Tag Archive | christianity

Love Rather than Judge (November 25, 2009)

I talk to a lot of people – huge surprise, I know – Christians who attend church, those who do not, as well as people who do not believe in God at all. In fact, I just had a conversation with a friend who grew up in a Baptist church, but no longer attends any church with her family. Her rational was exactly the same issue I hear from most people who are not actively participating in their faith, especially Christians. It is simply a fear of judgment from the members of the church. This fear may or may not be legitimate, as Satan is the father of lies, and thus tries to pass on self-doubt to individuals. He hopes that this will prevent people from living the lives God has designed for them. However, I believe that a person’s fear of judgment within a church body can be rational. Sometimes people who have grown from certain sins want to help other people going through similar events, and this may come across as judgmental – although it’s likely never the intention of the more mature believer.

Simply put, our job as Christians is to love other people. This doesn’t only apply to lovable people. We should love sinners and less mature Christians, just as Christ loves us, even though it may not always be comfortable for us to do so. We should love others, especially other believers, without judgment or condemnation. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1).” Even if we have spent our entire lives as Christians, and have no major skeletons from our own past, we still fall extremely short of Jesus’ perfection. Jesus died on the cross for everyone, not just us. We need to reach people and share God’s love without any strings attached. We should love others where they are, and encourage their spiritual growth without coming across as if we believe we are better than them.

God is responsible for judging everyone and will hold us accountable for our actions here on Earth. Christians passing judgment on other Christians is essentially saying that God cannot accomplish His will without our help. It is not our place to articulate all of the sins of every person we come in contact with. Believers should establish accountability partners to help facilitate their Christian growth, with people they trust and respect. This way, if you start to engage in inappropriate behavior, there is always a gentle voice to guide you back along the path to righteousness. Any spiritual correction that is necessary should always be given in a humble, loving, private manner. It should be accompanied with understanding and support, rather than judgment and superiority.

In general, we should always remember the words of Matthew 7:3 “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” This is an exhortation to believers, and reminds us that we will be judged according to the manner we judge others. Trust in the fact that God can and will change believers into the person He desires them to be. Once a nonbeliever truly accepts Christ into their heart, they will be personally convicted by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works differently in everyone’s life. Sin problems are not all tackled immediately when someone becomes a Christian. God is gentle, loving, and will guide people through their Christian growth. We should nurture this growth as sisters in Christ. Paul sums this up perfectly in Romans 14:1-4:

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

God is in control and will accomplish His will regardless of how much we help Him ‘fix’ other people. This holiday season, may we all live out the words of Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Help make the church a safe place for all people, no matter what their past, present, or future sins may be. Through love, not judgment, we can show others how incredibly fortunate we are to have such a merciful God.

Read Any Good Books Lately? (October 13, 2009)

I have never really enjoyed reading, especially novels and other works of fiction. I rarely read any of the assigned books in my English literature classes or even my college courses. In fact, I would purchase the Cliff Notes and only read the two page summary. Needless to say, my grades suffered! It wasn’t until I started doing Bible studies that I realized that you can read something with the intent of understanding. Even more surprising is that I have gained an appreciation for the Bible as a phenomenal work of literature!

You may be scratching your head at this point, wondering why I would describe God’s Word as a piece of literature, but I assure you I mean no disrespect. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, and for that reason alone, we should study it and apply its truths to every aspect of our lives. I completely believe that! But, how many times do we look at the Bible as reference material, something to adorn our bookshelf, or as a stuffy super-spiritual manual that may leave us feeling like a failure? We all know we should be reading the Bible, but seriously, isn’t it easier to pick up a copy of Danielle Steele’s latest romance novel, or the latest fad diet promising to help us lose 30-pounds in 30-days? I know those struggles; I’ve had them all of my life – studying God’s Word was always a chore, something I had to do, not always something I wanted to do.

