The Miracle of Christmas

Each year during the Christmas season, Linda and I enjoy watching again many of our favorite Christmas movies from the past. Linda’s favorites is “Miracle on 34th Street.” In this movie a girl wants only 2 things for Christmas: a family and a house with a swing in the backyard. At the end of the movie the “miracle” occurs, and it occurs on 34th Street.

I am thinking of another street of miracles. No, it’s not 34th Street, but rather, Main Street in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago. There God performed a miracle—He became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ.

Theologians refer to this miracle as incarnation. Not reincarnation, but incarnation. The term means “in flesh.” Jesus Christ was and is both fully God and fully human. And the miracle of Christmas is that it’s true meaning can be celebrated all year long.

Why is that true? Because of the personal nature of the miracle. We see this fact in the announcement of the angel to shepherds near Bethlehem: “Unto you Christ been born.”

It’s a Miracle That Calms Our Fears
The shepherds were out tending their sheep. Just an ordinary night for them until an angel appeared and announced Christ’s birth (His incarnation) in the city of Bethlehem. The angel said to the shepherds, “Don’t be afraid” (Luke 2:10).

Jesus’ coming into the world was God’s answer for feelings of fear. How is this possible? The answer is that Jesus has already conquered whatever it is that causes us to feel afraid.

Finances? God supplies our needs through Jesus—Philippians 4:19.
Death? Jesus was raised from the dead to conquer it—1 Corinthians 15:55
Loneliness? Jesus aid, “I’ll never leave you or forsake you”—Hebrews 13:5
Worry? Jesus said that if we seek God’s rule in our lives first that He would take care of the anxiety—Matthew 6:33
Stress? Jesus said, “Come to me and I will give you rest”—Matthew 11:28
The future? When Jesus is in your life you live an abundant, overcoming life—John 10:10
A decision you are facing? Jesus, the light of the world, gives us light (insight) for our daily decisions—John 812

It’s a Miracle That Brings Joy to Our Lives
The angel’s announcement to the shepherds continued: “I bring you good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10).

Joy is Jesus’ gift to us. But what is this joy anyway? Bible joy is a deep sense of delight and gladness even though things around us might not be delightful.

And herein is the rub. Since Jesus has given us joy, and His joy enables us to experience gladness even in the face of troubles, then why is it that so many Christ followers don’t act like they have joy?

I think I know the answer. Whenever we shift our attention and focus off Jesus and onto our troubles, we lose our joy. And our circumstances come between us and Jesus. Do you need to recover your joy?

It’s a Miracle That Points Us to a Savior
The angel spoke to the shepherds, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Jesus is a personal Savior. “Unto you,” said the angel
Jesus is a sufficient Savior. “Christ the Lord,” said the angel.
Jesus is an understanding Savior.

Where were those shepherds to find Jesus? In the finest hotel room? In a king’s castle? No, the angels said, “This will be a sign to you. You will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:13).

Why did God do Jesus’ birth that way? To lets us know He can identify with us. He fully understands us because He became a human being and went through the same struggles we go through.

Is Jesus your Savior? That is, have you personally invited Him to be a Savior to you? This is the miracle of Christmas. God can be real to you as you live for Jesus. Believe me. Its’ the most hopeful way to live your life.

A Christmas Gift List for the People in Your Life

Each year about the end of November, Linda and I begin our annual Christmas ritual. We take a yellow pad and begin to make our Christmas gift list. We’ve done this for years. We write the names of family members, persons we work with, and persons who provide services to us, and other important people in our lives. As we go into stores to shop, our sheet from the yellow pad goes with us. If we shop online, the list is in front of us.

Maybe you do something like this as well. Maybe you’ve already begun to make your Christmas gift list. What (or who) should be on your Christmas gift list this year?

In thinking about your list, I want to call your attention to a Bible verse—1 Thessalonians 3:9: “How can we possibly thank God enough for all the happiness you have brought us?” Let me explain the verse.

The New Testament apostle and missionary, Paul, had planted a church in the ancient city of Thessalonica. The members of the church had faced persecution for their faith. Yet, those troubles had made them strong in the Lord. That fact brought joy to Paul’s life. He thanked God for these precious people God had brought into his life.

Who are the people in your life who mean the most to you? Before this Christmas season draws to a close, and with those persons in mind, I want to suggest that you consider 3 areas.

