The Gifts we Give

So much of this time of year is devoted to spending money on gifts for everyone. But how many people have stopped to think about why? Is it fun to give gifts? One hundred percent yes! It’s one of my favorite ways to show I care for someone. But why do people choose a celebration that is supposed to be about Jesus to make it about everyone else? Think about it. The average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion. What?!?

Let’s not forget that it was Jesus who received gifts upon His birth. It wasn’t humanity, but the Savior of humanity that was honored. As we celebrate the birth of our Messiah, throughout this fall and winter season, let’s keep it about our Messiah. The last thing kids need is to be showered with presents. Materialism is an enemy of the soul. What our kids need is to love Jesus. What our family members need is to love Jesus. That’s the greatest gift. Think about what one person can do for the cause of Christ with $700 rather than buying stuff that has zero eternal significance. Or what one nation could do with a half a trillion dollars. Americans could provide clean drinking water to the entire world in one holiday season. Just one. We could provide a billion kids with a free education in impoverished nations. Those are causes worthy of honoring our Savior.

Celebrating the birth of Christ is celebrating the greatest gift, which has already been given. God became flesh and dwelt among us. We already received the gift. It’s our turn to give the gifts back to Him and to raise up our children to love and honor Him with their lives. I love giving things to my kids. I really do. And I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t get gifts. But why, for a celebration that is supposed to be all about Jesus, do we make it about anything other than Jesus? Let’s give the gifts of love, self-sacrifice, and service to those in need. Let’s devote our heart to Jesus as our gift to Him. He gave all of Himself to us. Now it’s our turn.

Peace in Christ, our Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, and Almighty God!

The Gifts we Give

So much of this time of year is devoted to spending money on gifts for everyone. But how many people have stopped to think about why? Is it fun to give gifts? One hundred percent yes! It’s one of my favorite ways to show I care for someone. But why do people choose a celebration that is supposed to be about Jesus to make it about everyone else? Think about it. The average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion. What?!?

Let’s not forget that it was Jesus who received gifts upon His birth. It wasn’t humanity, but the Savior of humanity that was honored. As we celebrate the birth of our Messiah, throughout this fall and winter season, let’s keep it about our Messiah. The last thing kids need is to be showered with presents. Materialism is an enemy of the soul. What our kids need is to love Jesus. What our family members need is to love Jesus. That’s the greatest gift. Think about what one person can do for the cause of Christ with $700 rather than buying stuff that has zero eternal significance. Or what one nation could do with a half a trillion dollars. Americans could provide clean drinking water to the entire world in one holiday season. Just one. You could provide a billion kids with a free education in impoverished nations. Those are causes worthy of honoring our Savior.

Celebrating the birth of Christ is celebrating the greatest gift, which has already been given. God became flesh and dwelt among us. We already received the gift. It’s our turn to give the gifts back to Him and to raise up our children to love and honor Him with their lives. I love giving things to my kids. I really do. And I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t get gifts. But why, for a celebration that is supposed to be all about Jesus, do we make it about anything other than Jesus? Let’s give the gifts of love, self-sacrifice, and service to those in need. Let’s devote our heart to Jesus as our gift to Him. He gave all of Himself to us. Now it’s our turn.

Peace in Christ, our Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, and Almighty God!

White noise

Life is so full. Full of cares and concerns, responsibilities, obligations, and the like. There’s work time, play time, and down time. When I was single, I thought life was busy. When I got married it seemed even busier. Add children to the mix, and time becomes one of the most precious commodities. But no matter how busy life is, it seems like we always find time and ways to distract ourselves.

In a media-driven world it seems altogether too easy to create white noise in our day. Stopping to check ESPN scores, news updates, the social media feed, likes and shares, video games, movies, Netflix, or a quick stop on YouTube for short videos. All of these simply amount to us creating distractions for ourselves. We’re drawn to these things because they are easy and they matter very little. We can escape the weightier matters of life through these other mediums. We can “check out” for a bit. Some might view it as regrouping. After all, some of life’s responsibilities are just too heavy to carry.

I am as guilty as most when it comes to making time to escape. But my goal is to fill that time escaping in more profitable ways. I want to feed my emotional, spiritual, and physical health in that space. It’ll be hard. I’ll have to fight so many urges and temptations. But in the end, if I’m successful, it’ll be so worth it. For me it’s drawing, playing music, working out, and writing that fill me back up. But what fills me the most, is time alone with Jesus. Praying, studying, and journaling. He is our ultimate source of strength and regeneration. He is the vine that provides the necessary nutrients to our souls. There is no greater escape we could make than to escape with Jesus. Then we can return to life’s matters fully equipped with His spiritual strength to face whatever the world throws at us.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah‬ ‭40:28-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

May His peace and strength grow in His children so we can face the world full of joy and courage. God bless loved ones.

