It's December 31, the last day of 2007. Another year is down and I and my boy are another year older! For the last three years I have had the distinct privilege of sharing my birthday with my son, Benjamin.

What a joy it has been to watch him grow over the last three years and to share our special day together!





I am a blessed man and couldn't ask for anything more!

Winter Youth Celebration

I just returned with our high school group from a great weekend at Winter Youth at the Red Lion Inn in Janzen Beach. It was from December 27-30 and was a great time, as always. It was filled with great times of hanging out, laughter, junkie food, and late nights. Thank you Hospitality Suite for all the coffee!!

The theme of the conference was "Our God..His Love..Your Neighbor." Speakers Rick McKinley and Chris Seay did an excellent job helping us see how awesome God and His love is and the importance of loving people. They caused us to think deeply and ignited great discussions within our group.

A highlight of the conference, much like last year, was the artwork of Scott Erickson. During each session he would develop the theme of the message through his artwork. His work drew us in deeper to what God had for us and served as a great springboard for discussion afterward.

Here are the paintings done over the course of the conference.

See all the fun here.

Christmas Card From Heaven

Here is a story worth reading! I've never received a Christmas card quite like this!

Merry Christmas to all!

Year End Greeting

Each Monday we publish the 180 Newsletter for our students. It's a newsletter with all the latest happenings within our ministry as well as a devotional thought, interesting web sites, videos, contests, etc. This week instead of publishing our regular format, Aaron and I decided to post a year end greeting video. Just a word of warning: it's pretty cheesy...but fun none the less!

To understand the full context of the video you may want to view it at our newsletter site.

TIP: Be sure to watch it all the way to the end.

Free Christmas Music

One of the things I love most about Christmas, is the music. I love good music and I really love good Christmas music.

Artist Aaron Shust is offering a free download of his version of "O Come, O Come, Emanuel" and Rush of Fools is offering a free download of their rendition of "O Come All Ye Faithful."

Click on the banners below to get them. Great stuff!

Think On This

He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.

- Augustine

Christmas Lights

There is just something about Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Christmas lights. A seemingly perfect marriage.

See more here.

Feels Good To Give

In my message on Sunday I read from Matthew 10:41-42, the passage in which Jesus is teaching His disciples that there is reward in giving. He didn't go into the specific details of what that reward is, but one thing that we do know ... it feels good! It feels good to give and that is reward enough!

Seems some folks at Starbucks understood that!

HT to KC Wahe

More Giving Ideas

In light of my last post I thought these ideas, received via email, were worth posting. Kind of God's "wish list" for Christmas.

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way Jesus' birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of Jesus' birth, and why He came to live with us down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that He loves them.

4. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

5. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

6. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one.

7. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes God's love and Good News to those who have never heard His name.

8. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Jesus and they will make the delivery for you.

9. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Jesus, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in His presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of His.

Have other ideas? Please join the discussion and add them to the Comments section of this post.

What Do You Want For Christmas?

As I shared in my last post, I had the opportunity to preach yesterday. It was a great morning and I feel the message was well received. The title of my message was "What Do You Want For Christmas?" We essentially took a look at what it would look like if we focused our giving more toward Jesus this Christmas and made it less about ourselves.

One of the texts that we looked at was Matthew 2:1-12. It is the story of the Magi coming to see the newborn Jesus. They came to worship Him, and they worshiped Him through their giving to Him. My two main points were, The greatest gift we can give is our worship, and the greatest form of our worship is our giving.

At the conclusion of my message I shared a few practical ways that we can give to Jesus this year. There are a number of great ministry organizations that one can give to that are actively involved in meeting the basic needs of people. The kind of people that Jesus mentions in Matthew 25.

World Vision Gift Catalog
Samaritan's Purse
Compassion International
Medical Teams International
Bridgetwon Ministries

May we remember, we are never more like Jesus, than when we give.

You may hear the message here, or in iTunes.
Download the accompanying outline here.

Christ Like Giving

This Sunday I have the opportunity to preach. My message is entitled, "What Do You Want For Christmas?" I will post more about it and include the audio, on Monday.

In preparing I came across a great story that I believe beautifully depicts Christ like giving. It reminds us that we are never more like Christ, than when we give.

Here it is...

Shortly after World War II came to a close, Europe began picking up the pieces. Much of the Old Country had been ravaged by war and was in ruins. Perhaps the saddest sight of all was that of little orphaned children starving in the streets of those war-torn cities.

Early one chilly morning an American soldier was making his way back to the barracks in London. As he turned the corner in his jeep, he spotted a little lad with his nose pressed to the window of a pastry shop. Inside the cook was kneading dough for a fresh batch of doughnuts. The hungry boy stared in silence, watching every move. The soldier pulled his jeep to the curb, stopped, got out, and walked quietly over to where the little fellow was standing. Through the steamed-up window he could see the mouth-watering morsels as they were being pulled from the oven, piping hot. The boy salivated and released a slight grown as he watched the cook place them onto the glass-enclosed counter ever so carefully.

The soldier’s heart went tout to the nameless orphan as he stood beside him.

“Son…would you like some of those?”

The boy was startled.

“Oh, yeah…I would!”

The American stepped inside and bought a dozen, put them in a bag and walked back to where the lad was standing in the foggy cold of the London morning. He smiled, held out the bag, and said simply: “Here you are.”

As he turned to walk away, he felt a tug on his coat. He looked back and heard the child ask quietly: “Mister … are you God?”

As we approach the birthday of Christ, may we give in a like manner, and as we do, may we remember, when we give, we give to Him (Matthew 25:31-40).

Baby Genius

Just when I thought my two year old was the smartest kid on the planet, this little girl had to come along. Actually, just when I thought I was pretty smart, this little girl had to come along!

When you consider that she knows geography better than 97% of the population, and that two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 still cannot find Iraq on a map, this is one amazing little girl!

The Truth

This is the truth.

Advent Devotional

My appreciation of the advent season has grown tremendously in the last couple of years. Yesterday was the first day of the advent season, a season of anticipation, reflection, and wonder.

God's people in the Old Testament awaited the coming of a new king, one to set them free and set up a new kingdom. Their King came. Our King came. Now we are in the second advent, awaiting the second return of our King, Jesus. In this, the Christmas advent season, we prepare for the second coming of Jesus and commemorate Christ's first coming at Christmas.

Last year I discovered a wonderful online advent devotional. As of yesterday it is online again. It's called Following The Star and is a great way to begin each day of this advent season. A great way to slow down and reflect on our Savior and the difference He makes in our lives. Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids has a very nice advent devotional on their web site. See it here. Youth Roots as well, has one designed for youth and youth leaders. Find it here.

I am encouraged, as there seems to be a great deal of interest in the advent season. Traffic to my blog has increased nearly 4 times in the last few days, most of which are a result of searches for advent devotionals. Last night I received the following comment on the post I wrote last year.

Every year my girlfriend of 45 years sends me a "Blue Book" for Advent. She's in NJ and I am in FL, but every morning we read our book over the distance together. This morning I did my reading and prepared to read my email, when God guided me to your blog. It was not my intention to browse this morning, yet here I am. I went to the wonderful site - Following the Star. I shared it with my girlfriend. Her comment, "... this site is AWESOME. I truly enjoyed adding this to my Advent journey. I read the Blue Book and GOD CALLING before I get up each day and I'll be reading this as soon as I arrive at work....or on weekends, as soon as I can get myself down to the family room and the computer. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

May we all approach Christmas this year with a growing sense of anticipation of His return. May we as well enter into this time of year with a heightened sense of worship.