Every year as December 25th approaches, there are increasingly controversial views of Christmas being bantered about. Some say its origins are birthed from paganism and heathen practices. Others say no, it is the celebration of our blessed Savior coming into the world. So who is right? More importantly, “Is it wrong for a Christian to celebrate at this time of year?” The answer to both of these questions is rather obvious if we take the time to consider Jesus’ most elementary teachings on the motives of the heart.
The short answer for the 1st question is BOTH! This is explained in context of the answer to our vital, second question.
There are many fond memories associated with Christmas from my childhood. The bright colorful lights with lovingly wrapped presents around the beautifully glittering tree. Heavenly aromas waft from the kitchen. The warmth of a fire in the hearth while the pure white snow banks up on the sides of the house. Family and friends all sharing the spirit of love and togetherness. We had some wonderful celebrations. It was a time of giving and sharing and unity and great joy.
My family attended church regularly, though we had a few relatives who did not. In fact two distant cousins were rather opposed to religion of any form. While my immediate family was attending Sunday services, those two would be launching their second day of a hell raising weekend party. There were times they’d be arrested on Sunday and thrown in jail for breaking the law. That’s certainly not what Jesus would have us do. For we are to obey civil authorities. Sunday was their favorite day. A day influenced by the alcohol and drugs they’d abused beginning on Friday night. It was great fun for them to carouse and fight, drink and drive, do drugs, curse and have free sex. They loved the party life. It was their god. True pagan practices.
Did what they choose to do on Sunday make my family’s church attendance a pagan activity because it was on the same day? Of course not! Associating a Christian’s celebration of the birth of Christ with pagan worship is ridiculous. Worship is in Spirit and from the heart. And so is our celebrations. I could choose ANY day and decide to celebrate my salvation in Christ on that particular day. Certainly, somewhere in history that same day will hold some significance by being associated with sinful practices, which are done across the globe year round. The world is filled with such things, and has been since the fall of man in the garden. But my celebration has nothing to do with that.
Yes I’ve done extensive research on the origins of Christmas. I’m aware of how the date was set. Yet I find that its origins do not matter. The important thing is what is in our hearts and the reason we are celebrating.
Nowhere in the bible are we commanded to celebrate the day of Jesus’ birth. Yet the bible does not forbid it either. It is true that December 25th may not be the actual day of our Savior’s birth. But what difference does that make? We choose a day to commemorate that event and celebrate, just as the angels of heaven celebrated in song and heralded His coming. Out of convenience, there have been years I celebrated my own birthday on a different day than my actual birth.
One thing I’ve learned rather well during my life as a Christian is that those activities which are against God’s will for me to participate in, will invariably come between me and my Lord, rather than draw me closer to Him. Over the years, my love for Christ has truly deepened and I have a greater appreciation for my redeemer as I celebrate His human birth, God’s incarnation. Hmmm. It appears that my celebration of Christmas has deepened my faith, rather than hindered it. That alone is evidence enough for me.
I don’t care at all for the fairy tale aspects of Christmas, with Santa and his mythical flying reindeer. I do not participate in those widespread fantasies. It competes with my Lord. And as a child I felt betrayed when I learned that I’d been deceived about such things. There is nothing mystical about Christmas. Miraculous yes! We serve an omnipotent, all wise God. There is no need to make up stories to fascinate children, or to create magical moments based on lies. The truth is exciting enough. And the love, unity, peace and joy associated with the virgin birth of Christ is even more real—a cause for true celebration!
What does Christmas mean to you? And what are you celebrating? Are you celebrating paganism, Satanism and wickedness? Or are you joyfully praising God for the birth of the redeemer of mankind? Are you celebrating that awesome event some 2000 years ago, when in Bethlehem of Judea, the Son of God was born of the virgin Mary? When you prayerfully consider these questions, you will know if it is right “for you” to continue your Christmas traditions.
Have a very Merry Christmas!
The Christian’s keys to hope, provision and fulfillment.
Around 30 years ago Rob Cutshaw, a rock hound, dug up a big blue sapphire near Anderson North Carolina. Not sure what he’d found, Rob stowed the rock under his bed, and it sat there for many years. In his endearing Carolina drawl he described the stone as, “big-n-purdy”. After reading up on sapphires, he took it to a gemologist, who cut and polished the Gem to reveal a stunning star shining through its core. At one point the sapphire was displayed for sale in Rob’s roadside shop. He says he would have taken a hundred dollars for it, enough to pay his electric bill. It is now known as “The Star of David Sapphire”, with an estimated worth of two to three million dollars. It is one of the largest and arguably, most beautiful blue sapphires known today. (1.2.3.)
