Big Gifts

It’s always great when gift giving and¬†Christmas goes off without a hitch. When I was about¬†six years old,¬†¬†I received a wonderful gift – a doll I had hadn’t expected to receive. I was so ecstatic, I actually named the doll, ‘Merry Christmas’. But then there was my brother’s gift. Oh what a gift! A shiny helicopter –¬†batteries¬†included. There was great excitement as the prop whirred noisily and we stood by waiting for the helicopter to take flight. Disappointment. The¬†chopper never got off the ground.

In adult years, life¬†is often less about gifts and more about getting together.¬†Everything went great this year. A perfect fresh¬†tree, wonderfully mild weather…Christmas seemed to being going great until there was a¬†small¬†gift mix- up about¬†the¬†BIGGEST¬†gift¬†under the tree. The¬†gift had arrived a few days early. It included a big name tag, which no one seemed to read. It was¬†somehow assumed the¬†biggest gift belonged to¬†Grandma, and as she opened it to display a lovely red glass bowl on Christmas Day, she proudly set it out on display.¬†Then came the arrival of my older sister, the giver of the¬†gift, who couldn’t believe her eyes, “How on earth did that get there? That’s not your gift!

“It was handed it to me…I’m sure it had my name on it,” Grandma answered¬†uncertainly.¬†BIG gift.¬†BIG mix up. But my¬†sister soon resolved the matter by digging out the¬†original wrapping paper and tag¬†from a recycling bin.¬†Labelled correctly.¬†In the Christmas morning excitement, no one had noticed the¬†name tag wasn’t addressed to Grandma.¬†When my youngest sister arrived¬†later¬†the¬†gift was given to her, the rightful owner, although it was roughly rewrapped.¬†All was well that ended well.

When it gets down to it,¬†whatever gifts we receive at Christmas – big or small,¬†doesn’t matter.¬† What¬†matters as we all know – is¬†the ‘real’ gift of¬†family, good health, getting together, and counting our blessings of laughter, love –¬†and the gift of LIFE itself. My older sister heard about the tragic loss of a friend’s neighbour over Christmas. At my church, we heard of an old friend who died in hospital over Christmas after a tough battle with cancer.

As you head into a brand new year, why not take a moment to say ‘thank you for gifts that¬†really matter? My guess is you’ll will have a BIG list too long to keep up with, and in fact, you may realize God has outpoured¬†so many gifts, you will have an overflow to share¬†with others.

The gift of God is eternal life… Romans 6:23

No eye has seen what God has prepared… 1 Corinthians 2:9

…and now…about the gifts of the Spirit… 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

© 2011 S. Michaels From notebook: What Have You Got to Lose?

Roars of Battle, Songs of Faith

I¬†hear sounds of¬†battle. I hear battles being waged for life. I hear battles being waged for moral decency in¬†societies run amok. I hear¬†a battle being waged for justice,¬†political stability, sanctions,¬†economic balance.¬†¬†I hear¬†fierce battles being waged by the forgotten in¬†third world nations,¬†and the homeless in our own streets. I hear¬†the noise and roar of battles¬†over drugs, $$¬†and¬†crime. I hear battles being waged throughout the¬†nations, brutal battles of¬†tyranny, greed,¬†intolerance…

Battles are not silent. Battles rage.¬† Terribly. But above all the¬†clamor and noise,¬†I listen and hear¬†another sound. The sound of a different battle… a battle of¬†faith…and in this¬†realm, I also hear music…praises¬†tearing down walls of unbelief, indifference, greed, and hate…Faith wears an armour that is invincible.¬† Faith is living, not dead.¬†Faith¬†transforms and gives us¬†‘God sight’…the ability to see beyond ‘self’¬†or worldly circumstances into the supernatural realm where God¬†calls things that are ‘not’ as though they are. Faith is the ‘substance’ of¬†things hoped for – the very evidence of things unseen.

