Finally…a permanent home!

welcome-matA year ago I embarked on a journey to put my pen to the page and write what I was thinking. And you entertained the thoughts I was writing. Not everything I’ve written has been worthy of your attention. But you read anyway. Sometimes you commented. Other times you deleted my thoughts and dismissed them into your online trash folder. Either way you became ears listening to the words that I needed to voice. Thank you.

After using free space, free services, and free software to test the waters of writing, I decided to put some skin in the game and purchase a permanent home for my thoughts: www.AshtonStewart.net

I’ve spend some time moving into my new home and now I think I am settled enough to invite you over for a visit. I hope you’ll stop by from time to time to catch up on my latest musings. Maybe even stay long enough for a chat by leaving your comments. All of my posts from the last year have made it to my new home. So feel free to search though old material.

New Features
One of my favorite new features for this site is connection it will have to my Church family. I will link my sermons to the site every week. Much of the content that I write will directly serve to help spiritually grow the members of Warrenton Christian. But I think you will benefit as well.

You will from time to time have the chance to hear from some of my friends who will stop by for a visit. Another new feature will be the presence of guest posts written by guest authors who will write content uniquely for you. I think you will enjoy some of the guests that will bring thoughts for which they are more qualified to write than I am. If you’re ever interested in sharing your thoughts in a guest post on my site, shoot me a message and I’ll be glad to see what we can do together.

Why? 

Maybe you’re wondering, “Ashton, why would you spend money on a space to write after you’ve not written anything for three months on your free site? Where have you been?” And that’s certainly a valid question to ask! Since my last post on February 18, 2013, I have been incredibly busy:
*My family and I just moved into our newly purchased home (I’ll share about that later).
*I just wrapped up a men’s mentor group with a group of guys in my Church (this will certainly be a post soon).
*I’ve been reading a ton of books (Keep an eye on my Book Notes page)
*I planted a garden. (So many lessons learned from growing stuff)
*I’ve been developing www.AshtonStewart.net

What Do I Do Now? 

Since this will be the last post that will ever go out from the old address: ashtonstewart.wordpress.com, maybe you’re wondering if you’ll continue to receive all of the latest posts I write.

If you are an email subscriber, meaning you entered your email on my page and you receive my latest posts in your email inbox, you should continue to receive updated posts. I was able to move my email subscriber list to the new home. You might want to go ahead and enter your email address at the bottom of my new site just in case so you don’t miss out.

If you are a wordpress.com blogger who follows my site from your dashboard, I was not able to make the move with your contact information. So if you want to continue to receive my latest posts, you will have to go to my new home and enter your email address at the bottom right corner of the page.

I’m FIRED UP about writing more content this summer for you. I hope you enjoy your visit to my new home. And if you get a chance, give me a shout out in the comment section below any post at my new site and let me know what you think of the new place.

So You’re Gettin’ a Tax Refund…Now What?

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I stayed up last night until about 1 a.m. to finish filing our 2012 taxes. For the first time in about eight years, I filed my own taxes and used the incredibly simple and intuitive TurboTax app on my iPad. I watched nervously as each figure I entered recalculated the amount of tax I owed until suddenly the figure changed from the color red to the color white indicating that I did not owe more tax; rather, I was due a refund. That hasn’t happened in a few years either. This year we will be receiving a tax refund.

After pressing the submit button, suddenly my mind began to wonder, “what should we do with this money we were not expecting to receive?” Maybe you’ve thought the same thing. If you are like me, you immediately began dreaming about the vacation that you can now afford, or the new MacBook that you’ve wanted for a few years. Maybe now you can buy your kids an iPod so that will leave your iPhone alone. While you could indulge your inner “I deserve this…”, maybe there’s something greater you could do with your tax refund. I believe that if you are intentional, your tax refun has the opportunity to help you achieve some healthy financial goals.

1. Give.
Now that you have a lump some of cash that is outside your monthly budget, you might consider giving some of it away. This not only helps with next year’s tax-deductions; however, it could help a really worthy cause. Maybe you’ve not met your giving commitment to your local Church. Giving a portion of your tax refund may bring you closer to what you committed to give. While I do not think you are necessarily obligated to tithe off of your tax refund, I do think that it poresents an excellent opportunity to be generous.