The intriguing aspect of this story depicts a lack of awareness, a person not knowing the value of what they already possess. Most times as Christians, we are the same way. The treasures and riches we have in Christ far exceed what our finite minds are able to comprehend. Yet the value of God’s gifts of grace are beyond price, completely immeasurable.
When we are born anew in Christ, God adopts us as His sons and daughters, granting us a standing in His family and in Jesus’ dynasty. We are coheirs with Jesus. (Romans 8:17) The Lord’s dilemma, is getting us to understand the vastness of our privileges as His child. He wants us to enjoy complete entitlement.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…” (Ephesians 1:18-19 NIV)
Yet, too often we search in the wrong places or things, for that which we already own. Either we’re unaware of its existence or we haven’t learned how to gain access. We’re not certain how to go about making a withdrawal of peace, of wisdom or of power. Not fully believing, we fumble the key of faith. But Christ has already opened the storehouses of God for us, offering complete access to everything we will ever want or need.
It is through the same faith that saved us in the first place, that we receive every benefit of His grace.
Maybe it is healing we seek, protection perhaps, or possibly it’s guidance we need. It could be loneliness that brings a heavy heart, or brokenness in a relationship. Hopelessness and despair are obliterated through faith. Whatever our needs consist of, God will provide for us.
Our obedience, which results from true faith, assures we receive every asset of God’s amazing grace.
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11 NIV)
The solution to your every need is closer than you could ever imagine. If you are already saved, continue in that faith. Submit to God—Believe—Ask—Receive. You truly are exceedingly wealthy!
1. Sun Sentinel April 12th 1987
2. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1454&dat=19870425&id=GlFIAAAAIBAJ&sjid=-hMEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6211,3195235 http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/t/treasure.htm
Over the years we've heard several geographical regions being touted as “The Last Frontier”. After the taming of the west, and then Alaska’s big draw of adventure lovers, we looked to the ocean. Still today, we have a long way to go before discovering and unravelling the hidden mysteries of the deepest depths of the earth’s seas.
In our cushy age of technological wonders we are breeding a generation of armchair adventurers. No need for that scuba diving certification, or licensing, insuring and training for voyages beneath the sea. We now can simply nuke a bowl of Orville Redenbacher, grab a mocha cappuccino, kick back in our post-modern version of lazy-boy recliners, and experience the wonder of it all. Let the few elite who really know the adrenalin rush of true outdoor adventure film it for us. I’m talking about 3-D in HD on a wall sized TV with theater quality surround sound. Yes, most are satisfied with just viewing a documentary.
That’s fine if the frontier is outer space, where at least for now, few will ever seize upon an opportunity to go there in person. I’m content to allow the cosmonauts take all the risk for that. As for the other frontiers, color me old fashioned if you will, I’d rather enjoy the adventure first hand. Our country’s obesity rates, though leveling off are still far too high. Perhaps the agricultural industry and our food manufacturers and suppliers are partly to blame. Yet, lifestyle is still the biggest culprit for our ever expanding waistlines.
I celebrate the educational advantages of the internet and other technological advances, which puts whatever information I need at my fingertips. However, when it comes to actual experience, I believe nothing is quite like physically being there. And there’s no better way to stay fit than to exit our comfort cave and enter one of our grand frontiers to embark on a vibrant, life-enhancing exploration.
One of my favorite modes of travel for wilderness exploration is by canoe. Whether bivouacking miles from civilization, discovering caves, scuba diving, or rappelling from a sheer rock face, excursions into outdoor adventure keep me physically fit, and nurtures vibrancy of the mind and the soul. I fear generation Z may never know the thrill. Or the closeness to creator God that impresses itself upon those who know the joys of discovering all of the earth’s glorious frontiers.
The harbinger of time is faintly heard, yet growing louder each day as those golden senior sunsets are swiftly approaching. Someday, our bodies will rebel against the thought of first-hand outdoor adventures. And I thank God for television and internet, which will then be my only hope for adventure, if only in my mind. I think I might book some lessons on hand-gliding. I still haven’t seen the Grand Canyon from that perspective.
