It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

“When they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours.” #CSLewis – “The Screwtape Letters”

Have you read The Screwtape Letters? It should be on every Christian’s reading list. This quote, in particular, seems to be put into action this time of year. It’s a time when many people become extra generous with their time and their money, and it is very apparent in the organizations and individuals who focus on children. It’s heartwarming to see kids who are disadvantaged in different ways light up when they receive unexpected toys and gifts. I just watched a video clip of our First Lady working with Toys for Tots, handing out gifts and interacting with the children – regardless of your politics, she’s a classy lady. With the media watching and recording so many of these organizations that provide for children and families, it appears that we are putting the commandment of JESUS into effect: “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39 ESV

Sadly, this is a temporary position.

It rarely extends beyond the Christmas season.

Why? Because we humans are selfish and self-centered. We love ourselves over our neighbors. Life has become a race to see who can acquire the most, best, biggest, most expensive “stuff.” Even Christmas has become all about getting attention for us. Selfishness takes over the goodwill. I’m not condemning anyone, and I certainly don’t know why anyone really does what they do. It’s not for me to judge the hearts and motives of anyone. I give everyone kudos who steps out of their comfort zone, physically or financially or both. At least people who need the help are getting it, even if it is just temporarily.

Less selfishness; more selflessness. Isn’t that how we should live our lives? I confess that I may be the chief sinner when it comes to selfishness. I want to be sure I have everything I need (translate: want) before I make any “sacrifice.” Sound familiar to anyone else? The only way to answer is to go back to the reason that this day we call “Christmas” even exists. CHRIST. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call His Name Jesus [Immanuel, which means God with us] for He will save His people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:18‭, ‬21 ESV

A few years ago, there was a popular saying running through Christian fellowships: WWJD, or What would JESUS do? Maybe that’s the question we should be asking ourselves now. Would He be more concerned with where He was going to sleep that night and where His next meal was coming from, or would He be taking care of someone else’s needs? All we have to do is read the scriptures to know the answer. I can’t think of a single instant where JESUS put His needs over any one else! In fact, the reason He left heaven was because He put our need for salvation over His own LIFE. The Reason for the Season is the SAVIOUR Who put the needs of every human above His own desires. That’s a hard act to follow, but it’s the only way to go.

I have some work to do!

https://churchm.ag/sermon-illustration-love-your-neighbor-as-yourself/

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Remember the Sabbath and Keep It Holy

“On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” – Luke 23:56 ESV (Exodus 20:8-10)

Keeping it honest: I am not very good at resting on the Sabbath, or Sunday, as we observe it. With jobs and the demands of family, laundry piling up and cleaning needing done; meals to cook or restaurants to go to – requiring others to work; pastors and staff at church, employees at the stores we shop at …. how many of us really are resting? My family has always had busy Sundays for as far back as I can remember, because even before my Dad surrendered to preach, he was very active in the church. My Mom had the task of preparing breakfast for (eventually) six kids, getting us all dressed, herself dressed and ready to go – without any of us getting dirty, and to the church on time for Sunday School and morning service. No drama or stress there! Then “the girls” preparing lunch – which often included unexpected guests, cleaning up, afternoon activities; repeat the morning with supper, Training Union, Sunday evening service … not very restful! Not that I would really change much, except to somehow make it easier on my Mom!

Even now in a household of one (plus animals!) I find myself busy busy busy on the day of rest. It seems to be ingrained into us and it’s difficult to slow down. Working retail for many years, I found myself working more Sunday’s than I was off. Now, more often than not I seem to be at restaurants with family on Sundays after church. Personally, I would love to see more and more businesses follow the examples of Hobby Lobby, Mardels, and Chick-fil-A and close on Sundays, giving their employees the chance to have a day with family. But that’s just me ….. or is it just GOD …..

‘Tis the Season!

And what a season it is for me! JESUS is the reason I love Christmas and all the trappings. It’s such a fabulous celebration of the birth of the SAVIOUR of the world, even when we have to do some serious digging through the overwhelming and rank commercialism and secularization of what should be a holy time.

