FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Second Sunday of Advent

Gallup, a world-renowned social research lab and polling institute, conducted telephone interviews early November 2015 to gauge spending “intentions” for Christmas. Participants were aged 18 and older, and were sourced from each of the 50 states within the US and the District of Columbia.

The results of the study indicate that Americans planned to spend $830 on average in 2015 for various Christmas-related purposes. Those numbers reflected a considerable increase, about 15% more, from the 2014 spending average. That statistic was the highest since 2007, when the average Christmas spending of Americans was found to be $866. Since then, the said spending had constantly declined over subsequent years. Similar research predicts that spending will be even more this year.

Gallup found in 2015 that 30% all US adults planned to spend $1,000 or more on gifts. One in five Americans planned to spend between $500 and $999, whereas 14% planned to spend between $250 and $499 just for Christmas gifts. Of all those interviewed, 8% of adults claimed not to celebrate Christmas or otherwise did not plan to spend anything on gifts. Another 7% were unsure as to how much they might spend; in other words, they were operating without a plan and might spend more or less. Excluding the numbers of people who planned to not spend anything on Christmas in 2015, the average spending of American adults on Christmas would register an all-time high of around $908.

The United States Census Bureau echoes Gallup’s findings reporting that over the past few years:

  • Americans spent 30.5 billion dollars at retail stores during the Christmas season.
  • Americans spent 40+ billion dollars for Christmas gifts over the Internet.
  • Nearly 500 million dollars were spent on Christmas trees.
  • The United States imported approximately 594 million dollars worth of Christmas tree ornaments (from China alone).
  • A total of 3.4 billion dollars were spent on dolls, toys, and games that were shipped from manufacturers to retailers.
  • Twenty billion pieces of mail passed through the US Postal Service between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Again, similar research predicts that spending will be even more this year.

So?

So, one of the persistent and most effective maneuvers of the world system is to create a false sense of Christmas. There’s a false sense of excitement, a false idea of what is real, a false belief of what is important and a very false sense of purpose. How does this happen? We easily get caught up in the trappings of secular Christmas celebrations – the lights, the food, the shopping, the gifts. And what is wrong with lights, food, shopping and gifts? Nothing…if we keep them in proper perspective and understand that these are not the purpose of Christmas.

What is the purpose of Christmas? It is as simple as Hebrews 12:3a (NKJV) – “Consider Him.”

As you count down the days to Christmas, consider Him, the One who came that you and I might be forgiven our sins and enjoy eternal life (Luke 19:10, Galatians 4:4-5, 2 Corinthians 5:21).


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Ancestry

Though in its sixth season, I’ve only recently noticed advertisements for the American genealogy documentary series, Who Do You Think You Are?  The show premiered in 2010 and follows a celebrity as he or she traces his or her family tree to understand where he or she came from.  While dropped by NBC after three seasons, the show was picked up by TLC and has become quite popular – so much so that there is even an accompanying book bearing the same title.  The book honors the exploding craze of tracing one’s ancestry and is designed to help viewers of the show research their own roots.

Genetics researcher, C.C. Moore, believes that within a few years we will see a type of universal family tree.  DNA analyses have become quite popular and can be used to confirm what previously was only suspected by some.  Writer, Maud Newton, suggests that we are all trying to “figure out who we are by looking at these people who are long dead,” and we are “trying to find out about ourselves.”   Indeed it must be fascinating to discover one’s connections to history.  Whether linked to medieval royalty like actress Valerie Bertinelli or to Oregon Trail pioneers like celebrity Kelsey Grammer, revelations about one’s roots surely have tremendous emotional impact.

Admittedly, I have my own interest in family history, especially it seems as I age and family members are dying.  I’ve thought of so many questions that I wish that I had asked my grandparents and great grandparents, and I wish that I knew more about who they were and where and how they and their parents lived.

On the Mount on Olives, Jesus told the crowd before Him that He knew where He came from but also where He was going (John 8:14).   While tracing ancestry and learning about where we came from is fun and exciting and can actually yield valuable information, we must not fail to give thought to where we are going.

