Oh Chritstmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

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Here it comes, whether we’re ready or not! We’re immersed right in the middle of the Christmas season. We head out to find the prettiest Christmas tree on the lot (or we pull the “realistic” one out of the box), head home where lights are hung on each branch, old ornaments are dusted off (my favorite being the childhood pictures full of toothless smiles and bad haircuts!), and the star or angel is placed on the very top limb.

I realize that some Christmas trees can also be viewed as a distraction to the true meaning of Christmas. But before you start singing “Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,” or run around tearing down trees like the Grinch, I wanted to write down a thought about the Christmas tree that can be a reminder for the real reason for the season.

There’s something beautiful about the symbol of the tree that’s expressed throughout the Bible. In Genesis, Adam and Eve were told not to eat from a certain tree in the garden. If you know how the story goes, they both end up eating from the forbidden tree, which was when sin entered the world and the fall happened. What’s so beautiful, is that the very symbol that was tied with the fall of man was used in the story of redemption. Jesus came to earth to be the Savior of the world. To bring forgiveness, redemption, and relationship to you and me. And how did He do this? By dying on the cross, by hanging on that tree, then by being buried, and raised again for you and me!

So this Christmas, whenever you see a tree all decked out in lights and ornaments, I challenge you to view it as a reminder. A reminder of the tree that Jesus hung on, dying for you and me. To step back to see the triangular tree point to Heaven, where our minds and hearts should be during this Christmas season.

Advent

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Did you have one of those chocolate Advent calendars each year growing up? (As a kid, my dog always got into my Advent calendar and ate all of the chocolate!) I guess the real question is, do you still get the chocolate calendar? It’s fun to count down the days until Christmas, although sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough shopping days left before having to check everyone’s presents off the list. Even though we’re already into Advent, there’s still time to reflect on this season.

The definition of Advent is “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.”  Back in the B.C era, the people were waiting and waiting for the Savior who was promised throughout Scripture to arrive. After all of those generations of waiting, how exciting it must’ve been for Jesus to finally arrive! And now we’re in the middle of counting down the days until Christmas. This time is set apart in celebrating the truth about God and what He did on Earth, as well as looking forward to when Christ faithfully comes again. The season of Advent looks different for each one of us. So take this time to prepare your heart for what God has to say to you this Christmas season by spending December in extended prayer and quiet time with God. Maybe it’s spending more time in the morning with Him, or picking up a Christmas devotional, or unplugging on social media or TV. Will you join me in praying this week and asking Jesus what He wants us to do to prepare for this special season of celebrating Him?

 

 

 

 

Flu Season

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.53.45 AMIt’s that time again. That time when sick days get used, the cold medicine goes flying off the shelves, everyone is walking around with the unavoidable raspy voice and stuffed nose. It’s cold and flu season! You may have escaped the bug so far, or you might be reading this from your sick bed, or you’re running around with a gas mask on taking huge measures to hide from it, but the bug is all around!

As much as it just stinks to get the cold or flu, I wanna give you a new perspective on this annoying bug. Sometimes we go-go-go, when God is asking us to rest. But it’s so hard to rest when your body is on drive 24/7 due to your solidly busy schedule. And when our body gets sick, the only way it can heal is if we pause and rest.

Our spiritual health is not much different than our physical health. We can go a while without paying any attention to our spiritual health. But because of our spiritual neglect, our soul becomes sick. We see our hearts become hard, bitterness becomes rooted, negativity sneaks into our daily thoughts, and it becomes hard to communicate with God. Have you ever felt your heart go sour like this? Don’t fear! There’s a cure! Just like our physical bodies need space form our daily busy lives, so does our hearts need time to rest in God’s Word, rest in talking things out with God, and rest in worship. It’s time that we care about our spiritual health just as much (or even more!) as our physical health. Do you feel like your soul needs a little extra TLC this week? Join me in spending some extra time with God today, and ask for healing in your heart and soul. God’s eager to bring His healing touch to your heart, and grow in relationship with you.

 

 

 

 

 

Jack-o’-Lantern

Kids love carving pumpkins.

It’s such a thrill to cut the top open and see all the seeds inside. Even better, is sticking their hand in the pumpkin and pulling out piles of slimy seeds! It’s like for one night, all the normal rules of not getting messy, or not being able to use a knife, get thrown out the window. (Now brace yourself, I might be over spiritualizing this!)

Another reason I like the process of carving pumpkins is that it reminds me of something similar that Jesus does for people who love Him. When we open up and accept Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes into us. All of the seeds and pumpkin guts are like all of the sin and darkness that are in our hearts. So God cleans and gets rid of all of the sin and darkness in our lives, and He’s able to do this because Jesus died on the cross, paying the ultimate price for our sins.

