The Human Gift Card

What kind of Christmas gift do you get the person who has everything? Or what if you can't come up with a single clue of what a person needs for Christmas? Oh My! What a dilemma! I'm talking about the person you really love, and you really want to get them something that will impact them. Not some token Christmas gift! I know what it is. Get them a gift card!

Now some folks think this is impersonal, but listen. With a gift card you empower the person to get what they really need or want. They get to choose. You can even get them a generalized gift card that can be used wherever they accept....well, you know. And get one (who is sane) wants to return a gift card! You also get to determine the amount. What could be better than a gift card! Not much (if anything) in my opinion!

Giving a gift card is actually more personal. Let me explain. A gift card is just about the same as money (because it is equal to the amount you paid for it). And your money represents the essence of who you are. Your money represents your education, training, experience, hard hours worked, etc. Face it, your money is actually more accurately who you are! So in my own thinking, that's not impersonal! A silly tie, or some wacky coin-counting that's impersonal. That's downright degrading!

At this time of the year people are running rather hectically buying Christmas gifts for one another. I see the stress and the fatigue over giving that perfect gift. Many go into debt to insure they purchase the perfect gift. Is it really worth all the stress?Just asking. Jesus did say "It is more blessed to give than to receive". But what did He mean? The giving Jesus is talking about is the giving of yourself. How do you give yourself? First you give it to Him. (Rom. 12: 1- 2) The greatest gift you could ever give anyone is to give yourself to Jesus. He doesn't need your expertise, He just wants you. When you give yourself to Jesus, He begins to work in your life - which is most beneficial to you. You empower Him to do with you all that He wants. It kind of makes you a gift card...sort of! Giving yourself to Jesus results in receiving the greatest gift one could ever receive - eternal life through Him. At this Christmas season, in the midst of all the bustle, give the ultimate gift. Give yourself to Jesus. You won't regret it!

I Love This Time of Year

I love this time of year. The temps are brisk and the air seems fresher. It seems to make even the lights brighter...especially the Christmas lights.

When I was a boy I couldn't wait until they put up the Christmas lights in our small town of Bay Springs. I mean I had it bad. Back then, the lights would not go up until just after Thanksgiving. The lights were those they used to string across the streets in a zigzag pattern. Woven into the electrical wires (to hide them) was bright, silver tinsel. It usually took about 3 nights for them to be put up. I would hurry through supper (that's what we call it), and run downtown to watch. Since we lived only about 2 blocks from downtown I was there in a flash! And finally came the time when the lights would light up! Wow. I was so excited!

We always had an outside Christmas tree as well as the one inside. Grandmother would always take us to buy a tree to put outside in the yard and decorate with just lights. I loved it! I would dig a hole to install the tree in the yard and put the lights on myself. Every single night I flipped the switch to illumine the tree in the yard. It was wonderful to me! I loved the Christmas season!

In October of 1978 I discovered the real meaning of Christmas. I met the One Christmas is all about. A baby born of a virgin over 2000 years ago came to be the Savior of the world. Now there is something I can get very excited about! Actually I stay excited about Him! Knowing Him has radically changed my life in the most positive of ways. Even though Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, I enjoy this time of year more than ever because most of the world acknowledges His coming. Even other religions at least acknowledge His arrival 2000 years back. What a fantastic time to let the light of Jesus, our Savior, shine brightly...Christmas time...when all the world focuses more on His arrival.

I'll have to admit. I still love the lights and decorations. I still love the brisk temps. But above it all I am blessed from my heart outward in knowing the One who came. Having my sins forgiven is the best gift I could ever receive! 

I Love Christmas Movies!

I love Christmas movies.  Now I'm not a follower of old St. Nick, but I do love a good fictitious story, with a little romance, and a happy ending.  I think it's inherent in all of us to enjoy a good, happy ending.  You know...boy gets girl...girl gets snows in Southern Cal the last 15 seconds of the movie.  Even though 9 out of 10 Christmas movies are predictable and the story-lines are almost identical, I still love them.  I love the sounds of jingle bells and little hometowns all decked out in Christmas decorations.  I love movies about saving Christmas, getting second chances, angels, and sharing hot chocolate in a cozy little hometown cafe.  I especially love Christian Christmas movies!  Connie and I just watched one.  The story was not too bad.  It was a story about an attack on a Christian Christmas tradition in a small Alaskan town.  Good story with a happy ending!

And then there are those Christmas movies that premiered last year, and the year before that, and the year before.  No problem. Another year has passed so why not watch them again?  They seem fresh and new all over again.  It's like a snowball.  Each year the wealth of Christmas movies gets even larger!  What will it be tonight?  Will it be "White Christmas"?  Or perhaps "It's A Wonderful Life".  Now there's a real classic.  It gets pretty rough for George Bailey for a while.  But his experience with an angel awakens him as to how blessed he really is to have a wonderful family and friends.  Now there's a good ending.  A dude who's bored and dissatisfied with his life.  He even tries to end it.  He awakens to the fact that he's about the most blessed man on the planet!  Good movie.  It's time to watch that one.  In fact, I'm sometimes tempted to watch that one in the middle of the summer.  After all... it IS a wonderful life!

