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Forgiven…Loved…..Transformed!

Archive for the tag “Christmas”

Deidentified

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

When I used to work in both the restaurant and grocery industries, there were times that you needed to close down stores. Sometimes it was good, like when you were closing a competitor’s brand down because you were converting it to your brand. Then there were the not-so-good times, such as when one of your stores failed and you had to close it or when a company claimed bankruptcy and they closed several stores over a timeline.

One thing was common in each of these situations, you had to deidentify the store.

This meant that any branding materials or operating manuals or confidential information must be removed from the location. The most notable point in the process is when the front sign comes down. That is when people driving by that location for years to come will say, “I remember when such and such used to be in that spot. I wonder whatever happened to them.”

Now that I am in ministry, I hope I will never have to deidentify a church.

But the interesting thing is that today I had to do just that.

You see, Christmas holiday is over. I went into the church this morning and started looking for the boxes to pack up anything that looked like Christmas.

When I was done, I texted my wife and told her that I just deidentified Christmas.

I had to stop and pause for a moment after I texted that.

I deidentified Christmas.

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Now people driving by the church will say, “I remember when that church had a nativity scene outside and the cow was a little lopsided, it used to catch my attention every day that I drove to work.”

As a Christian, we should never think about deidentifying Christmas from our lives. Yes, the holiday itself is simply that, a day to commemorate the birth of Christ. Similar to baptism where it is an outward symbol of an inward decision. Christmas holiday itself has absolutely no power.

But the Holy Spirit does.

Now that I took that lopsided cow and put it into the shed, will that random person driving by think of Jesus? Or the church? Or even what happened on the day that we celebrate?

I hope that person will take their faith walk a little farther than just looking for a lopsided cow.

I hope they will realize the power of the God of the Christian faith. King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

But now I want to look at this another way.

Thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit, if you are a member of the family of Christian faith, then you have been deidentified as well.

You see, Jesus stepped into your life, a life that was branded by the sins of your past, and deidentified you of them. He then gave you a new identity, saved.

Now when people drive by your life, they will say, “I remember that guy, he used to do such and such back in the day, but he’s changed. A totally different person!”

That’s what deidentification does.

It changes not just what is inside, but what people see on the outside as well.

So as we move into the new year, if you have spent this 2018 year being identified by your sins, then now is the time to deidentify. Reach out to the creator of identity and as for a new one. Bring about the change that will last for eternity, not just a new year’s resolution that will be gone in a few months.

If you want to know how to deidentify and get a new identity, I want to hear from you. Please email me at fred@fcbc.church. I would love to help you take this faith walk.

Ephesians 4:22-24 – To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Broken

Unless you live a life of perpetual confusion here in America, you know that this upcoming weekend is Christmas. Christmas is a time that many people spend with family and friends. We eat good food (and sometimes bad food that we say is good because of traditions), share gifts, and sing Christmas carols. But this time of year is hard for a lot of people. Because of broken relationships, broken families, or simply broken lives, many are relegated to loneliness, heartbreak, anger, and sadness.

And for me, I have felt very broken this year.

I am not writing this to get the collective pity party “awwww” from my readers. I have a point to all of this. I promise.

This year my business hit a speed bump. That is what I am calling it because speed bumps simply cause us to slow down, not stop. But because of the speed bump, I have had to take a second full-time job. This second job requires a lot of travel, where my business was working out of my home.

Also this year I have had a lot of health problems, almost all of them resulting from blown discs in my lower back. I had surgery in May and just had surgery this week again, resulting in a Christmas that will have me dressed in sweat pants and comfortable clothing, perfect for those big Christmas dinners.

My life isn’t broken, looking at the tough lives of so many other people out there. But it is broken.

And so is yours.

It wasn’t until I was talking to some of the leaders at church that I realized that I was prideful and foolish. When I had surgery back in May I kept much of it to myself. I believed I was the typical guy, can just rebound and I’d be fine. I didn’t need anyone.

But I was wrong.

As I stand before you, I see who I am: a man who needs to confess his pride and foolishness.
Against you only I have sinned,
I’ve done what’s evil in your sight and my heart is crumbling.

