Respond With Worship

On Wednesday evenings, I have the privilege to spend 90 minutes with 5th and 6th grade girls in Pioneer Club. Part of our time together is used to explore the Word of God and for another segment of time we are involved in a project or activity. We do things like sewing, candle making, woodworking, playing games, and learning about etiquette. This month our focus is on First Aid. Two wonderful nurses have joined our class and shared the importance of knowing what to do in a medical emergency and how to respond in different situations. The girls have learned that while our natural tendencies are to freak out or be afraid, the response that is needed is to remain calm.

Remaining calm is a great life skill. It’s not only necessary in medical emergencies, but is extremely helpful in other situations as well. It is important to remain calm when we don’t get our way, when everything is falling apart, when relationships are tense, and when we are under pressure. Staying calm is a great response in almost any setting.

There’s another wonderful way to respond to situations in life that’s recorded for us throughout scripture. Let’s start in Genesis. We read in chapter 24 about Abraham sending his assistant on a mission to find a wife for his son, Isaac. The servant asks God to give him success in this task and when it becomes clear to him that the Lord has provided, his response is to bow down and worship Him.

In Exodus 12 in the midst of a series of plagues God brought upon the Egyptians, Moses meets with the Israelites and explains to them what’s going to happen with the 10th plague. He gives them direction regarding the Passover lamb, strange bread that they are supposed to prepare, and how to paint their doorposts with blood. They didn’t complain about all the rules and requirements, they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord in response.

In the second book of Samuel, we read a scandalous story of King David taking another man’s wife for himself, the woman becoming pregnant, David arranging for the woman’s husband to be killed, and a prophecy that the child to be born would die. David repents of his sins and pleads for the child’s life through prayer and fasting, but the child dies anyway. At the news of the infant’s death, David responds by getting up, taking a shower, changing his clothes, and going to the house of the Lord to worship.

In 2 Chronicles 20 we read of a great army coming against God’s people and King Jehoshaphat. They didn’t know what to do, but they fell down before the Lord and worshiped Him.

There are many times in our lives when we don’t know what to do and worship is probably the last thing on our minds. We don’t know what to do when our career is stripped away. We don’t know what to do when a medical diagnosis is not what we hoped for. We don’t know what to do when a prayer seems to go unanswered, when nothing ever goes as planned, when disaster strikes, when a loved one takes their own life. Remaining calm is a good start. But worship is always the best response.

No matter if you find yourself in the midst of joy or turmoil. God is still God and worthy of our praise. Next time you are tempted to shake your fists at Him or turn your back and walk away, try worshiping Him instead. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! For the Lord is good and his steadfast love endures forever!

Erin Jacobsma

 


Like a Child

We made it! The Polar Vortex of 2019 has passed and the sun is out – at least until next week’s forecasted snowfall. You know what they say, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a day.”  I was one of the lucky ones who were able to stay indoors and work from my dining room table during the bitter cold. My husband and oldest son were out in the elements keeping the livestock happy. Other than coming in and commenting the obvious, “It’s really cold out there!” they didn’t say too much about it. On Thursday morning I had to remind Evan to zip up his coat before heading out. He seemed completely oblivious to the cold temperature on the other side of the threshold. Even with my coat fully zipped and mittens on, I had to give myself a pep talk just to open the door!

A friend of mine stopped by my office this week and commented that she saw some younger kids running down the sidewalk without any gloves on and coats hanging wide open. “How do they do that” she asked. I assured her I wasn’t sure either, but kids seem pretty resilient to extreme temps. I’m sure we’ve all commented on the fact that kids don’t seem as easily chilled as we adults. Kids can play outside in the snow for hours in soaking wet snow pants and gloves and not think twice about it. All I have to say about it is, “Brrrrrr!”