The next step after cleaning out the pumpkin is to carve it. God puts a “new smile” on us as He gives us joy, and “new eyes” on us to see a different way of living than we had before. Then, when we’re done carving our pumpkin, we put a candle in it so it lights up. Once God comes into our heart, He puts the Holy Spirit inside of us, and our life lights up for all to see!

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Okay, this seasonal metaphor may seem a little cheesy, but it’s a timely way to be reminded of the transformation that God’s done in our lives. Plus it’s a great way to explain the Gospel to kids! During this Halloween week, whenever you see carved pumpkins lit up on the porches, think of what God’s done in your life and the light that you’re meant to be in this dark world.

“You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” (Psalm 18:28)

Fear Not

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Everyone’s afraid of something. Maybe it’s fear of spiders or of small spaces. Or perhaps it’s a fear of flying, or failing, or perhaps a fear of being successful! Other fears might include relationships, joining a small group, or losing someone we love. No matter how rational or irrational a fear may be, all these different types of fear does the same thing- it holds us back. Back from trusting God completely. Therefore, fear freezes us and holds us back from living the full life that we’re meant to live!

In the Bible, the Lord tells us three hundred fifty times to “fear not”. He tells us these words to soothe us and calm us down over and over again. He knows that fear can be a crippling part of our lives. We can either allow fear to control us, or we can pray and ask God’s presence to overpower and replace our fear. It’s God’s very presence that chases off our fear. Instead of focusing on the fear ahead of us, let’s focus on Whose arms are holding us. It’s in His arms where God will give us the strength to face our fears head on, and open the doors for the life that He’s made for us to live.

Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Where is there fear in your own life? Join me this week in asking God to help us face our fears with His presence. Give your fears to God, so that He can replace them with full trust in Him!

Ephesians 4

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 11.58.52 AMThe Bible gives us instruction in the way we should live our lives. And instead of just hearing the Word, or just letting our eyes read over them, we should allow the Word to transform us and make us live differently because of it! Have you ever read a Bible verse and it just hits you right where you’re at in life? That happened to me with Ephesians 4:1-3.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

When a verse sticks out to me, like this one did, I re-read it over and over, dissecting it word by word, and then I try to apply in my life. The first question that came to me once I read this verse was, “Am I walking the path that God has called me to walk, and am I walking that path in a way that’s worthy?” Then, I put in bold every word that stood out to me as a quality in which I can walk in- humility, gentleness, patience, love, eager, unity and peace. Then for the next few days, I chose a word from that list and focused on it for the entire day, digging into what it meant, praying over that word to be a fruit of my life, and then taking the time to practice it.

The first word was humility. So I wrote down my definition of what it means to be humble: putting other people before myself, and living in a way that gives God the glory, instead of trying to glorify myself. Then, I prayed that God would help me to be more humble and show me the ways I could change in order to do so. Then, throughout the day, with the word “humility” on my mind, I looked for opportunities to practice it.

I want my life to look like Ephesians 4:1-3. I want to be walking in the path that God has set before me in a way that honors Him.

Today, I want to challenge you to dissect Ephesians 4:1-3 your own way, and apply it to your walk. Then ask yourself, “Am I walking the path God has called me to walk?” Take focused time to ask God to help you walk in a manner that’s worthy of that calling with humility, gentleness, patience, eagerness, unity, and peace!

 

 

 

 

Glory Glory

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“Everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:7)

The other day, I was up early enough to see the sun rise. There were mounds of puffy clouds that were outlined with this bright golden glow. The minute my sleepy eyes were awakened to this beauty, I paused and just thought how beautiful God is. All around the world, nature in all of its beauty is singing of God’s glory. Tree branches full of freshly colored leaves point toward the sky, mountains and their white peaks take our breath away, even the lion’s mighty roar reminds us of the power of God. It’s nature’s job to glorify God. And guess what- it’s our job too! We were made to glorify God! It doesn’t matter what your day-to-day life looks like, or what you do for a living. Because ultimately, we’re to make people turn their heads toward God, because hopefully they see Him so clearly through the way we live our lives. Today, join me in meditating on the thought of how it looks to glorify God in your day-to-day life. How can you glorify God at work? In your relationships? In your daily routine?

