10 Ideas for Simplifying Christmas

Jesus is God's Best Gift at Christmas and Ten Ways to Simplify Christmas

We’re now in the countdown days to Christmas and many of you might be in panic mode. I remember those days well. I even remember crying to my husband that I just couldn’t do it as our family continued to grow with our four children’s marriages and grandchildren. I needed his help, but he had a bewildered, “I don’t know what to do?” look in his eyes.

I wanted to enjoy Christmas. I was excited about having a large family and grandchildren. When Dave and I married, I went from having one child to four. That was manageable. When the four got married, we doubled. Still doable. Then the precious grandkids started coming and coming and coming, and I was still trying to do all the things I did when we were a small family!

Added to the mix was leading Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry, my career, attending seminary for the first few years of our marriage, and writing deadlines!

I was trying too hard to make everything perfect. I was assuming all the responsibility and thinking I could do everything with a family of 21 that I did with a family of two!

As much as I tried to keep my focus on Jesus, the Reason for the Season, I was focusing on:

  • trying to keep the same number of gifts for all the grandkids,
  • getting everyone the perfect gifts,
  • decorating the entire house,
  • sending everyone I knew a Christmas card,
  • making amazing Christmas goodies,
  • hosting Christmas parties,
  • trying new recipes,
  • pulling out all the best dishes . . .

You get the picture because you’ve been there . . . maybe you’re there now.

We also had an annual birthday parties for Jesus, and one year 300 people attended in our 1800 square foot home! I tried parceling out some of the work, but you know how that goes when it’s at your house. I loved it. Everyone loved it and still talks about them. But every year I tried to add a new element to the party and come up with even better party favors and different food than I had the year before.

Looking back, I was competing with myself. Could I top the last party? Could we give the grandkids the best gifts? I worried that we weren’t giving them as many pricey gifts as the other grandparents?!

Then it all came to a screeching halt the year I was diagnosed with breast cancer and started radiation December 17, 2002, two days before our 10th wedding anniversary. Oh yes, did I forget to mention I also planned our wedding on December 19! It seemed like a great idea the first few years, but then adding in an anniversary getaway or celebration in the middle of Christmas preparations added another activity to my already overbooked schedule.

The unexpected breast cancer diagnosis coincided with a kitchen and living room remodel and all the family “coming home for Christmas.” No kitchen counters or sink because they cut the counter tops wrong. The dishwasher was still in its box in the middle of the kitchen! The new hardwood floors were in, but I had no energy to figure out how to protect them with our traditional live Christmas tree. That year changed everything and actually brought sanity to our Christmas.

Here are some changes I made that “radiation Christmas” that might help you too. Don’t think you have to do all of them, but maybe pick a few that give you more time with Jesus and reduces Christmas stress.

  1. We used decorative paper plates, plastic silverware, and paper cups. Everyone loved how easy cleanup was after a meal. (We put a tablecloth over the dishwasher box and the kids joked that I had always wanted an island in the kitchen.)
  2. We set up a small manger scene instead of putting up a Christmas tree. After that year, we switched to a beautiful artificial Christmas tree, but also added a manger scene to emphasize the real meaning of Christmas. The grandkids decorated the tree. To this day, I let the grandkids decorate the Christmas tree. They do a great job!
  3. First grandchildren usually get many presents. You’re so excited to have a grandchild. As more came, we decided on three presents each like the three Wisemen. But as we hit eleven . . . we had to scale down to one nice present each.
  4. Instead of doing the full birthday party for Jesus, which I wrote about last week and in a blog last year, I ordered online children’s costumes for the Christmas story and had the grandchildren play out the manger scene while I read it from a Children’s Bible. Here’s a YOUTube of a live enactment. Then we kept the Birthday Bag for Jesus under the tree and maintained the tradition of having guests fill out a card with a gift they would give Jesus. On Christmas we have a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.
  5. 5. Scale down your Christmas card list or send by email. I love getting Christmas cards, but noticed we received so many with just a signature, nice but not personal. So I had been writing a poem every year for our Christmas card, but our list seemed to double every year.

  6. When we have a dinner party, it’s potluck. When we first moved to Idaho, we had a small dinner for our “neighbors” in the mountains. Then as we met more people, we started inviting neighbors and friends. Soon, I was back to having large groups that didn’t fit into our house! It’s hard to curtail a sanguine. So now we’re back to small, intimate groups.
  7. I mentioned in the blog post Love Your Body: How to Survive Holiday Eating, that I curtailed the baking frenzy. I make something when we’re invited to a party, but now that we’re empty nesters, we don’t need all the goodies sitting around to tempt us.
  8. I still love to decorate the house and have lights. But I don’t feel like I have to bring out every box, every Christmas, and have something in every crook and cranny of our house. Even still, I always get the comments that our house looks Christmassy, warm, and cozy.
  9. Since we now live an hour from town and shopping, we order many gifts online. I say “we” because I include hubby in the shopping. We also wrap presents together, after all, they are for “our” family, and he’s actually a better wrapper than I am. We put something on TV and sit in front of the fireplace by the Christmas tree. Two are definitely better than one!
  10. Start everyday reading a part of the Christmas story or a Christmas devotional. It helps you focus all the day’s activities around the ONLY reason we celebrate Christmas. It reminds us that Jesus doesn’t want us stressed or in a frenzy. He came into the world for one reason, to offer those who believe in Him eternal life, not to add a burden to our life but to lighten our load: “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I’d love to hear how you lighten your burdens and simplify Christmas. Please share with us.

I’ll close with a timeless poem I wrote in 2004. You may have read it in previous years, but sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and read it again.

Time To Sit With You”

CHRISTMAS POEM 2004

Lord, so many things to do,             

No time to sit with you.

There’s presents to buy,

And I must bake a pie!

 

 But isn’t it all about Me?

What’s closed your eyes to see.

The purpose of Christmas day,

Isn’t how much you pay?

 

Lord, each year we hear that said,

Yet, still it comes with dread.

Anticipating all to do,

No time to sit with You!

 

This is MY day.

Don’t I have a say

In how you spend your time?

Remember, you are chosen…Mine!

 

But Lord, relatives will soon be here,

And the lawn Santa still needs reindeer!

There is so much to do,

Still no time to sit with You.

 

Relax and enjoy Me this season,

Let your activities have a reason.

This is My Birthday celebration,

And all I want is your attention.

 

Oh, Lord, we’ll make it all about You.

Do You think we should have fondue?

We’ll read the Christmas Story,

And give You all the glory.

 

Sit down and read My Word.

Your craziness is absurd.

Come spend some time with me,

Forget the Christmas tree.

 

Oh, Lord the cookies are all baked,

I have such a headache.

I know I need to pray,

But I’ve had such a day!

 

Lives are waiting to be saved.

Did you hear Me when you prayed?

It is certainly no wonder

Your world is all asunder.

 

No, God, I didn’t hear a word,

I was busy stuffing the bird.

I want to just slow down,

But I feel I’m losing ground.

 

You’ve made it all about you,

And all your parties too.

My message to the lost,

Overshadowed by homemade cranberry sauce.

 

Lord, that’s not true,

You know I do love You.

It’s just I feel a call,

To make this the best Christmas of all!

