created in His image, love is our native language. For some, it may be deep and buried, but it is there…

And it is our responsibility and opportunity to try to find it.

On the Path of The Polar Express

I love Christmastime! There is so much to enjoy — time with family and friends, the music of the season, the decorations and lights, wonderful food, nice presents, and…

Christmas movies.

KS12503From wonderful, timeless classics like A Christmas Carol (Alastair Sim), White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, and It’s A Wonderful Life, to animated favorites like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, these Christmas movies bring back memories of long-ago, transporting us to other places and innocent times. Add to these more recent films such as The Santa Clause series, A Christmas Story, and Elf, and you’ll either be crying tears of nostalgia or laughing tears of joy.

One such movie that came out in 2004 was The Polar Express, based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg. It is the story of a boy who, on the verge of not believing in Santa Claus anymore, takes a ride on the magical Polar Express, and visits the North Pole one Christmas Eve. What starts out with a boy who no longer believes — and actually hesitates to even get on the train in the first place — ends with a fantastical trip to Santa’s workshop, and the great Christmas Eve sendoff, where he is personally given a gift by Santa. No longer in doubt, the boy becomes a “true believer” in Santa.

As the train returns him to his home, and he says goodbye to his new friends, the Conductor turns and says these words to the young boy:

One thing about trains… It doesn’t matter where they’re going.
What matters is deciding to get on.

Holly and snowAs I have often alluded to in my blog, truth comes from odd sources with unlikely messengers. This time of year, that very truth is more obvious than ever, starting over 2,000 years ago with a group of shepherds as the unlikeliest of messengers — sharing the news that the angels proclaimed, and the witness of what they had seen with their own eyes.

Making the decision to relinquish the “engine” of your life to Jesus is full of uncertainty. Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we are immune to the bad stuff that life throws at us. I have presided over more funerals than I can count — people who have been the victims of, not just old age, but cancer, heart attacks, car accidents, bullet wounds, and drug overdoses. When we sign up for the Spirit-led life, we would do well to remember the words of Jesus…

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ~ John 3:8

The Spirit-led life is full of uncertainty. There is no guarantee of good health, unshakable happiness, financial prosperity, or immunity from any other disaster.

That is, unless you are looking “beyond the veil”… beyond the borders of our finite minds and the constraints of time itself.

Here is what surrendering to the will of Jesus, and living a life controlled by His Spirit does guarantee, however…

Eternal life. Surrendering to Jesus, and accepting His finished work on the cross (salvation) guarantees your place in Heaven. (John 3:16)

Peace. Relying on Him as your sufficiency and source is the gateway of the path to peace. Peace with God means that, regardless of what shaky ground we are standing on in this world, our position with Him is never in doubt.

Hope. We hear a lot about hope, but all this world can offer (at best) is a cheap imitation. REAL hope begins and ends with a right relationship with God, and has eternal ramifications… beyond world peace, job security, climate change, and health and wellness. (Hebrews 6:19)

Joy. Not the same thing as happiness, real joy comes from knowing Christ. The very thought of His abiding presence, and the hope that He gives us invokes a joy that the world has no influence or control over. Joy in spite of circumstances. Joy in spite of pain. Joy in spite of sorrow.

These things await the life that is surrendered to Christ.

Can I explain it all to you? No.

That is what living the life of faith is about. After all, if I, or anyone else, could explain it, where would faith come into the equation? One thing I can guarantee you, however, is that there is no peace, no hope, and no joy that can compare to the love and life that Jesus offers.

So this Christmas, if you would like to surrender your life to Christ for the first time, I invite you to pray this prayer…

Dear Lord Jesus,

Please come into my heart, forgive me of my sin, and save me.

Wash me and cleanse me. Set me free. Jesus, thank You that You died for me. I believe that You are risen from the dead and that You’re coming back again for me. Fill me with the Holy Spirit. Give me a passion for the lost, a hunger for the things of God and a holy boldness to share Your love with others.

I’m saved, I’m born again, I’m forgiven and I’m on my way to Heaven because I have Jesus in my heart.

If you prayed that prayer, leave me a note below, and share your decision with me so that I can rejoice with you.

If you wanted to pray that prayer, but still have questions, or if you are already a Christian and need to walk deeper with God, just remember: It doesn’t matter where you think the journey will take you… only God knows the answer to that.

What matters is taking the first step of faith, “getting on the train”, and deciding to start the journey with Him.

Merry Christmas,
Pastor Ron

Honoring Mom

Mom.

We all have one. Your mother might be the “All-American Mom”, resembling June Cleaver, Clair Huxtable, or Carol Brady. She might be the epitome of grace, virtue, wisdom, and beauty. She might be the picture of grace under pressure who, in the face of difficulty, eschews panic…  instead opting for words of wisdom:

“Six kids and no noise. THAT’S what’™s the matter with that… I’ve never heard such a loud silence.” ~ Carol Brady… The Brady Bunch

“And THAT, young man, is what marriage is made of: it is give-and-take… fifty-fifty. And if you don’t get it together, and drop these macho attitudes, you are never gonna have anybody bringing you anything anywhere any place any time EVER.” ~ Claire Huxtable… The Cosby Show

“Wally, you never use not and hardly together. Either you’re not doing anything, or you’re hardly doing anything.” ~ June Cleaver… Leave It To Beaver

“You’ll shoot your eye out.” ~ Mrs. Parker… A Christmas Story

Or…

You may have a mom rooted in the reality of family life, grounded in the grit of the “daily grind” of a job outside the home, and content to trade in the “SuperMom” spandex and super-hero gadgetry for a juice-stained blouse, a minivan, and a Cuisinart… answering to the titles “medic”, “cook”, “cleaner”, “banker”,  “enforcer”, and “sage”.

Whatever side of the spectrum your mom falls on, she is – first and foremost – your mom. You love her, admire her, respect her, and cherish her…

Or, at least you should.

Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” ~ Ephesians 6:2-3

“The first commandment with a promise”. Wow! God places such a high value on the position of parents that the commandment to honor them is the first one tied to a promise. Even though the idea of giving mom a special day is a comparatively new idea (May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day), the Bible places value on honoring mom as far back as the time of Moses. Exodus 20:12 says…

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

While I know that not everyone has the blessing of being raised by loving, Godly parents, I am thankful for mine. I was raised by Gladys. She was a no-foolishness kind of woman. She commanded respect, demanded obedience, and did it all with a firm hand and a loving heart. Regardless of where we were on any given day, come Sunday, we were in church. Even during a time that my father was far from God, drowning in the “black sea of alcoholism”, my mom was the rock. She determined that ours would be a Christian home, held my siblings and I to obedience to Him, and “did without” personally so that we would have what we needed. Because of her prayers and example, my father forsook alcohol, embraced the Cross of Jesus, and finished his life strong as a servant of God. And although Gladys is no longer with us, we are blessed to still have Pauline, my wife’s wonderful mother, with us. Having both been raised by Godly mothers has contributed deeply into making us the people we are today.

Ron & Paulette2This Sunday, May 12, 2013, is Mother’s Day. What can you do to show honor to your mother? What way can you say “thank you” to your mother, and let her know that you value the life, love, and sacrifice she has shown you over the years?

Be creative. I hope that you can express yourself in a way commensurate with the promises God has made to you for your obedience to Him… and your mom.

So, to my wonderful wife Paulette – the mother of three of the best kids in the world – and all of the other hard-working moms reading this… May you have a blessed and happy Mother’s Day!

Pastor Ron