Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 New Year's Resolutions

As a pastor, I do get asked a lot of questions; some are very private and way too personal to answer here in this public forum. But, this one about New Year’s Resolutions is one that I am sure more than just a few would like to know about. No, this is not an in-depth study on the subject but surely, as I see it, it’s a good answer and hopefully one that will help you to find your own answer in what I’ve written here. God Bless You as you read on…2 Timothy 2:15.

The observance of making New Year’s Resolutions is nothing new, as I read I’ve found out that the exercise started a long time ago, probably in Ancient Babylon, between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago. In early writings it seems that there were people, even way back then, that were interested in making brand new starts, looking for unspoiled beginnings and seeking modification for their lives. I guess that today we are very similar to the primitive Babylonians, generally we are not very happy with our lives and we come to January 1, looking for something better for ourselves.

As I see it, there is nothing fairylike, numinous or eerie about the time between December 31 and January 1. But, it seems that many, many people feel that there is. First off, everyone should know that the Word of God does not condemn making New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, it’s probably just fine for us to do that. But, why wait until January 1 to break old and bad habits and start new and better ones? You can do that any day of the year; after all, they are all the same, Romans 14:5. You could pick an anniversary, a birthday, a different holiday or any other day of the week to start changes in your life. The power to change comes from God and not from a date on the calendar. Setting goals for ourselves and the seeking and keeping them is good any day of the year.

The majority of our New Year’s Resolutions are often involved with physical things, like getting skinny, trying to stop drinking alcohol or to quit smoking cigars, cigarettes and/or marijuana, etc. Very few of our resolutions involve getting closer to God, studying His Word daily or going to church more often: Almost never. We must remember that even though physical things are important they are not all important, 1 Timothy 4:8. God places much more importance on spiritual things than we do, sad but true. Most of us seem to have self-improvement goals not related to godly things.

However, there are some believers that do ask God for a desire to read more, study more and to attend church more often, but that is odd and infrequent. Yet, I must tell you that almost all New Year’s Resolutions do fail, sooner than later, you know why? Even though we might have fantastic goals, there is no magic that happens between the end of December and the beginning of January, there just isn’t.

Start doing what you need to do today, don’t wait and don’t be late, get to it, right now. Philippians 4:13, does tell us that we can do all things through Jesus, He gives us the strength. If you make Jesus the center of your New Year’s Resolutions, your chance of keeping a resolution is very good. But don’t forget, if you’ve included God in your plans, He plans to be there to help you be successful.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Very Inspiring Woman

Juana, who is nearly 70 years old, and has never been to school. Yet, just in the past four years she has learned to both read and write as she has studied the Bible in the classes I teach in Ensenada. She is a very special person and hers is a very exceptional occurrence, but she’s not totally unique because other women, who didn’t read and write or barely did, also learned to enhance their skills during these study sessions. Juana couldn’t do more than put her ‘x’ on important papers and her husband had to sign her name for her when a real signature was needed. She lived in embarrassment and shame due to her lack of education. Juana is from a group of what is often called, ‘mountain people.’ Women there don’t need to know things like reading and writing, because there isn’t any reason for them to know such things.

I have seen this idea in other Mexican subcultures; in fact, some men from these types of villages don’t believe that women should ever read the Bible and that they can’t even be baptized. Of course, they can read the Bible and they can be baptized, the Bible mentions women being baptized and even states that men and women were baptized, Acts 8:12.

Juana was denied a basic education, simply because she was a woman from a village community in the south of Mexico and grew up during a time, when women were not educated, nor encouraged to learn on their own. How sad. But, God had other plans for Juana.

About six years ago, on an evangelistic and church planting trip to Taxco, Iguala and Paintla, I met this interesting mountain family. Their pastor died the day I got there so the family and the tiny church were looking for guidance, help and comfort. After spending two weeks with these people and listening to them and praying to the Lord, I decided to bring them up to Ensenada so that they could join the Bible school and learn more about God, study the Bible at the school and then come back and pastor the burgeoning church.

Let me tell you, that Juana is an exemplary student. Her desire to learn and know the Bible is amazing. Remember, she didn’t know how to read and write, which at first required a lot of extra work to help her gain knowledge from her Bible. But, little by little, slowly reading page by page and forming letter by misshapen letter, she struggled ever onward. With Bible pages flying, scribbling out marks and squiggles on wide ruled school paper, she always got all her in-class and homework done. Her husband helped her a lot in the beginning. He could write and lent a hand with spelling and was patient with her.

Week by week, month by month then year by year, time passed and her ability got much better. All along I could see something exciting happening within her heart and mind, of course, only God could see what was stirring in her spirit and soul. But it was obvious she was growing by leaps and bounds, Philippians 1:6.

