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The Advocate

Spring has arrived, and with it, the nation’s pastime…Baseball.  In my youth, the baseball season-opener marked the beginning of five months of opportunity, revelry, and comradery.  It has been over fifteen years since I’ve played a game of baseball or softball, but my mind and soul still wander to the green fields of yesteryear and the names with faces of those who accompanied me in my athletic pursuits on the ball diamond.   (Pause for Thought:  “All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”—John 14:25-26.  What times or places remind you of people you have not seen for a while?  How did these people (or this person) influence you to the point of remembrance?)
 
I’ve lately been thinking of a circumstance that happened when I was thirteen years-old playing catcher for a baseball team who’d drafted me quite unexpectedly.  The team had been together for two or three years.  The coach selected me from my old team to replace the catcher on his team.  He moved his regular catcher to second base to make room for me as the everyday catcher.
 
I played well for the team until one play at a key moment in a game against my new team’s arch rival.  With the winning run on third base, the hitter bunted the ball.  From my catcher’s position, I lost sight of the ball; looking for it on the ground at my feet, the air over my head, and the fence at the backstop.  While frantically searching, the winning run for the other team crossed home plate.  To my dismay, the third baseman had the ball all the time, and I failed to notice.  (Pause for Thought:  “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have an Advocate with the FatherJesus Christ, the righteous one.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”—I John 2:1-2.  Have you ever felt like the “weakest link” in a family, community, or group?  How did you deal with these feelings?  Have you ever felt like you were a “spiritual weak link”?  Who did you turn to?)
 
The damage had been done.  The coach worked us hard and silently the first part of the following practice.  After about an hour, he made us sit on the bleachers.  He began to voice his displeasure with me in no uncertain terms.  The coach even did his best whirling dervish imitation to mock my failed attempt to locate the bunted ball.
 

Then something happened out of nowhere.  As I sat alone at the end of the bleachers, covered in my sweat and the dust from the field, Charlie, our centerfielder stood up and interrupted the coach’s mocking.  Charlie was a few years older than me and the brother of the boy I had replaced as catcher.  He said to the coach he was wrong to single me out for the loss, and he pointed to the team’s inability to win the game.  Charlie came over to me and shook my hand, and all my teammates surrounded me.  I saw Jesus in Charlie that day, and I can’t help but remember both of them every Spring.  (Pause for Thought:  “Even now my witness is in Heaven; my advocate is on high.  My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.”—Job 16:19-21.  When has someone stood up for you?  How does knowing Jesus stands at the right hand of God vouching for your body, soul, and spirit change the way you look at living life and taking risks for the Kingdom?)


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Remember Me

“Remember me?” the gentleman asked as he plopped down into the vacant seat next to me while I drank my coffee in my favorite haunt.  The answer to his questions was, “No.”  He stated his name in a slur-mumble, combination, and I shook my head in unrecognition and doubt.  Our common ground was supposedly high school until he dropped out to become a professional boxer.  His story rang a bell in my sub-conscious, but I still couldn’t place him.     (Pause for Thought:  “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other.  A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name.”—Malachi 3:16.  Have you been recognized by someone you didn’t remember?  How did it make you feel?  Have you recognized someone who didn’t remember you?  What thoughts came to mind?)
 
He said he’d fallen on hard times, and he looked it.  His hand was poorly bandaged, and his clothes had seen better days.  He asked me for some money, but I had no cash or change.  Instead, I offered to buy him some food or drink from the coffee bar, and he determined an orange juice would suit him.  While we waited in line, he spoke of my hometown and the high school I went to; even mentioning names of people I was acquainted with over 30 years ago.  We had trod the same ground.  (Pause for Thought:  “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’.”—Luke 22:19; “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”—Luke 24:30-31  What strong memories do you have of certain meals?  Are they fond memories or hurt-filled ones?  Have you ever considered Christ eating a meal with you?  What do you imagine mealtime with Jesus looks and sounds like?)
 

