I Want to Know Christ

Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.

From the song Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Johann Sebastian Bach , lyrics by Robert Bridges

One of the joys of the Christmas season is the beautiful music that is played everywhere.  Recently I heard the faint strains of Hark the Herald Angels Sing as I cruised up and down the grocery store aisles.  Bing Crosby’s version of O Little Town of Bethlehem greeted me when I stepped into an elevator at a local mall.  And when I tuned into satellite radio’s holiday station, I got to enjoy a melodious rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

The lyrics of the song above might not be as familiar to some, but this last movement of a Bach cantata has been played at many Christian festivities since it was written in the early 1700s.  In addition to Christmas, you may have heard it at Easter and at weddings.  The lyrics that were later added by Bridges are also striking.  They call for us to look to Jesus, the joy of man’s desiring.  His wisdom and love speak to us, drawing us into an amazing relationship that allows our souls to soar!

Friends, this is what I love most about Christmas.  In the days ahead, we can’t help but focus on Jesus.  The decorations, wrappings, food, and festivities don’t have to be distractions—instead, they can be constant reminders of what this holy season is all about! And that’s what I long for:  I want to really know Jesus more and more this Christmas.  I think Paul said it best this way:

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death.
Philippians 3:7-10

Like the apostle, my heart’s desire is to know my Lord and Savior.  I want to understand why He left the joys of Heaven in order to save us.  I long to love the way He does, reaching out to both the saved and yet-to-be-saved—sharing with them about the joy that He has given me.

Much of the music of this blessed season reminds me of His truths.  Let’s look at the final stanzas of Bach’s famous tune:

Through the way where hope is guiding, 
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding, 
Drink of joy from deathless springs.

Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure. 
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown. 

Hope is indeed guiding us in this journey of life. Christmas and all its festivities merely point us back to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. So, enjoy the music! Drink in the sights and sounds of the season, and celebrate with family and friends. Most of all, get to know Jesus more through every joyful moment of the days and weeks ahead.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Sonkist Ministries!

 

Thought of the Month

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

From O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks and Lewis Redner

A Lesson about Gratitude

“Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.”
Jonah 4:5-6
What on earth does the prophet Jonah have to do with this month when we celebrate Thanksgiving?  Plenty!  Like so many of us, Jonah was blessed immensely by God—and in the passage above, we see how grateful he was for the Lord’s perfect provision in his time of need.  But also like us, Jonah quickly forgot those blessings.  In fact, when things got tough, this reluctant prophet got angry:
But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”  “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”  Jonah 4:7-9
It’s almost impossible to believe that this is the same individual who cried from the belly of the great fish for God to save him!  After disobeying God, Jonah desperately prayed for help, even making promises to God:  “But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone!” (Chapter 2, verse 9).  One can’t miss the irony of a man, saved from death, wishing to die because a plant perished!

Yet if I take an honest look at my life, how many times has my gratitude shifted—sometimes dramatically—because I felt slighted by someone or even by God Himself? And when I might tend to judge someone like Jonah for being unthankful after all that the Lord had done for him, couldn’t others say the same thing about me? How often have I forgotten my blessings and instead focused on a particular problem or burden?

I’m not sure how you feel, but I want this season of Thanksgiving to be different.  I don’t want to be appreciative for a day, like Jonah, and then slip into a spirit of ungratefulness when times get tough. I would love to grasp the bigger picture of what God is doing in my life and in my world.  And I’d really like to remain consistent in my attitude of gratitude—not wavering because of some circumstance that goes awry or someone who doesn’t see things my way.

Where would you like to improve when it comes to thankfulness?  How can you praise the Lord more for the good things He has done for you?  And if God gives you something you don’t want—or takes away something that you do—can you still say “praise the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21b)?

The great news is that God can still use us, even when we’ve messed up on some of the simplest lessons about gratitude.  Jonah helped save Nineveh, a city of 120,000 people, despite his flaws. If the Lord can do that kind of work, who knows what He has in store for us this month—and in the months ahead!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from all of us at Sonkist Ministries!

