Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Fraumunster Church in Zurich, Switzerland
     One of the virtues most sorely lacking in society today is modesty.  From those who openly brag about their greatness to the person who is scantily clad on most occasions, we see an overwhelming concern with self.  Some folks might as well wear a sign that says "Look at me and see how wonderful I am."  If it were only those outside the body of believers who live this way, we might understand that their world view is vastly different than ours, but when it happens in the church, we need to pause and take a look at our own lives.
     Recently, at a church service, there was a young wife and mother dressed in the latest style of shoes with a tight and revealing dress which was rather short.  On ground level, the dress was fine, but she had a part in a program which took her up on the platform at church.  From the area where I sat, her short skirt left little to the imagination.  I wondered if she realized what a problem this posed for the men sitting around me.  What kind of an image was she trying to project?  Had she thought about this at all?
     According to the Bible, our actions, our comportment, our attitudes and our dress are to reflect modesty in order to attract others to Christ.  By contrast, the world tells us that it doesn't matter what we wear, how we behave or walk in society.  It is all relative to what makes you feel good.  Unfortunately, this mindset has crept into the church.  The Apostle Paul gave some sound encouragement to Timothy as a young pastor facing challenges as many Gentiles came into the church out of a pagan background.  He wrote in 1 Timothy 2:9-10:  "Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness -with good works."  Certainly, I do not believe that Paul had anything against women's hairdos or their clothing.  I believe his main point was that women should be mindful of what they wear so it does not distract or cause others to stumble.  Dressing in nice clothing is not a sin.  However, when we wear something which causes others to focus on us rather than the Lord, we are not demonstrating the virtue of modesty.
     Another area where immodesty can be seen is in our speech.  We have all heard a friend brag about an accomplishment at one time or another.  Sharing our good fortune is fine, but going beyond this crosses a line especially for a Christian.  In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote this admonition:  "For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."    If we boast at all, we are to boast in the Lord and of His goodness and mercy.  In ourselves, we do not possess goodness nor the ability to save ourselves.  Instead, it is in God's domain to do for us what we can never do for ourself.  The Word promises that as we lift up Christ, He will draw all men to Himself (John 12:32).  We can only do this by honoring Christ with our speech as well as our dress.  However there is one other area, we need to be concerned about as believers.
Statues in the pond in front of Linderhof Castle near Munich,
     When we come together to worship, we need to check our hearts to make certain we have dressed them in modesty.  The Pharisees were concerned with show.  They wanted people to see them and honor them so they used both their dress as well as their speech to persuade others of their holiness.  This, too, is a caricature of righteous behavior.  Jesus said:  "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 6:1).    Our lives are to reflect the glory of the Lord not take glory for ourselves.  We are God's living, holy temples as Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthian believers:  "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body" ( I Cor. 6:19-20).
     Wearing the virtue of modesty is becoming a lost practice in many churches today.  We are becoming too much influenced by our society and doing little to influence them as we ought.  We can be trendy in our clothing without going overboard or causing others to stumble.  Likewise, we can be excited over our achievements without sounding as though we are the greatest thing since sliced cheese.  This is how we put on modesty by remembering that salvation comes from the Lord.  He calls us to Himself and any blessings we receive come as a result of His grace and goodness to us.  Therefore, we are called to put on Christ and wear Him modestly in our attitude, actions and dress so that attention is given to Him and not to us.  Our goal in this life should be like that of John the Baptist when he said:  "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).  May this be our prayer and our purpose in Christ.  Selah!

What are your thoughts regarding modesty in our Christian walk?  I welcome your thoughts and insights.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Whose Star Will You Follow?

