The Gift List

30 11 2011

This is the time of year in which we are all looking for the perfect present for the people in our lives. We want the gift to be meaningful, fun, and bring joy and smiles. There are lots of great choices out there, but sometimes the most profound gifts are gifts of the heart. Here are ten gift list ideas that will help point the people you love to Jesus.

1. Bestow a blessing.

2. Commit to praying for someone for 30 days.

3. Share your favorite Bible verse.

4. Offer a word of encouragement, praise, or admiration.

5. Tell someone where you see God working in their life.

6. Make a list of 52 of God’s promises – one for each week of the year.

7. Speak the words, “I love you” often and out loud.

8. Give a gratitude journal. Fill the first entry with reasons you are thankful for that person.

9. Wrap up a packet of seeds and share how that someone planted the seeds of God’s love in your life.

10. Make a family resolution to Look Like Jesus. Create a sign for your refrigerator, cards for the bathroom mirrors, and give each family member a bracelet, necklace, or small something to carry in their pocket as a reminder to always choose Jesus.

My Jesus Resolution today is offer even the gifts I give during the holidays as tools for His glory. I want everything to point to Jesus. I want to inspire others to walk in His steps, follow in His ways, and live in His purpose. It starts by giving myself. I want to live my life in joyous response to the very great gift God has given me. I want to look like Jesus, and that is the best gift I can give to everyone around me.

The Best Deal Ever

28 11 2011

We have just finished the big sale weekend that launches the holiday season for retailers. Millions of shoppers got up in the wee hours of the morning, stood in line for hours, jostled their way through crowds, and joined in the excitement of finding great deals and super sales.

Black Friday has almost become as much of a tradition in some families as Thanksgiving itself. With a smile, I listened as friends described their preparations for their shopping trips. Some had shopping sleep-overs. Others took naps, studied ads, made lists, and drew up game plans. These early morning adventures served to strengthen connections, plant memories, and draw hearts closer, as much as it did to check off gift lists and save money.

All of the hubbub around this sale weekend also caused me to look into the mirror. Do I get as excited about receiving God’s free and gracious gifts as I do about finding a sale on toys? Do I prepare myself for running into His open arms at worship times with the same intensity that I prepare myself to go through an open store door at 3 a.m.? Do I set aside time, make a plan, connect with friends, and dedicate resources in order to more fully experience the best deal ever – the grace of Jesus Christ?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:8.

My Jesus Resolution today is to embrace the best deal ever. Shopping is fun. Finding great bargains is a blessing. But I don’t want to miss the best deal ever. I want to experience all the richness, power, peace, joy, and forgiveness embedded in God’s gift of grace. Just like super shoppers spend time preparing and planning in order to get in on the best deals at a store, I need to invest energy, focus, resources, and attention to having a heart ready to receive everything God wants to give me.

The Gratitude Challenge

25 11 2011

November is a month that reminds us to be thankful for our blessings. It has been refreshing to see many people sharing their gratitude, making lists of blessings, and posting reasons for thanks. Each blessing is a reminder of how God touches our days, shapes our moments, and meets our needs.

But here is the question that caught my attention as I have walked through this month of thanksgiving – why do we only do this during this one month a year?

Please understand that I am not criticizing those who have made a special effort to count their blessings and express thanks at this time of year. I rejoice in your attention to the God-details of your life. Your actions have caused me to examine myself. This is a question that holds a mirror up to my own heart. Daily expressions of thanksgiving should be as much on my mind in March as it is in November. I should be as easily aware of my blessings in July as I am around Thanksgiving. Gratitude traces the hand of God on my life. It opens my eyes to His presence, allows me to be overwhelmed by His provision, helps me catch glimpses of His power, and draws my heart even deeper toward the cross.

First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

I don’t want to stop giving thanks because the holiday is over. I want gratitude to permeate everything I do. I want thanksgiving to be the rhythm of my heart. As much fun as it has been to see Day 25 postings about thanksgiving, how powerful would it be if Facebook, Twitter, emails, and journals were filled with the blessings found on Day 225?

My Jesus Resolution today is to take the Gratitude Challenge. When November ends, I am not going to stop counting my blessings. I am going to watch for God’s hand, trace His fingerprints, and record His movement every day for the next year. Just one thing, one blessing, one reason to smile and remember how close He is and how much He cares. I think a year of giving thanks will change my heart. It will certainly open my eyes. Anyone want to join me?

A Smile

23 11 2011

Have you ever noticed the power of a smile? A simple smile can change everything. It can diffuse a difficult situation, build bridges, overcome language barriers, and bring grace into a dark moment. Smiles help us conquer our fears, touch the heart of another, and create a connection between souls.

I imagine that Jesus smiled….a lot. A smile is a gift of the heart. God created smiles. He wants us to use them. He made us to be a people who share smiles with everyone. We live in a world that is stingy with its smiles. Smiles invite connection. They open the door to conversation, promote transparency, and offer hope. Smiles help to remind us that we don’t walk alone. No matter our background, color, economic status, burdens, or gifts, a smile allows us to see God in the face of another person.

Mother Teresa once said, “Love begins with a smile.” It is a simple act of courage in a world that encourages us to keep to ourselves. It is a ray of sunshine in the darkness, an offer of friendship and unity. Frowns erect fences around our hearts. Smiles are gates, avenues of access and windows into joy.

