Jesus Changes Everything

“Choir of angels sing glory to the newborn King a baby changes everything..my whole life has turned around I was lost but now I’m found a baby changes everything.” – A Baby Changes Everything, Faith Hill.

Time after time, almost every Christmas, I try to imagine what the first Christmas was like for the cast of characters living during the time of Jesus’ birth. How they felt. What they went through. What they were thinking. A couple of years ago, I even did a short blogging series on Mary’s Point of View and Joseph’s Point of View speculating what it would be like to walk in their shoes. And it seems that with each passing year—though it’s an account that I’ve read thousands of times before, I’m able to pull something different from the story of how it all began. The story of our Savior.

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A Savior who enters into the normal paradigms of our life—and changes everything about it. 

Mary was just an ordinary girl—probably not much older than fifteen.Joseph was an carpenter from a humble background. Shepherds, who were among society’s poorest and plainest were some of the first to see our Savior. But Jesus invaded each one of their lives—and when Jesus stepped into the picture, their lives were forever changed. 

The crazy thing? The same could be said of the world today. When Jesus steps into the picture, nothing is ever the same. Former drug addicts become powerful preachers. The greedy transform to the generous. Career criminals change their ways. Families are healed. Marriages are restored. Lives are lived with purpose. Because when you encounter Jesus, it is impossible to remain the same. 

I saw this happen in my own family growing up. When my family came to Christ during my preteen years, it forever changed the way that we interacted with each other. How we lived. What was important. And though I came to Christ when I was still too young to have done anything too crazy, following Jesus has shaped and continues to shape my perspective on this world—allowing me to have joy in the midst of hardships and a peace that can only be found in Him. 

Galatians 4:1-7 says this;

*”What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces[a] of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[b] Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” 

Because of Jesus, we can know a love that is unlike anything this world could ever give us. We can know a hope greater than anything we have ever known before. And we can have full access to God the Father because through Jesus we have been made sons and daughters of the King. All because Jesus left the perfection of Heaven to come down to this earth as a baby to die on a cross and save us from our sins. The story of our Savior is the greatest story ever told. And living our lives completely sold out to our Savior is the greatest decision we could ever make!

This Christmas, I want to challenge you to remember the One found in the first five letters of the word. To remember that Jesus still invades the lives of every person who has said yes to Jesus today. And that no one—no matter how hardened they may seem, is beyond hope. This Christmas, I want to challenge you to remember that Jesus changes everything.For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV).

*Verse taken from The Passion Translation (TPT).

Christmas Classics: It’s A Wonderful Life

*Warning, this post contains spoilers

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10. (NIV) 

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“When the bell rings, an angel gets their wings.”

Today is officially the last day of my Christmas Classics series, and I am closing it with one of the most well-known Christmas classics of our time: It’s A Wonderful Life. 

It’s A Wonderful Life is a (black and white!) Christmas movie created in 1946 about a young man named George Bailey who learns the meaning of Christmas after being visited by an angel named Clarence. George is at the end of his rope and contemplating suicide, after being faced with a lot of disasters at work that feel too big for him to handle. He sees no point in continuing to live until the angel shows him how his life has touched others—and what the world would be like without him. Through this he learns to see the value of his life and goes back to be with his family—and celebrates Christmas with a renewed hope, joy, and purpose.

It’s A Wonderful Life asks the timeless question that many of us have probably asked ourselves at some point: Does my life matter? Am I making a difference? Would this world be different if I weren’t there? And despite the notion that an angel “getting their wings when the bell rings” might be a little theologically shakey, there are a lot of good lessons that we, as Christians, can learn from this movie.

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (NIV) and 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (NIV).

God has plans for each one of us, and whether or not we were ‘planned’ in the natural sense, God knew and formed each one of us before we were born! Though Jeremiah 1:5 is speaking about Jeremiah, it applies to each one of us—before we were even formed God knew us, and had an incredible plan for our lives! And in 1 Peter 2:9, Peter is speaking to every believer who has been called out of darkness, into God’s glorious light! God’s desire for each one of us is life, and that we live out the dreams that He has for us and impact those around us! 

If you’re reading this today, and asking any of the same questions that George Bailey asked in It’s A Wonderful Life, than I want you to know one thing above all else: your life matters! God would not have created you intricately and divinely in your mother’s womb if it didn’t. If you are alive and breathing today than God still has plans for you. If you just look around to those that you see each and every day, you will find lives that God wants you to impact—in your school, in your friend group, and in your family. And, there is no one else on this planet that can live out the life God created you to live! You matter. To God, and to so many people that see and interact with you every day! 

