Wonderful Life, forever!

Celebrating Christmas with family and friends finds us tearing open gifts.


Those items that were specifically chosen, carefully wrapped, and lovingly given.

Of all those gifts I’m sure there were many gifts that “worked,”

but I’m sure there were also some gifts that didn’t “work.”

Those gifts that didn’t “work,” hopefully weren’t given with that intention. There could be many reasons why…

The giver may not have been aware of the fact that the gift was actually broken, it may not have been what they expected it to be, or the gift was the wrong size, color, etc…

The movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is about angels in heaven who hear the prayers of many people praying for a man who is ready to end his life. George Bailey himself prays a prayer of desperation before he considers jumping off the bridge on Christmas Eve.

The angels came up with an idea of a gift to give to George that they hoped will “work.”

The head angel then told Clarence, the angel who would be sent to give George this gift, the story of George Bailey’s life.

As the story of George’s life was told it showed all he went through in the seasons of life and how he responded to the different situations he faced.

Then one day when George’s uncle Billy made a mistake at the bank and money from the Bailey Savings and Loan fell into the hands of Mr. Potter, George faced hopelessness.

With nothing he could do to save his business, his family, or himself, George saw his death and the life insurance policy for his family as the only answer.

So, perched on the side of a bridge on a snowy Christmas Eve, George was ready to jump.

That was when the angel came from heaven with the gift that he hoped would “work.”

(I don’t want to be a spoiler by telling the rest of the story…it is a very old movie, but if you haven’t seen it, please stop reading this and go and watch it before you read the rest.)

The angel, Clarence, brought George the gift of seeing his life as if he was never born.

The angel showed George how things would be in the lives of his friends and family if he had never been born. At first George didn’t understand the gift as the angel took him to “see” people and places as they would have been if he wasn’t there, but as his gift continued to unfold George came to the place where he realized the significance of his life and truly wanted to live again.

The gift “worked.”

Though this movie isn’t doctrinally correct, there are so many spiritual lessons I draw from it.

I’m reminded of the significance of my prayers. Heaven hears my prayers and when I pray I believe there are plans of sending gifts to those who I pray for. Gifts sent by God that are intended to “work” for those who need help. They may not be understood at first, but they are intended to “work” by showing what is really important and by providing what is really needed.

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1

I’m reminded of the wonderful gift of life I have been given and of the significance of my life. I realize that my choices and decisions don’t only affect me, and I’m reminded of the bigger picture, that I have the choice to live life to the fullest and to make a difference for the good in the lives of those around me.

Like the Proverbs 31 woman…

“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.”

“Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her:
“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!” 

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.” Proverbs 31:10-12, 28-31

But though there are many lessons to be learned from this movie, it falls short of God’s truth…

No matter how good a life we live, no matter how many good choices we make, no matter how many lives we touch for the good, without Jesus it has no meaning, no true significance, no eternal value.

I’m reminded of the Wonderful Life God intends for us through His greatest Gifts…

That life is a precious gift from God

Life – “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm 139:13-16

and, that life is meant to be lived knowing God through His gift of Jesus!

Jesus – “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

We were created with significance for significance!  

God’s Gifts always “work.” His precious gift of life and the gift of His Son, Jesus, are perfectly tailored for you and for the purpose He has for you. His gift of life fully lived – knowing and believing in Jesus – will bring meaning and significance to your life; you will not despair when an evil plan is formed against you, you will find hope to overcome every situation, you will be provided with everything you need, and you will be surrounded with much love and great joy!

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a great movie, it is part of my Christmas traditions, and I’m glad for the lessons I’ve learned from it.

But it falls short of the “Wonderful Life” that is found in the God’s Greatest Gift of Christmas!

The gift of eternal life through believing in Jesus not only “works,” but brings a Wonderful Life, forever!


While setting up the Manger Scene…

Although acquiring the “perfect Christmas tree” each year has become a family tradition that has many stories that are repeated year after year, my favorite Christmas “decoration” is the Manger Scene. It is amazing how a simply crafted wooden stable and several painted ceramic figurines can bring such profound thoughts…

When I set the Manger Scene up I’m reminded both of the humility of Jesus, and of His power and Kingship. I usually place the Baby Jesus in the stable first, it seems its easier to know where to position everyone else if He is there in the center…

and that is how my life should be as well…Jesus placed first, in the center of all.

