Acts Chapter 26 - Paul Comes Before the King

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What would you say if you were to speak to a king?   

In Chapter 25 - The Big Appeal  we were brought to the point where Paul would be allowed to appeal to Caesar and then King Agrippa comes into the story and we were left wondering how this might affect Festus and his decision.

verses 1 - 3     A greeting to King Agrippa.

So the king wants to hear from Paul and Paul doesn't just blurt out "I've been accused ...." and how wrong it is.
Instead Paul greets and recognises the King as an authority in Jewish customs and asks him to listen patiently.

Yes we all (according to scripture) have the right to be heard when we are accused of something but that does not mean we get abusive about it or forget to be respectful to others.

verses 4 - 11     Short Personal story of early life.

Paul explains how he was a devout Jew and that he was well-known among all Jews.

Now the Jews should be well acquainted with the promises of God as they are always exhorted to memorise the scriptures but they do have disagreements among themselves about the resurrection.  Paul believes in the resurrection because of having been a Pharisee  as opposed to the Sadducees who do not.

We found that several times the resurrection is mentioned and disagreements happen as is Chapter 17 - Knowing God

Here he talks about the hope of the Promise that God gave originally to Abraham and all Jews should be in agreement about that.

He then goes on to the part of his life when he persecuted those who followed Jesus because he saw them as going against what Jews believed and even blaspheming.

verses 12 - 18       Conversion Experience.

Yet again Paul has the opportunity to relay the story of his conversion.

In other times when he had an audience of Jews he had bad reactions such as in Chapter 13 - A Specific Job for the Kingdom  but with the difference that there he was invited by the Jewish Leaders to speak and now they don't want him to speak at all.

Another time he had the opportunity to speak to the Jews of Jesus in Chapter 18 - Reactions of People  he found that the Jews were so angry against him that they blasphemed.

What will be the reaction of this King?

verses 19 - 23             New life and Attitude.

Paul tells the King of his new life and what that entailed.

It meant a change in his behaviour from hounding the Christians to

  • obedience to Jesus from the meeting on the Damascus Road  verse 19
  • speaking of repentence first to the Jews and then also to the gentiles  verse 20

It also meant a change in his physical and practical lifestyle

  • arrests and threats of death from his own people  verse 21
  • help and miracles from God  verse 22

It also meant a strong and unwavering stance for God

  • speaking the same as the prophets had about how Jesus would come and die and rise again  verse 22-23

verses 24 - 33            Reaction to Paul.

First Festus is upset and turns on Paul.

Then Paul turns it directly to the King because he knows the King has heard a lot about him already.
He asks Agrippa a very important question in verse 27

King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? 
I know that you do believe.

Paul did what many times we fail to do.

Paul after testifying about Jesus then asked a direct question which demands thoughtful consideration and a response.

Salvation is a personal thing not just something we hear about but something we need to make a decision about and respond to either accepting or rejecting there is no other option.

So what was King Agrippa's response in verse 28?

It was about the saddest one we will ever hear.

Then Agrippa said to Paul, 
“You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

Almost is not enough, in fact almost is as far away as an outright rejection.

When faced with the Gospel it is a matter of acceptance or rejection, there just is no in-between. 

Paul stood before his earthly king but but some day we will all stand before our heavenly King Jesus and we need to have made our decision now, not waiting until then when it will be too late.

It is acceptance or rejection NOW there just is no in between.

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Acts Chapter 25 - The Big Appeal

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Change of governer but Paul is still in the same position or will that change in this new chapter?

verses 1 -  8

Now these Jews never gave up in their vendetta against Paul even though he had been held in Caesarea for two years they were still anxious to kill him so another plot is being laid at the start of this chapter.

The new governer Festus went to Jerusalem 3 days after he arrived in the province and the High Priest and other Jews can't wait to state their accusations against Paul again and ask for him to be brought to Jerusalem.
Because they have the same plan as before; ambush and kill him on the journey.

Festus refuses but offers for them to come to Caesarea and put their case to him there which happens some days later.

They lay many charges against Paul but cannot prove any of them.

When this happened Paul was still gracious and did not retaliate but simply stated in verse 8

 “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all.”

Why had all of this not been dismissed earlier when they had never been able to bring any proof?
Why do things have to linger on and on and keep Paul under such a situation when his accusers can not prove anything?
Why does it have to seem like he is assumed to be guilty just because they have a grievance against him and then still appears to be punished even when nothing is proved?

Where is the "innocent until proven guilty"?

There seems to have been this state of limbo for Paul for these years where he is neither innocent nor guilty and it confines him to a certain location and limited to what he can do.

verses 9 - 27

Even though they had no proof of wrongdoing against Paul instead of Festus properly acknowledging this he asks if Paul will go to Jerusalem with him to be tried there.

