Make a lasting difference with your dollars this shopping season

Retailers say Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year, and a number of Christian charities are asking consumers to make every dollar count. Gallup, a research-based global consulting company that tracks public opinions and trends, released an initial estimate that Americans will spend an average of almost $800 on gifts for others, pointing to a strong holiday shopping season. Faith-based organizations are hoping shoppers will use their generosity to give gifts "that give back."

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Christmas is in December

It happens every year. I take calls on my radio show from people who forget that Christmas happens in December. There's no excuse for treating Christmas like an emergency, and I just reminded you of when it takes place, so you can't say you forgot this year. With a little planning, you can have the best Christmas and New Year's you've ever had.

5 tips for keeping your kids content during the holidays

Keeping your kids content during the holidays can be a difficult task. With all the marketing and consumerism during this holiday, it's easy for your kids to get sucked in and expect everything they've asked for on Christmas morning. So, how do you keep your kids happy and content during the holiday season?

Chicago church gives 'tithe' to members

LaSalle Street Church in Chicago did something unusual this year -- it gave back money to its congregants. The church sold its stake in a real estate deal and paid a tithe on the $1.6 million sale to its members, asking them to do something positive for someone other than themselves.

4 tips for avoiding debt this holiday season

With the average consumer expected to spend more than $800 on gifts this year, it's important to have a plan for how to spend money. A personal finance expert and speaker for Ramsey Solutions, Chris gives tips for a debt-free holiday.

Evangelist thankful to be a U.S. citizen, and for jail time when he was not

Evangelist Jose Alvarez has lived in the U.S. for 53 years, but this Thanksgiving is different, he says, because now he is a citizen. In 2010, because he did not have a U.S. passport and there was confusion about his identity, he was held by customs officials. But what turned into six months of prison for Alvarez resulted in eternal life for 273 of his fellow inmates with whom he shared the Gospel. Today he is thankful for his dual citizenship, in the U.S. and in God's Kingdom.

Thanksgiving is not a Bible holiday, but giving thanks this day is biblical

Unlike Christmas and Easter (which commemorate the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus), our annual celebration of Thanksgiving doesn't come directly from a specific event in the Bible. But it does come indirectly from the Bible — because every year God's people came together to thank God for His blessings.

Giving Thanks in Everything

Why would God command us to thank Him regardless of the circumstances? The idea defies human logic. But then, the Lord rarely binds Himself to man-made rules. Scriptural principles serve specific purposes in the Christian's life. Gratitude keeps us aware of God's presence, which builds our trust and ultimately strengthens our witness.

For Thanksgiving (a letter of thanks)

I'm writing this to you the afternoon before Thanksgiving. I will be too covered in family to have much time for written reflections on the actual day. I'm here by myself at my house of so many years. From where I'm sitting at our big round dinner table (my favorite piece of furniture in my house), I can see the top of the stairs. It seems like only yesterday, two little blond girls stood at the top of those stairs with their nightgowns on, their blankets clutched tightly in their arms, and adorable little bedheads, looking down at me in the kitchen, saying, "Is it morning yet, Mommy?"

Two more attacks on students' religious liberty

Michael Leal, a senior at Cascade High School in Everett, north of Seattle says all he wants to do is to pass out evangelistic tracts and tell fellow students about Jesus. He's been suspended three times and now faces expulsion. "Esther" in Sacramento, California, shared about "Biblical Creation" with two classmates and was reprimanded and forced to confess her wrongheadedness about evolution. They are among a growing number of students who are leading a counterattack in the culture war on Christianity.

Parents offended by 'Nutcracker' Christmas tree

The PTA at Butler Elementary School in Belmont, Mass., secretly canceled a field trip for kids to see "The Nutcracker" because some parents complained there was a Christmas tree on the stage. Other parents fought back and the extracurricular activity is back on the schedule. News reporter and cultural commentator Todd Starnes asks how many children have spontaneously converted to Christianity while gazing at tinsel, ornaments and lights.

Pope Francis rebukes Europe for ignoring drowning migrants

Pope Francis called for leaders in the European Parliament to help the swarms of migrants and workers crossing the Mediterranean and stop the sea from becoming a "vast cemetery" in a speech Tuesday. The pontiff's comments about Europe's immigration crisis came after 600 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and North Africa Sunday.

