What Is Missing This Christmas?

 

It’s December 24th, Christmas is almost here.
Things are still missing. Hurry! Bring them near.

Candy for stockings, bows for the gifts,
Presents for neighbors and others on my list.

Ham for dinner and cookies to bake,
Trips to the store, how long will this take?

But there’s other things missing, what can they be?
Things more important than those gifts that I see.

A hug, a smile, a “Merry Christmas” too.
Kind words instead of curt remarks, an “I love you”.

A call or a visit to a lonely one, a family kin?
The gift of forgiveness in order to make amends.

Or have you forgotten a “thank you” from your heart?
Appreciation for family and friends, the list is long, where do we start?

And Jesus, God’s Son, born to save us, where is He?
Is He included out front or hidden under the Christmas tree?

Will you be singing and praying to Him on Christmas day?
Reading His words, talking about Him in conversations of praise?

Its December 24th there is so much to do!
Will we only think of ourselves or Jesus and others too?

The list is not that long, you’ll see.
If you just think of Jesus and others instead of “me”.

Christmas is the celebration of love from heaven came down.
Of God’s forgiveness when His Son Jesus is found.

Don’t let Him go missing this Christmas day.
Ask him into your heart for there He will promise to stay.

Are You Listening?

listening

Praying for my day,everything was planned out.  I had traveled to Raleigh NC to help serve at the I Commit conference for Voice of the Martyrs and was on the way to the church to set up. Making a quick stop to get a bite to eat, the fast food place was fast but there was no seating. Holding my tray of food, phone in my hand, planning on making some phones calls, an older man sitting alone at a table for four motioned for me to sit with him. Thinking, “I don’t have much time to talk but just to eat”, I made my way to his table.

We introduced ourselves. Smiling, I politely told him I had to eat hurriedly because I was helping with a Christian conference. That really didn’t matter to him as he proceeded to share his story with me. I slipped my phone into my purse, realizing I was there for more than a quick meal. This man, Tommy, shared how he came to the restaurant often, and the people there knew him. He had moved to Raleigh with his wife to be near their children. Then he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and the benign tumor was removed but left him with no sense of smell and sight in only one eye. Thinking he would not mentally survive, his wife divorced him and sent him to a mental hospital. His kids rescued him from the hospital and he eventually found a friend in a church near his apartment. He smiled and said, all is good and I enjoy seeing my kids even though I live alone.

We continued to have a wonderful conversation. He wanted to know more about VOM and my family. Finishing our lunches, we shook hands and gave each other a name card to stay in touch. But I walked away convicted. How many “Tommys” are there who just need someone to talk and share with?  They aren’t in my planned out schedule but need someone to hear their story.

Jesus also lived a busy life on earth. Preaching in the synagogue, teaching to the masses and to His disciples, yet, He made time to listen to people. People were his purpose. As He went about His day, Jesus listened with love, patience, kindness and gentleness to people’s stories – the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus’s questions, Martha complaining about Mary, the disciples fussing about the greatest in God’s kingdom, and more.

Thinking about my time with Tommy, I have started a habit of asking God daily who He wants me to listen to, pray for, or share His message of love with. Yet, am I willing to be inconvenienced? Jesus was often inconvenienced as He traveled from town to town listening to others.

Jesus told his disciples, “go” or “as you are going” make disciples. (Matthew 28:19)  While I am going throughout my day, going in many directions, am I listening to the hurting people around me, ready to share God’s love for them?  Next time someone needs a listening ear, I’ll put the phone down, the plan book up, and show the fruit of love, kindness, patience and gentleness as Christ would have done.  Who knows, I may change someone’s life that day just by listening.

“Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  Colossians 3:12

(photo by Whitebeard)

Real Everlasting Benefits

Easter Stained glass

Every week, I throw them away or open them out of curiosity. They end up in my outside mailbox or computer mailbox. It’s those annoying ads from businesses, credits cards, and even government organizations promising amazing benefits if you accept their offer. I ponder, “What are the real benefits”? “What impact will this have on my life”? Then I make a choice – throw it away or accept the offer.

