Friday, December 19, 2014

What's In Your Bag?

With Christmas just a week away and Jason's work schedule at high volume, I've found myself with time to sit back and relax while watching some Christmas movies.  So far, I haven't watched any of the classics, but I've found a couple of newer movies on Netflix that I've really enjoyed.  And, I have plans to watch some of "the greats" like The Muppets' Christmas Carol and, of course, Charlie Brown's Christmas.  What can I say?  I'm still a kid at heart!

As I watch, I revel in the different ways in which Santa Claus is represented.  Yes, he usually has a long, white beard and a red suit, but from there, the details vary from movie to movie.  For instance, in some movies, Santa only needs to put his finger to the side of his nose and instantly he's inside the house.  In other, more comical movies, Saint Nick's attempts to climb down the chimney are met with utter disaster.  It's fun to see imagination in action.  (I guess that's why I'm a writer, huh?)

One of my favorite parts, though, is Santa's bag of toys.  I love it when Saint Nick reaches into that great big bag and pulls out the perfect gift.  Time after time, the bag seems to only contain the very next gift, which is always just the right thing.  Not once have I seen a movie where Santa pulls the wrong thing out of his great bag.  That's not to say that there aren't any, but I haven't seen one, nor do I think I want to.  It would ruin it for me!

Often, when watching such a movie, I find myself daydreaming of what it would be like to have such a bag.  Whatever I need, I just open the bag and pull out the perfect thing.  The item would always be right.  It would always be timely.  Oh, what I would give for a bag like that!  But then, in my Bible reading this morning, I realized that I already possess such a bag. . . and so do you.

That bag is the heart.  You see, Santa can always pull the proper gift out of his bag because he placed the proper gifts in the bag to begin with.  Our hearts work the same way.  When we put good things in, only good things are bound to come out.  If we fill our hearts with love, joy, peace and hope, those same things will be available to others.  Take a look at what Jesus had to say on this matter: 

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. - Matthew 12:35

See what I mean?  Just as Santa Claus fills his bag with "good treasure" for the boys and girls around the world, so should we fill our hearts with "good treasure."  Then, when it is time to pull something from the bag, there will only be good and perfect gifts.  We have the opportunity to bring forth good things in this life.  It simply depends on how we're stocking our bags (hearts) to begin with.

So I ask you, what's in your bag?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Walking in a Winner's Wonderland

I John 5:4 says, For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

If we have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, we have already won the war. What war? The one that Satan is leading. He is trying to destroy our lives and our souls, but because of our faith, we are already victors.

However, there are battles that we must fight daily, and the outcome of those is dependent on our Christian walk. Tired of fighting a losing battle? Read on.

First of all, we must walk in God's Word. The Bible is "quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword." It is the weapon Jesus chose to fight with when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. It gives us joy, hope, peace, guidance, comfort, and much more. Without God's Word, we don't stand a chance of winning our daily battles. We must spend more time in the Scriptures. We need to read the Bible and memorize verses that we can use to send the devil fleeing from us.

Second, we need to walk in God's will. If we follow our own will instead of God's, we're fighting the battle alone, and we're destined to fail. Yes, God is always with us, and He is our helper. However, if we're walking in our own will, we're acting in our own strength and not in the Lord's. It isn't that God left us. It's that we left Him. Often times, we do this without even realizing it. We see something we want, and we go for it without even taking the time to see if it is God's will for us to have it. We often forget that God sees the "Big Picture" of our lives and not just our current circumstances. He knows what is best for us, and He will lead us in the right direction. It's up to us to follow.

Third, we need to walk in God's world. Let's face it. We live in dark times. War and violence are everywhere. Sin has run rampant. Goodness is seen as weakness and often taken advantage of. It is tempting to turn our backs on this wicked world and just live our lives the best we can. But, is that what God wants us to do? No! It is our job, until the return of Christ, to try to reach out to this lost and dying world. It is our responsibility to see people as God sees them: souls in need of salvation. We must be witnesses, not out of duty, but out of love and compassion. By reaching out, not only can we win some of our battles, but we can help others to win theirs as well.