Thought of the Month

“Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.”
Psalm 50:14

A Harvest of Possibilities

He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.”
Luke 18:27, NLT
Problems, or possibilities?  This is a dilemma I’m faced with most days.  Not which ones will appear, but rather what perspective I will have about various circumstances that somehow or other cross my path.

I’m sure you can relate to some of these scenarios too. Perhaps the car isn’t running right.  Or that faucet is leaking again.  Or the dog keeps digging up the grass.  Maybe someone you know hasn’t done what he or she promised—again.  Are these problems?  Yes.  But can they also be situations ripe with opportunity?  You bet!

Now, you and I may not necessarily like the “opportunity”—whatever it may be—but none the less, we have a choice about how we will respond to virtually everything in our daily experiences.  And there’s a very good chance that some of these experiences will include problems.  How do I know?  Because Jesus Himself spoke frankly about this fact of life:

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33
Note that Jesus, in addition to foretelling of future dilemmas, also gave His followers hope to be able to handle these times of difficulty: “I have overcome the world.”  Indeed, repeatedly in Scripture, we find the best approach for addressing life’s problems:  all things are possible with God (see Luke 18:27 above).  Not only can He aid us by changing our perspective about problems, but the Lord can assist us in dealing with whatever comes our way. Here are a few other passages that verify this reality:
 Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!  
Jeremiah 32:17

I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. 
Job 42:2

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 
Ephesians 3:20

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. 
Isaiah 41:10

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.  
James 1:5

More of these truths can be found throughout Scripture, offering us hope—even when experiencing the most trying circumstances.  Why not take some time this upcoming season to consider the difficulties that you’re dealing with from a slightly different perspective? What problems could turn into possibilities with God’s assistance? Are there ways you can trust Him more, even if the situation seems overwhelming or intolerable?

Whatever you do, remember Jesus’ gentle reminder to everyone who follows Him: “I have told you all this so you may have peace in me.”  Perhaps this divine peace will be the best blessing we will receive this upcoming Harvest season!

Happy Fall from all of us at Sonkist Ministries!

 

Thought of the Month

Turn to me and have mercy,
for I am alone and in deep distress.
My problems go from bad to worse.
Oh, save me from them all!
Feel my pain and see my trouble.
Forgive all my sins.

Psalm 25:16-18

Back to School—Always!

We will not hide these truths from our children;
we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the
Lord,
about His power and H
is mighty wonders.

Psalm 78:4, NLT

Even with over three decades in the field of education, I still look forward to the start of another school year. I’m excited for students who will have the chance to gain more knowledge, consider new concepts, and interact with one another.  Whether in public, private, or home-school settings, this season reminds both children and adults of the importance of the learning process.

This learning process is extremely critical when it comes to our spiritual development too.  Everyone, young and old, should keep growing—just as Paul reminded early believers: “I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God” (Ephesians 1:16b-17).  In a sense, we should be experiencing “Back to School” regularly in our journey of faith.

Psalm 78 also clarifies that the older generation must pass on truths about the Lord to the children in their care.  Look at these verses from that psalm which give the rationale for this concept:

For He issued His laws to Jacob; He gave His instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—and they in turn will teach their own children. So, each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting His glorious miracles and obeying His commands.  (verses 5-7)

Notice that the instructions God gave were to be the first agenda items that should be passed on to the next generation.  Why?  So they could learn them, avoid mistakes, and then pass the Lord’s great ways of living on to yet another generation.  In other words, by intentionally instructing the younger generation, adults were offering them the opportunity to “set their hope anew on God.

Over the years of teaching, consulting, and writing, I’ve been asked a lot of questions—particularly about parenting.  I’ve often been astonished when people express their concern about being too intentional about faith.  Some men and women are uncertain about what to share; others are apathetic.  The most surprising conversation I had was with a family member who thought his kids should just “get” faith on their own.  I remined him that we would never expect children to simply “get” reading, writing, or math by themselves—instead, we’re extremely intentional about teaching these critical subject areas.  Boys, girls, teenagers—and adults for that matter—rarely pick up knowledge without some sort of guidance. Indeed, strategic educational effort helps learners all throughout the life cycle.

