It’s a Wonderful Time for Giving

It is now 3 weeks until Christmas.  For those of us who like to prepare well in advance, our shopping is down to those last few hard-to-buy-for loved ones.  Procrastinators still have 20 shopping days left and some have 18 or 19 days until they begin shopping.

Whether you have been done with your shopping for weeks or haven’t begun, there is still time for you to think of others who are less fortunate.  It isn’t too late to put some money in the Salvation Army kettle or buy a gift for a needy child.

In case you haven’t decide which worthy charity to support this year, I am offering up a few of my favorites.

Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child–The ministry founded by Franklin Graham has provided shoe box gifts to 157 million children in impoverished countries for 25 years.  It’s too late to drop off a box at a collection point, but there is still time to build a shoe box online.   For a $25 donation, you can select items for a boy or girl.   You pick the age range and are lead through the process of picking a Wow item, 2 small toys, and 3 accessories.  Essential items, including toothbrush, comb, crayons, colored pencils, and a notebook, are added to each box.   https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/

Prison Fellowship Angel Tree Ministry–Donations to this ministry provide gifts to children who have an incarcerated parent.  2.7 million children in American have a parent in prison. Prison Fellowship provides gifts to more than 10 percent of those children using donations collected.  To learn more about this ministry and/or make a donation, go to https://www.prisonfellowship.org/about/angel-tree/.

Toys for Tots–The Toys for Tots toys collection drive sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps since 1947 has another week or so left in their toy campaign to provide toys to less fortunate children.  You can drop off a new toy at a collection bin and the toy will be given to a child in your area.  Or you can make a cash donation.  97% of donations go to provide toys and 3% is used for fundraising expenses.  To find your nearest collection site, go to https://www.toysfortots.org/donate/toys.aspx

These are just a few of the many organizations that are devoted to helping children in your community and around the world have a very Merry Christmas.

“The Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Acts 20:35.

May your family be blessed as you share His blessings with others this Christmas Season.

That the Works of God Should be Revealed

The entire ninth chapter of John is devoted to the story of Jesus healing a man who had been blind from birth.  As I listened to my pastor preach from this text on Sunday, I was particularly impressed by the first few verses in which the disciples assumed that the man’s blindness was the result of sin, either by the blind man himself or his parents.

Jesus responds to their question in verse 3, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”

What a powerful statement.  This was a grown man who had spent his childhood and some portion of his adult life blind, in order that Jesus could heal him on this particular day and reveal to the world that He had the power to forgive sins and to heal infirmities.

This struck a personal chord with me.  When I was 5, my mother gave birth to my brother John.  In the weeks after his birth, we came to realize that John could neither see nor hear.  The doctors said that John’s birth defects were due to my mother having contracted German measles while pregnant. When John was 3, however, it became clear that he was born as he was in order that God might reveal Himself to our family.

 

My mother casually asked the wife of my father’s commanding officer to pray for John, as he was to undergo surgery in an attempt to provide him with some limited sight.  The woman responding by coming over to our house immediately and sharing Jesus with my mother and encouraging her to read the Gospel of John.  My mother read John that very night and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

Over the next four years, all the members of our immediately family accepted Jesus as their Savior.  Soon after my father’s salvation, God called John home to Heaven.  John did not receive his sight or hearing while on Earth.  He never learned to speak and never shared the Gospel with anyone, yet we know that the salvation of our family and many others is credited to his account in Heaven.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful to God for revealing Himself to our family by sending us John.

Saving, Spending, and Gratification

Do you remember as a child saving up your allowance and birthday money to buy something special that you really wanted?  Perhaps it was a bicycle or a video game system.  You probably had a jar or a piggy bank that you put money into every time you got your allowance.  You asked your parents and neighbors if you could do chores to earn some extra money to help you reach your goal a bit faster.  Every so often, you dumped out you collection of dollar bills and change and counted it carefully to see how close you were to reaching your goal.  Finally, you had enough. With great joy and anticipation, you went to the store to make your purchase.  You treasured the item you had worked so hard and so long to be able to obtain.

