Christmas when even the hardest hearts are softened

Nativity from Duccio’s Maestá, 13th century, a...

Nativity from Duccio’s Maestá, 13th century, a compromise shed-within-a-cave (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. ~Luke 2:7

There are some of us…who think to ourselves, “If I had only been there! How quick I would have been to help the Baby. I would have washed His linen. How happy I would have been to go with the shepherds to see the Lord Lying in the manger!” Yes, we would. We say that because we know how great Christ is, but if we had been there at that time, we would have done no better than the people of Bethlehem…Why don’t we do it now? We have Christ in our neighbor. ~Martin Luther

It’s interesting that Jesus begins life not just in a stable, but in the stable of an inn where there’s no room for His advent. Two thousand years later, there is still no room for Him in many hearts. But if we would make the same visit to see Jesus as the wise men, we may do so by visiting Him in our neighbor.

At Christmastime, many normally hard hearts are softened. It is a perfect time to express the love of Christ–just as Jesus would do it.

That’s really all He wants for His birthday.

365 Daily Answers to WWJD? Excerpt from 365 Daily Answers to What Would Jesus Do?

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Check out these other great blogs:

Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century by Giselle AguiarIf you enjoyed this, you’ll love Giselle’s award-winning Christian novel: Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century a historical novel about the early church check it out! $1 from the sale of each book – no matter what format, benefits StreetLight Phoenix to help eradicate child sex slavery. www.giselleaguiar.com/novel1

 

Great Blessings!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Giselle Aguiar
Christian, Award-Winning Author
Follow Giselle on Twitter
https://twitter.com/giselleaguiar

 

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Advent Conspiracy – Worship Fully

by Chuck Foreman, Teaching Pastor, First Christian Church of Phoenix

Advent Conspiracy - Worship FullyNone of us would dispute the observation that Christmas has been hijacked by consumerism. Even Christians get caught up in the hustle and hassle of buying more stuff than at any other time of year. We agree that Christmas should be about giving not receiving, but what kind of giving exactly? Am I really giving something worthwhile or am I just spending?

How many of you have ever received a gift you didn’t need?
How many of you have ever received a gift you didn’t want? Didn’t even like?
How many of you have pretended to like it anyway?
How many of you still have it because you can’t get rid of it and still live a happy life?
How many of you have ever given a gift to someone and you know they didn’t like it? …because they told you so. 
How many of you remember all the gifts you bought for people last Xmas?
How many of you remember all the gifts you received and from who last Xmas?
How many of you have ever far exceeded & essentially destroyed your normal monthly budget in December buying Xmas gifts?

How many of you long for Xmas to be different—less hectic and more restful, less commercial and more worshipful?
How many of you know how to make that change happen?

Sermon 12-2-12 from First Christian on Vimeo.

It’s a difficult subject to even talk about, isn’t it?
The way we do Xmas has become part of our culture. But something un-Christian has happened to Christmas…
Americans spend $45 billion on Xmas presents every December! Really?!
I wonder how many of those gifts actually meet a genuine need? Or do they fall into the category of stuff we don’t even want, and we can’t even remember who gave it to us?

Imagine the incredible good that could be done in the world, in our communities, in our churches, if even a fraction of that $45 billion was redirected to meet real needs of real people.
If Jesus is the Reason for the Season, why do we spend so much money buying so many things for so many people who don’t have any real needs?

What if this Christmas you went into your living room on Christmas morning and joyfully announced, “I didn’t buy anybody anything this Xmas because everybody already has everything!”

What if this Xmas you found people who don’t have what they need—people who aren’t getting by so well, and you redirected your normal spending—even just some of your normal spending— to meet some real needs of real people?
(Some of you have done that with the gift tags off our Christmas Tree…)
In Acts 4 there’s an almost shocking description of the early Church that always haunts me. Let me read it to you… Acts 4:32-35
I’d like to suggest this morning, as we enter the Xmas Season here at FCC, that that kind of giving is what Xmas—True Christian Worship is all about. We raised over 30K for missions overseas in our Thank Offering. That’s a good thing …But we also have some families at FCC who have some real needs right now, which we’re going to try to help meet too.

