Archive for December, 2019



Where’s Your Passion?

I recently had a very exciting conversation with a young lady. She was telling me that she had once begun her studies to become a veterinarian but gave up because she was having too many difficulties with the studies. She obviously does have a learning difficulty but she had determined that her difficulty was simply too hard to carry on with her task — so she decided to lower her expectations a little to switch and become a veterinary technician.

As she was telling me her new goals, which she has been working on for about a year now, you could visibly see her lighten up and you could hear the excitement in her voice. In fact, she told me that wanted to tell many people about her new goal in life.

The excitement I heard, and that I related back to her, was her passion. She was iterating her passion. And it was contagious.

I have no doubt that Amanda will go on to finish her studies and will become a veterinary technician.

And I am pretty sure that she will specialize beyond that.

Why?

Because she was and is in the zone of her passion.

Passion is that objective that you have to have. You eat it, drink it, dream it — and live it.

And passion will carry you through in times when otherwise you might want to quit or give up.

And I know passion.

And I think we all know passion.

When is the last time you ever dreamed of something so hard that you couldn’t let it go?

When’s the last time that you really lit up when you were talking about something — or someone?

When is the last time that you wanted something so badly that you knew you couldn’t live without it?

That’s passion.

A story is often told of a young boy who desperately wanted to learn a martial art. It is said that he sought out the training of a wise, old sensei.

In the boy’s search of the old man, he did find him. And he found him fishing in the middle of a stream.

The boy waited patiently on the side of the stream for what seemed like hours — simply in pursuit of being recognized by the old man.

Finally, the old man looked over at the boy and said to him, “Boy, what is it that you desire?”

The boy anxiously responded to him, “Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts.”

The old man simply looked away and continued fishing — seemingly ignoring the young boy.

After a while longer, he again looked over at the young boy and said, “boy, what is it that you desire?”

Again, the boy responded, “Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts.”

And again, the old man simply looked away and continued fishing.

Finally, after another hour or so, the old man looked over at the boy and said to him, “Boy, what is it that you desire?”

And, as the boy had before responded, he said: “Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts.”

The old man motioned for the boy to come out into the water with him.

The boy, desiring NOT to show his excitement, waded out into the water to the old man.

When the boy reached the sensei, the sensei violently grabbed, pushed, and held the young boy’s head under the water.

The boy struggled violently as well.

— until at last, four bubbles come from his mouth

— then three bubbles

— then two bubbles

— then one bubble

At which the old man, grabbing the boy by the hair, lifted him out of the water — obviously (and literally) dying for air.

And the old man looked at the boy and said to him, “Son, when you want to learn the martial arts from me … as much as you wanted that next breath of air — come back and I will teach you.

This is an illustration of the power of passion.

Passion causes us to come back when all Hell is coming against us.

Passion is that thing that causes us to NOT give up when nothing else seems to be going our way.

Passion is what finds us successful.

Why?

Because passion creates within us an “I’ve got to have it — or die trying to get it” attitude.

So again, I ask each reader today — what are you passionate about? And what’s it going to take to see your passion fulfilled?

And when you have answered those questions — carry on — and see your passion come to fruition.


Christmas in December 25 — I think NOT

An interesting question, though.

A friend, colleague, and professor once posed the question whether we as Christians should defend December 25 Christmas or not. His basis for discussion is that Jesus certainly does not need our defense and further, that most Christians who would defend December 25 Christmas probably would do so for the retail aspect. Hmmm. Interesting observation.

Personally, I think we SHOULD defend it — but simply for the reason of NOT giving up ground (as in a “slippery slope” where the enemy continues to take and take and take until there’s nothing left to take.)

You see, I really can’t defend December 25 Christmas as being the birth of Christ because all evidence points to the fact that it is NOT; instead it is a “carry-over” or loan from the ancient Romans and their Saturnalia Festivals — marked by all kinds of tomfoolery and reversals of social roles, in which even slaves and masters switched places.

Rome was notorious for assimilating various customs and holidays of conquered peoples with their (Rome’s) own customs and holidays.

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In fact, December 25 Christmas has nothing to do with Christ other than sharing His name.

Hanukkah, on the other hand, is an eight-day celebration of God miraculously providing ceremonially pure oil when the Jews worked to restore and rededicate their temple after it was desecrated by Antiochus IV, King of Syria in the 2nd Century BC. According to Jewish religious writings, there was only enough consecrated oil to fuel the Menorrah flames in the Temple for one day. The oil, however, miraculously burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare, and consecrate fresh olive oil. (This story is recorded also in 1 and 2 Maccabees in the Apocrypha — which by the way is good historical contextual reading — but not anointed scripture.)

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Jesus Himself observed the celebration of Hanukkah (or the Festival of Lights as it is also known) in the Temple as recorded in John 10:22-39. There are also many who feel that Hanukkah marks the “time of conception” of Jesus within Mary’s womb. This would certainly coincide with similar thought that would place the actual birth of Jesus during the Festival of Tabernacles or Sukkot. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus may have been born during the “Feast of Tabernacles?” (And the Word became flesh, and dwelt [tabernacled] among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth [John 1:14 NASB]).

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However, I am not ready to release Christmas to secularists/atheists who would dare to attempt to take one more thing from the Christian world.

Also, in 61 years, I have gotten familiar with my own personal traditions connected with Christmas (and I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to give those up.)

But I did make my own feeble attempts to observe and respect Hanukkah for several  years now — including spending some of that time in Israel during Hannuka 2011. (And besides, 8 days of Gift-giving/receiving beats that daylights out of one day of such.)

And I’m pretty convinced that Jesus was born sometime near Sukkot.

