How Can You Know God’s Will?

Question mark


Recently, I conducted Question & Answer sessions during our weekend services at Adventure Church.  People asked questions via email, text or notecards during the services and I attempted to answer as many as I could during each service.  There was a HUGE response to this activity and many suggested that I blog some of the questions and answers as well.  So, here’s the first one.

The actual Question:  “How do I really know if God wants me to move my family?”


This question, and a few similar ones, has to do with God’s will for our lives.  It’s a common inquiry.  And, it should be.  Of course we should all want to be within God’s will for our lives and to do our best to direct our families to be within God’s will.  So, how can  we know God’s will?  The answer comes in a few parts.

God’s Hidden Will

It is only logical, and reasonable, that there are some things about God and His will that are not now known, and will not be known presently.  At first that statement might confuse you or even anger you because we can sometimes feel that it is our “right” to know everything.  But, if you really think about it, is that your right?  And, is it even necessary?  The short answer is:  of course not!

God is God.  We are not.  He gets to decide what He reveals about Himself and His will.  We don’t get to decide.  He’s the Creator.  He’s the One in control.  He’s God.

He even reminds us of this in His Word in the book of Job where God essentially says “Who do you think you are?   Did you create the world and everything in it?  Were you there?” (see especially chapters 38-40)

But, don’t fret.  God is also perfectly just and perfectly loving.  He’s not going to hide something from us that He desires us to know.  Why would he?  Even I, an imperfect father to my children, wouldn’t hide from my children knowledge that I want them to know.  It just wouldn’t make any sense to do so.  So, whatever is within God’s hidden will should be hidden, and it will stay hidden until God decides otherwise.  And, it does not and should not affect anything about our present day living.

God’s Revealed Will

Then, there is God’s revealed will.  This is His will that can be known by us.  And, when you really search for it, you can find it.  See below.

God’s Universal Will

Part of God’s revealed will is called His “universal will.”  That simply means that whatever is within God’s universal will is God’s will for everybody.  There is a lot of God’s universal will in nature – for example – oxygen to breathe, gravity to bind us to the earth, and sunlight to provide energy.  There are also other things that are clearly God’s universal will – for example, it is His will that all would come to know Jesus as Savior for He sent Jesus to the world because “God so loved the world …”  See also, 2 Peter 3:9.

Outside of God’s Will

Then there are some things that are clearly outside of God’s will.  Sometimes these can be easy to identify.  It is outside of God’s will for me to murder someone, to steal, to cheat on my wife, or to be selfish with my possessions.   When we are outside of God’s will, we are committing sin.  God has given us the Bible so that we can know what is outside of His will.

God’s Specific Will and God’s Permissible Will

At times, God has a “specific will” for us.  And, at times God’s will is what is called “permissible will.”  This is where most of our questions about “God’s will for me” come from.  I hope that I can explain these for you to ease some pressure for you and to get you to focus on a better question for your life.

First, let me explain the difference between specific will and permissible will.

“Permissible will” choices are those choices / decisions that God allows us to make on our own, that are not outside of His will (i.e., sinful).  Most things in life (that are not sinful) fall within this category.

“Specific will” means that specific calling that God has for you at a particular time and place.  Frankly, most decisions we make are not really within or outside of God’s specific will.  I’ll explain more below.

If God has something specific for you — i.e., a decision that He desires for you to make, a choice to choose, or a path to take — we would further define that as a “calling.”  When God is calling you to something, He is going to specifically gift you to accomplish the goal or to meet the challenge.  He is going to give you passion for whatever it may be.  And, it is going to further His kingdom specifically in some way.  (That’s the kicker and is often the difference-maker between specific will and permissible will).  Some things that may be included in this are being called to the mission field, called to the pastorate, marrying a Christian if you are going to marry, etc.

However, all other choices, as long as they are not sinful, are going to be within God’s permissible will.  That simply means that God allows us to make a choice and whatever choice is made, He can bless that choice and use us within that choice.  By far, most choices that we make (that are not sinful) are permissible will choices.  Here are some examples:  who you marry, whether to take the job at company A or company B, whether to live in Louisville or New York, whether to buy a house or not, which prom dress to wear, what gift to give your wife for her birthday, etc.  Those are all permissible will decisions because no matter what we choose (as long as it’s not sinful), God can bless that choice in a special way.

Where I have seen people get hung up, and stressed out, is thinking that a permissible will choice is somehow a specific will choice.  I’ve seen someone truly fearful that she was going to be outside of God’s specific will by choosing to take a job at Starbucks instead of working at the local mall.  Believe me, God is a very big God and he can use you at Starbucks or the mall so either choice is permissible!