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If you ever did this, then you understand the principle of delayed gratification.  The things which we work hard to obtain mean more and bring greater satisfaction than those things that come easily and without sacrifice. You worked hard and you waited to get your dream item until you could pay for it.  And, in return, you had the reward of owning it without being indebted to someone else.

As an adult, you have access to credit cards and payment plans that were not available to you as a child.  As a result, you may have fallen into the habit of buying immediately anything that catches your interest.  Many times the pleasure of the purchase is gone before the item is fully paid off, and on occasion, before you even get the item home.  Our closets and storage rooms are stuffed with clothing we don’t like and items which we didn’t need.

Saving and waiting are two words that many of us don’t like to apply to our lives, yet there are tangible rewards to be achieved by incorporating them into our spending decisions.

  1. Lower levels of credit card debt.  By delaying a purchase and saving up the money to pay for it, you will keep you consumer debt in check and lower you overall level of debt. This saves you interest, improves your credit score, and allows you to have greater access to financing when you really need it.
  2. Fewer extraneous purchases.  People who are saving with a goal in mind are less likely to spend money on small extravagances. They recognize that any money not spent can be added to their savings and help them achieve their goal sooner.
  3. Fewer regrets about purchases.  Saving up for a purchase allows you plenty of time to decide if you really want and need the item, which will result in wiser purchase decisions.
  4. Greater enjoyment.  Delayed gratification truly does lead to greater satisfaction.  When you finally are able to purchase the item, it is debt-free and you have thought through the purchase decision carefully.

If you are trying to improve your financial situation, employing the tactic of delayed gratification is an important first step to get you on the right track.

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I Serve A Risen Savior

This past weekend Christians around the world celebrate the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.  The Easter season begins Lent and culminates with Easter Sunday.  During this time, we focus on the events of the last week of Jesus’s life leading up to His atoning death on the cross, where He bore the burdens of our sin.  And on Easter morning, we celebrate the most remarkable event in world history–the resurrection of Jesus and His victory over death and the grave.

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The glory and power of Christ’s resurrection is what sets Christianity apart from other religions.  Christian serve a living God who sent His son to take the punishment that we deserve for our sins.  The Son now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf.  Many religions have been created to try to meet people’s spiritual needs, but none of them worship a risen Savior.  That is why other religions fall short and fail to meet the needs of their adherents.

Jesus is the only answer to the need for a Savior.  And He is alive!  This truth should spring forth from our hearts every day.  Jesus is alive!  Jesus intercedes for me!  Jesus loves me and wants to help me every day as I journey through life. When I take the time to focus on this truth, my heart burst forth with the words of the Easter hymns which so joyously celebrate Christ’s resurrection.  I particularly love “I Serve A Risen Savior” by Alfred Henry Ackley.

 

I Serve A Risen Savior

I serve a risen Savior
He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living,
Whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy;
I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him
He’s always near.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

In all the world around me
I see His loving care,
And though my heart grows weary,
I never will despair;
I know that He is leading,
Through all the stormy blast;
The day of His appearing
Will come at last.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian,
Lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs
To Jesus Christ the King!
The Hope of all who seek Him,
The Help of all who find,
None other is so loving,
So good and kind.

 

 

Thankful for God-Given Abilities

Last night, Charley Andersonas my husband was channel surfing, he happened upon the end of the movie Shenandoah.  Jimmy Stewart’s character, Charlie Anderson, has just returned home from a futile search to find his youngest son who was captured by the Union Army.  On the way home, his oldest son is killed by a frightened young soldier. He arrives home bereft and learns that another son and daughter-in-law have been murdered in his absence.  Mr. Anderson has staunchly maintained throughout the war, that it doesn’t concern them.  Now, he has to face the reality that he can’t control many aspects of life–he can’t hide from the war and he can’t always protect his family from life.

As they sit down to breakfast the next morning, Mr. Anderson tries to say his normal ‘grace’ before they eat.  In the past, he has grudgingly thanked God for food which he doesn’t feel God provided:

Lord,
We cleared this land;
We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it.
We cooked the harvest.
It wouldn’t be here—we wouldn’t be eating it—if we hadn’t done it all ourselves.
We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel
But we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat.
Amen.

