Saturday, November 29, 2008

Our Christmas List

Ah, Christmas shopping. So much fun...the crowds, the expense, the time, the crowds, the wrapping, the rush, the crowds...oh, but isn't it worth it. I mean you get to give! And isn't that what it's all about, anyway? Yes, indeed!

Well for those trying to figure out what to get the Gabriel's for Christmas this year, we're offering a little help. Now if you've already taken care of this, I'm sure you did great. No worries here. But if you're truly stumped trying to find that perfect gift, here's the help you're looking for.

Now I warn you, our Christmas list is a bit unusual this year. But it's simple, really. We want your gifts to us to be relational gifts. That is, gifts that took more time and less money. We want you to spend less on us so you can spend some on others who are truly in need.

Now we're not saying you can't buy us a gift. After all, that's giving too. But we're thinking, it's Jesus' birthday we're celebrating, right? Shouldn't he be the one getting at least some of the presents?

Now how do you give presents to Jesus? You give to the least, the last and the lost of our world. Those in great need.

Matthew 25:40
(Jesus said) "'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the 
least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"
Matthew 25:39-41 (in Context)

It would have been pretty weird if the 3 wise men had shown up to see little Jesus and then started giving their gifts to each other instead of the one they had just traveled hundreds of miles to see. So we're just trying to be a little more about giving gifts to Jesus and less for us. 

Did you know that Americans spend $450 Billion a year just on Christmas?

Did you know that the lack of clean water kills more people every day than anything? And here's the think. They estimate it will take just $10 Billion to make clean water accessible to everybody in the world. $450 or $10? I'm just saying...

Jesus said, "It's more blessed to give than to receive." Well, if that's true (I believe it is) then the most blessed gift you could give us would be to give our gift to someone else for us. Especially if that person is in need.

We're not saying it's wrong to give gifts to each other. As I said, we're still going to do that. We're just going to cut back and take the extra and give it to Jesus. 

So we have several options for you to consider.

Here are 2 websites that have catalogues designed to help you give in this way. Just pick something out you'd like to give to someone else in need and give it. Then when we gather for Christmas, just share with us what you did. It can be for each of us or one for the whole family. We'd be thrilled with that!

World Vision  I especially like gifts that relate to giving animals or clean water (the basics of life).

Samaritan's Purse  Stocking a fish pond seems like a cool idea here too. But they have lots of options just like World Vision. 

Both are reputable, world-wide Christian ministries that are committed to both making poverty history and sharing the truth that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. 

Another thought in giving gifts this year is to give something relationally. Give your time. 

You remember those cheesy things you made as a child and then proudly gave to your parents? Well those gifts are precious. They aren't valuable, right? No, but they are precious because you made them. You took the time to make them.

Or why not just give of your time. You can give homemade coupons of things you can do for others. Wash their car. Iron some clothes. Have them over for dinner. It doesn't have to be expensive or extravagant. Just so it includes you!

We are actually challenging our whole church to do this. So we as a family will be giving gifts this way. We are calling it the Advent Conspiracy. You can learn more about where the idea came from here.

So, perhaps not the list you were looking for, but hopefully helpful none-the-less.

Merry CHRISTmas and Happy Birthday, Jesus!

The Gabriel's

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful for Fleas

Thanks to James Emery White for reminding us of this terrific story of God's perspective on the difficulties and trials of life.

Thankful for the Fleas

The barracks where Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy were kept in the Nazi concentration camp Ravensbruck were terribly overcrowded and flea-infested.

They had been able to miraculously smuggle a Bible into the camp, and in that Bible they had read that in all things there were to give thanks, and that God can use anything for good.

Corrie’s sister Betsy decided that this meant thanking God for the fleas.

This was too much for Corrie, who said she could do no such thing. Betsy insisted, so Corrie gave in and prayed to God, thanking Him even for the fleas.

Over the next several months a wonderful, but curious, thing happened. They found that the guards never entered their barracks. This meant that women were not assaulted. It also meant that they were able to do the unthinkable, which was to hold open Bible studies and prayer meetings in the heart of a Nazi concentration camp.

Through this, countless numbers of women came to faith in Christ.

Only at the end did they discover why the guards had left them alone and would not enter into their barracks.

It was because of the fleas.

This Thanksgiving, give thanks to God for every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), but also thank Him for how He will use all things for good in the lives of those who trust Him (Romans 8:28).

In this time of falling stock prices and rising unemployment; in a time when many are facing physical and emotional challenges; there can be little doubt that such a trusting prayer of gratitude will be challenging to offer.

But then take a moment, and remember the fleas of Ravensbruck.

And thank God anyway.  James Emery White

Sources: Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

You Have Our Attention

Are you more anxious than normal these days? Are you wondering what in the world is going on? This prayer for our nation by Max Lucado is so fitting for us today. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Share Faith using HSM?

Share Your Faith Using "High School Musical"

The online newspaper The Christian Post offers ideas for sharing your faith using "High School Musical 3: Senior Year." More info.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Free Audio Bible

No-Cost Audio Bible for Blogs and Websites
Faith Comes by Hearing (FCBH) has just made it possible to send the Bible around the world at no cost. Bloggers, webmasters, and social network users will now be able to spread the gospel in audio using sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Digg, and Reddit. FCBH has developed an Audio Bible widget that can be placed on websites, blogs, or social networking profiles, allowing visitors to sample any of nearly 300 Audio New Testaments in FCBH's collection. Users can then select and download a free Audio Bible. More info.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My daughter made me cry

My daughter made me cry.

