Friday, December 27, 2013

Online Stewardship

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29 NAS)

Online Stewardship
Christmas is a time for family warmth and home coming, but for some people, it is the season of much stress with traveling, spending, preparing, among other things. Thankfully, these days, keeping in touch is no longer limited to a telephone call or occasional meeting up. We can stay connected with our loved ones and friends through channels such as the social media or online video calling. We can also communicate, share text, photos, videos, music and other media files with just about everybody around the world using mobile phones, digital tablets, or computers.

Nevertheless, when we share about our private lives to the public, we need always to be careful because such sharing can affect others and how they think of us. Our bosses, colleagues, relatives, and friends, for example, might see us as weak or ill-mannered reading some of our status update on social networks. Leaks through words of mouth by people sharing what they read from our social media postings and blogs can also spread and cause damage to relationships.

When I first started a blog, it was not something I wanted to do, but because I was assigned as a journalist by my editor to write an article on blogging and to interview people to find out their thoughts on the subject. A number of people I interviewed gave their reason for blogging as wanting to make friends who share similar interests, while some said they blog to de-stress or fight for a cause.

“Of course, we run the risk of facing ridicule and criticism from people posting their comments,” said an ardent blogger. “But we can deal with it.”

Like many bloggers, I frequently offload my burdens writing about the things that happened in my life. Many people came to know me and my innermost thoughts reading my blog. Today, my life is an open book, found within the pages of my devotional writings. Blogging is my way of serving God and His people, a medium of choice to reach out to the masses in the world. With my Christian blog linked to various social network communities, every blog entry I post gets to reach out to the masses and the targeted people for the Lord.

Of course, once in a while, I would receive some argumentative or negative comments at my blog or social network pages. But by the grace of God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the wisdom of our Lord, those were dealt with without quarrel or hurtful feelings.

What about the rest of us? How do we participate online? Do we turn the social media into avenues by which we serve God, His people, and the people who are yet unsaved? Or do we put to shame the Lord’s name by the things we write on our blogs and social networks’ status?

As we prepare ourselves for the coming year, let us remember not to let negative words proceed from us (Ephesians 4:29, 31), for such can hurt others and expose us to ridicule. Remember, we are to give account every careless word we use (Matthew 12:36). Whether we are conversing, sharing videos, images, music or other types of media files, let us share only whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

Dear Lord, forgive us for too often sharing to the world things that do not edify or minister. Help us not let our bitterness, wrath, anger, thoughtless words, and private lives hurt or mislead others. Remind us constantly Lord to share words of encouragement and things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable or praiseworthy. As we prepare ourselves for the coming year Lord, protect us from the vices that constantly attempt to lure us away from You or into unnecessary commitment. Do not allow us to fall prey to the evil one Lord but guide us by Your Spirit to wisely use online tools such as blogs and the social media carefully for the extension of Your kingdom.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Blessed Christmas 2013

Wishing All of You
Blessed & Merry Christmas!

Blessed Christmas 2013

for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

~ Luke 2:11 (NAS) ~

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas: The Day Hope was Born into the World

Christmas: The Day Hope was Born into the World
For many people, Christmas means a lot of things. For some, it means lots of shopping, traveling, and scrambling all over town to get those special gifts for special people. For others, it may mean getting together with family that they are unable to see throughout the year. These are great things. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get special people gifts. It is greatly important as well to spend time with family. However, Christmas marks a day much more important than gifts or family. It celebrates the day that God sent Hope back into the world.

Picture this. From the time the prophet Malachi, which is the last recorded Old Testament book, to the time of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) there was 400 years of silence. God’s chose Israel as His chosen people. Starting with Abraham, God promised a linage that would never perish and would bless all people. Abraham descendants were enslaved by Egypt for over 400 years, when God sent a leader, Moses, to bring them out of Egypt. After leaving the bondage of Egypt, Israel remained faithful to God for a time. Unfortunately, the longer Israel lived around the pagan nations, the more they grew into to practices of those nations. They eventually started worshipping and serving dead idols rather than the one, true living God. God began sending prophets to various parts of Israel. Those prophets began speaking the words of God and pleading for people to turn back to the Lord. Eventually Israel, was broke into two nations (Israel and Judah). Israel was wiped out by the Assyrians and Judah was taken into captivity by Babylon for 70 years. The prophets began giving snapshots of a Messiah that was to come and lead God’s people and save them. After the people of Judah were liberated from Babylon, the people turned back to God. But their worship to God became nothing more than dead religion. So with the last of the prophets, Malachi, God did not speak to Israel for almost 400 years.

The people of Israel, however, still held on to the hope of the coming Messiah. Although the Pharisees of that time taught hypocrisy, there were still those in Israel who were looking forward to the coming Messiah. Then one day, prophecy started being fulfilled. The forerunner of Messiah spoken about in Isaiah, “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptist was born. Not too much later, Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born in Bethlehem by the virgin Mary, in a manger because there was no place in the town inn. This fulfilled the Scripture that said, “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). Hope came back into the world when Jesus was born. Jesus came and ministered to all of Israel, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again three days later from the grave, overcoming death. He not only paid the ransom for Israel, but opened up the door of salvation to all who believe in His name an turn from their sin. He now seated at the right hand of God and He will return for His Church.

