With the busyness of the Christmas season, I was determined to read The Sparkle Box book to two of our grandchildren last night. I’ve read it to all our grands the past few years and each time it helps me to stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas—the birth of Christ and sharing the love of Jesus with others.
The story depicts a little boy, Sam, who anxiously wants to open the sparkle box that sits on the fireplace mantle. His mother tells him that they must first fill the box up before opening it on Christmas day.
Unknowingly to Sam, his mom begins writing down acts of love their family offers throughout the Christmas season and puts the slips of paper into the sparkle box. There are several, but not to give the whole story away, here’s the one that touches my heart (and the heart of our grandchildren) the most.
“Mittens and candy bar given to a man in need.”
While driving back home from dropping off some blankets and other items at the homeless shelter, Sam noticed a man curled up and lying on a park bench. Sam’s mom said, “That’s someone who might get one of our blankets.” A few days later, while shopping with his mother, Sam bought some mittens for the “mitten tree” at his school and a candy bar for himself. But as they were leaving the store, the man they had seen lying on the park bench entered the store. Immediately drawn to the tired-looking man, Sam ran by him sticking the gloves and the candy bar into the man’s hands as he and his mom left the store.
To read The Sparkle book online, you may go to this website https://www.thesparklebox.com/ It is free to read through December 31. 2018.
After finishing the book, our grandkids said that they would like to go by and visit their friends at the nursing care facility and take them some Christmas gifts. Emy recalled that her friend enjoys ceramics, so she said she’d like to buy her a paint set. And Max said he’d like to take his friend some sugar packets because his friend loves lots of sugar in his coffee.
Our grandchildren’s ministry, Lights Shine Bright, makes routine visits to a local nursing care facility. Each grandchild has been assigned a special friend who doesn’t receive many visitors. They (Lights Shine Bright) will present the Tale of Three Trees at the nursing care facility during the Christmas season.
I am thankful for the time God gifts to me, to intentionally spend time with our grandchildren, as we live out a love for Jesus and others.
Reading books to children and grandchildren can be a cherished memory. Our daughter started a Christmas tradition of reading 25 Christmas books with her children throughout the Advent season. One-a-day!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7).
If I had only one passage of Scripture to share with my children and grandchildren, I believe Proverbs 3:5-7 would rank very close to the top.
Having years of life experiences behind me now at age sixty-one, trusting in the LORD or on my own understanding has definitely been a teeter-totter ride for me.
As with most people, it’s easy for me to trust in the LORD when all is at rest or there’s little to worry about. I’ve learned, however, that this is actually the best time to build up a reserve of trust in the LORD. For we all know that the storms of life often arrive with little or no warning.
Building a reserve of trust in the LORD
- Set aside a specific time and place to meet with God daily.
- Read God’s Word daily. Choose a reading plan that works best for you in the varied seasons of life.
- Spend quality and quantity time simply being in God’s presence without any distractions.
- Prayer is always a two-way conversation. God desires us to share our hearts openly with him, which is usually the easiest part of prayer. Then, be sure to wait in the quietness of your mind to listen for God’s gentle and loving voice to speak to you.
- Share your prayer requests with those who love you.
- Use a journal to write down your thoughts as God speaks to you through his word and through prayer. Record all the significant joy-filled blessings in your life, as well as the difficult circumstances that come your way. Be sure to date these, because as you look back over the years, you will see how God has faithfully been watching over you and caring for your every need. It always amazes me and strengthens my faith to see how God works out His best for me especially when the circumstances seem so overwhelming at the time.
- Share your testimony of God’s faithfulness in your life with others.
- “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Recalling Rev. Billy Graham’s message when he spoke at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, 2004. He had keen spiritual insight into the way our country was headed. And sadly, he was right.
Both Graham and his eldest son, fellow evangelist Franklin Graham, linked their religious messages to contemporary issues.
“There is a great move on in this country to take prayer out of the schools, take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance, and take down the Ten Commandments,” Billy Graham said from the Arrowhead Stadium platform. “As a nation it seems we are turning away from God. But Jesus Christ is coming back, and that is the future of this world.”
Recalling how Rev. Billy Graham personally touched our lives:
Rev. Billy Graham’s message of the loving and saving grace of Christ touched our lives, especially through Decision Magazine.
I’ll always remember how my husband read Decision magazine following his salvation in 1981. Decision magazine was delivered to our home back then in the form of a newspaper. Not being a Christian at the time, I started reading Decision to see what Jeff was so interested in. After seeing such a miraculous change in Jeff’s life and reading the wonderful accounts of God’s amazing love and transformational power in the lives of thousands, I surrendered my life to Jesus about six months after Jeff.
