The gifts that touch us most involve sacrifice by the giver or meet a deep need.
At Christmastime, we fixate on finding perfect gifts for our loved ones. We say this tradition arises from the joy of the season and our love for others, or that it reflects the Gift the Father gave us on the first Christmas morning, the gift of Baby Jesus in the manger.
As the best gift ever, it involved sacrifice—more sacrifice than we can imagine.
• Jesus gave up His heavenly home to live on earth with all its mud and bugs and darkness.
• He took on human form, complete with fatigue, hunger, and disgusting bodily functions.
• He came as a baby, dependent on a teenage girl for every need.
• He didn’t come as royalty but as an uneducated working-class man from the backwaters.
• He associated with humans—petty, annoying, mocking, clueless, violent, and prideful.
• He who had never sinned took on the full burden of all sin of all humanity for all time.
• On the cross, He experienced the wrenching pain of separation from the Father.
• He sacrificed His life.
And as the best gift ever, it met our deepest need of all—our need for a Savior. Through His death, our sins can be wiped away forever and we can enjoy a relationship with God and life—true, fulfilling, purposeful, eternal life!
Hebrews 10:10 tells us, “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
To receive this gift we don’t have to go through endless rituals or do a certain number of good deeds or get rid of our bad traits beforehand. All we have to do is reach out and accept the gift.
May you have a blessed Christmas!
I did it. I killed a Cutie. Not premeditated, but murder nonetheless.
Today I drove a carpool for my son’s high school choir as they performed at elementary schools and assisted living facilities. Since it was supposed to be an all-day event, I packed a lunch – a sandwich, diet cola – and a Cutie orange. Little did the Cutie know, but it was doomed.
I spent the day listening to the kids delight young and old with a cappella Christmas carols. Well, they delighted everyone except one sweet elderly gentleman with hearing aid issues. He kept yelling, “I can’t hear you!”
Speaking of volume, he should have been in my car with five musical teen girls and one slightly befuddled teen boy. Four of the girls were sopranos. Are you getting the picture?
All of this to set the stage for murder most foul.
After dropping the kids off at the high school, I drove home and unloaded the back of my Highlander. My lunchbag had spilled, so I picked up the contents. All but our unsuspecting victim.
I closed the garage door only to see the Cutie, which had rolled out of the back of my car, directly in the path of the door. Did I push the button again to stay the execution? Did I rush to rescue the poor citrus? No, I did not. In morbid fascination, I watched the door descend like a guillotine. Would the fruit trigger the stop mechanism? Would the rubber gasket bend around it?
Nope. Orange guts all over my driveway.
So lock me up. Call People for the Ethical Treatment of Citrus. Post incriminating comments on my blog.
Stop me before I murder again.
In our family, Tabasco sauce has its own punch line.
Many years ago, when our son Stephen was in kindergarten, Anna was two, and Matthew was expanding my waistline, I served gumbo for dinner. Nothing’s ever hot enough for my husband, Dave, so he poured on the Tabasco.
“What’s that, Dad?” Stephen asked.
“Tabasco sauce.” Dave waved the bottle, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Want some?”
Stephen’s face grew white, and he shook his head. “You shouldn’t use that. It’s dangerous.”
Kids that age say odd things, especially Stephen, so we laughed it off and finished dinner.
The next day, Stephen came home from kindergarten, sporting his “red ribbon” for the anti-drug program he’d just completed. He plopped on the floor to play with his little sister. Some time later, I heard Stephen’s big brother voice, the one he used to impart words of wisdom to his sister. I tuned in to hear the wealth of five years’ experience in the world.
Stephen shook his finger at his sister. “Anna, you must never use Tabasco sauce, ’cause Tabasco’s a drug.”
Tabasco. Tobacco. It all made sense. Some well-meaning speaker had told the children of the evils of tobacco, but for Stephen that was a foreign word.
No one in the family uses tobacco. Tabasco, on the other hand…
Whenever that bottle comes out of the pantry, someone says it: “Don’t use that! Tabasco’s a drug.”
