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What We Give Our Kids for Christmas

Christmastime is the perfect opportunity to point our hearts to Christ, yet because it is so FULL of events, shopping, eating, and gathering, it can very easily become a season we simply get through. As a parent, I’ve often found this a stressful season, so keeping it simple and utilizing a few of the typical Christmas traditions to point us to Jesus has allowed us to make it through the month, while also enjoying the “reason for the season.”

UPDATED 12/5/2019

Giving (Just) Three Gifts

We’ve chosen to guide our gift-giving through the giving of three gifts. Though we don’t know exactly how many gifts the wise men gave the Christ-child, there are three mentioned in Scripture: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each of these point symbolically to the Messiah and His purpose for coming to earth.

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 ESV)

  • Gold – symbolic of kingship
  • Frankincense – was used in worship and represents the presence of God
  • Myrrh – was used to prepare a body for burial

I love this song from Keith and Kristyn Getty and the way they refer to these three gifts. “Shepherd’s bow before the lamb gazing at the glory. Gifts of men from distant lands prophesied the story. Gold, a King is born today. Incense, God is with us. Myrrh, his death will make a way and by his blood he’ll win us.”

Joy Has Dawned Upon the World (Official Lyric Video)

NEW Lyric Video for "Joy Has Dawned Upon the World" Visit www.gettymusic.com/merrychristmas for free MP3 & sheet music downloadsWritten by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend, this carol was written as part of a collection teaching through the Apostle's Creed and tells the story of the Gospel throughout the verses. Consider using this in your church and pairing it with a classic carol such as "Angels We Have Heard On High." Enjoy this video? Come sing along with Keith & Kristyn at one of our concerts! Full tour schedule at www.gettymusic.com/christmas. Like and leave comments below! #TuesdayTuneUp#GettyMusic#IrishChristmas#SingChristmas

Posted by Keith and Kristyn Getty on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

So, just as the wise men brought Jesus meaningful gifts, we give gifts with meaning as well. (Isn’t this sweet picture so cute? My kids are much older now, but this is from our early days of giving three gifts.)

A Gift of Gold – to Jesus Our King

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

This looks a bit different every year. When they were younger, each child got a set amount of money to give a present to Jesus. Specifically, a gift to give to others in His name (Matthew 25:35-40). They’ve given animals through World Vision gift catalogue, donations to our local Baptist children’s home, Gift-a-Verse through The Seed Company, and more. We’ve also had years where we they pooled their money to add to the annual gift we give for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. As they have grown older, we encourage them to have more ownership of this, and choose for themselves how they want to give back to Jesus including ways for them to earn the money they give … but they keep fairly well-stocked in cash from generous grandparents.

As a symbol of their gift to Jesus, they each get a gold ornament. These are usually just $1 ornaments from WalMart, but I’ve added a tag to each to help us remember the year and what they gave. (I didn’t start the tags until later on, so I don’t have all the year’s gifts labeled.) When they leave the house, they will have their own set of ornaments to keep. I hope they will grow to treasure these ornaments and use them one day to carry on the tradition of giving to Jesus each Christmas.

A Gift of Frankincense – to Meet with God

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD.” Exodus 30:34-3

The second gift is something that will encourage them in their walk with Christ; something they will use to meet with the Lord. Some years they’ve received a new Bible, devotional book, or Bible study. One year they got a basket to hold all their “quiet time” items, including a prayer journal Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , pens, and K-cups of hot chocolate reserved only for their time with God. My hope is that this will become the gift that they treasure more and more as they grow in their relationship with God.

A Gift of Myrrh – to Connect with One Another

Ok, so there is no great way to connect with the symbolism of myrrh! But we’ve traditionally made this third gift something that helps us connect with one another. Board games, a family gaming system, Disney passes (We can get these for really cheap as Florida residents. When we do this, this is also in lieu of birthday gifts, birthday party, Easter basket, etc. for the rest of the year!) Especially as our kids get older and we all have our different activities launching us out and about, having experiences we all share together has been amazing family time.

St. Nick Stockings

Another fun way we’ve used Christmas traditions to point to Jesus and His call on our lives to live for His glory is through our stockings. Instead of filling them with things, we fill them with small gifts and encouraging words to one another, focusing more on the latter than the former.

In the past, we’ve put the stocking up at the beginning of December, and fill each other’s stockings with gifts of encouraging words and small treats throughout the month. However, with moving and the craziness of the kid being older and our schedule fuller, we’ve been lax on this tradition. This year will be a great time to make a more concerted effort to encourage one another.

When the kids were smaller, they tended to give us little trinkets of theirs they thought mommy or daddy would want. So sweet.

One of the really fun things is that we store all the notes within the stockings the rest of the year. So each year when we hang our stockings, we have past notes to look through. (I try to jot the year on the back of the notes. Most are just small pieces of paper.)