So now in verses 10 - 11 Paul has the opportunity to ask to go before Caesar instead which is his right as a Roman citizen.

 “I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. 11 For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

I was very struck by the way Paul said no-one could deliver him to the Jews if there was nothing in their claims and he knew Festus was well aware that they had no proof.
There is just plain statement of fact and no argument here.

Result is that Festus agrees to let him stand before Caesar.

Then we have another person brought into the picture as King Agrippa and his wife come to visit Festus.

Whether in general conversation or in a way of seeing another person's perspective of the situation, Festus brings the facts of the case before the king who is then interested enough to hear from Paul himself and this is arranged for the following day.
I do feel that from the way Festus speaks the next day that he had wanted this event to take place and that it could help him in how he could present this appeal before Caesar noting how he finishes his speech to the King and other people gathered together especially when we see how the chapter ends in verse 27

27 For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him.”

He was quite right as he was obligated to present a case against Paul to Caesar but obviously felt he should do the best job he could and not be biased.  Only something that could be verified should be brought as truth in a charge as there are always two sides to be heard and considered and proof to be needed before someone can be condemned.

Also Paul was entitled to know exactly what was said to Caesar (or anyone else about him) as it was his life and reputation that were in the balance here, not that of the accusers.

Why are people often swayed by groups of others and forget about looking for the truth.

I think there are two questions here.

  • Why are people often swayed by groups of others?
  • Will this change the agreement by Festus for the appeal before Caesar?

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Christmas Letter from the Blacks 2017

Another Year over and this one was full of special Dates.

Fred & I were sick over Christmas and the New Year so a lot of January was taken up recovering from that long drawn out flu.

We did manage to enjoy babysitting Matthew each week too.

At the start of the month I had another appointment at the Fracture Clinic (first one had been last October) where they said the bone in my foot was healed but I could expect to have pain for up to a year after the break.

Fred & I decided a holiday in warm weather would be good for us after that rotten flu so off we went to Gran Canaria for 9 days.

Jonathan spent 2 weeks in New Zealand with his best friend from Primary School who is a doctor there.
This was the big month for Fred as he had his 60th birthday and was so glad he had already retired early.  We sort of counted our holiday in February as his birthday present.

Also this month saw our first wedding this year - a friend from church.

With Matthew well on his feet and loving to play hide and seek and run around everywhere we thought we would have a little Easter Egg Hunt with him when he would be at our house.  Unfortunately it rained but I just hid all the eggs in different rooms and he looked so happy each time he found one.

Missed it

But then he got it

Fred had wanted to go to a Church Conference in the US at the end of the month and asked me if I wanted to go too.  I didn't want to go to the Conference but was happy to go along for the holiday and sit by the pool in Orlando, Florida.

While we knew we would be in America it seemed sensible to go for 2 weeks instead of just one and take time to go to Kentucky & Ohio (2 states I had never visited before) to see the "Ark Encounter" and the "Creation Museum" and also the city of Cincinnati which has at least 5 bridges linking the 2 states.

At the Full-size Replica of Noah's Ark

I started off the month at the Fracture Clinic again and this time they agreed with me that the pain was not coming from the break at all because of the position of it and they decided I would have to have an MRI Scan done.  (Still waiting to even receive an appointment date for that!)

Then there was a bit of a reunion of Fred's side of the family as we went to our niece's wedding in St. Johnson and Ballymena.

This was the month our church alterations were completed and that had meant some very busy months for Fred previously.

Later in the month I had a reunion of some of us girls!!! who had studied at Queens together - we are now managing to make this twice a year due to early retirements.

We had a weekend in Londonderry to go celebrate my sister's 70th birthday and make her laugh during a family photo shoot her kids had arranged for her.

Another birthday this month, this time the big one for me.  Jonathan came over from Leeds so along with Daniel & Suzie and Matthew we all had a nice time together.  I'm sort of counting the trip to Kentucky as my present.

Of course this was a very special month for us all because our granddaughter Ruby Ellen Joy was born on 4th July - she was late in coming but managed to make it here on Fred's mother's birthday and then it was nice that she had my mother's name as her second name.  Daniel and Suzie were so delighted with a quick birth and Matthew was so excited to have a baby sister.

Ruby just a few hours old with a very happy big brother

We went to Evensong at St. Anne's Cathedral a couple of days later to meet up with a Canadian who had worked with Fred a few years ago.  He and his wife were over on a choir trip around the UK singing in several cathedrals.