  • Altar Boys, “Broken”

This time around I spoke to as many elders and pastors as I could. The result is different. Friends showed up at the hospital to go through this with me. The elders/pastors laid hands on me and prayed. Several people reached out to me afterward to make sure I was ok.

Even though my body is still broken (but healing), being able to go through this with an army behind me that was placed there by God was much more comforting. Sometimes God chooses to reach down and heal us outright. Before you think I am off my rocker, I have seen it first-hand. I’ve seen people healed as we followed Biblical guidelines for healing. Sometimes we need to go through our pain as a consequence of our actions. For me, this second surgery this year is because I didn’t listen to the doctor. Less than a week after surgery in May I was out cutting the grass, building a shed, and hanging a tile splash guard in the kitchen. I wasn’t exactly resting like my doctor told me to do.

Won’t you hear my cry, God?
See this state I’m in,
I know my transgressions are before me, my righteousness is rags,
And my sacrifice to you is this broken heart,
It’s all that I have, it’s all I can give, and it won’t go very far

  • Altar Boys “Broken”

People, have you made some bad choices?

We all have.

And now, I am specifically speaking to Christians. Have you felt that you have let God down? That your righteousness is in rags? That you can’t go another day in this life without a physical intervention from God?

Then Christmas is for you.

Christmas is the perfect definition of grace. God sent His Son to live a sinless life and take the judgment we deserve for our sin. You don’t have to be good before coming to Christ.

Let me repeat that.

You DON’T have to be good before coming to Christ.

Christ did not come to make bad people good.

You are much more important to God than simply making you good.

Christ came to make dead people live.

And I’m broken, broken,
To see myself as I really am: a weak, broken man,
And I’m broken, broken,
Please heal this broken heart today,
Don’t turn it away, no, ‘cause it’s broken.

  • Altar Boys “Broken”

The good comes later. Even if you are already a Christian and have slipped, stumbled, or fallen away. God STILL loves you. Last week’s post on Laodicea proves that!

So just like the doctor takes me in my broken state to help put me back together again, God will take you in your dead state to bring you back to life again. And after you come back to life, you will naturally find your heart changing. You will see your life moving from bad to good. Not because you feel you have to, but because the love you have for God is so immense that you just want to be the best you can be for Him.

It like falling in love with someone. You find yourself doing the things they want because you love them so much.

So remember, when God changes you from dead to alive, you will begin to move from bad to good. And in changing and moving, you will find your brokenness going away.

Many Regrets, One Hope

Luke 2:14 – “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Being 45 years old, a lot has happened in my life. Some things I am very proud of.

In high school I did very well in the science fairs and received a decent amount of college scholarships because of it. I was really into robotics and my senior year I built a robot butler that ran off dual motorcycle batteries and was about 5’ tall. It poured drinks and vacuumed.

When I went to college, I was in a lot of different activities. I acted and did sound design for our theatre, was Production Manager at the radio station (I will forever know how to pronounce a “W” after spending years there) and my senior seminar project was producing a digital demo for a band. These days a digital demo is all too normal, but during the early 90s, digital was almost unheard of.

I became a multi-unit manager at a fairly young age with Taco Bell. Managing 3 stores, building a new one, and leading several regional task forces all by the age of 25 was awesome. That springboarded a career that led to managing 175 units across 26 states and eventually to a long, successful career at a large grocery chain and finally ending in owning my own recruiting franchise.

But along the way, I have had several moments that were not so glorious.

Because of my awkwardness in high school, I never made any close friends. Because of my busyness in college, I never really grew close to anyone there either. Because of my work schedule and strong desire to succeed (pretty much an addiction to work) I was never there for my now ex-wife and kids. My ex-wife eventually gave me up for another guy and the relationship with the kids is strained, although in some ways getting better.

But there are a LOT of days that I wish I would have done things differently.

I know what you are thinking, “But, Fred, you have an amazing life.”

You are right, God has blessed me beyond measure despite the screw ups I have done.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I wish I had changed things in my past. We all have that feeling. We have all done things that we wish were different.

But we can’t dwell on those past problems.

