Thursday, July 7, 2016

Love alert: You could be dating a serial cheater

I asked this question of a male friend recently, “Why do men cheat?" I'm still waiting for an answer. Gone are the days it seems when the biblical edict of one man, one woman actually meant something. There was a time when couples dated in preparation for marriage. Nowadays, couples date, even have sex just for pleasure without any thought of commitment. Words like "we're engaged" or "my fiance" have lost the exclusivity they once had. Fidelity and monogamy are still valued as moral absolutes in our society, but not always practiced.

What's behind this shift in our morals? Blame it on the law of supply and demand coupled with unrestrained freewill.There are too many women and not enough men to go around. This gender discrepancy is the perfect breeding ground for the serial cheater who considers it his duty to take full advantage and seize the moment.
n his article, "New Math on Campus," New York Times reporter Alex Williams sums it up this way: "Needless to say, this puts guys in a position to play the field, and tends to mean that even the ones willing to make a commitment come with storied romantic histories." W. Keith Campbell, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia, agrees. “When men have the social power, they create a man’s ideal of relationships,” says Campbell. Translation: more partners, more sex.
Serial cheaters have simultaneous relationships with multiple unsuspecting partners. Women, who knowingly or unknowingly date a serial cheater, run the risk of becoming a victim of his promiscuity, of possibly acquiring an STD or HIV/AIDS, and of being devalued by a relationship you thought was committed. Some women ignore a man's cheating because they feel they have to in order to keep him. As one woman observed, “If a guy is not getting what he wants, he can quickly and abruptly go to the next one, because there are so many of us.”

You could be dating a serial cheater. Here are some signs to watch out for (Disclaimer: This does not mean that every man who exhibits one or more of these behaviors is a serial cheater. Know your man.).

If he seems too good to be true, he probably is. Serial cheaters are charmers, a real Mr. Nice Guy. In the early stages of a relationship, he goes out of his way to spend time with you. He calls you several times a day just to say he's thinking of you. He treats you like a queen, opens doors and when you're walking together, he insists that you walk on the inside away from the traffic. He likes to caress and hold hands. He may act as if sex is the farthest thing from his mind when it's the only thing on his mind. He doesn't have to rush you because he knows he has other women he can be intimate with.

In the article, "Sex: Are men really after only one thing?" psychologist Dr. Diana Kirschner addresses this question: "For example, a small percentage of men are caught in what I call the Player Deadly Dating Pattern. These are often the "hot bad boys" who can be enormously infatuating to women because of their smooth romantic alpha behavior. But under that seductive bravado they are usually insecure, have low self esteem and a "me-first mentality." These are the men who value conquest over being connected and honorable. For these reasons, the Player can pose a great deal of difficulty for women who want a lasting love relationship."

Serial cheaters are generally good talkers. Pay close attention to what he does, not just what he says. Serial cheaters are good at what I call "vanilla" conversations --- a whole lot of talk with little substance. Serial cheaters give more detail than necessary about mundane things to keep you off balance so you don't ask questions. Names and gender references are purposely omitted to prevent a slip of the tongue. Don't be reluctant to interview any man who wants a dating relationship with you. Ask the important questions upfront. What are his values, goals, family background, purpose for wanting to date you, etc. If he's evasive or talks a lot of jive, dump him. It will save you time and heartbreak down the road.

He's a real friendly guy, except most of his friends are women. You've heard of the expression, "He's a man's man." Serial cheaters are more like every woman's man. Women are attracted to him because of his sensitivity to a woman's needs. He's a helper, a confidant, a shoulder to cry on, a port in a storm, someone who totally understands you ---everything a woman could want, except he's all that with a lot of other women too. He may not be having sex with all of them but it's a sure bet that at least two or three are more than just "friends." A serial cheater collects friends for a hobby. I once knew a serial cheater who bragged about having over 200 names in his contact list. Knowing him most were probably women.

Observe how your guy acts toward you around other women. Is he easily distracted by them? Does he make comments ("She's a good looking woman.") on their appearance, especially physical features, in your presence? Is his attention divided when he's with you? Are your dates or phone calls hurried like you're on speed dial? Does he never intentionally bring you around any of his other women friends?

