Final Thoughts for the Holidays

Here are thoughts as we get closer to Christmas Day. Remember that not everyone is looking forward to Christmas since they may not have loving and supportive families. Some people have problems during the holidays. Great sadness plague those remembering the loved ones no longer with them. For many, it is their first Christmas without a particular loved one; many others lost loved ones at Christmas time. Many people have no one to spend these times and are lonely. We all need caring, loving thoughts right now. Pray for all those who have family issues, health problems, job struggles, or worries of any kind. They need to know someone cares. Pray for our military families, those who lay terminally ill in hospital beds, those who are in prison, as they are all someone’s son or daughter, spouse, parent or friend too.

I recall breathing a sigh of relief on December 26th. It was over, and I could get back to a “normal” life. When I was a young, single woman, my next concern was not having a date for New Years’ Eve.  I’m grateful those days have passed. Now I have more important matters that consume me such as filing taxes. I have stopped making New years resolutions as I am still trying to fulfill the ones I made back in 1995!  Instead, I  make short and long-term goals. For 2019, I want to become a disciple maker for the Lord Jesus Christ. I will volunteer where I am needed at my church and my community. I will continue to grow my blog followers and offer more personal support to the women in need.  Finally, I will give thanks every day to the Lord who created me to do His work and will do it with a loving heart.

This Is What Christmas Is Really About

The Christmas season was not always a happy time for me.  During the early childhood years, I believed I had traditional Christmases.  I remember my mom stressing out over my grandparents and aunt and uncle coming to visit from other states and staying an entire week.  Mom would often invite one of her closest friends who was a widow and no children or family to join us. We had a house full of people and I being the youngest was spoiled with every imaginable toy, new clothes, and the richest cookies and candies from across the world.

When I was in my teenage years, Christmas holidays were not so enjoyable anymore.  Grandpa and my uncle had gone home to be with the Lord, my grandmother had moved in with us,  my sister was married with her own family, and I became savvy about how much my mother and grandmother drank, especially at Christmas.

When my sister, husband, and children would arrive, they were often late for Christmas dinner, causing my mother further stress and anger. She would then drink more.  My mother was not a doting grandmother either. Children annoyed her. Knowing when the grandsons were coming, she would spend a couple of hours “Childproofing” the house.  I always enjoyed playing with my three nephews (It became my responsibility to keep the boys entertained), and they were a nice distraction from the drunken fighting and arguing that often took place.

Then, at age 23, my life and holidays would be changed forever. My sister and her husband had divorced,   and, my mother passed away two weeks into the new year. That was when I became angry with God and turned away from Him for many years. I no longer had a “home.” My grandmother moved in with my sister, and we had to put the house on the market.  When Christmas rolled around, I spent a couple of them at my sister’s, but there was a new man in the picture who was an alcoholic, as were his parents. He also had six children. Her small house wasn’t large enough for everyone to sit together and so we all found places on the floor, fireplace hearth,  and steps to have dinner. There was so much drinking and arguing; I couldn’t stand going another year. For several Christmases, I spent alone in my new home. I remember feeling so resentful and depressed — no presents, no Christmas dinner, and no family. I was alone. It was difficult, and I hated Christmas.

When I gave my life to the Lord in 2004, my life and my views completely changed. It was time to make new traditions with my husband.  We’d sometimes go camping over Christmas, go to a nice lodge, or stay home and watch Christmas movies. We have the Lord and each other.  We feel blessed that we no longer have to deal with the expense and stress of Christmas gifts for each other and family.  We prefer to set a budget that we would spend on gifts for ourselves and others and donate that money to a family in need. I still decorate the house and put up a Christmas tree, but next year, I would like to do something different.