 

This time, he chokes on the words, as he realizes for the first time that all of his blessings have indeed come from God.  Yes, he and his children have worked hard to grow their food and  provide for the family, but it was God who instilled them with the strength and ability to plow the land and plant seeds, to harvest their crops, and to cook meals.

God expects us to work hard and use the talents He has endued in each of us.  But, He also expects us to recognize that those talents come from Him.  As we read in Deuteronomy 8:17 – 18, “You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

These verses follow a passage in which Moses warns the Israelites against the same type of pride and arrogance that Mr. Anderson displays.  He tells them to (1) remember how God brought them to this land (v. 2), revere God and obey Him (v. 6), and praise God when they have eaten and are satisfied (v. 10).  He reminds them of all the terrible tragedies that did not befall them as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. And, he concludes by reminding them that God has given them the abilities to grow food, build homes, and live comfortable lives.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, we all have much for which to give thanks.  As you thank God for your family, health, home, and other materials blessings, also take a moment to reflect on the abilities God has given you to allow you to produce wealth and to be a blessing to others.

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing Christ’s Love With Shoebox Gifts

For many years my own family and my church family have participated in packing shoebox gifts to be distributed around the world by Samaritan’s Purse. It is that time of year again.

Shoeboxes to be sent to Samaritan’s Purse to distribute to children worldwide.

We will wrap shoeboxes or pick up the easy-to-identify green boxes with red lids at Christian book stores, Hobby Lobby’s, or Chick Fil A’s. Small toys, articles of clothing, school and craft supplies, and personal care items will be stuffed into each box. The boxes will be shipped to Samaritan’s Purse processing centers and then delivered to boys and girls by Samaritan’s Purse team members. For many of these children, the shoebox will be the first gift they have ever received.

Also packed into each box will be a booklet, The Greatest Gift, which tells the gospel story in the recipient’s own language. In this way, each child is introduced to the good news that Jesus died for their sins and rose again.

Sharing God’s love through shoebox gifts is a wonderful way to bless a child. These simple gifts remind, or inform, a child that God loves him and wants a relationship with him. They open the door for that child to be able to accept Jesus as his Savior and look forward to an eternity in Heaven. And that is truly the Greatest Gift of all.

I encourage everyone reading this to prayerfully participate in this ministry this year. Pray about whether you should pack a box for a boy or girl, pray for direction as you pack your box or boxes, and pray that the heart of each recipient will be open to the good news of the gospel.

Do Not Fret Because of Evil Men

There is no doubt that our nation is becoming ever more accepting of sin and wickedness.  Over the past several decades, we have legalized the murdering of unborn children, accepted adultery and other forms of sexual immorality as the norm, and determined that everyone should do what is right in his or her own eyes.  As a person who strives to honor and glorify the Lord in my life, I find it is easy to become discouraged.  Our nation is pulling further and further from God and Christian are becoming persecuted for standing up for our beliefs.

As I read God’s word, however, I realize that this is nothing new.  Sinners have always done evil and tried to persecute those who serve the Lord.  David wrote often about his sufferings in the years between being anointed to be the next king of Israel and the fulfillment of that promise.

Psalm 36 opens with these words from David, “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:  There is no fear of God before his eyes.  For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.”  (Psalm 36:  1,2)  Wow!  Interesting choice of words, for sure:  “in his own eyes, he flatters himself.”   I have never thought of those who are leading our nation deeper into sins as flatters of themselves, but it does make senses.  Those who support the killing of innocent, unborn children have convinced themselves that they are ‘protecting the rights of women.’  This is certainly an example of self-flattery.  Not only have they convinced themselves that abortion is not a sin, but they congratulate themselves on doing something good and noble.

David continues, “The words of his [the wicked] mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good.  Even on his bed he plots evil; he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong.”  (Psalm 36: 3, 4)

It truly is discouraging to witness politicians and political activists leading our nation to even greater depths of sin.  Yet, I know that God is on the throne.  He allows mankind to run the show for a while, but He is never far away and He will not allow this evil to continue indefinitely.  In Psalm 37:7 – 9 David reminds us of this.  “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.  for evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.”