There are many times when the trials and challenges of this life get us down and literally disable us from functioning with any clarity. We become tired and defeated because we are so weak. Continue reading
I love to share the gospel of Jesus with everyone and lead people to Him so they can be saved. Many people think that when Jesus came to earth and died on the cross that all people are just automatically saved, but this is not true. He did die for everyone, but each person must come to Him individually and accept that Jesus is the Son of God; that He came to earth to be the sacrificial Lamb of God and that on the cross He bore our sins and paid the punishment for them so we wouldn’t have to; that He died and rose and is alive forevermore.
Acts 3:19 tells us that we need to repent and turn away from our sinful life and ask Jesus to live in our heart – and then we need to follow Him. THEN we are saved and only then will we know that when we die we will be with Jesus in Heaven. Death is nothing to fear for Christians because we know Jesus!
Many people think that death for them is far off into the future, and so they foolishly live their lives apart from God, but the sad fact is that death often comes suddenly and doesn’t always give people time to change their thoughts toward God. Just read the local obituaries and see how many people have died “unexpectedly” and at a young age! Were they saved? Were they prepared to meet God? Did they have the confidence that they would be welcomed into Heaven, or did it come as a shock when they were sent to hell to wait for judgment? Death is eminent for all of us and no one knows when it’s coming, but for Christians it doesn’t matter because we know Jesus!
Billy Graham has written a very encouraging article on death and nothing I write could possibly add to the impact of his message. Please read it and if you’re not saved think about taking a step toward Christ. It’s better that you know Him now as your Friend, Lord and Savior than after you die as your Judge.
THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE by Billy Graham
Some of you have been stunned by the sudden passing of a consecrated person—a godly pastor, a devout missionary or a saintly mother. You have stood at the open grave with tears coursing down your cheeks and have asked, “Why, O God, why?”
Allow me to assure you that the death of the righteous is no accident. Do you think that the God whose watchful vigil notes the sparrow’s fall and who knows the number of hairs on our heads would turn His back on one of His children in the hour of peril? With Him there are no accidents, no tragedies and no catastrophes as far as His children are concerned.
The Apostle Paul, who lived most of his Christian life on the brink of death, expressed triumphant certainty about life beyond this realm of time and space.
When things didn’t work out according to Paul’s plan, he said, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
When his tired, bruised body began to weaken under the load, Paul said in triumph: “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
The world called Paul foolish for his belief that men could become partakers of eternal life through faith. But he jutted out his chin and said, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Every one of these triumphant affirmations rings with the immortal truth that the death of the righteous is unlike the death of the unrighteous.
Though Christians have no immunity from death, death is to them a friend rather than a foe—the beginning rather than the end.
Paul believed in Christ and committed his all to Christ. The result was that he knew Christ was able to keep him against that day. Strong faith is the result of unconditional commitment to Jesus Christ.
A Wonderful Hope
One of the bonuses of being a Christian is the wonderful hope that extends beyond the grave into the glory of God’s tomorrow. I have talked to doctors and nurses who have held the hands of dying people, and they say there is as much difference between the death of a Christian and of a non-Christian as there is between Heaven and hell. The death of the righteous is not to be feared—it is not to be shunned. It is the shadowed threshold to the palace of God. No wonder Balaam said, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!” (Numbers 23:10).
Let’s notice some of the statements in the Bible about the death of a Christian, as distinguished from the death of a sinner who refuses or neglects to believe in Jesus Christ.
First, to the Christian, death is said in the Bible to be a coronation. The picture here is that of a regal prince who, after his struggles and conquests in an alien land, comes to his native country and court to be crowned and honored for his deeds.
The Bible says we are pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land. This world is not our home; our citizenship is in Heaven. To those who are faithful, Christ will give a crown of life. Paul said, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
When D.L. Moody was dying, he looked up to Heaven and said, “Earth is receding; Heaven is opening. This is my coronation day.” Yes, death is the Christian’s coronation, the end of conflict and the beginning of glory and triumph in Heaven.
Second, the Bible speaks of death for a Christian as a rest from labor. The Bible says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord … they may rest from their labors” (Revelation 14:13). It is as if the Lord of the harvest says to the weary laborer, “You have been faithful in your task, come and sit in the sheltered porch of my palace and rest from your labors—enter now into the joy of your Lord.”
Third, the Bible speaks of death as a departure. When Paul approached the valley of the shadow of death he did not shudder with fear; rather he announced with a note of triumph, “The time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6).
