Who doesn’t love Christmas and the memories it brings?
As you think of your favorite Christmas, what makes it memorable for you? Was it where you spent it, who you spent it with, or the gift you received? Maybe it was unforgettable because of the gift you gave to someone special.
My favorite Christmas was the time I put my name on every gift under the tree. I have a large family with five sisters plus my mom and dad. My aunt and uncle came over Christmas Eve to stay the night with us. While everyone was busy preparing for Christmas Day, I sat on the floor by the Christmas tree with wrapping paper, scissors, and a pen, making new gift tags with my name on each one. I added those to every gift under the tree. The next morning, while my uncle handed out the gifts, the pile in front of me grew larger and larger as I got most of them. The expressions on everyone’s faces were priceless. My mom knew something was not right and as she looked around the room, her eyes stopped on me. I confessed my deed, and she gave the packages, unopened, to their rightful owners. We all laughed and my family still reminds me of that Christmas. It is a fun memory for us all.
Have you ever thought about God’s favorite Christmas?
Which parts do you think He most fondly remembers?
God created us to have fellowship with Him. But, sin penetrated His perfect world and separated us from Him. We could no longer experience life with God, only death without Him. Alone. Heaven must have been lonely with only the Godhead and a mere myriad of angels, and not one human being in sight. He wanted us to live with Him in His home.
God knew the Way to make that happen.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son,
that whoever believes in Him
should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (ESV)
The Father entrusted a young girl with His only Son—a human carrying deity. She wasn’t the richest or the most experienced or even married. But, Mary loved God, and she was the perfect mother for His Son. Even knowing His Son’s life would be threatened before He was two; God sent Jesus to be born in a dirty cave and laid in a manger of straw in the company of sheep and shepherds. Imagine how proud He must have been on that day and how bittersweet it was when Heaven became even lonelier.
God watched as the angels rejoiced at His perfect plan. Their instructions were to proclaim the good news to the lonesome shepherds in a field guarding their sheep that night. God didn’t tell the wealthy or the well-known. Instead, He sent His angels to the shepherds, the ones who protected their sheep and looked for the lost lamb.
They would understand his King.
How the Father must have loved the expression on their faces when His angels ignited the dark sky! I imagine His eagerness for them to behold His Gift.
God looked forward to the day His Son returned Home ushering men, women, and children to live with Him forever. Yet, how grievous the sting God felt knowing what Jesus must endure so we could be welcomed into Heaven.
God put His name on His present, too—Immanuel, God with us.
All He wants is for us to accept His gift. Don’t leave this precious One unopened. God’s favorite Christmas is the most unforgettable because of Who He gave us.
Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15. (ESV)
The cold crisp air took my breath away as we climbed higher and higher.
The white caps, blue water, and evergreens made my pictures look as though
I was a professional photographer.
The view from my camera warmed my heart as I thanked my
Creator for the landscape.
As my finger clicked away at the sight,
It was no longer the cold air taking my breath,
But the wonder my eyes beheld.
During a recent writers conference, we were given ten minutes to write several lines about a recent vacation. I wrote part of the above “poem” in those minutes.
My husband and I went to the Canadian Rockies in September with friends. It is a beautiful place to see. The mountains are gorgeous, but my pictures don’t do them justice. The water from lakes, rivers, and streams is blue from the “mountain flour” deposited in the water as it runs down the mountain rock.
We explored a blue glacier, ice fields and saw many fantastic waterfalls, not to mention the MOUNTAINS.
I must have taken over 500 pictures!
God’s creation is something to behold. With every picture,
I thanked Him under my icy breath.
The cold was no distraction to our site-seeing, though. We had warm, comfortable seats waiting for us as we loaded our tour bus after each excursion.
We went into Glacier National Park in Whitefish, Montana and as far north as Jasper, Alberta, Canada, over an eight-day stretch. Banff, Canada was a beautiful (and expensive) ski town surround by mountains. We had some of the best Greek food there and coming from my Greek husband, that says a lot.
Waterton, Canada was a quaint little town with shops and a great view of the mountains. It was where we saw our first waterfall and wildlife. The deer are used to seeing people and had very little fear coming quite close to us.