The real “St. Nick” was a man who loved God and gave all he had, in secret, to those in need. We’ve talked to our kids about St. Nicholas, the true Santa Claus. The Veggie Tales movie Saint Nicholas-A Story of Joyful Giving Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  was a great resource when my kids were little, as it tells the story of St. Nick and how he gave to others in the name of Christ. It might be fun to watch again as its been a few years since we’ve done so.

I’m so grateful we get this time of the year to intentionally point our hearts to the coming of Christ!

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What do our actions say to the next generation about our faith?

 

Whether we realize it or not, each of us is a teacher—a model of how to live out the faith we proclaim. We are guides to the generations who are currently germinating their lifestyle patterns and heart convictions. Whether we have kids and teens under our roof, around us in our neighborhoods, or grandkids on the weekends, we are portraying a picture of what Christianity is. From where we find our identity to how we spend our money, time, and energy, we are constantly teaching the children and teens in our lives what it means to follow Christ. Often without saying a word.

Children watch our walk. Absorb our attitudes. Perceive our priorities.

Unfortunately, our actions are often contrary to what we hope to project. “Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t cut it when it comes to our spiritual life. Droves of young adults are leaving the church because they see our inconsistencies. Generations of children who grew up in church have abandoned the faith of their fathers because it never became their own.

Of course, there are men and women who grew up in loving, authentic Christian homes and still chose to walk away, but the majority of those who walk away do so because they were taught behavior modification without a relationship with God and submission to the rules without a love for or study of who God is.

What hope is there for change? God is always bigger than our mess-ups. But we can also take a good hard look at our lives and walk forward in repentance and allow God to transform our places of inconsistencies. As we do, we model the life of humility and change that marks the life of a true believer in Christ.

Here are several inconsistencies we may be unwittingly giving the next generation of potential followers of Christ:

Inconsistency #1: The body of Christ can be helpful, but following Christ is primarily an individual pursuit.

Yes, we each have choices to make for ourselves. Yes, our faith must be our own. But the notion that “me and God are good” without a need for His people is contrary to Scripture. A vast majority of the exhortations in Scripture assume the reader is gathering with a local body of believers. The idea that you could be a true Christian and not be an integral part of the church is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Following Christ is a corporate pursuit. You and I need the body of Christ in order to fully know and follow Christ.

Inconsistency #2: A deep commitment to the local church is more of a liability and a nuisance than a lifeline and a need.

I get it. People are messy. My husband is a pastor, and I’ve seen the ugly side of church life. But the call of a Christian to love and serve the body of Christ is not negated when the body is broken. Going to church is not about “me.” Too many of us live as if we believe that loving one another is impossible. And it may be, on our own strength. But what a testimony it is to the power of God if we choose to love those who are hard to love. (Not to mention, often we are the hard-to-love-people who need the love of the church.) Our call to lay down our lives for one another is independent of the responses and neglect of others. When we serve one another, we serve Christ.

Inconsistency #3: God created everyone equal, but not everyone is safe.

If we say that God loves and cherishes all people — red and yellow, black and white — but remain fearful or disrespectful of other colors and cultures, we teach an inconsistency. We need to love and respect people of every nation, epidermis color, and economic status, even if that “threatens” our own comfort and safety. We need to shape our views and values primarily on what the Bible teaches about the dignity of every human being — over and against any other preference. Let’s be driven by biblical values more than personal, cultural, and/or political ones and teach the younger generations that upholding God’s way is more important than any other societal structure.

Inconsistency #4: My home is in heaven, but I’m going to prioritize earthly comforts over eternal pursuits.

So often we live as if our plans, dreams, and needs are more important than God’s plan for our lives. We live with a need to be needed over needing Biblical truth. We seek our security in hefty bank accounts and sturdy plans instead of the presence and provision of God. We are more concerned with our outward appearance over our eternal rewards. If we say we follow Christ, the Bible is clear that we are sojourners on this earth with a mission to carry out until we get there. We ought not to live a life of settling down. We are called to a life of reaching out to the lost and dying souls around us.

Inconsistency #5: Bible study is a nice idea but the Word of God is not an absolute necessity for the Christian.

Ultimately, each of these inconsistencies points to how we treat the Word of God. Because if we see the Word of God as a book of nice suggestions useful to decorate a coffee cup instead of filled with truth that is imprinted onto our lives, then we will live out a pseudo-Christianity that is weak, powerless, and, frankly, Pharisaic. If our everyday lives are devoid of the truth of the Bible, it is also devoid of the power of the God of the Bible.

Do we see the Bible as the very word of God?

Do we know what those words from God contain?

Do we believe that His way spelled out in those words is indeed God’s best plan for us?

Do we believe that God’s best plan is for all of God’s people?

