The Best Gift

As we get deeper into the holiday season, some of us have a pretty daunting task ahead. We have to find exactly the right gift for the right person, and in some cases repeating this small miracle for several people. I’ll never forget the year I actually hit that target with a bull's eye for my wife. Back then our son David was still in diapers, and we were getting by with only one income while Christy stayed home with him. There wasn’t much extra money for Christmas that year, and yet I still wanted to make it a special time and show my wife my appreciation for her. I took some time and prayed for God’s wisdom in the matter, knowing that I’d have to make a little money go a long way. After praying, I sensed that I had a plan. I soon found myself at the jewelry store at the mall. There I found a great piece of jewelry that fit my budget and brought peace to me after purchasing it. In fact, things played out there pretty much as I had seen in my prayer time. Imagine how pleased I was when the gift was opened on Christmas Day and I had a happy wife! I only shared with her about my prayer quest after she helped me understand how accurately targeted my gift had been for her.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all hit the target with such accuracy every time we wanted to give a gift? Well, in some ways the plan has already been set up for us. You see, those of us who have asked Jesus Christ into our hearts and lives are carrying the best Gift that was ever given. It can’t wear out, it won’t ever lose its value, and it is the only gift that can truly keep on giving, with no worries over warranties. In fact, this Gift gives for an eternity, but it’s up to us to pass it along. If you’re grateful about what Jesus has done in and through your life, I ask you to consider those in your world who could also benefit from having him in their own lives. Will you pray and ask God to connect you with the right people who so desperately need what it is you already have? Any Gift this priceless is worth sharing!

Freely you have received; freely give.
– Matthew 10:8 (NIV)

Going Higher

With the New Year approaching, many of us are starting to reevaluate where things are in life. What could 2012 hold for us? For some, this next year will be about staying in some of the same ruts, repeating some of the same mistakes, and reliving some of the same regrets. This is nothing new for some, since this is how the last several years have been going. They’ve been going around and around the same mountain, making little progress in their Christian walk or anywhere else. Discouraging thought, isn’t it? But it doesn’t have to stay that way! God didn’t send his own Son to the cross for you and me so that we would wander in the desert for the rest of our lives. Yes, the intent was our salvation, but also for us to be able to accomplish the plans God has for our lives, too. But I find that it’s very difficult to accomplish anything while things are going badly all the time and the focus stays on me and my mistakes.

But today could be the start of a new season. This could be a great time for you to spend some quality time with God, allowing him to show you possible adjustments and changes that could allow 2012 to be your best year ever. It’s ok to take our questions into that time with him: Is it time to fast and pray? Should I expect some new directions or opportunities in the next season? Have I been off-track in some areas? These questions don’t make God nervous! He’s our loving, Heavenly Father, and he desires for us as his children to walk in his best plans. It’s not selfish or immature to ask God about these things. So often God wants something good to happen in our lives even more than we do, but we must do it His way. Ready for some positive change?

When we were at Mount Sinai, the Lord our God said to us, You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and move on.
- Deuteronomy 1:6-7

A Moment in Time

First the racquet fell away. Then the hat flew behind him as he ran. I can still remember it vividly, but all in slow motion. My son David turned and ran toward the gate, as fast as a 5-year old could run. Our cheerful game of tennis had turned into a sudden urgency as he darted from asphalt to grass, making a beeline for the large oak tree ahead. As he came up under those high branches he pressed his thumbs into the waist of his pants. His hips and knees danced in opposite directions as he freed himself. Suddenly his hands shot up into the air, arms straight and chest puffed out. This image must have looked to others like some white pygmy, worshiping the tree before him. And then not a move. Except for the stream that appeared in front of him, making the whole scene look a lot like a statue of a cherub, in the front court of a museum. Yes, he had made it! And now relief was his.

Why did I share this strange little story? Well, for one thing, because it’s a vivid memory of a morning spent with my son. We’ll never get that day back, but I’ll have that memory forever. It was an amusing moment, but also one that moistens my eyes when I think about how much that little guy has always meant to me. I also share this memory to remind you that this is very similar to how God feels about you. You’ve also done some things to make him chuckle, and he’ll never forget about those special times you’ve shared together. He’s watched you grow and mature, and he cherishes each moment with you. Is it possible to find time today to spend a few precious moments with your Heavenly Father? I think it would mean a lot for both of you.

Come close to God and He will come close to you.
- James 4:8 (AMP)

Keep Swinging!

Know what a bullpen is? It’s the part of the baseball stadium where all the pitchers warm up, waiting for their turn in the game. But beyond that physical location, the bullpen also refers to the roster of relief pitchers, each patiently waiting for a turn in the spotlight. As sports fans know, it usually goes something like this: The starting pitcher goes as long as possible in the game, trying to strike out as many opposing batters as possible. But should things take a bad turn, that starter is replaced by a fresh pitcher from the bullpen. And the idea is to have a full roster of waiting pitchers, each brought in for a strategic purpose. In fact, certain batters are paired with certain pitchers, to ensure a strikeout.

I said all that to say this: Do you lately feel like you’ve been standing at the plate, facing pitcher after pitcher, and mostly striking out? No home runs or getting on base, but just swinging in the wind? Just as in baseball, we have someone in this life who continues to throw things at us, time and time again. And when one pitcher is tired, another takes his place, keeping up the pressure on us. But the good news here is that God doesn’t let us strike out! In a baseball game it only takes three strikes to sit you down, but in life God doesn’t stop there! In fact, he’s like a patient coach who also owns the baseball stadium. In effect, he says, “Nope, he’s not through yet. I’m going to make sure we get a home run here. Son, you just keep swinging until you get a hit. I’ve got your back.” Did you get that? God says, “Keep swinging until you get a hit.” With help like that, how can we lose? Let’s wrap it up with this: Whose score are you keeping up with today - the bullpen’s score or God’s score?

If God is for us, who can be against us? We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
- Romans 8:31, 37 (NIV)