On My Mind and Heart: Second Chances

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This week I’ve been thinking about second chances, how blessed we are that God gives us second and third and fourth and many more chances, and, how we should give others a second chance (or third or fourth) a lot more often than we do.

God gives us a second chance.

Christmas is the celebration of the ultimate second chance.  In the beginning, God created a perfect world in which mankind could live, thrive and commune with God.  But, man blew it.  And because of that, man suffered by being separated from God.  But, through the birth of Jesus Christ (which we celebrate on Christmas Day every year), God gave mankind another chance – a new opportunity to commune with Him.  What a great gift!  We didn’t do anything to earn this second chance.  We didn’t deserve it.  But God gave it to us anyway.

We should give others a second chance too.

The Bible exhorts us to forgive others because in Christ Jesus God forgave us.  Because God gives us a second chance even when we don’t deserve it or earn it, we should be a lot more forgiving of the people in our lives who need a second chance for relationship with us.  I know you’ve been hurt.  I realize that someone has disappointed you, betrayed you, and fallen short of your expectations and needs.  But, guess what?  You’re no peach either.  And either am I.  That’s why we all need to be a little less bitter and lot more forgiving.  When you do that, you’ll be surprised at how much better a restored relationship feels than the broken one you are living with right now.  Try it.

Final thought.

Who do you need to give a second chance to today (just like God gave you a second chance)? 

5 Ways to Have a Merry Christmas

Christmas gifts.

Christmas is just around the corner.  Here are 5 suggestions to make the Christmas season merry:

  1. Don’t Overspend.  While exchanging gifts can be a wonderfully rewarding experience for family and friends, gift-buying and gift-receiving isn’t what it’s all about.  Don’t put yourself or your family in a bad financial spot by trying to “keep up with the Jones’.”  By spending more than you can afford, even with the good intention of paying off those bills in full right after Christmas, you will be adding unnecessary stress and financial burdens on yourself and your family.  Spend appropriately.  Give from the heart and your entire family, including your kids, will be grateful (especially in long the run).
  2. Make a Donation to Charity.  Christmastime reminds us that we have responsibility to the community in which we live.  Talk as a family about who you can help and decide together to sacrifice something yourselves so that a charity can benefit.  There are hundreds of good charities out there.  Making a donation to one will help your family experience the true meaning of Christmas – sacrifice.
  3. Reconcile a Strained Relationship.  Forgiving others, and seeking forgiveness from others, is difficult.  But, reconciling a relationship that has been on the rocks for a while will be one of the best gifts you can give yourself.  Reach out to that family member or friend, tell them you are sorry for what has happened between the two of you, and tell them that you miss them and want to make things right.  Looking past whatever grievance you may have is worth it!
  4. Go to Church.  Make sure that you keep the focus of the holiday on Jesus Christ.  Make going to church on all of the Sundays this month, as well as any special Christmas services that you can, the priority for you and your family.  Worshipping God together reminds us that we are part of the body of Christ and that all we have is a gift from God Himself.
  5. Serve Someone.  While it is important to provide financially for churches and charities at this time of year, it is equally important to reach out and help someone who needs it.  There is something special about hands-on, face-to-face service of someone in need.  Whether you serve at the local soup kitchen, take food to a neighbor, rake leaves for the elderly, or invite someone to Christmas dinner who doesn’t have anywhere else to go, you will BE a blessing and RECEIVE a blessing  when you sacrifice some time and energy to brighten the Christmas season for someone else.

“For God so loved the world that he GAVE his only son …” John 3:16

Comments welcome:  What are your plans for making Christmas Merry this year?

Keep “Thanking God” at the Forefront

April 30: George Washington becomes the first ...

The First Presidential Proclamation by George Washington, 1789

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God …

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people … and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us. …

The people of our nation will gather around tables this Thursday to eat turkey and stuffing, to tell stories and talk football, and, to devise strategies for Black Friday shopping excursions.

My hope and prayer is that we will not forget what Thanksgiving Day originally was meant to be – a day of acknowledging God and thanking Him for the blessings He has granted us.  It is because of God that we have food.  It is because of God that we have family.  It is because of God that we have leisure.  It is because of God that we have Christmas!

Here are some ways to keep “Thanking God” at the forefront of our holiday this Thursday:

  1. Pray a personal prayer of thanks for all that you have received this year.  Thank Him for family and friends, for responsibility and opportunities to serve, for church family and mentors, for days of joy and for days of trial.  We learn about God and ourselves in all circumstances and should be grateful for everything that draws us close to Him.
  2. Sign on to the blog:  The Thankfulness Experiment and share some of your specific “thanks”.
  3. At your Thanksgiving Table, have each person share one thing for which he or she is thankful.  Start with the youngest at the table sharing first, with the eldest sharing last.
  4. Pray together as family and friends.  Pray for our country, for freedom, for our President and government leaders.  Pray for your church, your pastors and leaders, and for your church family.  Pray for family.  Pray for friends.  Pray for those who do not have a table that even closely resembles your own.
  5. Send a personal note, an email, a text or a tweet of thanks to at least one person who has made a positive impact in your life this year, thanking him for the effort.

Giving thanks is personal.  It’s powerful.  It’s special.  And, it makes a difference.  Remember who is ultimately responsible for it all – the Lord God Almighty.

Happy Thanksgiving!