Jesus said that the¬†smallest speck of faith¬†holds power to¬†move mountains!¬†He¬†has already demonstrated such faith before¬†religious authorities of his day. He proved to those superspiritual leaders¬†that¬†‘religion’ just didn’t cut it. During his earthly ministry of healing and¬†in raising the dead to life, Jesus illustrated heaven-sent¬†faith at work. He¬†promised that if we¬†believe in Him¬†we will do greater things in His Name¬†than He did during His time on earth.¬†Yet Jesus was also concerned about lack of faith. He wondered¬†if he would find¬† ‘alive’ faith in the hearts of people when he returned to earth.¬†Why? Because Jesus knew just how quickly the human spirit faints in trials of faith. Faith gets tested. Faith can waver.¬†However, the¬†rewards of persistent faith are as immeasureable as God Himself. These are troubled times, but God’s not troubled, and neither should His people be troubled. He said, “Let NOT your hearts be troubled…” The thing about faith is that it is¬†not something we can muster up by mere will power.¬† It isn’t ‘mind over matter’. Faith is a gift from God.¬†Faith is linked to two other great gifts – hope and love. Hope and love fire up faith. And so does…praise!¬†

If you feel¬†a little short on faith…don’t worry about it. Talk with God. Ask Him to grow your faith and take you to a new level.¬† That’s the first step. Then, believe¬†His promises!¬†Get to know them and¬† hold on against all hope.¬†And, start praising! Joshua was¬†a man of faith, and God knew¬†about Joshua’s faith, but¬†He stretched Joshua a little and asked him to praise!Praise changes everything. It can do the same¬†for you.

The Battle of Jericho with Moses Hogan…this is possibly the best¬†rendition of the old spiritual hymn¬†about Joshua’s battle…a song about the victory won by faith before Israel entered the Promised Land (Video includes Hogan’s opening interview and describes how he used music to imitate the ‘sounds of battle’…and victory). (Do I hear any alleluias?) ūüôā

© S. Michaels From Notebook: What Have You Got to Lose?
For further insights on faith, read: Hebrews 11,  Joshua 6:1-27

Perseverance

As we move forward into God-given destinies, it is reassuring
to know that God has already been there…and knows full well
how to open the doors of breakthrough. He, the incarnate God
has been here before…

D. Sheets (God’s Timing For Your Life, ¬© 2001, Regent Books)

Let’s talk about destiny. The word ‘destiny’ implies being part of an adventure…It also implies purpose. God is a God of purpose and plan. There is nothing haphazard about His activities or work in our lives.¬†When we walk with God, the dreams He inspires are dreams He¬†would like us to work hard at and to put into action. Too often we stop short. Perhaps we think the going is too tough. Perhaps we run into doubt, fear,¬†and apathy. There are all kinds of roadblocks which can crop up on the way to victory. Hurdles are part of life. But as a person of destiny, giving up is not an option. Moving ahead¬†in our divine destiny¬†will often require¬†risk-taking,¬†faith, even tastes of defeat.¬†Moving ahead not only¬†requires taking action, it requires getting up and trying again. And staying power. Staying power is perseverance.

Perseverance is the hidden strength behind¬†faith. True perseverance is a God-given strength which¬†enables us to stand strong, never be defeated, and to ‘break through’…to establish ‘new ground’…to move ahead in¬†fulfilling our destiny. Not surprisingly, perseverance comes from¬†Latin, meaning ‘through’¬†and ‘severe’… through¬†tough¬†tests… through difficulties…¬†To get to the place of victory, requires ‘stick to it-iveness’.

The exciting part is finding out that God’s already run ahead of you. He’s¬†with you all the way.

Are you running a good race? Keep running. Have you been faltering and falling behind? Get back up again. Keep on keeping on. This is your time. Use it well.

© S. Michaels From Notebook: What Have You Got To Lose?

Calling Home

I want you to call¬†me in your times of trouble…so I can rescue you… Psalm 50:15

As a kid I¬†loved knowing¬†that if I ever ran into¬†trouble…I could always call home.¬†At our house, ‘calling home’¬†was no trivial thing.¬† You had better have a real good reason for doing so. Mom was¬†overrun with a household of seven children,¬†from toddlers¬†to teens. All of us¬†were constantly on the move and involved in school,¬†neighbourhood or church activities. ¬†My father was a busy educator. He took¬†summers away from his work to attend university. In between everything else, Dad somehow always found¬†time to¬†plan adventures for us kids, and we loved it. Little did we know¬†he was also¬†busy keeping us¬†out of¬†Mom’s hair.