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the First World War came to an end. The Armistice was signed for the War to End All Wars, but peace was built on a shoddy foundation, and war returned, nastier than ever. The end of the Second World War brought the United Nations and the promise of rational negotiation and eternal peace. Instead the nuclear era brought the tense decades of the Cold War, flaring up in brutal regional wars in Korea, Vietnam, and throughout Africa and Central and South America. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall brought optimism for a peaceful, democratic world. This was shattered by the terrorist tactics of a new enemy without borders to attack or a government to negotiate with. A cowardly enemy that cheers when children blow up children or when unarmed soldiers are murdered on their home base.
The human heart yearns for peace but is drawn to war. We can argue about it and talk about how it shouldn’t be this way, but it is.
That’s why our armed services are vital. Our veterans have repelled the forces of Fascism, Totalitarianism, and Communism, and for this we owe them our eternal gratitude. Our active servicemen and servicewomen are currently fighting the forces of Islamic Terrorism, and for this we owe them our active support and appreciation.
On Veteran’s Day, we thank the members of our armed services, past and present, for protecting our lives, our homes, and our freedom. May God bless you in your efforts.
Christmas is coming! Did that fill you with the warm fuzzies or make you want to scream?
I’m afraid I now fall in the screaming group. Don’t get me wrong—Christmas is a joyous time to celebrate the birth of our Savior, but the month of December brings a crush of expectations. Decorating and baking and entertaining and Christmas cards, and worst of all, the shopping, wrapping, and mailing. I love the people in my life, and I want to find the right gifts for each one. This gets harder each year, because everyone seems to have everything they want and need. Still, we buy more.
And the credit card debt grows. And the pile of toys in the children’s rooms grows. And our closets get crammed with more and more until they overflow, so we fill our garages with stuff until they overflow, then we rent self-storage units to fill with all that stuff. Still, we buy more.
Jesus tells us, “‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’” Luke 12:15.
How much of our time is spent working to pay for our stuff, shopping for stuff, taking care of our stuff, and figuring out ways to better store and organize our stuff? What if we realigned our priorities and spent our money and our time on things with long-term value? Family. Community. The Lord. How would that look? Warm. Fuzzy. Peaceful. Like Christmas is meant to be.
What about you? Do you have any creative gift ideas to reduce the flow of stuff in your life?
Bay Area friends! Would you like to meet five authors at one event? (Sorry, but one of them is me.) Come to The Door Christian Bookstore in San Carlos on Saturday, November 21 from 2-4pm for fun, music, and book talk. In addition to signing books, we’ll be chatting about “The Story Behind the Story,” how we each got started writing. Granted, I have nothing to sign yet, but my publisher, Revell, will be providing excerpts from A Distant Melody. And I’ll have bookmarks!! Interested? Check out the link for The Door at: http://www.thedoorchristian.com/featured.html
or contact me for more info. Please feel free to send this to anyone who might be interested, or I can send you postcards to mail to your friends. I hope you all can come!
In ancient times, people worshipped idols. They bowed down to chunks of wood or metal fashioned to look like cows or people or birds, trusted in them, and devoted themselves to them.
We laugh at that. We know better.
Or do we? Do we bow down over our computer keyboards, investing our time in celebrity updates, YouTube videos, and Facebook—and say we don’t have time to read the Bible? Do we trust in our abilities, finances, and strength—without asking for God’s guidance? Do we devote ourselves to sports or TV or our latest gadgets—and grumble about tithing and serving?
Idolatry happens whenever we put anything above the Lord. This doesn’t mean we can’t follow our favorite team, meet our friends on-line, or keep an eye on our financial portfolios. God gave us many good gifts—to serve Him, to help others, and yes, for our enjoyment. But whenever anything comes between us and the Lord, we need to watch out.
God designed the laws of nature that allow our technologies. He gave us our abilities and strength. He created the natural resources we use, and provided everything we own. How foolish we are to put the creation above the Creator, how ungrateful to put the gift above the Giver, how arrogant to put ourselves above the One True God.
The prophet Elijah told the idol-worshippers in Israel, “’How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’” And when the people saw the power of the One True God, they fell to their faces and cried, “’The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!’” I Kings 18: 21, 39.
Let’s not forget the power and sovereignty of our God. Let’s keep Him first, where He belongs.
