Celebrating Christmas

God, our loving Father, help us remember the
birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of
the angels, the gladness of the shepherds and
the wisdom of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love
all over the world.

Deliver us from evil by the blessing which
Christ brings and teach us to be merry with
clean hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy
to be your children and the Christmas evening
bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94)

Advertisements

Why I follow Jesus

You ask why I follow this Jesus?
Why I love Him the way I do?
When the world’s turned away from His teachings
And the people who serve Him are few.

It’s not the rewards I’m after
Or gifts that I hope to receive
It’s the Presence that calls for commitment
It’s the Spirit I trust and believe.

The Lord doesn’t shelter His faithful
Or spare them all suffering and pain,
Like everyone else I have burdens,
And walk through my share of rain.

Yet He gives me a plan and a purpose,
And that joy only Christians have known,
I never know what comes tomorrow,
But I do know I’m never alone.

It’s the love always there when you need it;
It’s the words that redeem and inspire,
It’s the longing to ever be with Him
That burns in my heart like a fire.

So you ask why I love my Lord Jesus?
Well, friend, that’s so easy to see,
But the one thing that fills me with wonder is
Why Jesus loves someone like me.

(Author unknown)

What a friend we have in Jesus

The Lord kindly brought this old hymn to mind while I was sitting at work feeling a little down. It made me smile and was a comfort. I hope it blesses you too:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

(Joseph M. Scriven, 1855)

Child-like Faith

This post reminds me that many of God’s most faithful followers praised Him while IN the fiery furnace, not when they were safely delivered from it. The following scripture comes to mind: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Unshakable Hope

As I’ve said in other posts, I do not believe that God causes trials. But He clearly does allow difficult times to come upon even those that are closest to Christ. (If you don’t believe this, please study the life of the Apostle Paul).

When you read the Old Testament, especially the book of Job, you’ll find that people of those times believed trials and tribulations only came upon the ungodly. Most of the book of Job is his so-called “friends” trying to figure out what Job did or didn’t do to deserve these horrible trials. Poor Job sits at their feet scraping his boils trying to defend himself against their baseless accusations.

Trials humble us and expose self-righteousness in others and in ourselves.

I’m thankful that I don’t have friends like Job. Today, when looking upon those going through difficult trials, the humbled believer will likely think,

View original post 520 more words

Send me sleep

This is a favorite prayer of mine before bed-time. It may be short but it says a lot faith-wise in few words.

May it be a blessing to you too.

Lord, send me sleep that I may live;
The wrongs I’ve done this day forgive.
Bless every deed and thought and word
I’ve rightly done, or said, or heard.
Bless relatives and friends alway;
Teach all the world to watch and pray.
My thanks for all my blessings take
And hear my prayer for Jesus’ sake.

Author unknown. The painting is by Roberto Ferruzzi (1854 – 1934, Italian).

What are your spiritual gifts?

Inspired by Don Merritt’s recent postings on spiritual gifts (see http://lifereference.wordpress.com/), I took an online test to determine my spiritual gifts from a helpful website called SpiritualGiftsTest.com.

The test itself (for adults), which is happily free, can be found at:
http://www.spiritualgiftstest.com/test/adult

What were the results? Interestingly enough, my highest scores were for:

  1. Knowledge (ie. loves the scriptures, connects the gospel to everyday life)
  2. Teaching (ie. studies the bible regularly, loves to explain the truth)
  3. Giving (ie. good steward, cheerfully and joyfully gives).

May I encourage you to take the test if you haven’t already determined what your spiritual gifts are! It’s an interesting, edifying, and humbling experience. I say “humbling” because I discovered today that I score quite low on the gifts of mercy and evangelism, which was not what I might have hoped for as a follower of Christ. Thankfully I’m just one member of the body of Christ so can be confident that there are others who are stronger in these areas who make up for my shortfall.

Some helpful points from the FAQ section of this website on spiritual gifts:

What is a Spiritual Gift?
A spiritual gift is a supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to a person when they are saved.

How many spiritual gifts are there?
There is no complete list of spiritual gifts found in any single book of the Bible. Thus, we cannot conclude that what we have is an exhaustive list or that the Spirit of God has not given other gifts to the church. We do not want to limit God’s ability to give more gifts, He most certainly has, but we must be cautious when calling an ability a spiritual gift if it is not found in Scripture. SpiritualGiftsTest.com operates within the framework that there are likely many other spiritual gifts that have been given, but they should all connect categorically to those that are found in Scripture. For instance, a “gift of songwriting” could connect with the categories of exhortation, or evangelism, or a “gift of cooking” could be a form of the gift of serving and ministering.