2. Save.
Ask yourself, “Do I have a fully funded emergency fund?” A good starter emergency fund it at least $1000 in the bank set aside for an emergency. A fully funded emergency fund is 3-6 months of your family’s monthly income. If you do not have a fully funded emergency fund, using your tax refund is a excellent way to build your savings fast. Whatever you’re saving for, whether it be for an emergency, a vacation, or a new car, your tax refun is an excellent opportuunity to save.

3. Pay-off Debt.
Every month your debt robs you of your income’s ability to serve you. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Because of debt, you are still paying today on something you just had to have yesterday. And chances are, you don’t like it as much today as you did yesterday. A tax refund presents an excellent opportuinity to pay-off a credit card. Imagine what your monthly budget would look like without that credit card payment. It could buy you hundreds of dollars each month giving your income more opportunity to serve you rather than your debt.

The bottom line is this: Your tax refund can be intentionally used to serve you.

Don’t simply splurge just because you have a few extra bucks. It may be a good idea to split your tax refund to accomplish several goals. This year we’re going to pay off a debt and fund our emergency fund. That accomplishes two of our financial goals immediately and returns about $140 a month to my budget’s spending power.

What do you plan to do with your tax refund? I’d love to celebrate with you as you accomplish your financial goals! Leave a comment below to share.

Prioritize What’s Important!

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Humans have long been inspired with great intentions to achieve great things.  Whether it’s launching a successful business, raising Godly children, graduating from college, or preparing to enjoy retirement, each of us have goals and dreams that we long to achieve.  

The problem we all face is finding a peaceful balance between everyday reality and far off ambitions.  How can I properly prepare for the future while also maintaining life today?  How can I sacrifice to make a better tomorrow while not surrendering a happy today?

You may have the respectable goal of funding your children’s college education.  However, with a pile of your own student loans to pay off, that goal might seem more like a distant dream.

Perhaps you’d love to save for a family vacation to Disney World next year; but, first you feel it pressing to upgrade your cell phone plan to the newest iPhone (I love my iPhone by the way, so I’m not picking on Apple).

Maybe your like me and you’d love to one day buy a house or you have daughters who will one day get married (the average wedding in America costs around $26,000), so you’d love create a savings for the future.

Maybe you have the best intentions for consistently tithing to your Church.  But if you don’t prepare before you give to give, you more than likely won’t be able to give.

As determined as you are to create better tomorrow, you must start TODAY to make that happen.  Determination will not always produce results.  But prioritizing what’s important starting now will.  (Click to Tweet that!)

Leadership guru Stephen Covey once said, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” 

Here are a few things in my life that I consider important; therefore, I have made them a priority – and it shows!

1. My Schedule 

Every day my calendar is full of tasks that I regularly do every day.  Every Tuesday at 11a.m. I pick up my daughter from day care.  Every Wednesday I have a lunch staff meeting.  I maintain the same sermon preparation every week.  So I have programed the Reminder App on my iPhone to remind me of what is next on my agenda each day.  Since I have prioritized what’s important to me by scheduling it ahead of time, last minute additions don’t take over my schedule.

2. My Tithe 

Every month my family contributes a tenth (tithe) of our salary to our Church as we believe is expected as a Christian.  It’s a commitment my wife, Amber, and I made when we first got married almost nine years ago and we still believe it to be important today.  I used to write a check every month to the Church; but, I remember a few occasions when I couldn’t give because I forgot my check book.  Last year my Church started Online Giving and this has help me take another step in prioritizing my giving.  When I sit down to plan my monthly budget, I can go online and automatically set up my tithe to come out according to the date I would have written a check.  I can even automate my tithe and it will come out the same date every month so I never forget again!  It’s safe, secure, and simple to use.

3. My Bible

Every morning my iPhone reminds me to read from my daily YouVersion Bible Reading Plan.  I made it a priority to read my Bible everyday when I became a Christian and by setting my YouVersion account to daily remind me, I am more consistent and less forgetful.