 

You’re wasting your time.

Do you think you could top Mine?

I had a virgin birth,

As my entrance to earth.

 

Oh, Lord, I’m beginning to see,

How You want to use me.

Telling Your story to all who will listen,

Is the true Christmas mission.

 

Spending time with Me,

Is the only way to flee

The world’s strangling control

On your time and very soul.

 

Oh, Lord, Your music softly plays,

As the candle glow displays,

The beauty of time spent

With our Gift heaven sent.

 

You’ll go against the flow

Taking time to help a lost soul.

But when the day has come to end,

You’ll have the joy of a new friend.

 

Oh, Lord, forgive me please.

Help me put down my car keys.

It really is so true,

There’s ALWAYS time to sit with You.

Our prayer for our friends and family is that you focus your life on only those things that will have Kingdom value. It’s the only legacy worth leaving. Merry Christmas, Janet & Dave

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Why is “Merry Christmas” Controversial?

God's gift at Christmas is Jesus Christ so why is it so controversial to say "Merry Christmas"?

Most of us grew up in a culture that embraced Christmas. We said “Merry Christmas” as a joyful greeting, decorated Christmas trees, made Christmas cookies, sent out Christmas cards, gave Christmas presents, watched Christmas specials, participated in Christmas programs, and sang Christmas carols, not just at church but at school too!

Then subtly and slyly, the way Satan works, the concept of Christmas became culturally and socially controversial, even taboo. Stores and advertisers started removing the word “Christmas,” replacing it with “Holidays.” Sales personnel instructed to say “Happy Holidays,” if anything at all. School Christmas programs called “winter programs.” People sued for publically displaying nativity scenes. And on and on . . . .

What’s wrong with saying “Happy Holidays”? Well nothing, except what are the “Holidays?” On New Year’s, do you say “Happy Holidays” or do you say “Happy New Year.” To our Jewish friends, do we say “Happy Holidays” or “Happy Hanukah”?

Do we send out holiday cards or Christmas cards? Do we buy holiday presents or Christmas presents? Do we put up a holiday tree or a Christmas tree? Does our pastor preach a holiday message or a Christmas message?

A progressive liberal culture has attempted to remove Christ from Christmas and replace it with a generic “holiday”. But that’s impossible! Yes, many nonbelievers celebrate Christmas for secular reasons, which is fine as long as they don’t try to mess with the origin of Christmas.

Christmas is a Christian celebration. Without the birth of Christ, there would be no Christmas.

So what’s the controversy about saying “Merry Christmas”? I believe it’s because the secular world doesn’t want to admit they’re participating in a Christian celebration, so they try to neutralize Christmas to accommodate their nonbelief. Retailers commercialize Christmas to make money and don’t want to “offend” customers, even though those that eliminate Christmas in their advertising, offend every Christian, or at least it should.

The War on Christmas

Many are trying to find fault with President Trump bringing back “Merry Christmas” into the public square. They claim there’s never been a “war on Christmas.” False! There is a war on Christmas, and you’d have to be naïve, manipulative, or deceitful not to acknowledge it.

That’s why many of us started wearing buttons several years ago, “It’s Ok to say Merry Christmas.”

It's OK to say Merry Christmas so say it loud and clear!

The war on Christmas is why the Wash. D.C. transit system banned the Catholic Church’s Christmas Ad even though: “while the Archdiocese of Washington may not be welcome to advertise on public buses, the transit authority is more than happy to promote other enterprises – like gay hookup websites.”

The transit executives stated their reasons: “issue-oriented advertising could provoke community discord, create concern about discriminatory statements, and generate potential threats to safety and security from those who seek to oppose the advertising messages.” Seriously?! The message of Christmas is a threat to security?! (Quotes from Todd Stearns article “DC Transit Ban Catholic Church Christian Ad”)

When Martha MacCallum reported on her Fox News show, “The Story,” about this discrimination of the Catholic Church’s ad, she commented on the double-standard of DC billboards sponsored by atheists that say, “Christmas is a hoax.”

There’s a war against Christmas. There’s a war against the Christian faith.

That’s why when we hear President Trump wishing the nation and the world a Merry Christmas at this year’s national Christmas tree lighting ceremony, noting that the birth of Jesus Christ “forever changed the course of human history,” we should thank God we have a president who isn’t afraid to acknowledge Jesus as the Reason for the season. He went on to say, “There is hardly an aspect of our lives today that his [Jesus’] life has not touched: art, music, culture, law, and our respect for the sacred dignity of every person everywhere in the world.”

President Trump also recalled the 1870 legislation signed by President Ulysses S. Grant making Christmas a federal holiday. He added, “And I sort of feel we’re doing that again. That’s what’s happening.”

 Listen to President Trump live at the  Christmas Tree Lighting.

I posted this Tree Lighting message on Facebook and was amazed at how controversial it became. Some saying this was a political stunt. Really? Christians don’t make up the majority of the electorate. In today’s secular culture there were probably more offended than thanked God for his message. President Trump boldly stated the truth, refreshing in DC.

Those worrying about “political correctness” and inclusiveness on a clearly Christian “holiday” are the ones pulling the political stunts. And sadly, it’s worked. That’s why Christians find themselves today fighting not only to keep Christ in Christmas, but also to hold on to our religious freedoms.

What’s Our Role as Christians at Christmas?

Last Christmas, after President Trump’s election, I saw a dramatic change during the Christmas season. Clerks were saying Merry Christmas again. They didn’t look shocked when I told them Merry Christmas, or whisper it back fearfully looking over their shoulder. Christians need to use this time of Christian favor in the Trump administration to win back the ground we’ve lost.

Here are some ways:

Remind the world that every time they write 2017, or soon 2018, they acknowledge the birth of Jesus.

When someone tells you “Happy Holidays,” kindly and lovingly respond with “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”

Have a Birthday Party for Jesus and invite your neighbors and friends, especially nonbelievers. (I wrote a blog on how to do this Celebrate CHRISTmas with a Birthday Party for Jesus)

Put a birthday bag under your Christmas tree and when someone asks whose birthday, proudly say, “It’s Jesus’ birthday.”

Put a Birthday bag for Jesus under your Christmas tree.

Greet everyone you meet, and in all your correspondence, with “Merry Christmas.”

Use every opportunity to share the true meaning of Christmas and the story of Jesus’ birth.

Speak up when schools and communities try to remove the word Christmas and Christmas celebrations. We must not be silent. Voice your opinion. Be willing to take a bold stand for Jesus. Don’t let apathy or fear snuff out the light of Jesus.

When I asked my husband why Merry Christmas has become so controversial, he said, “Because the other side speaks louder than we do!” Sadly, that’s true.

Jesus was controversial when He walked the earth. They crucified Him for daring to say He was the Son of God who came to earth to save mankind from their sins. He told us that we too would not have it easy sharing our faith and the Gospel, but He also said whoever denies Him on earth, He will deny in Heaven.

32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.

34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:32-34 NLT)

One year, as a single working mom before I rededicated my life to the Lord, I was hurriedly trying to get out my Christmas Cards. I signed all the cards “Merry Xmas.” Only one friend boldly admonished me in her Christmas card that I had left “Christ” out of Christmas. I still remember that.

