Taking off The Mask and Becoming Real – Finding Freedom

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I am so excited! This is going to be an exciting year. Last week, I mentioned that I would be starting a new study with Candace Payne. She is the Chewbacca mom and her topic is joy. My daughter has invited me to join her in this study along with some friends.
 
As I opened the book to read today, I came to the prologue, “Behind the Mask.” She explains how this all came about. She and I have familiar stories I do believe. I was so intrigued as I was reading this.
These are the last two paragraphs of her prologue,
 
 
“When life punches you in the gut, it can be difficult to must a smile – much less a laugh.
I get it. My journey to becoming a Chewbacca Mom was more than an overnight success.
It’s a path that you, too, can travel if you want.
It will lead you to take off your mask, finding freedom,
 and experiencing defiant joy.” Candace Payne
 
As I read this, I thought about what was ahead for me. I will learn to take off my mask. There is not one lady (or man) alive that does not wear a mask sometime in his or her life. At some point, all of us wears masks. Why? Because we can’t stand to let others see the real us. Why? They might not like what they see, they may make fun of us and most of all we will feel vulnerable. We feel like we have to have it all together at all times, so we put on our masks. For some of us, it’s the mask of a hero. We can do it all. We can perform miracles and we can do a dozen things at once and we’d like to think we do them well.
The mask of joy is one we often put on. We want to smile, laugh and let others believe everything is great; when in reality our world is falling apart. We don’t even know what true joy is, yet we put this mask on and pretend we know exactly what joy is.
 
The mask of self-confidence is one we all struggle with. We put this on to let others know we are self-confident. Give us a task whether we are qualified or not, want to do this or not and we will accomplish it. It might not be to our liking or it might not be our talent, but we are going to do it because we’ve been asked to do it and we don’t want to disappoint others.
 
I am a multi-masked person. I have several masks I wear at different times. One is the self-confident mask, one is the joy mask and there are other masks that I wear from time to time.
We go into church quite often wearing a mask that says everything is fine in our world. When in reality our world is falling apart at the seams.
 
I could go on and on. There are so many masks people wear every day. I may have mentioned yours or maybe I haven’t. You know the mask you wear. We must remember some people, especially family and friends, just might be able to see through those masks. Even if they can’t, you aren’t hiding anything from God. He can see clearly through your mask. You have to remember what it says in Psalm 139:1-4, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” We can’t even think a thought that God does not already know about. He knows what we are going to say before we even say it.
 
I am reminded of this, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 God created each of us and he loves us just as we are. We do NOT need to put on a mask. He won’t love us anymore if we pretend to be somebody we aren’t. In fact, he may be disappointed in us.
 
She goes on to say we can find freedom. Isn’t that what we all want right now? Freedom to not only be ourselves but freedom from those things that hinder us? My fight is with self-esteem or self-worth. I am always thinking someone could do what I do better or that I am not worthy to do what I am called to do. I often feel the things that I create, someone could create them better, prettier, or stronger. I feel so much like Moses at times when God calls me to speak at a Ladies Event. Why me, Lord? I am not a speaker; I am a writer. I have a speech problem, I talk too loud, too often or too much. I often tell God, “You’ve called the Beth Moores of this world or the Candace Paynes of this world or the Joyce Meyers of this world. I am not in their class nor am I capable of doing what they do; so why have you chosen me?”
 
It may be the freedom to admit we aren’t super moms or super ladies. Maybe it’s the freedom to admit we need help at home or help at our jobs. Maybe it’s the freedom to say, “I can’t do it all.”
 
Maybe it’s just the freedom to be ourselves. The freedom to be who we want to be or better yet, what God wants us to be. Maybe God is calling you to something and you feel like you don’t have the freedom to step up and step out.
 
Stop and name what it is you’d like to be free from. What freedom are you wanting right now?
 
Finally, she challenges us to experience joy. I am here to tell you, you are only going to experience joy when you come to Christ, take off your mask and receive freedom from Christ from those things that are hindering you. It will be the kind of joy you have never experienced before and the kind of joy the world does not know. It’s the kind of joy that only God can store in our hearts.
 
Today I was vulnerable. I took off my mask and shared some things with you that I’ve never shared before, or at least not for a long time. I’ve told you what mask I wear, what I would like freedom from and shared with you that I want to experience more of the joy that God has already started in my life. We have to remember (I have to remember every day), “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139”13-14. We are wonderfully made. God created us; God does not make junk.
 
