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“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.”

~ Max Lucado

“Dear Lord, don’t let us miss You this Christmas season. Help us to simplify our activities and traditions so we can focus our celebration on Your birth. Thank You for being the Prince of Peace, and I ask You for that supernatural peace to reign in our hearts. Thank You for the simple but life-changing message of Your love for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

~ Melanie Chitwood

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Christmas gift giving can, and should, be a wonderful experience — but too often it’s full of relational complexities instead of wonder. We all would want love to be the motivation behind our gifts, but if we’re honest, other motivations often muddy the waters.

Like other people’s expectations, for example. We often give gifts because we fear disappointing or offending others. We can feel obligated to give certain people a certain number of gifts at or above a certain financial threshold. Motivations like these distort Christmas gifts into appeasement offerings.

And then, of course, we have our own expectations. The kind and quantity of gifts we give others and expect from others can have more to do with us than them. Maybe we use gifts to recapture nostalgic Christmas experiences of our past, or to pursue ideal experiences we feel we’ve missed out on. Or maybe our gift exchanges have more to do with generational traditions than the real people we’re giving to. Or maybe we errantly believe our value and others’ value correspond to the expense or quantity of gifts we give and receive.

These motivational currents make for muddy Christmas waters, and they are strong in our culture. The powerful American Christmas economy is, I suspect, driven more by fear, obligation, manipulation, and personal preference than good will toward men.

To whatever degree this is true for us, it need not remain true for us. Change is possible, even this year. Gifts can once again become wonderful. For God has shown us a more excellent way.

God Shows Us How to Give Gifts

That more excellent way is found in the most famous verse in the Bible: “God so loved the world, that he gave . . . ” (John 3:16). Stop there and linger for a moment. God so loved that he gave. God is revealing something profound here. What’s the connection between love and giving? It is the very nature of love to give. And since God is love, it is the very nature of God to give (1 John 4:8). Love expressed is love given. Love given is true gift.

Now let’s complete that most famous verse: “ . . . that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If love expressed is love given, supreme love expressed is supreme love given. If love given is true gift, supreme love given is the greatest of all true gifts.

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Revival begins here.

Revival!

“…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 will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7.14

Ministers of Scotland: Lectures on Revival
The Rev. John Bonar, Minister of Larbert and Dunipace
“Such being the nature of revival, it will not be difficult for us to appreciate the state of religion which most requires it – which at once demonstrates it as most needful, and yet declares it far away, unless it be brought nigh by much prayer and the outpouring of the Spirit in answer thereof.”

Revival is a work of God’s Spirit, in which believers and their churches are renewed in joyous experience of Christ, fervent love for His Word, and an earnest desire to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to one and all. Revival comes when God’s Spirit moves suddenly and deeply upon a community of His people, bringing them to repentance, creating in them a hunger for more of God’s Word, and renewing them thoroughly from the inside-out. Revival does not come unless God’s people seek the Spirit, and prayer is the appropriate setting for this. God calls us to pray for revival. He has revived His people many times during the course of church history; and He has awakened significant, even astonishing, numbers of lost soul as His churches are revived and renewed. Let us not be found among those who insist that revival is “far away.” Rather, let us labor to bring it nigh with prayer, eagerly looking for a fresh upwelling and outpouring of God’s Spirit.

Do you pray regularly for God to send revival? Do you lead your church to pray for revival? Do you expect revival to come apart from praying for it, specifically, repeatedly, earnestly, and with your fellow believers?

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“The potencies of prayer hath subdued the strength of fire; it hath bridled the rage of lions, hushed the anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, assuaged diseases, repelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. Prayer is an all-sufficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine which is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the foundation, the mother of a thousand blessings.”

John Chrysostom (347-407)

“Prayer must carry on our work as much as preaching; he preacheth not heartily to his people that will not pray for them.” 

~ Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter Colour.jpg

“Some men, not content with [Christ] alone, are borne hither and thither from one hope to another; even if they concern themselves chiefly with him, they nevertheless stray from the right way in turning some part of their thinking in another direction. Yet such distrust cannot creep in where men have once for all truly known the abundance of his blessings.”

~ John Calvin (1509-1564)

“The key to Christian living is a thirst and hunger for God. And one of the main reasons people do not understand or experience the sovereignty of grace and the way it works through the awakening of sovereign joy is that their hunger and thirst for God is too small.”

~ John Piper

John Piper Photo

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