Recently, my wife, Tammi, and I were with a small group of friends. Brock Gill, an amazing Christian illusionist, was a part of the group. Someone asked him to do a couple of “tricks” for us. He had been traveling all day with his wife, and was obviously very tired, but graciously agreed to entertain us (for free … which was really cool). read more
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Christmas is usually cluttered. We’re overbooked with parties, concerts, football games and shopping trips while our houses are jammed with decorations, out-of-town guests and way too much food. Then on Christmas morning, after the presents have been opened, we sweep up the crumpled giftwrap, tinsel, ribbons, bows, pine needles and boxes that are scattered everywhere. As much as I love the joy of this season (eggnog is my weakness), I struggle to make sure I don’t lose the profound simplicity of Christmas amid the sensory overload.
This year I decided to pay closer attention to the names of Jesus used in the Christmas story. These names are like wrapped gifts—you have to open them carefully to savor their meaning. You might want to share these names with your loved ones at your Christmas dinner, or take a break from the stress of the holidays to look up these Scriptures and ponder them carefully. Remember: Jesus is God’s present to us. Have you fully unwrapped this amazing gift? read more
Have you ever stopped to think about the scenes leading up to Jesus’ birth in their very human terms? We often wrap the Christmas story in a halo-like glow of wonder and the comfort of knowing the end of the story! But in between the awe of angelic visitation, the shining star and the rich gifts from the Magi, there was an impossible promise, wagging tongues of a scandalized community, a confused fiance, heartbroken parents, a bony donkey's back and a very dirty stable. Mary’s blessing came with a lot of contradictions!
God’s promises are often like that. Abraham was promised nations when he and Sarah were well beyond the age or natural ability to bear children. Moses was sent to set God’s people free from the most powerful nation on earth with a one-line memo and a stick. read more
Two weeks ago when I wrote about how God worked in the lives of people in the biblical Christmas story, several readers jumped in to remind me that the modern celebration of Christmas is a pagan holiday that is luring unsuspecting, gift-giving revelers into hell itself. One person who identified himself as “Albert” wrote in our online forum that he “isn’t comfortable celebrating Christmas” because of its demonic origins.
You probably know there are many Christians who boycott Christmas for various reasons—some factual and some quite debatable. These people insist:
* The holiday has become too commercialized and promotes greed. (I would agree.) read more
I have felt so strongly that we are in a season when God wants to bless us beyond our wildest imagination. I have no idea what that really means. I just sense that He is “on the way” to right some wrong or difficult situations, resolve conflicts, break us out of very narrow places, heal all kinds of things from physical to emotional to whatever, solve financial conundrums, etc.
With that awareness has also been the sense that I must carefully watch what I say and guard my expectations.
Most of us are in situations that speak something very contrary to blessing. They evoke feelings like worry, anxiety, despair, hopelessness, confusion, depression, oppression, even outright anger. I don’t know what you are experiencing but I am aware of my own situations. It is very easy to let the wave of feelings overtake emotions and then suddenly, out my mouth pops a perfectly wrong string of pronouncements. Those words set the stage for the enemy of our soul to overtake us. read more
Last Sunday I enjoyed lunch in an open courtyard at a modest home in El Rosario, Guatemala, a town I have visited six times since 2002. My friend Adolfo had invited me to eat with his family after the morning service at Iglesia de Nueva Vision, a Pentecostal congregation. Nothing thrills me more during my missionary trips to El Rosario than spending time with members of this church in their homes.
As we were eating a meal of chicken, rice and Coca-Cola, I noticed some green, volleyball-sized fruit hanging from a nearby tree. I had never seen such large fruit before, so I asked my friend Luis (in my broken Spanish) what they were. His father-in-law, Minor, immediately hopped up from the table, walked over to the tree and snapped one of the gigantic fruits from a branch. read more
Taxes, threat of terror attacks, illness and aging, finances, political conflicts, family relationships, church struggles, fears, insurance issues, air travel impositions, job loss, gasoline prices, war, injustice, death—these are just a few of the enemies most of us face daily. Yet, let me also tell you what the Lord has spoken to my soul:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7, NASB). read more
I used to be a consummate Christmas shopper. By the time December hit, I was way ahead of the game. I would have a mountain of bargain finds, admired goodies and toys to die for tucked away on a shelf just waiting to be wrapped and stowed lovingly under the tree. I found that shopping ahead spread the financial burden throughout the year and helped me avoid the last-minute holiday shopping rush. read more
We Christians are notorious for limiting the Holy Spirit. Many churches put Him in the back seat, confine Him in a box of tradition or ignore Him altogether. Some Christians treat the Third Person of the Trinity as if he magically materialized in the Book of Acts, like a genie out of a bottle, and then vanished after the early church was established.