Other issues that could have an impact on how he views women are an addiction to sex and pornography, which he keeps hidden. Some hints at this problem may be his off color comments or sexual innuendo during ordinary conversations with you, or he may half jokingly ask you to talk "dirty" to him when he knows that's not your style. These are important cues to think about.

Serial cheaters like long distance relationships, the farther the better. A serial cheater prides himself on being able to engage in multiple relationships with women without any of them knowing about the others. Distance is a great enabler for him. The women he dates conveniently live in different cities, usually ones he visits regularly for other reasons as well (i.e. work, family, recreation). The trips usually last a few days. He may even call to "check in" as if he is accounting for his time. He usually comes back with "vanilla" explanations about what he did while he was away, and don’t forget the gifts. Don't be fooled. If your intuition tells you something's going on, you're probably right.

Better to date locally; it's easier and safer. You want someone who has roots down deep in the community not someone who's a transient. Get to know your potential date/mate through his friends, family and the people he hangs out with. If he never takes you around them, watch out something's not kosher about your relationship. Could be he's hiding something more than just you.

Don't think because a serial cheater gets married he's changed his ways. Serial cheaters often marry, in fact serially, one woman after another. Let's suppose you date a serial cheater who decides he wants to marry you. At some point, the marriage may run into trouble or he may get bored so he starts looking around for other distractions. Consequently, he goes back to what he knows best, and adds adultery to his portfolio.

One serial cheater's first wife left him after learning that he cheated before they married. He remarried but when his second wife became overweight and unattractive to him, his eyes began to wander. On his way to work every morning, he started noticing a nice looking woman. He made sure their paths would cross. One night, he ran into her at a local bar and they began a torrid affair. Eventually, he left his second wife for this woman, who he later married. They had a turbulent marriage, which ended in a nasty divorce. Now he’s free, single and uncommitted, ready to test the relationship waters again. He's joined a mega-church where he's got lots of women to choose from. The sad part is he thinks he's happy. Well, maybe he is---at least on the outside.

Dating is serious business. Rather than just looking for immediate gratification, look for someone who would make you a good husband and father to your children or a true companion in your old age. So many silly women have laid themselves out there. And now the children are paying the price for mother's mistakes. Calling someone your child's "baby daddy" is no substitute for giving them a father who is more than just a sperm donor.

Serial cheaters need professional help to confront their problem. You are not the Red Cross so don't even attempt a rescue mission. Leave it to the professionals. On your way out of the relationship, there's nothing wrong with a gentle suggestion that he might benefit from talking with a relationship or spiritual counselor about his feelings. Serial cheaters are emotionally detached from their behavior and reluctant to talk about it. When you confront them, they see themselves as the victim believing that something is wrong with you for rejecting them. Serial cheaters are seldom the first to leave a relationship even if it's bad.

Instead, they withdraw emotionally and wait for you to take the first step, which you eventually do out of frustration. Being seen as the victim, makes it easier for serial cheaters to solicit sympathy from friends and a new unsuspecting partner. It's all part of the plan.

There is hope for the woman who's looking for a good man. There are many decent men of good character out there in spite of the bad example set by serial cheaters. But good men usually look for women of equally good character with whom they have something in common. In my previous article, "Love well: How to cultivate healthy relationships," I advise women and men to take stock of themselves and cultivate realistic expectations of what you need and don't need, want and don't want in a relationship. And if you know you have low self-esteem, low self-respect, abandonment, trust or other issues get to work on them through professional or spiritual counseling before you seek to be in relationship with anybody.

The Bible offers wise counsel about relationships, and especially about how to choose companions of good character. It's really true that what God has joined together neither man nor woman can tear apart. If you're someone who's been hurt by a serial cheater, or you are that serial cheater, God has a plan for you. You may be at a point where you've tried everything and everybody and your life is still emptyGod can restore you and put your life back on the right track. You've got nothing more to lose and everything to gain.

Note: Need to know how to trust again? For relationship help, I highly recommend the book, Beyond Boundaries.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Online evangelism: How cyberspace is helping millions find Jesus

"And then he [Jesus] told them [his disciples], “You are to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere" Mark 16:15.

