Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Real Deal

Car shopping. Not my favorite pastime, but a necessity since our vehicle is closing in on 150,000 miles, with some major repairs looming. We had numerous options. We hadn’t made a decision beyond the fact that we knew we were interested in a pre-owned vehicle. It was only when we began comparing features that we realized we did have some definite requirements and preferences.

My husband and I had narrowed down our search based on price point, function, and value. Since we had a number of different makes and models we were considering, we set off on our search for the perfect choice for our family.

The first vehicle we drove handled well, but had a fairly spartan interior. As we continued our search, we drove a vehicle we loved, but were unable to get the dealer to negotiate to our price point. A third vehicle was quickly checked off our list when we realized it didn’t have some of the features we knew we wanted.

By now, evening was upon us. The sun had gone down and a cold, wintry wind made it easy to call it quits for the day. The drive home gave us an opportunity to compare notes. We were in agreement about the make and model of vehicle. Now, if we could only find one at our price point. After prayer, additional research, and a few phone calls, we found the vehicle that will replace our well-loved Acura. And wow, what a deal!

As I think about the long list of requirements the new vehicle meets, I can’t help but draw a spiritual comparison. There is a void in each one of us that is aching to be filled. We may think that friendship will fill the void. Maybe a successful career or accumulating wealth will be the answer. Many have tried these things only to come up short. The only thing that will meet our many ‘requirements,’ and fill our void is the person, Jesus Christ.

I love contemplating everything He is in my ever-changing circumstances. On those days when I’m struggling, Psalm 121:5 reminds me that, “The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand” (KJV). He is my shelter during life’s inevitable storms (Psalm 61:3). He consistently offers me grace and mercy. “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful” (Psalm 116:5).

When I am weak, He is my strength. “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation” (Exodus 15:2). The Apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians assure me of my God’s provision, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

He is my treasure and my portion forever. The Psalmist, David, penned the following words that express this thought, “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup” (Psalm 16:5a).
I could never find a closer friend. A friend who will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5b) A friend who willingly laid down His life for me. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). In every situation, He is everything I need and so much more. The real deal. What are you in need of today? Let Jesus Christ meet each one of your needs. He alone is faithful and able!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Light

It was pitch black. The silence was uncanny. How could silence be described as deafening? Yet it was. Almost as if the silence pressed against my ears, and became a roaring noise. Strange, but true. I was hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth in Mammoth Cave.

The features of the cave appeared 'other-worldly.' From stalactites and stalagmites to rivers and lakes, I was amazed by everything that existed in this underground cavern. Our tour guide had brought us to this portion of the cave to demonstrate the utter darkness that would surround us if all the lights were extinguished. Unable to make out my hand in front of my face, I was convinced! When the lights were turned on, the darkness was dispelled. With light once again flooding our path, we finished our exploration of the cave. Although this experience was lived out over thirty years ago, the memory of the temporary darkness in the cave left a lasting impression on me.

This week we had a special Christmas party for the children at our church who participate in the Awana program. It is a tremendous program that evangelizes and disciples children, encouraging them in their walk with Jesus Christ. I was captivated by the Director's message. As he read the account of the Christmas story from Luke 2, he brought up the fact that Jesus is the Light of the world. I was reminded of my 'cave' experience.

Just like the lights dispelled the darkness in Mammoth Cave, Jesus came to this earth to dispel the darkness. He acknowledged, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12, KJV). Unfortunately, not everyone wants to trade his/her darkness for Jesus' light. "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). If they could only comprehend the great exchange that would take place upon laying down their darkness for God's marvelous light. Everlasting life spent with the Light of the world could be theirs. In Jesus' words, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:16-17).

Although He came as a babe in a manager, He came to be the Light that would point us to the Father. He came to "seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). What will you do with this gift of salvation He's extending to you? Will you move from darkness to the Light? He's beckoning you. His plans for you are great. "For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end" (Jeremiah 29:11).

If you've already accepted this amazing gift of salvation by grace through faith, will you be faithful to share the Light of the world with those who are still in darkness around you? The baby we celebrate this Christmas season, came "To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:77-79). Give the best gift this season! The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ - the Light of the world!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Perfect Gift

The list is long. Each year it's challenging to find the perfect gift for each person. Something unique. Something he or she will enjoy.

