Monday, November 28, 2016



[Photo of an old Sears Chistmas Catalong]

“Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.”

Half the fun of Christmas is the anticipation. Perhaps people begin shopping so early because of this phenomenon.

I can remember as a child when we would get the Sears Christmas Catalog in the mail. The glossy, colorful pages, filled with amazing toys, sparkling decorations, and festive clothing only increased the eagerness for my sister and me.

As the years have rolled by, I confess that I anticipate Christmas in different ways than I did as a child. No longer do the gifts matter so much. Quiet reflection while listening to glorious music, get-togethers with family and friends, and remembrances of Christmases past make for a much more satisfying holiday season for a grown-up me.

In Luke 2:25-35 we read the story of a righteous and devout man in Jerusalem who had been waiting for the consolation of Israel. He anticipated the birth of Jesus because the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before seeing the new-born King. When he entered the temple courts and saw the baby and His parents, Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. In his short message to the new parents, he said, “Now I can die in peace.”

Can you remember, as a child, the let-down after Christmas? I do. Yes, I had a bunch of new things, but the anticipation was over. What I looked forward to didn’t satisfy me the way I thought it would! The toys broke, or their appeal soon faded. The new clothes only delighted me as I wore them a few times. And, the decorations and Christmas music now seemed old. I actually looked forward to getting back to the “normal” of everyday life.

How different the results of Simeon’s anticipation. The baby didn’t disappoint him. This Gift, expected and hoped for, came to save the people of Israel from their sins and reveal to the Gentiles the glory of Israel’s God.

As you reflect on the Christmas story this year, look past the human experiences of the season, even the story itself, to the One who came to know you, to forgive and redeem you, and to make you His very own. Anticipate the joy of spending more time with Him, to really know Him, and to meditate on His promises of a covenant love that will last forever.

Romans 5:5 tells us that our anticipation of the glory of God in our lives will be fulfilled. It states:

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

In your anticipation of Christmas this year, above all the other attention-grabbing elements, take the time to settle in, and, with great anticipation, look for the Gift that God has given all humankind. Truly, Jesus is the Gift that will never disappoint!


1 Wesley, Charles. Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, Public Domain.



Monday, November 21, 2016

Gratitude Energizes Service


[Photo of a nurse helping an elderly woman]

“You will be made rich in every way so that
you can be generous on every occasion, and
through us your generosity will result in
thanksgiving to God. This service that you
perform is not only supplying the needs of
God’s people but is also overflowing
in many expressions of thanks to God.”
—2 Corinthians 9:11-12

Joyous gratitude produces the unselfish, and effective service of God’s people.

The Apostle James reminds us that we display our faith by the good things we do. (James 2:18) If we feel grateful for all God has done for us, we express that gratitude in the same kind of generosity with which God has blessed us. I call this the “Cycle of Grace.”: God gives to us. We gratefully give to others. The others in turn thank God for His goodness.

I like this short and to-the-point story found in Matthew 8:14-15:

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

In Acts 28:7-10, Paul tells of the shipwrecked prisoners and soldiers with him on the island of Malta and the chief official of the island, Publius:

His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.

Their gratitude resulted in the gifts these sailors needed.

When I was growing up in my church youth group, we would sing the little chorus:

After all He’s done for me,
After all He’s done for me,
How can I do less than give Him my best,
And live for Him completely,
After all He’s done for me.1

If we want to be like Christ, we should seek to copy the way He lived. He always thanked God for the food, and often showed His gratitude in prayer for other gifts that God had given Him. Then, out of love for God, and gratitude, Jesus gave in like manner to everyone around Him.

With all that God has given us, He expects gratitude—the kind of gratitude that joyously serves Him in the lives of others.


1 Daasvand, Betsy. After All He’s Done For Me. Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Co., 1940.



Monday, November 14, 2016

Gratitude Erases Fear


[Photo of a woman in a hospital bed]

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and
petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
—Philippians 4:6-7

There it is, right in the middle of the verse above! “With thanksgiving.” Who has time to be thankful in the middle of an anxiety producing crisis? Apparently God expects it of us regardless of the circumstances.

“But what have I to thank Him for when I am in trouble?”

We can begin by thanking God for Who He is. Elsewhere in scripture we read that God has almighty power. Even the devils shudder at that! (James 2:19) That means He is bigger than any trouble we have. We can also look to His omniscience—His “all-knowing wisdom” about us in more detail than we know ourselves and about every situation in which we find ourselves.

Add to that His omnipresence—His “everywhere presence” which He has promised will never leave or forsake us. We can also thank Him that nothing comes our way unless He allows it. He has a good plan for us, and wants to use everything, even our troubles, to accomplish His will in us. Thank Him for it!

What else can we give thanks for in the middle of our prayer-producing crisis? We can remember how God has treated us in the past. How He has answered prayer. How He has spared us worse harm than we had coming to us. How He has revealed His love to us during each situation.

Has He healed you before? Then thank Him, and allow that remembrance to take away your fear. Has He provided for you before when you have needed help? Don’t fear. He will provide for you this time too.

What does our verse from Philippians promise us when we come with gratitude to God with our requests? It promises that we will have “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding.” Too much to get our minds around! That’s the kind of powerful result we will see from praying through our fears with thanksgiving.

I challenge each of us, including myself, to live in the place of thanksgiving during all fearful and impossible situations. Let’s see what God will produce in us to replace that fear!



Monday, November 7, 2016

Gratitude Excites Humility


[Photo of DaVinci's

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and
glorify the King of heaven, because everything
he does is right and all his ways are just.
And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
—Daniel 4:37

Pride seems to erase gratitude. Have you ever thought about that? And the reverse seems true as well. Gratitude erases pride. How does that happen?

Scripture gives us a multitude of examples of people and nations filled with pride that God had to humble. For example in Ezekiel 28:17, God said to the city of Tyre:

Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.

Even Satan himself, filled with pride heard these words of God recorded in Isaiah 14:13:

You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.

We all have those things for which we are tempted to take pride. Whether it’s “my” body of work, “my” family, “my” home, “my” beauty, “my” talent, “my” personality. When we take personal credit, gloat over others, or try to impress others, we have taken those things that God has given us and turned them into objects of pride, forgetting that He is the source of every good and perfect thing in our lives.

Even countries, cities, and churches can get prideful about the wonderful things that have come their way through God’s grace. When I hear people talk about American Exceptionalism, I agree in part. But, I wish those who speak so pridefully of it would also recognize that God has “shed His grace” on us. As a nation, we have been extraordinarily blessed by Him. We simply cannot take sole credit for anything we have.

Can we feel pleasure in the things God has uniquely given us? Certainly. But, when that pleasure erupts into praise of self, we have crossed a line. When sinful pride creeps into our thinking, we should step back, realize all God has done for us in creating us with gifts and abilities, and gratefully bow in worship before our great God. He gives us gifts of all sorts. And, He wants us to joyfully use them to glorify Him.

In our example of Nebuchadnezzar with which we started this blog post, we see a pagan king, who experienced the humbling of God, pausing to reflect on this powerful, righteous One.

How much more should we daily acknowledge God’s work in us. We should take no credit. Instead, we should bow in grateful praise. Everything we have should be on display for God’s glory—not ours!