“Reaching our community for Christ” is the credo of the GO!Team of Siloam Baptist Church.
Siloam Baptist Church, Norristown, PA

View all5 photos
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:13-15
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Two thousand years ago, when Jesus issued this command to a fledgling Christian church, it might have seemed like a daunting task given the fact that the disciples traveled mostly on foot back then.

These early Christians were the foot soldiers responsible for spreading the gospel throughout the then known world that included Asia and Africa. Little could they have envisioned a day when Christians could connect with millions of people in Europe, North and South America, Antarctica and Australia via the Internet with one click. Fast forward to the 21st century where millions of seekers are finding God from the comfort of their PCs, tablet computers and smartphones.

The Internet is giving Christians yet another way to deliver the good news of the gospel to virtual millions through online chatrooms, social networkingwebcasts and weblogs. The Internet's ability to reach an audience of millions inspired Campus Crusade for Christ to create an online evangelism start-up in 2004. Its success launched Global Media Outreach (GMO) as a viable tool for evangelism. Since going live, over 50 million people have logged onto GMO's many websites and made decisions for Christ.

In 2011, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) launched "Peace with God," an online evangelism website. BGEA's trained volunteer online missionaries converse with visitors via a chatroom. Visitors can ask any question, but at some point, the conversation always turns to whether they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Currently, over 3 million online visitors have logged onto and made decisions to accept Christ. Another popular online evangelism website is "Need Him." Through its radio and TV spots, "Need Him" encourages listeners to call an 800 number to speak with an online counselor about their spiritual concerns. About the reach of online evangelism, a blogger writes:
Many people in desperate need of the gospel stop in Christian chatrooms, hoping to meet someone who can lead them to God. They think of Christians as experts in how to be saved and how to live a meaningful life. Some of these desperate people know that they are lost. They want someone to help them become Christians, and they say so as they enter the chatrooms. (From
According to GMO's Michelle Diedrich, online evangelism reaches a wider audience today than any other means of spreading the gospel:
We are the first generation - ever - to hold in our hands the technology to give every person on earth multiple chances to accept Jesus Christ. More people use the Internet than go to church.
Diedrich explains, however, that online evangelism is intended to complement, not replace, traditional church programs and services. Q Place president Mary Schaller favors a [more] traditional face-to-face approach to evangelism. She shares her thoughts on the subject:
The obvious advantages to digital spiritual dialogue are its convenience, flexibility, accessibility and anonymity. Yet our culture is caught in a problematic paradox: Despite the increasing digital interconnectivity, people continue to grow more socially disconnected and lonely because most of the conversation is superficial. Can you have meaningful, life- changing digital conversations and relationships? I believe to a certain extent you can, but they don’t take the place of being in the same room with people.
Facebook is yet another cyber way Christians have found to meet and connect old and new friends to Christ. Facebook is gaining popularity as a place to share scripture, testimonies, church happenings and invite others to evangelistic gatherings. Likewise, weblogs have expanded the reach of the gospel across continents. When I first started writing my blogs, The Gospel to GO and The Gospel to GO: London, I didn't know whether they would find an audience. To my surprise, through Google Analytics, I discovered that the blogs have a worldwide audience spanning five of the seven continents. this just goes to show the power of the Internet. Antarctica and Australia, it's time to come on board.

But where does all this cyber-evangelizing leave the lowly foot soldier of the gospel in the scheme of things? The Bible says that foot soldiers are still valued as the preferred method for communicating the gospel to others:
And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord? The Scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the good news. Romans 10:15
Online evangelism will never diminish the local church's role as an evangelizing body of believers. Online converts will always need a physical church to call home where they can practice their new faith, and build relationships. Local churches provide that personal touch, and face-to-face contact that the Internet cannot. The fact is many men and women who have trusted Jesus as their Savior, did so because a friend or a stranger simply took the time to explain the gospel to them.

