by Tamera Lynn Kraft
There is a trend among Christians to try to make people feel guilty for being joyful at Christmas time. Some even say that we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, but I refuse to allow their naysaying to rob me of my joy. Here are 10 reason to feel joyful at Christmas without feeling the slightest bit of guilt for it.
10. We can be joyful even when things aren’t great. The Bible says we should count it all joy. In other words, even if we are going through a hard time because of a death in the family or because of hard times, we can still be joyful. The word count could probably be better translated command. We can command ourselves to be joyful. What if it’s is someone else who is going through a hard time? This is often an excuse for not being joyful at Christmas. After all, look at all the terrible things happening in people’s lives. I have a suggestion for you. Are you in the right frame of mind to help someone else when you are in a place of joy or a place of depression. I would suggest we are better equipped in a place of joy.
James 1:2-3 ESV “Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
9. We owe it to those around us to be joyful. Have you ever been around somebody who suck the joy of living out of everyone around him. Joy is contagious, but so is depression. That means if you decide not to be joyful, you affect everyone around you, and if you decide you will be joyful, it will also affect your friends and family. Refuse to allow someone’s bad mood to affect you. Instead be the one who heals those who don’t have joy.
Proverbs 17:22 ESV “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
8. Joy makes us healthy. If it’s true that stress and depression cause us harm physically, it’s also true that a joyful heart with make you healthy. That is why Proverbs 17:22 calls a joyful heart good medicine. Medical professionals have proven laughter is beneficial to our overall health. You can read more about it at this link.
7. Joy will give you spiritual and emotional strength. We receive fullness of joy in the presence of God, and His joy will give us the strength we need to do all the things that stress us out during the day.
Psalm 16:11 ESV “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
6. Who Want to Be a Scrooge? I sure don’t, but some Christians act like that’s exactly what they want. They claim they can’t celebrate Christmas because it’s too commercial and most people don’t celebrate it with the right motives. Who told you you can’t be joyful because other people have the wrong motives? That’s silly. Think about some of the people in the past who wanted to kill other people’s joy at Christmas: Scrooge and the Grinch. Do you really want to be like them? You may say they are mythical characters, and that is true, but they represent those who are like them.
The first man who wanted to destroy the joy of Christmas tried to kill Christ. His name was Herod, and he was not a joyful person. Herod killed his wife, two of his sons, and his wife’s extended family because he thought they were trying to usurp his authority as king. Talk about an unhappy person. He tried to kill Christ and Christmas by ordering all the male children of Bethlehem two years and under to be slaughtered.
Matthew 2:16 ESV “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.”
5. The angels were joyful at Chist’s birth. They sang and proclaimed how Christ’s birth brought great joy to the Earth. Truthfully, we don’t really know what day Christ was born, and there is controversy about how December 25th was chosen. I don’t care. I know Christ was born, and I don’t know when. So unless someone comes to me with a definitive answer about what day Christ was born, I’m going to celebrate His birth on December 25th with as much exuberance and joy as the angels did.
Luke 2:20.ESV “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
3. I’m happy because of presents. They don’t have to be expensive presents. They can be homemade. The thing is I love to receive presents, and I love to give presents because it reminds me of the joy the Wise Men felt when they saw Jesus and gave Him gifts. They were so joyful they worshipped Him. Our praise and worship comes from the joy we feel about Christ who is God’s gift to us.
2. I’m filled with joy when I hear Christmas hymns. Have you ever listened to the words of those hymns. They are songs of worship, and everyone sings them at Christmas – even heathens. What a great time to worship the Lord with songs.
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
In the 1770s, Moravian missionaries moved to Ohio from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to settle a village called Schoenbrunn which means Beautiful Spring. Their goal was to bring the Gospel to the Delaware Indians. Delaware Native Americans who converted to Christianity moved into Schoenbrunn to be a part of the Christian community. Within a year, the village grew so large, they started another settlement called Gnadenhutten.
