A Christmas message from Dr. Gregory Alan Thornbury
Around this time every year for the past few years, Bill O?Reilly from Fox News and other self-appointed "culture warriors" revisit their protests against the removal of nativity scenes and other religious displays from public places. O?Reilly and his staff scour the country for instances of businesses and other government institutions who attempt to replace "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays." It has become a regrettable casualty of the culture wars that some Christians have convinced themselves that it's somehow an act of service to the public good to bark back "MERRY CHRISTMAS!" every time a check out clerk, under orders, quietly says "Happy Holidays."
To be sure, there is plenty of fodder for such discontent – even despite the fact that the protests start sounding shrill and annoying. In recent years, some locations for the Albertson?s and Safeway grocery store chains have radically reduced the amount of time charities can solicit their customers in the month of December. A few years ago, Target brought an end at their locations to the Salvation Army?s bell ringers, many of whom volunteer their time to help raise money for the poor, homeless, and needy in the community.
We do, of course, have to keep in mind that not everybody is celebrating Christmas at this time of year. Muslims observe Ramadan and Jewish people have Chanukah. And we do have to be careful about the history of Christmas, especially here in America. As John Updike reminded us, "Like almost everything in America but the landscape and the Native Americans, the holiday was imported. The New England Puritans and the Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam had little use for it, as a pagan and then papist intrusion in the Christian calendar." As Updike explains, it wasn't until the Episcopal priest Clement Clark Moore published the poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" in 1823 that the whole Santa Claus mythology began to gain popularity with its attending traditions of trees, presents, mistletoe, and 'Ho Ho Ho' – combined with a remembrance of Christ's birth, of course.
Still, there is something deeply troubling about a culture that cannot remember what Christmas is supposed to be originally about. "Let?s Put Christ Back Into Christmas" may be a cliché, but it does the job. However, if you're going to say it, be careful. The old Latin phrase caveat emptor -- buyer beware -- applies here. Because if you take the story of Jesus? birth seriously, it makes you think about some uncomfortable social problems that you might not ordinarily associate with Christmas.
Here's a partial list:
1. Jesus associated himself with outcasts, social misfits, and non-religious people.
This reality is seen right from the beginning of the Christ story, right there in the manger scene. Contrary to the message of "O Come, All Ye Faithful," it wasn?t good, God-fearing Jews who showed up to see the "newborn King" in Bethlehem. Shepherds were universally seen as a disreputable group of people, unfit for polite society. The respectable religious leaders of Jesus? time were nowhere to be found. Jesus would continue this trajectory later on when the Pharisees accused him of befriending tax collectors and sinners – people looked down upon by "holy" and "righteous" people.
2. Mary was an unwed teenage girl when she became pregnant.
It is very likely the case that the mother of Jesus would have been about fourteen years old when she was told that she would miraculously conceive and give birth to a son. As biblical scholar Verlyn Verbugge points out in his recent book A Not So Silent Night, Mary would probably have been cast out of her home for bringing dishonor to her family. Indeed, this is very likely the reason why Luke?s gospel says that Mary was forced to take refuge for three months in her cousin Elizabeth?s home. Recent statistics put the current American national illegitimacy rate at around 40%. In this Christmas season, who will tell an unwed mother that the nativity story is a message of hope for her too?
3. Jesus was born into an oppressed people group.
Casual readers of the Bible may not pick up on the fact that Jesus was not born in his own hometown. Joseph and Mary were forced to travel south to Bethlehem because they were part of an ethnic Jewish minority who were being unfairly and punitively taxed by a totalitarian Roman Empire. For the rest of his ministry, Jesus would identify with people who felt abandoned and left out by the governments and regimes of the ruling class. So what I am saying is that there is something in the history of Christmas for all of you Ron Paul types too.
If certain advertising agencies and retailers had their way, Christmastime would be seen as a season for little more than cozy evenings by the fire, curled up with a peppermint mocha and the Whos from Who-ville. But the message of the manger scene is a story for outsiders, misfits, and people who just don?t feel as though they have a home with their families, neighbors, country and maybe even churches. For all of these people, Jesus made room. And he called them his friends.