Online evangelism neither eliminates the need nor the responsibility of local churches to engage in vigorous soulwinning efforts in their communities. Siloam Baptist Church in Norristown, PA is an example of how the local church can embrace the soulwinning aspect of its mission (view slideshow). Every month, members of Siloam's GO!Team take to the streets surrounding the church to engage with the residents and pray for the neighborhood.

Ultimately, the gospel's power does not depend on a particular methodology but rather on its relational ---God2man2man ---connection. Whether that connection is communicated over Internet or over a backyard fence, this is the penultimate message that Christians have to share with the world.
And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14

Everybody talkin' 'bout heaven ain't goin' there

A surprising fact is that most people believe they are good enough to go to heaven. Why? Because they feel that they are a “good person.” Are there “good people” who think they are going to heaven but in reality will not be going? --- Jack Wellman

Just about everybody has an opinion about heaven --- some believe, some don't believe and some don't have a clue. Yet, heaven is widely thought of as the place most people want to go when they die even though they may have no idea what it takes to get in.

So often when a loved one dies, we like to assume that he or she is up in heaven looking down on us. Mostly, we tell ourselves this because it helps ease the pain of loss and keeps our dearly departed one close. Another common belief is that heaven is a place where good people go after they depart this earth. Who doesn't think of him or herself as a good person? But is being a good person good enough to get you into heaven? The fact is everybody talkin' 'bout heaven ain't goin' there

With so many misconceptions out there about heaven, I took to the streets to find out what the average person knows or believes. For this survey, I asked Millennials since they are the next generation to lead America into the future. How Millennials feel about God and religion will have a definite an impact on the kind of society they create. I conducted the survey at a local shopping mall and commuter train station. My sample consisted of randomly chosen males and females of different ethnicities between the ages of 18-34.

Here's what they had to say in response to questions about heaven:
1.) Do you believe in heaven?
  • 64% yes
  • 36 % no
2.) What do you know about heaven?
Some of the more interesting responses:
  • I know it's a great place and I want to go there. (Age 24)
  • I do believe there is something out there. I don't really believe in heaven or hell. (Age 18)
  • It's a place people will go if they do something good with their life and they'll be reunited with loved ones (Age 25)
  • It's a better place and hopefully, one day I [will] see my family, the ones who've passed away. (Age 29)
  • I don't think much about heaven or know much. (Age 23)
  • It's the place where your soul hopefully goes if you've been on good behavior. (Age 27)
  • I heard that God died for our sins and once we die we live in eternal peace. (Age 20)
  • Not like a Christian heaven, but I believe that after you die you don't have to put up with worldly woes. (Age 25)
  • I was raised as Christian so I know about heaven as much as the Bible says and as much as Evangelical Christians will tell you. I am very atheistic at this point. (Age 27)
  • I know absolutely nothing except what's recorded in the Bible. (Age 34)
3.) Do you expect to go to heaven when you die? If yes, why? If no, why?
  • 64% yes*
  • 21 % no
  • 15% not sure
*Among the reasons given, "because I'm a good person" topped the list; also mentioned was "belief in God or Jesus."
Do you currently attend a place of worship like a church, synagogue, mosque or temple?
  • 43 % yes
  • 57% no*
*Among the "no" responses, "used to attend church" and "worship at home" were among the reasons given.

I wasn't surprised by the mixed responses I got from Millennials on heaven. However, it should be noted that those who demonstrated any spiritual or biblical understanding of heaven were in the minority. You can draw your own conclusions, as to what this means, especially if you're the parent of a Millennial or a member of the clergy. At the very least, it probably suggests that, as parents and as clergy, we haven't done a good enough job preparing the Millennial generation in this area. While Millennials may not be focused much on heaven right now, they still need to know what's ahead for them and what the options are.

The fact is Millennials are at greater risk of dying young from gun violence, motor vehicle accidents, drugs and suicide than any previous generation in America. Millennials have already experienced the pain of death of their peers and acquaintances, and aren't as reluctant to talk about dying or life after death as you might think. When Millennials write "R.I.P." on the makeshift memorials of their friends, we need to come alongside them to help them understand what it really means. So that when it's their turn to stare down death, they'll have the peace in their heart that's beyond comprehension.

