9 Qualities To Stuff In Your Stocking

This is a very busy time of year for most people. There are times that I feel as though my hustle can’t keep up with my bustle. But through it all, it is vital that we do not lose sight of the real importance of the season. The true “reason for the season” has always and will always be Jesus. His relentless and wonderful love for us caused Him to leave the splendor of Heaven to come and be born in a dirty feeding trough. He exchanged streets of gold for streets of dirt.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Unfortunately, we are all so susceptible to the oppression of busyness and the disease of self, and we can quickly forget (or ignore) what really truly matters most. It’s times like this where we might only focus on what we do, and we forget who we are supposed to be. But the truth is, it’s less about what you do, and more about who you are.

Who we are will dictate what we do.

So, let’s take this time and check our hearts. Let’s be sure that who we are is who God calls us to be.

Here are 9 things that we should be this (and every) season.

Loving- Romans 12:9 tells us that we ought to “let love be genuine.” Love is something that we can’t fake. We can’t hide behind a fake smile and just try to be polite. No. Our love for people needs to be real. But, as 1 John tells us, we can only truly know and show love if we first truly know and love God. God loves, and God is love. So, it is imperative that we love people, no matter who they are or what gifts they have or have not given us.

Present- There are too many distractions floating around and vying for our attention. Be present with the people you are currently with. Our family and friends deserve to have our attention. If we are physically present, but not emotional or mentally present, we are doing a poor job of loving.

Joyful- Joy is not an emotion. We can be happy and yet joyful. We can be sad and yet joyful. Joy is not dependent on your current situation, rather it is an attitude of the heart. We can be joyful in the midst of great happiness and in the midst of great pain. Joy is from God and we can share it with others. Romans 15:13

Patient- Chances are that during this season you will be forced to occupy the same room as a person or group of people that are somewhat difficult to deal with. It is important that we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and produce patience in us. Graciously show patience to others because God has already shown great patience to you.

Forgiving- We all have been hurt by people. A flippant remark. An offensive joke. Old wounds. Yep, they happen. But we can’t hold grudges. When we hold onto past hurts and pain it destroys us from the inside out. Reconciliation should always be our main goal. God has forgiven us so greatly, we need to forgive others as well.

Selfless- Life is too short to only think of yourself. Philippians 2:4 tells us, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” Ask yourself, how can I make someone’s day today? How can I show Jesus’ love to them right now? How can I put others before myself?

Thankful- We all, no matter what our current situation is, have something to be thankful for. First, let us give thanks to our God for the salvation that is available to us! Second, let us be thankful for the people in our lives that are there for us, who bless and encourage us. Don’t forget to thank them in person!

Welcoming- As we huddle around our friends and families we can’t forget that there are people who may not enjoy the same sort of relationships we do. We ought to be ready and willing to include them and show them the Love of God. As believers, we should be beacons of hospitality, warmth, and care. Family isn’t always built with blood.

Ready- We need to always be ready, both in this season and out of this season to share the extraordinarily Good News of Jesus and His love! This particular season gives us many opportunities to share that good-news message. Let’s not miss out, we need to be ready!

Many of the things listed flow from or build off of one another.

I hope that this list helps you to be reminded of who we are called to be. And I pray that we would not get caught up with the “stuff” of the season. Instead, I pray that we would allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and make us look more like the Savior that came all those years ago.

Back To School: 4 Reminders to Put in Your Backpack

Summer is over. School has started.

Alright, that may have been a pretty depressing start for most of you. But this post will get better I promise, so please read on.

The beginning of the school year can be a mixed bag of emotions. Excitement, fear, anticipation, frustration, hope, despair, happiness, sadness, nervousness, peace and stress just to name a few.

Because there are so many mixed feelings surrounding the “back to school” season I think it is important for us to remind ourselves of a few important truths. While these reminders might be geared towards students, teachers, and parents at the start of school, I do think that they can apply to anyone during any time of year.

1-This is a time for opportunity.

Forget about what happened last year, the good and the bad. Today is a fresh start to a new year. What will you choose to do with these new opportunities that have fallen into your lap?