The word departure literally means “to pull up anchor and to set sail.” Everything that happens prior to death is a preparation for the journey. Death marks the beginning, not the end. It is a solemn, dramatic step in our journey to God.
Believers know, as did Paul, that “He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). The Christian says “Goodbye,” but only until the day breaks and the shadows flee.
Fourth, the Bible speaks of the death of a Christian as a transition. Paul wrote, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
Death to the Christian is the exchanging of a tent for a building. Here we are as pilgrims or refugees, living in a frail, flimsy home—subject to disease, pain and peril. But at death we exchange this crumbling, disintegrating tent for a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. The wandering wayfarers come into their own at death and are given the title to a mansion that will never deteriorate or crumble.
A Place Prepared for Us
Do you think that the God who has provided so amply for living has made no provision for dying? Bear this in mind: The hope of eternal life rests solely and exclusively upon your faith in Jesus Christ! Make no mistake about this.
Before Jesus told His disciples about the many mansions and before He gave them the hope of Heaven, He said, “You believe in God, believe also in me.” Then He said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2).
Eternal life comes by and through the Lord Jesus Christ. To put it in the Bible’s words, here is the secret of the blessed hope: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life” (John 3:36).
When Christians die, they go straight into the presence of Christ—to Heaven—to spend eternity with God. An unsaved sinner’s destiny is separation from God, a place that Jesus has called hell.
I wonder where you are going. Have you given your life to Jesus Christ? Have you been transformed by the power of the Spirit of God?
You may say, “I’d like to know that I am going to Heaven—I would like to have this hope in my heart, that when I die I will go into the presence of Christ. I don’t want to be lost—I don’t want to go to hell—I don’t want to have to face the searching judgment of God.”
If you say that, then read Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
There is no judgment, no hell, for those who are in Christ. You can confess your sins, turn your back on your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior now.
At this moment, you can bow your head and say, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). He will hear that simple prayer. The Spirit of God will come into your heart.
You will become a partaker of eternal life. You can have the hope of Heaven today, so that if you died tonight, you would be ready to meet your God. You would go straight into His presence!
Even if you are an elderly man or woman lying on a sickbed and you have never made your peace with God, it is still not too late. The dying thief on the cross turned to Christ and said, “Lord, remember me.” And Jesus replied, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).
At this moment you can receive the Savior and have the hope of Heaven in your heart. ©1956, 1984 BGEA
* Please visit Billy Graham’s website for more inspirational and life-changing messages.
The true test of our faith and trust in God comes when we are faced with situations and circumstances that are beyond our ability to control. They may be health issues, financial anxiety, the inability to be social or work within relationships, emotional depression and stress, or the death of a loved one. While some of these issues begin as little problems and grow into overwhelming challenges, others can be unexpected attacks that come out of left field and knock us down. Regardless, many Christians impulsively turn to the world for help and run from God.
We live in a world that is overflowing in professional advice, therapy and solutions, and these are all designed to help us overcome our personal weaknesses and stresses and turn us into strong, independent individuals. The purpose is to build up our self-esteem so we are able to handle the conflicts of life as mature and self-confident human beings. Although their intentions seem good, the truth is that these are all implemented by this world to make us self-reliant and to separate us from our dependency on God.
We don’t need to look far to realize that services for most of our trials are bill-boarded everywhere and supported by our doctors, our friends and family, our work environment and even our church. We are encouraged – if not pushed – to seek out professional help for all of life’s issues. So, it’s not surprising that when problems come at us, we automatically turn to the world.
However, the world is not where Christians should go for help. God is our help in times of trouble.
“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.” … Psalm 9:9
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” … Psalm 121:1
We need to reprogram our thoughts and take our problems to God first and not to the world first. We need to become as little children before our Heavenly Father and take our problems to Him.
We are children of God, and as children we need to learn how to become humble before Him and talk to Him and trust Him just like an earthly child would to an earthly father. God wants to help us with everything in our lives, but we have to be willing to let Him. Jesus told us clearly to give Him our problems because He will work them out for us, to His glory, and for our benefit.
“Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” … 1 Peter 5:7
If, as parents, we saw that one of our own children were in trouble we would step in and want to help right away. But if that child has been programmed in this world to work out his or her own answer, or has been brainwashed by the schools or by society to seek professional help, we may have to just stand by the side and watch. It might hurt, especially when we see that their choice of help was a mistake, but they won’t heed to our advice or to our help until they are ready to accept it, so we have to just wait. And so, our Heavenly Father waits for us to come to Him.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” … 2 Chronicles 7:14
This attitude of self-reliance, however, is in each of us when we follow the world and that’s because the leader of this world – the devil – wants us to do everything and anything apart from God. It’s why he fell in the first place and it’s why his goal in life is to try to destroy anyone who wants to follow God and depend on Him.