Since we're not travelling north for Christmas this year, I had to ship the majority of the gifts. Not wanting to pay a fortune in postage, my gift options were significantly limited. Hmmmm. Gift cards would be the perfect solution. Now I just had to decide from which stores to purchase the gift cards. After much thought, and a strategically placed phone call, I chose gift cards from stores that I knew each recipient would enjoy.

Now I only have a few more gifts to purchase. These are the ones for teachers and friends I'll be seeing before Christmas. But wait, have I forgotten to give the most important gift?

As I've pondered the Christmas story this season, I couldn't help but notice the gifts that the wise men brought to Jesus. "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11, KJV).

Although this event took place some time after the actual day of Jesus' birth, the wise men were careful to bring gifts for the King of Kings. They were gifts that were valuable to them. Things that were treasured. No doubt, they had sacrificed in order to purchase these gifts. The gift of gold spoke of His life: Jesus was royalty. The heavenly King humbled Himself, and left His throne to dwell among those He came to save. Frankincense spoke of his life. The fragrance of a sinless life. Myrrh spoke of his death. Apparently, these wise men were aware that the scriptures foretold the death of the Messiah for the sins of mankind.

In my haste to complete my Christmas shopping, I was leaving out the most important gift. But what could I give to Jesus? Some verses from the Psalms served to inspire me with 'gift' ideas. These were not 'cheap' gifts. These gifts would involve sacrifice.

Perhaps one of the most challenging gifts to give my Savior is a submissive attitude or spirit. One that readily admits sin, confesses and forsakes it. One that is quick to submit to His will. An attitude that is devoid of pride. The Psalmist David describes it as a 'broken' spirit. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:17).

The gift of praise. Instead of complaining, I need to praise the Lord for who He is and all He does. Once again, sacrifice is involved. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, praising doesn't come naturally. "I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O Lord; for it is good" (Psalm 54:6).

Along the same line, I can give the gift of thanksgiving. Both praise and thanksgiving are directed toward God, and can be shared with others. What a mighty God we serve! "And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing" (Psalm 107:22).

This Christmas season, I desire to present my life as a 'gift' to my Savior and King. Sacrificing my desires for His will, praising instead of complaining, and offering up thanks to a magnificent God. He is worthy! What are you willing to give the King of Kings?

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Very Special Night

The re-enactment was spectacular. From Roman guards and merchants, to the temple priest and townspeople. We were immediately transported back thousands of years to that very special night, when the birth of a baby would change the world.

The light mist that fell from the sky added to the surreal ambiance created by the flaming torches gleaming high above the 'city' walls. We waited with anxious anticipation to be ushered into the re-created town of Bethlehem. A narrator welcomed us and introduced herself as the innkeeper's daughter. She told us not to count on staying overnight in Bethlehem. All of the inns were full, in fact, earlier that evening, her father had had to turn away a couple because there were no more rooms. The young woman was clearly expecting, so her father had offered them the stable out back for shelter.

Off in the distance, I could make out the forms of Roman soldiers marching in formation declaring their allegiance to Caesar Augustus - the Roman ruler of the day. Once they were before us, their captain dismounted from his horse, climbed atop the city gate, and issued Caesar's decree: all the world was to be taxed. We were to register when we entered the city and pay our taxes as required. The guards took their roles seriously and with stern expressions, urged us to, "Move along!" They were not to be trifled with.

After registering, we continued into the 'city,' where we were amazed by the sights and sounds that overwhelmed our senses. Townspeople dressed in traditional garb, stirred large kettles of food that were suspended over open fires. Numerous stalls were erected, from which the Bethlehem merchants were selling their wares. The sounds of eastern music filled our ears. A selection of some of the foods of the day were on display and available to sample.

The shofar sounded, summoning the town's Jewish residents to the synagogue. The priest gave an explanation of the service and taught us a few sentences in Hebrew. He invited us to pick up a 'scroll' on the way out. As we carefully unrolled our scrolls, the words of Psalm 33:20-22 were visible, "Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee" (KJV).

As we descended the temple steps, townspeople with llamas and camels bustled by. The ever-present, Roman soldiers, hurried us on our way. Brick-masons, leather workers, and spice sellers were all busy about their tasks. We entered the heart of Bethlehem.

Another narrator told us the story of the anointing of the shepherd-boy, David, who eventually became the king of Israel. Ultimately, the Messiah would come from this Davidic line. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet had foretold, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:6-7).