Jesus came in the most humble of ways. He came as a baby. He didn’t come in with an army. He didn’t come in as a conquering king. He came as a baby, in human form, to relate to us and give us hope that once seemed lost. So this Christmas season, really reflect on the fact that Jesus chose to step out of divinity, and live as a human only to be hung on a cross for the sin of the world. I encourage you to read the Birth of Christ in the book of Matthew and Luke. When you are unwrapping your gifts, spending time with family, and eating hearty meals, remember Jesus this year. Jesus is the reason for the season. Truly. Joey Coons

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Ornament

What?!? Twenty-five dollars? For an ORNAMENT?

Christmas Ornament
I have to admit it—I have a weakness for Christmas tree decorations, but I drew the line when I saw this ornament in the department store the other day. It was the most original one I had ever seen—glass in the shape of a teardrop with etched gold curling in a spiral pattern all the way around the edge—the perfect balance of tastefulness and originality. It would be placed front and centre on my tree, and those noticing it would comment on its beauty.

The price tag was nowhere to be found, though, so I waited in line three people back in order to get the price from the cashier. Imagine my surprise when I got to her and she said, "This is our original brand. It's a bargain at $25.00."

No way, I ranted inside my brain. I was so disgusted with the price that I didn't even offer to put it back. Instead I said, "Thanks anyway," and stalked out in a huff, leaving it on the counter. At least my bitter thoughts did not roll of my tongue!

Hours later, with the whole scene still mulling through my head, the Lord brought a convicting thought to my spirit.

That first Christmas was celebrated so differently than we celebrate it now. There was nothing ornamental about it, other than THE Ornament, which was Jesus Himself. He was not wrapped up in bows, but in a simple cloth. The scene was not lit up with blinking, chasing lights, but illuminated by the stars alone. There was no finely decorated fir tree with pine-scented potpourri filling the room; instead, the air was filled with the odors of animals and hay.

Yet even without such sparkling accessories, that first Christmas was the most beautiful and glowing Christmas of all time. The presence of Jesus is what made it so magnificent.

The Holy Spirit also showed me that this doesn't just apply at Christmas, but to every other month of the year as well. We decorate ourselves in so many ways, don't we? Not just in our outward appearance, but also in our hearts and minds. We do so with such things as jewelry, fashionable clothes, a fake sense of humor, flattery and pride. 

This is the opposite of the example Jesus set for us when He was on the earth. He was humble and genuine in every way, pointing to God and His Word every time He spoke. My heart's desire is to do the same.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)
"So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord-who is the Spirit-makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image."

No frills about it: Jesus is the grandest Ornament of them all. His beauty will shine through us as we ask Him to redirect our attempts to decorate our lives with anything other than Himself. Let's wrap ourselves in His glorious image today! LauraLee Shaw

Friday, December 6, 2013

Beware of Scammers

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15 NAS)

Beware of Scammers
When a job seeker responded to an online ad for a customer service job opening, he thought it would be one of a hundred small acts he did that might get him back to work. With most of his e-mail messages to prospective employers going unanswered, he was relieved when a company replied with a work-from-home job.

To help him get started with his home office, the company sent him money orders so he could purchase via money wire the requisite laptop and other equipment from several different people. The job seeker deposited nine United States Postal Service money orders into his bank account and wired a total of nearly $8,000 to the various vendors. Neither the laptop nor anything else however was received, and the money orders turned out to be already cashed or counterfeit. This scam was reported in The New York Times by Riva Richmond on August 5, 2009. Scams such as this are still prevalent today.

“Looking back at the whole thing I was very, very na├»ve, but I needed a job so bad,” said the victim of the scam. “I’m behind in everything. I’m behind in my rent. I’m behind in all the bills I’m responsible for. It has wiped me out financially.”

Many people have fallen prey to scammers and criminals out of desperation seeking for jobs or ways to even the odds amid financial setback. The fraud-fueled bank crisis which precipitated the recession that lingers till this day, for example, is a case of what could happen if we unwittingly fall victim to moneymaking schemers who might have set sophisticated traps to draw us in.

Suggestions given in The New York Times article on protecting ourselves from common frauds include being skeptical, doing our homework and research, limiting our personal information online, and going low tech via local want ads, agencies or personal networks.

Like the need to protect ourselves against scammers and criminals, Jesus warned us to beware of the false prophets who come to us in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. We will know them by their fruits, for a good tree cannot produce bad fruit nor can a bad tree produce good fruit (Matthew 7:15-16, 18). Any prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in the name of the Lord, and the thing does not come about or come true, is a false prophet. Such a one, we need not be afraid (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Many will in Christ’s name say “I am He” and mislead many (Matthew 24:5, 11, 24). Such will on the day of the Lord say, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” Then our Lord will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:22-23).

Are we at risk of falling into a trap in our desperate need for a job to make ends meet or to tide over a financial setback? If we are, let us not in our haste fall prey to scammers or criminals but do our homework well in researching and knowing all parties involved. Are we hearing strange teachings or predictions from people who claim to be of God? Beware of false prophets and teachers whose aim is to mislead many, even the elect. Rather than fall victim to con artists, let us like sheep in the midst of wolves, be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

Help us dear Lord to be shrewd in recognizing frauds, scams, false prophecies and teachings. Do not let us fall prey to the schemers or deceivers O Lord. Tide us over our times of desperation Lord that we might not foolishly get ourselves into greater trouble or crisis. If we have fallen prey Lord, show us the way out of the situation. In You Lord we put our complete trust for You alone are our sufficiency.