A Different Kind of Christmas

By Peter Lundell –

On my first Christmas back in the U.S.A. after years of being a missionary in Japan, I got so absorbed into the warm, fuzzy feelings of carols, activities, and atmosphere that even after the new year, I was lost in a daze of holiday bliss, and I had become almost useless for anything else. After I snapped out of it, I toned myself down to simply enjoy Christmas.

As years passed, I grew increasingly tired of activities and expectations: buy gifts, practice for the Christmas pageant, write the annual family info letter/card/whatever was less work, buy more gifts, prepare for guests, clean up after guests, drop dead. By December 26th, I was just glad to be done with the Christmas hassle.

In that Grinch-minded time, I realized that tragedies at home and around the world never took a day off. They cruelly invaded life anywhere, anytime, even on the holidays.

So why did Jesus come in the first place? I doubt it was for parties, presents, and programs. One of my favorite verses for Christmas is 1 John 3:8: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” Spiritual warfare! Not very warm and fuzzy. And while Jesus walked around on earth, His mission was to “preach good news to the poor,” and to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:8).

In God’s eyes, Jesus’ coming—and thus Christmas—is less about holiday cheer and more about relieving oppression and overcoming spiritual darkness. We see that good work happening through believers, especially the church, when we rise to be what we’re meant to be.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, this year, and in the years to come, I will celebrate Your incarnation by doing more of what You did and called me to do—and less of what the hyperactive, self-centered, money-and entertainment-obsessed world around me does. As I do,
I will have joy and purpose in the season in ways I never have before.

BIBLE VERSE: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8, NIV).

Buckle Up! Adventure Calls.

By Jarrod Spencer –

“In this world you will have trouble.” “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

These Bible texts are not likely what people would put into an evangelism book. John 16:33, Acts 14:22, and II Timothy 3:12 are the verses above, and they paint the Christian life in a way that may not be appealing. Usually we emphasize a life that is attractive to people by talking about grace, forgiveness, and the new life that will follow one’s conversion.

Those topics are important for people to hear and there is nothing wrong with these supporting texts. However, the Christian life is filled with lots of adventure – some peaks, some valleys.

In a new television series titled Pan Am the pilot episode ends by one experienced stewardess telling a rookie stewardess as they are getting ready for takeoff to “Buckle up! Adventure calls.”

As I heard that line I thought of the life of a Christian. Some Christians may have rarely experienced such adventure. I would challenge those to look over their life and consider that they may be “pew warmers.” They come to the church building, take part in the activities, and go about their life. They experience nothing deeper in their Christian life. It is superficial Christianity.

Why is it superficial? Partly because they do not take risks. Risks in putting their faith in an invisible God. Risks in showing their faith. Risks in getting out of their comfort zones. They do what is safe.

About a year ago, someone contacted me to ask if I could help them with their marriage. This kind of help does not mean putting a band-aid on the bleeding wound and sending them out to play. It requires an investment of time, and I had a schedule that was full. Buckle up – adventure calls.

“I need to talk; I think I may be going to jail.” I was met head-on with a statement like this once, immediately after coming home from the office. I was ready to be home for the evening, but I left to invest time in that person, and did not make it home until eleven o’clock that evening. Buckle up – adventure calls.

I never know what is in store for the day. As I “take off” each day I need these words – buckle up, adventure calls!

PRAYER: Thank You Father for letting me team up with You and see the adventures that have come my way as a result of making faith more tangible. I love teaming up with You to see what we’ll join together on throughout the day.

BIBLE VERSE; “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17b-18 NIV).

A Thankful Perspective

By Peter Lundell –

I often think of how in their first year the Pilgrims lost 50 percent of their group to starvation and disease. They suffered unimaginably (partly by their own bad timing of arriving in the fall), but none wanted to go back to England. A year later they celebrated a time of thanksgiving.

The folks in Jamestown, thirteen years before them, also suffered unimaginably, and they all wanted to go back to England. They never once observed a time of thanksgiving.

There’s a reason for this. Beyond all the details of each settlement’s history, Jamestown was settled for economic reasons. Their eyes were on wealth, and the survivors found little of it. Who would be thankful? In contrast, Plymouth was settled by people who wanted freedom of worship. Their eyes were on heaven, and the survivors experienced God’s deliverance. They found much to thank God for.