When Jesus is first in my life, when He is in the center of all I do, and of all I say it will determine how others things are positioned around me. It will affect my relationships, my desires, my activities…

Then I place Mary and Joseph looking down at their new born son. Their Son that the angel came and told them about. Their Son that was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Their Son, Jesus, born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling cloths, who they laid in a manger, because there was no room for Him in the Inn.

What was it like to be alone in that dark stable, surrounded with the sounds and scents of animals, looking upon the one who Mary just gave birth to, a baby, yet God in flesh! Was this humble birth confusing to this young couple? Was that what they expected after being told by the angel…

“He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Luke 1:32-33

I’m reminded that often what I see happening, what I’m going through at the moment doesn’t always look like what I heard God say, what He promised in His word, or what I had prayed for. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t what God intends. There is a bigger picture that will some day come together, I need to just ponder it in my heart and trust God.

So humble, yet so profound!

No other birth has been celebrated for two thousand years!

This same humility is what God wants from us…

“Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God.” Philippians 2:3-8

For when we are humble our lives are profoundly different! 

Next I place the shepherd, and his sheep, to the left of Mary and Joseph, I think of the lowly shepherds that were out watching their sheep that night. Why shepherds? Shepherds, the first ones chosen to go and see what God had done! The first ones tell others the Good News of the Good Shepherd! As I look at the shepherd I wish I could have been on the hill that dark night when the sky flooded with Light and the Glory of the Lord shone all around! What did the shepherds think as they were told by the angel…

“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem!” Luke 2:10-11

Though I have only one angel, I can only imagine what it must have been like to be surrounded by the light and the trumpeting sound of a heavenly host of angels proclaiming,

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:14

After that amazingly awesome, and exceedingly holy encounter, the shepherds were compelled to go and to find the Babe, lying in a manger. They weren’t content to just revel in the glory on the mountain side. They weren’t willing to just hear the Good News from the angels, they wanted to go see for themselves, to go and experience this thing the angels told them about.

So for me, I shouldn’t be content to just listen to others worshipping and praising God. I can’t know all there is to know about Jesus from the stories of others. I must get up and go find Jesus for myself. To see Him, encounter Him, and learn for myself who Jesus is. Once I see Him, experience Him, and find Him to be who God says He is, my life will be changed and as the shepherds, I will want to go and tell others all about Him and all who hear will see how great God is!

Though the wise men didn’t come to the stable, but came several months later to the house where Jesus was, they bring balance to the manger scene as I place them to the right of Mary and Joseph.

The wise men studied the stars, and one night there was an extra star! God, the One who sends out the stars each night and calls each one by name, chose to put an extra star in the sky to point the wise men to Jesus.

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2

God spoke through His prophets hundreds of years before…

“And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.” Matthew 2:6

The wise men believed the prophecy of a new King of the Jews that was to be born and though they weren’t Jewish they left everything, traveled for months following a star, so they could worship the new King and offer Him gifts.

I have a wooden sign that says, “Wise men still seek Him.” I leave it up all year round because I believe to seek Jesus is the wisest thing anyone can ever do.

Wisdom is found only in God.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!” Psalms 111:10

The wise men left much and they gave much.

May I too, as I study God’s word, when challenged with the truth about Him, be willing to leave the things that aren’t pleasing to Him, be willing to leave behind all that distracts me from finding Him and from bowing down in worship of Him. May I also bring Jesus my everything; my talents, gifts, desires, dreams, yes, my whole heart, and lay them before Him in worship. For they were given to me by God, as I humbly lay them before His feet He will raise me up to be used for His honor and glory.

The last thing I do is to turn on the light over the manger scene.

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Isaiah 9:2

God saw the darkness of the world He created and knew how desperately it needed the Light of Heaven to shine. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus to bring the Light of Heaven into our darkness.

