Christmas: A Season for Receiving

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. 
And His name will be called
 Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”Isaiah 9:6, NKJV

From the time we are little, we are taught the importance of giving. What is seldom emphasized is the importance of receiving...

The Reason for the Season

We all know that Christmas is the season for giving. That giving is, of course, a reflection of the greatest gift of all, God’s Son, who was announced in the prophecy above, fulfilled in the Gospels (“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”John 3:16, NASB), and then explained in the Epistles (“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”Ephesians 2:8, NIV).

The idea of gifts and giving is woven throughout Scripture, where Paul, quoting Jesus, admonishes us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”Acts 20:35, NASB.

Furthermore, our society reinforces the importance of giving with tales of stingy givers such as Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch who stole Christmas.

From the time we are little, we are taught the importance of giving. What is seldom emphasized is the importance of receiving!

The Opposite of Receiving is Rejecting

In sports we say, “The only thing worse than a poor loser, is a poor winner.” In the arena of giving, the only thing worse than a poor giver, is a poor receiver.

Consider the story of Jesus washing His disciples feet. At first, Peter attempts to reject Jesus’ act of service: “‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’”John 13:8, NIV.

Oh, how true that is for all of us! How many lives are there yet, where Jesus stands at the ready, towel in hand, waiting to wash them whiter than snow, only to be rebuffed by the prideful claim, “You shall never wash me!”

To gain a glimpse of the sorrow this must bring to our Lord, reflect on a time when you have had a gift rejected by someone you cared about:

  • Was it a physical gift?
  • Was it an act of service that was rejected?
  • What about unreturned friendship or affection?

But lest we become too prideful reminiscing about others, let us think of a time when we have rejected a gift ourselves:

  • Did we have “a good reason” at the time?
  • Does that reason hold up under the lens of hindsight?
  • How big a role did pride play?
  • Are the American ideals (idols?) of self-sufficiency and independence God- honoring? Can they be God honoring in the right context? Where do we draw the line?

Becoming a Good Receiver

We all know that a good giver gives generously, cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7), and often until it hurts (Mark 12:41-44). But what does it mean to be a good receiver?

There are FOUR things that are essential:

  1. A good receiver is HUMBLE.
  2. It is a humbling thing to freely receive something from someone else, whether that someone else is a fellow human being or God Himself. It sometimes feels like weakness or neediness, but humility is always the starting point.

    “If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves…” begins 2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV.

    Likewise, it is only in humbly recognizing that “all have sinned and fall short” (Romans 3:23, NET) that we acknowledge our need for a Savior.

    Atheists will say, “God is for the weak.” To which we may respond, “Yes. Yes, He is, and thankfully so!”

    • Do you know non-Christians who think that they are “good people?”
    • Do they think that being good is “good enough?”
    • As Christians, do our actions and attitudes sometimes reveal similar beliefs about ourselves as good people relying on good behavior for what is actually freely given Grace?

  3. A good receiver is THANKFUL.
  4. The natural response to a gift should be gratitude.

    • Have you ever seen a child or adult act ungratefully?
    • Have we ever been guilty of doing the same?
    • What about the gifts God bestows, are they simply taken for granted?
    • What about the hard times that come our way, but cause us to grow? Are we thankful for our trials as well? (James 1:2-3)

  5. A good receiver actually USES the gift.
  6. Nothing makes us happier than seeing our gifts to someone else being put to use. No doubt God feels the same way!

    • Ever give a child a toy they just couldn’t stop playing with?
    • Ever find last year’s gifts unused in a drawer?
    • Are we using the gifts God has given us, or are they tucked away?

  7. A good receiver PAYS IT FORWARD.
  8. When we have been blessed, it naturally makes us want to bless others. Even the most ruthless businessmen find themselves turning to philanthropy, as they grow older. Which takes us full circle, back to giving.

    After Jesus finished washing the disciples feet, He told them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”John 13:14, NIV.

    • What are some ways we have been blessed?
    • What are some ways we can bless others?
    • How can we creatively introduce others to the “fount of every blessing,” who stands at the ready, towel in hand, waiting to wash them whiter than snow?

As we celebrate Christmas again this week, we need to remember that this season isn’t all about giving. It’s about receiving, too. God’s priceless gift will profit you nothing until you accept it.

What about you? Have you received the best gift of all?


“Mystery Meat” vs. the Bread of Life

"Mystery Meat" vs. the pure, unadulterated gospel | All Truth is God's TruthI ate a wonderful Salisbury steak the other day with a thick brown gravy. The gravy made me think of all the mystery meat I’ve eaten over the years both in the public school system and then later in the military. I realized that a nice gravy can make just about anything taste good.