For myself, I need to move forward, past the issues of my lack of friends in the past and my lack of commitment to my ex-wife and over-commitment to my work.

You see, if it weren’t for those mistakes, I would not have been given the hope I have now.

It is very easy to say that in the past few years, God has turned my life around and given me more blessings than I could ever imagine. You are right, but the physical blessings are merely a vapor in this life.

As much as I love Mimi, we will both die one day and not be together.

As much as I enjoy the house we have, time will take the new house smell away and it will simply be another house.

As much as I enjoy the ministries that God has given me, all the people I minister to will disappear one way or another.

But the hope I have came in the form of a little baby.

Luke 2:15 – When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Not my own children, although they are blessings.

The little baby I am speaking of was born in a manger to a couple who never expected to be birthing the Savior of humanity.

But that little baby brought me hope.

Luke 2:11-12 – Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

That little baby was born out of love.

Not necessarily between the human parents of Jesus, but between God the Father and humanity.

For God so loved the world…

That little baby is my hope.

That little baby is the reason I have a life.

That little baby is the reason that I know that whatever regrets I have in the past, I have a future that will lead to heaven. Even though I will always feel the pain of my regrets, which will affect my happiness, my joy will always be present because my life is in Christ.

And that is more than good enough for me.

John 3:16 – For God so loved  the world,  that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Happy Holidays from a Christian

Ok, Christians, admit it. You can be jerks. Oh fine, I will throw myself into that mix as well. All throughout social media and TV and even random people on the street and in the pews of churches, we are hearing people saying, “It isn’t happy holidays, it is Christmas. I am going to keep Christ in Christmas! Therefore, I am going say Merry Christmas no matter what people think.”

Nice.

But let me ask you a question. Before you go around proclaiming the one and only salvation of humanity as a title for a holiday, are you a living example of a person who is growing to be more like Christ?

Hmmm…my thought is that if that is the one thing you are focused on this holiday season and that is predominantly what stirs your passions this season, then I am thinking that you are a little shallow in your faith.

And I have been there. I used to believe if I didn’t say “Merry Christmas” that I would be a bad Christian.

But it simply isn’t the case.

Let me express a few biblical thoughts on this.

  • When Jesus approached people He knew were not believers in the God of Abraham, He did not attack them. What did He do with the woman who was being stoned for adultery? He stepped into the circle and looked at every single person holding a stone (now keep in mind these are no mere pebbles, these were large rocks about the size of Hulk Hogan’s fist) and He said to them that if they were not guilty of sin then they could throw the first stone. They all had to leave because they were not without sin. (see John 8:1-11) Let me ask you, are you without enough sin in your life that you can afford to get all up in people’s faces about Merry Christmas?
  • Sticking with the same theme, I think we need to remove the log from our own eye before we remove the speck from others. Let’s face it, in the grand scheme of reality, not saying “Merry Christmas” is small on the scale of sin. I don’t remember seeing the 11th commandment of “Thou shalt not say anything at the high holidays except Merry Christmas.” So before you get angry at someone for not saying it, make sure you have your Christian walk in order. (See Matthew 7:5)
  • Sometimes, silence is the best option if you are offended. Look at Proverbs 17:28, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Or try Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Jesus is the greatest example of being silent when offended. Try Isaiah 53:7, a prophecy about Christ, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.” Finally, look at Proverbs 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”

So let me just wrap this up (in holiday wrapping paper because I am a Christian). As you are out in stores, know that retailers are trying to capture the largest audience possible to make money from. That means they are not going to try and offend our Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindi, or any other friend. Surprisingly, it is my friends of other faiths that typically say merry Christmas to me. When I used to work in retail, a store manager who was Muslim at the holidays would go out of his way to say merry Christmas to me. He knew that it was respectful to something I hold very dear and, since he was my friend, he wanted to show that respect. In return, during Ramadan, I would make sure that when I spent time in his store I would fast and during the Eid-Ul Fitr (the breaking of the fast at the end of Ramadan), I would greet him with Eid Mubarak (Happiness to everyone).

But as you go into stores, talk on social media, talk amongst your friends and family and coworkers, know that they may not share your zeal for calling the holiday Christmas. be kind to them. Do NOT attack them for how they feel or believe. Christ would not call us to get into a confrontation with them about this.

