Monday, January 22, 2018

Remember Your Leaders

"Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith." - Hebrews 13:7

That verse came to mind yesterday as my wife and I were visiting a family friend and his wife.

This couple we visited are in their 80's - a pastor and his wife. We usually get together once a year or so to catch up on things and yesterday was the day.

As we sat and exchanged life stories I could help think about this man and his wife. Their stories were amazing. Starting out in seminary school, they didn't have much but made much of what the did have.

As pastor and wife they served their congregation their whole lives. They raised five kids, all of whom play an active role in the lives of THEIR children and their communities. Another verse comes to mind:

"6 Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6

This man has taught me much. If those he ministered to would examine HIS life and "imitate it", this world would be a much better place in which to live.

Do you have someone like that in your life? I hope you do. When was the last time you spent some time with them? What lessons have you learned?

As I myself get up there in years I want to be like our friend and his wife. Loving, teaching, and doing so in the name of Christ.

Who are the teachers in YOUR life? Timothy had Paul, The Apostles had Jesus. So do we. Who has taught YOU? Are you imitating their behavior?

Here's a video of one of my other mentors in the faith. Consider HIS behavior and imitate HIS behavior. You could do worse. Seek out good teachers in your life. Pay attention to the ones God places in YOUR life. You will be the better for it.

Tony Dungy - I Am Second

Saturday, January 20, 2018

No Man's Land

A soldier in No Man's Land - World War I
You can see them wandering aimlessly, not really knowing which was to go. "Should I go forward?" they ask. "Or should I go back the way I came?"  And that's the problem. They're lost. And guess what. So are we.

When I first became a believer in Jesus - I mean a REAL believer - I was blessed to have someone in my life to "show me the ropes." I had someone to teach me and help me grow in my faith. Pity the one who falls down and has no one to pick them up (Ecclesiastes 4:10).

I have seen WAY too many youth group kids pray that magical sinner's prayer and then fall by the wayside later on because they didn't know what they should do with their new-found faith. They were left to die in a spiritual no-man's-land. But the question of the day is, are we actually right there with them? Have WE faded away?

When we place our faith in Christ we actually become a changed person. We're still the same person we always were but our heart gets changed. Our soul changes. Then slowly, yet deliberately, the rest of us begins to change. But that first initial "fire" can diminish.

We suddenly find ourselves with one foot in "the world" (the secular world) and the other foot in God's world (the truth). We quite honestly don't know which world we should choose. If left alone most us us would go back to the world we once knew. After all, we were comfortable there. Why not go back?

But that is precisely where we cannot go. You see, that's where death is.

One day we all will find ourselves with one foot in the boat and the other on the dock. As the boat and the dock slowly drift apart it won't be long before we must make a choice. God wants us to choose life. But if there is no one there to help us guide us, how CAN we?

Should you ever find yourself in that position, caught betwixt and between, cry out to God for help. Reach out to someone you trust. Don't try to make it on your own. You will become totally lost or worse. But if we call out for help God is faithful and He is mighty to save.

"The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." - Zephaniah 3:17

As soon as we find ourselves in the darkness, we must reach out for the light. God wishes that none would perish (2 Peter 3:9), but He knows that many will because they are too prideful to cry out. They are in no man's land.

Don't be afraid to call for help. God always hears us and, if we believe in Him, He has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). What an amazing promise! What an amazing King!

15“If you love me, keep my commands. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” - John 14:15-21

The Ballad of Bill Hubbard - Roger Waters
Mighty To Save - Hillsong United

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Prayer Book

Eli & Gina - two former youth group kids, still in my prayer book today
We all have people in our lives that we pray for. My prayer list expands and contracts just like my waste line does over the holidays. Some people are on my prayer list for a long time. Others come and go depending on who's in the forefront of my mind on any particular day.

Have you ever finished praying and then remembered somebody you forgot to pray for? I do that ALL the time. That's why I have this little gem - my prayer book.

This little book of mine is filled with some of the faces of the people that I pray for - former youth group kids from when I was a youth leader. Several years ago the empty book was given to me by my friend Gayle. What a blessing it has been, not only to fill the pages with pictures of their smiles, but to turn the page each day and to pray for them.

Each face triggers something special inside of me - a memory, a conversation, a struggle, a triumph. It is always something we have done together. Something we have shared.

I look at Eli here and remember sitting at DQ, talking. I remember an early morning conversation at a local farm as he worked and the night he called me at 2 AM after a car ran into their house.

And Gina. Another long conversation in a restaurant that seemed to pass all too quickly. I remember Katie's wedding and our conversation there. Good times.

