Bubble lights

When I was a boy, I was enthralled by the bubble lights on our family’s Christmas tree. They were shaped like candles, with some sort of bubbling substance—alcohol perhaps—inside, boiling from the heat of the light bulb. I don’t think you can buy them any more—at least I wasn’t able to find them for over thirty years. I imagine they were probably a fire hazard.

Too bad.

I always wanted to share them with my children before they grew too old to appreciate something like that.

There are many things that only children understand. One day when my children were young, we were sitting on the edge of a slightly raised platform at church. No one else was around, so we took off our shoes and counted all our fingers and toes.

Adults understand that almost everybody has ten fingers and ten toes. But children understand the wonder of making that discovery.

Innocence. Discovery. Wonder. These are precious things.

It is no coincidence that I lingered so long by the Christmas tree when I was a child. For the only heart that is really ready to receive the Christmas Child is the heart full of wonder.

To me this is precious: that God has little time for our jaded sophistication, but has open arms for our wide-eyed wonder.

Enjoy this season of wonder and awe!

This is an excerpt from my latest book, A Beautiful Christmas. There’s a video that goes with the book that I think you’ll love. (Scroll down when you get to the page.)

Works of wonder

They didn’t have a cradle. They didn’t have a crib. They didn’t have expensive baby clothes. But what they did have, they gave.

What is a manger? It is nothing by itself. Yet, given to Christ, it has become a powerful message that has rocked every generation for centuries.

God transforms plain things into works of wonder. A picnic lunch became a miracle meal. (Matthew 14) A jar of oil became an investment property. (2 Kings 4)

What do we have? Our homes might not be spotless, our cars might not be fancy. It may seem like we have nothing to give but the plainest of gifts. But let’s not hold back! Let us give what we have to Christ. Our plain gifts, every one of them, is an opportunity for God to work wonders.

Who knows what He might do!

This is an excerpt from my latest book, A Beautiful Christmas. There’s a video that goes with the book that I think you’ll love. (Scroll down when you get to the page.)

Stealth

In the 2002 movie version of The Count of Monte Cristo, the count makes a spectacular appearance to the elite social circle of his day. He arrives in a hot air balloon, complete with fireworks, dancers, dozens of servants—all the fanfare you could imagine.

By contrast, the first appearance of Jesus seems like an entry of stealth. Tucked away in a Judean village, in a cave or a stable, a traveling Jewish woman stops to give birth to a baby. It seems out of place.

But Jesus’ birth became a metaphor for His whole life. Years later, Pilate couldn’t understand why Jesus didn’t vigorously defend Himself. It didn’t occur to Jesus to bother. He knew that He had no lasting place in this world, until He returns to take possession of everything that is rightfully His.

Today Jesus is being born into the lives of people all over the world. Again, His entry is mostly unpublished, unrecognized, quiet. Quiet. Sort of like the Joshua’s first six trips around Jericho.

This is an excerpt from my latest book, A Beautiful Christmas. There’s a video that goes with the book that I think you’ll love. (Scroll down when you get to the page.)

The ability to see

Mary shared her heart with Elizabeth: “Everything inside me feels like singing because I am in awe of God. From highest heaven He looks down and sees me. What will future generations think? God brought me—an ordinary woman—under His wings and cared for me. But this is who He is—gathering into His care those who tremble before Him, and tossing the arrogant into history’s ash can. Seeing the hungry, He prepares a banquet, but He slams the door on the indifferent and unmerciful. Everything we hoped for and more—everything He promised in the past—all of this, He will perform, giving all of us reason for song.” Luke 1:46-55 DCP

Some might scoff at Mary’s song. The boot of the Roman empire was on the neck of the Jewish nation. Mighty deeds were measured in columns of marching Roman soldiers. The great miracles of deliverance for Israel were history—ancient history it seemed. The people of Israel lived and died under the watchful eye of the Roman state.

But God gives a great gift to His children. God enables us to see what others cannot see. The unbeliever may look at our lives and see financial calamity, terminal illness, pain of every kind, addiction, hypocrisy and failure. But we look up and see the Shepherd bringing us to quiet waters. We see the Father opening His arms to us. We see our Defender demolishing the schemes of the enemy. We see our Savior holding our hands in His own, looking us in the eye and telling us that we belong to Him.

We look up and see the truth.

This is an excerpt from my latest book, A Beautiful Christmas. There’s a video that goes with the book that I think you’ll love. (Scroll down when you get to the page.)