Among the myriad ways to procure an education, being taught by my dog was rather unexpected, if not mind blowing. Okay, maybe she is more the vehicle through which God was to portray spiritual truths, confirming my understanding of His word. And also draw striking parallels between my relationship with Him, and my love affair with an adorable, furry canine we call Gracie.
Out of the starting gate, by all appearances, it was a day no different from others. Gracie, a Morky, stood in the kitchen on hind legs doing her usual pirouette that says, “Feed me daddy!”
“Wait till Daddy stirs peanut butter into his oatmeal. Don’t be so impatient young lady!”
After preparing my own breakfast of coffee and jazzed up oatmeal, and then preparing Gracie’s mix of long grain rice, tuna fish and broccoli, it was time for the next phase of our routine: An early morning tryst with the Lord, my first love. My attention-demanding companion sits quietly until it becomes apparent my special time with Jesus is finished.
The daily devotional I sometimes begin with addressed obedience, citing the old favorite hymn, “Trust and Obey.” The gist of the message revealed that this is the only way to true happiness.
Prayer ensued. “Lord help me to see the areas in which I need to trust you more. Show me my own heart clearly—anything I need to change. I want to be obedient in all things.”
As the Spirit brought to mind yesterday’s foibles of faith, I sought forgiveness. And then I asked, “Lord, why do I still do such dumb stuff at times? It seems like I forget you for two seconds and wind up responding to someone with the wrong attitude and words. Why can’t I be more faithful?”
Before reaching for the bible, I glanced down at Gracie, who as expected was staring intently at my face, waiting patiently for her cue. At which time she will look like a tiny, flying Willenda trapeze artist leaping into my lap for a morning love fest.
The incredible thought burst upon me: Perhaps Gracie is more obedient to me, than I am to God. At least when I’m in the room. “Aha!” (A light came on.)
In my presence Gracie is a little angel, most always obedient and doing just as I desire. But in my absence she likes to try digging a hole through a stuffed chair, or scratch her sides along the front of the couch, rubbing her fur off, requiring an extra vacuuming of the sofa and carpet. If you’re a pet owner then you’ll be familiar with the plethora of creative ways they can get into trouble, and Gracie is no exception there. But she wants to please me, just as I want to please the Lord, and whenever I’m around she does exactly as I want her to do.
But God is Spirit. He’s always present with me. His Holy Spirit lives inside us, and Jesus promised to never leave or forsake us. Not to mention His angelic army, who watch over those belonging to Him. Sooo… I thought,
“If I always bear in the forefront of my thoughts that God is with me, I should be able to become more obedient to Him.”
The following day, a Minister friend posted on a fellowship site an article titled, “Practicing the Presence of God”. It was as if God had directed him to write it just for me. That’s exactly what I needed to do: Practice God’s presence. Doing so, has been a tremendous blessing. And God used that ten pounds of cuteness to teach me how to remain conscious of His presence with me. In fact, the Lord has utilized little Gracie in this way on several occasions.
Another aspect of the lesson that day was trusting God completely in every circumstance and situation. Does our little Maltese-Yorkie trust me? Yes she does, however, she can be forgetful too. Gracie doesn’t understand why she’s not allowed to do some things. There is no way to explain to her the dangers of snarling at pit bulls (she thinks she’s ten feet tall). She just needs to trust me on that, the way I need to trust God about things only He can understand.
Things like, “Don’t mess around with astrology.” But reading our horoscope looks like harmless fun, right? Yet, after studying the ancient Idols and false religions the Old Testament mentions, and then learning more about the enemy’s strategies, I now understand the danger. It opens an unseen spiritual door to evil. It is very real! Too bad Gracie is not capable of comprehending things on a deeper level. She’ll just have to trust me, the same way I need to trust God on the issues I don’t yet understand.
I need Gracie to trust and obey me, so I can keep her safe and happy. God needs the same from me and for the same reasons.
I still love that old hymn. “Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Now if I could just need teach Gracie that song…
Joseph rubbed at the back of his cramping neck, staring up at the rim of a deep pit he’d been thrust into. “Lord, this is nothing like the dream you gave me. My brothers hate me. Yet, I will trust you—thy will be done.”
In the darkness, he walked trembling fingers around the rough sides of the shaft, searching for hand-holds—anything he could use to scale the sides. Nothing but dirt.
