Month: December 2010

The Undiscovered Gift

Late last week I sent a package to Ashburn, Virginia.   I sent it UPS.    It was a Christmas gift for my niece.   I haven’t heard from my sister to know that she received it yet.   Christmas is almost here and I’ve heard nothing from them.   It really isn’t a big deal…just a inexpensive, simple gift from her uncle.   The bigger issue for me is for her to know that we care for her and that we want her to know this gift awaits.

I wonder…is this how God feels about us?  He’s sent the gift, but many still have not received it yet.  It is just waiting for us to accept it.  God sent His Son to this earth, which is why we celebrate Christmas.  But the Christmas  story doesn’t end there, for the gift that was given that day in Bethlehem was not wrapped up in His birth but rather the gift was wrapped up in His death on the cross.  For it is there we see the gift of salvation and a way to seek and find forgiveness for our sins.  It was freely given and all we have to do is accept it.

The gift is there for you today…it is not too late.  It’s sitting there, waiting for its discovery.   Imagine how God must feel to hear so many say, “God doesn’t care. He doesn’t love me.”   When all along this gift of salvation awaits discovery.   All you have to do is know that it has arrived and receive it.   Christmas provided that gift.   God’s gift of His Son is that undiscovered gift.

Merry Christmas to all and I hope you find the true gift of Christmas this year.

Christmas Is Coming…Whether I Like It Or Not.

Christmas is coming…whether I like it or not.

It’s not that I don’t like Christmas in and of itself.  It is indeed a wonderful time of year.  People can be nice (sorta) to each other and who doesn’t like to get presents?   I would like to say that I hate the commercialism associated with Christmas and all the “Santa” talk…but in reality, it’s not that.  It is more of the fact that for all the hard work…the Christmas spirit only lasts a few days.

My wonderful wife is the ultimate Santa Claus kind of person.   She loves the holiday, the foods, the decor, the games…and all that goes with it, but she married a Grinch kind of guy.   I would rather take the easy way and not deal with all the work to set up the tree, only to have to take it down again in a few weeks.  We decorate the house with the same Christmas stuff I lugged up the stairs (only a month or so ago it seems) and I think she has well over 200 rolls of Christmas wrapping paper and don’t even get me started on the bows and bags we have inventoried in our basement / Christmas warehouse.

Usually,  we will have our annual Christmas tree argument,  about having a real tree vs a fake one.  She always wins.   But in reality, I’m really glad my grinchiness  has not stifled her Santa Claus spirit.  It’s wonderful to celebrate the Christmas holiday with family.   I always look forward to the time together and the looks on the kid’s faces when they open the gifts.   Some years it is a little challenging to find the money for gifts, but we always seem to work it out. I love the resulting feel and celebration because of my wife’s hard work and spirit.   As much as I complain about it, I wouldn’t want to have my way…a Grinch Christmas would be really sad.

So, my advice to all the other fellow “Grinch’s”… Let the Santa Claus in you rule the giving portion of heart for the holiday!!!  As far as the receiving portion, let the love of Christ and the celebration of His birth (the true meaning of Christmas) rule in your heart.  His gift of salvation is FREE…all you have to do is accept Him into your heart and life.

Christmas…it’s coming and there isn’t anything I can do about it.

Truth is…I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.

In the meantime, I will attach a video to my son-in-law’s band, “The Undeserving” and their free version of  “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”…enjoy…

Is Your Tank Spiritually Empty?

Only a few more days until Christmas.   It seems hard to believe but another year has passed by and I am putting up the same Christmas decorations that I swear I had just put away the other day.

This year, I think that my wife has personally tried to end the current economic crisis all by herself.  She pretty much cleared out the mall in Washington D.C. on Black Friday and more recently in Toledo.

With that in mind, have you checked out the price of gas these days?

Now I try to economize as much as possible.   I look at every gas station I pass on my way to work, checking out which one has the lowest price; and then, on my way back home, I pull into the best option and fill‘er up.   Loyalty to certain brands plays a bit of a role in my choice; but I still try to find the lowest price.  Lately,  I find that I’ve been filling up more frequently, because eight gallons feels less painful than fifteen.   Plus, I don’t want to get caught short.  So, it’s become a habit.   I regularly check to see what’s in my tank.

When I was younger, I would risk it and try to see how far I could go without running out.  More times than not I would make it.  It was sort of exciting to push the limits and make it.   However,  the thrill of taking these chances and pushing the limits of your car’s ability to run on empty sometimes got the best of me.   I made the mistake of risking it and paying the price of a long walk in the middle of the night to get some gas.