1. Make a List of the Most Important People in Your Life
On your list might be your wife, your husband, your children, your grandchildren, your parents, your brothers or sisters, some close friends, a favorite aunt or uncle, a fellow church members, or possibly someone you work with.

Ask yourself,
• To whom do I owe a deep debt of personal gratitude?
• Who are the people who have been there for me?
• Who are the folks who have taught me life’s greatest lessons?
• Who has never failed to love me and encourage me?
• Who are the people who have served as my role models?

2. Thank God for Bringing These People Into Your Life
That’s what Paul did. He said, “I can’t thank God enough for you.” So, who, then, are the people God has strategically placed into your life?

For you that might be:
• Someone who gave you wise counsel at a critical point in your life.
• Someone who held you accountable when you were about to make a terrible mistake.
• A special youth minister in your life during your adolescent years, and his or her influence still impacts your life.
• A pastor whose Bible teaching helped you grow spiritually.
• A person whose Godly example encourages you.

3. Tell Those People How Much They Mean to You
Paul took time to say, “Thank you . . . I appreciate you . . . You fill my life with joy.” This step might seem like such a simple thing to do, but I would dare to say that many of us don’t say these things often enough.

I’m not trying to manipulate you into being overly sentimental or trying to make you mushy and syrupy. I do, though, want you to keep something in mind—people will not know who you feel about them unless you make the effort to tell them.

This Christmas will you consider giving a special gift to the people in your life who mean the most to you? Tell them how much they mean to you. As you do this, you will bring hope to their lives.

5 Words That Make You a Better Person

I’ve enjoyed reading Clay Scroggins’ book, Leading When You Are Not in Charge. In Chapter 4 he writes about “the hall pass.” Did you ever get a hall pass in school? You could wander the halls, hang out at your locker, peek into other classrooms, and chew gum if you wanted to. If someone attempted to stop you, all you had to do was hold up the hall pass.

The hall pass had a negative side. It gave you an “out.” In other words, it excused your behavior while you were in the hall. I fear many people today are living a “hall pass” kind of life. They want an out. They invent an excuse for almost everything. They seldom take responsibility for themselves. They live with a victim’s mentality.

I believe 5 words help us both avoid the hall pass mentality and equip us to live the life we want. Are you ready? You are responsible for you. This statement means your boss is not responsible for you. Your spouse is not responsible for you. Your family doctor is not responsible for you. You are responsible for you. Or in Clay Scroggin’s words, “You are in charge of you.”

These 5 Words Are Biblical
I think this is what the Bible has in mind when Galatians 6:5 states, “We each must carry our own load.” Yes, there will be many opportunities in your life when you help shoulder someone else’s burden because you choose to. But there are a multitude of duties that only you can carry out. For example, you are in charge of what you believe. You are responsible for your actions and feelings. You are responsible for your body. You are in charge of your viewpoints. You are responsible for your own happiness. You are in charge of your work ethic. You get the picture.

A Mark of Character
“You are responsible for you” is a character trait. Shouldering personal responsibility makes you a mature person. Taking responsibility for yourself is the way you own and reclaim your life. Admittedly there might have been life circumstances and family background issues that have influenced you, but ultimately, you are responsible for the person you become.

An Act of Loving Yourself
When you were a newborn, other people took care of you. All you had to do was eat, cry, and poop. But as we move toward adulthood, we learn to take responsibility for getting our needs met. Seen this way, then, responsibility is an act of caring for yourself. If you care, you will take the necessary actions that you are called to perform. You are being true to yourself. You are expressing respect for the sacredness of your life. You are honoring the person God wants you to become.

The Best Way to Be a “Happy Camper”
Jerry McGuire was not correct when he told Dorothy Boyd, “You complete me.” If you leave your happiness in someone else’s hands, you’ll end up becoming dependent on them, and when they let you down or they don’t meet your expectations, you will feel angry. Other people—your spouse, your kids, your boss, your teacher—don’t exist to make you happy. You are responsible for your own happiness. It’s a giant step toward maturity when we wrap our brains around this truth.

The Only Way to Develop a Personal Faith
James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” This Bible verse speaks of our accountability for our personal sin. (Sin is a Bible word for all the times we have thumbed our noses at God’s standards.) The Bible goes on to teach us that the consequences of our personal sin is separation from God (see Romans 6:23). Why does God have the right to set standards for your behavior? Simply because He made you.

