Born on Christmas?

My home church fellowship Emmanuel Christian Center, Maple Grove, MN, USA campus on Christmas Eve 2017

Born on Christmas?

John 3:3

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again,

you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Christ Lutheran Church, Alvord, Iowa 2017

December 25, 2017

 As I worshipped on Christmas Eve at my local church, which happens to be Pentecostal, I couldn’t help but think of the many other believers around the world celebrating the same thing that I was; namely, the birth of Jesus Christ. I also reflected upon my own journey to faith. I love the ‘Church’, which is defined as, “the ‘assembly’ or ‘called ones’; the body of believers gathered to worship Jesus (not the building in which they meet),” according to the New Living Translation Bible.

Pilgrim Congregational Church, Green Bay, Wisconsin which I attended in my teen years.

 

I grew up in Lutheran and later Congregational  church traditions which were much more formalistic and liturgical than my current fellowship. Over the years, I’ve attended several other types of Churches  from Presbyterian to non-denominational evangelical with Baptist roots to Assemblies of God. Having grown up as a church-attender, I was familiar with church rituals and traditions  However, I did not come to a personal understanding of faith in Jesus Christ until I was an adult. For the story of how that happened, you can read my testimony in the “About” section of my ministry website found  at https://janetdecaster.com/about.

Eden Prairie Assembly of God Church, Eden Prairie, MN. The church I attended from shortly after I was born-again in 2002 until 2017. I eventually served  as a staff Pastor to women and as a Deacon.

As a lover of both history and the Church, I have enjoyed visiting great Cathedrals like the Notre Dame in Paris, France the Koln Dom in Cologne, Germany, the Westminster Abbey Chapel in London, England and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. . Reflecting upon the glory of God in quiet contemplation in some of those beautiful, sacred spaces and places has been a moving experience.

 

Le Notre Dame de Paris

Beyond the familiar American church buildings  and the great Cathedrals of Europe, I have also visited tiny churches in no-name towns in small town America.   Humble shelters, barely more than shacks functioning as church buildings on foreign missions trips have become my pulpit. The opportunities to preach in some of those tiny, out-of-the-way places, at home and abroad, and to pray for the sick there, have been my greatest treasures. I’ve  found the sweetest presence of the Holy Spirit in the most unassuming places, amongst the humble in heart. In fact, Jesus himself was born in a small town that no one gave much thought to. His earthly parents were poor. In all of my travels, I have found that no matter the size or style or grandeur of the building, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit, through the faith of the believers who gather there, that really makes a difference. Jesus goes where He is welcomed, where people long for His presence, where they pursue Him with all of their hearts and where His Gospel is still preached.

 

Christ Lutheran Church, Alvord, Iowa, 2016.

The church where I preached among Haitian earthquake refugees and sugar cane workers in the Dominican Republic in 2013 on a R.A.I.N. Ministries missions trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With vastly differing styles and cultures in various denominations, assemblies and fellowships of Christian believers, it is sometimes easy to become hyper-focused on the  stylistic or doctrinal preferences of ‘our’ own particular group of believers. Jesus warned the first believers not to get sidetracked on such minutiae, but keep their focus on the main thing.*  When his first followers essentially tried to forbid some fellow believers from helping others to be free from spiritual oppression, he corrected them in this way, Luke 9:49-51(in part) “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.” 

Open Heavens Assemblies of God Church, R.A.I.N. Ministries Mission trip, Barahona, Dominican Republic, 2012.  These are the precious souls from the deaf and mute congregation we prayed for. Several testified of their healing, along with several totally blind who received their sight. I had a story documenting the miracles that night published in a Bethany House book entitled, “Encountering Jesus Modern-Day Stories of His Supernatural Presence and Power” compiled by James Stuart Bell  in 2015.

So, I thought that Christmas might be a good day to remind myself, and other believers, of the main thing of Christianity. It may also provide a needed time to reflect for those who aren’t sure of what they believe about the Christian story, which begins, in essence, with the Christmas story.

