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The Beaded Reindeer

25 Dec

Read: Matthew 7:7-27

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

James 1:5

It was a warm, mid-August afternoon and I had spent the better portion of my day standing at the checkout counter unpacking Christmas merchandise.  I’m not certain whose idea it was to start Christmas this early, but several other stores had begun putting their product on display in July, so I suppose we were just keeping up with the flow.

While I was able to clearly identify most of the product I was labeling, there was one item which baffled me.  Long, twisted gold wires with bright red, green, and gold beads created quite an elaborate and sparkly, but indefinable figure.  Upon closer examination, I was able to determine that it was some sort of standup decoration, but even once I’d sorted out which side was “up” (this task was not as easy as one might have hoped), I wasn’t wholly certain what it was.

The curly cues at the back of what I assumed was the head might, perhaps, be antlers, but that seemed unlikely given the doggish shape of the head (complete with a gold beaded nose that made it really hard to tell whether it was a dog or maybe a seal). Then, there were the feet.  Long and fat, they flopped forward for half the body length of the strange creature, making it look like some sort of deformed rabbit.

I turned the creature over in my hands several times.  “What exactly is this supposed to be?”

My manager gazed at it closely for a moment or two and then announced “It’s a deer.  See the antlers.”

I frowned, wondering how she could identify the “thing” with such certainty.

It was at this point that she explained that the catalogue from which she had ordered had not contained any pictures of the product, just descriptions – including one for a “Beaded Reindeer.”

Unfortunately, many times in this world we find ourselves in the same predicament as my manager, being promised one thing and receiving something entirely different instead.  Sometimes these discrepancies are small and inconsequential, but at other times, they can make the difference between life and death.  Fortunately, God doesn’t cut corners on the details.  We can rest assured that He will provide exactly what He has promised… every time!

Challenge:  While we only see pieces of the puzzle, God sees the whole picture.  This vantage point makes Him uniquely qualified to make unconditional commitments to His children… and we can be certain that He will do exactly what He has promised!  The next time you feel tempted to worry, spend a moment in prayer.  Then, commit to trust Him, regardless of your circumstances!

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

My Sparkling Personality

18 Dec

Read: Exodus 34:29-35

“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Hebrews 3:14-15a

“What is it about Christmas decorations,” I asked, shaking a sugar covered wreath that I had found lying on a shelf, “that requires them to consist of all these little sparkles and things that are destined to fall off all over your carpet every time you touch them?”

“Guess it’s just more festive that way,” my coworker suggested, grinning and shrugging her shoulders.  “It does seem to get everywhere, doesn’t it?”

After a day of merchandising the product, I could easily affirm her statement.  It seemed that the more time I spent with the decorations, the more I had begun to look like one, myself.  The glitter coated my clothes, my face, my hair, and was even inconveniently stuck between my toes.  I attributed my magical glow to “my sparkling personality” and let it go at that, but I couldn’t help feeling that everyone who passed was taking note of my strikingly festive appearance.  Everyone knew where I had been and what I had been doing!

Scripture tells us that, spending time with Christ should have much the same effect as spending time with Christmas decorations – the more we are with Him, the more we will look like Him.  As His Spirit fills us, we will begin to conform more and more to His image and will – leading others to take note of who we are and in whose presence we have been!

Challenge: Are you spending time with God through prayer and the study of His Word?  If not, commit to making time in His presence a regular part of your life.  The more you are with Him, the more like Him you will become!

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

The Headless Santa

11 Dec

Read: Acts 9:1-22

 

“And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.”

Acts 9:20–22

 

Decorating a store for Christmas has always been one of my favorite tasks.  There is something wonderful about arranging displays of garland and ornaments, “fluffing” artificial trees, and adorning everything with multi-colored blinking lights.  I feel inspired, even worshipful as I place each nativity on the shelf.  Every now and then, however, someone comes up with a unique decoration idea that may not convey the spirit of the holiday as well as one might hope.

“Are you actually hanging a Christmas tree upside down from the ceiling?”  I asked.  I knew my tone was a bit incredulous, but it isn’t every day that one’s manager is seen trying to strap inverted objects to the roof of a greenhouse.

“Yes,” she replied, as though hardly thinking such an answer was necessary.

I watched with interest for a moment then asked the only question I could think of, the only one that made any sense given the situation, “Why?”  

“‘Cuz I feel like it,” she replied, retrieving the roll of wire which was balanced atop her ladder and beginning to secure the bottom part (and only the bottom part) of a Santa Claus to the tree.

