For years, I’ve used a decorative paper towel holder in my kitchen. It looked nice; matched my kitchen theme—roosters—and held my roll of paper towels within arm’s reach.
There was one problem with the holder. It was made for an earlier time, when a roll of paper towels wasn’t as thick as it is today. That meant every time a new roll was placed on the horizontal pole, I had to use one hand to grab a towel and the other to pull it away from the roll and tear it off.
This was frustrating, because when I’m cooking, I don’t always have a free hand to grab a towel. Of course, the problem resolved itself once several towels were removed. Then, the roll would move freely on the holder. After that, I wouldn’t give it another thought.
The other day, I accidentally hit the bottom of the ceramic holder, and a piece of it fell off. I didn’t immediately think about replacing it, because it wasn’t that noticeable, and it didn’t affect the way it worked. Later that day, I was in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond store shopping for another product, and I happened to pass by a shelf of paper towel holders. Several of them had labels describing them as being perfect for today’s extra large rolls.
That was the moment I decided not to put up with the frustration I felt every time I inserted a new roll of paper towels on the ceramic holder, and I used my 20% off coupon and purchased a sleek new modern-looking one.
When I brought it home, I placed a fresh roll of paper towels on it, and presto! problem solved. I’ve had it a week now, and I’ve probably changed the roll three times—I’m very messy in the kitchen—and, every time I install a fresh roll, I ask myself why I didn’t buy a new paper towel holder sooner.
Why did I put up with something that was clearly a problem and had an easy solution?
The answer’s pretty simple. It seemed like a small problem, and I had too many other things to think about, and, after removing a few sheets, I didn’t notice it again until I needed a new roll.
Too often, we treat spiritual problems in the same way. A situation arises; tempers flare, angry words are spoken, lustful thoughts are entertained, gossip is spread, godless choices are made, and then we move on.
However, the sin that caused the problem in the first place remains; it’s never examined, never prayed over or confessed, and the situation happens again. And again.
God’s Word gives us much counsel about dealing with our sin, and one example is found in Psalm 51 where David realizes the only solution to the sorrow he’s experiencing is to confess his sin to God.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” (Psalm 51:10-12).
Don’t put up with it!
One of the most important concepts in the publishing industry today is “The Platform.” You may not know what that is, but think for a moment about people who’ve recently released a book—people like Bill O’Reilly, Alec Baldwin, and Megyn Kelly. These authors have a built-in platform. The mere suggestion they might write a book has readers signed up to buy a copy before it’s even been written.
That’s a platform.
Publishers and literary agents will ask a potential author, “What’s your platform?” If you’re on the news regularly, have already written a best-selling book, have held a prominent political office, or even if you’ve committed some serious offenses against humanity, the publication industry is willing to sign you up immediately. Thus, platform is less about writing and more about having visibility and authority in the eyes of the world.
When the Author of Life came to earth, he had no platform. Although he gathered around himself a group of followers, they were few in number and were considered the riff-raft of society—prostitutes, tax collectors, and a handful of rebels and fishermen.
He did have something to say, however. In fact, He had a lot he wanted to tell people—about Himself, about His Father, and about His Word.
His Word brought into existence everything that was, everything that is, and everything that will be. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1.
The message he delivered received bad reviews from those in authority, from the people who had developed a platform of their own. At the earliest opportunity, they crucified Him, hoping to obliterate His words.
But the words were important; the words were Life, the words brought Life. His words were taken up by others who had no platform, but who faithfully wrote down what He had said, who delivered the message he could not deliver because he had no platform.
If we, as His followers, are willing to deliver His Word, we provide Him with a platform the world cannot ignore.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation . . .” Isaiah 52:7.
What’s the right way to read the Bible this year? You’ll find the answer in the Bible!
David, speaking in Psalm 16:11, says, “You make known to ME the paths of life.” David has a personal relationship with God. While it’s true the Bible has a message for all people, God intends for that message to be understood and received by each individual personally.
I read through the Bible every year, and I’ve used a variety of Bible Reading Plans to do this, but no matter which method I use, I try to make it personal by making notes in the margins. You can easily make the Scriptures personal by asking this one question at the end of your Bible reading: What message does God want me to take away from this passage?
For a great selection of various Bible Reading Plans, click here.
How personal can it get? Psalm 139 says it all.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you
Every year, I give what I call my “Reason for the Season” gift.
It’s a present to remind each recipient of why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. My “Reason for the Season” gifts are never very elaborate. Most of them are simply stocking stuffers and cost very little.
These gifts can be as simple as a bookmark with a Scripture on it or a key chain with a Christian symbol swinging from it. During past Christmases, I’ve given a calendar or a devotional book. For children, I’ve put Veggie Tale toys and Bible story DVD’s under the tree. I’ve also given mugs and ornamental plaques with Scriptures on them.
I started this practice several years ago when my daughter was a teenager, and I suddenly realized the true meaning of God’s “gifting” us with His Son was being lost in the hustle and bustle of checking things off her Christmas wish list. Now, purchasing these “Reason for the Season” items from a Christian bookstore a few weeks before the big holiday seems to take the edge off the Christmas rush and serves as a reminder of the purpose of this celebration.
Truly, the “Reason for the Season” is a tiny helpless baby sent by a powerful, holy God to rescue a hopeless fallen sinner.
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” 2 Corinthians 2:15:
When I watch a movie, I’m intrigued by how the story unfolds, how the writer has pulled the threads of the plot together to get to a satisfactory—and sometimes unsatisfactory—ending. Of lesser importance to me are the specifics surrounding the actors’ ability to nuance the characters in the movie. Perhaps of least importance to me is the technique behind the camera shots or the way in which the director chooses to film the action in the movie.
However, my husband is not that interested in the “story” of the movie. Instead, he pays more attention to how realistically an actor portrays his character, and whether he or she is good at the craft of acting. He can also get excited about how a movie is filmed, noting things like the director’s love of close-ups or tall buildings.
I believe these two different methods of watching a movie reflect how we relate to other people. For example, take what happens when my husband and I meet a new couple. I immediately start asking questions about their background, their family, their “story.” On the other hand, he is much more interested in asking questions that reveal the couple’s emotions, feelings, and opinions.
Not surprisingly, our personality differences affect how we worship God, how comfortable we are with a certain style of worship, and how we enter into a worship service or respond to the pastor’s sermon. I believe Jesus seeks to encompass all kinds of worshipers with his words from John 4:24: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
How does your spirit worship God?
The other day I was standing beside an elevator, having just pushed the Arrow Down button to call the elevator up to the second floor, when an elderly gentleman walked over and pushed the same button again. Then, he turned to me and said, “I know that was useless. The elevator won’t get here any sooner just because two people push it.”
At the grocery store, a little later that day, I tried to sign my name on a credit card scanner. After several attempts to make a semi-legible mark, the clerk waved her hand at me and said, “Oh, honey, forget it. Your signature won’t mean anything on there. That thing is useless.”
My day of useless things ended when I got home and tried to balance my checkbook. No, it wasn’t balancing the checkbook that proved useless. What was useless was pushing the “C” repeatedly on the calculator, clearing out the old amount before adding a new one. Like the gentleman at the elevator, I suddenly realized pressing the “C” a second time was an exercise in futility. The screen always went blank the first time I pushed it.
There’s a fourth useless thing we may be guilty of as well. It’s forgetting to worship our Creator. God reminds us of this in Isaiah 45:7 when He says, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.”
Failure to acknowledge the God of the Universe, He who created light and darkness, who directs every aspect of our lives, is useless. In the same chapter in Isaiah, God says,” By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return:‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.” (Isaiah 45:23).