The gifts are unwrapped, the cookies are fewer, the surprises and anticipations of Christmas are now behind us. A New Year is just around the corner and we are five days closer to Christmas 2023!
Christmas is a temporal celebration, but the love story found within it is an eternal one. We are forced to consider that our earthly existence is brief compared to eternity. So let’s live that way in 2023. Give the King born in a manger the gift of your life to carry out His will and His mission on the earth.
What are your hopes and dreams for a brand-new year, two thousand and twenty three? Every day is a gift; every breath is an opportunity.
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
The story of Santa Claus goes back to the 3rd century. A patron saint, a monk named Saint Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, modern day Turkey. He was known as the protector of children. The name we use today, Santa Claus, was derived from the Dutch nickname of Sinter Klaas.
In 1881 artist Thomas Nast, drew what we recognize as our modern-day Santa: a plump, cheery and white bearded man. It was Nast who provided Santa’s bright red suit and North Pole workshop with elves and a wife, Mrs. Claus. Prior to this image, he was often depicted as a gaunt or scary-looking man.
In the 1890’s the Salvation Army began to use this image by dressing their donation collectors in Santa Claus suits. But where this image received a huge boost was from none other than Coca Cola.
Santa has been featured in Coke ads since the 1920’s and the image used was close to Nast’s original art work. From 1931 to 1964 Coca-Cola ads showed Santa delivering toys, reading his scroll-styled lists and always enjoying a Coke.
While Santa Claus and his imagery are fun for children around the world, it was a very real Catholic monk who was said to spend all his money on rescuing young persons from slavery or prostitution. He gave away his inherited wealth to help the poor and the sick. It is that St. Nick that sounds the most like the Christ, the first six letters of the word Christmas.
May we all display the true meaning and character of this Christ by serving others, giving gifts of meaning and remembering the needy around the world. Let’s celebrate Jesus, the true meaning of Christmas!
Imagine that, “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Colossians 2: 10, 11)
Brief thoughts leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth and a special Christmas song for you.
“A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!” It was a Holy Night just as Isaiah the prophet prophesied 900 years earlier: “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6, 7)
There is no peace greater than the peace of Christ in the heart of man. There is no greater government, no other Son given, no better counselor and certainly nothing close to everlasting life without Him.
He is The Prince of Peace for every need you face this Christmas. Call on His Name. Nothing and no one comes close to His love, His acceptance, His approval and His security.
I was sitting in a training meeting recently and found myself thinking about robbing God, of all things. I was considering ways that I might be involved in theft and may not even be considering it as a theft. By theft I mean stealing from God or others for my own selfish desires/gaines vs a loving adherence to God’s word and His desires. Further, I was asking myself if I am in any kind of self-deception, i.e., not seeing what God sees. I’ll let you work through the following scenarios in order to ask yourself the same questions.
You might be stealing if…
You’re not giving your employer 100% for what you’ve been hired for and are supported for.
(See Colossians 3:23, 24.)
You are not claiming on your tax return the “under the table” income you receive.
(See Proverbs 10:2.)
You’re withholding from your spouse financially, emotionally, romantically, sexually or spiritually.
(See Ephesians 5:25-28 and I Corinthians 7:5-7.)
You are not giving away and/or equipping others in what God has gifted to you.
(See Ephesians 4:11-13.)
You are withholding your tithe and offerings and not sowing seed financially.
(See Malachi 3:8, 9.)
You’re living with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
(See Galatians 5:19; I Corinthians 6:18.)
You’re avoiding fellowship and commitment to a local church, robbing yourself and others from fellowship with you.
(See Hebrews 10:25.)
You’re not lovingly sharing your testimony with others so they can hear the good news of Jesus.
(See I Peter 3:15.)
You walked away from the store with too much change and did not return it.
(See Mark 10:19.)
You are failing to spend daily, quality time with your Savior and His word, the Bible.
(See Matthew 13:1; 14:23; Mark 1:35.)
Maybe there are areas you can think of which are acts of theft either passive or more obvious. Integrity certainly connects to what we’re doing when no one is looking, checking up on us or following through with accountability. God has so much more for us. Living life in any of the above ways is living a life that is far beneath what God has for every one of us on this earth.
Please take the time to look up and read the above scripture verses. Let me end with this verse: He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with is own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:28)
Being thankful is a daily exercise. Someone said our normal position in life should be “thanksliving.” Giving thanks can be and should be a lifestyle. We are encouraged to give thanks in all things. A thankful heart is so much better to be around than an unthankful heart. So, in the spirit of an American national holiday called Thanksgiving, here are a few interesting facts surrounding this celebration. Share them with your family around the table.
The American Thanksgiving is modeled after a 17th century harvest feast. However, the U.S. National Park Service states that in 1565 Spanish settlers in St. Augustine, (now Florida), celebrated a meal with Native Americans of pork stew, sea biscuits, wine and beans. It is believed the native Americans provided turkey and venison.
Around 46 million turkeys are consumed which is approximately 720 million pounds of turkey. Approximately 89% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
Forty years ago, Butterball turkey company opened a hotline to answer questions and some 100,000 people call this hotline annually.
