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Oh Little Town of Bethlehem


English: "(...) Entry of Pilgrims into Be...

English: “(…) Entry of Pilgrims into Bethlehem at Christmas time. It was taken in 1890.” (text from same source) Note: At the source of this picture, several pictures portray Christmas in Bethlehem in 1898 (not 1890). This picture seems to be the only exception. It could be that the indicated date is actually a typo… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Autograph manuscript of first stanza ...

English: Autograph manuscript of first stanza of O Little Town of Bethlehem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On December 21st, our family will be gathering with others in worship for the seventh annual joint simulcast Christmas service with the people of Bethlehem at the Washington National Cathedral.

Prayers, readings, and hymns alternate between Washington, D.C., and Palestine via the Internet, bringing together people of different lands, languages, and ethnic backgrounds in celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace.

In this age of turmoil and religious strife, it may be a surprise to some to know that Christians have religious freedom in Palestine and that Christmas and other Holy Days are celebrated vigorously!

The carol, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”, was inspired by a pilgrim’s first visit to Bethlehem many years ago. This year it will acquire new meaning for me as we join in song with the “Living Stones”, as the descendents of the first followers of Jesus call themselves today. Let me encourage you to visit and attend church services in Palestine when you make your pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Inspiration awaits.

Learn more about the writer of “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”, Philip Brooks and his journey, below.

http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Notes_On_Carols/o_little_town_of_bethlehem.htm

http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/HTML/christmas_classics_videos.htm#Chap_02

Currents Of Joy


Dead plant in pots

Dead plant in pots (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m changing the title of my blog from Connecting tha Dots to Currents of Joy.  Newer themes may reflect a difference in my points of view after years of struggle to reach a place of peace with where I am in this world.

The title comes from a book by Henri J.M. Nouwen, “Lifesigns“,  which our Little Fork couples group has just finished reading.

Here’s a quote: “Thus, celebration goes beyond ritual, custom and tradition. It is the unceasing affirmation that underneath all the ups and downs of life there flows a solid “current of joy“.

Last night was the point of change. A friend wrote that a Peace plant that I gave her several years ago had died after she’d been away from home for several weeks.

She felt sad, and I understood, but wrote back to say that the death was indeed sad, but the plant stood for much more which still remained. We could celebrate our friendship which is still alive!

At last, light at the end of the tunnel…God is love and there is no fear in love or change, even in the death of a Peace plant.

The Imam and the Pastor


National Church of Nigeria, Abuja

National Church of Nigeria, Abuja (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Abuja National Mosque

Abuja National Mosque (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some friends of ours work with this organization. We’re pretty impressed with their work.

They shared the following DVD with us. Tell me what you think.

Gay Marriage Revisited


Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd”

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride.

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sorry for the hateful rhetoric that comes out of people’s mouths about same-sex relationships. I realize that some of this garbage originates out of misguided Christian beliefs, and I would defend a Gay person to my death against a hateful bigoted Christian.

I also want my Gay friends to know that I am struggling over what the Scriptures teach.

I often talk about this with Christians who say,  “We know same-sex relationships are wrong: we love the person but we hate the sin.”

“God says it, I believe it, That settles it!”

But, somehow, I feel that just isn’t enough for our complex society.

I mention that Jesus hadn’t spoken about it…”Well, No.”

What does it mean that Jesus didn’t speak about same-sex relationships but Paul did?

I am one follower of Christ, who doesn’t separate  the Scriptures into “Red Letters” as my Social Activist heroes, Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo tend to do. This means they are primarily followers of those words of Christ and leave to (?) the rest

But, since I began to follow Christ as a very young person, the Bible has been my guidebook. How else could I know God? Did He have a plan for me? We are guided by circumstance, by counsel, but the Bible is the best instruction manual I know on how to live and I’ve followed it my entire adult life and found it very practical and foolproof.

But, God’s ways aren’t always the easiest to figure out. (HA!)

I’ve found God’s love to be great and covering over a multitude of my wrongs and even, societal wrongs which I would like to wipe off the map.

I know God doesn’t condone injustice and ill-treatment of people who are helpless, and that He tells us to not judge others. We are supposed to leave that to Him. But, we are supposed to be discerning and make wise decisions about life.

So, I struggle with what the Bible teaches sometimes, and there are some Scriptures I just wish weren’t in there! I used to think people chose to be in same-sex relationships, because I didn’t think God would make “mistakes” about sexuality, but, I’ve changed in that.

I really don’t understand it, but I think our world isn’t perfect and few sexual relationships are either. So…I abandoned that theory.  But, why on earth would God allow things to become sooo hard?

Did He want people to remain celibate? That is, not have sex unless they were married? Then is Gay Marriage a part of His plan? Sounds good, right?

But, how can I say this boldly enough??? I CAN’T JUST IGNORE WHAT IS CLEARLY FORBIDDEN IN SCRIPTURE…SUCH AS ADULTERY, GLUTTONY, AND LYING WITH THE SAME SEX.

Maybe people like me died in prison in the past, because their religious beliefs didn’t coincide with what was politically correct. They could not change what they believed to be true.

