Don't Forget to Open Your Gifts

Steve (Age 7): "Ricky?" 

Ricky (Age 5): "Huh?"

Steve (Still 7): "You asleep?"

Ricky (Still 5): "No... are you?"

Okay, so my brother and I were no rocket scientists at ages 5 & 7, but we were typical boys trying to go to sleep on the night before Christmas. Santa Claus, we were assured, would not come if we were still awake. Do you remember the magic and excitement... when you were a child at Christmas?

I still remember my best Christmas ever. I was about 8 years old and when Steve and I ran to the family room to "see what Santa had brung". I could not believe my eyes: There it was by the tree... a brand new Stingray bike with banana seat, chopper-style handle bars, and a cheater bar for popping wheelies. It was green!

I could die a happy man!

And I nearly did, at least a thousand times through the years, as I rode that Stingray up and down tall mountains, across raging rivers, and over ramps that would have caused the most fearless daredevil to tremble.

I can scarcely imagine how different life would have been if I had not taken and used that bike that my parents had sacrificed so much to get for me to enjoy. I cannot imagine just shoving that gift aside, or not opening and using the countless other gifts that they gave through the years. I was a just a child, but even kids instinctively know that gifts are to be opened with anticipation, to be received with thanksgiving, and to be used with gratitude.

I hope that your Christmas is a special one this year. If you are surrounded by loved ones, it will be. It is a gift of God, I am convinced, to be able to enjoy our families and friends in an atmosphere of peace and love and good will. But, if you have been lacking these blessings, could it be that you have forgotten to open your gifts?

If we lack peace and love and good will in our lives, then maybe it's time to take a second peek under that tree, for these are gifts that God has given all of His children. The Father and the Son have sacrificed much to provide these gifts for us. Why not then approach these gifts with anticipation, receive them with thanksgiving, and use them each day with gratitude in our hearts. 

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas this year. You will, if you can just remember to open your gifts!


But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord...

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father...

For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son...

Romans 6:23, James 1:17, John 3:16, NIV


Don't Forget the Joy

What has happened to all your joy? Galatians 4:15, NIV

When we were kids, we would get up in the morning and think, "Just 3 more days until Christmas!" It was an exciting thought! A joyful thought! We simply could not wait. But now that we are adults, we get up in the morning and think, "Just 3 more days until Christmas!" And, it is all too often a gloomy thought... a depressing thought... an anything but joyful thought. And we wonder what has happened to all of our joy.

What has happened is that somewhere along the line we exchanged the excitement of Christmas for the cares of the world. We wear ourselves out with the shopping and the cooking and the planning and the worrying over how we will pay for it all. We get sick and tired of Christmas because we really are sick and we really are tired. When we get that way, maybe it is time to take back our joy.

Now, we clearly cannot just turn our backs on all of the responsibilities that we have as adults - I am not suggesting that at all. What I am suggesting, though, is this: That we pause from time to time with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate or a tasty and refreshing ice cold Dr. Pepper... and regain our perspective... and slow down. If this means that the kids will have one less package or the wife one less frill or the husband one less side dish at the table, then so be it! Just do not miss out on a Christmas filled with joy.

It is possible to have that joy because 2,000 years ago a Savior was born in the town of Bethlehem. That event caused the angels to rejoice! And, whether we celebrate that holy birth on one special day of the year or on every day of our lives, that event should cause us to rejoice as well. We are going to Heaven someday if we will live faithfully today. Don't get so busy that you forget that promise and miss out on the joy it brings. If we have lost sight of that joy, it is possible to reclaim it. We can begin with this:

The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11, NIV


Don't Blow Your Legacy

"What this means to me is that the legacy is going to go generation after generation after generation. My kids, my grand kids, my great grandkids - and their children also - will never have to worry because we are not going to blow this... We're just not going to blow this." 

Jim McCullar upon winning the $190 million lottery.