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12

While Jesus was here on earth He shone the Light of Heaven as He preached the truth of the Good News, showed compassion and healed the sick. And when He went back to heaven He imparted His Light to all who believe in Him.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden… In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:14,16

Lord, may I be as the light on my manger scene, shining out Your Light wherever I go so that others may see the good things I do in obedience to You and praise Your holy name!



No Matter What

Queen Esther agreed to do what Mordecai asked of her. She chose to believe that he was speaking from a godly perspective. She also realized it would be God, and God alone, who would keep her alive when she went before the king, uninvited. She chose to put her hope, faith, and love for God above everything else, above even the strongest desire of the flesh, food and drink. She asked her people to do likewise in hope that humbling themselves before God, putting Him above all else, would move the heart of God to bring mercy and favor so their lives would be spared.

“Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” Esther 4:16

Someone has said that faith requires a thousand deaths.

I have never faced the fear of death as Esther did.

To write from her perspective is impossible.

But along my journey of life, as God has been growing my faith; I have faced “deaths” to self; my desires, comfort, and agendas, that have required me to fear God and not man.

Even the seemingly small things I do can bring situations that I need to die to.

Whenever we do things that have eternal significance it will require dying to self.

This is a busy week as I get things ready for the Living Nativity. But as I take some time to write, I’m reminded of the situation Mary faced when the angel came to her one day.

In many ways Mary’s situation was similar to Esther’s.

Mary was betrothed to Joseph, which meant that legally and religiously they had entered into marriage, but hadn’t yet consummated the marriage. Mary was waiting for the “home-taking” when Joseph would finish building their house and would come and take her to their new home, where their marriage would be completed.

So when the angel came and said to Mary…

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” Luke 1:30-32

Mary was confused and didn’t understand.

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Luke 1:34

So the angel explained.

“The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35

This meant Mary would be pregnant while betrothed.

Mary would have been seen as committing sexual sin, perhaps adultery.

According to the Law, sexual sin was punished by cutting the offender off, and adultery was punished by stoning.

As the word from Mordecai pronounced an almost certain death sentence over Esther, this word from the angel also brought a possible death sentence to Mary.

When Esther realized that perhaps she was in the palace for such a time as this she willingly obeyed no matter what the outcome would be. Mary too accepted her position as a servant of God and willingly received the word from the angel of God, no matter what she would face.

“Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38

These two young women found favor with God, and were chosen by Him for a specific purpose, at the specific time.

These two young women had a destiny to save their people.

These two young women faced possible death sentences.

These two young women chose to fear God, above the fear of death.

These two young women lived to see God work the impossible, accomplish the miraculous, and saw the salvation of their people!

In light of what these two women faced, the “deaths” I face while planning and preparing for the Living Nativity seem insignificant. Yet, I am convinced kingdom work has resistance in the spirit realm. When I consider the eternal possibilities of what can be accomplished through the Living Nativity I realize the enemy doesn’t want it to take place and will do whatever he can to stop it.

When we celebrate the true meaning of Christmas through drama and reading aloud the Christmas Story from the Bible, singing Carols and songs that lift up the name of Jesus, sharing a short message of the Love of God, and gathering together around cookies and hot chocolate, this has Eternal Significance! This has the potential of “saving” people! This is what I am committed to no matter what!

I have been encouraged by Esther and Mary. Their stories remind me that I have been positioned for such a time as this, and that as a favored servant of God I’m not alone as I plan and prepare for the Living Nativity. This is something God has called me to and I can look to Him for help, and I can trust Him to provide everything needed to make this Living Nativity a “success” and to use it to bring salvation to many! Esther called her people to join her in fasting for God’s mercy and favor, an angel came to Joseph to tell him of God’s plan for Mary, her baby, and him as her husband. The love and support of those around them enabled them to  carry out the destiny God had for them. I too am thankful for the help and support of many around me that share the work and the joy of making the Living Nativity a reality!

It is my prayer as the Living Nativity is presented this Christmas that many people will come to know the true meaning of Christmas; that Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, will be born in the hearts of many!