I hope this year you will join me in taking off your mask, finding freedom and experiencing joy in Christ. If you plan on doing her study let me know; I am starting a Facebook page for those who are, so we can hold each other accountable, encourage one another and inspire each other.
 
Let’s be who God created us to be, doing those things he has created us for and let us find joy in Him.
 
Dear God, you have called me to once more take off my mask and just be me and to be real. I have taken my masks off so much just to put them back on again. Help me not to store them away, but to rid myself of them completely. You have called me to experience freedom in a new way and you challenged me to experience more of your joy in my life. I can only do these things through your strength and with your help. Guide me on this new journey and may you ever be present with me. Amen
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A New Message, A New Goal, and a New Path

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This is the start of a New Year. God has already been in the business of guiding my path, giving me a message and a goal for this year. Some things have happened that have made me sit up and take notice. It’s going to be an interesting year.
 
It all began toward the end of last year. An event happened that made me begin to lose my joy. I was disappointed in some things that happened and the way some people responded. Two dear friends came to me during this time. One said to me don’t let this thing that happened, make you lose your joy. The other one came to me and said keep the joy. Again, repeating not to let me lose my joy. I was given small Christmas gifts from each of them. The one did not know the other one was giving me a gift. So, the gifts were not planned. I opened the one gift and it was a large Christmas ornament about joy. I opened the second gift at a different time and it was a smaller Christmas ornament with a joy saying on it.
 
My daughter gets into homemade gifts for Christmas. This year my other two daughters and I were blessed with homemade pictures. She painted crosses on three different canvases. On one she painted the word love, on another she painted the word faith, and on another painted the word joy. Now she did not know about my experience or the other gifts I had been given. Which of the three crosses do you think I was given? Joy
 
I didn’t give it too much thought I just attributed it to the event. I moved on. Sometime over the holidays, my daughter asked if I would join her in a Monday night online Bible Study with her. It was with Candace Payne, the Chewbacca mom. It caught my interest. Anytime I can do a Bible Study with my girls I am all in. I went in to see the topic and to get more information on it. To my surprise the topic was joy. Really? Joy again popping up. I was intrigued and decided to go for it. Maybe, God was telling me something. I started a new devotional for the New Year. I opened up the book and started reading. The topic for the next several days was joy. Now, God had my attention. I thought I was a joyful person. I thought I knew all I needed to know about joy, but apparently, God had something in mind. So, for this year I am concentrating on joy; or at least until God leads me in a different direction.
 
Another event occurred at the start of the New Year that has me intrigued as well. I am leading two workshops on two weekends that are back to back. The topic for both of them is the same topic. I do a workshop talking about the Armor of God. Now, this is not your typical Bible Study. I have unusual items that depict for me the armor of God. Afterward, I go into a routine about how one day I did not want to wear the armor of God and what God had to say about all of that. I have had these planned for several months. I had bought a devotional during the summer for this year. I put it back and planned on using it the first of the New Year. The New Year rolls around. I have not opened this book until this year. I opened the book to start the New Year. I was shocked and astonished. The first section of the book is on the armor of God! Seriously! I am even using a part of it for my talk now.
 
So I am beginning to understand, I need to exercise wearing my armor of God more and to be prepared at all times and then be more joyful. So, how does the two relate?
 
For me, it is a simple concept. God has given us tools to use to fight against spiritual warfare. We are given the helmet of salvation which reminds us we are saved and nothing can come between us. Next, we are given the breastplate of righteousness. Simply put, we are to put on Godliness and allow God to work and move through us. Then comes the shoes of peace. We are to put on the shoes of peace and share God’s peace with others. We are to put on the belt of truth. We are to be in the truth. We can only know the truth if we read the Bible and study his word. Then comes the shield of faith. We are to remain faithful at all times. We are to call on God to help us live faithfully each day. And then finally, the sword of the Spirit. God has given us the Spirit to live with us daily. We are to live in the Spirit. We are to move and have our being in the Spirit.
 