But God, in His goodness and great love, has acted to provide forgiveness for our sinfulness. Jesus, God in the flesh, died a sacrificial death on a Roman cross. Jesus took upon Himself the punishment for sin that we deserved.

When we take responsibility for our sin, and trust (fully commit ourselves to) what Jesus did on that cross for us, we enter into a personal relationship with God. So, you see, even the step of developing a personal faith (salvation) begins with personal responsibility.

So, here are 5 words guaranteed to make you a better person. Even more, they bring hope to your life.

Hope When You Feel Broken

After dealing with a giant pothole in the middle of the road for more than a year, Jackson, Mississippi, resident Eddie Prosser decided to do something that would get the city’s attention. He threw a birthday party for the pothole. Prosser put together a festive display at the pothole that featured birthday balloons and giant birthday card that read, “Happy Birthday Pothole”! The card also read, “I’ve been here for more than a year.

Prosser had already made 14 calls to the city’s 311 Action Line, but with no results. Finally, after local news outlets reported on the pothole party, the city fixed the pothole.

Peter Mui is the founder and organizer of Fixit Clinic—a “pop-up” activity where people bring their broken things to be repaired with the assistance of a volunteer Fixit Coach. These clinics are being held across the country. People bring broken DVD players, appliances, bicycles, and more.

Have you ever felt broken? Maybe you feel that way now. What does it mean to feel broken, anyway? It means you have been hurt or damaged to the point that you feel you need to be fixed. To feel broken means you feel so worn down that you have no more fight in you. You don’t feel you can trust anyone. Life loses its meaning. You don’t see the point of moving forward.

Here is the good news. God loves broken people. In fact, Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

No person is exempt from a broken heart, a crushed spirit, or a boatload of overwhelming problems. Psalm 34:19 goes on to speak honestly about life: “A righteous man may have many problems.” Even the best of people may feel broken. No one receives a get-out-of-adversity card.

And here is where the problem for us often begins. Many of us operate with the idea that if we do what is right, live for God, and follow His teachings that God sort of “owes” us the good life, one free of problems, a life with no feelings of brokenness. We might not say these words out loud, but we might act this way at times.

Psalm 34:18 gives a comforting promise to those who feel broken. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” The word “close” in the verse shows God making the first move. If you are open to God during your times of brokenness, He will draw near to you. He really will. Even more, He will give you His full attention.

Verse 18 goes on to say, “and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (think broken). This is not “saved” like Jesus dying on the cross to pay for our sins. Rather, the word here carries the idea of avenging us, defending us, what I call God giving the victory.

This word “save” in Psalm 34:18 can also mean “to open wide.” Sometimes, in our brokenness, we feel boxed in like there is no way out, or that we no longer have any options. But if you will take your brokenness to God, seek His wisdom and strength, He will make a way for you. In addition, He will give you the strength you need to keep pressing on. He will use your brokenness to develop you into a more resilient person.

When you feel broken don’t allow yourself to become a helpless victim. Bring your brokenness to God. He will help you become a victor. And that’s hopeful! (This article first appeared in The Post newspaper, Centre, AL)




Here’s hope from Psalm 34. When we trust God’s promises, every day is a great day. To order: Go to the link on this blog that reads “Gary’s books.”

Moving Yourself from Misery to Joy

Some recognition you likely don’t want. It’s 2017. Just named the “most miserable year” in more than a decade. This according to Gallup’s Global Emotional Index study. This study of more than 145 countries found people are experiencing more worry, stress, physical pain, anger or sadness at any point since the polling started in 2005. On an encouraging note, Latin America was named the most positive region.

Can you recall a time when you felt truly miserable? Maybe you are miserable now. Miserable in your marriage, or miserable in your job. What should you do? Consider the New Testament missionary Paul. While in chains in a Roman prison during the first century, Paul gave this challenge to one of the churches: “Rejoice! And I say it again, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Here is Paul in a miserable situation, and he said, “Choose joy!”

So how do we get to “joy” when we are miserable? Consider the following steps.

Quit Trying to Make People Feel Sorry for You
Do you know why we do this when we are miserable? There is a kind of power in causing people to walk on eggshells to make sure they don’t say or do something to increase your misery.