After a tour of one of the local resident's home, we passed the inn. The innkeeper and his wife, although gracious, confirmed that their inn was full. As we continued on around back, we were met by quite a sight! Angels, robed in white, lit the sky while Mary and Joseph cradled baby Jesus, giving praise to the Father.

Each member of the cast who performed that night, had one goal in mind. To point all who passed through the gates of the recreated city of Bethlehem, to the reason for the season. Jesus Christ. As the angels proclaimed all those years ago, "...unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).

As you fill out your Christmas cards, purchase those final few gifts, and spend time with friends and family, will you take time to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas? Jesus Christ, the Savior, was born for you! That's definitely something worth celebrating!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Willing Surrender

Pregnancy. The anticipation of motherhood. In our culture, pregnancy outside of marriage doesn't carry the same impact it did centuries ago. Travel back in time to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, where a young lady named Mary was preparing for her marriage to Joseph.

Mary had been taught the importance of purity. The law which had been given to Moses by God was clear, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14). The consequences were severe: death by stoning. She had willingly remained a virgin.

How startled she was when the visitor arrived! Like no other visitor her parents had entertained, this visitor was none other than Gabriel, the angel of God. In her astonishment, she heard him speak, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28, KJV). She was frightened. She didn't understand. She was highly favoured? She was blessed? Before she could formulate a single word, the angel continued, "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:30b-33).

Unbelievable! She had been chosen to be the very mother of the Messiah! It still didn't make sense to her. She wasn't yet married to Joseph. She verbalized the question that had been troubling her, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 2:34b). The angel's reply shared God's brilliant plan, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:35-37).

She was a young lady engaged to be married. Her plans were turned upside down. How would Joseph respond to the news that she was expecting? Would he believe that an angel had appeared to her? Would he believe that she was of child by the Holy Ghost?

Instead of selfishly holding on tightly to her plans, Mary sacrificed them to the Lord. Her response stands out as one of willing surrender to the will of God: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1: 38a).

No indication is given that Mary bemoaned her circumstances. She had every reason to be terrified of being stoned. If Joseph didn't believe her, she would face a death sentence. Surely she would be ostracized and looked down upon. Everyone knew she wasn't married yet. Imagine the scornful glances cast Mary's way as she went about her daily chores. The rumors that circulated about her.

Oh, to adopt Mary's spirit! A spirit of unreserved surrender to the will of our Master. Even when it involves hardship and ridicule. Even when the rumors are flying. Christmas is the perfect time to reflect on God's amazing love for us. After all, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

God gave us the ultimate 'gift' of His Son that very first Christmas. Living for Him is a small 'gift' we can give in return. Will you surrender to His plans for you?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shining Brightly

Nothing. I plugged my Christmas tree lights in, anticipating the beautiful sparkle and glow, but was greeted with - nothing. Time to try a different outlet. Still nothing. Maybe I had plugged too many strands of lights together and it had overloaded the circuit. These were not commercial Christmas lights, so what was the rule? Was I only supposed to connect two strands? Or was it three? I think I had connected about five...most likely what was causing the problem.

An extension cord, a new fuse, and half an hour later, our tree was once again shining brightly. Ornaments once again catching the ethereal rays of hundreds of small lights. Lights bright enough to dispel the room's darkness. Lights that made me think of the unusually bright star that had appeared in the east, and been a guide to the wise men who were seeking baby Jesus.

I allowed myself to be transported back in time some two thousand years ago. I imagined myself as a wise man arriving in the bustling city of Jerusalem...

How exciting that my fellow travelers and I would actually be allowed an audience with King Herod! We inquired of him, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him" (Matthew 2:2; KJV). Unbeknownst to us, King Herod didn't share our enthusiasm for this new king. He was greatly troubled and quickly gathered together the chief priests and scribes, demanding to know when Christ was to be born (Matthew 2:3). "In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel" came their reply (Matthew 2:5-6).

King Herod appeared fully composed when he called us back into his presence. He seemed extremely interested in knowing when the star had appeared that had led us thus far. He sent us to Bethlehem with the words, "Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also" (Matthew 2:8). Our journey was once again under way.

At dusk, we peered up into the evening sky. What we saw nearly took our breath away. The star. We had seen it in the east, and now it went before us, "till it came and stood over where the young child was" (Matthew 2:9). When we saw the star, we rejoiced with great joy (Matthew 2:10)! But the star was not the object of our worship, it had merely been used of God to lead us to the Christ-child. What a time of worship followed! We presented Jesus with our gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).