He guzzled his orange juice in a minute and gave me a large, appreciative, smile.  He shook my hand and left the shop waving good-bye through the window.  My spirit was immediately filled with the image of the scripture, “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?’  The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’.”    (Pause for Thought:  “On the day I shall act’, says the Lord Almighty, ‘They will be my treasured possession.  I will spare them, just as the father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.  And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not’.”—Malachi 3:17-18  How important is it, for us, to remember and recognize God?  How do you remember and recognize Him?  How often do you do so?  How important, to you, is it for God to remember and recognize you?  What will He remember you for thinking and doing?)


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Cravings

The craving arrived right on time as it does every year.  Immediately after the holidays end and the excitement of football subsides, my ravenous appetite for fishing begins.  I start snacking on the new year’s fishing shows, pouring over fishing lure recipes, chewing on new lake maps, and feasting on new and old fishing dvd’s and encyclopedias. I seek out others with similar cravings to discuss new fishing lures, propose new fishing techniques and consider fish specifies left untouched by us in past ventures.   (Pause for Thought:  “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”—I Peter 2:2-3.   What are you passionate about?  How has your passions changed your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors?  How passionate are you about living for and with Jesus?)
 
Without question, the season’s best fishing information comes from Linder Media; specifically, the show and video library called Angling Edge.  The fishermen of this series are entertaining and informative.  They fish the same Mid-Western waters I do for common and uncommon freshwater fish species.  At the end of the shows, Al Linder, founder and hall of fame fisherman, hosts a small inspirational segment.  In the segment, Mr. Linder will discuss how his faith and relationship with Jesus has changed and continues to change his life.  Between the fishing information and the spiritual passion of Al Linder, it is no wonder I’m drawn to the series.  (Pause for Thought:  “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water’.”—John 4:10.  How do you quench your passionate thirst for God?  Do you try pursuing Him without asking His advice?  What would you ask Him for to quench your cravings?  Have you ever asked God, through Jesus, to be filled with the Holy Spirit?)
 
I’m grateful Jesus had, and still has, a passion for fishermen and fishing (see Luke 5:1-7).  I have a passion to be where His spirit is, and he meets my spirit when I’m fishing–along with other times, places, and situations.  Through savory prayer and feeding on His Word, I can hear His voice and gather strength and instruction from His spirit.  Sunday worship in His house satisfies my spiritual appetite with awe and wonder as I digest the fact His kingdom is on earth and in heaven.
 
The purest form of interaction with Christ, and the one my soul craves the most, is when I engage (talk, listen, observe, work alongside, etc.) someone filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus becomes very real when I encounter a person who loves the Lord enough to ask to be like Him.  The Holy Spirit enables us to be like Jesus and enables us to be with Jesus.  Will you ask the Lord to fill you with His spirit and satisfy your cravings?  (Pause for Thought:  “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?”—Psalms 42:1-2.  “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I (Jesus) with them.”—Matthew 18:20.  Who do you know that is filled with the Holy Spirit?  How often do you spend time with them?  How do you know they are filled?  Will you ask them what it is like to be filled with the Spirit?)
 

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Sincere Flattery

To my four year-old mind, the greatest people living were my dad and cowboys.  Now I didn’t exactly understand what a plumber did, though I knew because my dad was one, we got to eat and live in a nice house. I knew cowboys punched cattle, ate outside, and shot pistols because I saw them do these things on TV.  The thing that brought these two icons together for me in my evaluation of greatness was shaving.  That’s right, shaving whiskers with a razor.  The great people in my life shaved.  I wanted to be great.  Therefore, I wanted a razor and shave, so I could be great too.   (Pause for Thought:  “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”—Ephesians 5:1-2.   Who did you imitate as a child?  Why?  Who do you imitate now?  Why?)
 
Oscar Wilde said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”  As I finish these little articles regarding “living up” to God’s grace filled majesty through appreciation, devotion, and imitation, I realize I can never earn the place (Heaven) or position (Royal Priest) He has given me, but I look the part and give glory to God by being like His son, Jesus Christ, who GAVE.  Being who I am in Christ will result in my giving ME as a forGIVER, GIVER of tithes and offerings, GIVER of talents and abilities, GIVER of time and energy, GIVER of attention and encouragement, and so on.  Paul calls this living a life of sacrifice.  (Pause for Thought:  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship”—Romans 12:1.  How have you consciously tried to imitate Jesus this week?  What were the results?  Were the results consistent with the results Jesus received?  How do you/can you know?)
 