The Messiah of Psalm 118

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Often regarded as the center chapter of the Bible, Psalm 118 contains multiple prophecies regarding the Messiah. This psalm is beautiful and it paints a glorious picture of the future hope the Messiah brings. From verses 17 through 26 God addresses His chosen nation. The Messiah will be sent to Israel, be rejected, but while the temple still stands, He will be presented and His death will only be temporary. Below are three prophecies and how they played out many years later in Jesus of Nazareth.

  1. Death is not the end for the Messiah (Psalm 118:17)
    • In Luke 24 the tomb of Jesus is found to be empty. Not only that but there is an angel watching over it declaring that Jesus is risen. He says, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Jesus met with hundreds of people after He had risen from the grave. Death was not the end for Him.
    • “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20 ESV
  2. The Messiah is the rejected Chief Cornerstone (Psalm 118:22-23)
    • Jesus told several parables or stories about how the religious authorities of the time would reject Him. And most did. The parable about the landowner in Matthew 21 was particularly concise at building this theme. His time here on earth, Jesus was met by constant criticism and hostility by the religious authority.
    • “For it stands in Scripture: Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 1 Peter 2:6-8 ESV
  3. The “Blessed One” of the Lord will be presented to Israel while the Temple stands (Psalm 118:26)
    • Multitudes sang praises about Jesus as He entered Jerusalem as being the Blessed one of God. Check out Matthew 21. Not long after this, Jesus enters the Temple to cleanse it from the profane acts being done there. Not long after, the vail would be torn and the Temple period would come to a quick close. But the Temple still had to be there. Let’s not forget that Israel was without a Temple for a long time until Herod rebuilt it just in time for Jesus’ arrival on planet earth. If the Messiah had come at any other time, these three prophecies couldn’t have worked. They could only come true in Jesus.

This concludes our walk through the book of Psalms. There are so many other Psalms we could look at. Here are some that were not included if you’d like to give them a read for further study: Psalm 78:1-2, 80:17, all of 88, 89:27 and 35-37, 90:2, 91:11-12, 129:3, and 147:2-6. We’ll conclude phase II of this study by looking at a couple of the Proverbs. Stay tuned! God bless brothers and sisters.

The Messiah of Psalm 72

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The entire gospel message surrounding the life of the Messiah is presented in Psalm 72. From the birth of Jesus to His death, and ending with His exaltation and the impact on those who believe…it’s all there. Some of it is symbolism and other passages are quite clear. I’m going to divide up the three phases in a table below and put them with their New Testament counterparts. As always, I would encourage a full contextual reading of all of the passages below.

Theme Psalm 72 New Testament Meaning
The birth of the Messiah May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!

(verses 10-11)

Matthew 2:1-11 When Jesus was born, kings from all of the known world came to visit Him and bring Him gifts.
The death of the Messiah May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field!

(verse 16)

John 12:23-25

John 1:12-13

The grain in this passage is a symbol that Jesus used to reference Himself. When the “grain” dies or is harvested, it produces an abundance in the land. That abundance causes people to blossom or come to life.
The exaltation of the Messiah May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!

(verse 17)

Galatians 3:8

John 12:13

Revelation 5:8-12

The name of Jesus lives on forever and those who live in and believe in Him are blessed in the best possible way. 

In addition to all of these passages, the Psalm opens up with an address to God about His Royal Son. He is declared to be one who brings justice and care for the needy. The Son will uphold the cause of the oppressed and declare the righteousness of God. Any reading of the New Testament shows the life of Jesus did just that. Praise God for His Royal Son!

Toxic Fears

This is the third and final post in the series about certain toxins that humanity is plagued with. In the last two posts I shared my journey of mind games and poor word usage that have not been profitable whatsoever. But through my struggles in these areas, I’ve grown and become more aware of how to focus my thoughts and use my words as a life-giving agent. Today’s post is all about my fear.