So, relax.  Spend your time in prayer, studying the Word, and seeking advice from other Christians on the important question in all of this “will” stuff:  is this decision outside of God’s will or not?  In other words, if I make this decision (this choice) will I be sinning?  If we all spent more time on that question, the rest of our decisions would be a lot easier, and, frankly our lives would be a lot less complicated and a lot more holy.


A 3:3:3 Father’s Day (sermon notes)


A special message for fathers, children and mothers for Father’s Day 2013. Here are my sermon notes from the message on June 16, 2013.  You can hear the online sermon at the Adventure Church website.


(note: Remember, we are all children, so this applies to all of us).

Honor Your Father

This is a command (the 5th) and is also mentioned several other times in the Bible (including by Jesus).

Ephesians 6:2-3 – Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.

What does it mean to “honor” your father?  We go through stages, that overlap.  First, we honor our father by being obedient when we are younger and under their authority/household.  Strive for “first time obedience” which is especially honoring of him.  Second, we honor our father by showing respect, involving him in our lives, allowing him to participate with us and on behalf of us in our lives.  (illust. – Sadie and Willie returning dress on Duck Dynasty). Third, as they (and we) grow older, we honor our father by caring for him.

Learn from Your Father

Proverbs 2:1-5 – My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

note:  this passage, written to a son from his father, encourages an active seeking of help and advice from the father.  From our fathers we learn about life as well as about how to do things.  We can also learn from our father’s mistakes.  In any event, I believe that dads want “better” for their kids and desire for their children to learn from them – both the good and the bad.

Forgive Your Father

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” – Matthew 6:12

Fathers make mistakes.  Sometimes big ones.  Forgiving them for those may be the best father’s day present you can give him.  Forgiveness is about leaving the past in the past and focusing on the future.


This section is for mothers — all mothers.  Even if you are not with your child’s dad any longer, you have one of the largest influences over the nature of your child’s relationship with his/her dad.

Encourage (don’t nag) Dad

1 Thessalonians 5:11 – encourage one another and build one another up, …

Try not to impose what you think is right upon the dad/child situation.  This often leads to a situation where whatever dad does it’s not “good enough.”  Be encouraging.  Tell dad “thank you”.  Compliment him.

Praise Dad in Front of Your Children 

I read a blog post recently titled “Is Dad a Hero or a Bum – the Answer often Depends on what Mom Things.” — That is so true.  Praising dad in front of your child strengthens the relationship more than you can imagine.  You can do it — at one time in your life you thought at least something about this guy was pretty awesome.

Be a Partner

Don’t setup a situation where it is “mom and the kids v. dad”.  Don’t hide things from dad.  Don’t complain about him with the kids.  Instead, do all you can to be a partner with the dad — unified in parenting the children as a team.


Be a Godly Example

Like it or not, good or bad, you ARE an example.  But are you a Godly example?

John 13:15 – For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Being a Godly example involves being an example in these areas:

Character – this is what you are all of the time, no matter where you are or who is around.  Your kids are watching you.  Are you a man of honesty, integrity, consistency?

Discipleship – this is showing your kids what it looks like to follow the Lord Jesus and grow in your faith.  Do they see you going to church, studying the Word, etc.

Service – your kids need to learn from you that life is not about them (or you) but about other people.  They learn this from your example in serving others who need help, serving your church, and serving your community.

Demonstrate Unconditional Love

Unconditional love is the theme of the Bible — God loves us not because of anything that we can do and in spite of anything that we have done.  Your kids (especially your daughters) will come to believe that God loves them the way that you love them.  Love them unconditionally, which means:

Love them for who they are, not what they do

Love them in spite of their mistakes and bad choices

Remember: love is an action not a feeling

Leave the Right Legacy

You will leave a legacy of some form.  But, God has given us the power and the freedom to choose what our legacy will be.  Will you leave a legacy where your children and your children’s children seek to know the Lord personally?  Or will it be a legacy of absence, abuse, excuses or mediocrity?

The Parable of the Soils – notes


These are Pastor Buddy’s sermon notes from his April 28, 2013 on the Parable of the Sower (aka the Parable of the Soils) from the series on the Gospel of Mark.  (remember, these are notes, it is not written like a regular blog post).  You can listen to the podcast here.

In Mark 4:1-20, Jesus relates what is often called the Parable of the Sower or the Parable of the Soils.  In a somewhat unique turn, Jesus also provides some insight into the meaning of the parable.

