The Holiness Fight

This is the beginning of the end. The beginning of the final battle and I want to stay in the fight.

Ax victory

I just read an article on the state of the American church and it cited a study done by the  Barna Group that looked at 70 different moral behaviors and could find no statistical difference between Christian and non—Christian behaviors in any of these areas. That can only mean one thing—There’s no holiness, there’s no respect or gratitude for the price that was paid for their forgiveness.

And there’s no witness.

How can we expect anyone to believe a word we say about a God who saves, a God who redeems, who changes us from the inside out freeing us from the snares of sin, addictions and emotional turmoil when we behave like animals with no control over our flesh or our emotions. Yes none of that is easy, but it takes you desiring to be free, not just forgiven, and it takes a real relationship with Jesus.

He’s not going to wade through a swamp of sin to spend time with you if you are content to wallow in filth and then wonder why you don’t hear Jesus and why you are not being blessed.

Maybe the enemy is not harassing you there, why would he? You’re no longer a threat to him. But you may end up in his goat pen in the end.

Outer Darkness

Depart from me, I never knew youMat 7:24

How do you like me now?

The Robe

I’m just urging you to take your relationship with Jesus seriously. Take your invitation seriously.

“See, I have prepared my dinner; …”  But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. the wedding

This last year was a challenge for many Christians I know. It seems like the battles just keep ramping up and the hits just keep coming. The strong are being stretched and the weak are falling away. We cannot give up. The Lord is calling us to holiness. I have been saying this since last year and I have seen the Lord putting his people through the refiners fire and the faithful being strengthened.

This is the beginning of the end. The beginning of the final battle and I want to stay in the fight. I want to see the victory and wield the weapons the Lord is pouring out on the faithful who have not given up or given in.

I still believe we are going to see God use people you least expect to do miracles and unleash the power of heaven in places you least expect. I see it already happening.

Pray for our president. Despite his flaws he is the first president we have had in many decades who is fighting for the church, not just talking about it. Pray for your pastor. He lives to fight for you-and it is a battle. Pray for your children and grandchildren. They are the warriors of tomorrow and the enemy would love to take them out before their fight begins. And pray that you have the courage and the faith to be used by God to advance the kingdom in ways you never imagined you would be used by God to do.

Many are invited but only those who take it seriously will be still standing in the end. God will only use the Holy.

many invited

It seems that all are invited but  it will not be the big name —everyone look at me —flashy church celebrities that are left standing to fight the battles ahead. It will be those who quietly and sometimes bewilderdly stood apart while the world seemed to go mad around them.

And they will win.

few chosen

Who will be allowed to stay in the wedding feast? The question in the end will always be, do you know Him?

If you do you will be given the white robe and you will be allowed to stay.

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” Rev 19

So go into this new year ready to fight, and win—you were made for this! -(Carolton on YouTube)

 

Whatever Happened to H#%l?

“The truth is still the truth, sin is still sin, Hell is still hot and the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and the road narrow that leads to its gates”

king's invite

We’ve all been invited to a royal wedding. Yet, there are still those who think it no big deal nor worth preparing or being inconvenienced for.

The ever expanding culture of anything goes and every deviant behavior is normal and good that’s all around us has permeated the church and had a devastating effect on the Bride of Christ. Very few churches preach holiness any more. I mean, living a life that is different from the world around us, living by God’s standards regardless of what the world is telling us we must believe say and do. Just the fact that I have to explain holiness is a sad testimony.

Many of those who go to church, who want to get that invitation, that ticket to heaven, just want to get their assurances that they’re fine; ‘Jesus loves you no matter what so just do whatever.’

Sin is not confronted, Hell is not preached let alone believed in—If you’ve ever read through the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) you may have noticed that many of the stories Jesus told end up with people in outer darkness, weeping and gnashing ,and feeding the worms with their burning flesh—apparently Jesus believed in Hell!

