Christmas is Coming!

Here’s one of my older Christmas posts that still carries a message that all of us need to be reminded of from time to time.

CHRISTMAS IS COMING!

Exodus 20: 1-3

And God spoke all these words  “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Christmas is right around the corner and we know what that means. Shopping! Shopping and more shopping! It’s all fun until the bills start rolling in. And then the worry starts along with arguments between you and your spouse (or between you and the credit card companies). Suddenly all that peace and joy of the Christmas season has vanished!

Most Americans (and that includes me) have bought into what the advertisers tell us–WE NEED MORE THINGS! If we just had more things, we’d be happier. If we had more things, we could finally get skinnier, prettier, and richer, then we’d be happy!

Right? WRONG!

If we believe what the advertisers want us to believe then we have no freedom or peace or joy. Because we’re too busy buying all the THINGS we supposedly need. And then after we have the THING, then we have to worry about paying for them. Before we know it, we realize we bought the wrong  THING, and then we need the new THING.

And so the cycle continues.

The above verse tells us all we need to know to find freedom. Let’s look at it again. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.  Do you see it now?

If you want out of the land of slavery, then have no other gods but the one, true God. What are your other gods? Nice clothes? Cars? Gadgets and more gadgets? A lifestyle you can’t afford?

Instead, keep your focus on God, follow His principles for a godly life, and then you will find the peace and joy that Christmas promises us.

One of the things my husband and I love to do during the Christmas season is to visit neighboring churches for their Christmas plays, programs, and concerts. It’s fun and festive and free!  It’s a great way to focus on the real reason for the season. And it doesn’t cost a penny.

Have a great Christmas season!

But He Was A Good Person…

Rocko Smith III was born a fortunate man.

One could even say born with a silver spoon in his hand.

 

But he was a good person.

He didn’t squander or waste.

Instead he did his best posthaste.

 

Unlike others in his class.

He didn’t party hard and fast.

 

He worked hard and did good deeds.

He truly was a good person but…

 

One bad choice he made.

Or should I say one good choice he didn’t make.

 

But he was a good person…

 

 

The car circled the public square for the third time. The Christmas lights sparkled and blinked merrily but Rocko wasn’t there for the decorations. His gaze went past the bright lights and peered into the shadows.

He tapped the driver’s shoulder. “Pull over, Jives.”

“My name’s not Jives, Rocko.”

“I know that but can’t you humor me just once, Martin? I always wanted a driver named Jives.”

“If it makes you happy, I suppose you can. Just tonight since it’s Christmas Eve.”

“That’s a deal, Jives.” He opened his door and picked up the package off the seat.

“Be back in a few.”

“Take as long as you need, Boss.”

“My name’s not boss.”

I know but I always wanted to say that.”

“Fair enough…Jives.”

Rocko chuckled as he made his way toward the alley. With his back turned to the merry lights, the night turned dark. And cold. He shivered glad to have his warm coat and gloves.

He walked into the alley. He saw his target. “Hi.”

“I’m not doing nothing wrong.”

“I know that.  I just wanted to give you a Christmas gift.”

“I don’t need no charity.”

“I’m sure you don’t but still I’d like to give you this gift.” He reached the box toward the man.

“Why?”

“Because I’ve been so fortu—”

Blinding lights came toward them.

 

Rocko stood in a line—a very long line. It went as far as the eye could see and he was at the end of the line. In front of him stood a man in tattered clothes. Rocko still had on his warm coat and gloves. “Hey buddy, where are we? What’s going on? How did I get here?”

The man turned.

“You’re the man from the alley.”

“And you’re the man that was in my alley.”

“What happened? Why are we here?”

“Guess that runaway truck got both of us.”

“You mean I’m dead.”

“It seems to be so.”

“But I was just trying to do something nice for someone on Christmas Eve.”

“Hey don’t blame me. I didn’t ask you to come in my alley.”

“No. No. Of course not. That’s not what I meant at all. I’m just surprised. So then what’s this line?”

