Guidance and Direction for the Coming Year!

Looking Back at 2015!

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A new year!  As we look back at 2015, hopefully we all can say “It’s been a good year.”  Whether the year was a good one for you or not so good, we probably all can think of events that we would have handled differently if we could do it over.  Times when we wish we had remained silent – or maybe wish we had spoken up.  Times when we wish we had not attended that event – or maybe wish we had gone to an event.  Times when we wish we had loved more – times when we wish we had pulled back from a relationship.

Looking back we can always see areas in our lives where we could have done a better job of communicating, sharing, being brave, being restrained.  But the year is past.  What’s done is done.  Like Paul, the apostle, we need to say:

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Now the New Year has arrived!

This is a time we often make new year resolutions.  We are going to work harder (or devote less time at work and more at relaxing), we are going to lose weight, we are going to be more faithful in our Bible reading, our exercising.  The list often goes on and on.

Top Ten New Year Resolutions

Here is one list of top ten New Year Resolutions

  1. Miss more time with family and friends
  2. Exercise – get in shape
  3. Lose weight
  4. Quit smoking
  5. Relax and enjoy time more
  6. Quit drinking
  7. Get out of debt
  8. Learn something new
  9. Help others
  10. Get organized

New Year Resolutions for the “Super Heroes”

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For many of us a New Year’s Resolution might look like this

My goal for 2016 is to accomplish the goals I had for 2015 which I should have done in 2014 because I promised myself I would do them in 2013 after much planning for them in 2012.

A worthy New Year’s Resolution

While it is always good to have goals for the coming year – may I suggest a goal that would really be of the greatest benefit in 2016 – a resolution to not just read, but really study the Word of God this year.

God’s Word is an excellent instruction manual for our lives.  Manual

 

 

There has been so much violence and discord in our country in 2015.  Who knows what the coming year will bring.  But, whether this year sees peace or war, prosperity or difficult financial times, excellent health or too many trips to the doctor, we can find strength in God’s Word.

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.   Joshua 1:8

How can a young person stay pure?
    By obeying your word.
 I have tried hard to find you—
    don’t let me wander from your commands.
 I have hidden your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.  Psalm 119

There are so many aids and helps in learning more about God’s Word.  One of the greatest ways to get into God’s Word is an organized, consistent reading plan.

There are excellent plans out there.  Visit biblegateway.com for a listing of many that can be sent directly to your mail each day.

Each day includes a passage from both the Old Testament and New Testament.
Read the Bible in the chronological order in which its stories and events occurred.
Read the Bible from start to finish, from Genesis to Revelation.
Read the books of the Bible as they were written historically, according to the estimated date of their writing.
An intensive Bible reading plan that walks through the entire Bible in 90 days.
Read through the four Gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John–in 40 days.
Read the New Testament from start to finish, from Matthew to Revelation.
This reading plan is provided by Brian Hardin from Daily Audio Bible.
Daily Old and New Testament readings based on the Book of Common Prayer.
Short readings from throughout the Bible that focus on the meaning and events of Easter.
40 daily Scripture readings that illustrate the character of God and the nature of faith.
Scripture passages that focus on the meaning of Advent and Christmas.
A reading plan that walks through the entire New Testament in 24 weeks of daily readings.
A daily inspirational and encouraging Bible verse.
Daily Bible readings that follow the church liturgical year, with thematically matched Old and New Testament readings.
Daily Bible readings that follow the church liturgical year, with sequential stories told across multiple weeks.
The classic M’Cheyne plan–read the Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms or Gospels every day.
Read through the book of Proverbs every month of the year.

Check them out!

 

First Christmas vs Our Christmas Now!

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Christmas!  What a magical time!  We decorate our homes with trees, candles, wreaths.  We put out a nativity set and hang up an angel or two.  We plan gatherings with family and friends where there will be presents and lots of delicious food to eat.  Everything is so neat and tidy – so beautiful.   It’s truly a joyous time as we celebrate our Savior’s birth and greet one another with “Merry Christmas!”

Our Christmas cards show scenes of Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus and they look so beautiful and so peaceful.   Many of the cards show bright lights shining above the heads of Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus.  Even our Christmas carols speak of a litMV5BMTgwOTI4NDU2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzE2MjY0NA@@__V1_UY100_CR25,0,100,100_AL_tle baby who makes no crying.

But how far from that first Christmas have we come?  Was it really beautiful, calm and peaceful to Mary and Joseph and those who played a role in that first Christmas?

