Tag Archives: Christmas

Do you have evidence?

Faith is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11).  Did you see that?! Faith is EVIDENCE!  That is an incredibly powerful truth.  Faith is not a wishy, washy hope; it is evidence. Faith is a foundation to build your life on. Faith is also a powerful motivator and fuel. Acting on what we believe is the substance of our lives. It is why James said, “I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (James 2:18)

We must learn to examine the fruit of our lives for evidence of our faith!Sometimes we say we believe things that never show up in our lives. If there is no evidence that we believe something, the fact is this: we really don’t believe it.  We may know it, but we don’t believe it. When we claim faith in Christ but have anxiety or shame or anger or depression — the evidence of our lives indicates our claim of faith is faulty.

That is not a statement of judgment, it is a statement of hope!  Until we know we have a need, we can’t receive the answer to that need.  Don’t despair when fault lines are revealed. Simply find the truth in the Word of God that provides evidence you need — and step out in faith!

So, what does all this have to do with “Advent” and the anticipation of Christmas? Perhaps more than we would like to admit.

Odds are that you are making tangible preparations for ‘Christmas.’ You have your calendar jam-packed, a to-do list that steals sleep, gifts bought, and decorations in place. You feel the ‘spirit’ of the season, smiling at strangers and giving cards and gifts to those in your life.  You have much evidence to show you know December 25 is approaching fast. But does that evidence point to faith in Jesus?

Christmas is a season of miracles, and as Christians, it offers great missional opportunity.  But our faith must be evidenced in this season if there is to be any fruit.  Christmas is the one time of the year that the majority of people celebrate — whether they acknowledge it or not — God’s glorious plan of redemption! If we say we believe that Jesus is the greatest gift of all time — but none of our Christmas activities reflect that belief, the evidence of our faith is negligible.

When God created this world…when He first proclaimed, ‘let there be Light,’ He followed His words with action. If we proclaim we have faith in Christ but proceed to live as if we have faith in ourselves…or faith in kind actions…or faith in the government…or faith in whatever idol we serve…our lives will proclaim where our faith actually lies. Words alone do not produce substance; they must be followed up with action.

Let’s use this Season of Advent as a time to focus our eyes on all God has done on our behalf.  That focus will nourish our faith and result in overflowing joy and action! It will produce a light from our lives that guides others to the Source of our joy.

Let’s be sure we make preparations for the Christ of Christmas in the coming days. Schedule time for Jesus on your calendar. Consider what gift He would love to receive from you. What gift would He like to have you give in His name. Ask yourself this question, “Does my life show His presence to a watching world?”

The promises of God include peace, patience, joy and self-control (Galatians 5). As believers those fruits are evidence of our faith…if they are missing, a fault-line is exposed. Find the Truth you need to repair those exposed fault lines and receive the Truth because that’s the real gift of Christmas…that’s the reality of receiving Jesus. When Jesus is received, the Light of the world bursts forth from us. We must not miss receiving and giving the greatest gift of all!

The birth of Christ brought us a priceless treasure; the very glory of God will radiate from our lives as we quiet our hearts and meditate on the Gift we have received. Spend time this week contemplating the Light of the World and let His radiance pour forth from your life!

Worship-filled Waiting

Waiting is a common – and usually unwelcome – experience.  We certainly dislike waiting for the results of lab tests or phone calls, but even waiting for good things frustrates us.  Our minds fix on what we do not have yet, making us unable to enjoy what we do have.  Doing that is a waste of the precious, limited commodity of time.  We fuss over unknowns, allowing our perceived lack to consume our minds.  While we wait, precious moments of time pass unnoticed.

That is not true for God; He is both timeless and yet, wholly present.  For we earth-bound creatures, time is often a burden and pain.  We complain of not having enough time and complain when time passes too slowly in periods of waiting.  From God’s perspective, though, each moment we call time is but a thread in His eternal plan.  Today is simply a vibrant piece of His story.  Like a page in a classic novel, the richness of today has no empty spaces but builds to the perfect conclusion.  The victory of Christ concludes our stories. So, how do we learn to resist letting time slip away while we ‘wait’ in faith?