4. My Day Off 

I believe what the Bible said in Exodus 20:8, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy,” to be one of the most neglected commands in the Bible today.  God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.  God commanded the Israelites to work six days, and commanded them to rest on the seventh.  For some reason we believe that since we’re New Testament Christians, that we’re somehow exempt from that command today.  The principle of this commandment transcends covenants: Your Body Needs Rest.

I have one day every week (every seven days) that I will not work on.  It’s a day to sleep in, relax, enjoy my family, take care of things around the house.  Due to a Church schedule, I typically enjoy a weekend off of Friday and Saturday.  Often the Church schedules something for Saturday.  And if that’s the case, I protect Friday.  I refuse to schedule something seven days in a row.  And if ever an exception must be made, I gladly make it up with extra time off soon after.

5. My Savings 

I recently started reoccurring automatic transfers from my checking to my savings account.  Whether it’s funding an emergency account, saving for a vacation, or buying new tires for your car, if you don’t save today, you won’t have the money available tomorrow.  Even if it’s just a few dollars a week, making it priority to save will help prepare you for your goals down the road.

So tell me, what do you find important enough to prioritize?  Do you have goals that you’re prioritizing today so you can achieve them later?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  So leave a comments below.

WHO DO YOU MEASURE UP TO?

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I’m entertained by my three year old daughter when she attempts to walk around the house in my size 12 shoes. She clumsily takes one stumbling step at a time while also making sure I’m watching her daring feat. It’s only amusing because her tiny feet are no match for my shoes. She can’t fill them. I’m much bigger than she is.

It’s so much fun to observe childish behavior from the perspective of grown-up dad. Because while I think I have it all figured out as the smarter, wiser, more mature adult, I’ve discovered that sometimes my three year old models what real it really looks like to follow Jesus.  She knows that she needs me.  Even as independent as she attempts to be, she has no problem admitting that she needs me.

I’m stuck on the first “Beatitude” that Jesus presented in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus’ sermon on the mount is one of my favorite passages of Scripture to study. I’ve read it, taught it, preached it, and I still learn something fresh every time I encounter it (that’s the beauty of God’s Word!). And one of the clearest ways I’ve learned to uncover what Jesus‘ meant by saying “poor in spirit” is to ask the question, “Who am I trying to measure up to?”

We live in a world dying to compete. Maybe the competition isn’t on the court or the field; however, we compete with an internal desire to be better than those around us. “I want a nicer car than my coworkers.” “I love that my yard is better maintained than my neighbor.” “I must have a bigger TV than my friends.” “My kid is smarter than your kid.”

And while vain competition makes us feel good, it provides a sinful model for following Jesus. (Click to Tweet that)

Subconsciously we are all tempted to think that going to church more than most people, reading my Bible more this year than I did last year, and giving more of my time and money than anyone else are all measures for spiritual growth. But they are only deceptions that develops pride. The only way to follow Jesus is to measure up for Him and His perfect standard.

Jesus once told a story about two very different men who were praying to God in Luke 18:10-14.  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

When we realize our ultimate inability to measure up to Jesus on our own, we are just beginning to understand what it means to be “poor in spirit”. Measuring up to others may amuse you; but, it will not provide access to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Book Notes: “The Pursuit of Holiness” by Jerry Bridges

b39324Quick Summary

In his insightful little book, THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS, Jerry Bridges provides a Biblical exposition for the long-time Christian dilemma for how to live “holy as God is holy” (Leviticus 20:26, 1 Peter 1:16).  Each chapter is packed with a Biblical overview of a specific area of holiness.  The book is Biblically sound, relevant, applicable, and encouraging for growing believers.  It’s evident as you read this book, that the author shares this struggle with sin along with his readers.  I appreciate that!   It’s uplifting to know that no one can achieve personal holiness on our own; however, God has given personal responsibility to each of us to pursue the holiness of God.