It must be fall. My antisocial cat has come out of hiding to absorb my body heat. Janie is a tease of a cat. She rolls onto her back in front of me, baring her fluffy white belly, then darts away when I reach to pet her. But when it gets chilly, she curls up next to me, purrs, and lets me pet her. I think she’s using me.
Our yellow lab, Daisy, has caused hundreds, probably thousands of dollars of damage to house, clothing, and pool equipment. Our three children have given me smart-aleck comments, sleepless nights, barf on the carpet, and several “I hate you’s.”
Why do I put up with it? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? Love. The cat is so irresistably fuzzy. The dog has big brown eyes and goes into a full-body wag whenever I come home. The kids make my chest ache because I love them so much.
1 Peter 4:8 says, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” So true. Love helps me put up with Janie’s standoffishness, Daisy’s destructiveness, and my kids being kids.
Why don’t I show the same grace to the guy who cuts me off in traffic and makes me miss a light? To the lady at the department store who keeps sending the cashier back to see if they have that blouse in a different size? To the fellow employee who pesters me with stupid questions (yes, there’s such a thing as a stupid question)?
I don’t show them grace because I don’t love them.
Not the warm, fuzzy love reserved for those close to me, but the “love your neighbor as yourself” kind of love. The kind of love that remembers God made that person too and loves them just as much as He loves me. The kind of love that stops to wonder if maybe that person is having a bad day or has troubles I can’t see. The kind of love that remembers I’m human too. I cut people off sometimes. I’ve been known to take too long at the cash register. I ask stupid questions.
That’s the kind of love I want to receive the next time I goof up. The kind of love I want to give the next time someone else goofs up.
Love is more than a feeling. It’s a choice.
This week the brace came off my broken wrist. Eldest son says the scar looks like a lizard. Youngest son calls my arm Skeletor. Daughter says my arm looks like Darth Vader’s head when he takes off his helmet. Can you feel the love?
After five weeks in a cast, then two weeks in a brace, the change in my arm is striking. The skin is pale and flaky, the tendons and ligaments are tight, and the muscles have wasted away. My strength is significantly decreased and my range of motion limited.
Seven weeks without use, and my hand is almost useless.
Atrophy can occur in our spiritual lives as well. Worshipping the Lord brings a healthy glow to our souls. Reading the Bible stretches our thinking and aligns us with God’s will. Serving Him exercises our spiritual gifts, and God gives us strength to do the tasks He gives us.
In just a short time, neglecting worship, the Bible, and service can leave us as pasty, stiff, and weak as my poor little arm.
In the next few months, I’ll be working my arm hard to regain what I’ve lost. And I’ll be keeping my spirit in motion too.
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.
A trophy or atrophy – the choice is yours.
Someone’s tried to kill you. Not once, but multiple times. He has disobeyed God. He breaks his promises.
Now you have the chance to take care of him permanently. Everyone will understand. “Justifiable self-defense,” they’ll say. Finally you can achieve your goals – goals to fulfill God’s will and glorify Him.
Do you take that opportunity?
David didn’t. The future king of Israel had been hunted down by King Saul, who had vowed to kill him. In 1 Samuel 24 & 26, David finds Saul unarmed and unaware, not once but twice. The perfect chance for David to get rid of his enemy. But he didn’t.
Why not? Did our mighty warrior turn into a wimp? On the contrary, sparing King Saul’s life probably took more courage and strength than any of David’s feats in battle. David knew it was God’s will for him to be king of Israel, but God would accomplish His will in His way and His timing. Meanwhile, for David to take action against a man God had placed as king would be wrong. “‘The Lord forbid,'” David said, “‘that I should…lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord'” (1 Samuel 24:6). Then he told Saul, “‘May the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you'” (1 Samuel 24:12).
We all have people in our lives who oppose us, who disobey God, or who simply can’t be trusted. Sometimes they’re people in authority over us. Such as political leaders.
David’s example shines. He doesn’t excuse Saul’s actions; in fact, he reprimands him. But he leaves judgment and vengeance to the Lord. David showed Christ-like “turn the other cheek” mercy. As a result, Saul repented (for a while) and spared David’s life. Grace and truth – that’s a winning combination.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).