Monday, March 30, 2015

Easter: Who is Jesus?


As Easter approaches, more and more people around the world ask the same question about this holy holiday – Easter:  Who is Jesus?

Easter:  Who Is Jesus?

The Bible tells us who Jesus is. I believe the Bible’s accounts of Jesus because of it’s validity.  The Bible remains the #1 top selling book in history.  It is authored by at least 40 inspired individuals and it has been translated into at least 1,000 languages.  It was written and compiled over the course of at about 1500 years.  Its contents have remained consistent throughout all history, allowing for minor differences in language translations.  For more information about the validity of the scriptures and to learn more about these still preserved holy manuscripts, read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.  You will be fascinated by the information and apologetics in this book.  You will also find lots of Bible fact here at The Judeo Christian Tradition.

We first learn about who Jesus is when we read the story about his birth.  My favorite account is found in Luke 2:1-20:
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,  and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. 
For the next 30 years, give or take a few, Jesus performed many miracles throughout the region. Then, it was time for the part of His life we know as Easter.  At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  At Easter, we remember His death and celebrate His resurrection.  Jesus’ death paid the penalty for our sins.  Three days later, Jesus was resurrected.  In Luke 24: 1-8, we read:
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,  but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’  Then they remembered his words.
One of the most memorized verses in the Bible is John 3:16:  For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

The Bible promises that those who believe in Jesus – those who received His gift of salvation – will live eternally with Him.

I received the gift of salvation at the age of 12.  Here is my testimony:

I grew up in church.  My daddy was a Southern Baptist deacon.  We were in church every Sunday morning, every Sunday night, every Wednesday night, and sometimes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, depending on what was going on at church that week.  We never missed a night of revival unless we were sick.  I remember as a small child, I didn’t fully understand what salvation really meant.  At the tender age of 8, I told my parents I wanted to be saved.  They called the pastor over to our house.  He asked me a lot of Biblical questions and I answered every single one.  Soon after that, I was baptized.  At the time, what I really wanted was to not go to hell.  I thought that praying a prayer and then being baptized meant that I was safe from spending my eternity with the devil.  It wasn’t until 4 years later, when I was 12 years old, that I realized that salvation is much more than that.  It was more that living a good life and repeating a prayer.  At the age of 12, I realized that I needed Jesus to be my Lord and I prayed to receive Him into my heart.  I made a decision to follow Jesus and His teachings for the rest of my life.  My heart belonged to Him.

What does all this mean?  Let me clarify this by taking you through what we call the Roman Road to Salvation.  Let’s examine a series of common questions and then see what the Bible says about them.

Is it enough to just be a “good person?”

Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:10 – There is none righteous.  No, not one.

Romans 5:12 – Therefore, just as through one man, sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned –

We have ALL sinned.  We ALL sin.  We ALL will continue to sin because we are all human and imperfect

If we all sin, then why bother?

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Realizing the gift of salvation is so important because sin results in death.  This doesn’t mean that God will zap you and kill if you commit a sin, but remember, we are ALL sinners; so collectively, when sin entered the world, so did the punishment for it, death – and eternal death – eternal separation from God for those who refuse to believe in Him and receive His gift of salvation.

I am such a bad person so God is not interested in me, right?

You couldn’t be more wrong.  God loves you.

Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God loves you so much that He died for YOU.

How can I be saved?

Romans 10:9-10 – that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.

To receive God’s eternal gift of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ, we confess that we are sinners and believe that God raised Him from the dead.

We cannot be saved just because we are good.  The Bible teaches us in Ephesians 2: 8-9, “For by grace, you have been saved through faith, not of yourselves.  It is a gift from God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Eternal life is a gift from God, not something we earn through being good or doing good works.  It is nothing we can boast about – glorifying ourselves.  Eternal life is gifted to us only through the sacrifice Jesus made when He died on the cross at Calvary.  It is nothing we do, except to receive the gift through belief in Him.

I prayed to God to be saved.  Did it work?

If you meant it, YES.

Romans 10:13 – For whoever calls up on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Now what?

Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word of God.

Get to know Him by spending time in God’s Word.  Study the Bible.  Read it.  Meditate on it.
Memorize scriptures.

Get to know your brothers and sisters in Jesus.  Visit churches in your area and find a place to call your church home.  Making Christian friends is very important.  Be sure to study the Bible yourself so you will know if the church you visit teaches the Bible accurately.

Enjoy your new life in Him and celebrate His resurrection this Easter.

Romans 5:1 – Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ

Romans 8:1 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:38-39 –  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Reflections on Motherhood: A Letter to My Pre-Mom Self

Reflections on Motherhood:  A Letter to My Pre-Mom Self

22 years ago, I became a mom.  It was one of the happiest days of my life.  It was a day I had dreamed about since I was a little girl.  All I ever wanted in life was to be a wife and a mom.  I became a wife in June of 1991 and on February 21, 1993, all my dreams came true.  I was both a wife and a mom.

The next 22 years were filled with joy, sorrow, excitement, heartache, laughter, tears, three more babies, and all the ups and downs that come with being a mom. I have watched my children play, fall, and get back up again.  I have listened as they told me stories through laughter and I have cried with them as they told me stories through tears.  I have rejoiced with them in their triumphs and I have cried with them through their deepest hurts.  To my husband and I, they are our greatest, most treasured gifts.  Two boys.  Two girls.  Three of them have grown up beautifully here on earth and one of them awaits our reunion with him in Heaven.