4. The strangest people show up to the Jesus party.
The run-of the-mill Nativity scene misleads the average viewer at a number of levels. For one thing, the idea that the birth took place in a wooden barn is probably misguided. It's more likely that the event happened in a cave, where the animals important to a family's or business's livelihood could be kept safe at night. And then there are the so called "Wise Men." That's a really an English euphemism we've invented to tidy up their reputation. The Greek word there is Magi. You guessed it, these were magicians from the Ancient Near East, probably Persia and Babylon – you know, the Hogwarts variety. These were men who studied the mysteries of nature and the dark arts. But the Star in the East convinced them that there was a greater magic still. And so there they are: Halloween figures on Christmas morn, and they're still in place right up to this very day in the nativity scene in your living room.
From the moment of his birth, Jesus called his people beyond stereotypes and fantasies, and into the world of stark reality, with all of its uncomfortable truths: poverty, political oppression, tension between worldviews, and even scandalous rumors about how it could be that One Child could bring all of these warring factions together.
Gregory Alan Thornbury, PhD, is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of the School of Theology at Union University in Tennessee.
ON THE THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF
LARRY NORMAN IN ANOTHER LAND
On The Third Anniversary of Larry Norman In Another Land
By Allen Flemming
When I was sitting with Larry in his final days three years ago, he often laughed in his sleep. As if he were taking little trips to heaven. Larry woke up smiling and I would continue reading the Bible or praying or recording his thoughts. Now as I am writing this the newest Norman: Blix Edward Hendrex Norman (Son of Charles and Kristen) is asleep in his carriage laughing in his sleep.
The Normans house in Salem Oregon is a lot different this year. Not only is Blix filling the house with joy and laughter but also the endless stacks of boxes full of Larry's belongings have been carted off to another location. Charles and Kristen have completely remodeled the entire house. They have done an amazing job. It has this Dahli, David Bowie, Retro '70s look about it.
But as soon as I got to Salem I rushed over to the storage facility and began filling their tidy house with the boxes again! I have spent the last week sorting through mountains of letters, posters, lyrics, and photos. I know Larry's fans are expecting a well-researched and documented biography. Therefore I am combing through every journal, letter, sheet of paper, and sheet of linen (yes Larry did write lyrics on his bed sheets with a Sharpie).
The last 3 days I have spent reading Larry's personal journals. From the mid 1960's to February 23rd 2008 Some of which no one but Larry has seen. Here is an excerpt from Larry days as the front man in the band PEOPLE!
February 19th 1968: I was quite pensive over all the problems coming up; like taxes, the outcome of our record, God's will for me in the future. And yet I wasn't depressed at all; resolved is what I was. I put on the whole armor of God today and was protected from everything . . .
Is it bad to associate with people that are not concerned with God? I don't mean associate with. I mean be friends with. Because the middle ground we form with them will take us farther from God's presence.
Five month later Larry followed the Lord's calling and played his last concert with People!
Other notebooks are filled exclusively with the name of Larry's fans and their prayer requests.
Boy with earring and turtleneck sweater. He doesn't speak English. He prayed to become a Christian. Send him a couple of my albums
Sunny little girl but troubled that she doesn't witness about Jesus enough. Send her Upon this Rock
Year after year, notebook after notebook, Larry was always writing about Jesus. On nearly every page he writes His Name:
Jesus and relationships.
Jesus and music.
Jesus and money.
Jesus and Art.
Jesus and pets.
Jesus and the poor.
Jesus is the light.
Jesus is the Door..
Jesus is the Truth.
Jesus is the Life.
Jesus is the Rock and He rolled my blues away.
I don't care what he said. Larry Norman was a Jesus Freak!
Adam and Eve, Ruth and Naomi, Jonathan and David, Martha and Mary, Peter and Paul, Lennon and McCartney, Larry and Jesus. You can't think about Larry without thinking about Jesus.
When my eyes began to blur from reading Larry's endless prose, I sat down on the sofa next to Larry's red white and blue starred jacket and saddle shoes, played some blues licks on his old guitar and gazed down at photos Nancy Jo had fanned out upon the Solid Rock studio floor. Hundreds of unpublished 8 by 10 pictures from every year of Larry's life.
Now I know there are some of you out there in the Solid Rock Army who are feeling envious of me right now. I totally get that. So when Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California asked me to speak at their Exhibit: Honoring the Life and Faith of Larry Norman, I told them only if I could bring as many of Larry Norman's things as possible down from Oregon to put on display. So you, Larry's fans, can get the same memorabilia rush as I am getting right now. Details to follow but this event will be held roughly the middle of March to the end of June 2011. We will be filming the exhibit for our documentary. So if you have a true story to tell about your encounters with Larry or even better your encounters with Jesus through Larry or his music . . . well . . .the cameras will be rolling.