Schoenbrunn, in many ways, was ahead of its time. The settlers of the village, including the Delaware, created their own code of conduct and opened a school. The school taught both boys and girls when other colonial schools at the time only accepted boys. The students learned to read both English and Lenape out of a Bible that was translated in the Lenape language.
The Moravians built a church there with paintings on the walls depicting Biblical scenes. They used these painting to teach about the Bible. They had church every morning and twice on Sunday. On special occasions they would have Lovefeasts where they served coffee, juice, and sweet buns. The Christmas Eve Lovefeasts were the most special and became the forerunner of Christmas Eve candlelight services popular in the US.
The settlement only lasted a few years. When the Revolutionary War broke out, British troops suspected the Moravians of giving information to the colonial army. These charges against them were true. In 1781, Native Americans supporting the British forced the Moravians to relocate to the Sandusky area to protect themselves from reprisals. The British arrested the two leaders of the villages, took them to Detroit, and tried them for treason.
When a group of Christian Lenape went back to Gnadenhutten to harvest their crops, a company of Continental military from Pennsylvania accused them of raiding farms in Pennsylvania. and massacred them. The militia the militia murdered and scalped 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children and burned down the village.
Settlers were outraged by the massacre, but the men were never brought to trial. In 1810, Tecumseh reminded future President William Henry Harrison, “You recall the time when the Jesus Indians of the Delawares lived near the Americans, and had confidence in their promises of friendship, and thought they were secure, yet the Americans murdered all the men, women, and children, even as they prayed to Jesus?”
Schoenbrunn Village is still open today for visitors and tourists to learn about Christian Native Americans and some of the earliest missionaries in America. A Christmas Promise was set in Schoenbrunn Village.
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
Thanksgiving is coming soon. There are many facts about America’s spiritual heritage ingrained in the Pilgrims and Puritans. These are some of the facts that children are not taught in school.
Most children are taught that pilgrims came to America to flee religious persecution. That’s not exactly true. Pilgrims and Puritans were persecuted for believing that Christians could have a personal relationship with Jesus separate from the Church of England. But they traveled to Holland to flee the persecution, not America.
So why did they travel to America? There were many reasons, but the main reason is they felt compelled by God to come to America and establish a colony of people that honored God. Many called this colony, New Jerusalem, believing that God had established this new land to spread the gospel to the world. William Bradford wrote in his journal that the motivation came from “a great hope for advancing the kingdom of Christ.”
Pilgrims and Puritans were not the same. Pilgrims were separatists who believed they should separate themselves for the Church of England and the world systems. Puritans believed in working within the system. When they came to America, Puritans wished to set up the government so that religious freedom of expression would be established. Pilgrims wanted freedom of religion so they were free to worship without fear of persecution. Both Pilgrims and Puritans wanted freedom of religion to protect the church from the government, not to protect the government from the church.
Many schools teach that Thanksgiving was a secular celebration. But letters written by the Pilgrims tell a different story. God was such a part of their everyday life that they included God in everything. One such letter states that Thanksgiving was a celebration called so that “God be praised” for what He had brought them through. John Winthrop called New England a City on a Hill in one of his sermon. He, as well as many other Puritans and Pilgrims, believed they had made a covenant with God to be a new nation that was a model of Christianity to the world.
William Bradford believed that America was called to spread the gospel to the world. Since the Pilgrims and Puritans came to America, the United States of America has sent missionaries to more nations and more remote places in the world than any other nation on Earth. Could it be they were right?
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
It’s easy to thank God when everything is going right, but God wants us to have a thankful attitude no matter what because He has blessed us. At the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims had a feast to thank God for His many blessings when they were going through a difficult time. Half of the people who traveled over on the Mayflower died the first winter. Yet they still set aside time to thank God because they knew they were blessed by Jesus dying on the cross for their sins. Here are 5 things we can do to be thankful in hard times.
Bring our hurts to God. Everyone goes through hard times. The reason some people get though them relatively unscathed is because they bring their hurt and pain to God instead of worrying about them and trust in Him to heal them. God didn’t only promise physical heal but emotional healing as well.
Phi 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Rehearse the blessing of God. Use a journal to write what God has done for you. Go over it when you can’t remember the blessings of God.