The innocence of a child is pretty special. I am fortunate to experience this innocence both at home and here at church on a weekly basis. Watching children learn about the world around them is great, but there is nothing more exciting than watching them learn about their Savior. As they sit and listen to what the  teacher is saying you can almost see the gears in their mind turning. It is such a wonderful feeling within the soul to observe them drinking in the information and believing it without question. Something us adults could all take a lesson from; just simply listen, trust, and believe. No questions, no reasoning, and no arguing otherwise.

The gospels speak about this childlike faith and instruct us adults to take note. The disciples had been arguing about unimportant issues and lost sight of what really mattered. “3[Jesus said to them], ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’” (Matt. 18:3-5)

When Jesus spoke of becoming like a child, he wasn’t speaking of their maturity, but rather their humble and sincere hearts. The disciples had become so preoccupied with the things and statuses of this world that they had lost sight of the Kingdom of God. May the same not be so of us; rather may we humbly look at a child’s faith in awe and in wonder as we seek to serve our Great Master with full dependency on him. Let’s throw off the gloves and unzip our winter jacket and experience all that God has for us.

Becky Ossefoort

 


I Want To See

Since I have been diagnosed with Glaucoma, one of the tests I have to take often is the Vision Field Test. For those of you who haven’t taken it, I lean forward and look into a little machine and what I see is a white field. Once the test begins, little black dots begin to randomly appear in my field of vision and each time I see one I am supposed to push the button that I have in my hand. Imagine the vision field is like a clock; because of the glaucoma in my right eye, I can’t see the little black dots when they appear in the area from three 3:00-6:00. I can clearly see all the little black dots with my left eye, but not with my right eye.

As I was thinking about some of the news stories this week, especially in regards to the abortion issues in Iowa and New York, I can only think there are many people with spiritual glaucoma. They just can’t seem to see clearly what you and I see. We wonder how they cannot see that ending the life of a baby inside the mother’s womb is murder—how can they not see it?

There certainly seems to be a real form of spiritual glaucoma that is causing people not to be able to see these days. As I was reflecting on this sad reality, the Holy Spirit reminded me of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:4, where he wrote, “The god of this age has blinded the mind of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” According to Paul, unbelievers are really blind to the truth.

Now here’s where my analogy breaks down because when Paul writes that Satan “blinded the minds” of unbelievers, Paul is vividly portraying someone who deliberately removed that person’s eyes and permanently blinded them. So it’s not like the person is slowly losing their sight, they actually don’t even have eyes!

And then also notice, Paul didn’t say that Satan blinded their eyes, it says he blinded their mind. And when referring to their mind, Paul is referring to an unbeliever’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs and ability to reason. So Paul is saying Satan has “gouged out” the spiritual eyes of unbelievers to such a degree that they have no ability to see things correctly and therefore it has also impaired their thoughts, feelings, beliefs and ability to reason. As a result, for someone who is spiritually blind, killing an unwanted child seems like the logical thing to do.

Many of the foolish decisions our government officials make creates a deep sense of sadness and even righteous anger in me. And in those situations, having had our eyes opened by the Holy Spirit, our responsibility is certainly to speak up for those who have no voice. While at the same time we must pray that the Holy Spirit would open their spiritual eyes so they can see Truth.

Although what we see unfolding in our country and around the world is deeply discouraging, we shouldn’t be surprised. Writing to Timothy about what it will be like in the last days, Paul writes, “Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

One final thought; it’s easy to become outraged when you clearly see someone else who is apparently rebelling against God’s will, and yet may it not be so with you and me that we would overlook the ways we give ourselves grace for our own willful disobedience. Instead may we have the humility of the blind man who when Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” said, “I want to see.”

So grateful to be able to see, Mike Altena

 


Worship

If you’re like me, you might LOVE worship music. If you’re like me, you  might LOVE what music does for the soul. If you’re like me, you might  LOVE to experience God in new ways. Now, I’ll stop the ‘if you’re like me’s…’

What does worship mean?

worship — wərSHəp

noun: the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.

