The Importance of Preparation

Christmas, The Gospel, Malachi 3:1As I write this it is a little bit less than two weeks until Christmas.  Even if I were not aware of the calendar date I would surely know that something important is about to happen because of the amount of preparation that is happening all around me.  All the shops and stores, both big and small, are decorated for the season and seem to be announcing new sales daily in an attempt to get customers in to the store or shopping online.

Suddenly there are lights appearing on my neighbors houses that weren’t there before and even in my own house a small army of snowmen (snow-people?) have taken up positions in most every room of the house dressed in their winter finery and holiday garb.  And on my list of things to do today are a Christmas luncheon with some extended family members and an afternoon Christmas shopping expedition with my wife.

Looking at all of the evidence around me I can conclude that Christmas seems to be something that we spend a great deal of time and effort preparing for and that we place a very high degree of importance on.  As a nation and as a culture we really like Christmas and that is not a bad thing so long as we take great care to remember what Christmas is all about.

What would happen, I wonder, if we were to take that same attitude and a similar amount of effort in preparing ourselves for worship and communion with the Lord and in telling other people that Jesus loves them?  Because as important as Christmas is, it isn’t more important than our personal relationship with the Lord and it isn’t more important than the work of preparing hearts and lives to receive the gospel message.

Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the Lord of hosts.  Malachi 3:1 (NKJV)

As Christians we should know that Jesus is coming back one day and that day could be soon.  Malachi 3:1 begins by talking about the messenger and his work of preparation but quickly shifts to talking about how the Lord will come “suddenly”.  God’s word also says that “No man knows the day or the hour” of His coming and so there is no more important work for us than that of preparing ourselves and those around us for the coming of the Lord.  We are the messengers.  To us is given the responsibility of telling the world that Jesus saves and that He is coming back soon.

Personally, I want to make sure that I am spending time with the Lord every day and offering up the sacrifice of my praise and the worship that is due to Him.  I want to make sure that I am drawing strength from His presence and His word and that I am using that strength and that power to prepare the hearts of those around me for the coming of the Lord.  Even as I and my family are preparing for Christmas and will enjoy it immensely it is not the most important preparation that I will do today or this week or for the remainder of this year.

I pray that God would bless you and your family this Christmas season and that your hearts are prepared to receive Him and His love for you.


An Opportunity For Mercy

mercy, grace. ChristmasMy family deals with a local business for goods and services a couple of times a year.  We’ve enjoyed a mutually beneficial arrangement for many years now and we’ve gotten to the point where we are on a first name basis with most of the staff.  This business relationship has gotten more personal as we’ve gotten to know each other and my trust in them has grown as they have proven themselves over the years.

But now, for the first time, we’ve run into a problem.  The single largest order that I have ever made with them for a part seems to be stuck in limbo.  Because they are a successful business they are in the middle of an expansion project and it seems like during their office move some records got misplaced and no one is quite sure if my part has arrived or where it might be.

If this was just a simple order and pay for it later type of thing then it wouldn’t be a big deal.  But because of the special nature of the part and the customization it required we were required to pay up front at the time the order was placed.  We were told it would take around two weeks.  It has now been more than a month due to the complications with the move.

I spoke with someone in the office recently and it seemed like the move and expansion was still under way.  And because it is now the end of the year and the Holidays are upon us, it may be sometime after the first of the year before they are able to deliver the part.  What should have taken two weeks will probably end up taking over two months.

I’ve been tempted to complain to the owner and make a bit of a fuss.  As a consumer it would be within my rights to do so.  But as soon as I had the urge a thought popped in to my head.  The thought was “well, here’s an opportunity for mercy”.  I can assure you this thought did not originate in my flesh.  My flesh knows only selfishness and the concepts of grace and mercy can only come from the Father through the Spirit.

Despite the fact that I could claim my right to ask for my money back or take my business elsewhere or even complain in any number of different ways the Holy Spirit has prompted me not to do so and to be patient.  And in doing so, I am reminded of what God did for me and for all mankind.  I am reminded that we celebrate Christmas because God had an opportunity for mercy and sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins and be the savior of the world.  I am reminded that God is patient with us despite our failings and our weakness.

In the end, as a child of God, I choose to forfeit my rights in favor of the better, more perfect will of Him who died for me.  But even as I make that decision I know that there will be more opportunities for mercy in the days ahead and not just for me but for all of God’s children.  My prayer is that we set our flesh aside and choose the path of grace and mercy because in doing so we show forth the attributes of our Savior.


What Christmas Means To Me

Advent, Christmas, God With UsThere are many great things about Christmas but none moreso than the celebration of Advent.  Advent simply means “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event” and for followers of Christ, nothing is more remarkable or notable than the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ as a baby in a manger so long ago.

Jesus’s coming was a gift given to all of humanity and was the culmination of God the Father’s plan to redeem mankind unto Himself.  As part of this redemptive process, no more would God be far off, hidden behind a veil in the temple in the Holiest of Holy’s but would truly make himself available to all who would come as a personal savior.  God came not only to all of humanity but to each of us individually as Emmanuel, God with us.