Thankfulness and a right perspective on life do not go together by accident.

When I’m thankful I tend to have an honest view of my life and what I have, and when I’m not thankful I only think of what I don’t have.

When I’m thankful I tend to see God at work, and when I’m not thankful I see myself struggling.

When I’m thankful I think of others, and when I’m not thankful I think only of me.

When I’m thankful I worry less than when I’m not. Simply choosing to be thankful leads me to find things to be thankful about.

If for no other reason, it’s worth being thankful just to get a right perspective in life. Thankfulness nurtures a healthy heart and mind.

BIBLE VERSE: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:4–5 NIV).

PRAYER: My Father in Heaven, lead my heart to feel with thankfulness. Lead my mind to think with thankfulness. Open my eyes to see beyond myself—to what You are doing and how I am a part of it.

Good Mood Food

April 5, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Personal Growth

By Donna McCrary –

“Now that is good mood food!”

This was the last line of my eight-year-old’s writing assignment, describing his favorite food – pizza. Either he is watching too much TV, borrowing the slogan from the most recent “Arby’s” commercial, or his spelling words for the week focused on the “oo” sound. As the parent, I prefer the spelling word explanation.

As a Christian, I prefer the good-mood-food version of the Bible. I like the scriptures that promise “the peace of God, that transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), “your joy may be complete” (John 15:11), and “He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). These are good-mood-food scriptures; the ones we claim and celebrate because they make us feel good. But, if scripture is food for our spiritual diet, what happens when we live on dessert alone?

Heavier, more challenging scriptures, fiber-laden-scriptures if you will, don’t qualify as good-mood-food, but they serve a far greater purpose in our spiritual diet. The verses that challenge us to renew our corrupt minds; to love the unlovable; to forgive the unforgivable; to extend grace; to take a stand against the traditions of this world; to hold each other accountable; to speak the truth in love, even when it comes at the cost of rejection; oh, these scriptural truths don’t taste good and they don’t go down easy!

Recently, when faced with a troubling situation, I searched God’s Word for guidance. What I discovered in scripture was not good-mood-food. Nothing in me wanted to love someone who had hurt the people I loved or wanted to let go and truly forgive. I struggled to even be in the same room as this person.

This is where the tough-to-swallow-scriptures spoke, “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15). That is not good mood food!  But it is God’s Word! I must consume a balanced diet of all scriptures, not just the good-mood-food. This is the only way to experience a healthy spiritual life.

You can’t live on good mood food alone. You have to add some tough to swallow fiber to your spiritual diet!

PRAYER: God, thank You for your goodness and Your promises that I claim and celebrate. Help me learn to live out Your Word daily even when it is not the easy, feel good choice.

BIBLE VERSE: “Jesus himself said, ‘Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4 NIV).

 

What Will You Do With Tomorrow?

March 25, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Personal Growth

By Jarrod Spencer –

“Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow. You’re only a day away.”

Most of you probably know that line comes from one of the main songs on the movie “Annie.” Tomorrow allows freedom. Freedom to start over. Freedom to have a new set of 24 hours. A new set of 1440 minutes. A new set of 86,400 seconds.

How we use each “tomorrow” is up to us. Most days, “tomorrow” is something I look forward to because I enjoy my job. Only a few days, job or otherwise, do I not look forward to its arrival.  Either way, it is still a new day, and you can do with it however you wish. This brings us to this quote by Lyndon B. Johnson, “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or to lose.”

Tomorrow is not here yet. Yesterday has already past and you cannot change that. Now is present and you can choose how you deal with the choices you face. However, what will you do with tomorrow? How will you make it a great day? How will you make someone else’s “tomorrow” great? What will you do? Wave, smile, buy lunch/dinner, etc.???

Go and make someone’s tomorrow great!

PRAYER: Thank You for my “tomorrows.” May I use them to glorify You, to point people to You, and make others’ tomorrows be better by how I reflect You to them.

BIBLE VERSE: “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him” (Lamentations 3:22-24 NIV).

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