Okay, but what does it mean TO worship?

verb: to show reverence and adoration for… (let’s put Jesus in right there…)

So, what does worship mean? Well, if we are going on the verb tense, it means to show something. To lift our voices. To pray to God. To lift our hands! To do something…

The book of Psalms is a book of worship. Songs written before we were here on earth. Worship existed back then with full adoration to the King of Kings. Hebrews 12:28-29 says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’”

Why does worshiping God through music seem so hard, when people have been doing it for so many years! God loves it when we worship Him. God loves it when we come to His feet in full surrender. God loves it when we lift up our hands in worship…in awe…in adoration. Is He not worthy of that? It’s an outward expression of an inward posture. Psalm 63:4 “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” What if you tried something new? Something uncomfortable? Something your neighbor might look at you weirdly for? Something the Lord asks of us and deserves?

I don’t recall the exact moment when I felt the freedom to worship that I feel now. But what I do remember and know is that there is such a difference from when I first started “worshiping” to where I am today. I used to be afraid of what people would think, when in reality the One who matters is the One who created me, who created worship, and who created music. I have a sort of freedom to come to God with every piece of dirt and sin and I’m able to let go and let God work.

“What if YOU let go and let God? What if you worshiped in full adoration of the One who loves you? Even the pieces that you don’t like to show… What if you came to worship today and tried being you in front of our King? What if you just… worshiped?

Katrina Hart

 


Servant or Consumer?

One of my favorite childhood stories was “The Little Red Hen”. If you are unfamiliar with the fable or forgot how it goes, the Little Red Hen finds a grain of wheat and asks for help from the barnyard animals to plant it, but they all refuse. As the story proceeds through watering, harvesting, threshing, and making bread, the hen repeatedly asks, “Who will help me?” But with each request, the response of the barnyard animals is the same. “Not I.” Finally the hen has completed her project and asks who will help her eat the fresh baked bread. Now all of the previous non-participants eagerly volunteer to consume the product. However, she refuses to share with them because none of them helped her with the work and she proceeds to eat the bread with her chicks.

As a child, I never questioned the ending of this story. It made perfect sense to me—if you don’t want to help with the work, you don’t get to enjoy the outcome or have any say in it. It is true that God calls us to be generous and gracious to those in need, but we also need to pitch in when there’s work to be done. Maybe you are critical of the Little Red Hen for not being more hospitable to her barnyard friends, but it seems to me that maybe they needed to learn a lesson.

Four years ago, the theme and focus of this editorial page was changed to “Not So With You” based on Mark 10:43. The disciples were arguing among themselves about who would be greater in Jesus’ kingdom when He sees that they need to be taught a lesson as well. Jesus deviates from common thinking and says, “Not so with you. Instead, anyone who wants to be important among you must be your servant. And anyone who wants to be first must be the slave of everyone. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served. Instead, he came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The staff and consistory are reading a book written by Francis Chan called “Letters to The Church”. Throughout the book Chan looks at today’s church and questions if God had his way, what would our churches look like. One of the chapters is devoted to the mandate to be servants. He writes, “At the core of our faith is the belief that Almighty God humbled himself to serve us and die for us. At the root of our calling is a command to imitate him by serving one another. After washing the disciples feet, Jesus commanded them to wash one another’s feet (John 13:14). But on any given Sunday what percentage of “Christians” show up eager to serve others? It’s no secret that most people who attend church services come as consumers rather than servants.”

In my opinion, the Little Red Hen had a servant heart. She didn’t complain about the work that needed to be done, or shame the animals that didn’t want to help, or avoid the work altogether like her barnyard companions. She simply asked others to join her in the work.

For the past several months, I’ve been involved in the process of recruiting volunteers. I have searched for greeters, care shepherds, contact people for serve groups, praise team members, people to run video, operate the projection system, design worship slides, work in the nursery, serve coffee on Sunday mornings, serve meals, and more. My requests have found many servant hearts and many Not I’s. Sometimes I am guilty of being like the Little Red Hen and trying to do all the work myself, but I can’t. Nobody can. We need each other.