Have you missed me? I’ve missed you! No internet access for a week, and I felt like I had been abandoned in the middle of the desert…. a very cold desert! A full week ago, the closing of the house I was selling and the one I bought finally happened, after being delayed and postponed for weeks. (Long story; not really relevant except to say that I was leaning heavily on my LORD to get me through it with my sanity intact – such as it is!!) The internet provider turned off access at the old house, then couldn’t get me scheduled for install at the ‘new’ house – for a solid week. Oh, the frustration of it all….. Please, GOD, in all seriousness, please I don’t ever want to move again! Then, just for the joy of it, the furnace quit the day I closed. 44° in the house with below freezing temps for the weekend, and this was on a Friday afternoon. Really? I mean, Really? I am so blessed to have family who are well-established in the area, and got a repairman out – only to discover that the furnace was toast. Caput. Finished. Again, thanking GOD for family! Four borrowed heaters kept the house a toasty 60° degrees (bwahaahaahaa!) until they could get a whole new HVAC system installed on Monday. Ah, the absolute joy and blessing of heat! Again, I am so grateful to the provision of the LORD that I could access the funds to pay for the new system.

So, finally, everything I own has been moved. Not moved in and settled, but moved. There’s still a storage pod half full in the driveway to be unloaded today (It’s being picked up tomorrow!) and my helper hasn’t shown. I’m not complaining (okay, yes I am, at least my body is – a little!) because I’m really happy it’s all here. The radio has been blasting K-LOVE and beautiful CHRIST-centered songs since the first day here – yet another blessing! I don’t know how people make it through each day without Matt Maher, We Are Messengers, Danny Gokey, Matthew West, NEEDTOBREATHE,” Big Daddy Weave, Phil Wickham ….. sweet Christmas music, too! (Addendum: the pod is unloaded, cleaned out, and ready for pickup tomorrow!)

The thing about this move I’m most thankful for? Instead of being 35 miles and 45 minutes from my sweet 92 year old mama, I’m less than 5 miles away! As a bonus, a sister and her family (all 13 of them!) are also within 5 miles. Much easier for getting together. I can attend Sunday services with my Mom, and see her much more, just in time for the celebration of our LORD’s birth! Are you excited to celebrate His birth? Not His birth date, per se, but His birth. What a fabulous gift the GOD of the Universe gave us in the baby JESUS!

“The Adoration of the Shepherds,” Gerard van Honthorst, 1622 AD

Throwing Stones

We are so quick to judge and condemn! Actual stoning might not be practiced or legal anymore – except under Islamic law – but the verbal stones we throw are just as deadly. Most recently, the young artist Lauren Daigle has been harshly criticized for her response to the question “do you feel that homosexuality is a sin?” in a radio interview with Domenick Nati. I have great respect for her answer, and I love that she ends the comment with “I’m learning too.” Here is her full response:

“I can’t honestly answer on that. In a sense, I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual. I don’t know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God. So when people ask questions like that…that’s what my go to is. I just say read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know, because I’m learning too.” (Emphasis mine) I identify with her answers. I can’t say that I love that someone is a homosexual, but I can certainly love the person. When you read Lauren’s statement, she is encouraging the questioner(s) to study GOD’s Word and discover the Truth for themselves! Isn’t that what we all should be doing? Why do we start throwing stones, instead of encouraging another Christ-follower in her walk with the SAVIOUR? If she is on going on talk shows and sharing her faith with the non-Christian world, who are we to criticize? Why are we so anxious to negate her testimony?