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So I guess I’ll do it like this: I will celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah —  and even though Christ wasn’t born on the day we celebrate as Christmas (December 25) — and even though He really ISN’T the reason for that particular season, I will continue to honor Him, love Him, and share Him — on December 25 and every other day of the year.

Merry Christmas — and Happy Hanukkah!


Luke 2:1-20

(translated by Dr. Jim Garrett)

And it happened in those days [that] there came an order from Caesar Augustus for all the Roman Empire to be registered. This registration first took place while Quirinius was ruling the Syrians. And every citizen went to be registered, each into his own city

And Joseph came up from the Galilee, from the city of Nazareth in Judea, into the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he [was] from the house and of the ancestry of David. [He came] to enroll for himself, together with Mary, the one both being engaged to him and pregnant.

And it happened, while they were there, that the days for her Child to be born were fulfilled. And she gave birth to her firstborn Son and she wrapped Him in baby clothes and placed Him in a feeding trough because there was not a place [for them] in the guest room.

And there were shepherds in the same region living outdoors and keeping guard by night over their flock. And an angel of Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shined around them and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them,

Do not fear! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all people. For today, there is born to you in the city of David, a Savior Who is Christ the Lord and this is a sign to you: you will find a Baby being wrapped in baby clothes and lying in a feeding trough.

And suddenly, it happened that a number of the hosts of heaven appeared with the angel praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace among men.”

And it happened as the angels departed into heaven, [that] the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go indeed to Bethlehem so that we might see this event that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

So they left in haste and found both Mary and Joseph, and [they found] the Baby lying in a feed trough. And after observing [Him], they made known [around them] concerning the matter that had been told them concerning this Child. And all, upon hearing [this], marveled concerning the proclamation that had come through the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things and considered them in her heart.

Then, the shepherds returned honoring and praising God because of all the things they heard and saw, just as it was said to them.


Wow!

I guess I’m really getting older.

I have NEVER faced such difficulty in re-acclimating to my US time and routine. The flight to and from Israel, by way of Istanbul, has taken its toll.

I have worked really hard to establish a routine of blogging every Monday BUT, that went all out the door on this trip — and a fabulous trip it was — but I am exhausted.

31 of us made this journey. Everyone expected something different — yet each expected the same thing: we wanted to walk where Jesus walked. We wanted to see the sights where events of the Bible really happened. (and yet, some want to see archaeology. Some wanted to float in the Dead Sea. Some wanted to taste the fabulous foods of the Middle East — and some — wanted to shop.)

Regardless, we all came away fulfilled.

But as a way of helping me to segue back into daily reality, I want to post a devotion that my wife and I had written for our visit to Bethlehem. Let it speak to you as you read.

 

Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem.

The building of the Church of the Nativity is the oldest standing church in the Holy Land. Underneath its present floor are beautiful mosaics of the earlier church. (I actually saw some beautiful mosaics on previous trips to Israel that had been excavated … they were amazing!) According to tradition, Mary gave birth to Jesus at the place where the star is located on the floor of the Church of the Nativity. The tradition that the birth was in a cave is one of the oldest Christian traditions. It has been stated that the cave of Jesus’ birth was pointed out in His day and no doubt is the same place where this church was erected.

To the east of the city is believed to be the area of the fields of the shepherds “keeping watch over their flocks by night”. Several churches have also been built there to commemorate this event. Even today local shepherds can be seen tending their flock in this same area. As a matter of fact, on my last visit to the Holy Land, we met some of these shepherds who have made it a business to charge to have pictures made of them and the sheep in that field. (We were told by one vendor, “We love Americans — and the more you spend, the more we love you.”)

But the scene to the Shepherds at the birth of Jesus, happened in this manner:

Luke 2:8-20 – That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: “You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

 

So, what can we take home with us from Bethlehem? A few things cross my mind…

  • Bethlehem was chosen by God to host the birth of the King. God has chosen us, He picked us out as His very own to host King Jesus in our own hearts.

Ephesians 1:4 – Even as (in His love) He chose us (actually picked us out for Himself as His own) in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him) and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love.

  • Bethlehem was a “little” town yet Jesus, God in the flesh, came to dwell in it. God is not looking for “big” people who have it all together, who look a certain way or who talk a certain way … that have money, status, gifting, or personality. He is looking for ordinary people such as you and me. He wants to come and dwell in us, to take up residence in “little ‘ole’ us”.

Micah 5:2– But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.

I Corinthians 3:16– Do you not discern and understand that you are God’s temple (His sanctuary), and that God’s Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you (to be a home in you, collectively as a church and also individually)?

  • Throughout the Christmas story we see “be not afraid”. The angel told Mary to not be afraid … the angel told Joseph not to be afraid and the angels told the shepherds not to be afraid. God is saying that to us TODAY. Don’t be afraid to step out into your calling and your destiny and your purpose! He is with us in everything and through everything. Be Strong! Be brave! Don’t be afraid. Your God is with us everywhere we go! Glory to God in the highest!

Joshua 1:9- “Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave, Don’t be afraid, because the Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go.”

  • Many of us tend to want to idolize places like Bethlehem and events and moves of God. He simply wants us to” idolize” Him: to love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. That is the GREATEST commandment. And when we do that His presence shines through us to others to see Him and be drawn to Him.

Deuteronomy 6:5 Love GOD, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!

 

God has chosen you and me to host Jesus. Many times, we feel too ”little”, too ordinary, and not good enough. But God sees us SO differently than we see ourselves and He wants to come to dwell in us: He desires to take up residence in us. All he really wants from us is for us to love Him with everything we are and everything we have!

O Little Town of Bethlehem … ”little ole you”, I choose you to be great, to host Jesus. Let Him in and love Him with your whole heart! Be strong and brave! Do not be afraid! I am with you everywhere you to!

Cheri Garrett