Another Saint Went Home

It is Christmas time, a time when families are making plans to gather and eat great food, exchange presents, enjoy old memories and making new ones, and having fun.  It is a time of joy and peace and goodness and glad hearts and carols ringing through the land.  It is a time for reflection on your life and where you are going and where you have been.  It is a time of love and kindness and good wishes for everyone.  For one family this year, it is a time of sorrow for their beloved mother has gone home to be with Jesus.  I know their sorrow as I have lost my mother also and my father just as they have.  I know what it is like to lose a loved one two weeks before Christmas as I lost my only brother on Dec. 13th in 1975.  I know how the sympathy cards will pour in intermixed with Christmas greetings and holiday cards.  I know the pain of an empty seat at the family table.  I know, and I will pray for this family that they will mourn and yet be comforted, that they will cry and also laugh as they come together and remember a beloved mother and all the wonderful and not so wonderful memories of their time with her.

A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.  It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.  Ecclesiastes 7:1-2, (New International Version or NIV).

When a Christian dies what do we say about them?  Well I am sure that this family will say that their mom knew Jesus and had a good name and a good heart.  I know that I feel that way about my family who have passed from this earth.  I remember them often and think of how we had times of great joy together and great sorrow.  The funeral is to be a time of remembrance as well as saying goodbye but it is also a reminder of our own mortality and that death will come for us all one day.  Are we ready to meet death?  Are we ready to meet God face to face?  I hope you answer yes to this, I know that I am ready to meet God and to see Jesus face to face, oh how awesome that day will be.

Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.  If only we knew the power of your anger!  Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.  Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:10-12, (NIV).

Yes Lord, teach us to not waste each day but make it count for eternity.  What a joy it is to be around someone who is always busy and taking good care of their family and friends.  They know what is important, that fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10) and they stay active and busy doing all that they can for their loved ones and anyone the Lord sends across their path in life.  I was one of those sent across the path of the woman who passed away, and she was always kind to me and generous and encouraging and loving.  What an example of hard-working she was as well.  What a blessing in my life she was and such a good friend to my mom in the days after the death of my brother.  Teach me to be kind and compassionate too Lord.  Time moves so quickly as we get older I think.  It seems like only yesterday that I was around this dear saint and yet I know it is more like thirty years.  Teach us to number our days Lord.

I think that Christmas is a time of remembrance like no other for it is during the holidays that we often harken back to our childhood and remember those who have gone before us into eternity.  For me it is a time of thinking about those I loved so dearly that leave an empty chair around the family Christmas table.  It is a time to be reminded once again that they made lasting impressions upon my character and that I carry on some of their traditions for Christmas.  I make candy during Christmas and use recipes from family and old friends.  I make pecan pie and use my grandmother’s recipe.  I make foods that remind me of Christmases past and the good times we all had when we were still all together.  It is a mixture of sadness and joy all mixed up together.  I will use the good china that belonged to my mother and the crystal that she gave me so many years ago and that she purchased from someone else from our past who is gone from this earth.  We will gather around the family table that belonged to my great-grandmother and I will remember all the meals we had with her and all the other family members who are now gone on to glory.  After our meal I will sit down and play the piano some of the old familiar Christmas carols and holiday songs and think of my great-aunt who passed away this summer at the age of 99 and how she patiently taught me to play the piano.  Yes I think that Christmas is a time of nostalgia and also a time for making new memories and new foods as well.  I will be enjoying Christmas with my son and also my daughter and her family and of course my precious granddaughter!  We will make new memories and have lots of fun I have no doubt.

As you gather this Christmas I hope you remember to pray for those who are facing their first Christmas without a precious loved one.  Even if the person who has passed away is a Christian there will be sorrow mixed with hope and joy as their family come together for the holidays.  From my own experience I know that the first is often the hardest but time will march on whether we want it to or not and our hearts accept the losses in life in time.  If you have lost a loved one I want you to know that it is ok to cry and feel sad.  Even at Christmas time it is ok.  I will be thinking of you and saying a prayer asking for comfort.

