Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 15 Posts of 2015

Below are the unofficial top 15 posts of 2015 in no particular order.

The Groom's Face

How To Do All Things

Gotham and the Old Testament

If You Only Knew

Desert People

Kill the Old Man

Own or Be Owned

Pringles Christians

You Stoop Down to Make Me Great

Terrible Decision Makers

This Isn't a Debate

5 Things That Blow My Mind

Wait 'Till You See the Beach!

7 Deadly Sins: Lust

Is The Daily News Right?

Thank you for your support and your reading this blog in 2015 I hope in some way it was helpful to you.  I will continue to write in the New Year and I hope that it blesses you in some way.  Happy New Year to you today.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Truth That Sings

Christmas is less than a week away and many of you are listening to and singing the songs of this season.  As we sing we should get not only nostalgia but truth, so pay attention to what you sing and take the truths to heart.  Now, singing "Frosty the Snowman" is fun, but when you encounter a carol with brilliant truth embrace it.  Here are a few lines that have stuck out to me this year.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
"Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth."

This song highlights so well the Gospel story.  Jesus laid aside His glory in heaven to live as a man to save men from death and to grace them with rebirth.

Joy to the World
"No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground,
He comes to make His blessings flow,
Far as the curse if found."

What Jesus accomplished beginning at Christmas was a cosmic victory.  No more sin, sorrow or thorny ground.  Everything infected by the curse (which is everything outside of heaven) would instead be soaked in blessing.  Jesus' work saves and "Heaven and Nature Sing!"

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
"And in despair I bowed my head,
There is no peace on earth I said,
For hate is strong that mocks the song,
Of peace on earth goodwill to men.

Then peeled the bells more loud and deep,
God is not dead nor does He sleep,
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth goodwill to men."

As I see terrorist attacks and war I, like the man who wrote the song during the American Civil War, wonder if peace on earth is even possible.  But then I hear the truth ring like a bell, "God is not dead nor does He sleep."  Where was God during the tragedy?  He was on the throne and the Christmas story reminds us that He has a perfect plan to bring peace on earth goodwill to men.

O Come All Ye Faithful
"Word of the Father now in flesh appearing."

Jesus wasn't just some baby born; Jesus was the Word described in John chapter 1, He is God Almighty in flesh, He was God with us.

The First Noel
"Then let us all with one accord,
sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
that hath made heaven and earth of nought,
and with His blood mankind has bought."

Jesus is God, the very God that made everything from nothing.  Baby Jesus grew to be the man whose blood purchased sinners from every nation, tribe and tongue.  Let us this Christmas sing praises to this Jesus, this Jesus who was, is and forever will be the creating and redeeming God.

As we listen to and sing Christmas carols let's not miss the truth that's proclaimed.  O Come Let Us Adore Him today.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

Merry Christmas,

Another year has come to a close and we so many reasons to be thankful.  This year, like many for a young couple, has been an exciting year for us.  2015 could be described by both moving and staying, normal and new as some things changed from last year’s letter and some could nearly be copied and pasted into this year’s letter.

Christine is working as a labor and delivery nurse at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo.  She works 12 hours shifts that rotate between nights and days every few weeks and says much of her 2015 was spent either working or sleeping.  Despite the strange hours she was able to do quite a bit of baking and quilting.  Christine also was involved in our church’s Easter passion mime, this year as an actor after writing and directing last year.

Matt is still working at KWAY radio where he has been for about 6 ½ years now.  He works as a morning D.J. and does play-by-play for football, volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball, softball and even did a bowling meet this year.  Matt continues to serve as a youth leader at our church, something he’s done since 2005 and is one of the church elders, too.

On June 29th we closed on a house in Waverly.  It’s a blessing to finally own a house and put down deep roots in our community.  We’re excited to be able to use our house and to learn all about being homeowners, let’s just say the hardware store knows us pretty well.  In August we got a couple of cats, Charlie and Waldo.  Christine loves them and Matt is learning to as well.