Brother Reuben had spared his life, yet along with Joseph’s other brothers, conspired to get rid of the family member they despised. A classic case of treacherous sibling rivalry.
“The dreamer who thinks he’s better than the rest of us.”
Taunting laughter reverberated in Joseph’s memory. The parting malevolent comment from one brother had stung like a scorpion. “Should I bow to you now, oh great and mighty Joseph?”
The Old Testament is replete with accounts of black sheep amongst families. They stand out as distinctly different. They don’t quite conform to the family’s norm in character or appearance. Joseph. Sold into slavery by his own brothers, because he was different—a no-account dreamer.
The sting of rejection must have threatened to paint Joseph’s attitude with shades of bitterness and resentment. Yet, he had a dream to hold onto, and faith—strength from God. Faith is what takes our distinct difference and relegates it to a purpose. We could all be considered black sheep in some way.
A widow at church, whom we affectionately call Grandma Nancy, feels useless. The cannula from her oxygen hose wobbled as she shook her head. Wringing age-splotched hands in the lap that has comforted many grandchildren, she spoke weakly.
“Everyone else is serving in some way. I don’t have anything to offer. Macular degeneration has taken my sight. I can’t write the newsletters or print the bulletins anymore.”
Yet, she has a new gift, which she utilizes expertly. Nancy is the greatest encourager I know, giving out hugs each Sunday. A line forms every week to get that bit of assurance: Someone besides God loves me.
She still feels like the black sheep of the congregation, but continues to be one of our most valued members. Hmmm. Maybe our blackness can be an illusion.
God had a great purpose for Joseph’s brothers painting him black. He ended up saving his entire family from starvation and planted the Israelites in the land of Egypt, fulfilling God’s plan. Accepting our own uniqueness, realizing its worth, allows us to embrace God’s purpose for us.
It stabs at my heart to see my wife in severe physical pain, day after day. She felt useless too—a black sheep. Yet, when others who are suffering come along, the compassion God has given her because of her own pain, propels her into the most tender and beautiful of ministries for those who hurt. In Christ, that abnormality we would typically be considered an outcast for, becomes the very tool that God will use for His glory.
Poor health can cause us to feel as though we don’t fit in. Consider Dave Vicigic, who has no arms or legs, yet has inspired millions of young people, pointing them to Christ. The Apostles of Jesus were uneducated. Black sheep.
Blending us all together in Christ, God takes away the lines of differences, creating one body, all equal in importance.
“And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.” (Galatians 3:27 NLT) The next verse colors us all the same.
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Regardless of our income, education, race, gender, poor health, or any other distinction one could make, through faith in Christ we all wear the brilliant white robe of God’s unprejudiced grace. There are no black sheep in God’s family!
The next verse assures our place as an accepted white sheep, no matter our uniqueness.
“And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you.”
Though we are each a work in progress, under the cleansing blood of our redeemer, we are all white sheep. That which had previously made us a black sheep, becomes a prism refracting the radiance of God into a rainbow of colorful productivity, for His glory. Through faith in Christ, black sheep become white—as white as snow!
As the years pass since that dreadful September 11th we still feel the effects—the terror, and realization of our vulnerability. Some attempt a somnolent approach, an intentional self-subterfuge hoping to lull the memory into believing it was some fictional event. It’s too ugly and unpleasant to consider otherwise. Others more callused from constant desensitizing by the entertainment industry, find the attacks on our twin towers to be an opportunity to pursue personal agendas. Government seizes upon the prospect of gaining more control, stripping freedoms from its people under the guise of protection.
The spiritually enlightened and well-grounded in biblical truth, perceive the cause and effect—and the cure. Israel’s history is replete with God’s methodology in handling national impudence and ungodliness. Continuously, as Israel rebelled against God, prostrating themselves before idols, the Baals and Ashtoreth, God, through His prophets would send out a call to repentance, or else.
How did the Lord discipline them? When the disobedience was minor, there may have been a famine-causing draught. More severe infractions required increasing terror, such as being defeated in battle by their enemies. Still failing to remain penitent and faithful, more drastic action was taken to show that God is sovereign. Assyria, Babylon and others served as God’s instruments of destruction upon His own chosen people. They were carried away into captivity for 70 years. Only a remnant would remain.