Until next time…Katherine

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What Christmas Means To Me

It is Christmastime and what a time it is!  I have so many memories of Christmases past, getting my first watch; it was a Timex and was in my sock Christmas morning.  I also got that year a brand new purple Schwinn girls bicycle with a basket on the handlebars and I sprained my arm trying to learn to ride it on gravel as we lived in the country and there were no paved roads anywhere near us.  I remember the beautiful bride doll that I got one year, the same year that my brother got Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys.  We had so much fun building all kinds of things that winter.  All of these memories were before we had television and somehow I remember them more than other Christmases from my past.  I remember being in first grade and being Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer in the Christmas program and the bright red lipstick they used on my nose didn’t come off completely until after New Year!  How can I forget the traditional brown paper bag filled with a fresh orange or apple, ribbon candy, popcorn ball, and mixed nuts as well as peppermint candy canes.  We looked forward to those bags given out by Santa at the end of our school program.  I remember going to my Great-Grandmother’s house and making popcorn balls and pulling taffy and laughing and singing Christmas songs and family fun!  I remember so many wonderful things of Christmases from my childhood.

I remember Christmas as a young mother, getting to play Santa Claus and seeing the bright eyes of my children as they saw what Santa left them in their Christmas stockings and what gifts they were given.  They wanted to know if Santa was real and I would always tell them that Santa was someone who loved them very much and it was true because I certainly loved my children then as now.  I also remember teaching them to think of others as we would get a card from the giving tree and shop for poor children near their age so that they would have presents from Santa also.  Oh and the programs, those lovely, silly, funny, happy Christmas programs and all the antics that children go through.  When they got older I remember going to the Nut Cracker Ballet with them and what fun that evening was for at least some of us, I won’t say who fell asleep but it wasn’t me!  And while living in Germany we attended many Weihnachtsmarkt Christmas markets and saw how people in Europe celebrate the birth of our Lord.  I also remember how fun it was to spend Boxing Day in London, England, and seeing all the decorations for Christmas as we drove from Germany to England and all the countries we went through.  Oh such memories of Christmases past.

I think of today and how I celebrate so differently now that most of my children are gone from home with families of their own and making their own Christmas memories.  I seem to put up fewer and fewer decorations every year and it reminds me of my Mom and how as she aged she also put up fewer decorations for any holiday.  I think I understand now why she did this.  It is because as we age we long for authenticity at Christmas time and not the fake hype that is sold on television and in stores.  I will celebrate this year by going to the Christmas Eve Church celebration as that is always so emotionally moving.  I will also prepare a traditional Christmas feast for the ones who are able to come and spend Christmas Day with my son and me.  Of course we will exchange gifts and enjoy being together and celebrate the remembrance of what it means to us that Jesus came to earth as a baby, went through the teen years, and grew to manhood.  In fact I am busy making doll clothes for my granddaughter as I will be giving her a doll and I hope that she will have many hours of fun playing dress-up with her dolls.  She is such a sweetheart and I wanted to give her something that I didn’t buy, but spent many hours making.  It makes me happy to make her happy, just as I felt when my adult children were all young.  I want to enjoy every moment with my family during the holidays because I have lived long enough now to see that tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us.  In fact I have outlived my two siblings now.  That is rather a sobering statistic to me.  But I hope to live as long as my parents who both died in their eighties!  It is up to God and not me as to how long I will be here but I do hope to be filled with joy for every moment I have with my children and grandchild.  I look forward to seeing them and sitting down together on Christmas Day around a beautiful table of good food and fun.  Yes, I am living and celebrating Christmas in the present.

But I also often wonder what future Christmases will be like.  I am especially wondering what my son will be like as an adult, who he marries, what job he has, how many children will they have, and how will they all get along with the older family members.  I look forward to going to one of my children’s homes and see them cooking the big feast and watching them rush around and all that goes with the big Christmas dinner.  I hope that I can still bring the pecan pie just like my grandmother did every Christmas for as long as she had her home.  I hope that I can entertain the grandchildren and grand-pups as my Mom and Dad did while I rushed around the kitchen preparing the Christmas feast.  I hope that I can be the encourager to my children that my grandparents and parents were to me during that Christmas in the future.  But most of all I long to celebrate the birthday of Jesus with everyone in heaven.  I hope and trust that God will continue to work in all our lives to bring us to where He wants us to be so that we will be in heaven together.  That will be a super fantastic mind-blowing birthday party, don’t you think?

