Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Gift of Gold

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"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Matthew 2:10-11 (NIV)

The first Sunday of Advent.  I just love Advent.  The preparation of Jesus' coming to this earth gets more exciting with each passing year.  As I gently put up the nativity scene, as I carefully set the Advent candles, I reflect on our Jesus and all those who so wonderfully participated in His birth.  Certainly we have Mary and Joseph, we have the Innkeeper and Herod, we have the Shepherds as well.  This year, my plan is to focus on the kings of Jesus' birth, and the gifts that they shared.

There are many different renditions of how the kings (or wise men) learned of Jesus' birth.  Any recount shares that these were very wise and knowledgeable men - who studied the stars and the Bible (especially the book of Numbers).  I read that there may have even been more than three kings, but we definitely know of at least three, and we know their names.

It is believed that Melchior was the king that brought gold.  When we look at the gifts that were brought to the baby, gold seems like a strange gift.  Yet, it may not be the gift itself, but what it represents that has the greatest meaning.  In Jesus' time, gold was a gift fit for a king.  Although Jesus was young, the kings - Melchior - knew that Jesus was the king that was prophesied.  Gold was a fitting gift for Jesus, Jesus the king.

There is not a lot of detail of these men in the Bible, but it does say that they came to see him.  These great men of learning and knowledge bowed down to Jesus and worshiped him.  It's hard to imagine a king or president of our time doing this to a small child, but these men knew the greatness of our Lord.  They were not above reproach and deemed it an honor to worship our Lord child.

How about us?  We may not be able to offer Jesus gold, but what can we offer Him?  Do we acknowledge Him with our time and talents?  Do we share what we do have as an offering to Him?  Do we take time out of our schedules to reflect on His grace, mercy and love?  He is the King of Kings.  The wise men of Jesus' time knew that - do we?  

During this Advent season, I ask that we look at the gifts that we are giving.  Remember that the greatest gift of all was given to us.  Let us take the time that the King of Kings deserves to talk with Him, thank Him, love Him, and show Him how grateful we are that  He was born!!

Dear Jesus, it seems impossible to bring to you a gift that is worthy of all you have given to us.  Yet, we know that what you want from us is our time, our talents, our treasures, and most of all, our love - given to each other.  We pray that the Holy Spirit guides us this Advent season to bring the joy of Christmas back to our lives - through sharing that special gift of love with all.  Amen"

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thankful Trials

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Yea - Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  I love Thanksgiving!  Yes, the food is awesome.  Yes, the time with family is great.  Yes, love the football.  Everything about Thanksgiving is wonderful.  I even truly enjoy all the preparations - making sure the house looks nice, ensuring all the food prep is done properly, getting up early to put the turkey in the oven - each and every moment makes me happy.

The most important part of Thanksgiving for me, though, is when we all sit down and say grace.  It is such a perfect time for all of us to review what we are thankful for.  As we go around the table, it gives each of us a moment to reflect all the blessings our Dear Lord granted to us.  Many times we share our thanks for good health.  It could be we are thankful for something we got new - a car, a job, etc.  Sometimes we are grateful for good things at work or at school.  We share nice times when we were all together as a family.  Typically, even when good things happen right away, we stop and give thanks.

What happens when things aren't so great?  Maybe we lost our job.  Maybe we have poor health.  Maybe we lost our home, or a relationship, or a pet.  Nothing of those times make us feel thankful.  Yet, as in our Bible verse for today, we are told to be thankful in ALL circumstances - not just the good but even the not-so-good circumstances.  How can one find thankfulness when things go wrong?

Let's dive in a little deeper on this.  God takes us on journeys that sometimes we don't understand.  When difficult things happen, jumping for joy and giving praise and thanks is not exactly our first "go to".  I'm not sure about you, but I know that I have typically responded with complaining, self-pity, and general nastiness!  So why should we give thanks?

Certainly, to start, God asks us to!  As we see above, God asks us to give thanks in all situations.  Maybe if we responded in such a manner, we would look at the situation from a less "negative" viewpoint to a positive one.  Maybe, just maybe, we will be able to see our situation from a different perspective - one that helps us to see more than the "bad", but also the possibilities in these difficult times.  Most importantly, we can use these circumstances to rely on our heavenly Father for help, assistance and guidance.  Let's be thankful that we have a gracious Father that we can turn to, all the time, every time, when life sends us trials.  

As we sit down at our Thanksgiving tables in a few days, may we find thanks in the difficult situations and remember that all of our thanks can be given to the One that gives us everything - our Dear Lord.

"Dearest Lord, THANK YOU for ALL of our circumstances.  We are certainly very thankful for all the noticeable blessings in our life.  Help us to be thankful for the trials in our life as well.  Open our eyes to see the good in the difficult times - especially the goodness of turning to you for help.  May our prayers and praise be heard by you in all circumstances.  Amen."