And if you truly want to keep “Christ in Christmas,” then make sure you do just that. Pray. When you are done praying, pray some more.

Thank Christ for His plan of salvation for us.

Share Christ with your families.

Share Christ, and His love, with everyone on the street that you see.  Not by telling them you require them to say “Merry Christmas,” but by being loving toward them. Tip a little higher at the restaurants. Make sure you know you appreciate the cashier who has a long line of customers, was supposed to be off work an hour ago, and still has a long drive home to see her daughter who is being watched by her mom because the dad skipped town a year ago. You don’t know these peoples’ stories. Do not confront them about a little thing like this because you feel it is right.

See a woman having trouble carrying her bags at the mall? Go help her.   See a person with car problems? Stop and offer them a ride somewhere. See a post that really gets you angry on social media? Just shut up about it and PRAY for the person that they will come to know that it is offensive to people.

As you go through the holidays, just enjoy them. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, so why make today miserable?

Try to laugh. To love. To simply enjoy the people you are with.

And most of all, give thanks to Christ for this opportunity to have the salvation that we so clearly do not deserve.

Amen.

Boundaries

We as Christians, and I am just as guilty of this, are great at building barriers.

We as Christians, and I am just as guilty of this, are terrible at setting boundaries.

The Bible starts with God teaching Adam and Eve about ownership.  Look at Genesis 1:28, for example:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

If we are created in God’s image, would it not stand to reason that we are created to take responsibility for certain things?  Taking ownership of something means that we need to know what is and what is not our “job.”  It takes sincere wisdom to discern that.  

For many Christians, the desire to do the right thing, or even steer clear of conflict, means taking on extra issues that God never intended for you.  If there is any confusion in the responsibility and ownership in life then there is a problem with boundaries. 

Think about it.  Homeowners set lines around their property to designate what is their responsibility and what is not.  Just like the property lines around your house, you need to ensure there are mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries in place in your life. 

Christians are terrible at setting boundaries.  As I said, I, too, struggle with it.  Do any of these questions sound familiar when you are debating on what to take ownership of?

·         How can I still be a loving person if I set a limit?

·         What would be considered a legitimate boundary?

·         What if I make someone angry by my boundary?

·         How do I tell someone no?

·         Why do I feel guilty when I set a boundary?

·         Aren’t boundaries selfish?

We as Christians feel guilty if we assert ourselves, feeling as if we are not doing what God has told us.  We have heard the biblical misconceptions and assume that being assertive is not Christian behavior.

When people sign up for assertiveness training, one of the goals is to encourage people to express their convictions honestly with each other.  This does not mean putting the other person down, but it does mean approaching with empathy and compassion but stating what your responsibility and conviction is.

Ephesians 4:15 – Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

In Ephesians 4:15 Paul calls for Christians to be assertive.

Another aim of assertiveness training is to “own your life.”  How can we “own” something that is not ours?  This clearly goes against the Bible, right?

Not when looked at in a Biblical light.

1 Corinthians 9:19 – Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

Paul plainly states that, because of his freedom in Christ, he has chosen to dedicate his life to others.  Because of his freedom, he can make the choice to sacrifice his life for others.

Jesus, Himself, had a very strong sense of identity.  Whether he was washing the disciples’ feet in John 13:4-5 or preaching about turning the other cheek in the Sermon on the Mount, it is clear that we must have control over our own lives as Christians.

Matthew 5:38-42 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Many Christians, including myself, have taken this Scripture to mean we should be a doormat.  But that is far from the truth.  In this Scripture He is telling us about double compliance.  In double compliance, when we are treated wrongly and used, because of our desire to take control of the unjust situation and the fact that we know the Holy Spirit is in control, we are to do double the amount.

When looking at it in this way, we are being called to take control of an unjust situation.  This is profoundly assertive to what Christ taught.  When doing this, you have made the choice to assert your responsibility.  It also does two other things:  First, it shows the other person that I will not let them manipulate me and second, it shames them for taking advantage of me in the first place.

