The gifts are wrapped and the decorations and food are ready to welcome family, friends, and loved ones during this blessed time of year–the birth of Christ. Families have traveled by plane, train, or car to be with one another during this “wonderful time of year” and to renew and rekindle their relationships.
Recently, while talking to a new acquaintance, he mentioned that he had five children–all adults now but living in different states–who would all be together for the first time in many years. Distance and time were the biggest factors that were keeping his family from getting together every year during the holidays. Even though they all talked on the telephone throughout the year, visiting family and friends in person would be so much more fulfilling. You could see the person’s face, hear their voice, and see their emotional reactions on certain topics.
As we all celebrate the birth of Christ together (via in person, on the phone, text, email), let us remember “the reason for the season” and that as Christians we can celebrate the hope, joy, peace and love that this time of year brings to each and every one of us.
“Hope keeps the heart open to possibility, steady through change, and courageous in challenges ahead. It stands on faith…and that’s the strongest foundation of all.” –“God in Every Moment” by Bonnie Rickner Jensen
Merry Christmas and a very happy, blessed New Year.
Since March 2, churches around the world have been celebrating the lenten season–a time to remember events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion and the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. This is also a time of reflection, prayer, and reading of God’s Word to help us be a mirror to reflect God’s love in our lives.
I was gently reminded of the Lord’s presence in my life this week when I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night and heard these words: become more. My immediate reaction was to be reminded of hurtful words that I heard several years ago that “you could have become so much more.” These were not comforting words to me at that time, and they were said by someone who didn’t really know me that well. But these words haunted me at that time because it made me feel inadequate, and I questioned everything that I did and had become up to that point in my life. I wondered why the Lord was reminding me of this encounter.
So the next morning I looked up scriptures pertaining to “becoming more in Christ” and to my surprise, I was led to a book by Lysa Terkeurst entitled “Becoming More Than A Good Bible Study Girl” written in 2009. I knew then that the Lord was directing me to read her book and immediately ordered a copy. She is such an accomplished author/writer, is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, and has a number of best selling books.
While reading this book, I was reminded that Jesus is the only measure of my worth. I am not defined by what other people think of me. Proving myself worthy to others should not be the measure of my faith. When I need Christ to be my guide–He is there. When I need Christ to help me forgive–He teaches me how. When I need Christ to help me love–He shows me how He lived and loved everyone around Him. When I need a friend in times of doubt, worry, or fear–He guides me to the scriptures to calm my heart and soul. Oftentimes, He leads another person (via phone call or in person) to just listen and also share their own experiences to help me at the very moment I need them.
During the Easter season, I am reminded of a love far beyond our comprehension–a love so unconditional–that I want this kind of love for my husband, daughter and grand children, friends and other family members to be just that way. Unconditional love that reaches beyond how we are feeling at the moment so that we can look past our circumstances.
Psalm 103:5 tells us that “He fills my life with good things!” God wants the very best for us. He is not looking at all the things we could have or should have done in our lives. He has a purpose for each one of us and sometimes that means that the path He asks us to choose is not going to be the path that others (family or friends) have or want for us.
They say “experience is the best teacher.” What better teacher could we have other than Jesus Christ our Lord. The scripture tells us that “greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.” As we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord, let us be reminded of the love, joy, compassion, and hope that he has given to us all and “become more like Christ” in our every day circumstances.
The scripture for Sunday’s sermon yesterday was from Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)
Before the scripture was read, however, we watched a video created by the Skit Guys entitled, “Baggage”, which used the above-mentioned scripture. It was a powerful video and spoke to our hearts about “the baggage” we carry around with us each and every day–words that cut to the heart from meaningful loved ones–that we take to heart which cause us to become burdened down by negativity.
Jesus said that if we come unto him, He will give us rest. But what does that entail? When we come to someone, it means we have to make a choice. In this case, when we come to Jesus, we are making the choice to leave our “old way of living” and repent and follow Him. We have an open mind and when our hearts are good, we make the choice to have something better in our lives–Jesus as our Saviour.
He also says to “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” You will notice that I have an image of a yoke. This is used around the necks of oxen when they pull a plow. It is to make their work easier not harder and to take some of the burden off of them as they plow the fields. In the same way Christ is telling us to take His yoke upon ourselves and in doing so we will find rest because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He is the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep and He will help us out from under the burden that we carry.
When I read the beginning of this scripture, “come unto me”, I could see Jesus reaching out His hand to me and saying, “take my hand, learn from me, and I will help you find quietness and rest in whatever you are going through at this time.” In the past–our youthful days–whenever my husband and I have gone hiking on a trail towards a waterfall and the path became quite narrow, I always found myself getting fearful from the height. He would tell me to take his hand as he lifted me up. I would then become more relaxed as we continued climbing. That is what Jesus does. He takes our hand and guides us over the “hurdles” that we face in our lives. He makes our burden lighter.
