What do you really want for Christmas?

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings . . .” – Hebrews 10:22a

It’s Christmas morning. The gifts are wrapped and under the tree. Soon everyone will gather, the paper will be ripped and balled and the gifts unveiled. Exciting. Fun. We like to give gifts to each other. We like to receive them, too!

But, when it’s all over at the end of Christmas Day, will you get what you wanted? Will your deepest needs be satisfied? Or have you discovered, as many of us have, that the things we need most will never be found under the tree?

Do you know that Jesus wants us to tell him what we want? Once when he was walking to Jericho, a blind beggar called out to him. Jesus stopped and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man could have asked for anything, but he asked for what we all might agree was the most logical thing: “Restore my sight”. Jesus gave him exactly what he said he wanted. But, if he had asked, Jesus would have given him far more: eternal life, forgiveness, joy, peace, relationships, unconditional love, and his ongoing presence.

Maybe this Christmas Day, Jesus is asking each of us, What do you really want for Christmas? What will you ask him for? It’s an important question. Ask big. Only he can give you the things you long for most – things you will never find under the tree.

“Come close. My heart is ready. Come close. My heart is here. Show me I’m longing for you. Draw near. All I ever wanted is found in you. Come close.”

Lyrics from Come Close by One Hope Project. You can listen to the entire song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqBF4TtMmxM

Saying “no” will break my heart.

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple! 
– Psalm 65:4

Do you want to know how God really feels about you? Are you a bother to him? A pest? Do you talk too much? Ask for too much? Say the wrong thing? Take a deep breath. He’s saying something like this to you right now:

I want you to be near me. You can talk to me. You don’t have to stay in a corner or try not to be seen. Come closer. Stay close. I’m in love with you. I want you with me always.

“He will rejoice over you with gladness;
 he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

And, if that’s not enough, Jesus whispers, too:

I am your shepherd, your teacher. You can hear best when your heart is quiet and when you stay within the range of my voice. Stay close enough to hear me. 

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27

Finally, the Holy Spirit asks in his own way:

I’m reminding you that you are invited to the dance. You are welcome at the banquet. Please come. I love you so much that, if you say “no”, it will break my heart.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” – Ephesians 4:30

Are you convinced yet of God’s love? Be brave and get a little closer. 

Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it. It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son.”  Jerry Bridges

Abiding and Asking

“Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” – John 16:24

When Jesus knew he was about to be arrested and crucified, some of his last words to his disciples were these: “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)

The last conversations of a person’s life are important ones. This was something Jesus wanted etched on the hearts of those he would soon leave behind. Let’s take a look at what he was asking of them (and us):

Abide in me: This directive describes a deeply united relationship with Jesus. Abiding requires our giving of attention to him, constantly staying close to him, and never wandering off on our own: Always connected by conversation, prayer, thought, and intention.

Let my words abide in you: He wants us to meditate on what he taught. And, we have so much of his teaching recorded in the gospels! We should study to know what he said, think about how his message applies to us today, and memorize enough of his words so the Spirit can bring them to our minds when we need them.

The result of those two kinds of abiding? An ongoing, effective prayer life. Jesus promises that if we stay close to him and open to him, he will hear and answer us when we pray. Maybe because we will be praying the right prayers!

“Jesus Christ does not want to be our helper; He wants to be our life. He does not want us to work for Him. He wants us to let Him do His work through us, using us as we use a pencil to write with–better still, using us as one of the fingers of His hand.” – Charles C. G. Trumbull

Why worship?

“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.” – 1 Chronicles 16:11

Sometimes we have a problem thinking of God “demanding” to be worshipped. If we struggle with that concept, it’s because we don’t really know God. The better we get to know him, the more we realize that inviting us to worship him is one of his great gifts to us. Why?

First, because we were designed to worship something or someone. There is only one being or object in this entire universe worthy of our worship: God Almighty, Jehovah, Adonai. We must worship. But let’s not worship other people, angels, creation. Worship God and only God. He is the one we were created to adore.

Second, because worship completes a circle of connection with God. He loves us, provides for us, leads us in rights paths, protects us. We respond with thanksgiving and worship for who he is and for his intimate involvement in our lives. He keeps on showering his grace upon us and we keep responding in worship. It’s a great circle to be part of!

