"...and I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever!"

Monday, December 17, 2012

"You Shouldn't Have!"

After reading many articles about the Connecticut tragedy, it was refreshing to read a humorous article that lifted my spirits. The title immediately caught my attention—“15 Worst Gifts for Women”. Since Natalie and I have been married, some years I’ve hit a homerun with Christmas gifts. Some years a double, other years a single, a Fielder’s Choice, and unfortunately, some years I’ve struck out miserably. So, I always welcome advice when I find it. Here are a few of my favorite “terrible” gifts on the list:

1) Diet or fitness products

2) Tickets to sporting events

3) Gifts for yourself (Flat Screen TVs, New Recipe Cookbook, etc.)

4) A framed picture of yourself

5) Anything that can’t be easily exchanged

Needless to say, I’m appreciative for the tips. I’ve never placed the atrocities listed above under the tree, but I have been told, “You shouldn’t have”, knowing they were words of humiliation rather than humility.

We can read countless advisory articles about giving gifts, but we’ll never be able to give gifts as good as God's. He gave His Son. He gave His time. He gave His Spirit. He gave, and continues to give, His grace. That’s why Paul so appropriately writes in 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

This Christmas, if you unwrap the bow, open the box, and find yourself saying, “You Shouldn’t Have!” don’t let it silence your Jingle Bells or steal your Christmas cheer. God has given gifts that far exceed anything under the tree. He shouldn’t have, but through His love, He gave anyway. What will you do with the gifts?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dinner with Mormons

Saturday evening, right before I watched Johnny “Football” become Johnny “Heisman”, I went on a walk in our neighborhood. Along the way, I met up with two Mormon missionaries knocking doors. They told me a little about themselves and asked some questions about me. After I told them I was a Minister in town, the conversation began to lose steam. I walked back to our house, but then I went back and offered them an invitation into our home for dinner, which to my surprise, they immediately accepted.

As the dinner began, they opened up about their own lives. One young man was twenty years old from Las Vegas, Nevada; the other was twenty-two from Lexington, Kentucky. Both of them had loving families at home, which they hadn’t seen in almost two years, and had only spoken to on the phone twice in that duration. As dinner progressed, we talked about doctrinal beliefs within the Mormon faith. As dinner concluded, they asked to give a “Christmas Message”, which Natalie and I agreed to hear; but before they left, Natalie and I explained with scripture why we disagreed with their doctrine. The dinner closed with a prayer, and a gracious “Thank You” from both parties. Because of that dinner, I will always remember:

1) Commitment (These young men were engaged in a two year mission program, away from their families, with very little communication, knocking doors on a Saturday evening just hoping someone would take the time to listen. Some Christians say church three times a week is “too much”. How does our commitment compare to theirs?)

2) Commonality (While there were some vast differences in our beliefs, such as Joseph Smith and his divine revelation, and referring to themselves as “Elders” even though they were young and single, there was common ground in our faith, such as baptism being administered through immersion and praying through Jesus’ name. Many times we refuse to accept similarities because we strive to find differences. This happens all too often, even within our churches. If we will begin where we agree, rather than where we differ, this provides conversation where truth emerges.)

3) Candor (They were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They were gracious in their disagreement with us, and they were gracious when we disagreed with them. Are we always that gracious, even when we disagree in our Bible classes?)

Lest you think I’m considering conversion, I still believe the Bible is infallible, that there’s a pattern for the Lord’s church, and that the Mormon faith misses the mark in serious areas that can’t be compromised. However, I do pray that one day these young men will look back and remember the Hawks. We will remember them.

Allow yourself to be challenged. Force yourself out of your “comfort zone”. It will strengthen your faith, open your eyes, and expand your vision. It did for me.