Do you ever wonder why gift-giving is a part of our Christmas tradition? It’s the time of the year when we find ourselves more mindful of the needs of others, and more generous with our time and money.
It seems that as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are put away, the air begins to shift. The perfect tree is selected and wrangled onto the car. Multiple trips are taken to the attic in order to uncover the lights and ornaments that were hastily stored away last January. A prayer is lifted that every bulb is still intact on the strands of Christmas lights. And when the final decoration is placed on top, it is time to stand back and admire the illuminated beauty of it all. However, that is just the beginning of the season. Now it is time to add the brightly wrapped presents to sit under the tree.
Why is it that the Christmas season brings out such a spirit of giving?
It’s because the season is centered around the truth that a great gift was given to mankind in the form of a tiny baby. Whether you are a Christ-follower or not, it doesn’t change the fact that the spirit of giving stems from the timeless truth that God gave the world the ultimate gift when He gave us His Son.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16
Who wouldn’t want to unwrap the gift of eternal life? I’m grateful to serve a God who showed me the true spirit of giving by giving me the greatest of gifts, His Son.
Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday.
I know that Christmas gets the popular vote, but I’m not a very good shopper or decorator, so even though I love the meaning of Christmas, sometimes the activities of the holiday can stress me out.
However, I am a very good eater, so Thanksgiving is right up my alley. Turkey, and dressing, and pies. Oh my!
The abundance of it all brings forth an overflowing of my plate and for that, I am truly thankful…that is until I’m totally miserable from overeating.
All joking aside, I do love what Thanksgiving stands for: the beginning of a free nation, hard work, a willingness to collaborate with people who look and act differently than the norm, and, of course, the sharing of a meal.
Paul felt similarly when he encouraged the church of Corinth to view their abundance as a chance to extend the gift of grace to others.
2 Corinthians 4:15 says,
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
The most delightful thing that we can fill our plate with this Thanksgiving is grace. But we must also share this grace with others so that they can taste and see just how good our God is.
The result is an overflowing of true thanksgiving in our hearts and a chance for our Father to get all the glory.
Do you have what it takes to be an “elite achiever?”
Last month I was in Austin, Texas, celebrating my husband as his financial planning practice was recognized as one of the best in the country. While there we had the pleasure of hearing former US Navy Seal Clint Bruce speak on how to be an elite achiever in our everyday lives.
Bruce said that he had written the phrases “HOLD FAST” and “STAY TRUE” on his knuckles so that he would remember what to do in the middle of combat.
HOLD FAST was so that he could brace himself against the onslaught of his enemies, knowing that they were coming for him hot and fast so he needed to be ready to hold his ground. Hold Fast.
STAY TRUE helped him remember the principles that he had been taught while training to be a Seal, knowing that if he deviated from the truth, it could result in death. It also served as a reminder to protect and assist his fellow Seals while in the heat of the battle. Stay True.
These are life-changing principles for us to live by as well.
1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Be on your guard; stay true in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”
In this verse Paul is teaching us the same thing that this Navy Seal was taught in his training. There is an enemy that seeks to kill us. It is imperative that we be on our guard and hold fast against his attacks. Paul also instructs us to stay true to our faith, even when it’s hard, even when we’re beyond ready to give up, even when we feel lost.
It’s in those moments that the elite achiever takes hold of the Light and stays on course.
So I ask you the same question that Bruce asked me: do you have what it takes to be an elite achiever? I believe you do.
Be courageous. Be strong. HOLD FAST and STAY TRUE.
As a little girl I grew up in a wonderful, yet conservative Christian home. We did not celebrate Halloween, but rather we would have a “Fall Festival” on the church grounds in which candy was passed out, but never enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.
We were allowed to dress up but it had to meet Biblical guidelines. So, my choices were automatically limited as a girl.
Should I choose Ruth? Nah, all that grain gleaning isn’t glamorous enough for a 10-year-old.
What about Mary? Ehhh, nobody wants to see child pretending to be preggers.
