Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry


By Jeannette Haley

“I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring

 ye ought to support the weak, and to remember

 the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said,

 It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:35

      It seems like just yesterday, but it was many years ago—well over half a century actually— that I was a child and completely overjoyed each year as Christmas day grew closer. My beautiful and talented mother never failed to choose the most splendid tree on the Christmas tree lot for our spacious living room. To qualify as the “perfect” tree, its branches had to be long and full, with just the right amount of space in between limbs, but definitely not scrawny, crooked, or out of place in any way. Its top had to almost touch the ceiling and, of course, the needles had to be fresh and green.

      Once it was firmly established in a secure base, my parents began the tedious task of putting the lights on it. Back in those days we had big, multi-colored lights. No miniature lights back then, and no twinkling or obnoxious flashing lights either, but real “honest” light bulbs. My grade school teacher one year had helped my class make sturdy colored tin “stars” that fit behind each bulb (on the socket), and they were indeed beautiful. I remember my mother commenting on how grateful she was to my teacher for having us kids “make something useful for a change.”

       Our beautiful heirloom decorations were then carefully removed from their protective tissue paper and storage boxes, and hung on the tree while a record from a Christmas album played “O Tannenbaum” in the background. After all the fragile shiny glass ornaments were in “just the right places,” out came the sheets of cotton that we tore into thin strips. Beginning at the top of the tree and working our way down we patiently covered each limb, branch, and twig with “snow.” It took a lot of time to press that cotton onto those prickly green needles to give the very real appearance of fresh snowfall.

      Then came the fourth and final finishing touch which was applying, one at a time, long strands of heavy tinsel. (It was made from lead back then.) And, it was gorgeous! I realize that there are many beautiful variations of Christmas tree decorations and ornaments nowadays, but in my mind’s eye I still think my childhood Christmas trees were the best. And, how could they not be, what with all the happy memories attached to them?

      Christmas stockings were stuffed with many small surprises, each carefully wrapped by my grandmother who used miles of Scotch tape. I knew the plan was to give me a time-consuming challenge, which they did. Under the tree lay beautifully wrapped gifts, all done with real ribbon which displayed the hearts of those who worked so hard to make Christmas special. There were bowls of mixed nuts which my dad patiently cracked open, a variety of homemade butter Christmas cookies, and, of course, a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings, topped off with homemade pies and real whipped cream. There were some old traditional English dishes too, as well as fruit cake, but I have to admit that my personal “tradition” only went as far as “traditional American.” Some old English delicacies looked inedible to me back then, and I have no doubt still would!

      You might be wondering where Jesus was in all this. Looking back, I can see that He was in our minds and hearts; He was in all the joy and love; He was in the selflessness of those who sacrificed so much to make Christmas special; He was with us when we gathered around the baby grand piano to sing Christmas carols;  He was with us when we bowed our heads and said “grace,” and His Spirit sealed the story of God’s great gift to the world in our hearts. And, through it all, the blessing was in the giving, which I realized later in life.

      Were we a perfect family, and did we walk all the days of our lives in the paths of righteousness? No. But, that is why God sent His Son. No one can go through a day in this life without falling short of God’s glory in some way. Not every thought, word and deed that we have is going to be without a shadow or shade of something that is not pleasing to the Lord. But we have a wonderful Savior, who is closer to us than we can begin to imagine, and who is ready to receive us with open arms when we turn to Him for forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation.

      As a child, and an “only” one at that, giving and sharing had to be worked into my character by obedience to the Word, and as I was taught by others, and the Holy Spirit. Now, when I look back on the beautiful Christmas trees we used to have, which I was so proud of, the real blessing has come with precious spiritual insights. For example, to me now the tree represents the tree upon which our Lord shed His blood and died for us. When it is set up, straight and tall, pointing towards not just the ceiling, but heaven itself, I am reminded of Jesus’ words, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” John 12:32.

      The beautiful lights, which come next, remind me that Jesus is the Light of the world, and that this great Light was born one dark night into a world that struggled under the darkness of sin and hopelessness. Every single light on the tree represents individual lives that have received Him into their hearts and who now reflect His light in a world that desperately needs Him. John 1:9 says, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Jesus said, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” John 12:46.

      Each unique ornament that decorates the tree reminds me of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we yield to Him, for “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time” Ecclesiastes 3:11. Our God is a personal God and He gives to each of His children their own calling, ministry (service), talents, abilities and power to carry out His work in the earth for His glory. “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” Ephesians 4:8.

(See Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, 14.)

      Applying all the beautiful white “snow” reminds me of the cleansing power of the blood of Christ. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” Isaiah 1:18.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” 1 John 1:7; “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” Hebrews 9:22.

