Meanderings of a Minister

How Do You Prepare for Christmas?


As Thanksgiving has passed, I have noticed people in various stages of hanging Christmas lights and decorating for Christmas.  As I have watched people climb onto the roofs of their houses to hang lights, haul boxes from their storage sheds, or buying decorations at the store, it has led me to ask myself if I am also preparing for Christmas.  No, I don’t mean have I hung my lights, which I haven’t.  I also don’t mean have we gotten out our Christmas tree, which we haven’t.  What I have been reflecting about is, “How do I prepare for Christmas?”.

I know that some people will not think of lights and trees in response to this question.  Others will respond with Christmas shopping, making lists of gifts for various relatives and friends.  Still yet others will respond with baking for preparing food for various parties and get togethers throughout the Christmas season.  Others will respond with stories of rehearsing for Christmas Cantatas at church, concerts at school, or sales at their businesses.  These are legitimate preparations as well, but still not what I am talking about.

How do I get my heart in a place where I am ready to think deeply about the miracle that the King of the Universe left glory to become a man?  Actually, to become an unborn baby?  How do I prepare my mind to absorb and concentrate on the real reason for the season so that Christmas is a time of renewing my commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior as my gift to Jesus on His birthday?  How do I prepare my soul to be still and content with what God has provided?  How do I prepare my senses to notice the things of God amongst all of the glitter and glamour?

I don’t know what others will do to prepare for this, but one way I can do so is to get an Advent Devotional and spend some time, at the beginning of each day, reflecting on some aspect of the Christmas story.  Our church has produced one such devotional, but any devotional will do as long as it encourages you to spend time in the word and time in prayer.

Another way to prepare my heart for the Christmas holiday coming is to spend some time going through all of the stuff in my home and picking out some of the good stuff that I don’t use that often anymore and donating it to Stepping Stones Shelter, Center for Domestic Violence, or some other worthy charity.  It makes room in my home, but also makes room in my heart.

After thinning the overwhelming flood of things I own, another way to prepare my heart for the Christmas season is to pull out a book that I have bought, but haven’t read and actually read it.  Maybe it is a CD of music for you, or a DVD movie you bought but haven’t watched.  Perhaps it is a massager that you haven’t used or another gift that you deemed important enough not to donate, but haven’t use it.  Get it out and use it.

Another way that my family prepares our hearts for Christmas is to buy gifts for Angel Tree kids, provide shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, donate money to the Christian Motorcycle group from Trinity Faith, give toys to Toys for Tots, or some other means of giving to others so that I am reminded that Christmas isn’t my birthday, it is Jesus’ birthday.

While none of these suggestions may work for you, do something to ensure that we don’t fall into the trap that Christmas is merely a holiday from work, it is a Holy Day to worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I need to get ready for that even more than I would to see the president, queen of England, or some Hollywood star.  He is the Bright and Morning Star.  He does not have 15 minutes of fame.  He is eternally famous.  Let’s prepare to meet Him and meet with others about Him at Christmas time.


What Are You Standing on When You Pray?
October 16, 2017, 1:06 pm
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I recently attended our denomination’s state convention.  While there, I took a seminar on prayer.  In the seminar, the speaker asked the question, “What are you standing on when you pray?”  I was intrigued by this question.  I was even more intrigued by the fact that he asked the question while standing on top of a chair in the middle of the room.  The speaker told a story about growing up in an abusive family and about being sexually abused by an older foster brother for years.  He finally reached the end of his ability to deal with the abuse and cried out to God to get him out of the situation.  He promised God what he would become a Christian and live for God his whole life if God would just get him out of the torture and pain.  Through a series of events, he was sent to live with his grandparents, who raised him to love Jesus.

The day that he arrived at his grandparents to live, he decided that he needed to make good on his promise to God.  He knelt and gave his life to Jesus right at the threshold of his grandparents’ house.  Having made that decision, he began to study his Bible, pray and try to learn all he could about this new life he had chosen.

One day, he realized God really did answer prayer.  He had prayed to be delivered and he was delivered.  He had prayed to be saved and he was saved.  The next prayer he prayed, he literally went to the same spot to pray and wrote his previous prayer on a piece of paper and stood on the prayer while asking God for a friend.  He added that, if God wanted to, He could make that friend be a girl.

Shortly after praying that prayer, he was driving home one day and came upon a young man who had skidded off the road and needed help digging his truck out of the snow.  He helped the young man and the young man invited him to go home with him to warm up.  The young man had an ulterior motive.  The young man was also from an abusive family and if his father found out that he had run the truck off the road, he was afraid of the beatings he would endure.  He figured that, if he had a guest with him, the father might not abuse him for fear of being found out.