I would hope that our society would be open to Christians and non-Christians who believe different things. But, you know, there is unprecedented pressure on us Christians to accept Gay rights, without regard to our own beliefs.  It’s like we have to go into the closet while Gay people come out.

Is that what is expected?

Hmm?

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2013/03/15/gay-marriage-revisited/

Brick by Brick: Our (Own) Worst Enemies: Why Evangelicals Have to be Able to Criticize Each Other


A bible from 1859.

A bible from 1859. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It takes courage and wisdom to know when to change our long-held beliefs doesn’t it? There are some that we will never change because we are persuaded from our source text, The Bible, that they are right. Others, like slavery, were once thought to be Biblical, and are now considered false beliefs. But, how do sincere Christians really know how and when to make that leap from one strong belief to the opposite belief?  When should we allow peers and culture to influence us?

These questions are best asked in a community of people who think somewhat differently, while valuing and respecting the principles upon which each person bases his/her life.

Questions need to be asked and that is why I think I related to the dilemma posted by David Williams of Inter-Varsity in North Carolina, on his blog “Brick by Brick”. (Read below)

I’ve had people ask me if I didn’t “like” the Church when I’ve spoken up about some of the weaknesses I see in the Body of Christ.

Some of my Christian friends have been hurt when I’ve made negative comments about people who claim to be Christians and then speak out politically in ways that deny the words of Christ.

I try to look for the inconsistency in my life before I criticize other people, but it’s easy to over look things because of stubbornness and pride. That’s why I usually learn from other people’s criticism even when I might not seem to listen at first.

Hopefully.

 Our (Own) Worst Enemies: Why Evangelicals Have to be Able to Criticize Each Other Brick by Brick

Sacrificing Everything: Victoria Soto and Jesus


A true #hero. News worth sharing... #VictoriaSoto

A true #hero. News worth sharing… #VictoriaSoto (Photo credit: ArtJonakT

This week many solutions have been presented for our problem of national violence.

Voices in the past have led America far away from the path of nurturing our little children, raising them to become kind, caring, competent adults.

We’ve allowed them to sear their consciences with violent cartoons, video games and movies during the years when they form their core values. Stress in the home and emotional distance have increased loneliness and isolation.

I am a Christian and this is the time of year we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, called “The Messiah”,  who came to earth as a humble baby in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago.

His coming and his life presented a shocking change in world history, but it was nothing compared to his leaving! That’s what makes all the difference to Christians like me, and where we differ from other people of faith.

And here is where my faith and this tragedy at Newtown converge.

I think about the remarkable bravery of Victoria Soto, who gave her own life for her children.

We praise her for her great act of sacrifice as we should. Some of us may wonder if we could do the same thing, we hope we would.

So, here’s the thing, Jesus Christ did just that for you and me.

The sticking point for many people is that He came to our world to save “sinners”. I’m not about to argue about the word “sinner” and what it means. I think each person must be convinced in his/her own heart whether this word applies to them.

I know someone who believes they never did anything wrong “enough” to warrant Christ’s death on the cross.

The point is that Jesus did just what Victoria Soto did, but, unlike, Victoria, who left her home not intending to give her life, Jesus left a perfectly wonderful home to do this wonderful thing for us, willingly!

Did Jesus know that He would die and then rise again, according to the Bible?

We don’t know, but we do know that he suffered, a lot! His death wasn’t instantaneous, like being shot.

His being alive makes a big difference to those who follow Him. Why?

He promised to send His life and the Spirit, (called the Holy Spirit) to the people who put their trust in Him. I can’t explain it scientifically, but I am a personal witness that this does happen.

He can transform an unforgiving, vindictive person into a compassionate and forgiving human being; A Person who previously cared little about the poor can learn to reach out in kindness to serve their needs.

These are just two ways I’ve changed since I began to follow Jesus in 1968, calling myself by His name (Christian).  It has taken a lifetime of falling down and getting up again emotionally and spiritually and I’m still in need of more love.

But, there is evidence all around us pointing to the fact that many so-called followers of Christ, make different choices at some point in their lives. Again, the word “sin” might be appropriate here, but not my argument to make.

I seldom read Ravi Zacharia, but I agree with what he says in the article below:

“All the laws in the world will never change the heart. Only God is big enough for that.”

via Tragedy at Newtown | RZIM.

Honoring God’s Choice for Our Nation 2012


Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We received the following email in our box this morning and I wanted to share it with you. I don’t know what Tim’s politics are, but I appreciate the sentiment.

“As The President, Barack Obama, is being honored, I want to affirm that as followers of Jesus Christ, we affirm that God, the Sovereign ruler of the universe, has affirmed that Barack Obama is to be the leader of our country for the next four years.

You may agree with this, or not, but, that is true, according to scripture.  I would have said the same thing had Mitt Romney been elected.

Our job, as followers of Jesus Christ, is to obey scripture, and continue to pray for our leaders, that they make decisions that allow us, as followers of Jesus Christ, to live in peace and quite.

My prayer for all of you is that you will submit to the authority of scripture and pray for and uphold, before the Throne of Grace, our duly elected President, and remember that our job is to intercede for him and those around him, that they make decisions consistent with the will of God, that we live in peace and quiet.

Please remember, that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, are commanded to speak ill of no man, for Christ’s sake.”

Tim Arensmeier