Both of these faces are living in Colorado now, living lives on their own. But they are also living in my heart as I remember them and lift them up to God in prayer.

I love the owners of ALL of the faces in my prayer book. My friends, if you don't have a prayer book you have GOT to get one. What better way to pray for those you love than to look into their eyes as you hold them in your hands before the Lord.

Pray - Sam Smith
Prayer of The Children - The Concordia Choir

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Fire Goes Out

My wife and I spent Sunday evening sitting in the living room. She was reading a magazine, I was writing this story. We like sitting in the living room during the cold winter months because that's where our wood-burning fireplace is. We just don't want to be cold.

Interestingly enough our pastor spoke about the church at Laodicea this morning. That was one of the early churches that sprung up as the apostles and disciples began spreading the Gospel throughout the area of the Mediterranean.

Revelation 3 tells us that Laodicea was a "lukewarm" church - no longer on fire for Jesus. Just drifting along, satisfied with things the way they were . That's not good according to our Lord who said he would spit them out of His mouth. Hmm.

The other morning I went to take my morning pills. I poured a nice glass of what I thought was cold tap water. I didn't know that my wife had just used the HOT water and when I went to take a drink I got warm water. I was NOT expecting that! I know exactly what Jesus was talking about because it was all I could do to keep from spitting it out in the sink. Yuck!

Getting back to the fire we had burning. It was going all weekend. Our house was a toasty 74 degrees inside even though it was ten below outside. Nice. In order to keep it burning though I had to get up in the middle of the night and put in some more wood. Otherwise it would just go out. That's bad. Especially if you want to stay warm.

How is your faith these days? Are you and Jesus spending time together? Are you praying often? Spending time reading the Bible? Attending worship (and worshiping in spirit and truth)?

There are "Christians" I know who call themselves that yet don't exhibit any Christian characteristics. As Christians there should be evidence of our faith in the way we walk through the day, the way we act and the way we love.

Are you fueling your faith fire? Or is it beginning to go out? Read these words from Jesus.

" 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
 
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." - Revelation 3:15-20

Jesus is standing at the door and knocking. He sees no smoke coming from the chimney. Don't leave Him out in the cold. Rebuild that fire today!

If I Ever Lose My Faith In You - Sting
Soul On Fire - Third Day

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Beautiful

When we hear the word "beautiful" what do you think about? Movie stars, fashion models, a majestic landscape perhaps? God showed me a new use for the word "beautiful" this week at work . . . in a most unusual way.

They say that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. A man might look at a woman and think that she's beautiful, while that same woman looks at herself in the mirror and sees ugliness. But SEEING beauty is only part of what the word beautiful means. Have you ever experienced beauty? Actually felt it?

Two days ago at work I sensed someone walk up behind me as I sat in my workstation. Suddenly there was a hand on my shoulder and a man's voice said, "I'm leaving now."

I recognized the voice. It was that of my long-time friend and boss who was about to head off to the Mayo Clinic for an experimental medical procedure. He knew it's going to be painful. He's had several of these operations before.

Getting up out of my chair, I gave him a hug. As I did so he whispered, "Please pray for me" in my ear. I told him that I would and then asked, "You wanna do that right now?" He said, "Sure."

So we both walked into a nearby office - the one where his wife works. The three of us put our arms around each other and we prayed. And do you know what THAT is?

Beautiful.

I find myself reminded of the story in Acts 3 about the apostles and a beggar. The later is trying to get to the gate of the temple called Beautiful.

"3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him." - Acts 3:3-10

If our bodies are "a temple" as it says in 1 Corinthians 6:19, where do you suppose OUR Beautiful Gate is? I think the gate is our hearts. When my friend approached me this week he was playing the role of the beggar. God placed me in the role of Peter. I didn't have anything I could give my friend that would satisfy his need for healing. But what I do have I can give him. So I took him to God in prayer and, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I prayed for healing just like Peter did.

Will God heal my friend? I do not know. But if He does I bet my friend will be walking and jumping, and praising God.

Is there someone in your life right now who needs prayer? Open up the door of your beautiful gate and let them into the temple.

Beauty From Pain - Superchick
We Live - Superchick

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What Is Real?

Things are not always as they seem. Our minds can be easily manipulated. We can think one thing is true when, in reality, it's the exact opposite. Knowing what the truth is is incredibly important. Our whole system of laws is based on it.

"Do you promise the tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

Hmm, I wonder if they still use that last part . . .

You've probably seen the following video. It's a girl with blue hair. Or is it pink? Or purple?

Color-Changing Hair

What is her real hair color? How do you know?

