Sunday, March 30, 2014

Reasons to Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

As Christians, we know the importance and meaning of the resurrection of Jesus but when someone asks, “Why do you believe in the resurrection,” how do you respond? What are your reasons; your validation for believing in something that happened thousands of years ago? For some, the resurrection is hard to believe; simply because it happened so long ago and is  not relevant to their lives.

In my opinion, there are several indisputable proofs that Christ rose from the dead; one of the most basic proofs comes from Acts 1:3: “To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Jesus showed himself alive after his death to His apostles. He showed them his wounds and the stripes on his back and the piercing in his side.

“Here in Acts 1:3, we are told that Christ was "seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). It is important to note that the unbelieving Romans and Jews also knew that the tomb was empty. Matthew 28: 11-15 states: “Some of the watch came into the city…And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night and stole him away while we slept. And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” What makes this fascinating to read and study is that he was seen not just a couple of times but many times!

Another important validation that Christ rose from the dead was his appearance to his disciples. He showed himself to his disciples many times over a 40 day period. When 10 of his disciples were gathered together in a locked room, He was there “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20:19-22).”

However, Thomas, one of the disciples, was not there and when the others told him that they had seen the Lord, he did not believe them. He said,

“Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side [into the sword wound], I will not believe" (John 20:25).”
This action from Thomas and his other disciples clearly showed that Jesus had to convince his disciples and be adamant about it in order to prove to them that he did indeed, rise from the grave. This also showed that his disciples were not gullible or had a predisposition about resurrection.  There is an important and crucial fact here and that is his disciples did not hallucinate in what they saw and heard; even though Jesus showed them evidence of his sufferings on the cross.  Once they saw the wounds, talked with him and realized that indeed he was alive, then they believed.
Another very interesting fact from John 20: 26:
"And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold [look at] my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God" (John 20:26)

The third and most important proof of Jesus’s resurrection was when the disciples made a decision to die instead of denying that Christ rose from the dead. This, in my opinion, was the greatest proof of all of what transpired on the cross. Research shows in the Bible that his disciples lived out the rest of their lives saying to those who wanted to know; that Christ had risen from the dead and that they saw Him alive and well.

To conclude, for those who believe that Jesus rose from the dead, no further evidence is needed; however, for those who doubt about what happened so long ago, the proof is clearly presented in the Bible. All one has to do is to read it and then believe on it with faith!
Copyright 2014 Toni Star


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Importance and Meaning of Lent

Lent is the time on the church calendar that marks the beginning of Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday is particularly important because is it remembers and celebrates the beginning of Jesus's fasting of 40 days and his temptation in the desert. Easter Sunday celebrates and commemorates His resurrection from the grave.

Lent is observed many ways such as attending Ash Wednesday--the first day of Lent--by attending special worship services that focus on a person's need for repentance, by giving up something for Lent such as not eating chocolate or fasting during certain days of Lent or by adding a special activity to their daily Lent observances such as reading from the Bible every day or doing some volunteer work in their community.

However, no matter what you do to observe Lent and prepare for Easter, do it with a kind and open heart and keep in mind what a miraculous event Easter is and what it means to you and me. Keep in mind, that you and I and every one on this earth would be lost; if not for Jesus. His death and resurrection saves our very soul; so that when we acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior, we will be with Him in Heaven for all eternity. His death paid for our sins and for the sins of all mankind.

So, give glory and honor and respect for Lent and especially for Easter! Most importantly, attend a Lenten service and attend an Easter service! You will be blest in ways that are hard to describe.

God Bless,

Toni Star

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

We have a Choice with Jesus when it comes to Life!

Think for a moment about what Jesus said to the woman who was found committing adultery and what happened. Everyone found her guilty of adultery and was picking up stones, preparing to throw them at her. One spoke up and said, “We found her in the very act of adultery.” The woman of course, was frightened and embarrassed and no one was standing up for her, except Jesus, who happened to be walking by. Jesus, at that moment, gave the finest example of grace there ever was when he said, “Whoever is without sin, let him throw the first stone.” Every time I think of these words, I’m taken aback.

Imagine what they all thought when they heard those words! Something like, “Who does he think he is?” But Jesus stood firm and soon, one by one, they all put their stones down. When Jesus said, “Whoever is without sin, let him throw the first stone,” they knew he was right; and they then put down their stones. John 8:1-11 NKJV

Imagine for a moment, if this kind of action happened somewhere in our society and a woman was going to be stoned to death or killed by some other means and someone spoke up and said the same words, I wonder what would happen. Would they laugh? Would they try to kill the person? Sometimes in our society we see individuals helping others in peril but we also see others who join in and kill randomly anyone in their path.

