Waiting for an Invitation

A Christian is one who follows Jesus as his Lord.  Instead of serving our own desires and conforming to what our surroundings tell us to be and do, we have found the freedom and life found in Jesus alone! How wonderful it is to follow our Master, for he is loving and His burden is light.  I never realized what a load I had been carrying until I came to Jesus and found strength and rest.  But what about the many people around us who have not yet learned of Christ and the hope and strength He offers?  Sure, we know God has told us to share the truth with them, but what if they think we’re weird?  Surely if they want to know what faith in Jesus is, they’ll just ask?  No.

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A Needed Invitation

Though you may not believe it at first, there are many people all around you who want to know spiritual truth.  They would gladly converse with you on the subject and even come to your church with you to see what it’s all about.  But guess what, they’re not going to tell you that!  And you can’t identify them by just looking.

What Do the Numbers Say?

According to a Scott McConnell of LifeWay Research “…many would respond to an invitation from a friend or acquaintance (41 percent), their children (25 percent) or an adult family member (25 percent).”  (Read these stats in detail here.)  The difficult part for many Christians about asking a friend or acquaintance to church is this:  what if they say no???  Allow me to let you in on a little secret.  Most will say no.  Gasp!  😀

Collecting No’s

The stats are going to vary greatly for any specific person and set of circumstances, so for simplicity let’s just assume that 20% of friends you invite via personal invitation will actually attend church with you.  Of those who attend, some will never return, some will return a few times, and some will be radically changed and become followers of Christ.  How many people will say no to your invitation in order for you to find one person who will hear the Holy Spirit’s voice and turn from sin to faith in Jesus?  Ten?  Sixty?  Two thousand?

Does it matter?  Is it worth it to bring one lost soul to the feet of your loving Savior, so that he may taste the love and salvation of Jesus as you have?  Can you imagine yourself standing before your Lord at the end of your life saying, “Jesus, I would have told people about you, but I just didn’t want to hear anyone tell me no.  It felt awkward.”

Ambassadors

We Christians need to trust God that He has people out there He is going to save.  He has put us where we are in our lives in order that we would take His Word to these people, to be the means by which they hear the gospel.  Christ died for sinners, and anyone who will place their faith in Him will be washed clean and declared righteous.

Go Get More of Both

Instead of viewing negatively an answer of, “no,” to our invitation to come and see Jesus, we should view it as a victory—that’s one more person in the denominator.  For every 100 friends you ask, some percent of them are just waiting to be asked, to come and hear, and to find rest and peace for their souls.  It is God’s plan that they will be saved.  And it is God’s plan that a Christian would share the good news with them.  Will you be that Christian?  Or will God use someone obedient?  Embrace the no’s, they are part of the process.  The more invitations, the more no’s, and naturally, the more yeses.  Let’s be the church we are called to be: let us come together for equipping and encouragement to take the gospel out to the very ends of the earth.  Lord Jesus, lead us on, show us how, and may your will be done.

A Life Well Lived

Mildred Timmerman, a beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother said goodbye to this mortal world earlier this week, and is now in the presence of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We who knew her were blessed for the time we shared with her here, and she left an indelible impression on so many who had the privilege of spending time with this wonderful lady.  What did she have that caused her to live the way she did?  From what source did she draw for her seemingly infinite patience, love, and wisdom?

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She Lit Up the Room

Grandma Millie was a person who instantly lit up a room simply by walking into it.  Her face was ever-smiling and her disposition ever-encouraging.  At the same time, she was a woman who stood for something.  I can remember times when grandma would catch word that I my grades were falling in one class or another, and she would react in such a way as to indicate she knew I was capable of better.  She knew it was wrong of me to misuse my gifts, but she didn’t seek to motivate me through guilt or nagging.  She simply exuded wordlessly:  “Chris, you were created by God for a purpose.  He has given you a great many blessings, and you ought to be developing and using them in serving Him.”