As for the question, "Do you expect to go to heaven?" A majority answered "yes" and gave this reason: "because I'm a good person" or "because I believe I'm a good person." I thought the comment by a 27 year old woman was the most revealing. Although she does not believe in heaven, she feels that she couldn't meet all the "stipulations" required to get in, anyway. Good people do go to heaven but not just because they're good. Likewise, bad people can also go to heaven, in spite of having been bad. Heaven isn't a place for only good people.

If you want the truth, nobody gets into heaven on his or her own merit. You couldn't possibly do enough good deeds in a lifetime to earn a place in heaven. Keeping all Ten Commandments or any other form of human effort on your part won't earn you a place in heaven. The way to heaven begins with seeing yourself as God sees you --- a sinner in need of God's forgiveness:
We are all infected and impure with sin.
When we display our righteous deeds,
they are nothing but filthy rags. 
Isaiah 64:6
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23
Heaven is a level playing field, meaning anyone who wants in can get in. The only stipulation, the only requirement is that you accept God's invitation. It's a choice that only you can make. Millennials, please hear this. After you're dead, the opportunity to choose where you'll spend eternity is loss, unless that choice is made before you die. This short video explains everything you need to know to make it into heaven. Need help making a decision? Someone is waiting at to pray with you.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind but now I see.
---From the hymn, Amazing Grace by John Newton

A warning to the Church: God is not pleased

It is appalling that the most segregated hour in Christian America is 11 o'clock on Sunday morning. --Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

One of my most enduring childhood memories is of growing up on Effingham Street in Portsmouth, Va. There were two churches on our block—one black, the other white. On Sunday mornings, I can remember watching people gather at the church across the street, and wondering why we never went to that church or why they never came to ours. When I asked my grandmother about it, she quickly put an end to my childhood curiosity by saying:
Our church is better.
I remember thinking, if it's better why aren't those people coming over here? It didn't make sense to me then, and still doesn't.

I would be told "Ours is better" each time I questioned why blacks and whites never mingled together in public places or at public events in that southern town. Whites had their space and we had ours. This was the mid-fifties. It wasn't until much later in life that I learned first hand the real truth about racial segregation in America. In spite of its multiracial makeup, America is still in bondage to a spirit of segregation that pervades much of society, even our churches.

Although, it's been 50 years since Dr. King addressed the issue of racial segregation in the Christian church, not much has changed. On any given Sunday, it is still possible to open the doors of most Christian churches in America and find a homogeneous congregation of people worshiping God, and not see a single member of another race. According to Chris Rice, coauthor of More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel, most Christians never give it much thought.
Ninety percent of African-American Christians worship in all-black churches. Ninety percent of white American Christians worship in all-white churches...Years since the incredible victories of the Civil Rights movement, we continue to live in the trajectory of racial fragmentation. The biggest problem is that we don't see that as a problem.
Segregated pews are viewed as the norm. There are a few multiracial and multicultural churches; however, they account for only 5-7 percent of Christian congregations. News flash—there won't be a separate heaven for all those who want to only be with their own kind. It's in the bible:
After this I looked, and there was an enormous crowd—no one could count all the people! They were from every race, tribe, nation, and language, and they stood in front of the throne and of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They called out in a loud voice: 'Salvation comes from our God, who sits on the throne, and from the Lamb!' (Revelation 7:8-9)
It seems clear from this that God intends for his followers to live together in eternity as one big happy family. So then, why aren't we doing more to become one body in Christ here on earth? By the numbers, Christian congregations continue to lag behind the rest of society when it comes to eliminating self-imposed racial segregation.
Christian theologians and church leaders have differing opinions on what can be done to ameliorate the situation. Most admit there's a lack of diversity in the churches, but make excuses like "People prefer to go to church with people who look like them" or "People choose churches where they feel comfortable." 