Key Insights

  • Holiness is lived only through Christ as we pursue Him. (pg 11) “We will always be pursuing – as opposed to attaining – holiness in this life.” (pg 12)
  • I have a personal responsibility for my walk of holiness. “It’s compromise on the little issues that leads to greater downfalls.(pg. 17-18, 51, 77, 81)  The “just this once” syndrome. (pg. 91) “Every time you say yes to temptation, you make it harder to say no the next time. (pg. 92)
  • Christianity is not a do-it-yourself thing. (pg. 68)
  • We express our dependence on the Holy Spirit for a holy life by humbly and consistently taking in God’s Word and praying for holiness. (pg. 75)  “Discipline toward holiness begins with the Word of God.” (pg. 96)
  • The more we sin, the more we are inclined to sin.  The more we say no to sin, the more we are inclined to say no to sin.  (pg 80, 109, 133)

Definition for Holy: 

To be holy is to be morally blameless (pg 15), separated from sin (pg, 15), consecrated to God (pg. 15), conformed to the moral precepts of the Bible in contrast with the sinful ways of the world (pg. 15), nothing less than the conformity of the character of God (pg. 22), thinking as God thinks and willing as God wills (pg. 47), it’s not a series of do’s and don’ts, but a conformity to the character of God and obedience to the will of God (pg. 68), more broadly, obedience to the will of God in whatever God directs (pg. 136).

Meaningful Quotes: 

  • “The pursuit of holiness is a joint venture between God and the Christian.  No one can attain any degree of holiness without God working in his life, but just as surely no one will attain it without effort on his own part.”   (Preface, pg. 10)
  • “Holiness is not only expected; it is the promised birthright for every Christian.”  (Chapter 1, pg. 14)
  • “The word ‘holy’ in various forms occurs more than 600 times in the Bible.”  (Chapter 1, pg. 14)
  • “We never see sin aright until we see it as against God…” – W.S. Plumer” (Chapter 1, pg. 16)
  • “Are we willing to call sin ‘sin’ not because its big or little, but because God’s law forbids it?”  (Chapter 1, pg. 19)
  • “Many Christians have what we might call a ‘cultural holiness’.  They adapt to the character and behavior patters of Christians around them…God has not called us to be like those around us.” (Chapter 2, pg. 21)
  • “Acknowledging His holiness is one of the ways we are to praise God.” (Rev 4:8, Isa 6:3, Ex 15:11) (Chapter 2, pg. 24)
  • “Because God is holy, He can never excuse or overlook any sin we commit, however small it may be.”   (Chapter 2 pg. 26)
  • “Because God is holy, He hates sin.” (Chapter 2 pg. 27)
  • “We are through Christ made holy in our standing before God, and called to be holy in our daily lives.“ (Chapter 3 pg. 33)
  • “When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives at salvation, He comes to make us holy in practice.” (Chapter 3 pg. 33)
  • “When God saves us through Christ, He not only saves us from the penalty of sin, but also from its dominion.” (Ch. 3 pg. 33)
  • “When we are holding on to some sin, we are not pursuing holiness and we cannot have fellowship with God.” (Psalm 66:18) (Chapter 3, pg. 35)
  • “When we indulge in our sinful natures and dwell in unholiness, the Spirit of God is grieved.” (Eph 4:30)  (Chapter 3, pg. 37)
  • “The only safe evidence that we are in Christ is a holy live.”  (Chapter 3 pg. 38)
  • “You cannot say to a slave, ‘Live as a free man,’ but you can say that to someone delivered from slavery.” (Chapter 5 pg. 57)
  • “Just as He delivered us from the overall reign of sin, so He has made ample provision for us to win the daily skirmishes against sin.” (Chapter 7, pg. 68)
  • “Only one who has a strong desire to be holy will ever persevere in the painfully slow and difficult task of pursuing holiness.” (Chapter 7, pg. 73-74)
  • “If we sin it is because we choose to sin, not because we lack the ability  to say no to temptation.” (Chapter 8, pg. 80)
  • “Too often we say we are ‘defeated’ by this or that sin.  No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient.” (Ch. 8, pg. 80)
  • “Only through God’s Word are our minds remolded and our values renewed.” (Chapter 9, pg. 85)
  • “Quite possibly there is no greater conformity to the world among evangelical Christians today than the way in which we, instead of presenting our bodies as holy sacrifices, pamper and indulge them in defiance of our better judgement and our Christian purpose in life.”  (Chapter 11, pg. 108)
  • “…the person who overindulges his body at this point (food and drink) will find it more difficult to mortify other sinful deeds of the body.” (Chapter 11, pg. 109)
  • “As we become soft and lazy in our bodies, we tend to become soft and lazy spiritually.” (Chapter 11 pg. 110)
  • “It’s amazing how often we walk into known areas of temptation without any plan or resolution as to how we will react.” (Chapter 11, pg. 112)
  • “The cure for the sin of envy and jealousy is to find our contentment in God” (Chapter 12, pg. 120)
  • “One helpful reinforcement to living according to our convictions is to identify ourselves with Christ openly, wherever we find ourselves in the world.” (Chapter 16, pg 145).