Around two thousand years ago, a Jewish carpenter, named Jesus Christ made some amazing claims and about himself and what he offered to those who believed in him:

Jesus is God – “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” John 14:9

Jesus lived a sinless life – “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” John 8:28-29

Jesus is the one and only way to God – “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but by me.” John 14:6

Jesus is able to forgive sins – “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests began to say among themselves. ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’” Luke 7:48-49

Jesus is able to give eternal life – “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die…” John 11:25

Jesus would die and come back to life – “and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” Luke 18:31-33

Jesus came to give a meaningful life and peace to those who believe – “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” John 10:10; “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” John 14:27

Why would this Jesus, the Son of God, die as an innocent man to forgive the world’s sin and give His believers eternal life? It comes from a heart of love. “God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Because of His love, Jesus offers to those who believe in Him: forgiveness of sins, a way to know God personally, and everlasting life. What amazing benefits of believing in Jesus to be the Son of God and the Savior of the world! And the price? It is free to anyone anywhere although it cost Jesus everything – His life. Who wouldn’t want to take this offer that gives eternal benefits?

During this week of remembering Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am grateful for these everlasting benefits. How could I ever repay Jesus for all the goodness he has given to me and other believers around the world? Could I give him my own life? Today many believers in Jesus are giving up their lives for Him. Just recently, 21 men were beheaded for their faith in Jesus in Libya. One of those men left behind a wife and three sons. His wife’s response, “If they want all three of our kids, it isn’t too much [to give] for Christ.”  She and many others like her around the world are ready to give whatever they have for the benefits of knowing Jesus.

Do you know Jesus and His love and forgiveness?  Have you received the benefits He promises for those who know him? If you do, then it will show to the world in how you live. Nothing is too priceless to give to the One who gave it all for our benefit. Even our very lives.

 For more about Jesus, check this app: app.jesusfilmmedia.org

Love for the Family

NYC skyline with flag 2

 

The shock, fear, horror, disbelief, tears, and now painful memories of what happened on September 11, 2001 fill our minds today in the U.S. and around the world. And thirteen years later the world still seems to be in chaos. The good news is that God, the Creator of the entire universe and our world, is still on His throne and in control of all things. He is good and works all things for good, even the evil which kills thousands. King David, who walked closely with God and experienced evil in his own life, wrote, “For God is the King of all the earth… God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.” (Psalm 47:7-8) “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8)

As we trust in God’s plans and goodness we still have to live in the midst of sorrow and pain. So what do we do as followers of Jesus, as those who are abiding with Him and have our hope in Him? He has told us what to do very clearly. Jesus told us to love our enemies and to love each other.

Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

He also told His disciples to love each other, the family of believers, our brothers and sisters in Christ. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35)

As the early believers were facing sorrow, pain, and persecution Paul told them to love each other and to take care of each other. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “…through love serve one another.” (5:13) and “Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.” (6:9, NLT) As we abide with Jesus, His love flows through our lives to the world and what greater way to show His love than to our enemies and to our family. We pray for our enemies to find hope in Jesus, to know His love and forgiveness. We pray for our family of believers in the Middle East to have God’s strength right now as they face such evil and death. We can also love them by giving to their needs through several Christian organizations that are there with them in person.

What will you do this week to show your love for your enemies? What will you do to love those in the family of Christ? Will you take time to pray for them? I would like to know what you are doing. I will be praying for and supporting those groups of Christians who are showing love to our persecuted family in Iraq and around the world. And my enemies? I will pray that they will trust in God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus.

Check out some ways to help:

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/iraq-crisis-response

http://www.persecution.com

http://www.persecution.org

Loving Commandments

jefferson memorialWhile visiting the Jefferson Memorial this past weekend, I saw words etched in stone for generations to see. Celebrating July 4th in Washington D.C., my husband and I with our daughter and friends wanted to see the statue of Jefferson which was sculpted by my husband’s great great uncle, Rudolph Evans. As I looked around the massive structure, I noticed words like – “Creator”, “Almighty God”, “God who gave”, “gift of God”, and “God is just”. As I read these words, I wondered if those around me knew of God’s own Words once etched in stone. Could anyone there recite God’s powerful Words of guidance written for His people in the Ten Commandments? Commands to worship only God, honor your parents, do not kill, do not steal, and do not give false witness.