A single prayer

Sometimes our lives are defined by a single prayer. It may be a prayer for a child, as was the case with Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-25). It may be a prayer for healing or deliverance. It may be a prayer for prosperity, as was the case with Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).

Think about your prayer. Look at what the Lord did. Zechariah and Elizabeth could no longer have what they longed for. They were too old. Their dream had died. It may be that you can no longer lift your face heavenward. Maybe your dream has died.

Think about your prayer. Zechariah and Elizabeth endured so many years of silence. Pleading with God. Faithfully obeying His commandments, yet moving through life with a silent cry of anguish. No response. Nothing. Where was God?

But God hadn’t given up. How long had God planned the miraculous birth of John the Baptist? Let me suggest it was planned from the beginning of time.

Our grief, our lack, our pain, our need, the betrayal and impossibilities we have experienced—none of these have escaped God’s notice. His solution—our miracle—is already on the books. When our miracle shows up, we make some discoveries, just like Zechariah did: God’s plans are bigger than ours. God hasn’t forgotten, and He hasn’t stopped caring. What God does for us isn’t just for us alone. It has a ripple effect that will touch people all over the world.

This is an excerpt from my latest book, A Beautiful Christmas. There’s a video that goes with the book that I think you’ll love. (Scroll down when you get to the page.)

The Christian in financial recovery

Think the woman caught in adultery (John 8). No, her issue was not finances, but her story illustrates the heart of God for those in recovery.

Maybe you’re in a financial mess, and you know that the mess is your own fault. Maybe you’ve had a problem with over spending, or gambling, or laziness, or whatever.

Okay. Another great opportunity for God. God loves to empower His children to overcome all kinds of issues—and let’s face it, we all have our issues. And He loves bringing His children together around that process of restoration so we understand that each of us is needy, each of us has something to offer, and God has the keys that set us free.

How do we respond to Christians in financial recovery? Passing judgment on them is not the same thing as restoring them. Pointing out their sins and shortcomings does not empower Christians in financial recovery to overcome those shortcomings. Instead, a much deeper work is needed. And usually that work means that two people grow: the person being helped and the person doing the helping.

If you’re in this situation, it takes great courage and humility to recognize you need help and to reach out for that help. Yes, some people will use this occasion to “rub your nose in it.” I’m sorry that happens. Stay the course. A better life is ahead. Get good advice, but first and foremost find God’s loving heart for you in all those hurting places in your soul. That will strengthen you and empower you to overcome.

Verses for further study: Galatians 6:1-5, John 8:1-11, 8:32, Proverbs 15:16, 2 Timothy 2:23-26

We have looked at five different ways Christians experience money.
1. The diligent Christian
2. The Christian living by faith
3. The destitute Christian
4. The prosperous Christian
5. The Christian in financial recovery

Image of person and bike adapted from a public domain image supplied by pixabay.

The prosperous Christian

Think Abraham, the Old Testament patriarch whose wealth steadily increased throughout his life.

Maybe you have an almost “supernatural” ability to make money. You put together deals and bucket loads of money fall into your lap.

If this is you, then your life also can be a beautiful display of God’s goodness and greatness. You show the world how much God loves prospering His kids, and how rich and generous His heart is. God might be offering you the opportunity to partner with Him on a level most people can only dream about. Many people who have this gift also have the gift of giving—they give away huge chunks of their wealth to advance God’s purposes here on earth.

Again, the dangers are many. Wealth is power, and power can so easily be abused. It’s easy to forget how much power you have, and how your decisions can profoundly alter someone else’s life. It’s also easy to get caught up in the game of making money and forget why God is entrusting you with His wealth. Are you listening to His voice? Do you share His heart?

Verses for further study: Genesis 13:2, 26:12-13, Psalm 62:10, 112:3, James 5:1-6, 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 6:17-19, Mark 10:17-31

We are looking at five different ways Christians experience money.
1. The diligent Christian
2. The Christian living by faith
3. The destitute Christian
4. The prosperous Christian
5. The Christian in financial recovery

Image of business person adapted from a public domain image supplied by freeqration.

The destitute Christian

Think Job—the Old Testament man whose life story is told in the book bearing his name. (BTW, the book of Job offers an enormously important perspective on life, but you need to dig deep into its message to find that meaning. Job is worth reading and rereading.)