Dad was¬†commanding and firm,¬†but¬†he was¬†secretly as protective as an ol’ mother hen.¬†There were no¬†cell phones,¬†but somehow Dad had an inner ‘radar’ that swiftly informed¬†him exactly where we were and what was going on in our lives¬†at any given moment. It seemed he had an extra set of eyes in the back of his head.

One July day that¬†was so¬†scorching the¬†air didn’t move, we all bundled off to the beach. Mom towed along a gigantic jug of Kool Aid and¬†her usual picnic hamper full of homemade bread and potato salad and hot dog fixings.¬†As we raced off into the refreshing shallows near the shore, a couple of us tagged after Dad to learn how to dog paddle.¬†Suddenly I hit a sinkhole and¬†was in way¬†over my head.¬†I can still vividly recall as if it happened yesterday,¬†the terrible panic of¬†wallowing in deep¬†waves,¬†choking and¬†unable to call¬†for help. And suddenly there was my father.¬†Dad’s strong wiry arms yanked me¬†swiftly to safety.

That long ago¬†experience taught me something important.¬†Help is there…sometimes even when we can’t cry out. And¬†inside every ‘dad’, especially within¬†men of faith as my father was, I know there is¬†a mirror¬†of the Father heart of God – a heart that eagerly longs for His kids to adventure and play with Him in life. And a heart¬†that is reaching out to help and rescue us when we’re in trouble.

Wherever you’re at today, no matter how deep the water, and even if you think help is nowhere near…Fear not…help is on the way.

Copyright 2011 S. Michaels
From Notebook: What Have You Got to Lose?

Rebuilding

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations… Isaiah 61:1-4

Good news for the poor. Freedom? Praise? Comfort? In this day and age? Sounds almost impossible.¬†Nations are tumbling and going bankrupt. Thousands are out of work, and many people without jobs no longer register¬†on unemployment statistics. Plenty of struggles and despair to go around these days, but in the middle of the mess, God’s word spoken centuries ago promises ‘rebuilding‘.

What a powerful message as we enter the Christmas season near the darkest equinox of the year, and wonder how the new year will pan out. How tremendous to hear God’s bold promise of hope. God asks us as people of faith not to look at what’s broken, but to get busy fixing things.¬†To be partners with Him in healing. Good news. Light dispelling darkness. This is the¬†timeless message of God and also of Christmas.¬†God’s always got good news.¬†In the time of¬†Isaiah and in this particular excerpt from Scripture, God was promising rescue for the captive people of Judah¬†from tyranny and slavery¬†in Babylon.¬†Deliverance came. God’s Word never fails.¬†And God’s¬†good news never changes. His Word is ‘spirit’ and ‘life’. These are not¬†simply words out of a book. They are God’s¬†‘living’ Word.¬†Infinite. Powerful. Unchanging. Transforming. Throughout the ages, and here and now.

In this season of Christmas, will you be part of God’s good news? Will you¬†end up getting frazzled and spending¬†money you don’t have on gifts people don’t need? Or will you take on¬†God’s focus of rebuilding?¬†Bring light. Help the poor. Reach out. Restore brokenness. Plant a tree in drought-ridden Africa.¬† Help¬†transform a village in Asia. Sponsor a child. Get on a mission to change things! God created us in His image for a purpose, to¬†be in partnership with Him throughout the world, wherever you are, wherever you go…to rebuild…and restore…

Imagine being¬†part of carrying out a plan way bigger than you ever dreamed?¬†You can. Get with¬†God’s plan.¬†You may feel limited in your own resources. No problem.¬†God’s not limited by circumstances. Plant a seed of faith…grow oak trees from acorns. Ask God today where you can begin to make a difference.¬†Ask Him to help you¬†rebuild a better world in the coming year. God needs you. So, start now,¬†this Christmas. Rely on¬†His power, not yours.¬†Let go and let God. You may be amazed at what will happen. Guaranteed, your life and the lives of those around will¬†never be the same.

Copyright 2011 S. Michaels

p.s. Here are a few great causes you may wish to consider helping out:

Transform a Village-Gospel for Asia¬†¬† Famine-Relief-Samaritan’s Purse

Food-Paks, Childrens Hunger Fund

From Notebook: What Have You Got to Lose?