Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Are you willing to make these 4 commitments for 2009?
- Will you commit yourself to forget your failures?
- Will you commit yourself to give up your grudges?
- Will you commit yourself to restoring your relationships?
- Will you commit yourself to turning your back on any wrongdoing?
1: COMMIT YOURSELF TO FORGET YOUR FAILURES
2000yrs ago the Apostle Paul gave this advice: Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14). I don’t know of any more relevant and practical advice for us as we start 2009. He is telling us that we shouldn't allow things from our past to imprison us.
There are times for each of us when we fail in some way, and they are often recorded in our memories. Whether the failures are connected to a relationship with our children, our partner, or perhaps with our parents, for many of us they represent painful memories. Perhaps we can recall a time when a wrong decision or hurtful comment resulted in a damaged relationship. Some of us will undoubtedly recall occasions when we failed our children in some way, and many of us can recall a time when we failed our parents. Many of us know that we have failed ourselves in some way or another most of all. But we can learn from Scripture. What God’s Word is saying is that we must not allow ourselves to be bogged down by past failures, and that we must not dwell on our past so that it prevents us from moving forward into the future that God has waiting for us.
As you move into the New Year why not say to yourself that you are, with help of God, going to put your past where it belongs, firmly behind you. God doesn’t want you to go through your life branding yourself a failure. Christ died on the Cross so that we could be forgiven for our sins. When we choose to accept Jesus into our lives and become Christians then that forgiveness becomes a reality in our lives. Once we have received Christ’s forgiveness it allows us to forgive ourselves and forget our failures.
2: COMMIT YOURSELF TO GIVE UP YOUR GRUDGES
If you want to make 2009 a significant turning point in your life then take note of Paul's advice when he writes: Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. (Col 3:13). These words challenge you directly to relinquish any grudges that you are clinging on to. This is what is meant when Scripture says that we should forgive each other, whatever complaint we may have against one another.
A grudge is an unforgiving spirit that leads to unforgiving attitudes and unforgiving actions. Grudges are dangerous because they are destructive. They can destroy marriages, break up families, and ruin friendships. They are self-destructive, not just destructive. If you are holding a grudge against someone then God is telling you to give it up. When you hold a grudge against someone you hurt yourself as much, and perhaps more, than you will hurt the other person. People who continually harbour grudges are eventually destroyed by them both emotionally and spiritually, gradually becoming more and more bitter. God’s Word teaches that the way to give up a grudge is to forgive a grievance. God is not asking you to ignore whatever the person has done to you, nor to pretend it never happened, but to forgive the grievance, however much it hurt you. What better time to make the decision to forgive than the start of this New Year?
Never say that you can’t forgive, because what you really mean when you say that is that you won’t forgive. If Christ can forgive you your sin, despite the pain of the cross, then surely you can give up your grievance whatever the cost? The question is will you do it?
3: COMMIT YOURSELF TO RESTORING YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
We need to check whether our personal relationships are working properly. We are urged: If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men (Rom. 12:18). The important phrase there is, so far as it depends on you, and it is God's personal challenge to each of us to do all we can to restore our relationships. He wants us to do everything we can to restore any relationships that have gone wrong in our lives. Some relationships might have gone wrong life because of what other people have done and they might not want that relationship restored. God recognises that, which is why He starts by saying ‘If its possible.’ But some of our relationships have gone wrong because of what we have done. When God’s word says, ‘as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,’ it’s saying that if you have caused a rift in a relationship then you have a responsibility to do everything you can to restore it, including the one thing we all probably find most difficult, asking for forgiveness.
Make no mistake it will be hard to do, but one of the most significant things that you can do to mark the New Year is to admit your past errors in relationships and humbly seek forgiveness from the one you have hurt.
4: COMMIT YOURSELF TO TURN YOUR BACK ON ANY WRONGDOING.