I admit, as one who has been saved by grace for many years now, “God with us” is still a great wonder to me.  Why the perfect, almighty creator of the universe and the one who is the giver of all life would choose to want to know and inhabit me personally is something that I just can’t understand.  Praise God, I don’t have to understand it to be thrilled by it and to experience His presence in my life!  I just accept His love in simple faith and choose to give my heart to Him.  To Him I dedicate all of my plans and I know, based on His word, that He will never leave me or forsake me.

I wish I had the words to accurately describe the difference that “God with me” has made in my life.  I am reminded of the traditional church hymn, “The Love of God” and verse three says it much better than I could:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

This is what Christmas means to me.  God’s love, made personal, inhabiting each and every child of His who accepts it.  It’s offered to all of us as a free gift.  All God asks us of us is our simple faith and belief in Him.  Does He have your faith and belief?  Have you given Him your heart and accepted His love?  If you do, you will find that Christmas has more meaning and will give you more joy than you ever thought possible.

A Time To Remember


Holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Reason for the SeasonBy now, Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is just around the corner.  Schedules will be getting busier and “to-do” lists will be getting longer.  If we aren’t careful then we might spend the entirety of the holidays in a blur of coming and going without ever experiencing any deeper meaning or truth.

We celebrate the holidays for very specific reasons; Thanksgiving is to be a time of remembrance and thankfulness for all that God has blessed us with and Christmas is the Advent, the coming of the Christ child who would save the world from Sin and death.  These are wonderful, important truths and they are the very foundations of our Christian faith.

Although Thanksgiving is a a few days past we need to renew our efforts to be thankful, and to remember all that God has done for us.  It is a helpful thing to take a few, quiet minutes and make a list of the things that you are thankful for.  It helps us to remember and to see in black and white just how amazing our God is and how He provides for us.  Count your blessings and see what God has done!

Likewise with the Christmas holiday to come, unless we take the time to focus on what “God with us” really means, we are apt to miss it.  Because we claim to have Christ in our hearts, the coming of the Christ child and the season of Advent should be a very special and sacred time to us.  We give gifts during this time of year because God first gave the ultimate gift to us; His son and His life for ours.

Jesus, God’s son, came to earth as a tiny baby.  Born in a stable, laid in an manger, the very creator of the universe began life as a human being so that he could die an agonizing death on a cross in our place.  That’s amazing, isn’t it?  Isn’t that worth celebrating and worth remembering?  Isn’t it worth sharing with someone else?  It absolutely is!

So, as we go through this holiday season, let’s work hard to remember why we celebrate.  We have the best reason in the entire world to be thankful and to rejoice.  We shouldn’t hide it or be ashamed of it and we must certainly never forget it.  Not ever.

Have You Ever Asked God Why?

Faith, Christmas, shepherdsI think every single believer has at sometime in their life asked “Why, God?”  “Why is this happening to me”?

We see our circumstances and we feel the effects of fear, doubt, and worry as we desperately try to find a way out.  Sometimes we are sick.  Sometimes we are lonely or hurting emotionally.  Sometimes we may even be in physical danger or suffering from life piling a whole bunch of trouble on us all at once.  Regardless of the cause our first response is usually to seek relief as we repeatedly ask “Why?”

We have a word that we use in the South sometimes to describe something that is just off.  Something that is weirdly messed up in a strange way we call wonky.  “Now that is just wonky!”  Your neighbors car won’t start because a squirrel decided to build a nest inside it and ended up chewing some really important parts while leaving acorn remnants all over the motor?  That’s a pretty wonky story!  (I promise this is related, bear with me)

Have you ever really thought about the circumstances surrounding the Christmas story?  The whole thing could be described as wonky if you look at only the circumstances.  Mary and Joseph have already been told that they are going to be the parents of God’s only son and they have been obedient in preparing for their life together.  But then something happens that turns all of their preparations and plans on their heads.

 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,  to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.  So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

Mary and Joseph have to leave their home and  travel (mostly by walking and on the back of a donkey) to Bethlehem because some Roman official got the idea that it was time to take a census.  And of course when they arrive they can’t find a place to stay.  Everything is booked.  So they end up bedding down with the barn animals in the stable and Mary gives birth to Jesus and places him in a feeding trough that serves as his first crib.  Do you think they, during all of this, ever asked God “Why?”

I think they did.  I think they needed constant reassurance that they were right in the middle of God’s plan and that He was taking care of them despite their wonky circumstances.

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. (Luke 2 15-20)

Not only was God actively providing for Mary and Joseph during the birth He was also announcing the arrival of His Son to some very unlikely candidates at the very same time.  Angels appeared to some very important shepherds in a field nearby (I say very important because God specifically chose these men to be the very first witnesses of the Christ child) who immediately left their fields to go and see Jesus.  After seeing Jesus what did they do?