Will you join me and other Christians in making sure the world remembers that Christmas has only One reason: celebrating and giving thanks for Jesus Christ, coming down to earth as a lowly baby born in a manger to die on a cross at Easter and rise again three days later to offer eternal salvation to those who believe in Him.

Merry CHRISTmas

You’ll find more ideas in how to be bold about your faith at Christmas, and every day, in Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten.

Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness would make a great Christmas present to help mentor each other in how to be a Christian in today’s culture. It’s also a perfect time to take advantage of the publishers offer of 50% off on orders of five or more. This offer is only good until December 31. Contact me for the coupon.

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Seeking A Season of Spiritual Maturity

I recently learned that pilot whales are very social and their offspring stay in their mother’s pod for life. The young swim alongside old, knowledgeable whales and learn from them how to feed, mate, and migrate in open waters.

The species is so good at following that occasionally they follow a bad decision by one of the lead whales, and they’re all in for trouble. This is rare. Overall, the younger whales learn from the wisdom and experience of the older whales.

While it might be hard to relate to whales, how about Jesus leading His disciples. In The Team That Jesus Built, I describe how Jesus took fishermen, a tax collector, and eventually arrived at twelve ragtag men and told them to “Follow me.” They followed Jesus around, watched, asked questions, listened, and gleaned from Him, and slowly they matured in their faith and understanding of what it means to be a true follower of Christ.

When Paul was growing the New Testament churches, he challenged believers in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow me as I follow the example of Christ.” Like the disciples, Paul hadn’t lived an exemplary life, but he had turned his life around and had one incredible testimony! Still he never felt he had arrived. He was always fighting the good fight, running the race, and willing to share with others everything he learned in his seasons of spiritual growth. He begged people to follow his example, not because he was so great, but because he humbly was following and learning from Christ.

What Can We Learn From Whales, Paul, and the Disciples?

As Christians, we’re continually growing and maturing in our faith, or at least we should be . . . right? No one ever “achieves” or arrives at total spiritual maturity. We never know enough or all there is to learn about the Christian life. But do we sometimes live as if we do? Do we spend more time focusing on the world’s teachings than Jesus’s teaching? Like the 650 whales beached on New Zealand’s shoreline when they followed the wrong leader whale, our spiritual life can be beached too when we follow the wrong leader.

But we can get off the “spiritual beach” by seeking spiritual guidance. Maybe at a Bible study or retreat or deciding to have a consistent daily quiet time, we experience a newfound hunger to grow deeper in our walk with the Lord, but we’re not sure how. There are so many unanswered questions and portions of the Bible still confusing. We live in fear with the circumstances of the world, and yet we know our faith should sustain us, but it doesn’t seem enough right now.

Paul had the answer when he said in Titus 2:3-5 to have the women in a spiritually mature season teach and train the less spiritually mature. Some try to interpret those verses as strictly chronological age, but in mentoring we want to learn from someone spiritually older, not necessarily older in years. A great truth the Lord revealed when I was starting the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry.

Many mentoring ministries fail because they simply match older women with younger women without looking at their seasons of spiritual maturity. A woman might become a Christian at sixty-five and have worldly wisdom but not spiritual wisdom. Her mentor might be fifty but has walked with the Lord for many years.

We don’t know the ages of the disciples, but since Jesus was only thirty when He started His ministry, there’s a good chance they were older than Him. But they had so much to learn and only three years to spiritually mature. You and I are Christians today because Jesus mentored them to go into the world and teach what He had taught them.

Your Personal Spiritual Maturity Season

Sometimes I hear Christians say they feel spiritually dry. That saddens me because Jesus is ready and willing to give us living water from a well that never runs dry. If we drink from His well, we’ll keep growing in spiritual maturity (John 4:10-15). Many of you know this already and someone in your life needs to hear how you continue maturing in your relationship with the Lord.

I’m afraid there’s a growing epidemic among Christian women today to worry more about their own spiritual maturity than sharing what they know about Christ with a newer believer. I’m not referring to Bible study leaders, but the women sitting under their teaching in every church or Bible study group. Are they sharing what they’re learning with the many women around them who need help with their spiritual maturity?

It goes beyond just inviting them to the Bible study for the leader or facilitator to teach them; it means helping them live a godly mature life outside the groups in daily life. It means more than inviting them to church on Sunday; it means praying and studying with them during the week.

It means every believer a mentor!

In Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness, I share stories of mentors who have met spiritually younger women at Bible studies and church and offered to mentor them. I encourage spiritually mature women to think about the role models in their life who helped them come to faith and spiritual maturity. We all have them. Women we admire who took the time to disciple us and share some of their life with us. Hebrews 13:7 tell us to: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

“Imitate their faith.” Exactly what Paul told the church and Jesus told His disciples.

Mentoring is that simple. How someone reached you with her faith is probably the way you will be the most effective in pouring into someone else who is younger in her faith.

In Mentoring for All Seasons, there are points to consider of how God could use you as a mentor and how to select a mentor. Here are just a couple.

If you’ve been a believer for a while:

  • Who challenged you and helped you grow in your faith?
  • How did she model Jesus to you?
  • Who needs you to do that for them? Consider also someone who might be a long-time believer but is going through a season of doubt.
  • Who do you need to invite to follow you and help her mature in her faith?
  • How could God enhance your spiritual maturity by mentoring and pouring into someone else?

If you’re a newer believer and eager to learn and grow in your faith, or going through a spiritually dry time, God tells us two are better than one (Ecc. 4:9-10).

  • Who do you admire for her faith and the way she lives it out in daily life?
  • What about her faith would you like to emulate in your own life?
  • What’s stopping you from asking her to mentor you?

Often, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” James 4:2

Paul the great mentor of the New Testament reminds us that mentoring is always a two-way relationship and reward.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” [a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. Philippians 2:14-17

Mentoring for All Seasons is available for order now on Amazon or Kindle version or Signed by the Author

Author Bio

Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 19 books. Her latest release is Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness.

She is also the author of Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten; The Team That Jesus Built; Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?; Dear God They Say It’s Cancer; Dear God, He’s Home!; Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter; Face-to-Face Bible study Series; and Woman to Woman Mentoring: How to Start, Grow, & Maintain a Mentoring Ministry Resources.

She is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries.

Visit Janet and sign up for her Monday Morning blog and online newsletter at womantowomanmentoring.com

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Use The Solar Path of Totality to Share the Path of Eternity

Use the Path to Totality to Share the Path to Etenrity helps put into perspective that God made both the sun and the moon and only He makes the total solar eclipse which lasts only a couple minutes but eternity is forever!

We live in a tiny mountain town in the “Path of Totality” for what many are calling “the great American eclipse” August 21. I even saw T-shirts with the moon eclipsing the sun and Charlie Brown and Linus sitting on the roof of the doghouse with large letters “Idaho Path of Totality.” Actually, the whole state of Idaho isn’t going to experience the total eclipse, not even partially, but hey, that’s marketing.