We love taking Matthew out to parks and lakes and other events like a Teddy Bear's Picnic in the Open Ark Farm which was one of the places we went to this month.

Then Linda arrived from South Korea.
She would be here for a whole month!!

So that meant this month involved a lot of shopping with Linda because it is not so easy for her to get clothes in South Korea  -  they just don't make them for European figures.
Also a lot of eating and chatting and planning - those who know Linda will definitely understand that.

At the end of the month we had a family holiday - all 9 of us.
We went to Cornwall to a large house for a week and Stephen flew over from South Korea to make the family complete.  

A Selfie at Lands End

At the Minack Theatre

I have to admit the real stars of the show were not the couple who were there to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary but the two children who everybody wanted to play with and cuddle.

A Beautiful Day at St. Michael's Mount

Daniel and Suzie moved house from East Belfast to Carnmoney and needed some help, any excuse to just hang around with Ruby and Matthew is ok with us.

Then Daniel's birthday and Jonathan's birthday which meant Jonathan came over to visit again.

Another Wedding, this time my nephew with Daniel as best man - I think he did a good job of getting back at Glen for the best man speech he made at Daniel's wedding.

Then a lot of shopping for Videoing Equipment because .......

....... we now had a month centred a lot around producing videos of Jonathan for You Tube.  
Fred has enjoyed working out what was needed and where and how to set up cameras, backgrounds and lights, followed by the editing.  

Christmas and winter jumpers featured in one of these shoots so that's a hint that something will be coming this Christmas but the first Series of 5 Jonathan did is already on You Tube and his blog.

Linda and Stephen are coming to NI for Christmas so we will all be together (the 9 of us) on Christmas Day for the first time ever and it is unusual for this to be managed with part of your family so far away in South Korea.

Another first is that we are all going to go to the Belfast Blacks that day too - I am so looking forward to that.

During the time in Cornwall we had a family photo shoot which was really needed as the family has grown quickly in the last few years.  

It was a gift from the kids for our wedding Anniversary and this is 
my favourite picture of the lot.

The two Proud Grandparents


Acts Chapter 23 & 24 - Accusations & Indecisions

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Oh dear! We left our last look at Acts in the middle of a chapter in the middle of an event!

What happened about the Murder Plot in Acts Chapter 23?

verses 16 - 22

Sometimes a little bit of help from our friends (or family) is a good thing.

Paul's nephew finds out about the plot against Paul and goes to the prison to tell Paul who then gets a centurion to take his nephew to the commander.  The commander listens to him and acts on the information he now has.

I think the following section shows that the commander trusted Paul by this stage and was worried because he now knew Paul was a Roman citizen and so did not want any harm to come to Paul while he was in his charge.

verses 23 - 35

23 And he called for two centurions, saying, “Prepare two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at the third hour of the night; 24 and provide mounts to set Paul on, and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” 

One prisoner, yet the commander was taking this threat so seriously that he was going to involve the use of 470 soldiers.  This must have meant he considered Paul an important prisoner.

So Paul was hurried off to be sent to the governor Felix in Caesarea in the middle of the night.

Felix was sent a letter from the commander briefly explaining who this prisoner was and who were his accusers.

Nice for the commander to be able to get Paul away safely so that he was not responsible for his safety any longer and to avoid any incident in the area he was responsible for.  Prevention is always better than having to sort things out after they have got out of hand.  When people are angry it is best to diffuse a situation rather than fuel it but also better to actually deal properly with a situation so that things do not be left unresolved for a long period of time and anger fester on and on.

So had Paul escaped from the accusations the Jews were trying to bring against him?

No.  Clearly verse 35 tells us that Felix after reading the letter told Paul

“I will hear you when your accusers also have come.” And he commanded him to be kept in Herod’s Praetorium.

But he did escape from being killed.

Straight away in the next chapter (chapter 24) we see from verse 1 that Annanias the High Priest, some elders and a man called Tertullus came 5 days later and spoke against Paul.

verses 2 - 9    give us the side of the Jews

Tertullus was the spokesperson and started (as many accusers do) with some sweet talking and complimenting the governor  -  trying to show a nice character so that the next thing he says might be accepted better.
Then he attacks the character of Paul and continues to attack the actions of the commander who is not there to defend himself.
The Jews of course just agreed with what he said.

verses 10 - 21    give us the side of Paul

Paul then has the opportunity to defend himself and knows that Felix has been in his position for some years and will be able to check on the information and find that Paul was only 12 days in Jerusalem and was not found to be inciting the people or acting badly in the Temple as had been claimed by Tertullus.