Of course there is a better place where Larry is always performing.
And now we'll live forever in another land,
Everything is happening like it first was planned.
Did you get your invitation to come play in the band
And let the Son begin to reign.
Rock in peace Larry Norman.
ON THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF
LARRY NORMAN IN ANOTHER LAND
BY ALLEN FLEMMING
••• First Baptist Church on Haight and Octavia in San Francisco 1952
Larry Norman stood up out of his seat and started for the altar. At the end of the row his father tried to stop him...
"Larry, where do you think you're going?"
"To meet Jesus."
"You're five years old, now sit down."
"Dad, I know what Im doing."
••• Salem, Oregon 2008
I got a phone message from Charles Norman, telling that if I wanted to see Larry before he left this world that I should come soon. I called back planning to tell him I would fly up from San Francisco the next weekend. Charles' wife Kristin answered instead and said that I better come sooner. A few hours later I was on a flight to Oregon.
As I drove from the Portland airport to Salem, Oregon, I thought back to the time I had spent with Larry; the late night meals at all night restaurants where Larry spoke to complete strangers about the love of Jesus, the house church meetings in San Jose and Hollywood where he always seemed to be the one closest to the heart of Jesus.
There he was. Larry Norman in a black t-shirt, propped up in bed, his long hair gone. His arms and legs swollen and bandaged; he looked like a man whose organs were shutting down. But his eyes were the same. Bright with that only-visiting-this planet shine. Larry looked at me like I was the very person he had hoped most in the world to see. This is the way he looked at all the people in his circle of friends. When you were with Larry, you never saw him glancing at a clock or looking around for someone more interesting. I wanted more than anything to be that person Larry remembered me to be. I quickly repented of the complacent man I had become, but I only saw love in Larry's eyes. Larry smiled at me and then apologized for how startling he must look.Then he asked me how I was doing. How I was doing. I muttered something. Larry then asked if I would read the Bible to him. I opened one of the Normans' Bibles -it must have been 100 years old- and a couple of pages fell out and floated to the floor. I felt compelled to read from the Book of Revelation. Forgive me Jesus and John, but I left out all the beastly verses. Larry sighed and smiled when I read about the throne and the One on the Throne and the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.
There was definitely something otherworldly about Larry Norman. A Christian who was not afraid of Rock and Roll or The Movies or fashion magazines. He was praying without ceasing, He was laughing in his sleep. He was singing gospel songs and Beatles songs. He was forgiving and grateful. He thanked me for every little thing. And when Kristin was in the middle of telling him that he was close to the end, he motioned her close and gently slipped a loose strand of her hair behind her ear. We read the middle of Matthew and the end of Revelation. We marvelled at Joe Cocker in Across the Universe.
When we returned from the emergency room on the night Larry died, Larry said "can we pray before I go home?" And even though we were right in front of his house where he had not been for weeks, Charles and I knew what Larry meant. Charles asked him, "Do you mean your house here in Salem or your home in Heaven?" Larry said, "Both." I honestly cant remember a single word we prayed except that we all ended our prayers in Jesus' Name. Charles, for the hundredth time, lifted Larry out of the van, and I moved the wheelchair into place. Charles, Kristin, Silver and Kristy, Nancy (and many others) had spent many days changing the whole layout of Larry's place, so it would be wheelchair accessible. Longtime friend Rick van Dyne, who also worked tirelessly on the remodel, came out and helped us get Larry into the house. As we rolled him up to his door, Larry began praising God, - Jesus thank you for the sky and the stars and the moon and the little boy with the bubble on his head (a stone statue of a young boy holding a glass fish bowl on his head stood in the middle of the yard). Inside the house the carpet was gone and the new laminate wood floors were sparkling. As we navigated Larry toward his old room he said, "Everything is so beautiful", and again I was wondering if he was seeing both worlds. We put him in his bed, and soon Larry was asleep. We all went to our rooms and fell asleep.
Around 3:00 AM Kristin knocked on my door. Flemming, wake up. Larry is dying. I rushed into Larrys room where Charles and Kristin were holding Larry in their arms. "Are you okay?" said Charles.
"I am perfect," Larry said and departed for another land.