I have always viewed denominational differences within Christianity as a case of “same meat, different gravy.” A person from an academic background might better relate to the intellectual aspects of God’s nature and seek out a church that emphasizes those facets. An artist might better relate to God’s beauty, and so forth.

Growing up, my father was pastor of a small Baptist church. Because it was the only church in town, our music leader was Methodist, our piano player Assemblies of God, our church secretary Catholic, and our membership a variety of other denominations. It was wonderful seeing so many Christians from such varied backgrounds united in worship and service to the same Lord and Savior!

I view this unity as ideal and get to experience it a little bit today through the homeschooling community, which tends to be predominately Christian, but of varied denominational backgrounds. Nonetheless, I think God does make provision for our unique personalities and needs by providing a variety of ways to worship and serve Him.

There are, however, a number of ways in which our uniqueness can become problematic:

  • First is when the gravy is so thick and rich and nuanced that any flavor from the meat itself is completely lost.
  • We get so caught up in the methods and style of worship that we get distracted from the One who is the object of our worship! (John 4:24)

    I’ve heard that gourmet chefs are offended when patrons at their restaurants call for steak sauce. How much more the God of the universe, when we think we can dress up the gospel message with our own personal flair! Our job is simply to lift Christ up and He will draw all men unto himself.(John 12:32; John 6:44)

  • Second is when we add to the gospel message.
  • Have you ever bitten into some “mystery meat” and wondered what exactly you were eating?

    The simple idea of “grace, through faith” needs no additives, and it needs no intermediary other than Christ alone. (Ephesians 2:8) If we find ourselves enthralled by someone or something other than Christ, we have drifted into idolatry and must repent and return to Him! (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)

  • Third is when we take away from the gospel message.
  • We want to cut away the tough parts that are hard to chew.

    We want everyone to like us, even when He tells us that we will be despised for His sake. (Matthew 5:10-12)

    We want to keep doing our own thing, even when He tells us that love of Him leads to obedience of Him. (John 14:15)

    We want lives of victory and affluence, even when He tells us that suffering and sacrifice await those that follow Him, yet joy and a deeper relationship with Him as a result. (2 Timothy 3:12)

If we can avoid these three errors, I think that there is a lot of “wiggle room” in how and when and where we serve and worship the One who uniquely created each of us in His own image.

My New Normal

Eating is a form of entertainment... and I am easily amused. | http://alltruthisgodstruth.com

There was once a time when I could eat whatever I liked and not put on weight.

Those days are long gone.

That’s why I’ve stepped up my exercise program and have started faithfully tracking calories. Weight loss is a simple matter of calories in vs. calories out.
Get Up & Go: Fun Ideas for Getting Fit as a Family
I’ve come to realize that memorizing the diet book won’t make you skinny. You’ve got to put that knowledge into action. You’ve got to get up & go.

Our family likes to do that together as often as possible.

Our goal is to make exercise “WE” time instead of “ME” time. This is what my wife’s newest book, entitled Get Up & Go, is all about.

The book is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other fine booksellers. You can read more about it here: Get Up & Go.

I hope you’ll check it out. We must do whatever we can to turn fitness into a lifestyle for the long haul.



What Is a Servant-Leader at Home?

3 Indispensable Characteristics of a Servant-Leader | All Truth is God's TruthAll organizations have a hierarchy. It’s impossible to function well without one. But being a leader isn’t the same as being a dictator. The best role model is Jesus Christ, not Joseph Stalin.

Although it’s a challenge to exercise authority while maintaining a spirit of humility, that is what being a godly leader entails. Jesus washed his disciples feet, then died on their behalf. Husbands are called to love their wives in the same self-sacrificing way:

  • “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” (Ephesians 5:25-26)
  • “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
  • “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant….” (Philippians 2:5-7)

The best leaders exhibit several qualities: They are transparent; they expect as much or more of themselves as of those they’re attempting to lead; and they put the good of the organization (or, in the case of a husband-leader, the good of the family) ahead of their own interests or any personal gain.

Let’s look at each of these three qualities in closer detail:

  1. First and foremost, a servant-leader is transparent.
  2. Transparency implies there are no hidden agendas. Everyone is on the same team, working toward the same goals, and those goals are clearly defined and understood. Transparency means honesty, fairness, forthrightness, and above all, accountability.

    Transparency with a spouse can be difficult. Some things are hard to talk about with anybody, let alone with someone we care about, someone of the opposite gender, someone whose admiration and respect we so deeply crave.