This then leads him to explaining some of what he believes in and that the Jews are angry with him because of his beliefs.

verses 22 - 23     give us the indecision by Felix

Felix doesn't seem to want to come down on one side or the other so says he will wait to hear from the commander and decides Paul should be under guard but not in prison.

Does this mean he thinks Paul is innocent of the charges but does not want to anger the Jews?
Or does he think is guilty but does not want to punish him?
Or can he just not make up his mind?
Certainly not the quality of a good leader.

verses 24 - 27     give us the real reason for this attitude by Felix

Felix it now appears seemed to want two things

  • to talk more to Paul about what he believed
  • to get a bribe from Paul
Throughout the next two years he keeps Paul in the same position never making a decision on his guilt or innocence with regard to the accusations.  He talks with Paul but never accepts his beliefs and never receives any bribes before being replaced by a new governor.  

People have always wanted what would benefit them and have had little regard for others.

The handing over of the position to a new person would probably have been a time to make that decision in Paul's favour as Felix would then be away from the area and have no headaches from the Jews and the new governor would not have to take the responsibility either.

Does this mean that Felix never becomes a believer in the future?

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Acts Chapter 23 - A Murder Plot

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Coming near the end of this great book of Acts now with chapter 23.

Where did we leave Paul at the end of chapter 22  Paul's Defense?

Well Paul was in Jerusalem defending himself with his life story and had just surprised the Roman Commander by explaining that he himself was a Roman citizen and the next day

verses 30 of  chapter 22

30 The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them.

Paul was brought before the Sanhedrin which was

an assembly of twenty-three to seventy-one men appointed in every city 
This court dealt with only religious matters.

So let's see Chapter 23

verses 1 - 10

Straight away the High Priest is not happy with Paul because he says he has in verse 1

... lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

He is ordered to be struck on the face.

Paul's stands up for himself claiming that the High Priest has actually broken the law in ordering this action on him.

However Paul had not realised that it was the High Priest he was talking to so has to apologize for speaking badly of a ruler of the people.

But then knowing that there are Pharisees and Sadducees present he says

 “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”

The Pharisees believe in the resurrection but the Sadducees do not so that caused an uproar between the two sides and the commander feared Paul might be hurt so has to get him out of there.

I wonder did Paul do this deliberately? 
He was a very learned person so did know all the religious laws but was also a clever person so could well have known that the commander would have to keep him safe while in his custody and his statement would annoy the Sadducees and cause dissension among the two groups leaving the threat of danger to him.
But of course he ended up being held prisoner.
Was this better or worse?

verses 11 - 15

 We are not told by Luke of how Paul is feeling but the Lord obviously knows as He knows everything about us because we are told in verse 11 that the Lord came to Paul and spoke to him

“Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”

This was obviously to tell Paul that God had a plan for him and he would go on from Jerusalem to Rome and have to witness for God there as well.

God knows what we need to hear and when we need to hear it.

Paul needed to know that He was in God's plan and there still was more to do in this plan because others had a plan as well but this one was driven by hatred as we see in verse 12

12 And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.

There were over 40 people and their plan was to ambush Paul telling the chief priests and elders to have him brought down for them to question him the next day and they would kill him on the way there.

These men were plotting murder and wanted the chief priests and elders (the religious leaders) to help them do so.

Why do we find it hard to believe that Satan will use people who are religious but not true Christians to promote hatred towards others within our churches today?
And why do we be surprised when many leaders fall into sin?

We should never underestimate the hatred that Satan can stir up from the evil he will whisper into the minds of any of us if we are not careful to always obey God's Word and to live as God has ordained we should.

We should never underestimate the hatred that Satan can stir up from the evil he will whisper into minds

This brings a verse back into my mind today; a verse I remember learning as a teenager and often think about

Psalm 37 v 23

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord
and he delights in his way.

but of course we know we are not perfect and so does God so we must not forget verse 24 too

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, 
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

How can we be like the good man spoken of in Psalm 37 above?

How can we be like the good man spoken of in Psalm 37

Well I think we can see how from another verse I learned as a teenager

Micah 6 v 8

He hath shown thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Obedience and humility are key to walking in God's way.

I learnt this one as a song which is one of the best ways to learn scripture.

So back to Paul - will he survive this plan to kill him?

Well we have had a hint to the answer to that already in the chapter and we'll talk about that in the next blog post.

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Acts Chapter 21 & 22 - Paul's Defense

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We ended our last post on Acts with the uplifting fact that when Paul arrived in Jerusalem Acts chapter 21 The Journey to Jerusalem and met with the Apostle James there and with others they all glorified God.

We were happy enough with that then but now let's consider verses 19 - 20 to see why they did this.