When I did well, grandma was lavish with praise.  She appreciated the important things in life—time with family, the love we show to each other and importance of nurturing unity.  She would always brush away the peripheral and unimportant matters that brought conflict, and without being forceful, her words carried weight.

A Living Demonstration of Real Love

The more I think of the person grandma Millie was, the more I appreciate her and the more I realize how incredible a model of godliness she really was.  I can think of no better way to express it than by quoting her Lord, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16).  Millie truly lived this way—she loved people, really loved them well, and brightened their lives when she was around them.  At the same time, she stood for truth and devoted her life to her Lord and Savior.  She would build relationships, deep and meaningful relationships with people around her, and in those moments when our ears were open to her advice, she would speak the truth into our lives.

Millie’s Source

Oh that we each would learn from this godly woman’s example and follow her path.  She was loving and good because she followed One who is the source of all love and goodness.  She wasn’t perfect, and she is righteous not because of her own morality but because her sin has been washed clean.  Christ died for sinners, among whom Millie was one; when He died on the cross He willingly took the punishment she deserved.  Jesus was without sin, and his suffering atoned for all those who place their faith in Him.  His resurrection on the third day demonstrates his dominion over death, and it is in His power that we rest and know that death has not overcome Mildred Timmerman.  Through her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Grandma Millie is righteous and without spot or blemish.  Her mortal hindrances are now no more, and she stands in the presence of the Lord Jesus right now, in this very moment!  We await with joy the day that we too will leave this mortal body of death and join Millie in the throne room of Jesus, to worship Him forever beside her!  Will you be there too?

Turn and Follow

Jesus calls any who will come to draw near to Him in faith and find cleansing.  Give up on living your own way and for yourself—do as Millie has done and turn from your own path, turn to His path.  He will take you as you are and give you a new nature, a nature like His, and you, like Millie, will begin to grow more like Him each day.  The Savior is calling, come to Him today!

Being an Iron Sharpener

Are you a blessing to those around you?  Should you be?  If so, what does it take to effectively speak into their lives, encouraging them and helping them to live a thriving life?

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Those Who Have Helped You

God has designed us for community—we grow through our interactions with others, as iron sharpens iron.  Who are some of the people who have been most positively influential in your life?  Are you glad they took time to sharpen you and help you grow?

You Are a Valuable Resource

Perhaps we know that we should be building up others and helping them to grow in wisdom and truth, but we find it challenging to speak into their life effectively.  Or sometimes, we may think, “who am I to think I can help them?”  It is only when we recognize that we don’t have all the answers that we can be used by God to work His purposes in the lives of those around us.

Two Keys Make Up the Bridge

Think of a bridge over a wide river.  One bank represents the thriving life we are all called to live.  The other bank represents a person God has placed in our life.  We desire that our friend has the thriving life that he wants, the life that’s effective for the Lord’s Kingdom and our community.  In order to bridge the space between, we will need two keys.

Knowing the What

The first key is knowledge and wisdom of what a thriving life looks like.  Those wise men who have mentored us are a good resource for this knowledge, and of course the principle source of all wisdom is the Holy Scriptures.  As we read and study God’s Word, we learn what He is like and over time we see a clearer and clearer picture of what a Christ-life really looks like.

Knowing the Who

The other key is personal.  We must know the person we’re speaking to.  It’s fine to share general knowledge—in fact, what you’re reading now is this very thing: generalized knowledge shared publically.  But to really build up others around us and be effective in being the iron sharpening iron, we must have relationships.  And not just realationships on the surface, but real and deep relationships.  How easy it is to let our interactions with others remain shallow and casual, but this is not the thriving life we’re called to.  Instead, we must choose to take an interest in people, really value them for who they are, and listen to them.