Many Christians choose to continue to live as slaves to sin. Christ died to set them free, the Holy Spirit has given them the power to be free, but they still choose to obey their old master, sin. Listen to these words from Paul’s letter to the Romans: Do not let sin reign in your body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your embers as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6: 12-14)
God challenges you to turn your back on sin, whatever it is, and to stop giving in to it and letting it control the way you live. He wants you to change. We need to be clear about this: Jesus death broke the power of sin and the Holy Spirit give us the power to resist sin, and that means that you can go into this New Year victoriously. God says you are no longer a slave to sin, so don’t live like one or act like one.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I can't help but notice that Santa is made up from the letters used for Satan. It's an anagram of that name. How much of a coincidence is that? After all, the one thing that Santa does more than anything else is focus people away from Jesus and towards themselves.
Perhaps it's time that the UK followed the example of America and celebrated Thanksgiving Day. That way we could, as they do, have a great time of family renewals, feasting and exchange of presents, all as part of our Thanksgiving for life itself, and all that it means. Those who wish to have a totally secular occasion would get their wish without causing offence to others. Christmas could then be celebrated much more quietly. Those who wished to celebrate it as the Christian Festival which it is could do so, whilst those who have a different faith, or perhaps no faith at all, can simply enjoy a day or a couple of days off from their normal work activity.
There would be no need for the Politically Correct gremlins to do their level best to destroy the true meaning of Christmas as they currently do, and for Christians everywhere it would be possible to celebrate the real 'Reason for the Season' without hindrance.
At present it often appears that S A N T A is winning the race for hearts and minds, or perhaps I should say that S A T A N is. Sometimes, when you look behind the red and white and the overt jolliness of the fat man, you see that everything is not quite what it appears, and that underlying it all is an attitude of selfishness and greed, neither of which is remotely what the message of Christmas is really about.
The Devil is a master of disguise. He can make it appear good, pleasant, and seemingly so innocent and yet it is deadly! The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 11:14, "And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" He does not appear with horns and a pitch fork breathing fire. He might just appear as a pleasant, friendly, fellow, with "a broad face and a round little belly, That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly. . ."
Could Santa Claus be a subtle, clever attack on our children to confuse, doubt and rob their God-ordained "child like" faith? Satan knows, if he can somehow get that child through those fruitful early years without trusting the Lord Jesus Christ his goal of eternal damnation in hell increases substantially.
by Clement Clarke Moore
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Santa lives at the North Pole.
JESUS is everywhere.
Santa rides in a sleigh
JESUS rides on the wind and walks on the water.
Santa comes but once a year
JESUS is an ever present help.
Santa fills your stockings with goodies
JESUS supplies all your needs.
Santa comes down your chimney uninvited
JESUS stands at your door and knocks.. And then enters your heart.
You have to stand in line to see Santa
JESUS is as close as the mention of His name.
Santa lets you sit on his lap
JESUS lets you rest in His arms.
Santa doesn't know your name,
all he can say is "Hi little boy or girl, What's your name?"
JESUS knew our name before we did.
Not only does He know our name, He knows our address too.
He knows our history and future and
He even knows how many hairs are on our heads.
Santa has a belly like a bowl full of jelly
JESUS has a heart full of love.
All Santa can offer is HO HO HO
JESUS offers health, help and hope.
Santa says "You better not cry"
JESUS says "Cast all your cares on me for I care for you.
Santa's little helpers make toys
JESUS makes new life, mends wounded hearts,
repairs broken homes and builds mansions.
Santa may make you chuckle but
JESUS gives you joy that is your strength.
While Santa puts gifts under your tree
JESUS became our gift and died on the tree.
It's obvious there is really no comparison.
We need to remember WHO Christmas is all about.
We need to put Christ back in Christmas!
Jesus is still the reason for the season.
God bless you all!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Despite this, I feel great! It's just two days to go before Christmas Day and there is so much to thank God for and to celebrate. Even the gloom can be appreciated if you approach the subject by comparison, for as soon as you start to compare it with bright, sunny, days then you find yourself being transported, at least in your mind, to those bright and sunny days. Now that's a real bonus to be grateful for isn't it!
I guess what I'm really saying is that no matter what the day looks like on the outside it's still a gift from God, given for you to enjoy and make something of. After all, if you won the top prize in the Lottery then it would soon put a golden lining to the gloomiest cloud-filled day, wouldn't it.
