All the year round, every hour of every day, God is richly blessing us; both when we sleep and when we wake his mercy waits upon us. The sun may leave us a legacy of darkness, but our God never ceases to shine upon his children with beams of love. Like a river, his lovingkindness is always flowing, with a fulness inexhaustible as his own nature. Like the atmosphere which constantly surrounds the earth, and is always ready to support the life of man, the benevolence of God surrounds all his creatures; in it, as in their element, they live, and move, and have their being. Yet as the sun on summer days gladdens us with beams more warm and bright than at other times, and as rivers are at certain seasons swollen by the rain, and as the atmosphere itself is sometimes fraught with more fresh, more bracing, or more balmy influences than heretofore, so is it with the mercy of God; it hath its golden hours; its days of overflow, when the Lord magnifieth his grace before the sons of men. Amongst the blessings of the nether springs, the joyous days of harvest are a special season of excessive favour. It is the glory of autumn that the ripe gifts of providence are then abundantly bestowed; it is the mellow season of realization, whereas all before was but hope and expectation. Great is the joy of harvest. Happy are the reapers who fill their arms with the liberality of heaven. The Psalmist tells us that the harvest is the crowning of the year. Surely these crowning mercies call for crowning thanksgiving! Let us render it by the inward emotions of gratitude. Let our hearts be warmed; let our spirits remember, meditate, and think upon this goodness of the Lord. Then let us praise him with our lips, and laud and magnify his name from whose bounty all this goodness flows. Let us glorify God by yielding our gifts to his cause. A practical proof of our gratitude is a special thank-offering to the Lord of the harvest.
Spurgeon, C. H. 1995. Morning and Evening
Crane Durham is a young, up and coming host of the hit radio show called, Nothing But Truth. His honest and forthright commentary lends an air of innocence to the show that doesn’t always come through on similar conservative talk shows. The show combines analysis of current events and social policy with expert guests offering educated and experiential knowledge to the mix. Crane encourages listeners to call in and air their opinions on the subject at hand as well as offer commentary on his personal beliefs. Even rude callers are handled with class and dignity—a radio show to be proud of indeed.
Does Crane Engage in Unadulterated Obama Bashing?
As a daily listener, I have noticed some callers who simply cannot come to terms with the fact that Mr. Durham has a right to respectfully disagree with the president on policy and behavior. In this writer’s opinion, Crane is not vehement enough with his criticism of President Obama and his misguided policies that are clearly steeped in naivety and intellectual poverty. These callers seem to think that followers of Christianity are precluded from taking a strong, aggressive, yet respectful stance against wrong thinking. They whine that Crane is not balanced in his criticism of liberals and conservatives. I have news for these listeners—Mr. Durham is not a journalist; he is a talk show host! He does not have to be fair and balanced and has a right to his opinion on his own show!
Crane Durham is Simply Smashing!
He smashes through the rhetoric and lies of the left to bring listeners nothing but the truth. His unique way of presenting these facts, coupled with an outstanding roster of guests make this one of the very best Christian conservative talk shows on the air. The truth often makes folks a bit uncomfortable and squirmy (at least it does me), but its echo lends power and strength to those willing to do the hard thing and embrace it.
What is Truth?
In John chapter 18, verse 38, we read that Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Truth was staring Pilate right in the face and he missed it. Perhaps many listen to truth emanating from the lips of pastors, loved ones, or yes—even talk show hosts and they miss it too. If we put our petty opinions and desires aside and listen diligently for the truth, we can work together to stop what is happening to us as a people in this great country. Instead we argue amongst ourselves and allow apathy and pride to reign in us. Shame.
You Know You’ve Made It Big When…
…there is an entire Web site dedicated to discrediting facts and opinions presented on your show. I won’t link to it, because it smacks of all that is wrong with the angry leftwing constituency. They wallow in victim mentality and spend time and talent focused on bringing someone else down rather than forming a positive coalition and working to change what they don’t like. Again – shame.
So Crane Durham must continue to be smashing and not bashing. Listeners must be inspired to take action for Truth. The Word tells us to become the salt and light of the world. Are you worth your salt?
King Cake is a centuries old tradition associated with pre-Lent festivities and celebrations. The name of the cake refers to the three kings who visited the baby Jesus in Bethlehem—the day many refer to as Epiphany. Some say that the cakes have roots in tribal rituals in Europe before Christianity spread to the area. Regardless of this, the tradition is now firmly a Christian one.