But we are going to experience it, and we’re so small that our city doesn’t appear on the map showing the coast-to-coast path of totality, but somehow people have learned it falls directly over us. And they’re coming! By the thousands to a town that’s barely 2000 residents, with one stop sign (not stop light) two lane and dirt roads, one gas station, a couple of small restaurants, the two small motels and B&B sold out for a year . . . you get the picture. There will be far more of them than there are of us.

People coming are willing to pay crazy prices to arrive, rent a room or cabin here or in surrounding cities, or at a nearby ski resort, even reserving seats on the ski lift during the eclipse. That’s the last place I would want to be! This is going on all along the “Path of Totality,” for an event that is only going to last two minutes!

I was reading an article by Zoe Schlanger, Witnessing an eclipse is so overwhelming it has created a global community of “addicts”. Schlanger interviewed “eclipse chasers” who admit it is addictive and a lifestyle of a “close-knit community of like-minded souls” who spend thousands of dollars and plan eclipse-watching trips. They describe the awe of what they call a life-changing experience.

Looking at the Eclipse Through God-Focused Eyes

I recently heard jokes that liberals were complaining the total eclipse was mainly passing over conservative states that voted for President Trump. As I looked closer at the map, with a few exceptions, like Oregon, that’s true. However, locals say the spot in Oregon used to be quite conservative.

That means many descending on our Midwest conservative cities will have the opportunity to see how the majority of Americans actually live. They’ll come and spend money, which will boost the economy of every city in the eclipse path, but we’ll also have a chance to shower them with hospitality, kindness, friendliness, and share Jesus with any who might not know Him as their life-changing Savior.

Regardless of what state you’re in, and whether or not you’ll see the eclipse, everyone should admit only God creates a total eclipse of the sun! He created the moon, the sun, the stars . . . the entire universe . . . and as hard as some will try to explain Him away, we can’t let that happen. Instead of participating in the hype of this great phenomena, we need to remind everyone that this is God’s doing.

Since the beginning of time, God ordained when and where all eclipses would happen. Scientists can study it, but they can’t change its course or change the effects. Only God.

Atheists can try to deny God and claim evolution, but they can’t explain who created their own body and breathed life into it. Only God.

God, the Creator of earth and all that’s in it decides when and where a total eclipse of the sun by the moon will happen. Only God.

What Can Christians Do to Put the Eclipse in Proper Perspective?

Where are the t-shirts, hats, and banners saying “Only God Can Make a Path of Total Eclipse”? Or maybe with Peanuts telling Linus, “God made the sun and the moon.”

I’m not saying it’s wrong to want to view the eclipse, but I’m suggesting we use it as an opportunity to share the Creator of the universe and watch it with awe for our Great God.

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

14And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

The Bible records a time in the Old Testament when King Hezekiah was dying and he begged God to give him more years of life. God said he would give him fifteen years and as proof God turned back the sun: “‘This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’ So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down.” Isaiah 38:7-8

Then Hezekiah praised God in a testimony. Here is a portion of it—

In your love you kept me
from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
behind your back.
19 The living, the living—they praise you,
as I am doing today;
parents tell their children
about your faithfulness. Is. 38:17,19

Job gives testimony of the total control God has over the sun, moon, stars, day, and night . . .

If someone wanted to take God to court,[a]
would it be possible to answer him even once in a thousand times?
For God is so wise and so mighty.
Who has ever challenged him successfully?

If he commands it, the sun won’t rise
and the stars won’t shine.
He alone has spread out the heavens
and marches on the waves of the sea.
He made all the stars—the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the southern sky.
10 He does great things too marvelous to understand.
He performs countless miracles. Job 9:3-4, 7-10 NLT

Use the Eclipse to Share Jesus

Sometimes the first verses in the first chapter of the Bible are so familiar they lose their awe-inspiring, magnificent, amazing, indescribable impact that King Hezekiah and Job understood so well: our Holy God is totally responsible for everything in our universe. Now that’s a phenomena we all should be sharing and what better time than now?!

When the conversation turns to the eclipse, how about inserting discussion starters like:

  • Isn’t it amazing that God made this total eclipse happen right over us!
  • Since God created the sun and the moon, He decided August 21, 2017 was the exact time in history for another total eclipse across America. That’s incredible don’t you think?!
  • The eclipse is exciting, but it’s only going to last two minutes. As believers, we’ll spend eternity in heaven with God, the Creator of this eclipse. Now that’s something to get excited about!

“And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.” Deut. 4:9

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Remember Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life’s Experiences and God’s Faithfulness is available for pre-order and release date is getting very close, September 12!

What to Do When You Don’t Like Your Life Season

What Do You Do When You Don't Like Your Life Season? Cry yell scream get depressed? None of those things are going to change things. God tells us in Ecc. 3:1-8 that there's a time for every good and difficult season under heaven but read and discover how God and mentoriing can help you survive this season!

We’ve all heard it said, “There’s a time for everything.” Or “You’re just in a season, it will pass.” In fact, it’s Scriptural—

“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 kill and a time to heal,
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 scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
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.”—Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

The good and pleasant seasons sound wonderful and just what God wants for us, right? It’s so easy to think that God couldn’t possibly want what we perceive as a bad or unpleasant season for us. And yet this Scripture passage tells us that God made both, and while we’re alive, we’re going to experience every season—the good and the bad—under heaven.

Pastor Rick Warren often says that life is like a roller coaster: if you’re going up and experiencing a good season, brace yourself because in about three weeks you’ll probably find yourself going down into an unpleasant season, screaming all the way!

We try so hard to hold onto those feel-good seasons, and there’s nothing wrong with that—we should have times of joy, dancing, laughing, loving, and peace. But when the not so good times roll, we need to remember that God has not left us. He’s walking right beside us through the mourning, weeping, uprooting, and war seasons, and that’s when a mentor is so helpful to remind us that she made it through her tough seasons and we will too.

The focus of my book Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture has Forgotten is for us to remember how good God has been in all the seasons of our life. God never abandons His children. This is a message we need to share with each other and with the culture, especially during these challenging times we live in today.

Reasons for Not Liking our Life Season

Usually we don’t like our life season because:

It’s painful or uncomfortable.

We’re jealous and like what someone else’s life looks like more than our own life.

We’re living with the consequences of our, or someone else’s, behavior or decisions.

We’re discontent or discouraged.

We’re not sure if God still cares about us.

What would you add to the list?

We all have difficult seasons we want to end. Or maybe we’re in a wonderful season that we never want to end. Many life seasons we have no control over, even though advertisers and the culture would try to make you believe differently. They set us up to fail either way by thinking if we just drink the right cola, take the right pill, own the right car, use the right cosmetics and anti-aging products, eat the right food, reach success . . . every season of our life will be heavenly. The aging clock is going to stop and somehow God made our life to be different from everyone else’s life.

But that’s a lie and those who buy into it will never be content because everything God lists in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is a season that everyone will experience.

What to Do When We Don’t Like Our  Life Season

We probably feel like crying, screaming, maybe yelling, getting depressed, ignoring, or trying to get out of it. If we’re honest, we’ve all been there.

But soon we realize that the only thing that works when we don’t like our life season is to ask God how He wants us to deal with it, and then listen carefully to how the Holy Spirit speaks to us. It’s that still small voice we hear guiding us when we cry out to God. We might not know how to get through the season, but God does. So often He’s talking, but we’re not listening.