However, Christians have been redeemed from this world; we are no longer under the devil’s control and we are not ruled by the sinful nature that we once had. We belong to God. He is our Lord [1 Corinthians 8:6], our King [1 Timothy 6:14-15], our Healer [Isaiah 53:5], our Counsellor [Isaiah 9:6] and our Friend [Proverbs 18:24].
When we are faced with problems we need run TO God, not away from Him. He’s the only One who loves us enough to die for us, and He’s the only One who has defeated the devil that is coming against us. While we still suffer from living in this world and dealing with its trials, Jesus has already won over all of them.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” … John 16:33
God does not need us to be strong within ourselves; He needs us to be weak and humble and totally dependent on Him because only then will we step away from the problem in humility and let Him take over. Only then during our weakness – our inability to cope with the trial – can we whole heartedly and honestly turn to Jesus for help. And only then are we given the strength and wisdom and means to overcome.
“9 And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” … 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Christians need to get into the Bible and study it and learn the scriptures and understand who God is and experience the immeasurable love that He has for those who love Him. We need to give all of our problems to Him because He CAN and He WILL work with us through them. We must never run from the One who loves us so much that He wilfully died on the cross to save us. There is no love found anywhere in this world that will ever come remotely close to the love that God has for His children, and there is no victory possible over the things that come against us in this world than what Jesus has already won for us.
We need to turn to Jesus and trust Him with our problems before we give them to the world and bring insult to the salvation that Jesus gave us at the cross when He redeemed us out of the world. Therefore, the world should never come before our faith and trust in Jesus. When we have problems, we need to run from the world and into His saving arms.
“But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble.” … Psalm 59:16
I read this very recent article by Franklin Graham and the urgency of the message has jumped out at me, so I am sharing it with you. Hollywood is getting rich from creating movies and television shows that glorify death. It turns death into entertainment that excites people and literally pulls them away from God. It’s obvious that the return of Christ is very near when so many people are captivated with evil rather than with good. They need Christ and they need to repent and turn away from this fixation. They need to see that the horror Hollywood portrays – even as ugly and hideous as it makes it look – is nothing in comparison to the reality of the punishment that unbelievers will receive when they face God on Judgment Day.
Death is not a joke and it’s not something that anyone should accept as entertainment because one day they just may live in eternity the life that captivated them here on earth. And that is scary! Read Rev. Graham’s message and see what I mean.
Sunday night NFL football has been a favorite television staple for several years, but on at least two occasions this past fall, it was definitely a second viewing choice for millions of Americans.
Instead of watching footballs fly, 17 million viewers chose to watch the season premiere of The Walking Dead, a series featuring foul zombies creating endless havoc. Just a few weeks later, nearly 15 million people tuned in to yet another episode, easily surpassing that night’s matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs.
That program is just one of numerous television programs that have garnered tremendous followings by fixating on gore and death. At least half a dozen prime time shows are strangely enamored and captivated by it. These shows, when combined with hugely popular video games like Mortal Kombat, demonstrate how obsessed with death our culture has become.
However, despite our society’s fascination and obsession with death, there is virtually no understanding of the eternal consequences that death brings. Amazingly, as much as the entertainment industry cranks out movies and programs that are preoccupied with death scenes and motifs, death is not a subject often candidly discussed. I think that’s because we would prefer to portray death on a purely fictional level and avoid its stark reality.
The Bible says that once a person dies, he will face the judgment of God. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). There is no reincarnation. There is no second chance.
Death is serious, eternal business. Once our physical hearts beat for the last time, we will instantly find ourselves either in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His splendor, or in the pit of hell away from His presence.
“They [those who do not know or obey God] will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might, when He [Jesus Christ] comes on that day to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
Death is not a fictional television series. It is not a popular gaming topic. It is the entryway into either eternal life or eternal death. And a culture that treats it as mere fantasy and amusing entertainment does so at its peril.