The cake, dating back to 12th century France, was eaten on the day known as Feast of Epiphany or Twelfth Night. King Cake is most often oval shaped. A ceramic or plastic baby representing the baby Jesus is baked into the cake. French settlers brought this tradition to Louisiana in the 18th century. The first of the cakes is served on Epiphany – a day of celebration and joy. Whoever finds the baby in the cake is obligated to host a party the next week and supply the cake with the baby hidden inside. These parties continue every week until Mardi Gras (also known as Shrove Tuesday). In addition to symbolizing the baby Jesus, the hidden baby in the cake signifies the difficulty the three kings had in locating the Christ child as well as the precious gifts they brought Him.
Traditional King Cake is not difficult to make and can become a fun and memorable family activity. A very good and traditional recipe can be found here. It is a favorite of school children and if serving many kids in a classroom setting or at a party, you can put several babies in the cake. The usual slice is approximately three inches wide so if you place a baby every three inches in the cake(s), no one will be left out when it comes to finding the baby Jesus! Alternatively, there are even simpler recipes to use at home when baking this delicious cake with young children. Below is one I received from my mother and have used every year with my children.
EASY KING CAKE FOR KIDS
1 16oz can of refrigerated biscuits (not the layered type; regular large ones)
¼ C. melted butter
¼ C. sugar
1 T. cinnamon
Yellow, purple, and green sugar sprinkles (the colors of Mardi Gras)
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease the bottom of a cookie sheet. Press the dough onto the cookie sheet into a large circle. Brush melted butter evenly over the top of the circle. Mix sugar (not the colored sprinkles) and cinnamon together, sprinkle evenly over the melted butter. Lay the baby (or babies) somewhere on the dough. Roll the dough into a cylinder and pinch the ends tightly to seal them. Shape into a round, doughnut shape and pinch the ends together. Bake the round for 35 minutes. Let it cool slightly, but not too long. Sprinkle the yellow, purple, and green sugar sprinkles over the top. You can do this in a pattern or mix them all up.
The cake can be served up right away or will also keep if tightly covered for a couple of days. This time can be used to instruct children regarding the significance of Epiphany and other activities leading up to Lent.
The word lent originates from the Teutonic word lencten, meaning ‘lengthen’ in reference to the lengthening of days in the season of spring. Later, during the early church, the word ‘lent’ became the common English translation for the Latin word quadragesima, meaning ‘forty days’. There is historical evidence that some Lenten preparation took place prior to Easter in these early days; however, there was no regularity as to the requirements for Lenten preparation. The churches in various regions had widely different practices during the Lenten season. Some observed the Lenten sacrificial fasting and preparation for 24 hours, some for one week, and still others for the entire 40 days.
Lent became more regularized throughout the church once Christianity was legalized in 313 A.D. The Council of Nicea, which met in 325 A.D., pronounced that Lent should be observed for the 40 days before Easter in preparation for the Easter festival. The observance should include prayer and fasting for 40 days prior to Holy Week (the week directly before Easter) and more strenuous fasting should occur during Holy Week.
The number 40 has always had powerful symbolic significance regarding preparation and occurs multiple times throughout the scripture of both the Old and New Testaments. Noah was in the ark for 40 days and 40 nights of the flood (Gen 7:4,12,17 8:6) Moses stayed with the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights on Mt. Sinai while waiting to receive the ten commandments (Ex 24:18, Deut 9:9-25). Elijah travelled 40 days and 40 nights to the mountain of the Lord, Mt. Horeb (1Kings 19:8). Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert (Mat 4:2). Jesus appears for 40 days to his disciples after his resurrection (Acts 1:3). These are but a few of the times the number 40 appears in scripture.
The next rule of preparation for Lent to be decided was the nature of the fasting. Should it be total fast drinking only water, should it be abstaining from meat and fish, should observers abstain from all animal products? Most churches of the time encouraged abstinence from all foods that come from flesh such as meat, cheese, milk, and eggs. Fish was not considered flesh and could be consumed and still be in accordance with the fast. Additionally, observers were allowed one modest meal per day, preferably in the late afternoon.
As the church evolved, these rules also evolved, ostensibly to help workers have enough strength to participate in manual labor while observing Lent. The newer rules require fasting involving abstention from meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent, except for Good Friday wherein a total fast is required. As a further sacrifice, people are encouraged to give up some personal pleasure in addition to the requirements above for all the days of Lent. In modern days, this could be not watching television for the 40 days or not indulging in candy or dessert during the 40 days. Technically, observers can partake in whatever they have given up for Lent during the 40 days on Sundays because it is a regular ‘feast day’ for the church and supposed to be looked upon with joy. However, it is my thought, and the way I raise my children, that if one is going to participate at all in a sacrificial rite to G-d, one should do it for the entire time, not finding loopholes to weasel out of the sacrifice.
