Month: December 2011

A Simple New Year’s Resolution

 

 

This is the last day of the year, and the time of year people make New Year’s resolutions.

Personally, I’m not one to make many New Year’s resolutions, perhaps because I quickly forget them and seldom keep them. But this year I’m thinking about making one.

Short and Simple
To make a New Year’s resolution I’ll remember, it has to be short and simple. It has to be something meaningful that motivates me, while instantly reminding me of things I need to do to become a better Christian.

If you’re like me, we need a resolution that’s more like a concept, rather than resolving to change specific behaviors.

A Broad Motivational Concept
Love is a broad motivational concept that involves every aspect of life.

Jesus tells us that the great commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second command is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mk. 12:30-31).

Paul tells us, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10). “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

If we love God more, we’ll become a better Christian. As a better Christian, we’ll improve in every relationship — we’ll become better people, in every way.

Every Christian Can Love God More
Have you thought about the fact that you can love God more today than yesterday?

In Paul’s prayer for the Philippians, he revealed that they could love God more. He prayed that their love would “abound still more” (Phil. 1:9). Their love was abounding, but it could abound more and more and more. . . .

There is never a time we can’t love God more. Therefore, there is never a time we can’t become a better Christian.

Love God More: Increase in Knowledge and Discernment
In Paul’s prayer for the Philippians, he reveals how we love God more. He prayed that their love would “abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Phil. 1:9).

Our love for God grows when we increase in true knowledge. “True knowledge” in this verse is epignosis, which results in spiritual maturity as we grow through God’s word.

Peter tells us to “long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2). Growing in the word of God, he says “in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:5-8).

To love God more, we must grow through His word. The more we grow through God’s word, the more we love God as we’re “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17).

Love God More: Obedience with a Positive Attitude
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn. 5:3).

If we love God more this year, we’ll make fewer mistakes while also becoming a better Christian. And, we’ll have a better attitude toward obeying God.

A Simple New Year’s Resolution: Love God More
Have you thought about loving God more?

  • What can you do to improve your knowledge of God’s word, and love Him more?
  • What would change, if you loved God more?
  • Is there anyone who doesn’t need to love God more this year?

Whether you’re thinking about making a New Year’s resolution or setting a goal, think about loving God more through better knowledge of His word. You’ll become a better Christian, if you do.

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Angels Watching Over You

 

Jesus loves children. He loves you. Jesus loves you so much that he has a plan for your life. He wants you to grow to love Him and learn more about God. He sends his angels to protect every person that will one day accept Jesus as their Savior. Think about that for a moment. That means that for every person sitting here in church, their guardian angel is hovering over the pews or sitting on the roof! I know what you may be thinking. If you can’t see them, how do you know they are here? Because the Bible tells us so.

Angels are spirits and can only be seen if God chooses to let us see them. Angels of God appeared to many people in many different stories in the Bible. [Read Matthew 18:10] Jesus was telling grown-ups that we should never think we are better than children, or do anything to mislead or harm you, because your angels are close to God.  For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. (Psalm 91:11) God has a guardian angel to protect you from harm. I suppose many of the grown-ups here today could share a story about how God has protected them over the years. God sends these angels to protect us from danger. In another verse in the Bible we see that everyone who will be saved has an angel to protect them. [Read Hebrews 1:14]

We can give thanks to God for his protection by angels. We never worship angels. We worship Jesus. God created the angels before Adam and Eve were made. Some of the angels did not obey God and decided to follow the worst angel of all, Satan. He is very bad. He is a real and powerful angel that was so bad God threw him and the bad angels out of heaven. You have a good angel that loves and obeys God that is watching over you. Satan, the bad angel, tries to get us to do bad things. But since Jesus created him, Jesus is stronger than Satan. Jesus will protect us and use His angels to protect us from harm because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

Iron Sharpens Iron: Encouraging You To Find Your Lifes’ Purpose

 

If finding your life purpose seems like an elusive undertaking, don’t panic! You are not alone. In this devotional by Karen Wolff of Christian-Books-for-Women.com you’ll find reassurance and practical support for finding and knowing your life purpose.