Start Now

Tomorrow, ask God whom he would have you reach out to.  Go to that person and ask them about their favorite topic:  themselves!  Start with something like, “so how long have you worked here?”  “Oh, really?  Well how did you come to work here?”  Listen to what they share, and ask them follow-up questions.  You will be surprised how quickly they will go into detail about who they are and what drives them.  Don’t fake interest, really be interested and keep asking them to explain more.  In so doing, you will have discovered the second key—cultivating authentic relationships.

Be a Blessing

With these two keys, we can all become more effective iron-sharpeners, ready to be used by our Heavenly Father to affect His purposes. We will be more of a blessing to those around us, and as we all grow in this path, we help each other to live more of a thriving life!

Doing It All Yourself?

You and I are capable of amazing things—when we let ourselves dream, search out and discover wise means of reaching our dreams, and focus and commit to building ourselves brick by brick, day by day.  God has created us with limitless potential, and you’re used to reading words here that will challenge and encourage you to take action today toward growth and pursuit of your goals.  As you go forth on your journey, however, you cannot expect success going it alone.  It is only when we find our particular purpose for which we have been created and plug into God’s agenda that we can truly thrive.

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Psalm 63

7For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.

8My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.

9But those who seek my life to destroy it,
Will go into the depths of the earth.

10They will be delivered over to the power of the sword;
They will be a prey for foxes.

11But the king will rejoice in God;
Everyone who swears by Him will glory,
For the mouths of those who speak lies will be stopped.

Conveying the Truth

We are given a great many pictures in the Bible which convey the way God relates to us.  In v7 and v8 of this Psalm, we see two examples:  The shadow of God’s wings and God’s right hand.  Although God has neither wings nor hands, these metaphors give us a very clear and powerful idea of what God is like and how we are meant to live.  We are our strongest not when we work hardest and rely most on ourselves, but rather when we recognize our frailty and seek refuge in God.

The Shadow of His Wings

The picture of living in the shadow of God’s wings gives the thought of a powerful and majestic bird of prey.  I think of an eagle soaring high above the ground, completely out of reach of those who may wish to harm him.  At any moment, the eagle can sweep down with his powerful talons and reign down with a fierce attack on whomever he wills.  As one loved by God, I know than when I rest in the shadow of His wings, I need fear no man.  The shadow means that although I can’t touch Him, I know he is there without a doubt.  He is above me, ready and able to protect and defend me from any who would oppose His will and my obedience.

God’s Right Hand

Being upheld by God’s right hand conveys many similar ideas.  When I think of how easily I can be overcome by others or by life’s circumstances, I am encouraged by remembering that God’s strength is something I can lay hold of.  When in my humanness I would certainly fail, I know in that moment that I can rely on Christ to give me His strength.  It may be a fight against temptation, or the tenacity to hold my resolve in a tese situation, or even to withstand persecution.  In these times, I have confidence, knowing that when my strength fails, God will provide all the strength I need.

His Glory

So much more could be said, how many volumes could be filled with this glorious truth!  God’s power and strength are infinite, and He is anxious to grant them to any who will follow after Him, seek His will, and have the faith to live it out each day.  As we work with the tools we have to grow in our own wisdom, strength, and capability, let us never forget that One who is infinitely stronger than we could ever be or imagine stands with us.  As he shows Himself powerful and faithful, we will discover new heights achievable only through His divine work, for His glory and our good!

Could Four Minutes Really Matter?

Have you ever had a day get off to a rough start, and you felt behind all day?  Maybe your coworker rushed into your office before you’d had a chance to check your email, upset and needing your immediate assistance.  Your plans for the day get all thrown off, and you may feel like control of your time and activity perpetually eludes you.  Anything here sounding familiar?  How did you respond?  Are there things you and I can do in these circumstances to not only get through the day, but actually thrive?  How can we take such a day and still use the time to make progress towards the growth we want and the goals we’re pursuing?

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What Truly Must Be Done?

