Wake Up, It's Christmas!

How did we let things get in this kind of shape? Christmas has become almost unrecognizable! The celebration of Jesus' birth that should bring peace and joy to all mankind has become a season of dread, despair and depression for many and overspending and overindulgence for almost everyone.
I know that Christmas has it's origins in pagan history as the celebration of winter and the "church" adopted it as a celebration of Jesus' birth to keep Christians from being wooed into paganistic revelry by giving them something "Christian" to celebrate. I don't have a problem with that. I think most Christians today know that Jesus wasn't born in December. When we celebrate is not what is important, it's what we are celebrating that is important! We celebrate the greatest gift ever given; God gave His son Jesus as a sacrifice for the sin of the entire world!
Instead of celebrating that gift that was given to us, we decided somewhere along the way that we should give gifts to each other. That decision has led to a perversion of the holiday. Christmas has become a pressure-filled excuse to overspend and overindulge. The only real winners these days are the stores and credit card companies. People who don't have money to spend go into debt that takes them the rest of the year to pay off and those who don't have the luxury of a credit card and can't buy gifts often go into a deep depression. Is it any wonder that the suicide rates soar during the holidays? The season when we should be resting and spending time with our families has become the most busy and stressful of the entire year!
It will never change unless we change it. We need to get back to the true reason for the season. We need to stop spending money and start spending time. We need to stop going to WalMart and start going to Church. We need to start showing our love for each other all year long in acts of kindness instead of one day a year with an expensive gift.

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Doesn't Suit Me

What's with all the suits?! I understand dressing nice to go to church (we always had
"Sunday go to meeting" clothes when I was a kid), and I believe in honoring God with the best we have. But some churches won't allow a man behind the pulpit (or even on stage) without a suit! I believe wearing a suit has become a tradition of men and does more harm than good.
First of all, I believe that when we go to church with the purpose of honoring God, we are robed in the righteousness of Christ Jesus. I don't think that God looks on our outside, but into our hearts. What good does it do to come to church in a $1000 suit and have a dirty heart?
Secondly, I don't remember reading in the Bible where Jesus dressed in clothes that proved He was a "man of God" or a "priest", but Jesus went out of His way to associate Himself with common people. Actually, He scolded the "holy men" time after time for wearing things and doing things that they thought would make them look or sound holier than everyone else!
Thirdly, when I was a non-believer, I could never quite feel comfortable in church because I was dressed in regular clothes and all the other men were in suits. I believe more people would come to church if they could come and feel comfortable being themselves and not feel like they had to dress up. And what if I can't afford a suit? Do you think I am likely to come to church in my regular clothes and sit amongst all those suits? No, probably not.
Fourthly, while I'm sure that some Preachers and Pastors feel like suits make them more "respectable" in the eyes of their congregation, I believe most people feel nervous around men in suits. I think people could get a lot closer to Pastors if they felt like their Pastor was a common man like them.
Hey, maybe it's just me, but I just think that as Christians we should be doing everything we can to show that we're just plain, ordinary folks; not better, just forgiven! I think we should do everything possible to make non-believers comfortable around us. How else will we get to tell them the good news?!

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Follow the Leader

People don't want Jesus because they want to do their own thing without having someone tell them what that thing is. Human beings don't like to be told what to do. They reject God, His rules and His sovereignty, and refuse to be ruled over.
But then people will allow other people, mere humans, to run their lives for them! I don't get it! We allow someone in Paris to tell us what is fashionable to wear; we let Oprah tell us who to vote for; we can't wait to pick up the latest fan magazine to see what some movie star says we should eat, or drive, or think! We follow these people without questioning and won't allow Almighty God to direct our lives! What's going on?!
It has always amazed me that last week Jim Bob Jones was a waiter in a restaurant and nobody cared in the least what he thought about anything, but this week he's been "discovered" by Hollywood and has a hit movie and now people everywhere hang on his every word! We follow the lead of men and shun the leadership of God, even denying His existence!
Everyone is following someone and some people are following just anyone. Haven't our earthly leaders let us down enough already? Open your eyes and ears to Jesus and He will lead you with His wisdom and His love!

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Then We Will See

The day is coming when being a Christian will make you an enemy of the state. It's hard to fathom how, in a country founded and settled by God-fearing men and women, the very ideals and beliefs that has made us the greatest country in the world could become so belittled and hated . But as the old saying goes, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!". So far, being a Christian is only grounds for being mocked and reviled, but soon it will be grounds for prosecution and imprisonment. Preaching will be 'hate speech'. Churches will meet covertly. Bibles and Christian literature will be banned. Then we will see the ultimate meaning of "laying down our lives for Jesus"! It's not as far away as some may think; the groundwork is being laid now.
Then we will see who's real and who's masquerading! Pastors won't have six-figure budgets to command or thousand seat churches full every Sunday morning. There will be no TV cameras or book deals or cheering audiences. Pastors and preachers will be criminals who are hunted down and disposed of. Christians won't have beautiful, air-conditioned churches with padded seats to recline in. Meetings will be held in secret in some dark, secluded place and comfort will be the least of our worries. Our very lives will be at stake! We'll understand what Paul meant when he said "...I die daily...". Christians will be blamed for everything bad in the world and will become everyone's enemy. Profession of faith will be like signing your own death warrant! In those days there won't be people going to Church just to make good business contacts or to use their Church affiliation to bolster their public image. Politicians won't use Church membership to garner votes.
I know I paint a pretty bleak picture. I'm not trying to scare anyone, only to warn everyone! The Bible warns us about the last days and it doesn't paint a pretty picture either! For a true Christian these things are not things to worry about, but things to rejoice over! The end of this life is just the beginning of eternity with Jesus! Look around and see what foundations are being laid! Understand the signs of the times. Read your Bible to get wisdom and pray always! Get ready and stay ready.