Over the past couple of years, I have gained a new appreciation for the Bible. Not only is it perfectly relevant in modern times, it contains an excellent mix of all literary genres. Biography, history, genealogy, law, poetry, parables, allegory, tragedy, comedy, sarcasm, speeches, monologues, controversy, love stories, words of wisdom, prayers, letters, etc. No matter what type of literature you prefer, I’m certain you can find it in the Bible. Let me briefly tell a couple of my favorite Bible stories to encourage you to look for more (and I assure you, there are tons of interesting things to read about).

I really love the story found in Acts 20:9-10 when Paul is preaching in Troas and is rather long-winded. Eutychus not only falls asleep on the windowsill, he falls out of the window and dies. Luckily, God allows Paul to bring him back to life, and the ending is a happy one, but hopefully Paul learns that long sermons can be deadly! Comedy, tragedy, and a miracle all rolled into two verses!

In Genesis 18:10-15, God tells Abraham that Sarah will become pregnant. Sarah overhears this and laughs, thinking to herself “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” God questions Abraham, asking if anything is too difficult for the Lord. Of course, Sarah lies to God, out of shame, saying she never laughed. Isn’t that something we would do today – doubting that God can perform a miracle and then lying to Him when He questions us?

Some hysterical words of wisdom (tons of humor in the book of Proverbs):

“If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom.” Job 13:5

“Better to live in the desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.” Proverbs 21:19

“Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish.” Proverbs 31:6

As I often tell people, what I enjoy most is that the Bible shows how God used real people to accomplish extraordinary feats. I love how the apostles were just regular people: fishermen, a tax collector, a doctor, a tentmaker. Better yet, they showed their humanness frequently by not understanding Jesus’ teachings, betraying Jesus, and being selfish. It’s awesome that God uses people, such as prostitutes and ego-maniacs, despite their sin to further His kingdom and bring others closer to Him. Reading how people even fell short despite their conversion from their terrible pasts inspires me that I, too, can make a difference and be a light in an otherwise dark world.

Again, I am not disregarding the sanctity of the Bible – I firmly believe in daily study of God’s Word to guide all of our lives. I just know that reading the Bible can sometimes be a formidable task, and if we can also appreciate the Bible in a light-hearted manner, it might make it easier to become immersed in the Word. The Bible is God-breathed, and I completely believe that God wanted it to be an enjoyable read for us. I know that once you start reading the Bible regularly, you’ll be hooked and will continue studying God’s Word. There is definitely something for everyone in the Bible!

The Unknown Staircase

I used to say that my life could be described by a sinusoidal wave. I would be doing well in life, and then get complacent at the top, and then slide back down to a low point. The pit wouldn’t be a comfortable place, so I would work my way out of it (with or without God’s help) and then head back up the curve, until I reached the apex once again. This cycle would continue over and over again. As I became a Christian, I noticed that the amplitude of the wave (sorry, I am a chemist) would decrease, but I still stuck with the sine wave concept.

Yesterday, I came up with a new analogy that I shared in Sunday school this morning. The concept started earlier this year while watching The Biggest Loser. The trainers talk to contestants about their self-sabotaging behavior, stating that they tend to resist success because they fear it. They are comfortable with failure, but afraid of the unknown – the life that would result from reaching their goals. I was able to identify with that, on some level, because while I have grown spiritually in my Christian walk, I am still not trusting God as much as I would like to be. I now relate my journey to a staircase (perhaps the Stairway to Heaven…Ha! Okay, bad joke).

Life is like a staircase, of an unknown length. I climb the stairs until I reach a point where I find myself completely outside of my comfort zone. I hang out there for a while, trying to decide whether to go higher or not. I previously believed I would grow complacent because I put my trust in myself, but I am not sure that’s completely the case. I think it’s more that I get afraid of heights, and I don’t know what the next steps of the staircase hold. I lose my balance and fall down a few steps. Eventually, I regain my composure and restart my ascent. I climb a little higher, because I’ve been on those steps before….until I reach a new level, and lose my balance and fall again, but not as far as before. This cycle continues, and while I am growing, I never get to see what’s at the top of the staircase. In fact, I still have no idea how high it extends…

The staircase can be equated to aspects of my life that I trust God with. I trust Him with more and more every day, but I am still holding onto some fears and insecurities. Ironically, they don’t seem to be what the average person would think when they look at me. I have no problem trusting God with events outside of my control, but I struggle with some of my day to day concerns. Luckily, every day, He reminds me of the things I need to give completely to Him. I feel I am slowly getting there, as I feel led to leave my comfort zone. That helps me get higher on the staircase before I lose my balance. Eventually, I pray that my balance improves, and I can climb higher and higher without fear.