Someone on a friend’s Facebook post asked how my Christian friend knew what God wanted. Did he have a direct line to God? I thought, Yes he does! Every Christian has a direct line to God the world doesn’t understand, and one we don’t use nearly enough: praying to Jesus who hears every word and the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us even when all we can do is groan.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

While writing this post, I met a woman whose husband has cancer. As she shared her story, I heard in my mind hug her and pray for her. Mind you, we had just met, and I had already told her I would be praying for her husband and their family since I understood having had breast cancer three times. But as she kept talking, I knew I was to pray for her now. So I said, “Let me pray for you,” and stepped forward to hug her; but she didn’t realize that I meant right then. I knew God meant right then! She needed it and she was so grateful.

I had tried to talk myself out of it, and how many times is God trying to tell us what to do “right then,” but we’re dismissing His words of wisdom to see us through this season and on into the next one. That’s when a mentor can step in and do just what I was able to do for this woman, even though we barely knew each other. Can you imagine how much comfort can come from two women who have a personal mentoring relationship?!

God doesn’t want us going through any season alone, but He also doesn’t want us listening to anyone who isn’t giving us biblical wisdom. That’s why in Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness, every season has Scripture to study together that applies to the various issues women might experience in that season.

Being a mentor, or a mentee reaching out to another woman for guidance, doesn’t mean the mentor has all the answers or the Bible memorized. It just means she’s willing to search God’s Word and pray together for Him to tell you both what to do in the life seasons you might not like right now; and then, you both reach out and help someone else going through something similar.

And that’s exactly what Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us we need to do when we’re going through a life season we don’t like!

What to Do When You Don't Like Your Life Season? Find a mentor who has experienced it already and let her support and encourage you. Read some helpful tips on how to survive those unpleasant life seasons.

Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness is available now for order or Kindle or signed by the author.

Author Bio

Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 19 books. Her latest release is Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness.

She is also the author of Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten; The Team That Jesus Built; Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?; Dear God They Say It’s Cancer; Dear God, He’s Home!; Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter; Face-to-Face Bible study Series; and Woman to Woman Mentoring: How to Start, Grow, & Maintain a Mentoring Ministry Resources.

She is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries.

Visit Janet and sign up for her Monday Morning blog and online newsletter at womantowomanmentoring.com

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What Does It Mean to “Love Your Neighbor” During an Election or Anytime

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

While walking and praying this past week, the Lord put Matthew 22:36-40 on my heart and impressed on me to write a blog post tying it into the November 8, 2016 election. I wrestled with the thought and wondered if He really meant I should write it after the election, when some might be reading this post happy and others upset about the results. I’ve been vocal on social media, trying to encourage Christians to take a stand for the conservative Republican platform in the election and imploring everyone to look at platforms not personalities of the two candidates. One person said she tried not to take a particular side, but to follow “Love your neighbor.” There it was again. I’ve learned that when God really wants me to do something, He doesn’t let up until I get it.

I thought about how often this verse is taken out of context instead of the complete, “Love your neighbor, as yourself.” It’s sometimes used in chastisement or even as a rationalization for accepting sin.

What Does the Greatest Commandment Say About “Love”?

Matthew 22:36-40 says the first thing we’re to do is love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and soul—love His Word and His ways more than anything else in the world! Everything in us strives to please God first: honor the way He wants us living with a pure heart and mind as the Holy Spirit indwells our soul. God’s standards . . . His Word and His Ways . . . govern every decision and choice we make, every thought we allow in our mind . . . yes, every vote.

Then the second commandment is like it . . . we do the same thing with our neighbor . . . but we don’t just love our neighbor, we love our neighbor as ourselves . . . the same self that loves God with all our mind, heart, and soul. We don’t love our neighbor by the world’s words and ways, but by God’s Word, His Ways, and the Holy Spirit.

Thus the cultural rub. When Christians apply the world’s definition of “love your neighbor” . . . tolerate your neighbor’s sin, just love on them or you’re judging them . . . we aren’t loving our neighbor as ourselves or according to God’s Word, His Ways, and the Holy Spirit. Consequently, many Christians “love their neighbors” straight into hell, without ever telling them about heaven. Not loving or caring about them enough to go to the hard places of talking about good and evil, sin, repentance, forgiveness, and eternal life with Jesus.

The most loving thing any Christian can do is tell someone about Jesus and share the Gospel.

Love them enough to tell about eternity in heaven and the reality of hell.

Meet them where they’re at, but don’t leave them there.

Aren’t you glad someone stepped out of his or her comfort zone to tell you about Jesus and help you make changes in your life and ask Jesus for forgiveness? I am. Otherwise, none of us would be Christians today. I would still be wallowing in my backslidden life if Greg Laurie had not loved a whole group of “neighbors” and asked us “Are you ready to die tonight?”

Christians shouldn’t just love ourselves to heaven, we should love our neighbors to heaven too!

How Did Jesus Love His Neighbor?

For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 1So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:5-11 NLT

It’s not easy confronting someone with their sin, but when we don’t, we’re condoning it. We do need to establish a relationship first, then share the Gospel and help them confront their sin, ask for forgiveness, and change their ways. Three biblical examples of Jesus loving his neighbor and introducing them to Himself come to mind.

  • When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, He asked her for a drink (relationship); He told her about living water and eternal life (shared the Gospel); asked about her husband and she admitted she had no husband (confession). He told her he knew she had had five husbands and the man she was living with was not her husband (confronted her sin). He didn’t send her back home to live with her boyfriend, He told her the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). She became the first woman evangelist, “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ (John 1:4-42)
  • To the woman caught in adultery who he rescued from being stoned to death, He didn’t say: Well they’re all sinners too, we all sin, so no big deal. I don’t condemn you so just be more careful next time. He told her “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:2-15)
  • Zacchaeus was a fraudulent tax collector. When Jesus saw him he said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Relationship) People were upset at Jesus for going to a “sinner’s” house, but Zacchaeus realized his sin (confronted with sin, he repented) and “Jesus said to him, Today salvation has come to this house.’” (Luke 19:1-10). Salvation not just to Zacchaeus, but to everyone in the house . . . you know Jesus shared the Gospel while he ate with them.

I wrote a blog post that might help with Balancing Grace and Truth.

What Does Love Your Neighbor Have to Do with the Election?

two-platforms

So how does this all tie into the election? Let’s look at the top five moral issues of two completely different political platforms that clearly delineate God’s way versus the world’s way—two different Americas. Ask yourself is this what it means to “love my neighbor like myself?” Is this what I want for myself . . . my family . . .  my neighbor? Is this what God wants for His people, for America?

A Christian can’t straddle the line between the two platforms. You must take a stand for right versus wrong, good versus evil. Some “neighbors” will listen and some like the “progressive liberal atheist” lesbian couple supporting Clinton who told me they want to spend eternity in hell together, or the atheist supporting Clinton who would not answer my question asking if she knows where she will spend eternity—will not listen.

If you love your neighbor enough to hope that someday he or she will know Jesus and be in eternity with you, then you must choose the platform that will allow you to freely share the love of Jesus with your neighbor. As I look at these platforms, it’s clear to me there’s only one choice. If you’re reading this after election day, admittedly it’s going to be harder, but we still must honor Matthew 22:36-40.

