Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Black Friday

I do not believe in my 29 years on this earth that I have ever seen the madness that is evident on "Black Friday." A day when common sense seems to go out of the window, all for the purpose of great deals for Christmas. People stand in lines for hours, sometimes through bitter cold, just to be the first ones in line for the item they covet for either themselves or as a gift to someone else. Our Television sets and internet pages are full of violence surrounding this day. People getting trampled, pepper sprayed, arrested, and even killed all for the sake of what they believe Christmas is all about.

Now I will admit, my wife and I did go shopping early. We got up at 4 am to head down to the stores for some of the sales. And we do save a lot of money. However, you would not see me grabbing, and snatching, and even fighting over specific items. However, my wife and I never take our mind off of what the true meaning of Christmas is. As a matter of fact, one of our main stops this year was at LifeWay Christian Book Store. And I noticed some things that were very encouraging while I was there. Number one; It was the longest line that we waited in to make a purchase. My wife and I had to wait over and hour and a half in line to check out. At Toys R Us, we did not have to wait in line at all. It was heart warming to see all of those people buying gifts with Christian influence for their loved ones. Number two; everyone was in a friendly mood. I got the chance to strike up many conversations about church, Christ, and the true meaning of Christmas. And every person that I talked to was in full agreement. There was no pushing, yelling, or fighting over gifts. Number three; I noticed much love and compassion in that store. Now, when you are in a line that long, someone is going to have to go to the bathroom. Especially since the people working the store were passing out warm drinks for everyone in line. I noticed numerous times, people leaving their spot in line to use the restroom. And the people behind them, held their spot in line for them, and even offered to hold their basket of items for them. It is amazing how the atmosphere can change when you are with a huge gathering of fellow Christians.

Now with all this going on last week, I wondered. What would it be like if everyone put the same effort in to seeking Christ, as they do that gift they want to buy. Many people fight hard and do some of the most amazing things when they find out that they can get something for free on Black Friday. But, why do they not do the same thing for salvation. Salvation through belief in Christ Jesus as our Master and Savior is a free gift. The price has already been paid. Jesus gave His life, on a cross so that we might have eternal life for free.

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

Romans 10:9-10
"that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."

Acts 4:11-12
"He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."

Ephesians 1:13
"In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,"

So, why are people not waiting in line to receive salvation? I think one of the main problems is advertising. Do they know about Christ, and His sacrifice? Do they understand that without Him they are condemned? Do they know exactly how much God loves them? We see all sorts of advertizements on TV, newspapers, and catalogs on all the things on sale. So how do we advertize? We witness to others. We tell them the story of Jesus. We tell them the gospel(good news). And this season is the perfect opportunity. We will come into contact with so many people this time of year, and we should seize every opportunity to share with them the true meaning of Christmas, which is the birth of our Savior. We stand beside them in line. We visit them at family get-togethers. We sit beside them in a crammed food court. There are so many opportunities that we have to advertize for Christ.

Matthew 28:19-20
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Acts 22:15
"For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard."

Hebrews 12:1-2
"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

So I encourage you today, do not let the true meaning of this season be forgotten in all that we do. And make sure to take time to tell someone of our Savior's birth, and the gift of salvation that He brought with Him.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless You all this week!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Small Moments

By now, most of you have guessed that I love to blog about my kids. It is not that I am this super proud dad with a sense of "My kid is better than your kid!" However, I am a super proud dad of my kids. They are three of the biggest blessings in my life. My son is at the top of his Kindergarten class. He never gets in trouble. He loves to play ball, wrestle in the floor, and loves all things boy. My oldest daughter is my weak spot. She is always the last one to tell me bye in the morning, and is always on the porch waiting for me when I get home. Her favorite thing to do is crawl in my lap before bed, and either watch "Tom and Jerry" or have me read a book to her. This time is filled with "I love you daddy" and an abundance of hugs and kisses. My baby girl is a little angel. She was a band aid to broken hearts after the loss of two pregnancies before her. At 6 months old, she almost never cries. Every time you look at her, all she does is smile, laugh, and try to talk in her own way. My wife and I have been blessed far beyond what we deserve in this life.