Psalm 103:1-2 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Take your thoughts captive. Joyce Meyer has a saying that you need to think about what you’re thinking about. That’s true. Many times we aren’t thankful because we dwell on negative thoughts that pop into our heads instead of focusing on the good things God has done for us.
2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Read God’s Promises in Scripture. The way to have enough faith to be thankful is to spend time reading the promises of God. He is faithful to His promises.
Isaiah 55:9-11 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Spend time praising God each day. In the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, he began and ended with praise. If we want to have a thankful attitude, we need to spend time praising God every day and not only telling Him our needs.
Psalm 148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.
Have a thankful Thanksgiving.
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
The 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is tomorrow. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis entitled Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the church wall and sent a copy to his bishop. In these thesis, Martin Luther challenged the authority of the Pope when he conflicted with Scripture. He also challenged the church’s policy of selling indulgences. An indulgence was a absolution from sin given by a priest. Luther stood on the Scripture in Ephesians 2:8-9. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it isthe gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Many people today don’t understand the courage it took for Martin Luther to make his stand. He risked excommunication and could have been executed. A meeting was held at the Diet of Worms by a council of the church. Luther was threatened with excommunication if he did not recant. Surely Peter’s words to the Pharisees went through his mind as the challenge was issued. Did he obey the church or God?
This was Luther’s answer, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.” He then his arm raised his arm “in the traditional salute of a knight winning a bout.”
Luther hid out after the meeting, fearing retaliation. During his sequester, he translated the New Testament into German. He was excommunicated and the Protestant Reformation was firmly under way. He spent the rest of his life preaching salvation by faith through faith. Luther wasn’t the best role model of a Christian. His anti-semitism and faulty doctrine left scars on his legacy, but he stood strong in the face of persecution.
Luther wasn’t the only reformer at the time in a sea of men and women who stood for the truth of Scripture and faced of persecution, imprisonment, and death. Through it all, the reformation led the world out of the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. Science, art, and theology flourished. The Bible was translated into many European languages and the Gospel was spread throughout the known world.
by Carole Brown
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. –the Bible
As an author, I marvel at the sights of this beautiful planet. My imagination soars with the heights and floats with the breeze and waves. I imagine my established characters, and sometimes new ones, in these scenes.
Pictures and scenes are one of the greatest ways to foster ideas. I take LOTS of pictures in our travels. Some of them have made it into videos of my books. Others serve to keep my mind agile and brisk with ideas.
Tell me, what kind of story ideas do these pictures give you?
Do you see a young couple hiking in the northwest? What troubles do they stumble into? A dead body? A raging fire? Kidnapping? Finding themselves with new purpose? Do you imagine a family camping here and encountering wild creatures? Fishing? Hunting? Or can you see something entirely different?
For this one: I imagine one that I’ve begun and have yet to finish:
Set in Mexico, in a missionary setting, a young girl meets two very different impressive men, but which one is the right one–for her? Then, she must also figure out which one is the drug lord… Can she do both–and survive?
What do you imagine here happening?
An Amish story? an 1800s novel? A wagon train passing through? Or perhaps a country farm setting with a wife who dabbles in mystery problems in the nearby town?
To me, I can see another story, I’ve begun and hope to finish soon, set during the late 1800s, Destiny and Michael riding their horses through one of the fields he owns, arguing, both strong people who must decipher whose father was the gold thief and find love in the midst of their suspicions.
In this one, what does this scene depict in your mind?
A scary situation? Mystery? A lost child? Can you feel the terror? Do crazy thoughts of someone jumping out at you lurk in your imagination? Can you see children in an adventure book strolling this path?
To me, I can see in my Alex and Denton Davies series, the two of them walking this semi-dark woodland pathway, searching for clues or chasing after a suspect.
And one last one to stir your creative juices…
Does this bring to mind a warm, cozy feeling? Can you see an abominable snowmen lurking close by? Or can you see a couple meeting on the ski slopes? A family adventure? A lonely older person meeting his soul mate?
