Set to scenes from The Nativity Story… O Holy Night – by Josh Groban
Set to scenes from The Nativity Story… O Holy Night – by Josh Groban
Who do you remember from 2015?
When faces come to mind, it’s hard not to think about the current field of presidential candidates and the bravery many have displayed at pivotal points in their political careers. Others have not shown such stellar qualities, and discerning voters hopefully will sort this out.
But when I look back at 2015, I remember ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances, and both wisely and sometimes creatively devising solutions. Many still walk a hazardous path where the foes are financial ruin, court drama or much worse: acts of terror from evil enemies. They need our fervent prayers and tangible support.
Here’s my list of the top ten acts of Christian courage in 2015:
10. Dedicated pro-life advocates gather daily outside Planned Parenthood clinics coast to coast to provide sidewalk counseling, to protest the actions of the abortion giant and encourage prospective patients to choose life instead. The week before Christmas, many local groups held “empty manger” protests while singing Christmas carols. A nationwide effort this summer was called #ProtestPP.
9. Crystal O’Connor told an Indiana TV reporter her family-owned pizza shop, Memories Pizza, would not cater a same-sex “wedding” if asked. Deluged with vicious calls and emails from “gay” sympathizers, including one tweet advocating arson, Memories closed. Good news: A crowd-funding effort yielded over $800,000, and the restaurant re-opened.
8. Cake designer Jack Phillips of Lakewood, Colorado, filed an appeal in October to the Colorado Supreme Court following two unconstitutional lower court rulings finding him guilty of “discrimination” for denying two men a “wedding” cake because of his Christian faith, in a state where such ceremonies had not yet been legalized. Phillips perseveres in his fight against an egregious denial of his religious freedom.
7. A grandmother and florist in Washington state, Barronelle Stutzman, has appealed a lower court ruling that she violated state “sexual orientation” discrimination law when she turned down a wedding floral order for two men in 2013. She did so because of her faith in Jesus Christ. She has also filed a counter suit against the state of Washington in a U.S. District Court. The expected legal fees and fines could ruin Stutzman financially.
6. Because he spoke out about the health risks of homosexual behavior, and a hospital’s inappropriate promotion of “LGBT” activities, Dr. Paul Church has been expelled from the medical staff of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston where he has practiced for 28 years. It’s a tragic triumph of the “LGBT” agenda prevailing over fact and sound science. Despite the 10-year battle, Dr. Church did not back down from the truth. A urologist with a stellar medical background, Dr. Church has served on the Harvard Medical School faculty for many years.
5. Former owners of the bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Aaron and Melissa Klein, this week paid a fine of $135,000 ordered by the state of Oregon Department of Labor, owed to two women who requested a cake for their “wedding.” Aaron declined because of his Christian faith. After a vicious media campaign, months of protests and harassing calls and emails, the business was forced to close. The Kleins have five children. The Daily Signal found a pattern of possible collusion between Oregon state officials and a large homosexual group, Basic Rights Oregon. A state official put a gag order on the couple, yet the Kleins have declared they will not be silenced, thereby losing not just religious freedom but freedom of speech.
4. The voters of Houston had the last say on special rights based on “LGBT” behaviors when they turned down the so-called “equal rights ordinance” in November, 61 to 39 percent. A broad coalition of churches, including many Hispanic and black congregations, joined to advocate against the measure, which would have allowed men in women’s restrooms.
3. The Center for Medical Progress launched possibly the most daring and effective pro-life campaign ever by releasing a series of undercover videos showing the grisly truth about Planned Parenthood: These clinics are apparently proudly trafficking in human baby body parts. It’s not obscene enough that unborn humans die in these clinics, but their remains are then dissected and sold for “research.” Planned Parenthood issued a series of usual denials, along with “the sky is not blue” and “the pope is not Catholic.” They will not ultimately be able to lie their way out of this one. CMP and its leader David Daleiden are being sued by abortion supporters and subjected to a trumped-up investigation by HHS. This important effort needs our prayers.
2. Even after the U.S Supreme Court spoke the “last word” on marriage in June – that Jesus Christ misunderstood and two men really can nuptialize sodomy – millions of Americans are not buying it. One of those is County Clerk Kim Davis, who bravely went to jail just for wanting her name to be omitted from same-sex licenses. A Democratic Kentucky governor was just not progressive enough to allow that, but the new conservative, Republican governor is – and he promised Kim Davis’ name will not appear on those licenses.
1. Even as Americans are being fined, losing jobs, losing businesses and getting harassing emails and phone calls, these situations pale beside incidents of Christian persecution throughout the globe, increasing in severity in the Middle East. As we hear about torture and rape, and learn about a video proudly launched by ISIS where Christian men kneel on a beach before being beheaded, our hearts should be heavy and our prayers desperate for these saints of the faith. God’s loving arms surely wait to receive them in heaven.
Their valor sets the example as we enter 2016. If Americans cannot retain religious liberty and freedom of speech, under daily threat by the “progressive” left, we face physical persecution in the not-distant future.