They “made it widely known” and “all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds”.  God understood the importance of including “the least of these” into His plan and at that time anyone who was a shepherd  was considered the lowest in terms of societal position.  I believe God picked them specifically because He wanted the world to understand that everyone, no matter their station, was to be included in His plan.  And it was “the least of these” that started the important task of telling the world about Jesus’ arrival.

Viewed from a human perspective the Christ child’s birth may seem to be a strange (wonky) series of circumstances and events.  But viewed from a Godly perspective we see that God had a plan and carried it out using ordinary, lowly people who in turn did amazing things for God’s Kingdom.  So next time you are tempted to ask “Why” instead ask “What are you doing, Lord?”  and “How can I make sure that I stay in the middle of it so that you can use me?”

Friday Favorites 12/13/13

Christmas, Christ, LoveFriday favorites is a place where I can talk about and recommend some of my favorite things.  From food to music to technology to great ideas, Friday favorites will feature them all.  If you have feedback on something that’s deserving of a Friday favorite, please don’t hesitate to use the comment section or send me an email at  I want to hear about your favorites too!

My topic for today’s Friday Favorites is taking time to enjoy the real meaning of Christmas.  Let me explain.  Today’s post will most likely be my last for 2013.  As we approach the end of the year I find that I am ready for a rest, both mentally and physically.  I am already enjoying Christmas time this year much more than usual simply because of my job change and exit from retail.  But I want to make sure that my focus remains on God’s love and how it was expressed with the sending of the Christ child so many years ago.  This year, I have an opportunity to really experience Christmas as never before and I don’t want to miss it.

With some additional time to rest and reflect I plan to catch up on my reading, enjoy the company of my family and friends and focus on renewing my mind and body for the start of 2014.  It’s been an amazing year and I remain excited and expectant about what God is going to do.  He has been so good to my family and I and I must continue to proclaim His love and His mercy both with my mouth and the way that I live my life.

To all of you that are travelling this Holiday season I pray for your safe return.  To all of you who are visiting places where there is tension and strife I pray that God’s love may heal and wipe away any record of past wrongs.  And to every single one of you I pray that you would grow in the grace and knowledge of God and that the full weight of God’s great love would be made known to you this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas everyone, I will see you in 2014!


5 Ways You Can Bless Someone Else This Christmas

Christmas, Blessing, JesusChristmas, at its heart, is about the love that Christ bore for us when He came to earth on His mission of salvation and deliverance from sin.  We give gifts at Christmas in honor of Jesus as a baby in a manger who was God’s gift to all mankind.  As you seek to love and bless others around you this Christmas, here are five ways that you can do just that.

1. Presents – This is the obvious first answer but that doesn’t mean we should overlook it or take it for granted.  A gift given in thoughtfulness and careful consideration to the receiver is so much more meaningful than handing out pre-paid Visa cards to everyone on your list.  (Not that pre-paid Visas aren’t useful and appreciated!)  It will take more time and more care to pick out the right gift for each person but the amount of love you can show to that person is more than worth the extra effort.

2. Presence – You need to be there.  Wherever your loved ones are gathering and even with the hassle of the crowds, weather and holiday rush, nothing can take your place in terms of showing love to the people you care about this Christmas.  The gift of your time and attendance means a lot and giving your gifts in person whenever possible makes them all the more special.  Enjoy the time that you get to spend with your family and friends this holiday and remember that it  is a blessing that not everyone has.  Don’t take it for granted.

3. Attitude – This is a busy time of year for everyone and it can be very easy to lose sight of why we are doing what we are doing.  Christmas is about Jesus and should be a celebration of love and God’s favor towards all men.  Peace on earth and good will towards men should be our motto and our goal this Christmas and that’s impossible to do that when we are stressed out, over tired and just plain cranky.  Remember how very much that God loves you and remember that it’s not about the presents or parties, as nice and as fun as those things can be.  Let love and thankfulness rule your heart and mind and not a bad attitude.

4. Action – Get involved.  Nothing increases holiday spirit like giving of your time to a worthy cause in Jesus’ name.  Whether it be Operation Christmas Child, a special Christmas pageant or signing up to be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army, there’s nothing more precious or meaningful that you can give than yourself.  You’ve only been given one life and you are not promised another Christmas time on this earth.  Only the Lord knows how many days we’ve each been appointed and we need to be about doing good while we have the time to do it.  I promise you that you will be blessed and enriched by the time you spend giving and working for the Lord.

5. Obedience – Is there something that the Lord has been impressing upon you to do this year and you have yet to say yes?  Are you living each day in accordance with His word to the best of your ability?  Have you run from God in your lifetime and are you running still?  While the first four items on our list are ways that we can love other people, this last one is primarily between you and the Lord.  Giving yourself to Him in humble obedience is absolutely the best thing you can do this Christmas and will be the best thing you’ve done all year.  It will change your life for the better and it will have the added benefit of blessing those you come in contact with on a daily basis.

Remember, Christmas is about love and giving.  Let us resolve to be the kind of givers that God would approve of this Christmas and let us love others the way that Jesus loves us.  Merry Christmas!