So where does the joy come in? If we do all these things; if we put on the armor of God we can live in pure joy. A joy that does not come from the world, but joy that comes from God. It’s a different joy than the world knows. The joy that the world knows is all about material blessings or events that make us happy for the time being, but it is not a lasting joy. The joy that God gives us is a lasting joy. A joy that comes from knowing God. A joy that envelops us even during the difficult times of our lives. Romans 14:17 says this, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” I found this on the internet, “Happiness is fickle and requires happy circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, sticks around. It doesn’t get chased off by trouble.”
 
On crosswalk.com it stated this, “In happy or sad times, in comfort or difficulty we find joy in the presence of the Lord. Focusing on Christ – who he is, what he’s done to save us, and his promise to keep us – bring s supernatural joy that can’t compare with temporary happiness.”
 
There are many scriptures that can be found concerning the joy God has for us. We know joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. We know God calls us to rejoice at all times. What I realize is to experience that kind of joy, I have to be one with God. I can only be one with God if I am using the tools he has given me.
 
Looking back at last year….(it is okay to look back, it’s not okay to live in the past) I realize, I didn’t wear the armor of God nearly as much as I should have. I worried a little more than I should have and put my faith in things that were not of God. This year, it’s my goal to wear daily the armor of God and to fight off the spiritual warfare that often attacks me; knowing when I put on the armor of God, I will experience the true joy God has for me.
 
They go hand in hand. God has given me a message, a goal and a path for me to take this year. Will I go off the path sometime during the year? Of course, I am human. But, God has given me grace and that grace never runs out.
 
I hope, as you plan this New Year, God will direct your path and guide you in the direction he wants you to go. Maybe, you are to join me in wearing the armor of God a little more this year and experience with me the true meaning of joy. If so, let me know and we can lift one another up in prayer and hold each other accountable.
 
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11

Dear God: It’s a New Year. You have already given me a new message a new path and a new direction to go. Help me each day as I put on the armor of God. I am woman, I am strong, but I can only be strong in you. Thank you for the message you have given me concerning this New Year. Help me to achieve my goal to use the tools you have given me on a more regular basis and thank you for steering me in the right direction. Be with me when I make the wrong move, or go down the wrong path. I want this year to experience the joy that is made complete in you. Amen
 
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Ephesians 6:10-18

Studying Prophecy and Knowing Scripture

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Matthew 2:1-12Studying Prophecy and Knowing Scripture
I have been talking a lot about the Shepherds and the Wise Men this season. I am not sure why, but they have caught my attention. This morning as I was thinking about my blog my thoughts went again to the Wise Men.
 
We know the Wise Men were aware of the strange star that appeared in the sky. After doing some digging I realized they knew the prophecies as well. What I found out is that Daniel the Prophet more than likely introduced the Magi to the Holy Scriptures. It was believed they studied the Hebrew Scriptures and understood the timing of the Messiah’s birth. So, we know two things they made themselves aware of the signs that God had given them and two they studied and knew scripture. We know once the sign was given they immediately went to find the Christ child.
 
So, what does this mean for us today? First, we need to make ourselves aware of what is happening around us. I believe God gives us signs to point us in the direction we need to take. It may not be a star, but it might be encouragement from someone or it might be a suggestion that someone makes. He often works out details in my life that makes it clear what direction I need to head in. That star could be in the form of a person that you need to pray with, or offer a smile to or make small talk with. It could be visiting an elderly person that is lonely and needs someone to talk with about their past. I believe if we make ourselves aware of what is going on around us he will lead us.
 
The second thing is they studied the scriptures. They knew what the scriptures said and they studied. If we were more like the magi our bible studies would be filled to capacity. We can only know what is in the Bible if we read and study his word. It’s not enough just to read. We need to understand what was happening, who it was happening to and where it was happening. Then we delve into it a little more and ask God to reveal what it means to us today.
 
I will be the first to admit during this time of the season we cram our lives with so much busyness that I wonder if God gave me a sign would I see it or would I miss it? Would I be willing to do what the magi did which was to drop everything and go find this Christ child?
 
Again, I will be the first to admit I am stepping on my own toes, but I think it is sad that during this time period we are all so busy we do not have time to sit and study the scriptures and watch for signs. By delving a little more into the Shepherds and Wise Men this year I have learned a lot more about them and the significance of the two groups.
 