 

Mary’s Story

How must Mary have first felt when the angel appeared to her with those amazing words:  “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”   Name Him Jesus – “Savior”

Because we know how the story ends, we think “What a honor to be chosen to bear the Son of God.  What great news this was.”

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But put yourself in Mary’s place for a moment.  How frightening it would be to say, ‘Hey Mom and Dad, I’m pregnant but I’m still a virgin.  This child I bear has been conceived by the Holy Spirit.”

And how would she face Joseph?  He would know he was not the father.    What would he say?  Would he still marry her?  Would he bring her before the community to be stoned?

What about the child?  Would gossip follow him as he played and grew in the village?

Mary’s dream of marriage to Joseph and a wonderful life suddenly looked as if it would be shattered.  Mary had to decide – “Do I trust God?”

Her decision was a matter of trust.  She  responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”   Later Mary expressed how blessed she realized she was as she spoke to her cousin Elizabeth and said, ” “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!   For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.   For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.

Joseph’s Story

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And what about Joseph?  A simple carpenter engaged to a young woman in the village, Joseph no doubt was making plans for his soon-to-be bride and the family they would someday have.   Looking forward with anticipation to their wedding, he is suddenly hit with the news that his future bride is pregnant.

What sorrow he must have felt as he believed Mary had been unfaithful to him.  What agony as he struggled with the decision he faced.  Should he publicly denounce her – maybe even see her stoned?  Should he, could he forgive her ?   Although his heart was breaking, all his hopes and dreams were crushed, he was a godly and kind man.

As he thought about what to do, an angel appeared to him and said,  “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.  For the  child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.   And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:  “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!   She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel,  which means ‘God is with us.’”

While no doubt  Joseph rejoiced at this news, he had to have also been filled with thoughts of great apprehension.  What a tremendous responsibility he was given – to raise the Son of God!  Like Mary, he had to make a decision to totally trust God and welcome Emmanuel into his home.

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And then the journey to Bethlehem.   How appropriate that the One who would say “I am Bread of Life” would be born in a city whose meaning is “house of bread.”  And in Micah, 5 the prophet foretold that the Messiah would come from this small and insignificant town of Bethlehem.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,  are only a small village among all the people of Judah.  Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past,  will come from you on my behalf.

Luke tells us:    “At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.  (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.  And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.  He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

Imagine traveling 90 miles over unpaved, hilly trails with Mary in the late weeks of her pregnancy riding on a donkey and Joseph leading on foot.  Bible scholars estimate that they would have probably only been able to make 10 miles a day because of Mary’s impending delivery.  There could be threats of bandits along the trail.  They had to carry their own provisions.

The hardships did not end when they arrived in Bethlehem.  We think of Mary and Joseph alone in the stable  but it is possible that they shared that stable with others.  In an overcrowded Bethlehem they were probably not the only ones who could find no room in the inn.

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And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.  She gave birth to her first child, a son.  She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manager, because there was no lodging available for them.

 

 

The Shepherds’ Story

And what of the shepherds?  If you had been given the responsibility to announce the birth of the Messiah, who would you have chosen to tell?   Would you have selected a group of people who spent most of their days in the fields with the sheep and had no influence with society?  Shepherds were the blue-collar workers largely unnoticed by those in authority.

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That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.  Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,  but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.  See the excitement with which the shepherds received this news and hurried to find the child.

The Wise Men’s Story

And what of the wise men.  Matthew tells us

“About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,  “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.   King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.  He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”  “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:  ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”  After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!  They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

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The Wise Men traveled many miles to worship the King of the Jews.  They did not hop a plane and arrive at Bethlehem in a few hours.  They did not pack their SUV with food and drink and drive a few days across the interstate.  Their journey required many days riding through the desert on the back of camels, stopping to sleep at night in their tents.  It was not an easy journey, but they came eagerly seeking to worship the King.

What is the real purpose of Christmas?

Now we come to the real purpose of Christmas.  The story of Christmas is only the beginning – unless it leads us to the cross and the empty tomb, it has lost its real purpose.

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“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

First Christmas – and our Christmas now!

