MAY THE LORD RICHLY BLESS YOU IN THE COMING YEAR!
Re-Gifting…no matter how you feel about it, most of us have done it. I know I certainly have. I am a minimalist and have received many gifts over the years that I wouldn’t use. Most were really nice and I knew people who would love to have them. Passing them on seemed like the perfect opportunity to put those presents to good use. Several years ago, I began a little “store” in one of my closets. I would put those gifts and other great buys I found during the year there. When I needed a gift, I would go into my store and find the perfect gift to give.
During this Christmas Season, it seems like another opportunity to re-gift some of those nice things that I have been given during the year. When I look in my “store” I am only finding intangibles to give this year. Hm-m-m, what should I do?
The first gift I see when I look into my store is “Forgiveness.” I have received Forgiveness from others during the year and it seems only right to give that to those needing it. The second gift I see is “Acceptance.” So many people have Accepted me the way I am and surely I can be gracious enough to pass that along can’t I? As I look deeper into my “store,” I find gifts that the Lord has given me that I know He would like me to give to others. He would like me to share His kindness with others, and for sure, His compassion. He would also like me to share His Story. The Story about how He sent His Son to this earth to die for our sins and give those who believe in Him eternal life.
Re-Gifting….how do you feel about it? Does it have a place in your gift giving this season? Perhaps you are not into re-gifting tangible items but what about the intangibles? Some of them can be absolutely priceless!
Almost immediately after Thanksgiving, I began to think about the gifts I wanted to give this year. After mulling around what to give my family, I thought about what to give to others for Christmas this year. I want to give gifts that will last longer than a few weeks. The first gift I thought of was Respect.
Respect is a gift I can give others that will build them up and encourage them each time I see them. But I just don’t want to give it to those I know, I want to give it to those I meet on the street. What kind of people you ask?
People that have a different skin color.
People that have a different economic status.
People that have a different religion or no religion at all.
People that don’t agree with my political views.
People that come from different countries and live in different cultures.
People that are living different lifestyles.
People that look like they are living on the edge of society.
Will it make a difference to them if someone treats them with Respect? I hope so. But even if it doesn’t, I will feel better that I have treated my fellow man with the Respect he or she deserves.
What about you? What’s on your Christmas gift list? Would you like to add Respect to your gift giving list. It won’t cost you a thing and it will come back to you in spades. How about it?
Image by Cristian Ferronato, Courtesty of Pixabay.
So Grateful for You! May you be richly blessed! Valerie and Mike
In Math, one plus one equals two. You can count on it. But in life, it is not always that simple. When I watch what passes for entertainment, I am surprised that people’s actions rarely have real life consequences.
In the entire time I have been watching TV and movies, I believe that less than five times I have seen women get pregnant who are sleeping with other guys. It is a real rarity. We are supposed to believe that a woman can sleep with whoever she wants whenever she wants and there will not be any repercussions. Certainly in these situations one plus one can equal three, four or more.
When it comes to sexually transmitted diseases, real life statistics can go through the roof depending on where you live. I believe that possibly, and I mean possibly, I may have seen one show on TV where someone who had been sleeping around got an STD. Is is really true that a person can sleep around and not have to deal with an STD ever? In these cases one plus one can equal three, four or five also.
Those of us living in reality know that actions do have consequences. How many of us have had to face one or more of these situations? What about our friends? How many times do we know very young teenagers who have gotten pregnant or had to deal with an STD? These situations are heartbreaking because the consequences from some of this behavior can last a lifetime.
As parents, let’s teach our children well. Let’s not leave it up to the school or other kids to educate our children on the dangers of casual sex. There is nothing casual about sex, or at least there shouldn’t be, and these actions can scar our children for many years to come. When watching television or movies with our kids, let’s be quick to point out the absurdity portrayed that actions don’t have real life consequences.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.