The Scripture is clear that death is a consequence of sin. It came as a result of mankind’s rebellion against God in the Garden. Adam and Eve were fully warned of what would happen if they chose to disobey God’s instruction not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil: “In the day that you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
We all know what happened. Man rebelled, chose to disobey God, and the sentence of death was pronounced. Physical, biological death became dead certain for every person who has ever lived. Great men die. Obscure men die. Rich men and poor men alike die. “Sin came into the world through one man (Adam) and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
Death, ultimately, has nothing to do with health or climate or geography or genes. Sin brought death, physically and spiritually. That’s why the Scripture speaks of two deaths (Revelation 20:14). The first death is when our bodies expire. The second death is the eternal death of the soul.
The glorious good news of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ, who died and rose again, has alone defeated the dread enemy of death. Jesus, the Son of God, our Redeemer and Savior, bore our sins on the cross, suffered the punishment of our sins—death—on our behalf, and offers full forgiveness for all who trust personally in Him.
As A.W. Tozer once remarked: “The once born die twice, and the twice born die once.” That is, those who have not repented of sin and turned to Christ will experience both physical and spiritual death. They will be judged by a holy God, found guilty of their sin and cast into the lake of fire. The person who has trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of sin will die physically, but not spiritually—his sins are atoned for by the blood of Christ.
The wages of sin is death, but God’s gift of eternal life is free to all who believe on His Name (Romans 6:23). Everyone who believes in Christ is transferred from death to life (John 5:24). No one who believes in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ will perish (experience the second death), but will have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Wherever Christianity flourishes, there is a vibrant culture of life, not death. When the precepts of the Christian faith are faithfully taught and followed, there is an abundance of selfless, sacrificial living and giving.
For centuries, Christians have been at the forefront of saving and giving life. Mission hospitals around the world are beacons of light and hope in sin-sick cultures. Christian physicians, nurses and health care providers often forsake lucrative careers and even risk their lives to reach the poor and suffering. Churches around the world feed the hungry, clothe the naked and bring help to the helpless and hope to the hopeless.
In places like Europe, where Christianity has been in decline as the deceptive forces of secularism and materialism have spread across the continent, it’s not surprising to find the practice of euthanasia so entrenched. Earlier this year, Belgium became the first country in the world to allow child euthanasia with no age limit.
I’m concerned that America is not far behind. The euthanasia movement—disguised now as “death with dignity”—is gaining ground in a number of states. And for every 1,000 live births in the United States, 219 pregnancies end with a murdered child, through abortion.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that this rise in the culture of death in our own country coincides with the embrace of an immoral, sinful, godless worldview that rejects Christ. Christianity is constantly under siege from the halls of government and education, which seek to suppress any public expressions of faith.
Yet bold, biblical Christianity is the only antidote to the devilish, dark culture of sin and death that seeks to enslave and ultimately damn people for eternity. We must never cease to preach, teach and live the truth of the Gospel.
Jesus Christ, crucified and risen is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
For more words of encouragement by Franklin Graham please visit the BGEA site at http://billygraham.org/
Choosing to be a Christian is the most significant and valuable decision that a person will ever make in his or her lifetime. There are a million different crossroads in life that bring people to this decision, and unfortunately, just as many false doctrines that will lead them away. If we are going to make it to Heaven then we need to know from the onset who we will follow and who we will serve: Jesus or someone who proclaims to know Him.
It seems that today more and more people are falling into the pattern of following a person who supposedly follows Jesus. This way they don’t have to study the Bible and they can depend on their leader to teach them everything that “they” want to know. After all, there are many leaders who proclaim to follow Jesus and who teach all kinds of accepted ways of life, so surely there is one out there who teaches what individuals want to hear. However, this is not only wrong according to the Bible, it is foolish.
In Matthew 4:19, Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And in Matthew 10:38, He added, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
In Matthew 16:24 Jesus continues, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” And then in Mark 10:21, He says, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”
Jesus spoke again in John 8:12 and said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” In John 10:27 Jesus reassures us that we should follow Him, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”
In John 12:26 Jesus promises, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”
Nowhere in the Bible does God ever tell us to follow anyone except Him. In fact, when we devotedly follow a person, in essence we make that person our god. What does the Lord say about that? He says in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t follow the leadership of our pastor; it means that we shouldn’t take every word someone else says as gospel. It means that we need to study the Bible ourselves and get to know God, learn who He is what His laws are and who we are in Christ and what is expected of us as Christians. It means that we become responsible for our own salvation and that we don’t depend on someone else to get us to Heaven.