I was a younger father then. I know, it's not a good excuse. I had yelled at my daughter (maybe 4 at the time) for disobeying or not doing what I told her or something like that. You know, normal stuff. Life. She dropped her head and walked away dejected that she had failed daddy. I let her go, wrongly thinking I was being the good disciplinarian. Even more disturbingly, I didn't remind her that regardless of her behavior, I loved her. I withheld unconditional love. 

Meanwhile, I'm preparing to preach my first sermon ever in church. Big church. You know, not just our youth but their parents (and grandparents). Oh, and the sermon was on James 3: Watching your tongue.

So as tends to happen in my sermon preparation, God took me to the woodshed. 

You know where the woodshed is, don't you? It's that place where kids' parents used to take them to find a suitable instrument for a proper spanking. You know, the "Board of Education."

Well, God took me there in His own way. I felt awful for how I'd handled that situation. So I went to my daughter and apologized. Yep, my 4 year old heard her father say he was sorry for speaking so harshly to her and not reminding her that he loved her no matter what. 

You know what she said? "It's okay, Daddy!" We hugged. I cried.

Even now my eyes water as I remember such grace dispensed on my behalf. I went hoping to teach her, and instead God--through my child--taught me grace. 

So the first lesson is simple: Discipline your children under a canopy of unconditional love. 

The second lesson is simple too: When you don't, apologize. 

The third lesson may be unexpected though: Stories of God's grace are powerful. Even my own story brought tears to my eyes and a new resolve to dispense grace at every opportunity. 

Just think. If we don't share stories of how God is at work in our lives (in big and small ways), others miss a touch from God. So tell your stories. Regularly.

You have many opportunities to share your stories. Work, dinner table, bed time, carpool, and phone calls. But here are 2 more that can have a wider impact:

1. Sharing "My Story" of how you've seen God work (in you, through you, in or through others) during 40 Days of Community. We'll share some of these at our Celebration Service next Sun. (in 6 days)

2. Sharing how God has been at work in, around and through you since last Thanksgiving at our Thanksgiving Celebration service Tue., Nov. 25th. (in 8 days)

If God can use me to touch you through this little story of God's grace, then why can't he use you and your stories too? He can! The only thing stopping Him is you sharing them. Start by leaving a comment here or by emailing Darien or calling Darien today.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Web Ministry opps

I love ministry on the web. 

I love networking with people who love Jesus and who can do cool ministry on the web. 

You too?

Maybe you and I should work together?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Having a Tough Day?

Having a tough day? Well, you're problems just got smaller. Check this out:

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Huckabee's Response to Election

Here's a quote from Mike Huckabee after the election:

Politics is not an event but a process. We sometimes lose the events but it never gives us the right to stop being faithful to our principles that enlisted us in the process. We shall live to fight another day. 

I love this perspective because it keeps us mindful of the war over the battles we win or lose. I found this whole post helpful. Thanks Huck!

Another post that was helpful was this one. Thanks John!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

God and Big Rocks

The question of skeptics of God (agnostics, atheists) these days seems to be:
Can God create a rock so big He can't lift it. 
The point being that if He can, then He isn't all-powerful. If He can't, then He's not all-powerful. Either way, He turns out not being the all-powerful God of the Bible. Score-1 for the skeptic. 

Not so fast.

I used to answer this question with a wimpy, "Well, if it could be done, God could do it." I was unwilling to say God could or couldn't. And while I believe God can do anything He wants, I also believe, He always acts in accordance with His character (which excludes nonsensical things like creating rocks you can't lift to humor a skeptic).

However, I believe I now have an answer this question. My answer is, 

Yes, God can create a rock that's too big for Him to lift. And at the same time, it doesn't make Him impotent. In fact, He's already done it.

Here's how it goes:

God is one but is made up of 3 persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We call this the Trinity. The point here is that Jesus is God.

God (includes Jesus, remember) created the world. That would include all the rocks on the planet, by the way.

Then God came down as Jesus, took on flesh, set aside His glory and much of His power in becoming human (while maintaining all of His deity). This includes limiting His physical strength. (Phil 2:7)

And there were rocks in and around Judea and Samaria that Jesus (remember, He's God) couldn't lift.

Hence, God created rocks so big that He couldn't lift. Yet He remains the all-powerful God that He is in the Bible. 

So while this won't satisfy a skeptic, it satisfies me. Because I can logically answer the skeptic with an answer that doesn't minimize God at all. And now I don't have to wonder if the skeptic's nonsensical question has any legitimacy--because it doesn't.

What do you think about the answer?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Christmas can [still] change the world

 Enter the Story
Christmas can [still] change the world.

The story of Christ's birth is a subversive story of an upside-down kingdom. It's a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love that is still changing the world to this day. So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling that we somehow missed its purpose.

Is this what we really want out of Christmas? [more]

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Is the church necessary today?

Bob Roberts writes about the early church in Acts when he says,

"So many followed Christ that the church was necessary. How's that for church planting? The church was planted not to do evangelism, but because so much evangelism was happening!"

What do you think about that? Does that sound foreign or unusual to you? Why or why not?

Check out his latest project.