My husband and I were watching a movie the other night. A man had taken a woman on a date and asked her if she wanted to go for a ride in his boat. He then picked up his cell and tried to make a call. No coverage. He then told her they needed to go “further out” to get more cell coverage. She had no problem with that. What she didn’t know was that the man was trying to get her away from shore so that he could kill her. The audience knew it but she did not. We all wanted to say, “Don’t go further out. Stay near shore where there are other people and it is safe!”
The audience knew the man did not mean “further out,” he meant “further away.” Further away from safety. People that don’t have our best interest at heart want to do that. They try to isolate us from the people that love us, i.e. our friends and family, so that we have no one to turn to if we need help.
In life though, it is just not people that want to do that. As believers in Jesus Christ, we have an enemy that wants to isolate us from other believers. For a Christian, it is a dangerous place because we need other believers to pray for us and support us. During the pandemic, there was a time when everyone stayed home from church because the churches were closed. However, when they opened back up, everyone did not return.
According to George P. Wood in his article, “Six Reasons People Aren’t Coming Back to Church,” there are several reasons people are not returning. Top of the list is Covid Hesitancy. Many are afraid to return and be exposed to large groups of people. That is understandable. Others though are not returning because of Inertia. They have gotten used to staying home and it is hard to get them moving again to get up and attend church. The third reason is Weak Attachment. The people did not have a strong attachment to Christ or their church and the cares of the last year have strangled the little faith they had.
Anyone looking at those that are getting “further away” from their church know they are in a dangerous place. The seas of life are rough and we need other believers to help us through the difficult times. We need good solid teaching from the Bible to ground us during the uncertain times we live in. The Scripture speaks to us in Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as in the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.”
Are you in the boat? Is someone taking you further out, further away from other believers? Turn back while you still can! Better yet, get out of the boat and stay close to shore, close to others where there is safety in numbers. We don’t want to end up being a statistic. A statistic such as Lifeway Research found: After the Pandemic, 6 percent of churchgoers said they would attend less often, 2 percent said they would now attend rarely and 1 percent said they would never go back to church.
Further out? Further Away? Not on your life!
Six Reasons People Aren’t Coming Back to Church. George P. Wood. July 23, 2021. Influencemagazine.com
Image by jplenio. Courtesy of Pixabay.
Marco looked across the bay. He loved watching the ocean from his office window. Today, there was no fog and he felt like he could see forever. The blue of the Pacific Ocean was stunning as it glistened in the full sun. It was late Friday afternoon and he was calling it quits for the week. He turned around and looked at his office. He smiled as he saw all of the awards he had received throughout his career as a real estate broker. It had been quite a ride and he was still enjoying the thrill as each sale closed and his company received its commission.
Tomorrow was his 50th birthday and he and his family were going to spend the weekend at his parent’s winery in Napa. He loved his parents but had chosen not to stay in Napa and work with his dad and brothers. Growing grapes and making wine did not compare to the thrill of making thousands of dollars from just one real estate transaction.
Marco walked out the door of his office and headed for the elevator. As he started to reach for the button, everything went black and he collapsed on the floor. He woke up as his spirit left his body and traveled upwards. In a few moments, he was in a room filled with light and millions of books. He looked around and saw what he believed were two angels. They looked at him and then turned and opened a gigantic door. A being filled with light entered and when his eyes adjusted to the light, he could see the most beautiful being he had ever seen. Not only was this person filled with light, he could feel love emanating from his every pore. He could see the scars on his hands and feet and he knew instantly who he was. This was Jesus, the Son of God that his parents had taught him about when he was little.
Marco could do nothing else but fall on his face and worship Him. Jesus came forward and lifted him up. As He touched Marco, love filled Marco’s being. He knew he was loved completely at that moment. A flash of fear coursed through Marco’s mind. What was he doing here? Had he died? What about his life? As those thoughts went through his mind, Marco began to see his life pass before him.
He saw the things he had done as a child and as a teenager. He saw his rejection of God in his college years and his obsession with money and his career in his twenties, thirties and forties. His life looked oh so shallow and self-centered. Had he done any good? He saw how he loved his wife and kids and how his company contributed every year to the homeless shelter near his office. He wondered, was that enough to get him into heaven?