Jesus wants us to come to Him, take His yoke, learn from Him, and find rest in Him.
May the Lord bless you as you continue your walk with Him.
F: Forgiving Fran–Ephesians 4:32–“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV)
Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of forgive(ness):
To cease to feel resentment against an offender
To give up resentment or claim to requietal
To grant forgiveness
Forgiveness makes you stronger
Forgiveness takes courage
Forgiveness is a gift
Forgiveness is freeing
Forgiveness changes you
Forgiveness helps let go of hate
Let it (forgiveness) teach you then “let it go”
Forgiveness according to Christianity
F: Forgiving Fran’s Story:
“Fran became a Christian at 15 years of age and accepted Christ into her life while attending a local church in her community. She began attending church regularly and joined the local church youth group and tried to participate in church functions as much as she was allowed. She also brought a number of her siblings to church as well.
Every Sunday one of the families in the church invited people to their home for dinner. They had four children near Fran’s age and asked her to join them for dinner after church. Fran’s parents were reluctant to allow her to go but finally gave in. This began a very long-time friendship with this particular family–but that is a story for another time.
Fran found herself talking more with the mother about her own family’s problems. They were role models and encouraged her to love and pray for her family. She did not have this in her home as her father was an alcoholic and verbally abusive to her brothers and sisters when he was drinking.
As the years went by, Fran fell in love with the oldest son and at the age of 20, they were married in the church where she found the Lord. Her parents attended the wedding, along with all of her siblings, even though there was a lot of tension between herself and her father.
Fran and her husband moved to a mid-western state where he finished his degrees while she worked for a church organization. She kept in contact with her family and many times Fran and her husband helped them with financial difficulties.
When they finally moved back to PA after a number of years, Fran’s family ended up living with them because her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. They had been living in Nebraska, so Fran and her husband went to bring them back to PA where her mother passed away in their home one month later. Her father continued to live with them and it was definitely a tense relationship between the two of them.
One evening, Fran and her father talked about the “past” and all of the things that had caused their broken relationship. She prayed with her father and asked forgiveness for her attitude toward him and he asked her to forgive him for any hurt he had caused her and everyone in the family. Three weeks later her father passed away.
Forgiveness began in Fran’s heart as she listened to her father’s story of when at the age of 19, he had accepted Jesus into his life but had, over many years, wandered away from his faith. She knew that she had to ask forgiveness not only from her father but also from her heavenly Father. That was the beginning of healing as a heavy weight was lifted off her shoulders.”
All of us have experienced at one time or another hurts caused by others and our first reaction is to “not forgive.” Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:14-15 that “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (NIV) I believe that Jesus commands all of us to forgive one another.
Fran’s story was my story. I learned to forgive because my heavenly Father forgave me of my sin and wanted me to live my life fully for Him through His mercy and grace.
May the Lord bless you as you forgive others as well as yourself because God has forgiven you!
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” –Hebrews 11:1-2 (NIV)
The Book of Hebrews has been called the “Faith Hall of Fame” (Luci Swindoll quote) and a number of men have been given access to that hall according to their faith.
Hebrews 11:6 says: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
According to the Book of Hebrews, the men of faith included Abraham, Moses, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Others are mentioned at the end of the Book of Hebrews.
ABRAHAM–He was noted as the “father of faith.” God called him from his home in Mesopotamia to journey to the promised land, where God promised to multiply Abraham’s offspring and make them into a great people and a blessing to the nations. There were a lot of decisions along the way that Abraham made that appear to make him doubt his faith; but in the end he persevered and God did accomplish all that he had for Abraham to do and He blessed him accordingly.
Hebrews 11:8-12 says: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city, with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.” (NIV)
MOSES–He was noted for leading the Jews out of slavery, unleashing the ten plagues against Egypt per God’s instructions, guiding the freed slaves for forty years in the wilderness, carrying down the law from Mount Sinai, and preparing the Jews to enter the land of Canaan.
Hebrews 11:23-30 says, “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the King’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith, he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. By faith, the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.” (NIV)
ISAAC–By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. Hebrews 11:20 (NIV)
JACOB–By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. Hebrews 11:21 (NIV)
JOSEPH–By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. Hebrews 11:22 (NIV)
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16, NIV)
Hebrews 11:32-38 says “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated–the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” (NIV)
All of these individuals were “commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39, NIV)
Men of faith are men who are faithful, have integrity, are great, godly, strong, and courageous. All of the above proved to have such characteristics as they believed in what God had promised.
Faith then is believing in what has been promised but not necessarily seeing the results of that faith before we die. Seeds of faith are planted every day without our knowing the outcome. Our actions speak louder than words. Planting a seed of hope, love, and grace in another person’s life should be our desire. Let God do the rest.