Spiritual Christmas Gift List

Monday, December 23, 2013

Gift giving is a Christmas tradition ever since the Wise Men went bearing gifts to the baby Jesus.  While we’ll all continue to give these earthly presents, there’s an even more important blessing to give those in our world.

We also need to make a Spiritual Christmas Gift List. Who are the people that you need to show the love of Jesus to during this season? To help us get an idea of the kinds of people to put on our list, let’s look at the biblical account of Jesus’ birth. The Bible records God’s Christmas list.

These accounts show the various people who witnessed Jesus’ birth. We’ll see how God used ordinary and extraordinary people to share in the good news.

Mary and Joseph
Joseph was a carpenter and an upright man. When he learned of Mary’s pregnancy, maybe he thought of putting her away instead of dealing with public humiliation, but he listened to the angel and took Mary as his wife. He was a devout Jew who showed integrity and obedience to God’s direction.
Mary was a young teenager, an ordinary Jewish girl probably looking forward to marriage, when the angel Gabriel came to her. Mary was fearful and troubled in the presence of the angel and could not imagine that she would have a child, the Messiah. However, she responded to God with belief and obedience and kept a humble and quiet spirit.
Joseph and Mary were obedient followers of God and provided Jesus an earthly home. They were his earthly family. Who are the family members on your Christmas list? How can you show the love of Jesus to them?

Shepherds were busy in their fields tending their flock when a host of angels appeared to them. Eager to see the miracle the angels described, they left their fields and headed for Bethlehem. They searched everywhere in the village until they found Mary and Joseph. These laborers were obedient to their call. They represent the everyday workers, the people in our lives who work to make our lives easier. They may also reflect the people we work alongside every day.
Who are the everyday workers or co-workers you can “show” Jesus to?

Following the Jewish tradition, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple when he was 40 days old. A man of great holiness, Simeon, had been seeking the Messiah. God had revealed to him that he would not die before seeing the Savior. Simeon blessed the child and spoke of those who would someday speak out against Jesus and reject them. Then he forewarned Mary that a “sword would pierce her soul” one day. Simeon’s prophecy represents those who are seeking the truth.
Do you know someone who is seeking the truth but has not accepted the gift of Jesus? Has your soul been pierced with hurt for someone else’s salvation?

The prophetess Anna was a faithful elderly widow who never left the temple. She worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. At the temple the day Simeon blessed Jesus, Anna was full of thanksgiving and became the first witness to tell others about the child. She might be among the “invisible people” or the “forgotten ones” as she quietly worked in the temple.
Who are the people around you who would be considered “forgotten?” Do you need to be the hands and feet of Jesus to widow or orphans or the poor this year?

The Magi were men of power and influence in Jesus’ day and were instrumental in selecting Parthian Kings. They knew the Messiah was expected and connected the appearance of an unknown star with his birth. They followed the star to Bethlehem where they bowed down and worshiped the baby Jesus and gave him treasures of gold, incense, and myrrh.
Who are the key people of influence in your life? Are there leaders who need to feel the love of Jesus in a special way this year?

These witnesses remind us that God chose all kinds of people to be a part of the birth story. He chose family members, laborers, seekers, a widow of the forgotten class, and men of power to share the good news. Today he wants all of us to be a part of continuing to spread the gospel.

Let us pray that God will show us the individuals in our world who still need the gift of Jesus. Let’s add them to our spiritual Christmas List.

Every good and perfect gift is from above.               James 1:17

For Everything There Is a Season

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Bible tells us For everything there is a season and time for every purpose that we can imagine. How can we be prepared to face each season? How can we live faithfully in each season? How can we be strong in each season? Can we really reflect God’s Spirit in every season of our lives? Psalm 1: 1 & 2 tells us how we can be strong in each season.

But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.

Are we like the trees described in the Psalm? The Message says it this way - you thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night. You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, Never dropping a leaf,  always in blossom. I don’t know about you, but I would love to blossom in every season!

 Do we bear fruit in each season of our lives? This Psalm tells us that when we delight in God’s Word, thrill to hear it, and meditate on it, chew on it, we will be like trees planted along the riverbank. We will live fruitful lives.