No words were spoken as Jesus looked into the Book of Life that one of the angels held in his hand. He searched for Marco’s name but could not find it. “I’m sorry Marco. I created you to spend eternity with me, but you rejected every advance I made to offer you my love.” Marco then saw the hundreds of times that Jesus had protected him and spoken to him in a still small voice. He watched himself ignore those moments as he hurried on about his life, anxious to cut another deal and make another great commission.
Jesus turned and left the room. One of the angels pointed to the Hellevator and Marco knew that he was going to have to take it and live in a Christless eternity. He began weeping as he was escorted to the Hellevator. The door opened and he saw a demon waiting to take him to Hell. He tried to back up but a force just kept drawing him forward into the Hellevator. He started screaming, “No, No, I am so sorry.” He heard his voice echo off the walls in the Hellevator and the demon smile a wicked smile. Just as the door began to close, everything went dark again.
“One, Two, Clear.” A bolt of electricity shocked his heart. His heart began to beat and he heard, “He’s back. Let’s get him down the elevator and to SF General.” He could feel them lift him onto the gurney and he heard the elevator door open as they rushed him inside. In just a few moments, he was on the street and they were loading him into the ambulance. Someone was talking to him, “We’ve got ya buddy, just hang on. You’re going to be okay.”
Marco felt the weight of his body and knew he was back in it. His chest hurt and he felt weak, so weak he could hardly talk. He looked up at the paramedic and whispered, “Thank you.” He then looked up through the roof of the ambulance into heaven, “Thank you Jesus, for a second chance. I won’t let you down.”
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16-17.
Image by Gerd Altman. Courtesy of Pixabay
A few weeks ago, I was flipping through the channels and saw a pastor playing the organ at his son’s church. I was a bit shocked as this pastor had a spectacular and highly public fall from grace in the late 1980’s. I had pretty much assumed that he was out of the ministry or at least the public eye. You know, kind of the “one and done” philosophy…one mistake and you are done.
I thought about him for a while and I realized that although that might be how the world looks at people, it is not necessarily how the Lord operates. If a person repents, gets counseling, does their time (if there is any to do), and is accountable to the church leadership and has proved over a period of time that he has truly changed course, there is the possibility that he or she may be restored to some type of ministry.
Why would anyone take the time to restore a person who had made a large mistake? This would be about love and grace, which are subjects for a different day. Besides the love and grace aspect, one would think that the Lord would just wipe his hands of someone who had blown it in a big way, but that is not true. The Scripture says that, “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29
So, what exactly does that mean? Well, let’s look at what irrevocable means: “not able to be changed, reversed or recovered. Final.” Oxford Languages. In other words, when the Lord gives us certain gifts and calls us to do certain things, He doesn’t take them back.
What does that mean for us? Is there someone sitting out there reading this who feels like they have blown it too badly to ever be used by God again? Have you failed Him or quit on Him in a big way? Can He or will He forgive you? Do you think He has given up on you…you know, one and done?
Unbelievably, when we read the verse above, we know that God is not in the business of taking back what He has given us. Not the gifts that allow us to serve Him, nor the calling to do it. They are ours to do with what we can. Have you turned your back on God or do you think He has turned His back on you?
You are the one who needs to turn around and look into the face of God. You will find His grace and love waiting to restore you. If you are willing, He is certainly willing. Is that kind of grace hard to believe in? Do you need an example from the Bible? In Acts 15: 36-41, we find two disciples arguing over John called Mark. He had deserted them in Pamphylia and Paul, the apostle, was not willing to take him with them again. You know, one and done; but Barnabas wanted him to go and he eventually took John Mark with him to minister to the fledgling church in Asia Minor.
So here’s the takeaway if that’s you. Turn around and take heart. God is not done with you yet. It is still not too late to be used by Him.