I often ask my wife and son if I look like Jesus to them.  I don’t mean in physical appearance, and they don’t think as such.  If I have looked like Jesus to them, it’s been in the way I gave.  They don’t say I look like Jesus because I did my devotions, or taught a Sunday School class, or wrote an article.  They say I look like Jesus if I gave encouragement to them or someone else, or if I gave to someone in ministry out of my pocket, or if I gave love and attention to an unlovable/unnoticeable, or even if I gave my story (testimony) to someone who didn’t know Jesus the way I do. Cowboys gave, and still give, me great pleasure to watch.  My dad gave me a place (house) and position (physical) being on this earth.  My heavenly Father gave me completeness in everything, including all time (eternity), to share it with Him.  I think He is worth imitating.  (Pause for Thought:  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 2:5.  How do you feel, emotionally, about living a life of sacrifice?  How is Paul’s instruction to us in Romans different than the world’s instruction to us?  What is happening and has happened when the world’s way is followed?  What happened to you because Jesus lived a sacrificial life?  Who will you imitate?)


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Bearing Devotion

“Don’t come between momma bear and her cub,” were the words from my Dad as he witnessed someone taking responsibility for my son in the presence of my wife.  My dad often refers to my wife as “momma bear”.  It stands to reason since female grizzly bears are quite possessive of their responsibility for raising their offspring, and they demand intense devotion from the cubs while instructing them on the course of survival.  I’ve seen the Ursus arctos Horribilis (Latin for Mainland Grizzly Bear) manifest in my wife and dish out quite the scolding to perpetrator and son alike.  Jesus takes his responsibility for his children very seriously too.   (Pause for Thought:  “Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly”—Proverbs 17:12.  “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to the person through whom they come.  It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin’.”—Luke 17:1-2. What emotions do you feel when you think Jesus is responsible for your completeness in body, soul, and spirit?  What questions do you have in regards to His and your responsibility in your relationship with Him?  If you are a parent, how do you want your children to view and feel about your responsibility to them?  Should/Do you feel the same way towards God since He is your heavenly Father?)
 
I’ve just finished a book on the history of grizzly bear encounters in North America.  It’s amazing how many human-bear interactions are the results of the protectiveness of a she-bear for her cubs.  Cubs have no fear of humans, and the she-grizzly is quit relentless in her efforts to keep people from hurting her cubs.  Many accounts documenting a grizzly’s mauling and/or killing of a person, even after she has been mortally wounded, illustrate her tenacity and relentless effort to responsibly care for her cubs.
 
A mother grizzly will teach her cubs to avoid not only people, but also male grizzly bears.  A male grizzly will kill cubs, so the mothers will go into season for mating.  Many are the times, a sow grizzly will attack a boar grizzly larger than her to insure the cubs survive and avoid serious threat.
 
She is responsible to show her little ones where, what, and when to eat.  Contrary to popular thought, grizzly bears don’t eat everything all the time.  A grizzly will steer clear of a lowly skunk, and if they obey, cubs will not eat a porcupine because of the mother’s instruction.  The quills will cover the cubs’ mouth, so they cannot eat the foods the mother shows her cubs, thus making the threat of starvation a reality.  The mother will instruct the bear cubs to not eat and slow down during the winter, so as to reserve their energy (Sabbath?).  A cub or young adult grizzly that tries to forage through winter, instead of hibernating, will starve to death.  (Pause for Thought:  “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’.”—Matthew 26:26-28.  In what ways has Jesus cared for you?  Your family?  Has He let you down?  In what area of your life do you want to trust Him more?)
 
