Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Giving Me to Him

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment


Darren remembers accompanying his father out shopping in the toy department of

Hamleys one  Christmas Eve.

Dad said, ‘What a marvellous train set. I’ll buy it.’

The girl behind the counter looked pleased and murmured, ‘Great, I’m sure your son will really love it.’

Dad replied with a glint in his eye, ‘Maybe you’re right. In that case I’ll take two.’


It’s Christmas and the focus is on giving.  Doesn’t matter if you’re a follower of the Christ child or not…watch the commercials.  Many of them even have the phrase that pays, “It’s better to give than to receive!”  In our world and culture, for the most part, the value of the gift is the price that was paid.  By price I strictly mean dollars and cents.  Another way that gifts are valued is if it’s what the receiver specifically asked for.  Many kids will be handed elegantly wrapped expensive gifts that will be tossed aside as they continue to look for that one thing they circled and highlighted in three colors on their list to Santa.  It won’t matter that someone worked extra hours for that gift, it wasn’t what they wanted.  And gosh darnit, the TV announcer even said, “It’s what they really want this year.”  We place a lot of value on ‘wants’ and ‘price’ don’t we?  Gifts that come from the heart…well, they are uncommon, rare, and even unusual in our fast paced ‘keep up with the Jones’ world.


So what gift goes above and beyond?  What gift can’t be out valued or undercut?  Is there such a thing as a gift that is so personal that no money can be stacked against it?  Is there a gift that doesn’t just say “Merry Christmas” in a season but says “God loves you” everyday through the year?  What could a gift like that look like?  Simple answer.  It’s you.  It’s me.


I know what you’re thinking…sounds like a Hallmark Card.  I know it does…but it’s the truth.  We’ve talked in the past two weeks about sacrifice and service.  Both of these items are about giving.  Sacrifice is when we give beyond what is average.  Service is when we know we have something, like talent or time or energy or something tangible, that would be of use to someone else…and we serve with that thing.  Both are out of our very own lives.  And when done in the name of Christ and for His glory and purpose, we give Him us.


What’s it take to live a life that is given to Christ?  The first thing it takes is believing that He first gave all of Himself to us.  The Creator (John 1:1-3) came as a baby (Merry Christmas!) and put on flesh like we our own to walk with us and be an example for us.  That baby grew to be a man who would ultimately sacrifice this earthly life we’re familiar with so that we could be with Him again in Heaven.  Jesus simply asks us to do the same for those around us.  If we give to Him like He’s given to us, we will do the things we have record of Him doing.  We will love others through our actions and words and ideas and strengths.  Our sacrifice and service will be evidence of our choice to lay our lives in His hands…as a gift to Him.


So what’s that look like for you?  What’s that look like daily for you?  Do people around you see that you’ve given your life to Jesus?  Do your choices, words, and expressions mirror the relationship with Jesus you claim?  When we give our life to Christ, we’re saying to Him that we trust Him with it…and however he wants to use it, we’re game.  Many compartmentalize our faith in Christ …me too… so that our Christianity is only part of our full life.  For example, I’m a husband, a dad, helper with Cross Country, house owner, and church service attendee.  From His point of view, our relationship with Him is everything…everything we do, think and say grows out of us giving Him everything we are.


Think about how you life can be a gift, each and every day, with whomever crosses your path.  Trust that He directs your ways and gives you opportunities to share yourself…the self that you gave to Him.  Trust that whatever is asked to be sacrificed or given in service will be supplied to you.  You know that smile you see when I child receives a gift so special they can’t help but show their pearly whites?  That’s what you’ll see on God’s face.  : – )


Merry Christmas Everyone!




Thinking about Sacrifice At Christmas

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment


Musical Instrument + Reindeer = Organ Donner

Really Quiet + Armed Crusader = Silent Knight

Snow + Frankenstein = Snowball Fright

Reindeer + Cow = Sleigh Bulls

Rope + December 24th = The Knot Before Christmas

Christmas Carols + A Dozen Flowers = The 12 Daisies of Christmas

Christmas Carol + Money = Jingle Bills

The 25th of December + A Girl’s Name = Christmas Carol

Telling Santo Your Wishes + Computer = Santa’s Lap Top

Snowfall + Chinese Cooking = Shovel the Wok!



Isn’t Christmas wonderful?  It really is.  It always seems to approach too quickly and is over before we know it.  However, for those of us who remember the reason we truly celebrate, we know that the offer of sacrifice is the best gift of all.

As Christians, we know that one day long ago our king was born.  He was born to die.  At the appointed time, He chose to sacrifice himself for us.  And I believe we all know that story…we get that picture.  But when it comes to sacrifice for us on a daily basis…as a gift to those around us…we sometimes don’t know what that really looks like.  Some of us do.  Myself, I sometimes need reminded.  Here are a couple of pictures of sacrifice.