We met many Aussies on our trip, most in town for the season working at various restaurants and shops. Didn’t even have to go “down under” to get to talk to them and listen to their awesome accent.
Glacier National Park in Whitefish, Montana was amazing! We rode in red jammers to travel up the mountains. These vehicles are from 1936 and were restored by Ford for the use of this park. Their top was a canvas-type material which the driver rolled back so we could “prairie dog” it to take pictures. Believe me when I say it was cold in those jammers. Luckily, they were prepared with wool blankets on each row of seats, but you had to share them with the people next to you unless they “hogged” it, first.
Jasper was another small town surrounded by beautiful mountains. And another Greek restaurant. Lots of shopping, too. I found some great prices on jewelry and other gifts for myself…um, family.
We traveled a lot throughout those eight days and saw incredible scenery while staying at five different hotels. Let’s just say I was tired when I got home. I think it took five days to recover. But, it was worth it!
There are a lot of people doing yoga these days. But is yoga for Bible-believing followers of Christ? I can’t speak for you nor would I try to tell you what to do. However, I would like to explain what I believe and have experienced.
We live in a world with two dimensions, physical and spiritual. We live where these intersect. For instance, most people don’t have a problem with angels. Hearing stories concerning angels who protected someone from an attacker, who pulled another to safety after an accident, or ministered to one who was sick encourages us and makes us feel good. It gives us hope.
However, if there are angels, then there are demonic forces at work around us, too.
We can’t have one without the other.
Angels are God’s messengers and helpers. They are even our guardians.
Demons are the exact opposite. They hate us and wish us harm. They are never benign.
From the beginning, Satan wanted to be like God. Isaiah 14:12-14, describes Lucifer’s descent to hell. There are 5 “I will” sentences spoken by Satan in this passage. The last one says, “I will make myself like God.” This is why we have false gods in our world. Satan wants to be worshipped as God. He will do anything to make it happen by deceiving mankind.
Now for my story:
Recently, I was invited to a women’s event at a small fitness studio. The owner was a sweet, young woman and a relatively new believer in Christ. She had Bible verses around her place with Christian music playing as we followed her exercise routine on mats on the floor. She was encouraging, she even stopped to pray for us at various times. A couple of times, I wondered if we were doing yoga. The thought came and went many times throughout the routines. She didn’t call it yoga, nor did she use any familiar yoga terms, so I continued going along with her positional stretches.
It all seemed well and good, until a few days later….
I woke with the worst pain in my abdomen. Assuming it was something I ate, I spent most of the night trying to take the pressure off my stomach. The pain went through to my back and made any position in my bed uncomfortable. I felt a little better in the morning, but it came back. Trying everything to rid my body of the pain, I changed what I ate thinking I was having a reaction to dairy products. I ate little food some days hoping it would help; even fasting for a few days, but still, the pain continued.
After two weeks, I was convinced I had cancer growing inside my gut somewhere.
Fear overtook my rational thinking and told me I was dying.
Fear overwhelmed me.
I told a friend from my church I needed prayer. I intended to go to church on Sunday morning and have our prayer warriors pray for me. But Sunday morning, the pain was terrible. I told my husband I could not go.
The Holy Spirit reminded me I could not get prayed for unless I went. So, I asked Him to help me feel good enough to go to church.
He did, and I went.
During prayer time, I was prayed over by three people. At one point a friend said she felt impressed by the Spirit that it was something I had done at the women’s event a couple of weeks earlier. She told me it was not physical, but a spiritual issue and to pray and ask the Lord to show me what it was.
I did just that.
He clearly showed me it was the “yoga” I had done.
During prayer, my friend rebuked the pain and the spirit associated with it. I was healed at that moment.
No more pain and no more fear.
Later during prayer, I asked the Lord to forgive me for taking part in the yoga routine.
He taught me a valuable lesson about the power of something which seemed so innocent. Yoga is far from innocent.