Outer Darkness

Here’s the question we need to ask those who argue otherwise; “If there is no hell then why did Jesus pay such a heavy price to redeem us from it?” Why suffer rejection and humiliation, dying a bloody naked torturous death on the cross where a person basically suffocated to death after they became to weak to pull themselves up against the nails in their hands in order to take the pressure of their diaphragm in so they could inhale?

What could be so terrible that the Son of God himself would allow himself to be subjected to that horror in order to save us? Oh wait, I know—Hell. And then there’s the whole wrath of God being poured out in him thing as He who knew no sin became sin while he hung there in the darkness that struck the earth in the middle of the day as the creator was being destroyed, as the author of life was being killed.

And then Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow him. What do you suppose that means? What did it mean to him? What did it mean to those who heard him? They all knew what a cross was; a cross was an instrument of death. We know what that means because Paul would tell us—we must crucify the flesh and it’s evil desires and live for the Spirit.

crucified the flesh

But that’s not a popular message is it? People want to be patted on the head, entertained and not made to feel like they have to change anything in their lives; ‘just show up, put a few dollars in the plate and bring your friends next week and we’ll promise we won’t offend them. We’ll only use scriptures about love and blessings, if we use any scripture at all, and we’ll make sure we have you out of here in time to make the playoff games. You have beer to drink after all.’

You can have it

You know what? If that’s what it takes to build a big church where I can have a full time salary and a staff that does all the tedious or messy work of ministry while I just write fun sermons and get all the acclamations—if that’s what it takes to have enough tithing members that I don’t have to work like a dog in the mud, the dirt, the cold or the heat all day every day, well, I’ll just keep my construction job for as long as this tired old body keeps moving.

And I’ll keep preaching truth to those who show up here serious about going to that wedding. Because if I am responsible for one person getting booted out of the feast because they showed up in their filthy clothes and had no good answer as to why, then I deserve to be cast out with them.

invited to the wedding

You can have it. I was made for this.

I don’t want your fancy suits and your retirement packages. I’d rather work shoulder to shoulder with someone who is desperate for truth and hope and doesn’t know where to begin looking because none of those people from the big fancy churches ever bothered to get to know them, listen to them and love them. They had to get ready for the next retreat where they could teach or hear about how God has a plan for them that no doubt includes abundant blessings.

I am here to make disciples, not converts. I am here to make soldiers for the Kingdom of Heaven, not camp followers. I’m here to turn barbarians loose who will now turn their passion for adventure and overcoming all obstacles into a passion to overcome the prince of darkness and take this world for the King of Kings unashamed and unapologetic. Pillaging the world for Jesus still wild eyed and fiercely determined behind shields of faith but now wielding the sword of the Spirit, no longer being deceived by the lusts of the flesh and the lies of the enemy that once drove us to self-destruction.

Eph 6 meme

And those of you who have stuck it out with me and lived and preached the word of God as best we can, as honestly and as completely as we can— well, you will be, you and all in the few churches scattered across this land where the truth is still the truth, sin is still sin, Hell is still hot and the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and the road narrow that leads to its gates, we will be a part of a celebration like the universe has never seen nor ever will again and then we will commence to rule with Christ.

faithful over a few

Our day is coming

And our day here in this life is coming as well. Check that– our day is here!

God will use the faithful few of this generation to wake up his called, to prepare the way and to usher in the Kingdom once and for all.

14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” -Jesus Christ Mat 22

Barbarians in the Kingdom

Barbarians ad copy axe

Audience of One?

“You are given those gifts, those talents if you will, to invest in others, not to invest in yourself.”

As I was reading through the Parable of the talents  the other day I had a random thought pop into my mind when I came across this part about the wicked and lazy servant: And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ Mat 25:25

What came to my mind was this; “I play for an audience of one.”

That’s an old worship leader adage. As someone who led worship for many years myself I had heard that many times. I think I have even had a shirt that said that once, but suddenly it dawned on me that that may be wrong, that playing, using your talent, with no consideration for anyone else, just playing or singing solely to impress or bless God, to just use it as a vehicle to bring yourself into his presence where, of course, you’ll expect to be blessed, is perhaps, selfish.