The Better Step: Start living. I think this is what Paul, the missionary, meant when he said, “Choose joy.” We can sit around and sulk, mope, and feel sorry for ourselves because of past mistakes or failures. Or we can get up and embrace a new day. Moving from a miserable person to a joyful person has to start the moment you wake up.

Don’t Isolate Yourself
When you are miserable you had rather close the blinds, shut the door, and just be a couch potato who faces your misery alone.

The Better Step: Build a support system. Who is a trusted friend you can talk with? Who are the people who truly love you and who will tell you the truth? Reach out to those persons. Joy comes from being in relationship with others.

Choose a Different Way of Seeing Things
Miserable people never see or expect the good in anything. Miserable people have no hopes and expect nothing good to happen. If this is the way you feel, choose a different way of seeing your day as well as your circumstances.

A Better Step: Be grateful. Here is an exercise I learned from a helpful book many years ago. Each day thank God for something you have never thanked Him for before. For example, I recall thanking God for a teacher who taught me to write. And then I thanked him that I had a pen to write with. Another day I thanked God for my shoes, and so on.

Refuse to Play the Victim
Miserable people are masters at victimhood. They blame their parents, a boss, a teacher, a husband or wife, or the police. You get the idea. Playing the blame game leaves you feeling stuck, and it only makes your victimhood persist.

A Better Step: You have the power to move on. Love yourself, forgive the oppressor, quit living in the past, and move forward. You really can do this. It’s a choice you make.

Commit Your Misery to Your Heavenly Father
God loves you and wants the best for you. He really does. So, this being true, why would you not place all your trust and faith in Him? He has promised, that if you will live for Him and love Him, He will take every circumstance of your life and work them for your good and His glory (see Romans 8:28).

A Better Step: You can trust God because He is in charge. The Bible teaches God is “sovereign,” meaning in control. This fact points us back to missionary Paul’s joy. Bible joy means I can have inner delight despite my miserable circumstances because I know God is in charge and He has my best interests at heart. Isn’t this hopeful?

Your Problems Help You Know God Better

Country music singer Garth Brooks wrote a popular song, “Unanswered Prayers,” in which he praised God for not giving him some of the things he had passionately prayed for in the past.

The New Testament missionary and apostle, Paul, knew about unanswered prayer. Paul struggled with a painful difficulty in his life. Three times he prayed asking God to more his affliction. God chose not to remove Paul’s problem. Instead, God answered Paul’s prayer differently—He gave Paul the grace and poise he need to handle this problem.

You can read about this experience in the Bible in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

Everyone Experiences Life’s Pain and Problems
Paul referred to his painful difficulty as a “thorn in the flesh” (v.7). Can you relate to that word picture? All of us have dealt with some kind of “thorn,” that is, some kind of adversity that discouraged us and brought pain into our lives.

Think about cancer, the emotional pain of a broken relationship, the death of someone you love. Your “thorn” could be a period of intense loneliness or a person who slandered you. Typical “thorns” might be a wayward child or a financial difficulty.

Every person has problems and difficulties. Don’t believe that because you have problems that God has singled you out. Even amid your pain, God still loves you like crazy.

Pray When You Encounter Life’s Pain
Paul prayed specifically that God would “remove” his thorn, his difficulty. I’ve prayed that way sometimes when I have had a troubling problem in my life. And I suspect you have, too.

You should pray about your problems because God cares about you and your problems. This means everything that concerns you also concerns God–every problem that you have is God’s problem. If you have invited Jesus to be your Savior, then you have entered into a covenant relationship with God. He desires to work in your life if you will let Him. The moment you invited Christ into your life you became a child of God, and He cares about His children.

God Answers Prayer
Evangelist Luis Palau has explained that God answers our prayers in the following ways:
“No, because I love you too much.”—In this case, God knows that what you are asking for in prayer really is not in your best interest, so He says, No.
“Yes, but you will have to wait.”— Immediate answers to prayer: You want them. I want them. But God simply does not always work that way. And to get His best, we must be patient.
“Yes, but not what you expected.”—This is the answer God gave Paul when Paul asked God to remove his difficulty. God, instead, gave Paul “sufficient grace” (see v.9). This idea of sufficient grace means God gave Paul the daily strength to continue on in spite of his problem.
“Yes, and here’s more.”—God is so loving and awesome. Occasionally He gives what you have requested AND EVEN MORE!
“Yes, I thought you would never ask.”—Prayer is not complicated although we sometimes think it is. Prayer simply is talking with God, openly and honestly, like you would talk to your best friend. The simplest prayer can bring the answer you need when you need it.