Maybe you’re reading this today and thinking ‘I already know this. I already know that my life and every other life on this planet matters.’ If that’s the case, than maybe you’ll find yourself in a different character in this story—Clarence. Maybe God wants to use you to encourage someone in your sphere of influence today, and remind them that their life matters! Maybe God wants to use you as someone’s guardian angel. God will often use us to speak to those who are hurting, and maybe as you’re reading this, the Lord is putting someone on your heart that you need to talk to. If that’s the case, than I want to challenge you to be obedient. You never know how God might want to use you in another person’s life! Maybe you could be somebody’s Clarence! 

If you get nothing else out of this post, than please remember this: God loves you, your life matters, and God wants to use you to impact the lives of others. In the words of the pastor/writer Max Lucado, “You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the Earth by the Master Craftsman.” 

May we always remember this; this Christmas, and the rest of our days!

Christmas Classics: A Christmas Carol

Hey guys, so I know this post is a little late, but a couple of days ago I got sick and haven’t been up for writing. Sore throat, nausea, fatigue…you name it. I had it. 

But thankfully, I’m feeling better now. So, without further ado, here is the next installment of my Christmas Classics series…A Christmas Carol!

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 (NIV) 

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I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!

From the time I was a young girl, I have always loved the classic Dickens tale, A Christmas Carol. I read the book when I was in middle school and have seen just about every movie adaption under the sun, from Mickey’s Christmas Carol to A Carol Christmas (a Hallmark adaption, with the old 90210 star Tori Spelling). It is a timeless classic that many have adapted for their own TV shows and movies. However, the original story as told by Charles Dickens still remains in a category all its own.

The story starts off with a cranky old miser named Scrooge (a title that has become somewhat of a pop culture phrase in its own right) who refuses to let one of his employees take the day off for Christmas. He sees no need for the holidays, and places money above everything else in his life—an attitude that has gotten him into trouble time and time again, even to the point of driving his ex-fiance and one true love away. Because of his sour attitude, and dysfunctional priorities, he is visited by three spirits who teach him lessons about life, faith, and kindness; the very things that Scrooge has spent most of his life neglecting.

There are too many lessons in this story to cover them all, but for the purpose of keeping this post short, I will only be focusing on two; living a life fueled with purpose and remembering the things that are truly important in life.

Scrooge is a man who has it all in the eyes of the world. He is successful in his career and he is so wealthy that money-problems are essentially a foreign concept to him. However, in the midst of all of this, he misses some of the things that are most important in life: Family. Friends. Caring for others. And most of all, God. 

Though most of us would never consider ourselves to be like Scrooge, and though he is a rather extreme example, there are many times in our own lives that we can fall into similar patterns as this character in the classic Christmas story. How often do we focus so much on material possessions and worldly wealth at the expense of the things that are more important in life? How often to we pass people by, so caught up in our own problems that we forget to look out for those who are hurting? How often do we forget to remember our blessings, and One who blesses us with it all?

Mark 8:36 says, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (NIV). And, Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NIV).

It is not wrong to desire success or to have wealth, but it is problematic when it becomes your sole focus, causing you to neglect people, and make an idol that you place before your relationship with God. Scrooge was not wrong for having wealth, but he was wrong for being making it his top priority—and for putting his own needs above the needs of others. As Christians, we are called to put others first, and think of others’ needs more than our own. When we do this, God will bless us—maybe not materially, but with a joy that cannot be replaced by anything that this world has to offer.

This Christmas, I want to challenge you to spend some time reflecting on the true reason for the season—and going through this Christmas with an open heart, for those who are hurting and broken.

I want to challenge you to remember that the greatest things in this life are the things that we cannot see or touch, and that those are the things that truly give us purpose.

I want to challenge you to make time for family and friends, and never let a day go by without showing them that we care.

In this way, we can hold the Christmas spirit in our hearts.

In the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, each and every one.”

Christmas Classics: Miracle On 34th Street

* Warning, this post contains spoilers.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:1-3 (NIV). 

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You know, I’m a symbol. I’m a symbol of the human ability to be able to suppress the selfish and hateful tendencies that rule the major part of our lives. If you can’t believe, if you can’t accept anything on faith, then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.

I have always loved Christmas movies. I love practically everything about them, cliche as they often are—the warmth, the heart, the soundtrack, and the novelty. Every year, I make it a tradition to rewatch some of my old favorites along with the new ones, and one of my old favorites is the timeless classic, Miracle On 34th Street. 