The season of Advent helps us grasp the concept! Choosing to use the days before Christmas to focus our hearts and minds on the loving plan of God revealed at Christmas is the key to ‘waiting’ well.  It applies to much more than Christmas! Waiting is not wasted when the coming of the King is our confident hope.

Waiting becomes worship when we have the right perspective.  Remembering that before God spoke the first word of Creation, He knew the joy of Bethlehem, the suffering of Calvary and the glory of the resurrection boggles our minds.   The Masterpiece designed from and for eternity is complete in Him; today is one vibrant scene in the weaving–we must not miss it!

Looking at the Artist, seeing His perfection assures us of the outcome.  A sweet hymn sings what our hearts cry, “What a strange way to save the world.”  Yet we rejoice that His ways are not ours for His ways are perfect.  His timing is not ours, and again, we trust His perfection.  With our eyes focused on His presence, the tyranny of time cannot disrupt us.

Christmas centers our hearts on the love of God and the promise of His presence.  But Christmas must not be confined to December 25th.  In reality, the focused anticipation of Christmas is applicable every day of the year. His ways are always perfect.  His purposes assured. Wait with worship and enjoy His presence every day!

 

He’s Still Coming! (Advent Week Two)

The days before Christmas speed by as we add into our busy days the bountiful extras of the holiday season.  Last week, to start our Advent awareness, we set our hearts and minds on receiving the interruptions of God.  Trusting that the Sovereign God is involved in our days is a habitual thought we must incorporate into our lives.

This week we will focus on another precious concept:  opening our hearts to every person God brings into our lives.  God is a God of relationships–and we learn to love Him as we learn to love others!

We all know the story:  When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, the city was busy….and there was no room at the Inn.  Our hearts are the place Christ longs to live in today.  Sadly, many of us repeat the story of Bethlehem day after day.  The King of Kings found a welcome in a humble barn; His first resting place was a feeding trough.  Christ  longs to be our nourishment as well.

We receive Him when we receive those He puts into our lives.  It has been said, ‘We only love God as much as we love the one who annoys us the most.’  Let’s determine to love Him well this week!

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  Matthew 25:40

Throughout the week, pause each day to refocus on the blessed truths of the One who is coming…and how we can receive Him and share Him with others every day!

Mon.          Luke 1:44-45, 56       Heart Focus:  Speak & hear Christ’s name with joy

Tues.          Hebrews 13:1-2        Heart Focus:  Who can we open our door to today?

Wed.          Matt. 25:35-40          Heart Focus:  Seek to see the face of Christ in others

Thurs.        Proverbs 11:25        Heart Focus:   Welcome others in your life as Christ                                                                      welcomes – without pretense.

Friday        Isaiah 32:1-2             Heart Focus:  Who do you need to open the door of                                                                       forgiveness to?

Saturday     Luke 1:13,20            Heart Focus:  Quiet your heart & receive Jesus.

As we celebrate this season, may we keep in the front of our minds that Jesus is coming again!  He will not be coming as a vulnerable baby–but as the conquering King.  Let us do all we can to encourage others to prepare Him room.  See you next Sunday!

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He’s Coming!

Anticipating the arrival of a loved one is a joyful time, isn’t it?  A Christian’s heart has the possibility of that joy every moment of every day…and at ‘Christmas time’ we have an open door to discuss that joy!  Are you ready to grab the moments that come your way?While we’ve never been part of a church that liturgically celebrated Advent, it is our family tradition to prepare our hearts in the days prior to Christmas. I wanted to share some of that with others this year.

