“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ” Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt. 1:20-21)
The message of the first coming of Christ is a message of hope. It is a hope for the whole world. He came to save us from our sins. His birth is a reminder to us that God hates sin and wants so much that we not suffer its tragic consequences. Because Christ came into the world, we now have the hope of salvation that He brings. His birth brings hope for new life, new faith, new beginnings, and new destiny.
Some people have a hard time saying no to others. Often it is because they don’t want to hurt their feelings, or come across as mean. It may be that they have a deep desire to be liked and accepted…and believe that to say no may result in disfavor from a close friend or family member. People pleasing is very common and it often has its roots in early childhood experiences. For instance, a child who never received unconditional love or approval from a parent, may find themselves going out of their way to give to or agree with someone…for fear that they might scare the other person away. They won’t say no, even when it is appropriate, and necessary. The Scriptures says that we should “let your yes be yes, and your no be no.”So when is it necessary to say no? Below are five reasons to say no to someone you love.
1.We should say no when it is obvious that what the person is asking for is not something they are ready to receive or able to handle. This is often a situation that parents find themselves in with their children. When the child ask for certain privileges or rights that requires more maturity than they can handle, it is in the child’s best interest for the parent to say no to such a request. Since parents naturally want their children to be happy, it is difficult to say no , even when the reality of the situation indicates that it would be a mistake to give in to the child’s every request.
2. We should say no when we are being asked to do something that goes against our personal convictions or core beliefs. If someone offers us something that is potentially harmful, like taking drugs or going to what might be considered dangerous spaces…a no response is appropriate. This is especially true when one realizes that to do what goes against our convictions or beliefs is a choice. And no matter how persuasive the other person may be, in the final analysis, we are responsible for the consequences.
3. We should say no if what we are being asked to do requires over extending ourselves to the point of jeopardizing our health (spiritual, emotional, physical), or operating outside of our natural talents and gifts. When this happens, in the first instance, we will end up less effective in helping others because of our own unhealthiness. In the second instance, we will be less effective, because our greatest effectiveness in providing service is to do what we do best. This happens when we operate within the realm of our natural gifts and talents, and not based on the demands and expectations of others.
4. We should say no when what we are being ask to do will jeopardize the health and welfare of someone else. The golden rule reminds us that we are to do to others what we would have them to do to us. This continues to be the best guide to inform how we should respond when we are being pressured or coaxed to do harm to another person to satisfy the wishes of someone with ill intent.
5. We should say no when the timing is not right, with the proviso that we might say yes at a more appropriate date in the future. It has been said that God answers our prayers in three ways.He says no, yes, or wait. If God says wait in response to our request, that means he is saying no, for now. And His response will come in His timing, and when we are better able to receive the thing for which we are praying. So it is okay to say no, while understanding that, when the timing is right –that no may very well be turned into a yes.
President Trump made an appearance at a church on the Sunday after the recent shooting in Virginia Beach. His spoke persons said the presidential appearance was in response to the tradgedy. The pastor of the church prayed for him , for the nation , and for the families of the victims. Despite the high probability that political motivations were at play, the coverage of the story was a reminder that prayer is important, especially in times of great loss. As a practicioner of prayer, I offer at least five benefits:
1. Prayer reminds us that we are not alone. When we pray, we are acknowledging the presence of an invisible God who loves us and will never leave us.
2. Prayer releases a sense of calmness and peace within us. While the circumstances around us may be tumultuous, there is an inner tranquility that invades the heart that opens itself to the divine.
3. Prayer helps to change our attitude or perspective about the people or the situation for which we are praying. There is usually not much that can be done in the immediate aftermath of such a horrendous act of violence as referred to above. Prayer reminds us that, despite the confusion, and flood of unanswered questions, God is bigger than the circumstances, and He can provide the intangibles (faith, hope, peace, love, and joy) to sustain and uplift the most grief strickend heart. Prayer may not change the circumstances, but it can change me.
4.Prayer motivates the one praying to become a part of the solution. As we pray for comfort for the grieving or healing for those who are hurting, God moves us to do what we can to help. It is not often the unexplained miracle that falls down from the sky that comes to rescue a desperate soul, but the resources of our own human efforts…that is God’s answer to our prayers.
5. Prayer still opens up the windows of Heaven. God still moves in mysterious and miraculous ways.
The Bible teaches that the church is a family (Eph. 2:19). As believers in Christ, we are members of God’s household. The word household is another word for family. God is our Heavenly Father, and Jesus is our big brother (Ro. 8:29), and we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are a spiritual family who share in common our faith in Jesus Christ. A faith that is based upon his death , burial , and resurrection. To fellowship means to share something in common with another. While we may be from different backgrounds, racial and ethnic groups, and different socioeconomic levels, we still have in common something far more important than any of these temporary qualities. And that common factor is the relationship that extends from the blood that Jesus shed for us on the cross that was the means by which we were adopted into the family of God ((Eph. 2:13). Just as our role in a biological family is important, our role in our spiritual family has special meaning as well.