We all are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it. You can read more about that in 1 Corinthians 12:12-17. Would you consider playing your part in 2019? I know many Little Red Hens that would be grateful.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Remember

One day back in mid-November, my sister and I were discussing our parent’s Christmas gift. Each year we try to give them something fun, but meaningful. Sometimes the gifting options seem endless and it can be hard to pick, other years the gift plans get a little goofy, and some years there just simply are no ideas. This year we were struggling a bit when we remembered the home video tapes from our childhood. Mom and Dad have talked about updating the old tapes those memories are stored on before the last VCR known to man does not work anymore. The moment it was said we knew this would be the gift for them and could not wait to see their faces when they opened their package at Christmas. Our first step would be to find the tapes and after a few frantic attempts to dig through mom’s storage room without getting caught, my sister located them. Next, I contacted the smartest computer guy I know to figure out how to best get the tapes transferred to digital format so they could be enjoyed for years to come. It all sounded easy enough so I got started on the process.

All-in-all it was pretty simple to transfer the tapes. My mom is organized and the tapes were labeled with dates, so it took very little time to get things in order. However, I knew shortly after beginning the actual recording process it would not be a quick task. To accomplish this undertaking, and keep things neatly organized, I would have to take the time to watch each segment as it copied. Not all was lost, because it really was a lot of fun watching myself as a child and being reminded of some of our family memories and trips, but especially seeing how everyone has changed.

I was in the middle of enjoying one of our church’s Christmas Programs when I noticed several faces of men and women who have since passed away. Many who were at one time teachers or leaders in my spiritual walk. Tears welled up in my eyes as I recounted the lessons they taught me about life and my Savior. All treasured words of wisdom, love, and testimony I still carry with me. Each individual demonstrated the Kingdom of God to me through their words and in how they lived their daily lives. They were some of the foundational people who walked alongside my parents and helped raise me in Christ as if I were their own.

The glimpses of these mentors from my childhood were a great reminder of what God has commanded me and you to do. We have all been instructed to “go and tell” by Christ himself and there are many ways we can go about following those commands – teach Sunday School or Midweek classes; start a Bible Study with people from your workplace; mentor a young man or woman; or help with mentoring at ATLAS. No matter your age or where you are at in life the opportunities to serve and witness in God’s Kingdom here on earth are endless!

The writer of Hebrews says, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (13:7) The truth is we all have someone in our life who has been a witness of Christ to us in one way or another. May 2019 be the year you follow in the footsteps of those who spoke the word of God to you. Instead of letting that shared wisdom sit on an old, dusty tape in your mind, imitate those of your past and invest yourself in another person’s life as you point them to our Savior.

Becky Ossefoort

PS – My parents loved their gift!


For the Grace of God

In last week’s article, I mentioned that I occasionally watch the Food Channel. But the problem with watching the Food Channel for me is that it often makes me hungry, so then I quickly change the channel to the program entitled, “My 600-lb Life.”

Recently I watched an episode in which Dr. Nowzaradan had met with James K. about getting his weight under control. James had actually gained so much weight he was unable to get out of bed. So before Dr. “Now” would perform the weight loss surgery on James, he sent him home for a period of time to live on a restricted diet of 1200 calories in order to lose weight.

During the filming of his time on the restricted diet, James made it sound like he had been doing really well and that he was quite confident he was losing weight, however during the program, they showed James getting very irate about his diet with his fiancé, Lisa. He was tired of eating chicken and shrimp and he had a strong hankerin’ for some Chinese food.

At first Lisa denied his request, arguing that it would ruin his diet and therefore jeopardize his possibility of getting the surgery. James angrily argued back, claiming that to fudge on his diet “just this one time” would in no way sabotage his progress and that it would actually be a nice little reward for doing so well. Lisa seemed a bit frustrated, but eventually called a Chinese restaurant to have some food delivered.