Larry committed his life to following Jesus when he was young, like many of us do. Being in love with Jesus as a child is one thing. To keep your love for Jesus strong through all the years is another. This was the real thing. Not faith from a story in a book or rehearsed words from a pulpit or on a TV screen. Larry Normans faith stood tall in the face of certain death, before his mother, before his brother and sisters, before his friend of thirty years: a safe haven to share doubts or fears. No fear. No doubts. Faith alone. The same faith, the same truth, the same unabashed love for Jesus, that Larry had declared from the altar when he was five, then from the stage and on the streets, he declared from his death bed.
I met Larry Norman in the late 1970's, and we continued to be friends for the rest of his life. I saw Larry Norman day after day after day in a hundred different situations. I knew him when he was broke and when he was stuffing hundred dollar bills into his visitors coats that were hanging in the closet, during the L.A. earthquake and the Rodney King riot. I was with him in Cedars Sinai Hospital after his first heart attack and in his home in Salem after his last. Larry Norman really was a true follower of Jesus. I can easily see why Frank Black said that Larry was "the most Christ-like person I ever met." Larry Norman committed his life at five years of age and followed Jesus for the next 55 years, and in his final hours he had no concern about his own soul. For him the destiny of his soul was decided in 1952.
Larry knew he was in his final hours, And just like every other day of his life, what he wanted to talk about the most was Jesus and now the wonder of seeing his Lord face to face. When I stepped into his room three days before he died, Larry apologized to me for how difficult it must be for me to look at him. This was so typical of him, his concern for others. "Make sure the children I support through Compassion International continue to be supported, find Steve Scott and tell him this, or Mark Heard's widow and give her that, some woman loaned me that scarf, please have it sent to her . . ." And his prayers were similar, focused on Jesus and others.
For me, a seminarian doctoral program dropout full of doubts, Larry Norman was a walking apologetic for the existence of God. For those of us who really knew him, what comes to mind first when we think about Larry Norman is and always will be his undying love for Jesus Christ.
- ALLEN FLEMMING. FEB 24, 2010
A NEW YEARS' MESSAGE FROM KRISTIN BLIX
No Fear, More Love
Ephesians 4:32 (English Standard Version)
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
It is said that we should be kind to one another. In this day where we are encouraged to be angry, hateful, suspicious and fearful of each other, I think it is important that we remember this; An act of kindness is like a wave in the living water. It spreads into strangers' lives and carries on long after we have left them.
Larry said in his last concert that we should be kind to our neighbor and show our faith through our actions. Kindness to our neighbor extends further than the person or family living next door. It is for everyone we meet. In the moment they are next to us they are our neighbor in the here and now. The devil wants us to be concerned with others and to see the faults that are not our own. It is difficult to change, to let the bad that inhabits us fall away. Our brother Larry spoke often about “dying unto ourselves”. When we start doing so and change on the micro level we are changing the world one piece at a time. We change to be more like Him. We are pieces in a large puzzle, we are part of the body of Christ. Each part has to function in accordance with the others or we will not be complete or whole. We should carry His name responsibly and be like Him as much as we can. Jesus is The Way. He is Love. Even when He spoke to the woman that was caught in sin He forgave her. Should we not do the same?
Today we are told and a lot of us believe that fear, anger and judgement are the solution to the problems of this world. I say that Jesus shows us how to live here not only by what He said, but also by the way He lived. The Bible, and especially the New Testament, is a guideline to being here, so far away from the Garden. When we walk through life we shall be guided by the Holy Spirit.
(John 16:13-15 King James Version)
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
We go through good periods when life is calm, filled with joy, friends, good conversations and companionship. Then there are hard times with high mortgage payments, car trouble, difficulties at school, feeling alone, abandoned and separated from our loved ones because of misunderstandings, divorce or death. This was not God’s plan. His plan was the Garden of Eden where we had companionship and conversations with Him every day in the perfect. Then came The Fall and so Jesus Christ. Until we are back with Him we live here with the hardships and trials that life brings. God does not promise us that this walk on earth shall be easy, in fact, Jesus says:
(Matthew 7:13-14 (King James Version)
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
The narrow way is the road that Jesus Himself points out to us through His life and teachings while here on earth. We are to follow Him and to bring forth fruit through our life so we should know each other and other people shall see clearly that we belong to Him. This is not to be only through our words, but how we act. I think it is interesting that the book about the doings of the disciples is called Acts, yet we as disciples of Christ today act so badly towards each other and also towards non-believers and people that in our opinion (or even according to God) sin.
The Judgement does not belong to us.
This world will end, but God's Kingdom is forever. God is not fear. I do not believe in being focused on when this world will end. It will. We know this because it is a promise in the Bible. Only God knows when this will occur and His desire is that we all come Home. Speculating in when or teaching others to be fearful is not our Father's desire.