Jim McCullar's response as to what he and his wife were going to do with all of their money showed, at least for now, that they were thinking about the good it might do their family for many generations: Their legacy! How about you - what kind of legacy will you leave for your family? Will it be money? Perhaps a family business or even a good family name. All have their merits and all have their corresponding hazards, but the fact is that most people simply do not give much thought to the legacy they will leave for their families.

Christians should!

I heard a preacher state that he and his wife's goal was that not one of their family throughout the generations would ever be lost. The things that impressed me about their goal was it was not some "pie in the sky" unrealistic statement, nor was it made out of presumption out of some mistaken sense of entitlement. Rather, it was a goal that they had made in humility, with a great deal of thought and prayer. Then they set out to accomplish that goal by teaching their children about God and His grace, and they encouraged their children to become students of God's word in order that they might accomplish that lofty goal.

This is legacy! Not the attempt to leave our children comfortable and free of worry from physical problems - as normal as that desire might be - for life will have its challenges. Lasting legacy is that which deals with the reality of eternity for we and our families will spend one somewhere. If you and I will teach our children to meet their Maker as prepared servants, then we will have left them with the most important legacy imaginable... so don't blow it!

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 

Deuteronomy 4:9, NIV


Do Not Fear Failure, Part II

The great were once as you. They whom men magnify today once groped and blundered on life's way. Were fearful of themselves and thought, "by magic was men's greatness wrought."

Edgar A Guest

I've never been a big fan of poetry, but I have to admit that I have loved this particular poem since the first time I came across it. If you ever have the opportunity to read the poem in its entirety, do so as it will be well worth your time. It speaks to the fact that the so-called "great men" are just like you and me. They have the same fears, the same self-imposed limitations, the same doubts.  What sets them apart is the fact that they overcame those fears and accomplished things that they previously only dreamed about.

No person in recent memory exemplifies this better than a British woman by the name of Susan Boyles. For twenty-three years, Susan dreamed of being a professional singer. She had the talent - a beautiful voice - but she did not have the physical beauty normally associated with the modern day  entertainer. So she just stayed home with what seemed to be an impossible dream.

Then, one day, she decided to enter Britain's version of American Idol. Her first appearance was about what you would expect. This plain, simple woman took the stage to the barely concealed smirks of the judges and some open laughter from the audience. Then she started to sing and, incredibly, soon had the entire audience mesmerized with half of them in tears. The rest is history, with this newly emboldened woman selling more copies of her debut album than the initial albums of the Beatles, Elvis or any other artist in the history of music.

So let me ask again, what is it you have been putting off because of a fear of failure? Could it be just barely possible that God has something in store for you with the talents that He has placed within you? You will never know until you overcome your fears and try. And if you don't... you will simply never know. So, what have you got to lose?

I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.  

Philippians 4:13, NIV


Do Not Fear Failure

One of Teddy Roosevelt's most memorable speeches talked about how it's not the critic who counts, but the one who is actually fighting in the arena. About this person, he observed, "Who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Far too many people are paralyzed into inaction because of their fear of failure. They fear the jeers of the crowd or the stinging remarks of the critics or the possibility of simply looking foolish and being laughed at - so they don't try at all. And they waste life's greatest opportunities because they fear the possibility of failing more than they look forward to the chance of great success. Further, they cheat themselves out of the character building benefits that only failing while daring greatly can bring.

Chances are that you cannot name the baseball player who in the 1930's held the all-time record for striking out, but it's a safe bet that you can name the man who had the home run record for the same time period. Interestingly, both records were held by the same player. Yet no one remembers Babe Ruth for being prone to striking out. What they do remember is that he was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Can you imagine if Babe feared failure? We likely would have never heard of him because he probably would have never played in the first place.

So what is it that you have been putting off because you fear that you might fail? The fact is that God has created us for greatness - not mediocrity. The proof is in the price that He was willing to pay for just the possibility of our success - His one and only Son! If the Creator has placed that much confidence in our chances for success, can we not at least be willing to risk a failure or two in the quest of a life well lived and in the ultimate prize of heaven?

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14, NIV