Christmas Down and Dirty: "The Time Has Come"  

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Deadlines can be very stressful. It could be a deadline for work or school or life. Projects or budget proposals can become stressful for an employee. Papers or tests can become stressful for students. Bill paying or taking time for appointments can become stressful in life.

I do not like tests, in school. For that, I am thankful that I am not in school. It really centers on those tests I didn't feel I was quite prepared for. The times I would cram and study and try to remember. Sometimes hoping to have a bit of extra time to study before the test - in all actuality, just putting it off. But, inevitably, the time had to come when I needed to take the exam.

For most everything there is a time which must come. That same principle impacted our the coming of Jesus. Which brings us to discuss this week's lesson from the "Christmas Down and Dirty" series. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • The Time Has Come ~ Imagine living in a time where Jesus had not come yet. Do you think you'd have doom as your thought for yourself? You could do all the ceremonial washings you want, but without a cleansing of the conscience, you'd be worried (or I would). The fact that Jesus has come and we get to live on this side of the cross, we can revel and be thankful in that. Appreciate that!
  • Getting Dirty ~ My mind goes to a scene in the movie "Gladiator" where the main character is in the ring and the emperor is in the stands watching. The gladiator is dirty, where the others are clean. Imagine if we were to look up at Jesus like that, not knowing what it was like to be in the ring. Fortunately, Jesus is in the ring, right there with us and fighting alongside of us. He's come down to be in the fight with us. What a great feeling!
  • Left Home ~ Going off to college was quite the experience for me. It was not that far away from home, but just far enough away to be "on my own." However, I had to leave some comforts. I had to manage money, make decisions, do my laundry, etc. all things that were not at the caliber, if existent, at home. Christ left home to come to earth. Leaving lots of comforts for this dirty earth. May we appreciate what He was willing to do for us!
What an indescribable blessing to have Jesus, the perfect Son of God, come to this earth for you and I. May it cause us to revel even more in His choice to be the sacrifice for our sins.

As you go into this holiday season, what do you appreciate most about Him?
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Fall: Fall With Thanksgiving  

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What are some things you are thankful for this year? Some would say family, faith, job, friends, health and home. What else are you thankful that you have? What about eyesight, sanity, knowledge, any material blessings, experience, life-lessons, etc.

It is easy to get wrapped up in the things we have and this time of year seems to bring about the thankfulness in all of us.

I just sold something on eBay and checked to see if I had feedback yet. I did. It was nice to see the appreciation coming through in the feedback. If the customer had not ever left feedback, I'd begin to wonder if they'd received the package and if they liked their purchase. Since they had left feedback, I now know.

That brings me to the point of thinking that God, as much as He loves us, must really enjoy hearing our "thanks" expressed to Him. What do you think?

Sunday we looked at Psalm 95 as our inspiration for the last in the "Fall" series as we "fall with thanksgiving." Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Fall ~ This week would be a good time to do something out of the ordinary and take time to pray on your knees. Don't forget to thank God a lot before you ask for things!
  • With ~ Don't do it alone. As you are praising God, whether it is in your prayers or singing a song, have someone join in with you - family, spouse, friends, etc. Do it with someone!
  • Thanksgiving ~ There are simply a lot of things to be thankful for. Maybe your life is going downhill or is "in the toilet." Those are difficult times to see the good. Regardless, challenge yourself to try to find at least 10 positive things in your life to appreciate or be thankful for this week!
One of my favorite things is to sit down at Thanksgiving with my family and to say the things that we are thankful for. It is neat to hear everyone's responses.

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Now it's your turn...what is something you are thankful for? Even something "unusual"...
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Change Happens  

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I am young enough that my first computer wasn't purchased until the late 1990s. The internet was in full swing by then. I remember a commercial that was being played around then that showed a screen on the computer "You've reached the end of the internet." I think it is amazing the good that is out there on the internet, even back then.

