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Christmas on the Job

Dec 23, 2016

PROGRAM D-7735

If you’re a Christian, should you participate in the typical Christmas celebrations going on all around you? Sometimes these occasions are not at all Christian, even though they’re done in the name of a Christian holiday. We need to give this some careful thought.

We are not called to be separatists, but we are called to do everything to the glory of God. So, we have that balancing act to consider as a guideline in this area.

Another biblical principle is found in Romans 14:13: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”  As Christians, we must always be careful that what we do is not misinterpreted and misunderstood, causing others to stumble.

While it’s true that we should not live in fear of what other people will think, nor is it possible to please everyone, it’s also true that sometimes we have to adjust our plans and behavior, not because it would be wrong for us, but because it would be a stumbling block to others who would misunderstand.

Consider this principle found in 1 Corinthians 9:22b: “I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.”  For Paul, the most important thing was to have an opportunity to tell others about the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

So, within the limits of morality and the law, without violating any of God’s principles, he was willing to be whatever he had to be, do whatever he had to do to have those opportunities.

We can ask ourselves:  Would some limited participation in these celebrations give us an opportunity to talk to people—to reach out to people? I do believe and know from experience that these occasions can afford us opportunities to establish a rapport and build some bridges to those who might have thought we were “untouchable” or came from some other planet. But if so, we must carefully keep our balancing act in mind, and never allow ourselves to compromise the testimony of Jesus Christ.

That should give you something to think about during this Christmas season. Remember, even for a Christian, Christmas can become a pagan holiday if we don’t focus our minds and our activities on who Jesus is and why he came. But it can also be a time that others are more open to talking about Jesus, and let’s not miss those opportunities. Use this season to share with others the good news we have about our Savior.

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Christmas on the Job

Dec 22, 2016

PROGRAM D-7734

Here we are in the midst of the Christmas season again. As much as we enjoy this time of the year, it’s very sad to see people using this holy celebration of our Savior’s birth for anything but holy purposes. And nowhere is that more prevalent than in the working world. Have you ever noticed that people who never give Jesus Christ a thought all year long are more than ready to participate in Christmas celebrations and parties?

It seems that Christmas for many people is just an excuse for indulging in very unchristian activities, especially in our work environments. Here are some principles from the Word of God to guide our response to these situations:

The first principle I would point out is that Jesus was not a separatist. He did not by example or by instruction tell us to remove ourselves from every situation that was not religious or holy. In fact, he prayed for us in John 17:15:  “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”  He said that he came to save sinners, and he mixed with those sinners, sometimes at their own affairs.

We are not called to be separatists. We won’t reach people for Jesus by staying in our corner and hoping they’ll come over to see us there. We have to reach out to them where they are.

However, that guiding principle has to be balanced with another one as found in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  So, we have a balancing act here between these two principles.

When we can participate without compromising our standards, when we can join in without giving approval to un-Christian behavior, then we may be able to use these occasions as opportunities. But we need to be well aware of keeping the right balance. Jesus reached out to people in their environment, but he never allowed their environment to penetrate into his mind or his lifestyle. We are in the world, but not of it.

All too often we Christians allow ourselves to be brought down to the level of the unbelievers, instead of vice-versa. If there is any question in your mind that you will be able to keep a strong Christian testimony in the midst of any holiday celebration, then it would be wise to keep yourself separate from those questionable occasions. But you may be able to use that occasion as an opportunity to witness or build relationships, without compromising on your part.

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Christmas on the Job

Dec 21, 2016

PROGRAM D-7733

You’re probably aware that there’s no biblical institution called “Christmas.”  Christmas is a tradition that people have developed through the ages, but the word is never found in the Bible.

Jesus never told us to set aside a day or time to celebrate his birth. Nowhere in the history of the early church do we see any indication that they celebrated the birth of Jesus. With Christmas shopping and celebrating in full swing right now, we need to ask ourselves: Should those of us who truly know the meaning of the birth of Christ be a part of these Christmas celebrations? I will share my thoughts with you.