So what does Christmas mean to me?  It means so much, so many wonderful memories already made and the hope of more memories to be made in the future, but mostly Christmas means to me that a special baby was born, like none other, and I will forever be thankful that I have meet Him and call Him my King.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.   Thou shalt multiply the nation, Thou shalt increase their gladness; They will be glad in Thy presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.  For Thou shalt break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.  For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.  Isaiah 9:2-7, (New American Standard Bible 1977). 

What Christmas means to me is that I no longer walk in darkness.  I no longer fret about my past, my present, my future.  I no longer need to worry as I once did.  It isn’t because Santa brought me my Christmas wish, no!  It is because a babe was born and grew to adulthood and came to show me the Light!  Merry Christmas everyone!

Until next time…Katherine

 

Gifts Of The Season

My son and I are reading through the Bible together each morning before he goes to school and recently we read about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  As this is the season of Christmas I was thinking about gifts and something occurred to me.  A gift of the Holy Spirit is given to each Christian for a very important reason, to build up and encourage the body of Christ which is the church.  Let’s look at this passage and see what we can learn from it.

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.  1 Corinthians 12:1-11, (New American Standard Bible 1977 or NASB77).

During this Christmas season why don’t we concentrate on giving each other the best gifts, the gift of building each other up for the common good, just as this passage tells us.  When we use our spiritual gifts we become an encourager to others.  We share our gift to help fellow Christians in many ways.  For instance one person may be really good at counseling others, they listen well and they help us work through our problems and help us heal our hurts from the blows of life.  That is how I view the gift of healing.  Or another understands the scriptures very well and can explain the Bible in such a way that it makes you understand it so much better, and that is the gift word of knowledge.  Another person seems to see right to the motive of a friendship we have and helps us to figure out if this person we are allowing into our life is good for us or good for our family.  That is someone who has the gift of distinguishing of spirits and is certainly helpful to us and an encouragement as well.  And then who can go without a friend who has the gift the word of wisdom.  And then of course there are the gifts of prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, and miracles listed here also.  In the building up of the church these have certainly been useful and are meant to encourage fellow believers in Christ.  All of these gifts are only available to us because of the birth, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Christmas is the time set aside to focus on the birth of Jesus!  After all, none of us would have any of these gifts were it not for Jesus having been born into our sinful world.  I don’t know about you but I certainly am thankful we have these gifts and we use these gifts to encourage and comfort others.

How can we Christians use our spiritual gifts this Christmas season?  Well, first of all, we know that the reason we have spiritual gifts is to be an encourager to the body of Christ but I believe that we are to also be the light in a darkened world.  I think of the star that shined so brightly in the night sky that showed the wise men the way to baby Jesus, we are like that light and we are to shine brightly to show the lost the way to salvation, the way to Jesus.  What better time to shine than during the Christmas season!  As the world focuses on stuff and Santa and possessions and parties we can help to bring the focus on the baby Jesus and how this babe was the greatest gift ever given to us.  How do we do this?

But earnestly desire the greater gifts.  And I show you a still more excellent way.

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. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 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. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13, (NASB77).

