Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Whoever came up with that advertising tagline was clever. Who wouldn’t want to give a gift that would “keep on giving” all year long?

Far better than this tagline, however, is the reality of having a gift that keeps on giving—especially when that gift goes on forever…and ever.

Friday of this past week was my spiritual birthday, and I was able to spend time that morning reading the book of Romans in one sitting. With each chapter, I was amazed anew at the riches of God’s grace, freely given to me—as a gift. It was like reading an ever-growing gift list—not of what I can only wish for, but of what God has already given to me.

In a nutshell, I was reminded that salvation is so much more than a future home in Heaven. It is peace with God through His incredible sacrifice on the cross. It is freedom from the bondage of sin. It is a relationship with God as my Father. It is the opportunity to serve Christ—to make my life count for eternity. It is the power and the liberty to live for God’s eternal purposes. Continue reading


It is significant to note that not one of the thirty-four verses in Scripture that include the phrase “give thanks” was penned after Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday. They weren’t even penned after the Pilgrims began the Thanksgiving tradition.

This would almost lead me to believe that God’s command to “give thanks” is not confined to an annual holiday, that He wants us to give thanks all year long!

Perhaps celebrating Thanksgiving should shape our hearts to practice thanksliving. Continue reading

When the Thought Counts

Think of the sounds that may emerge from an accordion when a non-musically-inclined beginner is working at it. Now, listen to it wail out the song “Count Your Blessings”—gasping in an off tempo that is struggling to keep in sync with people singing along.

You have just listened to my one-evening debut with the accordion. I’d like to be able to say that you just heard me practicing. But no, that awful rendition of “Count Your Blessings” was in public.

When I was a teenager, my family went every Tuesday evening to a local nursing home to hold a service as a ministry of our church. I loved the nursing home, and the residents loved our family. That hour was a highlight of the week for all of us.

Usually, my sister, Michele, played piano for the singing during the service. But when she was out of town one week, I had the idea that I could play her accordion. I could read notes, and I knew something of chord theory. This should be a cinch, right? Continue reading

Christmas Is a Gift

Ordinarily, I don’t believe in celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving, but I changed my mind this week when the shipment of Striving Together’s new minibook by Dr. Paul Chappell came in. I had the privilege of helping with this book prepress, and seeing it arrive felt like an early Christmas!

Christmas Is a Gift—Unwrap the Significance of the Season is beautiful inside and out. The glossy hardcover makes it perfect for a coffee table decoration or gift, and the full-color Christmas photographs throughout make you want to read it in front of a roaring fire with a cup of hot tea.

But the message inside is the best. Through this 130-page minibook, we see that Christmas is more than an event—it is a gift. Christmas is the gift of Christ’s presence, and His presence in our lives changes everything. Continue reading

Real Reasons to Rejoice

You can’t get much plainer than Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.”

But do we?

Do we just punctuate our conversations with “praise the Lord”? Or do we really praise Him?

In Christ, we find unlimited reasons to rejoice. Should we look to find joy in our circumstances, we sometimes could…and sometimes couldn’t. But should we choose to find our joy in the Lord, we will always have reason to rejoice. To rejoice is a choice, and to rejoice in the Lord should be one of the most spontaneous habits for the child of God!

But yesterday, I woke up knowing that I was going to need to make special effort to rejoice, so I set a challenge for myself. Since I knew that there are an infinite number of reasons to rejoice in the Lord (because His attributes and blessings are infinite), I determined to specifically name just one hundred. I wanted a measurable way to choose to rejoice, and I wanted a definite challenge to keep at it all day long. Continue reading

Creative Christianity

Did you ever notice that the most commonly correct answer in Sunday school is “Pray and read your Bible”? I first picked up on this in second grade.

“How can we obey God?” the teacher would ask.

Hands would shoot up. But as soon as the first person answered, “Pray and read your Bible,” the hands lowered.

“What does Jesus want us to do?” the teacher would ask.

Again, hands all over the room.

And again, first person who answered got it correct—“Pray and read your Bible.”

This answer began to seem so routine to me that I remember trying to come up with a more creative one—usually something along the lines of “Be nice to your brothers and sisters” or “Go to church.”

A few years later, I began to think that even those answers were becoming annoyingly predictable. How could the answer to every question be the same? Was there nothing more to the Christian life than “pray and read your Bible?” Continue reading

What We Learn from Veterans

Victory—I love that word. And I love success, accomplishment, and achievement.

The only problem with experiencing these words—at least in a truly heroic endeavor—is that it takes so long to attain. We want success today. We want achievement now. We want victory without sacrifice and accomplishment without effort.

All of us would thrill to return to a hero’s welcome. But few of us are willing to fight in the trenches and to endure the grueling days of a soldier’s life. Continue reading

A Pesky Question that Works

“So, how will you use that today?” That’s it—the pesky question. And a dear, godly lady asked it to me twice this week.

All I was doing was telling her about some advice I had been given and something I was learning. It was sort of a big, vague, wonderful, and sure-to-be-helpful-in-the-future truth.

And then she asked, “So, how will you use that today?”

And I squirmed.

I hadn’t really thought that far. Actually, I was planning to use it in the future—hadn’t thought so much about today. It seemed like the sort of truth that would more clearly define itself along the way. Continue reading

The Thanksgiving Game

Have you ever noticed that people only say “It’s just a game” when they’re not winning? As for me, I love winning! Even when I’m playing tic-tac-toe with little kids, I play to win! And I’m not much for the kind of games where nobody/everybody wins because they all tried. (I might have a slight competitive streak.)

But last November, I played a game with my sister and my nephews in which I really believe we all won. It was not so much a competition against each other, as a competition against our own human bent toward ungratefulness.

I call it “the Thanksgiving Game.” Here’s how it works: Each day, beginning November 1st, players make a list of what they are thankful for beginning with the letter of the alphabet that corresponds with the day. (On November 1, words begin with A; on November 2, words begin with B; and so on.)

For instance, today, I am thankful for Acceptance in Christ, the Ability to serve God, Apples, Aviation technology, Answers, and Available friends. (If I were really trying to make a long list, I could add Anteaters, and Aardvarks…but I think that may defeat the purpose of the exercise.) Continue reading