Who was the REAL St. Nicholas??

I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas… from my own childhood to raising my boys, it was truly the most wonderful time of the year, and still is! We always decorated their little trees together, made cookies, made up dances to Christmas songs, watched Christmas shows and had such fun! We loved decorating the house, going to their Christmas programs, going to grandma’s house… and the joy on Christmas morning of opening presents.

Before we opened gifts, the first thing we always did was sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. And on Christmas Eve, my dad would always read the Christmas story to the grandkids (as did my grandpa to me and my siblings) Because my mom had been a Sunday School teacher for years, she had some child costumes and we let our kids act out the story as grandpa read it. It was truly memorable.

However, there is a way to have Santa Claus and Jesus and not betray the true meaning of Christmas!

Read the following excerpt from an article by Dr. Stephen L. Swisher on the real Nicholas (who later was named Saint Nicholas):

“Because of his gentleness, compas­sion and love, and the fact that he always carried a bag filled with candy and gifts whenever he ventured out in public, scores of children followed him around. Due to Nicholas’ status with local citizens, Roman officials often sought his advice in matters of state. The influence he gained allowed him to work for the underprivileged and powerless, and in so doing he rose to the position of cardinal.

Yet what ultimately made him a legend was his love of children. As he grew older, he used more and more of his funds to purchase gifts for children. Giving toys or candy to little ones, Nicholas told stories of Jesus and the gift He had given through His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection. Then Nicholas would add, “Jesus loves little children, and He loves you.” Through these gifts, many began to understand the full measure of their salvation. Nicholas’ acts of service were so great that when he died, others picked up where he left off. Over time, the legend of Nicholas of Myra grew, and hundreds of churches were named after him.

…Nicholas’ parents were committed to their faith in deeds, not just words. They gave to missionary work and helped feed the poor. They also took Nicholas to church and enrolled him in theology and history classes where he learned to fully embrace the two greatest commandments in the Bible: to love God with all your heart (Matthew 22:37) and to love your neighbor as yourself (verse 39). These verses had a profound impact on Nicholas. But the act that truly distinguished him began with the failure of a family friend’s business. The man and his three daughters had lost everything. In desperation, the man negotiated with local brothel owners to sell his oldest daughter into slavery to provide for the younger two.

When Nicholas learned of this, he sprang into action. The night before the girl was to be sold; Nicholas went to their home, waited for the lights to go out and tossed a bag of gold through an open window, vanishing before he could be seen. This random act of kindness was not to be a one-time act of charity.

The money lasted the family a year. When it ran out Nicholas returned with another bag of gold, but this time the father caught him. Wiping away tears the man asked Nicholas, “Why did you give us these gifts?”

“Because you needed them.”

“But why didn’t you let us know who you were?”

“Because it’s good to give when only God knows about it.”

That answer would become the foundation for the legend still celebrated today.”

(Read the entire article here :
In Search of the Real Santa Claus)

I learned of the REAL St. Nicholas when my boys were about 4 and 7 years old. I was thrilled! Thrilled that I could incorporate the REAL meaning of Christmas, yet let them have fun with Santa! Here is what I did: We sat down and I told them I wanted to tell them about the REAL Santa Claus. I shared how he was born to missionary parents and that he loved Jesus with all his heart. How he saved a young woman from being sold into slavery for her father’s debts by “waiting until night and throwing a bag of gold into an open window,” which actually enabled the family to live for an entire year. I shared hat to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, since we couldn’t give a gift to Jesus, we would give gifts to each other because Jesus loved us that much. I also said that after the first and real Santa – Nicholas, died, others took up his cause to be a blessing and to honor Jesus’ birthday like he did. I went on to say that when we see Santa Claus at the mall, it is a reminder of the man who loved Jesus, and children and wants us to celebrate His birthday by giving gifts to each other. After all, the greatest gift was Jesus Himself.

Then we talked about cartoons and Christmas fun like for Rudolph and the North Pole and elves, etc., that we can play and have fun with that like we do with toys! They loved it! This way, I kept the meaning of Christmas true in their hearts and didn’t have to fabricate a thing. (Bonus idea – when we watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas, when the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes because the “true meaning of Christmas came through” – I would say – watch! WATCH – Jesus is going to come into his heart! It was great!!)