A bright nebula...perhaps like the star that guided
the wise men.
     Recently, Time Magazine came out with the person of the year.  People look forward to guessing who might be chosen, and as this year draws to a close, T.V. commentators also pick the athlete of the year, movie star of the year and even the politician who has had the most impact.  Our society is good at applauding those who achieve something which can be both positive or negative.   We need to recognize those who have worked hard to find answers or finish a task, but we have to be careful lest winning the world's applause becomes our sole purpose in life.  Will we follow after "star status" or will we follow His star?
     The Westminster Confession of Faith says that we were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, but at times, we are caught up with glorifying man and seeking for ways we can be lifted up.  It happens so gradually that we are not unlike the frog who leaps into a pot of cold water sitting on a stove.  The water heats up slowly, and the poor creature is unaware that soon he will be boiled dinner for someone.  We can end up like that frog if we aren't careful.
     In John 5:31-44, Jesus told the Pharisees who He was.  Verses 31-33 read:  "If I alone bear witness of Myself, My testimony is not true.  There is another who bears witness of Me; and I know that the testimony which He bears of Me is true.  You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth."
     Jesus goes on to clearly point out that not only John the Baptist had borne witness of Him but also God the Father who also gave signs and miracles and totally fulfilled all the prophecies in Jesus His beloved Son.  But Jesus cut to the heart of the matter in verses 39-44:  "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.  I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.  I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another shall come in his own name, you will receive him.  How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?"
     At this time, the Pharisees were caught up in all the pomp, ceremonies and ritual.  They worried over keeping every jot and tittle of the Law but they cared little for the spirit of the Law.  They missed who Jesus was even though He performed miracles, had witnesses who testified of Him and had God's authority and power.  Yet, they would more quickly receive a man on his own say so over Jesus.  They were wrapped up in receiving glory from one another and forgot about seeking to glorify God.  How sad. This is, however, not unlike our world today.
     We can be caught up in this same trap.  It is so easy to pursue fame and honor for ourselves.  We can be so busy earning our neighbor's adoration that we can miss living to glorify God with our lives.  Using our talents to build our own stardom is not what God has called us to do.
     At Christmas, its easy to get wrapped up (no pun intended) in buying the most extravagant gifts or running from one activity to the next, but God wants us to wrap our hearts around Him.  He deserves our time, attention, and hearts; so lets be careful to avoid following the crowds or looking to men's approval.  Instead, may we seek how to glorify God and come into a deeper relationship with Him.  His star shines brightly and wise men still seek Him.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts here.  Please feel free to share a word or two.  How do we get drawn away from the real meaning of Christmas?


Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Crooked Christmas Tree

     My dear husband went out mowing yesterday in late afternoon.  The sun was waning, and I was surprised to see him go out at this time.  As darkness began to creep across the landscape, I looked out the window to see my air-inflated Christmas tree leaning to one side.  I asked my husband how it became crooked.  However, he had no idea.  He said he had tried to straighten it to no avail.
     Following church today, I went to inspect my poor inflatable tree.  Instantly, I could tell what had happened. In his zeal to clip the grass to perfection, he ran over and cut one of the guide lines to the tree so that only one guide line remained.  Hence, we now have a tree that leans to one side.  After a few minutes of inspecting this situation, we figured out that if we wrapped the remaining guideline around the tree it might stay upright.  Thus far, it is working.  Of course, if we get a big wind, I expect the tree will sag to one side again but for now, it seems okay.  Two supports are really better than one, and this made me think about our lives in Christ.
     When we have the support and fellowship of other believers around us, we can stand when times are tough.  This is why the Lord encouraged us to pray together, worship together, and hold one another accountable until He returns for His bride the church.  It is far easier to to remain on solid ground when we have these supports to hold us up.
     Jesus, in speaking to His disciples, taught them the importance of corporate prayer.  In Matthew 18:19-20, we read:  "Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."
Of course, this verse does not mean that we cannot pray alone, but we all have been in situations where we have been lifting up a request repeatedly and we need support.  Praying together has power.  It is an added guideline to our otherwise sagging efforts.  Who could not use other prayer warriors to agree in unison concerning an issue?  The enemy of our soul cowers when the body of believers pray together, for he knows he is defeated in Jesus' name.
     Worshipping together and hearing the Word is also a guideline we cannot do without.  I have heard many people over the course of years tell me that they can worship by themselves.  They do not need to go to church to worship.  They can worship just fine on a golf course or in a fishing boat.  Oh really?  Scripture tells us just the opposite.  The writer of Hebrews explains:  "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24-25).  We can only stir ourselves up so much when we are having a bad day...that is why it helps to have other believers we can fellowship with.  They have insight we lack and vice versa.  We sharpen one another just by being together.  Being part of the Body of Christ, we have an important role to play.  We not only receive support but we are there to give it as well.  Corporate worship and support helps us stand firm in Christ.
     A final, but very important, support is accountability.  When we are off on our own, we can frequently get sidetracked from the true path of following the Lord.  Certainly, we do not mean to do this, but the flesh is weak even though our spirit is willing.  This is where the church acts as our support group.  It is in the church that we hear the Word of God which is able to convict us of our sin, and point us to God's will for our lives.  Furthermore, fellowship with other believers, brings encouragement as well as a sense of responsibility towards one another that we do not have when we are on our own.  Many major cults have begun when a person walked away from the organized church and claimed special revelation from God beyond the Bible or in addition to it.  There is danger in the garden of this world for Satan the roaring lion is looking for whom he can devour.  We are easy prey left on our own.  We need the wisdom, support and encouragement of other believers in order to grow and stay the course in our lives.
     I do not want to be like my inflatable Christmas tree which now stands with only one support.  The Lord has provided for us just what we need to stand tall and firm in Him.  We need to take advantage of His provision for us so we don't go leaning to the left or the right.  Together in Christian fellowship we are like a cord of many strands that cannot be easily broken.  However, on our own, we are not as strong.
Cherish the fellowship of other believers and find time in this busy holiday season to reach out and pray, worship and be accountable to one another to the glory of God in Christ, Jesus.    We will be the stronger for it and far less crooked in our faith.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights.  How has the body of Christ helped in supporting you?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Stepping into our Lives

A door to a Reformed Church in Zurich, Switzerland.  It reminds me that Jesus is the
door to our salvation.
     Around the holidays, I start to reflect on the days gone by when my parents were living.  As I looked at a picture of my father, I found myself wishing that he could just step out of that picture and be here
to celebrate Christmas with us.  He left us much too early, and he never got to meet our oldest son to whom we gave his middle name.  Aaron was God's gift to us after my father died in 1980.  The Lord had already blessed us with a little girl.  Thankfully, she was able to meet my father.  Our two younger sons never got to meet my dad either, but I have assured them all that they will see him again in heaven one day.
     While I was reading John 1: 1-14 today, a thought came to me.  I realized that what God did for us was to step out of the pages of the Word and come to this world as a man to walk and talk with us that we might know Him intimately.  Jesus became flesh and blood so that He could fully identify with us and provide for us a way of salvation.  In addition, He modeled the perfect life that we might follow after Him in seeking righteousness and holiness.  What great love the Father had for us that He would lay aside His glory and the perfection of heaven to come to earth and to show us His light and bring to us deliverance.

     Reading verse 14, it says:  "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."  These words offer us comfort and encouragement.  When we are seeking grace, we will find it in Christ.  When we are seeking truth, again, we find it in Christ.  Furthermore, God made it possible for us to have a deep relationship with Him through the sacrifice of His Son upon the cross.  This is a gift we MUST unwrap!
     A question we need to ponder is this:  If Christ stepped into our lives right now at this moment and was physically present with us, would it make a difference in the way we walk and talk?  Does our belief in Him influence our thoughts, decisions and motives or is He just a heavenly being far removed from our every day activities?  These are thoughts we need to consider.
     My father cannot step out of the picture I have of him sitting on my desk here at home.  I will, however, see him again one day in heaven.  But Jesus is the lover of our souls, and we can experience Him every day!  At Christmas then, lets reflect on how He stepped into history for us and let us take Him out of the picture frame or off our shelf and make Him known both by sharing our faith and living it each day.  By this, we will glorify God and be known as His disciples!  Selah!