Life’s Problems Teach You About God
Verse 9 states, “Therefore I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”

Sometimes we experience what Paul experienced. Our problems don’t get better, and our circumstances don’t change, and we are left to lean wholly on God and trust Him. Actually, that’s not a bad place to be because in that position of leaning on God we learn more about His love and the sufficiency of His grace. And that’s hopeful!

Balancing Your Life With Boundaries

When I lived in Nashville, at the northeast corner of our backyard was a marker that designated our property line. The imaginary lines created by that marker separated my property from that of Mrs. Johnson who lived next door. When she would mow her grass, she would mow along that imaginary line, and when I mowed my grass I did the same. That property marker formed boundaries for our respective properties.

Have you established proper boundaries for your personal life? I can make this practical.
• Do you know someone who constantly gives unasked-for advice?
• Do you have someone in your life, say your mom, who tries to tell you where to spend your holidays, how to parent, or how to spend your money?
• Do you know an adult child who has moved in with his or her parents without their permission?
• Do you know someone who never can say “no” to other people’s requests?
• Do you know someone who attempts to “rescue” other people from their problems?
• Do you know someone who touches other people inappropriately?
• Or how about that person who breaks line in front of people?
• Do you know someone who is a people pleaser?
These are individuals without boundaries.






Boundaries and Your Emotional Health
Boundaries are like property lines that govern our lives, and they bring balance and emotional health to our lives. Here’s how.
• Boundaries help you maintain your separateness. They define who you are, and who you are not; what you are responsible for, and what you are not; and they define what you will allow, and what you will not.
• Boundaries build healthy relationships with others. If you are always complying with another’s wishes, that’s not healthy. If you are always being controlled and manipulated by others, that’s not healthy, either. If needy people are always taking advantage of you, then you need to set some boundaries in your life.
• Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us, and under what circumstances.
• Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own ideas and opinions.
• Emotional boundaries help us disengage from the manipulative actions of others.
• Spiritual boundaries help us distinguish God’s will from our own will.

God Is a Model for Setting Boundaries
Job 38:10-11 states, “When I [God] fixed limits I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther.’” God spoke these words about His creation of the land and the sea. He fixed boundaries for each.

But the concept of boundaries comes from the very nature of God. He defines Himself as unique, separate, and distinct. He said, “Your ways aren’t my ways” (see Isaiah 55:8). God takes responsibility for Himself by telling us what He likes and doesn’t like. By showing us what He feels, what He plans, and what He will and will not allow. God gives us the choice of saying yes to Him or no to Him, and He doesn’t manipulate us into saying either of those. God is a great model for boundaries.










How to Set Boundaries in Your Life
1. Be responsible for yourself and to others.—In regards to yourself, you are responsible for yourself. In regards to others you are only responsible to them. Those without boundaries live as though they are responsible for everyone else.
2. Accept that you have the freedom to decide what you will or will not do.—Persons without boundaries are compliant, not able to say no. They are afraid others will reject them or be mad at them so they always comply with others’ wishes.
3. Be accountable for your own choices. —Exercise your God-given freedom. Make your own choices. Just know that you are responsible for the choices you make. Don’t attempt to make others responsible for the choices you have made.
4. Meet your own needs.—Don’t operate as if your spouse, your friends, your pastor, or your boss are responsible for meeting all your needs. Need-meeting lies within your own boundaries.

Sometimes we focus so much on being loving, helpful, and unselfish that we forget our own limits and limitations. Boundaries prevent us from trying to control other people and from them trying to control us. And, best of all, boundaries bring more hope to your life.

**I was  helped in writing this blog post by “Boundaries” the terrific book by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It’s the best book on the subject you will find.

5 Ways to Conquer Worry

A UK-firm recently polled 18,000 respondents across the globe asking what worried them most. The top worries of people around the world were:
• Unemployment/jobs
• Corruption and political scandals in their country
• Poverty
• Crime and violence
• Healthcare, and
• Terrorism
What would you say worries you the most? Money to pay your bills? Your health? Whether you are attractive? Your financial future? Growing older? Your pet’s health? The behavior of your kids? Fear of the unknown? Something else?






How can you conquer worry in your life? Consider these 5 keys.