(2 Timothy 1:7, Bible in Basic English)
For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control.
The Apostle Paul writes about love:
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Bible in Basic English)
Love is never tired of waiting; love is kind; love has no envy; love has no high opinion of itself, love has no pride; Love's ways are ever fair, it takes no thought for itself; it is not quickly made angry, it takes no account of evil; It takes no pleasure in wrongdoing, but has joy in what is true; Love has the power of undergoing all things, having faith in all things, hoping all things. Though the prophet's word may come to an end, tongues come to nothing, and knowledge have no more value, love has no end.
(1 Corinthians 13:13, Bible in Basic English)
13 But now we still have faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Every year we celebrate Christmas, the ultimate message of Love, when Our Father gave His Son so that we could know Him and through Him come Home, let us be kind and make that our New Year Promise. Let us help our neighbor shovel snow, be kind to telephone customer service operators(!), explain things with patience and let the other car get into "our" lane and do it with a smile. We shall be kind and faithful in the small so that we can be trusted in the large.
We (the followers of Christ) are the Light and the Salt of this earth. We are the poster board for our Savior Jesus Christ. If the world is in such a terrible state, then should we not examine ourselves?
In "Righteous Rocker", Larry sang about what is important.
You can be a righteous rocker, you can be a holy roller
You could be most anything,
You could be a Leon Russell, or a super muscle,
You could be a corporate king,
You could be a wealthy man from Texas, or a witch with heavy hexes,
But without love, you ain't nothing without love
Without love you ain't nothing, without love.
You could be a brilliant surgeon, or a sweet young virgin,
or a harlot out to sell,
You could learn to play the blues, or be Howard Hughes
or the Scarlet Pimpernel,
Or you could be a French provincial midwife,
or go from door to door with a death-knife,
But without love you ain't nothing, without love,
Without love you ain't nothing, without love.
You could be a woman feeler, or a baby stealer,
you could drink your life away,
Or you could be a holy prophet, get a blessing off it,
Or you could fast for fifty days,
You could shake hands with the devil, or give your life to God on the level,
But without love you ain't nothing, without love,
Without love you ain't nothing, without love.
A very dear friend once told me a story about how he asked his friend who was talking about politics all the time (now this could easily have been me):
"What do you want people to think of when your name is mentioned?"
"Shouldn't it be Jesus that pops into someone's head when they think of you?"
Maybe we should all ask ourself this question and strive to be more like Him.
When Jesus walked on the water in the storm He asked Peter to come to Him. Peter walked out on the water, but then he got sidetracked and started looking at the waves and the danger present instead of keeping his eyes on the presence of God. I think it is important that we remind ourselves daily that God’s presence is here with us through the Holy Ghost our Comforter. If we get afraid, angry, sad or disappointed we should remember to pray both alone and together for and with each other. I am guilty of this myself. I forget to call on God first! Prayers is the most important line of communication with our Father. Ask your Father, and Jesus says the following will happen:
(John 16:23 (King James Version)
23 ...Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
When Peter got afraid and started sinking he cried out to Christ for help. Immediately Jesus took his hand and Peter was safe, but He says to Peter 'Why did you doubt?' Remember this: Do not doubt Him and do not be afraid. He is with you and you will not sink. Walk comfortably on the water as we move toward another land. Larry said in one of my favorite songs “This is not my home. I’m just passing through.”
(Larry Norman, Reader’s Digest, Only Visiting This Planet)
Jesus said to the disciples (you are a disciple too when you follow Christ),
(John 14: 2-3, new international version)
In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
A THANKSGIVING MESSAGE FROM MIKE NORMAN
Dear Friends and Family,
Greetings to you all, the rest of the Norman family and I wish you a happy holiday season. This year has had many blessings and difficulties for all of us. When experiencing turbulent times, we often find ourselves in places of doubt, confusion and fear of what is yet to come. I have been thinking a lot lately about the rift between the world and believers, as well as where God is to fit into this context. I am composing this letter to all the saints and relatives in Christ as to not only unite in our bond through our connection to Larry, but in our connection to each other in God.
As many of us know, we are in a time of economic depression, not just here in America, but all over the world. Whether we have contact with our brothers and sisters in other countries or not, we can understand that many are in a time of need and that many are looking for answers. There are strategies in place, like the economic bailout’s and similar ideas, but I propose that since these large scale plans are outside the manipulation of the common man’s hand that we can look to a plan that is even greater than these, God’s plan, yet it happens through the smallest person.