You are just giving back what the Lord gave you, no more, no less.

have what is yours

Now, don’t start throwing rocks at me here, I might be all wet, but we have to pay attention  to these random thoughts while we’re reading scripture because it is often the Spirit showing us things through his word.

Why does God give someone the gift of music? Why does God give someone a voice that others want to hear and try to emulate and sing along with and them give them an opportunity to use it to lead worship?— I’m talking about believers here—He gives you that gift to lead others into his presence, to give others the opportunity to worship and be blessed by coming into the presence of the Lord through that worship music.

Or, to encourage a group of people, people whom the Lord loves, to lift up their voices together, or to play their instruments together, to bless the Lord God Almighty the maker of heaven and earth.

You are given those gifts, those talents if you will, to invest in others, not to invest in yourself. God invested in you when he gave you those talents. Hiding your talent for fear of using it because you might be embarrassed, is the same as burying it in the back yard for safe keeping.

Or, if you are using your talents with no thought to how others are responding as long as you are being blessed, that is selfishness and may well warrant that—Jesus’ words not mine—wicked and lazy servant title.

invest his talents

My worship leading, all the years I spend playing guitar, learning new chords, learning and practicing song after song, many hours each week—none of that was for me, (at least it was not supposed to be, pride is another battle) that was all an investment into the lives of others. If you are a worship leader, you are someone who had been entrusted with a huge bag of gold, (What a biblical talent really is) so invest wisely.

The Master does not just want his money back interest free. “Here’s what you gave me, isn’t it beautiful?” So no, do not play for an audience of one. Do not preach or teach for an audience of one, do not witness for an audience of one, do not sacrifice and give all that you have for no other purpose than to try to impress God.

preciopus

Don’t just live in your underground caverns with your precious gift like Smeagol and his ring uncaring about anyone else.

You can do it for God, because you love him and want to share his love with others, but he is not your audience, He is your Lord, your inspiration and your power and he asks us to advance his kingdom, not our own. We advance the Kingdom, we always advance the Kingdom, by witnessing, blessing and encouraging others.

We do that with the gifts He gave us.

Invest in people

If you want to just keep your talents between you and the Lord then you might as well join a monastery, go live high on a mountain with no contact with the outside world in your own little holy bubble and make sure you don’t lose or desecrate your talent, keeping it safe and sound, no challenges to it, no stretching it, no wearing it out—nothing ventured nothing gained—or lost.

At least not until the master returns to see how you invested his investment in you. “What? No fruit, no interest, you could have at least put it in the bank where they could have done something with it and payed you a few bucks in return! ‘Take what he has and give it to someone who I know will invest it.’”

Take his talent.jpgMatthew 25:28-30

Give it to someone who will at least try to make a return.

You see, it wasn’t that this, the third servant in our parable, did anything wrong, it was simply that he did nothing.

So, if you are going to say I play for an audience of one, that audience of one needs to be a person who needs you to play for them, who needs you to invest what the Lord has given you into them.

did it unto me.jpg

So, a better adage might be, I would play for an audience of one.

Would you? –Would you play for an audience of one? Would you preach or teach for an audience of one? Would you use any of the things the Lord has given you, time, energy, wisdom, money—even give all of it—just to invest into three, two, even just one person? Will you be faithful over just a few?

The church has been dying off in the last couple of decades because too many people answer no to that question.

Be the one who says yes!

faithful over a few.jpg

Small Things, Big Results

He was breathing garlic, sweating garlic, and s*#%ng garlic. 

They are a couple of short parables, one right after the other, that Jesus used to describe the Kingdom of Heaven that share something real obvious else in common. They are about small things with a huge impact. -A tiny seed producing a large tree; a small bit of leaven affecting a whole lot of dough.