God’s message to us is clear. Obedience elicits blessings, provisions, protection and long life. Faithlessness and willful disobedience wreaks destruction. Chastisement has a lucid purpose, grounded in both holiness and love. God’s discipline is to lead us to repentance and wise self-discipline. In chastening, there is hope. Great hope. There is a panacea, a way back to God’s favor and wholeness.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2nd Chronicles 7:14 NIV)
Will America repent and return to its predominantly Christian origins?
For the Israelites, it began with wanting to be like the other nations and have a king to reign over them. God provided them leaders, first in Moses, then Joshua and later judges and prophets. They were a special people, chosen by God to be a blessing to the whole world. He was their Sovereign, their king.
In 1st Samuel 12 the Lord’s prophet is preparing to die. He recounts the events past: How; God had always led them. He reminded Israel of their constant rebellion, resulting in discipline, through; Sisera of Hazor, the king of Moab and the Philistines, wicked people all. When God’s people would turn back to the Lord, He again would deliver them from the hands of their enemies and bless Israel as a nation. It happened time and again for hundreds of years.
Now history is repeating itself here in the United States. God’s people are compromising with the world. Instead of being a light of truth, standing firm upon God’s word, many Christians today are caving to pressure, allowing wickedness to have its way. America is being disciplined. Mainstream science, while seeing clearly, attempts to blind the minds of the populous, offering alternative explanations for creation, rather than the bible’s majestic account. Prominent secular groups hope to take God completely out of our lives and live independent from Him. Under the false banner of the separation of church and state, God is excluded from public forums and schools. Is it any wonder we are experiencing acts of terror today? The way to combat terrorism is to turn to the Lord, repent and serve our God with a whole heart. He will then bless and defend us.
It’s a quandary many Christians find difficult to unravel. “Lord, what is it you want me to accomplish?” It’s the reason we’ve been given our distinct personality, gifts and talents. But what is it God? “Lord, I know I have the gift of giving. But how should I use it?” Or, “Lord I can’t speak in public very well, but I’m good at working with my hands. What is your purpose in giving me this ability?”
Each of us has a divinely ordained purpose, a niche, which allows our unique abilities to find expression and produce fruit for the kingdom of God. Your purpose is to use your special gift for the edification of the Saints and to glorify God. And it is to use your talents and abilities to do the same, becoming a benefit to the world around you.
Some Christians are called to preach, others to teach. Still others, to work on a trash detail, where the light of the Gospel will shine the brightest through them. Maybe you are a greeter for your church, or cook for special event. Perhaps you are in charge of the coffee and refreshments.
“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Rarely are our capabilities in their own strength sufficient for the task. It is only when our talents and skills have been fully consecrated unto God, completely committed to Him, that God takes our little bit of know-how and multiplies it until it is enough. His power takes over where ours ends.
Twenty-seven years ago I asked God what I should do, and what I’m supposed to be accomplishing with this life He gave me. I wasn’t even certain what my gifts were, especially my special gift.
“Lord, I know about a lot of things in a wide variety of fields, but specialize in nothing. What is my gift, to use for your glory?”
Do you suppose that before the burning bush incident, Moses had any inclination of the great purpose God had for him in leading the Israelites out of Egypt and to the promised land? I doubt that he had any idea whatsoever, and he was eighty years old! I simply love it when God Himself takes a scripture out of context to communicate with my heart.
It happened in North Carolina on the top of a secluded hill overlooking the town. I’d been praying, pleading with God to reveal His purpose for me. “What is my gift?” In my spirit, I very clearly heard the words of Exodus 4:2, which God had asked Moses up on the mountain.
“What is that in your hand?” NIV
“It is a pen and a pad of paper Lord.”
I began writing what I thought was a poem, but later learned was actually prose, and went at it for about thirty minutes. Afterwards, I read what I’d written. I told myself, “That’s not bad!”
God said, “Words. That is my gift to you.” But I was not yet ready to learn of my one special gift. So, God did not reveal it yet.
I had no inclination of the love affair with crafting words I was to embark on. I became enamored with the syntax and styles of various great writers of long ago, voraciously devouring whatever I could assimilate into knowledge of the art. It took many years to discover God’s purpose for my gift from Him. I still didn’t know what I was to do with it. I had not yet discovered that my special gift is the gift of teaching truth, and that the gift of words was for the purpose of enhancing my special gift of teaching.