What’s Your Life Purpose?

While it’s true some people seem to find their life purpose easier than others, it’s also true that God really does have a plan for every single person, even if it takes a while to see what it is.Most people think finding your life purpose means doing something you truly love. It’s an area that just seems natural to you and things just seem to fall into place. But what if things aren’t so clear for you? What if you’re not sure what your gifts are? What if you haven’t discovered any particular talent that makes you think it could be your true calling in life? Or what if you’re working somewhere and you’re good at it, but you just don’t feel fulfilled? Is this all there is for you?

Don’t panic. You’re not alone. There are lots of people in the same boat. Take a look at the disciples. Now, there’s a diverse group. Before Jesus came on the scene, they were fishermen, tax collectors, farmers, etc. They must have been good at what they were doing because they were feeding their families and making a living.

But then they met Jesus, and their true calling came into focus very quickly. What the disciples didn’t know is that God wanted them to be happy—even more than they did. And following God’s plan for their lives made them happy inside, where it really matters. What a concept, huh?

Do you suppose it could be true for you too? That God wants you to be truly happy and fulfilled even more than you do?

Your Next Step

The next step in finding your life purpose is right in the Book. All you have to do is read it. The Bible says Jesus told his disciples they were supposed to love one another as he loved them. And he wasn’t kidding. Getting really good at this part of the process is like building the basement of your house.You wouldn’t dream of moving forward without a rock solid foundation. Discovering God’s purpose for your life is exactly the same. The foundation of the process means getting really good at being a Christian. Yup, that means being nice to people even when you don’t feel like it, forgiving people, and oh yes, loving the unlovable people in the world.

So, what does all that stuff have to do with what I’m supposed to be when I grow up? Everything. When you get good at being a Christian, you also get good at hearing from God. He’s able to use you. He’s able to work through you. And it’s through that process that you’ll discover your true purpose in life.

But What About Me and My Life?

So if you get really great at being a Christian, or at least you think you are, and you still haven’t found that true purpose—then what?Getting really good at being a Christian means you stop thinking about you all the time. Take the focus off you and look for ways to be a blessing to someone else.

There is no better way to receive help and direction in your own life than to focus on someone else. It seems completely opposite of what the world tells you. After all, if you’re not looking out for yourself, then who will? Well—that would be God.

When you focus on someone else’s business, God will focus on yours. It means planting seeds in great soil, and then simply waiting for God to bring a harvest into your life. And in the meantime …

Step Out and Try It

Working with God to find your life purpose means working as a team. When you take a step, God takes a step.

  • Be willing to try some things that interest you. You will know very quickly if you’ve found the right thing for you. Doors will either open or slam shut. Either way, you’ll know where you stand. 
  • Be Patient. Wanting to know everything right this second is pretty common these days. Learning to trust that God will show you when He’s ready—now that takes patience. God isn’t going to show you every piece of the puzzle all at once. If he did, you’d get that “deer in the headlights” look, because you’d be so overwhelmed by it all. Not to mention you’d be overly tempted to come up with a back-up plan “just in case” things didn’t work out. 
  • Don’t waste your time on things you know aren’t from God. “Get rich quick” schemes never work. Finding a Christian husband or wife won’t happen if you’re focused on activities and events that don’t involve Christians. And participating in things you know are wrong—well, you’re simply prolonging your answers. 
  • Don’t let the people around you talk you into things. Just because it all sounds like a good idea from the world’s view doesn’t mean it’s God’s plan for you. Following God’s leading sometimes means you have to say no to many well-meaning family members or friends. It comes down to the decision to follow, no matter where it leads. 
  • Lastly, don’t ever give up. You may not know your specific purpose today or tomorrow, but as long as you’re really great at being a Christian, and your heart is open, you will find God and he will find you.