Mustard seed.jpg

Let’s think about the mustard seed thing for a minute. Yes there are bigger trees, but Jesus isn’t talking about trees, he’s talking about herbs. What is an herb? You don’t make a meal of herbs, have you ever said ‘let’s sit down and enjoy a big bowl of mustard!’ (If you have you are very strange)

Or have you ever dined on a plate of rosemary and thyme? You can try it but you’ll probably be sorry. I know there are people who smell like they have eaten nothing but herbs—”eew-wee, did you eat a bowl of garlic for breakfast?” But that’s because it only takes a small amount of most herbs to make a huge smell– and it’s never good second hand.

Garlic Boy

I worked with an electrician once who ate a whole jar of pickled Costco garlic. He told me it was so good he just couldn’t stop eating it. As you know, nothing that comes from Costco is small so this was a good sized jar. I had the misfortune of having to work around him the next day.

That garlic was determined to make its presence known. He was breathing garlic, sweating garlic, and he had to run to the bathroom several times that day to more directly vacate that garlic. He was miserable, and so was anyone who got near him—or that bathroom.

I nicknamed him Garlic Boy after that day.

But the point is, herbs are meant to flavor something, to change the palatability, the taste, to enhance, alter or even preserve food.

Yeast does pretty much the same thing. So when Jesus compares the kingdom to a mustard seed, he’s talking about an herb that flavors and alters whatever it’s put in to, but yet when planted and allowed to grow, unlike other herbs that generally grow on fast growing and low lying plants that whither and die fairly quickly or can easily be trodden underfoot, the little tiny mustard seed is an herb that grows into a strong sturdy long lived tree that cannot be overlooked and draws in, and sustains, life.

“…but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

Remember the point of these short parables—they are conveying what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. So the Kingdom of heaven, though it may seem like these are just insignificant stories of a faraway fantasy place, in the face of other things of this world that seem to undeniably slam into you like Jalapenos and Habaneros making your eyes water and your lips burn, this kingdom is real and it can change the world like nothing else can, it just works differently—diligently, consistently, sometimes imperceptibly.

Until you have a tree that produces more mustard seeds than you can possibly use or plant alone and withstands the storms, the droughts and the changing seasons.

Sounds like the kind of kingdom I want to belong to, sounds like the kind of church I want to belong to.

Are you letting the kingdom take root in your heart? Are you trusting the still small voice, the leaven of the Holy Spirit that continues to give rise to good things if you’ll just give it time and keep it in the proofer of your soul.

leaven Bread

Hide God’s word in your heart, plant his love in your soul, and watch the fruits of joy, peace and hope take root and turn your new year into the most blessed year ever.

Affecting the world for the Kingdom of heaven starts with the small things, it starts often times just with your smile.

smile light.jpg

 

 

 

Worth It?

Such are the dreams of the bi—vocational small town pastor.

Pastor Dan.jpg

For all it’s challenges, I love pastoring a small church. We had such a wonderful and sweet Christmas eve service just gathering together with old friends, and new; seeing the kids have such a wonderful time as they acted out the nativity story, learning the real meaning of Christmas in the process while reminding and blessing the rest of us at the same time. All this on the heels of Sunday morning and having the kids, all ages together to make up a small chorus, to sing a few Christmas songs.

Props were handmade or came from the Goodwill store and special effects consisted of an illuminated star ornament hanging off the light fixture above the stage, and a halogen work light hidden under a chair to illuminate the angels.

A Hope Chapel family Christmas .jpg

But I can guarantee that everyone left  leave here last Sunday and Christmas eve with a heart full of joy and memories that a professional high budget mega church presentation could never replicate.

I know I was blessed. I’m still replaying the events of those two services over in my mind, it was just so rewarding in so many ways.

But you know, it’s a lot of work, and that’s what I was thinking about between Sunday afternoon and Christmas eve service. Pastoring a church while working full time besides, is a lot of work and takes a lot of discipline and commitment–and then you throw in an extra service?

Now I don’t do this alone, many are involved in making this church work, and we all have responsibilities and challenges, and that’s the point.

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Blow it off?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just say, the heck with it, I’m going to just pursue my own fortune, spend my time and money on myself, my own pleasure and just worry about me, me, me. Like all those other people. I don’t want to write another sermon, I just wrote one last week! (and every week before that) I don’t want to spend another Saturday alone at the church, I have a lot of better things I could be doing, camping, fishing, hunting, fixing up or even building myself a house.