Do you have a favorite newscast you like to watch? Are they factual? How do you know? Do you think ABC News is truthful? NBC? CBS? Fox News? What about the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)?

They recently reported about the declining reindeer herd population in Russia. They said it was due to global warming. That sounds right. We've all heard about global warming, right? So it must be true. Well . . .

The BBC has admitted to making a factual error in their reporting of the story. You can read about it here. It turns out that the majority of reindeer herds in Russia are actually increasing in number. They are either increasing or they are remaining stable. None are decreasing. How could they make such a mistake? That's easy. They have an agenda. They are looking at the world with "global warming" eyes.

Their agenda is more important to them than the facts.

We all have own set of values that we filter our "truth" through. Whether it is actually truthful or not is anybody's guess. So, what is real? What IS the truth?

"5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” - John 14:5-6

This is an amazing statement by Jesus. In it he says that all other religions are false because HIS way is the only way. He also says He is the truth. God can never lie. That's a sin and God cannot sin. The really amazing part of the scripture we just read is when Jesus said "from now on you do know Him . . . and have seen Him.

Jesus just told His disciples that He, Jesus, is God. Wow. And God doesn't lie. It's against His nature. He is holy.

So, when we go searching for what the truth is, let us begin with God and His Word. It contains all the truth we will ever need.

What Is Truth? - The Passion of The Christ



Monday, January 8, 2018

Bob The Hoarder

I guess I never really thought about it but, in a way, I think I am a hoarder. Not in the sense that this picture depicts but I AM a hoarder - a hoarder of my time. Here's what I mean.

We all have our diversions in life - the things we like to do. Maybe it's Facebook or Twitter. Perhaps it's Hallmark Christmas movies or building a tiny home. The point is we ALL have time in our schedules that is basically spare time. It is our choice how we will use that time. And that's the big question. How do you and I use our spare time?

I have been trying to kick that habit of wasting my spare time. For example, for the past year I have been responding "Yes dear" whenever my wife asks me to do something. And I do it right away. Previously, when my wife asked me to do something I'd say, "Yeah" and then waited for her to ask me again. That worked okay for me. But not for her.

I wear a bracelet on my left wrist. It reads "I Am Second". God is supposed to come first. I found that too often the words on my bracelet simply weren't true so I made the change. I need to get a different bracelet that reads "I Am Last" Why?

"So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? "You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you." - John 13:12-15

It has been prophesied that Jesus will return one day. As the pastor in my church asked yesterday, "What will He find us doing when He returns?" Will we be playing video games? Scrolling through Facebook? Or will we be found serving Him?

As we find ourselves with a spare moment this week, how will we answer those questions. As for me, I hope Jesus finds me breaking the bad habits in favor of the new. I hope He returns to find me serving Him in some way. Satan loves is when we do things that are not about God. Let's make Satan disappointed then. Let's break the habit and surrender ALL.

Breaking The Habit - Linkin Park
I Surrender All - Faith Hill

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Stay Warm!

Shortly after we built our house here in Central Wisconsin there was a stretch of REALLY cold weather. Actual temperature was in the mid-twenties below zero. Wind chill was -76 degrees. Everything froze - our car, our butts and our pipes. I wish I would have known these five tips for staying warm.

For years I have gone to bed at night wearing very little. (Sorry about the frightening mental image. There is a point coming.) My body had managed to produce enough heat to to the point where I was warm. My wife would cuddle with me during the winter months so she could suck up all of my heat. Times change.

You should see me now. (Again, sorry to put you through this. We're almost out of the woods. LOL!) These nights when it's been so cold I am currently wearing thick socks, jammy shorts, a tee shirt AND a sweatshirt! It's cold! I'm just trying to stay warm.

Our faith can be like that. It can grow cold when the nights get long and the storms get rough. Has that happened to you? You are certainly not alone. So, how do we stay warm when we begin to get spiritually cold?
  1. Pray - Seek God and His Holy Spirit. He will keep your spirit warm. All we have to do is ask and it shall be given to us. Especially if we ask for stuff like that!
  2. Read - There is nothing like God's Word to remind us of things we should already know. Romans 8 always lifts me up when my faith grows cold. Read Psalms or one of the Gospels and you will begin to feel warmer inside.
  3. Worship - I LOVE being with my church family.  There is nothing like singing praise songs to warm you up!
  4. Serve - Nothing makes me warmer than by serving others. It focuses my mind and heart on someone else instead of myself. What good is a pity party if you are the only one there.
  5. Love - What an amazing heat source love is. Friends and family can be a tremendous heat source for our souls when we stop to consider who provided them for us. God!
Are you feeling spiritually cold? I once was. Reach out to someone, read the Bible, love unconditionally, pray without ceasing. My friend, you will be warm in no time at all.