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An Inside Job

I think the big difference between Jesus and Buddha, Mohammad and other religious icons is that Jesus asks us to do certain things but then promises to help us to do them. The others are all full of do's and don'ts, but you're on your own to get the job done! Jesus not only promises to help us do what He asks us to do, but actually intends on taking up residence inside us and doing them Himself! What a concept! Religion tells a person to act, think and live a certain way and then leaves them alone to figure out how to do it and then to struggle to get it done. Jesus says He will come into our lives and teach us what to do and what not to do and then help us to get it all done!
Imagine that you're a parent of a little league baseball pitcher and you're standing outside the fence watching him pitch a game. Being older and wiser, you know what pitches he should make to each batter and you yell out instructions to help him. The problem is, even though you can tell him to throw a 90 mile-an-hour fastball, he doesn't have the strength or know-how to do it, and therefore your instructions don't help him, they just frustrate him! Knowing what to do isn't much help if you don't know how to do it or don't have the ability to do it! But what if you could walk out to the mound and climb inside his body and give him all your knowledge and all your strength?! Now he can get the job done! He not only has instructions, but know-how and ability!
That's what Jesus will do for us! He will climb inside and give us His knowledge and His ability! Then we will have everything we need to get the job done right! Please don't settle for just being told what to do and what not to do! Believe me, you can't do it; I know, many of us have tried and none of us can! Go to the one who promises to help. Jesus is the way; He won't ask you to fly unless He plans to give you wings!

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Small Churches

I love small churches. Our church was once a small church and I miss it. Members of small churches can stay closer to each other than members of large churches. Some very large churches have members who don't even know each other! I love the close-knit, family feel of a small church. I like the way the Pastor has a chance to talk with every single member after service is over. I like the way the congregation gathers in the parking lot after church to share their lives. Small churches don't have so many "outreach programs" that they forget to "in-reach" to each other! Small churches have the time to really love visitors and every member of the congregation can come by and shake visitors hands and give them a personal welcome.
I'm not saying there is anything necessarily wrong with a large church. It just seems to me that they are all so busy! I know that time is short and we must all be about our Father's business, but I believe His house should be a house of prayer, help and rest. The world is a busy place; we all need somewhere we can go to find some rest!
I wonder how many members of large churches are members just because it's a large
church? Churches are like restaurants; you can't always judge the quality of the food by how many cars are in the parking lot! Sometimes it's the small, out-of-the-way diner that serves the best food! We should be looking for a great anointing, not a great crowd.
I think some Pastors judge their effectiveness by how many people are in their congregation. Jesus had thousands of people following Him around, but He only had twelve disciples. Quality often surrenders to quantity. I understand the desire to reach greater numbers of people for Jesus, but we are called to make disciples of people, not just pack them in!

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Speakers and Shepherds

I believe the Church has too many speakers and not enough shepherds. It seems many people are 'deciding' to become pastors these days. They go off to school and take classes in speaking and communicating, church history and prophecy and become church pastors. There is nothing wrong with learning to hone your craft if you are called of God to do it, but too many of our pastors aren't called of God; they're self-made pastors. You may or may not be able to tell the difference from the pulpit, but you sure can tell from their actions.
The Bible says that a pastor is a shepherd. His local church is the flock he has been called to serve (yes, the pastor is a servant). It is his sacred responsibility to lead, protect, teach and correct his flock, always under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He will always be willing to do what is good for his flock regardless of how it impacts his career, his image or his money. He will lay down his life for his sheep, he will leave the 99 to go after the one that has gone astray and he will remember that he is their shepherd, not their king.
I have to wonder when I see the mega-churches and the TV ministers who have Rolex watches, Lexus cars and million dollar mansions, are they shepherds or just great speakers? Do they watch over their flock or fleece their flock? Do they see themselves as servants of the sheep or do the sheep exist to serve them? Are they laying up treasure in Heaven or building a career and making themselves a name on Earth? When one of their sheep leaves do they go after him or just say "I'm not going to beg anyone to go to my church!"? Do they do what's best for the flock or what's profitable and popular?
When the angels of God appeared to men in the Bible, they wouldn't allow themselves to be worshiped and yet we see pastors who accept people's worship and welcome and encourage it. Many Christians go to a church solely because of the pastor, not because they were led of the Holy Spirit to be there. People are blindly following a charismatic personality instead of a Holy Spirit anointing; can the anti-christ be far behind?

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