I think this world has enough noisy gong or a clanging cymbal, don’t you?  That is what we see around us, people making noise and shouting opinions and trying to shout each other down.  We are to stop making noise and show those who are living in darkness the light of Jesus by showing them true love.  Love is the greatest gift that we can give to others.  We show love in many ways.  For some people who are prickly to deal with we show our love to them by leaving them alone.  For those who are hurting we show love by listening and helping them make better choices in life to heal their hurts.  To those who are grieving we show them love by our tears and being there to grieve with them.  For those who are in need of financial help we show up with groceries and gas money and help where we can.  To the waitress or waiter at a restaurant we are pleasant and leave a big tip regardless of how they may snub us just because they saw us pray and think we will cheat them out of a good tip.  To the checker at the store who looks tired we say an encouraging word and tell them we will pray for them.  To the teacher who is overwhelmed we tell them we are praying for them and give them a nice gift for Christmas to let them know how much we appreciate all they are doing in the classroom.  To our family members we can be patient and kind.  And sometimes we have to change our own attitude because we realize that we are acting more like the Grinch than Christ!  Love is the key because love is the greatest gift given to us, the love of God to give up His only Son to die on a cross to bring salvation to the world (John 3:13-21).  The love of Jesus to willingly give His life and to take every sin ever committed past, present, and future, upon Himself as a sacrifice for all people everywhere (Romans 3:25).  And who can forget the love of the Holy Spirit given to us by God who comes and comforts us and intercedes for us in prayer (Romans 8:26).  Love.  Love is the greatest gift and one the world needs so desperately.  Let us give the gift of love and use our spiritual gifts to show love to a dying world and let them know that a babe was born in Bethlehem…Merry Christmas!

Until next time…Katherine

How’s It Working Out?

I was thinking about a certain person I knew years ago that had a rather shallow relationship with God.  This person had said the right prayer and been baptized and went to church, did all the right things you might say.  But as the years passed and we reconnected I could see that the person had not grown any in the knowledge of the things of God.  The same pat phrases were still being relied upon; you know the ones I mean.  “Keep on praying!”  “Trust in the Lord!”  “Go with God!”  These platitudes were not really saying anything other than an outdated lingo in the things of God.  As I walked away from this person I thought how sad it is that they just haven’t grown any in their walk with Christ.  You see, I think I know why, because their faith was shallow when they began the relationship with Jesus and while they wanted to have the goodness of God they didn’t want to change all that much.  So I asked the person, “How’s it working out, you and Jesus?”  Their reply was even sadder still because they just bowed their head in shame.  I have found in reading the Bible that there are many who are just like this person I used to know and I see how Jesus responded to them.

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable:  “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up.  Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”  When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

His disciples asked him what this parable meant.  He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “ ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’  “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.  Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.  Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.  The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.  But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.  Luke 8:4:15, (NIV).

You see the person I mentioned was like the seed, the word of God, that fell in among the thrones or fell into the rocky ground.  The person thought that they started a relationship with Christ but over time they fell away from all things of God even though they attended church and looked like a Christian on the outside.  But God looks at the heart and knows our motivation and sees the real person.  Without God life doesn’t really work all that well and for those who have tasted the heavenly things there is a warning we need to read and take heed.

Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And God permitting, we will do so.  It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.  Hebrews 6:1-8, (NIV).

Is the person I knew long ago saved?  It isn’t for me to know only God and that person know whether or not salvation awaits them in the judgement that comes to all of us.  But I do believe it is my responsibility to pray for this person and ask God to keep the root alive, to give the greatest of opportunities to this person and I am sure that God will answer my prayers.  The warning is real though, and one that we all need to heed for ourselves.  We need to be sure that we are growing in our walk with the Lord; we need to be sure that we are maturing as Christians.  Notice how the process works set forth by the writer of Hebrews.  First we learn the elementary things, just like in life we go to elementary school before we go to high school so in the things of God we learn more and more as the years go by.  As we mature we aren’t constantly being rebaptized to prove our faith to ourselves and others, but we are growing and our faith growth should be evident to all who know us but most of all to ourselves. If we don’t grow a stronger root then we are like the first parable that we read and we will fall away from God and the things of God.   So perhaps it is a good time to stop and ask yourself the same question I asked so long ago of my acquaintance, “So how’s it working out, you and Jesus?”  For your sake I hope the answer is that you have grown tremendously in your faith and your walk with Jesus.  Church is great, small groups are great, but unless you are reading the Bible and applying what you are learning to your life then things might not be working out all that well.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.  Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:1-6, (NIV).

Please examine your life and see if you are maturing in Christ.  Let your light shine and keep showing this darkened world that Jesus, that babe we celebrate this time of year, is still alive and shining through you.  The message we have is to be shared, that is the hope that the birth of Christ brought to us all.  For the person that once walked with Christ but now you aren’t sure is walking still, pray for them because God is the God of many miracles and can harden or soften hearts.  Send them a Christmas card and remind them that Jesus still lives, still shines, and still forgives repentant hearts.