This new season opens the door to the opportunity to make new friends, learn more, experience new things, and trust in God to carry you through. Don’t squander these new opportunities.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Trust in God as you face these new opportunities and make the most of them.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

2-It is going to be OK.

You don’t know how this year will turn out, and that can be scary. But God does know, and we should be encouraged by that. No matter what this school year may throw at us we can be confident that, if we trust in Him, God will carry us through.

We need to remember and practice Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

And God’s words to Joshua in the Old Testament can be just as encouraging for us today. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

If you have a bad day just remember – tomorrow is always a new day. Don’t be anxious, it is going to be OK.

3-You are going to teach.

Your actions and reactions will teach others about who you really are. We need to remember that our words, deeds, and even our thoughts are a reflection of where our hearts are at. As we live our daily lives we need to make sure that we are both talking the talk and walking the walk.

Philippians 2:14 tells us to, “do all things without grumbling or complaining.” Why? Because, if we are children of God, then we are called to something so much better.

People are going to watch us. They will learn about us, and before long they will know who we are and what we represent. So, what will we teach them?

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

4-You are going to learn.

You can be sure that someone is lying if they answer the question, “what did you learn today?” with an unenthusiastic, “nothing.” We learn something new every day. And there is no age limit on learning either. The Proverbs make it very clear that fools despise wisdom, knowledge, and learning. Those that are wise, however, love to learn and are willing to be corrected.

Proverbs 3:7 reminds us to, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”

The school year is an excellent time to learn, not only that “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell,” but also life lessons that impact our daily lives. We can learn how to better interact with and love others, who we are, and how God sees us. Ultimately, though our hope and prayer should be that we learn how to love God and love others.

“Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14)

Class dismissed.

Not My Name

This week at my church is the incredible, exciting, draining, and yet fulfilling event known as Vacation Bible School. VBS has always been an extra special time around here, and last night was just the beginning of what I am sure will be a fantastic week.

Last night in the Bible lesson we talked briefly about the Tower of Babel. Do you remember that one? It’s in the 11th chapter of Genesis if you would like to read it for yourself. (You probably should.) One of the neat things that I have experienced at just about every VBS that I have ever been a part of is that the truth shared is just as relevant for adults as it is for the kids.

Anyway, back to the Tower of Babel. Actually, the story is more about the people than the actual tower. You see, God has told mankind twice now in the book of Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply.” (Gen. 1:28, 9:1) It’s important for us to understand that God’s command to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth is about much more than just simply having babies. It is about obedience to God and making His name great.

The problem with the people of Babel? They chose not to obey God. The settled down instead of spreading across and filling the whole earth, and they tried to make themselves famous instead of God.

The ancient people ignored God’s instructions, clustered together, and tried to make themselves great.

Sadly, not much has changed.

People now, just like people then, have a tendency to ignore God’s clear instructions, cluster together in alike tribes, and make themselves great-often at the expense of others.

So, what do we, who have put our trust in Jesus, do about this? Or how should we respond?

We first start by looking in the mirror.

God’s Old Testament command is echoed in the New Testament when Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) God told Adam and Eve to reproduce in order to produce children who would know, obey, and love God. God now tells us to produce disciples who know, obey, and love Jesus.

But the temptation to cluster together and build a name for ourselves is ever-present. Sadly, at times, churches can be so focused on programs and events that they lose sight of what is truly important.

We cannot worry about increasing our church empires, we need to be focused on increasing His Kingdom.

Francis Chan has a pretty matter-of-fact quote “Christians are like manure: spread them out and they help everything grow better but keep them in one big pile and they stink horribly.” Ouch.

The Bible is pretty clear that those who follow Jesus are to be lights in this dark and dying world. We need to shine in the dark and we cannot allow the comfort of our familiar tribe to prevent us from doing so.

Tribalism is a dangerous and unproductive thing and it has no place in the church of Jesus Christ.

Now, let me be clear, I am not advocating that we stop spending time with the people whom we love and are comfortable with. What I am saying though is, let’s be sure to be active in our love and Good News witness to people who don’t fit inside of our cookie cutter vision.