That first computer was a 4.3 GB hard drive. My second was 12 GB and was a laptop. My third was a desktop and was 120 GB. Now, I've seen computers that are 1 TB (one terabyte - 1000 GB). Things have really changed in the past 14 years!

I remember forgetting our directions to go on a trip during this same time frame. I didn't take my atlas because I thought we had directions. Long story short, we got lost. If we would have had a navigation tool, like a GPS we would have had no problem making it to our destination. Times have changed! This brings us to this week's quote...
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Think about all the things that have changed since John F. Kennedy was around? Technology and industry are ever changing. The Apple company introduced "apps" a few years ago with the infamous phrase "There's an app for that." Now apps are all over...many for free and in additional platforms (Android, Blackberry, etc)!

The big key is to understand that things are going to change and there is nothing we can do about it. However, if we concentrate on the past or present, we will miss out on an exciting future.

Don't get left behind!

Now it's your turn...what is one of your favorite modern-day inventions or concepts that you may think "how did I ever live without it?"
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FALL: Love Mercifully  

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How deep does your love go? You may say that it depends on the person. I think we are all at that point. However, isn't it great that God didn't have that same philosophy? To love mankind didn't "depend on the person." In a world full of "who you know" then it is nice to have a God that loves us all evenly and sent His son for everyone.

Imagine if our love from God was based on a point system or we were placed on tiers. The stress that would cause may be too much for some to handle. I know I'd struggle. But oftentimes, we treat others as if they were on a point system or how close they are to us, right?

Look across some of the people you know...wouldn't you do "more" for some than you would for someone else? It seems natural to do that, though it may not be correct. Sunday, we looked at the Parable of the Good Samaritan and how the person who received the parable was instructed to "love mercifully." As we reflect on that, here are some applications to choose from to use...
  • Finding a Loophole ~ Sometimes employees or students will fulfill a requirement but only do what is required of them, nothing more. Of course, in some cases doing more will not get you further, but not all things are tangible that may be doing more. When you are asked to do something, are you ever tempted to just do the minimum? Have you ever "looked the other way" at something that needs done? May we not not look for a loophole in our quest to fulfill any requirement laid before us.
  • Look for Opportunities ~ To turn a blind eye to help someone is a way of missing an opportunity. The opportunity may not be to help them with their actual request, it could mean to help them in another way (which is almost limitless) Keep your eyes open to see how you can offer a hand of mercy to someone. (Please don't limit yourself to think of only ways you can help that are physical)
  • Fight Through ~ One time I was asked if I would offer to help someone if they had just "hit me." I said "Yes." This was s surprise to them (the setting was a teachable moment while subbing in a school). Once I was being treated poorly by my employer and in my last remaining days fighting through to still give 100% was difficult, but I was able to do it. May you fight through times that are tempting to not offer your kindness to someone.
To love (action) by doing it mercifully (adjective describing the action) is deep. It may be difficult to do, but we are challenged to do that to our "neighbors."

May we be the best "Good Samaritans" we can be this week!

Now it's your turn...what has been your experience with "good Samaritans?"
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Are You Small? By this measurement...  

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I grew up being one of the smallest in my class. There were about 3 or 4 of us that were usually around the same height, prior to our growth spurts. I finally grew a bit. I wasn't shorter than most of the girls anymore, but I was still one of shorter males. So being small has been in my history...can you relate?

Small is not always associated with height or body shape. It also describes a number of objects compared with the rest of the objects. It can mean a statistic in numbers. "There are a *small* number of people who can ____" represents a number. That brings us to this week's quote...
Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds. ~ Albert Einstein
Do you see with your eyes or mind? I agree that few people see the possibilities and analyze the impossibilities. They look at something and think about all the negatives. "We/I can't do that, what if ____ happens?" "Our budget isn't that big!" "We're too small!"

"Mind-seeing" because we analyze it way too much. Ever taken a test and you can't help yourself but to analyze the question so much that you work yourself up? I have.