"9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." - Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Soul On Fire - Third Day

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

What The World Needs

Contrary to most people, I like the first day back after a holiday vacation. I love hearing the stories of how someone's time with family was or a funny story of a grand kid saying or doing something that was amazing. I love . . . love.

The stories vary all across the emotional spectrum. From amazingly happy times to tremendously sad ones. Such is life -  a journey through all these emotions, growing us and stretching us beyond what we think we can bear.

There are many people where I work who I love dearly. That's what keeps me there really. It's not the work, it's the people.

The day started in prayer with my ministry partner Gayle. What a blessing she is, to me and to others. It is a joy and an honor to call her both friend and sister. It is always good to see her and to pray with her in the morning.

Kari is a dear friend who I got to know through the death of a co-worker. God has gifted me an amazing friend, simply by my reaching out in compassion to a stranger. She, her husband Tom and daughter Mia are ALL treasured gifts.

Tony and Marley have been through a lot together, yet they remain committed to one another. Love is a tremendous healer.

The most memorable meeting of my day yesterday had to have been with T.J., the company president's son. He just lost his grandfather. We had a brief conversation at the end of the day.

All these conversations and more were a blessing to me yesterday. Each one reminded me of something this world is sadly lacking these days - love. That's how I would sum up the day really. I loved and was loved in return. What a gift!

Love is an incredible thing. If given unconditionally, it never returns void. It is never too late to love someone. That's exactly what this world needs today. Not a carnal love. That is what the world teaches. Love unconditionally, like Jesus loves us. Doing that will open up the floodgates of love in your life.

Love God. Love others. It's simple. We need it.

 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." - 1 John 4:7-12

What The World Needs Now Is Love - Jackie DeShannon

Monday, January 1, 2018

Burning Love

I'm not anybody special. Far from it. But I HAVE been blessed in that I have seen glimpses of God. Not God Himself mind you. No one has ever seen God, and lived. But I HAVE seen examples of his character in His Word and in His creation. So have ALL of His children! But I never thought I'd see Him in my fireplace.

For example, yesterday I was looking at the fire in our fireplace. There were no flames actually but the log was glowing red hot. As I watched it I could see it pulsing, reds and oranges. It was like the log was alive with fire - burning from within itself. That's what gave me the idea for this story.

We read in 1 John 4 that "God is love." When we read that in verse eight we think, "Yeah? So? I love people too." That's just it. I don't think we do. Not the way God loves us.

We say we love all kinds of things. For example, I love my grandchildren, I love my wife, and I love meatloaf. My friend Chuck at church said he has a friend who "loves" hunting. Does he REALLY love hunting? Or is it just an obsession? Love is an incredibly misused word.

I see people on Facebook say how they love someone. They're 12! How can they be so sure it's love and not indigestion? Do they even comprehend what love is at that young age? Or us. Can we truly comprehend what love is without knowing God?

I think that none of us really knows what love is until we come to know Jesus. The Bible is right when it said that God is love. And here's the proof.

Open your Bibles to Luke 23 and begin reading in verse 34. Jesus is being crucified by the religious rulers. What did Jesus do? He prayed for them, seeking forgiveness on their behalf. What?!?

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots." - Luke 23:34

In verse 41-44 we see another example of the love of Christ as He had compassion on one of the criminals hanging next to Him. Speaking to the second thief, the first thief said,

41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
 
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” - Luke 23:41-43

Flip ahead to John 19 for yet another example of God's love and compassion. When Jesus looked down from the cross and saw John and His mother standing there He said this:

26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home." - John 19:26-27

As He was dying on the cross, Jesus made sure His mother was taken care of. He also comforted a thief and prayed for those who were killing Him. What kind of amazing love was that?

God's love burns hot, just like that log in our fire place.  Is our love that hot? Does it burn as deeply for fellow humans, both friend and foe? Sadly, I think we're lucky to find a spark sometimes when we compare our love with God's.

There is a difference between God's love and ours. Often we incorrectly call something love when it is really lust or idolatry.

Do we love our enemies like Jesus did? No. He sacrificed Himself for them out of a deep burning love in His heart so that they could be saved.

I want to live like that. I want to have so much love inside of me that I am glowing red-hot . . . not only for those I like but for those I don't like as well. I have a long way to go and surely I will never get to that point. But I can try. :)

Live Like That - Sidewalk Prophets

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Last Day?

Thursday morning at work I wrote two words down in my calendar. You see I am retiring at the end of March so on March 30th's spot I wrote "Last Day". I paused and thought about that for a moment. What if we knew when our last day on earth was? Would we live differently?