Or I could just go home after putting in my time at work and just sleep in front of the TV with a beer or two while looking forward to a vacation in Vegas. ‘Been saving up all year, it’s going to be a blast!’ Or maybe something more noble like a trip to the Holy Land or my ancestral Scandinavian home lands.

I could at least try to get a job in a big church so I wouldn’t have to work two jobs and then I could travel to exotic places now and then and call it missions or at least earned sabbaticals.

Such are the dreams of the bi—vocational small town pastor.

Awaken light of mine.jpg

And just saying all that out loud makes me cringe because down in my heart I know—No, I wouldn’t rather do any of that. Because in the end, none of that matters. What matters is that I am serving my Lord, the bridegroom, in the manner and place he wants me to serve him. If it means standing in a dark place with my flickering lantern ready to be put to good use at a moment’s notice, so be it.

What matters is that you, are being fed, you are getting oil for your lamps. What matters is that those kids, my kids, your kids, are hearing about Jesus, that they know they are loved and that they are important to me, to you and to their heavenly Father.

Christmas girl.jpg

(One of my grand daughters, and a grandson in the background expressing his opinion of the music)

What matters is that I am ready for Jesus to come back at any moment and that I am not going to waste any time. I will keep doing what I can to prepare myself and others in the meantime.

And the joy I feel when I see the smiles of those kids, the treasures I have amassed in my heart at seeing those the Lord puts in my path have a little better day, a little more spark in their eyes and spring in their step and maybe a song of praise on their lips because we simply showed up here and did what the Lord called and gifted us to do, I wouldn’t miss any of that for all the gold in the world.

The world can have their gold, Gold won’t burn in a lamp or light the way to anything. It only weighs you down and adds to your burden. Only love will keep those lights on, those lamps burning. And I have a never ending source of that love, his name is Jesus.

foolish virgins

The NIV study bible suggests that those virgins were “perhaps bridesmaids charged with preparing the bride for the groom.” If that is the case, the church is the bride and I will do all I can to be a wise virgin so that the bride of Christ will be ready for her groom.

We need a lot more wise virgins I can tell you that. Because there are a lot of messed up brides out there who won’t even know who their groom is when he does show up. Because here’s the little secret about the oil—it has to come from the groom.

And once he is on the way, he’s not carrying his supply any more to give to those who ask, the time for preparation is over, the hour has come, it’s His wedding day.

Oil in the scriptures is often a representation for the Holy Spirit and perhaps that is what the oil in this story is. How do we get the Holy Spirit? How do we keep in tune with the Spirit?- live for the Spirit and not the flesh. We have to keep going to Jesus, and to the Father through Jesus. Spending time with him in prayer, in his word, in worship, meditating on his word, seeking wisdom, believing for miracles and intervention, trusting him for our needs while working with the hands and the gifts he gave us.

By seeking his Kingdom first and foremost and trusting that all else will be added unto us as we need, not as we desire.

oil for my lamp.jpg

It’s living for the groom, not for ourselves. Keeping our jars full at all times.

Broken

“That cup in its state of scarred repair is more beautiful than it ever was.”– So are you!

A year or two ago our daughter Cally was over for our annual Christmas morning potato pancake breakfast. A tradition that started somewhat by accident as I enjoyed making breakfast for my girls when they were little and as I perfected the elusive perfect potato pancake. Enjoying a cup of coffee and the company of family gathered, she somehow chipped her coffee cup, the one with a real cool Currier and Ives type Christmas scene on it, that she was using. I heard the clink but didn’t see the damage and I said half-jokingly, “Oh don’t break that, that’s Mom’s favorite cup, she picked that up at the Christmas stroll.” A few minutes later, amidst the chaos of many little ones playing and adults visiting, she’s frantically searching the house for super glue—she wanted to fix the cup.

person holding a mug infront of a lighted christmas tree
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It wasn’t until later when she was explaining to her mom in tears that she had broken her cup that I realized the tragedy I had exacerbated. She felt horrible about it. And then I felt horrible because I had just made things worse with my off handed remark.