First the Psalm tells us we will bear fruit in each season. That means we will have attitudes and behavior fitting a follower of Christ. We would show the fruit of God’s Spirit in all the seasons of our live. We would enjoy patience in time of suffering, faith during trials, joy in times of sorrow, love when others show hatred, peace in the midst of chaos, self-control when life is out of control, gentleness when someone is harsh, and kindness in times of strife.

Next the passage says, our leaves will never wither. The tree will consistently bear fruit because the leaves will be strong. When we consistently rely on what Scripture tells us to do, we will consistently be strong and bear fruit. Can you imagine a life that consistently reflects the fruit of his Spirit? love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in all seasons of our lives.

And finally, the Psalm says we will prosper in all we do. We will abundantly bear fruit. Just as the life of the tree is dependent on a supply of water located right at the river’s edge, our spiritual life is dependent on the abundant supply of the Living Water. The more water a tree gets, the more abundant the fruit. The more we drink in God’s Living Water, the more abundant our lives will be. Can you imagine a life with an abundance of the fruit of God’s Spirit?

This passage tells us that by dwelling on God’s word and living faithfully according to it, we will bear fruit, bear it consistently, and bear it abundantly in all seasons.

Let’s focus for a few moments on a woman who was like a tree planted along the riverbank bearing fruit in each season: Mary, the mother of Jesus.

We know that Mary was brought up in a devout Jewish home, where she must have “found delight in the law of the Lord, meditated on it day and night.” Let’s see how living according to God’s word sustained Mary in all the seasons of her life. As you read below, look for the emotions Mary must have experienced in the seasons of her life and if these are the emotions you have experienced during your own seasons.

Mary was a young girl, who had recently become engaged to Joseph, a carpenter, when the angel Gabriel visited her.  Suddenly her life changed forever. God had a new plan and purpose for her life. He gave her a new season.

As she entered this new season, Scripture tells us she was fearful and troubled. She could never have expected to hear the most incredible news — that she would have a child, and her son would be the Messiah. Although she could not fathom how she would conceive the Savior, she responded to God with belief and obedience. She blossomed in this new season.

Even though the angel told Mary that she was highly favored by God and would be highly honored, Mary would first know disgrace as an unwed mother. Yet, in this season, she remained faithful. 
What comfort she experienced when she hurried to her relative Elizabeth, the only woman on earth who could share the feelings of being visited by an angel and becoming unexpectedly pregnant.
What joy she must have felt when the Christ-child was born!
What excitement when the shepherds and later the wise men came to worship Him
What uneasiness when Simeon prophesied that she would experience pain over her Son's rejection and resulting crucifixion.
What season of worry and anxiety she felt when Jesus ran away to the Temple at the age of 12.
What amazement she felt when she heard his understanding of the scriptures.
What mother’s pride she felt when he turned the water into wine at HER request at the wedding.
What pleasure she felt as she heard him preach and watched him minister to others.
What heart-wrenching grief as Mary watched her Son dying on the cross!
And what rejoicing she felt when He rose from the grave.

In our own seasons we experience highs and lows as Mary did. We too have great joys and intense sorrows. Mary was faithful to God in each season. She enjoyed fruit in each season, her leaves never withered, and she prospered in all she did.  Every season of her life served an eternal purpose. When we submit our lives to the Lord, when we meditate on his Word, when we live faithfully for him, every season of life can serve His eternal purposes as we bear fruit in each season, consistently bear fruit, and abundantly bear fruit.

Did Mary know what the seasons of life would bring her when she was visited by the angel? No, Mary did not know all that God had planned for her, but she had meditated on his Word and trusted him and he was faithful in all her seasons. He’ll be faithful in ours.

Enabling or Helping

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Helping is doing something for someone that he is not capable of doing himself.
Enabling is doing for someone what he could and should be doing for himself.

Enabling is all about boundary issues. It’s natural to want to protect those we love, to help them when they’re down and to offer our assistance.  When is it enough?