For the next 4 weeks leading up to Xmas, we’re going to be talking about how to:

  1. Worship Fully
  2. Spend Less (on ourselves)
  3. Give More (to those in need)
  4. Love All People

at Christmas time.

Worship Fully?   How do you do that?   Do we ever, really?
One thing for sure, you can never worship God fully if there are distractions in the way—or substitutes for him.  If money and possessions come before God, we’re in trouble.  Jesus said, Luke 12:15
Somehow we’ve got to free ourselves from the hold that money & possessions have on us.  The best way to do that is to GIVE it away—but give intentionally and thoughtfully to meet real needs of those less fortunate than we are.

In the Bible, God makes the connection for us between:
Worship————->Taking Care of the Needy
but I’m not sure we’ve paid attention.  Let’s take another look…

What kind of Worship does God really want?
Isaiah 58:1-11
How did Mary worship God?
Luke 1:46-55
(She paid attention, acknowledged what He was up to…)

How did the Wise Men worship Jesus?
Matthew 2:11

How do we give to Jesus now?
Matthew 25:31-46  (summarize)

Joseph’s Dilemna.. When the incredible story of Christmas was just beginning to unfold, Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, had a huge problem with the way God was going about things… (Explain…)

God’s Solution:  Matthew 1:21
Jesus (Gr.) = Joshua (Heb.) = Savior, Deliverer.  Jesus was “God to the Rescue”.  He is our Hero, the One who can Deliver us from all our bondage caused by sin!

And just as Jesus is our Deliverer, so we, as His Followers, are Deliverers too!  With whatever means and power we have, we are to help the helpless out of whatever holds them captive, so they too can enter into the life of freedom and joy God created them for.

The Central Miracle of Christianity?   is not the Virgin Birth.  It’s not the Resurrection, or any of Jesus’ other miracles…  It’s Xmas!

It’s   The Incarnation—“God with us”      Matthew 1:23
The Central Miracle of Christianity is the very idea that God would become one of us.  This is Christianity— that God gave the ultimate gift— He gave Himself!

And as His People, that’s what we do too.  (slide-build bold) We Are Givers.
“Freely you have received, freely give.”  Jesus gave his 12 Disciples a very demanding, draining ministry.  But listen to what he told them:  Matthew 10:7-8

Following is Costly (and “salty”).  He talked about what it would cost to follow him: (slide) Luke 14:33
He said it not me!  This is not figurative language with some more palatable, hidden meaning.  Preachers are often tempted to explain this away…  But you’re not going to get any help from this preacher to make this easier for you.  You’re on your own.  Go figure out what this is going to mean for you.
Then Jesus referred to us as “Salt”.  Luke 14:34

“As my Followers, you are to be like salt—you’re either noticeably present or noticeably absent. (Ever had popcorn w/o salt?)  You are the ones who make a difference in this world.  If you aren’t making a difference, you’re like unsalty salt. You’re of no use. You’ll be thrown out.”  (He said it…!)

Giving is better than receiving.  Paul’s example about working to help the weak: (slide)  Acts 20:34-35
We need to reconnect our ideas about Worship with helping those in need.  When we help others, we are worshipping God with the very way we live.

When you give to FCC, you are giving to those in need.  We have a significant portion of our budget that is dedicated to helping people who are struggling financially.  Every year when we plan our budget, we plan to give away a lot of it.  And we always end up giving away more. And God always provides.

I believe that Following Christ means being a regular Giver.  Following Christ means that you understand that what God gives you, he gives you to manage for Him.  He doesn’t give it to you just for you.  You are a conduit of his blessing to others.  If you don’t give to others, neither will God give to you.  It’s that simple.

Jesus said, The Key to Finding Your Life is to Deny Yourself
Matthew 16:24-25
I have to ask:  How often do we deny ourselves anything in this country?
What about generosity?  How do you define generosity?  What’s the dollar amount cut-off, above which you have just become a generous person, or a “sacrificial giver”?
C.S. Lewis talked about what it means to be generous: (Mere Christianity)
For the Xian, there ought to be some things we just do without.  We simply decide that there will  be some things we won’t have, may never have, may never do, because we’ve chosen to give away enough of our income so that those things, whatever they are, are denied to us—they’re beyond our financial reach, on purpose.