A royal crown on display at "The Residence" in Munich, Germany.
It reminds me that Jesus is our King of all Kings!
Please leave your thoughts here.  I welcome your insights and comments.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Changing Weather of our Life

     As I was out walking with my husband the other day, I noted how colorful and beautiful the leaves were on the trees.  Here in Florida, we do not experience the wide ranging changes in the season and weather that I experienced in my native Ohio.  However, we do get a change of leaves in late November and into December.  Some trees even bear the most elegant berries just in time for holiday festivities even though the trees are a pest (the Brazilian Pepper is almost like holly in contrasting colors).  The cloudy day overhead seemed to intensify the colors even more, so despite the sprinkles, I took several photos.
     When I thought about the cloudy day, I could not help but compare it to the changes we experience in the weather of our life.  Some days are sunny, restful, unburdened and full of joy.  There doesn't seem to be any challenges we have to face.  Then, there are cloudy/stormy days when all our energy seems to be sapped as we face circumstances we wish we could live without.  However, it was on a cloudy rainy day that I noticed how brilliant the colors were around me on the trees and plants.  Could it be like this in our life as well?  I believe this is what the Lord would like the world to see.
The Brazilian Pepper tree in bloom in December
     For each of us, it is easy to be a Christian when the times are good and life is going at an even pace.  The question is how brilliant is our light for Christ when the storms come?  Jesus gave us an example of two men and the houses they constructed to protect them from the storms.
     In Matthew 7:21-27 reads:  "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house and it fell, and great was the fall of it."  This is a familiar story to us, but it contains the secret to weathering those difficult times in life that come to us all.
     Jesus indicates that those who hear His words and then do them have a solid foundation that can face all types of weather.  Their lives will remain strong no matter what life throws at them.  On the other hand, those who choose not to listen to the words of life which Christ gives will find that they will not be able to withstand the crippling winds of chaos that come along.  No one - Christian or unbeliever can escape the change that comes with living in this fallen world.  It rains on both the wicked and the righteous equally.  The difference between the two, however, is the way in which each handles life's problems.
     At one point in my life, I was busy raising four young children, caring for my mother who had Alzheimer's and home educating as well.  I certainly felt more than stretched.  Frequent trips back and forth to my mother's assisted living apartment to check on her coupled with teaching four different levels of school for our children left me exhausted.  It would have been easy to put aside my efforts to home school, but I knew the Lord had called us to this task.  Thankfully, my faith and trust in Christ saw me through these days and my house stood.  The cloudy weather that had set into my life made me run to the arms of my heavenly Father for comfort and guidance.    Like the colors of the fall trees against the cloudy sky, my life radiated a difference that others could see.  God  brought out the colors of deeper trust, a steadfast faith, and perseverance despite the hardships by allowing these trials in my life.  He may be doing the same in your life right now.  I am here to tell you that you can survive as I did by putting my life on the rock of Jesus Christ.  His words have life and can see us all through the most violent storms.
     Sunny weather is wonderful and to be enjoyed, but it is only when the storms come that we can see in whom we are trusting.  Our true colors become clear to us and others at these times.  While the time I spent caring for my ailing mother and teaching our children was not easy during those ten years, it made me more compassionate and able to minister to others.  God taught me so much as He walked with me through the valley.  Therefore, I encourage you to allow God to work in and through your current circumstances.  If your weather is cloudy/stormy right now, make certain you are anchored on the rock and trust in Him.  He is able to make us stand firm and reflect His glory.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights here.  Please share how God has brought you through the stormy seasons of your life.  As we share, we encourage one another in the faith.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Using Your Time Wisely