My wife, Donna, of course told her not to worry about it, she loved Cally more than any cup. Donna later fixed the broken cup.

Can you tell it was once broken? Yes, but it is more valuable now than it ever was because of the incredible love and emotion that was poured back and forth over that cup, because of the accident and the heartache it caused.

That cup now says to Donna, “My daughter loves me so much that she was broken over having chipped what she knew was something that I valued.” And that glued together cup also now says, “My mother loves me so much that she was more upset over my heartbreak than she was about her once beautiful but now broken cup.”

That cup in its state of scarred repair is more beautiful than it ever was.

Jesus tells several parables in his last days, many of them aimed at the religious hypocrisy of the Priests and Pharisees of his day. And the end of one such story he warns:

fall on the stone.jpg

Sounds dire, unless you know a little more about the nature of our God and the symbolism of his word built  in the scripture over time.

The way I see this, this business about falling on the stone and being broken? Being broken can be a good thing. And if you are going to be broken, the rock is the place to do it because the rock is where you can be rebuilt, it is after all a cornerstone, the chief corner stone.

The commentaries and study Bible notes will tell you that the reference here to falling on the stone and being broken means you’re done. That’s just not consistent with scripture. Being broken is always a prerequisite to being repaired, fixed—born again. God loves the broken. In fact, it is the only sacrifice he requires.

broken and mended .jpg

I think the more profound and certainly more encouraging message here, the secondary and more consequential meaning of this prophetic word first uttered by Isaiah and then claimed by Jesus, is that if you fall on the stone, purposely throw yourself on the stone, broken—broken down, brokenhearted, a broken soul who has realized just how empty, sinful, hopeless and lost you really are apart from the chief cornerstone, you will be rebuilt.

Repentance—repentance is the first step to becoming a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

Powder?

believe and recieve Jesus

Now, rejecting the rock, Jesus, out of hand and in the end having to be crushed by it, is certainly a bad thing–something that’s ground to powder ceases to exist. But something that is broken can be fixed. God loves a broken spirit, God loves a broken heart, because it is usually a heart that is open for him to repair, to rebuild, to remake—better, more resilient and more committed to remaining strong and whole than ever before.

I believe that for you! Yours is now a heart that now knows that if it falls, it can get up and go on, that if it breaks it can be restored and it is now in a solid place where it can be rebuilt to withstand the storms. The rock is a place to build, it is not a place of destruction.

The Holy Spirit told me as I was starting to work on the larger part of this message for my church Sunday–and it didn’t make any sense to me at first in light of what the parable says:

“The rock is here and it is a place to stand, a place to be strong and a place to grow.”

a son is given

To us a Son is given, the rock has come. Claim your healing, claim your peace.

Barbarians in the kingdom

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Preacher Dan

Have a most blessed and merry Christmas everyone!

The Best Present

“It was a reminder of simpler days when we never had much but we always had love.”

best present.jpg

I love the Christmas season. Perhaps because I have rich memories of Christmas from when I was a child and of when our kids were young. The traditions that bring you together and the anticipation of that glorious day when you get to give the ones you love those special presents you have put so much thought into, or shopped so diligently to find.

You know, and it’s really not the money you spend, it’s more the love behind it. I remember one Christmas when our girls were little we didn’t have much money and the little we had to spend we spent on the girls. But I was determined that I had to get Donna something. So I went to K-Mart a day or two before Christmas and right there near the front entrance was the cutest little mouse figurine. I picked it up expecting it to be porcelain and expensive but it was actually a wax candle and it was only $1.00.

Perfect for my budget. I felt kind of bad only spending a dollar on my wife for Christmas but I literally only had about $2.00 in my pocket. Times were lean but life was good. I gave Donna that mouse on Christmas morning and she loved it. It sat on the window sill in the kitchen for years so she could see it as she washed dishes until it finally got totally bleached out by the sun. It was a reminder of simpler days when we never had much but we always had love.