While looking for earlier publications of Decision magazine, I came across an article that touched my heart this morning. The article is titled Spiritual Heart Disease, a sermon preached by Billy Graham in 1957. I was gripped with the thought that this is truly what America is suffering from. It’s not an issue of gun control, it’s an issue of a nation’s diseased heart. And the only cure is Jesus. Our nation, once established and founded on the One True God and his guiding Scriptural principles has lost its way, and our children and our children’s children are paying a horrible price for our negligence and compromise.
May God raise up a people who will once again humbly repent of their sins (individually and as a nation), who will turn from their/our wicked and stubborn/prideful ways, and who will fully surrender their hearts to Christ our Savior and King.
We desperately need revival, a revival of the heart in America. But if not, “Jesus is coming back, and that is the future of this world.”
Rev. Billy Graham’s message, Spiritual Heart Disease, sermon preached May 23, 1957, at the historic New York crusade. (From Decision Magazine, February 6, 2018)
And do you know the greatest stumbling block to the Kingdom of God? Murder? No. Drunkenness? No. Adultery? No, pride. More people stay out of the Kingdom of God because they’re proud than any other reason. We don’t like to humble ourselves and come to the cross of Christ, and say, “O God, I’m a sinner.”
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
While on vacation with our daughters and their families, we took the opportunity to reinforce some Bible truths during a creation trail.
Arriving near the top of Hot Springs Mountain (Arkansas), everyone hopped out of their cars and quickly located a shady spot with some large rocks to sit on. I quickly handed out small brown bags with these words written on them: Creation Vacation, “In the beginning God created…” (Genesis 1:1).
After sharing a brief devotion about creation and the significance of Sabbath, I asked everyone to look for special finds along the trail that remind them of God’s creation. They later amazed me with all the unique items that filled their bags.
“The red berry reminds me of the blood of Jesus.”
“Butterfly wings, an awesome find!”
“This fern sprig will remind me of our special trail with our grandchildren.”
It is extremely important to teach our children and grandchildren God’s Word, beginning at an early age.
In Old Testament times, the primary purpose of education among the Jews was the learning of and obedience to the law of God, the Torah. The word Torah can refer to all Jewish beliefs, however, it commonly refers to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
The home was considered the first and most effective environment in the education process, and parents were considered the first and most effective teachers of their children.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 gives clear instruction into how parents are to teach their children about God: “ 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Parents are instructed to use various ordinary activities of life as avenues to teach about God. All of life permeated by spiritual meaning and teaching about God can flow naturally from life’s everyday activities as parents choose to be intentional in training their children.
Basic means of imparting spiritual knowledge to children is by example, imitation, conversation and stories. Parents can utilize the interest aroused in their children by actual life observances (birth of a child, holidays, illness, death, marriage, Sabbath, vacations, and so on).
If we don’t teach our children to follow Christ, the world will teach them not to.
Various successes come our way, some offering momentary fulfillment and joy. I am grateful for these. For me, the greatest success in life is to achieve the purpose for which God has called me to. The purpose that drives me is the passion of my heart and soul: To intentionally pass down my faith in Christ to my children and grandchildren.
Most recently, my four-year-old granddaughter paid me the greatest compliment I could ever receive. “Nana, I’m making this bracelet for you because you love Jesus so much!”
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Quote from George Washington Carver: “The secret of my success? It is simple. It is found in the Bible.”
True successes come with much prayer and perseverance.
View From the Summit (Excerpt from Turning Point, Dr. David Jeremiah, July 13, 2017)
In her book Reach for the Summit, former Tennessee women’s head basketball coach Pat Summitt wrote, “There are different kinds of success. There is fame and fortune, which…is a pretty flimsy, short-lived kind of success. Then there is the more gratifying kind of success that comes from doing something you love, and doing it well. Still another kind of success results from committing to one person and raising a child with them. Yet another is finding a sustained faith in your church. But notice something about all the various forms of success. They are open-ended. They aren’t tasks that you finish. Success is a project that’s always under construction.”1
God wants to give us success as He defines it—the fulfilling of His perfect will for our lives. That’s a lifelong process that unfolds as we follow Him daily.
Somehow, you have to make a commitment to get better every day, no matter how successful you were the day before.
Pat Summitt 1Pat Summit, Reach for the Summit (NY: Broadway Books, 1998), chapter 12.
Pat Summitt (American women’s college basketball head coach accrued 1,098 career wins, the most in NCAA basketball history. She served as the head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team from 1974 to 2012). Pat lived out “much prayer and perseverance” on and off the court. Pat was diagnosed with the early onset of Alzheimer’s at 59. She passed away at 64, June 2016.