Do we believe that God has enabled all of His people to follow His plan?

You see, if we don’t understand that the way of God is clearly spelled out in the Word of God and if we don’t believe that the word of God is authoritative and inerrant and given to us for our good, then we will never be able to live the Christian life to its fullness. And if we don’t know what the word of God says and actually follow it — if we don’t understand that following the way of God is our greatest purpose here on this earth — what hope do the generations behind us have in learning this way from us?

We must love and follow God for the sake of our own good. But we must also love and follow God for the sake of those little eyes and tender hearts who are watching how we treat God’s Word, God’s people, and the lost in need of a Savior. We must pursue a life of obedience and worship so that we can experience the fullness of God’s presence in our everyday life, but also because of the young souls who themselves are searching to experience fulfillment and security — which they will only find through Christ.

Let’s be Christians who consistently point to the glory of God and the goodness of His Word, through lives that display the character of Christ. And pray that the children and teens in our lives see Christ is such a way that it transforms their lives forever.

Lord, help us.

This post was originally published on LifeWay Voices.

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Missionaries to Sarajevo

Today’s post is from my dear friend, Taylor. We served with Cru together in Atlanta for several years. She and her husband, Josh are still on staff with Cru and live in Bosnia, bringing the gospel to college students in Sarajevo!

Taylor shares her heart with us today…

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“Did we make a wrong choice?” The thought rushed through my mind like a waterfall. I looked out the window of our rental car at the rugged Bosnian countryside. Three weeks after moving from the States and the honeymoon period was over. I remember the tears streaming down my cheeks.

We were heading to Croatia for a conference. Our two children—ages 3 and 2—were in the back seat. My homesickness was flaring up again. I was thinking of all the things my children would miss out on: homeschool groups, children’s museums, church events, grandparents (and I would be lying to say I didn’t miss my places too, like Target and Starbucks!). Would it be worth it to follow God’s calling to live in Sarajevo, working with university students?

During that long car ride, I clearly remember Nichole Nordeman singing You Are Good through the car stereo:

With every breath I take in
I’ll tell You I’m grateful again
‘Cause its more than enough
Just to know I am loved
And You are good

So how can I thank You
What can I bring
What can these poor hands
Lay at the feet of a King
I’ll sing You a love song
It’s all that I have
To tell You I’m grateful
For holding my life in Your Hands

With tears I sang over and over again: “You are Good. I am grateful that You keep me and You love me…and that is enough.”

That is a choice I make frequently, if not daily, living here. There is immense joy in God’s plan. I would not trade what we have gained these past three years for anything. But I still miss what we left behind.

You don’t have to make an international move to experience these same feelings. A move across town, a career change, a church transition; these all come with joy and sacrifice. Even three years after that lonely car ride, the dark questions have not completely disappeared.

But there is one thing I have learned (and keep learning): He keeps us wherever we go. And he has used a story from Bosnia’s past to help me remember that truth.

Meeting Miss Irby

It is the story of a wealthy woman who left everything she had in England to serve the beautiful women of Bosnia 150 years ago. With her own funds, she started a school and orphanage for girls. She saved thousands of refugees from starvation during a brutal war and became a national hero. I think of her every time I leave the mall in Sarajevo, where a street bears her name: “Mis Irbina Ulica”, Miss Irby’s Street.

This woman was my husband’s distant cousin. We discovered her story just a few short months before moving here. When I’m having dark moments, I take a walk to Miss Irby’s Street, not too far from my house. I imagine the school that stood there. I imagine the girls who received an otherwise impossible education. I think of the generations of people who would never have seen life if it weren’t for her sacrifices.

After living here for less than a year, my husband felt another calling: Miss Irby’s story needed to be heard. He was led to write a book about her life to be released in one year’s time: the 100th anniversary of her death. That next year was incredibly taxing. Josh dedicated several hours a day to writing, we experienced some spiritual warfare including a miscarriage. However, during those dark times, one question kept reappearing in my mind: Why would God move us to the same place as a distant relative, doing similar work, if it weren’t a part of his plan?

We would like to share this story with you. It is an inspiring story of hope, determination and the beauty of God’s plan unfolding.

Taylor Irby lives in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina with her husband Josh and their three children, Israel (6), Elijah (4) and Adeline (10 months).

affiliate links present

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First World Problems

I need a new pair of black shoes. My Kia needs new tires. Mac Mini is on its last leg.

My heart can run wild with a list of endless “needs.” Yet, just a few short weeks ago I witnessed true need and received needed perspective on wants versus needs.

The people of Mapou, Haiti are not concerned with coordinating shoes for their outfits. Living in the rocky village is a family who can‘t afford to buy their five children each a pair of shoes. Without shoes, they cannot attend school.

first world problems
The villagers do not have cars to buy tires for or computers to repair. They don’t even have electricity.