God warned us in a dream that we were not to go back and tell King Herod that we had found Jesus. We returned to our country by a different route (Matthew 2:12).

As I continued to gaze at our Christmas tree, I realized the similarity between the Christmas lights and my life as a Christian. Just like that star of old pointed the wise men to Christ, and the lights on my tree illuminate the darkness, I'm meant to 'shine' and point others to Jesus.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus speaks bluntly to believers, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Will I take the opportunities placed before me to point others to Christ this Christmas season? Will I embrace Christ's mandate to 'shine' for Him wherever I go? The cry of my heart is echoed in Paul's epistle to the Philippians, "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life;" (Philippians 2:15-16a).

Will you decide to let your light shine? Hold the 'word of life' out to someone this Christmas season!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Time: A Special Gift

The Christmas season is upon us. A time of giving. A time to reflect upon the greatest gift ever given to mankind: Jesus Christ. The God-man whose life is the perfect example. The One who reminds us that, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35b; KJV).

This weekend, as I contemplated the perfect gift for each family member, a student from our Sunday School class allowed me to see that sometimes the best 'gifts' aren't the ones festively wrapped and tied with a bow. Sometimes the best gift we can give someone is - time.

Our daughter, Riley and her friend Kristin ( had begun an afternoon Bible Study with one of our Sunday School class members. Because she lives quite a distance from us, we came up with a plan. With her parent's permission, she could come over to our house following church, have lunch, participate in the Bible study and any other activities we'd planned, then return to church with us for the evening service. Following church, we'd drive her home.

After only a couple of weeks, the three girls had developed quite a bond. Because Riley is an only child, she and our Sunday School student unofficially 'adopted' each other as sisters.

With our evening service being re-scheduled for an hour later, we thought this would be the last week that we would be able to spend the afternoon with her. With a later dismissal time, we were reluctant to still have to drop our student off before making the long drive home.

After lunch, my husband, Steve, and Riley took our guest to the mall. With Riley leaving for college next fall, a laptop computer ranks high on her Christmas wish-list. A visit to the Apple Store would be fun. A trip to Starbucks for some delicious, hot coffee drinks rounded out their afternoon. When they got home, it was clear that big fun was had by all.

The highlight of the day, came when the evening service ended with a time of family prayer and we were privileged to include our Sunday School student in our "family." Although we're not her parents, I was struck by the opportunity that the Lord has given us as her Sunday School teachers and role models. And how the Lord has allowed Riley and Kristin to further encourage her through a time of Bible study. What an awesome responsibility to be "an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12b).

When Riley and I dropped her off at her house later that evening, her gratitude was evident from her cheerful, "Thank you for everything!" Already I was regretting that this was our last Sunday to spend extra time with her. But wait, did it have to be? Her parents had given her permission to stay out an hour later, and as I glanced at the clock, it was only 8:35 p.m. We would arrive at home around 9:15 and still have time to grab a bite to eat, and get ready for Monday's events. Maybe, just maybe...

As Steve and I discussed it later, we agreed that we would make this adjustment to our schedule and be willing to continue to drive our student home following the later service, because it was definitely worth it. Without realizing it, she had given us a special 'gift.' Her grateful attitude reminded us that tangible gifts aren't necessarily the only things we can give. Oftentimes giving the gift of 'time' is much more special.

In addition to those beautiful gifts you wrap and give to your loved ones, be sure you give the gift of 'time' this Christmas season! You'll be so glad you did!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Real Courtney

We knew she was the right one. She was named Courtney. Beautiful green eyes. Long, powdery-gray, silky fur. A two-year old feline, with "Adopt me!" written all over her adorable face. What were we waiting for? Lots of paper work and three days later, we carried our newest family member out of the pet store.

In addition to my husband, daughter and me, our family also included a very handsome Maine Coon, named Nathaniel. His birthday was fast approaching and we thought it would be nice to give him a present. Little did we know that giving him a playmate would not rank very highly on his gift list. We had our first indication of trouble when we set Courtney's carrier on the living room floor, opened it and invited Nathaniel to come over and greet his sister. Courtney exploded out of the box with claws at the ready. Nathaniel's low growls let us know that he disapproved of his 'present,' and we quickly whisked Courtney off to another part of the house.