Women experience frustration when they attempt to live many lives - their own, their children’s, their spouses’, their coworkers’, their friends’, their aging parents’. We overlook enabling gestures by saying, “But I’m only trying to help.” We make excuses like these:
·         “It’s just so hard for kids today.”
·         “If I don’t help, who will?”
·         “It makes me feel good to do those things.”
·         “No one understands my son like I do.”
·         “He just hasn’t found himself yet.”

What should we do?
We need to develop discernment to help us know the difference between helping and enabling
Realize that God expects us to be good managers of his resources.
It is irresponsible to endlessly give without requiring accountability.

Let God work.
We often limit God when we continue to rescue others or intervene in their lives. We learn by suffering from the consequences of our decisions so when enablers intervene, they allow others to by-pass this learning process. When people are too comfortable, they don’t have a motivation to change and the enabling cycle continues.

 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way”. Hebrews 12:11

Practice tough love. Grow a backbone.
It all comes down to saying “no” when we find ourselves doing things for someone who could and should be doing it for himself.  Saying “no” is hard, but setting boundaries is healthy for both the enabler and the enabled. Just say, “no!”

God’s Discernment
God expects us to help others but he wants us to be wise. We can pray for
God’s discernment when it comes to how much and how often to help someone. Discernment in how much to help is finding the balance in Paul’s words:

For each will have to bear his own load. Galatians 6:5

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  Galatians 6:2-3

While the Bible doesn’t use the word “enabler,” it has much to say about personal responsibility.

 “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:12

 “…if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Let us pray for God’s wisdom about our own personal responsibility and not interfering with other’s personal responsibility.

Communicating Boundaries

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Authors of Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend tell us boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out.  

Cloud and Townsend remind us that God sets the boundaries of his “yard.” We know what he permits in the “yard.” He tells us what he allows and doesn’t allow, what he likes and doesn’t like. We were created in God’s own image. God wants us to develop our own boundaries so that we can live in peace and fellowship with him and with others. Boundaries are our property lines in all areas of our life:  physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Setting boundaries brings health to our relationships. When we have mature boundaries, we can move steadily and peacefully in our faith walk.

Consider these questions to determine if you have some boundary issues.
Are there people in your life who consistently call upon you to do things they should do for themselves? Does the bad behavior of others have a negative effect on your feelings and your own behavior? Do you allow others’ moods to dictate your level of happiness, sadness, etc.? Do you sacrifice your plans in order to please others? Do you allow others to blame you when their plans don’t work out?

Having boundaries helps us to cultivate a healthy self-image, maintain balance, and develop appropriate intimate relationships. Unhealthy boundaries cause us deep emotional pain, affect our self-worth, and cause us to become resentful of others.

It’s never too late to set boundaries, but we need to become introspective about what we will and will not allow in our relationships. God will give us the wisdom to deal with our boundaries when we seek him.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33

The most basic boundary-setting word is NO and the Bible is clear about using this word.

Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37

It is important to communicate with people the boundaries you have set without making blaming statements. We tend to resort to statements such as, “You make me so mad,” “You never consider my feelings,” “You drive me crazy.” These statements are intended to shame and make the other person look bad and usually end up in a blaming game. Consider using the tried and true formula below when you need to communicate how another person’s behavior affects you and what you intend to do to set healthy boundaries. It is helpful in a variety of circumstances from a child baiting you into an argument or an adult abusing your generosity.

Formula for Communicating Boundaries
First, it is very important for us to learn to communicate about how another person's behavior is affecting us - without making blaming "you" type of statements.  We communicate how we feel with these 3 statements.

When you . . . . .
I feel . . . . .
I want . . . .
Next, set the boundary. This is vital to learning to love our self, and to communicating to others that we have worth.
There are basically three parts to a boundary.  The first two are setting the boundary - the third is what we will do to defend that boundary.
If you - a description of the behavior you find unacceptable (again being as descriptive as possible.)
I will - a description of what action you will take to protect and take care of yourself in the event the other person violates the boundary.
If you continue this behavior - a description of what steps you will take to protect the boundary that you have set.

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