Until next time…Katherine

Never Alone

I read a headline recently that stated many people in Great Britain will be alone on Christmas Day and I thought how sad this is.  The truth is, though, that as many families are living farther away from each other and travel is expensive and not easy it is probably true that many will be alone during Christmas.  Even in my own family here in America there will only be two of my four children home for Christmas Day this year.  I understand the difficulty of working and vacation times and travel obstacles and expenses that come with the holidays.  So I am always thankful for the ones that are able to come and spend some time with me.  But I also think that Christians are never alone, not really.  We have a family, the church family, around us that lift us up and encourage us even when our biological family lives far from us.  We have something else that the world doesn’t have which we are reminded of in the story of Moses when he was getting ready to die and passing his leadership to Joshua and what he told the younger man.

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Deuteronomy 31:7-8, (New International Version or NIV).

I find it comforting to know that God is always with me, that Jesus never leaves me because I can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and I do not get discouraged for long.  Everyone has a down day once in a while because we are human and we get discouraged and lonely and depressed sometimes but for me there is a remedy that many in this world do not have. I have been given the best gifts of all, faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13: 13).  I have a constant source of comfort in the advocate, comforter, (John 14:26).  Do you know about the Advocate?

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”  John 14:15-21, (NIV).

This gift of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, the Teacher is only with those who love Jesus and have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and submit to His will and obey God.  But what a precious gift this is for we Christians because we are never alone not ever.  The people who are not Christians do not have such an advocate and receive no comfort, and have no understanding of the things of God.  They are truly lonely even when in the middle of a huge crowd, but we, whether in a crowd or in a time of aloneness, we have peace with God which is certainly a great comfort.  We have the love of Jesus, which is tender and a great comfort.  We are never alone and on our own.  I love that, don’t you?  But as we pause during this busy time in December and think for a moment about why we have this gift we will remember how this gift came to be in us and with us.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.  Luke 2:1-7, (NIV).

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.  Luke 23:44-46, (NIV).

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”  Luke 24:36-39, (NIV).

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  Luke 24:45-49, (NIV).

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.  “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”  The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.  Revelation 22:12-17, (NIV).

The reason that Christians are never alone even when we sit in our homes all by ourselves as I am now is clear, a babe was born, lived to adulthood, died on a cross, buried, rose again to life, showed the disciples the truth of it all, and left the Holy Spirit to be with every Christian until Jesus returns for His own, the church.  This is the Christmas message, this is the Easter message, this is the Churches message to the world.  You are not alone! Those who know Christ are not alone.  I gain a lot of strength from my Christian friends and I am thankful for every one of them as they are a real blessing in my life.  That is the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring closeness and a bond between people not related by blood and make us feel like a family.  Dear Christian, lean on your brothers and sisters in Christ when you need to because we love you and want to encourage and help where we can.  Merry Christmas everyone.

Until next time…Katherine

How People Respond To Christmas

I was reading in Matthew recently the account of two horrible demon-possessed men who lived in a cave near a city that Jesus was going to visit.  Let’s take a look at this together.

When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. The demons began to entreat Him, saying, “If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And He said to them, “Go!” And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.  Matthew 8:28-34, (New American Standard Bible or NASB).

These two demon-possessed men were vile and so worrisome to the locals that they refused to pass by this cave because they were afraid of being harmed, possibly even killed by these violent men.  Now think about that for a moment.  Are their places you don’t go and people you stay away from because you feel fearful they will harm you?  I remember while growing up that there were two young bullies everyone was afraid of and those who had the misfortune to cross their paths were harmed or had money stolen and for some of the females they were raped.  One of them, perhaps both, went to prison and the community was relieved to see him gone for a while.  The demon-possessed men that Jesus walked passed were taunting Him because they knew that He was the Son of God!  Think of that, two out-of-control demon-possessed bullies recognized who Jesus was and spoke out loudly fearing that Jesus would send them to hell where they belonged.