It's been really cold here in Central Wisconsin lately. My friend Jeanne in Antigo reported -26 degrees the other day. We were at 19 below in Waupaca. That was Wednesday. Thursday it snowed. When the highway is already frozen and then it snows, and cars drive on that snow, it can turn into ice pretty quickly. And it did. And as it turned out, it WAS also someone's "last day."

"A man's days are numbered." - Job 14:5

As I neared home I began to see brake lights on the road in front of me and then the flashing lights of a squad car. Someone must have gone off the road, I thought. I was right but it was worse than that. Authorities had closed the freeway because of an accident. Traffic was being diverted off the highway so they could clean up the accident scene. Sounded pretty bad. And it was.

An east bound pickup lost control on the ice, went across the median and hit a semi head on. The driver of the pickup was killed. His last day.

We never know when it will be our last day on this earth. As the old saying goes, "Live each day as if it were your last because, one day, you will be right."

Yesterday morning on my way in to work the roads were still pretty slick but I was making pretty good time. That is until I dropped a wheel off the road and snagged a bit of snow and ice with my left front tire. THAT woke me up! Reminding me once again we never know when it will be our last day. It can happen that quickly.

When I got to work I saw a Facebook post by Franklin Graham. Speaking of his 99-year old father, Franklin wrote this.

My father has been faithful to God's Word. He believes the Bible to be the inspired Word of God. He believes in Heaven and Hell, and preached repentance from sin and that people must put their faith in Jesus Christ who took our sins to the cross, died in our place, and then God raised to life. By trusting Christ, we are assured of an eternal home in Heaven. In an ever changing world, isn’t it good to know that God’s Word never changes—it’s the same yesterday, today, and forever!

Amen Franklin! What you have just read is The Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus and His disciples preached that wherever they went. I hope the driver who died Thursday night had heard that message and receiver it. Please pray for his family. Pray for the semi driver as well. He was uninjured but witnessed someone die right in front of him.

"Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is." - Psalm 39:4

If today was your last day, would you be ready?

Fatal Crash - WBAY.com

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Unopened Gift

One last wave goodbye. Bits of shredded wrapping paper cowering under the tree as we toss the rest of its family, screaming,  into the trash. Christmas celebrations are in the books for another year. All the kids are gone and the house, once again, is quiet. Too quiet.

As the sun sets on this day I think back to Christmas's past. Childhood memories seem almost perfect in my eyes - 50+ years removed from today. Any "bad" memories, arguments or illnesses fade in favor of good times had by all.

The first Christmas, the day Jesus was born 2,000+ years ago, only lives in the hearts and minds via stories in the Bible (and the Holy Spirit if you believe). Isaiah 9, Mathew 1&2 and Luke 2 tell the stories that Christmas carols are made of.

Each of us has our own version of the Christmas story in our hearts. Our brains function like that. We try to forget the bad in favor of the good. We don't want to hear about our sin and need for repentance. We picture things through our heart's warm and fuzzy filter. Times we were hurt vs. times we had fun. And that's a problem.

We like to think about the happy, wonderful baby Jesus. In our minds He probably never cried or loaded His diaper. It's a one-sided story. We tend to forget about how Herod had all the other two-year old children in Bethlehem killed in hopes of killing Jesus along with them. Where is THAT fact in our happy, wonderful, filtered Christmas story?

"16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under," - Matthew 2:16

WHY Jesus was born is anything but happy - to eventually be nailed to a tree and killed for the things that you and I have done or left undone.

We have spent more time baking cookies and wrapping presents then we have thinking about the truth written in God's Word. And that's another problem.

The reality of Christmas is we have morphed it into something it was never intended to be - a marketing event and a means for people to make money. Christmas should be a time when we give our King gifts, not ourselves.

If you have remembered the true meaning of Christmas and you have it in your hearts, I thank God for you. For you are truly one of God's children and the spirit of Christmas lives in you throughout the year, not just in December.

There is a group called Advent Conspiracy that started up back in 2009. Their mission is to return Christmas to its original meaning. Their four main tenants are these - Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All.

Sounds good to me! :) As Christians, we should be doing that every day. If you have not placed your faith and trust in Jesus, please, take another look under the tree. Or better yet, open a Bible to one of the stories I mentioned earlier. Perhaps there is "an unopened gift" waiting for YOU. :)

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas. One Christmas closer to His return. Let's hope He comes soon. What a Christmas gift THAT would be.

The Perfect Gift - JJ Heller
The Perfect Gift - 2017 Advent Conspiracy Explainer