Click here to can buy “The Pursuit of Holiness” at Amazon.com.

What I’m Reading This Year…

0cd12618640a11e2bb3522000a1fb076_6Today is January 21.  So we’re three weeks into the new year.  Statistically most people have already given up (I read most people give up by January 17).  I also read that it takes 21 days of consistent behavior to develop a habit.  So if you’re still hanging in there with your new year’s resolution, you might just be on to something new!

Last year I resolved to read more.  My plan was to read one hour every day.  That was about all of the intentional effort that I put forth for my reading goal.  I could have created a reading list.  Maybe it would have been beneficial to decide when every day I would read.  They say hindsight is 20/20.  And while I could have done a lot more to be more intentional about my reading goal, I did successfully read more books in one year than I have in my life.  I read 12 books from cover to cover (You can see my list below).

2012 Books Read: 

1. “The Circle Maker”, by Mark Batterson
2. “If He Only Knew”, by Gary Smalley
3. “The Old Testament Made Simple”, by James E. Smith
4. “Real Marriage”, by Mark Driscoll
5. “Leading On Empty”, by Wayne Cordeiro
6. “Tribal Church”, by Steve Stroope
7. “Platform”, by Michael Hyatt
8. “StrengthFinder 2.0″, by Tom Wrath
9. “The Mormon Faith of Mitt Romney”, by Andrew Jackson
10. “Spiritual Leadership”, by Henry & Richard Blackaby
11. “You’re a Writer”, by Jeff Goins                                                                                                                                                                                     12. “Wrecked”, by Jeff Goins

 

Why Read More? 

I’ve never been much of a ‘reader’.  I skim a lot.  I’ve started dozens of books only to put them back on the shelf after they started to collect dust.  A business leader named Zig Ziglar once said, “You’ll be the same person five years from now as you are today except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read.”  President Harry S. Truman once pointedly remarked, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”  As a leader in my home and my church, I decided that one of the most important disciplines that I can develop is that of reading.

2013 Reading List & Book Notes

So this year I have resolved to read more in 2013 than I did in 2012.  In 2012 I read 12 books simply by reading one hour a day (inconsistently).  To read more this year, I’ve made the effort to create a reading list of 16 books, I’ve ordered the books (some on Kindle), and have them on my desk so that I won’t forget the goal set before me.  (I have posted below the books I will be reading this year.)  In addition to reading each of these books, I will write a two page set of Book Notes for each book.  Each set of Book Notes will be posted to this site and will be link with each book on the list as they are completed.

2013 Books To Be Read: 

1. “The Pursuit of Holiness”, by Jerry Bridges (completed January 2013)
2. “The Circle Maker”, by Mark Batterson
3. “Drawing the Circle”, by Mark Batterson
4. “Praying Circles Around Your Children”, by Mark Batterson
5. “That’s My Girl”, by Rick Johnson
6. “Divine Mentors”, by Wayne Cordeiro
7. “Who Do You Think You Are”, by Mark Driscoll
8. “Deep and Wide”, by Andy Stanley
9. “Communicating for a Change”, by Andy Stanley
9. “EntreLeadership”, by Dave Ramsey
10. “Choosing to Cheat”, by Andy Stanley
11. “How to Knock Over a 7-Eleven”, by Michael Cheshire
12. “Wild at Heart”, by John Eldridge
13. “Gospel Coach”, by Scott Thomas & Tom Wood
14. “Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook”, by June Hunt
15. “Unleash”, by Perry Noble
16. “Greater”, by Steven Furtick

What Are You Reading This Year? 