I see a mountain lodge where a female detective looks for a psycho suspect and runs smack dab into a love she hadn’t planned on. But can she find the bad person…and keep the love?
Can you see how we can use pictures and images to further our writing, to increase our creative juices, to spur us to keep writing, and to give us the encouragement we need when we’re stumped?
Take advantage of everything and all things that keep you writing.
Tell me, what do YOU see in these pictures? What do you use to sit down at your writing desk and add a few more pages to your document?
Sarah Edwards is often overlooked when the First Great Awakening of the 1700s is mentioned, but her legacy and contribution to her husband’s ministry are enormous. Over fourteen hundred descendants of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards have been traced in 1900 by A.E. Winship. Of these, fourteen became college presidents, roughly one hundred became professors, another one hundred ministers, and about the same number became lawyers or judges. Nearly sixty became doctors, and others were authors or editors.
Sarah Pierpont was born in 1710. Her father, James Pierpont, was one of the founders of Yale University. Sarah was known for her love of God at an early age. When she was 13, Jonathan attended Yale at age 16. He would often wait outside Pierpont’s church to catch a glimpse of her. He had this to say about her.
“They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is loved of that Great Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight; and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on Him…You could not persuade her to do any thing wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this Great Being. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness, and universal benevolence of mind; especially after this Great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure…She loves to be alone… and seems to have some one invisible always conversing with her.”
Sarah Pierrepont married Jonathan Edwards on July 28, 1727 at the age of 17. Jonathan was serious and scholarly. Sarah was beautiful and enjoyed conversation. As far as their personalities, they couldn’t be further apart, but what attracted them to each other is their love for God.
Jonathan and Sarah had 11 children, 3 sons and 8 daughters. She prayed consistently for her children and was known for her parenting skills. She treated her children with gentleness and firmness. Although Jonathan contributed with child-rearing, making sure he spent at least one hour with the children every day when he wasn’t traveling, most of the parenting was done by Sarah. All of their sons became pastors, and their daughters married pastors.
Jonathan was also known as being absent-minded, spending as much as 13 hours a day in study, so Sarah was responsible for maintaining the household and keeping things going.One remarkable thing for that time period was Jonathan’s attitude toward Sarah. He valued her intelligence and not only relied on her to manage his personal affairs, but she also helped him with the ministry.
In 1734-1735, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Northampton and the surrounding ares erupted. Jonathan was at the center of that outpouring, but Sarah experienced it too. Jonathan asked his wife to write a testimony about her experience, and she wrote a long one. One phrased she used to describe it was being “swallowed up in God”.
When George Whitefield, Great Awakening preacher, visited Jonathan and Sarah Edwards in 1730, he said, “A sweeter couple I have not yet seen” and wrote about the peaceful home Sarah had created and how she freely talked about the things of God. He called her a perfect helpmeet for her husband and determined to get married himself.
In 1750, Sarah was by Jonathan’s side when he struggled with the congregation at Northampton Church. He would not allow the members of his church to take communion unless they had a salvation experience. This angered many of them because the town council had to be communicants of the Congregational Church to hold on to their government positions. The last pastor, Solomon Stoddard who was Jonathan Edwards’ grandfather, had allowed anyone to take communion regardless of their salvation.
Many in the church came against Jonathan when he asked for a raise in his stipend due to rising costs. The church said they would only consent after investigating the Edwards’ material affairs. Some were outraged that their extravagant minister had two wigs and two teapots! Jonathan denied possessing even one wig although he did admit they had several teapots. The congregation used this excuse to fire him.
Edwards was still in high demand and in 1751, became pastor of the church in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and a missionary to the Housatonic Indians. In 1757, Jonathan became President of the College of New Jersey, now known as Princeton.
Jonathan died on March 22, 1758 when he contracted smallpox. He was out of town, so Sarah couldn’t be with him. He did leave a deathbed message for her. Over a year later, Sarah became ill during an epidemic and died at the age of 49.
Sarah was a woman who loved God, her husband, and her children. In many ways, she was a woman who was ahead of her time. She left a legacy that is still alive today.