“You know, it’s the wrong holiday for headless things,” I observed.

“I know,” she replied, grinning mischievously. 

For the next hour, my manager worked quietly, eventually wiring on Santa’s head, though it still hung rather precariously from his body.  “You know, that wire won’t hold and Santa’s head is going to fall off in front of some little kid and scar him for life,” I warned.  “He’ll live in mortal terror of Santa Claus!” 

While Santa never did lose his head, I wasn’t amiss in my belief that past experiences, especially traumatic ones, can often affect the way we respond to people or situations in the present.  Scripture, however, teaches that previous experience is not always the best guide.  While we should not be naïve, expecting to see change everywhere, we also shouldn’t be so set in our beliefs that we anticipate the same results in every situation.  God still performs miracles, just as He did with Saul!

 

Challenge: Are you allowing your experiences with certain people or situations to dictate the way you react to similar circumstances in the present?  If you are, commit to weighing each situation honestly and allowing room for God to work.

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

This Little Light of Mine

4 Dec

Read: Matthew 5:13-16

 “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

1 Peter 2:12

One of my favorite Christmas tasks was getting the toy department ready.  I took a particular liking to the baby toys: things that light up and shake and sing songs and spin and flip and spring.  In fact, I was teased quite a bit because my interest in playing with these toys oft times exceeded the interest of the very children for whom they had been designed.

The fascination which I felt with the “three and under” category did not frequently extend to the rest of the department, so it came as a bit of a surprise when one of the “six and over” toys caught my attention.  It was a three foot licorice whip type protrusion which extended from a hard, glittery handle in yellow, pink, orange or green.  When batteries were placed inside of the handle, this extension lit up, producing a glow quite similar to that of a table lamp.  Despite the apparent uselessness of the device, I couldn’t resist the urge to play with it.  First, I tried using it as a sparkler, whipping it around and writing things in the air.  Then, I tried using it as a flashlight to look beneath my manager’s desk (nothing terribly exciting down there).  Finally, I tried some make believe fencing moves with it.  I was hooked.  This was clearly one of the best toys ever invented!

I quickly decided that there was absolutely no way that such a device could stay on the shelf as a display (since no one would have any idea what to do with something labeled “Glo-Wand”) and began carrying one around with me to show off to the other employees.  I do believe that most of them were rather frightened when I emerged from behind shelves and boxes, whipping the lithe plastic tube through the air in as menacing a fashion as I could manage.

During the afternoon when I carried it, however, something interesting struck me: when I was out in the store beneath the florescent lighting, you could barely tell that it was turned on, but when I walked back into a dark corner of the warehouse, the little device let out as much light as Yankee Stadium!  Its light seemed to increase as the darkness increased!

Similarly, as God’s children our light shows up best in the darkest places.  While Christians need to spend time in each other’s company, it is when we are in the company of those who do not yet know Jesus that our lives shine the brightest!

Challenge: Are there some “dark places” where you live, work, or go to school?  Commit to spend some time to bringing light to them!  Volunteer at a local homeless shelter or food bank, take an unsaved co-worker to lunch, or stop by the home of a shut-in.  You’ll be surprised at how much a “little light” can brighten someone’s day!

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

It’s in the News

30 Oct

Read: 1 John 4:1-6

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

Acts 17:11 KJV

 

Information.  Our world is full of it and, unfortunately, it isn’t always accurate.  (Just ask any college student who has used Wikipedia as a source for a term paper!)  While we may be quick to point to politicians, academics, and the news media as prime examples of truth twisters, they aren’t the only parties who are sometimes guilty of manipulating information.  Intentionally or not, Christians often fall prey to the same temptation to slant a story to elicit a specific reaction from others.  And in few places is this as evident as in the world of politics and government.

I won’t pretend that I was surprised at receiving calls urging the Senator to vote against bills which would result in the arrest of anyone carrying a Bible in public or fines for those who quoted its words.  I was, however, deeply surprised at the frequency of such calls… especially given that no such bill was ever considered either on the floor of the Senate or in committee. Perhaps even more surprising was that, when asked where they had received their information, nearly every constituent named a usually reliable Christian source!

