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Stay focusedĀ 

Luke 2:1-7 – “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

It is 2 days before Christmas. We are all, for the most part, running around like crazy people trying to get “everything” done. There are last minute gifts to buy. Groceries to purchase for parties and get togethers. Places to be. People to see. With all the hubbub, it’s even hard to fall asleep some nights with all the thoughts and considerations of what still needs to be done. 

Stop. 

Stop for just one moment. 

Remember. 

Remember why we celebrate. Remember Who we celebrate. Remember why we really give gifts to the ones we love. Remember why this season is so important. 

It’s CHRISTmas. 

When we lose sight of what this season is really all about, it becomes just another excuse to spend money and get all worked up. 

You know, I’m writing this as much to you as I am to me. It is so easy to get caught up in making sure the stockings are stuffed and that every child in the home has about the same number of gifts. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself for being stressed about getting it all done. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and jealous when you see someone else so relaxed. It’s easy to lose my focus. 

This is the season that we celebrate God’s choice to send His One and Only Son to the earth to live a sinless life and die a horrible death for all of mankind and then arise from the grave 3 days later just so that we can have a relationship with Him. This is the season we remember and contemplate what Mary and Joseph had to go through with rejection after rejection with a majorly pregnant woman on hand. This is the season when we realize and appreciate that the King of Kings spent His first few hours on this earth in a manager meant to feed animals. 

God gave us the very best gift of all when He gave us Jesus Christ. That’s why we give gifts. We were first given the Gift. This is the season about family – the Father gave His Son to a mother and father who truly believed and trusted Him; they were His children. We are God’s children if we chose to believe in His Son Jesus. Family. 

So in the hustle and bustle of the next few days, don’t lose focus. Remember what it is all about. Take time to share with others what this season truly means. Be weird about it. Make people ask questions why you say “Merry Christmas”. Just don’t lose focus. It is exactly what the devil is trying to achieve – taking our eyes off Christ. 

Shoeboxes


Luke 11:9-10 – “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

It was a beautiful day. We went yesterday to create our offerings for the Operation Christmas Child shoebox drive. We have participated in this event for three years now, I believe, at our church. Our little youth group pigs out at a local pizza place and then heads across the street to the One Dollar Store to fill our shoeboxes with goodies of all sorts. 

At first, the kids packed their boxes with toys and candy. Then we talked about where the boxes would be going – places where food was a premium and they had absolutely nothing. The perspectives changed. They removed most of the toys and candy and replaced it with bowls and spoons and soap and toothbrushes and tooth paste and wash clothes – things we all take for granted. 

Our youth groups looks forward to this each and every year. In fact, when we plan for the year, it’s the first thing that’s mentioned that we HAVE to do. 

So, I’m sure your wondering what these verses have to do with all this information. When we create these boxes, we ask that God guide our hands and help us to provide whatever the recipient of our box will need. Each box is different. Each box has character. Each box has a story and a memory behind it. 

We pray over our boxes before we send them on their way. We know that before a child will receive our gift, they have to go through a series of lessons and learn about Jesus. They hear the plan of salvation. They are offered THE MOST WONDERFUL GIFT – salvation. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. The batteries in the flashlights we send will run out. The pencils will become nubs. The soap will disappear. But salvation will never disappoint or disappear or run out. No, this gift that only God can give will last throughout eternity. 

And all they have to do is ask. 

How beautiful is that?!

So let me encourage you to participate in an opportunity to present the plan of salvation to someone somewhere in the world through Operation Christmas Child- https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/

It has truly blessed our hearts. I know it will bless yours as well.

Ponder

Luke 2:15-19 – “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”

We have already begun to listen to Christmas music at my house. Actually, it all began back in August, but my son started bringing it into the driving-to-school tunes last week. Of course, we had to kick things off with “Mary, did you know?” by Pentonix. I love to listen to that group sing!