Fear…what am I afraid of? It certainly isn’t falling down the stairs. I’m really accomplished at that; in fact, I have learned to do so with grace, almost like a dismount off of the balance beam. I can land softly on my feet, stick the landing, regroup, and climb back up. Falling doesn’t seem to hurt much these days because I’ve accepted God’s grace, so that can’t be my fear. I think I’m more afraid of what’s at the top of the stairs… Essentially, fear of the unknown; the things that God could accomplish through me if I let Him.

I’m trying to give it completely to God and continue climbing the staircase. I’ve looked back at my prayer journal from four years ago, and I see how far He’s brought me. I know He’s completely capable of bringing me higher. I just have to trust Him and keep stepping out of my comfort zone, even though Satan will continue to attack me by engaging my fear.

God loves me; He loves you too… He has only wonderful things in store for us. All we have to do is trust Him completely, every day, every hour, every minute. He has an amazing plan for our lives, if only we can step out of the way and let Him achieve it!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Never Say Never (September 14, 2009)

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whichthe world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14)

October has turned into such a pivotal month in my life. I’m not sure why – maybe it’s the return of normalcy to the school and work year after a hectic summer; maybe because the temperature is just beginning to chill; maybe it’s the gentle transition into the holiday season. I can’t put my finger on it, but clearly the last two Octobers have taught me an important lesson – never say never!

Take a brief walk with me!  On October 18, 2007, my son and I were enjoying dinner and kid’s bingo at a local restaurant, when a chance encounter with a family from our church would soon change our lives.  This family invited my son to visit Awana at their church. I knew of Awana at the time, as my aunt had spoken very highly of the program, but I never really understood the purpose of useless memorization.  However, I was open to the possibility that my son could benefit from learning to memorize, since he had just begun kindergarten.  As someone who struggles with memorization, I saw Awana as a purely academic endeavor.

I made it incredibly clear that night that my son was welcome to try Awana out, but I did not want people to try and ‘convert’ me.  I was Catholic, and after years of falling in and out of favor with my faith, I knew there was no benefit to my attending church.  Church was filled with hypocrites and spiritual people who would not understand me; God and I were doing just fine with our relationship, I reasoned.

My son attended Awana and loved it, so I registered him, reminding everyone my position about church had not changed.  No one pushed me; they were friendly and great with my son, but never crossed the line with me.  One month later, I found myself as a back-row church-goer when a friend of mine was going through a disastrous period that affected both of our lives.  Shortly after, we met with our pastor and I re-articulated my feelings on church.  Our pastor remained true to his beliefs, but never pushed me.  The rest is history, as you can tell.

God continues to show me that church is not perfect, as it is made up of fallen humans, just like me.  But, He has shown me that a few bad apples shouldn’t spoil the barrel.  In other words, the benefits of attending church strongly outweigh the negatives.  Fellowship with other believers, an organized, systematic way to keep studying the Bible to continue spiritual growth, an opportunity to serve, etc. – these are the reasons that I need and love church!

I wish I could say the story ends there, but last October, I allowed myself to fall a little.  Granted, my personal standards had improved, and this particular altercation would never have bothered me in my non-church days.  But, as a growing Christian, filled with the Holy Spirit – it was painful!  To this day, I don’t know what happened, other than spiritual warfare at its finest.  I was traveling on business, and my week was difficult.  It was at a time where I was getting complacent in my faith; the novelty had worn off.  I was starting to lose my enthusiasm and drive.  It was a hard week and I remember saying to a colleague, “I am a Christian now and I would never…”  Cockiness and pride at its best!  Acting like I, little ol’ me, had any power in overcoming sin.  Do you ever notice that the more you try to show someone that you’re different from who they think – the more you prove their case?  I suspect you know where this story is going; the “I never” happened and the conviction the Holy Spirit sent my way was enough to last a lifetime.