Well, in a couple of days time the greatest gift ever will be celebrated by millions of people around the world as they celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and the momentous event that changed the world just over two thousand years ago.
Families will gather around the Christmas tree to open their gifts to each other and be pleased, shocked, surprised, disappointed or just plain indifferent to what they find when they untie the ribbons and unwrap the glitzy paper. Some may exclaim aloud as they recognise the gift that they gave to the giver only two years ago, and in recognising it remember who gave it to them in the first place. Maybe it will bring a smile, maybe a disappointment.
There is still, however, that one unique gift that we can all receive; that gift which can turn any and every day into Christmas Day and Birthday all rolled into one --- the gift of everlasting life through Jesus Christ. One thing that I can guarantee is that when you seek out and receive this gift it will never let you down. It will never cause you consternation, nor disappointment, and is guaranteed to have a life-changing effect on your life, not just for this day or this week, or even this year, but for ever. When I say 'for ever' I really mean 'for ever' as well, for this gift will be with you for the whole of eternity.
Now, isn't that something which brightens even the gloomiest of days! You see, gloom doesn't have to be on the inside as well as the outside. When the light of Jesus Christ is within you then it will shine through even the dullest and greyest of days.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
One such situation was the recent news that, here in the UK, Woolworth's was placed into Receivership. Imagine the horror with which many greeted the news! After all, Woolworth's has been around in the UK for over 90 years, and we have grown up in the security that it was one of the faces on the High Street that would be there for ever. Spare a thought for the employees, almost THIRTY THOUSAND of them, and just imagine for a moment the dismay, shock and trauma that the news has brought into their lives. Many of them had worked for the Company for well over 25 years.
Yet change comes, even when we don't want it too. My first job after leaving school was for the men's tailoring company, Weaver to Wearer, and I worked for them for several years, enjoying almost every moment of it. The company had over 500 stores, so it was as 'safe as houses'. However, after a few years I learned just how safe some houses were NOT! Almost overnight the familiar name of the company disappeared from the High Street, shop signs being replaced so quickly that you hardly had chance to catch your breath.
I remember that when I was first thinking about jobs I was being advised to work for one of the recognised 'safe' employers such as Banks or Civil Service. Well, jobs in the Banks have long changed from being the safe jobs that they once were! And for further proof, should proof be needed, witness the number of ex-Bank employees that are looking for work at present with all that has happened in the Banking Industry over recent months. As for the Civil Service, well, many jobs are not contractually based and therefore, by their nature, for a specific term. There is no more security in the work-place, no matter who you work for.
Nobody can deny that the present economic problems are the worst that the world has experienced since the Great Depression of the late 1920's and early 1930's. I think that one of the problems behind it is that the Western World in particular has become focused on greed and self-centredness. Nobody likes to admit that there is a 'greed' problem but unfortunately it's rampant. I guess that when people put themselves at the centre of their lives then greed is pretty well automatic in one form or another.
For example, just consider the massive salaries that are given to many people in the banking and business world. Only this week the news came through that Goldman Sachs, part of the International Investment Banking Group, are to distribute FOUR point THREE BILLION POUNDS in bonuses to their City workers, an average of £142,600 each! This news is particularly distasteful when you consider that this week the firm posted its first loss for a decade, and that earlier this year the company was forced to accept a £6.5 BILLION lifeline from the US government as a result of the Credit Crunch.
The thing for the ordinary members of the public to consider is this: these bail-outs by the government, both by our government here and other governments elsewhere, come from money paid by the taxpayers, and that means that some of the money that YOU and I pay in taxes is being used to bail these businesses out. In a manner of speaking that means that we are shareholders in their businesses, and that the government have our proxy. Considering that, how do you now feel about the massive and outrageous bonuses being paid out?
Another facet of the 'greed culture' that we have often seen over the past few years is that high-flying managerial level employees who are removed from their jobs because of incompetence and failure, still walk away with massive financial rewards. How can that be justified? It is equivalent to paying losers the same as winners in a competition. Perhaps the nonsense of the PC brigade who believe that 'it's wrong to tell people when they are incorrect in case it upsets them' is the real culprit in all of this. You know what I mean I'm sure. If a child gets their sums wrong at school you mark them as being 'almost right' rather than telling them that they are wrong. We see the same thing on TV when contestants of talent shows who should never have got past the initial form-filling, are told that they are better to stick to their day-jobs, and then the public dare to deride the critic for pointing it out to them!