As I exercised my teaching gift, leading bible studies, God blessed those efforts and I began teaching an adult Sunday school class. My little bit of God given ability was greatly multiplied and the increase continues today. God branched me out to form an evangelism/outreach ministry to the city of Indianapolis. Continuing my education towards ordination I began preaching, receiving invitations to speak at various events. All the while God was teaching me to use my gift in written form. Today my articles are published abundantly across America. The more I use my gift, the more God does with it. Who knows what tomorrow holds, but it is exciting. I’m on fire to produce, and it is extremely satisfying!
Differing gifts 1 Cor. 12
In Christ we are given many gifts. But we each receive one special gift that motivates us, and underlies everything else we do. This, for the purpose of serving Him in the most productive, fruitful way. And to bring glory to God, extending His kingdom, sharing the gospel.
In Romans 12, seven special gifts are listed. Dr. Charles Stanley teaches an outstanding series which includes recognizing and utilizing your gift from this list. I stumbled across it while preparing this article and found that the Spirit had spoken many of the same truths I intended to write, through Dr. Stanley’s lessons. Of course he has a much different style of expounding upon them.
“Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."—Jesus
Living in the power of the Holy Spirit will lead you to discover your gift. Living a life of perpetual surrender to God is key to finding our specific role in His plan. It’s a good idea to ask God, and then listen and watch for the answer.
As you use that gift, operating within the Spirit, you’ll find the need to begin developing other gifts besides your special gift, which will enable you to better utilize your special gift. For example, if your gift is teaching, you’ll need also a certain degree of discernment to comprehend where your students are in their understanding of biblical truth. You’ll need to know how well they are receiving your words and are understanding the message being spoken.
As we walk in obedience to the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit is also grown (listed in Galatians 5), rendering maximum benefit and fruitfulness.
God has a great purpose and plan for your life. He provides all that we need to live productive, exciting and joyful lives in Christ. What is your special gift from Him?
By wisdom a house is built and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. (Proverbs 24:3-4 NIV)
Yesterday my wife, Becca and I enjoyed watching the outdoor wedding of a good looking young couple. The beautiful bridesmaids in hot pink dresses carrying white bouquets of flowers passed me on the sidewalk first. Then the bride: breath taking, gorgeous and draped in radiant white glowing in the sun. She wore a giant, sparkling grin of delight.
“Congratulations!” I told her. She answered with a giggling, and happy, “Thank you.”
Oh that groom was a very blessed young man! But I couldn’t help but wonder if he understood the work that was ahead of them both. If that is, they would successfully build the wonderful life together they obviously envisioned.
It brings joy to see young couples today, brimming with vigor and excitement as they set out to establish a new home together and build a family. Though heartwarming, it’s frightening when we look at the statistics on the number of marriages that fail. I believe every marriage will experience some rough patches of road. However, experiencing difficulty is not failure until we throw up our hands and give in to the mutually pain rendering option of divorce.
There are better options. And as in all aspects of life, God has the solutions we seek. It takes constant work: conscious effort to build and maintain a happy and successful home. Where do we find the wisdom the above wise adage stresses? Proverbs 1:7 reveals that source.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
That fear of the Lord is acknowledging who God is, His divine authority as the giver of life, the Creator and the one to whom we must give an account of ourselves. Through Christ Jesus our relationship to God is reconciled. Through Christ and God’s word we come to know Him intimately, just as we grow to know every aspect of our spouse’s character.
First Corinthians 1:24 tells us, Christ (is) the power of God and the wisdom of God. It is through our relationship with Jesus that God teaches us wisdom and matures our thoughts in knowledge. He’s the power every couple needs to realize a secure and loving home in full bloom. And He is the ultimate instructor in wisdom.
BUT, how is our understanding of these very basic, yet essential truths going to help us when our relationship is strained, when sparks fly or tears are flowing?
Just last month Becca and I had a disagreement, a little tiff you might call it. She wanted to do one thing and I wanted us to do something else. The dispute began getting a little heated when we both decided to take the situation to the Lord. In separate rooms we each prayed. She reports receiving the same sense of God’s direction that I received.
We pondered what it was we wanted to do and why we wanted it. We discovered that we’d both lost sight of our original commitment to put the other first. I’d momentarily been thinking of my own individual happiness instead of Becca’s. We’d forgotten the sacrificial aspect of true love that God displayed so poignantly at Calvary. Suddenly it didn’t matter so much what we did that day as long as we did it together. We had a wonderful time!