In our book, Straight Line for Parents:  9 Strategies for Raising Exceptional Kids (Wilke & Wilke, 2012), we talk about “three pillars” for bringing up the next generation:  Faith, Family, and Education.  We specifically list the pillars in this order for a reason.  Faith is the foundation, family is the framework, and education provides the pathway for success.  Ten or twenty years ago we might not have been so definitive—but with over sixty years of combined professional interactions with children and adults and three-plus decades of parenting (and now grandparenting) together, we are confident that these pillars will work for you and your family.

So, how’s your “Back-to-School” process going?  Are you intentionally working to improve your spiritual knowledge?  If so, how?  Is there anything else you might do to guarantee that you are growing “in your knowledge of God”?  What’s happening with the young people in your life?  Maybe they’re your children, or grandchildren, or nieces and nephews.  Perhaps you teach a Sunday School class—or just have neighbor kids with whom you interact.  Could you find some new, innovative ways to “tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His power and His mighty wonders”?

If you’re not sure where or how to get started, why not read through Psalm 78 to find out what that generation passed on—truths that are still impacting the world we live in today.  In addition, you can read Straight Lines for Parents in paperback or Kindle versions—or pick up a copy for someone you care about.  We also recommend checking out Focus on the Family at www.FocusOnTheFamily.com for fantastic faith-based resources.  Whatever you do, keep learning this Back-to-School season—and all throughout life’s wonderful journey!

Many blessings to you from everyone at Sonkist Ministries!

 

Thought of the Month

 O my people, listen to my instructions.
Open your ears to what I am saying,
for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
stories we have heard and known,
stories our ancestors handed down to us.

Psalm 78:1-3

What Makes You Happy?

I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches. I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways.  I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.
Psalm 119:14-16
While researching the Internet for an upcoming blog on optimism, I encountered numerous sites that summed up several studies about what makes people happy.  See how many of these resonate with you:
  • Connections to family
  • Close relationships
  • Good health
  • Generous people; giving to others
  • Being engaged in some type of meaningful work
  • Forgiveness
  • Faith
  • Exercise
  • Interactions with pets
  • Attitudes of gratitude

As I reviewed these findings, I realized that quite a few of the items were ones that God would be pleased with too since many are directly related to our relationship with Him as well as the people and experiences He has created for us to enjoy.  Indeed, Scripture confirms that when our connection with the Lord is strong, we can’t help but discover a true, lasting joy in the process.  Look at this section of Psalm 119 to see what I mean:

Joyful are people of integrity,
who follow the instructions of the Lord. 

Joyful are those who obey His laws and
search for Him with all their hearts.
(verses 1&2)

The message found in these two verses seems counter-intuitive to much of what we find in our current culture.  In fact, the “me” focus of a few decades ago has transformed into a “whatever works for you” mentality.  Today, morals are questioned, social mores morph by the minute, and faith-based thinking seems way off base to many.

Yet these time-tested truths the psalmist shared transcend what may be trending on social media.  Consider these facts shared in this section of Psalms for a minute.  Has following God’s guidelines for great living helped you—or not?  When you’ve felt close to the Lord, did your life seem better—or worse?

And when we consider that list of top items that make people happy, wouldn’t many of them be more uplifting if the Lord was integrally involved?  For instance, how would our experiences with family, friends, co-workers, and community members be if we interacted with one another according to Biblical principles?  Might work be more meaningful—would we be more thankful—could we forgive more freely—if we had God’s assistance?

Summer is a perfect season for reflection, so I encourage you to think about what truly makes you happy.  Remember, God has great plans for you—and being joyful is part of that!  So, contemplate all the good things you’ve got in your life right now.  Make plans for fun, joy-filled activities in the days ahead—and include lots of family and friends so they can be encouraged too.  And, most of all, be sure to set aside time to focus on the One who makes life possible and would love to be part of your joyful journey here on Planet Earth!