The story this week, even though it is the Christmas season, doesn’t focus on the one called the Son of David…Jesus.  This focus of sacrifice is taken from two stories in the life of King David himself.  The first is taken from 1 Chronicles 11:15-19.  The short version of this story is follows.  David is resting between battles with the Philistines.  He is thirsty.  Three of his closest friends and advisors broke through enemy lines to get their king, their friend, a drink.  When they brought back the water, David took it and poured it out on the ground before God.  He realized that these men had risked and even offered as a sacrifice their very own lives on his behalf.  He felt that he was not worthy of their sacrifice.  He had done nothing for it…so he gave their sacrifice symbolically to God.

The next story comes from 1 Chronicles 21:22-24.  The story here sets up the chosen future site of the Temple of God.  Long story short again, David has sinned before God and has retreated to bow before God and offer himself to the Lord knowing that his sin has cause heartache for the nation he leads.  The land he is on is not his.  It is owned by a farmer.  An angel of the Lord is there.  The farmer and his sons, who were seemingly caught off guard by the whole situation, bowed before David his king as David is praying to God and talking to the Lord’s angel.  David, after experiencing God’s mercy, is determined to build an altar there as a way to honor and worship his Lord.  The farmer bows down and on the spot gives him, King David, the building they are in and the land it is on…as well as oxen to sacrifice.  This man shows true humility before David and God…offering nearly all he has minus his family as a gift/sacrifice.  David said to the farmer in 21:24, “…I will not take for the Lord what is yours, neither will I sacrifice burnt offerings I have not paid for.”

Here we have two stories of sacrifice offered on David’s behalf and for his sake.  Because of the weight and value of each, he makes sure his heart is pure in view of them both.  True sacrifice, as David found, has value, comes from the heart, and can’t be asked for or coerced.  The first story wasn’t about a drink of water.  It was about 3 men willing to give all they had for their friend.  Christ later defines the truest love as when one lays down their life for another…willingly.  The second wasn’t about the gift of land and oxen.  It was about a man who willing gave without being asked, nearly everything he had, out of honor and loyalty.  King David realized that this was from someone else’s heart.  He had no sacrifice in it.  He had to pay for it in order for it to be from him.

Do we sacrifice for others around us like David’s ‘mighty men’?  Do we offer all we have on the spot when presented with the opportunity as the farmer did?  Do we recognize what true sacrifice is, as David did in both circumstances, to accept them as holy and with great value?

Let’s let our sacrifice grow this Christmas season to be holy and pleasing to God.  Let’s not wait for New Year’s Eve to make a resolution to live new lives of worship.  Let’s set our hearts today to be open to sacrifice when called and when our gut says give.  This is the truest story of Christmas.  The story of Christmas isn’t for us to keep; it’s for us to give away.

Merry Christmas!  He has been born!  He has been born indeed!



Questions for Growth:

  • When has someone truly sacrificed for you?  Do you remember anyone sacrificing for you?
  • When have you sacrificed for someone else?  Now, I know that most of us won’t even want to mention this out loud because it’s not about us.  But how did you feel when you did sacrifice?  I remember getting calls in the middle of the night and saying, “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”  I remember seeing people who needed something I had and I reached in my pocket and pulled out what they needed…not thinking of what I’d be missing.  You probably have too.  Isn’t our goal to have daily experiences like these…both giving and receiving?  There’s so much that goes into this, but for now, true understanding of who owns everything and how much we have to be thankful for will suffice.
  • Explain in your own words why Jesus isn’t just a story for us to hold dear, but for us to give away.  (Genesis 12:3b)  How do we live it daily?  How will you live it this week?
  • Is God specifically calling you to sacrifice on his behalf or someone elses right now?  How long will you wait before you do it?

Approaching Christmas

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Approaching Christmas

Our culture has this odd approach to Christmas nowadays.  There’s political correctness being argued in every corner.  Mass consumerism is rampant.  As the numbers of separated families continue to rise, arguments over who gets who for the big morning abound.  I just had a young teenage lady in my office in tears wondering how she can make everyone in her ‘two homes’ happy.  There are even expectations for families who consider themselves healthy.  There are traditions to uphold.  There are certain cookies to bake.  Budgets are stretched while kids hand catalogs with circled wishes to their parents.  It seems to me that Christmas is full of pressure.  Do you ever feel like that?  Do you now feel like that?

A couple years ago I jumped into an argument of ‘posts’ with person who doesn’t believe in God.  Christmas was just a day off to him.  He was and I assume still is a thought writer…a blogger.  His approach then was to criticize all Christians for using Christmas trees and outside lights.  We were not living up to our true traditional worship.  He saw Christians caught up as much as anyone else in the consumerism of the day.  He also believed that Christmas should not be a national holiday nor should schools, hospitals, government buildings, or city parks show anything that would help someone celebrate the season…because the base holiday of the season is Christmas.

