Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Everyone is talking about New Year's Resolutions right now. I've never been a huge fan of them because they are all the same. Lose weight, exercise more, be healthy...They are also so superficial, and are usually self-focused.

So this year I'm going to make a resolution that will mean something. I don't want it to be a selfish resolution, or all about me. My resolution is to focus more on others.

I want to find ways to help other people. Not just seek out ways, but also stop trying to find excuses when the opportunities do present themselves.

This year, I want to be less self-focused, and more focused on those around me.

So what is your resolution this year? Is it about you? Will your resolution impact anyone besides yourself?

My first act to help others is to spread the word about my friend who is raising money to adopt 5 orphans from the Ukraine. Click the link below to see their story.


Then help out in any way you can whether it's a donation, spreading the word, prayer, or any other way you are able to help this family.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gifts at Christmas

I recently got a promotional email designed to entice me into buying something. The subject of it was "Home is where the gifts are."


I love Christmas. I love that it reminds us that Christ humbled Himself to become human and live among us. I love celebrating what Christ did for us.

I hate what we have turned Christmas into.

Instead of celebrating the birth of Christ, we are celebrating a retail holiday. People go out and spend entirely too much money (money they don't even have and end up going into debt) to buy presents for people that already have everything. They buy gifts for people they don't even like. Gifts that are probably going to be either returned, or thrown into a closet and forgotten about.

I watch kids open their Christmas presents, and after they open one, they toss it aside and ask for the next one. Is this really what you want to teach your kids that Christams is about?

I choose not to participate in the retail side of Christmas. I don't buy Christmas gifts.

I know people think it's because we don't have a lot of money, but it's not a money issue. If we had tons of money, I still wouldn't buy Christmas gifts.

I would much rather spend Christmas celebrating Christ with my family. Doing something nice for someone else. Spending the money I would have spent on gifts, giving to someone who has nothing.

If I find something during the year that makes me think of someone, I'll buy it for them. That has a lot more significance than buying something out of an obligation.

I know many people enjoy giving, they get as much out of it or more by giving someone a gift as the person receiving the gift. I recognize that God gave at Christmas. He gave us the gift of His only Son. And if that is the true spirit that you have behind giving Christmas gifts, then keep doing it.

But most people are buying out of obligation. Then the receiver feels obligated to give back, and feels bad if they can't.

If there's no occasion, it's just a gift of love. I can give my friend a gift in January and say "I saw this and thought of you" and there are no strings attached. My friend feels honored that I thought of her, and has no obligation to give me anything back. However, if I give that same gift at Christmas, it is a gift because of an occasion, not a reflection of our relationship. She also feels obligated to give me a gift back.

A couple years ago, my family decided to do something nice for someone else. Then when we got together for Christmas, instead of exchanging gifts, we exchanged the stories of what we did. It was the most memorable Christmas I've ever had. I remember very few gifts I have received over the years, but I remember sharing those stories.

So for Christmas, instead of buying gifts, I will be celebrating the birth of my Savior. I will be looking for opportunities to bless other people that don't involve gifts. I will be looking for ways to share Christ. I will be attending church, and fellowshiping with friends. I will spend time with family, enjoying the gift of their presence.

How will you be celebrating the birth of Christ, other than giving gifts?


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Judas or Paul?

In my Sunday school class, we have been studying the book of John. We talked about Judas.

Judas was not just a disciple of Jesus, he was an apostle. He is known as the one who betrayed Jesus, but that’s not always how he was seen by others. In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out his 12 apostles to “drive out impure spirits, and heal every disease and sickness” (Matt. 10:1) and Judas is named as one of those 12. He was given power to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (Matt. 10:8).

When they are at the last supper, and Jesus says that one of them will betray Him, they all look around, wondering who it could be. No one looked at Judas as the obvious choice. Judas looked just like the other apostles. He performed miracles, he healed the sick and raised the dead, he had a personal relationship with Jesus.

Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray Him, but no one else seemed to. So how could someone who walked with Jesus, saw His miracles, performed his own miracles, and had a relationship with Jesus turn around and betray him?
What made him different from the other apostles?