“My guess is that it’s the judging line.”

“What’s that?”

“You know it’s where God decides if you go to heaven or hell.”

“I don’t believe in God.”

“Believe or not, I think you’re about to meet your maker.”

“You really think God’s at the end of this line?”

“No, we’re at the end of the line. He is at the beginning of the line. Of course, He is the Alpha and the Omega.”

“You sound like you know what you’re talking about.”

He shrugged. “I used to go to church a long time ago. Of course, I started making bad choices that ended up with me being in that alley. First it was alcohol. Then it was drugs. Then I needed more money to get the drugs and ended up in prison. And then the alley.”

“So things aren’t looking good for you, huh?”

“I guess you could say that. But I made the choices so I gotta face the consequences. Got no one to blame but myself.”

“Sorry about that buddy.”

“It is what it is. How about you? How are you feeling about the whole thing?”

“It’s true I didn’t believe in God but I am…was a good person. For the most part I tried to do the right thing. I was kind to the people in my life, I donated lots of money to charities. And not just money but my time as well. I think I’ll be OK.”

“Sounds like it.”

And then it was their turn.

A man sat on a large golden throne. But not just any man, the Son of Man but also the Son of God. He wore a robe of white so bright it glowed. To his left was brightness and warmth that beckoned all. To his left darkness and death.

The man from the alley fell on his face.

“Stand up, Stanley.”

He lifted his head. “I can’t. I’m not worthy to approach you, Lord.”

“I know you Stanley and you know me. Please stand up. Fear not, you have been made righteous through my blood.”

As Stanley stood, his tattered clothes turned into a glowing white robe. “But I’m not worthy. I’ve done so many bad things. Made so many mistakes.”

“And yet I know you, Stanley.”

Rocko breathed a sigh of relief. It was going to be OK. If someone like Stanley got to go to heaven, surely he would. After all, he was a good person. A really good person.

“Please go to the left, Stanley. There are people waiting for you. People who love you.”

It was his turn. He walked up to the throne with a confident smile.

The man stared at his for several long moments. Then with a booming voice, “Who approaches my throne?”

Gone was the kind loving voice, in its place was a cold angry voice. Something was wrong. Stanley had knelt so Rocko knelt. “It’s me. Rocko Smith III, Lord.”

“You dare to call me Lord. I do not know you.”

“True but I was a really good person.”

“I do not know you and you do not know me.”

“But I want to know you. Now.”

“Did you not have chances when you were alive?”

“Well, sure I had chances but I didn’t think you were real. Everyone said you were a myth. Obviously, I was wrong about that and I’m sorry. But I was a really good person. I worked hard. I was nice to people. I gave money to…”

“Your good deeds are like filthy rags. They mean nothing to me. Please go to the right.”

He looked to his right and only saw darkness awaiting him. “That can’t be right. You let Stanley, the drug addict into heaven. That’s where I belong. In the light. In heaven.”

“I never knew you.” His voice was heavy with sorrow.

“It’s not fair.” Invisible hands pulled him toward the darkness. “But I was a really good pers…”

 

Matthew 3: 3

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

HAVE YOU MADE YOUR CHOICE?

STRUGGLING? Me Too!

1 John 4: 4

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them,

because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Who is the “them” being referred to in the verse? The verse prior talks about the spirit of the antichrist–in other words the spirit of Satan. And we know that Satan has come to lie, steal and destroy us. I don’t know what your struggles are. It could be physical, psychological, or spiritual–probably all of them.

But I do know that the enemy wants to destroy us–God’s family. In HOPE PREVAILS, Dr. Michelle Bengston writes, “our enemy doesn’t play fair.” So true! She goes on to say he knows our weaknesses and uses them to try to destroy our peace and joy, but we don’t have to let him.

We don’t have to listen to him–our enemy.

I choose to believe God and his promises. 1 John 4: 4 says we have overcome them. Not that we might overcome them but that we have overcome them. If you’re struggling like I am right now, you might be saying it doesn’t feel like it. That’s when you need to stay in faith the most.

