Tell and Proclaim this Christmas!

Turning onto the highway, I saw the large red and yellow letters which covered the entire sides of the semi-truck. You couldn’t miss it – “JESUS”. The back of the truck posted a website for more information about Jesus and God’s love. Not able to grab my phone to take a picture or write down the website, I did smile a big smile, thinking – “Thanks, brother, for announcing to other drivers your love for God’s son, Jesus, and a desire to share him with others as you go about your work traveling on highways. You aren’t afraid of what others will think or say. You just want to proclaim the news of Jesus literally wherever you go”.

The story of Christmas is a story of signs, announcements, proclaiming, and telling. The angel Gabriel was sent from God to tell Mary she would give birth to a son – “you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:31-32)

At the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared to shepherds in a field at night, telling them, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Then a multitude of heavenly angels began to proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2:10-11, 14)

The shepherds then went to look for Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Upon finding baby Jesus, they “…told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished.” (Luke 2:17-18)

Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to the Temple to be dedicated as Jewish law required. While there, Simeon, a prophet saw baby Jesus and began praising God proclaiming:

“’I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations’… Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said.” (Luke 2:30-33)

At that same time, Anna, a widow and prophetess also began to praise God and “talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38)

This Christmas song reminds us that this season especially is the time for all who know and have “seen” Jesus’ work of love and forgiveness in their lives to proclaim, to tell, to announce:

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born

Are you telling?  Are you proclaiming the message of Jesus- God’s salvation “prepared for all people”- to others? Painted on a truck, shared with a neighbor, told to a co-worker, written in a Christmas card, introduced to a foreigner in your city, and talked about in your home with children, parents, aunts and uncles?

Or maybe like the shepherds, you have been told the message of Jesus every Christmas but instead of seeking him you are skeptical of the announcement, not leaving your “field” to find him. This year, go, seek and find Jesus.  For he said, “seek, and you will find.” (Matthew 7:7) and “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37) “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Join with the angels, shepherds, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna praising God for Jesus, who came “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” (Luke 1:79), and make telling and proclaiming your celebration of Christmas.

 

Peace instead of Fear

What burdens are you carrying today? What fears?  What needs do you have?  What do we do with them? This past year, I have joined with others locally and across our nation, to pray earnestly, unceasingly, not like before, as we have been burdened and fearful for our nation- the loss of religious freedoms, the ever encroaching evil in our culture and the fight for godly values in our homes and schools. God is working mightily through our prayers on a large scale.

Now that those times of prayer for the elections have past, will we continue to pray earnestly, unceasingly? The burdens and battles are never over in this world – whether for a nation or in our lives. We continue to fight the darkness around us in our  lives and homes, our communities and churches. Paul reminded the Ephesians living in an ungodly culture:

“Hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil…take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.” (Ephesians 6: 16, 17) 

Daily we feel the pressures and burdens living in this world. Satan tempts us to believe that God doesn’t care. He has left us. So, we decide to worry and fret, overwhelmed by carrying these burdens ourselves. But when I choose to go to God in prayer and give these cares to him, I do not go away empty handed – God gives me himself in return, his joy and his peace.

Thomas Watson, an English Puritan Preacher who lived almost 400 years ago wrote in his book, The Ten Commandments:

“Let us cast all of our burdens upon him-our fears, our needs and our sins. Christian what troubles you? You have a God to pardon your sins and to supply your needs, therefore roll your burden on him, “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. Those who have a covenant union with God may be filled with contentment of spirit, for God is a rich blessing to the soul. He is a sufficient good. He who has God has enough…If God is our God let it cheer and revive us in all conditions…Let us live as those who have God as their own, and walk in holy lives, that others may see there is something of God in us.”

As I abide with God in a close relationship with him, praying daily and hourly for mine and others’ burdens, I can trust he will work things out in his good timing. Then God produces the peace and joy I need in my circumstances. My spirit is refreshed and I become refreshment to those living in darkness around me. Hopeless, they are burdened with sins and sorrows wandering around looking for someone who cares. I can lead them to our God and to His son, Jesus, who takes the burdens of those who call out to him and desire to live godly lives.

“Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not allow the godly to slip and fall.” Psalm 55:22

So there are two choices for me and you today as God’s children: 1) worry and fret until I am overwhelmed and totally stressed in my circumstances or 2) give my burdens to God through prayer and experience His peace and joy, trusting in a good and powerful God who loves me.

“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Psalm 50:15

Are You Fearless for God?

Many Christians have lost everything fleeing there homes instead of giving up their faith in Jesus. They live in “tent cities” with no where to go.

 

This week, on October 31, among the “noise” of Halloween, some people celebrated the fearless act of a godly man who just couldn’t remain silent about the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Martin Luther had studied God’s Word and came to see that forgiveness and salvation, our righteousness “is by a gift of God, namely by faith.” He believed, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).

This belief was not accepted by the religious people and the culture of his day. But with great courage and boldness, in 1517 Martin fearlessly nailed his 95 Theses proclaiming these truths on the door of Whittenberg Castle church. He was summoned to a trial by the Holy Roman Emperor to recant his beliefs but passionately proclaimed, “I cannot and will not recant…here I stand, I can do no other.”

Martin Luther is only one of thousands, millions, since the resurrection of Jesus Christ who have fearlessly, passionately and courageously proclaimed their faith in Jesus and God’s Word, and would not “recant” even if it meant death. These believers just couldn’t remain silent. Through torture, imprisonment, accusations, loss of homes and family – these are the persecuted who desire to obey God instead of follow the world.

In the early church, great persecution came to the followers of Jesus who wouldn’t stay silent about the One who had forgiven and loved them. It was assumed that this would be a part of their lives, as Paul wrote:

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life, in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  2 Timothy 3:12 

 Every believer in Jesus, who abides with Him, loves God’s Word, and boldly shares its truth with others will be persecuted in some way. Around the world we have seen Christians beheaded and crucified, refugees forced to leave their homes, countries and families and others who have stayed in those countries to share the love of Christ with their enemies. These are all part of the body of Christ. They feel alone and left behind by the rest of the world – even by other believers who have more of the world’s goods and more freedom. Most of them only ask for prayers or Christian materials so that they can continue to share the goods news of Jesus with others. They have truly given their whole lives to Jesus and live with a passion to tell others about their God who saved them from their sins and has given them hope. They must continue the work. They remain fearless.

I count it a privilege to be a volunteer voice for my persecuted brothers and sisters around the world through the ministry of Voice of the Martyrs. Although I may not be able to visit them and personally cry with them in prison, I can pray for them and share their stories with others. Through Voice of the Martyrs and other ministries, I can support them and their families financially sending clothing, food and Bibles.

God commands us as followers of Jesus to not forget our family who are persecuted:

“Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.”     Hebrews 13:3

This Sunday, November 6, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. How will you remember them? Will you tell others their stories? Will you share them with your Bible study or church? I strongly encourage you to go to http://persecution.com and sign up for their newsletter, adopt a front-line worker to pray for, be a voice for the voiceless – remember those in prison for their faith in Jesus. And if you want someone to be a voice at your church or community group contact me. I would love to share their stories.

Many Christians meet secretly to read the Bible

Many Christians meet secretly to read the Bible.

Finding Beauty in Your Season of Life

My eyes can’t get enough of their beauty; if I could only capture it in my mind before winter comes. Yellow, red, and gold autumn leaves have come to the mountains, but they stay only a short time. Seasons come and go; things never stay the same. But there is always beauty in the changes. We may have to look for it though and always remember it.

In the past few months our family has gone through seasons of change. The ending of the season of college years with a graduation and the beginning of a new season with a wonderful new family member through our son’s wedding. Now I move on after the celebrations and joyous memories are tucked away into photo albums.

Our lives are all full of changing seasons – new jobs, new friends, and new locations. Yet, other seasons may bring loss of a job, people, or even our home. Some seasons seem to last forever feeling stuck applying for jobs, taking care of children or a sick family member, or longing to be married instead of single. As a nation, we are going through a season of leadership changes that may affect our very lives and families. During these times, we feel like we are riding an emotional roller coaster. Joy, fear, grief, sadness, happiness, anger, peace and excitement grip our hearts.