Other activities encouraged during Lent in addition to fasting and prayer include: regular personal inventory of one’s sins and subsequent confession, additional devotion to the Word, additional time for fervent prayer, the stations of t he cross, and other spiritual enrichments. Lent is a time of sacrifice and preparation wherein we prepare our souls for the joyous and glorious celebration of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior.
Ascension Day, properly called “The Feast of the Ascension”, is observed the 40th day after Easter. It commemorates the day that the risen Christ Jesus ascended into heaven finally after His many visits with His apostles. It is always celebrated on the 6th Thursday of Easter season. In the year 2010, it will be celebrated on May 13th. In some parts of the world, it is observed on the Sunday after the traditional date. This is ostensibly to make it easier for the faithful to fulfill their obligation to attend Mass on this day. This day also marks the end of the Easter season. The ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven is recorded in the New Testament in the Acts of the Apostles. Historical evidence from John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, and others indicate that regular celebration of this day in the Church calendar originated in the 4th century A.D. However, historical writings from St. Augustine insist that it is an apostolic feast, meaning that it was first celebrated by the apostles themselves in commemoration of their witness of this event.
This feast day is of great importance to the Church and the faithful because it celebrates and reminds us of the reality of G-d made Man, His return after resurrection to the Father, and the fact that He will return again in the future, parousia, to judge the living and the dead. On that 40th day, Jesus journeyed to the Mount of Olives with his disciples where they witnessed His ascension.
This ascension marks the final component of the paschal mystery which consists of the passion of Jesus Christ, his crucifixition, death, and burial, descent to the realm of the dead and subsequent resurrection. This ascension along with the resurrection is taken by the Church and the faithful as proof that Jesus is the Messiah. It is the event where Humanity is taken to Heaven and also is the final act that destroyed Satan’s power over mankind. It was often symbolized in the iconography of the early Church as the lion (Jesus) defeating the dragon (Satan).
Additionally, the ascension lends comfort and hope to mankind that we, as members of the body of Christ, may live in anticipation of one day being with Him in eternity. He has preceded us into the Kingdom of Heaven to emphasize this truth. Having entered the kingdom, Jesus stands for us as the ‘man in the gap’ who constantly intercedes for us to the Father and according to scripture assures us of the permanent and never ending outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Many modern thinkers, philosophers, and doubters reject the notion of Christ ascending into Heaven because it implies a three tiered universe with ‘that which is above’, the earthly reality, and ‘that which is below’ or Hell. In reality, this event is above human perception and explanation. It may not have been a spatial ascension, but is recorded as such in scripture due to the fact that humans are spatially limited and must perceive reality spatially.
Below is a very old and beautiful prayer:
Orthodox Vespers of Ascension
you ascended in glory on the Mount of Olives
in the presence of your disciples.
O you who penetrate all things with your divinity,
you were enthroned at the right hand of your Father
and sent down upon your disciples the Holy Spirit
who enlightens, strengthens, and saves our souls. Amen.
Joel 2:12 “. . . turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.”
I grew up in a household that was not very religious at all. We went to church occasionally; that is, we went to church on Christmas and Easter. As a child, I heard the term fasting during Bible studies and sometimes as a teenager when I became a little more interested in spirituality as I would try to read the Bible. As an adult, and a new Christian, I became very aware of the term fasting, but I was unclear as to how it was useful in this modern day and what all it entailed.
Last year, G-d began calling me in a very strong and powerful way. He won me over as I surrendered in December 2008. I had been listening to a talk show by a man named Matt Friedeman. He is a Methodist pastor, a professor, and daily radio personality. He talked about prayer and fasting and invited his listeners to join him in this spiritual exercise every Wednesday and Friday, wherein he would engage in a 24 hour fast. As I listened, I became more interested in this invitation. He explained briefly what it entailed and told his listeners that this practice is a means to develop a deeper prayer life and connection with the Holy Spirit.
I have begun fasting with Matt Friedeman and all those listeners who were inspired by this unique invitation. My experience has been life altering. I have failed a couple of times because I hadn’t fully committed my spirit and heart to that day’s fast. Other times I have failed because I allowed the pressures of my daily tasks and routines to distract me in such a way as to rob me of focus and strength. Most of the time, I make it and my fasting has even inspired my husband to join me. He is a Jew who has come to Christ in this past year.
