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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

new-year-resolution

A New Year is like a blank page of paper, just waiting for the words to be written. It is full of hope and endless possibility. As you consider items for your resolution list, here are five items that can strengthen your faith in 2017.

Meditate on the Bible. You can read the text, receive an email, or listen to Scripture on your smart phone. Once you have a mode that is meaningful to you, make it a routine. Spending time with God’s Word is vital to any Christian. It encourages and educates us. It provides direction when we feel lost. It reminds us that God is near. Allow God’s Word to shape and mold you in 2017.

Strengthen a relationship. Odds are good you live a busy life and have allowed some personal relationships to wither on the vine. Reach out to a family member or friend you have not contacted recently. Make an effort to renew and strengthen the relationship. If you see each other for lunch even once a month, it can forge a strong bond. When we sharpen one another in real Christian fellowship, we are more effective and useful in God’s service.

Be more grateful. It is easy to get in a mental rut. Our human nature is always focusing on the next task, another event, or something else that needs to be done. It often seems that we are never happy or pleased with what we have. Slow down and focus on the people and blessings around you. Practice gratitude in your life. Every day, express thankfulness to the Lord and to others. Seeing the good in your life will allow you to keep your heart compassionate and loving.

Answer Softly. I enjoy a good debate, but one that is respectful and considerate. Our conversations can promote unity, remove tension, and demonstrate spiritual maturity even when difficult topics arise. What we say and how we say it should reflect our faith. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” The way you respond to distention can do much to either quiet it or stir it up even more.

Volunteer your time. You can make a huge difference in someone’s life by investing just minutes a day. Take time to volunteer at a local charity, non-profit, or ministry organization. Live your faith and demonstrate that you are a servant of Christ. There are programs designed to help pregnant girls, teenage parents, and their children. There are programs to feed the hungry. There are programs to mentor married couples. All of these programs need volunteers to strengthen people in need.  Your time as a volunteer can make an eternal impact.

As we prepare for 2017, make faith a part of your New Year resolution list. Make a plan to strengthen your faith today and watch how God uses you in the year to come.

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hallelujah-in-hand

Christmas is a few days away, but many may not feel like celebrating this year.  When a family member has died and Christmas is just around the corner, singing and rejoicing can easily feel out of place.

It is natural to feel a deep and prolonged sense of sadness when a loved one has died.  It is also easy for Christmastime to be an emotional roller coaster due to the many memories a family had with their loved one.  If a person is experiencing sadness, crying frequently, or feeling uncomfortable around others, attending a Christmas service may not seem like the right answer.

I encourage you to make time and space for God even in your sorrow.  If it is listening to a favorite Christmas hymn, lighting an advent candle, reading Scripture, or offering prayer share time with God this Christmas. This time can be in a public setting with other believers or privately at home.  Even a cold and broken hallelujah is an offering of love and devotion that God will hear.

In time, your song will change. The healing heart of God is there to strengthen and guide you through the difficulties of today.  Make time to connect with our Heavenly Father.  The peace of God is always there to restore, heal, and provide.

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fig tree

Things aren’t always as they seem. How long was the Hundred Years’ War? It lasted 116 years. When do Russians celebrate the October Revolution? They celebrate it in November. What country sells the most Panama hats? Ecuador is known for the famous straw hat.

In Mark 11, Jesus makes a similar observation. Jesus is walking from Bethany to Jerusalem.  From a distance, He sees a beautiful green fig tree. It looks wonderful. It is full of leaves and seems to be a bastion of good health. When Jesus arrives at the tree, hoping to eat a hand full of young fig buds, there is nothing. The tree is barren. It has no fruit. It produces nothing.

Typically, fig trees make buds each March and they eventually turn into delicious figs. The buds are green like the leaves of the tree, so you need to carefully inspect the tree. When Jesus looks it over, there is nothing to find. The tree gives shade but no nourishment. It gives comfort with no provision. Help but no hope. The green, leafy, tree unfortunately produces nothing.

Jesus curses the tree for that very reason. It yields nothing. Despite all of the right signs and appearances, the tree is not what it seems to be. Jesus doesn’t condemn leaves, they are necessary for trees to live and grow. But we cannot be content with leaves alone.

Things aren’t always as they seem. A church might appear to be “healthy” when you look at it from a distance, only to be disappointed on closer inspection. The fruit it bears will tell the story. Individuals are the same way. A person may show all the right signs of “health” like a leafy fig tree, but bear no spiritual fruit.

The lesson of the fig tree is that we should bear spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). If we only appear to bear fruit, then we have missed the point and purpose of what God desires. God judges fruitlessness, and expects that those who have a relationship with Him will “bear much fruit” (John 15:5-8).

May our lives yield a bumper crop of spiritual fruit that benefits mankind and pleases the Lord.

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pilgrim landing

There are many words that express the attitude of the day. You will hear thankful, grateful, and blessed. Our day is focused on early American settlers who crossed a freezing ocean on a little rickety boat because of their faith. While those words and themes are important, let us also focus on the words that inspired these settlers.

In Psalm 103, we find a hymn of Thanksgiving.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit, 

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

These words reminded them to look beyond their losses, their hardships, and difficulties. These words reminded them to instead focus on the Almighty. Little food, poor housing, and a harsh winter made their first year difficult. Only 50 Pilgrims survived the winter of 1620. They gathered together in the fall of 1621 to celebrate their first harvest and the blessings we often overlook today.