I don’t believe it is necessarily wrong for us to celebrate Christmas and join in some of the traditions that have arisen. Jesus participated in some traditions of his day. And it is a biblical principle to remember what God has done for us in the past. So, if we use Christmas as a way to remind ourselves of how Jesus came into this world in order to become our Savior, it certainly can be a meaningful time for us.

However, for one who has accepted Jesus Christ as his or her Savior and knows him personally, the celebration of his birth should always be coupled with the remembrance of his death and resurrection, for without that, his birth has no meaning. Jesus came to die. And Jesus did instruct us to remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.

Many people who join in Christmas celebrations are quite willing to sing the Christmas carols and talk about a baby in a manger, but they’re not at all willing to deal with Jesus Christ beyond the manger. As Christians we should use every opportunity we have at this Christmas season to share with others why Christmas is important. And we should continually remind ourselves that as that baby he took on the form of man so that he could die for us in our place and become our Redeemer.

The true celebration of Christmas for a Christian includes the cross and the empty tomb. In the midst of your busy Christmas schedule, don’t let that truth escape you. The birth of Jesus has no meaning or power except that he came to die and he rose again.

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Christmas on the Job

Dec 20, 2016

PROGRAM D-7732

What does it mean to be poor in spirit? Have you ever thought about that? At this time of year when buying things and giving things and receiving things are uppermost in our minds, it’s very important as believers that we bring ourselves back to what is eternally important, and it is not things!

There’s a wonderful reward for those who are poor in spirit; Jesus said that they will have the kingdom of heaven. But most people miss this great offer because they are not willing to be poor in spirit. Poor in spirit means seeing yourself as possessionless. Regardless of what’s on your list of assets, if you’re poor in spirit, you know that everything you have is a gift to be used, a resource on loan to you from God. In your spirit you are a poor person.

Now, poverty is not something we would voluntarily choose. But poverty of spirit is something every Christian should desire and pursue. Why? Because it’s so easy to be possessed by our possessions and therefore to miss the eternally important values in life.

How do we achieve this poverty of spirit? It’s a life-long process. Some people literally get rid of all earthly possessions and own nothing. But for most of us it’s a change in attitude.

I had a dear friend who spent a couple of years on a missionary assignment, and as she was returning home, she gave away almost everything she had accumulated while there. And she realized as she was packing that everything she owned at that time would fit on one shelf in the closet. She said, “Mary, I had such a sense of freedom, to realize that I owned practically nothing. I was not a slave to possessions, because I had none.”

That’s the attitude we constantly need. And it takes prayer and a daily commitment to the Lord.  Very often I hold up to God all that I call my own, and I confess to God that they are not mine, they are his. For I am possessionless; I am poor in spirit.

Why would anyone want to do that? Because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Let me tell you, that’s a bargain!  I relinquish ownership of a few measly earthly possessions, and in return I enjoy the riches of heaven.

In this season when we are more than ever bombarded with materialism, ask yourself if you are poor in spirit. Do you have a spirit of being possessionless? How we need Christians in this world who refuse to be possessed by possessions.

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Christmas on the Job

Dec 19, 2016

PROGRAM D-7731

It’s Christmas time. I didn’t have to tell you that, did I? The stores have been decorated since Halloween, and the merchants are busy trying to get our money, as we hurry to buy things. In the midst of all this focus on things, I’d like to talk about the biblical principal of possessing nothing.

Seems to me that Christmas is a good time for each of us to remember the danger of being possessed by possessions. Everything around you these days is telling you that you need to buy and own things. A. W. Tozer wrote, “There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets ‘things’ with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns ‘my’ and ‘mine’…express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease.”

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). What does that mean? I believe it means that those who in their spirit see themselves as possessionless are those who are blessed and happy. When a person possesses Jesus Christ and eternal life in heaven, they are the richest of all people. Nothing else can really make us rich except these heavenly possessions.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that as a servant of God he was “poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”  What do you possess? Things? If that is what you count as your possessions, you are indeed poor. But if you understand that things are simply tools to be used, resources from God, and you truly do not possess them, even if you are in charge of them, then you are poor in spirit. But you are rich because you have everything in Christ.

It is not easy in this possession-mad world to be poor in spirit. People will not admire you for it. You will not be confirmed by the world for maintaining an attitude of possessionlessness. The world evaluates people based on what they own. It’s swimming upstream to be poor in spirit.