Thankfully, each season has its own beauty, even in the darkest suffering. That beauty lies in God, the Designer and Master of all seasons – “He changes times and seasons…” Daniel 2:21. Yet, HE is NEVER changing. He does not change with the seasons but orchestrates them remaining in control and at peace.

“God who is enthroned from of old, who does not change…” Psalm 55:19

“I the LORD do not change…” Malachi 3:6

King Solomon, one of the wisest kings in history understood seasons of life:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,…a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace… He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

God has made everything beautiful. Everything! How? Because He is God and He is good. He is in control of time, circumstances, kings and kingdoms.

God is All-Knowing, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God.” Hebrews 4:13

God is All-Powerful, “All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases…among the people of the earth. No one can stop him…” Daniel 4:35

God is Love and is Faithful, “Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens, your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.” Psalm 36:5

God is Good, “The LORD is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.” Psalm 145:9

God is Sovereign, “He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; He alone is God.” 1 Timothy 1:17

God is Holy, “No one is holy like the LORD! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” 1 Samuel 2:2

Every season comes from God for a purpose – to accept His salvation personally through His Son Jesus, to trust His word, to make Him a refuge, to rejoice in Him, to grow in faith, or to be quiet and enjoy His presence.

Do you see the beauty in your season? Look. God is there with you and will make “everything beautiful in its time”. You can trust in His loving plans and abide in His love. Through the seasons He produces beautiful fruit through our lives as believers for His glory. What fruit do you see?

 

 

Our Vocation

times-square

Around the world this morning, people woke up to the sun rising in large cities and the countryside. People from all countries and languages began their new day. Business people opened storefronts, farmers went to the fields and parents helped children pack their books for school. In every season of life, most people have a job – a vocation, a purpose to make a living and to live in this world. Others may be looking for that job, that next step to working in this world.

God created work in the Garden of Eden and work is good. We can glorify God in our work no matter what we do. The farmer provides food for others, the doctor provides healing for the sick, the teacher gives knowledge and a love for learning, the businessman provides work for his employees, and mothers and fathers work at home to take care of little children.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, what is our true “job” besides the need for work to provide food and clothing for our families?  Is our identity in our earthly job or in our heavenly purpose?  Who and what identifies us? When people ask us, “what do you do?”, what should we answer? What is our true vocation?

In The Valley of Vison, a devotional book of Puritan prayers, one prayer called, “Vocation” is a reminder of who we are in our true “vocation” for Christ:

Heavenly Father,  Thou hast placed me in the church which thy Son purchased by his own blood.

Add grace to grace that I may live worthy of my vocation...

 

 I am a tree of the vineyard thou hast planted.

Grant me not to be barren, with worthless leaves and wild grapes;

Prune me of useless branches; water me with dews of blessing.

I am part of the Lamb’s bride, the church.

Help me to be true, faithful, chaste, loving, pure, devoted;…

 

May I live high above a love of temporal things, sanctified, cleansed, unblemished, hallowed by grace,

Thy love my fullness,

Thy glory my joy,

Thy precepts my pathway,

Thy cross my resting place…

Today, no matter what your job is whether you are working or looking for work as a Christian, your “vocation” is to be a light to the world wherever God has placed you in His vineyard. Through His blessings and the power of the Holy Spirit given to us who believe we can bear fruit that the world knows nothing about. We can love others, have supernatural peace and joy in our circumstances, show acts of kindness and goodness, be an example to the world of faithfulness in our commitments and discipline and self-control in our speech and affections.

God is glad to give us work but ultimately desires us to give Him the glory in whatever we do. As you work today, meeting deadlines, managing finances, communicating with others, serving others with “mundane” tasks, desks piled high with papers or a field ready to harvest, remember your vocation as a believer in Jesus. He is your vocation as you work in this world!

 

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:17

 

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”  Colossians 3:23

 

“If anyone speaks, he should speak as one conveying the words of God. If anyone serves, he should serve with the strength God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”  1 Peter 4:11

 

Silence and Trust is Your Strength

Living in an area that offers rest in the mountains, quite often people are instead attracted to the many activities and tourism. Even though surrounded by the quiet beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, some don’t know how to enjoy the silence. They have become too accustomed to noise and busyness.