Enjoy the Christmas movies.  Many of them take the pressure off the hustle and bustle of the commercial Christmas season.  And most of them have great lessons in them about what's really important in life.  Well...that's about it.  That's right, that's right.  Attaboy Clarence!  God bless us everyone and to everyone a good night!

The Spirit of Missions

The spirit of missions is populating heaven! That line has such an incredible ring to it. Think about it. And listen to Revelation 5: 9b, "For You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." (Underline added.) Who will be in heaven? People from every tribe, every tongue, every people, and every nation. (Not just folks from your community.) In other words, folks from every part of the earth, regardless of nationality, race, color, ethnic group, etc., will populate heaven. You could say, from an earthly perspective, heaven is international! Jesus did not purchase anything in heaven. Rather He came to this earth and with His own blood purchased from every place those who would populate heaven! That's the spirit of missions. (In this post I will use the "spirit" and "heart" of missions interchangeably.)

Nothing stirs me any more than seeing a group of people from different nations coming together to worship our God. We call it multicultural. We call it an international. But it's also heavenly! The spirit of missions is simply a heart's desire to see folks from other cultures worship and serve the one true God. The spirit of missions is ALL-INCLUSIVE. No race, color, people, group, tribe or tongue is left out!

Even though no group is left out, not one person with a heart of missions can effectively serve all nations! So the Holy Spirit gives people a burden for a particular group or groups.

Our family has been to the Columbia International Festival a couple of times. It is held yearly in Columbia, SC. This 2-day event is simply a gathering of people originally from different nations and ethnic groups to show-case their cultures. This is done through crafts, food, and the arts. I'll have to be very honest. One of the highest of highlights for me was the delicious food. Plus Starbucks had a booth there giving away free little cups of coffee! I would send our non-coffee drinking family members through to get a cup so I could have more! However, the most high highest of the highlights for me was the parade of nations which took place at some point during each day. This included flags from all the nations represented. Even though this was not a Christian gathering, it always brought tears to my eyes to see all those flags, and the people carrying them. What can I say? It's the spirit of missions!

Listen carefully to the next statement. The spirit of missions is not produced from a board or a committee. It is given by the Holy Spirit to those who will receive. Make no mistake about it. God's heart is for people. It doesn't matter whether they live next door or abroad. But also understand God's heart is for ALL people in EVERY place. Most of whom live beyond the borders of your country.

My prayer is that God's Spirit will connect me with people in these last days who share a burden for the nations of the world. Think of what we can accomplish together. I want to be involved in populating heaven with people from all over the world. Because according to the Scripture, that's the way it works. Tell me what you think.

If Anyone Sins...

My lead-in title comes from 1 John 2:1, "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;" John says that his writing and encouragement is to help us keep from sinning. However, if we do sin, we have Jesus Christ as our advocate who is before the Father. Being a human being, my thought may be just a little bit presumptuous to think I would never sin. I mean, come on, I am human!

God's goal is that we never sin. However, He became one of us in the form of Jesus Christ to bear all of our sins, and yet not commit sin Himself. When Jesus died on the cross he not only broke the power of sin over you and me, but He satisfied the penalty our sins demanded of you and me - separation from God the Father. When Jesus bore our sins He took them on Himself and bore the consequences, even though He Himself did not sin and was NOT guilty. What that did for you and me was to provide forgiveness of our sins through Him and Him alone. In and through Christ we are the righteousness of God. (See 2nd Corinthians 5: 21).

What does this mean for you and me? It means that when we come to Jesus, He forgives us of not being in right standing with God because of our sins. His forgiveness makes us become the righteousness of God (which means we are in right standing with Him). Our sins are forgiven and our guilt is gone.

So what happens when I sin from that point onward? Remember 1st John 2: 1? "If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." The key is to confess our sins to Jesus, the Advocate with the Father. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1st John 1: 9) This is one of the most precious and powerful promises of God I  have ever experienced! To truly believe and trust in what He said is to never fall away from Him. As a follower of Christ, the Holy Spirit is now in you. He will convict and remind you of what is right and wrong. When we sin, He points that out to us, reminding us that Jesus is our Advocate with the Father. Genuine confession of our sins as believers causes us to be forgiven and cleansed of ALL unrighteousness.

Any time you and I sin, we will be confronted with guilt. It comes along with the sin. However guilt doesn't come from God. It comes from satan. Even when sins are confessed, and we are forgiven, the devil will come and attempt to condemn. You must remind Him of the powerful scriptures in 1st John, and that you are forgiven. Many believers want to lay down when sin is committed because of the guilt incurred. But you must stand up, confess your sin, receive the forgiveness promised, resist the guilt and move forward. Why? Because God is waiting to fulfill His promise to forgive! His forgiveness will propel you forward!

And finally, God's forgiveness is not a license to sin. But we will sin. Sometimes by mistake. Sometimes willfully. But remember...if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One. And if we genuinely confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. It's His Word!

24 Days Until Christmas