Image by Harry Strauss. Courtesy of Pixabay
When I was growing up, there was a weekly television series called “Father Knows Best.” Every week, the mother and kids would deal with a problem. They would wrestle with a solution and then the father would come home from work. He would listen to the problem and then, in his wisdom, would give them a solution. Whether they liked it or understood the answer, the family would follow the father’s advice and things would work out. Lately, the title of this sitcom has been in my mind.
I’ve been thinking about all the prayers I prayed as a teenager. They consisted of a lot of desires; the boys I thought I wanted to marry, where I thought I wanted to go to school, where I wanted to live, etc.; typical teenage girl hopes and dreams. Looking back, I am so thankful that my Heavenly Father did not answer those prayers with a “yes.” I certainly didn’t know what I was really asking for but He did. You see, my Heavenly Father really did know best all those years ago.
As I think through the decades of unanswered prayers, I wonder why there were so many “no” answers. I thought that what I was praying for was a good thing for my life or for the lives of others but so many of my requests were not answered the way I wanted them to. People divorced, died and lost their homes. Businesses were lost and loved ones went through a lot of suffering. I can’t even comprehend why my prayers were not answered and yet by faith I must trust that my Heavenly Father knew best.
My desire would always be to be spared suffering, for myself and those I pray for. In my quest of faith, I must admit that I don’t understand my Father’s allowance of suffering in this world. Why doesn’t he just wave a magic wand and make everything better? I have no answers for any of these questions. I do know a few things though.
I know I serve a good and loving God. I know that I live in a fallen world where there is suffering as a result of man’s sin. I know that this earth and this life are temporary and that there is an eternal life to come. I freely admit my lack of understanding but I do trust Him because after all, I believe that my Heavenly Father knows best.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.
Have you ever been at an expensive restaurant and asked about a dessert they are serving? Many times they will bring you a sliver of cake so you can taste it. This sample is a foretaste of what you will get if you order it. You may like it and sometimes it just doesn’t sit well on your palate and you decline to order it.
“Foretaste – a sample or suggestion of what lies ahead.” Oxford Languages
For those who have heard the predictions in the Bible about what is coming to our global society and pooh-pooh it; may I say we are getting a foretaste of what is coming now . “Surely,” some may say to themselves, “l live in a democracy and my rights will never be taken away.” Those who believe that are going to be in for a surprise!
Think about what is happening in our country right now:
Domestic Terrorists – School Board Moms are being given this label if they show up at a school board meeting and disagree with the current orthodoxy and are threatening.
Vaccine Mandates – People are being forced to get a vaccine they do not want in order to work, go to school, and travel. Mind you, this is a vaccine that does not provide lifetime immunity and one can still get the illness in question. Note: I am not against the vaccine, just forcing people to get it who do not want to take it.
Cancel Culture – If a person takes a stand that is counter to the current opinion floated in the culture, they may get piled on by hundreds if not thousands of people and get canceled. They may be fired and lose their job because of it.
Group Think – The mainstream media continually bombards us with their opinions of how things are and how they should be. The unbiased truth is not given by the media. The truth is ignored in order to promote a particular agenda. The media hopes that people will fall in line and conform to whatever is being promulgated at the moment.
Double Standard – There is one standard for the elite and one for the rest of the people.
Tech control – Big tech is doing its best to control the messaging in society. If you don’t agree with them, you might find yourself in Facebook jail or shadow banned for your opinions on Twitter.
Let’s face it. We are all being given a foretaste of what is coming. At some point, there will be a totalitarian Orwellian global society where those who disagree with the autocrats and the technocrats will be the enemy of the state. This will be especially true for Christians who refuse to bow down to the Ruler who is coming who will demand that everyone worship him and take his mark in order to buy and sell.
How do you like this foretaste? You will be served this particular dish whether you like it or not in the future. “What can I do?” you may ask. For now, take your stand where you need to but don’t die on any unnecessary hills. The time will come when we all need to stand for our convictions and pay the price, however heavy it may be.
Photo by Oleksandr Pyrohov. Courtesy of Pixabay.