Now imagine you were a poor pig farmer just trying to raise your pigs to get them to market so that you could have enough money to survive and you see these men yelling at Jesus.  What would you think about that conversation?  I would certainly be listening very intently especially when the bullies you were afraid of said they wanted Jesus to send them into your herd of pigs!  I mean, this is your livelihood they are talking about!!!  I notice how Jesus did not respond to the bullies, just walked on until the demon-possessed men said that they wanted to go into the herd of pigs and then Jesus simply said, “Go!”  Such a simple statement that didn’t take much of Jesus’s time and boom, those demons ran that herd of pigs over the cliff and into the sea and the pigs died.  The livelihood of the pig farmers was gone, the whole herd of them!  Would you have stopped to ask Jesus to repay you for the pigs that were just destroyed or would you run to town for help?  I think if it were today the farmers would have pulled out their cell phones and recorded the entire incident and then dialed 911 to inform the police and ask for help!  Well, since they had no cell phones back then the farmers ran to the city and informed every one of what had just taken place.  The crowds from the city came to meet Jesus and I am sure that they wanted to thank Jesus for getting rid of the demons in the bullies and making the two men mentally healthy and well again, right?  I mean, now the path past the caves is safe once more and so surely these city folk will be appreciative, right?  Wrong!!!!!!!

And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their regionThese city dwellers wanted Jesus to leave their corner of the world because of the good that Jesus had done in restoring two of their citizens to perfect health, right?  No, of course not, they wanted Jesus to leave because they were afraid of Him.  He was powerful, so powerful that He could state one simple word and demons fled.  Imagine what they thought He could do to them as they all were sinners and not obeying the law.  How do I know this?  Because of the pigs, Jewish people didn’t have anything to do with pigs.  Rather than think of the good that was done for the two cave dwellers they thought of the property that was destroyed and worried that Jesus might do the same to them and they didn’t want that to happen.  So the people of this city asked, begged really, that Jesus leave the area immediately.  The power of God and God’s Son is always feared by sinners because most sinners know they sin but don’t want to change, don’t want to stop sinning, and don’t want to live a holy and righteous life.  How sad.

Christmas is coming and we will soon be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and the hope that came into this world when the Messiah arrived.  What will be the reaction of most people to this reminder of the birth of Jesus?  Will the celebrations on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day be centered on this good news of Jesus’s birth or will these celebrations revolve around Santa Claus and marketing schemes to make us want more and more stuff?  How will you respond?  Will you pause during this time of celebration and think about Jesus and what it means to you personally that He was born to Mary and Joseph and grew from an infant to a man?  Will you respond with thanks and gratitude at the mercy you have been extended and the grace you have received?  Or are you one of the crowd that know Jesus exists but want Him to hurry away and not cause you to change your way of living.  That is why the crowd wanted Jesus to go away from their town because they didn’t want to change their way of doing life!  Like so many today the crowd wants to never be reminded that ahead of them is a day of judgement where all their sins will be exposed and they will be cast out into outer darkness like the demons were.  They don’t want to think of it or hear about it, they just want to have fun and do what they want to do and think what they want to think.  They tell themselves that all that really matters in this life is your own happiness and to do your own thing!  But is this really the case?

And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.”  “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”  Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.  “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”  The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.  Revelation 22:10-17, (NASB).

Are you one of the crowd that repels Jesus or are you one of the blessed ones that is the bride?  Christmas reminds you that you have a choice to make to either be a dog or a bride, choose wisely.

Until next time…Katherine

That One Person Who Riles You

Christmas vacation is often a time when divorced parents hurt the most.  For some it is because they are required to allow their lovely children to spend this time with the parent who doesn’t have them full-time.  For others it is because they don’t even get to see their child during this family oriented holiday.  And for some children it is a time when they long to see the other parent but the other parent has no wish to see them.  How sad, but this is the reality many divorced families face, my own included.  I have often felt disgusted by the holidays because I really didn’t know what to do.  So often well-meaning people told me not to judge in such circumstance but I don’t really believe that is what the Bible teaches, I think that is culture and world views.  So today I want to examine exactly what the Bible, especially Jesus, said about judging others as to their behavior.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Matthew 7:1-2, (New International Version or NIV).    