It is not uncommon for us, as Christians, to experience doubt about our salvation.  When we consider Jesus then consider ourselves including our many weaknesses, shortcomings and failures, “our heart condemns us” (1 John 3:20)  God does not want us robbed of peace because of doubts.  He does not want us guessing whether we will spend eternal life with Him.  He wants us sure of our salvation.   He wants us confident in Him and in our relationship with Him and so He assures us in His Word.  John wrote, “These things I write unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life”  and “that our joy may be made full” (1 John 1:3-4, 5:13; Hebrews 4:16; Romans 8:1-3).

Assurance of salvation rests on four pillars, all found in Scripture:

1.  God cannot lie.  In His Word God promises to save all who believe upon His Son.  (Romans 10:13; Acts 2:21)

2.  On the cross Jesus bore all our sin, endured God’s wrath, paid the price and canceled our sin debt.  (John 19:28-30)

3.  Scripture says, “We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.”  Assurance comes through the inward witness of God’s Holy Spirit, the Keeper and Helper that He sent us.  (1 John 4:12-13; 3:24)

4.  All who have been born again are changed and clear evidence is seen in the new life that is lived.   (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 2:3)

There are other signs beyond these Scriptures even.  True love for others.  Spiritual fruit.  Broken and contrite heart.  Righteous behavior.  When we are saved, our hearts and lives are changed.

We may be unsure and even wrong about our ancestry and where we came from, but we can know where we are going.  Assurance of salvation is a gift from God to each of His children; He wrote it in His Word that we may be absolutely sure! (John 20:31)

THIS WEEK ask yourself if you have the assurance of your salvation.  Do you KNOW where you are going?  If you do not have assurance, visit the SALVATION tab at the top of this page.  Pray to receive Christ as your personal Savior and to have the peace and assurance within that eternal life is yours.  Study the lessons of the following Scriptures:  Romans 10:13, 8:16; John 6:37, 19:30; Isaiah 1:18; 1John 3:24, 4:13, 2:3.  Welcome the assurance of His indwelling Holy Spirit.


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Anything You Want

When I was a young girl, my Dad told me that I could have ANY thing that I wanted IF I was willing to do an honest day’s work for it. “As a matter of fact,” he said, “if someone has something to give you, they will let you know. In the meantime, plan on going to work to get what you want.”

And so, I began working when I was 15 years old. I’ve worked since with the exception of one year during undergraduate school when I literally begged my Dad to give me a break. “Can’t I have just one semester without working?” I whined. And one semester is what he permitted. Then it was back to work – two jobs, sometimes three.

I remember teaching school full time, working in a Department store 20 hours every weekend and managing an after-school tutorial program two afternoons a week while attending Graduate School full time. And that was one of my “easy seasons.” For another season, I taught school Monday through Friday and worked in a hospital laboratory Friday nights, 16 hours each Saturday and 16 hours each Sunday (a 40-hour weekend) – two full time jobs.

I’ve worked in schools, hospitals, offices and department stores. I even (this is the honest truth) sold cemetery plots door-to-door. Finally, I am retired – honestly. I get the check every month. And I still work two jobs!  Why? Many reasons, but partly because my Daddy created a true workaholic and partly so I really can have what I want…without charge cards.

I doubt my Dad was the first or only parent to tell his child that they could have what they wanted if they worked for it. That was not just the mentality, but the prevailing attitude, spirit and belief of our day. You want it? You work for it. For many, there was much truth in that thinking, and they have the homes, cars, clothing and “toys” to prove it.

But there is one thing that working cannot bring you.

Eternal life.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV) makes it clear that we are saved by grace, through faith – and this is not from ourselves. “It is the gift of God” and not by our works, “so that no one can boast.” No one can buy or work their way into Heaven. It is the work of Christ and His work alone that opens wide the doors of Heaven for us to enter.

Isn’t that good news? It is for me; I can only imagine how many jobs I’d have to work to go to Heaven!