Big Ben in London 
     As this busy Christmas season is in high gear, many of us are feeling the fatigue and stress that come with this holiday. We are supposed to enjoy the gatherings and fellowship but somehow, there is not enough time in the day to get everything done so we can really relax at these events.  How we manage our time has a lot to do with enjoying this time of year.
     Personally, I was convicted today as I read Ephesians 5:1-17.  Read this passage in its entirety to get the full context.  In the first and second verse, the Apostle Paul writes:  "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also loved us and has given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." When we examine these verses, we see that the Lord wants us to be imitators of Christ.  How did the Lord use His time?  He used it wisely.  He took time to rest as well as to minister.  He took the time to pray.  He took time to worship in the Synagogue, and as He did all these things, He did them with love.
      Continuing to read the passage, we see that Paul outlines those things which we are to avoid being involved with.  First, we are to use our time wisely by studying God's Word and making room for worship even as our Lord Jesus did, so that "no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" (vs. 6).  All we have to do is look around at the number of cults in our world to see how easy it is to be deceived by empty words.  When we know the Word of God, the enemy cannot so easily lead us astray.
     Paul goes on to remind us to be children of light walking in light and exposing unfruitful works of darkness.  Today, it seems that people, especially in the political realm, are caught in "cover-ups" of many types.  However, we are to use our time to expose the darkness and let the light of Christ bring truth to our situation.  Being a light for Christ is not always popular because it does drive the darkness away.  I cannot help but think of Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow that the press has recently been railing about.  He is a light in the NFL.  He demonstrates his faith unashamedly.  Those who prefer the darkness do not like the light he brings.  I admire his stand for Christ.  May we be as bold!
Clock on a building at Heidelberg Castle in Germany
     Finally, the last three verses sum up how we are to use our time:  "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (vs. 15-17).  If we would take the time to know what God's will is as found in His Word, we would be wiser and better able to use our time for His glory.  Sitting at the feet of our Almighty God and growing in relationship to Him helps us have perspective on what really matters in this life.  Then, we can order our activities accordingly and live a life filled with peace rather than day to day chaos.  So the question remains:  How do we use our time?  Are we wise or wasteful?  Do we follow the example of Christ or spend our days with no focus?
     God has given every one of us 24 hours in a day.  We have only a certain amount of energy and ability.  Are we entrusting it to God so He can direct us or are we being falsely led by the flesh and wasting our efforts?  Time is a fleeting thing and it is moving rapidly.  Who can say when our Lord will come again?  Will He find us busy being imitators of Christ and a light to this dark world or will He find us asleep at the switch?
     Let us pray for each other not only at this busy Christmas season but throughout the year that we may learn to use our time wisely for God's great glory.   Remember, seeking God first and His kingdom will help us to keep our priorities straight each day.  Selah!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Big Blue Eyes and a Precious Heart