Soon it was time for James to return to the hospital to see if he had lost enough weight. James explained that, because he was so heavy and that he couldn’t stand up, they would have to weigh him in a special bed. I thought it seemed a bit strange since it sounded like James had lost a lot of weight while at home, but on the way to the hospital James and Lisa began to express their fear over how Dr. Now would respond if he hadn’t lost any weight. I began to wonder if James and Lisa had been telling the truth.

Well sure enough, after hoisting James in bed, the scale revealed the truth that James had indeed gained an additional 140 pounds. James’s weight had climbed to 840 pounds. Interestingly James and Lisa were both surprised and disappointed; apparently he had rewarded himself more than just the one time. J James was eating himself to death.

As I was reflecting on James’s weight gain, I also had to admit, I am really not that much different than James, I am so undisciplined and I find all kinds of ways of sabotaging my goals. And even though I am dead to sin, I often feel like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:14-25, “Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise…. I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

“It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.”

As Paul would write in Titus 2:11-12, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled…”

I thank God that at the end of my rope there is no condemnation, but that his grace can save me from destroying myself. And may it be so with you as well!

Wishing you a grace-filled 2019,

Mike Altena

 

 


Ready or Not

In our message last week Sunday, we were reminded that because of God’s amazing saving grace, we are to devote our lives to doing good. I challenged you to consider this question: of the 1440 minutes God gives you each day, what percentage do you devote to doing good?

Well, one of the ways I like to “devote myself to doing good” each day is by plopping down in my Lazy Boy with a bowl of popcorn or ice-cream each night in order to watch 180 minutes of the Food Channel. For those of you who have ever watched the Food Channel, you know how exciting the different shows are. I especially love the episodes of Beat Bobby Flay!

I am so amazed at the creativity of the chefs and how they can take foods I’ve never heard of and turn them into something delicious. That being said, I’d still like to see them try to get creative with the kinds of food I like to cook; things like hot dogs, mac and cheese, tater chips, or Cream of Wheat.

The Food Chanel shows are so fun to watch, and yet what really makes them even more fun is that the chefs are given a certain amount of time to get their dish made. You would probably never guess this, but often times the chefs are putting their finishing touches on their dish while the sand in the hour glass is running out. Sometimes it’s so close that I can’t even watch. In fact, on one occasion I even had to change the channel because I was getting so excited I was having chest pains. J

As I was thinking about the excitement that comes with having to finish making a meal before the tiny crystals of sand make their way through the narrow opening of the hour glass, I thought of the exciting time we’re living in while we’re preparing the way of the Lord before he comes back. The story is told in Matthew 25, it goes like this:

1-5 “God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep.

“In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bride-groom’s here! Go out and greet him!’

7-8 “The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’

“They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’

10 “They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.

11 “Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’ 12 “He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’ 13 “So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.”

May it not be so with you and me that we would be like the silly virgins who were not ready when the Bridegroom returned for them. And even worse, may it not be so with you and me that Jesus would find us sitting in our Lazy Boys watching other “wannabe chefs” trying to beat Bobby Flay.

#savedformorethanwatchingFoodChannel    #readyornot    #Jesusiscomingsoon

Mike Altena

 


Waiting in Hope

Thoughts from our General Secretary of the RCA, Eddie Aleman:

Daysi and I love road trips! This is one of the things we have in common. In the summer of 2003, after my second year of seminary was done, we drove from Holland, Michigan, to Tulare, California, to serve as a pastoral intern at Tulare Community Church. While we very much enjoyed our time on the road, our children had a very hard time understanding why we needed to be on the road for more than one day. They didn’t care about the journey; they wanted to get to the destination as soon as possible! Waiting, for them, was nonsense. Being in a car for a long period of time was for them the most boring thing on earth. On the way we stopped in different beautiful places like Grand Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park to give them some kind of joy for the journey, but the “are we there yet?” had no ending. When we finally made it to Tulare, we were happier than them!

Just like a long road trip, Advent is a journey toward a destination. It’s the season of hopeful expectation. It’s a time of waiting. But what is it that we are waiting for during this season? The obvious answer is Christmas! But Advent is more than just waiting for a holiday, and it’s even more than just waiting for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Advent is the season that teaches us that we are in journey to a destination, and that we must enjoy the journey as much as we enjoy the destination.