  1. Sanctity of human life

Democratic

Democrats seek to repeal the 1976 Hyde Amendment so that federal funds can be used to pay for abortions. The platform says, “We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers.” Democrats support ratification of UN efforts that affirm “the reproductive rights of women” globally.

Republican
The GOP asserts the sanctity of human life and affirms,The unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed.” The party supports a Human Life Amendment making clear that the 14th Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth, and it salutes states that require informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods and clinic regulation.

Question: Did God mean that loving your neighbor should give them the right to murder their unborn baby He created?

  1. Marriage

Democratic
Democrats applaud last year’s Supreme Court ruling that “LGBT people—like other Americans—have the right to marry the person they love.”

Republican
The GOP platform condemns the Supreme Court’s rulings that removed the ability of Congress and the people to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The GOP urges the reversal of those decisions, whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment.

Question: Did God mean that loving your neighbor should redefine marriage to include same-sex marriage?

  1. Religious freedom—Acknowledging God

Democratic
The Democratic platform says: “We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate.” The party opposes a religious test to bar immigrants or refugees from entering the country.

Republican
Republicans affirm that religious freedom in the Bill of Rights protects the right of the people to practice their faith in their everyday lives. The platform endorses the First Amendment Defense Act, which would protect faith-based institutions and individuals from government discrimination.

Question: Did God mean that loving your neighbor should condone and legalize sin forcing pastors to perform gay marriages or be punished as we’ve seen with bakers, florists, photographers; students shouldn’t be allowed to use God’s name or Scripture in commencement speeches; Christian businesses like Hobby Lobby should be forced to pay for abortions?

  1. Federal Judges

Democratic
The platform says: “We will appoint judges who defend the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, and will protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion.”

Republican
The GOP platform states: “A critical threat to our country’s constitutional order is an activist judiciary that usurps powers properly reserved to the people through other branches of government.” The GOP supports the appointment of justices and judges who respect the constitutional limits on their power and respect the authority of the states.

Question: Did God mean that loving your neighbor should allow unrighteous judges to make laws beyond their constitutional limits that enforce and legalize sin?

  1. Israel and Jerusalem

Democratic
The platform states: “We will always support Israel’s right to defend itself, including by retaining its qualitative military edge, and oppose any effort to delegitimize Israel. … While Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

Republican
Republicans express “unequivocal support for Israel,” pointing out that it is the only Middle Eastern country with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The GOP recognizes “Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state.” The party opposes the U.N.’s treatment of Israel as a pariah state.

Question: Did God mean that loving your neighbor would mean that America should aid the enemies of our ally and God’s chosen people of Israel?

These five platform issues came from Billy Gramham.org Democratic and Republican Party Platforms. More issues are described on their website.

I hope you take the time to read the platforms before you vote and don’t get caught up in the media rhetoric, because the answers to the above questions will be what we live with in the future, and depending on the results of the election, every believer must remember:

In God we trust, not in man or woman.

You can still make a difference. The article I wrote for Crosswalk.com might be helpful You Don’t Have to Make Movies or Get Elected to Change Culture.

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A Miracle Story of Love, Family, and Restoration

Ricky praising

Most Sunday mornings, Ricky was in the front row of church, sitting next to his parents Jean and Don. Often Ricky would accompany the worship team by playing the drums, strategically placed for him next to his front-row seat. I’m told that at one time, he joined the praise band on stage.

Ricky and drums

When Dave and I moved to Garden Valley and started attending Crouch Community Church, we didn’t know the history of the Brown family. We did, however, immediately see the love this senior couple had for each other—always holding hands—and for their adult son, Ricky, who occasionally had to have his drumsticks quieted after the music had stopped playing.

You see Ricky was a very special son, and as the church overflowed with family and friends at Ricky’s memorial last week, we learned more about just how special he was. If you have a special person in your life who can’t communicate clearly, or at all, there’s probably a depth of spirit like Ricky displayed in unique ways. God has a way of gifting these special people with love, compassion, and spiritual insight.

Enjoy Ricky’s miracle story, shared at his memorial service, and his family now shares with you:

 

Ricky Lee Brown born August 28, 1956, passed from the arms of his parents to the arms of Jesus on Saturday March 19, 2016, at the age of 59. Ricky left behind . . . for now . . . his parents, Don and Jean Brown, his sisters Sheri, Cindy, and Lindi, and countless family and friends.

Ricky’s life story is one of restoration, the strong bond of a loving family, and the unending miracles of God.

Ricky is the firstborn, and only son, of Don and Jean Brown. At birth, he only weighed 4 lbs. 10 oz., and it took a month for him to gain enough weight to come home from the hospital. This was the beginning of nine and a half months in and out of hospitals.

During that time, doctors and family members suggested putting Ricky in Nampa State School. Doctors said with Ricky’s health and physical issues, he wouldn’t live past eleven or twelve and would never walk. With the overwhelming advice from doctors and family, Don and Jean went through the court system and made Ricky a ward of the state when he was 8 1/2 months old. It was the most painful thing that Don and Jean had ever done.

They visited Ricky regularly and introduced him to his three sisters Sheri, Cindy, and Lindi. Right from the beginning, Ricky was compassionate. Jean remembers one time when he was in the state home, a baby started to cry. Ricky pulled himself with his arms over to the crib and patted the baby, trying to comfort it.

To everyone’s amazement, Ricky miraculously started walking at age eleven—the age doctors had predicted he wouldn’t live past—and he finally stopped running a persistent high fever. His sister, Cindy, started working at the Nampa State School in her late teens so she could spend more time with Ricky.

In his twenties, the family moved Ricky to a group home in the Boise area as part of a new program to try to teach life and work skills to disabled individuals. After Ricky’s three sisters left home, the Browns were able to visit Ricky more frequently.

Ricky loved classic country music and liked listening to it loud!

He also loved to tear apart anything he could get his hands on—radios, bikes, and in later years, his clothes. He loved to gas up the car, even if it was only to top it off.

Ricky could only put five words together, at most, but he used those words to ask people: if they were going to work? If they had a payday? And if they were going to church? Ricky’s happy smile and his thumbs up were his trademarks!

smiling RickyRicky thumbs up

Another Miracle

When Ricky was thirty-seven, he became extremely ill while still living in the group home, so Don and Jean made the decision to bring him home. Doctors told the Browns they would just be taking him home to die, but they said, “So be it. He’s our son, and we want him with us.”

By the grace of God and the help of family, they discovered that the current health problems were yeast related. Jean found a book on how to treat yeast with diet, and she became vigilant with Ricky’s diet and nursed him back to health. This same son, who doctors said would not live past eleven or twelve, would never walk, and was sent home at thirty-seven to die, fully recovered from the “terminal” illness! That’s what God, love, and family can do!

Don and Jean couldn’t bear the thought of giving Ricky up again, so he continued to live with them and they started the parenting season all over again. The Lord redeemed the years they lost while Ricky was in group homes, and they had twenty-three glorious years living together as family.