What is freeing here is that if turning the other cheek has no redemptive value or my performing the action will cause harm to someone that I am not expected to respond in that way.  For example, in the Russian Revolution, I believe that the Mennonite men who stood by and watched as their women and children were raped and killed by the soldiers completely misunderstood the intent of turning the other cheek.  We as Christians cannot sit idly by and let injustice rule because we feel we should turn the other cheek.

Also, Jesus gave the command of turning the other cheek to His disciples, not to everyone he met.  The disciples were at a point in their spiritual growth where denying their own self is the right choice to be made.  The disciples had already asserted their spiritual self and were ready for the self-denial that accompanies being a disciple of Christ.  Immature Christians and those who are young in the faith may not be ready for that part of their walk.

Proverbs 17:15 – He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.

I also believe that there are limits to what Jesus would expect from us in self-denial.  He tells us to go the second mile, not a third or a fourth or more.  Many Christians continue (and I have found myself in this boat many times) feel that they are to simply be rolled over in order to fulfill the requirements of meekness.  It goes along with the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  If we allow ourselves to continually be taken advantage of without ensuring that the other person is being evangelized or ministered to then we run the risk of allowing injustice to happen freely, when we are called to stop injustice in the world.

As I write this, I realize my own personal issues with boundaries.  Some of which I correcting in the very near future in my career status.  Others I will need to work on over time such as with my kids, my ex-wife, my girlfriend, and even church needs.  It is a constant growing journey that we take.  But it is only because of Jesus on the cross that we can take that journey at all.

It is only because He came to earth as a child in a manger that we have a Savior who can bring us closer to righteousness by crediting His righteousness on us.  This is the amazing part, people.  Christ came to earth a child and grew to be a man.  As a man, we credited Him with all of our sin so that He could credit us with His righteousness.  He became sin (did NOT become a sinner though!) so that we may be righteous.

If you get nothing else this Christmas season get this.  Christ came to save YOU.  you.  Say softly to yourself, “Christ came for me.”  It personalizes it, doesn’t it?

All this talk of boundaries is simply talk and trying to improve each of our own Christian walks.  But it isn’t until you take that step toward Christ and say, “God, come into my life.  I am sorry for the way I have sinned against You and I believe that You are the only One who can take that sin away from me.  I trust you with my life, Lord Jesus.  Forgive me.”

If you prayed that for the first time, please send me a note.  Praying that for the first time will mean that this Christmas will be THE best Christmas ever for you because now you finally understand what it is about.

I pray you peace and love throughout Christmas.

Isaiah 53:5 – But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

What Christmas Really Means….UPDATE

Last week’s blog post wasn’t meant to be part 1 of a series.  It was meant to stand alone.  But as this past week progressed, I spent a lot of time checking my numbers on WordPress and I started analyzing where many of the people who visited my site came from.

You see, this past week, the majority of people came to my site through internet searches.

Normally, my subscribers get direct emails, I post links to both my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, and I directly email quite a few of my very close friends, pastors, elders, and acquaintances.  I may get 3 or 4 people come to my site through internet searches on various topics (usually predestination), but the majority of my traffic comes from people who already know me.

This week has been very different.  At least 5 or 6 people daily have been finding my site through internet searches.

And these are not just any internet searches.  Here are the top 3 internet searches that found me this week:

“What does Christmas truly mean”

“What does Christmas really mean”

“What Christmas really meant”

This got me thinking….there must be a LOT of people out there who are questioning the true meaning of Christmas!

This is heartbreaking!

There are a lot of reasons why this could be happening, but I would like to focus on two:

1)            They really do not know (or want to talk to someone who doesn’t know) and are looking for answers.

2)            They have lost all hope in what Christmas has become and are looking for a change.

I feel I need to give you some better answers, especially if people are going to be using what I’ve written to learn about the REAL meaning of Christmas.  To do this, I would like to review many of the Old Testament prophecies.  You see, the New Testament is one of the most critically reviewed documents in all of history.  Much of the historical aspect of the Bible has been proven (although many people feel that it is historically inaccurate but they are wrong).  If the New Testament is seen as primarily historically accurate, then the prophecies of the Old Testament (which happened more than 400 years before the time of the New Testament) must be accurate as well.