I’ve been afraid of not being able to provide for my family. There’s no way around it. It has terrified me at times that my children and wife will not have all that they need. I’m not talking about wants or the menial pleasures of life. I mean their needs. I’ve been afraid of losing my loved ones, especially since I’ve lost two people extremely close to me in the last six years. One of the greatest fears I’ve had to tackle is the fear of something bad happening to my kids. Growing up I can’t remember being afraid of anything. Since having a family of my own, the fears have crept in. It’s like the more you have, the more room there is for fear. Being on my own I was care-free. Now with a wife and three kids…not so much.

I’m also a believer that it doesn’t have to be so. A family doesn’t have to open the door for fear to rule in my heart. To each of my fears above, God has spoken words of affirmation and promise. God has reminded me that Hs is ultimately the one who has been and always will be the one providing for my family. He’s also comforted me through my loss so that I can rest in the life to come, not this temporary existence. Me, and my loved ones, are living for that life to come, not for this one. Death is only the beginning and He has numbered all of our days. As far as my children go, God’s love for them far exceeds my own. He’s watching over them. He’ll give me wisdom and I can rest in that God is sovereign over my kids’ lives.

In the end, in what ever area we fear the most is where we value the most and trust God the least. I need to value Him above all things and people. His mission needs to be my mission. His kingdom and righteousness should be my aim and the rest will fall into place.

As always, here are some verses that have helped me along my journey. I hope they can be a help to you. Remember, these are paraphrases and what I felt God speaking to me through His word. I would encourage you to look up the passages yourself to read them in context and their entirety.:

Isaiah 26:3-4 tells me to keep my mind and focus on God and that’s when I will experience peace.

Isaiah 41:8-13 says that God has done great things on my behalf as He did for Israel and He is the one who upholds me. Because of that, there is nothing I should be afraid of.

Philippians 4:6-9 says that through prayer, giving thanks, and staying focused on good things God’s peace will be with me.

2 Timothy 1:7 tells me that God’s Spirit is within me so I already have power and love and sound mind.

John 14:27 is Jesus’ promise that His peace has been given to me.

Psalm 23 is a beautiful picture of being in harmony with God which brings peace in all circumstances.

Luke 12:22-34 treasure the kingdom, trust the King, and tend to others. That’s the mission of peace.

In the grand scheme of things, the only reason I fear is when my faith is lacking and my short term memory lost kicks in. God has a flawless track record in my life. There is no reason to not trust Him. It’s really the consequences of living in a fallen and broken world that we fear. And it’s hard to imagine that great of love that can overcome it on our behalf. But that’s exactly what we have in Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, if you battle with fear, draw closer to Him. He is the calm in your storm, just as He has been in mine.

His no matter what

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,”. Ephesians‬ ‭6:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There have only been a few moments in my life when I’ve had to make the choice to stand for Jesus rather than stand with the crowd, and it actually cost me something big. And I use the word “big” loosely. I’ve lost friends and family members because of my faith. I’ve lost financial opportunities as well. I’ve faced my fair share of criticism. But I’ve never had to make a choice that would put my life at risk.

I read a story recently about a man named Sebastian. He was a follower of Jesus in the early days of the church. But his station in life made his faith something of a problem. Sebastian worked directly for the Emperor of Rome in a time Emperor wanted to be worshipped as a god and had no patience for a rival. Here’s a bit of the story.

Sebastian walked through the halls of the palace daily. He had worked hard to get to this position in the royal guard, but once he had gotten to Rome, he restrained himself from the idolatrous lifestyle of imperial Rome. He only wanted to serve Christ wholeheartedly. 

When Emperor Diocletian heard of his restraint, he had little interest in his service record. He confronted him and found out about his faith. At this, he ordered Sebastian taken outside the city and shot to death with arrows. The soldiers did their job and left his body to rot. Soon a group of Christians came to give his body a proper burial. As they lifted him, one of them exclaimed, “He moves!” “Shhh!” cautioned another. “Let us take him somewhere safe.” Sebastian was taken to one of their homes where he was treated and recovered from his injuries. As soon as he was well enough, he placed himself before the emperor again. Once he had tasted the hope of heaven, the pleasures of this world had even less appeal for him. The emperor was of course shocked to see Sebastian seemingly back from the dead. He ordered Sebastian seized and beaten to death and his body thrown into the sewer. His body was recovered again by Christians and buried in the catacombs. 

A time may come when we are all asked to choose between our allegiance to Christ and our allegiance to our physical life. Even if that day does not come, we are all asked to stand with Him no matter what. No matter the words spoken about us. No matter the judgement cast our way. If you are His, be His, no matter what. Pray for me that I will have the strength to answer that call.

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” Acts‬ ‭4:29‬ ‭NIV‬‬