If you say, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” then chances are you won’t.

But we can choose to listen to God–our loving Father and say, “I can. I can. I can.” Your circumstances might not change, but your attitude will and  then you, too, can say that you have overcome.

YOUR TURN: Please share your circumstances that you are struggling with so I can pray for you.

UNTIL NEXT TIME…GOD BLESS & GOOD READING!

WORRY NOT!

Matthew 6: 3-4

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself.

Each day has enough trouble of its own.

If you’d asked me last week if I was a worrier, I would have said no. But I found out this week I was wrong! Nobody likes admitting they were wrong and I’m no exception but here I am admitting just that.

Presently I’m doing a Bible study based on Elizabeth George’s book–LOVING GOD WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This week’s topic was worry. I was almost tempted to forego this week’s homework since I don’t consider worrying to be one of my weaknesses. One of the tasks we did was to write down our concerns or worries into one of two categories.

First category was TODAY.

The second was IN THE FUTURE.

I wrote down six things but the shocking thing was that four of them were concerned with the future and only two for that specific day. Wow! That was an eye opener. And the truth was I could have written four or five or even more under IN THE FUTURE. I had no idea how many of my concerns are about the future.

I’ve been in horrible pain for the last several weeks as I go through a treatment regimen for the third time, but this past week has been even worse. The pain has been almost unbearable. I was feeling so discouraged and hopeless. It felt as if I was never going to get better.

As I looked at that list, I immediately changed the way I prayed. Instead of praying for the “big” things–like healing my brain tumors, I simply prayed for enough grace to face the day in a godly way–for God’s favor and mercy for that day.

And you know what?

I did have a better day. And the next day the pain improved a bit more, but even more important I had God’s peace again. So I’m determined to stay focused on this day and only this day. As the verse said, tomorrow will take care of itself.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray for the big things because we should, but I’m saying we need to focus our energies on one day at a time, especially when we’re in a difficult time.  When we start to think too much about all the things that might happen in the future, we stop living in the present. We stop living in faith which can lead to us losing our hope, our peace, and our joy.

So…. WORRY NOT!

YOUR TURN: How about you? Maybe it’s time to make your own list and see what category  your worries or concerns fall under– TODAY or IN THE FUTURE.

Dealing with Discouragement

Romans 15: 13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,

so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Joy? Peace? Hope?

Those things sound wonderful. Unfortunately when you have a chronic illness or a long-term situation, it’s so easy to lose them.  Instead of focusing on God and his goodness, we begin to focus on our troubles. Before we know it, we are thick in the throes of discouragement.  If discouragement continues it leads us into a darkness.

That’s where I am right now–in the darkness of discouragement.

But I’ve been telling myself that it’s normal to feel discouraged at the moment. I’ve spent more than four years dealing with my brain tumors when the doctors told me it would only take two years. I’m in the middle of my third round of chemotherapy to try to save what’s left of my hearing–which isn’t much.

It feels horrible! But I realized something yesterday. I’ve set myself up to feel that way. I’ve been telling people that feeling this bad is part of the process and that when the chemo is over I can start to regain my strength, my health, my peace and my joy. 

Proverbs 23: 7 (NKJV) tells us “For as he thinks in his heart so is he.” Wow–talk about setting myself up to feel bad! That’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve been telling myself and everyone else that feeling bad is part of the process, something to be endured and then overcome it later.

That doesn’t sound like me having much faith in God, his love or his power! Instead that sounds a lot more like me believing Satan’s lies that God doesn’t have the power or at the very least he won’t use it on pitiful little me because I’m not worthy.

 In the darkness, we lose our way along with our joy and peace and hope. So how do we get out of that darkness when we’ve lost all sense of direction? We must turn our eyes to our Savior. As we draw near to him, the light will begin to shine. The more light, the easier it is to find our way back to the joy, the peace, and the hope that God promises to each of his children in spite of our circumstances.