The season is really about Jesus’ birth. As I’ve grown in Christ, I am moving away from the secular celebration of Christmas in this country. Santa, reindeer, snowmen, Christmas trees have absolutely nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas.  I have heard the Christmas story many times from many different pastors this year, and they all have opened my eyes. Instead of a huge Christmas tree that takes up a good portion of the living room, I would like my husband to build a manger scene similar to what we would imagine it looked like on the day Jesus was born (not the sanitized secular type version).  I believe this would help both of us to keep our heart on the true meaning of Christmas and not get caught up in the secular traditions or the sadness of not having our family members to celebrate together.  Knowing what Jesus was born to do for us is the greatest gift any of us could receive.  The best gift we could give Jesus in return would be to follow Him and go out and make disciples.   May you all keep the true meaning of Christmas, not just during the season, but through the entire year.

Does Your Church Make Disciples?

I was never familiar with what discipleship really meant until my husband, and I moved to North Idaho in 2014.  We had attended a lovely Baptist Church outside in our small community for ten years.  There was a ministry in the church that served as the “Welcome New Guests.”  They would ask people if they would like to know more about the Bible and Jesus Christ.  As a new Christian, I wanted to know everything I could.  A few weeks later, I was assigned to a beautiful woman named Ruth who was to Disciple me. It was an excellent experience, and throughout nine months, I grew more deeply in my faith and understanding of Jesus and the Bible.

Our church in Idaho is all about making Disciples. I honestly wasn’t sure what that meant, or how to become one,  but I was curious.

To begin with,  The church offered classes if you were interested in becoming a member.  Once a member, you are encouraged to take bible study classes and volunteer in a ministry. They often say, “Don’t just GO to church, BE the church. And so I did,  I jumped in with both feet. I volunteered a couple days a week with the Benevolence Ministry, the Job Club Ministry, Women’s Ministry, and Children’s Ministry. What I loved about this church that I had never witnessed at any other church were the numerous ministries,  support groups, homegroups, children’s activities, Bible study groups, kids camp, fundraisers, and missionary training and travel.   The church is open seven days a week, and there is always something happening. The campus is also home to a private Christian School, grades K-12.  Recently added, a new sports facility for not just our member’s children, but for our entire community, other churches and public schools to use.  No child has ever been turned away from playing a sport because they, “Didn’t make the cut.” This is one of the many ways our church makes disciples who make disciples.

Jesus’ purpose for coming down to earth was not just to get people to believe so they could go to heaven. Even Satan believed in Jesus. Jesus wanted to make people into holy people. His goal was to spread the gospel to other nations. When Jesus began his ministry here on earth, his purpose was to make disciples that would go out and make disciples. “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” ~Matt 4:19.  Our church uses this verse to define discipleship. As a Christian, your call is to follow Jesus and commit to His mission (making disciples).  This challenges people to step out of their comfort zone because many Christians have never been discipled.  Many Christians find a church they like, attend  once in a while (definitely on Christmas and Easter),  tithe occasionally, and thumb through the bible (if they own one) during a service. They have no time to volunteer or attend  Bible classes to help them grow in the word, but they do believe that Jesus was the Son of God and was reserected from the dead.  Unfortunately, these types of Christians tend to look a lot like the rest of the secular world.

While  the bible says that we are saved by grace and not by good works, Jesus does tell us that we are to share the word with others. This does not mean the goal is to boost the membership of the church by making converts. As a disciple, it means to invest in them, teach them to love God through relationship and obedience and encourage them to grow in Christ so they can go on to be disciple-makers. But first, we must start with ourselves. Is your church a disciple-making church? At our church, there are classes we are encouraged to attend, books that our pastor has written we can purchase or borrow from our church, curriculum you can find online as well as a Christian bookstore. Not all churches are disciple-makers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do what Jesus has called all of His followers to do. Penn Jillette, a famous magician, comedian, TV personality and a host of other titles is also known as a hardcore atheist. In 2009, Jillette praised a Christian businessman for giving him a Bible and proclaiming that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. Jillette did not accept the man’s invitation to become a Christian, but his assessment of believers quoted him as saying, “I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. If you believe in heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, but you feel it’s not really worth telling them because it’s socially awkward, how much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”