     As I sit here listening to my Christmas music, I think once again of those big blue eyes that have so captured my heart and the heart of our family.  He is only four and yet, he has been in the hospital more times than most of us will ever be in this life.  Tethered again to a machine tracking his brain waves to seek the answer why he is having seizures, he smiles at the nurses who come into the room.  His parents ever faithful in their devotion to him and to the One who made him are weary but more determined than ever to find God's wisdom that will bring some relief from the electrical storms occurring in his brain.
     This young child displays a patience beyond his years and despite his limitations, he finds a way to communicate his thoughts.  Surrounded by his cars which he lines up carefully, he endures the I.V., the poking and prodding that are part of the hospital routine.  His smile lights up the room and cheers those to attend to his needs.  In these four short years, he has taught us all so many lessons.
     When I am tempted to complain over some insignificant issue (a lost earring, a misplaced car key, aches and pains), I remember Branson's patience as he goes through so many tests and doctor visits.  Oh yes, he does protest at times, but he is not a chronic complainer.  He bears up so well when faced with the challenges of daily living that he reminds me that we are to walk in the Spirit bringing forth the fruit of patience (Gal. 5:22).
      Another quality he displays is perseverance.  His determination shines as he tries to walk, and oh, how he wants to run after his brother.  If given the chance and some support by an adult, he will walk around and around the house.  His efforts are showing some fruit, and again, he demonstrates that practice, determination, and effort do produce results.  Jesus told us that those who put their hand to the plow and look back are not fit for the kingdom of heaven (Luke 9:62).  We are to move forward in following Christ, and in Him, we find the type of perseverance that keeps us on the straight and narrow path.  Just as   Branson remains single minded in his goal of walking, so we also are to remain single minded as we pursue a life of holiness in Christ.
     Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned from Branson is how to love and laugh at life.  His giggle is infectious.  His heart is tender, and he doesn't seem to know a stranger.  What a winsome outlook on life and one to be emulated.  When some take pity on a special needs child, it is because they do not know the blessing they are in this life.  If only we could love with great abandon like this little boy.  No wonder our Lord reminded his disciples:  "But Jesus called the children to Him and said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these'" (Luke 18:16).
     Indeed, those whose lives have been touched by this young boy with the big blue eyes have learned many lessons in living.  I stand amazed that God would bless our family with such a gift.  Special needs children may have limitations but the Lord has given them an abundance of His grace which they freely share with those around them.  Our family sees Branson as a present that we will spend a lifetime unwrapping.  No one knows the future nor can we predict all that God has in store for this child, but his life has brought about changes in all of us causing us to trust the Lord daily.
     Remember Branson in your prayers that an answer can be found to relieve the seizures.  Pray also for his faithful parents who love him and are his champions.  Our family is grateful for the prayers and we know that God is at work.  Selah!

I welcome your comments and thoughts.  Please feel free to leave words of encouragement here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

She Was Chosen by God

     Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, has been the focus of books, plays, songs and even controversy as to her role, yet the Bible paints a clear picture of a young woman chosen by God to bear His Son.  She is an example of submission to God and humility that is worth emulating.
     At the tender age of 14 to 16 years, Mary was betrothed to a carpenter named Joseph.  This early engagement period was common by Jewish custom, and the relationship was binding and could only be broken by divorce.  It was at this time that the Angel Gabriel, who had also appeared to Zechariah the priest foretelling John the Baptist's birth, came to announce to Mary her important role in the birth of Jesus.  According to Luke 1:28, we read:  "And he came to her and said 'Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!'"  Literally translated the angel said, "Greetings, Mary full of grace!"  The words used in this verse indicate that Mary received God's grace not that she was the source of grace.  She had been chosen by God and set apart for an important task in her life.  In fact, Mary was troubled by this greeting.
Gabriel went on to tell her that she need not be afraid for she had found favor or grace in God's sight.  Then, he explained to her how she would conceive by the Holy Ghost and bring forth a Son who would be called Jesus or "Yahweh is salvation".  He would be the Son of the Most High which is another title for the long awaited Messiah.
     Imagine how Mary must have felt at this surprising news.  She was being called upon by God to carry His Son.  The fact that she was a virgin made this miraculous, but it also carried with it some concerns.  She was not yet formally married and unmarried women who were found to be with child could be stoned according to the Law.  The Bible does not tell us all that went through her mind that day, however,  the angel did much to allay her concerns by telling her about her cousin Elizabeth who had been barren but was now pregnant with John the Baptist.  Then, Gabriel concluded his remarks with:  "For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).    Her reply points to a heart ready to serve the Lord:  "And Mary said, 'Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.'  And the angel departed from her" (vs. 38).
     As I read this account in the Bible, I could not help but stand in awe of how God demonstrates His sovereignty over all the affairs to men.  Here was a young peasant girl that God chose to carry His Son.  He filled her with grace and He was the one that performed the miracle of her conception.  She humbly accepted God's will for her even though she did not have all the details laid out in front of her.  If we read on in Luke, we also see her song of praise to God for all His greatness in "The Magnificat".  She did not focus on herself but focused on the One who had delivered His people from slavery and now was about to fulfill prophecy and deliver His chosen ones from their sins.  There is so much we can learn from her example.
     First, Mary was humble and willing to receive from God's hand that which He had planned for her.  She did not stop and demand to know all the details before giving her ascent.  She recognized, by her obedience, His sovereignty and authority in her life.  How often do we question God and balk at those things which He has called us to do?  We often want all the specifics before we make the first move.  Not Mary.  She did not know the joy and the sorrow that she would endure in her life, but she knew the One true God of Israel.  Her trust was evident.
     Secondly, Mary turned to God and lifted Him up as she sang His praises.  Her song needs to be our song of adoration for the Lord of our salvation.  Too often, I fear that our prayers are humdrum petitions with a sprinkle of praise rather than a focus on God and His holiness.  The Bible tells us that He inhabits the praises of His people and delights in us when we delight in Him.  We were made to glorify Him, and as we lift Him up, He lifts us up as well.  Mary's example should encourage us to begin each quiet time with praise for the Lord who has saved us from our sins.
     Finally, we need to remember it is God who does the choosing not us.  Mary didn't make up her mind to serve God and have baby Jesus.  God chose her.  According to Scripture, we have been chosen before the foundation of the world to be His own and He predestined us to adoption in Christ (Ephesians 1:4-5).  It is all of His grace, His power, His work and not any works of our own that has brought us to salvation.
How great our God is and how wonderful our deliverance!
     Looking into the life of Mary as described in the Bible gives us a glimpse of her character and her willingness to be a servant of the Most High.  Her attitude is one we need to have in relation to our heavenly Father.  When He calls us to service, let us like Mary say:  "Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."  By doing this, we, too, will have an impact on our world and bring glory to God.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights here.  I hope you will leave a comment to encourage others.  Thank you for dropping by.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reflections on the Manger