We still went to the mall and sat on Santa’s lap and watched Rudolph and all the fun stuff kids like to do – but we walked in truth. We would see a Santa at the mall and I would remind them that Santa symbolizes Jesus’ great love for all of us. And because it is HIS birthday, and He is no longer on earth, we give gifts to each other in His name! He gave us the greatest gift! You can incorporate this into all kinds of activities. We also did shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and gifts from the Salvation Army tree. But, in teaching my boys about the REAL Santa, they knew WHY he did what he did and I was never worried that “commercial Santa” would overtake our Christmas celebrations because we walked in truth.

Isn’t it like the enemy, to take the real St. Nicholas, and pervert the story, water it down, and shove it into history books until “men” attribute the miracles he performed in Jesus’ Name to mere myths? The man who gave his life, to serve others in Jesus’ name, even raising the dead, has been watered down to a fat jolly man who flies through the air – something that when a child is older, will never believe and may wonder – “what else did my parents tell me that wasn’t true?…..I’ve never seen Jesus either and He’s going to come back in the sky one day? Sure mom.”

Truth… truth brings peace. Truth brings understanding. I love Christmas and I love very reason we have Christmas – to celebrate the birth of our Savior. At our home, Santa bows his knee to Jesus – it was the way he lived his life, and it is how he would want his memory to be honored.

So, Merry Christmas! Enjoy your children! Take them to see Santa Claus and tell them what Santa represents to us – a reminder that it is Jesus’ Birthday and we give gifts to each other in HIS honor. What a mighty God we serve! Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will toward men!

How Yielded are You?

By Jamie Tennant

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy;

Break up your fallow ground,

For it is time to seek the LORD,

Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.”

Hosea 10:12

Fallow ground is ground that has become dormant or inactive. It’s ground that has been left untilled or unsown after plowing. In Matthew 13 the condition of our heart is compared to the ground/soil.

“We must break up our fallow ground. The fallow ground is the hard soil that was useful in a previous season, but through weathering and time, it has become hard, immovable, weedy and stony. The only way to make that ground useful again is to release the tiller and break it up, pulling up the soft soil below the surface and replacing the hard topsoil that won’t allow any new seeds to be sown into it.” The Gift of Tears, Corey Russell

“Plow your uncultivated ground [for a season], And do not sow among thorns. Circumcise (dedicate, sanctify) yourselves to the LORD And remove the foreskin [sins] of your heart…”

Jeremiah 4:3-4 AMP

Uncultivated means it’s not useful for growing crops. What worked in the previous season is not going to work in the next season. We need to clear those things out to prepare for what’s next.  Maybe there’s disappointment and pain from the last season that needs to be dug out in order for this next season to be fruitful.

“Don’t mistake his tolerance for acceptance. Do you realize that all the wealth of his extravagant kindness is meant to melt your heart and lead you into repentance?”

But because of your calloused heart and refusal to change direction, you are piling up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed.”

Romans 2:4-5 TPT

 

So how do we break up the fallow ground?

 

  1. Ask God to reveal the hard places in our hearts:

“God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting way— the path that brings me back to you.”

Psalms 139:23-24

 

  1. Saturate those hard, calloused places with the Word. For example, if God reveals that unforgiveness has hardened your heart, repent and then find Scripture to soften your heart:

“Tolerate the weaknesses of those in the family of faith, forgiving one another in the same way you have been graciously forgiven by Jesus Christ. If you find fault with someone, release this same gift of forgiveness to them.”

Colossians 3:13 TPT

 

  1. Keep your heart watered.

“Then on the most important day of the feast, the last day, Jesus stood and shouted out to the crowds— “All you thirsty ones, come to me! Come to me and drink! Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!””

John 7:37-38 TPT

 

“…just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,”

Ephesians 5:25-26

The Word sanctifies (sets apart/declares holy) and cleanses us! The Word will keep our hearts from getting hard with weeds, stones and thorns.

“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

Psalms 51:17 NLT

It feels like the church is in a season of breaking up the fallow ground. The women are breaking up the rocks of difficult emotions in their hearts to make room for healing and connection. Pastor is leading us and encouraging us to break up the hardness in our hearts to make room for God’s mercy to grow. It will require us to humble ourselves and look at our hearts and see the sins, wrong beliefs, and missteps for what they are – fallow ground holding us back from what God has in the next season.  Once we acknowledge those things, we can repent, dig those things up and bring up the soft soil that is underneath all the junk. The soft soil is able to receive God’s rain of righteousness.