Maybe you’re desperate. Your life is a financial nightmare. You find yourself in survival mode. You’re so busy trying to figure out how you’re going to make it to tomorrow that you have no time to even consider whether your mess is your fault, somebody else’s fault, or nobody’s fault. The destitute Christian looks to others for comfort and support, but often receives blame, condemnation, slander, and judgment instead.

It’s important to understand that Christians are sometimes destitute. It’s easy to assume that people are to blame for their financial problems. Sorry. That isn’t always the case. Sometimes they are not. Sometimes—not always, but sometimes—being destitute is even a badge of honor—a path chosen for only a select few of God’s servants. If we don’t get this, we will be arrogant, hard hearted, superficial in our faith, and condescending.

What an opportunity for God! There’s a million creative things God can do with your situation. He might use your plight to break a hard heart somewhere in the Christian community, and introduce someone to the joy of sacrificial sharing. He might use your experience to teach you something very deep and very personal about Himself—something you might not be able to learn anywhere else. He might use your situation to propel you into leading a world-class business, or to show you how creatively He can provide. I don’t know, but in the end, I believe you will stand in awe of God.

The dangers here are many, but two of the biggest are these: losing faith in God and losing faith in people. Job’s counselors abound. (If you’ve read the book of Job and you’ve found yourself in this situation, you know exactly what I mean.) It’s so easy to become bitter. But there are still good people out there; this is just a path that most people don’t understand. God has not abandoned you. He will see you through.

Verses for further study: Hebrews 11:36-39, Job (entire book and especially 1:8, 2:3, 42:7, 42:10 in context), James 2:1-7, 1 Kings 17:8-24

We are looking at five different ways Christians experience money.
1. The diligent Christian
2. The Christian living by faith
3. The destitute Christian
4. The prosperous Christian
5. The Christian in financial recovery

Image adapted from an image by Jeremy Weate, Flickr, Creative Commons.

The Christian living by faith

Think Elijah, the Old Testament prophet who was fed by the ravens and who drank at the brook.

Maybe every day is a financial miracle for you. Nothing is guaranteed, but somehow God provides day after day, week after week. You never have much, but you always have what you need.

If this is what God has called you to do, then your experience with money also shines a spotlight on the goodness and greatness of God. Your life of faith demonstrates the faithfulness of God. Others can learn from you not to worry; God will provide.

The danger of living your entire life here is that you may not fully develop some of the character strengths that mark the diligent Christian. You may expect God to show up when you haven’t put in the work God requires. Or you might expect others to work for you without fairly compensating them. It’s also easy to get impatient with those who don’t share your level of faith or your level of generosity.

Verses for further study: Hebrews 10:38, Philippians 4:19, Matthew 6:25-34, Proverbs 10:4, 1 Timothy 5:18, James 5:4, Romans 15:1

We are looking at five different ways Christians experience money.
1. The diligent Christian
2. The Christian living by faith
3. The destitute Christian
4. The prosperous Christian
5. The Christian in financial recovery

Image of sailboat adapted from an image by Federica Chioni, Flickr, Creative Commons.

The diligent Christian

Think Paul, the New Testament apostle who, during seasons of his life, supported himself as a tent maker.

Maybe you go to a job every day, work hard, bring home a paycheck, follow a budget, give generously when you can, invest wisely where you can, make sacrifices, and reap rewards. You earn your own living, pay your own way, plan for the future, and provide for your family.

If this is what God has called you to do, then your experience with money shines a spotlight on the goodness and greatness of God. God values your hard work, your diligence, providing for your family, your sacrificial generosity, your wise planning. These are bedrock values in a healthy society. These are character qualities that mark a man or woman of God.

The danger, however, of living your entire life here is this: It’s easy to look at others and assume they are morally deficient because their life experience is different than yours. It’s easy to become impatient with those who are struggling, hard hearted toward those who are needy. Another danger is this: When disaster strikes, you may not have learned the spiritual skills needed to sustain you when all your money is taken away. It’s easy to put faith in your own ability to provide, instead of putting your trust in God.

Some verses for further study: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12, Proverbs 10:4, 11:4, 11:28, 12:24, 13:11, Colossians 3:23, Luke 8:14, 12:42, Matthew 6:19-21, 6:24, 7:1-5, Philippians 4:11-13, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, James 2:1-7

We are looking at five different ways Christians experience money.
1. The diligent Christian
2. The Christian living by faith
3. The destitute Christian
4. The prosperous Christian
5. The Christian in financial recovery

Image of construction worker adapted from a public domain image provided by pixabay.

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