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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Happy New Year, Blog Break & Request for Help

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I hope everyone had a wonderful and blessed Christmas and that you have a great new year!

2009 has been quite a year for me… and I am ready to move on to 2010, praying that it is a year filled with blessing, shalom, and reconciliation!

I have been chronicling 2009 (or at least the last 7 months of it) on this blog with almost daily posts.  I appreciate all of you who read it regularly and especially those of you who comment and/or email me directly with your thoughts, encouragement and friendship.  It has been quite a journey so far and I am thankful that you all are on it with me.

Three quick notes…

First, I am going to take a blog break from today through the first week of January.  I am going to be unplugging, spending time with family, and just relaxing a bit.  I will start posting again in early January.

Second, in the meantime, I would love some help.  I would love to hear from you as to questions you have for me, issues you would like to see addressed on this blog, etc.  I will try to address and answer everything and nothing is off limits.  You can leave a comment here or use the “Ask Me” link above.

Third, if you are a regular (or semi-regular) reader here at FaithAutopsy.com, and you have your own blog, I would love to be reading it.  Please leave your blog address in the comments — and feel free to leave your Twitter or Facebook info as well.

Thanks and Happy New Year!

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

The Christmas Story

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Christmas Means

Christmas means… 

Second Chances.

And that

is

Good News.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

A Sermon for Christmas Day

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I love good preaching.  More than anything else, it points me towards Jesus, encourages me to worship, and disciples me.  This is one of the best Christmas sermons I have ever heard.  It was delivered by my friend Vince Gierer, who is now Lead Pastor at St. Paul’s Collegiate Church, last year as part of the Imagine Christmas service.

Take some time this Christmas to reflect on the miracle of Christmas… and listen to Vince’s message.  It will bless you!

Merry Christmas everyone!

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Christmas Eve Message: MLK

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Last year, as part of an Advent series, I preached a sermon by Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It is one of his most famous sermons which he preached for Christmas.  I delivered it verbatim. It is called “Peace on Earth.”

I think it is a great sermon and King is one of my favorite preachers. On a personal note, preparing for and delivering this message was challenging… and powerful.

Enjoy…

 

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Two Babies in the Manger

In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. They relate the following story in their own words:

It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.

Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city. Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel (cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia ), were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States.

The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6-years-old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger.

Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately — until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib.

He made up his own ending to the story as he said, 

“And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with Him. But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give Him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept Him warm, that would be a good gift.” So I asked Jesus, ‘If I keep You warm, will that be a good enough gift?’ And Jesus told me, ‘If you keep Me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave Me.’ So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and He told me I could stay with Him — for always.”

As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him — for always.

Friends, that is what Christmas — and the incarnation — is all about.  That Jesus is with us — forever and always.  Merry Christmas everyone!

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Larry Malaney’s Story

I shared this story a while back at a prayer and reflection night we did at the church I was at.  While a true story, I also think it is a powerful picture and parable of what the can and should be… a place that heals and restores people’s souls. That’s what church should be all about… creating spaces for people encounter God and become fully devoted to following Him!

In his book, “The Furious Longing of God,” Brennan Manning tells the story of Larry Malaney, a student he encountered while teaching at a small university in Ohio in the late 1960’s. He describes Malaney as an outcast whose appearance and demeanor isolated him from fellow students. “In all my days,” Manning writes, “I have never seen anyone with such low self-esteem.”

Malaney was a self-proclaimed agnostic who challenged Manning on matters of faith in their continuing conversations.

One Christmas, however, there was a change in Larry Malaney. He returned home to Providence, Rhode Island to his father with whom he had an estranged relationship.

Manning describes the student’s father as a “typical lace-curtain Irishman,” meaning that he was a prim and proper man who in the midst of the hottest summer day would dress in a suit and tie to come to the dining table in his own home.

His expectations for his son were not being met and their time together often erupted in disagreement. As was their usual pattern, there was conflict and resolution, yielding unsatisfactory results to both men. After a few nights at home, Larry announced to his dad that he would be returning to Ohio the next morning.

The father asked what time the boy was leaving and declared that he would ride the bus with him as far as the father’s office where the son would have to change busses for the last part of his journey to the airport.

They traveled in silence that morning until the bus came to a stop in front of the textile factory where the father worked. Both men got off the bus and expected the kind of good-bye that neither would be fulfilled by.

Before they could speak, however, a group of men across the street began to make fun of Larry’s appearance, calling him all sorts of names that were brutally cruel. Larry had heard them before and expected nothing more than to board the second bus and leave his father behind with the taunts of these men, perhaps a reflection of his own father’s feelings. Then something happened that had never happened before.

The proper, lace -curtain Irish father, embraced his son for the first time in his life, kissed him, and said, “Larry, if your mother and I live to be two hundred years old, that wouldn’t be long enough to thank God for the gift he has given us in you. I am so proud that you are my son.”

It was a different student that Manning encountered upon his return from Christmas break. His demeanor changed, even his appearance as he seemed to have a different outlook on life.

Not long after, Larry Malaney came to Brennan Manning’s office and said, “tell me about this man, Jesus,” Over the next six weeks the two men shared and when their time was completed, Larry said “Okay,” and with that continued a genuine search for an authentic faith.

He was ordained a priest in the Catholic church a few years later and spent more than twenty years as a missionary in South America. “Do you know why (this happened)?” Manning asks. He concludes, “It wasn’t because of the six weeks of sitting in Brennan Manning’s office while I talked about Jesus.

No, it was because of a day long ago, during a Christmas vacation, standing at a bus stop, when his lace-curtain Irish father healed him. Yes his father healed him. He looked deeply into his son’s eyes, saw the good in Larry Malaney that Larry couldn’t see for himself, affirmed him with a furious love, and changed the whole direction of his son’s life.”

 

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2009 in Uncategorized

 
 
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