1. Rely upon God and His Word, the Bible.

A big mistake we make when dealing with anxiety and worry is attemping to tackle it in our own strength. Big mistake! Lean on God during times of worry. Seek His strength. Rest in Bible promises that help you with your worries. Examples are: Philippians 4:6-7; Isaiah 41:10; 1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 6:25; John 14:27. Don’t let your carnal nature persuade you that you can do a better job of handling your stressful, worry-producing situations than God can.

2. Pray About Your Worries

Make a list of all the matters in your life that are causing you to worry and to feel anxiety. Then, daily pray over each item on your list. Claim the promise of Philippians 4:6-7 as you pray. Trust that God will work in your circumstances.

3. Recognize How Little Worry Actually Helps You.

Jesus told us in Matthew 6:27 that worry won’t add hours or days to our lives. And I would add that worry won’t build you up, make you smarter, or give you confidence. But, as Whitney Hopler has written, worry will harm you physically (such as by contributing to high blood pressure, causing insomnia, and suppressing your immune system), mentally (by sending a stream of negative thoughts into your mind), and spiritually (by encouraging fear rather than faith in God). Worry also wastes valuable time and energy that you could be using for better activities.

4. Cultivate Contentment

Would you agree that much of what creates anxiety and worry in our lives is our discontent. We don’t have what others have. We aren’t satisfied with our possessions. We don’t like where God has us. Our home is too small or our car is not new enough. Philippians 4:11 states, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” From this verse we could say that contentment is a choice we make. And I believe when we choose contentment, we conquer many of our anxieties.

5. Be Thankful

Here is an exercise I learned years ago from a missionary. Each day thank God for something that you never have thanked Him for. One day I thanked God that a teacher taught me to write. On another occasion I remember thanking God that I had shoes. You get the idea. Run-through this exercise each day. You will grow in appreciation for what you have, and in the process, you will worry less.







God wants so much more for us than to walk through life full of fear, worry and anxiety. So, practice these 5 keys for conquering worry. Best of all, as you conquer your tendency to worry, you will have more hope in your life.

You Are Free to Choose–God’s Gift to You

I live near Rome, Georgia, home of the Rome Braves professional baseball team. The Rome Braves are the 1-A farm team for the major league Atlanta Braves. If you wanted to see the Rome Braves play you have choices of days of the week, choices of ticket prices, choices of where you wish to sit, and your choice of special promotions like Fireworks Night, Jersey Giveaway Night, Ladies Night, and more. Oh, the choices!

Yet, every day you and I make choices—lots of them. No one coerces our choices. No one has predetermined our choices. We get to choose. And this freedom to make our choices is, in my opinion, one of God’s best gifts to you.









Sometimes, theologians refer to this freedom to choose as human free will. I need to say some things about that before I help you see how special it is to have God-given freedom to choose.

1. Free will means you have the freedom to make choices that determine your destiny.
2. Free will does not mean you can choose to do anything you want. For example, you can’t choose to fly over the Grand Canyon because God did not make humans with the ability to flap wings and fly.
3. You are accountable for the choices you make. If you make good choices that honor God you will be blessed (see Deuteronomy 30:15-20 in the Bible). If you make bad choices that go against God’s standards you will suffer the consequences (see Galatians 6:7-8 in the Bible).
4. Because all humans have a nature inclined toward sin (disobedience to God), the only way we make good choices that honor God are through His grace and power. Otherwise, we never would choose God’s way.
5. Your freedom to choose overrides a view of life called fatalism. Have you ever heard someone say, “Whatever will be, will be?” Or, “If it’s meant to be, it will happen”? Those ideas come from fatalism, the view that future events have already been predetermined by God or another all-powerful force, such as “Fate.”
6. Your freedom to choose also counters determinism, the view that all events of life have already been determined. No, they haven’t. Your choices almost always determine your future destiny.







Again, here’s what I want you to see. God gave you the freedom to choose. And that freedom is one of His best gifts to you. Now, how does the freedom to choose actually impact your life? Consider statements like the ones that follow.