When you think about the world and how many countries and individuals no longer look on sin as sin, how does this attitude on sin affect us worldwide? Look at the in-fighting overseas with governments killing their own people so they can stay in power. Look at the many talk shows here in the US and overseas where anything from incest to murder is discussed like it was part our daily lives.

Going back to what Jesus did with the woman who was going to be stoned. What a wonderful and blessed standard he set for people back then and now. If Jesus didn’t do what his Father told him to do as far as helping and loving people and spreading the word of God, we would be living in a world with no hope of redemption. But of course, Christ did die for our sins and we have had for several thousands of years the choice of following him and going about our Father’s business or following a much darker path.

When Jesus said, “Woman go and sin no more, he not only showed leadership but also grace, two options to choose from, unconditional love and forgiveness.

The word grace has several meanings such as extreme kindness and goodness but the meaning of that word that stands out the most is “allowing someone to be free;” even though he or she committed a sin.

Again, take another look at what Jesus did. He said, “Whoever is without sin, let him throw the first stone.” Of course, everyone in the crowd knew that they were sinners; so the stoning of the woman stopped. What made this event extraordinary was what Jesus said to the crowd and how the people reacted to what he said. He spoke as if a leader; which he was and with His Truth, they were convicted. 

Another interesting point was made in Jesus’ dialogue with the woman. He also said to her, “Go and sin no more.” One could interpret that as meaning, “I will not throw stones at you because of your sin; however, it is important that you turn away from sin and sin no more.”

Again, he was offering a choice. She could go and sin no more, or she could walk away and sin another time. Clearly, this was not a dictator talking; it was a compassionate, all-caring person, better known as the Prince of Peace.
Isn't it wonderful and isn't it amazing that Jesus doesn't dictate to us on how to live. He offers us a decision; we can choose an abundant life with Him or we can choose a life that is less than mediocre and often filled with a path that leads nowhere.
Which will you choose?
Copyright Toni Star 2014


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

As the New Year comes in: Make note: Christianity is Changing!

Christianity is changing; however, even though this is nothing new it is disturbing how Christianity is changing. Church attendance is dropping—not just in the U.S. but also in many countries overseas.  However, there is a rise in Christianity in many other parts of the world. In addition, some are looking at the Bible differently. Some are questioning the Old Testament and are trying to interpret its meaning by themselves.

It is important to note that many teachings of Christianity that have been solid for centuries are now being questioned such as the place of women in church, Jesus as the only way to God and changing views on homosexuality. Most importantly, many are no longer following the normal and established Christian way of living such as being married before having sex or teaching their children about God and Jesus and why they are so important in a Christian’s life. Instead, many are now accepting premarital sex, finding out about sexual abuse within the church and discarding it as something that “happens now and then” and being more tolerant of other beliefs.

Keep in mind, too, that other types of faith are being more and more accepted such as alternative worship or an emerging church type of faith.

So, how are we as Christians react to react when we see our faith being watered down in our churches, on TV or in the movies? Do we look the other way and say, “Well, that’s O.K. as long as it doesn’t affect me or my family.” Or, do we say, “No, I don’t agree with this and I will either go to another church or continue stay with my church but follow beliefs that are set by God?

The decision, of course, is up to each person. From reading the Bible and praying, most Christians know and understand the importance of believing and following God and Jesus. I think, too, that if or when we see situations that we can safely take a stand, then I think we should. Of course, this is up to the individual and of course, like Jesus we can certainly show our displeasure with how Christianity is presented by switching to another TV station, not watching a movie that degrades Christianity or staying away from individuals or groups of people who are leading ungodly lives.  

Most importantly, as Christian writers we can proclaim the word of God and give factual information on the goodness of Christ and the importance of staying close to Him.

Perhaps one very good reason for following Christ and His Father, God comes from the following statement that was written in Revelations:

Revelation 3:15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!

Revelation 3:17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

To conclude, Christian faith and how we proclaim and live it is up to you and me. We can either set the standard of Christianity or we can follow a path that will lead us into darkness. And, as a Christmas tree inspires us with its beautiful lights and shape, let us, as Christians light the way for others. For, Christ is born and that is the best "change" of all!


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hazel McGreedy was not in the holiday mood and Christmas was just two weeks away. Harold lost his job, had a new job at Fox and Spencer Law firm but was not making the usual “big bucks” that Hazel and her children were accustomed to. There would be no big party, no big meal and no fantastic gifs for her and the children. She was really depressed and didn’t know how she would get through the holidays.

Harold was busy with his new job and their children, now in high school, were still hoping that a miracle would occur and they would have the usual big Christmas. After all, they were The McGreedys and they wanted to hold on to their high standards—that of money and power—so that they could remain big cheeses in their neighborhood.