     When I was growing up, we did not have the high tech distractions that are so abundant today.  With television, IPADS, IPODS, smart phones, and computers, children today, as well as adults, can become so enamored with things that the babe in a manger can fade away amidst all the slick advertisements.  While we had a television, my parents spent time emphasizing the true meaning of the Christmas celebration and limited the T.V. time.  In fact,  one of the key highlights to our tree trimming was placing the manger scene beneath our tree.  I had the honor to position all the shepherds, kings, and of course, baby Jesus.  I remember spending hours rearranging these figures and looking at them.  I could almost hear the bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the cows.  Then, on Christmas Eve, we read the Christmas story out of the Bible and placed the crib with Baby Jesus in the manger scene.  This is a vivid memory for me because it was so important in our household.
     As our own children came along, my husband and I continued the tradition of the manger scene because this is the central message of Christmas.  The tree, the decorations are all beautiful, but they do not outshine the birth of the King of Kings.  On Christmas Eve, we carried on the tradition of reading the story of the birth of our Savior to our children.  For us, the manger, not the gifts was the central point of our celebration.  When our children asked why we gave gifts on Christmas, my reply was that God had given us His best gift in the person of baby Jesus.  He was born to die and offer His life for ours.  Therefore, we offer our best (not the most expensive) but a gift of the heart to one another remembering God's gift to us.  How we present Christmas to our children and grandchildren has a tremendous impact on them for a lifetime.
     Often the Bible speaks of not forgetting God in the midst of our celebrations, our successes and the many blessings we enjoy.  Deuteronomy 6:10-15 reads:  "And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that He swore to your fathers to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob to give you - with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and other trees that you did not plant - and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  It is the Lord your God you shall fear.  Him you shall serve and by His name you shall swear.  You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you, for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God, lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and He destroy you from off the face of the earth."  As God warned Israel, He warns us today.  We are not to lose Him in the tinsel, the toys, the parties, and the trappings of this season.  We are not to take credit for all the blessings we have, and it is so easy to do this.  So what can we do to keep the manger as our center focus this year?
An actual manger
Here are some thoughts to consider.
     First, make an advent calendar with Christ as the focus rather than a countdown to Santa.  Before we had children, a neighbor gave me a felt kit for making a simple Advent calendar.  There were pockets for each day of advent and in each pocket was a symbol representing some Christian quality.  Each day one of our children took out the symbol and pinned it to the outside of the pocket.   We read a short verse and devotion as we counted the days till his birth.  My children loved doing this every year, and vied for the honor of pinning the Christmas star on Christmas day.
     Another way to bring home the meaning of Christmas is to make it a real birthday celebration for Christ by making a cake.  We did this a few times, and the children enjoyed singing happy birthday to the Lord.  Again, it isn't so much about the food as it was about keeping the focus on the Lord.
     To show service and love at Christmas time, we took our children to a nursing home and distributed a small gift to residents along with other home school students.  We sang carols and greeted the residents.  To see the smiles on their faces was a reward in itself.  I know it left an impression on our children about serving others.  In addition to these visits, we blessed a family in need one year and took gifts for all to their home.  It was a lesson in how to share the love of God with others.
     Of course, having a manger set for children and grandchildren to handle is also a great teaching tool to remind them of what this holy day is all about.  Explaining who each of the characters are and what part they played in the story about Jesus also brings to life in the mind of a child the true meaning of the season.
     Last but never least is taking time to worship in fellowship at church.  The heart of our faith is found in the preaching and teaching of God's Word.  Gathering together in the company of saints encourages us, instructs and corrects us.  We must not neglect our call to joint worship for ourselves or our children.  This keeps our focus on the Lord.
     I am certain many of you can add to these activities other ideas which keep the us centered on Christ, but the primary goal is to bring glory to God in sincere worship and praise.  We must never forget the many blessings we have are as a result of God's calling us to salvation through His Son.  He deserves to be the center of all we do as we gather with friends and family this season.  My prayer is that we will allow our light to so shine that men may see the difference that Christ makes in our lives this season  Selah!