I asked him if, because I put up a tree or outside lights, that I love Jesus less.  He answered that he didn’t mean people like me.  That was funny.  I also asked him if my show of joy for the season should be private or public.  He said that I should be respectful of other beliefs and carefully trod what I say so not to offend.  His joy for not believing was very public, but he was very against Christmas being public.  His contention was that because it is religious, it should be private, personal and quietly held.  Wow.  More pressure on us believers.  I’m sure you’ve heard and seen similar things in the news or your workplace.  He did get me thinking though about how people really see my celebration.

Is this an article to argue (voice raised here), “Our Rights as American Citizens!”?  No, not at all.  I’m simply writing for my own reasons.  I’m finding that it feels like I’m in the middle of a tornado watching all the expectations, political correctness, busyness, things to do and buy fly around me in whirlwind fashion.  Something inside me wonders … as Christians, do we really celebrate the new born king?

Luke 1:46-55 records a song.  It’s Mary’s song she sang while talking with her cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist.  The NIV translates the Mary’s Merry Christmas greeting as, “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”  Luke 2:14 records the shepherds crying out their holiday greeting as, “Glory to God in the highest…”  It’s later recorded in the same chapter that the shepherds went and told everyone they saw about what they were blessed to witness….and all were amazed (2:17).  I’m wondering if we’re so far removed from the history of what really happened that we’ve lost the real joy.  By ‘real joy’ I mean that we now have a way to Heaven.  Are we allowing the frustrations and pressures and consumerism and expectations and political correctness to steal away the joy that Mary and the shepherds once had?  Can we still have that same joy?  Can we have the same joy that caused Simeon to say, “…you can now dismiss your servant in peace…” after seeing the baby Jesus?  Can we still have the joy that caused the shepherds to tell…key word is tell…many people about their joy?

Are lights and trees ok?  Is Santa ok?  Are children’s Christmas lists ok?  Are big ham dinners with homemade cookies and hot chocolate ok?  Let’s say that I’ve had a change of heart.  I love that stuff.  Lots of people do.  Many celebrate the season not really knowing why the season is celebrated.  However, do I, in the midst of hanging outdoor wreaths and wrapping presents, proclaim glory to the promised king?  I guess it comes down to this.  If people see me celebrate, but all they see are the tree lights or the shirt tie that plays “Little Drummer Boy” or the antlers that fit on my dog’s head, then I’m off base.  As a believer, I’m a priest carrying the promise of salvation to the world (1 Peter 2:9).  What better time do we have to celebrate publicly with smiles and joy?  This is the time we can celebrate as a church family, worldwide, that our savior was born.  We have forgiveness!

So, I don’t write this for those who don’t believe.  I write this for me, a believer, who sometimes gets stuck in the rut of the “holidays” and forgets that I’ve been both privileged and entrusted with a message that truly is the best news anyone has ever received.  It’s not mine to keep.  It’s His story…for me to give away.


Oh come let us adore Him,



PS – Just thinking out loud here.  On Easter Sunday many Christians greet each other with “He is risen!” to which the response, “He is risen indeed!” is given.  Let’s start something new just for the sake of newness and as a reminder.  How about, “He has been born!”  “He has been born indeed!”  : 0 )

Moving Beyond Commitment

December 2, 2011 Leave a comment


Somewhat skeptical of his son’s newfound determination to become the next Charles Atlas, the father nevertheless followed the teenager over to the weight-lifting department.
“Please, Dad,” whined the boy, “I promise I’ll use them every day.”
“I don’t know, Michael. It’s really a big commitment on your part,” the father pointed out.
“Please, Dad?”
“They’re not cheap either.”
“I’ll use them Dad, I promise. You’ll see.”
Finally won over, the father paid for the equipment and headed for the door.
From the corner of the store he heard his son yell, “What! You mean I have to carry them to the car?!”


Commitment to a cause is sometimes difficult.  I mean, it’s easy to understand something that is true and understand how it could benefit our lives, but to actually change and begin applying that truth creates stress.  Change is hard.  The doctor asks you to stop eating KFC, Taco Bell and Wendy’s three times a week because your cholesterol is getting a bit high…like closing in on 320.  Changing that can be tough.  That was basically my story last spring.  I had been off my cholesterol medicine…cause I thought I had a handle on things.  Truth was, my diet was intertwining in negative ways with hereditary traits and creating a disaster in the waiting.  I had to face truth.  Dr. Tony was the truth giver.  “You’re going back on medicine.  And you’re going to eat healthier.  Or, you’re going to be a heart patient sometime soon…,” is close to what he said after looking at my test results.  I had to make a decision to accept the truthful scenario I was facing, and I had to commit to doing some things differently to get healthier.

We’ve been talking about finances in the last few articles.  The American dream has been changed a bit through the past few generations.  ‘Normal’ in America means that we have/want a nice house, a nice car and nice things and a credit card balance to prove it.  Normal means living the high life but still living pay check to pay check.  Normal means no savings account.  Normal means Christmas is put on an equity loan.  Normal means vacations are financed at a 15% interest rate.  Normal means we’re not content with where we are…ever.  Normal means greed is …well…normal, and even accepted.  Normal is kids being able to beat their parents down for a happy meal when mom or dad know they can’t afford it.