Most of the neighbors on their block didn’t like them or want to be around them because they were so greedy; except for the Shellfish Family who lived on the next block. The Shellfish family was a lot like the McGreedy family in that they loved material things, rich and expensive food, fancy parties and all the latest electronic gadgets. Why, they were always on their cell phones, interacting on their iPods and playing games on the Internet and all the while being obnoxious with everyone.

As Hazel sat in her large dining room and pondered what they could do on Christmas and what Christmas presents they could afford to buy, she heard the phone ring.

“Hello, Hazel? It’s me, Harold.” He always said that because he didn’t want to frighten Hazel.

“Yes Harold. What is it?” She was unhappy and disappointed with Harold. After all, his new job was just not bringing in the money she needed for her and the children to be happy.

“Hazel, I just thought of something we all can do to make this holiday happier.”

Hazel paused a few minutes and thought to herself, “This has got to be lame, for sure.”

“Hazel, why don’t we invite some of neighbors over for a holiday meal? Did you know that the husbands on the next block over have lost their jobs? I’m sure they’re hurting much worse than us. What do you say?”

“Harold, why on earth should we do this? We’re struggling ourselves! No. I won’t do it!”

Harold knew he was beat, so he dropped the subject but every night for five days he prayed, “God, please open Hazel’s heart and let her see the good that would come from having those families over for Christmas dinner.”

As the days went by, Hazel’s conscience began to bother her. She kept pushing the guilty thoughts aside but the thoughts kept coming back. So, a week before Christmas, she personally called each family and invited them over for Christmas dinner. There would be 20 people coming and that meant she had to hustle to make sure everything was ready. She got her sister, Elizabeth, to help her and also her two children—Harriett and Henry. At first, they didn’t want to do it but after they found out that there would be teenage children coming, they got involved and interested.

At Christmas dinner, they all sat around Hazel’s big dinning room table and John, a neighbor who was out of work prayed, “Dear God, thank you for Hazel and her family inviting us over for this lovely Christmas dinner; a dinner none of us could have had without her and her family’s kindness.” As he spoke, Hazel, a woman who was often cold and calculating with most everyone in her life, found tears flowing down her face.

After the prayer, food was passed around and Hazel whispered to her husband, “I’m glad we did this. It was the right thing to do.” Years later Hazel would recall how good she felt preparing a Christmas meal for those who had so little and even though she was a selfish woman, that day changed her attitude and behavior—at least for awhile.
Copyright Toni Star 203







Monday, October 28, 2013

It's Thanksgiving: Time to go to Grandma's

I can't believe it's almost Thanksgiving again! Because it's that time of year again, I want to share with you one more time, my thoughts of Thanksgiving so long ago. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did when writing it...

November, then and now, signals just one thing to me, Thanksgiving at Grandma’s.  Thanksgiving at her house was paradise!  The atmosphere of food, laughter and love was wonderful and unforgettable. 

Thanksgiving morning at our house was busy.  Mom would prepare a salad or pie; we kids would dress up in our good clothes and then go outside to play. We had to be careful not to get dirty.  Good clothes in our family didn’t come easy.  We weren’t poor but we were very frugal with money and food.  Meanwhile, Dad stayed busy in the garage checking out the old Chevy.  He’d check the oil, water and the battery and then give the tires a kick, for readiness. 

Often, I would go into the garage from time to time to see how he was doing.  Often, he found things for me to do-such as checking the oil and water and inspecting the car battery to see if was clean and water filled to the proper level. I always felt important helping Dad, especially on holidays, when there was much to do. 

Later, around 12 we all piled into the Chevy, eager for Thanksgiving dinner. We would arrive at Grandma’s, all dressed up, gifts in hand, with offerings of a waldorf salad and pie. As we walked through her door the aroma of turkey and onions would fill our senses with the joy of delicious food to come.  That first whiff of turkey and steamed vegetables was delicious!  We walked through the house into her kitchen and put our donations of food and small gifts, (often a bottle of Rum) onto the kitchen table, kiss Grandma and then go into the living room where we would sit and talk.  Later, Mom and I would return to the kitchen and help Grandma with the meal. 

It was my job to help Grandma prepare the dressing, with ingredients of butter, celery, bread, milk, and onion, then help with the progress of the turkey.  Mom would put her donations of food into the already crammed refrigerator and then prepare green beans or another salad for dinner. Inside the oven the turkey was roasting, and occasionally Grandma would let me use her large ladling spoon to baste the turkey.    Later, Grandma and I would finish preparing a pie—often apple or cherry.  I would round out the crust while she prepared the filling.  After that was done, we’d check on the vegetables and then I would set the table.   