There are a whole lot of people in this world. Many of them do not look, think, act, smell, sound, or see things the way you do. That is O.K. Our objective is not to make people become just like us. Our goal is to show people how to become like Jesus.

I don’t want to make my name great.

I want to make His name great.

Dear Mom, (Six Letters Everyone Should Read)

Dear Mom,

Thank you. I cannot begin to express what you mean to me and how you have so completely impacted my life. I remember when you lovingly and carefully put band-aids on my scraped knees. I remember when you showed me grace and kindness even when I said hurtful things. You have clothed yourself with strength and dignity and have set an example to follow. You are not perfect, and that is okay. I am sorry for unfairly expecting you to be. Even in your imperfection, you have allowed God’s perfection to shine through in your life. I remember how you used to read the Bible to me as a kid. Thank you. You did that because you knew that His Word does not return void. Thank you for telling me about Jesus, and how He loves me even more than you do. Thank you for your love. Thank you for being my mom.

Dear Single Mom,

You are a hero. That word may get thrown around too much in our society now, but it is completely true in describing you. You have had to fulfill multiple roles and carry burdens that no one should carry alone. Thank you for doing your best. You have sacrificed and lived out the true definition of selfless love. Your care and attention have always been enough. You are both strong and precious, independent and wonderful. Just please remember that you are not alone. You might have been alone before, you might have been forsaken before. But our God promises to never leave and never forsake. Trust in Him, lean on Him. He will not fail you. Your love is not in vain. You sacrifice is not in vain. Thank you for everything you are and everything you have done. Thank you for being a mom.

Dear Forgotten Mom,

You feel abandoned. You feel forgotten. You feel unloved and unwanted. It is hard to think of many other greater injustices. Your hurt and pain are real, but they do not have to be what defines you. You did not fail. You are not a failure. You did what you could. You may have made mistakes and have regrets, but that is not your identity. You are Mom. You are still Mom, just as you always have been and always will be. You are beautiful. You are worth it. You are loving and lovely. Thank you for your unchanging and unconditional love. Find your comfort in the God who gave you your child. Find your peace in the God who made you and who made you a mom. Trust that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to those that are in Christ Jesus. Thank you for being a mom.

Dear Childless Mom,

Words fall astonishingly short. Your heart has hurt for so long now. You wish that you could have exchanged your life for that of your child. You would have if you could have. But here you are forced to continue to move forward. You are brave. You are wonderful. You are to be honored. Don’t lose heart. There is hope. There is hope that is found in Jesus that you will, one day, see your baby again. Let that be your joy. Let that be your peace. Lift your eyes and know that your help comes from the one who knew your babe while they were still only in your womb. Know that that same God has a wonderful plan even when, especially when, you cannot see it. Thank you for being a mom.

Dear Not Yet Mom,

You have clothed yourself with strength and dignity each time you walk, with your head held high, into yet another baby shower that is not your own. Your heart aches with frustration and anticipation. Please continue to trust God. His timing is perfect. He made you exactly the way that you should be, in exactly the time you should be. Trust Him to give you a little one in exactly the way, and in exactly the timing He designed. You have demonstrated time and time again that you are worthy, kind, gentle, caring, compassionate, devoted, graceful, generous, patient, and overflowing with love. Do not lose heart. You have already blessed so many, and one day you will be the best and biggest blessing to a baby. To your baby. Thank you for wanting to be a mom.

Dear Spiritual Mom,

You don’t have kids, but you have a lot of kids. This life that you live, whether by your choice or not, has still been designed. God has used you to impact so many. You have been the shoulder to cry on, the smile to encourage, and the ear to listen. You have used your life to point others to the God who has carried and sustained you. You have sheltered your spiritual kids and filled the gaps left by others. You have shown selfless and unconditional love even when it wasn’t your responsibility. You have been an example to follow, and a woman to be celebrated. Your commitment to, and trust in, your savior has encouraged and inspired. We need more like you. Thank you for being a mom.

 

Share this with a deserving mom.