“But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” ” – John 8:7 NASB

When I hear that statement from my LORD, my hands immediately drop the “stones” I’m gripping. I find myself praying for Lauren Daigle in her walk of sharing JESUS with the world. Christian artists are hit by the same temptations that we are – even more than us, because they are such a prominent target for the enemy. Just like any other man, woman, or child, they can slip. It doesnt mean they don’t love the LORD; it just means they are human. If something that we consider inappropriate speech happens, or in our eyes they don’t stand firmly enough, are we, you and I, worthy of passing judgement? Better read John 8:7 again, and consider our own lives before grabbing that stone. In fact, take that pile of stones you have stockpiled and turn it into gravel, then spread it out to make their path a little smoother.

I am not worthy of judging anyone, based on my life. I still do, but lately I find myself dropping more rocks than I throw. I personally have been judged and found guilty by man. The first time I shared my testimony in front of a large recovery group, I was approached by someone who had known my sister for years, and whom I had known for about 6 months. He knew about “that sister,” the one who was fallen and broken ….. but he didn’t know that I was that sister. He had judged – harshly – the person he knew only because of the prayers and his friendship of my family. He was shocked to be introduced to the before sister, and trying to reconcile it with the present sister. When you meet someone new, they only see the now. Would they be shocked at finding out who you were before you surrendered to the LORD?

Sometimes, actually too often, I find myself judging someone without knowing them. We are all flawed, broken, and undeserving of GOD’s Love, yet He still freely offers that unconditional LOVE to us. The only difference – the only difference between me and the rankest, darkest sinner is that I have asked for and received the forgiveness of my LORD JESUS. I still deserve too be stoned to death, but He reached out and washed away all my sins with His Blood sacrifice. How can I judge anyone else? We are not perfect, and instead of condemning the talk or behavior of a missionary to the world, perhaps we should do as Lauren Daigle says and read the Bible. Admit that we aren’t GOD (Thank You, JESUS, for showing me that Truth!) Spend time in prayer for that person. Christians have no need for trash talk!

Go out into the world, Lauren Daigle, and continue to spread the LOVE of our LORD JESUS CHRIST to the world. Praying for you, sister!

Photo credit: https://texasbeyondhistory.net/plateaus/images/ap15.html

Can’t We Be HONEST With Each Other?

I have discovered that there are people close to me who gossip about me behind my back. Knowing the tendency of all humans to gossip it probably shouldn’t surprise me, but it struck me – hard – right in the heart to find this out. These people believe that my joblessness over the past few years is because I haven’t looked or wanted to work. They consider me a freeloader and a complainer, but haven’t been honest with me about their feelings. Ouch. I would rather have a person for a friend who gives me their honest opinion, and who doesn’t gossip about me to others. How do you feel about this?

As I contemplate this, I sincerely apologize for using this blog and my friends to complain. That was not my intent! I confess to using friends and family as a sounding board; to bounce my concerns and prayers to help me in my decision making about relationships, job opportunities, and life in general. Their – and your – thoughts and opinions matter to me. Why is it so often after the fact that people tell us we made a poor – or a bad – decision? Should we have to plead with our confidante to be honest with us?

“And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” ” – Luke 24:25 NASB

We are, indeed, foolish men* who are slow to listen and believe! (*The fundamental ‘man’ consists of both male and female, man and woman, as humankind.) Betrayal comes in all forms and from all sides …… except from Above. The only One in all of the heavens and on all earth Who will not betray us, in word or deed, is our LORD and SAVIOUR, JESUS, the CHRIST. He will never betray us or lie to us. Remember, a lie of omission is still a lie.

We listen to our friends and family before we listen to GOD and His Prophets, who wrote GOD’s Words of instruction and guidance into the book we call the Bible. It’s no wonder JESUS calls us “foolish men!” If I want to complain, I should probably turn to JESUS in prayer. I can let Him know how I really feel, and He won’t judge me! Sometimes we need a human face in front of us that we can vent to, but we need to know that that person is safe. No repeating, no gossip. Do you have that safe person in your life; are you that safe person for someone?

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He Who searches the hearts knows what the Mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the Will of God.” – Romans 8:26‭-‬27 NASB

He protects us, He intercedes for us, He will never betray us,
He will always be honest with us. Thank you, JESUS!

Even our closest and best friends and family don’t know…..

