Wednesday, November 28, 2007, 08:00 AM - Extra Christy
While secular culture have popularized the idea that Angels are guardians, guides and genies; "Angel" means "messenger".

My favorite illustration of this is in the 1998 film "City of Angels" starring Nicholas Cage. While not a Presbyterian or even Biblical film, it does have some intriguing scenes. Angels are shown as invisibly following people and urgently whispering in their ear God's advice at times of decision.

What I like about the whispering it is always one immediate step toward God, not a life changing leap of faith. The gun pointing robber is urged not to shoot his victim...not to give up a life of crime, take a vow of poverty and join the Peace Corps by dinner. I like that immediate constant presence of God's message to take the next step on God's way. Maybe missionary work is in God's plan for our gun waving lost brother, but not at this moment. Right now, the best possible Godly choice is to refrain from shooting. That is where the message of God touches his life at the current moment.

If you can't do all you think God wants to you do, or can't even be all that YOU think you should be...take a small step in that direction: Take the stairs on the way to a regular exercise program, go a day a week without moaning on the way to a thankful life, write a weekly email on the way to being a author, give to the Salvation Army bell ringer as you walk by on the way to being regular generous giver.

Listen for and follow God's messages even in your daily decisions and you will be on the side of angels.

"What should we do then?" the crowd asked.
John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."

Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"
"Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.

Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?"
He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely-be content with your pay."-- Luke 3:10-14 (NIV)

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007, 08:00 AM - Extra Christy
In our contemporary service Sunday, we paused and wrote thank-you notes to individuals. We also made large lists of thanks for posting and shaping our prayer of thanksgiving later in the service.

I encourage you to pause a moment or three and make a list of what you are thankful for. Mine probably looks similar to many of yours: home and health, family and friends. One item that has really struck me, was highlighted by a call from a non-church family unknown to me and the good Presbyterians here asking if I could come and have prayers as they buried their father. You see...they didn't have enough money to pay and the cemetery suggested they called me. (They know I don't accept payment for religious services.)

As she thanked me, I gently redirected her thanks to the good Presbyterians that allowed me to be a full-time minister. They paid me so I could be a pastor of the church, and help people in times of grief, so I had already been paid, she didn't have to worry about it.

I am thankful to the congregation I server to be able to be a pastor to people even when they don't have money to pay.

May you be thanked this week. And may that thanks giving, prompt you to give thanks in turn.

The Congregation of being, on sufficient grounds, well satisfied of the ministerial qualifications of you and having good hopes from our past experience of your labours, that your ministrations in the Gospel will be profitable to our spiritual interests, do earnestly call you to undertake the pastoral office in said Congregation; promising you, in the discharge of your duty, all proper support, encouragement and obedience in the Lord. And that you may be free from worldly cares and avocations, we hereby promise and oblige ourselves to pay you the sum of________,
in regular monthly payments, during the time of your being and continuing the regular Pastor of this Church.-- 1869 Presbyterian Form of Government

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A Server's Name 
Wednesday, November 14, 2007, 08:00 AM - Extra Christy
Do you know your server's name? Name tags worn by servers at restaurants have been augmented by introductions, "Hi, I'm Jane and I'll be serving you today." I try to remember my server's name at least during the meal. I admit I do it mainly because if the server goes wandering off, I can ask for the server by name.

A breakfast place I frequent regularly had an excellent server. I think she was telepathic. Coffee mugs and water glasses were never allowed to be empty, and appeared on our table in the correct places with appropriate options almost before we sat down. Everything was so smoothly done we never had to think about where our server was much less call out her name.

Last week, was her last day. She said good-bye with unobtrusive grace and finesse in the same way she greeted and served us every week. This week we missed her...and were embarrassed when we confessed to each other that none us knew her name. The Lone Ranger effect.*

I remembered times when my name was used. Growing up, "John Christy Ramsey" was a signal that I was being called to account for a sin of omission or commission and better come running. The more names, the greater the transgression. Not knowing even one name of a person is a sign of the opposite situation, of never having to be called to the table to account for an offense or shortcoming.

I then smiled as this formula threw new light on the Biblical assurance that God has called us by name. I imagine that God has called some us more often and by more complete names than others, for we are not always serving where and as we should.

May your service to others be so faithful that God never has to ask where you are.

I have called you by name; now you belong to me. --Isaiah 43:1b (NIV)

'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'--Matthew 25:21 (NIV)

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A Manual Manual 
Wednesday, November 7, 2007, 08:00 AM - Extra Christy
A visit from the home office is seldom welcomed by the locals. Even the best corporate ambassadors with excellent people skills face resistance from the the hometown, homegrown folks to headquarter's ways.

One head office delegation had the foresight to include the designer of the system on a troubleshooting trip to a subsidiary. As the corporate visitors started to make adjustments, one of the locals offered, "Wait, the manual says that..." only to be interrupted by the visiting technician who introduced their sidekick: "This is John Phillips. He wrote the manual." In the presence of the author, the quotation contest was canceled.

Jesus had the same effect on people. He taught with authority and his actions, not by quoting others. The Gospel of John opens by saying that Jesus was the Word made flesh.

The Christian life is not about quoting the book but traveling with the author.

When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying-quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard. -- Matthew 7:28-29 (The Message)

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. -- John 1:14 (The Message)

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A Gospel Ghost Story 
Wednesday, October 31, 2007, 07:28 AM - Extra Christy
A Gospel Ghost story is found in Matthew chapter 14. It sets us up well for a scary story: a boat out on a windy night, with one of the party missing. It even has the classic line: "It's a Ghost" cried out in fear by the terrified boaters when they see a figure moving towards them across the water in the pre-dawn hours.

It was actually Jesus who responded to their terror and fear with the words, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." To be fair to the fearful followers of Jesus, he was walking on water, somewhat unexpected. To Peter's credit he went quickly from fear to faith and went out on the water to meet Jesus. The water walking was going surprisingly well until he looked away from Jesus and "saw the wind". Then Peter (which means "Rock"!) began to sink like a Peter and the Lord had to give a hand to both body and spirit.

What could Peter have seen in the wind that frightened him so? I wonder if it was his imagination that colored the blowing blankness with danger and doubt as soon as he took his eyes off his savior.

This Halloween give your imagination a rest from ghost stories and follow the Jesus' advice:

Take courage. Do not be afraid. Christ is with us.

Ghost on the Water

Right away, Jesus made his disciples get into a boat and start back across the lake. But he stayed until he had sent the crowds away. Then he went up on a mountain where he could be alone and pray. Later that evening, he was still there. By this time the boat was a long way from the shore. It was going against the wind and was being tossed around by the waves. A little while before morning, Jesus came walking on the water toward his disciples. When they saw him, they thought he was a ghost. They were terrified and started screaming.

At once, Jesus said to them, "Don't worry! I am Jesus. Don't be afraid."

Peter replied, "Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water."

"Come on!" Jesus said. Peter then got out of the boat and started walking on the water toward him.

But when Peter saw how strong the wind was, he was afraid and started sinking. "Save me, Lord!" he shouted.

Right away, Jesus reached out his hand. He helped Peter up and said, "You surely don't have much faith. Why do you doubt?"

When Jesus and Peter got into the boat, the wind died down. The men in the boat worshiped Jesus and said, "You really are the Son of God!" -- Matthew 14:22-33 (NIV)

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