Friday, December 20, 2013

The True Meaning of Christmas

The True Meaning of Christmas

Artwork by artist Carol Moore
www.mooresartgallery.com


As people flock to the stores this Christmas season, pushing, shoving, grabbing and filling up their carts full of worldly things, I wonder how many of them stop to think about what Christmas truly means. Understandably, each person celebrates Christmas in their own way and for their own reasons, but for us Christians it is a day for when all mankind received a gift – a gift of salvation. It is the day a Savior was born in the most humbling unadorned place - a manger in a stable. Jesus was brought into this world to fulfill God’s promise as stated in KJV Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Thus the verse testifies, God promises to redeem mankind from its fallen state and the prophesized Redeemer, Jesus, will bruise the head of the serpent, Satan. Although no one really knows the exact birth date of Jesus, Christians began to celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th back in the 4th century in hopes to reform and stop the Roman pagan celebration, traditions, and worshipping that was focused around their pagan gods (The History of Christmas).
In today’s world, many of the Roman traditions are still celebrated, such as the Christmas tree, and Christmas has turned into a secular commercial frenzy. It has become about “I want” and “I need.” We have forgotten what the true meaning behind Christmas is - Love (What is the true meaning of Christmas?). “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (KJV John 3:16-17). God sent his Son to save us all because he loves us all. No matter what sins we have committed.
Furthermore, Christmas is a day we should be thanking God for giving us such glorious gift. We should celebrate Christmas with great joy and reverence for it was the day that the Word became flesh. Christmas is a time of loving one another, giving to one another, and showing good will toward one another. All of these are characteristics that Jesus portrayed while He walked upon this earth.
Despite the many pagan origins behind many Christmas traditions and the commercialism that has enveloped the true meaning of Christmas, perhaps for many Christians it is taking the time for a moment of silence and thanking God and remembering that over 2000 years ago, one night in a little town called Bethlehem a Savior was born in a manger within a stable, fulfilling the promise, the prophecy and the ordained plan of God to save mankind from its fallen state. And as it states in Isaiah 9: 6 “his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”


Resources
Got Questions Ministries. “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” http://www.gotquestions.org/Christmas-true-meaning.html#ixzz2nF09SPjL. Web. 16 Dec. 2013.

McGowan, Andrew. “How December 25 Became Christmas.” http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christmas/. 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 16 Dec. 2013.

SimpleToRemember.com - Judaism Online. “The History of Christmas.” http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm. Web. 16 Dec. 2013.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Giving Labels

Giving Labels

Source: http://www.churchleaders.com


I am so thankful God does not nail labels on us as we tend to tack on each other in this world. Labels like that person is a thief, that person is a murderer, that person is a rapist, that person is an adulterer, that person is an alcoholic, that person is gay, that person is a Mormon, that person is a geek, that person is African American or that person is autistic. It is something I am very guilty of and try to abstain from, but none of us can say we do not label people. For each and every one of us is guilty of labeling one another and this world’s comprised of labels.

I like one of the Urban Dictionary’s meaning of a label, obviously from a teenager and not exactly the appropriate word choices or tone I would use but it is to the point, “pointless words (emo, goth, skater, preppy, poser, etc.) used to stereotype people because of what they wear or what music they listen to. Most people who label others have NO idea what they are talking about, in fact anyone who labels people are narrowminded ******** who have nothing better to do.”

As one can see, labels can be very demeaning and very hurtful. Labels tend to stereotype and target people. The media is extremely influential at pushing labels onto people. It is no wonder people from jail or prison have such a hard time adjusting back into society when they get out as the media and people are so eager to place labels on them, showing little compassion or forgiveness. The people in this world would rather throw stones at “those kind of people” even if they have accepted Jesus into their life as their savior. What makes it even harder for them is  they are being bombarded by the enemy from all sides who is hoping they will fall back into their previous lifestyle and give up all hope. The world hates them for their sins. How many Christians would truly sit next to someone at church if they knew that person had murdered someone, yet just days ago accepted Jesus into their life? I know Jesus would sit next to them. Would you? Or would you let the label convince you to turn your back to them condemn them and judge them. I have yet to find a church that is truly totally accepting, compassionate and loving like Jesus. We are too hung up on the things that hurt us, offend us, scare us, anger us and on labels.