We live in a world that has so secularized Christmas that its original intent is often obscured.  We must not let that happen to our own celebrations.  While the reality is that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th anyway, the world gives us an open door with its Christmas celebrations.  Even the secular world turns its eyes to God in this season.  Let us use the world’s preparations to proclaim the love, grace & mercy of Jesus Christ that more might be won to the Kingdom.

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When we fix our hearts and eyes on Truth, it flows into our days…and people see the Word in our walk.  That is how it ought to be.  When we celebrate richly, others will take note.  Today begins the Advent Season for this year.  In the midst of busy-ness, consider how young Mary welcomed God’s interruption of her life plans.  A young woman, betrothed to a man….and told by God she would soon be carrying the Messiah in her womb.  That was an ‘interruption’ that was likely to cost her impending marriage–and quite possibly her life.  But Mary’s response was “Be it unto me according to thy word.”

“Mary’s faith is a wonderful example for us.  Rather than resentfully looking at her pregnancy as unfair and embarrassing, she understood that she had been uniquely blessed by God.  John MacArthur, Jr.

Throughout the week, pause each day to refocus on the blessed truths of the One who is coming…

Monday          Luke 1:35-38               Heart Focus:  Obedient Submission to the will of God

Tuesday          Jeremiah 29:11-13     Heart Focus:  Trust in the plans of God

Wednesday    Proverbs 16:3,9          Heart Focus:  Enjoy the story God is writing for you

Thursday        James 4:13-15             Heart Focus:   Let God give you the details as He wills

Friday             Psalm 37:4-7                Heart Focus:  Be rooted & joyful in the love of God

Saturday         Luke 1:39-41                Heart Focus:  Loving others is loving God

As we celebrate this season, may we keep in the front of our minds that Jesus is coming again!  He will not be coming as a vulnerable baby–but as the conquering King.  Let us do all we can to encourage others to prepare Him room.  See you next Sunday!

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Thank you for the Candle  Best Animations !

You Can Have a Christ-less Christmas

I’m not very trendy.  Politically correct speech, trite talk and insincere platitudes irritate me.  Common cultural controversies seldom speak my heart or compel me to take a stand.

With that stated, you might not be surprised that hearing Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays doesn’t offend me.  In fact, if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World, those greetings make sense and I’d rather you say them.  You should say what is in your heart because pretense and lies are destructive.

For the very same reason, you will hear from me, “Merry Christmas.”  Seasons come and seasons go.  If that is all I want to say, ‘hi’ or ‘hey’ should suffice.  And to me, happy holy-days are an oxymoron.  Happiness is circumstantial. Holy Days–if they are truly of a holy nature–transcend circumstances.  So, that leaves me with Merry Christmas.  Merriness is a wish for joy and life…and Christmas is Christ’s mass or the feast of Christ.  Indeed, my wish for everyone is Merry Christmas.

The heart-breaking truth, though is that …

…many do have a Christ-less Christmas.

Some folks know that is their reality…and others live in a deadly deception. That is why I hold fast to my words:  Merry Christmas.  Words matter and Scripture says we will have to give account for every word that proceeds from our mouths.  I’m not responsible for your words, nor are you responsible for mine.  But we each must say–and live out what we say–with integrity.

The world still needs the good news proclaimed by the angels at the birth of Christ.  It is the privilege and responsibility of every Christian. Love came down at Christmas time the songs say.  It is that which we celebrate at Christmas.  God loved us too much to leave us in the mess we created…in the messes we create.    He came to save us.  Christmas celebrates the arrival of hope; but Easter is the culmination.  The entirety of the picture brings abundance to our Christmas celebrations.

Check out this “Look at the Book” from John Piper on WHY Jesus chose to leave heaven and be born in a stable to a young girl.