As they walked into the living room of the young man’s family home, our speaker laid eyes on the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.  She is his wife today and they have been married for many, many years.

The point the man was trying to make was that it took the faith that the first prayer had generated to make him believe the second prayer would be answered.  The faith that was generated by the second prayer had emboldened him to pray the third prayer and believe it to both be the will of God and that it would be done according to the will of God.

The speaker used that example to challenge his audience, of which I was a part, with the question, “What are you standing on when you pray?”  For many of us, we pray about things we are not really sure God will answer or how.  If we are really unsure, we may even call someone and ask them to pray for us because we think that God will listen to their prayers, or our prayers, more than He will listen to my prayers.  When we pray and see God move in response to our prayers, it gives us the confidence to pray more and believe that God will move.  Now, this does not mean simply pray for whatever you desire and God is somehow obligated to deliver like a pizza delivery boy.  Far from it!  But when we pray and get to know God and listen to and get know His voice and understand His will is always contained in His Word and is always to bring Him glory among the nations, we get in tune with His desires and get to see Him move.

When have you prayed in the past and seen God answer?  Use that experience as the foundation of your future prayers.  Stand on those prayers and humble yourself before God, but pray with confidence that you know your Savior’s voice and are following His will, then you can know that you want what He wants and He will do it.  Then stand on that prayer, and that prayer, and that prayer.  Before you know it, you will be higher than the story that you thought was so big it could never be fixed.  And don’t forget it is not just prayer that God answers by the prayers of a righteous man (or woman, boy, or girl).  (James 5:16)

On The Road Again

As I write this article, I have been home for a couple of days and am preparing to leave on a mission trip to Haiti.  I have been to Tennessee for a week, Children’s Camp in Salina for a week, Phoenix for our denominational convention for a week, and now I will be heading to Haiti for eight days.  I have been amazed to consider what God has taught me at each stage in this journey.  While I am certain that my travels are of no consequence, I hope that the lessons I am learning will be.

First, I took a week’s vacation prior to a very busy Summer.  I am grateful to my church family for allowing us the time off prior to a very busy season of ministry.  Vacations are kind of hard for me because I like to be active for the Kingdom and vacations seem not to be this way.  Having said that, I know that this vacation was necessary prior to so much time away from my family.  Psalm 85:6 says, “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?”  This time of vacation was a very necessary time of recharging both for me and for my family.  God helped me to understand that part of revival is getting still and allowing Him to work and move while you rest.

Next was Children’s Camp.  At camp, I had the wonderful privilege to pray with many children.  Some to surrender their lives to Christ as Lord and Savior.  I got the chance to love on kids by listening to their stories, watching them conquer fears, and celebrating with them as they shared their gifts and talents in worship of the King.  In the New Living Translation of the Bible, Ephesians 2:10 reads, “For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”  As I reflected on this verse throughout the week, I realized that part of my struggles is that I never feel adequate.  I never feel like I measure up to people’s expectations.  I always feel like I am trying to earn my place at the table with the spiritual giants.  Meditation on this verse helped me to hear God’s voice as He encouraged me to be who He created me to be.  If I live for Him and He lives through me, then I am enough because He sees me as His child.

At our convention, I was blessed to be able to listen to various preachers as they preached through the entire book of Philippians.  One of the messages that really stood out to me, the young preacher said, “The only way for Philippians 1:21 to be true is if Jesus is Who I am living for.  If I am living for anything else, then death takes away what I am living for.  If I am living for Jesus, death brings me to the One I have been living for.”  This really challenged me to ask the question, “What am I living for?”  If I am living for men’s applause, then death with take that from me.  If I am living for family, death will take that from me.  If I am living for fame, power, promotion, retirement, graduation, independence, etc., then death will take those things from me.  If I am living for Jesus and for God’s glory, then death brings that to me.

As I prepare to head off to Haiti, I am also mindful of the scripture that says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”  (Proverbs 16:9)  The last three years, I have either had to leave Haiti early to return for urgent ministry needs, or I have been prevented from flying due to weather, problems with the plane, etc.  So, I am planning to go to Haiti.  I have packed.  I have bought my ticket.  I have prepared.  I am planning to go.  But whether or not I go is up to God.  It is His mission to which we go, so it is His will and His plan for whether I get there or not.  Now, if I could just learn this in all areas of life.

So, God uses everyday events to teach us eternal lessons.  This is what Jesus did with parables and how He taught His disciples.  What is He teaching you?