Like my wife feels her reputation as a mother is on the line when people, including my son, see her taking responsibility for my son’s upbringing, Jesus’ feels His reputation is on the line, as our Savior, for His taking responsibility for establishing us with a place and position within His kingdom.  The least we can do as His disciples (devoted ones) is obey Him.  (Pause for Thought:  “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”—John 15:10-11)
 

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Living Up

I’m always fascinated when I meet someone who reads the last chapter of a book first.  I’ve been told knowing the outcome allows for a more fulfilling reading experience.  I suppose once the uncertainty of the ending is known, the means to the end is better understood and more appreciated.  Maybe that is why Jesus took care of humanity’s most uncertain aspects to living—“What happens when I die, and who am I?”—when He arrived, lived, died, rose, and ascended.  The last chapter is a foregone conclusion.  (Pause for Thought:  “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again, so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.”—I Thessalonians 4:13-14.  What uncertainties are you and your family facing this year?  How does knowing death is nothing but a short sleep with Jesus help you face these uncertainties?  Remember, when you fall asleep at night, you don’t cease to be who you were when you awake.  Since this is so, what do you suppose we carry with us into Heaven?  What do you suppose is left behind?)
 
My wife, son, and I always pray before we part for work and school in the mornings.  The first school day of this year, I asked my son what he wanted to work on and perfect this semester.  I was thinking he would request prayer for an academic or intellectual pursuit, but instead, he said he wanted to know more about what a Christian does and who a Christian is.  His request exuded uncertainty.  He is currently living in an “earn it or lose it” state of being.  (Pause for Thought:  “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God, once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”—I Peter 2:9-10.  How does a royal priesthood look and act?  Are you basing your response on Jesus’s example or the world’s?  What, if any, difference is there between Jesus’s example of royalty and priesthood and the world’s?  What “certainties” does Jesus’s example bring with it?)
 

I want my son to understand a Christian (Jesus Christ Follower) doesn’t try to earn the places, rights, and privileges given to him, but focuses on living up to these gifts given freely by his heavenly Father.  My son’s eventual physical death is just falling asleep and waking up with Jesus—again.  Nothing can stop that from happening.  My son is a king in the order of Jesus—no one can take that away.  I want these grace-filled certainties to be the basis for his living and wisdom.  His place, my place, is guaranteed always—now and forever—at our Father’s table.  Our earthly failures will not be a reason for our removal from our place at His table, but an opportunity for us to live up to the gracious gift and accompanying responsibilities from our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Pause for Thought:  “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.  And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”—Luke 22:28-30.  What is the basis for being a Christ follower?  How do you view trials when they appear?  Do you try to earn your way closer to the King?  Do you believe the trial has come as a punishment for something you did or didn’t do?  How do you view Jesus’ authority and yours when these trials arrive?  If you will allow me, I would like to speak more to the subject of “living up” in next week’s article.)


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Collections & Revelations

My son and I collect baseball cards.  I’ve been collecting since 1977, and he started seven years ago when he was five years of age.  It’s a great pastime for the two of us to be together, and it’s interesting to discuss why a player’s card means so much to us.  We have our sentiments, team preferences, player performances, and other reasons why we get excited to open a pack of cards and get who or what we get.  In fact, New Year’s Eve kicks-off our baseball card collecting for the year as tradition dictates we each open a box of unwrapped cards and compare who got the “best” for our endeavor. (Pause for Thought:  “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the tradition (teaching) you received from us”—II Thessalonians 3:6.  Do you have any collections and/or traditions that become especially meaningful to you during the Holy Days?  How have you conveyed the reasons for your traditional interests to your family?  Have you been able to use these collections/traditions as a way of revealing Christ’s work in you and for you? )
 
There is a monetary value placed on these cards by collectors and appraisers.  Some cards are worth a lot of money right out of the pack, though they may depreciate in value over time, while others might actually increase in value.  Those cards with unique “flaws” may actually be worth more than if they were issued as intended.  What fascinates me about these cards is they are just that – cards.  They’re photos of a person on one side of cardboard or thick paper stock with a bunch of numbers on the other.  These cards are really only worth what someone is willing to pay for them.  (Pause for Thought:  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field”—Matthew 13:44.  Have you ever thought about how valuable you are or how much you’re worth?  Jesus has made us as valuable as He is.  By giving up his place at His Father’s side, and by giving up His life on earth to redeem—purchase—us back from the prince of the air, He has given us the value of Himself.  Where do you look to find your value?  How do you and your family “value” others?)
 