Wisdom and love are a dynamic duo, a united couple that enhance each other the way a good wife enriches her husband’s life. The wisdom of love is revealed through God’s love for you and me. What we refer to as the love chapter of the bible: 1st Corinthians 13 describes this agape type of unconditional love. Its’ self-sacrificing nature demolishes all barriers in every relationship.
We receive the answer to every dispute by heeding God’s Spirit and His word. Of course, some difficulties aren’t so easy to find the solution to; and God may use another Spirit led Christian, such as our pastor, mentor or counselor to reveal the right course of action. The important thing is that we seek God’s wisdom first in every situation.
The above Proverb is the closest thing we have to a formula for good marriages, where unconditional love: sacrificial, patient and forgiving thrives. And where God’s word is our how-to manual. It’s a beautiful thing to see an elderly married couple deeply in love.
"There was evening and there was morning—the first day." (Genesis 1:5b)
A powerful force called time was created and set in motion, by the one who presides over it, and resides outside its continuum. He's not Father Time, rather, the Father of time. God fashioned time as He was forming all of creation, during the first week—the beginning.
Ever since then, the ticking of time has dictated our schedules. It figures our income, lines our faces with age, and thins my formerly bushy locks to wispy tendrils. Time establishes the duration of nearly everything in life. A body must age for sixteen or so years before a driver license can be issued. Then, the privilege expires after so many years and must be renewed for a new term of...time.
The plates on our vehicles, building permits, fishing licenses, bids, special offers, sale prices and coupons, are all valid for a specified amount of this thing called time. Our homes, property taxes and automobiles, everything we make payments on becomes due according to a predetermined amount of time.
Measured in the passing of cyclic seasons, eighty or so years are allotted for the life of each human body. And then, in time, flesh degrades and decays: our bodies return to dust. It is the expiring of time, elapsing in measured cadence that gives it, its great power. Some view time as a bandit, which carries off our youthful vigor like a marauding pillager. It is sometimes our foe, but it is also a friend.
Always marching forward, time also offers hope for the coming "Day of the Lord", when Christ will return to take us home. At that time there shall be such joy as we've never known, and His righteous reign shall shepherd in true world peace.
One thousand years after Christ's second coming, when His millennial reign will expire, time will have served its mighty purpose and shall fade into memory. Time itself is going to expire, ushering in eternity, where a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as but a day. No more darkness and no more night, while dwelling in the Lords great light.
Yet, the bible declares that for most people, the tempo of time pulses towards eternal darkness, separation from light and joy—eternal alienation from our loving Creator: the second death.
Good news! At present, an offer of forgiveness and eternal bliss is given by God, so that we may reside in fellowship with Him, in His glorious light for timeless eternity. But like all other deals, contract bids, permits and like things, God's offer of grace will one day expire. It's a limited time offer. For this moment it is still valid.
The fragility of human life could in an instant be proven to us, by delivering up the unknown expiration date of our temporal bodies. Or, Christ could return before we can moisten our orbs with the next blink. Either of these events will instantly negate the offer of salvation for those who have not surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ and placed their faith in Him.
Securing everlasting life eclipses everything else with a profundity of urgent importance. Good things will not come to those who wait too late for that. There also comes a time when the vastness of God's patience will end. How many times can we reject His love and grace and mercy, before He will wash His hands of us, turning us over to the enemy of our souls for destruction?
At some point, the Lord says, "Enough! You have rejected me too many times." God's word states:
"Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done." (Romans 1:28)
This passage and others like it reveal that there comes a time when God will say, "enough".
Praise God that He gave me as many chances as He did, and that I am not too late!
Theologians call this present era in which we live, "The age of grace". Only God knows the expiration date of this age, wherein His offer of forgiveness and eternal life are gifted to us through faith in Jesus. Time will not wait. It continues to march toward that expiration date. How horrible it will be for those who have not made the decision to accept God's gift of love to them. "Tick-Tock."
Standing on a precipice in Arizona, overlooking the Grand Canyon, I was suddenly miniscule in size and consequence. I felt like a little piece of dust in a vast desert. Layered colors blazed from the canyon walls speaking of times long past. I couldn't help but wonder at the immensity of the world. The influence a view like that can have on a person is amazing. For the remainder of the day after visiting that tremendous canyon I was humbled. It caused me to consider the significance of what we choose to focus upon each day of our lives.