Ricky and sisters

Ricky’s relationship with his sisters and other family members flourished as he became a part of family reunions, jam sessions, weddings, and birthday parties. As a trio, Don, Jean, and Ricky traveled the country playing music and enjoying countless adventures. One of Ricky’s greatest loves was the drums. He had a set in his room and spent hours listening to music and playing along. He also spent hours tearing his drum set apart. He loved smashing cans and taking them to the recycling center for a “payday,” which he promptly put in the offering box at church.

Family picture

Ricky and Don on horse

 

Ricky and Don camping

As Ricky got older, he enjoyed putting together puzzles and sorting coins or Legos. Amazingly, he was able to put puzzles together picture-side down on the table. For someone doctors said wouldn’t live past eleven, and would surely die at thirty-seven, Ricky enjoyed a long life of almost 60 years surrounded by his loving family, friends, and community.

Ricky touched many lives with his joyful spirit and his love for Jesus. Just as Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” Ricky was a great example of childlike innocent faith. We know that right now he is enthusiastically enjoying heaven.

*********

The Brown family hopes that Ricky’s miracle story has been a blessing to you, and especially an encouragement to all who have a “Ricky” in their life. If you have a story to share with the Browns, or want to tell them how their sweet restoration story touched you, please leave a comment to encourage them and pray for them as they grieve the loss of their beloved son.

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Remembering the Reason for the Easter Season

Easter cross

A common aphorism at Christmas time is “Remember the Reason for the Season.” It’s a great reminder that Jesus, Our Savior, was born on Christmas day to come into the world as a baby to die as a man on a cross and resurrect three days later on Easter. So at Easter season, why don’t we say: “Remember the Reason for the Easter Season”?

I don’t recall ever hearing that slogan used at Easter. Do you? It’s not on flags, banners, buttons we wear, or even Easter cards or mentioned in Easter sermons. I wonder why not?

The “Easter season” has similar distractions as Christmas that can take our focus off Jesus and His sacrifice for you and for me. Easter commemorates the foundation of our Christian faith. Without Easter, there would be no hope. Easter is the reason we have forgiveness for our sins and the assurance of eternal life. As the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians:

Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.—1 Cor. 15:1-4

In my new release, Forsaken God?:Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, in the chapter on Remembering His Sacrifice, I wrote:

As Christians, we understand the extreme sacrifice God and Jesus endured: God gave his One and only Son who became the last sacrificial lamb dying in atonement for our sins. Jesus died a painful and horrific death on a cross for you and for me. At Easter, we celebrate Jesus’s resurrection three days later, and he lives today at the right hand of God—preparing a place for his followers who will someday join him in eternity. And he lives within the hearts of believers.

How could we ever forget such a sacrifice, but we do.

crucifixion

During the Easter Season, our focus can turn to church services, performances, cantatas, pageants, new clothes, brunch, family gatherings, special dinners, decorating, egg hunts, Easter baskets . . . all good things. But before we know it . . . one of the most meaningful days of the year is over. We probably went to church, said a prayer before meals, maybe even read some Bible passages about the Last Supper, Gethsemane, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. But did we take time to solemnly remember and praise God for…the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus . . .

39 lashes

A crown of thorns

Hands and feet nailed to a cross

The 10,000 angels he could have called to rescue him

The world’s sins he took on himself

Feeling forsaken

The torn veil

Shed blood

The final cry, “It is finished!” (Pg. 217, Forsaken God?)

I pray this Easter season finds you refreshed and renewed in your relationship with Christ, and the purpose He has given each of us to keep the memory of Easter alive and vibrant, every day in our hearts, speech, and actions. Let us never forget:

“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14 (NLT)

Hallelujah!

Happy Resurrection Day!

Janet

Other Easter Posts:

What Does the Moon Have to Do with Easter?

Share the Good News of Easter

How to Share the Easter Message with You Children and Grandchildren

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Would You Ever Forsake God?

I can see a lot of us shaking our heads and saying, “No! I have never forsaken God and I never would!” If you’re a Christian, this thought probably seems shocking and unimaginable. When you saw the title of my new book, Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, you might have wondered why I wrote it? Who is the audience? Surely, it must be for unbelievers or the worldly culture because you would never forsake God!

The disciple Peter once said the same thing:

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” Matt. 26:33-34

We know, that indeed, Peter did forsake his beloved Jesus. If Peter, who loved Jesus and became the rock that Jesus founded his church on, could forsake Him, how much more could we.

Hmmm … let’s pause for a moment to consider if we have ever fallen away or forgotten God, even for just a little time, and then how we can remember to include God in every aspect of our life in the future.

Here are just a few ways we may forsake God. Do any of them hit home with you like they do with me?

  • Doubted God’s goodness, faithfulness, or provision during times of difficulty?
  • Forgot that God was in control and took matters into our own hands?
  • Failed to give God glory or recognition when He answered our prayers?
  • Didn’t remember God’s past mighty works or intervention on our behalf?
  • Didn’t defend God, when others around us talked disparagingly of Him?

How about in current election and political discussions:

  • Do you consider what God would want in a candidate or what you want?
  • Have you looked at the candidates through God’s biblical filter or just your own?
  • Are you more fearful of economic decline or spiritual decline?
  • Is God’s will your focus or personal preferences?
  • Are you participating more in political discussions or praying for our country?
  • Are you responding as a Christian or trying to be politically correct?
  • Are you looking to the Bible–the only source of truth–for answers–or the biased. often inaccurate, media and social media?

If you answered the above questions honestly, I think you have to agree that our human nature initially tends to focus more on what we want rather than considering what God wants. We don’t always base our opinions, discussions, and choices on God’s Word–we do sometimes forsake God, and that should be a wake up call to every believer.

 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

If we’re ever going to have a spiritual revival in our country, not pre-empted by a disaster or crisis, Christians need to disregard the ways of the world, ruled by Satan, and focus on God’s purpose and design for our lives, thoughts, decisions, speech, actions, and country: “We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19 NLT).

Last week’s blog post stressed that in Scripture God Does Tell Us How to Vote, and He also tells us how to live as Christians in a fallen world. As Franklin Graham repeatedly says, and his father Billy before him: Only God can heal our land.

Franklin Graham

But as wise President Reagan once said, “We need God’s help to guide our nation through stormy seas. But we can’t expect Him to protect America in a crisis if we just leave Him over on the shelf in our day-to-day living.”

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And as my author friend, Kathy Howard quoted me . . .

Forsaken-God Kathy Howard

True Confession Time

Every author and speaker is motivated to write or speak on topics close to his or her own heart, maybe something he or she has struggled with too. I don’t know about you, but I must admit that sometimes I have forsaken God when I . . .

  • Try to solve things myself without consulting Him first.
  • Worry over decisions that are only in His control, not my control.
  • Forget to pray first, before opening my mouth or taking actions.
  • Don’t always look to His Word for guidance.
  • And so many more . . .

Yes, even those of us in ministry often forget and forsake God, no one is exempt. So my goal in writing Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, is to jog all our memories. Help us recall all God has done in our own life by learning new ways to remember God’s goodness. I hope to motivate us to then share the power of our Great God with a lost and hurting world, especially the next generation . . . especially during this election process.

One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4

Here are just a few of my thoughts from Forsaken God? to help put us on a path of remembering our great God today and every day!