This brings me to the thought of, how do I teach my children about the love of God? As I certainly see them as a wonderful gift from God, what am I doing to ensure that they grow up with the knowledge and love for God that I have? My only answer is that I do my best to teach them of God, and what he wants us to be in this world.

Psalm 34:11
"Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD."

Now some people suggest the best way to instruct our children is with nightly bible devotion time. I agree with this to a point. We must make sure that the lesson is child friendly. In other words, put it in a way the child can understand, and do not endevour in a 30 minute to an hour bible study with a three year old. It just does not work well. When they get older, yes. Planned bible studies or devotion time is great. However, this begs the question on how to do it with small children. Being blessed to be an educator, I understand a little of what small children can and cannot handle. Instead of specific devotional time everyday, we look for small moments.

Small moments are times during the run of the day in which something happens, or a child notices something different, that we are able to relate God to them. It does not have to be a long sermon quoting many scriptures. But just enough to get them to think about God. For example, my kids have noticed in the past in grocery stores and other places of business when someone drops something, that my wife and I help them to pick things up. My son asked me one time why I did that. They were a stranger and we are not supposed to talk to them. Now I was proud that my son knew not to talk to strangers, however, a small moment appeared. I took the time to explain how helping others, even if we do not know them makes God happy. I got a moment to share with him what is meant by loving your neighbor, and to have compassion on those who are less fortunate. My oldest daughter loves to get dressed up for church. She loves to get her dresses on, and little necklaces to look like a princess to go to church. She asked one time, "Daddy, why do we always go to church and wear our prettiest clothes?" Well, there was another moment. I took a couple of minutes to explain the importance of church, and that we want to give God our best. I used the scripture Acts 2:42 to help with the point.

Acts 2:42
"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

My wife and I not only look for the small moments to teach our children, but we try to model it as well. We try to read our bibles everyday. One day my son asked what the story I was reading was about, think that I had this big story book like he likes to read. It took no more than two minutes to convey the importance of reading your bible. And he and his sisters see us doing it. Children are the greatest lie detectors. They know what we say they should do, but what does it mean to them if we do not do it too. I once caught myself telling my daughter, "Do what I say, not what I do." What does that really teach my child? It teaches them that it is okay not to do what we are supposed to. They will grow and emulate everything that we say and do. If we teach them what is the right thing to do, and then do the opposite, we are teaching them to be hypocrites.

So, how do I teach my children of God's love? I look for the small moments. And you must be careful. You never know when they will come, and you can be assured, that your kids are always watching what you do.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless You all this week!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Devil in Pew Number Seven

I have never viewed myself as an avid reader until the last few years. As a matter of fact, I hated to read when I was a kid. However, when I got to college, I learned to enjoy reading. I just had to find a genre that suited me and that could keep my attention. I just finished reading a book entitled "The Devil in Pew Number Seven" by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo. It is a true story based on the life of the author. I found it hard at times to put down from reading. One of the reasons for my intrigue of this book is the location in which the story takes place. The backdrop is the Sellerstown community in Columbus County. This community is located about 5-10 minutes from where I currently reside, and about 15 minutes from where I grew up. I also recognize some of the people described in this book and know them personally. Although most of the events occurred before I was born, it is still pretty familiar to me. I am also overtaken by the message of this book. It shows how hard it is to bless and forgive those that persecute or try to hurt you.

The book begins with an introduction to the parents of the author. It tells of how they met, and how their ministry got its start. As the book continues on, the author shares insight on all of the trials that her parents went through before their move to North Carolina. Once the move is made, the authors father makes great strides in work at the church that offered him a job. The church begins to grow, and bear fruit, much to the dismay of the antagonist in the story, who is a wealthy and powerful individual in the county. This sets up a chain of events in which this man tries everything in his power, legal and illegal to run this preacher out of town.

Now, I am not going to ruin the book for you by telling you how that it ends, and all of the details. What I will do is tell you that what I read was one of the greatest examples of practicing what you preach. Will all of the horrible acts perpetrated against this family, they stayed true to their faith. They always leaned on the Lord. There were constant reminders of scripture through all of the trials. And never once did the family seek its own revenge.

