As I read through some posts by friends and also some non-FB conversations (yes, they still exist) that I’ve had recently plus my devotional last night, I am reminded of something a friend said several years ago. We were trying to get something done at church but we were coming up against church politics and some backbiting. We were talking to one of the associate pastors at the time. My friend, who had not been in church until he was an adult, said something to the effect of “but this is church, it shouldn’t be like this”. The associate pastor and I then explained that yes, you are correct. However, sometimes church is the worst place for it. The church is made up of imperfect people. We all want things our own way. Sometimes, that own way is not what is best for the church or the people of the church. Just like the people of the early church when trying to figure out if Gentiles should be circumcised like the Jews in order to be part of the church, we have to do what is best for the church. We have to let go of control. We have to let God decide and lead us in the right direction for the church. If we let our petty jealousies and controlling tendencies get in the way, then we have lost sight of the big picture. And sometimes, the church staff has to let go of control as well. They can’t do it all. And sometimes, members of the church are being led by God to be more of a leader and spearhead things in the church. We have to live for God, do what God wants us to do in the church, and not allow politics to get in the way. So take a step back and reevaluate yourself and your role. Reevaluate your motives. If you have objections to how or what someone in the church is doing or saying, take a look at why you have objections. Are your objections because God is telling you that’s not how it should be? Or are you objections because of petty jealousies or lack of control of the situation?
“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
It brought back so many memories from my childhood. Our catalog was the Sears or JCPenney catalog. Each year, they would put out their catalog with a special added section in the back for toys. We anticipated the arrival of this catalog sometime in November. As soon as the catalog arrived, we set out to make our Christmas list. It wasn’t just a list on paper. We would carefully scour the pages of that catalog. Then we would circle the toys that we wanted. We would even mark the pages for easy reference by turning the corner down on them. We didn’t just do this with our parents’ catalog. We were sure to do it with Nana and Papa’s catalog… we had to make sure everyone knew what we wanted.
Christmas Eve was full of more anticipation because we couldn’t wait to see what we got from Santa and from everyone else. However, we never lost site of what Christmas really meant. Each year, before we went to bed, before we put out the milk and cookies, my dad would read the “Christmas Story” as told by Luke in the Bible. We loved to hear him read that story. We may not have fully understood it, but we knew that was what we were really celebrating. This is a tradition I have carried on.
So as we look back on our childhood, and we make knew memories with our own children, we need to never lose site of what the real reason for Christmas is. It is easy to do as Christmas has become more secular and commercialized. What a wonderful gift we have been given…a Messiah that came to save us from our sin!
Jesus is King!
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16 NKJV
Years ago, I overhead a phone conversation my dad was having with one of my aunts. She was struggling with people asking her how she knows God is real. One of the questions people kept asking her was “What if you’re wrong?” She wasn’t sure how to answer the critics and their questions. What my dad said has stayed with me all these years later. He told her to simply say “but what if I’m right?” He then told her that if we are wrong, all we did was live a good, positive life…no harm done. But if we are right and we don’t live for God, the consequences are much more severe.
If we look around, we can see that God is real. He doesn’t have to give us anymore of a sign than just simply us simply being alive. The human body is made up of cells. We start out as a single cell that multiplies until we are a human inside our mother’s womb. We are a delicate balance of things that are knit together to form a human. Too much or too little, and we are not. So life within itself is a miracle. But besides that, take a look around. Look at snowflakes…too much warmth it is rain, too much cold, it is ice. God made that. God made science. God is real.
So when asked the question, “how do you know God is real?”, just tell the people to look around. He’s in everything. And when someone asks, “but what if you’re wrong?”, simply say, “but what if I’m right?” God is real!
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
Everyday our life is made up of decisions. Some decisions, like when to get up each day or what to eat for breakfast, are not necessarily that important in the grand scheme of things. Others, like whether to leave a job or accept a job offer, are more important.
Two years ago, I had to make a decision about whether to leave a job, which I had had for almost 8 years. It was a tough decision, but at the time, I felt it was the correct decision. While I do not regret leaving that job, most days at least, I do hate that it ultimately led to my current situation. At the time, I felt peace about that decision.
More recently, I’ve been tasked with a larger decision. It isn’t what I had hoped for so I wasn’t 100% sure if it is the right decision. I have prayed about it, but still have no clear answer. I have never been one to really be able to clearly hear God’s plan for my life. But that doesn’t stop me from believing that God has a plan. It doesn’t make me any less faithful to Him. I know that even if I do not choose the correct thing, God will find a way to use it for good.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11
Usually, when people are asked what their favorite Christmas movie is, the classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” are mentioned. While I can agree that those rare good movies, they are not my favorites. In fact, I rarely watch them. My all time favorite is “Christmas Vacation”. I must watch it at least once a year, usually more.
My love for this movie can probably be attributed to my dad, who made sure we watched it each year. The movie shows what I desire, a large family gathering, and how so many of those gatherings end up. It represents the extremes in all our families, or at least in mine. The siblings who love each other but won’t admit it. The elderly aunt and uncle who can’t hear well and don’t have a filter. The dad who wants family to be happy and goes overboard on everything. The mom who, like dad, wants people to be happy, but gets stressed when it doesn’t quite work out. Then we come to the cousin Eddie. We all have that cousin Eddie. The person with the big heart, who means well, but just doesn’t have the intelligence or the means to do it.
“Christmas Vacation” may nothing more than a goofy movie. But for me, it represents family. It represents good times. And it represents love. We can all benefit from goofiness, just as we can all benefit from the reminder that our family may not be perfect, but they are our family. They come in all shapes and forms; but togetherness is what matters!
“Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name.” – I Chronicles 29:13
This is my devotional from tonight. It could not be more perfect in light of my uncle’s passing this morning. I could not say this any better with my words. One of my favorite lines from the devotional is “An exciting aspect of heaven will not be our new, glorified bodies or beautiful homes but the people we will see.” What a great promise. We will not only be whole but we will see all of our loved ones that have passed before us.
As I am awaiting more news on a loved one, I am thinking about this past year. Many of you know that it has been a tough one. It began with my nephew’s accident last Thanksgiving and continued on with a death of my mom’s friend at Christmas and the death of my grandparents in the spring. It has continued with my job loss and some other things that I do not want to go into at this time. It seems we take 1 step forward and 2 steps back. During this time, there have also been things said and done, real and perceived, that have added to the hurt.
Throughout this entire year, my family has tried to stay positive and focused on what’s important, God. It would be easy to turn away, and it would be easy to curse God. Prayer, at least for me, at times has been difficult. I’ve felt very much like Job at times.
I say all of this to say that you never truly know what a person is going through or has gone through. You may not understand why a person is reacting the way that they are. You just need to know that sometime, all that person needs is a hug and an “I love you!”. Sometimes you have to say, “I’m sorry you are going through all of this and I am sorry if there is anything I did or said that contributed to it!” Don’t call them crazy or tell them their feelings are not justified. And if you feel that you’ve been slighted by someone, find a way to let it go. You will probably never get the apology you want. That person probably doesn’t realize or even remember what they said or did.
Above all, love each other. We are called to love each other. Keep your focus on God. And when Satan is trying to steal your joy or your family or whatever, simply repeat, “1-2-3, Satan Flee!!”
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13 NKJV