The Swanson company began the concept of frozen dinners in 1953 when they overestimated the number of frozen turkeys they would sell. Rather than waste all that meat, they recycled and repackaged it into frozen TV dinners.
Thanksgiving became a national holiday when Abraham Lincoln made it one after the Civil War on October 20, 1864. That move was initiated and lobbied for by a woman named Sarah Joseph Hale most known for writing “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
Other nations also celebrate this holiday in some form or fashion including: Canada, Grenada, Liberia, the Philippines, Saint Lucia and the Netherlands.
The U.S. president “pardons” a turkey from slaughter on Thanksgiving. Where did this tradition come from? It dates back to Abraham Lincoln’s son who was upset that his family’s turkey was going to be killed for dinner.
According to the U.S. Calorie Control Council (who knew there was such a council), an average American may consume 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day.
And finally, the day after Thanksgiving is said to be the busiest day of the year for plumbers!
One day my wife, Mary, a registered nurse, returned home from work with multiple black spots under each eye. I asked her what on earth could have happened at work that evening. She told me, “Oh, you know all those white age spots I had under my eyes? Well, I had the doctor burn them off for me.”
I shared with her that I never noticed any white age spots, but I sure did see the black ones and they were far worse! Mary saw those spots every time she looked in the mirror. Not everyone noticed them, not even her husband, but she did.
We tend to look at a picture of ourselves and see the blemishes: the crooked nose, the mole, the scar, or the receding hairline. The same is true of our emotional blemishes and past sins. We “see” and recall our selfish behavior, our sinful exploits, and our insecurities.
Colossians chapter one states this: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (Colossians 1:21, 22)
Here is the really good news: the verses in Colossians tell us that those blemishes are no longer a part of us, we have been made holy and we cannot be accused any longer. We have been forgiven and we are free. We are reconciled and presented holy in His sight, without blemish and totally free from accusation! Stop focusing on the blemishes and start focusing on how your heavenly Father sees you.
(To all veterans. Thank you for your service. Enjoy your special day today!)
As many of us approach election day here in the USA, I thought I would pass along to you some really healthy and sound advice. But first, let me share some of the best advice from God’s word found in I Timothy 2:1-3 from The Passion version.
1-3 The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.
Some very sound advice:
I can deeply love people with whom I strongly disagree. I refuse to demonize any politician who is made in the image of God.
I have enemies and Jesus gave me power over them on the cross, but my battle is NOT against flesh and blood.
When you call someone by an evil name…you have decided that you know their heart. But, the Apostle Paul said, “Who are you to judge the servant of another?”
Associating with, or serving political people, should not be confused with embracing their ideologies. All political offices deserve to be honored according to Romans 13.
I am commanded and called to pray for my leaders. If I don’t pray for them, then I don’t have a right to critique their success or failure.
My first allegiance is not to a political party but to the kingdom of God.
I cannot separate my spiritual views from my political views because the government of this world is being affected and infected by the invisible realm.
Great government doesn’t take away the right of people to sin. It does however, protect people from sinning against others and teaching people to do so.
It’s not the responsibility of government to Christianize the world. That’s the church’s job. Jesus rules the nations with a rod of iron, but He leads the church with a shepherd’s staff. (Bullet points written by author Kris Valloton.)
Lastly, let us keep in mind the innocent in this election, for our vote matters to them. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “This is God’s message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering!” (22:3, The Message)
Let’s prayerfully walk out this election like our first allegiance is to the kingdom of God and not to a political party.
Andy was a person who understood personal pain, grief and endurance. He fought in the Revolutionary War. He was captured, slashed across his forehead by a British officer with a sword and would suffer from migraines the remainder of his life.
While imprisoned, he contracted smallpox. His brother died of smallpox, but Andy lived. Not long after his brother’s death, his mother died of cholera and then his brother, Hugh, also died. The hurt and pain within Andy pushed him to inflict pain upon others.
But then, Andy fell in love with Rachel. They married only to find out there was a glitch in a court’s error and Rachel was still legally married to her first husband. It is said that Andy actually fought 103 duels to defend her honor! Andy’s body was riddled with bullets; one near his heart caused severe blood-filled coughing spasms.
Andy then fought in the War of 1812. After returning as a war hero, he ran for the office of the president of the United States. During his campaign his adopted son who was 16 years old died of tuberculosis. He went on to win the election of 1828. He served two terms.
In his first term of office, he lost Rachel to illness. Overcoming his grief as president, he wiped out the federal deficit before he retired to Nashville, Tennessee.
On his deathbed, Andy spoke of heaven where he would “Go to meet Rachel…and Jesus.”
If you look at the U.S. twenty dollar bill in your pocket you’ll find the engraving of Andrew (Andy) Jackson, the seventh President of the United States.
ONE MAN WITH COURAGE MAKES A MAJORITY (Andrew Jackson)
Think of it–one of you, single-handedly, putting a thousand on the run! Because God is God. Because he fights for you, just as he promised you. (Joshua 23:10 The Message)