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.

Spring Snow

I don’t care what the weather says…it is spring.

The calendar doesn’t lie, Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 was the official first day of Spring.

For many people across the country that is very welcomed news. However, those same people might be having a hard time believing that Spring has indeed sprung. I recently heard someone say in passing, “the weather didn’t get the memo.”

It’s hard to think about the things that define Spring; baseball, tulips, and grass that is actually green when there is still snow falling from the sky. Now, let’s be fair…this kinda happens every year, at least in the Midwest. So, with that in mind, we really shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, shame on us for expecting anything different.

Personally, I am in no hurry to usher in allergy season. However, I can still understand and sympathize with those who look longingly towards the warmer weather.

It can be an extremely frustrating thing when, even though you can see the start of the next season, you just can’t quite grasp it yet. And yes, I’m still talking about the weather, but I’m also kind of not.

You see, looking forward to the future and the sunny days that it brings can be a very healthy and helpful thing to do. The problem, however, is when that is the only thing we do.

When we only look forward to what is to come, we actually might miss some of the extraordinary things happening right in front of us. Like the strangely beautiful juxtaposition of fresh snowfall on newly budded flowers. Or a well-used snow shovel propped up against a lawn chair. Or even the fearless bit of green that pokes up from the frost covered dirt.

We cannot forget to be faithful to the present as we look forward to the future.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, this is something that I must continually remind myself of. Jesus said in the Bible that He would, one day, return to gather His church, home to Heaven with Him. Jesus told His disciples, “don’t be troubled… I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself.” (John 14:1-3)

In the book of Acts when Jesus ascended into heaven angels spoke to the disciples and said, “why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

And Jesus, Himself, told His disciples, and subsequently, all who follow Him after, that they are to be His witnesses. And in Matthew 28 He commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Jesus promises eternity in Heaven for all who believe in Him. The wonder and magnitude of that alone is incomprehensible. And yet, we are still here…on earth. Why? Because there is still work to be done. There are still people who need to know about the love and life that Jesus gives.

And so, we need to be faithful while we wait.

I would encourage you to have this same approach to the seasons in your life, those that are weather-related and those that are not. Faithfulness in the present, alongside expectations of the future, are two things that can actually coexist. But we must be diligent not to only focus on one over the other. If we only focus on the snow on the ground, then we can easily miss the greenery underneath. But if we only focus on the coming greenery then we forget our responsibilities in the present-like shoveling snow and putting the grill cover on.

So, once again, let us be faithful while we wait and trust in God’s timing. …Besides, it’ll probably snow again in May anyway.