So the real meaning of Christmas began not 2012 years ago, but LONG before that at the creation of the universe.  Genesis 1 gives us insight into the mystery of the Trinity, which is necessary for the New Testament Jesus to be possible.

But the important prophecies that we need to understand come from those later in the Old Testament.  The Book of Isaiah was written almost 700 years before the birth of Christ.  In 7:14, we see the following prophecy:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6 continues…

For to 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.

Almost 700 years before Christ’s birth, Isaiah is telling people of His coming.  The proven historical content of Luke 2 was being discussed and desired by the Jews almost 700 years before!

This is a great place to begin YOUR Christmas story.  For hundreds of years, people knew Christ was coming.  And for you, your day could be today!  If you are reading this, you know that Christ is trying to communicate through me to help you understand that Christ was born for everyone on this planet.  He is our Counselor.  He is our God.  He is our Father.  He is our Prince of Peace.  He is Immanuel.

Christ came for the world that He so dearly loves.

But the story doesn’t end there, seeker!

Isaiah 53:3-7 gives the rest of the story.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

This is where the prophecy becomes personal.  In the first 2 prophecies, we learn about Him…Jesus.  In this final prophecy we learn about what Jesus’ role on this planet is.  He is to take up OUR infirmities.  He is to carry OUR sorrows.  He is pierced for OUR transgressions.  Crushed for OUR iniquities.  By HIS wounds WE are healed.

This is grace.

Grace is the story of Christmas!

Grace is what brought Christ here.  Grace is what put Christ on the cross.  Grace is what kept Christ on the cross.  Grace is what raised Christ from the dead.

This grace can be YOURS!

I am going to ask you to pray.  For those who know Christ and have grace already in your life, I am going to ask you to pray for those who come to this site who do not know Christ.  That they find something here that will stir them to explore Christ further.  That they will finally submit to Christ and understand the freedom in submission.

For those of you who do not know Christ and would like to, then I ask that you pray the prayer below.

Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness.

I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to turn from my sin.

You said in Your Holy Word, Romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord our God and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved.

Right now I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior and according to His Word, right now I am saved.

Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance. Therefore Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to you alone and not to myself.

Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life.
Amen.

 

If you just prayed that prayer for the first time in your life, I would like for you to reach out to me.  Frednoble11@comcast.net is my email.  I would be honored to have the opportunity to prayer continually for you in whatever you need.

God-willing, Christ will come into your heart this Christmas.

Amen.

What does Christmas Really Mean?

When I was young, Christmas was about Santa coming down the chimney and giving me more gifts than I would receive on any other day during the year.  It meant the numerous friends that would come by my parents’ house and celebrate all day Christmas Eve.  It meant red and green bread (yes, really) and eggnog and my mom’s cheesecakes and fudge.  It meant going to church and sitting as a group and joking around with friends and family (I was a little irreverent when I was a kid).

I spent my childhood knowing all of the stories.  My parents even shared both “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and the Bible story of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:1-20).  Neither of those stories ever really resonated with me until much later in my life.

I always knew (or thought) that Christmas was just another day, just with a lot more celebration…and I never was much of one for parties.

Those feelings changed at two separate times in my life.

The whole Santa thing changed when I had kids of my own.  For about 7 or 8 years, Santa was the reason my kids woke up every 12/25 and the reason I stayed up into the wee hours of the night on 12/24.  My now ex and I would go to church, enjoy the music, come home, put the kids down, and begin the task of pulling the gifts from the spare bedroom and setting them up under the tree.

Santa was real.

I enjoyed playing the role.  I even went outside and threw “reindeer poop” in the yard so the kids knew that they weren’t forgotten by the big man in red.

It wasn’t until my divorce that the second, more important, purpose of Christmas became apparent.  The kids were older and didn’t believe in Santa anymore.  I was in my own place and I only had the kids on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day.

It was on that first Christmas alone that I read the Christmas Bible story myself.  And I don’t just mean skimming it.  I mean for real.  Intense, in-depth study.  I now had SOOOOO many more questions.  Questions about how God orchestrated the entire birth.  Everything from the couple He chose to the place to be born to even diverting the evil plot to destroy the King before He could talk.