Luckily God has a sense of humor, or rather purpose, in His plan.  Last October, immediately after I was convicted like never before, the topic of my Bible study was faith.  At a time when I wasn’t feeling like I had any, faith was our topic of discussion.  Amazingly, God used this to show me that even mature Christians had similar struggles to mine.  It was an eye-opening experience for sure!  And those hypocrites I feared so much?  I learned that while there are bad people in every organization, many of those hypocrites that I feared were no different than me – people trying their best to walk with God, but not always making the progress they’d like.

God’s even given me the perspective of those who mentored me, by allowing me to interact with people who have the same beliefs that I once had.  I’ve even learned that memorization is not so terrible, and can help with spiritual warfare.  As long as I remember to put God first in everything, I find that my walk is infinitely easier and my relationship with God is headed in the right direction.  Being prideful and saying that dreaded word ‘never’ is simply an open invitation for temptation or for God to lovingly remind me who is in charge!

The Sovereignty of God

“We like to think that we’re in control.  But, we’re not.  God is.  And God must be sovereign in order to be God.  If anything holds any sway over Him, if one atom is rebellious to His will, if one bit of knowledge is unknown to His mind, if one force is unbending to His desire, if anything prohibits Him from accomplishing His plan – He is no longer sovereign.  And if He’s no longer sovereign, that which is able to oppose Him is greater than Him – and He is no longer God.”  -Mary Kassian, from Knowing God by Name

Week one, day five of this semester’s women’s Bible study… The name of God we were learning about was “Adonai Yahweh”, Sovereign Lord.  We could have spent an entire semester on this one name, and that still would not have been enough for me to fully embrace this attribute of God.  But, we glossed over it in the last ten minutes of our time together, and it’s been on my heart ever since.

When you consider God’s sovereignty from a superficial standpoint, it is perfectly easy to accept.  God must be sovereign if He is really God.  Everything in the Universe must be subject to His control.  If God is not sovereign, He cannot be God.  However, when I read the above paragraph from our study, the intricate details of His sovereignty became clear, perhaps for the first time.

If God is sovereign, which He must be in order to be God, every aspect of life must be completely under His control.  Everything!  Not one minute detail can be left up to chance.

Can this be possible, especially from a loving God?  What about the bad things that happen in life? What about the choices I make, especially the ones that God would not approve of?  What does this mean regarding my free will?  And, if God’s sovereignty is this complete and personal, how I do I feel about it?  How should it make me feel?

I’ll start with free will.  I definitely believe that God gives us the power to make decisions that may be in line with or opposed to what He desires for us.  Free will goes hand-in-hand with having faith in God.  It is completely intertwined with temptation and sin, and is required to have a maturing relationship with God.

Free will began in the Garden of Eden, when God allowed Adam and Eve to choose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Their decision to give in to temptation changed humanity forever.  Another example is salvation; if there was no free will, we would not have to personally accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior in order to be assured salvation.  I must independently use my own free will to trust that Jesus took care of my sin problem on the cross.

I am also given freedom to live my life as I see fit, even when God cringes at my poor decisions.  However, because God is all-knowing, He knows what our decisions will be before we make them and those decisions are part of God’s overall plan for our lives. Even when our decisions are opposed to God’s desire for our lives, He allows us to make them.  God loves us so much that He does not want to force us into submission; rather He gives us the freedom to choose our way or His way.  And, while He knows how we will respond, He loves us enough to give us ample opportunity to choose Him.

But, if God is so loving, why would He allow bad things to happen that were not directly a result of my poor decisions?  This is one of the hardest questions to understand, and the answer is not always easy to swallow.  The truth is, because of Adam and Eve’s decision to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths (Genesis 3:7).”  Their lives were made much more complicated; they were expelled from the garden, and we have been living in a fallen world ever since.

God never promises us an easy life on Earth.  In fact, He promises just the opposite.  Jesus says to us, “I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”  Life is hard; life does not always make sense; it’s not fair, but because of Jesus, we have reason to hope.  He has overcome the world, and by believing in Him, we can spend eternity enjoying endless joy, peace and love, together with our perfect God!