Judas was in a relationship with Christ for what he could get from it. As soon as following Jesus stopped benefiting him, he turned on Jesus.
I was thinking about this on my drive to work. I felt like I was missing something. That’s when it hit me.

This is exactly what we as Americans have done.

We follow Jesus so long as we get something out of it. We will do what he asks as long as…He gives us a spouse…He gives us a good job…we make a lot of money…we get a family…He heals a family member from a disease…

As long as Jesus does something for us in return, we have no problem following Him. But when He doesn’t do what we expect, we turn on Him.

We are only in the relationship for what we can get out of it.
I really had to examine my own heart. Am I upset when God doesn’t answer my prayer the way I think He should? Do I get angry when I feel like He isn’t holding up His end of the deal?

What is His end of the deal anyway? Where in the Bible did Jesus ever promise that He would give us things this side of heaven? Where does it say “follow me and I will give you everything you want” or “follow me and your life will be everything you picture”?

It doesn’t.

It says say we will have problems. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of their righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10). “In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted” (1 Thes. 3:4). “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

Opposite Judas is Paul. Paul was a devout Jew who persecuted Christians. He didn’t have a relationship with Christ until Christ appeared to him and struck him with blindness. Then Paul spent the rest of his life following Christ. He was persecuted. He was shipwrecked. He was beaten and left for dead. He was imprisoned, yet he never turned back.

Paul wasn’t in it for what he could get from Christ, he followed because he believed in Christ. He followed because he was grateful for what Christ did, and following was his natural response.

Take a good look at your own heart. Why are you following Christ? Is it for what you think you should get from it? Or are you following Him because He loved you so much He sent His only son to die in your place, while you were still a sinner, and you can do nothing to earn His love? All He asks is that you love Him back, that you try to live according to what He laid out for you in His Word, the Bible.

Are you a Judas, or are you a Paul?


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wisdom from the Future

I wish I knew in high school and college what I know now. If I could go back in time, there's a lot I would say to myself. I know I'm not that old, but I have had some serious life altering experiences that have given me wisdom that I wouldn't otherwise have. I still have more learning to do, but this is the advice that I would give my younger self.

1. Forget about boys for now.

You're too immature to understand what a serious relationship takes. It's not about you. It should be two sided, and he isn't there to make your life better. You can't change him no matter what you think. So don't be with a boy who you think needs changing. Don't chase after a boy who doesn't want you. If you do insist on being in a serious relationship, remember that as you get older, what you want from life will change. Don't do something know that you will regret if that relationship doesn't last.

2. Focus on your relationship with God, that's the one that really matters.

When everyone else lets you down, God will still be there. He will forgive you when what you have done is unforgivable. He will be there for you in your darkest times, and on your highest mountains. Spend time growing that relationship and He will give you wisdom in all the other areas of life.

3. Listen to your parents, they know what they are talking about.

I know you think the times they lived in were different, but they were teenagers once. They know more than you give them credit for. They are trying to keep you from making the same mistakes they did. They are trying to do what's best for you, cut them some slack.

4. I know you think you know everything, but you don't.

Be open to learning opportunities. When you are in an argument and think you're right, give the other person some grace. They may think in a way that's different from you. It doesn't make it right or wrong, just different. Even if you really do know it all, you are still too emotional to use the knowledge effectively. Your hormones are changing, and your brain is still developing. There is more that goes into a decision than just knowledge.

5. Even though you are mature for your age, you still have a lot of growing up to do.

Don't make any major life decisions right now. You can't fathom the emotional maturity just a few more years will bring. Don't try to rush into anything. Take your time making decisions. You have arguments with people now, that in a few years you will think are silly.

I know I can't go back in time, I know I can't change the past. It does no good to dwell on it, but I can learn from it. I change the future for someone right now by sharing the wisdom I am still gaining. This is the advice I would want my teenage daughter to know. What would you tell your younger self, or someone you know in that stage of life right now?