An elder at our church, born and raised in India, taught a class on Eastern Religion two weeks ago. He was raised in a Christian home and did not experience any of the Hindu teaching or rituals. Deciding he needed first-hand information about yoga, he sought the Lord and counsel from his pastor and elders. After receiving permission from the Lord and knowing he would be protected, Doug’s pastor released him to join the Yoga school in order to teach others the dangers of this practice.
Doug explained what I had experienced was the Kundalini spirit. It is a snake-like demonic spirit associated with yoga which sits at the base of the spine. It causes tremendous pain.
Putting on Christian music and adding prayer does not make this ancient practice a Christian exercise. Dismissing its foundations by trying to turn yoga into a sanguine practice is impossible. An evil spirit doesn’t leave because you call something godly.
It’s about the roots.
Just because I cut down a tree does not mean it cannot grow again. Its roots are still in place. My husband had to cut down many live trees on our property. Believe me when I tell you getting rid of the roots is NOT easy; they go deep.
That’s what roots do.
They travel far and deep to find water and nourishment for the tree. You can only kill roots by pulling them out of the ground.
Yoga’s roots are similar to a tree’s. It is based in an ungodly religion with many false gods. It was created as part of a ritual to serve and worship these gods. Practicing yoga opens up our mind to other spirits, even if you are meditating on God.
You cannot remove the roots from yoga.
They are firmly in place.
We must seek God and His wisdom regarding yoga. What is the worst thing He can say? “No?” He wants what is best for us. He wants to protect us. He is not taking away our fun.
He was trying to protect me, but I did not listen. There were consequences for not listening.
I realize what happened to me is not the norm. Some of you may comment negatively, saying all this is untrue. You may have never experienced anything remotely negative doing yoga. That’s fine, and I am glad you haven’t.
I felt led to share this on my blog. If one person gets something out of it, then it was worth writing.
Fellow blogger Carole Sparks wrote “Sabbathing: Is that a word?” on her blog Not About Me. She brought up a lot of good points in that post as well as her follow up post. You can read it here.
As I read her post, it made me think of my time in Israel and celebrating a Shabbat meal with a host family. They were so kind and allowed 17 of us to share a meal with them while they taught us about their custom that night.
I am working on a Bible study on the Book of Hebrews. Hebrews is probably a book of the Bible some would avoid like Numbers or Leviticus. It has a lot to do with the Moses, the Law, and the Levitical priesthood. However, the author of Hebrews wrote his letter to people who were leaving their faith in Yeshua to return to Judaism.
He wants to show them how superior Yeshua is to everything from angels to Moses, to the Law and even the Sabbath. In Hebrews 4:1-11, the author reflects back on Old Testament verses found in Psalm 95:7-11. God is speaking of the generation from the time of Moses, their rebelliousness, and eventual death in the wilderness. They were unable to enter God’s rest which was Canaan because of their disobedience.
The Hebrew passage takes a course change from the Canaan rest to the Sabbath rest. At this point, without going into everything I cover in my study, I will give an excerpt from my Hebrews study:
In Exodus 31:13, God wants us to keep (or to remember) the Sabbath so we may know that he sanctifies us. He also says in verse 14,
“You shall keep the Sabbath because it is holy for you.”
Sanctify means to set us apart or to make holy. Why is this important?
God wants us to be His light. He wants us to be different. How can we be His lights if we are as tired and overworked as the rest of our culture? If each day is like all the rest, how do we show the world that we are set apart? How do we display that our Sabbath is holy to us as God said it is?
When I was in Israel, the group I went with was fortunate enough to be part of a Shabbat (Hebrew Sabbath) meal. Shabbat is 25 hours long and includes turning off all electronics (yes, all of them), spending time at the synagogue (at the time of Yeshua, they recited Psalm 95:7-11 every week on Shabbat), and spending time in the Torah with God and family. Friends and family members eat a meal which consists of many courses. Dinner begins with a blessing over the breaking of bread which represents peace from any conflict that may have occurred during the week. Next, there is blessing recited over a glass of wine or grape juice which represents sanctification of the day of rest. It is like Communion.
At one point during the meal, the head of the household sings Proverbs 31 to his wife to bless and honor her. He and his wife then take the face of each of their children in their hands and speak blessings over them individually. The look on the kid’s faces was priceless! They loved it and looked forward to it.