  • That first Christmas required Mary and Joseph to totally trust God and accept His plans for their lives.  To believe the words of the angel, Gabriel, and accept God’s will for  their lives.  This Christmas, are you trusting God, are you willing to accept His plans for your life?
  • That first Christmas the shepherds received the good news of the child’s birth with great joy and hurried to find the child.  Today is our excitement at Christmas more focused on the presents, the decorations, the meals, the parties?  Are we still excited about the good news that  “unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace?
  • That first Christmas the leading priests and teachers knew the prophecy….knew God’s Word.  Yet, they made no effort to go to Bethlehem to check out this story of the Messiah.  The Wise Men traveled a great distance – but the religious leaders could not be bothered to travel the six miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.  As we enjoy this Christmas season with all our decorations, food and gatherings with family and friends, let us be sure that we take time to really seek the Messiah.  Let’s ask God to return us to the simple but awesome truth of that first Christmas in a dark, possibly cold, stable where two young people faced the awesome challenge of raising the Son of God without money, fame or lots of support simply trusting and obeying the Father.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Keep Christ in Christmas by our actions rather than our words!

I posted this list last year – but would like to share again – as you are shopping don’t forget those who are less fortunate than you!

For everyone concerned about “keeping Christ in Christmas” instead of worrying rather some pagan says “Merry Christmas” let’s really “keep Christ in Christmas” by what we do rather than what we say.

Ten Terrific Gifts for Christmas

  1. For just $35 you can help bring a safe playground to a Compassion child development center.
  2. For just $40 you can help provide textbooks and learning materials that children can access at their child development center.
  3. For just $18 you can help a child prevent malaria with an insecticide-treated bed net, plus training for his or her family to avoid the mosquito bites that cause this disease.
  4. For just $79 you can help provide a safe water filtration system so that a family in poverty can have clean water.
  5. For just $100 you can provide a bicycle for a child in need, to ensure that he/she has a safe, efficient way to attend school.
  6. For just $30 you can ensure that a child receives immediate, physical spiritual, emotional support at a Compassion center while they wait to be sponsored.
  7. For just $42 you can provide chickens so that parents can become self-sufficient which leads to healthier children.
  8. For just $14 you can provide a mother and child with food and nutritional supplements, for one month helping ensure adequate weight and better health.  You can provide that care for an entire year for just $168.
  9. For $13 you can help a malnourished child with food and medicine in an area plagued by food shortage.
  10. For just $30 you can help fill the gap of critical, unexpected situations for children and their families registered with Compassion, including emergency medical care, support following disasters and protection from abuse.

Check it out!  Compassion Inc

Compassion.com/gifts

Matthew 25:40 – And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the

The First Christmas – Mary’s Story

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Christmas!  What a magical time!

We decorate our homes with trees, candles, wreaths.  We put out a nativity set and hang up an angel or two.  We plan gatherings with family and friends where there will be presents and lots of delicious food to eat.  Everything is so neat and tidy – so beautiful.   It’s truly a joyous time as we celebrate our Savior’s birth.

Our Christmas cards show scenes of Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus and they look so beautiful and so peaceful.  Even our Christmas carols speak of a little baby who makes no crying and of a night where all is calm.

But how far from that first Christmas have we come?  Was it really beautiful, calm and peaceful to Mary and Joseph and those who played a role in that first Christmas?

What about Mary?

How must Mary have first felt when the angel appeared to her with those amazing words:  “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Because we know how the story ends, we think “What an honor to be chosen to bear the Son of God.  What great news this was.”

But put yourself in Mary’s place for a moment.  How frightening it would be to say, ‘Hey Mom and Dad, I’m pregnant but I’m still a virgin.  This child I bear has been conceived by the Holy Spirit.”  Can you imagine the response of her parents to that announcement?

And how would she face Joseph?  He would know he was not the father.    What would he say?  Certainly he would have questions.  Would he still marry her?  Would he bring her before the community to be stoned?

What about the child?  Would gossip follow him as he played and grew in the village?

Mary’s dream of marriage to Joseph and a wonderful life suddenly looked as if it would be shattered.

Do I trust God?

Mary had to decide.

Her decision was a matter of trust.  She  responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

The trip to Bethlehem

How appropriate that the One who would say “I am Bread of Life” would be born in a city whose meaning is “house of bread.”  And in Micah, 5 the prophet foretold that the Messiah would journey-to-bethlehem-1062729_jpg_1418849826391_journey-to-bethlehem-1062729come from this small and insignificant town of Bethlehem.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,  are only a small village among all the people of Judah.  Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past,  will come from you on my behalf.

Imagine traveling 90 miles over unpaved, hilly trails with Mary in the late weeks of her pregnancy riding on a donkey and Joseph leading on foot.  Bible scholars estimate that they would have probably only been able to make 10 miles a day because of Mary’s impending delivery.  There could be threats of bandits along the trail.  They had to carry their own provisions.