As you can probably see, my reading niche is mostly Spiritual Growth and Leadership type books.  I love an occasional fiction based novel every now and then.  I’d love to know what books you’ve found to be a blessing.  Share what you’re reading with me in the comments section below!

Three Requests from My Church Family

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This weekend is going to be AWESOME! I am so FIRED UP to celebrate Christmas with my Church family. I stopped by our Worship Team’s practice last night and let me just say, they sound AMAZING! Our team of staff and volunteers have gone above and beyond in preparation for our celebration of Christmas and we ever have a few surprises in store. I believe that this weekend might just be one the biggest weekends we’ve ever experienced together! Sunday morning at 10:30a.m. is our Christmas Service and Monday night at 9p.m. is our Christmas Eve Service.

That being said, I have just a few requests for every member of Warrenton Christian.

1. Pray for God to do what only He can do.
This weekend is not about making us feel good. It’s about bringing God glory. Pray for every greeter, singer, musician, Audio/Visual volunteer, worship elements, the message, and those coming to hear the message. Please pray specifically for the invitation because the last part of the message is aimed directly at those who are far from God. Pray for me to be articulate and that the Holy Spirit stirs conviction for a response to God.

2. Invite, Invite, Invite.
Like I said Sunday, Christmas is the second most attended Sunday each year. Most of the people you know are likely going to attend a Church this weekend. So invite them to join you! I believe that our Church is one that confidently and unapologetically presents Jesus front and center. Ue this weekend as one more opportunity to ask people to join you.

3. Arrive early and welcome guests.
We have a creative opening to the service you will not want to miss. But if that’s not enough, Warrenton Christian is your home church. So arrive early and welcome guests into your home!

I LOVE MY CHURCH! I can’t wait to see what God is going to do. I’ll see you this weekend!

How do you celebrate the ‘Reason for the Season’?

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This morning I posted a response on another bloggers site about Christmas. (You can check out his site by clicking here.) His question was, “Is it just me or does it feel like Christmas has been captured? Are we forgetting or ignoring its real meaning?”

What do you think? Personally I love this time of the year! From all of the festive decorations, special Christmas scented candles, the Christmas music, to my my personal favorite: Starbuck’s Mocha Mint Latte. Okay so what if you can buy the Mocha Mint Latte all year long at Starbucks. I only buy it at Christmas time.

So how do we allow our fun family Christmas traditions to not distract from the real reason for the season? Here’s my response that I posted this morning:

From the moment that Jesus’ birth was announced, Christmas was about anticipation and expectation. There was a wonder about His coming. The angel announced to Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, that “He will save His people from their sins.” This was definately a special child. Fast-forward two-thousand years and we still have the same anticipation and expcedtation surrounding Christmas, only this time with gifts that will never last.

When asking my three-year-old what Christmas is about, she responded in her lisp like toddler language that “Sanat Claus is coming”. This was my teaching moment…to correct the ‘captured’ version of Christmas that she had already been programed to expect. I shared with her that Santa is great because he brings us presents. But the bigger reason that we celebrate Christmas is because it’s Jesus’ birthday (she understands this because her birthday is two days before Christmas). And the reason Jesus was born is so our sins can be forgiven and we can go to be with him in heaven (she still doesn’t quite unnderstand this part yet).

Here’s something I’ve learned about my kids: if I say it often enough, they accept it as truth, even if they don’t understand it. If I talk about Santa more at Christmas than I do Jesus, then guess what Christmas is all about?

Here’s my bottom line: I’m a sinner. On my best day I deserve hell. I do not want my kids growing up thinking “dad thinks he’s perfect”. So I say “I’m sorry” a lot to them when I’ve made mistakes. You see I want my kids to grow up realizing that we all make mistakes and we need forgiveness. And Christmas is the time of the year we can focus on the forgiver – Jesus. Jesus’ birth ultimately leads to the cross. You cannot have one without the other. So make Christmas a time for sharing Jesus. Not just His birthday, but His very reason for coming in the first place. Tell your kids why Jesus’ birth is so wonderful for you as a Christian – that He has saved you from your sins. For me, this brings a clear sense of anticipation and expectation on the real reason for the season.