It reminds me of a favorite Seinfeld episode…
When I look back at those times,  when I would risk running out of gas, I see an immature young man that did not really have to face any real consequences for the choices he made.   If I did not make it, well then, I had no one else to blame.  However, it didn’t take too many of those walks on a lonely highway in the middle of the night to teach me to make sure I had enough gas to get to my destination.  I guess that is the process of growing and maturing.   I had walked enough miles to allow myself to learn a lesson.  Now when I see my gas tank hit a quarter tank I start to sweat and try to find a gas station before I find myself walking along another lonely highway.

 

Most of the time, I realize that what we do in our normal, daily lives often has an application to our spiritual lives.  Take my experience with checking my gas tank. Physical fuel is a must to keep a car running.   But what about your soul?  What does it take to keep it running?   What is in your spiritual tank that keeps you running and serving the Lord?  My experience, both personally and what I have observed from others,  is that we don’t keep our spiritual tanks full and we risk living our life with empty spiritual gas tanks.

What do you do to keep your tank full in your relationship with God?
Music?
Prayer?
Bible study?
Fellowship with others?
What helps you the most to refresh yourself in your walk with God?

Your spiritual tank is much more important than your car’s fuel tank. Yet, most of the time, we
don’t even bother to think about it very much.  After all, “there are so many concerns in my life
that occupy my attention.  You know: the economy, my job, the children, my health.”

Yes, that’s all true.   But what happens when your “soul-tank” is empty? When you run out of “soul fuel” how do you feel? Agitated? Pretty empty? Short-tempered? Giving up hope? Angry at God? I think we’ve all experienced one or more of these feelings at some time or another in our life.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.   What I have found is that when I need to be renewed and re-energized, all I have to do is surround myself with the things of God.  I keep a close watch on my life and heart so that I keep myself close to the source of  spiritual fuel I need to get through the day.   If we would only take the same kind of care and preparation to make sure we have spiritual fuel as much as we have for the physical fuel for our car our life would be different.

This year, Christmas could be different for you.   Take time to fill your life with Christ.   It doesn’t cost you anything… it is a free gift.  The best thing is that you can fill up any time you want.  What a deal! It’s yours for the asking.   Make the decision today – to let Jesus fill your tank.  And when you do, you’ll start to see this world in a different light and this could be the best Christmas you have ever experienced.

It’s all up to you.




What Are You Willing To Risk?

I’ve been thinking….

I’ve been thinking about my own faith and relationship with God.

Actually, I guess I should say I have been thinking about the fact that I have never really had to sacrifice anything for my faith.  I did not lose any friendships or relationships in my family… I did not “risk” being ridiculed or mocked for my belief and most assuredly, I have not been threatened with my life for the spiritual decisions I have made in my life.

Which causes me to think about this one question:

What if I had been?

What if I had been truly threatened with death for my beliefs?  What if I was rejected by my whole family and lost everything I ever had just because I chose to believe in Jesus Christ?

What would I risk to know God?

This week I was having a discussion with a friend at work about baptism. The significance of baptism and what it means to a believer today.  Now I do not intend to get into all of the “theological”  issues that are attached to the discussion of baptism, however I do want to make a few points.

The ordinance of Baptism in the church today symbolizes the combination of repentance, commitment, and inclusion to body of Christ.  It is a form of identification that you have now accepted Christ as your personal Savior and you are now willing to obey Him and follow His example in baptism.  It is a way to show other believer’s that you are willing to be identified with them as followers of Christ.

The issue that my friend and I were discussing was that in the early church and the times of Christ on earth the issue of baptism was taken much more seriously than what it is today.  In the early church, when a person became a follower of Christ, they risked everything they had for this decision.  The potential risk of losing their family, possessions and even their life was a real risk.  It truly was a sign of identification.  In today’s church,  when you are baptised,  you are showing identification to fellow church members.  But in the early church, you were showing the community your decision to follow Christ.  It was done openly and for all to see.  The risk from family and friends was real.

What would you risk to gain this relationship with the living God?  What would you give up to have HIM?

Under the current circumstances that we face today in America, we don’t have the risk of losing our life.  But there are parts of this world that people do run that risk for their decision to follow Christ.

However, it still is a risk. You risk losing friends, reputation and position.

So, whether you are a believer already or you are considering giving your life to Jesus Christ, I have one simple question to ask you.

What are willing to risk to know God and live for Him?

To know that you could have forgiveness of sin, an eternal place in heaven,  having the peace and hope  that is found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ…

What would I risk for that?