An image comes to mind of a young woman who was brought to Jesus by the Pharisees and was charged with committing adultery and the law clearly stated that she should be stoned to death. They ask him what should be done to the woman? His reply was he who is without sin let him cast the first stone. Jesus did not condemn her but forgave her and told her to go and sin no more. The Pharisees labeled her as an adulteress and were blind to what Jesus was trying to teach them – that we are all equal of sin. We are all sinners but yet God gave us a chance to be redeemed through his son Jesus Christ. He died on the cross for ALL of us, not just some of us. We each have the free will to accept him in our life or not. So do not be ashamed of your past sins, or feel you are not worthy, ignore people who label you and take heart for Jesus is your rock and will help you weather ALL storms.

Jesus commanded us to love one another, not persecute, judge or label one another but to LOVE. As He states in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”




I hope you all have a blessed week!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Extending Kindness

Extending Kindness


photo by scx.hu


The struggles that go on in church congregations are sometimes not always visible to the human eye. You have to step beyond the scrimmage line or safety zone to see when a person is feeling like an outsider, alone, sick, sad, or even suicidal. People are so good about hiding behind a mask. We tell each other everything is good or fine. We keep to our little clicks and safe zones afraid of fumbling, and we ignore that little whisper telling us we should go over and talk to that person, visit someone who is ill, provide a meal, or extend a hand of kindness or good will to someone. You never know you might just cheer them up or brighten their day. Extending kindness to someone you don’t know and letting someone know that you care about them is a quality that Jesus showed throughout the New Testament no matter who they were. It is a quality that every Christian should strive for, and it is something I struggle with a lot because of my fear to speak to people. 

As Galatians 5:22-23 directs Christians to strive for, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law.” The Holy Spirit is a gift and in order to obtain all these Christ like qualities we need to stop and listen, focus on the Word and make an effort to be more Christ like.

 If we harden our hearts and ignore the Spirit, God’s divine purpose will not reveal itself and we will miss out on beautiful, heart-enriching blessings from our Father.

May you have a blessed weekend!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Genuine Love


Genuine Love
 
photo credit: sxc.hu
 

Romans 12:9 (ESV) Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Genuine love is something Jesus revealed to everyone he crossed paths with – to a blind man, to a rich man, to a prostitute, to his followers and disciples. He demonstrated his love countless times to people we would be afraid of, abhor and judge. I have only known a few people in my lifetime who have possessed this same rare beautiful trait. It is definitely something I do not possess but it is a Christ like trait I pray, I crave, to attain and model. Unfortunately, the enemy is always on the attack knocking and pinning me down to the ground, keeping from reaching out to others and share this loving behavior as Jesus did.

For so many of us, to have and share genuine love towards each other  seems an impossible daunting task. Why? Because for so many of us, we hold onto the past, despite the fact that we have asked for forgiveness; we hold grudges, we are hypocritical, we hide behind barriers due to fear; we hide behind a false mask portraying a loving nature, when in reality it is all about  displaying a great show and we speak lies.  We constantly come up with excuses (which by the way I am very guilty of) – “well they don’t like me, I don’t know that person, well he or she looks scary or weird, I have problems talking to people,” the list of excuses goes on and on. All the while, the enemy snickers and slithers all around us laughing, tormenting us as he brings us down to our knees, hearts and souls broken, he thinks he has triumphed over each and every one of us. He knows if he can drive fear, doubt, hate, bitterness, anger or deceit into peoples’ hearts he scores points and prevents us from one of God’s greatest blessings - Love.

 As Presbyterian minister Matthew Henry pointed out so well, “The professed love of Christians to each other should be sincere, free from deceit, and unmeaning and deceitful compliments. Depending on Divine grace, they must detest and dread all evil, and love and delight in whatever is kind and useful. We must not only do that which is good, but we must cleave to it. All our duty towards one another is summed up in one word, love.” Love must be sincere without hypocrisy in order to be genuine. Love does not harp on the faults of others or on any scores that might boast our egos. True, genuine love was when God gave his only begotten son to save us. As stated in John 3:16 (ESV), “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died on the cross for all of our sins. There is no greater example or model of genuine love.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Planting Seeds of Faith


Planting Seeds of Faith

The word “seed” appears in the Holy Bible 279 times. God’s Word is like a seed, as it states in the Bible, Luke 8:11 (KJV), “…The seed is the word of God.” His Word, like the seed, is alive, living, life-sustaining and powerful. If taken care of properly, it will burst its way spiraling up from the ground, spewing out the dirt and boldly, faithfully growing and reaching towards the light. God’s Word is the light, it never dies and it never changes.
 