Of course as a child it’s the receiving that’s so exciting, the anticipation. I remember it well, the magic of Christmas as a child as it seems the whole world is celebrating one great event together as it does at no other time.

And the presents! Just what is in those beautifully wrapped presents under the tree? Did I get what I asked for? Maybe something so wonderful I never even thought to ask? Oh the anticipation is almost too much to bear—I have to know the secret to what’s under the tree! But you know you have to wait, Christmas is coming, all the signs are there, the lights and the decorations, the special shows on TV, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, the Johnny Cash Christmas special, the Little Drummer Boy.

There’s driving around town seeing all the lit up houses and the lights on main street, the Santa Clause who shows up at your door just after dinner on Christmas eve who looks strangely like a friend of your parents, scares your baby sister half to death, and leaves with a cold Grain Belt beer in his hand.

man wearing santa claus costume
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

And then it’s bedtime and your parents tell you that tomorrow is Christmas morning so you had better get to sleep. But you lie awake for what seems like hours, too excited to sleep. Tomorrow is the day I get to find out the secret to what’s under the tree, to see what shows up in the stockings hung on the mantel with care. And then it’s time, the break of dawn, family gathered—finally, come on mom, we’ve been waiting forever!

I can remember almost everything I got when I was a kid. The 60’ and 70’s was the golden age of toys. Hot wheels and matchbox cars. Apollo moon mission astronaut action figures, GI Joes, Johnny West and his horse, Tonka toy trucks made of real steel, Rock ‘em Sock ’em Robots, Gumby, real Slinkys, not the plastic things they sell now, cap guns Etch a Sketches, Little Golden books and Scooby-Do lunch boxes, and the best toy of all, the Daisy BB Gun! Christmas’s were great!

BB Gun

As you get older, sadly, you lose some of that excitement, the Christmas spirit can be replaced by the stress of having to be the one to make that Christmas magical for the kids. But remember, it’s not so much the stuff they get, it’s what you make of the holiday for them. The joy and the love that is felt and shared, whether it’s a one dollar mouse or a Tonka Toy Bull Dozer big enough to dig a swimming pool in the back yard, don’t lose the joy, don’t lose the wonder.

Remember whom we celebrate.

Virgin with Child

If you have been born again you remember well the joy of discovering the secret of our salvation, of having the greatest gift of all revealed to us—that Jesus came to this earth from heaven as a baby, to grow up teaching us the mysteries of heaven and then opening the door for us to walk in by giving his life for us, and all we have to do is believe and receive.

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God sent us the long ago and oft promised gift, we didn’t know exactly what it would be or how it would help us, but when it was revealed on the day we heard the gospel and it finally clicked, it was better than we could ever have imagined.

I am loved! I am forgiven! And I am part of a family–a family that get’s to celebrate everyday the life that he gives us and the life to come.

I remember well when I first realized what the answer was, the answer to my question; Is there really a God? Can I know him if there is? What’s this cross and resurrection business about anyway.

As I sat there as a teenager and read through the gospels something just clicked in my mind and spoke to my heart; ‘God is real, Jesus died for you and you are loved and going to heaven.’

It would be several more years before I fully opened the gift and embraced the Lordship of Jesus by heeding his Spirit and letting him free me of the self-destructive nature of the flesh, but that was another glorious day I will never forget, one full of joy and excitement; Look what I got! It’s the greatest gift ever! Even better than Rock’em Sock’em Robots!

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But then the stresses of life start creeping in and we start to lose that enthusiasm, the magic is gone and it just becomes one foot in front of the other. Don’t lose the wonder, don’t lose the excitement, you still have the gift and the gifts and it can be new every morning if you just keep looking to him, to the one who reveals the secret things to your heart.

You have so much more to learn, he has so much more to give—and for you to give others.

Your place is assured, keep looking to tomorrow and don’t let the cares of this world steal your joy, you belong to a higher kingdom. Keep shining.

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You have life, you have Jesus. And that’s the best present of all!