And we’re OK with that, because we know, that just like the One we Follow,
We are Givers!

II Corinthians 8:9
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=singresoguid-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=1449756182
The richest people are those who give—of themselves—to others.

So Let’s Give!    Let’s really Worship!

Let’s rethink Xmas this Xmas.

Right On!

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Check out these other great blogs:

Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century by Giselle AguiarCheck out Giselle’s award-winning Christian novel: Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century a historical novel about the early church check it out! $1 from the sale of each book – no matter what format, benefits StreetLight Phoenix to help eradicate child sex slavery. www.giselleaguiar.com/novel1

Great Blessings!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Giselle Aguiar
Christian, Award-Winning Author
Follow Giselle on Twitter
https://twitter.com/giselleaguiar

 

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Book Review: Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman

Not a Fan by Kyle IdlemanIn preparing the book proposal for “The WWJD Church,” a 12-week small group study based on the 1897 book by Charles M. Sheldon, I was made aware of “Not A Fan” by Kyle Idleman. When writing a book proposal, you need to find similar books or books that may be considered competition. So, I read it.

Then one night, by accident (of course, with God there are no “accidents”), I came across “Not A Fan” TV show on TBN. The author, Kyle Idleman, a pastor of a church in Kentucky, told the stories he wrote about in the book. Pretty neat. Write a book – get a TV show! It was short-lived, however, as once the books stories were told, there was not more to tell.

The Idea of “Not A Fan”

Are you a true follower of Jesus or just a “fan”? Idleman defines a fan as a person who believes in Christ, but still wants to live the old lifestyle. Kind of keeping one foot in the secular world and the other in the Christian. These are also known as “Sunday morning Christians” or “Cultural Christians”. They go to church regularly, listen to the message, make a donation, even volunteer to serve somewhere, but when it comes to the rest of the week, they’re living the sinful lives that they should have left behind when they accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.

“Fans are happy to follow Jesus as long as that doesn’t require any significant changes or have negative implications….

“Instead of following Jesus, they are following religious rules and rituals. They have confused the targets…

“Our punishment was taken by Christ. He has made a way where there was no way so we live with a freedom and an appreciation of what has been done. Fans are about the ‘do’ but followers celebrate the ‘done’.”

There is a cost to following Jesus.

Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.~Luke 6:22

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…~2 Timothy 3:12

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him…~Philippians 1:29

The book tells the story of one of Idleman’s parishioners who has a heart attack that “scares him straight.” He survives, but his close bout with death changes him. He goes from fan to follower. Instead of ignoring a beggar outside a store, he helps them.

To be a true follower of Christ you need to be “all in” — not just a Sunday morning Christian. Your old life has to die and you must be reborn as a righteous person.

The book also offers several testimonies of ordinary people who realized the difference between being a fan of Jesus and being a true follower.

Striving to be Christ-like is not easy. But God gave us the best teaching tool in the world – the Bible.

This book will also help. I highly recommend it.

WWJD? The Revival on Facebook
Twitter: @wwjdrevival

Check out these other great blogs:

Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century by Giselle AguiarIf you enjoyed this, you’ll love Giselle’s award-winning Christian novel: Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century a historical novel about the early church check it out! $1 from the sale of each book – no matter what format, benefits StreetLight Phoenix to help eradicate child sex slavery. www.giselleaguiar.com/novel1

Great Blessings!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Giselle Aguiar
Christian, Award-Winning Author
Follow Giselle on Twitter
https://twitter.com/giselleaguiar

Conduct Unbecoming a Christian

bible readingIf you’ve served in the military or watched any war movies, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “conduct unbecoming an officer.” It’s a charge with sometimes severe consequences if an officer does something that an officer shouldn’t do.

As Christians, we are supposed to act like Christ. It’s expected of us.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he stresses this:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. ~Phil. 1:27a

What’s important are the first two words: “whatever happens” – that means at all times, in all circumstances, no matter what.