But we’ve learned that healthy means living within our means.  Healthy means recognizing that none of what we have is ours.  God owns it all.  Healthy means living wisely, with savings for emergencies and enough to get us through a couple months of hard times.  Healthy means living within our means so we’re always ready to give generously if God leads us to.  Healthy means no credit card purchases on impulse.  Healthy means paying with cash.  Healthy means that our financial management is within God’s plan for our life…we are stewards of what He gives to us or allows us to have.  Healthy means that we are content and thankful in all situations…no matter what.

Most people in America are living the “unhealthy dream.”  And most people, if confronted with the truth of what is healthy, blow it off as too hard or weird.  I like KFC, Taco Bell and Wendy’s, but I if they are taking years off my life I think I can change a few things.  I don’t like taking medicine, but if it will add a few years to my life…I think I can pull off remembering to take a little pill in the morning.   And if running can get me off of that pill and help me live even healthier, I’m even more motivated to commit to change.

Funny thing here though is that we often commit to things.  We speak new plans with our mouths in front of others with great intentions.  Anyone got an unfulfilled New Year’s Resolution from the past few years?  Me too.  After commitment comes forward motion.  To pull off of square center we need to “do something.”  Commitment is step one.  Forward motion with new choices is step two, three, four, etc. etc.  Will you fail sometimes in those steps forward?  The definitive answer is a resounding YES!  However, failure becomes wisdom when you can see what you did wrong and correct your course and still keep moving forward.  John Maxwell calls this Failing Forward.  You fall down.  Get back up.  You’ll get knocked down.  Get back up.  And always remember this, when committing to a healthier, Godlier plan of financial management, you’re not alone.  He is with you.  You have His word and the scriptures, many which are scattered through the last couple articles, to guide you.

So, what do you choose?  Normal and unhealthy or a little weird and healthy…even Godly?  Which will help you live a more peaceful and happy life?  Which will help you be more helpful to those around you?  So, if you said yes to a positive change, what will be your first step?  Will your first step be tomorrow or will you put it off further into the future?  I know you know the best answers to all these questions, but it is up to you.  Commit and then act.  You will soon be on that journey to success and you will feel like you’re accomplishing something great!  And you’ll be in a better position to be healthy for those around you who need to see Jesus.  That is the ultimate goal.

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,


Actions for growth:

  • Write out where you are weak in financial management and where you’re strengths might be.
    • Examples:  Impulse purchases are my weakness.  However, if I put my mind to it, I’m actually a pretty good saver.
  • Get a sample budget to start looking closer at where each of your dollars go.  Here are a few links to get you started:
  • Pray your guts out about how thankful you are that God trusts you with money and stuff and things …and that you want to get better at being a manager of His things.
  • Take inventory of your stuff…look at what you need and/or don’t need.  Sell some things.  Give some things to people who might need them more than you.  This will get you on the road to living contently.
  • Begin to tithe and give to Godly things.  Start with your church.  Or, if you don’t have a church, look for one where you can belong and where you can begin a new chapter in your life.
  • Set up a plan to save some extra bucks that will help you through a dry season.  Maybe even an auto take out program so that you don’t even have to think about the money going into a savings account.
  • Continue to recognize that we are not our own.  We were also bought with a price…a high price.  Christ’s life.

…and on that note… Merry Christmas!  : – )


Are you ready? The holidays are here!

November 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Ok, here we go.  We’re right on the edge of the holiday season.  I’m hungry already!  Visions of sugar plums and cookies and turkey and ham and stuffing and apple pie and…well, you get the picture…are dancing in my head.  The holiday catalogues have been filling the mail box.  My daughter is daily looking through and circling and marking and highlighting items that will be on her wish list.  I recently was reminded by a DJ on the radio that I just missed a great weekend to put up Christmas lights outside.  Oops.  Oh well, I’ll be one of the ones deciding whether I want a larger electric bill this year.  I just looked at our December budget…thanks Dave Ramsey…and am trying to see what we have and don’t have to help our family celebrate Christmas.

Funny thing is, I’m looking at all this stuff and wonder how any of this helps me tell God “Thank You” for sending His son.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think God created wonderful food and allowed us to put ingredients together like oil paints on a canvas.  Giving gifts is a great thing too…in moderation and when practical and for practicalities sake.  Lights…eh, I go back and forth on that.  Their pretty I guess.  Tree?  It’s got to be real in our house.  J

So what is the point?  What are we teaching our families and neighbors about what’s important by the way we celebrate?  Excess is a tool of the enemy.  I believe the enemy has a plan for your holiday season as he does mine.  Do you have your eyes open to see it?