It is the Gospel that creates an awareness of need in hearts.  The Gospel is
this:  man is lost without Jesus Christ.  There is no other explanation for why God would become man, suffer as He did and endure the Cross.  Jesus came because it was the only way for man and God to be reconciled. The same Gospel that creates awareness of need produces fulfillment.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, said in the Magnificat (Luke 1:53), God fills the hungry with good things. Too often, we fill ourselves with 12246761_10153603543295673_5486678576712313541_nthe stuff of this world and our souls fail to magnify God.  We lust but we seldom hunger…and we miss out on the Goodness of God.  That produces a Christ-less Christmas…a Christ-less life…a travesty.   The words that come from our mouths must match the lives we live.  Let folks say Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays, but you, believer live with joy in the celebration of Christ!

How do you make sure your Christmas is Christ-full?

Who wants a Partridge in a Pear Tree?

It seems to be a rather odd song, doesn’t it?  What could assorted birds, maids ‘a-milking,’ drummers and dancers have to do with Christmas?  You might be surprised.  Before we start exploring the story, though, why not download a free coloring book to go with it at the DLTK site?  Then listen to the song as you read along:

This Christmas carol was published in England in the early 1800s but is believed to be of French origin.   While there is some dispute about the symbolism intended in the carol, several believe that it was a tool for Christians to memorize and share their faith.  Examining the gifts of each day provides a foundation to understand the awesome generosity of our God…and the abundance in the Christian faith.

If you really don’t enjoy reading but want to know the story, I recorded a video to tell the story but below you will find the story and the Scripture references to deepen your study. Traditions and history confound things a bit, so you may find those who celebrate the 12 Days before Christmas.  Most, though, consider Christmas Day the First day (honoring the birth of Christ) and January 5th (Epiphany) the 12th Day (which celebrates the Gifts of the Magi).  But tradition and religion are not the essence of our faith…this song gives us some unchanging Truth to feast upon.  Let’s go!

FIRST DAY                         Jesus Christ                           Luke 1:35 & 1 John 4:9

The celebration begins with the arrival of the Messiah!  God with us, Immanuel!

SECOND DAY                   Old & New Testament         John 20:31

Jesus is the Word in living, human form.  The Scriptures, old & new, speak of Him.

THIRD DAY                       Faith, Hope & Love               1 Corinthians 13:13

Paul said, ‘…these three remain…and the greatest of these is love.’  The heart of the Word is revealed in the three french hens.

FOURTH DAY                    Gospels                                   Matt., Mark, Luke & John

The good news that God continues to seek us…and will do whatever it takes to allow us to choose to be connected with Him is a priceless gift.

FIFTH DAY                         Books of Moses/Law           Genesis – Deuteronomy

Those books of the Law are not dry in any sense.  Though Christians do not live under the Law, we live IN IT – for Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law.

SIXTH DAY                         Six Days of Creation            Genesis 1

Everything was created by God…and entrusted to humanity, His crowning creation.  Made in His image with purposes grander than we conceive!

SEVENTH DAY                  Perfect Gifts

The gifts of the 7th Day exceed our ability to explore them in this lifetime.  Praise Him for the very first one:  eternal covenant!  He is the beginning and the end and everything in between!  ENJOY HIM.

Everlasting Covenant –  Isaiah 56:4-5

Spiritual Knowledge – Jeremiah 24:7

New Heart – Ezekiel 11:19

Spiritual Rest – Matthew 11:28

Holy Spirit – Luke 11:13

Eternal Life – John 10:28

Spiritual Crowns – Revelation 2:10

      EIGHTH DAY                     Beatitudes                                     Matthew 5:3-10

The Beatitudes reveal Kingdom Life–which is pretty much opposite of what we typically experience.  We are to be in the world but not of it so that others can see a distinction.  The beatitudes create a beautiful life.

Humility – Matthew 5:3

Repentance – Matthew 5:4

Meekness – Matthew 5:5

Spiritual Hunger – Matthew 5:6

Mercy – Matthew 5:7

Pure Hearts – Matthew 5:8

Peacemaking – Matthew 5:9

Suffering for Christ – Matthew 5:10

NINTH DAY                            Fruit of the Spirit                         Galatians 5:22-23

This fruit is singular; it is HIS fruit, not ours.  The flavor of our life will be rich and sweet when He is its essence:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness & self-control.  This is not a list to achieve but a spirit to receive.