And yet, those who are, Jesus says, are the ones who are happy. They are not possessed by their possessions, because those things are not important to them. Do you think it’s actually possible for a Christian today to live in this possession-mad world and truly have an attitude of being poor in spirit? Do you even want to?

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Getting Rid of the Knots in Your Life

Dec 19, 2015

We need to untie some of the “knots” that keep our minds and our hearts in bondage.  Often they are “knots” of our own wrong thinking, “knots” that we’ve allowed to burrow deep into our souls and become permanent residents there.

For example, we get all tied up in the have nots.  How often do you focus on what you don’t have instead of being thankful for what you do have?  Having recently returned from a trip to Kenya where I visited in the homes of women who truly have almost nothing of this world’s goods, I was again amazed at their contentment, their joy in the midst of what we would call deep poverty.  We classify them as the have nots of this world, and yet they displayed more contentment and purpose in life than lots of us do here where our lives are crowded with stuff.

One of our enemy’s most effective weapons against us is to make us discontented with what we have, so that our lives become focused on trying to get what we think we must have in order to be happy and complete.  The Apostle Paul said he had learned to be content, whatever his circumstances.  When you and I are tied up in the have nots of our lives, it’s because we haven’t learned to be content.

Have you been thinking that you have not the job you want, and so you’ve become discontented with your job, which almost always leads to lack of excellence in your work habits?  Maybe you’re thinking that you have not the mate you want, and you’re desperately looking for that mate who is going to make your life complete—or so you think.  Or could it be you have a mate, but you have not the kind of mate you want, and so you keep trying to change that person, which, of course, is an exercise in futility.

When was the last time you thanked God that you have a job?  Have you ever thought about the good things you have because you’re single?  Do you ever take time to appreciate the positive things about your mate—or your boss or your co-worker—fill in the blank?

If you’re tied up in the have nots, the way to be set free is to develop a thankful attitude.  To start each day with a focus on being thankful and expressing thanks every chance you get.  You must determine to do it, whether you feel like it or not.  Just start saying, “Thank you, Jesus,” at every point in your day—for the sunshine, for safety, for good health.  There is great power in being a thankful person, and it will set you free from the have nots!

And then there are the can nots that frequently strangle us.  How often do you talk yourself out of stepping out and doing something because you tell yourself you can not do it?  Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  That means that everything God intends for you to do, you can do because he will give you the strength to do it.

The can nots of life will keep you from accomplishing the good works God put you here to do.  Ephesians 2:10 says that we were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  God has a can do list for you to do, and he is totally capable of empowering you to do it.  He has promised to provide the strength and the resources you need to do what he has called you to do.  So, why do you tell yourself you can not do it?  Why are you tied up in that knot?

I know, you look at the job, and you look at yourself, and you are frightened because you know that in yourself you don’t have what it takes.  But this is what it means to walk by faith not by sight.  If God is saying this is a can do for you, you’ve got to trust him to do through you and with you what you could never do without him.  But that’s what the Christian life is all about—it’s about Christ living his life in us so that we can do what he has called us to do.

It has been my experience in my years of walking with the Lord that when he calls me to do something, I am always in over my head.  It is way more than I can do; I never have the education or the experience or the resources or the know-how to do it, and yet as God has placed that passion and desire within me, he has always been there to accomplish what he wants to accomplish through me.

I want to encourage you to undo the can nots in your life.  Stop feeding yourself negative messages.  I’m not advocating foolishly doing things without much thought and prayer and guidance.  But so many of us just stay on the sidelines and never get in the game because we are filled with the fear of the can nots.   You’ll make some mistakes along the way, you’ll have to learn some things through failure, but if God is in it, he will bring you through to completion and you’ll learn the joy of being involved in what God is doing.  It’s the abundant life; sitting on the sidelines is really boring.

Were you raised with a lot of do nots?  Christians who live their lives by the do nots are not living in the freedom that Jesus came to give us.  Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Living under the burden and the guilt of the do nots of life is a yoke of slavery.

