christmasa

‘Tis the season! Christmas is all around us. Lights, trees, candles, music, cookies—we can’t get away from it! We look forward to our holiday traditions of spending time with family, opening presents, and watching our favorite Christmas movies. But have we really stopped and pondered Christmas? What is it all about? Yes, we have a general idea that baby Jesus was born and that angels sang and shepherds came to see Him. But what does it matter? Why is it so important?

Luke 2:11 says, “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (NASB). Christ was born as a Savior. That He is called a Savior implies that someone needs saving. Who needs saving? And saving from what, exactly? Well, we are all born sinners; we all do and think and say wrong things, things contrary to the Word and the character of God. We don’t think that our sin is so bad because we see sin all around us and are so corrupt in our hearts that we become numb to it. But God has no sin, and sin is a big deal to Him.

So the answer to the question of “who needs saving” is that we all do! We are lost in our sin and have no way of helping ourselves. This sin enslaves us and sentences us to eternal condemnation. The significance of Christmas is this: God loved us so much that He didn’t want us to be lost in our sin. The Son of God left His glory in heaven and became a human being, not so that we can have a joyous season during which we sing nice songs and give each other gifts, but rather so that He could live a perfect life, die a sacrificial death in our place, and rise from the grave to offer us hope.

This Christmas season, really stop and ponder. Think about the love of God and the sinfulness of man. Think about the work of Christ on the cross when He died to pay the penalty for our sins. Think about how only through complete trust and faith in Jesus can we be saved from the power and penalty of our sins. The little baby in the manger became the man on the cross, and we should be eternally grateful.

Have a merry Christmas!

 

Romans 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 10:9 – “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

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 telemarketer-web

We all have to deal with people. Whether they are customers, clients, church members, coworkers, or whatever, these interactions happen daily in a professional setting. Sometimes everything goes smoothly. But sometimes, more often than we would like, dealing with people can frustrating. Oh, so very frustrating. Having worked as a telephone interviewer (calling different households to conduct surveys), as well as various other people-oriented jobs, I have had to develop strategies to calmly deal with extremely difficult people. Here are some tips that help me cope on a day-to-day basis.

 

Remember that they are not the enemy.

Generally speaking, whatever situation you are in is not a war-zone. Yet it often feels that way. An angry customer or an irritated church member storms in and immediately you get on the defensive. The guns and grenades come out on both sides. Everyone else, take cover, because the battle is on! But in reality, what are you fighting for? The bigger man or woman will be the first to raise the white flag and recognize that the other person is not the enemy. Lowering your guard helps you be more open to working out a solution.

 

Put yourself in their shoes.

People don’t usually go off on something just because they enjoy being angry. Usually there is a reason behind their anger, and that reason—at least in their mind—has some legitimacy. Trying to understand exactly why someone is upset helps you be more patient with them. Even if they seem completely unreasonable and you really don’t understand why, you should at least try to understand the emotions that they’re feeling. Empathy is very helpful in diffusing tension.

 

Don’t take things personally.

Even in a professional setting, people are rude. They may cuss at you, chew you out, and yell at you about things over which you have absolutely no control. How can you maintain your cool when someone is shouting profanities at you? Just remember that more than likely it’s not about you. They aren’t really angry at you and they don’t hate you personally; they are usually just upset about their situation. Allowing yourself to take to heart every unkind word spoken to you will only frustrate you. It’s best to just shrug it off and laugh about it later. Remember, only you have control over your emotions.

 

Focus on what’s important.

It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of the moment, but don’t let the little frustrations distract you from what’s really important. What is important will be different from interaction to interaction. For some interactions, it may be making a sale, for others it may be keeping a customer, and for others it may be maintaining a positive relationship with the person in question. Whatever the situation, think before you speak and ask, “What is the goal of this interaction?”

 

So take a breath. Count to ten. Put on a smile, and be ready to face anybody!

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youth-group

Youth pastors and church youth group leaders have a tough job. They have to deal with so much—from drama between adolescents with raging hormones to complaining parents with unreasonably high expectations. Truly, youth pastors and leaders don’t get paid enough for their job (if they get paid anything!).

Here are some tips that may help you survive the jungle that is youth ministry:

 

Don’t underestimate the youth.

Young people are smarter than we give them credit for. Sure, they are often obnoxious and silly and don’t take life seriously enough, but in reality they understand more than we think they do. They contemplate life. They can understand difficult truths. They are becoming more of their own person away from their parents and are figuring out what beliefs they want to take hold of. For youth leaders this can be a good thing and a bad thing: it means that the truths you are trying to drive home to them may actually penetrate into their lives, but it also means that they have the capacity to indulge in very bad behavior sometimes!

 

Make it fun, but keep it Christ-centered.

Young people do appreciate and enjoy the “fun” aspect of youth group. They like the silly games and bowling and skiing and going to the movies. But there runs the risk that these fun activities can become the focal point. For a church youth group, this should not be the case. Youth leaders need to be careful to always direct the focus where it should be: Christ. Not that every little activity needs to have some sort of contrived spiritual significance, but the group should be about Christ rather than just about “fun.”

 

Be approachable yet firm.

Young people need someone they can talk to, someone who will listen without judgment and offer encouragement and advice. They need someone who will be a friend that they can look up to and enjoy spending time with. At the same time, young people need someone who is not a pushover. A youth leader sometimes must lay down the law and tell it like it is, even if the truth may be harsh. Finding the right balance between being the approachable friend and the firm authority figure is vital to survival as an effective youth pastor or leader.

 

Be organized.

Without organization, your life as a ministry leader will rapidly descend into chaos. Write things down. Make notes to yourself and color-code things if you have to! Utilize social media to get information out. Another way to get organized is to communicate things via text message (such as through Mobile Text Alerts!). Sending mass text messages to your youth group members and fellow leaders is a great way to let them know about last-minute events, remind them about scheduled activities, or encourage them with Bible verses and inspirational messages.

 

Above all, never forget what it’s all about—serving God by serving the youth. If you always keep that as your goal and motivation, you really can’t go wrong.

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