The Top 5 (Okay, 6) Things Your Pastor Really Wants for Christmas:



1. For Our Eyes to be Opened

A friend pointed out that Christmas is particularly a time in which we are reminded of the Omnipresence of God. He is and has been everywhere at all times in all of history and the future and we remember at Christmas the “fulness of time” in which he chose to reveal to us that Messiah had come. A gift that many pastors are praying for is that our people (and all people) will stop and consider the humility and wonder of God revealing Himself to men.

2. That We Keep Going

I think, as a pastor, the thing I typically want the most for my people (and the thing that I am consistently reminded I cannot provide for them) is that they never ever give up. We all face challenges and trials and disappointments. My desire for my people and for myself is that we not turn back. Some of the greatest and sweetest truths of God go from hypotheses on a page to convictions of our soul by the God-orchestrated and God-shepherded trials of our lives. I want to know and I want my people to know the deep, saturating truth of God’s love for His children that is higher, wider and deeper than they can even fathom. We only get there if we never give up. I pray that the Spirit of God empower His people to remain in the faith.

3. An iPad!

Just kidding! Wanted to make sure you were still reading… But iPads are cool…

4. For Us to See the Miracle

Christmas particularly gives us the opportunity to reflect on the “mega-truths” that echo from the manger. This baby was a cacophony of the miraculous. From the lineage that was prophesied to the location of his birth and the logistics of how it came to be is a script of unparalleled depth and orchestration. All this from a Sovereign who was bringing about the miraculous in the lives of his children – their rescue and deliverance from sin. Be it today or any day, many pastors pray that those who have not received the miracle of their rescue will behold it – and those who HAVE received the miracle will live thankful lives.

5. Presence and Peace

Another friend has been through a year that has left indelible marks in the foundation of his faith. The result has been a conviction of “Immanuel.” God IS with us. No matter where we are. To the end of the age. In hardship – He is with us. In joy – He is with us. In loneliness – He is with us. In dismay – He is with us. And really, hand-in-hand with this reality is a heart-cry of many in ministry: Peace. Peace that doesn’t simply calm us down in busy times, but SLOWS us down. That we and our people would find and dwell in Jehovah Shalom and enjoy the Sabbath rest that is Jesus. My friend said it well, “I believe that hurry is the greatest enemy to a life lived with Jesus today.” High on the list is a belonging and a rest that flavors every aspect of our lives and the lives of our people.

6. To Fall in Love with God’s Glory

At the heart of most pastors I know is a real desire for the best for their people. If they would receive any gift from their people this year it would be that they fall in unassailable love with the glory of God. The love for His glory would create a people who embody much of the things on this list. In wanting the best for ourselves and for our people, wisdom comes to realize that – though the world clamors after many things – we and they will receive ALL that we need when we truly pursue one thing: The Kingdom of our Omniscient, Empowering, Miraculous, Ever-Present, Peace-Giving God.

While I am sure there are many more items that could be added to a pastor’s secret wish list for Christmas, they pretty much condense to one thing: a desire for our people to love God with their heart, mind, soul and strength and love each other as themselves (call it the Luke 10:27 wish list). We want for ourselves and for our people the joy of walking in full fellowship with our Savior.

Jay Sampson is the Teaching Elder at Heritage Church in Shawnee, Oklahoma where he pastors literally tens of people every week. A father of three and aspiring fantasy baseball champion, Jay has been teaching at Heritage since 2007. Weekly podcasts can be found at

Becoming Like Our Heroes


On our recent trip to Greece, I was reminded of the ancient Greek poem – Odyssey by Homer. The poem illustrates Odysseus’ adventures where he encountered various mythical gods.  Odysseus had to deal with gods like Poseidon, Zeus, Athena, Cyclops, and others. Each of the gods responded very differently to Odysseus. These gods responded to him by listening, showing love, expressing hatred, answering his prayers, as well as mocking him.  At times these gods were nice and kind, and at other times they were spiteful and vengeful. On each of the adventures, Odysseus never quite knew what to expect from these gods and goddesses.