My Jesus Resolution today is to smile. We are called to a life of love – radical love, outside-the-box love, generous love. A smile is a simple way to step into God’s call to love. I can offer a smile to everyone I meet today. I can smile at my postal carrier, the grocery clerk, my neighbor, the coworker in the next office, and my family. I am going to remember the power God built into a smile and offer each one as an act of worship and thanksgiving. And sometime today, I am going to turn my face toward the heavens, think about Jesus, and smile. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that God is smiling too.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

                                                                                    – Numbers 6:24-26

2 + 2 = 5

21 11 2011

There is an old saying that states that most of our prayers involve asking God to make two plus two equal five. There is a lot of truth in that.

God certainly has the power to work outside of the laws of nature, the realities of our physical world, and the consequences of our decisions. He often does – the sick are healed and doctors can’t explain it, safety is miraculously granted, provision arrives unannounced, and hearts are touched in ways we couldn’t imagine if we tried.

There is, however, a deep truth that God has been writing on my heart. “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7). In mathematical terms, this verse says that, most of the time, two plus two is going to equal four.

This verse doesn’t showcase a harsh reality, but rather highlights a faithful promise. The fruit of our lives is a marker that shows where we chose to invest our hearts, energy, love, focus, time, and priorities. Whatever I am reaping today is in large part the product of what I have sown by my choices and places of surrender or stubbornness.

I may look at a piece of my life today and be discouraged by what I see. It speaks to the reality of my past decisions and submission. But don’t underestimate the good news contained in this verse. If you want to reap something different, start sowing different things.

My Jesus Resolution today is to apply the sow/reap principle. I get to choose today the kind of person I want to be tomorrow. The choices I make today will affect the harvest I see in the future. I can pull out the weeds, ask Him to break up the hard places, and start fresh. I want Him to plant grace, kindness, holiness, joy, and obedience deep into the soil of my heart. I know that I want to look like Jesus, so today, I am going to sow Jesus into everything I do.

What I Understand

18 11 2011

“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.”

– Mark Twain

The Bible is an amazing book. It is so much more than words on a page or ideas recorded through the centuries. It is the God-breathed revelation of His heart. It sets out to give us a dynamic picture of the One who longs for us to walk closely by His side. It woos us, pleads with us, invites us, encourages us, warns us, teaches us, illuminates us, comforts us, disciplines us, and draws us into a deep relationship with its Author.

The Bible is not a puzzle to be solved. It is an adventure to be experienced, a journey to be taken, and an invitation to be answered. The Spirit works within us as we open our eyes to the realities of His presence, the riches of His purpose, and the awesome nature of His power.

Some people dismiss the entirety of the Bible because there is a piece of His Word that they do not understand. This is where Mark Twain’s point becomes critical. Instead of worrying about what we do not understand, start with what we know to be true. Surrender to the truths that He has made clear and unmistakable to you. Let them work on your heart, change your vision, alter your attitudes, and drive you into His grace. Surrender is a bigger key than we often realize. Obeying the things we do understand often unlocks the mystery around things we do not yet understand. Many times, submitting to what we do understand opens the door to catching a deeper picture of God and His work in our lives.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pay attention to what God has made clear to me. It is hard to ask Him to teach me more when I won’t do what He has already given me. Today I am going to ask for a softer heart and a more humble spirit. I am going to embrace His Word and surrender to His call on my life. Where He calls me to give, I will give; serve, I will serve; pray, I will pray; rejoice, I will rejoice; repent, I will repent; and follow, I will follow. Every word in the Bible points to one place – Jesus. I want my life to do the same.

Teaching My People

16 11 2011

There is the neatest verse tucked into the end of the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel is a prophet who was called by God to lay out the consequences of closing our hearts to God’s presence, and the dream the Lord has to dwell within a people defined by His nearness.

Ezekiel spends the last eight chapters of his prophecy describing a magnificent temple where praise, worship, sacrifice, and surrender will flow like rivers. God’s glory will be evident, the leaders will honor His name, and priests dedicated to His holiness will serve the people. In many ways, it is a picture of what God wants for you and me.

In describing the work of the priests among the people, Ezekiel 44:23 says this, “They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.” As Christians, we carry this responsibility into the everyday moments of our lives.

Christians are meant to showcase the holiness of God. As we walk in our jobs, families, stores, and churches, we are called to teach those around us the difference between what is sacred and what is selfish, what is contaminated and what is pure. We do that with every choice we make, every conversation we speak, and every attitude we demonstrate.

The way you vote, shop, walk around your neighborhood, use your time, what you choose for entertainment, and type on Facebook or Twitter all have the power to teach others about God’s holiness. People in your workplace, school, neighborhood, grocery store, and house are watching to see if you will consistently choose kindness or apathy, self-control or self-indulgence, purity or compromise, the way of Jesus or the way of the world.

My Jesus Resolution today is to remember that I am a teacher. Somebody will see me today. It may be someone close to my heart or a stranger whose name is known only to God. Whoever it is, I want them to see Jesus in everything I do. I want them to walk away from their encounter with me having a clearer vision of who He is, what He is about, and how close He is in this moment.