In short, the main thing is eternity. I think Christmas is the best day to reflect on eternity and where you will spend it. If not, it should be. Don’t wait until Easter, you might not have that long. Christmas is the largest, longest-running birthday party the world has ever known. It is the day when much of the world pauses to celebrate the birth of the man Christians believe is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus was sent by God to be born and later to die on a cross as a sacrifice for the sins of all. But He didn’t stay dead, He rose from the dead to make a way to heaven for all who choose to believe in Him. (that is what the Church celebrates at Easter).

My story “The Night Jesus Walked into the Church”published in the aforementioned book. (see above)

The New Testament of the Holy Bible clearly teaches that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to reach heaven (see e.g. John 14:6) for all eternity. According to the Bible, many ways do not lead to heaven, only one way does. Therefore, in celebrating Christmas, we are celebrating the birth of the one who came into the world to provide a way to heaven, for all who believe. That’s the main thing. Jesus clearly taught in John 3:1-17 (Holy Bible, New Testament) that each person must choose to be (spiritually speaking) born again, through putting their faith in himself, in order to get to heaven when they die. Religious rituals, even Christian ones, do not save a person’s soul. Faith in Jesus Christ alone saves. Living, personal, vibrant faith that comes from the heart of man and reaches out to God, opens the door to heaven.

This begs the question for many who attend various types and styles of worship in church buildings around the world on Christmas, perhaps out of family tradition or religious habit (like I once did): have they been born again? Have you been born again? All of eternity rests on that one question. Eternity does not rest on the style of worship, the grandeur of the buildings we meet in, or all of our doctrinal differences and details. Eternal life in heaven or eternal torment in hell rests upon what we do, in our own hearts, with the man who was born as a baby in a manger over 2000 years ago.  Christmas is the best day to remind ourselves that no matter where we meet or how we express our worship, we are ultimately worshipping the one who was born, to make a way for us to be born-again through faith. The greatest and only eternal miracle, is when one human heart cries out to God for forgiveness and receives Jesus Christ, by faith. If you haven’t done so already, Christmas is a great day to be born (again).**

Roadside chapel where I stopped to pray in Pray, Montana, 2010.

*This is not to eschew the need for sound, orthodox doctrine and Biblically sound moral teaching. Many are falling away from faith in our day due to unsound doctrinal teachings, outright heresies and unscriptural moral perversions taught amongst those who were once part of the Church. For a basic, succinct historical statement of the fundamentals of the Christian faith, see e.g. The Apostle’s Creed.

**Experiencing New Birth Through Faith in Jesus Christ:

If you would like to receive Jesus Christ into your own heart by faith, He is as close as a heartfelt prayer. He longs to come into your heart and life. Simply invite Him in. He will go wherever He is welcomed! Ask Him (through prayer) to: forgive your sin, choose to put your whole faith and trust in Him and ask Him to be the Lord and leader of your life. Then get a Bible, read it, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to understand it and to help you live for Jesus.  Find a good, Bible teaching local church community in which you can grow in your faith. Below is a simple, sample prayer, which you could choose to pray: Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. I have sinned against you in my thoughts, words and actions. I am sorry for my sins and ask you to forgive me and help me to change. I want you to be my Savior,and I ask you to be the Lord and leader of my life. Please send your Holy Spirit into my heart now to help me live for you.  Amen.

Janet DeCaster
Janet DeCaster
Christian Author & Speaker, Janet DeCaster, holds a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a J.D. from Emory University School of Law, and a Certificate of Biblical Studies from ACTS International Bible College. She has served as a Pastor to women in a local Church, a Deacon, a global missions team member and committed volunteer in many capacities in the Church. She is licensed and ordained for Christian ministry with Resurrection Apostolic International Network, R.A.I.N. Ministries and is a member of the International Association of Healing Ministries, I.A.H.M. She has authored two books, available through her website, janetdecaster.com

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