 We learned that the heroes of the Greek and Roman mythology morphed into the likeness of the gods they served. These mythological gods led their followers into both good and bad actions. The followers changed their lives to suit those of the gods the followed.   

 We all talk and act like the heroes we admire.  In the same way, we all copy and imitate the gods we serve. If we admire and follow the world, we become like the world.  If we admire and follow God, we become like our God.  Our God is a holy God. He said, “be holy because I, the Lord your God, as holy” (Leviticus 19:2). We are to be like the God we serve – our holy God!

  •  Do you want to know who you are like? See who you admire, serve, and adore. 
  • With whom do you spend time? Where do you invest your time, resources and talents?  That’s where your character is shaped.
  • Are you allowing God to mold you and shape you into His likeness?
  • How are you “becoming like the God you serve?”
  • What is stopping you form fully becoming like the God you serve?
  • What can you do to serve and spend more time with God?  

7 Reasons Why People Are Ungrateful


Psalm 106:1, “Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever.”

“A story is told about a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.”  Our Daily Bread, February 20, 1994.


Some don’t say “Thank you” because they were never taught to be grateful.  Fewer parents teach their children manners anymore.


Some people don’t say “Thank you” because they procrastinate.  They say they will do it later, but they never do. Procrastination is the enemy of time.  Get to it while you still have the time.


Some people don’t say “Thank you” because they are simply ungrateful.  They believe life owes them something. Why say “Thank you” when I already deserve it?


Some people don’t say “Thank you” they never realize the efforts you put.  Few people consider the efforts that go behind the work you put in.  Few people value the contributions of others.


Some people don’t say “Thank you” because you are too low on their perceived social ladder.  They expect you to serve them.  They would gladly say “Thank you” to people they consider important.


Some people find it hard to say thank you because they are in pain.  The struggles they are facing scream louder than any silver linings they could see in the midst of their suffering.  They cannot pay attention to the possibility of anything being good, when their circumstances are dictating pain and suffering. What’s there to be thankful for when life hurts? They reason.


Some people cannot say “Thank you” because they are displeased and dissatisfied with the results or situation.  They want more, and better.  They cannot say “Thank you” for the small, paltry results.  How could they?  They deserve more and better.


  • This #Thanksgiving, remember to have the attitude of gratitude. Ingratitude attitude = immaturity.
  • This #Thanksgiving, remember to say “Thank you.” Gratitude is a rare commodity these days. Be a #ThankingMachine
  • This #Thanksgiving, be thankful for all your blessings; life would be very different without all your blessings.

Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

To Do …

  • Tell God how thankful you are. Tell Him for what you are thankful.
  • Stop the Thanksgiving feast procession this Thursday, to read out your Thanksgiving list to your family.
  • Write a letter, make a call, email, or send a Twitter/Facebook message to someone to whom you are thankful. Tell them the exact things for what you are thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Quotes To Live By