If you feel like you're fighting a losing battle or like you're simply spinning your wheels in life, the first thing to check is your Christian walk. Only by keeping ourselves in God's Word, in His will, and in His world can we walk in a winner's wonderland. It's not easy, but there is joy in the journey when we do!

*****Excerpt from Random Ramblings of a Raving Redhead by Dana Rongione*****

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Who's Paying For This Trip?

Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. - Jonah 1:1-3

The Bible doesn't state where Jonah was when God called him to go to Ninevah, but it does specify that he went down to Joppa in order to catch a boat to Tarshish.  So, according to all the maps I've seen, Jonah must have been somewhere between Joppa and Ninevah.  In other words, Joppa was definitely in the opposite direction.  Also, from that information, we can glean that Ninevah was not that long of a trip.  And we all know that where God guides, He provides.  Just ask the missionaries on the mission field or the pastor of the small church or the young woman who left her full-time, paid position to pursue a ministry in writing.  Somehow, someway, God always provides.

Now, notice with me what it says in verse three of the above passage:  and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereofHmm, interesting.  I have no doubt that God would have made whatever provision Jonah needed to make his trip to Ninevah.  Food, shelter, transportation--whatever he needed would have been taken care of.  I've seen too many accounts of God providing for His children to believe that Jonah would have gone without.  But because Jonah decided to go his own way, which was in the opposite direction of God's will, He had to pay the price.  

I've often heard the phrase put this way, "Where God guides, God provides.  When you're out of God's will, you foot the bill."  Jonah seems to be proof of that.  God was not about to fund Jonah's trip to Tarshish.  That wasn't where He wanted Jonah, and as we know from the rest of the story, God set Jonah straight.  But my point is that, as long as we're in God's will, He will provide what we need. When we're out of His will, we will have to pay the price.

In Jonah's case, I would imagine that the ship fare from Joppa to Tarshish was pricey.  After all, he had to cross the entire Mediterranean Sea.  That couldn't have been cheap!  Similarly, our efforts to go our own way may often cost us a great deal.  The question is, are we willing to pay the price?  Jonah was, but after a few days in the belly of a whale, he had a change of heart (and probably wished desperately for a change of clothes).  Unfortunately, the price had already been paid, and there is no record in the Bible of Jonah getting a refund for his incomplete trip.  That's just not the way it works.

Who's paying?  Well, it depends on whether or not we're in the will of God.  If we are, He'll take care of it.  He'll provide as He always has.  If we're not in His will, however, we better be prepared to pay a great price for our disobedience.  Is it worth it?  Well, I'll let Jonah tell you in his own words.

 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord. - Jonah 2:8-9

Friday, December 12, 2014

What It's All About

This week, in following with my Bible-reading plan, I've been reading through the crucifixion.  As I read this morning, the thought hit me that it was strange to be reading about the death of Christ in the midst of the season celebrating His birth.  But I quickly realized that there was nothing strange about it at all.  In fact, it's quite appropriate. After all, the crucifixion is the very reason that He came to be born of a virgin.  He was born to die.

Think about what He left in order to save us from our own sin.  The splendor of Heaven.  Angels at his beck and call.  Streets of gold.  Gates of pearl.  Heavenly beauty.  Peace.  Serenity.  Perfection.  Harmony.  His Father.  He left it all behind and chose instead to be born in a dirty barn, knowing that He would be scorned and ridiculed by the very ones He came to save.

Picture the feet that once walked on streets of gold as they make their way down the dusty roads.  Imagine the One who was once surrounded by peace and praise as He endures the anger, hatred and ugliness of mankind.  Envision the perfect Son of God as His loving Father turns away, knowing deep down in His heart that He's suffering a fate that no one else ever had or would have to face--to be forsaken by God.

Why would He do such a thing?  Why would One so perfect choose to be born simply so that He could die?  Why?  Because of love in its truest form.  Yes, Jesus had all the treasures of Heaven, but He looked down at mankind and whispered, "It's not enough.  I want them too."  And so He walked away from "the perfect life" and into the mess of this world.  All for me.  All for you.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let us not only picture a baby in a manger but also a man on a cross.  Let us not lose sight of why He came that first Christmas morning.  He came to die so that we might live.  I can think of no better gift!

 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6