Sadly, there is also a misguided remnant who have racist tendencies, and don't want to see people from other races in their congregations [We need to pray for them]. Regardless, of the reason, no excuse is valid in the eyes of God who expects Christians to love each other and everybody else.
If the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and if we are indeed saved, then it should be possible for us to celebrate differences in skin color and culture as evidence of the divine artistry of creation and redemption and not as grounds for continued separation, exploitation, and prejudice. - Walter Douglas
So then, how do we start to transform Sundays at 11 o'clock from the most segregated hour to the most racially diverse and inclusive hour in Christian America? Perhaps, the answer lies in one changed heart, one friendly handshake across the aisle, one conversation that ends with an invite—until we get the job done. That means every believer will have to do his part to bring about a change. Change is difficult, but change we must.

You remember the story I shared earlier about the two Christian churches on my block that never intermingled with each other? Well, the black church is still there and has continued to grow having maintained a presence in that community for some 50-plus years now. Unfortunately, the white church across the street decided to close its doors and move away after other black families moved into the neighborhood. So I guess my grandmother was right. Our church really was the better one.

Conquering your fear: What are you most afraid of

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself " — President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Fear strikes usually placid Ottawa, Canada
Boston Globe

Few would disagree that this world is becoming a more dangerous and uncertain place. More people admit to being afraid than at any other time in modern history. For a reason behind this climate of fear, you need only look at the headlines — Ebola outbreaks, ISIS threats, Ottawa shootingsdomestic terror, wars, economic downturns,global unrest and climate changes. It's hard to feel safe when everywhere you look, it seems the world is in trouble. People are naturally afraid for the future.

Adding to global fears are the many privately held fears that people have—mostly having to do with matters of personal health, security and safety. Among these concerns are fear of serious illness, tragic accident, job loss, financial collapse, violent crime, growing old and dying young. The media paints a grim picture of an America in crisis, which only adds to the level of anxiety felt by so many. Our fears are tearing us apart, says writer Julie Hanus:
For the first time in history, fear is tearing society apart. In the past, fear has engendered solidarity—as it did in the 1950s, when nuclear anxieties bound Americans together. Contemporary fear throws wedges between us. This isolation, in turn, renders the public ever more fearful. What’s more, media outlets, politicians, and businesses all have learned to capitalize on this distinctly modern sense of dread, and thus profit from finding ways to cultivate it. — Julie Hanus
Unlike President Franklin Roosevelt, who reassured a fearful nation in the face of hard economic times, present day politicians shamelessly engage in fear mongering for political advantage. These political opportunists are modern day Chicken Littles who play on our fears with their sky is falling rhetoric, all the while trying to convince us they're trying to save us. It's a strategy that has been used successfully time and again by both political parties. Somebody just needs to tell the truth.

What are you most afraid of? How has fear affected your life? Is your fear worth the time, place and energy you are giving it? What steps can you take to overcome your fear? These are important questions you should ask yourself. The idea behind these questions is to get you thinking about and moving toward a solution rather than giving in and letting fear control you. You may be unable to do it on your own. You may need the help of a professional. The point is do something about your fear rather than doing nothing and letting fear dominate you. The choice is yours to make. Here's an example of what that looks like:
A. You hear something go bump in the dark. It frightens you, so run out of the house away from the noise. As a result, the dark remains a scary place for you.
B. You hear something go bump in the dark. It frightens you but you grab a flashlight and walk towards the sound and discover the source. The cat knocked over a stack of books on the counter. You've confronted the dark and taken control of your fear.
Fear keeps you off balance and not in control of the situation. Confronting your fear puts the power back in your hands. Gradually exposing yourself, under controlled conditions, to the thing you fear may help ease your fear. It's like what we do with kids who fear riding a bike for the first time. We ease their fear by using training wheels and running alongside them until their confidence builds and they gain balance and control of the bike.
Perhaps, someone like a friend, pastor or therapist would be willing to walk alongside you as you work on conquering your fear. They can help you develop a strategy for overcoming your fear. Ultimately, it's important that you realize fear is not your friend — far from it. If you let it continue, fear will completely destroy the good life God intends for you.
The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd's rod and staff protect me. — Psalm 23: 1-4

Happy Holidays: Where are the shepherds when we need them

In 2009, President and Mrs. Obama broke tradition by announcing that their White House holiday card would expressly omit any mention of Christmas or of Jesus' birth. The words "Merry Christmas"were replaced by "Happy Holidays" on cards sent from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A growing trend to omit any mention of Christmas from the holiday's celebration has been steadily creeping into the culture of America. Public displays of nativity scenes have come under attack by anti-Christmas groups, and in a few cases, the courts have declared them to be illegal in public places in some communities.

