Christmas Thoughts

Merry Christmas, friends. It’s almost difficult for me to believe that we are all here again. Another year has passed by. Freezing, snowing, hibernation… thawing, rebirth, warmth… heat, growth, sunlight… death, cold, migration. And then, back to snow. This earth has come to the end of yet another cycle around the sun, in God’s Solar System. The year has been good, and bad. Joyful, and sad. Sweet, and bitter. Peaceful, and calamitous. It’s had its moments. And we are here, ever-continuing into the next year. (We’ll never stop the System–only God can.)

About two thousand and seventeen cycles around the sun ago, in March or so, Jesus was born. Everything people say about this sounds cliché to me, so let me get this through your head. Jesus was–and is–the incarnation of God. He is not like God, he does not possess attributes of God, he is God, and there was never a moment in all of time, all of history into infinitum, that he was not God. Yes, there are other parts of God, but Jesus is not less or more God than they are. The Holy Spirit, God the Father, and God the Son (Jesus) make up what Christians refer to as the Trinity, the Godhead, the ultimate unity that created the world together. And yes, they are plural (“let us make man in our own image”), but yes, the Trinity is quite hard to understand and we don’t have to get into it now. I’m just making sure you realize this dude is God.

Anyhow–God became a child, to experience life as a man and ultimately die on the cross for our sin. Jesus came and was crushed by his father in the Godhead. It’s not fair! No seriously, think about it, this isn’t fair at all. Jesus was perfect, and loving, and caring, and sweet–not weak–but tender. His ministry to us was constantly focused on healing people, and condemning the judgmental. Somebody like this deserves to live to be 107 and then drift off in their sleep. But he was crucified for us, because he loves us, and he wants to have each and every one of us in Heaven with him someday. If you weren’t raised in the church, or that’s just confusing to you, feel free to reach out to me. But the point is, Christmas is about Jesus, Forever Saviour, loving us in such a way that prompted this humbling act. Don’t ever let yourself forget what that really means.

In addition to the birth of Jesus, Christmas is also a time of year-end reflection. For me, 2017 was mixed. Bitter moments of dark depression, contrasted with seasons of friendship and renewal. Dull, quiet days, and world-traveling days. Summer laziness, Autumn busyness. And I suppose a year is too large a span of time to not be mixed, to some degree.

But overall… it was beautiful. Mostly because of the people in my life that lit the way through the dark times. In an awful valley, a friend came, just to talk, and walk, six or seven times around the block, and be my voice, until the tears subsided, and I knew life would be okay for another few days. A friend listened to me, even though I said all the same things over and over again, because he knew I had to get it out. A friend drove thirty minutes just to sit next to me, and look into my eyes, and ask “what’s wrong?” and cry because I was crying, and hug me until I could brave the rain again. A friend let me run errands with him now and then, playing music and just finding the time to be together, because I needed advice to face issues of the week. A friend asked “how are you doing?” in a way that told me “if you need to talk, or cry, or just hug, that’s okay.” A friend walked with me for two hours at midnight in a small town in the Summer, letting me tell him how I felt and what I thought, listening and caring. A friend had coffee with me, and assured me that God really did want to have a friendship with me, to have my love, and for me to have his love. So, even though this year was one of the hardest years of my life, it was the best year of my life, because of these people. Thank you, all of you that have shown love to me. I thank God for using you in my life.

Merry Christmas, friends. I love you. And I won’t forget, no matter what, the care you have shown me.

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Quite Conversational: 7th Day Adventists

It was a quiet, calm, slow Summer Sunday evening. I hopped on my bike and rode for maybe ten minutes, going to a place I often went to think and pray and hope. It was a forest trail; a long, winding, rising and falling path that welcomed the thoughtful soul. Birds chattered in the earlier hours, but most of them were snuggled into their bedded nests by now, their young ones safe in their wings. It was about eight’o’clock and were it the shivering months of winter, the sun would have been gone long ago. But instead, it stayed in the sky, content to continue its conversation with the trees a little longer before it went on to visit its other friends.

I pulled onto the path and begin walking the narrow wheels of my bike along the grassy way. It opened into an area that surrounding a small, man-made pond. In Ohio, they would call it a lake. Next to the pond was a picnic table, and I often stopped her to be particularly contemplative before going the rest of the way. Today, however, was already getting too dark for a visit to the forest, so I decided I would go home after sitting on the bench a bit.