“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” … Philippians 2:12
This doesn’t mean that we do any kind of works to be saved. It means that we accept our salvation as a gift from God. Jesus came from Heaven, lived on earth as a humble man and then was nailed to the cross because He was the ultimate Lamb of God and sacrifice for our sins. He was Holy and without sin, and He took upon Himself all of our sins and when He died He took them to hell and paid the punishment for those sins for us – a punishment that we all rightly deserved! He did this because He loves us. There is no gift more precious than this!
When we accept what Jesus did on the cross, we are saved from that punishment – from the judgment that the unsaved will be given when they leave this earth and face Jesus. The only way that we can get this truth inside us is to study the Bible and trust the Spirit of God to teach us all truth.
“For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” … 1 Corinthians 2:11
“Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.” … Psalm 25:5
We need to study and get this truth deep into our soul so that we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt who God is, who Jesus is, and who we are in Jesus and what lies ahead for us. And when we follow Jesus and study His Word [the Bible] then we will know the truth the truth shall make us free. [John 8:32]
But we won’t know the truth if we follow people who follow Jesus because we won’t have that one-on-one with God alone. We put ourselves on a dangerous path that could lead us away from God and even into acts against God. If we don’t verify the truth for ourselves we can easily be deceived into believing a lie.
Being a Christian is not about us; it’s about Jesus. It’s about following Jesus and being part of who He is and sharing the gospel with others so they can know Him, too. This gospel is the “good news message” about the salvation that God has for us and the reward of being with Him in Heaven throughout eternity. It’s also a warning for those who don’t know Him that their destination is judgment and punishment with an eternity in total darkness engulfed in corruption and evil – apart from God.
When we love Jesus we follow Him with joy and thanksgiving. When we just want to be “a Christian” and feel that we’re entitled to the home in Heaven then we will follow people who think the same way. If we have no desire to love Him or study the Bible or give up our own pleasures and desires, then we will search for a “Christian” leader who teaches that Jesus loves everyone just as they are and that everyone is saved because of what He did on the cross. We won’t have to repent or change or commit to anyone except ourselves. And this lie will lead everyone who believes it to hell.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
… 2 Timothy 4:3-4
Therefore, we have many different doctrines and millions of followers who are missing the mark and who are not Christians even though they say they are and think they are. And if we follow these people then we will be part of the multitude on that broad path that’s following the great deceiver, the devil.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” … Matthew 7:13-14
Christians follow Jesus and not people. Christians know that Jesus is God and we love Him and serve Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Those who only think they’re Christians because they follow a religious leader have no love for Jesus or the Bible and will learn the hard way that He is God. And when they face Him on Judgment Day they will be very sorry – only it will be too late.
Who do you follow, Jesus or someone who proclaims to know Him? Your decision is crucial! And you better hurry up because time is running out and Jesus is about to return to issue judgment on all those who haven’t accepted Him.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” … Mark 12:30
Christmas season is the one time of year when most people are either totally engaged with the festive occasion or are refusing to have anything to do with it. While many of the reasons may vary, a common one for denying celebration is because some of us just aren’t in the mood for Christmas.
Many Christians carry a deep, anguishing hurt because a loved one has passed on or has moved far away, which has left a void in the aching heart. The memories of past Christmas’s flood our thoughts and control our emotions as we endeavour to imagine celebrating Christmas without them. It hurts. So, we hide behind our tears and we decide that there won’t be any celebration this year – or maybe ever again – because it’s not the same without that missing person.
However, Christmas for Christians is not about us. Christmas is about Jesus. It’s about celebrating the birth of the Son of God who came from Heaven to save us from our sin. It’s about giving our Heavenly Father worship and praise, thanksgiving and honor for sustaining His promise to us by sending a Savior who would become the Lamb of God and die in our place and take on the punishment for our sins.
“Pilate therefore said to Him, ’Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’” …………. John 18:37
We are saved because of the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross at Calvary. If Jesus hadn’t been born we would not be forgiven and we would not have a home in Heaven to go to. We would not have the hope of ever being free from this sinful world and from the punishment that is about to come upon it. If Jesus hadn’t come, we would still be lost in sin and headed for hell.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” … John 3:16-17
If our loved ones who have passed on were Christians then they are with Jesus now, and what better life could there be for them? Eternity with the Lord is what we all strive for and it’s what we all live for. Those Christians who have gone on would want us all to continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus because now they are with Him and they know first-hand how blessed we are and how blessed we will be when we get to Heaven.