“For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

 

He Meets Needs

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Are there ever times in your life where your needs aren’t being met, and you need some extra help? Maybe it’s an extra dose of patience when your kids are bickering in the back seat. Perhaps it’s added strength when your life feels too hard to face. Or maybe it’s some extra rest after a week of hard work. How about some unconditional love after having your heart broken? Everyone has needs that, well, need to be met. The common temptation is to try to meet those needs by ourselves, or to expect the people around us to fill those needs. And many times, people around us- our spouse, parents, kids, friends- become the target for our unmet needs. We tend to get frustrated at the person who’s not meeting our needs, and there’s potential to damaging the relationship because of that. Did you know that God wants to fill your needs? He wants to give you that extra patience, strength, rest, and love that we’re trying to find in people/things outside of Him.

“ And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

God’s the only One who can fill our needs completely, because we were created to live this life with Him! He knows what you and I really need. When we choose to stop putting the expectations on ourselves and others to meet our needs, and instead go to God for those needs to be met, we’re able to love others better.

So, what needs do you need met right now? And who might be the person you’re “targeting” to meet those needs? Let’s pray this week to be reminded to turn to God to meet our needs!

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Use Those Gifts!

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Well, Christmas has come and gone, and all of the gifts have been opened, some have been returned, some re-gifted… but the good gifts are loved and are being used. So while we’re on the subject of gifts, let me encourage you to “Go and use your gifts!” However, I’m not talking about Christmas gifts here. I’m talking about the very gifts that God has given you. Every single one of us has something to offer, that can glorify God. Whether it’s the gift of encouragement, the gift of finances, the gift of wisdom, or hospitality, or cooking, or creativity, or preaching, or listening, the list goes on and on. We’ve all been uniquely gifted, and these gifts were meant to help other people, to make up the Church, and to bring glory to God!

Ann Voskamp, in her book The Greatest Gift says, “You’ve got to use the life you’ve been given to give others life. You’ve got gifts that weren’t given to line your life with; they were given to be a lifeline to others- or lose your life. It comes like an echo from God: if your gifts don’t give relief, you don’t get real life.”

As the post-holidays / back-to-normal pattern of life takes over, and we focus on our work and our own lives, some of our gifts are put on the shelf or used for our own good. But now is the time to reopen those gifts and offer them up for God’s use. One way to see how you’re using your gifts, is by asking the person closest to you what gifts they see in you, and how they see you using your gifts for others and ultimately, for God.  Here’s an idea:

On a piece of paper, answer the following questions:

What gifts do you have?

How are your gifts bringing glory to God right now?

How can you use your gifts to help others?

How can you use your gifts in your home church?

This week, ask God how to show you ways to use your gifts for Him.

“Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength, which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to who belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  1 Peter 4:9-11

 

 

 

No Roomba In The Inn

Christmas. The time of year when we think we have to buy a present for every person we know, bake all the cookie recipes known to mankind, completely redecorate the house (including risking life and limb on our roof just for the neighbors’ amusement!), and mail a card to everyone we’ve ever met. How do we stay sane, and how does God want us to deal with it all?

Let me tell you a Costco story. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t include a “missing person’s report” from the Costco Christmas Craziness!) A friend of mine came home from Costco with this cool little new gizmo called a “Roomba”. Have you seen these things? It’s a little robotic vacuum cleaner that goes around and vacuums on its own! So my friend (not the most patient guy) pulls it out of the box. And even though his wife – while plugging in the docking station – mentions that they should charge it first, he just sets it on the carpet and turns it on. Apparently it had a little juice in its battery, because just like the commercial – “beep beep beep” – it starts to magically move around the room sucking up whatever it deemed worthy of being eaten… for about 3 minutes. That’s when whatever power was in the battery hit empty. Then it does something even more magical – “beep beep beep” – it turns right around in its tracks, and heads straight for the charging station, which the wife had placed in the corner! It scurried right back and docked itself on the charging station because it knew when it was out of energy!

You know what? That little Roomba might be smarter than most of us Christians! When it was nearly empty of its charge, power, and energy, it was smart enough to realize that’s not a useful condition to be in. It recognized that not only is “running on empty” a bad idea, but it knew enough to go home, re-dock, recharge, and refresh.

Christmas is a RUSH. The mall. The church services. The school play. The parties. However, we’ll be at our best when our batteries are charged. We’ll survive all the busyness of the season if we’ll give God time every day. Come home to Him. Connect to Him. Dock to Him. Charge up in Him. Get His word in our heart. Spend some time in prayer. Then, when we’re recharged, we’ll be at our best in every other setting and situation. Moral of the story, let’s try to be smarter than a $300 vacuum cleaner. 🙂 Merry Christmas!