Hope for your financial life and beyond

A Christmas Memory That Still Challenges Me to This Day

I love the Christmas season. Yes, it’s hectic. I know, it’s cold. Yes, travel is a nightmare. Each of those issues may bring back a Christmas memory you’d rather not recall.

a christmas memoryDespite all that, I look forward to Christmas. Always have. As a young child it meant a trip to my grandparent’s house in Indiana each year. We’d usually stay for a week with the rest of the extended family crammed into the house. My sister and I camped out on air mattresses in my grandfather’s study.

I don’t know how my grandparents did it, especially my grandmother. Cooking for 15 plus people for the week must have been exhausting. In fact, from our sleeping position in the study, my sister and I could see the light of her bedroom and the kitchen click on early – EARLY – each morning. She always pulled it off though with the perfect mixture of meats, fruit salads and desserts that we all liked.

It was crowded in that house but for a young child, it was as close to nirvana as one could come. So many things happened during the week that were out of the routine. There were later bedtimes, watching endless TV (sports) with my uncles, playing in the snow outside and having a steady stream of board games going on the inside.

But what I remember more than anything – and what ended up touching my life the most to this day – was our annual gift exchange.

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Operation Christmas Child: Changing Lives One Shoebox at a Time

I believe the Bible when it says, He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor”  (Proverbs 22:9). There are spiritual and emotional blessings that come when we give to others, especially those in challenging life situations. And this time of year I can think of nothing better to give to than Operation Christmas Child. 

operation christmas childCan you imagine living in a world with no Christmas? What does that look like?

There are no kids eager to wake you up at 7:00 a.m…no smiles when a gift is received…no feelings of being special…no thoughts that someone cares for you.

What an unattractive and dismal scenario. Sadly, millions of children all over the world experience a Christmas just like this.  Their Christmas is bitter, meaningless and without hope.

That’s where Operation Christmas Child steps in. But they are only able to do so with your help. Here is how.

Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Program

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7 Positive Lessons from Job’s Friends on Helping Hurting People

Ever felt like you had no clue how to help someone who was hurting? It doesn’t matter if the pain is physical, emotional or spiritual. Too often we simply freeze, not really knowing how to best help our friends in need.

Should I give them advice? Try to cheer them up? Give them a hug? Offer to help them in some way? Who really knows, right? It’s simply hard to know the appropriate way to respond so as not to hurt or offend them further.

job's friendsThe Bible records a story for us about a man named Job (pronounced “jobe”) who felt some of the deepest emotional pain one could experience. In his time of pain, three of his friends came to be with him. The initial steps they took serve as an example to us all on how to respond when one of our friends is hurting.

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Some Say There Is No God. What If They Are Wrong?

I recently published an article highlighting some short Bible verses that hold tremendous meaning. For a couple of weeks, I promoted that post on Facebook. The article was well received, generating over 1.3k likes. But of course, as Facebook goes there are always dissenters. I had some fairly interesting comments posted on my page from people asserting that there is no God.

there is no godI don’t mind. I’m used to that kind of stuff.

I’ve always been fascinated by people who claim there is no God. Questioning whether there is a God is one thing. At least that person is thinking it through. But to deny the possibility altogether seems unimaginative.

I had a professor in grad school who fit this description. He thought we Christians in the class were shallow and narrow-minded. He scoffed at our belief that there is one God who oversees the entire universe. To him, we needed to open our minds and embrace other philosophical and scientific realities.

I always found that ironic. He chastised our singular vision and wanted us to be more open. Yet he himself was never open to the possibility that we might be right.

Which brings me to ask this question to anyone reading this right now:

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3 Reasons Kids Should Watch Every Moment of Olympic Coverage

Today my kids will drag themselves out of bed and head back to school. Unfortunately, our back to school season is clashing with another major world event happening right now – the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. So there will be no more 10-hour, lying on the couch veg-out sessions, flipping back and forth to the many channels of Olympic coverage.

I have to admit I love the summer Olympics. I can do without the opening and closing ceremonies, which I know many people love. But I’ll take anything and everything else that happens. The Olympics are a sports enthusiasts dream.

My love affair with the Olympics started in 1984 when they were hosted by Los Angeles. I was 11 years old and still remember being in awe of the athletic performances. If you are under the age of 25 and have never heard of Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Mary Lou Retton, Greg Louganis or the Zola Budd collision you need to spend some time on YouTube. Great athletes with great performances in a great atmosphere.

Now I’m raising four kids who are growing up in an age where there is a greater variety of Olympic events and they have greater access to them. There weren’t 7 stations broadcasting the competitions in those days. And we certainly didn’t have streaming options via computer or mobile phone app.

So far my kids are eating this up. There have only been a few days of Olympic coverage but they are fixed in the TV room, cheering the USA on at every turn. I’m usually one to limit TV and computer viewing because I don’t think it’s healthy for kids to be looking at a screen all day.

But here is why until the Olympics are over I’ll be stretching the viewing limits and bedtimes a little farther even with school being in session.

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13 Encouraging Bible Verses for Men

Let’s face it – men need encouragement. We try to act tough like we can handle everything on our own. But deep down, if we are being honest, we need to be lifted up just like anyone else. So it’s a good thing there are many encouraging Bible verses for men from which we can draw inspiration.

encouraging bible verses for menThe Bible is full of encouragement to all people. There are so many stories and verses that give us inspiration, strength and comfort in our time of need.