Karen Wolff, a guest writer for About.com, is host to a Christian Web site for women. As founder of Christian-Books-for-Women.com, she wants to provide Christian women with a place to find practical information, tips, and help with a variety of issues they face every day.

Wishing You A Grace Filled Year

In the beginning was the Word. This first Sunday of the New Year we gather together to hear the Word of God. In the year that lies ahead may words spoken in this pulpit carry the Living Word, Jesus Christ, to our hearts and lives that we may carry His love to others. The whole process is dependent upon grace, the unmerited and undeserved favor of God towards those He calls daughters and sons.

I wish you a grace filled New Year and take as a text for this sermon words from Ephesians 1:18, “ I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling.” If we are to have a grace filled year, notice first of all,

It’s a heart thing.

Whilst religion involves the mind and the emotions, more than anything it is an affair of the heart. I don’t mean that efficient muscle that keeps our blood pumping but the purpose, the central reason for living, that lies at the center of our being; the reason we get out of bed in the morning; the hopes and ideals that give our lives a sense of purpose and meaning.

Jesus spoke of the heart as being the place from which everything else in a person’s life flowed. All evil and all goodness come from deep within our selves. Sometimes too deep for words or understanding. I don’t always understand why I react to certain things the way I do. Sometimes things touch us in a way or for a reason we don’t understand. A look in somebody’s eyes. A gentle act of kindness. An unexpected compliment or criticism. And it touches your heart.

We use the phrase “Their hearts not in it” to describe those who have lost their center and their purpose. Such a thing can all too easily happen to us in our Christian life. There was a time when all things seemed new and full of possibility but that radical edge has been stripped away by the passing of time. We no longer have the enthusiasm, the vigor, the feeling we once had for the things of God. How well that emotion is captured in William Cowper’s hymn, “O for a closer walk with God”;

“Where is the blessedness I knew,
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul refreshing view
of Jesus and his Word?”

There is a way out from that dilemma. It is captured in the words “Take Heart”. New Testament religion is a heart thing. Hear the author of Hebrews, speaking about the “New Plan” as Eugene Peterson’s translation of the New Testament, “The Message’, calls it.

“This new plan
isn’t going to be written on paper,
isn’t going to be chiseled in stone;
This time I’m writing out the plan in them,
carving it on the lining of their hearts.
I’ll be their God,
they’ll be my people.”
(Hebrews 8)

At the start of a New Year make sure your heart relationship with God is sorted out. Make sure your Christian life is a heart thing. Talk with God. Open up to God. Ask Him to change you and renew you, to give you that fire inside that John the Baptist spoke of. He offered the external sign of baptism but spoke of “kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.”

It’s a heart thing. But also, to have a grace filled life..,

It’s a hope thing.

Ephesians 1:18, “ I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling…”

What is the “hope of His calling”? When our inner life is nourished by God then we see things from a different perspective. There is a lot of hopelessness around. There are many who will tell us all is gloom and doom. There are always those to put us down or put us straight. And last year sometimes we spent too much time listening to them and not enough time listening to God’s Living Word.

Paul talks about “knowing the hope” that those called by God are to inherit. It is a hope based not on how the world is or how we perceive things, but on who God is and the ways of God’s Kingdom with the world

This hope tells us that life is not aimless or pointless but that every moment is one to be treasured and shared with God.

This hope tells us that the problems that come our way are not things to defeat us and destroy us, but things to work through, opportunities for us to learn of God how the Grace of Jesus Christ can carry us through.

This hope tells us that past mistakes are not things that we have to carry with us for the rest of our lives, but that, through Christ’s death on the Cross for us, mistakes are things we need to accept forgiveness for, things we need to learn from, things we need to get over and walk free from.

This hope tells us that it is not our past that will determine our future, but the present action of God’s Holy Spirit within our hearts and lives that will carry us forward.