• “I’m not happy.” You have a choice. Choose to be happy.
• “I never have enough money at the end of the month.” You have a choice. Choose to be a better personal money manager.
• “Nothing good ever happens to me. I never can catch a break.” You have a choice. Quit talking like a victim. Take steps to make things happen for your benefit.
• “I don’t have the job I really want.” You have a choice. Get a different job.
• “I don’t know much about the Bible.” You have a choice. Read the Bible. Purchase Bible study helps that improve your Bible knowledge.
• “I’ll never be able financially to retire.” You have a choice. Start saving for retirement.
• “I’ll never get out of debt.” You have a choice. Build a budget. Live within your means. Pay off your debts. Resolve never to go in debt again.
• “I have no friends.” You have a choice. Be a friend to someone.
• “I’ll never get over this.” You have a choice. Pick yourself up, and with God’s help move forward.
• “I don’t know for sure if I will go to heaven when I die.” You have a choice. Choose to give your life to Jesus. Trust His death on the cross to provide forgiveness of your sins and eternal life. You have a choice.

Know Who You Are and You Will Have Hope

When I was a kid my dad’s side of the family celebrated annual family reunions. At each reunion, some adult would come up to me and ask, “Now, who are you?” I gave the same answer each year. “I am Leon Hardin’s son.”

Do you know who you are? Not from some distant relative’s standpoint, rather, do you know who you are from God’s viewpoint? Knowing who you are in God’s eyes is the key to self-confidence, healthy self-esteem, and hope. Since God gave us the Holy Scriptures, we should ask, What does the Bible say about human beings?

You Have Been Made in God’s Image
Genesis 1:26 states, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” When I was younger I often heard people say, “You are the spitting image of your mother.” (Those words were a Southern way of saying, You look like your mother.). To have been made in God’s image does not mean we look like God

In simplest terms, this awesome statement means God has built God-like qualities into us. For example, God is a creator. Humans can create things. God loves. Humans can love. God shows compassion. Humans show compassion. You get the idea.

The concept of being made in God’s image sets humans apart from all of God’s other creation. Never does the Bible say that dogs, trees, fish, bears, or any other of God’s creation have been made in His image. Only humans. This uniqueness gives us a special place in God’s created order. You and I really are the crowing act of God’s creation. This truth means we humans really are special to God.

You Have Been Given Free Will
Free will means the freedom to make your choices. God placed the first humans in the Garden of Eden with these words: “You may eat fruit from any tree in the garden, except one. If you eat from any fruit of that tree you will die” (Genesis 2:17).

God never made you a robot. Instead, God created you as a rational, thinking person. Each day you get to make choices about almost everything. That free will to make your own choices is a gift from God.

However, if your choices are not good ones you will suffer the consequences of your poor choices. The Bible calls our choices to go against God’s design “sin.” Those first humans made the choice to eat fruit from the forbidden tree. They were cast from the garden as a consequence of their disobedience toward God.

You Are a Sacred Person
“For you formed me in my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” says Psalm 139:13. In fact, all human life is sacred (revered, highly-esteemed, valuable) because God created humans. This great truth means your life has value to God. You are not a cog in a machine. You aren’t a primordial blob of something. God values you. He has purpose for your life. Your life really does have meaning.

Here’s another application of the sacredness of human life. Every person (regardless of race, ethnicity, or country of origin) has great value in God’s eyes. Here is one reason for celebrating diversity. God is so awesome that He made people from all over the world. And He loves them all deeply.

You Were Made to Have a Personal Relationship With God
Someone might ask, Why did God make me? The short answer is that God made you for His pleasure. Being created for God’s pleasure does not mean you were made to entertain God or provide Him with amusement. God is a creative Being, and it gives Him pleasure to create. God is a personal Being, and it gives Him pleasure to have other beings He can have a genuine relationship with.

How do you have a personal relationship with God? Remember that Bible word sin? Our sin creates a barrier between us and God. He is absolutely holy, and we are not. God made provision to remove the human barrier of sin through Jesus’ death on the cross. On that cross, Jesus took upon Himself the punishment we sinful humans deserve. Jesus made that sacrifice because He loves us so much. When you ask God to forgive your sins, and you trust what Jesus did for you on that cross, you experience what Christians call “salvation.” You have begun the joyful journey of a personal relationship with God.

Have you made the decision to turn from your sin and to trust Jesus for your salvation? Because God loves you, He began a rescue mission with one goal—that of saving human life from the awful consequences of sin. This venture, in which He has made an inestimable investment, seeks to restore what sin has destroyed.

This is the good news Christians call “the gospel.” And when you live for Jesus’ agenda, instead of live for sins’ agenda, you live with hope.