What does your family do to center Christ in your Christmas celebration? Join the conversation by posting a comment and maybe your ideas will help another family to make more of Christ this Christmas!

What should a Christian’s response be to a President elected whom you did not vote for?

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Last night as I drifted to sleep, I found myself pondering the next four years. As President Barak Obama accepted victory in this divisive election which has polarized opposing American values, he claimed, “The best is yet to come!”

I did not vote for this president. As I follow Christ, there are immovable values that I could not shake in order to agree with President Obama. And as a Christ-follower, I remain steadfast in the values that make up my Christian faith: to love God and people, the freedom to worship, disciple, and evangelize the hope of salvation that God extends, Biblical doctrine that guides life, and the protection of these rights for each and every citizen that so chooses. And while I believe that our President may stand on the other side of the isle from what I call convictions, as a Christian American, I believe that the Church has a valuable response to this election.

The paradox of Christian living: “We make home in a world that that is not our home” (John 18:36, Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 2:11). As Americans, we are commissioned to live IN a world while at the same time warned to resist becoming OF the world (John 17:14-19, Romans 12:2). Yet as Christians, we are called to revere God’s Kingdom above those of the rulers of the world (Matthew 6:33, Matthew 22:21, Acts 4:19-20).

American Christians who place their faith in the fate of an American president live a hopeless life! America is NOT the hope of the world as Governor Romney hailed at the conclusion of his presidential debate speech. As a divided United States, unity of America will not advance the Kingdom of God. Only when God’s people unite under the name of Jesus will [as Jesus prayed] “the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). President Barak Obama will lead this nation for another 4 more years, but God’s Kingdom without a doubt will reign 4ever!

So what should a Christian’s response be to a President elected whom you did not vote for?
Christians should respond the same for the leader of our nation whether you voted for him or not: PRAY. In 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul urged Timothy early in his ministry to pray for the anti-Christian Roman Emperor named Nero. Whether you voted for the “forward” progress of another four years, or you voted for the “restoration” of American principles, Christians all over this great nation must unite under the name of Jesus and PRAY for the leader commissioned to lead as President.

And we can do this because God remains unchanged. He has not been on the edge of His seat watching FoxNews worried over the outcome of this election. The fact that we continue under the presidency of Barak Obama does not change the mission of the Church. God still desires that “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). So on the day after the election results have been tallied, where do you pledge your allegiance?

Free Christian E-Books For Your Kindle?

About six months I scoured the pages of craigslist.com for a quality but gently used iPad. I created a list of several dozen uses that would allow me to be slightly more effective in ministry, saved my money, and was on the hunt.  Finally I found an iPad 2 for sale and to my surprise, it was not a scam.  Today I am the proud owner of an iPad which has opened the door for many perks including free e-books!

E-books are books that are available in a digital format that allows the user to read them on a digital reader (iPad, Kindle, smartphone, etc.).  Kindle created an amazing (and free) app for android and apple devices including the iPad.  Using this app, I have the amazing opportunity to download any e-book from amazon.com.

What’s even more amazing, often times authors and publishers will discount their e-books simply to push the number of downloads their books receive.  This discount is often 75%-100% off the retail price listed by amazon.com.  This is alone is an amazing reason to have the Kindle app.

Finding these e-books can be challenging.  Especially if you are specifically looking for books written by Christian authors.  Amazon.com has a deals page, but they compile all of the discounted books in every genre which can be a painstaking journey for one good book.

That is why I was so excited to discover my friends at gospelebooks.net.  They do all of the leg work for you!  And since I signed up for daily email updates, every morning I receive an email of the free and discounted books that they have found.  I LOVE THIS MINISTRY!  Since I discovered Gospel E-Books about four months ago, I have downloaded 35 e-books and all of them but two were free!  Today I’m reading more than I ever have thanks to the amazing books that I’m finding and downloading.

So you should check them out!  Go to gospelebooks.net , like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter @gospelebooks.  You will thank me for introducing you to them.

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