When one takes a serious look at Luke 2, we see a God who knew what He was doing.  He knew that His Son was being sent to become a sacrifice for the people who constantly hurt Him, cursed Him, and turned away from Him.

When I finished studying it and praying over what I read, I realized that much of our culture’s practices for Christmas have some very close ties to what God did.  You see, we humans spend a lot of our time and money, aspects that are difficult for us to sacrifice, trying to show our love to those who consistently hurt us, curse us, and turn away from us.

Christ is real.  He was an actual God-man who lived over 2,000 years ago and came to save humanity from its sin.

But God showed us something more in Christmas.  He showed us a model for how to be sacrificial in our love.  He showed us what true love is and, as Christ teaches later in His earthly ministry, commands us to show it.

So whether you go out and spend thousands on your loved ones this Christmas or if you simply take time off work that you never intended so that you can spend it with your family, be sure to share the Christmas story from the Bible.

And don’t just share it.

Live it.

Explain it.

Make a pact to keep the Christmas story alive in your lives until you are called to paradise.

And share a little of God’s love….God’s sacrificial love….with those you are closest.

Amen.

Fred’s Top 10 Things that Upset me During the Holidays, Part 2

Last week I shared 5 of the things that upset me during the holidays, now it is time to finish up this list.

5)  Happy holidays!  Merry Christmas!!  Happy Hanukkah!!!  Whatever.  There are a lot of people who feel that saying Merry Christmas is bad.  That it will cause all of America to immediately switch into Bible-thumping, right-wing, conservatives with a judgmental attitude and a closed mind.  And then there are those who feel that saying Happy Holidays will result in the decay of Christian America.  Well, let me put it this way, in this case everyone is right and everyone is wrong.  Saying Merry Christmas is no more going to convert someone to Christianity than buying them a necklace with a cross on it.  And saying Happy Holidays will not usher in a demon that will destroy America.  A little clue here, this is America, not Israel.  We are not a Chosen People because of our country affiliation.

But everyone IS right because it is the time of year we celebrate Christmas, so you would be right in saying that.  And it IS the holidays so you would be right in saying that as well.  Bottom line, we just need to relax a little when it comes to wishing someone well during this time of year.  The important thing is not the words we say, but that we are caring for others.  Regardless of what we say to them, we show Christ in how we act, not by wishing someone Merry Christmas.

Mark 12:28-30 – And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ’Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…”

4)  The Christmas Card.  This weekend I spent part of my day with my kids trying to get the perfect Christmas card picture.  At their ages (10 and 12), they either really love each other or really dislike each other.  Fortunately they chose this weekend to get along very well.  But then came the outfit.  I knew I was in trouble when my daughter said, “Can I just wear what I normally wear and stick a bow on my head?”  Sometimes I just wish they would care about something I cared about.  But then I think…they might be saying the same thing about me.  And that makes it all the easier to get the picture, knowing that the world doesn’t revolve around me.  That my job is not only to teach them right, but make sure that they know that there will be glimpses of grace in the little things and that they should be understanding to that (and so should I).

Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers,do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

3)  Cold weather.  I’m one of the summer children.  Give me a beach, a surf board, and some sun tan lotion and I’m a very happy boy.  But when the autumn leaves turn and the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, I become so deeply cold that I don’t feel I will ever warm up.

Romans 5:5 – Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.

2)  Food.  I like food.  Too much.  It is at this time of year that I overeat.  Yea, I am one of those guys who really likes to eat.  All kinds of meat and sweet stuff and starches…yum.  Just keep those green veggies off my plate, and I’m a very happy guy.  But all those foods and overeating may feel good while it is going down, but later that afternoon, I am not feeling too well.  So let’s see what the Bible has to say about this:

Proverbs 23: 20-21 – Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

I’d rather focus on this verse, though, as I enjoy my food….

