Christmas Buildup

Christmas hype can start in August (in the UK) but the real problems begin when shops target their wares subtly. All the advertising with billboards, TV advertisements, leaflets and folk showing their products can be in one’s face but at least one knows what is happening – or do we?  There is a lot of subliminal advertising going on that psychologically influences us almost unbeknown to us.

The simple happenings of the first Christmas story didn’t have hype or glamour or pushy/subtle advertising methods.  Instead, God spoke promises that were written down by men and women of God who were listening out for his voice years before events unfolded. So, when Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem many hundreds of years ago, people who knew about these promises were on the look out for the Messiah. The shepherds and Anna and Simeon were a few of those waiting for him and Mary, the mother of Jesus, herself would have been aware of the coming One. Each Jewish girl up until then, apparently, wondered whether they would be the carrier of this promised Messiah that would redeem Israel. God must have seen and prepared the right carrier of his Precious Son. Mary certainly was a highly favoured lady as the Bible tells us early in the book of Luke.

So, how, as Christians, do we avoid swanning along with all the material aspects of Christmas? There is only one way, in my opinion, and that is to stay close to Jesus so that one can hear what he would have of us – whether to go here or do that or send that or phone that person.

I have a tendency to panic.  Recently, with my elderly mother living with us, I have resorted to moments of panic with certain situations concerning her. I am reminded that we can access the peace of God that passes all understanding so that we can keep calm in the face of natural tendencies to go over the top! Then, we can overcome the difficulties or problems much better because we recognise that God is in control.

Mary didn’t panic, although one wonders whether Joseph had a few panic attacks at news from his espoused. “A baby from God and talked about by an angel.”

When children see us as adults keeping our peace when trouble strikes, they can learn to trust God more, too. As we keep Christmas simple and in perspective and major on what it’s really all about then children can appreciate the wonder of what happened that first Christmas. The God of all creation became a baby – (it’s like us humans becoming an ant).

We can remind our children of aspects of who God is – the Creator, Provider, Healer, Saviour and Comforter as they realise how he is kind, good, gentle and faithful. They can learn about his love and joy as they see these qualities displayed in the home by us adults, by God’s grace and enabling.

Let’s encourage and smile at everyone we meet this Christmas time so that the buildup, that we can all face if we let it affect us, can diminish and become less a threat for families. Christmas can mean (just simple suggestions):

C – cherishing one another

H – hugging one another often

R – reaching out to others in need

I – instructing our younger members of the family

S – sowing words of love in people’s hearts and on cards

T – tasting and seeing that God is good with daily love times with Him

M- making time to be or listen to people

A – actively praying for people throughout each day

S – singing and praising God

Let’s go at God’s pace this Christmas as the days go by focusing on what really matters, even if half of what we thought we might do gets put aside.

 

Good Friday

When I was a teenager, I wondered why ‘Good’ Friday was good when a 33 year old in the prime of his life was crucified outside Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago. Then, when I was 17 years old, I discovered why.

The ugliness of human sin had to be dealt with. My sin needed to be erased. The only way that God could do this for mankind was to send his only son, Jesus Christ, to die instead of us (including me). The Bible clearly states that the penalty of sin is death, physical as well as emotional and spiritual death and there is no way we could get out of this penalty that was placed upon us when our first forefather, Adam, sinned. However, God has plans far superior than ours and God found the only way to save mankind quite literally.

We can’t work hard to erase our sin; we can’t even do our best; we can’t do enough penance to earn the title of ‘perfect’ that God wants of us. The only way we as humans can be ‘perfect’ and right with God is for God to forgive us and erase our sin completely.  Then he sees us as righteous and acceptable to him. It is a wonder indeed and makes ‘Good’ Friday meaningful and true. Jesus’ blood covers our sin.

It was a gory day that first ‘Good’ Friday but Jesus Christ didn’t flinch from the mission his Father had called him to do. Our children need to know this, too, which is why we have mentioned the answer to human sin in ‘The Creation Series’ to provide a bedrock of truth that children will never forget.

Let’s bow down this Friday and worship the God who cared so much for us to even die for us. Yet, he’s not still in the grave as we have the miracle of Easter Day that brings hope to every individual on the planet. As our children may be involved in Easter egg hunts, let’s remind them of the ‘egg shaped’ huge stone that was laid across Jesus’ tomb that got moved by the power of God. The miracle of Easter is just around the corner and it can be grasped by all who recognise and are humble enough to realise their need of a saviour.

Beautiful New Year

Just as we take our Christmas decorations down and the evenings get a wee bit lighter (here in the UK) so God surprises us with the sheer beauty of his world.  Whether there are storms, winds and rain or glimpses of the sunshine, his rainbow comes out to remind us that God is a promise keeping God.

I’ve seen several rainbows recently some a full 180 degree arc and each time I get excited and thrilled that God made all the colours in the spectrum and he brightens up the skies of our world just like that! Colour is amazing and there are so many shades of the same hue. Apparently, in the extravagance of God, we each see colours uniquely as our eyes are made distinctive as is the rest of our being.