What an upside-down world we have created!
One good bit of news that filtered through to me this week was the news that many churches in the US are experiencing a boom in terms of the numbers turning up for services as a result of the Recession (Depression?).
It is my belief, based upon many years experience, that when nations have too much wealth then invariably its people turn away from God, lulled into believing that they have no need of God in their lives as they chase the pound or the dollar or whatever. I believe that the current crisis is the result of God saying that 'Enough is Enough!' So often in the past it has been just this sort of crisis that has brought about Spiritual Revival, and perhaps that is what we will see once more. Certainly, there can be no doubt that such a Revival is long overdue if people are to be saved from themselves. There is a need for God to be placed firmly in the centre of people's lives and for that to happen they must remove themselves from being the central focus.
My prayer for everyone as we approach the New Year is that they will look at their lives in retrospect and either confirm or re-confirm a commitment to God being central to their lives from now on.
Of course, many churches, having been inwardly-focused to a point of exclusiveness for so long, must change as well, recommitting themselves as a church to serving God through Christ. Seeking to be churches whose focus is not financial stability for the congregation but rather spiritual stability in the world at large.
So, where does this change start from, and with whom? That's easy to answer dear reader, for it starts with you and with me. When we choose to reconfirm our commitment to God and to honour His Word and honour the task that we are called to then change will come.
- Who really matters,
- Who was just a ship that passed you by in the night,
- Who won't be part of your life anymore...
- And who always will.
Friday, December 19, 2008
“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
Matthew 28: 20 (King James Version)
When our hearts are breaking and it feels like everyone has left us, Jesus is still with us. There are times in all of our lives when the storms of criticism, heartaches, rejection, ridicule and discouragement overwhelm us and we don’t think we are going to make it. Jesus has given us good news. He has promised us that He will be with us even unto the end of the world.
Not only will He be with us to the end of the world; we will also be with Him in Heaven for all eternity if we have had His cleansing and atoning blood applied to our hearts for the forgiveness of our sins. Thank God for a Saviour who is always there for us. His compassion and unconditional love for us will never end. He loved us as much yesterday as He does today and He will love us as much tomorrow as He does today.
Thank You, Jesus, that You are always there for us. Thank You for loving us and for caring about us. May we always be there for You. Thank You so much for dying for our sins on the cruel cross of Calvary. Indeed, there is no one like You, Jesus. I love You with all of my heart and I appreciate everything You have done for me.
Jesus is there for you whenever you need Him. Are you there for Him when He needs you? Do you thank Him daily for His companionship and concern for you? He is always there for us and it is time that we are there for Him. What a Saviour! What a friend, this Jesus of Nazareth!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I grew up in a large house in the small Wiltshire town of Corsham, then with a population of around 8500 people. Not for us the luxury of the now-expected central heating system. In those distant days Winter mornings meant getting out of a warm bed and onto a small rug which was positioned next to it on the otherwise cold linoleum flooring. Looking out of the window meant that you got a bit too close for comfort to the ice that decorated the inside of the panes as well as the outside! I guess that I was about eleven when my father installed oil-filled heaters underneath the windows at floor level. They were just enough to combat the interior ice and, theoretically at least, to take the basic chill off the air in the room, although it still seemed just as cold to me.
How well I remember the excitement of Christmas! In those days, long before we had television, our bed-time was very early by the standards of today's children, and I was sent up to bed by 7.30 each evening with the exception of Saturdays when I was allowed to stay up until 8.0 o'clock. And bed meant of course, to sleep, not to read, play games or even chatter to anyone else. How different times were then.