About 2000 years ago the enemy had a plan for an awaited event as well.  There was a priest who doubted the word of God’s message to him (Luke 1:18).  There was a fiancé that wanted to quietly break off wedding plans (Matthew 1:19).  There was a long journey by foot required by the government (Luke 2:1 – prophesied).  There was no room for this young couple to rest after making this journey…while pregnant (Luke 2:6).  There was a King who didn’t know what to think of this new Kingdom prophesied…so much so that he declared that all males 2 years old and younger should be killed (Matthew 2:3, 16).  There was a nation and religious leadership that anxiously awaited prophesies of old to come true, yet knew the truth about what humungous changes would need to take place (Matthew 2:3).  The enemy did not want the one who would ‘crush his head’ to come into this world (Genesis 3:15).  Funny thing is God knows the enemy soooo well, He gave word that these things would come to pass before they even happened.

Today the enemy has a plan for your holiday season as well.  The question is, how will you recognize the enemy?  Do you know his voice vs. God’s voice?  God’s desire is that we sit at the table and remember His son, born to die for us.  The enemy desires Christ’s Gospel to simply become part of the mix on our busy calendars.  “Choose this day whom you will serve?” is the question Joshua spoke to his followers (Joshua 24:15).

So how do we navigate this?  I think we pray and ask God if what we’re doing will bring a smile to His face.  Am I saying that presents and trees are evil?  Not at all.  I love cutting the tree and watching the kids decorate it.  I love eating.  Oh, sorry…already mentioned that one.  There’s a sense of peace I get around the Christmas season.  Maybe it’s because I’m finally ‘getting it.’  We all know that communion time is sacred and special.  It’s about remembering our Hope.  This Christmas, let’s all set the time apart as sacred and special.  A time of remembering our Hope ‘born to us’ that night so many years ago.

A truly Merry Christmas to all of you…because that’s what it is.  A very merry celebration of our eternal peace, brought to us in the form of a child in a manger.

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,


The Character of God – Reflected

September 23, 2011 Leave a comment


A guy bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for her birthday.

After hearing about this extravagant gift, a friend of his said, “I thought she wanted one of those sporty four-wheel-drive vehicles.”

“She did,” he replied. “But where was I going to find a fake Jeep?”


I remember as a kid going to the J.C. Penney Christmas Catalogue and making out a lengthy list of Christmas presents.  My sister and I would take turns looking through that book turning page corners down and circling items with pens and crayons.  We’d then finalize a list on a separate piece of notebook paper.  It was very strategic.  We knew we would not get extravagance (from either Santa or our parents).  We would get things that we could play with and that would be fun.  I can go back in my brain and remember some of the items.  A football.  A long rifle…cap gun.  A Scooby Doo latch hook wall hanging kit.  Tonka trucks galore…very useful in the sand box.  Books.  New underwear.  Etc.  Most everything was purposeful to us.  Our parents tried best to match gifts that they new wouldn’t spoil us but would provide great entertainment and some learning along the way…as well as things we needed…new underwear.  🙂

Jesus, in Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given.”

I’m a huge Pirates of the Caribbean movie fan.  Each movie has its own plot, and each plot contains a search for “treasure” in various forms.  Captain Jack Sparrow is the lead character who is bent on finding the “treasure of the time.”  The last film has him searching for the much sought after ‘Fountain of Youth.’  In his round about ways, he ends up winning … something … somehow … in each movie to the amazement of all other characters.  You see, Jack Sparrow is not seen as a brainy pirate.  Occasionally his schemes work.  But for the most part, he’s often portrayed as clumsy.  But he always ends up winning!  In each movie, various perplexed characters often ask the question of Jack, “Does he plan it all out, or does he make it up as he goes?”  Either way, the quote says a lot about Jack’s ability to keep searching.

Jesus said, “Seek and you will find.”

In the book Les Miserables, Jean Valjean is a bread thief…stealing to feed members of his family.  He spent 19 years in jail for his crime and for attempts of escape.  He finally gets out and is making his way back home.  He is desperate and probably not all healthy of mind and heart.  He knocks on a door hoping to find a place to sleep.  It is the door of the town’s local Bishop, Myriel.  The bishop leads him through the doorway, knowing that his passport papers  show him to be a convict.  Jean Valjean can’t sleep at night and ends up stealing the bishop’s silver.  The thief, after being caught by authorites, is identified by Bishop Myriel, but the bishop says that they were a gift and that he had not stolen the silver.  He was not arrested.  Myriel later looks him in the eyes and basically says words that bring grace to Jean Valjean’s upturned world.  A picture of God.

Jesus said, “Knock and the door will be opened.”  He said this knowing that we are not worthy to enter.

Here is the interplay that Jesus is describing.  He is saying that there is something in asking God for what we need.  If we were to stand before God, I’m sure that none of us would ask for extravagance – but for what we know we need – and deep down I think we all know that He’s good and will give what is required for us to live abundantly and to serve Him well.   Jesus asks us to seek.  And sometimes, like Jack Sparrow, we are seeking rightly and sometimes wrongly and sometimes we just make it up as we go…but we seek.  And if we seek with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13) we will find God and His ways and His wisdom and His knowledge and His help and care.  Sometimes we simply need safety and shelter.  Jesus says to knock and the door will be opened.  Even though we are carrying sin in our lives, God opens the door.