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Miracle On 34th Street is a heartwarming Christmas movie about a young girl (Susan Walker), her now-single-mom (Mrs. Walker), their handsome next-door-neighbor (Bryan Bedford), and of course, Santa Claus (or, Kris Kringle). The movie opens up with the annual Coles’ Thanksgiving Day Parade. Mrs. Walker hires on an actor to play Santa who turns out to be a less-than-fit for the part, and is forced to hire a man who looks just like Santa Claus. Later on in the movie, he gets hired to play Santa at the Coles department store, and even though Mrs. Walker has told her daughter that there is no Santa Claus, young Susan soon comes to question her disbelief.

Throughout this movie, we consistently see a foil between Susan and her mother, Mrs. Walker. Mrs. Walker is jaded by the world, and her daughter has a childlike faith. Mrs. Walker sees believing in Santa Claus as silly, or foolish, while her daughter genuinely wants to believe. Mrs. Walker is firmly persuaded that there is no Santa Clause, while her daughter isn’t so sure.

In the Bible, Jesus tells His followers that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, they must become like children. They must come to Him with the same belief and wonder of a young child. Just as Susan Walker comes to believe in Santa Claus, we are called to have a childlike faith in God. This is not to say that the two are the same, but in this movie, Santa Clause is a symbol. He’s a symbol for the things, or should I say, The One Thing, that we choose to believe in or not believe in. 

In our own lives, we can’t see or touch God with our physical senses, and we can’t always see the ways that He is working in our lives behind the scenes. A belief in God is not unfounded, as there is a plethora of evidence in history and Creation that points to His existence, but we still must come to Him in faith—believing in His presence in the world and our life. When we pray and trust that He is a God who hears our prayers, we are coming to Him in faith. When we worship Him, and sing praises to a God we cannot see, we are coming to Him in faith. When we trust and believe the promise of Romans 8:28, that all things work together for the good of those who love Him, we are believing these things in faith.

The truth is, each one of us puts our faith in so many things in our day to day life, whether we realize it or not. When we sit down at the table to eat dinner, we have faith that chair will not collapse underneath us, and that the food will not poison or kill us. When we get into our car to meet a friend at Starbucks, we have faith that our car isn’t going to break down on us, and that those around us will follow the rules of the road. When we make a new friend, or enter into a new relationship, we place our faith in that person, trusting that they won’t let us down. If we can have faith in finite, imperfect people and matters in this world, than how much more can we have faith in a loving God—who created us and knows every single detail about us and our lives? 

This holiday season, let us be reminded that even as teens and adults, we have something (or Someone) that we can believe in. Let us let the ending of the movie, when little Susan Walker hands a dollar bill to the judge that says in God We Trust, remind us that we do have a God we can trust. Because of God and His great love for us, we are given the gift of belief. Let us come to God with the faith of a child, the way Jesus instructs us to in Matthew 18. 

Let us never stop believing in the one thing that we are never too old to believe in—Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, forever and ever, amen! 

How about you guys? Have you ever struggled to believe or have faith in your own life? How did you overcome this? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments section below!😃

Giving Back

It is officially the week after Thanksgiving—which means that we are right in the thick of the holiday season. A season for lights, and festivities. A season for family and friends. A season for finishing off those leftovers from Thanksgiving before they go bad.

It is also a season for giving, and making a difference in the world around us.

Though giving is something that we can (and should) do all year long, there is a certain spirit of generosity that fills the air during the Christmas season. There are more chances to give than practically any other time of year—through donations, through time, and through small acts of kindness. And as Christians, we have the chance to be a light for Christ as we make a difference in the world around us! 

In John 13:34-35, Jesus is speaking to His followers, and gives them a simple command to follow. He says, A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (NIV). As Christ followers, we are called to love the world around us. And one of the greatest ways that we can share God’s love is through giving.

This does not simply mean giving financially or materially. Giving can take a lot of different forms, and if you cannot afford to give in this way, there are so many other ways that you can give! You can give of your time, and of your love! You can volunteer at a soup kitchen, or take time out of your day to mentor someone younger than you!

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. And Christmas is the perfect time to be intentional and give back to your community! It is the perfect time to reach out your hand to another and make a difference right where you are. And, it is the perfect chance to be a blessing to those around you.

This Christmas, I want to challenge you to give. This could be as simple as baking cookies for the widow down the street, or participating in Operation Christmas Child. You could participate in a church Christmas drive or babysit for a single mom who is struggling.