If the one who has gone on was not saved, then we need to give that hurt to God and ask Him for His peace to fill our heart.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” … Philippians 4:7
We celebrate Christmas with our family and friends, and the love and the music and festive occasion makes it a very heart-warming time of year. Families are drawn together and forgiveness is poured out among their members for offences of the past as we give glory to our Lord and sing songs of praise to His Name. It’s the one time of year when hearts truly sense the joy of the Lord.
Christmas is not about us. If we are saddened because we’ve lost someone then we need to seek God and ask Him to refill our heart with His joy, to take the burden that weighs us down and to give us peace that only He can give. THEN, we’ll realize that Christmas is not dependent on our mood; it’s dependent upon our love for God and our gratitude and appreciation for Jesus, and whether or not we want to give Him glory and honor.
“Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.” … Psalm 30:4
We celebrate Christmas out of choice: it’s our choice to see beyond our own issues and worship Him as our Lord and Savior because we love Him; or it’s our choice to deny Jesus the glory that He so deserves just because we have been hurt. We need to give those hurts to Jesus; that’s why He came; that’s why He died on the cross; and that’s why He rose and lives!
Jesus loves us. If anyone could truly get a glimpse of Heaven – of its holiness and purity, of its beauty and peace, and all because God is there – then we just might realize how serious a thing it was for Jesus to leave His throne and become a man to live on earth amongst the sin and pollution with the devil. And all so He could redeem us back to Himself. Leaving Heaven to do this for us was something that Jesus did out of choice because His love for us is infinite. And giving Him praise and worship on a day when Christians lift Jesus up to say thank you is something that we all should do regardless of how our tradition of celebrating might be changed because a loved one has gone on.
Christmas is about Jesus. So, let’s keep our eyes on Him and remember that He is the doorway into Heaven where many of our loved ones wait for us.
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” … Isaiah 9:6
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Too many Christians spend their free time criticizing other Christians. It seems that a lot of focus today is put on knocking down the brethren and pointing out how they are still lost in sin. Sometimes I think that our Heavenly Father looks down at us and just wants to shout, “Children, stop fighting!” Oh, how all of this criticism must hurt Him!
None of us are perfect, yet many will argue that we have the right to judge others and some have even turned it into a self-appointed ministry to judge our brothers and sisters. God tells us to love our brethren; He doesn’t instruct us to constantly judge them and mock them.
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” 1 John 3:14
Yes, we should judge doctrine and we should judge those preaching a doctrine because our spiritual walk depends on it. We should compare what is being taught to the scriptures, and if it doesn’t line up then God says we should not follow that person or that doctrine. He also tells us to speak to the ones who are preaching a false message to correct them and then to even warn others to not listen to them. But that doesn’t mean that we should judge everyone who isn’t exactly as we are.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” … Matthew 7:15-19
Jesus has warned us to beware of the false leaders and He tells us how we can know them. However, many new Christians don’t know the scriptures well enough to discern this and so mature Christians certainly do need to point these false preachers out to them. But it shouldn’t become a goal in life to find these individuals and regularly declare who they are and judge them. And it is not the Christian’s responsibility to bring them down because that is the authority and responsibility of the Lord – to judge them and cast them into the [lake of] fire.
Our objective in life is to preach the good news so people can be saved. We need to love each other and encourage each other to follow Jesus, not to continually give Satan glory for the wrong that Christians or so-called Christians do.
“And He said unto them, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’” … Mark 16:15
Jesus did not say to condemn and criticize those who are weak in Christ or those who are not exactly where we are on the path to Heaven. He said to preach the gospel! He said to love the brethren. He said to feed the hungry and to give to the poor and to pray for one another. When Jesus walked the earth He constantly taught His disciples about God and Heaven, and He was their example and our example of what God, our Heavenly Father, expects from us.
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” … Matthew 4:23
Some will argue that Jesus corrected and even criticized the Pharisees and the Sadducees and it’s true that He did, but only when they confronted Him. He did not spend time searching them out and then going to where they were to criticize and condemn them. It was when they came to Him and tried to trick Him and tried to prove Him to be a false prophet that He rebuked them. If you read the Four Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke & John] you’ll see what Jesus preached and how He addressed those who came against Him.
Our mission is to preach the gospel and to love one another, and that doesn’t mean criticizing and judging our brethren all the time. We need to be witnesses for God of His love and His grace, of His mercy and His forgiveness, of His strength and His power.
“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”… Matthew 14:1-5
If we aren’t able to change a person or their actions then we should pray for them. God tells us clearly in James 5:16 to pray for our brothers and sisters. When a group of men brought the adulterous woman to Jesus [John 8:7] even He did not condemn her. Instead He told the accusers, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” He knew that these people were learned in the scriptures and so He used the scriptures to throw the condemnation back at them, and in shame and conviction they all left her.
