I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
 
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
 
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
 
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
 
Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

 

These words written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the Civil War are still true today. Hate is strong and peace is not found in the world. Yet, it is possible to be at peace and to find peace and forgiveness in your heart. True peace comes only from knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ as a human baby. Jesus left his home in Heaven and willing came to Earth to live as among us and to sacrifice His life for us. Without Christmas, there would be no Easter—no death on the cross, no resurrection, no hope of salvation.

This is the good news the angels spoke about when they announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds.  “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.  Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you:  he is Christ the Lord…Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”     (Luke 2: 10 –11, 14)

As you celebrate Christmas in a few days, I pray that the true meaning of Christmas will bring joy and peace to your heart.  If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior, there is no better time to invite Him into your heart.

Helping Girls Discover Who They Are in Christ

When I was a high school math teacher, one of my students made a statement to her classmates along the lines of “High school is the best time of our lives, people.  You better enjoy it.”  I challenged her assertion and explained that she had so many wonderful events in her life ahead of her—college, marriage, and children just to name a few. When she thought it over, she could see that the sentiment she expressed was actually very negative.  Yet, I’ve heard adults make the same comment to their high school children.

For many people high school was a wonderful experience, and they look back wistfully on that period when they had lots of free time to spend with their friends and they were still under the protection of their parents.  Unfortunately, however, high school is a very tough time for many other teenagers.  Some teens struggle with making friends and feel like they don’t fit into any groups. Teens are pressured to wear the right clothing and hairstyles. Girls may be teased for being overweight or not fashionable, and bullies pick on smaller, weaker guys.    Even the athletes and beauty queens are pressured to live up to worldly standards of physical perfection that are unrealistic. It’s no wonder that many teens struggle with low self-esteem.  

In writing and in working with girls in my church, I am passionate about trying to help girls and women discover their truth worth as children of God.  For 32 years, I have been privileged to work in my church’s Girls Ministries program.  I became involved in this ministry while I was in college. My 8-year old sister volunteered me to teach a group of younger girls so they wouldn’t be in her class.  I was available, so I agreed to serve.  It wasn’t long, however, before I realized that Girls Ministries would be one of my life’s missions.  

The Girls Ministries program exist to introduce girls to Christ and to help them find their place and purpose in life.  One of the primary goals is to help girls realize that they are loved and esteemed by God.  Their worth and value as human beings has nothing to do with their abilities, their actions, or their appearance.  They are valuable because God created them and loves them. 

I once heard a preacher say that the most profound message of God’s Word can be summed up in “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  Jesus loves me and Jesus loves you.  He loves each and every girl, regardless of her appearance, her background, her home life, or the mistakes she has made.  This is the message we desire to impress on the heart of each girl. John 3:16 is perhaps the best-known verse in the Bible. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  God loves each girl and His love is so great He sent Jesus to die on the cross for her sins, so that she can spend eternity in Heaven with Him.  

Of course, the girls hear this message in Sunday School and church.  So, why do they need Girls Ministries?  I believe that Girls Ministries is important for girls to learn how to fulfill God’s purposes for them as women.  Girls need a place where they can meet without boys present.  Girls Ministries affords girls an opportunity to be themselves without trying to impress boys and to discuss concerns that should not be discussed in mixed company.  

In a girls-only environment, we address sensitive issues such as dating standards and sexual purity.  We teach them to apply makeup to enhance their appearance and to dress modestly, so as not to tempt boys to have inappropriate sexual thoughts about them.  We give them tools to recognize verbal or physical abuse and encourage them to date only Christian young men who share their beliefs and who treat them with respect and courtesy. We also teach girls that they will make mistakes and they will have to ask God to forgive them.  When they seek forgiveness, God forgives.  However, they may still have to live with the consequences of their mistakes.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) Each girl in our program learns that God has a wonderful plan for her life.  She can achieve this plan if she follows the instructions in God’s manual.  God’s commands are not to restrict her, but to allow her to live life as fully as He has planned for her. A girl who appreciates this truth will not struggle with self-image or lack of worth.  She will realize how valuable she is to the one who created her and she will grow into a confident young women equipped to fulfill God’s purposes for her life.