Photograph from sxc.hu
©Alicia Jo McMahan
 

If Christians help plant God’s Word in the hearts, minds and souls of nonbelievers and tend and care for it properly, it will have a chance to grow. As Peter states, “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives an abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23 KJV). If God’s Word is within your heart, the only way you can help it grow is by soaking up the word by reading it and by sharing it.

Therefore, it is up to us Christians to help keep His word alive by planting seeds of faith into the non-believers hearts and minds. The joy of sharing God’s word with others is scoring a point against the enemy, who constantly tries to convince us we should not share and plant any seeds for it is a waste of time and energy, or we might offend, or start a controversy or any of a number of obstacles that the enemy may throw in our paths. Nevertheless, I am telling believers today that we must put our hope, faith and trust in God and His Word. Let God take control and change people’s hearts. If it is God’s will, he will make the seed grow, whether through you or someone else. He will bring the seed to life.  For “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63 KJV). His words will whisper to their hearts and will come to life and bring nonbelievers a joy that they have never experienced before and it will fill the darkness, the emptiness and void in their hearts with life and the truth.

It is our job to care for and nurture the seeds we plant with love, patience, understanding, and through prayer. If our lives do not reflect God and we do not show Godly behavior, then the seeds will shrivel up and die. So share the seeds of faith. Help the spiritual seeds grow by nurturing them with the Word, and watch God’s wondrous awesome work grow.
God Bless!
 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pleasing God


Pleasing God

One constant battle I have within my marriage is my husband is always telling me I need to be more social. Well, I am not the social butterfly that my husband has become; in fact, I am totally opposite. I am an introvert, a loner and have some difficulty speaking to people; sometimes I even stutter or freeze up because my brain doesn’t want to move with my mouth. Nevertheless, you know that saying, “Opposites do attract.” However, I often feel that I can never please my husband because I am not the Social Butterfly he wants me to be. The enemy will often lead me down a road of depression, doubt and fear. Doubts my husband should have married someone more like him, he would be better off; a feeling of being an outsider at church, struggling to get into the gate, unsure of myself, scared of what others may think of me but knowing there is a fierce burning desire inside of me to yell out at the world how great God is and share it with everybody. Unfortunately, I let the enemy control my anxiety, fears and doubts and many times the enemy holds me back from sharing. But I have discovered through prayer,  trusting God, and learning God’s Word that being a wife is not merely just about pleasing my husband , it’s about pleasing God.  

photo by sxc.hu

 
There are several ways I have discovered to please God through the Word that I think are important for Christians to strive for each and every day.
Faith -  The first way to please God is through faith. One must have faith in God and believe that God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, Jesus, and that Jesus died on the cross for all our sins so that we may have everlasting life. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6.

Love - The second way to please God is to love God. He is our creator. He gave us life and He loves us. How could anyone not love the creator who created the beauty that is all around us and gave us life? “…to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,” Deuteronomy 11:13

Trust - The third way to please God is to trust in God. Trusting God is such a hard step for many Christians to follow because we live in a world that is all about “me” and with the enemy lurking about it is a constant struggle to depend on God. We want to do everything on our own. We tend to forget that the Father wants us to be dependent upon him. He wants us to let him guide our footsteps, lay everything into his hands and believe he will take care of everything. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

Forgive - The fourth way to please God is to forgive one another. A forgiving spirit is a quality many of us fall short of and something we should all strive to attain; our example is in Jesus and what better role model to follow as he forgave us all and died on the cross for all of us.  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

Thanks - The fifth way to please God is to give thanks to God. Something many of us forget is to thank God for the blessings he bestows upon us. Would any of us be where we are today and have the things we have if it were not for God?  In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Prayer - The sixth way to please God is to pray. We tend to let the things in and of this world be our excuse as to why we don’t pray. I have to go to work, I have to go to gym, I have to cook dinner, and I have to do this or that. There can be no end, but you would not be able to do any of these tasks or partake in any of them if it were not for our Heavenly Father.  Why do we only seek Him in our most dire time of need? We should be seeking Him at all times - telling him we love him and thanking him for all things.  Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  Philippians 4:6

Obey -  The seventh way to please God is to obey God. Obeying God should be the heart of our Christian walk. Many of us Christians have fallen and have been disobedient to God. Our goal should be to strive to be Christ-like and to thwart the enemy’s plans and win over sin and temptation so as to serve as witnesses to this world.  But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.”  Luke 11:28