There’s no excuse for not behaving like a Christian!

It’s not easy. But God gave us two invaluable tools: the Bible and the Holy Spirit.

Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it. ~Luke 11: 28

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. ~Galatians 5: 22-26

Each morning, before we start our day, we need to ask God for strength and guidance to conduct ourselves worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

WWJD? The Revival on Facebook
Twitter: @wwjdrevival

Check out these other great blogs:

Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century by Giselle AguiarIf you enjoyed this, you’ll love Giselle’s award-winning Christian novel: Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century a historical novel about the early church check it out! $1 from the sale of each book – no matter what format, benefits StreetLight Phoenix to help eradicate child sex slavery. www.giselleaguiar.com/novel1

Great Blessings!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Giselle Aguiar
Christian, Award-Winning Author
Follow Giselle on Twitter
https://twitter.com/giselleaguiar

WWJD? At work?

In His Steps by Charles M. SheldonIn His Steps by Charles M. Sheldon
In the original book that started the WWJD? movement back in 1897 (too bad it didn’t stick), In His Steps by Charles M. Sheldon, several business people who are members of the fictional First Christian Church of Raymond, Kanas, take the pledge to ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” before making any decisions or reacting. The results are incredible from a man who reports his superiors after discovering they were defrauding the government and subsequently losing his job, to the  newspaper editor who stopped accepting ads for tobacco and liquor, to the business owner who started treating his employees and customers with the Grace of God.

 

But, In His Steps is a work of fiction. It was a compilation of a 12-week sermon series that Rev. Sheldon preached to his congregation in 1896.

 

How different would the world be if Christians everywhere would really live a WWJD? life – especially in business?

 

James Cash Penney, c. 1902 (Wikipedia)We have a modern-day example of a Christian businessperson who lived a WWJD? life – James Cash Penney, better know and J. C. Penney, the man who started the chain store from a store called, “The Golden Rule” in Kemmerer, Wyoming. J. C. Penney has stores in all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico along with a catalog business nationwide.

 

I have found silence to be a powerful element in prayer. To learn to be alone with God even in the presence of others is something we Christians should try to do. There are innumerable times during the day when we can turn our thoughts, even for a moment, from business affairs and center them on God’s goodness, Christ’s love, our fellow man’s needs.
~ J. C. Penney*

 

His philosophy was to treat customers as he would want to be treated.

 

How are you doing? Are you treating your customers, clients, co-workers and employees as you would want to be treated? Do you stop and pray and thank God several times a day? You should.

 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ~Philippians 4:8

 

*J. C. Penney quoted from 365 Daily Answers to What Would Jesus Do?

 

WWJD? The Revival on Facebook
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Check out these other great blogs:

 

 

Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century by Giselle AguiarIf you enjoyed this, you’ll love Giselle’s award-winning Christian novel: Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century a historical novel about the early church check it out! $1 from the sale of each book – no matter what format, benefits StreetLight USA to help eradicate child sex slavery. www.giselleaguiar.com/novel1

 

Great Blessings!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Giselle Aguiar
Christian, Award-Winning Author

 

What it Means to Be “God Fearing”

Watching the 700 Club last week someone asked Gordon Robertson, “…fearing God. Why does God want me to be afraid of Him? No one would willingly give their life to someone they fear. Why would God want one to fear Him when that defeats the purpose of coming to Him willingly? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Having grown up Catholic, “God Fearing” was not in my religious up-bringing. I heard it in movies and on TV, but never really understood what it meant. I heard it meant to respect God and His power.

But Gordon Robertson clarified it. He said that the Hebrew translation of the word fear is really “awe.” We call God, Awesome, Almighty, All-Powerful, Creator, Ever-Present and Eternal.

It’s towards the end of the show:
http://dl2.cbn.com/cbnplayer/cbnPlayer.swf?s=/archive/club/700club060412_ws
So respecting God and His Word is part of it.

We respect His Word by obeying it. 

“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.” ~James 4:6 NKJV

Excerpt from 365 Daily Answers to What Would Jesus Do?