I loved that job because she had beautiful crystal and China, with delicate pink and blue patterns on the dishes and matching pink crystal for glasses. She also had beautiful silverware that was kept in a special drawer in the living room.  I would carefully remove the dinnerware from the old ornate cabinet in the dining room and tenderly place each piece in the proper setting.  I loved how it all sparkled on the table.

The meal of Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes; real green beans, cranberries and pie filled us up till we could eat no more.  We would all sit at the large table, enjoy her traditional Thanksgiving meal and talk about the latest “Uncle Millie” or “Jackie Gleason” shows.  We all loved those shows and each of us tried to “out do” each other, with our imitations of “Uncle Miltie” or “Jackie Gleason.” The adults would later have wine or brandy and we kids would go out and play in the small backyard.  Sometimes I would deliver food Grandma prepared for an old lady across the street.  The old lady lived alone and was often too ill to prepare food for herself.  I loved doing this for Grandma, and the old lady was always happy to receive it. I took pride running this errand because I helped Grandma prepare much of the meal.

Today, I continue Grandma’s Thanksgiving meal.  I prepare many of the same kind of foods she prepared ---homemade turkey dressing, several salads and pie.  Many in my family can’t attend because they live too far away.  But, those who do enjoy a Thanksgiving meal of the 50’s.  You see, Grandma’s gone, but her traditions live on in a woman from the 50’s.
Copyright Toni Star 2013


Friday, July 26, 2013

Types of Christian Persecution

An interesting article appeared on the BBC News UK on December 1, 2010 titled “Christians launch defense of faith ‘under attack.” This is an intriguing article and one that many Christians can relate to. Part of the article begins:

The article begins:

“Lord Carey is concerned about the state of Britain's Christian culture

Christians who believe their faith is "under attack" in Britain have launched a "Not Ashamed Day" campaign.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey claimed Christians of "deep faith" faced discrimination.

Campaigners say a mounting number of cases of workers being disciplined over their beliefs show Christianity is being "airbrushed" from UK society.

But the National Secular Society said "zealots" were wrong to claim the faith was being deliberately undermined.

The Not Ashamed Day, organised by the Christian Concern lobbying group, is the start of a campaign urging Christians to "wear their faith with pride".

'Under attack'

In recent years, Lord Carey said Christians had been penalised for activities such as wearing crosses and offering to pray for other people.

"Christianity is a public religion, always has been and always will be," he said as he launched the campaign outside the House of Lords.

"What we believe in is of paramount importance to our nation and were we to lose it, then I have no idea what will happen to the Christian faith in this country."

The former archbishop unveiled a leaflet warning that Britain's Christian culture was "under attack".

Their campaign highlights a series of cases involving Christians who have lost claims for discrimination.

They include Nadia Eweida - a British Airways worker from London - and Shirley Chaplin - an NHS nurse from Kenn, Exeter - who both lost high-profile discrimination claims over wearing crosses at work.”

My review of the article:

The above article gives other examples of Christian discrimination such as some who were discriminated against when they were spotted wearing a cross or when they shared their belief of Jesus with another person, was overhead and then mocked and discriminated for what they said. 

Think back on the times when you felt uncomfortable talking about your faith or when you got negative responses when you said you believed in the Second Coming of Christ. If you’re like me, several instances may come to mind.

An example from my life was when a woman laughed when I said that I believed in Jesus. She replied, “Why do you believe in Jesus? There is no proof that he existed or rose from the dead. And, if he existed, he was a sinner, he wasn’t perfect and he certainly didn’t come back from the dead. No one has come back from the dead!”

I thought for a moment and then I said, “According to Biblical scripture, which is an excellent record of history—written by several of his disciples—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and “various epistles written by those who claim to have been with Christ, i.e., Romans, Hebrews, James and Jude--he lived without sin,, died on the cross and according to the Bible, rose from the dead and one day will return in glory. All of this information is in the Bible and has been read by millions for several thousands of years.”

She looked at me with a dazed look in her eyes and said nothing—nothing at all. When you speak the truth and back it up with facts and power that comes God—you will often get an open-mouthed reply. The old saying is true, “The truth will set you free.”

As a Christian I encourage to keep speaking up and talking about your faith and wearing your cross in pride because you have a right as person on this earth to state your mind and your beliefs. Of course, common sense is necessary when sharing your faith. If; however, you feel that you or your family could be in danger talking about your beliefs, then don’t do so.

Faith is personal and it is right of every Christian; so keep on spreading the Good News! Time, my friend, is of the essence and as followers of Christ; every day is a good day to spread the News!
Copyright 2013 Toni Star