Their needs are much more simple. Food. Clothing. Shelter. Water.

These people desperately need water. Without water they cannot cook, wash clothes, or bathe. Without water, crops fail and bodies thirst. Without water, they die.

The village of Mapou has no running water. They have no well. No river. No springs. They are utterly dependent on rain.
first world problems
These people are not worried about tires, black flats or how much ram to get in their new computer. Their concerns are much more about weather patterns and rain gutters.

They don’t pray for a good deal to pop up at Walmart, or their favorite team to win a championship.

They pray for rain.

first world problems

first world problems
first world problems

first world problems

first world problems

first world problems
When the rain comes, they rejoice.

If it doesn’t come soon enough, they start walking until they find another village with a surplus and a willingness to share their precious resource and bucket by bucket, they bring it home.

first world problems

How often I am guilty of looking over the fact that all of my needs are met. Needs that have been met every single day of my life. It is too easy to focus on what I don’t have, instead of rejoicing in what I do.

Ultimately, we are all dependent on the rain and the One who is gracious enough to send it. I am thankful for His grace and gentle correction, when I lose sight of what my true needs are.

What about you? Can you imagine being so utterly dependent on the rain for survival? Am I the only one who struggles with putting wants in the category of needs? Let’s chat about it in the comments.

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World Vision in Haiti

Every where we turned, both on the journey to Mapou Village as well as on our trip back to Port au Prince, we saw evidences of the work and ministry of World Vision. Mile after mile there were schools, wells, homes and other aid provided by World Vision.

world vision in haiti

world vision in haiti

world vision in haiti

Our family has loved being a part of the work of World Vision, through our family world vision nights and in our gift-giving. We’ve given aid like chickens, ducks, building supplies, a share of a well, seeds and agricultural training. It is exciting to have a specific need to fill, and I love the way it helps my children understand how to “be Jesus” to the world.

The village of Mapou, where we stayed for eight days, is extremely primitive. Before World Vision came to the village the villagers lived in homes like this.

world vision in haiti

And this.

world vision in haiti

And this.

world vision in haiti

Four years ago World Vision came to the village and built each family a house.world vision in haiti

world vision in haiti

The villagers of Mapou now use their old homes as kitchens.

world vision in haiti

It is thrilling to get to see the work of World Vision while I was in Haiti.

It could not be missed.

Here are a few ways you can get involved in the ministry work of World Vision in Haiti:

Are you a part of the ministry of World Vision? What life-changing gifts have you been able to give?

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Tour of Mapou Village, La Gonave, Haiti

Off of the west coast of mainland Haiti is a little island tucked inside the Gulf of Gonave. The island of La Gonave, Haiti is the home to Mapou Village, our own home away from home for eight days. Though only 15 miles away from where we arrived by boat, Mapou village is close to a 2 hour drive from the port city of Anse-a-galets.

la gonave haiti

Nestled in red clay mountains, most of the road is so rocky that we rarely can get out of second gear or go over 10 miles an hour, to keep the tires from popping or leaving part of the bumper embedded into the rocky ground. Only recently has the road been extended, rock by rock by the local villagers, to be able to accommodate trucks carrying missionary travelers to the village of Mapou.

la gonave haiti

A very mild stretch of the road!

la gonave haiti

Photo by Craig Lovely

In this mountainous, rocky village all their food is either grown through crops, fruit trees, or grains and animals at the local market. Each Wednesday, in the early morning hours, villagers from all over the island of La Gonave begin their trek by foot or by donkey to the “Marche”, the Market.

la gonave haiti

Photo by Craig Lovely

It is here they gather to barter for what they need. The coastal villages bring fish, conch and other finds from the sea, while the inlanders bring corn, watermelon, plantains, or whatever is in season at the time. Yet, there is much that they are still dependent on to come from the mainland, and it comes at a hefty price. When the winter months come, and the crops are gone there is very little to eat, and many go long periods of time without food.

la gonave haiti

There is no electricity in the villages. On the International Ministry of Hope “compound” where we stayed, we had a few hours of generated power in the evening so we could eat dinner and prepare for bed. Truly a luxury.

la gonave haiti

Our meals were prepared in a itty bitty hut, over home-made charcoal made from trees in the area.la gonave haiti

Though almost every modern “convenience” is missing from this village we find a group of friendly, giving people. Children play and laugh. Parents work hard to serve their families. The island and its people are full of the glory of God.
la gonave haiti
He is found in the ocean breeze which brings refreshment in the heat of the day. He is in the lush green landscape with the corn and plantains growing, bringing provision. He is there in the early morning hours, where the sun begins to warm the earth with its beautiful rays across the clear blue ocean.
la gonave haiti
And in the sunset over the local bakery, His glory is seen as the sleepy sun shines through the rustling trees.
la gonave haiti