The bad things that happen in life, whether caused by influences outside our control, or our own poor decisions, provide us opportunities for our personal spiritual development.  If life was easy, and everything was perfect, I would not need God; I could be completely self-sufficient!  But, because our world, including my little corner of it, is completely messed up and incomprehensible, I realize that I need God to direct my steps.

By trusting God with my life, I give Him the opportunity to bring beauty from my pain, and help me see past my selfishness.  A great example of this comes from the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers, and later forgiving them and providing for them.  Joseph said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them (Genesis 50:20-21).

It is amazing that God will take the bad things that happen in my life and use them for His ultimate plan!  If one person can see the impact God has made on me and because of that, chooses to trust in Jesus for their own eternal life, then the pain I have felt will have been worth it. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).

The sovereignty of God can bring us complete freedom, if we allow it to.  Since God knows everything that is going to happen, and it’s already part of His eternal plan, there’s nothing we can do to mess everything up!  That should allow me to not get caught up in the poor decisions I have made, or the bad things that have happened in the past (or may happen in the future).  If it were not for the things that have happened in my life, I would not be the woman I am today.  I will continue to be shaped by my experiences, and I pray those involve a deeper level of trust in God.

God’s sovereignty should completely free me from guilt, shame, anger, worry, and fear, if I let it and should bring complete peace in the fact that nothing will happen that is apart from God’s will for me.  If I have learned anything thus far in life, it’s that God is worthy of my trust, and truly has my best interests at heart, so giving complete control over to Him should be an easy decision!

“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country.  I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it (Isaiah 46:8-11).”

Reflections of Christmas (December 25, 2009)

December 25th, 3:00 AM…for those of you who don’t know me well, I often write in the middle of the night.  My rational is that since I rarely have a chance to slow down, God messes with my sleep and uses my down-time to talk to me.  On this Christmas morning, my mind struggles to focus on one particular thing.  Mostly, I am thinking about the meaning of Christmas – the true meaning, Jesus’ birth.  But, since we’re nearing the end of December, I cannot help but reflect about my spiritual walk over this past year.  What makes me even more pensive is that we are approaching the one-year anniversary of this newsletter.  That means I’ve written eleven devotionals, but have they – have I – glorified God and inspired women in the process.

At the surface, it may seem like my thoughts are jumbled, but I submit to you, there is a definite connection between the Christmas story and our daily responsibilities as Christians.  As we embark on yet another year of our life on this Earth, let us remember the joy we feel because of Jesus’ birth, and the love of God the Father, who gave us the ultimate Christmas gift over 2000 years ago.  Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection are not mere events to consider twice a year, but really something that should be at the forefront of our thoughts every day!

That sounds great, but is that what we do?  Is that what I do?  Are sometimes my ideals simply words on a page that lack meaning and application in my life?  When someone looks at me, do they see God’s love, or do they see some self-centered woman who cannot seem to get things right for any appreciable amount of time?  Am I really progressing in my spiritual walk?  Is it that two-steps-forward-one-step-back type of maturity, or do I find myself sliding down the spiritual mountain?  I ask these questions to myself, but really, we should all consider where we are and where we’re going.  If we truly believe the Christmas story, we need to ask these questions, and, we need to be honest enough with ourselves to answer them, but without condemnation.

When I reflect over the year, I see a few shining moments where God’s love radiated from me, but I also see some moments where I must have been demon-possessed! I honestly relate to Paul when he writes, “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.  Now, if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it (Romans 7:15-20).”

I have to include the whole text to help you appreciate my thought-process.  Paul has rehashed my entire spiritual journey in this passage, including the agonizing frustration that goes along with it.  I’ve had this identical conversation with God, even taking it to the point of yelling, begging, and crying over it.  I ask Him, “What’s wrong with me?  God, come on, please help me be consistent.  Help me show Your love; help me do the things I sincerely want to do.  Why is that the more I want to show You, the more I end up disappointing You, and myself?  Why?”