Thought of the Month

May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in your word.
Psalm 119:74

I Choose Peace!

But all who listen to Me will live in peace,
 untroubled by fear of harm.

Proverbs 1:33

Like many people, I’ve spent lots of time considering the word “peace”—and certainly never like I did in 2016.  World news was once again dominated by acts of terrorism, and in the U.S., daily broadcasts of everything from politics to local events revealed struggle, strife, and animosity in abundance.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve also spent time wondering if we will ever be able to experience real peace this side of Heaven.  The great news is that God’s Word confirms that we can—we should—enjoy His kind of peace in our day-to-day lives, and this is the message you’ll discover in Sonkist Ministries’ latest book, I Choose Peace!  Here is an excerpt from Chapter 2 that speaks to the thoughts above:

 Like many people throughout history, you may be wondering why God would allow such evil to be perpetuated—especially on members of His forever family. Once again, the rationale for all of this links to the very beginning of human existence. Disregarding God’s guidelines had consequences, and the decision by Adam and Eve to reject God’s wishes, mirrors the rebellious act of Lucifer and the other fallen angels. While time ticks on, the imperfections initiated by the choice to turn away from the guidelines God provided for perfect and peaceful living will continue. However, the Lord is good—He has given us gentle reminders of this reality all throughout His Word, including the verse that started this chapter. Let’s look at John 16:33 again: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

In some of His final words to His followers, Jesus spoke of the realities of living in a fallen world—yet He also offered an amazing peace that people can experience by having a personal relationship with Him. Look at the wording again: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me.” It’s as if Jesus were saying, “Sure, life will be hard when I’m gone. You will have your own intrapersonal struggles. People won’t like you because you’re Christians. The devil is at work in the world, and so are his evil forces. But don’t worry! I can help you because I am the One who has overcome sin, evil, and their consequences.”

If we just focused on the consequences sin has had on humanity, we can grasp why peace is so challenging to experience here on earth. This situation might also be pretty depressing as we face the reality that our flawed human state, as well as the devil and his forces, are constantly working against us in our quest for harmonious living. But, as Jesus reminded us, we don’t have to be discouraged—we should “take heart!” In Him we can find true, lasting peace—and that’s exactly what the next chapter is going to delve into in a much deeper way.

 Our prayer is that I Choose Peace! will encourage you in your journey toward finding the Lord’s peace—and that you’ll also be able to share about how to experience the peace-filled life God always hoped His creation would enjoy!

*I Choose Peace! can be found in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon.com.

Thought of the Month

 If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good.
 Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

 I Peter 3:10-11

Marooned

Once I was young, and now I am old.
Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned …

Psalm 37:25

 Do you remember the story of Robinson Crusoe? The famous book by Daniel Defoe about this character has been popular for almost three centuries because of the compelling tale of the tremendous trails faced by this castaway.

What many of us may not be aware of is that Crusoe was derived from an actual individual who, after being marooned, endured incredible difficulties during his stay on a deserted island.  Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish privateer and Royal Navy officer, was abandoned in 1704 by his ship’s captain after a dispute regarding the seaworthiness of their vessel (Selkirk was correct; the ship soon foundered—and the captain and crew were forced to surrender to enemy forces).

Selkirk had been given few supplies when marooned on the uninhabited island:  a musket, a hatchet, a knife, a cooking pot, a Bible, bedding and some clothes. His survival was aided by skills he had learned in his youth, and he sang psalms and read from that Bible for comfort and encouragement.  Months turned into four long years before Selkirk was eventually rescued.

While most of us probably can’t fathom how we’d fare in those unimaginable circumstances, we can probably relate to Selkirk’s feelings of loneliness.  What do I mean by that? Well, here are a few examples:

  • A parent abandoned you at some point in your life.
  • A spouse left you, perhaps for someone else.
  • You’re in a “relationship,” but the other person doesn’t try to connect with you.
  • You have been caring for a family member, maybe for many years, with little or no support.
  • Your life circumstances are challenging, yet no one else seems able to assist you.