If you’re anything like most of us, you have some daily habits and routines that feel like they’re essential. For example, I usually check my email messages in the mid-morning then head up to the coffee machine for a tasty brew.  Although these are my typical habits, they aren’t absolutely necessary, and on days where large unexpected demands fall on me, they can be jettisoned.  The key when stuff is flying at you is to stay clearheaded and in control.  Even if people around you are getting frantic, take five minutes to get away.  Use this time to identify the three most important priorities that must happen before the end of the day, and write them down in order.

Forgo the Unnecessary First

Once you’ve put out the preverbal fire, get going on your first priority right away.  Taking back control of our day is going to involve forgoing some of our usual routine, but often this is what it takes.  Unfortunately, some days there is simply more to be done than can possibly fit.  Rather than running frantically from one task to the next, and spending our whole day out of control, we can be intentional and spend our time first on the most important things, and since something will fall through the cracks, let’s choose the lowest priority task to be the one.

Resist the Couch

Finally, on days like these, when you finally finish your work, get home and eat, clean up and do whatever chores need doing, we face the last challenge of the day:  the temptation to neglect our personal growth and pursuit of our goals.  On a day that was particularly hectic, I probably didn’t get a workout in, and I’d really like to lounge on the couch and watch a show for twenty minutes before bed.  I probably don’t feel like reading, connecting with my spouse, or spending time in the Word and in prayer with my Heavenly Father.  Now is where I have a choice:  do I throw in the towel for the day, or do I commit to doing these vital activities that will cause me to grow and move closer to my goals?

Don’t Forgo the Important

Never underestimate the difference a small amount of focused activity can make in your life when practiced daily.  I can absolutely and personally attest to the huge difference that even a four-minute workout can make to one’s fitness and health.  Many times in my life, I’d succumbed to the easy solution after a hard day at work, and plopped down on the couch.  When a one- or two-day break from my exercise regimen turned into a four- or five-day break, I found I paid a heavy price on the day I finally did make it back into the gym.  But I have since learned that even a very quick workout—perhaps nothing more than a few minutes of pushups (pushing myself as fast and hard as possible) can get my blood moving, my muscles and lungs working, and can sustain me until the next day when I can get a full workout in.  It seems like such a small thing that it couldn’t possibly matter, but it truly does.  And the same goes for my other habits in contributing to my growth.  Maybe I only read 8 pages of a good book when I’ve had a super busy night.  But I can focus on learning to the best of my ability during the short period of time, and the benefits are undeniable.

As the following article suggests, remember to be grateful: https://www.positivehealthwellness.com/beauty-aging/9-self-care-tips-will-help-become-confident/ Sometimes when we get busy, we are apt to forget to be grateful for the many incredible blessings we enjoy. Take the time to thank God for the many wonderful things He has given you–and you might step back into your day with an entirely different perspective.

Building Blocks

Chose to avoid statements like, “I just don’t have time to work out,” or, “I’d love to read good books, if only I had the time.”  Let’s all make a  commitment to each other never to waste our time speaking such nonsense—just use the time you’re saving by not spewing such ignorance to be that four-minute workout, 8-pages of reading, or time of prayer.  These are the building blocks we use to build our thriving life, and I thank you for coming with me on this journey of growth together!

The Root of Anger

Anger, disappointment, resentment, hurt:  these are emotions we’d prefer to avoid.  If we could choose, we’d rather live happy, content, and fulfilled, wouldn’t we?  What if there was a way to significantly reduce the amount of time we spend angry or hurt?  If we understand the root cause of these negative emotions and the negative situations they lead us into, we can find victory and spend more of our time cultivating excellent relationships and enjoying the time we have.

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Our Many Gifts

We enjoy so many incredible blessings in our everyday life.  Just think about the comfortable bed you slept in last night, the delicious dinner you ate, and the people around you that truly and deeply love you.  We could spend all day listing all the great things in our lives—things given to us by the Maker of all things.

We desire good things—and there’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, it is good to enjoy and appreciate all the wonderful blessings we have every day.  But there is a good way and a bad way to hold these blessings.  One will give us great fulfillment and thankful hearts, while the other will produce the harmful emotions listed above.