Christmas Eve was one night of the year when I never minded going to bed early, trying, just like thousands of other children, to stay awake until Father Christmas came to visit and fill my sock, carefully hung at the foot of the bed, with an assortment of goodies. Somehow sleep always got the better of me and I was in the land of nod well before the visiting hour. However, I was awake early the following morning and excitedly reaching for my now-bulging stocking. In it there would always be a few nuts -- although no means of getting into them --- a tangerine, a couple of sweets and perhaps a colouring book and crayons. Very wisely, Father Christmas seemed aware that it was not a good idea to put toys into the stocking that could make a noise!
The excitement of those times remains for ever etched into the memory, and is there to recall whenever you want to for the rest of your life. Eventually, once it was time to get up and go downstairs, I would go down into the lounge and the welcome warmth of the fire that would be burning brightly in the hearth, and there my eyes would soak up the wonder of the tree which, only the evening before, had been plain and undecorated. Miraculously, overnight, it had been transformed by tinsel and baubles, fairy lights and crackers, and along with the rest of the room managed to transport me to a magical world once again.
One Christmas my mother decorated twigs with tiny pink crepe paper flowers which several of us children had been making for days previously. She had not told us what they were for, and so the effect was absolutely magical as we viewed it for the first time, the flower-bedecked branches draped with our favourite fairy lights which had pictures of all the favourite Walt Disney characters on them. I'll never forget that picture. It's etched for ever into my memory.
After breakfast we went along to my father's office where our presents had been carefully placed in neat piles along the window seat. There would always be my favourite Comic Book Annuals amongst the presents, and it was these that I opened first of all, soaking up the latest adventures of Korky the Cat, Desperate Dan, and all the other familiar characters. We were not spoiled by vast quantities of presents, nor by inordinate amounts of money having been spent on them. In those pre-TV and pre-computer days there was no electronic thingamyjigs to cause me to invoke 'pester-power', and if I had dared to do such a thing it would have resulted in less not more as a reward for my efforts.
This year, with the current economic crisis causing us to tighten the belts a notch or two, I hope that for some children at least, it will be a time where present giving becomes a little more carefully thought out and a little more meaningful, rather than simply having their demands given in to. That way it might start to focus people away from themselves and more towards the needs for others.
We live in a world that has become selfish and greedy, and children are brought up to demand what they want and get it, rather than being grateful for what they are given. It may be a world that has a wonderful array of gadgets to entertain and to make life easier for people, but I believe that it's a less pleasant world than the one in which I was raised. We certainly had nowhere near the amount of things that children get today, but we were grateful for what we had. We didn't have X-boxes and video games, but we did have well-cultivated imaginations. We knew how to convert a cardboard box into a fort, garage, farm or hospital; or indeed anything else that our fertile imaginations wanted it to be, and we did so effortlessly because we were allowed to develop naturally rather than having our imaginations controlled via the televisual images that today's children are bombarded with.
Yes, despite the electronic advances of the current age, give me the world of simple delights, of crumpets and home-made bread toasted in front of a warm coal fire, and of seasons where everything happened just the way it should.
“And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
Revelation 1: 5, 6 (King James Version)
Pastor Edward Mote wrote a beautiful song “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”. The words in this song are what we should do every day “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” All too often we build our hopes on our families, our friends, our jobs and our money. We must build our hopes on the blood of Jesus.
Thank God that one day our precious Saviour walked that long and lonely road to Calvary and there shed His blood for us that we might have the forgiveness of sins and have a home in Heaven with Him for all eternity. Thank You, Jesus, for the sacrifice You made for us. Thank You so much for loving us unconditionally and for being a forgiving compassionate and tender Saviour.
Has the blood of Jesus been applied to your heart for the forgiveness of your sins? You must first have His precious blood applied to your heart before you can build your hope on His righteousness and blood. Don’t look to your family and friends for your hope. Look to Jesus’ righteousness and His precious blood. Build your hopes on Jesus’ blood and righteousness and keep your heart and your eyes on the One who loves you so much that He died for you.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
There are so many questions asked regarding this festival and, as is always the case, some people get very hot under the collar about it all! Of course, generally speaking, people like others to agree with them about strong issues in particular, and that makes the whole thing even more contentious.