Everything.

A Journey to Change in 2011

It is hard for me to believe that 2010 is in its final month.  Where did the time go?  The year has passed so quickly but that is not to say that went by so fast that I don’t remember things or that it wasn’t significant.  In many ways, 2010 has been one of the best years of my life.  This year I grew (matured) so much in my spiritual life.  After years of being sidelined and “put on a shelf” by God, I have had wonderful opportunities to grow in my faith.  Probably the best thing about my spiritual growth 2010, has been the time I am able to spend in God’s Word.   I have been a student of God’s Word since I was 10.   That’s 40 years of opportunity to read this amazing book.  Unfortunately, there have been periods, even years where I did not even crack the book open.  2010 changed that and it has changed my life in so many ways I can’t even begin to tell you all the wonderful changes it has made.

One disturbing fact I have recently noticed in today’s society is that most Christians are not reading the Bible.  Ever.  I am not sure of the reasons.  Maybe it is the way we conduct our church services.  With our songs and even the verses of Scripture are posted on an overhead screen, maybe there is a belief that one no longer has to carry their Bible to church services?  However, I personally believe that it is a little more sinister than that.   I have met more people who can give me the plan of Salvation better than I can, that have absolutely no problem in saying that the Bible is not inerrant (without error).   I have met some people who claim to be believers , who do not believe that Jesus is the only way.  They don’t believe that there is a literal hell, and many other truths clearly described in the Bible.   I have found these people in all of the surrounding area churches.  A few of these people even attend the same church as I do.  I try not to judge and I will leave it to God to determine as to whether these people are true believer’s or not.

I guess the bottom line is that if a person doesn’t believe it’s God’s Word then why would they feel the need to read it any more than any other book?   What we find is a Christian culture in possession of God’s word and they never read it.
But some do believe it’s the Word of God.  For those that want to study it, read it and know God the problem is, “Where do I start?”   If you start at the beginning and try to read to the end, as if it were a novel, you will quickly abandon your journey out of frustration and boredom.  Let me suggest a Bible study method I have developed over the years that has really helped me.  It keeps God’s word fresh, exciting and can be done in a few minutes a day.  In fact I usually spend about 30 minutes a day in the Word and can read through the entire Bible in a year or less.   One thing for sure…it’s not boring!

I have divided the Bible into 6 basic sections: Psalms, Proverbs, History, Prophets, Gospels and Letters.   That’s it.  Six (6) sections to read each day.  Reading in this way will keep you involved and excited about God’s word.

Here’s what I do and why:

The first thing I do in the morning is check the calendar…what day is it?   Whatever the date I read that chapter in Proverbs.  There are 31 chapters so I read through Proverbs once a month…that’s 12 times a year.   Proverbs is Solomon’s book.   He was the wisest man in history. It’s often called wisdom literature.   So, Proverbs for my head.

Then I head for Psalms.   A couple of chapters in Psalms is easy (depending on the length of the chapters…be flexible).   David was a man after God’s own heart.   So, Proverbs for the head and Psalms for the heart.

Then I go to the History section.   Genesis to Job is the whole history of the Old Testament, 17 books.   I read one chapter in this section each day.  I love the history of the Old Testament.  It’s the foundation for the rest of the Bible.


Then to the Prophets-  Isaiah to Malachi.   These 17 books overlap the history books and will complement those books. Read one chapter in this section.  You will be surprised how quickly you move through this section and even when you get to a difficult chapter you know you will be in another section in a few minutes.

Then I move to the Gospels.   Matthew to John are the four gospels. I read a chapter here each day and once I’ve gone through the gospels I start over and do it again.  I always want to hang around the gospels and spend time with Jesus. When I read the gospels I get to know God.  Jesus shows me what He is like.   Often, as I read through the gospels I will “get into the story” and watch Jesus from inside the story.  It helps me know God better.

Then, finally, off to the Letters- Romans to Revelation.  These books are the major theology books of the New Testament and will help you grow in your Christian faith.  A chapter here each day.

There is an important thing you need to do as you begin this odyssey- get a journal.  Write the date and record what you have read. It will help you keep track of what you are reading. Use the journal to record anything you learn from your reading as well as write down any and all prayer requests…your prayer life will come alive.  Your faith will grow and your journey with God will come alive.  You will not be bored and the Bible will become an exciting book to you.

Peter wrote, 2 Peter 1:3
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”

If this verse is true then the most important thing you can do for your faith is read God’s Word.

Join me in 2011 on this amazing adventure.

It’s a journey that will change your life.