I have learned through them that the rich and poor and everyone in between can come to Christ. He does not pick and choose. I have learned the educated as well, as those with little education can understand fully that God loves them the same. I have learned that when we come to Christ and he touches us we are never the same. We will return to our lives a little different. Then today we add that we must make ourselves aware of the signs that God gives us so we can follow Him in and head in the direction he wants us to take. Then finally, we must read and study the scriptures. It is important to know what the Bible is telling us.
 
I am thankful that God has placed in my heart this year a yearning to understand the Shepherds and the Wise Men a little more. I am thankful for the lessons and the signs he has given me. I pray that these last few weeks you’ve gained some new insight or thought about something a little more.
 
I’d like to finish this year with these lyrics from a Phillips, Craig, and Dean Song
 
I feel quite sure if I did my best
I could maybe impress you
With tender words and a harmony
A clever rhyme or two
But if all I’ve done in the time we’ve shared
Is turn your eyes on me
Then I’ve failed at what I’ve been called to do
There’s someone else I want you to see
 
Will you love Jesus more
When we go our different ways
When this moment is a memory
Will you remember his face
Will you look back and realized
You sensed His love more than you did before
I’d pray for nothing less
Than for you to love Jesus more.
 
There is more to the song. Its title is called, “Will You Love Jesus More”. I pray that this year you will have loved Jesus more and I have not been the one you’ve seen or heard from. May each of you have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year. I pray that this year and into the next you will follow whatever sign God is giving you. I pray that you will not only read the scriptures, but you will study them. I pray that you will feel God’s love.
 
Have a blessed Christmas!
 
Dear God, Thank you that I have studied the scriptures and these men have made an impact on my life this year. Let me never forget the lessons they taught me. Help me to be more aware of your Presence in my life and the signs you give me as I journey this life. Thank you for allowing your Son to come to us and become a part of us. Amen.
Matthew 2:1-12.

I Am Taking A Different Path

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Our minister is doing a sermon series, of course, on Christmas. He said something recently that made me stop and think. Like Mary, I was pondering the Christmas message.
 
He was talking about the three Wise Men who saw the star in the sky. We know they traveled to see this baby Jesus. We are told they were approached by King Herod. “Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found them report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” (Matthew 2:7-8, NSAB)
 
After leaving the king, they went on their way following the star. The star shone over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced and was full of joy. They bowed down and worshiped the newborn king. They presented his family with gifts.
 
It’s the next part that makes me ponder. “And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.” (Matthew 2:12 NASB). After visiting this newborn king, they go back home a different way. I also believe they were changed. I believe after seeing the newborn king and worshipping him, they were different. We know Herod did not want to worship this newborn king but wanted to kill him for fear he would take his place. He wasn’t about to give up control.
 
As I think about this story and how it applies to us today, I am realizing when we come to this newborn child and if we allow ourselves to worship him, just like the magi did, we change too. We can’t help but come to this child and walk away a different person. This child touches our lives and we are no longer the same. There is a song that goes in part, “he touched me and I am no longer the same.” When we allow him to touch our lives, we can’t be the same person we were before. Something happens.
 
Just like the magi went back a different way, there are times we have to leave things behind and maybe take a different path. For instance, there are lifestyles that we have been involved in that this Christ child has challenged us to leave behind. There are habits that are not necessarily good for us and we are to take a detour and leave them out of our lives. Not always, but sometimes it’s people in our lives that are our Herod’s and we are asked to leave them behind and go down a different path. If we fall down and worship the King, we are changed and challenged to take a different path for the rest of our lives. Our path leads us back to him and away from those who would like to destroy our faith.
 
King Herod was fearful this newborn king would come and destroy his dynasty, but it wasn’t his dynasty this child wanted; it was his heart. It’s your heart and my heart. It wasn’t about power or control; it was about love and changing people’s lives.
 
The magi looked up and saw a star. They made a decision to follow the star. Just like the magi, we have a decision to make; do we follow the star and find this Christ child, or do we go on about our own business?
 
Once they found the Christ child, they were warned to leave and go a different way. We have warnings we need to heed. They are found in the Bible, as we pray, and in the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We have a decision to make as well. Do we listen and heed the warnings and go a different path or do we continue down the same path we have always taken?
 
The magi is a story for us. It’s a story about following a star, changing your life and going down a different path. We can read the story and make it about us or we can read the story and put it away at Christmas; never making changes and always going down the same path. What will you choose this Christmas?
 