The hardships did not end when they arrived in Bethlehem.  We think of Mary and Joseph alone in the stable  but it is possible that they shared that stable with others.  In an overcrowded Bethlehem they were probably not the only ones who could find no room in the inn.

What a place to give birth!

I can’t imagine giving birth in a cold stable with possibly no help in delivery except my husband who is a carpenter and maybe some strangers who offered help.  To lay my new-born baby in a feeding trough for animals.

Baby Jesus did not cry?????

I find it hard to believe that baby Jesus just laid there quiet and calm.  After all, the Bible tells us that He came to “be like us,” to understand our weakness and frailty.

  • As He began His ministry, He experienced temptation just like us.
  • We see Him falling asleep after an exhaustive day ministering to the multitudes.
  • In the Garden of Gethsemane He cried out for deliverance from the cross.
  • He felt the agony of feeling forsaken by the Father on the cross.

One of the main points the writer of the book of Hebrews makes is that Jesus experienced human life as we know it, so why would He as a baby not have felt the cold, the hunger?  Why would He not have cried as all new-born babies do?

Enter the shepherds!  Wake up Mary!

Imagine Mary, worn out from giving birth, quieting her baby and watching Joseph tenderly lay him in the manger.  Perhaps she thought about the visit from Gabriel and his words about this son she just gave birth to.  Perhaps she wondered why, if this boy was the savior of the world, they were sleeping in a stable and he was laying in the place where animals took their meals.

Finally, she leans back on the hay to try to get a little sleep when suddenly the stable is invaded by a group of shepherds straight from the hills where they had been tending their sheep.  Pos002-christmas-shepherdssibly they did not smell all that pleasant.  They no doubt were very excited and loudly proclaiming what they had seen and heard.  As they shared the stories of the angels, no doubt Mary remembered her visit from Gabriel.  What reassurance to know that others now had heard the wonderful message that this child was sent from God.  She and Joseph were not alone in knowing the wondrous news of this birth.

The visit to the temple

Soon it was time to take the little baby to the temple and present the sacrifices required after giving birth.  We can see from the gifts they brought of two turtledoves or two young pigeons that Mary and Joseph were among the poor of the land.  Leviticus 12 tells us requirements for this offering.

“These, then are the procedures after childbirth.  But if she is too poor to bring a lamb, then she must bring two turtledoves or two young pigoens.

Standing in the temple still reflecting on all the events of the past few days, Mary was again reminded of the importance of her son when a man named Simeon took the child in his arms and praised God, saying

Lord, now I can die content!  For I have seen him as you promised me I would.  I have seen the Savior you have given o the world.

But Simeon’s next words must have given Mary pause as he told her

A sword shall pierce your soul, for this child shall be rejcted by many in Israel, and this to their undoing.  But he will be the greatest joy of many others.  And the deepest thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed.

Mary’s first Christmas

How different Mary’s experience of Christmas is from ours.  But as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, may we go beyond the bright lights, the food, the music – may we, like Mary, experience the wonder of this miracuous birth.  May we trust this Savior and like Mary, may we say

I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything You say about me come true!

 

 

I will not let them suffer alone!

Marks of Christ

A wonderful Thanksgiving!

It was a great Thanksgiving this year.  Our youngest granddaughter spent the night before with us – and slept all snuggled up next to me.  The morning brought her mother and father and while I made the scalloped potatoes and banana pudding that my family love, my daughter fixed all the rest of the food.  Afterwards, my husband and son-in-law cleaned up.

The family gathered around the table was not as many as in years past as our children and grandchildren are scattered all around the USA, but I was thankful for the calls and texts from many of them.

So much to be thankful for:

  • While we have aches and pains, none of my family have any life-threatening illnesses.
  • My children all have jobs/homes.
  • I have a terrific husband.

But what about the rest of the world?

As we all rush out to find great bargains on this “black Friday” I think of those who did not sit down yesterday to a table loaded with delicious food.  Those who did not lay their body down last night on a soft, comfortable bed with warm blankets.

My thoughts last night were especially of my Christian brothers and sisters who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.  For them, there was no big meal with family and friends all gathered around.  Many are in prison and have not seen their families in weeks, months, even years.  For them, there was not a big shopping day.

But what can I do about it?

Many times we feel like there is nothing we can do about people suffering on the other side of the world.  We do not have enough money, enough political power, no army.  What can we do?

There is much we can do!

Start with prayer.