    A good rule of thumb is, if you’d be uncomfortable discussing it afterward with your wife, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

    Of course, personality differences can make even innocent discussions more difficult than they should be — I dreaded telling my sentimental wife when I recently traded in an old Ford truck she loved for two small economy cars, even though it made good financial sense to do so — but that isn’t what I’m talking about here.

    When it comes to being transparent with our children, that can be hard, too, but it is important that they know our weaknesses as well as our strengths, our failures as well as our victories. Because our kids share our humanity as well as our genes, their weaknesses will often mirror our own, and they’ll benefit from hearing how we’ve overcome various struggles. There is no need to go into great detail about your failings, but don’t pretend you are without faults.

    A servant-leader is quick to accept blame, apologize, and ask forgiveness whenever the situation warrants it. And he understands the importance of maintaining a clear conscience and therefore strives to behave in a way—both publicly and privately—that is honorable, dependable, and above reproach.

  3. Second, a servant-leader is not above the law.
  4. Nor does he consider himself above the law. The US Congress provides a classic example of the opposite of this principle, routinely passing bad legislation from which the lawmakers themselves are exempt.

    With a true servant-leader there is no such hypocrisy. The rules are applied equally to all. He expects as much or more of himself as of the people he leads, for he knows that as their leader, he will incur a stricter judgment.

    The father who smokes two packs a day, but warns his kids to never take up the habit? He isn’t doing himself, his children, or his health any favors.

    I may not struggle with hypocrisy in such an obvious way as this, yet I sometimes expect things of my wife and children that I am unwilling or unable to do myself:

    • I want them to hear me out, although I often interrupt.
    • I expect them to be patient and thoughtful and self-controlled, even when I haven’t been.
    • I would like for them to look their best, even if I skip shaving or look a little shabby myself.
    • I want them to control their emotions and refrain from pouting, crying, or acting moody in any way, yet sometimes I fail to control the temper that provokes such moodiness, sulkiness, and tears.

    And I do these things, despite the fact that Scripture repeatedly warns against such behavior:

    • “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)
    • “[Love] does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth….” (1 Corinthians 13:5-6)
    • “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

    The take-home message? We need to be and do the things we want our wives and children to be and do. We should expect as much or more of ourselves as we do of them. We must lead by example.

  5. Third, a servant-leader thinks of others first.
  6. He puts the good of the organization ahead of his own needs or personal advantage. He leads selflessly and sacrificially. He considers the interests of others as more important than his own. (Philippians 2:3-4)

    I’ve known both styles of leaders: Those who use the organization to serve themselves, and those who use themselves to serve the organization.

    Although I’ve crossed paths with a few embezzlers over the years, embezzlement is not the only way to steal from a company. It’s just the most obvious way. Many people manipulate vacation schedules, work assignments, and tax credits to their own benefit. They are always watching out for number one, always looking for loopholes. Whatever will garner the best perks or put the most money in their pocket with the least amount of effort is what they will do, every time — whether it’s ethical or not.

    A servant-leader is the opposite. He does what is best for those he serves, even when it requires great personal sacrifice to do so. For the family man, this may mean driving mini-vans instead of sports cars, going on family vacations instead of golfing excursions, living in a modest home in suburbia instead of a high-rise apartment in the city, or getting braces for Junior instead of that new flat-screen TV.

The term “servant-leader” is what Buddhists would call a koan — a seemingly contradictory statement that forces a person to stop and think more deeply about a subject, so as to bring about an even greater enlightenment.

Yet leaders should serve those they lead. The only reason servant-leadership seems like a koan or an oxymoron to our society today is because we have grown so accustomed to leaders who abuse their power and use it to benefit themselves, often to the detriment of the people they are supposed to represent.

Plato felt that those who most desire to rule are least suited to do so, because they invariably have ulterior motives. His solution was that leaders be conscripted into service the way soldiers are drafted into the military.

In a sense, the Biblical command for husbands to be leaders in their homes is exactly that — men being conscripted by God to serve their wives and children.

Unfortunately, most men are not natural leaders, nor do they naturally love their wives in the self-sacrificing, Christ-like way God commands. If these things came naturally, there’d be no need for the associated directives in Scripture. Commands in Scripture almost always run counter to our natural inclinations and underscore our need for the supernatural intervention of a loving Savior!

Do you long for your wife to shower you with respect and admiration? Do you wish she would follow your lead without arguing or questioning your every decision?

You will never get the results you are looking for by being harsh and demanding. Even if you were to gain her cooperation, it would be given begrudgingly. That isn’t what godly servant-leadership looks like.

If you want your wife to follow your lead, then you must walk in a way that is worthy of respect. Lead in a way that inspires your family to follow.

Lead prayerfully. Lead gently. Guide them with humility, understanding, patience, faithfulness, temperance, and love.