And, as is often the case, this kind of list could go on and on. “Marooned” simply defined means being abandoned or left without aid.  When we examine the scope of our lives, how often—how long—have we felt like this has happened to us?

Yet as we reflect upon this real-life castaway, we can be encouraged by the fact that we aren’t totally abandoned either! Just as God provided for Alexander Selkirk on that island, He also cares for us. No one else may know how alone we feel, but He does! Indeed, centuries before Selkirk, King David wrote numerous psalms about his personal struggles with similar feelings.  Here is one example:

Turn to me and have mercy,

for I am alone and in deep distress.

My problems go from bad to worse.

Oh, save me from them all!

Psalm 25:16-17

Just like Selkirk and King David, you do not have to be on a deserted island to experience isolation—but you also don’t have to get stuck in that state of mind. Ask God for help. Pray, often and always. Search the Word for the Lord’s truths, for there you will find strength in your time of need!

 

Thought of the Month

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

 Deuteronomy 3:16

The Old Deluder Satan Law

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

 Proverbs 22:6, NLT

Have you ever heard of the Old Deluder Satan Law? If not, you aren’t alone. This 1647 piece of legislation from the Massachusetts Bay Colony is one of three original public education laws put into place in the early days of what would eventually become the United States.

Why would our founding fathers and mothers discuss Satan when establishing a system for public schooling? In brief, they wanted to ensure children would be able to read and understand spiritual truths to counteract the negative forces at work in the world in which they lived. As soon as a town had fifty or more families, they were required to hire a teacher to assist them with this process. Once 100 or more families comprised the town, an official grammar school was to be established based on the foundational principle of creating an intellectual, spiritually-aware populace. The hope was that some of these well-educated children would also be prepared to enter Harvard College, whose mission after being founded in 1636 was to prepare individuals for the ministry.

While our history books are often missing these amazing details about American public education, we shouldn’t miss out on the transcendent message behind this legislation from ages past. First, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to the foundation of faith established centuries ago. Our forbearers infused timeless truths into the very fabric of their community, culture, and country. Shouldn’t we, in modern times, be willing to do the same? Second, parents were considered the primary educators of their children. They were responsible for hiring qualified teachers. They were to ensure schools were established—and that those same schools fulfilled their obligation of providing superior education to the young citizens of their day.

Those original settlers were aligned and attuned with what Solomon penned in Proverbs 22:6:  “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” For those of us helping to guide the future leaders of our homes, communities, and country, that instruction is ours to follow and carry out too.

Whether we are parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, we can inspire children and young people to understand the spiritual principles God has provided for all human kind. His guidelines for great living haven’t altered with changing seasons or shifts in laws and culture. And those of us closely involved with local schools should stay connected! Whether public, public charter, parochial or private, educational institutions need our involvement and input. After all, this is one of our earliest callings as citizens of the great nation we’ve inherited.

This month, schools across America begin planning for the upcoming academic year. As they do so, let’s be in prayer for those engaged in this process. In addition, let’s carefully consider how we can assist children discover the incredible path that leads to success as well as eternal security!

Thought of the Week

 I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—

 stories we have heard and known,

    stories our ancestors handed down to us.

We will not hide these truths from our children;

    we will tell the next generation

about the glorious deeds of the Lord,

    about his power and his mighty wonders.

Psalm 78: 2b-4

A Love-filled Life

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.

Philippians 1:9

Did you know that, according to a study done by Pew Research Center, 88% of Americans report that love is still their number one reason for getting married? That’s right, love ranked higher than making a lifelong commitment (81% also ranked this as a “very important” reason) and the need for companionship (76%)— and way over financial stability (only 28%)!

Statistics aside, this month offers a reminder that people of all ages love the idea of love. Store shelves are stocked with goodies and gifts for Valentine’s Day. Card racks are filled with an array of adoring messages you can send. And of course, flower stands seem to pop up on every corner right before the 14th rolls around. This shouldn’t surprise us either since, as creations of a loving God, we seem to be pre-wired with the desire to love and be loved.