P.S. - Hard to believe Advent begins soon.  My Advent series this year will focus on the three kings (or wise men).  We will end the series with the greatest king of all!!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Surprise Gift

"A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great."  Proverbs 18:16 (NIV)

Many years ago, my father gave me a Christmas Cactus for the holidays.  I loved that plant for many different reasons.  I loved it because I love ANYTHING that has the word Christmas in it!  I loved it because it was a beautiful pink when it bloomed.  Yet, I loved it the most because it was a gift - a gift from my dad.  My dad has since passed (over 15 years ago), but the plant lives on.  

The plant "regifts" itself every year as that it doesn't wait until Christmas to bloom.  The plant blooms just when it wants to - just when I need it.  When life starts getting a little difficult and I wonder if I have enough hours in the day to get things done, the plant blooms and reminds me the beauty of a gift.  It usually is around the October to December time frame, when life gets busy.  It tends to bloom another time during the year as well - and that is a VERY special gift, because I certainly don't expect it to bloom - in the spring or summer.  That surprise gift always brings a smile to my face, warms my heart, and helps me to refocus on what is important.

Isn't that the way it seems when we get a surprise gift?  The gift is certainly nice, but it is the feeling that I get when I receive the gift.  It does warm my heart.  How about you?  Do you feel extra happy when you get a surprise gift?

Let's move to the other side of the gift - and focus on the giving aspect.  Getting a surprise gift is really nice, yet, I believe the true warmth comes in the giving of a surprise gift.  The opportunity to give something special to someone when they least expect it.   An actual item is nice, but maybe it is a kind word, a special note, a home-cooked meal or even a warm hug.  Whatever the surprise gift, the giver tends to "be in the presence of great".  Great heart, great warmth, great attitude, great hope, great faith.  All those things happen when we are the giver.  

Going back to Jesus' time, think about the surprise gift He gave each and every time he spoke, each time He healed, each time He displayed His love, even up to the surprise when He died for our sins and lived again in three days.  Most importantly, though, is the gift Jesus will give us when He comes back to take us home.  That gift can be on the day we join Him in heaven as we pass from this earthly place, or it can be the gift we receive when He comes back to get us on that miraculous day.  There is a surprise gift I can't wait for!!

As we ponder on surprise gifts, take some time to think about a surprise gift you, as the giver, can present to someone else.  Again, it doesn't have to cost your next paycheck, it just needs to be from your heart.  I am certain that when you give, you will be in the presence of great - and that's a great feeling that everyone can enjoy.

"Dearest Jesus,  You provided us the perfect example of how to give a surprise gift as you walked this earth.  As well, we know that the day you return will be a surprise as well - a surprise gift of greatness.  Until then, help us to provide others with a surprise gift - a gift of words, of deeds, or of actions.  Guide us to experience the greatness that comes with giving.  In your name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Thankful for Courage

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"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong & courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

During this month of November, I thought I would take this opportunity to focus on what we can be thankful for.  With Veterans Day just a few days away, I believe honoring those who gave so much of themselves for all of us is more than appropriate.  I have always been humbled by those who decide to serve our country.  I admire all that they give up, for me!!  It truly is an incredible selfless act.

I can't imagine what it is like to walk into battle.  We may have all experienced some sort of battle in our lives.  Maybe we battled an illness.  Maybe we battled emotions or relationships.  Yet, our veterans walked into battle with an enemy.  I thought the Bible verse for today closely mirrors those who have stepped into battle for our country.  The strength and courage they must have to find as battle draws closer.  It is so impressive, especially as they do this willingly.  I am very confident that our Lord was and is there for every military person as they go into battle.  

There was another who walked into battle for us.  Our Dear Jesus also walked into battle, the battle of our sin for the redemption of His blood. Once again, Jesus had to have incredible strength and courage to begin the long trek of walking into the battle of Pilate and all those who mocked Him.  Yet, he walked into that battle willingly as well.  He walked up that hill with the cross on His back, for you and for me.  

Do we have that strength and courage?  We may not walk into battle as our veterans have done or as Jesus did for us.  Yet, there are other battles that we can fight, closer to home.  Reflect . . ., do you have the strength & courage to speak to another about Christ and all of the magnificent things he has done for you?  Do you have the strength & courage to tell strangers about Christ's love?  Do you have the strength & courage to tell family and friends about how Jesus died for your sins?  This is they type of strength & courage that Jesus asks from us.

We may not walk into battle to show our courage, but Jesus provides us other ways to show the love we have for Him - and we can do this by sharing our faith with others.  This takes courage and strength, and each of us can do it!!

I will be eternally grateful for the courage that our veterans have displayed throughout the years.  I am also eternally grateful for the courage our Dear Jesus has shared with us.  I am also eternally grateful for all of you who step out in faith each and every day.  

"Heavenly Father, thank you for giving ALL of us the strength & courage to walk the walk you ask us to do.  As we head out into the world, please equip us with all that we need to talk to others about your grace and mercy.  Thank you for all the ways you give us to share our courage.  In your name we pray, Amen."

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.