With 22 years filled with all the experiences mentioned above, you might think I have a little advice to share and I do.  I wish I could have glanced into my future to see all the things I would do right, but also to change all the things I could have done better. Obviously, I can’t do that, but I was recently challenged, along with a few other bloggers, to look look back with reflections on motherhood and write a letter to my pre-mom self in honor of Mother's Day.  Of course, it won’t change my past parenting experiences, but it might help someone who is reading this right now to experience a deeper, more meaningful future with her most treasured gifts.  Here is my letter to my pre-mom self.  My points are in no particular order of importance.  If you are a young mother or someone who is about to become a young mother and you are reading this right now, pretend this letter is written to you.  You are chosen especially for your children.
 Dear Tina [Insert your name here],

You don’t know it yet, but you are about to embark on an amazing journey.  You are about to experience first-hand the earthly example of the relationship God has with you.  He loves you so much and He wants you to experience in the most personal way, the love He has for His children.  As you travel this bumpy, wavy, and sometimes very difficult path, He will be with you.

1.  Know that your children are not your own.  God is about to create new life.  He is about to create four precious human beings.  They are His.  He has created them to glorify Himself.  They are His precious possessions.  He loves them so much that He sent His own Son to suffer so that these precious lives might receive His gift of eternal life and someday return to Him forever.  Whoever raises them on earth will have great responsibility.  Motherhood is a high calling.  God has chosen YOU.

2.  God chose YOU for a reason.  God chose you to be the mother of four of His precious possessions because He knows you and only you are best suited for them.  He knows you can handle the events in their lives better than anyone else.  Whether you birth them or adopt them, He has chosen you to raise them.  He has entrusted their lives to you.  And by the way, you will only hold one of them for a short time.  You won’t understand it on earth and your heart will long to hold him until you are reunited with him, but you must know that his short life will not be without purpose.  Neither will your suffering.  Trust Him with that.

3.  Don’t compare yourself to other mothers.  There will come a time when you will feel inadequate.  You will look at other mothers and think they are perfect.  You will think other mothers are doing it better than you.  You will think other mothers have it all together while you are falling apart.  You will be overwhelmed.  You will think there is not enough of you to go around.  There isn’t enough of you, but there is enough of Him.  Take time away from the busyness and just listen.  Listen to Him.  He will tell you what is important.  He will tell you what needs to be done now and what can wait.  You must know that no mother is perfect.  No mother has it all together.  You might not realize it, but most likely, other mothers are looking at you and feeling inadequate too.

4.  Seek out the advice of older Godly mothers.  The Bible teaches us that older women are to be a help to younger women.  It is Biblical to seek the advice of seasoned Godly women.  Find one.  Find two.  Find several and go to them when you need advice.  Be careful though.  Seek out the wise.
“These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children.” – Titus 2:4
5.  Accept help.  You are an independent woman.  You always were.  You always wanted to do things on your own.  When it comes to being a mom, you can’t.  You can’t do it alone.  Let your husband be “daddy.”  Let him handle his fatherly responsibilities and don’t be afraid to let your mother or your close friends help you too.  God gave them to you too.   Help one another.

6.  Trust that God loves your children more than you do.  There will be times when you won’t know what to do.  The advice of others will make no sense.  Others will not understand and you will find it difficult to discern the voice of God.  You will feel alone.  When you don’t know what to say or do, He does.  Trust that God will speak to the hearts of your children when you can’t.

7.  Savor every moment.  In the beginning, others will tell you how fast the time will fly and you will know in your heart that they are right.  Then, one day, you will awake to teenagers and wonder how in the world you got there so fast.  Then, you will blink and your beloved children will be all grown up.  This will be difficult for you.  You will grieve for your children’s childhoods, but you will look back on your savored moments and they will continue to bring you joy.

8.  God’s plan for your children might be very different from your plans.  Later on, you will go through an especially difficult time.  You will cry out to God in agony.  This time in your life will be your most challenging time as a mother.  Rebellion takes on many forms.  The enemy is cunning and the battle for your children’s hearts will be intense.  Again, you will feel alone in your fight against the enemy’s subtle evil influences.  You will experience a time in your life you never thought you would face.  After all, Christian parents are not supposed to go through these things – or so you thought.  You will look up into the Heavens and cry out to God that your circumstances are not the way you imagined.  You will scream, “This is not the way it was supposed to be!”  You  must know that your suffering is not only about you.  Your children will sometimes need to go through circumstances you thought were unimaginable within your own family, but God intends this for good.  You will suffer for a time.  It will seem like forever but keep trusting Him with your children.  Remember, they really belong to Him.  After a time, God will pick up the shattered pieces of your heart and gently and lovingly mend them back together again.  He will give you a glimpse into His purpose for your suffering, His purpose for your children’s lives.  His plan for them is great.  Trust Him with them.

 9.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Don’t try to be a “supermom.”  Just be their mom.

10.  Last, but most importantly, don’t neglect church attendance and home Bible studies.  You and your husband will do a great job teaching your children the value of church attendance, home Bible studies, and choosing Godly friends, but it won’t be easy.  You will sometimes be so tired but always remember to prioritize Bible study as the number one weapon against the enemy.  He wants the hearts of your children.  Give your children their greatest weapons – Biblical knowledge and wisdom.
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
Well, that is all I have to share with you right now, but there will be more to come.  Your children are only at the beginning of their journeys into adulthood.  It will be an amazing adventure and you have a front row seat.

Happy Mother’s Day! 

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. – Psalm 127:3-5

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations. – Jeremiah 1:5

I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

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