We need to look at our relationship with God to find out what is preventing our relationship with him from becoming fuller. The key word is fear. We are afraid of our struggles defeating us. Did Christ not rise above every temptation and struggle and defeat it? Even though Christ was murdered, the ultimate victory was won because he followed God’s will and he embraced the torture through His love for us.
It says in James Chapter 1:2-5 (NASB),
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Trials will test our endurance. When life is hard and it feels like the world is pushing against you, do we not need as much strength and endurance as possible to meet this trial? Absolutely. When trials are in sight, do not run from the trial, the trial has already won with retreat. Instead, run towards the trial with Joy, for the Lord is our strength and he is blessing us during this time with a unique opportunity to build our endurance in a way that may not be presented to us again. As Christ embraced the ultimate trial through his love for us, and through his faith that God’s way was the only way, so shall we as followers.
Another fear is that we are not allowed to speak our mind to God. Whether we feel guilty for our anger or doubt in God or we think he does not care to hear what we have to say; both beliefs are rooted in fear of honest communication with Him. The Lord wants relationship with us.
Psalm 55:22 (NASB)
22 Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
Your burden does not just refer to your trouble, but to your feelings. If you are angry, you are burdened with the weight of anger and God wants you to cast it upon him instead of falling into the temptation of losing control of the anger. Because anger and other negative feelings can be heavy, God wants to help carry us through it, even if it is towards him.
The final fear is that God won’t answer us. He already knows what we need and cares for us. We know this from Matthew 6:25-26(NASB), which states:
25 For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
We don’t need to ask him for food or water. He knows we need these things. The birds don’t ask him for shelter, he knows they need it. He provides for all creatures and especially you.
Is he listening? Yes.
Matthew 7:7-11 (NASB) states,
7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?
10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?
11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
Though you have heard these verses before many times, I want to share a powerful statement a friend of ours shared with us the other day about God listening to our prayers.
Our friend Bruce said, “Do you know how when you have a really good relationship with a friend or your spouse, how you don’t need to talk? You know, you can go on a long car ride and feel at peace, because you know that the silence is not bad.” What Bruce was getting at, is that we can trust God when he is silent because He is with us and He knows that we can do what is right based on our understanding of who he is through his word and our relationship with him.
All of these verses are helpful in the examination of ourselves, but the last thing we need to remember is to unite with others in our faith. During hard times it is easy to withdraw from the outside world and isolate ourselves, because we feel safety in our own space. But just as God pushes us to embrace challenges in our own life, we need to come together to face the hardships that challenge the body of Christ.
This letter again is to encourage all of us to refine ourselves to the image of Jesus and to be whom God has called us to be and known we could be since our conception. Take heart everyone and give each other the gift of fellowship and memories, without worry of material gifts. The last thing we want to leave you with is a powerful passage from John Wesley’s – Christian Perfection.
In Chapter 10, he writes:
'A. Beware of schism, of making a rent in the Church of Christ. That inward disunion, the members ceasing to have a reciprocal love "one for another" (1 Cor. 12:25), is the very root of all contention, and every outward separation. Beware of everything tending thereto. Beware of a dividing spirit: shun whatever has the least aspect that way. Therefore, say not, "I am of Paul, or of Apollos"; the very thing which occasioned the schism at Corinth. Say not, "This is my preacher; the best preacher in England. Give me him, and take all the rest." All this tends to breed or foment division, to disunite those whom God hath joined. Do not despise or run down any preacher; do not exalt any one above the rest, lest you hurt both him and the cause of God. On the other hand, do not bear hard upon any by reason of some incoherency or inaccuracy of expression; no, nor for some mistakes, were they really such.
'Likewise, if you would avoid schism, observe every rule of the Society and of the bands for conscience' sake. Never omit meeting your class or band; never absent yourself from any public meeting. These are the very sinews of our Society; and whatever weakens, or tends to weaken, our regard for these, or our exactness in attending them, strikes at the very root of our community. As one saith, "That part of our economy, the private weekly meetings for prayer, examination, and particular exhortation, has been the greatest means of deepening and confirming every blessing that was received by the word preached, and of diffusing it to others who could not attend the public ministry; whereas, without this religious connection and intercourse, the most ardent attempts by mere preaching have proved of no lasting use."
- John Wesley
Happy holiday’s from Michael and the Norman family. We love you all.
WORK IN PROGRESS
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