I felt almost intrusive as I watched their interactions and the intimate way they spoke to each other. There weren’t many dry eyes in the room.
So, let’s look at the Sabbath another way. Every week, an Orthodox Jewish family gives reverence and praise to God, makes peace with God and family, blesses and honors the women and children, all while resting from work and spending time together reading the Word. How different would our families be if we kept the Sabbath like this, instead of just hurrying to church?
This is an example of being set apart, not like the rest of the world, but living out devotion, faith, honor, obedience, and rest.
Psalm 31:10-31 The Woman Who Fears the Lord
She is far more precious than vjewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She wseeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She xrises while it is yet night
and yprovides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
and reaches out her hands to bthe needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
22 She makes dbed coverings for herself;
23 Her husband is known in gthe gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes hlinen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 iStrength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
but you surpass them all.”
30 lCharm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
Life happens. We have all heard that phrase and have probably said it. I don’t believe in coincidences. Most things happen for a reason, like the people we meet, and others occur because we live in a fallen world where Satan has power, for now.
It is hard to understand why difficult or even horrible things transpire in our lives and why we lose those we love dearly. It takes time, the help of the Holy Spirit, and the love of others to get us through the challenges this life throws at us.
Through it all, we have a Father and Savior who stick by our side. Yeshua came to be Hope in our darkest most difficult times.
I have suffered the loss of loved ones like most of you. My father died 25 years ago. It was difficult, even though at that time, I knew it would happen soon. It took years before I could talk about him without tears.
I suffered a miscarriage of our first child too. We had tried for 3 years to get pregnant. Even though I knew it was a baby, it was easier to think of it as a bunch of cells, at first. Once I allowed reality to set in the pain was unbearable.
I was angry at God. I found it impossible to pray. Grief overwhelmed me.
My God was with me. He allowed me to grieve.
Then He started to heal my pain.
He gave me HOPE. He reminded me that I did get pregnant. I was able to have a child. There would be other children.
A loss does not have to just be the death of someone we love but can take on many forms. It can be the end of a friendship, a dream, or the end of a marriage. Maybe you have lost your job or home.
The pain in our hearts can be excruciating, and you may feel like you will never recover. Still, there is hope!
Our family recently lost our beautiful, sweet, German shepherd. She was 7 years-old. We have had to put a couple of dogs down at the ripe old ages of 12 and 13. I still grieved their loss, but this time it was different. Olivia died when she fell through the ice on our pond and drowned. It was awful! We found her after getting home from a funeral of a family member. She was our family too.
Some may say she was just a dog, but she was my friend. While my children are moving out and going to college, that dog was like the child that never grew up.
The Lord was again with me in my grief.
He understands love.
He understands loss.
He never made light of my grief or my love for this dog. He was simply there. After a couple of weeks, I felt the Holy Spirit say, “If you really believe that everything you have is mine then she was mine too.”
I am not sure why that gave me comfort, but it did.
I do believe that everything I have belongs to God. I know I can trust Him with everything I love, including my husband, children, family, friends, pets, and home. He is in control.
I know I will see my dad, my baby and others I have lost again in Heaven. I have hope Olivia will be there too. If not, I’m glad I had her here.
Identity. What does it mean?
We all have one. We’ve all heard of identity theft, right?
Wikipedia says, “It means to assume another person’s private identifying information…to commit fraud or other crimes.” It also says, “The person whose identity has been assumed may suffer adverse consequences…”
But, what is our identity? Who seeks to steal it?
Some may have their identity in their ethnicity, like being Greek, Italian, or an American. Others in their vocations: I’m a doctor, a teacher, or a mom. You may call yourself a Baptist, Pentecostal, Nazarene, or Charismatic and honestly believe that defines who you are.
Maybe your identity is found in being a Republican, Democrat, Conservative or Liberal.
Our pastor has been doing a series on Sexuality and Gender. Many people find their identity in being Gay, Lesbian or a Transgender, among others. Their identity is wrapped up in their sexuality. A young girl I know recently told me about a friend of hers. She is struggling with gender fluidity. According to Gender.wikia.com, this is a gender identity which refers to a gender which varies over time. They may identify as male, female, or neutral on any given day.