I Serve a Risen Saviour!

Today is Good Friday.  It marks the celebration of the greatest act of love that the world has ever known.  Jesus Christ, the son of God, paid the price for my sins on the cross at Calvary.  Without Jesus’ sacrifice, I could not have forgiveness for my sins.

Thankfully, Jesus’ death was not the end of his life.   Jesus battled Satan and overcame death and the grave.  On Sunday we will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the grave.  How wonderful it is to serve a Saviour who not only bore my sins but who is alive forever more.

In celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am sharing one of my favorite Easter hymns.  I hope that each person who reads this has received Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness of their sins and the promise of eternity in Heaven.  If you have not done so, please consider doing it today.  Your life on Earth will be happier, fuller, and more satisfying, and you will get to look forward to a future in Heaven.

May you have a blessed Easter weekend.

He Lives

I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today;

I know that He is living, whatever men may say;

I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,

And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

Chorus:

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, Salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know He lives?  He lives within my heart.

Verse 2:

In all the world around me I see His loving care,

And tho’ my heart grows weary I never will despair;

I know that His with me, thro’ all the stormy blast,

The day of His appearing will come at last.

Verse 3:

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing

Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!

The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find,

None other is so loving, so good and kind.

Lyrics and music by Alfred H. Ackley

Christmas Eve Anniversary

My parents celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary on Friday.  They were married on Christmas Eve and celebrated Christmas with their families the next morning before leaving for their honeymoon. 

Getting married on Christmas Eve makes it easy to remember the date, but it makes a romantic celebration nearly impossible.  The last time I remember my parents going out to dinner on their anniversary is the year I was eleven.  They were home early and declared they would never attempt it again.  Few restaurants are open on Christmas Eve, and even fewer have employees who are happy about having to work that night.

My parents had nine children born over a 21-year period.  Consequently, their Christmas Eve activities for the first thirty years or so typically involved wrapping Christmas presents, assembling bikes and other toys, and baking pies for Christmas dinner.  Their anniversary was almost an afterthought in all the chaos of Christmas, but they always took a few moments to exchange gifts and express their love for each other.

Christmas Eves are a bit calmer for them these days. More restaurants are open, but they still don’t go out on their anniversary.  They prefer instead to have a quiet celebration surrounded by their children and grandchildren.  They celebrated their anniversary this year with four of their children and three of their grandchildren present.  My sister and I brought the food, so Mom was spared the chore of cooking dinner on their anniversary.

I am grateful that my parents’ marriage has withstood the many challenges life has brought their way, including the death of one child and my father’s 26-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps.  I am thankful that my parents are both active and healthy and can look forward to many more anniversaries.  But most of all, I am eternally grateful that many years ago my parent’s committed their lives to Jesus Christ and made Him the center of their marriage.

Unto Us a Son is Given

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Each year, Christians all around the world celebrate the birth of baby Jesus in a stable more than two thousand years ago.  For those of us who have made Jesus Christ our Savior by accepting His free gift of salvation, Christmas is a pivotal point in history. If Jesus had not come to Earth as a human baby and lived a sinless life, He could not have died for our sins and we would still be lost.  Through the birth of this tiny baby, salvation came into a darkened world

God used another baby boy to draw my family into a relationship with Him.  My brother John was born when I was 5 years old. Although our mother had contracted rubella early in the pregnancy, John was declared healthy and sent home.  However, we soon learned that John had serious heart defects and the he could neither see nor hear.

John underwent open-heart surgery when he was three months and endured several more surgeries in his first few years of life.  My mother began praying, asking God to heal John.  One day she asked an acquaintance to remember John in her prayers.  The woman proceeded to share the gospel with my mother.  Although my parents had attended church all their lives, until that day neither of them had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

My brother died from heart complications before his eighth birthday.  During his short life, both of my parents and many other family members came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Although we miss John and think of him every day, we know that one day we will be reunited with him in Heaven. 

This Christmas, and every Christmas, I am thankful that the Son of God humbled Himself and became human on our behalf and that God used a blind and deaf child with a bad heart to show my family our need for a personal relationship with God.