In that song, they sing of some of the wonders and miracles Jesus performed. They also bring to mind the fact that when Mary kissed Jesus’ face that she kissed the face of God. Just think about that for a minute. When she held His hand, she held God’s hand. When she laughed with Him, she laughed with God. All those tender moments that a mom has with her little one, she had those with God. How cool is that!?

And yet, as He grew and she saw the things He did and knew the things He could do…did she know the reason He came? Did she truly understand what was required of Him as God’s only begotten Son? 

Maybe she did and maybe she didn’t. But my point in all of this is that sometimes we take for granted that Jesus was a real person who had a real mom and who had feelings and emotions just like we do. We forget that He laughed and sang songs and petted a dog. When we forget about those things, it makes it easier to shoulder the burden He bore for us. It makes it less cruel to consider His death for our sins. 

We need to ponder these things in our heart. Just as Mary heard the account of the angels proclaiming Jesus’ birth to the shepherds and she thought on these things, so should we when we remember His humanity, when we remember His sacrifice. It’s not just a story in a book. It is History. It is truth. 

So take some time to dust off the Christmas albums today and listen to the song. Remember His sacrifice. Think about His life – the one outside recorded history. Think about Him as a toddler, as a little boy, as a teenager. And thank Him for His sacrifice for our freedom in Him.  

To the sky

Luke 21:25-27 – “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

We are always looking to the sky. We look for the sun. We look for rain. We look for lightning. We watch for storms and fair weather and signs of the wind. But do we look for the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

One day, He will break through the sky and gloriously return to take us home. And I believe, there will be little doubt as to what has happened. He said to look for Him – that has to mean we will see Him when He arrives. 

All creation is eagerly awaiting His arrival. We see things happening in the natural world that are mentioned in these very verses. We see “men’s hearts failing them for fear”. We see “the sea and the waves roaring “. Just look and you will see. 

But do you look to the eastern sky with eager anticipation? Are you excited about His return or do you dread it? Or worse, do you fail to believe? 

Let me urge you – search the Scriptures and know. Ask, and He will tell you through His Word. Jesus will return soon. Will you be ready?

Revisiting “Remember Me”

Hope enjoy this revisit from about a year ago –

Luke 23:40-43 – “But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Have you ever heard this children’s song: 

I’ve got a home in glory land that out shines the sun. I’ve got a home in glory land that out shines the sun. I’ve got a home in glory land that out shines the sun. Look away beyond the blue.

Do Lord, O do Lord, O do remember me. Do Lord, O do Lord, O do remember me. Do Lord, O do Lord, O do remember me. Look away beyond the blue.

I took Jesus as my Savior. You take Him too. I took Jesus as my Savior. You take Him too. I took Jesus as my Savior. You take Him too. Look away beyond the blue. 

Do Lord, O do Lord, O do remember me. Do Lord, O do Lord, O do remember me. Do Lord, O do Lord, O do remember me. Look away beyond the blue.

The “little folks” sang this at church yesterday and it made me almost cry. The part that got me was “remember me”. Sometimes we get ourself in such circumstances that we think that God will forget us. How could He ever forget us? He sent Jesus to die for us. If you give up something as important as your Son for something, you are NOT going to forget why you did it. 

But this sweet little song reminds us that we have a home in Heaven awaiting us. We are just like the thief on the cross. We have nothing to offer Jesus to deserve to spend eternity with Him. But just as the thief chose Jesus that day, we have the opportunity to choose Him today. We have the blessed opportunity to choose to live for Christ today. 

And we really don’t have to ask Jesus to remember us because how could He forget. Could you ever, in your right mind, forget your child? No. And we are imperfect beings. Jesus never sinned. He will never forget us. He sees us each and every day. He hears each and every word we speak. He knows each and every step we take. And He still loves us. 

So today, remember that you are truly and dearly loved. You will NEVER be forgotten. 