God is the perfect parent.  He gives perfect things when we need them.  He shows Himself to us when we seek Him.  He shelters us when we need it.

Now, Jesus is about to change gears.  He moves from God’s character to ours.  He finishes His statements about God the Father, and then begins the next sentence with, “So, you….”  We need to pay attention here because He’s setting up the classic “If – Then” statement.  If God is like this, then you should be like this.  He then pulls out a blanket word….’everything.’  In ‘everything,’ we should treat others like we would like to be treated.  The Golden Rule.  No, it’s just from your elementary teacher’s bulletin board poster, it’s from the very mouth of the Creator (John 1:1).  And He finishes with this phrase in verse 12, “This sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  Does that ring a bell?

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest  commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 20:37-40)

Here, in the Sermon on the Mount, we hear Jesus speaking how to Love God and Love People.  We love God by asking Him for what we need…seeking Him with our whole heart…and coming under His shelter and authority.  We love other people by treating them as ourselves…and we ourselves should be allowing God’s light to shine through us so that others begin to ask, seek and knock like we do.  Do you see the circle?  Throug the process we begin to reflect God’s character.  If we love God and know Him, then we treat other people as God treats us…all for the purpose of them seeing more of Him.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,



Questions for Growth:

  • What do you ask of God?  Do you ask for anything specific on a regular basis?  If so, what?
  • How do you seek God on a daily basis?
  • Do you ever find yourself knocking on God’s door?  What’s the purpose of your knock?
  • Do you follow the Golden Rule? …with coworkers, classmates, on Facebook, with church family members? …in everthing?

Who wants some PEACE?!

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

There are a ton of funny holiday jokes out there, and so I’ll just warn you, as most of them are for 3rd grade boys…well, you’ll  see.


  • · What did Adam say on the day before Christmas?
    It’s Christmas, Eve!
  • · What kind of Christmas tree comes from Hawaii?
    “O Tanning Palms”!
  • · What’s the favorite Christmas Carol of new parents?
    Silent Night!

and my favorite one…

  • · A Christmas thought:
    STRESSED is just DESSERTS spelled backward.


…he will be their peace.  Micah 5:5


What does the word ‘Peace’ mean to you?  When we hear it in Christmas songs, or read about it in Scripture, or hear it on the evening news, what does it mean?  Are there different definitions of Peace?  Or is there really only one, known and given by Christ?  The more and more I read, I like the one that Jesus talks about.

A song we’ve heard many times now on the radio, being the season, has the line “and peace on earth, goodwill toward man” taken from Luke 2:14.  The part of that specific verse that is left out of the popular song, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is  “On whom His favor rests.”  These are the final words of the angel as he left the shepherds that night when Jesus was born.  So, the Peace that is on Earth is upon the ones who are in God’s favor.  Hmmmm, what does that mean?

In the sections of Scripture Steve is using this weekend, we will find reference to some of Christ’s background.  There is a woman in His ancestry by the name of Rahab.  She was a prostitute.  Yes, you read that right.  She had sin in her life.  Who doesn’t?  But when given the opportunity, she became a key figure to the success of God’s family Israel.  It was a decision of hers to walk out of her sin background and do something for God.  Did she know Him very well?  Probably not.  Did He know her well?  Yes.  And when it came time for her to do something on His behalf, she did it.  She is now listed in Hebrews in the section of Scripture often referred to as the Saints Hall of Fame.  My guess is that there is more to this story than we know…but we can assume that after her life was saved through her decision in favor of God, she got to know Him a lot more!  She became a bit more familiar with Peace.

We are all sinful.  We all make stupid, idiotic mistakes!  We all say things, think things, do things, listen to things, are a part of things that do not glorify God.  But yet God still offers us Peace that only He understands.  Yes, the Bible comes right out and says that we aren’t really going to ever understand true Peace.  If that’s the case, I’d like a double scoop please.  J  If it’s so good that only the creator of the Universe understands it, and He says it’s good for me, bring it.

The funny thing is that He offers it to us.  This thing that is Godlike is offered to sinners.  This thing that we can sometimes feel in our gut but can’t put words to is offered as a promise to people who ignore Him daily.  Why?  That sounds like crazy talk.

I think I’m getting closer to the true Peace…and it’s not about guns and flowers and the 1960’s.  It’s also not about a feeling or an emotion.  Peace is a place and a person.  His name is Jesus and the Bible says that we can live in Him…in this Peace.  Ok…yes, I know what I just typed but I can’t deliver a great definition of it…but I know it’s something I want.  Do you want to live in Peace…in Christ…In God’s ways and His plan for you?  If yes, then you want Peace.  That’s what I do understand.  And when you get glimpses of it, you will say, “Ohhhh, so this is Peace!”