Well there it is, do not judge and it is Jesus who is speaking these words!  Right there is where the world and those well-meaning Christians stop.  They kindly remind me that if I judge others then I also will be judged.  But isn’t everyone going to be judged anyway?  So what is this verse really saying that we are to never judge another human being even if they are being evil and mean?  Oh I do not think so or otherwise there would be no prisons and no courts in this land.  There has to be more to it than this first sentence and so I read on.  As I understand this if I do judge another person then I will be judged by the same standard that I have used to judge another person.  Well if my standard is based upon Bible truths I should have nothing to fear in judging another.  After all I like what Paul says in Corinthians.

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.  1 Corinthians 4:3-5, (NIV).

So let me get this straight!  God is the judge and if I am patient in time the real motives of the person I want to judge will come out.  For some it may take thirty years and for others it may not be until after they are dead but eventually the real truth will be revealed.  So I can be patient and stop making snap judgements of another’s behavior.  Yes, I can agree to this except when parenting a child and then I had better be disciplining them for their own good and the good of society but somehow I think Jesus is not talking about children here.  And I can in the meantime check my own motives to be sure they are in-line with scripture. I want to go back to Jesus and the words He spoke next after the Matthew passage.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  Matthew 7:3-5, (NIV).    

What?  You mean I have a huge piece of wood in my own eye and yet I am trying to tell another how they should live their life and deal with the tiny speck in their eye?  Wow!  This is truly convicting and so up until now I can agree that I have no right to judge another person in the way they choose to live their life even if their actions or inactions affect me or my family.  Well is that the end of it all?  Not really look what Jesus said next.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.  Matthew 7:6, (New International Version or NIV).    

Well there is something to think about when it comes to interactions with others.  When Jesus says dogs and pigs he isn’t thinking kindly upon these two animals.  In fact roaming packs of dogs that harm livestock and people were common then as now.  Oh, I forgot!  People who have never been on a ranch or farm might not realize that roaming packs or dogs, wolves, coyotes, can be very injurious to animals and people, they can kill you.  Just so you understand this passage.  In metro cities you don’t have wild dogs probably but I bet you do have gangs and the purpose of gangs is to harm others and take what they want and kill whom they want, right?  So maybe they are also dogs?  Hmm!  And as to pigs, no upstanding Jew would ever have anything to do with swine, nor would they raise them.  But I did see a documentary film the other day about how dangerous herds of wild hogs can be and not to go near them unless you are prepared to shoot them or otherwise you might die.  Now this is bringing into focus what Jesus is saying about judging, don’t you think?  If you run with dogs and pigs you will not survive so be sure that you use good judgement (which involves judging) in evaluating who your friends are and who you choose to hang around with.  Am I wrong?  Need proof?

Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.  Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.  Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.  For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.  If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.  Proverbs 9:7-12, (NIV).  

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.  Proverbs 13:1, (NIV).

So how does all of this help we who are divorced and having to share our children with the other parent and family?  Do we automatically throw ex-spouses and their new families into the realm of dogs and pigs or do we stop making snap judgements and examine our own lives as to the motives that we have concerning these ex-people.  We need to be wise; we need to be sure that we are disciplining our children so that they will not become a scoffer or a mocker.  It is hard especially if the other family in their life doesn’t honor God or have the same morals, values, and principles that Christians have.  But judging others is allowed when making a judgement as to who to be around and how to approach them.  We have to judge some circumstances in life in order not to fall into trouble ourselves.  So judge wisely, teach your children to judge wisely, and remember that there are dogs and swine out there that could care less about you or your children or what is Godly and good.  Teach your children to see and know the difference in who is trustworthy and who is not as this is a fact in life, not all parents or family members are trustworthy and good.  Not all are bad either, so don’t create problems where there really isn’t one just because you no longer trust that other family.  Be wise and pray often for God’s guidance in such matters.  God has never let me down yet and I have relied upon His guidance for many years now.

Until next time…Katherine