After a rocky start, our two cats eventually got to the point of tolerating each other, and over the years even seemed to develop a genuine affection for each other, despite different personalities. We had always referred to Nathaniel as our 'lap' cat. Anytime we would sit down, he was right there ready to hop up and join us. He was really more like a dog than a cat. He'd come when you called him, and he thoroughly enjoyed being around people. Courtney, on the other hand, displayed more of the typical feline tendencies. She was much more aloof and tended to hide when people would visit. She decided if and when you were allowed to pet her, and would nip your hand to let you know your attention was no longer appreciated.

This past May, after eighteen and a half wonderful years, our Nathaniel died. Through our sadness, we all wondered how Courtney would respond. We were amazed. Our once aloof Courtney, now leaps up onto the couch to sit on our laps while we watch TV. She loves being petted and even enjoys being brushed. And talk about social! What a transformation! Perhaps she stayed in the background because Nathaniel was the dominant male and had been in our household for many years prior to her arrival. Whatever the reason, although we miss Nathaniel, it's been a treat getting to know the 'real' Courtney.

The same principle is often true with people. How often do I have a preconceived idea about someone, only to get to know him/her, and find out I was entirely wrong? Maybe the girl I labeled a 'nerd' in high school would have become a lifelong friend had I made the effort to get to know her. My perceptions may be far from reality. Even well-established relationships can suffer when I start to second-guess people's intentions. How important it is to refrain from judging others.

In the book of Matthew, Christ couldn't have been clearer, "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (7:1-2; KJV). Tough words. But oh, the wisdom when we put them into practice!

We can avoid judging others by acting on Paul's words to the Philippians, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself," (Phil. 2:3-8a).

Am I willing to humble myself, admit that I may have been wrong in my perception of someone else, and take the necessary steps to esteem that person more highly than myself? If so, I'm following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I'll be able to love others through Him. That's my desire today! Will you follow His example?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lessons Learned from the 'Dawgs,' Georgia Bulldogs, That Is!

The second quarter ended with a Bulldog lead. The score favored Georgia with a 20 to 6 lead over the Kentucky Wildcats. The fans were enthusiastic as the marching band, color guard and majorettes took the field. After 'wowing' the crowd with amazing talent and choreography, the performers exited, and the players once again took the field.

Within minutes of beginning the third quarter, Kentucky scored a touchdown to bring their score up to 13 points. Not to be outperformed, Georgia answered back with a touchdown for the Bulldogs. The score was now 27-13. But not for long. The Wildcats scratched and clawed their way to the end zone for another 7 points.

As the fourth quarter play began, fans from both teams were going ballistic. As we stood among the Bulldog fans, we thought our eyes were deceiving us. Could it possibly be that Kentucky had just scored another touchdown? The truth was revealed on the scoreboard, which now read: 27-27. How was it possible? The Bulldogs had held a handy lead throughout the first three quarters.

Chants of, "Go, Georgia Bulldogs!" echoed throughout the stadium. Midway through the quarter, an amazing play by the Wildcats catapulted them into the lead. The scoreboard flashed the score, 34-27, for all the fans to see. Everyone was on their feet, as the Bulldogs reclaimed the ball one yard from Kentucky's goal. A poorly-timed fumble sealed the fate of the Dawgs who ended up bowing to the Cats with a 34-27 loss.

Despite the games' outcome, it was exciting to actually be a spectator at Sanford Stadium. Thousands of fans focusing their attention on a handful of players with one goal - to win the game. As I thought about the game over the next few days, I noted a couple similarities between the game and our lives.

In this 'game' of life, there are others who are watching us. How will we respond when we get overlooked for that promotion? Will we spew harsh words when someone is rude to us? How do we treat our neighbors? Are we a good example? Will we 'fumble' when the pressure is on? I think about Paul's reminder in Hebrews 12:1, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us," (KJV). Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). As life's players, are we focused on Him and the goals He has for us?

At the end of the third quarter I would have assured you of a Bulldog win. After all, they held a healthy lead over the Wildcats until the fourth quarter. Beginning well isn't the only thing that's important. Perhaps ending well is even more important. The same is true in life. We can begin well as a follower of Jesus Christ, but end our life having shifted our focus to self. In Paul's first epistle to Timothy, he charged him to, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:12).

As I entered Sanford Stadium a week and a half ago, little did I know that I'd be learning lessons from the Bulldogs! I am much more aware that others take notice of my actions, and I desire to live my life in such a way that I end well. My prayer is to be able to say with the Apostle Paul, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). What do others see in you? Will you determine to finish well?