As a husband, the responsibility falls to you for taking the lead in improving your marriage. Don’t blame your wife for your own failures in this area. You must work to earn her trust and confidence.

Prove yourself to be a man of integrity, a person who thinks things through — not a man who is shortsighted or rash or vindictive.

It is a sobering proposition to be the spiritual head of one’s home, to be held accountable before God for the spiritual health and welfare of one’s family.

We should shoulder this responsibility with an attitude of meekness. Inwardly, our focus should not be, “Alright!! I get to call the shots!” Rather, we should be thinking, “God has entrusted this responsibility to me, and I don’t want to flub it up.”

Such a heavy responsibility calls for a posture of prayer. Pray that God will enable you to relate to your wife and children as a wise servant-leader should: Love wholeheartedly. Love sacrificially. Love unconditionally. Love extravagantly. Consistently shower your wife with that brand of love, and chances are, it will eventually win her over. She’ll then happily follow you to the ends of the earth.

But what if it doesn’t? What if she won’t?

Then you’ve got to keep loving.

Love her, because God has commanded you to love her — not because of what you stand to gain from doing so. Love her and keep loving her, because you want to be obedient to Him.

He will receive the glory from your doing so. And that is the only success that will matter in the end.


This post first appeared on All Truth is God’s Truth. To read more, check out my novel:
The Prodigy Project by Doug Flanders, MD

A Christian Father’s Rules for Dating My Daughter

I spotted a photo in my newsfeed yesterday of the T-shirt a feminist father made to explain his expectations to anyone interested in dating his daughter. His “rules” sent a clear message: “What my daughter does is her own business, and you’ll answer to her, not to me.”

As the father of four daughters myself, I found this man’s laissez-faire attitude to be a little unsettling. I believe a dad has a moral obligation to protect his children from harm, to prepare them for life, and to provide wise counsel along the way — all of which calls for a hands-on approach to parenting.

I agree with Feminist Father on his first two points (I don’t make the rules and You don’t make the rules). However, I disagree with his conclusions, so I decided to create a little T-shirt of my own — a Christian Dad’s response to Feminist Father, if you will:

"Rules for Dating My Daughter" | One Christian Dad's response to a "Feminist Father" (alltruthisgodstruth.com)

GOD makes the rules. And His way is better than anything we could dream up.

I know that none of the men who date (or eventually marry) my daughters will be perfect.

I don’t expect them to be.

But I do expect them to have hearts on fire for Jesus. I pray that they’ll follow His example. I want them to love my daughters with an enduring, committed, self-sacrificing love.

All others need not apply.


What sort of rules or guidelines have you set for your sons and daughters when it comes to dating? Tell us about them in the comment section below.

Want a “Dating Rules” T-Shirt for yourself or someone you love? They’re available here in a variety of colors. (Please note that the graphic is on the front of the shirt, not the back).

A Christian Father’s Rules for Dating My Daughter first appeared on All Truth is God’s Truth.


The Seven “P”s of Parenting

Do you want to be a more effective parent? Then don't neglect these seven principles! | alltruthisgodstruth.com
Children may not be born with an instruction manual, but there’s still lots of good guidance available, beginning with the Bible.

Here are seven simple but scriptural principles my wife and I have found useful in raising our twelve children, five of whom are now adults.

  1. Prayer
  2. Never underestimate the power of prayer in the life of your children. Pray for and with them. Prayer is a great way to let your kids know Who is in charge. (Colossians 4:2)

    We actually begin praying for our children before they are even conceived. Our foremost prayer is that each one comes to know Christ. It would be better never to be conceived than to spend eternity separated from God.

  3. Presence
  4. Children spell quality time: Q-U-A-N-T-I-T-Y. Be intentional about establishing everyday routines with your kids, as well as creating special memories with them. If we’ll tend to the hours and days, the years will take care of themselves. (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 90:12)

    We are always surprised by what our children consider the most significant moments in their lives. Often our best talks are ones on the way to the grocery store to grab some milk, and our best “vacations” are the unplanned ones arranged for us courtesy of the US Army Reserves.

  5. Patience
  6. Many of life’s oldest lessons are brand new to your children. Treat them the way you’d treat a technologically illiterate employer how to use the latest computer software update — treat them with humility, respect, and genuine gratitude for the opportunity to invest in their life. (Ephesians 4:2; 1 Corinthians 13:4; Proverbs 14:29)

    Patience has two varieties: The first is in dealing with the day-to-day stuff that can really get on your nerves. The second type is more in the category of perseverance and involves hanging in there for years at a time while your child slowly finds their place in the world.

