“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had” – Acts 4:32 (NIV).
Three words at the top of a brightly colored advertising insert in my daily newspaper captured my attention. “Give better gifts.”
The insert was only one of 25 stuffed inside to lure customers into shopping Black Friday sales. Retrieving the heavier-than-usual newspaper off my driveway on Thanksgiving Day reminded me that Christmas isn’t far off and I’d better get busy shopping. However, I abhor crowds so I tossed the advertisements in the trash.
I’m not opposed to saving money when shopping. However, I have come to detest the commercialism now associated with a sacred Christian holiday. Recent TV commercials and a story in the business section of the newspaper several days before Thanksgiving made me want to cheer. Many businesses are refusing to open on Thanksgiving so that their employees can spend the day of gratitude with their families.
Gifts of our time and our presence are better than any store-bought gift.
One company has gone one step further by announcing for the second year in a row that they will be closed on Black Friday. In fact, according to the article, they are not offering any Black Friday deals online or otherwise. REI, a national outdoor retail co-op, is dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. Passionate about the outdoors, the company is committed to promoting environmental stewardship and increasing access to outdoor recreation through volunteerism, gear donations and financial contributions.
“Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should” – Psalm 90:12 (TLB).
With each passing year, I become more aware of the brevity of life. Recently, I celebrated my 63rd birthday. When a friend phoned to wish me a happy birthday, we discussed how long we’d known each other. We were surprised when we realized it had been more than a decade. Our friendship has grown during that time, making me realize the necessity of having and nurturing those relationships that are important to making life worthwhile.
A recent post on Facebook made me think about the importance of relationships vs. things. Things don’t bring happiness. Both are fleeting. However, we were made for a relationship with each other. The post follows: “I believe as we grow older our Christmas list gets smaller and the things we really want for the holidays can’t be bought.”
Only then will our days really count.
What is more important than to be surrounded by family and friends who love us in spite of our faults and failures? Nothing in my book! No gift can replace the shared laughter, the tears, the disagreements, the heartache, the pain or the victories. Nothing! Money cannot buy the experiences we share.
Money also can’t purchase the kind of friend who won’t agree with you to make you happy. Instead, the best of friends will say what needs to be said, whether you want to hear it or not. I have several friends like that. Whether I complain or am feeling sorry for myself, none of these three let me stew in my pity very long. They love me enough to encourage me with kind but honest words.
How we spend our days is important in God’s kingdom. We can spend our days in pursuit of money to purchase material things for our own gratification, or we can spend our days pursuing what really matters.
“You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” – 2 Corinthians 9:11 (NIV).
Am I the only one who’s tired of seeing Christmas promotions before Halloween decorations have come down? Walk down the aisles at a local store and you’ll be hard pressed to find many reminders of a holiday that celebrates thankfulness in November.
How can we, as parents and grandparents, counter the commercialization of Christmas in an age of spend, spend, spend? Recently, I came across a young mother’s website. Because she wanted her children to experience the true meaning of Christmas, she created a “Random Acts of Kindness Christmas Calendar for Kids.”
“The pursuit of selflessness is truly a noble one.”
She discovered the idea on her Facebook feed last year and really liked the idea of doing something kind each day leading up to Christmas. She writes, “I also thought this was a wonderful way to help instill the spirit of the season in my family. I didn’t want them to think Christmas is all about getting toys.”
Because her children are young, she wanted to create activities that kids could do on their own to emphasize that each of us—no matter how small—can make a difference. Her calendar also includes family activities that include adult participation.
“Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect”—Ephesians 5:4 (MSG).
As I write this, election day is still four days away. I, for one, will be glad when it’s over. I pray that those who have spewed hatred across the airwaves, on social media and through other means of communication will be able to step back and give thanks, whether their candidate won or lost.
True followers of Christ know that we’ve won, no matter who is in the Oval Office. While our country isn’t perfect, I’d rather live here than anywhere else. I’ve visited foreign countries. I’ve seen the oppressed and the poor that make our poorest appear rich in comparison.
Give thanks to the Lord!
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the Apostle Paul writes, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Paul’s reminder is as relevant today as it was when he wrote his epistle to the Thessalonians.
What does it mean to live a life of giving thanks? It’s a life permeated by a grateful heart that overflows to others. It’s a life marked by contentment. Although we seem to have more, we enjoy life less. We work harder to accumulate more, but on the whole we’re not happier. We entertain the notion that we’re entitled to more, which leads to a life of discontent.
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”— John 8:32 (TLB).
Do you consider yourself free? I guess it depends on your definition of freedom.
Dictionary.com offers these seven definitions:
- the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.
- exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
- the power to determine action without restraint.
- political or national independence.
- personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery.
- exemption from the presence of anything specified (usually followed by from): freedom from fear.
- the absence of or release from ties, obligations, etc.
The very word “freedom” resonates with so many, especially with Americans who will be celebrating our nation’s independence this weekend. For those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord, the same word denotes a more powerful meaning.
“To serve God, to love God, to enjoy God, is the sweetest freedom in the world.”
Almost 15 years ago, I discovered that Jesus loved and wanted a personal relationship with me. When I did, I found a freedom no man can take away. Before that day, I lived in bondage to other people’s opinions of me. I wasn’t free. Although I wasn’t confined behind the physical bars of a jail cell, I was still a prisoner.
“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross”— Philippians 2:6-8(NLT).
I can recall the day as if were just yesterday. Almost 15 years ago, an emptiness I couldn’t explain began chipping away at my heart. I was in my late 40s. I was lost and even if I didn’t know it, God did. He wouldn’t give up on me.
On a sunny October afternoon, I prayed aloud for the very first time. My simple prayer was, “God, help me. I need some direction in my life.” Since that day, I have been on a journey, a quest you might say, to know my Savior and Lord more deeply, to understand God’s will for my life and to use my gifts for His glory.
Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.
Trying to fully comprehend the sacrifice that Christ made for mankind is mind-boggling, sometimes even for those who believe. Still more breath-taking is what happened three days after his cruel death on the cross.
For those who doubt, I wonder where or in whom they place their hope. Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias says, “Outside of the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. That cross and resurrection at the core of the Gospel is the only hope for humanity.”
After reading many New Year’s posts on Facebook, I’ve come to the conclusion that most people are trying to remain positive in spite of personal trials and the constant spate of negative news with which we are bombarded with daily. However, I’ve noticed that most of those who have a confident outlook have one thing in common. They are believers and followers of Jesus Christ.
In a recent sermon, our pastor made the following statement, “The future is different when you have met the Living Christ.”
Faith + Optimism = Possibilities
One important lesson I’ve learned since I sought a serious relationship with Him is that being a Christ follower does not automatically insure you are free from trials. In fact, I can attest that my trials have increased. But, those trying times have stretched me spiritually, teaching me to trust Him even more.
How can we stay positive in a negative world as a New Year begins? How can we awaken each day in joyful anticipation instead of troubled doubt?