With Open Hands?

The difference is this:  do you hold your gifts with open hands or closed fists?  You see, when our desires are met, we have a choice.  We either recognize that the blessing that we received is a gift of God, or we start to close our hands around it and begin thinking we own it.  As we neglect to thank God for a particular blessing, we slowly close our grip around it, wishing to keep it within our possession.

The Enemy works gradually, taking some new blessing and day by day inducing us to feel more and more that we earned it, we deserve it, and we need it.  Once we view that blessing as something we need, we will react in anger when it is threatened.

Thankful to Expectation to Need

Consider the simple act of a man writing a love poem to his wife every week.  When he first begins this act of love and appreciation, his wife may be delighted!  She feels loved and cherished, and expresses her thanks to him.  But over time, as the notes continue to come week after week, this blessing may turn into an expectation in her mind.  She begins to think she deserves these notes, and her husband owes them to her.  If he misses one week, she will feel emotions of disappointment, resentment, or even anger.

But this is all rooted in a choice—if the woman in the story above simply appreciated the love notes as a blessing, she will each week feel the emotions of thankfulness, happiness, and love when her husband gives the poem.  If one week the husband should fail to present a poem, she will miss it, but that’s all.  She only feels anger, hurt, and resentment when the gift is expected and assumed.  Put another way, she will feel anger and disappointment when her need for her weekly poem isn’t met.

What’s Yours?

Perhaps this seems silly to you, that a woman should come to need an expect a poem from her husband every week.  But what about you and me?  Are there not blessings in our life that we one didn’t have, now have, and now expect we shall always have?  God has bestowed amazing gifts upon you and me—do we hold them with an open hand?

The Example of Open Hands

Job is was one of the richest men in the world in his day—not only in material wealth, but also with many children, as well as the love and respect of his neighbors.  In one day, it was all taken from him, and yet his response was this:  “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21).

Are there things you expect from those around you?  Do you need and demand that your coworkers speak well of you, such that when they disparage you you become angry?   Do you expect your mentors to have perfect understanding in everything they teach and council you?  Do you expect you spouse to always be there to meet your needs and do the things you want them to do?

What Perspective Will You Choose?

Let’s make the decision today to stop letting anger have root in our hearts.  If we will recognize that the blessings we enjoy each day are gifts—gifts that are not promised to be there tomorrow—we will increase our reliance upon the Lord, our appreciation of His grace, and the moments of life that bear the hallmark of peaceful contentedness.

Does Intelligence Always Win?

Intelligence is highly valued in our culture—call someone intelligent and he will be delighted!  Are there more important things though?  Is a man well loved who is intelligent yet rude?  Or, does someone who is very intelligent necessarily have right understanding?  Could it be that a man of lower intelligence may actually beat out one of higher intelligence when it comes to living a thriving life?  How could this happen?

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Two men at work

Consider the following story.  I hired John, a very intelligent man I know, to take care of a few things at my home. One day I instruct him to work on a retaining wall in my yard and pick up an important package arriving by train from Chicago.  Our agreement states that he will be paid based upon how much of the wall he finishes and he will receive a fixed amount for retrieving the package.

On another day, I hire Bruce, a man of low intelligence yet a man of practical experience and common sense.  I offer the same terms to him that I agreed to with John.

The two men, given their differing intelligence, come at the task very differently.  John has a mind like a steel trap, and has the train schedules memorized.  He knows the Chicago train arrives at the station every day at 4:30.  He also knows that the route to the train station becomes congested during that time, and accounts for this, calculating that he must leave the house by 3:50 to make it on time.  This gives him the maximum time to work on the wall.  He has also studied engineering and foundation design, so he knows the latest methods for efficient and sturdy retaining wall construction.