      Finally, the “crowning glory” of the long, shiny strands of tinsel symbolizes heavenly glory, streaming down from up above. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” John 1:14.

“He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all” John 3:31.

      The gifts under the tree are a testimony of love. Blessed are those who give out of a pure heart.

       And now, as I write this, much of the world is thinking about Christmas, 2020. What is happening to our traditions as individuals, as families, as a country whose very foundations are based on Judeo-Christian principles, and the Sovereignty of God?  We have gone through a tremendous shaking, a time of great fear, sorrow, loss and hopelessness. We have watched our history, traditions and precious freedoms come under attack and be systematically taken from us by evil forces too great to comprehend. We have been subjected to the tyranny of unreasoning, inhumane oppression, insanity and lies of powerful eugenicists and despisers of God and His people, as well as America and the Constitution. The question is, who cannot see Satan behind all of this? I’m afraid many people who do not know the Lord, or His Word, do not. Others have subjected themselves to insidious methods of brainwashing and propaganda and have succumbed to paralyzing fear. Demon possession is becoming the “norm.”

      Meanwhile, organized religion has compromised with the world (and the devil) in the hope of acquiring some sort of “peace.” The slightest whimper of disagreement from a concerned Bible-believer is met with condescending and pious accolades such as, “God’s will be done” which, being interpreted, means “Go back to sleep and don’t get involved in patriotism or politics.”  But the truth is the battle lines are being drawn between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light, and there is no more middle ground. Secondly, God works through people to accomplish His will for His people, and the world. (The Bible is clear about this.) Yes, we are citizens of heaven, just “passing through.” But that does not excuse the Church from any involvement in, not only spiritual warfare, but if need be, physical involvement in combating evil. There really is a vast difference between lounging in your easy chair, and sitting in a concentration camp! What happened to “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”?

      Thomas Paine’s famous words are timely for our present situation. He said, “THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

      One part of his great statement that stands out to me is, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” How true it is if we are handed everything, never work hard for anything or learn how to earn what we need or want, and if we have never sacrificed the best we have for a higher purpose than ourselves, then most likely, we start off thinking that the world owes us a living, that other people are here to serve our purposes, and that includes the government. If such a “bless-me” person claims to be a Christian, then God is the One whom they believe should be blessing their socks off—not just occasionally, but every day in every way. This is why man-centered churches and movements that preach “cheap grace,” “positive confession,” “possibility thinking,” and “how to live your best life now” etc. create a spiritual vacuum within the starving souls of those who continue to “feed” on their vain heresies. None of these aberrant and addictive teachings and philosophies, along with the plethora of cults and occult soul-damning lies being peddled today have a thing to do with real Christianity. The point is, real solid, true, biblical Christianity requires sacrifice on our part, cross-bearing, self-denial and obedience to Christ’s claim of Lordship. But all of this has been rejected by those who refuse to “count the cost” in favor of cheap counterfeits that damn the soul to a Christless eternity.  

      Hell is where self-serving and selfish people end up. (Thinking of Scrouge this time of the year!) You see, the heart of a true Christian values the great price God paid in giving us the gift of His Son. God gave His very best, and Jesus gave His all when He became the ultimate sacrifice on the Cross for all who would believe and receive. The automatic response of a truly born-again Christian to the needs of others is to give, and if he or she is unable to give, then to fervently pray and hope to find some way to help lift burdens. We are not saved to sit, saved to secure financial blessings, or saved to serve ourselves!

      Some Christians learn early about the joy and blessings of giving, that it is more blessed to give than to receive. As for myself, thank God for His longsuffering, and faithfulness in bringing mature Christians through the years into my life that helped me understand the importance of giving with a cheerful heart. I love what Jesus taught, “And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living” Mark 12:41-44.

      Jesus is still watching us, just as He watched the people on that day long ago. For the rich, casting in much was, and is, no personal sacrifice, but for the poor widow, she gave “all her living.” The question is, what does the LORD require of us? Jesus said, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” Mark 12:30. This poor widow woman’s sacrifice was a testimony to the love she had for God. But what else does God require of us? Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Therefore, the poor widow gave all her living because she not only loved God with all her being; she had great faith; she wanted to please Him; and she was righteous and knew by faith that He would meet her needs. Of course, this widow did not have a New Testament to read, but she knew the laws, commandments, statutes and precepts of the Old Testament. She knew the first and great commandment, and she probably knew Proverbs 21:26 which says, “He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not” and “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself” Proverbs 11:25. And, who could forget the powerful words of King David, who said, “neither will I offer burnt-offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing” 2 Samuel 24:24b.