The colours in ‘The Creation Series’ books (a boxed set of 8 books – Set A of Diamond Books) are really beautiful.  Sharon Rentta has done a superb job with the illustrations for this series which complements the text that is aimed for reading to 3–4 year olds. The wonder of his creation is amazing and Sharon has tapped into the heart of the Creator, so allowing little ones to appreciate the greatness of all that is around them.

Let’s be like children this year and value the simple, lovely and beautiful things that are around us ready for us to notice.  A little plant or creature or insect or even the colour of a leaf can be an incredible source of awe as we see it in a fresh light. How can we resist worshipping and praising God, the Creator of all who by his power and might also made and brought to pass the creative plan of sending Jesus Christ to our world so that his order and rightness of things can be restored to our world.  He is altogether lovely!

 

New Beginnings

God makes all things new – so we are told in the book of Revelation that looks ahead to a great future of splendour and beauty and peace and rest – but what about today?

Every day is new and a creative gift from Father God. Every sky is painted differently each day and it is varied even in a locality and across nations too.  We can stand in awe of the creation we see – hence Diamond Books for children.  Letting young ones see the wonders of God’s creation is one of the bonuses that ‘The Creation Series’  is offering particularly for 3-4 year olds to appreciate. The amazing illustrations by Sharon Rentta show off God’s creativity.

Beauty and colour and variety and detail mark God’s creation and we have endeavoured to show each of these aspects in The Creation Series’. “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8 KJV) is reflected in these books and the sheer immensity of what God has made is emphasised. To think that God not only made (for example) just one dog but also many different breeds; and so many varied insects that even the naked eye can hardly see them, is staggering.  As the days go by, man is discovering more than meets the eye and the lusciousness of his landscapes and plant life around our world is breath taking.  The more scientists discover, the more we can see the amazing Creator’s hand on his world so carefully formed in it’s position from the sun – any nearer we would burn up and more distant we would freeze up.

Let’s honour and respect our Creator God even more than the creation he has made.  May 2014 indeed be a year when we each draw closer to him and get to know his amazing creative ways with our health, with our weather and with the challenges he allows in our lives. May God be praised indeed and a happy 2014 to all you bloggers and readers!

 

Born to Die

Jesus Christ was born on time and his mission to die for the whole world was spot on time, too. God is never too early or too late with what he does.

It’s obvious that after we are born we have to die sometime (unless Jesus comes back first and takes us to be with him forever – and we are still waiting for his second coming) but God has some amazing plans that enable us to die while we live if we will yield to him.  God wants to so fill our lives that the self life dies (we are told to reckon ourselves as dead – see the whole  book of Romans in the Bible) and then we can be fully alive in him. Then strangely enough we get to live life to the full as a result.

There are hardships, difficulties and circumstances that we wouldn’t have chosen but God uses these all for our good (Romans 8:28).  Diamonds are bedded in the depths of the earth and until they are discovered, honed and polished one can’t see their true value.  Similarly, we are like diamonds being polished by our maker and as we surrender ourselves to him then the true value of what he has made  comes out and shines and becomes evident to all.

That is why diamonds are so graphic in giving us an example of deadness (looking of no value) and real life (when polished – showing what they were meant to be and appreciated). So with Diamond Books – we are endeavouring to show children the life of God that is available to them so that they can grow and become fully developed and mature as they take in God’s life changing word.

Then we can say ‘beautiful, beautiful’ – God makes all things new and all we have to do is play our part in his tapestry of the world we live in.

So this Christmas let’s thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love to us as individuals and to mankind as a whole.  Let’s not forget our brothers and sisters round the world who struggle, are persecuted in a big way and have few of the benefits that we in the west experience. We can pray and give to them and make a huge difference.

Lordship

When life does not make sense, Jesus is Lord!  When everything seems to go wrong, Jesus is Lord! When our best plans go pear-shaped, Jesus is Lord! When my body hurts, Jesus is Lord! When I’m misunderstood, Jesus is Lord! When everything seems so right, Jesus is Lord!

I’m amazed at how personal God is.  He not only created the universe but he also sent Jesus in the form of a tiny embryo that grew into a foetus and was born a man.  His mission was to die for our world’s sin (and of course my sin). He also has such immense qualities at listening to his human creation now and answering simple prayers.

Diamond Books has been birthed in prayer which is why it is developing now.  It has taken a long, long time to get this far but then Abraham and Moses and Paul and all the Biblical characters had to wait a long time for their paths to unfold.  I am finding that God is not in a hurry. When Jesus walked this earth did he ever race to help his disciples or panic his way through difficulties?  He simply entrusted each day to his Father God and let the day happen.

I am convinced as I go on in the Christian life that busyness is the number one problem amongst God’s people certainly in the UK and perhaps elsewhere too.  If we can stop and begin to listen to him more then we will find our lives enriched, fruitful and certainly a blessing and help to many. Abiding, I think, is the key so that he does his work in us.  Our trying and striving does not produce the same thing!

Let’s let God have his way this Christmas season so that even if half the things we intended to do don’t get done, he can prove his Lordship in our lives. Then he can be glorified in us with no fuss or self aggrandisement while we quietly and simply trust like Mary did.