Monday, December 14, 2009

Do You Want a Better Christmas than Last Year?

Getting in the Zone for the Best Christmas Ever
By Barbara Henderson

In my article last week I talked about Mary and Martha.

Mary chose the good part. She went to the ‘get-to-gather’ that Jesus was hosting.
He fed those who attended His party the words of life.

Martha threw her own party, and provided her guests with food that would satisfy them briefly, but leave them hungry by the next meal time.

Now, as we go into the month of Christmas preparation, we must also determine whether we will be paying attention to the things of Christ, or the things of the world. We have a choice to make. Let us choose the good part, the one needful thing. Let us choose to draw closer to Jesus Christ. Chose, like Mary did, to get it right with God first, and let the things of the world take care of themselves. Make it a ‘Jesus first’ Christmas.

Consider these two possible paths.

First, there is the path recorded in the Old Testament when everyone did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6, and Judges 21:25.) I know it appeared to Martha that it was right to be a thoughtful, even overboard, hostess for the guests in her home. Her intent was to do good; OR, her intent was to avoid thinking about the things Jesus was talking about. It seemed right to her to put Jesus in second place, and put her job as hostess first. If you do what is right in your own eyes, then you don’t really have occasion to change anything. Doing what is right in your own eyes keeps the focus on you, your brilliant analysis of situations, and your plan for making everything work out right. It pretty much ignores the Lord and His plans.

Second, there is the path taken by those who did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord.
(1 Kings 15:5, 1 Kings 15:11, 1 Kings 22:43, 2 Kings 12:2, 2 Kings 14:3, 2 Kings 15:3, 2 Kings 16:2. 2 Kings, 18:3, 2 Kings 22:2, 2 Chronicles 20:32, 2 Chronicles, 24:2, 2 Chronicles 25:2, 2 Chronicles 25:2, 2 Chronicles 26:4, 2 Chronicles 28:1, 2 Chronicles, 29:2, 2 Chronicles 34:2.) Doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord takes the pressure off you. A particular outcome is not your main goal. Drawing closer to the Lord and pleasing Him is your goal.

In order to do that which is right in the eyes of the Lord, one must know the truth regarding exactly what is right in according to the Lord. So, let’s take the time to figure out how to spot the truth, or how to divide truth from falsehoods. You do that by spending time with Jesus in the Bible.

The key to knowing the truth is first know Jesus Christ. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. (Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9)

Then, you must study His book so that you know what it says is the truth. Accept the Bible for what it is. It is the Word of God. It is without Error. It is pure truth. This is the rock on which you may stand. Remember, the same God who spoke the world into place and created everything that is created would have no problem getting His book written and preserved exactly according to His specifications. To think otherwise is to have a form of godliness, but deny the actual power of God. (2 Timothy 3:5)

Then you must take the truth you have learned and apply it to your personal actions.
You do not have to waste your time determining what is right in your eyes, or the eyes of the world. There are no extenuating circumstances that make the truth less true, or wrong behavior more acceptable. There are no circumstances that make what was true today false tomorrow.

Remember that you cannot determine truth by emotions. Any emotion can be duplicated by the devil. We have the Bible so we do not have to rely on our emotions to determine the truth. The truths found in the Bible may, and even most likely will, produce an emotional reaction. But, the emotional reaction must come after determining what the truth of the matter is.

Emotions are often used as distractions during the Christmas season. Guilt is really overused this time of year. People are made to feel guilty for not ‘getting into the spirit of the season’. That basically boils down to spending more than you can afford in money, time, and place. In following the emotionalist path any time of year, you will find yourself pulled in so many directions that you are not able to accomplish anything. You wind up satisfying no one, not even yourself.

A ‘feel good high’ can also be an emotion that is used against you. Doing things out of the ordinary that benefit others can make you feel good. Perhaps the feeling of doing good becomes the goal instead of actually doing good.

Once you know the truth, it should bring about a physical response. It should motivate you to do the things that Christ says to do. You life should become an open book of someone who is doing the things Christ says to do. Applying Bible teachings to personal actions should become the norm in your life.

In knowing the truth of God, and applying Biblical truth to personal actions, you will become a consistent and stable Christian. You will become someone on which your family and friends can rely.

A person who is consistently doing the right things (right according to Jesus Christ) is not subject to the whims of emotions. That person knows what is right, and he or she is going to do their dead level best to do what is right. They will do what is right on the days their emotions are up. They will do what is right on the days their emotions are down. They will have their eyes on the long term goal or prize. Circumstances will not cause them to question their faith or the righteousness of God.

I don’t know what Martha’s motivation was when she was serving her guests on the day Jesus visited. I do know it must have been hard for her to see all the people there, and not go into her perfect hostess mode. That is the same problem we face today. We see things that need to be done. We see our family needing our time and attention. We see all the extra things that need to be done over the Christmas season. Maybe we see extra work that will provide extra money for the gifts we want to see under the tree. Just like Martha, we look at everything from a worldly point of view. We wind up stressed to the limit. Then, when Christmas finally arrives, we try to relax and cram a month worth of joy into one day.

Martha skipped the needful thing when Jesus was in her home. She missed a great blessing.
We often skip the needful thing when Jesus is in our heart. We miss a great blessing.

Mary chose to first seek the Kingdom of God. You might even say that Mary was serving God while Martha was serving mammon. Martha may have ‘seen the need’ of serving her guests and set aside serving the Lord until she could get the job of hostess done.

If you would like to make this Christmas season the most delightful Christmas you have ever had, it only requires that you set your mind to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Practically speaking, that means giving God the first attention of the day, and continuing to consider His presence with you throughout the day. Of course, that is a great game plan for every day of the year, not just at Christmas time.

It may appear to you, just as it did to Martha, that something MUST be done immediately. You may be tempted to set aside fellowship with the Lord in order to get something important done. Don’t do it. (If you need to call 911 – then it is ok to set aside time with Jesus to get that done.)

Overall, it is a choice. In putting Christ first, you are choosing to serve God. In putting God in second place to the cares of the world, you are serving mammon.

Matthew chapter 6 tells us:

24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
As you go into the Christmas season, remember Martha. She had the King of kings sitting in her living room. She was so caught up in the cares of this world that she missed that opportunity to listen to Him speak.

Don’t feel badly about letting other things go in order to seek first the kingdom of God. ‘Things’ have a way of getting done, or it turns out they didn’t need to be done in the first place.

Something that Jerry and I enjoy beyond anything we ever imagined is time spent with our two grandsons. They spend the night once a week. We have a party every single time they are here. We let them choose the party food. They always, without fail, choose peanut butter and crackers, cheese pizza, peanut butter cups, and chips. We watch a movie or play a game. That is the same thing they eat most of the time anyway. The difference is we put the food on party plates, which is to say fancy plates we picked up at garage sales. They are happy, and we have a great time. It is an altogether wonderful time, and so simple it almost makes me feel guilty. (almost - but not quite)

Do you remember a time in your childhood when you looked forward to Christmas without a care or a worry? If you would have that joy again, start now by choosing to be like Mary. Do the one thing that is needful. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Drop that big serving spoon of catering to other people’s needs and tend to your own spiritual needs first. Your greatest need is time with Jesus. Don’t let the cares of this world rob you of that time and the joy that it brings.

Barbara Henderson

Ps. Please pray for my mom. This is her first Christmas in sixty years without my dad.
And remember to pray for family and friends.