Now, let me tell you some thing, no one is like Juana, she loves the book of John and is always asking me for extra studies on the book. She, who once didn’t know how to read and write, now seeks to memorize scripture, study the deeper things of God’s Word and she loves to share her personal experiences with others at the school and in other churches. She loves to go to women’s retreats to tell her testimony and let others know that hope is a real thing and that God answers prayers. She had always wanted to read and write, and she had always wanted to know what the Bible says for herself and now, she does, 2 Timothy 2:15.

In this photo, Juana, due to her adept ability to memorize Bible verses was presented with her very own Rainbow Study Bible in Spanish, which is a vital tool for her future spiritual growth and education. When I go to pick her up for school I often find her sitting outside, after working hard all day long washing clothes by hand, washing dishes in a tub and scrubbing floors on her polio-bent knees, reading her Bible with pencil and paper, marking down things that she wants to memorize.

Juana is not unique, but she is an inspiration to me and hopefully to you, too. Couldn’t we all do more to know learn about our Lord and Savior? I can tell that she’s motivated and inspired, and that, I hope, will be encouraging and contagious. Amen.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Getting & Giving Gifts

The Best Christmas Present Ever Given
2 Corinthians 9:15, Thanks be to God for His indescribable "Gift!"

The Nativity of the Christ Child or the Nativity of Jesus, or simply The Nativity, concerns the telling of the story about the birth of Jesus, or even simply relating to the details about the birth of Jesus. The beloved and well-known story we remember appears in the Canonical Gospels of Matthew & Luke. However, other texts also mention it, like Isaiah 7:14. Therefore, the celebration of Christmas is based upon the immaculate conception of Jesus, the virgin birth of the same and the Holy Word of God coming to earth as a human baby, John 1:14. Christmas, which is an important High Holy Day is generally observed and celebrated by Christians and non-Christians world wide.

Christians spirituality regard the Nativity of Jesus as an event of Divinely cosmic significance in which God, in Christ, was incarnated as a simple human being, Colossians 2:9. Therewith becoming a, "new man," that could all-powerfully undo the spiritual degradation and mankind's spiritual separation from God caused by the disobedience and fall of the first man, Adam. In this principle, in contrast to Adam, Jesus was an obedient Son, fulfilling the Divine will of God, His Father. Therefore, as He lived obedient to the Word of God, Jesus was totally free from sin and was therefore the righteousness of God the Father and being such a Son, brought about salvation, through faith as a love gift from God, 1 Corinthians 15:22 & 45, Romans 5:18.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever would believe in Him would have everlasting life,” John 3:16.

Here’s a question I’d like to ask you, did you ever just get the snazziest gift? You know, one that made your head spin when you opened it. It was something that you had been wishing, hoping and even praying for all year long. And then, there you were, it’s Christmas Day and you've removed the wrapping paper and boom, there it was, all yours! That’s cool, I hope that you have done that and even on more than one occasion, too.

Here’s another question for you, what’s the best present you’ve ever given to someone else? Did you put a lot of thought, effort and prayer into it? Did you make it yourself? Did you put a lot of your heart into that gift to make it really special?

If we really understand the gift from God that Jesus is to our lives and future eternal life, then we’d probably end up saying, rightly too, that the best gift we’ve ever been given is, in fact, the life of Jesus on the cross of Calvary, some two thousand years ago. God could have given you the silvery moon, or perhaps a brilliant star or even a swell chunk of gold or big blue diamond, but in the end, these would have been just cheap trinkets along side the shed blood of Jesus that buys you entrance in God’s Heaven, Ephesians 2:13&14. Nothing can compare with that, nothing at all, 1 John1:7.

You see, God loves you, and that's, just as you are, and He loves you more than you could ever possibly imagine, Romans 8:38&39. He is more than generous, better than super extravagant and is a completely redeeming God, which would spare no cost to save your lost soul, Romans 8:32. He has endured unimaginable pain on all physical and spiritual levels to allow you open and easy access to His free gift of eternal life in His Son, Jesus, the Christ or our Messiah, Acts 4:12.

The best gift you could ever give to Him, is simply yourself: Heart & soul, body, mind & spirit, everything. That would make you the best gift you’d ever really given to Someone else, Luke 10:27.

Ask yourself, does Jesus truly live in my heart? Am I serious about giving my life to Jesus? What will I do without Jesus when I face my last day on earth and fill my lungs with air one last time just before I exhale my one last lonely breath and die, Hebrews 9:27?

God’s Christmas Gift to you is Jesus, His only begotten Son, accept Him now, live forever. Take a second or two, clear your mind and think on Jesus and simply ask Him to come in to your life, to change you, clean you and make you His. Ask Him to forgive your sins and to wash away your sins and to prepare you to be ready to go to Heaven whenever the time comes. His Holy Spirit will do a wonderful and marvelous work of salvation in your soul. You will get the best Christmas Gift you’ve ever gotten. This, I promise you. John 6:37, Romans 10:13, Hebrews 13:5&6.