Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
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How should we then pray?
SAD PROPHESY FULFILLED
Pastor Heath Tibbetts
First Baptist Church, Machesney Park, IL
This is the saddest part of the Christmas story. And for many people, it's also the most uncomfortable. Some Bibles use as a heading for this passage "slaughter of the innocents." Why would God allow such a horrible event to follow such a joyful one?
Herod is angered because the Wise Men do not return. He exacts his revenge on Bethlehem. Fearful of being deposed, he seeks to eliminate his replacement. Scholars debate the number of boy babies slain, but given the size of Bethlehem, it is probably between 20 and 40.
Anyone who has lost a loved one knows the anguish of even one death. Multiply that by dozens, and we can only imagine the grief in Bethlehem.
What is God's point? Look at the tragedy in Bethlehem as a great and pitiful word picture.
God wants us to know that sending His Son into the world is exceedingly joyful and deeply sorrowful. Contrast Christmas morning and Good Fridaynight.The joy of our salvation has a high price. Angels sing as they welcomed his birth; sinners weep at their Savior's sacrifice.
Lord, thank you for sending Jesus. I begin now to understand what it cost Him -- and You.
For about 10 years I've been choosing my "verse of the year". I make it a point to read, memorize, meditate, study, and apply it to my life all year. The Lord led me to Hebrews 10:22 & 23 for 2014.
"Let us draw close to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water."
I'm delving deep into my own heart to discern God's idea/description of a SINCERE HEART. I praise Him for what He's showing me.
I've found this yearly practice to be exceptionally helpful in my daily walk - and it's also a wonderful way to hide God's Word in me heart, as memorizing doesn't come as easily as it used to.
Have you seen the Trimmings on the Christmas Tree?
The Christmas tree, the greatest symbol of Christmas is an evergreen tree, representing life. The custom of erecting a Christmas tree can be historically traced to 15th century. “The tree was traditionally decorated with edibles such as apples, nuts, or other foods. In the 18th century, it began to be illuminated by candles, which were ultimately replaced by Christmas lights after the advent of electrification. Today, there are a wide variety of traditional ornaments, such as garland, tinsel, and candy canes. An angel or star might be placed at the top of the tree to represent the angel Gabriel or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity. 
The branches on the evergreen tree, remind us of the many roles we have in our lives such as parenting, grandparenting, great-grandparenting. They also remind us of all the relationships we have with our family, friends, neighbors, our careers, hobbies, activities, sports etc. As we submit, each of these branches to God He can adorn them with ornaments, as He develops our character, with the fruit of the Spirit.
Let’s look at the ornaments on the tree representing the fruit of the Spirit. When we accept God’s unconditional LOVE in our hearts allowing His love to flow through us to others he will give us JOY. Our hearts will be full of joy amidst the daily challenges of our lives because “The joy of the Lord will be our strength.” When we experience the JOY of the Lord as our strength, we will have PEACE. PEACE is calmness in our hearts amidst the challenges we face, extending through our lives to others. After our adorning with love, joy, and peace, we will be empowered with PATIENCE, an attitude that does not lose hope for others even if they irritate or hurt us. KINDNESS expressed with our words and deeds to a sad or lonely heart may be their connection for Jesus. Then GOODNESS will flow into good works from our kind heart reflecting the character of God attracting others to Jesus.
Another ornament placed on the tree is FAITHFULNESS. Just as God is faithful to us, it is important that we too, are dependable and trustworthy with others. Faithfulness brings us to GENTLENESS, an ability to be pleasant, composed and controlled in the daily challenges of life. The last ornament we will place on the tree is SELF-CONTROL, which adorns our lives with the character of strength to restrain us from doing wrong. We cannot have self-control without all the other ornaments.
Then the tree will be wrapped with a garland of God’s righteousness and the star will be placed on the top directing people to Jesus. We will plug in the lights illuminating the tree representing Jesus the light of the world, a symbol of hope. Just as we have beautiful Christmas trees in our homes, our lives will be beautiful when adorned with the fruit of the spirit.
This year let’s give our grandchildren a spiritual application of the Christmas tree representing everlasting life adorned with the ornaments of the fruit of the Spirit, wrapped with the garland of God’s love, the star directing others to Jesus, and shining as lights in a dark world.
Pray that your grandchildren together with their parents and yourself will stand as a symbol of hope in a dark world adorned in strength and beauty of the fruit of the spirit like the beautiful Christmas tree. The greatest and most lasting Christmas gift you can give your grandchildren is the gift of a praying grandparent.
By Lillian Penner
¹ Christmas tree, Wikipedia
In some family gatherings, I don't know everyone well enough to know if they're all believers. So I pray going into the gathering for openness to the Holy Spirit's promptings, that God will give me grace and truth to share as appropriate. I pray for 'clarification' - that is, that people won't just assume they're Christians because they're celebrating Christmas but will be challenged to understand what salvation really means. I pray that God will help me to make the most of every opportunity. And finally, I pray that he will be honored in our celebrations - in the love of family, in our conversations, and in the focus of the day.