Video emerges of 12 year old killed by Cleveland police

Tamir Rice's death in Cleveland Sunday sparked demonstrations Monday night, according to reports. More than 100 protesters came to support the 12-year-old's family, whose grief was caused by police officers mortally shooting their son Saturday while he was holding a replica BB gun.

Senseless Ferguson crimes prompt pastor's call for prayers

It's not the hot pizza he picked up every Wednesday night at the Little Caesars across from First Baptist Church in Ferguson, Missouri that he will miss the most -- but what it represents that makes him angry. A local church planter calls for prayer in Ferguson over the "sinful decisions" that led to destruction. Another local clergyman said at the mayor's press conference, "We are all in this together."

Dorian Johnson: 'It shouldn't be happening ... shouldn't be happening'

Dorian Johnson was a friend of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old black man shot and killed Aug. 9 by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri. He also was a witness, having spent the morning with Brown and caught in the grim twist of events that led to the fatal shooting. His third person perspective describes the awful events of a Saturday gone wrong.

Officer Darren Wilson: 'I felt like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan'

Describing the escalation of his encounter with Michael Brown which started with a request to get out of the way of traffic and onto the sidewalk, Officer Darren Wilson gave details of the growing fears he felt as Brown came towering through the window of the Chevy Tahoe police vehicle and assaulted him.

In midst of Ferguson burning, one couple wonders about revival

Tonight Ferguson burns while most of its 22,000 residents huddle inside, eyes glued to their televisions. Just across the street from First Baptist Church, the site of a prayer summit a few weeks ago, protestors burned a Little Caesars Pizza to the ground. An area couple wonders if revival will begin in Ferguson.

Student takes stand to protect Pledge of Allegiance

Samantha Jones, a senior at Highland Regional High School in Blackwood, New Jersey spoke to a state judge Nov. 19, asking him to dismiss a suit brought by atheist groups to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.

Features

Evangelist thankful to be a U.S. citizen, but also for jail time when he was not

Evangelist Jose Alvarez has lived in the U.S. for 53 years, but this Thanksgiving is different, he says, because now he is a citizen. In 2010, because he did not have a U.S. passport and there was confusion about his identity, he was held by customs officials. But what turned into six months of prison for Alvarez resulted in eternal life for 273 of his fellow inmates with whom he shared the Gospel. Today he is thankful for his dual citizenship, in the U.S. and in God's Kingdom.

Piper says 'no regrets' befriending Driscoll, other supporters largely silent

"Mark knew he had flaws, He knows he has flaws. And I knew he had flaws. He knew that I knew he had flaws," said John Piper, former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn. and founder of Desiring God Ministries, about the recent downfall of Mark Driscoll, the controversial pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle and founder of the Acts 29 church planting network as well as The Gospel Coalition, a hub for advancing Reformed theology. "I wrote him personally about these," he said. "But I always hoped that in those cases the relationship with me and others would be redemptive and helpful."

Research

Social media and spirituality

A survey released Nov. 6 questioned 3,217 randomly selected participants and found that in a typical week about half of U.S. adults see someone share their religious faith online. The study also found the one-in-five Americans said they shared about their religious faith through social media -- similar to the percentage who tune in to religious talk radio, watch religious TV programs, or listen to Christian rock music.

POLL: 'End Times,' not climate change, behind natural disasters

"End Times" is the reason for the severity of recent natural disasters, not climate change, according to 77 percent of white evangelical Protestants recently surveyed. The results of the latest Public Religion Research Institute survey also showed that nearly half of white evangelical Protestants – 49 percent in total – believe that natural disasters are evidence of the apocalypse.

ENTERTAINMENT

Veggie Tales hops to Netflix, is God in it?

Veggie Tales' owner, DreamWorks, announced a deal with Netflix that involves development of 75 episodes over a three-year period. Each episode will have two, 11-minute stories, with new songs, according to a DreamWorks news release -- starting with "Veggie Tales in the House" the day before Thanksgiving. Previous deals have resulted in reduced or eliminated references to God and the Bible, but no word on whether the new venture to promote "important life lessons and inspirational messages" will include Him and His Word.

SPORTS

Jesus, girls and Marcus Mariota

A middle school reporter from O'Hara Catholic School in Eugene, Oregon stole the show during the postgame press conference with Ducks Coach Mark Helfrich following the University of Oregon's 44-10 win against Colorado on Saturday.

HOPE