Dear God: thank you for the examples of the magi. Thank you for touching my life and changing it. Thank you that I chose to worship this newborn king and leave-taking a different path for my life. I chose you. Amen
 

Advent, Shepherds, Wise Men – A Story About Us

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We are in the midst of Advent. I was teaching a class of young students one day during the week. We happened to be talking about the Wise Men and the Shepherds.
 
I went to the internet and found out what it said about shepherds. One of the places I explored, said it was the lowest job you could have even 2000 years ago! It stated they were isolated, could be lonely and the food was poor and lacking nutrition. Not a job for your everyday family man. It was not a well-paid job from what I could gather.
 
The Wise Men, on the other hand, had a different story to tell. They were called the distinguished foreigners. Some thought of them as astrologers and interpreters. One site called them influential and rich. They were willing to travel over 1,000 miles to worship this newborn king according to one of the documentaries I read. It was said they were probably pretty well educated.
 
The shepherds were visited by the angels. Can you imagine what the scene must have been like? These lonely, isolated men are out and about in the country with sheep. It was night and all is quiet. Then all of a sudden the sky lights up brightly and there is an angel. She is talking to them; telling them not to be afraid. I am sure there was a look of fright and amazement on their faces. Then suddenly there is a host of others singing and telling about this newborn king; this baby they would find, wrapped in swaddling clothes. They had to check it out. They had to know for sure.
 
The Wise Men have a completely different story. They are not visited by angels. The night sky is not all lit up, but they do notice something different. There is a star in the sky they have not seen before. It was noted that some unusual movement or stellar event of great magnitude was often thought to herald the birth of a King or someone great personage. An event occurred in the sky and they went looking (www.crosswalk.com). For whatever reason, they knew they needed to follow the star. Along the way, they stop and pick up gifts unless of course, they had them with them. We have been told these items were pretty costly items. So these gentlemen had to have money in order to purchase such gifts to give the newborn babe and his family.
 
There are a lot of differences in these two stories. So why did Christ choose these two groups of people to tell the Christmas story? For me, it is a pretty simple answer. One group represents those who are less fortunate and sometimes have trouble making ends meet. The other group represents those who are considered wealthy. Still don’t get it? Basically, God says it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. God wants you to come and worship Him no matter your circumstances. It’s about your heart, not your pocketbook.
 
I am reminded of the widow who gave a mite to Christ. She couldn’t afford much, but she gave all she had. Then we come to a rich man from Arimathea, who was a disciple of Christ. He asked for the body of Christ so he could give it a proper burial. We see both the rich and poor giving what they could. They both were servants of Christ. God accepted both without regards to material status. He looked at the heart of the matter.
 
The shepherds and the wise men point the way to the Christ Child. The Christ child accepts all who come to him. Proverbs 22:2 says it best, “The rich and the poor have this in common: The Lord made them both.”  Because he made them both, he loves them just the same. When we get to Heaven, what we have or don’t have on earth will be left behind. Our monetary status won’t matter to God and it shouldn’t matter now.
 
When we come together on Sunday morning, I look around and see doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and women. I see those with all kinds of degrees and well-educated. Right beside them, sits those who are working class folks with no degrees and little savings and trying to make it every day in this world. The other thing I see, is people coming to worship and truly loving God and wanting to make a difference in this world. It’s not about your pocketbook it’s about your heart.
 
The Shepherds, the Three Kings (Magi) and the baby Jesus all come together to tell a beautiful story. That story is for each of us, no matter who we are or where we come from. The shepherds heard from the Angels, the Wise Men saw a star; both different scenarios, but the one thing they have in common: they knew they must find this baby Jesus. Their lives would forever be changed. So will ours if we just listen to the angels or follow the star and find the Christ child.
 
It’s not about what you have or don’t you have; it’s about your heart. Come and worship the King!
 
Dear God: Thank you for looking at my heart and not my pocketbook. Sometimes I am like the widow who can only give a mite; other times I am like the wise men who bring expensive gifts. All the time, I am the drummer boy who has nothing to offer but myself. No matter, you love me and accept me just as I am. Help others to find the star, or hear the Angels and come in search of the One who will change their lives forever. Remind me, it’s about what lies in the heart. It’s a heart matter. Thank you for sending your Son so my life would be changed.
 