But God is God, not a genie, and the same Holy Spirit who brooded over the waters at Creation, inspired the Old Testament prophets and empowered the first disciples at Pentecost is still doing miracles today. It is also important to recognize that the Holy Spirit was involved in every step of the Christmas story. This holiday, I’m paying closer attention to the Spirit’s work in the miracle of the Incarnation. read more
Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord (Ps. 27:14, NASB).
No matter what God has called us to do, one of the most difficult things we will face is the in-between time. In the beginning, He prepares our hearts for the calling. He gives us a glimpse of His plans for us, and it births great hope within us.
The difficulty is that there is always a time lag between the initial preparation and the outcome. The beginning often carries a great emotional surge. We know what God said, and we know we will see it happen, no matter what the enemy may throw at us in the process. Our faith is as tall as the mountains. We feel invincible in God’s promise. We take the initial steps and are excited to see the fruit of our labors. read more
When I trusted God and began exercising (even though I didn’t want to), I learned a life-changing principle
Until I turned 64, I’d never exercised in a serious way. I had walked and done a few things to stay in decent shape, but I was not dedicated to exercise. I had reached into my excuse bag many times over the years and come up with all kinds of “reasons” I could not exercise. But, the Lord spoke to me and encouraged me to begin a serious workout program so I could be strong for the last third of my journey through life.
I already had good eating habits, but when it came to going to the gym several times a week, I used the excuse that I simply could not do that because of my travel obligations. I truly couldn’t figure out how I could manage to put serious workout time into my already busy schedule. I finally decided to do what I could do instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do. read more
Aussie missionaries Les and Sally Freeman have given their lives to reach the neglected Aborigines.
Most Americans fondly remember Steve Irwin, the Australian wildlife lover and gregarious host of Crocodile Hunter who wrestled reptiles on camera and then died in 2006 after an attack by a sting ray. He was the epitome of Aussie spunk. Yet I’ve learned there are Aussie Christians with the spiritual equivalent of Irwin’s daredevil courage.
A prime example: Les Freeman, a 31-year-old Pentecostal preacher who has been planting churches in Aboriginal areas of northern Australia for nine years. He doesn’t wrestle crocs, but this tough guy and his brave wife, Sally, have battled snakes, demonic curses and environmental hardships to take Christ’s love to a neglected mission field. read more
Last month adverse winds struck in the most unsuspecting place: Arizona. Tornadoes came out of nowhere in a place no one expects them to come. Tornadoes are whirlwinds, adverse winds. What is getting ready to happen in Arizona?
Several months ago the Lord spoke several things to me, not long paragraphs, just short phrases, to give me hints about the future. One phrase was "fresh winds," another was "movement," a third was "awakening and visitation."
I inquired of the Lord about the phrase, fresh winds. It seemed like all we were seeing were adverse winds. In Michigan we have had several wind advisories for gusts up to 75 mph. The day before Rosh Hashanah, the winds were so extreme in our area that they blew down power lines in the city of Detroit. These power lines hit homes or garages and, in at least five neighborhoods fires broke out. In all, 85 homes were destroyed. read more
I recently celebrated a birthday and was blessed with a barrage of cards and gifts. Well-wishing friends and relatives called, sent cards, gave gifts and took me to lunch.
I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience. I felt loved and special. The years, which are considerable, seemed richer as I faced yet another chapter of my life. read more
I became a serious Christian at the tail end of the Jesus movement. I was too young to remember the hippie beads, tie-dyed shirts and “Jesus Is Groovy” slogans, but the songs were still popular when I was in college (from musicians such as Andrae Crouch, Love Song and Barry McGuire), as were the movies (especially The Cross and the Switchblade.)
The Jesus movement was like a spiritual tsunami that washed over hundreds of thousands of young people in the late 1960s and early ‘70s and brought them into a personal relationship with Christ. Some of these kids had been drug addicts and social misfits; most were just average Joes and Janes who discovered that Jesus is a lot more exciting than traditional churches had led them to believe. read more
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