We are sometimes like that with the way life treats us. We analyze the "minor" things so much instead of trying things and seeing where things may take us.

Are you in the bigger category or the smaller one? If in the bigger, maybe you should thinking about trying out the smaller side once in a while..who knows where life will take you!

Now it's your turn...what do you think of Albert Einstein's quote and its relevance to your life...
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Stand Up Conversion  

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Conversion - a word that is often associated with religion. Some may convert to a new team to root for or a new food product to start using. However, I would say that most of the time it is associated with the religious scene.

What was your conversion like? Mine wasn't too exciting. I was too young to have done anything "bad" but knew what I needed to and was persistent about being baptized. Though I hope my "conversion" was before that - not equating it to my salvation.

It is interesting that in the story we looked at on Sunday, three men were able to convert a "god" believer into a "God" believer. Nebuchadnezzar was a king of which thought of himself as the person who was all powerful. He had a statue made, he made the rules, and he was in charge. Power can do that to a person. However, three men showed him that he was not in charge. They didn't bow to the statue, even under threat. They didn't fall. They stood up. Their "stand" caused King Nebuchadnezzar to be "converted." This taken from Daniel 3. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  • Behavior Makes the Difference ~ Being a parent, I am now in the role of showing behavior. I can "tell" behavior, but if it is against what I show, the effect will not carry much weight nor have much of an impact. The same goes for living out our faith. We can say we love God or He is first in our life, but when our peers start seeing that He is actually 2nd, 3rd, or 4th in our lives, over job, family, sports, hobbies, etc. then we are not showing our faith much at all.
  • Which "God"? ~ King Nebuchadnezzar challenges the 3 (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) of which god will rescue them? I am sure there have been times in which you have asked that same question. In a bind? Is it the god of self or of Heaven that will get you out of the bind? I am not describing the type of bind where you need to find your keys, but one that is causing your life to fall apart in matters that are just out of your hand. When the 3 were being confronted with the thought of going in the fiery furnace - which god was going to rescue them? Nebuchadnezzar was oblivious to the power of the God of Israel - sometimes we tend to be oblivious too...but He is WAY POWERFUL! Choose Him!
  • Second Chance ~ The 3 (mentioned above) were given another opportunity to think about their actions. We have had times in our life in which we think about giving in to the "easy" side. I know I have. But to stay strong is where the rewards will be. The pleasures are just for a season. If the things that go against your faith or cause you to compromise are coming back around for second chances - keep holding them off. It will pass and then you will "win."
To stand up to someone of higher authority or even our friends for what we believe it can take a strong faith. Usually it depends on how close the relationship is or appealing the matter is to you.

In the movie, "Courageous" there is a gentleman who was offered a promotion, but was told to skew the numbers. He knew the benefits of the promotion but also knew his conscience. He chose correctly and was blessed with the promotion.

May we make the right choices in life and possibly cause someone to be "converted" based on standing up for what we know is right!

Now it's your turn...How hard would it be for you to "stand up" to a person/situation?
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Does Being Late Make You Jolly?  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

How do you respond when you are late? Or what does your posture reveal?

I work in an environment in which people are late all the time. They aren't late to a "job" but for an appointment - Bible class or the church assembly/worship. We are slated to start at 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning, but I know it is unlikely to start at that time. I usually start my class about five minutes after.

As much as it may irritate me, my irritation generally is much bigger than their shame of being late...why? That brings us to this week's quote...
I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them.
I do not know who said this quote, but I wonder which side they were on?

Is it because they are embarrassed and they are trying to "laugh it off?" Is it because they just don't care? Is it because the ones that are irritated are at a higher irritation than the one on the other scale?

To know why people who are late may be more jolly than those who are not may be an unanswerable question. However, the outcome does seem like it is possible and I've seen people who are late and do seem more jolly than those who are not late.

May we not be late just to see if we are jolly...be on time to make everyone happy!

Now it's your turn...how'd you answer the question?
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