But are there verses that speak a little more directly to men and our issues? I think so. Men have challenges that women don’t face on the same scale or level of intensity. There is nothing wrong with that as we are all made differently. And some Bible verses may mean more to one person over another or one gender over another based on what we struggle and have to deal with.

So today I’d like to highlight a few verses that stand out to me and share a little bit about why they do.

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12 Short Bible Verses that Pack a Powerful Message

There is no doubt about it – the Bible is a big book. Within its pages you will find over 31,000 verses that teach, guide, warn and encourage. While all the verses are meaningful in some regard, some of the best are the short Bible verses that drive home a powerful idea.

short bible versesThe best thing about short Bible verses is that they can be memorized. Psalm 119:111 says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Being able to remember a short Bible verse helps you to fight off sin and be encouraged in other times of need. Because they are short, it will be easier to recall them and draw strength from them as you handle the challenges of life.

There are so many short Bible verses to choose from so I’d encourage you to do your own study and seek them out. I’ll give you 12 here today to jump start your journey.

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Here Are the Top 9 Bible Verses for Teens to Know

Hidden Nuggets Series #105 – Bible Verses for Teens to Know

It’s challenging being a teen in today’s world. I should know – I have two of my own living in the house. Teens today face so many personal struggles and so many difficult life situations that they often feel a sense of hopelessness and confusion. Not to mention the daily bombardment of temptations that lure them in the wrong direction. It’s no wonder so many teens throw up their hands in despair and say, “Why even try?”

bible verses for teensThe good news I share on a regular basis with my own kids and with the youth group I pastor is that God doesn’t want teens to feel that way. God wants them to feel strong…to be filled with hope…to be purposeful and optimistic about the future. And the only way they can be that way is to embrace the Word of God and find what they need for life within the pages of the Bible.

The challenge for teens though is knowing where to start. The Bible is a big book. Does God have specific Bible verses for teens to help with something they are facing?

I believe He does.

There are many verses that could be applicable for teens. I’ve boiled it down to 9 to keep it short and simple and to touch on issues I know teens are going through. The great thing is these Bible verses for teens are short and easy to memorize. That will help them have an arsenal of verses to focus on as they go through the challenges of life.

Valuable Bible Verses for Teens

If you are a teen and are looking for some help within the pages of the Bible, start with these 9 verses:

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The Most Important Reason You Do Not Worry About Tomorrow

You’ve probably heard it said at some point, “Hey, do not worry about tomorrow. Focus on today and let the future take care of itself.” That’s not bad advice really. The older I get the more I’m realizing why.

do not worry about tomorrowWe all have things that affect our daily actions. Things we’ve done in the past affect us in the present. Things we are doing in the present affect us in the present. And believe it or not, things that we will do in the future affect us in the present even though they haven’t happened yet.

You may be thinking, “How could that possibly be if those events have yet to occur?” Well, it’s not the event per se that affects us. It’s how we think about those yet-to-happen events and how they lead us to worry about them.

Of those three time lines – past, present and future – I think the future one has the greatest potential to stop us in our tracks. Here’s how.

Why You Do Not Worry About Tomorrow

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Living Through Tragedy When There Are No Answers

I find myself again writing the most difficult of posts. Three years ago it was about one of my high school students who chose to take her own life. This time tragedy struck in our church youth group as on Tuesday we lost a 16-year old girl to the most unlikely of things for someone so young – cardiac arrest.

Her name was Elizabeth and she was a sweet, sweet girl. She was so pleasant to be around. Smiles adorned her face at every turn. And such a committed follower of Jesus.

So young…so healthy…so just getting started on life.

And then she was gone in a heartbeat.

You can read the account as shared by her mother on her Facebook page. As a parent it will make you want to hold your kids tight and cherish the moment. I sure did when my wife and I returned from the hospital.

The toughest part about being with the family at the hospital and helping them work through the funeral arrangements this week was that there are no answers. There are no answers to the “Why did this happen?” question. There are no answers to the “What happened (physically)?” question. There are no answers really at all to how this happened to a perfectly healthy young girl.

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What Should I Do For My Birthday Today?

Birthdays come but once a year. Today just so happens to be mine. And with it comes the obligatory question, What should I do for my birthday?

Some birthdays seem bigger than others. When I was a child, my birthday ranked right behind Christmas as the most important day of the year. I’d look forward to March 7th each and every year because it meant parties and cake and presents. I mean, what child doesn’t like to have those things on Christmas or their birthday or on any given day of the year?

what should i do for my birthdayNow, at 43, there is not so much gifting. There are fewer parties. Sometimes there is cake or perhaps a night out – if a babysitter can be found. More than likely though, the kids just come along on said night out.

The decade birthdays draw a bit more attention like when I turned 40. But for the most part I’m finding birthdays in middle age pass quietly without much fanfare.

And I’m OK with that.

A few months ago I spent some time with my grandfather, just a few weeks before his 102nd birthday. As we sat down to dinner one night, the conversation turned to a discussion about things that had occurred during the last year that we were thankful for. I’ll never forget his response when it came time for him to answer.

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