Please come and join in this celebration of Christmas…all are welcome!


Living Nativity

Saturday, December 16

Solid Rock Day Camp

37 Stephens Road, West Milford, NJ

Two out-door Performances

4:30 and 7:00

Each followed with Cookies and Hot Chocolate

Dress Warmly, Bring a Friend

Rain / Snow Date – Sunday, December 17, same times

It’s a Matter of Perspective

What do you do when you receive bad news?

“When Mordecai learned about all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on burlap and ashes, and went out into the city, crying with a loud and bitter wail. He went as far as the gate of the palace, for no one was allowed to enter the palace gate while wearing clothes of mourning. And as news of the king’s decree reached all the provinces, there was great mourning among the Jews. They fasted, wept, and wailed, and many people lay in burlap and ashes.” Esther 4:1-3

While Mordecai was dressed in burlap, covered in ashes, and crying out to God, Queen Esther was unaware of the evil plot against her people.

When Queen Esther heard about Mordecai she didn’t understand and was worried about him. She sent clothes out to him, but when he didn’t receive them, she sent out her servants to find out what was wrong.

Mordecai sent word to Queen Esther explaining why he was mourning. He told her about the decree, sent along a copy, and told her about the money that Haman promised to put into the treasury. Mordecai also asked Esther to go before the king and to beg for mercy for her people.

Sometimes life is suddenly invaded with bad news.

Sometimes life requires that you do the impossible.

What was that last thing Mordecai said to her? ” …go to the king to beg for mercy and plead for her people.”?

I’m sure Esther felt bad about the decree against her people. I’m sure she wanted to help Mordecai and the Jews to be saved from the evil plot, but to go before the king when he didn’t call for her, that was more than she was willing to do.

This was her response…

“All the king’s officials and even the people in the provinces know that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him for thirty days.” Esther 4:11

From Esther’s perspective Mordecai’s request meant certain death. 

Because Mordecai responded to bad news by humbly “mourning” and crying out to God, God enabled him to see things from a different perspective. 

“Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14

In God’s presence everything changes!

In that place alone with God, He gives you insight and wisdom that aren’t from your own understanding, but from His heavenly perspective. God enables you to see the big picture and He brings comfort, strength, and hope to do what He puts on your heart, even if it does’t make sense.

In God’s presence Mordecai was reminded of God’s love and faithfulness to His people.

In God’s presence Mordecai was given divine revelation.

Sometimes God calls us to speak into the atmosphere words of faith that will fulfill our destiny.

From Mordecais’ perspective he saw this “divine positioning” as perhaps God’s way of working all things together for the good of His people, for such a time as this!

From Esther’s perspective, living as queen in the palace she found herself distant from her people, unaffected by the decree, and unwilling to risk her life to plead for the king’s mercy.

Sometimes we must heed the advice from someone who sees our situation from a different perspective.

As Mordecai explained to Esther the bigger picture; as he told her that she too would be killed along with all the Jews, when he reminded her that God is a loving God who is always faithful to rescue His people, and as he shared his thoughts about why she was chosen as queen…

his words caused her to look beyond herself, to see from a different perspective, and to consider the greater purposes of God. 

Through the years Mordecai raised Esther she learned to respect and obey him. Esther found favor in listening to and submitting to his advice and suggestions. So now, when Mordecai asked her to do something that was literally a matter of life and death, Esther was willing to trust him.

Esther’s respect and obedience to Mordecai was based on her fear of God. She realized that what Mordecai was saying and what he was asking her to do weren’t just his ideas based on his own understanding, but in fact he was speaking words from God.

God used Mordecai’s words of faith to change Esther’s heart.

“Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same.” Esther 4:16

Esther began to see the bigger picture; that it wasn’t just about her life, or even her death. The evil plot was meant to destroy all the people of God. And if she really was in the palace for such a time as this, to save her people, she was willing to lay down her life for their salvation.

It was no longer about self preservation, but about fulfilling destiny!

“And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.” Esther 4:16

May we learn from the examples of Mordecai and Esther and choose to draw near to God to receive His perspective  in times when we are faced with bad news or an impossible request.