This hope is based on Christ, the Jesus who was there at the Creation, the Word of God who still speaks loud and clear, the light that shines in the darkness and which the darkness can never and will never extinguish; Christ who walked through all the darkest experiences that life and death can bring our way, yet remained the overcomer, the victor, the champion of love.

This hope is based on the view that in God’s eyes, problems are things to be solved, injustices are things to be put right, hurts are something to be healed, sin is something to be forgiven, evil is something to be conquered.

This hope is something God wants our lives to be filled with, something He wants to be bubbling inside of us, some thing that changes the way we look at ourselves, at our situation, a lens through which we see our world and the world of other people.

“Oh”, we are warned, “Don’t go building peoples hopes up, they’ll only blame you when things come crashing down”. That’s not God’s word. God’s Word, as we enter a New Year, is “STOP PUTTING FENCES AROUND YOUR HOPES”. Stop thinking God can’t do this for us, or for me, or for that person, or that situation. Put your faith in God. As the Psalmist says, “Why so downcast O my soul, Put your HOPE in God”.

I know and you know that there will be times in this next year, just as there were times last year, when we won’t understand, when we will cry out, “Why, God, Why?” The answer may not come straight away, maybe not even in this life. But if we, even in the midst of struggle, can find that little spark of hope that says, “All will one day be well”, then that small flickering light will be our guide, just as it was a small flickering light in the sky that guided the Wise Men to Jesus.

And all that brings me full circle to where we started. True religion is a matter of the heart. As we open our hearts to Jesus Christ, His Holy Spirit can build hope into our life, hope that goes beyond the way of the world and sees life, not from the limited perspective of our own experience, but from the Eternal view of God’s love. Hope that is based on acceptance of Christ as our Savior, God as our Father and the Holy Spirit as our Counselor and Guide.

It’s a heart thing, It’s a hope thing, It’s a love thing,
God can give the hope your needing,
If only you will believe Him.

May you find your life touched by Grace as we together share bread and wine.

AMEN

1 Timothy 2:15

“But women (she) will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”  1 Timothy 2:15

 

In the whole context of this verse, it’s saying that we (women) were the first sinners and that through the up bringing of our children (not to mention ‘childbearing”!!!) we as women are saved, or ‘restored”.  So, to sum this all up; when we raise our children in the way of the Lord, we are therein restoringourselves to the women God intended us to be.

God’s plan for us, originally, wasn’t to suffer through childbirth, only to be rejected later as a horrible mother (by the worlds’ standards.)  We are to raise our children to honor and to love God and us, and they will be a blessing to our hearts.  Just as we are a blessing to our Fathers’ heart when we worship Him or honor His name.

When we see our child doing what is right, don’t we instantly want to reward them?  It’s the same with our Father in Heaven.  But here is the difference: when the wrong choice has been made, our reaction is usually one of anger and rage (now, be honest here…)  The Lords’ is one of sadness and grief.

Because that one wrong choice that we made (maybe being “too quick to anger”) has hindered our walk with HIm.  And in doing so, has set us back in recieving the reward He wants and longs to give us.

That is the eternal love of our Father; “slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”  (Ex. 34:6)

This is the same love and faithfulness that we need to show to our children so that they may see God through us.  And that they will one day too walk with the Lord.

Are You God’s “Fair-Weather” Friend?

“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him.”  1 John 4:16

God’s unconditionally love for us should be our motivation to love Him.

Nobody likes a fair-weather friend. You know, those people who hang around only when things are going well. You realize that their companionship and loyalty are merely an illusion if they bolt as soon as times get tough. You wouldn’t want a “friend” like that.

Neither does God, but sadly, many of us treat Him that way. We give God our adoration and allegiance only when He fulfills our expectations. So, if things are going smoothly in our lives, we are glad to express our appreciation by being attentive to Him. But when difficulties arise, we are quick to blame God. We want a God who is going to make our lives easy, so if He doesn’t give us what we want, we don’t want to waste our time on Him.