Parables Are Wondrous Things — Learning from a parable is unlike other types of learning.  We are not just “receiving information that we are to memorize.  Instead, when we seek to learn the truths contained in a parable (or “story”), we must “think it through.”  We should place ourselves in the parable as characters, ask questions about what is happening and what else could have happened, etc.  By doing that, we will learn deeper truths about God and also about ourselves.

Here are some things that I learned while studying this scripture:

God Gives His Grace Indiscriminately

God doesn’t just offer His grace to those people who are a “good bet.”  Instead, He offers it to all – without prejudice or discrimination.  No matter where we are in life, His grace is there for our receiving.

God Gives His Grace Lavishly

God isn’t stingy with His grace.  He offers us more than enough “seed” for His truth to take root in our lives.  We might fail to recognize the lavishness of His grace, but it’s there nonetheless.

The Impact of God’s Grace Depends on Our Heart’s Condition

Notice what is different among the four soils in the parable — the condition of the soil.  The sower is the same.  The seed is the same.  The sower’s activity is the same.  What is different is the condition of the soil itself, nothing else.

“The Path Soil”

Mark 4:15 – Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown.  As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

note:  there is a spiritual battle going on for our souls.  note: we ignore God’s Word as if we were listening to an airline stewardess give pre-flight emergency instructions.  It’s a life and death matter, but we just let it go by as if it has no importance.

“The Rocky Soil”

Mark 4:16-17 – Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time.  When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

note:  we aren’t likely to have special police in our church parking lots any time soon.  But for us, the “trouble because of the word” often comes when we are called to obey the word in personal relationships when we don’t want to — for e.g., forgiving others, working on our marriages, being humble, serving first, etc.

“The Thorny Soil”

Mark 4:18-19 – Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Many of us allow God’s Word to be active in our lives, but it is prevented from bearing fruit because we fail to follow God as our first and primary priority.  Instead, we let the worries and distractions of life get in the way — e.g.s, our jobs, money, busyness, kids, how we look, etc.

“The Good Soil”

Mark 4:20 – Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.

Notice that the good soil: receives the word immediately so that it cannot be snatched away, receives the word deeply so that it can not be uprooted easily, and receives the word exclusively so that it’s fruit is not choked by other things of this word.

Do a soil check — which type are you?  What is the condition of your heart today?  Do you need to prepare your “soil” to hear the Word of God and to fully receive His lavish Grace?



The Power of Jesus Is Bigger Than Your Issues


Last week at Adventure Christian Church, we began our study of the Gospel of Mark.  For most of the next 20 weeks, our messages on Sundays will focus on the life of Jesus as told in this Gospel.

The first series from this study we have titled:  “The Power of Jesus.”  This post’s notes relate to the first sermon I preached on April 7 which I titled:  “The Power of Jesus Is Bigger than Your Issues”.

As always, you can go to our church website to hear the podcasts.

Here are my notes from April 7 (remember, these are just my notes and not written in “article” format):

What is the Gospel of Mark about? — Mark shows us that God is a God of new beginnings, reminds us of the foundation of our faith, and also provides an example of peace in the face of persecution and opposition.  These themes will be shown repeatedly throughout this Gospel.

Jesus Is Bigger than Your Security Issues

Mark 1:16-18 – “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.  At once they left their nets and followed him.”

note: These men had sacrificed their financial security in order to follow Jesus.  They were not tied to their wealth nor did they find their significance therein.  And because of their faith in Jesus instead of their security he transformed them / promised them to have a higher purpose: from “fishermen” to “fishers of men.”

Jesus is Bigger than Your Social Issues

Mark 1:19-20 – “When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.”

note:  These two men were willing to put aside their social alliances and comforts (i.e., their family).  Are we willing to sacrifice our social structure and comforts for the One who is even more powerful?

to “leave” = “to depart from permanently” (note: they didn’t just leave for a day – they were going to be different people, with a different social bond).

“The problem with trying to balance friendship with the world and service to God is that one becomes religiously a split personality, looking both to God and to the world for standards and assurance.” – Dave Garland

Jesus Is Bigger than Your Past Issues

Mark 1:23-24 – “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’

Mark 1:25-26 – “Be quiet! said Jesus sternly.  Come out of him!  The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.”

note: This man had been plagued in the past by an evil spirit.  We all have our own past evil spirits that dwell within us that we can easily allow to fill us (for e.g., regret, abuse, unforgiveness of self or others, past sins).  Jesus has the power to remove our past evil spirits and set us free.

“What once could invade human personalities and evade God’s control, can no longer do so!”

Jesus Is Bigger than Your Indirect Issues

Mark 1:30-31 – “Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her.  So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up.  The fever left her and she began to wait on them.”

note: This issue was not directly Simon’s.  Instead, someone close to him had an issue which undoubtedly affected him too.  That happens to us – we have friends and family who have “issues” that cause trouble in our lives.  However, when we introduce Jesus into the picture of that person’s life, He can overcome those issues as well.