My son and I like to look on EBay or thumb through a card price guide to see just what people MIGHT be willing to pay for our pieces of cardboard.  We like to sort them out according to our preferences, and we actually have a “baseball room” where we store and display our cards.  To be honest, the cards we like to show off aren’t “worth” that much, because the cards aren’t of superstars, and most people would pass them by.  However, it’s not the monetary price for the cards that make them special to us; it’s the relational sentiment, memories, and stories that mean everything.  Isn’t that like the Kingdom of Heaven?  (Pause for Thought:  “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become Children of God—born not of natural decent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.—John 1:12-13.  How can you and your family value others at Christmas the way Christ values us?  What will you teach your children to be WORTHwhile over the Holy Days?)
 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all God’s Children!


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Deceptive Distractions

If they were obvious, I wouldn’t fall for them.  If they produced immediate deadly consequences, I would resist.  However, due to their subtlety, I lose my focus on Christ and become ensnared.  I’m talking about the deceptive distractions used by the world’s false prophets and their teaching.  I often look for them within the church’s walls, but to be honest, I see them more in my home (via TV, computer, radio, etc.), place of employment (i.e. selfish business practitioners), schools (by providing untrue and irrational relational advice/expectations), etc.  Even family members have been used by the enemy to loosen my footing upon the Solid Rock.  No wonder Jesus likens false teachers and prophets to ravenous wolves.  (Pause for Thought:  “Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly, they are ferocious wolves.”—Matthew 7:15.  How do the false teachers in your life “come to you”?  How quickly do you determine them to be false?  What do you use to determine the un-truths?  What measures do you take upon discovering the falsehoods?)
 
Contrary to popular belief, a wolf and its pack will pursue and kill about anything—not just the young, old, or weak.  If conditions are right, and the pack is in accord, wolves will kill a full grown, healthy bull moose—the largest animal in the deer family.  God has given the bull-moose razor sharp hooves and massive antlers, and these divine defensive weapons will more than cause a hurt for the wolf.  Wolves know this and understand, to successfully attack a moose, they must cause it to turn and run.  The alpha female wolf will feign (deceptive distraction) a frontal charge at the moose in hopes of getting it running out of fear.  The pack will pursue the beast nipping and biting its hind quarters to weaken it from exhaustion and loss of blood.  (Pause for Thought:  “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”—Matthew 10:16.  What does Jesus mean by being “shrewd as snakes” and “innocent as doves”?  Is something or someone pursuing you and your family right now?  Have you inquired of the Lord in regards to gaining wisdom on how to handle the deceptive and/or distractive situation?)
 
Once the moose is exhausted, the pack will wait a long time until it becomes convenient and free of harm to kill the moose.  Only when the moose has become completely distracted with fatigue and fear, will the pack kill it by attacking its head and throat.  (Pause for Thought:  “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”—James 1:14-15.  As a father, I’ve noted some of my own rationalizations and statements that tell me I’m being deceived, distracted, and pursued.  I’ve learned to listen and watch for these telling signs in my son and family:  “It’s not fair…”, “I don’t deserve to be…”, “When is it my time/opportunity to…”, “At least I’m better than…”, “But it’s Christmas {substitute any event, holiday, or happening when Christ isn’t the center focus of attention} time…”).
 
Our enemy, the Devil, is never distracted, however, our Savior and King is never distracted either.  God knew, before he made us, what it would take to turn us around and for us to stand our ground when the Enemy comes to us – Emmanuel – God With Us! “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!—Roman 7:24-25.  Your family and you are worth the Son of God.
 

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Perilous Presents

Many people have heard the story of Gideon and his victory over the 120,000 terrorists of his day utilizing only 300 men, torches, and trumpets.  Most people, I would venture to say, have never heard “the rest of the story.”  (Pause for Thought:  Read Judges 8:22-9:56)
 
Gideon was offered the opportunity to be a hereditary king over God’s people, but he declined the offer.  Instead he requested a portion of the plunder taken from the Midianites he and his army had defeated.  With the gold and various other items, Gideon made an ephod and presented it as a gift to his hometown of Ophrah.  An ephod existed in the town of Shiloh, as prescribed by the Lord, for the Levites to use in the inquiry of His will for the Israelites.  The ephod in Ophrah would become the center of false worship (Baal idolatry) and would lead to the downfall and death of many Israelites, including Gideon’s sons.  (Pause for Thought:  Why did Gideon refuse the offer to be king over Israel?  How did Gideon’s acceptance of the gold and his giving of the ephod contradict his refusal and rationale for being king?  How did Gideon’s gift lead to the estrangement and destruction of the people?)
 