Paul was able to point out that our problem with not reaching our ideals is because of sin living in us.  I don’t know about you, but looking at the magnitude of sin in my life, Paul’s words alone are not too reassuring!  I mean, sure there’s been progress in reducing my sin, but it’s an incredibly slow process, like using an ice-pick to break up a glacier the size of Greenland.  It would be enough to overwhelm me if I had to tackle this problem on my own.  But, I am comforted to know that our sinful nature is overcome because of Jesus!

And, that brings us back to the Christmas story, the true meaning of Christmas… the birth of Jesus, who would later die to redeem us.  We are completely undeserving of His sacrifice, especially considering nothing is required for us to accept His ultimate gift.  For me, this puts everything in a different light.  I’m not just forcing a mere ‘thank you’ to be polite for a gift I didn’t want.  I am truly humbled by the magnificent gift that God has given me – a gift I didn’t even realize I needed for a large part of my life!  I want to grow spiritually; I want to share God’s love with everyone; I want to honor the amazing God who loves us unconditionally.  This doesn’t mean I will always get everything right, or even come close, but I can and will accept I am a work in progress and continue persevering towards to the goal.  This year, let’s make it a daily priority to remember what we’ve been given and put God first in everything that we do.  May you have joyful and blessed New Year!

“For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled in the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19).

Christmas Night

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 ESV)

Ever since I was a little girl, it’s been hard for me to sleep on Christmas night. Back then, I was so excited about Santa coming and anxious about everything I was going to get! I would sneak downstairs and admire all of the presents that were under the tree, and wait, ever so impatiently, until I could wake my parents up to open my gifts!

Being a mom, that magical part of Christmas hasn’t gone away, as I definitely enjoy the genuine enthusiasm of my son as he looks forward to Christmas morning! The smiles, the hugs, his plans to wake up at 6am, the inability to wait before tearing into his gifts…. It’s completely priceless!

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a childlike excitement about Christmas, but for too long, this was all I saw. Presents, family, food, tradition… All very good things, all memorable, important parts of Christmas, but definitely not the centerpiece of the holiday season!

Looking back, something was always missing from my Christmas celebrations. While it was great to receive presents and spend time with family, there had to be more! I even went to church on Christmas Day almost every year, but that still wasn’t enough.

Although it took me a long time to figure it out, I now know that what was missing from my past Christmas celebrations was my personal, authentic relationship with Jesus Christ!

The birth of Jesus is more than a nice story… The nativity scene is more than a fancy decoration… God sending His Son to become man and later die for my sins is, by far, the best Christmas present imaginable! Receiving this gift – truly accepting God’s grace and mercy – is a life changing experience! This is what Christmas is all about!

At church tonight, our drama ministry presented two sketches about how many people see Christmas, and how it’s easy to get caught up in the gift-giving and family craziness that the holidays bring. In between the sketches, our choir sang beautiful Christmas carols that focused on the true meaning of Christmas. Our pastor tied everything together perfectly, connecting our modern Christmas existence with reality, which is only found in Jesus.

I was amazed at how everything fit together, and felt honored and blessed when a stranger approached me and told me that we completely depicted all of the pieces that Christmas brings and how she really enjoyed everything.

I love how God can use something so simple to show the world His love. I am truly humbled that He allows me to be a part of His plan!

I am even thrilled that my inability to sleep on this Christmas Eve is not caused by selfish thoughts of the presents I’m going to receive or what we’re going to eat for Christmas dinner.

Instead, I’m completely in awe of the presence of God in my life! I am incredibly grateful for the Holy Spirit slowly working in me. I am thankful for an amazing church family and the godly people in my life, who help me stay grounded in my faith!

My life is far from perfect, because I am far from perfect, but I still have complete joy because of Jesus! Even when life hurts, I can rejoice because I know I am forgiven and made free and will spend eternity in Christ’s presence!

I sincerely want everyone to be able to experience God’s love, and personally know Jesus! I pray that people who haven’t found what’s missing from their family celebrations will open their hearts and see the true meaning of Christmas… Jesus Christ!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)