This summer we got to go on vacation to the Chicago area.  We camped outside of the city and took the train into town where we explored the city, ate great pizza and went to a Cubs game.  We also spent a day at Six Flags Great America riding rollercoasters.

God has been very good to us this year.  We had some big, exciting changes and some things that thankfully stayed the same.  One of the things we’re glad stayed the same this year is your prayers, support and friendship.  Thank you.  We hope that 2015 was a great year for you, too.  We wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy 2016!


Matt and Christine Ray

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Is the Daily News Right?

No doubt you've heard about the latest mass shooting in San Bernardino and you've probably seen the New York Daily News' cover today.

This post in this particular blog isn't going to attempt to solve America's problem regarding mass shootings.  I hear we need more guns and that we need fewer guns.  I hear that we need to fix our mental health system or our background check systems.  I'm not sure on the answer to this problem so I will remain a-political in this setting (I'll gladly discuss politics with you in person, but I'll keep this blog out of it all).

What I want to talk about is the headline itself as it pertains to the violence in our world.  Is the Daily News right?  Now, I'm far from the only one writing or talking on this issue and I'm probably far from the wisest voice in the blogosphere.  Many pieces have been written about this subject including Relevant's blog and Yahoo's article just to name two. 

Is the Daily News right?  I'll focus on the phrase spoken thousands of times today in reaction to this latest tragedy, "Our thoughts and prayers are with them."  Do our thoughts and prayers do us any good?

First, our thoughts are nearly pointless.  I'm one who has said "Our thoughts and prayers are with you."  But when I really think about this phrase I think it is a phrase that Christians should amend.  Our thoughts, good vibes, well wishes, etc do absolutely no good to those suffering.  Our thoughts, if not thoughts of internal prayer, do us and everyone involved little to no good.  You cannot send thoughts in a person's direction.  I'm not positive where this popular phrase came from but it seems to be a way for those who pray to pray and those who don't pray to feel included.  Thoughts alone don't help the situation.

But our prayers do.

Prayer is a spectacular benefit of having a relationship with the King of the Universe.  We have access to the King and can make petitions directly to Him.  We can pray for healing and comfort and we can pray for God to fix this situation... and He can fix this situation despite what the Daily News says.  Saying you're going to pray for someone may be meaningless, but actually going to the Almighty in prayer on someone's behalf is not meaningless.  In fact, doing anything without including prayer is closer to meaningless.

However, the Daily News does strike a chord of truth.

Many people have gone to God in prayer and skipped a huge part of the process.  Prayer isn't just about sending a list of wants to God; prayer is also about listening.  In your conversations with your Heavenly Father do you ever listen?  Now, this post won't go into what that looks like, but do you ever listen?  Do you pray with your Bible open and listen for His response?  And when I say listen I mean hear and do.

"Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."  James 1:22-24

People, it seems that we've had a mirror stuck in our faces and been shocked by what we saw... over and over again, yet we forget it hours later.  We've seen violence kill children at an elementary, people at an office party, civilians at a summer camp, etc and we've been horrified by it only to forget and repeat our previous failures.  This is stupidity.  We must start listening in prayer to what the Word says and we must do it.  This discussion isn't about less than what to do with guns, but it's about more than that.  Christians, are you doing anything to combat sin?  The sin that grows into the action of a mass shooting begins as a seed; what are you doing to stop it?

I don't know the answers to stopping or slowing down this train of mass violence in my country and in our world.  But I can tell you something.  God is going to fix it.  He will fix it ultimately when He returns to earth to reign, but He's also our only hope to fix it now.  Skip the thoughts and go straight to prayer about this.  And when you go to prayer and God informs you how He wants to use you in the solution, whether in big ways or small, be a doer not a hearer only.

So, is the Daily News right?

In a word.  No.

But it strikes a chord that we must hear... faith without works is dead.  So, let us be prayer warriors with a living faith because that's the only way we're going to be part of the victory when God Does Fix This!

Please pray for that God fixes this today.