Thanksgiving? Christmas? Do you remember those days? As I write this, it is almost Thanksgiving. I just drove through a neighborhood where almost half of the houses already have their Christmas decorations up. Of course, the stores have been advertising Christmas for weeks and “Black Friday” Christmas shopping and special prices have sprawled out into the week and even onto Thanksgiving Day itself.
I wonder how many of us really remember (or even know) the reasons behind these holidays. Thanksgiving Day was decreed as a national holiday in 1941 by the U.S. Congress as a day of “prayer and thanksgiving to God.” It is supposed to be a day when we the people of the nation along with our fellow citizens give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives, communities, and nation. However, Thanksgiving is now mostly about travel, food, football, and especially consumerism as Christmas pricing arrives.
I wonder how many of us really remember (or even know) that Christmas is a national holiday in the United States set aside to remember the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. Christmas is a time in which we remember that God entered into our world fulfilling hundreds of prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) in order to live, love, die, and eventually be raised from the dead for the salvation of human beings. However, Christmas is mostly about holiday decorations, extravagant gifts (whether you have the money to pay for them or not), Santa Claus, flying reindeer, and special music.
The ancient Church calendar reminds us that Christmas begins on December 25 (or the 24th on the Eve) and lasts for 12 days. It is preceded by the season of Advent, a time of preparation for the Messiah’s return and for remembering the Messiah’s birth.
Do you remember the holidays? I hope you will this year. Thanksgiving can be a day of worship and gratitude with those you love. Christmas can be a deeply spiritual and meaningful time as one recalls the birth of Jesus, prays for spiritual renewal, and celebrates the transformation He brings to one’s life and community. Both holidays also bring a unique opportunity to provide for those in need. Take time to remember the real holidays this year! Give of yourself to help someone. Go to church somewhere on Christmas Eve. Spend some extra time in prayer. It will make all the difference in your holiday!
In our busyness, we can neglect some important aspects of following Jesus, which would help us to know Him better, to understand Him better, and to deepen our relationship with Him. These aspects of following Jesus are usually not screaming for our attention; therefore, they are often overlooked in the hectic pace at which most of us live. While not an exhaustive list, these relationship attributes are offered to encourage you to go deeper with the Lord.Generosity: A Gift from God Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist who made millions of dollars from inventing and selling dynamite. One day in 1888, he was shocked to open the newspaper and see this headline: “The Merchant of Death is Dead.” It was his obituary! After reading his own obituary, Alfred Nobel realized that the legacy of his life was not what he had hoped. He set out to make a change becoming a generous person who shared his resources to make a positive difference in the world. Learn to become a generous person.
Am I Ready to Pray? (Bude, Cornwall, UK)
INTRODUCTIOIN -- Prayer is: 1) spending time with God – acknowledging God’s presence in all our lives’ activities; and 2) conversation with God – listening to and talking with God. Prayer reflects on our relationship with God. Why don’t we pray. The Apostle James, in James 4:2-3, provides a perspective regarding Prayer Life: “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."
SUNDAY MESSAGE – In James 4:3, we are told: “You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”. As followers of Jesus, we are given the awesome privilege of being able to come before God, the Creator of the Universe, in our prayers. We are given a multitude of alternatives for our prayers that include prayers of "petition" (praying for one's own needs) and prayers of "intercession" (praying for the needs of others). God wants prayers of "petition" from us -- all our needs and concerns should be brought to Him in prayer because He loves and cares for us. However, God want us to, also, focus on others and their needs (intercession) -- physical and spiritual. "Intercessory prayer” is fundamental to deepening our prayer life and our personal relationship with God.
However, we often enter into our prayers unprepared – there is sin in our lives, or our prayers are all about “us”; and we seek “our will” and not “God’s will”. Therefore, we need to learn to “pray rightly”.
To “pray rightly”, we need to consider: “1) Am I “clean” before the Lord – have I confessed the known sins in my life that I have not repented? 2) Am I in “communion with others” – are there people with whom I am not at peace? 3) Am I “confident in God’s Word” – do I believe God’s promises are true? 4) Am I “committed to God’s will” – am I committed to act on and obey God’s answer to my prayers even though His answer is not my desire? 5) Am I “centered in the Holy Spirit” – am I focused and tuned in on the Lord, filtering out the “noise of the world”? and 6) Am I “concerned for God’s Glory” – the ultimate purpose of our prayers is uplifting and glorifying God’s name?”.
Additionally, in both our worship and our prayers: “Are we expecting to encounter God?”.
Remember, Jesus taught us that: 1) God is more ready to answer prayer than we are ready to pray; and 2) we must be persistent in our prayers until we have an answer.
Pray specific prayers, in the Holy Spirit and in Scripture, for ourselves and for others -- be persistent.
TODAY’S AFFIRMATION: I affirm that because of what God has done for me in His Son, Jesus, I AM RIGHTEOUS IN GOD’S EYES. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21).
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SCRIPTURE REFERENCE (ESV): James 4:3; Isaiah 59:1-2; 1 John 1:8; Matthew 5:23-24 Matthew 6:14; 1 Peter 3:7; Luke 11:9-13; Jeremiah 33:3; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:7; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 5:7; 1 John 5:14; Psalms 37:4; John 14:23; James 1:5; Romans 8:26-27; John 14:26. (Click the blue below to read the full Bible text for these scripture references in BOLD.).All Sermons by Archbishop Foley Beach