Aren’t you glad that His love for us endures no matter how we treat Him? That is true love from a true friend, and that should be how we respond to Him.

Well, it is raining here today in San Antonio, Texas and I feel the need to write about fair weather…you know the phrase “The weather today will be fair and partly cloudy.” That’s the way we like it right? Fair, no rain, not too hot, not too cold, a few clouds, but mostly we like it just right. In my life today, my God became my fair weather friend and I realized that I did not like it, although I do it all the time. I don’t understand why the Creator of this universe, my Creator, my Father, my Dad, can lose my trust, my unconditional love, my hope just because the weather starts to turn. Oh, I don’t mean that the rain caused me to doubt my “heavenly dad”, I mean the weather of my life, the rain of disappointment, the flurries of doubt, the rays of rejection, the pounding hailstones of unmet expectations; all of these work together to remove the trust that I have in my God and cause me to turn and run from Him, angry, hurt, and pouting because He has not met my expectations today.

“Lord! Why does she keep treating me this way?” or “God, Why do you let him talk to me that way?” Sound familiar? When the check does not come in or the air conditioner stops working, or the vacation doesn’t go as planned, I quickly look around me, see the clouds rolling in and then unfortunately, quickly turn my back on my Savior. That is probably the main reason that for so many years I trusted in “me” to help the weather not seem so bad… bad day at the office? porn was my quick fix; she doesn’t meet my needs the way she should? anonymous sex filled the bill. Bad weather in the forecast? Then I would find a way not to care, not to know, not to be aware through a repertoire of sins that I could choose from. All of them leading me away from the very source of my hope, my strength, my life and directing me to more pain, more shame, and yes… more bad weather.Why do we turn on God when times get tough?

Because He is supposed to be in control here right? He is the one that is supposed to change bad into good, darkness into light, despair into hope. The money’s not there, then it’s His fault; the husband won’t change, then its His doing; the car breaks down, then He is God almighty right? God is not a fair weather God because He is not only available when the sun is shining, He is always available. It is me that turns my back on Him when things don’t go my way. Like a kid in a candy store that stomps his feet and screams when he does not get the lollipop he wants, I go through life shaking my fist at God angry that He did not give me my own way. However, when I remember those times that He did give me my way and it turned out horribly, then I remember what it was truly like to get what I wanted.

Is God the God of your life no matter what? When good comes, is He God? When bad comes, is He God? When hope is gone, is He God? When life is not what you want, is He God? Life may change, the weather may change, you may change, but God does not change. He is unshakable, unchangeable, unmovable. I like that in a Dad… I like that in a God. Little gods of this world change; moods change, ideas change, trends change, but God does not change, His hope does not change, and His promises don’t change even when the sky is too cloudy for us to see them. How would it feel if your best friend stopped being your friend every time he thought you had let him down? How would it feel if your child went to live with the neighbors every time you didn’t fix pizza instead of chicken for dinner? It feels the same way to God…very conditional. My love for my Father in Heaven can be very conditional based upon how others are treating me. That grieves His heart and it should grieve mine because He never turns His back on me even when I mess up, take a wrong turn, or turn my back on him. His love is consistent, like the rays of sun behind the clouds. Does the sun stop shining just because there are rain clouds in the sky or snow flakes falling on the ground? No, and neither does God’s love stop just because the weather changes. So why should my love change. For a God that has brought me so far, He is a God that can continue bringing me, no matter the forecast, no matter the conditions. Lord may you help me live in that today and everyday whether rain or shine!

“When I was in my prime, God’s friendship was felt in my home.”  Job 29:4

Remembering Why Jesus Came…

 

So often Christians tell each other — and the world — that we can’t forget the real “reason for the season,” that Christmas is about Christ, not commercialism. And amidst our material abundance and compressed holiday schedules, we try our very best to be joyful — we really do — as we add Jesus to all our holiday activities.