It didn’t take long before I was checking the named sources for myself and, sure enough, many of them did warn of the threats posed by current legislation. Unfortunately, few of them took time to explain what the bills currently under consideration were actually designed to accomplish or how they were presently worded.  Indeed, without an extensive series of events (often involving the complete reworking of the English language, the passage of successive legislation with blatant malicious intent, and/or the abolition of our present form of government), the prophesied outcomes were unlikely to ever take place.  In failing to clarify their concern over the legislation (or the path by which they arrived at their concern), these “reliable” sources had created a panic.  And those acting upon their information rather than taking time to read the bill for themselves, looked more like fools than concerned citizens.

Perhaps it is for this reason that the New Testament writers took such care to commend the early Church for seeking truth in the original source documents.  While many pastors and teachers are both competent and faithful, there will always be a few who are not.  Only when we take time to confirm information for ourselves can we be certain that our words and actions represent truth and honor Christ!

Challenge:  This week, commit to discovering the truth.  Make a list of beliefs you consider to be “fact” then take the time to research them for yourself.  You may be surprised at what you discover!

Daily Devotional Podcasts

28 Oct

As Christians, we know the importance of spending regular time in God’s Word.  Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced world, finding time alone with our Bible’s isn’t always that easy.  That’s why this week, we’re featuring three helpful podcasts which bring God’s Word to your ears even when your eyes are unavailable!

If you’re looking for an easy daily devotional, why not check out Early Light?  Brought to you courtesy of In Touch Ministries, this brief meditation gives a kick-start to your day with thought-provoking real-life stories and accompanying scripture readings.  At just under five minutes, these devotions are an easy listen with deep impact.  Like a vitamin shot, they’re great for aligning your focus – helping you put God’s Word into action as you head off to school, work, or even a day of play!

Looking for something longer?  Why not check out the Daily Radio Program with Charles Stanley?  These thirty minute sermons are a great way to get centered as you go about your routine.  Join Dr. Stanley as he takes a look at both Scripture and its practical application in the daily lives of believers.  At under 30 minutes, they fit nicely into the school/work commute or even as an accompaniment to your morning bowl of cereal or evening jog!

Want an afternoon pick-me-up?  Then check out Our Daily Bread.  A production of RBC Ministries, these five minute podcasts take a meditative look at Scripture and its relevance in the lives of believers.  Thoughtfully written, these devotions are sure to get you refocused after a long day at school or the office.

With plenty of great content, these podcasts are sure to help you keep your head in the Word… even when you can’t find a place to sit down and read!

The Requisition List

23 Oct

Read: John 16:23-27

 “And this is the boldness which we have towards him, that if we ask him anything according to his will he hears us.”

1 John 5:14

One of my minor duties as the Senator’s Staff Assistant was to help with the requisitioning of supplies.  Keeping a close eye on our consumption of paper clips and printer paper, I would carefully assemble a list of our needs.  Then, when a sufficient number of items had made their way onto that list or we were nearly out of something with which our office simply could not function (like the aforementioned paperclips) our Regional Director would make the requisition.  Before placing each call, she would turn to me from her office and enquire, “Is there anything else you need?”

While the question was intended to stimulate my memory of any last-minute additions, it instead opened to the door to a wide range of less-than-relevant responses.  My smart replies covered a variety of “necessities” ranging from a disco ball (for all of our wild dance parties) to gigantic blow up elephant to step on staffers who got out of hand.  I was quick to point out that the quality of our work would be vastly improved should each of us have access to a vibrating, heated lazy boy and didn’t hesitate to suggest that the addition of a video arcade might improve hand-eye coordination for those tasked with answering the phones.

My suggestions, of course, were not entirely limited to the impractical or downright fantastical.  A combination coffee maker/fax machine that gave a personal voice greeting every morning also made it onto my list, as did haz-mat suits for those opening the Senator’s mail.  I never got what I asked for, but this didn’t stop me from trying, and I was delighted when our Regional Director finally did concede to at least one of my requests and added a box of colored paperclips to our order.

Sadly, many of us approach God with a list of wants and desires which are not that far removed from my own bizarre additions to the requisitions list.  Seeking what we have deemed to be the “perfect” life, we ask for things that fulfill neither our needs nor God’s plan.

Scripture, however, portrays a different approach.  Instead of assembling a jumbled list of everything we want, Christians are instructed to draw close to God, learning His ways and walking according to His commands.  When we do, the things which we pray for begin to take on the form of His desires rather than our own.  According to the Bible, these requests will always be granted.

Challenge:  Are you praying in God’s will or are you asking Him to fulfill your own?  This week, take some time to carefully consider your prayer life.  Then commit to drawing close to Him!

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