Christian group stages nativity scene in front of the Supreme Court
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Nowadays Christmas is marked by tree trimming and gift giving with little mention of Jesus Christ, whose birth it celebrates. And like the Presidential holiday card, some of us send out greeting cards full of holiday cheer, but no mention of the real joy that came into the world with Christ's birth.

The proclamation of Jesus' birth must not end with the shepherds. Those who follow the Christ of Christmas must proclaim this gospel message until the day Christ returns. Christians have an obligation to declare the real reason for the season, which is that Christ came into the world to save sinners. The shepherds left their sheep, and probably lost their jobs to spread the good news of Christ's coming. These words—
For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life, still have power to change lives in any season. This is the true message of Christmas that a lost world needs to hear.
Stand up for Christmas. If someone says, Happy Holidays it's their right, but it's also your right to respond, Have a blessed Christmas or Merry Christmas. This Christmas, before opening your gifts, read the biblical account of Christ's birth in the Gospels. And may this Christmas be as the angels proclaimed that day long ago in Bethleham—
Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

How Jesus' resurrection takes the fear out of dying

Death is not a blind alley that leads the human race into a state of nothingness, but an open door which leads man into life eternal.— Dr Martin Luther King Jr

O death were is thy sting, O grave were is thy victory?
Getty Photos

Several years ago, I was talking with a friend, and just happened to mention that a famous Broadway producer we met on a cruise had died. My friend looked straight at me and said, "I'm ready." I didn't realize what she meant until a few days later when I received a call that my friend had died. As shocking as the news was, I took comfort in the fact that she didn't fear death. You might say she looked forward to it because she was a Christian.

Christians die like everybody else, and often from all the bad things in this world that kill everybody else. The difference is when Christians die, they know they won't stay dead forever. According to Christian belief, anyone who believes in Jesus Christ will never really die. This truth is rooted in God's unshakable promise of eternal life to anyone who accepts his Christ.
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NLT
I haven't faced the moment of death personally, but I have been present when others have. You can tell a lot about a person by how they face the moment of death. Their last words, the look on their face say a lot about the kind of life they lived. For instance, some people curse God as they are dying, others make last-minute pleas for forgiveness, which God does honor.

And then, there are the true Christians. You can tell by the radiant look on their faces, as they lay dying, that they must see heaven open up and angels descending to take them home. When my mother died from MS at age 83, she had that look. I was happy for her, and I admit a little envious because I knew without a doubt she was heading for a place where she'd be more alive than she'd ever been in life. For the believer in Christ, death is the fulfillment of this scripture:
And we are not afraid but are quite content to die, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8 TLB
Easter marks a sacred time on the Christian calendar because it symbolizes Christ's victory over death, and by association, the victory of every believing Christian. Essentially, that's what Jesus' resurrection means in a world of believers and non-believers. Refusing to believe doesn't change or negate the reality of what Jesus accomplished. The scriptures tell his story:
Jesus died a physical death on the cross and was raised by God's spirit from the dead. Christ's resurrection is evidenced by the empty tomb in Jerusalem, by the written testimony of his disciples in the Gospels, and by the more than 500 sightings of others who encountered Jesus after his resurrection prior to his ascension into heaven.
What Jesus did made death merely an event, not a dead end. Christ's resurrection took the sting out of death. No wonder Christians don't view death in the same way others do. Christians see death as a home-going. Christian songwriters write songs like Soon and Very SoonI'm Going Away and I Can Only Imagine that celebrate the certainty of an afterlife. Christians know that one day they will see this Jesus, who died not only for their sins, but also for the sins of everyone. No one needs to hold onto a fear of death because Jesus is alive.
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Romans 5:1 NLT
This article is dedicated to the family and friends of the 150 people who died tragically in the Germanwings airliner crash (March, 2015).