We often say to someone who shares a need that we cannot fix, “All I can do is pray.”  But never under-estimate the power of prayer.

Samuel M. Zwemer, a missionary and Christian scholar on Islam, said: “The history of missions is the history of answered prayer…it is the key to the whole missionary problem. All human means are secondary.” J. Oswald Sanders said: “[Prayer] is fundamental, not supplementary…. All progress can be clearly traced back to prevailing prayer.”

How can we pray?

  • Pray for God to move in the hearts of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, so that they may know Christ (1 Timothy 2:4).
  • Pray for God to change  the hearts of governmental authorities (Proverbs 21:1).

Pastor Wurmbrand (founder of Voice of the Martyrs) writes how God used him while he was in prison.  He credits having the courage and strength to be a witness and survive the harsh treatment of prison to the prayers of God’s people.

This is part of his story!

In Romania, Pastor Wurmbrand was interrogated many times during his 14 years in prison. One of his interrogators, Lieutenant Grecu, questioned Pastor Wurmbrand about his activities with the underground church. Wurmbrand described Grecu as “a tough young man… indoctrinated with the belief that he was making a better world.”
After accusing Pastor Wurmbrand of lying about his contacts, Grecu ordered him to write out all the rules that Pastor broke in prison. Pastor Wurmbrand willingly sat at the table to write out his “declaration.” It had been two years since he had held a pen, so it was difficult to write. He persisted in writing all the rules he had broken, ending his “confession” with: “I have never spoken against the Communists. I am a disciple of Christ, who had given us love for our enemies. I understand them and pray for their conversion so that they will become my brothers in the Faith….”
When Grecu read the “declaration,” he was overwhelmed that Pastor could write of his love for a government that had put him in prison and tortured him. Grecu said, “This is one of your Christian commandments that no one can keep.” To that, Pastor lovingly responded: “It’s not a matter of keeping a commandment. When I became a Christian, it was as if I had been reborn, with a new character full of love. Just as only water can flow from a spring, so only love can come from a loving heart.”
Over time, Pastor had more opportunities to talk about Christ with Lieutenant Grecu. One day he had the wonderful privilege, in his own prison cell, to see Grecu come to Christ.

Don’t let them suffer alone!

Pray.  Write letters.  Educate yourself about the persecution in the world.   Check out http://www.persecution.com/

 

Wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” – What does that really mean?

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It’s that time of year again!

Facebook is full of posts about saying “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays.”  We go through this scenario every year.  Christians judge people’s spirituality on what greeting they give and if anyone says “Happy Holidays”  – well – they must not be a Christ follower.

What are we wishing someone when we wish them a “Merry’ Christmas?

The definition of “merry’ is “full of cheerfulness, laughingly happy, hilarious.”  Synonyms for “merry” are

  • amusing
  • lighthearted
  • sunny
  • rip-roaring
  • jolly
  • cheerful

So when I wish for someone to have a Christmas that is full of cheerfulness or laughingly happy – what does that have to do with Jesus Christ?  Yes, He does bring joy, but the joy that is the fruit of the Spirit is much more than just being cheerful or lighthearted.  Having a sunny, jolly time at Christmas – is that really what Christmas is all about?

What about those who are battling sorrow or depression?  Does my cheerful “Merry Christmas” really bring Christ closer to them?  I seriously doubt it.  It probably feels more like a slap in the face.

If we really are concerned about keeping Christ in Christmas, perhaps we should be more sensitive to those we meet who are hurting or do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior.  Perhaps we should not rush through the line saying “Merry Christmas” and feeling so spiritual.  Perhaps we should ask God to make us aware of those we meet that might need a hug, a kind smile and a real message about what Christmas means.

So – I’m reposting my article from last year on this controversy.

I recently wrote about the controversy we have at this time of year over saying “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays.” 

Standing in line to pay for my book at Barnes and Noble today, I heard the customer ahead of me complaining to the clerk because he had wished her “Happy Holidays!”  She proceeded to tell him in an irate voice that this was Christmas and he should greet her with “Merry Christmas!”

When he replied not every customer was a Christian and there are several religious holidays in December such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, she became upset and told him “We need to keep Christ in Christmas!”

I wondered as she finally walked away in a very self-righteous mood what would Jesus have done in this circumstance.  Her attitude was anything but loving and kind.

So – I began to wonder:  Are we as Christians supposed to be keeping Christ in Christmas?  Is that what the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus is all about?  A holiday where we spend so much time, energy and money baking, shopping, going to parties, putting up lights, waiting for Santa Claus to come?