I heard singing. Sweet, good singing, the kind that can only happen when a family sings together; their ribbons of harmony and melody twirling together into a heavenly, united sound. Yet, I did not understand the words. I sort of recognized them, though, as being German. Finally, this singing family emerged from the path and looked at me pleasantly. Me being the talkative sort that I am, I smiled warmly and began conversing with them. I asked them what they were singing, and I realized as they explained it that it was a hymn book. I assumed they were Christians of course, and I don’t know quite how I realized they were Seventh Day Advents (not to say that Seventh Day Adventists can’t be Christians of course) but maybe they told me.

At this point, I knew very little about the Adventists. I considered them to be sort of like the Mormons or the Jehovah’s False Witnesses, but having met a few myself I now wouldn’t be so harsh in my judgment. A few quick things about the Adventists: (1) they worship on Saturday and take Sabbath very seriously, and it really seems to help many of their communities, as they often live to a hundred or more. (2) Their history is rampant with people saying “Christ will come back, let’s go to this hilltop on this date and wait for Him! Then… it doesn’t happen. The Adventists learned after a while that a worldview based on unkept promises is not very convincing, so they stopped making these declarations at some point. (3) Ellen White is their false-teacher in chief, being praised as a prophetess by many, and she claimed to have visions. She also plagiarized other writers and speakers. A lot. So… that doesn’t really make her look good. To read more about White, read this.

As our conversation progressed, the debate over works versus faith came up. Is faith  by works, or works a sign of faith? My stand is that works are a great evidence to faith, but they don’t give us our salvation by any means whatsoever. If they did, we’d no sooner be in Heaven than we would be bragging about how we accomplished our own cleansing and made it possible to come to Paradise by buying the ticket with our own good deeds. They of course, were not about to communicate what I have just explained, because that makes it sound wretched. Nevertheless, what they said certainly made it sound like this is what they believed.

I think that’s a commentary on every quietly-kept religious group. (I wouldn’t use the term ‘cult’ for the Adventists like I would the Mormons or other groups of the same nature, but there is a slight resemblance.) It’s hard to understand what they truly believe through all the layers of explanation they offer. Plus, as is the practice with the Mormons, many groups like these seem to keep a watch out for new valid objections to their doctrine,  and strike it down with new side-skirttings that are spread through the ranks and taught to all members. Then, anyone who cares for solid doctrine has to go find another contradiction to bring up against them in conversation.

At the end of all of it, through a couple conversations later and much research, I developed my understanding of the Seventh Day Adventists: I respect them for their keeping of the Sabbath, and, while I don’t think we are held to that, I think everyone would do better practicing it. I disagree with their fantastical revelations about future events, but accept that much of that is in the past, and most Adventists don’t teach things like that today. Personally, I think that many of them are likely very true Christians, which is not something I would say about Jehovah’s False Witnesses or the Mormons. (Or, as they put on their name tags, “Latter-Day Saints.”) As long as they give glory to God for their salvation and don’t hold everyone else to their Sabbath standards, I think they may very well be our brothers and sisters in Christ. And, as outlandish as it may sound, I think we may have a few things we could pick up from their way of life.

 

the meditations of the christian

Do you meditate? The answer, no matter who you are, is yes. You meditate on something.

You might meditate on your worries. You might meditate on your sadness. You might meditate on sin. You might meditate on knowledge. You might meditate on people.

Christians should meditate on Truth: The Truth that God Is. The Truth that God loves us. The Truth that He is in control. And the Truth in His Word.

Here are only a few passages where the Bible speaks of meditation, both on His Word and on His Ways: Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2, Psalm 77:12, and Psalm 119:15.

But we don’t talk about this much in church, and we don’t think about this in our life. We think “Christians pray. Christians read the Bible,” and maybe “Christians go to church.” But those aren’t the only things that Christians should do. We should also practice purposeful meditation. We should not succumb to natural thought; to the worries and fears and thoughts and anger that usually overtakes our mind, we should take control of our thoughts.

So practice purposeful meditation. Choose an attribute of God or a verse to meditate on. Or combine the two: meditate on a verse that talks about God.

If you want to begin a lifelong habit of purposeful meditation, (or you want to revive an old habit,) here’s an idea: work your way through the 23rd Psalm, meditating on each verse until you’re ready to move on to the next verse.

Psalm 23, English Standard Version (ESV)

A Psalm of David.

     The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

I looked for a good verse to meditate on, and finally came to this classic. I think meditating  on this will reveal things I’ve never thought about, and will show me new things.

With this plan, there really is no plan. I’m just gonna start with verse one and move through the passage as I decide to, memorizing and meditating on one verse at a time.

Do you want to do this, too? Fill out the below forum thingy to let me know. I will give updates at some point in the future, possibly by email.

I really feel strongly about chipmunks.

Jesus Lives!!!