Now you, dear reader, know that I love all the coloured lights and the 'trimmings', so you know where I stand on that one! However, like many people, I am concerned that the whole celebration of Christmas is little more than an excuse for many people to 'eat, drink, and be merry'. Some time ago I came across the following piece titled Qualms about Christmas written by K. Olsen, on a discussion forum under the heading 'Does God care about Christmas?'
'There are a growing number of Evangelicals who are concerned about Christmas and whether it should be celebrated by true believers. There are various reasons for this distress, the main one being the pagan origins of the 25 December festival. There is historical evidence that Christmas was not observed by the early church fathers and it was the Roman church which adapted the `Natalis Solis Invicti' (birth of the sun-god) and `Saturnalia' festivals. Further, there is no Scriptural injunction to celebrate Christmas. Also, the secularisation and commercialization of Christmas troubles many believers.
Some believers feel that for the above reasons Christmas celebrations should be shunned.
We submit some other points to consider - indeed good reasons why Christians should take full advantage of Christmas:
1. Ungodly origins are not always a reason to reject what God has allowed. Two examples:
a) Jesus is the King. No Christian disputes that. Yet, kings have an ungodly origin. Indeed, this pagan tradition was so prevalent that the early Israelites demanded their own king - much to God's displeasure.But, in God's eternal wisdom He allowed it to happen and Jesus is today proclaimed King of Kings.
b) Cities have a very shady origin. The first inhabitants of cities, the Bible tells us, were the descendants of Cain. The Bible generally speaks about the evil of cities. Yet, we believers shall dwell in the holy City, the New Jerusalem.2. Christmas is the only remaining Christian event which virtually the whole world acknowledges (even Cuba has recanted on its past banning of Christmas celebrations). It is an opportunity to proclaim Christ and the real meaning of His glorious birth. The giving of presents, festivities and the general (though temporary) feeling of goodwill can be used by Christians around the world to proclaim the Good News of the real Gift, the Christ Child, who was born to die and give us the gift of pardon from sin and eternal life.
3. Despite growing ignorance about the reason for Christmas most people still have some vague knowledge that the celebration is connected to the birth of Christ. Believers should take advantage of this and pass on the full message of the meaning of Christ incarnate. At least it is one time during the year when the secular world is more receptive to the Good News. Unconverted church members have some tinge of conscience and are willing to attend a Christmas service. What an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel.
4. Jesus and His disciples and the history of the church, have shown that opportunism is not always a bad thing. Indeed, the zealous Christian will use every opportunity, in season and out of season, to proclaim the Gospel. Paul was even willing to address ungodly philosophers in heathen surroundings on Mars Hill.5. There are increasing attempts to `de-Christ' Christmas. Many companies do their best to avoid the word Christmas and will rather refer to Season's Greetings. All the more reason to emphasize the Lordship of Christ in Christmas and all of God's creation.
As the Editor of Evangelical Times (December 1997 No.12) puts it: Of course, opportunism is not adaptation. Jesus and the apostles did not adapt their message to the culture of their time. They did not modify the Gospel to suit their hearers. To do that must be wrong. But we must not let a fear of making mistakes keep us from taking every opportunity to preach the Gospel and using familiar things as vehicles for the unchanging truth.'So, dear reader, what do you think about it? I always think that anything that gets people into a situation where they can hear about the Saving Grace of Jesus and the love of God is a good thing. O that our churches, chapels and cathedrals might be filled with unbeliever's and addressed by New Testament preachers!
Monday, December 15, 2008
Everyone who took part volunteered to do so when asked, no prior warning having been given, and the results were great. There was a happy feel to the whole of the Service, and the Christmas Story was read as the tableau was gradually formed, the whole happening adding a slightly new twist to what must surely be one of the simplest and yet most wonderful stories ever told.
The story of the birth of Christ, despite the many inaccuracies that have crept in over the years regarding the date, the condition of the stable, snow on snow, in the bleak mid-Winter, etcetera, is still in essence the greatest story ever told. It tells of an event that changed the world for ever, when God Himself came down to earth to begin His great plan of Redemption.