The reader of the Scriptures should be a humble person, who shows reverence and fear [awe] toward the Word of God, who constantly says, “Teach me, teach me, teach me.” The Spirit resist the proud, even though they are zealous and preach Christ for a time without fault…Therefore it is humility that we need in the study of God’s Word. ~Martin Luther

Reflection: Some “scholars” have studied God’s Word and have decided that this or that event or Scripture is erroneous. Interestingly, quite often the parts of the Bible they want to eliminate are the ones that strike closest to home. If they can deem the passage not inspired, then they no longer are accountable to is truth. Those who, in humility, hear God speak through all of Scripture will profit–both now and in eternity–by their willingness to be held to its standard. If we ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” we need look no further than the Gospels to discover what our attitude should be regarding the Scriptures. Jesus often quoted the Old Testament as fact. He believed their accuracy.

So should we. (End of excerpt.)

Besides the scholars deciding that some Scripture is erroneous, we have readers of the Bible who pick and choose what to believe and what to obey. That, my friends, is not an option.

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 Timothy 3:16-17

When President Obama quoted the Bible when he declared that he accepted Gay Marriage, he said that Jesus told us to “love one another.” But yet, he ignores all other scripture that says that sexual immorality is a sin.

Love the sinner, Hate the sin

Judgement DayEven if a sin is culturally acceptable like sex outside of marriage or with partners of the same gender, it doesn’t make it right in the eyes of God.

Just as we respect God, we must respect other people who are sinners just like we are. It’s all a matter of allowing Satan and our sinful nature to rule our lives or let Jesus and the Holy Spirit guide us. (Romans 8:8-11)

And check out what Jesus said to the Jews. He called them “Children of the Devil” (John 8:42-47) that’s who we are outside of Jesus Christ.

We are in a war with Satan in this world. That’s why we MUST ask “What Would Jesus Do?” on a regular basis and strive to be like Christ.

Had President Obama asked, “What Would Jesus Do?” before he made his statement, I believe he would have not done it.

Remember what Jesus said to the adulteress in the Gospel of John after all her accusers walked away — “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:1-11)

Though we may not like or condone someone’s lifestyle choice, it’s not up to us to judge them. That’s up to God. We can only keep speaking the truth and God willing, if they truly fear God – revere Him, respect His Word  – they will respect God’s Word and “leave their life of sin.”

 

Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century by Giselle AguiarIf you enjoyed this, you’ll love Giselle’s award-winning Christian novel: Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century a historical novel about the early church check it out! $1 from the sale of each book – no matter what format, benefits StreetLight Phoenix to help eradicate child sex slavery. www.giselleaguiar.com/novel1

Great Blessings!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Giselle Aguiar
Christian, Award-Winning Author

Christians should be shocked by sin

Love the Sinner – Hate the Sin

I have a message from God in my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
In their own eyes they flatter themselves
too much to detect or hate their sin. ~Psalm 36:1-2

The greatest security against sin is to be shocked at its presence.~Thomas Carlyle

shocked

We are as a society, less and less shockable. We are the proverbial frog in a pan of heating water, unaware of our danger. What would Jesus do about the lack of concern over sin? Wouldn’t He want to restore sight to those who are blinded by the deceitfulness of sin? A healthy fear of God is a good way to restore our sens of right and wrong, sin and righteousness.

God, who is enthroned from of old,
who does not change—
he will hear them and humble them,
because they have no fear of God. ~Psalm 55:19

Excerpt from: 365 WWJD: Daily Answers to What Would Jesus Do?

Why do we condone what goes on in society? As Christians, we cannot keep the blinders on. We must speak out when we are bombarded by immoral and offensive advertising, TV shows, radio shows, movies and other forms of so-called “entertainment.”

We Christians can change the world.

365 Days of WWJD?

 

Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century by Giselle AguiarIf you enjoyed this, you’ll love Giselle’s award-winning Christian novel: Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century a historical novel about the early church check it out! $1 from the sale of each book – no matter what format, benefits StreetLight Phoenix to help eradicate child sex slavery. www.giselleaguiar.com/novel1

Great Blessings!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Giselle Aguiar
Christian, Award-Winning Author