Dainty Teacups and Christmas

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A few days ago I was decorating tables for a luncheon we were having at our church. It was a group of ladies that I belong to and our church was to host the December meeting. The President and I had gotten together earlier to talk about decorations and the program. The title of the program had the word cup in it. The President pictured little dainty Christmas cups with saucers and Christmas decorations on each table. For one thing, I have no dainty little Christmas cups. With the family I have, they wouldn’t last a second and I don’t entertain enough to have them. Second, that would mean trying to find someone who had such cups and saucers; borrow them and then hope I didn’t break any. That wasn’t about to happen. I am not the most dainty person anyhow.
 
As the time drew closer, I began to get stressed out about this. I began to pray about what I was going to do. I had a part in the program and my part dealt with love. I was to take my favorite cup and talk about its special meaning and then read a small part about love. I looked at my cups and to my amazement, I couldn’t find a favorite. All of my cups are special. There were to be five tables, so what did I do? I took ten of my favorite cups. As I prayed for my part to come together, God did not disappoint me. He had it all along.
 
The story behind these cups is pretty simple. They are all different; there is no two alike. They are big and tall, some short and fluffy, and some that are just perfect. They are different colors and different styles. They all have different backgrounds and stories to tell. There is nothing really alike about them at all. There is one thing though they do have in common. You can take anyone of these cups add hot water and some tea and they all make a lovely cup of tea (sorry folks; never acquired the taste of coffee). The tea in these cups warm my heart and makes me smile. I am in love with what is inside of these cups no matter what the outside of the cup looks like.
 
God began to share with me that it is the same with Christians. Some of us are short and fluffy, (I think of myself as short, fat and sassy) some of us are tall and thin, some of us are tall and fluffy. We all have different skin tones and come from different denominations. We all have different backgrounds and, different stories to tell. There is not one of us alike. Yet, we do have one thing in common.
 
When we turn our lives over to Christ and we join the family of God, we share the love we have for our God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and each other. We have a common bond. We love. We set aside our differences and become one in Christ. “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with him.” 1 Corinthians 6:17 So, if we are joined to the Lord, we are one in the Spirit with him, which to me, means that we are joined together with His spirit. We are joined in love with Christ and with one another.
 
“In Christ’s family, there can be no division into Jew and not-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us, you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family then you are Abraham’s famous descendant, heirs according to the covenant promises.” Galatians 328-29 Msg. Our differences are put aside and we come together and are bonded as one in the Lord.
 
Now back to cups for a second. Each cup makes a cup of tea. We know that. But because of the history of the teacup, each cup of tea tastes a little different. I might make a cup of tea in this cup and it could be stronger or weaker than in another cup. I might add honey in this cup and sweetener in another cup. But, in the long run, they still make tea. What I am trying to say here is this: we might worship differently, might praise God in different ways, or have different kinds of Bibles, but in the end, no matter how we worship, we still belong to Christ and make a lovely family with God being the head of the household.
 
If I had used the dainty little teacups with saucers, it would have been a perfect picture. They too make a cup of tea. But too many times these dainty little cups are used only on special occasions for fear of getting broken or damaged. We can’t do that if we are truly Christians. Our love in God must be used daily with no fear of being broken or damaged. I have in the past come across dainty little teacups that have been glued back together after having been broken. With us sometimes we will become damaged or broken and it is God who comes to us and glues us back together and we become whole again.
 
The setting would have been beautiful had I used dainty little cups and saucers. God quickly reminded me it’s not about being perfect nor is it all about looking like each other. We are all unique and different. We are all special in our own way. We can’t put someone else’s faith on and expect it to become our own. Having dainty pretty cups on the table would have made for a perfect picture, but that is not what God wanted. God wanted to teach us that we are different individuals that came together in unity with one communion bond and that bond is love.
 
As Christmas approaches, we will see many people of different faiths begin to celebrate Christmas. We may each celebrate in our own different ways. We may look different when we do, but there will be one thing we will all share and that is our love for the small babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.
 
Are you a dainty little teacup, being fragile with your faith and using it on special occasions so it will not get damaged or broken? Or are you an ordinary everyday cup that when love is poured into it you become one with other Christians united in love for our God and His only Son?
 
Dear God: I thank you for dainty little cups that people share at Christmas time. They are so beautiful. But, they are also very fragile and used sparingly. It is my desire to be an everyday cup so that when I am joined with others Christians we have a common bond of love in God, in Christ, in the Holy Spirit and with all those you put in my path. Amen.
 