Generosity is often displayed by refusing to give or receive a gift that would harm (spiritually, soulfully, physically) the receiver and/or giver.  We live in a society of instant gratification and have the means to fulfill every pleasure, so it is important to consider our gifts and the consequences of giving them—especially to our children. In kindergarten I received the gift of a comic book from a fellow classmate because he knew I enjoyed superheroes.  When I showed my parents the present, they requested I graciously return the comic with the explanation that the comic’s main hero was the son of Lucifer, and we, as a family believed Christ to be our hero over Satan.  Devastated, I did what they instructed me to do.

A few weeks later I was shopping with my mom at a department store only to hear about the pending arrival of my favorite superhero—Spiderman—over the loud speaker!  I received a free comic and photo with Spiderman, and my mom bought me the 45 record of the Spiderman TV show theme.  Needless to say, I was the hero at the class’ next show-and-tell when I revealed my new Spiderman gifts and listened to the theme song.  “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”—Luke 11:11-13   (Pause for Thought:  Have you ever received a gift that brought you closer to the Lord?  Have you ever been given a gift that distracted you in your relationship to Him?  If so, what did you do with it?  How are the gifts you are planning to give your children this Christmas going to help/hurt you and your children’s desires to follow Christ Jesus?)

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Make Room

Read the story of the Shunammite Woman in II Kings 4:8-37; 8:1-6

In a day and age when God’s people had rejected His directions and those who supplied them, a woman maintained the divine order of hospitality by inviting Elisha to eat and relax in her and her husband’s home.  Not only did the Shunammite woman provide meals and conversation, she also made a room within her household for Elisha’s learning and teaching of God’s eternal principles.  This resulted in the blessing of a son–by her increased faith, the loss of her hopes–in the death of her son, and a victory over death, corruption, and sin–by the resurrection of her son and the re-establishment of her faith-filled legacy.  Her faith became surrender as the Lord’s influence through Elisha invaded her home.  (Pause for Thought:  Why did Elisha appreciate the room the Shunammite woman gave him?  What made the Shunammite’s household different from other Israeli homes of the time?  In what ways was the Shunammite’s household blessed by the presence of God’s prophet)\
 
Israel had stopped hosting the Lord’s servants during Elisha’s time.  Prophets were considered outlaws who had become outdated and unwanted.  As a consequence, the people had become disconnected in their relationship with their Father to the point of killing His ministers and rejecting His decrees (In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is NO ROOM for God–Psalm 10:4)
 
While growing up, my mom and dad would often host missionaries, gospel singers, and preachers and their families as they remained away from home to minister to our church family.  This provided my sister and me an opportunity to have extended or one-on-one conversations with these ministers of the faith resulting in great worship, testimony, and witnessing.  I asked my dad why our family hosted these people so often.  His simple reply has remained in my soul for my entire life—“We sometimes entertain angels without knowing it”.  (Hebrews 13:1-3).  I believe what my father said is true, and I have confirming results.  My marriage is a direct result of my aunt and uncle’s faithful hospitality to my then future wife and mother to my son.  Their generosity connected with my parents’ desire to see their family and family friends come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and savior resulting in Renee’s and my engagement to each other.  I’m a blessed man because of a legacy of hospitality and making room for Christ.  (Pause for Thought:  How has hospitality benefited you as a host?  How has it benefited those you’ve hosted?  How has your hospitality blessed others within your family?)
 
Faithful hospitality is what Mary and Joseph displayed when they made room for God’s only Son when He left home.  Like the Shunammite woman, Mary and her family would know first-hand the blessing, loss, and victory when providing room for the Lord.  “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.  “May it be to me as you have said.”  Then the angel left her.—Luke 1:38  (Pause for Thought:  How will you and your family be demonstrating hospitality around Christmas this year?  What do you want your children to learn and know through your and their hospitality?  How can and will Christ be the influence as you make room for Him?)
 

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