In Scripture, we also discover that we are encouraged to express this God-given ability on a regular basis.  Let’s look at Ephesians 5:2 to find one reminder:

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Spend a minute mulling over that first phrase:  “Live a life filled with love.”  What would this look like to you? How would you act toward others if you intentionally strove to fulfill this exhortation each day? How would you hope others might respond if you were living a life that seemed to overflow with loving attitudes and actions?

Obviously, none of us can come close to attaining this type of loving lifestyle without help from the One mentioned in the rest of that verse. Christ’s devotion and sacrifice are beautiful examples of what true love looks like. Jesus totally gave of Himself—without thought of a “return on investment”—so people’s lives could be transformed. That’s why it’s only with His divine assistance, day in and day out, that we can really love others. Indeed, this is a calling given to each of us who follow the Lord:

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (John 13:34-35

Even though you may really want to love like Christ does, it won’t be easy. For instance, what do you do when:

  • Someone you care about doesn’t want to be loved?
  • An individual in your life spurns your love?
  • A person you know mocks you for trying to live in kind, compassionate ways?
  • Somebody says he or she loves you, but then he/she stops?

The list could go on and on. And while I always recommend setting healthy boundaries, you can still have a loving attitude—even in worst-case scenarios. In fact, in I Choose Love! I explain how there are situations and seasons of life when you may need to “love someone from a distance.” In other words, you can still pray for that individual, even if you’ve had to step away from the relationship.

The bottom line for all of us, whether married or single, is that we are designed to be loving beings just like God intended—and He can help us live up to that potential if we let Him. As we do so, not only will our lives be healthier and happier, but we’ll also be setting a great example for others of what the Lord’s love is all about!

Thought of the Week

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

I John 3:18

Time to Celebrate!

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

I Corinthians 10:31

I want to begin my note to you this month with a question:  How are you choosing to celebrate Christmas?  I use the verb “choosing” deliberately—first and foremost because choice involves intentionality.  Like so many aspects of life, you and I have the opportunity to determine how we will—or will not—commemorate and enjoy this special time of celebration.

You see, there are many positions regarding the remembrance of Christmas.  For some, it is a federal holiday filled with festive decorations, food, and visits with family.  In the retail world, this is a time to entice consumers to buy goodies and gifts in order to get out of the red and hopefully secure a year-end profit.  There are people who prefer to keep the day totally secular, and still others who question if this religious holiday should be celebrated at all.

As Christians, we typically don’t worry about whether or not we should enjoy this season that is set aside to honor Christ’s birth.  Instead, many of us wonder how much—or how little—we should celebrate.  For instance, is putting up a tree and going gung-ho with yard decorations too much?  Is being present at parties, attending plays or ballets, and even hosting gatherings of our own over the top?

The answer for you and me is very personal—as it should be. Each of us ought to seek God’s guidance about everything, including how we will celebrate His amazing gift sent centuries ago in the person of Jesus Christ.  In part that’s why I so appreciate the Apostle Paul’s dialogue found in I Corinthians 10.  After summing up a communique about struggles the believers in Corinth were having in their own culture, he reminds all of us that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31, New Living Translation). 

Friend, this is the bottom line for many of the decisions we face in life.  Is what we are going to do pleasing to the Lord, or not?  Will our attitudes and actions actually bring glory to Him?  What a great metric to measure our choices by!

In Psalm 115, we find another way of looking at celebrating the Lord:  “The dead cannot sing praises to Jehovah here on earth, but we can! We praise him forever! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 115:17-18, The Living Bible).  The psalmist saw earthly existence as a chance to offer praise to the Lord.  Those who have passed on aren’t present to share with others what God has done, is doing, and will do in the future—but we can!

What better time to embrace this wonderful opportunity than now.  Christmas gives us the chance to sing His praises and rejoice in the real reason for this season.  And no matter how we choose to do our celebrating, may each of us remember “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1).

Merry Christmas to you and your family from all of us at Sonkist Ministries!


Thought of the Month

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Luke 2:13-14