It’s time to rise, put on the full armor of God and contend earnestly for our faith, our families and our country.
by LINDA HARVEY
Yesterday we learned that obeying God in small matters is essential to receiving His thrilling rewards. What He asks us to do is never insignificant—though we may not always recognize the importance of saying yes to His requests. Peter couldn’t have imagined the impact a simple boat trip would have in his life. He could have said to Jesus, “I’m too tired, Teacher. Take the other boat.” Instead, his obedience opened the door for God to bless Peter with a revolutionary ministry.
As God’s children, we should ask Him what He wants us to do in daily situations—“What would You have me say?” or “What is the best decision, Lord?” We must learn to listen to our heavenly Father and be sensitive to the quiet voice prompting us throughout the day. When we keep our minds attuned to Him, we begin to understand the significance of some decisions we might otherwise barely notice. Ultimately this awareness leads to a life-style of walking with the Lord and receiving His best for us.
One thing I know for certain is this: Every time I’ve obeyed God, He’s blessed me. When I disobey, it costs me. We’re talking about a God who loves us unconditionally and who has a perfect plan. Obeying Him will never prove disappointing. Looking at 2015, can you see His wisdom in leading you to make right decisions? Hindsight is fantastic for recognizing God’s blessings.
Make 2016 a year of obedience. When we obey God, our hearts open wide to let His power pour in. Won’t you say yes to His next request?
“Blessed be the LORD, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.” (Psalm 68:19)
As we come to this year’s end, it is salutary for the believer to think back over the days of the year and to meditate upon his blessings. He may, indeed, have experienced defeats and losses, disappointments and injuries in great number. If he is honest with himself, however, the Christian will always have to acknowledge that his blessings far outweigh his burdens. God “loadeth us with benefits,” and is even working in and through all the trials and hurtful things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
In our text verse, the words “with benefits” have been supplied by the translators. Some might, therefore, conclude that the verse could mean that God is daily loading us with burdens, instead of benefits. The context, however, assures us that the emphasis is really on His blessings. For that matter, even a burden can become a blessing, if we take it as a gift from God for our spiritual benefit.
Therefore: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
He has given us “life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). Far more importantly, He is “the God of our salvation.” Whatever else we have, or don’t have, in this life, we have the great gift of eternal life, through faith in Christ and His finished work of redemption. We have it every day of the year and are daily ready to meet the Lord, whenever He calls. Each day we have the indwelling presence of His Spirit, the illuminating guidance of His Word, the daily provision of all real needs, and the assurance of His love. He has surely loaded us with benefits! HMM
LORD, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. —Psalm 90:1-2
Yet I do not advise that we end the year on a somber note. The march, not the dirge, has ever been the music of Christianity. If we are good students in the school of life, there is much that the years have to teach us. But the Christian is more than a student, more than a philosopher. He is a believer, and the object of his faith makes the difference, the mighty difference.
Of all persons the Christian should be best prepared for whatever the New Year brings. He has dealt with life at its source. In Christ he has disposed of a thousand enemies that other men must face alone and unprepared. He can face his tomorrow cheerful and unafraid because yesterday he turned his feet into the ways of peace and today he lives in God. The man who has made God his dwelling place will always have a safe habitation.
Thank You, Father, for all You’ve taught me this past year. Thank You for the stretching experiences. Thank You for Tozer’s wise counsel. Thank You for the privilege of serving You. Thank You for Your love and grace. Amen.
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Revelation 22:20
The people of God ought to be the happiest people in all the wide world!
Fellow Christian, consider the source of our joy and delight: redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, our yesterdays behind us, our sin under the blood forever and a day, to be remembered against us no more forever!
God is our Father, Christ is our Brother, the Holy Ghost our Advocate and Comforter! Our Brother has gone to the Father’s house to prepare a place for us, leaving with us the promise that He will come again!
Don’t send Moses, Lord, don’t send Moses! He broke the tables of stone.
Don’t send Elijah for me, Lord! I am afraid of Elijah—he called down fire from heaven.
Don’t send Paul, Lord! He is so learned that I feel like a little child when I read his epistles.
O Lord Jesus, come yourself! I am not afraid of Thee. You took the little children as lambs to your fold. You forgave the woman taken in adultery. You healed the timid woman who reached out in the crowd to touch You. We are not afraid of You!
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. PSALM 29:2
I hope that if I am remembered at all, it will be for this reason: I have spent my efforts and my energies trying to turn the direction of the people away from the external elements of religion to those that are internal and spiritual.
I have tried to take away some of the clouds in the hope that men and women would be able to view God in His glory. I would like to see this sense of glory recaptured throughout the church—too many Christians do not expect to experience any of the glory until they see Him face-to-face!
Within our Christian fellowship and worship, we must recapture the Bible concepts of the perfection of our God Most High! We have lost the sense and the wonder of His awefullness, His perfection, His beauty.
Oh, I feel that we should preach it, sing it, write about it, talk about it and tell it until we have recaptured the concept of the Majesty of God!
Only that can be beautiful ultimately which is holy—and we who belong to Jesus Christ should know the true delight of worshiping God in the beauty of His holiness!
Dear Lord, on the last day of this year, I pray for Your Church in the coming New Year, that it will be biblically faithful, Christ-centered and proactive in its fight against the forces of evil. May the name of the Lord Jesus Christ be praised in every nation!