Let’s not become like the Pharisees and spend our time exalting ourselves through our acts of tearing down others. Let’s be humble before God and serve Him with a pure heart and not one that’s filled with judgment toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. We won’t earn Brownie points by showing off how many of our brethren we can judge; instead we will subject ourselves to be judged by God.
“For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” … Luke 14:11
When we criticize our brothers and sisters, no matter how wrong they may be about some issues, we hurt God. We are all of His children and when we fight it hurts Him because He loves all of us equally. He knows that some of us are falling off the path and He knows that others are doing things they shouldn’t, but He loves us all anyway. And He expects us to step in and help those who need help, and not to judge and mock them.
So instead of criticizing we need to spend time in prayer for them and we need to love them with the love of God IN SPITE of how they are acting. It’s not our place to judge them. It’s our responsibility to be obedient to God’s Commission and to share the gospel and His love with others. There’s no greater way to show gratitude for God’s grace toward us than to put judgment aside and love our own brothers and sisters as He loves us.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” … 1 John 4:7-11
Christmas is a special time of year for Christians and it’s celebrated across the globe in a single day of celebration or as many days of festivities. It brings us great joy to honour the birth of Jesus and the fulfillment of God’s promise to us. It’s a time when families and friends get together, and it’s the one time in the year when cold hearts are warmed and attitudes of anger and dispute become lost behind seasonal acts of forgiveness. But for those who don’t know Jesus, Christmas is just a time to party and to indulge in the gifts.
The Christmas season brings the marketing industry to its peak and puts the stores in their glory as they rake in the money from selling branded goods that have been chosen as the season’s best sellers. It’s amazing to watch shoppers this time of year as they scurry through the stores to grab the hottest items for their loved ones. Price isn’t an issue in many cases; getting the promoted fads is what Christmas is all about to them. Pleasing their children and getting them lots of good gifts is what counts.
Gifts have become their god at Christmas. It’s all about the presents under the tree that makes the season a joy to many people. The decorations and the modern, jolly Christmas songs add to their festivities along with all the food – and of course, the liquor. It’s a time to party and a time when children can make out their wish lists and tell their parents what to buy them. Christmas for too many children is all about getting those presents!
Santa Claus is a hero to them and he is their incentive for good behavior because they’ve been taught that Santa is the one who brings the gifts and that he only brings them to “good little boys and girls”. He has become their focus because he’s the one with the gifts. People who don’t know Jesus give glory and praise to everything except to the One who deserves it!
Christmas for Christians is all about Jesus!
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.” … Jeremiah 33:14
The only gift that matters is the gift of life that God gave to us when He became a man and lived among us and then gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Jesus is the promise that the Old Testament believers looked forward to and He is the reason why we sing songs of praise.
To Christians, Christmas is a big birthday party and Jesus is the guest of honor. It’s a time to sing and praise the Lord.
“And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” … Philippians 2:8
Many of us exchange gifts and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it’s done in celebration of the Lord and not as a prerequisite to define the day. Our focus needs to be on Jesus – the reason for the season. Gifts should be a blessing and not the focus of the day. Children should be taught that Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus – that Christmas is His birthday!
There is a joy and a hope and an excitement that comes with singing many of the traditional Christmas carols and that’s because our eyes are on the One who is worthy and deserving of our praise. There’s a peace that floods our heart when all that we do to celebrate Christmas gives glory to God. No wonder it’s a time of sharing and of forgiveness! When Jesus is the centre of our reason to celebrate, and when Jesus gets the glory for all we do, then His love is all around us and we are blessed.
“I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.”
… Psalm 9:2
Many Christians are taking the stand that this time of year should be acknowledged as “Merry Christmas” and not as “Happy Holiday”, but the world cannot share in this viewpoint because they don’t know Jesus. To them it IS just a happy holiday. To Christians it’s a time to be merry and celebrate Jesus, so let’s continue to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and not get upset if they don’t share our joy.
December 25th may not be the correct day of His birth, but our celebration of this precious gift brings joy to our Heavenly Father as we show Him how grateful we are that Jesus came for us. And the greatest gift that we can give to anyone at Christmas is to share the truth about Jesus with them and to let them know that we celebrate Christmas because He is God’s promise to us and that because of Jesus, we are saved!
Jesus is our gift from God.
“Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” … 2 Corinthians 9:15
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Almost all Christians will say that they are Christians because they believe in the gospel of Jesus and acknowledge that He is the Son of God and their Savior. Romans 10:9 tells us that we need to confess this truth, but we’re also told that faith without works is dead. We need to do more than just speak it; we need to believe it and live it because this is how we will be God’s influence in this world!
Since God’s spirit lives in us, we are able to study the Bible and get to know Him, and in doing so we become like Him. The things we say and do are a reflection of Christ in us and through us He is able to reach out to the lost people of this world. Our personality becomes like His and we are able to show our love and faithfulness toward Him, and His love and grace toward others.
Giving thanks – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” This is God’s will for us regarding our daily walk with Him. We begin every day by thanking Him for our salvation, but our thanks doesn’t stop with one prayer. We thank Him for everything in our life throughout the day as we see His goodness and His intervention in our lives. Even in the bad things we give Him thanks because we know that He will bring us through them and that because of them we will serve Him better.
Love each other – John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” God tells us that we are to love each other – not to put each other down and not to dissect each other as if we were a science project, but to love our brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of their faults or their short comings. It grieves God when His children accuse each other; it brings Him great joy when He sees us working together in love.
Forgive each other – Matthew 6:15 says, “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Sometimes we get a little self-righteous and feel we have the right to treat others with less respect because of offences they have done to us. But if God can forgive us for our sins that nailed Him to the cross, then surely we can forgive others who have hurt us, and then treat them with the same loving kindness that He gives to us.
Don’t judge each other – Matthew 7:1-5 says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Too often we get the messages of judging confused, and whereas God has told us to judge the doctrine and the teacher of doctrines so that we don’t get caught up with a false gospel (1 John 4:1), we tend to judge everyone for everything they do or say and feel justified in condemning them. However, God has not given us the right to judge anyone’s life as only He knows the heart of man and only He will open the Book of Life to read whose names are in there. Life is journey toward God for all of us and we walk at different paces and carry different baggage and have different circumstances in life to endure. None of us want to have the judgment of another person interfere with our walk toward Heaven so let’s not be their stumbling block, either.
Be patient with others – 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.” We sometimes forget what other people are going through or that they may not know or understand God as we do, and we are quick to lose our patience with them. But this is not God’s will; after all, when we look at our own lives truthfully, we’ll see that throughout our Christian life and even today, we survive because God is patient with us. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect because that won’t happen until we’re with Jesus, so we need to be patient and kind to others, as well.
Realize that we are all sinners – Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Every one of us lives each day in God’s grace and we need to realize that it’s only because of His love and grace that we are saved. Not one of us is deserving of a home in Heaven with Jesus, but He loves us so much that He was willing to die in our place (John 3:16) so we would be free of all sin and be with Him throughout eternity. That should humble each of us to an attitude of gratitude so that we never exalt ourselves and so we’ll always remember that we, too, are a sinner who has been forgiven and saved by grace.
Show mercy – James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” When God’s spirit lives in us our personality and characteristics become like His, and it is natural for us to have a kind, gentle heart that treats others as Christ treats us. He has shown us mercy through the cross and we need to show mercy to others and always remember that if God didn’t have mercy toward us, we would not be saved in the first place. If it’s true that we reap what we sow then we need to sow mercy.
Give without expecting anything in return – Matthew 10:8 says, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” Our salvation was a gift from God. He gave it to us because He loves us so much, so we need to have this same attitude toward giving to others. There is no material possession or earthly status or spectacular event that comes close to the gift of life He gave at the cross. This earth is not our home; we’re just passing through. And so nothing on this earth should prevent us from sharing and giving to others.
Bless those who come against us – Matthew 5:44 says, “But I say unto you, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’” Christians are often ridiculed or persecuted for their beliefs and it’s sometimes easy to just hate those who hurt us, but God wants us to pray for them instead. Our prayers will not only bring peace to us in a stressful situation, but it just may bring those to Christ who cause that stress. God loved them enough to die for them – just as He loved us enough to die for us – and to influence the world with His love we need to possess this same virtue so He can work through us and get them saved, too. If it’s too hard to pray honestly for them, then we should ask God to give us a love for them so that we can pray.
As we mature in the Lord it becomes so much easier to walk the walk than it does to talk the talk! And when we see people through God’s eyes we are able to be a witness for Him everywhere we go. We will be able to influence others and show them the love of God through how we live our lives and how we treat others.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” … 1 John 4:7-11
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