Today’s culture is quickly forgetting the goodness and power of our Great God. If we don’t remember what God has already done, we won’t believe what He is capable of doing in the future. Memory builds faith.

The Bible describes the potential destruction to people who forget and forsake God. The dangers are paramount. We read the Old Testament and lament at how forgetful the Israelites were of God’s goodness. Every time he did something good for them, they started grumbling that they needed something else.

God was only as good as the next miracle or provision. A forsaken God.

We wonder at how the Israelites could be so blind and ungrateful. Why couldn’t they trust that a God who provided and protected them in the past, would do the same in the present and future? But are we any different today?

Our memories tend to be very short. God has done amazing things in our lives, but when the next crisis arises, we panic that He might not show up for us this time. Or when prayers are answered, we might take credit ourselves or offer praise to someone else instead of giving God the glory and recognition he deserves.

We would never intentionally forsake God, but if we’re honest, we do unintentionally forget Him. 

We live in a world today that is quickly trying to eliminate God from the public square and even in the private domain. Christians must help a lost world remember God and that starts with remembering him ourselves.

We need God

Questions to Prompt Your Memory

Use the following questions to get your memory flowing. Have a journal or notebook ready to record what God brings to mind:

  • What has God been doing in your life?
  • How did you become a Christian?
  • How does God help you through the day?
  • How did God answer a prayer request?

Helps to Remember in the Future

Now with some past memories firmly in place, let’s be purposeful in recognizing and remembering the things God will do in the future, and specifically how He wants believers to respond and react in the current political climate.

Here are several of the over 50 ways suggested in Forsaken God? to capture those memories and use them to always remember our Great God:

  • Take pictures
  • Journal
  • Read our Bibles
  • Receive Communion
  • Keep an ongoing “thankful list”
  • Join a small group
  • Share with others

What other ways can you think of to remember and share the goodness of God?

Leave a comment with your contact information to enter a contest to receive a free signed copy of Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten.

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The most effective encouragement for trusting God in the present is remembering his power in the past. (Quote from Forsaken God?)

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God Does Tell Us How to Vote

Dr. Carson

I remember as a little girl hearing my parents warn: Never get into discussions about politics or religion—especially among family and friends. The basis of their warning was that people differ so much in their opinions that it will only cause disagreements and maybe estrangements. And it did!

That seemed so strange since as Christians of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20), we’re told to go out and tell the world about Jesus. And if Jesus is the most important person in our life, and our whole life centers on Him, how could we be silent? Wouldn’t our faith influence our politics? Wouldn’t fellow believers agree?

The adage of my parent’s time has become the “political correctness” of our time. Don’t offend anyone with your beliefs or they’ll label you a hater and bigot for opposing something the Bible clearly calls sin. Even all Christians don’t agree on what constitutes sin . . . or agree on much else actually.

In our culture, if we mention God, Jesus, or the Bible, we’re dismissed as religious zealots or troublemakers—sometimes even among fellow Christians.

How Is God Forsaken Politically?

In working on the title for Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, my husband suggested we put a question mark after Forsaken God? to make us stop and think if this could be true. Many Christians can’t imagine ever forsaking God, but it happens so frequently today—not intentionally, but unconsciously—that we may not even realize we’re forgetting Him. But it is happening right now during the elections. How often do you hear people including God in the reasons for their political persuasions and voting choices?

When I was writing Forsaken God? last year, I had no idea what the political arena would look like this year, or that it would be an example of the premise of the book. But what I did see coming was a steady cultural forsaking of God and embracing of the liberal abandonment of the Bible. Just today, I read about an owner of abortion clinics who said she was sure Jesus approved of abortions because she was raised as a “liberal Christian”—an oxymoron! I wrote in the Generation to Generation section of Forsaken God?:

The next generation is falling away from the church in droves or erroneously choosing a pseudo-gospel of compromise and feel-good theology. Today, even children from Bible-believing homes may not have the tools or fortitude to equip them to face a liberal world drifting away from the God of the Bible.

We cannot assume that all Christians will be voting the conservative agenda in a world that indeed is forsaking and forgetting the God of the Bible. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myth” (2 Tim 4:3-4).

God Does Tell Us How to Make Every Decision, Including Voting ….

As Christians voice their political opinions in conversations and on social media and in blogs, I seldom hear the use of Scripture or prayer as the basis for their choices and comments. One exception is Pastor Max Lucado, who broke the typical pastoral nonpolitical protocol to speak out about Decency for President because he’s alarmed at some Christians straying away from our core values and biblical roots as criteria for a presidential nominee.

Like Pastor Lucado, I’ve observed disturbing responses to the current political scene, which I list below, but God provides us an antidote and voting guide when we remember Him and His Word.

  1. We’re angry, disillusioned, want change—which are all legitimate feelings as long as they’re not the sole basis of our decisions or lead us to choices that go against our beliefs and values. We can personalize these verses when we consider how to vote and who we’re voting for:

Character: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Eph. 4:31

Language: “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” —Col. 3:8

Attitude: “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” —1 Tim. 2:8

“Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.” —1 Cor. 7:17

  1. I want, I need, I don’t like, I feel, I believe—Self-centeredness is never a good basis for making godly decisions. Try personalizing these verses.

God help me remember when I vote to: “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.” —Ps. 119:36 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” —Pr. 16:18

“When you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”—Eph. 4:21-24

  1. Don’t talk to me about God or the Bible. You’re placing your faith in a very complex work written over a long period of time.” As Christians, we are to remember . . .

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”—Heb. 13:8

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” —Ps. 119:11

“I love God’s Word: I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” —Ps. 119:16

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” —2 Tim. 3:16-17

  1. God is in control, just be silent and let Him pick who is going to be PresidentGod never tells us to be apathetic, ineffective, or silent, and He uses His people to do His earthly work. How can He pick someone, if we don’t vote?

God says: “Select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.” —Ex. 18:21*

Speak out for Christ: “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”’

Our part in the elections: “Make your motions and cast your votes, but God has the final say.” —Pr. 16:33 (MSG)

Christ has commissioned His Body, the Church, of which He is the Head, to effectively participate with Him in this world: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” —John 15:16

So What Do Christians Do This Election?

Republicans who stay home

We pray and then we go out and vote remembering that no man is perfect—Moses was a murderer, King David was a murderer and an adulterer, Paul was a persecutor of Christians . . . . But if we vote for the Republican conservative agenda and platform, then God can work through whoever wins the earthly mantel.

Max Lucado wrote a follow up blog post to his Decency for President post and he titled it Worried Enough to Pray?

Pray for God to:

  • Bring unity in His church and His people
  • Put a man of integrity and character who loves the Lord as President
  • Help us do whatever God asks to return our country and our culture back to God
  • God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven
  • Add your own prayers:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chr. 7:14

Then we do our civic responsibility and privilege, confident that we have done what we can in the way that God called us to work with Him as Christians:

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. 2 Cor. 1:12

*Bryan Fisher Host of “Focal Point” has an excellent article “The Bible Does Tell Us Who to Vote for” in which he explores in detail Exodus 18 and the criteria Jethro told Moses to use in selecting godly leaders. I highly suggest reading this well-written article.

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