Bruce, on the other hand, does not possess all this intelligence and knowledge.  He knows the basics to build a retaining wall, as his father had taught him years ago.  He doesn’t know the train schedules or the route to get to the station.  So, his first action is to call the station and ask the representative when the train arrives.  The representative informs him that a derailment yesterday has thrown off the usual schedule, and the Chicago train will be arriving an hour later than usual.  In addition, the main freeway into the station is currently under construction, so the rep informs Bruce of an alternate route.

You can guess how this story ends:  our intelligent man John spends a little over an hour sitting in traffic, arriving just too late to get the package, which is instead sent via courier.  When it’s all said and done, John spent more time in the car than Bruce, so despite his more efficient process, he didn’t accomplish more of the wall than Bruce did.  On top of that, he missed picking up the package, so when his invoice is totaled, he actually made less than Bruce.

What’s the Cause?

Now how did this happen?  John was smarter than Bruce, had more knowledge, and had worked out an ideal plan to maximize his efficiency.  How did he come in behind Bruce?

John simply did something that a great many people—people of high intelligence and people of low intelligence—do every day.  He did not test his assumptions.  It’s not that his plan was bad, in fact, his plan was probably better than Bruce’s.  But it was based on something false.  It was based on the train arriving at a time other than the true time, and it was based on the route to the station being open as usual.  Both of these falsehoods are rooted in John’s own mind.  He thought he knew, and so he didn’t take the time to check whether or not his beliefs were true.  Ample evidence and resources existed for him to test his beliefs and assumptions, yet he failed to use them because he wrongly believed he didn’t need them.

Could This Really Happen?

Perhaps it seems unrealistic that such a smart man as John would so foolishly neglect to check such an important component before making his plan.  Surely a smart person would know better, right?

Sadly, there are a great many people, people we meet and talk with every day, who are neglecting something far more important than a train schedule.  There are a great many important topics to be studied in this world, and many intelligent people study them each day, but none are more important than questions like these: How did I come to exist?  Who made me, and for what purpose?  And this one who made me, what is He like?

It Happens Every Day

As with the train schedule in our story, much evidence exists, and many reliable resources are available to answer life’s most important questions.  The Holy Bible reveals many things to us about what God is like and what He has done.  The historical accuracy and reliability of the Bible are facts clearly demonstrable through the archaeological records and the science of textual criticism.  The evidence is available for any and all who will take the time to investigate it.  But what do most people do?  Do they take an honest look at the Bible and the evidence that it is a document of divine origin?

Most people choose to reject the Bible as their foundation, not because they have looked at the evidence and do not find it compelling, but rather because they have never examined it at all.  Like the intelligent man in our story, many people think they know the train schedule, so they just assume the ideas in their mind are right.

The Right Foundation

The sad reality is that if we build our lives on the assumptions in our minds, we will have a grand structure sitting on a foundation of sand.  When time reveals the truth of God’s Word and Christ’s promises, many will regret their failure to seek and find the truth.  What about you?  Are your beliefs about God rooted in reliable foundations or untested assumptions?  How much time have you spent investigating the claims that the Bible is God’s Word, reliable and written for you?

The answers and the evidence are out there, and great resources like www.equip.org will help you sort out the truth.  The question is, will you seek the truth or will you live tomorrow as you lived today—confident in your belief that the train arrives at 4:30?  John’s consequence for being too late was simply losing a little money; realizing Christ is Lord too late will cost you your soul.

What is Christmas?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—Christmas!!  We all have our favorite things about the season: caroling, amazing food, candy everywhere, time with family, parties, and lots of other delightful traditions.  With so much going on, we can sometimes get so busy and overwhelmed that we can miss some important things, perhaps even the most important things!  So what is Christmas really about?  What is it that holds all these activities and traditions together?

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Time with Family

If you’ve seen any of the famous Christmas movies, you’ve probably caught on to a recurring theme.  Christmas isn’t about amassing stuff for yourself.  It’s no time to be a recluse or a Scrooge or just treat Christmas like just any other day.  So often in these stories, the mixed-up main character finds through a series of events that all the money and selfish living are empty and hollow, and he finds the value of friends and family, coming back to those who once loved him and adopting a loving and giving attitude.