Staying close to your spiritual brothers and sisters is essential to nurturing the love, unity, and a caring community… that is desperately needed in what is increasingly becoming an impersonal world. It is a fact that we all need acceptance and the sense of belonging that comes from a healthy family environment… where we can be accountable to each other, and experience unconditional love and forgiveness.
Meeting together on a regular basis with other Christians can go a long way in strengthening our faith. On the other hand , if we choose to keep our distance from other believers, we will find that our faith will become weaker and our tendency to sin and make excuses for it ,will grow with increasing frequency. The Bible says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).”
Fellowshipping with other Christians also allows us the opportunity to share our lives and our testimony with those who have had similar experiences. Everyone has something to share. Each person has a unique life journey ,from which they can share ,that will help certain individuals who identify with stories of victory, and defeat that are— all too familiar to the human condition. But if we do not attend church on a regular basis so that we can be in a position to give our personal testimony, people who need to hear what we have to say, will be not benefit. So often we go to church thinking about what we are going to receive. A more balanced approach to church attendance, and involvement is to recognize that we have something to give. We all have a story that can encourage someone. Each of us has a touch that someone needs to feel, or a smile that someone needs to see. Sometimes all it takes is a mere glimpse of our mere presence that brings encouragement to someone who is going through a difficult situation.
Like the other spiritual disciplines , fellowship must be a priority in each person’s life. We must determine in our heart that we are going to make time to be with other brothers and sisters in Christ. This kind of getting together was important in the early church, and it is no less important in a today’s world. Listen closely to the word fellowship in how Luke describes the activity of the first church, “ They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).”Fellowshipping with other believers is one aspect of our faith that keeps us connected with our spiritual family. Once we discover that our relationship with other believers is important, we will not only find a place for good fellowship, but we will also incorporate in our lives a commitment to serving others.
We are created to worship. Worship means to attribute value to a person or thing. To worship God is to express high value to Him. Worshiping God is much more than just a Sunday morning experience. While weekly church attendance is a good habit that has spiritual, social, and emotional benefits , our worship of God must be something we do on an ongoing basis. In one sense, all that we do to honor God is an expression of worship. Just as we are to grow in prayer, we are to grow in the area of how and why we worship God. This makes the worship experience more meaningful . For God does not accept any kind of worship. Jesus made this clear in a conversation that he had with a Samaritan woman in the book of John chapter four, verse twenty-four, “ God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit in truth.”
True worship of God begins with the condition of the heart. If our heart is not in it, then any outward expression becomes an act of vanity. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had this problem. He described them in Matthew’s gospel when he said “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain…”( Mt. 15:8) It becomes very easy to go through the motions of worship ,without doing it from the heart, if it is something we do only on Sunday. Also in public worship a person can be easily distracted by the people around him or her, if there has not been regular expressions of private worship. When we are just starting out as new Christians, it is very important that we nurture and develop in our private lives such disciplines as : prayer, scripture reading, praise , and adoration of God. In doing this , worship becomes more natural to us when we find ourselves in a public space.
In addition to what I have stated above, the Bible teaches us many other things about worship. First of all, worship should be exclusively directed to God. When you consider the definition of worship as attributing value to something or someone, there can be an unlimited number of objects or persons toward which we might extend our love and devotion. For instance, it is possible to worship another human being. We see this kind of adulation given to celebrities in the entertainment industry all the time. This same kind of human idolatry can and does exist within the church. For example, when a preacher is put on a pedestal it places that person in a position to receive the kind of adoration that should be only given to God. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, the devil tried to entice Jesus to bow down and worship him. Jesus’ response is important for those of us who seek to worship in the right way: “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you ,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, away from me, Satan! For it is written: worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only .”(Mt. 4:8-10)
Secondly, as stated earlier, worship should come from the heart, but it should involve the whole person in how it is expressed. At the heart of true biblical worship is a life of obedience and service. Jesus said in John 14:15 “ if you love me, you will obey what I command.” So that if I truly love and worship God, it will be demonstrated not only in how I express myself in public service, but also in how I live my life each day in honoring God and serving others.One does not have to read the Psalms very long to see that worship of God can and should be demonstrative. When David describes his worship experience of God he unashamedly expresses his love , “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” (Psalm 63:2-4) This man looks up to God with his eyes, he praises God with his lips, and he raises his hands before the Lord…as an expression of honor and adoration. So as we grow in your relationship with God, we learn to worship Him sincerely and without reservation. Before we worry about whether or not we have all the right outward moves, we should make sure we start with the right heart, and then commit to giving our best praise and worship to God in the privacy of our lives. This kind of commitment and consistency in private worship will equip us and give us confidence to offer worship to God publically in a more natural way.
Finally, remember that human beings were created to offer worship to God. We are doing what we were created to do on earth ,and what we will be doing in Heaven forever (Revelation 4:8-11). To learn to worship and grow as a worshiper is simply doing what is a part of our destiny to do. Worship helps us get our relationship right with God. And when our relationship with God is what it should be, then our relationship with others can be what it is suppose to be as well.