1 Corinthians 10:31 – So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1)  The fact that we take this holiday and turn it into a consumerist holiday.  We overspend.  We care too much about the stuff we give and get that Christ has been pushed to the periphery.  I enjoy getting gifts, especially those electronic ones that allow me to avoid my issues by plugging in and tuning out.  But we are called to be in this world, not of it.  We cannot fully be in the world if we are tuned out to it.  We also get our families and friends products that do not glorify God.  If we follow only the reviews of the world, then we will be taking, at best, a shot in the dark as to whether something is acceptable.  We need to work together as a Christian community to offer only products that will edify the body of Christ.

A few years ago, I started doing something a little different for my Christmas gifts.  I started going through a Christian organization to get gifts that give to others.  It has not only helped others to begin giving these kinds of gifts, but it has provided an opportunity to show Christ to people who may not know who He is.

So I am going to break this up into two sections of gift options.  The first is from the non-profit organizations who are very trustworthy and are doing a good work for Christ.  The second is from Christian bloggers who review products that are safe for our families.

CHRISTIAN NON-PROFITS

Samaritan’s Purse.  https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/

This is the organization that I work through to get my holiday gifts for everyone.  If you are looking for a great gift for under $15, you can teach a child to read and write or get baby chicks for a family.  If you find that your family has extra disposable income and wants to make a huge donation, you can build a clean water well for a community for $1,000 or build a house for a destitute family for $7,500.

I have been purchasing my gifts through Samaritan’s Purse for over 4 years now and every year I get another person come to me, in tears, saying how much the gift has meant to them.

World Vision, http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/pages/gc-redirect

This is another amazing organization that I highly support.  They offer a gift catalog that is very similar to Samaritan’s Purse, but with some different choices and price points.  For example, for $25 you can provide counseling for a sexually exploited girl or for $500 you can purchase a dairy cow for a family.

Compassion International, http://www.compassion.com/

What better way to share the holidays with your family than with a new family member.  They currently have over 1 million children sponsored and in the last year over 163,000 have given their life to Christ!  AMEN!  For $38 per month, you can enjoy giving love to a child around the world who may never have heard of the love of Christ.  You can write to them, assist them with their studies by sending needed supplies, and get letters back from your sponsored child.  This is a great one to get the kids involved with because they create an attachment with the child across the world and begin to learn about other cultures and that no matter what color, what culture, or even what religion we are, the love of Christ can always be shown to someone else.

Project AK-47, http://www.projectak47.com/

I learned about this organization at the Purple Door Festival a few years ago and was amazed about this world that I knew very little about and it touched my heart so much that both my kids sponsored a child through them.  Around the world, children are being used by governments as cheap and disposable soldiers.  The gun of choice for them is the AK-47.  Project AK-47 will use indigenous missionaries to go into the areas and pull the kids out of these situations of exploitation and death.  You can sponsor a child and will get in return a set of dog tags with your child’s name and information.  Your donation goes to rescue the child, rehabilitate them, and then reintegrate them into society.  The cost for this is only $7 per month!

 

CHRISTIAN BLOGGERS WITH FAMILY-FRIENDLY PRODUCT REVIEWS

Woven by Words, http://www.wovenbywords.com/

Mimi is one of my favorite product review bloggers.  She not only blogs about products, but about her faith in Christ.  She will review products that are good for the whole family.  I personally know her and know that she lets her family try all the products she gets such as games or food or toys.  If something goes on her site, you can rest assured that it will be good for your family.  Join her on Twitter for her Twitter giveaways and parties or simply follow her blog to get some really great gift ideas.

Christian Clippers, http://christianclippers.com/

Hosted by Apryl, she and her family have this blog to show other Christians how easy it is to save money through the use of coupons.  She breaks it down by grocery, discount, supercenter and has an entire section on products reviews and giveaways.  With over 25,000 followers, Apryl has a reputation for giving great product information.

Plugged In, http://www.pluggedin.com/

This is hosted by Focus on the Family and is a great site for bringing to light the importance of being plugged in to what our kids are watching, listening to, and playing in their games.

 

These are just a few of the many, many, many non-profit organizations and Christian blog sites that are out there to help us navigate around this Christmas.  So now we can take this holiday and make sure that Jesus is brought back into it.

God bless each and every one of you!

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