This is part of what Christmas is all about, but as an ultimate meaning, even good things like friendliness and loving family fall short.  Indeed, we should love others and value and appreciate our families all year long, and especially so at Christmas.  This is a key part of what Christmas is all about.  But why should we live this way?

Selflessness

Christmas is a time of giving.  A time when we seek out others who are in need and bless them generously and graciously.  Maybe we volunteer or buy gifts for the local homeless shelter.  Or perhaps we team up with a program at church to deliver a turkey and loads of groceries to a needy family. These activities come even closer to the true meaning of Christmas, but as an ultimate meaning, even these will not do.  Again, why are we to graciously love and give to the undeserving?

The Root

The root of all the good things we do at Christmas can be found in the very name of the holiday:  Christ!  The word means Messiah, the one sent by God to save His people.  And that is exactly who Jesus is.  The first one to be gracious, to love those who didn’t deserve it was God.  You see, we were enemies of God, estranged from Him because of our sin.  We are naturally in rebellion against our Maker due to the sin of our father and patriarch Adam, and our first desires are to please ourselves and live our own way.

He Loved the Unlovable

It was when we were in this sinful state, far from God and wanting nothing to do with Him or His Word that God sent the Christ.  Jesus, eternal God from before the beginning of time, humbled himself and became a man.  No time in history has such a momentous and glorious event occurred—the Creator of all things came to earth to be born as a baby.  He did this not because it would be pleasant or easy, in fact it would be painful and difficult.  Ultimately, he would be tortured and nailed to a cross to die a slow and agonizing death.  This was God’s gracious plan to bring mankind back to Himself.  You see, God is holy and perfect.  He is Just.  He cannot and will not ignore sin and sweep it under the rug.  In order for you or me to be brought back into relationship with Him, punishment must be rendered.  Jesus came to take that punishment—anyone who trusts in Him and accepts His substitutionary payment of our debt can be forgiven.  It’s as if you were found guilty in court, but Jesus comes in and pays your fine for you.  Your case is legally dismissed and you may walk out a free person!

We Love Because He Loved

We should be loving during Christmas and all times for the principal reason that God was loving to us.  He didn’t wait for us to clean up and earn good things; He sent His Son to save us even while we were dirty and rotten, full of sin.  We should love our families and be kind to each other because love and kindness are who God is.  When we accept Jesus as Savior, we also accept Him as Lord.  He is our shepherd, Father, and example.  We read His Word to learn what He is like and how He desires us to live, and we make choices each day to live His Way.

This Christmas, let’s let the true meaning of Christmas undergird everything we do.  Yes, let’s love others, value time with our family, and graciously give to those in need.  But let’s do it with the understanding that it was God’s gift of His only Son that causes these actions for His Glory.  Merry Christmas!!

Giving Thanks

Even though we enjoy countless blessings, it can be very easy to take many of our good things for granted. We become accustomed to our daily routine, and we are often so busy that we don’t take the time to reflect on and be thankful the many blessings we enjoy. Try sitting down with a blank piece of paper for fifteen minutes and listing things you have to be thankful for. You may be surprised how quickly the paper is filled!

Family Christmas

Our Many Freedoms

We live in a country with more freedoms that most any time and place in history. We can assemble freely to worship God and learn about Him. Any citizen may own property, or run a business, without excessive government oversight or restriction. We have a representative democracy which allows we the people to choose our leaders, and a press that holds these leaders accountable for their actions. Though no government is perfect, we do yet retain many of the freedoms as intended by the founders of this nation, and we should thank God for continuing to preserve our great nation.

Family

I am blessed to have been born and raised by Christian parents who loved me, taught me well, and have stayed together–married for 33 years and counting!  My brother and sister are great and loving siblings, and I smile every time we can spend time togehter.  Not only that, but they have each found a spouse who compliments them perfectly, and I feel that I’ve gained even more great siblings through these marriages (and soon-to-be marriages!)