Jesus Is Bigger than Your Personal Issues

Mark 1:40-42 – “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, If you are willing you can make me clean.  Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.  I am willing, he said.  Be clean!  Immediately, the leprosy left him and he was cured.”

note:  There is nothing more personal than a skin disease.  It was painful and even more devastating it caused the person to be unclean and therefore shunned.  We can allow our personal sins that make us so unclean to keep us from the people who can help.  We can get caught up into thinking that we aren’t worth Jesus’ healing power or that He can’t help.  But he can.  He has power over our sin.

The leper was worth the effort — and so are YOU!!

Remember where the power is:

Mark 1:15 – “The time has come, he said.  The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”


Marriage Matters: Love Geography


“Love Geography”

note:  These are my sermon “notes” from this Sunday’s message.  (They are notes, I haven’t written this as an article so please excuse the abbreviated words and sentences.  To get the most out of this message, please go to the Adventure Church website and listen to the audio).  You also can read my notes from the first message:  What If I’m Not Married?

If you were going to place your marriage on the “Love Map”, where would it be right now?

The Beach? (honeymoon feeling, a party, everything’s perfect)

On a Mountain Top? (things are going fantastic, we are super blessed, great things are happening to us and our family)

In a Valley? (things are going poorly, something’s wrong, we are arguing often, life is a struggle being married to this person)

In the Grand Canyon? (there is a crisis, someone is having an affair – physically or emotionally, divorce seems like the best option)

On the vast and fertile Plains? (life is good, there is nothing that is dramatically exciting but neither are there any serious problems, day-to-day we are generally content, our children are doing well, we rarely argue and when we do it’s not a knock-down drag-out fight, or, if it is one, we apologize quickly and move on) (note:  most of marriage is going to be in the Plains)

In the Desert? (life was good, but for some reason our relationship is dry and generally lifeless, we are missing nourishment and refreshment, days are hot and difficult, nights are cold and distant)

In the middle of a busy City? (we are very busy, everywhere we turn there is something to do and another responsibility, our kids keep our schedules full and we are running non-stop)

Where are you?  and  Why does it matter?

note:  Marriage is a journey and a destination.  You can probably see your marriage in one of these geographical locations (and can surely remember some times when you were in another location).  Where we are in the journey, and how to navigate the journey matters because:  God presents Himself to us in the marriage relationship (husband to wife, and wife to husband).  He also presents Himself through our marriage to others:  our children, our friends, our church and the world.  Marriage is a means by which we experience God and His grace.

How do we navigate the journey of marriage?  Here are some travel tips:

See the Whole Map

(note: we tend to only see where we are right now and fail to see all that marriage can, and does, bring.  It is important for our marital health and the success of our journey to see the big picture of marriage by seeing the whole map).

It’s not Unusual – remember that where we are is not unusual.  All marriages travel through different locations, and most, at one time or another, will travel through every location.  You are not the first to be in your current situation and you will not be the last.

It’s not Permanent – Your situation won’t last forever.  Circumstances change.  We change.  God changes us and others.

It requires Commitment – Mark 10:9 “What  God has joined together, let man not separate.” – note:  The way to successfully and joyfully navigate the marriage journey is to recognize that you have made a commitment to each other and to God as well.  Commitment is being willing to stay through the difficult times (desert, valley and canyon) even when it’s not enjoyable, in large part because you know that the plains and mountains are there to be experienced.

Recognize Where You Are

It takes Communication

Truth Telling CommunicationEphesians 4:25 “Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”

Gentle, Non-Advesarial CommunicationEphesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Reflect on How You Got There

note:  good or bad, it’s important for us to notice how we got to where we are.  When we take notice of such things we will see patterns of:  being in the Word (or not), being in community (or not) (especially accountability), serving others (or not).

It takes Examination2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?”

It takes ConfessionJames 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

note:  confession isn’t easy or fun.  but, confession removes the “splinter” from our souls that is festering and hurting (maybe not all of the time, but it keeps showing up).

Pack Correctly

note:  on the journey of marriage, we must “pack” with us the right things.  Here are a few things to make sure we pack:

Patience“Love is patient” note:  it can take a while to get out of a valley or through a desert.  It can take a while to learn how to climb a mountain to the top.

Sacrifice“Love is not self-seeking”  note: your marriage should be about the other person, giving 100% and expecting nothing.  (when we do that, we are all more blessed in the end).

