The Greatest Gift of All

I remember when I was a little kid waking up early on Christmas morning and running down the stairs to see all the gifts underneath the Christmas tree. The excitement and joy that would fill my heart opening each and every present. You can probably reflect back as well on all those childhood memories of your own gathering around the Christmas tree.

As I reflect on the past Christmases and even as I think about this Christmas, I am reminded of the verse in Acts that says “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.”

You see the greatest gift of all is not found underneath a tree but He hung on a tree for you and for me. All the gifts underneath the tree on Christmas are temporary but the gift that hung on the tree lasts throughout eternity. You see the greatest gift you could receive this Christmas isn’t any present you unwrap from underneath the tree but the greatest gift is His presence that was provided by Jesus when He hung on the tree.

So as you open all the gifts from underneath the tree this Christmas, remember that nothing you receive can match the gift that was given when Jesus hung on a tree and gave His life for you and for me.


Define or Refine

After their loss to the University of South Carolina in the first game of the year Larry Fedora, the head football coach of the University of North Carolina, told his team that they could either let this loss define them or they could allow it to refine them. They had a decision to make. Well they went on to win 11 games in a row and make it to the ACC championship game. They allowed that moment to refine them and went on to have one of the best seasons in UNC’s history.

We live in a world where we are defined by how many followers we have on Twitter, by how many likes our post on Facebook got, by what people say about us, by how many degrees we have, by our job, by how many zeros we have in our bank account, by the clothes we wear, by the car we drive, by the house we live in, and all the fancy and expensive things we own.

We allow our circumstances to define us. We let the situation we find ourselves in define us. We have certain defining moments. We find our meaning in statuses. We find our meaning in awards and accolades. We find our meaning in promotions and raises.

Instead of allowing the moments in life to refine us, we let them tell us who we are. We allow our scars to prevent us from progress rather than letting them push us toward the stars. We don’t let our past die so it won’t allow us to live.

Why is this? Why is it so easy to fall into the trap of letting ourselves be defined rather than allowing us to be refined? The answer is because defining is a painless procedure while refining is a painful process.

Let’s look at it this way. When a person wants to make a pot or vase, they first take a lump of clay. They then mold the pot or vase into the shape they want it to be. Then they place the pot or vase in a furnace. This is what is referred to as the refiners fire. During this process of refining, every blemish or imperfection is burned away. When the pot or vase is taken out of the fire, it is in mint condition.

You see the process may be painful but you always come out better than you were when you went in. Instead of defining moments, if you allow yourself to go through the fire, they will be refining moments. Don’t let others define you but allow yourself to be refined. Don’t let your history define your destiny. Allow your past to die so your future can live.

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?

I’m about 100% sure everyone has asked this question at least once in their lifetime. You may be asking this question right now and that’s why you clicked to read this post. With everything that is going on in our world today, how can you not struggle with finding an answer to this question. The church shootings in Charleston, the bombings in Paris, the terrorists acts of Isis, and the one that really hit home with me that inspired this post, the home invasion in Indianapolis that resulted in the murder of Amanda Blackburn and her unborn child.

The confusion doesn’t stop here. The void of answers almost always results in the follow up question “How can a loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God allow things like this to happen?” 

Then the confusion turns into anger and questions like these start to come out of our mouths “How can He just sit up there and do nothing?” “Doesn’t He see what’s going on?” “Does He even care?”

Now before I go any further, there is nothing wrong with asking these questions and seeking answers for them. Just read the book of Psalms. David, who was called a man after God’s heart, struggled with questions like these throughout his life. In fact I have even struggled with this. I’m seeking answers to these questions even now. That’s why I’m writing this post.

Now I’m not going to attempt to answer these questions cause I don’t believe that there is a definitive answer, but what I will attempt to do is to give the person out there, who may be wrestling with these questions, a glimmer of hope.

Jesus said in John 16:33 ” I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We are never promised that we will not go through storms in our life, but we are promised that we won’t go through them alone. We aren’t promised that we won’t come across a few obstacles along the journey, but we are promised that we are going to make it to the end. We aren’t told how we are going to get there, when we are going to get there, or what we are going to face along the way but we are promised that we will make it to the other side. 

The other thing to take from this verse is that Jesus made this statement before He was arrested. He said this before He was beaten. He told the disciples this before He went to the cross. He stated this before He rose from the dead. In other words, before all that bad stuff happened Jesus proclaimed the good. Before He was beaten He said that He had already beat it. Before He was overcome by the cross He stated that He had already overcame the grave. Before He fell in defeat He already saw Himself standing in victory.

Romans 8:28 states “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Look at the first part of that verse. It says “all things work together for good.” It doesn’t say that good things are going to happen all the time. It says all the things (the good, the bad, and the ugly) that happen in our life God works them all together so that the end result, even though we can’t see it at the time, will be for God’s glory, our good, and the world’s joy. God takes the mess and turns it into a miracle. He takes the pain and turns it into purpose. He takes the brokenness and turns it into blessing. He takes the hurt and turns it into healing. He took a blood stained cross and turned it into an empty tomb. 

We may never have answers to these questions but as long as the tomb is still empty, we can have hope. And where there is still hope in Jesus, nothing is impossible. 

I’ll leave you with these words from the song “Every Line” by NewSpring Worship.

I close my eyes cause faith is seeing for me

I’m out of breath but you are breathing for me

I lift my hands to Jesus be the glory

My fight is gone but you are fighting for me

The battle won I’m standing on Your victory

I lift my hands to Jesus be the glory

To Jesus be the glory

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