If you feel like you’re in a season of ugly, hard things in your life being uncovered and revealed then know that maybe this breaking up of the fallow ground has begun. Don’t run from it. Don’t fight it. Recognize it and invite God into the process. It’s uncomfortable to see the calloused and hard places in your heart surface. It’s painful to dig those places out. But, in the end: “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel 36:25-26

God wants us to prepare our hearts because He’s coming with rain. The rain WILL come. It will fall on the uncultivated hearts AND the cultivated hearts, but only the hearts that have done the work of preparing for the seed will receive it and be fruitful. Hosea tells US to sow righteousness, he tells US to break up our fallow ground, he tells US to seek the Lord. And then God will come and rain righteousness on us. We have a part and God has a part.

In my studying I read this commentary of Matthew 13: “The greatest amount of fruit produced was not determined by how rich the soil was, but how yielded to the plow it was. The soil in each condition received seed, but not all produced quality fruit. Everyone receives seed, the Word of God. Everyone has potential for the harvest, living a fruitful life, but the ones who will produce the most fruit will be the ones most yielded to cultivation.”

How yielded to the plow are you?

Pastor’s Blog 3.31.21

Matthew 26:36-41
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” 39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” 40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” NKJV

How hard is it to stay consistent in prayer? If it was this hard for the disciples, when only a few feet from the present “in the flesh” Jesus, it will be real hard 2000 years later! It is not easy to pray consistently. But, we have been given the mandate to “pray without ceasing”. I try to stay in an attitude of prayer at all times, but it is so easy to be distracted. I believe Jesus is still saying to the church today, “Could you not watch with me one hour?” It seems crazy to me that Muslims will pray several times a day, and their prayers do not get answered! That is the irony of religion versus grace. They pray to work for their salvation, whereas we have been given the gift of salvation and don’t want to work!

However, we must always remember and consider faith without works is dead. A great part of our works is to continually be praying for God’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Faith is believing He hears us, and the work is doing the actual praying by speaking it out loud. We are not Biblically taught to think a prayer, we need to speak our prayers. There is no doctrine in scripture for the practice of silent or thinking prayers. Even Science, through the knowledge of Quantum Physics, has shown that subatomic particles respond to the sound of a voice.

We are not Biblically taught to think a prayer, we need to speak our prayers.

I remember how intimidating it was to try to pray for more than just a few minutes at a time when I first got saved. But, as I learned the pattern of the Lord’s prayer, my prayer life took on structure and meaning. Remember, you cannot improve on the methods of Jesus! He is “the way, the truth, and the life” If we continue in His pattern, we will find a great fulfillment in our prayer times, as well as doing our part to change the world.

Acts 3:1
3:1 Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. NKJV

Eastern culture to this day, has a greater discipline of prayer than western culture. Again, I understand that the motive to pray is works for righteousness, but we should want to pray out of gratitude for the gift of righteousness we have been given. As I have been teaching these last several weeks on aspects of prayer and the unseen realm, I have reinforced the principles of the power of the praying church, and I believe we will see great outcomes as we persevere and overcome in prayer.

 

We should want to pray out of gratitude for the gift of righteousness we have been given.

 

Psalm 55:16-18
16 As for me, I will call upon God, And the LORD shall save me. 17 Evening and morning and at noon I will pray , and cry aloud, And He shall hear my voice. 18 He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me, For there were many against me. NKJV

It was customary to pray 3 times a day in Israel, why isn’t it in the Church?

Psalm 118:24-29
24 This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save now, I pray , O LORD; O LORD, I pray , send now prosperity.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD. 27 God is the LORD, And He has given us light; Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You.
29 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. NKJV

We need to bind our souls to the altar to pray and not relent!

Tonight, I am going to be teaching and giving an example of praying in the pattern of Jesus. I know it will help motivate us to pray when we have an understanding and practical exercise of doing it. We will make a soundtrack that can be followed and learned to help get you into a routine of prayer.

Come and let’s pray together!

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