TENTH DAY                            Ten Commandments                   Exodus 20:1-17

The commandments are all about relationship…first with the Father, then with others.

ELEVENTH DAY                     Faithful Disciples                          Matthew 10:2

We know there were 12; we want to be counted among the faithful.  Judas chose his own way and it was the way of death.

TWELFTH DAY                       Apostles Creed

1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

5. The third day he rose again from the dead:

6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:

9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

10. The forgiveness of sins:

1l. The resurrection of the body:

12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

PHEW!  Who knew?  Are you astounded by the richness of that carol?

Be blessed and have a Merry Christmas.

 

Exceeding Expectations

Christmas creates more expectations than most any other time of the year.  We are tempted to cram all our hopes for mankind into our celebrations.  That sets us up for conflict and disappointment.  “Joy to the world” is what we long for…frustration and failure is often what we feel.  When Isaac Watts wrote Joy to the World, he intended it as a year-round hymn.  The hopes we have at Christmas-time don’t fit in a day, a week or even a season.  Let this be the Christmas that launches you on a Joy Journey that lasts into eternity.

Perhaps you would enjoy listening as you read?

Our hearts naturally thrill to Christmas.  We know that the truth of Christ’s coming is joy.  Knowing truth is never enough; it must be lived. At Christmas time, especially, we try very hard to LIVE IT.  We haul out the decorations, empty out our bank accounts and flood our schedules in a frenzy of anticipatory joy.

The frustration comes when our hearts respond with a hollow ring…or even anger at the emptiness and chaos. The trappings of Christmas point out the vast canyon between our hopes and what we can produce.  Earthly joys are a gift from God above.  Christmas tends to fix our eyes on the present moment–and God is here, but He is so much more!

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May our hearts be a haven for Him!

The celebration of birth is sweet to consider but it is only the beginning!    The infant Jesus, Emmanuel–God with us–was nurtured and instructed.  Scripture tells us He grew in grace and knowledge; He learned obedience by suffering, and ultimately gave His life for us.  The fullness of the story takes us to the Cross and the Resurrection.  One day Jesus will reign as King of Kings–that is our joy!  In the meantime, we must nurture our souls and learn as He did.  We are to grow in obedience and surrender to His Lordship in our lives.

Joy to the World is a great song to guide us to the journey of faith we really seek.  Isaac Watts wrote this looking toward the ruling and reigning of Christ. The hymn is actually based on Psalm 98, and I love the guidelines it offers for planning our celebrations of joy!

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First, we must remember to receive the King!  Christmas celebrations need to help us open our hearts for the life of Christ.  We need to choose activities that encourage us to welcome the presence of divinity.  That will mean declining some invites and relaxing our demands for perfection–from decorations, from people and activities.  The stuff is extra; His presence, the necessity.  Our gatherings do not create unity in our family…God alone creates that.   We must welcome Him and let Him do His work!

Then, the song reminds us ‘Our Savior Reigns!’  Despite the morning news, this world is unfolding under His watchful eye.  The things that happen in our lives are filtered by our loving Father.  Just as we received Jesus into our lives, we are to receive the stuff of life with faith in our Deliverer!

Just as Jesus grew in grace and knowledge, we must too.  ‘No more let sins and sorrows grow’ rings out in the third verse.  We live in a broken world, a world affected by the curse of disobedience.  Learning to walk out the joy of Jesus brings a balm to our world.  Introduce others to the King by letting them see Him in you this Christmas!

And finally…enjoy the journey.  The wonders of His love are so amazing we need eternity to enjoy them.  Relax with your Christmas plans…the journey continues!

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