Third, because worshipping God helps us to see him as he is – high and lifted up, majestic in holiness, great and glorious Triune God, ruler of heaven and earth. The more we see him in his glory, the more worship will naturally flow from our hearts, lips, and lives. And that kind of worship makes us more like Jesus, little-by-little, prayer-by-prayer.

Though worship pleases God, it is amazingly good for us. So, let’s not save it for Sunday morning services. Let’s worship God every day, every hour of the day as we are reminded of his glorious presence with us. Never pass up an opportunity to worship him!

“Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God – it whets our appetite.” Eugene Peterson

You are not alone.

“The eternal life of which Jesus speaks is not knowledge about God, but an intimately interactive relationship with him.” – Dallas Willard

The song by folksinger Karen Money touches me every time I hear it. She sings, “. . . all I long for most is mine when He draws close to me.”

What is it you long for most? Surely we long for God’s gifts, including joy, peace, blessings, and answered prayers, but at some point we find our deepest longing is for God himself and not just his gifts. We desire . . .

  • To have a heart-stirring awareness of his presence
  • To know he’s leading our thoughts and decisions
  • To receive his love in life-changing ways
  • To be amazed at his holiness and power

If this kind of closeness to our Creator becomes our experience, we want it again and again. Why? Because that vibrant, feeling-level relationship with God is what satisfies the deepest needs we have. He truly is the One we long for most.

The amazing thing to me is that Jesus has the same longings for intimacy with us. He wants it so much he came to earth, lived with humans, gave himself to a terrifying death so we could relate to him. Coming to him for salvation is only the first step. After that, not to respond to his ongoing presence by communicating with him constantly is to reject the relationship he desires even more than we do.

Our acknowledgment of his unseen presence is what we need to meet our deepest longings. Every moment of every day, knowing he is with me, I want to be engaged in mental or verbal conversation with him, inviting him into my activities, decisions, and relationships. That interaction thrills us both!

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” – James 4:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Show them.


“. . . you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” – Colossians 3:9b-10

My dear image-bearers –

There’s a reason I’ve revealed My character to you in pictures that give glimpses of My reality.  

I told you I’m your Father so you would know to treat your children in the same way I treat you. Discipline, yes, but also mercies that are new every morning, love that never fails, and lots and lots of grace. Throw in some longsuffering and patience, too. I do.

I told you I am the Good Shepherd, so you would have the same heart-wrenching concern for those outside My fold as I have. They are wandering, lost, alone. They need you and Me desperately.

I told you how much I love my church – enough to die for her. That’s how I want you to treat your brothers and sisters in the faith, so the world can see your relationships and believe in the reality of My everlasting love for them, too.

I told you I’m the Bread of Life and demonstrated that by feeding thousands of people at a time – a picture of the spiritual food you all need. Reflect My compassion to the world in need around you. They are hungry, sometimes for food, always for Me. You can help them find both.

These images let you see Me and My desires for you and the rest of the world. Go now and live as I lived when I walked on earth. Together, we can  show them who I am!

Your loving Lord


“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.” ― A.W. Tozer

Credit to author and speaker Rebekah McLaughlin for image concept.

The calm comes.

“Peace doesn’t come from finding a lake with no storms. It comes from having Jesus in the boat.” – John Ortberg

After some minor surgery recently, I was disoriented and agitated as I woke from the anesthetic. Nurses were trying to calm me, asking what I was feeling, reassuring me. One nurse turned my face toward hers and said, “Look at me. Everything’s OK.” I was still distressed.

Then, glancing over her shoulder, I saw my husband. His were the eyes I locked in on. His words, almost the same as hers, were the ones I trusted. In the middle of my confusion, his was the voice that connected with my fear and brought peace.

Are you thrashing about in life today? Not feeling anchored? Distraught? Angry? Worried? Listening to music might help, or taking a walk, or talking with a friend. But often messages from those around us aren’t enough to bring peace. What do we do?

We look over the shoulder of this world to see Jesus. He understands what it’s like to be human, and he’s strong enough to carry our fear or pain. We read from the Gospels to gain confidence in who he is. We pray, knowing he not only listens, but is loving enough to respond – with power or with a quiet voice inside us. 

Whatever way we find to turn to Jesus, when we lock our eyes into his, we are able to stop struggling against circumstances or emotional reactions. Peace comes when our trust is placed in the One who knows just what we need. He will take care of us.


“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27