Jesus lives, just as He said! He has saved us from our sin and given us eternal life! Praise God on this great day! Tell everyone of this wonderful news! God is indeed good. He has saved us! Blessed be The Lord, our only savior. We are not doomed! Praise God!

Here’s the whole story of what happened:

Matthew 28:1-20, ESV

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Rejoice!

Good Friday Meditations

Today is Good Friday, the day we celebrate and mourn the bitter-sweet death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He died such a terrible death, for us. He died so we could have eternal life. He died so that we could know the Father and be one with Him. He died because He loves us. He died for everyone that has ever been born and everyone that will be born. But the only way to have what He gave His life for is to receive it. You see, God created this world and everything in it. He was the beginning. He is holy, and He created this world holy in the beginning. But the first two humans (Adam and Eve) sinned, and passed this down to all their descendants, including you and me.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23, ESV

But because God loves us, He had a plan from the very beginning to save us. He sent His son, Jesus, to the earth to save us all.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8, ESV

Because our sin is totally against God, we can’t be with Him unless this barrier is broken.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23, ESV

This is why Jesus died for us. And this is why you can only be saved through Christ. How do you receive this gift that Jesus died to give? You pray. You admit your sins, believe that Jesus died for you and came back to life, and ask God to forgive you of what you’ve done wrong. He will save you,

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Romans 10:9-10, ESV

And,

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Romans 10:13, ESV

Do you understand? If you feel that you should do this, talks to God. Tell Him you’re sorry for your sins, and that you believe Jesus died and came back to life to take them away. You don’t need to be fancy with your wording or say it any specific way. Just remember that it’s only through Christ that we can have this salvation.

If you decided to follow Jesus, you now have the Holy Spirit of God in you! He will change you from the inside out. Please email (see this contact page) me and tell me. I’ll help you and answer your questions as best I can.

If you have questions that keep you from receiving God’s gift but you want to believe, feel free to email me and ask me anything. I’ll find answers.

If you are already part of the family of God, meditate on the cross these few days. Remember what Jesus did for us. Imagine how the disciples felt, not knowing the future, during this time.

God bless you.

-LeviGrant

A Small Guide to Witnessing in 5 Tips

I believe that Christians should be actively leading others to Christ. Not because we get extra brownie points for it or something, but because Christianity is worth sharing. For two reasons: (1) God promises eternal life in Heaven and avoidance of Hell for those who are in Christ, and (2) true Christianity gives a better life here on earth. Witnessing gives others a chance to have a relationship with the God of the universe. How could we not share that?!

You were probably already convinced witnessing was a good thing to do anyways, but I’m just making sure. Here are five tips to help you witness to unbelievers.

Use Scripture

If you fail to use Scripture, you’re making a big mistake. Imagine using your hand to pound in a large nail instead of a hammer. When it comes to witnessing, we need to use the right tool. It’s okay to talk with your own words, but if you’re not guiding the conversation with Scripture, there’s something wrong. Scripture just does something that your words won’t do. Maybe have the person read the verses, or you can read them out loud, or whatever.

Take It Slow

Don’t pick fruit before it’s ripe, and don’t rush to have someone “pray the prayer” until they really want to. Getting someone to pray certain words when they’re not ready will give them an assurance of salvation, even if their heart wasn’t in it. Wait until all you have to do is touch the fruit for it to fall off. Trust God to do the rest.

Don’t Correct Everything

Yes, they’ll have misconceptions. But you don’t need to correct them immediately. Don’t go down a rabbit trail talking about what Heaven is actually like, or explaining what every theologian thinks about people who have never heard the gospel before they die. Stick with the basics, and help correct their misconceptions later on.

Give Them Tools

You can’t be there for them all the time, so tell them to read their Bible and pray. Maybe give them a little plan or direct them to a good website that will get them in the Word. Invite them to your church, or find them a good church in their area. During the first months, you should stay in touch and try to resolve any issues that arise. If you can, meet with them on a regular basis and go through a book together or something.

Prepare Them

Prepare them for the inevitable. They will have times of doubt, and they will have some persecution from those around them. Tell them that it’s okay, and lead them to Bible verses that help. Just recognizing that these things will happen will give them hope, and they’ll be less afraid of them.

Here’s a little saying that my grandpa uses in witnessing for this purpose:

Never doubt in the darkness what God made clear in the light.

Some Reminders

  • Be nice!
  • Stay calm.
  • Be a good example.
  • Don’t pick fruit before it’s ripe.

I acquired these ideas while watching my grandpa witness to someone and lead them to the Lord. You can find his website here. (Also: He has a very good post he wrote on Islam here that everyone should read.)

Go give people the good news!