It’s true that the Old Testament gives us the law of Moses, but Galatians 3 teaches us that the purpose of that law was to be our schoolmaster or our tutor to bring us to Christ.  The law shows us how far short we fall of God’s holiness, and therefore how desperately we need the redemption he has provided for us in Jesus Christ.  That law—the do nots of life—places guilt on us, and that guilt is often very deserved.  But when we accept the grace offered to us through Jesus, the forgiveness of our sins, then that guilt is removed and his righteousness takes its place.

Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle!  Do not taste! Do not touch!’  These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.  Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”  (Col. 2:20 – 23)

Living by the rules may appear to be right, but eventually it is going to fail you because living by the do nots of your own making or someone else’s is not enough to accomplish God’s purposes.  It is based on your performance, and that leads to pride or guilt.  Have you noticed that those who base their Christian life on all the things they do not do usually have a very judgmental attitude toward others?  They judge others by comparing them to their set of rules.

Of course, the Christian life is one of righteous living, but that has to be based on our desire to please Jesus.  Rather than trying to obey all the do nots of law, as believers we should be motivated from love and devotion to Jesus to please him in every area.  The sanctification process that should be taking place in every believer is to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus, and when that is happening in our lives, we don’t perform out of fear or duty or pride, but we allow the life of Jesus to be manifest in our lives.  Do not be a slave to the do nots!

Do you have any will nots in your life?  I’m sure you’re well aware that you did not have to teach your children to be selfish.  They come that way!  Have you noticed that even as infants, they behave as though the whole world revolves around them and everyone in their life is there to cater to their desires?  And sadly, we don’t change much as we grow older; we’re just not quite as vocal about it!

We do what we set our wills to do—and conversely, we don’t do what we set our wills not to do.  So, when I set my will not to do God’s will, but to do my own will, then I’ve set myself on a path to pain and heartache.  And oh yes, even people who are truly born of the Spirit of God can decide that they will not obey God.   I know, because I’ve been there.

For many years I set my will to go after what I thought I needed in order to be happy.  It was all about me, and many times through those years I demonstrated through my lifestyle and the choices I made that I would not do God’s will.   I didn’t actually utter those words and would probably have denied them if I had been confronted.  But there was no doubt that I had a bundle of will nots in my heart, and I intended to run my life by my will, not by God’s.

I wonder if someone is in that place right now. You know that you’ve set your will to do what you want, and you simply will not obey God.  I have to tell you that is one of the most miserable places to be.  Refusing to obey God is a surefire way to mess up your life but good.  God’s plans for you are good; they are by far better than your plans.  He knows the best way for you to go, but as long as you will not listen to his voice, you will forfeit the good path he has for you.

Jeremiah 6:16 says, “This is what the  Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

If there is any will not in your life, I pray you will immediately confess and forsake it, and walk in the ancient paths, in the good way, where you will find rest for your soul.

I want to close this topic as we look at one more “knot” that has many of us tied up—and that is the am not.  How often we focus on all our am nots instead of focusing on the sufficiency of Jesus Christ.  For example, when was the last time you thought or said, “I am not qualified,” “I am not good enough,” “I am not as good as others”?  Oh, how the enemy of our soul loves to keep us looking at ourselves instead of looking at Jesus.

Romans 8 assures us that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and yet we have a tendency to keep condemning ourselves—or to allow others to condemn us.  God never deals with us through condemnation.  He may convict us of something in our lives that he wants to change in order to conform us to the image of his Son, Jesus, but he never beats us over the head with our unworthiness, even though we are all truly unworthy.

Depending on your life experiences, you may have great difficulty believing that anyone could truly forgive you and set you free from your past, especially God.  But I urge you to make this truth the centerpiece of your life: what you have confessed and forsaken is out of God’s memory, separated from you and never to be brought up against you again.

When God sees you in Christ, he does not see your ugly past; he sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ which has been credited to your account.

Furthermore, God never compares us with others; he takes us where we are, gives us hope for the future, and assures us that nothing can separate us from his love.

I hope you will by God’s grace get rid of the am nots that you’ve harbored far too long.  Don’t believe the enemy’s lies any longer.  When you hear those am nots starting to invade your thoughts, just quote Romans 8:38-39: 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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