#NOT_Entitled

“And [JESUS] said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” ” – Luke 22:35‭ ( also read v. 36) ESV

“Places in the Heart,” a 1984 movie with Sally Fields, Danny Glover, and John Malcovich was on last night. It was my first time to view it, and I found it to be poignant and moving; a story of suffering, strength, and overcoming. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. Set in 1938 rural Texas, a homeless man and a blind man set out to help a recently widowed Mrs. Spaulding (Sally Fields) save her farm. Moses (Danny Glover) showed up on her doorstep without anything (“no moneybag or knapsack or sandals”) – but he was willing to do whatever needed to be done. The blind man, Will (John Malcovich), had been put out by his well-to-do brother-in-law and had very little with him, yet he was also helping however he could. Mrs. Spaulding’s sister was betrayed by her husband’s infidelity, and Moses was brutally beaten by the Ku Klux Klan (self-professed Christians and deacons of the church in the movie).

Moses, Will, and the sister are great examples of the way we should be reaching out to those in need around us. The last scene in the movie is a church service where the preacher reads 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love passage.”

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1‭, ‬4‭-‬7 NASB

Although it didn’t excuse the bad behavior of those pious, so-called Christian men against a widow, a black man, a blind man, and a wife, you could see the guilt on their faces; the shame and embarrassment for their actions. They thought they were entitled to their behavior because of the color of their skin and their social status. No matter the skin color, from whitest white to blackest black and every shade in between, discrimination and judgement are far too common among us. Example: I am discriminated against because I am a divorced, radically conservative, Christ-following white woman …… I could join the marches, screaming obscenities (or wearing obscene hats), but I won’t, because to me, it appears that the most vocal, most discriminatory, and most judgemental are the most entitled. (Yes, I’m judging, but look for yourself at the designer clothes, expensive hairdos and manicures, and the cars they drive….. )

As a Christian, a Christ-follower, it is expected of me (of us!) to show the LOVE and the Mercy and the Grace that I (we) have received. Not expected by the world, but expected by our SAVIOUR. I confess, I struggle with it! My faith is tested whenever I know I need to step out of my comfort zones. To literally let go of every material thing, and to embrace what JESUS said …… where is my faith? Letting go – not so much, but holding on? Now, that I’m good at!

Remember the two criminals being crucified with our CHRIST? One was mocking JESUS and rebuking Him, telling Him to save them all from the death they were facing. The other criminal replied to the first with these words – and we are that other criminal: “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” ….. #NOT_entitled, but Forgiven ….. Hear what JESUS said! “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” ( – Luke 23:41‭-‬43 NASB)

Lauren Wells sings “Fully known and Loved by You….. ” Listen!

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ” for Your sake we are being put to death all day long ; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” – Romans 8:35‭-‬37 NASB

From Mathew Henry’s Concise Commentary:

God having manifested his love in giving his own Son for us, can we think that any thing should turn aside or do away that love? Troubles neither cause nor show any abatement of his love. Whatever believers may be separated from, enough remains. None can take Christ from the believer: none can take the believer from Him; and that is enough. All other hazards signify nothing. Alas, poor sinners! though you abound with the possessions of this world, what vain things are they! Can you say of any of them, Who shall separate us? You may be removed from pleasant dwellings, and friends, and estates. …… the soul that is in Christ, when other things are pulled away, cleaves to Christ, and these separations pain him not. Yea, when death comes, that breaks all other unions, even that of the soul and body, it carries the believer’s soul into the nearest union with its beloved Lord Jesus, and the full enjoyment of him for ever.

Well said, Mr. Henry. (And nope, not a relation 😉 )

Follower of Christ, Lover of those who don’t know JESUS – the unlovable, picking up my sword to follow Him; deserving the absolute worst and receiving, instead, unmatched, unimaginable Love and an eternity with Him ….. that’s my goal. What’s yours?

Image from:

https://www.heartlight.org/articles/201305/20130527_feetofjesus.html