  7. Praise
  8. All children long for their parents’ approval. They want to please you — so be sure to let them know when they do! While it’s important that we deal swiftly and consistently with our children’s wrongful behavior, it’s equally important to acknowledge and encourage their good behavior with sincere and appropriate praise. (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Proverbs 31:30-31; Romans 14:18-19; Philippians 4:8)

    My wife and I were both blessed with parents who always told us we could do anything we set our minds to. Because we believed them, neither of us have ever been afraid to try anything new or challenging. We’ve been determined to pass that same blessing on to our own children.

  9. Protection
  10. Life is full of dangers — both physical and spiritual. Ask the LORD to help you recognize and stand guard against anything that would pose a threat to your children’s wellbeing. Develop a culture of safety and common sense with your kids, and pray that God would grant wisdom and discernment, both to you and to them. (John 17:15; Psalm 127:1; James 1:5)

    The Internet didn’t even exist when my wife and I started our family. Now we have a four-year-old who knows how to access learning videos on her mother’s smartphone. Likewise, a hundred years ago, you were more likely to be thrown from a horse than run over by a car. New dangers are constantly appearing on the horizon, and your child’s best tool for dealing with them will be the one resting between her two ears, assuming you train her to use it well.

  11. Provision
  12. Providing for your children’s material needs is important, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “More money” does not automatically mean “more happiness.” Provide for your children in all aspects of life, through your example and encouragement, as well as their education. Use areas of personal strength to compensate for areas of financial need. (1 Timothy 5:8; Proverbs 20:7; Psalm 37:25)

    Money is of limited usefulness when it comes to having a happy and fulfilling life. Too little, and life is a struggle. Too much, and life quickly becomes materialistic and vain. The optimal window is actually quite small. Learning to be content with what we have, so we can focus on weightier things, is a challenge for us all.

  13. Preparation
  14. Three of the most important decisions our children will make are choosing Christ, choosing a career, and choosing their companions. Prepare them to make wise choices in all three areas by setting the example, setting standards, and then setting them free. (Proverbs 3:1-6; Romans 10:9; Psalm 90:17; Proverbs 13:20; John 13:15; John 8:36)

    God has no grandchildren, only children. Your children’s life and relationship to God is ultimately their own. We are privileged to participate in what God is doing in their lives. To think that we own them is like thinking that we own the earth or the sky or the sea. To quote Kahlil Gibran, “[Your children’s] souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”

Want a free printable summary of this post? You’ll find it here: 7 Peas of Parenting

World-Proof the Child

World-Proof the ChildProtecting our children is one of the primary jobs of parenthood, and the list of dangers seems to be growing exponentially.

  • There is BPA in your bottled water and hormones in your meat.
  • There are predators on the Internet and cyber-bullies on social media.
  • There are addictive drugs and addictive video games.
  • There are terrorists hijacking our planes and the TSA hijacking our dignity.

It makes you long for the days when seesaws and merry-go-rounds were still allowed on playgrounds.

The fact is that new dangers are popping up every day, and it is impossible for even the most vigilant parents to keep up with them all.

That doesn’t mean you can’t protect your children. It just means that doing so will become increasingly complex and require some added intentionality.

There are three general principles that can help guide the process:

  1. SET THE EXAMPLE.
  2. A culture of safety — whether at work or at home — starts at the top. If you want your kids to wear helmets when they ride bicycles, then you probably should, too. Same rule goes for seatbelts, overeating, cigarettes, alcohol, or anything else. Most values are “caught” not “taught.”

    “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,and sound speech that cannot be condemned…”
    Titus 2:7-8 (ESV)

  3. SET THE STANDARD.
  4. Talk with your kids. Point out the dangers as you become aware of them. Let them know what your expectations are. Set a curfew. Curfews aren’t tyranny; they are parents showing that they care! Then enforce the standards you have established. A rule that isn’t enforced is no rule at all.

    “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)

  5. SET THEM FREE.
  6. The ultimate goal of parenting isn’t to have large children, but to have fully functioning adults. The only way to achieve that goal is to gradually shift responsibility from your shoulders to theirs. This is probably the hardest, but most important, part of the whole process. You will never be able to make enough rules to protect your children. They must internalize safety consciousness themselves. They must make it their own. Making it their own often means making mistakes. It can be hard to watch as our children attend the school of hard-knocks, but sometimes “experience is the best teacher.”

    “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”1 Corinthians 13:11 (NASB)

The temptation is to simply be “helicopter parents” — ones that are always hovering, always micro-managing, always trying to smooth the way and make the decisions and manipulate the circumstances — but that is a fool’s game. No parent can child-proof the world. A parent’s job is to world-proof the child.