Fasting is the act of humbling ourselves before G-d so that we can enter into a deeper prayer life and a greater capacity to discern the guidance and love of the Holy Spirit within us. The regular practice of fasting enhances the power and focus of prayer. I heard one woman say that fasting is a way that we “pray with our bodies”. In the following paragraphs I will attempt to outline the steps to beginning a fast.
First: state the objective of your fast. Are you fasting for guidance, for healing of yourself or another, for a solution to a problem? Decide why you are going to fast. You can write this in a journal or just state it in your head. I prefer a journal so there is an historical account of fasting objectives to revisit later. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in your objective and to clarify why you feel called to fast.
Second: commit to the length of your fast. Will it be 24 hours, 3 days, a week? If you are a beginner, start with 24 hours or less. I have been on a fasting schedule for about 3 months and I still struggle at times with the 24 hour fast. Additionally, what type of fast will you commit to? Will you ingest only water or will you allow yourself juice as well? How much time are you going to commit during this fast to devotion and prayer? Decide these things and add them to your objective.
Third: prepare yourself and your soul. Ask G-d to reveal your sins to you and examine your conscious honestly. Prayerfully confess your sins with heartfelt honesty. Seek forgiveness and forgive those who have hurt you. Ask G-d to fill you with the Holy Spirit.
Fourth: set time aside for the Lord. An example of this would be to commit to prayer and meditation from 6am to 7am in the morning, from 12pm to 1pm in the afternoon, and from 7pm to 8pm in the evening during the 24 hour fast. This is just an example. The actual schedule should be determined by the participant and the Holy Spirit.
Fifth: expect results. A regular schedule of prayer and fasting in this way will change the way you view prayer and the concrete results it can bring. Don’t be discouraged if you fail at first. It is a difficult endeavor for the beginner, but the reward is amazing.
I will close with a few of the many instances where fasting is found in the New Testament.
Acts 9:9, 11 “And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.”
Acts 10:30 “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing.”
I Corinthians 7:5 “. . . that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer . . .”
Luke 2:36-37 “And there was one Anna, a prophetess … a widow of about 44 years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.”
Parents who buy their young children cell phones are doing their children a disservice in most cases. Of course, there may be extenuating circumstances that warrant a child under driving age to own a cell phone, but generally speaking, young children should not own cell phones.
Society as a group in general seems to be losing a grip on common sense parenting. While everyone needs advice now and then on parenting and relationships, the marketplace is flooded with self help volumes on how to parent, how to discipline, how to communicate, etc., with children. Many parents are so occupied with the pressures and responsibilities of modern society that their growth as young parents that would normally come naturally and more easily has been stunted. More than ever, young families require both parents to work full time. When the parents arrive home, there is homework to be done, chores to be completed, and meals to prepare. Parents and their very young children are sadly living what are essentially parallel lives.
Overwrought and burdened parents have used the television, internet, and video games as virtual babysitters. Many of these parents feel guilty for feeling they have to use these methods to entertain their children so that tasks can be completed and stresses alleviated. They become less and less emotionally connected with their children as time goes on. Enter the cell phone and all of its technological promise. The parent buys the child a cell phone in hopes that they can communicate when he or she stays late at work or when the child has to stay late at school. The parent dreams that they could even sneak in a text message or two during the day at lunch or recess to feel connected to one another. Exactly the opposite occurs. The parent and child are placated in their loneliness for one another through the text messages, emails, and phone calls to one another at times when it was impossible for them to communicate. This form of communication can never replace what a child needs in these formative years in regards to a close emotional relationship with his or her parent.
This form of communication gives a false promise to the parent and the very young child. The youngster is still left empty inside, and in many cases has no idea why. The parent still yearns for what is slipping away as each day passes, but feels trapped and shackled by life’s structure and responsibilities. I implore these parents to take back the most important responsibility in the world. It will be gone and the only memories left will be faded hugs and kisses and some sort of electronic messaging lost in the airwaves. If there are two parents in the household, find a way to live on one income or on one and a half incomes. If it means downsizing the home, eliminating the car payment, hocking some jewelry, it will be well worth it. Take control, take charge, and throw away that cell phone, put a filter on the internet, use parental blocks on the television and go to the museum with your child. Paint and make a mess with your child. Garden with your child. Burn cookies and eat them anyway with your child.
One last caveat – when your child is old enough to have a cell phone (i.e. driving age), require that he or she work to in some way pay for the phone itself and its service. Don’t believe the cell phone lie. Just because ‘everyone has one’ doesn’t cut it. You know what your mother said when you came up with that argument…remember… “If everyone were jumping off of a bridge, would you do it too, Junior?”
“A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE” Matthew 2:18