      On the subject of giving, A.W. Tozer said it well: “Not by its size is my gift judged, but by how much of me there is in it. No man gives at all until he has given all. No man gives anything acceptable to God until he has first given himself in love and sacrifice. The hero is cited by his country not for the number of persons he has saved only, but for the degree of danger to himself present in his act. Service that can be done without peril, that carries no loss, no sacrifice, does not rate high in the sight of men or God. In the work of the Church the amount one man must do to accomplish a given task is determined by how much or how little the rest of the company is willing to do. It is a rare church whose members all put their shoulder to the wheel. The typical church is composed of the few whose shoulders are bruised by their faithful labors and the many who are unwilling to raise a blister in the service of God and their fellow men. There may be a bit of wry humor in all this, but it is quite certain that there will be no laughter when each of us gives account to God of the deeds done in the body.”

      Charles Spurgeon said, “In all of my years of service to my Lord, I have discovered a truth that has never failed and has never been compromised. That truth is that it is beyond the realm of possibilities that one has the ability to out give God. Even if I give the whole of my worth to Him, He will find a way to give back to me much more than I gave.”

      Missionary Jim Elliott wisely concluded, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” Murray J. Harris taught, “All too often we regard stewardship simply as a matter of our giving to God, but this aspect is secondary. Before we can give, we must possess, and before we possess we must receive. Therefore, stewardship is, in the first place, receiving God’s good and bounteous gifts. And once received, those gifts are not to be used solely for our own good. They must also be used for the benefit of others, and ultimately for the glory of God the giver. The steward needs an open hand to receive from God and then an active hand to give to God and to others.”

      One of my favorite teachers, Oswald Chambers, said, “With Christ, it is not how much we give, but what we do not give that is the real test.” F. B. Meyer said, “He is the richest man in the esteem of the world who has gotten the most. He is the richest man in the esteem of Heaven who has given the most.” And, finally, Amy Carmichael said, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”

      Sometimes, through these turbulent times of sorrow and uncertainty, it can be hard to mentally and emotionally “keep our bearings,” focus and continue doing what we need to do. All of the foundations are being shaken, but as believers we know that the Rock of our salvation will never be moved, nor will truth ever diminish or be destroyed, for God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). How true is the chorus of a Gaither song, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, Because He lives, all fear is gone, Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living, just because He lives.”

      American believers are in a life and death battle against the kingdom of darkness and great evil in the form of communism. We have been brought to a place where a decision must be made. This decision is no longer an option, but it is an absolute necessity. As Christians, we must humbly go before the LORD, seek His will, and pray for the strength to make the decision. You may be asking, “What is the decision?” The decision each of us must make, for once and for all, is whether or not we are willing to lay down our lives, if need be, for God and country. We can no longer lightly esteem our blood-bought freedoms that have enabled us to freely live, love and worship our God. Are we ready and willing, to declare as Queen Esther did, “If I perish, I perish”? Remember Jesus’ warning, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:25. Thomas Jefferson summed up my sentiments when he said, “I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.”

      As I write this, and we find ourselves entering another Christmas season, but instead of the usual Holiday cheer of bright lights, celebrations, social events, shopping, gift exchanges, music, and Christmas cantatas, we find ourselves in the midst of the oppressing darkness of uncertainty, confusion, fear and communist control of nearly every aspect of our lives. The question is, are we going to faint? I have to admit, as a human being, fainting is a real possibility. I’ve even had some fainting experiences myself when I was young, but to the faint of heart, Jesus “spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;” Luke 18:1. Our Lord knew we would experience overwhelming situations that could cause our hearts to faint, but He told us to pray. In John 14:1 He told His own, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” Thus, if we are to trust and obey, we will pray, and believe to the end that we “let not our hearts be troubled.”

      It is in God we find our hiding place (Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance” Psalm 32:7). He is our consolation (“That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” Hebrews 6:18.). He is our high tower, our bulwark against the forces that are determined to destroy us, (“The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” Psalms 18:2. Psalm 2 is prophetic of the days we live in and reveals God’s response to His enemies, and in calamity I go to Psalm 46.

      Through it all, wherever we are, we can still rejoice because “God gave,” and because He gave, we have something to give too, the greatest gift of all, and that is to share the life of Christ with others. Vance Havner summed up the secret of how to “keep Christmas” when he said, “Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts: the gift of God to man – His unspeakable gift of His son Jesus; and the gift of man to God – when we present our bodies as a living sacrifice and, like the Macedonians (2 Corinthians 8:5), first give ourselves to God. No one has kept or can keep Christmas until he has had a part in this two-way transaction.”

      Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” Luke 6:38. May God’s manifold blessings bring you joy this Christmas season!