The birth of Jesus, the promised Christ, is a story of love and justice. Love because for God to put Himself and Jesus through all that was to take place was an act of unconditional, sacrificial love, placing the salvation and redemption of repentant sinners foremost. Justice, because God hates all sin and demands the highest penalty for it, which is the life of the sinner. Sacrifice, because when Jesus died on the cross at Calvary it was in the place of every sinner. He paid the price for sin, once and for all.
Since then, anyone who was truly repentant of the sin in their lives could, by confessing their sin and believing on Jesus as their Saviour and acknowledging Him as their Lord, be redeemed to God. It is the only true way to God. Jesus Himself said "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6).
As we smiled yesterday at the efforts of the shepherds struggling to don their costumes, and at the wise men whose arthritic knees made kneeling in obeisance to the Babe a humorous sight, so our minds were focused on the real reason for the story. All in all it was a glad and happy experience, but also one which left us feeling closer and more grateful to God the Father.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
It’s to remind us of the angel that appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus. Listen to what the Bible says in Luke’s Gospel, (Chapter 2: 1-20).
In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night. An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone all around them. They were terrified, but the angel said, “Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord. Here’s a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And all at once, there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words:
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favours.’
Now it happened that when the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this event which the Lord has made known to us.” So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child, they repeated what they had been told about Him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds said to them. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as had been told.
Just imagine for a moment that you were one of the shepherds. How do you think you would you have felt — excited, scared, overwhelmed, joyful, amazed?
In the society of that time, shepherds were regarded as very poor people, often looked down upon by others. They were also living at a difficult time in their own country, under Roman rule. Yet God chose to make His most important announcement to these humble men.
Let’s listen to what the shepherds said once again:
“Let us go to Bethlehem and see this event which the Lord has made known to us.” So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child, they repeated what they had been told about Him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds said to them.
What’s the most fantastic piece of news that you ever received? Think back, and remember the way you felt when you received it.
All over the world there are people waiting to hear good news. Thankfully, because of the love of Jesus Christ, many will be getting good news this Christmas. It may be through any one of the many charities, perhaps one that you are involved with like the Shoebox Appeal. Just imagine the faces on the child who will open the shoebox that you packed this year. The look on their face will say it all. If you could see that look for yourself then you would know how worthwhile your efforts were. Every time someone’s life is made a little better, whether it’s digging wells, building hospitals or schools, or any one of the myriad projects that are currently in hand, then when the act of kindness is done in Christ’s name, it spreads His love a little further.
Once again this Christmas, thanks to the charities who are dedicated to helping the homeless, the good news will take the form of a hot meal and a lot of Christian love. Perhaps there will be many who call into a Gospel Mission Hall and receive not only food to sustain their bodies, but also food for their souls. They, like millions of others, will hear the good news that Jesus Christ came to share with the world.
Whoever the recipients of the good news are, wherever they live, what they will be experiencing is the peace and joy that the angel promised to those shepherds so long ago.
Cholera has been very rare in industrialized nations for the last 100 years; however, the disease is still common today in other parts of the world, including the Indian subcontinent and sub-Saharan Africa.
Although life-threatening, it's easily prevented and treated. In countries with advanced water and sanitation systems, cholera is not really a threat, but in parts of the world such as Zimbabwe where the water system is either antiquated or, as in many cases, non-existent, then the threat to human life is very real. Drawing water for consumption from stagnant pools or from rivers, streams and boreholes that have effluent seeping into them due to the lack of sewage disposal, will quickly create a problem that, although entirely preventable, quickly becomes an epidemic.
Mugabe has stated that the Western powers were plotting to use cholera as an excuse to invade and overthrow him, adding that "Now that there is no cholera there is no cause for war."
Saturday, December 13, 2008
“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”
Psalm 51: 12 (King James Version)
There are times when we have to do a system restore on our computers when viruses and spyware get through our firewall and anti-virus programs. The same is true with our Heavenly Father. There are times when He has to do a system restore on our hearts and lives when satan attacks us with the virus of discouragement.
Thank God that He has provided a system restore for our hearts and lives through Jesus. When we are so discouraged that we feel like we are going under for the last time, it is then that we need to cry out to Jesus and ask Him to please restore His joy to our hearts and lives. Do you need a system restore in your heart and in your life?