But sometimes it seems kind of forced, doesn’t it? After all, it’s difficult to find joy in the season when we feel we have to make another frenzied jaunt to Wal-Mart, or a friend turns up very sick.

The problem with Christmas these days isn’t with Jesus; it’s with us. More precisely, it’s with our “great expectations,” to borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens.

Michael Knox Beran talks about the modern “dream of a painless world.” Beran calls it the “great illusion” of modern liberalism, “which regards suffering not as something inherent in the very nature of life but as an anomaly to be eradicated by reason and science and social legislation.”

Beran, who is a contributing editor for City Journal, quotes President Kennedy: “[M]an holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty.” Whew! This utopian delusion, Beran says, persists because “it appeals to our inner egotism and self-conceit. When something painful happens,” Beran adds, “one’s instinct is to be outraged, as though the universe had made a mistake. … But there has been no mistake; we have been created to know joy, and also to know misery.”

You see, the utopian vision neglects the fact that this is a fallen world. And a fallen world is filled with human suffering. And that’s something we don’t want to think about, especially at Christmastime.

But you can’t understand Christmas if you ignore human suffering. Think of the words of some of the carols we sing: “the hopes and fears of all the years,” or “O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here.” Think of the pain of Joseph, who first thought that Mary had been unfaithful to him. Think of all the mothers in and around Bethlehem, who saw their young children slaughtered. Think about the words of old Simeon to Mary: “A sword will pierce through your own soul.”

Then think about what this Baby came to do — to die on the cross for us. Sure, Christmas is about joy, but it is a joy that is reached through and never loses sight of human suffering in a fallen world. As we sing that glorious carol “Joy to the World” we proclaim that Christ “comes to make his blessings flow/Far as the curse [that is, human suffering] is found.”

There is joy in Christmas, even in the midst of the curse.

You see, Christmas joy is for those who hurt. Those who dwell in darkness, Scripture says, will see a great light. As Jesus said, it is the hungry who will be filled, those who mourn who will rejoice. Do you hurt? Then rejoice in the Baby who has redeemed your sin and suffering. Are you in darkness? Look to His light and rejoice in it.

Suffering is the reason for the season. Christ came, amid suffering, because we suffer, to suffer. But our joy lies in the fact that Christ’s redemptive suffering points to an eternal weight of glory. And that glory, the glory of Immanuel and His Kingdom, is what I talk about in detail today on our Two-Minute Warning, which I’d love for you to watch at ColsonCenter.org.

May God bless you and yours this Christmas.

John 15:11-17

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”  John 15:11-17

The second fruit of the Spirit is joy which is the result of abiding in Him (v. 11). The second commandment is to love one another (v.12). He defines the extent of that love in the phrase, “as I have loved you,” which means giving sacrificially to others (vv. 13-14). Love is not an emotional feeling, but it is the act of giving. As we mentioned in the previous passage, the key word has been “abide” which means to keep in fellowship with Christ so His life can work in and through us to bring forth fruit. This involves obeying Him because we loveHim. Because of their obedience, Christ could now call them friends. The result was to have joy as He produced fruit through them (vv. 15-16).

However, because God loves us He “prunes” us and encourages us to bear more fruit for His glory. The more we abide in Christ, the more fruit we’ll bear, and the more fruit produced then the more the Father prunes us so that the quality keeps up with the quantity. We are motivated by Jesus’ love and Jesus had great joy in pleasing His Father. One primary command Jesus gave to believers was that they must have love for each other (v. 17). Love one another is a command, not an option. Christians will grow by caring and nurturing one another. Christian love is not basically a feeling. It is an act of the will. The proof of our love is not in our feelings but in our actions. Oswald Sanders once stated, “We are as close to God as we choose to be. If we are His friend, we ought to be near His throne, listening to His Word, enjoying His intimacy, and obeying His commandments.”