It took more than 700 years for Isaiah’s prophesy about the birth of the Messiah to be fulfilled—that’s a   long journey! But, as Paul says it well in Galatians 4:4, “when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.”

When the set time had fully come. What we do during the journey itself is just as important as the destination. How will you spend your time waiting? How are you going to spend your time during the journey?

Please consider these questions as you journey through this season of Advent:
1. What are the places in my life where I am waiting for God to do something?
2. How can I focus on the journey of Advent more than the destination?
3. What can I do to prepare the way for the Lord in my life, my home, my church, and my community?

We must do a better job in enjoying the journey while we wait for God’s appointed time. Our culture has taught us to live in the here and now, and thus we have lost the value of waiting. What does it mean to wait in hope?

Waiting in hope means holding on tight, hoping with expectation and trust, knowing that our Lord is not just making us wait to see how much we can take. Waiting in hope means complete dependence on God, knowing that he will intervene in our affairs and will answer our prayers. Waiting in hope means that we are to be near him at all times, knowing that the only way to enjoy the journey is allowing his presence to guide us. My prayer for each one of you during this season of Advent is that you will enjoy the journey as you await for the final destination.

Have a blessed Christmas, and a blessed journey to it!     Eddy Aleman


Best. Gift. Ever

I’ve been thinking a lot about gifts lately. Probably because it’s less than 3 weeks until Christmas and there are only 2 presents beneath my tree. Why do I always procrastinate? It’s not that I don’t enjoy giving gifts to  the special people in my life, I just don’t particularly enjoy shopping for those gifts.

Thankfully, gifts aren’t really that big of deal in our family, although our children might disagree. As my husband would say, “It’s Christmas all year long at our house.” We both grew up in homes where pennies were pinched and non-essentials were rarely purchased. But as time has passed and we’ve been able to loosen our financial belt a little and no longer cross our fingers until the paycheck is deposited, we tend to buy things when we “need” them and not wait for a holiday to roll around. That being said, I still can’t convince myself that there doesn’t need to be at least a few festively wrapped packages under the tree on Christmas Eve.

Maybe my struggle with gift-giving is less about my dislike of crowds and shopping malls and more about the challenge of trying to find the perfect gift. You know, the one that causes their eyes to twinkle and a smile to erupt and makes them squeal with delight! That’s the reaction I enjoy, but I’m also a practical gift giver. Without exception, each year packages under our tree contain socks, underwear, hygiene products, clothes, food, and other necessities. These are good gifts, just not ones that create excitement.

As I pondered all this gift giving, Matthew 7:11 came to mind. Jesus says, “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 good gifts to those who ask him!” And in James 1:17 we read that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

So what makes a gift good? Are good gifts only those that we ask for or the thing that we desire the most? I’m not convinced. Some of the best gifts I ever received are ones I didn’t even know I wanted. In some instances, they seemed to be the exact opposite of my request.

Maybe some of you have been presenting your wish list to the Father hoping that he will come through. Maybe you’ve been praying for a Christmas miracle, but you feel like all you are getting is socks and underwear. Your requests are good, but don’t miss out on the love of the Giver because the gift isn’t what you expected or asked for.

Regardless of what lies beneath your Christmas tree when December 25 rolls around, there’s one gift that’s guaranteed to be perfect. Paul tells about this gift in Romans 6:23. “The wages of sin is death, but the free GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This gift has been given to all people, but just like the other presents under your tree, it must be received. Nobody leaves a present under the Christmas tree because they didn’t feel like opening it or because they thought it could wait until next year. Yet many have set aside the most amazing gift of love ever given. God loves you so much that he gave his one and only Son so that if you believe in him you will not perish but have everlasting life.

Open up your heart this year and receive Jesus. Best. Gift. Ever.

Erin Jacobsma