May we follow in their example. No matter the problems we have experienced in 2015, let us join together and bless our God, whose love and care sustains us through all things.

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emmanuel

What is the longest time you had to wait for something?  We wait a matter of minutes for food at a restaurant and it feels like a long time.  We wait 5 years to start kindergarten classes at school.  We wait 20 to 30 years to find a spouse.  As a people, we do not wait well, no matter how great the reward may be.

The Advent of Christ is also a story of waiting.  The time between the Old and New Testaments total 400 years.  This time span moves from Nehemiah to the birth of Jesus Christ.  These years are known as the intertestamental period, but they are often called the “silent” years.  A time when people were waiting to hear something from God.

The New Testament gospels give us more than a whisper.  They announce the long-awaited birth of the Messiah, the Desire of nations, the Son of David, the Prince of Peace.  Jesus arrives as our Emmanuel.  Jesus arrives as our Redeemer, Savior, and King.  The most precious gift we could receive.

His birth shows the faithful promise of God to provide salvation.  His birth allows God and sinners to be reconciled.  His birth brings light and life to a world that has only known darkness and death. Jesus was born that mankind may have life, a second birth, a home beyond this world.

We celebrate the Advent of Christ on earth.  We celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the deliverance that it brings.

Now we wait again.  We wait on the second Advent of Christ and His promised return.  May God hasten the day when we can finally see Jesus, the one pierced for our transgressions, the one crushed for our iniquities, the one who died so that we may have eternal life.

 

 

 

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thanks

Thursday is the day that America will stop work, join with families, and give thanks.

In 1620, some 100 people seeking religious freedom, left England and landed in the New World. Little food, poor housing, and a harsh winter made their first year difficult.  Only 50 Pilgrims survived the winter of 1620.  They gathered together in the fall of 1621 to celebrate their first harvest and the blessings we often overlook today.

Thanksgiving became a national holiday in 1863, the midpoint of our Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring that a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. American has celebrated Thanksgiving Day every November since 1863.

As we gather around homes and loved ones, may we remember the gifts and blessings of this year. May we also remember the Giver, Almighty God, our Creator, and Eternal Father.  It is through Him that we can truly give thanks.

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dv month

Silence regarding domestic violence only makes the problem worse.  Christianity should not be silent, nor should it struggle on how to address domestic violence. We cannot afford to be silent when sisters and brothers live under the threat of violence in their own homes and communities.

Christianity can serve as a valuable resource in a variety of ways to those suffering domestic violence.  The key is demonstrating the love of Christ. Here are some ways that Christians, churches, and ministry organizations can make a difference.

Understand the problem.  Violence, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form—physical, sexual, psychological or verbal—is sinful; often it is also a crime.  Knowledge on the issue is important.  If we know what right relationships look like and how the love of Christ should operate in families, we can practice and teach these examples to our children.

Make safety your priority.  Allowing a person to find safety can be a matter of life or death.  Spiritual leaders should work with a team of community service providers to help the victim-survivor establish a safety plan, should the abuse continue or escalate.  If the home is no longer a safe place, then encourage the victim to leave or stay somewhere else. Groups and organizations may want to create safety kits for temporary assistance.  Safety kits should include: cash, gift cards, a change of clothing, toiletries, emergency phone numbers and places of shelter.  Once physical safety is established, then it is time for spiritual care. Offer to pray with the victim, share a relevant Bible verse, give support, and provide wise counsel during this traumatic time.

Wait on marriage counseling.  The timing must be right for this to succeed.  Too often church leaders rush the situation in order to “save the marriage” or “keep the family together” when these goals should be contingent on the offender’s willingness to undergo treatment.  These are certainly worthy goals, but only after the abusive behavior has stopped, should the focus shift to repairing the relationship.  Domestic violence is not a relationship issue that needs to be resolved.  It is mostly about a person’s conscious decision to violently control the will of another to maintain power and dominance.  There are times when couples’ or marriage counseling is inappropriate and risky.  If people push the envelope on immediate counseling it could lead to further abuse or even the death of the victimized.

Minister to the offender.  This may not be popular or pretty, but it is the right thing to do.  Pick the right person to mentor and coach the offender.  Bathe this mentor in prayer.  Redemption work is tough and dirty, so make sure that he or she receives the prayer support necessary for the task ahead.  When Christians focus on the offender, we are performing restoration work.  We are working on the root cause of the problem, not symptoms.  The abuse should be dealt with directly, however the root hurt or trauma should be sought after as well.  Encourage the one inflicting violence to also seek professional counseling during this process.

Teach mutual submission to couples.  The biblical topic of submission is not grounds for abuse or violence in the home. Christians must understand that submission is not a license to control and dominate another human being. Christians should also work to breakdown a deception that the Bible supports abusive behavior.  In Ephesians 5, Paul tells husbands and wives to yield to one another in mutual submission out of reverence and love for Christ – abusive behavior violates this Scripture and is not a God-given right.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to love one another.  May God grant us the patience, strength, and ability to combat domestic violence where ever it may exist.

 

 

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