Maybe your identity is called Rejected, Abandoned, Angry, or Fear.
Let’s face it, all of us have had or are having an identity crisis of some sort. If you’ve been through Middle school, you probably struggled with your identity in one way or another. It is normal (For a time) to not know who we are or what our purpose is on this Earth.
However, when we come to believe in Yeshua, we are given the most significant identity ever. We become the child of God. That means we are important, we are loved beyond belief, and we matter! Our life has always been important to the Creator even before we knew Him.
In the book of Hebrews, Yeshua is called our Great High Priest because He is a mediator between God and us. He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because He walked in our shoes and was tempted in every way we are. He became like us to identify with us.
Yeshua gave up His identity so that we can have our identity in Him. In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter calls us a royal priesthood. Why? Because it is our calling to be like Yeshua.
In his book, Cup of Salvation, Rabbi Pesach Wolicki writes about Psalm 114:2: ‘”When God told the people of Israel that they will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation He was telling them as follows: ‘You have a job to do. You will be the priests of the world. Your mission is to draw everyone on the earth closer to me. In order to continue to carry out that mission, you will need to be holy – to have a distinct and different identity from the rest of the world.'” (bold highlight is mine).
Our identity is NOT of the world. It is of God. We are set apart…that is what it means to be holy. Satan does not want us to have a heavenly identity, but a worldly one. He wants carbon-copies. He wants to steal your God-given individualism and uniqueness.
John 10:10 (ESV) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Satan is our identity thief. Remember the definition at the top of this page from Wikipedia? “The person whose identity has been assumed may suffer adverse consequences…”
That is precisely what happens when we let Satan steal or destroy our identity. We suffer! Satan wants to deceive us into thinking that we have no other identity except what we believe about ourselves, which is always changing with our circumstances. This is fluidity.
If a season of our life is fruitful, then we think well of ourselves, but when that changes in some way, our feelings about ourselves change too.
We are so much more than our sexuality. We are much more than the rejection we’ve experienced. We are more than a Baptist or Pentecostal. We are more than what we do for a living.
Satan wants us to believe the worst possible thoughts about ourselves.
However, we can not depend on how we feel. Our feelings lie to us. There is only one truth, that is found in Yeshua and in His Word.
Yeshua is truth. He will tell you the truth about yourself without condemnation. He corrects us in love. He wants to give you identity and purpose. He is our base-line. He is the beginning of our true identity. Our circumstances, whether we fail, succeed, lose, or win, whether we are rich, poor, happy, sad, sick, or healthy, do not change who we are in Yeshua.
You are forever His child. He will forever love you. Come to Him with the struggles of your life. He already knows them and is waiting to help you.
Yeshua came to give us identity and life.
At 24 years old, I was out of school, looking for a full-time job in my field of biology, and getting involved in a new church. I wasn’t really sure who God was, even though I had been brought up in a Christian home.
I was confused.
I was told most of my life I had to be good, wear the right clothes, act godly, and watch my language. None of these helped me have a relationship with Jesus.
God sent the most amazing woman into my life who showed me who He is and how much He loves me. Her name is Marilyn. Although we don’t live close anymore and I don’t get to talk to her like I used to, she has been my spiritual mom and friend.
She has lived, breathed, and walked out the love of Jesus. She was exactly who I needed. She was so patient with me even when I showed up at her house entirely unexpected. She prayed with me and for me. She modeled how to be a follower of Jesus.
This is precisely what our world needs today as well. It’s what our teens, college kids, and young adults need. Like us, they desire to have someone love them for who they are, to come beside them, and walk out life with them.
No judgment, no criticism, just acceptance, and love.
I pray my children meet someone like Marilyn one day. Someone who will be Jesus to them.
I want to be like her to the college-aged and young-married people in our church.
Our children live in such a different world than we did. They need direction, love, and the truth of Jesus and His Word in their lives. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all the nations.
We may not be called to another country in our lifetime, but making disciples in our families and right in our own backyard is a great place to start.