 Is there someone whom I can show that I love and care about?  Is there a shut-in whom I could visit or a missionary I could  write to? Jesus  says, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

 

The truth of the matter is that everyone, Christians included, will go through difficult and trying times.  Times of stress, hurt, and yes, even depression.  The key for Christians is the fact that God is always there for you!  The song by Barlowgirl, “Never Alone”, does an amazing job of putting these feelings into words.  (And the video just brings it all home, including the boy in ‘bondage’, so I’m including it at the end of this post…)

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (NIV)

The human heart is full of pain and darkness. However, with God you can totally lose yourself and in losing yourself you can lose the darkness. To feel the presence of God you must totally forget about yourself. To feel the presence of God you must totally remove yourself. In order to totally lose, forget, and remove yourself, you must turn away from the darkness within you and turn toward Christ. Whenever temptation comes, turn away from the temptation. Whenever pain comes, turn away from the pain. Whenever doubt comes, turn away from the doubt. We must not just turn away, we must turn toward Christ. In our turning away we can always feel the presence of God as we turn to Christ. In our turning away, we have only two directions in which we can turn. We can turn toward God and His presence of love or we can turn toward Satan. There are no gray areas. Our choice in this matter is clear. If we do not feel the presence of God, we do not feel His presence because the power of darkness is coming against us and we have not turned toward Christ. However, we are not helpless or hopeless in this spiritual war. Our greatest weapon is our will and our ability to use our will so we can, every second we are alive, turn away from darkness and turn toward Christ. So whenever temptation comes, turn toward Christ and actually feel His presence. Whenever pain comes, turn toward Christ and actually feel His presence. Whenever doubt comes, turn toward Christ and actually feel His presence.

 

The Real Meaning of Christmas

It’s that time of year again. December has come and with it all the joys of Christmas. But what is the real meaning of Christmas? Is it the gifts under the tree, the lights in the windows, the cards in the mail, turkey dinners with family and friends, snow in the yard, stockings hanging in the living room, and shouts of “Merry Christmas” to those who pass us in the streets? Is this really Christmas?

For many people, Christmas is a time of sorrow. They don’t have the extra money to buy presents for their children, family, and friends. Many are saddened at Christmastime when they think of their loved ones who will not be able to come home for various reasons. Turkey dinners may be only a wish and not a reality for some.

Yet, Christmas can be a season of great joy. It is a time of God showing His great love for us. It can be a time of healing and renewed strength. You see, Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born. His birth brought great joy to the world. Shepherds, wise men, and angels all shared in the excitement of knowing about this great event. They knew this was no ordinary baby. The prophets had told of His coming hundreds of years before. The star stopped over Bethlehem just to mark the way for those who were looking for this special child.

Luke 2: 4-19 says:

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Why did He come? Why did God send His son to this sometimes cruel and hard world? He sent Jesus to us so that one day, He would grow up to become a very important part of history. His story (history) is one of truth, love, and hope. It brought salvation to all of us. Without Jesus, we would all die in our sins.

Jesus was born so one day the price could be paid for the things we have done that are wrong. The Bible says that all have sinned. We are all born with a sin nature. We do things that do not please God. Through the sins of Adam and Eve, we have all inherited that sin nature. We need to have that removed. The only way is through Jesus. Jesus came so He could die on the cross for ALL of our sins. If we believe that Jesus died for our sins, we can ask Him to come into our hearts and forgive us. Then, we are clean and made whole. We can know that heaven is a place where we can go to when this life is over.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” I John 1:9

We can truly be happy at Christmas! No matter what may be happening, we can know that we are His children. We then become sons and daughters of God. Heaven will be our home one day.

Look at Christmas in a new way this year. This is the year to invite Jesus into your heart. You will then have a “Merry Christmas.” The joy and peace you will receive will last all year as you look to God for all your needs to be met.