  1. You are at your best when you are yourself. Be the best YOU you can be!
  2. God can surgically remove sin from the depths of our hearts, victoriously breaking the cycle of sin. Hallelujah
  3. Good intentions are simply that – good. Convert Your intentions into action. Just do it.
  4. It is more prudent to be holy than to be religious. Go beyond attending church, connect with God.
  5. We don’t do good works to be saved. We do good works because we are saved.
  6. Life is about crossing bridges when faced with flooding rivers. Avoid burning those bridges lest you may have to cross the same rivers later
  7. Falling in love with you meant giving you all I had. I lay bare & vulnerable; at your mercy. Be gentle, my fragile heart is in your hands.
  8. While your background & circumstances have determined your current state, your decisions & corresponding actions will determine your destiny
  9. You are the Gospel transmitter. The message you speak through your life must validate the Gospel you speak with your lips!
  10. The arrival of the Light is the destruction of darkness. Choose the Life.
  11. Jesus lit up the universe to be the light in this sinful world; He lit up my heart to be the light in my sinful life
  12. Worry is cheap, it keeps you busy for nothing.
  13. The struggles you are facing today are not the destination; they are layovers on your way to your destiny. Tomorrow will be brighter.
  14. To come to Jesus, we have to leave it all, and fully dedicate ourselves to Him. Foresake all to give it all to Him.
  15. Before Jesus, you were NOBODY. With Jesus you are SOMEBODY. Now take Jesus to EVERYBODY!
  16. It is better we have a few lunatics march into Heaven than a bunch of cool people slide into Hell.
  17. Beauty, success, fame, riches can get you many friends. Failure, suffering, poverty reveal who your real friends are.
  18. Many people hurt, few people notice. They are on the mat of sin & self-pity. Are you tenacious enough to get them to Jesus?
  19. Where the devil is, there is death. Where Jesus is, there is LIFE.
  20. In the presence of Jesus, raging seas calm down; the most terrible storms turn to warm sunshine.

Mesmerizing Malta

As we pulled into the city of Valletta, Malta, we were greeted by a thick fog. In fact, the night before, the cruise ship had rocked back and forth in a storm. I had felt so nauseous I thought I was going to lose my dinner. I thought of the storm Paul and his companions had experienced 2,000 years ago in that same area. That storm caused the ship wreck that resulted in them staying on the Island of Malta for about 3 months.  

The cruise ship pulled into the natural harbor that is shaped like a man’s palm. We disembarked right after lunch. The charming guide proudly described the history of this tiny island. Our first stop was a short walk into the town of Valletta. We walked through the small, crowded streets lined with immaculate shops on either side of the streets. Our first stop was at the Church of Saint John’s Co-Cathedral which is a Roman Catholic co-cathedral in Valletta, Malta, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. This is, by far, is the most ornate and beautiful church I have ever seen. Wow! As soon as we walked through the doors, we saw golden art and decor that celebrated the life of the disciple John. The high ceiling, with its icons and painted art were grandiose and exquisite. Every angle, every wall revealed the magnificent art and unimaginable decor. The floors were marble squares with inscriptions that detailed the saints who were buried under it. After experiencing this overwhelming beauty, we left the church. 

We drove through the center of the island to our second destination- the Mosta Church. This church boasts of having the 3rd largest dome in Europe. The dome was visible from miles away. As we walked up the stairs towards the entrance, it began to drizzle. Throughout our trip, we had enjoyed dry, warm, sunny weather. 
We waited outside for a few minutes before we were allowed inside. The guide told us there was going to be a funeral service for a little child. That broke my heart. Under the Beaty of the dome, towards the altar was were pretty flowers. In the middle was a little white coffin. All the funeral guests wore white clothes. As a parent, such a sight is hard to witness. 

We walked into a room that displayed a replica bomb, similar to the one the Germans dropped on this church at end of WWII. Praise be to God, the bomb went through the dome but did not explode! They call it the Miracle of the Bomb. Both churches we visited in Malta were spared during WWII. I fell in love with this little island. I told Rutendo, that in the 1990’s, though I knew very little about Malta, I used to say some day I will retire in Malta because it is situated between Africa and Europe. Good bye Malta. I hope to return some day. 

Prayer at the Wailing Wall

Today we are going into Bethlehem. Bethlehem is part of the Palestinian land. To enter Bethlehem from Jerusalem, we had to receive authorization first. Our first order of business was shopping for souvenirs. We went into a wood shop, where the business creates wooden crosses, nativity scenes, and other artifacts. Their operation was impressive.  
We soon started our walk uphill towards the Church of the Nativity. This is the site at which Jesus was born. The Church of the Nativity stands in the shadows of a mosque and a shopping center. Inside was a long line of tourists here to pay homage to the birthplace of our Lord. I must admit, I did not quite enjoy this visit. The line was so long such that we could not stop to see, take pictures, much less reflect on the meaning of the incarnation.  
We left to go for lunch in the middle of Bethlehem. Fish has been the most popular menu item for us. As with all our other meals, the lunch was delectable and palatable; finger licking good! 

