And his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
A friend posted that her 6 year old had a tantrum over the Christmas present he thought he would be getting this year. In the first world we are focused on getting instead of giving, eating instead of fasting, consuming instead of simplifying our lives. How can be change that?
One of the things I have done over the last few years (since my daughter, then aged about 9, asked for a World Vision child sponsorship as her Christmas present) is to give goats, and fish farms, and cataract operations and mosquito nets as presents. Perhaps the cataract operations weren’t such a good idea. I gave them to my husband and he had his own cataract surgery (with complications!) the following year! It’s fun to try and choose an appropriate present. MissN was given mosquito nets (the mozzies always bite her!) My niece usually gets school supplies or sports equipment for third world kids.
Here are some places you can buy the kind of gifts that bless you, bless the recipient of the card and bless the recipient of the goods. You can’t beat that for giving!
Gospel for Asia – a weaving loom, a rickshaw, an outdoor toilet, a camel?
World Vision – soccer balls, a fish farm, a stable full of animals?
Compassion– toothbrushes, veggie seeds?
Tear Australia – tree seedlings, a smokeless stove?
Christian Blind Mission – glasses for children, a wheelchair?
There are a vast range of organisations which you can purchase from. There are some good ideas here. And here. Karma Currency enables the recipient to choose where their gift will be donated. And the wonderful Kiva organisation (just made my 20th loan!) have gift cards, which enable your gift recipients to loan to someone in the third world. And keep on loaning, once their loan has been repaid.
Let’s make giving the essence of Christmas this year. And giving to the least fortunate, those who haven’t been blessed to have been born into our affluent societies.
Peggy Powell is a Facebook friend I’ve only known a short time (less than a year) but is a darling lady with a Christlike heart. She is enduring pancreatic cancer with fortitude and grace. In the words of her daughter Rebecca
“Peggy has stage 4 pancreatic cancer with an average life expectancy of less than a year. She has written a bucket list and on the top of it is taking her whole family (kids and grandkids included) to Disneyland for a few days. To make memories for the grandchildren who won’t have their Nana around for long. With airfare, hotels, park tickets and food we have figured the grand total to be about… $10000. I know things are tight for everybody and I wouldn’t even ask if we had time to get money together another way. Thank you for anything you can do to help. Please help us make her dreams come true!”
Can you spare $10? $20? $50?
You can make Peggy’s Disneyland trip a reality by donating here.
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you wrote the psalmist in Psalm 118.
I’m going to try to post daily on something for which I am grateful. Some friends are blogging the 365 Gratitude Project and others posting daily gratiude updates to facebook. I will try to resist my tendency to overthink things and write long, illustrated blog posts. Nor am I going to commit to a photo per post. I’m not going to be adamant about posting every day (life sometimes prevents that and I am NOT in ownership of a smart phone to post from – nor do I want one).
Was pondering where I should start (thematically and practically) and weighing up if I should tweet, use tumblr, facebook or my good old neglected blog. And I realised had my first thing to be grateful for – the myriad ways I can connect with people over the interwebz.
These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is a long distance call…
I am thankful for how I can open my laptop and chat with my family who live in South Africa and England and Wales and Queensland and the USA and Canada and elsewhere. I am thankful that I have made and can communicate with friends in Kuwait and Bonaire and Brazil and Mauritius and other exotic and not-so-exotic places (as well as friends who live just down the road).
When we emigrated from South Africa to Australia in 1987, the idea of a videophone was a dream of mine and one I prayed we would be able to use with my family before the end of the century. Sadly my parents never had more than dial-up internet and so couldn’t video chat with us. But I am thankful that facebook especially has allowed families to re-connect. I love seeing photos of my nieces and nephews, chatting with my aunt and cousins whom I haven’t seen irl for far too many years and sharing the lives of those we left behind when we moved to Australia.
I’m sharing this story from my friend Steven Clark Goad in California. On Sunday 27 March, Jenny Gosch died as a result of an aneurysm, leaving a young husband and 5 children, the youngest just 3 months old. The family had just moved to Texas a month ago. The medical bills are horrendous, and there will be ongoing childcare and other costs. Can you make a difference to this family?
More details and information on how to donate are here. Let’s shower them with cards (email me at wjcsydney @ yahoo dot com for the address) and keep them in our prayers.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
I got this in my email today (thanks Lilian!) and had to share it. I don’t know where it originated. It has an American theme but it’s applicable to all of us.
Letter from Jesus about Christmas
It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don’t care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn’t allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn If all My followers did that there wouldn’t be any need for such a scene on the town square (or in the mall) because there would be many of them all around town.
Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you andwhat each of our tasks was. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1-8.
If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:
1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don’t have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don’t you write and tell him that you’ll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up… It will be nice hearing from you again.