I thought about Mary Magdalene, but I wasn’t that strong of a runner, so there goes that.
Which left me with the only obvious choice for the third year in a row: I would dress up as Queen Esther.
Esther was a Jewish girl who received the favor of the king’s attendant and because of that favor she was elevated above the competition to be the next queen. Scripture also tells us that Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her and when she was introduced to the king, he favored her over all the other virgins. Because of this divine favor, a simple girl becomes royalty and is crowned Queen of Susa.
With all that favor, who wouldn’t want to dress up as Esther?!
But what we find if we keep reading the book of Esther is that she was given that favor so that she could save the Jews from a genocide. However, she had to be willing to risk her life in order to save others. Esther was willing to use her influence to approach the king (an unthinkable and unprecedented thing!), and because she did a favorable outcome was given to the Jews and Esther’s family and the Jewish people were saved.
If I could go back in time to the days of Fall Festivals, I would tell my 10-year-old self, “Self, don’t be dismayed that you find yourself dressing up as Queen Esther for the third year straight. Instead, see it as an opportunity to not only be royalty for a night, but also as a chance to learn what it means to be willing to stand up for what is right, even when it’s difficult…even when it could cost you dearly. That’s what it means to live a life of favor.”
Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this? ~ Esther 4:14
Have you ever been in an unfamiliar place while it was pitch black dark?
Think about how you felt in that moment. Maybe you were scared, nervous, insecure.
Now think about how it made you feel as soon as light flooded your eyes and you could see your surroundings. Did you exhale a big sigh of relief?
Now let’s take a moment to link that physical experience to the spiritual side of our lives. Think of a time when you were in a dark place emotionally and spiritually in your life. Did you feel as if the light had left you?
Were you able to experience the light overcoming the darkness? How did it feel to have that flicker of light return to your life?
If you have not yet felt the light in your current situation, offer up a prayer right now for Jesus’ light to enter into your situation.
1 John 1:5 says,
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”
Believe it, dear friend! Where God is, there is no darkness. Your situation may seem dark and gray at the moment, but you serve a God who defeated the grave and He will do the same for you.
Where there is light, there is also hope.
And in that place, there is no darkness at all.
Fall is finally here, which means that the helmets are bright and shiny underneath the stadium lights. The question is: Are you ready for some football?
One of our favorite family activities is to meet up with other families at the local university football games. The air is mixed with Louisiana meat pies, cut grass, and of course, leather footballs.
As I watch the players take their positions on the field, I am in awe of how they hold their stance until the ball is snapped. It takes focus and discipline.
However, there are those occasions when a player will move off the line of scrimmage too soon and an offside penalty will be given. I always feel sorry for that player as the ref throws his flag and the offending number is called over the loud-speaker.
Maybe he “thought” he heard the snap. Or maybe there was bee in his helmet. But none of that matters to the referee who is there to make sure that the rules are followed.
Sometimes we jump off the line of scrimmage too soon in our spiritual life. Maybe we thought we heard the Lord say move, but we really were following our own desires. That’s why God’s Word tells us continually to “wait upon the Lord.” When we wait on Him our faith is built so that when we do hear Him say “move,” we can run the play with confidence.
Yes, it takes focus and discipline to wait, but it’s the best way to win the game!
On a scale of 1 to 10 how comfortable are you saying the name of Jesus?
Imagine you are talking with a new acquaintance, perhaps even a co-worker, and the topic of religion comes up, are you more comfortable saying that you have a relationship with God or are you willing to say that you have a relationship with Jesus?
I ask this question because of a recent conversation I had with a very good friend of mine who is totally sold out for the gospel and is not afraid to share her faith. However, she told me that up until a few years ago she was timid when it came to saying the name of Jesus out loud. She would refer to her faith in God, but didn’t want to be offensive by mentioning Jesus. However, the Holy Spirit convicted her to start bringing the most powerful of names into her conversations and it changed everything for this beautiful Christ-follower.