We find lists totaling nineteen spiritual gifts in three different passages: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. There are other important passages as well. Paul seems to speak of singleness or celibacy as being a gift from God in 1 Corinthians 7, and some have also considered marriage as a gift in the context of this passage. Spiritual gifts are further mentioned in 1 Peter 4 which addresses the speaking and serving gifts in a general sense. As a note, we have listed and described the nineteen major gifts on our site, but we do not include all of them in our tests. We have excluded tongues and interpretation, miracles, and healing. The reason for this decision is that these are difficult to test for, and should be self-evident within the context of the local church body.

Who gives the spiritual gifts?
We see in the Scriptures that since the day of Pentecost The Holy Spirit has given each believer one or more spiritual gifts to serve God and His people. This is obviously why they are called “spiritual” gifts. However, in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, we also see that the full Trinity is involved with spiritual gifts. And in Ephesians 4:7 we see that Christ gave gifts when He ascended in celebration of His triumph over sin on the cross and over death in His resurrection. Therefore, we can conclude that God distributes spiritual gifts by His Holy Spirit, but the Triune God is at work together in giving and empowering them. See Ephesians 4:7-13, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, Hebrews 2:4

What is the purpose of the spiritual gifts?
The purpose of spiritual gifts is to glorify Jesus by testifying of Him and building up His church until He returns. A major part of this is accomplished by using our gifts to serve in love, and by bearing much fruit that lasts. See Romans 11:36, Colossians 1:16, Revelation 4:11, Ephesians 4:11-13, 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Peter 4:10; John 16:13-14 and John 15:8.

How many gifts do I have?
Each Christian has at least one spiritual gift given to them when they are saved. Some receive more depending upon God’s will and calling in their lives. See Ephesians 4:7, I Corinthians 12:7, 11, I Corinthians 7:7, I Peter 4:10

What gifts do I have?
Only God knows – just kidding. We have developed a Spiritual Gifts Test to help you figure this one out. When you are done with the test, ask other Christians in your church or community that you know and trust to help you in discovering them. We also suggest serving in different areas and in different capacities in the church to figure out how you can best use those gifts to glorify God.

Does anyone have all of the spiritual gifts?
Nope! Each believer is given a gift or gifts according to the will of God, but no one has all of the spiritual gifts and no single gift is given to everyone. See 1 Corinthians 12:29-30, 1 Corinthians 7:7

How do I use my gifts?
The Bible tells us to use our gifts in love and in service to others. Every church needs believers with all kinds of gifts to serve and build up the body of Christ. We suggest you start by contacting someone in your church to find out where you can serve. Check out 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 and 1 Peter 4:10.

What is the difference between a talent and a spiritual gift?
A talent is a natural ability or aptitude given by God to a person at birth. A spiritual gift is a supernatural ability given by God at rebirth. A talent can be anything from athletic ability to musical aptitude to artistic genius. God allows a person to use his or her talents for many different purposes and in many different capacities. When it comes to spiritual gifts, God opens up the ability of a person to be used by The Lord purposely and directly in His work. A spiritual gift can spring from a natural talent, or it can be a completely new ability that is “out of the ordinary” for that person. The main point is this: All talents and spiritual gifts come from God. He can use talents and spiritual gifts to fulfill His purposes and bring Himself glory. The main difference between the two is that only Christians receive spiritual gifts because only Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. As a believer in Christ, you are called to use your talents and your spiritual gifts for the glory of God.

Why don’t you test for every gift?
You may have noticed that we do not test for the spiritual gift of tongues or interpretation, as well as the spiritual gifts of healing and miracles. These four gifts are very difficult to test for in a conventional way. Merely asking a set of questions will probably not lead a person to discovering these gifts (i.e. “Have you performed a miracle?”). It typically takes exercising and experiencing them and receiving confirmation through the Holy Spirit and from other Christians to validate or confirm that a person has these gifts.

The absence of these gifts from our tests is not an indication or affirmation that we believe they have ceased. The opposite is true. We believe that the Holy Spirit distributes and empowers believers with all of the gifts as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). All spiritual gifts are meant for the edification of the church until Christ returns (1 Corinthians 1:4-7, Ephesians 4:11-13).

The glory of creation

“O God, we thank you for this earth, our home;
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills and the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses by which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator, Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.”

Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918)