That’s what I want! I may still have to endure the side effects of the chemo, but I don’t have to endure the the hopelessness of losing my peace and joy because God is with me always.

ONE THING

Luke 10:42

There is really only one thing worth being concerned about.

Mary has discovered it-and I won’t take it away from her!

 

When I read this verse, I’m always reminded of the movie City Slickers and Jack Palance in the scene where sits on a horse as he holds up his finger and talks about the meaning of life. Billy Chrystal’s character seems confused and doesn’t know what the one thing is.

As Christians, we should quickly know what the one thing is—our relationship with God. Mary knew that it was more valuable to spend time with Jesus than be busy doing other things, even important things.

The way to develop a more intimate relationship with God is by spending time with God. And we can do that through our daily meditation time. For me that includes reading the Bible, meditating on specific verses, and singing.

Now you might be saying:  but I volunteer at church; but I write devotions for a Christian website; but I write Christian stories; but I sing in the choir; but…but…but…Do any of these sound familiar?

Those are all wonderful things, but those are ways to serve God not develop a stronger relationship with him. Unfortunately, we may become so focused on pursuing our God-given dream we forget what the one thing really is our relationship with the Dream Giver instead of the dream.

It doesn’t matter how much money you have.

It doesn’t matter how many friends you have.

It doesn’t matter how big your house is.

It doesn’t matter what kind of car you drive.

It doesn’t matter how successful you are.

It doesn’t matter how powerful you are.

Until your relationship with God is right, nothing else will bring true peace or joy to your life. Nothing can replace your relationship with your Creator.

God is the one true thing!

RENEWING YOUR MIND

Romans 12: 2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I wrote the second part of this post in August but it’s even more true for me today–more than a month later. September was a busy–busy month for me. I had a new book release (GAME ON) and along with that more than 30 guest visits on other people’s blogs and…my husband’s birthday, our 15th anniversary, two camping trips and a week-long visit with my brother and sisters from out of state and two chemotherapy treatments.

Yes, I’m back on chemotherapy in hopes that it will restore my hearing to what it was in May before I started having “episodes” with my hearing once again. It’s been more than four years of treatments for my brain tumors, losing more of my balance and my hearing. And I hate to admit it but I’m discouraged.

And that’s why I am posting RENEWING YOUR MIND again. I need to be reminded that renewing your mind is something that needs done–all the time. If we don’t then we can start to believe the devil’s lies. What sort of lies? That God doesn’t really love us  or we wouldn’t be going through this. That we’re all alone in our struggles. That we might as well accept our situation because it’s not going to get better…the lies can go on and on.

It’s up to us to not listen to those lies and to keep our focus on how good God is and how much He loves us and that God still has a good plan for us no matter what our circumstances are at the moment and we do that by….

RENEWING YOUR MIND

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. But exactly how do we do that? The “experts” say we do that by reading and studying God’s Word. And I think they’re right. Of course, there are other things (going to church; praying; being thankful; praising God are a few examples) we can do as well but reading, studying, and believing God’s Word are surely the best ways.

But why do we need to the renewing of our minds?  Life can be really difficult. First we have our own personal problems such as chronic illness, money problems, and difficult family relationships to name just a few. Then there’s the state of the country and the world to worry about, not to mention all the difficulties of our friends and families. Let’s not forget about all the tragedies we see on the nightly news

If we don’t renew our mind on a regular basis, sadness, sorrow, worry, anxiety, and even anger are going invade our thoughts. And by regular basis I mean every day–or more. The more we dwell on the negative–on how helpless we are or how “bad” the world is the more negative we become. Before you know it, we’ve lost the peace and joy that is our spiritual birthright.

And that’s why we need the renewing of our mind on a regular basis. But like the infomercials says–wait…that’s not all! Yes renewing our mind will keep us in a good place spiritually, but it does so much more than that. The second part of the verse says, Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.  As we renew our minds, we will begin to know God’s will for us.

How good is that!

GOD BLESS & GOOD READING!