What we choose to view of the world around us has a remarkable influence upon our attitudes, moods and thoughts. It is so easy here in the USA to get caught up in chasing the American dream and forget about things of greater import. What I choose to focus on may determine whether I have a good day or bad. An important daily question for every Christian soul is; Am I looking unto Christ, "The author and finisher of our faith" as the model to which I conform? Am I like Peter when he stepped out to walk on the water and then took his eyes off of Jesus and started to sink? Am I seeing only the wind and waves or all the negative aspects of life?
God offers a plethora of magnificent vistas. We become awe struck at His amazing creations; sunsets, mountain ranges, waterfalls, flower strewn meadows and such. These invoke a silent reverence in the soul, as we see the power and splendor of our creator. Yet there is another scene that is even more astounding. We find it when we peer into the very heart of God, seeing and tasting His satiating, inexplicable love--love in its purest form. There is nothing on this earth that could be held up in juxtaposition with divine love for comparison, no words that could capture its enormity, or its beauty.
However, we live in the world, where this awesome love must be displayed through us. It is a task that requires miraculous assistance. Maintaining this staggering view of unadulterated compassion and care is the only means I have found to share it. Yet, I fear that too many times my focus is on others. Mankind is naturally bent towards being more concerned over what someone else is doing or saying. The fallen nature of us humanoids is good at judging others while ignoring self. But in our new nature, given by Christ, we are also given power over sin. Through God's Spirit within us we can be the over-comers that God dreams for us to be. However, the only means of being successful, is remaining focused on our perfect model and on His beauty: Jesus.
"For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son." Romans 8:29
It is the sinful nature that is so adept at finding fault with another. It takes the spotlight off of me. Yet when I do that, I have strictly a horizontal view. Rather, to achieve a transformation into the likeness of the Son of God, we must think vertically, focusing our attention upwards to God, and then back down into our own hearts. We need that very humbling comparison to see our selves in the light of His glory.
Our adversary, the devil is a master of deception. One of his favorite tactics is to convince me that I'm doing really great spiritually, because hey; "I'm doing better than Joe slick over there!" There will always be someone I can compare myself to that will make me feel pretty good about where I am in my spiritual maturity. However, that's a false view. It's a trap, one I know I've been snared in before and hope to never be again. That old sneaky snake is really crafty. He takes a prism that refracts attention and divides my focus. What he shows me is colorful to my old nature, catching my eyes, but what it leads to is only blackness. Talk about building a better mousetrap; he is a master builder of soul traps, baited with pride.
True perfection in holiness and righteousness can only be viewed by looking at Jesus, our awesome model. When we come into God's presence through prayer and bible study we see the goodness of God in all His magnificence and flawlessness. When His light shines upon us, it illumines our imperfections and weaknesses. We must see the areas that need work and know what they are. This is a prerequisite for change. We see the problem, we address it by repenting, seeking God's forgiveness, and in return we receive a spiritual blessing.
Do I really want to use a defective model or blueprints that are all wrong to fashion my new life after? Should I maintain a horizontal view and be transformed into the image of someone here on earth, someone who is flawed? I would rather be changed into the beautiful likeness of Jesus. Merciful, righteous, abounding in love, forgiveness and truth, that's the pattern Christians strive to emulate. None of us are perfect, so comparing ourselves to one another is just not acceptable.
When I keep my focus on the Lord and on my own walk with Him, I have a much better view, and am in the best position to encourage others to grow with me. Being humbled through the comparison of myself to the ultimate paradigm of righteousness also enables me to come alongside another person rather than elevating self to a position where I would be speaking down to them. In love, we hurt with them when they hurt, and we rejoice when they do as well. Speech flowing from a meek and humble spirit is more easily accepted.
By keeping our outlook vertical, the horizontal view looks different. We begin to see others with love filled spiritual eyes, instead of anger, envy or fear over another person's words or actions; we have hurting pangs of love for them. We can then share the peace of God, in hopes of guiding them to a safe haven in Christ.
There is an intoxicating view that every soul should behold. It is found in the heart of God. His heart is expressed through His Son, Jesus and throughout the pages of the Bible. It's a beautiful view.