We often think of commands as only rules we need to keep. Most people loathe any rules or commands in their lives. But commands are like boundaries; they protect us from harm. In following them we experience peace and joy in our relationships with God and people. When Jesus told His followers to keep his commandments, he placed it right next to a powerful word – love:

“. ..Abide in My love…If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:9, 11) “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

As we grow in our love and appreciation for all that Jesus has done for us we are happy to keep His commandments. As we walk with Him we know the commandments are for our good since they are given with love. God’s commandments are given from a heart of love; He wants the best for our lives. That is why the Psalmist wrote:

“I find my delight in your commandments, which I love… I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.” (Psalm 119:47, 127)

How do we know that we are abiding with Jesus and walking with Him? How do we show our love for Him and others? It shows in a life that obeys His commandments.

“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments… By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:3, 5-6)

Do I love God’s commands? Do I take time to see what He has “etched in stone” in His Word for all generations to read? As I abide with Jesus He gives me the power to keep His commands because He loves me. I will show Jesus how much I love Him by abiding in His love and keeping His commands.

Family Love

Facebook is full of what else? – faces. It is an online “book” of faces. Many of the faces are of family and family members. There are pictures of weddings, births, graduations, vacations and events of the past. Some pictures are funny and some serious. Every day, even every hour, people share their love for their families by posting pictures and writing comments. Then those of us who are their friends get to “like” what we see and comment ourselves. Really, to me, Facebook is a family of friends sharing our love for others and each other.

Family love is powerful. A picture of family love whether on Facebook, in a frame, or in person can have an amazing influence in other lives, especially if those lives don’t have family love. Many people in the world would love to have a family or at least a family that loves each other.

When Jesus was eating the last supper with his best friends, his disciples, he shared what was on his heart. He loved these disciples; they had become his family. He told them of his coming death but then gave them a command. One simple command, yet it wouldn’t be easy to follow.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Luke 13:34-35)

And how were they to love each other? Just like Jesus had loved them – He was their example, their picture. Talk about an amazing picture of love. Jesus had just washed their feet, humbly serving them. He fed them with loaves and fish, He taught them God’s Words and Truth, and He was about to die for them so that they could live.

When we come to trust in Jesus and know God’s forgiveness we enter a family – a family of believers all over the world. We may look different, speak a different language, and may never meet, but we are family. Jesus told us that our love for each other would be a testimony for others that we are His followers. The world would know we are Christians – Christ followers – by our love for one another. This is our witness. How are we doing? What does our picture look like? Do we tear each other down; ignore our brothers and sisters who are suffering? Or do we humbly lay down our lives for them in love as Jesus loved us?

I am going to take some extra time this week to pray for my family in my church, community and around the world. I will support them financially where there is a need. I will seek ways to serve them and “wash their feet” as Jesus did? What will you do to show your love for your family?

 

Praying for these and other family members who are persecuted for believing in Jesus.

Fruitful Family Reflections

“We need to eat more fruits and vegetables” say the doctors and nutritionists.  So, I think about all the fruits in the fruit family that I should be eating.  You have pears, apples, grapes, and oranges, even unique fruits like kiwi, pomegranate and lingonberry.  When we lived in Asia, we ate lychees, cumquats and star fruit. They all belong to the family of fruits.  They look different, taste different, and even smell different.  They even come together for certain purposes like fruit baskets, fruit bouquets, and fruit salad.

The family of believers in Jesus is like the family of fruits. They are all unique – look different, are shaped different, come from different cultures and countries. Yet, together they are a beautiful reflection of the love that God has given to us through Jesus. Like a fruit bouquet shows off the individual fruits yet together they have a special beauty, together we have a special purpose as we show God’s love.

fruit market

Jesus told his followers “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  John 13:34-35 NLT

There it is. What do we reflect as we come together and love each other in the family of Jesus?  The proof that we are followers of Jesus.

We read books about how we can be a better witness of Jesus in our lives.  We say the right religious words to prove that we are His. We even wear clothing and put symbols on our cars to tell others we belong to Jesus.  Yet, what is the real proof?  “Your love for one another”; that’s it.  Plain and simple.

When we love each other, it reflects Jesus’ love to the world. Joining together as a family of believers in love is the greatest witness of who we are. When we forgive other Christians, say kind words about them instead of slandering and gossiping, show grace instead of judgment, give to their needs emotionally or even financially – we are proving to be a follower of Jesus.

Am I proving to be a follower of Jesus in how I love my brothers and sisters in Christ?  What do others hear me say about them or see me do for them?  Am I being a fruitful witness to others that I am a Christian by reflecting God’s love to other Christians? How about your proof?

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”  John 15:9