Please do not misunderstand me.  I’m not suggesting these things are wrong – I miss the days when my children tried their best to go to sleep early so Santa Claus would come.  The days when we had a big, beautiful tree full of lights in our living room with presents.  Christmas is a fun-filled family time I appreciate.  But really?

When we talk about keeping Christ in Christmas – it seems to me we are making Christmas the big deal.  Somehow we need to make sure in all our busyness that we add Christ to this day.  So – we add a candle-light service to our list of parties, we put out a manger scene along with the other Christmas decorations and we insist everyone say “Merry Christmas” not “Happy Holidays.”  Then, we sit back and feel so righteous because we have fitted Christ into our Christmas routines.

The birth of Jesus – and its celebration – is much more than saying “Merry Christmas.”  The birth of Jesus shows us God’s love in leaving the glory and splendor of heaven to come to earth as a human.  It is a moment to be savored with awe and solemn reflection – not by a hurried “Merry Christmas” as we pass one another in the stores, at church or in our homes.  That night so long ago may well have not been a “Silent Night” as we love to think of it.  I earlier posted some thoughts on that “Silent Night” image we have of Jesus’ birth.   At our church service we recently sang “Away in a Manger.”  I was struck again by the words “the cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.”  Really?  He came to earth to be one of us – to experience our pain, our sorrow, our fears, our temptations.  So – when he awoke in the middle of the night possibly hungry and cold, He did not cry!

Christmas is only the beginning of the story of Jesus Christ.

  • There was his earthly life where I believe he experienced sorrow and pain – and I know at least two times when he cried – at the grave of Lazarus and over Jerusalem just before He went to the cross.  Somehow I believe he cried as a baby too.
  • There was his time in the garden of Gethsemane when he experienced such agony the Bible tells us he sweated great drops of blood.
  • There was the cross where He cried “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
  • And, thankfully, there was the resurrection!

So – there is so much more to this story of Jesus Christ than His birth.  But unfortunately that seems to be the one we want the world to recognize and acknowledge.  We don’t seem to care that the celebration of the resurrection is overshadowed by the Easter bunny and the Easter egg hunt.  As long as the world says “Merry Christmas” and we keep Christ in the holiday, everything is fine.

Well – I think we need to be more concerned that the world knows He not only came as a baby, but He died and rose again.  And why?

Because He loves us.

So – we need to begin showing that love to others around us.

Jesus said they would know we were His disciples by the love we showed to others.

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples

Christmas should only be a part of our life in Christ.  He needs to be recognized and honored by the world all year-long.  But the only way that will happen is if we stop being so judgmental and self-righteous and began to love people – even those who don’t say “Merry Christmas!”

I propose we don’t worry so much about keeping “Christ in Christmas” but rather make sure that our Christmas is in Christ – because He is so much more than the baby in the manger.  Let’s keep “Christmas in Christ” and make Him known to the world by our love for others.

Ten Ways to Pray for Our Persecuted Family

I recently shared some information about a very important organization, VOM.  (The Voice of the Martyrs)

I would like to share more information about how you can pray for those who are being persecuted around the world for their faith.

  1. Pray that persecuted believers will sense god’s presence.
  2. Pray that they will feel connected to the greater Body of Christ.
  3. Pray that they will experience God’s comfort when their family members are killed, injured, or imprisoned for their witness.
  4. Pray that they will have more opportunities to share the gospel.
  5. Pray for their boldness to make Christ known.
  6. Pray that they will forgive and love their persecutors.
  7. Pray that their ministry activities will remain undetected by authorities or others who wish to silence them.
  8. Pray that they will rejoice in suffering.
  9. Pray that they will be refreshed through God’s Word and grow in their faith.
  10. Pray that they will be strengthened through the prayers of fellow believers.

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Natalie Grant

The Servant

Though he was God, He did not think equality with God as something to cling to:  Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.  When He appeared, in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

 

Philippians 2:6-8

Where Is Our Reverence?

AWE-FULL

Great and holy God

awe and reverence

fear and trembling

do not come easily to us

for we are not

Old Testament Jews

or Moses

or mystics

or sensitive enough.

Forgive us

for slouching into Your presence

with little expectation

and less awe

than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.

We need

neither Jehovah nor a buddy—

neither “the Great and powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”

Help us

to want what we need…

You

God

and may the altar of our hearts

tremble with delight

at Your visitation

amen.

Frederick Ohler