I particularly like the way the author ended the book. She ended it with certain truths that she learned from these experiences that helped her to draw even closer to God. And how that God manifested Himself to her, and had a forever effect on her life. This book was not only good reading, but an inspiration for those Christians who are going through many trials. I think that all I go through in my life does not even come close to what they went through. And if they can do it in the midst of their circumstances, then so can I. I encourage you all to take time to read this book.

Thanks, and God Bless You all this week!

I have in no way been compensated for my review of this book. These are my personal thoughts on the book.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stay Close

I am forever amazed at some of the things that a child can play with, and it keep their attention for long periods of time. Now there are a lot of things at my house that we have to keep on lock-down because we do not want them to play with them and lose them. Such as the flashlight. I have yet to meet a kid that did not love to play with a flashlight, day or night. But, they seem to have trouble putting them back where they need to go. And when the lights go out, it is an interesting task to find them. One of the things that I have noticed that my kids love to play with is an umbrella. There is some fascination with watching it open up, and hiding underneath. Whether it is raining or not. Or whether they are in the house or outside, they do not care. The funny thing is, when it rains, they do not want to use it then. They want to run out in the rain and feel it falling on them. Now, don't get me wrong. I enjoy it sometimes too. But, my kids do not like to use the umbrella for its real purpose. Many times my wife and I will tell them to stand real close so they will not get wet. For when the umbrella is used correctly, it protects us all. This reminds me of a verse in the book of James.

James 4:8
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded."

We will face many storms in this life. Whether they come as a tragedy, financial hardship, or relationship problems, we all will have struggles. The question is, are we prepared for them when they happen? Or the proverbial question, "Do we keep and umbrella around all the time just in case?" The best thing we can do is to draw close to God. By striving in our lives to form a good relationship with our Heavenly Father, He will get closer to us. Just like we tell our kids to stand close under the umbrella to keep them dry, we should draw close to God when we are faced with our troubles. And He is faithful to us to see us through.

Jeremiah 30:17a
"For I will restore you to health, And I will heal you of your wounds,’ declares the LORD."

Now some people think that their problems are too big for them to handle. And they are right. There are many things that we cannot handle on our own. But my God is bigger than any problem imaginable. My God is greater than anything. And as long as I draw near to Him, I know that everything will be alright. This reminds me of a song that I like to hear on K-love. The name of it is "Our God" by Chris Tomlin. The link to the song on You Tube is below if you would like to listen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oksdb06SsTM&feature=fvsr (If this does not work, you can go to youtube.com and search "Our God" by Chris Tomlin)

Thanks for reading, and God Bless You all this week!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Taking Shape

Trusting God seems to be something that I struggle with time to time. Now don't get me wrong, I do study my bible and pray regularly. However, there are times when I lean on my own understanding. There are some things that are easy for me to place my trust in. I trust that my alarm will go off at 6 am every morning for me to wake up to go to work. I trust that my wife will have a lunch packed for me and my son before we leave for school(She is wonderful). However, trusting God seems hard sometimes. And I know that this may not make sense being that I am a Christian, but it does happen. And, God is faithful to me anyway. He always finds a way to get my attention, and put me back on the path that I should be.

Jeremiah 29: 11-13
"For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart."

This makes me think of a new pair of shoes. The first few times that you wear them, they hurt your feet. The reason is because you have not broke them in yet. It likes to keep its original shape. After you wear them to begin with, they still go back to the original shape. However, every time that you wear them, it breaks them down even more than the previous time. This process will continue to occur until, the fit is just right, and it does not hurt to wear them anymore.

Is this not true of how God works in our lives? When we become saved, we are a new creation, much like this new pair of shoes. Sometimes we struggle greatly with our old ways. Temptation is still strong, and sometimes we still fall. But, that does not mean that God will give up on us. He will continue to work in our lives, and to mold our hearts to what He wants us to be. But we have to be diligent. We must search for God. We do this by continuing to study, pray, and go to church. All of these things make our hearts easier to mold. It also helps to take away the pain of the life that we once lived in. We can see that there is hope ahead. Every time that we seek out God, and place our trust in Him, it gets easier to place our trust in Him.

Romans 5:1-5
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

Thanks for reading, and God Bless You all this week!