I don’t know how God is calling you to be a blessing, but there is one thing I do know – if you are alive and breathing today God can use you to make a difference in someone else’s life. And no matter how small it might seem to you, God can use your faithfulness in extraordinary ways! Through our giving, we have the chance to start a chain reaction, and spread an attitude of generosity in our homes, schools, and spheres of influences.

This Christmas, let us be a light for Christ, and reach out to those around us. Let us make a difference, and reach out to those who are struggling. Let us be the change that we want to see.

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“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’” – Matthew 25:35-40 (ESV). 

How about you guys? Do you have any suggestions for ways to give back during the holiday season? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section below! I always love hearing from you all!❤️

A Prayer For Christmas

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This Christmas let us remember the reason for the season.

Let us, in the midst of the cooking, the wrapping, and the shopping, take some time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Let us reach out to others, remembering to put them before ourselves and helping those who are less fortunate.

Let us pray for the homeless, the veterans, those away from family, and all those who have situations much more difficult than our own.

Let us remember those closest to us, and spend some time with friends and loved ones as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Let us never take anything for granted but be thankful for what we do have, as we anticipate a new year filled with hope, resolutions, and promises.

Let us take some time to enjoy the little moments, those small nameless moments that get pushed aside for the glamor of Christmas, because someday those small moments won’t be so small anymore.

Let us remember those we miss, be thankful for those that we do have, and move forward with the hope and knowledge that someday we’ll be see our deceased loved ones once again.

Let us put aside our busyness, our stress, our fear, and our worries, remembering that in the midst of all of the stress of life, we have a Savior who understands, and a peace in the midst of chaos.

Let us deck the halls, enjoy our Christmas dinner, exchange gifts, and surround ourselves with love, because this season only comes once a year.

And, despite the fleetingness and busyness of this season, let us keep its spirit in our hearts, so that in some ways, this holiday may last all year long.

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And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, see, the angel of the Lord came on them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:8-14

 

Some Musings in Joseph’s Shoes

Note: The story below is in no way intended to be an addition of or distortion of the nativity account written in Scripture. This is not meant to be an exact, academic account of Joseph thoughts and feelings—this is simply written as a journal entry of what Joseph may have been feeling and thinking in light of the facts we are given in the Gospels and historical documents. Please do not take this as anything other than speculation as to what it may have been like to be in Joseph’s shoes.

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I can barely believe all that’s been going on lately. It all seems surreal, like something that would happen to some other guy. I knew it was supposed to happen someday—I studied it throughout my schooling, after all—but to me? A simple carpenter, engaged to a nice local girl? 

At first, when she told me, it felt as if someone had stuck a dagger through my chest. “It’s God’s baby.” she had told me. “An angel visited me and told me I would give birth to the Son of Man.” Now, I’ve never been one to doubt God, but this sound a little far fetched—even to me. My initial thought was that she’s been sleeping around, even though she’s never seemed like the type of girl to do such a thing. After all, Mary’s as pure as snow. She would never do something like that—not Mary. 

I knew Mary was a good person, but what was I supposed to think? Even more pressing, what was I supposed to do? I didn’t want her to be stoned—I didn’t want anything to happen to her. I love her—I have even before the marriage was arranged. She had a beautiful heart, I couldn’t be more lucky to be set up with someone like her. 

“What would our life look like together?” I wondered. Holding our heads down as we received dirty looks from the townspeople? Having to desperately try to explain to my friends that we did nothing wrong? Constantly being object of suspicion among the townspeople? I thought that the best thing for both of us would be to divorce her quietly, and draw the least possible amount of suspicion and attention as possible. That is, until I was visited by an angel last night, confirming that everything Mary had said was true. 

Mary was pregnant with the Child prophesied about in Scripture. 

She was telling the truth all along. 

I knew the road ahead would be hard, but after that sign from God, I knew what I had to do. I had to marry her—and be the best father I could be to this Child.

This blessing to us and the world.

Out of every couple throughout the course of history, we were the ones God picked to raise the Savior. I may have no idea what I’m doing—I’ve never been a husband or a father, after all, but I know that Mary and I will figure this out together. We’ll figure it all out together, because we’re a team. From this day forward, Mary and I are going to face the biggest challenge two people could face. 

Raising God’s child through the power of God and for the glory of God. 

As hard as it will be, I knew deep down that there was no greater honor. 

And I’m going to do this thing right.

No matter what the cost.