Our journey led us to the most anticipated visit – the visit to the wailing wall. The Wailing Wall is a small part of the old Jerusalem Western Wall. As I walked towards the wall, I was overcome by a great sense of the presence of the Lord. This is sacred ground. I saw many people leaning against the wall in various postures of prayer. Everywhere were many devout men wearing black hats, black clothes, and long beards. These pious Jews read the Torah while rocking forwards and backwards, reciting some inaudible words. The sounds were in sync with their movements. It was a beautiful, saintly sight. 

I chose an open spot on the wall. I prayed, starting with confession. I had written various prayer requests on small pieces of paper. After I prayed for each person or situation, I would fold the little piece, and then insert it in a crevice in the limestone rock. I prayed for my relationship with God, my family, my friends, ministry, the corps, and many other things God brought to mind.  

I did not want to leave. I was in the presence of God. Why leave this Holy moment? Why depart from such a powerful experience? Well, we had to leave. So, I reluctantly left, taking mental pictures of all my eyes could see. I want to keep this sensation, this sacrosanct event alive in my life forever. So help me God! 

Jesus Wept, So Did We

As we drove up into the City of Jerusalem, Commissioner Francis sang a heartwarming rendition of the song “Jerusalem.” My heart started to beat faster and faster as the view of the city came into sight. We got off the bus near the eastern wall of the old Jerusalem. We began our advent into the city through the Lions’ Gate. The little marbled street called “Straight Street” is filled with vendors selling various souvenirs and artifacts. 
We arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, located in the Christian quarter of the city. This is the place traditionally considered as the place where Jesus’ tomb is located. I admired the glamorous decor. The sweet scent of burning incense enhanced my desire to pray. I was a man conflicted, though. While I wanted to reflect on Christ’s work, I struggled with the appearance of worshipping the stones and idols.  
We left to follow Christ’s road to the cross – the Via Dolorosa, stopping to pray at various Stations of the cross. It was disheartening to see how the whole area had now become Muslim. I reflected on our Lord’s suffering, carrying the wooden cross up the steep hill. How painful and difficult that must have been.
After completing walking the Via Dolorosa, we left the city through the Java gate. There we boarded the bus to head for lunch at the Olive Tree Restaurant. Lunch was delicious, comprising a rich selection of vegetables, then bread, rice, chicken, fish, and other meats. 

From there, we headed up to the Mount of Olives. We paused to take a picture in front of the Mount of Olives Church. Behind us was the picturesque view of the City of Jerusalem. Towering of the ancient walls and buildings was the Temple Mount, with its bright, golden dome. 

We started the steady, slow walk down the hill along the Palm Sunday street. This is where Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem. We stopped at the place where Jesus prayed for Jerusalem. A beautiful church sits on the site. The church is designed to look like a tear drop. It is called the Church of Dominus Flevit, situated on the upper western slope of the Mount of Olives. I was overcome by emotions as I reflected on our Lord weeping over Jerusalem. 
We walked further down to the Garden of Gethsemane. There were old olive trees in a fenced area. We were greeted by a stunning church, whose architectural design left me speechless. The front was decorated in eye catching designs and icons. The windows had purples colors that formed a cross. The inside of the church was enchanting. The ceiling formed glamorous cross, while Jesus, the Shepherd watched down on His flock. I felt a chill down my spine. I was standing in the place where our Lord spent the night in prayer.  

Rutendo and I started singing the hymn whose words go something like this: “In the garden Gethsemane, in Darkness a voice was heard. The voice of Jesus praying to His Father.” We both wept, as we considered the suffering our Lord endured to set us free. Salvation is free but not cheap. It cost God His son. It cost Jesus His life. We should never cheapen the work He did for our salvation. Thank you Jesus.