Philippians 2:10-11 tells us,
“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
It’s not just any name. It is the name that is exalted above every name. There is no other name that can save the lives of mankind.
May we be so bold as my wise friend and bring the name of Jesus into our conversations.
Each Christmas season our church group participates in blessing a lower-income school with gifts for each one of the children.
It takes much preparation and the generosity of many church members to pull this event off, but the outcome is pure joy! I love seeing the trailers fill up with the brightly wrapped boxes filled with warm clothes and toys for every child. But nothing compares to the children’s animated facial expressions as they unwrap a gift especially prepared for them.
Basketballs and sneakers, baby dolls and pjs. All unwrapped with squeals of delight.
Experiencing such fun made me think of this Scripture in Acts 20:
We must help the weak, remembering the word that the Lord Jesus himself said,
“There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.”
One little girl had asked for 3 matchbox trucks in her box so that she would have something to give to her brothers on Christmas morning. The thought of her sweet request made me want to weep and smile simultaneously because she understood the meaning of this Scripture.
As you make your Christmas shopping list, consider including someone who would never expect to receive a gift from you and use it as an opportunity to share the ultimate gift this Christmas: the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And then see if giving doesn’t make YOU the happiest of all.
I recently visited my favorite coffee shop to grab a cup of coffee and work on some writing for a few hours. I remember feeling adventurous that particular day, so I decided that I would try something new off the menu. When I reached the counter I had made my decision and thus confidently placed my order, not realizing that I had ordered off the Frappuccino side. The friendly barista looked sideways at me and asked, “Is this for you, Honey, or are you ordering for someone else?”
I was a little taken aback, but I replied, “It’s for me.”
To which she said, “Oh no, Sweetie. That’s a frozen coffee, and you like your coffee hot. How about I make you a Flat White.” It was a statement, not a question.
Dumbfounded, I replied, “Okay. Let’s do that.”
Moments later, she carefully handed me the steaming mug of coffee sprinkled with raw sugar. I took sip of the velvety coffee and then looked up at her and said, “It’s just right.” She nodded and moved on to the next customer, obviously pleased with her work.
I sat down at the table thinking how nice it felt to be KNOWN. It reminded me of the psalm that King David wrote about how wonderful it is to be known by the Creator of the earth.
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Psalm 139: 1-5 (NKJV)
The phrase “to be known” signifies how a friend or companion would know us, meaning that “God is not confined to heaven…indifferent to human concerns.”  Isn’t that an amazing thought? God knows us intricately, and not just because He formed us, but also because He is our friend. He knows what makes us feel happy or sad, excited or scared, loved or rejected. He truly cares about these things, and He wants us to bring our victories as well as our fears or failures to Him.
Which brings us to the next point: God wants us to KNOW Him! You may be familiar with the verse Jeremiah 29:11, but let’s explore verses 12 and 13 as well.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
But wait! It gets even better. The Lord says to Jeremiah in Chapter 33:3:
‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
Wow! How is that for an incentive to get to know God better?
Somehow it is easier to comprehend that the God who created all things knows who we are, but it’s a little more difficult to grasp that He wants us to know Him as well. But He does and that’s part of what makes the Gospel so beautiful. The more we know Jesus, the better we know the Father and have access to the Holy Spirit.
So how do we go about knowing God better? Jesus tells us that we only need to ask, seek, and knock, and the door will be opened for us to find Him (see Matthew 7:7-8). Engaging in prayer and reading God’s Word are two ways that we can form and sustain a relationship with Him.
What a precious gift that we get to be friends with the Almighty! It is a divine feeling to not only KNOW Him and receive deeper insight, but also to feel that we are truly KNOWN.
Oh Lord, I call out to You like David did: search me and know my heart! You know my hopes and dreams, fears and failures, and You love me the same. Help me to remember to call on You, knowing that You will listen and answer me. What a reward it will be to gain knowledge of great and unsearchable things! I want to know You better, Lord. Amen.
 Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. 5, 208.