Rahab must have figured out a bit of Peace or she wouldn’t have had pity on a couple Israelite guys that were planning to destroy her city.  She had a gut feeling that this decision she was making was going to bring her Peace…even though she was in the enemy camp and a prostitute to boot.  But God’s like that isn’t He?  He takes the worst of us and recreates us.  He places us inside of His Peace.

When we are there, we can do and think and speak and serve like we thought we never could.  Here’s a saying that a martyred missionary wrote recently:

The Missionary Heart:
Cares more than some think is wise
Risks more than some think is safe
Dreams more than some think is practical
Expects more than some think is possible.
~Karen Watson, (1973-2004) mission worker killed by terrorists in Iran

Can you see how this Karen Watson understood the place of Peace?  She gave everything for it…as Jesus said His best friends would…as He did for them.

Merry Christmas…Peace be with you (Micah 5:5),



Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

Christmas Began

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Hope – Luke 1:26-56

Where does your hope come from?

…some of you might have to look this one up.

Good King Wenceslas phoned Domino’s for a pizza.
The salesgirl asked him:
‘Do you want your usual? Deep pan, crisp and even?’

Hello everyone!  The songs are now on the radio 24/7.  Lights are up around all of our neighborhoods.  Tree farms are busy with families wanting to find the perfect evergreen.  Parents are watching their email for the UPS confirmation that the package is on its way.  Cookie cutters are out and in full use.  Kid’s wish lists are out and being revised nightly as new commercials hit the airwaves.  It can get busy…can’t it?

It all started here though.  Luke 1:26-56.  An angel was told, “The time has come, Gabriel.  Go and talk to Mary.”  Can you imagine God’s feeling?  Here it is.  The final piece of His Master Plan.  The Gospel is nearly complete.  Not only the ‘good news,’ but now the best news is about to be spread across humanity…His creation.  I guess I like looking at Christmas this way cause…wow, doesn’t it just make you smile?!  The best gift ever given is about to be handed to whoever wants it.  And He’s hoping everyone will accept it.

Mary.  She is on the receiving end of the most important news that Gabriel has probably ever carried for his Master.  Gabriel.  He gets to say the words, “You will have a son…God’s son….The redeemer of all mankind.”  As he finishes his message and leaves, I wonder what he felt.  He had just begun the process through which evil would be defeated for good.  Talk about having butterflies in your belly and a giddy smile on your face.  I can’t imagine the emotion!

And then, Mary is left alone…not quite alone…but in her own thoughts, to come to grasp with this.  She is the one who will be mommy to the savior of the world.  Yes, I would be scared out of my socks.  God is hoping that we accept His gift.  Mary is hoping this message is true.

Hope.  Do you have it?  Where’s it come from?  Can we lose it?  How do we get it?  I’m sure that Mary had those doubts rise up.  “I didn’t really see an angel.”  “I know my ancestry.  It matches.  But could it be?”  “Joseph isn’t going to believe me.”  “How?”  But all these questions and doubts and troubles can be pushed to the side because the news is from a Holy God who has never missed a beat.  He’s never broken a promise.  He’s never given up on His people.  With that news, this can make sense.  It is logical.  It’s not at all outside of His character.  Because we can see it like that, we see how Mary mustered up Hope.  Hope wasn’t about her.  It was all about the God she knew personally…they were friends.

Does your hope falter?  Does your hope rely on your smarts or success?  Does your hope rely on someone else…a friend, a boss, a relative?  Or does your hope reside in the One who is perfect and always has been?  He has a track record to believe in.  I’m sure that’s what kept Mary going.  She had been told the stories…she had told the stories…about this God who was hers.  She knew Him…not just about Him.  Hope was fixed.  She had peace.  I’m sure when it was settled in her heart, she felt just like Gabriel…some butterflies in her stomach and a giddy grin on her face.

God was finally coming to his people…

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,


PS – Merry Christmas!  God sent love down so we could find life!

Categories: Bible Tags: , ,

The Third Purpose of Christmas

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5:18-20

A Time for Reconciliaton

Christmas Carols for the Psychiatrically Challenged

*Schizophrenia — Do You Hear What I Hear?

*Multiple Personality Disorder — We Three Queens Disoriented Are

*Dementia — I Think I’ll be Home for Christmas

*Narcissistic — Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me

*Manic — Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Busses and Trucks and trees and Fire Hydrants and……

*Paranoid — Santa Claus is Coming to Get me

*Borderline Personality Disorder — Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire

*Personality Disorder — You Better Watch Out, I’m Gonna Cry, I’m Gonna Pout, Maybe I’ll tell You Why

*Obsessive Compulsive Disorder —Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells…

Most all of us are a bit more frazzled at Christmas time. We’re thinking about all the money we’re spending, or not spending. We’re wondering if we missed purchasing a gift for someone. There are parties everywhere, and everyone wants us to come. There are no longer the 3 or 4 special Christmas movies to watch with the family…there are the 25 Days of Christmas on 43 different networks. The malls are packed full. There’s email after email of “free shipping” notices. There are school plays and concerts and practices to be at. There’s the weight we all have to watch while we eat cookie after cookie after cookie after…. No wonder someone came up with the joke at the top of this page.