19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law;

Paul gave them details of the work of God in the lives of many Gentiles who had heard the Gospel through him.
The Apostles were very happy to hear about this first hand even though they may have heard some parts of the full story before.

Now Paul did not only take the Gospel message to the Gentiles but also to the Jews and not all of them had rejected his message.  These Jews would have experienced his teaching in other matters too and known what his behaviour was like when in their areas.

But there were also other Jews in and around Jerusalem who had been hearing more talk about Paul and his views on circumcision with regards to the Gentile converts and they felt that Paul was not as intent on keeping the law as a good Jew should be.

Continuing on in verses 21 - 25  we see that the Apostles do not want any misunderstandings or ill feeling about Paul so they ask him in verse 24 to go to the Temple and make it obvious that he is observing the Jewish law.

that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.

You see when rumours start going round and people hear certain things it is very hard for them to unhear those things.  The best thing is for them to talk to the people involved or be able to witness definite acts to find out exactly what they say or what they have done.

verses 26 - 36

But even though Paul is seen by many to be upholding Jewish Law there are others who have heard the rumours and do not know the full facts but are ready to jump in there and speak out against Paul in fact so much so that instead of talking to him and clearing up misunderstandings they end up inciting the people which leads to others taking action without full knowledge as well.  In fact verse 30 tells us that the whole city was affected by there talk.

30 And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut.

What did they propose to do to Paul, well verse 31 tells us they wanted to kill him.

Imagine because some people say something it can have such an effect as to lead to planning a death.

Paul was not killed but he was in the process of being beaten when he was rescued by the commander of the garrison who took him away bound because he could not find out there for himself who Paul was and what he had done.  It is clear in verses 33 - 36 that the people again were not willing to be quiet and let Paul be heard by the commander.

33 Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another.
So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks. 35 When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. 36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, “Away with him!”

What was going to happen?
Was the commander going to find out what had happened or was he even really interested in the truth?

verses 37 - 40

It becomes clear here that the commander did not know who Paul was or what nationality he was, even thinking he might be an Egyptian who had been causing trouble previously.

But when Paul was able to speak to him and explain he was a Jewish citizen the commander allowed him to speak to the people.

This commander did not know what he was allowing because we all know from the the previous experiences in this book of Acts that none of the Apostles would not take advantage of relating the Gospel when they have a crowd to hear them.

And that is exactly what happens in

Acts Chapter 22 verses 1 - 21

Paul's defense is his life story.

Paul speaks to the crowd in Hebrew and relates the story of his conversion because he knows just what Stephen knew in Acts Chapter 7 that The Gospel is the Answer.

He shares some of his history to the people including his heritage as a Jew, his meeting with Jesus on the Road to Damascus in chapter 9 and of his meeting with Ananias also in chapter 9 

verses 22 - 30

Then when he mentions about being sent by God to witness to the Gentiles the crowd again turn against him in anger. 

What will help him in this situation?

First Paul had used the fact that he was a Jew to gain the attention of the commander to be allowed to speak to the people in Jerusalem but now he uses the fact that he is also a Roman Citizen so that the commander will know that he needs to keep Paul safe especially when Paul is a Roman citizen from birth and not one who has bought the privilege as the commander had.

So will Paul have to speak to the Roman authorities next?

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Christmas Cards - Coffee & Conversation

What do you think about Christmas Cards?



Well I love Christmas Cards, but I hate having to find them because every year it seems that there are fewer to pick from.

You are probably amazed because you know that so many shops will stock them and of course so many places online too.

However there just is not a good choice anymore.

I am not a great shopper - I am better online than physically traipsing through the stores but even online I do not enjoy looking for Christmas Cards.

You see I am very particular about the Christmas Cards I send.

I want my cards to express the true meaning of Christmas and spread the Gospel.

I want the cards I send to be a blessing to people and not bore them so they have to look attractive as well as have a true Christmas message.

This is the card I am sending this year.

I do not want ones which say

  • Happy Holidays
  • Season's Greetings
  • Merry Xmas
  • Really long soppy rhymes

I also do not want ones which show pictures of

  • Cottages in the snow
  • Wild Landscapes
  • People Skating
  • Untrue Nativity Scenes

But it all really comes down to the fact that I believe

the phrases and verses we write on Christmas Cards 
are more important 
than the cards themselves.

At one stage I thought I should just make my own cards like I did some birthday and anniversary cards but there are just so many Christmas cards to be ready for the one time that I knew I could not keep that up, so I didn't even start  -  it would have ended up a chore for me.

So what do I like?

Ones that turn our attention in some way towards the true reason for Christmas.

Click  HERE  and  HERE  to see a few of my favourite Christmas Cards from the last few years