4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can’t afford and they don’t need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
(and my addition: teach them to reach out and bless others by giving to those less fortunate. Some ideas are here and here and here. One of my proudest moments was some 5-6 years ago when MissN said that what she wanted for Christmas was for us to sponsor another World Vision child in her name. She picked out little Refiloe in Lesotho and it’s proved to be a gift that keeps on giving).
5 Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.
6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don’t know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.
7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren’t allowed to wish you a “Merry Christmas” that doesn’t keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn’t make so much money on that day they’d close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families
8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary–
especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.
9. Here’s a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no “Christmas” tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don’t know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.
10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don’t do things in secret that you wouldn’t do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.
Don’t forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I’ll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I’ll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember :
*I LOVE YOU,*
16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
Ordinary men. Not rabbis or learned men. Jesus appeals to everyman.
17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
One of my favourite verses! The expression Jesus uses is metaphorical. He often does not speak literally during his earthly ministry. Much of what he says is obscure. He teaches in parables. What he teaches needs wrestling with, pondering, meditating on… for the rest of our lives.
18And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
This is different to the account given in John’s Gospel and Luke. Mark chose to emphasise the immediacy of their response. This for me indicates how very compelling Jesus was to them, that Simon (Peter) and Andrew left their families, livelihood and all they knew to follow Jesus into an unknown future. Mark’s gospel emphasises the power of Jesus and here it is exemplified in the response of Peter and Andrew. If only we could react as decisively and follow Jesus so completely!
19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
Mark uses immediately again. This time it is Jesus who acts immediately. His omniscience enables him to choose/know his disciples instantaneously.
Following Jesus will sometimes mean families are divided. There can be a cost. Lives are changed – irrecoverably.
Yesterday’s post on whether immersion or baptism was the best translation of baptidzo evoked this response from a friend on Berean Spirit. I wanted to share as it is so powerful:
Some thoughts on Immerse and the beauty of it. As I read what you wrote I could not help but think of the water covering my body. I was covered! I was covered by his blood! I was covered by His forgiveness! I was Immersed in His Spirit! I have been engulfed by His all! He has embraced me totally! I can’t get out of His embrace for it is for eternity! I have been IMMERSED in His love! My old man has been drowned/immersed!
Thanks, Gerry Parker. That spoke to me today.
Now to Mark:
Interesting how Mark uses adverbs and adverbial phrases of time. Lots of instances of immediately. Here we have In those days. The NLT has one day. Mark’s accound is vivid, succinct, pacy.
Our first indication of where Jesus is from (geographically) is in this verse.
Why was Jesus baptized? The answer I usually get when I ask that is “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt 3:15) which isn’t a satisfying answer for me. Jesus was and is all righteousness. Surely he didnt have to be baptized to fulfill righteousness? However baptism did identify him with righteousness and that righteousness will be the justification for our sins. It was a public statement proclaiming the inauguration of his public ministry. It announced to the world (well the quiet backwater of Judea initially – the world was to hear later) that God was walking amongst us and about to start his work.
Did he have to fulfill the requirements for priesthood which include washing with water and the anointing with the Holy Spirit? This is a new idea I have just been exposed to. Comments, please! Heb 2: 17 & 18 seem to support this.
10And when he came up out of the water, immediately he(T) saw(U) the heavens being torn open(V) and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11And(W) a voice came from heaven,(X) “You are my beloved Son;[d] with you I am well pleased.”
Imagery used in the account of Noah abounds. The water, the dove, the sign from heaven. The tearing open of heaven foreshadows the death of Jesus when the curtain is torn in the temple, the sun stopped shining and Jesus’ spirit leaves him to return “up” to the Father. (Matt 27:50)
We also have all the persons of the Trinity here – father, son, spirit. In verse 1 Mark proclaimed Jesus the son of God. Here God the father does so. And the father expresses his delight in his son. God is about relationship.
This explains the reasons for Jesus’ baptism fully.
12(Y) The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13(Z) And he was in the wilderness forty days, being(AA) tempted by(AB) Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and(AC) the angels were ministering to him.
40 is significant. The Jews wandered 40 years in the desert. Jesus is in the desert here, being tested and proven the true Israelite. He follows the precedent of Moses and Elijah too. Angels attended Jesus as they had attended Israel in the desert. The contrast of Jesus and Satan in the desert with wild beasts on the one hand and angels on the other is a very visual image for us to conjure
14(AD) Now after John was arrested, Jesus(AE) came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15and saying, (AF) “The time is fulfilled, and(AG) the kingdom of God is at hand;(AH) repent and believe in the gospel.”
The pace picks up. John has been arrested (we need to go to Matthew and Luke for details) and the kindgom is at hand! Another mention of the need for repentance in just 15 verses. We need to repent and believe the good news to be part of the kingdom.
Excitement mounts – how will Jesus display his deity? How will the kingdom be ushered in?