Mary and Joseph had to worry about a place to stay and a healthy birth. Mary was about to be a mommy…and Joseph a daddy. Oh, and there were visitors that had talked with angels and some that had followed a star. Then there was a couple elderly people who had waited their whole life to see the one foretold by the prophets of their ancestors.

For Joseph and Mary, the time around the birth was about … well, the birth of a special baby. Joseph wasn’t in stores or out decorating the front of the house; he was probably looking through the old scriptures to see what prophets had really said about this new king. Mary was probably wondering if she was going to get any bigger…and wondering when she could take naps…and wondering if she would have morning sickness.

I guess there was a search for PEACE on their parts…and there’s a constant search for PEACE on our part as well. I always remember the one verse that says, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Do we treasure the meaning of Christmas? Do we ponder the meaning of Christmas? Do we really know what the gift of PEACE from God really means to us? Do you?

A long time ago, in a garden created by God, two people disobeyed their Creator. Things would never be the same between these three best friends. One is still perfect in love, the other two are now imperfect…unable to be with their creator anymore like it used to be. Things are not peaceful.

A long time after that, the Creator announced that there would be a perfect way to be together with his creation again. That perfect way would come through the birth, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. True PEACE now could exist in anyone…PEACE between that person and God himself. That person, “whomsoever” as John 3:16 says, could now carry that PEACE with them…and hand it away to other people! The PEACE that can change one person’s life forever can now be lived out to changed families and communities and towns and nations.

Boy, PEACE sounds better that what we’ve all experienced around Christmas (see 1st paragraph). This PEACE is also something that we can have all the time. The name for this PEACE is Emanuel…God With Us. Acts 2:38 explains that when we come to accept Jesus, we receive gifts of forgiveness, eternal life and God With Us (the Holy Spirit).

Life can be simpler and more PEACEFUL. We just have to realize what REAL PEACE really is.

A Time for Salvation

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Luke 2:11

Quick One-Liners

*Christmas: When you exchange hellos with strangers and good buys with friends.

*Christmas is the time when people put so many bulbs on the outside of their houses, you don’t know if they’re celebrating the birth of Jesus or General Electric.

*Do you know what it is like to put up fifteen hundred Christmas lights on the roof of a house? The kids are giving two to one I’m gonna come down the chimney before Santa Claus does.

*Every Christmas pageant throughout the world has a scene showing Joseph leading Mary into Bethlehem on a donkey. Do you realize what would happen if the Republicans asked for equal time? *Sometimes I get the feelin that if Christmas, Father’s Day and birthdays did not exist, then aftershave too, would not exist.

Last week we talked about why, for Christians, that Christmas should be the biggest party time of the year. Think about those shepherds! They had heard for years from their parents and grandparents that a ‘messiah’ was coming from God…and they were the first to hear that it was happening. Think about the prophets of that time that were intently waiting. Think about the Rabbis who had told that story over and over…the story of Micah 5…and now they get to tell their new students that IT HAS HAPPENED! This was party time! Do we party like our lives depend on it?

How do we celebrate when we’ve finally lost 20lbs? How do we celebrate when that credit card is paid off? How do we celebrate when one of our kids or friends graduate? Think about the parties we’ve all been to. Pictures are up. Balloons, streamers and signs hang from the ceiling. Cakes, cupcakes and goodies are all prepared. Do we celebrate Jesus birth like that? Well, maybe we don’t do the lights outside or the streamers around the kitchen. But, do we celebrate the birth of Jesus?

Here’s what they were celebrating. Salvation. Luke 2:11 states, “11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.” Think of what that word means. Savior. What does it mean to you? What does it mean to the people you lead? Is it just someone we come to a building once a week to learn about? Is it just someone who’s life makes for poetic songs that we sing once a week? I really hope not….but I’ve carried that attitude before. For those guys, surrounded by sheep when the angel spoke, it was LIFE.

I like what Rick Warren writes, “The answer to your problem is not a place, a program or a pill. It’s not jumping into another relationship. The answer to your sin problem and to your dissatisfaction in life is Jesus Christ. You need a savior.”

Remember the story of the runaway son? If you don’t, you can reread Luke 15. The son (prodigal son) had made the decision to leave the family (pride) and go out on his own (selfishness). He thought he was smarter (arrogance) and could make it on his own (supreme independence). He found that he couldn’t (realization). He struggled (realization of sin/guilt). He made a decision to give up on himself and go back to dad (repentance). Salvation came with a bear hug. Salvation for the world came with a birth-day. There may have been a coniferous tree nearby. And at one point in time there were probably gifts. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t blinking lights, unless you count the stars in the sky. But there was a party…because a savior had come from Heaven. The world could now start the process of being made new again (Revelation 21:5). The one who will beat sin…He will erase the ‘space’ between creation and God…is now here!

Categories: Jesus Tags: , ,
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