These past few months have been a time of silence and quiet from blogging and writing so that I can read God’s word, pray and renew my mind. From these times of silence, quiet trust, and prayer God renews my strength to help others and minister to their needs. Silently reading and meditating on God’s word and listening in prayer, I have the words to speak and write for others. In our American culture of busyness and noise, even in the church, this spiritual discipline is rarely honored in the Christian community.  In fact, we “glorify” being busy.  We rarely seek silence before God. Instead we seek our own ways, asking God’s “blessings” on our plans instead of first going to Him in silence, listening to His instructions and gaining His strength.

Often a recurring problem among God’s people, centuries ago, the Israelites decided not to listen to the Lord either, wanting to go their own way, as “children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord.” (Isaiah 30:9) They decided to seek someone else’s help and guidance in Egypt. They didn’t want to hear from God – they had their own plans, thank you. Yet, even in their disobedience against God to listen, He wanted them to come back and rest in Him:

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

It is our silence and trust in God that give us the strength and words to minister to others in this hurting world. We are too quick to make our plans and not stop to be silent and pray. Too many Christians, even those in ministry, are following their own ways, and the influence of others’ worldly knowledge instead of seeking God’s instructions in silence and prayer. God could say to them as He told the Israelites, “You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances that are not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins.” (Isaiah 30:1. NLT)

In his book, The Way of the Heart, author, Henri Nouwen talks about the importance of solitude, silence, and prayer. Nouwen says:

“A word that bears fruit is a word that emerges from the silence…from it we speak to those in need. Solitude and silence can never be separated from the call to unceasing prayer…The literal translation of the words ‘pray always’ is ‘come to rest’…It is a rest in God in the midst of a very intense struggle.”

In the quiet clinging to God in prayer, we grow in our strength. The deep roots of the tree grow in silence but its strength is shown through withstanding the power of the wind and storms.

Can we just stop for a few minutes or even an hour? And dare I say, even perhaps not attend another Christian meeting or event before we have spent silent time with God, listening to His instructions? Can we turn off the noise around us, put down the tourist guide, and get away so our strength is renewed? You never know what you might hear God say to you in His word and through prayer.

“He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries…Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.” Isaiah 30: 19, 21, NLT

 “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him,” Psalm 62:5

 

Keep Focused!

Waking up to another morning of low dense white clouds, I could barely see past the trees in our yard; the cloud’s thickness engulfed everything in sight. Low lying, thick clouds are common in the mountains, yet driving through them on curvy roads can be dangerous. In the car, hands clinched to the steering wheel, there is a great deal of uncertainty so I focus on the white painted lines on the pavement and the red tail lights on the cars in front of me. Never knowing when the clouds will lift, I stay focused and am always relieved when I finally come out of the thickness and can see far ahead on the road in front of me.

Often in our lives, there are times when we seem to be surrounded by dense clouds. We can’t see very far, perhaps only a few feet in front of us. We become frightened, anxious, and not sure of our surroundings. It muddles our thinking and we feel lost and unsure of where we are headed. If only we could see farther ahead and make out our path.

During those times, we must stay focused. If not, we could veer off the path and go down a dark hill or get stuck somewhere- not even knowing where we are. Just like the white painted directional lines on the road, we need to fix our eyes on a clear guide. There is only one sure guide through the darkness, One who knows the right path, step by step – Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the way…” John 14:6. He is the way toward God and His love, peace, forgiveness, and wisdom for life.

Not sure of the path in front of her, Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), a brilliant and famous artist, searched and prayed for clear directions. Fixing her eyes on Jesus, she decided to put aside her art to take the message and love of Jesus to Algeria. Joyful and at peace in following Jesus’ clear path, Lilias wrote several books and tracts about her love for Jesus. In her tract, Focussed she wrote:

“It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? …Then dare to have it out with God, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His glory…Turn full your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.”

Inspired by Lilias’ words, Helen Lemmel wrote the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”:

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Are you in some darkness, surrounded by thick clouds from difficulties, or perhaps wrong choices or failures? Have you lost your way not seeing the path in front of you? Then look only to Jesus. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Let His words, God’s words, guide you through the clouds. Read God’s Word daily, clinging to its truths.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil.” 119:133

“The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.’” Psalm 32:8