Forgiveness“Love is not easily angered, Love keeps no record of wrongs”  (we forgive even before forgiveness is sought and definitely before forgiveness is earned, if ever.  that’s what Jesus did for us on the cross – He forgave us before we repented!)

Remember the True Destination!

note:  the true destination:  Your marriage is not as much for you as it is for others.  Marriage is meant to be a representation to the world of the relationship that exists between Jesus and His Church.  It is:  unconditional love, sacrificing, forgiving, patient, etc.

Is Your Speech Refuse or Refuge?

Water Pollution with Trash Disposal of Waste a...

ref-use, [REF-yoos] (n.) – rubbish; garbage; trash; something to be discarded

ref-uge, [REF-yooj] (n. or v.) – shelter; to provide aid or protection; relief; safety

What often happens …

You are hurt by someone.  A person you thought was a friend says something to someone who says it to someone who says it someone who says it (although “it” probably no longer resembles what was actually said) to you.  So, you lash back.  You tell someone something about that person, who tells someone, who tells someone, who then tells the person who hurt you.  Now you’re even!

You see a post on Facebook that is so contrary to what your opinion is.  It frustrates you that people could have such obtuse views on things that matter so much.  You just have to let people know that they are wrong, that you are right, and that what they said is ignorant.

You are lonely.  You are angry because of what someone did to you.  So, you decide to let the world know by making a post, sending a tweet, or finding just that right “e-card” that you can put on pintrest to let everyone know that you are angry and that they should also be angry.  That will show him!

You are having a bad, frustrating day.  You want to make sure that everyone knows it.  You think, “if life is rough for me, why is it fair that it’s not for others too?”  So, you post “life sucks and then you die.”

Your spouse isn’t meeting all of your needs.  You decide that it’s time for a change (meaning … it’s time for him/her to change, not you).  So, as soon as he/she gets home, you unload every pent-up, negative feeling you’ve ever had during your relationship, including bringing up that mistake he/she made last summer that you “forgave.”

You are in a group at work.  Some in the group start talking badly about the boss or a coworker.  You can’t resist — you have to put in your two cents by telling how the boss mistreated you, how the coworker made an error, or how they are generally just icky people who don’t “deserve” respect.  You don’t even realize that your stories and statements cause others in the group to join into the “bashing” as well.  But even so, the boss deserved it.

You don’t agree with a decision made at church or something that the preacher said from the stage.  Instead of directly going to the leaders with your concern, you send an email that will surely show him how terrible it was for him to say such a thing.  He should feel terrible and now he knows that he should feel terrible!

Refuse or Refuge?

There are two diametrically opposed results from our speech — whether spoken out loud or written for others to see.  Our speech can be negative; garbage that should be tossed away.  Or, our speech can be positive; providing relief and encouragement.

When we take the refuse (i.e., garbage) path with our speech, we have an effect on others.  Maybe others hear the garbage speech and it leads them to garbage speech.  Maybe others read our speech and it taints their view of someone else or, worse yet, Jesus himself.  Maybe they hear what we say and it makes them sad, or frustrated, or feel bad about themselves or others, or even angry.  At times our garbage speech may cause others to not want to be around us anymore.  Really, who wants to be around smelly garbage?

When we take the refuge (i.e., shelter) path with our speech, we also have an effect on others.  We encourage someone who is down with a reminder that they are loved and not alone, so they remember that life isn’t so bad after all.  We say thank you to someone who’s made a difference in our lives, or in the lives of others, so they know that they are appreciated.  We compliment someone who rarely hears anything good from the other people in his/her life.  We post something uplifting to offer hope for the day and for the future.  Who wouldn’t want to be around someone who provides shelter from the harshness of the world, who offers relief from the evil that tries to attack us?

What the Bible says …

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

That is quite a charge!

Do not let ANY unwholesome talk come out of my mouth?  ANY?

Speak ONLY what BUILDS?

Focus on OTHERS and not myself?


Yes, that’s what this scripture says.  In short, our speech should be a REFUGE for people, not REFUSE thrust upon people.

The choice really is yours

You might think that you can’t help what you say.  You might think that you can’t help cussing, retaliating, gossiping, or “sticking up” for yourself.  You might think that you just won’t be able to live unless you get the last word, unless the person who hurt you is also hurt.

But, what you say, what you write, what you “put out there” for others to hear and to see, really is your CHOICE.  Your words can encourage and remind people of our loving God or your words can point people toward negativity, bitterness, and conflict.  You can choose the impact your words will have on other people, if you try.

Think before you speak.  Think before you post.  Choose to honor God in all things, including what you say.  Your speech can be refuse or refuge.  What will you choose?

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?