If so, allow Jesus to restore His joy to your heart and life once again. He will take your hand and walk with you through the dark valleys and will once again set you on the mountain top of joy, peace, happiness and excitement. There is no one like Jesus! No one loves you like Jesus loves you! Thank You, Jesus, for caring about us and for restoring our hearts and lives with Your joy, peace and happiness.
December 13, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
and in our room
its lights dispel
the deepest gloom.
Even in the darkest night
they shine and sparkle,
to cast away the stress and strain
of money rolling down the drain!
Up near the top --- in brightest gold ---
The news calls out our belts to tighten,
yet, here at least,
the news will brighten;
for we will look across our room
and see lights twinkling bright and clear,
reminding us of why it's there.
We will think of stall and manger,
of virgin birth, Herodic danger,
of kings who travelled from afar,
guided by a shining star;
of shepherds who their watch did keep
of cattle lowing, and bleating sheep.
Our minds will travel to that night,
so we can share the glorious sight
of infant babe in manger lay,
and celebrate this Christmas Day!
The following story was sent to me in an email and I thought that I'd share it with you dear reader. I hope it puts a smile into your day!
In Florida, an atheist created a case against the Easter & Passover holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians, Jews & observances of their holy days. The argument was it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized days).
The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring, 'Case dismissed' whereupon the lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying, 'Your Honour, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter & others. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur & Hanukkah. Yet my client & all other atheists have no such holidays.'
The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, 'But you do. Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant.' The lawyer said, 'Your Honour, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists.'
The judge said, 'The calendar says April 1st is 'April Fools Day.' Psalm 14:1 states, 'The fool says in hisheart, there is no God.' Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned.'
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”
Someone made the comment “I did it again. I promised myself that I was not going to do that again but I did it again.” I think most of us can probably relate to this person. Have you ever promised yourself that you weren’t going to do something again but you did it again? It may be an old habit that you are trying to break and you just can’t seem to conquer it. I promised myself that I was not going to call myself stupid again, yet I did it again yesterday. I said “Joanne, you are so stupid.”
We can wipe our tears away because we don’t have to despair and be discouraged. Our precious Saviour is not only able to keep us from falling but He will also present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. We need to understand that we don’t have the power to do anything. We may conquer the habit temporarily but it always comes back.
Only Jesus can keep us from falling and bring us through the situation victoriously. Where we make our mistakes is trying to do things in our own strength without asking Jesus for help and when we fail we get discouraged. That opens the door for satan to make us feel stupid and inadequate. If you did it again, ask Jesus to help you and then get out of the way and let Him work. Thank God for a Saviour who is able to present us faultless with exceeding joy!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
It's been such a privilege to be able to share the lives of my people, and be with them in the times when they needed support and comfort, and to be able to lead them on their spiritual journey.
Now for the rest of my ife, every time that I dip into this new Bible I shall be reminded that it has been given with love, and be reminded too of all of the people whom it has been my privilege to serve and point towards the everlasting kingdom.
A carolling! a carolling!
Hot toddy, snow and holly;
Mistletoe and mince pies,
A time for being jolly!
A carolling! A carolling!
Sing of the Saviour’s birth;
Of angels and of shepherds,
Of peace on all the Earth.
A carolling! A carolling!
The songs so full of joy.
Sing of the heavenly choir
That praised the infant boy.
A carolling! A carolling!
Sing of the guiding star;
Of shepherds and of wise men
Of how they journeyed far.
A carolling! A carolling!
Sing of that glorious day
When God came down to Earth
A baby in the hay.
A carolling! A carolling!
A story of God’s love:
The Christ child in the manger,
Who came from up above.
A carolling! A carolling!
From that crude manger bare,
His travelled to the cross,
He hung and suffered there.
A carolling! A carolling!
His death ordained to be;
He bled upon that cross,
And died for you and me.
A carolling! A carolling!
Our Saviour, brother, friend;
Destined soon to rule
That Kingdom without end.
A carolling! A carolling!
Our song will never end,
Till everyone on Earth
Knows Jesus Christ as friend.
© Colin Gordon-Farleigh, December 2005