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The Repercussions of Stewardship Camapign

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This is always a challenging time for me. I love to shop. I love deals and I love bargains. We were recently hit with Black Friday deals and bargains. Saturday was shop locally the mom and pop shops; Monday is Cyber Monday; a day to get online and shop to your heart’s content. Doesn’t that sound exciting?
 
Technically, I could be online for hours looking for this and thinking I need that. I can see me wanting this and wanting that. A smart TV? Sure, why not. The latest new gadget for the kitchen ( don’t laugh I know I am not the chef in the household) or my crafting habit is calling my name. That’s not to mention the deals on new clothes. Oh my, this is the shopper’s heaven. If you got the time and the money, you could buy whatever.
 
That’s part of the problem though, isn’t it? How many of us really have the money to buy everything we really want without paying a major cost for it? How many of us could easily go into debt just because of some deals and bargains? It might all be good now, but if we put it on our credit card we will be paying the price later. Or if we actually paid for it all now, what happens when our monthly bills come in or we have a major repair or an appliance suddenly goes out? I know, I just busted your balloon right?
 
All morning, I have had to fight the urge to seek out all of these bargains and deals. Then something our Pastor said during the stewardship campaign went along these lines (not his exact words, but I GOT the message), “we need to live within our means. We need to ask ourselves if we need it or want it.” We need to live simple lives so we can do those things Christ is calling us to do. Ouch! Today, I was reminded that those things I am looking at online are all things I want; there is nothing I need. God has already provided for those things I need.
 
The second thing I am reminded of is this, are those things making my life simple or just complicating everything? Finally, how much time am I wasting online looking for things I want and don’t need? What could I be doing to glorify God instead of wasting time?
 
So why do I want things? What is calling me to look online for things I don’t need? Simple answer: the world. The world and all its merchants are begging for my attention. They pay attention to what I am searching for and they send me ads that draw my attention to the very thing I think I want. They lure me in. The world tells me I need a TV that can do all these simple tasks. I am sorry, but do you know how long it takes a couple of Senior Citizens to figure out how to hook up the TVs of today? Then you have to figure out how to configure it and if you get the right TV, you have to wait for the installers to come and do their thing to get the right color on your TV according to the lighting in your room. Simple? I don’t think so.
 
The world draws us into it wants not our needs. The world bombards our minds with things that entice us. This can be dangerous for us if we are not careful. The Bible warns us, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” 1 John 2:15 The world wants us to love the things of this world. When we fall in love with the things of the world, we often drift away from God or we get in a position where we can’t be in service to him because we are tied to this world financially.
 
At my age, I have to remember not to accumulate unnecessary items because one day I will either have to forgo them or I will force my children to get rid of them. As I look at my house now I see I am far from being a hoarder, but at the same time, I have so many things that are really not needed. At some point, I listened to the world and gathered up items that I thought I needed at the time of my purchase.
 
Hebrews 13:5 was a good reminder for me this morning,”Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I must learn to be content with what I have. I really am not in need of anything and if I was I know the one who would provide for me.
 
I am learning it is better to be content with what you have in life. I am learning to live within my means and I am learning it’s better to be ready to be in service with God than to be a slave to this world.
 
Finally, all the time I spend on the computer or online looking for things I don’t need could be spent better by spending time with God or family or friends. Again, it’s about glorifying God or glorying the world. It’s about spending time with God and those he has placed in my life over spending time in the world.
 
So, for now, I will be content with what I have. I will shut out the screaming of the world for me to buy, buy and buy. I will spend less time on the internet and more time with God.
 
How do you deal with all the deals and bargains during this time? Do you cave in or do you hold up and follow our Pastor’s simple words of living within your means? I will ask myself a few simple questions during my next purchase, “Do I want it or do I need it? If I want it how will it benefit others and will it give God glory?
 
 
Dear God: this is always a challenging time for shoppers and for those who are trying to live within their means. The world screams above the crowds and it’s often hard to ignore. The internet begs us to search for things we think we want that often don’t provide satisfaction. We search for things that will hold our attention when all we really need is you. Give us the strength to avoid temptation. Give us wisdom as we purchase items for Christmas. Remind us Christmas is all about you and not about gift giving. Thank you for gentle reminders. Amen
 
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