Worship - The eighth way to please God is to worship God and only God, not today’s idols or false gods. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works.”  Chronicles 16:9

Knowledge - The ninth way to please God is to grow in the knowledge of His Word. Dedicate daily devotion and reading time. Spend time with him, seek his Words and get to know him.  That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;”  Colossians 1:10

Rejoice - The tenth way to please God is to rejoice in the Lord. The Lord is like a brightly burning candle. If we let the winds of the world blow in, that bright flame will be snuffed out. His light burns brightly in each and every one of us and because of the light we can rejoice in all things of the Lord – for his blessings, rescues, miracles, companionship and for life. Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

Spiritual Gifts - The eleventh way to please God is to exercise our spiritual gifts that He has bestowed upon us. He does not want us to neglect these gifts but to use them to spread and share His Word with others who maybe lost. "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”  1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Giving - The final way to please God is by giving. Being generous not only in tithing but also in giving of your time to help someone in need, to help a church out, a friend, or even some non-profit organization.
Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee.”  Deuteronomy 16:17

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Conversations with God


Conversations with God

As Christians we tend to ask requests from God in our most desperate times or in our greatest hour of need. Unfortunately, many of us Christians forget that God should not only be sought out during our darkest times or greatest of need, but we should also seek the Lord God out every day. We need to be conversing with him every day, as one would with their own father. The Lord takes great delight in conversations with his children, if we would just stop, look and listen. His voice may not be vocalized as it was with Adam and Moses, but one can hear his voice in the Word, in a Christian song or hymn, in one’s surroundings, and in people who are present in one’s life.
 
photo from sxc.hu

Moreover, what better way to develop a stronger relationship, an everlasting relationship, and a loving relationship than having daily conversations with God.

 Just as Adam talked with God in the Garden of Eden so can we talk with God, if we just stop, let him into hearts and soul, look and listen for him. God is there for us, cheering and smiling when we slam that ball into the crowd and make a home run; He is there beside us, comforting and wrapping his arms around us when one of our family members or close friends pass away. He is there with us, shielding us, and calming us when our vehicle spins out of control and almost goes over a ledge; He is right there walking beside us as we discover the awesomeness of the world he created through the beauty of a flower, a sunset or a smile on someone’s face; He is there beside us, talking to us, when we are sitting right next to a bottle of pills thinking about ending our lives, pleading to us not to end our lives. We are precious to God, despite our many faults and failings and he has a plan for each and every one of us.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Do not let the enemy win. Strike up a conversation with God right this moment and tell God that you love him and tell him how your day went. Thank him for sacrificing His Son on the cross for our sins, so that we may live.

John 3:16 For god so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Moreover, what a glorious revelation to know and share with others that God is with us always and forever and we can have a conversation with the Lord anytime.

Philippians 3:20-21 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

May God Bless you throughout the week!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Calling Upon God's Name


photo from sxc.hucopyright © Katrin Blumenschein

A thought to ponder...

Many of us Christians may seem fine on the outside, but no one can truly see what inward battles and struggles we go through each and every day against the enemy. The enemy viciously attacks us neverendingly to bring us down to our knees. Score one for the enemy or so he thinks. 

However, we anger and infuriate the enemy when we are down upon our knees looking up and seeking the Lord. When we are feeling worthless and empty, God beckons us to call upon His name. God loves each and every one of us and He will never abandon us. He lifts us up when we are down. He holds us in His arms and comforts us, when in distress. He brings us joy when there is sorrow. He gives us hope when all looks dim. 

King David sought refuge and peace in the Lord and knew God heard his pleas. In Psalm 55: 16-18 he wrote:
16As for me, I shall call upon God, And the LORD will save me. 17Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, And He will hear my voice. 18He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me, For they are many who strive with me.
God hears our pleas and cries. He wants to wipe away all of our tears and fears..
He wants us to call upon his name to seek him in all that we do. All we have to do is call upon his name: 
Lord, Jesus, I humbly beseech your help. Darkness surrounds me and You are my only beacon of light. You are my anchor, my strength and my guide. I cannot overcome these vicious attacks without You. Please help me to withstand the attacks from the enemy and place a shield about me to protect me. Help me to stay completely focus on you and place all my trust in You. Thank you for your love, your mercy and your kindness. Thank you for always being by my side and always listening to my prayers. May Your will be done. Amen.


May you all have a blessed week!