Excerpt from CP (Christian Post):
Quote from Pat Summitt’s son, Tyler, about his mother: “For 64 years, my mother first built her life upon a strong relationship with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Summitt wrote in the statement. “Her foundation was also built upon love of her family and of her players, and love of the fundamentals of hard work which reflected her philosophy that ‘you win in life with people.'”
The Faith of Basketball Legend Pat Summitt: God Gave Me ‘Certain Work to Do’
To read more about Pat Summitt’s life go to the link below:
I received an early Christmas gift from our five-year-old grandson Max. Though he didn’t realize it at the time, his gift will never wear out or lose its value.
Intentionally nurturing our grandchildren’s faith in Christ is my greatest passion and joy. That’s why this exceptional gift from Max blessed me so deeply.
After reading Advent stories and making a craft, I set my grandkids in front of our television to watch the Christmas DVD, The Crippled Lamb (by Max Lucado). The older children fondly remembered the story from past Christmases and our grandson Jack proudly announced he’d read the book the night before.
As my daughter and I warmed ourselves under blankets, we observed the children’s attentiveness to the story.
At the conclusion, I seized the opportunity to discuss the movie’s theme. I told my grandchildren that God has purpose for everyone’s life, including people with disabilities. Initially, the crippled lamb felt useless and left out. Then on the night of Christ’s birth, the little lamb realized his purpose as he laid next to baby Jesus, warming the Savior of the world’s tiny frail body.
During our conversation, Max stated, “Yes, just like Leo who can’t hear.” Leo is our ten-year-old neighbor who was born deaf. I said, “Exactly, God has a purpose for Leo’s life just like He does for everyone.” Then Max pronounced, “I think we need to all make a circle, hold hands, and pray!” So we did, but before I had time to ask Max what he wanted to pray about, he simply spoke to God, asking him to heal Leo “so she could hear better.”
The gift Max gave to me was one of eternal value. One that came wrapped with love, compassion, and sincerity.
15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17)
Dear Heavenly Father, please keep our hearts tender toward the Gift of your Son, Jesus, at Christmas and each day throughout the year.
Be sure to keep watch for the everlasting gifts of Christmas.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14)
The early Christmas gift from Max will remain in my heart forever.
This Christmas, may you know that your life has purpose, and is of great value, just because…
God created you…to have fellowship with Him and to share in His love through Christ with others. (Genesis 1:27, 1 John 1:3)
Our ultimate purpose is to give our Creator all the glory that is due Him. Like the little crippled lamb in the story, we may feel useless and left out from time to time, but please remember, God does have a plan and purpose for everyone, including you.
God’s plan is for everyone to receive salvation (from and sin and death) through His Son. If you have never accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, please take this moment to consider praying right now and asking Jesus to come into your heart.
The Bible clearly states that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). And the Bible also tells us, God provided a way for us to have our sins forgiven and to restore our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Salvation is a free (but costly) gift offered to all who will receive it. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Receive the greatest gift this Christmas, the gift of eternal life.
Pray to receive Jesus as your personal Savior: (Pray in your own words and from the sincerity of your heart.) The simplest prayer (like my grandson Max’s) will be heard and answered by the Creator of the World.
I’ve tried to live my life without you, but this has left me feeling empty, lonely, and sad. I know that my sins have separated me from you. Please, God, forgive me for living a life of pride. I have committed many sins against you, and I have also hurt others. I am so sorry, God.
I now want to ask Jesus into my heart, so I can live for you, God, and spend eternity with you and all my loved ones who put their trust in you.
I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and that He was raised on the third day from the grave, and is now in Heaven preparing a place for me.
So, dear Jesus, please come into my heart and give me new life.
Thank you, Father, for loving me and giving me purpose. With the help of Your Holy Spirit, I will do my best to live a life that honors and pleases you.
The Bible says: “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
The Bible also says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Wow! You are now a new person in Christ, and that means you are a child of God.
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).
To help you grow in your new faith in Christ, I encourage you to locate and start attending a good Bible-teaching/preaching church. I recommend checking out The Church of the Nazarene. There are other good churches as well; I only recommend the Nazarene Church because I’ve been a member of the Church of the Nazarene since 1985 and have grown deeper in love with Jesus through the teachings of the Bible through the Nazarene Church.
I also encourage you to begin reading the Bible, starting with the Gospel of John.
Other Recommended Reading:
The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren
The Crippled Lamb DVD & Book, Max Lucado