Please share your thoughts of how you keep Christ at the center of this season.  I welcome your comments.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


     One of the greatest needs we all have in our lives is acceptance.  We want to be loved for who we are as a person...not what we do for someone.  This was driven home to me a long time ago when I was in grade school in Florida.  My parents used to come to Florida for about three months every winter as my father was a farmer and had time off during this season.  Of course, since I would be missing school, I had to take classes at a school.
     In the grade school I attended one winter, I met a Jewish girl who was so sweet.  Yet, many of the other students would not even talk to her because of her religion.  Each day, we began our lunch period with the Lord's prayer (yes, at that time it was permitted in the schools).  This girl would bow her head
too even though she did not recite the prayer.  She told me that she had a Hebrew blessing for her food.
     While our friendship was brief and only lasted one winter season, she told me that I was one of the few people who had accepted her as she was and did not shun her.  I felt so good about that.  I also thought it was sad that others missed getting to know her as a person.
     Within the Christian community, it is even more discouraging to find some who do not accept one another but often act out of selfishness.  Paul admonished us that we are to put aside self as Christ did in order to minister to the needs and weaknesses of others.  Read Romans 15: 1-7.  "Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good to his edification.  For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, 'The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell upon me.'  For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God."  Paul's plea here is for unity.  We are strong when we can accept and love one another in Christ.
     Acceptance is like medicine for the soul.  In Christ, we are fully loved and accepted by God the Father.  Why then, can't we, in the Body of Christ, learn to love and accept one another?  Often we  act out of an attitude of pleasing ourselves over pleasing the Lord by helping a weaker brother/sister.  We cannot show unity and bring glory to God when selfishness rules in our homes and churches.
     Human nature without Christ is basically selfish and demanding.  If Christians act in the same manner
without putting aside the flesh, what difference will the world see?  Why should they desire to follow Christ when we act the same way?
     Instead of putting ourselves first in every situation, let us ask how we can help one another.  The question, "What would Jesus do?" is a good one for us to consider as we approach every situation.  To love and accept others only when it is convenient to us is human but to love and accept when it is hard comes from a changed heart by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts here.  How have you felt accepted by others?  How have you shown acceptance to others?