I am married to a wonderful, beautiful, and loving wife who loves me, respects me, and is truly my partner for life. She is caring and incredible, and I am often in disbelief of how she can accomplish all the things she does, even making it look effortless. She is sweet and loving, and an excellent communicator. Even when we don’t see eye to eye on things, she takes the time and makes the effort to connect, express her perspective, and stay with the issue until we both understand and agree on how we’ll move forward. I could expound all day on the many wonderful things she does to enrich my life and the lives of those around her, and I am grateful to have her as my wife!

God has blessed us with three delightful children, who make our lives busy, interesting, and fun. They say the funniest things, and help us to remember how much more fun life is with a lighthearted attitude. They are smart and inquisitive, always wanting to explore their surroundings and find out how things work. They even encourage us in our faith, as they ask questions about God and trust in Him with the childlike faith Jesus taught us to have.

The Greatest Gift

The list of my blessings could go on and on and on, and fill many more pages that this site could hold!  Taking the time just to begin recounting all the great joys and gifts in my life has reminded me again truly how much I have to be thankful for.  In difficult days, when things don’t always seem to be going the way I’d like them to, I will do well to remember all the many blessings I’ve been given, recognizing that just as I did not deserve them, so have I been given heavenly gifts that I don’t deserve.  Chief among these is the salvation I have through Christ, the forgiveness of my sin and God’s promise that I will enjoy eternal life in paradise with Him.  Thank God today for all He has given you, and reach out to the Savior and follow Him!

The Greatest

How do you define greatness?  Is a person with a sharp suit and a fast car great?  Or is it a popular and loved person who is truly great?  Maybe someone who follows all the rules of the Bible?  Or maybe it’s the one who works hard and becomes CEO of his company.

nice car!

What Standard?

Could it be that all of these definitions are wrong?  Could someone be winning in his fitness, family, financially, and career, and yet lack what it takes to be great?  Let’s take a moment to look at what the world’s greatest teacher had to say on the subject:

Luke 9:

46 An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. 47 But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”

I’m better!  No, I’m better!

We see in this scene men arguing with each other as to who is better than whom.  Have you ever, perhaps in your mind, compared yourself to those around you and decided that you really are greater than they?  It is easy for us to overlook some of our own shortcomings and see ourselves favorably.  “If only others were more like me,” we think, “this place would be a whole lot better…”

The problem is, besides becoming puffed up with ourselves, we are apt to have a very mixed-up view of greatness and what it takes to be great.  Like the disciples in the Luke 9 story, we focus on external accomplishment and things that impress men.  Jesus taught the disciples, as He teaches us, that God values highest what men often esteem lowest.

Why waste my time with kids?

Children are often looked down on in our society—and not just because of their stature!  😉  Adults will often think of children as silly, naïve, and simple.  Rather than have a conversation with a little kid or tell a story from the Bible, we adults will prefer to spend time on “important things” like washing dishes, paying bills, or even surfing facebook.

In contrast, Jesus defines greatness by one who receives a child in His name.  When we accept children, we accept Jesus, and when we accept Jesus we are accepting God.  To be great, we must be willing to, and take the time to, tell kids about God, about Jesus, and about what He has done.  When is the last time that you shared God with a child?

Will you serve, even if no one cares?

Perhaps we won’t impress those around us with speech about how we told kids about Jesus.  Maybe teaching a Sunday School class of second graders or volunteering to lead game time on Wednesday night will not be rewarded with the thanks of your fellow church members.  Maybe no one will care.  But isn’t that the point?  Do we really love God for who he is, and desire to serve Him and do what He says for that reason only?  Perhaps this is one reason Jesus defines greatness in this way—who will value a child, take the time to pour truth and love into him, even if he must do so thanklessly.  Lord, teach us to be great!