Stuff

Luke 12:15 – “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

We all like our stuff. We have so much, yet we want more. We work all day for stuff. We save and scrounge just so that we can have a certain kind of stuff. We want our stuff to look nice. We want our stuff to be new. We want our stuff to be full and ready at a moments notice.  We like our stuff. 

But this verse warns us about “stuff”. Stuff can overtake our thoughts and desires. Stuff can actually become a god to us. We look after it and focus on it more than we do our Heavenly Father. That’s where the problem comes in. 

Anything we put before God is an idol. We have idols in our family, in our job, in our stuff – oh yeah, it’s there! Our love of stuff is the part of the problem. Our desire to have more goes right along with it. 

You see, stuff, in and of itself, is not bad. Stuff can sometimes be good. But it is our attitude toward it that is important. 

“I just need to work during a few church services and then I can pay off that new thing I got.” “That movie kept me up so late, I’m just too tired to get up and read my Bible this morning.” Sound familiar? 

I’m just as guilty as the next person about putting other stuff in front of God. It’s a challenge. I know. 

Our greatest possession should not be something we have worked for – it should be our relationship with Jesus Christ. “Stuff” will not get you to Heaven. Only Jesus Christ can do that. He’s the One you need to get to know better. He is the One we need to invest our time in. He’s the One we need to make a priority in our life. 

So as you enjoy all your stuff this weekend, make sure that your attitude toward them is correct. You could wake up one morning and it could all be gone. But you will never wake up and find Jesus gone once you have accepted Him as your Savior. That’s a possession you will never lose. That’s the “stuff” life is made of!

Coming home

Luke 15:20 – “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”

Once there was this kid who thought he knew it all. His dad had lots of money and the kid knew it. He told his dad he was going to leave. He needed his space. He wanted to go make a name for himself. So, he asked his dad for his portion of the inheritance. It was time for him to go and take his place in the world. He knew best. So, his father did as he requested. With money in his pocket and brains in his head, he set out on his own. And boy did he ever. He ended up in a real mess. He had blown his money on the treasures of this world and found himself at the bottom of the barrel. “How did this happen?”, he asked himself time and again. He had to work, something he had never done in his life. When he left, he left completely- never having contact with his family. All the while, his dad kept an eye on the horizon, hoping that one day his son would return. He had his room prepared. His clothes were laundered and his favorite food was stocked in the pantry. His dad was ready to see his son again. Then one day it happened – his son’s silhouette appeared on the horizon; he would know it anywhere. The father took off in a dead run. Nothing would come between him and his son. When the dad reached him, he threw his arms around him weeping and rejoicing all at the same time. His son had returned. Nothing would spoil this moment. “I’m sorry dad. I messed up. I don’t deserve this welcoming. Let me stay here and earn my keep, please daddy.” But the father would not hear of it. He had a festive dinner and celebration that night. His son had come home. 

Have you ever been away for a while and then come home? Hugs are shared. Greetings and questions abound. And more hugs. Your loved ones just can’t get enough. It’s great, isn’t it? The love you feel at that moment makes all the darkness of being away… go away. 

We, as children of God, sometimes ask God for our blessings and the set out on our own. We step away. We chase a rabbit, so to speak. However you want to say it, we aren’t where we should be – right beside Him. But when we make the choice to walk back to our Father, He comes running. He takes us back with arms wide open and accepts our apology for leaving in the first place. Now, more than likely, there will be consequences but that comes with the territory. Actions and reactions. But nonetheless, when we say we are sorry from the depth of our heart and truly desire to turn 180 degrees from the wrong we have done, it’s gone – totally and completely gone, never to be brought up or held against us again. 

Our Heavenly Father is watching from the windows of Heaven just waiting for your silhouette on the horizon. He is waiting for you to decide that you have had enough of the mess you have made. He is ready to run out to you with arms wide open. 

Go. Go my brother or sister. Go to Him and let Him love on you a while. Heaven knows we all need to run back to Him.